VENICE - Playing an online shrink, Tilda Swinton raps for about 30 seconds at the midpoint of "The Zero Theorem" -- a stiff, Scots-accented Fresh Prince breakdown performed from under a broom-like hairpiece. It doesn't advance the story in any way, but then, nothing here does; her screen is switched off and the rap passes without comment, like a slippery fart in an elevator; the onscreen witnesses look sheepish to have heard it at all.
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TELLURIDE, Colo. - Like any artist, J.C. Chandor isn't interested in tying his work down with one thematic takeaway. Indeed, his latest film, "All is Lost," lives in the abstract and can service any number of perspectives on it. But for a guy who launched his career with the financial crisis indie "Margin Call," one can't help but wonder if this film, about a man stranded at sea as things go from bad to worse, isn't in some way a metaphor for market collapse and financial ruin as seen over the last five years.
The Telluride Film Festival wraps up today and with that, the upcoming awards season has finally taken a little shape. We have a long way to go, of course, and no one should be calling the race from this far out, but we certainly know a few things.
[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
The Pitch: "It's 'Hostages' only with Dermot Mulroney!"
Quick Response: In the Dylan McDermott/Dermot Mulroney battle of conspiracy-fueled, DC-based hostage dramas with bland one-word titles, the winner is Mulroney's "Crisis," at least for me. Yes, "Crisis" has several easy-to-predict twists and a frustrating in medias res opening and some character motivations that are totally transparent. And as with "Hostages," it feels more like the set-up for a movie or brief miniseries than anything with real legs. And a lot of Rand Ravich's dialogue -- "You're my problem and now I'm yours!" -- sounds like it was lifted from a Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich summer blockbuster. And I can't talk about half of the characters and half of the performances without saying things that would probably give other things away. So that's a lot of negatives. But negatives aside, Ravich's script also has a lot of unexpected and interesting beats and taking a group of well-reared school children as hostages rather than a boring-as-hell family gives Ravich an astounding number of potential directions to take things, at least in the short-term. And while I ended "Hostages" thinking, "I don't quite know where things go from here and I don't care," I ended the "Crisis" pilot thinking, "I don't quite know where things go from here, but there are a handful of paths that might be interesting." A frequently reliable (and sometimes hacky) feature thriller director, Phillip Noyce orchestrates a pilot in which a ton happens in a very condensed time-frame and a lot of it is at least initially entertaining. Unlike "Hostages," which was all about the prolongation of a simple situation, the "Crisis" pilot has a very high narrative burn-rate for a 43-minute network drama. I'd say the pilot has two or three climaxes which, with different arrangement of plotpoints, could have been held to end the second and third episodes, but get plowed through immediately. The immediate concern is whether Ravich threw the kitchen sink into the pilot to make sure it would test well, leaving the cupboard bare, or if he knew he had so much story to tell that he had move at breakneck speed. Ravich has some really poor feature credits, but due to his work on "Life," he's got short-term benefit-of-the-doubt from me. I don't wanna say too much but with Gillian Anderson, Rachael Taylor, Michael Beach and whatever your feelings happen to be towards Mulroney, there's a good cast of familiar stars and the kids, who aren't overburdened in the pilot, seem pretty and not-initially-inept (that's all I can ask). "Crisis" definitely isn't bad, especially if you watch it soon after "Hostages."
Desire To Watch Again: A lot of my desire to watch "Crisis" long-term will depend on where NBC puts it at midseason, but that midseason berth also means that before it premieres critics probably will get three or four episodes as screeners. I'll be happy to watch a couple more and that will give me a better sense of whether Ravich had a full bag of tricks or just enough for a pilot.
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Rake'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Mom'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Lucky 7'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Dads'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Super Fun Night'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Welcome to the Family'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'The Millers'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'The Goldbergs'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Ironside'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'We Are Men'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Almost Human'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Back in the Game'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Sean Saves the World'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'Reign'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'The Crazy Ones'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Enlisted'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Betrayal'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Blacklist'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'The Tomorrow People'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Hostages'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Sleepy Hollow'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Trophy Wife'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Michael J. Fox Show'
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
TELLURIDE, Colo. - More than any other medium, the chemistry between two actors is paramount onscreen. The camera intimately reveals what the stage cannot and, ultimately, is most unforgiving if there is none. The latter, sadly, is the fate of Ralph Fiennes' impeccably realized "The Invisible Woman," which premiered at the 2013 Telluride Film Festival on Saturday.
TELLURIDE, Colo. - I must say I'm happy to see that the media is finding its way to Penn and Teller's "Tim's Vermeer" here at the fest. I caught the film on a whim Friday morning and haven't found the right time and head space to write it up, but it might just be -- still -- my favorite entry of the 40th annual Telluride Film Festival.
TELLURIDE, Colo. - There's an interesting bit of synergy happening in Telluride this year between the hottest ticket of the festival and a modest short film that has been screening before John Curran's "Tracks."
Without giving too much away (though some might consider this paragraph to contain SPOILERS -- you've been warned), Alfonso Cuarón's "Gravity" features a scene in which astronaut Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) makes an S.O.S. radio call down to Earth and picks up the signal of an Inuk man in the arctic. Of course, you don't really know he's an Inuk until you get a look at Jonás Cuarón's short film "Aningaaq," which depicts the very same scene but from the Inuk man's point of view with Stone's voice coming in over the radio.
While every HoH competition is important, and CBS likes to sell us on the idea that This Is The Most Important HoH Competition EVER, I will admit that this week's HoH competition is, yes, pretty important. If Amanda or McCrae win, well, I'm still not sure they'd make it to the final four but it would certainly increase their chances. If almost anyone else wins? Well, I'm pretty sure everyone else in the house wants to put McCranda on the block together. The question is whether or not anyone has the guts, especially after Amanda's full-bore crazypants attack on Elissa. While everyone wants to win the prize money, I'm not sure having to listen to Amanda honk insults at you for days on end is a fair trade off.
VENICE - It may not have received ecstatic reviews across the board, but when the dust settles on this year's Venice Film Festival, one of my personal highlights is still likely to be "Tracks," John Curran's classical, visually resplendent true-life tale of Australian explorer Robyn Davidson's 1700-mile trek across the Outback desert. Judi Dench may have all the Lido buzz right now for "Philomena," but were it up to me, "Tracks" lead Mia Wasikowska would be the leading contender for Best Actress at this point in the fest.
Miyazaki-san is going out on his own terms, when he chooses to, and he seems like he's been building to this decision for a while now.
There were rumors before about him wrapping up his film career, but each time, the rumors were dispelled when he eventually went back to work, and in the last few years, he's managed to keep his voice and his spirit intact in his films, something that not every filmmaker can manage. I came to his work mid-career, when "Princess Mononoke" was announced for US release and Neil Gaiman was hired to write the adaptation script for the English dub. I was at Ain't It Cool and I was given the chance to meet Hayao Miyazaki to discuss that film and his earlier work… none of which I'd seen by that point. I ended up going to UCLA because they were showing a marathon of his films, and I saw "Kiki's Deliver Service," "Castle In The Sky," "Nausicaa In TheValley of Wind," "Porco Rosso," "My Neigbor Totoro," and "The Castle Of Cagliostro," and immediately, I was head over heels, smitten with what I'd seen. The interview we did was one of my favorites of my entire career so far, and he ended up drawing a very happy Totoro for me, something I still treasure.
VENICE - If I wasn't surprised by the news today of Hayao Miyazaki's retirement, it's not just because he's made several preliminary remarks to this end over the last few years. Rather, as I noted in my review last night of the Japanese animator's apparent swansong "The Wind Rises," it seemed to me that he indirectly made the announcement in the film itself.