Posts Tagged ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

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Velvet Buzzsaw

Set in the world of high-end modern art, writer-director Dan Gilroy reunites with his Nightcrawler stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Rene Russo (plus Toni Collette and John Malkovitch) for this wonderfully wicked mashup of satire and horror.

The plot follows the discovery of an unknown artist’s work after his death, and the assorted bon vivant (a celebrity critic, a gallery owner, an art agent, etc.) who both admire the craft as well as see the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the next big thing. Only one problem: the paintings appear to be imbued with some hostile and supernatural force that sets about eliminating the cast in increasingly gleeful displays of carnage.

You’re mileage will certainly vary with this one, and Gilroy’s attempts to zip two genres together (as if the Final Destination franchise had been grafted onto The Devil Wears Prada) don’t always result in a seamless delivery. But the experience is so unique, kinetic and unassuming, anchored by a hypnotically devoted Gyllenhaal, that it makes for a rare, if beguiling, treat.

Grade: B+

*Watch it NOW on Netflix

Brittany Runs a Marathon

Jillian Bell, a very funny if not yet widely known comedian, stars and shines in this semi-biographical film by debut director (and screenwriter) Paul Downs Colaizzo.

As the titular Brittany, Bell plays a woman who, after some hard truths about her health from a doctor, resolves to turn her life around by training for and running in the New York City Marathon. Brittany finds confidence and new purpose with each lost pound, but the film is far from an advertisement for Gold’s Gym memberships — it follows a woman’s search for identity and self-appreciation, trading laugh-out-loud comedy with cringing tragedy as it builds up to a powerhouse finale.

Grade: A-

Watching “The Brink,” Alison Klayman’s documentary on populist provocateur and propagandist Steve Bannon, one can’t help but wonder what the subject expected to get by granting a filmmaker such intimate access to his life.

Much like the 2016 fly-on-the-wall documentary “Weiner,” which similarly premiered at Sundance, “The Brink” finds a controversial and scandal-prone American political figure behind closed doors in the places where the public typically isn’t invited to go.

In this case it’s Bannon’s intimate meetings with far-right European leaders as he attempts to stitch together a coalition of the misfit toys to take on “the establishment” over immigration and exclusionary nationalism. At every turn Bannon insists his work is not racist, anti-Semitic or vitriolic, then he gives a smile and a wink as he’s pressed to explain his fearmongering tactics and dog whistles.

The movie is book-ended by two major setbacks for Bannon’s philosophy — the defeat of Roy Moore in Alabama and the election of a Democratic House majority in 2018 — but the lingering message from The Brink is that Bannon is always one to regroup, reinvent, and resurface.

Grade: B

The Report

In the years since the September 11 attack and the War on Terror, America’s pop culture response has incrementally shifted from the escapism of 24 to the repressed jingoism of Zero Dark Thirty to the pessimistic criticism of Looming Tower.

Into that maze steps The Report, the Adam Driver-led film by Scott Burns that zealously hopes to set the record straight on the moral shortcomings of U.S. intelligence and government leaders.

It’s vehicle in that effort is the “Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Committee Report of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program” and its lead researcher, Daniel Jones, whose dogged pursuit of the facts despite byzantine bureaucratic intransigence exposed the truth of the C.I.A.’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” (read: torture) and the agency’s lies and misrepresentations to two presidents and the American public at large.

You might wonder how the creation of a 6,000-page government report can make for compelling drama, and The Report is initially clumsy and disjointed as it attempts to set the narrative background and cast of characters (played by a stellar supporting cast including Jon Hamm, Cory Stoll, Michael C. Hall and Annette Benning — as Sen. Diane Feinstein). The end result is an enlightening and thought-provoking film that is perhaps 30 minutes too long due to its slow start, but one that finishes strong and on an aspirational note for American democracy.

Grade: B

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Four weeks ago when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced their 2013 award nominees, I joined many of my colleagues in declaring effective victory for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. The Spielberg-helmed biopic’s major competitors, Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty and Ben Affleck’s Argo had received soul-crushing directorial snubs that seemed to all but wipe the path clean for Honest Abe to casually walk up the carpet and accept the statuette.

Oh, what a difference a month makes.

Since nomination day, Affleck and Argo have scooped up the top prize from essentially every. other. award. out. there. building behemoth momentum going into Oscar Sunday next week and in the process going from Oscar underdog to near sure-fire frontrunner.

The last time a movie won Best Picture without being nominated for Best Director was Driving Miss Daisy in 1990 and the feat has only been accomplished three times total in the Oscars 85-year-history. But as anyone who’s ever lost big on roulette will tell you, past spins have nothing to do with where the ball will stop next (a lesson I learned the hard way during spring break ’11).

Having said that, the last thing I want to do is go from saying “Lincoln’s a sure thing” to “Argo’s a sure thing” when truly, anything can happen. For all we know, Django Unchained will end up winning. Hint: Django Unchained will NOT win, it’s a sure thing, although in a perfect world Leo DiCaprio would’ve been nominated for supporting. It just shows you how competitive that category is this year.

I would imagine there’s lots of Academy voters who don’t like being told what they’re going to do and could vote against Argo to spite the prognosticators. Also, the Academy tends to skew older than some of the other statue-giving organizations (I’m still a little peeved that The King’s Speech beat The Social Network two years ago) which would play more into the hand of Lincoln than the movie Daredevil made.

As for the other categories. Daniel Day-Lewis and Anne Hathaway have pretty much been scorched-earthing the awards season and I see little chance of an upset in either category. Lead actress and supporting actor are quite competitive this year, with close races between Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence in one and a three-way struggle between De Niro, Arkin and Jones in the other. For my part, I think De Niro’s turn in Silver Linings is the best we’ve seen from the veteran actor in years, whereas Jones’ performance, while awesome, was pretty much just playing a grumpier version of himself. Plus, Men In Black III was atrocious, and some price must be paid (if you have a minute, read this great post by EW’s Darren Franich on how pretty much nothing in that movie makes sense).

So, here’s my picks for next week’s ceremony. I should note, however, that historically I have not been very good at selecting winners because I tend to vote with my heart (who SHOULD win) and not with my head (who WILL win).

Best Picture: Lincoln

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis

Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence

Best Supporting Actor: Robert De Niro. No, wait, Tommy Lee Jones. Wait…dang this one is hard. De Niro, final answer.

Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway

Best Director: Steven Spielberg

Best Original Screenplay: Moonrise Kingdom (It’ll probably go to Amour, but a boy can dream).

Best Adapted Screenplay: Silver Linings Playbook

Best Animated Feature: Wreck-It Ralph (Pixar is usually as close to a sure thing as you can get, but a lot of people hated Brave).

Best Original Song: “Skyfall” Natch.

And…no one cares about the rest.

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You might not have noticed, but a few interesting things happened with the announcement of the 2013 Academy Award Nominations this morning.

First, the academy all-but-confirmed that ‘Lincoln‘ will be named best picture.

Second, the awards race that remains in the sliver of doubt that Lincoln not take the big prize went from being a head-to-head horse race between the aforementioned Spielberg-directed biopic and Zero Dark Thirty to a David and Goliath match-up between ‘Lincoln’ and ‘Silver Linings Playbook.’

Why?

In failing to nominate Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director, the Academy showed that enough voters are uncomfortable with the Zero’s controversial portrayal of torture to impede its chances at winning the big prize. Likewise the snub of ‘Argo’-director Ben Affleck made the critically-lauded thriller deflate so fast you could practically feel the wind on your face.

But then, from the decimated ashes of its snubbed peers came Silver Linings, emerging majestically like a phoenix. Too much? Hardly!

SLP, my #2 movie of 2012 and little-film-that-could managed to dance its way into all four acting categories, best picture, best director and best adapted screenplay. For a movie without fantasy elements – and therefore not requiring heavy effects editing – that’s pretty much a straight sweep.

So yes, Lincoln, Spielberg and Day-Lewis are now essentially foregone conclusions but SLP is the underdog to root for in those categories and it also stands a fair shot in its remaining nods, particularly (the gorgeous) Jennifer Lawrence for best actress.

Other notables form this morning:

• Thanks to Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild, we now have the Oldest and Youngest women ever nominated for best actress in the same year (Emmanuelle Riva is 85 and Quvenzhané Wallis is 9. NINE!). Also, the Best Actress race is now the one to watch because Silver Lining’s surge, coupled with Zero Dark’s fall and sprinkled with the absence of Meryl Streep makes this, truly, any woman’s game.

• Interestingly, Joaquin Phoenix was nominated for Best Actor despite insulting the awards process mere weeks ago. Voters tend to not appreciate that. Also, his co-star Philip Seymore Hoffmon was nominated for best SUPPORTING actor, when an argument could be made that he is the lead character (the movie is named after him for one thing…or is it?).

• Not surprising, but Hugh Jackman scored a nomination for Les Miz with no such love for Russel Crowe. Same story with Naomi Watts (nominated) and Impossible co-star Ewen McGregor (not nominated).

And my only true complaint of the 2013 nominations:

• Wes Anderson’s magical and amazing Moonrise Kingdom deserves the 9th spot on the Best Picture list instead of Life of Pi. I’m also surprised Django Unchained made the cut.

Here’s the full list of nominees, including the boring stuff no one cares about.

Best Picture
Amour
Argo
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Life of Pi
Lincoln
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Best Actor
Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
Denzel Washington, Flight

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Best Supporting Actor
Alan Arkin, Argo
Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, The Master
Sally Field, Lincoln
Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
Helen Hunt, The Sessions
Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

Best Director
Michael Haneke, Amour
Ang Lee, Life of Pi
David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Original Screenplay
Amour, Michael Haneke
Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino
Flight, John Gatins
Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
Zero Dark Thirty, Mark Boal

Best Adapted Screenplay
Argo, Chris Terrio
Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin,
Life of Pi, David Magee
Lincoln, Tony Kushner
Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell

Best Animated Feature:
Brave
Frankenweenie
ParaNorman
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Wreck-It Ralph

Best Cinematography
Anna Karenina, Seamus McGarvey
Django Unchained, Robert Richardson
Life of Pi, Claudio Miranda
Lincoln, Janusz Kaminski
Skyfall, Roger Deakins

Best Costume Design
Anna Karenina, Jacqueline Durran
Les Misérables, Paco Delgado
Lincoln, Joanna Johnston
Mirror Mirror, Eiko Ishioka
Snow White and the Huntsman, Colleen Atwood

Best Documentary Feature
5 Broken Cameras
The Gatekeepers
How to Survive a Plague
The Invisible War
Searching for Sugar Man

Best Documentary Short
Inocente
Kings Point
Mondays at Racine
Open Heart
Redemption

Best Film Editing
Argo, William Goldenberg
Life of Pi, Tim Squyres
Lincoln, Michael Kahn
Silver Linings Playbook, Jay Cassidy and Crispin Struthers
Zero Dark Thirty, Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg

Best Foreign Language Film
Amour, Austria
Kon-Tiki, Norway
No, Chile
A Royal Affair, Denmark
War Witch, Canada

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
Hitchcock, Howard Berger, Peter Montagna and Martin Samuel
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Swords King, Rick Findlater and Tami Lane
Les Misérables, Lisa Westcott and Julie Dartnell

Best Original Score
Anna Karenina, Dario Marianelli
Argo, Alexandre Desplat
Life of Pi, Mychael Danna
Lincoln, John Williams
Skyfall, Thomas Newman

Best Original Song
“Before My Time” from Chasing Ice, music and lyric by J. Ralph
“Everybody Needs A Best Friend” from Ted, music by Walter Murphy; lyric by Seth MacFarlane
“Pi’s Lullaby” from Life of Pi, music by Mychael Danna; lyric by Bombay Jayashri
“Skyfall” from Skyfall, music and lyric by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth
“Suddenly” from Les Misérables, music by Claude-Michel Schönberg; lyric by Herbert Kretzmer and Alain Boublil

Best Production Design
Anna Karenina, Production Design: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, production Design: Dan Hennah; Set Decoration: Ra Vincent and Simon Bright
Les Misérables, Production Design: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Anna Lynch-Robinson
Life of Pi, Production Design: David Gropman; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock
Lincoln, Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

Best Animated Short
Adam and Dog
Fresh Guacamole
Head over Heels
Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”
Paperman

Best Live Action Short
Asad
Buzkashi Boys
Curfew
Death of a Shadow
Henry

Best Sound Editing
Argo, Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van der Ryn
Django Unchained, Wylie Stateman
Life of Pi, Eugene Gearty and Philip Stockton
Skyfall, Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers
Zero Dark Thirty, Paul N.J. Ottosson

Best Sound Mixing
Argo, John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Jose Antonio Garcia
Les Misérables, Andy Nelson, Mark Paterson and Simon Hayes
Life of Pi, Ron Bartlett, D.M. Hemphill and Drew Kunin
Lincoln, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Ronald Judkins
Skyfall, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell and Stuart Wilson

Best Visual Effects
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and R. Christopher White
Life of Pi, Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik-Jan De Boer and Donald R. Elliott
The Avengers, Janek Sirrs, Jeff White, Guy Williams and Dan Sudick
Prometheus, Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill
Snow White and the Huntsman, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Philip Brennan, Neil Corbould and Michael Dawson

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