Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: December 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

2011 Online Film Critics Society Award Nominees

by Tony Dayoub

From the Online Film Critics Society (of which I am a proud member):
The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick's exploration of suburban family life in the 1950's, received seven nominations for the 15th Annual Online Film Critics Society awards. The film was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director (Malick), Best Supporting Actor (Brad Pitt), Best Supporting Actress (Jessica Chastain), Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Cinematography.

Joining The Tree of Life in Best Picture are Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist, Alexander Payne's The Descendants, Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive and Martin Scorsese's Hugo. Malick, Hazanavicius, Refn and Scorsese were joined in the Best Director race by Melancholia director Lars von Trier.

Drive was the second most nominated film picking up six mentions including the aforementioned Picture and Director as well as Best Supporting Actor (Albert Brooks), Best Adapted Screenplay, Editing and Cinematography. Brooks was nominated alongside John Hawkes in Martha Marcy May Marlene, Nick Nolte in Warrior, Pitt and Christopher Plummer in Beginners. In Best Supporting Actress, the nominees were Chastain, Melissa McCarthy for Bridesmaids, Janet McTeer for Albert Nobbs, Carey Mulligan for Shame and Shailene Woodley for The Descendants.

Woodley and Mulligan's co-stars shared nominations in the Best Actor slate, George Clooney and Michael Fassbender respectively, who were nominated alongside Jean Dujardin in The Artist, Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Michael Shannon in Take Shelter. The Best Actress category features Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia, Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene, Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk About Kevin and Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn.

Each year, the OFCS also submits nominations for Special Achievement Awards, granted only by a majority vote of the membership. This year, the Online Film Critics have selected two individuals, Jessica Chastain and Martin Scorsese, to receive special citations.

Chastain's tremendous and quality-filled output this year has brought her instant acclaim and recognition marking one of the most stellar debuts in recent memory.

Scorsese has long been a champion of film preservation and with his love letter to the cinema this year, Hugo, he continues to show his admiration for film history and the many pursuits to keeping those records alive.

The full list of nominees for the 15th Annual Online Film Critics Society Awards:

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Movie Review: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close vs. We Bought a Zoo

by Tony Dayoub

Remember a few weeks ago when Sott Rudin, producer of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, made a lot of noise over film critic David Denby breaking a press embargo with his review (a positive one at that) of that film? Well, not that you care, but if you do, I have a theory. Rudin wasn't really annoyed with Denby. Over positive press Denby was giving what even the harshest of critics have deemed an adequate serial killer thriller? No, Rudin was actually staking out his position, disturbed at the thought that a similar incident would affect the Christmas Day opening of his problematic 9/11 tearjerker, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. I've been biting my tongue to hold myself back from tearing into this awful, tone-deaf movie, fearful of breaking the media gag order in place since I first saw the film on December 8th. So, at least with me, Rudin's hissy-fit must have worked. Now that opening weekend has arrived I feel liberated, though, free to warn you, patient viewer, away from this irritating ham-handed exploitation of a horrific tragedy.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Movie Review: Beginners (2011)

by Tony Dayoub

Oliver (Ewan McGregor) is a lonely graphic artist whose father has just died from cancer. He catalogues biographical events in still images, using references to history and popular culture as signposts demarcating one phase of his life from another. While he narrates Beginners, montages of these stills flash onscreen from time to time. It’s quite telling, though, that the catalytic event in the film — a conversation between Oliver and his father, Hal (Christopher Plummer), in which dad comes out of the closet — is presented as an unreliable flashback in which Hal wears a purple sweater. Oliver admits his dad probably wore a robe instead.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Movie Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

by Tony Dayoub

I was one of many who wondered about the wisdom of remaking a film which was an international phenom only one year after it played domestically. After all, there was no way a prudish Hollywood version would be able to dive into the depths of the type of depravity that the Swedish adaptation of Stieg Larsson's novel sinks the viewer into. As was the case with the American remake, Let Me In, though, David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo goes all in and maybe even further in both sexual explicitness and thematic scope. Surprisingly, it also provides further insight into Fincher's growing preoccupation with the breakdown of secrecy as a result of the increasing advances in information brokerage.

Monday, December 19, 2011

At the NYFF 2011

by Tony Dayoub

Here are some capsule reviews of films that played at the 49th New York Film Festival (NYFF11) that I failed to write about back in October, either because I didn't have the time to or just didn't see them. By no means should the short reviews be taken as an indication of the relative unimportance of these movies since many of these are among my favorites of the year.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Criterion Christmas 2011

by Tony Dayoub

As Christmas bears down on us, some things have gotten lost in the shuffle due to the sheer number of movies I'm watching for awards voting and end-of—year lists. Fortunately, you, dear reader, seem to love such lists, allowing me to use them as a sort of catchall for any reviews I've fallen behind on. Consider this one a list of my top recommendations for Criterion's 4th quarter releases or, at the very least, a small Criterion Holiday gift guide.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

RIP Bert Schneider

Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson were strolling in Central Park. It was the early '60s, and both men were unhappy, for different reasons. Bert had risen quickly through the ranks of Screen Gems, the TV arm of his father's company, Columbia Pictures. At a tender age, he had reached the lofty perch of treasurer, and had been selected to head the division, but in a bit of reverse nepotism, his father blocked his further advance. Bert was frustrated and angry. Rafelson, meanwhile, had drifted from job to job. He felt he was too smart and hip for the work he had been doing, was cut out for better things.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Blu-ray Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

by Tony Dayoub

Out on DVD and Blu-ray today, one of this year's best horror films, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, is an update of the most chilling entry in the 1970s science fiction franchise. 1972's Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, the penultimate film in the series, postulated a future in which domesticated apes turned on their masters after being organized by a once meek chimpanzee named Caesar (Roddy McDowall). For those familiar with Los Angeles history, images of rioting gorillas in a Century City set aflame still stir up uncomfortable parallels with what were then the recent Watts riots. Rise wisely avoids the racially tinged narrative of its progenitor and instead concentrates on the controversies attendant to animal lab-testing, zoological abuse, and the recent spate of chimp attacks in domestic environments.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a Worthy Remake Filled With Lonely Characters

by Tony Dayoub

The tall, athletic man introduced earlier in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as British Intelligence officer Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) walks into a class room and begins to write his name on the chalkboard. Only he does not write the name we’ve come to know him by. The typically garrulous young males attending the tony prep school remain blissfully unaware of their new teacher’s identity as he starts handing out the class assignment. But the viewer is all too keenly aware of who Prideaux is if only for the fact that we saw him shot in the back at the start of Tomas Alfredson’s film adaptation of the John le Carré novel. Is this a flashback? Or did Prideaux somehow survive the shooting? Prideaux’s mild demeanor belies his efficiency, a fact his students become aware of when a bird trapped in the chimney suddenly flies into the classroom in confusion. Prideaux rapidly pulls out a club from his desk drawer and swats the bird down to the ground where it continues to squeal in pain. As Alfredson directs the camera to capture the students’ horrified reaction, the sound of Prideaux beating the bird to death comes from off-screen...


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

American Movie(s)

The Criterion box set of a diverse group of films from a maverick production team of the late ’60s and early ’70s is way more than the sum of the individual movies it collects

by Tony Dayoub

Criterion’s latest box (available on Blu-ray and DVD), America Lost and Found: The BBS Story, is a wonderfully curated set that rewards both those unfamiliar with ’70s-era American cinema and those well versed in its behind-the-scenes accounts of the near incestuous repertory company that was at its vanguard. BBS Productions was led by producer Bert Schneider, director Bob Rafelson and former booking agent/manager Steve Blauner. As the studio system quickly faded away and America’s youth counterculture began to take hold, the independent BBS had virtual free rein from their partners at Columbia Pictures to produce films that often captured the malaise of the period, opening the door for mainstream cinema to incorporate an unprecedented realism. This freedom was earned chiefly by BBS’s success with some unlikely films like the existential biker film Easy Rider, or the elegiac The Last Picture Show.

What Criterion's box set demonstrates, with all the films presented together for the first time, is the cross-pollination that occurred between the producers, directors, writers and actors who worked on these films, collaborating to forge a new direction for American film that briefly put the responsibility for the art on the artists rather than on those bankrolling the productions. If one ignores the well-covered contributions by creative force Rafelson and directors like Peter Bogdanovich and Dennis Hopper, who virtually launched their careers with films that came to be considered the apex of their directing achievements, or familiar faces such as Jeff Bridges, Bruce Dern and Peter Fonda, who all experienced watershed moments in their respective professional paths while with BBS, there is still one surprising element to the story of the fabled production company. It is how former writer-producer Jack Nicholson emerges as a powerful talent — not just as an actor but as a director. All of this within five years, and all due to BBS.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Movie Review: Somewhere (2010)

by Tony Dayoub

As many of you have noticed, this blog has lain fallow since just before Thanksgiving. Initially, a vacation was to blame but recently, the cause has been the overwhelming amount of end-of-year movies I've had to watch (not a bad thing). In the next few days I hope to publish a few catch-up posts that will address all the movies I haven't had time to write about. Meanwhile, everything old is new again, especially if you weren't able to read it the first time. Many of you have complained about your inability to successfully click through to my work for Nomad Editions: Wide Screen. So now that the magazine folded I will begin reposting the columns I wrote for Wide Screen (in their entirety) to plug holes in my writing schedule. This review was originally published on 12/22/2010.

It's disappointing to conclude that writer-director Sofia Coppola’s latest, Somewhere, causes me to reassess her earlier film, Lost in Translation, in addition to her own potential as an artist. It's not that Somewhere is bad, or even dull. The strong performances by its two leads, Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning, along with Harris Savides’s handsome photography of a lustrous West Hollywood give one plenty to admire. But the superficiality of a tale rooted in the privileged director’s navel-gazing overwhelms the tender story of the relationship between a young actor and his daughter.