It's been a pretty good year to be Angela Lansbury -- or Dame Angela Lansbury, should you now wish to address her as such. The 88-year-old actress is the most prominent film-related name on the annual New Year Honors list -- titles and citations presented by Queen Elizabeth II to those deemed worthy in any number of areas. For her services to the arts, Lansbury has been declared a DBE -- or Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, if you want to get wordy about it.
With Emmanuel Lubezki almost certain to take the Best Cinematography Oscar for "Gravity," few will argue that he's well past due the award -- but many will take issue with the technical implications of such FX-integrated work being recognized in such a fashion. It's an issue that now surfaces on a near-annual basis (wins for "Avatar" and "Life of Pi," in particular, caused a stir), and filmmaker Jamie Stuart thinks it's time "to redefine what constitutes cinematography." Part of that movement, he says, should be to divide the Oscar into two awards: "one for conventional live-action cinematography, and another for CGI-based filmmaking," much as black-and-white and color work was recognized separately until 1967. He's not the first to advocate such a change. What do you think? [Indiewire]
Next year's holiday season has arrived a tad earlier than expected.
Our first look at Ridley Scott's "Exodus" (currently slated to hit theaters on Dec. 12, 2014) is certainly an eye-popping image, as the Biblical prophet Moses (Christian Bale) rides his horse into a scene that appears to feature an under-construction version of the Great Sphinx of Giza. Scripted by Steven Zaillian ("Moneyball," "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo") from an earlier draft by Bill Collage and Adam Cooper ("Accepted"), the forthcoming epic will focus on the Biblical exodus of the Israelite slaves from Egypt under Moses's leadership. It also stars Joel Edgerton as Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II, Aaron Paul as Israeli spy Joshua, Sigourney Weaver as Ramesses' mother Tuya, John Turturro as Ramesses' father Seti I and Ben Kingsley as a Hebrew scholar.
"Saving Mr. Banks" is currently delighting audiences with its take on Walt Disney, P.L. Travers and the making of "Mary Poppins." But part of the magic of the movie is the recreation of a time and place, and the individual in charge of the art department that brought that world to life is production designer Michael Corenblith.
Corenblith has worked with director John Lee Hancock since 2004's "The Alamo," which was a project of note at the time due to a 51-acre set that was the largest and most expensive set built in North America. Both proud natives of Texas, the two have had a deepening relationship that began on that first feature, which was a personal project for both. "It was amazing – the congruence of the way we saw," Corenblith says with a degree of marvel. "Our processes were immediately aligned. We began to grow in depth and complexity when we collaborated on 'The Blind Side.'"
Martin Scorsese's latest film, "The Wolf of Wall Street," hit theaters over the holiday and was met with very interesting reactions. In some corners, it's an unqualified masterpiece, willfully overt and satirical in its depiction of greed and excess. In others, it's an irresponsible culprit that appears to be delighting in the wild ride it depicts.
For the film's producer and star Leonardo DiCaprio, it is a bit of both, as the sheer entertainment of the piece isn't meant to be at odds with its social indictment. That, in some ways, is the horror of it. But it certainly isn't the first Scorsese film to cause a stir upon release and it won't likely be the last.
DiCaprio recently spoke to HitFix about the high ambition of the project, the gobsmacked reaction it has received and how not just his work in "The Wolf of Wall Street," but his involvement in Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby" earlier this year and Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" in 2012 have all been an examination of a shared theme: pursuit of a corrupted American dream.
When the shortlist of Best Foreign Language Film Oscar contenders was announced before Christmas, the dreams of 67 competing entrants were dashed in one fell swoop -- an unkind cut considering the effort that goes into mounting campaigns for many of them, with no time to spare. In an interesting piece, John Anderson looks at the ins and outs of these low-profile but high-effort campaigns, particularly through those of three films -- from Montenegro, Ecuador and Peru -- that missed the cut. Publicist Kathleen McInnis explains why it's worth the effort, even if you know you have no shot: "It’s also the time of year when Hollywood is paying attention to foreign film. Which means I can get my filmmaker in front of audiences who might otherwise never see his film, get him meetings with agents and managers because he was his country’s official selection. I can get him in front of people, not so much for this film, but to help other films.” [New York Times]
As we inch closer to the end of the year and one capped off by a trumped up "controversy" regarding Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street," maybe we should all take a moment to appreciate the fact that a 71-year-old artist can still rile us so.
As the year ticks to a close, the Central Ohio Film Critics Association has collectively spoken up with its list of nominees, and "12 Years a Slave" led the way with nine mentions. "Her" was a few steps behind with seven. Actors recognized for superlative bodies of work in 2013 include Amy Adams, Benedict Cumberbatch and Jennifer Lawrence. Check out the full list of nominees below and remember to keep track of all the ups and downs of the season via The Circuit.
This has been an exceptional year for a certain breed of acting, I've found. There has been a wave of unaffected work, eschewing capital "A" acting for a certain lived-in thing that is rare enough as it is, let alone prevalent throughout a year's greatest performances.
I wanted to pay some tribute to that, and to a number of more outwardly vibrant portraits this year that also go toward making it an exemplary year. It has been said a few times that 2013 has been a great year for movies, but that quality is owed in no small part to the work we saw on the screen.
Sound mixers Skip Lievsay and Peter Kurland on bringing the sonic world of 'Inside Llewyn Davis' to life
Nearly three decades ago, two young Minnesotans named Joel and Ethan Coen went down to Texas to shoot a film called "Blood Simple." It was their first feature. And to use a cliché, "the rest is history." But they were not the only artists making their debuts on that film who would later go on to become staples in the American film industry. Actress Frances McDormand, sound designer Lee Orloff, cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld, composer Carter Burwell, sound editor Skip Lievsay and boom operator Peter Kurland also cut their teeth on "Blood Simple."
Lievsay, now sound re-recording mixer and supervising sound editor, and Kurland, now production sound mixer, have worked with the Coens on every feature film the siblings have made since then, the most recent of which, "Inside Llewyn Davis," is a sound showcase.