Anna Karenina

Best Cinematography

Cinematography, like many technical awards, is an incredibly difficult art form requiring years of experience, an encyclopedic knowledge of light and color, and an impossible ability to adapt to an industry whose technologies of capturing moving images are always changing. But that doesn’t mean someone as inexperienced as the Academy voters or myself shouldn’t be allowed to judge all that hard work! This year’s cinematography category is surprisingly controversial. Mihai Mălaimare, Jr’s work on The Master, once thought a shoo-in for this category, wasn’t even nominated, nor were other visually enthralling films, like Darius Wolski’s work on Promtheus. That said, the films that were ultimately nominated no doubt contain some expert cinematography (because I would know), but, as the political nature of these things always indicates, the question of “best” is highly suspect. Here’s how the nominees size up, with my prediction for the winner in red…

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Best Production Design

It’s got a new name! Best Art Direction is now Best Production Design, in keeping with the equivalent change of the Academy branch. Of course, the name change doesn’t have any practical impact on the content of the category or its predictability, but it is cool nonetheless. This year’s crop is an interesting bunch. Three of the five nominees are also up for Best Picture, though the category doesn’t align with the top often enough to make it a no-brainer. There are three period films and two fantasy films, in keeping with the Academy’s reluctance to award contemporary design. And it goes without saying that most of the nominated films are visually stunning. Check out the nominees for Best Production Design with my prediction in red:

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Best Original Score

Film scores can be considered a dime a dozen – a bunch of orchestration that certainly needs to be there, but plays to the background and is rarely ever noticeable. And while that can be true, the last few years have introduced new composers and new ways of creating music into the world of film composing, electrifying and shaking up the “boring ol’ orchestration” into something undeniably new and exciting. And attention should be paid. The nominees in the Best Original Score category this year may not be new to the game or beat on the side of a car for a new look at percussion, but these scores come from a variety of films that needed very specific tones to be conveyed through their respective sounds. From the scandalous period piece Anna Karenina to the visually stunning journey of Life of Pi to a new adventure with a well-known secret agent in Skyfall to two historic films from two very different time periods, each attempting to overcome adversity with Argo and Lincoln. While most of the nominees have been up to bat in this category before, there is a newcomer among their ranks and it may be this fresh voice that bests them all (my prediction of his win noted in red.) Read on as we take a closer look this year’s five Best Original Score nominees and see who may end up being the best of the best come Oscar night…

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ted_02037204

Once upon a time, the Oscar nominations were filled with titles unfamiliar to the regular Joe. Not unknown, necessarily, but at least not widely seen. But today, thanks to all kinds of home video platforms and theatrical distribution for even the short film nominees, it’s not always so impossible to see everything before the big night. To help those of you wishing to be completists, I’ve listed all of this year’s recently announced Oscar nominees and noted how and where you can see them, whether presently or soon enough. It may not be entirely doable, as some foreign films haven’t officially been released here, including one that doesn’t even yet have a date, and some titles are in the middle of their theatrical to DVD window. But there are a bunch that can be streamed right this moment on your computer via Amazon, Google, YouTube and other outlets, each of which I’ve marked accordingly courtesy of GoWatchIt. Only three are through Netflix Watch Instant, by the way (How to Survive a Plague, The Invisible War and Mirror Mirror). And one short has been embedded in the post. 

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Anna Karenina

The 2012 awards season is coagulating. Thanks to SAG and the HFPA, we now have a solid list of contenders for Best Picture and a narrowing group of potential nominees for everything else. Forgive the metaphor, but it does feel a bit like goop. Both major lists of nominees this week are full of easily predicted choices, and the few unexpected picks that take us by surprise only do so because we thought they were too bland even for the HFPA. (Except for you, Nicole Kidman! There’s nothing bland about The Paperboy.) Don’t get me wrong, I love Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, and Maggie Smith, but this is getting unseemly. And the days are running out for films to make their way in from the sidelines. However, I am going to take this last chance to fight through the often claustrophobic box of awards watching and shout to the heavens a bit about a movie I think should be getting substantially more attention. I was sort of hoping that the Golden Globe nominations would do that for me, given how hard they went for Atonement a few years ago. They like to shake things up in a good way, at least now and then. Alas, it seems it was easier to go out on a limb for Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Anna Karenina is the best awards-ready movie of the year that isn’t getting an ounce of awards attention. Frankly, I find it somewhat surprising. Joe Wright’s three literary […]

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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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Joe Wright set up a big challenge for himself with Anna Karenina. The material could easily lend itself to the stuffy brand of period piece, which is the type of film we see all too often during the awards season. Wright didn’t want to make that film, though. With his theater concept, he may have stripped the budget down, but, according to Wright, it was the exact type of challenge where the most creativity comes from. That notably happened with his previous project, Hanna, as well. Everyone adored the long-take fight scenes in that film, and that approach came out of saving time, budget, and, of course, creative impulse. It’s those type of decisions Wright seems the most excited by. Here’s what director Joe Wright had to say about why his brain switches off when filming, the power of limitations, and why Anna Karenina is his least indulgent film:

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Anna Karenina Review

Director Joe Wright’s latest film, a lush and visually striking adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” is uniquely suited to the filmmaker’s tastes and tones. Joining his other love-struck and leading lady-centric films like Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, Wright again adapts well-tread material with an eye for emotion, dizzying and overwrought as it may be (or truly, as it can be). Utilizing a “theater-set” concept to frame up his film, Wright’s Anna Karenina offers up his most original film yet, but one that still fails to ultimately come together and connect with his audience. Tolstoy’s novel has been adapted countless times before and in a variety of mediums. While not a complicated story, the trials and tribulations of the young Mrs. Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) are still ripe for discussion and dissection, and Wright’s choice to keep the film in the book’s period setting does nothing to diminish its aching relatability. A dazzling society maven, Anna’s life centers on her husband (the beloved politician Alexei Karenin, Jude Law, whom she seems to simply admire, not adore), parties, and her young son. Mildly upended by the news of her brother’s (Matthew Macfadyen) cheating ways, Anna sets off to visit the broken family in Moscow and to help mend some long-simmering wounds. Upon her arrival in Moscow, she meets the dashing (sure) Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), and the pair eventually fall into an all-consuming affair that threatens to destroy every element of Anna’s life.

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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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Hello, and welcome to Friday afternoon in Hollywood. With the better part of the industry coasting along on nothing but the fumes of Frappucinos to get to the weekend, there’s nothing left to report but the thrills and chills of release date shuffles. But we here at FSR won’t rest until you have all the news you could possibly need to get you through the weekend – we’re working for the week,man -so let’s all get hip to the latest release date movements by way of our handy Release Date Round-Up form (easy to understand and to digest, yum yum). After the break, get the latest release dates for Anna Karenina, Trouble With the Curve, This Must Be the Place, Runner Runner, Seven Psychopaths, and that Gambit remake no one wanted.

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Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina

Focus Features has a new behind-the-scenes look at Joe Wright‘s Anna Karenina adaptation that showcases the lavish potential of the movie’s look and the experimental bat pointed toward the left field bleachers of Russia. Wright’s track record is solid for both historical fiction and methods that are out of the ordinary, and it’s excellent to see the two blended here for a Tolstoy novel that’s seen the screen more than a few times already. The only strange thing about this featurette is how joyous and life-affirming it seems in the face of utterly bleak source material. Check it out for yourself, and see how Wright brought Russia onto a stage and filmed it.

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Oh, look, Joe Wright went and directed a historically-set film based on a novel that stars Keira Knightley! I am positively shocked! This time around, Wright and Knightley are taking on no less than Tolstoy (after already going after Austen with Pride and Prejudice and McEwan with Atonement), with Wright directing his frequent muse as the eponymous character in Leo Tolstoy‘s enduring work, “Anna Karenina.” Wright’s Anna Karenina hews close to the basic story – Knightley’s Anna, a high society aristocrat, gets caught up in a consuming affair with the dashing Count Vronsky (Aaron Johnson, sporting one hell of a mustache) that has repercussions far beyond just her unsatisfying marriage to a smarmy-looking Jude Law as Alexei Karenin. It’s tragic, it’s sad, it’s Russian. So let’s see what Wright can do with it with the film’s first full trailer and an overly Moulin Rouge-d poster.

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Focus Features has just announced a helmer for their Anna Karenina adaptation penned by Tom Stoppard, and while it’s a bit of a no-duh assignment, it’s still a very fine one. Joe Wright will direct the film, adapted from Leo Tolstoy’s classic (read: every high school kid is assigned to read it, and none of them ever do) novel. Despite my more bookwormish tendencies, my familiarity with Anna Karenina is quite lacking, so we’ll turn to Focus’ plotline for the film, which tells us that “the story unfolds in its original late-19th-century Russia high-society setting and powerfully explores the capacity for love that surges through the human heart, from the passion between adulterers to the bond between a mother and her children. As Anna questions her happiness, change comes to her family, friends, and community.” Also, it’s Russian and it’s Tolstoy, so it’s also not a feel-good work by any stretch. But the film has a solid cast already attached to it, including some names that Wright has worked with before, including Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina (in her third role in a Wright production), with Jude Law as her husband Alexei Karenin, and Aaron Johnson as Count Vronksy, with other roles filled by Kelly Macdonald, Matthew Macfayden (Mr. Darcy in Wright’s Pride & Prejudice), Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Emily Watson, Olivia Williams (from Hanna), and Ruth Wilson.

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Joe Wright first gained recognition in Hollywood by doing period dramas starring Keira Knightley. After stepping out of that genre for 2009’s The Soloist and this year’s Hanna, he is set to return to what brought him to the party. This time he has Knightlyy cast as the lead in an adaptation of the Russian classic “Anna Karenina”. Written by Leo Tolstoy, “Anna Karenina” tells the story of a woman in a loveless marriage who bucks societal expectations by starting an affair with a military man.

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