Inside Movies and Pop Culture with Gregory Ellwood
The Vanguard selection has a Charles Manson connection
The Toronto International Film Festival is right around the corner and HitFix is happy to announce that coverage will be provided by both myself and Drew McWeeny as we report on the films, interview the filmmakers and stars and, god willing, hit some parties.
Canadian films are always hit or miss at the Festival, but this writer has always done his best to make sure he catches a few because you never know when you'll see the next "Away from Her" or "Last Night" (one to Netflix if you've never seen it). One intriguing Canadian flick this year is the murder drama "Leslie, My Name is Evil" in the festival's Vanguard selection.
'Juno' director Jason Reitman's follow up ramps up for Toronto
One of the more intriguing last minute additions to the awards season calendar is Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air."
A dramedy based on a novel by Walter Kirn, "Air" centers on Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), a traveling corporate downsizing expert whose dream of reaching 10 million frequent flyer miles is threatened when a new woman (Vera Farminga) enters his life.
It was unclear whether the film would even release in 2009, but Reitman has worked quickly enough to ensure that and a debut at this year's Toronto Film Festival (although Telluride wouldn't be out of the question too). Reitman's family has a long history with the festival and its given a great kick off to his last two features, "Thank You For Smoking" and the Oscar-nominated "Juno."
Believe the 'Basterds' hype for Christoph Waltz
Finally had a chance to see Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" tonight and it lived up to the growing hype its received since screening here in the states over the past few weeks. Word wasn't so positive after the film premiered at Cannes, but there has been quite a turnabout since.
Clearly Tarantino's best work since the first half of "Kill Bill" (unless you insist on judging that epic whole), "Basterds" may wear out its welcome a bit, but it features some truly great performances.
First off, how nice is it to see Diane Kruger actually enjoying herself on screen instead of her painful work in the "National Treasure" franchise and "Troy"? Her portrayal of fictional German screen star Bridget von Hammersmark is almost a revelation if you didn't realize her European resume has been turning heads for the past decade. Let's hope this puts her back on the radar of A-list directors in the states.
Another international actor who should get some more U.S. attention after "Basterds" is Daniel Bruhl. Moviegoers may recognize him from his small role in "The Bourne Ultimatum," but it's his charming turn as Fredrick Zoller, a Nazi war hero who tries to seduce Soshanna Dreyfus (a fine Melanie Laurent) that should boost his profile in the English-making movie world. Bruhl is certainly no stranger to the industry after his breakthrough role in 2003's "Good Bye Lenin!" but "Basterds" shows he may be ready to make a bigger step outside of continental Europe.
Tom Hanks becomes Vice President, Pixar's John Lasseter gets busier
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced tonight that its Board of Governors has elected Tom Sherak the new president of the organization. He succeeds Sid Ganis who served out the maximum four one-year alloted terms.
Additionally, Tom Hanks (yes that Tom Hanks) was elected "first" vice president and longtime Hollywood producer Kathleen Kennedy and Phil Robinson were elected to the other vice president slots. Hawk Koch was elected treasurer and Pixar and Disney Animations studios head John Lasseter was made secretary (good lord, where does the man find the time?).
Oscar Contender: Can Swank fly away with a third statue?
For Hilary Swank, "Amelia" is a labor of love.
The two-time Oscar winning actress executive produced the biopic of legendary aviator Amelia Earhart and stuck by the production through fits and starts over the years. In fact, Fox Searchlight didn't come on board until a few weeks into filming. But it's not hard to see why.
"Amelia" was directed by Mira Nair who had a sleeper hit with Searchlight's "The Namesake" and has a long resume of excellence with "Monsoon Wedding" and the HBO TV movie "Hysterical Blindness" to her credit. She's recruited a crew with many accolades of their own including composer Gabriel Yared ("The English Patient")and cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh ("The Piano"). The screenplay is by Oscar winner Ronald Bass ("Rain Man") and Anna Hamilton Phelan ("Girl, Interrupted") bringing more prestige to the production. In front of the camera, Richard Gere and Ewan McGregor climbed on board as George P. Putnam and Gene Vidal respectively, the two men in Earhart's life. Both actors are no strangers to awards season having starred in such favorites as "Chicago" and "Moulin Rouge." But, the focus of "Amelia" is clearly Hilary Swank.
Is it just a great thriller or something more?
As a rule, I don't read scripts. So much happens between the page and the screen that you can be terribly misguided by a screenplay alone. Unfortunately, a few years ago my curiosity got the better of me and I took the time to read Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson's adaptation of Alice Sebold's novel "The Lovely Bones."
Having never read the original source material my interest was tapped by the logline in numerous reports about the project, anecdotes about how good the book was and, lastly, curiosity on where Jackson would go after the -- at this point -- underrated "King Kong." What I found was a powerful and imaginative work that was filled with rich characters and an emotional ending that, in all honestly, truly moved me. So, I put the script down and marked this film as one to watch. And in the meantime, what an interesting life "The Lovely Bones" has had.
Is it more than this year's resident British period piece?
It's hard to imagine but it's been 16 years since Jane Campion delivered her masterpiece, "The Piano," to the movie world. Nominated for eight Oscars it won three including a screenwriting statue for Campion, best actress recognition for Holly Hunter and 10-year-old Anna Paquin's shocking win for best supporting actress (a recognition she's more than deserved as any fan of "True Blood" will tell you).
In the intervening years though, Campion seemed to lose her way. "The Portrait of a Lady" was received coldly, "Holy Smoke" was seen as something of a lark and "In the Cut"? Well, that disaster is better left unspoken. However, it has been six years since her last narrative film and many thought Campion's better days were behind her. After "Bright Star" debuted at the Cannes Film Festival this past May, that hardly seems the case.
Plus: Watch four new clips from the cooking meets blogging comedy
You gotta feel for Meryl Streep.
Her recent box office successes and two Academy Awards for "Kramer vs. Kramer" and "Sophie's Choice" aside, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has put America's greatest living actress through the ringer. So much so that it's probably more than you or I could take.
It's been over 16 years since Streep won the Best Actress trophy for "Sophie's" and in the intervening time span she's been nominated another 11 times (15 total for those counting at home) and the New York City resident has continued to trek to Los Angeles only to lose again and again. At first, at least through the mid-90s, it didn't seem like that big a deal because Streep was one of the rare actresses to have already won twice. Then, by the turn of the century, she'd been nominated for a few roles mostly by reputation only although you could argue she was robbed in 1996 for her performance in "The Bridges of Madison County" coming in second to the equally worthy Susan Sarandon in "Dead Man Walking." Streep's best chance at winning a third may have been in 2003 when her supporting role in Spike Jonze' "Adaptation" lost out to Catherine Zeta-Jones who charmed her way to Oscar glory in "Chicago." These days, especially after her nod for "The Devil Wears Prada," any Streep performance is pretty much considered a contender. So that's why the scuttlebutt will soon begin on Streep's turn as Julia Child in the new romantic comedy "Julie & Julia."
Watch the trailer and check out the poster from Jim Sheridan's new drama
A November release date, three critically acclaimed young actors, potent dramatic material and a filmmaker who is no stranger to Oscar? That my friends is a seductive formula for an awards season player on paper if there ever was one. But is that really the case with "Brothers"?
An adaption of Susanne Bier's provocative Danish film of the same title (translated of course), this new "Brothers" was written by screenwriter David Benioff whose career has been all over the place with flicks such as the disappointing "The Kite Runner" and this summer's dreadful "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." He's a writer who hasn't returned to the heights of his debut novel and screenplay "25th Hour."
Josh Brolin, Diane Lane and Chaz Bono watch 'La Mission'
These tough economic times aren't easy for many film festivals to wade through. Even established regulars such as Outfest, the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival which is celebrating it's 27th year. Ironically, however, the sad state of independent film distribution has given the festival one of its best slates in years.
Off the record, even Outfest regulars will tell you the opening night film is usually a turd and really just an excuse to show something after the organization's lifetime achievement award is given out and everyone heads to the booze-filled after party. This year, saw the Sundance Film Festival selection "La Mission" screen and it is certainly one of the better openers of the last decade.