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The Royal Tenenbaums (#110 of 5)

Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Original Screenplay

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Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Original Screenplay
Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Original Screenplay

Thanks to Mark Boal’s second consecutive slam-dunk teaming with Kathryn Bigelow, the one certainty of this year’s Original Screenplay field is a bit of 2010 déjà vu. Boal picked up a statuette that year for penning Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, and he’s poised to do the same for his work on Zero Dark Thirty, his collaborator’s high-stakes, buzz-heavy follow-up. There are ample fine points to Boal’s script that fall in his favor, like the shaping of a classic hoo-ra heroine and the refusal to shy away from divisive torture scenes, which have surely provided the most popular angle for journalists covering the film. But the greatest asset should prove to be the movie’s all-access fascination, which only grows as this epic manhunt soldiers toward its killshot.

Next in line as a likely candidate is Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, a pint-sized love story beautifully suited to the offbeat auteur’s whimsy, and his most well-scripted effort since The Royal Tenenbaums. Currently teetering as a will-it-or-won’t-it Best Picture hopeful, Moonrise Kingdom has performed surprisingly well in the precursors, landing a Golden Globe nod for Best Picture—Comedy, getting shortlisted by the AFI, and clinching a heap of Indie Spirit nominations. If there’s one achievement for which the film is primed to advance, it’s Anderson’s markedly humane, yet still characteristically ironic, screenplay.

Oscar Prospects: Moonrise Kingdom

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Oscar Prospects: Moonrise Kingdom
Oscar Prospects: Moonrise Kingdom

The Academy hasn’t exactly warmed to Wes Anderson, and it’s conceivable that they never truly will. It’s rare for such a popular, critically lauded, and artistically accomplished auteur to never cross over Oscar’s Picture/Director borderline, but Anderson may just spend his career being the anomaly, his whimsy always relegating him to the quirk-filled realm of Original Screenplay. His first nomination, in 2002, was in that very category, which pitted his now-classic script for The Royal Tenenbaums against the likes of Julian Fellowes (Gosford Park) and Christopher Nolan (Memento). His latest, Moonrise Kingdom, is the first work since to give him a real chance of returning to the race, as it’s his most technically accomplished, touching, and accessible follow-up. Telling a tale of childhood love that’s amenable to his Peter-Pan sensibilities, Moonrise Kingdom is a fine transition piece to follow Fantastic Mr. Fox, which cracked the animation field in 2009, yielding Anderson’s only other Oscar nod. The afterglow of that stop-motion gem’s citation can only work in the writer/director’s favor, ditto his new film’s massive praise and solid theatrical showing. A screenplay nom seems inevitable, but will the love end there?

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

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

Among the many critics who simultaneously partake in, and rise skeptical eyebrows toward, “best of” polls, the notion of the “list as snapshot” becomes a helpful negotiating metaphor. Viewing any top 10 ballot as a historically contingent event—as opposed an authoritative act of canon formation—allows critics to both enthusiastically make the case for our favorite films, while acknowledging that any act of “objectively” ranking works of art quickly bumps up against the limits of one’s own knowledge, biases, and experience.

It’s a useful image, but perhaps an incomplete one. If a photograph captures a given instant, it cannot account for all the previous moments that collectively created what was placed before the lens. Whittling down this list, for me, became as much about contending with my relationship to different periods in my life as it did with clarifying my feelings on the films themselves—as if the two could ever be wholly disentangled. Should I go with more classical Hollywood titles, whose early presence in my life profoundly shaped both my cinephilic tastes and childhood memories? Is it better to take a gamble on those movies that I’ve had less time to sit with, but whose initial seismic impact most likely ensures their permanent place in my head and heart?

Creating this fantasy Sight & Sound ballot, then, felt as much like excavation as photography, sifting through the layers of past experience, arranging the found artifacts in an attempt to convey my range of cinematic passions up to this point. It’s been an inevitably frustrating, completely rewarding task—and, if it means you add a couple of these titles to your Netflix queue as a result, all the better.

Poster Lab: Moonrise Kingdom

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Poster Lab: <em>Moonrise Kingdom</em>
Poster Lab: <em>Moonrise Kingdom</em>

With the poster for his seventh feature, Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson seems to have taken a page from Todd Solonz’s book, and it’s hard to imagine more beautiful results. Graciously ditching the yellow sans serif that’s marked his (puppet-free) features since The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Anderson has opted for an extra-scrolly script, and with the help of artist Michael Gaskell and the fine folks at Mojo, he’s released a transcendent merger of Solondz’s Palindromes and Life During Wartime one-sheets. Such is not to say this new design is an upcylced robbery, but rather a work of whimsy that evokes something pure and commendable as opposed to the same pretentious branding Anderson’s been shoveling at us for close to a decade. This will be one of the best film posters of 2012. Reflecting the awareness and bridling of auteurial strengths that was finally typified with Fantastic Mr. Fox, it keeps Anderson’s frank and characteristic egotism intact, but keenly respects all who find value in his voice without groveling at his altar. It’s a dreamy beauty, impervious to whatever flaws the film may have.

Owen Wilson: A Sunbeam in the Abyss

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Owen Wilson: A Sunbeam in the Abyss
Owen Wilson: A Sunbeam in the Abyss

The three words that spring to mind when I think of Owen Wilson are “generosity of spirit”—a phrase that’s being returned in kind by strangers as Wilson recovers from what has been described as a suicide attempt.

Wilson and I are the same age, 38. We’re both from Dallas, and although we didn’t cross paths until our mid-20s, we glancingly share enough geographical flashpoints that I’m surprised it didn’t happen sooner. Wilson and his friend and filmmaking partner, Wes Anderson, shot part of a black-and-white short film prototype for their first feature, Bottle Rocket, in Greenway Parks, a five minute walk from my house. We both frequented the Inwood Theater, the clubs in Deep Ellum, and the Cosmic Cup, a coffee shop and arts hangout owned by Indian-born actor, magician and juggler Kumar Pallana, who had small roles in Bottle Rocket, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums.