Plus: Awards for Spain's Oscar submission, and the Reel Geezers return
As if you ever thought otherwise, film critics are not an easily satisfied people, but we seem particularly agitated lately. In the past two weeks, we've had David Denby decrying the state of American filmmaking, Stephanie Zacharek questioning her colleagues' notions of importance, and now Andrew O'Hehir has jumped in to declare film culture dead. While conceding that plenty of good films are being made today, he wonders whether anyone outside of specialised cinephile circles really notices or cares anymore, as TV grows in water-cooler status: "I’m looking in the mirror and thinking about the purpose of what I do, which is supposed to be communicating with people, sharing ideas and generating discussion." Are film critics still doing that? And does it matter if that's becoming a more intimate, but equally impassioned conversation? I say yes and no. [Salon]
The film has had a rocky reception since premiering earlier this month
Arguably no film has suffered a steeper fall on the autumn festival circuit than Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder." The usually slow-working director's unexpectedly prompt follow-up to last year's Palme d'Or winner "The Tree of Life" entered the Venice Film Festival, together with Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master," as its prime attraction. By the time it moved on to Toronto, however, many critics seemed to be wishing he'd taken a little more time.
The Venice premiere was by no means disastrous. Inevitably, as with "The Tree of Life" at Cannes, some boos greeted the closing credits at its morning press screening, and were swiftly, even gleefully blown out of proportion by the media, but it had its fair share of admirers, too -- of which I was one. (Indeed, I'm one of the very few who thinks the film a step up from "Tree.") The Toronto reception, however, was rockier: with expectations already dampened by the mixed advance word from Europe, a lot of critics positively seemed to revel in sticking the boot in, while claims to the effect of "Malick's worst film" rapidly became consensus.
Rian Johnson's latest hits theaters this weekend
- Critic's Rating B+
- Readers' Rating B+
I've said plenty about "Looper" in the podcasts but haven't really had a chance to sit down and write something up. I'll get to it, maybe, but I'm content in loving this film whether I get around to writing about it or not. And I'd love to hear the readership's thoughts, too, so if/when you make it out to see it this weekend, do come on back here and give us your take.
Also: Surveying the Best Actor field and disagreeing on 'Silver Linings Playbook'
Welcome to Oscar Talk.
In case you're new to the site and/or the podcast, Oscar Talk is a weekly kudocast, your one-stop awards chat shop between yours truly and Anne Thompson of Thompson on Hollywood. The podcast is weekly, every Friday throughout the season, charting the ups and downs of contenders along the way. Plenty of things change en route to Oscar's stage and we're here to address it all as it unfolds.
This week the New York Film Festival is launching and October is right around the corner. We're catching up with this and that along the way and have plenty to mull over as always, so with that, let's see what's on the docket today...
The visionary filmmaker taps a narrative of soul and spirit
NEW YORK -- Translating Yann Martel's award-winning novel "Life of Pi" to film has proven to be a daunting task for filmmakers kicking the tires on it for the better part of a decade, but in the hands of someone like Ang Lee, it was already getting off on the right foot. While the film, which opens the New York Film Festival this evening, takes some time revving past a clunky first act, it eventually settles into a visionary sweet spot for well over an hour. Messy though it may be, it's affecting on the whole for the truths with which it concerns itself and the journey it so passionately suggests.
The story of the film is the visual scope of the endeavor, and Lee's work with visual effects artists and cinematographer Claudio Miranda ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "TRON Legacy") has produced some of the most awe-inspiring images likely to grace a screen this year. And indeed, Lee wanted that extra power, so much so that he was basically thinking of 3D before he was thinking of 3D, as he put it at a press conference this morning. "I didn't think it was possible without 3D," he said. "It needed another dimension."
Also: 'Life rights' in 'The Hurt Locker,' and Kylie talks 'Holy Motors'
The New York Film Festival kicks off its golden-anniversary edition tonight with the world premiere of Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" -- Kris will be on hand to offer his thoughts. In the meantime, A.O. Scott shares his notes on the films he's seen from the lineup, including "Pi," which he describes as "a lavish reminder that film nowadays is sometimes not film at all, but rather a rapidly evolving digital art form." He also notes that it's an unusually large-scale choice of opener for an arthouse-dominated fest that kicked off with an Alain Resnais film three years ago. Have they sold out? Scott discusses. [New York Times]
A 1928 Best Picture nominee by Ernst Lubitsch is still at large
Fixating as we do on the seasonal ins and outs of the Oscar process, it’s easy to forget that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has a purpose beyond handing out gold stars to the industry’s great and good. As an organization dedicated both to the development and preservation of the medium, they have fostered a wealth of films and archive materials that have scant relationship to the Academy Awards. Little wonder they warmed so to the film-preservation paean that was “Hugo” last year.
Still, when their archiving obligations overlap with celebration of the awards that made them famous, it’s an irresistible promotional opportunity for AMPAS. Hence the launch of their Oscar’s Most Wanted movement, which seeks to complete their library of every single film, short or feature-length, that was once graced with the golden man’s touch.
Anthony Hopkins starrer will make its world premiere at L.A. event
The film explores the making of the director's iconic 1960 horror film "Psycho."
It also stars Helen Mirren as Hitch's wife Alma, while the "Psycho" cast will be portrayed as follows: Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh, Jessica Biel as Vera Miles and James D’Arcy as Anthony Perkins.
Sacha Gervasi ("Anvil! The Story of Anvil") is directing from a script based on the Stephen Rebello book "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho."
Offer up your burning queries
Your awards hub for film, TV and music
The move to HitFix has put us right at the center of some exciting developments on the film awards coverage side of things, and one of those elements was revealed yesterday. We've established a separate Awards Channel that will serve as your hub for all of HitFix's awards coverage, whether it's music, TV or film. We've got your Grammy, Emmy and Oscar fix.
In addition to circulating all of our content in this spectrum, the channel also offers the usual bells and whistles of HitFix: calendar reminders, links to our Contenders section, video interviews and more. There is also easy access to all of the site's festival coverage. So add a new bookmark!