Kieran here. It may be heresy to admit this among other cinephiles, but I like Will Smith. I think he’s a talented actor. On a more personal level, I’m not nearly as irrationally annoyed by him or his children as many seem to be. Earlier this week it was announced that Smith and his Suicide Squad director David Ayer have inked Netflix’s biggest film deal to date with their supernatural police thriller Bright. He was once thought of as the industry’s last true movie star. With both this new project and Suicide Squad (out later this year), one wonders what’s on the horizon for Will Smith...
Entries in Will Smith (21)
The Oscars are apparently not the end of awards season, as the MTV Movie Awards nominations were announced today. Star Wars: The Force Awakens led the field with 11 nods and despite being in theaters for less than a month Deadpool scored 8 nominations. Joining the two in the best film category are Avengers: Age of Ultron (6 nominations), Creed (only one other nomination for its star Michael B. Jordan), Jurassic World (3 nominations) and Straight Outta Compton (3 nominations).
Readers I'm getting nervous. I love the Oscars. Ever since I saw the shiny gold man on a TV guide cover as a little boy and was all "what is that?" I've been hooked. So their history means a lot to me.
It's actually because of that history that it's fun as well as uplifting to chart their progress over the years in dealing with diversity -- and there has been a lot of progress no matter what the current cultural rage would imply. It's been a thrill to see the "first this" and "first that" over the years.
But this year things are getting ugly. The Academy often makes terrible mistakes when they're criticized (note all the 'we can't make up our minds' volatility with the rules following The Dark Knight year) and now they'll be meeting on possible rules changes including returning to 10 Picture nominees. President Cheryl Boone Isaacs promises "big changes". Some people are even floating acting fields as big as 10 nominees. This is probably the worst idea I've ever heard in relation to the Oscars. [More...]
There was a weird and wonderful symmetry last night watching Will Smith talk about his starring role as Dr Bennet Omalu in Concussion in front of the real man and thinking of the character we'd just seen onscreen. It was not the easy symmetry of mimicry, but of spirit. Both men are legends of their respective fields, if you will, and that's the last time we'll compare forensic pathology and movie stardom! More curiously neither man seemed willing to admit that the night's festivities were about him. Will Smith was especially humble about his performance and starstruck by the real man, admitting after Dr Omalu burst out laughing during the Q&A that followed the premiere, that he loved that laugh but couldn't manage to perfect it for the movie. Dr Omalu, in the movie and on stage kept saying that the story wasn't about him but about the science. The writer/director Peter Landisman called the movie version of Omalu a "triangulation" of the two men which is the best description possible of what we were watching on stage, the movie still fresh in the mind.
Concussion centers on Omalu's discovery of CTE, a brain disease brought on by repeated concussive head trauma, and the attempts of the NFL to cover up the physical damage on their players. A string of high profile suicides finally broke down the NFL's attempts at denial and debunking of Omalu's claims. [More...]
Many of the season's most buzzy films have already made a splash at Cannes, TIFF and NYFF, and a few of those will be screening here, but AFI Fest will also as in years past be holding world premieres for a few late-breaking contenders. With the first end-of-the-film-year nominations out (Gotham Awards, always early but never predictable) many pundits would have you believe the shortlists are already set, but there may yet be a few wild cards in the mix.
Last year AFI Fest gave us the world-premieres of two eventual Best Picture nominees (Selma and American Sniper), a critical darling that nonetheless escaped Oscar's notice (A Most Violent Year), and an all-around non-starter (The Gambler). This year the festival will premiere By the Sea, The Big Short, and Concussion, as well as The 33 (already released in Latin America but not yet widely screened in English-language markets). Naturally we're very curious to see which of these, if any, will make the kind of impression it will take to break into the conversation and stay there.
The Big Short: a (comedic?) drama about the bursting of the housing credit bubble in the 2000s. Directed by Adam McKay; starring Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt. Oscar loves when comedic actors get serious. Might similar goodwill extend to a director like Adam McKay, who is most famous for his many absurdist collaborations with Will Ferrell? You'll note that the ensemble cast is chock-full of Oscar nominees with atrocious hairdos-- reminds one of nothing so much as American Hustle, which made a killing on nomination morning 2013.
By the Sea: a marital drama set at the 1970s French seaside. Written and directed by Angelina Jolie, who is also starring with Brad Pitt. As buzzy as it gets: the world's most famous celebrity couple, acting together for the first time in ten years. Jolie's last directorial effort debuted to very healthy box office and decent reviews-- unspectacular, but more than enough to sustain curiousity for her third film. People seem to really want it to be good, and the below the line team (including The White Ribbon DP Christian Berger and The English Patient composer Gabriel Yared) bring a formidable arsenal of talent to the table. But will a romantic drama that's not also a biopic be able to gain traction with Oscar?
Concussion: a dramatic thriller about the real-life Dr. Bennet Omalu's research on serious brain damage in professional football players and the NFL's efforts to keep him quiet. Written and directed by Peter Landesman, starring Will Smith, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Albert Brooks. Primed to be a dramatic comeback for Smith, who used to cross back and forth between blockbusters and prestige films much more often. The true story aspect is often irresistable to awards bodies, and it seems that recent-history stories about the investigation of shady dealings by powerful people is a popular theme among this year's Oscar hopefuls (see also Truth, Spotlight, The Big Short). But since the trailer dropped, Smith's accent has been the object of many a snide comment-- will we be able to take him and the movie seriously? There are also rumors that pressure from the NFL shaped some of the storytelling, which if true could impact the movie's bite and credibility.
The 33: a true-life drama based on the 2010 Chilean mining catastrophe that trapped 33 miners underground for over two months. Directed by Patricia Riggen, starring Antonio Banderas, Rodrigo Santoro, Juliette Binoche, Lou Diamond Phillips. Not only does it have the true-story advantage, but the subject is an objectively impressive and cinematic human achievement. Binoche and Banderas also both have decades of critical goodwill. The response from critics in Latin America (where it has already opened) suggests that it's something of a broad melodrama, which might not win it die-hard fans among cinephiles but certainly puts it in good company with many Best Picture nominees in years past.
Which of these has the potential to go full American Sniper and sneak into 5-7 nominations? Which do you predict will go the way of The Gambler? And perhaps most importantly: which movies on the AFI Fest slate are you dying to hear more about? Nathaniel, Anne Marie, Kieran and myself will be attending and sharing our thoughts.
Manuel here to talk about Will Smith's newest film, Concussion, which released its first trailer. The film follows Dr. Bennet Omalu (Smith) who discovered CTE (Chronic traumatic encephalopathy) in two football players who later committed suicides. Based on the GQ article "Game Brain" by Jeanne Marie Laskas, the film is about Dr. Omalu's attempts at getting the NFL to take his findings seriously; that is, that the concussions suffered by football players may lead to chronic degenerative brain diseases.
You can imagine how that went in real life and how that'll play out in the film itself. The film was written and directed by Peter Landesman (who wrote and directed Parkland). Following our patented trailer evaluation system, let's take a look at Concussion: