BEST DIRECTOR

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Indiewire’s Ryan Lattanzio reports that Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation could be headed to the Oscar race now that is has gotten a theatrical release date. They are doing the HBO dance of giving the pic a theatrical release alongside its streaming World Premiere:

Netflix is partnering with indie film distributor Bleecker Street and exhibitor Landmark to release the film day-and-date on Friday, October 16, 2015 in 19 markets. Clearly, awards are in view and theatrical is needed to achieve that. The film has already booked a Venice competition premiere, followed by a Canadian premiere in Toronto. Which means we should expect “Beasts” to pop up in the secret Telluride lineup.

It’s a clever way to change up the game, much the way Netflix did with House of Cards’ first season. The idea was to de-stigmatize Netflix’s original content programming, which it aced without breaking a sweat. Now, in order to satisfy the bizarre shifting landscape of television looming large over much of the feature film market (that’s where the audiences are now) Netflix is once again bridging the gap and de-stigmatizing their brand and the idea of VOD as a kind of legit platform for Oscar consideration.

In other words, this is as close as anyone has yet come to making the Oscars consider “television” or VOD in the feature film world. HBO does the same every year with its documentaries. They drive up their own profits by giving the film its needed theatrical release to qualify for awards. That helps publicize it by the time it hits HBO airwaves. Now, Netflix will do the same and you can imagine the publicity potential for the film if it gets anywhere near the Kodak.

To change the game they need a big name. They had Fincher for House of Cards and now they have Cary Fukunaga whose name is gold right now amid critics and voters. This would then open doors to other companies – theoretically Amazon or even HBO (who could have done that with Soderbergh’s Candelabra for instance).

As Lattanzio notes, “Earlier this year, AMC, Regal, Carmike and Cinemark dug their heels, stating they would not show the film without a 90-day window between its theatrical and streaming premieres.

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The New York Times just announced that the Danny Boyle film, “Steve Jobs,” starring Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet will be the centerpiece gala for the New York Film Fest. With a crackling script by Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs will be poised to take the Oscars by storm, or certainly get invited into the room.

In a statement, the event’s director, Kent Jones, described the film as “extremely sharp,” adding, “It’s wildly entertaining, and the actors just soar — you can feel their joy as they bite into their material.”

The fest kicks off September 25th, after Telluride and Toronto, leaving me to wonder whether Steve Jobs will be headed to Telluride…

The NYFF can have a major Oscar impact and then sometimes it can do more harm than good if the critics turn on the movie. It is then in the hands of the left coast to turn that boat around, as happened with Life of Pi.

Tomorrow, we get our first taste of the Toronto Film Fest lineup. Telluride will not announce until the day before Labor Day weekend, at the end of August. Supposedly if Toronto says “international premiere” that means it could theoretically play at Telluride first.

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An exclusive get for Grantland features an interview with DiCaprio on the performance. He’s currently getting ready to film the final sequences (Inarritu likes to shoot in sequence).

About the character of Glass, Inarritu says:

“He was attacked by a bear, he was abandoned, and he had to go 300 miles to get revenge — this was what is known about him,” explains the 51-year-old Iñárritu, sipping something warm in the Santa Monica offices where he’s begun editing the movie. For him, the raw facts of Glass’s life were just the beginning, an opportunity to see Glass “as an example of the relentless possibilities of the human spirit against so many challenges: racial, physical, spiritual, social. I took that opportunity to create my own Hugh Glass: my interpretation of who he could have been.”

And DiCaprio:

That interpretation drew DiCaprio to the project. “I tried to capture — or emulate on film — a different type of American that I haven’t seen on film very often,” DiCaprio says. “This [was] an unregulated, sort of lawless territory. It hadn’t been forged into the America that we know yet. It was still sort of up for grabs.”

Inarritu went after the authentic experience, putting the actors through rigorous real life challenges:

“There was something very positive about shooting in those conditions, to understand what those guys [from the 1820s] went through,” Iñárritu says. “We don’t have adventures anymore. Now people say, ‘I went to India … it’s an adventure.’ No: We have GPS, a phone, nobody gets lost. Those guys really were in a huge physical, emotional adventure in the unknown territory. After you see what these guys went through, you understand what pussies we are: Our apartment is not at the right temperature, there is no ham in the fridge, and the water is a little cold … When did that happen?

“Actors were not in sets with green screens and laughing,” Iñárritu says. “They were miserable! And they really feel the fucking cold in their ass! They were not acting at all!”

Read the full interview at Grantland.

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Alejandro G. Inarritu’s The Revenant opens December 25th. Leonardo DiCaprio gets another shot at the big prize. The Revenant is “partially based” on Michael Punke’s 2003 novel and is the story of fur trapper and hunter Hugh Glass, a man who survived a grizzly bear attack, was left for dead, who then crawled his way back to survival. In the hands of Inarritu, there is likely more to it than just an extreme tale of survival.

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David O. Russell finally casts Jennifer Lawrence in the lead. Here it is, our one most promising Best Picture contender starring a woman.

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Based on a true story, Bridge of Spies takes place during the Cold War. The loose synopsis, “Brooklyn lawyer James Donovan finds himself thrust into the middle of the Cold War when the CIA sends him on the near-impossible task of negotiating the release of a captured U-2 pilot.”

Andrew Garfield in Silence

There has been some confusion as to whether Martin Scorsese’s Silence will be ready to screen in time for this year’s Oscars. It, like Wolf of Wall Street, might just make it under the wire. Scorsese’s film is based on the Shusaku Endo novel about two Jesuit priests who try to bring Christianity to 17th century Japan. The film has been on the back burner for Scorsese starting back in 2009. It was filmed this year with Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver and Liam Neeson. The script was adapted by Jay Cocks.  Jeff Wells has been ruminating on whether the film would be released this year and seemed to get his confirmation of that from David Poland of Movie City News. There is no official confirmation yet, as far as I’ve heard, only speculation. But, if it comes to pass, that might mean a year with Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg potentially IN THE HOUSE as they were in 2011 with Hugo and War Horse.  Yeah, so like not a big deal or anything. Just two of the greatest directors OF ALL TIME.

Cinematography: Rodrigo Prieto
Editing: Thelma Schoonmaker
Production Design: Dante Ferretti
Music: Howard Shore

In other words, an Oscar joint up one side and down the other. From 2002 to 2013 every Scorsese film he’s made has been nominated for Best Picture except Shutter Island (which should have been).

Here is the plot summary from Wikipedia, with many details that will certainly constitute spoilers for anyone not already familiar with a book published nearly 50 years ago:

Young Portuguese Jesuit, Sebastião Rodrigues (based on the historical figure Giuseppe Chiara) is sent to Japan to succor the local Church and investigate reports that his mentor, a Jesuit priest in Japan named Ferreira, based on Cristóvão Ferreira, has committed apostasy. Half of the book is the written journal of Rodrigues, while the other half of the book is written either in the third person, or in the letters of others associated with the narrative. The novel relates the trials of Christians and the increasing hardship suffered by Rodrigues.

Fr. Rodrigues and his companion Fr. Francisco Garrpe arrive in Japan in 1639. There they find the local Christian population driven underground. To ferret out hidden Christians, Security officials force suspected Christians to trample on a fumie, a crudely carved image of Christ. Those who refuse are imprisoned and killed by anazuri (穴吊り), which is by being hung upside down over a pit and slowly bled.

Rodrigues and Garrpe are eventually captured and forced to watch as Japanese Christians lay down their lives for the faith. There is no glory in these martyrdoms, as Rodrigues had always imagined – only brutality and cruelty. Prior to the arrival of Rodrigues, the authorities had been attempting to force priests to renounce their faith by torturing them. Beginning with Fr. Ferreira, they torture other Christians as the priests look on, telling the priests that all they must do is renounce their faith in order to end the suffering of their flock.

Rodrigues’ journal depicts his struggles: he understands suffering for the sake of one’s own faith; but he struggles over whether it is self-centered and unmerciful to refuse to recant when doing so will end another’s suffering. At the climactic moment, Rodrigues hears the moans of those who have recanted but are to remain in the pit until he tramples the image of Christ. As Rodrigues looks upon a fumie, Christ breaks his silence:

“Trample! Trample! I more than anyone know of the pain in your foot. Trample! It was to be trampled on by men that I was born into this world. It was to share men’s pain that I carried my cross.”

Rodrigues obeys, and the Christians are released.

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It was almost a Fincher/Sorkin/Rudin joint with a different actor (Leo, Christian) but now it’s here – Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs with Michael Fassbender as the man who invented then reinvented Apple. Kate Winslet looks to be supporting. Here is a trailer and our first glimpse of Fassbender as Jobs, who enters the Oscar race against the Weinstein Co’s MacBeth. May the best Fassy win.

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We might have our Best Actor frontrunner (sight unseen anyway) in Tom Hardy’s double performance in Legend. Hardy is one of those transformative actors who can be barely recognizable. He’s been working his way away from being a heartthrob and towards being a versatile chameleon. Hardy also stars in one of the year’s biggest hits with Fury Road. Here is the trailer for Legend, written and directed by Brian Helgeland, who won an Oscar for co-writing LA Confidential, and was nominated for his adaptation of Mystic River:

You can see how quickly the Best Actor category is about to fill up.

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I try to imagine Jaws being released now and how Twitter would have responded to it. Would they complain about how fake the shark looked? Would they think Quint was a cliche? Would women like me complain that the role of Ellen Brody had been greatly diminished in the adaptation? Would animal rights activists be up in arms about the personification of the shark — sharks kill just five people a year compared to hippos that kill 2,900. Winning Twitter is no easy game these days. For every Inside Out that comes out to raves there are dozens of others that are snarked within an inch of their life.

It’s a good thing, then, that Jaws came out when so many of us hadn’t yet gotten ourselves in the clutches of social networking. Jaws resonates still because it’s a great movie. Period. Yes, the shark looks fake but that isn’t near enough to derail its prominence. This is the master Steven Spielberg at the top of his game working with a team of actors who nail their characters, to say nothing of John Williams’ score, which is so much of what makes the movie work.

I was ten years old when Jaws came out and it remains the only movie I stood in line to see roughly 14 times when it played. Since then, I probably watch it at least once a year. At least. Jaws is great because it treats the shark like a character. It’s great because its plot derives not from the visual effects but from the internal conflicts of its three main leads. All three men – Brody, Hooper and Quint are given backgrounds, pasts, demons to overcome, and most importantly, there is conflict between them when thrown together. Hooper and Quint are rivals down economic and professional lines. Brody holds the whole thing together but is inexperienced and afraid of the water. He’s an ex-New York cop coming at the shark problem like he would a common criminal on the streets. Credit for building mythology around the shark must be given to Hooper (a scientist) and Quint (a fisherman). We see beautiful symbols of this mythic shark — its jaws, its fin. The dramatic tension is driven not by seeing the shark at all but by watching the barrels shot into him bob to the surface. We know where the shark is because we can see the barrels. Our imaginations does the rest. The barrels pop up then start to move. We have to guess where they are moving and where they’re heading.

Spielberg plays with our imaginations and fears about the shark from the very first scene with Chrissie swimming at nighttime. This vicious attack we see only from the surface — we see no blood, we see no teeth ripping into flesh — we see only her reaction to the vicious mutilation happening to her from below. We connect with our own fears from swimming at night or swimming at all of what might be swimming beneath us.

So many of us came of age on Jaws and have loved it faithfully ever since. I personally know at least four or five people who have committed the film to memory. I challenge you to try to stump me with quotes on it as I know it backwards and forwards. I think of Jaws as so much of a part of my childhood it always seems strange to me when I meet so many others who felt the same way. In a sense, the popularity of Jaws is wrapped up with that — nostalgia. But in another sense, has there ever been a better movie?

Jaws and Star Wars altered the path of summer movies forever. They were the first blockbusters. Though they didn’t really get it at the time they were the first tent poles. Imagine any film made today that waited as long on the character development as it did on the suspense. That was what the greats of the 1970s did better than any of the filmmakers today making similar films — Ridley Scott’s Alien, William Friedkin’s The Exorcist and Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. The fear was rooted in worry for the characters we had come to know so well, not so much from the horrors of what computer graphics could achieve. Because of that, there is nothing dated or embarrassing about any of these films except perhaps the effects themselves which are the only elements of these films that could be improved upon.

The two best sequences in the film are the shark attacks themselves, specifically the Alex Kintner attack, but you have to add in “Michael’s in the pond.” Both are examples of why Spielberg was one of the greatest directors. The scene is first set on a typical summer’s day. Brody is on the beach with his wife. The kids are splashing around in the water. A young man plays fetch with his dog until the dog disappears. The stick turns up but the dog doesn’t. Alex Kintner is given one more chance to swim even though his fingers are beginning to prune. Brody is on edge already because he knows there was already a shark attack that the mayor told him to quash. He sees Harry’s swim cap and thinks it might be a shark. He’s watching and nervous. Once again we see things from the shark’s point of view. We see the legs and the raft. We hear the shark’s theme. Then we get our first glimpse of the big fish — just fins and blood and a screaming child. Then the famous rack zoom shot of Brody — his worst fear confirmed. As the parents rush to the shore to rescue their children we see Brody unable to put his feet in the water. Finally, poor Mrs. Kintner is the last frantic parent on the beach — looking for her son. Finally, we see evidence of a torn up raft awash in bloody seawater.

You could go to film school on that scene (and many others in this film). The second magnificent scene is the 4th of July celebration on Amity Island. It’s the one where Brody’s own son is endangered by the shark. He builds the suspense once again with Brody’s fear. He’s on the beach but this time he has the support of law enforcement who are EVERYWHERE. Michael is told to go in the pond because the pond is supposed to be safe. “The pond’s for old ladies,” his son says. “Well do it for the old man,” Brody says. Once again Brody is trying to do the right thing but forces oppose him leaving him helpless. When a family is pressured to go in the water to set an example for the beachgoers it seems as though things might go back to normal. But no, kids prank the crowd with a fake fin creating mass chaos. Next we get a glimpse of the shark swimming and we hear the young woman shout, “The shark! In the pond!” Brody brushes it off until his wife says “Michael’s in the pond.” Yes because Brody sent him there. He begins to walk to the pond, then run, then finally he gets to the shore and this time he does go in the water to help pull his frightened son out. During this attack we see the shark — the hugeness of it (watch here for an continuity blip in the shoe being off the coach’s foot then back on). What makes the scene so powerful isn’t the shot of the shark — it’s Brody’s fear of his son being killed.

One scene after another in Jaws is top-notch directing, acting and editing. They didn’t get much better then and they certainly don’t get better now. Jaws sinks into its story, not leaning only on the first hour for suspense but driving the suspense throughout the second half, when Hooper and Quint are introduced. It succeeds because it never sacrifices the people for the thrills.

Jaws taught us all about corporate greed over public welfare. 40 years later it re-emerges in theater when corporate greed has all but choked the life out of America. It innocently set aflame our collective fears about sharks, which sadly led to their slaughter. It re-emerges now with better awareness of how to allow endangered creatures to share the planet with us.

My summer the year Jaws came out was haunted. It was haunted by the paperback cover, the movie poster and then the film. We would have gone to see it no matter if it was good or not. We probably wouldn’t have gone back to see it if we hadn’t connected so personally as we all did then and as we all do now.

Jaws was only nominated for four Oscars, Picture, Sound, Score and Editing, winning all but Picture. Spielberg, of course, was shut out. It was so much — and is so much — bigger than the Oscars. It represents some of the best American filmmaking then and now.

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Paul Dano, Brian Wilson, and John Cusack pose for a portrait during press day for "Love & Mercy" at The Four Seasons on Tuesday, June 2, 2015 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Casey Curry/Invision/AP)

There are two brilliant performances in Love & Mercy, well, four if you add in Paul Giamatti and Elizabeth Banks in supporting roles. Paul Dano and John Cusack together make one whole complete lead performance, so says Jeff Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere, who also folded in the same kind of thing with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in Carol. Mara ended up winning Best Actress in Cannes but it is a coin toss as to which actress stands out the most. Likewise with Dano and Cusack.

Usually partnered performances like that are divided up into lead and supporting, putting contenders either where they have the best shot at winning (or getting the nomination) or whose ever star shines brighter. In the case of both Rooney Mara and John Cusack they might have an easier road to Oscar because in Carol and Love & Mercy they are showing sides of themselves we’ve never seen before. They are too important to be “supporting” characters yet they are defined that way by star power (Blanchett) or by how much they dominate the film (Dano).

This is a pickle, no doubt about it. Both films may suffer from being seen early and won’t have the advantage of feeling “fresh” by the time the other movies roll out. My first thought with Carol was that Rooney Mara was the standout. That is, I was most impressed with her work overall because I’ve only really seen her in full wingspan display in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Now she’s been given an equally powerful role to show us what she can do and it’s quite something to behold. Cate Blanchett, on the other hand, has an entire career of these kinds of performances behind her — after playing Bob Dylan in I’m Not There, Jasmine in Blue Jasmine, Queen Elizabeth in Elizabeth, and on and on it goes – how much more surprising can Blanchett be?

Likewise, Paul Dano has pulled out the stops so many times before in films like There Will be Blood and 12 Years a Slave that my first viewing of Love & Mercy put my attention more on Cusack, whom I’ve never seen so vulnerable and exposed as he is here. So to me, on first pass, Cusack was the one I thought had the better chance at a nomination — not for lead, mind you, but for supporting. But then I saw the movie again. The second time through, Dano’s performance emerged much more. So much so that I think he could be a strong contender not just to be nominated for Best Actor but maybe to win. It’s just a masterwork from Dano who tends at times to go a bit over the top. He doesn’t do that here. Both actors capture Brian Wilson’s gentle spirit and inherent sadness. Both actors show in such a subtle way how Brian Wilson tried so hard to beat back the voices and the demons.

While it’s true both actors make one complete performance, if it were me, I’d go for Dano for lead and Cusack for supporting. I say this for two reasons, primarily. 1) the Best Actor race is going to be so crowded by Oscar nomination time and 2) it will be hard to make sure this film is remembered at all because it’s being seen so early.

For those reasons I think you have to split up the paired contenders. One has to be lead and one has to be supporting.

Let’s look at a few other films that had the same kind of thing going on and how they were ultimately divided up. When there is a man and a woman they go in different categories so we’ll take that off the table and look at films where two performers of the same gender had equally powerful roles. Usually if the actors go in for the same category one is NOT NOMINATED, like Amy Adams in Julie & Julia. You always have a much better chance if you split the categories.

Training Day: Denzel Washington lead, Ethan Hawke supporting
August: Osage County: Meryl Streep lead, Julia Roberts supporting
The Help: Viola Davis lead, Octavia Spencer supporting
Chicago: Renee Zellweger lead, Catherine Zeta-Jones supporting
Wolf of Wall Street: Leo DiCaprio lead, Jonah Hill supporting
The Master: Joaquin Phoenix lead, Phil Seymour Hoffman supporting
Moneyball: Brad Pitt lead, Jonah Hill supporting
The Social Network: Jessie Eisenberg lead, Andrew Garfield supporting
Frost/Nixon: Frank Langella lead, Michael Sheen supporting
Mystic River: Sean Penn lead, Tim Robbins supporting
Pulp Fiction: John Travolta lead, Samuel L. Jackson supporting

And by contrast:
Django Unchained: Jamie Foxx not nominated, Christoph Waltz supporting
The Kids Are All Right: Annette Bening lead, Julianne Moore not nominated (she was campaigned for lead)
The Devil Wears Prada: Meryl Streep lead, Anne Hathaway not nominated
One True Thing: Meryl Streep lead, Renee Zellweger not nominated
Foxcatcher: Steve Carell nominated, Channing Tatum not nominated
The Insider: Russell Crowe nominated, Al Pacino not nominated
Philadelphia: Tom Hanks nominated, Denzel Washington not nominated

Obviously, it’s a crapshoot how things will go down. No one yet knows if anyone from this film will get recognized. There is a whole season still to go. They have four acting contenders in this film: Paul Dano, John Cusack, Paul Giamatti and Elizabeth Banks. They all did great work. That’s what matters to them. I’d still run Dano lead, Cusack supporting, along with Giamatti and Banks.

At the end of the day, Love & Mercy is one of the major standouts of the year so far and if the Oscar race defines itself by picking the best, god willing, voters will remember it.

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SIFF celebrates its films and filmmakers with the Golden Space Needle Audience Awards. Selected by Festival audiences, awards are given in five categories: Best Film, Best Documentary, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Short Film. This year, nearly 90,000 ballots were submitted.

GOLDEN SPACE NEEDLE AWARD – BEST FILM
The Dark Horse, directed by James Napier Robertson (New Zealand 2014)

First runner-up: Inside Out, directed by Pete Docter (USA 2015)
Second runner-up: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (USA 2015)
Third runner-up: Shaun the Sheep, directed by Richard Starzak, Mark Burton (UK 2015)
Fourth runner-up: Good Ol’ Boy, directed by Frank Lotito (USA 2015)

GOLDEN SPACE NEEDLE AWARD – BEST DOCUMENTARY
Romeo is Bleeding, directed by Jason Zeldes (USA 2015)

First runner-up: Paper Tigers, directed by James Redford (USA 2015)
Second runner-up: The Glamour & The Squalor, directed by Marq Evans (USA 2015)
Third runner-up: The Great Alone, directed by Greg Kohs (USA 2015)
Fourth runner-up: Frame by Frame, directed by Mo Scarpelli, Alexandria Bombach (Afghanistan 2014)

GOLDEN SPACE NEEDLE AWARD – BEST DIRECTOR
Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (USA 2015)

First runner-up: George Ovashvili, Corn Island (Georgia 2014)
Second runner-up: Peter Greenaway, Eisenstein in Guanajuato (Netherlands 2015)
Third runner-up: Susanne Bier, A Second Chance (Denmark 2014)
Fourth runner-up: Ross Partridge, Lamb (USA 2015)

GOLDEN SPACE NEEDLE AWARD – BEST ACTOR
Cliff Curtis, The Dark Horse (New Zealand 2014)

First runner-up: Ian McKellen, Mr. Holmes (UK 2015)
Second runner-up: Jason Segel, End of the Tour (USA 2014)
Third runner-up: Victor Andrés Trelles Turgeon, Henri Henri (Canada (Québec) 2014)
Fourth runner-up: Jacir Eid, Theeb (Jordan 2014)

GOLDEN SPACE NEEDLE AWARD – BEST ACTRESS
Nina Hoss, Phoenix (Germany 2014)

First runner-up: Kalki Koechlin, Margarita, with a Straw (India 2014)
Second runner-up: Rebecka Josephson, My Skinny Sister (Sweden 2015)
Third runner-up: Regina Case, The Second Mother (Brazil 2015)
Fourth runner-up: Ghita Nørby, Key House Mirror (Denmark 2015)

GOLDEN SPACE NEEDLE AWARD – BEST SHORT FILM
Even the Walls, directed by Sarah Kuck, Saman Maydáni (USA 2015)

First runner-up: Submarine Sandwich, directed by PES (USA 2014)
Second runner-up: Stealth, directed by Bennett Lasseter (USA 2014)
Third runner-up: Personal Development, directed by Tom Sullivan (Ireland 2015)
Fourth runner-up: Bihttoš, directed by Elie-Máijá Tailfeathers (Canada 2014)

LENA SHARPE AWARD FOR PERSISTENCE OF VISION
Frame by Frame, directed by Mo Scarpelli, Alexandria Bombach (Afghanistan 2014)

This award is given to the female director’s film that receives the most votes in public balloting at the Festival. Lena Sharpe was co-founder and managing director of Seattle’s Festival of Films by Women Directors and a KCTS-TV associate who died in a plane crash while on assignment. As a tribute to her efforts in bringing the work of women filmmakers to prominence, SIFF created this special award and asked Women in Film Seattle to bestow it.

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Sure to be on the top of the Oscar pile is Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk, just announced to open the New York Film Festival (September 25 – October 11).  Official release following. The New York Film Fest has become a great way to launch an Oscar film, though last year’s big get Gone Girl proved too successful with audiences, had a female screenwriter and actually starred a woman. Naturally, the Oscar voters rejected it. It’s a man only club, don’t you know, no $150+ female driven projects need apply. But I’m not bitter.

Joseph Gordon Levitt joins the ranks of yet another year of a packed Best Actor race but lo, French accent alert. With Zemeckis behind the wheel we can be sure it will be a visual feast.

The Walk, though, is right in their wheelhouse, so to speak, and early word is it’s great.

A true story, the film is based on Philippe Petit’s memoir To Reach the Clouds and stars Golden Globe nominee Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Petit, the French high-wire artist who achieved the feat of walking between the Twin Towers in 1974. The Walk will be the second 3D feature selected for the Opening Night Gala since Ang Lee’s Life of Pi in 2012 and also marks Zemeckis’s return to the Festival after Flight, the 2012 Closing Night Gala selection. Today’s announcement coincides with the release of the film’s trailer, which can be viewed at movies.yahoo.com. The film will be released in 3D and IMAX 3D on October 2, 2015.

New York Film Festival Director and Selection Committee Chair Kent Jones said: “The Walk is surprising in so many ways. First of all, it plays like a classic heist movie in the tradition of The Asphalt Jungle or Bob le flambeur—the planning, the rehearsing, the execution, the last-minute problems—but here it’s not money that’s stolen but access to the world’s tallest buildings. It’s also an astonishing re-creation of Lower Manhattan in the ’70s. And then, it becomes something quite rare, rich, mysterious… and throughout it all, you’re on the edge of your seat.”

Robert Zemeckis added: “I am extremely honored and grateful that our film has been selected to open the 53rd New York Film Festival. The Walk is a New York story, so I am delighted to be presenting the film to New York audiences first. My hope is that Festival audiences will be immersed in the spectacle, but also to be enraptured by the celebration of a passionate artist who helped give the wonderful towers a soul.”

Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group Chairman Tom Rothman said: “On behalf of TriStar and Sony, I want to thank Kent and the NYFF for this great honor. The Walk is a love letter to the Twin Towers, which through the unique magic of cinema, come back to vibrant, inspiring life. But it is also a universal story of the determined pursuit of impossible dreams, told by one of our greatest living filmmakers, and the NYFF has always been a place where such dreams come true.”

The film also stars Academy Award® winner Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Ben Schwartz, Steve Valentine, Charlotte Le Bon, Clement Sibony, Caesar Domboy and Benedict Samuel. Directed by Zemeckis, the screenplay is by Robert Zemeckis & Christopher Browne, based on the book “To Reach the Clouds” by Philippe Petit, and produced by Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis, and Jack Rapke.

The 17-day New York Film Festival highlights the best in world cinema, featuring top films from celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new talent. The selection committee, chaired by Jones, also includes Dennis Lim, FSLC Director of Programming; Marian Masone, FSLC Senior Programming Advisor; Gavin Smith, Editor-in-Chief, Film Comment; and Amy Taubin, Contributing Editor, Film Comment and Sight & Sound.

NYFF previously announced Luminous Intimacy: The Cinema of Nathaniel Dorsky and Jerome Hiler, the first-ever complete dual retrospective of the experimental filmmakers works that will include the world premiere of Dorsky’s Intimations, a new untitled work, and New York premieres of Summer, December, February, and Avraham.

Tickets for the 53rd New York Film Festival will go on sale in early September. Becoming a Film Society Member at the Film Buff Level or above provides early ticket access to festival screenings and events ahead of the general public, along with the exclusive member ticket discount! To find out how to become a Film Society member, visit filmlinc.com/membership.

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There were cars before women had the right to vote.

Carey Mulligan looks to leap to the top of the pack for Best Actress based on this trailer. The very very talented Ms. Mulligan finally looks to have a role that challenge her and exhibit her full range of ability. She makes us care, even if we didn’t care before. It’s important for women to know in 2015 what other women suffered for their privilege to vote.

The cover of the Stevie Nicks song Landslide is lovely.


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Deadline reports that “creative differences” have driven yet another female director away from a high profile project. This time it’s Sofia Coppola dropping out of the live action version of The Little Mermaid for Universal.  The project isn’t dead, of course. They’re forging ahead and will be likely attaching another director. At this rate, though, they’re going to need to start taking chanced on lesser known female directors if they want to hire women after other women drop out.

Thankfully, there is a website called The Director List has a searchable database of 850 female directors. Surely there might be one in there worth getting to know, eh, Hollywood?

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by Jordan Ruimy

“Mad Max: Fury Road” has single-handedly redefined what an action movie can do. George Miller worked on his baby for the better part of 30 years and his vision was finally unleashed on screens nationwide a few weekends ago to the ravest of rave reviews. Where does this “Mad Max” stack up with the others? I’m pretty sure it’s on par with, if not better than, 1982’s “The Road Warrior”, a film that changed the action movie game over 30 years ago. Will “Fury Road” be as indelibly treasured a decade or two from now? Time will tell, but the feminist angle – a kickass Charlize Theron – and chaotically edited action might be a sign of things to come with the genre (could be a good thing or it could be a bad thing). When the movie was done all I could think of was how all these young, hip, new superhero movie directors coming from the indie scene just got schooled on how an action movie should be made…all this by a 70-year-old filmmaker.

“Die Hard” changed the action genre almost 30 years ago; ever since then it has evolved in numerous, interesting ways, (mind you not all successful) but it’s given us a handful of great movies. “Fury Road” is only the latest addition to this ever-evolving genre. Where do we go from here? What will be the consequences of a post-“Fury Road” action world? As A.O. Scott wrote in The New York Times, “Miller has reminded us that blockbusters have the potential to not only be art, but radically visionary – even the fourth in a series. What a lovely day, indeed.”

Here are ten movies — all released within the last 30 years — that tried to change the game, succeeded and made it a lovely day for blockbusters.

1) Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
James Cameron’s blistering sequel to the 1984 classic is much more of an action movie than its predecessor. Like many of the movies on this list, it first garnered mixed reviews before being re-evaluated years later as a masterpiece. Teaming up with Ah-nuld’s Terminator, a buffed up and kickass Linda Hamilton tries to stop the viscerally frightening T-1000, sent from the future to kill her troubled son John Connor. I remember being a teenager when it first came out and I had never seen action scenes staged quite like this before, nor had I ever witnessed special effects as inventively surreal and chaotic. I still haven’t. The special effects still hold up to this day and so does the beating heart that Cameron injects into his characters. It had everything the 21st century action film would strive for, yet none have come close to replicating this 1991 movie’s triumphant achievement.

2) Die Hard (1988)
Action movies are not the Academy’s thing and for good reason. They are – most of the time – loud, abrasive, dumbed down and ultimately artless films (“The Expendables” anybody?) but sometimes a movie like “Die Hard” goes beyond genre boundaries and achieves something special through sheer perfection of the craft. John McTiernan’s “Die Hard” isn’t high art, but it got the job done in high octane fashion and set the standard for what an action film should be like in the 21st century. It spawned numerous rip-offs in the 90’s and still does today, none of which have attained the excitement of McTiernan’s original. It is in fact not overblown to say that “Die Hard” set the standard for the perfect modern action movie.

3) The Matrix (1999)
The action movie was dying in 1999, Arnold was just not Arnold anymore, and there wasn’t a new action star to come and take over the throne. “The Matrix” is where the action movie went techno. Literally, it went beyond the technological and creative limits we thought were set for action. For better or for worse, “bullet time” reinvigorated the genre and shattered the clichés for a whole bunch of new ones to come. This is where the surreal got mixed into the action and canonized a whole bunch of copycats. Imagination and originality crept into the equation and signaled a whole new generation of mainstream filmmaking built on ideas as much as action. “The Matrix” was an inspiration for up and coming filmmakers and the countless camera tricks that were to come. Hell, even music videos changed their style because of it. The film was not just built on getting your pulse pounding, but also on getting your mind blown. Its Asian cinema-inspired leaps signaled the start of something new at the movies. Of note, another triumphant female heroine was introduced in the form of Carrie Ann Moss’ Trinity. The sequels disappointed, but we’ll always have the original.

4) The Killer (1989)
If you want to know where Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and even Johnnie To learned to fabricate their over-the-top violence, look no further than this 1989 John Woo classic. Starring Chow Yun-Fat as a lethal assassin who accepts one last hit in order to restore a young girl’s vision, this Chinese action movie’s influence was felt all over cinema and is justly called an important landmark in the genre. Just a year after its release, Luc Besson basically ripped it off for the excitingly entertaining “La Femme Nikita” and a few years later for his now classic “Leon: The Professional”. Much of the borrowing from Woo’s film is superficial—two-handed gunning, doves flying, near operatic kills – but it paved the way for the possibility of making bloody violence look artistically eloquent. Woo followed up with another classic, “Hard Boiled”, but to this day nothing in his career can top “The Killer”.

5) Aliens (1986)
“Aliens” taught us to never underestimate the stupidity of man. “Get away from her you bitch” exclaimed Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley at the climax of this 1986 sequel to “Alien”, a film that epitomized female power in a male dominated society. Like many of James Cameron’s other films, this featured a strong, kickass female lead. If the original movie veered more towards the horror genre, Cameron shifted the emphasis towards a more action packed screenplay with an abundance of quotability. When Vasquez gets asked by her peers, “are you a man?” she hilariously replies “no, are you?” The feminist undertones are present, but one cannot go without mentioning the action sequences that left the viewer without a heartbeat by the end of the film’s pulse pounding 146 minutes. To this day Ripley is still the set example for what a female action heroine should be.

6) Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
You can’t deny the sheer impact of Mad Max: Fury Road. Director George Miller’s Fourth installment of the film franchise is proof that not all blockbusters should be greeted with an indifferent shrug. If anything, this brutal action film is even more intense and exciting than its predecessors. With its nihilistic outlook on human nature and a nasty, in-your-face style, this is Miller’s triumph through and through. The amount of detail that he brings to every frame is as obsessively meticulous as any Wes Anderson picture I’ve seen, as is the editing by Margaret Sixel, which – as we stand – is most deserving of next year’s Film Editing Oscar. Edited at breakneck pace and staged with manic fury, Sixel is the unheralded hero here. The celebrated one is of course Miller who’s passion and vision comes through in every frame. The total control he must have had with this project to pull off what he did on screen is unheard of, which is good for him and great for us.

7) The Bourne Trilogy (2002-2007)
“The Bourne Identity” introduced movie-goers to a new type of action hero and a new style of action. Gone were the big-budget, explosion-laden, slick, special effects extravaganzas, in was a gritty template, naturalistic action sequences, and hand-held camera fight scenes. Our hero was no longer the cocky son of a gun trying to save the world; he was trying to save himself and find out who he was. Whatever you think of these movies you can’t possibly deny the impact it’s had on this decade’s action fare. Heck, even James Bond has been dubbed “James Bourne” by many. Liam Neeson was basically Jason Bourne in the “Taken” movies, ditto Keanu Reeves in last year’s “John Wick”, Angie Jolie in “Salt”, Tom Cruise in “Jack Reacher”. Hand to hand combat was replicated in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, and even Christopher Nolan used Bourne-esque moves in his “Dark Knight” trilogy.

8) The Fugitive (1993)
Another Best Picture nominee, this one stars Harrison Ford and is based on the popular 1960’s television series. Accused of a murder he did not commit, Ford’s John Kimble tries to find the one-armed man who killed his wife in order to clear his name. Fairly standard, but expertly done and a true classic of the genre. While Arnold, Stallone and JCVD were blowing stuff up and strutting their roided bodies on screen, Harrison Ford and “The Fugitive” knocked our socks off with wild stunts, Andrew Davis’ tight direction, and a believable story that had us invested in the characters. They really just don’t make them like they used to. Tommy Lee Jones won a Best Supporting Actor, besting out – huh – Ralph Fiennes in Schindler’s List? But that’s just a whole other story I won’t get into.

9) Predator (1987)
If there’s any genre that calls for the acceptance of guilty pleasures, it’s action. You probably have this 1987 classic starring Arnold Schwarzenegger to thank for that. Carl Weather and Jessie Ventura compliment Ah-nuld in this testosterone fuelled beast hunt in the Central American jungle. Not sold yet? At one point Bill Duke says “This shit makes Cambodia look like Kansas”. I can’t say the plot is rocket science, but there’s something incredibly exciting happening here – a feeling that we just checked our brains at the door and let this pop culture milestone whiplash us. All credit is given to director John McTiernan who, one year away from his “Die Hard” triumph, takes a B-movie level script and elevates into a classic of the genre. Not convinced yet? Just tell me a smile doesn’t appear on your face when Arnold, finally face to face with the hunter utters “You’re one ugly motherfucker.” Classic.

10) Speed (1994)
“There’s a bomb on the bus”, Dennis Hopper screams halfway through this tense 1994 action movie. No worries, a strong and determined Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves try to stop the devilish Hopper. Psychotic and scary as hell, Hopper brings real evil to the movie, determined to wipe out anything in his path. With shades of his gas-huffing Frank from “Blue Velvet”, mixed with his deranged Feck of “River’s Edge”, Hopper’s villainous Howard Payne owns every frame he’s in and leaves a mark on the film, even when not onscreen. It’s a profoundly disturbing portrait of a man gone haywire that set the bar for the audacity, insanity and level at which a mainstream movie villain can go. Just think about it, every movie villain since Payne has had the freedom to go to extremes that might not have been available without this movie.

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In 1970s South Boston, FBI Agent John Connolly persuades Irish mobster James “Whitey” Bulger to collaborate with the FBI and eliminate a common enemy: the Italian mob. The drama tells the true story of this unholy alliance, which spiraled out of control, allowing Whitey to evade law enforcement, consolidate power, and become one of the most ruthless and powerful gangsters in Boston history.

Black Mass stars Oscar® nominee Johnny Depp (“Public Enemies”, “Donnie Brasco”, the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films) as Whitey Bulger and Joel Edgerton (“The Great Gatsby,” “Zero Dark Thirty”) as FBI Agent John Connolly. Filming began in Boston under the direction of Scott Cooper (“Out of the Furnace,” “Crazy Heart”).

The film also stars Benedict Cumberbatch (“Twelve Years a Slave”) as Whitey’s brother, Billy Bulger, who is a Massachusetts State Senator; Jesse Plemons (AMC’s “Breaking Bad”) as Whitey’s longtime partner in crime, Kevin Weeks; Dakota Johnson (“Fifty Shades of Grey”) as Lindsey Cyr, Whitey’s former girlfriend and mother of his only child; Rory Cochrane (“Argo”) as Steve Flemmi, another member of the Irish mob; Julianne Nicholson (“August: Osage County”) as John Connolly’s wife, Marianne; and Adam Scott (ABC’s “Parks and Recreation”) as FBI Agent Robert Fitzpatrick. Rounding out the main cast are David Harbour (“End of Watch”), Jeremy Strong (“Zero Dark Thirty”), Brad Carter (HBO’s “True Detective”), W. Earl Brown (“Draft Day”) and Corey Stoll (“The Bourne Legacy”).

Brian Oliver, Tyler Thompson, John Lesher, Patrick McCormick and Scott Cooper are producing the film, with Peter Mallouk, Lauren Selig, Brett Granstaff and Gary Granstaff serving as executive producers. The screenplay is adapted from the book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob, by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill.

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Paolo Sorrentino just hit it out of the park here at Cannes, delivering what has to be the most compelling screening of everything I’ve seen here thus far with the possible exception of Carol.  When it finally came to an end, the audience sat in stunned silence until at last the screen went totally dark. After that, an even number of “bravos!” and “boos” filled the house as audience members slowly left the theater. Why did the film divide the house so sharply? Probably because the film is both daring and traditional, realistic and absurd.

Youth is a melancholy look at aging and love. It tells its story with epic sweep, even though it takes place in a singular location — a spa in the hills of Switzerland. The canvas is the internal world of the actors who move through emotional ups and downs while the camera catches them at their best and worst moments. A tall, leggy, busty woman fills the frame as she struts down a slope towards the horizon. Images like that are juxtaposed with an old woman sitting in a spa, or an overweight man hitting a tennis ball high in the air with just his foot.  Youth exists somewhere between the surreal Italian film school of Federico Fellini and the romantic one of Bertolucci.

Michael Caine plays a composer who is best friends with a legendary film director played by Harvey Keitel. They ruminate on life, love, sex, aging and youth as they move among the various characters who join them at the hotel.  In Caine’s case it’s his daughter, Rachel Weisz, and in Keitel’s case its the film writers he has along to help finish his latest movie.

The relationship between Weisz and Caine is so surprising, so moving, both in terms of how deep these actors go with each other and in the things the characters learn about themselves during the film. She has two jobs, she says: being his daughter and being his assistant. All the while she’s heartbroken that her mother is not with them. Caine’s character spends the whole movie obsessed with sounds, inventing his own music by twisting a piece of plastic wrap, or listening to cowbells and birds.  Somewhere behind him a young actor played by Paul Dano studies him as he listens.

Somewhere on the hotel grounds a monk meditates. Somewhere else the hotel’s young masseuse is dancing to a video about dancing. Somewhere else a husband and wife are not speaking to each other in the same way every night. These moments are dispassionately observed by Sorrentino, silently commented upon, like eye-witness testimony told in great detail so we are can be allowed draw our own conclusions.

Every shot is a thing of beauty. I spend most of time here in Cannes finding beautiful/ugly/interesting things to photograph.  For most of this film I had the impulse to hoist my camera and take a snapshot of it. It is just one dizzying image after another.

Films like this hardly get made anymore. Probably no American director could get a movie like this made, no matter how big the name.  American actors certainly don’t get many chances like this to deliver fully realized performances. Birdman’s indictment of Hollywood is nothing compared to what gets said about it in Youth, the good, the bad and the ugly, but mostly the ugly.

Films used to have somewhere in mind to go beyond opening weekend box office numbers or the chase for awards. They had somewhere to go because smart people made them and smart people wanted to see them get made.  We can mostly declare the death of this kind of cinema in the American studio system as of 2015. It will be left to filmmakers in other countries where artistic freedom is less restricted.

Both Caine and Keitel give career-best performances. One or the other is headed for the Best Actor race. Jane Fonda has a powerhouse few minutes on screen that could earn her an Oscar nomination as well, but with Fox Searchlight in the driver’s seat expect this film — catnip for Academy voters — to be represented in all of the major categories and perhaps to become a frontrunner to win.

This is a film of big ideas of the human experience, certainly among the most profound.  Why are people so afraid of human touch? is one of the questions it examines.  Is love meant to last? is another. It’s about show business, creativity, inspiration, but mostly about the eternal conflict between aging and youth. We have such power of attraction when we’re young but we often don’t learn how to properly wield that power till we’re old.  The film is emphatic about its realization that we’re alive until we aren’t. It doesn’t matter whether that existence is important or insignificant, this universal truth remains.

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The writing is of course fantastic. The directing will be good. All that’s left is Fassbender as Steve Jobs. That should be interesting. Here’s the trailer.

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