Shortly after the Venice Film Festival announced its heavyweight lineup last month, fest director Alberto Barbera teased us with the promise of later additions to the programme: "There are at least a couple of films we're still working on, American films," he said, stirring much excitement and speculation over various high-profile titles. Today, at least some of those latecomers were announced, and even if they're not the breathlessly awaited A-list titles some pundits were improbably hoping for, they add further shading to an already eclectic selection.
How is George Clooney's "The Monuments Men" going to shape up this season? Frankly, this "movie" movie is starting to looking like another "Argo," potentially, a middle-ground choice that entertains with a slice of history but has a populist edge to it that will draw in audiences, not just the industry.
Many of you will remember the days when Chad Hartigan was our reliably astute and highly discriminating box office analyst back at the old In Contention site -- we miss him still. But that was then and this is now, and Chad's been making waves on the festival circuit this year with his thoughtful, penetrating second feature "This is Martin Bonner." "'Decency' isn't much of a buzzword in the current, irony-fuelled indie realm," I wrote in my Edinburgh Film Festival review of the two-hander character study, "but 'Martin Bonner' possesses a pure, palpable strain of it from first cleanly composed frame to last."
Looking over the past few months, you might think the summer surprise of 2013 was the critical and box office success of "The Conjuring." Not really. All corners of the industry knew that Warner Bros. release was a hit in the making after early screenings started the buzz in the spring. It wasn't the word of mouth success for "Fruitvale" either. That award-winning drama had a passionate following out of Sundance in January. And the disappointments of "Lone Ranger," "White House Down," "After Earth,""Turbo" or "R.I.P.D."? Um, yeah. Personally, I'm kicking myself for not going to Vegas to put money down on how those movies would perform months ago. No, the surprise this summer is, hands down, "Blue Jasmine."
For whatever reason, a lot of elements have combined lately to make me think of Terrence Malick's "Badlands." It's never an unwelcome thought, of course: Malick's debut feature, which somewhat unbelievably celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, remains his coolest and crispest work. That's not necessarily to say it's his best, but this portrait of a kid couple's Midwestern massacre retains a bare, bony lyricism that cuts as close today as it must have in 1973; it's at once his oldest and youngest film.
I was thinking recently about something that really agitates me when it comes to the awards season, which is this notion that certain accomplishments are instinctively relegated to the "indie" bin of the Independent Spirit Awards or the Gotham Awards, like some ghetto of would-be Oscar contenders.
Every season when I have conversations with publicists and journalists about what's in the mix for awards, I tend to mention things like, oh, Elizabeth Olsen in "Martha Marcy May Marlene," or Woody Harrelson in "Rampart," to name a couple of examples. "Yeah but that's just Indie Spirits," someone will reply. And it bugs the ever-loving crap out of me.
I don't want to come off foolishly idealistic because we all know what's what, but why does it HAVE to be? Why can't that spotlight be shone? Why instinctively compartmentalize the season like that and not allow it to breathe a bit? I think we've always tried to be inclusive in our coverage rather than exclusive. Even if it's clear something isn't going to happen for this or that hopeful, we make it clear when they deserve to be in the ring. But others are far too quick to marginalize.
It's been a while since a Ridley Scott film fully delivered on its pre-release promise: disagreement lingers as to what degree of disappointment "Prometheus" was, while the likes of "Robin Hood," "Body of Lies" and "A Good Year" languish largely unloved in his recent history. Still, given the sheer volume of talent involved, it's hard not to get a little excited for his upcoming thriller "The Counselor" -- not least because it represents the first time an original screenplay by Pulitzer Prize winner Cormac McCarthy has been filmed.
Spike Jonze has been firing on all cylinders since his 1999 debut "Being John Malkovich." Every new film is cause for excitement, whether awards are in the picture or not. His is a vital voice and his latest, "Her," promises to deliver another fresh stroke in the filmmaker's feature career.
Looks like Eastern Europe is currently leading the way in this year's Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film. Last week, Romania was the first country to officially submit an entry, with Berlinale Golden Bear winner "Child's Pose." Today, Hungary joined them with another European festival champ: "The Notebook," which won the top prize at last month's Karlovy Vary fest.
It’s a familiar situation in the film blogosphere: everyone’s mad at Harvey Weinstein, and it’s not even the Oscar season. A few hours have passed since the news broke that the business-savvy mogul, famously nicknamed “Harvey Scissorhands” in industry quarters, might be making some cuts to South Korean auteur Bong Joon-ho’s “Snowpiercer” – and already the inflamed (and inflammatory) headlines are circulating by the dozen. “Harvey thinks America is too stupid for ‘Snowpiercer,’” runs the general gist and, well, let's calm down a little.