No one needs awards coverage this deep
Synopsis suggests director's latest may be drawn from his romantic past
With screenings of Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" suddenly popping up all over the place -- to the consternation, I believe, of Venice festival brass, who usually secure world premiere slots for their Competition titles -- Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder" stands as the greatest unwrapped enigma of the fall festival season. Typically for the publicity-shy director, details of the narrative and stylistic construction of his latest have been spare. There's been no trailer. No poster, either. And while a single still has been floating around online for over a year, no others have joined it to show us what visual poetry Emmanuel Lubezki might have up his sleeve this time round.
We've known for some time that "To the Wonder" -- the first film of Malick's career with a more or less contemporary setting -- is a romance of sorts, centering around a reunion between childhood friends Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams. The synopsis from production company FilmNation offers a few more specifics -- as well as an explanation of the film's only superficially oblique title -- that suggests the autobiographical urges that propelled last year's "The Tree of Life" may once more be at play here.
The great celluloid vs. digital debate really opens up for the layman
I'm not really sure what's left to be said in the great film vs. digital debate, but if nothing else, Christopher Kenneally's "Side by Side" brings things to a head nicely as it represents the layman's way into the discussion. These things always reach broader consideration last and no film, to date, has been as thorough and definitive as this.
A year after "Hugo" brought concepts of film preservation into a narrative fold and fed a meta fire throughout a season very much about Hollywood and the history of cinema, the debate rages on. That film's director, Martin Scorsese, the great protector of celluloid, appears to be throwing in the towel, while recent pop-up screenings (with one more still to come) of Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master," shot on 65mm, doubled as a benefit for Scorsese's film preservation-dedicated Film Foundation. These are very divided, even contradictory times.
What happens when you fuse Oscar's Best Picture list with the S&S poll?
It's been a while, but welcome (back) to Cinejabber, your weekend space to spill whatever film-related thoughts are on your mind.
For me, it's still the Sight & Sound poll -- the gift that keeps giving. Or taking, perhaps: it's certainly vacuumed up far too much of my free time. Just as the analyses and arguments over the Top 100 announced at the start of the month had begun to dissipate, the conversation was re-juiced when they released the full results online, cross-referencing all 846 individual Top 10 lists from the critics' poll contributors. I already revealed my list on these pages last week again, but here it is in Sight & Sound format, with additional commentary.
Just last night, Kris was bemoaning the lack of a single vote for Sidney Lumet's "Network." It's one of several high-profile (and Oscar-guzzling) American films -- ranging from "Schindler's List" to "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" to "The Silence of the Lambs" -- that don't feature at all in a pile of over 2000 titles that does include such timeless classics as "Hitman," "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" and "The Sapphires." (Okay, I like one of those. But, well, you know.) I like these odd anomalies, a sign of a list built by unconnected individuals rather than a committee, though not everyone is equally amused.
I kept looking through the "N-O" section. Surely I missed it. Is there a "next page" link? No. Am I in the right...no, I'm not on the wrong page. I'm in the "all films" section. Let me search by director, for the Lumet films. There's "Dog Day Afternoon." There's "Night Falls on Manhattan." There's "12 Angry Men." One vote each. Maybe it's a glitch. Only three Lumet films? I'm getting side-tracked.
Finally it just settled: 846 top 10 lists from correspondents in 73 countries citing 2,045 different films, and not one of them -- not a single one -- thought 1976's "Network" deserved a mention. "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" gets to call itself one of the lot, but not one of the greatest films of all time, indeed, the greatest screenplay of all time.
Meanwhile, Denmark's submission committee has a tough choice to make
I'm surprised it's taken this long for me to have to write one of these posts -- international submissions for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar usually start trickling through in July or so. So expect a lot more of these announcements before the October 1 deadline for submissions. We'll be keeping track of them -- or doing our best to, as they begin flooding in in the thick of festival season -- on our Contenders page for the category.
Anyway, Morocco is first out of the gate this year, having selected Faouzi Bensaidi's socially-minded thriller "Death for Sale" as their best hope for awards glory. Perhaps the country's selectors are feeling a little more confident, having unexpectedly cracked the nine-film longlist for the first time back in January with the under-the-radar prison drama "Omar Killed Me," and therefore having come tantalizingly close to their first Oscar nomination. Not a prolific film industry by any means, Morocco has only entered the race eight times since 1977.
Plus: Check out the Oscar-winning 1996 doc 'Breathing Lessons' and the new poster
One of the first screenings I caught here in New York this week was Ben Lewin's "The Sessions," which I saw yesterday. The film debuted at Sundance (where it was called "The Surrogate") to much acclaim and became an instant contender for Best Actor (John Hawkes) and Best Actress (Helen Hunt). William H. Macy's supporting performance could also be a player.
It's a very emotional film, ultimately, even if it gets there with a lighter touch. Much of that has to do with Hawkes's fantastic performance, carving an endearing portrait of real-life polio sufferer Mark O'Brien. O'Brien was a Berkeley poet and journalist who spent the majority of his waking hours in an iron lung and, toward the end of his life, wanted to know the pleasure of being with a woman. But the film ends up being about way more than the physical joy of sex, navigating a path of spirituality and humanity toward that most important of life's offerings: intimate human connection.
The 50th annual slate has been revealed
Okay, so, I said it yesterday, but to reiterate: a busy week for NYFF. Robert Zemeckis's "Flight," Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" and David Chase's "Not Fade Away" have been tapped for big world premieres, and today, the full line-up has been unveiled by Film Society of Lincoln Center.
As usual, there are some Cannes carry-overs, chief among them Michael Haneke's Palme d'Or-winning "Amour." Also in the mix are Christian Mungiu's "Beyond the Hills," Leos Carax's "Holy Motors" and Pablo Larrain's "No," among others.
Continuing along the fall festival circuit will be Brian De Palma's "Passion" (already set for Toronto/Venice and a potential Telluride play, too), Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha" (set for Toronto) and Olivier Assayas' "Something in the Air" (Venice). And there is another world premiere noted: Allan Berliner's "First Cousin Once Removed."
After a strong Cannes debut, the long wait for a distributor is over
A couple of weeks ago, I wondered why it was taking so long for Jeff Nichols' "Mud" -- an audience-pleasing, star-powered coming-of-age story with genre trappings -- to find a US distributor, after being so warmly received at the tail-end of the Cannes Film Festival. I closed by speculating that indie outfit Roadside Attractions was the sort of company that might be willing to take on the film, and steer it through an awards season where it could turn into a popular property.
Lo and behold, the news broke yesterday that Roadside, together with parent company Lionsgate, are all set to acquire US rights to the film -- but that they're only planning to release it in 2013. There's no word yet on when in the new year "Mud" is set to hit, but if they share my belief in its awards potential -- at the very least, it represents a decent Best Actor play for the currently resurgent Matthew McConaughey -- the wait could be rather a long one. Meanwhile, it still hasn't shown up in the Toronto Film Festival lineup.
From 'The Sopranos' to the big screen and a Big Apple bow
It's been a busy week for Film Society of Lincoln Center, lining up the program for the 50th annual New York Film Festival. Announcements of "Life of Pi" and "Flight" as bookends to the fest already stood out as a major step forward where nabbing exclusive bows was concerned, and today, it's been revealed that "Not Fade Away" will see its world premiere as a centerpiece presentation.
David Chase's much-anticipated directorial debut tells the coming-of-age tale of a group of friends inspired to form their own rock band fronted by a gifted singer-songwriter. But talking with a publicist this week who's working on the film, it's also apparently very much about that moment in time when Chase and his friends moved to New York and realized there was a way of life as artists. And with a killer soundtrack to boot.
Chase, of course, made his name on the small screen with series like "Northern Exposure" and, most especially, "The Sopranos." It's nice that his first stab at the big screen will be an intimate portrait along these lines. "Sopranos" star James Gandolfini has a role in the film, which also stars Brad Garrett, Christopher McDonald and Bella Heathcote, among others.
Jeremy Irvine and Holliday Grainger also star in the upcoming TIFF player
When I got married in March, we chose, as many couples do, to offer up readings meant to shed light on our feelings for one another. Mine was a brief but potent (to me) excerpt from Charles Dickens's "Great Expectations." It was the final line, in fact, which has a long story of its own (Dickens offered up three versions and settled on one that carries a delicious sort of ambiguity).
It's my favorite book ever since I cheated and read the Cliff's Notes in the 9th grade (of course I've read it in full since). I love what it says about connectivity, about love, about passion and obsession and about finding one's way in the world. And like many, I always felt there was little to add to David Lean's cinematic interpretation from 1946. Nevertheless, I must say I even enjoyed Alfonso Cuarón's embattled modernization in 1998. (That film's poster hangs framed on my kitchen wall in Los Angeles.)