Argo

The King

A few weeks ago, I saw and greatly enjoyed American Hustle. It’s all surface and doesn’t really add up to anything profound, but I was at a mall on Cape Cod with my mom, whom I was visiting for Christmas. We didn’t need, nor were we expecting, any great masterpiece, and I wasn’t on the hook to review the movie for anyone, so we went to the movies and had a grand old time. This reaction was by no means universal. A whole lot of people don’t like the movie, and a number of critics found it infuriatingly insubstantial and sloppy. It was ever thus. But, when I’m not serving as the model of critical equanimity, I spend my days in a state of nervous terror, brought on by an acute fear of “being wrong” whose scale is frankly silly in its enormity, which is why it may be a very long time, if ever, until I can rewatch American Hustle. Here are 5 more films that induce that same state:

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the-canadian-caper-1980

If you’ve ever put your complete trust in a documentary, you might want to — no, you need to — take a look at Escape from Iran: The Inside Story. This 1980 film, produced by Les Harris for the CBC, was made shortly after the real incident known as the Canadian Caper took place. The same incident is the foundation for Ben Affleck‘s Argo, which is expected to win Best Picture at the Oscars tonight, and yet aside from involving some of the same people they barely appear to be about the same hostage situation. As I’ve written previously, Argo leaves out a few significant details, but so does Escape from Iran. For the latter, though, it was a matter of the real true story being classified. It wasn’t until the late 1990s that the world learned of the fake movie aspect of the Canadian Caper, which is the main appeal of Affleck’s version (also previously told in a 2005 TVdocumentary titled Escape from Iran: The Hollywood Option, which appears on the Argo DVD/Blu-ray). So, in this immediate documentary, the rescued hostages lie to the cameras about how they achieved the escape, claiming they had to pose as members of a Canadian business venture (and start saying “eh” a lot). Looking at the interviews today, there does appear to be some suspicious smiling going on during the cover-up explanation of the mission. Watch the nearly hour-long documentary after the jump to get a laugh at how unknowingly inaccurate the documentary […]

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MSDNAGU EC038

With the Academy Awards finally taking place tomorrow (can you believe that for a long time they were regularly held in April?), there wasn’t a whole lot going on this week around the movie blogosphere except Oscar predictions and guides and other fun Oscar-related content. There was a spot of news here and there, maybe a review of one of The Rock’s billion films coming out this year, but mostly we and other sites have just been posting stories about Hollywood’s biggest night. So, this week’s Reject Recap is solely devoted to the Oscars, a mix of our own features and great stuff we found elsewhere around the web.

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Best Picture

Here it is: the Big Kahuna of the Oscar season. Bestowed upon the producers, the Best Picture award is easily the most memorable category of the Big Six. It often coincides with a Best Director win, but with almost twice the nominations than Best Director and some high-profile snubs, there’s always a chance for an upset. Best Picture is also one of the most divisive categories out there. To target a specific talent or role, it’s easy to zero in on one element of a film. A medicore film can have fantastic, Oscar-worthy cinematography. A film that has no shot at comprehensive awards can offer a scene-stealing performance for a Best Supporting Actor or Actress win. But Best Picture? That’s as comprehensive as it gets. Since the nominations have been made and all the complaints about why certain movies weren’t on the list (like the awards-forgotten Moonrise Kingdom) have been logged, it’s now time to focus on the nine films that made the cut. While the statuette is handed to the producer of the film, it’s an honor that everyone involved in the production can enjoy. Such a picture will either become a minor all-but-forgotten footnote in Oscar history (like The Last Emperor or last year’s The Artist), or it will become a well-known winner of cinematic legend (like The Godfather or Titanic). It will also serve as great marketing copy for any future DVD or Blu-ray release from now until the end of time. Read on for the nominations […]

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Oscar2013 Stunts

No matter what you think about the Academy Awards (and there is whole wide spectrum of thought as to their relevance and accuracy) there is no question that The Oscars are the pinnacle of filmmaking honors. There isn’t any other organization, ceremony, or statue in the film industry that has quite the prestige. So, it should probably piss you off that The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science doesn’t offer an award for Stunt Coordinators. Yep, you read that right. They don’t even get awards in that weird little untelevised pre-show thing that they do before the awards telecast. It’s not a passive exclusion either. Each year for more than two decades, the Academy has actively rejected the creation of an award for Stunt Coordinators. So, since The Academy doesn’t do these masters of cinematic mayhem any justice, we’re going to pretend that they do. Like our other Oscar Prediction pieces, we’ll offer some insight into how the (fictional) nominees were chosen and who we think will win (noted in red):

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commentary-argo

Ben Affleck‘s Argo is probably going to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards this coming Sunday, but even if it somehow loses out to Lincoln or Zero Dark Thirty the film remains a tremendous success. All three of Affleck’s directorial efforts have received critical praise, and the acclaim and the box office have increased with each release, leading to this film’s seven Oscar nominations and $200+ million gross. He may still be a young filmmaker, but it’s clear he has much knowledge and respect for film history and his contemporaries. His commentary for Argo is sprinkled with references and mentions of homage to past films, performers and directors, and along with the movie itself show him to be a director worth watching… and listening to. Keep reading to see what I heard with this week’s Argo Commentary Commentary…

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Best Film Editing

Just yesterday, word spread about a new iPad app that will offer professionals and hobbyists alike around 90% of the tools that an editor would use on a blockbuster movie. It’s an exciting technological development to be sure, but simply having access to a kitchen doesn’t make us all chefs. Francis Ford Coppola talked about editing in mythical terms,  calling it the “essence of cinema” and the “alchemy” that brought everything together. In other words, editing is the magic of movie magic. Because of that, there’s historically been a clear correlation between the flick that wins Best Picture and the one that wins for Best Editing. Namely, about 2/3rds of all Best Picture winners also snag the editing statue. Although the past two years haven’t seen that trend fulfilled — with wins from The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo editors Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter — there’s a solid chance that Best Picture and Best Editing may be reunited on Sunday. To become a nominee, work must first pass through the professional gauntlet of the Editing Branch of AMPAS where a few hundred experts nominate their favorites. The 5 with the most votes make it to general voting where any AMPAS member can make their voice heard. Here are this year’s contenders with my prediction in red:

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Best Adapted Screenplay

The art of adaptation is a tricky one. Taking someone else’s material, made for an entirely different medium, and reworking it to fit in the confines of a feature film is much like attempting to fit a square peg into a hexagonal hole. The elements aren’t designed to work together. It’s even trickier to take that same material and make it into a good movie, where the integrity of the original remains in tact but the quality of its adaptation still retains a palpable uniqueness. The best adaptations, then, are hardly transcriptions, but deliberate acts of taking a work that exists elsewhere and making it speak to the possibilities of cinematic storytelling. This year’s nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay run the gamut of possibilities for different types of adaptation. The category includes the history of our most celebrated president to the true story of a little-known CIA operation to adaptations of celebrated novels to an independent adaptation of an obscure stage play. Oh, and whoever wins on the big night will be a first-time winner. That’s pretty cool. Here are how the nominees size up, with my prediction for the winner 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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discs sushi girl

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Sushi Girl Fish has just been released from jail, and four ex-friends are extremely happy to see him. He served six years for a robbery they all took part in, and now they want to know what happened to the diamonds they stole. The five men sit down for dinner, sushi served off the body of a naked woman, but soon the evening evolves into a torture session as Fish continues to play dumb about the whereabouts of the gems. Director Kern Saxton‘s film is essentially a single-location thriller that succeeds due to some sharp writing, fun performances and grisly practical effects. The titular character (Cortney Palm) is also pretty damn nice. The cast is a who’s who of B-movie actors including Mark Hamill and Tony Todd with cameo appearances by Michael Biehn, Danny Trejo, Jeff Fahey and Sonny Chiba. It may lack the depth of something like The Usual Suspects, but it still finds thrills, laughs and twists in its tight and fun little story. [Extras: Documentary, alternate scenes, outtakes, fake commercials, music video, interviews, video diaries, image gallery, commentaries] Also available on DVD.

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I Killed My Lesbian Wife

Short Starts presents a weekly short film from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career.  For some filmmakers, an early short film can be a memorable calling card. For others, it may be an embarrassment from one’s past, something the now-revered artist wishes was erased both physically and historically. The latter is the case for Ben Affleck, who has admitted to being ashamed of his 20-year-old directorial debut, I Killed My Lesbian Wife, Hung Her on a Meat Hook, and Now I Have a Three-Picture Deal at Disney. It’s got a great title (aside from the Oxford comma), but the film itself is indeed something worth regretting. It’s the sort of work someone like Affleck should worry has been seen by enough Academy members to keep him being snubbed for the Best Director Oscar forever. “It’s horrible,” he told Entertainment Weekly a few years ago. “It’s atrocious. I knew I wanted to be a director, and I did a couple of short films, and this is the only one that haunts me. I’m not proud of it…It looks like it was made by someone who has no prospects, no promise.”

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Argo

The Producers Guild of America just awarded Ben Affleck‘s Argo with two honors. The first is their award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture, and the second is the statistical advantage of winning the Academy Award for the same prize. Since 1989, the PGA and the Oscars have only disagreed 7 times when it comes to Best Picture, and they’ve picked the same winner for the past 6 years straight. It’s not a certainty, of course (and Daniel has made strong cases for Life of Pi and Amour), but it’s a 70% historical chance that Affleck’s movie about a fake CIA movie might win big on February 24th. Now, just for fun, here are the 7 times that the PGA and the Oscars didn’t pick the same flick to win:

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Life of Pi

What does Best Picture say about who we are? On the one hand, nothing. It’s very easy to write the whole thing off as Hollywood congratulating itself, the height of cultural irrelevance. Plenty of critics write anti-Academy pieces every year, highlighting the limited scope of the nominees and the out-of-touch reputation of the voting membership. They aren’t necessarily wrong. Yet the Oscars are part of a larger picture of American cinema and society, and they reflect it. It’s been said that the raucous comedy Tom Jones was just what we needed at the Oscars in early 1964, only a few months after John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The Best Picture battle between Coming Home and The Deer Hunter was emblematic of the troubled legacy of the Vietnam War, which had come to an end only four years before. In recent years, the success of Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech and The Artist seems to hint at globalization and the importance of the international market. (A victory for Life of Pi would continue that trend.) So, what do we do with this year? If Lincoln wins, there will no doubt be plenty of writing around the connections between Honest Abe and President Obama. More than that, however, Steven Spielberg’s film is a work of profound faith in America and its institutions. In that respect it opens a dialog with the other films nominated for Best Picture, and gives us some insight into Oscar’s mood going into 2013.

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argo_29

One of the big surprises of the 2013 Golden Globe Awards involved a sort of “Argo-f**kyourself” to the Academy Awards, as Oscar-snubbed Ben Affleck was named Best Director of the year. His film, Argo, also ended up winning Best Picture in the drama category. Early in the night, in a brilliantly hilarious monologue by co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, the ceremony offered some foreshadowing with subtle jabs at the Oscars with immediate shout outs to Affleck and fellow Academy snubs in the director category, Kathryn Bigelow and Quentin Tarantino. They even fit in a joke directed at Anne Hathaway about her 2011 Academy Awards ceremony co-hosting gig with James Franco. Hathaway expectantly wound up winning for Best Supporting Actress, though, and her film, Les Miserables won Best Picture – Comedy or Musical. Co-star Hugh Jackman was a bit of s surprise as Best Actor – Comedy or Musical. More than who won and what didn’t, people will be talking about the somewhat cryptic speech by Cecil B. DeMille Award winner Jodie Foster and the appearance by Bill Clinton to present Best Picture nominee Lincoln. Speaking of Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis surprised nobody by winning Best Actor – Drama. But at least I ended up surprised that he did a comedy 25 years ago called Stars and Bars, which I need to see immediately. My Golden Globes live-blog co-host, Daniel Walber, alerted me to that. And if you didn’t follow us during the ceremony, which we found far more enjoyable than […]

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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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trailer_beasts of southern wild

Everyone calm down. The Oscar nominations are not a disaster. They actually make for the most exciting awards season in recent memory. I know that for many of us this took a few minutes to notice. I am, frankly, still pretty ticked off about Kathryn Bigelow somehow missing a nomination for Best Director. I’d rant about this, but Monika Bartyzel over at Movies.com has already done an excellent job breaking it down. Other things aren’t so much infuriating as they are irritatingly dull, like a Best Supporting Actor category full of former winners and a studio-dominated Best Animated Feature. Add that to the embarrassing jokes Emma Stone and Seth McFarlane threw at us at 8:30AM EST, and it’s not surprising Twitter turned into a mini-maelstrom of bitter resentment. However, there is much to be stoked about! There are the little things, like four nominations for my beloved Anna Karenina. There are littler things, like Quvenzhané Wallis becoming the youngest Best Actress nominee in history. There are the littlest things: PES’s Fresh Guacamole might be the shortest Oscar nominee in history with a running time of just over 90 seconds. Finally, the big picture is also a lot more intriguing than anyone would have guess just a few months ago.

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Culture Warrior on 2012

In this end-of-year editorial, Landon Palmer discusses the pattern that movies demonstrated in 2012 for telling stories through protagonists defined by their various personality traits rather than through conventional, straightforward characters. In so doing, movies this year showed how our individual identities have become divided within various aspects of modern social life. This trend made some of the year’s movies incredibly interesting, while others suffered from a personality disorder. Landon argues that movies ranging from The Hunger Games to The Dark Knight Rises to Holy Motors alongside cultural events and institutions like the Presidential election, social media, and “Gangnam Style” all contributed to a year in which popular culture is finally became open about its constant engagement with multiple cults of personality. Six years ago, Time magazine famously named its eagerly anticipated “Person of the Year” You in big, bold letters. Its cover even featured a mirror. As a result of the established popularity of supposedly democratized media outlets like Facebook and the home of the cover’s proverbial “You,” YouTube, Time declared 2006 as the year in which the masses were equipped with the ability to empower themselves for public expressions of individual identity. More than a half decade later, social media is no longer something new to adjust to, but a norm of living with access to technology. Supposing that Time’s prophecy proved largely correct, what does it mean to live in a 21st century where we each have perpetual access to refracting our respective mirrors?

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sorel_pi

When contemplating my favorite films of the year, I keep forgetting about Life of Pi. Yet very few narrative features wowed me as much as Ang Lee’s spectacular adaptation. Given how much I enjoyed it in the theater, the film should have stuck with me more than it has. I blame the ending, which traded the magnificent visuals and wondrous sea adventure for a talky bookend that too directly spelled out the point of the story within the story. I don’t know that I’d say the ending ruined the rest of the film for me. I could go back and re-watch the whole thing and still appreciate all the effects and thrills and drama that excited me the first time around. But if that’s the stuff I want to remember first and foremost, I’ll probably have to leave a few minutes early next time. Lee surely is familiar enough with the craft of storytelling to know that endings are extremely important, that they can make or break an audience’s satisfaction with a movie by being the part that it is left with. He would presumably disagree with me that Life of Pi has a weak ending. And at least the staff of Entertainment Weekly believes the film actually has one of the best endings of the year. And that is fine, because a lot of people hated the endings of Prometheus, The Bourne Legacy and Savages, and I think those movies have three of the best endings of 2012. The […]

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The Best Movies of 2012

I watched 439 new-to-me films in 2012 (so far), and the majority of them were new releases. So, it is with no small measure that I say that this has been a spectacular year for movies, both domestic and foreign made, and anyone who claims otherwise is a dipshit. Narrowing the great ones down to just twelve was predictably difficult… so I’ve included twenty honorable mentions. There are still a few high profile films I need to see, most notably Zero Dark Thirty, and I’ve caught the vast majority of the big titles, but stay tuned through to the end of the piece for all the necessary sidenotes. And this should go without saying, but any film critic’s best-of list is essentially nothing more than a list of his or her objectively preferred movies, and what follows below is mine for 2012. That said, the movies listed below are in fact the twelve (correct) best films of the year. In alphabetical order.

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Zero Dark Thirty

Consider awards season fully, totally, and irrevocably on as of this very moment. The National Board of Review has just announced their winners for the 2012 movie-going season, and their list is packed with a lot of names we should just get used to hearing attached to accolades – names like Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Looper, and many more. Missing from the list? Anything related to Paul Thomas Anderson‘s The Master, Ang Lee‘s Life of Pi, and Joe Wright‘s Anna Karenina. Also shocking? Bradley Cooper‘s Best Actor win (for SLP) over Daniel Day-Lewis‘s work in Lincoln. Last year’s big winner was Martin Scorsese‘s Hugo, with that film picking up both Best Film and Best Director, much like Bigelow and her Zero Dark Thirty have for this crop of awards. But ZBD already has a leg up on Hugo here, with Jessica Chastain earning Best Actress honors for her work in the film, while Hugo went without any acting accolades. While the winners list is dominated by ZBD, SLP, and Beasts, there are definitely some wonderful surprises tucked away within the picks – winners like Ann Dowd for Best Supporting Actress for Compliance, the Spotlight Award to John Goodman (for his work in Argo, Flight, Paranorman, and Trouble With the Curve), the inclusion of The Perks of Being a Wallflower in the Top Films list, and a Top Independent Film listing rounded out with some superior picks (like Compliance, End of Watch, […]

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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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