PARK CITY - In the world of intelligence thrillers, the Cold War, much like smoking, is a hard habit to break. And both, as it turns out, feature prominently in Anton Corbijn's "A Most Wanted Man," the first big-screen adaptation of a John Le Carré novel since Tomas Alfredson's "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" in 2011, and a worthy spiritual successor to that tangled, tea-stained tale of world-weary espionage. The difference, however, is that we're long past the Cold War's big thaw in this particular story: post-9/11 paranoia is the order of the day, though Le Carré's typically dry, rueful tone and Corbijn's pewter-colored aesthetic combine to suggest the shift is immaterial: the more things change, the more they stay the same, and political distrust springs eternal.
PARK CITY - If you only see one Dust Bowl sci-fi eco-western starring Nicholas Hoult this year... well, maybe wait for the next one. Arriving in Sundance on a tide of buzz that seems justified only by its on-paper singularity, Jake Paltrow's infallibly earnest genre experiment "Young Ones" marries the stark heartland integrity of John Steinbeck to the post-apocalyptic nihilism of "Mad Max," with the waxen self-importance of neither. Relocating a classical land-ownership saga to a barren New-Old West situated, we can only hope, in the very distant future, it, Paltrow's film never quite finds the happy medium between B-movie splatter and literary elevation; if nothing else, it confirms my suspicion that films adorned with their own chapter headings are rarely good news.
PARK CITY - You could be forgiven for wondering what we stand to gain from a documentary about the Proposition 8, the ban on same-sex marriage issued in California in 2008, and its subsequent reversal. The final Supreme Court ruling on the case is not even a year old, and the five long years of back-and-forth legal wrangling toward this resolution should be fresh in the minds of even those only casually concerned by the issues at stake. Has enough time passed for our perspective on the events to have shifted? Are proponents of the ban ready to engage in even-handed conversation? Can any film on Proposition 8, whatever its stance, do much more at this stage than preach to the converted?
PARK CITY - Imagine you worked at a Hollywood studio and someone were to pitch you a movie set in the late '70s centered on a clinically diagnosed manic depressive raising his two young daughters all by himself. Your first thought would be to immediately question its commercial viability. Happily, Maya Forbes' directorial debut wasn't dependent on a studio. If it had been, there's no way this wonderfully unexpected tearjerker would have found its way to the big screen.
The 20th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards have come and gone and so it's time for another round of best and worst. What were the touching, heartfelt, funny and endearing moments of the evening? What were the cringe-worthy, false-note, unfortunate moments? Some of Team HitFix has a few ideas, so click through the gallery story below for our thoughts and feel free to tell us what you thought of the show in the comments section.
In two decades, the only years the SAG winners matched up 100% with the Academy's individual acting category winners were 2010, 2009 and 2004. Sometimes it's because the early deadline rears its head. For instance, the SAG nominating committee didn't fully catch up to "Django Unchained" last year, so they didn't even nominate eventual Oscar winner Christoph Waltz. Other times, it's category placement that causes a shift; Kate Winslet being nominated in and winning supporting for "The Reader" but going on to win lead at the Oscars. Still others, it's because the buzz wave has a certain shape to it, Oscar winners like Alan Arkin and Judi Dench supplanting SAG champs like Eddie Murphy and Kathy Bates.
So it's a fair bet that tonight's winners (with the ensemble prize subbing for "Best Picture," even though the guild doesn't quite view it that way all that time) won't all be holding matching Oscars in their hands in March. Nevertheless, I think this year might just go that way, at least in the individual acting categories, because the line-up is beginning to settle in as a sure quartet.
PARK CITY - This is probably the last thing co-writer and director Craig Johnson wants to hear, but watching his new dramedy "The Skeleton Twins" Saturday afternoon, I was struck by a recurring thought: Why didn't Lorne Michaels produce more movies like this one?
The 20th annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards were be held Saturday night at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Kudos were dished in an array of acting categories, for stars of both film and television. Check out the full list of winners below, and be sure to check out Dan Fienberg's live blog of the proceedings and don't forget to keep track of the whole season via The Circuit.
PARK CITY - Those of us who have never seen a single episode of "Saturday Night Live" have a somewhat stymied relationship with a vast network of variously talented performers -- with their backstories and creative personae largely unfamiliar to us, they often arrive as blank slates when they finally make the jump to the big screen. That can be a drawback in film vehicles that are essentially extensions of their "SNL" shtick, but it can also make for unexpected, preconception-free discoveries, and so it is with Jenny Slate. I may know little about her apparently uneven TV career, but I now know from "Obvious Child," a winning slacker comedy from first-time writer-director Gillian Robespierre, that Slate has the makings of a rather special movie star: lovably gawky, casually relatable and very, very funny.
With a little less than two weeks away from opening night, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has slid in one more honor for its big round of tributes held throughout: the Outstanding Director Award to "American Hustle" helmer David O. Russell.