Amour (#110 of 31)

Tribeca Film Festival 2013: Run & Jump

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Tribeca Film Festival 2013: Run & Jump
Tribeca Film Festival 2013: Run & Jump

Born in the U.S., but now dividing her time between Los Angeles and Dublin, director Steph Green was nominated for an Oscar in 2009 for her short film New Boy, a sensitive portrait of a young African lad struggling to settle into a new school in Ireland. The theme of coming to terms with a dramatic life change is once again central in her confident, boldly stylized feature debut Run & Jump.

Set in a picturesque Irish town, the film begins with the return to the family stead of Conor (Edward MacLiam), a 38-year-old carpenter and father of two who's suffered a damaging stroke, leaving him severely mentally restricted. In response, his spirited wife, Vanetia (Maxine Peake), has brought an American neurophysiologist, Ted Fielding (Will Forte), into the household to observe Conor's condition and interaction with the family for two months. Welcomed with curious fascination by Vanetia and the children, but greeted with some suspicion by Conor's extended family, Ted soon finds himself becoming inextricably woven into the family in ways he hadn't imagined. The unusual, shifting dynamic of the triangulated central relationship makes the film constantly engaging on a narrative level, with Green using the inherent awkwardness of the situation to locate nuanced, character-based humor rather than externally imposing it on the drama.

Understanding Screenwriting #108: Side Effects, Like Someone in Love, Point Blank, Downton Abbey, Parade’s End, & Smash

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Understanding Screenwriting #108: <em>Side Effects</em>, <em>Like Someone in Love</em>, <em>Point Blank</em>, <em>Downton Abbey</em>, <em>Parade’s End</em>, & <em>Smash</em>
Understanding Screenwriting #108: <em>Side Effects</em>, <em>Like Someone in Love</em>, <em>Point Blank</em>, <em>Downton Abbey</em>, <em>Parade’s End</em>, & <em>Smash</em>

Coming Up In This Column: Side Effects, Like Someone in Love, Point Blank, Downton Abbey, Parade's End, Smash, but first…

Fan mail: David Ehrenstein, reacting to my comments on Cat Ballou, thought that all the things I liked about the writing and acting came together “thanks to efforts of that controversial new-fangled invention known as the Director.” I didn't get around to mentioning the director, Elliot Silverstein, because this is one of those films, like M*A*S*H (1970), Chariots of Fire (1981), and Thelma & Louise (1991), that succeeds in spite of its director rather than because of him. Silverstein is very sloppy about where he puts the camera and the acting is all over the place. This was his only truly successful film, and he soon went back to television, where he started.

Side Effects (2013. Written by Scott Z. Burns. 106 minutes.)

Better than Hitchcock. Both Alfred Hitchcock and producer David O. Selznick were interested in psychiatry. In the mid-'40s, Hitchcock persuaded Selznick to buy a novel that was, according to Hitchcock's biographer, Donald Spoto, “a bizarre tale of witchcraft, satanic cults, psychopathology, murder, and mistaken identities.” (The background material here is from Spoto's The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock.) Hitchcock presented some ideas on how a movie could be made out of the material to Ben Hecht, who wrote the screenplay for Spellbound (1945). Hecht's version deals with an amnesiac who replaces a man scheduled to become the head of a mental hospital. The amnesiac is accused of murder and with a helpful female psychiatrist works out his problems. Since she's played in the film by Ingrid Bergman, he falls in love with her as well. The film was a commercial success, but it's rather clunky, like many '40s films about psychiatry. And like many Hitchcock films, it's less about character than about giving the director a chance to show off. As befits Selznick, the film is a slick production with stars (Gregory Peck as the amnesiac) in a romantic mode.

Oscar 2013 Composite Winner Predictions

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Oscar 2013 Composite Winner Predictions
Oscar 2013 Composite Winner Predictions

Below is a complete list of our predicted winners at the 2013 Academy Awards.

Picture: Argo
Director: Ang Lee, Life of Pi
Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Original Screenplay: Amour
Adapted Screenplay: Lincoln
Foreign Language: Amour
Documentary Feature: Searching for Sugar Man
Animated Feature Film: Wreck-It Ralph
Documentary Short: Open Heart
Animated Short: Head Over Heels
Live Action Short: Curfew
Film Editing: Argo
Production Design: Anna Karenina
Cinematography: Life of Pi
Costume Design: Anna Karenina
Makeup: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Score: Life of Pi
Song: “Skyfall,” Skyfall
Sound Editing: Life of Pi
Sound Mixing: Les Misérables
Visual Effects: Life of Pi

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Picture

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Picture
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Picture

Despite the hysteria, it may not be appropriate yet to call a time of death on the decades and decades' worth of precedent that will be shattered when Argo wins Best Picture despite very conspicuously not being nominated for its director, not having even remotely close to the year's highest nomination tally (it trails behind four other films), and not having even a halfway plausible shot at winning more than two other categories aside from this one. After all, there's still one tradition working in the movie's favor. It's going to win the all-important Oscar for Best Editing, some would say for how exhilaratingly it crosscuts between a grim interrogation at a Mehrabad Airport checkpoint, Walter White barking out commands in D.C., and Alan Arkin and John Goodman being humorously cockblocked from answering their telephone by archetypal union (i.e. guild) workers, whereas others would say for how ruthlessly it edits out any historical perspective that doesn't turn the Iranian populace into swarthy pod people.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Actress

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Actress
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Actress

Unlike Anne Hathaway, who's probably even sidestepping sidewalk cracks lest she break some old Academy member's back, and perhaps jeopardize her inevitable Fantine-quoting speech (“Life hasn't killed the dream I dreamed!”), Jennifer Lawrence is taking a page from Mo'Nique's book and playing the campaign game by her own rules. With Hollywood's hottest new franchise already cranking up her star wattage, the on-fire frontrunner has, without denying her desire for victory or tainting her “It Girl” image, shown a refreshing, and even alarming, awards-season irreverence, such as in that little SNL intro bit, or her recent howler of an interview with EW. The lack of formality may prove off-putting to some, who prefer, say, an Oscar angel like Natalie Portman, but odds are Lawrence still has this win in the bag, as further evidenced by her precursor record and the sheer influence of Silver Linings Playbook producer Harvey Weinstein.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Director

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Director
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Director

After Argo collected nearly every major industry award in the lead-up to the Academy Awards, in the process emerging as this year's Best Picture frontrunner, it came as a shock to everyone to see Ben Affleck shut out of the running here given how often Best Director and Picture coincide. It's with some irony, then, that two filmmakers who've emerged as the main contenders in Affleck's absence are also among the very few previous winners here whose films were denied Best Picture trophies: Ang Lee and Steven Spielberg. But let's try to rid our minds of the deplorable notion that Spielberg and Lee are contending for an award that belongs to Affleck. Stripped of this context, an Affleck-less battle for Best Director has all the makings of otherwise good Oscar drama.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Original Screenplay

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Original Screenplay
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Original Screenplay

More than in any of the other categories it's nominated in, the unreal fall from grace suffered by Zero Dark Thirty will be particularly palpable when it inevitably loses here. Though few would deny that it represents this category's most massive undertaking, and even some of the political blogosphere's harshest critics still gave Mark Boal's skill backhanded praise for what they deemed flagrant ethical persuasion, the 24-hour news cycle has plainly turned what was until the nomination announcements the presumptive frontrunner for the prize into, well, something like Peter Staley up against the Academy's petrified bureaucracies, who are evidently ignoring the film and hoping it will all go away. The Academy's skittish unwillingness to grapple with the film's prickly but magnanimous examination of a political situation with no easy answers is going to go down as one of their all-time NAGLs, especially given the two-pronged love letter to God and country (Hollywood and the rest of the U.S., respectively) that's poised to take Best Picture. But as far as this specific category goes, the controversy swirling around just how much input/propaganda the C.I.A. supplied Boal with may well have killed off its chances to win original screenplay even if the issue of whether his film obliquely or outright endorses “enhanced interrogation techniques” hadn't already hit the dependably liberal AMPAS right in the balls. Either way, Boal won't lose this one because his movie failed to discredit Americans' monstrous thirst for vengeance. He'll lose it because our current climate also thirsts for clean, unfettered catharsis, something Zero Dark Thirty responsibly elides.

Understanding Screenwriting #105: Django Unchained, Amour, Banjo on My Knee, & More

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Understanding Screenwriting #105: <em>Django Unchained</em>, <em>Amour</em>, <em>Banjo on My Knee</em>, & More
Understanding Screenwriting #105: <em>Django Unchained</em>, <em>Amour</em>, <em>Banjo on My Knee</em>, & More

Coming Up in This Column: Django Unchained, Amour, Banjo on my Knee, Life Begins at Eight-Thirty, Casablanca, Restless, but first…

Fan Mail: One note before you even ask. Yes, I have seen Zero Dark Thirty, but I am collecting information (not via torture, I assure you) about it from various sources that I want to have before I write about it. Rest assured it will dealt with in #106.

On the fan mail front, it was just another day at the office with David E. and me agreeing yet again on something, this time Tony Kushner. Yawn.

Django Unchained (2012. Written by Quentin Tarantino. 165 minutes.)

Lotsa stuff, including our ideas of history, blowed up real good: You may remember from US#32 that I liked Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds (2009) a lot. As I said in that column “Like many American screenwriters, who are after all part of the American storytelling tradition, he wants to tell a tale. And as much or more than any other American screenwriter, he wants to tell off-the-wall, wildly entertaining stories.” One thing I liked about Inglourious Basterds is that Tarantino was not just ripping off other movies. In his own freewheeling way, he was taking on history as much as other movies, and he was focusing on characters. He was also finally accepting the fact that violence can hurt people, not only those who are victims of it, but those who perpetrate it. All of those elements are back in Django Unchained, and in a year in which many big-budget movies played it as safe as they could, it is nice to see a movie that plays it anything but safe.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Foreign Language

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Foreign Language
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Foreign Language

Now that good taste dictates that we can't play What Would Ernest Borgnine Vote For? during another particularly dreary season of Oscar forecasting, we're forced to remove the plastic from our copy of What Would Ed Asner Vote for When He Isn't Busy Writing Letters About Torture in Zero Dark Thirty? Except for the later game's slightly more pronounced liberal bias, the premise remains the same: to gauge the chances of whippersnapper artistic visions trying to withstand the force of films that pander with almost chilling efficacy to the interests of AMPAS, whose average age we're told is now a whopping 57. Of course, if there's any category where we probably don't need to bust out the Social Security-themed Chance cards and silver-minted tokens of Lou Grant and Carl Fredricksen feeding pigeons to determine the outcome, it's probably this one.