Joe Swanberg is such a prolific one-man indie factory -- he's directed 16 features in nine years, believe it or not -- that it can be difficult to mentally separate each one of his films from the others. So while I can't name career highs with complete authority, I'm comfortable saying that "Happy Christmas" is easily my favorite of Swanberg's films to date: a big-hearted, precisely observed character piece that has the warmth and texture of actual cinema.
Well, when the teaser poster for "Fury" debuted online yesterday, we knew a trailer couldn't be far behind -- so here it is. And from this two-minute glimpse, it looks to be very much the vision of war we were expecting from writer-director David Ayer: not exactly innovative, but as stern, purposeful and high-octane as the contemporary cop dramas on which he built his reputation. Brad Pitt appears to be on imposingly brutish form, but this looks like a relatively generous ensemble piece.
A little over six years after the fact, it's striking to revisit Tilda Swinton's reaction to winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for "Michael Clayton." At the time, fans were jubilant and the audience was amused by her blunt "Oh, no" reaction and on-stage decision to give the statue to her agent. Watching the clip today there is a look of almost sheer horror on her face as her name is read and as she walks to the stage. This wasn't something Swinton strived for. She's an artist. Winning Oscars wasn't part of the plan if there ever was one. In the years since, however, Swinton has clearly found a way to balance her artistic interests with films that can find some legs in the global Hollywood movie-making machine.
Well, this is pretty neat. I hadn't realized that the Academy has launched a web series of sorts, taking on a range of film-related subjects past and present -- and sometimes focusing on individual artists. The initiative is titled Academy Originals; previous episodes have centered on Patton Oswalt, Dustin Lee Black and "Jurassic Park," among others. This week's subject: writer-director Ava DuVernay.
The cinema doesn't exactly want for Second World War dramas, but nonetheless, I'm increasingly looking forward to "Fury." David Ayer's tough brand of crime storytelling has worked better in some projects than others -- "Sabotage" wasn't quite the follow-up to "End of Watch" most of us were hoping for -- but he's a distinctive stylist, and I'm interested to see how his street sensibility adapts to a period piece.
Are the Coen brothers directing a Wes Anderson film? Only kidding, but you'd be forgiven for thinking so with the announcement of today's new cast additions to the filmmaker siblings' upcoming "Hail, Caesar!"
One can only figure that Disney was none-too-pleased with Stephen Sondheim's comments regarding the upcoming film adaptation of "Into the Woods." Last week, he seemed to offer a disparaging tone in noting that significant changes to the story's content had been made (though he did note that if he had been in Disney's shoes, he would have made the same conservative calls). Today, through his lawyer, Sondheim has issued a statement to Playbill to clarify.
There is a reason I'm a Batman fan. It's not because I'm a life-long comic book reader. That came later. And it's not because I grew up watching reruns of the old ABC television series. Though I certainly did. It's because Tim Burton's "Batman," released in theaters 25 years ago today, was the first movie that really owned my anticipatory faculties as a child. It was the first film that lit my movie-going fire, a designation saved for "Star Wars," "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "E.T." a generation prior and perhaps "Jurassic Park" and Harrison Ford's actioners a generation later.
In the simplest of terms, I wouldn't be a film obsessive if it weren't for "Batman." I owe it that much.
Well, this is a refreshing choice. At major festivals, the position of jury president is usually the preserve of directors and actors. At Cannes, for example, you have to go all the way back to 1983 to find a president -- novelist William Styron -- who doesn't tick either of those boxes. And while exceptions have been made for writers, it's very rare for below-the-line artists to take the top position. Production designer Dante Ferretti did the honors at the 2005 Venice Film Festival, and it's the Italians who are once more taking that route: composer Alexandre Desplat will preside over the Competition jury at Venice this year.
It's been a rough couple of years to be a fan of Reese Witherspoon: when the actress picked up her Oscar eight years ago for "Walk the Line," the universe appeared to have better things in store for her than, say, "This Means War." Even when her films have worked out -- the critically-endorsed Americana of "Mud" or the ripe Camembert pleasures of "Water for Elephants" -- they haven't showcased her especially well. So it's nice to see Witherspoon getting busy again with a range of upscale projects this year.