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Nicole Kidman on Stage

"Any chance this transfers to broadway I wonder?" - Joseph

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Entries in politics (127)


NYFF: Michael Moore's Where to Invade Next

Manuel here reporting from the New York Film Festival, where Michael Moore’s latest documentary had its first American screening after a bow at TIFF last month.

Moore’s Where to Invade Next is born out of the same sense of anger and despair that characterizes his earlier docs, but as he noted himself in yesterday’s press conference, he found a way to funnel that anger in a more productive way. Indeed, while the opening images (which juxtapose anti-terrorism presidential sound-bites with horrific national images from Ferguson and Sandy Hook) feel driven by an unwavering anger at the current state of US affairs, what follows is a rather optimistic portrait of the potential for change, presented, of course, with the irreverent wit that Moore epitomizes.

Tasked with “invading” countries by himself, Moore visits various European countries in hopes of, as he says, being able to “pick the flowers, not the weeds”: finding, that is, the best ideas about public policy that are thriving in other countries in hopes to steal them, bring them back to America, and watch them be implemented. The entire premise was a way, Moore explained, to make a documentary about the United States without shooting a single frame in the United States. Every hot button issue you can think of, from police brutality to women’s reproductive health, from the industrial prison complex to school lunches, from labor regulations to women’s equality, is tackled head on from the outside in. He travels to Italy to learn about their paid vacation policy (8 weeks!). He travels to Norway to visit their maximum security prison (where inmates carry the keys to their cells which come equipped with TVs, and who can use the state of the art recording studio or the expansive library at their leisure). He travels to Tunisia (an Islamic state, let’s remember) to visit their women’s health centers where abortions have been legal since the 1970s and learn how riots by women toppled a conservative government that hoped to repeal those female rights and protections. And so on, and so forth, talking to school cafeteria chefs, factory workers, multinational CEOs, and policemen, from Portugal, Iceland, France, Germany and Norway.

“I am American. I live in a great country, built on genocide and grown on the backs of slaves.” - Moore, candidly summing up what he sees so few jingoistic Americans acknowledging.

Each “idea” he hopes to take back after his invasion is at its core, both impossibly simple and also similarly absurd: five months paid maternity leave? sex-ed that isn’t based on abstinence? school lunches that value health over pizza and fries? teachers who value their students’ happiness over standardized tests? a prison where guards carry no guns and inmates have access to kitchen knives? a policy that decriminalizes drug possession? But the ultimate message is utopian in its simplicity: every one of these “flowers” he picked began with small gestures that, like the hammers and chisels that led to the physical dismantling of the Berlin Wall (which Moore witnessed first-hand in 1989 and which alongside the Mandela election helped cement his idea that things can change seemingly overnight), can make all the difference. They also continually hint at words and values that seldom find themselves in American political rhetoric: happiness, curiosity, community, human dignity. That the film ends in a powerful call for women’s equality, suggesting in no uncertain terms that having women in power is a necessary part of political and cultural progress, is perhaps the film’s most surprising element. (Do stay through the end of the credits to find Moore riffing beautifully off of Marvel’s most emulated trademark: the post-credits sequence).

How you feel about the film and its message will no doubt depend on your own political affiliations. Even as the audience at my screening clapped rapturously as the credits rolled, suggesting perhaps Moore was merely preaching to a converted choir that could wave away the tricky logistics that would make these ideas hard to implement wholesale in these shores, I could pick out snippets of dialogue that suggested this choir was a tad more cynical than Moore anticipated: “I mean, it’s so reductive, really.” “Well, but none of that will work here.” “I wish it were that easy!” Where to Invade Next is, in that, classic Moore: a conversation starter that will be greeted with equal number of wolf-whistles as exasperated sighs.

Check out the teaser for it below:


Where to Invade Next played Saturday October 3rd at the NYFF, and while concrete release date plans or distribution are up in the air, Moore’ doc is bound to open wide sometime soon.

TIFF Review Index

Let this serve as the official TIFF Review reference guide since the festival closed up shop Sunday night after the Free screening of the People's Choice winner Room. We hope you enjoyed reading along with our reviews. Amir and I saw about 50 movies between us but we'll have to wrap up now as NYFF screenings have already started and Oscar charts MUST be updated and so on.

Fall Film Season is finally upon us!

3 of my favorites of the 29 I saw...

37 Films Reviewed
45 Years British marital drama (Nathaniel)
3000 Nights Palestinian prison drama (Amir)
Anomalisa Existential stop-motion dramedy (Nathaniel)
Arabian Nights: Vol 2 Portugueuse art film with politicial satire vignettes (Nathaniel)
As I Open My Eyes Tunisian music drama (Nathaniel)
Baba Joon Israel's immigrant family drama & Oscar submission (Amir)
Bang Gang French teen sex drama (Nathaniel)
The Clan Argentine true crime drama (Nathaniel)
Closet Monster Canadian LGBT drama (Nathaniel)
Dégradé Palestinian hair salon set female drama (Amir)
Demolition Canadian grief dramedy (Nathaniel)
Desde Allá Venezuelan LGBT Drama & Venice winner (Amir)
Dheepan French Immigrant drama, Palme d'or winner (Amir)
The Dressmaker Australian revenge dramedy (Glenn)
Embrace of the Serpent Black & White Colombian Amazon journey (Nathaniel)
Eva Doesn't Sleep experimental Argentine corpse drama (Nathaniel)
The Family Fang US Dramedy about a performance art family (Nathaniel)
Girls Lost Swedish LGBT Teen Drama (Nathaniel)
Granny's Dancing on the Table Swedish animated/live-action hybrid (Nathaniel)
The Here After Swedish School Drama (Nathaniel)  
Homesick Norwegian incest drama (Nathaniel)
I Saw The Light US musical biopic (Nathaniel)
Invisible Filipino immigrant drama (Nathaniel)
Love French 3D sex drama (Nathaniel)
Much Loved Moroccan docudrama on sex workers in Marrakech (Amir)
Mustang Turkish coming of age drama (Amir)
Phantom Boy French animated adventure (Nathaniel)
Room US family/crime drama, and People's Choice Winner (Nathaniel)
Spotlight, US journalist drama (Nathaniel)
Stonewall US gay history drama (Nathaniel)
Taxi Jafar Panahi's comedy & Berlinale Winner (Amir)
Truth US TV news political drama (Nathaniel) 
Victoria German continuous shot crime drama (Nathaniel)
The Wave Norwegian disaster epic (Nathaniel)
The Witch this year's Sundance horror sensation (Nathaniel)
Youth Showbiz drama (Nathaniel) 

upside down, VICTORIA turned me, inside out. and round and round

Other TIFF Articles
Best Actress Contenders (Nathaniel)
Red Carpet Opening Weekend (Jose)
Red Carpet Post-Venice (Jose)
Victoria's Single Take / Birdman Comparison (Sebastian)
People's Choice and Other Awards (Nathaniel)
Women He's Undressed - The Interview (Jose) 
IndieWire Critics Poll (Nathaniel) 

TIFF Juries of One
I polled the podcasters who stayed the whole fest. Here's what they said...

  Nathaniel R Joe Reid Nick Davis
Film Room Son of Saul Arabian Nights
Director Cirro Guerra, Embrace of Serpent Ridley Scott,
The Martian
Laszlo Nemes,
Son of Saul
Actress Charlotte Rampling,
45 Years
Cate Blanchett,
Kalieaswari Srinivasan, Dheepan
Actor Jacob Tremblay,
Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation Frederick Lau,
Supp. Actress Kate Dickie,
The Witch
Julianne Moore, Maggie's Plan Ghalia Benali, As I Open My Eyes
Supp. Actor Stanley Tucci,
Scoot McNairy, Our Brand is Crisis Abdella Didane,
Much Loved
Craft Contribution Sound,
Son of Saul
The Assassin
  Cinematography, Embrace of Serpent Art Direction,
Son of Saul
 The Danish Girl
Camera Operator, Victoria

Viola 'on the move'

How did I miss this incredible news in the New York Times?!? Viola Davis, on the Emmy campaign trail for her Shondaland series How to Get Away With Murder, talked about all her future projects. It's good news times three.

Q. In addition to “Suicide Squad,” what else are you working on?

A. They are making “Fences,” August Wilson’s play, into a feature that Denzel Washington is directing and I’m going to be in. My husband and I started a production company, and we are doing Harriet Tubman’s story for HBO that Kirk Ellis is writing. And Tony Kushner is writing a project that we got greenlit at Fox Searchlight about the great congresswoman out of Texas, Barbara Jordan. I’m always moving.

She also explains the reasoning behind her recent populist / less prestigious genre choices...

Q. So starting your company let you be in control?

A. Yes, but it’s a lot of work to be the boss. You’ve got to have two trains going at the same time. You have to stay relevant, hence “How to Get Away With Murder,” hence “Suicide Squad. “You have to stay relevant, because if you are not, no one will take a chance with you on even a $2 million budget. But then at the same time you have to take risks in terms of material that moves you.

Good luck to her as ever. We've been in her corner since 2002 (the "who is that" triple whammy of Far From Heaven, Antwone Fisher, Solaris) and we don't plan to go anywhere!

I don't want to say that we willed movement onto the Fences adaptation but IT'S ABOUT DAMN TIME. And though her Barbara Jordan project has been talked up for three or four years now, there's been no real movement on it until now. Thank you Fox Searchlight! Now let's get all of this fast-tracked right now since Viola Davis just turned 50 and you know how Hollywood likes to turn on women when they do. There's no time to waste!

Pointless But Fun What If Trivia: If Viola wins the Emmy for HTGAWM next month and the Oscar for Fences when that movie is released (astoundingly big "ifs" but go with it) than she'll just be a Grammy short of an EGOT since she already has two Tony Awards (for lead and featured). It's worth noting that if she wins all four competitively she'll be the very first African-American to accomplish it and only the second woman of color after Puerto Rico's Rita Moreno. Now, technically, three black icons (Whoopi Goldberg, Harry Belafonte, and James Earl Jones) have all four but those statistics come with the heavy asterisks that also plague Liza & Babs in that at least one of the prizes was given non-competitively or in a "lesser" form. I mean, sorry Whoopi, but you shouldn't count daytime Emmies anymore than you'd count regional Emmys (they give those things out like candy!) towards the showbiz quadruple. (Yours truly personally prefers the Triple Crown -- easier to follow and the Grammys aren't actor-focused like the other three so there's less beautiful symmetry! -- but Tina Fey's 30 Rock destroyed popular culture's interest in that statistic by popularizing the notion of the EGOT.)


Lukewarm Off Presses: James Dean, Christopher Guest, Bryan Cranston

Three stories we're late mentioning but so what? Always eager to hear your thoughts...

Still no trailer but there's now a poster for Trumbo, the Hollywood blacklist drama starring Bryan Cranston and Helen Mirren (as gossip icon Hedda Hopper). Cranston could be looking at the Triple Crown if he's Best Actor nominated since he already has the Tony and the Emmy. Will Oscar go wild for this? A word of caution for those predicting at home: People were going on and on about how much Hollywood loves movies about itself when Birdman won the Oscar last season but it's not entirely true. They sometimes nominate movies about movies but they don't tend to be the big winners. And Hollywood blacklist dramas are an infrequent subcategory unto themselves: Career (1959) won a few tech nominations but nothing in the top categories;  The Way We Were (1973) only won for music and didn't even make the Best Picture lineup which it absolutely deserved to be in; Guilty by Suspicion (1991) with Robert De Niro and The Bening and The Majestic (2001) starring Jim Carrey were both entirely ignored;  Good Night and Good Luck (2005) was popular with voters for nominations but lost each of its categories. 

It's been nine freaking years since Christopher Guest's last mockumentary For Your Consideration (2006) which was, unfortunately his weakest comedy. But he's finally making something new! The movie will be for Netflix and it's about what it sounds like it's about. No cast announced yet but I think we can safely guess at least a handful of players. I NEED to see Parker Posey and Catherine O'Hara in big furry costumes, okay? I need it like I need oxygen. 

<-- The "Life" of James Dean
Bring Your Own "Yes No Maybe So" in the comments. James Dean has had biopics before but this one comes from Anton Corbijn who I think we should allow made a very fine music biopic on Ian Curtis of Joy Division called Control (2007). This ground, however, is amply covered previously -- except for its macro focus on a photoshoot the moment before Dean was famous. The film, which looks depressingly actress free from the trailer, stars Robert Pattinson, Ben Kingsley, the ubiquitous Joel Edgerton and Dane DeHaan as James Dean.

Ready? Go...


Yes No Maybe So: Stonewall 

The director Roland Emmerich left his preferred world of dumb fun cheesy explosions behind briefly a few years back for the crass Shakespeare conspiracy theories of Anonymous. But at least it was something different for him and we applaud stretching.

He ventures out of action movie land again for Stonewall which is about an explosion of a very different kind. Here's the poster and our Yes No Maybe So on the trailer is after the jump...

Click to read more ...


Podcast Smackdown (Pt 2) Nixon & Georgia & 1995 Takeaways

You've read the Smackdown proper and heard Part One of the companion podcast. Now we're wrapping things up with Part Two in which Nathaniel and guests discuss a movie they all loved (Georgia) and the most divisive movie of the batch (Nixon). Big thanks again to this month's panelists: Nick Davis (Nicks Flick Picks), Guy Lodge (Variety), Kevin O'Keeffe (Arts.Mic), Conrado Falco (Coco Hits NY) and Lynn Lee (The Film Experience)

Part 2: 39 Minutes
00:01 Mare Winningham and Georgia’s Screenplay
08:45 Oliver Stone’s excesses -- extremely split opinions on Nixon
19:15 Off-Oscar: Other performances we loved from 1995 and another round of Emma Thompson and Sense & Sensibility
30:00 Best Original Song ???
33:40 Final Thoughts, recommendations and takeaways

You can listen to the podcast here at the bottom of the post or download from iTunes tomorrow.

Smackdown. Pt 2


Annette Bening, the Romantic Comedienne

Andrew here. I could not let the celebration of 1995, which ends with tomorrow's Smackdown, pass without singling out one of the most important performances of the year from my favourite actress.

The American President represents a key moment in my Bening love affair because this – her tenth film after seven years in the business – represents my first meeting with her, and it was obsession at first sight. But enough about me. This mostly forgotten gem allows Annette to perform in a cadence that she's been rarely allowed to show her abilities - Annette Bening, at 37 years old, the best romantic comedy heroine of the 90s...

Click to read more ...