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Entries in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (20)

Monday
Dec192011

We Need To Talk About Tweet Length Reviews

December (sigh)... it defeats me every year. In 2012 I'm going to start training for it like it's the marathon. Because it is! Maybe I'll try to write one December 2012 article each week all year long so that when the time comes I'll have plenty of time for all the events / screenings / interviews / awards articles. "too many things too many things too many things" to quote Boogie Nights. So here are some things I've been seeing that I have no time to talk about. But let's carve out a teensy bit anyway. None of these will make much of a dent on my "best" or "worst" lists so let's cross them off the eternal to do list with tweet length reviews... (I use to try for seven to ten words but that ends up being a series of adjectives. Giving myself a few more characters now.)

Dear Mr. Spielberg. Jamie Bell is very nice to look at. Were you not aware of this? Thanks.

THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN
In which Tintin and his dog Snowy seek out a pirates treasure through a series of infinite setpieces
Review: Oft described as "endlessly fun" and the endless part is true. Inventive and spectacular looking but utterly exhausting. Pirates again? B-/C+
Oscar? The Animated branch might reject it under the umbrella of "mo-cap is not animation!" disdain. Me I have no problem whatsoever with mo-cap but I prefer it when it looks less realistic (like in Monster House). If you're aiming for real-looking human characters, just let me see the actual actors. Jamie Bell is very nice to look at and hiring him only to hide him away is a disservice to eyeballs everywhere.

ARTHUR CHRISTMAS
Will a child be left without a gift on Christmas? Three generations of Santas spring into action.
Review: Gimmick thoroughly mined for madcap fun though it's a shade too busy. Wonderful voice work. Plenty of heart, too (which Tintin lacks). B
Oscar? Given the generally anemic animated film race, it will be a real shame if this one from Aardman doesn't score a nomination. But I think it will. 

KUNG FU PANDA 2
In which Po realizes he was adopted and fights the peacock who is trying to end Kung Fu and conquer China.
Review: Disposable with uneven humor but the palette is pure wow. I was as hypnotized as Po whenever the peacock fanned those white and red feathers. B-/C+
Oscar? Though it's the second highest grossing animated film of the year, I don't expect it to score with Oscar voters. The Globe snub is telling but depressing. If you have to have a sequel in the lineup why Cars 2? KFP 2 is better looking and funnier and has a better story and a better hero and villain. Better on all counts.

MARGIN CALL
In which a group of 1%ers and financial analysts predict / cause the economic apocalypse
Review: This involving horror film about our powerlessness and corporate greed is boosted by perfect timing though not quite above telefilm level. B
Oscar? Given the multiple "first film" prizes J.C. Chandor has won, I'm guessing this has a really solid shot at an Original Screenplay nomination. But if any of the actors were going to have found favor yet, I think we would have seen some SAG interest... at least in Ensemble

TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY
In which... no, I don't know what happens and I really truly was paying attention.
Review: Super handsome filmmaking, ace score, gifted ensemble but too restrained to feel, too info-crowded to follow: B
Oscar? Even when a movie has incredible craft elements, it rarely gets nominated if voters don't love the film as a whole. I'm doubtful this one will pick anything up. But maybe one nomination, two max in visual categories or screenplay.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN
In which a woman gives birth to a bad seed and suffers greatly for it.
Review: Miscast and weirdly art-film parodic in its repetitions / obviousness. Tilda's eyeballs feel the horror, though. B-/C+
Oscar? I'm more surprised than you are that Tilda gained traction for this one. I thought the film too inaccessible but apparently that Julia, I Am Love momentum finally pushed her over some kind of art goddess edge and she's back in the Oscar conversation where she nearly always belongs.

Tilda and her demonic boy(s)

I would also like to note that I really was rooting for this film before seeing it because I think Lynne Ramsay's previous feature Morvern Callar (2002) is ten kinds of amazing but I was sorely disappointed. I hope it doesn't take her 9 more years to deliver film #4.

I'm still trying to get full reviews out for Iron Lady, War Horse, Albert Nobbs, Extremely Loud and Melancholia (lol. Hi several months later!) cuz I got shit to say. We shall see. I need to stop time for one week to catch up. Perhaps I should call up Hamish Linklater from The Future and get on that?

Monday
Oct312011

BIFA Noms: "Tyrannosaur" Triumphs, "Weekend" Wobbles

Herewith a few comments about the just-announced British Independent Film Awards. You may recall that last year they heavily favored The King's Speech and strangely snubbed Mike Leigh's Another Year in Best Film.

BIFA loved "Kevin" but wasn't crazy about "Weekend"

I should warn you up front that I'm apt to spend the whole time bitching about the strange snubbing of Weekend in all but one category. 

British Independent Film
Senna
Shame
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Tyrannosaur
We Need To Talk About Kevin

They unfortunately snubbed the acclaimed gay romance Weekend (Dear reader, I did warn you. DEAR NOTE, I SHALL HIT THEE FREQUENTLY!) which was a perfect fit given the "British" and the "Independent"... not to mention that it's a better film than some of these titles. But then, that's award season for you. Right from the start there will be winners and losers and unexpecting favoring of certain titles that nobody was expecting major awards runs from. Not sure what to make of the lineup other than that the deep preferencing for Shame, Tyrannosaur, and Kevin reminds us that when seeking kudos, ambitiously arty but thunderously grim depression can be an easier path to glory than optimistic and delicately carved miniatures. Again, where is Weekend?

Best Director
Ben Wheatley, Kill List
Steve McQueen, Shame
Tomas Alfredson, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Paddy Considine, Tyrannosaur
Lynne Ramsay, We Need To Talk About Kevin

Best Debut Director (The Douglas Hickox Award)
Joe Cornish, Attack the Block
Ralph Fiennes, Coriolanus
John Michael McDonagh, The Guard
Richard Ayoade, Submarine
Paddy Considine, Tyrannosaur 

Paddy Considine directs Olivia Colman to greatness in "Tyrannosaur"

I am of the opinion that when one separates directing categories one should not be eligible for both. More direction and acting nods after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Sep152011

Pressing Oscar Questions / New Predictions

If you haven't yet noticed, I updated all the Oscar charts yesterday to reflect the latest shifts in buzz. As ever I am not totally enslaved by immediate buzz but try to project forward from it. I don't believe, and past experience backs me up here, that the first word from festivals is the last word on consensus. Festival audiences have, in many cases, different needs than Academy voters and the general public and even mainstream-leaning film critics.  These differing needs range from subject matter to tone to emotional and intellectual content. So there is much we still don't know about the new films winning raves. To win Oscar's heart you generally have to first master or at least make peace with three other audiences (all of which can or do overlap with each other and with Oscar but let's not complicate the matter): Critics (i.e. reviews/perceptions of quality), public (box office), media (are they interested? are their editorial angles or movie stars to keep them engaged). Festivals are the gun going off but never the finish line. So here are some questions I'm pondering.

Won't you join me in answering them?

Michael Fassbender OR Ryan Gosling? I've already pitted them against each other publically/mentally as "The Future of the Movies: Male Division" (do they have any competition?) and perhaps it's a natural evolution from that question but aren't they in direct conflict for an Oscar nod this year? Both have had amazing years with multiple films, some artistically minded, some for commerce but all of which they've been excellent in. Ryan has the more Oscar-friendly fare (Ides of March/Drive) compared to Fassy's kink (Shame/A Dangerous Method) but Fassy may have the more Oscar-friendly personality in terms of his ease with self-promotion (supposedly Gosling is unburdened by the typical Oscar dream).

I don't think there's room for both given the Best Actor field... do you?

What of Alexander Desplat?
His score for The Tree of Life seems likely to be axed for eligibility given all the other music in the film. His score for Carnage is supposedly only heard for a few minutes. His scores for the new Harry Potter and Twilight are both within long running franchises which generally don't show up in the score category since such scores tend to mix old and new themes and there's a been there/done that feeling even if the score is entirely new. Will they stiff their new favorite composer or will it be enough for them to have their all time favorite back? 79 year old John Williams has two Spielberg scores this year (Tin Tin and War Horse) after a long absence and if there was ever a time they wanted to hand him a sixth Oscar, it's probably now.

Captain America or Thor?
I've been asking this question all summer and I suspect very few people care. But hear me out: Isn't one of them going to win multiple Oscar nods? The technical fields are often hugely competitive but they're also friendlier to genre fare than the big eight. Captain America:The First Avenger has the distinct advantage in that it takes place during World War II and thus gets to show off period piece beauty in costuming (for Jeffrey Kurland and Anna B Sheppard who have both been nominated previously but never won)  and art direction (Rick Heinrichs has 3 noms / 1 win to his name) ... but Thor has a more Oscary team in costume designer Alexandra Byrne (4 nods, 1 win) and production designer Bo Welch (4 nominations) and whether or not you think that the ice planet or the mythical realm of Asgard are way too bombastically gaudy in design... Oscar loves overkill in just about any category. See last year's results for Eyesore in Wonderland and every time any pundit ever joked about "Best" being code word for "Most".


 

 Aren't "Restrained" and "Chill" Four Letter Words?
One review called Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy "marvelously chill" and the word "restrained" gets tossed around a lot for both that film and Glenn Close's Oscar bid Albert Nobbs. It's not without precedent that Oscar would embrace the chilly or the restrained but it's also not exactly the wormiest hook for AMPAS to swim towards as history indicates. What does all this mean for Gary Oldman (who our Venice correspondent claimed only raises his voice once in his film) or for Glenn Close both of whom will be waging campaigns based half on these new performances and half on their reputations as important thespians who've endured inexplicable golden snubbings.

Category Placement. To Fraud or Not To Fraud?
This question will never die and is ever a concern since modern cinema doesn't have the same clear divisions of labor as classic Hollywood in terms of "star vs. character actor". What's more many pundits, fans and agents now regularly and actively promote fraud to insure better golden opportunities for their beloved star or meal ticket. The feeling of demotion is largely a thing of the past, an Oscar being an Oscar. The unfortunate and long lasting side effect of this trend (more a tradition than trend now actually) are that real supporting players and character actors have less and less opportunities as genuine stars now rob them of their already scant opportunities for the spotlight on a very regular basis. It's almost impossible to imagine that we'll ever see another Thelma Ritter for example (sniffle). So we'll just have to wait and see how Viola Davis (The Help), Keira Knightley (A Dangerous Method), the entire Carnage cast and any of the young male leads (War Horse, Hugo, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close) play it this year since all of them could theoretically opt for either lead or supporting categorization.

What the hell with the Best Animated Film category this year?
The (relative) failure of Cars 2 has left a gaping Pixar sized hole in the category that was arguably specifically designed just to honor Pixar. Rango, an early visually stunning hit, seems to have no real competition whatsoever. It's hard to see any of its competition as nominees, isn't it? There are sequels no one seems particularly excited about yet (Happy Feet 2, Puss in Boots, Kung Fu Panda 2), films that were hits that no one seems particularly excited about (Rio). Arthur Christmas is a question mark but is anyone excited about it? What's more the only event movie that's still to come (The Adventures of TinTin: The Secret of the Unicorn)  should theoretically be disqualified given past AMPAS decisions declaring motion capture ineligible. Is it time to shutter this category or do they just have to hope that it's exciting again next year and the year after? 

The Nomination Is Theirs To Lose. Will They?
Just about every pundit worth his/her salt agrees that The Tree of Life, The Help and Midnight in Paris are the three biggies with Best Picture potential to have already hit theaters. Then there are those stubbornly holding on to hopes for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two (I readily admit bias that I don't think it's deserving even as a cumulative honor) or The Rise of the Planet of the Apes though history suggests that it won't happen since sequels are only ever nominated when their predecessors were. Though I adamantly doubt that either has a good shot at the most coveted of all nominations, there is a first time for everything and it's true that modern franchise culture is a relatively new ubiquitous Hollywood reality and thus Oscar history might not be the best indication of how the Academy will view or soon view franchise efforts.

Should all of these films or even just three of them be nominated... well, that doesn't leave much room at all for the Christmas time films that are still withheld from eager eyeballs or the films that are on everyone's lips having just debuted at this festival or that one.

Which leads us to the final question...

Which of the unseen films will tank?
J Edgar, War Horse, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Iron Lady, Hugo? That's a lot of unseen fare still that even long lead festival audiences haven't gazed upon. Which do you suspect will deliver and which won't?


Tuesday
Sep062011

Venice: "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" and "A Simple Life"

[Editor's Note: Here's Manolis, a Greek reader who is covering Venice for The Film Experience. If you can read Greek, visit Cinema News for more of his festival coverage.]


TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY
The spy thriller was eagerly anticipated here in Venice and reaction was generally positive though some critics felt that something was missing. English is not my first language and with the heavy accents I did have a hard time following all of the twists of the intricate plot. But despite my difficult I was delighted that the film doesn’t underestimate your intelligence and demands your full attention throughout. The film's technical aspest are very impressive from sets to costumes to cinematography and Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) directs with stylish gusto, creating magnificent shots and frames. Though the spy movie genre doesn't generally promise the slow pacing that Alfredson chooses, it's an interesting approach. The performances follow this same tone, all of them toned down. The triumph of the ensemble cast is that you can feel that underneath the icy surface of the British mentality of the period, there is an array of emotions ready to explode. A simple gesture is, for these characters, far more important than a whole sentence. In fact, Gary Oldman only raises his voice once in the lead role of George Smiley in a wonderful monologue towards the end. Colin Firth and John Hurt are also very good as is Tom Hardy in a small but memorable role.  

The one thing I felt Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy lacked is a heart as it is a particularly cold experience. This not automatically a flaw for an intelligent espionage thriller but a small dose of warmth would have added to the whole a great deal considering that the film turns on loyalty, values and ideals. 

Andy Lau at the Venice premiere of A Simple LifeTAO JIE (A SIMPLE LIFE)
The second movie today was Tao Jie by Chinese filmmaker Ann Hui. The film takes place in Hong Kong and deals with the relationship between the thirtysomething Roger Lee (Andy Lau) and his elderly nanny Tao (Deannie Yip). The roles in this relationship are reversed when Tao gets seriously ill and can’t serve him anymore. It’s time for Roger Lee to rise to the occasion, learn to appreciate the things that he has taken granted and take care of this woman who was more than a mother to him all his life; she needs to know that someone will be there by her side in the last days.

A Simple Life has humor, pathos and sensitive performances and provides an interesting window for Westerners of the way the Chinese view their elders. The tender story has broad appeal but breaks no new ground and begins to drag towards the end.  Although comparisons to Yasujiro Ozu’s films would be unfair, they are inevitable and naturally not favorable for Hui’s film. 

 

Sunday
Sep042011

Linker, Donor, Oscar, Bye

By now you've heard the rumor, which some sources say is closer to actual fact, that Eddie Murphy will be hosting next February's Oscar ceremony. That's a major get if true since Murphy hasn't performed live in years and years and is the kind of Household Name that Oscar always prefers. I'm sure we'll talk more about this if it pans out. 

Lorell and Jimmy are through-oooooooooh 

No matter how great Eddie is -- should he host -- I know I won't be fully satisfied because what are the chances he'd invite Anika Noni Rose (who you know we love) onstage for something. TRUE STORY: Every single time I hear "Eddie Murphy" since 2008 I hear Anika Noni Rose's glorious voice in my ear. I included the sound clip that plays in my head every time in the post. You better listen!

MEANWHILE...
Have you seen Paul Smith's limited edition beautiful posters for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy? They're minimalism and its most gorgeous and they're charitable too. All proceeds go to cancer.

This is my favorite from the batch.

I keep staring at it. But then I love minimalistic art. I think I must need room for my own projections of what an image, movie, or thing might be.

Ashley Judd & Michael Shannon & the aphidslinks!
Sunset Gun revisits Bug, mincing no words: "a masterpiece". I like this movie too but if you ever have a chance to see it on stage, that's where it really wows. So claustrophic and crazy and weirdly expectant of your co-dependency.
In Contention on George Clooney's tribute at Telluride. What a star that man is.
Awards Daily Sasha thinks Glenn Close has a real shot at the Best Actress Oscar with Albert Nobbs as career capper. She also likes The Descendants.
Super Punch stop motion recreation of the Johnny Quest opening credits. "WOW" and also: "What on earth for?" 
Terry Richardson has been shooting Jared Leto again. Those two. 
Movie|Line Stephanie Zacharek with a beautiful ode to Michael Fassbender in Shame and a funny jab at Al Pacino in Wilde Salome.

Today's Must Read
The Sheila Variations on Mia Wasikowska in Jane Eyre. Can we just cut and paste this whole write-up into her Best Actress FYC ads? Hopefully Focus Features takes a look at it.


Even if you haven't seen Jane Eyre (2011) it's an expansive essay taking on various schools (and limitations) of acting and it even has two beautiful shout outs to two of Nathaniel's all time favorite characterizations: Meryl Streep in Silkwood and Kathleen Turner in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? So I'm sensing that Sheila is a kindred spirit.

Oh and... uh... Happy Labor Day Weekend! 
I tried to take a vacation from blogging this week -- as i hinted in the "best of august" post -- and have now realized that I am unable. Constitutionally unable. Which is why you should all sign on as "subscribers" (in sidebar -- i've added a cheaper option for the brokest among you) so that I can keep blogging from here to eternity. I'm not suited for other types of work because I spend too much time dreaming about the movies.

 

 

I'm not sure what I'll do next weekend when I will actually not have an internet connection and must stare at actual friends all day...and not through a computer screen? GROSS.

Diesel Sweeties designed the perfect t-shirt for people like me -- and maybe you -- who can't stop working.

HAVE A GREAT HOLIDAY IF YOU'RE CELEBRATING!

ANIKA DREAMGIRL

Wednesday
Jul272011

Toronto & Venice Lineups: Full of Contenders & Sleepers

Robert here (of Distant Relatives) with some thoughts on the lineups for the Toronto and Venice International Film Festivals which were announced Wednesday morning. And Oh Canada (and Viva Italia!) are they impressive.

Let's begin with Venice since it's up first.

 

VENICE
First up, the many films that will be vying for awards and spots on prestigious top 10 lists at the end of the year. I mention them first because while there's much to anticipate about them all, there's not too much left to say. They've staked their claim and now we must wait for word to start rolling in. So we can see if Roman Polanski's late career semi-resurgence can continue with the impressive cast of Carnage, or whether Steven Soderberg's Contagion can live up to that buzzy trailer. Meanwhile David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method sets out to prove that just because he doesn't make movies with gynelogical tools that look like alien lifeforms anymore, he's still a master of psychosexual pathos. George Clooney's The Ides of March will try to be more than Primary Colors redux and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (from Let the Right One In's Tomas Alfredson) may finally get Gary Oldman some recognition in the form of little statues. And of course Madonna reinvents herself yet again, this time as feature film director with W.E.

Meanwhile I feel like the lineup has reminded me of how many films have fallen under the radar so far this year. Did you know Jonathan Demme has made a post-Katrina documentary entitled I'm Carolyn Parker? Underachiever James Franco has found time to direct a film about Sal Mineo called Sal. Todd Solondz is back at it with the romance Dark Horse, which I'm sure will be more fun for the whole family. Further representing the ladies are Marry Harron who jumps into the vampire fray with The Moth Diaries, Andrea Arnold who gives us a new version of Wuthering Heights, and Marjane Satrapi of Persepolis fame who, with co-director Vincent Paronnaud presents her sophomore effort Chicken With Plums.

If that weren't enough there's Shame, Steve McQueen's follow up to 2008's Hunger which pairs Michael Fassbender with Cary Mulligan. If you liked 2007's sweetly sad The Band's Visit, director Eran Kolirin presents The Exchange. And if you liked last years not-so-sweetly sad Dogtooth, Giorgios Lanthimos is back with Alps. Plus new films from Philippe Garrel, Abel Ferrera, William Friedkin and more. Exhausting. The full list is available for your perusal at The Guardian.

 

TORONTO
Now on to TIFF, the official unofficial start of award season. Along with some films from Venice that will be here too (The Ides of March, The Dangerous Method, W.E.), we'll get our first look at "Sad Clooney" in Alexander Payne's The Descendants, "Angry Woody" in Oren Moverman's Rampart, and "Mathy Brad" in Bennett Miller's Moneyball. Rodrigo Garcia's Albert Nobbs rings the bell on the Glenn Close/Meryl Streep steel cage Oscar match we're all looking forward to and/or feeling conflicted about. Meanwhile Francis Ford Coppola continues the "we hope this one will be his big comeback" era of his career with Twixt.

Of course, Toronto could be comeback central. Fernando Meirelles is premeiring 360 in an attempt to put Blindness out of sight. Lasse Hallstrom is back (actually I can't remember if he went anywhere or if we all stopped paying attention). Anyway if he has his way the title Salmon Fishing in the Yemen will be on all of our lips. Also did you know that Roland Emmerich has apparently grown tired of destroying the world and made a film about Shakespeare called Anonymous... seriously. And his subtler and more stylish French counterpart Luc Besson has maybe put thrillers on hold for The Lady.

The list seemingly never ends, but I must. So I'll finish off with two films you might be anticipating if you enjoyed 2004's My Summer of Love and 2007's Away From Her. Pawel Pawlikoski is back with The Woman in the Fifth and Sarah Polley returns to the director's chair for Take This Waltz. As usual there's still plenty more and The Guardian has that list too.

Once your head has stopped spinning with the promise of a busy end of the year sound off. Which of these are you looking most forward to? Which are you having trouble getting worked up for?