BEVERLY HILLS — I love talking to Oscar Isaac about the craft of acting. He's never quick with a facile soundbite and always has something intriguing to chew on regarding his choices, if you're willing to get into it. And with his subtle, smoldering work as Abel — a man trying to build a business and a life in the middle of the cold and ruthless New York City of 1981 in J.C. Chandor's "A Most Violent Year" — there is plenty to chew on indeed.
Thomas Vinterberg’s "The Hunt" earned a Best Foreign Language Academy Award nomination at this year’s ceremony. Starring Mads Mikkelsen, the psychologically aggressive film focuses in on a town imploding after pedophilia accusations spread like wildfire. Like he did with his Dogme 95 film "The Celebration," Vinterberg’s film burrows straight to the gut, a moral play with physicality. Based on the trailer for his follow-up, an adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s "Far From The Madding Crowd," the director will adapt that audacious approach for sweeping romance.
We really shouldn't be having this conversation. It's just too soon. Isn't it?
When Meryl Streep won her third Academy Award for "The Iron Lady," the collective media mindset was that the acting icon had finally joined the three-timer club and any other nominations from that point on would be icing on the cake. A fourth Oscar win? Considering how many times she'd been overlooked since winning no. 2 for "Sophie's Choice" in 1982, it just didn't seem realistic that it would happen anytime soon or at all. Even after landing another Best Actress nod for "August: Osage County," the concept of Streep conceivably winning another statue just didn't register. That is, until now.
Perception is not always reality. Especially in the movie business.
Ever since the first trailer for "Paddington" arrived last March, eyebrows were raised. Would this CG-animated-live action hybrid do Michael Bond's beloved literary bear justice? Many thought the teaser looked more "Smurfs" or (perish the thought) "Garfield" than in the vein of a well-regarded "Fantastic Mr. Fox." It didn't matter that "Harry Potter" and "Gravity" producer David Heyman was shepherding the production; this was a movie that ended up having one bad publicity crisis after another.
This year's Best Animated Short Film Oscar race is, as ever, full of fetching displays of boundary-pushing technique and bold artistic voices. I sought out and watched all 10 of this year's contenders, announced recently by the Academy, from Disney's widely-viewed latest to an offering from the legendary Bill Plympton to new work from Oscar winners like William Joyce and Torill Kove. Let's just say I'm glad it's not my responsibility to whittle this down to five.
Palm Springs: The place to be during Oscar season. The California town’s annual film festival is a hotbed of potential nominees, actors and actresses wrangled for speciality honors that amplify existing buzz. Currently receiving accolades from Palm Springs International Film Festival: Eddie Redmayne ("The Theory of Everything"), Julianne Moore ("Still Alice"), and J.K. Simmons ("Whiplash"). Time for another name: Rosamund Pike.
Over the past decade, Lee Smith has worked alongside Christopher Nolan as the director has climbed to the highest peaks of Hollywood, with "Batman Begins," "The Prestige," "The Dark Knight," "Inception," and "The Dark Knight Rises." I recently had the chance to speak to Smith about his approach to editing, Nolan, their relationship, and their change of pace (both literal and figurative) that is "Interstellar."
Marion Cotillard has had what can only be described as a remarkable seven years. Truly.
Since winning the Best Actress Oscar for her breakthrough performance in "La Vie en Rose" she's starred in Woody Allen's best film this century ("Midnight in Paris"), Christopher Nolan's Best Picture nominee ("Inception"), worked with Michael Mann ("Public Enemies"), smartly joined a Steven Soderbergh ensemble ("Contagion"), headlined a massive French-language hit ("Little White Lies"), was already robbed of a second Best Actress Oscar nomination ("Rust and Bone") and was the center of an acclaimed drama already well on its way to cinephile cult film status ("The Immigrant"). Throw in one flick for her life partner ("Blood Ties"), a paycheck too hard to turn down ("The Dark Knight Rise") and a musical that just didn't work ("Nine") and Cotillard is already well on her way to living legend status. Now, get ready to add "Two Days, One Night" to her glowing resume.
When you make movies about people, an eye for casting becomes an auteurist stamp. Richard Linklater knows his characters so well — their personalities, their movements, their sounds — that by the time he inserts actors into each part, the choices feel like absolutes. Take the "Before" series. It’s a war crime to fantasy cast alternatives for Celine and Jesse. Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke are too perfect. Just try. Nope. Not the same movie. Can’t do it. Impossible.