Ang Lee

Moses

With The History Channel’s mini-series about the bible gaining headlines and pulling in big ratings over the past couple of weeks, the time seems right for Hollywood to be readying a new volley of biblical epics to put into theaters. And, sure enough, Deadline is reporting that there’s new movement on the two movies about Moses that Fox and Warner Bros. have been trying to put together for a while. First off comes the news that the Warner Bros epic, Gods and Kings, which has been described as being a large-in-scale retelling of Moses’ entire life, is no longer being looked at as a project that’s going to be directed by Steven Spielberg. Seeing as there’s another Moses project gearing up over at Fox, this has left the studio in something of a panic, so they’re looking at another director who’s recently seen success from making a highly visual and religious-themed film, Ang Lee, to take his place. The Life of Pi director reportedly hasn’t had any official meetings regarding the film, but appears to be interested. And what of that other Moses movie that Fox is doing? It’s called Exodus, and it’s something they’ve been putting together alongside Prometheus director Ridley Scott for a while. Ironically, the pressures stemming from this one already being in the works that have led to Warner Bros. giving the hard-sell of their movie to Ang Lee might now be leading to Exodus getting put on the fast track as well.

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Ang Lee Oscar

Coming off of his second Oscar win for Best Director, Ang Lee is as fierce a filmmaking force as ever. But even if his name comes with a sheen of prestige, it doesn’t change a broad range of topics and tones that he’s been able to capture on screen. This is the man who made the Civil War-era Ride with the Devil and contemporary dramedy Eat Drink Man Woman. Not to mention Brokeback Mountain right after Hulk. The man’s versatile. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the Crouching Tiger From Taiwan.

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Life of Pi Tank

Dear Mr. Lee, When asked about the bankruptcy of Rhythm + Hues, the visual effects house largely responsible for making your film Life of Pi as incredible as it was, you said: “I would like it to be cheaper and not a tough business [for VFX vendors]. It’s easy for me to say, but it’s very tough. It’s very hard for them to make money. The research and development is so expensive; that is a big burden for every house. They all have good times and hard times, and in the tough times, some may not [survive].” I just want to point out that while, yes R&D can be expensive and yes it takes a lot of technology and computing power to create films like yours, it is not computer chips and hard drives that are costing you so very much money. It is the artists that are helping you create your film.

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Best Director

Let’s just get this out of the way right now. The Best Director category at this year’s Academy Awards, regardless of how it turns out, has been tainted by an incredible snub. No, I’m not referring to Kathryn Bigelow’s helming of the controversial Zero Dark Thirty or even Rupert Sanders’ double tap of Snow White and the Huntsman and Kristen Stewart. I’m talking about Ben Mothereffing Affleck. His third film as director, Argo, is nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Script, Best Editing and more, but the man himself did not make the cut. It’s anybody’s guess why, and while it obviously made Benh Zeitlin’s day, the rest of us are left wondering how exactly it happened. But don’t feel too bad for Affleck… not only will his movie take home the Oscar for Best Picture on February 24th but he and the film have been cleaning up elsewhere left and right. But that’s enough about Ben Affleck. Keep reading for a look at all five nominees for Best Director along with my predicted winner in red…

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IntroDirectorCameos

The beauty of being a director is that you can get killer screen time without the hassle of actually knowing how to act. Being a good director, however, is knowing not to haphazardly stick yourself in your films – at least not unless you’re Spike Lee or Woody Allen. Really it’s all about identifying your limitations. So here are some neat ways that a director opted to show up in their film without taking the spotlight at the same time. These are creative little cameos that you might never notice in a million years of watching.

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JENNIFER LAWRENCE and BRADLEY COOPER star in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

The 70th Golden Globe Awards will be held tomorrow night, and I invite you to join myself and FSR’s awards guru, Daniel Walber, for live-blog commentary during the ceremony. We’ll try to keep it smart, avoid too much snark and will likely be obeying the rules of the drinking game that co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have devised. It will also hopefully be more conversational than remarks we could have just tweeted, in order that I can turn the discussion around as a more readable post-event recap of the night. In case you’re too busy paying attention to your TV to also read our words simultaneously. Anyway, you can’t head into a big awards telecast viewing without predictions for what you think will win. Daniel and I seem to agree on exactly half of the movie categories. So, maybe it won’t be such a predicable night. Check out our choices after the break and give us your own predictions in the comments. If you do better than either of us, we commend you in advance (and maybe at the end of our GG coverage too).

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Life of Pi

Fans of our Filmmaking Tips feature and those who love to hear how the sausage is made might especially enjoy this lengthy video featuring a discussion with Ang Lee about the art of movies. The filmmaker is coming off of Life of Pi, which is either a transcendent experience with stunning visuals or just a bunch of stunning visuals depending on who you ask. Still, Lee is one of the most diverse directors currently working. It’s a rare storyteller who wrestles with both The Hulk and Mr. Darcy in between Wire fu adventures and cowboy love stories. Here, he talks more than a bit about the process of making Life of Pi as it fits into his usual framework of methods, and even though there’s a bit of translation to slog through, it’s well worth the effort. Hat tip to Roger Ebert for sending it out into the world.  

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The Ingredients is a column devoted to breaking down the components of a new film release with some focus on influential movies that came before. As always, these posts look at the entire plots of films and so include SPOILERS.  Even the most visionary and original films can seem derivative, especially to those of us who watch tons of movies on a regular basis. Occasionally it’s intended for the audience to spot certain allusions and apply them to our experience with this new work, as in the case of Holy Motors. Other times it’s not so deliberate, and the fact that new movies trigger memories of older movies (and vice versa depending on when they’re seen) is all on us, yet not totally without reason given how there are really only a few base plots and themes in existence and also given that our comprehension of things, particularly imaginative things, has to be relatable to other things we’ve comprehended previously. That’s why a movie like Avatar can be “like nothing we’ve ever seen before,” but only to an extent. For it to be accessible to a wide audience — let alone be one of the biggest worldwide hits of all time — it has to “unfortunately” resemble other movies. And now Life of Pi can be likened by critics to Avatar for similarly giving us spectacle like nothing we’ve ever seen before. It sounds ironic but it’s not. Even if the magical island in Pi may even further remind us of […]

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The Best Damn Oscar Blog

Some of this year’s big movies are like a Thanksgiving dinner. They’re elaborate, colorful, and delicious. They also take time to digest, as most meals of such size and ambition do. Filling and complex, they remind us of the important things and inspire us to be thankful for art and the movies. In this category I’d put Anna Karenina, Life of Pi, and The Master. Black Friday films are different, though not necessarily opposite. They are marvelously entertaining, extremely well-executed Hollywood productions. They bring laughter and tears, suspense and comfortable resolution, all in familiar packaging. One could compare them to the thrilling, stressful and often rewarding experience of rushing to a 50%-off television, or go even further and point out similarities to the mass-produced and well-advertised objects themselves. This year’s best examples are Argo and Silver Linings Playbook.

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Ben Affleck

We’re entering Awards Season, folks. For most of you, that usually means seeing your favorite films of the year lose to what you’d consider the “lesser” Weinstein picture. It’s always very frustrating, but one of those movies you may be cheering on — and has Oscar nominations written all over it — is Ben Affleck‘s Argo. The movie is a shoe-in for both the heavy hitter nods and countless spots on year-end top 10 lists. To GQ, this makes Affleck the director of the year, considering how he went from “loathed, frat boy Ben Affleck” to “esteemed filmmaker Ben Affleck.” It’s a transformation, for sure, and one to be proud of, but does continuing an epic comeback we all knew about really make him filmmaker of the year for 2012? Affleck proved himself as the director of the year in 2010 with The Town. That doesn’t mean he made the best movie of that year — and he certainly didn’t — but it was a big statement for Affleck the filmmaker. He proved Gone Baby Gone was no fluke — that he was the real deal. Although Argo is the best of these three films, it doesn’t say as much about his directorial career as his first two features do.

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Life of Pi

Pi Patel (Irrfan Khan) is a middle-aged professor visited at his home in Canada by a stranger in search of a story. The two men share an acquaintance who pointed the writer (Rafe Spall) Pi’s way for a very specific tale. It seems Pi was the lone human survivor of a shipwreck when he was a teenager, and the events between the sinking and his rescue are reportedly enough to make a person believe in God. The story begins with Pi’s childhood and ends with his post-disaster return to civilization, but it’s the center of the tale that makes up the bulk of the film. And for good reason too, as minor familial interactions pale beside the visual wonders and life-threatening adventures that occur while he struggles to survive adrift at sea. His life afloat is made more dangerous and unpredictable by the presence of a full grown tiger he finds sharing the lifeboat with him, and as a few other zoo animal stragglers succumb to the elements and each other, Pi and the tiger (named Richard Parker) form an uneasy, symbiotic relationship. Director Ang Lee‘s Life of Pi takes up the challenge with the story’s implied promise of a resultant belief, but neither Pi’s tale nor Lee’s film satisfies on anything more than a superficial level. The beautiful visuals and occasionally tense action offer distractions in the service of empty platitudes and an insulting view of where and how people find their faith. Ultimately, this is a story that […]

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Life of Pi AFI FEST

October offered up plenty of films to give this awards season a proper start. Ben Affleck once again showed he’s got one of the best eyes for tension working today; John Hawkes gave another year’s best performance in Fox Searchlight’s The Sessions; Martin McDonagh made another wicked, original dark comedy with real bite; and, who could forget, The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer made a huge box office smash which received unabashed praise up the wazoo, especially for the seamless makeup work. While I wish Cloud Atlas did fit that description, at least for a few more years the trio’s daring and moving film will go down as a box office bomb which may or may have not been ahead of its time. No matter how Cloud Atlas stands up in a few years, it was the type of ambition which served as another reminder of how important going to the movie theater is and to truly have experiences while you are there, be they good or bad. With November 2012, there are plenty of movies to have a similar experience with, from Ang Lee‘s Life of Pi to a triumphant new Bond movie. Keep reading to find out what other eight movies you must see this month.

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Director Ang Lee was given a reported $100 million to make this trippy, gut-wrenching, and moving picture. An adaptation of Yann Martel‘s novel of the same name, Life of Pi is an epic art house film that was somehow granted big studio treatment. How could this happen, you ask? If any excuse could be made, it’s likely that Fox knew Lee had something this special up his sleeve. Pi Patel (Irrfan Khan) is given a lofty request by a visiting writer at the beginning of the film: “Tell me a story that will make me believe in God.” What follows is a story that may not make you run to church but at least will make you reach for a tissue. Pi tells this man, played by Rafe Spall, a tale full of suffering and hope. As a boy, he and his family are forced to move out of India, along with the zoo they own. Like most trips in film, their journey does not go smoothly. The ship is hit by a massive storm and the family is lost at sea, leaving the young Pi (Suraj Sharma) alone on a life boat with a few of their animals. Soon, he discovers he has a starving companion along for the ride in Richard Parker, who happens to be a Bengal tiger.

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Life of Pi Movie

The international trailer for Ang Lee‘s Life of Pi features none other than Sigur Rós and Coldplay. When those two bands are used, you know a trailer is really trying to tell you how hopeful, sweet, and inspiring their movie is. Our earlier looks at Lee’s film showed the visuals alone can do the moving bit, so throwing Coldplay and Sigur Rós into the mix isn’t at all needed. But God damn if those two schmaltz groups don’t help pull the heart strings Lee is aiming for even more. See how CG animals and Coldplay mix together after the jump:

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Josh Lucas in Red Dog

Actor Josh Lucas has certainly had a diverse career so far, from the quality of movies he makes, to the scope of the films he’s appeared in, to their level of success. It’s quite a leap going from David Gordon Green’s understated Undertow to Rob Cohen’s opus Stealth, and there was a time when it seemed as if we were going to see Lucas appear in plenty of Poseidons and Stealths. Yet, in recently speaking with the actor, it seem that type of “candy” entertainment just doesn’t peak his interest nowadays. When discussing his recent project Red Dog, Lucas sounded more interested in pursuing projects more in line with the feel-good Australian “dog” picture. It’s a movie where all the actors never veer from sentimentality, something that doesn’t bother Lucas, which, as he tells us, usually isn’t a part of his “less is more” approach. Here’s what Josh Lucas had to say about serving a project as a piece, wanting to tell entertaining stories, and wishing for a clearer relationship with how he feels about his films:

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Perhaps it’s time that we all faced facts – this Cleopatra remake just might not happen. In reality, it shouldn’t happen – after all, is anyone really demanding an Angelina Jolie-starring and supposedly more “relatable” take on the Egyptian pharaoh? – but Sony seems bound and determined to keep on with this project, even though no less than three high profile directors have left the project in one way or another. Vulture reports that David Fincher is the latest to jump ship (joining both James Cameron, who was loosely attached back in 2010, and Paul Greengrass, who seemed like a lock in 2011, on the list), after talks with Sony ended. It’s unknown when Fincher left, though he was still talking about the project back in December, and it’s also unclear why Fincher and Sony couldn’t work it out. The outlet does sagely point to the “somewhat cloudy” relationship between the studio and the director, given that Fincher has delivered to them both a huge hit (The Social Network) and a resounding miss (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo). Yet, perhaps this will allow Fincher to sign on for the Dragon Tattoo sequel we’re expecting in 2014 (at the earliest). As for a replacement for Cleopatra? Vulture also reports that the studio is looking to others, including Ang Lee, who has not entered into anything resembling a formal discussion with the studio.

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Life of Pi Movie

With gorgeous open sea visuals and a sweeping sound, the trailer for Ang Lee‘s Life of Pi is proof that the filmmaker can make hearts beat faster with only a boat, a young boy and a tiger. From the bestselling novel by Yann Martel, the story focuses on a zookeeper’s son (Suraj Sharma) who has some unusual lifeboat companions after a shipwreck. And then a whale jumps over him. Check it out for yourself:

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Over Under - Large

Brokeback Mountain had the highest opening weekend per screen average in 2005, and it went from opening in only five theaters to playing wide all over the world by the end of its run. Then, when award season rolled around, it garnered all sorts of acclaim, getting awards for best picture from multiple outlets, Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Director, and it even got recognition from GLAAD for being the year’s most outstanding film. Pretty much it was embraced by everyone as being groundbreaking and important, and it saved Ang Lee’s butt after he pissed everyone off by making The Hulk. Weekend came out just this last September, but you might not remember it because not many people ended up checking it out. By the time it left theaters it had only made a domestic gross of  $484,592. Ouch. And while this movie also got some love from GLAAD, it was ignored by all of the mainstream awards shows like the Oscars and the Golden Globes. A cultural phenomenon it wasn’t.

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Culture Warrior

Last week, as I watched Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber, I noticed that the trailers on the rental Blu-Ray were all of titles sharing space at the top of my queue: titles like Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins, Kim Ji-woon’s I Saw the Devil, and Jason Eisener’s Hobo with a Shotgun. All, I quickly realized, had been released by the same studio, Magnet Releasing, whose label I recalled first noticing in front of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson. After some quick Internet searching, I quickly realized what I should have known initially, that Magnet was a subsidiary of indie distributor Magnolia Pictures. The practices of “indie” subsidiaries of studios has become commonplace. That majors like Universal and 20th Century Fox carry specialty labels Focus Features and Fox Searchlight which market to discerning audiences irrespective of whether or not the individual titles released are independently financed or studio-produced has become a defining practice for limited release titles and has, perhaps more than any other factor, obscured the meaning of the term “independent film” (Sony Pictures Classics, which only distributes existing films, is perhaps the only subsidiary arm of a major studio whose releases are actually independent of the system itself). This fact is simply one that has been accepted for quite some time in the narrative of small-scale American (or imported) filmmaking. Especially in the case of Fox Searchlight, whose opening banner distinguishes itself from the major in variation on name only, subsidiaries of the majors can hardly even be argued as “tricking” audiences into […]

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The Criterion Collection debuted two great releases last week with Ang Lee’s Ride With The Devil, and Sidney Lumet’s The Fugitive Kind. We didn’t have a chance to check either of these titles out yet, but we think both are worth talking about.

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