What I Missed on My Summer Vacation: Part 2 – Tom Hardy Edition

Movie, Poster, Michael Roskam, The Drop, Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace

International Poster for Michael Roskam’s The Drop with Tom Hardy, James Gandolfini and Noomi Rapace

1. The Drop International Trailer, Poster and New Images

The Drop is, without a doubt, on the top of my “must see” list for the remainder of 2014. I probably made that clear when I posted the first trailer. This just ticks too many boxes for me: Tom Hardy, Dennis Lehane, James Gandolfini, Matthias Schoenarts (working for his Bullhead director, Michaël Roskam), puppies, wise guys… I could do The Muttley right now and I haven’t even seen it. (I still think someone needs to provide a logical explanation as to why the title was changed from Animal Rescue – which was the title of Dennis Lehane’s short story upon which it’s based. Seriously, we can’t complain that our society is collectively losing brain cells like a balloon with a slow leak, and continue to pander to the lowest common denominator. End rant.)

Bob Saginowski (Hardy) 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.

If you haven’t yet made up your mind about this one, take a look at the international version of the trailer. It’s longer and definitely darker than the domestic version, yet provides a clearer picture of what we can expect.

Certainly it appears that The Drop is classic Lehane, in which the protagonist is attempting to turn his life around even as his past comes back to bite him in the ass. As a Lehane fan, there is much I can deduce about the plot from that statement alone, but I don’t want to peer too closely.
I think that I can say with some confidence that James Gandolfini will be nominated for more posthumous awards (for the final time as this was, unfortunately, his last film), Schoennarts and Roskam will be firmly planted on the American map and Tom Hardy and Noomi Rapace are brilliant. We have to wait until September to find out if I’m right or full of something.

Mad Max: Fury Road, movie, photo, Tom Hardy

Tom Hardy as Max Rockatansky in Mad Max: Fury Road

2. Mad Max: Fury Road New Images and Official Synopsis

I’m not going to run down all of the drama surrounding the production of Mad Max: Fury Road. I’ve been talking about it for years and you can read it all here.

Let’s focus on the good news that surfaced last week, namely the new images of Tom Hardy as Max and the first official images (via EW) of Charlize Theron as Furiosa.
The official synopsis of the film gives us some insight into her character:

Mad Max: Fury Road is an apocalyptic story set in the furthest reaches of our planet, in a stark desert landscape where humanity is broken, and most everyone is crazed, fighting for the necessities of life. Within this world exist two rebels on the run who just might be able to restore order. There’s Max, a man of action and a man of few words, who seeks peace of mind following the loss of his wife and child in the aftermath of the chaos. And Furiosa, a woman of action and a woman who believes her path to survival may be achieved if she can make it across the desert back to her childhood homeland.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Fury Road must be where these two characters and their paths converge.
The rest of the cast includes Nicholas Hoult, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoë Kravitz, Riley Keough and Josh Helman. The movie’s release has actually been moved up (from its Summer 2015 date, which was moved back from its original date…oh who can keep up?) to May 15, 2015 – which indicates some faith in its ability to kick-off the summer blockbuster season – so it’s still early yet for a trailer. I’d bet on some sort of footage, be it a full trailer, just a teaser or a clip, to come out of Comic Con later this month.  I’m keeping my eyes peeled in any case, because I can’t wait.

Lest there be any confusion, this isn’t a Tom Hardy fan blog (any more than it’s a Gerard Butler or Michael Fassbender blog), but it is my blog and so I write about the things (and the people) that interest me. One of the people that has fascinated me for the last (nearly) six years, has been one Edward Thomas Hardy. This isn’t the time to go into his curriculum vitae, as I’ve discussed it many, many times in the past and it can all be found here if you’re interested.
I have written about him so often, in just the past year alone, because Tom Hardy is everywhere lately. He’s achieved that level of fame that means there are camera crews stalking his film sets, but more than that, it seems that rarely a week goes by without the announcement of another film project. If the man makes every movie to which he’s attached at this moment, back to back without a break, the 36 year old Hardy won’t have to sign on for anything else until he’s well into his forties.
Which brings me to the news that just yesterday, Hardy’s reps formally confirmed what we’d heard rumors of about two months ago, that he will reteam with his Inception costar, Leonardo DiCaprio for Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant. The director wrote the screenplay with Mark L. Smith (Vacancy, The Hole), based on the book by Michael Punke. It’s a thriller set in the 1820s about “a man called Hugh Glass (DiCaprio), a fur trapper, who treks 3,000 miles of uncharted American wilderness to get revenge on the two men who left him for dead following a bear attack”.
Will Poulter (best known in the US for We’re the Millers, won the EE Rising Star Award at this year’s BAFTAs) has already signed on. Filming is set to begin this September, which makes me wonder what Hardy has dropped to make room for this film, although no announcements to that effect have been made. The Revenant has been tentatively scheduled for release sometime in the fall of 2015.

Much more to come on this one, as well as Child 44, also due this year, Legend, currently filming, as well as Rocketman and Kathryn Bigelow’s The True American, start dates to be announced.

My Thoughts on the Beauty and Brutality of 12 Years a Slave

Chiwetel Ejiofor, Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave

poster via imdb

The first time I saw Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave was during a press screening that was also attended by students from local colleges, as well as hoi polloi like me who got passes through a screening service. At the end of the film was a Q & A with the director of the Boston Museum of African American History, Beverly Morgan-Welch, and the presenter of “City Line”, a local television show that focuses on urban issues, Karen Holmes Ward. Even as my popcorn was forgotten, as my heart was in my mouth, my hands trying to stifle the sobs, I was still very aware of the audience around me, wondering what they were thinking and feeling. That viewing was all about the historical context, despite the fact that I was an emotional wreck afterward.

The movie is, quite simply, a masterpiece. Unlike James Franco, however, who seems to want to set himself up as a learned and worldly carbuncle on the butt of 21st century popular culture, I was not, am not, “beguiled” by this movie. I certainly don’t understand how anyone could see it two nights in a row. I needed a large span of time between viewings in order to thoroughly and properly process what I’d seen.

The second time, I wasn’t watching the film in anticipation of seeing one of the most talked about movies of the year, one I had been waiting for since filming began. I went back again to find out if I’d have the same visceral reaction to the brutality or whether the fact that I knew when and how it would be meted out had in any way inured my senses to it.

No, it did not. In some ways, I was even more affected by it.

There are not words to adequately describe how utterly despicable the practice of human beings purchasing, possessing, owning other human beings as if they were ‘things’, truly is. We haven’t coined the words because our minds won’t let us consciously descend far enough into darkness to fully comprehend it. In much the same way that mere words cannot convey the true horror of the Holocaust, or the genocides still being perpetrated in various parts of the world as I type this, because man’s inhumanity to man is, ultimately, incomprehensible.

It is for this reason that watching 12 Years a Slave, only Steve McQueen’s third feature film,  is an  emotional experience akin to watching Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, made all the more authentic and terrible because it is told not from the perspective of the benevolent white savior, but from that of the enslaved.

It is fact that McQueen has never made a film that was easy to sit through. You’ll probably never see his name on the poster of a film with the tag line “The Feel Good Movie of the Year!”, but unlike Shame, or even Hunger (which was also based on a true story, but one with a very different outcome), 12 Years a Slave manages to rise above the unrelenting misery it depicts to become a testimonial to the ability of a single unyielding man, not only to “survive”, but to “live”.

12 Years a Slave is the second film in two years about that American abomination that was slavery, a subject that has been largely ignored by cinema. Like Quentin Tarantino’s nearly as brilliant Django Unchained, it is agonizing and heart­breaking; a gut-twisting experience to watch. But unlike Django, the brutality is realistic, not exaggerated to, at times, comic levels. There is no intentional humor in 12 Years…. If there is any laughter at all, it is the scattered, nervous, incredulous tittering of those who don’t yet know how to believe, let alone process, what they’re seeing in front of them.

The story certainly sounds like something that sprang from a writer’s fevered imagination. Despite what we know about American History, how can it be true that a free man was kidnapped, forced into slavery and kept in captivity for twelve years without anyone believing his tale or doing all that they could to help?  This is not the time, nor place, for a political discussion of the state of race relations in this country, but your experience of this film is no doubt tinted by your experience of the world as you know it now. (Isn’t what happened to Solomon Northup really only a few steps removed from what happened to Oscar Grant III in 2008, as depicted in  Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station?)

That these things described above did happen, is the singular experience at the heart of McQueen’s film. What makes the film particularly impressive is not that it provides historical parameters for a dimension of slavery that most of us were unaware of, but that it does so by the weaving together of the smallest of details that made up Northup’s life in captivity. Each scene feels frighteningly immediate, as though it weren’t filtered through time, but exists in the present moment. This film is not only one of the best of the year, certainly, in my humble opinion, the most important, but it is  probably one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. For all of the harshness, the brutality, and the violence, it is also beautifully made.

McQueen comes from the art world and has a painter’s eye for staging and the framing of images, without resorting to flashy visual tricks. Thinking about the opening scene, we are thrust into the lush cane fields of Louisiana. We can see the thick, humid air as a group of black men, slaves, labor in the stifling heat. We don’t know any of them but we get an immediate feel for time, place and circumstance. We next see Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) attempting to use crushed berries for ink. It’s out of context and yet gives context to things we’ve only read about in history books.  McQueen then moves back in time to Northup’s nearly idyllic life pre-ordeal. How can this be the same man?

What follows is two hours chronicling nearly unimaginable suffering. Along the way, Solomon Northup, now called by the slave name, Platt, encounters nearly every facet of the experience of slaves in the pre-Civil War South. We learned from our history classes that families were torn apart, sold separately with no regard for mothers and their children. McQueen shows us what that would have felt like. I learned that it was possible for a former slave to live as the wife of her former owner. Alfre Woodard is brilliant as one such woman, existing in her own delusional bubble, blissfully ignoring the plight of those still in bondage.

Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) represents the extreme in his sadistic cruelty, nearly matched by his equally cruel wife, played by a truly scary Sarah Paulson. But there are degrees of racism. Benedict Cumberbatch as Platt’s first owner, the benevolent William Ford, gives him a violin and allows him to keep the money he earns from playing it. Does his relative kindness alleviate complicity? Ford knows and Platt knows he knows, that Platt is not just any slave, yet he does nothing to help him, for fear of losing his financial investment.

The philosophical depiction of slavery aside, what really sets McQueen’s film apart is that he refuses to flinch when it comes to depicting the violence. We cannot be kept at arms length when he pulls us in so close, whether it’s the sight of flesh and blood literally flying off of a back during an excrutiating and protracted whipping scene or watching Platt struggle to stay on his toes for hours trying to relieve some of the tension of the noose around his neck as plantation life carries on all around him.

When Solomon finally does return to his family, every day of those twelve years is worn into his face. The pain haunts his eyes. All he can think to say to them is to apologize for his long absence.   (What is amazing to me is that he is somehow able to articulate not only to them but to the rest of the world, with his book, what happened during those years.)

I have not yet seen All is Lost or even The Wolf of Wall Street, but I am, of course aware that Robert Redford has given another singular performance and of course there is talk that Leonardo DiCaprio will inevitably be nominated for yet another role in a Martin Scorsese film. I have seen Captain Phillips and I have given my opinion on Tom Hanks’ performance. I have seen the magnificent Dallas Buyers Club and oh, how I wish it had been released in another year so that Matthew McConaughey could be recognized for his towering performance.  (My thoughts on McConaughey’s talents are known to readers of this blog, but that is for another discussion.)  I adore Idris Elba and his Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is mesmerizing, but the movie itself is not entirely worthy of his efforts (nor Madiba’s legacy). I have seen Fruitvale Station and as good as I think Michael B. Jordan is, as deserving I believe him to be of a nomination, no performance has or could possibly come close to the one given by Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave.

When was the last time an actor reduced you to near-wracking sobs by doing nothing? There is a scene with no sound but the wind rustling lightly through the trees and the tall grass. Ejiofor stands still, his eyes barely moving, the camera close on his face, as the last shreds of any hopefulness seep away, replaced by the despair he’d fought for so long to keep at bay. My heart breaks again thinking about it weeks later.

Lupita Nyong’o, who played Patsey, has described 12 Years A Slave as an “emotionally taxing” acting experience. If I can say that I imagine it would be, I would also say that hers is an understatement.

Nyong’o, who made her feature debut with this film (!) has been earning across the board accolades and making the chat show rounds. (At this point she’s considered one of the few virtual locks for an Academy Award nomination.)  She told “The View”, that going to “that emotional place was so hard it was really important for me to continually remind myself that I was not Patsey after all”.

Patsey suffers abuse of every possible kind at the hands of Michael Fassbender’s plantation owner Edwin Epps.  Fassbender’s character embodies such bred-in-the-bone evil, so institutional, so palatine, as to let Epps be sanguine about his monstrosity. He treats Patsey as he does not only because she is his property, but because he loves her. And yet his other slaves might as well be furniture. Witness the casual way he leans on their heads, as if they were not living, breathing human beings.

Fassbender does something that very few actors can— he makes us believe at all times while he is on screen that anything could happen (the first time and yes, even the second time I saw the film). Every scene in which Epps appears is fraught with so much tension that we do not trust that Patsey or Northup will live through it; this despite the fact that we know that this is a true story, with a known conclusion. Fassbender has said that Epps took a physical toll on him. He even reportedly passed out after a particularly brutal scene. We may assume that an actor leaves it all on screen, but I don’t see how any thinking, feeling individual could not be affected by what was required of them, at least in this case.

That it has taken me this long to get this post finished is the reason I will never be able to do this for a living, although if the ability to crank these things out was all that stood between me and sleeping on the sidewalk, I suppose I could learn. This post was started, with thoughts rambling around my head after the first viewing, continued after the second, and has been ruminated upon ever since.   It has taken me so long that while it was widely assumed that this movie would be a major player come awards season, now that that special time of year is actually upon us, we’re beginning to get confirmation.

The entire film is packed with so much talent in even the smallest of roles, it’s obvious that they just wanted to be a part of this movie. They certainly didn’t do it for the money. I’d go so far as to say anyone could have played Bass, the role played by Brad Pitt (looking like he escaped from Amish Country), but Pitt’s name helped to get the movie made, both as a producer and on the marquee. All of that aside, the three actors mentioned here, are by far the soul of the movie and deserving of the attention they are getting.

If no one involved made the movie for the money, they didn’t do it for awards either. That said, awards speculation has been so rampant, since the film’s first festival screenings, that if I were Steve McQueen or any actor, producer or even an executive in any way associated with this film, I’d have been waiting for the other shoe to drop and the inevitable backlash to begin.  It was recently announced that 12 Years a Slave led all films with seven nominations for the 2014 Film Independent Spirit Awards, including best feature, director and actors Ejiofor (lead), Nyong’o (supporting) and Fassbender (supporting). As I said, when I first starting working on this post I would have assumed that there could be no doubt that these nominations would be only the beginning. After the odd choices made by the crazy quilt of critics association awards that were announced this past weekend, some of which seemed to be going out of their way to praise anything other than this film, I’m no longer sure of anything.

While we have yet to hear from The Producers, Directors and Writers Guilds, the Screen Actor’s Guild (noms for Actor, Supporting Actor & Actress and Best Ensemble Cast – their equivalent of Best Picture) and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the same 3 actor nominations as well as director, adapted screenplay, score and Best Picture – Drama – basically everything it was eligible for) have restored a bit of my faith that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will do the right thing..

Trick or Treat: Trailer or Spoiler Big Deluxe Halloween Edition

Mindscape, movie, poster, Mark Strong, Taissa Farmiga, Jorge Dorado

 

There’s a bumper crop of new films headed for your multiplex. Luckily I’m here to help you separate the wheat from the chaff with brand new trailers for a handful of those films.  Since it is Halloween, I’ve chosen four with lots of candy supernatural, spooky or fantastic overtones. Okay, so The Wolf of Wall Street doesn’t actually have any of those, but it has Leonardo DiCaprio directed by Martin Scorsese (which means it could conceivably be fantastic). I just thought the title looked good with the other three. Sue me.

Okay, so that was a trick, now for some treats: We’ll start with the first English language trailer for the supernatural thriller, Mindscape, about a man with the ability to enter peoples’ minds and memories (see? Spooky!),  who takes on the case of a brilliant, yet troubled sixteen-year-old girl. Is she a victim…or a sociopath? Dun dun dun…

Produced and “presented” by Jaume Collet-Serra (Orphan, Unknown), Mindscape marks the feature directorial debut of Jorge Dorado, for which he has assembled a pretty impressive cast. It includes the smoldering Mark Strong (in a leading role, huzzah!) as John, and Taissa Farmiga (“American Horror Story”) as Anna,  with Brian Cox, Indira Varma (“Rome”, “Luther”), Noah Taylor and Saskia Reeves.

Walk this way and have a look at the trailer:

See? Candy. Finely chiseled rock candy…

Admittedly, I’m an easy sell, since this promises to have, ounce per ounce, more Mark Strong than anything else on his big screen resume, but I think the film itself has enormous potential.  It’s being compared to Inception, and it turns out mind-bending thrillers with ambiguous endings are popular if done right. On the other hand, Inception is undoubtedly the gold-standard of the genre and if Mindscape doesn’t get good “word-of-mouth”, that comparison might spell disaster. (Much the way that being compared to “Breaking Bad” did that other Mark Strong-starring project, AMC’s “Low Winter Sun”, no favors either.)

We don’t have any domestic release information yet, but since they’ve bothered to put out an English trailer, I’d say they’ll be forthcoming. Warner Brothers has the rights both domestically and overseas. They’ll open it in Dorado’s native Spain first (fitting of course. It premiered at the Sitges Film Festival as well) on 31st January 2014.  That tells me that since it won’t be opening cold in the dread January doldrums in this country, the WB must have some faith in it.

This first trailer sets up the story in only bold strokes. My interest is piqued, but I don’t feel like I’ve seen the whole movie in two and a half minutes, which, as you know, I consider to be a very good thing,  We’ll see how much we’re given next time, but for now, they’re doing it right.

Moving on to long, tall British Curley Whirley candy

Richard Armitage, Thorin Oakenshield, The Hobbit, movie, still

via imdb

The second in a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug continues the adventure of the title character Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) as he journeys with the Wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and thirteen Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) on an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor.

I still don’t understand why the “Lord of the Rings Trilogy” got only one movie per book and “The Hobbit” is one book with three movies. I hope it’s because Peter Jackson knows that the world just doesn’t want to part company forever with the hobbits, elves, dwarves, dragons, trolls and wizards that we all know and love, and not so they can fleece us of our hard earned cash. It’s the dreamer in me.  I’m certainly not immune to the draw and I am eagerly awaiting this installment.

While this is the first full-length trailer for The Desolation of Smaug, there has been a version of this kicking around since late summer. We’re all familiar with Jackson’s vision of Middle Earth and with this bit of carefully curated footage, we’re immersed in it once more. The first of the Hobbit series may not have been as warmly greeted as the LOTR trilogy, after all there were all sorts of plot lines going off in a lot of directions (the better to justify three movies), and it was a setup for the next two, but this middle segment looks to pack in a lot more action, as well as getting to some of those portents of events yet to come that we’ve been expecting, since this is still and all a prequel to what we’ve already got committed to memory.

Bilbo lies to Gandalf about his discovery of the One Ring, and for his part, he warns about the rise of Sauron’s forces. Orlando Bloom returns as Legolas and apparently has a love interest, Evangeline Lilly‘s Tauriel is an entirely new character created by screenwriter (and the world’s foremost Tolkien expert) Philippa Boyens “to bring feminine energy {to the film}… completely within the spirit of Tolkien”. We also see the Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Armitage) as they seek help from their arch enemies, the Elves and their king Thranduil (Lee Pace).

The main event, of course is Bilbo’s first encounter with Smaug,  the dragon who has taken over the Lonely Mountain.

“”Well thief, where are you? Come now, don’t be shy. Step into the light,”

Was that what you imagined Tolkien’s  villainous dragon would sound like? It’s exactly what I imagined. Benedict Cumberbatch nailed it, in my humble opinion, and that for me was the burning question that Peter Jackson had to answer here. Is it a spoiler? Hell no. It’s an enticement, exactly what a good trailer should do. Since this is essentially Smaug’s movie,  and Smaug, a dragon, is going to be entirely CGI, we have to be hooked by the visuals and the sound of his voice.  It seems to me that we can also trust  that the rest of the story he’s wrapped in will be the spectacular visual and visceral experience we’ve come to expect from Jackson.

A batch of new tv spots have recently popped up as well – online, even if they’re not yet saturating the television. I’m especially fond of this one:

“I have the only right.”

Richard Armitage has another one of those great British voices that I could just listen to read the phone book or the back of a soup can. I’m glad he’s getting some exposure, even if he is pretty much unrecognizable.

As luck would have it, five new international posters were released today as well. They feature Bilbo, Gandalf, Elves Legolas, Tauriel and Thranduil, Bard the Bowman (Luke Evans) and Dwarves Kili (Aidan Turner), Fili (Dean O’Gorman) and Thorin. More treats! You can check them out below.

X-Men:Days of Future Past, Patrick Stewart, James McAvoy, Charles Xavier, poster, movie

via imdb

Discussing the trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past is, for me, the perfect Michael Fassbender interlude, between having written about the intensity of his performance in The Counselor, and preparing to write about the infinitely more intense performance he gives in 12 Years a Slave. Although quite frankly, there isn’t nearly enough German Irish Crème candy in this trailer.

What there is a lot of, is the older Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and the younger (James McAvoy) and as hoped, the twain shall meet. This trailer has been picked over with the proverbial fine toothed comb (more like tweezers) by those more familiar with X-Men lore than I, but even the eyes of this philistine caught a lot that was familiar, including Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine (hell after 7 movies, if you don’t know Wolverine, why are still reading this?), Halle Berry’s Storm, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), Rogue (Anna Paquin) all from first series and Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique, and Nicholas Hoult as Beast from X-Men: First Class. Mercifully, there was no January Jones as Emma Frost. I saw a lot of new characters that look intriguing, like Bishop (Omar Sy), Sunspot (Adan Canto), Blink (Fan Bing Bing), and Warpath (Booboo Stewart), but about which I don’t have a clue. Then there’s villain Bolivar Trask played by Peter Dinklage, whose casting had the fanboys foaming at their mouths from the moment it was leaked online.

The ultimate X-Men ensemble fights a war for the survival of the species across two time periods in X-Men: Days of Future Past. The characters from the original X-Men film trilogy join forces with their younger selves from X-Men: First Class in an epic battle that must change the past – to save our future.

The focus in this first trailer is clearly Professor X, but since I’m still not sure what exactly the plot is, other than it will feature “an epic battle that must change the past – to save our future”, which obviously means the two Xs have to work together to avoid some catastrophe (and I really don’t want to think too long on the science or the whole space/time continuum thing), I’d say that’s the mark of a good trailer.  I’m already looking ahead to the next one, thinking that it will give us the Magneto we (or just I) crave.

I do know that the storyline for X-Men: Days of Future Passed comes from the similarly titled comic-book? graphic novel? by Chris Claremont and John Byrne.  XMDoFP will also see the return of director Bryan Singer (After XMFC director Matthew Vaughn passed), who created the series by hasn’t directed an installment since 2003’s X2. The bad news is that it was written by hit-or-miss Simon Kinburg who wrote Mr & Mrs Smith and 2009’s Sherlock Holmes, but was also responsible for This Means War and X-Men: The Last Stand, generally considered to be the worst in the series.  Luckily, Kinburg worked from Matthew Vaughn’s story. (If Vaughn had been allowed to go with his initial idea, to make XMDoFP a direct sequel to XMFC, which would have included things like Magneto being responsible for the Kennedy assassination, he would have directed as well.) Keep your digits, paws and flippers crossed for this one.

If you want more, MTV has the trailer with Bryan Singer’s commentary. X-Men: Days of Future Passed is currently scheduled for US release May 23, 2014.

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort, Martin Scorsese, movie

via imdb

So what’s Leonardo DiCaprio? I don’t know. Given how long I’ve had a crush on him and how good he continues to be, how about an Everlasting Gobstopper? No? What’ve you got?

The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese, chronicles the true story of Jordan Belfort, a Wall Street wizard living large in early 90’s Manhattan. The flick charts Belfort’s (played by Scorsese muse DiCaprio)  involvement with crime, corruption, an expensive drug habit and the Feds, bumps on the way down from Park Avenue all the way to Taft Federal Correctional Institution, where he spent four years for securities fraud and money laundering (and with his cell-mate Tommy Chong). The penny stock “boiler room” he operated served as the inspiration for the the 2000 film The Boiler Room which starred Ben Affleck, Vin Diesel and Giovanni Ribisi. The Wolf of Wall Street costars Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey (who has been in the most incredible streak of incredibly good movies, giving incredible performances in all of them), Jon Bernthal (who knew zombies could be so could for one’s career? Then again, just ask Zack Snyder about that one), Jon Favreau, Kyle Chandler, Shea Whigham, Joanna Lumley, Rob Reiner and Jean Dujardin.

That trailer is actually the second one released. Does it give anything away? Yes, but in this case, the particulars are known. We’re not looking for surprises. We’re looking to experience the schadenfreude that comes from watching the “haves” get caught with their hands in the cookie jar and get punished for it. Warner Brothers knows that with this cast and this director, they need only make sure they bang the drum loudly enough throughout middle America, and it will make piles of money. Hence the new trailer.

Scorsese, one of the producers of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”, turned to that show’s creator and head writer (Terrence Winter) for his screenplay. I think we can expect The Wolf of Wall Street to be howlingly good. My description may be lame, but c’mon, it’s already been added to the Oscar “most likely to be nominated” list in the Best Actor, Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay categories. They may think of a new category for Jonah Hill’s teeth.

The Wolf of Wall Street, it has finally been confirmed, will come out on Christmas Day here in the US. Santa is giving movie goers a lot of choices that day, including Labor Day with Kate Winslet, Ben Stiller‘s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and pure-bred Oscar bait, August: Osage County, to name but a few. So any adult who gives their money to Justin Bieber (who also has a movie opening that day) instead of well made adult fare like this, deserves a lump of coal.

That’s it for this installment. Four trailers done right. Happy Halloween boys and ghouls!

A Good, But Not Great, Gatsby

Leonardo DiCaprio, Baz Luhrmann,The Great Gatsby

If you grew up and went to school in the US, then you were, at some point, more likely than not required to read  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel, “The Great Gatsby”, the book about which the term “the great American novel” was coined.  This fact allows me to talk about the movie without worry that I’ll be spoiling any of the plot for most of you.

With reference to the movie itself, if “living well is the best revenge”, then Fitzgerald’s protagonist, Jay Gatsby, certainly got his. In the case of Baz Luhrmann’s film, a $51 million plus opening against Marvel’s juggernaut Iron Man 3 is the best revenge against the tepid reaction from most critics.

Luhrmann’s huge, lavish production of The Great Gatsby, which just opened in the US (ahead of its European debut as the opening night film at this year’s Cannes Film Festival) this past weekend, was originally scheduled to hit theaters Christmas Day 2012. There was a lot of speculation that the rescheduling meant trouble, as it so often does.  I’m actually glad that Warner Brothers made the decision. While it would have been fun to see Leonardo DiCaprio go up against Leonardo DiCaprio at the box office, The Great Gatsby probably would not have shared much of its audience with Django Unchained. It would, however, have shared it with Les Miserables. (Not to mention awards attention with the likes of Silver Linings Playbook.) Opening it in May, at the start of summer block-buster season, at least gives us a little variety at the multiplex.

The story has been filmed three times before, four if you count a 2000 made-for-cable version, which despite the presence of a notable cast, including Toby Stephens as Jay Gatsby, Mira Sorvino as Daisy and Paul Rudd as Nick Carraway, was even more tepid than the most memorable version from 1973. That one  starred Robert Redford (in his most glorious prime) and a waif-like (even though she was pregnant at the time) Mia Farrow.

I remember that version primarily because it introduced me to the mansions of Newport, which stood in for Jazz age Long Island. Bit of trivia: director Jack Clayton served as associate producer on John Huston’s Moulin Rouge, also the title of an indelible Baz Luhrmann film –  which brings me back around to the current topic of discussion.

The 2013 incarnation of The Great Gatsby  is a grand spectacle. It’s flashy, trashy, twirling, swirling, raging and raucous (yet sweetly sentimental), gin and champagne soaked decadence. And it’s in 3D!

Leonardo DiCaprio,Tobey Maguire, Baz Luhrmann, The Great Gatsby

As Fitzgerald’s omnipresent Greek chorus-like narrator, Nick Carraway says in wide-eyed wonder, “It’s like an amusement park.” He’s describing but one of Jay Gatsby’s parties, but it also describes the movie itself.

Anyone who’s ever seen a Baz Luhrmann film should know going in what to expect. Starting with what is still one of my favorite movies of the 1990’s, Strictly Ballroom, with a finale that includes an inspired paso doble (before “Dancing with the Stars” made it ubiquitous), continuing through his modern take on Shakespeare, the multicultural Romeo + Juliet set in Verona Beach, Florida, the aforementioned musical Moulin Rouge (which Gatsby most closely resembles if for no other reason the anachronistic soundtrack) with John Leguizamo as Toulouse-Latrec singing Nat King Cole of all things, and the hyper-romantic Australia, meant to evoke the grand passions of Casablanca, the director’s filmmaking style is pure rococo. It’s ornate, highly-stylized and always over the top. The watch-word is excess. You either enjoy it or you don’t, but one really shouldn’t expect anything different just because he’s turned his hand to, arguably, the greatest example of 20th century American literature.

The story, of course, concerns the mysterious Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Everyone knows he’s rich, but where did the money come from? The origin of Gatsby’s fortune  is the chief subject of gossip among the rich and fabulous New Yorkers who frequent his many equally fabulous parties. Nick Carraway (not rich and not fabulous) admires Gatsby, whom he regards as a fellow self-made man, unlike his  beautiful cousin Daisy Buchanan’s husband Tom (Joel Edgerton), an arrogant brute, the scion of a wealthy family who plays polo and cheats on his wife. On the outside looking in, Nick (Tobey Maguire) finds himself drawn into their gossamer web when Gatsby learns his new neighbor’s connection to the woman of his dreams and asks him to arrange an assignation with Daisy (Carey Mulligan), his long lost love (and obsession) who embodies his most cherished aspirations.

The problem with Luhrmann’s version is the same as the problem with any version of this book. More than the plot or the characters themselves, it’s Fitzgerald’s writing that makes the material “great”. You can’t film Fitzgerald’s words.

Not that the director doesn’t try. Among the differences between novel and film (and there are many and that’s okay. They are two separate mediums), the chief conceit here is that not only is Nick Carraway narrating the story for “us” (either reader or watcher), Luhrmann has seen fit to frame the narration with a wholly made-up scenario in which alcoholic Carraway is in a sanitarium and writing the story as well as telling it to his psychiatrist. Typed letters float up on the screen to form words, whole passages are written on the screen. It’s unnecessary, as well as not a little insulting to his actors.

When he allows his cast to just act, they reward him, and us, handsomely. Leonardo DiCaprio, who worked with Luhrmann in Romeo + Juliet (and was to follow that up with a version of Alexander the Great which was scuttled after Oliver Stone’s version tanked), is a sympathetic and romantic Jay Gatsby, his boyish good looks and charm used to great effect. His continued use of the term “old sport” as an endearment starts to grate the more that we hear it as the movie goes on, because we’re also learning more about the character and we realize what an affectation it is.  If his accent seems to slip in and out, I think it’s a conscious choice on the part of the actor. It slips when he’s frustrated, especially after he’s revealed his past to Nick. His accent is a manifestation of the mask that he wears. Nick sees him as the epitomy of hopefulness and that attitude is clear in everything Gatsby says and does, even in his nervous disappearing act during the “tea-party” he has Nick arrange for Daisy.

I became a Carey Mulligan fan after I saw her in Shame. She’s an actress who hides a lot of gravitas and substance beneath a tiny, almost child-like exterior. While her Daisy may lack the debutante’s froth, she does convey the requisite vapid selfishness. And she wears the costumes beautifully. She looks right at home in the height of flapper fashion. (Gatsby remarks to Nick “she looks like she belongs on the cover of Vogue” and fittingly, Mulligan is on the May 2013 cover in Gatsby-era finery.)

Joel Edgerton is perfect as the well-heeled, narrow-minded bully, Tom Buchanan. His mustache, I must say, goes a long way toward conveying the menace he embodies.  Isla Fisher is wonderful as Myrtle Wilson, Tom’s blowsy mistress from the other side of the tracks. (Her LonG Island accent is hilarious.) She’s as Technicolor as Daisy is pastel. I would have liked to have seen more of her.  Jason Clarke is Myrtle’s husband George, more tragic than mean-spirited. Clarke, Fisher and Edgerton are all Aussies and (with the exception of Edgerton) must have taken the small parts in order to work with a fellow countryman. Luhrmann filmed his opus in Sydney as well.

Elizabeth Debecki, who plays Jordan Baker, is an Australian actress with just one feature to her credit before The Great Gatsby, but she clearly holds her own with the veterans of the cast and blows Tobey Maguire, with whom she has the majority of her scenes, right out of the Duesenberg.

Let’s talk about Tobey Maguire. I’m at a loss to explain his appeal, if indeed he has any. I wasn’t especially impressed by his Spider-Man, and after finally catching up with Andrew Garfield’s incarnation, I’m even less so. His Nick Carraway makes even the stoic Sam Waterston’s look like King Lear.  He’s a cipher, a non-entity, either as a participant to the proceedings or as a witness (never entirely “within or without”). I suppose one could presume he got the job because of his life-long friendship with DiCaprio. Who knows?

Speaking of Leo, despite his self-possessed star turn, the real star of the movie is the production design. I predict there will be Academy nominations for Catherine Martin for both the production and the costumes, as well as Ian Gracie for art direction and Beverly Dunn for set design. Flawless down to the last bugle bead.

Did I mention the movie is in 3D? Anyone who knows me, knows I’m not exactly a proponent of this bit of technological wizardry. I could not imagine why a movie without explosions and battles and the usual reasons for stuff to fly at one’s face would need to succumb to the temptation. If the choice had been mine, I would have opted to purchase a ticket for a 2D showing, but I saw an advance preview and it was shown to us in 3D.  While I have no doubt that it would be nearly as lush in the conventional format, the enhanced version wowed me from the opening frame, which was snow falling in front of a frost-rimed window with Tobey Maguire visible behind it. It looked like a snow globe. Luhrmann and his cinematographer, Simon Duggan, use 3-D in a way I’ve not seen it used, to show depth of field. A scene in which Nick, Jordan, Tom, Daisy and Jay are all in the Buchanan sitting room with the curtains blowing, looks like the center of a pop-up story book.

Elizabeth Debicki, Joel Edgerton, Carey Mulligan, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, The Great Gatsby

It’s gorgeous, but it does serve to keep the audience, for the most part, at arms-length, preventing a lot of real emotional connection.

Which is not to say that the movie isn’t filled with sensual delights, like the orgiastic raves Gatsby throws night after night in an attempt to lure Daisy to his nest. One can almost smell the boat-load of flowers that fill Nick’s charming little cottage and taste the mountains of pretty confections that Gatsby has provided for that simple tea party. It is an ode to excess.

Those are the things that work.

It’s the story’s complex, almost delicate moral underpinnings that get short shrift.  Hedonism is easier and much more fun to depict than the main theme of the novel which is less romantic. “The Great Gatsby” is a highly symbolic meditation on the disintegration of the American dream. Set in an era of unprecedented prosperity and material excess gives it a relevance for today’s audiences. Fitzgerald’s novel is set in the 1920s as an era of decayed social and moral values, characterized by cynicism, greed and a reckless, empty pursuit of fun, which, while epitomized by the opulent parties that Gatsby throws every Saturday night, should seem familiar.

Gatsby instilled Daisy with a kind of idealized perfection that she neither deserved nor possessed and his dream is ruined by the unworthiness of its object, just as the American Dream was ruined by the empty pursuit of money and pleasure.

Luhrmann spent so much time getting all the details of the decadence right, he forgot that we weren’t supposed to enjoy it so much that we miss the lesson.

…Annnnd we’re back! (Just in time for the BAFTAs!)

It’s been nearly a year since I posted here, so if I’m yelling into a well at this point, I’ll understand. I’ve neglected this blog for so long because I was engaged elsewhere, but now that I have a little bit more time, it’s an opportunity to dust this off as a place where I can discuss movies and all things film related.

We're in the thick of awards season, which loyal readers of this blog know is my favorite spectator sport, so what better way to jump back into the fray than with my prognostications for this Sunday’s BAFTA Awards!

On January 9th, before the Golden Globes or any of the Guild and (most) critics association awards were handed out, Jeremy Irvine (Great Expectations) and Alice Eve (Star Trek Into Darkness) announced the nominations for the 2013 British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs).

Way back when, Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, which leads the pack with ten nominations, ahead of Les Miserables and Life of Pi, which both scored nine, was the awards season front-runner and the film to beat. Going into Sunday’s BAFTA ceremony, it now appears almost dead in the water. The above named movies will all compete for Best Film, along with Ben Affleck‘s Argo and Kathryn Bigelow‘s Zero Dark Thirty.  

Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln), along with Affleck, Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables), Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook) and Joaquin Phoenix (The Master) will vie for Leading Actor. No one is going to best DDL.  In the Leading Actress category, Zero Dark Thirty‘s star Jessica Chastain will go up against Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone) and Dame Helen Mirren (Hitchcock).

The best director award was a bit of a surprise with the British Tom Hooper (Les Miserables) left off the list. Lincoln apparently directed itself as well – no Spielberg.  Those that did get a nod: Affleck, Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained), Michael Haneke (Amour), Ang Lee (Life Of Pi) and Bigelow. How do you nominate a movie for Best Picture without the director and vice versa? I’ve never understood that, but these Awards governing bodies (I’m looking at you  AMPAS) apparently do. (Hooper and Spielberg got Oscar nods while Affleck and Bigelow did not. But you knew that.)

James Bond’s 23rd outing, the global blockbuster Skyfall, secured nods for Dame Judi Dench (Supporting Actress) and Javier Bardem (Supporting Actor), as well as for Original Music, Cinematography, Editing, Production Design, Sound and Outstanding British Film.

The full list of nominations for the EE British Academy Film Awards*:

My picks are marked with **

BEST FILM:

**ARGO Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, George Clooney

LES MISÉRABLES Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh

LIFE OF PI Gil Netter, Ang Lee, David Womark

LINCOLN Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy

ZERO DARK THIRTY Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow, Megan Ellison

Will the Brits care about a piece of America’s recent historical past enough to go with Argo? Then again, an Argo win means George Clooney on stage. Lincoln has Spielberg not to mention Daniel Day-Lewis going for it. Les Miserables is a British film based on a play originally staged in London by Brits. Zero Dark Thirty is an amazing film about an American mission to hunt down a global criminal. (I have no doubt that the London and Glasgow bombings are still fresh in BAFTA minds.)  Playing “pin-the-tale-on-the-movie”, I’m going with Argo.

OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM:

ANNA KARENINA Joe Wright, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Paul Webster, Tom Stoppard

THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL John Madden, Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin, Ol Parker

LES MISÉRABLES Tom Hooper, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Cameron Mackintosh,

William Nicholson, Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schönberg, Herbert Kretzmer

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS Martin McDonagh, Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin

**SKYFALL Sam Mendes, Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan

All of these are worthy. I’d love to see Seven Psychopaths take it but I have to go with Skyfall. It’s a massive global hit, but it’s also intrinsically British and they are very proud of the Bond franchise. It’s also damn good.

OUTSTANDING DEBUT BY A BRITISH WRITER, DIRECTOR OR PRODUCER:

BART LAYTON (Director), DIMITRI DOGANIS (Producer) The Imposter

DAVID MORRIS (Director), JACQUI MORRIS (Director/Producer) McCullin

**DEXTER FLETCHER (Director/Writer), DANNY KING (Writer) Wild Bill

JAMES BOBIN (Director) The Muppets

TINA GHARAVI (Director/Writer) I Am Nasrine

Purely a sentimental choice because I like Dexter Fletcher as an actor. The only film I’ve seen on the list is The Muppets, so if the award is given based on box office…

FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE:

**AMOUR Michael Haneke, Margaret Ménégoz

HEADHUNTERS Morten Tyldum, Marianne Gray, Asle Vatn

THE HUNT Thomas Vinterberg, Sisse Graum Jørgensen, Morten Kaufmann

RUST AND BONE Jacques Audiard, Pascal Caucheteux

UNTOUCHABLE Eric Toledano, Olivier Nakache, Nicolas Duval Adassovsky, Yann Zenou, Laurent

Zeitoun

DOCUMENTARY:

THE IMPOSTER Bart Layton, Dimitri Doganis

MARLEY Kevin Macdonald, Steve Bing, Charles Steel

McCULLIN David Morris, Jacqui Morris

**SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN Malik Bendjelloul, Simon Chinn

WEST OF MEMPHIS Amy Berg

ANIMATED FILM:

**BRAVE Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman

FRANKENWEENIE Tim Burton

PARANORMAN Sam Fell, Chris Butler

Awards season favorite Wreck-it Ralph isn’t even nominated so I think this goes to Brave.

DIRECTOR:

Michael Haneke AMOUR

**Ben Affleck ARGO

Quentin Tarantino DJANGO UNCHAINED

Ang Lee LIFE OF PI

Kathryn Bigelow ZERO DARK THIRTY

You’ll notice both Affleck and Bigelow are nominated here, despite those now infamous Oscar snubs. I have to go with Ben Affleck because he’s got the momentum and while I’m happy Argo has filled the spot I thought surely Zero Dark Thirty would be in at this juncture, I would love it if Bigelow won for the latter film.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

Michael Haneke AMOUR

**Quentin Tarantino DJANGO UNCHAINED

Paul Thomas Anderson THE MASTER

Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola MOONRISE KINGDOM

Mark Boal ZERO DARK THIRTY

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

Chris Terrio ARGO

Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD

David Magee LIFE OF PI

**Tony Kushner LINCOLN

David O. Russell SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

LEADING ACTOR:

BEN AFFLECK Argo

BRADLEY COOPER Silver Linings Playbook

**DANIEL DAY-LEWIS Lincoln

HUGH JACKMAN Les Misérables

JOAQUIN PHOENIX The Master

LEADING ACTRESS:

EMMANUELLE RIVA Amour

HELEN MIRREN Hitchcock

JENNIFER LAWRENCE Silver Linings Playbook

**JESSICA CHASTAIN Zero Dark Thirty

MARION COTILLARD Rust and Bone

Keeping my faith in Chastain’s win, although after the Screen Actors Guild Award upset by Jennifer Lawrence, nothing is guaranteed and both actresses delivered awards-worthy performances.

SUPPORTING ACTOR:

ALAN ARKIN Argo

CHRISTOPH WALTZ Django Unchained

JAVIER BARDEM Skyfall

**PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN The Master

TOMMY LEE JONES Lincoln

I’m stepping out on this one. Europe, Great Britain in particular, liked The Master a lot more than the US did. I still find the lack of love from both the BAFTAs and the Oscars for Leonardo DiCaprio beyond baffling. Oh well.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

AMY ADAMS The Master

**ANNE HATHAWAY Les Misérables

HELEN HUNT The Sessions

JUDI DENCH Skyfall

SALLY FIELD Lincoln

ORIGINAL MUSIC:

Dario Marianelli ANNA KARENINA

Alexandre Desplat ARGO

**Mychael Danna LIFE OF PI

John Williams LINCOLN

Thomas Newman SKYFALL

Mychael Danna is the relative newcomer on this list. His score for Life of Pi was beautiful and he did win the Golden Globe, John Williams could scoop it though. Alexandre Desplat was nominated for the wrong film, he should have been nominated for Moonrise Kingdom).

CINEMATOGRAPHY:

Seamus McGarvey ANNA KARENINA

Danny Cohen LES MISÉRABLES

**Claudio Miranda LIFE OF PI

Janusz Kaminski LINCOLN

Roger Deakins SKYFALL

This is a tough one. All of these films were beautifully photographed. I would argue that Cloud Atlas should be on this list as well, but no one asked me.

EDITING:

ARGO William Goldenberg

DJANGO UNCHAINED Fred Raskin

LIFE OF PI Tim Squyres

SKYFALL Stuart Baird

**ZERO DARK THIRTY Dylan Tichenor, William Goldenberg

PRODUCTION DESIGN:

**ANNA KARENINA Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer

LES MISÉRABLES Eve Stewart, Anna Lynch-Robinson

LIFE OF PI David Gropman, Anna Pinnock

LINCOLN Rick Carter, Jim Erickson

SKYFALL Dennis Gassner, Anna Pinnock

COSTUME DESIGN:

**ANNA KARENINA Jacqueline Durran

GREAT EXPECTATIONS Beatrix Aruna Pasztor

LES MISÉRABLES Paco Delgado

LINCOLN Joanna Johnston

SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN Colleen Atwood

MAKE UP & HAIR:

**ANNA KARENINA Ivana Primorac

HITCHCOCK Julie Hewett, Martin Samuel, Howard Berger

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY Peter Swords King, Richard Taylor, Rick Findlater

LES MISÉRABLES Lisa Westcott

LINCOLN Lois Burwell, Kay Georgiou

SOUND:

DJANGO UNCHAINED Mark Ulano, Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti, Wylie Stateman

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY Tony Johnson, Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges,

Michael Semanick, Brent Burge, Chris Ward

**LES MISÉRABLES Simon Hayes, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson, Jonathan Allen, Lee Walpole, John

Warhurst

LIFE OF PI Drew Kunin, Eugene Gearty, Philip Stockton, Ron Bartlett, D. M. Hemphill

SKYFALL Stuart Wilson, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell, Per Hallberg, Karen Baker Landers

SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS:

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Peter Bebb, Andrew Lockley

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton, R. Christopher

White

**LIFE OF PI Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer

MARVEL AVENGERS ASSEMBLE Nominees TBC

PROMETHEUS Richard Stammers, Charley Henley, Trevor Wood, Paul Butterworth

SHORT ANIMATION:

HERE TO FALL Kris Kelly, Evelyn McGrath

I’M FINE THANKS Eamonn O’Neill

THE MAKING OF LONGBIRD Will Anderson, Ainslie Henderson

SHORT FILM:

THE CURSE Fyzal Boulifa, Gavin Humphries

GOOD NIGHT Muriel d’Ansembourg, Eva Sigurdardottir

**SWIMMER Lynne Ramsay, Peter Carlton, Diarmid Scrimshaw

TUMULT Johnny Barrington, Rhianna Andrews

THE VOORMAN PROBLEM Mark Gill, Baldwin Li

I picked Swimmer because it’s directed by the same Lynne Ramsay that gave us We Need to Talk About Kevin, as well as the upcoming western Jane Got a Gun with Natalie Portman, Michael Fassbender, Joel Edgerton and Rodrigo Santoro, making it the only short film I’ve heard of. Subjectivity at its finest LOL  Ramsay, like a lot of feature film directors, got her start in shorts, too.

THE EE RISING STAR AWARD (voted for by the public):

ELIZABETH OLSEN

**ANDREA RISEBOROUGH

SURAJ SHARMA

JUNO TEMPLE

ALICIA VIKANDER

A case could be made for any of the four actresses (but not so much Suraj Sharma. He was unknown before Ang Lee discovered him for Life of Pi. I’m not sure that makes him a “rising star”). Both Riseborough and Temple are British. I’m going with Riseborough because I’ve been a fan since “The Devil’s Whore” with Michael Fassbender. (Look at that, I managed to get in two Fassy references.) She’s incredibly talented and has been “on the verge” for a long time. She deserves the push.

The awards will be handed out on Sunday 10 February at London’s Royal Opera House. In the US, we’ll be able to watch it at 8pm ET on BBC America. Stephen Fry will host.

Thanks for reading! Don’t be a stranger, y’hear?

*They used to be called the “Orange British Academy Film Awards” but Orange was swallowed by telecommunications company EE. They’re kind of the T-Mobile of Great Britain.

James Cameron Doesn’t Need Your Money

James Cameron’s epic masterpiece Titanic is coming back to theaters after undergoing what is, by all the accounts I’ve read thus far, the best post-production 3D conversion to date. My question is "Why?" In case you missed it, I’m not exactly in the “pro-3D” camp. For the most part I think it’s an an unnecessary and expensive gimmick and I resent the high ticket prices associated with it. Film is inherently 2D and I don’t necessarily like stuff flying off the screen and at my face just because they can make it do so. How to Train Your Dragon was gorgeous in 3D, I do admit. It was also gorgeous in 2D.

Titanic definitely deserves to be seen on the big screen, of that there is no doubt. I personally saw it five times way back in 1997. I love the thing. I know every frame by heart. I adore the production values and the costumes, the melodrama-esque dialogue meshed with the sincere performances, including Billy Zane's dastardly villain and despite myself, I still well up at all of the appropriate places as the music swells. I can even stomach Celine Dion’s wailing rendition of “My Heart Will Go On” now that with the passage of time I no longer want to stab myself with a fork whenever I hear it. I can even admit to the enormous crush I had on Leonardo DiCaprio because of Titanic, and if I’m honest, from which I still suffer the residual effects. DiCaprio and Kate Winslet were the Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart of their “day” albeit without the ridiculous nicknames. Nearly fifteen years later and there are legions of fans who still want Kate and Leo to end up together. (Whenever one of them ends a relationship, it’s huge news because they are celebrities, true, but also because the rabid still think it’s a sign they were “meant to be”. )

No, it’s not the film itself I want to deny anyone the chance to experience. Sure, there is a generation that did not get to see the original on the big screen and if the opportunity presents itself, a true cinefile owes it to themselves to avail themselves of it. My problem is this: James Cameron introduces the Titanic 3D trailer saying he’s unleashing it to the 100 million fans he has on Facebook as a thank you for their support. If the self-proclaimed “King of the World” wanted to thank his fans, why isn’t he releasing it for free? Or how about he give us the 2D version for free and the 3D version at a reduced rate? It’s all about the money that’s why. Cameron has come up with a way to milk some more ducats from the Titanic tit. A few tweaks here, a retooling there, using all of the wizardry and gadgets he devised when making Avatar (as if that movie didn’t pay for the technology a million times over) and he’s got a brand new movie.

I realize I’m not this new Techno-Titanic’s target audience. I’ve managed to successfully avoid Avatar thus far. I can certainly enjoy good special effects in service to the story, but to me, it’s the story first. And for all its technological innovation, the general consensus was that Avatar’s story was weak and underwritten. The special effects were all and if you weren’t willing to shell out the $13.50 plus to see it in 3D or even IMAX, there wasn’t much point. Titanic, however, is a good story well told. It was never about the special effects. While the sinking of the great ship was impressive, it impressed us because we cared about the souls who were in peril on it. That won’t change, thank God, with whatever the latest fad or gimmick may be. Bottom line, if you haven’t seen it on the big screen, now is your chance. Do it. But, JUST MY HUMBLE OPINION, you don’t need to line Cameron’s pockets. He doesn’t need your money. The CGI in Titanic was cutting edge for 1997 and that is stick figures on a flip-book compared with what can be done today, I realize. I have no doubt that it will be visually stunning however many Ds you choose to pay for. I didn't see the movie for the effects.I also know that there’s probably a generation of man-boys who will gladly pay any price to see Kate Winslet’s naked body in 3D, but for the rest of you, skip the funny glasses and go to a matinee, sit back and relax for the next three hours and get lost in the tragic love story of Jack and Rose. You won't miss the fact that the icebergs aren't threatening to hit you between the eyes.

embed courtesy of The Film Stage

J. Edgar DiCaprio Knows All Your Secrets!

A Clint Eastwood film and a new Leonardo DiCaprio film are both usually something I'd get excited about. Given that this time they are one and the same, I'm doubly excited. Warner Brothers has finally released a first trailer for their big awards season pony, the Clint Eastwood directed biopic, J. Edgar, about the life of America's number one 'G-Man', J. Edgar Hoover. Leonardo Di Caprio plays the legendary lawman with able help from Judi Dench as Hoover's mother, Anne Marie, Armie Hammer as Clyde Tolson, Hoover's right-hand man who may or may not have been his long-time companion, to use a semi-retired euphemism, Naomi Watts as Hoover's trusted secretary Helen Gandy along with a host of other actors playing figures from the history covered by Hoover's forty + year reign as the nation's top cop.

The official synopsis: As the face of law enforcement in America for almost 50 years, J. Edgar Hoover was feared and admired, reviled and revered. But behind closed doors, he held secrets that would have destroyed his image, his career and his life.

Warners skipped the festival circuit with this one, either because they knew they had a hit so why spend the money or just the opposite. There are too many things in their favorite for it to be the latter. The trailer is impressive. It looks like classic Eastwood, (although sorry Leo, all I see and hear is you, not the character), but one thing that struck me is the decision to open it with scenes of Hoover and his mother. Undoubtedly this relationship is central to the story and to the man that Hoover will become, but Anne Marie Hoover telling her young son that he will grow up to be the most powerful man in Amerca for some reason immediately brought to mind another DiCaprio biopic,Martin Scorcese’s The Aviator, that opened with scenes of a young Howard Hughes being scrubbed by his obsessive compulsive mother.It just seems to reinforce the sterotype that it's always mom's fault. (Whatever "it" may be.)

I'm thinking now that the lid is off the box, we'll be getting more trailers and clips in the run up to the film's November 9 release. It will play the AFI Film Festival where it has been selected as the opening film just days before its release to theaters. Watch this space for more.