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Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday's Top 5... Most Intriguing Permanently Shelved Films

#5: Que Viva Mexico!

Just the description of Sergei Eisenstein's Que Viva Mexico makes it sound unfathomably unwieldy: an epic story encompassing Mexican culture and politics spanning the pre-Conquest era through to the Mexican Revolution, for which Eisenstein shot somewhere between 30 and 50 hours worth of footage. Before the film could be completed Eisenstein was recalled to the USSR, following which he was denied entry to the US to edit the footage and no agreement could be reached to send the footage to the USSR to be edited. A version of the film was released in 1979, 31 years after Eisenstein's death, but you can't help but wonder how it would have looked if the director had been able to put together his own final cut.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Las Vegas Film Critics Society & Utah Film Critics Association Winners

A big day for Birdman as it wins a bunch of awards from the critics out of Las Vegas and Utah. More exciting (to me at least) is that someone finally recognized the music from Frank, which has been stuck in my head for months now.

Las Vegas Film Critics Society

Best Picture: Birdman

Best Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman

Best Actress: Reese Witherspoon, Wild

Best Actor: Michael Keaton, Birdman

Best Supporting Actress: Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer

Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Best Screenplay: Birdman

Best Foreign Film: Ida

Best Documentary: Citizenfour

Best Animated Film: The Lego Movie

Best Costume Design: Guardians of the Galaxy

Best Editing: Edge of Tomorrow

Best Score: Birdman

Best Song: "I Love You All," Frank

Best Art Direction: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Cinematography: Birdman

Best Action Film: Guardians of the Galaxy

Best Comedy: Top Five

Best Horror/Sci-Fi Film: The Babadook

Best Family Film: The Lego Movie

Best Ensemble: Birdman

Breakout Filmmaker of the Year: Damien Chzelle, Whiplash

Partners in Crime: Cukor & Hepburn

In some ways, you might say that director George Cukor made Katharine Hepburn a movie star. There's an old anecdote regarding a screen test that Hepburn did for what would become her screen debut: when viewing the bulk of the test, neither producer David O. Selznick nor director George Cukor were particularly impressed. Selznick, in fact, hated Hepburn completely, while Cukor disliked the mannered style of her acting but saw something in her when she did something simple and unscripted that made him believe that she was something special and shouldn't be dismissed. Cukor was, of course, spot on, judging by Hepburn's 60 year screen career, her unmatched 4 Oscar wins, and the fact that she is second only to Meryl Streep in nominations. Together Cukor and Hepburn would make 8 feature films and 2 television films together (for the purposes of this, I'm only looking at the feature films), forming one of the all-time great director-actor relationships.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ten Years Later... Spanglish (2014)

On this day in 2004

Director: James L. Brooks
Starring: Paz Vega, Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni

Though I didn't see it in 2004, I remember that before it came out Spanglish was a film that was being predicted as a sure-fire Oscar movie by those who predict such things. And why wouldn't it be? Aside from a misstep with 1994's I'll Do Anything, director James L. Brooks had a stellar track record going into Spanglish in the form of Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News, and As Good As It Gets. All three were nominated for Best Picture (with Terms winning) and between them they earned 25 Oscar nominations. While the presence of Adam Sandler might, at any other point in his career, have signaled doom, in 2004 he wasn't so far removed from the great reviews he received for 2002's Punch-Drunk Love. Yet even with all that it superficially seemed to have going for it, it was passed over by Oscar (except for a Best Original Score nomination it was even passed over by the Golden Globes - the Golden Globes! An organization which has historically existed to reward star quality before product quality and which that year nominated the atrocious 2004 version of The Phantom of the Opera for Best Picture, Musical or Comedy). How does that happen? Well, when the movie in question is as off-putting as this one, it's a lot easier to understand.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Toronto Film Critics Association & Chicago Film Critics Association Winners

The critics from Toronto and Chicago announced their winners today, giving a lot more love to the season's early favorite Boyhood. The winners:

Toronto Film Critics Association

Best Film: Boyhood

Best Director: Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Best Actress: Marion Cotillard, The Immigrant

Best Actor: Tom Hardy, Locke

Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Clarkson, Boyhood

Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Best Screenplay: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Animated Feature: The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Best Foreign Language Film: Force Majeur

Best Documentary Film: The Overnighters

Best First Feature: The Lunchbox