Zal Batmanglij's "The East" premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in January. Its positioning this summer has me interested in giving it another look amid the surrounding blockbuster noise. The film is about an operative for a private intelligence firm embedded in a corporation-focused anarchist group who sees her priorities tested. It is the follow-up to Batmanglij's debut, "Sound of my Voice."
CANNES - A late, not-entirely-incidental scene in “Behind the Candelabra” finds Swarovski-encrusted pianist Liberace holding forth on the 1981 Academy Awards. The showbiz legend is due to make his long-desired debut appearance as performer and presenter, and you may or may not be surprised to learn that he’s backing “On Golden Pond,” that maudlin, Vaseline-lit ode to comfortable expiration, to take the gold. “I’m so glad Jane Fonda’s dropped all those awful causes and made a nice film with her father,” he coos primly. “Our job is to entertain the world and sell lots of drinks and souvenirs.”
CANNES - Adding the title of "film critic" to his well-strung bow of professional achievements, actor-writer-director-artist-musician-academic-activist-probable-ceramicist James Franco recently spoke up for this year's Cannes opener, Baz Luhrmann's flash-and-sizzle adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby," against the predictable armada of critics dismissing it. "These people make their living doing readings and critiques of texts in order to generate theories of varying levels of competency," he wrote for VICE magazine. "Luhrmann’s film is his reading and adaptation of a text – his critique, if you will."
When last year's Oscarcast producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron were tapped for the 2014 Academy Awards, speculation immediately swirled around the possibility that they would offer hosting duties to Seth MacFarlane once again. With Academy president Hawk Koch keeping the "consistency" mantra going -- citing a ratings boost, though failing to consider that the films in play had plenty to do with it -- it made sense that MacFarlane might be back, regardless of the critical thrashing he and the telecast took in February.
Indeed, an offer was extended to the "Family Guy" funny man, despite his stern "no way" response to a Twitter query in the wake of the 85th annual show about whether he'd consider it again. Well, whether he was game or he wasn't, MacFarlane has officially dropped out of the running today, he revealed on Twitter. And he even took a bit of a shot at that critical thrashing in the process.
CANNES - As a rule, Sony Pictures Classics tends to make the first big acquisitions strike at the Cannes Film Festival: last year, they moved quickly when Chilean sensation "No" started getting sidebar buzz (and steered it all the way to an Oscar nomination.
CANNES - For artists now closing in on their thirtieth year of sustained filmmaking success, Joel and Ethan Coen still find an inordinate amount of inspiration in failure. From Barton Fink to Larry Gopnik to the Dude himself, underachievement – whether by personal or social standards – has been the hallmark of many a great Coen hero, sometimes more proudly (and more deservedly) than others. To this estimable gallery of schmucks, we can now add Llewyn Davis: a sincerely talented musician, a compellingly gauche social maladjust and, as played by the winningly rumpled Oscar Isaac, star of one of the brothers’ most bittersweet films.
You didn't think "Argo" and its Oscar run was through with you yet, did you?
Tonight on "Saturday Night Live," last year's golden boy Ben Affleck took up hosting duties for the fifth time in his career, bringing the 38th season of the show to a close and putting a big bow on the 2012-2013 Oscar season.
J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek Into Darkness" has arrived. From here the film goes out into the unforgiving summer and we'll just have to see where it stands fiscally on the other side of things. But I imagine at the very least its various craft achievements will be in the awards discussion at the end of the year.
So with that in mind, how has a franchise that spans 12 films over 34 years fared at the Academy Awards all this time? It seemed like something worth digging into for our purposes here and with the new film on screens, so let's take a look…
CANNES - Something's ailing Benicio Del Toro's title character in "Jimmy P. (Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian)," but let's lay that to one side for now. More pressingly, what is up with Arnaud Desplechin? The French writer-director is typically one of his country's liveliest talents, with big, crowded, unapologetically chaotic films like "A Christmas Tale" and "Kings and Queen" bristling with emotional and intellectual curiosity -- but he's come a cropper in this lethargic, self-important psychiatry study, which he himself seems to have directed from the couch.
CANNES - Nothing I've seen at Cannes so far -- not even the current Palme d'Or favorite, Hirokazu Kore-eda's button-cute parenthood drama "Like Father, Like Son" -- has, to my ear, pushed the end-credits clap-o-meter quite as far into the red as Alain Guiraudie's Un Certain Regard entry "Stranger by the Lake." Elated whoops and whistles greeted this minimalist French thriller's final fade to black: not the reaction you'd usually expect from a civilian festival crowd for a work of such sleek, stark nihilism as to prompt visions of Robert Bresson adapting Patricia Highsmith. All of which leads me to at least one conclusion: audiences out there are really starved for gay sex.