Just so we're clear, I have enormous respect for Sean Penn.
I've been a fan since the early days of "Taps" and "Fast Times At Ridgemont High" and "Bad Boys," and watching the choices he's made over the years, both in front of the camera and occasionally behind it as well, I've remained impressed by his talent.
Like many truly gifted people, though, he is capable of spectacular flame outs when they push themselves, and Penn has had his share of terrible moments onscreen. He's been let down by directors sometimes, but he's also made some big crazy choices that haven't paid off in the end, and I think it's only when you are capable of greatness that you are also capable of doing something almost unspeakably bad.
I am still wrestling with "This Must Be The Place," a new film he stars in for director Paolo Sorrentino, because it is a narrative disaster, but a fascinating disaster. The movie's so bad in so many ways, and yet I was riveted by the display I saw unfolding. This is the sort of bad movie that is almost a textbook study. I want to spend time with it and try to really pull apart how many things just plain misfire, starting with the core concept of the picture.
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Just so we're clear, I have enormous respect for Sean Penn.
You likely haven't heard of Danish actor Thure Lindhardt, but after Ira Sachs' new drama "Keep the Lights On" finds distribution after its premiere at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival his studio and English-speaking roles should substantially increase. Lindhardt has had small roles in American films such as "Into the Wild" and "Angels & Demons," but is best known for his critically acclaimed role in the Dutch feature "Brotherhood." He has a reputation for becoming a chameleon-like ability to physically transform himself for a role and in "Lights" he has been given a substantial opportunity to show his vast array of acting skills.
A semi-autobiographical drama from Sachs, who won the Grand Jury Prize in 2005 for "Forty Shades of Blue," "Lights" begins in 1998 where we find gay New York resident Erik (Lindhard) satisfying himself on a now antiquated phone sex line. He ends up connecting and hooking up for the first time with Paul (Zachary Booth), a closeted publishing industry lawyer. To say they have enough chemistry for more than a one time shag is an understatement and the film goes on to chronicle the ups and downs over the next 10 years of their unexpected relationship.
Longtime readers will know that this is something of an Oscar Nomination Eve tradition for me: with the Academy finally set to announce their nominees on Tuesday morning, I offer my own pie-in-the-sky wishlist of films and individuals I'd like to see nominated in all feature film categories. The past three years, my list and the Academy's have borne very little resemblance to each other; suffice to say I don't expect that to change this year.
For starters, while my First-Half FYC columns stuck to the pool of eligible Academy contenders, my dream ballot -- freed from even the hypothetical possibility of persuading voters -- has no such restrictions. This means that several outstanding 2011 releases that, for whatever reason, aren't on the official list of 256 titles being considered by Academy voters (a list that isn't kind to terribly kind to lesser-spotted foreign and independent titles) can come into play. After all, where's the justice in being able to consider "Dream House" but not personal top 10 inclusion "Cold Weather?" A line must be
drawn erased somewhere.
Yes, the man best known for rapping his way through "Ice Ice Baby" in the '90s, Vanilla Ice (aka Robert Van Winkle), hasn't simply become a Trivial Pursuit question. The second season premiere of his DIY Network show "The Vanilla Ice Project" (Sat. Jan 21 at 10 p.m.) will give fans of Ice (and home improvement) a chance to see one thing the rapper has been up to over the last 15 years -- house flipping. I had a chance to talk to Ice last week, and not only is he an old pro at plugging product, he knows his stuff when it comes to real estate. No, really.
When we bring the entire team to Sundance or Toronto or any other festival, we try to each pick one part of the festival to cover. That doesn't mean we're restricted to only one section, but that's our general focus. For me, any time a festival has a Midnight Movies section, I'll be the one covering that. Sundance is no exception, and tonight, I was at one of the two midnight screenings. They showed "Tim & Eric's Billion $ Movie" at the Library, and I'll catch up with that in a few days. They also screened "The Pact" at the Egyptian, and that's where I was.
I may have chosen poorly.
Last year, Nicholas McCarthy was here with a short film, also called "The Pact," and it appears someone who saw the film decided to give McCarthy the chance to expand it to feature-length. I just saw the short film for the first time on Thursday, and I liked the short. I thought it was stylish and effective, and it demonstrated a clear ability on the part of McCarthy to craft chilling suspense and strong visuals. The short starred Jewel Staite and Sam Ball as a brother and sister who are called back to the house they grew up in to deal with the death of their mother. In the short, it's obvious that these two didn't get along with Mom while she was alive, and it seems that although she's dead, she lingers on in spirit form.
Fans of “Dazed & Confused” are about to get as close as they can to a sequel to the iconic 1993 movie.
In the fun new video for “Synthesizers” by Butch Walker and the Black Widows, Walker mega-fan Matthew McConaughey reprises infamous stoner Wooderson.
[More after the jump...]
Like many people, I have watched the Berlinger/Sinofsky "Paradise Lost" documentaries as they've been made and aired over the years, and I had my sense of righteous indignation poked and prodded by the filmmakers in regards to the case of the West Memphis Three. I've donated money to their legal defense on three separate occasions, and I have found myself emotionally invested in their eventual release to a degree that surprise s me, considering these are not people I know or am connected to in any way.
Several years ago, I first heard that Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh had become interested in the case, and that they were becoming involved in a very direct way. At the time, there was no talk of a new documentary of the topic, but instead it sounded like they were working to prove who the guilty party was, hoping that would help free Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jesse Misskelly. I was told that Fran and Peter weren't interested in having their names connected to the matter in public, but that they were simply doing this out of a sense of moral obligation. I filed it away as "interesting information I can't do anything with" and didn't really think about it again.
PARK CITY - I really wanted Amy Berg's "West of Memphis" to happen at 8:30 this morning, but nothing doing. I hear it's a nice distillation of the Robin Hood Hills story for those who haven't seen the Berlinger/Sinofsky "Paradise Lost" series, but nothing about it seems to be blowing too many skirts up so I guess it wasn't such a fatal miss.
Instead I got a late start with a 3pm press screening of Andrea Arnold's "Wuthering Heights" at the Holiday Village, my first Sundance flick. And it was a good one.
Look, Emily Brontë's novel is a bad love story full of deplorable characters. It's a brutal vision of love (which, this combined with "Fish Tank" makes Arnold a fascinating person to analyze on that subject) and it's wrought even more brutally here.
PARK CITY - It's rare that a first-time feature filmmaker delivers something truly memorable with their debut - even at a festival such as Sundance - but Benh Zeitlin has done just that with "Beasts of the Southern Wild" which premiered Friday on the first full day of the festival.