No one needs awards coverage this deep
Considering the writer/director's latest from its Italian setting
Judy Davis and Woody Allen in "To Rome with Love"
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
Probably shouldn't be going there on my honeymoon, but, well, it's relevant and our trip is winding down, so why not?
I'm on the tail end of a nine-day trip to Rome, typing this out from an apartment on Via dei Pettinari, listening to the sounds of joy and inebriation from those walking east across the nearby Ponte Sisto and a night of drinks across the Tiber in the Trastevere. Posters and full-bus adverts for Woody Allen's "To Rome with Love" (née "Nero Fiddled"/"The Bop Decameron") have been announcing the film's imminent April arrival all over the city and the trailer dropped today, so I thought I'd give it a look and "work" for a bit.
Allen cranks out a film per year. The law of averages dictates that most of them will stink, and indeed, as of late, most of them do. For every "Midnight in Paris" (which held an impressive stay on the circuit last year and yielded a Best Original Screenplay Oscar for the writer/director), we're due a "Scoop" here, a "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" there, etc. I have heard from only one person who has seen "To Rome with Love," and from what I gather, it's back to the junk pile. And the trailer sure does suggest some scattered silliness with little to stimulate the mind.
Could 'Mirror, Mirror,' 'The Deep Blue Sea' or 'The Hunger Games' resurface at Oscar time?
Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson in "The Hunger Games" -- the box office story of the first quarter, but does it have any Oscar hopes?
So, the first quarter of the release calendar is complete. If it doesn't exactly feel that way, that's because we tend to spend the first two months of every year fixating on the previous year's movies still in the hunt for Oscar glory, giving short shrift to the freshly released right under our noses. For Oscar-watchers, at least, there's a reason for that, though you can debate the chicken-or-egg root of it all: first-quarter films don't tend to feature much in the awards race nearly a year later.
With voters' memories notoriously short, studios rarely risk releasing top-category awards material this early in the year. You have to go back to 2000 to find a Best Picture nominee that hit theaters before April: "Erin Brockovich," which rather impressively locked up an Oscar for Julia Roberts over a year in advance. Last year, only two eventual Oscar nominees -- in any category -- opened in the first quarter, though one of them eventually proved an above-the-line winner: "Rango" took Best Animated Feature, while fellow March baby "Jane Eyre" snagged a Costume Design nod. The year before, the animation and design were also the kindest fields to the first quarter: "Alice in Wonderland" and "The Wolfman" won in craft categories, while "How to Train Your Dragon" scored a nod in the toon race.
Open thread. The floor is yours.
Sam Worthington in "Wrath of the Titans."
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
A day late -- for which, you know, apologies -- but welcome to Cinejabber, your
weekend Sunday space to kick around any stray movie-related thoughts you might have on your mind. (Or perhaps not movie-related. Hold forth. We're not here to judge.)
For my part, I'm feeling frustrated once more by the internet's dispiriting rush to brand new releases with Rotten Tomatoes numbers, letting mere mathematical averages divide success from failure. Regular readers know this is a routine gripe on my part, and I've been reminded of it largely because others keep reminding me that I'm against the Tomatometer, as it were, on the week's two major multiplex releases. (One person, amusingly, suggested my two reviews amounted to an early April Fools' gambit.) Among so-called Top Critics, it's just me, Richard Corliss and Andrew Barker interrupting the inevitable avalanche of pans for "Wrath of the Titans"; "Mirror Mirror" has more defenders -- here's a particularly cogent rave from the excellent Stephanie Zacharek -- but the growing majority seem to be immune to its impish charms. Oh well.
Tarsem's latest opens in theaters today
Julia Roberts and Nathan Lane in "Mirror Mirror."
Credit: Relativity Media
"I bet you think you know this story. You don't -- the real one's much more gory." With this crisp opening couplet, Roald Dahl announced his imminent desanctification of the Grimm Brothers' "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves," one of six done-to-death fairytales given a black-comic makeover in his 1982 bestseller "Revolting Rhymes."
Dahl's book was itself a tangy kid-lit response to Angela Carter's ingenious adult sexualization of that dusty literary canon in her essential 1979 volume "The Bloody Chamber"; working at opposite ends of the scale, both writers were making a concerted effort to reclaim these darkly symbolic stories, originally targeted to grown-ups, from their sweetened, child-oriented colonization by Disney. Bar the occasional valiant but underseen effort, however -- Neil Jordan's Carter adaptation "The Company of Wolves" among them -- it was a while before Hollywood arrived at a similarly subversive memo, particularly as Disney revived their commercial fortunes at the end of the 1980s by returning to the pages of Andersen and Perrault, their traditionalist approach interrupted only by happier endings.
After the success of 'The Artist,' TWC is snapping up Gallic titles
Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy in "Untouchable," now bound for a Colin Firth-led remake.
Credit: The Weinstein Company
Two nearly simultaneous items of industry news struck me today as closely related halves of the same story, and not just because they both involve The Weinstein Company. The news of the studio snapping up US distribution rights to "Populaire," a French throwback romcom that has been generating international buzz since appearing in the Berlinale market last month, has probably been greeted with too many "It's this year's 'The Artist!'" headlines -- but tied to the news of the Weinsteins going ahead with a remake of French smash dramedy "Untouchable," with Colin Firth and "Bridesmaids" director Paul Feig tentatively attached, a linking narrative is hard to resist.
"The Frogs are coming!" is no less premature a rallying cry now than it would have been immediately after the Oscars last month. But while other American studios are still looking to Scandinavia for their crossover fodder -- cue remakes of "Let the Right One In," "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and "Headhunters" -- the Weinsteins clearly have a lot of faith in the French. The last time Gallic property was this hot in Hollywood was 20-odd years ago, when everything from "La Femme Nikita" to "The Return of Martin Guerre" to "My Father the Hero" was ripe for a remake.
Jonathan Liebesman's film the rare sequel that learns from past mistakes
Rosamund Pike in "Wrath of the Titans."
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
It's hard to think of a major 2012 release I was looking forward to much less than "Wrath of the Titans," a largely uninvited sequel to 2010's singularly ghastly "Clash of the Titans" remake -- a notorious nadir in post-converted 3D sludginess, but also a dour, incoherent slog even in two dimensions. It made millions, sure, but so do the Kardashian sisters... and no right-minded person is clamoring for further editions of them.
Indeed, I wasn't planning on seeing "Wrath of the Titans" at all. Every year, there's a certain number of obviously whiffy releases one can reasonably relegate to the "only if you pay me" pile, and there I felt comfortable chucking Sam Worthington's latest skirt-opera -- until, well, someone offered to pay me. Commissioned by Time Out to review the film, I slumped into the screening room earlier this week with the grim-faced mien of a man keeping a urologist's appointment -- only to emerge, some 90-plus minutes later, with ears and eyes bludgeoned but a wholly unanticipated spring in my step. Whisper it soft if you must, but as my review explains, "Wrath of the Titans" is not half bad. Okay, it's good.
Tom Hooper's film of the blockbuster musical hits screens in December
Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean in the first official still from "Les Miserables."
Credit: Universal Pictures
A reader asked yesterday why we haven't yet updated the sidebar with Oscar predictions for the 2012 season. In truth, neither Kris nor I think it's a particularly healthy practice, and with Kris about to set off on his honeymoon, I like to think that the question of who will win Best Supporting Actress in 11 months' time is the furthest thing from his mind. My mind, meanwhile, has a less ironclad excuse, but refuses to go there all the same.
For those that are daring to put their necks on the block with such projections, however, I imagine that one title is very much in their thoughts. "Les Misérables" is the umpteenth screen version of Victor Hugo's beloved doorstop of French literature, but the first of the blockbuster 1985 stage musical that ranks as the third longest-running show in Broadway history. Alongside the no-introduction-needed source material, the cast (Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway et al) is starry, the director (Tom Hooper) recently if unpopularly Oscared, the release date (December 14) in the prime of awards season. Ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching -- for those who regard Oscar punditry as a kind of mathematical process, this adds up to a frontrunner.
Award will be presented at International Film Festival Summit in Paris
John Goodman in "The Artist."
Credit: The Weinstein Company
You thought the groaning trophy cabinet for "The Artist" could finally be locked after last month's Academy Awards? Think again. The reigning Oscar champ has one more honor to collect, and it's one that brings things neatly back to where the film's journey started. The International Film Festival Summit has named Michel Hazanavicius's silent-cinema homage its Festival Film of the Year -- an award that will be presented at the Summit in Paris next month.
If you're looking to award a title that demonstrates the power of film festivals to launch and nurture successful titles, you'd be hard pressed to choose much better than "The Artist," which relied on positive word of mouth from the festival circuit -- artfully amplified by the campaigning savvy of The Weinstein Company -- to propel it from niche curio to crossover arthouse sensation. Harvey Weinstein may carry an awful lot of clout on his own, but even he couldn't have done much for the film if the Cannes reception had been chilly.
Yet another hometown Best Actress win for Olivia Colman
Olivia Colman and Gary Oldman took the top acting prizes at last night's Jameson Empire Awards.
Credit: AP Photo/Jonathan Short
With all due respect to the general public (which, if I'm being honest, is a variable amount) I don't tend to pay much attention to awards voted for entirely by them: such awards happen on a weekly basis, and they're called the box office charts.
Still, that's not to say Joe Public can't occasionally surprise us, and at least one result at last night's Jameson Empire Awards -- the last, and booziest, stop on the 2011 kudos calendar, voted for by the readers of the mainstream-oriented film magazine Empire -- reflects rather well on the British masses.
They may not have shown up in great numbers to see "Tyrannosaur" in theaters last autumn, but word of Olivia Colman's tremendous performance has clearly spread enough to nab the humble Brit a Best Actress win over the likes of Meryl Streep and Rooney Mara. When even the multiplex crowd has joined critics in feting Colman -- who also took the British Independent Film Award, London Critics' Circle Award and Evening Standard Film Award -- that BAFTA snub looks ever more boneheaded.
The actor's two seemingly incongruous roles point to a gaping cultural wound
Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy in "The Hunger Games."
When Woody Harrelson signed on to play Steve Schmidt and Haymitch Abernathy in “Game Change” and “The Hunger Games” respectively, he likely wasn’t thinking that the roles are actually strange mirrors of one another (although, who’s to say what Harrelson is thinking really?). Aside from the obvious similarities - both films are adaptations of books and they each have the word “game” in the title - there are some equally clear distinctions.
Steve Schmidt is, of course, the campaign strategist who functioned as the senior adviser on the 2008 John McCain Presidential bid. Haymitch Abernathy is a fictional character who resides within the world of author Suzanne Collins's novel “The Hunger Games,” an imagined dystopic future where North America has been reduced to a conglomerate of 12 “districts” which are presided over by a dangerously self-indulgent “Capitol.”