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Christoph Waltz (#110 of 14)

Big Eyes Interview with Screenwriters Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander

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Big Eyes Interview with Screenwriters Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander
Big Eyes Interview with Screenwriters Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander

Pressure mounts on all sides to declare Tim Burton’s sweet and understated Big Eyes either a return to form or a turned corner, but for screenwriters Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander it’s just an exemplary marriage of maker and material. The film is a dramatization of the struggle of 1960s artist Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), whose paintings of crying children were as ubiquitous, for a time, as their decidedly less gothic successors in the Precious Moments franchise are today. But Keane’s husband, Walter (Christoph Waltz), took credit for her explosive success, and despite toying with a few loftier notions (alcoholism, gimcrack curios versus capital-A art), Big Eyes is an essentially spare, straightforward celebration of Margaret’s successful campaign to reclaim credit for the paintings. The film is as over-the-moon for postwar modernism as it is a painstaking character study, and, like the pair’s last collaboration with Burton, Ed Wood, strikes a lovely balance between laughing at and with its eccentric protagonist. On the day of the film’s New York premiere, I met with the duo over coffee to try extracting their secret recipe for the modern anti-biopic.

Oscar Prospects Fruitvale Station, A Contender on an Uncertain Track

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Oscar Prospects: Fruitvale Station, A Contender on an Uncertain Track
Oscar Prospects: Fruitvale Station, A Contender on an Uncertain Track

This is the first film year in a long while that’s made me want to applaud Harvey Weinstein. The mega-producer has suddenly become a powerful force in the dissemination of popular, feather-ruffling, discussion-prompting black cinema. The Weinstein Company gave us Fruitvale Station and Lee Daniels’ The Butler, and still to come is Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom with Idris Elba. These are just three titles in a year that’s uncommonly packed with major black-themed movies, and thanks to Weinstein’s backing, they’re that much more likely to be seen. That said, Weinstein is still the hungriest and savviest awards monger in the biz, and part of his motive for pushing these movies is, without doubt, their clear Oscar potential. At the risk of suggesting that Weinstein is an outright, opportunistic monster, it was admittedly hard—as a film-obsessed person, at least—to think of anyone else who was more pleased with George Zimmerman’s acquittal (apart from Zimmerman himself, that is). Having already serendipitously clinched priceless topicality with Fruitvale’s Trayvon Martin parallels, Weinstein suddenly had skyrocketing cultural rage in his corner, rage that a little film about the similarly, tragically slain Oscar Grant might alleviate. The modest Sundance sensation Weinstein acquired was now inextricably linked to one of the year’s biggest stories, a story that won’t be forgotten come Oscar-nomination time.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions Supporting Actor

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actor

All right, all right, all right. We should’ve known. As it turned out, Matthew McConaughey’s still supple ass cheeks in Magic Mike were no match for AMPAS’s preference for saggy old balls in this category. And not just old, but used balls. As was pointed out during this year’s overproduced nominations press conference, all five nominees have already won Oscars. And so in the absence of a swimsuit competition, the narrative this go around shifts onto the question of which person do Academy members feel most deserves another trophy, and which of them is the most overdue?

A Cut Above: An Interview with Django Unchained Editor Fred Raskin

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A Cut Above: An Interview with <em>Django Unchained</em> Editor Fred Raskin
A Cut Above: An Interview with <em>Django Unchained</em> Editor Fred Raskin

By all accounts, Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained is a massive film in both scope and scale, boasting a large ensemble cast, a story that spans years, and a mix of locations and climates. The job of assembling all of this was given to film editor Fred Raskin, who, while working closely with Tarantino, cut the film to a final run time of two hours and 45 minutes, leaving almost two additional hours of footage on the cutting room floor.

A graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Raskin honed his craft working as an assistant editor for Tarantino’s late editor Sally Menke, aiding her on Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. He then moved up to the position of editor with director Justin Lin, working on three Fast and the Furious films: The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious, and Fast Five. After Menke’s tragic death in 2010, Raskin got the call from Tarantino to take the lead on editing his new Spaghetti-Western-meets-blaxploitation flick.

After spending nearly a year assembling Django Unchained, Raskin, who is now armed with a BAFTA nomination, opens up about his work on the Oscar-nominated film, the job of a film editor, and working with one of his cinematic heroes.

Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor

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Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor
Oscar 2013 Nomination Predictions: Supporting Actor

With all due respect to the gentlemen in contention, this year’s likely Supporting Actor crop has shaped up to be a snooze, filled with veterans who, however gifted, feel like obvious choices, and whose singling out undermines some truly vibrant male turns. It’s true that Silver Linings Playbook boasted Robert De Niro’s best performance in years, giving the actor a tender comic role that required more than just cracking wise and mugging for the camera. And frontrunner Tommy Lee Jones turned in fine, fiery work in Lincoln, bringing complex life to abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens, whose character arc is arguably the movie’s most dramatic. But both industry icons still feel a tad like instant candidates, and they’re liable to be joined by Alan Arkin (Argo) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master), both of whom have been lauded for performances that are neither remarkable nor surprising. As consistent and consummately professional as Meryl Streep, Hoffman is faithfully intense as L. Ron Hubbard stand-in Lancaster Dodd, but there’s nothing in the character we haven’t seen him play before. And Arkin, whose crotchety film producer is a wellspring of rib-elbowing condescension, seems to have joined this race merely for his seasoned way with one-liners.

Oscar Prospects: Les Misérables

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Oscar Prospects: Les Misérables
Oscar Prospects: Les Misérables

With its Oscar clout and inevitable crowd-pleasing matched by widespread critical ire, Les Misérables is easily the year’s most divisive awards contender. The film does have its champions, like the oft-snarky New York Post critic Kyle Smith, who gave it the top spot on his 2012 top 10 list, but by and large, Les Mis has endured ample lashings from reviewers, as diverse as David Edelstein, Richard Corliss, and our own Calum Marsh. The divide between journos and tearful devotees has become one of the season’s buzziest narratives, most recently prompting helmer Tom Hooper to “respond to his critics,” whose qualms, as expected, couldn’t stop the musical from squashing the box-office competition on Christmas Day (the movie raked in $18.2 million, history’s second-largest holiday opening). What does it all mean for the movie’s Oscar fate? To be honest, probably not much. It seems unfathomable that Les Misérables won’t end up on the Best Picture shortlist, an outcome that was in the cards before a frame of footage was seen (or, arguably, before a frame of footage was shot).

Poster Lab: Django Unchained

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Poster Lab: <em>Django Unchained</em>
Poster Lab: <em>Django Unchained</em>

To be perfectly honest, the first official poster for Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained is primarily featured here because its reveal is something of an event. One doesn’t stare at this thing and marvel at its breathtaking design; it’s all about the art of the tease. It’s certainly somewhat impressive that the image needn’t have a title to get people jazzed—the name of cinema’s most revered pop auteur is magnetic enough. Like a cult answer to the superhero posters that simply brandish a gleaming logo, this one-sheet is both confident in and dependent upon Tarantino’s ardent fan base, its adamant minimalism validated by the need for something—anything—that’s officially linked to the production (two weeks ago, a rough and raw still of Christoph Waltz on set was visual crack for bloggers). The poster looks very Tarantino-esque, and it’s surely in the spirit of what we’ve come to know of the film (Jamie Foxx’s freed slave treks through the Deep South with Waltz’s doctor to face down Leo DiCaprio’s slave owner), but it largely feels like steak for the dogs, who’ve made no small announcement of their collective hunger.