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Adam McKay’s Vice with Christian Bale and Amy Adams Gets Trailer and Poster

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Adam McKay’s Vice Starring Christian Bale and Amy Adams Gets Trailer and Poster

Annapurna Pictures

Adam McKay’s Vice Starring Christian Bale and Amy Adams Gets Trailer and Poster

Three years after he hit paydirt and a bonanza of critical acclaim for The Big Short, Adam McKay is back with Vice, which is being billed by distributor Annapurna Pictures as “the untold true story that changed the course of history.” Written by McKay, the film follows the rise of Dick Cheney (played by Christian Bale) and how he shaped the American landscape, as well as the world, as vice president to George W. Bush. According to a recent Variety article, Bale’s performance demanded that he cut off his hair, bleach his eyebrows, and gain 40 pounds. Naturally, there’s already talk of an Oscar nod for the actor, as well as for Sam Rockwell and Amy Adams, who star in the film as Bush and Cheney’s wife, Lynne, respectively.

Toronto Film Review Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival

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Toronto Film Review: Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival

Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto Film Review: Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival

However you feel about Denis Villeneuve, you have to hand it to the Quebecois director: He knows how to start a film. His latest, Arrival, balances two significant, image-driven arcs in its first few minutes. The first concerns the tragically brief motherhood of linguistics professor Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams), who we see in a montage giving birth to a daughter and raising her all the way through the girl’s death as a teenager from a rare disease. The second shows the sudden appearance of UFOs in various corners of the globe, kicking off a worldwide frenzy of fear. Louise finds herself deputized into service by the military’s attempts to deal with the situation, brought in to try and decipher a language of guttural roars and hisses to facilitate communication between humans and aliens.

Toronto Film Review Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals

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Toronto Film Review: Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals

Toronto International Film Festival

Toronto Film Review: Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals

Fashion designer du jour Tom Ford could only go up from the travesty he made in 2009 of Christopher Isherwood’s superb 1964 novel A Single Man, one of the greatest, most complex works of queer fiction (hell, of fiction in general), which he transformed into a visually garish, monotonously self-pitying dirge. With Nocturnal Animals, an adaptation of Austin Wright’s 1993 novel Tony and Susan, he’s found a much more apropos subject: Superficial Los Angelinos behaving superficially. As long as the emotions have all the depth of a Vogue or Vanity Fair cover, Ford’s in his element.

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 2014 Winner Predictions Costume Design

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Costume Design
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Costume Design

It’s still no Drag Race, but the contest for costume design (i.e. the Oscar category most likely to send me headed to Wikipedia to even remember what won last year) just got a little bit more interesting over the weekend. And if the Costume Designers Guild’s award for Patricia Norris’s desiccated plantation line from the House of Mason-Dixon is to be taken seriously, then Amy Adams’s milky, sleek sternum is simply not as eye-catching an accessory as the funk of 40,000 lashes. (And I’m not talking the Maybelline kind here.) That Norris this weekend pranced past Michael Wilkinson’s chesty silhouettes in American Hustle wasn’t a major surprise, but that those drab rags left Catherine Martin’s flip-flap frippery from The Great Gatsby face down in the pool does arch one’s eyebrows. Or maybe that’s not such a surprise. The Costume Designers Guild have never much warmed up to Martin’s work; her Oscar-winning feathers and ruffles from Moulin Rouge weren’t even invited to the guild’s dance back in 2001. Perhaps they, like many of us hardened vets who experienced that Oscar season in real time online, were simply weary of the squealing zealousness of those “kicking up their heels” (and writing those same noxious words ad nauseam) over Baz Luhrman’s over-performance that year.

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions Actress

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Actress
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Actress

If there’s anything with even the slightest ability to nudge Cate Blanchett’s path to Oscar victory off course, it’s the seemingly endless Farrowgate scandal, which has Woody Allen’s allegedly molested daughter calling out his muses by name, and guilting them in an attempt to harm the director by extension. As Mark Harris brilliantly observed in his Grantland essay “Oscar Season Turns Ugly,” this kind of linkage of Oscar results to actual sociopolitical issues is at once necessary and ludicrous—a tricky conundrum that can’t be assessed “without acknowledging that something horrible is being inappropriately trivialized and something trivial is being inappropriately transformed into a crisis of situational ethics.” I don’t think anyone ever felt that Blanchett, an unerringly shrewd celebrity, would have indulged the open invitation to address this scandal in her subsequent acceptance speeches. But few likely foresaw that, amid a pop-cultural atmosphere in which the topic simply cannot be ignored, the Aussie frontrunner would find a way to dodge it while taking an unimpeachable high road, dedicating her Best Actress BAFTA win Sunday night to the “late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman.” In raising her Stoli martini with a twist of lemon to one of the Academy’s departed elite, odds are Blanchett closed whatever case Dylan Farrow had in terms of exacting revenge by setting a trip wire for Blue Jasmine’s leading lady.

Golden Globe 2014 Winner Predictions: Who Will and Who Should Triumph at Sunday’s Ceremony

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Golden Globe 2014 Winner Predictions: Who Will and Who Should Triumph at Sunday’s Ceremony
Golden Globe 2014 Winner Predictions: Who Will and Who Should Triumph at Sunday’s Ceremony

Believe it or not, we know exactly what’s going to happen at Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards. Since there are no actual musicals competing in the Comedy/Musical category this year, the talent will have to pick up the slack. Co-hosts Amy Poehler and Tina Fey will kick off the night with a dance number to the tune of 30 Rock’s theme music, since guests might fear they’re in the wrong place if they don’t hear it during the ceremony. Alfonso Cuarón will strap drunken revelers to their seats before turning the ballroom into a zero-G environment, only to have Michael Douglas tickle the ivories in midair as Liberace. And, to wrap things up, Emma Thompson will serenade Meryl Streep with a feministic, shade-throwing rendition of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” Or maybe not. But herein is who will, and who should, win in each category.

Oscar 2014 Nomination Predictions: Actress

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

Saving Mr. Banks telegraphs Emma Thompson’s date with Oscar. When her character, Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers, first meets Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), the mogul of magic walks past a wall of Oscar statuettes—golden idols nearly within Thompson’s grasp. And when Travers finally hits the premiere of the film she reluctantly greenlit, she’s decked out, as seen above, like she’s bound for the Academy’s red carpet (though, admittedly, it’s good this film takes place in the days before “Who are you wearing?” as it seems the answer could be “Bed Bath & Beyond”). In short, this is my way of saying that Thompson, a woman who’s flawlessly navigated the campaign circuit, is in. Could Meryl Streep’s Thompson tribute at the National Board of Review Awards, which some saw as underhandedly self-serving, have affected the Brit’s chances? I don’t think so. If anything, the last few days have galvanized my suspicion that August: Osage County’s Streep, the vulnerable hopeful alongside the category’s other predicted locks (Thompson, Gravity’s Sandra Bullock, Philomena’s Judi Dench, and Blue Jasmine’s Cate Blanchett), is out.

Oscar Prospects American Hustle, David O. Russell’s Thick Slice of Voter-Friendly Trash

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Oscar Prospects: American Hustle, David O. Russell’s Thick Slice of Voter-Friendly Trash
Oscar Prospects: American Hustle, David O. Russell’s Thick Slice of Voter-Friendly Trash

I think the scene that finally secured American Hustle a place on my Top 10 list was the one in which conman Irving’s (Christian Bale) wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), goes on and on about her fingernail topcoat at a dinner. Chatting up Dolly (Elizabeth Röhm), the wife of soon-to-be-swindled Camden mayor Carmine (Jeremy Renner), Rosalyn raves about the topcoat’s contradictory virtues, saying it’s “sweet and sour, rotten and delicious—like flowers, but with garbage.” She “can’t get enough of it.” To watch this scene is to witness David O. Russell not only reclaim his former, gonzo glory, but wholeheartedly own the superficial tackiness of his vision. Sure, this is a film about countless layers of fakery, and the notion of a topcoat—a mask—being both vile and alluring has definite thematic implications. But American Hustle, marvelously, isn’t hung up on such sobering ideas. The topcoat speech is more a megaphone announcement of tone, and of a director finally ditching the safety net of Oscar pandering, which he used to entrance voters with the falsely offbeat The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. And still, he’s going to net those votes nonetheless, as there’s just enough delicious here to make the rotten palatable for traditionalists.