sicario martian

Pulling in $55 million this weekend, The Martian has very nearly matched Gravity’s record October opening of $55.8 million set two years ago. The Martian’s $100 million worldwide haul represents 95% of its hard-core sci-fi production cost. Meanwhile, hard-core R-rated Sicario opened wide and jacked its earnings to $25 million worldwide, well on it’s way to paying off a big-bang-for-the-bucks $30 million budget. Both these films have a score of 81 on metacritic. Drilling into those numbers, Sicario has a slightly higher curve of 91% positive reviews to The Martian’s 86% positive. Neither has received any negative reviews at all from any ‘meta’ critic.

The Martian has a solid A from CinemaScore, Sicario got an A-. If you want, you can focus on the fact that 55% of the audience for both films were male; I’ll be over here focusing on the happy fact that 45% of the audience were female. (Put another way: American girls spent $32 million on these two movies and American boys spent $38 million, so I’d like it a lot if we can please stop saying movies are targeted at one gender when both these movies would be box-office failures if only one gender bought tickets.)

Over the past 2 weeks, we’ve had premieres for Black Mass, 99 Homes, The Walk, Sicario, and The Martian. In next the two weeks we’ll get to see Steve Jobs, Legends, Freeheld, Bridge of Spies, Room, Truth and Crimson Peak. Our favorite time of year: steaming hot pumpkin spice Oscar hopeful season.

This post can serve as a place to talk about both The Martian and Sicario under the blanket caution of wall-to-wall SPOILER ALERT.


deniro scorsese

It’s no secret that Robert De Niro is one of the greatest actors that ever lived. Just look at the list of classics: Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, The Godfather Part II, The Deer Hunter, The King of Comedy, Once Upon a Time in America, Brazil, The Untouchables, Midnight Run, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, Heat, and Casino. Is there any other actor that can claim to have been in this many great movies and given this many great performances? That’s of course a topic for another story, but notice how Casino was listed last. That’s where many people believe De Niro “gave up” serious films and for the next two decades resorted to choosing movies that didn’t live up to his talents. In fact, there are people in their twenties today who think De Niro is best known for the Fockers trilogy! That’s just criminal and doesn’t do justice to the now 72-year-old legend.

Well, there is great news this week that made movie geeks rejoice. While being interviewed by Digital Spy for his latest film, The Intern, De Niro was asked about the long-planned Scorsese collaboration, I Heard You Paint Houses. “We are doing it… We should be doing it sometime next year,” De Niro said. “We’re slowly, slowly getting it in place.” This is quite possibly the best news a die-hard movie fan could hear, especially with the fact that De Niro and Scorsese are not getting any younger and that Joe Pesci is rumored to be coming back after announcing his retirement back in 1999. Scorsese, Pesci, De Niro -– does it get any better than this? Their collaborative efforts are right up there with Bergman/Von Sydow, Hitchcock/Stewart, and Huston/Bogart.

* * *

Although Scorsese has been as productive and brilliant these last few years as ever before, replacing De Niro with DiCaprio as his muse, De Niro’s career arc has been a different story. Maybe years of method acting and gaining/losing drastic amounts of weight for iconic roles took a toll on him; how else can you explain the constant duds that he’s been churning out year after year?

It’s of course not all that bad, and shades of the brilliance he once showed in abundance have poured down in a few well-chosen movies here and there. If you do catch Nancy Meyers’ The Intern, you will notice a sweet, soulful performance from De Niro that is the clear highlight of the movie. These kinds of performances from De Niro are few and far between these days, but they do happen. A few weeks from now, he’s set to appear in the highly anticipated Joy, starring Jennifer Lawrence and directed by David O’ Russell, his third film with the filmmaker. The buzz is that De Niro’s performance is great –- we all hope it is -– and that he could garner an eight Oscar nomination for it.

Despite his recent duds, here are six examples post-Casino De Niro performances that prove he’s still got it and will “bring it” next year when the new Scorsese film is shot.

Conrad Brean in Wag the Dog (1997)

A presidential sex scandal hits and his advisers try to cover it up as fast as possible. What do they do? Hire a Hollywood producer and a professional spin doctor played by De Niro. “A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow,” says De Niro’s Conrad Brean, who cooks up a phony international crisis with Albania. De Niro plays Brean as a poker-faced genius who makes you believe a spin doctor can save the day by telling lies: “We’re not gonna have a war, we’re gonna have the appearance of a war,” he says with much-garnered confidence. Just like in Ronin, De Niro seems like a match made in heaven for David Mamet’s poetic street dialogue. He’s never been this wittily relaxed before.

Sam in Ronin (1998)

“You ever kill anybody?” De Niro’s Sam is asked in Ronin. “Yeah I hurt somebody’s feelings once,” he replies in a deadpan way. In my opinion this was the last De Niro-esque performance of his illustrious career: it’s raw, edgy, and dangerous. John Frankenheimer’s movie has some of the best car chase scenes ever put on celluloid and has altogether remarkable chemistry between stars De Niro and his director, two old-school giants. Playing a CIA strategist turned mercenary, De Niro turns out be a pretty badass James Bond in a role that has him spouting out words by screenwriter David Mamet –- who also wrote a great latter De Niro role in Wag the Dog. “You worried about saving you own skin?” Sam is asked midway through the film. “Yeah, I am,” responds De Niro, “It covers my body”.

Paul Vitti in Analyze This (1999)

It’s not uncommon for De Niro to play a gangster, but it is uncommon for it to be in a comedy. Analyze This was one of the first times we saw De Niro’s comedic side. Playing respected mobster Paul Vitti, he visits Billy Crystal’s shrink to try and take control of his crumbling psyche. It works. “You got a gift my friend. You, you, you’re good,” tells Vitti to his frightened shrink. De Niro is hilarious, encompassing to perfection a viciously intimidating side to his gangster, but adding self-contained humor to his role. “Fuck Freud,” says Vitti to a scared shrink who tries everything to get rid of him as a client. The chemistry between Crystal and De Niro is contagious and feels so naturally delivered. The misbegotten sequel that followed should be forgotten, and this original movie always remembered.

Jack Byrnes in Meet the Parents (2000)

Playing father-in-law from hell Jack Byrnes, De Niro perfected the comedic gold that he started with Analyze This just a year before Meet The Parents. Byrnes is a retired horticulturalist who might also be an ex-CIA agent. It helps that co-star Ben Stiller and De Niro seem to be feeding off of each other’s manic energy. “Have you ever purchased pornographic material?” hilariously asks De Niro to Stiller’s ill-received and aptly named Greg Focker during a now iconic lie detector test. Everything about the De Niro’s performance works here, from his sizing up of Stiller’s character, to telling him that he’s going “down, down to Chinatown,” and even down to the smallest details as in the way he calls Greg “Focker”, this is pure comedic gold.

Nick Wells in The Score (2001)

It took four decades for the two Don Corleone’s -– De Niro and Marlon Brando –- to finally make a movie together. The fact that it was The Score might disappoint some, but it shouldn’t detract from the fact that it’s actually a good caper movie. A weaker actor might have overplayed the character of Nick Wells -– an aging thief who is persuaded by a rookie, played by Edward Norton, to execute one last heist -– but it’s De Niro’s steadiness that becomes part of the movie’s subtle, refraining style. Norton and De Niro basically compete to see who can under-act the other (it sounds dull but it isn’t). He’s positively mesmerizing and overshadows the Brando scenes quite a bit.

Pat Solitano Jr. in Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

De Niro richly deserved his Oscar nomination for Silver Linings Playbook. Playing Pat Sr., a sports bookie with a major case of OCD and an even unhealthier obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles, De Niro found a role worthy of his incredible talents. In a memorably touching scene, De Niro wakes up his son in the morning and, failing to convey the repressed emotions in his mind, all Pat Sr. can do is subtly cry and hug his son. In another poignant moment he tells his son to seize the moment, and seize the fortune that has been dealt in his hand: “When life reaches out at a moment like this it’s a sin if you don’t reach back, I’m telling you it’s a sin if you don’t reach back! It’ll haunt you the rest of your days like a curse.” It’s the best De Niro performance in 20 years and proof that the legendary actor still has it in him to deliver.

With the Academy’s October 1 deadline just around the corner, here is where you can watch the trailers for the films that have been submitted by countries from around the world.

To qualify, all films must have had a release date between October 1, 2014 and September 30, 2015 in their respective countries. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce which films are elegible in the middle of October, and the shortlist will be announced mid-December.

Canada is officially resting its Oscar hopes on Maxime Giroux’s film Félix et Meira:

Belgium: Le Tout Nouveau Testament

Norway: The Wave

Taiwan: The Assassin


Chile: The Club

Argentina: The Clan

Bulgaria: The Judgement

Italy: Non Essere Cattivo

Cambodia: The Last Reel

Czech Republic : Home Care

Iceland: Rams

Finland: The Fencer

France: Mustang



Hungary: Son of Saul


Germany: Labyrinth of Lies (Im Labyrinth des Schweigens)



Austria: Goodnight Mommy


Colombia: Embrace of The Serpent


Bangladesh: Jalal’s Story


Sweden: A Pigeon Sat On A Bench Reflecting On Existence


Georgia : Moira

Brazil: The Second Mother


China : Wolf Totem

Japan : 100 Yen Love

Afghanistan: Utopia



Pakistan: Moor

Albania: BOTA


Croatia: The High Sun

Estonia :1944

Portugal: Arabian Nights Volume 2: The Desolate One

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Our Everyday Life

Denmark: A War

Dominican Republic : Sand Dollars

Greece : Xenia

Iraq: Memories On Stone

Nepal: Talakjung vs Tulke

Romania: Aferim

Guatemala : Ixcanul Volcano

Latvia: Modris

Russia: Солнечный удар

Hong Kong: To The Fore

Morocco: Aida

Paraguay: Cloudy Times

Philippines: Heneral Luna

Serbia: Enclave

India: Court

Iran: Messenger of God

Slovakia: Goat

Israel: Baba Joon

Malyasia: Men Who Save the World

Slovenia: The Tree

Poland : 11 Minutes

Jordan : Theeb

Kazakhstan: Stranger

Kosovo: Babai

Peru: NN

Macedonia: Honey Night

Kyrgyzstan: Heavenly Nomadic

Heavenly Nomadic Trailer 1080p from Pluto Film on Vimeo.

Lebanon: Void

South Africa: The Two of Us

Lithuania: The Summer of Sangailė

Luxembourg: Baby(a)lone

Mexico: 600 Miles

South Korea: The Throne

Montenegro: You Carry Me

YOU CARRY ME TRAILER eng subs from 4film on Vimeo.

Venezuela : Dauna. Lo que lleva el río

Netherlands: The Paradise Suite

Palestine: The Wanted 18

Panama: Box 25

Spain: Loreak

Switzerland: Iraqi Odyssey

Thailand: How to Win at Checkers (Every Time)

Turkey: Sivas

Uruguay: Una Noche Sin Luna

Carey Mulligan as Maud in SUFFRAGETTE

  • For UK readers, The Time is Now begins a season of Women’s Rights in Film. Launching next month, The Time Is Now will open with Suffragette and screen a series of films that celebrate women’s rights and their fight in film. More info can be found here.


  • Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s The Assassin won Best Director at Cannes. We were treated to a beautiful poster and even more spectacular trailer this week. Set in 9th Century China, 10-year-old Nie Yinniang is the general’s daughter who is abducted by a nun who initiates her into martial arts, transforming her into an assassin. One day, having failed in a task, she is sent back by her mistress to the land of her birth, with orders to kill the man to whom she was promised — a cousin who now leads the largest military region in North China. After 13 years of exile, the young woman must confront her parents, her memories and her long-repressed feelings. A slave to the orders of her mistress, Nie Yinniang must choose: sacrifice the man she loves or break forever with the sacred way of the righteous assassins.
    The film will screen at the NYFF and was named Taiwan’s entry for Best Foreign Language film. Watch the trailer below:
  •  We’re at the half-way point. Read Sasha’s predictions in Oscar’s Predictions Friday here.Sigourney weaver
  • Director Paul Feig announced a surprise addition to the cast of his latest Ghostbusters reboot on Twitter:


  • Truth got its first trailer. Robert Redford plays Dan Rather and Cate Blanchett plays Mary Mapes who endure a media witch hunt that spirals out of control after Rather reported a news story about then President George W. Bush going AWOL from the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. Truth is largely based on Mapes book, Truth and Duty: The Press, the President and the Privilege of Power.

  • Director Steven Soderbergh is working on a mysterious project over at HBO. Sharon Stone is set to star in Mosaic, a choose your own adventure style project. Said to be highly interactive with the audience, the audience can choose how they want a scenario to play out. Soderbergh said, ““I believe the good people at HBO are genuinely enthusiastic about ‘Mosaic’ for two reasons: first, it represents a fresh way of experiencing a story and sharing that experience with others; second, it will require a new Emmy category, and we will be the only eligible nominee.”
  • The official James Bond theme for Spectre arrived to mixed opinion. Written by Sam Smith and Dave Grohl, Writing’s On The Wall is an emotional appeal to the heart.  Take a listen, where does it rank in your favorite Bond themes of all time? Will it live up to Adele’s Skyfall which went on to win Best Original Song at the 2014 Oscars?

  • Charlie Kaufman’s stop-motion pic, Anomalisa was picked up by Paramount and is set to be released on December 30 in Los Angeles and New York, just in time to join the Oscar party. Enjoy the trailer below :

  • The Gotham Independent Film Awards announced they would be honoring Helen Mirren and Robert Redford with Actress and Actor tributes respectively. Todd Haynes will be honored with the Director tribute. The Gotham Awards will be announced on October 22.
  • You’ve come a long way baby! Lupita Nyong’o was once told her skin was “too dark” for her to be on TV. Her response to that was, “‘No. It didn’t ring true. I just thought, I need to find another way,” She tells Vogue as she graces its cover for the second time.  Nyong’o talked about her Oscar and going from the New York stage to Star Wars.



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  • At the box office, Sony’s Hotel Transylvania set records for the highest September opening of all time with a $47.5 million debut. The film played in 3754 locations.
    Nancy Meyers latest offering, The Intern starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway opened in second place with $18.2 million.
    Everest rounded out the top 3 with $13.1 million.
  • In case you missed it, Viola Davis made history at the Emmys last weekend, becoming the first ever African-American to win Best Actress in a Drama. She said:

    In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields, and lovely flowers, and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line, but I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.’ That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something. The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there. So here’s to all the writers, the awesome people… Shonda Rhimes. People who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman. To be black. And to the Taraji P. Hensons, the Kerry Washingtons, the Halle Berrys, the Nicole Beharis, the Meagan Goods, to Gabrielle Union. Thank you for taking us over that line. Thank you, for the television academy.

    Watch her speech below:


The question is unavoidable, but recurrent. I get it year after year at the Toronto International Film Festival: “What’s the best thing you’ve seen?”. In this list-crazy society, obsessed with best/worst comparisons, people want to know which movie of TIFF 2015 is likely to be best remembered. The choice is easy for me: Lazslo Nemes’ Son of Saul. is a holocaust movie shot from the POV of a concentration camp prisoner forced to burn the bodies of gas chamber victims after leading them to the trap. The movie is an immeasurable accomplishment with scenes of staggering beauty and incredible pain. It is perhaps the only indisputable masterpiece I saw at the fest.

This year’s edition of TIFF didn’t seem to have as many of the hot sales that happened last year. A last-minute bidding war is, however, currently happening for Equals, a sci-fi romance starring Kristen Stewart. The film received mixed reviews, but the bidding war is said to be at around $16 million as we speak. Remember last year when Paramount decided to buy Chris Rock’s Top Five for the impressive sum of $12.5 million? That didn’t turn out so well. As of this writing, not even Michael Moore’s pro-socialist documentary Where to Invade Next has found a buyer. Many highly-touted movies had a tough time getting traction. Several that came into town with a slew of expectations were received with a polite meh and emerged with their Oscar dreams battered.

The Telluride-effect, was at its peak this year as Steve Jobs and Carol — not to mention Suffragette — decided to bypass TIFF altogether by going to Telluride and New York. The sighs that greeted the would-be contenders had enough effects that it had many critics already talking about NYFF more than ever before, with Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, Zemeckis’ The Walk, the aforementioned Steve Jobs and Carol all being screened there, New York will be a major factor in shaping the race. With sadly no one title breaking out in spectacular fashion, critics have been generally leaning towards Spotlight being the unofficial winner, but Room’s Audience Award win a week ago has shifted the game. Lenny Abrahamson’s Room is the real deal, a hypnotic labyrinth into dark humane feelings. Based on Emma Dongue’s best-selling book of the same name, it features awards worthy performances from Brie Larson and 8-year-old newcomer Jacob Tremblay. The best way to watch the film is by knowing as little as possible, the tonal shifts are too major to reveal anything, but do know it is one of the very best movie I’ve seen so far this year.

It is no surprise both Spotlight and Room actually debuted at Telluride. However if one born and bred TIFF film did emerge it was without a doubt James Vanderbilt’s Truth. The film works like a morality play for our times, using the journalistic approach Vanderbilt used for his Zodiac screenplay to great effect. The cast is unanimously perfect, but the standout is Cate Blanchett, exceptional as 60 Minutes producer Mary Mapes. The Martian is another one, an unabashed popcorn movie that had everyone cheering for Matt Damon’s astronaut. The first half has the lost astronaut trying to survive the red planet. With nearly no dialogue, save for his video journal, we watch Damon’s astronaut try to survive in the harsh confines of the red planet. He builds his own crop (wait until you see how) and manages to survive while his crew heads back to earth thinking he was wiped out by a debris storm. In its best moments The Martian has brilliant, almost silent moments that bring to mind a hybrid of Castaway meets Gravity.

Safe for the already mentioned Blanchett performance, the acting at TIFF was great. Julianne Moore was superb in two movies (Freeheld, Maggie’s Plan), Ben Foster deserved praise for his portrayal of Lance Armstrong (The Program), a movie that had its entire cast become contenders (Spotlight), Johnny Depp made a strong comeback (Black Mass), Alicia Vikander outshone Eddie Redmayne and became a star (The Danish Girl), and Brie Larson gives her career-best work, and meets her match with brilliant newcomer newcomer 8-year-old Jacob Tremblay (Room).

Idris Elba also gave career-best work in Beasts of No Nation. Dealing with child soldiers in an unknown African country, this is a movie that means to provoke and it does. The young actor Abraham Atta gives a striking debut as the young child soldier, but Elba, bulked up, in sunglasses and a paramilitary officer’s beret, acts his guts out. Towering would be the right word to describe his performance. Buoyed by Dan Romer’s dazzling, dreamlike score, Fukunaga creates moments that recall a young Terrence Malick.

One of the best reviewed movies was Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa. What is there to say about it that hasn’t already been said? I’ll leave it to Sasha for an eventual full in-depth review, but writer-director Charlie Kaufman has crafted a unique work of art. The film is a frustrating, but brilliant portrait of a man that doesn’t see the good in people. He is lonely, isolated and miserably unexcited about humanity. That is until he meets a woman who breaks the mold for him. Since this is Charlie Kaufman there is a ton of neurotic existentialism. The movie is essentially episodic in nature, with around 10 set-pieces -most of them working brilliantly, but even those that don’t give us important clues to the story’s overall mystery.

The film is a look at the fleeting nature of attraction and Kaufman seems to be dealing with a lot of personal issues in the screenplay. It’s no stretch to say Kaufman’s state of mind is clearly not very Zen and the film seems to be a therapeutic way for him to deal with his inner demons. Oh and did I mention it’s all done in stop motion animation? Beautifully rendered and created. It’s been a great year for feature animation, with this summer’s Shaun of the Sheep another standout. Kaufman doesn’t lose control of his movie the same way I felt he did with Synechdoche, NY. The film is riddled with small details that watching the film once is just not enough. I can’t wait to see it again.

If a few of the big Hollywood productions disappointed, there were some real foreign gems that had people talking: Chili’s The Club, Denmark’s Men and Chicken, France’s Evolution and Eva Husson’s Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story) will all be festival regulars from now until the end of the year. However, nearly all of the 10 best movies I saw at the TIFF had already screened at other festivals earlier in the year: Cannes, Telluride, Venice and even Berlin are represented in my list. Sundance favorites James White and The Witch — both harrowing, but brilliant movies — also had impressive followings.

1) Son of Saul
Lazslo Nemes’ masterpiece reinvents the Holocaust movie by focusing more on the psychological nuance of the tragedy rather than just shock. If there was a better, more artistic movie at TIFF 2015 I didn’t see it.

2) Anomalisa
A work of brilliant genius from Charlie Kaufman. The film is a look at the fleeting nature of attraction, all done in stop-motion animation and with enough imagination to shame most of its live-action counterparts. It’s also very touching.

3) Victoria
Sebastian Schipper’s high-wire act of a movie is more than just a stunt. Shot in a single 138-minute take, it’s a grim, but powerful look at a Spanish girl named Victoria who meets 4 men in the wee hours of the night in Germany and embarks on a harrowing journey with them.

4) Room
Lenny Abrahamson proves 2014’s Frank was no fluke by directing Brie Larson and newcomer Jacob Tremblay in a film that starts off as a disturbing thriller, but becomes an even more disturbing, engrossing psychological study.

5) Truth & Spotlight
Two brilliant journalism dramas that had the critics going nuts. James Vanderbilt’s Truth featuring an incredible performance by Cate Blanchett. Tom Mccarthy’s Spotlight with spot-on screenplay and the best ensemble of the year so far. It looks like a Redmayne vs. Keaton race all over again.

6) 45 Years
The unraveling of a 45 year marriage is devastatingly delivered onscreen by British filmmaker Andrew Haigh and a never better Charlotte Rampling performance that deserves all the praise in the world.

7) Deephan
The Palme D’or award winner from director Jacques Audiard is one of the very best immigrant dramas in recent years. Jesuthasan Antonythasan stars as an ex-Tamil fighter that frees Sri Lanka with two women he doesn’t know to France. They pretend to be a family, but realize the violence has followed them there.

8) Beasts of No Nation
38-year-old Cary Joji Fukunaga follows his triumph in True Detective with an absorbingly raw take on African civil war. Idris Elba owns the screen in a career defining role as the commander of child soldiers. Dan Romer’s dazzling, dreamlike score and Fukunaga Malick influenced direction make this an incredible experience .

9) Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story)
Directed by promising director Eva Husson, this unflinching and mesmerizing French film has early day Sofia Coppola’s style mixed with Larry Clark’s Kids. An absorbing look at promiscuous high schoolers and the way sexual experience has changed among the new generation of teenagers.

10) Sicario
Denis Villeneuve’s best American movie is not easy stuff. Detailing America’s war on drugs it presents to us a new action heroine in the form of Emily Blunt’s Kate Macer. The action is relentlessly brilliant, but the repercussions and themes hit us just as hard.


While watching The Martian last night I was thinking not about Alien, although those moments popped up here and there, but rather Thelma and Louise. The same way Scott’s camera glides over the dry vast Arizona/New Mexico terrain in that film is a lot like how we see the red planet — all dusty plains and orange peaks. The shots of Matt Damon clad in his astronaut suit trudging over that terrain — one man all alone on an entire planet with no other visible life forms — is part of what makes The Martian one of the best films of the year so far. There is something about a Ridley Scott movie when it’s perfectly contained that just knocks it out of the park. This is obviously true of his two masterpieces, Alien and Bladerunner, but true of Gladiator, Thelma and Louise and Black Hawk Down.

The Martian is a breezy space epic that does not terrify like Alien nor plunge you into emotional despair like Gravity. Instead, it keeps the subject matter squarely focused on one thing and one thing only: the wonder of science and the importance of the space program. You could also say it’s about survival but it’s really more than survival. It’s a group of people who get off on solving problems. This is what, if you’re asking me, humans beings do best. With our massive brains and our ability to think and invent things we soar to magnificent heights when put to this kind of test. Need to manufacture water? Okay, done. Need to grow food to survive? There is a way to do it if you think hard enough. Count how much food you will need to survive if stuck on Mars for X amount of days? Here you go. Spend any time around scientists and you’ll see how they “poke at it” until they achieve a result. This requires risk-taking and failure. You have to start somewhere. You have to never stop trying.

The Martian is what my friend David Carr would call a “movie movie,” meaning it’s designed for massive box office both domestic and international. It is an accessible film for “Joe Popcorn” but smart enough to skim the surface of the the prestige film race. It is one of those entertaining, satisfying movies really only Hollywood can make. It is what American film really does best.

It is a well oiled ensemble with supporting turns by Jeff Daniels (whose awards get this year is really in Steve Jobs), Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Mara, etc. But the two standouts are Jessica Chastain as the commander of the ship that first must abandon Damon’s character but then reverse course to retrieve him. And Matt Damon, it must be said, holds this whole thing together in a singular performance that gives Damon a chance to do what he really does best: be funny. On occasion, the dialogue plays as a little glib and a tad unrealistic given the circumstances but again, if you know how scientists talk, this is kind of how they talk. Everything is glib. Nothing is taken all that seriously because they operate in the realm of absurdities and implausibilities.

The Martian has a similar tone to Argo, more so than any other film that’s been compared to it this year. This one really is funny, dipping occasionally into seriousness. Scott keeps it on the level of excitement rather than bordering on tragedy. The Oscar race needs more movies like this — movies that are actually fun to watch over the limited holiday break voters get to pick their nominees. Does that mean they will pick The Martian? Hard to say. Will it get PGA? Yeah, probably. DGA? Maybe — they love them some Ridley Scott. SAG? It’s not outside the realm of possibility but probably less likely. If you build Best Picture branch by branch you have many branches represented here: sound, editing, production design, visual effects, writing, directing, acting. It’s liked well enough by the critics but it isn’t going to win any of their major awards. This is most definitely a film for the people, not the critics.

The film’s bigger and more subtle message is that if our human indulgences got us into the mess of ruining our own habitat, perhaps it is our human ingenuity and our intelligence — and most importantly our faith in science and scientists — that could get us out of it. If there is a will there could be a way.

I loved The Martian enough that I will watch it many times. As it is I watch Ridley Scott’s Alien at least once a month. I think it is a perfect film top to bottom and is my favorite Ridley Scott movie. It’s great to see him back in space where no one can hear you scream.


To celebrate the release of Maze Runner: Scorch Trials on Blu-ray, Fox are offering Awards Daily readers a special Maze Runner: Scorch Trials Prize pack. All you have to do to win is be one of the first five fans to comment below. The prize pack includes a Maze Runner Blu-ray, a Maze Runner: Scorch Trials book and a Maze Runner t-shirt.




Watch the trailer and enter below:


The rain and the cold of the Telluride Film Festival is over, Johnny Depp was placed by some pundits in top spot for the Best Actor after Black Mass screened.  On to the Toronto Film Festival where Jake Gyllenhaal’s Demolition was screened, and The Martian received its premiere. The latter was described by The Toronto Sun’s Steve Tilley as a “captivating adventure.”

  • This week, we had the new trailers for more Oscar contenders; Room  and Carol. We were also treated to the first trailer of The Program starring Ben Foster and Our Brand is In Crisis
  • Ava DuVernay launched Array, a new distribution collective for filmmakers of diverse backgrounds, including blacks, Latinos, women and more in her efforts to diversify storytelling and validate minority voices through film.


  • Ava DuVernay will be honored at The Toronto Film Festival with the Roger Ebert Tribute award, better known as the Golden Thumb Award,
  • The Danish Girl took home the Queer Lion award at the Venice Film Festival. The Jury Grand Prize was awarded to “Anomalisa,” Charlie Kaufman Duke Johnson. The full list of winners can be found here.
  • M. Night Shyamalan return to the silver screen with The Visit is set to take the top spot at the box office.


from afar

“From Afar” Lorenzo Vigas

“The Clan” (Pablo Trapero)

“Anomalisa,” Charlie Kaufman Duke Johnson

“Frenzy” Emin Alper

Fabrice Luchini (“Courted”)

Valeria Golino (“Per amor vostro”)

Abraham Attah (“Beasts of No Nation)

Christian Vincent (“Courted”)

“The Childhood of a Leader,” Brady Corbett (U.S.)

* *

“Free in Deed” (Jake Mahaffi)

Brady Corbet ”Childhood of a Leader”

“ Neon Bull” (Gabriel Mascaro)

Dominique Leborne (“Tempete”) by Samuel Collardey

“Belladonna,” Dubravna Turic

Landing in Toronto always feels like home. I’ve been coming to the Toronto Film Festival for more than four years now, but the vibe here always stays the same: excitingly frantic. The weather is beautiful, it still feels like summer, and the overall excitement can sometimes be contagious. During the next ten days countless screenings, interviews and after parties will be happening, so will lack of sleep and hundreds of media writers scrambling to meet deadlines. The days start early and end late, but everybody’s here for the movies. In fact, people here get drunk off movies; there’s a who’s who of press and industry people here, but Torontonians seem to catch the high as well. Tickets aren’t cheap for some of the galas, but it’s pretty common to meet people who have bought a dozen or so tickets to the showings.

Most industry people come here straight from the other fest that has been stealing TIFF’s spotlight a bit lately. Telluride is more than just a film fest, it’s a getaway retreat that doubles as a film fest. Some films skip TIFF altogether and opt to launch their campaigns in the more relaxed atmosphere of the Colorado ski resort town. Last year’s Best Picture winner, Birdman, went the Telluride route, which I’m sure didn’t please Toronto organizers one bit, but the fact remains that the last five Picture winners have had their debut over there. Toronto isn’t necessarily relegated to being the sub-par fest: the program they have each and every year is tremendous, a dreamy feast for cinematic lovers everywhere, and quite possibly the most comprehensive of any in the world. More than 300 films from 60 different countries will be screened over a span of 10 days.

There are many questions that still remain to be answered and there are movies premiering which might potentially stir up the race and make us all rethink who’s ahead and who’s not. Last year, The Theory of Everything had its debut here, which won Eddie Redmayne the gold. Julianne Moore’s winning performance in Still Alice also had its debut at TIFF. There are so many movies on the program that surprises are bound to happen in spades, maybe every day, and my peers at the fest would love to catch the next big thing. As I am writing this, these are 10 of the most buzzed movies premiering on King Street:

1) The Martian

Director Ridley Scott returns to the genre that made him an auteur to be reckoned with (Alien, Blade Runner). That’s why this film is at the top of my must-see list. It stars Matt Damon as an astronaut who is presumed dead, but who tries to survive until somebody realizes that they need to rescue him. The L.A. Times had a chance to catch a work-in-progress screening of this one and loved it. Based on the popular novel of the same name by Drew Goddard, let’s hope this is the Ridley Scott of Blade Runner and not of Exodus.

2) The Program

When Stephen Frears does biopics, watch out. The Queen was a brilliant film and Philomena was a rousing crowd-pleaser. Both got Best Picture nominated and both bowed at Toronto. The Program is about Lance Armstrong’s doping controversy and stars Ben Foster as the seven-time Tour de France champion. Frears is one of the best filmmakers of the last three decades with an eclectic filmography that includes My Beautiful Laundrette, Dangerous Liaisons, The Grifters, High Fidelity, Dirty Pretty Things and The Queen among his very best.

3) Our Brand is Crisis

Many people thought David Gordon Green’s Our Brand is Crisis would premiere at Telluride, but it didn’t. TIFF nabbed the premiere of the film, which is about the American political campaign strategies used during the ’02 presidential elections. The cast, which includes Sandra Bullock, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie and Ann Dowd looks great on paper. David Gordon Green’s time has also come to shine, as this could be the movie that finally brings him to the forefront of the Awards conversation. His stunning debut was George Washington, which he directed when he was just 25 years old. Ever since then, he’s had his ups and downs, continuously switching back and forth between indie (All The Real Girls, Joe) and Hollywood (Pineapple Express).

4) Truth

I love newsroom dramas. When done right, this genre can truly churn out classics (All the President’s Men, Zodiac, The Insider). Spotlight is the one to beat this fall, but James Vanderbilt’s Truth looks to steal its thunder at this year’s fest. Vanderbilt’s directorial debut stars Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, and Dennis Quaid in a film based on 60 Minutes’ investigation of then President George W. Bush’s military service, which led to a controversial firing. Redford plays Dan Rather and Cate Blanchett is Mary Mapes. I also forgot to mention that Vanderbilt wrote the Zodiac screenplay. I’ve got high hopes for this one.

5) Where to Invade Next

We had no idea Michael Moore was filming a new movie, so it came as a shock when he announced the TIFF premiere of Where to Invade Next. Covering the subject of Infinite War and its consequences, here’s to hoping that we get something fresh from Moore whose last couple of documentaries (Sicko, Capitalism) did not get as much praise or make as much money as his previous ones (Bowling For Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11).

6) Demolition

I might regret putting this one on the list, but for now the pedigree of the cast and the filmmaker at the helm more than makes up for the delayed 2016 release of Jean-Marc Vallee’s Demolition. Why did the film get pushed over to next year? The industry has been scratching their heads ever since Fox Searchlight Pictures made the move. Coming off his awards circuit triumphs Dallas Buyers Club and Wild, Thursday night’s screening of Vallee’s film might make things a little clearer for us… or it might not. One thing’s for sure, if the film is well received by the press, why wouldn’t it go for that prestigious 2015 release date? Naomi Watts and Jake Gyllenhaal star.

7) Freeheld

Ellen Page, Julianne Moore, Steve Carrel and—the always great—Michael Shannon star in a film that deals with LGBT relationships, pension benefits and terminal cancer. Oscar bait much? Freeheld does have the potential to be something very special; Moore’s turn last year at TIFF for Still Alice won her the gold, and the relevant topics that the film presents might be too much for critics to ignore. Director Peter Sollett (Raising Victor Vargas, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) directs, from a screenplay by Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia).

8) I Saw the Light

Loki stars as Hank Williams in a film directed by the producer of The Thing and Robocop remakes. This could work. It worked last year when long-time producer Bill Pohland premiered the Brian Wilson picture that he directed, Love and Mercy. It was a great movie that came out this year with very good reviews. Tom Hiddleston looks like a dead-on Hank Williams and Elizabeth Olsen — always welcome in my books — plays Mrs. Williams.

9) Trumbo

We all know Bryan Cranston can act the living hell out of a TV role, but can he carry an entire movie? I think he can, and in Trumbo he’s given a great shot to prove himself as a leading man. Cranston stars as the real-life Dalton Trumbo a 1940s Hollywood screenwriter who gets blacklisted for his political beliefs. It all looks just great, with a cast that includes Diane Lane and Helen Mirren among many others. Jay Roach, yes that Jay Roach of Meet the Parents and Austin Powers fame, directs based on a screenplay by John McNamara.

10) Stonewall

One of the more curious entries at this year’s fest will be director Roland Emmerich — THE disaster movie expert—bringing his newest picture Stonewall to the festival circuit. This is the first time he’s brought one of his movies to a major film fest, which means Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, White House Down, 10,000 BC, Universal Soldier, and Independence Day were never chosen for anything. Surprised? Stonewall recounts the famous 1969 riots that took place in a Greenwich Village neighborhood, a riot known as the single most important event that lead to igniting the LGBT movement.

Already we know three buzzed movies from Telluride will not be making the trip to Canada: Carol, Steve Jobs and Suffragette. One of these could easily become an Oscar frontunner, especially Carol, which is bound to be the critical darling of 2015 and for good reason: Todd Haynes’ movie is a beautifully shot masterpiece that features career best work by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara and has socially relevant themes at its core. Haynes’ Far From Heaven in 2002 could not lure Oscar, with not even a nomination for Dennis Quaid’s phenomenal performance. Carol is more accessible and more part of the current zeitgeist than Heaven was — the buzz is already deafening. Steve Jobs I have not seen, but the early reviews have been promising and have established Fassbender as a force to be reckoned with in the Best Actor race, which is turning out to be, yet again, filled up to the brim: Fassbender, Leo, Redmayne, Hardy, Elba and McKellen seem destined for a possible nomination, but many surprises await and many will get knocked out of the final five.

Spotlight and Beasts of No Nation will look to continue the incredible best picture buzz from just a week ago at Telluride and Venice. Whereas Tom Hardy in Legend, Johnny Depp in Black Mass, and Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl would love to lock up an acting nomination with another strong showing of screenings, in just ten days’ time we’ll have a much clearer picture of the race and where we’re at.

Rain, wind and cold enveloped the splendid valley of Telluride as the film festival came alive for patrons and press. Occasional showers usually keep the sunny village in green but a full-blown storm was unexpected. Out came the umbrellas and down jackets. It was a welcome change for me and Emma, leaving behind the suffocating heat of Los Angeles. Our drive brought us through the Four Corners where last year we acquired a dirty, scruffy stray puppy.  That puppy is now a full-grown member of the family and our travel companion a year later. Telluride is, if nothing else, the land of dogs who roam with their owners leashless, probably because when there aren’t festivals clogging up the roads with rental cars this is a walking town.

This year’s festival had a strange feel to it. For one thing, there was no Fox Searchlight party. Their movies have bypassed the festival this year so they had no reason to host a party. In its place are parties for films like Suffragette and Steve Jobs. I skipped both those, given that I was writing on deadline. That meant I didn’t get to meet Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet or Aaron Sorkin.  I would spend the weekend pretending like that didn’t matter.

I watched Meryl Streep watch He Named Me Malala’s Q&A with Malala herself joining in via satellite. Streep seemed to pop up everywhere. She was at the Spotlight screening, too. It goes without saying that all actresses are always much more beautiful in real life than the camera can ever capture and this is doubly true of the age-defying Streep. At first glance I thought I was looking at her daughter. I didn’t see Streep at the Patron’s Brunch that morning, however. The rain and cold did not keep people away from the brunch where festival goers huddled up in line to get hot coffee and hot food.

I spoke briefly to Rooney Mara and she was saying how she wanted to see so many films while she was here. Later, she asked me what audiobooks I was listening to. “Oh, this one is called Head Full of Ghosts and it’s about schizophrenia, and I’m listening to another one about Climate Change.” She had a concerned look on her face for me, but I appreciated her curiosity. Not many famous people are so inquisitive. That’s the great thing about her — she’s a thoughtful person who isn’t much into the usual Hollywood bullshit.  I also got an opportunity to speak with Todd Haynes, the absurdly talented director of Carol. Our conversation started off on the subject of marriage equality and how it is so much in the news now. I told him my fears that the fight would continue with martyrs for the cause of hate turning up almost daily. But Haynes said he thought that the tide had permanently turned and that we should not fear our country taking a step backwards.  Eventually we got to Donald Trump of all people. Haynes was saying that the country had a macho asshole (my word) as our president for eight years. Then we got someone thoughtful in office and now America wants another macho asshole in the White House. I bet he’s right about that.  You’d be hard pressed to find anyone as easy to talk to and as kind as Todd Haynes.

I also had a few words with Room’s Brie Larson. “I’m a mom,” I told her. “Oh, you shouldn’t see this movie then,” she half-joked. Like Rooney Mara, she was more interested in seeing other people’s work than talking about her own but seemed to be enjoying the mountain view. I would see her later, after a screening of Room, and was able to circle back to the part about being a mom and watching a film about a mother who is being held captive and forced to raise her young son. I told her I thought the film was a powerful message about motherhood and what it means to call a place home. Home is whom we love and those who love us.  As she acknowledged by convoluted comment I thought about how nice it is to be able to talk to Brie Larson now, on the eve of her career explosion.  Someday she will be too big to talk to the likes of me.

I’d finally met an old friend from the web — Mark Johnson, who writes for Awards Circuit. He walked around with me from screening to screening. With cords spilling out of my bag, newly formed food stain drying on my shirt, a general sense of confusion about where I’m supposed to be going next, Mark was very kind to help “fix” minor catastrophes. This was his first trip to Telluride and he was learning as he went along. So far, so good. He’d met Brie Larson on the plane and would later report being able to buy Rachel MacAdams something to drink. His first Telluride and he was already way ahead of me, even though I’ve been coming for five years or so.

With the first few films kicking off the fest it really did feel like we were on the verge of maybe having it be a Telluride, and an Oscar season, that might be about women after all, with Suffragette, Carol and Room setting of a trio of explosions. It wouldn’t be long, though, before the testosterone rolled into town in the form of Steve Jobs, Black Mass and Beasts of No Nation. When there is a balance of both kinds of films — when there is room for everybody — it’s hard to find anything to complain about.

The rain wasn’t planning on letting up any time soon. Walking down the muddy trail at night felt like trekking in another country. Fog spilled over the mountains and the gondolas tipped and weaved in the air. Riding back from Malala with Kris Tapley just as the Aretha Franklin story was breaking we saw a rainbow. It covered the whole village in a perfect vibrant half-circle. We all photographed it until we slid under it and it disappeared.  Moments later Instagram would light up with the moment captured forever.

We don’t often appreciate the role of technology in our lives. Since the film Steve Jobs is one of the high points of the festival I could not help but think about the way his ideas have helped shape the way we interface with the world around us. The iPhone put a camera, music, a phone and a web browser in the palm of your hand. Someone built a Periscope app and I was able to generate a live feed of the Danny Boyle Q&A for anyone interested in it to watch from anywhere in the world. Technology can’t make your world more beautiful but it can capture fleeting moments of beauty like trapping a butterfly forever under a glass jar.

There isn’t any way to adequately describe the beauty of this place. It sounds cliché even to try. Even with the rain.  The camera can only capture so much. Mine tends to find the dogs; always with the dogs. But every so often you look up to the sky and there are bursts of blindingly white clouds tumbling slowly forward, filling up the circle of sky above us. The sunlight makes them glow brilliantly. The drops of rain dotting rooftops also light up — and all at once the magic of Telluride unfolds. That magic was always here whether people ever arrived or not.

The festival has flown by. I haven’t had a chance to see my good friend Alex Billington, but I did get to meet another old friend, Kenny Miles. And I got to see Michael and Kris Patterson, Tomris and Eric Laffly, Chris Willman, Jeff Wells, Pete and Madelyn Hammond. Even without the parties we caught brief hellos waiting in line for screenings.  There is barely enough time for that. There is never enough time for anything. Too many movies are left unseen. Parties are left unattended.

Today I will be seeing a climate change documentary called A Time to Choose, and later Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation. I feel so lucky to be able to do this every year. I fall back in love every time. That love is as dizzying as the high altitude. It leaves us with beating hearts and delirium. What better way to spend the end of Summer.






















black mass  d

Rejoice! Awards season is upon us. Both the Telluride and Venice Film Festivals are under way and several prominent Oscar hopefuls are receiving world premieres. Black Mass starring Johnny Depp has screened and word is it’s his best performance to date. Trailers for Macbeth, The Danish Girl and Netflix’s Beasts of No Nation have all ben unveiled.

Perhaps the biggest news this week was the AMPAS announcing the producers of the 88th Academy Awards. Have a look at the round up of this week’s news, see what you missed.

  • The poster for Freeheld was unveiled. Freeheld stars Julianne Moore and Ellen Page. It’s based on the documentary short of the same title and tells the true story of Laurel Hester and Stacie Andree, domestic partners fighting to ensure that Stacie will receive Laurel’s pension benefits after Laurel is diagnosed with cancer.





  • Shout Gladi Gladi, a new documentary from Adam Friedman with narration from Meryl Streep, highlighting the work of Freedom From Fistula Foundation in Africa will be released in October. Awards Daily spoke with Friedman earlier this year. Read the interview here.


  • The Venice Film Festival has commenced. Everest starring Jake Gyllenhaal had its world premiere and thus far received mixed reviews. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave it 2 stars and said, “Everest is a frustrating movie in many ways – despite some lurches and shocks, it doesn’t quite deliver the edge-of-your-seat thrills that many were hoping for, and all those moderately engaging characters mean that there is no centrally powerful character: the women are drippy and the men not much less so.”

    Indiewire rated Everest B+ saying, “In “Everest,” the kids are backpack-clad thrill-seekers giddy with excitement about conquering the world, until they get buried by it.”

    The Hollywood Reporter says, “A gripping and immersive dramatization of a tragic trek.”

US audiences will be able to make their own trek to Everest when the film opens on September 18.

  • The Lobster trailer was unveiled. The film stars Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz. Recently separated, Farrell’s character goes to a secluded hotel where he and other hotel guests have 45 days to find a new mate. If they fail, they are transformed into animals.

    The film won the Jury Prize and was an audience favorite when it screened at Cannes earlier this year.



  • Sasha is at the Telluride Film Festival and will be reporting from there. The line-up was announced this week. Steve Jobs, Black Mass, and Suffragette will all have premiere screenings. Carol’s Rooney Mara will be honored, as will Danny Boyle. Be sure to follow Sasha’s adventures on Twitter and Instagram .


  • Straight Outta Compton is set to be the Number one film again, its current box office gross to date is $137,930,025.


  • We have new Oscar producuers, the Academy announced Reginald Hudlin and David Hill will produce the 88th Academy Awards. Hours after the announcement was made, they declared this year’s Oscars will have two hosts.


  • Black Mass made its debut and Director Scott Cooper confirmed that Sienna Miller’s part had been cut from the film, he said, “It came down to narrative choices.” Miller was to have played Whitey Bulger’s girlfriend in the film.  Here’s a photo of Miller on set:

Johnny Depp og Sienna Miller på settet til Black Mass


  • And finally…a video of Angelina Jolie as a 25 -Year-old actress was unearthed. The video shows the young Jolie in acting class running the gamut of emotions as she hones her craft in class.

Jolie went on to win an Oscar for Girl Interrupted.  Everyone starts somewhere.


The film adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s Carol made its debut at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Both its stars, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara won rave reviews for their roles. Blanchett stars as a married woman who falls in love with a younger department store worker played by Mara.

The film isn’t out until November 20, but check out the poster:



In case you haven’t seen the trailer already, the 1950’s music sets the tone for the romance that lies ahead:

The 85th Academy Awards® will air live on Oscar® Sunday, February 24, 2013.

David Hill and Reginald Hudlin have been announced as the 2016 Oscar Producers. The duo will produce the 88th Academy Awards set to take place on February 28, 2016.



Hill won an Emmy in 2011 for Outstanding Live Sports Special. Most recently he was a Sports Executive at Fox Sports. Hudlin received an Oscar nomination in 2012 for his work on Django Unchained.

In a statement released by the Academy, Cheryl Boone Isaacs said, “We’re delighted to have this talented team on board. David is a true innovator with a dynamic personality. His vast experience as a live events producer, coupled with Reggie’s energy, creativity and talent as a filmmaker, is sure to make this year’s Oscar telecast a memorable one.”

Hill also added, “What a great and exciting honor! The quest is to honor the year in film, honor the art, and above all, make it fun.” Hudlin said, “I’m looking forward to working with the Academy again. I love every kind of film and this year’s awards will be a celebration of the total range of cinema.”

Dawn Hudson who is CEO of the Academy said, “We’re excited to work with David and Reggie. With their enthusiasm and breadth of experience, they will bring a fresh perspective to the Oscar show.”

This comes after last week’s announcement that Debbie Reynolds, Gena Rowlands and Spike Lee will all receive Honorary Oscars.


The Second Mother is easily one of the best films I’ve seen this year. It’s deeply satisfyingly to see a story so deceptively simple unfold with such thoughtful and thought provoking resonance. Two channels to the left of The Second Mother and you arrive at Pedro Almodovar. Two channels to the right and you arrive at Ingmar Bergman. Hovering somewhere between Almodovar and Bergman is Anna Muylaert who approaches a story rife with agonizingly awkward situations in a film where her characters are allowed to change in unpredictable ways. It’s easy to see the film as a study of class issues. On another level it’s a tangled soap opera where the dramatic plot twists keep you on the edge of your seat as you wait for the emotional payoff. It might be a little of both. But neither of those angles quite captures the total emotional effect because the sum of its parts add up to far more. The most remarkable thing we take away from this film are the sensations that linger in our conscious and unconscious thoughts, the unintended aftershocks of a work of genius.

The Second Mother revolves around a housekeeper and nanny, Val (a superb Regina Casé), whose own daughter was left behind when she went to work for a wealthy family. She has raised their young son, Fabinho; and years later when he’s a teenager, he still seeks her bosom for comfort and her soothing voice for reassurance, much to his birth mother’s horror. It’s okay, though, because a nanny is a nanny and can never take the place of a mother. This is how a mother must rationalize the irrational jealousy that no doubt springs forth when a child grows up relating more to his nanny than his own mother. The family dynamic could probably maintain its balance indefinitely were it not for the catalyst of Val’s daughter arriving to disturb the balance.

Because Val behaves like a servant is supposed to, because she is casually ordered around and made to sleep in a tiny, stuffy, hot room which might as well be a walk-in closet, it might not feel as wrong as it all is. The daughter’s presence illuminates that wrongness because she, unlike her mother, refuses to behave like a servant or a lesser person in the presence of her mother’s employers. Eat this ice cream, sit in that chair, don’t go in the swimming pool, do not eat with the family, stay in the kitchen during meals. These mutually agreed upon rules are how things are conducted in wealthy homes but this story is told from the point of view of the underlings.

The film is directed to emphasize the viewpoint of the servants. We watch Val listen to the family discuss serious matters. We see the family through narrow openings in half-closed doors. It’s part of Val’s job to remain efficiently unobtrusive, and she is good at it — so good at it that she forgets who she is and what really matters. In that way, The Second Mother is a kind of coming-of-middle-age story where a woman evolves past one phase of her life and opens another.

Val’s daughter Jessica (Camila Márdila) responds with distant bemusement to the people who keep her mother in their employ. It is absurd, she thinks, to see her mother being ordered around – “clear the table, Val.” “Serve lunch, Val.” The employers are unaccustomed to having this much light cast on the complications of this kind of sticky hierarchy. As consequence, the mother wants Jessica gone, while the father is enamored.

The beauty of The Second Mother is that it so gets what motherhood is all about. It gets the primal urge of nurturers to feel needed and to give of themselves in ways others won’t. This isn’t a biological connection and a mother does not even have to be a woman — but mothers know themselves, they know what compels them to take care of those they dearly love. It is a strong impulse, an irreplaceable one. Yet, this film is also about the needs of women to escape the confines of that role to explore, perhaps, other ways of living — like studying to become an architect, or leaving your child behind in order to work hard to be sure there is enough money for your child to have proper clothes and education. The intricate layers here are profound, if you know where to look and if you’re paying close enough attention.

There is also a hidden layer, a daring and comical layer, f the kind of sensual, intimate relationship that has developed between this “nanny” and her surrogate son. Though he’s almost a grown man she strokes his hair lovingly, he sleeps in her bed with her when he is restless. He loves her almost passionately and yet it never tips over into a sexual relationship. It isn’t supposed to. It is meant to show that this woman formed such a close bond with the kid she helped raise that no one would ever think of her as anything but the second mother.

Too many will watch this film and see only its surface. It will look like a class struggle, or perhaps a sympathetic portrait of a hard suffering woman. What I see when I watch this film is the kind of story we just don’t see here in the states — not about women, not about people, not about life.

The Second Mother is a quiet standout but a standout nonetheless. If the writer/director of The Second Mother – Anna Muylaert – had been born a man he probably would be getting invites to direct much bigger Hollywood movies than I’m gonna bet are being thrown Muylaert’s way as we speak. They should. They should invest in this kind of talent and focused storytelling. Brazil’s Foreign Language frontrunner should leap to the front of the line for Oscar consideration. As always, it will be a highly competitive year, with films like Son of Saul, Dheepan and Labyrinth of Lies. Already The Second Mother is earning rave reviews as one of the unexpected gifts of the season.


In the early stages before the Oscar race heats up, days can go by when nothing significant happens and then we’ll have an afternoon when a half dozen developments rain down all at once. Those bursts of activity are about to become a lot more frequent, so we’re inaugurating a new weekly roundup to help us keep a handle on all the news we need to know.

  • Listen to Sasha convince Devin Faraci and Amy Nicholson that Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker is worthy of inclusion in their canon of the greatest films of all time.

  • Sasha wrote a response to Quentin Tarantino’s Vulture interview where he seemed to represent the feelings of many men in the industry who have little interest in movies by and about about women. The question stirred up a lot of passionate feelings in the discussion that followed, including a visit to Awards Daily from Tarantino himself where he took the opportunity to clarify his position.

  • Maggie Smith entered the Best Actress race with The Van.

  • The trailer and poster for Youth were finally released.

  • 2014’s Best Actress winner Cate Blanchett is already receiving a lot of praise and Oscar buzz for Carol, and the lovefest continues as the BFI announced plans to honor Blanchett with their highest honor, the Fellowship Award.

  • The recipients of this year’s AMPAS Governors Awards were announced

  • In her followup to Unbroken, Angelina Jolie’s By the Sea is set to premiere at the AFI Fest:

  • New character posters for Macbeth have been released:
  • The poster for The Danish Girl was unveiled:




  • Minions became the third highest grossing animated film of all time behind Disney’s Frozen and Toy Story as it surpassed the $1 billion mark in worldwide box office.

Minions Film

  • The number one film this week, for the second week in a row, is Straight Outta Compton. It’s box office gross to date $118 million and it’s on track to remain at the top spot again this weekend.

  • And finally, Amy Schumer and Jennifer Lawrence are already 100 pages into their new screenplay. Yes , they’re going to write and star in a film together.

They’re so excited about working together, they even danced on Billy Joel’s piano.

85th Annual Academy Awards - Press Room

Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Schumer have partnered up to write a comedy. Furthermore, they won’t only be writing the screenplay, they both plan to star in it too. Lawrence broke the news in an interview with the New York Times.

Lawrence said, “We play sisters. We’re almost done writing. It just flowed out of us. We’ve got about 100 pages right now.” The Oscar winning actress added, “Amy and I were creatively made for each other. We have different flavors. It’s been the most fun experience of my life. We start the day off on the phone, laughing. And then we send each other pages. And we crack up.”

Lawrence first approached Schumer after seeing Trainwreck and the project evolved from there.


Kyle Buchanan in his must-not-miss Oscar column asks whether Fury Road has the stuff it takes to go all the way, or at least to warrant nominations in the big five categories; we know it’s a shoo-in for the tech nods. The wholly original film (even though a sequel) has crackled and maintained admirers long after it played in theaters and at the Cannes Film Fest. Anne Thompson told me at a party in Cannes she thought it had the stuff, at least in the majors. As of now, Thompson has Mad Max: Fury Road predicted for Best Picture, along with 45 Years (a film she seems to dig enough to advocate for it), Carol, Inside Out, Love & Mercy. Thompson only predicts films she’s seen. The shift here is that she’s dropped Diary of a Teenage Girl and added 45 Years. As a sidenote: I do not think Inside Out has a shot at a Best Picture nomination with only five nomination slots on the ballot. Getting that many voters to choose that film as one of their top five is near impossible. But Mad Max? Possibly. If Anne Thompson and Kyle Buchanan are saying it – it certainly has game.

Buchanan writes:

As the summer movie season comes to a close, three big fall film festivals loom — Venice, Telluride, and Toronto — that will start clarifying this year’s Oscar race. But what about the movies we’ve already had the chance to see? Plenty of terrific films debuted in the first half of the year, and it’s entirely possible that half of this year’s Best Picture nominees could come from the movies that have already been seen and vetted at film festivals and in general release.

But are any of them better than Mad Max: Fury Road, the out-of-the-teal-blue-sky action spectacular that wowed critics earlier this year and deserves real awards consideration going forward?

That’s the question that’s been on my mind since I saw George Miller’s gonzo reboot last April. It’s become my cinematic high-water mark, the one I’ve been measuring most new movies against. I’ve previewed several of this year’s big fall films, and though some of them have great performances, I still haven’t seen anything that knocked me out like Charlize Theron in Mad Max. This year’s costume-design category will no doubt be packed with period pieces like Cinderella and Carol, but they don’t deserve a trophy over the striking postapocalyptic threads that Jenny Beavan put together for Mad Max. And while most of our Best Director candidates are likely still to come, and could include perennial nominees like David O. Russell, Tom Hooper, and Steven Spielberg, it would be hard for me to believe that any of them wrangled a more difficult and ultimately fruitful production than the 70-year-old Miller.

Mad Max: Fury Road is positively revolutionary in its depiction of female characters as leaders in the post-apocalyptic world. They begin the film oppressed then forge a revolution not just for themselves, mind you, but for all of the oppressed under the evil regime. You won’t see another film like Mad Max not this year, and not in the years to come because George Miller represents a different kind of filmmaker than what you see today. This isn’t a computer generated generation film – these are practical special effects. This is ballsy storytelling. These are characters sprung from a time when Hollywood still thought of women as people. You would have to pull Miller aside and tell him — see, that isn’t how things are done anymore for him to have made a different kind of film.

As with all Oscar years lately, the films that come out later have a harder time than the sure things that come out earlier. That gives Mad Max a bit of an edge, particularly if the Big Oscar Movies coming aren’t up to it.

On the flipside, we’re talking about not just the Academy but the Producers Guild (a shoo in there), the Directors Guild (a formidable name Miller seems highly plausible) and the Screen Actors Guild – a tougher battle there, competition wise. The ensembles coming up are probably going to upstage Mad Max. It doesn’t need the SAG to get in, though. It does need to keep standing out the way it does now. What films might obliterate it? Hateful 8 and The Revenant – both might look bigger and grittier than Mad Max. Also, they star men and you know how our industry likes movies that revolve around male characters.

It’s not time to get pessimistic just yet. Hope springs eternal until the shit hits the fan.

theron tomlin

With tent-pole season winding to a close and the festival stretch quickly approaching, Jordan looks back with appreciation at some summer highlights we hope can maintain momentum as we round the turn and head toward September. – Ryan

“Mad Max: Fury Road” & “Inside Out”

Summer 2015 might very well be seen as the return of the classic summer blockbuster. Just like in 2008 when The Dark Knight and WALL-E blew audiences away as twin pinnacles of pop culture triumph, two movies this year have again changed the game in regard to action and animation. “Mad Max” ramped up the way action can be done, shaming every superhero movie in its path and creating a new language for the genre. “Inside Out” showed us that an animated film for kids could be visionary, trippy and audacious enough to inspire profound analytical essays. “Mad Max’s” nihilistic outlook on human nature and a nasty, in-your-face style, was very much George Miller’s personal triumph through and through. The amount of detail that he brought to every frame was obsessively meticulous, as was the editing by Margaret Sixel, which – as things now stand – deserves serious consideration for next year’s Film Editing Oscar. As the brainiest, trippiest movie Pixar has ever made, “Inside Out” is mandatory viewing for any psych student.

“Amy” & “The Look of Silence”

With respect to non-fiction films it’s impossible to choose between two drastically different documentaries. “Amy” is virtually the first of its kind, a tragic examination of the late singer’s life, composed entirely of footage shot by Amy and her friends and directed and assembled with immeasurable passion by Asif Kapadia. The late 27-year-old singer/songwriter was an unmatched talent but tormented by the most torturous inner demons imaginable. This compulsively watchable film exemplifies the next evolution in documentary, one in which each key milestone of a life is recorded with phone or camcorder by the subject herself, and then this wealth of first-hand material is shaped by a talented director into a touching portrait. Kapadia doesn’t show talking heads as they’re being interviewed; instead he lets us listen to the interviewee while Amy’s personal footage plays in counterpoint onscreen. Don’t be surprised if we get more of these kind of documentaries in the years to come, as we seem to be part of a generation that wants everything recorded and instantly mementoed.

“The Look of Silence” is Joshua Oppenheimer’s sequel to “The Act of Killing,” and he once again addresses the Indonesian genocide of the mid-1960s that killed millions. If the first film dealt with the perpetrators this one is about the victims, as a man who lost his brother in the killings tries to track down the perpetrators through research and in-your-face interviews. The truth isn’t easy and a final confrontation had me almost looking away, but the interviews are the highlights as they bring back a past that most of the perpetrators are in denial about. If there is a more important, contemplative, and meditative film about human nature this year, I sadly haven’t seen it. This isn’t an easy watch, but it’s an essential one. It represents one of the reasons I hope we all go to the movies — to face hard truths and cold facts that might otherwise be forgotten. Oppenheimer is quickly becoming a world-class filmmaker with these important films and the potential significance they bring to society is almost beyond words.

Paul Dano & Ian McKellen

Paul Dano embodies Brian Wilson so brilliantly in his performance that you may actually forget you are watching a movie. Giving us another memorable performance, his depiction of Wilson is that of a wide-eyed kid being slowly stripped of his innocence by obsessive artistic creativity. His absence is clearly felt whenever he’s not on screen, as is the freewheelin’ nature of the “Pet Sounds” recording sessions where the actor basically becomes Wilson: a man so possessed and infatuated with getting the perfect sound that it ultimately became the tool of his undoing.

Ian McKellen delivers an equally impressive performance as a 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes in “Mr. Holmes.” Although the film itself may strike some as slight and is mostly focused on one character, McKellen understands how to make these aspects work to his advantage, creating a portrayal which is nothing short of mesmerizing. With his natural wrinkles serving as craggy foundation for the extra decades added by make-up magicians, 76-year-old McKellen portrays a Holmes suffering from a failing memory and a case that still haunts him to this day. No offense to Benedict Cumberbatch, always great as our modernized Holmes, but McKellen seems to inhabit this iconic character as perfectly as it’s ever been seen onscreen. Many of us still say to this day that he was robbed of the Best Actor prize back in 1999, when he broke our hearts in Bill Condon’s unforgettable “Gods and Monsters,” losing to Roberto Benigni. With Mr. Holmes, McKellan is in an excellent position to grab his third nomination.
Charlize Theron, “Mad Max Fury Road”

Charlize Theron & Lily Tomlin

All hail, Charlize Theron as the baddest of badasses. Proving that her win for “Monster” was no fluke, the 40-year-old actress owned George Miller’s action extravaganza as Imperator Furiosa. Despite the franchise title, the Fury Road wasn’t about Max, it was about her, and even in the quieter moments, not many of them, she found a way to say so much with so little dialogue. Her face weary and worn, but her spirit undiminished, she is an Ellen Ripley for the 21st century, a role model that we want follow anywhere she takes us and of course the empress of all things awesome. The feminist subtext of the film might have turned off a few too many fanboys, but isn’t that another reason to love this performance?

If I say that 75-year-old Lily Tomlin has never been better than in this phenomenal movie by Paul Weitz (American Pie, About a Boy) would you be impressed? Well you should be, because Tomlin’s had a phenomenal career: “Nashville,” “The Late Show,” “9 to 5,” “All of Me,” and “Flirting With Disaster” have all had a little Tomlin-esque spiciness sprinkled at their core and all the better for it. What she does in “Grandma” is heartbreaking and nothing short of astounding. She brings the spiky, zesty nature she’s always been known for, but plays with our emotions until we reach a finale that seals the deal on the truly amazing quality of her work. I went into the movie not knowing much about it, so I’ll allow you the same benefit. But expect a torrent of awards love to come her way in the months to come. The film opens in theaters next Friday.

“Shaun of the Sheep” & “Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation”

It’s almost not fair to ask another animated movie to contend with Pixar when the two are just a few months apart, but I will say that “Shaun of the Sheep” is well worth your time and features some of the best dialogue-free scenes in recent memory. In fact, the film has scarcely any dialogue at all. It relies on its visuals to entertain and does a a marvelous job at that. Some seriously Chaplin-esque stuff here, sure to please the kids, and some undeniably adult humor to be appreciated by grownups. The stop-motion animation is breathtakingly beautiful with layers of details in ever frame. I’d probably put this in an exclusive category of stop-motion classics such as “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Chicken Run,” “Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” and of course “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

I’ll get this out of the way early: I honestly think Tom Cruise is a great actor. He’s passionate about the quality of his work and really works to bring the best product to his legions of fans. “Rogue Nation” has ridiculously good action sequences and exhilarating stunts performed by Cruise. Every detail is put together in such a professional, meticulously stylish way. This is the type of movie you go into expecting over-the-top action sequences, especially after seeing the great ones delivered in “Ghost Protocol,” and the movie definitely delivers by exceeding those expectations. The movie does not have the strong thematic undertones and production design of “Fury Road,” and — again — the plot is definitely the weak link, but it does have some of the best action sequences of the year. I wish more summer blockbusters had this much effort and artistry on display. The multiplex would be a much better place.

“The Gift”

The biggest surprise of the summer is, sadly, a movie that many people have not heard much about. With 108 reviews on RottenTomatoes “The Gift” has an outstanding RT rating of 93%. Its metascore on Metacritic stands at 79. So what happened between the critics and audience awareness? As with most mini-budget movies, the marketing was micro — but despite that unavoidable reality, it ranked #3 at the box-office when it premiered and since earned an impressive $28 million on a budget investment of $5 million. Directed by “Zero Dark Thirty” actor Joel Edgerton, “The Gift” is a tense, creepy psychological thriller that has so many twists and turns in its screenplay that you never know what’s coming next. Edgerton directed, produced, wrote and starred in a movie so inspired that it’s reminiscent of Hitchcock and “The Turn of the Screw.” Starring Jason Bateman and the vastly undervalued Rebecca Hall, “The Gift” is a razor-sharp dissection of marriage and friendship that reminds us how we can never escape our past secrets. Go in knowing as little as possible and come out knowing more than you were prepared to find out.

85th Annual Academy Awards - Press Room

Jennifer Lawrence has topped the 2015 list of Hollywood’s highest paid actresses. Forbes Magazine has estimated the Oscar Winning actress earned $52 million dollars last year. In second place was Avengers star Scarlett Johannson who earned $35.5 million. Rounding out the top 3 was Melissa McCarthy with $23 million dollars. Chinese actress BingBing Fan was in fourth place with $21 million in earnings.

Jennifer Aniston, Julia Roberts, Angelina Jolie, Reese Witherspoon, Anne Hathaway and Kristen Stewart were all in the top ten. Stewart’s income was $12 million.

In comparison, when the Hollywood’s highest paid actors list was unveiled earlier this month, Robert Downey Junior topped the list with earnings of $80 million, Jackie Chan earned $50 million, and Vin Diesel made $47 million.

Thanks to for doing the heavy lifting. You can view their complete there if you enjoy clicking through slide-show galleries, or you can look at the facts right here.

1. Jennifer Lawrence -$52 million
2. Scarlett Johansson – $35.5 million
3. Melissa McCarthy – $23 million
4. Bingbing Fan – $21 million
5. Jennifer Aniston – $16.5 million
6. Julia Roberts – $16 million
7. Angelina Jolie – $15 million
8. Reese Witherspoon – $15 million
9. Anne Hathaway – $12 million
9. Kristen Stewart – $12 million
11. Cameron Diaz – $11 million
12. Gwyneth Paltrow – $9 million
13. Meryl Streep – $8 million
13. Amanda Seyfried – $8 million
13. Sandra Bullock – $8 million
16. Emma Stone – $6.5 million
16. Mila Kunis – $6.5 million
18. Natalie Portman – $6 million

*(Forbes says it arrived at these numbers, “based on data from Nielsen, Box Office Mojo and IMDB, as well as interviews with agents, managers and lawyers.”)


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