January 01, 2015

Tag Archives: Darren Aronofsky

“The Fault in Our Stars”: Oscar Contenders from the First Half

We’re officially on to the second half of the year folks, and as such, it makes sense to look back a bit and see where we stand, awards wise through six months. As such, today I’ll be going over which films are the most likely Oscar contenders from January through June. Also, I’ll do an added bonus by showing you what the Academy Award nominations could look like if only films from the first half were eligible. If nothing else, it’ll be a random fun tidbit to chew on. Here goes nothing…
Special note, this doesn’t include contenders that screened at festivals but aren’t hitting theaters until July or later. As such, Sundance hits like Boyhood and Whiplash won’t be seen here, even though they’re easily bigger contenders than any you’ll see below. The same goes for Cannes debuts like The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Foxcatcher, and Mr. Turner, since we’ll be getting into those in a bigger way soon. They’ll have their moments shortly, but for now, let us give the first half long shots some love!
These are the ten films I’d say are the most likely to make some kind of a play for Oscar love:
1. The Grand Budapest Hotel – If there’s a film from the first half that has any chance of making a play for Best Picture, it’s Wes Anderson’s latest. Ralph Fiennes and the Screenplay itself seem likely to at least be heavily in contention, so when building a list of what could translate from the first half to the second half, this has to be high up there on that list.
2. The Fault in Our Stars – Depending on how this holds up once awards season starts, the tearjerker could either turn into an under the radar contender or be forgotten about completely. Shailene Woodley’s stunning performance, Laura Dern’s heartbreaking supporting turn, and the tender Adapted Screenplay should make the transition to the actual Oscar season, if nothing else. It could be boom or bust for this one, frankly.
3. Begin Again – I have a feeling voters will remember this one come the end of the year and at the very least consider it in a few places. John Carney caught their eye once with, well…Once, so he’s not an unknown. Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, and the Original Screenplay have chances, while I think a Best Original Song nomination is pretty likely right now. […]

Are Passion Projects actually a good thing for filmmakers?

If you’re a lover of cinema like I am, there’s an inherent extra bit of interest on hand when a director announces that he or she is finally going to make a passion project of theirs. Just this year, we’ve seen Darren Aronofsky finally get Noah to the big screen, while Richard Linklater completed his more than a decade in the making Boyhood in time for the Sundance Film Festival. Almost two years ago, Steven Spielberg brought his vision of Lincoln to the Oscar ceremony, and next year Martin Scorsese seems at long last set to shoot his own passion project Silence. They happen every single year, but the thing is…are they actually a good thing?
Obviously, the upside to passion projects is that the filmmaker in question is almost obsessed with making it as good as possible. They’ve perhaps even had a one track mind for years with these projects. When done right, you get Oscar contenders like the aforementioned Lincoln. It doesn’t always go that way, but when it’s a success, it always seems like a bigger success.
The downside however, is that sometimes it can blind said filmmakers to the inherent issues with the project. Look no further than this year’s Winter’s Tale or 2012’s Cloud Atlas. In the former’s case, Akiva Goldsman encountered near venomous reviews and in the latter’s case, the trio of Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer received as many reviews calling it the worst movie of the year as they did calling it the best. Both films suffered potentially from filmmakers too emotionally invested in the material to see where changes needed to be made.
Earlier this year, Aronofsky’s film Noah met with decidedly mixed reviews, some of which stemming from thoughts that he should have taken a more objective look at the movie. Granted, some of the issues came from his deviations from the religious text, and that’s not a legitimate criticism to me, but the purely cinematic issues are ones that I find to be somewhat valid. Aronofsky is a master filmmaker, but the two films that he received less than raves for were his passion projects (the other one being The Fountain, ironically one of my all time favorite films). Coincidence?
We’ll see soon with Scorsese’s Silence if all this time spent waiting to make the flick will help or hurt it. He spent a long time trying to make Gangs of […]

A third of the way through 2014 and there are no Oscar contenders

Well, this is a bit of a bummer. It just dawned on me how rare it is that we’re basically at the start of the summer movie season and we’ve yet to have a real Best Picture contender debut anywhere, even at a film festival. It’s now May and a third of the year has passed…usually by now either the Sundance Film Festival or the Tribeca Film Festival has been home to at least one or two likely contenders, alongside whatever early year releases catch our attention. That really hasn’t been the case this time around, likely leading to another situation where the final months of the year will be a logjam of movies hoping to crack the Oscar lineup.
The closest we’ve had to a contender is Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, which debuted at Sundance, but that’s such a hard film to figure out. I’m very high on it, and spoke glowingly of its potential just a matter of days ago, but there’s a strong possibility that Oscar voters will ignore it. That seemed to be Park City’s only major option, which is not the norm. Usually there’s a handful of titles hoping to transition from there to the Oscar race. Just last year we had Before Midnight, Fruitvale Station (then just called Fruitvale), The Spectacular Now, and Stories We Tell, to name most of the major awards hopefuls from that fest. This year, it seems to be Linklater’s flick or bust.
Tribeca had even slimmer pickings, with none of their debuts being on that level and only Jon Favreau’s Chef seeming like anything worth mentioning in passing as an awards player. I’m a huge fan of the film, but it’s very light and probably too simple of a movie to catch on with voters in any sort of a major way. That’s a shame, but it’s also the truth.
As for the wide releases, the best chances would have been George Clooney’s The Monuments Men and Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, but both of those movies were met with very mixed reviews, even if both are box office success stories. The films needed to be critical darlings, and neither came close to that, so the technical categories will really be the only places where they can make a mark. A shut out is just as likely for each though, especially considering the early release dates they were stuck with.
I will say that among the […]

‘Noah’ floods the Box Office this weekend

Happy Sunday once more to you all. Here I am again with the weekly box office report I know you crave so deeply. Leading the way this weekend and leaving the competitors all wet (sorry, I couldn’t resist) was Darren Aronofsky’s take on Noah, which debuted with a pretty solid $44 million at the box office. At number two we had the second week of Divergent, which pulled in $26.5 million more. Number three was Muppets Most Wanted, which had a decent hold and took in another $11.3 million from you fine audience members. The only other new release in the top ten besides Noah was the Arnold Schwarzenegger flick Sabotage, which basically flopped with only $5.3 million. Among the independent/limited releases, we had a mediocre debut for the biopic Cesar Chavez, while The Raid 2 was one film that actually opened well in a platform release. Overall, the movies that are doing well are veering more towards the blockbusters again, so you know that spring and summer must be on their way…
Despite some controversy and less than universal praise for the film, Noah managed to be by far the biggest opening of Darren Aronofsky’s career. Personally, I found the movie pretty interesting, and I’m perhaps the least religious person out there, so that says something about the filmmaker’s talent for telling a unique story. Going forward, a lot will depend on if audiences come back for seconds, but regardless, the opening will probably help Aronofsky with whatever he decides to make next. On the flip side, I’m not sure who’s going to want to have Schwarzenegger in their flick anymore, as Sabotage basically bombed, despite being the new film from the director of the well regarded End of Watch. Much like the middling debut for Cesar Chavez, audiences just didn’t seem to be interested at all.
Among the notable holdovers in theaters, we once again have to begin by discussing Wes Anderson’s latest film. The Grand Budapest Hotel expanded to just under 1000 theaters and moved up again, this time to number six this week, taking in $8.8 million. It’s likely going to become the biggest success of Anderson’s career. Also worth mentioning besides the ones mentioned above, 300: Rise of an Empire managed to break the $100 million mark with a $4.3 million weekend, while Mr. Peabody & Sherman is next in line for that mark as they added […]

Big and Bleak ‘Noah’ Draws Strong Reviews

The reviews are trickling in on “Noah,” director Darron Aronofsky’s Biblical epic adventure starring Russell Crowe in the title role, and the critics, so far, are suitably impressed.
“Aronofky Goes Big and Bleak,” reads the headline on the Film School Rejects website.
“A lot of Noah is so dark that you wonder how a big studio let a director get away with making it, and it’s not just specific moments I’m talking about here,” writes reviewer Nathan Adams. “There’s a tension that runs through the whole film about who you should be rooting for, or it it’s even possible to root for anyone in this situation. Noah goes to such dark places over the course of the movie that it’s impossible to keep relating to him as a protagonist (sometimes to the point of comedy, intentional or otherwise) ,and it becomes necessary for the narrative to switch its viewpoint from character to character. There are moments of mass death so casually presented that they almost feel mindless, and then they get followed up by character beats so focused that they almost chastise you for getting caught up in the spectacle and forgetting to remain compassionate.”
He goes on to write: “Noah is the sort of movie that takes multiple viewings and a little bit of time to fully digest.”

Variety’s Scott Foundas writes: “Aronofsky’s uneven but undeniably bold, personal, visually extravagant take on the Old Testament tale will surely polarize critics and audiences while riding a high sea of curiosity to strong initial worldwide B.O.”
Foundas describes the depiction of the character Noah in the film as “neither the Marvel-sized savior suggested by the poster nor the ‘environmentalist wacko’ prophesied by some test-screening Cassandras, but rather a humble servant driven to the edge of madness in his effort to do the Lord’s bidding.”
Steven D. Greydanus, whose review appears in the National Catholic Register, writes: “For a lifelong Bible geek and lover of movie-making and storytelling like me, Noah is a rare gift: a blend of epic spectacle, startling character drama and creative reworking of Scripture and other ancient Jewish and rabbinic writings. It’s a movie with much to look at, much to think about and much to feel; a movie to argue about and argue with.”
He adds: “It’s certainly not the picture-book story that most of us grow up with, all cheerful ark-building, adorable animals and a gravely pious, white-bearded protagonist.”
Todd McCarthy, reviewing the film […]

Oscars®: Noah – What’s up with the 2015 Awards Race

Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Written by: Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel
Main Cast: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Ray Winstone, Douglas Booth, Marton Csokas, Nick Nolte, Mark Margolis, and Frank Langella
Past Oscar relations: Crowe won Best Actor for Gladiator and has two other acting nominations, Hopkins won Best Actor for The Silence of the Lambs and has three other acting nominations, Connolly won Best Supporting Actress for A Beautiful Mind, Nolte has three acting nominations, Langella has one acting nominations, Aronofsky has a nomination for Best Director, and DP Matthew Libatique has a nomination for Best Cinematography
Here we go now with our first true article in this new series on 2014 contenders. First up is Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, which again brings him together with the likes of Jennifer Connelly, composer Clint Mansell, co-writer Ari Handel, and cinematographer Matthew Libatique, along with newcomers like Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, Emma Watson, and Logan Lerman. It’s a retelling of the story of Noah (shockingly enough), though apparently more in line with Aronofsky’s prior work like The Fountain than more straightforward biblical tales to date.

What this movie has going in its favor is quite simply Aronofsky. He’s a visionary director and this has long been a passion project of his. I’ll have a bit more to say about passion projects this weekend, but I’m someone who’s always interested in them and how much potential they have. Aronofsky finally caught the Academy’s attention last time around with Black Swan (though both Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler scored acting citations), so if Oscar voters are now on his wavelength, we could see them look to honor his ambition here.
Working against Noah is publicity that the flick will get because of its origins, as opposed to the final product itself. Early reviews have been mixed but mostly positive, so it’s not a question of if the film is any good or not, but if it’ll be given a real chance. My heart wants to say that folks will look past the potential protests from the religious right, but my head thinks that it’ll become something all too easy to ignore for voters. Taking into account that it’s an early year release as well, and the movie clearly will have an uphill battle for any major recognition, to say the least.
So, can this be a player at all? My gut says […]

Biblical Epics seem to be in this year…what cinematic trend could be up next?

Every single year we seem to get some sort of trend in the movies. Sometimes it’s Oscar themed (remember how many 2013 prestige releases were about survival of some sort?), while sometimes it’s a specific sort of a disaster movie, or even a particular type of genre outing, like how the apocalypse has been in of late. 2014 looks to be the year that the Biblical Epic returns to the screen, with both Darren Aronofsky’s Noah and Ridley Scott’s Exodus looking for awards attention (and just this past weekend Son of God opened, though that’s basically just an expansion of that TV series The Bible, so it’s hardly an epic in my eyes). That got me thinking about what other trend could be next…
Personally, I never mind if we get two astroid movies in one year or something like that, as long as they each offer something different. With that in mind, here’s three ideas for the next cinematic trend that we could see coming to a theater near you in the impending years:
1. Sequels we actually want to see- This is kind of an open ended concept, I know, but wouldn’t it be great to actually see franchises made out of material that folks enjoyed the first time around? 2015 is a year filled with some things we’d like to see, but plenty of extraneous money grabs as well, so one of these years I’d love to see the summer just full of things to look forward to, as opposed to things to endure. A pipe dream in all likelihood, but I’ll continue reaching for the stars.
2. Presidential biopics- This is a personal preference of mine. We get one every few years, but I’d love a deluge of two or three looks at former Commanders in Chief in a given year. Oliver Stone alone could probably be good for a few, right? I know that Martin Scorsese has a Teddy Roosevelt project in his back pocket as another Leonardo DiCaprio collaboration, so hopefully that’s another one we can count on, though DiCaprio has a Woodrow Wilson flick he’s planning to make as well. On second thought, maybe we should just see how many Presidents we can get him to play?
3. Kids Sports movies- Remember the days when we used to get things like Little Big League, Little Giants, The Might Ducks (franchise), and Rookie of the Year? These were […]

‘Noah’ debuts a new TV Spot

If there’s one new release this month that I’m really looking forward to in a big way, it’s Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, which has long been a passion project of his. The last time he had one of those on his mind, we got The Fountain, which is a divisive film, yes, but also one of my five favorite films of all time, so suffice to say, I’m 100% in for this one. Aronofsky has a top notch cast on hand too, including Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connolly, Emma Watson, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Logan Lerman, and Nick Nolte, among others. I’m not usually big on biblical epics, but this could be an exception. A new look at the movie has arrived today in the form of a 30 second TV Spot, and I’ve got that for you all to check out momentarily. The flick comes out in theaters at the end of the month and is a must see in my book based on the filmmaker’s reputation alone, for whatever that’s worth. Decide for yourself though below…
Here’s the new TV Spot that dropped today:

This will likely either be a huge hit or a huge flop, financially at least, but one thing is for certain, it won’t be for lack of ambition on Aronofsky’s part. Either way, for me, March 28th can’t come soon enough!

Hollywood: Welcome to Hard Times

By ROBERT W. WELKOS
These are strange times in Hollywood. Turbulent times.Grieving times. Warring times. Bieber times. Noah times.
To be sure, Hollywood wouldn’t be Hollywood without being a little off its axis. But the events of recent weeks make Tinseltown seem almostas if the tectonic plates are shifting and we’re all about to be swallowed upin a giant, sucking sinkhole along with those vintage Corvettes.
There was Fast and Furious star Paul Walker dying senselessly in a horrible car crash.
There was the shocking news that the brilliant award-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman had died. In New York. In his Greenwich Village apartment. In the bathroom. A syringe in his arm. Five empty packets and dozens more full of heroin. The lights of Broadway were dimmed in his honor.
Then, like a Dementor swooping down on the Hogwarts Express,bespectacled Woody Allen found himself dueling with his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow, 28, who accused the celebrated actor/director of molesting her when she was only 7 years old. Allen flatly denied it but the accusations made everyone feel creepy and wondering who wastelling the truth? The feud even spilled over into the Oscars with Best Actressnominee Cate Blanchett, the star of Allen’s Blue Jasmine being singled out by Farrow for professionally associating with Allen. ‘What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett?’she wrote, listing other celebrities who had also worked with Allen over the years.
It was left to Page Six to supply more details on the untimely death of Julia Roberts’ half-sister Nancy Motes, who is said to have tweeted ‘Just so you all know ‘America’s Sweetheart’ is a B***H’ in the weeks before Motes died of a drug overdose. In October last year Motes also spoke about a family rift, reportedly tweeting: ‘It’s a shame when you get more support from strangers than you do from your family. I can’t wait to officially belong to another family!’ It sounded all the more poignant when you read that Motes had once harbored her own Tinseltown dreams.
The grieving poured forth again this week with the deaths oftwo icons: Shirley Temple and Sid Caesar.
Shirley and Sid were, of course, now elderly so their deathswere not unexpected, but it tugged at the heartstrings because they stillentertain us whenever their films or TV shows are aired on television.
Shirley, arms pumping with that curly top and dimpled chin,couldn’t extend her appeal beyond youth, but in adulthood she managed to […]

Analyzing Oscar’s Potential Leading and Supporting Ladies

Trying to sand down the rough slate that is the Actress categories is an intimidating task.  The past few years, the category has produced the likes of Natalie Portman in her career-topping performance in Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan” and Marion Cotillard’s transformation like no other in the Foreign Language film, La Vie en Rose.

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