Sunday, March 23, 2014

Weekend Box Office

  1. Divergent- $56 million / first weekend-  While no Hunger Games, this YA franchise in waiting proved better than recent bombs The Mortal Instruments, Beautiful Creatures and The Host.  Notable, however, was that Shailene Woodley's foray into movie stardom opened even less than the first Twilight movie all the way back in 1998.  Spring break is underway, so multiples might be decent.
  2. Muppets Most Wanted- $16.5 million / first weekend-  A downgrade from the 2011 revamp.
  3. Mr. Peabody & Sherman- $11.7 million / -46% / $81 million-  Supposedly, DreamWorks is losing money here, but for a project that's so dated, this seems so much more of a success than could have possibly been imagined.
  4. 300: Rise of An Empire- $8.6 million / -54% / $93 million-  The swords and pecs (and Eva Green) saga will become the third film (after Lego Movie and Ride Along) to cross the century mark of 2014.
  5. God's Not Dead- $8.5 million / first weekend-  Strong opener for limited faith-based film.  Expect it to fall quickly.
  6. Need for Speed- $7.7 million / -56% / $30 million-  Aaron Paul is apparently not quite a movie star.
  7. The Grand Budapest Hotel- $6.7 million / +85% / $12 million-  Wes Anderson's record breaking opener is on track to be the first big specialty title of the year.
  8. Non-Stop- $6.3 million / -40% / $78.6 million-  Liam Neeson on a plane-- not quite Taken, but better than Snakes on a Plane.
  9. The Lego Movie- $4.1 million / -46% / $243 million-  Still the highest grossing film of 2014.  "Everything is Awesome."
  10. Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club- $3.1 million / -61% / $12 million-  On track to be the lowest grossing film ever directed by Tyler Perry.
What did you see this weekend?  I've been off the grid lately (which is deeply unsettling)-- what must I see?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

2014: The Contenders

Last year about this time I indulged in a bit of madness trying to foresee what the 2013 Oscar contenders might be with a round-up of what the major, mini-major and straight-out mini studios had up their respective sleeves. I managed to include nearly every major film nominated for Oscars last year, with the notable exception of one-- at this time one year ago, I (and likely you) hadn't the sense that Philomena would go on and be The Weinstein Company's saving grace in the 2013 awards circuit.  In fact, I hadn't heard of it at all, further proof that early prognosticating is likely an unhealthy sickness.  That being said, why not go for a ridiculously early trip down the rabbit hole yet again.

Gone Girl
Fox Searchlight, the mini beneath the Big Fox banner, usually gets all the glory and that was certainly the case in 2013 where 12 Years a Slave bagged the top prize while films coming out of major fold were almost completely ignored save for the obligatory John Williams Score nod for his work in The Book Thief, but Big Fox (Searchlight will be profiled further down) had a banner 2012 with Life of Pi and has a few potential cards in the running for 2014.  Two big ones, and mighty risky ones, but if they work could be major.  Director Ridley Scott struck out for the studio with 2013's The Counselor, but returns this Christmas with Exodus, a biblical epic starring Christian Bale as Moses-- it's been a long while since a film of that ilk has scored with the Academy, but there's a mini-resurgence of them going on this year (Noah.)  The other big card is Gone Girl, David Fincher's eagerly awaited adaptation of Gillian Flynn's best-selling novel-- it's a mystery starring Ben Affleck (2012's Oscar pity-partier and eventual golden boy) and Rosamund Pike.  Might not be the Academy's taste, but his Girl With a Dragon Tattoo didn't seem so on paper either and ended up earning 5 nods and a statue for its Film Editing.  Fincher, whether he cares or not, is in the club and thus it merits inclusion.  Also on the roster is the based on true events drama True Story, which tells of the relationship between a journalist and a murderer-- the caveat is that they're played by James Franco and Jonah Hill from untested director Rupert Goold; then again Hill is now a 2-time Oscar nominee.  The Fault in Our Stars is a teenage romantic weepie with Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort; probably not Oscar-bait, but the screenplay comes from the (500) Days of Summer/The Spectacular Now team of Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, who one day should breakout with the Academy.  The rest of Big Fox's Oscar chances lie in blockbusters hoping to break in with technical nods like X-Men: Days of Future Past (never once has has the series been nominated for anything) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (the 2011 film received a Visual Effects bid) and animated films Rio 2 (the first film didn't get into Animated Feature, but earned a Best Song nomination), The Book of Life, Home, Mr. Peobody and Sherman and How to Train Your Dragon 2 (the latter two are from DreamWorks Animation with Fox distributing.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Happy Birthday to "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

March 19, 2004-- One of the greatest movies ever made opens in theaters.  Directed by Michel Gondry, written by Charlie Kaufman and starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind marks a sublime snapshot of everyone involved was at the top of their game.

It's greatness isn't up for debate as far as I'm concerned.  It's personal, beautiful, anguishing, haunting, funny, sad, hopeful, romantic, weird and well, eternal.  To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (how did that happen so fast?), the least one can do is give it a revisit.  For a film I'm rather hopelessly possessive and obsessed with, forgive me for making it all about me, but the best thing I can say about this modern masterpiece (a word I don't use lightly, in fact, one I try to seldom use at all) is that it feels so much like a film that was made just for me, the personal component is important.  Particularly when the film itself is sculpted, twisted and pretzel-curved out of such relatable pain.  Yet through the miracle of an ingenious screenplay, playful direction, top-tier actors and crafty artisans, the film is never depressing-- it sings, it soars, it inspires.

I remember seeing the film in theaters on opening day, it was a matinee.  It was showing at the kind of grungy-looking strip mall theater near where I used to live.  Not my ideal spot, but relatively inexpensive.  I had wished it opened, instead, at the nicer, far more comfortable multiplex across the street, but for cinema, sacrifices are made.  To this day, I'm surprised the film opened wide-- for such a nutty, hard to suss-up mind bend, that takes some real balls on the part of Focus Features, who distributed-- I doubt that would happen had the movie opened this year.  Anyhow, the first viewing (there have at least fifteen more since than, and that's probably being conservative), I don't remember being instantly in love with the film.  There was certainly a crush, but I was fuzzy, nearly instantly unsure of what I had just seen.  Yet with time, my method of discerning if a film is truly great, Eternal Sunshine (unlike a few of its protagonists) stayed, kept refreshing and churning inside my brain.  I hope it stays there forever.


The Film Experience is celebrating by collecting the best shots of this beautiful movie.  Which is actually really hard.  For a film so feeds the mind and heart so fully, it's sometimes hard to remember what an absolute beaut of film it truly is, ever more so because the very best (and most instantly iconic) beats of the film are in such constant motion.  My pick is a simple one of Clementine Kruczynski's huffing out the door.  Winslet, giving one of the best performances ever, pounces and acts the hell out of her; my pick needed to Clementine-centric.  I have more to say on Eternal Sunshine-- the 10th Anniversary will live on for the next couple of days.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

SXSW Competition Award Winners

With only eight films in their competition section, Austin's South by Southwest Film Festival is hardly Sundance.  Then again, their competition section is but the tip of the iceberg of their schedule and last year they earned some major cool points when their grand jury prize pick Short Term 12 became one the top critical highlights of the year.  Here's how the film prizes went this year.

Fort Tilden

GRAND JURY PRIZE: Fort Tilden- directed by Sarah Violet-Bliss & Charles Rogers
SPECIAL JURY RECOGNITION FOR ACTING DUO: Natalie Tena & David Verdaguer, 10,000KM

DOCUMENTARY GRAND JURY PRIZE: The Great Invisible- directed by Margaret Brown
SPECIAL JURY RECOGNITION FOR EDITING & STORYTELLING: Print the Legend- directed by Luis Lopez & Clay Tweel

LOUIS BLACK LONE STAR AWARD: Boyhood- directed by Richard Linklater

full list of award winners here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

What Comes Next?

The 2013 Oscar season is in the history books and it's time to move on.  But the lure and obsessing continues.  An Oscar nomination (and even better, a statue) can mean huge things for both budding and established talent.  How do you follow that up?  Here's a look at the 2013 winners and what they have in store for us.

McConaughey in Interstellar
"Alright, alright, alright," Matthew McConaughey's personal hero may be himself ten years in the future, but he's without question in the prime of his (comeback) career now.  With an Oscar win for his performance in Dallas Buyers Club and a potential Emmy on the way for his work on the just ended, zeigeist-y HBO series True Detective (which nearly broke the internet with its conclusion this past weekend), the once Kate Hudson-cohort will next be on screen in Christopher Nolan's eagerly awaited Interstellar.  The plot details are still tight-lipped (as Nolan does), but McConaughey co-stars alongside Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck and nearly half of SAG in the film due in theaters this November.  Beyond that, there's the rumored Magic Mike 2 and more chasing.  Leonardo DiCaprio scored some of the best reviews of his life in The Wolf of Wall Street (which McConaughey, incidentally, had a small role in) and constant "give him an Oscar" memes after losing his fourth acting bid, but he's taking his time it appears-- he has The Ballad of Richard Jewell in development which might re-team the actor with Wolf co-conspirator Jonah Hill in the true story of a security guard falsely vilified after discovering a bomb at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta; that film appears a few year away at the least but Captain Phillips scribe Billy Ray was recently signed to write the screenplay.  BAFTA winner Chiwetel Ejiofor is currently filmming Z for Zachariah, a science fiction drama based on the novel by Robert C. O'Brien alongside Wolf of Wall Street's Margot Robbie and Chris Pine, directed by Craig Zobel (Compliance) and has signed on for John Hillcoat's Triple Nine alongside Oscar-winner Kate Winslet and Fruitvale Station star Michael B. Jordan.  Bruce Dern, now a two-time Oscar nominee will follow his Cannes-winning turn in Nebraska with a role in the thriller Cut Bank opposite Liam Hemsworth, John Malkovich and Billy Bob Thornton, while the always light on his feet Christian Bale will follow his surprise American Hustle nod portraying Moses in Ridley Scott's biblical epic Exodus, due in theaters this Christmas.  Bale is also set for Knight of Cups, Terrence Malick's latest something-something as well as the still Untitled Terrence Malick Project, however we'll believe it when we see it.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

MTV Movie Awards Nominations

  • 12 Years a Slave
  • American Hustle
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  • The Wolf of Wall Street

  • Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
  • Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave
  • Josh Hutcherson, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  • Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club 

  • Amy Adams, American Hustle
  • Jennifer Aniston, We're the Miller
  • Sandra Bullock, Gravity
  • Jennifer Lawrence, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
  • Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave

Sunday, March 2, 2014

86th Academy Awards

PICTURE: 12 Years a Slave
DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
ACTOR: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: 12 Years a Slave- John Ridley
DOCUMENTARY: 20 Feet From Stardom
FOREIGN FILM: The Great Beauty (Italy)
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Gravity- Emmanuel Lubezki
PRODUCTION DESIGN: The Great Gatsby- Catherine Martin & Beverley Dunn
COSTUME DESIGN: The Great Gatsby- Catherine Martin
FILM EDITING: Gravity- Mark Sanger & Alfonso Cuarón
ORIGINAL SCORE: Gravity- Steven Price
ORIGINAL SONG: "Let it Go," Frozen
DOCUMENTARY SHORT: The Lady in Number 6

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Razzie Awards

Before we celebrate the best in cinema last year, a special shout-out to the year's absolute worst.  As usual, the 34th Razzie Awards took easy shots, but they're still fun in a way the Oscars just could never be.
At least they were able to do it as a family.
WORST DIRECTOR: The Directing Team of Movie 43
WORST ACTOR: Jaden Smith, After Earth
WORST ACTRESS: Tyler Perry, A Madea Christmas
WORST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Kim Kardashian, Tyler Perry's Temptation
WORST SCREEN DUO: Jaden Smith & Will Smith, Movie 43

Final Oscar Predictions

It's almost here...and over.  This exceedingly long awards season (prolonged a week further thanks to the Winter Olympics) will come to a conclusion in nearly twenty-four hours time and well, it's been a bit of bumpy ride.  2013, by most accounts an above average (if mildly over-praised) calendar year comes to a close with many races still fairly tight.  Will surprises abound?  I suppose they already have considering the Best Picture prize is still not the for-sure guarantee that it usually is the night before Hollywood's biggest night.  And for all the nuttiness that occurred last season, the 2013 awards season has been even more rule-breaking and slightly infuriating-- yes, Ben Affleck's lack of a Best Director nomination was unprecedented, but Argo was a clean-sweeper once the guilds had their say.

2013 is way more nutballs by comparison with 12 Years a Slave and Gravity as the dueling, flip-a-coin frontrunners, while wily American Hustle hopes to messy up Oscar predictions even further-- the David O. Russell con job raked in 10 nominations (the most ever for this year-- tied with Gravity.)  While a great many races appear almost neatly settled, there's still quite a few of those nagging categories that will leave us in suspense until the envelope is open...and Best Picture is one of them.  Phew!  Here's my feeble attempt to break down the 2013 Oscar race.  I will go in the order in which the Oscars where presented at last years ceremony.

Five dudes, all of whom are in movie nominated for Best Picture, compete and four of them will in all likelihood graciously clap when Jared Leto's name is called for Dallas Buyers Club.  Surprisingly, a challenger never really took shape throughout the season as Leto streamlined through the awards circuit winning nearly everything in sight.  Even, if only for a second, he looked vulnerable after a bit of fuss to his Golden Globe speech spelled slight trouble, the actor and 60 Seconds From Mars front-man adjusted and never looked back.  Barkhad Abdi recently won the BAFTA (a prize that Leto strangely wasn't up for) for his role in Captain Phillips and Michael Fassbender looked a threat before the race started for 12 Years a Slave and his adamant, non-campaigning fuss, but neither looks to challenge.
Prediction: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club

The short films used to be a sore ache in the Oscar prediction game, but after least years decision to open up voting to all Academy members added with the slight uptick in notoriety for shorts (all of them were granted brief theatrical releases this year), perhaps that's a thing of the past.  This year, the frontrunner is likely Get a Horse, the bouncy old school meets new school Mickey Mouse hybrid that played in front of Frozen.  It is easily the most seen of the five films and, as a novelty, would provide Mickey his first Oscar-winning vehicle ever.  Feral and Mr. Hublot have fans and warm critical notices, but expect Get a Horse to triumph.

Prediction: Get a Horse

Things looked dire in this category until Frozen blew in and became a worldwide phenomenon, nearly ensuring an animated feature Oscar for the Mouse House on top of its (almost) billion dollar gross.  The art housers admire The Wind Rises but this looks to be one of the easier predictions of the evening.

Prediction: Frozen

The last few years, the Cinematography Oscar has been in a bit of rut, honoring effects-heavy behemoths like Avatar, Hugo and Life of Pi sparking a debate as to the efforts of the Director of Photography versus a film's visual effects artists.  Well, with Gravity so far ahead of the pack this year, that debate will linger at least a year longer, but the silver lining is that multiple nominee, but Oscar-less Emmanuel Lubezki (the poet who shot Y Tu Mama Tambien,Children of Men, The Tree of Life, The New World, Sleepy Hollow) will garner a statue, and that's a good thing.  The competition is impressive (Inside Llewyn Davis, The Grandmaster, Nebraska and Prisoners), but this is one (of potentially very many) awards in the bag for Gravity.
Prediction: Gravity

Independent Spirit Awards

BEST FEATURE: 12 Years a Slave
BEST DIRECTOR: Steve McQueen, 12 Years a Slave
BEST FIRST FEATURE: Fruitvale Station
BEST MALE LEAD: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
BEST FEMALE LEAD: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
BEST SUPPORTING MALE: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
BEST SCREENPLAY: 12 Years a Slave- John Ridley
BEST DOCUMENTARY: 20 Feet From Stardom
BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM: Blue Is the Warmest Color
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: 12 Years a Slave- Sean Bobbit
BEST EDITING: Short Term 12- Nat Sanders

12 Years a Slave nearly fully swept the Independent Spirit Awards and hopes to become only the third film in history to win the top prize here and at tomorrows Oscar ceremony-- The Artist and Platoon are the only movie so far to accomplish that feat.  I'd say the proceedings went according to plan with the exception of Southern California suffering its worst storm in years.  Curiously, if all four acting winners today repeat tomorrow (a legitimate possibility), that would be a first.

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