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2011 Independent Spirit Award Nominations

November 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Wow. Busy morning. Lots of multitasking. I will try to add my two cents about these later. But in the mean time, I ask one question.

WHERE IS “SHAME”?

Eligibility? Who knows. I’ll try to come up with some hard information on why one of best-reviewed films of the year was shut out of the awards that it should have owned.

Here’s the full list of nominees:

Best Feature
50/50
Beginners
Drive
Take Shelter
The Artist
The Descendants

Best Director
Mike Mills, Beginners
Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive
Jeff Nichols, Take Shelter
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants

Best First Feature
Another Earth
In The Family
Margin Call
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Natural Selection

Best Male Lead
Demian Bichir, A Better Life
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Ryan Gosling, Drive
Woody Harrelson, Rampart
Michael Shannon, Take Shelter

Best Female Lead
Lauren Ambrose, Think of Me
Rachel Harris, Natural Selection
Adepero Oduye, Pariah
Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

Best Supporting Male
Albert Brooks, Drive
John Hawkes, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
John C. Reilly, Cedar Rapids
Corey Stoll, Midnight in Paris

Best Supporting Female
Jessica Chastain, Take Shelter
Anjelica Huston, 50/50
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Harmony Santana, Gun Hill Road
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants

John Cassavetes Award for films made under $500,000
Bellflower
Circumstance
Hello Lonesome
Pariah
The Dynamiter

Best Documentary
An African Selection
Bill Cunningham New York
The Interrupters
The Redemption of General Butt Naked
We Were Here

Best Cinematography
Joel Hodge, Bellflower
Benjamin Kasulke, The Off Hours
Darius Khondji, Midnight in Paris
Guillaume Shiffman, The Artist
Jeffrey Waldron, The Dynamiter

Best First Screenplay
Mike Cahill & Brit Marling, Another Earth
J.C. Chandor, Margin Call
Patrick DeWitt, Terri
Phil Johnston, Cedar Rapids
Will Reiser, 50/50

Best Screenplay
Joseph Cedar, Footnote
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Tom McCarthy, Win Win
Mike Mills, Beginners
Alexander Payne, The Descendants

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NYFCC Winners Announced LIVE

November 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Well, here we go. The NYFCC wanted to be first and now they definitely get their wish. They’re choices will either deify them for setting the tone of the next two months or make them look like fools. We shall see.

Keep checking back as I update this page with each award as they are announced and I’ll round it out with my insights when all is said and done.

BEST PICTURE: “The Artist”

BEST DIRECTOR: Michael Hazanavicius – “The Artist”

BEST ACTOR: Brad Pitt – “Moneyball” and “The Tree of Life”

BEST ACTRESS: Meryl Streep – “The Iron Lady”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Albert Brooks – “Drive”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Jessica Chastain – “The Help,” “Take Shelter” and “The Tree of Life”

BEST SCREENPLAY: “Moneyball” by Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zallian

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: “The Tree of Life” by Emmanuel Lubezki

BEST FIRST FEATURE: “Margin Call” dir. J.C. Chandor

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “A Separation” dir. Asghar Farhadi

BEST NON-FICTION FILM: “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” dir. Werner Herzog

“The Dark Knight Rises” – New Photos and Promos

November 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Even with the buzz of the Oscar season overwhelming every second of my life and so many promising films hitting theaters left and right, it is difficult to deny that in my mind, and probably everyone else’s, one movie continues to dominate the sense of anticipation. That film is obviously “The Dark Knight Rises.” Even though I’m still a little bent out of shape over the fact that Pittsburgh was chosen to replace Chicago as the Gotham City backdrop (I mean really, who are they kidding?), the excitement towards the closing chapter of one of the most extraordinary and game-changing franchises in movie history is undeniable.

Therefore, I find it necessary to report some of this extraordinarily exciting news reported in the new issue of Empire Magazine. The periodical contains the first actual stills from the film reel itself as well as some revealing interviews with both Christopher Nolan and Tom Hardy. The two of them discuss some interesting facets of the film which could perhaps give an inkling to a few plot details.

Thanks to Hardy, we now have a clearer image of what kind of villain Bane will serve in the film. The answer is a pretty damn harsh one:

“He’s brutal, brutal. He’s expedient delivery of brutality. And you know, he’s a big dude. He’s a big dude who’s incredibly clinical, in the fact that he has a result-based and orientated fighting style…Everything is thought out way before. He’s hit you, he’s already hit somebody else. It’s not about fighting. It’s just about carnage with Bane. He’s a smashing machine. He’s a wrecking ball. The style is heavy-handed, heavy-footed, it’s nasty. Anything from small joint manipulation to crushing skulls, crushing rib cages, stamping on shins and knees and necks and collarbones and snapping heads off and tearing his fists through chests, ripping out spinal columns. It’s anything he can get away with. He is a terrorist in his mentality as well as brutal action. So he’s horrible. A really horrible piece of work.”

Wow. Well it will be interesting if Nolan (or the MPAA) actually allows the removal of spinal columns in the next Batman film or if Hardy was just being sarcastic and caught up in the moment. As far as Christopher Nolan is concerned, he had this to say about Bane and what we can expect Batman to be facing in this new episode:

“With Bane, we are looking to give Batman a physical challenge that he hasn’t had before. With our choice of villain and with our choice of story we’re testing Batman both physically as well as mentally. Also, in terms of finishing our story and increasing its scope, we were trying to craft an epic, so the physicality of the film became very important. Bane’s a very different kind of villain than Batman has faced before in our films. He’s a great sort of movie monster, but with an incredible brain, and that was a side of him that hadn’t been tapped before.”

Along with this, the director also offered an interesting tidbit of information concerning the time of the film. Unlike most sequels, this one will not be picking up exactly from where the previous chapter left off:

“It’s really all about finishing Batman and Bruce Wayne’s story. We left him in a very precarious place. Perhaps surprisingly for some people, our story picks up quite a bit later, eight years after The Dark Knight. So he’s an older Bruce Wayne — he’s not in a great state.”

You put all of this together, and one question bares very strongly in my mind: just how dark is Nolan going to take this film? Everything that we’ve seen and heard points to a possibility that the film’s predecessor, widely acclaimed for its realism and unsentimentality, could seem like a Disney movie compared to this one. There’s one quite cataclysmic event that some journalists and enthusiasts are contemplating. Between Bruce Wayne’s older state, the brutality of Bane and Nolan’s description of Batman being tested both physically and mentally like never before, one has to wonder if Bane will, in fact, break Batman’s back. Those who have read or have a decent knowledge of the comics know that this event does occur in Knightfall. Perhaps this will be Nolan’s way of closing out the Batman series, and to be even more speculative, maybe bringing Catwoman in to take on the mantel. She has already been seen in photos riding the Batpod.

The internet is like a sewing circle of gossip and rumors and all we can do is wait for the next dollop of news. Supposedly, we will not have to wait that long. As Nolan did with “The Dark Knight” a prologue is being planned for theatrical release. The first six minutes of the film are going to be shown as a complete short before IMAX screenings of “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.” I personally wish they could have attached it to a film that I actually planned on seeing, but I’m sure it will pop up on the internet sooner or later. The prologue featured the Joker’s bank heist. Who knows exactly what this one will feature. Though, it’s been made clear that Bane’s mask and antecedent injury is explained in the early scenes of the film so perhaps we’ll see something along those lines.

Below are the rest of the photos released in Empire, as well as their cover series:

15 Documentaries Make Oscar’s Short List

November 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Sorry that I’m a bit late on this, but I’ve been a little preoccupied over the last week with my sister’s wedding. The Academy has released its next round of finalists in a branch that I’ve grown to love and hate equally. They always seem to make a few poor selection decisions and omissions and this year is really no different.

The short list is as follows:

“Battle for Brooklyn” (RUMER Inc.)
“Bill Cunningham New York” (First Thought Films)
“Buck” (Cedar Creek Productions)
“Hell and Back Again” (Roast Beef Productions Limited)
“If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front” (Marshall Curry Productions, LLC)
“Jane’s Journey” (NEOS Film GmbH & Co. KG)
“The Loving Story” (Augusta Films)
“Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory” (@radical.media)
“Pina” (Neue Road Movies GmbH)
“Project Nim” (Red Box Films)
“Semper Fi: Always Faithful” (Tied to the Tracks Films, Inc.)
“Sing Your Song” (S2BN Belafonte Productions, LLC)
“Undefeated” (Spitfire Pictures)
“Under Fire: Journalists in Combat” (JUF Pictures, Inc.)
“We Were Here” (Weissman Projects, LLC)

Let’s start with a few things that I am quite happy with. It is nice to see the Academy considering “We Were Here” a little-known documentary about the emergence of the AIDS crisis and the banding together of the gay community that followed. Also, I’m very happy to see “If a Tree Falls” hanging onto contention. In a time of such social unrest and protest, the film is a strong examination of human futility, police brutality and the concept of justifiable crime. It truly brings into light the concept of one man’s terrorist being another man’s freedom fighter and illustrates how that man could very well be your neighbor.

Now, we’ll take a moment to note what was expected. “Project Nim,” the chimpanzee-education film by the makers of “Man on Wire” was bound to find a slot in here. The film does look exceptional, but it wouldn’t really matter considering the list of accolades that the helmers’ last effort brought in. Two other films that are also unsurprisingly here are “Buck,” the true-life horse whisperer that the Robert Redford film was based on, and “Hell and Back Again,” the personal journey of a soldier reflected both in and coming home from Afghanistan. While I’m kind of annoyed that some truly original work has been snubbed by yet ANOTHER war documentary, I still can’t believe the brilliant cinematography on display in the film. Remarkable.

There were some truly shocking omissions in this category, as usual. The most prominent is the absence of “Senna,” the story of Formula 1 racer Aryton Senna who won three championships and was later killed in a fiery crash. I don’t think there was a single pundit who wasn’t considering this a major contender, while the majority already had it pegged to win. Also snubbed were two documentaries about journalism, itself. “Page One: Inside the New York Times,” a story detailing the fight between old school reporting and social media, and “Tabloid,” the latest film by the man who changed the way documentaries were made, Errol Morris. “Tabloid,” however, is in the midst of a lawsuit with its subject, Joyce McKinney, which might account for its absence.

Finally, there’s the category of straight-up disappointments. The first, though not wholly unexpected, was the snub of Werner Herzog’s powerful new discussion of the death penalty, “Into the Abyss.” The film is extraordinary and one would think that the Academy might try to lift the shame it brought on itself after penalizing and snubbing perhaps one of the greatest documentaries ever made, “Grizzly Man.” But, alas, it appears they still have it out for Herzog and his quest for cinematic truth.

Yet, without a doubt, the most painful snub of the list was of Steve James’ unrelentingly emotional film “The Interrupters.” James made a huge splash in the documentary world with his epic story of a high school basketball team, “Hoop Dreams” (which Roger Ebert still calls one of the 100 greatest films of all time). Here, he examines a group of unlikely heroes: a crime prevention group in Chicago that pulls out all the stops in their attempt to end gang violence. The group goes door to door and sometimes throws itself into the fray for the sole purpose of saving lives. In a time that is overrun with films about big issues such as the economy and the war, it was refreshing to see a film about an problem just as dire, that exists in our own backyard and is completely solvable when some would choose to simply turn their backs on it. Shame on the Academy for overlooking such a powerful and cathartic film that really inspires people to make a difference.

The way things stand now, I would put the documentary category looking something like this:

1. “Project Nim”
2. “Hell and Back Again”
3. “We Were Here”
4. “Pina”
5. “Buck”

Alt 1: “If a Tree Falls: The Story of the Earth Liberation Front”
Alt 2: “Bill Cunningham: New York”

We shall see. Stay tuned to The Edge of the Frame when I add this to my next list of updated predictions, hopefully some time in the next week.

Billy Crystal Takes the Reins…Again

November 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Well, I have just got to stop inflicting these terrible omens on myself and the rest of the world with these posts. In my most recent article, I had remarked that I hope Don Mischer does not simply “regurgitate Billy Crystal for the umpteenth time.” Well, perhaps this is not the worst way to resurrect this year’s Oscars from the Ratner debacle, but it is certainly not the best.

I should start off by stating what has already been widely reported: Brian Grazer has stepped up to fill Brett Ratner’s shoes. This is not at all a bad choice. It’s hard not to like, if not at least respect, Grazer as a class-act producer. An Academy Award winner, himself, Grazer has been a major part of such Hollywood films as “A Beautiful Mind,” “American Gangster,” “The Nutty Professor” and “Apollo 13.” To add on to his film career, and beef up his resume as a television producer, he was also behind the helm of such popular hits as “Friday Night Lights” and “Arrested Development.” The decision to hire the man was a great step forward in terms of damage control for this year’s telecast.

So, there’s the good. Let’s move on to the Academy’s less inspired decisions. Billy Crystal is taking Eddie Murphy’s place and making his ninth appearance hosting the Oscars. NINTH. The only person to perform that gig more times was Bob Hope, and many of his turns were as a co-host. The fact that Crystal has been here nine times automatically speaks to the notion that the Academy didn’t care to put any genuine creativity into their decision, but instead have simply gone back to their comfort zone of what worked for them back in a time when the Oscars were still popular with the general public.

One important thing to get across here is that I really don’t have that much against Crystal as a host. In fact, I think he’s done a great job with the show in the past. I recall that the 1997 season, in which “Titanic” took home virtually everything, was maybe the first full telecast I ever watched (I was eleven, so give me a break) and it was his hosting, if nothing else, that really got me hooked.

What I am pissed about, and may never be able to fully forgive Crystal for, are his remarks made to the Associated Press in March of this year when Crystal entertained the notion of hosting again, upon compliance with a personal condition:

“I think the show needs to change. There’s too many awards and it has to sort of freshen itself up, and if I can be a part of that, that would be great.”

Let’s put aside for a moment that the Academy Awards and its selection of those awards are a long-standing and important tradition that has been a staple practically since Hollywood came into being. I’m sorry if Mr. Crystal thinks that it gets a little boring for primetime television. Let’s instead focus on the fact that the Oscars are the only time and place left in America in which all the elements that go into a film are brought together and honored. It’s the only opportunity for a cinematographer or an editor or a sound designer or a makeup artist to stand in front of a worldwide audience and be given the respect of being the best at their craft. You take that away, and the show becomes a second-rate Golden Globes: a star-fucking extravaganza that reassures that audience that all you really need to make a movie is Johnny Depp.

If any of Crystal’s notions were actually taken into effect, it might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and induces me to finally change the channel. I’ve endured a lot as an Oscar prognosticator. I can deal with the campaigning, the politics, the poor-taste decisions, and even Harvey Weinstein bribing and felating voters under the table. But when you take the backbone of the film industry and shut them out in the cold because you think it will improve your ratings, you have crossed a line. For that, I say shame on you, Mr. Crystal. At long last, have you no decency?

One can only hope that our host does not get his way, and the Academy’s tradition of honoring all aspects of filmmaking remains intact. We shall find out in three months’ time.

First Ratner, Now Murphy…

November 9, 2011 Leave a comment

Well, as I predicted in the update to my last post, Eddie Murphy has left his position as this year’s Oscar host, following the resignation of producer Brett Ratner. Ratner chose (or was forced, more likely) to leave the job after his insensitive and uninspired comment about rehearsing in film production being for “fags.” After twenty-four hours of apologies, bad press and journalistic backlash, Ratner and the Academy found that stepping down was the only viable option.

As far as Murphy’s exit is concerned, he had the following comments, as reported by Nikki Finke’s Deadline:

“First and foremost I want to say that I completely understand and support each party’s decision with regard to a change of producers for this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. I was truly looking forward to being a part of the show that our production team and writers were just starting to develop, but I’m sure that the new production team and host will do an equally great job.”

While Murphy’s quittage is disappointing, I can’t say that it comes as a surprise. The comedian was hand-picked by Ratner after the two shared a close relationship which was both business and personal. Murphy staying would be like remaining at a house party even after the only friend you have there checks out early. It just wouldn’t have been the same experience for him as a host. It’s really too bad for both him and the viewer, because I strongly believe that he was a fantastic choice for the night’s emcee. Now, we’ll never know.

On the other hand, after a good forty-eight hours of thought since the original incident, I believe that Ratner’s exit, be it by choice or otherwise, was the right course of action. While I still do not think like so many others that the producer’s remarks were in any way meant to be hateful or discriminating. The truth is, ignorance of that kind cannot be tolerated. In a civilization that by all rights should be miles beyond the levels of bigotry that we find ourselves still bogged down in, the use of the term “fag” or anything like it must be reprimanded. It’s the same term used by murderers who torture people for being gay and high schoolers who drive their fellow students to suicide with ridicule. For anyone to use that kind of remark, let alone the frontman for Hollywood’s most biggest and most prestigious night, it’s unacceptable, and Ratner simply should not have been that stupid.

As far as the Oscars go, who knows what’s in store? Quite frankly, it’s a mess. Hopefully, veteran co-producer Don Mischer can find the right people to fill all the vacant shoes and pull this telecast back up by its bootstraps. I can only pray that they don’t decide to just regurgitate Billy Crystal for the umpteenth time and instead actually use some inspiration in their decision-making process.

We shall see. Stay tuned to The Edge of the Frame to find out.

Brett Ratner, the Gaffe and the Academy…What a Mess

November 8, 2011 Leave a comment

I was originally going to let this story slide, but since the rest of the Oscar community is staring down this incident with mouths agape, I suppose I’ll throw my two cents in.

For those of you who are not aware of said spiel, it took place at a forum for the director’s new film, “Tower Heist.” When asked by a reporter if Ratner likes to run though a scene and rehearse with his actors, Ratner nonchalantly replied that “rehearsing is for fags.” The slur immediately reverberated a vicious outcry across both news outlets and the blogosphere. Certain journalists including Mark Harris from Grantland and Sasha Stone of Awardsdaily immediately called for Ratner’s head served up on a platter. It is the opinion of many that Academy should be firing the director without a second’s notice, or at least push a forced resignation.

Ratner immediately followed up his remarks with a hastily worded apology:

 “I apologize for any offense my remarks caused. It was a dumb way of expressing myself. Everyone who knows me knows that I don’t have a prejudiced bone in my body. But as a storyteller I should have been much more thoughtful about the power of language and my choice of words.”

Now, from my posts in the past, I shouldn’t have to clarify myself as a fervently liberal individual, and not many issues are more important or close to me than gay rights. In this day and age of intelligence and enlightenment, prejudice in any form is completely intolerable. This goes double for an industry where art is the primary focus and freedom of expression is everything.

However, when it comes to calling for Ratner’s instant firing over this incident, I cannot jump on the bandwagon. The man’s remarks were stupid, ignorant and of poor judgment. Yet, society has created a weird and idiotic lexical pairing of the term “fag” to “loser” or “dork.” Ratner seems to have fallen victim to this failure of language and is in need of a severe crash course in proper english rhetoric. However, I have to concur that the man’s remark did not seem inherently prejudicial or hateful. Ratner is guilty of being a moron, not a bigot. This does not mean that I believe his apology, wholeheartedly. Maybe the man is a homophobe and another huge slip-up is on the horizon. However, I don’t think with this gaffe he has yet to the entire foot into his mouth and he cannot YET be burned at the stake.

Should he be reprimanded? Yes. Should his work and life be brought under strict observation and scrutiny. Absolutely. However, I cannot agree with the notion of his firing. We’ll have to wait and see if anything else comes to light that will fuel the fire. Should any more substantial evidence of hate or bigotry come forward, I’ll be calling for his pink slip as fast as the next self-respecting human being.

UPDATE: Well it looks like Brett Ratner faced the music and quit his post as Oscar producer. In all likelihood, this was an influenced, if not forced, resignation under the guidance of the Board of Governors. Personally, I think this is a shame. Not because he didn’t act like a complete idiot or because the Academy couldn’t do better, because he did and they can. It’s a shame because he probably was planning a killer show. One can only hope that Eddie Murphy will stay on as host. However, I can’t say I expect it since he was hand-picked by Ratner. If anything, the two were practically a partnership on the deal. A real shame.