Beginners

Stories We Tell

All creations are, in some way, autobiographical. As the merging of imagination and experience, at least a little bit of the creator’s self is infused in their creation. At times, it’s little more than a thematic hint, like Ethan Hawke’s discussion of his failing marriage in Before Sunset, as the actor himself went through a public break-up. It can also be the combination of memory and fantasy, like Guy Maddin’s eccentric documentary about his hometown and childhood memories, My Winnipeg. And other times, cinema becomes the therapist investigating familial turmoil, like Sarah Polley’s excellent Stories We Tell. On occasion, the film itself becomes a revealing cinematic journal, one that makes its audience witting (or unwitting) voyeurs snooping through private lives with a depth tabloids can only dream of. These films allow the filmmaker moments of introspection, revenge, and confusion that make for compelling narratives, but even more fascinating autobiographies when you know what inspired them.

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Editor’s Note: This article will be updated in real time as the winners come in during the Academy Awards broadcast. Please join us for our Live-Blog tonight (because we ask nicely), and while you wait for the winners, check out our Oscar Week Series, where you will find breakdowns and predictions for all of the major categories. It’s finally here! The time of year where I can write a paragraph that no one will read because they’ve already scrolled down to see who’s won. But even though this won’t be seen by humans, here’s a personal reminder that this night may be about politics and back-slapping, but it’s also about the splendor of cinema. It’s about the magic of movies. The genius of thousands of images all strung together with blood, sweat and tears to create characters and a journey through the heart of a story. There are some great stories on display tonight. That’s what matters second most. What matters most, of course, is crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you and hearing the lamentation of their women. Let’s get to the winning, right? And the Oscar goes to…

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It’s been a year filled with silent screen stars seeking redemption, the 1920s coming alive in Paris, a young boy searching for the first great director, sex addicts in New York City, horses going to war, maids of dishonor, and skulls getting crushed in elevators. Now it’s time to celebrate all of those things and more with the 84th annual Academy Awards. They’ve come a long way since the Hotel Roosevelt in 1929 (although sex addicts have almost always been a fixture). Get to ready to smile, ball your fists with snubbed rage, or be generally unsurprised. Here they are. The 2012 Oscar nominees:

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Hugo

It is day four of awards season, and already some names are growing wearyingly familiar, and even the surprises don’t quite pop like they used to. On Monday evening, the Gothams announced their annual awards, followed swiftly by the Film Independent Spirit nominations announcement and the NYFCC’s winners, but director Martin Scorsese and his latest film, Hugo, were without some big awards love – until now. The National Board of Review has announced their best-of picks for the year, and Hugo has topped out as Best Film, with Scorsese grabbing Best Director. As the film opened just last week, here’s hoping that this NBR endorsement will pump up somewhat lackluster box office returns. Paired with a weekend box office free of new major releases, and maybe Hugo can swing up to the top of the heap. As for the rest of the Board’s awards, there’s a bevy of names here that already seem like old hat – picks like Christopher Plummer for Beginners and The Artist, The Descendants, and The Tree of Life as a “top” films for the year – but there are still a few eyebrow-raisers, as our friends over at /Film note, J.C. Chandor picking up another award for his debut, Margin Call, continues to be surprising. Where is Sean Durkin and his own Sundance hit Martha Marcy May Marlene? And J. Edgar as one of the year’s best? And a Breakthrough to Felicity Jones and Rooney Mara, but no Elizabeth Olsen? Bizarre, really. But there are […]

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Remember all the way back to last night when the Gothams announced their annual awards and thus declared that awards season was like, so totally on? No? Really? It was just last night, come on. In that vein, the Film Independent Spirit Awards have just announced their nominations for their annual awards (held in February, on the beach, as ya do in Los Angeles), and their picks come with their own surprises. Remember (no, seriously, I need you to remember back less than twenty-four hours) how the Gothams didn’t give squat to Take Shelter or 50/50 or Martha Marcy May Marlene? Or Drive? Or The Descendants? Well, the Independent Spirit nominations are here to ease that pain. Leading the nominations pack are just those very films, along with Gotham darling Beginners and black and white sensation The Artist, with Take Shelter and The Artist tied for the most nominations, with five each. Following the lead, with four nominations each are Beginners, Drive, The Descendants, and Martha Marcy May Marlene, with 50/50 logging three noms. And, coincidentally, it’s those top nomination-getters (save MMMM) that are all nominated for Best Feature. Funny how that works out, right? Other nominations of note include Best First Feature (Another Earth, In the Family, Margin Call, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Natural Selection ), Best First Screenplay (Another Earth, Margin Call, Terri, Cedar Rapids, 50/50), and the John Cassavetes Award, which is given to the best feature made for under $500,000 (Bellflower, Circumstance, Hello Lonesome, Pariah, The […]

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The 21st Gotham Independent Film Awards kicked off awards season with their ceremony this evening, doling out a limited number of awards to some of the strongest independent voices and films of the year. The Gothams cover just seven categories, but they often signal big trends and name up-and-comers, what with awards named things like Breakthrough Director and Actor or Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You. The final jury is made up of “distinguished filmmakers,” though you’d be hard-pressed to find a list of just who is on that jury this year. The Gothams turned in some real surprises tonight (big enough that, even as the first award show of the year, they are still considered shocks, that’s something), with the two biggest nomination-getters, The Descendants and Martha Marcy May Marlene, coming away without a thing. Martha Marcy May Marlene missing out on awards is certainly bizarre enough, but what may well be the biggest upset from that shut-out is lead actress Elizabeth Olsen losing out on Breakthrough Actor to Felicity Jones. Both ladies starred in Sundance hits (MMMM and Like Crazy, respectively), but back in January, I cannot imagine that anyone would have placed Jones’ performance above Olsen’s (including myself, and I quite liked both films and both performances). Other jaw-droppers? Mike Mills‘ Beginners taking home Best Feature – along with Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life, as the two productions tied for the honor. If this is a hint as to how unpredictable the coming season […]

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This Week in DVD

Everything old is new again as two of the week’s best DVD releases are for films that are decades old including Giorgio Moroder’s 1984 redo of Fritz Lang’s classic Metropolis with music by Freddy Mercury, Loverboy and other 80s superstars. But don’t fret, there are also some solid new films to check out this week including Bellflower, Griff the Invisible, The Warring States and more. As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Three Colors: Blue White Red (Criterion) Krzysztof Kieslowski’s thematic trilogy looks at France’s motto: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. Blue stars Juliette Binoche as a woman who suffers a terrible loss and attempts to free herself from life and its responsibilities with a kind of slow-motion suicide, but she instead finds true freedom through healing. Red features Irene Jacob as a young woman whose solitude is slowly shattered by unexpected friendships. And I have no clue what White is about. I haven’t even seen Criterion’s new set yet, but even a Criterion release of just Blue and Red would warrant an automatic purchase.

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The Reject Report

And I hope they’re teaching math. But this class is probably more about learning skills like flinging energy beams from your eyes or learning how to hone you telekinetic abilities. I kind of wish I had some of those right now. That way I’d know exactly how many audience members will be attending X-Men: First Class this weekend, and my numbers will be a bit more accurate than they were this time last week. Thanks a lot, Kung Fu Panda 2. Regardless, it seems pretty evident First Class will come in #1 this weekend, as it opens unopposed. That is, if you consider the gargantuan second weekend Hangover Part II is likely to have. Still, I’m sticking with my guns. First Class all the way, but its debut might not be as astonishing as some would hope. Let’s look into that more right now.

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Film festivals always seem to end up with a few paint by numbers indie films. Throw in an angsty 30-something unhappy with his life, an awkward relationship with a cute girl and a few gay characters and you have Beginners, or any number of other quirky indie dramedies you might have seen. Despite a pretty stellar cast including Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer and Melanie Laurent, Mike Mills’s movie is a bland and pretentious film that doesn’t add up to much. The film focuses primarily on McGregor’s Oliver, the aforementioned angsty 30-something who’s been thrown into a bit of an existential crisis by the last few years of his father’s life. After the death of his mother, his father Hal finally has the courage to tell Oliver that he’s gay and has been his whole life. With no one to embarrass or disappoint with his true self, Hal lives his remaining few years out in the open enjoying and celebrating who he is, dating a much younger man while organizing parties and pride marches and letter writing campaigns to right wing politicians. But eventually Hal succumbs to the cancer that has riddled his body and the party is over. The film begins with Oliver cleaning out his father’s stuff after his death, but a good portion of the story takes place in flashbacks showing Hal’s last few years as well as some of Oliver’s childhood and his relationship with his mother.

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Mike Mills‘s latest film, Beginners, bares many similarities to his directorial debut, Thumbsucker. Both films are personal tales from the acclaimed filmmaker, they cover similar thematics, and are honest and, somewhat, dark stories told in a heightened manner. That style is mostly due to, as Mills claims, his art background. Nearly every frame in Beginners feels precise and beautifully composed. The auteur director has a style of his own, despite all the inspirations he mentions in our chat. Woody Allen is definitely the clearest influence, but this is the type of film that even Allen himself hasn’t made in quite some time. Here’s what director Mike Mills had to say about losing a father, finding financing, and creating art.

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So you’ve eaten at Pita Pit and Best Wurst (because there’s nothing wrong with two lunches) and you’re scoping out theaters ready to get more movies on, but you have no idea what you’re going to see. That teary indie drama or that ridiculous sci-fi comedy? You don’t know do you? And you can’t figure it out on your own for some reason. Fortunately, we’ve created this handy guide to help you in your time of duress. Use it wisely. There’s no chance it’ll send you to the porno theater across the highway, so if you end up there, it’s on you.

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There are 130 films this year at Austin’s SXSW, and 60 of them being world premieres. When you scroll down the list of the films showing there, 99% of them you’ve never heard of before. Only a handful stick out that you actually know about or have eagerly (or mildly…) been anticipating. The films at the fest that currently are the most exciting for us are also the most high profile. That’s not to say there won’t be far superior little known flicks playing there – there most definitely will be – but the big ones showing are always the early attention grabbers. We’ll be running a bigger and more comprehensive list of SXSW must-sees closers to the fest, which is basically when we’ll have more info on the films there that aren’t being released by Universal or Summit. But as of right now, here are a few features that already got our excitement on high. As for those of you interested right now in knowing more about those 130 films, check out the full list here.

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A trailer for the new film from Thumbsucker director Mike Mills has hit the web. It’s called Beginners and stars Christopher Plummer, Ewan McGregor, and Mélanie Laurent. Beginners tells the story of a father and son, both trying to find their places in the world, the cute little dog that’s going to run along beside them and make everybody’s girlfriend want to see the movie, and the hot chick from Inglorious Basterds that’s going to get their boyfriends to agree.  It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, and is set for release in US theaters on June 3rd. Check out the trailer for yourself after the jump.

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