With apologies to any die-hard fans of "About Time," we're not exactly in a golden age for romantic comedies right now. Big-screen romance, however, is another matter: from "Before Midnight" to "Her" to "The Spectacular Now" to "Blue is the Warmest Color," 2013 was a rich year for films about love in its many complicated forms. Alexander Huls wonders if change is afoot: "It may be optimistic to declare the synchronous timing of these movies to be a new emerging status quo ... Still, I like to think prevalence could maybe mean change. Cinema, like nature, can abhor a vacuum. With no romantic-comedy revival in sight, and audiences’ ability to occasionally adapt, there’s a chance a different kind of romance could ascend. Or romantic comedies could at least evolve to adapt these characteristics." [The Atlantic]
PARK CITY - One of the most heartwarming stories of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival was the success of Ben Cotner and Ryan White's documentary "The Case Against 8." The duo began working on the film almost five years ago and spent four years following the legal case to strike down Proposition 8, a California ballot measure against gay marriage that surprised many by passing on the same night Barack Obama was elected president in 2008.
When Alfonso Cuarón won the DGA prize Saturday night, I laid out my thoughts on why "Gravity" should be considered the de facto frontrunner in this year's Best Picture race. With a PGA award (albeit in this case half of one) and a DGA honor in tow, it tends to be a done deal this time of year. But this isn't a typical year by any stretch.
One thing that could end up playing against "Gravity" in the end is an elongated phase two. The Winter Olympics have stretched things out and that's brutal for any film looking to maintain a certain buzz wave. At the moment, "Gravity" is cresting high on that wave (with added killer, relentless, epic new TV spots on key programming like last night's Grammy Awards). But "12 Years a Slave" has been chugging along since the Golden Globes, steadily building steam. And it could hit a real high note just two days into the final phase of Oscar voting begins this year.
Turns out that you just can't keep Helen Mirren out of awards season. A week after the 68-year-old actress stunned everyone -- not least herself -- by beating Elisabeth Moss at the SAG Awards, it has been announced that she'll add one more trophy to her mantelpiece before the seasson is out: the BAFTA Fellowship for outstanding contribution to cinema.
This year's documentary short subject Oscar race is a varied blend of profiles with a harrowing eye-witness account added for good measure. They tell stories of Holocaust survivors and earthworks artists, forgiveness, compassion and solidarity. It's a pretty strong assortment for voters to choose from with no clear winner from afar.
Adele, Pharrell Williams and David Fincher were among the list of current and former Oscar nominees to win Grammys Sunday night.
Surely coming as a surprise to precious few, "Gravity" director Alfonso Cuarón has just won the Directors Guild of America (DGA) prize for theatrical motion pictures. He beat out fellow Oscar nominees Steve McQueen ("12 Years a Slave"), Martin Scorsese ("The Wolf of Wall Street") and David O. Russell ("American Hustle"), as well as "Captain Phillips" helmer Paul Greengrass to land his first such honor from the guild.
The competition juries and audiences have spoken from Park City. "Whiplash" earned two key awards Saturday night, the U.S. dramatic grand jury prize and the U.S. dramatic audience award. These were impressive wins for director Damien Chazelle and distributor Sony Pictures Classics, who acquired the drama during the festival. Featuring impressive performances by Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons, the film focuses on a young music student (Teller) who is willing to go above and beyond to make it into a competitive jazz band at one of New York City's most prestigious music schools. It's the rare opening night film to take home the festival's top prize.
PARK CITY - It certainly won't go down as one of the greatest editions of the Sundance Film Festival, but reports of it being a bad or weak festival are completely off base. There were few highs, few terrible lows (although some). Instead, there were many good, very good, but not great films. The festival experimented with mixing up the genres in the dramatic competition and for some longtime media it might have been off putting. Well, if they attended the public screenings they would have found audiences more engaged than usual. It was an experiment for the programmers and gave high profile debuts for movies such as "Life as Beth," "Dear White People" and "Cold in July." Those are flicks that could have been relegated to the Midnight or NEXT sections in the past. That's a win in our book.
PARK CITY - Some small movies are bigger than others, and few contemporary filmmakers' careers are better suited to that sliding scale than Joe Swanberg, the self-sufficient indie all-rounder who has quietly reeled off 16 feature films since 2005. Until recently, they've been uniformly scrappy in scope and construction, with some more considered than others: the personal, plainly self-reflexive relationship studies (2008's Greta Gerwig-starring "Nights and Weekends" was a standout) rather than the quick-sketch genre exercises.