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Olivia Colman (#110 of 9)

Watch the Teaser Trailer for Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite with Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz

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Watch the Teaser Trailer for Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite with Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Watch the Teaser Trailer for Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite with Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz

The latest from Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite, takes us to the early 18th century, when England and France are at war. Not exactly the ideal time for levity, but this being a film from the Greek Weird Wave auteur behind Dogtooth and The Lobster, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving. The film follows a frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), who sits on the throne of the England and sees her relationship to her friend, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), tested upon the arrival of Sarah’s cousin, Abigail (Emma Stone).

Cannes Film Festival 2015 The Lobster

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Cannes Film Festival 2015: The Lobster
Cannes Film Festival 2015: The Lobster

Yorgos Lanthimos’s films live and die by their concepts—or gimmicks, depending on your outlook. But while the conceptual framework of his fourth feature, The Lobster, shows little sign of innovation, the size of the canvas most certainly does. Working outside Greece for the first time, and with the potential pitfalls of a larger budget and a star-studded cast, Lanthimos navigates the tricky task of upsizing with aplomb, even if the felicitous expansion can’t quite mask the whiff of over-familiarity.

A wonderfully deadpan Colin Farrell leads the viewer into the high-concept arena step by step so that the proliferation of puckish parameters doesn’t get out of hand. His paunchy sad-sack David has just been left by his wife of 12 years, with little time being wasted before he’s rounded up and taken to the Hotel. Once there, he and the other singleton guests must meet and fall in love with someone new within the first 45 days or face being transformed into an animal of their choosing and released into the unforgiving Woods outside. The stately, exclusive, yet still oddly dowdy Hotel exudes much the same feeling of quiet despair and bygone glory as its hapless inhabitants, though beneath the brown furnishings and fussy decor lies steel. Rules pervade every waking moment, proselytizing seminars extol the virtues of coupledom, and infractions of any kind can and will be punished. Aside from finding the “one,” the only hope of prolonging this hushed agony is to perform well in the nightly hunts in the Woods, where knocking out one of the Loners, an equally regimented group committed to total chastity, will gain you one extra day of freedom.

Venice Film Festival 2013 The Police Officer’s Wife, Locke, & The Sacrament

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Venice Film Festival 2013: The Police Officer’s Wife, Locke, & The Sacrament
Venice Film Festival 2013: The Police Officer’s Wife, Locke, & The Sacrament

From the rough-hewn humanism of Gary Oldman’s Nil by Mouth to the shiny Hollywood treatment of the Ike and Tina Turner biopic What’s Love Got To Do With It? and everything in between, cinema has found a host of ways to portray domestic violence. But rarely can the subject have been addressed in as conceptually high-handed, chilly, and patronizing a manner as in Philip Gröning’s 175-minute slog The Police Officer’s Wife. Perhaps aiming to evoke the ruptured fabric of the small family unit on which the film focuses, but achieving only a frustratingly distancing effect, Gröning employs a self-consciously fragmented structure. The film unfolds in 59 discrete passages of varying length, each of which is bookended by excruciatingly unnecessary, fade-in-and-out captions reading “Beginning of Chapter” and “End of Chapter.” The Venice crowd initially laughed at the clanging pomposity of this device, and then became progressively, audibly, more irritated; it had easily the most walkouts of any film I saw at the festival.

New York Film Festival 2012: Hyde Park on Hudson

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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.

Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Actress

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Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Actress
Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Actress

If you want a good cross-section of Oscar habits, look no further than this year’s top five candidates for Best Actress. In Michelle Williams, you have the eternally baity case of star playing star, and this time the star being played just might be history’s brightest. In Tilda Swinton, you have a classic case of Academy catch-up, wherein voters nominate a brilliant talent for minor work as a means to remedy past snubs. Category fraud is exemplified by Viola Davis, whose push as a leading star is, admittedly, a falsity of the filmmakers and not of any voting body, but who should nevertheless be considered as supporting. In Glenn Close, there’s you’re wholly undeserving knee-jerk nominee, armed with a shameless checklist of Oscar-y draws like gender-bending, homosexuality, uglification, makeup effects, period details, decades-long commitment, and “past-due” desperation. And as for Meryl Streep, well, she’s an Oscar habit in and of herself, isn’t she?

Poster Lab: Tyrannosaur

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Poster Lab: <em>Tyrannosaur</em>
Poster Lab: <em>Tyrannosaur</em>

Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur is one mean movie, an aggressively harsh extension of the actor-turned-director’s 2007 short Dog Altogether, which, according to Considine himself, was born out of one gimmicky question: Can we show a man kick a dog to death in the first scene and still get the audience to like him? The film’s mix of animalistic violence and savage cruelty is both its calling card and its weakness, arousing undeniably visceral reactions but also reaching for grit and primal symbolism that never quite cohere with their surroundings. In addition to being one of the year’s best, the film’s poster remedies a lot of the film’s thematic incongruity, which begins with the title and bleeds outward. Anyone who’s seen the movie knows that the name Tyrannosaur, apart from carrying the clear connotation of an aging barbarian’s towering ferocity, pertains to an unexpected nickname, making it more of an offbeat metaphor for a sad widower’s unending marital guilt. Furthering the many liberties taken with the Jurassic title, the poster opts for both literal and non-literal interpretations, which makes for excellent viewing and fuses the film’s themes more successfully than the film itself.

Designed by Dan McCarthy, a graphic artist whom Considine reportedly hand-picked thanks to his stark, trademark renderings of dinosaurs and trees, the Tyrannosaur poster makes extraordinary use of all available space, and is just about bisected into two equally interesting and complimentary parts. One’s first instinct is to assume that the fossilized skeleton beneath the earth is indicative of the bitter, ever-stewing monstrousness of lead character Joseph (Peter Mullan), a profoundly unhappy drunk and the latest redemption-bound curmudgeon to grace the miserablist landscape. Indeed it is, and that his figure is placed above it suggests that while he may sometimes be able to remain atop his fury, he is still dwarfed by its vicious grandeur. Underground, the skeleton is tangled in the roots of the barren trees, which speaks to the similarly barren family trees oft-cited by Joseph and his tragic kindred spirit, Hannah (the incredible Olivia Colman), both of whom find their genealogy to be tarnished and somewhat worthless when they haven’t a soul to turn to. What’s most aptly unsettling about the poster’s darker half is quietly hinted at by the bouquet in the tiny figure’s hand, which leads to the fossils’ prominent meaning and makes good on the film’s titular revelation. Indeed, this is an image of a gravesite, and that dinosaur is Joseph’s wife.

Vancouver International Film Festival 2011 Tyrannosaur, The Skin I Live In, The Day He Arrives, & More

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Vancouver International Film Festival 2011: Tyrannosaur, The Skin I Live In, The Day He Arrives, & More
Vancouver International Film Festival 2011: Tyrannosaur, The Skin I Live In, The Day He Arrives, & More

The 30th Vancouver International Film Festival opened on Thursday, September 29 with a full day of screenings and an opening night double-shot event of Pedro Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In and Fredrick Wiseman’s documentary Crazy Horse at the Vogue (back in the VIFF stable of screens after an absence of many years).

I arrived in Vancouver mid-morning on Friday, September 30, checked in with the always welcoming staff of the festival office (my favorite press office in the festival world) and jumped into screenings as VIFF expanded to its full complement of ten screens (plus a couple of special event 3D screenings set for the Park Theater), all within strolling distance of one another in the heart of downtown Vancouver. I hope to spend time with a few standout films, but until then I’ll be sharing my journal of day-by-day screenings.

Emphasis, as always, will be on the “Dragons and Tigers” program of over 40 features (plus compilations, mid-length films and shorts) from Asia, but I’ll be jumping around to other countries and films as well when I can.

Here’s my first day of screenings:

New Directors/New Films 2011: Tyrannosaur

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New Directors/New Films 2011: <em>Tyrannosaur</em>
New Directors/New Films 2011: <em>Tyrannosaur</em>

Tyrannosaur opens with the sight of vicious bastard Joseph (Peter Mullan) killing his dog in a fit of spastic kicking rage, an act of cruelty so horrible that actor Paddy Considine’s film immediately telegraphs its forthcoming nowhere-to-go-but-up trajectory. Men are monsters, albeit ones with the potential for redemption, in this measured, mechanical portrait of Joseph, whose slow moral awakening comes via an unlikely relationship with thrift-store proprietor Hannah (Olivia Colman), whom Joseph—after attacking a gang of young bar patrons—ruthlessly berates during their opening meeting, condemning her (without any justification) for being a content middle-class idiot whose barren womb is a source of shame. The type of unshaven, glowering Travis Bickle type (he even jokingly refers to himself as “Robert De Niro” at one point) who sits in a bar’s corner booth ranting and raving to himself, Joseph is such a cartoon creep that Hannah’s kindness to him immediately reeks of screenwriter contrivance. That feeling is merely enforced (rather than dispelled) by the eventual revelation that Hannah’s comfort around psychos isn’t something new, since she’s married to a lunatic named James (Eddie Marsan) who makes his maiden entrance by pissing all over his wife while she pretends, out of terror, to be asleep.

Doctor Who Recap Season 5, Episode 1, “The Eleventh Hour”

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Doctor Who Recap: Season 5, Episode 1, “The Eleventh Hour”

BBC

Doctor Who Recap: Season 5, Episode 1, “The Eleventh Hour”

Welcome to the first of a series of weekly recaps for the latest season of Doctor Who, now being broadcast on Saturday nights by BBC America. This opening episode lives up to its title by being an hour long rather than the standard 45 minutes, and introduces our all-new regular cast line-up of Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor and Karen Gillan as his new companion Amy Pond.

Before we begin, I’ll note that BBC America are showing these episodes two weeks after they’ve been seen in the UK—this episode, for instance, premiered over there on Easter Saturday. So even if you’ve seen later episodes in the series, please keep spoilers out of the comments for episodes which have not yet aired in the USA. Also, there’s been a certain amount of confusion (some of it emanating from the BBC itself) over whether this batch of episodes should be called Season 5 at all—other designations like “Season 11.1,” “Season 31” etc. have been advanced for various reasons and argued over with the usual intensity you would expect from an Internet debate over any topic, no matter how unimportant. As it happens, I’m sticking to calling it Season 5 because: (a) it makes perfect sense to me to do so; and (b) that’s what the BBC America schedule page is calling it.