Some of us thought Jodie Foster came thisclose to an Oscar nomination in her vigilante thriller, The Brave One. Could Michael Caine be amping up to startle us with a similar role in Harry Brown?
I had 2 screenings on this day. The first one was Mother and Child, written and directed by Rodrigo Garcia. The film tells the story of three woman whose lives intersect with each other. One of the women is Karen (Annette Bening), a socially awkward and bitter woman who gave up her daughter for adoption when she was 14 years old.¬† The grown up daughter Elizabeth, played by Naomi Watts, is a tough and successful lawyer.¬† Each long for each other and have been obviously hardened emotionally by the initial separation. Garcia weaves an emotionally truthful story. Annette Bening gives a wonderful performance.
The second screening was Leaves of Grass, written and directed by Tim Blake Nelson starring Edward Norton in a dual role as identical twins Bill and Brady Kincaid in this dark comedy. Bill, an Ivy League classics professor is called to his hometown in Oklahoma for Brady‚Äôs funeral, when he finds out Brady, a successful marijuana grower, is not dead and this is part of one of his schemes. The scenes with Norton as the two brothers are technically seamless and Norton creates two distinct and very different characters. While these scenes were amusing and I enjoyed some of the quieter scenes between Norton and Susan Sarandon, who plays Bill and Brady‚Äôs mother, and between Norton and Keri Russell, the violence that eventually interjects into the film is somewhat jarring and disrupts the established flow of the film.
Also a 2-screening day. The first film was The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, written and directed by Rebecca Miller.¬† Continue Reading
Let’s do this thing. The awards are Sunday night and for my money they are always ghastly. But here goes.
Outstanding Made For Television Movie
And the Emmy will go to: Grey Gardens
Outstanding Comedy Series
Because it’s the boring old Emmys, we’re probably looking at another 30 Rock win. The Office could give it some trouble.
Outstanding Drama Series
A no-brainer, it will be Mad Men. Lost has no shot, House maybe kinda because they love House. Dexter, not really mainstream enough, Big Love is great but probably not. Damages is good but it’s no Mad Men.
With a score of 96* it’s the highest rated movie on metacritic that won’t come within 3500 miles of the Kodak Theatre:
A.O. Scott, NYT: ‚Äú35 Shots of Rum,‚Äù a quiet and lovely new film by the French director Claire Denis, is partly concerned with measuring that distance, the bewildering chasm between huge and tumultuous international movements and individual lives. It is self-evident that the story of Jos√©phine and Lionel, an African immigrant whose wife was German, is bound up in a complicated history of demographics and political economy. The fact that nearly all of the characters in this film are French while few are white is a further index of how the European landscape has changed in recent decades.
But the more salient change, the one that shapes Ms. Denis‚Äôs delicate narrative, is the one that occurs within Lionel and Jos√©phine‚Äôs relationship. It has to do with universally recognizable but nonetheless highly particular shifts in emotional weather, as a child and her parent undertake a gradual separation after years of solitary intimacy…
In its modest scope and mellow tone, ‚Äú35 Shots of Rum‚Äù resembles Olivier Assayas‚Äôs ‚ÄúSummer Hours,‚Äù another recent film by a French director who has sometimes trafficked in provocation and extremity. Both movies embed extraordinary thematic richness within a simple, almost anecdotal narrative framework, and both achieve a rare eloquence about the state of the world by means of tact and reticence.
Un proph√®te, Summer Hours, 35 Shots of Rum, S√©raphine, The Beaches of Agnes. All 5 slots for Best Foreign Language Film could be filled by French movies, and they’d all be better than 5 of this year’s 10 domestic BP nominees. Easy to lose perspective when we spend time debating the merits of Star Trek vs Avatar, but the reason the Oscars have so little overlap with the best of world cinema is because American studios waste millions of dollars trying to make CGI Scrooge’s eyes look alive.
*(96, with 9 reviews, 5 perfect 100′s, nothing lower than 80)
Two variations on the floating heads and shish-kebab of noggins. Interesting to weigh the presumed box-office clout of the actors in Get Low based on the relative size and position of their profiles. Personally, I’d have been happy with a poster focusing on Duvall’s craggy features all by himself. But somebody thought the Mount Rushmore avalanche approach would be better, even if they had to wedge Sissy Spacek in there with no concession to graceful flow whatsoever. I feel bad for tiny Lucas Black, dangling down there at the tail end of the team. Apparently the marketers felt nobody was gonna recognize him anyway, so instead of confusing people with his face, just show off the top of his head. “Every secret dies somewhere,” so might as well set this whole thing on fire along the bottom and get it over with.
The Men Who Stare at Goats poster earns bonus points for self-deprecating self-awareness. It takes the traditional parade of profiles, tints them consistently with handsome sunset hues, and lines them up in strict military formation. Kevin Spacey avoids the embarrassment of being low man on the totem pole by ranking one rung above a goat. Ewan McGregor distinguishes himself by being the only one of the five without a porn mustache or luxuriant goatee. Nice touch to add the occult symbols in the background to tickle all the wiccans, illuminati and assorted fringe fans of the paranormal. Naturally the title needs to be the same blocky jokester font as Clooney’s last espionage farce, so we know we’re in for some fun bungling. B+ overall, and A+ for the “No Goats, No Glory” tagline.
Roger Ebert gives The Informant! four stars, writing:
‚ÄúThe Informant!‚Äù is fascinating in the way it reveals two levels of events, not always visible to each other or to the audience. A second viewing would be rewarding, knowing what we find out. Matt Damon’s performance is deceptively bland. Whitacre comes from a world of true-blue Downstate people, without affectations, surrounded by some of the richest farmland in the world. His determination to wear the wire leads to situations where discovery seems inevitable, but he’s seemingly so feckless that suspicion seems misplaced. What he’s up to, is in some ways, so very simple. Even if it has the FBI guys banging their heads against the wall.
Mark Whitacre, released a little early after FBI agents called him ‚Äúan American hero,‚Äù is now an executive in a high-tech start-up in California and still married to Ginger. Looking back on his adventure, he recently told his hometown paper, the Decatur Herald and Review, ‚ÄúIt’s like I was two people. I assume that’s why they chose Matt Damon for the movie, because he plays those roles that have such psychological intensity. In the ‚ÄòBourne’ movies, he doesn’t even know who he is.‚Äù
And it is a NY Times Critic’s Pick. Manohla Dargis:
It‚Äôs the cost of that dream that Mr. Soderbergh takes stock of in this smart, cynical movie about how we buy now ‚Äî oops, I mean, how we live now. Money makes the world go ‚Äôround in ‚ÄúThe Informant!,‚Äù much as it does everywhere and much as it most certainly does in his previous movie, ‚ÄúThe Girlfriend Experience,‚Äù about a young prostitute selling her waxed wares. This time, though, Mr. Soderbergh has trained his focus and expertly wielded digital camera on the other side of the buy-and-sell equation, on the men in suits who fly in corporate planes, nursing drinks while they chortle about the breasts of their female employees. These are masters of our universe, the big little men who control and distort world markets.
And of Damon and the writing:
In time the agents sour on their cooperating witness, a grudging metamorphosis that parallels your own. Mr. Damon‚Äôs inherent likeability makes him something of a Trojan horse here, not only because he‚Äôs a star (and therefore beloved by definition), but also because he‚Äôs so boyish no matter the part. That‚Äôs true even in ‚ÄúThe Informant!,‚Äù though he‚Äôs been gleefully uglied up for the role with a fake bulbous nose and real pudge. Mr. Damon‚Äôs physical choices tell you a lot about the character long before the truth seeps out. As does Mark‚Äôs tendency to drift into banalities in the voice-over ‚Äî he natters on about ties, polar bears and butterflies while the scandal unfolds ‚Äî a brilliant screenwriting device that hints at an inner duality.
However, this film has critics all over the map, like many of Soderbergh’s films of late. There is a lot to admire in someone who really doesn’t appear to care whether or not people like what he’s doing – for better or worse, Soderbergh is an artist and he will sometimes pay the price for that in a town built more for entertainment. And Soderbergh’s stuff can be hit and miss. Kenneth Turan’s pan after the cut.
Many years Urs looked after his aging mother. But now he sets out for a dangerous journey: He carries her up a mountain to find a better place for both of them. But his mother doesnt want to leave her home…
“Urs” is a 10-minute animated short-film with which Moritz Mayerhofer graduated at the Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany. He worked three years to create a deep atmospheric film where he would find the fragile relationship of a man to his mother in the middle of a gigantic mountain range.
Find out more at the official site.
It was one of those full days from morning to night at the festival which included four screenings.¬† Four screenings is not something I would recommend. The first screening of the day was Precious: Based on the Novel ‚ÄúPush‚Äù by Sapphire with director Lee Daniels present at the screening. The film begins with the quote, ‚ÄúEverything is a gift from the universe‚Äù and tells the story of Claireece ‚ÄúPrecious‚Äù Jones (Gabby Sedibe), who is an illiterate teenager living in Harlem in 1987.¬† Physically and emotionally abused by her mother Mary (Mo‚ÄôNique) and being pregnant a second time by her own father, Precious fantasizes of another life. ¬†When she is given the opportunity to go to an alternative school she meets a teacher, Ms. Rain (Paula Patton),¬†and it’s there where she begins to feel valued and ultimately loved. Lee Daniels takes you on an emotional journey that you will not soon forget.
Mo‚ÄôNique gives a searing performance and is unbelievable considering that she has mainly been known for her comedy up until now. ¬†Sedibe is heartbreaking as the resilient teenager. The film is powerful and profound. I have not left a theatre so moved since Into the Wild.
The second film of the day was Harry Brown, Daniel Barber‚Äôs first feature film. Michael Caine is the title character and plays a widower and former Royal Marine. After a friend is killed by thugs in South London and police do very little to protect the public housing apartments where he lives, Harry takes matters in his own hands and seeks vengeance. The film is dark and extremely violent. ¬†Michael Caine is charismatic in whatever he does and makes this film a better film than it would have been otherwise.
The third film of the day was Neil Jordan‚Äôs Ondine. Both the director and it‚Äôs star, Colin Farrell were present at the World Premiere of this film at The Winter Garden Theatre. ¬†Farrell has been a busy man in Toronto. Not only is he in town promoting 3 films at the Festival; Triage, Ondine and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnussus, but this will have been my third encounter with Mr. Farrell during the Festival since he was at the same screenings for Bright Star and for Chloe. At the Ondine screening, Bono and The Edge of U2, who were in town for their world tour, also came to see the film and support their fellow Irishman.¬† Ondine tells the story of a simple fisherman named Syracuse(Colin Farrell) who ‚Äúcatches‚Äù a beautiful woman in his nets one day called Ondine (Alicja Bachleda).¬† Syracuse, is a recovering alcoholic who is separated from his former wife and is a father to Annie, his wheel-chair bound daughter. ¬†¬†Syracuse begins to fall for the mysterious Ondine who begins to transform his life. Christopher Doyle‚Äôs luscious cinematography adds to this fable/love story. Farell gives a touching performance.
The last film of the day was The Damned United.
Following Invictus, THR sees dead people and whatnot in Clint and Matt’s future.
Clint Eastwood and Matt Damon are reteaming for “Hereafter.”
Eastwood will direct the original supernatural thriller by Peter Morgan, with Damon stepping in to the lead role; filming is set to begin this fall.
DreamWorks originally acquired the spec thriller from Morgan, an Oscar nominee for “The Queen” and “Frost/Nixon,” last year, and it quickly piqued Eastwood’s interest.
Exciting news this morning as we learn France has sorted through its annual bounty of brilliant films and chosen Jacques Audiard’s knockout Un proph√®te as its official submission for Best Foregin Language Film. Sasha posted the trailer below. Winner of this year’s Grand Jury Prize at Cannes, Un proph√®te is epic every sense of the word. I was lucky enough to see it just last week, and it’s not only my favorite film by my current favorite French director, I’ll venture to say it’s the greatest prison movie ever made. Here’s a rough list of my personal top 10 of the durable genre (prison camps and prison castles count too).
Audiard’s previous 4 films — See How They Fall (1994), A Self-Made Hero (1996), Read My Lips (2001), and The Beat that My Heart Skipped — have been nominated for a total of 29 C√©sar awards. If you haven’t seen those movies, do yourself a great favor and queue them up for a mini-fest in anticipation of his finest film to date.
5 more stills from Un proph√®te, after the cut (via flixter.)
ScreenAfrica reports that the South African film White Wedding will be their Oscar submission:
Directed by Jann Turner and executive produced by renowned best-selling novelist Ken Follett, White Wedding was produced by its two stars, Rapulana Seiphemo and Kenneth Nkosi. It is described as appealing, feel-good movie about love, commitment, intimacy and friendship and a host of maddening obstacles that can get in the way of a happy ending. Uplifting and at times uproarious this is a movie that affirms the dream that romance can overcome any obstacle.
Foreign Language Film
Live Action Short