2014: TOP TEN FILMS
For Hollywood, 2014 was another year that wasn’t. But while tinsel town continues to sinks in its abyss of big-spectacle, sequels, and pre-pubescent obsession with comic book characters, the rest of cinema continues to run blinding circles around it.
Horror got a meaty surprise with Jennifer Kent’s moody indie effort The Babadook, and social satire lit a stick of dynamite with Dan Gilroy’s Nightcrawler.
Although I only have one documentary in the list, the genre continues to grow with impressive results. Chuck Workman’s Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles is a must-see for any lover of film. Jodorwsky’s Dune falls in the same category. If you saw Particle Fever or The Unknown Known you know what I mean. Joe Berlinger's "Whitey: United States of America V. James J. Bulger is as powerful as they come.
In any event, here are the top-ten films of 2014.
The look of David Ayer’s World War II drama is utterly convincing. Every period detail of costume, production design, location, and battle action resonates with authenticity.
The film’s centerpiece sequence takes place inside a quiet German apartment where a mother and her teenaged daughter hide in justifiable fear.
This is the scene that explains why David Ayer made the film, and why “Fury” is a great movie.
“Foxcatcher” presents a game-changing role for Steve Carell as John du Pont, the politically connected right wing patriarch of “America’s wealthiest family.”
Bennett Miller’s nuanced true-crime drama is sobering allegory for a ubiquitous sort of willfully ignorant, privileged, blueblood Republicans buying power in exchange for fleeting moments of futile glory.
The film functions on multiple levels to observe how the American elite use and abuse power toward the destruction of everything it touches.
Laura Poitras’s fascinating documentary, about the initial contact with and aftermath of whistleblower Edward Snowden’s earth-shattering revelations, provides a stark cinema vérité perspective on America’s biggest political scandal.
Snowden recognized early on that the Obama administration and the media would attempt to deflect the significance of his leaks by attacking his character in Nixonian fashion. For once the spooks got much more than they bargained for.
In his claustrophobic hotel room Snowden’s fearlessness is unmistakable: “You’re [the U.S. government] not going to bully me into silence like you have everyone else.”
As with “Margin Call” (2011) and “All is Lost” (2013), Chandor’s latest is a detailed study in complex characters responding to extreme pressures — personal, social, and physical.
Oscar Isaac’s bravura performance during the sequence, and throughout the film, smolders with resolute intent. There is no finer film actor working in the business.
“A Most Violent Year” is essential viewing for film-lovers and for the people least likely to see it.
Provocative, droll, fearless, and cinematically sexual in unprecedented ways, “Nymphomaniac” (in its proper unedited form) is a four-hour movie with an unknown potential to alter reality.
Charlotte Gainsbourg’s sexually polymorphic character Joe represents an icon of the contradictions of modern day feminist ideologies.
That Joe’s sexually adventurous self-help therapy places her in the presence of an overeducated male exploiter (disguised as her rescuer) puts a sharp grace note that carries on and on and on.
Challenging and provocative, co-writer/director David Wnendt’s nervy adaptation of Charlotte Roche’s long-presumed unfilmable popular novel breaks new cinematic ground.
Mapping out the terrain of cinema’s previously uncharted psychosexual possibilities, Wnendt opens up a wide range of Roche’s proto-feminist issues around Helen, an 18-year-old German girl with pressing bodily issues.
Here is a female force of nature that rejects religion and societally imposed rules of conduct, in favor of a DIY approach. Helen represents a different brand of one-percenter. The means and the end are evenly justified.
For his latest filmic exploration François Ozon addresses a complex mix of sexual, personal, social, familial, gender-based, and technological issues.
That he does so via a story about Isabelle (Marine Vacth), a beautiful bourgeoisie 17-year-old DIY prostitute, reflects the growth of one of France’s most consistent filmmakers.
Vacth portrays a force of unbridled feminine and intellectual nature. Isabelle has important lessons to teach, as well as to learn. You will never forget this truly mind-blowing film.
“Goodbye to Language” is a vibrant think piece about modern man’s constant state of fear of the Frankenstein culture of violence that governments and corporations have created.
“Is society willing to accept murder as a means to fight unemployment?” Godard provokes and dares the viewer to listen and think. Think for yourself.
Godard views the dichotomy between nature and industrial degradation with a sardonic eye. God couldn’t humble man, so he humiliates him. Absurdly visually abstract, the film keeps its audience on their toes.
Just when you thought there was nothing new under the sun, Richard Linklater goes and makes the most anti-Hollywood movie ever conceived.
Linklater instinctively de-emphasizes anything that might be construed as “dramatic“ while following the life trajectory of a boy named Mason (played by Ellar Coltrane) from age six to 18 growing up in Texas.
The invisible mechanics of “tempo, tone, mood, time, and place” that Linklater uses to flesh out his preplanned narrative form fit almost perfectly within the rules of a “Dogme 95” film.
1. Mr. Turner
Mike Leigh’s reputation as an unrivaled inventor of cinematic dramaturgy once again over-delivers on his promise.
J. M.W. Turner was a misunderstood artist during his lifetime, but with the help of Mike Leigh, Timothy Spall, and a cast of infinitely gifted actors, audiences can begin to comprehend the life, purpose, and experiences of that tremendously inspired soul.
It is worth noting that the stellar performances from Leigh’s stable of actresses such as Dorothy Atkinson, Marion Bailey, and Ruth Sheen are all of an elevated quality rarely experienced by modern movie audiences.
BREAKING MODERN PRESENTS COLE SMITHEY'S FILM 101: GENRES
Midnight Movies were initially considered a “craze” (a fad which during the '70s was code for a seasonal rotation of cheap commercial products, such as yo-yos, plastic skateboards, and image-emboldened T-shirts aimed at the youth culture). More accurately however, the drive-in and art-house-driven cinema movement known as Midnight Movies — films screened at 12 midnight — arrived as a response to the success of cheap grindhouse movies. It was a way to capitalize on the hippie drug culture that sought out anything weird enough to be considered “counterculture.” There was a huge audience of stoned kids looking for strange movies they could goof on while high. Showing the same film week after week allowed for word of mouth to spread toward the goal of building a cult audience.
Television played a part in laying the groundwork for the midnight movie tradition. Beginning in the late ‘50s, regional television stations in towns like Cleveland and Detroit ran their own version of late-night weekly horror movie programming compete with a snarky host dressed up in ghoulish attire. In 1970 Petersburg, Virginia had “Shock Theater,” wherein Bill Bowman (a.k.a. The Bowman Body) would throw his tennis-shoed foot over the edge of a coffin before rising out to introduce that week’s monster flick with sarcastic asides regarding the questionable quality of horror movies like Roger Corman’s “Tales of Terror.”
In December of 1970, the Elgin Theater in New York's Chelsea district began running Alejandro Jodorowsky’s surrealist gem “El Topo,” setting off a firestorm of cult attention thanks to the likes of celebrity audience members such as John Lennon. The Elgin began screening “El Topo” at midnight every night of the week except Fridays, when it screened at 1am. A year later Peter Bogdanovich’s 1968 serial-killer thriller “Targets” came into favor along with “Equinox,” “Viva la muerte,” “Night of the Living Dead,” and Tod Browning’s “Freaks” as appropriate midnight movie fare in New York where other venues (the St. Marks, the Waverly, the Bijou, and the Olympia) followed suit.
With its coprophilic climax, and other taboo-breaking scenes, John Waters’s second film “Pink Flamingos” seemed custom-made for the midnight movie market. Waters’s anti-establishment camp went hand-in-glove with the rebel reggae of “The Harder They Come,” starring Jimmy Cliff as an outlaw Jamaican singer based on a real-life character. Although Roger Corman’s distribution company marketed it as blaxploitation, it was clear there was more to “The Harder They Come” by way of its outstanding soundtrack of memorable songs.
By virtue of its urban late-night setting, the midnight movie atmosphere embraced taboo elements of pornography, illicit multi-cultural mixing, exploitation, gore, and LGBT influences. “Flesh Gordon” was a ribald nudity-filled spoof that received an X-rating endorsement from the MPAA. Ralph Bakshi’s 1972 adaptation of R. Crumb’s “Fritz the Cat” became the first X-rated animated film. Thanks to an extended run in the midnight movie circuit, “Fritz” also became the highest grossing independent animated movie up until that time. Take that, Disney.
If “Harold and Maude” (1971) seemed tame by comparison, the arrival of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” on April Fool’s Day 1976 dumped the contents of Pandora’s box all over the floor and kicked it like a scattered rug. Finally, midnight movie audiences had a movie they could interact with as Black audiences had been doing for years with blaxploitation flicks.
David Lynch’s “Eraserhead” (1977) took midnight movies into a darker realm that matched the mood of the concurrent Punk Rock music explosion that enveloped the UK and America. As with Punk, the midnight movie scene ran out of steam as the Eighties came around. “The Warriors” (1979), “The Gods Must Be Crazy” (1980), “The Evil Dead” (1981), “Heavy Metal” (1981), “Liquid Sky” (1982), and “Pink Floyd The Wall” (1982) helped blow out the candle on a cinematic zeitgeist that burned bright from both ends for just over a decade.
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Palme d’Or: “Winter Sleep” (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey-Germany-France)
Grand Prix: “The Wonders” (Alice Rohrwacher)
Director: Bennett Miller, “Foxcatcher”
Actor: Timothy Spall, “Mr. Turner”
Actress: Julianne Moore, “Maps to the Stars”
Jury Prize: “Mommy” (Xavier Dolan) and “Goodbye to Language” (Jean-Luc Godard)
Screenplay: Andrey Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin, “Leviathan”
Camera d’Or: “Party Girl” (Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger, Samuel Theis)
Short Films Palme d’Or: “Leidi” (Simon Mesa Soto)
Short Films Special Mention: “Aissa” (Clement Trehin-Lalanne)
Ecumenical Jury Prize: “Timbuktu” (Abderrahmane Sissako, Mauritania-France)
UN CERTAIN REGARD PRIZES
Un Certain Regard Prize: “White God” (Kornel Mundruczo, Hungary-Germany-Sweden)
Jury prize: “Force Majeure” (Ruben Ostlund, Sweden-France-Denmark-Norway)
Special Prize: “The Salt of the Earth” (Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, France-Italy)
Ensemble: “Party Girl” (Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger, Samuel Theis, France)
Actor: David Gulpilil, “Charlie’s Country” (Rolf de Heer, Australia)
DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT PRIZES
Art Cinema Award: “Les Combattants” (Thomas Cailley, France)
Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers Prize: “Les Combattants”
Europa Cinemas Label: “Les Combattants”
CRITICS’ WEEK PRIZES
Grand Prize: “The Tribe” (Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, Ukraine)
Visionary Prize: “The Tribe”
Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers Prize: “Hope” (Boris Lojkine, France)
Competition: “Winter Sleep”
Un Certain Regard: “Jauja” (Lisandro Alonso, Denmark-U.S.-Argentina)
Directors’ Fortnight: “Les Combattants”
The New Zealand director, producer and screenwriter Jane Campion, winner of the Palme d’or for The Piano, will be the President of the Jury of the 67th Festival de Cannes. Cannes has always sought to adopt a universal and international approach, and in tune with this tradition, Campion will be surrounded by eight luminaries of world cinema, from China, Korea, Denmark, Iran, the United States, France and Mexico.
As in 2009 the Jury will therefore include five women and four men. Their task will be to decide between the 18 films in Competition in order to select the winners – to be announced on stage at the ceremony on Saturday 24th — May. The winner of the Palme d’or will be screened during the Festival’s closing evening on Sunday 25th of May, in the presence of the Jury and the entire team of the winning film.
Jane CAMPION – President
(Director, Screenwriter, Producer – New Zealand)
Carole BOUQUET (Actress – France)
Sofia COPPOLA (Director, Screenwriter, Producer – United States)
Leila HATAMI (Actress – Iran)
JEON Do-yeon (Actress – South Korea)
Willem DAFOE (Actor – United States)
Gael GARCIA BERNAL (Actor, Director, Producer – Mexico)
JIA Zhangke (Director, Screenwriter, Producer – China)
Nicolas Winding REFN (Director, Screenwriter, Producer – Denmark)
Carole Bouquet, Actress (France)
After her film debut in 1977 with Luis Buñuel in That Obscure Object of Desire, Bouquet alternated between arthouse and blockbuster productions. A Bond Girl in 1981 in For Your Eyes Only, she worked with Bertrand Blier on Buffet Froid (1979) and Too Beautiful For You (1989) for which she won the César for Best Actress. She appeared in Le jour des idiots by Werner Schroeter, Michel Blanc’s Dead Tired and Embrassez qui vous voudrez, Lucie Aubrac by Claude Berri, L’Enfer by Danis Tanovic, Nordeste by Juan Diego Solanas (Festival de Cannes 2005) and Unforgivable by André Téchiné.
Sofia Coppola, Director and screenwriter (United States)
Coppola’s first feature film, The Virgin Suicides (1999) was selected for the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes, where it met with international critical acclaim. Four years later, after several Oscar nominations for Lost in Translation, including Best Director, she walked off with the Best Screenplay award. Her third film, Marie-Antoinette was selected in Competition at Cannes in 2006. After picking up a Golden Lion in Venice forSomewhere (2010), Sofia Coppola opened Un Certain Regard with her last film The Bling Ring at the Festival de Cannes in 2013.
Leila Hatami, Actress (Iran)
Born in Tehran into a family of filmmakers, she started out acting in films directed by her father, Ali Hatami, before starring in Dariush Mehrjui’s Leila (1998) which brought her to national attention. It was Asghar Farhadi who established her on the world stage with A Separation (Golden Bear at the 2011 Berlin Festival). She picked up the Best Actress award in Karlovy Vary for her role in Ali Mosaffa’s Last Step in 2012.
Jeon Do-yeon, Actress (South Korea)
The first Korean actress to receive the Best Actress award at the Festival de Cannes for her role in Secret Sunshine by Lee Chang-dong (2007), Jeon Do-yeon started out as a television actress before turning exclusively to cinema. Her major films include I Wish I Had a Wife by Ryoo Seung, My Mother, The Mermaid by Park Jin-pyo and The Housemaid by Im Sang-soo, presented at Cannes in 2010. A massive celebrity in her country, she has just finished shooting Memories of the Sword by Park Heung-sik.
Willem Dafoe, Actor (United States)
Twice nominated for an Oscar, for Oliver Stone’s Platoon and Shadow of the Vampire, Dafoe has appeared in 80 films including Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson, Light Sleeper by Paul Schrader, The Last Temptation of Christ by Martin Scorsese, Antichrist by Lars von Trier and The English Patient by Anthony Minghella. He will soon be appearing in A Most Wanted Man by Anton Corbijn and Pasolini by Abel Ferrara. A co-founder of the Wooster Group – an experimental theatre collective – he is currently on tour with Bob Wilson’s play The Old Woman.
Gael García Bernal, Actor, director and producer (Mexico)
Bernal first came to public attention in Iñárritu’s Amorres Perros, soon followed by Y Tu Mamá También by Alfonso Cuarón. He then featured in films directed by some of the greats of international cinema, such as The Motorcycle Diaries by Walter Salles, Pedro Almodóvar’s Bad Education, The Science of Sleep by Michel Gondry, Babel by Gonzalez Iñárritu, and The Limits of Control by Jim Jarmusch. In 2005, he founded his Canana production company with Diego Luna and in 2010, after a few short films, directed his first feature film,Deficit, selected at La Semaine de la Critique at Cannes.
Nicolas Winding Refn, Director, screenwriter and producer (Denmark)
His first film, Pusher (1996), written and directed at the age of 24, immediately became a cult movie and he shot to fame throughout the world. He then directed Bleeder (1999), Fear X (2003), Pusher II & III (2004 & 2005),Bronson (2008) and Valhalla Rising (2009), all characteristic of the style that came to be dubbed "Refn-esque". In 2011, Drive was presented at the Festival de Cannes and won the Best Direction prize, awarded by the Jury presided by Robert De Niro. His last film, Only God Forgives, featured in Competition at Cannes in 2013.
Jia Zhangke, Director, screenwriter and producer (China)
After first studying art Jia Zhangke, born in 1970, attended the Beijing Film Academy in the 1990s. After the success of his first film, Xao Wu (1998), he directed Platform (Zhantai, 2000) and Unknown Pleasures (Ren xiao yao, 2002) selected for Venice and Cannes respectively. Still Life picked up the Golden Lion in Venice in 2006. He also presented 24 City at the Festival de Cannes, in Competition in 2008 and I Wish I Knew for Un Certain Regard in 2010. Last year, A Touch of Sin garnered the Best Screenplay prize awarded by the Jury presided by Steven Spielberg.
1. Jane Campion © Lisa Tomasetti
2. Jia Zhangke © RR
3. Willem Dafoe © RR
4. Leila Hatami © Saba Siahpoush
5. Carole Bouquet © Paul Schmidt
6. Gael Garcia Bernal © RR
7. Jeon Do-yeon © RR
8. Nicolas Winding Refn © Jonas Bie
9. Sofia Coppola © Andrew Durham
“Grace of Monaco” (Olivier Dahan, France-U.S.-Belgium-Italy) Nicole Kidman stars as Grace Kelly in Dahan’s 1960s-set biopic, which, is kicking off the festival out of competition. The Weinstein Co. is distributing the film Stateside.
“The Captive” (Atom Egoyan, Canada) Ryan Reynolds, Scott Speedman and Rosario Dawson star in this abduction thriller, Egoyan’s sixth competition entry; the Canadian helmer won the Grand Prix for 1997’s “The Sweet Hereafter.”
“Clouds of Sils Maria” (Olivier Assayas, France-Switzerland-Germany) IFC has Stateside rights to this English-language picture about an actress who withdraws to the Swiss town of the title, starring Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart and Chloe Grace Moretz. Assayas was previously in competition with “Clean,” “Demonlover” and “Les Destinees sentimentales,” but has yet to win a Cannes prize.
“Foxcatcher” (Bennett Miller, U.S.) Once slated to open last year’s AFI Film Festival before being pushed to 2014, this third feature from the highly regarded writer-director of “Capote” and “Moneyball” is an account of the murder of Olympic wrestling champion Dave Schultz. Sony Classics is releasing the film Stateside.
“Goodbye to Language” (Jean-Luc Godard, Switzerland) Previously at the festival with 2010’s characteristically cryptic “Film socialisme,” Godard will make his seventh appearance in competition (if you count his contribution to 1987’s “Aria”). His latest offering will be presented in 3D.
“The Homesman” (Tommy Lee Jones, U.S.) Set around his period Western is the actor-director’s first helming effort since his 2005 debut, “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” which won two prizes at Cannes (including an acting award for Jones).
“Jimmy’s Hall” (Ken Loach, U.K.-Ireland-France) Reportedly the British realist’s final fiction feature, this drama about the Irish communist leader James Gralton will mark Loach’s 12th time in competition. He won the Palme d’Or in 2006 for “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” and recently received a jury prize for 2012’s “The Angels’ Share.”
“Leviathan” (Andrei Zvyagintsev, Russia) A multi-character fusion of social drama and sci-fi set in a “new country,” Zvyagintsev’s fourth feature marks his first return to the Cannes competition since 2007’s “The Banishment”; his previous film, “Elena,” closed Un Certain Regard in 2011.
“Le Meraviglie” (Alice Rohrwacher, Italy-Switzerland-Germany) One of two female directors in competition this year, Italian writer-director Rohrwacher delivers her second feature after her 2011 Directors’ Fortnight entry, “Corpo celeste.” It’s the story of a 14-year-old girl in the Umbrian countryside whose secluded life is shattered by the arrival of a young German ex-con.
“Maps to the Stars” (David Cronenberg, U.S.) This satire of the entertainment industry will be the Canadian auteur’s fifth film to screen in competition at Cannes (following “Crash,” “Spider,” “A History of Violence” and “Cosmopolis”), and his second consecutive collaboration with star Robert Pattinson. It could also be his first film to win the Palme d’Or.
“Mommy” (Xavier Dolan, France-Canada) One of the younger directors to crack the competition (at age 25), the Quebecois helmer scooped up multiple Critics’ Week prizes for his 2009 debut, “I Killed My Mother,” and entered Un Certain Regard with “Heartbeats” and “Laurence Anyways.” His latest is a relationship drama starring Anne Dorval, Suzanne Clement and Antoine-Olivier Pilon.
“Saint Laurent” (Bertrand Bonello, France) Not to be confused with Jalil Lespert’s “Yves Saint Laurent,” the other recent biopic of the French fashion designer, Bonello’s film stars Gaspard Ulliel, Louis Garrel and Lea Seydoux. The helmer was previously in competition with 2011’s “House of Pleasures” (then titled “House of Tolerance”) and 2003’s “Tiresia.”
“The Search” (Michel Hazanavicius, France) Berenice Bejo and Annette Bening topline this drama centered around the bond between an NGO worker and a young boy in war-torn Chechnya. A remake of Fred Zinnemann’s Oscar-winning 1948 film of the same title, it marks Hazanavicius’ return to the Cannes competition after his 2011 prizewinner, “The Artist.”
“Still the Water” (Naomi Kawase, Japan) By now a Cannes competition regular, Kawase won the Grand Prix for 2007’s “The Mourning Forest” and received the Camera d’Or for her 1997 debut, “Suzaku.” Her latest film is set on the Japanese island of Amami-Oshima and centers on a young couple trying to solve a mysterious death.
“Mr. Turner” (Mike Leigh, U.K.) A four-time veteran of the Cannes competition who won the Palme d’Or for 1996’s “Secrets & Lies” and director for 1993’s “Naked,” the British master will return to the festival with this portrait of the 19th-century painter J.M.W. Turner, starring Timothy Spall and Lesley Manville. Sony Classics is distributing in the U.S.
“Timbuktu” (Abderrahmane Sissako, France) The Mauritanian-born, Mali-raised director, who was previously at Cannes with 2006’s “Bamako,” tells the story of a young couple who were stoned to death in northern Mali for the crime of “not being married before God.”
“Two Days, One Night” (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium) Marion Cotillard, Fabrizio Rongione and Olivier Gourmet star in this story of a young woman trying to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so she can keep her job. Already acquired by Sundance Selects for the U.S., it will be the Belgian brothers’ sixth film to compete at Cannes; they have won the Palme d’Or twice, for 1999’s “Rosetta” and 2005’s “L’enfant.”
“Wild Tales” (Damian Szifron, Argentina-Spain) Pedro Almodovar is one of the producers of this series of comic sketches from Argentinean writer-director Szifron, making his first appearance at Cannes.
“Winter Sleep” (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey-Germany-France) This three-hour-plus drama is set in the titular landscape of Ceylan’s previous film (and 2011 Cannes Grand Prix winner), “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia.” The rigorous Turkish auteur also won the festival’s directing prize for 2008’s “Three Monkeys” and the Grand Prix for 2002’s “Distant.”
OUT OF COMPETITION
“Coming Home” (Zhang Yimou, China) Zhang’s 12th collaboration with Gong Li (star of his Cannes competition entries “Ju Dou,” “To Live” and “Shanghai Triad”) is a romantic drama set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution. Sony Classics is distributing the film in North America and other territories.
“How to Train Your Dragon 2” (Dean DeBlois, U.S.) This Fox-distributed sequel to 2010’s smash hit “How to Train Your Dragon” follows in a long line of DreamWorks toons that have bowed on the Croisette, including “Shrek,” “Shrek 2,” “Kung Fu Panda” and last year’s “Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted.”
“Les Gens du Monde” (Yves Jeuland, France) Jeuland’s latest documentary pays tribute to the 70-year history of France’s daily newspaper Le Monde.
UN CERTAIN REGARD
OPENER: “Party Girl” (Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger and Samuel Theis, France) This directorial debut for all three co-helmers tells the story of a 60-year-old nightclub hostess who finally decides to settle down by marrying a member of her clientele.
“Amour fou” (Jessica Hausner, Austria-Luxembourg-Germany) This follow-up to Hausner’s acclaimed 2009 drama “Lourdes” is “a parable about the ambivalence of love” inspired by the suicide pact of the 19th-century poet Heinrich von Kleist and his friend Henriette Vogel. (Sales: Coproduction Office)
“Bird People” (Pascale Ferran, France) Ferran’s first film since her acclaimed “Lady Chatterley” is a relationship drama with a supernatural element, starring Josh Charles (formerly of “The Good Wife”) and Anais Demoustier.
“The Blue Room” (Mathieu Amalric, France) The French actor-helmer, who won a directing prize for 2010’s “On Tour,” stars along with Lea Drucker in this adaptation of a 1964 Georges Simenon novel.
“Charlie’s Country” (Rolf de Heer, Australia) This third collaboration between de Heer and actor David Gulpilil extends the director’s commitment to exploring Australian Aboriginal culture. It world premiered at the recent Adelaide Film Festival.
“A Girl at My Door” (July Jung, South Korea) Produced by Cannes competition favorite Lee Chang-dong, Jung’s debut feature centers around a young woman being abused by her stepfather.
“Eleanor Rigby” (Ned Benson, U.S.) Previously a two-part, 191-minute drama titled “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby,” this Weinstein Co. release starring Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy chronicles the dissolution of a marriage.
“Fantasia” (Wang Chao) The Chinese writer-director was previously in Cannes with his 2006 Un Certain Regard prizewinner, “Luxury Car.”
“Force Majeure” (Ruben Ostlund) Formerly titled “Tourist,” Ostlund’s fourth feature was shot at a ski resort in France and deploys “aesthetic and narrative codes that are completely different from what we’re used to,” said Fremaux. The Swedish helmer was previously at Cannes with 2011’s “Play” and 2008’s “Involuntary.”
“Harcheck mi headro” (Keren Yedaya) This is the third feature from Israeli helmer Yedaya, who was previously at Cannes with 2009’s Jewish-Arab love story “Jaffa” and her 2004 Camera d’Or winner, “Or (My Treasure).”
“Hermosa juventud” (Jaime Rosales) The Barcelona-born director was previously in Un Certain Regard with 2007’s “Solitary Fragments.”
“Incompresa” (Asia Argento, Italy-France) Argento has been a fixture of the festival as a director (2004’s “The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things”) and an actress (“Boarding Gate,” “The Last Mistress,” “Go Go Tales,” “Dracula 3D”). Her latest helming effort, which features Charlotte Gainsbourg, takes its title from that of Luigi Comencini’s “Incompreso” (“Misunderstood”).
“Jauja” (Lisandro Alonso, Denmark-U.S.-Argentina) Viggo Mortensen stars in this drama about a father and daughter journeying from Denmark to an unknown desert. It’s the Argentine auteur’s first feature since his 2008 Directors’ Fortnight entry, “Liverpool.”
“Lost River” (Ryan Gosling, U.S.) Until now known under the title “How to Catch a Monster,” Gosling’s writing-directing debut, which was acquired last year by Warner Bros. for U.S. distribution, is a Detroit-shot fantasy-drama starring Christina Hendricks, Saoirse Ronan and Eva Mendes. The actor has been a frequent visitor to Cannes lately in films including “Drive,” “Only God Forgives” and “Blue Valentine.”
“Run” (Philippe Lacote, France-Ivory Coast) Ivory Coast native Lacote shines a light on his country’s violent history with this drama about a runaway who has just killed the prime minister of his homeland.
“Salt of the Earth” (Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, France-Italy-Brazil) Wenders’ latest documentary is a portrait of the photographer Sebastiao Salgado (father of co-helmer Juliano Ribeiro Salgado), focusing on his eight-year Genesis project.
“Snow in Paradise” (Andrew Hulme, U.K.) This Kickstarter-funded debut feature for editor-turned-director Hulme is “very contemporary,” says Fremaux. It tells the story of a petty criminal in London’s East End who seeks redemption through Islam.
“Titli” (Kanu Behl, India) A rare independent feature financed by Bollywood powerhouse Yash Raj Films, Behl’s debut film follows a young man in Delhi trying to escape the oppression of his brothers.
“Xenia” (Panos Koutras, Greece-France-Belgium) Two brothers head to Thessaloniki to look for the father they’ve never met in this dark portrait of contemporary Greek society.
“The Rover” (David Michod, Australia) Michod’s follow-up to “Animal Kingdom” stars Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson and Scoot McNairy in a violent thriller set against the Australian outback. A24 has U.S. distribution rights.
“The Salvation” (Kristian Levring, Denmark) “It’s a Danish Western, and that’s the best way to describe it,” Fremaux said.
“The Target” (Yoon Hong-seung, South Korea): A remake of French director Fred Cavaye’s actioner “Point Blank.”
“Bridges of Sarajevo” (Aida Begic, Isild le Besco, Leonardo di Constanzo, Pedro Costa, Jean-Luc Godard, Kamen Kalev, Sergei Loznitsa, Vincenzo Marra, Ursula Meier, Vladimir Perisic, Cristi Puiu, Marc Recha, Angela Schanelec) This omnibus work will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of WWI. Godard and Loznitsa, both of whom contribute shorts here, have features elsewhere in the official selection.
“Caricaturistes: Fantassins de la democratie” (Stephanie Valloatto, France) A documentary about 12 newspaper cartoonists from around the world.
“Maidan” (Sergei Loznitsa, Ukraine) A Fremaux discovery and two-time Cannes competition veteran (with 2010’s “My Joy” and 2012’s “In the Fog”), Loznitsa here directs a documentary on the protests in the Ukrainian capital’s central square.
“Red Army” (Polsky Gabe) A hybrid political-sports documentary that examines Russian hockey culture during the Cold War, directed by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Gabe.
“Silvered Water” (Mohammed Oussama and Wiam Bedirxan, Syria-France) A portrait of violence in modern-day Syria as filmed by multiple video activists in the besieged city of Homs, tied together by Oussama, who is currently exiled in Paris.
Cannes Classics 2014
Picture of the film Matrimonio all'italiana (Marriage Italian Style) by Vittorio De Sica
Sophia Loren as a guest of honor, the birth of the Italian western, 30 years old for Paris, Texas, a homage to Henri Langlois, Kieslowski back at Cannes, a masterpiece of Georgian cinema, an unacknowledged film by Raymond Bernard about WWI, rediscovering the colors of Sayat Nova, restorations coming from all over the world, here comes Cannes Classics 2014.
Ten years ago our relationship with contemporary cinema was about to be shaken up by digital revolution. The Festival de Cannes created Cannes Classics, a selection which allows production companies, right holders, cinematheques and national archives throughout the world to show their work done to preserve patrimonial value. Now an essential part of the Official Selection with a presence that inspired several international festivals. Cannes Classics presents old-established features and masterpieces from the history of film in restored prints.
Cannes also gives itself the mission to delight audiences of today with the memory of cinema. Thus Cannes Classics confers the prestige of the world's biggest festival on rediscovered films, accompanying all new exploitations: release in theaters, VOD or DVD edition/Blu-ray of the great works of the past.
The selected films for 2014 will be screened at the Palais des Festivals, Salle Buñuel or Salle du Soixantième, with the restoration teams and with those who directed them, when they still among us.
The program of the edition 2014 of Cannes Classics is made of twenty-two features and two documentaries. The films will be screened as the right holders wish them to be: DCP 2K or DCP 4K. For the first time no 35mm print will be screened at Cannes Classics with regret for some or with celebration for others.
- Guest of honor: SOPHIA LOREN
Award for Best Actress in 1961 and president of the jury in 1966, Sophia Loren is the guest of honor of Cannes Classics. She will be present at the screening of LA VOCE HUMANA (2014, 25mn), directed by Edoardo Ponti, which marks the occasion of her comeback to the movies. During the same evening Marriage Italian Style (Matrimonio all'italiana) by Vittorio De Sica (1964, 1h42) will be screened in 4K restoration by L’Immagine Ritrovata. Restoration carried out in collaboration with Surf Film by Cineteca di Bologna and Technicolor Foundation for Cinema Heritage with contribution from Memory Cinema, at L'Immagine Ritrovata laboratory. French distributor Carlotta.
Sophia Loren has also accepted to give a masterclass—a conversation which will take place on the stage of Salle Buñuel.
PER UN PUGNO DI DOLLARI / A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS / POUR UNE POIGNEE DE DOLLARS by Sergio Leone (1964, 1h40)
To celebrate the birth in 1964 of the Italian western, the Cinematheque of Bologna will present the film restored in 4K by L’Immagine Ritrovata of A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS directed by Sergio Leone in 1964 with Clint Eastwood and Gian Maria Volonte. Restoration carried out by Cineteca di Bologna and Unidis Jolly Film at L'Immagine Ritrovata laboratory. Funding provided by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and The Film Foundation.
The screening has been made possible by the right holders: the Paladino family and Unidis Jolly Film, which produced and distributed the film. Thanks to the Leone family.
- Thirty years old for PARIS, TEXAS by Wim Wenders (1984, 2h25)
Awarded by the President of the Jury Dirk Bogarde and handed out on stage by Faye Dunaway, the Palme d’or of Paris,Texas is thirty years old. Wim Wenders will be back on the Croisette (besides his selection at Un Certain Regard with THE SALT OF THE EARTH) with a new print of PARIS, TEXAS. After The Umbrellas of Cherbourgby Jacques Demy, Under the Sun of Satan by Maurice Pialat or The Leopard by Luchino Visconti, the Festival de Cannes shows restored copies of its Palmes d’or.
HD Transfer done at Deluxe Laboratory in New York, supervised by Wim Wenders, and Spirit Scan made at the German laboratory CinePost Production. Digital transfer made by Criterion.
REGARDS SUR UNE REVOLUTION : COMMENT YUKONG DEPLAÇA LES MONTAGNES by Marceline Loridan et Joris Ivens (1976, 1h11)
A presentation by Marceline Loridan and the Archives françaises du film of the CNC.
Digital restoration was carried out from the 2K scan of the 16mm negatives. Scans and restorations were carried out by the laboratory of CNC Bois d'Arcy. Coulor grading and finishes have been made by the Eclair laboratory.
CRUEL STORY OF YOUTH (SEISHUN ZANKOKU MONOGATARI) by Nagisa Oshima (1960, 1h32)
A presentation by Shochiku studio.
The digital restoration was performed in by 4K Shochiku Co., Ltd. under the supervision of Takashi Kawamata, cameraman of Nagisa Oshima. The film will be distributed in France by Carlotta.
- WOODEN CROSSES (LES CROIX DE BOIS) by Raymond Bernard (1931, 1h55)
Presented by Pathé and the Fondation Jérôme Seydoux – Pathé.
The film was scanned and restored in 4K by the laboratory L'Immagine Ritrovata Bologna. The restoration was carried out by Pathé.
- OVERLORD by Stuart Cooper (1975, 1h24)
A restoration presented by The Criterion Collection (New York).
HD Digital transfer supervised by director Stuart Cooper from a new 35mm fine-grain master. Mono sound now in 24 bits.
- LA PAURA / ANGST / LA PEUR by Roberto Rossellini (1954, 1h23)
Within the framework of the Rossellini project, a restoration made in 4K by L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna.
Cannes Classics has been welcoming since 2011 the ambitious Italian project, The Rossellini Project, from the collaboration between Instituto Luce Cinecittà, Cineteca di Bologna, CSC-Cineteca Nazionale and Coproduction Office (in charge of international sales). After presenting La Macchina Ammazzacattivi (La Machine à tuer les méchants, 1948) and Viaggio In Italia / Journey To Italy (Voyage en Italie, 1954), please findAngst / La Paura by Roberto Rossellini.
Print restaured by the Cineteca di Bologna with L’Immagine Ritrovata collaborating with the Istituto Luce Cinecittà, CSC-Cineteca Nazionale and Coproduction Office.
- BLIND CHANCE (PRZYPADEK) by Krzysztof Kieślowski (1981, 1h57)
A presentation by the Polish Film Institute.
Restoration carried out in 2K with the color framing supervised by the director of photography.
- THE LAST METRO (LE DERNIER METRO) by François Truffaut (1980, 2h21)
Presented by MK2 and the Cinémathèque française with the support of the French and American Fund on the occasion of the thirty years of François Truffaut’s passing away.
The original negative was scanned in 4K and restored frame by frame by 2K Digimage laboratory. Restoration and color framing were supervised by DP Guillaume Schiffman.
- DRAGON INN (龍門客棧) by King Hu (1967, 1h51)
A presentation of the Chinese Taipei Film Archive.
Digital restoration made in 4K by the L’Immagine Ritrovata in Bologna from the negative. The director of photography has supervsed the color framing.
- DAYBREAK (LE JOUR SE LEVE) by Marcel Carné (1939, 1h31)
Restoration 4K presented by Studio Canal.
Work on the images made by Eclair, sound restored by Diapason in partnership with Eclair.
COLOR OF THE POMEGRANATE (SAYAT NOVA) by Sergei Parajanov (1968, 1h17)
Restoration financed by the Film Foundation-World Cinema Project (New York) and made in 4K by L’immagine Ritrovata.
- LEOLO by Jean-Claude Lauzon (1992, 1h42)
A presentation of « Éléphant, mémoire du cinéma québécois. »
Digital restoration made in 2k from the original negative, sound restored by the Cinémathèque québécoise. Technical services: Technicolor, creative services: Marie-José Raymond et Claude Fournier for Éléphant.
- GACIOUS LIVING (LA VIE DE CHATEAU) by Jean-Paul Rappeneau (1965, 1h30)
Presented by TF1 DA.
Film restored in 2K at Mikros from the original negative, with a restoration of the stock shots. Color framing realized in collaboration between Jean-Paul Rappeneau and Pierre Lhomme, director of photography. Restoration of Michel Legrand’s music by Stéphane Lerouge.
- JAMAICA INN (LA TAVERNE DE LA JAMAÏQUE) by Alfred Hitchcock (1939, 1h40)
A presentation of the Cohen Film Collection LLC.
Digital restoration made in 4K by 4K RRsat Europe – Ray King and Anthony Badger Finishing Post Productions Ltd – Jason Tufano and Marc Bijum.
- LES VIOLONS DU BAL by Michel Drach (1974, 1h44)
Restoration Silverway Média. Financing by Port-Royal Films with the CNC and the support of the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah.
- BLUE MOUNTAINS (LES MONTAGNES BLEUES) by Eldar Shengelaia (1983, 1h31)
A presentation of the Georgian National Film Center.
The digitalization of the image and the sound was made from the original negative in 4K par Gosfilmfond Russia.
- LOST HORIZON (HORIZONS PERDUS) by Frank Capra (1937, 2h12)
A presentation of Park Circus in a digital print restored in 4k by Sony Pictures Colorworks. Park Circus will release the film in 2014.
THE BITCH (LA CHIENNE) by Jean Renoir (1939, 1h35)
Film presented by Les Films du Jeudi and the Cinémathèque française with the support of the CNC and the help of the Fonds Culturel Franco-Américain (DGA – MPA – SACEM – WGAW).
Restoration in 2K (from a 4K scan) made by Digimage Classics and sound restoration by Diapason.
TOKYO ORINPIKKU (TOKYO OLYMPIAD) by Kon Ichikawa (1965, 2h40)
A presentation of the International Olympic Committee.
The film was digitally restored in 4K from the original film elements for the International Olympic Committee by Warner Bros. Motion Picture Imaging and Audio Mechanics in Burbank, USA.
Also two documentaries about cinema:
LIFE ITSELF by Steve James (2014, 1h58): the life and journey of Roger Ebert, great American film critic.
THE GO-GO BOYS: THE INSIDE STORY OF CANNON FILMS by Hilla Medalia (2014, 1h30): the story of Cannon Films and the producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, who will be present.
At last 8½ (1963, 2h13) restored by Gaumont and Eclair will be screened as the opening film of the Cinéma de la plage to give an echo to the poster of the 67th Festival de Cannes and pay a tribute to Marcello Mastroianni.
The whole program of the Cinéma de la Plage will be announced later.
While the Official Selection of feature films for the 67th Festival de Cannes will be revealed on Thursday 17th April, the list of Short Films is unveiled in advance.
The Cinéfondation and Short Films Jury, presided by Abbas KIAROSTAMI, will nominate the prize-winners for the Short Film Competition and the Cinéfondation Selection.
THE 2014 SHORT FILMS COMPETITION
This year, the Selection Committee received 3,450 short films, representing 128 production countries.
Nine films will compete in 2014 for the Short Film Palme d'or, to be awarded by Abbas Kiarostami, President of the Jury, at the Awards Ceremony of the 67th Festival de Cannes on Saturday, May 24th.
For the first time, an azeri and a georgian film will take part in the Short Films Competition.
SHORT FILMS IN COMPETITION:
|Ran HUANG||THE ADMINISTRATION OF GLORY||15’||China|
|Dea KULUMBEGASHVILI||UKHILAVI SIVRTSEEBI
|Sato MASAHIKO, Ohara TAKAYOSHI, Seki YUTARO, Toyota MASAYUKI, Hirase KENTARO||HAPPO-EN||13’||Japan|
|Simón MESA SOTO||LEIDI||15'||Colombia United-Kingdom|
(The Last One)
|Petra SZŐCS||A KIVEGZES
|Laura WANDEL||LES CORPS ÉTRANGERS||15’||Belgium|
JA VI ELSKER
(Yes we Love)
* The Italian film A PASSO D'UOMO by Giovanni ALOI was removed from the Short Films Competition because he has proved to break the regulation of this Selection.
THE 2014 CINÉFONDATION SELECTION
The Cinéfondation Selection selected 16 films (14 fiction films and 2 animation films) among the 1,631 submitted this year by cinema schools from all around the world.
This year sees a very significant broadening of scope of the Selection, with a 38% of the schools being selected for the first time and one country – Egypt – which has never previously been selected. Besides, more than half of the sixteen selected films (9) have been directed by women.
The three Cinéfondation Prizes will be awarded at a ceremony prior to the screening of the winning films on Thursday 22nd May in the Buñuel Theatre.
THE CINEFONDATION SELECTION:
|Max CHAN||OUR BLOOD||25’||Hampshire College
|HOME SWEET HOME||10’||Supinfocom Arles
|Omar EL ZOHAIRY||THE AFTERMATH OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE PUBLIC TOILET AT KILOMETER 375||18’||High Cinema Institute, Academy of Arts
|Reinaldo Marcus GREEN||STONE CARS||14’||NYU Tisch School of the Arts
|HAN Fengyu||LAST TRIP HOME||25’||Ngee Ann Polytechnic
|Meryll HARDT||UNE VIE RADIEUSE
(A Radiant Life)
|Chie HAYAKAWA||NIAGARA||27’||ENBU Seminar
|21’||NYU Tisch School of the Arts Asia
|Inbar HORESH||THE VISIT||27’||Minshar for Art, School and Center
|Stefan IVANČIĆ||LETO BEZ MESECA
|31'||Faculty of Dramatic Arts
|Daisy JACOBS||THE BIGGER PICTURE||7'||National Film and Television School
|György Mór KÁRPÁTI||PROVINCIA||21'||University of Theatre and Film Arts
|Léa MYSIUS||LES OISEAUX-TONNERRE
|Fulvio RISULEO|| LIEVITO MADRE
|17'||Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia
|Annie SILVERSTEIN||SKUNK||16'||The University of Texas at Austin
Cole Smithey’s Ten Best Films of 2013
Whew! What a great year for cinema. Hollywood may have dropped the ball with a blockbuster summer of busts — only Gore Verbinski’s vastly underrated “Lone Ranger” left a mark — but foreign, documentary, and independent films more than picked up the slack.
Cherry-picking the top ten films of 2013 means leaving to honorable mention such fantastic films as “Nebraska,” “Side Effects,” “The Great Beauty,” “Short Term 12,” “56 Up,” “Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors Ricky Jay,” “Bettie Page Reveals All!,” “A Band Called Death,” “Far Out Isn’t Far Enough,” “In the House,” “Room 237,” and “Lore.”
Nonetheless, a steady editorial blade is called for in distinguishing the crème de la crème of 2013’s cinematic offerings. Without further ado, here are the year’s best films.
10. The Heat
Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock brought big laughs in Hollywood’s funniest movie of the year. Screenwriter Katie Dippold invents a new genre, the female-buddy-movie. I haven’t laughed so much since “Django Unchained.” McCarthy and Bullock share a down-and-dirty comic energy that borders on an insane marriage of polar opposites. They’d make a great married couple.
McCarthy’s comic timing and delivery never lets up. Bullock’s description of her past relationship leads McCarthy to ask, “Was he a hearing man?” with such a deadpan manner that you just might choke on your popcorn. A senseless ball-point-pen tracheotomy takes the movie into shameless Grand Guignol territory. Don’t let the fact that too many critics didn’t get the comic genius on display; “The Heat” is one hilarious buddy movie that stands up to repeated viewings. Need a good laugh? Give my name, you’ll get a good seat.
9. Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me
The greatest band you’ve never heard of, Big Star was every rock critic’s darling during the early ‘70s. The Memphis rock outfit recorded three records that all made it into Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the top 500 albums of all time. Led by the now-legendary Alex Chilton and Chris Bell, Big Star could have been bigger than the Beatles or the Stones, had fortune favored them in correlation with their musical gifts.
Co-directors Drew DeNicola and Oliva Mori use a standard documentary form to deliver a haunting soup-to-nuts history of Big Star that will have you humming songs like “September Gurls” in your sleep. A tasteful labor of love, “Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me” is an enthusiastic documentary about enigmatic musicians whose music still sounds as fresh and essential today as when it was first recorded. Whether or not you are familiar with the band or their music, this movie goes straight to your heart.
8. Before Midnight
The first collaboration “Before Sunrise” (1995) introduced romantically inclined couple Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) travelling on a train from Budapest to Vienna. Sparks of curiosity and lust ignited to the strains of Vivaldi, Straus, and Kate Bloom. “Before Sunset” (2004) found the lovers reuniting for a one-night-stand of sorts in Paris where Jesse — a successful author inspired by the events in the first film — reads from his latest book. Things got complicated.
Now, nearly two decades since they first met, the couple lives together in France with their twin daughters. The film begins at the end of a summer vacation in Greece where they have spent the past six weeks sharing the exotic home of a fellow author and his family. A real-time conversation plays out between Jesse and Celine as they drive back to their host’s house while the girls sleep in the back seat. The seemingly impromptu conversation hits a staggering number of relationship reference points that draw the audience inside their casually intimate style of communicating. No topic is off limits. Politics, sex, religion, literature, and economic realities all come percolating to the surface. The dialogue shimmers.
A farewell dinner with their hosts gives way to a gifted night at a resort hotel that promises the couple some welcome alone time. However, Celine’s possible bipolar disorder crashes the party late in the game, causing Jesse to reach deep into his pocket of tricks to bring Celine around to a romantic reality built as much on fantasy as on a unifying method for achieving harmony in the relationship.
More evidence — behind “The Artist” (2011) — that black-and-white silent films are still a viable storytelling approach; writer/director Pablo Berger’s rethinking of the Grimm Brothers’ “Snow White” is a virtuosic masterpiece. Although a relative newcomer — “Blancanieves” is only his second feature — Berger displays an absolute mastery of cinema language with a litany of homages to filmmaking techniques from the past 100 years.
Seville, Spain circa 1920 witnesses one of its beloved matadors Antonio Vallarta (Daniel Giménez Cacho) being gored. Camera technology involving flashbulbs is to blame. The accident leaves the handsome Vallarta paralyzed from the neck down. Tragedy piles up when the former bullfighter’s wife dies giving birth to the couple’s daughter Carmencita on the same day. Vallarta’s evil hospital nurse Encarna (exquisitely played by Maribel Verdú) seizes the opportunity to seduce and marry him, relegating Carmencita to live in the mansion’s coal cellar. It isn’t long before Encarna is carrying on an adulterous BDSM affair with the chauffeur while the wheelchair-bound Antonio is left alone to discover a bond with his adoring daughter. A charming “dance” between Antonio and Carmencita provides an inspired centerpiece. Such momentary familial satisfaction is fleeting though.
Despite its old-fashioned trappings, there is nothing staid about the layers of narrative and visual complexity at play. Although entered by Spain in the Academy Award category for 2012 foreign film, “Blancanieves” arrives as a frontrunner in 2013 for audiences to marvel at.
6. Drug War
Magnificent. Johnnie To’s gritty police procedural, involving a Tianjin police department sting operation, shares William Friedkin’s muscular sense of filming techniques — see “The French Connection.” Car chases move with a palpitating sense of real-life suspense and unpredictability. Shoot-outs have a randomness about them that make the action all the more intense. The storyline comes ripped right from modern headlines.
Police squad leader Zhang Lei (Honglei Sun) captures drug kingpin Tian Ming (Louis Koo) after a meth lab explosion killed several of Tian's relatives and left him with permanent facial scars. Zhang uses his freshly collared perp to assist in introducing him to his underworld connections in order to arrange a massive drug deal. Zhang’s police team are planning a bust that will shut down the entire region’s drug trafficking. Detective Zhang adopts the identity of another local drug lord called "HaHa" — for is annoying habit of using inappropriate laughter to control situations and people.
The acting on display is strictly top-drawer. Each member of the film’s estimable cast delivers thoroughly believable performances in an evenly escalating story whose climax and coda hits you like a ton of bricks. Brutal and full of plot surprises “Drug War” is a type of movie that Hollywood has forgotten how to make. It’s good thing Johnnie To is around to remind them. Let’s just hope Hollywood doesn’t attempt a remake. After all, there’s only one Johnnie To.
5. All is Lost
Robert Redford gives the finest performance of his career in writer-director J.C. Chandor’s literal and metaphorical tale of one man’s attempts to survive on the high seas. Redford carries Chandor’s one-man showcase with a depth of character and emotion that speaks volumes in spite of the film’s nearly complete lack of dialogue.
Water pours into Redford’s unnamed character’s 39-foot yacht — a “1978 Cal 39 sailboat” — waking him from his sleep. His punctured vessel — the “Virginia Jean” — is lodged on the puncturing corner of a giant red cargo bin that floats in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Children’s tennis shoes float out from the broken container — an ugly reminder of how far capitalism’s nature-dissolving effect has reached.
Decisions and repairs must be made. For the next 100 minutes our unnamed embodiment of brawny adaptability will meet every escalating challenge that nature throws at him with a stoic resolve that is fascinating and inspiring to witness. “Our Man’s” constant struggle for existence takes on a macro-micro vision of cool-headed logic used to battle increasing odds against him. The captain is forced to improvise and learn on the fly. Navigating his way into a shipping lane seems to offer hope for rescue. Redford’s stoic character perseveres with grace and determination in spite of the fierce conditions he faces.
At 77 Robert Redford represents a Hollywood icon whose career of unforgettable performances stretches back farther than the eye can see. Not only does Redford do nearly all of his own stunts in the movie, he weaves narrative wool with his every gesture and facial expression. It is a pure cinematic delight to watch Robert Redford acting, alone, beside such an organic and dynamic backdrop as J.C. Chandor (“Margin Call”) creates. It doesn’t get any better than this.
Just as Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) broke open the possibilities for depicting outer space in science fiction filmmaking, Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity” makes visible a deep space reality that has never before been witnessed by filmgoers. At its heart “Gravity” is a two-man play that shifts into a solo act of survival that is as much defined by personal obstacles as by harsh external forces at play in the thermosphere — 375 miles above the Earth’s surface. There’s an understated feminist element inherent in the film’s theme of last-ditch survival.
Part of the film’s beauty lies in its intuitive casting. George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are movie-star names that sound as though they belong in a romantic comedy more so than in the context of a science-fiction misadventure. Anyone who has ever underestimated Sandra Bullock’s dramatic acting skills will be taken aback. Her nuanced performance compliments Cuarón’s technical virtuosity note for note. The story is deceptively simple. Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) is on her first outer space mission, to make repairs to the Hubble telescope. By her side is veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney), who counts the mission as his last.
Dr. Stone fumbles with repairing a circuit board on the Hubble. News of fast-approaching debris from a self-destructed Russian satellite sends the astronauts scrambling. Cuarón’s seemingly free-floating camera (operated by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki) glides and follows. More shrapnel approaches at blinding speed, flying into the audience’s eyes thanks to an effective use of 3D that makes the action on-screen all the more terrifying.
“Gravity” shares another component with “2001: A Space Odyssey” in that it sticks deep inside the viewer’s subconscious, where it lurks waiting to expand at the most unexpected moment. It is the closest many will come to ever experiencing space on a terrifyingly lonely level. Which is probably a good thing.
3. Inside Llewyn Davis
“Inside Llewyn Davis” hits the ground running. Oscar Issac plays the title character, a folksinger patterned loosely on Dave Van Ronk, without pretense. Issac accompanies himself on guitar, singing the old-style song that Van Ronk once recorded — “Hang Me, Oh Hang Me” — in a West Village café during the few barren weeks or months before the folk music movement exploded with the likes of Bob Dylan.
The movie offers a composite musical vantage point of the era’s social realism against a backdrop of Cold War America. Llewyn gets word that a man would like to speak to him in the alley. The large male figure that waits gives Llewyn a nasty beating for reasons that will become clear moments before the circular narrative closes. As well as Llewyn sings most people he comes into contact with treat him with a depth of contempt usually reserved for mangy dogs with three legs — regardless of how apt the comparison might be.
Llewyn spends his hours schlepping around figuring out whose couch he will sleep on next. It doesn’t help that he carries with him a cat belonging to a kindly Columbia professor, because the animal slipped out as the door closed on Llewyn — another couch story. A visit to his sleazy agent places Llewyn in the crosshairs of more hostility, albeit of a more greed-based variety.
The film’s centerpiece occurs after Llewyn shares a contentions ride with Roland Turner (John Goodman), a drug-addicted blues singer and his less-than-friendly driver (Garrett Hedlund). Llewyn makes his way through snowy Chicago streets to audition for Bud Grossman (F. Murray Abraham), a famous club owner and talent manager who takes literally the title of the album Llewyn pitches (“Inside Llewyn Davis”), and requests just such a view. Without ceremony, Llewyn sings “The Death of Queen Jane” with enough controlled passion to peel wallpaper.
Social changes on the horizon killed off a vibrant genre of music as quickly as it had grown. The Coens’ gift for making their audience feel like welcomed members of an elite club has never felt more sincere.
2. The Act of Killing
At once the most micro and meta combination of cinéma vérité, documentary, and docudrama filmmaking techniques ever assembled, Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Act of Killing” is an earth-shattering cinematic experience. The 1965 – 1966 genocide of more than half a million accused “communists” (ethnic Chinese, intellectuals, and union organizers) in Indonesia by right-wing paramilitary and freelance death squads — many consisting of self-proclaimed “gangsters” (a.k.a. “free men,” really unemployed racists) — serves as the stepping-off point for Oppenheimer to inspire, enable, and encourage a handful of aging remorseless killers to dramatize their heinous deeds with whatever artistic trappings they choose. A shadowy film-noir set, or a cheesy take on a ‘60s era American war movie, gives the former executioners artistic cinematic opportunities to act out stylized versions their ideal selves when they tortured and killed thousands of men by hand for the fun of it.
The leader of one such squad is Andrew Congo, a grandfather with a skinny frame and thinning grey hair living in the town of Medan in North Sumatra. Congo fancies himself a cross between Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. He breaks into a cha cha routine on the patio where he personally killed hundreds of men either by shooting or by strangling with a long sturdy piece of wire fixed to a pole at one end, and with a wood handle at the other.
The film’s provocative title echoes throughout the movie in expanding meaning. “Killing” as an “act” takes on a host of different subjective and objective definitions from the personal to the political. Congo and his equally culpable associates retain their gangster bond nearly 40 years after their punishment-free crimes. No amount of description can prepare an audience for the sickening levels of surreal irony of witnessing Congo and his men act out staged scenes of the violence they perpetrated against their neighbors, friends, and associates. Every audience will be affected differently, but every single one will be changed by it.
1. Blue is the Warmest Color
“Blue is the Warmest Color” is one of the most stunning films I’ve ever seen. It would diminish this beautiful film to pigeonhole it to a modern standard-bearer for the LGBT movement (which it is); its tremendous depths of emotional intimacy demand more than that. Watching the three-hour love story unfold is a simultaneously transgressive and transcendent encounter in which the audience is compelled in no uncertain terms to fall head-over-heels in love with the film’s romantic heroine.
An epic coming-of-age romantic drama between two captivating forces of feminine nature, “Blue” is as intimate a representation of erotic and romantic love as has ever been committed to cinema. Graphic in its depiction of lesbian sex, it circumvents any accusations of pornographic intent by being hopelessly and sincerely sensual. If that sounds confusing, it should. What director Abdellatif Kechiche achieves is unprecedented.
The camera worships everything about lead actress Adèle Exarchopoulos. It contemplates her persuasively wanton lips, which wait in a constant state of a half-open invitation to be kissed. Using the actress’s real first name blurs the line between the comely Exarchopoulos and the exotically nubile character she plays.
At the start, Adèle is a French 16-year-old high school junior exploring the boundaries of romance as informed by the male classmate who pursues her. Yet Emma, an older woman with blue-dyed hair Adèle passes in the street, fans her inner desires. A chance meeting during her first visit to a lesbian bar introduces Adèle to Emma in a meet-cut sequence full of overflowing curiosity and erotic ambition.
Loosely adapted from Julie Maroh’s graphic novel “le bleu est une coleur chaude,” Kechiche and his co-writer Ghalia Lacroix create extended, seemingly real-time, sequences that allow the characters and story to develop in an organic fashion.
“Blue is the Warmest Color” is a monumental cinematic achievement that must be experienced by anyone passionate about film. That the movie also encompasses national, familial, political, personal, sexual, intellectual, and artistic themes brings the narrative to an epic level of romantic drama. Still, it never overstresses its implicit nature as an all-inclusive portrait of love.
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THE 51st NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL IN VIDEO ESSAY
Most film historians say that “film noir” is a cinematic movement that began in 1940 with Boris Ingster’s little-seen film “Stranger on the Third Floor” (staring Peter Lorre) and ended in 1958 with Orson Welles’s “Touch of Evil.” The roughly 300 films released during this period that make up the genre share a sensibility of narrative, political, stylistic, thematic, and visual elements. French film theorists originally coined the term in 1946 to describe a group of films that included “The Maltese Falcon” (1941), “Double Indemnity” (1944), and “Laura” (1944). Though an American phenomenon, many of Noir’s filmmakers hailed from throughout Eastern and Western Europe – many on the run from fascism. Little did they know that right-wing extremism would follow them across the ocean to America’s social and political stage.
A moody cynicism about the scales of justice and America’s flawed postwar capitalist system are running themes. These reflect an America recovering from the Great Depression, only to emerge in World War II, which gave way to the Cold War. The archetypical American Dream of the ‘50s is not part of the Noir equation. Noir’s alienated characters are naturally distrustful, seen-it-all, people out to salvage what they can from a ruthless society. They fight dirty. They're survivors — but they jealously guard their individuality. Death is always just around the corner for characters ready to go out with their sex drive, dignity, intellect, wit, and stylish charm intact. Guns, cigarettes, booze, and sleazy hotel rooms — many of the scripts were adapted from pulp fiction magazines — come with the territory.
As its name implies, the visual aspects of film noir emphasize the high contrast between the black and white extremes of the film stock used predominantly during the period. German Expressionist cinema (reference “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” - 1923) was influential on cinematographers attempting to capture a dislocated sense of social isolation that defined characters whose motivations are often centered around their need to escape.
Significant too is the “pulp” literary tradition, which gave noir its grittiness with an underworld environment in a country whose repressive influences are always lurking in the shadows. Such shadows allowed noir filmmakers to play with a built-in image system of white light penetrating into claustrophobic interior and exterior spaces. Writers such as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Kames M. Cain, and Cornell Woolrich provided a “hard-boiled” template for plot and dialogue that Noir filmmakers mined for every bit of narrative gold they could.
The advent of the Kodak Eastman Color process in 1952 contributed to the ultimate demise of film noir, though not all Classic Film Noirs were filmed in black and white. Kodak provided a quicker and more economic alternative to the Technicolor system that had been used as far back to the 1920s for such high-budget films such as “The Wizard of Oz” and “Gone With the Wind” (1939).
Politically, the demise of Film Noir can be traced back to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s House on Un-American Activities Committee, whose witch-trials resulted in the blacklisting many of the screenwriters, actors, and directors responsible for keeping Film Noir going. Noir filmmakers such as Edward Dmytryk (“Crossfire” – 1947) and John Berry (“He Ran All the Way” 1951) were exiled from making films in America along with other members of the “Hollywood Ten,” whose creative potentials were cut short by the same repressive cultural and economic system they had so fiercely commented on.Save to del.icio.us | Digg This
Cole Smithey’s Fall 2013 Movie Preview
Moviegoers start your engines; the season of Oscar contenders is upon us. You have the best chance of seeing a better-than-average, if not truly exceptional, movie in the fall. Film studios are busier than ever rolling out movies they hope will secure spots in every critic’s top-ten lists. After an abysmal summer, Hollywood certainly has its work cut out. For the record, we’ll pretend that predictable flicks like “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and “Thor: The Dark World” don’t exist. With autumn movies from Martin Scorsese, George Clooney, Bill Condon, Ridley Scott, and Alfonso Cuarón on the horizon, the cooling months of 2013 will have plenty of heat to offer at your local cinemas. Mark your calendars. Here are my ten most anticipated movies.
Gravity — Opens October 4
As unlikely as it sounds, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney could hear Oscar nomination’s siren sound for their performances in this outer space thriller directed by Alfonso Cuarón (“Children of Men”).
Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical engineer embarking on her premier space shuttle mission. Clooney’s veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky is along to supervise — this is his last mission before retirement. Things don’t go so well. Catastrophe strikes during a spacewalk where Stone and Kowalski are tenuously tethered together. The only thing potentially worse than being stranded in the middle of the ocean is free-floating in outer space with no ship to seek refuge inside. “Gravity” promises its audience a new kind of claustrophobia from inside the confines of a relatively thin spacesuit. Warner Brothers has been showing its impressive trailers for “Gravity” in cinemas for the past few weeks. They hold more suspense than you find in some entire movies. Be prepared to feel scared, cold, and frantic.
Captain Phillips - Opens October 11
Tom Hanks is overdue for a comeback. “Larry Crowne,” “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,” and last year’s “Cloud Atlas” were the most recent cinematic embarrassments for an actor who once wore the crown of America’s best-loved thespian. Oscar® nominee Paul Greengrass (“Bloody Sunday”) directs the fact-based story of Richard Phillips, the Captain of the MV Maersk — the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in 200 years — as based on the book “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea” (by Richard Phillips with Stephan Talty). An Oscar nom could be in the offing for Hanks in a gritty role as a ship’s captain who keeps his wits about him under the fiercest of hostage conditions. Greengrass’s days spent working as a documentary filmmaker for the BBC should serve him well in an action-packed survival tale that will have you squirming in your chair. Catherine Keener stars as the brave captain’s wife Andrea.
The Fifth Estate - Opens October 18
The U.S. government’s endemic corruption that allows things like secret courts to sponsor illegal surveillance of its citizens and the internet at large, gets the first of what promises to be many more cinematic exposes. Bill Condon’s (“Kinsey”) dramatization of WikiLeaks’s origins should stir up yet more lively public conversation. Benedict Cubmerbatch plays the enigmatic Julian Assange. The freethinker and his equally ardent colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl) become self-appointed “underground watchdogs of the privileged and powerful.” The duo fight with each other and with the defining question of our time: “what are the costs of keeping secrets in a free society — and what are the costs of exposing them?”
Here is a Hollywood crash-course in the movement, organization, and back-channels responsible for exposing a stack of government lies so thick it will take many generations for society to digest the scope of America’s mechanized and systematic deceptions. The cinematic search for truth in the modern age begins with “The Fifth Estate.” Carice van Houten (“Black Book”), Anthony Mackie (“The Hurt Locker”), and Laura Linney (“Kinsey”) star.
The Counselor - Opens October 25
“The Counselor” touts the best cast of any movie to come out of 2013. For argument’s sake we’ll pretend that Cameron Diaz isn’t in it. But just look at who is — Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Rubén Blades, Bruno Ganz, and Penélope Cruz. Then, realize that the movie is director Ridley Scott’s adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy novel (“No Country for Old Men”), for which McCarthy makes his screenwriting debut. Hot.
Unpredictable baddie Rainer (Bardem) introduces the Counselor (Fassbender) to “moral decisions” — involving drug trafficking — that are sure to “take him by surprise.” Needless to say our anti-hero counselor will embark on a descent into hell like nothing you’ve ever witnessed. A veritable hornets’ nest of Oscar bait, “The Counselor” promises to bask in Cormac McCarthy’s signature embellishments of a brutally dry wit, scathing social satire, and a kind of hard-earned violence that means something when the day is done. Hardcore moviegoers will salivate over this one. Come and get it.
The Wolf of Wall Street — Opens November 15
Martin Scorsese hasn’t missed the mark since “Gangs of New York” (2002). Even then, “Gangs” was thoroughly entertaining in spite of its flaws — why, oh why, did Scorsese ever cast Cameron Diaz?
Scorsese returns to his devoted muse Leonardo DiCaprio to play Jordan Belfort, a ruthless Wall Street hotshot. The year that Jordan turned 26 he made 49 million dollars — and he was “pissed” because it was three short of a million bucks a week. Jordan and his crew of investment sharks make more money than they know what to do with. I think you can sense where this is going. The movie is based on the real-life Jordan Belfort’s memoir of the same title. Sex, drugs, alcohol, and conspicuous consumption might not be the traps of all Wall Street robber barons, but they were for Belfort. Watch the greedy pig and his gnarly associates get their comeuppance. The movie also stars Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill, and Jon Favreau.
Grace of Monaco — Opens November 27
Nicole Kidman plays Hollywood-starlet-turned-Princess Grace Kelly in this Weinstein-produced period-piece biopic that is receiving a limited release in anticipation of Oscar attention. The film — directed by Olivier Dahan (“La Vie en Rose”) — follows Grace Kelly’s identity crisis in the midst of a political dispute between Monaco’s Prince Rainier III (Tim Roth) and Charles de Gaulle (André Penvern). The threat of a French invasion of Monaco hangs in the balance. Nicole Kidman has long been out of the limelight of critical praise. However, the famously icy blond may be perfectly suited to embody one of the ‘60s most iconic women. Keep an eye out for an appearance from Alfred Hitchcock (Roger Ashton-Griffiths), who famously directed Grace Kelly in “Rear Window” in 1954. Frank Langella and Parker Posey are featured in supporting roles.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom —Opens November 29
“I have walked a long walk to freedom. It has been a lonely road and it is not over yet. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin. People learn to hate. They can be taught to love — for love comes more naturally to the human heart.” Nelson Mandela’s profound words still stir deep emotions in whosoever hears them. Idris Elba (“Pacific Rim”) plays South Africa’s national hero in director Justin Chadwick’s ("The Other Boleyn Girl") filmic chronicle of Mandela’s winding life’s journey that encompassed people of all races and political views. Expect Idris Elba to deliver a tour de force as the man who became South Africa’s first democratically elected president. It wouldn’t be Oscar season without a historically significant biopic. “Mandela” Long Walk to Freedom” is already a hot-ticket.
Out of the Furnace — Opens December 6
Scott Cooper — the writer-director of everyone’s favorite 2009 movie “Crazy Heart” — brings it with an explosive crime drama about two blue-collar brothers living in America’s economically downtrodden Rust Belt. Russell Baze (Christian Bale) is fresh out of prison when his younger brother Rodney (Casey Affleck), an Iraq war vet, goes missing. It turns out Rodney is mixed up with a Northeastern crime syndicate led by Curtis DeGroat (Woody Harrelson), a notoriously dangerous character. Not even local police will investigate Rodney’s disappearance for fear of Curtis and his coldblooded gang. It’s up to Russell and his friend Red (Sam Shepard) to venture into Curtis’s territory in an attempt to locate and rescue Rodney. The ubiquitous Forest Whitaker stars in this dramatic potboiler of emotionally epic portions.
Inside Llewyn Davis — Opens December 6
The Coen Brothers’ reimagining of New York City’s early-‘60s era folk music scene was every critic’s darling at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Greenwich Village’s snow-covered streets provide the cultural platform for Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) — a Dave Van Ronk-inspired creation — to search for folk-music fame. A stray cat keeps Llewyn company. An angry romantic fling (Carey Mulligan) haunts Llewyn’s movements, as does the suicide of his former musical collaborator (Marcus Mumford). T Bone Burnett’s prodigious musical influence is every bit as present here as it was on the Coen’s winning “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Llewyn’s odyssey takes him to Chicago’s equally inhospitable landscape in the company of Roland Turner (John Goodman), a partially paralyzed blues singer with all the charisma of a hot glass of beer. “Inside Llewyn Davis” is the Coen Brothers’ first movie since “True Grit” (2010). Get the popcorn ready.
The Monuments Men — Opens December 18
George Clooney double-dips in the fall run-up to Oscar glory with a fact-based World War II story co-written with his frequent collaborator Grant Heslov. Clooney plays George Stout, an aging American military commander who puts together a troop of eight architects and art historians — all of whom are on the far side of 40 — to protect and rescue precious works of art inside Nazi Germany. Under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s orders, the platoon fights against the clock. The fall of the Third Reich inspires the German army to order all precious art and historic sites destroyed. With a cast that includes Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”), and Bob Balaban, you can guess that a fair amount of humor will accompany the action. There may yet come a time that George Clooney will make a career misstep, but it doesn’t seem likely to occur anytime soon.
Why Hollywood Wants You To Love Surveillance
By Cole Smithey — This article is a reprint; it was originally published on September 30, 1999
The New York Times recently published an article describing how the U.S. Postal Service hired advertising executive Warren Weidman to improve the negative image of postal workers. Warren cut a deal with the Post Office for rights to its stories and went on to write five movies based on the adventures of U.S. Postal employees. The first of the five movies, The Inspector, starring Louis Gossett Jr., played on Showtime last September and received the best ratings for any original film in Showtime’s history.
The Truman Show was one of the best received movies of 1998, with its watered down vision of Jim Carrey as the vaguely tortured subject of a hugely popular national television show. The filmmakers’ negligent depiction of The Truman Show’s sub-plot viewing audience saw them as approving patrons of a sterile television show. It translates as a chorus of approval for a commercial brand of the constant observation that we, as American citizens, are subject to at this very moment whether or not we buy Crest.
The title for Enemy of the State speaks volumes in transmitting an idea that the public and private surveillance systems employed in the movie can and do work in concert to defend "the state," i.e. our cities, suburbs, and highways, against outside threat. Even independent film champion Wim Wenders’ excursion into the social ramifications of a widespread surveillance infrastructure took an ironic title and unexpectedly thin plot with The End of Violence, in which the distance between two-bit thugs and government agents is a hair’s breadth. EDtv has most recently weighed-in on the current anthology of voyeuristic surveillance movies — An ‘amusing’ taste of advertising, surveillance, and television entertainment blended together in a happy medium of generic and an even sentimental status quo.
Already these movies have subliminally gone to work on the public’s consciousness to create a zeitgeist of consent for hidden cameras that record much of what we do in our public and even private lives. In reality, every phone conversation that we make is recorded and most public activity is documented on video tape recorded by cameras operated by public, private, foreign, and U.S. government agencies. High-resolution satellites are reaching a level of technology capable of thoroughly documenting millions of people’s day-to-day lives. Movies like The Truman Show, Enemy of the State, and EDtv act as cement reinforcing the concept of constant surveillance as a friendly system that we will come to enjoy and benefit from. The three movies converge from distinctly different angles to form a fuzzy invitation to conform to a higher level of comfort, security, and downright enjoyment that we, as Americans, should desire in our lives. While tech-happy computer users contribute to their own exhibition by installing cameras onto their computers, unspoken is an agenda for having our lives easily accessible on microscopic slides for dissection by private, corporate, bureaucratic, and civil powers for legal, political, and capitalistic goals.
The power of cinema as a propaganda machine as long been recognized and practiced by American, French, British, and German military over the course of the 20th Century. Cinema language has come a long way since Hitler gave Leni Riefenstahl her assignment to capture the spirit of Nazism with Triumph of the Will as a lasting document of fascist temperament. American audiences are remarkably savvy to mainstream Hollywood’s formulaic narrative structures and implied meanings by virtue of having seen hundreds, even thousands, of movies over a brief time span. Still, most audiences are beguiled by wide-ranging cinema parley when it acts between movies with a program furtively combining advertising with different film genres working in subtle unity to affect a desired mass mentality.
America has been living in the age of George Orwell’s prophetic 1984 since about that same year, with Orwell’s uncanny prediction for social clampdown by Big Brother, and now Big Sister, tightening around us as technology advances. When you consider that the United States’ crime rate has been consistently dropping over the past ten years, while prisons are not being built quickly enough to harbor a predominately black male populace detained on drug charges, you can glimpse a trend that presents itself as a formula for the U.S. Government to view our very country as a prison to be watched over and ministered to in ways driven by capitalist greed and voyeuristic lust.
As our country moves toward a totalitarian and fascist government regime operated by citizens who unknowingly participate in their own confinement, it’s clear that the people most able to comfortably endure absolute control by surveillance will be consumers who take their routinely prescribed medicine and dutifully return for more. Hollywood will surely hold our hands through it all. And according to box-office ticket sales, complete control by surveillance is very amusing and entertaining indeed.
Cole Smithey Predicts the 2013 Oscars
Ah, the glorious flaws of democracy! As a film critic, I learned long ago to abandon any sense of personal investment in the conclusions drawn by Academy Award voters about the most deserving participants in the seventh arts. As in every previous year, the 85th annual list of Oscar nominations comprises its share of clunkers — “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” glaring omissions — “The Turin Horse,” “Killing Them Softly,” and “Rust and Bone” are nowhere to be found — and blatant filler — “Argo” and “Sliver Linings Playbook” aren’t exactly the stuff of classic cinema.
Still, everyone loves to take a shot at second-guessing the results hidden in those carefully sealed envelopes come Oscar night — February 24th at 7pm Eastern Standard Time.
Of the nominations for Best Motion Picture, you can rest assured that Quentin Tarantino’s genre masterpiece “Django Unchained” will remain unfettered by the weight of any stinking award.
“Zero Dark Thirty” is too politically larded to charm the average notoriously elderly Academy voter. “Argo” tips the same scales, albeit with significantly less dramatic weight.
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” is far too kooky for a win in any of its three categories (Best Film, Best Directing, or Best Actress). How it scored an Academy nomination with its indefensible resort to child abuse is a mystery.
As for “Les Misérables,” suffice it to say it’s no “Cabaret.”
“Sliver Linings Playbook” contains some respectable performances, but has all of the narrative impact of a half-dose of Alka Selter.
With its ten nominations in various categories “Life of Pi” will receive its share of little gold statues; Best Picture won’t be one of them.
That leaves us flipping a coin between “Amour” and “Lincoln.” I’m putting my dime on Michael Haneke’s “Amour.” I forgot about “Lincoln” by the next day except for the fact that the movie painted its racist subject as some kind of humanitarian. Cough. Yet I’m still savoring the wellspring of emotions that “Amour” stirred up.
The Achievement in Directing award should go to either Ang Lee for “Life of Pi,” or to Michael Haneke for “Amour.” But logic based on the past dictates that it go to Michael Haneke alongside his statue for Best Picture.
Benh Zeitlin (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”) and David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”) will go home empty-handed. That said, Steven Spielberg is likely to be the one making a speech for his Academy no-brainer “Lincoln.” A cold glass of irony will sit between Tarantino and Spielberg for their vastly different depictions of slavery in the South. Tarantino’s version is a damn sight more cathartic and, oddly, more accurate.
Daniel Day-Lewis is a shoe-in for the Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role prize even if Hugh Jackman is more deserving for his superb work on “Les Misérables.” The Academy could surprise everyone and give it to Jackman. After all, the Oscars are all about the surprises, and this year will have its share.
Bradley Cooper (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Denzel Washington (“Flight”), and Joaquin Phoenix (“The Master”) will look great in their seats — well, Cooper and Washington will look elegant in their seats. Joaquin Phoenix will just look uncomfortable and out of place.
I’d be bemused if not entirely surprised if Emmanuelle Riva didn’t win an Oscar for Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for her overwhelming work in “Amour.” Her performance stands heads and shoulders above all of the competition — Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”), Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”), Naomi Watts (“The Impossible”), and Quvenzhané Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”).
The Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role honor will likely go to Robert De Niro (“Silver Linings Playbook”) because it’s the first bit of respectable acting De Niro has done in recent memory.
Personally, I’m blinded by Christoph Waltz’s expansive gifts in “Django Unchained.” I’d put my money on Waltz because, well, it is my money after all, and I know consummate acting when I see it. If you put Waltz and De Niro at the same party, I know which man I’d want to spend a few hours talking to.
Tommy Lee Jones suffered from a poorly written part in “Lincoln” that left audiences scratching their heads. Alan Arkin’s lighthearted efforts in “Argo” come across as throwaway because that’s how his part was designed — I’d still watch Alan Arkin read from a phone book and love every second of it. Phillip Seymour Hoffman sadly seemed like he was reading from a phone book in Paul Thomas Anderson’s hollow excuse for a movie “The Master.” More filler.
Things get interesting in the Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role category. Helen Hunt went over the moon in “The Sessions,” and really does deserve to receive the honor for her transparent portrayal of a sex therapist. Sally Field lit up “Lincoln” with some much needed female energy. Anne Hathaway gave an indisputably powerful performance in "Les Misérables." Less deserving are Amy Adams (“The Master”) and Jacki Weaver (“Silver Linings Playbook”). Remember what I said about filler. The Academy will give the prize to Sally Field.
The Best Animated Feature Film category is crammed with worthy rivals. Tim Burton’s exquisite “Frankenweenie” sits agreeably alongside “ParaNorman,” ”The Pirates! Band of Misfits,” and ”Wreck-It Ralph” — “Brave,” not so much. I’d like to see the Academy give the award to ”The Pirates! Band of Misfits,” but I wouldn’t grouse if it went to any of the other nominees — except for “Brave.”
Original Screenplay is the one place where Wes Anderson [and his co-writer Roman Coppola] could win the limelight for “Moonrise Kingdom.”
Nonetheless, I believe the Academy will hand over the victory to Michael Haneke for “Amour.”
Obviously, Quentin Tarantino is the correct choice for the prize, but I don’t get the sense that the Academy is ready to welcome him into their club just yet. Not that it matters much since Tarantino already hit the international high watermark when he won the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or in 1994 for “Pulp Fiction.” The Academy is always a few decades behind.
John Gatins (“Flight”) and Mark Boal (”Zero Dark Thirty”) will be left to drown their sorrow in after-party vodka rather than champagne.
The squishy category of Adapted Screenplay will likely find favor for David Magee, whose ”Life of Pi” hits every grace note of religious predisposition Academy members lean toward.
It still wouldn’t be a surprise for Chris Terrio to get his chance to shout out thanks from the Oscar stage for his sugary script version for “Argo.”
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” (Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar), the historically dubious ”Lincoln” (Tony Kushner) and ”Silver Linings Playbook” (David O. Russell) will be left to parlay their Oscar nominations into future projects.
The Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar should be a cakewalk for Austria’s “Amour.” Other contenders include “A Royal Affair” (Denmark), “No” (Chile), War Witch (Canada), and Kontiki (Norway).
Hands down, the Original Score Oscar should go to the redoubtable Thomas Newman for “Skyfall.” The other nominees are “Anna Karenina” (Dario Marianelli), ”Argo” (Alexandre Desplat), ”Life of Pi” (Mychael Danna), and ”Lincoln” (John Williams).
Look for “Skyfall” to also take the Original Song trophy. Of the nominees, “Skyfall” is the only one that audiences will want to sit through, if nothing else to be wowed by the always mesmerizing Adele.
Rival contenders include: "Before My Time" (by J. Ralph for “Chasing Ice”), "Everybody Needs a Best Friend" (by Walter Murphy and Seth McFarlane for “Ted”), "Pi's Lullaby" (by Mychael Danna and Bombay Jayashri for “Life of Pi”), "Suddenly" (by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boulil for “Les Misérables”).
“Life of Pi” will take the prize for Achievement in Production Direction. “Anna Karenina,” ”The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” ”Les Misérables,” and “Lincoln” just don’t have as much visual oomph.
The Achievement in Cinematography Oscar should go to Roger Deakins for “Skyfall.” But “Life of Pi” (Claudio Miranda) could run away with the prize.
The other nominees are: "Anna Karenina” (Seamus McGarvey), “Django Unchained” (Robert Richardson,” and ”Lincoln” (Janusz Kaminski).
The Achievement in Costume Design statue will be handed to Jacqueline Durran for her great work on “Anna Karenina.”
Paco Delgado (“Les Misérables”), Joanna Johnston (“Lincoln”), Eiko Ishioka (“Mirror Mirror”), and Colleen Atwood (“Snow White and the Huntsman”) have nothing on Jacqueline Durran.
The best-kept secret of the Oscars is the documentary category. The exclusion of Ken Burns’s “The Central Park Five” and Amy Berg’s “West of Memphis” are great oversights on the part of the Academy. “The Invisible War” deserves to take the Oscar considering the competition, but the Academy will likely present the award to the feel-good documentary “Searching for Sugar Man." The other contenders are: “5 Broken Cameras,” “The Gatekeepers,” and “How to Survive a Plague.”
Best Documentary Short Subject is the category that trips everyone up because hardly any of the public has seen any of the offerings. Sean and Andrea Nix Fine’s “Inocente” — about a young homeless artist — is a shoe-in. The other nominees include “Kings Point,” ”Mondays at Racine," “Open Heart," and "Redemption.”
“Life of Pi” is a lock for the Achievement in Film Editing Oscar, though “Zero Dark Thirty” could squeak out its only prize of the night in this category. “Argo,” “Lincoln,” and “Silver Linings Playbook” don’t stand a chance.
The Achievement in Makeup & Hairstyling trophy should and probably will go to “Hitchcock.” “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and “Les Misérables” are the other noms.
The glory of the Best Animated Short Film Oscar presents one of the most beguiling guessing games the Academy plays. Look for Walt Disney’s “Paperman” to walk away with this one. The other nominees are “Adam and Dog,” ”Fresh Guacamole,” ”Head Over Heels,” and Maggie Simpson in "The Longest Daycare."
The category for Best Live-Action Short Film seemingly exists only to tack another five minutes to an already overlong Oscar ceremony. Look for “Death of a Shadow” to walk away with the Oscar. “Asad,” ”Buzkashi Boys,” ”Curfew Death,” and ”Henry” comprise the rest of the candidates.
It’s bizarre to imagine that Academy voters have the slightest clue about what fulfills the demands of the Achievement in Sound Editing category. On first blush a movie like “Zero Dark Thirty” would seem to have the requisite amount of woof and whistle to secure an Oscar from Academy voters who don’t know that “Life of Pi” is the title that most deserves the win. “Django Unchained,” “Skyfall,” and “Argo” make up the rest of the films considered in this category.
Common sense dictates that the “Achievement in Sound Mixing” Oscar go to the same film as won the Sound Editing award. Really, it’s just an excuse to give out another trophy to a movie that didn’t get a win in the previous category. Look for “Les Misérables” to get its just reward here. The other films considered for “Sound Mixing” are “Argo,” ”Life of Pi,” ”Lincoln,” and ”Skyfall.”
If you’ve made it this far into my predictions for the 85th annual Academy Awards, you probably feel like you’ve sat through three hours of backslapping and brownnosing. The Achievement in Visual Effects Oscar should and will go to Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi.” Don’t get me started on the other nominees — “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” “Marvel's The Avengers,” ”Prometheus,” ”Snow White and the Huntsman.” I could talk all night.Tweet
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