BEST DIRECTOR

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Sarah Polley Stories We Tell

Stories we Tell made a splash at last year’s Telluride. Now, the official reviews are coming up roses as the film sets to open. This is a film you should know as little about as possible before seeing it. It will no doubt be one of the best films of 2013 without breaking a sweat.

Stephanie Zacharek, now writing for the Village Voice, notices what New York Mag’s David Edelstein didn’t – she recognizes that Stories we Tell is Polley’s own:

It’s probably safe, at this point, to consider Polley a “Who knows what she’ll do next?” filmmaker, à la Michael Winterbottom. But Stories We Tell is so ingeniously constructed—and so nakedly intimate—that it may be a watershed. Polley has to execute a particularly delicate dance when it comes to dealing with the movie’s two significant father figures: Reticent, undemonstrative Michael, the man Polley has always considered her father, and the far more outgoing Harry Gulkin, a film producer who plays a pivotal role in this extremely tangled tale. Both men were dazzled by Diane in their youth, and neither has fully recovered from that love—although both failed to give her that elusive something she so desperately wanted out of life.

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An interesting video take by Ali Shirazi on some, not the usual, Scorsese films. It makes me think there will come a time when Gangs of New York is re-evaluated.

The Passion Of Martin Scorsese_ A Tribute Video from Ali Shirazi on Vimeo.

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The more well known titles are in the Summer Showcase section, after the jump.

Narrative Competition:
All Together Now, Alexander Mirecki – USA – WORLD PREMIERE
Forev, Molly Green, James Leffler – USA – WORLD PREMIERE
Forty Years From Yesterday, Robert Machoian, Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck – USA – WORLD
PREMIERE
Four Dogs, Joe Burke – USA – WORLD PREMIERE
Goodbye World, Denis Henry Hennelly – USA – WORLD PREMIERE
The House That Jack Built, Henry Barrial – USA – WORLD PREMIERE
I.D., Kamal K M – India – NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE
Mother, I Love You, Janis Nords – Latvia – NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE
My Sisterʼs Quinceañera, Aaron Douglas Johnston – USA – NORTH AMERICAN
PREMIERE
Pollywogs, Karl Jacob – USA – WORLD PREMIERE
Winter in the Blood, Andrew Smith, Alex Smith – USA – WORLD PREMIERE
Workers, Jose Luis Valle – Mexico/Germany – US PREMIERE

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Over at Slashfilm are several images inspired by Scorsese or his films. There will be an art show in NYC on Friday. Details here.

More pics after the jump.

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Ben Affleck will always be tied to Ebert for all eternity. Argo was the last number one movie ever named by Ebert, predicted to win the Oscar (rightly) by Ebert, and To the Wonder was the last movie reviewed by Ebert. Kind of strange, don’t you think? Either way, here is what Affleck said about Ebert at last night’s To the Wonder preem, from Variety – “last summer” would have been before the Telluride film fest – the WB already knew what they had with Argo, which one of the reasons it went to Telluride at all and now I wonder if it wasn’t Ebert who tipped them off:

“I went and visited Roger last summer,” Affleck recalled at the Pacific Design Center gala. “We talked about ‘Argo.’ I met with his wife and saw his living conditions after his surgery and I was so moved by his cheerfulness, the way that he sort of bore that burden.”

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As a kid, Ava DuVernay had her picture taken with Roger Ebert. Years later, when her film I Will Follow came out, and Ebert reviewed it, she sent him this photo. The story here.

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The Place Beyond the Pines starring Ryan Gosling, Eva Mendes and Bradley Cooper made near $300 thou in just four theaters over the Easter weekend.

The Los Angeles Times’ Nicole Sperling calls director Derek Cianfrance a box office brand with just two films under his belt:

Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper have proven their box-office mettle over the past few years but what about Derek Cianfrance? The indie director, who astonished audiences in 2010 with his debut feature “Blue Valentine” starring Gosling and Michelle Williams, is becoming a box-office brand in his own right.

Despite a mostly muted reaction from the festival crowd, the film is finding an audience due to its good word of mouth.

Cianfrance toiled on the script for ‘Pines’ for five years, writing more than 30 drafts for the film, which runs 140 minutes. He took his actors through a lot of method exercises, requiring Cooper to live with his on-screen wife Rose Byrne in a house for a week as a married couple while Gosling spent six hours a day for two months working with a stuntman to perfect his motorcycle riding skills.

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As we fumble towards some kind of symbolic permanence in our lives we sometimes land where we shouldn’t, in places that have long since belonged to someone else. We call those places ours but they aren’t really; they are rooted sometimes in darkness, inhabited by ghosts, or corpses, or bad memories.

The dark side of our American past is juxtaposed with our endless reach for the dream — but our past remains in our architecture — the limbs of who we were, and maybe who we’ll always be. Three directors puncture that dream of belonging somewhere, and their films often caution us that being tied to a place turns into a claustrophobic nightmare.

With Room 237 opening, it seems we will never be able to fully let go of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. With Bate’s Motel being a surprisingly good update to Hitchcock’s Pscyho we are also compelled to keep Norman Bates alive. And in David Fincher’s Panic Room, even without the lurid subtext that probably has kept Psycho alive, and the semi-comical but nonetheless fascinating lead as realized by Jack Nicholson in the Shining, it nevertheless comes down to the same thing Psycho and The Shining are really about: the director and his camera.

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Take some big guns and hand them to people who know a little something about sharp aim and hitting hard targets. Earlier today Fox Searchlight announced via Twitter that they have acquired 12 Years a Slave and plan to position Steve McQueen’s film for the final week of awards season. That’s not to say that nobody will get a look until then. We can expect the 12 Years a Slave to make its first appearance on the festival circuit — possibly as soon as May at Cannes.

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It would be gross — that Brad Brevet and Jeff Wells are ready to splooge on Oscar’s stomach this early – if the race weren’t so utterly predictable. Yeah, it’s really that easy.

So these are unlucky saps to have their asses hanging out there early.  Me, I’m still looking for a wall to beat my head against instead.

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Match the movie to the white guy:

Wolf of Wall Street
The ABSCAM something or other
The Monuments Men
Gravity
Foxcatcher

I will bet that two, at the most three, out of five of these make it in.    But Alexander Payne, Joel and Ethan Coen, Ryan Coogler, Steve McQueen for starters, all pushing through – not to mention Baz Luhrmann for The Great Gatsby (currently the last name listed on Brevet’s site).

Wait, I almost got caught up in it too. No, must not get caught up. Let’s instead help train Oscar bloggers how to not splooge early.  Baseball is a good distraction. Also, stop picturing the gold statue in someone’s hand, that might also work.   Bloggers just take a wild guess at what might get in, which is probably a bit unfair. 2012 was the first year in a long while where the “Oscar movies” all lived up to the hype (voters ended up going with the early safe choice anyway).

But usually, this is exactly the kind of hype that destroys films during this time of year, no offense.

Brevet’s list on his site is here but I’m listing them below too.

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With revolutionary auteur Ava DuVernay at the helm, AaFFRM is releasing Better Mus’ Come on their own – no ad money, no billboards just word of mouth. We’re helping to spread the word. From DuVernay’s Facebook:

Today marks the opening weekend for our 5th film since launching African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM). BETTER MUS’ COME is the latest incarnation of our idea to theatrically release black indie films with our own hands. No studio. No billboards. No hype. Just real people who care about the integrity of our images and the value of our voices. If you are in NYC or LA, and you care as well, consider catching the film this weekend. If you are elsewhere, consider sharing this post and helping us spread the word. We’ve released the first 7 minutes of the Jamaican gem BETTER MUS’ COME in celebration of this opening day. Click, watch, share and celebrate with us. Why? Because Black Film is Beautiful. Ticketing and showtimes at www.affrm.com. See you there!

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Jon Stewart will take a 3-month break from The Daily Show this summer to make his feature film debut.

(Deadline)Stewart has written the script, and will direct Rosewater, an adaptation of the book Then They Came For Me: A Family’s Story Of Love, Captivity And Survival. Published in 2011 by Random House, the book is Maziar Bahari’s harrowing ordeal of leaving London in June 2009 to cover Iran’s presidential elections. With a pregnant fiance left behind, the BBC journalist expected to be away for a week. Instead, he spent the next 118 days in Iran’s most notorious prison being brutally interrogated by a man he knew only by one thing: he smelled of Rosewater. Bahari wrote the book with Aimee Molloy. Scott Rudin will produce with Stewart and Gigi Pritzker. Pritzker’s OddLot Entertainment is financing the film.

Stewart will take about 12 weeks off in the summer. In his absence, Daily Show regular John Oliver will be guest host for eight weeks of fresh shows.

Ambitious undertaking and a nice variation on the parade of TV variety show personalities who make their move to feature films often doing little more than big-screen variations of their familiar comedic persona. Stewart has played this close to his vest, quietly optioning Bahari’s book under auspices of his own, Busboy Productions. It’s always clear that Stewart can deftly shift between news satire in the first half ofThe Daily Show whenever the situation merits a more serious tone. It’s also clear that he’s one of the few late night hosts who not only interviews authors but actually takes time to read their books. Deadline expresses some strange surprise, unable to “remember when a well established daily talk show host has taken a hiatus like this to pursue a passion project” — because, right, we’ve all been wondering when Jay Leno would write direct his big-screen epic about collecting classic cars.

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Here is a photo of Ang Lee at 28 years old.

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Ryan and others have pointed out that Ang Lee is the only director ever in the history of movie awards to have 2 DGA awards, 2 Oscars for directing, 2 BAFTAs and 2 Golden Globes for directing, 2 Golden Lions and 2 Golden Bears (as noted yesterday by reader KT, and mentioned on Oscar night by Joao Mattos).

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Spielberg at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival where he presented his E.T.

Steven Spielberg has been named jury president for the 2013 Cannes International Film Festival. Collider says, “As arguably the most important American filmmaker working today, Spielberg is an ideal candidate.”

The director remarked, “My admiration for the steadfast mission of the Festival to champion the international language of movies is second to none. The most prestigious of its kind, the festival has always established the motion picture as a cross cultural and generational medium.”

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It appears that Seth MacFarlane was too offensive for Oscar audiences. I was too busy paying attention to the offensive awards being given out and the charade of the whole thing at all I barely noticed MacFarlane.  Sometimes forget that it’s not Hollywood watching. It’s the public and the public want the dream machine.

MacFarlane was apparently sexist, racist and unfunny.  Again, didn’t notice. Was too busy noticing how racist the Oscars themselves are.  With the option of nominating an emerging writer of color in the original screenplay category, Ava DuVernay, they went with five white male writers in that category and one of them won for writing a movie about slavery (Lincoln wasn’t “about slavery”), casting many black actors but only one, a white guy, gets noticed and awarded by the Academy.

Sexist? Yeah, the boob thing? Right. Well, I was too busy noticing how only one movie was actually about a woman and despite being the best reviewed film of the year, besides nearly making $100 million dollars and despite being directed BY a woman, the only award it got was half of a sound editing award. I was noticing how every woman on the red carpet was asked what she was wearing and dissected by how she looked while the men got to talk about their work.  I noticed that, once again, youth and beauty rule the Oscars where women are concerned and the role that was given the big prize was about a woman who wanted nothing but for the guy she likes to like her back.   All three of the other female parts offered more substance for women, even the one played by Quevenzhane Wallis. So are you sure you want to talk about sexism?

Homophobic? How many out gay actors, writers and directors have won Oscars?    Do we really want to talk about that? No? Didn’t think so.  Hollywood is not moving forward with the rest of society; it’s moving backwards. Just look at what movie was named Best Picture.

I would love it if all of these angry pieces about MacFarlane were directed where they matter more: the status quo that hasn’t really changed much in 85 years of Oscar history.  But hey, by all means chase after the thing you think you have more control over. I won’t stop you.

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I dig Richard Rushfield’s rumination on Hollywood’s love/hate with the king of the them all, Steven Spielberg (“Once again, the Best Picture prize slips from his hands. What does Hollywood have against its most successful resident?”)

Two Oscars ain’t half bad for the king of them all so I figure, hey, he can go down in the record books with the greats. Most times, the greats don’t win.  I thought Ang Lee’s prize last night was a glorious moment and a well-deserved win – he is a man who REALLY knows what matters in life and what doesn’t and to Ang Lee the film itself is the reward. He is the zen master and his mere presence seems to always throw the Best Director race in flux. At the same time, the Academy just doesn’t have a strong enough pair to really go all the way with Lee.

Sense and Sensibility was not nominated for Director. The same year Ron Howard won the PGA/DGA/SAG and then lost the Oscar to Mel Gibson for Braveheart.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon nominated for DGA, won. The same year, Steven Soderbergh got Best Director for Traffic and Gladiator won Best Picture.
Brokeback Mountain was nominated for and won DGA.  Lee also won the Oscar but Best Picture went to Crash.
Life of Pi, nominated for DGA, lost to Ben Affleck. Won second directing Oscar, lost Best Picture to Argo.

Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg are anything but losers. They are carving and shaping cinema. Both of them made movies that changed the way I see the world. I can’t say that about any other films in the Best Picture race with the possible exception of Zero Dark Thirty and Beasts of the Southern Wild. Winning the Oscar doesn’t define success, nor does it define greatness. Far from it. It is to the benefit of Academy voters that they get to call Ang Lee and Spielberg among their two time Best Director winners. It doesn’t make them better. It doesn’t improve their body of work.  The Academy improves their own history by picking great films.

John Ford won Best Director twice without winning Best Picture, The Informer (Mutiny on the Bounty won) and The Grapes of Wrath (Rebecca won) until he finally won both for How Green was My Valley.  George Stevens won best Director twice and never won Best Picture for Giant (Around the World in 80 Days won) and a Place in the Sun (An American in Paris won).

Ang Lee is only the third director in history to do that.

Steven Spielberg is now the fifth director in Oscar history to enter the race with a film with 12 nominations not to win Director or Picture. Lincoln is the only film with 12+ nominations to win just 2 Oscars.

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There really is no difference between awards shows now. When I first started, the Indie Spirits really were about celebrating independent film. I’ve actually been doing this long enough to remember when there wasn’t really such a thing as independent films infiltrating the awards race. Funnily enough, the studio that really changed all of that was Miramax, run by Harvey and Bob Weinstein. They now run The Weinstein Co and they really do find, sell and distribute independent films – The Artist and The King’s Speech were both independent films that were picked up and turned into Best Picture winners by the Weinstein Co. “Harvey” as he’s known here, there and everywhere is really a team of very good, hard working publicists who never get the credit.  Their team is both “Harvey” the schmoozer and the hard core publicists.

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It’s widely believed and often proven that winning an Independent Spirit Award the day before the Academy Awards is the kiss of death for nominees on Oscar Night.   In a year as topsy-turvy as this, it remains to be seen whether that conventional wisdom will hold true again this weekend.  Sasha, Craig and I didn’t talk with each other in advance about how each of us were leaning and our conflicting instincts have caused us to split off in 3 different directions. You can find our predictions after the cut, as well as a complete list of the Spirit Awards nominees so you can get your own guesses on record in the comments.

The Independent Spirit Awards will be broadcast on IFC at 10 p.m. ET and 2 hours later on the West Coast at 10 p.m. PT — since they still don’t have a handle on this whole concept of how “we all have the internet now.”  Doesn’t much matter since the ceremony itself will be held earlier in the day beginning on the red carpet around noon.

Our predictions after the cut.

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I can’t recall the last time I ever read a more devastating shredding of a film than this dismantling written by Jesse Williams (mild-mannered actor, model, producer, star of Grey’s Anatomy by day; heroic blogger, teacher, Temple University grad, though-provoker, and movie-bullshit fighter by night). Today a tweet from Ava DuVernay led me to Williams 1500 word critique of Tarantino’s lazy insults on CNN.

In the film’s opening sequence, shackled blacks literally hold the key to their shackles and don’t use them, choosing instead to trudge forward, hindered by biting chains, to kill a white man. In the third act, after seeing Django kill the Australians, the blacks sitting in an open cage neither communicate with each other or consider stepping outside of the cage.

In fact, in this entire, nearly three-hour film, there are no scenes with black people interacting, or even looking at each other, in a respectful or productive way.

The CNN essay throws a harsh spotlight on the worst of what’s wrong with Django but that’s nothing compared to the far more rigorous bitch-slapping Jesse Williams delivers in a detailed scene-by-scene dissection that runs more than 5600 words on his own blog. Anyone who dislikes Django Unchained as much as I do will relish seeing it so deftly dismantled — and I’ll be surprised if even the film’s biggest fans don’t see it differently if they take the time to read Williams’ formidable takedown. Check out some choice excepts after the cut.

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