Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November. It's a Wrap

2010 will soon be history. But it's not over until the fat lady sings. And by fat lady I mean critics and by sing I mean the mass publishing of top ten lists. Since I have screeners this year, I'll try to get started a bit earlier than usual and get my top ten list out to you in the final week of December. Until then, in case you missed anything... the best of November.

Party Favor get your Oscar Countdown Clock right here!
Ruffy the Werewolf Cuddler JA lays down the law with the screenwriter of the useless Buffy reboot.
Juliette Lewis Interview The actress is on her way back. She's as much a livewire offscreen as on.
Whither Silkwood Tim looks back at one of the great 80s films (rereleased on DVD with the Cher Film Collection.)
Hollywood Reporter 6 Actress Live Blog Starring Hilary, Nicole, Annette, Amy, Natalie & Helena

Queen of Santa Barbara Will you attend The Bening's coronation?
When Movie Campaigns Attack scary moments when opening the mail.
TV at the Movies on live tweeting, Glee and The Walking Dead
Love 'em and Leave 'em stars we only loved briefly, a robust comment discussion.
Distant Relatives Robert kicks off his new series with two mammoth films: Citizen Kane and There Will Be Blood.

December Blogging:
Featuring... Rabbit Hole, Top Ten Lists, Blue Valentine, Captain Blood, Holiday Madness, True Grit, Black Swan, The Illusionist, Restrepo, Inception, The Sundowners, Stocking Stuffers, Site Revamp.

Starring... Natalie Portman, Alexandre Desplat, Woody Allen, Julianne Moore, Tilda Swinton, Anne Hathaway, Jeff Bridges and Daryl Hannah.

Off Screen Break. What's Going On?

Because sometimes, taking a wee break from the silver screen, helps you appreciate the movies more.

EW Lady Gaga is insane. Promises "Born This Way" is 'best album of the decade'. So no sophomore slump then, Gaga?
YouTube Madonna opening her Hard Candy gym in Mexico. I wish I could work out there. I obviously need some sort of dominatrix to push me if I'm ever going to get in shape. (sigh)
AV Club Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark first preview "no one broke their wrists or feet or died." Seriously, why do people keep hiring Julie Taymor and throwing money at her? How long will this Broadway musical have to stay open to even break even? 2018?
Band of Thebes best LGBT books of the year?
Vulture Hilary Swank developing a reality tv game show? Bizarre.

Or you can just consider this an OPEN THREAD. Lots of movie awards news popping up, yes, but WHAT ELSE are you thinking about right now? I'm watching Pee Wee Herman on Broadway as you read this! I know you are but what am I?

Curio: Rachel the Replicant

Alexa from Pop Elegantiarum here with your weekly art break.

Today is Ridley Scott's 73rd birthday, and 10 days ago Sean Young celebrated her 51st birthday (probably while rehearsing for Skating With the Stars). Their collaboration in Blade Runner put Metropolis, Edward Hopper and film noir into a blender to create a thing of beauty. Who can forget Rachel, the replicant heroine played with uncharacteristic restraint by Young, with her memory implants, Mildred Pierce hair and padded-shoulder suits? In celebration, here is a gallery of original images devoted to her.

limited edition print by Paul X. Johnson


Miss Drea styled herself as Rachel for this portrait

acrylic, 60 x 80 cm, by Joseph De Utia

How Do You Like Our Owl?

Spirit Awards: "Winter's Bone" and "The Kids Are All Right" Lead.

Historically the Spirit Awards tend to honor a few of the major Oscar players each year but a win at the Spirits can sometimesLe be the last hurrah, a consolation prize as some would say, if the work is too "edgy" for lack of a less exhaustively employed word. Last year's big winner was Precious (refresh your memory?) It took home Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actress and Adapted Screenplay. There were only three crossover winners from Spirits to Oscars last year : Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart), Mo'Nique (Precious) and the screenplay for Precious. (The Hurt Locker was considered a 2008 film.)

So what fared well this year? Black Swan got four nods including Best Actress for "sweet girl" Natalie Portman. But it could peak at the right time. Full list after the jump with Winter's Bone (7) and The Kids Are All Right (5) leading the pack.

Oscar to Choose 3 to 5 of Ten Animated Short Finalists

"Let's Pollute"
The Academy have revealed the finalist list for Oscar's Best Animated Short category. Depending on how voting goes we'll see anywhere from three to five nominees. But the lucky names will be drawn from this entertaining list.

  • The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger (Bill Plympton Studio)
  • Coyote Falls (Warner Bros)
  • Day & Night (Pixar)
  • The Gruffalo (Magic Light Pictures)
  • Let's Pollute (Geefwee Boedoe)
  • The Lost Thing (Passion Pictures Australia)
  • Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage (Sacrebleu Productions)
  • Sensology (GAGNE International LLC)
  • The Silence Beneath the Bark (Lardux Films)
  • Urs (Filmakademie Baeden Wuerttemberg)
6 excerpts/ trailers and 4 full length finalists after the jump... See them for yourselves. Which will you root for? [Thanks to Movielicious for rounding these shorts up.]

Monday, November 29, 2010

Gotham Award Winners

If you'd like running commentary IndieWire provided. If you're short for time here are the winners.

Best Documentary The Oath
Breakthrough Director Kevin Asch for Holy Rollers
Breakthrough Performance Ronald Bronstein from Daddy Longlegs 
Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You Littlerock (Mike Ott)
Festival Genius Award Waiting For 'Superman'
Best Ensemble Performance Winter's Bone
Best Feature Winter's Bone
Tributes: Hilary Swank, James Schamus, Darren Aronofsky, Robert Duvall

The most interesting detail was that, despite a strong night for Winter's Bone, Jennifer Lawrence did not win Breakthrough Performance. I now kick myself for missing Daddy Longlegs which was on my Sundance schedule at least twice and I kept having to rearrange and missed it.  The other immediately noticeable development was in the Documentary field. The field was entirely composed of films that did not make the Academy's Finalist List, Inside Job excepted. The terrorism doc The Oath won.

(Speaking of those Oscar finalist documentaries, I'm only seen a handful but Restrepo, detailing one deployment for US soldiers in Afghanistan is my personal favorite of the lot thus far. Still, none of them compare to Last Train Home, which gets shunned awards-wise.)

What's next for Winter's Bone? Tomorrow will undoubtedly be another good day for the scary Ozark-set drama. The Spirit Award nominees, the big deal for indies, will be announced at 11 AM EST. Expect it to lead the nominations, or thereabouts. From there the awards path for Debra Granik's well loved minor hit gets trickier. Will the critical enthusiasm translate to mainstream movie prizes like the The Globes and Oscar? Stay tuned.

The Top Tens Cometh. Will "The Social Network" Reign?

If you read In Contention and Awards Daily as I'm assuming a good hefty percentage of Film Experience readers, being Oscar obsessed, do, then you already know that The Social Network has landed its first major top ten list and #1 placement. Presumable many more will follow. It's that type of movie, both highbrow and mainstream enough to capture a good cross section of critical hosannas.

"One Top Ten list isn't cool. Do you know what's cool?Hundreds of  Top Ten lists."

Sight and Sound's Top 10
1. The Social Network (David Fincher)
2. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
3. Another Year (Mike Leigh)
4. Carlos (Olivier Assayas)
5. The Arbor (Clio Barnard)
6. (TIE) Winter's Bone (Debra Granik) and I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino)
8. (TIE) The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu (Andrei Ujica), Film Socialisme (Jean-Luc Godard), Nostalgia for the Light (Patricio Guzman), Poetry  (Lee Chang-dong), and A Prophet (Jaques Audiard)

"Sight and Sound"'s 5 way tie at the end suggests that the magazine either didn't invite enough critics (85 were polled) or invited too many or didn't invite a enough critics from different schools of artistic temperament or critical thought. Exactly. I don't know what it means. Huh? A tie here or there is perfectably acceptable in group polling but a five way tie? That just feels unfinished -- why not a run-off poll?

If you're wondering where you've heard of The Arbor before, it was a favorite within the BIFA nominations... it's a hybrid of both documentary and narrative.) A Prophet's inclusion, it also made S&S's 2009 list, instantaneously recalls the discussion we were just having about confusing distribution patterns and eligibility requirements. If you make a list one year, shouldn't you be ineligible the following year?

The decidedly less cinephilia-inflicted National Board of Review announces their top ten on Thursday. Beyond Clint Eastwood's Hereafter which is a sure thing, and a combo of one or two WTF choices with  a few Oscar contenders, we can't know what to expect. Vegas oddsmakers have already released the odds for S&S crossover inclusion in NBR's lineup*.

  • The Social Network 5:2 
  • Film Socialisme 1,000,000:1
  • Winter's Bone 7:3
  • The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu 230,041,300:2
*not really.

Black Swan Raves

...not the review kind of "raves" so much as the dance-while-drugging kind.

Come to think of it Black Swan is almost a perfect movie for remixes and mash-ups. While it's rather electric to watch (and hear as remix) I do worry if it's maybe a bit "thin" in some crucial ways for staying power. The narrative focus is as tight as Natalie Portman's neck, which means that in some ways it wouldn't lose much as a short film*. It's pretty much just Nina For The Birds, everything else being out of focus**. You can't always trust your peripheral vision.

*Not that I didn't love it. I'm just thinking aloud.
**This is why I don't remotely buy the online enthusiasm for predicting Oscar nominations for the supporting cast, even though I liked most every performance in the film.  

Two Goodbyes: Leslie and Irvin.

Two sad farewells to octogenarians of cinematic note, director Irvin Kershner and actor Leslie Nielsen.

"Kersh" (by the camera) about to shoot Han, Leia and Lando.

I will forever appreciate Irvin Kershner (1923-2010), who died today, for making the best of the Star Wars films The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Yes, long before George Lucas ruined his own classic franchise, he once entrusted the directing of them (at least to a certain degree) to others. I haven't yet read many obits, but I'm hoping that some of them will recognize that it's hardly his only contribution to the movies; Star Wars has a way of gobbling up the internet oxygen, doesn't it? Though Kershner's filmography isn't exactly robust, other notable films include the thriller The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), the last (unofficial) James Bond film with Sean Connery Never Say Never Again (1983) and the underseen but by most accounts praiseworthy Barbra Streisand film Up the Sandbox (1972).

Here's a fond farewell from a journalist who met him in 1978.

Leslie Nielsen (1926-2010) passed away yesterday in his sleep at the age of 84 after battling pneumonia. Confession: I've never seen the Naked Gun films. That's an odd thing to lead with when saying goodbye to the hilarious Leslie Nielsen but my point is this: his late career work was so often quoted that you felt like you'd seen it -- or at least heard those deadpan line readings -- from how deeply it permeated pop culture. 

Like most everyone who lived through the Eighties I loved Airplane! (1980) and watched it god knows how many times with friends. Other key films include Forbidden Planet (1956), The Poseidon Adventure (1972) but in his last quarter century on the screen, he was leading parodic movies like the Naked Gun series and Mel Brooks Dracula: Dead and Loving It () or making appearances in other comic franchises like the Scary Movie films. I love imaginary through-lines in careers so I chuckle at the way he's introduced in the Forbidden Planet trailer and especially that "I didn't bring my bathing suit." / "What's a bathing suit?" exchange.

Since Anne Francis doesn't know what a bathing suit is, we undoubtedly know how she'd answer Airplane's immortal "Have you ever seen a grown man naked?" line. Seriously. Though that famous quote doesn't belong to Nielsen, anything that reminds you of Airplane! will surely remind you of Leslie Nielsen. Say it with me now 
"Surely you can't be serious."
"I am serious. And don't call me Shirley."

James & Annie, Good Sports & Oscar Hosts

Saturday Night Live, that dinosaur of pop culture, may be good for something we never really expected: producing Oscar hosts. Both James Franco and Anne Hathaway, just announced as February's Oscar hosts,  have hosted the ancient challenging live comedy program (Franco in 2009, Hathaway just recently) to fine results, so why not Hollywood's High Holy Night? I'm just glad that they didn't take the SNL alum thing to its exhaustively ubiquitous endpoint: Betty White!

Franco & Hathaway have proven themselves as versatile showpeople over the past decade but more importantly for their latest assignment, they're both good industry sports and twinkly showbiz ambassadors. They don't always need the spotlight (witness their frequent onscreen generosity to co-stars) but when it hits them they sure sparkle, they choose a mix of classy projects and check-cashing opportunities (usually a wise career move), and their onscreen personas are buttressed by offscreen personalities that read as amiable, clever and ready for a good time. In short, though they both can be the life of the party, it's just as easy to imagine them hosting one. You can practically see them taping streamers to ceilings or blowing up balloons for a friend's birthday, can't you?

But alas... AMPAS's decision to employ them is problematic. Though Hathaway's Best Actress prospects are on the fade for Love and Other Drugs, most pundits agree that Franco is one of the frontrunners for this Best Actor for 127 Hours. Therefore we can't totally cheer this otherwise sensible decision. The Tony Awards regularly use nominated hosts and The Emmys have been known to double dip, too. But no matter the organization, the event, or the temperament of the celebrity, it's unavoidably T-A-C-K-Y. It's like hosting a party and declaring yourself the Guest of Honor. Who does that?

Related Reading: 
Vulture 5 Weirdest Oscar Hosts
Deadline brags about calling it. "Toldja"
Hollywood Reporter Youngest hosts ever...

Speaking of which, I love this tweet from Indie Focus about the Oscar's weirdly noncommital desperation to be hipper than than are.


Which movie job...

...would you most like to be trudging off to this morning, instead of your actual job?

What would a two-minute montage of your day job look like? Would it be this sparkly?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Take Three: Terence Stamp

Craig here with Take Three. Today: Terence Stamp

Terence Stamp photographed by Terence Donovan, 1967

Take One: A family of Stamp collectors

Announced only as "The Stranger", Stamp waltzed into the home and lives of Teorema’s (Theorem/1968) wealthy Italian family like a bolt from the blue: in turn he sexed them all up good and proper, irrespective of gender, or even order, then left them reeling and the audience flummoxed. Everyone – on screen and off – was seduced by this perplexing guest. He left us all gagging for more. It was that naughty old Pier Paolo Pasolini’s fault. He dashed off his own personal spectator theory with the zestiest, most carefree and open abandon. Stamp’s stranger, most folk presume, is a Christ figure, a sexy Jesus substitute in the shape of a ‘60s heartthrob. The controversy of the film was aroused by this contentious quirk more than the frank and playful sexuality on display. PPP knew how to push buttons and he detonated a social-religious-cinematic bomb with his casting of Stamp in such a role.

On Stamp duty: Terence in Teorema

Teorema is a remarkable film – and Stamp is remarkable in it. He barely opens his mouth and still manages to bedazzle everyone and anyone in his sight line; he binds them all with the spell of his eyes and his crotch. (Seriously, Teorema must be the only film in which there’s a crotch shot every five minutes that isn’t a porno.) Each family member in turn glares at Stamp’s trouser lump prior to being whipped into a frothy frenzy and succumbing to his silently sexy ways. (He even attentively listens to post-sex confessions.) They are seduced, relinquished of their former burdens and transform in their own ways - they explode from their bourgeois closets. Yup, he bonks the family so much, and is so good at it, that each one forgets who they were: promiscuity, artistic endeavour, feverish catatonia and the immediate rejection of clothing are the by-products of his studly sexings. In fact, he bonks the family maid (Laura Betti) so much that she levitates. Now that’s liberation. As far as strange, Christly, wraith-like enigmas go, Terence Stamp’s not too shabby.

Stamp: sex god and foot rest (those are his own feet)

Take Two: Everyone look busy - Zod's coming!

Could you all please kneel...

Although Stamp cropped up as insolent insurrectionist General Zod in Richard Donner’s original Superman, it wasn’t until Superman II (1980) that he got to properly chow down on the scenery... before incinerating it with his special red-laser-eye effects. Zod’s gradual rise to unfathomable evil worked a treat for Stamp second time around. He looked miserably miffed stood on trial - and lorded over by a fat and fright-wigged Marlon Brando - as some ever-revolving space-aged hula-hoop kept his fury at bay. He looked downright pissed off squashed wafer thin inside a giant, flat, crystal rhombus, wedged between Sarah Douglas and Jack O’Halloran as Ursa and Non. (Maybe he was so pissed off because they together looked like a failed experimental theatre troupe flung into space.) You can imagine how unimaginably livid he must have been once he set foot on earth, ready to make Superman’s life a super nightmare. Well, he was more smug than angry: check Zod out, walking on water simply because he could. On top of that, he could finger a fake president at ten paces. The guy's got skills. 

For the love of Zod, at least look at what you're reducing to smithereens!

Stamp’s Zod was second-to-none - quite literally. As the head of cinema’s most loved evil alien triptych he led from the front. Indeed, he liked to stand in front of massive, well-placed billboards and frown in close-up as often as possible, before flying headlong into fleeing extras – that’s a sign of real villainous brass. You can keep your small-screen bald teen Lex Luthor and the lazy Kevin Spacey retread. Give me a Godlike Zod - someone who plays it weird with a beard. Terence stamped the role, his role, with a singularly daft yet unmatchable class. Rumour has it that Zod is to be the main baddie in Zack Snyder’s upcoming reboot. I hope that someone clever presses redial and gets Stamp back on board: he's the only actor who can pull off neatly-trimmed facial hair and a jump-suit and still be scary. On top of that he mastered the three vital prerequisites for comic-book villainy: wig work, wire work and superhuman fireworks.

You can all get up now, he's gone.

Take Three: The Lady is a Stamp

“What are you telling me? This is an ABBA turd?”

Why Stamp was hesitant to take on the role of fifty-something transsexual Bernadette Basinger in Stephan Elliot’s The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994), when he could deliver choice, juicy nuggets of dialogue like the above, is a mystery. It was a bold, atypical choice that I’m glad he said yes to. There were many other lines that sounded drily exquisite either rolled, or spat, out of Stamp’s mouth. Many were repeatable, some relatable, all were quotable – whether you’re an adventurous queen on a silver-stiletto-topped bus leaving a billowing molten fabric trail in its wake or not. Stamp was Priscilla’s conductress extraordinaire.

Transvision Stamp: three lady lizards on tour are thee

When I first watched Priscilla (I’ve thrice returned to it – all largely Stamp-induced viewings) the initial thing that struck me about his performance was how ladylike, how refined, he was. I mean this in the right way. A familiar, iconic actor known more often than not for playing dashing, virile swaggerers, Stamp had all the poise and decorum of an experienced woman having already lived two lifetimes only halfway through just the one. Throughout the film’s duration the congenial allure of the character never waned or faltered. It was incisive acting; he gave a very clever performance. And funny. It was in how Bernadette tilted her head, how she sat down, the choice of both age-correct and -incorrect clothing - and the way she wore them on stage and off; and it was chiefly in the staunch determination perceptible in her droll, weary voice when she was on verge of jacking it all in. Thank god for Bob and Alice Springs. But the unladylike moments of combative scuffle, with single-minded dunderheads down under, tickled just as much: “Now listen here you mullet. Why don’t you just light your tampon and blow your box apart, because it’s the only bang you’re ever gonna get sweetheart!” Charming. Ten-nil to Bernadette.

Three more key films for the taking:  The Collector (1965), Alien Nation (1988), The Limey (1999)

Welcome to "Burlesque"

Happy Thanksgiving to all. Care for some turkey? Cher, XTina and gay filmmaker Steve Antin shall provide a succulent bird. If you’ve been looking forward to the new musical BURLESQUE, relax. I come not to disparage the movie, but to (mostly) praise it. Consider this a corrective protest. It will prove too easy a target for critics and haters, who often seem to despise girlie or flashy movies before they’ve even seen them, but it’s not truly a turkey. It’s more like a (hot) pink flamingo; the plumage is so colorful, you forget that it looks like it should fall over.

The basic plot of Burlesque is so typical as to be personality free: small town dreamer arrives in big city to make it big. Does. The End. But let’s backtrack. Christina Aguilera, referred to as “Ali” since she’s acting or “Iowa” since she’s just off the bus, chances upon the club “Burlesque” run by Cher. For some reason everyone in the movie keeps calling Cher “Tess" but even Cher knows she’s just playing Cher. Tess even gets an 11th hour power ballad "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me Yet" to remind you that she's Cher....

Read the full review @ Towleroad.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

On Eligibility Requirements. Your Input Please

In the past only NYC theatrical releases have been eligible for this site's own Film Bitch Awards and I've also considered making "one week qualifiers" ineligible even if they open in NYC on account of "do they really belong to that year?"... but more and more I wonder if any of the old rules should apply -- how to even keep track of them if they do -- and whether I'm too strict? It can sometimes take two years for a great festival film to find release if it ever does.

Recent or current confusions to illustrate

Calendar Straddlers
  •  Frankie & Alice is getting a 2010 Oscar qualifying release but initially people thought of it as a 2009 qualifying release because it was listed as one with Oscar (they print the "qualifying" lists before the deadline is up and some films don't behave as announced, release wise.)
  • Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives and Certified Copy, will probably forever be regarded as 2010 films by the sheer weight of critical conversation and festival prizes they received during the year. Yet both films are technically aiming to be 2011 releases (in the US.)
  • Applause, a must-see Danish film from 2009, is getting one of those über annoying "one week in LA only releases" in 2010 before it supposedly opens in January 2011. (I say supposedly because we all know some films abandon their real release if the qualifying week doesn't perform miracles.) So which year does it belong to? It's straddling three of them!
  • If you count festival or IMDb dates as actual dates than you have to take back the Best Picture Oscars won by both Crash and The Hurt Locker and the surprise Oscar nominations for City of God (among others) which all started the circuit the year before Oscar kissed them and in 50 years when baby cinephiles are making the lists, they'll probably consider them films of 2004 and 2008 and 2002, respectively, thereby erasing them from their Oscar years.
  • Some films announce US release dates and then later you're like "wait. did that open?" Xavier Dolan's debut I Killed My Mother was submitted for the foreign language Oscar in 2009 but didn't emerge in US theaters. Then, it was slated to open in 2010. I personally don't recall that ever happening. Did I miss it? While waiting for his first to arrive, I saw his second (Heartbeats a.k.a. the much less generically titled Les Amours Imaginaires) on the 2010 festival circuit. What the hell is going on? Do his films exist at all or are they the collective figments of the film festival imagination?
To make a long story short (TOO LATE!) it's becoming harder and harder to track which films actually come out in any given year. Even if you just use the IMDb's "premiere" dates and say "US release date anywhere is good enough for me" you might end up getting a random event/festival date rather than an actual release date. Theatrical release can sometimes feel like a entirely stealth move or a self-sabotaging purposeful secret (one week without advertising on one screen somewhere and not always where you'd think to look) or sometimes something is on DVD before you can register that it hit theaters or skipped release entirely.

Trying to keep track of miniscule release strategies has become a full time job... especially when it comes to subtitled releases. What's your take on "eligibility" for awards, here and otherwise? Do you believe in festival premieres as the actual year? Do you wish I'd just use Oscar's calendar even if it means "one week LA only releases" (My arch-enemy due to the arrogant elitism of "one theater in one city counts!")? Do you favor the system some critics use where they have multiple top ten lists depending on the calendar peculiarities? Do you think one week anywhere in the US should count? I'm trying to decide if I should change my rules for this new decade at the Film Bitch Awards.

The 2010 Blue Dragons. (Plus: Korean Films on Netflix)

The news coming out of Korea these days is upsetting so... let's direct our focus on something beautiful from thereabouts: the movies. The 31st annual Blue Dragon Awards were held this weekend in Seoul. Here are the winners and a few comments. [photo and info sources]

Picture: The Secret Reunion
This is an espionage thriller involving North and South Korean spies. It stars the seemingly ubiquitous Song Kang-ho who you've probably seen if you've ever seen a South Korean picture. He previously starred in the monster flick The Host, the disturbing vampire romance Thirst and the drama Secret Sunshine. The Secret Reunion won the top prize over kidnapping thriller The Man From Nowhere, Moss, epic action flick Woochi and the erotic Cannes drama The Housemaid (a remake of a classic). Lee Chang-dong's awesome Poetry (my review) was not nominated. Apparently he has a rough history with this awards body.
Director: Kang Woo-seok (Moss)
Actor: Jung Jae-young (Moss)
Actress: Yun Jeong-hee (Poetry) and Soo Ae (Late Night FM)
Supporting Actor: Yu Hae-jin (Moss)
Supporting Actress: Yoon Yeo-jung (The Housemaid)

Steamy trailer for The Housemaid starring the brilliant
Do-Yeo Jeon from Secret Sunshine.

New Actor: Choi Seung-hyun also known as T.O.P. (71: Into The Fire)
New Actress: Lee Min-jung (Cyrano Agency)
New Director: Kim Gwang-shik (My Gangster Boyfriend)
Screenplay: Kim Hyun-seok (Cyrano Agency)
Art Direction:
Lee Ha-joon (The Housemaid)
The Secret Reunion
Lighting: I Saw the Devil
Music: Mowg (I Saw the Devil)

Technical Effects: Park Jung-ryul (The Man From Nowhere)
Popularity Awards:
Won Bin, T.O.P., Jo Yeo-jung, Sohn Ye-jin
Box Office Award: The Man From Nowhere

A couple more things just because.

You may remember popular star Won Bin (or Bin Won) from two previous Oscar submissions (Mother, which was released in the US to great acclaim early this year, and Tae Guk Gi: The Brotherhood of War). He escorted child star Kim Sae-ron down the red carpet. They co-starred in the Box Office champ The Man From Nowhere which rather confusingly has two separate additional titles depending on which websites you go to. It's also known as Ajusshi and This Man.

This is Soo Ae (Late Nite FM). Either Soo Ae is exceptionally popular as a celebrity or she's a magnificent actress because she somehow tied Jeong Hee-yoon who was so moving as the ailing grandmother in Lee Chang-dong's Poetry (see my review) for "Best Actress".

And like all awards shows they have cheesy musical numbers. Here's KARA performing "Jumping"

Bin Wo
Are any of these films available on Netflix? The answer is "not yet" but you can save the following four to your queues for when they're released: THE HOUSEMAID, POETRY, WOOCHI and THE SECRET REUNION. If you'd like to catch up on recent Korean titles that made something of an international splash try THIRST (instant watch) or MOTHER (instant watch).

Kang-ho Song


Low Resolution "22 Short Thoughts on Burlesque" #20 is an idea for a sequel that I would entirely fund myself were I a gazillionaire even if I knew I'd lo$e it all. That's how badly I want it to exist.
Boing Boing Forged Disney Art on eBay. You really can't cheat with Ursula, the sea witch; people are way too obsessed with that bitch, you know?
Cinema Blend Michelle Williams as Marilyn, again.
Dear Old Hollywood revisits Joan Crawford's early residences in California.
The Hollywood Reporter in praise of Lesley Manville (Another Year) and the Best Actress race. (Though I must say I think the consensus about locks and slots is kind of a mess. I think no one is safe beyond Bening & Portman as there's 5ish strong contenders for the other 3 spots. Thus, no safety.)
Serious Film laments the non-adaptation of Harry Potter books in the making of Harry Potter films.
Nick's Flick Picks talks up 10 films he liked more than you'd expect. Yet another example of how generous of spirit my pal Nick is, while never losing his critical acumen.

Jeff Bridges - Style Icon GQ has a slide show. I love this photo above wherein he's reading something generically titled "Western Story" given that there is a noticeable west/southwest line running through several of his movies (though he was born and raised in LA which we don't really think of when we think "Western"). FWIW, True Grit starts screening in force in about one week's time so you'll be hearing a lot more about it here and elsewhere soon.
GQ That's part of their "Men of the Year" issue which also features James Franco & ScarJo.

Offscreen Hilarity
Confessions of a Book Fiend by Grant Snider
Hyperbole and a Half "Dogs Don't Understand Simple Concepts Like Moving". I seriously got the giggles while reading this - the very audible giggles. Trying to surpress them for the benefit of my Thanksgiving guests who were still asleep from their food comas did not work. My apologies to everyone roused by my cackling.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Distant Relatives: The Deer Hunter and The Hurt Locker

Robert here, with my new series Distant Relatives, where we look at two films, (one classic, one modern) related through a common theme and ask what their similarities and differences can tell us about the evolution of cinema.  Two Best Picture winners for today.

Addictive Personalities

There are about as many themes and concepts explored by war films as there are war films.  Still, they can be generally be narrowed down to three types.  There are films about the physical toll of war (Saving Private Ryan), the mental toll of war (Apocalypse Now) and the spiritual toll of war (The Thin Red Line).  Both The Deer Hunter and The Hurt Locker fit into the second category, but they're special.  We're not talking about Colonel Kurtz level madness here.  In fact, we're not talking about madness at all.  What both films are most interested in is the "hook" of war, the adrenaline rush.  The Hurt Locker doesn't beat around the bush here.  It starts with the quote "for war is a drug" from Chris Hedges' essay "War is a force that gives us meaning."  The Deer Hunter and The Hurt Locker are about two men whose worlds were torn clean of meaning by the nihilism of war and then gifted with meaning by the rush of war.

There are a lot of surface similarities between the two films.  Both follow three men, one of whom sustains a physical injury, one of whom comes to the realization of his absent legacy back home and one of whom can't bring himself to leave the battlefield.  Interestingly enough, both films find the excesses, and sterilized nature of a grocery store an apt contrast between war and home.  But unlike most war films, neither The Deer Hunter nor The Hurt Locker are interested in traditional extended battle scenes. The emphasis instead is on moments that feature the slow build of suspense, eventually the release of survival. 

Game of Chance

Other films have dabbled in the idea that soldiers find themselves compelled to return to or remain in war.  Yet few films can really make us understand why that is.  But a speech given late in The Hurt Locker by Sargeant James to his son makes it pretty clear.  There is only one thing left that he loves.  Why?  Because he's good at it... very good.  He's dismantled eight hundred and seventy three bombs successfully.  But can the same be said of The Deer Hunter's Nick?  Certainly his endeavors into Russian roulette yield enough money to send wads and wads back to his friends.  In this case, skill may not be required, but the exhalation of winning and living is still the same. It's that exhalation that seems to have made the lasting difference.  Even Sgt. James box of souvenirs that almost killed him aren't there to remind him that he almost died.  They're there to remind him that he lived.

What back home can compete with such an experience?  Is it hard to believe that the enhanced reality of facing death daily and surviving is preferable to a reality of not facing death at all?  The idea of enhanced reality in both films (and many war films in fact) suggests that normal feelings just don't cut it any more. There is a sense in  that the characters have been numbed and require over-stimulation to feel again.  This is perhaps why Nick self-injures, or why the men of Operation Liberty punch each other for fun.

Welcome to the Soldiers' Side

One of the primary differences between The Deer Hunter and The Hurt Locker is rooted in the influence of outside social factors.  In 1978 making an anti-Vietnam film wasn't exactly a bold statement. But in 2009, The Hurt Locker opened after a long line of anti-Iraq films that were received coolly by a divided public.  The film dodged controversy by focusing not on the question of the moral righteousness of war but simply on it's effect on soldiers.  Contrastingly, the 70's cultural climate gave Michael Cimino such a free hand to declare the Vietnam war wrong, some viewers felt he overdid it, specifically by inventing the factually inaccurate device of North Vietnamese soldiers forcing prisoners into Russian roulette games. Still, the protesters outside were not enough to keep the film from winning Best Picture.

While it's hard to make an argument that subtlety is making a comeback, these two films, each in their respective political climate are a lesson in the softening touch of a message.  Could you imagine The Hurt Locker closing with a sad rendition of "God Bless America?"  Equally it shows far less of the characters' home lives than The Deer Hunter (which it needs for the most extreme possible contrast).  Nick's mental state is far more deteriorated than Sgt James', and his end is far more dramatic. But in addition to the political climate, you could argue that in the thirty years between the films, audiences have broadened their scope and definition of what constitutes the meaningful effect of war on its participants.  So as it becomes more difficult to deliver an overt anti-war message it becomes easier to display the subtleties of its lasting impact.

There is one more important distinction is perhaps the difference between a film about a war that's ended, where Nick's fate is known and one that has not, where Sgt. James' fate is up to you or me.  The Deer Hunter tells us how things ended.  The Hurt Locker asks us to wonder how we'd like things to end.

Unsung Heroes: The Sound Design of Punch-Drunk Love

Michael C here from Serious Film.

The opening moments of Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love feature a prolonged stretch of silence broken by the crash of a truck doing flips down the street. In most movies this would be the cheapest trick in the book, giving the audience a jolt by hitting them with a loud noise out of nowhere. It doesn't feel that way here. The sound design in this scene, as in the rest of the movie, is wired to the off-kilter psyche of Adam Sandler's Barry Egan. He too harbors the constant threat of sudden violence under an ocean of surface calm.

The sound work on Punch-Drunk Love is a study in discomfort. It's not just a case of Jon Brion delivering yet another brilliantly original score, though there is no question he does that. It's the fact that the score doesn't behave according to any of the rules audiences have been trained to expect from years of movie watching. Punch's score comes and goes at right angles to the material, sneaking in unnoticed only to drop out suddenly giving the viewer a cold splash of silence.

In the early sequence when Barry is hounded by incessant, abusive phone calls from his seven sisters, the sound mix works with them as a team to drive Barry over the edge. The twitching, relentless score is layered over top, ratcheted up until it competes with the dialogue, so that we are having as hard a time focusing on work as Barry. The tension mounts steadily as the score gives way to the sound of his sisters' chatter. The wall of sound builds until Barry is forced to smash a glass door to get a few precious moments of peace. With barely any exposition we know all we need to know about Barry and his rage and repression issues. The sound design is as big a part of the story as the dialogue.

Most other movie soundtracks are there to soothe the audience, to underline emotions and essentially pat the viewer on the back for feeling what he feels. Not here. The soundtrack doesn't bother to take much note of actions that would have most scores swelling like mad. It keeps the same steady rhythm whether Barry is doing his memorable little soft shoe shuffle in the supermarket or he is attacking the brothers with a crowbar. Even the use of a pop song breaks with the expected. The movie's main love theme, Shelley Duvall's sweet and goofy rendition of Harry Nillson's He Needs Me, may climax with that swooning embrace in Hawaii but it meanders its way there, beginning over talk of pudding. The soundtrack, like Barry, cannot get in step with the rhythm of normal behavior.

The sound design of Punch-Drunk Love incorporates all the story's elements into a seamless piece, from the gentle sliding motif of the harmonium through the sickeningly matter-of-fact realism of the violence. We feel like we know what Sandler is thinking or feeling at any given moment, since, whether we register it consciously or not, the sound has given us a map of Barry Egan's mind. It accomplishes without words what most other movies require a voice-over narration to do.

"Tangled" as 50th. A Disney List

At some point in the chronology of me dealing with Tangled, a complicated psychological rollercoaster for this lifelong Rapunzel lover, I had completely forgotten (or maybe never known?) that it was to be the 50th Disney animated feature.

I think I wasn't counting the compilation films but Disney does. Here's a helpful reminder from Disney of that rich history (which I saw courtesy of All Things Fangirl). How many have you seen?

The video comes after the jump.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Eat up. Drive safe. Hug loved ones. And thanks for being so faithful to The Film Experience. We give thanks for your patronage. We'll be back when we're back at some point tomorrow and a bit over the weekend. Enjoy your holiday.


See a movie. There's so much good stuff in movie theaters right now (links go to post collections): fun musicals like Burlesque & Tangled both of which I already want to see again; Oscar hopefuls that are totally worth seeing even if they're not quite "Best of Year" like 127 Hours & The King's Speech; Things I can't vouch for (haven't yet seen) like Love and Other Drugs and Harry Potter's and The Final Money Grab Pt 1; If you're entertaining at home, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and The Kids Are All Right are must-sees on DVD.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

FYC: Leonardo Island

One of the smartest FYC moves I've seen in terms of a screener making full use of its identity as an Oscar campaign is for Shutter Island. The disc didn't come with the typical eyebrow raising desperation of "please nominate us for every category that exists!", but narrowed its focus. The cover only suggests Picture, Director & Actor.

In fact, one might say that the packaging squints so hard to focus that it grows a the great crease of a worry line right before your eyes. All the better to remind you of its identical twin that Leonardo DiCaprio has grown between his eyes over the years. That worry line serves him so well in this anguished performance.

But, there's more. As you open it up -- remember this is a Shutter Island ad -- it becomes an orgy of Leos. Brilliant move, that. By charting his growth as an acclaimed child actor to massive adult star, all the way from that critically acclaimed leading debut This Boy's Life (1993) to 2010's Inception (sneakily swallowing up the vote splitting competition, in order to better serve Shutter Island) it basically uses the visual language of FYC: Career Tribute Nomination.

Given that Shutter Island came out very early in the year and that the Best Actor category still looks to be in flux, this could actually work. Unlikely sure but not out of the realm of possibility.

And hasn't 2010 actually been quite a year for him. Isn't he having a year comparable to Sandra Bullock's in 2009? The comparison doesn't spring up naturally, exactly. Leo's big year didn't feel like a breakthrough year since he had no career valley to bounce back from. Nor did he really have something to prove in terms of acting prowess. But consider the strange popularity correlations between Sandy's 2009 and Leo's 2010. For this exercize we have to forget all about All About Steve (2009)  but who would object to doing so?

1. Big Beloved Headliner Star
2. First movie of year  that's right in star's wheelhouse (romantic comedy The Proposal | Scorsese drama Shutter Island) opens and becomes big domestic hit in the 100+ range.
3. Riskier followup opens just five months later (Sandra's The Blind Side | Leo's Inception) and becomes a massive blockbuster in the $250+ range.

Isn't that... odd? Box office and timing between releases is pure coincidence you could say as devil's advocate. But how's this for an eery detail: If you compare Sandra's twin blockbuster 2009 grosses with Leo's 2010 double your difference of (domestic) bank is a miniscule $182,000. Isn't that crazy?

I'm not suggesting that Leo will suddenly become the golden boy who wins a surprise Oscar in February or that his marriage will fall apart in scandal directly afterwards (he's not even married!) so the comparison is strained. Furthermore, nobody expected Sandy to become an Oscar winner (until the happening was under way) and everyone has expected that about King Leo from day one. But beloved massive careers do have unifying elements no matter who the stars are; the industry and the public root for said star to succeed ...and to eventually win the most coveted movie prize of them all.

FWIW, Leo's best performances imho.
  1. What's Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993)
  2. The Aviator (2004)
  3. The Departed (2006)
  4. This Boy's Life (1993) 
  5. Romeo + Juliet (1996)
  6. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
  7. Shutter Island (2010)
  8. Titanic (1997)
  9. Revolutionary Road (2008)
  10. (Everything else blends together qualitatively for me, as something like charismatic coasting at regular best and callow confidence at irregular worst. So I eagerly await a full top ten. He's only 36. Decades of movie triumphs presumably await.)

7 Word Reviews: Black Swan, Rabbit Hole, The King's Speech

What I've been up to: Wrote up a piece for Tribeca Film on the avalanche of screeners and the insanity of the holiday season inbetween rush of screenings. Also was buried in avalanche of screeners and rushed 'tween screenings whilst fretting about the holiday. Symmetry! Posting will be light for the rest of the week (it can't be helped: holidays, off-blog duties, etcetera) but December will be robust with excitement.

Until time frees up itty-bitty teeny-weeny reviews.

Black Swan
In which a ballerina loses her shit when she wins the lead role in Swan Lake.
7WR: Thrillingly fuses camp (?) horror and highbrow metaphor. A-

The King's Speech
A new king sees a speech therapist as WW II approaches.
7WR: Fussy but somewhat endearing. Unfortunately few surprises. B

Kawasaki's Rose
Czech Republic Oscar submission about a decorated psychiatrist who may or may not have been an informant during the Communist region.
7WR: Heavy novelistic depth buffered by nimble storytelling. A-/B+

Rabbit Hole
A married couple struggles as they approach the anniversary of their child's tragic death.
7WR: Refreshingly unhistrionic grief; Kidman superbly three-dimensional. A-/B+

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Which movie weapon...

... would you want in a fight? And no, I won't tell you who your opponent is before the battle. Go.

Just some examples. Don't feel like you have to wield them.


Ruffy the Werewolf Cuddler

JA from MNPP here. Perhaps you heard the news of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer reboot that was announced yesterday? Strangely it sounded just like a couple million geeks exploding. E! got a written statement from the man who made Buffy in the first place and has nothing to do with this reboot, Joss Whedon, and he made with the funny:

"Obviously I have strong, mixed emotions about something like this. My first reaction upon hearing who was writing it was, "Whit Stillman AND Wes Anderson? This is gonna be the most sardonically adorable movie EVER." Apparently I was misinformed."

He's referring to the new writer name-checked in the news, one Whit Anderson, whose IMDb page no doubt jumped about a billion percent in the span of a couple of hours. She's apparently a fan of the original series who came up with a "fresh" "funky" "fun" take. "This is not your high-school Buffy," exclaimed one producer! Well okay then! Who'd want that anyway? Pfft.

According to Anderson, she "will take the touchstones of the Whedon world but frame them in 'a new story' that is very much of the moment." Well as a fan - some might say fanatic - of Joss' show, I want to help Anderson out. Offer up some ways she can honor the show while making it new. Here are JA's rules for rebooting Buffy:

Because she is in the title, you've got to have a Buffy. But does her last name have to be Summers? I'd stay away from that. No Winters either. Stay away from seasons in general. And since this isn't our "high school Buffy," maybe she shouldn't be a cheerleader? She can't work at a fast-food place either. And no magic shops! Stay away from those. She shouldn't like to shop either, that's been done. And no dancing. No ice-skating. No climbing out her window at night. No crimped hair on a whim. No sudden disappearance of cleavage.

Under no circumstances can she have a sister that is a Key. Or a lock, or a door, or a doorstop, or one of those bells that jangles when someone comes through a door, or one of those sausage-shaped stuffed animals that sits at the bottom of a door and keeps out a draft.

As for her Scooby Gang (note: do not use the phrase "Scooby Gang"), there can't be a nerdy guy in love with her named Xander. Or Alexander. Or Alex. Or Al. Or Der. This non-character cannot live in his parent's basement, join the swim team, read comic books, or almost marry an ex-demon (you should probably avoid demons altogether). No librarians named Giles, or Rupert, or Ripper. You'll probably have to have a Watcher but call him or her something other than Watcher. Seer? Looker? There can't under any circumstances be a nerdy girl named Willow. No girls named Fern or Maple or Oak either. No variants of Deciduous. No Conifer. There can be no witches. There can be no lesbians. There can be no lesbian witches. You can however make magic into a drug addiction, because that was stupid.

Other names to avoid: Cordelia. Cordy. Mordelia. Mordy. Harmony. Melody. Harm. Parm. Oz. Ozzy. Fozzy. Fonzie.

Because they're in the title too there must be vampires. But she cannot fall for a vampire with a soul. Or a chip. She cannot be torn between two vampires or between a vampire and a werewolf - any attempts at Twilight-izing the Buffy name will lead to a rogue band of Buffy fans creating a time machine and going back in time to stop your parents from ever meeting each other.

No Angel. Angle. Spangle. Charlie Rangel. That last one just because that wouldn't make any sense. Why would Buffy take up with a disgraced Congressman? Tomfoolery. No Spike. William the Bloody. William the Lightly Salted. Bob the Builder.

There can be no Master or Mayor, no Glory or Adam. No Ruler or Governor or Splendor or Eve. No Summer's Eve. No Sunnydale. No Foggybog. No Hellmouth or Heckbellybutton.

There can be no musical. No music. No sound effects whatsoever. No dialogue. No curse of silence from fairy-tale goblins either! No lighting. No darkness either though, that has too many past connotations. No projected images on the screen. No actors, no director, no budget and no sets.

That about covers it. Good luck with your script, Whit!