OK, let me get my Oscars response off my chest. The New York Times published an article critical of Academy voters for being out of touch with the public and voting for films that only, say, 4 million people had seen (Boyhood) as opposed to American Sniper’s 320 million gross in the US. The Times called the Academy voters elitist.
Well there have been other words used about the voters regarding the lack of nominations for people of color (one answer is not to top load the telecast with un-nominated or former winners of color) but elitist was not one. I want to put in a strong word of support to the Academy professionals who vote, it would appear, based on merit and not box office.
I am not a fan of American Sniper. I do believe the reason it is so popular is because of the graphic images of the brutal killing of noncombatants by ISIS. I believe the media coverage has frightened people and they seek out solutions like the one proposed in American Sniper. And the crafty manipulation of Clint-Dirty Harry-Eastwood and his “stand-your-ground” brand of politics rises to the occasion.
I think Boyhood is a cinematic masterpiece. My favorite movie of the year is Timbuktu. I also suggest you compare the performance of Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot with Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything. Redmayne gets the physical component down, but Stephen Hawking—even with extreme disability—was still able to seduce women. This nuancing was missing.
I was glad to see the real world enter into the acceptance speeches and to see less of the thank-you-Jesus speeches.
Yes, I agree there are far too many awards shows being given equal weight with the Oscars. I think we can blame our neighbor Harvey Weinstein for the current awards template. I believe he is, more than anyone, responsible for the new Oscar campaign strategy: hold everything to the fourth quarter and then saturate the playing field with your target pictures; his goal is not the public but the gold statue.
It was Weinstein who elevated the 93 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press who actually vote in the Golden Globes. These 93 members of dubious credibility are wined and dined and who knows what else all year in attempts to influence their votes. The SPIRIT awards were supposed to be honoring independent non-studio, non-Hollywood films, but if you look at the nominations over the last four years, you will be struck by the same names as most of the Oscar nominations. In some ways the SAG Awards are the most democratic with all paid-up members eligible to vote (48,000). And because they are actors, they vote emotionally. I have to admit the Oscars and the Sundance Jury awards are the ones that most matter to me.
Let’s Go to the Movies:
Merchants of Doubt director Robert Kenner
Kenner, the director of Food.Inc which exposed how multinationals have ruined food in their quest for profit over quality, is back with another insightful look at a very prevalent media con game—examining who those talking head experts on Cable news and Network TV are. You know the people—the ones that told you smoking was good for you, there is no such thing as Global Warming, we won the war in (choose your country: Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria.) The ones that say the Taliban are better than secular non-believers or Communists or extol the merits of Stand Your Ground laws.
Kenner based his documentary on Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway’s best-selling expose of the same title. Sometimes these people are so absurd that the only way to deal with them is through humor. See it; it should make you pick up your smartphone and call or write CNN, Fox News, PBS or others and say “why the hell do you have this talking head on. He or she is not an expert and should be labeled a lobbyist.”
Maps to the Stars director David Cronenberg I think this is the most delicious and funny “bad” movie I have seen in years. Cronenberg “does” Hollywood and leaves no secret or shattered mirror in Beverly Hills hidden. A tour de force performance by Julianne Moore as a B-list (and that is kind) actress who is Hollywood royalty because she is the daughter of a Hollywood silent screen legend, it will make you squeal with laughter or perhaps lose control of your bodily functions.
Trashy, intellectual Hollywood insider Bruce Wagner wrote the script and is the reason it is so good. He laser peels Hollywood so deeply that all the toxins push to the surface before being rinsed off with Prada water. Wagner is a successful, New York Times anointed novelist. He rips off the rose-colored Ray-bans and takes a hard look at the desperate LA people watching their follow spot fade to flicker and trying to tai chi arriving newcomers who would scare the hell out of All About Eve’s conniving wanna-be (Anne Baxter).
John Cusack plays a new age guru con (Dr. Stafford Weiss) and his wife, Olivia Williams, is a monster stage mom of a 13-year-old child star who makes Justin Bieber seem angelic. You might read bad reviews of Maps to the Stars—ignore them. This is a trashy, smart movie that will make you forget the dreary Fifty Ways to Yawn. You will be glad these folks have not yet moved to Greenwich Village.
March is an important special series month in NYC, and here are four must see series.
1: Lincoln Center: Film Comment Selects
Gavin Smith, the Editor of Film Comment—the highly respected journal published by the Film Society of Lincoln Center (http://www.filmcomment.com) —selects a programs of films that reflects the magazine aesthetics and is guaranteed to cause controversy.
I suggest the March 3 screening of Anarchy (Cymbeline) in the Walter Reade Theater. Michael Almereyda’s noir-ish update of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline reimagined in a landscape populated by a drug-dealing biker gang and corrupt cops in an unnamed post-industrial city. When Cymbeline (Ed Harris), King of the Briton Motorcycle Club and his Queen (Milla Jovovich) face off with Iachimo (Ethan Hawke) over the question of Imogen’s (Dakota Johnson) virginity, sparks fly. Strong stuff, well-acted, and it even includes a Bob Dylan song (Dark Eyes) sung by Jovovich
2: MoMA: Wim Wenders March 2–17
MoMA celebrates German filmmaker Wim Wenders with a major career retrospective. The exhibition, which includes 20 fiction and nonfiction films and numerous shorts, features the North American premieres of new digital restorations overseen by Wenders, as well as works that haven’t been shown theatrically in New York in years. Wenders will intro over 20 films himself.
3: Lincoln Center, BAM and IFC Theater: Rendez-Vous with French Cinema.
The 20th Edition of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema is co-presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and uniFrance Films. It is showing the very latest in contemporary French Cinema at three theaters, and bringing actors, directors and writers here to NYC to participate in Q&A’s at screenings. It has always been a not-miss screening series for me. There are many quality films, but I suggest you not miss the following three.
May Allah Bless France! director Abd Al Malik
Celebrated rapper and spoken word artist Abd Al Malik makes his directorial debut with a candid account of his early life and artistic awakening—from petty thief to Sufi convert at 24. Must see.
Métamorphoses director Christophe Honoré
Honoré forges a contemporary image of Ovid’s masterpiece. It is unlike anything else in the festival. If you saw his 24 Songs a few years ago, it will slightly prepare you for the intensity of both the storytelling and the visual imagery.
SK1 director Frédéric Tellier
In this French police thriller, meet a narcissistic psychopath nicknamed The Beast of the Bastille. He killed 7 women and almost got away with it. SK1 documents the police hunt.
4. MoMA and The Film Society of Lincoln Center: New Directors/New Films
The always anticipated and adventurous jointly presented New Directors/New Films is the highlight of March. Both MoMA and Film Society programmers have been on the festival circuit looking for the next generation of filmmakers. More than any other series, I think, ND/NF can divide a room—meaning the programing has succeeded. Google the whole schedule. I suggest you book early on the following two.
Listen to Me Marlon director Stevan Riley
Marlon Brando, like James Dean, remains as alive today in peoples’ memories and fantasies as when his feet were on the ground. Documentarian Stevan Riley lets Brando narrate his own story. A treasure trove of audio tapes lets us meet the public actor as well as the private man, giving us insight as to who Brando really was. A huge buzz film at Sundance. Book early.
The Kindergarten Teacher director Nadav Lapid
With Lapid’s Policeman still lurking in my memory, I watched Lapid ask what can a 40-year-old teacher and a 5-year-old poetry prodigy have in common? He suggests emotions. Teacher is perverse and romantic. It does not give answers quickly and will make some viewers uncomfortable. Whew!
(cc) jim fouratt 2/25/2015 jimfourattsreeldealmovies.blogspot.com