Someone noted recently that we didn't put up a call for reactions to Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom." It's been moving steadily through a very limited release for a few weeks (and breaking box office records previously held by "Brokeback Mountain" in the process -- both are Focus Features films), but this weekend it tacked on 80 screens. So maybe more of you will have a chance to check it out now. Personally speaking, as someone not in the Anderson wheelhouse at all, I quite liked it. So head on back here whenever you get around to it and let us know your take. And if you've already seen it, join in! Also, feel free to rank the film above.
I was out of town for all the LA "Prometheus" press screenings, so I'll be heading out to the theater in a few to catch it myself with the masses. I actually had hoped to hit the midnight screening last night but it sold out. For now, though, I'm sure plenty of you will have something to say on the matter as Ridley Scott's film has been one of the most anticipated of the year. When you get around to it, head on back here with those thoughts and soon enough, I'll dive into the conversation with you. Also, feel free to rank the film via the tool above. (UPDATE: Okay, I'm back. Incredibly disappointing.)
Your heart has to melt for Quentin Tarantino. The guy is nothing if not protective and supportive of his crews, many key members loyal to him over the years.
Back in 2010, he was dealt a blow when long-time editor Sally Menke tragically died amid hot summer temperatures while hiking in Runyon Canyon, and today, the production designer of his hotly anticipated western "Django Unchained," J. Michael Riva, has reportedly died at the age of 63, according to Variety.
Tarantino has worked with designer David Wasco for the majority of his career and Riva was a bit of a departure for "Django." But judging by the look of the film in the trailer, which just hit the net yesterday, the collaboration is a fruitful one. Filming has been taking place at the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio up in Newhall, California, north of Los Angeles, and is currently on-going in New Orleans.
I apologize for leaving my Cannes coverage somewhat unfinished. General fatigue combined with the post-festival distractions of Paris to put all film-related thoughts on the back burner for a week -- which frankly, with films as gnawingly variegated as "Holy Motors" or the only superficially tidy "Amour," can only aid an eventual review. All will be discussed eventually; the films, sadly, are many months away yet.
I did, however, want to start my Cannes catch-up work with a personal viewing highlight about which I've received more questions from readers, Twitter followers and the odd colleague than any of the festival's big winners -- perhaps as a result of my placing it one slot ahead of Michael Haneke's Palme d'Or winner in Indiewire's critics' survey of the best of the fest. Invited to name the best five films across all strands of the festival, I didn't stray too far from consensus: alongside "Amour," films like "Holy Motors," "No" and "Rust and Bone" were hardly short of champions. What, then, was "Ernest and Celestine" doing among them?
One of the films you'll soon see I'm pretty high on for the upcoming awards season is Ben Affleck's "Argo." I don't know what it is but I just find myself rooting for Affleck to really succeed behind the camera. Guys like him, Bennett Miller, George Clooney, Tom McCarthy, Scott Cooper, Billy Ray, Sean Penn, they trade in a sort of stripped-down, frill-free cinema that nevertheless never sacrifices thematic potency for subtle strokes.
It's interesting to note, then, that a number of those filmmakers are either current or former actors themselves. Affleck did his time building a movie star image that eventually became fodder for gossip column inches, and he also made his share of dubious role choices. But he was surely always learning from those experiences. He is still, after all, an Oscar winner for one of the richest screenplays of the late-1990s.
One more trailer today -- a sneaky one. If you take a look at the slate of films Paramount Pictures has for this year's Oscar season, you'll find that the studio might want to go shopping on the fall festival circuit. But for a company that isn't huge on acquisitions, particularly for awards product, you can bet that's not likely to happen.
What you're left with are two films: the animated "Rise of the Guardians" out of DreamWorks and Robert Zemeckis's first live action film in over a decade. The latter is "Flight," starring Denzel Washington as an embattled airplane pilot in legal hot water following his crash-landing a commercial flight -- and saving many lives in the process.
The smart play for Paramount this year might just be to focus on a smaller slice rather than split its focus across a wide spectrum. Indeed, the last few (post-Vantage) years have seen collectives like "Star Trek"/"Up in the Air," "The Fighter"/"Shutter Island"/"True Grit" and "Hugo"/"Super 8"/"Young Adult" chew up that focus (not that they haven't come out with plenty to show -- four Best Picture nods in those three years, after all).
The Weinstein Company is bursting at the seams with possibilities for this year's awards season, as I'll detail further when I write up the year's first Off the Carpet column next week. One of those films is Quentin Tarantino's hotly anticipated "Django Unchained," which gets a nice, shiny trailer today on the heels of some footage that debuted at the Cannes Film Festival last month.
It looks like an exciting western romp, as we might have expected. Leonardo DiCaprio appears to be having a blast. Everyone does, really. There are lots of immaculately crafted frames throughout, proving what we already figured: the material is a showcase for lenser Robert Richardson. Indeed, all the design elements in the film appear to be top notch.
I like that Tarantino is stretching his work into the realm of period with this and "Inglourious Basterds" before it. And I have rather high hopes that the western genre will get a healthy injection by the box office success this is sure to have (a nice compliment to the success of "True Grit" two years ago).
Rather like that dully nice party guest whose name refuses to stick in the memory, "Bel Ami" is a film of which I have had to be reminded more than once this year. I saw it back in February, in the wilting days of the Berlin Film Festival, and even then a colleague had to wheedle me into accompanying him. The film evaporated from memory within days, only to crash it once more as London bus banners bedecked with Robert Pattinson's face flashed past my living-room window, announcing the film's March release in the UK. It swiftly exited consciousness again, in a fug of limp reviews and indifferent box office, only to resurface this week, with a fresh round of critical sighs signalling the film's arrival in US screens on Friday.
I meant to review "Bel Ami" out of Berlin, but somehow kept putting it off until the film slipped my mind altogether. Nearly four months later, I still think my tweet review pretty much suffices. The film is a harmless would-be prestige picture whose only real prestige lies in the pilfered genius of Guy de Maupassant -- the 19th-century French author's sly society satire, concerning a dim Parisian cad ascending the political ladder on the backs of his mistresses, here simplified into a ruffled bed-hopping soap, preoccupied principally with getting Pattinson and the attractive female ensemble into tasteful states of undress.
Science-fiction fans have been looking forward to “Prometheus,” Ridley Scott’s return to the genre, for over a year. The film has already opened in Europe after its London premiere last Thursday and comes to U.S. theatres this weekend. Scott has long been renowned for his contributions in the field -- “Blade Runner” and “Alien" -- as both films have shaped the genre's visual and thematic aesthetic in a broad context.
The grittier feel of the futuristic depictions became the norm rather than the exception in the wake of “Alien”’s immediate success and “Blade Runner”’s long-term impact, as did the genre blending Scott employed in each (sci-fi/horror in “Alien” and sci-fi/noir in “Blade Runner”). Scott gave himself a mandate to discover a new way to approach and refresh the genre with “Prometheus.” One of the ways he’s done so is to evolve and expand upon artist H.G. Giger’s original imagery, depicting the primordial integrated with the technological.
UPDATE (6/6): Well, GKIDS just announced another acquisition, this one with an expressly intended Oscar qualification release noted: "From Up on Poppy Hill." Add that one to the fire.
EARLIER: I'm asked daily at this point so I guess I'll just say, yes, predictions are coming. By the end of the month.
One of the things I start doing around this time of year, in preparation for that package, is suss out the animated feature category as best I can. Things change often with this field as we're always focused on the magic number of qualifying contenders necessary for five nominees (16), and even that can offer surprises as this film or that fails to submit paperwork, or this or that pops up as a sudden fringe possibility.
Last year there were three such possibilities, all of them from scrappy indie GKIDS. The distributor landed its first (surprise) nomination in the field back in 2009 for "The Secret of Kells" and muscled in with two showings last year for "A Cat in Paris" and "Chico & Rita." This year, once again, GKIDS has a few options.