12 Years a Slave

Franco Nero is Space Jesus in THE VISITOR

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. The Visitor John Huston and Jesus Christ (Franco Nero) are in a never-ending war with Satan, and their latest battleground is Atlanta, GA, where the soul of a child holds the key to saving the universe. Probably. Lance Henriksen, Glenn Ford, Shelley Winters, and Sam Peckinpah join in the fun as Huston struggles to stop the girl’s descent into evil and tendency towards causing bodily harm. It’s hardly news to say that this thirty four year old movie is a mental fingerbang that bends genres and somehow teases both brilliance and stupidity, but I’m saying it anyway. Both highly derivative and wholly original, the film cherry picks elements from The Omen, The Fury, Phantasm, and more, and then swirls them together in a psychedelic mélange of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and pure nuttiness as it tells the story of good and evil battling over a young girl’s potty-mouthed soul. Drafthouse Films brings this gem to HD for the first time, and while the extras are unfortunately scarce the film alone is enough to warrant a purchase. Read my full review. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, trailer, booklet]

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2014 Academy Award Best Picture Nominees Cartoon

A hijacking, the search for a child, a con game, an AIDS activist, a hometown reunion, a space exploration, a hunt for freedom, a genuine artificial love, and a wolf. These were the stories we told in 2013. Scratch that. These were some of the stories we told in 2013. The Oscars are an annual reminder that our focus has been reduced from hundreds of movies down to a few. It’s also a reminder that there is artistic work worth celebrating — beyond hype, beyond internal politics, beyond surface-level silliness — every year. We’re awash in it. Dozens  of titles that won’t even be name-dropped tonight. Inside and outside the ceremony’s spotlight, there are a powerful amount of brilliant films. There are so many amazing movies in existence that we don’t have enough time in a life to watch them all. That sounds slightly depressing (especially for completists), but it’s really a silver lining on top of a silver lining. It’s a non-stop parade of outstanding. Now, as we watch a few of the movies (out of a few of the movies) earn gold, it’s important to remember that the full list of stories being told reaches to the moon and back. We’ll be updating this post with the winners as they come in throughout the night. Here are the winners of the 86th Academy Awards.

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Independent Spirit Awards

In its 29th annual awards, the Film Independent Spirit Awards once again give film connoisseurs a seemingly more honest precursor to tonight’s Academy Awards. In a ceremony hosted by Patton Oswalt and aired on IFC, the awards once again celebrated “artist-driven filmmaking and the finest achievements in independent cinema.” This year’s big winner was Steve McQueen harrowing drama 12 Years a Slave, which brought home awards for Best Feature, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress (Lupita Nyong’o) and Best Cinematography. Don’t worry, there were other awards, all listed below.

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Saul Bass-Inspired Oscar Posters

Last year the folks at Mondo celebrating the Best Picture nominees with a poster series. This year, even before we see if they are doing it again (they did one for Dallas Buyers Club,  but not others), an artist/fan has already beat them to the punch with a very cool project. Tumblr artist Geminianum has created a series of posters for the Best Picture nominees in the style of the late, great Saul Bass. From a Gravity poster that calls back to Bass’ Vertigo and Anatomy of a Murder prints to a Wolf of Wall Street poster that uses both West Side Story and some Mad Men iconography, it’s a pretty fun idea. See for yourselves…

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Best Picture

This is it. The big one. The most coveted award in Hollywood. The one only the greatest of the great win. You know the ones I mean. The Artist, The King’s Speech, Crash, Chicago, Million Dollar Baby. Classics, all of them. It reads like a list of the best films of the 2000s don’t you think? Right? Yeah? This year sees nine nominees up for Best Picture, and a whopping two thirds are films based on true stories. Perception is such that a basis in fact would be an advantage, but while playing real people helps actors win awards, only five films based on true stories have taken home Best Picture in the past two decades. I’m guessing this year will make six. As has been the case since the Academy opened this category to more than five nominees, we once again have a field of players stuffed with titles well out of their depths (sorry Nebraska), so while there are nine titles listed, there are realistically only three contenders. Keep reading for a look at all of this year’s nominees for Best Picture along with my predicted winner in red…

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Editing

Sydney Pollack once likened film editing to sculpting, and he’s (of course) right. The Invisible Art is also like having a 10,000-piece puzzle to solve without knowing exactly what the final image is supposed to look like. You’re creating the puzzle while solving it. It’s a remarkable skill that blends technical prowess with creative ability and gut-level instinct. This year, the Oscar nominees in this field were able to successfully submerge us into the world of antebellum slavery, 1970s swagger, modern-day violence, 1980s epidemic rebellion and futuristic-feeling isolation. Read on to learn more about the nominees with my predicted winner in red…

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Production Design

When pundits begin to go on about the look of a film, most often the person they name drop is the director, or maybe the cinematographer. But one should never overlook the importance of the production designer. They’re probably the most hands-on when it comes to dealing with the collaboration of all the costumes, hair, and makeup, dressing locations and building sets, finding or fabricating props, and basically ensuring that everything you see on the screen fits into a unified vision of how the movie is supposed to look. One might even say that these are the people who create the worlds that movies exist in. Because of that, the further away a film can get, visually, from our everyday reality, the more likely it is to be recognized for its production design come awards season. It’s much easier to notice the work that went into creating a fantasy world or bringing back a lost era than it is to notice the work that went into making Vancouver look like New York, after all. In keeping with that trend, this year the Academy has chosen for the category’s nominees a movie that takes place in the swinging 70s, a movie that takes place in the vacuum of space, a movie that takes place in the roaring 20s, a movie that takes place in a future version of LA, and one that takes place in the plantation-era of the southern United States. Nothing from either the here or the now. Here’s […]

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Oscar Predictions 2014: Adapted Screenplay

Don’t tell anyone, but the screenplay categories, both original and adapted, remain the only Oscar contests that truly matter to me. It’s not just my respect for the written word or any personal interest I may have in the art form, instead it’s the understanding that the script is the singular basis from which every other element of a film builds. Adapted screenplays have the additionally daunting task of taking an existing creation, whether it be a book, article, or television show, and crafting something new, compact, and wholly its own. All but one of this year’s nominees are adapting a nonfiction memoir, while the fifth is a sequel. Keep reading for a look at all five of this year’s nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay along with my predicted winner in red…

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gv-fp-0127r

It’s not definite that this year’s Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director will go to different movies. But it is very likely that Alfonso Cuaron is going to win the latter and that his movie, Gravity, is not going to be crowned the former. Odds in favor of Gravity for the top Academy Award are increasing of late, but I still see us having the first back-to-back split since 1953. Last year, of course, Picture went to Argo while Director went to Ang Lee (Argo‘s director, Ben Affleck, wasn’t nominated for the latter). This year the film that may trump Gravity for Best Picture is itself split between two contenders, American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave. Both of those movies won their respective Best Picture categories at the Golden Globes earlier this year. Hustle for comedy/musical and Slave for drama. Not that this means either has to follow with the Oscar (only 4 of the past 10 Oscar BPs were Globe BPs). Hustle also won the top award at the SAG Awards, that honor being for Outstanding Performance By a Cast in a Motion Picture. Not that this really means anything either (only 6 of the past 10 Oscar BPs were SAG Best Casts). Slave, meanwhile, tied for the top award at the PGA Awards — with Gravity. This is where it might mean something. The Producers Guild is currently six for six in predicting the Oscar BP, and in its history they’re 17 for 24. If they go […]

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Brad Pitt 12 Years a Slave

After the first Sunday of March, movie star Brad Pitt might be an Academy Award winner — not for his acting, but for his role as producer. His production company, Plan B, has been deployed since 2006 as a platform for making films (many that star or co-star Pitt, and a few that don’t) largely outside of the franchise and sequel mentality that a name brand like Pitt would otherwise be subject to. Pitt is hardly the first example of an actor who exchanges celebrity capital for some industrial and artistic autonomy – examples of powerful actors who have used the capacity of producer to buck the studio system go as far back as Humphrey Bogart – but Plan B is unique particularly because it’s been utilized as a means for Pitt to rather self-consciously define himself against any conventional understanding of his movie star image. Rather than use the production arm as a means for gritty, challenging, Hollywood-unfriendly lead roles (as Bogart did with In a Lonely Place), Pitt is casting himself conspicuously on the margins of his own work, often in supporting roles that have in common characters who somehow omnisciently perceive a bigger picture than what’s available to the foregrounded characters around him. These are characters that exist inside and outside the narratives of their films simultaneously.

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12 Years a Slave

The visuals of 12 Years a Slave are stunning, often unflinching, and this week we’ve invited cinematographer (and frequent Steve McQueen collaborator) Sean Bobbitt to explain how he challenged millions with his imagery. Plus, Geoff and I talk about The Wolf of Wall Street‘s capability to turn good people into quaalude-hungry maniacs and answer a hypothetical question about saving only one 2014 movie from destruction (by quaalude-hungry maniacs). You should follow the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more on a daily basis. And, as always, if you like the show (or hate it with seething fervor), please help us out with a review. Download Episode #45 Directly Or subscribe Through iTunes

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Los Angeles Plays Itself

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Oscars 2014

Hopefully you’re all wearing your tuxedos and evening gowns because, as we all know, Thursday morning before sunrise is the best time to get fancy. Feel no shame about that 5am martini. Unless it’s your fourth. Because you’re behind. And you might need something strong for the announcement of the nominees for the 86th annual Academy Awards.

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golden-globes-statutes-1

The 71st Golden Globe Awards are happening now, and we’ve got all the winners for your reference. Don’t worry, no spoilers. We’re only finding out everything as it happens, and we’ll be updating this post throughout the big night. Keep checking in, especially if you’re not watching. But why aren’t you watching? It should be an entertaining show, not just because of hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, but because of the booze (ours and theirs). Also, nobody is sure what will win the Best Picture – Drama trophy, Gravity or 12 Years a Slave. It’s vital that we find out and we’ll be here for the ride towards finding out. Okay, let’s get to the winners. They’re the ones in bold below. Congrats to all, unless Breaking Bad wins. Nobody even likes that show, right? Just kidding, it better win this time.

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Gravity

Last year I took on the Golden Globes for the first time, did my research and made my assumptions, and my predictions wound up with only 9 out of 14 winners chosen correctly. This year I’m going more with my gut. I’m also going to have a try with the TV categories since we’ve been covering more and more of that stuff here at FSR. We’ll find out how well I do in my sophomore effort when the Hollywood Foreign Press Association holds its 71st Golden Globe Awards tomorrow night with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosting. You should join me then for as-it-happens updated coverage on this site. I’m not calling it a “live blog.” It’ll be more like a concurring review of the show and results. I can’t guarantee that my predictions are going to help you win any bets or pools, but I’ll offer a friendly wager with anyone who thinks they can beat my score. Gimme your best shot in the comments.

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letterboxd

The end of every year brings an onslaught of lists ranking movies of all kinds, and while we here at FSR like to keep our participation to a minimum one of our new favorites is the Letterboxd 2013 Year in Review. If you’re not already familiar, the site allows members to track, rate, and review movies they have seen, want to see, or have chosen to never see for as long as they live. I use it to track movies through the year including ones I’ve seen at film festivals, but you can find lists as diverse as Top 15 Manliest Movies, Nicolas Cage Appreciations, and Murderous Midgets & Venomous Vents. Yeah, I don’t know what that last one’s about either. Adding to the site’s functionality is a sleek design that truly shines with their Year in Review posting. Full screen images are accompanied by detailed stats informed by a user base that currently sits at 86,000 strong. 2013 saw the 18 millionth film logged since the site’s inception, and this year was their busiest yet resulting in outcomes both expected and surprising. Who would have guessed Quentin Tarantino’s 2012 film Django Unchained would be Letterboxd’s most actively discussed film during 2013?

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WINNER

What is the difference between being nominated for an award and winning an award? The answer is so obvious as to be ludicrous – being nominated for something means that there is a possibility you will win the final accolade, winning something means that you’ve actually won the prize. Simple, right? Clear, not obtuse in the least, plain-faced, correct? Not if you’re dealing with awards season movie marketing, as a number of films are now touting their nominations by billing films as being the “WINNER (of a nomination).” Pardon? It’s a strange phenomenon that /Film’s Germain Lussier wrote about back in December (as inspired by a piece on Franklin Avenue, which meticulously gathered screencaps in support), as he was appropriately flabbergasted by the marketing ruse. Lussier penned a piece on the rash of new ads – specifically for August: Osage County and Philomena – sharing screencaps of various TV spots that touted both films as the “WINNER” of various Golden Globe nominations (up top, you’ll find one for August: Osage County). The ads willfully blew up the word “WINNER” to outshine the more accurate “nominee” or “nomination,” clearly aiming to make an impression of the winning variety (not, it seems, of the nominating variety). At the time of Lussier’s piece, only The Weinstein Company (the distributor of both August and Philomena) had utilized the shady technique to tout their films, but now even Fox Searchlight has gotten in on it, and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is not happy in […]

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2013review_culture

When Roger Ebert passed away in April of this year, one quote that made significant rounds was his assertion that, “I believe empathy is the most essential quality of civilization.” It would be easy to extract this quote as a solitary, general observation on the value of empathy, bereft of its cinematically specific context. Some liked to see Ebert’s overt progressive politics as separate from his evaluation of films, but in fact the two were inextricably linked. The source of this quote, in fact, came from Ebert’s overview of Cannes in 2010, in which he discussed what a diverse array of art films like Lee-Chang Dong’s Poetry and Mike Leigh’s Another Year collectively offered despite their evident differences. The full quote reads as follows: These aren’t all masterpieces, although some are, but they’re all Real Movies. None follows a familiar story arc. All involve intense involvement with their characters. All do something that is perhaps the most important thing a movie can do: They take us outside our personal box of time and space, and invite us to empathize with those of other times, places, races, creeds, classes and prospects. I believe empathy is the most essential quality of civilization. If empathy is the most essential quality of a civilization, as Ebert makes the case for, then movies which invite the viewer to have an empathetic experience become far more than “just movies,” but “Real Movies” – that is, devices that shape a compassionate worldview which acknowledges the unique experience […]

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2013review_critics

Before Midnight! Gravity! The Wolf of Wall Street! Fruitvale Station! The Great Beauty! Philomena! Frances Ha! Blue Jasmine! Spring Breakers! Nebraska! Dallas Buyers Club! The Wind Rises! Saving Mr. Banks! None of the thirteen critically acclaimed films above are on my list of the thirteen best films of 2013 below. Make of that what you will, but of the whopping 241 new releases I watched this year these are the thirteen that have stuck with me the strongest. That said, I did make a conscious effort to focus on U.S. releases for the list since I have a separate Top 13 for Best Foreign Language films. It’s been a fantastic year in cinema all around, and I could just as easily offered a list twice as long. Keep reading to see what I feel are the thirteen best movies of 2013.

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2013review_filmmaker

If you were talking about Steve McQueen five years ago, it was probably about Bullitt jumping over Nazi barricades on a motorcycle and stealing art from museums. Either that, or you were plugged into the museum scene and had an eye for experimental short films. While you were failing to stop Thomas Crown from pilfering priceless work, you were discovering a new Steve McQueen. The rest of us had to wait until 2008. In the past five years, the new McQueen has translated two decades of success within docent-tinged walls into indie film domination and, now, mainstream emergence without compromise. That’s a simmering, meteoric rise into a cultural place that few filmmakers ever go. The new McQueen was born a year after the old McQueen became Crown and Bullitt, but in a small amount of time, he’s solidified himself as a cinematic voice to take very, very seriously. In other words, if you’re talking about Steve McQueen today, there’s an odds on chance that you’re dissecting Shame or Hunger or 12 Years a Slave.

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