House Logo
Explore categories +

The King's Speech (#110 of 46)

Review: Daniel Herbert’s Videoland: Movie Culture at the American Video Store

Comments Comments (...)

Review: Daniel Herbert’s Videoland: Movie Culture at the American Video Store
Review: Daniel Herbert’s Videoland: Movie Culture at the American Video Store

Part media studies, part cultural history, part ethnography, Daniel Herbert’s Videoland: Movie Culture at the American Video Store is an unusual and often unusually compelling study of the emergence and disappearance of American movie-rental stores. Unusual, because Herbert’s work is primarily derived from empirical research conducted at video stores across the country, as he observed locations and interviewed employees and customers for a deeper, almost phenomenological sense of the video store as lived experience, from both sides of the video counter.

Herbert’s writing also comes from personal experience, as he worked at Alphaville Video in Albuquerque from 1999 to 2002—information which he openly shares in the book’s introduction. His admission speaks directly to a nostalgia for a culture which has largely disappeared, almost as a means of legitimating himself within cinephilic culture. Working at a video store, for Herbert and several of those interviewed, constitutes something of a right of passage into a specific kind of cinematic education, perhaps one of saturation and immersion. Specifically, Herbert discusses how the employees at Scarecrow Video in Seattle, WA view their jobs as “like playing a game of trivia all day,” since they’re surrounded by like-minded cinephiles.

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions Original Score

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Original Score
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Original Score

This year’s crop of Original Score nominees hits all the markers that we’ve come to expect. And though none of the entries are fundamentally undeserving, their collective safeness succinctly outlines the dull uniformity for which the Academy is routinely and rightly criticized. Off the bat, we can rule out perennial nominees John Williams (The Book Thief) and Thomas Newman (Saving Mr. Banks). Each of their scores boasts impressive technical chops and lavish orchestration, but the films themselves are on the far fringe of the awards circuit and lack novelty to stand out. Joining them, though perhaps with slightly better odds, is Alexandre Desplat, whose musical tendencies and Oscar track record of late are beginning to resemble a post-Schindler’s List Williams, which would otherwise be a compliment outside the context of Williams’s two-decade-long victory drought. The simple thematic elegance Desplat brings to Philomena may leave an impression with some voters, but when we consider that the composer has done similar work for recent, higher profiles films like The King’s Speech, and hasn’t won, there’s no reason to expect his winless streak to end this year.

Oscar Prospects Fruitvale Station, A Contender on an Uncertain Track

Comments Comments (...)

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 Original Score

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Original Score
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Original Score

Typically, there’s at least one Oscar-nominated score that stands out as unique, with memorable flourishes that push it ahead as the frontrunner (think Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s tech-heavy Social Network compositions, and Dario Marianelli’s typewriter-clicky work for Atonement—two scores that sent their makers home with naked gold men). This year, though, there’s no real shortlisted soundtrack that lingers firmly in the ear, give or take the occasional segment that bolsters a pivotal scene. Marianelli is back in the ring for his score for Anna Karenina, another Joe Wright confection that employs the composer’s baroque talents. Matching Wright’s stagey conceit with an almost circus-like aural melodrama, Marianelli is responsible for a good chunk of the film’s intoxicating powers. But far more noteworthy are the lush costumes, sets, and lensing—arenas in which this remix of the Tolstoy classic are bound to fare better.

Oscar Prospects: Les Misérables

Comments Comments (...)

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).

New York Film Festival 2012: Hyde Park on Hudson

Comments Comments (...)

New York Film Festival 2012: <em>Hyde Park on Hudson</em>
New York Film Festival 2012: <em>Hyde Park on Hudson</em>

While at first the idea of Bill Murray playing Franklin D. Roosevelt may seem counterintuitive to the actor’s sensibilities, on further thought the combination is quite rife with possibility. Throughout his career, Murray has offered up intimate portraits of individuals whose personal vices he spun into inspired bits of comedy (the challenged greenskeeper of Caddyshack, the insufferably self-obsessed Phil Connors in Groundhog Day, etc.), and every so often into devastating visions of isolated, broken men (see Broken Flowers and Lost in Translation). In Hyde Park on Hudson, Murray is up to the task of channeling our country’s 32nd president despite a scarce resemblance in appearance and voice. He succeeds in doing so by summoning the otherworldly presence of his famous comedy roles as well as the understatement of his more serious efforts, melding them into a compelling portrayal of a larger-than-life yet mysterious figure such as Roosevelt.

Critical Distance: The Artist

Comments Comments (...)

Critical Distance: <em>The Artist</em>
Critical Distance: <em>The Artist</em>

Sometimes it’s hard to separate a movie from the hype. Anyone who’s followed the nauseating Oscar prognostication over the last several months knew full well that Harvey Weinstein’s Michel Hazanavicius’s The Artist would win the Best Picture crown on Sunday’s telecast of the Academy Awards. Nonetheless, given its preordained victory, the critical dialogue about the film has become predictably antipathetic. As Scott Tobias observed recently, the political machine attached to frontrunners and winners often distorts our vision of them and renders reasonable discourse a challenge. Truth be told, these days the Oscar badge doesn’t hold much weight. The reason for this, Tobias concludes, is that Best Picture winners represent consensus over excellence. Oscar winners reflect more on the film industry’s own image of itself than the artistic significance of film. A.O. Scott articulates this in a recent piece in the New York Times, in which he and Manohla Dargis examine recent winners against the broader significance of the Oscars. Says Scott:

Poster Lab: W.E.

Comments Comments (...)

Poster Lab: W.E.
Poster Lab: W.E.

Unwieldiness seems to follow Madonna’s W.E. wherever it goes, from the Venice Film Festival, where a poor reception eventually led to multiple re-edits, to the marketing department, which in addition to releasing an exhausting trailer that loses your interest halfway through, has produced two posters that fail to amend the movie’s lack of promise. The latest image is a monumental improvement over the first, whose top-to-bottom awfulness, complete with feathered headshots that look pulled from different films, is trumped only by that of the sin collage that heralded New Year’s Eve. At last achieving a sense of romance, the new W.E. one-sheet repurposes a previously released still, presenting in grayscale a shot of Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) and King Edward VIII (James D’arcy) canoodling on the beach in vintage, frowned-upon bliss. The design is reminiscent of packaging from the 1950s and ’60s, perhaps for Barbie, or maybe Coppertone, making it the latest thing to strive for Mad Men chic (never mind that the flashback end of the plot takes place in the 1930s).

New York Film Festival 2011: Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel

Comments Comments (...)

New York Film Festival 2011: <em>Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel</em>
New York Film Festival 2011: <em>Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel</em>

For a film that reveres the down-and-dirty independent filmmaking ethos that legendary B-movie producer Roger Corman exemplified, it’s ironic that the talking-heads interviews in Alex Stapleton’s documentary Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel feel so self-conscious. Where did Stapleton get his ideas about framing shots, The King’s Speech? Interview subjects—including Corman himself—are often pushed to the sides of cinematographer Patrick Simpson’s frames, with lots of negative space to look at; it’s as purposeless and distracting as all those stupidly arty shots cinematographer Danny Cohen pulled off in last year’s very un-Corman-like Oscar-winner (unless Simpson really, genuinely thought he was doing something original and, well, “rebellious”). And what’s up with Stapleton’s decision to go to the French electronic-pop duo Air, of all people, for the film’s odd score?

But I would imagine no one goes to a documentary like Corman’s World expecting cinematic interest. We go expecting, if not necessarily insights into the man himself or his work, at least a good overview of his life and legacy. For the most part, that’s basically what we get here. From his younger days starting out as a script reader at 20th Century Fox, to his frustration at getting no credit for his successful script revisions for 1950’s The Gunfighter, which him to leave Fox to produce and direct films for American International Pictures, to his eventual founding of New World Pictures and its eventual flameout as Jaws and Star Wars changed Hollywood forever, Corman’s World briskly—as briskly as Corman made movies—hits the highlights of his career.

Poster Lab: A Dangerous Method

Comments Comments (...)

Poster Lab: <em>A Dangerous Method</em>
Poster Lab: <em>A Dangerous Method</em>

While not so disheartening as the checkered-face approach, which this year alone has marred the promotion of indie dramedies, mainstream comedies and documentaries alike, the straight-on, group-headshot poster is among the industry’s most naggingly uninspired, tossing art out the window in favor of nothing more than star recognition. The Italian poster for David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method (above left) is sure to be one of the year’s worst, a preposterously dull, afternoon collage project that hails from the King’s Speech school of How the Hell Do We Market This? Also reminiscent of that ugly one-sheet for last year’s Harrison Ford weepie Extraordinary Measures (which used the shared space of two stars’ arms to add text and, apparently, some semblance of meaning), A Dangerous Method d’Italia might as well show Keira Knightley shrugging those smooth, naked shoulders. It hugely shortchanges a film that, while not expected to incite a whole lot of deeply impassioned responses, surely deserves something better than a glorified makeup ad.