Another Visit to the JMHO Trailer Park

Frank, movie, still, Michael Fassbender, papier-mache head

Welcome to another edition of JMHO Trailer Park, wherein I attempt to bring you the best of (what I consider to be) the best trailers for upcoming films.

First up, to celebrate Michael Fassbender‘s much deserved win for Best Supporting Actor (for 12 Years a Slave) at Sunday night’s Jameson Empire Film Awards, as well as his 37th birthday tomorrow, I bring you the trailer for Lenny Abrahamson’s Frank. which I had mentioned briefly back in July.

Frank is the story of Jon (Domnhall Gleason), a would-be musician, who discovers he’s bitten off more than he can chew when he joins an avant-garde  pop band led by the mysterious and enigmatic Frank (Fassbender), and the very scary Clara, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal.  Frank is mysterious and enigmatic mostly because he never appears in public (or anywhere else really) without his giant papier-mache head.  The film is a fictional story loosely inspired by Frank Sidebottom, the persona of cult musician and comedian Chris Sievey, as well as other outsider musicians like Daniel Johnston and Captain Beefheart.  The screenplay was written by Jon Ronson (based on his memoir) and Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), and the flick’s cast also includes Scoot McNairy, and Tess Harper.

In the world of alternative music, The Soronprfbs are the ne plus ultra of outsiders. A brilliant, ramshackle, barely functioning band, they are built around the eponymous Frank (Michael Fassbender), an unstable yet charismatic musical savant, who at all times wears a large, round fake head with crudely paintedOon features O like Daniel Johnston hidden behind a cartoon smile. His closest musical collaborator is the forbidding Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal); part caretaker, part jailer, Clara is the antithesis of all things mainstream. The band is completed by Nana (Carla Azar), a Moe TuckerOlike drummer, and Baraque (Francois Civil), a beautiful Frenchman who plays bass. Into this mix comes replacement keyboard player, Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), after the band’s original keyboardist is hospitalized following an attempt at drowning himself. In his head, Jon’s is a true creative, a maverick musical force; in reality he’s a very ordinary young man trying to escape his humOdrum, smallOtown life. For Jon, this is the break he’s been waiting for, his chance to climb through the looking glass and into the world of artistic collaboration, real musicOmaking, and rock ‘n’ roll adventure that he’s always dreamed of. But he discovers (and perhaps has always suspected) that he lacks the one thing he needs to make his dream come true – genuine talent.

While most of us wonder why anyone would hire Michael Fassbender and then stick a giant fake head on him, I can also imagine that for Fassbender, the reluctant movie star who can probably sympathize with Frank quite a bit, it would be freeing. Having filmed 12 Years a Slave then The Counselor, both requiring a lot of intensity, throwing himself into something so completely different, a comedy of sorts, would almost be a vacation.

Frank premiered at Sundance in January, played South by Southwest last week and will play Sundance London in April before opening in the UK on May 2. No US date yet, but I have no doubt one will be forthcoming, for NY and LA at least. Unless I miss my guess, it’ll be VOD for the rest of us.

Devil's Knot, movie, poster, Reese Witherspoon, Colin Firth

It would appear that Michael Fassbender (not to mention James Brown) has some serious competition for the title of “the hardest working man in show business”. Colin Firth has four titles that will be released in 2014. In addition to Railway Man, Before I Go To Sleep and Paddington (all featuring Nicole Kidman), there’s a project called Devil’s Knot, directed by Atom Egoyan and costarring Reese Witherspoon, and is based on the story of the “West Memphis Three”. It played the Toronto International Film Festival last year, but I don’t remember hearing a thing about it.

The story is probably at least a little familiar. In 1993, three teen boys (here played by James Hamrick, Seth Meriwether and Kristopher Higgins)  were convicted of the murder of three eight-year-olds, in what was widely reported at the time to have been a satanic ritual. Subsequently, private investigators were able to pull apart the original prosecution case, but the presiding judge in their appeal, who freed them after 17 years in prison, did not overturn their convictions (so they are not entitled to any form of compensation).

There have been four documentaries made about this case: Joe Berlinger’s Paradise Lost series of three films, and Amy BergWest of Memphis, but this is the first dramatization. Witherspoon plays the mother of one of the victims, and Firth a private investigator trying to discern fact from fiction in a scared and angry community.

“The savage murders of three young children sparks a controversial trial of three teenagers accused of killing the kids as part of a satanic ritual.”

Take a look at the trailer:

This one may not have been on my radar before, but it certainly is now. Also starring Alessandro Nivola, Amy Ryan, Mireille Enos, Elias Koteas, Stephen Moyer, Kevin Durand, Martin Henderson, Bruce Greenwood and Dane DeHaan, Devil’s Knot has been given a US release date of May 9. It’s already played Egoyan’s native Canada. The UK will get it 13 June.

Under the Skin , poster, movie, Scarlett Johansson

Under the Skin has gotten a lot of attention because Scarlett Johansson walks around Glasgow  (and into the wet-dreams of a million fanboys) stark naked.  It’s also garnering director Jonathan Glazer comparisons to less a master than Stanley Kubrick. I enjoyed Glazer’s first two films, the gangster flick Sexy Beast with Ray Winstone and Ben Kingsley and the under-rated (at least at the time) Birth with Nicole Kidman and Danny Huston, I’ll have to see Under the Skin before I can endorse that kudo. (Not that anyone’s holding their breath for my endorsement lol).  Birth, about a woman’s husband who may or may not have been reincarnated in the form of a young boy who is determined to convince her,  would seem to have more in common with Under the Skin at least visually, with it’s scenes of a stark New York in winter filled with gray half-light and chilly fog.

The premise is simple: “An alien seductress preys upon hitchhikers in Scotland. ” But from the accounts of people who’ve seen it at festivals, that’s only the beginning and it is pretty damn scary. Sounds good to me! Check out the the ethereal posters by artist Neil Kellerhouse (via TotalFilm) below.

Under the Skin doesn’t have a big name cast. In fact you probably won’t recognize anyone other than Johansson. It opens here this Friday, April 4. Counter-programming for Captain America?

Only Lovers Left Alive, movie, poster, vampires, Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton

And in the third and final Michael Fassbender reference in this post, we have the trailer to Jim Jarmusch‘s imagined lives of vampires,  Only Lovers Left Alive. The vampire love story which would seem to ooze even more cool than blood (and it won’t be short of that I’m sure), pairs Tilda Swinton with Tom Hiddleston. What’s that got to do with Fassbender? Michael Fassbender dropped out,  making way for Hiddleston. I have no problem with that whatsoever. It would undoubtedly have been great fun watching Fassbender with Swinton, but  it would definitely appear that T.H. OWNS the role of Adam, a vampire who has been in love with Swinton’s Eve for eons, drifting in and out of each other’s “lives” and the centuries, searching for meaning.

Much like Anne Rice’s vampire prince, Lestat, Adam is a musician – in this century a rock musician. Unlike Lestat, it appears that Adam does not crave the spotlight. The movie begins when Adam’s  depression over the direction human society has taken sparks a reunion with his lover Eve.  Their romantic interlude is interrupted by the appearance of her little “sister” Ava, played by Mia Wasikowska. (Every time I see the trailer I have to remind myself that it is Wasikowska, and not Juno Temple.)

“Set against the romantic desolation of Detroit and Tangiers, an underground musician, deeply depressed by the direction of human activities, reunites with his resilient and enigmatic lover. Their love story has already endured several centuries at least, but their debauched idyll is soon disrupted by her wild and uncontrollable younger sister. Can these wise but fragile outsiders continue to survive as the modern world collapses around them?”

Jarmusch uses his usual light, sly touch with an emphasis on the humor of the situation and the intelligence of his characters… and his actors. Despite the fact that it’s a movie about vampires, this might be the director’s most accessible film yet. Watch the trailer and then watch the clip below it as these two impossibly and preternaturally beautiful people discuss the merits of Mary Wollstonecraft (mother of Mary Shelley and an author in her own right) and suck blood…on a stick.


I have an admitted vampire fetish and I have been waiting for this one for a long time. Also featuring Anton Yelchin, John Hurt, and Jeffrey Wright, Only Lovers Left Alive opens here in the US on April 11

The Drop, movie, Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, poster

And finally, “Tom Hardy Week” rolls on with the very first trailer for Michaël Roskam’s The Drop (formerly known as Animal Rescue) that we told you about a few days ago.

The story, once again centers on Bob (Hardy) and Marv (James Gandolfini), the bar where they both work and the mob:

THE DROP is a new crime drama from Michaël R. Roskam, the Academy Award-nominated director of BULLHEAD. Based on a screenplay from Dennis Lehane (MYSTIC RIVER, GONE BABY GONE), THE DROP follows lonely bartender Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) through a covert scheme of funneling cash to local gangsters – “money drops” – in the underworld of Brooklyn bars. Under the heavy hand of his employer and cousin Marv (James Gandolfini), Bob finds himself at the center of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighborhood’s past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living – no matter the cost.

The action has been moved from Boston to Brooklyn, but The Drop still feels very “Lehane” to me.  (And while I think Hardy’s Brooklyn-ese is pretty good, it would kill me if he butchered a Boston accent.) Matthias Schoenaerts is obviously a heavy (since he’s seen menacing the doll, played by Noomi Rapace) but judging from the synopsis, it sounds like the real villains will be the Russian mob and there may be more to his story.

In yet another WAY TOO EARLY Oscar prediction, if The Drop is as good as it looks from this first trailer,  James Gandolfini might just have one more shot at a posthumous Oscar.

It’s going to be a long wait until September. At least it looks like it’s shaping up to be a pretty good spring, at the multi-plex anyway.

 

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Gets a Release Date!!

Focus Features has announced a November 18, 2011 US release date for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. YAY!

This is without a doubt one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year. It’s certainly in my top 3.  I hope this means we’ll be getting a trailer soon! I’m dying to know what’s up with Tom Hardy’s character (among other things.) Speaking of Tom Hardy, have I mentioned lately how insane this cast is??

Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ciaran Hinds, Mark StrongToby Jones, John Hurt, Stephen Graham, Simon McBurney and Kathy Burke*. this is like a Who’s Who of British character actors, (plus the very adorable Jamie Thomas King from "The Tudors" and then there are a couple of Russians thrown in just to stir things up.)

*Kathy Burke as Val in Gary Oldman’s directorial debut, Nil by Mouth, is a must see. It’s a performance that will never leave you.

Also, without having seen a single frame of footage from this film, my estimation of the new Three Musketeers remake has just gone up a notch (okay, half a notch) since Peter Straughn wrote the screenplays for both films.

What concerns me however, is what this means for Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus, whose release date is still listed only as November 2011. I can’t see Harvey Weinstein wanting to pit Shakespeare against a spy flick with a talented, name recognized cast based on a book by a name recognized author, on the same weekend. That’s not to say that Coriolanus doesn’t have most of those things going for it as well, but frankly, I think they’ll be playing to the same audience.  We’ll see. What do I know?

Pressies:

Fassy Does Venice!

Well, the Venice Film Festival, for which I still live in hope that Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus will make the cut, is shaping up as a Michael Fassbender showcase. I, of course, have no problem with this. Neither should the Italians.

The hardest working man in showbiz (quoting myself here) could potentially have three, that’s right, three films playing the fest. David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method and Steve McQueen’s Shame are already confirmed.  If Steven Soderbergh decides to go with Haywire, then Fassbender will score a hat trick or a triple play; a three-peat as it were. (It is still possible that Soderbergh could decide to bring Contagion to the Lido instead. The latter stars Matt Damon, Kate Winslet and Jude Law, so it’s a tossup. Why choose? Bring both! It’s Venice! Let there be bread and circuses! Oh wait…wrong city.)

George Clooney, not one to be outdone, may also have two films featured: Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, as well as The Ides of March, for which George would get extra points, because he directed it. Wow, now that I mention it, since Polanski’s Carnage is done-deal, if Contagion gets added, then Kate Winslet will have a double-header as well.

*I want to gooooo!*

In any case, the 68th Annual Venice International Film Festival is shaping up very nicely.  Chaired by director Darren Aronofsky, and in additon to the above mentioned titles, lucky Venetians and jet-setting cinephiles will get to see Tomas Alfredson’s hotly anticipated Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy with the other-worldly cast that includes Colin Firth, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Geoffrey Rush, Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds, Benedict Cumberbatch…(Damn it! Uncle Peter says we’re OUT of smelling salts!) Steven Spielberg will arrive with either Tintin or War Horse.

If Coriolanus doesn’t get at least a screening, and it still might, it wasn’t added to Cannes until the last minute, then there’s always Toronto! *shakes fist*

Obsessive BAFTA results post w/PICTURES!!

I did pretty well. 13 out of 20 which is 65%.

I stumbled where I have been stumbling this entire awards season. In the Supporting Actor category, if I go with Bale then Rush wins, if I go with Rush, Bale wins. I’m sticking with Bale for the Academy Awards though. (Get your acceptance speech ready Mr. Rush.)

In the Supporting Actress category, my reasoning was sound but I picked the wrong Englishwoman! What was I thinking lol.

And in the directing category, the one time I figured I’d be right about Tom Hooper, David Fincher wins! Who’d a thunk that one, especially after the rout enjoyed by The King’s Speech overall? I think it was a stab at not appearing to be biased. I know the Oscar ballots aren’t due until Friday, but I’m sticking with Hooper after his DGA win. I also have to stick with Christopher Nolan for Original Screenplay despite his BAFTA loss to David Seidler for The King’s Speech.

Can I just say how very disappointed I am that HTTYD did not win in the Music category? I’ve said from the beginning how much I enjoyed Alexandre Desplat’s score for The King’s Speech, but JMHO, there was not another score last year that made me feel like John Powell’s gorgeous, sweeping, transporting score for How to Train Your Dragon.

Oh and just to make myself feel better, even though I called Roger Deakins right at the BAFTAs (because he’s British,) Wally Pfister beat him for the ASC award and I want to reiterate that I am choosing Pfister over Deakins for the Oscar.

Here are the nominees and the results (my predictions are in red, the winner in italics):

BEST FILM

BLACK SWAN – Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver, Scott Franklin
INCEPTION – Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan
THE KING’S SPEECH – Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin
THE SOCIAL NETWORK – Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Cean Chaffin
TRUE GRIT – Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM

127 HOURS – Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy, Christian Colson, John Smithson
ANOTHER YEAR – Mike Leigh, Georgina Lowe
FOUR LIONS – Chris Morris, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain, Mark Herbert, Derrin Schlesinger
THE KING’S SPEECH – Tom Hooper, David Seidler, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin
MADE IN DAGENHAM – Nigel Cole, William Ivory, Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley

OUTSTANDING DEBUT BY A BRITISH WRITER, DIRECTOR OR PRODUCER

THE ARBOR – Director, Producer – Clio Barnard, Tracy O’Riordan
EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP – Director, Producer – Banksy, Jaimie D’Cruz
FOUR LIONS – Director/Writer – Chris Morris
MONSTERS – Director/Writer – Gareth Edwards
SKELETONS – Director/Writer – Nick Whitfield

DIRECTOR

127 HOURS – Danny Boyle
BLACK SWAN – Darren Aronofsky
INCEPTION – Christopher Nolan
THE KING’S SPEECH – Tom Hooper
THE SOCIAL NETWORK – David Fincher

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

BLACK SWAN – Mark Heyman, Andreas Heinz, John McLaughlin
THE FIGHTER – Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson
INCEPTION – Christopher Nolan
THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT – Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg
THE KING’S SPEECH – David Seidler

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

127 HOURS – Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO – Rasmus Heisterberg, Nikolaj Arcel
THE SOCIAL NETWORK – Aaron Sorkin
TOY STORY 3 – Michael Arndt
TRUE GRIT – Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE

BIUTIFUL – Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Jon Kilik, Fernando Bovaira
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO – Soren Stærmose, Niels Arden Oplev
I AM LOVE – Luca Guadagnino, Francesco Melzi D’Eril, Marco Morabito, Massimiliano Violante
OF GODS AND MEN – Xavier Beauvois
THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES – Mariela Besuievsky, Juan José Campanella

ANIMATED FILM

DESPICABLE ME – Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON – Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois * although we know this is where my heart lies
TOY STORY 3 – Lee Unkrich

LEADING ACTOR

JAVIER BARDEM – Biutiful
JEFF BRIDGES – True Grit
JESSE EISENBERG – The Social Network
COLIN FIRTH – The King’s Speech
JAMES FRANCO – 127 Hours

LEADING ACTRESS

ANNETTE BENING – The Kids Are All Right
JULIANNE MOORE – The Kids Are All Right
NATALIE PORTMAN – Black Swan
NOOMI RAPACE – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
HAILEE STEINFELD – True Grit

SUPPORTING ACTOR

CHRISTIAN BALE – The Fighter
ANDREW GARFIELD – The Social Network
PETE POSTLETHWAITE – The Town
MARK RUFFALO – The Kids Are All Right
GEOFFREY RUSH – The King’s Speech

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

AMY ADAMS – The Fighter
HELENA BONHAM CARTER – The King’s Speech
BARBARA HERSHEY – Black Swan
LESLEY MANVILLE – Another Year (because she’s British and they gave her Melissa Leo’s spot)
MIRANDA RICHARDSON – Made in Dagenham

ORIGINAL MUSIC

127 HOURS – AR Rahman
ALICE IN WONDERLAND – Danny Elfman
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON – John Powell COME ON!
INCEPTION – Hans Zimmer
THE KING’S SPEECH – Alexandre Desplat

CINEMATOGRAPHY

127 HOURS – Anthony Dod Mantle, Enrique Chediak
BLACK SWAN – Matthew Libatique
INCEPTION – Wally Pfister
THE KING’S SPEECH – Danny Cohen
TRUE GRIT – Roger Deakins

EDITING

127 HOURS – Jon Harris
BLACK SWAN – Andrew Weisblum
INCEPTION – Lee Smith
THE KING’S SPEECH – Tariq Anwar
THE SOCIAL NETWORK – Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter

PRODUCTION DESIGN

ALICE IN WONDERLAND – Robert Stromberg, Karen O’Hara
BLACK SWAN – Therese DePrez, Tora Peterson
INCEPTION – Guy Hendrix Dyas, Larry Dias, Doug Mowat
THE KING’S SPEECH – Eve Stewart, Judy Farr
TRUE GRIT – Jess Gonchor, Nancy Haigh

COSTUME DESIGN

ALICE IN WONDERLAND – Colleen Atwood
BLACK SWAN – Amy Westcott
THE KING’S SPEECH – Jenny Beavan
MADE IN DAGENHAM – Louise Stjernsward
TRUE GRIT – Mary Zophres

SOUND

127 HOURS – Glenn Freemantle, Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke, Steven C Laneri, Douglas Cameron
BLACK SWAN – Ken Ishii, Craig Henighan, Dominick Tavella
INCEPTION – Richard King, Lora Hirschberg, Gary A Rizzo, Ed Novick
THE KING’S SPEECH – John Midgley, Lee Walpole, Paul Hamblin
TRUE GRIT – Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff, Peter F Kurland, Douglas Axtell

SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS

ALICE IN WONDERLAND – Nominees TBD
BLACK SWAN – Dan Schrecker
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 – Tim Burke, John Richardson, Nicolas Ait’Hadi, Christian Manz
INCEPTION – Chris Corbould, Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Peter Bebb
TOY STORY 3 – Nominees TBC

MAKE UP & HAIR

ALICE IN WONDERLAND – Valli O’Reilly, Paul Gooch
BLACK SWAN – Judy Chin, Geordie Sheffer
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 – Amanda Knight, Lisa Tomblin
THE KING’S SPEECH – Frances Hannon
MADE IN DAGENHAM – Lizzie Yianni Georgiou

ORANGE WEDNESDAYS RISING AWARD

GEMMA ARTERTON
ANDREW GARFIELD
TOM HARDY (WOOHOO!)
AARON JOHNSON
EMMA STONE

A pretty good night for The Weinstein Company. Harvey got nearly as many shout-outs as Tom Hooper and Colin Firth.

Okay so now that that’s over, I did promise you some pictures. How about some pics from last night of one of Harvey’s 2012 awards season class*?


*for Coriolanus of course!

Could ‘Coriolanus’ Be the Next ‘The King’s Speech’?

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On Monday February 14, Ralph Fiennes’ directorial debut, Coriolanus, a modern day interpretation of Shakespeare’s tragedy, will have its world premiere at the prestigious Berlinale (the Berlin Int’l Film Festival.)

There has already been considerable industry buzz for this film. The expectations for the first turn behind the lens of an actor of Fiennes’ caliber are high, even if it is Shakespeare, and indeed it is the only British film in competition for a coveted Golden Bear.

It is also scheduled to open the 39th Annual Belgrade Film Fest at the end of February. (The movie was filmed in Belgrade and the surrounding area in April and May of 2010.) There are rumors circulating that Fiennes also plans to bring it to Cannes in May 2011.

In addition, there has now been a report that the Weinstein Company is interested in distributing the film.  I can’t help but think that, if true, this is not just very good news, but another vote of confidence in the film. 

The Weinstein name on a movie is something of a stamp of approval or legitimacy. It has a certain cachet within the industry. Weinstein backed films tend to be of a certain class or caliber and historically, they tend to be the types of films that garner awards attention. 

Just look at a partial list from the last two years (with a smattering of their awards & nominations:)

 

·  The Reader (2008) *Best Actress Kate Winslet* (co-starring Ralph Fiennes)

·  Capitalism: A Love Story (2009)*multiple Guild and Critics Association awards nominations*

 ·  Inglourious Basterds (2009, co production with Universal Pictures and A Band Apart) *Best Supporting Actor Christoph Waltz*

·  A Single Man (2009) *Best Actor nomination Colin Firth*

·  Nine (2009)*nominated for 4 Oscars including Best Supporting Actress Penelope Cruz*

·  Le Concert (2010) *nominated for Golden Globe Best Foreign Language Film, nominated for 6 Cesar Awards incl. wins for Music & Sound*

·  The Tillman Story (2010)*won Sundance Film Festival Jury Prize*

·  Nowhere Boy (2010)*nominated for 4 BAFTAs and 5 British Independent Film Awards incl. a win for Best Supporting Actress*

·  The King’s Speech (2010) *most nominated film of this year’s Academy Awards*

·  Blue Valentine (2010)*Best Actress nomination Michelle Williams*

·  The Company Men (2011)
 
Not only have all of the films listed been nominated for awards, but most are small little art-house movies that without the backing of a distributor with the clout of the Weinsteins, or perhaps even Sony Pictures Classics, behind them, they probably could have gone straight to dvd without a theatrical release.

Whatever else can be said of the Weinsteins, Harvey in particular, they do know how to market a film.  This year’s current top contender for the Oscar for Best Picture of the year, The King’s Speech, is a case in point. While it helps that the movie is just that good, without the backing of a company that knew what to do with it, it could easily have languished under the radar. Instead, with an aggressive campaign that created a demand for the film before it was widely released, including a media blitz that embraced the burgeoning bloggisphere and made good use of new social media outlets (ironic given its chief competition for the year’s big awards), it is on track to become one of the most successful independent films in history and has made back its modest budget many times over. Now, of course, they have all of those awards and nominations to use to keep it in the public eye until the big dance on February 27th.

This is what I want for Coriolanus. 

While Mr. Fiennes is accustomed to attracting attention for his acting prowess, as is a majority of the rest of the ensemble that comprises his cast, it would certainly be a grand achievement if he were to earn it for a film he directed as well.  He has earned the respect of his peers and the industry in which he toils (and they appear poised to embrace his next efforts as well.)

This is what I want it for Gerard Butler.

Some really impressive promo shots from this film have just been released and I wanted both an excuse to post them and to use them as an excuse to talk about the film.

I’ve read the play (although it has been many years since I have done so.) It is a story filled with passion and violence and politics and themes like ambition and familial devotion, friendship, and betrayal. While some may instantly grimace at the idea of sitting through a filmed version of a Shakespearian tragedy (and I fear some of those people will never be able to open their minds to the possibility,) there are parallels to be found in current world politics and if done right, will resonate with a modern viewer.

Judging from the stills alone, this film will showcase the gravitas that Ralph Fiennes possesses in spades. I was hoping Mr. Fiennes would be able to impart some of that to his co-star, an actor he hand-picked based on the qualities he exhibited in a little movie called ‘300.’  Gerard Butler as King Leonidas delivered a performance with a stillness that suggested power and strength beyond the 8-pack abs, qualities that Fiennes wanted for Coriolanus’ arch enemy, Tullus Aufidius.  Judging from the stills alone, he seems to have gotten what he asked for.

It is my hope that this film will not only serve to prove that Ralph Fiennes has successfully joined the ranks of a mere handful of actors who have transitioned from in front of the camera to behind it and back again, but also to prove what a small but vociferous bunch of us have known for a long time, that Gerard Butler is a very talented actor.  More talented than his recent foray into romantic comedy and action adventure would have indicated; the talent that seemed evident in much of his earliest work and seemed to want to break out of the constraints of a caged serial killer.

It is my hope that Coriolanus will be Butler’s entrée to the real A-list, the small list of actors like the Colin Firths and the Ralph Fiennes of the world who are offered the meaty dramatic parts that showcase and challenge their talents, not just their abs or their gorgeous mugs.

It is my hope that filmgoers will be able to get past their prejudices against watching Shakespeare on film, let alone a film by an actor who thinks he can direct and yes, even get beyond their prejudices against Gerard Butler as a serious and talented actor long enough to just watch the damn movie.





Forget it’s Shakespeare, forget it’s Gerard Butler, forget everything you think you know… and let his face tell you the story

*Immeasurable thanks, as always, to my editor, Connie!

SAG Awards Predictions Post

Tonight is the 17th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony, essentially a big, televised dinner party for actors to congratulate themselves. While I love watching and wouldn’t miss it except in the case of famine, flood, biblical plague or nuclear disaster, ( This show is only 17 years old. I haven’t missed one yet) I do wish the other Guilds got equal face time.

The best part of the SAG telecast, for me, is the opening where the camera pans around the room and stops on seemingly random actors who tell us how and when they got their SAG card and then proclaim proudly,  "I…am an actor!"  (Bit of trivia: This tradition was started when Tom Hanks came onstage and took his worn and battered SAG card from his pocket and told the story of how he’d gotten it, and that the card in his hand was the original. The following year, he told the story of how his wife, Rita Wilson, had gotten hers for an episode of "The Brady Bunch.")

At this awards show, the "winners" take home an attractive bronze statue called "The Actor" and since it is peer recognition, the recipients can get very emotional. Makes for great tv. One thing this guild does right is the category called "Best Ensemble Cast."  It is wonderful that a handful of actors are singled out for what should be singular performances, but all actors deliver their dialogue not to blank walls or in a vacuum, but to other flesh and blood actors (unless they’re working with Muppets, animals, green screens or Megan Fox) whose reactions affect the performance. In other words, they need to work together and as a whole in order for the movie, television show etc etc to be considered a success. JMHO, but this is the most important award of the night since it is the only one of its kind.

They also recently added an award for ensemble STUNT acting which is very, very cool.

The nominees for

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture:

The Black Swan
The Fighter*
The King’s Speech*
The Social Network
The Kid’s Are Alright

I’ve been rooting for The Fighter to win this award since I saw it, simply because I want to see the actresses who played the seven Ward/Eklund sisters on that stage. And while only the principals are named in the nomination,

  • Amy Adams – Charlene Fleming
  • Christian Bale  – Dicky Eklund
  • Melissa Leo –  Alice Ward
  • Jack McGee –  George Ward
  • Mark Wahlberg – Micky Ward

if "the sisters" were invited to come out to support the film, they will make it up onto that stage.  Failing that, I’m rooting for The King’s Speech, because just like The Fighter, the Best Supporting and Best Actor nominees could not have existed one without the other. This award would be a way to show that “they” get that.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role:

Jeff Bridges – Rooster Cogburn, True Grit
Robert Duvall – Felix Bush, Get Low
Jesse Eisenberg – Mark Zuckerberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth – King George VI, The King’s Speech*
James Franco – Aron Ralston, 127 Hours

Robert Duvall was a surprise, although if more people had seen the film, Get Low, it might not have been. The film was a quirky little hidden gem about a cantankerous, curmudgeonly hermit who plans his own funeral party, while he’s still alive and Duvall IS the movie.  I don’t however, think Colin Firth will be beaten.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role:

Annette Bening – Nic, The Kids Are Alright
Nicole Kidman – Becca, The Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence – Ree Dolly, Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman – Nina Sayers, The Black Swan*
Hilary Swank – Betty Ann Waters, Conviction

I fear Annette Bening will go home a bridesmaid yet again since Natalie Portman seems to have this one sewn up. (Both won a Golden Globe, but since the HFPA is the only award giving body that differentiates between Comedy and Drama, Drama almost always trumps Comedy.) 

On the other hand, Bening could spoil the pregnant ballerina’s night. The Santa Barbara Int’l Film Festival honored her this past week with the American Riviera Award. Last year they honored Sandra Bullock with the same award and the year before that, Kate Winslet. Do you see the pattern? Both of those women went on to win SAGs and then Oscars for their respective years. It could be complete coincidence…could be…. (JMHO) (2008 they honored Julie Christie who won the SAG for Away From Her, but lost the Oscar to Marion Cotillard for La Vie en Rose so maybe it’s only the SAGs they’re in league with.)

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role:

Christian Bale – Dicky Eklund, The Fighter*
John Hawkes – Teardrop, Winter’s Bone
Jeremy Renner – James Coughlan, The Town
Mark Ruffalo – Paul, The Kid’s Are Alright
Geoffrey Rush – Lionel Logue, The King’s Speech

Geoffrey Rush is a SAG favorite; an Actor’s Actor. I wish he and Christian Bale could share this award, but then they’d have to give a leg to Jeremy Renner.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role:

Amy Adams – Charlene Fleming, The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter – Queen Elizabeth, The King’s Speech
Mila Kunis – Lily, The Black Swan
Melissa Leo – Alice Ward, The Fighter*
Hailee Steinfeld – Mattie Ross, True Grit

Just as the tide seems to have turned for The Social Network, the awards buzz seems to have cooled for Melissa Leo and is now circling Hailee Steinfeld. I’m sticking with my original choice.

Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Motion Picture:

Green Zone
Inception*
Robin Hood

Okay, I’ve seen all three of these films and I can certainly see why the stunt actors division of the Screen Actors Guild would nominate them. Just watch the credits and you’ll see there are seemingly hundreds of names listed for each.  Think about the climactic battle on the beach in Robin Hood, any number of scenes in Inception. Green Zone was a war zone. Incredible stunts in all three. I’m going with Inception. Again, I have to cite the fight in the hallway that was done without CGI , but with a room that turned and the hotel scenes in zero gravity.

I’m not talking about television here, although since this is actors honoring actors, if Edgar Ramirez does not win for Carlos…well, I don’t know what I’ll do…but I’ll do something! *shakes fist* (Seriously, we all know Al Pacino is a great actor. He’s an All-Star. If they had an Actors Hall of Fame, he’d definitely be in on the first ballot.  In the immortal words of Marty Feldman, "What are you doin’ in there! Give someone else a chance!")

Thanks for reading.

My daily moment of Zen…

old school…for my homies…

Obligatory Oscar Nominations Post…with Gloating

It’s NOMINATIONS DAY!!!

My own personal advent has begun. The nominations for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards were announced this morning. As I’ve said before, Oscar Night has always been my High Holy Day and I’m more excited than I’ve been in years.

Ask me if I feel vindicated (go ahead, ask me) about John Powell’s nomination for Best Original Score for How to Train Your Dragon, not to mention the film’s nomination as Best Animated Feature. I’m not above blowing my own trumpet and saying, once again, that I called this back in April!!  I let out an audible YES! when HTTYD was the first of the three films announced in their category. (Good thing the boss wasn’t in yet.)

Okay, having gotten all of that out, without further ado, here is the complete list of nominations:

Supporting Actor:
Christian Bale – The Fighter

John Hawkes – Winter’s Bone
Jeremy Renner – The Town
Mark Ruffalo – The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech

Geoffrey Rush would still be my ultimate pick if I were doing the choosing. Without Rush, (or at least an actor of his caliber) Colin Firth’s performance would not only have existed in a vacuum, but would NOT have had the impact that it did, but I know better than to bet against Bale this time around. That’s not to say he’s undeserving of the honor and I do believe the category is his to lose.  I am very happy Jeremy Renner made the cut, hell I’m happy Mark Ruffalo did, too. John Hawkes was a surprise but not an unwelcome one. While I still maintain that Winter’s Bone rests almost entirely on the shoulders of Jennifer Lawrence, the key word is ‘almost.’ Hawkes’ Teardrop was a menacing scene-stealer and it’s always exciting when journeymen actors (eg: Jacki Weaver) are recognized, especially in little seen films.

Supporting Actress:
Amy Adams – The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech
Melissa Leo – The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit
Jacki Weaver – Animal Kingdom

Hailee Steinfeld ( and regardless of one’s opinion on the film itself this little girl gave one hell of a performance,) should have been nominated in the Best Actress category. As I’ve already stated, she has more screen time than Jeff Bridges, but obviously the Academy didn’t see it that way and her spot belonged to Julianne Moore for The Kid’s Are Alright. (JMHO, but) I am beyond thrilled Jacki Weaver was recognized by the Academy for a film ( Animal Kingdom) probably seen less than Winter’s Bone. (Maybe they did watch those screeners after all!) Helena Bonham Carter has long been a favorite of mine and I think she’s simply stunning in The King’s Speech, but I do still think that the category belongs to Melissa Leo, and so far only BAFTA disagrees.

ACTOR:
Javier Bardem – Biutiful
Jeff Bridges – True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network
Colin Firth – The King’s Speech
James Franco – 127 Hours

I’ve already talked about my perceptions of Jesse Eisenberg’s performance in The Social Network. JMHO, but if the Academy just couldn’t bring themselves to nominate Marky Mark (for a performance that was the flip side of Christian Bale’s) then what about Paul Giamatti? Kevin Spacey? Leonardo DiCaprio (for either Inception or Shutter Island, both of which were better, more powerful and more nuanced performances than Eisenberg’s.)  I suppose one could make the argument that it’s a moot point since this is Colin Firth’s year. While I wholeheartedly agree with the latter, the former precludes the notion that it’s the nomination that counts. Again, JMHO, but nominating Eisenberg is a product of the hive mind that anointed The Social Network as the film to beat at this year’s awards.

ACTRESS:
Annette Bening – The Kids Are All Right
Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole
Jennifer Lawrence – Winter’s Bone
Natalie Portman – Black Swan
Michelle Williams – Blue Valentine

I’m happy that Michelle Williams was recognized for Blue Valentine. (I can even understand the omission of Ryan Gosling-her’s was the ‘showier’ role.) The rest of the list offers no real surprises, although it would have been nice if they hadn’t played it safe by giving Kidman the nod and instead made the bolder choice of Lesley Manville for Another Year,  but this night will belong to Natalie Portman.

PICTURE:
Black Swan
The Fighter
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter’s Bone


A few words about the Producer’s Guild Award and its impact on the winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture:
The Guild’s award is generally considered to be a pretty good indicator of strength in the Oscar race because so many of its members are also voting members of the Academy. Last year’s PGA winner, The Hurt Locker, went on to win the Oscar when until then Avatar had been considered a lock.

This year’s "Avatar" is The Social Network, which appeared to be on course for a Best Picture win, and generally considered to be the front-runner, after garnering more than 90 guild and critics association honors, including the Golden Globe.  The PGA win for The King’s Speech, however, has breathed new life into the race and solidified it as a real contender for the Oscar.

Also of note is the fact that the Academy membership skews a little older than the youth driven host picks and other nominated films would seem to indicate. It is in no way out of the realm of possibility that they would go for a ‘feel-good triumph over adversity’ with attractive leads and pretty costumes and sets, over the "Facebook movie."

For these reasons, and because it deserves it, I’m going with The King’s Speech for the win.
 

DIRECTOR:
Darren Aronofsky – Black Swan
David Fincher – The Social Network
Tom Hooper – The King’s Speech
Joel & Ethan Coen – True Grit
David O. Russell – The Fighter

I am as upset as the rest of the bloggisphere about the omission of Christopher Nolan (for Inception) from this list. I will, however, ask the question that I’ve been asking everyone else I’ve talked to about it: Who would you have dropped and why?  The five names on this list are all directors of films with a Best Picture nomination, which is exactly why this category needs to be expanded to ten names, to better correspond with the list of Best Picture nominees.  As I’ve said before, those ten films didn’t direct themselves. If they are worthy of recognition, shouldn’t  those at the helm of those films be worthy of recognition as well? There is also a school of thought that says Inception will spoil as Best Picture to right this wrong. It could happen. Actors vote for actors, directors vote for directors etc, but the entire voting body votes for Best Picture. We’ll see how mad those with a vote really are.

In any case, although it’s rare that a director win without his film winning Best Picture and vice versa, I think David Fincher will win for Best Director.  My heart is obviously with Tom Hooper and The King’s Speech.

**In light of  his DGA win, I’m amending this and unequivocally going with Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech.  edited 1/31/11

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY 
Mike Leigh – Another Year
Scott Silver & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson – The Fighter
Christopher Nolan – Inception
Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg – The Kids Are All Right
David Seidler – The King’s Speech

I’m pleased to see Mike Leigh’s Another Year recognized for something and I predicted that it would be in this category. I don’t think anyone can beat Christopher Nolan. Inception was as high-concept as they come and that concept was conceived by Nolan and driven by his multi-layered mind bender of a script and he managed to wrap it around compelling, well fleshed-out characters and made it understandable to the masses with witty dialogue that managed to explain it all without dumbing it down.
 

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy – 127 Hours
Aaron Sorkin – The Social Network
Michael Arndt – Toy Story 3
Joel Coen & Ethan Coen – True Grit
Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini – Winter’s Bone

I’m disappointed for Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard. Having read "The Prince of Thieves," I can appreciate their adapted screenplay for The Town that much more.  I think Winter’s Bone got their spot, but there were more than ten movies made last year and a lot of them had great scripts. I can’t take too much issue with this list, and I still believe, for the same reasons I believe he won the Golden Globe, that Aaron Sorkin has this one.

ANIMATED FEATURE:
How to Train Your Dragon**
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

Again, I’m already on record with my feelings on this category.  While the fact that TS3 has been nominated in the Best Picture category as well as this one might give HTTYD a slight edge, I don’t, unfortunately, think it will be enough to overcome the category’s ‘300 LB Gorilla’. This is one occasion when I’m just happy that my favorite got an invitation to the big dance. (And unlike at the Golden Globes, I hope it has a big show of support walking the red carpet. He’ll probably be asked to present, but it is my hope that when a microphone is stuck in his face, Gerard Butler will be able to talk about his Academy Award nominated film and not just "who he’s wearing." Again, I repeat myself lol.)
 

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:
Biutiful (Mexico)
Dogtooth (Greece)
In a Better World (Denmark)
Incendies (Canada)
Outside the Law (Algeria)

One of the toughest categories to call, especially after Denmark’s Golden Globe win. Politically speaking, I think Biutiful will win because Javier Bardem won’t. I’m probably wrong. Don’t worry, I’m used to it.

ART DIRECTION:
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Inception
The King’s Speech
True Grit

Tough category.  I’m gonna go with Alice in Wonderland. Harry Potter will probably get it next year for DH pt 2 since it will be the last of the series (much like LOTR:Return of the King cleaned up).

CINEMATOGRAPHY:
Black Swan
Inception
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

Another tough one. The list of nominees matches that of the American Society of Cinematographers. They offer no clues,however, since they don’t give out their awards until February 13. Roger Deakins, nominated for True Grit, and who consulted on the visuals for How to Train Your Dragon, will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Does that preclude him from winning an ASC award for True Grit?   I only mention it because a lot of the voting members of the cinematographers wing of the Academy are also ASC members, but Roger Deakins is a favorite. Wally Pfister has been nominated three other times for an Academy Award, all for films with Christopher Nolan in the director’s chair. I think I have to go with Inception, although I feel like I’m throwing darts.


DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:

Exit Through the Gift Shop
Gasland
Inside Job
Restrepo
Waste Land

I live in Boston where documentaries often have long theatrical runs and it’s sometimes hard for me to remember that the rest of the country doesn’t have the same opportunities to see them. I’ve seen Restrepo (as well as Inside Job, which is still playing here) and in the absence of The Tillman Story, a big disappointment, JMHO, I have to go with that one. No one’s going to see The Company Men (although I did and I liked it, it’s just too soon) and no one’s going to vote for Inside Job.

DOCUMENTARY SHORT:
Killing in the Name
Poster Girl
Strangers No More
Sun Come Up
The Warriors of Qiugang

ANIMATED SHORT:
Day & Night
The Gruffalo
Let’s Pollute
The Lost Thing
Madagascar, carnet de voyage

LIVE-ACTION SHORT:
The Confession
The Crush
God of Love
Na Wewe
Wish 143

All three of the shorts categories are impossible (for me) to call. I’ve never even heard of any of them. I hope to do something about that because they are being released to theaters. Hopefully you’ll have the opportunity to see all of the animated, live-action and documentary shorts when they come to your town in three programs with all of the films in their category for 90 minutes. Pretty good deal. I recommend it if you’re trying to win an office pool. Knowing or guessing the shorts is usually the difference between winning and losing. JMHO

VISUAL EFFECTS:
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Hereafter
Inception
Iron Man 2

For the most part, I am terrible when it comes to handicapping the technical awards. This category would seem to be a no-brainer for Inception, but the other four films wouldn’t be nominated if they weren’t equally as visually stunning. My mind keeps going back, however, to the image of Paris being folded like an Escher staircase and the fight in the collapsing hotel hallway. Inception it is.

COSTUME DESIGN:
Alice in Wonderland
I Am Love
The King’s Speech
The Tempest
True Grit

Do we go with period realism like True Grit or The King’s Speech, or out and out fantasy like Alice in Wonderland or The Tempest? I’m going for The King’s Speech because I really went for Colin Firth in a kilt. (Hey, these are my picks!)

MAKEUP:
Barney’s Version
The Way Back
The Wolfman

I’d love for The Way Back to win just because I want Peter Weir’s beautiful, if bleak, film to be recognized in some way. I wish it had been for cinematography or with a nod to Ed Harris in the Best Supporting Actor category, but I’d take Make-up Design. It’s hard to beat a film where the make-up is almost another character, so I grudgingly have to go with The Wolfman.

FILM EDITING:
Black Swan
The Fighter
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
The Social Network

SOUND MIXING:
Inception
The King’s Speech
Salt
The Social Network
True Grit

SOUND EDITING:
Inception
Toy Story 3
Tron Legacy
True Grit
Unstoppable

ORIGINAL SCORE:
John Powell – How to Train Your Dragon
Hans Zimmer – Inception
Alexandre Desplat – The King’s Speech
A.R. Rahman – 127 Hours
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross – The Social Network

I can’t call this one for Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross (actually, I refuse) just because they won the Golden Globe (for so many reasons, but mostly) because the Oscar nomination ballots were due back before the Globes were announced. So just like with the other categories, the winners of the Globes had no bearing on what was nominated by the Academy.  And there is just no way in hell I can pick another score on this list.  I loved Desplat’s score for The King’s Speech. The Academy is already on record for appreciating A. R. Rahman, he won for his score for Slumdog Millionaire and Hans Zimmer always delivers, BUT, I’ve said all along that Powell’s score for HTTYD is the best I’ve heard all year and I stand by that.  If the Academy recognized it as worthy of a nomination, I am putting my faith in the voters to give it the award. JMHO

ORIGINAL SONG:
"Coming Home" from Country Strong
"I See the Light" from Tangled
"If I Rise" from 127 Hours
"We Belong Together" from Toy Story 3

I have no horse in this race and I don’t know if I should be surprised that (the by all accounts dreadful) Burlesque was completely overlooked. Since Jonsi didn’t make the cut, I’m going with perennial favorite Randy Newman.

** If my personal pick differs from what I think will actually win, I’ve highlighted that in pink.

So, we’ll all get the chance to see how much of a crackpot I am on February 27th. Thanks for reading. 

Here’s your treat:

Okay so it’s really my treat. At least I share.

*tip o’ the pin to my tireless editor, Connie, for keeping me on the good sides of Strunk and White