Asif Kapadia


Ron Howard’s Rush opens with a curious bit of voiceover – Daniel Bruhl, acting as Niki Lauda, tells the audience that he’s known for two things: his feud with fellow Formula One racer James Hunt (played in the film by Chris Hemsworth) and the accident that nearly claimed his life. In the context of the film, it’s not a weird choice, as most of Rush centers quite firmly on the rivalry between Lauda and Hunt that its third act plot point – the one about Lauda’s horrific accident and his subsequent recovery – feels almost shoehorned in. But it is strange because the Lauda storyline is, on its own, extremely compelling stuff. Sure, Howard’s film attempts to comment on the nature of competition and how having a professional nemesis can drive certain people to great things in a pretty definitive way, but anyone who knows anything about Niki Lauda knows that it was his accident that really defined him. James Hunt was simply a part of that. Rush is fine as is, featuring some great performances and one hell of a third act, but it’s a misfire because it doesn’t give its all to the very best part of the story and just go pedal to the metal on a true Niki Lauda biopic. Fortunately, for anyone who isn’t compelled to see Rush right now (or perhaps ever), there’s an available alternative that makes Howard’s latest blockbuster look easy, emotionless, and utterly middle of the road. It’s called Senna, and […]


James Franco and Anne Hathaway

Usually I’m quite cynical about end-of-year lists, as they demand a forced encapsulation of an arbitrary block of time that is not yet over into something simplified. I typically find end-of-year lists fun, but rarely useful. But 2011 is different. As Scott Tobias pointed out, while “quiet,” this was a surprisingly strong year for interesting and risk-taking films. What’s most interesting has been the variety: barely anything has emerged as a leading contender that tops either critics’ lists or dominates awards buzz. Quite honestly, at the end of 2010 I struggled to find compelling topics, trends, and events to define the year in cinema. The final days of 2011 brought a quite opposite struggle, for this year’s surprising glut of interesting and disparate films spoke to one another in a way that makes it difficult to isolate any of the year’s significant works. Arguments in the critical community actually led to insightful points as they addressed essential questions of what it means to be a filmgoer and a cinephile. Mainstream Hollywood machine-work and limited release arthouse fare defied expectations in several directions. New stars arose. Tired Hollywood rituals and ostensibly reliable technologies both met new breaking points. “2011” hangs over this year in cinema, and the interaction between the films – and the events and conversations that surrounded them – makes this year’s offerings particular to their time and subject to their context. This is what I took away from this surprising year:


Formula One World Championship

Formula One racing is something of a mystery on these NASCAR-obsessed American shores. As a consequence of that, we’ve all heard much more about the Dale Earnhardts and Jeff Gordons of the U.S. automotive world than Ayrton Senna, the late Brazilian driver who’s widely considered to have been one of the best racers of all time. Travel many places outside North America, though, and Formula One is part sport and part religion, attracting legions of fans, reams of sponsors and an enormous swath of media attention. So it’s possible that the celebrity of Senna, who won three world championships and 41 races over the course of his ten-year career (1984-94), eclipsed that of even the most fervently-admired NASCAR racers. Asif Kapadia’s Senna, a documentary about the athletic giant, is one part useful primer into his feats and one part perceptive character study. Consisting entirely of contemporaneous footage — home video images provided by Senna’s family as well as gritty race scenes and revealing behind-the-scenes imagery — the film simultaneously hurls you into the highly-charged world of Formula One and the private emotional space of its complex protagonist.

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published: 01.27.2015
published: 01.27.2015
published: 01.26.2015
published: 01.26.2015

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