Since seeing it almost exactly a year ago, I've devoted a lot of column inches to Belgian director Joachim Lafosse's magnificent domestic drama "Our Children." A jolting worst-case study, inspired by actual events, of a young mother driven to the brink by a combination of postpartum depression and an excess of male authority figures, it wound up at #7 on my list of 2012's best films and continues to eat away at me.
Joachim Lafosse's 2012 Cannes sensation finally lands on August 2
Before-and-after video makes a strong case for the film in the category
This year's Best Visual Effects category is sure to be stacked. We've already seen great stuff in "Iron Man 3," "Star Trek Into Darkness," "Oz the Great and Powerful" and "Man of Steel." The work in "Pacific Rim" is, as you might expect, jaw-dropping. We still have "Elysium," "Gravity" and a new "Hobbit" installment to come, and who knows how films like "Rush" and "All is Lost" might figure into the otherwise blockbuster-heavy (as usual) line-up?
All of that is to say that Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby" is going to have a difficult time insinuating itself into the conversation. I know this film didn't land very well with a great many but I'll still stick up for it, and even though the effects go perhaps a bit too far for my taste here and there, for the most part, they are the extension of a discernible vision. That's more than you can say of a great many contenders that find themselves duking it out in this race year after year.
James Wan's latest is a lesson in control, restraint and confidence
It was 40 years ago this December that William Friedkin's "The Exorcist" terrified audiences and found itself in the rare position of being a critically admired prestige horror film. It landed 10 Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Ellen Burstyn), Best Supporting Actor (Jason Miller) and Best Supporting Actress (Linda Blair). William Peter Blatty even walked away with the trophy for the adaptation of his own novel.
Why am I mentioning this now? Because four decades later, James Wan's "The Conjuring" is easily the best film of its kind since Friedkin's masterful thriller. In a genre that has increasingly given way to the cheapest levels, where films like "The Devil Inside" are rattled off like products on an assembly line, here is a film with a real respect of the craft and, most importantly, a level of restraint. Restraint and a sense of build is what made the most chilling elements of "The Exorcist" land like holy water burns on demon flesh, and it's equally what makes Wan's more direct terrors connect in "The Conjuring."
From 'Wings' to 'Argo,' most of them are at your fingertips
David Lowery re-edited Sundance hit with some input from 'Harvey Scissorhands'
One film from the year's festival circuit so far that I'm particularly looking forward to revisiting is David Lowery's "Ain't Them Bodies Saints." That's partly because a first viewing afforded many rich textural pleasures -- from Bradford Young's dusky cinematography to Daniel Hart's inventive, handclap-heavy score -- that deserve to be savored in less pressured surroundings than a Sundance premiere, but also because the film has changed a little, and reportedly for the better.
First 'Counselor' trailer features Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz
Cormac McCarthy's first original screenplay finds its way to screens in October
Ridley Scott's "The Counselor" has a lot of people curious what with it being the first original screenplay from "No Country for Old Men" and "The Road" author Cormac McCarthy. It's a marriage of two visionaries and it has a stellar cast -- Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, Javier Bardem etc. Diaz in particular has a pretty showy (and raunchy) role and could end up in the Best Supporting Actress Oscar conversation at the end of the day.
The five-time nominee has yet to pick up a statue
Beth McCarthy-Miller has been a part of the "30 Rock" family almost since inception. She’s directed some of the show’s finest episodes, including both live ones and “TGS Hates Women,” so it was natural for co-showrunners Tina Fey and Robert Carlock to place her at the helm for their show’s two-part finale. “Hogcock!” and “Last Lunch” aired January 31 one right after the other, requiring McCarthy-Miller to meld two episodes into a cohesive whole and put a button on the series' seven-year run. HitFix spoke with her about this process as Emmy voters are casting ballots -- McCarthy-Miller has been nominated five times for her work on “30 Rock,” but never won.
We count down the Spaniard's top tier work
Pedro Almodóvar's cabin-crew comedy "I'm So Excited!" finally jets into US theaters on Friday, and as I suggested in my review, some of the kooky Spanish auteur's fans may want to brace themselves for a crash landing.
But you may disagree. The critical reception for his latest is cooler than Almodóvar has come to expect, but as many die-hard fans of the director have been tickled as have been dismayed. One thing both camps will agree on, however, is that it couldn't be the work of anyone else: from his recurring themes of fringe sexuality to his Crayola color palette, Almodóvar's films are arguably the most immediately and universally identifiable of anyone's in the current hierarchy of European auteurs -- to the point that even the Academy has embraced him and even Almodóvar himself has taken to parodying his own stylistic tics.
The genre legend was to receive the organization's visionary award
By now you may have heard the news of the unfortunate passing of author Richard Matheson, a titan in his field who leaves behind him a rich, vast, deep legacy of material that will continue to be enjoyed and mined for years to come. And his impact on cinema as we know it is nowhere near negligible. Indeed, consider the beginnings of Steven Spielberg's career, whose calling card adaptation of Matheson's short story "Duel" catapulted him to Hollywood's attention.
"Richard Matheson's ironic and iconic imagination created seminal science-fiction stories and gave me my first break when he wrote the short story and screenplay for 'Duel,'" the director said in a statement. "His 'Twilight Zones' were among my favorites, and he recently worked with us on 'Real Steel.' For me, he is in the same category as Bradbury and Asimov."
Matheson was set to receive the Visionary Award at the 39th annual Saturn Awards Wednesday night, presented by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films. Pity the award will now be presented posthumously, but the ceremony will now be dedicated to his memory.
Magnolia will release the film in theaters and on VOD August 9
The more I think back to David Gordon Green's "Prince Avalanche," which I saw at the Sundance Film Festival where it made its world premiere, the more charmed I am by its unexpected charisma, its personal flourishes and its central performances. It popped up as one of our under-the-radar films for the summer movie season, and indeed, when it hits theaters in August, it will be a nice change of pace for those looking for as much after the blockbusters have had their way.