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Entries in Take Shelter (6)

Tuesday
Dec272011

Interview: Jessica Chastain's Big Year / Big Future

Jessica Chastain was in Morocco when we spoke, jurying on a film festival. Or was she in Toronto filming a movie? No, maybe she was right here in New York City or in Los Angeles for a premiere or event? Who can say. It's been a dizzying year. Her definition of "staying put", I quickly discover, is staying in one place for a whole week. "I don't think this is a normal year for an actor," she says understating the case.

Chastain reigns over 2011's movies

She sounds bright and cheerful and ready for more movies, believe it or not, though she admits that the year has been tough on her personal life. This past summer she starred in two of the most talked about films of the year (The Tree of Life and The Help) and in the fall she was doing press for four more (The Debt, Take Shelter, Coriolanus, The Texas Killling Fields). 

Though her characters are already multiple, she is but one woman. The movies we're seeing all at once she made over the span of a few years and she helpfully provided the order when asked:

  • Wilde Salome ("My first film. It hasn't come out yet")
  • Jolene 
  • Stolen ("very small role")
  • The Tree of Life
  • The Debt
  • Coriolanus
  • Texas Killing Fields
  • Take Shelter
  • The Help ("I went straight from the set of Take Shelter")

I figure her sudden ubiquity is a good place to start the conversation...

"I'm fine right here" 

Nathaniel R: It's almost like you've sprung full grown from the head of Zeus for moviegoers.

JESSICA CHASTAIN: Which is so funny because I've been working so long!  But it does feel like this year with people starting to see my films they're asking "Where did you come from?" Well, I trained. I have been working for a long time.  You guys are just getting caught up . I didn't come out of nowhere.

NR: It just feels that way for us! I want to ask you about Take Shelter first. Long suffering wives of male leads -- how shall I put this? This type of part always runs the risk of feeling like a thankless stock role. How did you make it feel as specific as it does? That marriage is so vivid.

JC: It's funny. I think I teased Jeff [writer/director Jeff Nichols] quite a bit when we first started working together. I'm sure they were like "oh no…" because I do a lot of work before i show up on set. My script, it's not necessarily filled with answers but there are a lot of questions that I write down. In a scene in Take Shelter I might write down 'When's the last time he told me he loved me?'  Something like that which gets me thinking 'hmmmm, okay...'

For that movie I did that throughout the whole script. I had to make it so specific because my entire subtext in that film is "what's wrong with you?" but I can't say that the same way in every scene so I had to look for what's happened before each scene to make it as specific as possible. I really wanted to grasp it so much that on our first day I really embarrassed Jeff and Mike [Michael Shannon]. We're at lunch. The three of us sat down and I've got some questions. I looked at Jeff and said 'When do they have sex? I just wanna know.' Mike's mouth opened up, Jeff turns beet red.

'what's wrong with you?' Now, ask it in multiple unspoken ways.

[The Help, The Tree of Life and Chastain's future plans after the jump.]

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Nov292011

Spirit Awards: "Take Shelter" & "The Artist" Lead the Nominees

The New York Film Critics Circle isn't even finished with its announcements yet and now we've got The Spirit Award nominations. They have the longest lag time between nominations and ceremony since they aren't even held until the day before the Oscars. Like the NYFCC they've been swerving ever closer to Oscar over the years, often championing a runner-up type of candidate like, say, Sideways or Black Swan. That could be good news for The Artist or The Descendants this year depending on which takes the lead in the Oscar race. Though if you believe the nomination tallies here this could be a very big night for Take Shelter.

BEST FEATURE
50/50 (3 noms total) -review
Beginners (4 noms total) -review
Drive (3 noms total) -review
Take Shelter (5 noms total)
The Artist (5 noms total) -review
The Descendants (4 noms total)

I'm super fond of ½ of this lineup and whenever you're super fond of ½ a lineup you should smile. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the way awards season is aiming to go, The Descendants is my least favorite from their preferred lineup.  

FULL LIST OF NOMINEES AFTER THE JUMP

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Nov082011

Parties: Kneel Before Michael Shannon, Compare Tattoos with Amy Ryan

Party Reporting! It sounds like the cushiest job ever except that the pay is in free drinks and bite sized foods and you can't make rent with that. You can however find them delicious, which I do. So... I hit two movie parties last week and though neither were as decadent or as exciting as that Michael Fassbender / Shame party -- it's hard to beat the Top of the Standard for decadent opulence -- both were for good causes:  Michael Shannon and Woody Harrelson's Oscar Campaigns for Best Actor. Now, these technically weren't Oscar parties. There are strict limitations and quotas surrounding those. But all movie events for critically acclaimed films or performances have the same endgame in mind, don'cha know, so they're all virtual awards parties.

The winner is... [opening virtual envelope] .... ohmigod it's a tie! The first winner is "Whoever Networks Well" and the other winner is "the Actual Honoree of Whichever Event You're At". 

Rampart After-Party
I spoke briefly with Michael Shannon, who at 6'3" made me feel much shorter than I am (5'10"). He's far more handsome in real life than one expects given the often twitchy uncomfortable / confrontrational characters he's known for. A movie reporter friend of mine had already engaged him in conversation was talking with him about William Friedkin so I blurted out that I loved Bug on stage and on screen. The look on Shannon's face suggested to me that this is perhaps not usually the first thing out of a stranger's mouth. I also asked him if he was feeling intimidated at all about walking in Terence Stamp's iconic shoes...er boots... for in the new Superman film. He was on a break from Man of Steel (2013) but indicated no fear at the prospect. He did say that when people ask him about the movie they almost always say or ask if he'll be saying the classic line "Kneel Before Zod!"

He did not gift me with the answer to this constant question... though to my credit I did not directly ask. This isn't a Superhero Movie News Blog.

I also thanked Oren Moverman (Rampart's writer/director) for giving so many great actresses parts, however tiny, that were worthy of them for a change. I'm talking bout Anne Heche, Sigourney Weaver, Audra McDonald, Cynthia Nixon, Robin Wright and even Harriet S Harris who I had run into the week before accidentally outside of a screening.

MORE AFTER THE JUMP: Moments with Courtney Love, Amy Ryan, Celia Weston and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Oct202011

Gotham Awards: The Tree of Marcy May's Sheltered Descendants

The Gotham Award nominees were announced today. Though they're not affiliated I like to think of them as the East Coast Spirit Awards on account of the similar types of films they tend to honor (independent and lower budgeted films) and the slightly confusing windows of eligibility. The ceremony will be held on November 28th, 2011 here in NYC which is the same day that the New York Film Critics Circle have just announced as the date on which they'll name their winners. So mark those calendars. Awards Season begins in earnest on Monday November 28th, 2011. So the season will be almost exactly three months long this year what with the Oscars arriving on Sunday February 26th, 2012.

Best Feature:

  • Beginners (Mike Mills)
  • The Descendants (Alexander Payne)
  • Meek's Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt
)
  • Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols
)
  • The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick)

'One of these things is not like the others, one of these things is not the same.' The black sheep of this shortlist family is The Descendants which is decidedly more mainstream than the other contenders: big movie star, crowd-pleasing rather than crowd-risky, obviously on its way to Oscar nods.

Several categories and few opinions after the jump.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Oct022011

Box Office: Family Fare Wins Again

Given the ease with which family fare always tops the charts whether animated or live action -- this time the story of a dolphin with a prosthetic tale (?) flipper (?) fin (?) I don't know these terms -- you'd think taking the family to the movies didn't cost as much as people always claim it costs when they complain about how much it costs (whew): parking, food, multiple tickets.

Also: Dolphins are cute and all but I'm only seeing Dolphin Tale if you can promise me that it contains a musical sequence in which Olivia Newton-John reprises her treacly "Promise (The Dolphin Song)" from the 80s.

With Morgan Freeman on back-up.

Anyway, don't mind me. I'm just bitter because I'd prefer it if adults went to movies for adults in droves. That way TV wouldn't be able to hog all the entertainment intended for adults. (Moneyball is doing well but people really should be queuing up in droves, you know?)

Box Office (U.S.) Baker's Dozen -estimates
01 DOLPHIN TALE  $14.2 (cum $37.5)
02 MONEYBALL [review] $12.5 (cum $38.4)
03 THE LION KING 3D [review] re-release $11 (cum $408.1)
04 50/50 [review] new $8.8 
05 COURAGEOUS new $8.8 
06 DREAMHOUSE new $8.2 
07 ABDUCTION [review] $5.6 (cum $19.1)
08 WHAT'S YOUR NUMBER? new $5.6 
09 CONTAGION $5 (cum $64.7)
10 KILLER ELITE $4.8 (cum $17.4)
11 DRIVE [review] $3.3 (cum $27)
12 THE HELP [review$3.0 (cum $159.3)

Michael Shannon Sees Storms ComingTalking Points
In limited release land the apocalyptic visions of Michael Shannon in TAKE SHELTER had the best opening weekend at just 3 theaters but with a sturdy $18,000 per screen (in other words the houses were four times as full as those of the top films in wide release). The extremely well reviewed gay romance WEEKEND did a tiny expansion from 1 theater to 6. It also became available On Demand so one suspects it'll make a hefty percentage of its revenue there.

• The Help finally left the gold-lined interior of the top ten list in its 8th week, falling just short of Bridesmaids staying power (which fell the same distance in its 9th week). The sole advantage of The Help (#12 of the year right now) if it hopes to topple Bridesmaids (#10 of the year) for bragging rights of "Highest Grossing Non-Franchise Film of 2011" is that it's in more theaters than Bridesmaids was at this point. The Help is still $10 million behind. It might be a squeaker or it might be all over if Real Steel and The Ides of March rip most of its screens away next Friday.

•Somehow Dream House opened to $8.2 million even though you can see the whole movie from start to finish in the trailer. If people keep buying tickets to movies whose trailers reveal every detail, Hollywood will keep making trailers filled with more egregious spoilers than even the laziest and most bitter critics would dare type. Sigh. At least Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz found each other in the process. 

•I don't want to make too much of a point about what could merely be a coincidence but Contagion's numbers week to week are very similar to Crazy, Stupid, Love.'s numbers (to the point where they both hit $64 million on the 4th weekend!) Will their twin performance be the new standard for what happens when you just cram your movie full of multiple well-liked stars who aren't always bankable on their own?

What did you see over the weekend?
If it wasn't Dolphin Tale, what could convince you to see that movie?
If it wasn't Moneyball what are you waiting for?

Thursday
Aug252011

Who is Jessica Chastain?

Here's pretty much all that we know about her: She was raised in North Carolina, she just turned 30, she's in every seventh movie opening in 2011, and though we've only seen three of them thus far (The Tree of Life, The Help and Take Shelter) it takes a minute in each to realize that yes, that's her. Even in photoshoots she seems to be more than one person.

Is she a moldable young starlet?
Is she a Swintonesque Off-Hollywood provocateur?
Is she a Lead Star just waiting for her own vehicles?

Further IMDb and Wikipedia grazing reveals that she graduated from Juillard and that her best friend is the actress Jess Weixler (of Teeth fame. How about that?) but the point is this: we like people we can't pin down immediately.

I don't want to play the same character twice. There's something about the feeling of 'I don't think I can do this.' If you have that moment of doubt, you have to rise up and meet it. I learn from my failures more than my successes."
-Chastain to Michael Musto at the premiere of The Debt 

Hitting a Take Shelter screening last night I tweeted "Okay, Jessica Chastain. Show me what else ya got" Of her three summer performances (her fourth The Debt opens soon) it's the least impressive but it's almost the most telling. 'What I got' was the surest indication yet that she's a future Oscar winner as she embraced their favorite role, the long suffering wind-beneath-her-husband's-wings type, with such unfussy naturalistic ease.

Regarding Oscar...
While she's ethereal and lovely in The Tree of Life it seems less an acting feat than a well judged minimalist act to allow Terrence Malick and Emmanuel Lubezki's camera and the rich scoring to fill her Way of Grace with meaning. Auteur vessel performance are rarely nominated. While she's hugely entertaining in The Help she probably has too much internal competition for traction. And her most Oscar-friendly role in Take Shelter is within a film that one suspects will be too under the radar for Oscar. She may have to wait for the Kodak theater but it'll be exciting to watch her work her way there.