<p>Zhang Ziyi in &quot;The Grandmaster.&quot;</p>

Zhang Ziyi in "The Grandmaster."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Review: Wong Kar-wai's long-awaited 'The Grandmaster' opens Berlin on a conflicted note

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Typically gorgeous but narratively choppy martial arts epic fails to fly

BERLIN - The waiting, as noted philosopher Thomas Earl Petty once said, is the hardest part. Just as some of Terrence Malick's languorously produced films premiered as near-mirages, to the point that the mere fact of their existence had to be absorbed before the critical conversation could begin in earnest, it's difficult to consider Wong Kar-wai's "The Grandmaster" without its extensively delayed arrival having some effect on one's gut response.

In the moment, heated anticipation can turn a merely good film into a masterpiece, a mere misfire into a disaster. "The Grandmaster," a predictably picturesque but surprisingly unconfident foray into would-be lusty commercial movie-making for the singular arthouse stylist of "Chungking Express" and "In the Mood for Love," goes to neither of these extremes, but its missteps are doubly dismaying for the knowledge that Wong deliberated over them so long.

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<p>Roman Coppola poses for a portrait at the 2013 Oscar Nominee Luncheon</p>

Roman Coppola poses for a portrait at the 2013 Oscar Nominee Luncheon

Credit: Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

Roman Coppola on collaborating with Wes Anderson on 'Moonrise Kingdom'

The Oscar nominee calls their process 'practical' and 'matter of fact'

It was a series of circumstances that led to Roman Coppola's working relationship with director Wes Anderson. Filmmaker Kit Carson first introduced the two after being involved with Anderson's short film (and soon-to-be feature) "Bottle Rocket." Coppola really liked the film but doesn't recall whether there was necessarily any spark of a future collaboration in there. It was just the beginnings of an aesthetic appreciation.

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<p>&quot;Asad&quot;</p>

"Asad"

Credit: Magnolia Pictures

Oscar Guide 2013: Best Live Action Short Film

'Asad,' 'Buzkashi Boys,' 'Curfew,' 'Death of a Shadow' and 'Henry' square off

For professional pundits and armchair awards geeks alike, the short film categories can be the most fun to handicap -- since there's little basis on which to size up the race beyond the films themselves, and even then, it can hard to guess what Academy voters will see in them. For every year that the winner seems patently obvious, there's another in which the voters surprise with something out of left field. And getting a look at the nominees before the ceremony is no longer the rare advantage it once was: Magnolia Pictures and Shorts International released this year's live-action and animated short nominees on February 1.

Though last year's winner in the category, Irish writer-director Terry George, was an established name in feature film circles, this category is traditionally the domain of up-and-comers, with a number of past champions progressing to bigger things: Andrea Arnold ("Fish Tank"), Martin McDonagh ("In Bruges"), David Frankel ("The Devil Wears Prada") and current DGA president Taylor Hackford all made significant breakthroughs with a win here. Whether any of this year's finalists will progress to their ranks is, like everything about this category, anyone's guess. 

The nominees are...

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<p>Ben&nbsp;Wishaw in &quot;Cloud Atlas&quot;</p>

Ben Wishaw in "Cloud Atlas"

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

'Cloud Atlas,' 'Impossible,' 'Life of Pi,' 'Lincoln' lead International Film Music nominations

Alexandre Desplat also has a strong showing

Sometimes I feel like it would be helpful for the International Film Music Critics Association to release its list of nominees prior to the Oscar nominations. There is no real "precursor" to help understand what the music branch might be thinking. Then again, as evidenced by this year's slate, maybe they wouldn't be that helpful at all. A critics group's choices are bound to differ from a group of composers' choices, and so it has this year.

Four films led the way with three nods each: "Cloud Atlas," "The Impossible," "Life of Pi" and "Lincoln." Only the last two, of course, managed Oscar nominations. But Alexandre Desplat also had a great showing, nominated for film composer of the year and receiving individual notices for work on "Moonrise Kingdom," "Rise of the Guardians" and "Zero Dark Thirty." He was Oscar-nominated for "Argo" and also cranked out music for "Rust and Bone." I imagine he'll be right back in the thick of it next year with "The Monuments Men."

Check out the full list of nominees below. Winners will be announced on February 21. And as always, you know, The Circuit.

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<p>&quot;The Boxtrolls&quot;</p>

"The Boxtrolls"

Credit: Focus Features

LAIKA and Focus Features announce start of production on 'The Boxtrolls'

Coming October 2014

Focus Features is very much in he LAIKA business now, and after the success of "Coraline" and "ParaNorman," the two are teaming up again on "The Boxtrolls."

The film, which began production today and is set for an October 17, 2014 release, will be another stop-motion/CG hybrid 3D endeavor directed by Anthony Stacchi and Graham Annable. It's based on Alan Snow's best-selling fantasy adventure novel "Here Be Monsters" and will feature actors Ben Kingsley, Toni Collette, Elle Fanning and Isaac Hempstead-Wright on the voice cast, among others.

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<p>On the set of &quot;The Avengers&quot;</p>

On the set of "The Avengers"

Credit: Marvel Studios

Tech Support: Bringing 'The Avengers' to life through visual effects

Nominee Jeff White and Marvel honcho Victoria Alonso talk the film's nod and success

“The Avengers" was a pet project of Marvel Studios for years. After planting characters in solo films for half-a-decade, the superstar extravaganza hit the big screen last summer. Despite much risk, it was a rapturous success. Last month, the film earned a well-deserved nomination for Best Visual Effects and I recently spoke with Jeff White, visual effects supervisor at Industrial Light and Magic and one of the four artists who shared that nomination, as well as Victoria Alonso, Executive Vice-President of Marvel and executive producer of the film, about crafting the film and the visual effects.

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<p>&quot;Lincoln&quot;</p>

"Lincoln"

Credit: DreamWorks Studios

Roundup: 'Lincoln' and its team of non-rivals

Also: The season's most tearful hopefuls, and a peek at the BAFTA guest list

"Argo" may have taken a decisive lead in the Best Picture race with its slew of guild wins, but with two weeks of voting left, "Lincoln" isn't going to go away quietly -- indeed, the year's most nominated film seems to be renewing its media presence, most notably with an extensive interview piece in the New York Times, in which Steven Spielberg and many of his below-the-line collaborators, including nominees Janusz Kaminski, John Williams, Michael Kahn, Rick Carter and Joanna Johnston, weigh in on the challenges and rewards of making the film. This emphasis on team effort should cast the film in a positive light to voters, as does Spielberg's explanation of what separates the film from his other work: “I’ve never made a film where this was going to succeed or fail based on the writing and based on the performances ... Maybe this is the quietest directing I’ve done in my life.” [New York Times]   

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<p>Julie Delpy and&nbsp;Ethan Hawke in &quot;Before Midnight&quot;</p>

Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in "Before Midnight"

Credit: Sony Classics

Sony Classics sets release dates for 'Before Midnight,' 'I'm So Excited' and 'Blue Jasmine'

Will the summer bows be remembered when awards season rolls around?

I'd say I've written about Richard Linklater's beautiful and profound "Before Midnight" enough as it is. Sony Classics picked up the film out of Sundance and I've been waiting for release plans anxiously. Because if played right, this is a film that could land nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actress, easy.

So it's looking like May 24, according to a Tweet from Exhibitor Relations. The film will begin with New York and Los Angeles bows and move out from there. That's right after Cannes. They won't be taking it there since it's playing Berlinale, but a post-Cannes bow worked for Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris," which debuted at the fest in 2011, released soon after and was kept in theaters long enough to be a box office story and, eventually, an Oscar winner.

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<p>A scene from &quot;Kon-Tiki.&quot;</p>

A scene from "Kon-Tiki."

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Oscar Guide 2013: Best Foreign Language Film

'Amour,' 'War Witch,' 'No,' 'A Royal Affair' and 'Kon-Tiki' square off

(Welcome to the Oscar Guide, your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 24, with the Best Picture finale on Friday, February 22.) 

Have things finally turned around in what used to be the Oscars' most annually frustrating category? It's one where the commendable requirement that members see all five nominees before voting can lead to some unpopular upsets. But after year upon year of controversial omissions, vanilla inclusions and frequently forgettable winners, the Academy looks likely to crown the year's most universally acclaimed world cinema title for the second year in a row. To make matters all the sweeter, it's not their only reasonable option. This year's slate of nominees in the category is arguably the richest in recent memory: a healthily border-crossing mix of perspectives with one revered auteur balanced by a couple of bristly, exciting up-and-comers.

One might credit the Academy's consistent tweaking of the rules in this category for making it appear a little more on the money in the past few years: they were aware there was a problem, and hats off to them for addressing it. But it must be said that the individual countries played ball this year, too -- with very few exceptions, the national committees charged with selecting their official Oscar submission chose wisely. The resulting longlist of 71 films, the largest in Oscar history, was veritably stacked with festival sensations and under-the-radar gems. Winnowing it down to five was always going to be a heartbreaking process, but we still have reason to cheer those left standing.

The nominees are...

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<p>Christopher Plummer, Octavia Spencer, Meryl Streep and Jean Dujardin at last year's Academy Awards.</p>

Christopher Plummer, Octavia Spencer, Meryl Streep and Jean Dujardin at last year's Academy Awards.

Credit: AMPAS

Roundup: Streep, Dujardin, Spencer and Plummer all returning to the Oscars

Also: News from the Euro fest circuit, and a legal victory for James Cameron

Aside from last night's VES Awards, it's a pretty slow day on the circuit, so let's lead with some unsurprising but reassuring news. Not that you had any reason to suspect otherwise, but last year's quartet of acting Oscar winners -- Jean Dujardin, Meryl Streep, Christopher Plummer and Octavia Spencer -- will all be on hand to present at this year's awards, joining Mark Wahlberg and his fuzzy friend from "Ted" on the list of confirmed presenters. Assuming the Oscarcast producers don't veer from the traditional format, you could already start imagining the juxtapositions: many people's choice for Greatest Actress Alive handing the Oscar to many people's choice for Greatest Actor Alive, welcoming him into the triple-winner club to boot, is a particularly nifty photo op waiting to happen. And while Jennifer Lawrence remains at the front of the Best Actress race, how sweet would it be to see Jean Dujardin present the award to his senior compatriot, Emmanuelle Riva? [The Wrap]

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