May 17, 2015


'Who knew the Elephant Man was so good for a laugh? As is traditional for stage actors playing Joseph Merrick, the circus freak briefly feted by Victorian high society before his death, at age 27, in 1890, the movie actor Bradley Cooper uses no prostheses to play the part, instead using his body’s putty-like powers — gait, posture, diction — to suggest Merrick’s monstrous deformity. Stood on stage of the Booth theatre on Manhattan’s 45th street in no more than a loin cloth, the star most famous for his roles in Silver Linings Playbook and American Sniper twists his body like a gnarled old branch, one arm going entirely dead, one hip dropping and leaving most of his weight on a cane, his mouth crunched up on one side of his face, so that his words slurp out of one corner, like water around a plughole. And what emerges? Unlikely as it may sound, but: Jokes. Not funny har-har jokes. Not thigh-slappers. Not rib ticklers. But oblique, waspish observations on the hypocrisies of the Victorian society that has so embraced him.     “If your mercy is so cruel,” wonders Merrick of an orderly’s firing, “what do you have for justice?”   There are many actors in attendance on the night I see the show — including Michael Sheen, Sara Paulson and Billy Crudup, who last played the role on Broadway, here presumably to see how the new boy fares. Crudup, Mark Hamill and David Bowie and have all taken on the role. In the 1980 David Lynch movie John Hurt played Merrick as a naïf, almost childlike in his eagerness to be patronized, grateful for the human contact it brought him, but Cooper locates an element of irony in his rasping diction, and offers mild, glancing rebuke to the bishops, aristocrats and assorted dignitaries gathered around him. He makes Merrick a wit.' — from my interview with Bradley Cooper for the Sunday Times

May 16, 2015

When playing yourself is playing a part

'It is perhaps telling that in both instances — The Act of Killing and The Man Who Saved the World — a departure from strict fly-on-the-wall methods was necessitated, or went hand on hand, with the task of overcoming the resistance of subjects hardened by repressive regimes: Russian and communist Indonesia. Verite turns out to be a poor tool for penetrating ideology.  “Its like an onion,” says Peter Anthony of trying to unravel the grumpy and frequently drunk Colonel Petrov. “You want to peel off all these layers and get to the middle.” And what did he find? At times reluctant to act out conversations for the cameras, he gradually warmed the process. Indeed, after spending some time with a German experimental theatre troop, who heard of Petrov’s story and took him on tour with them as part of an anti-war theatre piece,  “He came back very different,” says The Man Who Saved The World’s producer Jakob Staberg. “Before he would shoot a scene and complain  ‘I’m not an actor’ when he thought Peter was being too demanding. After he came back from playing theater he would say ‘okay Peter now my character, I would say this…’ and had long discussions about how she should pronounce different words. His late wife used to be a projectionist screening 35 mm films in military base. He loved going to the movies. Maybe that’s one of the reasons he became a part of out film. He got to be the star of his own movie.  The Russian actor playing him as a young man said, ‘his acting is better than mine.’ He had tears in his eyes. ‘He’s amazing.’”' — from my piece about documentary truth for the Financial Times

My movie of the summer....


"It’s been a while since we checked in with Connelly, last seen laboring through a series of rom-comish dramas  He’s Just Not that Into You, Stuck on You, The Dilemma — wearing the expression of Antigone making conversation at a tupperware party. She took a couple of years off from acting to have her daughter, Agnes, but returned to screens last year in Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, playing Noah’s wife Nameeh, fighting for her children’s life as the heavens opened... This month sees the release of Aloft, Connelly’s film with Llosa, a mix of mystical allegory, handheld cinematography and subzero temperatures, in which Connelly plays a mother of two sons on the periphery of the Arctic circle who is drawn into the company of faith healers after tragedy strikes at the heart of her family. Put it together with Noah and Shelter, her forthcoming drama about homelessness in which she was directed by husband Paul Bettany, and you have a trio of films pitting Connelly against the elements, scratching out an existence beneath glowering skies. No question: she is in survival mode.   At 44, her beauty has shed whatever air of sultriness it had in her twnties and bedded down into something altogether more purified, striated, fierce. In Aloft those green eyes seem to contain their own arctic storms." — from my profile for Town and Country magazine

May 10, 2015

On my iPod: May 13th 2015

1. Will You Dance? — The Bird and the Bee
2. No Room in Frame  — Deathcab for Cutie
3. Armellodie — Chilly Gonzalez
4. Style — Taylor Swift
5. One Last Time — Ariana Grande
6. Gracious — Bobby McFerrin
7. Not Alone — Olafur Arnalds
8. Want To Want Me — Jason Derulo
9. California Nights — Best Coast
10. Disciples — Tame Impala

Apr 29, 2015


'As hedonistic a picture about a life of crime as has ever been committed to film, it is not about guilt, or male angst, or Catholicism — or any of the themes that cross-hatched his work in the seventies. It doesn't tell us that crime doesn't pay, or that it is morally wrong. Instead, it tells us what gangster pictures had been trying to tell us since the days of Cagney but didn’t quite have the guts to spell out. “Goodfellas” tells us that crime is fun—enormous, outsized, XXL-fur-coat, spending-spree-with-a-cherry-on-top-style fun. The fun doesn’t last forever—as addicts like to say, first it’s fun, then its fun with problems, then it’s just problems—but who said fun would last forever? That’s precisely what makes it fun. The disastrous original test screening in Orange county, from which 70 people walked out, feels like a report from another country, or even planet: Orange County is blue-rinse central. These days, “Goodfellas” plays more like a much-loved comedy or musical. The audience at the Beacon theatre   cheered Hill’s opening monologue  (“For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster….”), roared at certain musical cues like Sound of Music enthusiasts, and applauded Joe Pesci’s head-spinning series of fake-outs at the Copacabana (“Funny how?”), murmuring his lines along with him, as if repeating Abbott and Costello’s “who’s on first” routine.   Goodfellas” may not be Scorsese’s greatest film—that title still belongs to one or other of Scorsese’s two great deep-bore character studies with de Niro, “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bill”—but it is his most enjoyable, and marks his most ebullient performance as a director, a full polyphonic work out for all the stylistic felicities he had enjoyed as a documentary filmmaker and student of the New Wave — multiple narrators, virtuoso tracking shots, freeze-frames. He’s showing off, to be sure, but that’s what the film is about: sprezzatura, peacock display, plumage.' 
— from my piece about Goodfellas 25th anniversary for Intelligent Life

Apr 22, 2015

PREVIEW: Nils Frahm on tour

'Encylopedias regular hmm and haw over whether the piano is a string instrument or a percussion instrument. In the hands of classical German pianist Nils Frahm, it is both. In 2011 Frahm made an important discovery. Recording late at night and trying to do his neighbours a favor, he damped  the sound of his piano with a thick layer of felt and placed his microphones so deep inside as to be almost touching the strings. The results were quite literally breathtaking: on the subsequent recordings, released on his 2011 album Felt, you can hear not only Frahm’s breathing but the creak of floorboards beneath his feet, together with the delicate rustle and scrape of ivory against wood, wood against felt, felt against steel  — the secret sonic life of the piano revealed. Frahm is not the first to experiment with mic placement; in his recordings for Blue Note, engineer Rudy Van Gedler took such care with his mics that listeners today could be mistaken for thinking Thelonius Monk in their living room. But Frahm is the first to pursue mic placement to so intimate an end, seeming to place your living room inside his piano, like Pinocchio inside the whale. You seem to be listening to it from somewhere deep inside it’s ribcage, hearing not just the note but the complex relay of levers, hinges, rails, flanges, pins and hammers responsible for sounding it, thus bringing to light a secret kinship between the piano and instruments like the guitar or harp in which fingers come into direct contact with strings. The human touch loses any sense of metaphor; shed of some of it’s concert hall formality, the piano suddenly seems thrillingly intimate, modern.' — from my piece on Frahm for Intelligent Life

How I Killed the Movies

'It’s hard not to fall in love with the Superman of the thirties, but then what’s not to love about Depression-era America? The Depression itself, I suppose, but if that goes into the debit column, to too does Tin Pan Alley and screwball comedy, Cole Porter and Cary Grant, and all the other all the other popculture born of that era’s unbeatable mix of wish-fulfillment, pluck and grift. As Gerard Jones makes clear in his zippy history Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic-book, superhero comics were largely the creation of Jewish ghetto kids from Manhattan’s lower East Side — scrawny, near-sighted, sci-fi-loving nebbishes who could sketch but not speak to the beauties they saw at school, and who lapped up the deeds of Tarzan, Charles Atlas and Douglas Fairbanks, before fashioning their own amalgams of rippling musculature and idealism to “smack down the bullies of the world,” as one of Superman’s creators, Jerry Siegel put it. These days, I look at the abundance of merchandise and movies aimed at kids like me with the wonder and confusion of Hiep Thi Le wandering through the vastness of an American supermarket for the first time in Oliver Stone’s Heaven and Earth. A form tilted towards underdogs has become the plaything of bullies — soft-power workouts for the coach-potato Dauphins of the world’s single remaining military colossus. Today’s comic books movies are dreams of power with their roots in weakling wish-fulfillment all but eliminated: the civilian alter-egos of the Avengers and the X-Men barely get a look-in, these days, while the mortals with whom they once enjoyed romantic dalliances  are banished from the summer’s high-impact smasheroos and demolition derbies. The form has entered it’s decadent phase of superhero-on-superhero violence and synergistic mash-up: these guys only mix with other superheroes, like A-list celebrities, or Royals.' — from my Intelligent Life column

Apr 12, 2015

QUOTE of the DAY: Gopnik on Sinatra

'There are, to be sure, at least two Sinatras—the swinging Sinatra and the sad Sinatra—and if one is hostile to the personality (or to the man), then one might insist that they represent the two sides, so to speak, of the Tony Sopranos of the world, the violent and the maudlin. There is no special virtue, in other words, in having access to vulnerability, as Sinatra’s admirers like to say, when it’s simply a kind of self-pity alongside the exercise of violence. What’s fascinating, though, is that both accounts of Sinatra are true: he is the id of the Tony Sopranos of the world, defining their most basic drives (dominance and self-pity), and he is the super-ego of the American male psyche, defining its two most attractive traits: the charm of self-confidence and the melancholy of self-reflection (the same traits we love in Scott Fitzgerald). Sinatra is the American singer; he is the American song.' — Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker

Apr 5, 2015

Best Albums of 2015 So Far

1. Carrie and Lowell — Sufjan Stevens
2. Solo — Nils Framm
3. If I Was — The Staves
4. Kintsugi — Deathcab for Cutie
5. Vestiges and Claws – Jose Gonzalez

Apr 2, 2015

On my iPod: April 2nd 2015

1. Should Have Known Better — Sufjan Stevens
2. America — First Aid Kit
3. Sleepers Beat Theme — Ben Lukas Boysen
4. Ballad of the Mighty — Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
5. Waking the Jetstream — The Go! Team
6. Right Here, Right Now — Kylie Minogue & Georgia Moroder
7. Summer Breaking — Mark Ronson
8. With the Ink of a Ghost — Jose Gonzalez
9. Elevator Operator — Courtney Barrett
10. Beryl — Mark Knopfler

ReRELEASE: Blade Runner (dir. Scott)

'If Blade Runner demands to be seen on the big screen today it is as much for its evocation of film’s past as it’s future — it’s achievement is firmly analogue, pre-digital. Here is the vanished world of sets and miniatures, lovingly crafted and photographed through anamorphic lenses which sculpt the space, using all those smog and rain effects, into a series of distinct planes, each with their own depth cues, with none of that over-crammed, slightly flat feeling that the digital paint-box brings: Scott’s city is dense but deep, his sense of space as airy and vaulted as Milton’s. If Blade Runner has a sense of humanity, or any warmth, it is here, I think, in its evocation of the urban sublime. His Los Anegles is to die for. Released just two years after Michael Cimino’s Heavens Gate, and four years after Terence Malick’s Days of Heaven — two titles destined for an afterlife if ever there was one — Blade Runner belongs as firmly with them, as it does The Matrix or Se7en, or any of the dark, rain-drenched dystopias to come. Like the Malick and Cimino films, it tells of an Eden spoiled, paradise lost, just as something very similar was happening to the movies themselves.'  
— from my piece for Intelligent Life


From my piece about Robert Altman for the New Statesman:—
'Here is the Altman way of doing things. First, you get a script,  preferably by a first-timer you’ve drafted into the job, and who is therefore still brimful of curiosity about the world and less likely to complain when you change their script, like Joan Tewkesbury, the script supervisor he dispatched to Tennessee with the words “Go to Nashville and keep a diary.” She returned with a “poem” with 18 speaking parts, which Altman soon bumped up to 24.  “He didn't really cast actors so much as he cast people” said Tewkesbury.   The words “And Introducing” in the credits of M.A.S.H are followed by 20 names, most of them cast after a trip to see an experimental theatre troupe in San Francisco. Movie stars were to be avoided if humanly possible, and if not, then treated like extras. The extras, meanwhile, were treated like stars. “Why can you be more like him?” Altman told Eliott Gould during the shooting of M.A.S.H, pointing to Corey fisher, who played Captain Bandini, meaning: minimal and quirky. Gould flew into a rage and later, along with Donald Sutherland tried to get Altman fired although he later came around to Altman’s way of working. Sutherland never returned... Direct your movie. Actually that’s wrong — “direct” sounds like something school-teachers do to children to get them in a straight line. Step back and let your movie happen, like a sixties art event, or a dinner party, or a conga line. Your actors are your guests. Mike everyone up, using a specially built 8-track recording system, so nobody knows when the camera is on them, dolly and zoom between foreground and background until nobody can tell the difference, then invite everyone to view dailies. Fellini once told Altman they were the true art form — where you got see reality in the rough. “It was like a happening every night” said cinematographer Vilmos Zigmond of the dailies for McCabe, featuring copious amounts of grass, booze, even cats and dogs, animals being a key player in the Altman’s satirical bestiary, like Swift and Rabelais before him: his true quarry, the poor bare forked human animal standing buck-naked in the shower. (See also:— Altman and Nudity). Stop shooting. At some point, someone will tug you gently on the sleeve and tell you you’ve run out of money. Do not panic. Invite your lead actor into your office. Roll a joint. Devise an ending while high as a kite. That was how he and Tim Robbins came up with the ending of The Player, in which Robbins’s executive pitches the movie we have just seen. Strictly speaking it was Robbins’s idea, but Altman told him,  “I’m never giving you credit for that” and quite right too: it was the ending of M.A.S.H. recycled.   Voila! Your very own Robert Altman movie.'

Mar 24, 2015

REVIEW: While We're Young (dir. Baumbach)

'... There are distinct shades of Crimes and Misdemeanours here, in which Woody Allen’s forlorn documentarian had to bite his knuckles while Alan Alda’s bumptious smoothie pontificated loudly on the secret of his success (“tragedy is comedy…plus time”). You couldn’t help but wonder if Allen weren’t, in this pairing, serving up two aspects of his own character —whether the Alda character wasn’t an exaggerated version of his own success, a means of dramatising his own feelings of unworthiness and fraudulence. Baumbach is cut from the same cloth as Allen, unquestionably — the same ambivalent herringbone, cutting first this way, then that, driven by the same truth-telling instinct, close to pedantry, which propels his Eeyoreish donkey-men to soft, inevitable self-defeat.  You suspect they are half in love with it. The terminal passivity of his protagonists is not without its structural problems: his films tend to dribble to a halt, or simply fade away, like a weak handshake. Even “Frances Ha”, much praised for its infusion of nouvelle vague spirit, pooled in the same funk of self-defeat that swallowed “Greenberg” whole, with Greta Gerwig’s heroine flopping from one humiliation to the next. Absent from his work are the usual Hollywood growth curves and third-act catharses.  People do not learn from their mistakes in his films: they keep doggedly betraying themselves. But watching them do so can amount to it's own form of petulance — a lack of charity posing as an absence of illusions' 
— from my review for Intelligent Life 

Mar 15, 2015

Freaking out the fourth wall

“I was worried about the farting,” he says now. “But John Calley, one of the executives at Warner Brothers, said to me, when I asked, ‘Can I punch the shit out of an old lady?’  He said a brilliant thing. He said, ‘If you're going to go up to the bell. Ring it.’” The peals can still be heard. Critics are fond of pointing out that Brooks films ushered in the modern gross-out comedy as we know it — a direct line can be traced from his films to the Naked Gun pictures, to the comedy of Jim Carrey, to the films the Farrelly Brothers and Judd Apatow — but less remarked upon is how irreducibly cinematic Brooks’ films are. The farting gag in Blazing Saddles is essentially a joke about the conventions of the Western, wherein men sit around campfire for hours ingesting beans with nary a parp. And while everyone objected to it individually; en masse, they howled. Brooks films are fourth-wall freak-outs, the butt of his jokes frequently film form itself — tracking shots that go crashing into windows; soundtracks that turn out to be played by the actual Count Basie band, marooned in the desert... his comedy is infantile in every sense of the word. His characters cry and storm and suck on their blankets, driven by their unappeasable bodies and insatiable appetites for money, love, succor, comfort. They claw for the teat.'

— from my interview with Mel Brooks for The Sunday Times  

Mar 14, 2015


'One of the great benefits of digital consumption is that it is democratic: In cyberspace, there's nobody to judge you. If this 57-year-old wants to hear what Joey Badass sounds like, I don't have to run the gauntlet of incredulous stares in cool record stores: There! I'm listening to Paper Trails as we speak! And yet part of the point of culture is that it allows us to demonstrate our tastes publicly — it helps us find our tribe. (Thanks, Joey, but I'm going back to the new Valentinos compilation.) The arts are the most elaborate and most precise social network ever invented, but if it's going to work properly, you have to get out of the house sometimes and show who you are and what you love. You have to go to shows and galleries and bookstores, you have to ask for what you want out loud. And this expression of taste must involve an impulse that, at its heart, is anti-democratic: Somewhere you have to believe that what you like is better than what all those other losers like.'  
Nick Hornby writing for the Hollywood Reporter on the possibility of a High Fidelity sequel

Mar 10, 2015

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Raine on Degas

'Here are some chairs I noticed. An empty chair at the natural optical centre of Degas’s Dance Foyer of the Opera at rue le Peletier (1872), occupied by a fan and a puddle of white cloth. It is waiting – and the viewer is waiting, subliminally – for its occupant to return and claim the fan. It is reserved. Someone has bagged it. Not a circumstance you often see painted, though common enough in real life. Nor is the violinist playing. He is pausing, his bow at rest on his trouser leg. Degas has painted a pause. A thing that hasn’t been painted before.' — from Craig Raine's review of Inventing Impressionism for the New Statesman

Alfred Hitchcock's 'White Album'

'... This tendency to praise Hitchcock for his flaws is most evident when it comes to Vertigo, a fulminous cloudscape boasting the most unsatisfactory ending of the director’s career yet “so purely a movie – so purely involved in what movies do — that we can almost let the plot go,” writes Wood. “It doesn't get lost. But it mimes the lostness of characters caught between conspiracy and desire, between sobriety and fascination.” This is an elegantly executed dive from the high-board, even if it sounds like an ad for a new fragrance ("between conspiracy and desire, between sobriety and fascination... Eau de Alfred"), and doesn’t shake one’s suspicion that Vertigo is the Hitchcock movie for those who, above all, wish the director had been French, in the same way that the White Album is the Beatles album for those who most wish they had instead been The Doors. Adapted from a French potboiler by the author of Henri-Georges Clouzet’s Les Diabolique, to which it was a direct response, the film is a maze with no exit, lots of wandering, looking, longing, and virtually no jokes. Which is not to say that it isn’t the also most wrenching of his works — if ever a film was meant to find a second life, it is this one, with its plot involving possible reincarnation, and a love story which pushes Hitchcock’s pygmalionism to its heartbroken conclusion. But excessive praise for it is something of a backhanded compliment to the rest of the oeuvre, as if Hitchcock’s fingers had first to be prized loose from the cookie jar of narrative before he could be rewarded.'
— from my review of Michael Wood's Alfred Hitchcock: The Man Who Knew Too Much for Intelligent Life

Mar 6, 2015

REVIEW: Still Alice (dir. Glatzer / Westmoreland)

'There’s always seemed something masklike about Julianne Moore’s face: she seems walled in by her beauty. When she smiles, the only thing that moves is her mouth; that superb fenderwork of bone remains as impassive as a sphinx. This very inexpressiveness gives her of an air of trapped intelligence which she used to great effect in the early part of her career playing a string of numbed out beauties— her coked-up porn actress in Boogie Nights; her neurasthenic housewives in Safe and Far From Heaven, all dying behind the eyes. More recently she has cut loose to channel something of Diane Keaton’s jangled-nerve comedy in The Kids Are Alright, in which her performance was a revelation: Moore has never been so loose or so funny. In Still Alice, she plays a victim on early-onset Alzheimer’s and you can see why they gave her an Oscar for it. It’s like watching a career retrospective only in reverse: come see the more radiant, vivacious Julianne Moore of late regress into one of her early pathos-of-emptiness roles.'  
— from my review of Still Alice for The Spectator

Mar 3, 2015

Most Anticipated Films of 2015

Hail Caesar (Universal) — dir. Joel and Ethan Coen w/ Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill  
Star Wars: The Force Awakens — Abrams (Dec) 
St James Place — dir. Spielberg  w/  Tom HanksMark Rylance, Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, Billy Magnussen, Eve Hewson. (Touchstone/DreamWorks /20th Century Fox)  
Spotlight —Thomas McCarthy, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Brian d'Arcy James, Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, Liev Schreiber, Billy Crudup, and John Slattery 
The Hateful Eight — Quentin Tarantino, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Demián Bichir, and Kurt Russell (Weinstein Co.)  
Midnight Special — Jeff Nichols, Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, and Joel Edgerton (Warner Bros.)   
Crimson Peak — dir. del Toro w/ Chastain (Oct 16th)
Far from the Madding Crowd dir. Thomas Vinterberg w. Mulligan (May 1)  
Trumbo — Jay Roach, Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning, Louis C.K., Helen Mirren, and John Goodman (Bleecker Street)  
Brooklyn — Nick Hornby, directed by John Crowley and starring Domhnall Gleeson and Saoirse Ronan ( Fox Searchlight)  
Trainwreck dir. Judd Apatow (July 17) 
 The Martian (dir. Ridley Scott, November 25)
Joy dir. David O. Russell w/  Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, and Édgar Ramirez.  (20th Century Fox, 12/25)  
Triple Nine — John Hillcoat, Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Chris Allen, and Anthony Mackie. (Open Road)  
Our Brand is Crisis (Warner Bros.) — dir. David Gordon Green‘s with Sandra Bullock, Scoot McNairy, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackieand Ann Dowd
Beasts of No Nation — dir.  Fukunaga w / Elba   
Everest (Universal) — dir. Baltasar Kormákur w/ Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Jason Clarke, John Hawkes, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright 
That's What I'm Talking About — dir. Linklater   
Life (no distributor) — dir.  Anton Corbijn w/ Robert Pattinson Dane DeHaan  Ben Kingsley, Joel Edgerton 
 The Revenant (20th Century Fox) — dir.  Alejandro González Inarritu (director/screenplay) w/ Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Domhnall Gleeson  
Hughes — dir  Beatty, w/ Alden Ehrenreich, Lily Collins, Matthew Broderick, Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen and Candice Bergen    
Triple Nine — dir. Hillcoat w/ Winslet, Harrelson, Ejiofor, Affleck (Sept 9th)
Carol (Weinstein Co.) — dir. Todd Haynes w/ Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler   
Silence — Martin Scorsese,  Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Issei Ogata, Adam Driver, and Tadanobu Asano. (Paramount)  
Ricki and the Flash — dir. Demme — w/ Streep (Aug 7th) 
Icon — Stephen Frears,  Ben Foster, Lee Pace, and Chris O'Dowd. (Working Title, no US distributor) 
Sea of Trees (no distributor) — dir. Gus Van Sant w/ Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe, Naomi Watts, Katie Aselton, Jordan Gavaris 
Knight of Cups (no distributor) — dir. Terrence Malick w/ Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Brian Dennehy, Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto, Wes Bentley, Isabel Lucas, Teresa Palmer
Queen of the Desert dir. Werner Herzog w/  Nicole Kidman, Robert Pattinson, Damian Lewis and James Franco.  
Grandma — Weitz, Tomlin 
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl Thomas Mann and RC Cyler  
Mistress America Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach (Fox  Searchlight) 
The Diary of a Teenage Girl Marielle Heller, Bel Powley, Kristin Wiig and Alexander Skarsgard (Sony Pictures Classics) 
The End of the Tour — James Ponsoldt, Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg (A24) 
Luca Guadagnino's A Bigger Splash — starring Matthias Schoenaerts, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, and Dakota Johnson (Fox Searchlight)  
Jean-Marc Vallee's Demolition, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, and Chris Cooper  (Fox Searchlight) 
Woody Allen's Irrational Man  starring Joaquin Phoenix, Parker Posey, Emma Stone, and Jamie Blackley (Sony Pictures Classics) 
Brian Helgeland's Legend starring Tom Hardy as the Kray twins and Emily Browning. (Working Title, Universal) 
Justin Kurtzel's Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard (The Weinstein Co.) 
Alejandro Amenábar's Regression starring Ethan Hawke, Emma Watson, and David Dencik. (The Weinstein Company) 
Stephen Daldry's Trash starring Rooney Mara and Martin Sheen. (Working Title, Focus Features)   
Robert Zemeckis's The Walk — starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale and Charlotte Le Bon. (Sony/TriStar, 10.2)

Feb 23, 2015

The morning after the Oscar night before

20/24 in a hard year — not bad. Of my four misses, I was most surprised by Big Hero Six winning. They really don't like sequels, huh? But still: a superhero origins story. I thought we were all against superheroes on this one night of the year. Pleasantly surprised Tom Cross won for Whiplash's editing, disappointed Chazelle didn't get adapted screenplay. (The Imitation Game is a truly terrible winner, even if expected). And puzzled Anderson didn't get original screenplay, even if Birdman's script is the sizzler. At one point the evening looked like the coronation of Wes Anderson ("Thank you Wes" being the rallying cry of the night). It will be remembered in this neck of the woods for Redmayne's squeal, NPH's strip, the number of boobs, underpants and skinny boys, Arquette's speech (and the cutaway to Streep), the constant self-reassurances that the Academy isn't racist, the dedication of both the top acting trophies to the degenerative neurological diseases of the subjects, that wonton act of cruelty involving The Sound of Music, and the genuinely nail-biting finish.

Feb 21, 2015

My Oscar picks 2015

'To start with the most hotly contested categories first. Best Picture is as close a race as can be between Birdman and Boyhood, two Davids in a field with no Goliaths. Birdman won all the guilds, Boyhood the BAFTAs. The Academy’s preferential ballot would seem to favor the more mild-mannered Linklater but its slightly fey, gentle spirit has always struck me as unlikely to close the deal with the steak-eaters, or Braveheart voters. Gun to head, I’m going to go with Birdman riding the same you-don’t-have-to-be-mad-to-work-here-etc spirit that helped Bob Fosse’s All That Jazz to its wins, making this the third best picture winner in a row set in the world of show business, after Argo and The Artist. Birdman is out there for the Academy, no question, but in the absence of any film addressing the state-of-the-nation or the way-we-live-now, maybe they’ll settle for a baring-of-the-showbiz-soul.   

Best Editing is usually a handmaiden of Best Picture but Birdman doesn't have a nomination — all those long, continuous takes were judged to have assembled themselves — so I expect it to go to Boyhood (and if it goes to the much-admired Whiplash instead, you can definitely count Boyhood out of the running for Best Picture).  Iñárritu will probably pick up the Best Director Oscar for Birdman, clearly a bravura directorial feat, as Gravity was last year.  The Mexicans seem to be owning this award at the moment, as they do cinematography: expect another win for Emmanuel Lubezki. And while one would normally favor Birdman’s Michael Keaton, too, for Best Actor — the academy have a having of siding with American veterans in any run-off with outsiders — Eddie Redmayne’s mixture of craft and emotion in The Theory of Everything gives him the edge. Just.' 
My picks for Intelligent Life:—

Will Win: Birdman
Could Win: Boyhood
Should Win: Birdman

Will Win: Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu
Could Win: Richard Linklater
Should Win: Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu

Will Win:  Julianne Moore
Could Win: —*
Should Win: Marion Cotillard

Will Win: Eddie Redmayne
Could Win: Michael Keaton
Should Win: Eddie Redmayne

Will Win:  J K Simmons
Could Win: —
Should Win: J K Simmons

Will Win: Patricia Arquette
Could Win:—
Should Win: Meryl Streep

Will Win: Boyhood
Could Win: Whiplash
Should Win: Whiplash

Will Win: Birdman
Could Win:—
Should Win: Birdman

Will Win: The Imitation Game
Could Win: Whiplash
Should Win Whiplash

Will Win: Grand Budapest Hotel
Could Win: Boyhood
Should Win: Grand Budapest Hotel

Will Win: Grand Budapest Hotel
Could Win: Into The Woods
Should Win: Grand Budapest Hotel

Will Win: Grand Budapest Hotel
Could Win: Into The Woods
Should Win: Grand Budapest Hotel

Will Win: Grand Budapest Hotel
Could Win: The Theory Of Everything
Should Win: Grand Budapest Hotel

Will Win: Selma
Could Win: —
Should Win: Selma

Will Win: American Sniper
Could Win: Interstellar
Should Win: Interstellar

Will Win: American Sniper
Could Win: Whiplash
Should Win: Whiplash

Will Win: Citizenfour
Could Win: Virunga
Should Win: Last Days in Vietnam

Will Win: Ida
Could Win: Leviathan
Should Win: Leviathan

Will Win: How to Train Your Dragon 2
Could Win: Big Hero Six
Should win: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Will Win: Interstellar
Could Win: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Should Win: Interstellar

Will Win:  Grand Budapest Hotel
Could Win: Guardians of the Galaxy
Should Win: Foxcatcher

Will Win: The Phone Call
Could Win: Our Curse
Should Win: Our Curse

Will Win: Feast
Could Win: The Dam Keeper
Should Win: The Dam Keeper

Will Win: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
Could Win: Joanna
Should Win: Our Curse

*— indicates a lock, meaning a win for someone else would constitute that rarest and loveliest of creatures, an Oscar Upset