A quick rundown of what we're seeing and when
I've been prepping for Toronto for the past two weeks, working at it like the OCD freak that I am, and it's only now, at the end of my first day at the fest, that I finally feel like I'm ready.
Well… I don't feel completely unprepared. Which is as close to "ready" as I'm going to get.
What does that mean to you here on the blog? What should you expect from Motion/Captured for the next week?
How does 35 reviews sound to you?
Last year, when I was at the fest, I didn't have a press badge. Even so, there was a ton of coverage here on HitFix between what I wrote and what Greg wrote. I think we offered up a pretty great glimpse of what was available at the festival in 2009, and I was happy with our coverage.
Not satisfied, though, and this year, I'm determined to do something I've never quite accomplished at any festival I've ever attended, no matter how hard I've tried. I'm going to try to publish something on every single one of the films I see.
I'm armed with a brand-new Macbook Pro, a busy-but-human schedule that has some writing time built into it, and a fairly detailed breakdown of where every screening is, where the nearest wi-fi can be found, and where I'm going to grab quick easy meals to keep myself going.
What makes the children of Hailsham so special?
I can't believe I'm seeing this one tomorrow. It's my first film in Toronto when I get off the plane. I think Mark Romanek has been sadly underemployed making features so far, and I'll say this for him... he's getting faster. It was 17 years between his first film, "Static," and his second film, "One Hour Photo." This time, it's only been eight years. I'll expect at least one more film from him now before the world ends in 2012, and that makes me very happy, indeed.
In all seriousness, he's an amazingly smart guy in conversation and a huge lover of cinema, and as beautiful and memorable and important as his video work is, I know he's tried with features. He's had at least three movies implode as he worked on pre-production, big movie star movies, so it's a thrill to see that he's made something that people are responding to strongly. Even if people dislike it, they seem to be reacting and not just indifferent, and I imagine that's the worst thing a filmmaker can imagine... total bland indifference.
I love the novel this film is based on. I didn't know Kazuo Ishiguro's work at all until "Remains Of The Day" came out as a film, and I went back and read the book, amazed that it wasn't written by a manor-born Englishman, but instead by a Nagasaki-born Japanese artist who was raised in England in the '60s. That outsider's perspective informs all of his work, and it gives everything he writes this profound melancholy that imbues each line, each word, each moment.
Bill Pullman, 'Mother's Day,' and more live events also announced
Wow. Just as I'm gearing up to start posting some of the Toronto coverage we've already been working on here at HitFix for you, this shows up in my inbox. I can't believe I'm going to enjoy the lunacy of Fantastic Fest this month... that it's already been a year since the last one.
And with every single announcement, it sounds like this year's Fantastic Fest just keeps getting more and more... well... fantastic. Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren and "RED"? The ActionFest award-winning film "14 Blades"? The Bill Pullman events alone sound so geektastic that they just became a can't-miss, and that Indian film sounds... well, I'll let you read it for yourself.
Check this out:
"Fantastic Fest, the largest genre festival in the U.S., is excited to announce additional films to its mind-blowing roster of features & shorts. Highlights of this announcement are the US premiere of the hyper-stylized action film Bunraku, a sneak preview of Darren Bousman’s terrifying new horror-thriller film, Mother’s Day (featuring a bravura performance by Rebecca DeMornay), and the world premiere of Agnosia, the latest film from Fantastic Fest 2005 Alumnus Eugenio Mira.
Affleck's voice as a filmmaker gets even more specific this time out
Ben Affleck is, at heart, an extremely conventional storyteller.
One of the earliest reviews I sent to Harry Knowles in my time at Ain't It Cool News was for an advance screening of "Good Will Hunting," which I liked quite a bit. Still do, and unreservedly. The film's open sentiment is a big part of the surprise punch it packs, and it amuses me to think about the other versions of the film that existed at various stages of the film's development as a screenplay. The final version is a fairly simple boy meets girl story crossed with the story of the troubled but gifted artist who just needs a hug to succeed. It's the way "Good Will Hunting" is told, the specific energy of the film's version of Boston, the characters, the details of the power struggle between Damon and Williams. That film pushes buttons like mad, and Gus Van Sant has to be given credit for making such a blatantly, carefully commercial film.
At that point, you can't really be sure, even with the Oscar win, how much of the finished film was Matt and Ben's screenplay. There were whisper campaigns at the time about the film's authorship, but I've talked to enough credible people about the film that I think the script really was theirs. And they tried to get together on something else several times over the years, and it didn't really work out. Damon's taste seems to be reflected in the material he chooses as an actor, and there's a sort of a rejection of sentiment in a lot of his work. He seems to be drawn to flinty characters who are decent but unpolished in some way, and even his biggest commercial project, the "Bourne" trilogy, is gruff, cold, brutal.
We've got a look at the fall's coolest coffee table book
I've waxed on at blathering length about my blessed childhood, growing up geek in the shadow of "Star Wars," and how I feel so fortunate to have spent my formative years in movie theaters watching the work of a generation who spoke some secret nerd language that informed every moment in their own movies. Guys like Coppola, Lucas, Scorsese, Spielberg, Zemeckis, Dante, Carpenter, and Cronenberg, the filmmakers I called my own, people whose films led me to discover whole oceans of film that had come before them, that had influenced them and shaped the movies they made.
And one of the things that really made the era special was the power of the movie poster in those days. The poster was one of the most important parts of the theatrical release. Working in theaters in the '80s, I saw over and over that people would show up at the theater without any idea what they were going to see, and they'd look at the posters and pick the one that looked the best. Time and again, I'd see them walk around a kiosk, checking out all eight of the posters we had up for our current releases, and stop with a sudden, "Oh, man, it's Eddie Murphy!" or some similar lightning bolt moment. And they'd walk over to the box-office and say, "I'll have one for Eddie Murphy." And it was that basic. Sometimes it was the movie star. Sometimes it was the title, recognition of something that had been recommended or that had that great trailer or that starred that one person, and they'd see the title and it would jar the memory and they'd buy that ticket. It was always fascinating to watch people react to posters, and I loved picking which posters went up in the theater in our "coming soon" galleries. I'd give great placement to a memorable poster, even if I didn't want to see the film, just out of respect to a great one-sheet. My room all through high school was wallpapered with movie posters, posters over posters over posters. I loved it.
Remaking excellent foreign films so people don't have to read: Discuss.
I'm curious, has anyone who reads Motion/Captured not seen "Let The Right One In?" Is talking about things that happened in a movie that came out two years ago considered worthy of a "spoiler alert" if the movie is being re-made for an American audience?
I ask this because although I have not seen "Let Me In" like some of the HItFix staff has, I know exactly what's going on in this clip that was released for public consumption today. (It was played at its panel at Comic Con.) I would guess that most American horror fans who don't have a problem with the whole "reading thing," will have seen "Let the Right One In" and will also recall a similar situation with this character out hunting. I guess I won't go into it for those who will see this story for the first time in English, no reading required.
The column goes on hold until 2011 with two last movies to discuss
I travel a lot.
It's that simple. In the last fifteen years, I've averaged at least 10 trips out of town a year, and in many of those years, I'd say it's been twice that many. I've traveled to other countries, other continents. I've traveled so much that at this point, packing and getting to the airport is a matter of pure muscle memory.
I'm not fond of it. I don't enjoy being on the road. I enjoy many of the things I've done in those various destinations, and I'm certainly grateful for every single experience I've had during those travels. But I don't particularly like being away from home. I'm a creature of habit, and I've worked very hard to make my nest just the way I like it. It's been even worse since I got married and had kids. The day my first son, Toshiro, was born was the same day my first film, "Cigarette Burns," started principal photography. My wife, god bless her, sent me to Vancouver the day she got home from the hospital, so I got to be there for the last four days of the shoot. That split focus has defined my life for a while now, and it shows no sign of getting any easier to balance as I get older.
What I'm not used to is having the family travel while I stay here. And especially not for a full third of a year.
The studio offers up a look at the film that almost was
Most of the time, when a film dies during development, that's the last the public hears of it.
Pixar has never been a studio that does things like everyone else, though, and so it shouldn't be a surprise that they've decided to offer their fans a glimpse into the process through a release of a bunch of artwork that was created to help them figure out the proposed film "Newt."
If you weren't aware, "Newt" was set to mark the feature directorial debut of Gary Rydstrom, whose short film "Lifted" was the UFO-themed short in front of "Ratatouille," and Rydstrom is a sound-design genius who has won four Oscars and who was nominated for another six beyond that. I love that Pixar encourages people from every department to learn the entire process of filmmaking, and Rydstrom could be held up as an example of the best-case scenario when you do that.
Pixar released a synopsis of the film when they first announced it a few years ago, and "Newt" sounded to me like a really interesting way to get into the difficulties of relationships, even when you're sure two people are absolutely right for each other. Check this out:
"What happens when the last remaining male and female blue-footed newts on the planet are forced together by science to save the species, and they can’t stand each other? Newt and Brooke embark on a perilous, unpredictable adventure and discover that finding a mate never goes as planned, even when you only have one choice. Love, it turns out, is not a science."
Robert Rodriguez and his conspirators keep the 'Grindhouse' franchise afloat
There are certain movies that should only be seen with real audiences, paying crowds, people who have showed up and put down their hard-earned money with some expectations. "Machete" is one of those movies. I went to a midnight screening of the film in Woodland Hills tonight, and the theater was about half-full of people who were there to be entertained. And I'd say based on their vocal approval, roared after most of the movie's big punchlines, they were entertained and left feeling like they got their money's worth. More than "The Expendables," and even more than "Piranha 3D," this is the 2010 summer movie that understands and emulates the charms of the classic exploitation picture. "Machete" isn't just pretending to be classic Mexploitation… it is a genuinely angry movie that has something on its mind in support of all the mayhem, and it offers up an unlikely lead role to Danny Trejo, who does as good a job of navigating the tricky shifts in tone here as Michael Jai White did in last year's "Black Dynamite."
The film is credited to Ethan Maniquis and Robert Rodriguez as co-directors, and it's a Frankenstein's monster of a screenplay, with footage shot for the original "Grindhouse" trailer that wasn't used, footage that reproduces footage from that trailer, and a whole lot of new material shot just for the movie. The script by Robert and Alvaro Rodriguez is fairly lean, hustling from set-up to kickoff to non-stop action. There's no fat on the movie, and it moves from winking sort of in-jokey humor at the beginning to some fairly righteous scathing anger by the end of the film. Although Rodriguez couldn't have guessed when he first came up with the idea, "Machete" is incredibly topical now, of the moment, and the people in the theater with me tonight were vocally reacting to the film's most political gags and lines.
Film's brash, frank voice distinguishes it from romantic comedy pack
I've railed about the state of the art of the studio romantic comedy many times here on the blog. There was a time when "romantic comedy" was a broad descriptor that could be used to define "The Philadelphia Story" or "Bringing Up Baby" or "The Lady Eve." Those are romantic films, and they are funny. I think there are many good ones in the modern age, but I think as a whole, the genre suffers from the same paucity of imagination and sad circular thinking as the horror genre. Both have enormous potential that is only occasionally tapped.
"Going The Distance" earns both halves of the description, offering up a genuine, well-observed romance that is often very funny and profane. The film is frank in tone, in language, and it's not afraid to go for a crazy broad joke (Charlie Day's "open door policy" is pretty great) to undercut a sincere moment. Nanette Burnstein's background in documentary filmmaking turns out to be a pretty strong asset in terms of creating a very loose and natural mood to her storytelling and her character work, and Geoff LaTulippe's script deftly avoids the major pitfalls of the genre by just focusing on the little things, the reality of what couples go through when they make the decision to maintain a long-distance relationship. As played by Drew Barrymore and Justin Long, Erin and Garrett are appealing and normal and decent, and you hope for them because they make the right choices, and they try to do the right thing. It's amazing how something as simple as that can distinguish a film so clearly.