Saturday, August 27, 2016

"Kate Plays Christine": @PlaysChristine is one of the best documentaries of the year

1970s TV Reporter Christine Chubbuck was infamously known as the reporter that shot herself on TV while delivering the news. This year’s Sundance gave us not one, but two immaculate portraits of the mysterious woman, whose life story still remains a bit muddy. Not much actual video footage can be found of Chubbuck and the infamous suicide video has been locked out in a vault somewhere with no sign of it ever coming out. Kate Lynn Sheil and Rebecca Hall both played Christine — Sheil in a gratifyingly original documentary and Hall in Antonio Campos’ intense film. The fact that both movie managed to come out of Sundance as one of the very best reviewed films of the fest shows just how fascinating of a story this is.

Campos' "Christine" is coming out later this fall, but will be screening as part of the 41st Toronto International Film Festival. I will be there and have an interview lined up with Rebecca Hall, who is most likely Oscar-bound for her incredible performance.

"Kate Plays Christine"is the first of the two to get released. The doc is a behind the scenes look at actress Kate Lyn Sheil preparing to portray the role of Chubbuck. This in turn becomes an indelibly thoughtful meditation on acting and storytelling. You have never seen a doc quite like this one. But what the film ultimately finds fascinating is our meta obsession with tragedy. Chubbuck's story is a tragedy that has sadly not been deftly told or investigated by anyone. Until now. Sheil is followed by director Robert Greene's camera as she researches her role. It's the discovery of her character that ultimately becomes the core of the story. Why did Chubbuck kill herself on live television? What inner-demons were brewing in her sensitive head? The twists are too juicy to reveal, but "Kate Plays Christine" ends up playing like some kind of twisted, fascinating morality tale for our times.

Friday, August 26, 2016

21st Century? Pff. How about the best movies since the 1990s?

Since the 90s:

(1) Mulholland Drive
(2) The Tree of Life
(3) Pulp Fiction
(3) There Will Be Blood
(4) The Master
(6) No Country For Old Men
(7) Spirited Away
(8) Children of Men
(9) Breaking The Waves
(10) Goodfellas

Someone has actually seen "Snowden" and it's not looking good.

"I received an email from a legitimate big paper critic around an hour ago. He had seen "Snowden" and promise to report on what he though it was. The email response I got said "Don't repeat this pls but it's a dud. Oof." Figures, of course. Did anyone think this would turn out okay? My response: What was the last good Oliver Stone movie? "U-Turn" back in 1997? It's been a long time. He keeps tackling these relevant to the zeitgeist topics such as "W." in 2008, "World Trade Centre" in 2006, "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" in 2010 and now "Snowden," but he keeps fucking it up. How many chances is this guy going to get? He also managed to make a historical story as riveting as Alexander III of Macedonia into such a stale, boring and laughable epic.

Jefferey Wells over at Hollywood-Elsewhere somewhat agrees, he tells me: "Any Given Sunday ('99) was the last completely solid Oliver Stone film. Alexander ('00) was more in the realm of underwhelming than a disaster. But W. ('08) was reasonably decent, good Brolin performance. And the '09 doc South of the Border was impassioned, novel, ballsy. The real downturn began with Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps."

MrRuimy's response? "W." was a watchable comedy, Brolin was great, but there was so much potential with that project that it ultimately was a letdown for me. "Any Given Sunday" Yes! I can agree with that. A bone-crunching good time, but a little overlong." "U-Turn" was such a breath of fresh air. No politics. No bullshit. Just pure adrenaline. It wasn't well-received back in 1997 due to its grimy Tarantino-esque pulp violence, plus "Pulp Fiction" was only three years-old at the time. He tried to tackle similar territory just a few years ago with "Savages," but that was a miserable fail.

Why is Mulholland Drive the best movie of the last 15 years?

Here is a little something I wrote on Facebook concerning the film, which is also number 1 on my list of the greatest of the last 15 years:

"How about because it's the kind of film that is exactly about why we go to the movies in the first place. A dreamy, surreal, almost unexplained work of art. It intrigues you, frustrates you and passionately reaffirms your undying love for the movies. David Lynch dared us to get inside his bag of magic tricks and the epiphanous result felt like a religious re-awakening. In Scorsese's "Hugo" George Melies says concerning the cinema: "If you've ever wondered where your dreams come from, look around this is where they're made. Come and dream with me." Lynch invited us to dream with him as well back in 2001 and we haven't been able to shake it ever since."

Film critics and one of the producers of “Mulholland Drive” weigh in on the movie’s extraordinary staying power.

Harvey's thoroughbred

I'm not sure when it was said this summer, but Harvey Weinstein gave us a warning about Garth Davis' "Lion" possibly becoming a major contender. Of course, this is Harvey Weinstein. He owns the movie. I do fear he is stuck in the 90s and aughts mindset of what an Oscat contender looks like. These kind of prestigious, lesson-learned, self-discovery epics have not aged well at all. Weinstein practically invented the genre of Oscar bait 101, that is until people caught on and realized it was pure sugar coated emptiness.  That was near the tailend of Miramax's days, but lest us we forget that Weinstein is part of the reason why Indie cinema boomed in the early 90s: "The Grifters," "Reservoir Dogs," "The Piano," "The Crying Game," "Clerks," "Pulp Fiction among many others.

Anyway, Harvey thinks you should watch this. It doesn't look very good, but it does look a lot like "Slumdog Millionaire", the kind of tale that could possibly have audiences cheering in their seats and Academy dilpickles voting for it. Never has Google Maps figured this prominently in a big-budget studio movie. Great product placement  though.

Here’s the official synopsis:

"Five-year-old Saroo finds himself alone and travelling on the wrong train away from his home in northern India. Frightened and bewildered, he ends up thousands of miles away, in chaotic Kolkata. Somehow he survives living on the streets, dodging all sorts of terrors in the process. Eventually ending up in an orphanage, Saroo is adopted by an Australian couple, and finds safety and love as he grows up in Hobart. Not wanting to hurt his adoptive parents’ feelings, he buries his past, his emotional need for reunification and his hope of ever finding his lost mother and brother. But a chance meeting with some fellow Indians reawakens his secret yearnings. With just a small store of memories, and the help of some newly-developed satellite-imaging technology, Saroo embarks on one of the greatest needle-in-a-haystack quests of modern times."

#TIFF2016 @TIFF_NET: This critic's much pondered "highlighted films"

Image result for thinking writer

This looks more or less like the list of films I will be catching at TIFF. I do not believe I will be able to watch all fiftyy or so films, but I'd love 40 by day 10 - The lineup is, again, just spectacular this year. Somewhere in there, lurking slyly. are a few classics in the making.

Re(Assignment), Walter Hill
All I see is You, Marc Foster
American Pastral, Ewan McGregor
Arrival, Denis Villeneuve
the Bad Batch, Ana Lily Amirpour
Barry, Vikram Gandhi
Bleed For This, Ben Younger
The Bleeder, Philippe Falardeau
Chrstine, Antoine Campos
The Commune, Thomas Vinterberg
The Death of Louis XIV, Albert Serra
Deepwater Horizon, Peter Berg
Fire at Sea, Gianfranco Rosi
Frantz, Francois Ozon
Free Fire, Ben Wheatley
In Dubious Battle, James Franco
Into the Inferno, Werner Herzog
Jackie Pablo Larrain
JT + The Tenessee Kids
La La Land, Damian Chazelle
LBJ, Robe Reiner
Lion, Garth Davis
The Magnificent Seven, Antoine Fuqua
Mascots, Christopher Guest
Maudie, Aisling Walsh
A Monster Calls, JA Bayona
Moonlight, Barry Jenkins
My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea, Dash Shaw
Neruda, Pablo Larrain
Nocturnl Animals, Tom Ford
Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer, Joseph Cedar
A Quiet Passion, Terrence Davies
The Promise, Terry George
Queen of Katwe, Mira Nair
Rats, Morgan Spurlock
Raw, Julia Ducournau
The Rehearsal, Alison Maclean
Salt and Fire, Werener Herzog
The Secret Scripture, Jim Sheridan
Sing, Garth Jennings
Snowden, Oliver Stone
The Finest, Lone Scherfig
Things to Come, Mia Hanse Love
Una, Benedict Andrews
Voyage Through Time, Terrence Malick
Wakefield, Robin Swicord

Thursday, August 25, 2016

@Petertravers has seen a few Oscar contenders, including "Sully"

No mention of "Silence," just like in EW's "Fall Movie Preview." That film's prospects are looking slimmer and slimmer by the day. Hopefully we do end up catching Scorsese's latest Opus before the year is done. 

I wasn't holding out much hope for the new Tim Burton and Clint Eastwood's "Sully," but consider me intrigued now by both of them. 

You can catch the entire Fall Movie Preview HERE

A few notes from the article that should be taken down: 

Put Ruth Negga high on your list for a Best Actress Oscar. She plays Mildred Loving, a black woman prosecuted in Virginia in 1958 for daring to marry a white man (a superb Joel Edgerton). Unbelievable? Sadly, it's a true story, and director Jeff Nichols wisely lets the drama and pathos come out in Negga's haunted eyes.

"Tom Hanks hits a new career peak as Capt. Sully Sullenberger." 
"Director Clint Eastwood, shooting with IMAX cameras, nails the visuals, but it's as personal drama that Sully soars."

"Manchester By The Sea"
"No film this year will move you more with its humor, heart and humanity than director Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea.Casey Affleck gives the performance of his career as a handyman torn by family tragedy. Michelle Williams, as his ex-wife, has never been better. In his third film (after You Can Count on Me and Margaret), Lonergan turns life's turmoil into a masterpiece."

"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

"It's Burton's best blend of visuals and emotion since Edward Scissorhands"

"The Birth of a Nation

"Get ready for a new landmark in American cinema. Star, writer and debuting director Parker is brilliant and blistering in all departments. Even when he overreaches, Parker electrifies, showing that, then and now, black lives matter."

"Don't Breathe" is the scariest movie of the year

Fede Alvarez' "Don't Breathe" comes out this Friday and it's a real kicker. Sitting right now at 92% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes this could turn out to be a late-summer sleeper. It has the content and quality to become a cult classic of the genre. I believe it is the scariest movie of the year. "The Witch" is maybe the "better" movie because of its atmospheric virtues, but "Don't Breathe" is a flat-out jolt fest. 

Here is an excerpt of my review from this past summer's 20th edition of the Fantasia Film Festival:

"There are people out there that believe Fede Alvarez' remake of "Evil Dead" is better than the original. It's better conceived, that's for sure. More professionally shot, no doubt overall better? Debatable, but definitely not a ludicrous claim. The original 1981 film is a cult classic, but that doesn't mean it's a great movie. Alvarez tried his best to maintain the B-Movie horrors, but expertly direct the whole thing. Good on him.

"Alvarez is back with "Don't Breathe" which is already being described as the scariest movie of the year. It's a tightly knit and terrifying treat to watch three thieves trying to break into a blind war veteran's home to steal a cool million dollars in cash. Not only does the plan fail, but it turns out the blind war vet is quite capable of taking care of himself. It makes for a claustrophobic film. 80% of the film takes places in the man's Detroit home. A labyrinthine thriller that reminded of this year's other genre-exercise Jeremy Saulnier's "Green Room" in terms of hard-edged technical prowess."

"I wouldn't say that Alvarez' horror film is as masterfully executed as Saulnier's grim B-movie, but damn it if it doesn't come close for almost 2/3 of the movie, more specifically when the film turns to the house invasion. It really turns the screws on the suspense, action and" B+

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The best movie I have seen in 2016 finally has a trailer

"The indisputably great movie of Sundance 2016 was Kenneth Lonergan’s meditative film about loss and loneliness. Starring a never-better Casey Affleck, the film was snatched up by Amazon Studios for a whopping $10 Million. A great investment, as this stunner of a bold, sprawling movie got audiences proclaiming the most heralding of words towards its way. The first 100 minutes are better than any movie I saw last year and its final stretch, brilliantly edited by Jennifer Lane, is a masterful display of restraint and intimacy." Taken from my review for "The Young Folks" at Sundance on 1.20.16

What!? Another goddamn list from the @BBC? Of course I'm intrigued.

I love this kind of list-making because it precisely is a very educational study for cinephiles. It's about the movement of cinema, where is it going? what has aged like fine wine? what hasn't? It's always important to reassess the state of the game. Sight and Sound does it every 12 years with their Critics and Director's poll of the greatest movies ever made.

This was how my ballot looked like for the BBC poll. A non-definite ranking because, well, these kind of things change all the time. But that top 10 definitely has the movies that have redefined the language of cinema for me. Each and every one of them. The BBC's list can be found HERE

Best Movies of the 2000s (1-10)
(1) Mulholland Drive
(2) The Tree of Life
(3) There Will Be Blood
(4) The Master
(5) No Country For Old Men
(6) Spirited Away
(7) Children of Men
(8) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind  
(9) Cache/Hidden
(10) Margaret

(11) Upstream Color (12) Y Tu Mama Tambien (13) Son of Saul (14) Holy Motors (15) Inside Llewyn Davis (16) Memento (17) The 25th Hour (18) Zodiac (19) A Separation (20) Dogtooth  (21) Dancer In the Dark (22) Enter the Void (23) Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (24) WALL-E (25) Mad Max: Fury Road (26) The Social Network (27) 4 Months, 3 Weeks and Two Days (28) Hunger (29) Oldboy (30) The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (31) Borat  (32) Selma (33) The Lord of the Rings (34) Lost in Translation  (35) Under the Skin (36) The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Podcast time!

It was s pleasure hooking up with Jeffrey Welles over at Hollywood-Elsewhere for his Oscar Poker podcast. His site is a daily blast for many in the industry and for good reason. It's the kind of writing that is richly-detailed, witily humored all that with an anti-PC open-mindedmess that feels very welcome in contrast to much of today's film blogging clutter. This week we tackled quite a few things that resulted in a kind of Fall Movie preview. Telluride, Martin Scorsese's delayed Silence and Personal Shopper were among the topics.

What kind of finale is HBO's "The Night Of" heading towards? I think I have the answer.

Image result for the night of hbo show

The more "The Night Of" goes along, and now it's headed towards its 8th and final episode next weekend, the more you start to realize that we are not going to be getting any sort of complete closure in the finale. We might not even know who actually committed the crime. It won't matter. The justice system created a murderer in Naz. He's an accomplice to one in jail. That's for sure.

The show is one big fat example of the justice system failing in every account. Everyone's a loser at the end of this. I have never seen such a thorough and detailed account of the justice system and, yet, I feel like 8 episodes is still minimal and that a fuller picture could have been created with the addition of 2 more episodes. Nevertheless, this will do. It's a series with a lot on its mind, sometimes it stumbles, Naz and Chandra kissing was awkward, but it is a work of art.

2016 is shaping to be the most cinematic year in Television history: "The Night Of," American Crime Story: The People vs OJ Simpson," "Better Call Saul," and "The Americans" all share cinematic influences that are undeniable and pertinent. If want a better example of that look no further than last year's exceptional season 2 of FX's "Fargo," which I believed was artistically better than anything released at the movies. No offense "Carol," 'Son of Saul" "Ex-Machina" and "Mad: Max: Fury Road"

Monday, August 22, 2016

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk going to @TheNYFF

This is very exciting news. Especially that NYFF organizers have found a theater that would accommodate the film's technological advancements. This adds to the list of world premieres the NYFF already have which includes Mike Mills’ 20th Century Women, Ava Duvernays The 13th and James Gray’s The Lost City of Z.

Ang Lee’s film is the most hotly anticipated of the Oscar year after Martin Scorsese’s Silence. With the exception of Scorsese, there is no other Hollywood director releasing a fall film this year with a better filmography: Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Life of Pi, The Ice Storm and Sense and Sensibility are all top-notch, high-grade visual and depth-filled wonders.

The NY Times article can be found HERE

The New York Film Festival said on Monday that it would host the world premiere of Mr. Lee’s film on Oct. 14 in a theater — a relatively small one, with just 300 seats — rigged with projectors capable of playing the film in 3-D, 4K ultra-high-definition and at the extremely fast speed of 120 frames a second. No film has ever been shown publicly that way before, according to the festival and Sony Pictures, which will release “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” nationally on Nov. 11.

Kent Jones, the event’s director, said in a statement that Mr. Lee’s film “moved me deeply — in the grandest way, as a story of America in the years after the invasion of Iraq, and on the most intimate person-to-person wavelength.”In a phone interview, Mr. Jones said: “We are used to seeing 3-D used to focus on spectacle. This is precisely the opposite. It’s all about the faces, the smallest emotional shifts.”