Cannes 2011: The Winners

Monday, May 23, 2011 at 10:40 am

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CANNES, FRANCE. The 64th Cannes Film Festival provided an exceptionally rich and varied slate and the jury--headed by Robert De Niro--proved both gracious and judicious in dividing their prizes among eight films.

As expected, Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life won the Palme d'Or, which was accepted on behalf of the reclusive director by his producer Bill Poland. The award seemed a forgone conclusion, thanks to the bizarre press conference performance that resulted in Melancholia's director Lars Von Trier being banned from the festival. Another powerful contender, Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan's challenging police procedural Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, was likely shown too late in the festival to wrest the Palme from The Tree, although it's a tribute to the movie's partisans that it split the second place Grand Prix with the Dardenne brothers' The Kid With a Bike. The third place Prix du Jury went to Polisse, a melodramatic portrait of the Paris Child Protection Unit. Resplendent in a revealing red toga and bondage high heels, the director Maïwenn gave the award ceremony's liveliest performance--the exaggerated sighs with which she gave thanks for her prize were as hilariously bogus as the movie itself.


Sofia Coppola Wins the Golden Lion at Venice

Monday, September 13, 2010 at 10:24 am

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Back from the Lido, I learned that Somewhere, Sofia Coppola's slight, stringent, not-quite sentimental tale of a movie star on the edge of a nervous breakdown and the 11-year-old daughter that loves him, had won the Golden Lion at the 67th Venice Film Festival--the "unanimous choice" per jury president Quentin Tarantino.

I was rooting for the festival's other American indie, Kelly Reichardt's Meek's Cutoff (in which, not a celeb but a wagon train of western settlers find themselves lost) to pull off an upset; I also imagined that a Tarantino-led jury, which also included French director Arnaud Desplechin, might decide to anoint Hong Kong veteran Tsui Hark for his enjoyably outré historical pageant, Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame.

Still, I can't say that the choice of Somewhere came as a surprise...

Growing Pains: Inside the SXSW Film Awards

Wednesday, March 17, 2010 at 12:08 am
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Tonight's SXSW Film Awards began with a speech, apparently conceived at the last minute, by SXSW co-founder and <em>Austin Chronicle</em> editor Louis Black. With negative buzz building against the festival's overcrowded screenings (lines routinely circled blocks, and at some highly-anticipated screenings in small venues, reportedly only a small number of paying customers made it in the door after press and VIPs snagged their seats), Black gave some much-needed perspective on SXSW's history, both distant and recent.

Founded as a "little regional music event" in the hopes that it might draw bands from a handful of neighboring states, Black said, "by the third year, we were international." With the music festival a success,  "after seven years we decided to start this cute little film festival." But the SXSW team again thought too small.

"We weren't paying attention, but suddenly Austin had a nationally known film community," Black said, citing big, local names like Richard Linklater, Robert Rodriguez and Mike Judge as members. "In the old days, we used to all have parties together. Now, we're too busy to even <em>have</em> parties."

According to Black, when overcrowding emerged as the major issue of SXSW 2010 during its first weekend, the festival was once again unprepared for thier growth spurt, and though they couldn't immediately solve the problem of too much demand for a limited supply of seats, they took instant steps to stop the bleeding. "When we sold out the Paramount Theater on badges alone, we immediately took film badges off sale. And started to worry."

It remains to be seen whether or not SXSW Film will be able to solve their scaling problem by next year's festival. And in this distribution climate, it's by no means guaranteed that even the most in-demand films screened here will ever be seen by a mass audience. But tonight's the grand prize winners sure as hell deserve to be.

Kathryn Bigelow's Groundbreaking Hurt Locker Win at the 82nd Academy Awards

Monday, March 8, 2010 at 7:41 am

The 82nd Academy Awards were a referendum on what Oscar voters value, versus what moviegoers are willing to pay for.

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Director Kathryn Bigelow accepts her Oscar for The Hurt Locker
The headline will be Kathryn Bigelow's stunning, groundbreaking achievement as the first woman to win Best Picture. But considering the Academy's concerted effort to expand the audience for this year's awards by opening up the Best Picture category to 10 nominees, maybe this broken record is more significant: The Hurt Locker is the lowest grossing movie in decades (possibly ever, if adjusted for inflation) to win Best Picture.

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The Hurt Locker
Two nights before the Oscars, I attended the Independent Spirit Awards, a less formal ceremony designed to honor lesser-known films, thereby bolstering the independent film community in the face of the Academy's total indifference to non-studio film. As the old joke goes, those who win at the Spirits are doomed to lose the same weekend at the Oscars. This year, it didn't quite go that way: winners at both events included Jeff Bridges, Mo'Nique and, maybe most surprisingly, Precious screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher.


Mo'Nique: Is Not Having an Act Her Act?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010 at 11:56 am


Is Precious star Mo'Nique the "least superficial actress ever?" Such is the query posed by this NY Daily News item, which commends the Soul Plane actress for having "more important things on her mind than personal grooming," such as "dedicat[ing] her win to abuse victims everywhere."

This newsflash, complete with extreme close-up on the actresses' unshaven legs on the Golden Globes red carpet, plays into the "Mo'Nique refuses to play by Hollywood's rules," meme that's been going around ever since Precious (then called Push) debuted a year ago at Sundance. But isn't not playing the game its own kind of game playing? Aren't Mo'Nique's unshaven legs (or her namedropping of "real person" brands such as El Pollo Loco, as in the video above) just a version of former Best Supporting Actress winner Angelina Jolie's tattoos, so "shocking" for a starlet back in the late 90s and now shorthand for an "Angelina Jolie type"? Or is this sort of thing just a way to talk up Mo'Nique's general "outsider" cred (as a black woman with a predominantly non-white fanbase, as a comedienne playing it straight), without actually talking about it?

Regardless of Mo'Nique's strategy or lack thereof, it seems unfathomable at this point that anything could get in the way of her and Oscar. That said, the people seem less impressed than the press. The Daily News ultimately turns the issue over to their readers via a poll, which right now is trending overwhelmingly towards the negative verdict, "It's gross, period." 

Taylor Lautner Saves The Hurt Locker

Friday, January 15, 2010 at 1:19 pm
This New York Times story about all the ways in which the known geniuses at NBC are trying to boost ratings for this Sunday's Golden Globe awards ends on a high note.

In addition to "turning up the volume on the marketing," hiring Ricky Gervais to host, and producing pre-broadcast, hype-building webisodes (this apparently worked for the American Music Awards but you know it really didn't cause we're talking about WEBISODES), the Globes social secretary is seating attractive, young people at ugly, old people tables so that the cameras won't melt when they are inevitably forced to focus on the less handsome casts of nominated movies and TV shows.

Lining up younger stars has been a priority. Seated with "The Hurt Locker" contingent will be Taylor Lautner, the beefcake star of "The Twilight Saga: New Moon." "He will be there to make the table look glamorous," Mr. Berk said.

This is clearly a good plan and an awesome social experiment. Which star of Gossip Girl will seat with the ladies of Precious? TUNE IN TO FIND OUT!