Ask me anything   Film and television news with a big emphasis on award shows. Academy Awards and the Emmys are our friend.

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Awards Circuit Power Hour Episode 119: Oscar Temperature Check, Fury, and Guest Erik Anderson

POWERHOUR_LOGO_NEW1Welcome to another edition of the Awards Circuit Power Hour, our weekly podcast diving deep into all things film, television, and entertainment.

We are joined by Guest Erik Anderson from to discuss the race in its current state.

We talk about “Fury” (no spoilers), the openings of “Birdman” and “Whiplash” and some of the unknown factors that are on the horizon.  There’s even a little debate about what may or may not be a contender.

We also have news about Fantasy Awards Draft and the new season of Academy Idol.

Song used in the podcast: “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley


*NOTE – From now on, if you have a question for us for Power Hour, you can either Tweet it with the hashtag #ACPowerHour OR you can leave it in the comment section of the newest episode.

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— 4 hours ago
#Academy Awards  #American Sniper  #Awards Circuit Power Hour  #Birdman  #Featured Post  #Fury  #oscar predictions  #Oscars  #Podcast  #Podcasts  #warner bros 
New Post has been published on - By Clayton Davis

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STUDIO CIRCUIT: Can Fox Searchlight take back-to-back Best Picture Oscars?


Fox Searchlight is likely still bathing in the joy of their successful (if not stressful) Best Picture campaign from 2013, where they managed to take the crown while only winning 3 Oscars. But how will they fare without having the word “important” to campaign upon? Fox Searchlight has seemingly always been in the Oscar race, having a Best Picture nominee every year since 2010, winning twice (2008’s Slumdog Millionaire and 2013’s 12 Years a Slave), and boasting a ton of acting wins and nominations. I don’t expect their luck to suddenly run out, especially when their top pony has already been called a masterpiece.



The Grand Budapest Hotel
Director: Wes Anderson

If there’s one strong contender for awards love from the first half of 2014, it’s assuredly Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. Originally slated for a late 2013 release, Fox Searchlight moved the film to early 2014, where it received very positive reviews. The lion’s share of the praise was given to two-time Oscar nominee Ralph Fiennes, who’s in the running for Lead Actor (despite early rumblings that he might be campaigned supporting). The AMPAS has never given a warm embrace to an Anderson film (Fantastic Mr. Fox has the most nominations of any Anderson film: two). Perhaps a strong showing at the Golden Globes in Musical/Comedy can help jog people’s memories. Oh, and that production design is aces—expect a ton of love for that throughout the season.  However, considering Fox Searchlight has both Wild and Birdman on its hands, will it have time to give its full faith to The Grand Budapest Hotel?

Best Picture
Best Director
Best Actor – Ralph Fiennes
Best Original Screenplay
Best Score
Best Production Design
Best Costume Design
Best Cast Ensemble



Director: John Michael McDonagh

Every so often, Brendan Gleeson collects some low-level Oscar buzz for one of his performances.  However, they never pan out even slightly, sadly.  In John Michael McDonagh‘s Calvary, Gleeson plays a man of the cloth who undergoes an emotional and spiritual struggle in the wake of a threat being placed on his life.  My gut tells me this is just too small of a performance to capture the attention of even the most anti-mainstream critics group, let alone any organization that gave Christian Bale an Oscar nomination for American Hustle.  But, never say never.  It sure would be interesting to see father (Brendan) and son (Unbroken‘s Domhnall Gleeson) both up for Oscars in the same year.

Best Actor – Brendan Gleeson


Director: Amma Asante

On paper, the ideal of Belle seems very interesting for a modern audience. However, the reception was positive-to-mixed, with most of the praise being directed to breakout star Gugu Mbatha-Raw. This is just the type of role to garner of critics’ mentions and perhaps even a Globe nod. Beyond that, expect to see it mentioned occasionally in tech races.

Best Actress – Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Best Breakthrough
Best Costume Design
Best Production Design

wild reese

Director: Jean-Marc Valle

Many were a little skeptical of Jean-Marc Valle’s Dallas Buyers Club follow-up, Wild. The internet has not been kind to 2005 Best Actress champ Reese Witherspoon since she won her Oscar; and frankly, neither has Hollywood. The reviews out of Telluride an TIFF were strong for both the film and for Witherspoon. On we hot on the tail of this year’s McConnaissance? The Reeseurgence? Only time will tell, but this could be a contender.

Best Picture
Best Director
Best Actress – Reese Witherspoon
Best Supporting Actress – Laura Dern
Best Adapted Screenplay
Best Film Editing


Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Have you heard about this? In the unlikely chance you haven’t heard about Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s comedic drama Birdman, you will very, very soon. Fox Searchlight managed to take massive “we have our Best Picture winner” buzz from Telluride and ride it all the way to Oscar in 2013 and 2008. Shot in what appears to be one take (assisted by the wizardry of editing), this meta career comeback features a slew of big names from Michael Keaton to Edward Norton to Emma Stone to Naomi Watts. Not to mention, if Emmanuel Lubezki isn’t your frontrunner for Best Cinematography, what are you doing? This is the type of film that could follow in the steps of Life of Pi and Gravity (winning Best Director and threaten for Best Picture)…or Inception and Hugo (winning “just” techs). The one difference is that Birdman seems to be an acting showcase along with a technical one, thus giving us a combination of a “visionary director” film and an actor-friendly film. Can it go all the way? We shall see.

Best Picture
Best Director
Best Actor – Michael Keaton
Best Supporting Actor – Edward Norton
Best Supporting Actress – Emma Stone
Best Cast Ensemble
Best Original Screenplay
Best Film Editing
Best Cinematography
Best Sound Mixing
Best Sound Editing
Best Visual Effects

— 4 hours ago with 1 note
#Alejandro González Iñárritu  #amma asante  #belle  #Best Cinematography  #best picture  #Best Production Design  #Birdman  #Brendan Gleeson  #Calvary  #edward norton  #emma stone  #Emmanuel Lubezki  #Featured Article  #Featured Post  #Fox Searchlight  #gugu mbatha-raw  #Jean-Marc Vallee  #John Michael McDonagh  #Laura Dern  #Michael Keaton  #Ralph Fiennes  #Reese Witherspoon  #Reeseurgence  #Studio Circuit  #The Grand Budapest Hotel  #Wes Anderson  #wild 
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Talking ‘Camp X-Ray’ with filmmaker Peter Sattler

interview-guantanamo-peter-sattler-realisateur-de-camp-x-ray,M167280When you cast Kristen Stewart in a movie, you know that there’s always going to be the specter of Twilight and that franchise hanging over the production. Camp X-Ray‘s writer/director Peter Sattler sure did, and in fact all but cultivated it, but that just comes with the territory. Luckily, Stewart also gives one of her best performances to date in the film. When I got a chance to sit down with Sattler a few weeks ago to talk about his new movie, it was just after coming from a screening of Clouds of Sils Maria, so the promising direction of Stewart’s career was at the forefront of my mind. Sattler and I didn’t speak for too long, but we hit on some interesting topics and below you can see the highlights. Camp X-Ray is in theaters now beginning its hopefully lucrative run, stars Stewart along with Payman Moaadi, and is quite good, so don’t miss it!

Here’s the best of my chat with Peter Sattler…

-On the genesis of this idea

Peter Sattler: You know, basically I saw a few documentaries and read a little bit and kind of realized that this situation existed. First of all, I realized that Guantanamo Bay is not what I thought it was. It’s not barbed wire and torture and dark shadows, you know? It’s very clean and institutional and boring. It might have been that in the beginning, but now it’s just a weird institution, like a hospital or something. I realized that these detainees and soldiers are just stuck down there, walking in circles, and they start talking. To me, I’m fascinated by that. As a director, you want to find interesting situations. Say you’re doing a break up movie, it’s like “that’s cool, but I’ve seen it”. How can I have that in another way that’s cooler, you know? The situation and the conversation between these two characters was so interesting and curious and weird to me, that I just started writing them, before I had any idea for a plot or a story, it was just what they were talking about. That was the impetus, you know? It was also just trying to be smart about how you make a film, especially an independent film. It’s a very contained piece, which I was very proud of. I love movies that have a very pure and simple idea but are done in a very complicated idea, so just two characters in a room, but it’s one of the most intense rooms on the planet.

-If he wrote the script with anyone in mind and how the film was cast

PS: I didn’t have anyone in mind actually, because I wasn’t sure what kind of a scale I could do this on. I was writing it and had no idea if I was going to get a big star or a great actor or what, and just luckily we got both in both of the roles…one an American star and one an Iranian star. They’re both really amazing actors, but it is this interesting thing where you have this thing in your head and this idea on the page, but once I thought about Kristen in the role I was lucky I got her because I couldn’t get her out of my head after that. She was exactly who should play this role because she’s a perfect mixture of tough and vulnerable. She’s one of the greatest actresses in the world at talking without speaking. She can do more with her face than almost anyone and that was essential here to make that role work. The same with Payman, I couldn’t get him out of my head. You’re right though, it’s the biggest decision in the film and it lives or dies based on that. If the relationship between the two characters doesn’t work then there’s no point in even making the movie.

-His thoughts on Stewart and the challenge of her Twilight stardom affecting perception of her current work

PS: Kristen runs into it a lot, or at least she used to. She certainly won’t now. It’s that thing of “oh really? You’re in a serious film?” And it’s “yeah, I’m a serious actor and I may have done some tentpoles, but I can actually do proper work.” Also, if you look back before those movies, she had some rad work.

-On how his film could bring in the audience that hasn’t yet followed Stewart from Twilight to independent projects

PS: I think Camp X-Ray is a perfect follow up for her demographic as it gets older. This is a film about a young woman going through a quarter life crisis and growing up, you know? Maybe some of her others haven’t related to kids in that same way, but I’m interested to see sort of what the broader reaction is to this, particularly from young women. After all, it’s about being a woman.

-What he has brewing next now that this journey is over

PS: I’m writing a script. I’m writing it! I started it right after Sundance. I took a week off (laughs) and then jumped right back in. Yeah, it was crazy! I told myself that I’d take more time off, but I just couldn’t. You learn so much on your first film that you just want to jump right back in and make another one. It’s like a drug man, you know? If you didn’t love it, you wouldn’t be doing it since making a film is one of the hardest things on Earth and I adore it. I love every second of it. I love being on set, I love directing a crew, I love figuring out a story, I love cracking it, I love writing. I mean, I love looking at trailers and looking at marketing, so you just want to get right back into it. So, I’m writing this thing now, it’s going to be kind of crazy, but it’s exciting. It’s not too dissimilar from what Camp X-Ray is, while also extremely different! (laughs) It’s the same and totally different.

There you have it folks, the best of my conversation with Peter Sattler. Camp X-Ray is out right now and is well worth your time. Be sure to check it out…

-Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!

— 4 hours ago with 1 note
#2014 release  #Camp X-Ray  #kristen stewart  #Oscar hopeful  #Payman Moaadi  #Peter Sattler 
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Film Review: Citizenfour (★★★½)

citizenfourPretty much every single year without fail, a documentary comes along that just seems to really galvanize the pundits and more or less take over the Best Documentary field. This year, it seems like Citizenfour is shaping up to be that doc. When it premiered at the New York Film Festival as a last minute addition to the lineup, it made huge waves, prompting some to even talk about it as not just the new frontrunner in Best Documentary Feature, but also a legitimate contender for a Best Picture nomination. Now, I wouldn’t nearly go that far, but Citizenfour is certainly a high quality film, one that’s of the moment, urgent, and potentially deeply unsettling. Director Laura Poitras is all in on Edward Snowden as an important and heroic figure, so if that’s troubling to you, this movie is going to be problematic (to say the least), but if you have a soft spot for whistleblowers, this could be the best thing to come your way since The Insider. Personally, I’m caught somewhere in between, so even without politics in the equation, there’s still a lot to like here with this real life thriller of sorts. I may not be as over the moon for Citizenfour as all of my colleagues are, but it’s undoubtedly one of the best documentaries of the year so far. It’s timely, urgent, and full of tension. Especially if you can put your politics aside or particularly agree with the issue, this is a must see. Honestly, it’s probably a must see for everyone.

The doc is set up like a real life thriller, unfolding in such a way that certain moments make it feel also like a real time docudrama. Documentarian Laura Poitras is in the middle of making a film about post 9/11 era surveillance in January of 2013 when she begins receiving emails that will change her life. Already suspicious of being followed by the government, she starts getting encrypted emails from someone within the U.S. government who claims that she and journalist Glenn Greenwald (who is also writing about spying and has been contacted by this person) would be very interested in what he has to say. Identifying himself as initially only as “citizen four,” the person says that they are ready to blow the roof off of the large scale and covert spying programs being run by the NSA and other intelligence agencies within the United States. Following up on the emails and listening to what “citizen four” has to say, she becomes convinced that the source is real and a whistleblower that they need to meet, so in June of 2013, she and Greenwald head to Hong Kong for a meeting. The person they meet turns out to be Edward Snowden and the trip to Hong Kong is just the first of many meetings with him. Poitras films these interactions with Snowden as he blows the whistle and sees his life changed forever, while we also just spend time with him as a human being, not simple the hero/martyr/patriot/traitor that he’s portrayed as in the media. The movie also features some startling new information about the spying programs in this country and has the most up to date footage of Snowden you’ve seen so far as well.

2_citizenfourThe doc seeks to be more than just an “issue film” and also sets out to be a character study of Edward Snowden as well. By focusing for long stretches on Snowden’s humanity, Citizenfour offers up a person who’s far more than just a whistleblower. Undoubtedly one sided, the film presents him as someone who’s out to do the right thing in his eyes and will accept whatever consequences come his way. Glenn Greenwald is given a bit of a dramatic arc as well, while Laura Poitras keeps herself almost entirely behind the camera. The focus is clearly on Snowden. Large swaths of the doc are either interviews with him or just literally following him around as he paces back and forth in his hotel room, as of that moment undiscovered and wondering what the next day will bring for him. He’s charismatic at times too, which only helps his cause with Greenwald, Poitras, and likely many audience members as well. When the dramatic retelling comes our way in the near future (at the moment set to be directed by Oliver Stone and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Snowden), it’ll be a juicy character, to say the least.

My only issue here is sometimes Poitras’ filmmaking comes close to hero worship with Snowden. A little bit goes a long way when it comes to the time dedicated to just him in Hong Kong. It’s not a huge problem, but it’s what is keeping me from falling totally in love here. I do however love how she sets up the first act, editing things in such a way that you’d full believe you’re caught up in a cinematic spy tale. If the first third of the doc was able to sustain that energy throughout, this would be a four star movie to me. At nearly two hours long, that sort of pacing would have been a boon to Citizenfour. Again, small quibble, but enough to present here.

Overall, Citizenfour is one of the best documentaries of 2014 so far (second only to Life Itself in my eyes) and a surefire Academy Award nominee in the Best Documentary Feature category. Some of the more buzz worthy moments of the doc are best left seen by your own eyes, but this sometimes portrait of Snowden at a big turning point in his life is compelling as well, if a little long winded, as mentioned above. This is basically a must see, no matter your political leanings. Citizenfour is angry and impassioned, but almost always clear eyed in its arguments.

-Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!

— 4 hours ago
#2014 release  #Citizenfour  #documentary  #Edward Snowden  #Featured Post  #film review  #Glenn Greenwald  #Laura Poitras  #Oscar hopeful 
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Historical Halloween: The Driller Killer (★)

This review is part of my 14 Days of Video Nasties, a series exploring films banned in the UK during the 1980s for various reasons ranging from excessive gore to dark story material.  If you want a better overview, see my original entry.

Reviewing The Driller Killer was a last-minute replacement after finding a copy of The Ghastly Ones proved impossible. Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise because The Driller Killer is actually the film that sparked the implementation of the Video Recordings Act of 1984 in Britain solely for its cover art. Honestly, that’s the only reason that makes sense as to why this was banned, although there are a few gory kills. The kills themselves, despite a heavy use of red paint, are the only recommendation for this Abel Ferrara film, and they’re few and far between. For the majority of the 90-minute runtime you’re stuck watching a bunch of inexperienced actors walking about a New York landscape more nightmarish than the actual murders. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here because this film is ROUGH!

Reno Miller (Ferrara himself) is a painter struggling to pay his overdue bills. As life’s stress becomes too much for him, he decides to go on a killing spree with a drill.

I wasn’t joking about The Driller Killer being banned for its box art; the cover of a drill entering a man’s head was deemed offensive, sparking the controversy which would enact the list of films considered “video nastie” and being banned a year after its release in 1983. The film was recut, excising 54 seconds, and granted approval by the British Board of Film Classification in 1999; the uncut version was given a pass in 2002.

Ferrara filmed this on a miniscule budget over two years in the late-70s using his own home and surrounding streets. The city, I’m assuming it’s New York, becomes more of a character than Reno Miller himself and is infinitely more frightening with its loud, provoking homeless and prostitutes walking the streets. There have been several films spotlighting the fears of New York in the 1970s and ’80s, but none of them feel as dirty and terrifying as Driller Killer makes it out. I’d fear the people just walking into the clubs than a man stabbing people with a drill. 

As for the actual film, maybe it was progressive for 1979 but it’s painfully dull and unaccomplished today. Ferrara seems to be doing some type of guerilla filmmaking, or at least trying to convey a sense of reality through showing the day-to-day of Reno and his girlfriend/roommate Carol (Carolyn Marz), but there’s absolutely no depth or personality to either of them. Carol is involved in a lesbian relationship with another room, yet dating Reno? Too often these are the questions you’re left with as scenes abruptly end, conversations go nowhere, or the camera focuses on random hands or eyes. Reno’s eventual snap causes him to scream at Carol, a rare moment of genuine fear, but then cuts with no transition to him and her eating pizza. There’s also long-winded footage of the in-movie band, the Roosters, performing a song that sounds like a punk-rock riff off the “Peter Gunn” theme and goes nowhere. Yes, Ferrara wants to pay tribute to bands like The New York Dolls, but the entire movie feels like an in-joke for a very small subset of New Yorkers living in that area at that time.

Everything about this film feels empty and unfulfilled. Reno starts killing because the stress in his life becomes too much for him, but there’s never any fear he’ll get caught or that anyone’s particularly looking for him. He also suffers from some type of artist’s block, but it’s only hinted at so maybe my mind just perpetuated that as an excuse for his actions. In a way, the movie is really about little more than a guy with a drill killing people. The actual murders might have been intense for 1979, but they’re little more than red paint slathered all over the joint, and I watched the uncut version.

Overall, The Driller Killer’s claim to fame is the entire “video nasties” series in itself, but it’s a hollow victory because there’s little intrigue, horror, or value derived from the film. Having seen nothing else in Ferrara’s canon I can only assume this is just the first effort of a man who courts controversy regularly.

— 5 hours ago
#Halloween  #Historical Circuit  #historical halloween  #video nasties 
New Post has been published on - By Clayton Davis

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Film Review: Beloved Sisters (★★½)

belovedsistersposterMany years ago there was an episode of love and betrayal, set during a time of revolution. Translate it to cinema and that story (Beloved Sisters) has the makings of a David Lean masterpiece, charting the course of an affair through a tumultuous time in history. Such romantic epics naturally lend themselves to his style of bravura filmmaking, with their expansive scope and rich narratives. Making a good epic is hard work however and in this instance, all the elements don’t coalesce like they should.

Beloved Sisters is set in and around Germany during the late 18th century. It follows Charlotte and Caroline von Lengefeld, a pair of beautiful sisters who are part of the aristocracy. As young high society women they are happy and carefree, until their family’s wealth begins to dwindle. Upon the urging of their mother, Caroline (Hannah Herzsprung) gets married and Charlotte (Henriette Confurius) is sent to live with her aunt to become a refined lady of the court and find a suitor. Full of optimism, they are soon disappointed. Caroline’s marriage is an unhappy one and Charlotte’s betrothed has left her to be a soldier in India. Disillusioned by their misfortune, a chance encounter one day rejuvenates them. A handsome young writer/playwright/philosopher named Friedrich Schiller (Florian Stetter) passes Charlotte’s window and asks for directions. They have instant chemistry. When Caroline hears of this, she decides to play Cupid and set up another meeting for the two. Upon his arrival, she finds that she’s also taken with him and they all become best friends. As their bond strengthens, this friendship leads to romance and a secret love triangle forms. It’s an unusual situation but it works for them. Neither sister can have him anyway, due to Caroline’s marriage and Schiller’s lower social status (therefore making him unworthy of them in the eyes of society).

Charlotte is eventually given consent to marry Schiller, though there are ulterior motives to the pact. The public union actually reinforces the love triangle, allowing Caroline to have sisterly time with the added bonus of Schiller’s presence. Society would be none the wiser to the real nature of the relationship. Pressures arise from within however, when each sister’s conflicting passions make it difficult to keep up the arrangement.

During the course of this love story, the plot shows a surprising amount of dramatic potential. Due to its historical context, the lovers are confronted with issues of female propriety, a stifling gender hierarchy and threats to their way of life (they are indirectly affected by the nearby French Revolution). In theory it should make for riveting viewing but in actuality, the narrative is flat. It’s a curious outcome, as the film goes out of its way to avoid period “stuffiness”. There are actually numerous exciting techniques being employed – pleasant music, eloquent dialogue, descriptive narration, flashy camera work – yet it feels so clinical that it lacks spontaneity. It’s particularly striking that only when a non-essential character (a scene-stealing Anne Schäfer) arrives midway do we fully come to terms with the kinky, lustful premise of the film’s ménage à trois. Up to that point the romance is mostly just cute frivolity.
Cute frivolity wears thin however – and thankfully the film’s temperature does increase – so it’s a wonder that it keeps the audience interest. What writer-director Dominik Graf has ensured is that Beloved Sisters is always gorgeous to look at. Its beautiful cinematography and exquisite production design transport you to its world.

Even more eye-catching are its actresses. As the titular sisters, Confurius and Herzsprung are captivating presences on screen. They make you want to follow their every move. Confurius intrigues with her delicate demeanor and alluring eyes, while Herzsprung’s performance is one of earthy vivacity. Their mesmerizing effect is a credit to a script that is clearly more interested in its female characters. Though the writing still doesn’t serve them as well as it could, the actresses are given much better material than the men (which further lessens the potency of the romance). In addition to the aforementioned Schäfer, Claudia Messner is quite memorable as Caroline and Charlotte’s mother, even more so than Stetter’s pivotal role. Late in the film a male character remarks that the von Lengefeld women thrive on their collective bond, with their dear husbands as mere afterthought in the grand scheme of things. It appears the same applies to the film itself.

Handsomely crafted and nicely acted, Beloved Sisters ultimately suffers from an unstimulating screenplay. Despite its enticing premise it lacks the passion needed to justify its gargantuan 170-minute running time. It looks like a romantic epic but it falls short of its cinematic potential, especially when it comes to the “epic” part.

Beloved Sisters will be released in select theaters on December 24, 2014.

Beloved Sisters is the German submission for the 2014 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Click here for reviews of other official submissions.

— 5 hours ago
#2014 Foreign Language Oscar Submissions  #Beloved Sisters  #Dominik Graf  #film review  #foreign circuit  #Hannah Herzsprung  #Henriette Confurius 
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Boardwalk Empire Recap - 5.08: Friendless Child

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— 6 hours ago
#Boardwalk Empire  #Boardwalk Empire Season 5  #episode 7  #Friendless Child  #Michael Balderston  #tv recap 
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Fox Searchlight picks up Jean-Marc Vallee’s ‘Demolition’ starring Jake Gyllenhaal

rs_560x335-140723143222-1024-jake-gyllenhaal-.l72314It feels to me like we’re getting closer and closer to Jake Gyllenhaal becoming “the one”, at least in terms of who we decide is due an Academy Award. It probably won’t happen this year for him with Nightcrawler, despite it being one of his best performances to date, but next year could actually be his time. He actually has a trio of potential contenders scheduled for release in 2015. Not only does he have the large scale (no pun intended) adventure drama Everest, he has the baity boxing drama Southpaw, as well as the currently in production Demolition, a drama from new Oscar favorite of sorts Jean-Marc Vallee. Furthermore, Fox Searchlight has picked the film up, according to reports, so prepare for Demolition to really get a good push next year. Of the three, it really does sound like the one where Gyllenhaal could score a Best Actor win even, considering Vallee’s track record so far (which will only be furthered if Wild winds up getting Reese Witherspoon a win this year). You can see the plot synopsis below, and boy, does it sound like Gyllenhaal can knock it out of the park. He’s terrific in Nightcrawler, which when paired with Prisoners makes for a great back to back example of his talents. Could Demolition be the next one word title to feature a top notch Gyllenhaal performance? Stay tuned to find out, but with Searchlight picking it up for distribution, we’re likely to see it heavily in play during late 2015. The film stars Naomi Watts as well, so sit tight until we have more on this one…

Here’s the synopsis for Demolition:

An investment banker struggling to understand his emotional disconnect after the tragic death of his wife begins to tear apart his life in a effort to see where he went wrong, but is ultimately rescued by a woman he meets in a chance encounter.

-Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!

— 21 hours ago
#2015 Release  #Demolition  #film acquisitions  #Fox Searchlight  #Jake Gyllenhaal  #Jean-Marc Vallee  #Oscar hopeful  #upcoming projects 
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Historical Halloween: Night Warning (★★)

A brief synopsis before we begin: This review is part of my 14 Days of Video Nasties, a series exploring films banned in the UK during the 1980s for various reasons ranging from excessive gore to dark story material.  If you want a better overview, see my original entry.

I mentioned in my original post featuring films that were either significant within the context of the “video nasties” era, or that I just wanted to see; Night Warning is in the latter category. The film is directed by William Asher who worked on both I Love Lucy and Bewitched (he was also married to Bewitched star, Elizabeth Montgomery). Night Warning could have played as a Movie of the Week if not for the incredibly offensive plotline focused on violence, and incest. With a script by Steve Briemer and Alan Jay Glueckman, this film is either very progressive for 1982 or woefully intolerant, and I’m inclined to go with the former if only because it was 1982. Either way, this is a strange little oddity of a film worth seeking out.

Billy Lynch (Jimmy McNichol) has lived with his Aunt Cheryl (Susan Tyrell) since the age of three when his parents died in a car accident. As Billy prepares to leave home for college, Aunt Cheryl becomes more intent on getting Billy to stay. When a TV repairman is murdered, allegedly while trying to rape Aunt Cheryl, a bigoted and homophobic detective (Bo Svenson) tries to pin it on Billy.

As we’ll see with many movies, Night Warning isn’t the original title of this film; the original title was Butcher, Baker, Nightmare Maker. And I was also unable to find out why it was original banned or if anything was cut between the US and UK releases. This was resubmitted to the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) under another new title – The Evil Protege – in 1987, but was rejected again. Oddly enough, none of the cast and crew has given an on-air interview regarding the film and its origins. That’s about as mysterious as this movie gets.

Despite Asher at the helm, Night Warning plays like a smutty 1980s film with a message presumably progressive during the time. Little Billy is orphaned within the first three minutes, his parents killed in the most overly convoluted car accident known to man. Seriously, the brakes go out culminating in controlled erratic driving before they run into the back of a truck carrying pipes which impales their windshield. But that’s not all, the pipe keeps the car attached so the truck kindly backs up to the Mt. Kilimanjaro of cliffs. The car falls over the cliff and lands in a ravine. As if God hasn’t already said “F*ck you” to Billy’s parents, the car blows up. Suffice it to say, it’s a miracle Billy doesn’t grow up to be the killer from Silent Night, Deadly Night.

Flash forward fifteen years where Susan Tyrell’s Baby Jane-esque Aunt Cheryl starts nuzzling and purring at a shirtless Billy. If you have any squeamishness to incest, avoid this at all cost. The movie smartly moves away from overt displays of affection, but it’s still creepy. Susan Tyrell actually succeeds at turning your stomach without going overboard (at least until the climax requires her to jump ship). She has a loving relationship with Billy, but she knows that  Billy doesn’t reciprocate and thus keeps things in check. There’s a coyness to Aunt Cheryl; the audience could just as easily see an overprotective aunt trying to be cool as much as an incestuous crazy woman. Her character is the most tolerable of the group, and you’ll understand why as I go along.

Billy, played with the personality of a milk bottle by McNichol, has aspirations of playing basketball in college. Of course, we get a few scenes with nearly grown men – one of whom is Bill freaking Paxton! – in basketball shorts. Basketball shorts aren’t flattering on anybody, not even Bill Paxton! The problems start even before the murder, when Coach Landers (Steve Eastin) takes a shine to Billy. Where the movie does attempt some semblance of social commentary is with Landers’ character who is homosexual. When Aunt Cheryl commits the murder, she knowingly murders Landers’ lover. The movie eschews gay stereotypes of the period, including overly flamboyant or fey characters. Landers knows he’s gay, and understands that’ll be a problem if anyone finds out but goes on living his life becoming one of the third act’s heroes.

This leads us to the central mystery of the movie and the character who you hate so much there’s little reason to make him a main player. A similar problem you’ll find with The Last House on the Left is the inefficiency of the police. Where the cops of Last House were bumbling, the lead cop in Night Warning, Bo Svenson’s Detective Joe Carlson is a homophobe with the worst deductive reasoning known to man. His entire reason for suspecting Billy is because the murder victim was a homosexual and thus could NEVER rape a woman; it must have been a love triangle murder with Billy. Cue the most overabundant use of the word “fag” that I’ve heard and that continues till the movie’s end. You’re not supposed to like Carlson, and that’s the movie’s chief accomplishment. He’s a bad cop and a homophobe. The problem is, the plot needs him in order to keep Billy confined and at home. The script could have made Billy a suspect for a variety of reasons – he was holding the knife after all – but the movie is hellbent on promoting an agenda of tolerance that it ignores any type of narrative logic. I’m all for promoting tolerance, but Carlson is just a terrible detective on principle, intimidating witnesses and openly sexually harassing the female characters. He even doubts Aunt Cheryl’s was raped before the introduction of the gay subplot for reasons that extend to “He doesn’t like women.” I know the ’80s had lax rules on police brutality, but considering he explores no other angle and the rest of the force has problems with him, why keep him on the case if the plot didn’t require it?

Night Warning is a conventional horror movie and far from the worst I’ve seen. There’s a method to the film’s madness, particularly regarding the detective character, but the theme of tolerance seems like an afterthought, ironic considering it’s the driving force of the mystery. A kooky little 80s movie worth seeking out if you want to know what William Asher was directing during the decade.

— 21 hours ago
#Historcial Circuit  #historical halloween  #REVIEW  #video nasties 
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Film Review: Mommy (★★½)

BFI LONDON FILM FESTIVAL: People who know Xavier Dolan know what they’re walking into when they buy a ticket for Mommy. While he has a loyal fanbase that seems to grow more passionate about him by each film, some don’t like him at all. This is my first of his films and I can immediately see the case for both sides. However, as Mommy is being called his most mature work yet, I take pause to imagine how infantile his previous films are as this has its moments of worrisome juvenility, though the ‘mature’ moments have a gutsy weight. At only 25 years old and on his 5th film in as many years, there’s a cathartic energy to the way he approaches cinema that is quite refreshing to see. He throws everything at the wall and sees what sticks. Some of it does, but I regret to say, much of it doesn’t, and what falls off drags the film down.

Frequent headliner for Dolan’s previous films and having starred in 4 of the 5, Mommy stars Anne Dorval as the titular character Diane ‘Die’ Despres, in a whirlwind performance of tantalizing vigor and sensitivity. She’s a widowed single mother who takes her thuggish son Steve, played by Antoine-Olivier Pilon, back home after his time runs out at a delinquent center due to an incident where he caused another boy to be seriously burned. Arguments in their house always escalate to the point of violence, but they find solace in bonding with their stuttering but kind-hearted (with a lioness bouncing inside) neighbor Kyla, enticingly played by Suzanne Clement, who begins to tutor Steve so he can have the potential for a future.

Immediately you can feel Dolan’s hand ready to sculpt the film beyond reason. It begins as an unnecessary fantasy set next year with a fictional law to serve the plot. Perhaps it needs this disconnection from reality. It’s wired with high-strung melodrama that escalates outrageously. Granted, that is the point of the film, that a little spark can ignite a forest fire, but it crosses a line where it ceases to be involving or convincing, and nor is it darkly comical. At first it’s difficult to invest in the film, the characters are so unlikeable and unsympathetic, victims of their own tempers and ignorance. Dorval wins you over handedly, channeling Marisa Tomei better than Tomei herself. She’s grounded enough to make the drama work. However, Pilon overdoes the irritation to the point where you sincerely don’t wish him to succeed and that’s a major problem with the performance and the way Dolan treats him. It’s unbearably obnoxious.

But when it’s finally toned down in the tense calms before or after the storm, it’s really great. It’s thoroughly embroiling, enrapturing and heart-breaking drama, or a complete joy depending on the scene. That’s the flipside of a film that’s heightened to 11 on either end of the scale. It was constantly losing me and winning me back. Eventually, the losses were weaker and the wins were stronger. Sometimes the stylistic indulgences were enjoyable and added to the tone. Otherwise they disrupt the flow of the film entirely, with the use of slow motion, out of focus shots and unnecessary interludes of music videos. Those of which were poorly chosen iconic tracks that I can’t tell whether Dolan actually knows how done to death and unsalvageable the Dido and Oasis songs are for instance. He exercises zero restraint – but he does not care. There’s somewhat of a charm to his contrarianism.

What’s most fascinating about the film and what particularly sets it apart given the familiarity of this type of melodrama is the aspect ratio. It’s boxed in at an unusual 1:1, imprisoning the characters so they feel crushed by the weight of the stresses of their personalities and consequences of their actions. It occasionally breaks free of it when hope floods back into their lives. It’s an incredibly expressive way to use the space of a frame, much more emotional than the intellectual way Wes Anderson did it this year for The Grand Budapest Hotel. As such with a melodrama, the cinematography is vibrant with alluring colour, making good use of that voyeuristic box we watch the story from. Fortunately, when Mommy hits the sweet spot, it’s utterly overwhelming. Dorval is the only consistent aspect in an unashamedly bloated, indulgent and messy film. It could be too polarizing to be a serious contender for the Foreign Language Film Oscar, but a nomination remains to be seen.

— 1 day ago
#2014 Foreign Language Oscar Submissions  #Academy Awards  #Anne Dorval  #Best Foreign Language Film  #BFI  #Featured Post  #Festival  #film review  #London Film Festival  #Mommy  #Oscars  #Xavier Dolan