January 02, 2015

Tag Archives: steven spielberg

2015 releases to look forward to

Happy New Year! With 2014 now just a memory, we turn our attention to 2015 and what cinematic treasures the next 12 months will hold. Between now and the end of January we’ll have all manner of films hitting screens, from franchise reboots to sequels, with the occasional original property thrown in for good measure. Of course, there’s plenty of Oscar hopefuls in the mix as well, as you might imagine. There are untold amounts of independent awards contenders that we don’t even know exist yet, so it’s impossible to guess what will hit as this moment, but speculation is always welcome. As such, I’ll be going over a bunch of the 2015 releases worth being excited about, with just about all of them potential Academy Award players. Enjoy!
Here now are a sampling of the films to be excited about this year, separated by category:
Indies – The problem with trying to speculate about indies is you never know what’s going to happen with distribution. For example, we have a Terrence Malick film in Knight of Cups that presumably will come out this year, but we’ve been fooled by his potential release dates before. There’s also at least one Kevin Smith film to look forward to (the teen centric action comedy Yoga Hosers), though he shoots so quickly these days there might be more than one. Notable as well is Richard Linklater’s follow up to Boyhood, the spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused that is That’s What I’m Talking About. Matthew McConaughey also looks for another Oscar nomination in Gus Van Sant’s Sea of Trees, and that’s just a small sample.
Prestige players – These are the ones that even a year out, you can clearly see want to be embraced by the Academy. First and foremost, we have film masters in Martin Scorsese (Silence), Steven Spielberg (Untitled Cold War Spy Thriller, which stars Tom Hanks), and Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight), and that doesn’t even include the now Oscar darling that is David O. Russell (Joy). There’s also another directorial outing by Angelina Jolie (By the Sea), one that stars her and hubby Brad Pitt. There are tons more but two others worth mentioning are Jake Gyllenhaal’s attempt to win an Academy Award by teaming up with Jean-Marc Valle (Demolition) and the Steve Jobs biopic (Jobs). Expect at least a few of these to wind up getting Best Picture nominations.
Sequels – […]

NYFF’s Secret Screening: what could it be?

Yesterday it was announced that there would be a Special Screening at the 52nd New York Film Festival. Last year, the fest didn’t have a “Secret Screening” like it had done the prior two years, so the announcement has immediately led to some speculation about what title will be playing. There’s a highly likely choice, along with some longer shots that I’ll be discussing momentarily, but I just wanted to quickly state for the record…no, there’s no chance that it’s Star Wars: Episode VII. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can move on.
Previously, NYFF has debuted early looks at big Academy Award players that year in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, but this year they’ve done something different in scoring a 2015 release. Depending on how you interpret that, it’s either something literally not coming out until next year, or it’s something that won’t be wide until next year and currently is scheduled for a 2014 Oscar qualifying run. If it’s the latter, more possibilities arise, but if it’s the former…well, I think I know what it’s going to be.
So what films are in contention to play? Well, there are a few rumors out there, but one flick stands tall above the rest due to being from a filmmaker who often plays at NYFF. You’ll see that in the next paragraph, but I just want to reiterate that it’s not going to be something massive in all likelihood. Also, it’s not going to be something that hasn’t finished shooting or even shot yet, so don’t look for Scorsese’s Silence, Spielberg’s Untitled Cold War Project, or Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. They’re just not going to happen.
The most likely title by far is Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young. Baumbach was at the fest two years ago with Frances Ha and is no stranger to NYFF. In fact, he actually shot a small section of the movie at the festival, so it would be a perfect fit in a lot of ways. Many were surprised that it wasn’t in the initial lineup, so it’s very possible that the programmers of the fest were simply waiting to give it this unique spot to showcase itself after a solid debut up at the Toronto Film Festival a week or two ago. The odds heavily favor Baumbach and his cast, which includes Ben Stiller, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Naomi […]

The 85th Academy Awards: If I had been a voter

Today I’ll be going back once again and looking at a recent Oscar lineup and explaining what my vote would have been in each of the big eight categories. I mentioned that potentially I could do this once a week with previous Academy Award ceremonies, and while I’m going to be doing that here and there, there’s a chance that this could turn into a long running thing. Again, if nothing else, this gives you an interesting look into my cinematic tastes. Over the course of the year you can sort of get a feel for what my current favorites are, but now we can look to the past a bit more.
Alright, here goes nothing:
Best Picture – Argo
The nominees here for this ceremony were Amour, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, Les Miserables, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty. When you factor in that it was my favorite film of 2012, a vote for Best Picture winner Argo would be a pretty clear and decisive choice here (the rare occasion when my favorite movie of the year actually wins the Oscar). I wouldn’t argue with a vote for Django Unchained, Silver Linings Playbook, or Zero Dark Thirty, but Ben Affleck’s flick was far and away my number one.
Best Director – David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook
I’d have voted for Affleck here, but shockingly (and insanely) he wasn’t nominated. The actual nominees were Ang Lee for Life of Pi, Michael Haneke for Amour, David O. Russell for Silver Linings Playbook, Steven Spielberg for Lincoln, and Benh Zeitlin for Beasts of the Southern Wild. Without Affleck, I very nearly went with Spielberg here, but in the end I just like Russell’s movie better. The aforementioned Affleck is easily my personal pick overall, but Russell is my choice of the actual nominees.
Best Actor – Joaquin Phoenix for The Master
In an absolutely perfect world, I’d have seen Denis Lavant in the lineup for Holy Motors and subsequently he’d have been my vote, but that was always a super long shot. The actual nominees here though were Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook, Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln, Hugh Jackman for Les Miserables, Joaquin Phoenix for The Master, and Denzel Washington for Flight. Everyone is very worthy here and I actually really came close to selecting eventual winner Day-Lewis, but Phoenix was just so incredible and showed me […]

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 […]

“American Sniper”: Bradley Cooper and Clint Eastwood enter the Oscar race

Yesterday it was announced that Clint Eastwood will have a second 2014 release hoping to sway Academy voters, and this one is a far more appealing fit for Oscar. It’s his adaptation of American Sniper, which Bradley Cooper stars in and has championed to the big screen. Cooper in fact initially had Steven Spielberg lined up to direct, but when he had to step away, Eastwood came on board and seemingly has utilized his efficient filmmaking techniques and gotten the project ready for release this year. Instead of coming out in 2015, American Sniper now is prepping for an Oscar qualifying release at the end of December.
For those of you unaware what American Sniper is about, it’s an adaptation of the novel by Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL who recorded over 150 kills as a sniper before tragically dying on home turf in a shooting accident. Cooper will play Kyle, while the supporting cast includes the likes of Kyle Gallner, Lucas Grimes, Sam Jaeger, Sienna Miller, and more. The screenplay is by Jason Dean Hall and of course Eastwood is behind the camera. There’s certainly some potential here for awards attention, no doubt about that.
Back when Eastwood made Million Dollar Baby, this same release strategy was used to great effect. That was another film that initially wasn’t on the calendar, but then snuck up on folks. I remember the late Roger Ebert being one of the first to talk about it, saying it was going to win Best Picture, and go figure…it did. It also won Best Actress for Hilary Swank and Best Director for Eastwood, so I’m sure the powers that be are hoping that the same thing can happen here, just substituting Cooper into the Best Actor field instead.
If this film is good, one can certainly see it contending in the Best Picture, Best Director (for Eastwood), Best Actor (for Cooper), Best Supporting Actor (for Grimes perhaps), Best Supporting Actress (for Miller), Best Adapted Screenplay, and various technical Oscar categories. My guess is that Best Picture and Best Actor will be the major plays, as Cooper could look to turn his potential third nomination into his first Academy Award win. That’s just a hunch, but it’s not a total shot in the dark either.
Now, Eastwood hasn’t had the best track record with his movies of late. I’d in fact argue that you have to go back to the […]

“Annie Hall”: The Top 25 (Best Picture)

All good things must come to an end at some point. Yes folks, this is the final installment of this series of mine, and as such, it’s (hopefully) a bit of a doozy…the Best Picture field. Without a doubt, this is the big one, so it’s the one where the list will be the most important and I hope interesting to look at as well. Obviously, I could go on and on in preparation right now, waxing poetic and teasing, but at this point I know how the game works here for everyone. You all just want to see the lists that I do anyhow, so I have no problem obliging you good people there in that particular regard one more time. All you have to do is just be patient over the next paragraph or so and you’ll get the goods front and center for your reading pleasure…
One last time, try not to bury the lead and I’ll jump right into discussing my top ten a bit here now. To me, the best winner of this category so far to date has been Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. The best romantic comedy of all time, Allen’s Best Picture winner is a perfect film to me, so it’s not even close between this one and all the rest. That being said, the next two runners up aren’t miles behind. They’re Steven Spielberg’s heartbreaking Schindler’s List and Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs. Two very different works, but also two basically perfect ones. Rounding out the top five I have Billy Wilder’s The Apartment and Sam Mendes’ American Beauty, the latter of which is likely too high for some, but hey…it’s my list, right? Exactly. That’s a strong top five in my eyes, and the top ten consists of Ben Affleck’s Argo, John G. Avildsen’s Rocky, Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby, and Milos Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. There’s not a weak one in that lot, and I’d especially say that Argo is still moving upwards for me. I could see it pushing towards the top five in the next decade, but again, that’s just me. There’s really no way to not come up with an amazing top ten, just like there’s no way not to leave off a ton of worthy contenders in a top 25. You could easily go 30 or 40 […]

Steven Spielberg: The Top 25 (Best Director)

Here we go again folks with another Top 25 article today, and it’s one of the big ones. Yes, this time around I’ll be tackling one of the biggest of the big eight categories in an effort not to save them all for very last. This one is the Best Director field. This is another category that usually has a rather big tie in with Best Picture, as you’ll see below to some degree once again. As always, I have a few specific titles I’ll be citing in detail later on in this piece, but by now I know how the game works here. You all mostly just want to see the lists I do anyhow, so I have no problem obliging you good folks there in that particular regard once again. All you have to do is just be patient over the next paragraph or so and you’ll get the goods front and center…
This time around, I’m once again going to be going with the overview route as you might have guessed, especially since a bunch of these Oscar winners I’ll be discussing once again when we get to Best Picture in a few weeks. Also, it really just comes down to taste again here, with your opinion influencing what sort of winner you’re particularly partial to. It’s pretty much a matter of taste once again for us all, which is commonplace at this point. I know a couple of of my selections are going to seem a bit on the odd side, especially when you see how high I ranked certain ones (especially considering their genre), but that’s just the way it is. You can’t please everyone with this sort of a thing.
I’ll basically just discuss my top ten a bit here now. To me, the best winner of this category so far to date has been Steven Spielberg’s win for Schindler’s List. I briefly toyed with having his direction of Saving Private Ryan in the top spot, but Schindler’s List is basically perfect filmmaking, so I had to anoint it here. Also in the top five we have Woody Allen for Annie Hall, Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker, Mike Nichols for The Graduate, and the aforementioned Spielberg’s work on Saving Private Ryan. Rounding out the top ten are the likes of Michael Curtiz for Casablanca, Elia Kazan for On the Waterfront, David Lean for Lawrence of […]

Spotlight on the Stars: Tom Cruise

For this week’s spotlight piece, I wanted to take a look at a real A-lister, and that happens to be Tom Cruise. For some, he’s become just an aging action hero, while others long for the days when he still did drama. Personally, I’m still enamored with the star power of Cruise in anything he does. He also happens to be an underrated actor, which you wouldn’t have believed just a decade ago when he seemed poised to finally win an Oscar. Yes, he does seem mostly geared towards action these days, but Cruise built his career working with A-list filmmakers. He got to the top by acting in the movies of the best in the business.
Cruise has worked with a lot of top notch directors over his career. Names like J.J. Abrams, Paul Thomas Anderson, Brad Bird, Cameron Crowe, Brian De Palma, Stanley Kubrick, Michael Mann, Robert Redford, Rob Reiner, Martin Scorsese, Tony Scott, Steven Spielberg, Oliver Stone, John Woo, and Edward Zwick litter his resume, and they’re not the only ones. This weekend’s Edge of Tomorrow adds Doug Liman to that list as well. If you look at his best performances, they often come from real auteurs like Anderson, Crowe, Kubrick, and Spielberg. I’d argue that the man has never given a bad performance, but those top tier ones have come from the biggest names in Hollywood.
If you look at his work, he’s shown an ability to do just about everything. He’s obviously become a tremendous movie star, and it was partially because he wasn’t pigeonholed. He was an action star in films like the Mission: Impossible franchise and something like Top Gun, a romantic lead in comedy/dramedy work like Jerry Maguire and Risky Business, a dramatic lead in awards bait like Born on the Fourth of July and Rain Man, and even could completely disappear into a supporting role in films like Magnolia and Tropic Thunder (where he demonstrated real comedy chops too). I’d argue there’s nothing that the man can’t do. He just needs to mix it up more. I’m fully confident that if he committed himself to doing a drama or an indie film every other year or so, he’d have another Oscar nomination before long and he’d probably be on pace to eventually win himself an Academy Award.
Overall, Cruise is an incredibly talented actor who still has a ton of miles still to […]

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 […]

Golden Globe Awards Announce 2014 Nominees

The race for the 2014 Golden Globe awards is officially underway with the announcement of the nominees, and award watchers have finally got an indication of which films and actors are headed for Golden Globe glory.
12 Years A Slave and the comedy-drama American Hustle top the list of nominations with seven each.
Zoe Saldana, Olivia Wilde and Aziz Ansari were introduced by HFPA president Theo Kingma at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and announced the following nominations:
1. BEST MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
a 12 YEARS A SLAVE
Plan B Entertainment, New Regency Productions and River Road Entertainment; Fox Searchlight Pictures
b CAPTAIN PHILLIPS
Columbia Pictures; Sony Pictures Releasing
c GRAVITY
Warner Bros. Pictures / Esperanto Filmoj / Heyday Films; Warner Bros. Pictures
d PHILOMENA
Pathe, BBC Films, BFI, Canal+, Cine+, Baby Cow/Magnolia Mae; The Weinstein Company
e RUSH
Universal Pictures, Cross Creek Pictures, Exclusive Media, Imagine Entertainment, Working Title, Revolution Films; Universal Pictures
2. BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
a Cate Blanchett BLUE JASMINE
b Sandra Bullock GRAVITY
c Judi Dench PHILOMENA
d Emma Thompson SAVING MR. BANKS
e Kate Winslet LABOR DAY
3. BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – DRAMA
a Chiwetel Ejiofor 12 YEARS A SLAVE
b Idris Elba MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM
c Tom Hanks CAPTAIN PHILLIPS
d Matthew McConaughey DALLAS BUYERS CLUB
e Robert Redford ALL IS LOST
4. BEST MOTION PICTURE – COMEDY OR MUSICAL
a AMERICAN HUSTLE
Columbia Pictures and Annapurna Pictures; Sony Pictures Releasing
b HER
Warner Bros. Pictures / Annapurna Pictures; Warner Bros. Pictures
c INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
Mike Zoss Productions, Scott Rudin Productions, Studio Canal; CBS Films
d NEBRASKA
Paramount Vantage; Paramount Pictures
e THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
Paramount Pictures and Red Granite Pictures; Paramount Pictures
5. BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – COMEDY OR MUSICAL
a AMY ADAMS AMERICAN HUSTLE
b JULIE DELPY BEFORE MIDNIGHT
c GRETA GERWIG FRANCES HA
d JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS ENOUGH SAID
e MERYL STREEP AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY
6. BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A MOTION PICTURE – COMEDY OR MUSICAL
a CHRISTIAN BALE AMERICAN HUSTLE
b BRUCE DERN NEBRASKA
c LEONARDO DICAPRIO THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
d OSCAR ISAAC INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
e JOAQUIN PHOENIX HER
7. BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
a THE CROODS
DreamWorks Animation LLC; Twentieth Century Fox
b DESPICABLE ME 2
Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment; Universal Pictures
c FROZEN
Walt Disney Animation Studios; Walt Disney Pictures
8. BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
a BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR
FRANCE)
(La vie d’Adele, chapitres 1 et 2)
Quat’sous Films; IFC Films
b THE GREAT BEAUTY
(ITALY)
(La Grande Bellezza)
Indigo Film, Medusa Film, BABE Films; Janus Films
c THE HUN
(DENMARK)
(Jagten)
Zentropa Entertainment; Magnolia Pictures
d THE PAST
(IRAN)
(Le passé)
Memento Films Production, France 3 Cinema, BIM Distribuzione;
Sony Pictures Classics
e THE WIND RISES
(JAPAN)
(Kaze tachinu)
Studio Ghibli; Touchstone Pictures
9. BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MOTION PICTURE
a SALLY HAWKINS BLUE JASMINE
b JENNIFER LAWRENCE AMERICAN HUSTLE
c LUPITA NYONG’O 12 YEARS A SLAVE
d JULIA ROBERTS AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY
e JUNE SQUIBB NEBRASKA
10. BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MOTION PICTURE
a BARKHAD ABDI CAPTAIN PHILLIPS
b DANIEL BRÜHL RUSH
c BRADLEY COOPER AMERICAN HUSTLE
d MICHAEL FASSBENDER 12 YEARS A SLAVE
e JARED […]

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