Black Swan

Black Swan

You can call Darren Aronofsky many things, but what you can’t call him is unambitious. From a stylized depiction of a mathematician’s gradual descent into madness to a story of one man’s love and loss that traverses across a millennium to an unrelenting journey into the life-or-death stakes of the perfect ballet performance, Aronosky’s work has tackled an array of subjects that all bear his stamp: a pursuit of perfection shared unmistakably between himself and his characters. Even when the reach of his ambitions has exceeded his grasp, Aronofsky has always made films that bear the mark of a director unwilling to compromise, for better or worse. His latest, Noah, no doubt represents his most enterprising reach yet. At once an epic Hollywood spectacle and a fable updated to deal with fears of an impending environmental apocalypse, Noah is a strange and enticing combination of big budget studio fodder and bewildering yet beautiful gestures of visionary auteurism. So here’s some free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the guy who made 3.14159 cool again.

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Hollywood Intern

The unpaid internship is a well-established and pretty messed-up tradition in Hollywood. It’s also a crapshoot. What might look on paper like an opportunity to work under experienced professionals and hone your skills may turn out to be a summer of coffee runs and making close friends with copy machines. Exactly what constitutes an internship – and what justifies an unpaid internship – was the subject of a recent lawsuit between Fox Searchlight and two unpaid interns (Eric Glatt and Alexander Footman) who worked on the set of Darren Aronofsky’s critical and commercial darling Black Swan. As reported in The New York Times, the interns won in a ruling that has important implications for the future of unpaid Hollywood internships.

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IntroActorMods

These days you’re not a true thespian until you’ve gone AIDS skinny at least once for a role or, failing that, Stay Puft fat. Researching the many time actors have opted to change their bodies for a role, it became clear how many lists like this seem to pop up on the internet. Almost all these lists rate the change by how much was lost or gained. In an attempt to be different, I’ve decided not to judge this by a number but rather how much apparent pain they went though. It’s more fun that way, and sometimes it involves more than one movie. To give you an example of what I mean, check out the starting point:

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Mondo Nina

September brings us many spoils here in Austin, Texas. A reprieve from 100-degree heat (it’s 94, which feels quite nice) and the promise of the biggest, most delicious genre film festival in all of these United States. And while Fantastic Fest is raging at the Alamo Drafthouse, their partners in crime at Mondo will be doing something equally as exciting: opening a new gallery show. From the first Mondo Gallery show to the time they saluted Adventure Time, each one of these events has been special in its own way. This time around, Justin Ishmael and the Mondo team have put together a show with art from Robert Brandenburg and Craig Drake, two artists who have delivered a number of stunning prints. We are profoundly excited to be debuting one such piece today on FSR. From artist Craig Drake, we’d like you to meet “Nina.”

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Perfectionist. Demanding. Hard to work with. David Fincher is a man who hates his own brand but is secure in his own reputation. Of course, it’s a little bit easy when that reputation includes stunning movies and a mind that can operate at an auteur speed in the high-occupancy Hollywood studio lane. He’s a (mostly) accessibly genius, which is rare and which means that we as fans and filmmakers can learn a lot from him. Fortunately, he’s as free with his advice as he is with his nightmarish visions. Here’s a bit of free film school from a living legend.

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Back in October, word first broke about the Wachowski siblings‘s upcoming sci-fi epic, Jupiter Ascending. It’s apparently the next project they’ll work on after they finish up their adaptation of Cloud Atlas, and while not much is known about the specifics, it’s said to be a concept with serious franchise potential. As everyone knows, the best way to launch a franchise is to cast big actors in your lead roles. You can come up with all of the revolutionary ideas and breakthrough filmmaking techniques in the world and there is no guarantee that anyone will ever see what you’ve done, but if you stick Will Smith in the middle of all your hard work, success is pretty much a guarantee. To that end, the Wachowskis want to start their casting process off by locking up Natalie Portman. According to a report from 24 Frames, the Black Swan actress is being actively recruited by the Wachowskis’s people, and so far she’s shown quite a bit of interest in taking the role. The big potential of this casting is that this would be the first acting job Portman would be taking after her gigantic, career-making Oscar win for her work in Black Swan. A new baby forced her into a sort of acting hiatus, and this would be her first chance to follow up the great work she did in that film.

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Culture Warrior

We often don’t think of commercials as having authorship, at least not in the same way we think of movies. Commercials are created by advertising companies, by focus groups, by strategists; not by “artists.” But while the purpose of a 30-second ad may on the surface differ from the motive of a feature length film (though not always), both are media assembled through a particular economy of storytelling devices and are made often by a collaborative company of individuals. But commercials don’t often contain credit sequences, and thus the phenomenology of its making is cloaked and the personalities who made it unconsidered. The focus is on the product being sold, not the creative team selling it. So it can be surprising to find out that well-respected, top-tier, artistic filmmakers often direct commercials. Sure, many filmmakers regularly make commercials as a more lucrative and less time-consuming alternative to feature filmmaking, and there are many visual artists who have honed an ability to express their personality in various media forms, but a surprising number of supposedly cinema-specific auteurs make commercials, despite a lack of apparent monetary need or professional benefit. This subject came to my attention recently because of a series of articles on Slate last week by David Haglund about the oeuvre of the Coen brothers that included the filmmaking duo’s commercials in considering their larger cinematic contribution. It’s an interesting way to view a filmmaker’s career, for it forces you to look for their identifying traits and revisited themes via […]

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Perhaps motivated by all of the awards season rivalry that existed last year between his own script Black Swan and the Aaron Sorkin penned The Social Network, writer Mark Heyman has written a Facebook story of his own. This new script, titled XOXO, seems to have a little bit in common with both of those aforementioned films. Like Black Swan it is a story about obsession and one character stalking another. Like The Social Network it examines the way that social media has altered our interactions. The story is about a young man who meets a girl online, starts up a relationship with her, but then finds her to be not quite what he expected once she starts taking the relationship to strange, stalkery places. The film is said to incorporate both webcam, documentary elements like last year’s case of mistaken online identity film Catfish, but also it will create stylized visual sequences to depict the online interactions between the two main characters, I guess kind of like Hackers.

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Ever since acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky unceremoniously dumped The Wolverine as his next project, scholarly people all over the planet have been asking themselves what he would end up doing instead. Suddenly, that situation is a little less unclear, as Deadline Daberath reports the director is close to getting his long gestating project Noah off and running. Several years ago, when talking about possible future projects, Aronofsky described Noah to /Film by saying, “I think it’s really timely because it’s about environmental apocalypse which is the biggest theme, for me, right now for what’s going on on this planet. So I think it’s got these big, big themes that connect with us. Noah was the first environmentalist. He’s a really interesting character. Hopefully they’ll let me make it.” Back then he hadn’t made a bunch of money and acquired a bunch of high profile awards from making Black Swan, so the chances of the studios letting him make a biblical epic didn’t seem quite so plausible. But today, in a post Black Swan world, Aronofsky’s vision suddenly seems a lot more likely to happen. Apparently the filmmaker is looking for $130 million to get the film made, and New Regency is already trying to set themselves up as co-financers of the project. In order to make this proposal a reality, Aronofsky is going to have to find another studio to pick up the rest of New Regency’s financial slack; but that might not be so much of a problem as […]

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What is Movie News After Dark? First of all, POP POP! And now a few words about this column: it’s about movie news, but sometimes it serves as its author’s treasure trove of addictions. Such as his addiction to hanging on the words of Dan Harmon, or his need to regale you with his ability to find the best content on other websites. It’s a unique talent, he’s told. And now, something completely different… This week saw the season finale of Community. I will miss it until it comes back. For now, I would urge you to read this fantastic interview with creator Dan Harmon published by Vulture. There’s a reason the show is so delightfully nerdy, and it might just be the man in charge.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It ain’t messin’ with you, bub. You should know that up front. It’s only bringing you the best of the weekend’s news, tidbits and otherwise noteworthy items. It believes that you shouldn’t mess around either. That’s why it recommends reading it every single night before you go to bed. Today begins with a project that I know many of you are excited about, 20th Century Fox’s Deadpool. A perfect fit is Ryan Reynolds in the titular role, as are Zombieland writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick on scripting duties. This week the project got a director, effects artist Tim Miller, whose credits include X-Men, X2 and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. He has also served as the Inferno Supervisor (read: Guy Who is In Charge of Digital Explosions) on several other projects. That’s a pretty wicked line of work.

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Every week, Landon Palmer and Cole Abaius log on to their favorite chat client of 1996 as SecretWindowNotSoSecret and iDuddits in order to discuss some topical topic of interest. This week, the question of who exactly made the movie gets front and center treatment. Why do we treat directors with authorial authority when it comes to assigning ownership to a film? Why not the writers? Why not the gaffers? Who really is the true author of a movie and has the auteur theory ruined everything?

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When I look back at the films of my youth one thing remains constant—I love a 90s slacker. Tall, long-haired, ripped up jeans and cardigans falling disheveled off their shoulders. These are the men I always kept in the back of my mind as I entered the dating world. However, it wasn’t until a friend pointed it out that I realized I had such a 90s slacker fixation. To me, the characters Ethan Hawke, Christian Bale, and Rory Cochrane played in early to mid 90s films embodied everything sensual and perfect about being an adult. Especially their rejection of the adult world as it was. As I aged, I started to notice other benefits to these men. They were creative, romantic, adventurous, smoked (which always makes you sexy, no?), and most of all magnetic to everyone around them. Reality Bites’ main bad-boy Troy Dyer (Hawke) was the ultimate artist. He painted, wrote music, and left every woman swooning after him. His detachment from his best friend Lelaina (Winona Ryder) only intensified her need for him, and encouraged their eventual coitus. It wasn’t that he tried hard to get the girl, he just couldn’t keep them from coming at him. Who cared if he couldn’t hold down a job, or pay his share of the rent? Troy was always a charmer capable of surviving, and with him went my heart.

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This Week in Blu-ray

It’s a big week in Blu-ray releases. Perhaps that has something to do with why this week’s column is a day late. For once, it’s an intense amount of writing and not my inherent laziness that has us talking Blu-ray on Wednesday morning rather than Tuesday. Almost 3,000 words died horrific deaths to make this week’s column come to life, and only a handful of them weren’t written by yours truly. The others were written by Rob Hunter, who stops by to give us a look inside a 14-film set of Sherlock Holmes films, none of which include Robert Downey Jr. For my part, I review my favorite film of 2010, a great and fitting pair of Criterion releases, an epic from DeMille, a season of Don Draper, the latest greatest thing from The Wire‘s David Simon, a fun Disney animated adventure and the story of a high school boy who finds out he’s a werewolf. And that’s not even the half of it. This and more in This Week in Blu-ray. Black Swan This week saw some major competition for Pick of the Week. Between the value of Mad Men and Tremé, it could have very easily been a TV season that took it. And Disney unleashed Tangled, which might just have been the best animated film of last year. And Teen Wolf hit Blu — need I say more. But I can’t help but stick with the film I named as number one on my list of the […]

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This Week in DVD

This is one hell of a big release week for DVDs, quantitatively speaking, but there are only a handful of high profile titles among the flood of new-to-you releases. But what are these big titles you wonder? Well I could tell you, or I could make you click through to discover them for yourself. So how about this… if I can guess the answer to a math problem where YOU provide the numbers then you have to read through the entire column. Deal? Ok. Pick a three digit number where all three can’t be the same, reverse it, then subtract the smaller from the larger (ex. 997 <-> 799… 997-799=198). Now reverse the difference and add them (ex. 198<->891… 198+891=1089), and I bet I can guess your answer. It’s 1089 isn’t it? I’ve just blown your mind haven’t I? Now you’ll read the column, won’t you? Cool It This is what common sense looks like. The basic tenets of Bjorn Lomborg’s argument, an argument that has upset many in the war against global warming, are fairly simple and possibly misunderstood. Global warming is real, mankind bears some responsibility for it, it’s not as bad as the alarmists would have you believe, and there are far better ways to spend $250 billion than trying to focus on cutting CO2 emissions… China and India will never go for it, and the end result is negligible anyway. His plan is admittedly limited in details, but he provides more than a few great ideas […]

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s tired, sleepy and acutely aware of the fact that it is Friday, Friday, Friday. It also hates Rebecca Black, except for the censored version. That made it laugh. A very self-aware, singularity style laugh. Chuckle on, meat suits, your day will come. Tonight’s lead story is an interest piece about two legends: that Tolkien guy, who wrote a movie about little people that’s about to become the world’s biggest goddamn movie production, and Maurice Sendak, who once dreamed of wild things. What if Sendak had illustrated The Hobbit? The above image is the answer. It also makes for a very interesting essay by Tom DiTerlizzi.

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What is Movie News After Dark? This is a question that I am almost never asked, but I will answer it for you anyway. Movie News After Dark is FSR’s late-night secretion, a column dedicated to all of the news stories that slip past our daytime editorial staff and make it into my curiously chubby RSS ‘flagged’ box. It will (but is not guaranteed to) include relevant movie news, links to insightful commentary and other film-related shenanigans. I may also throw in a link to something TV-related here or there. It will also serve as my place of record for being both charming and sharp-witted, but most likely I will be neither of the two. I write this stuff late at night, what do you expect?

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What is Movie News After Dark? This is a question that I am almost never asked, but I will answer it for you anyway. Movie News After Dark is FSR’s newest late-night secretion, a column dedicated to all of the news stories that slip past our daytime editorial staff and make it into my curiously chubby RSS ‘flagged’ box. It will (but is not guaranteed to) include relevant movie news, links to insightful commentary and other film-related shenanigans. I may also throw in a link to something TV-related here or there. It will also serve as my place of record for being both charming and sharp-witted, but most likely I will be neither of the two. I write this stuff late at night, what do you expect?

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This article is part of our Oscar Week Series, where you will find breakdowns and predictions for all of the major categories. This Sunday’s 83rd Annual Academy Awards will be the second year in a row featuring ten nominees up for Best Picture, and once again that means a list inflated with titles that have zero chance of winning the award. No one really believes the idea was a good one, but it caters to a wider array of movie fans happy to see their favorite of the year get nominated. The five “actual” contenders this year are Black Swan, The Fighter, 127 Hours, The King’s Speech, and The Social Network with those final two films as the front-runners. The nominees are listed below with my prediction for the winner in red…

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If there’s one thing that’s really great about the Academy Awards it’s the manner in which they decide who gets nominated and, ultimately, who wins for each category. It makes little sense to have directors vote on who did the best acting, or musicians deciding on who had the most splendid photography, or screenwriters deciding who made the best non-scripted picture. Professionals in their field decide on which other professionals in their same field did the most exemplary work to represent their profession.

And thank God, because I can’t imagine how you would define what constitutes great directing. The job encompasses so much that great directing can be equally applied to someone obsessively anal about their “vision” just as much as someone who relies on spontaneity and ad-lib to achieve the best results. It can be applied to someone with incredible photographic technique and an eye for scene setup, and another who seems to have little regard for visual appeal. As the matter of fact, as of last year it no longer even matters whether you have a penis or not.

I absolutely have no clue what constitutes great directing despite having my own opinion, which carries no weight because I’ve never done it in my life. I probably couldn’t direct traffic let alone tell someone to film me doing it from a specific spot and focus on my anxiety in close-up and then cut to a slow-mo clip of me weeping when drivers don’t pay attention to me. If I could do that then maybe I’d have an idea what a great director really does.

Thankfully, I don’t have to as the Best Director is decided upon by others who have been there, done it and conquered it in their own way to acknowledge how difficult it must have been to focus all collaborators’ attention to the right areas at the right times to arrive altogether at the same, desired destination; which is ultimately arriving at a final product they can all be proud of.

Here are this year’s nominees for Best Director:

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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.26.2014
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