Clint Mansell is a long ways away from his days as frontman of alt. rock band Pop Will Eat Itself. Since his first stab at it on Darren Aronofsky's "Pi," he has forged a singular career as a film composer, working on productions as varied as "Knockaround Guys," "Sahara," Moon" and "Stoker." But it seems whenever he comes back to the table with Aronofsky, that's when something magical happens.
David Ayer bit off a whole hell of a lot on the World War II drama "Fury." I'm not sure he could chew it all, but it's fascinating to watch the bevy of ideas bounce around on the screen nevertheless. It's a loud, bloody, gut-punching depiction, one that may or may not be too unsettling to appeal to Academy types but is still the best work Ayer has done, the most unflinching, and the most intriguing, certainly.
Sean Durkin knows farms.
In his spine-tingling, 2011 directorial debut "Martha Marcy May Marlene," Durkin explored the inner-workings of modern cult life, an organic brainwashing operation set against a lush plantation. John Hawkes' Old McManson was creepy as hell, but the backdrop — just lovely! Durkin has taken time and deviations in putting a follow-up feature together (he recently directed the British mini-series "Southcliffe," which earned him a BAFTA), but his next project is coming to light — and takes him back to the homestead.
At 46, after 20 years in the business, Will Smith is still the coolest guy in the room.
Say that his recent output reflects a former heavyweight star waning into obscurity and I'll show you a man who transcends the biggest duds. He still made those stuffy men in black look good in "MIB3," wound up overshadowing his kid successor as Cypher Raige in "After Earth," and joined Godly ranks as a wickedly funny Devil in mystifying "Winter's Tale." (And for fact-checkers: He only played the creation of the gods in "Hancock.") Smith isn't versatile, but he's reliable. The trailer for "Focus," the actor's latest, puts a darker spin on that established cool, Smith playing a confidence man in the thick of conspiracy. The man knows confidence.
We pointed out yesterday that we already had a record number of submissions for this year's Best Foreign Language Film Oscar race. Well, the Academy released the official list this afternoon and we actually ended up blowing past last year's record of 76: 83 countries have submitted for consideration in the 2014-2015 Oscar race.
Jeff Cronenweth grew up with cinematography in his bones. His father, Jordan Cronenweth, shot such unique achievements as "Altered States" and "Blade Runner" and it was never much of a question that Jeff would follow in his footsteps. Of late, he's forged a solid, on-going partnership with director David Fincher. Their latest collaboration, "Gone Girl," is another bold step for the icy aesthetic they've been cultivating for decades now.
The Best Visual Effects is often the place where the Academy recognizes what it is frequently accused of avoiding elsewhere: mainstream spectacle. Blockbusters reign in this category, at least at the nomination stage, with fantasy films, franchises and other money-makers always featuring prominently. The branch also has its specific fetishes, at least historically (talking animals immediately jumps to mind), though, in recent years, it has seemingly been all 3D, all the time.
I haven't been following Brad Bird's "Tomorrowland" too closely and I imagine that's how they want it. The air of mystery has been maintained throughout, but audiences at New York Comic-Con got a peek Thursday afternoon, and now so can you.
Patti Smith loves movies. A few days before we chatted about her Best Original Song contender "Mercy Is" from Darren Aronofsky's "Noah," Smith and her friend Ralph Fiennes took in two screenings at the currently running New York Film Festival: Mike Leigh's "Mr. Turner" followed by Paul Thomas Anderson's "Inherent Vice." The double feature was "quite a juxtaposition," she says with a laugh (Smith enjoyed both films). And it's her taste for movie-going that landed her a job writing the haunting melody that underscores Aronofsky's film. The two first met when they bumped into each other at the Venice Film Festival, catching one another at films and chatting between screenings. Three years later, their off-the-cuff conversation is now an Oscar-eligible single.
The first trailer for Barry Levinson's "The Humbling" teases so much that could — should? — go right. There's Levinson, whose never let his eclectic career hit an easy groove; There's star Al Pacino, a legend everyone's gunning for no matter how many "Righteous Kill"-like duds come along; There's the esteemed Philip Roth providing source material with Buck Henry adapting; And there's Greta Gerwig, one of the strongest young actresses in the business. Throwing Dianne Wiest, Charles Grodin, and Dan Hedaya on top is like a sundae with three cherries.