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Archive for July, 2011

2011 Venice Film Festival Lineup = WOW

There are four major film festivals that occur in the world which Oscar pundits eagerly anticipate. Sundance kicks things off in Utah during January. Springtime brings about the prestige and glory of the Cannes in southern France. The season is then capped off with bicoastal festivals in Venice, Italy and Toronto, Ontario, both occurring in the month of September.

Presently, we’re halfway through the year and September is fast approaching. While the TIFF announced its lineup last week, Venice has recently joined the club. Both showings are killer and contain more than a few likely contenders. Expect “The Ides of March,” “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” and “A Dangerous Method” to develop as Oscar contenders (as well as a good horse to bet on for the Festival’s prize). However, don’t count out “Carnage” (featured below) directed by European favorite Roman Polanski or “Shame” the sophomore effort by Steve McQueen to take home the Venice gold.

Here is the lineup for the 2011 Venice Film Festival:

Venice 2011  Competition

The Ides Of March – George Clooney (US) [opening film]
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – Tomas Alfredson (UK, Germany)
Wuthering Heights – Andrea Arnold (UK)
Texas Killing Fields – Ami Canaan Maan (US)
Quando La Notte – Cristina Comencini (Italy)
Terraferma – Emanuele Crialese (Italy/France)
A Dangerous Method – David Cronenberg (Germany/Canada)
4:44 Last Day On Earth – Abel Ferrara (US)
Killer Joe – William Friedkin (US)
Un Ete Brulant – Philippe Garrel (France/Italy/Switzerland)
A Simple Life (Taojie) – Ann Hui (China/Hong Kong)
The Exchange (Hahithalfut) – Eran Kolirin (Israel)
Alps (Alpeis) -Yorgos Lanthimos (Greece)
Shame – Steve McQueen (UK)
L’ultimo Terrestre – Gian Alfonso Pacinotti (Italy)
Carnage – Roman Polanski (France/Germany/Spain/Poland)
Chicken With Plums – Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud (France/Belgium/Germany)
Faust – Aleksander Sokurov (Russia)
Dark Horse – Todd Solondz (US)
Himizu – Sion Sono (Japan)
Seediq Bale – Wei Te-Sheng (Taiwan)

Out of Competition

Vivan las Antipodas! – Victor Kossakovsky
(Germany/Argentina/Holland/Chile/Russia) [opening film]
Damsels In Distress – Whit Stillman (US) [closing film]
La Folie Almayer – Chantal Akerman (Belgium/France)
The Sorcerer And The White Snake (Baish Echuanshuo) – Tony Ching Siu-Tung (China/Hong Kong)
Giochi D’estate – Rolando Colla (Switzerland/Italy)
La Desintegration – Philippe Fauchon (Belgium)
The Moth Diaries – Mary Harron (Canada/Ireland)
Alois Nebel – Tomas Lunak (Czech Republic/Germany)
W.E. – Madonna (UK)
Eva – Kike Maillo (UK)
Scossa – Francesco Maselli, Carlo Lizzani, Ugo Gregoretti, Nino Russo (Italy)
La Cle Des Champs – Claude Nuridsany, Marie Perennou (France)
Il Villaggio Di Cartone – Ermanno Olmi (Italy)
Wilde Salome – Al Pacino (US)
Tormented – Takashi Shimizu (Japan)
Contagion – Steven Soderbergh (US)
La Meditazione Di Hayez – Mario Martone (Italy) (short)
Tahrir 2011 – Tamer Ezzat, Ahmad Abdalla, Ayten Amin, Amr Salama (Egypt)
The End – Collectif Abounaddara (Syria)
Vanguard – Colleftif Abounaddara (Syria)
Evolution (Megaplex)(3D – Marco Brambilla (US)

Out of Competition Events


Questa Storia Qua – Alessandro Paris, Sibylle Righetti (Italy)
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel – Lisa Immordino Vreeland (US)
Golden Career Lion – Nel Nome Del Padre – Marcho Bellocchio (Italy)

The Toronto Fest includes some of the same titles, but in addition will also feature some stellar contenders such as:

“The Descendants” by Alexander Payne,
“Albert Nobbs” by Rodrigo Garcia
“360” by Fernando Merielles
“Moneyball” by Bennett Miller
“Corolianus” by Ralph Fiennes
“Drive” by Nicolas Winding Refn
“Machine Gun Preacher” by Marc Forster
“Melancholia” by Lars von Trier
“Rampart” by Oren Moverman
“The Skin I Live In” by Pedro Almodovar
“Take Shelter” by Jeff Nichols
“Twixt” by Francis Ford Coppola

There are more than a few that I did not even bother to mention, so, just from looking at this list, I’m beginning to realize that this movie season has potentially quite a bit to offer. I look forward to covering it.

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“The Ides of March” Trailer

I don’t think that there was ever any doubt in my mind that of all the films slated for a 2011 release, none of them has grabbed my attention more than George Clooney’s “The Ides of March.” Maybe it’s the sustained energy leftover from Obama’s 2008 campaign. Perhaps it’s my undying passion for the socio-political TV drama “The West Wing” for the vibes from this movie tickle me with a similar sensation that Sorkin once did (and still does. Who am I kidding?).

On the other hand, maybe it all just comes down to a film that is written and directed by as well as starring the great George Clooney (a man I have very much grown to respect in front and behind the camera, as well as in the real world) and starring a collection of the greatest performers of our time, crossing several generations.

From the looks of this trailer, the film is not going to disappoint anytime soon. The spirit of Sorkin’s political style of wit seems to be well intact, accented by Clooney and Heslov’s razor-sharp edginess. Gosling, Clooney, Tomei, Wood, and especially Giamatti all seem at the top of their game, while Philip Seymour Hoffman looks to be headed straight for his third Oscar nomination. Yet, I doubt that he will be the only individual waking up to that distinction in January. This film is going to be powerhouse of all forms of talent producing stellar entertainment.

Check out the HD trailer, below:

“Drive” Red Band Trailer

One of the big surprises at this year’s Cannes Film Festival was the award for Best Director going to the young Nicolas Winding Refn for his new film “Drive.” This is not because Refn is unqualified, for he certainly proved his worth directing Tom Hardy in the psychedelic mind-trip “Bronson,” which more than probably got the actor his role as Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises.” Nor is it because of the film’s high profile cast that includes the brilliant and all-powerful Ryan Gosling, as well as other Oscar nominees Carey Mulligan and Albert Brooks.

What made it seem surprising is the nature of the film, itself. IMDB’s synopsis reads: “A Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a wheelman discovers that a contract has been put on him after a heist gone wrong.” The plot seems more like a vehicle for a Jason Statham spinoff than a prestigious Cannes winner.

However, after certain select clips were released on Youtube, as well as few early reviews (or “rave” reviews, is more like it), it appears that this film might have more to offer than meets the eye. One scene in particular that I viewed absolutely floored me as a critic. Now, with the debut of this red band trailer, I’m starting to get the feeling that this could end up being one of the best movies of the year and perhaps one of the greatest straight-up action films in recent cinema.

Check out the trailer below:

I’ve also included the clip that first grabbed my attention. It’s easy to see here how the material, if read off of the script, could have been completely generalized and fumbled by a lesser director. Instead, Refn molds the action into a form of gripping entertainment of the likes I’ve never seen before. Enjoy:

Armadyne PSA Spot – “Elysium” Marketing

July 21, 2011 1 comment

If you thought that “The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Amazing Spider Man” were pretty distant glimpses into the future, then you’re really going to get thrown for a loop with this one. Sony Pictures has released a viral marketing video for the film “Elysium” due out in theaters in about a year and a half. The video is actually an advertisement of an advertisement, in essence. It’s a PSA commercial for a company called Armadyne, which will apparently be the industry conglomerate playing a big role in the film and its plot.

It’s a cool video, despite the fact that neither it, nor really anyone involved in the film, has revealed any kind of inkling to the story….or really anything else about it, except that it will be sci fi to its very core. “Elysium” is the sophomore film by rockstar director Neill Blomkamp, who helmed 2009’s Best Picture nominee “District 9.” The film reunites the director with his star, Sharlto Copley, who joins a big name cast featuring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, William Fichtner, Alice Braga and Diego Luna.

This film is already turning into the kind of massive mystery, both in marketing and plot, that “Inception” was last year. For sure, it will either be a major hit or a ridiculous disappointment, with Blomkamp’s career hanging in the balance.

Check out Armadyne and all it has to offer the world, below:

“The Amazing Spider-Man” Trailer

July 20, 2011 4 comments

Well, I’ve switched from one focusing on one comic book movie to another. As some of you know, this trailer was leaked a few days ago, before being taken down more swiftly than Warner Bros. treated the “The Dark Knight Rises” bootleg. However, Columbia chose to not let it’s fans wait long for the real thing. Here is the first “Spider-Man” trailer, in all of it’s glory.

Everything looks great, withholding the ridiculously jarring and fake-looking first person action shot. I think that Andrew Garfield will do a great job as Peter Parker and the look of the film is fantastic, credit to director Marc Webb. Yet, watching this, I find myself asking, more than ever before, exactly what was the point in rebooting this, other than adding another billion dollars to the bank account. Stylistically and thematically, the film might be a little different and perhaps even a little better. Yet, neither of those two categories have changed enough to make this reinvention valid.

I suppose this debate will continue once we see a little more footage. Check out the trailer, for yourselves, below.

Batman: “Begins, Falls, Rises” Triptych Poster

July 19, 2011 2 comments

Okay. I understand that lately this site has been going a little nutty over anything to do with Christopher Nolan’s new film, although how can anyone really hold it against me? Yet, I promise that after this I will try to cool it for a while. Meanwhile, this gag was just too eye-catching to pass up. I found this over at Sasha Stone’s Awardsdaily, who apparently dug it up at Modernismism.

This is a fantastic effort made towards finding a true thematic harmony for this soon-to-be trilogy. I really appreciate the fluidity created between the three different color schemes, balancing the changing tones cast by the films’ director. It certainly gives a clue into what we can expect from this final chapter for they seem to get bleaker and more sinister as the trilogy progresses.

I would love to have this poster on my wall. Kudos to whoever’s behind this impressive piece of film art.

Oscar Voting: Revamped and Reconfigured

Two years ago, the film awards community was rocked when the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced its plan to increase the number of Best Picture nominees from five to ten. This takes us back to the Academy’s roots, nearly seventy years ago, before the Academy cut its nominee count in half. Many people were appalled by the shift in policy, but I was one of the few on the supportive side of things.

This wasn’t just because of the “Dark Knight” snub debacle or that a top ten list is more rounded and proper than a top five, though both of those are good reasons. The truth is, there have been far too many snubs for a shot at the grand prize over the years and two many great films overlooked. I still have nightmares over the fact that brilliant work like “United 93,” “Children of Men,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “Mulholland Dr.” never appeared on a Best Picture ballot. Overall, ten was just a more efficient number to catalogue the best films of the year.

Well, as of this year, the debate over whether it be five nominees, ten nominees or six and three quarters no longer exists, because no one will have any idea until the morning of. Sources report that, this winter, the Academy will have a to-be-determined number of nominees, and that amount will be subject to change on a yearly basis pending on how many votes each film receives. According to Academy executive director Bruce Davis, all films garnering at least five percent of the vote will be nominated. Based on former numbers, that would include somewhere between five to nine selections.

While, I will miss the uniformity and satisfaction of having an Oscar top ten list, this could be a much more efficient way of honoring the films. It’s not entirely logical that if seven films receive upwards of five to ten percent of voting and three more films get about one to two percent a piece, that they should be mandated for inclusion.

However, this policy is a bit of a double-edged sword. Just like the expansion to ten nominees was meant to allow for blockbuster films to make the cut, vote percentage regulations may hinder the chances of smaller indy films from making the cut. Sadly, this is not due to disdain for the films or bad marketing. It’s simply because voters don’t get around to seeing them. Using hypothetical numbers, let’s look at the case of a small film like “Winter’s Bone.” Fifty percent of voters who see the film might choose to nominate it. However, the amount of people who see the film may only be a small fraction compared to those who went to see something like “Avatar.” So even if only five percent of “Avatar” viewers choose to nominate it (compared to “Winter’s Bone”‘s fifty) that number may still dominate over the tiny indy. “Bone”‘s percentage might have been enough to gain its place in a top ten, but five percent of the vote is unlikely.

Meanwhile, on top of percentages, the Academy has chosen to revolutionize Oscar voting by taking steps to providing online ballots. This would be the first time that an awards show with as much history and prestige has made such a shift (the Emmys refuse to commit). Online balloting may help reduce the possibility of error and could help expedite the process, bumping the broadcast up to January. However, it raises the very real concern of computer hacking.

The Oscar results are one of the best kept secrets in the world up until the names are read out on live television. And while the services of PricewaterhousCooper is are beyond reproach, there is always an “if” factor. With hacking groups such as “Anonymous” breaking into everything from Sony to the CIA, the possibility exists. What self-repecting, however disrespecting to the public they may be, hacker wouldn’t want the opportunity to crack the Academy’s database and announce to the world Hollywood’s best kept secret.

Will it happen? Someone like me worries about a situation like that with the same fear of nuclear terrorism. I suppose only time will tell. In closing, I leave you with one of my favorite Oscar speeches.