BEVERLY HILLS — It's been over two months since Jean-Marc Vallée's "Wild" premiered at the 2014 Telluride Film Festival, but the adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's best-selling memoir finally arrived in Los Angeles, and just in time for the heart of awards season.
I stumbled out of the haze that is Paul Thomas Anderson's "Inherent Vice" this afternoon and I didn't know which way was up. This is immersion of the highest order, a seductive ride that pulls you in if you're willing to go with it and not try to put the pieces together (I'm convinced the narrative makes sense, but I admit I failed to make sense of it, and I couldn't care less). And though it could in all likelihood hit a brick wall with the Academy (as has been the word on it for months, dating back to pre-NYFF), there are a few elements that I absolutely demand receive attention. If I may…
There's been an interesting misconception around DreamWorks' "How to Train Your Dragon 2" that seems to need correcting. Most eyes tend to be on domestic box office tallies, so the film's $176.8 million haul feels like a failure stacked against the 2010 original film's $217.5 million. But globally, "Dragon 2" blew past the original's $494.8 by over $100 million, settling in at $618.8 million, enough to make it the highest grossing animated film of the year.
The American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) has named its nominees for the organization’s 29th Annual Outstanding Achievement Awards. HBO is the top network contender with three nominations, while Fox and Lifetime each earning two.
As awards contenders rise and fall in the last-minute deluge of film premieres and screenings that is November, one movie that continues to stick with this particular writer is J.C. Chandor's "A Most Violent Year." Sure, that seems silly considering the picture only debuted two weeks ago, but context is everything. We'll spare the names of the three other contenders I've seen since, that I need to remind myself I've actually seen. That's how impressive Chandor's period thriller is.
Patrick Radden Keefe's New Yorker story "The Hunt for El Chapo" is a terrifying, bizarre, and occasionally funny look at modern drug trafficking. Delving into the lavish world of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the leader of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, Keefe finds a quirky character pulling strings for a murderous bunch who love their Instagram. The DEA manhunt for Loera, that ended this past February, lasted a decade. The best kingpins can live a life of luxury and still avert paramilitary. Loera was the best of the best. Those are the types that get movies made about their lives.
Before Steve McQueen directed features like "Hunger," "Shame," and the Best Picture-winning "12 Years a Slave," he was a video artist whose work appeared in museums and galleries. "End Credits" was one such work, an audio/video installation projecting pages of the FBI’s McCarthy-era investigation of actor-activist Paul Robeson while a voiceover reads the reports’ cringe-worthy details aloud. McQueen’s topical explorations took experimental shape, many fascinations that first popped up in visual art have crept into his big screen work. According to the director, "End Credits" will undergo the same evolution — McQueen has announced that he’ll direct a feature film based on Robeson’s life.
For the first time in probably, well, ever, the Best Director category has a real shot at featuring two female nominees. It goes without saying how much that would mean, but it's early days and let's not get ahead of ourselves, all of that.
A successful, vibrant career as a character doesn’t always translate to awards. Take J.K. Simmons, who hasn’t received many accolades over his 20-plus year career, while being one of the most reliably energized performers working today. He’s appeared in multiple films for the Coen Brothers, Jason Reitman, Woody Allen, and anchored Sam Raimi’s "Spider-Man" trilogy. He’s no stranger to television, where he’s done everything HBO’s "OZ" to recent sitcom "Growing Up Fisher" to Nickelodeon’s "Legend of Korra." He’s even validated video games with his talent, voicing characters in "Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3" and "Portal 2."
Casting Simmons in "Whiplash," as the vicious jazz band instructor Fletcher, was as much a gift to director Damien Chazelle and his fans as it likely was to the hard-working thespian. When handed a meaty role, Simmons sinks his teeth in as deep as they go.
"Dude, you know the movie 'Foxcatcher'?"
"Yeah, I know Foxcatcher. We saw it yesterday."
"OK, you know how there weren’t any real foxes in it?"
"Yeah, Steve Carell’s farm was called 'Foxcatcher.'"
"Right, but what if there were?"
"What if there were what?"
"What if there were foxes."
"What if Foxcatcher had foxes in it?"
"Yeah, or… if Foxcatcher were about foxes."
"'Foxcatcher' starring foxes?"
"And a foxcatcher."
"That’s stu—…get me to the Internet."
And that, friends, is how YouTube comedy videos are born.