SANTA MONICA — Jake Gyllenhaal continues to move into an interesting stage in his career. His choices as of late have been outside the box, almost like the actor is searching for something. And indeed, spend a few minutes talking specifics with him, you'll quickly learn that's the case. He's marching to his own drum, eager to explore complexity in his performances, not just wear another character's skin for a little while.
And the other shoe drops on AFI Fest's major galas as Paul Thomas Anderson's "Inherent Vice" has been announced as this year's centerpiece. The film will be presented at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood on Nov. 8, and the festival will also feature a conversation with Paul Thomas Anderson.
Will Steve Carell fight for a Best Actor slot? Will Sony Pictures Classics give Channing Tatum the push he needs to make his way into an acting category? Will anyone hone in on Mark Ruffalo's brilliance?
Do not take "A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence" at face value. What sounds like a horrifically arty student film is the latest from Roy Andersson, wry sociological observer and "Swedish master," as he's correctly touted in a press release announcing the film's acquisition. In "Pigeon," Andersson confronts the mundanity of life, humanity's strangest impulses, and the absolutes of death in Monty Python-like vignettes, realized with a painterly quality. With a distributor in place, audiences now have a deadline for digesting Andersson's previous work in preparation for this trilogy-capping "Pigeon," a true tragicomedy triumph.
There's the mischievous horrormeister Sam Raimi, the blockbuster wizard Sam Raimi, and the pensive character-observing Sam Raimi. The latter doesn't get enough work — welcome to Hollywood, folks! — but sturdy relationships from the "Spider-Man" director's past may put a high-profile, awards-friendly project at the front of his "to do" queue. Fans of the "A Simple Plan" and "The Gift," rejoice.
It's probably been said too much at this point, but 2014, at least in terms of potential Oscar nominees, has been very thin for lead actresses. Call it a byproduct of an industry that doesn't seem overly concerned with stories featyring strong female characters (despite the notion that they don't make money having been summarily dispelled), or certainly with finding females in key creative positions. It's simply slim pickings this year.
David Ayer took a big leap with "Fury." After smaller projects like "Street Kings" and "End of Watch" (as well as the critical dud "Sabotage"), he went right at the bull with a massive World War II drama featuring one of the world's biggest stars. Over budget and bursting at the seems, the resulting film is a fascinating shaggy dog entry in the well-worn genre of war, one with a lot of ideas flying around but a central intention: exploring a family dynamic in the middle of hell itself.
After big festival bows at the Venice, Telluride and New York film festivals, Alejandro González Iñárritu's "Birdman" finally opens in limited release this week. Michael Keaton is well on his way into the awards spectrum this year, but his co-stars deserve some looks, too, and none more so than Edward Norton, whose mercurial method actor Mike Shiner lights up the screen every time he's on it, and might be the best thing he's done since "Fight Club" and "American History X."
We've been pretty much telling you for some time that Rupert Wyatt's remake of "The Gambler" would be one of the few premieres at this year's AFI Fest (along with J.C. Chandor's "A Most Violent Year"). Well, now it's official.
It's always difficult to bring a spring release back around for the Oscar season, no matter the film's size or impact. But in a year like 2014 — which seems rather atypical as subversive comedy, American auteurs and blockbuster craftsmen all duke it out for room alongside the traditional, baitier offerings — anything can slip on through. That's what Paramount is surely hoping for with Darren Aronofsky's "Noah."