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Sony Pictures Classics (#110 of 7)

Luca Guadagnino’s Gay Love Story Call Me by Your Game Gets First Trailer

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Luca Guadagnino’s Gay Love Story Call Me by Your Game Gets First Trailer

Sony Pictures Classics

Luca Guadagnino’s Gay Love Story Call Me by Your Game Gets First Trailer

Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino’s upcoming Call Me by Your Name, adapted by James Ivory from a novel by André Aciman, first earned plaudits at its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Less than a month later, at Berlinale, our correspondent on the scene praised the film for the way that Guadagnino funnels the romanticism of the film through an intimate character-based perspective. Call Me by Your Name, which has already been pegged as an Oscar contender, tells the story of the verbally and physically charged relationship that develops between a 17-year-old boy, Elio (Timothée Chalamet), and the older Oliver (Armie Hammer), the new assistant to Elio’s archaeologist father (Michael Stuhlbarg).

Box Office Rap Riddick and the Passion of Brian De Palma

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Box Office Rap: Riddick and the Passion of Brian De Palma
Box Office Rap: Riddick and the Passion of Brian De Palma

On May 22, 1996, Mission: Impossible opened in 3,012 North American movie theaters. That weekend, it made $45.4 million and marked the highest opening weekend ever for a Tom Cruise starrer, a record that would stand until Mission: Impossible II opened in May 2000. Cruise has since used that franchise as a staple for his box-office résumé, allowing him collaborations with the likes of J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird, with Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol marking the highest-grossing film of Cruise’s career with a whopping $694 million in global receipts.

But back to 1996. Then, that $45.4 million also marked the highest opening-weekend gross for director Brian De Palma; in fact, with the exclusion of The Untouchables, no prior De Palma film had made as much in its entire run as Mission: Impossible managed in just its first three days. The film was considered a critical success as well, receiving “two thumbs up” from Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, though they, like several other critics, reserved most of their praise for Cruise’s performance and were skeptical of the film’s [sic] convoluted going’s on. Even in commercial success, De Palma’s fervid formal artistry has few boosters—an unfortunate trait that has inexplicably followed the great filmmaker’s entire career.

Poster Lab: Before Midnight

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Poster Lab: <em>Before Midnight</em>
Poster Lab: <em>Before Midnight</em>

The supposed capper to a richly rewarding trilogy, Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight already has plenty of critics buzzing, standing out as an early favorite for year-end top 10 lists. So it’s more than a little unsavory that of all the beguiled reviewers to turn to for poster quotes (and there are plenty), Sony Pictures Classics tapped the inescapable Peter Travers, a guy perpetually in line with the just-north-of-populist taste of awards bodies. On the film’s just-released poster, Travers’s praise reads as follows: “Before Midnight is one of the year’s best movies. Full to the brim with humor, heartbreak, and ravishing romance. Richard Linklater directs with ardor and artistry. Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy shine brilliantly. Heads up, Oscar. This one’s a keeper.” Now, anyone who knows anything about film publicity will quickly gather that the strategy here can be traced straight to that keyword: “Oscar.” Travers has long been known as an utterly shameless blurb whore, filling his reviews with Academy-courting nuggets, and that FYC turn of phrase surely landed him prime real estate here. But, really, Sony Pictures Classics should know better than to resort to such—in laughably alliterative, Travers-esque terms—baldfaced buffoonery. This is an exceedingly classy film with a handsome poster to boot. And since Linklater and stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke netted an Original Screenplay nod for 2004’s Before Sunset, surely their next installment is already on the Academy’s radar. Couldn’t a more articulate endorsement have been chosen to grace the ad for this ultra-articulate movie?

Poster Lab: Darling Companion

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Poster Lab: <em>Darling Companion</em>
Poster Lab: <em>Darling Companion</em>

In general, this column isn’t designed to verbally tear bad posters in half, but when something as shoddy as the one-sheet for Darling Companion is put on the market, it’s pretty hard not to chime in. Almost shockingly unpolished, this blandly conceived fiasco reads like the rushed efforts of a first-day intern, who was tasked to cook up something to be shuffled out the door, and in an over-caffeinated panic, made a sinful hybrid of Lassie, The Devil Wears Prada and Martha Marcy May Marlene. Hell, maybe that leg even belongs to the intern’s boss, whose blurry blob of a platform heel recalls those digi-bras used in VH1’s “Movies That Rock” broadcast of Showgirls (come on, y’all know which ones I’m talking about).

It’s a good thing the intern remembered to include the collie, because this design otherwise reflects next to nothing that’s conveyed in the movie’s trailer, which promises over-50 ensemble kookiness, not working-woman minimalism. Maybe if that foot were wearing a saddle shoe and slacks, we might at least believe it belongs to lead star Diane Keaton. As is, it implies a tony glamazon who leaves Fido with a sitter. If there’s any half-decent design sense to speak of, it’s that the woman’s leg provides line quality and hugs the dog’s left side, thus offering a literal visual of the titular theme of pet-owner closeness. In all likelihood, though, it was probably just that poor intern’s way of scaling down the clipping-path duties, which, given the number that was done on the paw, was probably a blessing.

Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2010: In a Better World and Gesher

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Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2010: <em>In a Better World</em> and <em>Gesher</em>
Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2010: <em>In a Better World</em> and <em>Gesher</em>

In a Better World is the sort of movie that wins the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. This isn’t a compliment. Susanne Bier’s new Danish-Swedish globalization thriller exposes conflicts between cultures, countries, classes, and cohorts, and then promptly resolves them all.

One boy feels neglected because his father’s still mourning his mother’s death; another kid cries lonesome because his father’s away at work. Dad #2’s a humanitarian worker in Kenya, where a fat, laughing, monstrous black warlord (dead eye, maggot-ridden leg) smacks his lips over a woman. Back home the kids, upset over being bullied, lash out by building a bomb. Everyone eventually realizes their mistakes. No good person hurts in a way that can’t be healed. All wounds dissolve within renewed family bonds.

“Violence begets violence,” Monsieur Verdoux said, quite rightly. The dominant theme I’ve been noticing in many of this year’s festival movies is hope for peace begetting peace. They’re anti-vengeance films in which social structures cause conflict rather than individual actors, and in which the solution is to work on the system.

No Difference at All: Tilda Swinton and Sally Potter Talk Orlando

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No Difference at All: Tilda Swinton and Sally Potter Talk Orlando
No Difference at All: Tilda Swinton and Sally Potter Talk Orlando

The 1992 release of Orlando propelled director Sally Potter to forefront of independent filmmakers. She had achieved the seemingly impossible task of bringing to the screen Virginia Woolf’s fantastical 1928 novel about a 16th-century English nobleman who lives through three centuries, while aging only three decades and changing gender in the process. Not only did she create a sumptuous historical epic with independent financing (it marked the first film co-production with Russia), she also retained the wit and tongue-in-cheek lightness of the original, expanding Woolf’s story into the 20th century as well. The movie also launched the career of Tilda Swinton, the incandescent Scottish actress who played Orlando, as both male and female.

Potter had begun making experimental movies as a teenager in England and made her first full-length feature film The Gold Diggers, starring Julie Christie, in 1983. She had also pursued a career as a musician as well. The Museum of Modern Art in New York recently concluded a two-week retrospective of Potter’s four-decade avant-garde career, including her latest work Rage, a set of confessional vignettes about a New York fashion event seemingly recorded by a schoolboy on his cellphone, which was initially released on mobile phone applications prior to a theatrical release last year.