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Venice Film Festival 2012: The Company You Keep

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Venice Film Festival 2012: <em>The Company You Keep</em>
Venice Film Festival 2012: <em>The Company You Keep</em>

What very good company Robert Redford keeps indeed. The 76-year-old stuffs more left-leaning talent into this man-on-the-run thriller than President Obama could fit on stage at a Democratic rally. Here’s a rundown of the embarrassment of acting riches cameoing as former anti-Vietnam militants: Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, Richard Jenkins, Stephen Root, and Brendan Gleeson. The Company You Keep certainly needs the star wattage to help it sparkle, as there isn’t much in the way of invention when it comes to its workmanlike direction, which leans too much on a typically stellar synth score by Cliff Martinez.

Redford plays Jim Grant, an upstanding civil rights lawyer who’s recently become a widower and is bringing up his young daughter. But there’s no time to observe how he’s coping as a single dad. A two-bit reporter, Ben Shepard (Shia LaBeouf), from a local rag has uncovered that Jim is actually Nick Sloan, a key member of the Weatherman Underground, a radical leftwing movement of the ’60s and ’70s, who’s been on the F.B.I.’s most-wanted list since the murder of a security guard during a botch bank robbery in 1971. Nick’s comrade, Sharon (Sarandon), is already in the custody of F.B.I. Agent Cornelius (Terrence Howard), who’s heading up the manhunt, but is unwilling to talk. It’s an intriguing setup that could have made for some interesting twists and turns if Redford and screenwriter Lem Dobbs (The Limey, Dark City) weren’t so quick to reassure the audience that Nick is no killer. It’s a move that makes this liberal actor/director look oh so conservative. Early in the film, Nick’s daughter asks him point blank, “Did you kill that man?” “Of course not,” he replies incredulously. Mr. Sundance doesn’t do shades of gray, as his golden locks testify.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot Rob Humanick’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Rob Humanick’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Rob Humanick’s Top 10 Films of All Time

To choose only 10 films for this list was a task at once simple and impossible. Had I been given enough time to watch every film ever made, then allowed several decades to narrow down my choices, I would have still bemoaned this challenge. By the time this is published, I’ll have changed my mind. Held at gunpoint, however, the results would probably look something like this, and for my purposes here, know that the difference between “best” and “favorite” is immaterial. Every one of these represents not only a peak of the art form, but an experience I wonder whether I could truly live without. With apologies to Jean Renoir, Alfred Hitchcock, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Steven Spielberg, F.W. Murnau, Nicholas Ray, Fritz Lang, Abel Gance, Werner Herzog, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Roman Polanski, Terrence Malick, Chuck Jones, Ridley Scott, George A. Romero, and the 1930s, among others.

No Difference at All: Tilda Swinton and Sally Potter Talk Orlando

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No Difference at All: Tilda Swinton and Sally Potter Talk Orlando
No Difference at All: Tilda Swinton and Sally Potter Talk Orlando

The 1992 release of Orlando propelled director Sally Potter to forefront of independent filmmakers. She had achieved the seemingly impossible task of bringing to the screen Virginia Woolf’s fantastical 1928 novel about a 16th-century English nobleman who lives through three centuries, while aging only three decades and changing gender in the process. Not only did she create a sumptuous historical epic with independent financing (it marked the first film co-production with Russia), she also retained the wit and tongue-in-cheek lightness of the original, expanding Woolf’s story into the 20th century as well. The movie also launched the career of Tilda Swinton, the incandescent Scottish actress who played Orlando, as both male and female.

Potter had begun making experimental movies as a teenager in England and made her first full-length feature film The Gold Diggers, starring Julie Christie, in 1983. She had also pursued a career as a musician as well. The Museum of Modern Art in New York recently concluded a two-week retrospective of Potter’s four-decade avant-garde career, including her latest work Rage, a set of confessional vignettes about a New York fashion event seemingly recorded by a schoolboy on his cellphone, which was initially released on mobile phone applications prior to a theatrical release last year.

Oscar 2008 Winner Predictions: Actress

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Oscar 2008 Winner Predictions: Actress
Oscar 2008 Winner Predictions: Actress

In one corner, we have the Piaf Patrol, snapping away at anyone who doesn’t proclaim the second coming over Marion Cotillard’s rolling eyes, puckering lips, and spasmodic tantrums. In the other corner is Roger Ebert, who was good enough to wait for surgery until after he could take the opportunity to tell a certain subset of Oscar voters (we’ll call them the Crash bloc) about his personal crusade for this year: Juno’s Ellen Page. Outside of the boxing ring altogether is the woman whose classy performance has risen above both the fray as well as her would-be competitors in every relevant precursor award up to this point. Julie Christie’s portrayal of a woman with Alzheimer’s has quietly walked away with the SAG, the Golden Globe, and the better portion of the critics’ citations (we’ll even throw in the otherwise irrelevant Broadcast Film Critics award she won, since they explicitly pride themselves for being an accurate Oscar forecaster), and still some would have you believe this is a tight three-way race ripe for an upset. Because we’ve seen Oscar suddenly believe what others say its feeling before, and because La Vie en Rose gives Cotillard the opportunity to forge an unholy fusion of two major Oscar-bait elements (musical biopic spiked by the spectacle of a gorgeous young woman getting fugly for her art), and because those four nominations for Juno give us that Little Miss Sunshine vibe all over again, we have to reluctantly admit that this is likely a much closer race than it ought to be, especially since it’s hard to imagine either Laura Linney’s or Cate Blanchett’s wrathful bitchery helping to tip the race one way or the other.

Oscar 2008 Nomination Predictions: Actress

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Oscar 2008 Nomination Predictions: Actress
Oscar 2008 Nomination Predictions: Actress

They doubted me, but then they saw, and then they believed. Yes, it was almost one year ago that I said Marion Cotillard’s bold, freakishly technical thesping as Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose was bound for Oscar glory. What I didn’t anticipate was that Cotillard’s performance would infect audiences like the Rage virus. Could it be that if the actress doesn’t win the Oscar, her fans will crash the award ceremony (or press conference) like the vampire zombies from I Am Legend and rip the winner (or Billy Bush—maybe even Dave Karger) to shreds? And if they opt for a more restrained response, will they mount a petition, asking Oscar, as a gesture of comeuppance, to change its name to Edith and forever hand out statues that look like this? This is all to say, if Cotillard is not victorious, blame it on the fans, whose disturbing contempt for Julie Christie’s performance in Away from Her can’t be doing Cotillard any favors. Both of these fine performances are locks for nominations, meaning the remaining slots are pretty much up for grabs. Or not. If talking heads like Tom O’Neil and Karger stopped, well, talking, trying to affect Oscar voters like the news media unmistakably shapes political elections, then maybe the Pavlovian dogs that make up the Academy’s body might have more naturally gravitated to the talents of, say, Ashley Judd and Anamaria Marinca. Instead, the Academy has been told by the award-show pundits that Ellen Paige and Angelina Jolie already have dibs on slots three and four, and that’s exactly how they’ll vote. As for the fifth spot, eeny-meeny-miny-moe your way between Jodie Foster, Amy Adams, Keira Knightley, Laura Linney, and Cate Blanchett, because it’s anyone’s guess.

Christie ‘65/Christie ‘07: Julie Christie in Darling & Away from Her

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Christie ‘65/Christie ‘07: Julie Christie in <em>Darling</em> & <em>Away from Her</em>
Christie ‘65/Christie ‘07: Julie Christie in <em>Darling</em> & <em>Away from Her</em>

Sometimes extreme physical beauty grows more complex, more satisfying with age; it’s rare, but it happens. Such is certainly the case with Julie Christie, a blond, British Helen of Troy with the most frankly carnal lower lip in film history. Her eyes and brows rival Garbo in their velveteen symmetry, and her nose is a poem, a genetic triumph of heart-shaped, concealed nostrils.