We seem to be posting a lot of these lately, but it's a major week for releases and we're keen to know what you make of it all. David Cronenberg's measured Freud-Jung study "A Dangerous Method" opened in limited release earlier this week and is slowly rolling out to other areas -- critical reaction to Cronenberg's newly demure style, not to mention Keira Knightley's bold performance, has been varied since it premiered in Venice, so I'm particularly interested to hear where you land on this one. I wasn't entirely sold in my review, though Cronenberg's explanation of his approach made for one of my favorite interviews I've done on this site. If you've managed to see it, share your thoughts below.
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It's not often (or indeed ever) that the Louis Delluc Prize overlaps with the Best Picture Oscar race, but here we are: Michel Hazanavicius's "The Artist," not content with being one of the leading candidates for US awards glory, has been shortlisted for what is arguably the most prestigious trophy in French cinema.
The Oscar-equivalent César Awards may receive more publicity, but the Delluc, awarded each year to a single French film, has a far longer and more illustrious history -- the list of previous winners is a veritable checklist of Gallic cinema titans, beginning with Jean Renoir in 1937, and extending to Cocteau, Bresson, Tati, Truffaut, Godard, Malle, Resnais, Rohmer, Chabrol... you get the idea. It's a list you wouldn't mind being on, and for Hazanavicius, I imagine that's no less enticing an honor than an Academy Award.
We haven't gotten around to posting many of the original song contenders this year as we have in year's past. The list is accumulating as we build toward the official submission reveal in a few weeks. Meanwhile, a fresh new contender crossed my desk that's worth pointing out, seeing as it's in one of this week's releases.
I don't remember how Zaz's "Coeur Volant" is used in "Hugo." Maybe some of you who are fresh off seeing it can advise, but remember, that's an important element. The way the voting proceeds, each song is viewed in the context of its usage in the film.
This is a delightful track of a piece with Howard Shore's French-inspired score and themes. Indeed, Shore is listed in the music and lyrics credits for the film, along with Elizabeth Cotnoir and Isabelle Geffroy. I think he's already a serious contender for recognition in the Best Original Score category, so maybe he could end up with two nods this year.
I’ve had the honor of speaking to many film composers over the past few years, and my admiration for their profession and their art only continues to grow. Composers almost always come aboard a film when the shooting is over and only the editor, director and sound mixers are still working. From that starting point, with no control over the film’s content, they are assigned to write the music. It is lonely, painstaking work.
But when done well, a cinematic score can be a miraculous accomplishment. Not only have many film scores become iconic (ranging from “Chariots of Fire” to “Star Wars” to “Gone With the Wind”), but the atmosphere of the film can be built through music. We can come to inhabit the world of the characters and the plot can be told, through notes. John Williams’s chugging theme for “Jaws” remains probably my favorite example of a character – the shark – essentially being created through the score.
I'll say no more on my feelings about "The Artist" for now. I think I'm well on the record. But many of you will be getting your own opportunity to judge as the film opens in limited release this week. Guy will be celebrating the occasion with a list of the 10 best films about the movie business next week, and he'll also have a big interview piece with the principals of the film up tomorrow some time. Be sure to check back for that, but for now, if you've already gotten around to the film, let us know what you thought. And if you happen to get around to it later this weekend or when it makes its way to you via wider release, head on back here and join the conversation.
The New York Film Critics Circle will be voting for its annual superlatives on Tuesday. It won't exactly be definitive, though, seeing as the group was so anxious to be heard first that it won't even see all of the films in play this year (bravo, Warner Bros., for doing the right thing). So I guess it's time to start asking for predictions on who'll take it. I really couldn't care less at this point, but I do ultimately see "The Descendants" pulling it out. Maybe "The Tree of Life" could surprise, but I don't think that kind of film can survive in their voting paradigm, so chalk me up for Alexander Payne's film. Another possibility is "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," which will be the last film they see. But I think "The Descendants" sets itself up as the critics darling with a win there. Tom O'Neil recently polled pundits (including Guy) for predictions. [Gold Derby]
Happy Thanksgiving, to all my American readers! (And happy Thursday morning to everyone else.) In what's become something of an annual blog tradition for me, I'm going to embed two of the all-time classic sitcom episodes about Thanksgiving: "Turkeys Away," from "WKRP in Cincinnati" and "Thanksgiving Orphans" from "Cheers." If you have some time to kill before football, turkey, or whatever your family's Thanksgiving plans entail, enjoy some retro laughter, particularly in the climax of each episode.
It's back to Texas for, yes, a chili pepper-focused challenge followed by an actual chili cook off. I know, everything is meant to fit a theme, but I'm hoping we move away from "things people might want to eat on a ranch" pretty quickly.
Before we get started, Lindsay and Sarah tell everyone that they don't feel they turned on Keith. Oh, okay. That throwing him under the bus motion? That was just a vigorous upper body exercise. Nyesha thinks she's seen everyone's true colors and feels the competition has turned cutthroat. I think Nyesha's dead on.
One more wide release solicitation for opinions before getting to the limited films tomorrow. Really packed holiday weekend at the theaters, and much as I love elements of "Hugo" and Michelle Williams's performance in "My Week with Marilyn," if you're asking for a recommendation from the stuff that went wide this week, I'd say spring for "The Muppets." It's not some perfectly crafted work of art, but it was the best time I've had in a theater, perhaps all season. Too bad the Oscars missed the boat. But in any case, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the film when/if you see it, so chalk up your take in the comments section below.
At this point, I'm amazed by Michelle Williams so regularly that I'm used to it.
After all, she's been crushing it in film after film. "Blue Valentine." "Wendy and Lucy." "Meek's Cutoff." "Take This Waltz." She has slowly but surely asserted herself as one of the most impressive young actors working, able to tap into a wellspring of pain that makes her work almost impossible to take at times while being hard to turn off. I love it when an actor starts to really play these raw nerve types of roles, and if it is her real-life personal pain that drives her, then I am truly sorry on her behalf, but I am thankful we at least have the work to enjoy.
Playing Marilyn Monroe seems like the sort of thing that is almost too big a challenge, and one of the reasons I've never been a huge fan of biopics in general. I think they often try to distill an entire life into two hours and often fail miserably at the task. Human lives are complicated, and any person over the course of a life lived richly will probably be several different distinct people over the course of many decades. We change. We evolve. We are rarely just one thing, but biopics are by their very nature reductive, designed to sum someone up with a few signature moments or ideas. I hope I'm not defined that easily, and I don't believe most people are.
Bar an offhand tweet-review that I’d now downgrade about two notches, I’ve been quiet on Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” since seeing it at the London Film Festival last month, and remained so when it hit US screens last week to an inevitable shower of critical applause – with many returning the film to its pre-Toronto position as the film to beat for the Oscar.
I’m not sure why I’ve felt so disinclined to write about it, besides the fact that—contrary to what many may believe about film critics—it’s not a lot of fun to pick away at films beloved by the majority. At first I thought “The Descendants,” a glibly engineered dramedy of Grief and Reconciliation and other capital-letter emotional states, simply wasn’t interesting enough to discuss at any great length, its virtues and offenses both too minor to get worked up about: competent films this bland and condescending get a free pass all the time from critics and audiences, so why single this one out for censure just because it has a bit of Oscar buzz?