No one needs awards coverage this deep
The home town contributed 25% of last weekend's overall gross
Bill Courtney (left) in "Undefeated"
Credit: The Weinstein Company
Here's a box office story antidote to all those depressing sentiments regarding the $100 million write-off that is "John Carter."
As Austin's South by Southwest Film Festival forges ahead this week, it's worth remembering that last month's Oscar-winning documentary feature, "Undefeated," started it's long journey there almost exactly a year ago. Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin's inspirational look at an embattled high school football program bowed at the fest on March 13 of last year, was later acquired by The Weinstein Company, and finally saw a theatrical release on February 17, just a week before the Academy Awards.
However, it wasn't until March 2, last weekend, that it finally found its way to Memphis, Tennessee, the film's setting, as it splashed onto a screen at the Malco Paradiso Theatre. And what a splash it made.
The film opens today
A scene from "John Carter"
Credit: Walt Disney Pictures
Well, the blockbuster movie season is upon us. Though I guess it's left to be seen how many blocks "John Carter" will really bust. I haven't seen the film yet, so I have nothing to offer. I've heard some good things but mostly I've been warned off a few dozen times. I'll saddle up to it in due time, but for now, I imagine many of you will be hitting the multiplex this weekend to have a look for yourselves. When/if you do, head on back here and give us your take.
It'll be the director's first film to premiere on the Croisette
Edward Norton in "Moonrise Kingdom."
Credit: Focus Features
The Cannes Film Festival has a reputation for choosing slight-to-major disappointments for its opening night -- think back on such flat party-starters as "Robin Hood," "Blindness," "My Blueberry Nights," "The Da Vinci Code" and "Hollywood Ending," if indeed you care to remember them at all. But the odds have improved lately: two recent Cannes curtain-raisers (and eventual Best Picture nominees), "Up" and "Midnight in Paris," salvaged the slot's reputation sufficiently that the news of a major auteur's latest opening this year's fest needn't sound alarm bells.
That auteur, as most Cannes-watchers correctly speculated, is Wes Anderson, whose "Moonrise Kingdom" was confirmed yesterday as the film that will kick things off on May 16. Given that the film is opening in French theaters on the very same day -- and in the US only nine days later -- it was an inevitable choice, though it's worth noting that this is Anderson's first film to play the Croisette. (His last live-action feature, 2007's "The Darjeeling Limited," premiered at Venice, marking his European-major debut.)
With a new film opening this weekend, one of last year’s breakouts looks ahead
Elizabeth Olsen at the 2012 Independent Spirit Awards.
Credit: AP Photo/Joel Ryan
Elizabeth Olsen emerged with one of last season’s most notable performances in the psychological meditation on identity, community and occultism: “Martha Marcy May Marlene.” She had a strong presence in the critics’ circuit and many felt she ought to have been granted an Oscar nod. An aspect of the intrigue surrounding Olsen’s debut is, of course, her familial connection to the industry.
Her older sisters, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who began their careers before they even had the power of speech, have long been famous, essentially, for being famous. The twins have been associated with the dramatic spectrum of celebrity for years. Unthinkable wealth (they are said to have net worth of upwards of $120 million dollars and preside over a billion-dollar fashion empire) is countered with a near constant onslaught by a press corps in search of the details of their private lives.
Fans and pros in the worlds of film, music and interactive descend on Texas
SXSW Film Award plaques waiting to go to lucky filmmakers and their work
(Todd Gilchrist will be covering SXSW this year for In Contention. His dispatches will include reviews and interviews from the ground in Austin. We're happy to have him on board and look forward to his discoveries.)
AUSTIN, Texas - Because of the furor – and quite frankly, the films – at festivals like Cannes and Toronto, it’s easy to overlook South by Southwest as a destination for moviegoers, much less professionals and industry insiders eager to see what’s hot and what isn’t.
But SXSW has in recent years grown to epic proportions, thanks in no small part to its convergence of attendees from not just the film world, but music and technology as well, and that’s why it’s effectively the biggest festival stop in between Sundance in January and Cannes in May. Biggest doesn’t always necessarily mean best, mind you, but as with seemingly everything in Texas, where the festival is held, “more is more,” even when it just comes to where and in what context those movies are shown.
The plan: to make war criminal Joseph Kony a household name
Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army.
Credit: AP Photo
In 2003, three friends -- Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole -- traveled to Africa in search of “untold stories.” What they found would inspire a movement and alter the course of their lives.
Each of the boys was a recent college grad with film, structural engineering and mathematics degrees respectively. But it was Russell who spearheaded their initial journey. The young filmmaker had traveled to Kenya in 2000 and, as he recalls in an interview with the 700 Club, had his "American bubble" popped.
"I suddenly realized we are the privileged percentage of the world,” Russell said. “I knew I had to go back to Africa." He reached out to several friends to make the trip with him but it was only Bailey and Poole who responded with equal passion.
The film’s star writes, publicly, to director Asghar Farhadi
Peyman Moaadi and Leila Hatami in Asghar Farhadi's "A Separation."
Credit: Sony Pictures Classics
“A Separation” holds a place of significance in Iran. It represents the nation’s first Best Foreign Language Film Oscar win and greatest box office success (over $10 million in international sales). It nearly failed to see the light of day and has been subject to multiple politically motivated interpretations.
The Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance placed a ban on “A Separation” while it was still in production following director Asghar Farhadi’s comments at the 2010 Iran Cinema Celebration criticizing the Iranian cultural policy for singling out and censuring some of the country’s most prominent filmmakers. The film's production license was eventually reinstated, however, allowing Farhadi to complete his film.
“A Separation” was originally interpreted as a protest against the current regime and yet has since been co-opted by said regime as a jewel in Iran’s geopolitical crown. According to Payvand Iran News, Fars news agency, which is referred to as “False News” by some and is reportedly connected to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), misquoted Farhadi’s Oscar speech in an article that linked the director to the current nuclear crisis.
The anniverasary event will be held one day only
Humphrey Bogart in "Casablanca"
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures
While "The Godfather" is busy celebrating its 40th anniversary this year (and got a re-release courtesy of Cinemark Theatres), another American celluloid treasure will be turning 70 and getting it's own fresh look on screens later this month.
Michael Curtiz's undeniable classic, "Casablanca," premiered in November of 1942 before being released into theaters in early 1943. The film won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay and was nominated for Best Actor (Humphrey Bogart, who lost to Paul Lukas in "Watch on the Rhine"), Best Supporting Actor (Claude Rains, who lost to Charles Coburn in "The More the Merrier"), Best Black-and-White Cinematography (lost to "The Song of Bernadette"), Best Film Editing (lost to "Air Force") and Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (lost to "The Song of Bernadette").
He'll receive the country's highest decoration
Harvey Weinstein, wife Georgina Chapman and some dog at The Weinstein Company's post-Oscar party last week.
Credit: AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu
Of course, these things are arranged too far in advance -- July last year, to be exact -- for the exchange to be quite as neat as it sounds, but the timing of this announcement underlines it anyway: in the same week that Harvey Weinstein won France its first Best Picture Oscar, the French in turn have honored the super-producer with its highest form of official recognition, the Légion d’Honneur.
Established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, the Légion is approximately equivalent to the Queen's Honours in Britain, noting outstanding individual contributions to French society and culture -- previous recipients in the film world range from Ennio Morricone to Kristin Scott Thomas to Clint Eastwood, alongside any number of homegrown talents. Weinstein was selected for the honor by French president Nicolas Sarkozy, as a measure of gratitude "to someone who has always shown great friendship towards our country and our cinema which you have enabled so many Americans to discover."
Uni floats celebratory Blu-rays while Focus offers a look back at performances
Focus Features celebrates its 10th year in 2012.
Credit: Focus Features
It looks like 2012 is going to be a big year for studio anniversaries. We've already talked about Paramount's centennial celebration, which was rung in with a classy screening of 1927 inaugural Best Picture winner "Wings" at the Academy in January, as well as a new iPad app putting the studio's classic output on a pedestal.
Also celebrating this year are Universal Pictures (getting 100 spankings like Paramount) and subsidiary Focus Features (marking its tenth year). Like Paramount, Universal has unveiled a new logo trailer for its films (see below) and started a stream of restoration Blu-ray releases that makes the mouth water. (Drew McWeeny is all over it.)
Focus, meanwhile, has released a tribute package of great performances in the company's films over the years, including those from Oscar winners Rachel Weisz ("The Constant Gardener"), Sean Penn ("Milk") and Christopher Plummer ("Beginners") and Oscar nominees Julianne Moore ("Far From Heaven"), Heath Ledger ("Brokeback Mountain") and Viggo Mortensen ("Eastern Promises").