Critics

gone nightcrawler

(thanks to Paddy @screenonscreen)

Best Film
Gone Girl

Best Director
Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler)

Best Actor
Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler)

Best Actress
Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl)

Best Supporting Actor
J. K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette (Boyhood)
Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year)

Best Screenplay
Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler)

Best Cinematography
Hoyte van Hoytema (Interstellar)

Best Production Design
Adam Stockhausen (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Best Visual Effects
Interstellar

Best Ensemble Cast
Guardians of the Galaxy

Best Animated Movie
Big Hero 6

Best Documentary
Citizenfour

Best Youth Performance
Ellar Coltrane (Boyhood)

Unbroken_6

One of the strangest aspects of 2014 is how so many films have been harpooned by critics, especially those aimed for the Best Picture race. At the same time, Oscar bloggers have been winnowing down their list based on what they think milquetoast softies in the Academy, otherwise known as “they” will choose. In so doing, we’re looking at a doozy of a Best Picture race – one that inadvertently omits the most daring while huddling up to the least daring.

Three very big Oscar movies were mostly zotzed by the critics – Interstellar (74 on Metacritic), Unbroken (with a 61 so far, with 14 critics ringing in) and American Sniper (66 on Metacritic so far with 16 critics ringing in). Both both Interstellar and Sniper are hitting top ten lists throughout the net, proving that people really do love those movies. Unbroken was chosen by the Critics Choice for Best Picture and Best Director, while all three were inexplicably put on AFI’s top ten American films of the year.

So what gives? Do the critics just have a bug up their butt? Are these really good movies despite what the critics say? And will Academy voters go for them or not. If so, all three of them? 20 out of 22 pundits at Gold Derby have Unbroken predicted to be nominated. Only 2 out of 22 have Amrican Sniper predicted, 4 out of 22 have Interstellar predicted. Two of these films have fallen from a high place as once being predicted to win Best Picture before anyone saw them.

The Golden Globes did not nominate them, which is the only indication that these aren’t primed and ready for the Best Picture race. Dave Karger has all three films predicted to be nominated for Best Picture. That tells me a couple of things worth noting for the Oscar race moving forward. Maybe this is the moment that the critics and the industry at last part ways. After all, other than Boyhood, the critics have mostly embraced either foreign films like Ida or movies way too obscure for Oscar voters, like Under the Skin.

Here is the LA Weekly’s Critics Poll for Best Picture:

toptenlaweekly

Now let’s just do a quick rundown of the critics and Best Picture going back to when they expanded to ten from five, 2009.

2009
The Hurt Locker – 94
Up – 88
An Education – 85
Avatar – 83
Up in the Air – 83
District 9 – 81
A Serious Man – 79
Precious – 79
Inglorious Basterds – 69
The Blind Side – 53

2010

The Social Network – 95
Toy Story 3 – 92
Winter’s Bone – 90
The King’s Speech – 88
The Kids are All Right – 86
127 Hours – 82
True Grit – 80
Black Swan – 79
The Fighter – 79
Inception – 74

2011
Moneyball – 87
The Artist – 86
The Tree of Life – 85
The Descendants – 84
Hugo – 83
Midnight in Paris – 81
War Horse – 72
The Help – 62
Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close – 46

2012
Zero Dark Thirty – 95
Amour – 94
Argo – 86
Beasts of the Southern Wild – 86
Lincoln – 86
Django Unchained – 81
Silver Linings Playbook – 81
Life of Pi – 79
Les Miserables – 63

2013

12 Years a Slave – 97
Gravity – 96
American Hustle – 90
Her – 90
Nebraska – 86
Dallas Buyers Club – 84
Captain Phillips – 83
Philomena – 76
Wolf of Wall Street – 75

So far in 2014

Boyhood – 100
Selma – 92 (11 critics)
Birdman – 89
The Grand Budapest Hotel – 88
Whiplash – 87
Foxcatcher – 82

Gone Girl – 79
Nightcrawler – 76

Interstellar – 74
Theory of Everything – 72
The Imitation Game – 72
Into the Woods – 71 (7 critics)

American Sniper – 66 (11 critics)
Unbroken – 61 (14 critics)

I’m a little perplexed how my Oscar pundit pals think this is going to play out overall.  Perhaps the Unbroken and American Sniper will see their reviews rise – that’s certainly possible since they don’t have very many so far.  But if it stays this way you start to see how films with these scores end up with in terms of nomination counts – Extremely Loud with 2, The Blind Side with 2, The Help with 4. They are movies that appeal to actors overall and thus, they end up, usually, with one acting nomination and one Best Picture nomination.  But no more than that. At least, that’s how it’s gone since 2009.

So then the other weird way Best Picture is being measured this year, in terms of how pundits are predicting films, is that they’re ignoring the critics (kind of) and they’re also ignoring box office. We’ve gone over this before but it is highly unusual to have a Best Picture lineup with hardly any films that made money in it.

Unbroken and American Sniper are hoping for huge box office and I feel strongly they will get it. So perhaps box office is a negligible point. Though it is kind of ass backwards to nominate the film and then watch it make money.

Blogger  noted the oddness in the Best Picture / box office disconnect a while back and built this chart to illustrate if 2014 was like Best Picture since 2009:

Screen-Shot-2014-12-18-at-3.51.30-PM

I’m not really sure how Best Picture is going to end up. But I do know that I am genuinely perplexed by how it seems to be going, at least so far, with the critics having rung in.  There is a vague kind of consensus forming but other than that it represents no other Oscar year I’ve seen.

I’m not sure if it means that the Oscars will embrace films that the public might – we don’t know what their reaction will be to a lot of these films. Or if everyone in my job has just decided critics no longer matter where Best Picture is concerned.

Or perhaps the review scores will start to climb and this will all be moot.

I do find it interesting, though. This year reminds me of: if Oscar bloggers and studios decided the Best Picture race.  For my part, I always look at reviews and box office as indicators of where Best Picture eventually might be found.

But what do I know? We’re just making this thing up as we go. One thing I kind of think I know at this stage of the game, I think a lot of the major pundits could be underestimating Gone Girl. And if they gave it any thought, they’d probably say I was underestimating Unbroken. I’m also wondering about Interstellar making a rally at year’s end as its international box office starts to climb the way Life of Pi’s did.

So many questions, yet no answers. Not yet.

overrated

Written with Ryan Adams

“The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.”
— George Orwell

Wise words, but most of us ignore them. We humans keep reaching for perfection anyway. Especially those rare human artists and human athletes who possess enough talent and ego to believe they can obtain the unobtainable. But even if it’s an artist’s job to seek perfection, it shouldn’t be a critic’s job to demand perfection from art. Very few legitimate critics ever do. Far too many armchair critics do it all the time.

Flawed. Overrated. Two words that often crop up in casual café conversation — and even more often in the virtual café conversations of twitter. The more a movie is praised with great buzz or universally good word of mouth, the more we’re likely to see someone fall back on the default dissent: no, “it’s overrated,” or yes, “but it’s flawed.” The trouble with both these words is that they throw the burden of blame back at the film and filmmaker. Easier for some people to dismiss a movie in those terms than to say, “I didn’t get it” or “I had problems with it.” No one wants to take personal responsibility for raining on the parade — but how does it make any sense to blame the parade and not blame the rain?

Whenever we see a vague reference to “flaws” in a film, notice how we seldom we see any specific “flaws” ever itemized. That’s a good clue that the actual problem is in the viewer and not in the thing being viewed. But that’s uncomfortable. It’s hard for people admit that they “didn’t get” something because that means there’s something wrong with them, so they put the blame on the film, or the painting, or the photograph. Easier to blame the artist, but not themselves.

This is not to say that “overrated” and “flawed” are not legitimate words in the right context. But the overuse of both these words in critical discourse has become annoyingly pervasive. It’s prevalent everywhere, not just in America, land of the branded.  In America, it’s easy to see how the illness has spread. Advertising tries to grab our attention with exaggerated hype on every new product that comes out. Consumers get whipped up in the hype so they flock like lemmings to buy a new product. The latest completely disgusting hybrid abomination at Taco Bell, for example. Advertising or excitement, hype or hunger, anticipation or enticement? — most of the time we can’t tell the difference anymore.

Overrated

In the age of instant customer feedback, ratings are impossible to avoid. In some cases ratings are useful. Ratings based on natural word of mouth can be a great barometer of reliability. For instance, the new ride-sharing service, Uber, really is the coolest thing ever. You register with credit card or paypal, Uber matches destinations, and someone drives you somewhere. I wish this had been around when I was a young adult. No one is ever going to say “Uber is overrated” because it delivers on a specific promise. It works like it’s supposed to work and we know that because real people say it works. The grassroots appeal of Uber is based on actual reports of customer satisfaction. Uber doesn’t need to rely on commercial advertising hype because it has genuine great word of mouth.  (3… 2… 1… countdown to the first scary abduction thriller with a perilous Uber premise).

But, in general, we’ve all been conditioned as consumers since birth — so we instinctively know how to evaluate hype and word of mouth, and we understand how to balance those influences with our own personal experience. We recognize the difference between a personal recommendation and a corporate ‘Seal of Approval.’ As well we should. We’re the ones spending the money; we should be getting what we paid for. Much of the time that is not a matter of opinion. The service or product is either delivered as promised or it isn’t. And if it isn’t, the internet provides the perfect way to spread words of warning.

But words of warning are the wrong way to evaluate some things, and movies are one of those things. Yes, on the one hand, many movies are made to conform to a consumerist model — productions are hyped by companies, studios that often reach out to what used to be called “fanboys,” many of whom have graduated (or have been self-appointed) to the realm of legit critics — a select number of VIPs who get invited on junkets, set visits and the like. These first-adapters can offer invaluable hype-assistance for a production, so studios smartly select the friendliest test-drivers. They report back from their insider platforms, most of the time say it’s great, and their like-minded readers trust them. The movie makes a bazillion dollars, and everybody’s happy. So far, so good.

But then… but then when a second wave of skeptical viewers is sucked into the riptide of hype, some will sound the alarm: Caution. Beware. This thing that was over-hyped to the moon is “overrated.”  That’s because our mindset is such that we’ve been conditioned as consumers to get what we paid for. We expect to receive what we’ve been sold.  The movie either equals or doesn’t equal the hype in our minds. it delivers what it promised or it doesn’t. Though I still hate the word overrated, in a way, I can see it as a valid criticism in this particular case.

The problem is, most of the time it isn’t used that way. Most of the time it’s used to take a dump on a critical consensus — when a whole bunch of smart film writers praise a film, it’s tempting (for various reasons) for other writers to be contrarian. The best contrarian opinions have very little to do with prepackaged studio hype or predictable fanboy-critic enthusiasm, but more to do with meaningful insights arrived upon by people who take their job seriously. Responsible, conscientious critics who endeavor to look deeper can get caught up in the excitement as easily as the rest of us — there’s a lot of satisfaction to be found in discovering a film’s greatness when so many other people agree that it’s great. But those outside that select group, however, don’t always get to feel the same untainted enthusiasm. Very few people who are plugged into the hype machine of social media ever get to experience the pure virginal rush of, say, seeing a movie in Cannes for the first time — those moments when a hush falls over the crowd, with no noise in your head to interfere with your appreciation. Just the sheer unadulterated joy of seeing a work of art, unguided, unfiltered, fresh and new.

Then come the raves. Those raves can set expectations way too high — so high that a film would need to be ten times better than it actually is to ever meet those expectations.  By then our viewing of a film has become entangled — the knotty perception of the film itself tied up in a cumbersome bundle with the unanimous praise of it.  It’s hard to avoid bringing a lot of barnacles to the film that it doesn’t deserve. Back in the day, a film would be shown a few days before its release (back when people went to the movies more), the critics would ring in, studios would use their blurbs to sell the film, and you might hear someone say something like “I heard this movie was good.”  They would pay money to see the movie to find out for themselves, and they would walk out thinking it was good or it wasn’t good. Back then moviegoers would never use the word “overrated.” Why? Simple. Because no official “rating” had yet been assigned.

The probable cause for ratings obsession these day is that movies get seen and talked about and reviewed and rewarded with numerical scores long before they ever get seen by people all across the country and all around the world.  For weeks, all that most people have to go by is the talk, the buzz — not the work itself.  Too often, regular civilian moviegoers get shut out of first round of assessment, so they’re robbed of the pleasure of participating.  The fresh experience has been stolen. By the time they finally get to see the movie, it can’t possibly live up to their impossibly high expectations. They can feel misled or let down. Therefore, “it was overrated.”

The reason I hate the word is that it comments on the hype and the critics themselves, not on the work. That’s why the word has no place in film criticism — perhaps in casual discussion, sure, but if you are in the business of evaluating a film, should not the film itself be the subject and not a reaction to other people’s reactions to the film? Write a separate piece about that, if you must, but think before you do: does the internet really need another annoying think piece that calls something overrated? I actually saw an article that called Meryl Streep overrated. Dude, if you think Meryl Streep is overrated 1) you should stop writing about film immediately. 2) Go work at Taco Bell.

I think the word overrated is overrated. It simply reveals a person’s lack of imagination, and worse: their willingness to be affected too much by other people’s opinions. It displays an utter lack of original thinking. Think for yourself. Do not write your reviews in reaction to what other people think.

The term overrated has been around a long time, and seems to have its roots in academia — as this scene from Manhattan would indicate.  And again, I’m sure sometimes it applies to things that aren’t products sold to Americans via hype and advertising. I’m sure there are some films, musicians, works of art that could be reasonably called overrated. Someone might go after Banksy because his art work is so expensive — that seems legit. But even if it’s true that some things seem rated too highly for your own tastes — please, don’t use that word. It’s a stupid word. It’s lazy. It’s … overrated. It only signifies that you’ve become a victim of the rating machine.

Flawed

Another word that has crept into conversations lately is “flawed.” Too many film reviewers, often the younger ones, use this word. You won’t find this word written by many seasoned critics. Veteran critics, who have more refined words in their toolbox, would never stoop to describing a film with that term. A critic’s job is to write up a thoughtful criticism with precision, so no self-respecting writer would use a vague, lazy word like “flawed.”

To me a flaw in a film means something that was wrong — a defect, a mishap, a continuity error, a color correction problem, a bad edit, a boom mic shot.  The word flawed should not be used to mean: parts of the film that didn’t work FOR ME.  Some of the time we can all agree on what “flawed” means. It could mean we all watch a bad movie and think: clumsy dialogue, awkward scenes, unbelievable conflict/resolution, tacked-on happy ending — all of those descriptions are better and far more meaningful than flawed.

I see the word “flawed” way too much in reviews lately, and the second I do I click off of that review.  Use of the F-word tells me the writer got lazy, and that the writer believes his/her opinion is more important than anything else. It also sounds arrogant. Because it shows that a writer believes he’s an authority on the Right Way or Wrong Way to make a movie. Why would I care about one person’s opinion? Why would that writer assume that what he/she thinks is a flaw is something I would ever, in a million years, agree with?

If a writer wants to write about a “tacked-on happy ending,” well, that’s something sort of useful and specific. But it is especially glaring and egregious when someone calls a film “flawed” that most people see as an utter masterpiece. It makes me want to rip my hair out. The word flawed is worse than overrated because at least with overrated the minute someone says the word you immediately think, “okay, obviously this person did not understand what was special about the movie” or “alright, this person expected something that they didn’t get.” But “flawed” indicates there was something obviously inherently wrong with the film.

I do feel it’s fair enough to blurt out “it was flawed” or “it was overrated” in a casual conversation. But I still think one should never presume that they know so much more than everyone else that they would used these words in a more formal piece of writing. Please do the world a favor and at least confess, “it didn’t work for me.”  I would be happy if the word “flawed” could be stricken from film criticism altogether. There’s no way to prevent anyone from using the word, of course. But in my opinion its use is a worse reflection on the writer than it is on whatever is being written about.

Someone wrote this to me on Twitter about Boyhood.

While “flawed” isn’t usually associated with the same impulse toward meanness the way “overrated” can sometimes be, it simply does not do the writer any favors. It presumes we all have our own definition of what flawed would mean. An airbag doesn’t open on a car, say, or the coffee spills when you try to drink out of the plastic lid. These are clear-cut flaws. With art, we’re talking about a subjective interpretation of things that either work for you or things that don’t work for you.

Calling Boyhood “flawed” would be in keeping with what a few the film critics have said about it, in trying to explain why some of the scenes felt contrived (to them) or awkward (to them). Those things amount to the modern writer’s formulaic notion of something “flawed.” As though perfection were a quantified set of rules that cannot broken.  As if fulfillment of those formulaic rules were the end goal.

A screenwriting teacher at UCLA named Richard Walter once told me that as long as a person doesn’t fuck up the key moments of a film, then any “mistakes” can be forgiven. Imagine today’s set of blogger critics seeing Vertigo for the first time. Or, god forbid, any John Waters movie from the early days. Hell, imagine them seeing Jaws. “The shark looks so fake in the last scene!” Ergo, the movie is flawed. You see, time smooths out the wrinkles so that perfection is no longer a requirement. Is the movie good? YES, by god, YES. Does it have moments that seem fake occasionally? Sure. Are there loose ends that aren’t exactly tied up? Absolutely. Is it a good movie? YES. Is it a great movie? One of the greatest.

Are there perfect movies? Yes. Citizen Kane is a perfect movie. I’ve watched it upwards of 200 times and it has only a single moment that doesn’t quite work and it’s one line said by Joseph Cotton when you can tell he forgot his line. Another perfect film is David Fincher’s The Social Network. It is perfect. I’ve watched it over 30 or 40 times and it has not a single “flaw.”  Would people say both of these films are “overrated,” yes, they would. Of course. Because they aren’t seeing what other people see, they assume it is the fault of the film and not something they ought to look more deeply within themselves to discover.

It is an endless cycle of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Everyone naturally assumes each new film that comes out is the Emperor. They decide whether he’s wearing clothes or not and they cast the blogger/critics as people who imagine they’re seeing clothes or not. While that is a brilliant analogy and applicable to many things, only occasionally can it ever be applied to film.

Let’s take a movie like Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. People see it, they rave about it, they add their own interpretations to what they think it’s about. You could put forth the argument that many films ARE open to interpretation — many films by David Lynch, or Fellini, or Godard or any absurdist filmmaker, for instance.  How people respond to these films, and the praise or criticism of them, is often an example of The Emperor’s New Clothes. They don’t get it but they don’t want to look stupid so they say what a great movie it is, etc. There are many on the internet who want to be that guy (or girl) who says, “look, the Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes!” The trouble is, art — the criticism of it, the appreciation of it — is often open to interpretation. It isn’t as simple as saying he’s wearing clothes or he isn’t. A film can make you feel something even if you don’t understand it. It’s okay to come out of it saying, “I have no idea what the hell I just saw.” So you go back in and you watch it again or you file it away somewhere in your mind as something you did not like.

But to write off a group of people for being stupid enough to be fooled by the Emperor is, I think, damaging to intelligent film discourse all the way around. So do the critics get caught up in the hype of the moment and lift something to epic proportions so that it has no chance of living up to that high high praise? Yes. Does that mean the work itself is overrated? Some will probably will think so. Should those people write that in a film review? No.

To sum up: If you think you see a “flaw,” please be aware that the flaw is apparent TO YOU based on your own personal perception. Don’t write that in a film review. You think it’s overrated? Fine. Don’t write that in a film review. Or some dumb click-bait piece with an annoying slideshow to get hate comments. Why pollute the internet more than it already is?

Every year during Oscar season, another great movie is punished for being too highly praised. That movie is almost always knocked out in favor of the scrappy more mediocre movie standing behind it, the wallflower no one was ever paying attention to.  These are years that ALMOST ALWAYS produce a winner people regret later. They don’t like picking the movie everyone already likes, but instead go for the one they can feel good about choosing because no one’s paying attention to it and “IT’S SO GOOD!”  Those films rarely make it onto the best films of the decade list. People agree they are good, would watch them in a heartbeat, see them as films without flaws that aren’t overrated. But are they great? No because great got kicked to the curb a mile back.

And so it goes with Boyhood.  Right now, Boyhood is the belle of the ball — so critics are already sharpening their scalpels to dissect it in reassessment mode, writing think pieces about how it’s good but it’s not THAT good. It can’t just be allowed to stand as something a lot of people love. Last year, 12 Years a Slave was the critics darling, earning a record number of 100s on Metacritic. That then meant that the big city critics were afflicted with “overrated” syndrome, and were not going to let that be a foregone conclusion. They therefore did not choose it for a single major award, except New York which bestowed Best Director honors on Steve McQueen. New York, Los Angeles, National Society of Film critics — none of them choose the best-reviewed film of the year for Best Picture.

There are many films that remain to be seen this year. Already the Boyhood backlash is starting. When I hear people say Boyhood is flawed or overrated I always think of this Rilke quote, “If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.”

Picture: 12 Years a Slave
Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, The Dallas Buyers Club
Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’O, 12 Years a Slave
Director: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
Adapted Screenplay: John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze, Her
Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity
Visual Effects: Gravity
Art Direction/Production Design: Damien Drew et.al. and Catherine Martin et.al., The Great Gatsby
Foreign Language: Blue is the Warmest Color
Animated: Frozen
Documentary: The Act of Killing
Breakout: Lupita Nyong’O, 12 Years a Slave
Golden Orange: Dana Keith

(Thanks Marshall!)

Best Film
1. Inside Llewyn Davis — points: 347; mentions: 55
2. Her — points: 317; mentions: 46
3. 12 Years a Slave — points: 277; mentions: 44
4. Before Midnight — points: 256; mentions: 38
5. The Act of Killing — points: 189; mentions: 36
6. Leviathan — points: 171; mentions: 25
7. Upstream Color — points: 142; mentions: 24
8. Gravity — points: 139; mentions: 24
9. Frances Ha — points: 135; mentions: 29
10. Blue Is the Warmest Color — points: 132; mentions: 24

Best Director
1. Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave — mentions: 15
2. Spike Jonze, Her — mentions: 12
3. Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity — mentions: 9
4. Shane Carruth, Upstream Color — mentions: 6
5. Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street — mentions: 4

Best Actor
1. Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis — points: 79; mentions: 39
2. Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave — points: 77; mentions: 36 3. Joaquin Phoenix, Her — points: 63; mentions: 29
4. Robert Redford, All Is Lost — points: 52; mentions: 25
5. Bruce Dern, Nebraska — points: 24; mentions: 12

Best Actress
1. Adèle Exarchopoulos, Blue Is the Warmest Color — points: 81; mentions: 37
2. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine — points: 64; mentions: 28
3. Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha — points: 50; mentions: 25
4. Brie Larson, Short Term 12 — points: 39; mentions: 21
5. Julie Delpy, Before Midnight — points: 38; mentions: 20

Continue reading…

(thanks, Marshall!)
BEST PICTURE
“12 Years a Slave”
 
TOP TEN FILMS OF 2013 (in alphabetical order)
“12 Years a Slave”
“American Hustle”
“Captain Phillips”
“Dallas Buyers Club”
“Gravity”
“Mud”
“Nebraska”
“Philomena”
“Saving Mr. Banks”
“Short Term 12″
 
BEST DIRECTOR
Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity”

Best Film: “12 Years a Slave”
(runner-up): “American Hustle”

Best Director: Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”)
(runner-up): Alfonso Cuaron (“Gravity”)

Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor (“12 Years a Slave”)
(runner-up): Matthew McConaughey (“Dallas Buyers Club”)

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett (“Blue Jasmine”)
(runner-up): Meryl Streep (“August: Osage County”)

Continue reading…

It remains fundamentally wrong to me that there has to be a special group of critics for African Americans. The critics in this country should work harder to diversify their membership.  Same goes for women.  The Los Angeles Film Critics is 45 males to 11 females, etc.

1. “12 Years a Slave”
2. “Lee Daniels: The Butler”
3. “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”
4. “American Hustle”
5. “Gravity”
6. “Fruitvale Station”
7.  “Dallas Buyers Club”
8. “Saving Mr. Banks”
9. “Out of the Furnace”
10. “42”

Continue reading…

rainer-on-film

The two winners from our Before Sunrise giveaway are: KaMeek Lucas Taitt and Jordan. Please write me to claim your prize.

AwardsDaily is giving away five copies of Rainer on Film: Thirty Years of Film Writing in a Turbulent and Transformative Era. Anyone who writes about film today should read this book. Please submit a comment simply naming which film you think should have won Best Picture in 1979: Kramer vs. Kramer, Apocalypse Now, Breaking Away, Norma Rae, All That Jazz.

Peter Rainer’s book of film essays covers the last thirty years in Hollywood. For anyone at all interested in seeing how film criticism has evolved in recent decades, or in hearing how Hollywood has been transformed, this is a must-read. We’re fortunate to have a few film writers out there who lived through the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and continue to enlighten us to this day. Some of them know where the bodies are buried. Most of them have yet to tell their tales about how they think Hollywood has changed. But this book serves as a detailed chronicle, reminding us what Rainer was thinking back then and tracing the arc of film history all the way up to what he thinks now.

As an avid fan of 70s cinema (it has never gotten better) I particularly enjoyed his essays about industry developments in those years. There is an essay, for instance, about that decade’s movie stars like Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, and how comparatively little draw they had at the box office. “In five years,” Rainer writes, “the annual number of studio-financed films will be down to seven, and they will all star Barbra Streisand.”

Continue reading…

Identity ThiefYou know, most of us have long since dismissed Rex Reed as a joke. It’s a wonder he’s still a working critic while so many brilliant ones have lost their jobs – from J. Hoberman to Stephanie Zacharek who left Movieline. Why are these great writers being let go while eternal waste of space Rex Reed keeps working and polluting the Metacritic collection of otherwise good writers? Hey, Metacritic, dump Rex Reed and put in, oh say, Glenn Kenny.

Anyway, Rex Reed decides to verbally assault Melissa McCarthy and completely misses everything that’s funny about her while doing so. Reed writes:

Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) is a gimmick comedian who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success.

He also calls her a hippo and “cacophonous, tractor-sized Melissa McCarthy,” though conveniently leaves out ‘Oscar-nominated.’ Anyone who saw Bridesmaids knows how funny she is. Anyone who saw This is 40 knows she saved that movie from the utter disaster it otherwise was, and anyone who watched the Gilmore Girls knows how versatile McCarthy is. So give it a rest, Rex Reed. Women have a hard enough time now just getting work period. The last thing they need is this taste nazi inflicting his own personal prejudices on his readers.

 

FILM OF THE YEAR 

  • Argo (Warner Bros.)
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild (Fox Searchlight)
  • Keep the Lights On (Music Box)
  • Les Miserables (Universal)
  • Lincoln (DreamWorks/Touchstone)
  • Moonrise Kingdom (Focus)

FILM PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR – ACTOR

  • Alan Cumming / Any Day Now (Music Box)
  • Bradley Cooper / Silver Linings Playbook (Weinstein)
  • Daniel Day-Lewis / Lincoln (DreamWorks/Touchstone)
  • Hugh Jackman / Les Miserables (Universal)
  • Joaquin Phoenix / The Master (Weinstein)
  • John Hawkes / The Sessions (Fox Searchlight)

FILM PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR – ACTRESS

  • Anne Hathaway / Les Miserables (Universal)
  • Emmanuelle Riva / Amour (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Jennifer Lawrence / Silver Linings Playbook (Weinstein)
  • Jessica Chastain / Zero Dark Thirty (Sony/Columbia)
  • Marion Cotillard / Rust and Bone (Sony Pictures Classics)

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Best Picture
Argo

Best Director
Ben Affleck (Argo)

Best Screenplay
Tony Kushner (Lincoln)

Best Actor
Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)

Best Actress
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

(thanks to Paddy at ScreenOnScreen. More after the cut.)

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(thanks to Asif Khan)

Best Film
Moonrise Kingdom

Best Director
Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom)

Best Actor
Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)

Best Actress
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

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Picture: Argo
Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Actress: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Supporting Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Director: Ben Affleck, Argo
Adapted Screenplay: Chris Terrio, Argo
Original Screenplay: Rian Johnson, Looper
Cinematography: Roger Deakins, Skyfall
Visual Effects: Life Of Pi
Art Direction/Production Design: Thomas Brown, et. Al, and Sarah Greenwood, Anna Karenina
Foreign Language: The Untouchables
Animated: Frankenweenie
Documentary: The Queen Of Versailles
Breakout: Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Now that the September issue of Sight & Sound has hit news stands and had a chance to sell out the complete print run, the magazine has generously published far more comprehensive results of its 2012 Critics and Directors Polls in an exhaustive interactive site with hundreds of branching links to every individual critics Top 10 list and other fascinating rabbit holes. So call in sick after lunch and dive down deep.

Those of us gnashing our teeth when we realized North by Northwest, Raging Bull, Rear Window, M, The Leopard, A Touch of Evil, Sherlock Jr. and Barry Lyndon were missing from the Top 50 will find some consolation in hearing they all made it into the Top 60.

Quite cool to see four Terrence Malick films earn a spot among the poll’s 250 greatest of all time. Tree of Life #102, Days of Heaven #117, Thin Red Line #183, and Badlands #202.  That’s 80% of Malick’s entire filmography.

We’ll come back to this expanded survey after we’ve had time to absorb and process whatever it might have to say about the methodology and outcome. But for now just wanted to let you know the site is up and running, ready to be explored.

Sample? Here’s Manohla Dargis.
Critic, New York Times, US, Voted in the critics poll

  • Au Hasard Balthazar, 1966, Robert Bresson
  • Barry Lyndon, 1975, Stanley Kubrick
  • Flowers of Shanghai, 1998, Hsiao-hsien Hou
  • The Flowers of St Francis, 1950, Roberto Rossellini
  • The Godfather: Part II, 1974, Francis Ford Coppola
  • Little Stabs at Happiness, 1963, Ken Jacobs
  • Masculin Féminin, 1966, Jean-Luc Godard
  • There Will Be Blood, 2007, Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Touch of Evil, 1958, Orson Welles
  • The Wizard of Oz, 1939, Victor Fleming

In response to Vertigo topping Citizen Kane in Sight & Sound’s latest poll, the Onion just posted this hat tip @TheresAPlace4Us:

we-need-to-talk-about-kevin

Melissa Silverstein has put together a list of films directed by women to counteract the BFI’s top 50 best of all time. It’s a man’s man world, baby. Only real men link to her piece, as Roger Ebert did on Twitter. The others? Nada. Zip. No one is covering this story except the few shriekers out there who remain unafraid. You see, griping about racism and sexism comes at a price. You aren’t as cool as the peeps who prefer to blend in.  I know this because I was once someone who wanted to blend in. Now, I still hang with the boys on Twitter and Hollywood-Elsewhere, and still gripe about inequality just for the plain fuck of it. As Stephen King once wrote, “sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has to hold onto.”

Here is the list compiled by Silverstein and others who do give a damn. If you had to pick ten, which ones would you choose? I have bolded my favorites (but I haven’t seen all of them).

Chantal Ackerman- Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

Allison Anders – Gas, Food, Lodging

Gillian Armstrong – My Brilliant Career

Gillian Armstrong – High Tide

Andrea Arnold- Fish Tank

Dorothy Arzner – Dance, Girl, Dance

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vertigo3

The Sight and Sound poll was released after ten years of cultural, economic, global and political change and emerged virtually unchanged from the decades preceding it.

When it was finally announced that Vertigo had, at last, squeaked by Citizen Kane to become the most admired film among critics it reminded me of an old couple staring at their salt and pepper shakers for fifty years until finally deciding to move the pepper to the left of the salt.  Then they sat back down and stared at them again.

It is a terrifying thing, to age ten years.   To age and not change is even more terrifying. Great films should not cease being great because you’ve grown out of them. They should not cease being great because YOU’VE changed. Had the 846 critics and film scholars they polled this year picked a new film from the list to supplant Citizen Kane, rather than one that’s been kicking around for decades, it might have been more credible. But it’s hard to look at the top two films on that list and think, yeah, that was a justifiable change, moving Vertigo one place up over Kane.  Most looked at it and thought huh? That’s because if this is the only radical shift you’re talking about in the world of film it is not that radical at all; it is like moving the pepper to the left of the salt.

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A little late to be a useful tipsheet for your office Cannes betting pool, but ScreenDaily.com has compiled a grid of their critics ranking each of the films in competition this year — and they were spot on. Let’s remember to look for this next year before we make predictions. Full chart after the cut.

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As we watch the remainder of the critics groups weigh in with their year-end honors, we’ll take one last look back at how the major contenders stacked up with the weight of their reviews.  AD reader Andrew Sidhom has helpfully compiled these pretty spreadsheet charts to give us handy At-A-Glance access to the metrics of Rotten Tomato, Box-Office and other relevant data.  The charts are large so the best way to share them is with links to the images. (Thanks for all the hard work, Andrew!)

US and UK Productions
International Productions
2010 Productions (for comparison)

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