Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Who's On First?

The summer movie season is officially over and cinematic mindset quickly shifts over to a different kind of bloodbath.  The superheroes and their ilk will return next year, as they always do, and game turns, not so much to quality as we might be persuaded into thinking, but into eventual awards possibilities.  It's September, so really, nobody knows anything quite yet, but the fall festival season in full gear and the yesterday's concluding of the Telluride Film Festival raises hopes, piques interest and cements points to bludgeon our senses for the next few months.  Forget about the revolution being televised, it's being tweeted, as critics, journalists and bloggers headed to Colorado-- others are in Venice, which is ongoing and Toronto, which starts shortly.  All in hopes of being the first the tout this years "one." The king of the castle and the bragging rights that those entail.  Oy the hyperbole.

It's not for nothing-- Telluride, with its idyllic mountain-side surroundings, has played a hand in playing host to a plethora of recent Best Picture winners-- including, but not limited to last years king Argo.  But let's not forget that the narrative from Telluride to box office hit to Oscar winner was an especially bumpy one for Ben Affleck's baby last year, and not without its own bloodshed. 

This year, a bunch of titles appear to very much be in play, but Musings and Stuff is always leery when it comes to festival reviews.  Here are some of notables to be screened so far:

12 Year a Slave- The hyperbole went into hyper drive after a special Telluride sneak preview of Steve McQueen's latest-- the tale of Solomon Northup, a free black man whose sold into slavery in the height of the Civil War-- and the the buzz was deafening.  Scary so, for fans of McQueen's past work (Hunger, Shame) as the level of expectation morphed into overdrive for those unlucky to be glimpsing the film for the first time-- it even trended on Twitter, a crazy accomplishment for a violent art film about slavery.  Chiwetel Ejiofor, a radiant talent who needs better roles, was instantly signaled as an Oscar frontrunner.  Variety said, "This epic account of an unbreakable soul makes even Scarlett O'Hara's struggles seem petty by comparison." The film will next try to replicate it's wow factor in Toronto before heading to theaters this October.

All is Lost- J.C. Chandor's follow-up to his Oscar-nominated Margin Call carried over it's rousing reception from Cannes and come into Telluride with a retrospective for star Robert Redford.  The film, a battle of the elements mortality play which finds the famed actor and Sundance Kidd adrift at sea, at this stage looks likely (times fifty) to bring Redford only his second acting nomination to date-- The Oscar-winning Ordinary People director has only so far been acknowledged for his acting for 1973's The Sting.  Redford is front and center and maybe even dies.  Time Magazine says, "A signal film achievement and the capstone to a great star's career. This is Ultimate Redford."  Roadside Attractions is handling domestic distribution, and the film will move onto Toronto and New York film festivals to keep the buzz alive.

Blue is the Warmest Color- The provocative, sexually explicit nearly three-hour French Palme D'Or winner rode into Telluride with its newly instated NC-17 rating.  Sundance Selects will release the lesbian coming of film, which features budding stars Adéle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux and was directed by Abdellatif Kechiche.  While the film won't be contention for the foreign lanuage (it wasn't released in its native country by the deadline, but may be able to compete next year), Sundance Selects is still mounting a campaign on behalf of the acclaimed actresses.  Guy Lodge called the film back at Cannes "an intimate epic in every sense of the term, its every subtle emotional turn rendered widescreen on [Adèle] Exarchopoulos's exquisitely expressive face."

Gravity- One of the biggest and most anticipated events of the fall festival season.  Alfonso Cuaron's latest science fiction film finds Sandra Bullock lost in space.  The film, which first played (out of competition) at Venice as its grand opening night extravaganza went to Telluride full of expectation and promise of its glowingly positive early word.  So far, everyone seems truly agog with praise for this one, a worrying sign for those who may want this to be the next masterpiece badly enough to will it there.  Musings and Stuff still feels that Oscar may not truly go for this in the same vein they went for last year's techno-achievement Life of Pi, but the early word is magnetic.  The Hollywood Reporter states, "At once the most realistic and beautifully choreographed film ever set in space, Gravity is a thrillingly realized survival story spiked with interludes of breath-catching tension and startling surprise."  The film goes to Toronto before bowing before the public October 4th.

Inside Llewyn Davis- Word on the Coen Brothers newest release, a riff on Bob Dylan and beat music scene in the early 1960s, has been mum since the film won the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes in May, but it rode out of Telluride (with a tribute to the Coens and uber-music supervisor T-Bone Burnett) with a nice smattering of returned buzz.  Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Justin Timberlake, Adam Driver and John Goodman star in the CBS Films release that heads into theaters December 6th.  Stephanie Zacharek calls it, "[A] marvelous, surreptitiously soulful movie." Inside Llewyn Davis will also play New York and perhaps the AFI Fest.

Labor Day- Jason Reitman is doing an about face from the snarky contemporary comedies he's known for with his straight adaptation of the Joyce Maynard novel starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin.  He's shown partiality to Telluride before (as Up in the Air and Juno started their deafening award runs here as well) and presented his latest to good, if muted reviews.  The Hollywood Reported called it, "A nuanced, superbly acted love story with a most unusual genesis." Yet the film, even while premiering at the time of its namesake won't hit theaters until Christmas and even with its Toronto bow may suffer a lack of buzz when it hits the holiday glut.

Philomena- The Judi Dench film which was snapped up Harvey Weinstein in an intense bidding war at Cannes only hit Venice, but did so with much acclaim and numerous standing ovations, pointing to perhaps a healthy show for the Stephen Frears film when the festival hands out its awards this weekend and possible Best Exotic Marigold Hotel-sized hit when the film comes out this Christmas.  Awards watchers are certainly itching for a superior performance from the beloved Dench.  The Guardian said of the film, it's "An ongoing, confounding delight of a film."  It will next play Toronto.

Prisoners- Along with 12 Years a Slave, this crime thriller swept Telluride with its special sneak preview before hitting Toronto albeit, in a slightly muted fashion, blew up the buzz-o-meter.  Starring Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, this Denis Villenueve (Incendies) film reads like a special episode of Law & Order, but reviews likened the film to the spooky, suspenseful obsessiveness of Se7en and Zodiac.  We're leery of this, as some reviews already seemed to defect after showering first-impression praise.  Variety called it, "A spellbinding, sensationally effective thriller with a complex moral center that marks a grand-slam English-lingo debut for the gifted Quebecois director Denis Villeneuve." The WB film hits theaters at the end of the month and may be the studios big awards play after Gravity.

The Wind Rises- The Japanese animated feature hit both Venice and Telluride by storm, firstly because of the announced retirement of it's director/animation legend Hayao Miyazaki, but also a graceful anecdote to 2013's animated crapola that Hollywood has shilled on us.  In competition at Venice and riding a heap of goodwill buzz from Telluride, the film will released by Disney's Touchstone banner onwards to an eventual animated feature Oscar.

In other news, Tracks, John Curran's survival tale starring Mia Wasikowski debuted to friendly reviews and became the first high profile pick-up of the fall festival season-- The Weinstein Company purchased US right after its debut at Venice.  We expect the film will be an Oscar play for the 2014 race.  Night Moves, Kelly Reichardt's latest won over most critics; the film stars Dakota Fanning and Jesse Eisenberg and Under the Skin, Jonathon Glazer's latest featuring Scarlett Johansson as a seductive alien roaming the streets of Scotland divided festival goers.  Both are still seeing distribution.

What do you think and what are you most anxious to see?

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