The 'On the Road' star is finding her way
Not to be crass, but it struck me yesterday that a screening of "Anna Karenina" followed by moderating a Q&A with Kristen Stewart (along with Walter Salles and Garrett Hedlund for "On the Road") was an interesting juxtaposition. Young lady errs and gets maligned by society. Hmm. But stripping the tabloid away from a persona is always a good thing, and spending a few hours with Stewart, first on stage then later in the evening at an after-party, really endeared me to her, I must say.
People put their best face on in this game so you're always going to be charmed, seduced, wooed by the "please like me" thing of it all. But Stewart (who was nevertheless exposed to the film industry from a very early age) is a very normal girl in the throes of very abnormal circumstances. And her "best face" is difficult to manage. She squirms on stage in between the smoothly collected Hedlund and the cerebral Salles. She feels like she doesn't belong, but she desperately wants to. Indeed, she thinks she deserves to.
Winding down our Venice coverage with thoughts on the fest's top prizewinner
- Critic's Rating C
- Readers' Rating B+
(As promised, we still have a couple of straggler reviews left to wind down our Venice coverage, kicking off with the film that wound up taking the gold -- and which I caught up with on the festival's final evening.)
VENICE -- As a general rule of thumb, no film that opens on an image of a rusty meat hook is going to rival “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” in the innocuous-crowdpleaser stakes. Sweatily, almost loving lit in such a way that suggests the “Saw” franchise hasn't entirely missed batty Korean auteur Kim Kim-duk's cultural radar, that hook – which almost certainly has never been used for curing Christmas hams – promises a baseline of nastiness from which this elevated exploitation thriller never deviates, whether tilting into geometrically ironic black comedy or the florid maternal melodrama implied by the title. There's a lot going on in “Pietà,” but with most of it falling under the column of extreme suffering and humiliation in variously high keys, it won't feel that way to those with only one eye on the bubbling plot.
Counting down to the trailer launch with...a trailer
Oh me, oh my. Trailers for trailers. I guess they're here to stay.
Last week we gave you the heads up that the trailer for Steven Spielberg's hotly anticipated biopic "Lincoln" will drop on Thursday as part of a bizarre Google+ hangout thing. And it'll be screened in Times Square to boot. But to make sure everyone gets the picture, a preview of the preview has landed today, representing the first footage of the film to yet be revealed. The 44 seconds features what I imagine is a touch of John Williams's original score and is carried through by dialogue from Union soldier to Daniel Day-Lewis's 16th Commander-in-Chief.
The film will surely enter the season amid a lot of speculation and awards chatter. Much of that is thanks partly to numbskulls like me, who write things like, "[The project] is a marriage of artist and material that couldn't be packed with more potential, a portrait of another very divided time and the one man who could collect the strands and strengthen the ties that bind a nation," as I did in this season's introductory Oscar column two weeks ago.
Pauline Collins is the film's true awards hopeful
- Critic's Rating B-
- Readers' Rating F
TORONTO - It's always news when an acclaimed actor decides to direct their first feature, but it's hard to believe it took Dustin Hoffman 45 years to step behind the camera. The two-time Oscar winner has gone in an unexpectedly sweet direction for his first directing gig with the slight romantic comedy "Quartet” that debuted Sunday night at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.
Will Robert Zemeckis's latest bring him back to the dance?
Ever since I first heard word of Robert Zemeckis's "Flight" back in the early summer, and certainly since the trailer dropped some time later, it's been at the top of my list of anticipations for the year. It's exciting to me that a mid-budget, adult, character-driven drama from a major director with a movie star at its center has been made. They seem all too rare.
It was doubly exciting to see the New York Film Festival tap the film as its closing night gala, part of a defining 50th anniversary slate that really announces the fest as a significant stop for awards season contenders. I'm counting the days until that premiere and my fingers are crossed that all the positive word I've heard on the film bears out.
Meanwhile, though, there's a foundation being laid. We've had Denzel Washington tapped for potential Best Actor consideration every since we first launched the Contenders section for the 2012-2013 Oscar season, but you can finally see the gears turning on the upcoming campaign.
Studio sets the Ryan Gosling drama for 2013
Seeing the reactions to Derek Cianfrance's "The Place Beyond the Pines" land on Twitter yesterday, I still couldn't quite get a handle on what to expect when I finally see the film. I was a huge fan of the director's 2010 indie "Blue Valentine," and particularly Ryan Gosling's performance therein. Gosling was robbed of an Oscar nomination for one of the year's best performances, but at least co-star Michelle Williams was noticed.
But reactions to Cianfrance and Gosling's latest collaboration, which also stars Bradley Cooper and Eva Mendes, seemed a bit split. Some found it impeccable and another step up. Others, like HitFix's Greg Ellwood, found it to be lacking.
Calling the film "uneven" from the start, Greg wrote that "the script feels like a worked over mash-up of too many familiar ideas and movie cliches." I hope I beg to differ. But in the meantime, "Pines" has found a nice home for not-so-easily-defined indie dramas. Focus Features has announced its acquisition of the title, with plans for a 2013 release.
David O. Russell delivers an unexpectedly funny drama
- Critic's Rating B+
- Readers' Rating A+
TORONTO – To say the Toronto International Film Festival's 2012 slate has been dominated by literary adaptations is something of an understatement. On Saturday alone, “Cloud Atlas,” “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” and “Much Ado About Nothing” (granted, a stage adaptation) all had their world or North American premieres at the fest. Oh, and add one more prominent title to that list, David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook.”
Paul Thomas Anderson's film was reportedly jury's first choice for the top prize
VENICE -- Sorry for the delay there. The wi-fi in the press room went haywire, so I had to bolt the second the Golden Lion was announced and cycle furiously back to my apartment to get online again, like a lanyard-wearing Nancy Drew.
Clearly, however, technical difficulties weren't just limited to the press room, as all manner of crossed signals and mixed messages made for the most confusing festival awards ceremony I've ever seen -- and that was before word leaked of an abrupt switch, forced by festival brass, in the jury's choice for the top prize.
After jury president Michael Mann announced at the start of the ceremony that no film could be given more than one award, two films were given a pair of statues. Minutes later, two winners were handed the wrong trophies, and were called back onto stage to exchange awards. And finally, it has emerged that film the jury deemed overwhelmingly the best in show hasn't won the award for, well, best in show. Confused? So are we -- and you didn't have to watch this all play out in Italian.
Derek Cianfrance overreaches after 'Blue Valentine'
- Critic's Rating B-
- Readers' Rating n/a
TORONTO – In 2010, Derek Cianfrance seduced the independent film community with his stellar debut, “Blue Valentine.” The heartbreaking drama contrasted the beginning and end of a young couple’s marriage through Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams’ stellar performances. It became a staple on year-end critic's top 10 lists and landed Williams her second Oscar nomination. One of the reasons the picture resonated with so many moviegoers and critics was Cianfrance’s remarkable skill at creating honest and intimate moments with his actors. Unfortunately, It’s with sincere regret that I report Cianfrance’s latest endeavor, “The Place Beyond the Pines,” doesn’t measure up to the cinematic standards he set for himself just two years ago.
Critics are crazy for 'The Master,' but will the jury throw a curveball?
VENICE -- It's the final day of the Venice Film Festival, and everything has wound down to a suitably Italian pace. The journalists have largely headed home or on to Toronto -- including my flatmates, leaving me rattling around a three-bedroom apartment, idly contemplating potential house-party guests.
The jury's deliberations have been done. The closing film (the Depardieu-starring Victor Hugo adaptation "The Man Who Laughed") has been screened, and is reported to be, as is the usual wont of festival closers, rather dreadful. Warned off by colleagues at dinner last night, I opted for a lie-in this morning instead. As such, my festival viewing is complete, but my reviewing isn't: look out for a couple more short-form review pieces in the next few days.
In other words, it's a low-key end to a festival that has been decidedly low-key from the start. That's not to say it's been a bad one: there's much to admire in this year's slimmed-down programme, particularly outside of a Competition lineup that most agree has been a shade less inspired than those of the last two years. Still, the Competition is where everyone's eyes ultimately land, as the inevitable question arose at the dinner table last night: "What's looking good for the Golden Lion?"