Oscars in Tweets

continues its hot streak. Every BP winner, but one, has premiered there since 2008.

Amy deserved the win. However, The Look Of Silence was its equal

If only Mad Max actually stood a chance to win

Vikander, lovely and eloquent, didn't deserve it, but she has a great career ahead of her

Jordan Ruimy ‏@mrRuimy 15h15 hours ago I'm not complaining about Chivo winning a third in a row #Oscars2016

Morriccone, FINALLY

The big night is here, possible upsets I'd look out for

Maybe I should have titled it better, but fuck it. These are possibilities that I've been hearing just to get you guys going and hoping.

Best Picture
We all know that The Revevant is THE film to beat, all this based on buzz? albeit could be fabricated by the studio, but who knows, because, truth be told, it did not win the PGA. The Big Short won the PGA and that could very upset. There's been a crazy-bugged rumored that Room could upset as well ... wouldn't that be something. Really, at the end of the day it seems like Spotlight is the biggest contender for The Revenant.


Best Actor
Nothing, absolutely NOTHING can beat Dicaprio. Although Fassbender deserves it more, much more.

Best Actress
Brie Larson has swept up every possible award, can anyone actually beat her? My biggest bet would be to look at the British voters and how they can possibly score an upset win for Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years. It's very doable and would be a very welcome treat. However, betting wise? Brie.

Best Supporting Actor
This seems to be Sly Stallone's Oscar to lose, he was above average good in Creed and the industry loves the guy, especially for a role he iconized more than 40 years ago being nominated again Biggest competition would be Mark Rylance, who will get the ever important British vote and Mark Ruffalo, an actor that is due to finally win an Oscar for what has been, so far at least, one of the great acting careers of the last two decades.

Best Supporting Actress
Tightest race of the night. Rooney Mara vs. Alicia Vikander vs. Kate Winslet. My bet? Vikander, it's the safest way to go, but Winslet winning would be oh so sweet. For a film which got unfairly snubbed, same with Mara's film, even more so actually. This will be the race to look out for in the early stages of the evening.

Best Director
A tight race between George Miller and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu, last year's winner for Birdman. Another crazy theory came out for Lenny Abrahamson to upset, don't count on it. This is a two man race and I wouldn't be happier if Miller could pull through an upset for he directed the best movie of the year and it was very much because of his visual wizardry.

Best Cinematography
Chivo. Nothing comes close to Lubezki winning for a third year in a row. Deakins could upset just for the fact that he's been nominated so many damn times and is truly the best director of photography out there, no offense Chivo. Wouldn't that be great?

Best Foreign Language Film
Son Of Saul vs Mustang. Mustang is more accessible, but Saul is better. It's a freaking masterpiece. I'd say it's a 60/40 advantage for Saul at the moment.

Best Animated Film
Inside Out. Anomalisa was great, but Inside Out was REVOLUTIONARY. Nothing will be it.


FIRST LOOK @ Terrence Malick's Voyage Of Time

I recently wrote about Terrence Malick's most intriguing project, more specifically on 02.22.16

"Documentary/ficition mix about the beginning of time, narrated by Brad Pitt no less. Its been rumored completed for the last 5 years now. Every year when the Cannes lineup gets revealed we cross our fingers it's there, maybe this year?"

We had some progressing news this morning when three new movie stills were revealed and they're absolutely stunning:

Voyage Of Time
Voyage Of Time
Voyage Of Time


If this looks like Lubezki well it isn't, pretty close though. Paul Atkins, who was Lubezki's right hand man as second unit cinemtographer on The Revenant, will take the stage as main photographer for this one.

We also learned today that two versions will be released, one a 40 minute IMAX extravaganza narrated by Cate Blanchett, the other a feature length film shot on 35mm an narrated by Brad Pitt. Suffice to say the latter intrigues us way more. Hopefully they can get this baby out by Cannes, which, if all goes as planned, I will be attending this coming May.

John Hilllcoat's Triple 9



This will be me rummaging about director John Hillcoat and his by-the-numbers -but nevertheless thrilling in some parts- new film Triple 9. Hilllcoat really made his mark with The Proposition, which was an Australian western that took place in the Outback, now why the hell would that not work out as a film? It did and Hillcoat really turned heads with that one and despite my reservations for a few plot contrivances I did like its style quite a bit. Then came his big break, which could have been an even bigger deal, but alas it never materialized, an adaptation of Cormac Mccarthy's seminal novel The Road. Now this was broodingly morose material, right up Hillcoat's alley and I did think it was a good film, but that's the problem. The Road is supposed to make a GREAT film and he didn't add that extra something to make it an Awards contender, He followed it up with another GOOD film Lawless, which had an incredible cast including Jessica Chastain and Tom Hardy, another sort of Western-influenced take on the 1930's bootlegging scene and I really dug it, especially on second viewing where some of the finer details of the picture really stood out.

Now we come to Triple 9 which is probably the most conventional film h's made so far in his career, the cast is insanely A-list: Kate Winselt, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor. Great cast, but this film's release feels seriously dated, This is the kind of movie that Michael Mann invented in 1995 with Heat, there haven't been many better since then. A heist, police procedural with both the good and bad guys sitting on that moral dilemma fence, yeah it's all good I'm a sucker for these kind of pictures and I dug quite a bit of Triple 9, which is by the way the term used for an officer down in case you wanted to know. Winslet, who is badly miscast here, still manages to, well, be Kate Winslet and bring out another great performance. The whole cast is genuinely great and the direction by Hillcoat is as expected pretty solid, standard stuff/ He seems to really dig making brutally violent movies with moral dilemmas at the core of his characters. There are some action scenes here that I will truly grip you to your seat. Too bad, then, that the screenplay by Matt Cook doesn't push any boundaries and go beyond run of the mill characterizations and plot twists. Hillcoat deserved better, the cast deserved better and we deserved better. What we're left with is an entertaining action movie, but there's a reason why the studio decided to throw this one at us the last week of February.

Where film criticism is about to go

The ubiquitous #Oscarssowhite controversy might bring more to the cinematic table than just Chris Rock taking a few jabs at the Academy come next Sunday's Oscar telecast. No, I am also referring to the cinematic spectrum switching gears and celebrating films for political reasons more than cinematic. I don't think people realize just how big this movement really is. It will stretch out and change the way many people perceive films, for the wrong reasons of course. We saw it just last month at Sundance when Nate Parker's "The Birth of a Nation," a mediocre film that was unjustly clebrated by critics, bloggers and audiences alike, stormed out of the gate and became a surefire Oscar contender for 2017. Why am I saying it is a surefire contender if I just said it is mediocre? Because it is a movie that feels needed more for political gain than for actual cinematic qualities. It is a movie that can turn the most knowledgable of film critics blind to its flaws just for the sake of celebrating a film that perfectly fits the current political agenda. What the rave reviews for "The Birth of a Nation" have taught us is that there's a storm coming and it won't let up. The Academy has to atone for its "sins" and critics feel just as guilty for the blame. We are headed towards a direction I have long feared for film criticism, that of blurring the lines between your political and societal beliefs than, you know, focusing on the actual merits of a movie. I would be shocked if 2017 did not produce a few more overpraised films like Parker's and I wouldn't be surprised either if one or all of them underservedly got critics praising them like the second coming for all the wrong reasons.

Knight Of Cups and Malick's demise

I don't know why I kept hesitating and delaying my viewing of Terrence Malick's latest, I had heard about the advanced buzz and I already didn't like his last film To The Wonder, which felt like a rehash and half assed imitation of his prior, more creatively inspiring work. Suffice to say that I did end up watching Knight Of Cups recently and it wasn't very good. I really hate to ask this question, but has he lost it? After The Tree Of life it seemed like nothing he would make after that would ever touch that incredible masterwork. It is the movie of his career and , so far at least, the movie of the decade.

Knight of Cups is, as mentioned, a pale imitation of the Malickian vibe that worked so well in The Thin Red Line and, for the most part, The New World. It is a movie that never really finds its footing and is stale for the most of its running time. A crying shame if you ask me, this comes to us from an auteur that took a lifetime to follow up his 1978 film Days Of Heaven, more precisely twenty years. Yikes, and now he's release 4 films in the past ten years - has his iconic status diminished because of the productivity and the fact that now we don't really see him as this perfect director anymore? I don't think so, but if this continues it'll be very disappointing.

Knight Of Cups premiered a year ago at the Berlinale to very mixed reviews, which delayed it for what seemed like forever. A lukewarmly met Terrence Malick film is a producers nightmare. His films are already not big box office draws, but when you add terrible reviews to the mix how the hell will you get people to show up and watch?

He has two projects still in development, both look like they might be completed soon. He's currently filming Weightless and also has that very intriguing TOF companion piece, a documentary/ficition mix about the beginning of time, narrated by Brad Pitt no less. Its been rumored completed for the last 5 years now. Every year when the Cannes lineup gets revealed we cross our fingers it's there, maybe this year? There's Terrence Malick for you in a nutshell: Unpredictable.

The Revenant vs. The Big Short Vs. Spotlight

The title says it all. This has been a hell of a race, maybe the mostg entertainingly unpredictable since 2000 when it was Gladiator Vs. Traffi Vs. Courching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Vs. Erin Brokovich. What we have here is basically a three way race between the three titular aforementioned titles, The Revenant seems to eb the favorite at the moment, even though it failed to win the Producers Guild Award or the Screen Actors Guild. If it does end up winning Best Picture it would be a first since the preferential ballot that a film has won the top prize without winning the PGA. What has made people lean towards The Revenant is that it won the Director's Guild Award and is running very high off the momentum that this could be a two straighter for Inarritu in terms of winning Best Picture and Best Director, a feat very hard to achieve and more rare than winning two straight Super Bowls.

My own personal opinion of the three films is this: The Revenant is my type of film, ambitious and no-holds barred, it doesn't really fit into a particular category, which is always a good thing, I espied the flashbacks of Leo's deceased wife in the film and, really, the whole spiritual aspect of the screenplay (was there even a screenplay except for grunting and crying?), but the artistry was second to none and, as it stands, it is the most astonishing achievement of the three films battling.

Spotlight is fantastic, but suffers in terms of the flashiness that the Academy usually seeks in awarding their top prize, if that weren't the case they would have given the Best Picture Oscar to All The President's Men in 1976. Instead they opted to go with the more exuberant Rocky.Nevertheless, Tom Mccarthy's Boston Catholic church sex scandal picture is built to last. It's subtle direction by McCarthy is magnificently restrained and the performances are all so perfect and professional. His previous three great features, we're not counting the misbegotten Sandler bomb The Cobbler, found a way to sneak up on us even months, years later after their release. I recently revisited The Visitor and it holds up admirably well, a film with a universal theme that is built to last, ditto The Station Agent.

The Big Short will be the biggest contender for The Revenant. It is a film that has built a loyal and solid fanbase since its first presss screenings at the AFI Film Fest back in very late November. It is my least favorite of the three, but stands a good chance at winning the top prize because of its PGA win. Adam McKay, known for directing Will Ferrell comedies, helms the movie and does a surprisingly decent job at conveying the frustration that came with the economy downfall. As mentioned it has its fans and the cast is uniformly perfect, especially Christian Bale as a numbers guy that predicted the collapse way before it actually happened. Hollywood loves smartly executed, not to mention flashily directed, movies about money and this could be the big reason why it'll make it all the way.


Prediction: The Revenant will just squeak by.

What should win? 2015's two masterpieces: Mad Max: Fury Road, a miracle of a movie that will be remembered more than any other 2015 film in 30 years. Carol, Todd Haynes' beautiful lesbian drama, was stupidly not nominated, another reason to take all these awards with a grain of salt.

This week's releases: The Witch, Race



Since I was away on Monday and missed the press screening of Race, the Jesse Owens films, I cannot give my opinion on it, but rest assure I will check it out. Reviews have been mixed so far, but I hope I expected it to be conventional and by-the-books. Sort of in the same way as the Jackie Robinson biopic that came out a few years ago 42. I really don't mind that, a film trying to be good in a rousing, conventional way, just as long as we get something entertaining out of it. I was one of the few people that actually loved Angelina Jolie's Unbroken, me and Peter Travers, that film did it's job quite well actually. Yes, it looked like a hallmark movie, but it was gritty enough to get my hopes up for By The Sea, which we all know ended up being one of the worst films to come out last year. 

The Witch was seen by me at Sundance 2015 and then at TIFF that very same year. It's a spine tingler. I wrote back in September: "One of the best of the bunch is The Witch, which sadly is only slated for release next year! A real shame if you ask me. Robert Eggers’ haunting and spooky film was far and away the best movie I saw from Sundance 2015 and the one with the most potential to be a critical darling." Yeah that sounds about right. It's not your typical horror movie. It's more arty than that. It's more interested in building up dread in its spooky atmosphere and I couldn't have liked it more because of that. Watch out for Eggers, I can't believe this is his first film. He directs in such an assured, effective, veteran-like way. Go see this right away, it's meant to be seen in a darkened movie theater.

WATCH OUT: Fandango buys RottenTomatoes

Whenever it's Friday -or sometimes Wednesday- and new releases come out, I will always go and check their ratings on RottenTomatoes and Metacritic. It's always a great way in knowing what the general consensus is and both are different enough from each other that you end getting the gist of it all. RottenTomatoes is a complete consensus with every possible film critic weighing in. Metacritic is the highbrow types, getting a score of 70 is actually awesome for a film. A 70% fresh rating at RottenTomatoes is average at best. All this to say that my weekly ritual might come to an end soon as Fandango has just bought RT and Flickster. Yikes. Fandango is already know as being very lenient and biased in its management of films, let's hope we don't get that with RT, but I have a feeling this will be the end of an era, When you then realize that Fandango is also owned by NBC Universal then you truly get the whole picture. I'll be keeping an eye out on this, but for now let's just say Metacritic seems as relevant as ever.

Michael Mann has a new version of BLACKHAT



Just when I thought we can move past Blackhat, Michael Mann's unfortunate cyber-tech thriller from 2015, he just recently mentioned to IndieWire that the director's cut he is releasing is a significant improvement over the theatrical release:

 “I wasn’t 100% happy with it,” Mann admitted of the original cut. “It was a challenging film to do because the ambition of the film was to an event driven narrative and develop characters within scenes, but have a very rapid narrative with rhythms imitative of how fast our world moves today in the digital information age. So this is why I intentionally had a rapidly driving plotline. But the engine of that was cyber tech so you had to track with the search for the code… which leads you on and on and on through various hacking techniques. So in moving some of the big pieces of story around I may have obfuscated [the audience] tracking the events of the basic plot.”

"Mann said he put things back how they “originally” were, suggesting that in his pre-release cut, the soy hack was in front of the nuclear hack and thus this new version is what he originally intended, but he either second-guessed or overworked the theatrical edit." Mann to The Playlist

Ok, fair enough. I'm actually intrigued. Because every single problem he mentions here is what was wrong with Blackhat. Its pacing was atrocious and it didn't develop any of its characters coherently. I'll be taking a good luck at this new version because, well, it's Michael Mann and there's no way the director of Manhunter, Thief, Heat, Collateral, The Insider and Ali could conceivably agree to the heaping pile of junk that was released almost exactly a year ago.

http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/listen-michael-mann-talks-changes-to-blackhat-last-of-the-mohicans-possible-sci-fi-project-in-1-hour-talk-20160215

The BAFTAs and what they mean for The Revenant

Ever since last night people have been proclaiming the race for Best Picture done and over with. The Revenant is now the frontrunner, even though The Big Short won the PGA and has single-handedly dominated the awards buzz the last few months. I'm not buying. The race is far from over. Inarittu wining another Best Director Oscar is also up in the air. Listen, The Revenant is a genuinely thrilling picture, don't get me wrong, and I wouldn't mind it winning over The Big Short, but its rampant artistic emptiness might rub some folks the wrong way. I've met plenty of people that have said they didn't quite get the point of the whole thing. I do understand that sentiment, however my problem with The Revenant is the exact opposite. The scenes that tried to get some kind of emotional response out of us felt staged and gimmicky. I much preferred the raw, outdoor torture porn that Inarritu and Lubezki kept hitting us with. Some of the most beautiful and breathtaking sequences of 2015 come from this movie. The whole dead wife shtick, something that Dicaprio seems to love reading when choosing his scripts, just rubbed me the wrong way and I felt it was almost too forced to have any emotional resonance on yours truly.

Does Inarritu deserve Best Director? Of course not. This was the Chivo show, nickname of Lubezki, as he did the unthinkable and made a film exceptional all by himself. This might be the first time that I've seen a director of photography take over a movie this way this basically make it his instead of the director's. What we are seeing is a major breakthrough: Photography overtaking direction and I feel like this will become more and more the norm as we start to realize how important images can be used in mainstream fare. The Revenant is a composition of images that strikingly hit you, think of it as a montage of suffering. All done through natural lighting and little to no exposition. To say that Chivo is becoming a groundbreaking figure in cinema would be an understatement, he's actually becoming a giant and changing the way movies can be planned and shot. I do believe there are photgraphers out there that have the same amount of talent as him, but are not given as much of the creative freedom as he is by the studios. Brilliant stuff and a far cry from last year's more auteur-driven Inarritu winner Birdman, which had much more of Inarritu's imprint than this one does. Great movie nonetheless, maybe even better than The Revenant. The only thing that's guaranteed for The Revenant come Oscar night? Dicaprio winning Best Actor and Lubezki winning his third straight Best Cinematography trophy .


My Oscar Ballot (and I'm sticking with it)

I guess there really is nothing left to change my opinion on these, so bet the whole farm on it folks. I submitted these to the IndieWire poll of film critics, it seems like the oddest kind of year - full of close categories, yet I am pretty confident that I will be right with 90% of these. The Best Picture race is the toughest to distinguish: The Big Short won the PGA, The Revenant won the DGA and Spotlight won the SAG. But, all honestly, I wouldn't take for granted the PGA winner in any given year, time and time again people make that mistake and lose out on the bet they made. If The Big Short does in fact win it will be the worst Best Picture winner since Crash.

All this to say that we're headed into what might be a very exciting Oscar Night, the air of unpredictability is at its highest, but given that they usually find a way to make the telecast as dull and slow as possible, I think the excitement might get sucked right out. It'll probably be more exciting to find out through twitter while you're watching the OJ mini-series. I had an Oscar party last year at my place and I really tried to make it as less boring as possible, but one can only do so much with such an event. The ubiquitous #Oscarssowhite controversy might bring a bit more in terms of Chris Rock's whole shtick/monologue, but don't expect political discourse as much as him just poking fun at the academy in a "haha they're making fun of us and our mistakes and we deserve it" kind of way. Good lord, in Hollywood it always works out in the oddest, most political-correct way imaginable. If only Ricky Gervais could host every show ...

Best Picture
Will Win: The Big Short
Should Win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Director
Will Win: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Should Win: George Miller

Best Actress
Will Win: Brie Larson
Should Win: Cate Blanchett

Best Supporting Actress
Will Win: Rooney Mara
Should Win: Rooney Mara

Best Actor
Will Win: Dicaprio
Should Win: Fassbender

Best Supporting Actor
Will Win: Stallone
Should Win: Rylance

Best Adapted Screenplay
Will Win: The Big Short
Should Win: Carol

Best Original Screenplay
Will Win: Spotlight
Should Win: Inside Out

Best Animated Feature
Will Win: Inside Out
Should Win: Inside Out

Best Cinematography
Will Win: The Revenant
Should Win: The Revenant

Best Documentary Feature
Will Win: Amy
Should Win: Amy

Best Foreign Film
Will Win: Son Of Saul
Should Win: Son Of Saul

"Zoolander 2" looks like a loser



It looks like the 15 years in waiting didn't much help. The first Zoolander was "okay" nothing too funny about it, except for the "ants" scene and a few memorable moments here or there, but overall it was an acceptable if albeit slight satire on the fashion industry. I'm tempted to skip tonight's pre-screening of "Zoolander 2" and willing to watch it this weekend, but then again I find that watching a comedy is best with a large group of people ready to laugh their asses off - you see tonight's screening is half media and half moviegoers, that's usually always fun. However, just reading these reviews on RottenTomatoes, only enhances the doubts I already had when I first saw the trailer. Stiller is a somewhat formidable director, he's done a few "watchable" things, but I don't find his visual palette that interesting or exciting.The closest he's gotten to making a "statement" was probably Tropic Thunder back in 2008. That movie was of course enhanced by two truly great performances from Robert Downey Jr. and an almost unrecognizable Tom Cruise as Les Grossman, the epitome of greedy Hollywood. Ah good times.

Will probably update this post once I catch it.

EDIT: As suspected it's not a very good movie, in fact it turned out to be worse than I thought. What we're starting to see in Hollywood are once A-list celebrities whom had some kind of artistic credibility, and some still do, that would have refused making useless sequels just a decade ago, but with sequels being released left and right and the superhero genre booming, celebrities have less marketability (no more Jim Carrey, Will Smith or Tom Cruise making 20 million a movie) and there is a sense of desperation in their recent actions. Just look at Jim Carrey refusing to ever do a Dumb and Dumber sequel until finally getting suckered into one a few years ago because, well, those are just the times we live in. "Zoolander 2" is a product of its time and place, and has nothing whatsoever to do with actual artistic merit.

Bernie and Hilary

I'm pretty sick and tired of Hilary Clinton supporters still trying to blame Sanders and the supposed "SandersBros" for her unwitting downfall. Guess what? Sanders isn't responsible for it, his supporters aren't either. Hilary shot herself in the foot, fair and square. Would I vote for Hilary if she gets the nomination? of course, why wouldn't I? Any sensible "Democrat" person would as well. Yes, Bernie is getting the young vote and yes they might not vote for Hilary, but guess what? She's getting all the female votes and they might not Sanders it up as well just to spite. We live in an unfair world, one filled with a PC police that slowly but surely is starting to rattle the wrong crowds. Feminists are going crazy over the Hilary backlash,  the idiotic #Oscarssowhite movement is happening etc. Funny thing is, people are complaining about the Sanders camp taking jabs at Hilary, well guess what? I can remember her taking jabs at him at the very beginning and him not replying back. People were wondering why he wasn't, she was dissing the poor guy, and it took MONTHS before he finally answered back. Now that he is, the race has gotten tighter. I'm not a Hilary hater in the least bit, and I find she would be a great president, but seriously man up and face the consequences, if you start an argument, finish it. May the best person win and this is surely to be continued.

EDIT:

It is in fact worse than I thought it would be. Sometimes I'm glad that I don't need to review every film that I see.

Bruce in Albany 2016



There will always be those that naysay Bruce Springsteen, that he's overrated, can't sing, his song are too simple etc. Well all I can say is they are too ignorant to get it, they're the type of people that just hate without giving what they hate a shot, because if you look closer to the man and his passionately constructed music you'll have found one of the most astounding bodies of work imaginable in Rock and Roll history. Hell, You might not like Born In The USA's melodic catchiness or Born To Run's operatic bombast, but then you have so many other genres he has masterfully tackled over his illustrious 43 year career: intimate folk music in Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad, Full Band Jazzy Van Morrisson-inspired tunes in The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle, Soberingly contemplative punk rock in Darkness On The Edge Of Town, Celtic folky Irish inspired tunes in The Seeger Sessions, and, well, pretty much every possible genre -up until then- in 1980's The River.

Playing The River front to back is daunting task, it requires incredible focus and a voice that can bounce from genre to genre. That's exactly what Springsteen did on Monday night at the Times Union Center in Albany, New York. It was a tremendous show, lasting close to 3.5 hours, and proved just how incomparably devoted to his fan base Springsteen is. He could easily coast along, being a multi-millionaire, and resign to any physically arduous shows at his tender age of 66 years old, but no, he continues on, a soldier of rock and roll and all props to him for still giving us "The Greatest Show On Earth" night in and night out. Who knows how long he could continue doing this, he isn't getting any younger, but with the mighty help of his drummer Max Weinberg, who's also given a daunting task of drumming for almost four straight hours, and the rest of the E-Street band, we should be thankful and lucky we live at a time when Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are part of this world and still giving us the same religious experience as they were giving millions of legions 3-4 decades ago.


Inarittu wins DGA



History was made last night when Inarittu won the Director's Guild of America award. Well merited? somewhat. This was still Lubezki's movie, he owned every frame. Inarittu was just complimenting the ownage. I'd have preferred George Miller, but, hell, why not Inarittu. Sure beats presumed favorite Adam McKay who basically shot The Big Short in the flashiest, most unexciting of ways. Plus, would you really want McKay winning the Best Director Oscar? The guy is know for Will Ferrell movies and came out of nowhere to become an Awards contender. All props to him for that, but watching The Big Short I never felt like I was being guided by a natural artist, many of the shots are pure plastic, plasticized plastic.

'Deadpool'

It's midnight and the embargo is thrown in the dust, might as well tell you what I thought about "Deadpool." Deadpool is is a whole different beast and a far sharper film than we could have expected. First of all it's rated R, a rare occurrence these days for a superhero film, and it sure does earn its rating, in fact just barely missing NC-17 territory. It's that violent. No complaints from me. I appreciated the meta vibe and it skillfully juggled the jokes and the action scenes in such a refreshing way.

This is by no means a great movie, but there's something to be said about a superhero movie that doesn't play by the rules, I really hope this becomes a hit because maybe we'll be getting more of these types of genre exercises and Reynolds is such a perfect fit, he embodies the spirit of the character he is playing. Some of the stuff here reminded me a lot of the underrated "Punisher" movie that came out in 2004, universally panned, but boy was it a thrilling no holds-barred product of some sick twisted imagination. Counter-programming to the claptrap we seem to be getting on a monthly basis. If anything, "Deadpool" and "The Punisher" are the kinds of rebellious antidotes to the repetitive numbing of cinema.

It's an auspicious feature length debut for director Tim Miller. He's known as an opening credits CGI whiz, and you can definitely see the flair he has for all these nifty little effects tricks he's learned from his past gig. The action in "Deadpool" is slick in a "how cruelly twisted and slick can we make this character die" kind of way.  Suffice to say that as far as February releases go, you could do a lot worse than this one. It entertains and I don't think the word boring should ever be applied to this film.

Hail, Caesar!



Many people might forget this,  but the Coens haven't released a new movie since their 2013 masterwork Inside Llewyn Davis. I figured the next film would be something comic and light and surely thats what we're getting. HAIL, CEASAR! belongs in the same tradition as Burn After Reading and The Big Lebowski,  which to me is a great thing.

These are the kind of movies the Coens take a break on and after tackling heavy subjects like Fargo and No Country For Old Men. They are usually quite potty, juggling an insane amount if plot strands until.. Well.. Until the plot just doesn't matter anymore. This new "plot entanglement" that the Coens have concocted isn't as good as Lebowski or Reading, but it sure does have its moments. Very Coen-esque moments in fact.

The fact that they got all of these big stars to play what essentially or practically all small roles is both impressive and part of the fun in deciphering where the hell the whole thing is going. Through this nutso ode to Hollywood's golden age you try figure out what kind of impact stars such as Clooney or Jonah Hill or Channing Tatum or Tilda Swinton or Scarlett Johansen will have on the film's overall narrative. A second viewing, like many Coen gems, will probably run a little smoother.

That's the the thing about Joel and Ethan Coens movies, sometimes a second viewing is mandatory after you've figure out all the plot flow and curveballs, the second time you can actually just sit down and absorb the whole damn thing without having to be caught by surprise every few seconds by the narrative unpredictability.

Sundance 2016 Report




Coming to Sundance always brings a kind of mystery to movie-going. There's an almost organic feeling to this film festival, which was started in the mid ‘80s by Robert Redford, a then ski enthusiast who saw an opportunity to boost independent cinema. What came next probably defied every expectation, including Redford's, and became a Hollywood juggernaut for indie cinema. In the 35 years that followed, incredible classics would be discovered, and filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Steven Sodebergh, Christopher Nolan, and Darren Aronofsky would be born. The organic feel mentioned above has to do with how it is the only festival that makes the viewer go back to the basics. We go into a movie not knowing much about its cast or its director, and instead opt to leap forward and take a chance on no-name talent who might just be the next big thing. That's basically it: what everyone is looking for is the next big thing. The next ball-busting rule breaker reminiscent of when Tarantino brought Reservoir Dogs in 1992 or Steven Soderbergh brought Sex, Lies and Videotape back in 1989.

Expectations are high and they are not always met, but there's something that has to be said for a film festival that continuously churns out new talent year after year. There will be those who say that it isn't the festival it used to be, with Park City hounded by Hollywood elite for the course of 10 days, but don't fret, there's still magic in the air every time Sundance installs itself in Park City. The low-budget mavericks are still here, and with just one look at last year's lineup you’re in glee of the quality of films that showed up: Tangerine, The Witch, The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Brooklyn, It Follows, James White, The End of the Tour, Me Earl and The Dying Girl, Dope, The Forbidden Room, Listen To Me Marlon and The Wolfpack.

One can't forget the great movies over the years that gave Sundance its incredible reputation: Joel and Ethan Coen's Blood Simple, Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise, Steven Soderbergh's Sex, Lies & Videotape, Charles Burnett’s To Sleep with Anger, Todd Haynes’ Poison, Richard Linklater’s Slacker, Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, Kevin Smith’s Clerks, Bryan Singer’s The Usual Suspects, David O. Russell’s Spanking the Monkey, Todd Solondz’s Welcome to the Dollhouse, Stanley Tucci and Campbell Scott’s Big Night, Darren Aronofsky’s Pi, Mary Harron’s American Psycho, Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko, Kenneth Lonergan’s You Can Count on Me, Christopher Nolan’s Memento, Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale, Duncan Jones’ Moon, Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone, Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter, Lee Daniels’ Precious, Tom McCarthy's The Station Agent, Ben Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild, Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash and Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station,

Sundance still feels wholly important. Having premiered 8 Best Picture nominees in the last 6 years, it's a continuous hotbed for low-budget indie filmmakers who just want a chance. Best Picture nominations since 2006: 2006- Little Miss Sunshine 2009- Precious & An Education 2010- Winter's Bone & The Kids Are All Right 2012- Beasts Of The Southern Wild 2014- Boyhood & Whiplash 2015- Brooklyn That list is astounding and doesn't even mention the stuff that comes out of Sundance that gets nominated in the acting, foreign language and documentary categories. The best movies that come out of Sundance are the ones that, on second viewing, maintain the exhilarating high you had when you first saw them high atop the thin rocky mountain air of the resort town.

Brooklyn -which had its debut here last year- was met with positive reaction, but nobody expected it to be the Oscar contender it turned out to be, garnering Picture, Actress and Screenplay nominations. It's an immaculate, beautiful film that kept building up steam as the year went along - Writing about Brooklyn last January I called it "As beautiful and romantic as a movie can get, it's not interested in getting awards as much as breaking your heart and giving you a wondrous sense of melancholia for a once better time and place" Never in my wildest dreams did I expect it to come this far into awards season and become the heavyweight that it now is. Yet for every Whiplash and Beasts Of The Southern Wild there also is a Personal Velocity or even last year's Me, Earl and The Dying Girl , a film that won the jury and audience prize, received one of the loudest standing ovations in festival history, was acquired by Fox Searchlight for an astounding $12 million and then choked at the box office. It’s just that kind of festival. People get high off some movies, then months later forget they ever existed.

Maybe it's the high altitude. For 10 days people try to cram in 20, 30 maybe even 40 movies in their schedule to try and not miss the next buzz-worthy title. It is usually said that the movie that wins the Dramatic Competition Prize builds up buzz to fight through awards season, however that is not always the case. It's a growing trend, a studio spending millions to acquire a hot Sundance title and then expectations dwindling once the film gets seen outside the Utah thin air and in nationwide mainstream cinemas. Greatest example being Tadpole, a 2002 film acquired by Miramax for the -then- very large sum of $5 million and barely making half of that at the box office. Does anyone actually remember Tadpole? The year of "Birth" This year's 2016 edition was another great one for movie fans. You could see the excitement in people's eyes as they itched to discover the next big indie director or the next big awards contender. The fest opened up with Chris Kelly's Other People starring Jesse Plemons, and a never better Molly Shannon as a mother of three diagnosed with stage 4 terminal cancer - Kelly's film is a heartfelt, yet uneven look at the ties that bind. Shannon's performance shined most. The closing night film didn't fare any better as John Karsinski's The Hollars, starring himself and Anna Kendrick, was met with a polite shrug. Don't mind the opener and closer, the rest were just aces.

I saw about 35 movies at this year's fest, trying to catch most of the buzzed titles and doing a very good job at that. Nate Parker's directorial debut took away both the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and the Dramatic Audience Prize consolidating a week's worth of standing ovations in Park City for his ambitious, but flawed The Birth Of A Nation. At the premiere of the film Parker said he wished the film would become an "agent of change", a kind of cumulative rebuttal to the #Oscarssowhite movement. It seems like that is already the case. One simple google search of "Birth Of A Nation" reveals that Griffith's seminal film has finally been sidelined by the most unexpected of contenders, a film written, directed, acted and produced by a 36 year old African-American journeyman that is finally getting his due and taking the industry by storm at the right place and at the right time.

POC and women shine bright Ava Duvernay had her start here with her miraculous debut feature Middle Of Nowhere, so did Steve McQueen, Spike Lee, Dee Rees and Ryan Coogler - who's Fruitvale Station was the toast of the town just a couple of years ago before hitting it big with Creed. As if to lead the way for the rest of the industry, Sundance seems to have taken a stance in 2016 by continuing to sprinkle throughout their program films directed by African Americans. Safe for the already mentioned Nate Parker, Anna Rose Holmer's indescribable The Fits built up a loyal fanbase in Park City. With its mysterious look at African-American teenage girls growing up, the film challenged the most adventurous of filmgoers by never revealing its titular mystery. Clea DuVall's The Intervention played like a funny, truthful and touching version of The Big Chill for Generation X and - DuVall's real life best friend- Melanie Lynskey's funny and witty performance won her the Best Actress prize. Paramount saw the potential in this tiny little gem of a film and bought its right for $2.5 million.

Meera Menon's Equity, think Margin Call but starring women and directed by one as well, was one of the very best surprises of the festival. Touted as "the first female-driven Wall Street film" it follows a senior investment banker -played by Breaking Bad's Anna Gunn- who becomes involved in a dangerous game of corporate backstabbing with the Wall Street elite. It's a nasty gem of a film that was luckily picked up by Sony Pictures Classics at the tail end of the festival. Elizabeth Wood's White Girl was a little more perplexing for some people, but I dug it all the same. Think Larry Clark's Kids directed by a woman and starring Homeland's Morgan Saylor as a New York City girl that falls hard in love for a street thug and embarks in the most harrowing of sexual and drug-infused journey's ever sene on film. The wild extremes Saylor goes through are bound to disturb parents all around the country, but once you find out the events depicted in the film were based on Wood's actual past, then you're left speechless.

 Another female directed gem came to us from Iran. Babak Anvari's Under The Shadow was the talk of the town and became a new classic among horror films. Following in the footsteps of The Babadook and It Follows, Anvari's film seems to revel in the fact that the main protagonist is female. Social and political undertones haunt this mesmerizing film which takes place right in the middle of the Irani-Iraqi war of the late 80's as a mother and daughter are left to fend for themselves in the most dire and spooky of horror stories.

The Top 10 Titles of Sundance 2016

Manchester By The Sea 
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.

Weiner 
My jaw dropped more than a few times while watching Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg's Weiner, a behind-the-scenes account of Anthony Weiner's rise and fall. The film is an examination of how this New York congressman, a front-runner for mayor of NYC, single-handedly shot himself in the foot and got involved in a sex scandal of the highest proportions, by not only getting caught once, but a few other times, thus sabottaging a perfectly constructed campaign by his team. It is not only a story about the times we live in, but a scathing depiction of the mdeia and today's political landscape.

The Eyes Of My Mother 
Nicolas Pesce stunned more than a few audiences with his his horrifically hypnotic goth show. The story was disturbing, with a precisely constructive narrative that never let up in its dark, twisted surprises. No fair revealing any plot details about this one, except to say that this one is from film collective Borderline films which gave us in the past few years Martha Marcy May Marlene, James White and Simon Killer - this might be the best one of the bunch, it's that good.

Certain Women 
Kelly Reichardt, bless her indie sensibilities, is one of the very best American filmmakers working today. Certain Women makes it 5 for 5 in terms of he track record thus far. One look at her resume which consists of Old Joy, Wendy and Lucy, Meek's Cutoff, Night Moves and -the aforementioned- Certain Women, and we see an auteur allergic to formula and never sacrificing her uncompromising vision for mainstream popularity. Her latest film has three short stories adapted from Maile Meloy's writings about lonely, isolated women in the 21st century. Starring Laura Dern, Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart and Lily Gladstone in a career making performance, this might be Reichardt's best movie yet.

Newtown, Lo and Behold and Tickled 
Just like every year at Sundance, the documentaries stuck out just as much -if not more- than the fiction films. Newtown is the Sandy Hook documentary that will tear your heart into pieces; simple, haunting and unforgettable. Lo and Behold is Werener Herzog's most ambitious documentary to date focusing on the internet; then, now and on to the future. At the film's premeiere the eccentric filmmaker even admitted to not owning a cell phone, ever going online or even owning an email address! Finally, there's Tickled about a tickle fetish gone too far. A film so absurd that if it were to ever get made into a feature length movie the story wouldn't seem believable.

Little Men 
Ira Sachs' best movie to date was greeted with the ravest of reviews, well deserved. Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri are the titular best friends whose bond gets tested by a shop lease battle between both kids' parents . This subtle, nuanced character work by Sachs recalls the very best of 1970's european cinema, yet goes by its own vision. The coda might seem a little out of place, but a closer look reveals the emergence of an Auteure of the highest order. Only a fool would ignore the delicate nature of this extraordinarily simple story. It's a slice of life, but done with the more cinematic of restrain-filled tension.

Kate Plays Christine/Christine 
1970's TV Reporter Christine Chubbuck was infamously known as the journalist/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, who's 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.

The Birth Of A Nation 
Recounting the story of Nat Turner, an African American Slave that lead a rebellion in 1831 to free African-Americans in Virgina. There's blood soaked, sweat induced, passion in every frame of Parker's flawed film. You can never discount this kind of brazingly ferocious filmmaking, even when it's by a first-time filmmaker still learning his narrative steps. The aptly titled film is bound to cause a stir when it gets released later this year, choosing the title of D.W Griffith's grand, but very racist, 1915 masterpiece is a sign that the times might be in fact changing. Winning the Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award is a sign that this movie is about to take Hollywood by storm.

Swiss Army Man 
Parker surprisingly didn't win the Directing award, that instead went to the directing duo behind the most polarizing film of the fest Swiss Army Man. Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert won the award for a movie that Twitch Film's Jason Gorber called "The Citizen Kane of fart joke movies". If that doesn't interest you at all then steer far away from this movie starring Daniel Radcliffe as a dead, farting corpse and Paul Dano as a distraught man stranded in the middle of a dessert Island. They somehow form a friendship and learn to help each other in the process. Radcliffe's corpse is used a jet ski ride whenever he farts, on the other hand Dano tries to teach his compadre about the joy of life by dressing up like a a girl and putting the moves on good ol' Harry Potter. Not much else can be said, just sit back and let the ridiculousness of this movie drop your jaw down to the floor.

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