Though not a Christmas movie per se, "Mary Poppins" shows up on TV schedules often enough at this time of year that it's come to be an unofficial seasonal staple -- and with "Saving Mr. Banks" now in theaters, more people than usual will be giving it another spin over the holidays. But does it merits its classic status? I'm firmly in the "yes" camp, but Kyle Buchanan is less convinced: "'The Sound of Music' is sturdily structured and well-cast down to its smallest roles; rewatching it now, there's really not a superfluous scene. Not so much with Mary Poppins, y'all ... The good parts are just as good as you remember — it's just that they've been overrun by so many boring parts that it's shocking. For every spoonful of sugar that Mary Poppins offers, there are two more spoons of medicine you've got to take first." Bah, humbug. [Vulture]
One of the weaker areas for Alfonso Cuarón's "Gravity" in the eyes of some is its story and screenplay. They cavalierly dismiss it as a ride without thematic substance, though of course they're dead wrong. It's a movie about — as Cuarón has breathlessly said since the beginning — adversity, yes, but also grief and, as cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki noted to me recently, how small we are despite our great personal drama (to steal an idea from Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life").
It may seem odd, when talking about a director only two films into his career, to describe "The Invisible Woman" as "a very Ralph Fiennes film." By his own admission, the twice Oscar-nominated actor has yet to forge a recurring directorial stamp; both his films exude the confident curiosity of an artist open to any number of ideas and influences.
Yet if the restrained elegancy and disciplined sexuality of "The Invisible Woman" -- a delicate, melancholic costume drama about Nelly Ternan, the historically sidelined mistress of Charles Dickens -- seems natural coming from Fiennes, that's largely because they match his refined, precise qualities as an actor. Those, too, are on display in the film: Fiennes plays Dickens to Felicity Jones's Ternan, and the two have a quiet but urgent chemistry that makes for one of the year's most unexpectedly moving screen romances. Though adapted by Emmy-winning screenwriter Abi Morgan ("The Hour," "The Iron Lady") from a 1991 biography by Claire Tomalin, the relationship at the film's center is still far from common knowledge; Fiennes's film illuminates it with considerable grace.
Talking with Thelma Schoonmaker recently, it became quickly apparent that I wasn't even going to scratch the surface of her career's work with Martin Scorsese in a single piece. I couldn't help but play the retrospective game with her, and while I of course didn't address all 19 feature collaborations, I was curious about six films in particular that I think represent a nice cross-section of their work together. Each of them — "Who's That Knocking At My Door," "Raging Bull," "The Last Temptation of Christ," "Goodfellas," "Bringing Out the Dead" and "The Departed" — will get its own space in the next few days.
It was business as usual in the Vancouver Film Critics Circle's announcement of nominees this morning, as Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" led the way with six notices. Bradley Cooper got a bid for his supporting "American Hustle" performance and Greta Gerwig showed up in Best Actress for her work in "Frances Ha." Matt Johnson's "The Dirties" led the field of Canadian film nominees. Check out the full list below and remember to keep track of it all at The Circuit.
If we've spent the last few weeks reviewing the best in entertainment, we now inevitably turn to the worst. 2013 was not a godawful year for bad movies, but Hollywood absolutely had its share of clunkers and misfires. A number were part of a larger trend ("Grown Ups 2"), some were big disappointments ("The Lone Ranger") and more than a few were still big hits ("Identity Thief").
You can watch a very entertaining video countdown of our top 10 worst films embedded at the top of this post or enjoy the 25 worst of the year in the story gallery below.
Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
With a massive wave of precursor announcements behind us, a consensus — that may or may not match the Academy's ultimate perspective on the year — has formed: "12 Years a Slave," Steve McQueen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Cate Blanchett, Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong'o. That's obviously profoundly "12 Years"-heavy, and the film has managed the most adapted screenplay wins so far, too. But we'll have to see if that's how it plays out on March 2.
We've defended the consistent updating of The Circuit already, but to reiterate, consensus matters. In the various regional assessments, you begin to see what is the most generally agreeable choice, notable in a system like the Academy's that uses preferential balloting. And McQueen's landmark drama could absolutely qualify at the end of the season. But frankly, it could be that a film that takes the edge off finds more traction, and while once upon a time I surmised that it might be Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street," it could actually be that David O. Russell's "American Hustle" is the broad play to beat.
SPC looks to keep 'Before Midnight's' awards hopes alive with New York and Santa Barbara trilogy showcases
Sony Pictures Classics is putting together a nice push in the lead-up to Oscar nominations on behalf of "Before Midnight" by spotlighting the film's place in a trilogy of films that mark a true landmark progression for the medium. Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke seem like good bets for Best Adapted Screenplay recognition, but with the placement the film is receiving on year-end top 10 lists and superlatives announcements, it has a strong foothold to register in other categories, too, perhaps even Best Picture.
Well, we knew that Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" wasn't going to be to the taste of certain Academy members, and a couple of them made that abundantly clear at a screening over the weekend. Actress Hope Holiday -- who herself declares the film "three hours of torture" -- reports that an unnamed screenwriter accosted Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio after the screening, exclaiming, "Shame on you!" Some Academy members were vocally unimpressed by "The Wolf of Wall Street" at a screening over the weekend. Can't win 'em all, of course -- though is this an isolated incident or indicative of larger resistance the film might encounter from more conservative Oscar voters? [The Wrap]
I like "American Hustle" and don't have much to add past what I said in the first SAG screening report. A NYFCC Best Film prize feels excessive, but it's a crowd-pleaser. And it could do as well with the Academy, but I'll get into that in Monday's Oscar column. The SAG ensemble nomination has some pretty stellar performances across the board and it seems the kind of thing where everyone will have their favorites (mine are Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence). But I'll be interested to hear how it lands with the readership, so whenever you get around to the film, do let us know your feelings in the comments section below and feel free to vote in our poll.