Monday, October 31, 2011

"The Artist" Afterglow

It's been a few days now, and I'm still not quite able to shake the joyful exuberant high of The Artist.  While the film is starting to settling, it reminds of the personal connection of the cinematic art form-- that special and altogether rare feeling that a film may have been made especially for you.  Not that I'm a silent film die-hard (I've seen a few, but harder enough), but that feeling of instant affection on a film feels slightly akin to a love at first sight moment.  Even if on future views, it proves underwhelming, and the afterglow softens, there was that magical first glance that infectious, contagious, and furthers the want and need for the highest art in the cinema, or life in that matter.  And almost like a first love itself, The Artist has this uniquely intangible quality where I feel like I've seen a movie for the first time.  The delight and joy of a moving picture, and artful blend of the very old and the very new; the knowing gestures of the yore of Hollywood, but also beacon of hope for the medium in the future.  Perhaps pure hyperbole, yet I've got that feeling, this just might just be the movie of the year...or perhaps that love-at-first-sight-moment will prove to be a mere tease...

It matters nil almost to me if the film makes its appearance at the Kodak next February...I just want to share this movie with all.  I know the high I have with movies will never dissipate, but I hope the high that I'm coasting on from The Artist never leaves.

The Glenn Close Machine

Glenn Close won the Best Actress prize at the just wrapped Tokyo International Film Festival, adding her first competitive piece of software of the season for her Oscar-entry Albert Nobbs.  Based on the play, in which she starred in the first production in 1982, this has long been a passion project for the Oscar-less Close, despite five previous nominations and a miraculous run the 1980s that rivaled Meryl Streep.  What this means, well not terribly much-- the Tokyo International Film Festival and the membership of the Academy likely have little overlaps, but a small validation and the nice piece of ink on a future For Your Consideration ad, that is until better ones arrive.  It's the cynical nature of the industry and the hunt for statues...which is as disgusting and as it is enveloping.  Still however, it's hard not to root for an actress as remarkable as Close, whose alternating warmth and iciness have encapsulated a remarkable career.  Added points for the fact that she championed this film for more than decade, and even garnered a screenplay credit.  It all sorts of builds an assuming hopeful awareness for a film that earned mixed reviews when it debuted during the fall festival circuit.  Bring on the onslaught and ticklish fun of an Oscar dominated by Glenn Close versus Meryl Streep (whose sight-unseen The Iron Lady stands more than a fair chance merely because of it's Streepiness.)  Whatever the quality of either film\performance, one knows that the press between the friends will be priceless...

British Independent Film Nominations

Tinker Tailor Solider Spy
We Need to Talk About Kevin

Tomas Alfredson, Tinker Tailer Solider Spy
Paddy Considine, Tyrannosaur
Steve McQueen, Shame
Lynne Ramsay, We Need to Talk About Kevin
Ben Wheatley, Kill List

Richard Ayoade, Submarine
Paddy Considine, Tyrannosaur
Joe Cornish, Attack the Block
Ralph Fiennes, Coriolanus
John Michael McDonagh, The Guard

Michael Fassbender, Shame
Brendan Gleeson, The Guard
Niel Maskell, Kill List
Peter Mullan, Tyrannosaur
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Solider Spy

MyAnna Buring, Kill List
Olivia Coleman, Tyrannosaur
Rebecca Hall, The Awakening
Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin
Mia Wasikowska, Jane Eyre

Benedict Cumberbatch, Tinker Tailor Solider Spy
Tom Hardy, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Eddie Marsan, Tyrannosaur
Ezra Miller, We Need to Talk About Kevin
Michael Smiley, Kill List

Kathy Burke, Tinker Tailor Solider Spy
Sally Hawkins, Submarine
Felicity Jones, Albatross
Carey Mulligan, Shame
Vanessa Redgrave, Coriolanus

The Guard- John Michael McDonagh
Kill List- Ben Wheatley & Amy Jump
Shame- Abi Morgan & Steve McQueen
Submarine- Richard Ayoade
We Need to Talk About Kevin- Lynne Ramsay & Rory Kinnear

Kill List
Wild Bill
You Instead

Senna- Chris King & Gregors Sall (Film Editing)
Shame- Sean Bobbitt (Cinematography)
Shame- Joe Walker (Film Editing)
Tinker Tailor Solider Spy- Maria Djurkovic (Production Design)
We Need to Talk About Kevin- Seamus McGarvey (Cinematography)

Hell & Back Again
Life in a Day
Project Nim
TT3D: Closer to the Edge

Animal Kingdom
A Seperation
The Skin I Live In

John Boyeda, Attack the Block
Tom Cullen, Weekend
Jessica Brown Findlay, Albatross
Yasmin Page, Submarine
Craig Roberts, Submarine

The huge favorites were Shame, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Tyrannosaur, all earning seven nods from the British Independent Film Awards, and while Oscars are hardly at stake at this point, it certainly raises the profiles of a few titles.  Notably all three of those films will have an awards push and open in the next two months stateside, as well as other favorites We Need to Talk About Kevin (which earned six nods, after much acclaim from its Cannes debut, but little hardware to speak off since), and The Guard, which had a successful art-house run this past summer (despite being kinda bad...Brendan Gleeson is terrific is always however.)  Really the only obscure multi-nominated flick is Kill List, but perhaps BAFTA will shine some light on this one later on.
Of the films nominated it's strange that a wonder like Weekend only received two nods (for Achievement in Production, whatever that means, and Tom Cullen for Most Promising Newcomer), and while those nods are worthy, it's a shame that the British Independent Film community didn't heap more praise, though they clear saw it.  There was room enough however to acknowledge films like Submarine (an art-house dud stateside last June), as well the cheekily fun genre mash-up Attack the Block, as well as some Shakespeare (Ralph Fiennes' directorial debut Coriolanus scored two nominations.)

What's always notable is that they combine all the technical categories into one (Best Technical Achivement), I wonder what the Oscar world would look like if all the tech categories slipped in...would we have five nominations for War Horse comes year end (Shame scored two in that category)...the always thinking AMPAS might cut it out for more TV time...a truly horrible thought!
Coolest recognition: Drive earns its first nomination of the season, in the category of Best Foreign Independent Film...those cheeky Brits-- the English language I'm sure was the most foreign of all!

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Artist

The joy of going to movie is that incandescent thrill of seeing something for the first time, and experiencing that with a group of strangers in a dark room.  Ready to enthralled by a piece of magic, wonder, delight, anguish; something that only a movie can conjure.  The cynics of filmmaking may claim they've seen everything-- I may be off that creed from time to time-- but there's something utterly refreshing, rejuvenating and enthralling about the joys and delights of The Artist, a black and white old-school Hollywood film-- silent, in fact-- that's resonant and magically in its shadings and detailing of the past, and the palpable connection of the future of the medium.  The old and the new are the settings of this film, that starts in 1927, but time or history or circumstance matters very little, it's the communal bond and joy of movie-making that marks The Artist as not just a good, nostalgic piece of cinematic fluff, but ultimately a substantial indictment of the modern possibilities of art.  Entertaining, crowd-pleasing, and charming as hell, the film (written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius) is both love-letter to movies of yore, and magnetic character study of a fictional fallen movie star, played to the hilt and everything else by Jean Dujardin, a magnetic actor of imposing movie star range (he won the Best Actor prize at this years Cannes Film Festival.)

The film opens at a movie premiere, one starring George Valentin (Dujardin), and the sequence is sublime in its silent tension.  The film plays to a full crowd, while George paces back and forth in the rafters.  All we hear is the glorious soundtrack, and the gimmick of the silent film setting settles and oozes within minutes; it matters hardly at all the words not said, nor the sparse subtitles the film offers-- we get the mood-- anxiety and excitement, well and George is a huge movie star with the world at his feet.  The film ends, and roared with such expressive enthusiasm by the crowd; it matters little that we don't actually hear the screams and praises, we see it.  George, the ever-adoring showman, makes his appearance to his public and hams it with such aplomb, and old-school twinkle in his eye, that it's hard not be captivated.  Perhaps Norma Desmond had it right in, "We had faces back then."  He gushes for his public and the cameras, all lined outside the old movie house, when something happens.  A pretty young flapper (Berenice Bejo), through comedic happenstance invades the picture session.  The early scene is comically manic, and beautifully played, with both performers insecurity softly filtering out, but combined with that grand "let's go with the show" attitude; while perhaps not impressing many with his charming shenanigans (certainly not his wife, nor his director), it makes for great press for George, but also the newcomer actress, we later learn is named Peppy Miller.

What plays is an on first glance of A Star is Born-redux as the movie-going world starts to change, and the birth of sound begins to appear.  George, a king of the silent era is thrown away, as Peppy begins to blossom as the new system emerges.  However to reduce the many joys and complexities of The Artist as a mere gimmicky remake would be wrong.  In the films embrace of the old, and film junkies will likely adore this bit, the film is staged as a movie of its kind, but with the understanding and knowing that it's not.  Super-fast cuts, alongside cheekily fun dissolves make the film fun, but it's the nurturing of it's two main characters, and the expressiveness that both bring to their wordless parts that make it a wonder.  George brings Pepper aboard on his next picture, following the impromptu media dance, and there's a sequence that's glowing and slightly farcical and utterly romantic in it's vestige of old Hollywood.  A merely incidental scene, where the two meet up and share a quick dance is lovely and charming, but impacting for it's many takes-- it's clear the two are smitten with one another, but also jealous and timid-- he's a big movie star, she's an ingenue and he's married for gods sack.  This sequence bring about greater pathos as the movie goes on.  Bejo, for her part is absolute charmer; a novice in the film perhaps, but expressing exquisite range.

The future comes and starts to haunt George, amusingly at first as he laughs off a screening of a sound test, more anguishing as a fevered dream where everything has a voice except himself.  To the films abundant charms, The Artist employs one of the cleverest and artful uses of sound itself, both implied, orchestrated, and sparsely audible.  As the film goes on, we venture into George's downfall-- the film risks a few too many attempts at showcasing rock bottom in our leading man-- he drinks, lashes out at himself on his pride, and one point sets a fire to his house, but what holds the melodrama is Dujardin, in his restraint, but unbelievable physicality to the performance.  He presents George not as charmer through and through, and once he's run out of people to charm out of tougher spots, he's left with his memories of big screen glory and his Asta-like canine companion (a fuller character than many in the sodden days of franchise filmmaking)...yet it's a startling confessional of the vanishing act that befell many of greats of the silent era.  The Artist may not be much more than a grand love letter to golden age of Hollywood, but it strikes a nerve and feels connected with a path more modern filmmakers should head.  The movies of that era tended to have a starker, less finessed quality, but were bold experiments; everything in the The Artist, while a throwback through and through, feels like it's just happening, and being discovered.

That it took a French filmmaker and Parisian-born actor to spin out a great old Hollywood yarn is both a token of the grand Hollywood allure of cinema, and unimportant as the power of cinema should never have a language barrier. For the infectious charms of The Artist are universal, even for the prickliest of modern filmgoers, who may never have seen a silent film, nor a black and white one.  It's striking how easy it is to forget the dialogue and the color aren't there, since the film has so much life and verve.  It's sort of hard to shake the wonders of this film; ever since I the film ended, I kept thinking...I want to live there.  A

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo one-sheet

Shame earns NC-17; MPAA continues to surprise no one!

The buzzy new film Shame which won huge acclaim during the fall festival circuit centers around an unflinching take on sex addiction has earned, what many where expecting, the kiss of death NC-17 rating from the Motion Picture Association of America.  The film, from director Steve McQueen (his second feature after the acclaimed and difficult to watch 2008 feature Hunger) stars Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan as siblings-- he's a sex addict, she's a wayward lounge singer.  The frank nature of the film was surprisingly not a turn-off to Fox Searchlight Picture who snapped up the film shortly after its festival debut and is releasing it December 2nd.  What's exciting is that the film will get a proper release-- awards be damned, it matters nil-- and that it will go on unchallenged.  Much can be made of the problems associated with the MPAA, and there are many, the documentary The Film Is Not Yet Rated amusingly and pointedly attacked the covert and highly secretive coven that has such strange, unholy power over modern filmmaking, but what is the hopeful outcome here-- that Shame hopefully on notice and reputation and adoration might just become a box office hit at the very least.  Wouldn't that be grand.  No matter the content itself, I'm fairly sure the sight of Fassbender's genitals will be more agreeable than the countless bloody, violent, destructive studio yarns that weasel themselves into R ratings any day.

The last high profile release to wear the shameful badge of honor was Ang Lee's Lust, Caution, which opened in 2007, courtesy of Focus Features.  The film kind of tanked (only about $4 million domestically) and earned mixed reviews, and merited no serious awards contention.  That film incidentally won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival that year, where this year Fassbender won Best Actor honors for Shame-- facts are fun!  Blue Valentine was famously threatened with the rating last year, a fact of pride and joy for it's champion, Harvey Weinstein-- of course he was able to reverse the rating-- the MPAA has always been slightly more lenient to female copulation than male genitalia.   The validity and arguments and aftermaths of the rating are all fairly dismal, which bodes poorly on terms of Shame as a box office or awards magnet, but hopefully the rating itself, hopefully undisputed, will get all the curious-minded filmgoers together in thrall and desperate need of a grand piece of art.  (Not I haven't seen Shame, so all this praise, sight unseen, may be much ado about nothing, but this is far and away the sole film of this fairly sad cinematic year that excites me.)

On the awards front, it looks grim at least historically.  Only one film with the kiss of death rating has earned an Oscar nomination: Henry & June was nominated for Best Cinematography.  Good luck Fassbender!

London Film Festival

BEST FILM: We Need to Talk About Kevin
BEST BRITISH NEWCOMER: Candese Reid, Junkhearts
SUTHERLAND AWARD WINNER: Pablo Giorgelli, director of Las Acacia
BEST DOCUMENTARY: Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life, Werner Herzog
BFI FELLOWSHIPS: Ralph Fiennes, David Croenberg

Notable is the first award to be bestowed to Cannes favorite, and perhaps Oscar-potential for Best Actress for Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk About Kevin, the third feature from acclaimed filmmaker Lynne Ramsay (Morvern Caller, Ratcatcher) that also stars John C. Rielly and Ezra Miller.  Here's the UK trailer, which is awesome:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Martha Marcy May and Oscar?

The Sundance hit Martha Marcy May Marlene opened in Los Angeles and New York this weekend, and to warm critical reception.  A few hiccups here and there; A.O. Scott of The New York Times was the highest profile descender, but one thing seems clear, that whatever one takes away from the murky, intentionally unresolvable film, its leading lady-- Elizabeth Olsen-- is a genuine find and prime elevator of the film.  The question is how far she will go.  She's already a recipient of a Gotham Awards nomination for Breakthrough Performer, which suggests she will likely add many more such breakthrough honors as the critics prizes start being handed out (The New York Film Critics Circle will get the ball rolling this year, a scowling effect that the critics prizes will now start to unveil November 28th), but the question is if Oscar is in her foreseeable future.  On a personal perspective, I'd love to say yes, as a fan of the film and her performance, the work is there, and it's wonderful.  Of course, Oscar doesn't work that way.  What she has going for her, aside from an outstandingly nuanced and perceptive performance, is Fox Searchlight, a canny awards promoter, even for films that read less than middlebrow Academy fodder (think Black Swan), and while the distributor has their hands full this year, as it does every year (The Descendants, Shame and The Tree of Life are all products of Fox, Jr.), this is their only shot at Best Actress; one must assume they have faith in it.  The other side is Olsen has an infinite media hook as the younger sister of billionaire twin Mary-Kate and Ashley-- the narrative of a smart young woman becoming classically trained and make it good on screen, despite perceived seemingly spoiled upbringing, will play well-- that in the press, she presents herself with such charm and sense of humor doesn't hurt either, nor does it hurt that she's young and pretty-- it's always a bit sad, but the performance in the awards game matters nil anymore.

The rest lies in her competition, so far her competitors might be:
  • Viola Davis, The Help (the only way this doesn't happen is if there's a confusion of whether she's a lead or supporting, but that's doubtful-- at this early stage, she's the only lock, potential winner.)
  • Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs (the film earned mixed reviews at Telluride and Toronto, but she's an Oscar-less legend working on a passion project-- as long as it isn't a huge critical\box office embarrassment, she's in)
  • Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady (she's Meryl Streep, and the film doesn't need to be great, nor her performance for a nomination, it just can't be a joke-- sight unseen, it might be-- question mark.)
  • Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn (New York and London film festivals came with mixed thoughts of the movie, but nice words for Williams-- she's playing a legend, which helps-- the movie just needs a big push-- that Weinstein Company is behind it helps too-- question mark.)
  • Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin (hit at Cannes with wonderful reviews, but the film will likely be a hard sell-- set around a school shooting-- she needs the critics, as does Olsen; however the Academy must know by now they owe her for snubbing her so often.)
  • Charlize Theron, Young Adult (question mark because nobody has seen it-- on the surface this dark comedy from Reitman\Cody looks solid.)
  • Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia (perhaps not likely, but her Best Actress prize at Cannes makes for a nice FYC ad, and her reviews are the best she's ever gotten.)
  • Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids (I wish, but she'll have to settle for a Golden Globe in a Comedy trophy.)
Am I missing anyone?  While this year may not be the vast richness of last year, it's (on paper) not looking too bad...can Olsen make it in?  Or will Academy members be left chilled by the haunting ambiguity of the acclaimed performance and the foreboding film that surrounds it?

Paranormal's Activity

I usually try to avoid tackling the business aspect of filmmaking, because it should matter very little, but in these days, where cinemas are hurting, it's important to note a hit.  In the hope that it continues to cultivate the richness of watching a movie (of whatever quality) in a dark room full of strangers.  And as recent weeks have been sluggish in movie-land, it's even more of note.  The third installment of the Paranormal Activity (this one a prequel from the pranksters behind the similarly marketed as truth whatchamacallit Catfish) franchise achieved a wondrous opening gross of $26.2 million, including $8 million from midnight screenings held the night before.  It marks the highest single day gross of the franchise, as well as forty-eighth single day gross of all time, third of the 2011, behind only Harry Potter and Transformers.  Not too shabby to the horror series that dethroned the endlessly sadistic Saw franchise, and even more icing to the cheap gift to Paramount this picture keeps on giving; production cost is reportedly only $5 million.  And while, I personally have little interest here (horror only garners excitement from me under particular circumstances), it's nice for movie screens to be busy again after weeks of blahness, despite decent grosses for smart, more adult-driven fare like Moneyball, 50/50 and The Ides of March (all three have held well with drops of less than 30% in there successive weeks; however all lack that crowd-pleasing element that will make them sleeper hits; ode to racial servitude-- lame The Help reference, aside.)  Paranormal Activity 3 will also have the biggest opening since, gasp-- Rise of the Planet of the Apes which opened to $54 million all the way back in the first weekend of the August.  Of course, it will drop like crazy, horror films always do (front-loaded opening days, followed by precipitous drops thereafter); franchise films tend to as well.

My cinematic pretension gets the better of me sometimes, so here's hoping that the meditative character study thriller Martha Marcy May Marlene at the very least accrues the highest screen average of the weekend.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Martha Marcy May Marlene

At times ponderous, but achingly haunting and utterly controlled, the tongue-twistingly titled new feature Martha Marcy May Marlene, a hit at this years Sundance Film Festival (where it won the directors prize for Sean Durkin), is a demanding and difficult sit.  Tense, unnerving and, and despite very little actual violence, nearly as frightening as any recent thriller.  Yet, what makes the film pop is it's even more unsettling character study of a raw and fragile young woman, unhinged and unraveled in her own identity.  For a film with so much visual and emotional dimension, the most demanding part of the mysterious Martha is that it's not at all concerned with tying up loose ends, for all it's questions, there's striking few answers.  It inevitably matters little however, as patient moviegoers will be allured by the striking mystery at it's core.  Most striking, behind the fact that a film can look so utterly accomplished and masterfully paced coming for a man on his first try, is the altogether astonishing and graceful magnitude of Martha Marcy May Marlene's leading lady-- Elizabeth Olsen, who will likely only suffer "younger sister to Olsen twins" press releases just this once.

The film starts in action, a young woman is running.  From what, we are not sure yet, to where, again, we are unclear (she likely is too.)  Anxious and scared, she makes a frantic phone call for help.  We learn her name is Martha (Olsen) and the phone call was made to her estranged older sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson), who quickly picks up the nervous young girl, completely unknowing to what to expect to her or it.  Through careful explaining through seamlessly constructed flashbacks, Martha was taken in by a cult, a community of seemingly peaceful, free-loving spirits, whose streak of violence (both physically and emotionally) are carefully distilled through Martha's fragile psyche.  The cult, set on a farm in the Catskills, is ruled by a offbeat cad named Patrick (John Hawkes), whose soft, oddball charisma belie a Manson-like malevolence.  On first meeting, Patrick changes Martha's name to Marcy May, and is so coyly seductive about it, that she, and the audience, forget what a huge inappropriate invasion that really is; in essence, she's trapped before anything has happened.  There's precious little backstory for Martha, but what is surmised is an unhappy childhood, and lack of real family, a hint that Patrick picks up on and latches on to her with seeming comfort and compassion.  The films drifting from idyllic but troubled farmland cult Marcy May to familial but troubled Martha is what makes the film so enchanting, as memories pour out of her head, it awakens a haunting dreamscape for the film.  As the film goes deeper into the troubled, identity-less heroine, we are posed with more questions.

Martha has to essentially re-learn what it's like to be back in the civilized world-- her farmland beds were communal and preachings of Patrick are still engrained in her-- it's important that her sister is the first to hear her say "I'm a leader and a teacher" before we see the false-messiah's backstory of why she would have such a silly notion in her head.  What mounts is an escalating state of paranoia as wounder memories of her past begin to unfurl.  Durkin masterfully underplays this, but makes every specific sound cue or shot of Olsen count, which adds the potency and chilling final act.  Whether targeted or not by abandoning her "family," she is forever is doubt and in fear of always being on the run in some way, the wrestling of pine combs or wind or whatever forever keeps Martha tense as it evokes powerful and destructive memories of her past, and the abuse she escaped from.  There's even perhaps a case to be made as which world the shapeless Martha actually prefers-- it's not incidental that the cult-y farm is filmed as a peaceful, carved out Eden, versus the stiller and colder textures that make up Lucy's spacious but remote lakeside vacation home.

The most appealing reason to watch Martha Marcy May Marlene is the presence of Olsen, who in her first film, manages something completely compelling.  For the most part, she's soft and still, but distills so much nuance and expressiveness while doing very little.  She hits the notes of vulnerability, withdrawal, sadness and shapelessness with an almost alchemist precision and punctuated charm.  While under the spell of Patrick, she is seduced by his false gentleness, while at home with her worrying sister, she is shut down and spastic, the genuineness of both is eery and unnerving in its own right.  It's perhaps the stark exchanges with her sister that leave the sharpest impression, as neither are comfortable enough to have an actual conversion; it's what's unsaid that gravitates both Olsen and Paulson's performances, and what makes the painfully bluntness of words that spew out towards the end all the more pointed and piercing.  As for Hawkes, whose made a nifty career out of playing shifty folks, it's incredibly credible that Martha would follow.

What we're left with is more questions.  It hardly matters why Martha heeded to Catskills and joined her abusive cult, but the best thrill of the film is one that is best left unrevealed, for the final scenes of Martha Marcy May Marlene are terse and chilling, effective as both thriller and character study, and elusive to what shape this beguiling young woman will finally take.  In the end, that monster tongue-twister of a title is perhaps the most effective one for it's a film about a young woman in search of her true identity, not just with the world, or her family (real or fake), but with herself.  What matters more is the joy of the subtly unhinged work of a brash new actress, and the masterfully uneasy accomplishment of a new filmmaker, whose already set out a clear, fresh-eyed and hopeful identity for himself.  A-

Friday, October 21, 2011

Martha Marcy May's Paranormal Musketeers

This weekend in movieland, things are starting to get serious, not just in lieu of a so-far fairly maddeningly slow start to the fall movie season, but because a mega-blockbuster franchise is returning, as well as franchise in the making, but also the arrival (unfortunately only to selected audiences, this week) of what may be one of 2011's saving graces.  The big movie of the weekend is obviously Paranormal Activity 3, the horror franchise that in its last two outings not only took the shine away from the perennial October releasing of the Saw, but has made a crap load of money off of a very meager investment from its studio, Paramount Pictures.  While the first film may be a creative boon only from its marketing angle, the second proved a nice respite from the horror formula of modern times where more is scarier, and torture is cool.  The films may never be considered artful by any stretch, but the old-fashioned meets reality surveillance motif is a hell of a lot better than disembowelment any day.  And so, give the number one spot to Paranormal, this time directed by the Catfish pranksters Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, but the real picture of interest this weekend is without question Martha Marcy May Marlene, a Sundance favorite (and winner of the Best Director prize for newcomer Sean Durkin.)  Benefiting from a plush platform run by Fox Searchlight and featuring a much raved about turn from Elizabeth Olsen (younger sister of Mary Kate and Ashley), the film is about a young woman trying to re-assimilate after escaping a cult, led by John Hawkes, whose always wed creepiness and charisma so well in the past.  The film opens in limited engagement in New York and Los Angeles.

Also opening this weekend:
  • The Three Musketeers- fortunately presented in both 2D and 3D formats for those who enjoy throwing ones money away, courtesy of the Paul W.S. Anderson, of the famed Resident Evil flicks.
  • Johnny English Reborn- Rowan Atkinson returns as the bumbling Clouseau-type; not important how the flick plays here, it's already a hit internationally.
  • The Mighty Macs- sports drama inexplicably starring Ellen Burstyn; someone get Aronofsky to cast her again, soon.
  • Margin Call- all star inside Wall Street film starring Kevin Spacey and tons more, which received an Ensemble nomination this morning for the Gotham Awards (in limited release.)
  • Being Elmo- Sundance hit about the man who voices Elmo (in limited release.)
Also, if anyone gets a chance, please check out Weekend, the beautiful Brief Encounter-esque new film from director Andrew Haigh, about a chance encounter between two Nottingham boys.  One of the best of the year by a long stretch.  Review here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gotham Award Nominees

And so it begins (insert evil laugh and twirling of the handle-bar mustache), the awards season that is.  The Gotham Awards, a New York based society that showcases the best in independent American filmmaking.  They are also the first one's out of the gate every time, and while eventual Academy overlap may bear little on the group as a whole, recent films like Winter's Bone and The Hurt Locker were awarded the top prize here on their way to the Kodak stage.  The nominees are:
  • Beginners
  • The Descendants
  • Meek's Cutoff
  • Take Shelter
  • The Tree of Life

  • Beginners- Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Melanie Laurant, Goran Visnjic, Kal Lennox, Mary Page Keller, Keegan Boos
  • The Descendants- George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Beau Bridges, Robert Forster, Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard, Nick Krause, Amara Miller, Mary Birdsong, Rob Huebel
  • Margin Call- Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Mary McDonnell, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci, Aasif Mandvi
  • Martha Marcy May Marlene- Elizabeth Olsen, Christopher Abbott, Brady Corbet, John Hawkes, Hugh Dancy, Maria Dizzia, Julia Garner, Louisa Krause, Sarah Paulson
  • Take Shelter- Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Tova Stewart, Shea Whigham, Katy Mixon, Kathy Baker, Ray McKinnon, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Robert Longstreet

  • Better This World
  • Bill Cunningham New York (available on Netflix instant play)
  • Hell & Back Again
  • The Interrupters
  • The Woodmans

  • Mike Cahill, Another Earth
  • Sean Durkin, Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Vera Farmiga, Higher Ground
  • Evan Glodell, Bellflower
  • Dee Rees, Pariah

  • Felicity Jones, Like Crazy
  • Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Harmony Santana, Gun Hill Road
  • Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
  • Jacob Wysocki, Terri

  • Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same
  • Green
  • The Redemption of General Butt Naked
  • Scenes of a Crime
  • Without
HONOREES (Previously announced):
  • Charlize Theron (handily right in time for her mainstream Oscar bid, Young Adult)
  • Gary Oldman (likewise, for Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy)
  • David Croenberg (what do you know, his A Dangerous Method opens next month)
  • Tom Rothman (big studio hotshot- Meryl Streep famously thanked him for signing the checks in her hilarious Golden Globe acceptance speech for The Devil Wears Prada...aside)
I always find it a little strange when even organizations that go for the tiny, anti-establishment films, always tend to, in some way, pander to the exact opposite at the same time.  At the same time, where Drive in the Gotham selection?
    Or we can rename this tribute to the I <3 Fox Searchlight Awards, as The Tree of Life, The Descendants, Martha Marcy May Marlene and Another Earth all got shout-outs today.  The one surprise of the nominations is that 2011's queen of ubiquity, Jessica Chastain wasn't acknowledged in the breakthough category, though she was spotlighted as part of the ensemble of Take Shelter and was a member of two of the films nominated for Best Feature; perhaps they just didn't quite know which of her four-thousand performances to acknowledge.

    Best acknowledgement: Beginners in the Ensemble field, the warm and gentle father\son tragicomedy was one of most generous films so far in terms of its actors.

    Best film title: Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeking Same; I feel a strong need to watch this immediately!

    Sunday, October 16, 2011

    Weekend Box Office

    With fall legitimately almost a month in, the box office has been fairly blah so far, especially considering the strongest title to emerge from the last month was a 3-D release of a film 17 years old.  That being said while overall the picture looks bleak, a few notable holdovers (and a few of them are rather smart ones as well) have been earning their respective keeps for the past few weeks, despite nothing verging into blockbuster or sleeper success territory.

    1. Real Steel- The rock 'em, sock 'em, robots fighting\father-son tale bested the rest for the second week in a row, earning $16.3 million over the weekend, for total of $51 million in two weeks.  The 40% dip is a fairly strong showcase, as was its impressive uptick from Friday to Saturday (it trailed Footloose on Friday), but this one (from Disney and DreamWorks) was a pricey, $100+ movie to make...
    2. Footloose- A ho hum $16 million take for the remake of the 80s dance flick that made Kevin Bacon and Kenny Loggins popular; one has to assume that it really wasn't going to do much better than this, despite excessive marketing.
    3. The Thing- The other remake debut of the weekend was even more of a non-starter, earning $8.7 million.
    4. The Ides of March- The political yarn dropped a super-sweet 28% in weekend number two, earning $7.5 million for a total so far of $22 million; the film was cheap to make, so that's a good sign, and the low percentage drop is good will for future weeks.
    5. Dolphin Tale- The family pic dropped 30% in it's fourth week, raising its cum to $58 million, on a production budget of $37 million; sea life + Morgan Freeman = success.
    6. Moneyball- The baseball film not at all about baseball dropped a wonderful 26% in its fourth weekend; the Brad Pitt-starer (for which he will and should likely receive an Oscar nomination for) has earned $57 million so far.
    7. 50/50- The Joseph Gordon Levitt cancer comedy got off to fairly slow start, but word of month seems to be genuinely positive, as the film had the slightest dip in top ten (off only 23% from last weekend) and has made $24 million so far in three weeks, on a production budget of only $8 million.  It's a good one, people!
    8. Courageous- $3.4 million over the weekend \ $21 million to date.
    9. The Big Year- The Steve Martin-Jack Black bird watching comedy bombed hard in its first weekend, earning just a little over $3 million; expect this one to be on DVD shortly.
    10. The Lion King- Yes, it was only supposed to be in theaters for two weeks, and yes, the film is already available on Blue-Ray, but the lion is still kind of roaring, earning an extra $2.7 million this weekend.
    Other notables:
    *Contagion dropped out of the top ten in its sixth week of release, earning $1.8 million for a total so far of $72 million.
    *The Skin I Live In, Pedro Almodovar's latest starring Antonio Banderas opened on six screens to a per-screen average of $38,500 and total cum of $231,000.  Highly respectable, and the loyal Almodovar cult should keep this one alive for further expansion, but it is one of the lower debuts for an Almodovar outing in quite some time.
    *Trespass, the latest from director Joel Schmacher starring Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman (inexplicably), crashed and fumbled on ten screens (obviously a nod to hid the film), earning a pathetic $18,000.  The real question is why this one came about anyway, and where (if anywhere) is this film actually playing.  I live in a major city and have yet to find a theater displaying this, advertising this...nothing.  The movie will however be on DVD in about three weeks for the curious.

      Best Foreign-Language Film

      Sixty-three films will be vying for the Best Foreign Film Academy Award this year.  The list as followed:

      • Albania: Amnesty (Bujar Alimani)
      • Argentina: Aballay (Fernando Spiner)
      • Austria: Breathing (Karl Markovics)
      • Belgium: Bullhead (Michael R. Roskam)- surprisingly the Dardenne Brothers film The Kid with a Bike, a Cannes winner was rejected.
      • Bosnia and Herzegovina: Belvedere (Ahmed Imamovic)
      • Brazil: Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (José Padilha)
      • Bulgaria: Tilt (Viktor Chouchkov, Jr.) 
      • Canada: Monsieur Lazhar (Philippe Falardeau)
      • Chile: Violeta Went to Heaven (Andrés Wood)
      • China: The Flowers of War (Zhang Yimou)- the director of House of Flying Daggers and Hero (2002 nominee) as well as the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, the period epic stars Christian Bale.
      • Colombia: The Colors of the Mountain (Carlos César Arbeláez)
      • Croatia: 72 Days (Danilo Serbedzija)
      • Cuba: Havanastation (Ian Padrón)
      • Czech Republic: Alois Nebel (Tomás Lunák)
      • Denmark: Superclásico (Ole Christian Madsen)
      • Dominican Republic: Love Child (Leticia Tonos)
      • Egypt: Lust (Khaled el Hagar)
      • Estonia: Letters to Angel (Sulev Keedus)
      • Finland: Le Havre (Aki Kaurismäki)- Finland's favorite filmmaker returns with a favorite from Cannes (where it won the FIPRESCI Prize this year), he was nominated in this category in 2002 for The Man Without a Past.  Just won top honors at the Chicago Film Festival.
      • France: Declaration of War (Valérie Donzelli)
      • Georgia: Chantrapas (Otar Iosseliani)
      • Germany: Pina (Wim Wenders)- the Wings of Desire and Paris, Texas auteur returns to the fray with this dance documentary in 3-D; he was previously nominated in the Best Documentary category for The Buena Vista Social Club (1999.)
      • Greece: Attenberg (Athina Rachel Tsangari)
      • Hong Kong: A Simple Life (Ann Hui)
      • Hungary: The Turin Horse (Béela Tarr)- a nearly 3-hour film from the director of the Werckmeister Harmonies (2000) took second place honors at this years Berlin Film Festival.
      • Iceland: Volcano (Rúnar Rúnarsson)
      • India: Abu, Son of Adam (Salim Ahamed)
      • Indonesia: Under the Protection of Ka’Bah (Hanny R. Saputra)
      • Iran: A Separation (Asghar Farhadi)- won top honors at this years Berlin Film Festival (along with Best Actor and Best Actress), this much praised film actually has a prime release date at the end of the December, and what will be expected a strong push from foreign film distributor du jour Sony Pictures Classics.
      • Ireland: As If I Am Not There (Juanita Wilson)
      • Israel: Footnote (Joseph Cedar)- the American born Cedar won the Screenwriting prize at this years Cannes Film Festival, and swept Israeli Film Academy Awards.
      • Italy: Terraferma (Emanuele Crialese)- winner of a Special Jury Prize at this years Venice Film Festival.
      • Japan: Postcard (Kaneto Shindo)
      • Kazakhstan: Returning to the ‘A’ (Egor Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky)
      • Lebanon: Where Do We Go Now? (Nadine Labaki)- the surprise winner of the People's Choice Award at this year Toronto Film Festival (don't discount that: The King's Speech won that prize last year); Labaki previously directed the 2007 arthouse hit Caramel.
      • Lithuania: Back to Your Arms (Kristijonas Vildziunas)
      • Macedonia: Punk Is Not Dead (Vladimir Blazevski)
      • Mexico: Miss Bala (Gerardo Naranjo)- curiously, Fox picked up this film; strange for a top studio to take a chance on a foreign film; will likely be distributed by indie arm Fox Searchlight.
      • Morocco: Omar Killed Me (Roschdy Zem)
      • Netherlands: Sonny Boy (Maria Peters)- I saw this one; thoughts coming.
      • New Zealand: The Orator (Tusi Tamasese)
      • Norway: Happy, Happy (Anne Sewitsky)- Already received a tiny US release; winner of the Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema at this years Sundance Film Festival, 77% Rotten Tomato score.
      • Peru: October (Diego Vega and Daniel Vega)
      • Philippines: The Woman in the Septic Tank (Marlon N. Rivera)
      • Poland: In Darkness (Agnieszka Holland)
      • Portugal: José and Pilar (Miguel Gonçalves Mendes)
      • Romania: Morgen (Marian Crisan)
      • Russia: Burnt by the Sun 2: The Citadel (Nikita Mikhalkov)- the original Burnt by the Sun won the foreign film Oscar in 1994.
      • Serbia: Montevideo: Taste of a Dream (Dragan Bjelogrlić)
      • Singapore: Tatsumi (Eric Khoo)
      • Slovak Republic: Gypsy (Martin Sulík)
      • South Africa: Beauty (Oliver Hermanus)
      • South Korea: The Front Line (Jang Hun)
      • Spain: Black Bread (Agusti Villaronga)- surprisingly to no one, Spain yet again reject an Almodovar film (he The Skin I Live In opened in limited engagement this past Friday.)
      • Sweden: Beyond (Pernilla August)
      • Switzerland: Summer Games (Rolando Colla)
      • Taiwan: Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale (Wei Te-sheng)
      • Thailand: Kon Khon (Sarunyu Wongkrachang)
      • Turkey: Once upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)- co-winner of the Grand Jury Prize (with The Kid with a Bike) at this years Cannes Film Festival; Ceylan previously directed the festival hit Distant (2002.)
      • United Kingdom: Patagonia (Marc Evans)
      • Uruguay: The Silent House (Gustavo Hernández)
      • Venezuela: Rumble of the Stones (Alejandro Bellame Palacios)
      • Vietnam: The Prince and the Pagoda Boy (Luu Trong Ninh)

      Now there comes a certain heartache with this list, knowing that three-quarters of the titles will likely never appear in a theater screen anywhere in the United States, outside of Academy-member only screening rooms, and that many will likely (including me) will likely have never heard of most, if not all, of the titles mentioned.  There's always a certain degree of politics at play with the selection process of the foreign language films.  Some films are chosen by their home countries because they depict culturally resonant events that occurred there, or were monster hits at home, or are mere propaganda, or perhaps all of the above in some cases.  Last year, I probably saw about seven or eight titles that were official selections (sadly that's a good number for me), because based on either opportunity or interest, a lot of these titles will continue to go unnoticed.  It doesn't help that the Academy process for foreign language features is ridiculous to say the least, and convoluted without doubt.  One title I've already seen was Sonny Boy.

      The official selection from the Netherlands was written and directed by Maria Peters and tells the decade spanning story, based on apparent truth, of a taboo love affair between an interracial couple in the early 1920s.  What starts as a pure romantic weepie evolves into a meandering and arduously paced WWII weepie.  We impoverished and disadvantaged Waldemar (Sergio Hasselbaink), a spirited and intelligent man whose only fault is being the wrong skin color and independent Rika (Ricky Koole), a sprightly mother of three who leaves her pious, yet cheating husband.  He comes to her for lodging and a kinship, soon to be love develops, not necessarily because the actors generate any sort of passionate chemistry or romantic longing for one another, but because the scripts tells them to, and this is a serious, stately drama.  Years follow and scandals develop over their sinful relationship, but love is eternal.  This would be all well and good, but Sonny Boy has more melodrama up its sleeve, as the film traipses its way through history and stops (and the already slow pacing comes to an almost complete halt) as the war approaches.  Either by fact, or Oscar-pandering, the couple provide safe lodging for Jews, becoming targets themselves, as if a black\white couple wasn't bad enough for them at that time, oh and Rika's pregnant; an interracial child to add to their troubles to boot.  The problem with the film is that it's heavy-handiness is all too transparent and the films lacks any sort of flow or passion.  It's a message movie blind-sided by another message movie, sort a falsely managed mash-up of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? and The Pianist.  That being said, the film might strike a right note with the Academy for the very serious subjects the film exploits-- there's prejudice, war, concentration camps, and even a nod to old-time silent movie (where the film gets its title) all ear-marked.  C-

        Friday, October 14, 2011

        Shame trailer

        The provocative, sex-filled first tease of Shame, the Michael Fassbender\Carey Mulligan film.  It looks pretty amazing...

        Wednesday, October 12, 2011

        Albert Nobbs trailer

        The first taste of Albert Nobbs, or the great hunt to netting Glenn Close a long overdue Academy Award, as it might have been called to begin with.  The relationship with the story and the actress is decades long, as she starred in the original play, and has championed for a movie ever since...she is even a co-author of the screenplay (all of which reads, as long labor of love for a great veteran actress, which might even be enough for the Academy.)  Even despite a mixed reception at the fall film festival circuit, she's freaking Glenn Close, and a playing a man in a period drama at that; gimmicks work more often than not.  It's hard to remember now, but she was once an Academy stalwart, earning five nominations in the 1980s, including one for her very first feature, The World According to Garp.  Roadside Attractions picked up the film, and had a healthy awards season last year with hard sells like Winter's Bone and Buitiful, and the film is directed by Rodrigo Garcia (Nine Lives, Mother & Child.)  But it almost matters little at this point the quality of the actual film, nor the reception the film gets, isn't the great media hook of Close going head to head with Meryl Streep's Margaret Thatcher The Iron Lady enough to merit attention...  All the films lacks at the present time, is a release date.

        Tuesday, October 11, 2011

        The Ides of March

        The inside political story The Ides of March pulses with ideas and terse tension, and neatly comes packaged as the fourth feature to be directed by uber-Hollywood prince George Clooney.  Based on the play Farragut North, penned by Beau Willimon, who co-wrote the screenplay with Clooney and Grant Heslov, the film is set and attuned to the behind the scenes machinations of an impending Ohio primary and it's two prolific Democratic hopefuls.  With its starry cast and overly ripe, 24-hour news-primped setting, the stakes are high, and the promise and potential are met with a swift intelligence and sparkling dialogue, and the stage is set for a serious-minded indictment of modern politicizing and all the backstabbing and compromise that comes, one that taint even the purest values, as asserts the film, and well, reality.  That aching cynicism of modern campaigning is ripe for scrutiny, and respectably mounted, but it becomes apparent fairly quickly in The Ides of March that all its good intentions are mere window dressing; what's missing is the potent meatiness in a story of good men caught up in bad politics.  What's left is a group of well trained, groomed and versed collection of actors truly acting the hell out of their respective parts, pointed speeches and all.

        The film starts, rather amusingly and tellingly false, as a young man takes to the pulpit.  He's one of the top aides to presidential hopeful and current governor Mike Morris (George Clooney), a smart, idealistic young pup with a gift for spin, and gone adrift after long ago drinking the governor's Kool-Aid-- his name is Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling.)  What Ides gets right very early on is the unflinching, almost disarming connection between campaigners and the press, and the spinning of values and facts are mere side notes-- winning is only the option, everything else is crap, and it matters little the scruples needed to get there.  There's an early sequence that's almost chilling in its nonchalance between Stephen, Morris' head aide Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and the Maureen Dowd-like columnist, played with feverish and intimating liberal flirtiness by Marisa Tomei; over drinks the three dance to clever words that are never quite on nor off the record, that strike personal, professional, and utterly savage.  The trick is, that no one has the higher ground at that stage, as both parties-- the Morris men and the journalist are too dependent on one another-- that is until someone is thrown under the bus.  This is after all, a film that gathers its title from Julius Caesar.

        It turns out to be two temptations that may or may not send Stephen left to dust.  The first comes with an ominous invitation to join the rival Democratic campaign, led by the oppositions behind the scenes guy Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti.)  The second comes from the flirty advances of a young intern named Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), who's innocence is squashed nearly completely in her first scene...surely Stephen's seen Mildred Pierce.  Whatever the case or easy outs to explore the devil and angel shoulder dynamics The Ides of March wants to tell, it's basically a fairly simple story of one man's thorny experiences of playing with fire, and corrupting power of politics, no matter how strong ones ideals might be at the beginning.  And so it becomes a sort of mixed blessing that the Stephen is played by Gosling, a triumphant actor, whose radiance and charm are so clear, even in the slimiest or least expressive manners, but the troubling factor is that he shades such a knowing intelligence and such a graceful knack for spin in Stephen, that it's hard to quite buy him as an aw-shucks dupe.  And at the same time, his arc from idealist to shark reads too incidental to be genuine.  Yet it's that same intelligence and charm that keeps the movie going as far as it does, as with his generous rapport with the rest of the ensemble; the dance of morality with Hoffman (who's the closest the film has to a moral center), or his tryst with Wood (the closest the film has to an emotional center.)

        It's the predictable nature of The Ides of March that ultimately makes the film run out of gas, for a such a well-packaged potboiler, it takes the easy way out, and denounces hard realism for tired and torn-from-the-headlines cliches.  For what's missing is a thought-provoking discussion of the good and bad compass that sadly makes up our modern political process, or an intellectual indictment of made in the media political superstars.  Instead, the film somewhat costs of post-Obama age of disillusionment of the liberal promise and showcases seemingly noble men acting a fool; the likeability of any it's characters comes fairly exclusively from the likeability and charisma of its attractive stars, not the jaded temperament of their behavior.

        The film closes with a singular and noteworthy shot, not dissimilar to the one that opened the film; it feels potent because Gosling invests so much into it.  And while it's doesn't quite feel like the perfect fit it should, there's a small dash of gravitas and and (perhaps unearned) potency in the slimy revenge morality paying off.  Perhaps nothing really ever changed in Stephen, and perhaps that's the point of the tale, whatever the case, the actorly range is nearly enough to save the self-serious Ides, but not quite.  B-

        Thursday, October 6, 2011

        Shame poster

        Shame, the hot button fall festival favorite that earned 2011 MVP Michael Fassbender the Best Actor prize at this years Venice Film Festival.  There's a lot more of interest too, for it's the second feature from director Steve McQueen, after the harrowing but brilliantly put together 2008 feature Hunger (which also featured Fassbender.)  There's also the glowing early praise, the pairing of two of today's brightest young stars (Carey Mulligan co-stars), and the titillating premise of a man battling an addiction to sex, which is promising a boundary pushing, expected to be NC-17, full frontal showing drama.  All of which might pose a problem for it's newly aligned distributor, Fox Searchlight, or maybe not, rating and sexual controversy helped last year's Blue Valentine, then again this one may not be the type of film that makes a strong Academy showing either.  Either way, the teaser poster is sparse and artful, and does exactly what it should do...teases.

        J. Edgar artwork

        Can't help but be a tad nervous about this one...

        Young Adult trailer

        Whatever cool factor may have been lost on writer Diablo Cody since she won the Oscar for Juno, or followed-up that film with the silly horror\teen comedy Jennifer's Body, and whatever grace points director Jason Reitman may have lost since his Oscar also-ran Up in the Air, I'm fully on board with Young Adult.  The prime showcase appears to be a nicely nasty and committed comedic turn from Charlize Theron, an actress who, despite that Oscar for that lionized "performance of a lifetime" back in 2003, kind of vanished slightly.  I'm on board, totally, for what appears to a smokey, fun portrayal of a "high school prom queen bitch."  What appears less sturdy, at least on first appearances, is an Oscar campaign, of which I'm certain distributor Paramount Pictures is surely gunning for-- the trailer shows little dramatic pretense...of which makes me enjoy it all the more.  Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson and Juno's dad, J.K. Simmons co-star.

        My Week with Marilyn Trailer

        With a nicely put together, prestige-friendly cast in Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Dominic Cooper, Emma Watson and Eddie Redmayne and a glittering, old-Hollywood backdrop-- that of the filming the film The Prince and the Showgirl-- My Week with Marilyn appears like top drawer eye candy.  Which of course, there's nothing wrong with that, but if by some chance, there's a teensy bit of higher substance in the Marilyn Monroe\Lawrence Olivier affair, that would be even grander.  What's striking in the trailer (at least to me) is the confidence projected in Williams-- who certainly looks the part, if not exactly sounding it-- she's always had a gift at adding sensitive and honest shadings to unhappy people (Brokeback Mountain, Wendy & Lucy, Blue Valentine), so much she could be the modern movie star poster child for melancholy, and Monroe could certainly fit into wheelhouse on that respect, but there's a tease of quiet extroversion in the trailer that seems exciting.  The Weinstein Company seems a bit sheepish in their early marketing-- the movie comes out November 4, a mere six weeks away, and the first trailer appears just now?  The film will be unveiling at the New York Film Festival shortly, and early word will strike fast...
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