Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" hits theaters this weekend as part of an overall theme this Oscar season, or a theme the media has made sure is pronounced, in any case. But while films like "Fruitvale Station," "Lee Daniels' The Butler" and, indeed, "12 Years a Slave" do plenty to stoke a conversation about race in America, McQueen feels there's something much bigger at stake, at least with his film.
Any longtime reader of this blog ought to know full well my affinity for Andrew Dominik's "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." The film instantly won me over the moment I saw it on the heels of its Venice Film Festival world premiere and Toronto Film Festival North American premiere in 2007, and it definitively held the top spot on my list of the decade's best films. (It also, by the way, took the top spot on another list: the inaugural Top 10 Shots of the Year column). It is a masterpiece, and any chance to soak it up on the big screen should be welcomed.
Well, one such chance has arisen, and full disclosure up front, I had a small hand in putting this program together. The Museum of the Moving Image in New York is presenting, along with upstart programmer, museum member (and In Contention reader) Jamieson McGonigle, a screening of the film in December. "No Eulogies: A Revival of 'The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford'" will take place at the Sumner M. Redstone Theater on Saturday, Dec. 7. Dominik will be on hand to participate in a Q&A after the screening, and who knows what the candid artist will have to say with six years removed from what was a troubling post-production process and a release that, quite frankly, could have been more delicately handled by the studio?
Scarlett Johansson says she feels "disconnected" from the awards talk for "Her," which started at last week's NYFF premiere and seems to be gaining in volume. That's appropriate enough, given that she's a disembodied presence in the film -- with critics heaping praise upon her vocal performance as a seductive operating system, a conversation is starting over whether she can be the first actor to get nominated without appearing on screen. Johansson, however, is bemused by it all: "I feel very disconnected from the awards process. I don’t even know how it works. And I’m an Academy member! It seems like a political thing. It just seems like such an abstract thing. Probably as abstract as trying to fit my performance into any particular category ... If people want to translate it into an awards conversation, it’s fine. More exciting for me is that the performance works, because it was such a big challenge.” [LA Times]
LONDON - It’s not hard to see why Anthony Chen won the Camera d’Or for best debut feature at Cannes this year, beating such higher-profile candidates as “Fruitvale Station.” Assured, humane delicacy is always an attractive quality to festival juries wary of more swaggering talent, and it’s one his warmly melancholy domestic drama “Ilo Ilo” (unsurprisingly selected as Singapore's entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar) has in spades. Light on story and heavy on curdled sentiment, this study of a communication-challenged middle-class Singaporean family weathering the country’s 1997 financial crisis – and numerous finer household fractures besides – has immodest formal reach behind its softly-softly approach.
It may turn out to be the most competitive Best Picture race in years, but the showdown between co-frontrunners "Gravity" and "12 Years a Slave" to win it all may soon turn into a three-way race. Walt Disney Studios' "Saving Mr. Banks" will debut at the London Film Festival on Sunday as the Brits will be the first to chime in on the long-buzzed awards player. And, at this point, "Banks" may be the only remaining unseen contender who can make a real mark on the long marathon for the top prize.
Tech Support: A tight race beyond 'Gravity' for Best Visual Effects features hobbits, Jaegers and men of steel
Best Visual Effects has long been one of the most "mainstream" of the Oscar categories. It’s always filled with blockbusters and films which have made lots of money. This year, though, beyond the race for the win (it would appear), the race for nominations is fairly wide open.
AFI Fest sure has done a great job of securing itself some nice buzz titles this year. In addition to "Out of the Furnace" it has been announced today that Peter Berg's "Lone Survivor" will also see its world premiere at the Hollywood festival.
When it comes to documentaries, the Academy has missed the boat on landmark films as often as they have with narrative features -- and one need only look at Cinema Eye's new list of the 25 most influential documentaries of all time to be reminded of that.