By far the coolest thing on the internet was the New York Times' Making a Scene project, in which 11 of the year's most celebrated actors -- ranging from Cate Blanchett to Oprah Winfrey, Adele Exarchopoulos to Robert Redford -- perform in individual short films directed by Oscar-winning cinematographer (and Steven Spielberg's right-hand man) Janusz Kaminski. "Short" is the operative word: advertisement-like in length and style, they're not exactly deep, but they're a lot of fun, whether it's Oprah channelling her inner torch diva or Bradley Cooper doing some rain ballet, all to stray strands of dialogue from the likes of Seth Rogen and Spike Jonze. Have fun. [New York Times]
Almost miraculously given its troubled production history, Natalie Portman's "Jane Got a Gun" has been given a release date.
The Gavin O'Connor-directed western, which also stars Joel Edgerton, Ewan McGregor and Noah Emmericah, has been slated to hit theaters on August 29, 2014, it was announced today. O'Connor ("Warrior") came aboard the project at the last minute after original director Lynne Ramsay ("We Need to Talk About Kevin") declined to show up for the first day of filming back in March.
More serious than People's Sexiest Man Alive, less prestigious than Time's Person of the Year, Entertainment Weekly's annual selection for Entertainer of the Year is one of those oddly intangible magazine-cover accolades -- not quite an award, not quite a personal tribute -- that may not mean much individually, but is usually indicative of a larger wave of audience and industry appreciation. On the one hand, it congratulates the recipient on a very good year; on the other, it anticipates still better things to come.
EW's Entertainer of the Year 2013, then? Sandra Bullock. Well, of course.
Best Foreign Language Film Oscar contenders from Singapore, Hong Kong, China and Taiwan were among the winners at this weekend's Golden Horse Awards -- effectively the Oscars of the Chinese-speaking film industry. And while there were some heavy-hitting auteurs in the running for top honors (Wong Kar-wai, Jia Zhang-ke, Johnnie To and Tsai Ming-liang among them), it was ultimately a modest debut feature that won out, as young Singaporean director Anthony Chen's gentle family drama "Ilo Ilo" took four awards, including Best Picture.
So far, "Dallas Buyers Club" has had a fairly smooth ride, but it was inevitable that its social and sexual politics would at some point find vocal dissenters. R. Kurt Osenlund certainly does his best to trigger a debate, calling it "one of the year's worst films," and likening it to Macklemore's hit single "Same Love" as a work of "warped queer advocacy." "I sure as hell don't want to see the first major movie about AIDS in 20 years to be about a goddamned queer-hating hick," he fumes. "I want more from my art, I want better advocates, and more than anything, I want more people, and colleagues, to acknowledge the problem." He then goes on to suggest director Jean-Marc Vallée's heterosexuality might "in a way" be problematic. I can't say I agree with him one iota, but there's a longer discussion to be had here. [House Next Door]
After weeks of audience testing, editors Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers futzing with the various tones director David O. Russell captures take-to-take during production, "American Hustle" finally came out to play Sunday as Sony Pictures unveiled the film to a swath of press and SAG nominating committee members, among others.
The reveal was a highly anticipated one, given Russell's recent track record on the circuit: both "The Fighter" and "Silver Linings Playbook" landed a slew of Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. It also brought the 2013 film awards season one step closer to a complete picture, leaving just Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" to be seen. That, by the way, will happen within the week; by the time December arrives, the whole playing field will thankfully have been revealed.
For now, though, what's the verdict on "American Hustle?" Is it a player or a pretender? Is this powerhouse ensemble that brings with it 17 Oscar nominations and four wins a formidable force?
I haven't yet caught "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," but some films I look forward to seeing away from the press circuit in a multiplex environment, and this is one of them. I rather like Suzanne Collins' smart, straight-ahead literary franchise, and thought Gary Ross made a decent stab at realizing its story world last year, while leaving plenty to work on in terms of rhythm and visual flair. The critical consensus is that director Francis Lawrence (whose last film, "Water for Elephants," was actually kind of lovely) has made the necessary improvements, while Jennifer Lawrence, returning to the franchise as an Oscar winner, remains a committed Katniss Everdeen. (You can read Drew McWeeny's enthusiastic take here.)
A number of you will have caught it by now, so are you with the critics? Does "Catching Fire" meet or exceed the bar set by its predecessor? And are you glad Lawrence is on board for the "Mockingjay" two-parter? Share your thoughts in the comments if/when you've seen it, and vote in the poll below.
The Academy has announced the short list of contenders for this year's Best Short Film - Live Action Oscar competition, and of immediate note is the fact that Jonás Cuarón's "Aningaaq," which Warner Bros. submitted for consideration in the category, didn't make the cut. It would have been a first for a film with a tie to another (sure-fire) Oscar nominee — in this case "Gravity" — to land a nomination in the shorts field and a nice little entry in Academy history as a result.
I caught up with "August: Osage County" last night and found it, as colleagues had led me to expect, something of a mixed bag. Even with the playwright himself on adaptation duty, Tracy Letts' exhausting but enjoyably spiky Pulitzer Prize-winning play is diminished in its translation to the screen: compressing the material to two-thirds of its luxurious three-hour runtime reveals a number of its strains and superficialities, with the newly short shrift given to certain characters (notably Misty Upham's Johnna) affecting its cumulative emotional impact.
David O. Russell's "American Hustle" is set to finally start screening this weekend and one can only imagine Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" won't be too far behind. The film has finally been screened internally at Paramount and is slowly making its way out into the light of day. Will it be an Oscar player? With four of Scorsese's last five features having made the cut, it's certainly fair to speculate along those lines.
But this will be a different breed. Set to compete in the comedy/musical category at the Golden Globes, "Wolf" will be a dark comedy and something of an antidote to the more somber pieces prevalent in this year's Oscar race. That tone is readily apparent in a new poster Paramount has provided us with to premiere this afternoon. Just look at the chaos going on below. This should be more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Wait! There's ACTUALLY a monkey! (OK, it's a chimp.)