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.


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.


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.


“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:


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.


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?


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.”


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.”









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.


One film directed by a woman has entered the talk for Best Picture all because Anne Thompson has put herself behind it. She’s going it alone, as far as I can tell, but she did the very same thing last year with the Grand Budapest Hotel. Virtually everyone in the Oscar punditry world did not think it had the stuff to last through to the end of the year. She did and it did.  Now she has Diary of a Teenage Girl listed not just for frontrunner status but for Best Actress as well.

Thompson does not predict films she hasn’t seen but instead puts them in the contender categories. That’s why Jennifer Lawrence, a near slam dunk for Joy, is listed as a contender and not a frontrunner. She does this in opposition to the majority of pundits online.  Here is her Best Picture frontrunner list at the moment:

Best motion picture of the year
“The Diary of a Teenage Girl”
“Inside Out”
“Love & Mercy”
“Mad Max: Fury Road”

“Bridge of Spies”
“Clouds of Sils Maria”
“The Danish Girl”
“The Hateful Eight”
“The Martian”
“The Revenant”
“Son of Saul”
“The Walk”

And for directing she has:

Achievement in directing
Olivier Assayas (“Clouds of Sils Maria”)
Pete Docter and Ronaldo del Carmen (“Inside Out”)
Todd Haynes (“Carol”)
Marielle Heller (“Diary of a Teenage Girl”)
George Miller (“Mad Max: Fury Road”)

Danny Boyle (“Steve Jobs”)
John Crowley (“Brooklyn”)
Sarah Gavron (“Suffragette”)
Tom Hooper (“The Danish Girl”)
Jay Roach (“Trumbo”)
David O. Russell (“Joy”)
Ridley Scott (“The Martian”)
Steven Spielberg (“Bridge of Spies”)
Quentin Tarantino (“The Hard Eight”)
Bob Zemeckis (“The Walk”)

Probably none of her frontrunners in this category will get in. I’d be willing to bet money on it. But nonetheless, it’s heartening to see two names popping up here from the female side — Marielle Heller for Diary of a Teenage Girl and Sarah Gavron for Suffragette.

Diary of a Teenage Girl has six positive reviews on Metacritic, though none of them, at least so far, hit the 100 mark. There is still hope for it, particularly with Thompson putting her chips behind it this early.


These days, when looking for Best Actor, follow Best Picture. Or rather, when looking for Best Picture, follow Best Actor.  For most of the past twenty years, but mostly since Oscar changed up to more than five nominees for Best Picture, Best Actor has been tied to Best Picture.  Even when the lead actor from the Best Picture nominee hasn’t been nominated, they still anchor the Best Picture contender.  This is the New Normal where Best Pic is concerned but for the odd year here or there.

The first half of the year has produced at least five notable performances that may or may not make it by year’s end, but the majority of performances have not yet been seen and could wipe the slate clean. How do we know this? For the past few years, maybe decade, films in the Oscar race have been driven by a singular male performance. This trend has not slowed, even if you count this year where there are so many female driven films packing the first half of the year. It’s funny that you will find more women this time of year in contention than men but that’s because the Oscar-bound performances are going to be found in the Big Oscar Movies coming to a film festival near you.

1. The race as it stands now, however, has one performance out front and that’s Paul Dano‘s in Love & Mercy. It helps that the film has already opened in theaters. The other four best actor contenders so far star in films that have only been seen at Cannes or Sundance.

Although Dano shares the spotlight with John Cusack in Love & Mercy, his is the more fully realized performance where Cusack’s might be seen as a supporting turn. Both could be considered Best Actor but if voters go down that road neither will be nominated.

Dano plays the young Brian Wilson who is is discovering his own ability to emerge as an artist in a band that seems committed as a hit machine. There is no denying the power of the Beach Boys and their catchy, unforgettable tunes but there was more to Brian Wilson’s composing. Dano is brilliant at conveying someone who was simply too gentle and passive to withstand the forces mounted against him — and those forces include controlling and abusive people and the progression of his own eventual mental illness.  Dano takes us down each road with compassion. Cusack, too, approaches his role with compassion and neither of them makes too much or too little of the demons that overtaken Wilson’s internal world. Dano has showed us so many different sides of his acting ability, which is often way over the top. But here, he illustrates that all of that talent can be harnessed more specifically. It’s a marvel to watch and deeply moving. Paul Dano has never been nominated for an Oscar, unbelievably.

2. Jake Gyllenhaal in Southpaw takes the number 2 spot even though I’ve not yet seen him in the film. He’s supposed to be great in it, though, and has Harvey Weinstein ushering him through Oscar season.  Gyllenhaal is another one of Oscar’s forgotten talents, having received only one nomination for his brilliant work in Brokeback Mountain. He almost made last year’s race with Nightcrawler. His transformative work here, becoming a beefed-up fighter, will most certainly be enough to push him through.

3. Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel for Youth – where you have Dano and Cusack needing to split, you can’t really split up Caine and Keitel, mostly because they are just too damned famous.  Caine is already a two-time Oscar winner with six nominations. To say they love him would be an understatement. Keitel has only been nominated once, as supporting actor for Bugsy. Does that mean they don’t like him? I don’t know. Either way, both have fully realized, deeply meaningful career-topping performances in Youth, Paolo Sorrentino’s film backed by Fox Searchlight. Unless the film is destroyed by critics (currently it’s mixed to positive on Metacritic), it should emerge as a strong Oscar contender in all aspects. I say “if” because there is no way of telling how a movie will land. This is a film about Hollywood but more than that, it’s about artists working in Hollywood — old-school vets who make up the majority of Oscar voters. Youth, like Birdman, is a lament of things past. It’s a condemnation of and celebration of “the new” while also a condemnation of and celebration of the gone and forgotten.  If all goes well, both actors should have an equal shot at landing a lead nomination.  Jane Fonda and Rachel Weisz will be strong contenders for supporting. Paul Dano makes an appearance here in a supporting role — the one thing to note about this performance of his vis-à-vis Love & Mercy is just what a better actor he is becoming as he evolves.

5. Michael Fassbender for MacBeth – this is another one I did not see in Cannes but by all accounts the reviews were good enough to put Fassbender in contention for lead actor.   Macbeth is faring slightly higher than Youth in aggregate scores but critics these days tend to be a younger bunch, not so much interested in the same things that interest Oscar voters (85 on Metacritic so far). That it’s Shakespeare, that Fassbender is a respected actor, make him at the very least a contender, at least for now. Once things start to roll his might be the one that gets the chop.


Which actors are waiting at the gates to threaten these? They are mostly actors playing real-life people (highlighted in red). Hollywood seems to never tire of true stories about great or famous men — they celebrate and reinforce the patriarchy while doing so. How long will this trend last? It’s hard to say.

1. Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant

2. Michael Fassbender competing against himself in Steve Jobs as Steve Jobs.

3. Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies

4. Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl

5. Will Smith in Concussion

6. Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger in Black Mass.

7. Ben Foster as Lance Armstrong in The Program.

8. Bryan Cranston as Trumbo in Trumbo. 

9. Tobey Maguire in Pawn Sacrifice, as Bobby Fischer

10.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Philippe Petit in The Walk.

11. Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden in Snowden.

12. Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes. The great McKellen has been all too often overlooked by the Academy.

13. Benicio Del Toro in Escobar. Del Toro is also in Sicario but probably will go as supporting, giving the chance of a double nomination year.  

14. Bradley Cooper in Adam Jones.

15. Michael Shannon in Midnight Special.

16. Richard Gere, Time Out of Mind.

17. Jason Siegel, End of Tour as David Foster Wallace.

There will no doubt be other names added to this list, and names removed from it as we barrel towards the end of the year. It will be the most competitive of the acting categories, with Best Actress coming up a close second. We’ll be covering Best Actress later today.

As usual, it will be difficult to know this early whether the films already seen will have any chance as the race surges forward. Because Best Actor is so closely tied with Best Picture, the nominees from last year (all except Steve Carell in Foxcatcher) were from films that were nominated for Best Picture.

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Coming up next, Best Actress.


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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