Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hearing Benjamin Button


One the most anticipated films of the year, and one that I have been eagerly awaiting, is David Fincher's epic adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. The film chronicles the life and love of a man who, "born under unusual circumstances", ages backward. The film is already garnering Oscar buzz, and an early push is beginning for Alexandre Desplat's score. The French composer is one of the most innovative forces in Hollywood right now, and is best known by cinephiles for his stirring work on Jonathan Glazer's criminally underrated film, Birth. Warner Brothers, have launched their "For Your Consideration" site for British film critics that provides a quality stream of Desplat's score. In addition to the well received trailers for the film, it's yet another small, but exciting sampling from the film.

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button opens on Chirstmas Day.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Silent Knight Update

The good people over at Cinematical have compiled their own list of outrageous Oscar disqualifications throughout the years. Check it out here.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Silent Knight


The Academy rules for Oscar consideration are usually more complicated than they need to be, and often end up shutting out valid nominees because of arbitrary rules. Last year, one of the more high profile rulings went against Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, for his score to Paul Thomas Anderson's highly acclaimed film There Will Be Blood. The Academy decided that Greenwood's score which ran a total of 35 minutes (and contained some of his 2006 composition "Popcorn Superhet Receiver") was not distinguishing enough from the other 45 minutes of pre-existing music that was also used for the score. At the end of the day, the startling effect of Greenwood's score on the film - that many reviews noted and, logically, should be the only factor in deciding if a film merits a shot at being given an Oscar nomination – was shrugged off for nonsensical technical reasoning.

And this year, more idiocy arrives from the Academy as the score for the biggest film of the year, The Dark Knight, has also become disqualified for consideration because too many people were given writing credits. That's right, too many people were involved for their liking. This is more inane reasoning from the Academy that completely ignores the fact that collaborative score by Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, is one of the better compositions this year. The paranoia inducing "A Little Push" was in itself another dimension to Heath Ledger's already icon-making performance as The Joker, and one of bravest pieces of music found in a mainstream film of any year.

As the Academy each year wonders why the audiences are dropping for the televised ceremony maybe they should consider stopping these petty, semantic politics and let the films speak for themselves. The audience wants to know that the films that are being nominated are there for the right reasons, not because they managed to navigate their way through the thicket of the ever-changing Academy rulebook and made nice with the right players in the upper reaches of the Academy's boardroom.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

For Your Consideration: Bill Irwin


Before Rachel Getting Married arrived in theaters, it rode on a wave of buzz praising first time screenwriter Jenny Lumet's script and Anne Hathaway's turn as struggling drug addict, Kym. I caught the film over the weekend, and Lumet's writing and Hathaway's performance are definitely worthy of accolades, however, it's Bill Irwin's turn as Paul, the father caught in the middle of a family ripped apart by various tragedies, that really captured my attention.

Irwin has had a career that has varied from his Tony Award winning role as George in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf on Broadway, to his induction into the International Clown Hall Of Fame for his extensive circus and comedy work. Oddly, it's his physical comedic skills that allow Irwin to give a richness to the character of Paul that is essential in communicating the pain that has gripped the family. While Paul is busy fussing over the family and the preparations for his daughter's wedding, the pain he feels is worn for the entire film on his fractured face, which looks like it will fall to pieces at any moment and in the nervous movements as he tries to ensure everyone has everything they need. Irwin has no big lines or big speeches, but ends up with one of the most devastating moments of the film, and where another actor would've played it large, Irwin slumps and retreats, defeated, without a word spoken.

While the Academy loves big meaty, scenery chewing parts, Irwin does something much more difficult. He envelops and finds the essence of a role that on paper doesn't offer much to work with. He gives Rachel Getting Married its wrecked, trembling heart and allows the audience to hope, along with Paul, that somehow it will be pieced back together.

For your consideration: Bill Irwin for Best Supporting Actor for Rachel Getting Married.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Finding Che


This summer, Steven Soderbergh’s epic Che, a biopic of the iconic revolutionary, arrived at the Cannes Film Festival. Presented as a single film with an intermission, and running a staggering four hours, it received mixed reviews from critics, but universal praise (and an award) for Benecio Del Toro’s performance in the title role. As summer began turning into fall, the film was still searching for a North American distributor. The high price tag ($8-10 million), the lengthy running time and the subtitle factor (as the film is largely in Spanish) seemed to keep buyers away, though the film quickly sold rights for other foreign territories. Finally, after screening at the Toronto Film Festival in September, IFC announced they had picked up North American distribution rights for the film.

Last week, they finally unveiled how they will be rolling out the film to theaters, and it couldn’t be any more complicated if they tried. Here’s a timeline:

December 12th – A one week only, Oscar qualifying run will start at the Zeigfield in NYC and the Landmark in LA. The film will be digitally projected, and shown as a single 4 hour film (with a 30 minute intermission). Everyone who attends screenings this week will also receive a program.

January 9th – The film returns to NYC and LA, but in two separate parts, Che (Part 1) and The Argentine (Part 2).

January 16th and 22nd – Both films expand into the “Top 25” markets

January 21st – The film debuts in standard and HD on IFC’s video-on-demand service (presumably in two parts)

Sometime in the future – An exclusive Blockbuster video release (details forthcoming)

I understand that a four-hour Spanish film about a political figure isn’t exactly an easy sell, but IFC needs to get out of this Blockbuster exclusivity nonsense quickly. It brings nothing to the table for them. IFC generally deals in indie or arthouse films, and that crowd largely wants nothing to do with Blockbuster, choosing better and more widely stocked specialty shops or going online with services like Zip (in Canada) or NetFlix to buy and rent movies.

Soderbergh’s Che is easily one of the most anticipated and ambitious cinematic events of the year. However, if you’re not in one of the top 25 markets (if anyone knows what they are, please tell me), near a Blockbuster or have access to IFC’s video on demand service (place a checkmark beside all three of those for me) finding Che is going to be quite difficult.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Dream Realized

Congratulations, Barack Obama. Congratulations, America. A monumental step forward from what was just a dream forty five years ago.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Taking It Back

While the world watches tonight, hoping and praying for Barack Obama to take the presidency, take ten minutes to watch Spike Lee's powerful short documentary, We Wuz Robbed about the Florida fiasco of 2000, to put into perspective how important and monumental this night will be.

We Wuz Robbed