He won an Oscar for 'Marty,' so why does 'Brokeback Mountain' feature in his obits?
It was Walter Matthau who explained to Ellen Burstyn, upon handing her the Best Actress Oscar she hadn't been present to accept days earlier, that the chief difference the award would make to her career was this: "When you die, the newspaper obituaries will say, 'The Academy Award-winning actress Ellen Burstyn died today.'"
It's a famous quip, one that is proven true virtually every time a former Oscar-winner -- or even a nominee -- dies, even when their celebrity is such that a puny golden statuette hardly seems their most culturally significant achievement. In the case of a character actor like Ernest Borgnine, who passed away over the weekend at the decidedly ripe age of 95, that single Academy Award win is an essential elevating prefix: "Marty," the modest 1955 character study for which he won, may not be the most widely seen work of his career, but the Best Actor Oscar it reaped remains a validating distinction for the kind of valuable anti-star on whom obituarists don't always spend too much column space.
The film continues its expansion this week
- Critic's Rating A-
- Readers' Rating A-
It's been a while since I caught Benh Zeitlin's "Beasts of the Southern Wild" at Sundance. I've been aching to give it another look ever since and it's been in limited release the past week, so soon enough, I'll do just that. Today, though, it's expanding a bit farther so more of you will be able to get a look for yourself. The film has won awards at Sundance, Cannes and the LA Film Fest and continues to appear formidable this year. We spoke to Zeitlin about it recently (with another chat with cinematographer Ben Richardson still to come) and also talked up young star Quvenzhané Wallis's awards prospects. If and when you get around to seeing the film, come on back here and let us know what you thought. You can also rate it in the tool above.
A pair of impressive debut features among the festival's highlights
KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic -- I am typing this in the tastefully toxic orange surrounds of an easyJet flight to Gatwick, which sadly means that my week at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is over.
It’s been, as I think my previous diary pieces have made clear, a most enjoyable one: angry Czech sunshine, a healthy patchwork of films, raucous audiences, parties ranging from the luxe to the pilsner-pickled, my first live Q&A sessions, Thai foot massages, a few more films and my mandatory festival injury – this time, a spider bite sustained on a hike yesterday through Karlovy Vary’s dense, chapel-speckled surrounding forest. That’s what I get for leaving the cinema for one afternoon, I guess. (Incidentally, the only superpower I have yet gained from this experience is a left ankle slightly wider than my right, but I wait patiently.)
My festival coverage, however, is not yet finished. I still have one of the week’s highlights, an interview with Kenneth Lonergan about the upcoming extended cut of “Margaret,” to transcribe and relate, while I have, as yet, only written about a handful of the films I’ve actually seen at Karlovy Vary.
Paul Thomas Anderson's film will take on Scientology as the org battles headlines
In the wake of recent news that TomKat is officially on the outs, Dana Kennedy has penned an overly long but nevertheless interesting story for The Hollywood Reporter about "cloak and dagger" housewife operations and defections and all the drama that comes with a big Scientology story. And all I could really think of the whole time was, "Boy, this could put some wind in the sails of 'The Master.'"
Paul Thomas Anderson's much-anticipated film will take on Scientology, though not explicitly, with Philip Seymour Hoffman playing a bit of an L. Ron Hubbard surrogate. The Weinstein Company will roll it out in mid-October, prime real estate in an awards season. Recent trailers have been unique in the usual PR fray (typical of Anderson), building on mystery and intrigue. But something like this could shine a brighter light on the film four months out.
10 Euro Directors To Watch sidebar includes 'Wrinkles' and 'Black Pond'
KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic - As I mentioned in a previous dispatch, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, though reasonably august itself in its 47th year, has a reputation as one of the “youngest” festivals on the scene in terms of its audience and programming focus. That’s easy enough to see on the ground here: where the lofty likes of Cannes are largely inaccessible to movie fans, hordes of students and backpackers descend on the dainty Czech spa town during the weeks of the festival to do some serious film-watching.
Allowing ticketless chancers to queue outside the cinemas for last-minute access, meanwhile, ensures I haven’t been to one screening here that wasn’t packed to capacity, with many particularly keen cinephiles content to sit in the aisles when seats run out. (Overseeing staff, not nearly as paranoid about fire regulations as their US and UK counterparts, blithely take a more-the-merrier policy.) That level of enthusiasm is heartening enough for hot Cannes repeats like “Holy Motors” and “Amour.” That the kids are also cramming in for Dan Sallitt’s sober, star-free incest drama “The Unspeakable Act,” to name one crowded screening I attended this afternoon, should make Karlovy Vary the envy of many more high-profile festivals.
The web slinger reboot hits theaters this holiday
The reactions to "The Amazing Spider-Man" have been kind of schizophrenic. I haven't seen it, mind you. A) Wasn't invited. B) Probably wouldn't have been able to drum up the interest if I had been. Surely these decisions, what gets made, what doesn't, they have to mean more than money. Right? Right? I guess the wheel keeps on turning, but the holiday just doesn't feel all that exciting to me at the multiplex. Anyway, I'll save all of that until after I finally DO see it (whenever that might be). For now, though, I imagine many of you have seen it or will, so offer up your thoughts in the comments section below if/when you do.
The home entertainment marketing blitz brings things full circle
"Little kids grow up discovering the world that's shown to them, and then when you become a teenager, it kind of shrinks a little bit. I think when you get past that point, one of the important things is that you see there is more to the world than yourself. Elaine May had seen an early cut of the film and she said to me, 'Only a teenager could think that she could have that much affect on the world,' which I thought was very interesting and apt and kind of touching and sad."
That was Kenneth Lonergan last year discussing not only his embattled film "Margaret" in a nutshell, but the impact Gerard Manley Hopkins's poem "Spring and Fall" had on him when conceiving the film during our lengthy interview at the height of #teammargaret. And with the DVD/Blu-ray release of the film right around the corner, things are coming full circle in the home video marketing as Fox and the folks at ThinkJam have cooked up an interactive study guide to explain all of the intricacies and connections of the film's plot to the poem.
Got any money burning a hole in your Caymans account?
Attention movie memorabilia collectors with massive wallets. There are a pair of items on the auction block that you might be interested in.
First up, the Best Director Oscar Michael Curtiz won for "Casablanca" in 1942. Actually, the auction for this one at Nate D. Sanders apparently closed already but I never heard anything else about it after the initial news (which I've been meaning to mention for a few days now). It was expected to fetch upwards of $3 million. Wowsers. And apparently David Copperfied previously owned it, having paid $230,000 for it in 2003. Um, my guess is he made a profit when he sold it to whoever owned it prior to last week's auction.
That's a pretty key piece of Academy history, indeed, of film history. I'd say it's on the top tier, with things like Orson Welles's "Citizen Kane" prize and the like. But again, no word yet on who the winning bidder may have been.
A salute to the actor on his 50th birthday
Movie star Tom Cruise has been, somewhat quietly, passing through one of the high-water marks of his career as of late. In December, "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" became his biggest box office success to date, which is saying something in a career that has included such blockbuster fare as "Top Gun," "Minority Report" and "War of the Worlds," not to mention three previous entries in the franchise; he managed to be just one of very few elements of "Rock of Ages," currently in theaters, to come away unscathed; and, oh yeah, he's turning 50 today.
Cruise has been in the news a lot this week as a result of his (naturally very public) divorce from Katie Holmes. But I'll save the melodrama regarding what the "real" story is behind all of that for those overly interested. It's unfortunate that this planned piece of commentary ended up coinciding with one of Cruise's personal low points, but so be it. As noted in The New York Times yesterday (beat me to the punch), he always bounces back.
Émilie Dequenne is astonishing in Cannes critics' hit
KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic - I don’t why it didn’t occur to me that a film festival located high in the Czech mountains in the middle of summer would be on the warm side, but it didn’t – it’s been a humid few days of filmgoing here at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, even when some films haven’t packed much heat. Handily enough, the air conditioning throughout the festival center apparently chose this weekend to go on the blink, introducing a sauna-like atmosphere to certain screening rooms that, in the words of a glass-half-full Czech critic I overheard yesterday, “intensifies the experience.”
The experience was only moderately de-intensified this evening with an electrical storm that did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the numerous al fresco beer drinkers at this cheerfully youth-populated festival. “The weather here is Karlovy Varied,” remarked a British writer-director, who’d probably rather not be credited with that line, as we joined them. The festival itself may want to reappropriate it for advertising purposes. My viewing list from the last two days has been nothing if not Karlovy varied: it spans, among others, a blissful big-screen return visit to Jean-Pierre Melville’s “Le Samouraï,” a Finnish-Portuguese western inspired by the work of Henry David Thoreau and an erotic Dutch character study understandably – if not quite accurately – described by several critics as a female-focused “Shame.”