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Oscar 2014 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actress

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Oscar 2014 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actress
Oscar 2014 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actress

When the Weinstein Company ultimately, and perhaps inevitably, retracted its decision to have August: Osage County star Meryl Streep campaign in the Supporting Actress category, it proved to be great news for Streep’s co-star Julia Roberts. Indeed, even August writer Tracy Letts claims Roberts’s part is a leading role, but debating category fraud is as futile as hoping Armond White won’t taint a New York Film Critics Circle awards ceremony, and given the competition, Roberts never would have landed a Best Actress nod anyway. But with Streep bumped into leading contention, Roberts seems to have become a Supporting Actress lock, not only because she steals the show with her bitiest turn since the one that won her an Oscar, but because she’s part of a smaller crowd in which she simply can’t be overlooked by her adoring peers. Some see Roberts as the wild card; I see her as an industry-beloved shoo-in.

The Worst Movie Posters of 2013

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The Worst Movie Posters of 2013
The Worst Movie Posters of 2013

Movie poster design probably isn’t as lost an art as many claim it to be, but every year, countless audience-insulting ads arrive to support the theories of the doomsday crowd. Granted, there are plenty of tossed-together one-sheets out there that are easy targets for criticism, but none ticked off this poster lover like the doozies included here. From glaring dependence on star power to the dreaded sliver formula, these design snafus are the ones that made you want to pull a Banksy at the multiplex, whipping out your Krylon can and doing a little defacing, if only to counteract the woes of daft commercialism.

Box Office Rap Machete Kills and the Gravity Wrecking Ball

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Box Office Rap: Machete Kills and the Gravity Wrecking Ball
Box Office Rap: Machete Kills and the Gravity Wrecking Ball

In January of 1993, Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi screened at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award and was picked up by Columbia Pictures. A month later, it was released in theaters, grossing over $2 million at the domestic box office, an anomaly for a film made for a mere $7,000. At the time a director with no formal training, Rodriguez served as a beacon for the independent spirit, even writing Rebel Without a Crew in 1996, a book recounting his initial success and subsequent collaboration with Quentin Tarantino. This week, Rodriguez’s Machete Kills opens in theaters, but the film reveals the filmmaker to be far removed from his independent and creative origins.

Rodriguez appears content to make sequels of his own hits: Machete Kills marks his sixth, and next year will bring a second installment in the Sin City franchise. Such practices are certainly not uncommon in Hollywood, nor were they uncommon to the exploitation cinema of the 1970s, which Rodriguez has clearly modeled so much of his work after. As Ian Olney explains in his recent book Euro Horror: Classic European Horror Cinema in Contemporary American Culture, Hollywood stole distribution tactics from B-film production studios, such as saturated openings, while also recognizing the viability of cheap sequels to accompany these methods, where films could make so much money in one weekend, as to become profitable, that whether or not audiences actually liked the film ended up being an afterthought.

Box Office Rap Gravity and the Art-House Blockbuster

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Box Office Rap: Gravity and the Art-House Blockbuster
Box Office Rap: Gravity and the Art-House Blockbuster

When Contagion opened in IMAX theaters on September 9, 2011, only a handful of films had previously been offered in that large-scale presentation that weren’t either part of a franchise, an original film with hopes of becoming a franchise, a work based on another text, or a prominent remake a la Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. From 2002 to September 2011, a total of 77 wide release films made their way to IMAX screens. Of these, and excluding animated and concert films, only three films (Eagle Eye, Inception, and Sanctum) opened over that nine-year span that didn’t fit the above qualifications. Certainly, these anomalous entries can be explained by their potential box-office appeal, but only Inception had directorial (let’s say auteur) pedigree, which is where my interest lies. We shall call such films art-house blockbusters (AHB), in accordance with our established definition.

Box Office Rap Baggage Claim and the Lost Women of September

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Box Office Rap: Baggage Claim and the Lost Women of September
Box Office Rap: Baggage Claim and the Lost Women of September

As the series finale of Breaking Bad nears, and with Walter White set to confront Todd, Uncle Jack, and (potentially) rescue Jesse Pinkman, Americans may pass the time this Friday by heading to the multiplex. Opening, and expected to take the weekend with ease, is Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, though it’s unlikely that members of #teamwalt will be interested in that, unless they have kids of their own (“a scary thought”). No, they’ll most likely see one of the other three primary offerings, all with hyper-masculine protagonists. There’s Rush, director Ron Howard’s racing period piece. If not that, perhaps Don Jon, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut about a guy from Joisey with a porn addiction. If neither of those strike a chord, there’s always the macho spectacle of Metallica: Through the Never, which bumps Dorothy and Toto from IMAX theaters on Friday.

Box Office Rap One Direction: This Is Us and the Box-Office Horizon

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Box Office Rap: One Direction: This Is Us and the Box-Office Horizon
Box Office Rap: One Direction: This Is Us and the Box-Office Horizon

The end of summer is officially upon us. Okay, technically that isn’t until September 21st, but as far as Hollywood is concerned, the summer box-office receipts have been tallied, with the winners and losers already determined. What have we learned? For starters, that Brian De Palma wanted to see The Lone Ranger, but it was gone from theaters before he had a chance to; that lower-budget horror films can stand their own against big-budget blockbusters, though audiences prefer their horror either slovenly supernatural (The Conjuring) or strictly high-concept (The Purge), as proved by the weak opening this past weekend of the excellent, reflexive You’re Next; and that Hollywood is still capable of producing mega-bombs, as demonstrated by the alarming disappearing acts performed by films such as White House Down, R.I.P.D., and Paranoia. Finally, we’ve learned that, all in all, not much has truly changed in the box-office landscape over the past 30 years, as summers continue to be ruled by sequels and commercially driven pap, with the occasional indie (like Fruitvale Station, The Way, Way Back, and Blue Jasmine) lucky enough to make a drop in the bucket.

On the Rise Brie Larson

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On the Rise: Brie Larson

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On the Rise: Brie Larson

If nothing else, 23-year-old Brie Larson exemplifies a trend within her generation of rising stars, who weave in and out of each other’s projects like they’re breathlessly party-hopping. In The Spectacular Now, Larson plays Cassidy, the ex-girlfriend of a reluctant hero played by 26-year-old Miles Teller, who’ll soon star in Divergent with 21-year-old Shailene Woodley, who’s also in The Spectacular Now, and is shooting The Fault in Our Stars (written by—what?—the guys who wrote The Spectacular Now). The new teen romance also features 28-year-old Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who played opposite Larson in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and 16-year-old Kaitlyn Dever, who’ll soon be seen with Larson in the forthcoming Short Term 12. Additionally, Short Term 12 features 29-year-old John Gallagher Jr., who stars on The Newsroom with 27-year-old Allison Pill, who’s also a Scott Pilgrim vs. The World alum. It’s all enough to spin the head of six-degrees king Kevin Bacon, who, come to think of it, just saw his signature movie, Footloose, remade with—wait for it—Miles Teller.

SXSW 2013: Getting Back to Abnormal, This Ain’t No Mouse Music!, No More Road Trips?, & Don Jon

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SXSW 2013: <em>Getting Back to Abnormal</em>, <em>This Ain’t No Mouse Music!</em>, <em>No More Road Trips?</em>, & <em>Don Jon</em>
SXSW 2013: <em>Getting Back to Abnormal</em>, <em>This Ain’t No Mouse Music!</em>, <em>No More Road Trips?</em>, & <em>Don Jon</em>

Geeky, admittedly devoid of tact, and first seen on a radio talk show in which a series of African-American callers accuse her of being a racist, Stacy Head makes an unlikely heroine. But that’s just what she proves to be, as Getting Back to Abnormal conducts a tour of the racial politics of New Orleans that’s as meandering and culturally rich as a second line parade.

The movie—and, it seems clear, Stacy’s political career—would never have ignited without a tireless little fireplug of a woman named Barbara Lacen-Keller, an African-American child of the projects who handles constituent outreach for Stacy and serves as her fiercest and best advocate. The four co-directors (Louis Alvarez, Andrew Kolker, Peter Odabashian, and Paul Stekler) bob in and out of Stacy’s and Barbara’s storyline, but they keep returning to the campaign as Stacy, the first white woman to represent the central city of New Orleans on the city council in 30 years, runs for reelection. Stacy’s and Barbara’s campaigning and the refreshingly frank, often moving stories they tell to the camera illuminate the chasm that yawns between the races in New Orleans—and the bridges that sometimes span that gap.

Sundance Film Festival 2013: Don Jon’s Addiction and Touchy Feely

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Sundance Film Festival 2013: <em>Don Jon’s Addiction</em> and <em>Touchy Feely</em>
Sundance Film Festival 2013: <em>Don Jon’s Addiction</em> and <em>Touchy Feely</em>

As directorial debuts go, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon’s Addiction is a surprisingly well-crafted first effort, a raunchy comedy with substance. Gordon-Levitt stars as Don Jon, a Jersey Shore type obsessed with hardcore porn, more interested in the thousands of kinky clips he’s amassed on his hard drive than he is with the actual sex he has with the countless beautiful women he picks up at night clubs. For him, nothing quite lives up to the fantasy women in his videos, until he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson), a beauty in a red dress who rejects his usually successful pick-up lines and inadvertently forces him to face his porn addiction head-on.