Andrea Arnold

The Best Damn Oscar Blog

The Academy is voting! Nomination polls opened on December 17th and close on January 3rd. The two and a half week period might seem like a long time, but it’s going to go by in the blink of an eye, especially with Christmas and the New Year right in the middle. As voters pick through their piles of screeners and decide what to watch, I certainly hope that they dig deep enough to find some of the year’s best unheralded work. In fact, I’m going to suggest a few things. At this point much of the “don’t miss this movie!” conversation has been around performances, a valid pursuit if there ever was one. However, there’s also plenty of under-discussed work in “below the line” categories. Here’s a wish list, five extremely unlikely but entirely deserving nominations that would make me a very happy blogger.

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Culture Warrior

I recently viewed the trailer for Andrea Arnold’s upcoming Wuthering Heights. Besides being a truly awesome-looking adaptation of some literature you were probably forced to read in high school, the third feature by one of the UK’s most promising new filmmakers, and sporting a nice quote from none other than our own Kate Erbland, there’s something else worth noticing about this upcoming indie period drama: it uses the old-school Academy standard (1.33:1 to 1.37:1) aspect ratio instead of the more conventional cinema standard (1.85:1) and anamorphic widescreen cinema standard (2.35:1) ratios. Now, this might sound like I’m drowning deep in some movie nerd recess that actually involves numbers (and escaping anything seemingly math-related is scientifically-proven to be the means by which most movie nerds come into being), there’s something genuinely important about the fact that a handful of small independent and foreign films have embraced this all-but-abandoned ratio. In an era in which all of our screens (movie, television, laptop, tablet, phone) are rectangles, the squarer-shaped screen that characterizes the Academy Ratio is proving to offer unique, even startling approaches to film visuals that can only rarely be found in other categories of experiencing audio-visual media.

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Andrea Arnold

While it may seem as if we didn’t necessarily need another big screen take on Emily Bronte‘s “Wuthering Heights” (after all, the novel has been adapted for film, television, radio, and more over thirty times already), that doesn’t mean that we didn’t want to see Andrea Arnold‘s take on the material. The provocative and deeply talented Fish Tank director is uniquely suited to infusing such a classic tale of love, desire, and betrayal with new blood, even as she sticks to old school styling to craft her vision. When we saw the film at Sundance, I called Arnold’s Wuthering Heights “a stunning mediation on love, loss, memory, and pain” and “a work of great visual art,” even as I found it difficult to enter into in an emotional manner. And yet. The term “haunting” gets tossed around a lot when describing all sorts of films, but Arnold’s film is truly best described in such a way – it haunts, it linger, it doesn’t let you go. Even months after first seeing it, her traditional take on the doomed love of the wretched Cathy and Heathcliff sticks with me. Get a taste of that (and all sorts of stirring shots of moors, flapping fabric, and howling characters) with a new trailer for the film after the break.

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While a new adaptation of Emily Bronte‘s class English novel might seem to be wholly unnecessary (the book has been adapted in various ways at least thirty times), writer and director Andrea Arnold‘s gorgeous take on Wuthering Heights more than does justice to the look and feel of Bronte’s work, lending a weight and power to the story that should captivate more than just fans of the novel. Centered on the tragic story of Cathy Earnshaw and the orphan Heathcliff, the film is a stunning mediation on love, loss, memory, and pain. An orphan abandoned on the street, Heathcliff is brought as a child to the wild English moor estate known as Wuthering Heights by Cathy’s father, Mr. Earnshaw, a hardcore Christian who is convinced that it’s the right thing to do. But Earnshaw’s beliefs are not rooted in a sense of charity, but as an attempt to secure salvation, which is why the Earnshaws at large treat Heathcliff so poorly. Over time, the nearly-feral Cathy and Heathcliff develop a passion for each other that is all-consuming, though it only serves to make their already physically demanding lives that much harder emotionally.

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Welcome to Day Two of Kate Christmas. Yesterday, the 2012 Sundance Film Festival announced their first wave of programming, featuring twenty-six titles that will be screening in competition. While the arrival of those titles was enough to send me into a tizzy I have still not recovered from, today the festival has only piled on the pre-holiday goodies with the announcement of their Spotlight, Next, Park City at Midnight, and New Frontiers films. A few titles of note to get your juices flowing – Gareth Evans‘ The Raid (also known round these parts as “oh, hell yeah”), Andrea Arnold‘s take on Wuthering Heights, Katie Aselton‘s second directorial outing Black Rock (scripted by her husband Mark Duplass), Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie, Mike Birbiglia and Seth Barrish‘s Sleepwalk With Me (based on Birbiglia’s hilarious book), and Lynn Shelton‘s Your Sister’s Sister. Again, that’s just a taste, so check out the full list of Spotlight, Next, Park City at Midnight, and New Frontiers films after the break.

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Poor takes on classic material are getting so commonplace that when a new adaptation looks like it may actually hit the right notes and invoke the right tone in service to its source material – well, it’s something special. The name Andrea Arnold is well-known to most cinephiles, thanks to her gorgeous films Fish Tank (which features a Michael Fassbender performance that should hint at what we can expect from his next film, Shame) and Red Road. With her emphasis on captivating visuals and deeply emotional stories, a period piece seemed like a natural fit for the director. Her take on Emily Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights recently premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, and today we get our first real look at Arnold’s vision. This new Wuthering Heights features some distinct differences from more traditional versions of the material – namely a black actor playing Heathcliff (James Howson) and a Cathy who appears to be much more sympathetic than those we’ve seen before. Check out the mostly-wordless teaser trailer for Wuthering Heights after the break.

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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
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