A bit late to this since we’re almost mid February but hey what’s January but a dumping ground for the studios’ worst and the overflow from the previous year? After the jump my quick countdown of the most squeal inducingly exciting prospects of the coming year…
RUBY SPARKS: From the makers of Little Miss Sunshine and writer/leading lady Zoe Kazan comes one of the most disarmingly sweet, creative and unexpectedly heart rending films in recent memory. There’s hope for the rom-com yet. B+
RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION: This franchise just keeps chugging along and while its hardly high art it has at least been entertaining up until now. This installment however gives new meaning to “pedestrian” and “pointless”. D-
LOLA VERSUS: Have watched this 4 times now. Don’t know what it is, but I just find the whole affair incredibly charming and just a bit wonderful. PERFECT break-up movie. Warm and fuzzy without being vomit inducing. B+
ONE PIECE TREASURE CHEST ONE: Unfair to judge this one as viewing is currently in progress but one of the most famous anime so far lives up to its reputation. Funny, involving and (like all the best anime) a little bit nutty. TBA
HOLY MOTORS: Simply put this film is strange. I don’t say that lightly as I consider myself to have a high threshold for the weird but this is just W-E-I-R-D. Pretty damn fascinating though and the furthest thing from unoriginal. B
DAMSELS IN DISTRESS: This one sneaks up on you. When it started I didn’t know what to think. I found its humor put me at an immediate unease but after ten minutes I was laughing my ass off. Give yourself over to it and it pays off magnificently. A
Interesting that the worship for PTA would follow on from the last entry for Robert Altman considering that in his early career Anderson was being tapped as the natural successor to Altman. This is however a limiting comparison despite both auteur’s preference for large ensembles in sprawling interlocking narratives in some of their most iconic work. Anderson’s films have their own unique, almost operatic style at odds with Altman’s mostly naturalistic approach. His films are wholly original, always thought provoking and infused with an ambition and level of art and craftsmanship sorely missing in much of today’s output. Long story short, if a director can attract stars such as Julianne Moore, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and William H Macy to multiple projects he must be doing something right.
So it looks like Ben Affleck’s Argo will probably be the first film since Driving Miss Daisy (1989) to win Best Picture without a corresponding Director nomination. While it’s hardly a done deal (Affleck’s snub is still a factor), who can argue with the SAG, PGA, DGA trifecta? Maybe another actor/director Ron Howard could. Howard saw his Apollo 13 (1995) take out the same trio and then fall at the final hurdle (that hurdle being a Best Director snub). So it boils down to one question: Is Argo a Driving Miss Daisy or an Apollo 13? Only Oscar night will answer that one. After the jump are my full predictions for the 85th Academy Awards…
So faithful readers, long time no write/read. I’ve had a very busy couple of weeks so sadly the Sanctuary’s been on the back burner. It is my solemn promise that this will change in the next few weeks as my workload steadily drops away and I can dedicate more time to my precious cinematic musings. Coming up on the docket is my much promised Edith Head gallery, national studies on France and Japan, the usual Actress obsessions and Director worship, the 1956 Oz Awards and of course plenty of quotes, countdowns and other quality junk. 80-odd posts in and it’s time to step back and reflect on the blog so far. Plenty of details after the jump.
Once again, I’ve been guilty of letting the blog turn overly girlie (A series on costume design? Romantic comedy? What was I thinking?) so here’s a genre countdown I’m sure the boys can relate to - albeit the nerdy ones. One of my biggest shames is that I’m a massive closeted sci-fi nerd - it feels good to admit that. If a movie’s set in space or in a dystopian future or features close encounters of the green and tentacled kind, I’m there. It’s not all about the stars: wars and trek respectively though; science fiction is so much more. Here’s a countdown of the greatest gifts the genre has to offer.
The penultimate post on great costume designers features 10-time Oscar nominee and 3-time winner Sandy Powell. Before the post on Edith Head in a few days, I thought I’d mention some other designers that deserve to be cited. These artists aren’t less worthy of coverage than the four I chose to cover, but at the end of the day this isn’t a costume design blog and covering all the greats would take an age. The work of Adrian, Jean Louis, Dorothy Jeakins, Irene Sharaff, Orry-Kelly, Walter Plunkett, Helen Rose, Piero Gherardi, Milena Canonero, Anthony Powell, Albert Wolsky, James Acheson, Ann Roth and more are worthy of note. Sandy Powell has worked with the likes of Scorsese, Todd Haynes and Neil Jordan and her designs are highly functional, but always visually arresting. She may be best known for her work in lavish period dramas, but her best work will always be the glam-rock threads of Velvet Goldmine. Gallery of top designs after the jump.
WORSHIPEE: Robert Altman - Born: 1925, Died: 2006.
Robert Altman was the king of his domain. His freewheeling, multi-stranded ensemble epics are pure Americana and so masterfully precise in their chaos. Never one for your conventional narrative driven affair, Altman found inspiration in the divine disorder of everyday life. His works are like rich tapestries depicting a world of heightened reality where everyone has a story and everyone’s story is as important as the next person’s. There are no stars in a Robert Altman film, everyone gets their chance to shine, but no one is there to steal the show. This isn’t to say that the acting isn’t generally superb, but everybody involved is there to serve the greater vision rather than themselves. Dialogue often gets lost in the general din of many people talking at the same time, but it’s meant to be life not artifice and it all fits with Altman’s motto that life isn’t focused or ordered but many things at once. Altman was lost much to soon, but he left an incredible legacy and an indelible mark on the history of film.
65th Cannes Film Festival: Official Line-Up Announced.
So after much speculation, we finally have the line-up for the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. There aren’t any films that inspire the immediate anticipation that The Tree of Life and Melancholia did last year, but the festival always brings in some great works that come out left field to inspire and astound. As expected, Wong Kar Wai’s long awaited The Grandmaster and Terrence Malick’s as-yet-untitled new film will not be featured, but there are plenty of other intriguing prospects to be found on Cannes’ press release. I was sad to see that Park Chan-Wook’s Stoker was not going to premiere, but what can you do? Read on for a list of in competition films and expected highlights or see the entire press pack here.
VIRGINIA TRAILER: Dustin Lance Black’s Virginia originally premiered at the Toronto Film festival all the way back in 2010 under the original title What’s Wrong With Virginia? The reviews from the festival were tepid to say the least and the film was indefinitely shelved. Virginia is now getting a belated US release in May this year after a complete re-edit from the version seen at Toronto. From the look of the trailer, the film has had a tonal shift as well from the psychological drama originally advertised to a quirky small town black comedy. I’m keen to see whether the response differs much from the original version when the new and hopefully improved Virginia surfaces next month. I’m a Jennifer Connelly fan from way back and who doesn’t love Ed Harris? See the trailer after the jump.
After the obituary and gallery for the late great Eiko Ishioka a couple of weeks ago, it got me thinking about other greats in costume design. I’ll be doing write-ups on Sandy Powell and Edith Head in a few days, but right now here’s 3-time Academy Award winner Colleen Atwood. Notable for her many collaborations with everyone’s favourite oddball Tim Burton and stage director turned film maker Rob Marshall, Atwood’s designs are sumptuous and eye catching and always complement the individual director’s vision. Two of her three Oscars may have come for works that were respectively safe (Chicago) and kitsch (Alice in Wonderland), but her best designs are some of cinema’s most iconic. Who could forget the jumpsuits of Catwoman and Edward Scissorhands or the many breathtaking kimonos from Memoirs of a Geisha? After the jump is a gallery of work from Atwood’s 6 best film assignments.
“I could die right now, Clem. I’m just… happy. I’ve never felt that before. I’m just exactly where I want to be.”—Jim Carrey (as Joel Barish) to Kate Winslet (as Clementine Kruczynski) in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
I was going to do another Casting Couch post for this, but I found it really hard to think of appropriate actors for what I foresee as an animated film. For those who don’t know, Grim Fandango is a computer game from the late 90s that while not immediately successful later developed a massive cult following of devoted fans. It tells the story of Manny Calavera a Grim Reaper in The Land of the Dead. This land isn’t the fire and brimstone underworld of old, but rather a classic film noir world of corruption and big business filled with cool cats and seductive femme fatales. The game is an epic tale of mystery and excitement with majestically rendered settings and a colourful array of characters. It feels like a movie as you’re playing it and it has always been my wish that an animated film adaptation would come to fruition. There was talk years ago of Tim Burton being interested, but what I’d really love to see is Coraline director Henry Selick make one of his trademark stop-motion classics out of the material. Its never going to happen but one can dream. Trailer for the game below.
Once again faithful readers, here’s a quick update with brief comments on what I’ve been watching at home on the box.
RED DOG: A harmlessly charming effort from our own shores. Sunny and filled with heartwarming moments. Far from revolutionary, but entertaining and diverting from start to finish. C+
VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA: Still not one of Woody’s best efforts, but definitely better than most of his recent films. Rebecca Hall and Javier Bardem are great, but Penelope Cruz blows everyone away. C+
MONEYBALL: For someone who has no idea about baseball, I found this one endlessly fascinating. Brad Pitt anchors the film in an honest and unfussy performance that ranks with his best. B+
ANGELS IN AMERICA: It’s the fourth time I’ve seen this groundbreaking mini-series and It just gets better and better. The first time a movie has ever approached a truly life affirming experience. A++
HANNA: Joe Wright’s kinetically charged thriller is an action film with european arthouse sensibilities. Saoirse Ronan is one of the great hopes for the future of screen acting and the score by The Chemical Brothers rocks. B
MELANCHOLIA: Kirsten Dunst shows what she’s made of in Lars Von Trier’s apocalyptic drama. Charlotte Gainsbourg is typically good and the final reckoning is terrifyingly beautiful. A
Here’s the genre that is probably in the most dire need of rejuvenation. Anyone who has sat through the latest Katherine Heigl travesty knows what I’m talking about. Romantic comedy has sadly become a parody of itself over the years. Stringently faithful to a tired formula, the contemporary romantic comedy is everything the classics of the genre were not - that is predictable, joyless and completely without romantic spark. But enough with the negative - romantic comedy may be most identifiable with the likes of Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan, but it’s really so much more. Let’s countdown the very best.
So Oscar season is really a good 6 months away, but being April (April fools!), it’s time to take a wild stab at what films and film maker’s may be in play for the 85th Academy Awards in early 2013. After the jump are my first predictions for nominees and winners in the major categories and out on a limb winner predix for the tech awards. Have at them.
I decided to take some time out to to focus briefly on an important part of my film fanaticism that I’ve been neglecting in the blog thus far. That is namely my passion for the great films of the masters of Italian Cinema. We’re talking Fellini, Antonioni, Visconti, De Sica and more. This may or may not turn into a series of essential films from around the world depending on how I feel, but for now let’s see what films from Italy no self respecting cinephile should be without.
I first saw Titanic in I think March or April of 1998 with my Mum, brother and sister after the film had already been in cinemas for months and was fast approaching it’s #1 highest grossing title (a crowning achievement it would hold onto for more than a decade until the release of Avatar in 2009). It was the first time I had ever found myself fully immersed in such a dramatic and tragic tale and long story short, an obsession was born. When the VHS was released late that year, I wore out the tape with back to back viewings that verged on the fanatical. My passion cooled in the wake of the inevitable backlash when it became trendy to hate the film that everyone loved. Eventually the film faded into the recesses of my mind as my film fanaticism took off and my changing tastes left no room for the likes of James Cameron’s opus. As my DVD collection started to balloon, I did find room for a copy of Titanic, but I would not get around to actually seeing the film again until April this year (almost exactly 15 years after my first viewing), now that the film is being re-released to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking. I don’t know why I was so excited to see it again but I was literally counting down the days before its release. I think maybe I was yearning for an antidote to the overt artifice of today’s Hollywood output. Either way, I was busting a gut as the lights went down and the film began. So was I disappointed after all that anticipation?
WORSHIPEE: Alfred Hitchcock - Born: 1899, Died: 1980.
Alfred Hitchcock is a legend. He’s the legend of legends. He’s influenced every subsequent film maker whether they’ll admit it or not. Apart from maybe Cecil B. Demille, Hitchcock was the first “name” director, one which you could sell a film by. You knew exactly what you were getting with a Hitchcock film and his name became a genre unto itself. The master of suspense was as prolific as Woody Allen is today and never rested on his laurels. His very best work ranks with the greatest of all films and you can name at least five (Vertigo, Psycho, Rear Window, North by Northwest and The Birds) that approach the legendary in terms of their level of wide regard. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes a Hitchcock film so special and maybe that’s what made him so great. Hitchcock was the absolute master of his domain and his films created a world of intrigue where no one is safe and everyone’s a suspect and nothing, nothing is exactly what it seems.With Hitchcock being such a legend, I thought I’d up the usual top 5 to a top 20 which you can view after the jump.
I’ve had bit of a break from posting over the past week with Easter and all, but what better way to get back into it than with another installment of The Oz Awards. Thought we’d take a break from the distant past for a while so I picked 1999 as this ceremony’s focus. There were many titles that tried to invade my top five based on various merits, but eventually I voted with my heart and picked the titles above. So who wins? Let’s see…
For as long as I’ve been a movie obsessive, I’ve also been a collector of the best in film soundtracks. Probably one of the best known and well regarded of film composers is Ennio Morricone. From his early days of scoring for spaghetti westerns, Morricone evolved into an artist reknowned for his lush and romantic full symphonic work for an eclectic range of films. In 1998, Morricone was hired as composer for Vincent Ward’s adaptation of Richard Matheson’s afterlife fantasy What Dreams May Come. Only a few weeks before the release of the film, Morricone’s completed score was rejected in favour of completely new music by Michael Kamen. Thus Morricone’s work never saw the light of day. It was not until last year when I tracked down a bootleg copy of the score on the end of a German release of the Red Sonja soundtrack that I could finally see (or hear) what was so objectionable about Morricone’s work….
I’m afraid I’m incredibly late to covering this sad news, but with the upcoming release of Mirror Mirror, it seems appropriate. In late January, the film industry lost one of it’s greatest artists: the legendary costume designer Eiko Ishioka. Ishioka is probably best known for her Oscar winning work on Francis Ford Coppola’s film Bram Stoker’s Dracula and her collaborations with Tarsem Singh. Her designs were wearable works of avant-garde art and are wholly unlike any other designer’s output. Apart from her work on film, Ishioka also designed for the stage winning plaudets for her production and costume design on M.Butterfly as well as Spiderman: Turn of the Dark. She’s notable for collaborations with such unique individuals as Bjork and Grace Jones as well and will be very sadly missed. Ishioka died of pancreatic cancer, she was 73 years old. After the jump is a gallery of some of Ishioka’s costume designs.
Ok, so the blog was getting just a tad soft for a bit there, so I thought for my first genre countdown I’d focus on the most intense of genres: horror! Horror is a genre that sadly produces alot more garbage than gold, but the greatest films in this variety are amongst the most interesting and challenging in history. I’m not a fan of an over reliance on gore unless it’s done with a unique flair, but am rather much more passionate about films that can mantain a sense of growing dread and/or suspense. It’s a cliche, but its much more effective to hint at the terrifying, rather than to shove it in our faces. The following top 20 list includes films from 1960-2008 and features remarkable output from around the world.
THE DEEP BLUE SEA TRAILER: The film pretty much looks like Brief Encounter Redux but I’m pretty excited nonetheless - if you’re going to borrow, then borrow from the best. It’s been far too long since Terrence Davies last narrative feature The House of Mirth and I’d see just about anything with the criminally underrated Rachel Weisz. See the full version after the jump along with the trailer from Brief Encounter for comparison’s sake.
The post on Tennessee Williams film adaptations got me to wondering: which of his masterworks could I see being remade? The Night of the Iguana is one of Tennessee Williams’ most underrated works and while I loved the film, its probably the best of the adaptations not to reach the level of truly definitive. This would make it the perfect candidate for a cinematic redo. As with all editions of this particular series, my fantasy casting for the lead characters takes place after the jump.
So here we are again with another update on what I’ve been catching at home on the small screen.
FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS: Too cliched despite its apparent spoofing of rom-com conventions. Kunis and Timberlake are a charismatic duo though and anything with Patricia Clarkson is worth a look. C
TAKE SHELTER: An unusual and wholly engrossing family drama/disaster film. Michael Shannon is heartbreakingly good and Jessica Chastain does it again (like that comes as a surprise). B+
SUMMER HOURS: Olivier Assayas’ film is sometimes a little too distancing to enjoy, but its exploration of sentimental value vs. monetary rewards and historical significance placed on “things” is strangely riveting. A-
THE HOURS: This film is still a little too precious and self indulgent BUT (that’s a big but), having 3 of the greatest screen actresses of our time at the top of their game in the one film makes this one unmissable. B
THE PIANIST: When forced to watch this one at school, I hated it. Must have just been the setting because on repeat viewing, Roman Polanski’s The Pianist takes its place among the very best Holocaust films. A
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN: An intense experience to say the least, this enthralling and frankly terrifying film is bolstered by characterically brilliant work from Tilda Swinton and newcomer Ezra Miller as well as a sustained sense of growing dread. A
The celebrated plays, novels and original screenplays by Tennessee Williams have had a vibrant second life on the silver screen, with most if not all of his notable works receiving film adaptations in his lifetime. His works touched on such subjects as sex, homosexuality, abortion and incest at a time when doing so was taboo. Featuring legendary and vibrantly theatrical characters, sometimes unbelievable but flawlessly executed plot devices and a rich air of the American south, Williams remains one of the most renowned (and rightfully so) playwrights of the 20th century. Many of the film adaptations suffered from the film censor’s more stringent guidelines concerning subject matter, but they are still lasting and often dynamic records of the work of a true genius. They also feature some of the greatest screen performances of all time and were the stomping ground for some of the true artists of the medium. No collection of classic films is truly complete without many of these titles….
The basic plot of Charlotte Bronte’s oft filmed Jane Eyre should be familiar to most: After a childhood marred by other’s cruelty and a harrowing education, young Jane Eyre finds work as a governess for the gruff and mysterious Edward Rochester. The pair begin with a battle of the minds and eventually succumb to a battle of the heart while the ghost of Rochester’s past hangs over all. This Jane Eyre is an unusual animal – certainly not your average period drama. On the surface, the film remains steeped in the gothic atmosphere of its inspiration, but beats with the heart of an American indie. The first place you notice a difference is in the costume design. The hoop dresses and corsets are present and accounted for but this isn’t your average bygone-era fashion parade. The hems of the dresses are caked with mud and faded with age; the everyday attire of the gentleman shows the deterioration of everyday wear and everyone sweats under their hats and perfectly braided up-dos. The other production elements attempt this same bridge between Hollywood and the independent film industry. The cinematography is moody without ever coming across as glossy and the marvellous score by Dario Marianelli avoids bombast and overwrought sentiment but rather flows with a sustained sense of deep yearning.
WORSHIPEE: Stanley Kubrick - Born: 1928, Died: 1999.
If you asked 100 of today’s most respected directors to list their top 5 influences, it’s likely that Stanley Kubrick would appear on over 90% of the lists. There’s certainly good reason for this mostly unfounded statement. The influence of the works of Kubrick can be seen widely in today’s cinema. No one else of his generation managed to put their unique stamp on such a wide array of genres. Always courting controversy, Kubrick’s films are constantly enthralling if a little distancing. They’re not always the kind of films that you necessarily enjoy for entertainment value, but Kubrick’s manipulation of the art form is always something that ignites the deepest respect and fascination in the viewer. His hallmarks included long suspended tracking and static shots, experimental use of natural lighting, minimal dialogue and a disarming sense of humour. His films are like strange dreams that move at a pace far removed from reality. Even though his influence can still be felt today, there will never be another Kubrick.
So it’s been at least a couple of weeks since our last Oz Awards ceremony, but we’ve finally returned with another instalment. Ok, so it’s 1974 and as per usual my top five picks for film of the year are pictured above. All five are rather definitive works and choosing a winner proved very difficult, but I persevered. Now without further ado, here are the films and film makers I’ve chosen to single out as the very best of ’74…
Anna Karenina started the year as #1 in my most anticipated films for 2012. This over such enticing prospects as Terrence Malick’s currently untitled effort and Alfonso Cuaron’s sure to be enriching and artful sci-fi Gravity. Then I read this article on indiewire and my heart sank ever so slightly. Apparently while most of us were expecting a fairly straightforward, lavish and epic adaptation of Tolstoy’s opus, what we’re getting instead is something altogether different. Look, I love experimental and original film-making as much as the next guy, but I was really in the mood for a good old fashioned literary adaptation/costume drama - so sue me. I mean what’s wrong with The English Patient? or Out of Africa? or Memoirs of a Geisha? (actually scratch that last one).
What director Joe Wright has in mind is supposedly more along the lines of Lars Von Trier’s Dogville than any of the aforementioned films. Wright is planning on filming the majority of the film on a single sound stage with toy trains and doll houses standing in for their larger counterparts and much of the shots executed in long uninterrupted takes that go room to room rather than house to house and city to city. So yes I pouted for a day or two and resigned myself to the fact that another highly anticipated project would end up a disappointing mess. Then one morning I woke up and It all became clear…
So I couldn’t let my recent commentary on the current status of feature animation rest without doing a quick feature on the grandaddy of all animation houses, The Walt Disney Company. Old Walt’s pride and joy has kind of been in the shadow of it’s acquisition Pixar in recent years. Lackluster efforts like Meet the Robinsons and Chicken Little have hardly inspired any real passion and while 2010’s Tangled was an unexpected gem, it spoke to everything that has been wrong with Disney’s recent focus - being pop culture references, focus on comedy over character and cgi animation. This is the studio that brought us Snow White, Pinocchio and Dumbo in its infancy and was responsible for the ten year animation renaissance that reigned from 1989-1999 and produced the classic films: The Little Mermaid, The Rescuers Down Under, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Mulan and Tarzan. These were all films marked by their mastery of traditional hand-drawn animation that still managed to succeed despite competition from the burgeoning computer generated industry. After the failure of big budget efforts Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Treasure Planet and Home on the Range however, Disney abandoned its preferred method almost completely.