No one needs awards coverage this deep
With a new film opening this weekend, one of last year’s breakouts looks ahead
Elizabeth Olsen emerged with one of last season’s most notable performances in the psychological meditation on identity, community and occultism: “Martha Marcy May Marlene.” She had a strong presence in the critics’ circuit and many felt she ought to have been granted an Oscar nod. An aspect of the intrigue surrounding Olsen’s debut is, of course, her familial connection to the industry.
Her older sisters, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who began their careers before they even had the power of speech, have long been famous, essentially, for being famous. The twins have been associated with the dramatic spectrum of celebrity for years. Unthinkable wealth (they are said to have net worth of upwards of $120 million dollars and preside over a billion-dollar fashion empire) is countered with a near constant onslaught by a press corps in search of the details of their private lives.
Fans and pros in the worlds of film, music and interactive descend on Texas
(Todd Gilchrist will be covering SXSW this year for In Contention. His dispatches will include reviews and interviews from the ground in Austin. We're happy to have him on board and look forward to his discoveries.)
AUSTIN, Texas - Because of the furor – and quite frankly, the films – at festivals like Cannes and Toronto, it’s easy to overlook South by Southwest as a destination for moviegoers, much less professionals and industry insiders eager to see what’s hot and what isn’t.
But SXSW has in recent years grown to epic proportions, thanks in no small part to its convergence of attendees from not just the film world, but music and technology as well, and that’s why it’s effectively the biggest festival stop in between Sundance in January and Cannes in May. Biggest doesn’t always necessarily mean best, mind you, but as with seemingly everything in Texas, where the festival is held, “more is more,” even when it just comes to where and in what context those movies are shown.
The plan: to make war criminal Joseph Kony a household name
In 2003, three friends -- Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole -- traveled to Africa in search of “untold stories.” What they found would inspire a movement and alter the course of their lives.
Each of the boys was a recent college grad with film, structural engineering and mathematics degrees respectively. But it was Russell who spearheaded their initial journey. The young filmmaker had traveled to Kenya in 2000 and, as he recalls in an interview with the 700 Club, had his "American bubble" popped.
"I suddenly realized we are the privileged percentage of the world,” Russell said. “I knew I had to go back to Africa." He reached out to several friends to make the trip with him but it was only Bailey and Poole who responded with equal passion.
The film’s star writes, publicly, to director Asghar Farhadi
“A Separation” holds a place of significance in Iran. It represents the nation’s first Best Foreign Language Film Oscar win and greatest box office success (over $10 million in international sales). It nearly failed to see the light of day and has been subject to multiple politically motivated interpretations.
The Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance placed a ban on “A Separation” while it was still in production following director Asghar Farhadi’s comments at the 2010 Iran Cinema Celebration criticizing the Iranian cultural policy for singling out and censuring some of the country’s most prominent filmmakers. The film's production license was eventually reinstated, however, allowing Farhadi to complete his film.
“A Separation” was originally interpreted as a protest against the current regime and yet has since been co-opted by said regime as a jewel in Iran’s geopolitical crown. According to Payvand Iran News, Fars news agency, which is referred to as “False News” by some and is reportedly connected to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), misquoted Farhadi’s Oscar speech in an article that linked the director to the current nuclear crisis.
The anniverasary event will be held one day only
While "The Godfather" is busy celebrating its 40th anniversary this year (and got a re-release courtesy of Cinemark Theatres), another American celluloid treasure will be turning 70 and getting it's own fresh look on screens later this month.
Michael Curtiz's undeniable classic, "Casablanca," premiered in November of 1942 before being released into theaters in early 1943. The film won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay and was nominated for Best Actor (Humphrey Bogart, who lost to Paul Lukas in "Watch on the Rhine"), Best Supporting Actor (Claude Rains, who lost to Charles Coburn in "The More the Merrier"), Best Black-and-White Cinematography (lost to "The Song of Bernadette"), Best Film Editing (lost to "Air Force") and Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (lost to "The Song of Bernadette").
He'll receive the country's highest decoration
Of course, these things are arranged too far in advance -- July last year, to be exact -- for the exchange to be quite as neat as it sounds, but the timing of this announcement underlines it anyway: in the same week that Harvey Weinstein won France its first Best Picture Oscar, the French in turn have honored the super-producer with its highest form of official recognition, the Légion d’Honneur.
Established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, the Légion is approximately equivalent to the Queen's Honours in Britain, noting outstanding individual contributions to French society and culture -- previous recipients in the film world range from Ennio Morricone to Kristin Scott Thomas to Clint Eastwood, alongside any number of homegrown talents. Weinstein was selected for the honor by French president Nicolas Sarkozy, as a measure of gratitude "to someone who has always shown great friendship towards our country and our cinema which you have enabled so many Americans to discover."
Uni floats celebratory Blu-rays while Focus offers a look back at performances
It looks like 2012 is going to be a big year for studio anniversaries. We've already talked about Paramount's centennial celebration, which was rung in with a classy screening of 1927 inaugural Best Picture winner "Wings" at the Academy in January, as well as a new iPad app putting the studio's classic output on a pedestal.
Also celebrating this year are Universal Pictures (getting 100 spankings like Paramount) and subsidiary Focus Features (marking its tenth year). Like Paramount, Universal has unveiled a new logo trailer for its films (see below) and started a stream of restoration Blu-ray releases that makes the mouth water. (Drew McWeeny is all over it.)
Focus, meanwhile, has released a tribute package of great performances in the company's films over the years, including those from Oscar winners Rachel Weisz ("The Constant Gardener"), Sean Penn ("Milk") and Christopher Plummer ("Beginners") and Oscar nominees Julianne Moore ("Far From Heaven"), Heath Ledger ("Brokeback Mountain") and Viggo Mortensen ("Eastern Promises").
March and April, meanwhile, look a little dicey
Now that the Oscar dust has settled and the early-year dumping ground has come to a close, studios are beginning to float materials for their (hopeful) moneymakers out there. Two trailers have dropped this week, for "The Avengers" (opening May 4) and Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie" (which doesn't hit until October).
On the former, I have to say, I'm on board. I have a built-in sense of caution when it comes to Joss Whedon, though, and I have to admit, as much as I don't mind seeing her face in, well, anything, Scarlet Johansson seems incredibly pointless to that enterprise. Nevertheless, my fingers are crossed Marvel pulls this off.
Robert Downey Jr. called it the real "most ambitious film" of the Hollywood system at Comic-Con two years back (amid similar talk surrounding "Avatar" at the time). Marrying these properties together, getting it to come off without an ego hitch, it's daunting. And there are money shots in the trailer that have me stoked. It should be an awesome way to kick off the summer movie season.
Oscar-winning sound mixers will demonstrate their craft
One of the things that always seems to be nebulous to new film enthusiasts and, in particular, new Oscar watchers is the difference between sound editing and sound mixing. We've certainly made it a point to explain it over the years via the two categories' separate Tech Support entries each season, but for those in the LA area, here's your opportunity for a thorough crash course, AMPAS-style.
The Academy has just announced its "40 Years of Sound for Film" event set to take place on Tuesday, March 6 at the Linwood Dunn Theatre in Hollywood. Fresh off his Oscar win for "Hugo," sound mixer Tom Fleischman will be on hand along withlegendary three-time Oscar-winning mixer Chris Newman ("Amadeus," "The English Patient," "The Exorcist") to "explore the intricacies of building a motion picture soundtrack using clips from 'Hugo,' 'The Silence of the Lambs' and 'The French Connection,'" according to the press release.
Art house fare from ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene' to 'Take Shelter' also present
The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films has announced the nominees for this year’s Saturn Awards and they are fairly across the map. There is a strong showing for the usual genre suspects with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” receiving 10 nominations, “Super 8” (fittingly) eight, “Captain America: The First Avenger” seven and “The Adventures of Tintin” and “Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol” six each.
But Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” seemed to be held in high favor. The film received 10 nominations, matching "Harry Potter," but the director is also set to receive The George Pal Memorial Award for his “brilliant ode to the triumphant spirit of early cinema" in the film.
“This was a phenomenal year for genre films and TV series, which broadened the horizons of storytelling and technology, bringing audiences new ways to dream,” said Academy President Robert Holguin. “Every one of the nominated films represents a major contribution to science fiction, fantasy and horror and Martin Scorsese truly exemplified what is best about films and filmmaking.”