Plus: The annual Telluride guessing game
Now that the first wave of festival announcements has hit, let's take a look at things.
Toronto came out of the gate first with a typically stuffed program. The high marks that could easily figure into the awards race include Ben Affleck's "Argo," Roger Michell's "Hyde Park on Hudson," David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook," Joe Wright's "Anna Karenina," Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski & Lana Wachowski's "Cloud Atlas," Juan Antonio Bayona's "The Impossible" and Stephen Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower."
Meanwhile, films looking for distribution that could come out of the fest with a buyer, staring at the season, include Robert Redford's "The Company You Keep," Mike Newell's "Great Expectations," Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini's "Imogene," Derek Cianfrance's "The Place Beyond the Pines" and Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder."
The actor delivers one of his finest performances in Nicholas Jarecki's debut
- Critic's Rating B
- Readers' Rating B-
So how many times have we felt like we were on stable ground discussing Richard Gere's place in an awards season? A handful? He deserved some real consideration for "Days of Heaven" way back when, no doubt. He was surrounded by lauded performers in "An Officer and a Gentleman." Flirted with the Globes for "Pretty Woman" and "Chicago" (netting a SAG nod, too, for the latter).
The last time his name popped up was for Lasse Hallström's "The Hoax," in which he offered up typically solid work. "Solid" is really a pretty decent descriptor of Gere's contribution to the screen all these years, I'd say. And every once in a while, he turns out something a bit more special.
I think "Arbitrage" is one of those special moments for him. The film played Sundance back in January to generally positive response and Gere was spotlighted, of course. But the more I chew on it after a recent screening, the more I think it might be on the top tier of the actor's work to date.
As prestige adaptations crowd the fall slate, originals are harder to spot
It's hardly a new complaint that the humble original screenplay is practically an endangered species in the current cinematic landscape. Multiple column inches have been spent bemoaning the dominance of sequels, remakes, reboots, retreads and other means of narrative recycling in our multiplexes: of the top 10 grossers at the US box office this year, a mere two (Seth Macfarlane's "Ted" and Pixar's "Brave") are putatively original creations. Audiences like known quantities, studios like low-risk investments, original screenplays pile up on the back burner. And so on.
But while popular filmmaking routinely takes flak for its lack of initiative, the trend is no less prevalent in prestige cinema. This year alone sees a bevy of high-toned literary adaptations jostling for festival space and/or awards attention come wintertime, many of which have been filmed before. There at least 17 big-screen versions of "Anna Karenina" on record, but Joe Wright is bringing us another; Mike Newell is steering the eighth go-round of "Great Expectations" (not including last year's high-profile TV miniseries); Tom Hooper, the sixteenth of "Les Miserables" (though, to be fair, the first of the beloved stage musical); Baz Luhrmann, the fourth of "The Great Gatsby"; Peter Jackson, the second of "The Hobbit." The characters here may not wear Spandex, but they're as overworked as any Marvel superhero.
'Super 8' takes Best Director
The 38th annual Saturn Awards, recognizing achievement in genre filmmaking, were held this evening. "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, " "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" won across the organization's three Best Film categories. "Super 8" also picked up a pair of statues, including Best Director. Check out the full set of winners below and look back on all the action of the film awards season at The Circuit.
'The Master' may appear as a late addition
The Venice Film Festival unveiled its lineup this afternoon, and it looks much as we expected it would -- but lest we sound too blasé, who would ever have thought a few years ago that we'd see Terrence Malick debuting two new features in consecutive years? Wonders will never cease, if you'll forgive the lousy pun. "To the Wonder" is obviously the film that most Lido-bound journos are salivating over, but festival director Antonio Barbera revealed that he has one title left to announce -- and the smart money is on it being Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master."
Anderson's film, which hasn't -- yet -- turned up in the Toronto lineup, would represent a major coup for the Italian fest. Venice can't compete with Toronto for sheer star power, not least because it's a much smaller affair, but that selectiveness, plus its longstanding jury awards, comfortably give it the edge in prestige.
Jeff Nichols's latest was a hit at Cannes, so why has no one bought it?
"Mud," the third feature to date from "Take Shelter" director Jeff Nichols, has been on my mind a fair bit recently -- more than I'd customarily expect for a film I only kinda-sorta liked when I saw it two months ago. But I'm wearing my pundit's hat rather than my critic's one as I write this, and as the first rumblings of the fall festival season are heard in the near distance, one question about the film seems rather pertinent: put plainly, where the hell is it?
Of the 22 films that unspooled in Competition at Cannes back in May, 16 have already secured US distribution. The exceptions are, by and large, understandable ones: Carlos Reygadas's "Post Tenebras Lux" is proudly impenetrable esoterica, with or without a Best Director award, "After the Battle" is politically remote and critically drubbed, while "Paradise: Love" is an explicit arthouse provocation that broaches touchy themes of race and female sexuality. Alain Resnais's "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" may have more name appeal than any of these, but its concentric theatricality makes it a mighty hard sell to non-French audiences.
If nothing else, the film will join a healthy cinematography field this year
- Critic's Rating B+
- Readers' Rating B+
Back during CinemaCon I was a little harsh on gun-jumpers quick to shout "OSCAR!" in response to footage shown from Ang Lee's "Life of Pi." Then when I caught the out-of-context flying fish scene in front of "Prometheus," I was just left a bit cold, if curious.
Well, while I won't outright offer a mea culpa (tossing that word around after 10 minutes is just too steep), I will say I understand why that footage must have been so captivating. Because the just-released trailer is full of scope, wonder, imagination and sheer cinematic passion. It signals what will at the very least be a singular vision, and knowing that vision is coming from Ang Lee has me very, very excited.
Based on the fantasy novel by Yann Martel, the film tells the spiritual story of an Indian boy (Pi) who survives 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a boat in the Pacific with a Bengal tiger.
How the franchise nailed the mythos
"The Dark Knight Rises" is here and lists are wildly en vogue this week. Lots of picking it apart here, sticking up for it there, etc. It's turned out to be an unexpectedly divisive film, and after a second look yesterday, I certainly still have my issues. But I should be clear: I'm really appreciative of what Christopher Nolan has given us.
People will twist themselves into pretzels to discuss the zeitgeist elements of the new film and drawing over-inflated political parallels, etc., but I think most Batman fans -- even those like me who were disappointed by "The Dark Knight Rises" -- can agree on one thing. We're glad there is a series of films built around this character that we can be proud of.
So while we will surely be talking about the new film for a number of months to come -- perhaps into the awards season, perhaps not -- I personally feel like I've had my say. And I'd rather leave it on a positive note.
Finding the film's visual vocabulary with young Quvenzhané Wallis as his muse
LOS ANGELES - Cinematographer Ben Richardson was living in the Czech Republic in 2003 working on an animated film with a friend when he moved into a building full of interesting, creative filmmaker types, a salon of sorts for like-minded film enthusiasts. One of those enthusiasts was director Benh Zeitlin, who was hard at work on his own animated endeavor. They hit it off over their love of animator Jan Švankmajer and a collaboration was born.
"I’d always wanted to be a filmmaker," Richardson says, "but I had kind of concluded that I really wanted just to explore something unique. And animation is a great way to do something ambitious on an incredibly low budget. The only thing you really need is time and perseverance. You don't need a lot of materials or equipment, you know, lighting-wise. You just need a sensitivity to light."
Eventually his passion for animation bridged a gap to a passion for photography. He had played with dark rooms when he was younger and took classes in school, but he was mostly taken by theater at a younger age. Soon, though, he started to fall in love with the role of the camera in filmmaking and the way it related to the actors.
And a personal tip of the hat to one of the series's most accomplished elements
There is one element of "The Dark Knight Rises" that I think is more accomplished than anything else in the franchise, one thing I thought they got more right here than in either "Batman Begins" or "The Dark Knight." And that was Hans Zimmer's magnificent, epic score.
Zimmer was joined by James Newton Howard on the previous installments, Howard's propensity for percussive propulsion serving them well. While it's a shame he couldn't be on board for the denouement, I think it's also serendipitous, because the world of "The Dark Knight Rises" is a very different world than the other two films, a place less of decay and disaster than internal rot and melancholy.
So Zimmer's haunting melodies were a fantastic contribution to the world of Nolan's finale. There is plenty of thumping bombast when necessary, but for the most part, that has given way to measured elements, whether somber or just plain sinister.