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Xavier Dolan (#110 of 19)

Cannes Film Review: It’s Only the End of the World

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Cannes Film Review: It’s Only the End of the World

Cannes Film Festival

Cannes Film Review: It’s Only the End of the World

Xavier Dolan’s films are either about the families we take refuge in or the ones we take refuge from. But It’s Only the End of the World might be the first that’s about both. Based on a play by the late Jean-Luc Lagarce, this fever-pitch melodrama stars Gaspard Ulliel as Louis, a gay writer suffering through an unnamed illness, who returns to his family home after a 12-year absence to try and break the news of his impending death to his mother (Nathalie Baye) and siblings (Léa Seydoux, Vincent Cassel, and Marion Cotillard).

Review: Adele Teams with Director Xavier Dolan for “Hello” Music Video

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Review: Adele Teams with Director Xavier Dolan for “Hello” Music Video
Review: Adele Teams with Director Xavier Dolan for “Hello” Music Video

Hello, it’s Adele. And she’s here to ruin your morning. The British singer’s new music video, which premiered late last night, opens with a sepia-toned shot of a dusty windowsill covered in mounds of dead flies. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’re watching a clip for a Nine Inch Nails track rather than the lead single from the long-awaited follow-up to the biggest-selling pop album of 2011 and 2012.

“Hello,” from Adele’s forthcoming 25, is a downer of barbituric proportions. Instead of making an ostentatious return akin to the soul-drenched blues-pop of the propulsive “Rolling in the Deep,” she shoots straight for the fleshy muscle that pounds in your chest with a pensive love ballad in the vein of tearjerker “Someone Like You.” Produced by Greg Kurstin, the song opens with Adele uttering the title, “Hello,” inescapably conjuring Lionel Richie’s 1984 hit of the same name, but by the time she harrowingly belts the hook, “Hello from the outside/At least I can I say that I’ve tried,” the single has already carved out its own real estate in the canon of pop power ballads. It’s presently #1 on iTunes and I haven’t even finished writing this paragraph.

Toronto International Film Festival 2014 Xavier Dolan’s Mommy

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Toronto International Film Festival 2014: Xavier Dolan’s Mommy
Toronto International Film Festival 2014: Xavier Dolan’s Mommy

For a director whose characters regularly display an abundance of melodramatic sentiment, Xavier Dolan leaves himself plenty of emotional cover in his films. His stance isn’t ironic exactly, but he employs an assortment of stylistic elements—long, pop-soundtracked montages, exaggerated scene-ending slow-motion shots—that, through their extravagance, stop him just short of owning his characters’ emotions. In Mommy, about the dysfunctional relationship between the titular mother, Diane (Anne Dorval), and her ADHD-suffering son, Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon), Dolan brings in a new aesthetic quirk. He films almost entirely in a square aspect ratio, which immediately recalls an Instagram frame and presses the characters together, heightening the tension in a mother-son relationship that’s already at a fever pitch: Steve calls Diane a whore, bitch, and much more, and the two are always on the verge of violence.

Oscar 2014 Nomination Predictions Director

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Oscar 2014 Nomination Predictions: Director
Oscar 2014 Nomination Predictions: Director

The most pleasant surprise of this awards season has been the widespread embrace of Her, a film that seemed a bit like a bland “Oscar movie” in its marketing, didn’t feel like one at all amid the actual experience of watching it, then wound up something of a guild darling with a heap of critical support. Both the Producers Guild and the Writers Guild have shown their love for this swoony, very-near-future heartbreaker, and it’s wildly admired by everyone from the National Board of Review to the Hollywood Foreign Press, who tossed it a Best Screenplay trophy at Sunday’s Golden Globes. But what of its adorably odd director, Spike Jonze? Having been snubbed by the Directors Guild, whose members nominated Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity), Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips), Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave), David O. Russell (American Hustle), and Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street), can Jonze still sneak into Oscar’s final five? He’s done it once before, with 1999’s Being John Malkovich, and if he is indeed this category’s spoiler, he has the benefit of statistics behind him: Director nods from the DGA and Oscar have only matched up three times in the last 15 years, thanks to overlapping, but differing, voting bodies that number more than 10,000 and fewer than 400, respectively. A work of personal, consummate vision, Her may be the film whose maker shakes up this race come Thursday morning.

20 Great Shots from the Films of 2013

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20 Great Shots from the Films of 2013
20 Great Shots from the Films of 2013

I looked back on the year and thought about single cinematic images that knocked me flat. Or produced an actual “wow.” Or somehow encompassed a film in a strange way. Many of them rushed back immediately. Others sprung to mind when I skimmed through my list of films seen. In accordance with my favorite movies of 2013, many of which are featured here, I was surprised by what I responded to most. I noticed some trends. Evidently, I’m drawn to sunsets, running water (preferably colored), and, rather unoriginally, red. I also kinda like trash. Some of these shots speak for themselves, while others require the images that come before them, or after them, sometimes successively, to achieve their respective impacts. Presented in no particular order, each has a backstory, save the last, which is summed up with a heartbreaking, note-perfect line. This is a very personal list, and I could’ve easily bumped the total to 50 or more. Don’t see your favorite shots in the roster? Share your thoughts (or, ya know, a link to a screengrab) in the comments.