The House


Keep the Lights On

The Sundance Film Festival has announced its U.S. documentary and dramatic competition films.

The 10 best books of 2011 according to The New York Times.

Laurie Winer and Richard Schickel on the life and work of Pauline Kael.

Anthony Kaufman calls out new anti-piracy campaign as simplistic and racist.

Horses could soon be slaughtered for meat in U.S.

Jaime Christley asks us to rally behind Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret.

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TAGS: anthony kaufman, kenneth lonergan, laurie winer, margaret, mark edmundson, pauline kael, richard schickel, robert altman, sundance film festival, the new york times, woody allen


Oscar Prospects: Hugo

Hugo

[Editor's Note: Oscar Prospects is your weekly analysis of an awards contender and how it's likely to fare come Oscar nomination morning. The column is comprehensive, so beware of spoilers.]

This season presents two Oscar contenders, Hugo and The Artist, that both bask in the dreaminess of cinema's early days, but from polar opposite ends of the technological spectrum. Whereas the latter is a famously black-and-white, French-made silent picture, Hugo is a mega-budget spectacle and the biggest pairing of heavyweight director and 3D since Avatar (it's also the most sophisticated movie yet to employ the format). In terms of awards chances, The Artist—which, appropriately enough, bears a key theme of overcoming technology's relentless propulsion—most certainly has the edge, and did even before yesterday, when it netted five major Independent Spirit Award nominations, earned two wins from the New York Film Critics Circle (including Best Picture), and landed fifth on Sight & Sound's polled list of the best films of 2011. But no one should assume that the soldiering forward of a powerful, atmospherically similar frontrunner means that Hugo can't also perform well. Besides, it's Martin Scorsese.

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TAGS: 3d, academy awards, alexander payne, avatar, ben kingsley, dante ferretti, georges méliès, harold lloyd, howard shore, hugo, independent spirit awards, martin scorsese, michel hazanavicius, new york film critics circle, oscar prospects, rise of the planet of the apes, robert richardson, safety last, sandy powell, sight & sound, steven spielberg, the artist, the departed, thelma schoonmaker, woody allen


The Artist

The New York Film Critics Circle announced its winners today and Michel Hazanavicius's The Artist is best in show, though Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life put up a good fight.

And the big winners at this year's Gotham Film Awards are Mike Mills's Beginners and The Tree of Life.

The nominations for the 27th Film Independent Spirit Awards were announced this morning in Los Angeles, and Jeff Nichols's Take Shelter and Hazanavicius's The Artist (which few realized was eligible) led the pack with 5 nods a piece.

Conrad Murray is sentenced to four years.

Herman Cain denies having a face allegation of 13-year affair.

Carey Mulligan explains how she got Steve McQueen's attention.

Explore the first book about James Gray.

Don't put your sperm under your laptop.

Christopher Hitchens explains how Republicans benefit from their gaffes.

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TAGS: alfred hitchcock, beginners, carey mulligan, christopher hitchens, conrad murray, edward mcknight kauffer, gotham independent film awards, herman cain, independent spirit awards, james gray, jeff nichols, ken russell, martin scorsese, michel hazanavicius, mike mills, new york film critics circle, pauline kael, pj harvey, republican party, sperm, steve mcqueen, take shelter, terrence malick, the artist, the citizen kane book, the lodger, the tree of life


Ken Russell

Ken Russell, the director behind the Oscar-winning Women in Love died on Sunday. He was 84.

Related: Dennis Lim remembers the controversial director.

Also, our own Gerard Raymond's interview with Russell from last year.

For PopMatters, Ross Langager on the cinematic myth of King Kong.

New York as seen by Stanley Kubrick.

Has Christian Bale's Batman era come to an end?

All My Children and One Life to Live will not move online.

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TAGS: 3d, a.o. scott, all my children, batman, boardwalk empire, charlies angels, christian bale, dennis lim, drew barrymore, gerard raymond, hannah and her sisters, hungry hobos, jason bellamy, ken russell, king kong, martin scorsese, matt zoller seitz, mickey mouse, new york city, one life to live, oswald the lucky rabbit, popmatters, ross langager, stanley kubrick, the muppets, todd solondz, woody allen


Marlboro Santa

10. Jimmy Boyd, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus." This Saks Fifth Avenue potboiler from 1952 about a child catching his mother being sexually assaulted by an elderly home invader only becomes even creepier when you realize the kid's mom isn't cheating on his dad, but that Mommy and Daddy have a Santa fetish. Also, what 13-year-old still believes in St. Nick anyway?

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TAGS: boys and girls xmas time love, cherry cherry christmas, christmas conga, clay aiken, cyndi lauper, dan fogelberg, dominick the donkey, funky funky xmas, i saw mommy kissing santa claus, jimmy boyd, john denver, lou monte, merry christmas with love, neil diamond, new kids on the block, newsong, please daddy don't get drunk this christmas, rob lowe, same old lang syne, the cheeky girls, the christmas shoes


Coming Up In This Column: A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, The Women on the 6th Floor, Feet First, The Great McGinty, Christmas in July, Bitter Rice, Creature From the Black Lagoon, Bend of the River, but first…

Fan Mail: David Ehrenstein pointed out that the model for Charlie in A Single Man (2009) was Iris Tree, who shows up in Steiner's party in La Dolce Vita (1960). And she is much less a caricature there than the character is—in the film, at least—of A Single Man.

Just a small note that hardly warrants a full item, at least not yet. I recently learned that there is a new book out by Kim Hudson called The Virgin's Promise: Writing Stories of Feminine Creative, Spiritual and Sexual Awakening. It's apparently the women's version of the Hero's Journey, including such things as the "13 beats of the Virgin's journey" and the "Virgin archetype." That's all fine and dandy, but what if, like say Anita Loos, you don't want to write about dip-shit virgins and prefer to write about real women? As most people realize after they reach adulthood, even if they know they are not allowed to say it in public, virginity is vastly overrated.

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas (2011. Written by Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg, based on characters created by Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg. 90 minutes.)

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas

Maybe too early: As longtime readers of this column know, I love shaggy dog stories. So naturally I liked the first Harold & Kumar film, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle (2004), in which the boys have the munchies and are just trying to get a couple of burgers. Hurwitz & Schlossberg, who have written all three films, were Billy Wilder ruthless in finding obstacles to throw in their way. The second one, 2008's Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, on the other hand, was a real dud. H&K were just stoners in the first one, and the humor was stoner humor. In the second, the writers tried to add a political dimension to the film, which simply does not fit with the characters of H&K. There was even some parody of George W. Bush that was well past its sell-by date. The H&K movies give us a lot of social comment, usually in throwaway jokes, but the political stuff in Guantanamo Bay is too heavy-handed to work in the H&K film universe.

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TAGS: a very harold and kumar 3d christmas, bend of the river, bitter rice, christmas in july, creature from the black lagoon, feet first, the great mcginty, the women on the 6th floor, understanding screenwriting


Poster Lab: The Sitter

The SitterThe poster for the new Jonah Hill comedy The Sitter is first a recollection of the films that made Hill famous, from the Superbad font to the awkward-doofus mugshot that calls to mind Knocked Up's Seth Rogen one-sheet. The tagline "What if This Guy Got You Pregnant?" is supplanted by "Need a Sitter?" which could just as well read, "What if This Guy Were Watching Your Kids?" The implication—one that has helped to launch both Hill's and Rogen's careers—is that fat young men are not to be desired or trusted, and whoever breaks the rules is in for a world of misfortune, which will hopefully translate into killer comedy. The Sitter, directed by indie prodigy turned stoner maestro David Gordon Green, sees Hill play a suspended college student who lives with his mom and takes a babysitting job that somehow leads to sex parties and entanglements with drug dealers. Originally slated for an Aug. 5 release, the movie features Hill when he was still plump and able to fill out a headshot frame with ease, and the poster's exploitation of his double chin as a cause for concern suggests the actor may not have landed this gig in his new, 40-pounds-lighter form.

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TAGS: adventures in babysitting, david gordon green, jonah hill, knocked up, poster lab, posters, seth rogen, the sitter, twitter


Tom Hiddleston[Editor's Note: In On the Rise, the House profiles an exciting new talent whose career, be it behind the camera or in front of it, is worth watching.]

Barring Ryan Reynolds's newly emerald torso, the greatest discovery of this past summer's superhero cinema was Tom Hiddleston, the curly haired Brit picked to play Loki in Kenneth Branagh's Thor. Watching that film (which earns points simply for being better than its role as an Avengers red carpet), a curious thing happens: actual, bona fide, highbrow acting starts creeping into the proceedings, with scenes of godly family feuds evoking Shakespearean tragedy. Surely Branagh is the man to thank for some of this, but no one should discount the contributions of Hiddleston and, of course, Anthony Hopkins, whom our subject surprisingly matches scene for scene. Hiddleston offers a distractingly good "who's that guy?" performance, and again, something quite superior to what's expected of a Marvel product made to plug a Marvel product. As sophisticated as he is snivelingly fiendish, Hiddeston's Loki would make for a fine Bond villain if not for all the otherworldly head gear. The actor, a 30-year-old Westminster native and a veteran of TV and stage, makes a lasting impression, the sort that leaves you itching to Google him. And that's just in Round 1 of his breakout year.

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TAGS: a streetcar named desire, allison pill, benedict cumberbatch, chiwetel ejiofor, corey stoll, ernest hemingway, ewan mcgregor, f. scott fitzgerald, ivanov, kenneth branagh, midnight in paris, niels arestrup, on the rise, peter mullan, rachel weisz, ryan reynolds, salvador dalí, steven spielberg, terence davies, the avengers, the deep blue sea, thor, tom hiddleston, wallander, war horse, william shakespeare, woody allen, zelda fitzgerald


My Week with Marilyn

[Editor's Note: Oscar Prospects is your weekly analysis of an awards contender and how it's likely to fare come Oscar nomination morning. The column is comprehensive, so beware of spoilers.]

My Week with Marilyn doesn't begin well. In what looks like a Rob Marshall outtake, Michelle Williams awkwardly ambles across a stage singing a cruise-ship rendition of "Heat Wave," her Jessica Rabbit evening gown reflecting the tacky pink and orange lights. Williams appears reluctant, maybe a little scared, and certainly not at home when leaning against a pianist and doing jazz hands on her breasts. She's soon swept up and cradled by two strapping men, blowing a kiss to the camera before the scene cuts to the title, an inelegant bit of text barely befitting WE tv. The intro is an accurate preface of what's to follow, from the palpable apprehension to the Monroe falseness to the near-complete small-screen vibe, the latter an egregious indication of director Simon Curtis's television origins. Perhaps it was somewhat inevitable for a film about Marilyn Monroe to recall the biopics and true Hollywood stories we've all seen in the comfort of our own homes, but Curtis's redundant, derivative fluff piece, adapted by fellow TV vet Adrian Hodges from Prince and the Showgirl PA Colin Clark's diaries, has such meager artistic ambitions that the tales we caught at home prove superior simply for coming first. You've seen My Week with Marilyn countless times, most likely with better editing and more tonal consistency. For all its buoyancy, this movie is naggingly small-time, and talk of it being Best Picture material is flat-out insane.

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TAGS: academy awards, adrian hodges, colin clark, j. edgar, jessica rabbit, jill taylor, judi dench, kenneth branagh, marilyn monroe, meryl streep, michelle williams, my week with marilyn, oscar prospects, rob marshall, simon curtis, the prince and the showgirl


Bulldog

Can the bulldog be saved?

The New York Times lists the 100 notable books of 2011.

Rolling Stone picks the greatest guitarists of all time.

Simon Abrams finds Géla Babluani's 13 to be pure, bone-headed bliss.

A law firm that had become a lightning rod in the controversy over mortgage-foreclosure practices has shut down, costing 89 employees their jobs.

For Salon, Lindsay Zoladz finds Lars von Trier's depiction of mental illness in Melancholia to be vital and groundbreaking.

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TAGS: 13, brandon mcinerney, bulldog, géla babluani, lindsay zoladz, melancholia, neil genzlinger, paris, peta, robert mapplethorpe, rolling stone, salon, simon abrams, sofia coppola, thanksgiving, the new york times







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