Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

January 16, 2014

2013 Oscar Nomination List!

I would say that there were tons of shocking surprises, and there were surprises, but nothing truly spectacular. Everything that happened someone could have predicted. Besides maybe that Dallas Buyers Club editing nomination. I mean seriously? But we’ll get there.

Best Picture:
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
Nebraska
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

I went 9 for 9 here so this will be my bragging point for the next 1 million years. The support for Dallas Buyers Club, Her, and Philomena was all right there in the tea leaves. All of these movies were trending well and look where a good trend can lead you!

Director:
Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave
Alexander Payne – Nebraska
David O. Russell – American Hustle
Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street

I feel bad for Paul Greengrass, but I guess someone had to miss out. All in all, this feels like a pretty good line-up, even if I’m not in love with all of the movies. This puts Russell and Payne into the 3-timers club, which now includes 53 names. Martin Scorsese moves up to 8 total nominations, tying him for 2nd place with Billy Wilder.

Actor:
Christian Bale – American Hustle
Bruce Dern – Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave
Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club

American Hustle got all 4 of its Oscar nominations, which quite frankly is unheard of. Besides Silver Linings Playbook picking up 4 last year, it hadn’t happened since… what, Reds? And Russell does it back to back years. Impressive.

Also, the fact that Robert Redford didn’t make it means that people just aren’t watching All is Lost, which is a shame. The fact that Tom Hanks didn’t make it in just seems kind of cruel.

Actress:
Amy Adams – American Hustle
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock – Gravity
Judi Dench – Philomena
Meryl Streep – August: Osage County

We all thought Adams would nudge out Streep, but poor Emma Thompson had to take the fall. Personally, it was my least favorite of the 5 performances so I’m not too crestfallen here. What’s important is that Meryl is up to 18 total!
Oscar Nom Count:
Amy Adams – 5
Cate Blanchett – 6
Sandra Bullock – 2
Judi Dench – 7
Meryl Streep – 18
Total: 38 – this could be a category record.

Supporting Actor:
Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
Bradley Cooper – American Hustle
Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

As Dave Karger pointed out on Twitter, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are the first pair to get back-to-back nominations for the same films. This whole David O. Russell dynasty thing is really quite fascinating. Also how weird is it that our only two repeat nominees here are Bradley Cooper and Jonah Hill?

Supporting Actress:
Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine
Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts – August: Osage County
June Squibb – Nebraska

Hooray for Sally Hawkins! I hate to use the phrase overdue, but she was. I suspect I’ll have trouble coming up with all of these names from now until eternity. That’s fine though. I’m sorry Oprah isn’t here, except that I’m not really sorry at all.

Adapted Screenplay:
Before Midnight
Captain Phillips
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Everyone went 5 for 5 on this one. Everyone.

Original Screenplay:
American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Dallas Buyers club
Her
Nebraska

While I’m not gobsmacked that the Coen brothers weren’t nominated, I was really counting on the nominations for Inside Llewyn Davis to play out identically to those of O Brother Where Art Thou? But no. They nominated Dallas Buyers Club instead.

Cinematography:
The Grandmaster
Gravity
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska
Prisoners

I’m shocked that 12 Years a Slave didn’t make it. For me, it’s possibly the most surprising exclusion of the morning.

Costume Design:
American Hustle
The Grandmaster
The Great Gatsby
The Invisible Woman
12 Years a Slave

They really liked The Grandmaster, except not in foreign film…

Film Editing:
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
12 Years a Slave

Dallas Buyers Club people. Over Thelma Schoonmaker. Give me a break.

Makeup:
Dallas Buyers Club
Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa
The Lone Ranger

I’m mostly just happy that this justifies my having seen The Lone Ranger.

Original Score:
The Book Thief
Gravity
Her
Philomena
Saving Mr. Banks

So it’s WONDERFUL that Arcade Fire gets the nomination for Her, but these other 4 nominees are less than vintage. But with only 3 returning nominees (Williams, Desplat, and Newman) the music branch is looking a teensy bit less insular.

Original Song:
“Alone Yet Not Alone” – Alone Yet Not Alone
“Happy” – Despicable Me 2
“Let it Go” – Frozen
“The Moon Song” – Her
“Ordinary Love” – Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

And now we all track down Alone Yet Note Alone.

Production Design:
American Hustle
Gravity
The Great Gatsby
Her
12 Years a Slave

HER!!!!!! Also, Gravity really is such an unlikely nominee here, but I completely get it. That debris doesn’t design itself.

Sound Editing:
All is Lost
Captain Phillips
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Lone Survivor

That Middle Earth franchise will never die. We’ll be nominating these movies for Oscars for

Sound Mixing:
Captain Phillips
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Inside Llewyn Davis
Lone Survivor

No nominations for Rush! And good riddance too!

Visual Effects:
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
The Lone Ranger
Star Trek Into Darkness

Poor Pacific Rim was shut out of nominations too. But I guess I just have to be happy Star Trek Into Darkness made the list somewhere. I think that it’s one of the best franchises going right now, but that is actually just me.

Animated:
The Croods
Despicable Me 2
Ernest & Celestine
Frozen
The Wind Rises

Despicable Me 2 is the first sequel nominated for Animated Feature whose predecessor was not nominated for the award (if eligible). I guess what I’m trying to say is, as far as sequels go, Despicable Me 2 did not have history on its side, but I liked it far more than I liked Monsters University so step up your game Pixar!

Documentary:
The Act of Killing
Cutie and the Boxer
Dirty Wars
The Square
20 Feet from Stardom

NO!!! I cannot believe Stories We Tell didn’t make the cut. Just… what?!?

Foreign Language:
The Broken Circle Breakdown
The Great Beauty
The Hunt
The Missing Picture
Omar

In a hundred years, I would never have guessed that Cambodia would get the first documentary nominated in the foreign language category. But here we are. Congrats to The Great Beauty and The Hunt. Now to see the other three.

Ultimately, I went 82 out of 107 or about 77%. I’ll take it. I must remember to check to see how I’ve done in the past, but I’m happy to post these numbers.

January 15, 2014

Final 2013 Oscar Predictions

Because if it’s not published on the internet, it’s not official.

Picture:
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Gravity
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street
6. Nebraska
7. Dallas Buyers Club
8. Philomena
9. Her
10. Blue Jasmine

So I can’t believe no one else has figured out the ideal way to rank this new best picture system.

Director:
Alfonso Cuaron – Gravity
Paul Greengrass – Captain Phillips
Steve McQueen – 12 Years a Slave
David O. Russell – American Hustle
Martin Scorsese – The Wolf of Wall Street

Actor:
Bruce Dern – Nebraska
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Wolf of Wall Street
Chiwetel Ejiofor – 12 Years a Slave
Tom Hanks – Captain Phillips
Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club

Actress:
Amy Adams – American Hustle
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock – Gravity
Judi Dench – Philomena
Emma Thompson – Saving Mr. Banks

American Hustle feels like an avalanche about to happen. It could get everything. Even Meryl Streep.

Supporting Actor:
Barkhad Abdi – Captain Phillips
Daniel Bruhl – Rush
Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
Jonah Hill – The Wolf of Wall Street
Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

Jonah Hill needs this the most. If he gets this, his career is improved the most, right?

Supporting Actress:
Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts – August: Osage County
June Squibb – Nebraska
Oprah Winfrey – Lee Daniels’ The Butler

I am not sure I’m comfortable with the world giving Jennifer Lawrence another Oscar, but I do like thinking of her as a modern day Audrey Hepburn. Which is fun.

Adapted Screenplay:
Before Midnight
Captain Phillips
Philomena
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

I think everyone in the world is predicting this.

Original Screenplay:
American Hustle
Blue Jasmine
Her
Inside Llewyn Davis
Nebraska

Cinematography:
Captain Phillips
Gravity
Inside Llewyn Davis
Prisoners
12 Years a Slave

Costume Design:
American Hustle
The Great Gatsby
The Invisible Woman
Saving Mr. Banks
12 Years a Slave

Film Editing:
American Hustle
Captain Phillips
Gravity
12 Years a Slave
The Wolf of Wall Street

Makeup:
American Hustle
Bad Grandpa
Dallas Buyers Club

Original Score:
The Book Thief
Captain Phillips
Gravity
12 Years a Slave
Philomena

Original Song:
“Let it Go” – Frozen
“The Moon Song” – Her
“I See Fire” – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
“Ordinary Love” – Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
“So You Know What It’s Like” – Short Term 12

Production Design:
American Hustle
Gravity
The Great Gatsby
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
12 Years a Slave

Sound Editing:
All is Lost
Captain Phillips
Gravity
Pacific Rim
Rush

Sound Mixing:
All is Lost
Captain Phillips
Gravity
Inside Llewyn Davis
12 Years a Slave

Visual Effects:
Gravity
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Iron Man 3
Pacific Rim
Star Trek Into Darkness

Animated:
The Croods
Ernest & Celestine
Frozen
Monsters University
The Wind Rises

Documentary:
The Act of Killing
Blackfish
The Square
Stories We Tell
20 Feet from Stardom

Foreign Language:
The Broken Circle Breakdown
The Grandmaster
The Great Beauty
The Hunt
Omar

December 11, 2013

2013 SAG Award Predictions

I’m just tossing this off the cuff. Why not? Let’s see how I do in the morning?

NGNG
Best Actor: Oscar Isaac – Inside Llewyn Davis
Best Supporting Actor: James Franco – Spring Breakers
Best Ensemble: Blue Jasmine

Best Actor:
Bruce Dern – Nebraska
Tom Hanks – Captain Phillips
Oscar Isaac – Inside Llewyn Davis
Matthew McConaughey – Dallas Buyers Club
Robert Redford – All is Lost

Best Actress:
Amy Adams – American Hustle
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine
Sandra Bullock – Gravity
Judi Dench – Philomena
Emma Thompson – Saving Mr. Banks

Best Supporting Actor:
Michael Fassbender – 12 Years a Slave
James Franco – Spring Breakers
James Gandolfini – Enough Said
Tom Hanks – Saving Mr. Banks
Jared Leto – Dallas Buyers Club

Best Supporting Actress:
Jennifer Lawrence – American Hustle
Margo Martindale – August: Osage County
Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave
Julia Roberts – August: Osage County
Oprah Winfrey – Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Best Ensemble:
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
August: Osage County
Blue Jasmine
Lee Daniels’ The Butler

June 27, 2013

DIY Cannes 2013: The Palme D’Ork Awards

Since I mainly think about awards, if I have a film festival, it needs to have awards. I decided that for finishing the 20 movie marathon I planned, I would give it out awards just like they do on the Croisette, including following the rule that no movie can win 2 awards.

And without further ado,  the winners are:

Best Actress:

Annette Bening in The Grifters

Annette Bening – The Grifters
What can I say? It was love at first sight. Annette’s smokin’ portrayal of a super psychotic con woman is so electrifying that it carries this film. I also can not believe how sexy she is in this. She deserved her Oscar nomination and she deserves it here.

Best Actor:

Barton Fink

John Turturro – Barton Fink

As it goes with the rules, some movie has to win Best Actor. There were many choices of great performances in under directed movies. But none of those leading men were really giving award winning performances. I decided to go with a performance that is great that is only great because of the direction of this film. John Turturro is brilliant as Barton. His small quiet rage was so specific, he brought it to life. This performance is only possible though, with the specificty of the Coen Bros. writing and directing. They created a fantastic atmosphere for this unique performance, and that deserves to be noted. That being said. This is John Turturro’s award, and he deserves the hell out of it.

Best Screenplay:

The Virgin Suicides

The Virgin Suicides – Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola deserves so many points for clearly adapting a novel in to a fantastic unique film that stands on its own. The sense of a greater world is there. Every decision made in this movie was informed on the world of these characters. The specific world of this was brought in both representing Jeffrey Eugenides world, but also the unique world view of auteur Sofia Coppola. Her razor sharp wit and incredible sentimentality completely push it over the edge.

Best Director:

audition

Takashi Miike – Audition
Horror movies get so often over looked, but they are mainly a director driven field. As much as any arthouse world. And Takashi Miike is the Woody Allen of horror movies. He makes a ton, but only a couple of them are good. And they’re great. Audition is one of the greats and it is only great through the incredible tension built in this movie. I’m getting nervous just thinking about it. Well done.

Palme Dog:

Nina

Chloe – Tell No One

The movie had a lot of problems, but is completely worth remembering exists. Why? Because of the incredible canine performance given by Chloe as Nina the dog. This dog is a champion. She is super brave and often gets caught in the fray of her crazy owner’s life. She handles it like a pro and still manages to be an awesome dog. I want one when I’m 50. Also Chloe is the real life original book’s author Harlan Coben’s dog. What?!? This is just a real life dog who is super badass? Where can I meet her?

Jury Prize:

Citizen Ruth Quote

Citizen Ruth – dir. Alexander Payne

Often known as the third place prize at Cannes, the Jury Prize is just a place to honor a super excellent film. So I decided to make a top 3 of the festival, and no matter how deserving they were of other categories, who cares? This is way better. And Alexander Payne proved my expectations way wrong and made something so fun and pointed that I couldn’t resist. I also love a movie where the moral of the story is “everyone’s a nut job.” They just don’t happen anymore. Citizen Ruth deserves a permanent place in the new Cult Canon.

The Grand Prix:

The Arbor

The Arbor – dir. Clio Barnard

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m making a concerted effort to see more documentaries, but I’ve been finding that, for me, the staying power of a documentary is never too long. The Arbor completely bucks that trend and floored me with its combination of gender, class, and racial politics all topped with a high concept narrative style and a compelling emotional family story. The whole ensemble pulls off the lip-synced method with tremendous ease and it makes for one of the most unique documentary experiences out there.

The Palme D’Ork:

rosemary

Rosemary’s Baby – dir. Roman Polanski

I’ve mentioned before that this might be unfair, but this is known as one of the greatest films of all time and deserves every mention it gets. It’s the kind of film that goes beyond perfect into something totally new and defining. Film would not be the same without Rosemary’s Baby and all of its paranoid glory.

Thanks for sticking with me during this little project. I certainly had a lot of fun and discovered tons of great directors along the way. Some of the movies I watched were stinkers, others were masterpieces, most fell in between. But the idea of discovery that maybe THIS will be my new favorite movie is so exciting to me, that I don’t regret anything. Even Valhalla Rising. I definitely want to continue this tradition next year. Since the internet is a dark deep vortex, there are already predictions for what the 2014 Cannes Film Festival might bring. For me, that would mean catching up with P.T. Anderson, Wes Anderson, Olivier Assayas, David Cronenberg, Jean-Luc Godard, Werner Herzog, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Joachim Trier, and Thomas Vinterberg. I already can’t wait.

June 25, 2013

DIY Cannes 2013: Barton Fink

Barton FinkTo stave off the depression of not being at Cannes while everyone I follow on Twitter gabs about their new favorite discoveries, I’ve decided to take the opportunity and hold my own film festival. Every night, I’m going to watch a movie I haven’t seen by one of the director’s debuting on the Croisette. Thanks to the power of Netflix, so many foreign movies and older auteur classics are available for Instant Streaming. Who knows what discoveries I might find along the way?

And yes, I know it’s over, but 2 week long trips in the middle of this project set me back very far. I’m going to finish it up anyway BECAUSE I CARE. Or I’m still unemployed.

Movie #20: Barton Fink

Director: Joel (and Ethan) Coen

His Cannes 2013 Movie: Inside Llewyn Davis

The Coen brothers are arguably the greatest film directors of their generation. They have a phenomenal batting average, and at least half of their works seem to be major cultural touchstones. Ever since I saw O Brother Where Art Thou, my first Coen Bros. experience, I’ve done my best to go back and watch them all. Known as the work that really put them on the map, Barton Fink was an inevitable pitstop and the perfect final film for my DIY Cannes marathon.

The titular Barton Fink (played by John Turturro) is a twitchy nervous Jew, transplanted from a mildly successful theater career in NYC to become a screenwriter in Hollywood. While staying at the fantastically weird and dilapidated Hotel Earle, he encounters several larger than life characters who all are pushing him to write his screenplay, yet they only make him more nervous and increase his foreboding writer’s block.

For a movie about writer’s block, the Ethan and Joel surely never had it while writing this oddity. Each of the nut-bags Barton meets along the way is weird and crazier than the last and I honestly couldn’t pick a favorite if I tried. Barton’s next-door neighbor at the hotel, Charlie Meadows (John Goodman), is this incredibly cheery oaf who likes to wrestle and just shoot the shit with Barton. Johns Turturro and Goodman have such phenomenal chemistry, I could watch them talk for hours. Goodman’s commanding confidence is the perfect foil for Turturro’s meek insanity. Somehow, Michael Lerner’s performance as producer Jack Lipnick stood out to the Academy and he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. While his over-the-top hard-ball negotiations are hysterical (My god, when he kisses Barton’s shoe…. I’m dead.), Goodman certainly gets a lot more to do. Tony Shalhoub is giving the only performance of his I’ve ever liked as Ben Geisler, some other schmuck in the movie business who, if you hadn’t noticed, also likes to boss Barton around. And finally, John Mahoney gets to play the daffy author W.P. Mayhew and Judy Davis his younger assistant Audrey. When you add in a young Steve Buscemi and a never-young Jon Polito, this is one of the most stacked decks of character actors I’ve ever seen.

Fortunately, Turturro is able to ground this wacky cast of characters while also sticking out of the crowd. However, he constantly gets overshadowed by the setting of Baltimore on The Wire the curious Hotel Earle. Every time you hear someone shout or see shoes outside of a door, surely someone else must be in this hotel… right? But who would stay in a hotel with wallpaper that won’t stay on the walls. It’s anyone’s guess. But the Coen’s do such a great job of setting up a mood through this gorgeous set piece that it’s impossible to deny the cultural power of this movie and it’s aesthetic.

My ONLY complaint with this movie is that I don’t fully get it. What were we supposed to learn from watching this? I don’t have a thesis for it. At all. But that’s okay. I can’t wait to watch it again and hope to dig a little deeper.

June 16, 2013

DIY Cannes 2013: Tell No One

Francois Cluzet Tell No OneTo stave off the depression of not being at Cannes while everyone I follow on Twitter gabs about their new favorite discoveries, I’ve decided to take the opportunity and hold my own film festival. Every night, I’m going to watch a movie I haven’t seen by one of the director’s debuting on the Croisette. Thanks to the power of Netflix, so many foreign movies and older auteur classics are available for Instant Streaming. Who knows what discoveries I might find along the way?

And yes, I know it’s over, but 2 week long trips in the middle of this project set me back very far. I’m going to finish it up anyway BECAUSE I CARE. Or I’m still unemployed.

 

Movie #19: Tell No One

Director: Guillaume Canet

His Cannes 2013 Movie: Blood Ties

If the title wasn’t enough of a give away, this is a film of secrets. Unfortunately, director Guillaume Canet doesn’t always listen to the title’s advice.

The film starts out as an incredibly taut mystery. We watch as Alexandre’s (Francois Cluzet) life falls apart. His wife is murdered and he is the prime suspect. Years pass and the case is reopened when two bodies are discovered and Alexandre receives a mysterious email. This is pretty standard man-on-the-run thriller territory, and for the first hour or so, it succeeds rather well at this. Canet takes his time with the mystery and lets us get involved with Alex and his unending grief.

A little more than halfway through, Canet lets too much slacken. Maybe we learn too much, maybe there are too many characters at play, but the mystery no longer feels 100% central. I certainly am not complaining if the problem is too many characters. This means that I finally get some fun Kristin Scottt Thomas as Hélène Perkins, Alex’s sister’s wife. She must be wonderful to work with because it seems like she is giving off so many different cues for her scene partners to play on and build their characters. It seems that everyone else in the cast is doing his or her best work when they are next to Thomas.

If Canet lets the line go loose halfway through, he drops the line off the side of a cliff for the film’s third act. In what might be the laziest ending since Shutter Island, a character practically walks in to the movie just to explain the central mystery for abou 20 minutes. The end. Sure, there is some housekeeping to do, but the film ends with such little cinematic or narrative interest, that it’s hard to call anything in this film successful, when for the majority of the running time, it is! I certainly won’t reveal what that ending is or how exactly it happens, but it feels like a let down and everyone’s motives seem unrealistic. A lose-lose for everyone.

What I learned through this movie is that Kristin Scott Thomas and Francois Cluzet are clearly some of the greats. They make the case for star power in characters, that intangible je ne sais quoi that brings a character to life. Now I’ll console myself by going through each of their filmographies.

June 16, 2013

DIY Cannes 2013: Citizen Ruth

Laura Dern Citizen RuthTo stave off the depression of not being at Cannes while everyone I follow on Twitter gabs about their new favorite discoveries, I’ve decided to take the opportunity and hold my own film festival. Every night, I’m going to watch a movie I haven’t seen by one of the director’s debuting on the Croisette. Thanks to the power of Netflix, so many foreign movies and older auteur classics are available for Instant Streaming. Who knows what discoveries I might find along the way?

And yes, I know it’s over, but 2 week long trips in the middle of this project set me back very far. I’m going to finish it up anyway BECAUSE I CARE. Or I’m still unemployed.

Movie #18: Citizen Ruth

Director: Alexander Payne

His Cannes 2013 Movie: Nebraska

“Controversial” movies are usually a tough sell. Controversial comedies are usually even tougher. When I learned that Citizen Ruth was an abortion comedy, I was equal parts horrified and amused. Can Alexander Payne actually pull this off?

He did! When we meet Ruth (Laura Dern) she is one of the most desperate, strung-out, and pathetic junkies I’ve seen on screen in a while. Her drug of choice seems to be spray paint fumes, but will use cement sealant or good ol’ fashioned alcohol in a pinch. When she finds out that she is in fact pregnant (for the 5th time, no less) the judge suggests she gets an abortion. Then, as any good synopsis should say, Ruth finds herself in the middle of an all-out war about abortion.

What makes this movie work is the comedy rarely comes from abortion itself, but rather the weird people who support pro-life or pro-choice sides. While Payne probably shifts a little more towards pro-choice throughout the film, I want to delineate how well he balances the two sides out. Gail and Norm Stoney (Mary Kay Place and Kurtwood Smith) take Ruth in and are the local chapter leaders of their pro-life outfit. They have a whole series of songs and chants speaking out against abortion that are so absurd to be funny. When Ruth finally meets the pro-choice team, she thinks she has left the crazy behind. But a possibly lesbian couple drags her outside to sing a song in reverence to a moon goddess. So everyone is just a little bit nuts, and that makes everything way more fun.

The ensemble of this film is absolutely tremendous top to bottom. I understand that the Kurtz family needs to eat, but Swoosie Kurtz needs to find more audacious work like this. She is a true treasure. Tippi Hedren and Burt Reynolds are both given fantastic cameos, and the list of character actors involved includes M.C. Gainey, Kenneth Mars, Kathleen Noone, and even Kelly Preston! However, Laura Dern really steals the show as she always does. Her manic and selfish drive in life would probably get her places if she wasn’t always huffing glue.

I’m so glad to have caught up with this underseen gem, and maybe I’ll be able to forgive Alexander Payne for some of his other snoozefests. He’s not forgiven yet, though.

June 16, 2013

DIY Cannes 2013: Rosemary’s Baby

MiaFarrow11To stave off the depression of not being at Cannes while everyone I follow on Twitter gabs about their new favorite discoveries, I’ve decided to take the opportunity and hold my own film festival. Every night, I’m going to watch a movie I haven’t seen by one of the director’s debuting on the Croisette. Thanks to the power of Netflix, so many foreign movies and older auteur classics are available for Instant Streaming. Who knows what discoveries I might find along the way?

And yes, I know it’s over, but 2 week long trips in the middle of this project set me back very far. I’m going to finish it up anyway BECAUSE I CARE. Or I’m still unemployed.

Movie #17: Rosemary’s Baby

Director: Roman Polanski

His Cannes 2013 Movie: Venus in Fur

Here’s the part where I reveal why my whole little contest is a little unfair. When I designed this shadowing, it was meant as an excuse to watch world cinema. However, when it comes to some of the directorial juggernauts, I still have a couple of movies to track down. When I finally get to Barton Fink for the Coen Bros, it might feel a little unfair to compare a Palme D’Or winner with a random Steven Soderbergh documentary. But this is the price we pay. So I hadn’t seen Rosemary’s Baby and now this American classic is here to trample all of the others.

Rosemary’s Baby manages to be a supernatural horror movie, a cult movie, a domestic drama, and a conspiracy film all at the same time. Upon moving into the most gorgeous NYC apartment that has ever existed, Rosemary, played by the stunning Mia Farrow, and her husband Guy (John Cassavetes acting), decide to have a baby. However, Rosemary can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong with her baby or her creepy neighbors.

I try to keep all of my plot descriptions so denuded of spoilers that it does make it hard to talk about the movie. (I like going into a movie 100% unspoiled – no plot points, thematic ideas, reviews, nothing. This is near impossible to achieve and I’m not at all hurt when something is spoiled, but I don’t want to perpetuate any kind of spoiler on someone else.) So with respect to that, let’s just discuss Rosemary’s Baby as a mood piece.

Polanski is so deliberate with every camera angle and tracking shot, that everything feels purposeful. In a comedy, this feeling can make a movie tired and strained. In a horror movie or a conspiracy film, it is crucial in making sure that every piece of the puzzle connects to the next. Now, every scene of Rosemary reading or talking to her neighbors seems important, fascinating, and just a bit scary. It only takes one long scene in which Rosemary thinks she learns something to set everything into motion. And this film scarcely takes a second to catch it’s breath after.

The two elderly neighbors next door are Roman and Minnie Castevet, deliciously played by Sidney Blackmer and Ruth Gordon. While Ruth Gordon soaked up all of the attention and went on to win an Oscar, Blackmer and Farrow also deserve to get mentioned. Roman Castevet is in every way equal to Minnie in making this couple’s role in the film succeed. His quiet command is a great balance for her daffy officiousness. However, the real star of this movie is Mia Farrow. Good lord does she shine. The heft of the film rests squarely on her tiny shoulders, but she manages to take every punch with an underlying strength drowned in chaos and fear. Her face in this movie will haunt me for years to come.

June 13, 2013

DIY Cannes 2013: Dead Man

Dead Man 3To stave off the depression of not being at Cannes while everyone I follow on Twitter gabs about their new favorite discoveries, I’ve decided to take the opportunity and hold my own film festival. Every night, I’m going to watch a movie I haven’t seen by one of the director’s debuting on the Croisette. Thanks to the power of Netflix, so many foreign movies and older auteur classics are available for Instant Streaming. Who knows what discoveries I might find along the way?

And yes, I know it’s over, but 2 week long trips in the middle of this project set me back very far. I’m going to finish it up anyway BECAUSE I CARE. Or I’m still unemployed.

Movie #16: Dead Man

Director: Jim Jarmusch

His Cannes 2013 Movie: Only Lovers Left Alive

Whatever I was expecting, this was not it. Dead Man is the very bizarre story of a man named William Blake (Johnny Depp) who moves out West to take over a position as an accountant in a boomtown. When the position falls through, he finds himself on the run with a local Native American who is called Nobody (Gary Farmer). If I just told you the plot, you may think this was pretty straightforward.

But Jim Jarmusch casts all importance of plot aside to focus on the weird existential crises at play.

Existential Crisis #1: William Blake is the name of a very famous poet. Depp’s Blake has never heard of him. Nobody (the native) loves his poetry and recites it frequently, thinking he is accompanying a literary genius. Our protagonist then struggles with his name and his identity.

Existential Crisis #2: William Blake can’t seem to stay conscious for longer than 5 minutes. He’s constantly passing out or falling asleep. This makes the movie a series of 1 minute scenes with a blackout in between each and everyone. The effect is at once disorienting and almost comical. But what does this mean for Blake? What is real and what isn’t? What is he meant to see and what is left unseen?

Existential Crisis #3: He meets an Indian named Nobody. I rest my case.

I could talk on and on about these things, but I would just be wandering in circles, as it seems Blake may actually be doing as well. What I can say is that while I am up for any movie that tackles existentialism, it’s not always the most narratively compelling theme. If I were to compliment the pacing of the movie, I would say it  is bizarre and uneven, which further hurts an already dry topic.

I can’t let my discussion of Dead Man end without mentioning how absolutely crucial Neil Young’s score is to the successes of this film. His wild Western twang on a grungy electric guitar make every scene of the movie ooze violence and excitement. And at it’s best Dead Man can be an exciting, yet existential film. And if you can name another movie that is at all those two things, sign me up. They are hard to find.

June 11, 2013

DIY Cannes 2013: White Material

White MaterialTo stave off the depression of not being at Cannes while everyone I follow on Twitter gabs about their new favorite discoveries, I’ve decided to take the opportunity and hold my own film festival. Every night, I’m going to watch a movie I haven’t seen by one of the director’s debuting on the Croisette. Thanks to the power of Netflix, so many foreign movies and older auteur classics are available for Instant Streaming. Who knows what discoveries I might find along the way?

And yes, I know it’s over, but 2 week long trips in the middle of this project set me back very far. I’m going to finish it up anyway BECAUSE I CARE. Or I’m still unemployed.

Movie #15: White Material

Director: Claire Denis

Her Cannes 2013 Movie: Bastards

If you are the one person reading these, then you’ve probably figured out I have a lot of blind spots in my filmography. Anything from Claire Denis is another shameful one. Well, White Material was a searing introduction to her filmography.

The “white material” in question refers to all of the stuff that white people bring to Africa. Watches, lighters, whatever. But now that foreigners are there, it can’t be undone. The luminous Isabelle Huppert is Maria Vial, the owner of her family’s coffee plantation in an unnamed West African country. I missed this detail when I watched the movie, but it turns out that she was born and raised on African soil and really identifies with it as her home. Her son Manuel (Nicolas Duvauchelle) was also born there, but he is a bit of a lazy bum and doesn’t have the same connection with the land and the people that Maria seems to have.

As a civil war starts slowly erupting, the two sides quickly form, leaving Maria and her family a bit trapped in the middle. The French government implores her to leave. Her husband Andre (Christophe Lambert) is also set on evacuating. She denies efforts to be rescued and thus starts a long battle to keep her business afloat and stay alive.

This description makes the movie sound much more harrowing than it really is. Don’t get me wrong, there are some tense scenes, and there is a constant sense of danger. You truly never know if or when things are going to get heated. But my usual problem with movies that take place in Africa is that I can never get my bearings. Where are they? Is that far away from where they were before? But Denis manages to give you a great sense of not only the continent and the landscape, but also the towns, the plantation, the people. Her work is so specific that it becomes instantly accessible.

Huppert is infinitely watchable as always. She can command a scene simply by standing still. Everyone brings their A game and it really pays off. My one… piece of non-praise, because it isn’t an insult, is that I feel that I will forget this movie in 5 years. There was no one scene that grabbed me and the ins and outs of the plot at some point became irrelevant to the thematic sensibilities.  While some of the movies in my mini festival have just entertained and some have just made me think, White Material manages to do both seamlessly, yet the ripples made while I watched are now only infinitesimal vibrations in the back of my head. And that’s okay.