BEST PICTURE

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His accent is spot on. Johnny Depp could go toe to toe with his Gilbert Grape/Basketball Diaries co-star Leonardo DiCaprio for Best Actor. You can’t really win an Oscar if you’re too good looking. The best looking actors have to ugly themselves up in order to get taken seriously by the Academy for some reason. Admittedly, making Johnny Depp not pretty is no easy feat but he is a chameleon and seems to have transformed himself to unrecognizable yet again. Director Scott Cooper is better with directing than he is with writing and this comes from a script by Mark Mallouk and Jez butterworth (Get on Up, Fair Game).

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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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There are two films involving the Boston Globe this year. Black Mass, about Whitey Bulger and Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight. If you split Martin Scorsese into two films you have would each of these stories. Here is Spotlight’s trailer.

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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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Jurassic World just passed The Avengers to become the third highest grossing domestic and international hit of all time. When you adjust it for inflation it drops to number 27, which is still impressive, considering. This means not only did millions of people want to see it, but once they saw it they liked it enough to not only see it again but recommend it to millions of their friends. Doesn’t that count for something in the world of naming the “Best Picture of the year”? The answer to that is, no, it doesn’t count for anything beyond the disproportionately tiny visual effects category. Sound, Sound mixing. Art direction on occasion. Titanic and Avatar hold the the number one and number two spots, but what made them Best Picture juggernauts was their serious side, their emotional effectiveness.. Still, it is getting harder and harder to ignore the “new normal” of Hollywood when it comes to the Best Picture race.

Last year was probably the most dramatic disconnect between the films real people saw vs. films the Oscar voters saw and voted on. The only movie the majority of Americans could really talk about was American Sniper because so many had already seen the film by the time the awards rolled around. How do you build a movie like American Sniper? You consider both the audience and the Oscars, meaning it’s a prestige pic made by a studio set for wide release with big name celebrities. Studios put these movies out every year but only some of them are deemed worthy by critics and then by the industry. By no means does the industry take the public into account anymore. The ticket buyers do not influence voters. At the same time, voters are still a consensus, albeit a slightly upscale consensus compared to, say, the People’s Choice Awards. These are ostensibly industry professionals who believe they are choosing the best films they saw in a given season.

As far as blockbusters go, Jurassic World is popular for a reason. Part of its appeal, no doubt, is the spectacle left over from Spielberg’s 1993 Jurassic Park. The same way the new Star Wars movie (and the Star Trek movie before it) is supposed to wipe clean the bad memories of the bad sequels, this Jurassic Park was being billed as a “return to form,” meaning, the same park, with more focus on characters. In this version, the dinos have been genetically altered to be bigger and meaner and scarier. Audiences interpret that as spectacle of the kind they have never seen before.

The other appealing things about Jurassic World include its alluring male lead, Chris Pratt, who has gained a massive following of young girls since Guardians of the Galaxy. Pre-awareness + spectacle + appealing lead would be enough for a major hit. For it rise to the top three there must be something more. That “more” is that it’s a pretty good popcorn movie with an engaging group of creatures you feel for. It also has an eco message that is clearly anti-SeaWorld, anti-animal captivity.

In one way, you can look at Jurassic World and its ilk as the ruiner of all good things, movie-wise. That it is what movies will be in the future, as George Lucas once predicted — tent poles, event movies that play everywhere in the world and make more money than anyone could ever dream of because they stick to the formula: leading male saves the day, massive previously unseen visual effects, humor. It would be easy to call the film sexist but in fact it’s actually worse than that: it’s misogynist in a casual way, meaning none of the women in the film understand anything important, and more than one woman seems to have been invited to serve the sole purpose of gory dino-bait. This is a major leap from the first film where Spielberg not only cast Laura Dern as one of the smartest scientists but he also cast a young female teen/computer whiz to save the day. In the update, the kids are made into two boys. The highly placed executive played by Bryce Dallas Howard is mansplained about the dinosaurs every step of the way. She doesn’t even know the basics of what they are and even worse, the script makes her do the world’s most stupid thing: run from a T-Rex in high heels.

Because my personal commitment to animal welfare supersedes my irritation with the film’s misogyny, I was willing to give Jurassic World a pass and even paid to see the movie twice. This formula works all over the world because misogyny thrives all over the world — in fact, it’s the default position. When you look at the top moneymakers internationally they are all male-driven visual effects movies. In other words, audiences aren’t necessarily looking for feminist heroes or stunt casting. They want the formula. If you give it to them, they will come.

Because of its inherent and obvious sexist ways, Jurassic World doesn’t deserve to be nominated as the best film of the year, although it wouldn’t be the first nor the last Best Picture nominee to be blatantly sexist. Just look at last year. The only difference is that in the prestige pics they make the supporting females a wee bit smarter than Bryce Dallas Howard.

Still, I can’t be the only one who is looking at the long game here, where it’s all headed and what might eventually be the answer. The Academy is going to have to find a way to answer to the changing landscape of film. Either they will need a separate category for effects-driven films or else they will need a separate tech category to honor the evolving visuals. A publicist friend suggested there being two categories — one for visual effects and one for special effects. I’m no expert but I would think anything to expand where they are now would be a step in the right direction for them.

Why do I think the Oscars need to evolve? They will be closing in on their 100th birthday in a decade and a half. In the year 2025 what will movies look like? What will the “Oscar movies” look like? Will they be strictly independents? Will they be films made in other countries where they value their artists over profits? Will the studios continue to care about winning Oscars — so much so that they lay those select eggs every year?

I don’t have the answer and to tell you the truth, I probably won’t be writing about the Oscars then. It does seem, however, like the film industry — at least the American film industry =– is only moving in one direction. Perhaps things will shift back as the millennials age a bit. Either way, if Jurassic World beats Titanic to become number 2, what then? Can it beat Avatar? Will any movie ever beat Avatar and if so, would it be deserving of being named Best Picture of the Year? We’ll have to wait and see.

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You’d may wonder why a man would choose to write and direct a movie like Grandma. It flies against everything we know about what sells in Hollywood, what kind of stories win awards – no central male figure who’s coming of age, coming of middle age or coming of old age? No broken hero who stands up for someone or saves humanity or suffers greatly for a cause? Just a grandmother helping her granddaughter get enough money for an abortion scheduled for that afternoon. Maybe it isn’t a big story in the lives of men but it is a drama played out every second of every day in a dramatically shifting America.

It kind of sneaks up on you. You are lulled in by Lily Tomlin’s brilliant lead performance that personifies the combination of traits that cause most conservatives to recoil in fear and outrage: feminist lesbian poet. She plays her role along the same lines as Jack Nicholson’s character in As Good as it Gets – a grouchy old woman who has no time nor patience for bullshit and often finds herself ejected from establishments for making a scene. Somehow Tomlin gets away with it without seeming shrill or even off-putting, which is a tribute to the magnificent woman she has become. It struck me how barren our film landscape has become for women like these, not just characters but human beings who have lived long lives and traveled down bumpy, jagged roads to emerge as a spectacular super novas with much to say, and, as the Talking Heads would say, a face with a view.

Tomlin plays Elle Reid whom we meet in the midst of a break-up with her younger girlfriend played by Judy Greer. The problem here is that Olivia needs to be loved and at this pint in her life Ella can’t go there. Her wife of 38 years has recently died and the loss weighs heavily, shutting down normal emotions. Adding to Elle’s turmoil, her young granddaughter Sage (the luminous Julia Garner)has shown up asking for money. Bad timing. In a fit of panic Elle has cut up all her credit cards and has only $48 cash on hand. Sage needs $630 to pay for an abortion. They try what used to be a “free” clinic for women but it has been turned into a coffee shop. Sage can’t wait another day as she’s already sick to her stomach. She’s in high school with a boyfriend who can’t even raise the money to help her.

As we follow Elle on her trek to scrape together as much money as she can from her few remaining friends, we watch her life unravel before our eyes. She’s never been a particularly easy person to know. And now that her partner has died, so much of her heart and soul seems to be lost. That partner mostly raised her own daughter, which she decided to have out of wedlock back in the 60s. The child is named Judy who becomes an equally unconventional woman played by Marcia Gay Harden. Judy in turn used a sperm donor to have Sage. And now Sage, the third generation is deciding to have an abortion.

The film is about a grandmother helping a granddaughter do something that’s not only personally difficult but long stigmatized by society until women’s right evolved. Rather than lecture her on her choice, Elle offers her granddaughter support, in keeping with the feminist ideals of her generation that were largely responsible for seeing pro-choice prevail in Roe V. Wade. That movement was hard fought, unbeknownst to so many young women today who disregard the word “feminism,” having bought into the nonsense coming from the right.

One of the nice things the film does is build a bridge between the original meaning of feminism and the new ways millennials seek to define and hopefully build upon it.; they’ve grown up in a post-feminist world thus, they really do have the luxury of discarding the “label.” To see high school girls who are unaware of Betty Friedan and Simone de Beauvoir is to realize how little importance women’s issues have been given in the overall education of America’s youth. But hey, that’s what grandmas are for, especially grandmas who were firebrands in the 70s.

That’s not to say that Grandma is bogged down in any feminist screed, because it assuredly is not. It really is an entertaining family dramedy before it is a talky preachy lefty abortion movie. It’s funny, full of warmth and wickedness. It draws absorbing portraits of three uniquely interesting women who come from different perspectives and are just trying to make their way in the world.

Weitz for some inexplicable but admirable reason decided to tell a story that could have easily been relegated to cable or some other VOD platform. And yet, here it is. A feature film about women — lesbians, single unwed mothers. Trangender women. They’re talking about abortion, feminism, love, loss, regrets. Wait, someone actually thought women were important enough to write about?

It is a secret story passed on from friend to friend, generation to generation. A friend almost died trying to give herself an abortion after having four kids. Conservatives will tell you adoption is better, and yes, adoption can be wonderful. But it’s only wonderful for the lucky ones. How many hundreds of thousands of kids are awaiting families in foster care now? The world is overpopulated as it is — the last thing our planet needs is more people on it. Especially unplanned people whose prospects for being looked after properly often range from iffy to grim. We all have to say that you must rely on birth control and you must if you don’t want to get pregnant, but shit happens.

The times have changed where abortion is concerned. We have forces in our government actively working to undue Roe V. Wade that makes abortion legal in the United States, deep pocketed forces who are funding candidates who are running for President. This is uniformly true among all GOP contenders who know they can use this issue to fire up their right-wing evangelical base. If the Democrats continue to split and divide themselves they will not be a united force to take down the GOP, who will be within spitting distance of having a conservative president + a conservative Congress + and the power to destroy the fragile balance of the Supreme Court — a perfect storm that could wreak calamity for decades. All they have to do is beat the Democrats. To do that, they have to help knock out Hillary Clinton. Many starry-eyed progressives on the far left are doing much of the GOP’s work for them. It’s a painful thing to watch.

All three principle actresses in Grandma deliver awards-worthy performances, with Tomlin headed for lead actress consideration at the Oscars. The real discovery is the toe-headed curly top Julia Garner whose skin is the color of milk and proves she can hold her own opposite two powerhouses like Tomlin and Marcia Gay Harden. She has a bright career ahead of her.

It’s hard to say what critics will make of Grandma and to tell you the truth I’m dreading that part of it. Somehow, someway, films about women get tossed out of the race, either because they don’t make enough money or the critics don’t approve. Either way, Paul Weitz has done Hollywood and humanity a favor in making a film about not just women but older women. Lily Tomlin has never revealed so much of herself in any one performance: vitality, sexuality, vulnerability and true grit.

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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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“The truth will set you free but not before it’s finished with you.” – David Foster Wallace

To really get the depth of the performance Jason Segel delivers as David Foster Wallace in James Ponsoldt’s The End of the Tour you have to watch David Foster Wallace himself. Segel has perfected Wallace’s unique dialect and subtle style of speaking but if that was all it amounted to then The End of The Tour would be nothing very special. Yet another masturbational deep dive into an enigma that can neither be understood nor explained. Indeed, if you are looking for rabbit-hole like truths to emerge from The End of the Tour you will be just as lost when the journey ends as you were before it began. The quality Segel captures that is bigger and more important than the way Wallace sounded is the expression of the type of person who sees everything, hears everything, feels everything.

The level of sensitivity Wallace possessed is the kind that is often unable to survive this hideous world. It is no wonder that depression took its toll and took his life. Depression can be the result of chemical imbalance but is also, often times, the only reasonable response to the fundamental corruption inherent in the American system. It’s not a corruption you can see and touch. It’s not actionable. It is woven into the fabric of our upbringing as Americans, the raw deal we’re sold on who we are supposed to be as defined by what we are supposed to buy. Clearly, Wallace saw it all, felt it all and had trouble eliminating it from his mind when he needed to.

Segel’s portrayal of Wallace, then, isn’t so much an explanation of who this brilliant writer was but rather, an artist’s rendering, an impressionist’s take, on what kind of person could have lived like that and wrote like that.

Jesse Eisenberg plays David Lipsky, an author and Rolling Stone journalist who is tasked with interviewing the elusive Wallace as his book tour for Infinite Jest is coming to a close. The two become kind of friends in that weird way a journalist invited to take part in intimate conversations can become your friend. You know it’s mostly all on the record, even if you beg for it not to be. You know that the story will always matter more than the friendship. Always. You know that there is a good chance you’re going to feel screwed because you can’t control the way they see you and you can’t control what their editors want them to write about you. You can’t control “the story.”

Eisenberg is playing a guy whose biggest claim to fame will be that he was that close to greatness. He’s like that young writer who followed F. Scott Fitzgerald around during his last days as a drunken Hollywood screenwriter, or anyone who had occasion to party with Hunter S. Thompson, or enjoyed a brief affair with JD Salinger. Their purpose in recording what they witness is either to help build a legend, or tear it down. The point is, they were there with the sober eyes of someone who CAN live in a world that their subject (and temporary friend) cannot.

It is always a pleasure watching Eisenberg on screen and you will be hard pressed to find two actors who play so harmoniously off of each other as he and Segel do here. Like most movies we will be studying this year as it heads towards the Oscar race, the women involved don’t really count except in the ways that they prop up or help transform the men. Still, the symbiosis of these two writers is interesting enough to hold the movie together with such equitable rapport that it never feels like a lopsided telling of the human and the artistic experience.

What Segel does best with his incarnation is to illustrate the constant affliction Wallace clearly suffered by being self-conscious and feeling like a constant outsider. This passage exemplifies how he wrote:

CHAPTER ONE

YEAR OF GLAD
I am seated in an office, surrounded by heads and bodies. My posture is consciously congruent to the shape of my hard chair. This is a cold room in University Administration, wood-walled, Remington-hung, double-windowed against the November heat, insulated from Administrative sounds by the reception area outside, at which Uncle Charles, Mr. deLint and I were lately received.

I am in here.

Three faces have resolved into place above summer-weight sportcoats and half-Windsors across a polished pine conference table shiny with the spidered light of an Arizona noon. These are three Deans – of Admissions, Academic Affairs, Athletic Affairs. I do not know which face belongs to whom.

I believe I appear neutral, maybe even pleasant, though I’ve been coached to err on the side of neutrality and not attempt what would feel to me like a pleasant expression or smile.

I have committed to crossing my legs I hope carefully, ankle on knee, hands together in the lap of my slacks. My fingers are mated into a mirrored series of what manifests, to me, as the letter X. The interview room’s other personnel include: the University’s Director of Composition, its varsity tennis coach, and Academy prorector Mr. A. deLint. C.T. is beside me; the others sit, stand and stand, respectively, at the periphery of my focus. The tennis coach jingles pocket-change. There is something vaguely digestive about the room’s odor. The high-traction sole of my complimentary Nike sneaker runs parallel to the wobbling loafer of my mother’s half-brother, here in his capacity as Headmaster, sitting in the chair to what I hope is my immediate right, also facing Deans.

The Dean at left, a lean yellowish man whose fixed smile nevertheless has the impermanent quality of something stamped into uncooperative material, is a personality-type I’ve come lately to appreciate, the type who delays need of any response from me by relating my side of the story for me, to me. Passed a packet of computer sheets by the shaggy lion of a Dean at center, he is peaking more or less to these pages, smiling down.

Segel embodies Wallace in ways interviews cannot. And therein lies the true genius of what Segel has achieved as a now serious actor. We know tragedy is comedy’s shadow. Thus, it should come as no surprise whenever so-called “comedic actors” try their hand at serious acting. There is never a false moment when you stop seeing David Foster Wallace, where you stop thinking about this gentle, talented, wildly brilliant man whose life ended too soon.

There is some talk that Segel will be in the supporting category because we all know how impossibly crowded the Best Actor field is going to be. Already I can see how these subtle, beautiful portrayals of Brian Wilson by Paul Dano and now Wallace by Jason Segel might be forgotten in the sheer number of Great Men Doing Great Things roles that will steal center stage in coming months. It doesn’t really matter of course whether either of them gets a gold statue. What matters is that people see the films an appreciate how these performances have preserved the vital contributions these men made to music and literature.

The premiere for The End of the Tour last night was low key, held at the tastefully renovated Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills. Afterwards there was a party on the rooftop of some swanky hotel. You could only get to the top by stuffing into a small elevator that took you there. It was packed, with partiers framing an aqua pool. The flat Los Angeles skyline surrounded us in all directions, blanketed with the twinkling lights of millions of people going somewhere, leaving somewhere, saying goodnight to someone. As much as David Foster Wallace would have felt awkward and out of place there, he likely would have appreciated that we were all there to praise Segel and his co-stars, and the film’s director for taking a tale that might have been simple and transforming it into mythology.

The End of the Tour at its essence is really just two people talking, each trying to sound smarter than the other, a journalist pretending to have an actual relationship with someone he’s supposed to be writing about, a self-conscious writer pretending to have an actual conversation and trying to resist hitting his internal panic button about how he’ll come off. They both are named David. They both are writers. One destined to be remembered for his genius and the other destined to be remembered for his brief brush with that genius. The dreadful irony always comes back to the simple fact that those who can write like a dream can rarely live a normal, happy reality. Those who live normal, happy lives can never write like that. It’s a truth worth setting free, but not until it’s finished with you.

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The Weinstein Co. just released the new poster, or a new poster, for the Hateful 8, the new Quentin Tarantino film starring Kurt Russell and Jennifer Jason Leigh. We know we’re getting great dialogue, good action set pieces and lots of violence. The film likely not disappoint Tarantino fans.

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They’re talking practical effects on the film to make it look less green screen and more old timey Star Wars.
They’re building the hype for this thing up pretty high. Will this top the year’s box office? Will it top Jurassic World which is headed for the number three spot behind Titanic?

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What a great picture of these four incredibly funny women. No way, no how this doesn’t turn out great. Just saying. Why even bother with a so-called reboot if you’re just going to repackage the same ingredients? This is a great example of how reboots can matter.

Kristen wiig, Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, Kate MicKinnon. Pic is directed by the notorious Paul Feig.

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John Cowley’s Brooklyn, the hit of Sundance, released its first trailer. Saoirse Ronan has to choose between two men and two countries.

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The Venice Film Festival launched last year’s Best Picture winner into the Oscar race, and very nearly launched the previous year’s winner, Gravity. It comes on just moments before Telluride and the one-two punch of it hitting big and receiving raves in Venice, coupled with an enthusiastic, hyped up response in Telluride usually drives the momentum through to the end of the year. Of course, no one really thought Birdman could or would win last year, not until the Producers Guild picked it and the rest is Oscar his-story. By putting Everest in there they’re going for a big move, like Gravity I would guess, rather than a smaller move like Birdman. Gravity was big on visual effects – dizzying even — and high on emotions. Anyone who knows the TRUE story of what happened on Everest in 1996 knows that this will also be high on emotions.

Everest is the story of the disastrous journey to the top of Everest when a big storm came in. Jon Krakauer’s book Into the Thin Air is required reading of the event, if you have not yet read it. It is the story of rich people throwing money at the sherpas to get them to the top of the mountain. It is a story of why getting back down off the mountain is far more dangerous than going up. It’s about oxygen tanks, the need for them and the lack of them. It is about teamwork and looking out for your fellow climber and it’s about those who break the codes, clog up the lines and leave lots of dead bodies in their wake. It was a cautionary tale in 1997 when the Krakauer book was released. The earthquake in Nepal this year now holds the record for single day deaths on Everest and can’t be laid at the feet of human error, as the 1996 tragedy could.

I’m very much looking forward to Everest but all must go in not expecting a happy ending. Still, I’m sure it will be thrilling to watch.

Pic is directed by Baltasar Kormákur.

Here is a featurette:

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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.”

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Remember back in 2014 when the makers of Jenny’s Wedding were trying to raise enough money to finish the film and release it (AwardsDaily is proud to have donated to their cause)? They raised almost $100k. It seemed for a time as though the film would never make it off the shelf but lo! Here it is at last, coming on the heels of the historic Supreme Court decision, starring Katherine Heigl and Alexis Bledel in Jenny’s wedding. Mazel-tov to them for finally getting it out there.

Colin Firth and Rachel Weisz filming James Marsh film

The Daily Mail has posted photos of the James Marsh’s follow-up to the Theory of Everything tentatively named Untitled Donald Crowhurst Project.  Firth plays Crowhurst’s story is bizarre on every level but it could be a bravura performance by Firth. Here is what Wikipedia says about him:

Donald Charles Alfred Crowhurst (1932–1969) was a British businessman and amateur sailor who died while competing in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, a single-handed, round-the-world yacht race. Crowhurst had entered the race in hopes of winning a cash prize from The Sunday Times to aid his failing business. Instead, he encountered difficulty early in the voyage, and secretly abandoned the race while reporting false positions, in an attempt to appear to complete a circumnavigation without actually circling the world. Evidence found after his disappearance indicates that this attempt ended in insanity and suicide.

His background was also a tad strange:

Crowhurst was born in 1932 in Ghaziabad[citation needed], British India. His mother was a school teacher and his father worked on the Indian railways. Crowhurst was raised as a girl until the age of 7, given his mother’s desire for a daughter rather than a son. After India gained its independence, his family moved back to England. The family’s retirement savings were invested in an Indian sporting goods factory, which later burned down during rioting after the Partition of India.

Crowhurst’s father died in 1948. Due to family financial problems, he was forced to leave school early and started a five-year apprenticeship at the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough Airfield. In 1953 he received a Royal Air Force commission as a pilot, but was asked to leave the Royal Air Force in 1954 for reasons that remain unclear, and was subsequently commissioned in to the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in 1956. After leaving the Army in the same year owing to a disciplinary incident, Crowhurst eventually moved to Bridgwater, where he started a business called Electron Utilisation. He was active in his local community as a member of the Liberal Party and was elected to Bridgwater Borough Council.

And finally:

Crowhurst’s behaviour as recorded in his logs indicates a complex and conflicted psychological state. His commitment to fabricating the voyage reports seems incomplete and self-defeating, as he reported unrealistically fast progress that was sure to arouse suspicion. By contrast, he spent many hours meticulously constructing false log entries, often more difficult to complete than real entries due to the celestial navigation research required.

The last several weeks of his log entries, once he was facing the real possibility of winning the prize, showed increasing irrationality. In the end, his writings during the voyage – poems, quotations, real and false log entries, and random thoughts – amounted to more than 25,000 words. The log books include an attempt to construct a philosophical reinterpretation of the human condition that would provide an escape from his impossible situation. It appeared the final straw was the impossibility of a noble way out after Tetley sank, meaning he would win the prize and hence his logs would be subject to scrutiny.

His last log entry was on 1 July 1969; it is assumed that he then jumped overboard and drowned. The state of the boat gave no indication that it had been overrun by a rogue wave or that any accident had occurred which might have caused Crowhurst to fall overboard. He may have taken with him a single deceptive log book and the ship’s clock. Three log books (two navigational logs and a radio log) and a large mass of other papers were left on his boat; these communicated his philosophical ideas and revealed his actual navigational course during the voyage. Although his biographers, Tomalin and Hall, discounted the possibility that some sort of food poisoning contributed to his mental deterioration, they acknowledged that there is insufficient evidence to rule it (or several other hypotheses) out.

No word yet on whether this will be a 2015 or a 2016 release. According to Deadline, “The film is produced by Pete Czernin, Graham Broadbent and Scott Z. Burns, alongside Nicolas Mauvernay and Jacques Perrin of Galatee. It was developed with Christine Langan from BBC Films and Studiocanal, and Burns wrote the script.”

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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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