Director Mike Leigh (Happy-Go-Lucky, Secrets and Lies, Topsy-Turvy, Vera Drake) seems to make a brilliant film every year, and his latest is no different. Expected to be an Oscar shoo-in for Best Picture, Another Year follows a middle class family through the course of one year. It's not so much about what happens in that year but how they decide to live it. The film stars Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton, Ruth Sheen and Lesley Manville (said to be a sure fire Oscar contender her Best Actress).
Dubbed the Australian Goodfellas, David Michôd's directorial debut won the Sundance World Cinema Dramatic Competition prize. And they sell the movie better than I Could:
"Welcome to the jungle known as the Melbourne underworld. Animal Kingdom uses this edgy locale to unspool a gripping tale of survival and revenge.
Pope Cody, an armed robber on the run from a gang of renegade detectives, is in hiding, surrounded by his roughneck friends and family. Soon, Popes nephew, Joshua J Cody, arrives and moves in with his hitherto estranged relatives. When tensions between the family and the police reach a bloody peak, J finds himself at the center of a cold-blooded revenge plot that turns the family upside down.
Wielding a formidable cinematic lexicon, writer/director David Michôd shows complete command of every frame as he shifts between simmering intensity and gut-wrenching drama. There isnt a false note in the film as it follows through on the tantalizing promise displayed in his short films and unleashes a fierce new voice in Australian cinema."
The film stars Guy Pearce, Ben Mendelsohn and Joel Edgerton.
This years SXSW may have been the most exciting yet for movies. Were starting to get a taste of the possibilities of low-budget filmmaking in the digital age. Mars is just one of many raising the bar. Here we get a lot of the same Mumblecore themes, 20-something alienation and complicated love affairs, only this time we get an ironic backdrop of a surreal mission to Mars. The film looks reminiscent of Richard Linketter's classic Waking Life.
Early last year we had no idea what the hell Joaquin Phoenix was up to. This doc by Casey Affleck is supposed to capture his new "career" in hip-hop and his recent bizarre antics. And judging from the trailer the movie looks more strange and mysterious than I once thought. I just assumed it would be a standard moc-umentary, but it might be getting at something else.
The film recently premiered at the 2010 Venice film festival, and as predicted, the critics were baffled by the whole enterprise. But I'm Still Here is sparking some furious debate and it did close to a big standing ovation. The film might even be a Sacha Baron Cohen-esque crowd-pleaser. We shall wait and see.
The first, Aurora, is Cristi Puiu's long awaited follow-up to the art-house sensation The Death of Mr. Lazarescu. This one is a bit more challenging than its predecessor. Its a three-hour opus about a man's existential crisis as he wanders around a city's bleak industrial landscape. It doesn't sound like a fun way to spend three hours, but the film has still been celebrated for its length and the hypnotic spell it casts over the audience.
The second is Radu Muntean's portrait of adulatory, Tuesday, after Christmas. It follows a man who is in love with both his wife and a new lover who offers a glimpse into a new and exciting life. Unfortunately for him, circumstances arise where he must leave one of them by Christmas.
With 2008s Wendy and Lucy, Kelly Reichardttook a simple story about a girl searching for her lost dog and turned it into one of the most moving film experiences in recent memory. She re-teams with Michelle Williams, who co-stars with Paul Dano, Bruce Greenwood, Shirley Henderson and Zoe Kazan. Instead of filming one of her intimate present-day dramas, Reichardt has opted for a historical western centered on famed American mountaineer Steven Meek. The IONCINEMA synopsis:
"The year is 1845, the earliest days of the Oregon Trail, and a wagon team of three families has hired the mountain man Stephen Meek to guide them over the Cascade Mountains. Claiming to know a short cut, Meek leads the group on an unmarked path across the high plain desert, only to become lost in the dry rock and sage. Over the coming days, the emigrants must face the scourges of hunger, thirst, and their own lack of faith in each others instincts for survival. When a Native American wanderer crosses their path, the emigrants are torn between their trust in a guide who has proven himself unreliable and a man who has always been seen as the natural enemy.
We may have Oregon Trail the motion picture here! The film has premiered at Venice to some of the best raves of the year.
"NO COMMENT" Those were the final words shown at the very end of Jean-Luc Godard's latest (and possibly last) film. It premiered at this year's Cannes to much puzzlement. The legendary filmmaker cancelled his appearance at the last minute and the film was considered by many to be completely incomprehensible. There was even discussion concerning the accuracy of the English subtitles. The film has already polarized many (some call it a masterpiece and others have completely dismissed it). If theres one thing everyone agrees on, its that Film Socialisme is unlike anything else, and it's nice to know Godard is still trying to push the limits of cinema as he approaches 80.
This may sound strange, but Iv'e watched the SXSW trailer for Lena Dunham's Tiny Furniture more times than probably any other trailer this year. There is something about Dunham's comic timing and self-deprecating humor that I find brilliant. She wrote, directed and starred in this coming of age comedy about returning home from college and having no clue of what to do with your life.
I know that's the same premise for most of those insufferable tween indie films flooding the festivals, but this one feels different. Tiny Furniture feels personal and most especially real. Dunham cast her real-life mother and sister in the film, and cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes was able to create some striking images on an ultra low budget . Very few comedies look this gorgeous.
After 2007's Gone Baby Gone, Ben Affleck became not only a respectable filmmaker, but someone who has the potential for greatness. His follow up, The Town, looks like the ambitious Boston crime saga I hoped for and it features one of the best casts in recent years (Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Blake Lively and Chris Cooper). The film follows a bank robber (Affleck) who falls in love with the bank teller connected with one of his heists. But this could lead to the downfall of him and his crew. The buzz so far from early screenings is very positive.
Wong Kar Wai is simply one of the greatest working filmmakers. His 2000 film In the Mood for Love was chosen by many critics as the best film of the decade, and you can make the same case for his '90s classics Happy Together and Chungking Express. His latest is a biopic about the martial arts master Ip Man, who is most well known for being the man who trained Bruce Lee. China's two biggest stars, Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi, head the cast. Unfortunately, filming for this one went well beyond the schedule, but as far as I know the December 2010 release date in Hong Kong still stands. And if the film is good enough, there may even be a small Oscar-qualifying release followed by a wider early 2011 airing.
Derek Cianfrance's movie has gotten glowing reviews at both Sundance and Cannes, but it does have its detractors. The film is an examination of a marriage (between well-dressed hipsters), and features a fractured narrative and an original score by Broken Social Scene both red flags that your movie is more style over substance. (One critic said it's "like The Notebook only more artsy and pretentious.") While that might be true, Blue Valentine also features two of today's best actors (Ryan Gosling and Michele Williams) in some damn good roles. And that's enough to get me to buy a ticket.
Romain Gavras (Son of the legendary Greek filmmaker Costa-Gavras) burst onto the radar earlier this year with the controversial M.I.A. video Born Free. Now he has completed his first major feature film (starring the great Vincent Cassel, no less). The Toronto synopsis is extremely vague, but it make the movie seem all the more intriguing:
"Redheaded teen Rémy (Olivier Barthélémy) is bullied by his soccer teammates and drawn into fights with his younger sister and mother in their cramped apartment. After a flare-up of domestic violence, he flees home and is tracked down by a bitter guidance counsellor, Patrick (Vincent Cassel), also a redhead. Patrick looks upon Rémys sullen insolence with both sympathy and disdain and decides to toughen him up. The two redheads realize that they are out of place in twenty-first century France. They have no country, no people and no army. Together they plot to take on the world in a hallucinatory quest for a land of imagined freedom."
Unfortunately it will be a miracle if this bizarre movie gets any kind distribution before the end of the year (if ever). Hopefully it could land a V.O.D. release.
[Editor's Note: What follows is the second part of CL Contributor Anthony Nicholas' epic, three-part Fall Movie Preview. You can check out Part 1 right here, and be sure to look for the final chapter on Thursday right here on Daily Loaf.]
John Cameron Mitchell is one of my heroes. His 2001 glam-rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch is my favorite film of the past decade, and his sophomore experiment Shortbusfeatured real sex and was still popular enough to play at multiplexes across America. Rabbit Hole, an adaptation of David Lindsay-Abaires Pulitzer Prize-winning play (recently staged at Jobsite), is his first stab at the mainstream. It stars Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart as a married couple grieving over the loss of their young son. Mitchell is said to be drawing from his own experiences with loss and avoiding every Hollywood melodrama cliché in the process.