A pair of movies are hitting theaters this weekend that mark a distinct transition from summer entertainments to fall adult drama programming. One is "Rush." The other is Denis Villenueve's "Prisoners," a tense piece of work that I called a "tense bow of tension drawn impossibly tight" out of Telluride. I don't see it as awards caliber material, though Hugh Jackman gives a terrific performance, it makes some brave choices for a studio thriller and I have respect for Villeneuve's craft. This site seemed to find that piece bewildering in its vacillation, and really, that's kind of this movie in a nutshell to me. So it fits. (And yes, Virginia, that's a site dedicated to reviewing reviews.) So with that, let's just turn it over to you. When and if you get around to "Prisoners" this weekend, tell us your thoughts in the comments section and feel free to vote in our poll below.
Oliver Stone's "JFK" is a masterpiece. I say that unequivocally. It's masterful filmmaking of a degree few could ever hope to reach, but it's been consistently plagued and overshadowed by the whiff of conspiracy fatigue ever since its 1991 release.
This has always been strange to me. Nothing presented in the film is all that far-fetched, and depending on your opinion of Dallas journalist Jim Marrs, it was all perfectly well-reported before Stone and screenwriter Zachary Sklar came along. Meanwhile, there has been a curiously strong push lately, it seems, to ensure once-and-for-all acceptance of the lone gunman theory, which, I'm sorry, if you've ever stood in the book depository and seen that vantage point (relative, as the actual window itself is blocked off), then you know the shot was pretty tough to pull off. And "back and to the left" seems pretty significant to me.
National submissions continue to trickle in for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar race, with the tally currently sitting at 37 entries. That's a competitive number already, though when you consider that last year's longlist contained nearly double that number of films, you realize just how much more crowded things are going to get before the deadline for entries -- only 10 days away. Among the countries we're waiting to hear from are such previous nominees (some of them with heavyweight possibilities this year) as Denmark, Israel, Italy, Canada, Iran and China. So the list of predicted nominees to your right, strong as it is, could change a lot in the coming weeks.
Welcome to Oscar Talk.
In case you're new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is broadcast in special installments throughout the season, charting the ups and downs of contenders along the way. Plenty of things change en route to Oscar's stage and we're here to address it all as it unfolds.
On the docket today…
"Can a white director make a great black movie?" It's the kind of question that bothers me -- you can extend it to asking whether a male director can make a great film about women, or whether a straight director can make a great film about homosexuality. (This year, Abdellatif Kechiche answered both those questions in the affirmative.) Great storytelling requires more empathy than first-hand experience. Still, John Singleton (the first black filmmaker ever nominated for a Best Director Oscar) looks at such recent films as "Fruitvale Station," "The Butler" and "12 Years a Slave" -- all by black directors, though not all by African-Americans -- argues that "there is a noticeable difference between pictures that have significant contributions from African-Americans behind the scenes and those that don't." He adds "what Hollywood execs need to realize is that black-themed stories appeal to the mainstream because they are uniquely American" -- which, well, let's just say I can't see everyone agreeing on that point. [Hollywood Reporter]
The longstanding cliche about Hollywood screenwriters is they're really dying to tell anyone who will listen, "but I really want to direct." Turns out some of the actors in front of the camera wouldn't mind ruling the roost either.
Cate Blanchett's superb, sure-to-be-Oscar-nominated performance in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine" this summer marked a return of sorts to the big screen. She never went away, exactly, but her recent, sparse run of secondary and supporting roles (in the likes of "Hanna" and "Robin Hood") was a clear indication that the bulk of her attention was elsewhere -- at the Sydney Theater Company, to be precise, where she has acted as an artistic director for the last five years.
It's been four months since I saw Abdellatif Kechiche's "Blue is the Warmest Color" at Cannes -- whereupon it became, as it did for an awful lot of people, my favorite film of the festival. (Steven Spielberg's jury, of course, agreed.) The film's been burning pretty brightly in my mind ever since, but this expertly constructed US trailer brought that much more of it flooding back. Sundance Selects are taking a smart approach here, selling the film on evocative fragments of sound and image, and allowing viewers to find its raw emotional and physicals details for themselves.
Proving that positive reviews continue to have relevance in art house and limited releases, "Enough Said" debuted on four screens Wednesday to a strong $27,734 and $6,934 average. That midweek opening has to be very encouraging news for Fox Searchlight. The studio pushed up the release of the dramedy to September in hopes of taking advantage of a dearth in new prestige fare before a slew of awards season contenders hit theaters in October. While director Nicole Holofcener certainly has her fans, it's the rave reviews from outlets such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today and the Village Voice that will help drive a higher than expected five-day take. And, sadly, interest in seeing one of the last performances of the late, great James Gandolfini.
One more tease of our upcoming interview with "Gravity" director Alfonso Cuarón before we dive deep on the four-year journey of making that film. We've asked about his friend Guillermo Del Toro's "Pacific Rim" and the lessons he learned on the embattled production of 1998's "Great Expectations," but today, I was curious about his collaboration with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, or "Chivo," as he's known to his friends and colleagues.