September 20, 2015
        “Inside Out”: Looking at potential Best Animated Feature Contenders                "Black Mass" could get Johnny Depp back in the Oscar game                J.J. Abrams and Denis Villeneuve: Ten potential first time writer/director nominees for Oscar in 2015                Roger Deakins offers up some of his very best cinematography in "Sicario"                "The Martian" launches itself as an awards hopeful at the Toronto Film Festival                "Steve Jobs": Oscar predictions for September                "Sleeping with Other People" is one of the most charming films of 2015                Sandra Bullock looks like a contender in the Trailer for "Our Brand is Crisis"                Sam Smith will sing the theme song for the upcoming 007 film "Spectre"                Richard Gere is an under the radar Best Actor contender for "Time Out of Mind"                Telluride and Venice launch festival debuts into the Oscar race                “The Hateful Eight”: Looking at potential Best Original Screenplay Contenders                David O. Russell and Ridley Scott: Which filmmaking contenders this year are most due for their first win?                Telluride Announces 2015 Lineup - Steve Jobs, Black Mass, Suffragette                “Sicario”: Ten Films to see in September        

Tag Archives: Independent films

Al Pacino’s Top Ten performances to date

More or less ever since winning an Oscar for Best Actor in Scent of a Woman, Al Pacino has seen less than his fair share of top notch roles. Luckily though, that drought ends this week with David Gordon Green’s Manglehorn, which features Pacino doing easily his best work in a long time. As such, I wanted to rank his best work to date, covering both his newest film as well as some of his most exciting early roles. Obviously, someone like Pacino has more than ten great performances under his belt, but these are what make up my personal list. I hope you enjoy!

Here now are what I consider to be Pacino’s ten best works to date:
10. Glengarry Glen Ross – He doesn’t have the most iconic role of the lot, but he certainly makes the most of his screen time. Everyone here is uniformly great, so it’s hard for anyone in the cast not to have this film on a list of their best performances. Pacino is no exception, obviously. It may not be his flashiest part, but you admire his work all the same.
9. Scent of a Woman – His Oscar winning role is one that sometimes is not given its due, but I find it to be more than a solid performance. Sure, it’s loud, but that’s kind of the point, I think. This is a brash character and Pacino never once is frightened of potential caricature. Some bad habits developed here, but he’s still very good in the role. It’s hardly a crime that he won for this one.
8. Manglehorn – On Friday you can see Pacino be quietly heartbreaking in David Gordon Green’s latest experimentation. Getting to see the master dial it back in ways he hasn’t in just about decades is truly something to behold. He hinted a bit at this with The Humbling recently, but this performance really reminds you that he’s one of the greatest at the craft of acting who’ve ever lived.
7. …And Justice for All – Pacino is perhaps best known for uttering the now iconic line of “You’re out of order! You’re out of order! The whole trial is out of order!” in this film, but it’s an overall delight to watch Al in a court room. He doesn’t chew the scenery, but instead makes the legal system theatrical in an incredibly compelling way. A very underrated title.
6. […]

“Mad Max: Fury Road” looks to take its place as one of the best action movies of the decade

There’s no way to get around this fact…”Mad” Max Rockatansky is coming back to the public consciousness. In just a few days, audiences are going to be blown away by Mad Max: Fury Road, the latest installment in/reboot of George Miller’s iconic franchise. This is the fourth time that writer/director Miller has looked at the post apocalyptic landscape through the experiences of Max, this time played by Tom Hardy instead of Mel Gibson. Here, with Mad Max: Fury Road, Miller has delivered what my colleagues are calling the best movies of the year so far. I won’t go that far, but it’s certainly one of the better action flick in some time…and yes, it’s essentially a two hour chase film, as has been the rumor.
Plot isn’t a huge deal in this film, but it does work to mostly establish the kind of world that the movie takes place in so that a prolonged chase can ensue. We initially meet Max on the run from the minions of Immortan Joe, who basically owns the wasteland since he controls the water supply. Caught and literally used as a blood bag by “war boy” Nux, Max is basically left for dead, until Nux is among those sent after Imperator Furiosa, a renegade who’s hijacked a war rig and has some of Joe’s slave girls as her cargo, headed towards a hopeful freedom. Max ends up freed from Nux and along for the ride with Furiosa, as Joe’s legions give chase. It’s a simple premise, just done to absolute excess. Miller directs and co-writes with Nick Lathouris and Brendan McCarthy, while in addition to Hardy the cast includes Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Zoë Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Riley Keough, and more. They all come together to make this dystopian vision really sing.
Honestly, while I really enjoyed Mad Max: Fury Road, I wasn’t quite as blown away by it as most of my colleagues seem to be. It’s quite good, but one long chase, essentially split up into three or four parts, grows tiresome after awhile. There’s very little dialogue here, and while the score and visuals are luscious, it sometimes winds up feeling like too much. It’s hard to complain about having too much of a good thing, as it were, but that’s kind of how I feel. Don’t get me wrong, it’s probably among the dozen best things of 2015 so far, […]

“It Follows” is the best horror film in years and the rare one worthy of awards

When it comes to the Academy, the genre the least seem to embrace (give or take animation, though that at least has its own category) is horror. With the exception of The Silence of the Lambs, no fright flick has been nominated for Best Picture, and while that’s not going to change, periodically we get such top notch entries into the genre that awards consideration is warranted. A few years back, it was The Cabin in the Woods that got a small Best Original Screenplay push, while more recently The Babadook and You’re Next drummed up a bit of buzz. This year though, we have the best of the bunch (or at least the best since The Cabin in the Woods) with It Follows. The film opens this weekend after playing at the Cannes Film Festival last year and is easily the best of 2015 to date…not just in terms of horror either. It’s the best release of the year so far, overall.
In case you don’t know, It Follows is a hybrid character study/coming of age tale/horror film. Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, it tells the story of a 19 year old girl named Jay (played wonderfully by Maika Monroe) who sees a sexual encounter lead to terror. After sleeping with her new boyfriend for the first time, he basically kidnaps her in order to safely inform her of what he’s passed on to her. Until they had sex, he was plagued by something monstrous following him slowly wherever he went. It started when he slept with someone on a one night stand, and now that he’s given it to her, he’s free from its clutches. Jay is warned that if it catches you, you die. Worse yet, it’ll take the form of people you know in order to get close to you. After he lets her go and runs off, she groups up with her friends, neighbor, and sister to figure out if there’s any way to survive. Monroe is the undisputed star, but the cast has some solid supporting players, including Keir Gilchrist. Besides Monroe, you’ll be blown away by Mitchell’s work, especially when it pairs with the cinematography by Mike Gioulakis and the score from Rich Vreeland.
While any Oscar attention is a long shot, I believe that this flick is truly worthy of consideration in a number of categories. Beyond the fruitless endeavor of pushing […]

Terrence Malick’s “Voyage of Time” to the screen: Broad Green pictures and IMAX join Sophisticated Films and Wild Bunch

IMAX Corporation, together with Broad Green Pictures, today announced they are joining Sophisticated Films and Wild Bunch to complete financing of Terrence Malick’s VOYAGE OF TIME. Broad Green will have the first opportunity to distribute the feature film version in North America following the exclusive IMAX release.
Gabriel and Daniel Hammond of Broad Green Pictures are executive-producing the film along with Tanner Beard, Mary Bing, Yves Chevalier, Christos V. Konstantakopoulos, Jacques Perrin, Ryan Rettig, and Donald Rosenfeld. Dede Gardner, Nicolas Gonda, Sarah Green, Grant Hill, Brad Pitt, Bill Pohlad and Sophokles Tasioulis are producing.
VOYAGE commenced international sales at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, with GAGA (JPN), MARS (FR), Lumière (BENELUX) and EDKO (HK) among the first to secure distribution rights.
VOYAGE OF TIME is a celebration of the universe, displaying the whole of time, from its start to its final collapse. This film examines all that occurred to prepare the world that stands before us now: science and spirit, birth and death, the grand cosmos and the minute life systems of our planet. Malick is working first in the IMAX format for a 40-minute version with scientific narration by Brad Pitt, followed by a 35mm feature-length version with narration by Cate Blanchett.
VOYAGE OF TIME is the first recipient of financing from IMAX’s Original Film Fund, announced in May. The Fund, capitalized at $50-plus million, will co-finance a portfolio of 10 original IMAX films that will enable IMAX?s worldwide network to provide new digital content to its institutional partners in the form of documentaries that employ cutting-edge techniques, innovative filmmakers such as Malick, and embrace fresh new perspectives in documentary storytelling.
“Terrence Malick is one of the most innovative filmmakers in the world, and has literally been designing and making this movie with large-format cameras for over 30 years,” said Greg Foster, Senior Executive Vice President, IMAX Corp. and CEO of IMAX Entertainment. “To be able to launch our Film Fund portfolio with Malick and his imaginative style of filmmaking is capturing lightning in a bottle. We look forward to working with Terry and his producing partners on this groundbreaking film.”
“Terrence Malick is an innovator of epic scope,” said Gabriel and Daniel Hammond of Broad Green Pictures. “We have long admired his work and could not be more excited to partner with him on this project.”
“We are thrilled to partner with IMAX and Broad Green, who, along with our […]

Spotlight on the Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

This week, I’m turning my attention and the spotlight in the title of this article to one of my favorite actors working today…Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t appreciate this talented multihyphenate. The rare child actor to successfully transition into a respected adult performer, Gordon-Levitt is widely considered to be one of the best young actors that we have in the business. He’s constantly chosen interesting projects and almost never does anything you’d consider to be just a paycheck job. He’s yet to receive an Academy Award nomination, but one suspects that it’s only a matter of time in that regard.
Gordon-Levitt got his start at a young age, first working in television at the tender age of just seven. He’d continue with small parts on the small screen up until he got a few tiny roles in films, including A River Runs Through It. He got his first lead in the remake of Angels in the Outfield, where he was first noticed. If not there, it was when he became a part of the hit TV show 3rd Rock from the Sun. Gordon-Levitt was beginning to make his mark in entertainment, though unlike many child stars, this wasn’t the pinnacle of their careers.
JGL’s screen presence was limited until he won over hearts in 10 Things I Hate About You. He and Heath Ledger made plenty of girls swoon, but critics took note of the talent they had. This film launched many a career, including our subject Gordon-Levitt’s. Plenty of people were excited to see where JGL’s career would go from there, and they weren’t about to be disappointed. He next made an underrated indie called Manic that served as his first pairing with Zooey Deschanel. He worked with Disney after that, voicing the lead in Treasure Planet, then wowed audiences again in Mysterious Skin. He followed that up the next year with another wonderful performance in Brick for Rian Johnson (who’d he’d work with again) and then the under seen crime tale The Lookout. Among his next projects is the underrated Stop-Loss, but at this point, Gordon-Levitt was about to become the star we know him to be now.
It’s impossible to deny how great he is in (500) Days of Summer. I maintain to this day that it was a crime that the flick was snubbed for Oscar love, including for JGL, as well as his […]

Richard Linklater: Writer and Director

For this week’s spotlight piece, I wanted to take a look at a bit of an indie A-lister, though far from an unknown. It’s filmmaker Richard Linklater, a writer and director who has managed to consistently do things in a unique way and bring audiences along with him at the same time. As heralded as he already is (especially this week with Boyhood hitting theaters), he still sometimes seems underrated to me. For a man with a pair of Oscar nominations, he still manages to work decidedly outside of the box and still cultivate an audience. Even his studio outings have been memorable. Frankly, Linklater is one of a kind.
Linklater has always done things his way, from his fly on the wall debut Slacker to Dazed and Confused to the Before trilogy (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight). Throw in Boyhood and you have five near classics from one filmmaker, and that doesn’t take into account the almost dozen other movies that he’s made over the years. He’s done everything from animated flicks (A Scanner Darkly and Waking Life) to studio comedies (Bad News Bears and School of Rock), with plenty of interesting work in between.
If you take a close look at his oeuvre, he’s done very compelling things with even his less regarded work. From Bernie (which I find to be incredibly underrated) to Fast Food Nation to Tape, with plenty of others in between, Linklater has managed to take whatever premise he’s working with and do things in such a simple yet unique way that sometimes it’s not until the flick ends that you realize just how special his work is. The two Adapted Screenplay nominations he has for Before Sunset and Before Midnight are nice bits of recognition, but he really needs to get a Best Director nod under his belt soon, not to mention a nom for Best Picture.
This weekend, Boyhood begins its national roll out and it’s among the best films of the year so far. Tomorrow I’ll be talking about it as an awards contender, but what Linklater did with that movie is downright amazing. Filming a coming of age story with the same cast over a dozen years captured some real truth that’s almost impossible to get otherwise. It’s a work of art, plain and simple. Again, I’ll get into its Oscar prospects in my What’s Up with the Awards Race piece […]

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 […]

‘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!

Oscars®: Get to know a Best Picture nominee: “12 Years a Slave”

12 Years a Slave
Directed by: Steve McQueen
Written by: John Ridley
Main cast members: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, Paul Giamatti, Scoot McNairy, and Alfre Woodard
Number of Oscar nominations in total: Nine
Other nominations besides Best Picture: Best Director (McQueen), Best Actor (Ejiofor), Best Supporting Actor (Fassbender), Best Supporting Actress (Nyong’o), Best Adapted Screenplay (Ridley), Best Production Design, Best Costume Design, and Best Film Editing
Notable precursor wins: Tied for Best Picture at the Producers Guild of America Awards, won Best Drama at the Golden Globe Awards, won Best Supporting Actress at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, won Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards and and USC Scripter Award.
Chances at winning Best Picture: One of the top three contenders and main frontrunners for the award
Chances at other Academy Award wins: Frontrunner in the Best Supporting Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay races

12 Years a Slave is the first film in my “get to know a Best Picture nominee” series, and it’s one of the main contenders in the category. The film is about the true life tale of Solomon Northrup, a free black man who was tricked into slavery and kept for the dozen years that gives the movie its name. Ever since it was announced that the film was being made, pundits like myself speculated that it was going to be an awards juggernaut. Well, it didn’t disappoint and after being the most cited flick among the precursor season, it’s now one of the most nominated films by the Academy and deep in the fight for Best Picture.
Working in 12 Years a Slave’s favor is that it is basically a universally beloved film. There might be more passionate support for other contenders, but it’s almost impossible to find someone who doesn’t think that the movie is at least very good, if not great. That creates a situation where voters are basically assured of placing it high up on their ballot. Consensus is the key to victory in this category, and this is a flick that will not want for number one votes. The question is simply if the other two main competitors (American Hustle and Gravity) can amass a wider range of Academy members to vote for them as opposed to this one.
If you’re looking for something that’s not in this film’s favor, it’s […]

Kudos for ‘Before Midnight’ Writers Linklater, Delpy and Hawke

The 17th Annual Hollywood Film Awards announced today that it will be honoring Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke and Richard Linklater, with the “Hollywood Screenwriters Award,” for their screenplay for Sony Pictures Classics’ Before Midnight.
The announcement was made today by Carlos de Abreu, founder and executive producer of the Hollywood Film Awards. He said: “It is a privilege to honor such multi-talented screenwriters.”
The award will be bestowed at the Hollywood Film Awards Gala Ceremony on Monday evening, October 21, 2013 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.
This is the third film in the series, preceded by Before Sunset in 2004, also written by the trio, and Before Sunrise in 1995, written by Linklater and Kim Krizan. In the latest film, we meet Celine and Jesse nine years after their last rendezvous. Almost two decades have passed since their first encounter on a train bound for Vienna, and we now find them in their early forties in Greece. Before the clock strikes midnight, we will again become part of their story.
The Hollywood Film Awards honors cherished stars, filmmakers and up-and-coming talent, and traditionally kicks off the film awards season with the biggest stars and top industry executives in attendance.
“We are very proud to be the first stop of the awards season. In the last ten years, a total of 96 Oscar® nominations and 34 Oscars® were given to the honorees of the Hollywood Film Awards,” said de Abreu.
Last year’s awards show received more than 41 million media impressions, in addition to more than 300 million online and print readers’ impressions.
After graduating from NYU’s Tisch Film School, Delpy’s film Blah Blah Blah debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in 1995. That year she also starred in Richard Linklater’s film Before Sunrise, with Ethan Hawke. The film received glowing reviews, and lead to a follow-up with the characters nine years later with Before Sunset in 2004. Delpy co-wrote the script with Hawke and Linklater, and it earned them an Academy Award nomination for Adapted Screenplay. Delpy has also been recognized for her work by the César Awards, having been nominated three times, and is well-known for an additional film series she has written, directed, edited and co-produced; 2 Days in Paris and 2 Days in New York.
Ethan Hawke is an Academy Award nominated actor and screenwriter who has starred in over 40 films that have spanned […]

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