February 05, 2017

Tag Archives: steven spielberg

“The BFG” marks Steven Spielberg’s first collaboration with Disney

Believe it or not, legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg has yet to make a movie over at Disney. He finally has though, with the release this week of The BFG, based on the classic book of the same name by Roald Dahl. As I’ll get into below, Spielberg and Disney have long been a good potential fit, so this was always a matter of when, not if, but the pairing has occurred and we now have another children’s film of his to discuss. Is it anything to go nuts over? Could it be an awards player in any major way? Read on to find out…
The film is, again, an adaptation of Dahl’s classic children’s book. It centers on a young girl named Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) who comes in contact with a BFG, or Big Friendly Giant (Mark Rylance). Despite his imposing stature, he’s one giant who poses no threat to Sophie, a he doesn’t eat children. Quickly, a friendship develops between them, which is essential to keeping her safe once other giants find out about this. Spielberg directs, obviously, from a script by the late Melissa Mathison (with Christopher Abbott serving as a story editor). Other cast members besides Barnhill and Rylance include Jemaine Clement, Bill Hader, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Penelope Wilton, and more. Cinematography is by the legendary DP Janusz Kaminski, while the score comes from the just as legendary composer John Williams.
By and large (no pun intended), the praise being heaped upon this flick is centered on the visual effects and motion capture performance by Rylance. The reviews overall have been solid but unspectacular, continuing the trend that began when the title debuted recently at the Cannes Film Festival. Pundits stateside as well as those in the south of France can’ deny Spielberg’s skills as a director, but many seem to think the story is a little thin and could use more life. That being said, the effects used to bring the giant to life and Rylance’s work combine to give them one thing to really praise. The two of them combined to Academy Award winning effect last year with Bridge of Spies, so while Oscar might not be calling in the same way, a fruitful partnership is at hand. Essentially, it seems like middle of the road Spielberg, by and large, which is still better than the average movie for sure.

In terms of awards, I suspect Disney […]

Potential Academy Award players from Cannes

Now that the 2016 Cannes Film Festival is safely in our rearview mirror, we can do what always happens a few days after the fest concludes…try and find some Oscar buzz! Yes, Cannes this year had some definite movies that will be in the conversation for Academy Award nominations, though as I said earlier in the week, it likely won’t be coming from their slate of prize winners. The Palme d’Or winning I, Daniel Blake doesn’t seem poised for much love, so while a title or two from the competition section will sniff the precursor season, there will be as much attention paid to the ones that played our of competition in 2016. That’s just how it wound up going down this year, though nothing is set in stone just yet…
The big one it seems, if you had to choose, is Loving from Jeff Nichols. That’s the film with across the board potential, as it resembled awards bait from the start. Look for that one to have a big campaign launched in Best Picture, Best Director (for Nichols), Best Actor (for Joel Edgerton), Best Actress (for Ruth Negga), Best Supporting Actor (for Michael Shannon), Best Original Screenplay (also for Nichols), and a handful of technical categories. I can’t promise anything at this moment, but expect Edgerton, Negga, and Nichols to show up plenty as the awards season gets underway. Nominations aren’t promised, but heavy contention for said nominations basically is. Loving is the one to take to the bank if you were betting on one Cannes title to go all the way to Oscar night, without question.
Also in competition and getting a bit of buzz were things like Paterson and Toni Erdmann. They’re longer shots, for sure, basically limited to the former hoping for attention in Best Actor (for Adam Driver), Best Supporting Actress (for Golshifteh Farahani), and Best Original Screenplay (for Jim Jarmusch), along with Best Original Screenplay (for Maren Ade) and Best Foreign Language Feature for the latter. I actually have a strong feeling/hunch that Toni Erdmann will wind up with a Foreign Language Feature citation if it’s actually submitted, but Paterson is probably a long shot. It’s frankly just too small, and while Driver got buzz, he’ll have bigger contenders to compete with when the time comes.

Out of competition, we had The Nice Guys from Shane Black to definitely keep in the back of our minds. […]

Woody Allen’s ‘Cafe Society’: 2016 Cannes Film Festival lineup announced

Late last week, the Cannes Film Festival unveiled their lineup at long last. The upcoming 2016 incarnation of the fest looks to be a potentially strong one, with some Cannes favorites returning alongside a whole bunch of possible awards contenders. There’s no guarantees that the festival translates to Oscar, but we almost always can get a contender or two from the group. Whether they can turn into nominees or not is another thing, but the potential is certainly there. You’ll be able to see the full Cannes lineup below, but before that, I’ll be looking over the list for a few films to really look forward to first. Then, you can take a gander at all of the titles set to unspool soon at the fest. Here we go…
From what I can tell, the bigger Academy Award players, assuming the reception over in the South of France warrants it, are Woody Allen’s Cafe Society, Pedro Almodovar’s Julieta, Shane Black’s The Nice Guys, Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World, Jodie Foster’s Money Monster, Jeff Nichols’ Loving, Sean Penn’s The Last Face, and Steven Spielberg’s The BFG. The wild card is Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon, but I think it’s less likely than those other ones. Frankly, Nichols seems to be by far in the best spot with his awards bait sounding true life civil rights drama. If there’s one early horse to bet on from this lot, it’s probably that one.

Here now is the full lineup right now for the 2016 Cannes Film Festival:
2016 Cannes Film Festival Lineup
“Cafe Society” (Woody Allen)
“Acquarius” (Kleber Mendonca Filho)
“American Honey” (Andrea Arnold)
“Baccalaureat,” (Cristian Mungiu)
“Elle” (Paul Verhoeven)
“From the Land of the Moon” (Nicole Garcia)
“The Handmaiden” (Park Chan-wook)
“I, Daniel Blake” (Ken Loach)
“It’s Only the End of the World” (Xavier Dolan)
“Julieta” (Pedro Almodovar)
“The Last Face” (Sean Penn)
“Loving” (Jeff Nichols)
“Ma’ Rosa” (Brillante Mendoza)
“The Neon Demon” (Nicolas Winding Refn)
“Paterson” (Jim Jarmusch)
“Personal Shopper” (Olivier Assayas)
“Sierra-Nevada” (Cristi Puiu)
“Slack Bay” (Bruno Dumont)
“Staying Vertical” (Alain Guiraudie)
“Toni Erdmann” (Maren Ade)
“The Unknown Girl” (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)
Out of Competition
“The BFG” (Steven Spielberg)
“Goksung” (Na Hong-jin)
“Money Monster” (Jodie Foster)
“The Nice Guys” (Shane Black)
Un Certain Regard
“After the Storm” (Hirokazu Kore-eda)
“Apprentice” (Boo Junfeng)
“Beyond the Mountains and Hills” (Eran Kolirin)
“Captain Fantastic” (Matt Ross)
“Clash” (Mohmaed Diab)
“The Dancer” (Stephanie Di Giusto)
“The Disciple” (Kirill Serebrennikov)
“Dogs” (Bogdan Mirica)
“The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki” (Juho Kuosmanen)
“Harmonium” (Fukada Koji)
“Inversion” (Behnam Behzadi)
“The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis” (Andrea Testa)
“Pericles the Black Man” […]

Living Legends John Williams and Ennio Morricone Compete for the Oscar for Best Original Score

The Academy Award for Best Original Score rewards those musicians who compose the original music for our films. It is without question one of the most recognized crafts categories. It is not difficult to think of examples of film scores that are simply iconic, from “Gone With the Wind” to “The Godfather” to “Once Upon a Time in the West” to “Jurassic Park.”
The nominees are chosen by the music branch (who also choose the nominees for Best Original Song, which, as we will analyze in December, is a very different category due to several different reasons).
Epic films, as well as best picture contenders and animated features, frequently find favor here. The music branch is also renowned for being an “insiders’ club.” It is rare that more than one of the five nominees is a first-timer, and there are certain stalwarts who we are used to seeing year after year.

Without question the branch’s favorite composer ever is 49-time nominee John Williams. This year he is once again providing the music from the galaxy far far away in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” It is destined to be a hit, and Williams can never be ruled out. So I suspect that he is going to find himself joining Walt Disney as the second person to receive a fiftieth Oscar nomination.

Williams’s age (83) may be preventing him from being as prolific as he once was. In the result, he is not fulfilling composer duties for Steven Spielberg for the first time in 30 years. Instead, another Academy favorite – Thomas Newman – stepped into that role for “Bridge of Spies.” In addition to the fact that Newman has 12 nominations of his own, the score also featured many of the trademarks that have made Spielberg scores so successful in this category. Given that the film has already been released, I’d say Newman is even more assured of a spot than Williams. (One never knows how to analyze a score’s potential before hearing it.) Newman also has “Spectre” coming out this year but despite his nomination for “Skyfall,” I doubt Newman will become a double nominee, given the strength of the competition.
Alexandre Desplat won this category last year for “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” capping off an extraordinary decade in which his European sensibilities have found favor on both sides of the Atlantic. “The Danish Girl” reunites him with Tom Hooper and gives him […]

Steven Spielberg’s “Bridge of Spies” looks to appeal to the classical side of Oscar voters

Usually, the run up to a new Steven Spielberg film is a bit longer and more buzzed about than the one currently for Bridge of Spies. Even from the moment it was first announced as being his latest collaboration with Tom Hanks, things moved quickly and a bit under the radar, which is different. One would have expected such a potential Oscar juggernaut to try and suffocate the race early on. That hasn’t been the case, and with the film hitting theaters tomorrow, I wanted to take another look at it after its recent New York Film Festival debut and try to figure out what its awards prospects now are…
Once more, here’s a brief summary of what the movie is about. In short, Bridge of Spies is a Cold War set drama/spy thriller. Hanks stars as attorney James Donovan, who was recruited by the government to give a defense to a captured soviet spy (played by Mark Rylance) and then asked by the C.I.A. during the height of the hostilities to help rescue downed pilot Gary Powers after he’s detained in the Soviet Union, while also negotiating the swap of a Soviet prisoner held by the United States. Hanks leads the charge obviously, with Rylance in the main supporting role. Alan Alda, Domenick Lombardozzi, Billy Magnussen, Amy Ryan, and Austin Stowell also make up the main cast. Spielberg directs, obviously, with Matt Charman having written the script that was then polished up by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (yes, the Coen Brothers have teamed with Spielberg). Janusz Kaminski is the cinematographer here and Thomas Newman composes the score, just in case there wasn’t enough talent involved here.
I think the main narrative here this season for the flick is whether or not it can appeal to members of the Academy as the “prestige” picture of the year. It’s a good movie, maybe even a very good one, but not quite a great one, so it’s not an obvious lock for Oscar nominations. What it will need is voters considering it to be the classiest contender and really embracing it up and down the line like that. If it’s just another second tier hopeful in the race, I have my doubts that it can go too far, even with Hanks and Spielberg being the huge A-listers that they are. Anything is possible, but this classy/prestige route is the one that really needs […]

Cinematography Race Gives “Sicario”’s Roger Deakins a Chance to Earn Lucky Nomination # 13

Cinematography is perhaps the most revered of cinematic art forms. The reason for this is simple – our films would literally not exist without the camera. From crafting mood and atmosphere to wowing us with the sheer ability to have “pulled off” a shot, cinematographers (also known as directors of photography or “D.P.s”) are the amazing talents responsible for realizing a director’s vision through command of the camera. And after the director, D.P.s are arguably the most important person on a film’s set.
The cinematographers’ branch in the Academy is a group that loves epic luscious landscapes and war films. The branch is also relatively keen on foreign-language titles. And there is usually – though by no means always – significant overlap between the Cinematography race and the Best Picture race. (An unfortunate bizarre fact – this is the only Oscar category outside of Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor that has never featured a female nominee, while every other has featured a winner. Anywho, on to the contenders…)
One likely nominee is wrapping up its first week in theatres. Denis Villeneuve’s “Sicario” allowed the great Roger Deakins to create a hectic, gritty world with amazing shots (particularly those night shots!) that built the mood oh-so-well. A twelve-time nominee who was nominated for his last collaboration with Villeneuve (“Prisoners”), I suspect Deakins will once against find himself in the race.
Unfortunately, Deakins may have a difficult time finally getting that statuette on his mantle. The favorite in this category is likely back-to-back winner Emmanuel Lubezki, seeking win #3 for Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “The Reverent.” Fresh off wins for “Birdman” and “Gravity,” the exceptionally talented Lubezki is seeking to recreate the early 1800s American West. That sounds intriguing enough. It’s going to feature harrowing scenes and scenery, all under the watchful eyes of Lubezki and Iñárritu. And from what we’ve seen, it indeed looks like a visual feast.
Another director who is known to get the most of camerawork is, of course, Quentin Tarantino. One of the last directors insisting on using film as opposed to digital technology, “The Hateful Eight” is only going to re-emphasize his approach to filmmaking, being released in ultra-wide format. Robert Richardson earned nominations six and eight for “Inglourious Basterds” and “Django Unchained,” respectively (he’s won for “JFK,” “The Aviator,” and “Hugo”). This latest title will present many opportunities for epic landscapes and showy, mood-building scenes. And there’s the scope. […]

“Bridge of Spies” finally reveals itself at the New York Film Festival

Yesterday, I was among the very first pundits to see Steven Spielberg’s new movie Bridge of Spies as it screened at the New York Film Festival. As I’ve mentioned recently, this film was one of the last of the unseen Academy Award hopefuls, so now the Oscar race has ever so slightly seen a clearing up of its possibilities, if you will. Whenever Spielberg gets together with Tom Hanks to make a flick, something interesting happens, and this is no exception. Is it an awards player though? Well, that might not be as much of a slam dunk as we all thought earlier this year…
The film is a Cold War set drama with spy thriller elements to it. Hanks stars as attorney James Donovan, who was recruited by the government to give a defense to a captured soviet spy (played by Mark Rylance) and then asked by the C.I.A. during the height of the hostilities to help rescue downed pilot Gary Powers after he’s detained in the Soviet Union, while also negotiating the swap of a Soviet prisoner held by the United States. Hanks leads the charge obviously, with Rylance in the main supporting role. Alan Alda, Domenick Lombardozzi, Billy Magnussen, Amy Ryan, and Austin Stowell also make up the main cast. Spielberg directs, obviously, with Matt Charman having written the script that was then polished up by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (yes, the Coen Brothers). Janusz Kaminski is the cinematographer here and Thomas Newman composes the score, making for as A-list a crop of talent involved in a film as any in 2015.
Bridge of Spies is neither the Best Picture frontrunner now nor an Oscar pretender, so its status as a curious contender of unknown proportions remains, oddly enough. On the one hand, it’s really strongly made, well acted and with tight direction. On the other hand though, it’s sort of cold and clinical, made without overt passion, which can keep an Academy member from truly embracing it. To some degree, this is as if Spielberg took a Clint Eastwood project that might otherwise have turned out mediocre and made it rather solid. That’s the thing though…is just solid enough to appeal to a voter? If there’s a true highlight, it’s the supporting turn from Rylance, though Hanks is his reliably good self and Spielberg has hardly lose a step either.
That will be the main question, awards wise. […]

“Bridge of Spies” represents one of the few unseen Oscar hopefuls left

As of today, there are only a small handful of titles vying for Oscar consideration that have yet to be seen by anyone. Specifically, I can think of ten films that have awards aspirations, to one degree or another. Some are very likely Best Picture nominees, while others are likely technical players or bust. Still, at this point, here in early October, there aren’t too many unseen movies left, so this is worth taking note of. As such, below you’ll see a bit on all of the flicks that are still mysteries or X factors to us. A couple are only days away from revealing themselves, but a few will be unseen for quite some time still…
Take a look at these ten unseen 2015 contenders:

The Big Short – The newest entry into the race, this financial criss flick could be just what the season needs. With possible acting contenders like Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt, along with a legitimate chance to compete in the Best Picture field if all goes well, there’s a lot to like here. AFI Fest will be where this reveals itself, so it’ll be about a month until find out if this is a contender or a pretender.
Bridge of Spies – In just two days time I’ll be seeing Steven Spielberg’s latest at the New York Film Festival. All eyes are on this one, since it feels like a ready made winner in a ton of categories, even if that’s not what I’m currently predicting. Tom Hanks could return to the Best Actor lineup, among many other aspects of this film, so stay tuned for my Tweet out of NYFF this weekend. It could foreshadow if we have a big time threat or a small scale player here.
By the Sea – This passion project from Angelina Jolie stars herself and husband Pitt as a married couple, instantly aligning this one with some of the classic pairings of yesteryear. This will also debut at AFI Fest, which always reveals one or two late stage players. Could this be one of them? We’ll find out in November, but if you ask me now, I think it’s a bit of a long shot. That’s just a hunch though, so sit tight for the actual answer next month.
Concussion – A lot of the chatter about this one has centered on its relationship with the NFL during […]

“Steve Jobs”: Ten Films to see in October

Folks, it’s just about to become October, and that’s crazy to me. It’s the thick of the fall festival season, which means that we’re also officially knee deep in awards season now. I think this month is one of the very best of the year so far, especially in terms of new releases, though that sort of goes without saying as we move deeper into the fall. As you’ll see, a multitude of Academy Award possibilities are hitting theaters, so that alone is a major boost to cinema offerings. Of course, there’s no assurance of Oscar attention, but I’m of the opinion that whenever we have a bunch of contenders circling the wagons, as it were, it’s a good thing. As such, this could be a really good month indeed. Take a look below and I’ll be more than happy to show you what October has to offer up for you all…
Here now are the ten best bets for flicks to see in the month of October:
10. Suffragette – One of a handful of civil rights related awards hopefuls for 2015, this one I can’t quite figure out. Reviews have been fine, the cast has been praised, but something about it seems slightly too on the nose for the Academy too fully embrace. Carey Mulligan might be its main hope, but we shall see. I had originally been scheduled to see it today, but now that’s happening early next week, so stay tuned there.
9. The Walk – I enjoyed Robert Zemeckis’ latest flick, particularly the third act, when the spectacle takes over and you see things you’ve never seen on screen before. This is probably not a contender outside of the technical categories, which is bad news for those hoping to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt nominated, but it’s a very entertaining film nonetheless. Just wait until you see the third act…
8. Our Brand is Crisis – Yes, I was predicting this to win Best Picture and Best Director for a fair bit of time. That time has seemingly come and gone, but perhaps the precursors will revive its chances? Sandra Bullock at least seems like a potential Best Actress nominee still, so there’s that. I tend to be a David Gordon Green fan, so even if it’s not his Oscar winner, it still could be a quirky good time at the movies.
7. Burnt – This is a big curiosity for me. […]

“Spotlight”: Another September look at Oscar predictions

My oh my how things can change! Just a few weeks ago, I put up Oscar predictions for September that I thought I was pretty confident in. Alas, nothing stays the same, so now I’m back with an updated look at what the Academy Award nominations could look like. I’m going to two a month from now on, with potentially one a week by the end of the season, but right now, it’s time to get serious. You’ll notice a bunch of changes in the predictions, mostly spurred on by having seen some of the contenders, a few of which are now pretenders, quite honestly. That’s the name of the game though, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to either you or me. On my end, I’m just still trying to get a feel for the race. What you’ll see today reflects a more realistic look at the field than before, so there’s that as well. It’ll get updated again next month, obviously, but for now…this is it.
The main thing to notice below is my new winner. Having seen Spotlight, which is a masterpiece, I honestly think it could go all the way. The film will be among the most beloved this year, has important subject matter, sharp direction by Tom McCarthy, and incredibly acting, especially from Michael Keaton as well as Mark Ruffalo, the latter giving the performance of the year so far. I could easily see it winning Best Picture, as it is undeniably the frontrunner at this point. You’ll also notice me backing off of Our Brand is Crisis completely and settling in on a new middle ground for The Martian, as well as placing The Big Short in the running for things in a bunch of categories. Things have been tinkered with all around, but there will be more done soon enough, so stay tuned…
Here now is how I see the Academy Award nominations going down, as of today:
1. Spotlight
2. Bridge of Spies
3. Steve Jobs
4. The Revenant
5. Carol
6. The Hateful Eight
7. Brooklyn
8. The Martian
9. Room
10. Joy
Next in line: 11. The Danish Girl 12. The Light Between Oceans (possible 2016 release) 13. Inside Out 14. The Big Short 15. Truth 16. Beasts of No Nation 17. Sicario 18. Miles Ahead (possible 2016 release) 19. Our Brand is Crisis 20. The Walk 21. By the Sea 22. Macbeth 23. Suffragette 24. The End of the […]

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