The LA Times’ Patrick Goldstein goes digging into the Conspirator – and why all of the lack of excitement and/or buzz around the film. His solution? Tie it in with 9/11:

It is definitely a sign of the times that this¬†Hollywood icon,¬†who once had studios at his beck and call, is now feeling the need to beat the drums to get some attention for his new film, “The Conspirator.”¬†The movie, which stars Robin Wright and James McAvoy, is a¬†historical drama set in the wake of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, when¬†seven men and one woman (played by Wright) are charged with conspiring to murder the president. The film was financed with independent money because it’s virtually impossible to persuade a major studio to back a real-life historical drama today, at least unless you jump through a thousand hoops — like keeping the budget under $20 million or providing your own financing and then¬†loading the film up with a couple of big stars (working for peanuts, of course).

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Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir says Never Let Me Go is “meticulous and devastating”:

Romanek does so many difficult things beautifully in this movie, which richly deserves the Oscar consideration it will surely receive. He handles a literary adaptation, he re-creates a lost world that is partly imagined but mostly real, he manages a group of characters from childhood through adulthood, and he gets haunting, underplayed performances from both Mulligan — the real star of this film — and the oft-maligned Keira Knightley, strong and subtle as the greedy, petty and finally penitent Ruth. (Garfield is also good, but his role is less substantial.) But maybe the best and most difficult of them is capturing the philosophical dimension of “Never Let Me Go,” which is difficult to describe with words, let alone pictures…

Screenwriter Alex Garland, who is himself a novelist, sticks close to both the letter and spirit of Ishiguro’s novel; this movie is a veritable clinic in precise literary adaptation. He incorporates snatches of dialogue and even voiceover (read by Mulligan) straight from the book, without swamping the human drama or overwhelming Romanek’s astonishing visual evocation of a bygone Britain.

Eric Kohn from IndieWire agrees, but not necessarily in a good way, saying the film “has more visual sheen than storytelling polish.”

An incidental sci-fi story that favors elegant imagery over content, “Never Let Me Go” has plenty of emotional baggage to spare. Adapting Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 novel, Mark Romanek (directing his first feature since 2002’s “One Hour Photo”) sets his sights on a mini-saga that radiates tragedy in each scene.

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Labor Day has passed, and with it so has another Telluride Film Festival.  While it may not have had a huge splash like Juno or Slumdog Millionaire, and the stars that attended were minimal, it was still a good time.  In the seven years I have attended, I have never had this perfect of weather while in the city.  Typically, winter decides to make its first appearance during the festival with a rainstorm that turns to snow.  Instead, sunny and clear, and I think a lot of festivalgoers took to the trails and enjoyed the sun as well as many said they took it easy this year.

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Thanks Kevin K. Have there been about 100 actors and actresses nominated and often winning Oscars for singing country-western songs? Even worked for Meryl Streep.

(Thanks Hunter!)

J√∂rgen’s world is crumbling. Forced into early retirement and harassed by his ex-wife, the only part of his life which makes sense – his beloved daughter Tirza – is shattered when she disappears on holiday in Namibia. After weeks of terrifying uncertainty, J√∂rgen goes searching for her, but the heat, his drinking and bad memories combine to unhinge him. His only ally is a child prostitute called Kaisa. Together they journey into the wilderness on Tirza’s trail to discover her fate.

Jack Goes Boating

Jack Goes Boating is a tale of love, betrayal, friendship and grace centered around two working-class New York City couples. The film stars John Ortiz (American Gangster), Daphne Rubin-Vega (Broadway’s “Rent”), Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote), with Hoffman making his feature directorial debut. Bob Glaudini (“A View From 151st Street”) adapted his acclaimed Off Broadway play for the screen.

Four clips and s few more stills after the cut.

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Being on the Oscar beat for ten years and you learn a thing or two. The one thing that keeps coming back to me as the season begins is how quickly bloggers and critics are eager to give a success or failure judgment to potential “Oscar movies.” It slowly but efficiently breaks my heart every year to watch how films are consumed and tossed like fast food. I don’t claim to be above this game. I AM this game. But it doesn’t make it any less frustrating or disappointing.

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Leave it to Oh No They Didn’t to find these new photos in Empire Mag of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

After the cut.

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Variety‘s Peter Debruge frames his extended forecast in terms of temperamental climate conditions in the blogosphere: “Never Let Me Go is that rare find, a fragile little four-leaf clover of a movie that’s emotionally devastating, yet all too easily trampled by cynics.”

Romanek, best known for his visionary musicvideo work, tries to hold back anything that might brand the film as overly personal, and yet, as in “One Hour Photo,” his gift for texture and tone shines through. Once again, the helmer seems drawn to the melancholy side of his material, directing the cast, especially Mulligan, to play everything as if teetering on the brink of a complete emotional breakdown.

This extreme approach requires a level of commitment not only from the cast but from the audience as well, asking us to look past huge plausibility holes… and instead dedicate our attention to deciphering the subtlest of nonverbal cues, often aided by Rachel Portman’s effectively grief-inducing score and Adam Kimmel’s lensing, which transforms every image into a source for introspection. A few faint wisps of narration aside, Mulligan does most of her work without dialogue, relying on engaged auds to piece together what Kathy is thinking.

Despite perpetrating a number of significant changes from the novel, Garland really gets to the marrow of it, raising philosophical questions about science and the soul that trace all the way back to Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” With its ties to contemporary medical ethics as well, “Never Let Me Go” is the type of film that invites discussion after the fact, proving Romanek has more on his mind than simply making people cry.

Alex Billington at FirstShowing says Never Let Me Go is “a beautiful film, full of fantastic performances and incredibly moving and emotional.”

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Diverse as always, the Telluride Film Festival presents its usual eclectic mix of standout films, foreign gems, and old classics.

Documentaries look to have a major focus this year in Telluride. Martin Scorsese and Kent Jones will be premiering A Letter to Elia, a full-length documentary about the late Elia Kazan. Errol Morris and Ken Burns will also be premiering their documentaries, Tabloid and The 10th Inning. Tabloid is about a former Miss Wyoming that abducts and imprisons a Mormon Missionary, and The 10th Inning is a follow up to Ken Burns’ famous Baseball miniseries. Werner Herzog will also be present for his documentary about the indigenous people of the village Bakhtia at the river Yenisei in the Siberian Taiga. To round it up, the Cannes favorite, Inside Job, will also be making its U.S. premiere.

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David Gritten at the Daily Telegraph concurs with yesterday’s first wave of praise

Every film festival benefits hugely from a strong opening film, and they don’t come a lot stronger than Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller set in the world of New York ballet. Powerful, gripping and always intriguing, it also features a lead performance from Natalie Portman that elevates her from a substantial leading actress to major star likely to be lifting awards in the near future.

Meanwhile Stephanie Zacharek continues to carve out her oddball niche as the critic whose opinion has Zero Oscar relevance. Zacherek, we must recall, is the critic who would’ve been happier seeing Beyonc√© Knowles nominated for Best Actress over Meryl Streep two years ago. It’s a good thing she never tries to align with the Academy’s taste because she absolutely sucks at understanding what scores on awards night. In fact, it’s becoming a very reliable gauge: if Zacharek hates your movie then you’re probably winning an Oscar. So her trashing of Black Swan can only be seen as more good news:

Black Swan is really just a high-toned version of Showgirls, a movie that’s frequently derided as just being “bad,” although I think Paul Verhoeven knew exactly what he was doing, and he was honest about his goals: He wanted to give us a glitzy, over-the-top show-biz fable, and he did.

There’s an opinion you won’t see coming from anyone else: “Showgirls is better than Black Swan.” That’s worth posting for its sheer ludicrous perversity. Back to reality-based awards instincts, more from the Telegraph’s David Grittin:

Black Swan is an exhilarating if uneasy ride, one that could deliver Aronofsky his second Golden Lion here in three years (he won in 2008 with The Wrestler). As for Portman, she can expect a busy few months at awards dinners.

Vulture collects the volatile data and sums it all up with an explosive, “Boom!”

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Black Swan had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival last night, and many critics are leaping around in grand jetés of praise:

Todd McCarthy, Indiewire:

As a sensory experience for the eyes and ears, “Black Swan” provides bountiful stimulation. Aronofsky and cinematographer Matthew Libatique choreograph the camera in beautiful counterpoint to Portman’s dance moves, especially in rehearsals, and the muted color scheme on rather grainy stock look like a more refined version of what the director did on “The Wrestler.” Tchaikovsky’s ever-present music supplies plenty of its own drama and the dance world details seem plausible enough.

Mike Goodridge, Screen International:

Already back on track after Venice Golden Lion winner The Wrestler, Darren Aronofsky soars to new heights with Black Swan, an enthralling drama set in the competitive world of ballet. Alternately disturbing and exhilarating, this dark study of a mentally fragile performer derailed by her obsession with perfection is one of the most exciting films to come out of the Hollywood system this year. Indeed it‚Äôs the perfect film to open the autumn season with its gala at Venice tonight, a bold display of cinematic fireworks that will leave audiences breathless…

Black Swan will be warmly received in Venice, Toronto and beyond and it should pirouette all the way to the Oscars next Feb. If the film is ultimately too unsettling to snag main prizes, it has at least one nomination in the bag for lead actress Natalie Portman who gives one of ‚Äúthose‚Äù performances, transforming herself after ten months of training into an accomplished ballerina, almost uncomfortable to watch as she consumes her difficult role…

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(Thanks to Afrika)

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Sissy Spacek and Mary Kay Place were both nominated for their outstanding guest starring roles on Big Love this year. Sad commentary to note that these were only two major nominations for HBO’s Mormon saga — and it’s already lost both before the red carpet even rolls out. (Ann-Margret won instead for her appearance in a single episode of Law and Order: SVU).

Nobody in the mood to moan about flagrant Emmy snubs needs to look very deep into broadcast history. Neglect for some of the best series on TV happens every year and tonight’s no different. After 4 seasons of Big Love it’s hard to believe the Television Academy hasn’t yet recognized Jeanne Tripplehorn as matriarch Barb Henrickson or Matt Ross as epically conflicted Alby Grant. Probably no other Emmy oversight bothers me more than Big Love’s spurning tonight. Though the complete shut-out for Party Down comes close.

Anyone else need space to vent frustration? Here’s the spot to mourn the abandoned orphans of Emmy Night 2010.

boardwalk empire

Emerging from the wilderness of August in search of anything worthy to write about, one of the brightest beacons on the horizon is HBO’s new Jazz Age gangster series, Boardwalk Empire. It kicks off Sept 19th with a premiere episode directed by Martin Scorsese, and screenrant has found a featurette to whet our appetites.

Since I’m not familiar with comic series on which Tamara Drewe is based this first look at the trailer is my first exposure to the material. It’s not what I thought it would be and probably not what I hoped it would be — but I’m happily flexible and ready to adjust my expectations. I see movies of this type done right in the UK and think of everything Hollywood gets wrong when attempting the same tone.

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It has taken me too long to turn our focus to the Emmys, which are being held this Sunday. ¬†I find the Emmys lacking in suspense because, truthfully, does anyone care who wins? ¬†Not really. ¬†My friend Tom O’Neil is on the case, though, and you can find a plethora of Emmy coverage over at Gold Derby. ¬†He also told me that the reason to tune in is to see Conan O’Brien finally win and stick it to NBC. ¬†But you see, I’ve long since stopped caring about Conan O’Brien. ¬†No offense, but it just doesn’t have the same urgency as, oh, say Inception maybe getting a Best Director nomination or Blue Valentine making the cut for Best Picture. ¬†The Oscars are all about the drama. ¬†The Emmys? ¬†Not so much.

But here we are, nonetheless, the day before the Emmys! ¬†Are you excited yet? ¬†The Emmys! ¬†Television’s biggest night! ¬†Let’s try to do some predicting shall we?

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From this site, via ONTD:


Nancy Kriparos will be covering Toronto for Awards Daily in the coming weeks. She asked me which films I was most interested in seeing and/or having her cover. Toronto can be an unwieldy beast. I think it’s important to always remind you, and myself, that it is not the one-stop shopping for Oscar that many people wrongly assume it is. In fact, a film can get better traction at fests like Telluride, Venice and even Sundance. Toronto, unlike those other festivals, is crammed full of critics, journalists and bloggers and each of them bring their own moods, personal tastes, and whatever else is clouding their day to their early take on a film.

Sometimes the “group-think” is worth paying attention to, as it was when Elizabeth The Golden Age tanked first at Toronto and then later when it opened here (and the same goes for Creation last year, unfortunately). But there have been films to do extremely well in the context of Toronto but then not quite play as strongly in the Oscar race as predicted. Walk the Line comes to mind (even if Reese Witherspoon did go on to win). To that end, the Toronto gamble can sometimes be a big one.

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