Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild Fantasy

Jim Henson has been dead for almost 25 years. Hayao Miyazaki is retiring. And Carl Rinsch may have single-handedly killed all hope for anyone getting a lot of money from Hollywood for an original live-action fantasy film for a while. His 47 Ronin was only partly original, too, since it was based on a historical legend. Still, it was a fresh take on the true story with additions of magical and mythical creatures. The movie wasn’t just a flop; it broke the record for biggest box office bomb of all time (maybe even when accounting for inflation). So don’t expect to see any more epic entries into the genre unless they’re sure things with a built-in audience. Do we need original fantasy films, though? On TV, we have Game of Thrones, which has plenty of imagination in spite of being adapted from the novels of George R.R. Martin, and which is now back on HBO for its fourth season. And there are occasionally great movies sourced from previously written material, as well. For instance, out on home video today there’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of the Smaug, a highly entertaining installment of Peter Jackson’s second (and by most accounts lesser) Tolkien-based trilogy. Occasionally is key, however, as that was one of only three titles on my list of the best sci-fi and fantasy movies of 2013 that didn’t have sci-fi elements.

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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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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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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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The Deep Blue Sea

Well, here we go. This was the first of many a week that will keep us on our toes with a number of different awards announcements, from the critics and other precursors to the narrowing of individual Oscar categories.  We got an interesting batch of awards from the National Board of Review and an equally independent-minded assortment from the New York Film Critics Circle. Put that together with the Academy short list for Best Documentary Feature, and it’s been quite the kick-off. And, as usual, not everyone was happy. It’s not awards season unless someone is out there shouting “snub!” Let’s start with the NYFCC and the handful of unexpected choices that they made in their very long, deliberate process. Rachel Weisz came seemingly out of nowhere to win Best Actress, quite the surprise to all but the most imaginative and intelligent pundits. What did this mean? Is there lack of excitement around other, more obvious contenders? Of course, it simply means that a lot of NYC critics saw The Deep Blue Sea and loved Weisz’s performance. Yet that’s not particularly exciting to delve into, especially if you didn’t like the film.

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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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Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Silent Night It’s Christmas time in a small town, but instead of holiday cheer the streets are filled with blood. A masked Santa Claus is roaming town, finding those who’ve been naughty and ending their lives in violent and often gory ways. Steven C. Miller‘s remake of the nasty 80s original keeps the violence and mayhem but adds both personality and humor with the result being a fun slasher that vastly improves on Silent Night, Deadly Night. Jaime King brings charm and some serious heroine chops to the proceedings, and she’s joined by Malcolm McDowell, Donal Logue and Ellen Wong. That’s right, the most underrated player in Scott Pilgrim finally got another job! Horror fans will be pleased with and surprised by this early Christmas present, so if you’ve missed its (very brief) theatrical window it’s definitely worth picking up on Blu-ray/DVD.[Extras: Behind the scenes, deleted scenes]

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And, with that, awards seasons is off with a major bang. On the heels of last night’s Gotham Awards announcements, the Film Independent has now announced their nominations for the 2013 Film Independent Spirit Awards (best known to most as just “the Independent Spirits”). Per usual, the nominations are rounded out with a number of strong showers from the festival circuit, along with a peppering of studio fare that still manages to meet their independent guidelines. But, rest assured, there are still a number of fresh picks among the noms, and a hearty helping of up-and-comers to watch closely. The big winners (uh, big nominees?) include Beasts of the Southern Wild, Moonrise Kingdom, Silver Linings Playbook, and Safety Not Guaranteed. Some other (somewhat surprising, in a number of cases) nominations worth mentioning include a Best Feature nod for Keep the Lights On, a Best Director nomination for Julia Loktev for her The Loneliest Planet, a Best Screenplay nomination for Zoe Kazan for her Ruby Sparks, the Best Female Lead nod to Quvenzhane Wallis for Beasts, the Best Supporting Female recognition for Compliance‘s Ann Dowd, and no less than two acting nods for Matthew McConaughey (one for Magic Mike and one for Killer Joe), and the already-announced winner of the Robert Altman Award (given to one film’s director, casting director and its ensemble cast) for Starlet. And that’s really just the tip of the iceberg – there are a lot more eye-poppers within these noms (we’ll just say two words – […]

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“In a perfect world, ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ would be a lock for a Best Original Screenplay nomination.” – Joey Magidson, The Awards Circuit It must be frustrating to write for an awards blog (aka an Oscar blog, since the Academy Awards are always the main focus of these sites), and know that the best films of the year are not necessarily the ones that will be nominated. Magidson’s comment above, from his April review of The Cabin in the Woods, sort of sums that up. But at the same time I don’t know if the movie truly deserves the statement. Something to consider, semantically speaking, is that the Academy’s award is not for “Most Original Screenplay” but “Best Original Screenplay.” This isn’t to say that the script, by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, isn’t well-written, and you’re welcome to argue its case for a nomination. Is it the best-written original screenplay of the year, though? All my time as a movie lover and watcher of the Oscars, including the past few years of hate-watching, the original screenplay category is one I’ve constantly been excited about. It’s the place where you could find some of the more clever and creative efforts, including a number of films that might not get other nominations. You could find a good number of interesting foreign films outside of the foreign-language award ghetto (such as Bunuel‘s two nominations for writing), as well as an interesting showing of mainstream and blockbuster fare, especially in the […]

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Prometheus

One month down in the summer movie season. We got a decent opener, certainly not a grand start. Joss Whedon‘s box-office juggernaut and Wes Anderson‘s lovely Moonrise Kingdom aside, we faced disappointments. The Dictator was hit and miss. Battleship was more bloated than big. Although it was better than its harsher critics suggested, Dark Shadows didn’t exactly win over any of Depp and Burton’s naysayers. Now, with June, we’ve got an even more promising month; 30 days packed with Abraham Lincoln killing vampires, a rock musical, and a talking bear movie. All the required ingredients for a proper moviegoing month. This is such a busy month the honorable mentions are more honorable than usual, even Adam Shankman‘s Rock of Ages, that movie being marketed as a celebrity karaoke party. Even though The Loved Ones is apparently a must-see movie, 99.9% of you will not be able to see it this month, hence why it’s not on the list. But what is?

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Last year, I kicked off the FSR Cannes Awards by taking the opportunity to give three awards to The Artist (three of the Oscars it won actually, if you’re interested in just how much of a boss I am), and though there isn’t quite the same standout type of film at this year’s festival, there were some notable highlights. The rain was not one of them. This year, I saw 21 of the hundreds of films available to see, so these awards obviously only take in those that I deemed worthy of my attention (or which were possible to see given the intense mathematical equations required to see everything and write reviews of them all in timely enough fashion that all of the key information doesn’t bugger off out of your head). Here are my own highlights of the 65th annual Cannes Film Festival:

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The Paperboy John Cusack

Last year’s Cannes Film Festival featured this year’s Oscar winning Best Actor performance thanks to the inclusion of the wonderful The Artist in competition, and though the films seem to have been chosen for their artistry and provocative subtexts more than any really commercial pointers (as always happens the year after the festival is deemed “too commercial”), there have been some seriously fine performances this year as well. There wasn’t an Uggy this year, but there was a murdered pooch in Moonrise Kingdom, a bitey Killer Whale in Rust & Bone, and a striking performance from an armadillo in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Me and You, so we’ll have to wait and see who emerges with the best animal performance. Probably won’t come from Madagascar 3 though…so for the time being, let’s stick to the humans.

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Michael Haneke on set of Amour (Love)

As we all know, “Palme d’Or” is French for Feather Button Hand of Gold Achievement. Or something. Google Translate wasn’t loading this morning. Regardless, it’s as prestigious as awards get, although it hilariously almost never lines up with the Oscars (for good reason). Past winners include Barton Fink, Taxi Driver, MASH, The Third Man, Black Orpheus, La Dolce Vita, The Wind That Shakes the Barley and nearly one hundred other films that should be on a rental queue somewhere. That list also includes Michael Haneke‘s The White Ribbon which took the price in 2009 and, as of yesterday, his latest film Love (Amour). That’s 2 wins for the director in 4 competition years. It ties him for Most Palmes d’Or Ever (no director has won more than two), where he joins Alf Sjoberg (Iris and the Lieutenant, Miss Julie); Francis Ford Coppola (The Conversation, Apocalypse Now); Bille August (Pelle the Conqueror, The Best Intentions); Emir Kusturica (When Father Was Away on Business, Underground); Shohei Imamura (The Eel, The Ballad of Narayama); and The Dardenne Brothers (Rosetta, The Child). It’s a stellar achievement deserving of a long standing ovation than the one that The Paperboy got. The full list of winners (from the festival website) is as follows:

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Beasts of the Southern Wild

Cannes’ secondary competition – Un Certain Regard – offers attendees the opportunity to see innovative or intriguing projects, deemed of significance by the programme schedulers, and if there is any film in the selection which fits the bill perfectly, it is Benh Zeitlin‘s Beasts of the Southern Wild. As Kevin Kelly stated in his own review of the film, it changes the way you see movies, and Zeitlin’s first feature arrived at the festival buoyed by similarly positive reviews at Sundance. The film takes place in the Bathtub, a Southern American area outside of a government enforced levee where a community of resistant, and spirited residents live in shacks in the ominous shadow cast by global warming. Our hero is Hush Puppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), an extraordinary six year old girl who lives next door to her father Wink (Dwight Henry), living day to day on the bayou, among a colourful cascade of  carnival characters, but haunted both by the ghost of her absent mother and the threat of impending ecological doom. The narrative is driven by two flashpoint events: first Wink disappears, to return days later in a hospital gown and then a raging storm floods the Bathtub, destroying the communities homes and leaving only a small group of survivors to rebuild.

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Beasts of the Southern Wild received mostly acclaim from its Sundance debut earlier this year with several critics already calling it the best film of 2012. Our own Kevin Kelly called it “magical and moving” and “utterly amazing” in his review, and that guy’s only occasionally wrong. The film follows a young girl living in a a small, rural community just to the left of reality that receives word of an impending disaster caused by flood-ravaged levees. She sets out an adventure that sees imagination and the real world collide as she tries to save her father and town. And that’s even before the prehistoric porcine creatures arrive on scene. The trailer’s release has reportedly brought some bloggers to tears as they watched the images play across the screen, but while you (and I) may not have the same reaction there’s no denying its visual appeal. Think Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke meets Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are and you’ll have an idea what to expect. Maybe. Check out the trailer below. Just be sure you have some Kleenex handy. Or…not.

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Gird your loins, Los Angeles, the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival is coming, and this time, the fest is bringing strippers with them. Lots and lots of (cinematic) strippers. The festival has already announced four titles, which include the North American Premiere of Woody Allen‘s To Rome With Love as the festival’s Opening Night Film, along with Gala screenings for Benh Zeitlin‘s Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lorene Scafaria‘s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and Ava DuVernay‘s Middle of Nowhere, but it’s high time LAFF unveiled their full slate. And what a slate! As announced today, the festival will close with the World Premiere of Steven Soderbergh‘s Magic Mike and will also feature the World Premiere of Alex Kurtzman‘s People Like Us. Other titles announced today of note include Sundance favorites The Queen of Versailles, Teddy Bear, The House I Live In, Celeste and Jesse Forever, Robot and Frank, and Searching for Sugar Man. Additional titles that pop out include Emmett Malloy’s Big Easy Express, Alejandro Brugués‘ Juan of the Dead, Adam Leon’s Gimme the Loot, and Joshua Sanchez’s Four. LAFF also runs a variety of special programs, including Community and Retro Screenings, a crammed slate of short films, and their trademark “Eclectic Mix” of music videos. After the break, you can check out the full line-up for this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival, along with synopses for all features and a full list of all shorts and music videos playing at the fest. LAFF runs from Thursday, June 14 to Sunday, June 24. Passes […]

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s something that happens nightly, provides you with good feelings, is easy to clean up and doesn’t require anyone else to be in the room. What else in your life is like that? We begin tonight with a completely badass image from Brave in which Princess Merida jumps from the clutches of what seems to be an evil bear into the grasp of a nice bear. The difference is in the claws. Also, The Art of Brave book is available for pre-order. Get it.

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With the Tribeca Film Festival in full swing, it’s time that Los Angeles’ own Los Angeles Film Festival pipe in with still more of its lineup, all the better to get left-coasters pumped for their own festival. Earlier this month, LAFF announced that Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love will open the festival, and that announcement is now followed by the release of the first of three of the festival’s Gala titles. Those Galas will include Benh Zeitlin‘s Beasts of the Southern Wild, the World Premiere of Lorene Scafaria‘s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and Ava DuVernay‘s Middle of Nowhere. Beasts was considered the break-out hit of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, so its appearance at another large festival is not a surprise, but it sure is a pleasant announcement for Los Angeles (the film was recently picked to play in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes). The film also made it on to our Most Anticipated Movies of the Summer list, as it will open on June 29. You can check out Kevin’s review of the film from Sundance, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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After literally days of rampant speculation and fanciful rumor-spreading (on my part), this year’s official line-up for the Cannes 2012 Film Festival has officially been unveiled by officials in the South of France. Officially. Unsurprisingly, and as predicted, my own 13 film wishlist was largely completely wrong – but I did predict a massive four (including the absence, thankfully, of Terrence Malick), and in my defense, Michael Haneke’s Love was the 14th film on my list until I decided to oust it for timing reasons. Brad Pitt, Robert Pattinson and Tom Hardy will battle each other as Killing Them Softly (the awfully renamed adaptation of Cogan’s Trade), Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis and the other needlessly renamed flick, Lawless (why not just keep it as The Wettest County?) compete for the Palme d’Or.

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Nothing says “summer at the movies” quite like a metric ton of big name blockbusters flooding theaters near you – superheroes on top of superheroes, classic television series brought back from the dead, animated gems about finding yourself – oh my! But with the cinema summer growing ever-larger, the stakes being pushed ever-higher, and enough content to keep audience members in their seats ever-longer, a line has to be drawn somewhere. Which is why all the members of the Voting Body of Film School Rejects gathered together in our secret chambers to vote on just which films have won our Most Anticipated nod. Twenty films emerged from our complicated, decades-old voting process (read: a Google doc) to be crowned winners. Why twenty? Well, there are twenty weeks in the cinematic summer season (if you count May, which we do – April will be included next year if Hollywood keeps this up), and that should give you movie-lovers a reasonable goal to meet for the viewing season. We’ve even managed to pinpoint our most anticipated movie-going weekend of the summer – June 22nd, when four films open in theaters, all of which made our list. But beyond the mathematics that went into picking the summer’s best weekend, there were also some genuine surprises on the list – including big tentpole films missing completely (sorry, Battleship and Dark Shadows), some indies that sneaked in with lots of votes, a battle royale that went down between our number one and number two picks, […]

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+
published: 12.15.2014
B


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