Dec 31, 2010

Some people can be so rude

"Michelle Williams is... able to completely transform into a distraught, resentful, shell of her former self." —, quoted on the poster of Blue Valentine no less

Dec 29, 2010

Pixar goes postal

These new USPS stamps depicting Pixar characters please me no end. I think it's the mixture of mass-reproduced iconicity, tiny size plus nostalgia for obsolescent media — Pixar in a nutshell.

Film Poster of the Year: Animal Kingdom

Yahoo picks the best and worst movie posters of 2010, but omits my favorite, for Animal Kingdom (left). I defy anyone to pass this on the street without pause.

Dec 28, 2010

REVIEW: True Grit (dir. Joel and Ethan Coen)

'The new “True Grit” is that rare thing — a truly religious movie. In the John Wayne version religiosity is just an occasional flourish not to be taken seriously. In this movie it is everything, not despite but because of its refusal to resolve or soften the dilemmas the narrative delivers up.' — Stanley Fish
It's a great piece of commentary, worth reading in its entirety, which gets quite close to the type of filmmakers the Coens are in the process of becoming. I've always thought of them as like Kubrick but with sense of humor — as close to a working definition of a Higher Power as I will ever come. Not that they are getting religion, exactly, but the more they ease up on the screaming fat men (a blemish from which not even True Grit is wholly free), the more classically American they feel. Are there filmmakers working today more knottily rooted in their own backyard? Almost every other director of note is either jetting off into hyper-space, or enthusiastically plumbing inner-space, and while no Coens movie can shake itself entirely free of the suspicion that the whole thing is unfurling in the brother's frontal lobes — Fargo, in particular seemed close to a full-on conceptual white-out — their best movies carve up very real quadrants of the map, dig deep into the local exotica, put down gnarly roots. They’ve set down in New York in the 1950s (The Hudsucker Proxy), Los Angeles in the 1940s (Barton Fink), Mississippi in the 1930s (Oh Brother Where Art Thou?) and 1990s (The Ladykillers), Texas in the 1980s (Blood Simple) make that twice (No Country For Old Men), Minnesota in the 1960s (A Serious Man) and 1990s (Fargo), not to mention Arizona, Washington, North Dakota, Santa Rosa and now Arkansas in the 1880s — nothing less than a patchwork quilt of America. None of which should lead us to think that the Coens are getting all patriotic on us, either. The angry mob of locals that chases them from every region they portray, from angry Arizonans to miffed Minnesotans, should tell us that their eye, and ear, is too pitiless for that. Though the film's box office is heartening, True Grit is too cussed and cruel to make nice with Christmas audiences; it shrinks beneath the hug of mainstream acceptance. The Coens seem destined to remain strangers in their own home. But this is what makes them so American, I think. The America they connects with is not the America of Wayne, Spielberg, Rockwell — those great maximalists, celebrants of home and hearth — but the spindly, astringent minimalists who have charted it's itinerant underside: the America of Wyeth's paintings, Hammett's prose, the comic diminuendos of fellow Minnesotan Charles Shulz, the clean lines of quaker furniture and puritan virtue, and the "plain language, devoid of all ornament" identified by de Tocqueville. "Well, that didn't pan out like I thought," says Rooster, after one particularly bloody imbroglio. Neither does the film. As Fish points out, it's not a whole barrel of fun; its wintery landscapes are leached of color, its plot robbed of forward thrust by fidelity to the meandering byways of Portis's plot (is there a limit to the number of times Le Boeuf can change his mind about whether he wants to be with the other two or not?), but it may be the most authentic American period piece since Michael Mann's Last of the Mohicans, knotted and bony and fascinating, and I'm ready to forgive it much for the sheer bliss of its penultimate scene, in which all the film's cruelty and cussedness fall away, like flesh from the bone, for a single, selfless act of rescue. The sequence is touched by genuine magic, the landscape scrolling behind Rooster by means of a Night-Of-The-Hunterish back-projection which seems to cradle the moviegoer as carefully as Cogburn's cradles the unconscious Mattie. The effect is almost transcendentally comforting and easily the most touching thing the Coens have ever filmed. So no, they are not about ready to get God — they remain as thrillingly atheist as they come — but in His absence, they do seem to be filling His boots a little more responsibly. B

The most promising movies of 2011

Viggo Mortenson plays Sigmund Freud in David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method
(d: Steven Soderbergh, w: Lem Dobbs, Michael Fassbender)

The Way Back
(d: Peter Weir, Ed Harris, Colin Farrell)
January 21

(d: Gus Van Sant, Mia Wasikowska)
January 28

(d: Gore Verbinski, Johnny Depp)
March 4

Certified Copy
(d: Abbas Kiarostami, Juliette Binoche)
IFC Films
March 11

Jane Eyre
(Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender)

Red Riding Hood
(d: Catherine Hardwicke, Amanda Seyfried)
Warner Bros

(d: Greg Mottola, Seth Rogen, Simon Pegg)
March 18

(d: Richard Ayoade)
The Weinstein Company

Source Code
(d: Duncan Jones, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan)
April 1

(d: Joe Wright, Saoirse Ronan, Cate Blanchett)
April 8

Your Highness
(d: David Gordon Green, Portman, James Franco)

Water for Elephants
(d: Francis Lawrence, Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon)
April 15

The Tree of Life
(d: Terrence Malick, Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain)
Fox Searchlight
May 27

(d:Mike Mills, Christopher Plummer, Ewan McGregor, Melanie Laurent)
Focus Features
June 3

Super 8
(d: J.J. Abrams, Elle Fanning)
June 10

Rise of the Apes
(James Franco)
20th Century Fox
June 24

Larry Crowne
(d: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts)
July 1

Captain America: The First Avenger
(d: Joe Johnston)
July 22nd

Cowboys & Aliens
(d: Jon Favreau, Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde)
July 29

The Whistleblower
(d: Larysa Kondracki, Rachel Weisz, Monica Bellucci)

We Need To Talk About Kevin
(d: Lynne Ramsay, Tilda Swinton)
September 2nd

Midnight in Paris
(d: Woody Allen, Rachel Mcadams, Marion Cotillard, Owen Wilson)
Sept 9th

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
(d: Thomas Alfredson, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth)
Working Title
Sept 16

Straw Dogs
(d: Rod Lurie, Kate Bosworth)
Screen Gems

(d: Bennett Miller, Brad Pitt, Philip Seymour Hoffman)
Sept 23

Dream House
(d: Jim Sheridan, Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz)
September 30th

(d: Mike Niccols, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy)
20th Century Fox
September 3oth

One Day
(d: Lone Scherfig, Jim Sturgess, Ann Hathaway)
Focus Features
September 30th

(d: Steven Soderbergh, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet)
Warner Bros
October 21

Hugo Cabret
(d: Martin Scorsese, Chloe Moretz, Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen)
December 9th

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
(d: David Fincher, Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig)
December 21st

We Bought A Zoo
(d: Cameron Crowe, w: Aline Brosh Mckenna, Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson)
December 23rd

The Adventures of Tin Tin: Secret of the Unicorn
(d: Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson)

The War Horse
(d: Steven Spielberg, David Thewlis, Emily Watson, Peter Mullan)
December 28th

The Ides of March
(d: George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood, Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman)
To Be Announced

A Dangerous Method
(d: David Cronenberg, Viggo Mortenson, Michael Fassbender)
To Be Announced

My Week With Marilyn
(Michelle Williams, Kenneth Branagh)
To Be Announced

Young Adult
(d: Jason Reitman, w: Diablo Cody, Charleze Theron)
To Be Announced

This Must Be The Place
(Sean Penn, Frances McDormand, Harry Dean Stanton)
To Be Announced

The Descendants
(d: Alexander Payne, George Clooney)
To Be Announced

Nanjing Heroes

(d: Zhang Yimou, Christian Bale)

To Be Announced

Damsels In Distress
(d: Whit Stillman, Greta Gerwig)
Castle Rock

On The Road
(d: Walter Salles, Viggo Mortenson, Kirsten Stewart)
Fall TBA

(d: Linklater, McConaughey, Jack Black)
Fall TBA

(d: Steve McQueen, Carey Mullican, Fassbender)
Fall TBA

We Need to Talk About Kevin
(d: Lynne Ramsay, Tilda Swinton)

Twixt Now and Sunrise
(d: Coppola, Val Kilmer, Elle Fanning)

Wuthering Heights
(d; Andrea Arnold)

(Jennifer Garner, Hugh Jackman)
The Weinstein Company