How I voted in Sight & Sound's decennial critics' poll
For a week now, Sight & Sound's decennial critics' poll of the Greatest Films Of All Time, the results of which are awaited by cinephiles with all the eagerness of over-sugared rugrats on Christmas morning, has provided ample discussion fodder for the film-focused blogosphere.
The Top 100's seemingly inexhaustible avenues for statistical breakdowns (How many Asian films? How many post-1968 films? Which directors received the most votes collectively? Which films fell the farthest from their 2002 placing?) are still being explored, the number-crunchers matched in enthusiasm -- or lack thereof -- only by the sniping commentators inevitably displeased with the results. Why is the list so old? Why is it so stodgy? Why is it so white? Why is it so male? Why are my own subjective favorites not accounted for? Many talk of the list as if it's compiled by some unified committee with a patent agenda against cinema from many of our lifetimes, an aggressive boner for silent cinema and a vindictive urge to take Orson Welles down a peg or two.
He wasn't finished acting after all...
So it turns out Clint Eastwood was just kidding when he indicated that "Gran Torino" would be his final on-screen work. A solid Best Actor push from Warner Bros. that year didn't yield pay dirt, but it got the conversation chugging that the studio is sure to use again this year: He may have four Oscars, but he's never won for acting.
With that in mind, "Trouble with the Curve," from director Robert Lorenz (a homegrown Eastwood guy who's worked with the icon for years), could be a means to that end. The new trailer -- serendipitously launched on the 20th anniversary of "Unforgiven" -- plays it light but "meaningful" with its tease of an aging baseball scout (Eastwood) and his relationship with his daughter (Amy Adams) on a road trip.
Will this be the one? We'll have to see. The film isn't set for the fall festival circuit, though as I recently indicated, it could turn up at Telluride with a tribute for the actor to kick-start the campaign. It's set for a September 21 release, just three weeks after the Venice/Telluride/Toronto corridor closes and just before NYFF (which, on its 50th anniversary, is looking at a thin field to choose from for openers and centerpiece screenings).
'The Way We Were' and 'The Sting' among his most memorable credits
With the Academy recently seeming to do everything within its powers to extinguish the Best Original Song award, the passing of Marvin Hamlisch strikes an especially poignant note. The New York-born composer -- who died yesterday, following a brief illness, at the age of 68 -- was the kind of talent that category was created to recognize, capable of condensing a film's entire thematic and atmospheric undercurrent into a single, inescapable three-minute theme.
It's an art that might seem antiquated and even a little banal to contemporary audiences, as high-end film scoring grows ever less romantic and more esoteric, with pre-existing songs woven organically into scenes, if at all -- the legacy of such modernist filmmakers as Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino. But the songs themselves haven't faded: everyone can hum at least a few bars of Hamlisch's title tune for "The Way We Were," even if they haven't seen the film. Ditto "Nobody Does It Better," one of the most epic and steel-plated of all James Bond themes, even if "The Spy Who Loved Me" isn't among the franchise's most-treasured entries. In Hamlisch's prime, great movie songs could still separate from, and often exceed, their source.
Will 'Django Unchained' find Oscar love as the genre forges ahead?
The film hit theaters on August 7, 1992 and was the last western to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Though to be clear, it's not like it was one in a long line. Only three from the genre have ever taken the prize, with a six-decade drought between 1931's "Cimarron" and 1990's "Dances with Wolves."
Somehow the western didn't spark for the Academy during its heyday. Films generally agreed upon as American classics today like "The Searchers," "Red River," and "The Magnificent Seven" couldn't even manage nominations, to say nothing of Italian triumphs like "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" and "Once Upon a Time in the West."
Baz Luhrmann's lavish 3D pic is out of the 2012 Oscar frame
Well, that's disheartening. Every Oscar season has its share of prestige dropouts, and this year's first is a big one: Baz Luhrmann's 3D adaptation of "The Great Gatsby," initially scheduled by Warner Bros. for a Christmas Day release, will now not reach theaters until next summer. (It's the second high-profile title Warners have bumped to 2013, after the all-star "Gangster Squad" was relegated to the January doldrums.)
No precise reason has been given for the shift, with Warner distribution president Dan Fellman simply saying that they want "to ensure this unique film reaches the widest audience possible." You can read that as you will. Perhaps they believe the film has genuinely strong commercial prospects and deserves art-blockbuster positioning. Perhaps, regardless of the film's quality, they're anticipating critical slingshots -- some are inevitable, I'd say, given the scale and eccentricity of the project -- and don't want to subject it to the pressure of a prime awards-bait slot. Perhaps reshoots are on the cards and they simply need more time.
The film pops up as a 'secret screening' following DCP exhibition of 'The Shining'
Anyone who happened to be on hand at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica this evening for the American Cinematheque unveiling of a new DCP of Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining" was treated to quite the exciting surprise: the first public screening of Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master."
A source at the event tells me that, prior to the screening, personnel announced that there would be a "secret screening" following the event and that anyone who'd like to stay was more than welcome. When the lights came up after the closing credits of Kubrick's icy horror staple, attendees were told the secret film was Anderson's much anticipated opus (which will screen at the Toronto, Venice and maybe Telluride and Fantastic Fest film festivals next month).
The film is being shown in 70mm, the director's preferred format of exhibition for "The Master" and one that has reportedly caused issues in lining up both commercial and festival exhibition. Anderson is in attendance (along with Maya Rudolph).
Honor coincides with premiere of his new Michael Jackson doc
You have to like any award that links Abbas Kiarostami to Sylvester Stallone, Agnes Varda to Al Pacino and, now, Spike Lee -- even if it's one of those career achievement prizes determined more by who's going to be in town than anything else. Lee, it was announced today, will be the latest recipient of the splendidly named Jaeger-Le Coultre Glory to the Filmmaker Award (named for a film by its inaugural recipient, Takeshi Kitano) at the Venice Film Festival later this month.
It's slightly bittersweet seeing Lee ascend to the realm of golden-watch awards. It doesn't seem that long ago that he was the abrasive upstart instead, but then, it has been all too long since he last made a feature film that shook anything up. (His latest, "Red Hook Summer," received mixed reviews at Sundance in January and opens in limited release next week.) He's arguably made more of an impression in the later career as a documentarian, and the Venice award presentation will immediately precede the world premiere of his Michael Jackson documentary, "Bad 25," at the festival.
He may be a popular pick at home, but what about the rest of us?
"So, what do you think of Jimmy Fallon hosting the Oscars?" a colleague asked me yesterday, when the news dropped that the Academy is wooing the talk-show host to take on the task of emceeing next year's Academy Awards ceremony, kicking off a discussion we wouldn't normally be having for a few months -- and sparking a potential political conflict between two TV networks in the process.
"Who's Jimmy Fallon?" I replied, before I could stop myself.
I was only half-joking. I know Fallon by name, and vaguely by indistinct face -- though I could well be thinking of Jimmy Kimmel instead. (If you put a gun to my head right now and asked me whether Fallon or Kimmel was the target of Sarah Silverman's famous "I'm Fucking Matt Damon" skit, I'd probably end up dead.) The online seepage of American pop culture has got me that far. But ask me what he actually does, what he sounds like, what his comic persona is, and I'll draw a blank. I've never seen him at work.
For the first time in 50 years, the once-and-decade list has a new champion
Well, it had a good run. For half a century, Orson Welles's "Citizen Kane" reigned supreme as the default candidate for the Greatest Film of All Time. That, in part, was thanks to its routine dominance of august British film magazine Sight & Sound's once-a-decade critics' poll -- the largest and most historically embedded survey of such matters, initiated in 1952 and topped by "Kane" for five decades running from 1962 to 2002. (Interestingly, though 11 years old at the time, it didn't even feature in the inaugural Top 10.)
No more. To everything there is a season -- just a very long one, sometimes -- and Welles's groundbreaking 1941 dissection of a Hearst-like media tycoon has finally been supplanted by a younger (well, slightly), more colorful pretender in the form of Alfred Hitchcock's dreamy 1958 thriller "Vertigo." "Kane" actually endured a double defeat, also losing the top spot in Sight & Sound's parallel directors' poll, -- this time to Yasujiro Ozu's minimal old-age study "Tokyo Story," which also rose to third place in the critics' list.
The results of Sight & Sound's 2012 vote, and further commentary, after the jump.
Producers Branch governor was a favorite going into tonight's vote
The press release, in full:
Beverly Hills, CA (July 31, 2012) – Producer Hawk Koch was elected president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tonight (July 31) by the organization's Board of Governors. This will be his first term in the office.
Koch, who is beginning his ninth year as a governor representing the Producers Branch, has served as first vice president of the Academy during the past year. He previously served three one-year terms as treasurer and one term as vice president.
In addition, Public Relations Branch governor Cheryl Boone Isaacs was elected first vice president; Producers Branch governor Kathleen Kennedy was elected to one vice president post and Writers Branch governor Phil Robinson was re-elected to the other vice president post; Public Relations Branch governor Rob Friedman was elected treasurer; and Executives Branch governor Robert Rehme was elected secretary.