A couple of hours ago I wrote a tidy little riff about Jack Clayton‘s Room At The Top (’59), and then it was accidentally erased. The point is that I finally saw this sharply-written, very cleanly composed film last night for the first time and was seriously impressed by it. The first belch of British kitchen-sink drama (resentful, self-destructive working-class blokes and their birds + lots of drinking, smoking, arguing and shagging), Room opened in the U.S. in May 1959. It was followed four months later by the film version of John Osborne‘s Look Back in Anger with Richard Burton and Claire Bloom, and a new genre was off to the races. When the late Simone Signoret won a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of Laurence Harvey‘s somewhat older love interest, she became the first non-integrated, foreign-based actress to do so. I’d forgotten she was fairly hot at the time. But it wasn’t long after her Oscar triumph that Signoret decided to (is there a p.c. brownshirt way to put this?) let herself go and became a character actress. She died at a relatively young age, 64, in 1985.
We definitely need another futuristic, CG-driven, inter-planetary, mythical-minded, grandiose sci-fi adventure involving a freelance assassin (Channing Tatum), a Han Solo-type adventurer (Sean Bean) and a lowly main character (Mila Kunis) who learns she has “a great genetic destiny,” which is more or less what Luke Skywalker realized when he was told that the midi-chlorians in his blood allowed him to harness “the Force.” We also need another film of this sort in which a main character drops off a very tall skyscraper at night.Read More »
The last Nymphomaniac update was that (a) the Danish distributor would be screening Lars Von Trier‘s film for local critics on 12.17 and that (b) the British distributor was thinking of screening it for London critics the same day. Soon after I was told by a top Magnolia guy that his company wouldn’t be screening it stateside “before the [12.25] Denmark opening.” This morning a friend told me I could slip into a special Munich screening of Nymphomania this coming Friday — too far, too sudden, too costly. Today another Magnolia guy told me that the company’s policy has changed from “no U.S. screenings this year” to (and I quote) “the only U.S. press that the film is being screened for this year are the trades.” To which I replied, “Does that mean critics for Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline and The Wrap? Or just the two ‘print’ trades?” I could still see it commercially in Copenhagen starting on 12.25, which would cost me around $1750 or $1800, all in. But you know what? The hell with it. This film isn’t worth it. I don’t care anymore.
I have a very slight problem with this LAFCA-vote discussion on James Rocchi‘s “The Lunch” podcast. Rocchi’s contributors — LAFCA members Alonso Duralde (The Wrap), Amy Nicholson (L.A. Weekly) and Karina Longworth — are obviously bright and knowledgable, but their observatons are too measured and political. I wanted a snippy, resentful, sour-grapes discussion about why this winner didn’t deserve to win and why that winner did, etc. I wanted the real nitty gritty. I wanted occasional expletives. I wanted undercurrents and hidden agendas exposed.Read More »
It takes a while for Gold Derby‘s Tom O’Neil and Hollywood Reporter award-season columnist Scott Feinberg to mention Martin Scorsese‘s The Wolf of Wall Street as a late-to-the-table but formidable Best Picture contender, which of course it is. (Isn’t it?) Feinberg is still predicting 12 Years A Slave to win and O’Neil is still betting on Gravity. Minor complaint: Feinberg’s voice sounds a little bit murky.Read More »
I was determined to try and cut Bruce Beresford‘s Bonnie & Clyde miniseries a break. The only fair way to watch it, I decided, was to at least temporarily erase the memory of Arthur Penn and Warren Beatty‘s 1967 classic. But I couldn’t do it. I tried but I couldn’t. Beatty and Faye Dunaway‘s Clyde and Bonnie had an irrepressible charisma, vulnerability and turbulence of spirit, and Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger‘s…I don’t want to be cruel or dismissive, but Beresford’s version just doesn’t cut it. It feels like a Depression-era crime story re-styled by for 2013 generation and re-enacted by the C team. But show me any decently assembled documentary about the real-life pair and I’m hooked. It’s not the song, it’s the singers.Read More »
Earlier today (Sunday, 12.8) Deadline posted an “Oscars q & a” between Pete Hammond and Gravity star Sandra Bullock, and out of this came a curious admission by Bullock. Without making a big deal out of it and with no prompting by Hammond, Bullock said that Gravity “was supposed to be an amusement ride for the viewer.”
This strikes me as a classic “obiter dicta” bomb, or words in passing that give the game away.
We all have different reasons for deciding that a given film deserves a Best Picture Oscar, but usually they have something to do with a presumption of serious (or at least semi-serious) artful intent on some level, as a reflection or condensation of life as we know it, rendered with a certain poignance or social resonance and particularly with the viewer being touched or moved or turned around by it.Read More »
Likeliest Best Picture Nominees: (1) Martin Scorcese's Wolf of Wall Street; (2) Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave; (3) Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity; (4) Jean Marc Vallee's Dallas Buyer's Club; (5) John Lee Hancock's Saving Mr. Banks; (6) Alexander Payne's Nebraska; (7) Joel and Ethan Coen's Inside Llewyn Davis; (8) Spike Jonze's Her; (9) David O. Russell's American Hustle; (10) Paul Greengrass's Captain Phillips; (11) Richard Linklater's Before Midnight.
Likeliest Best Director Nominees: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave; Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity; Martin Scorcese, Wolf of Wall Street; Joel and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis; Alexander Payne, Nebraska; Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips; Spike Jonze, Her; Ryan Coogler, Fruitvale Station; Before Midnight, Richard Linklater, David O. Russell, American Hustle; JC Chandor, All is Lost.
Likeliest Best Actor Nominees: Robert Redford, All Is Lost; Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave; Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club; Leonardo DiCaprio, Wolf of Wall Street; Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips; Bruce Dern, Nebraska; Forest Whitaker, The Butler; Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis; Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station; Ethan Hawke, Before Midnight.
Likeliest Best Actress Nominees: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine; Berenice Bejo, The Past; Judi Dench, Philomena; Meryl Streep, August: Osage County; Adele Exarchopoulos, Blue is the Warmest Color; Brie Larson, Short Term 12; Julie Delpy, Before Midnight; Greta Gerwig, Frances Ha; Sandra Bullock, Gravity.
Likeliest Supporting Actor Nominees: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club; Jonah Hill, Wolf of Wall Street; Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave; Tom Hanks, Saving Mr. Banks; Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips; Josh Brolin, Labor Day.
Likeliest Supporting Actress Nominees: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave; Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle; Amy Adams, American Hustle; Oprah Winfrey, The Butler; June Squibb, Nebraska; Octavia Spencer, Fruitvale Station; Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine; Carey Mulligan, Inside Llewyn Davis.
Likeliest Best Original Screenplay Nominees: Joel and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis; Eric Warren Singer, David O. Russell, American Hustle; E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman, Foxcatcher; Bob Nelson, Nebraska; Craig Borten, Dallas Buyers Club; Ryan Coogler, Fruitvale Station; Asghar Farhadi, The Past; Craig Borten, Dallas Buyers Club; Danny Strong, The Butler; Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach, Frances Ha.
Likeliest Best Adapted Screenplay Nominees: John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave; Billy Ray, Captain Phillips; Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Richard Linklater, Before Midnight; Steve Coogan, Jeff Pope, Philomena.
I’ve been reminded of the source of that famous Howard Hawks line about how a good film always has “three great scenes and no bad ones.” It’s from Joseph McBride‘s “Hawks on Hawks,” which has just been republished by University Press of Kentucky. I referenced the line in last night’s “Howard Hawks Wants to Know” piece. But the broader Hawks quote contains a side-thought that nobody ever mentions these days.
“Not that you’re trying to make every scene a great scene, but you try not to annoy the audience,” Hawks tells McBride on page 36. “I told John Wayne when we started to work together, ‘Duke, if you can make three good scenes in this picture and don’t annoy the audience the rest of the time, you’ll be good.’ He said,’“Do you believe that?’ I said, ‘Yeah. If I make five good scenes in this picture, and don’t annoy the audience, I think I’ll be good.’” Wells insert: Now wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute…did Hawks believe that nailing three great scenes was all you needed, or did he believe that five was a much better tally and that three might not be enough?Read More »
I don’t believe that the two finest, boldest and most morally definitive films of the year are Steve McQueen‘s 12 Years A Slave and Martin Scorsese‘s The Wolf of Wall Street — I know that they are. And yet the critics groups, so far, don’t seem to fully get this. Or maybe they do but they’d rather not. They haven’t been dismissing these masterpieces — everyone is respectful — but they’ve been kind of half-blowing them off and certainly not giving them the love they deserve. The Scorsese especially. Both films should be standing tall and proud on the mountaintop right now. Critics, guild members and film buffs alike should be bowing and cheering, but they seem to be hedging somewhat. Responses have been mixed and fluid and less fervent than initially anticipated.
I was euphoric when I came out of The Wolf of Wall Street and so far…well, some agree with me at least. I knew I’d seen a masterpiece when I first caught 12 Years A Slave in Telluride and now…what has happened exactly? I know about all the grumbling by long-of-tooth Academy members about how they respect it but don’t like it, blah blah. But why have the critics done a slight but noticable fade on Slave?Read More »
Two or three days ago I announced an intention to fly to Copenhagen sometime after 12.20 to catch Lars von Trier‘s Nymphomaniac while expressing hope that Magnolia, the film’s U.S. distributor, might screen the two-part, four-hour film domestically (NY or LA) for trades and certain columnists to allow them to post reviews on the 12.17 worldwide embargo date. I was eventually informed that Magnolia will not be screening Nymphomaniac any time soon for U.S. critics. I was then told by Premier‘s Liz Miller that Danish publicists are planning a 12.17 screening for Scandinavian press in Copenhagen, and that Nymphomaniac‘s U.K. distributor is currently “deciding whether to do that here (in London) on that date.” I wrote Magnolia again, noting that “the worldwide conversation about the film will begin for European critics on 12.17 and continue henceforth. It seems a shame that you and yours are deciding to make U.S. critics pay at least $1800 in air fare plus hotel and everything else in order to take part in that discussion on a timely basis.” I can’t attend any 12.17 press screenings in Europe, but I’m thinking of flying to Denmark and seeing the film commercially on Christmas Day. I’ll be happy to bang out a review (different than the one I’ll post here) for any publication that wants to throw me a grand for my time and trouble. I’ll eat the rest.Read More »
Two Boston critics said today that the decision by Paramount-linked Allied Marketing to screen The Wolf of Wall Street only at the very last minute (i.e., two days ago) led to Martin Scorsese‘s debauched epic not winning in as many as five Boston Society of Film Critics categories. And now New Orleans’ filmmaker Dave DuBos informs that “a female gal pal who votes for the SAG awards…has not received her Wolf screener and guess what? Last day to vote for the SAG awards is Monday. Did Paramount drop the ball here?” We all know that Wolf was finalized only a little more than a week ago, meaning there wasn’t the usual amount of time to prepare screenings and screeners. It’s a shame considering that the film is affecting some viewers (i.e., the more perceptive ones) as phenomenal.Read More »
On behalf of Wolf of Wall Street costar Jonah Hill, director Bennett Miller (Moneyball, Capote, the forthcoming Foxcatcher) hosted a Saturday screening of Martin Scorsese‘s film and then a dinner at Mastros (246 No. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills). Paramount sponsored the non-press event. Attendees included Anne Hathaway, Brett Ratner, Rebel Wilson, Simon Baker, Walton Goggins, Mickey Rooney, Robert Forster. Hill’s performance as the buck-toothed Donnie Azoff is joyfully diseased — high torque, manic, snap-crackle-pop, etc. The Best Supporting Actor race is Hill vs. Dallas Buyer’s Club‘s Jared Leto vs. Enough Said‘s James Gandolfini.
The Los Angeles Film Critics Association has given its Best Picture prize to both Gravity and Her — a little weird but okay. Obviously the soft consensus voters went for Gravity while those with more particular passions went for Her. Nebraska‘s Bruce Dern won for Best Actor. The Best Actress decision was a tie between Blue Jasmine‘s Cate Blanchett and Blue Is The Warmest Color‘s Adele Exarchopoulos. Gravity‘s Alfonso Cuaron was named Best Director. (Runner-up is Her‘s Spike Jonze.) Best Supporting Actor was/is also a tie between Spring Breakers‘ James Franco and Dallas Buyers Club‘s Jared Leto. Slave‘s Lupita Nyong’o has won the Best Supporting Actress prize. (Runner-up: Nebraska‘s June Squibb.) LAFCA’s Best Screenplay award has gone to Before Midnight‘s Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. Blue Is The Warmest Color was named Best Foreign Language Film.
12:01 pm Pacific: 12 Years A Slave has won the Boston Film Critics Society’s Best Picture award. Boston Globe critic Ty Burr is suggesting that Paramount/Allied screwed up by not screening Wolf of Wall Street for Boston critics sooner — roughly a third of the voting body missed the one last-minute Beantown screening. In the view of Boston Phoenix critic Brett Michel, “Paramount completely fucked The Wolf of Wall Street here in Boston. Because five people in the [BSFC] room today couldn’t make it to Friday’s 11th-hour screening, Marty’s film was doomed to come in second in no less than five(!) categories: best picture, director, actor (DiCaprio), screenplay (Terrence Winter) and editing.”
11:46 am Pacific: 12 Years A Slave‘s Steve McQueen has won the Boston Film Critics Society’s Best Director award. Which means Slave has the Best Picture award in the bag or…?
11:32 am Pacific: The Boston Film Critics Society has handed its Best Actor award to 12 Years A Slave‘s Chiwetel Ejiofor, and its Best Actress award to Blue Jasmine‘s Cate Blanchett. The late James Gandolfini has won the Best Supporting Actor trophy for his performance in Enough Said — a nice respectful gesture but why? JG was tender and vulnerable in Nicole Holofcener‘s film, but are you telling me he delivered a more affecting performance than Jared Leto in Dallas Buyer’s Club or Jonah Hill in The Wolf of Wall Street? Nebraska‘s June Squibb was won the BFCS award for Best Supporting Actress.
The Los Angeles Film Critics will vote today (i.e., Sunday). Steve McQueen‘s masterful 12 Years A Slave, a seeming shoo-in for several critics-group awards after ecstatic receptions at Telluride and Toronto, is now on the ropes due to industry hesitance and recent no-wins with the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Board of Review. To maintain vitality in the Best Picture race, Slave needs a LAFCA Best Picture win. And another, for good measure, from the Boston Film Critics, who will also vote today.
If LAFCA and Boston don’t step up to the plate and do the right thing by Slave, the Fox Searchlight release will face at least a somewhat steeper hill as far as potential industry support is concerned. But if LAFCA and Boston don’t “friend” Slave, they should do the other good thing, and that’s give their respective Best Picture prizes to Martin Scorsese‘s wild and mouth-frothy The Wolf of Wall Street — a madly brilliant slash across the canvas by our greatest filmmaker. (more…)Read More »
I walked a couple of miles for the exercise this evening. Not quite like Arctic winds howling through Chicago, but certainly bone-chilling by Los Angeles standards. Frigid, gusty. It felt to me like the coming of winter in Cleveland or Syracuse or northern Ireland.
Earlier today I spoke with the New Orleans-based Dave DuBos, director-writer of a forthcoming horror film called Bayou Tales and host of WSGO’s “Movie Talk” on Saturdays. We began by kicking around The Wolf of Wall Street but mainly discussed Howard Hawks‘ definition of a good film (see related HE piece) and how that applies to this year’s crop of Best Picture contenders. Again, the mp3.
It’s time once again to apply Howard Hawks’ definition of a quality-level film to this year’s Best Picture contenders. A good movie, said Hawks, is one that has “three great scenes and no bad ones.” It shouldn’t be too much to ask that a Best Picture Oscar winner should live up to this, right?
In my first Hawks criteria piece, I wrote that “great scenes are ones that you can’t forget because they’ve sunk in or hit a solid crack note of some kind. They deliver some kind of bedrock, put-it-in-the-bank observation about life or human behavior or just the way things usually are, and when they’re over you always say to yourself, ‘Wow, that worked.’” So let’s review a few Best Picture contenders and see if they cut the mustard.
Best Picture contender: The Wolf of Wall Street. Three great scenes?: Yes, but more in the realm of over-the-top bravura scenes as Wolf is a dark fantasia of corruption and venality, and not, you know, a straight-from-the-shoulder “drama” in the business of conveying fundamental human truths. The Leonardo DiCaprio-Matthew McConaughey chest-thump lunch scene. The Leo gives a pep talk to the Stratton-Oakmont troops scene (“Pick up the phone”). The Leo chats with the FBI guy (Kyle Chandler) on the yacht scene. The quaalude meltdown scene. The yacht-nearly-sinks-at-sea scene. How many is that? Wolf is one engine-rev scene after another.Read More »
Why does this relationship dramedy (due for release in February 2014) seem less cloying and perhaps even more charming than one would expect from this kind of story? It feels a tiny little bit like Junebug. Is it because Scott Speedman and Evan Rachel Wood appear to have chemistry or…? The director is Andrew Fleming. It’s based on Barfuss, a 2005 German movie starring, directed and co-written by Til Schweiger.Read More »
Martin Scorsese‘s The Wolf of Wall Street is a breathtaking, orgiastic, drop-your-pants comic masterpiece — a vulgar, hilarious, metaphorical indictment of the 1% Wall Street adrenaline greedheads who have devalued and cocained and flim-flammed the U.S economy into the ground over the last 30-plus years. It’s Scorsese’s magnum opus, an art-film humdinger for the ages. It’s pretty much guaranteed that the Academy fuddy-duds are going to go “whew, that was exhausting!” and “uhm, I didn’t like the characters very much.” And with these words they will be removing themselves from the pulse of 21st Century culture and basically putting themselves out to pasture. Either you get this film or you don’t, and if you get it…well, Wolf-ies forever! Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill), Best Adapted Screenplay (Terrence Winter) and so on.
It’s time to hop in the car and drive over to the Westside Pavilion for the noon screening of Martin Scorsese‘s The Wolf of Wall Street, which I’m partial to sight unseen because I’ve heard that the Academy’s 60-plus softies are likely to find it overly vulgar and abrasive and heartless. Anything that the complacent farts aren’t expected to like, I’m down with.Read More »
I recently noted that Sidney Lumet‘s New York-based Serpico (’73) was filmed when Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn were much grimier and grittier places than they are today. No Starbucks, no corporate franchises to speak of. Anyway I watched most of the just-out Warner home Video Bluray last night and it’s wonderful, really wonderful, to re-immerse in this exotic, never-to-be-seen again realm through Arthur J. Ornitz‘s cinematography, which looks flavorful but not especially grainy. I know this will be a tremendous letdown to the grain monks, but Serpico looks refined and pleasingly natural. And better than I’ve ever seen it look, like a nice wet print, straight out of the lab, untouched by human hands. It’s perfect. And the actors look so young! Even Judd Hirsch and M. Emmet Walsh seem wet behind the ears.
I’m way, way behind on Sundance 2014 assessments, but at least I spoke to a buyer this morning about the Dramatic Competition slate. He’s most excited about the following, he says: (1) John Slattery‘s God’s Pocket, an adaptation of a mid ’90s Pete Dexter novel, about the cover-up of the particulars that led to the death of an arrogant hell-bent type. South Philly-flavored, possibly Mystic River-ish. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Christina Hendricks, Richard Jenkins and John Turturro costar; (2) Damien Chazelle‘s Whiplash, adapted from Chazelle’s same-titled short and described as a kind of “Full Metal Jacket at Julliard as applied to drumming,” costarring J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller; (3) Jeff Preiss‘s Low Down — a portrait of legendary jazz pianist Joe Albany (John Hawkes) by way of a father-daughter saga, produced by Nebraska‘s Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, written by Topper Lilien and Amy Albany, and set in the L.A. jazz scene of the late ’60s and early ’70s (period trappings are expensive!); (4) Kate Barker-Froyland‘s Song One, an Anne Hathaway-starrer said to be a “nice, gentle, woman-friendly emotional drama” about a dreamy (shoe-gazey?) relationship within the Brooklyn music scene; (5) Craig Johnson‘s The Skeleton Twins, a kind of indie Beetlejuice-sounding deal costarring Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig and Luke Wilson; and (6) Kat Candler‘s Hellion, which is supposed to be “very good,” the guy says.Read More »
How many films have been at least vaguely inspired by Adrien Lyne‘s Fatal Attraction, all in? I’m having a little trouble acknowledging that this Michael Douglas-Glenn Close sexual stalker flick came out 26 years ago. Jesus. No defenseless animals were harmed during the making of Nurse 3D.Read More »
Beware of spoiler after the jump: It’s been observed that J.C. Chandor‘s All Is Lost ends on a note of ambiguity. Does Robert Redford‘s “Our Man” come through or not? Is he saved by some guy in a boat or does the white light signify something? Today I read Chandor’s original 31-page outline. The ending is different than the one in the film. If you’ve seen All Is Lost, click through.
Olaf, the buck-toothed snowman from Disney’s Frozen, arrived today. Along with a Frozen screener, of course. Okay, maybe I’ll watch it but no promises. I’ve also been sent the screener for Hayo Miyzazaki‘s The Wind Rises. God, I find animation so tedious. Almost oppressive in a sense. It’s a tiny bit curious that Rises, the critically preferred among the two, has a Rotten Tomatoes rating (84%) that three points lower than Frozen‘s. Olaf is voiced by the revoltingly peppy Josh Gad.
Lars Von Trier‘s two-part Nymphomaniac (Part One lasting 110 minutes, Part Two lasting 130 minutes) will open commercially in…I don’t know where exactly, the Netherlands or Denmark or somewhere in that region, on 12.25 — less than 20 days hence. I would naturally like to review along with the trades so I’ve asked Magnolia reps if they’ll be press-screening the English-language film in NY or LA prior to the Christmas Day opening.
A source confides that the trades “will be expected to review out of Denmark“, although there’s a rumor about a possible L.A. screening. I’ve told these reps that if Magnolia won’t let me see Nymphomaniac in at a NY/LA press screening, I’ll do a Banks and fly to Copenhagen to see and review it.
“But that probably won’t be necessary, right?,” I wrote in one of my e-mails. “I mean, you’re not really going to make me do this, right? Nymphomaniac looks crazy and radical enough to see it ASAP, but I don’t want to blow $1500 bills or whatever to fly to Copenhagen and stay in a hotel…c’mon.” (more…)Read More »