Inside Movies and Pop Culture with Gregory Ellwood

Has Lars von Trier sabotaged any life for 'Melancholia'?

Dunst's award season chances may be over before they started

<p>Alexander Skarsgard and Kirsten Dunst in Lars von Trier's &quot;Melancholia.&quot;</p>

Alexander Skarsgard and Kirsten Dunst in Lars von Trier's "Melancholia."

 

It can't get much worse for Lars von Trier, but somebody might need to let the mercurial director know the time for games are over.  The film world is still rocking after the filmmaker's statements yesterday at this year's Cannes Film Festival where he began a long diatribe that found him sympathizing with Hitler.  Today, the Cannes Film Festival effectively banned him from appearing 100 feet from the Festival's red carpet or Festival Palais because of his inappropriate remarks. 

Exclusive: Kristin Scott Thomas searches for 'Sarah's Key' in U.S. poster

What does it open?

<p>Kristin Scott Thomas in the U.S. poster for &quot;Sarah's Key.&quot;</p>

Kristin Scott Thomas in the U.S. poster for "Sarah's Key."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Finally hitting U.S. theaters after a worldwide tour, "Sarah's Key" is one of those rare international crowd pleasers (at least according to the critics and a high 7.4/10 recommend on IMDB) that could make some noise this summer on the art house circuit.

Debuting at last year's Toronto Film Festival and based on the novel by Tatiana De Rosnay, the dramatic thriller finds Kristin Scott Thomas as Julia, a journalist who begins to investigating a series of events that occurred in her French home during WW II.  Her research brings forth a painful secret to a family trying to put the war behind them.  

Review: 'Tree of Life" has a grand canvas that ultimately can't connect

Brad Pitt is solid as Jessica Chastain hints at more

<p>Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain in Terrence Malick's &quot;The Tree of Life.&quot;</p>

Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain in Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life."

Credit: Fox Searchlight

Terrence Malick is one of a kind.  Others have tried to imitate his signature naturalistic style, but when the veteran filmmaker is at his best there are few artists who can bring cinema to such grand heights.  The only thing that has been missing from Malick's resume is, well, a substantial one.  With only five films to his credit over the past 37 years it's often easy to contemplate what we've missed during his long breaks from the director's chair.  His first three films, "Badlands," "Days of Heaven" and "The Thin Red Line" are unquestionably classics.  Unfortunately, his last big screen endeavor, "The New World," was something of a mess.   A visually stunning one, but a narrative and disappointing mess.  After some delay, Malick is back with the incredibly ambitious "Tree of Life" which screened for critics at the Cannes Film Festival and in New York and Los Angeles on Monday.

Angelina Jolie's 'In The Land of Blood and Honey' playing awards season game

Bosnian War drama will be released on Dec. 23

<p>Angelina Jolie waves at a press opp for &quot;Kung Fu Panda 2&quot;&nbsp;last week at Cannes.</p>

Angelina Jolie waves at a press opp for "Kung Fu Panda 2" last week at Cannes.

Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan

Producer GK Films and new distributor FilmDistrict have just made Angelina Jolie's directorial debut prime awards season fodder and an even bigger must-see for those in the industry.  The two entities announced in Cannes Sunday that "In The Land of Blood and Honey" would hit American theaters on Dec. 23, a signature awards contending date.

Watch: Brad Pitt tries to make his sons into men in new 'Tree of Life' clips

Terrence Malick's long awaited drama screens for critics Monday

<p>Brad Pitt in a scene from Terrence Malick's &quot;Tree of LIfe.&quot;</p>

Brad Pitt in a scene from Terrence Malick's "Tree of LIfe."

Credit: Fox Searchlight

The long wait to see Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" is finally coming to an end.

The acclaimed auteur's first film since 2005's disappointing "The New World," "The Tree of Life" has teased cinefiles for the past 18 months over when it would finally hit the screen.  Malick has edited it for some time, but also got caught in the dissolution of his producer's distribution company Apparition which delayed its release.  Fox Searchlight came on eventually and now the film will debut at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival on Monday before opening in limited release May 27.

Exclusive: Sally Hawkins gives thumbs up in hilarious new 'Submarine' clip

One comedy you can't miss this summer

<p>Craig Roberts in a scene from &quot;Submarine&quot;&nbsp;with Sally Hawkins</p>

Craig Roberts in a scene from "Submarine" with Sally Hawkins

Credit: The Weinstein Company

 

The summer blockbuster season is looking increasingly sketchy, but there are some great indie films hitting theaters over the next few months that you can't miss.  From "Project Nim" to "Beginners" to "Another Earth" to "Tree of Life" to "Attack the Block" (we assume) there are a lot of great films on the horizon.  One that demands to be seen is a fantastic comedy from across the Atlantic, "Submarine."

I first praised Richard Ayoade's directorial debut during last year's Toronto Film Festival praying a U.S. distributor would pick up the coming of age comedy with a dark side. 
The Weinstein Company complied and are giving the flick a prominent roll out next month.  And if you've had your share of superheros and Hollywood comedies it's a legitimate "must see."

Based on a novel by Joe Dunthorne, "Submarine" centers on Oliver Tate (an impressive Craig Roberts), a teenage boy in Wales who falls for an emotionally detached girl, Jordana (Yasmin Page), all while trying to stop his mother (Sally Hawkins in picture stealing mode) from having an affair with her old high school boyfriend (a bizarre Paddy Considine).   The entire cast is spectacular, but Roberts, Hawkins and Taylor (the latter two playing completely against type) stand out.

In this exclusive clip provided to HitFix, Hawkins confronts her son after he got into a fight "defending the honor of his girlfriend."  To say she's surprised is an understatement.  To say any more would spoil, the subtle turns by both the former Oscar nominee and Roberts in the scene.

You can watch the entire clip embedded in this post.  


To watch the film's U.S. trailer click here.

"Submarine" opens in limited release on June 3.  Mark your calendars.

Meryl Streep's 'Iron Lady' becomes a prime Oscar 2012 contender

Can the living legend finally win her third best actress statue?

<p>Meryl Streep is &quot;The Iron Lady.&quot;&nbsp; Watch out potential best actress contenders because this lady carries one big stick.</p>

Meryl Streep is "The Iron Lady."  Watch out potential best actress contenders because this lady carries one big stick.

Credit: The Weinstein Company

If there was ever a movie in production that screamed Oscar bait over the past year or so it's Phyllida Lloyd's "The Iron Lady."  The true story of Margaret Thatcher's early years as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the drama features legendary actress Meryl Streep as Thatcher and Academy Award winner and prestige picture vet Jim Broadbent as her husband in the title roles.

Independently financed and produced by Pathe UK, "Iron Lady" kept its goods close to the vest before showing five minutes of the picture at the Cannes Film Market yesterday to entice U.S. bidders.  Summit, Fox Searchlight and The Weinstein Company reportedly had the most interest, but Weinstein teamed up with billionaire Ron Burkle to seal the deal for approximately $7 million.  The two parties previously partnered on acquiring "The Details" with Tobey Maguire and "Our Idiot Brother" during the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.

In a statement released by The Weinstein Company, Harvey Weinstein remarked “Having worked with both Meryl Streep and Jim Broadbent, I know that they are without peer as film actors.  Even so, I was absolutely blown away by what I saw of their performances as Margaret and Denis Thatcher. Phyllida is doing an incredible job.”

Ivernel and Cameron McCracken, MD Pathé UK, who produced the picture, added, “We are excited to be in business again with Harvey and his team - 'The Iron Lady' has found a worthy home in TWC and a great champion for the US market.”

Expect "The Iron Lady" to hit the top of prospective best picture and best actress lists once awards season ramps up in August (And yes, it's only two months away).  To say it would be shocking if Streep isn't nominated is an understatement and the picture, based on its pedigree, is a clear player for a best picture nomination.  On the other hand, I wouldn't lay any money down in Vegas that "Lady" will actually win best picture.  That's a bigger reach.  For The Weinstein Company, "Lady" will be able to run the awards season game to positive theatrical returns based on Streep's presence and the subject matter alone.  Looking at Streep's box office history, "Doubt's" $33 million U.S. gross would have to be a minimum benchmark with the similarly themed "The Queen's" $56 million take a good bet. 

Back to Streep's quest for a third Oscar win, if she delivers another impressive turn in "Lady" 2012 will again find her facing a slew of young and impressive ingenues.  Elizabeth Olsen in " Martha Marcy May Marlene" and "Like Crazy's" Felicity Jones are just two of the youngsters out there in contention (and if the buzz is to believed, Tilda Swinton might find another nomination for the Cannes drama "We Need To Talk About Kevin").  Few studios have been willing to play the "it's time" card for Streep to not leave the Kodak Theater a loser once more.  As Streep finally admitted in 2009, attending the show 12 times since 1983 and losing each time has started to wear a bit on her.  She might already be a two-time winner, but in the history of the Academy Awards no actor or actress has ever been teased so cruelty  by his or her peers (intended or not).

Will 2012 break the streak? We'll find out sooner than you think.  "The Iron Lady" should hit theaters sometime this December.

For everyday entertainment commentary and more follow Gregory Ellwood on twitter @HitFixGregory.

Will Ferrell talks 'Everything Must Go' and Steve Carell's 'Office' goodbye

An indepth conversation on a rare dramatic role

<p>Will Ferrell talks about his new drama &quot;Everything Must Go&quot; and watching Steve Carell say goodbye on &quot;The Office.&quot;</p>

Will Ferrell talks about his new drama "Everything Must Go" and watching Steve Carell say goodbye on "The Office."

Most of his fans wouldn't realize it, but Will Ferrell is an actor who takes chances.  The "SNL" vet has cultivated a strong career in solid studio comedies such as "The Other Guys," "Step Brothers," "Blades of Glory" and "Old School," but he hasn't been afraid to put himself on the line in unconventional roles.  Ferrell has appeared in dramatic films such as the underrated "Stranger Than Fiction," Woody Allen's "Melinda and Melinda," the indie "Winter's Passing" and he's even sung and dance in the movie musical version of "The Producers."  The 44-year-old even won over theater critics who questioned the timing of "You're Welcome America" on Broadway and put his face on a fledgling web investment you may have heard of called Funny or Die.  This week, Ferrell's latest dramatic departure opens in limited release with Dan Rush's "Everything Must Go."

George Clooney and Alexander Payne tease 'The Descendants'

Who is he?

<p>George Clooney in a short clip on the teaser site for Alexander Payne's &quot;The Descendants&quot;</p>

George Clooney in a short clip on the teaser site for Alexander Payne's "The Descendants"

It's extremely rare for anyone to get too excited about a movie teaser site these days, but when it features the first look at the long awaited return of a critically acclaimed filmmaker people take notice.

This morning Fox Searchlight launched a site for Alexander Payne's "The Descendants" which features a short clip of star George Clooney running around a Hawaii neighborhood only to stop and ask two other actors "Who is he?"  You can watch the clip at the appropriately titled who-ishe.org site here.

Oscar Watch: Paul Thomas Anderson and Weinstein Company take on Scientology?

Plus: Steve Carell and Keira Knightley's latest finds Focus

<p>Philip Seymour Hoffman is confirmed for Paul Thomas Anderson's new untitled drama.</p>

Philip Seymour Hoffman is confirmed for Paul Thomas Anderson's new untitled drama.

Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles

Paul Thomas Anderson latest project may be his most political and The Weinstein Company has come aboard full steam to support the Oscar-nominated filmmaker.  Anderson's sixth film, once titled "The Master," but now officially called "The Untitled Paul Thomas Anderson Project," will be distributed by Weinstein worldwide sometime in 2013.  

As first reported by Deadline, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix are locked for the picture's leads and a search is on for actresses to portray the film's female roles.  The big question  is how close the film's final screenplay will be to the origins of Scientology.  All that is currently known is that it centers on Hoffman's character returning from the horrors of WW II and struggling to find himself.  In the process, he creates a "belief system" that quickly finds other followers.  Anderson's long in the works script has been rumored as a critical take of the controversial religion, but it's unclear if he's broadened the spotlight to organized religion in general or limiting his focus to L. Ron Hubbard's creation.

More importantly, the new film is Anderson's first film since the critically acclaimed "There Will Be Blood" in 2007.  Despite his stellar reputation with film critics and cinefiles, Anderson has never won an Academy Award (although he has five nominations to his credit).  It may surprise many to realize his biggest honor to date was winning best director for "Punch-Drunk Love" at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.  Teaming Anderson with Harvey Weinstein, who is coming off a major Oscar comeback with "The King's Speech," should be a powerful pairing for the 2012-2013 awards season.  Assuming the film's any good of course…

In other year-round Oscar bait news…

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