'The Ides of March' and 'The Descendants' give us an excuse to dissect the actor's best work
George Clooney has had yet another busy year. His circuit kicked off back in August at the Venice Film Festival where his fourth directorial effort, "The Ides of March," saw its world premiere on opening night. Then it was off to the Telluride Film Festival later that week for a tribute and another world premiere, this time of Alexander Payne's "The Descendants," which features Clooney in a leading role that many think will bring him an Oscar for Best Actor.
It's not unlike the path he carved in 2005, which saw his critically acclaimed "Good Night, and Good Luck." and Stephen Gaghan's "Syriana" find room in the awards conversation (the latter ultimately bringing him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor).
But while Clooney's million-dollar smile splashes across magazine covers in moments like these and his magnetic charm wins over whatever group of people the studio might put in front of him, it's worth taking note of the considerable talent that has brought him to a place where this kind of ubiquity is more refreshing than annoying.
Should the MPAA be empowered to make parenting decisions?
This year’s dark horse Oscar contender “Shame” has caused some people to question the purpose and validity of the NC-17 rating. It was no surprise when the MPAA slapped the film with the potentially restrictive scarlet letter as a result of frequent nudity and explicit (depressing) sex. Of course the emotional nature (or lack thereof) of the intercourse depicted is not listed as an official cause for the rating, but it is likely that it played a role (consciously or not) in the association’s decision.
It's easy enough to name a multitude of R-rated films that treat the human body with little to no dignity (topless water skiing was a fun addition to 2009’s “Friday the 13th” – topless water skiing), and though no one is surprised by the decision, “Shame’s” NC-17 does raise questions about the ratings system.
“I mean, it’s sex,” director Steve McQueen said at a recent press conference for the film. “I think it’s what most of the people in this room have done, if not all of us have done. I mean I’ve never held a gun in my hand in my life. So, it’s this whole weird thing where what we do in our daily lives should be censored. It’s very odd. And things that we have no idea of, or have no capability of doing, should be viewed on the masses.”
"She's hoping to score so I can't see her letting him go."
Marketing Jason Reitman's "Young Adult" has been a bit of a unique task for the director and Paramount Pictures. After all, a Reitman/Diablo Cody collaboration immediately conjures expectations of "Juno" (which, again, isn't as light and frothy as it has been considered over the years).
First came the teaser poster for the film, which was a riff on a young adult fiction book cover featuring a passed-out Charlize Theron, bottle in hand (and, I only noticed a few weeks back, a curiously phallic pillow draped across her back -- am I alone on that?). Then came the trailer, David Bowie's "Queen Bitch" bumping on the soundtrack and a bit of a broader shot that played coy with the film's darkest comedy elements.
Now we get the official one-sheet for the film, which has Theron and her attitude front and center and falls somewhere in between the two stabs at boiling the film down for a general audience.
Woody Harrelson vehicle to have one-week run ahead of January opening
I'm finally seeing Oren Moverman's police drama "Rampart" tomorrow evening, so for now, I'm taking it on Kris's word that Woody Harrelson's lead performance in the fall festival baby is a dark horse to be reckoned with in the Best Actor race. Kris has opined that Harrelson's turn as a volatile cop in 1990s LA is the high-water mark of the two-time Oscar nominee's career, but has voiced concern that his under-the-radar vehicle (distributed by budget outfit Millennium Pictures), may have landed too late in the race to get him in the circle, despite critical support.
"Why not hold it until Sundance next year?" was the question Kris and Anne brought up in last week's edition of Oscar Talk, something one asks every year of several indies that impatiently decide to debut in the cold crush of awards season. Still, Millennium are opting for the best of both worlds: they're releasing the film in late January 2012, when it'll have slightly more commercial breathing room, but holding a one-week, one-screen release next week so as to qualify it for Oscar consideration this year.
British broadsheets first to the punch on Margaret Thatcher biopic
I can't remember the last time a major prestige release was reviewed by newspaper critics before either the trades or the bloggers got their paws on it -- it's an almost romantically old-school approach, but that's exactly how the first critical word on "The Iron Lady" has leaked out. Perhaps studio masterminds figured UK print critics might be more invested in a biopic of Britain's most contentious politician, though they've covered their bases by allowing both liberal bastion The Guardian and right-wing rag the Daily Mail at it simultaneously, with the conservative-leaning Telegraph somewhere in the middle.
Considering their different audiences, it's striking how similarly the Guardian and Telegraph reviews, by Xan Brooks and David Gritten respectively, read in many respects. Both are lukewarm on the film itself, Brooks a little more harshly so: the film is "often silly and suspect," he says, after accusing the filmmakers of printing the legend and dodging the grim social consequences of its subject's conservative policies, thereby giving us "Thatcher without Thatcherism."
The Telegraph is obviously less concerned about this, dismissing the film's "whistle-stop tour" of Thatcher's career, but commending it for an even-handed approach -- though he predicts US Republicans "will drool over it."
Why 'Dragon Tattoo' isn't for the Academy, and why 'The Iron Lady' isn't for Maggie
After avoiding it scrupulously for months, as is my custom, I was finally faced with the trailer for David Fincher's "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" when I paid good money to see "Immortals" last night. (More on that later.) Though the film looks as dourly impressive as I'd expect, any number of reasons why it doesn't look like a major Oscar play ran through my head: too cool, too hot, too genre, too done. One I didn't think of was "too much anal rape," but Fincher himself offers that as a strike against its Academy Award chances in this chat with EW. He's willing to campaign, but the overall impression you get is of a man who really doesn't give a shit. And cheers for that. [Entertainment Weekly]
Meryl Streep and Ralph Fiennes lead the cheers at starry AMPAS tribute
LONDON - There was no shortage of stirring testaments from industry luminaries at last night’s vastly entertaining Academy salute to British acting titan Vanessa Redgrave at London’s Curzon Soho cinema, yet the moment that stopped my heart came long after the audience had filed out of the auditorium following the nearly three-hour presentation.
Nipping out to the foyer to catch some air, I was met with the sight of Redgrave herself, imperiously elegant in a pale gray dressmaker’s coat, purposefully raiding the ground floor café to find a chair for a rather special guest – legendary 98-year-old cinematographer Douglas Slocombe.
Returning with a stool, she eased the blind, crutch-dependent but still pin-sharp veteran of Ealing comedies and Indiana Jones films alike into his seat, crouching beside him and murmuring affectionately into his ear as we all waited for his car to arrive. Watching these two very different warhorses of British cinema sharing such an intimately mundane moment, 34 years after they worked together on “Julia,” was as moving a reflection of a passing cinematic generation as any of the night’s more formal AMPAS tributes.
Guild gives their Filmmaker Award to Oscar-nominated 'Chicago' director
What do Quentin Tarantino, Gil Cates, Taylor Hackford, Henry Selick and now Rob Marshall have in common? Not a lot, to be honest. But they have all won the annual Filmmaker Award from the Cinema Audio Society, the guild that gives out its own sound awards in February.
I'm not sure whether or not the CAS determines recipients of this award based on their specific contribution to the art of sound in cinema, or simply who they like and who's available, but Marshall's work certainly has as much sound as anyone else's, and has been kindly treated by this fraternity: both "Chicago" and "Memoirs of a Geisha" landed CAS nominations (the former actually won the sound mixing Oscar). Moreover, if "Nine" failed to follow in their footsteps, musicals are still the genre that industry types most automatically connect with the notion of excellence in this particular craft.
Plus, he directed the last "Pirates of the Caribbean" film, and those are nothing if not noisy. I bet no one thought he'd be winning an award in the year he turned to that franchise, so good on the CAS for proving us all wrong. Anyway, congratulations to Marshall. Edited press release after the jump.
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New film fails to capture the man but does it reflect the soul of the nation?
J. Edgar Hoover, the man, has been described (at varying points) as controversial, enigmatic, megalomaniacal, a patriot, a zealot, a master of misinformation, paranoid, a visionary, corrupt and, ultimately, one of the most powerful men in U.S. history.
Clint Eastwood’s cinematic interpretation of Hoover’s life, “J. Edgar,” has inspired an equally mixed critical response (which may have resulted in this weekend’s soft box office returns). Ostensibly, the film means to deconstruct J. Edgar’s conflicting portrayals and, in doing so, paradoxically present an image of a complex but fully realized human being.
Yet, many critics have found that the subject simply floated out of Eastwood’s grasp. The film often reads as a series of disjointed vignettes, as if each scene is a separate paragraph lifted from Mr. Hoover’s own dictated autobiography and then interspersed with minor parenthetical adjustments and corrections made by those who were present at the events he is recalling.