Pop quiz: What do Chris Rock, Claire Denis, Eddie Vedder and Josh Hutcherson all have in common? Answer: They could all be Oscar voters very soon. The annual Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences invitation list always makes for interesting reading, shedding light on just how large and far-reaching the group's membership is -- or could be, depending on who accepts their invitations.
Ah, remember "Alone Yet Not Alone?" For a couple of weeks at the wintery height of awards season, it was the gift that kept giving for Oscar scandal-mongers -- the head-scratching surprise of its nomination in the first place, the uncovering of its dodgy campaign tactics, the shame of its eventual disqualification. And five month later, most people have forgotten the film (which was formally released only last week) ever even existed. Oscar season: it chews you up and spits you out, but rarely quite so humiliatingly.
I've been eager to see how Joe Carnahan will follow up 2012's "The Grey" (my number one movie that year). He had a stellar vision for "Daredevil" but Fox passed on it and gave up their lease, leading Marvel to develop the property with "Cabin in the Woods" director Drew Goddard as a series for Netflix. Coming this year (or maybe next — watch for a Toronto bow) is "Stretch" with Patrick Wilson and Chris Pine. And Carnahan has always had this and that lurking, whether an adaptation of James Ellroy's "White Jazz" or the Pablo Escobar story "Killing Pablo." But it looks like the gritty "Five Against a Bullet" is on deck, and it sounds awesome.
Rooney Mara has been playing things pretty cool since picking up a Best Actress Oscar nomination two years ago for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." The franchise initially beckoned by David Fincher's Scandi-thriller remake hasn't come to pass, which has left Mara room to be discerning: she had classy leading roles last year in David Lowery's "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" and Steven Soderbergh's "Side Effects," though neither one was built entirely around her; a tart supporting role in Spike Jonze's Best Picture nominee "Her" further added to her credibility.
Joe Swanberg is such a prolific one-man indie factory -- he's directed 16 features in nine years, believe it or not -- that it can be difficult to mentally separate each one of his films from the others. So while I can't name career highs with complete authority, I'm comfortable saying that "Happy Christmas" is easily my favorite of Swanberg's films to date: a big-hearted, precisely observed character piece that has the warmth and texture of actual cinema.
Well, when the teaser poster for "Fury" debuted online yesterday, we knew a trailer couldn't be far behind -- so here it is. And from this two-minute glimpse, it looks to be very much the vision of war we were expecting from writer-director David Ayer: not exactly innovative, but as stern, purposeful and high-octane as the contemporary cop dramas on which he built his reputation. Brad Pitt appears to be on imposingly brutish form, but this looks like a relatively generous ensemble piece.
A little over six years after the fact, it's striking to revisit Tilda Swinton's reaction to winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for "Michael Clayton." At the time, fans were jubilant and the audience was amused by her blunt "Oh, no" reaction and on-stage decision to give the statue to her agent. Watching the clip today there is a look of almost sheer horror on her face as her name is read and as she walks to the stage. This wasn't something Swinton strived for. She's an artist. Winning Oscars wasn't part of the plan if there ever was one. In the years since, however, Swinton has clearly found a way to balance her artistic interests with films that can find some legs in the global Hollywood movie-making machine.
Well, this is pretty neat. I hadn't realized that the Academy has launched a web series of sorts, taking on a range of film-related subjects past and present -- and sometimes focusing on individual artists. The initiative is titled Academy Originals; previous episodes have centered on Patton Oswalt, Dustin Lee Black and "Jurassic Park," among others. This week's subject: writer-director Ava DuVernay.
The cinema doesn't exactly want for Second World War dramas, but nonetheless, I'm increasingly looking forward to "Fury." David Ayer's tough brand of crime storytelling has worked better in some projects than others -- "Sabotage" wasn't quite the follow-up to "End of Watch" most of us were hoping for -- but he's a distinctive stylist, and I'm interested to see how his street sensibility adapts to a period piece.
Are the Coen brothers directing a Wes Anderson film? Only kidding, but you'd be forgiven for thinking so with the announcement of today's new cast additions to the filmmaker siblings' upcoming "Hail, Caesar!"