Today, 20th Century Fox released the trailer for Widows, Steve McQueen’s first feature-length film since 12 Years a Slave. The film is co-written by McQueen and Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, and is adapted from the 2002 ABC series Widows written by Lynda La Plante that starred Mercedes Ruehl, Brooke Shields, Rosie Perez, and N’Bushe Wright. The film is set in present-day Chicago and concerns four women who take fate into their hands in the wake of their criminal husbands’ deaths, forging a future on their own terms.
Steve Mcqueen (#1–10 of 39)
Warning: Proceed with caution. It’s fitting that such counsel conjures an image of black text on yellow, because it’s also something to keep in mind when returning to the Locarno Film Festival, whose ubiquitous mascot is, of course, the spotted leopard. If you’re not careful, this can indeed be an unpleasant place. The stifling heat, the airless venues, the local prices, those unseemly beige military uniforms worn by security staff, and the walks from one location to another, which always seem, in such unceasing humidity, just one block too far. All of these can be troublesome in and of themselves, but when concentrated together in a single locale at the windless foot of the Alps, things can get oppressive. Why bother?
1. ”Reverse Shot’s Best of 2014.” Below is Ashley Clark on their best in show, Richard Linklater’s Boyhood.
“Without wishing to indulge in hyperbole, the real miracle of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood—a moving, intimate family drama shot in small chunks with the same core cast over a period of twelve years—is not simply that its audacious concept was ushered through to completion. (Ellar Coltrane, who plays Mason, the youngster at the center of the film, could have at any moment decided the acting life wasn’t for him, and effectively scuppered the enterprise.) Rather, it’s the unshakable faith that Linklater has invested in stillness, subtlety, and—whisper it—banality, as a pathway to emotional resonance. Think about it: how many other directors would make a film over the same period and resist the temptation to shore up the intimidatingly diffuse timeline with dramatic clichés, coming-of-age touchstones (for instance, young Mason’s hilariously perplexed reaction to a pair of locker-room douchebag bullies), and actorly pyrotechnics? Save for one spectacular, alcohol-fueled family blowout, Boyhood is comprised of hushed, beautifully observed interactions that cut across generational lines, performed with grace and restraint by underrated actors like Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke, who both shine as Mason’s separated parents.”
1. “TIME 100.” The 100 Most Influential People in the World.
“From Hunger to Shame to 12 Years a Slave, Steve [McQueen] tackles tough subjects with passion and a very evident love. His storytelling is all about creating genuine emotional exchanges between the actors. He’s always in search of the truthful moment that will give the audience real human access to difficult issues. He’s a visionary in that way. In 12 Years a Slave, he gave us a very clear and emotional representation of the time and institution of slavery. The complexity of characters lets you see how slavery was a burden not just to the enslaved but to the slavers as well. The emotional toil affected everyone. I think Steve is a genius at what he does, but he doesn’t impose his genius on you. It really feels collaborative and exploratory to work with him. What he managed to create was a sacred space where everyone respected the story we were telling. He gave us reassurance that this was for something bigger than all of us. [Lupita Nyon’o]”
1. “Hollywood ’Noah’ is kosher, says celebrity rabbi.” Shmuley Boteach tells our film critic the Russell Crowe epic is impressive and important, but also poor entertainment.
“Is the purpose of religion to be the sword of God? The blade of morality which condemns the wicked and the unrighteous? I have written two books about why innocent people suffer. And what I say is this: there are people who believe that the explanation for human suffering is straightforward. You see it in the Flood, in Sodom and Gommorah and with Moses and the Golden Calf. And yet, the principal distinction between Noah on one hand and Moses and Abraham on the other is that Noah accepts God’s judgement. The film does a good job of showing this. Noah is not a hero in Jewish lore. The Bible says that Noah was a righteous man ’in his generation.’ He was only a righteous man compared to the others who were far worse than he.”
1. “The Reckoning.” The father of the Sandy Hook killer searches for answers.
“’Adam was not open to therapy,’ Peter told me. ’He did not want to talk about problems and didn’t even admit he had Asperger’s.’ Peter and Nancy were confident enough in the Asperger’s diagnosis that they didn’t look for other explanations for Adam’s behavior. In that sense, Asperger’s may have distracted them from whatever else was amiss. ’If he had been a totally normal adolescent and he was well adjusted and then all of a sudden went into isolation, alarms would go off,’ Peter told me. ’But let’s keep in mind that you expect Adam to be weird.’ Still, Peter and Nancy sought professional support repeatedly, and none of the doctors they saw detected troubling violence in Adam’s disposition. According to the state’s attorney’s report, ’Those mental health professionals who saw him did not see anything that would have predicted his future behavior.’ Peter said, ’Here we are near New York, one of the best locations for mental-health care, and nobody saw this.’”
1. “Let’s Talk About Kim Novak.” It’s time again to say horrible, awful things about every movie and actor nominated Sunday night.
“As we age, the fat that plumps the skin and makes it glow inexorably begins to disintegrate. Because this is 2014, and we’re on our way to curing women of the worst thing that can happen to them—getting old—doctors can solve this terrible problem with injectable fillers. So let’s say—just as a hypothetical for instance—you are an 81-year-old star whose last movie was in 1991 and who hasn’t been to the Oscars in many a long year. Not that you were ever nominated for one in the first place; you were, after all, a sex symbol for most of your career. As the evening approaches, the anxiety sets in. Harsh lights, you think. High-definition cameras. And a public that remembers you chiefly as the ice goddess whose beauty once drove James Stewart to the brink of madness.”
Like anyone who’s been covering what’s become, as the party line goes, “the closest Best Picture race in recent memory,” I’ve gone through many mental rewrites of this top-prize breakdown. The one I clung to the longest involved the word “bullshit.” It took shape, of course, after American Hustle, formerly known as American Bullshit, strutted through steam clouds of victory on nomination morning, collecting 10 nods before also claiming the SAG award for Best Ensemble (not to be confused with any costume-design kudos the film enjoyed throughout the season). Was this awfully great, unrepentantly tacky crime caper really the new frontrunner? If so, then the filmic narrative peddled by pop-culture journos since early 2013—that the year’s wealth of black-centric cinema was bound for unprecedented Oscar glory, capped off with a crown for 12 Years a Slave, the most confronting and “important” flick of the bunch—would have to be thrown out. What’s more, Steve McQueen’s insta-contender, a historical indictment many perceive as being as deep as young Patsey’s (Lupita Nyong’o) abyss of despair, would be overtaken by an epic of unadulterated shallowness. American Hustle’s win would insist, with all the fuck-it-all thump of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” that the notion of Oscar wins signifying some sort of sociopolitical responsibility is, indeed, bullshit.
It’s a good thing the Best Director category didn’t go the way of Best Picture to accommodate more nominees, because this year’s campaign has only ever been a three-man race even in its most competitive stages. The two non-contenders are Alexander Payne (Nebraska) and Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street), who’ve each enjoyed a nearly spotless recent track record for landing in the category. Payne has received nods for his last three films, while five of Scorsese’s last six non-documentary films have earned the legendary director an aisle seat at the ceremony. But with only one win between the two filmmakers (Scorsese’s The Departed) in that stretch, their nominations likely speak more to the compulsory voting habits and pre-digested tastes of Academy voters than to the merits of either Nebraska or The Wolf of Wall Street. And though David O. Russell has been on a nomination hot streak of late, with American Hustle capping a trio of Best Director nominations over the last four years for the filmmaker, his chances, which seemed much higher back when his crime caper stormed onto the scene last December, have since fizzled along with the film.
In 2010, we asked, “How do you solve a problem like Avatar? How do you hold a fluorescent, floating anemone in your hand? Well, you can’t. Because it exists in hexadecimal code on a hard drive somewhere in Silicon (or is it Uncanny?) Valley.” So we threw our vote to Sherlock Holmes and shook our heads on Oscar night when James Cameron’s Epcot Center diorama was awarded. The lesson? That Gravity, even though it’s the Mission: SPACE to Avatar’s more elaborately designed Universe of Energy: Ellen’s Energy Adventure, shouldn’t be too quickly discounted. Two years earlier, we thought the category would break toward Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood’s Wild West City attraction only to see it (rightfully) lose to Tim Burton’s Broadway-ed Dickens funhouse Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Meaning that the benefits of being a Best Picture frontrunner in this category are negligible. And so we put our money on Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina last year only to see it toppled by the Lincoln Logs of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Meaning that being a politely revered or disliked Best Picture nominee is also negligible.
- 12 years a slave
- Academy Awards
- anna karenina
- epcot center
- eric henderson
- james cameron
- Joe Wright
- life of pi
- moulin rouge
- Paul Thomas Anderson
- sherlock holmes
- steve mcqueen
- Steven Spielberg
- sweeney todd: the demon barber of fleet street
- the great gatsby
- there will be blood
- Tim Burton