No one needs awards coverage this deep
A salute to the actor on his 50th birthday
Movie star Tom Cruise has been, somewhat quietly, passing through one of the high-water marks of his career as of late. In December, "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" became his biggest box office success to date, which is saying something in a career that has included such blockbuster fare as "Top Gun," "Minority Report" and "War of the Worlds," not to mention three previous entries in the franchise; he managed to be just one of very few elements of "Rock of Ages," currently in theaters, to come away unscathed; and, oh yeah, he's turning 50 today.
Cruise has been in the news a lot this week as a result of his (naturally very public) divorce from Katie Holmes. But I'll save the melodrama regarding what the "real" story is behind all of that for those overly interested. It's unfortunate that this planned piece of commentary ended up coinciding with one of Cruise's personal low points, but so be it. As noted in The New York Times yesterday (beat me to the punch), he always bounces back.
Émilie Dequenne is astonishing in Cannes critics' hit
KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic - I don’t why it didn’t occur to me that a film festival located high in the Czech mountains in the middle of summer would be on the warm side, but it didn’t – it’s been a humid few days of filmgoing here at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, even when some films haven’t packed much heat. Handily enough, the air conditioning throughout the festival center apparently chose this weekend to go on the blink, introducing a sauna-like atmosphere to certain screening rooms that, in the words of a glass-half-full Czech critic I overheard yesterday, “intensifies the experience.”
The experience was only moderately de-intensified this evening with an electrical storm that did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the numerous al fresco beer drinkers at this cheerfully youth-populated festival. “The weather here is Karlovy Varied,” remarked a British writer-director, who’d probably rather not be credited with that line, as we joined them. The festival itself may want to reappropriate it for advertising purposes. My viewing list from the last two days has been nothing if not Karlovy varied: it spans, among others, a blissful big-screen return visit to Jean-Pierre Melville’s “Le Samouraï,” a Finnish-Portuguese western inspired by the work of Henry David Thoreau and an erotic Dutch character study understandably – if not quite accurately – described by several critics as a female-focused “Shame.”
Czech fest opens with Irish music bio 'Good Vibrations'
KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic - "All of this... for some movies?" The line -- spoken by a fellow critic, mind -- was tinged not with contempt, but genuine astonishment. We were standing on the humming, uplit terrace of the Grand Hotel Pupp, the largest and swankiest of many large and swanky hotels in the sequestered Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary, gazing out at the bewilderingly lavish party not much laid as frosted on for the opening night of the town's 47th annual film festival.
Inside, several hundred champagne-marinated guests filled the hotel's five vast banquet rooms, straying only a gentle distance from a vast buffet -- of which a five-foot tuna laid on ice and getting surgically sashimi'ed was a mere sideshow. Somewhere downstairs, Helen Mirren -- honored for her contribution to European cinema at the festival's opening ceremony earlier in the evening -- and assorted Czech politicos lived it up in a presumably gilded VIP lounge: perhaps their tuna was even larger, their pancake station a queue-free affair. (Yes, all film festivals from here on out should have a pancake station.) I have yet to see a festival bash even half as shiny; it made the charmingly beery ceilidhs of the Edinburgh Film Festival last week look wattle-and-daub-esque by comparison.
Terrence Malick, the Dardennes and Wong Kar Wai get directors branch invites
The Academy has announced its annual list of new invites, always a fun thing to browse through and say, "Damn, it's about time," or, "Jesus, really?" So let's see.
Actors of note that were brought in include all of last year's non-member nominees and/or winners: Bérénice Bejo, Demián Bichir, Jessica Chastain, Jean Dujardin, Jonah Hill, Melissa McCarthy, Janet McTeer and Octavia Spencer, welcome aboard. Other notables include Tom Berenger (26 years after "Platoon" -- I guess "Inception" brought up his stock), Bryan Cranston, Matthew McConaughey (nice), Sam Rockwell, Andy Serkis and Michelle Yeoh.
The Dardenne brothers finally got an invite from the directors branch, which is quite lovely, as did last year's Best Foreign Language Film winner Asghar Farhadi (who was also invited to the writers branch -- ditto Michel Hazanavicius).
Steven Soderbergh's male-stripper comedy hits theaters today
With Steven Soderbergh evidently in brisk entertainer mode, Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey both coming into career form and a raunchy, lickety-split trailer doused in Rihanna, I walked into "Magic Mike" last night expecting some summery fun. Even I, however, was surprised to be greeted with top-drawer Soderbergh: a grown-up, disarmingly classical riff on Hollywood backstage-musical tropes, sure to remain one of the year's smartest studio films. Tatum, in case "21 Jump Street" hadn't underlined the point, has rare star quality; Alex Pettyfer, who hadn't threatened such promise until now, is a revelation. And could Oscar attention await McConaughey's delightfully skeezy supporting turn, or Reid Carolin's lithe original script? Who knows? If you're planning on catching it this weekend, be sure to share your thoughts below, and your rating above.
The director's own personal El Dorado informed a lot of the project
BEVERLY HILLS - Have you had a chance to see "Beasts of the Southern Wild" yet? The film only opened in limited release Wednesday, so chances are it hasn't crept your way yet, but when it does, you're sure to be treated to an undeniably singular and assured vision if nothing else.
The purveyor of that vision is writer/director Benh Zeitlin (along, of course, with his co-writer and childhood friend Lucy Alibar), and he seems to be seeking out a zen space amid overwhelming response to the film first at Sundance and later at the Cannes film festival, both of which brought laurels. On the eve of the Los Angeles fest (which would again bring another award), he's cool and collected at a press day for the film, the specter of release hanging overhead.
The bayou-set modern fable was seeded in Alibar's original play, "Juicy and Delicious," though it wasn't always a Louisiana tale. All of Alibar's work are set in her native Georgia, but when Zeitlin sat down to work on it as a feature film, he wanted to transport the setting to New Orleans.
Did 'The Iron Lady' play a hand in the makeup category's new moniker?
The Academy has announced rule changes for the 85th annual Academy Awards, which were voted upon Tuesday. All of the changes are quite minimal.
However, in the makeup category -- which will now be known as Best Makeup and Hairstyling -- I'm guessing the change has a lot to do with "The Iron Lady" hair stylist Marese Langan not being able to share in the win last year when she could at the BAFTA Awards. But things were actually reversed there, where prosthetics designer Mark Coulier originally wasn't allowed to share in the honor across the pond.
All of that caused a bit of a dust-up last year, thanks in part to Guy's spotlighting a post from blogger Bradley Porter (who worked on the film and later removed the post as a favor) on the matter.
A rare opportunity to see it on the big screen
Recently you may recall Drew McWeeny and I separately participated in Cole Abaius's answer to the Sight & Sound all-time list of the greatest movies for Film School Rejects. In summing up his pick for the #1 movie ever, Drew said of David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" that the film's subject, T.E. Lawrence, "is a fascinating historical figure, full of contradictions, and it is fitting that David Lean's epic masterpiece manages to be funny, thrilling, sad, political, and dynamic."
Indeed, while it's been far too long since I last saw the film, it's one that sticks with you. It's the kind of thing the word "movie" was made for. The kind of thing you should experience on the big screen once in your life if you can. Or, as Drew prefers, in 70mm (indeed). Well, there's an opportunity coming up.
The Academy has announced that it will be presenting the US premiere of a new digital restoration of the film on Thursday, July 19 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. The restoration originally bowed at the Cannes film festival in May.
David O. Russell's 'Fighter' follow-up will be part of TWC's awards arsenal
The Weinstein Company, as noted a few times already, has quite the slate of films to throw at the wall this awards season. But what will stick? Will Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" sweep through the branches as a favorite or will it just be seen as a fun romp? Will Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" find a welcome rhythm? Will "Lawless" and "Killing Them Softly" find a much warmer reception than they did at Cannes? And what of something like Dustin Hoffman's "Quartet," stealthy and unassuming?
"The Silver Linings Playbook" is part of all of this too. It was featured with "Django" and "The Master" at Cannes as part of a footage screening package and comes from "The Fighter" director David O. Russell. I've heard this and that about the film, about how Robert De Niro is finally not phoning it in, about how stand-out "it" girl Jennifer Lawrence is, etc. But I've also heard Bradley Cooper is a bit surprising with his performance, and judging by the recently released trailer, I can see immediately he's firing on different cylinders than usual.
January longlists to be scrapped and chapter voting reversed
Ah, BAFTA -- even when they're not making a conscious decision to do so, they seem to wind up shadowing the Academy. As Kris reported yesterday, AMPAS brass are meeting today to discuss potential changes to the voting rules for next year's Academy Awards. Earlier today, however, BAFTA beat them to the punch by announcing an overhaul of their own voting system. They'd cry "First!" -- but it's not the English thing to do.
The changes are considerable, and to my eye, come with both pros and cons -- but the chief takeaway, for better or worse, is that it makes the BAFTA voting system markedly more similar to that of the Oscars. That'll disappoint those who treasure the quirks of the Brits' previous voting system, which sometimes resulted in some rather distinctive winners. But since dramatically shifting their calendar to precede the Oscars in 2000 -- they used to take place several weeks after -- the BAFTAs having been falling ever more in line with the American awards, so this feels like a natural progression.