Brazil

The Zero Theorem

Warning: This article is best read after having seen all the films in the title. Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem is widely considered both an extension and revisitation of the dystopian themes the director so spectacularly explored in Brazil. Gilliam’s newest has even been categorized as a third part of a trilogy of dystopian science fiction satires – or, in Gilliam’s words, “Orwellian triptych” – following Brazil and 12 Monkeys. While Gilliam in interviews resists notions of a planned trilogy portraying future systems of control over almost thirty years, the Orwellian triptych carries remarkable similarities beyond these films’ driving conceits and Gilliam’s signature wide angles. The films of this trilogy portray individuals attempting to find truth and meaning beyond the dehumanizing systems in which they live, yet each protagonist is overcome by a sort-of predetermined fate and ultimately victimized by the alienating forces of technology. But the films of this trilogy are as notable for their stark differences as they are their similarities, and The Zero Theorem finds Gilliam fashioning his most discomfitingly ambiguous funhouse mirror of our present future yet.

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Terry Gilliam in Lost in La Mancha

The release of any Terry Gilliam film is a big deal. More so than any living filmmaker of lauded repute, Gilliam’s work has been unusually burdened by outsized circumstances that render it astonishing that he’s even accomplished the work he has, from Universal’s re-cutting of Brazil to his lead actor dying during the production of The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus to his doomed “Don Quixote” project, documented in the film Lost in La Mancha. Not since Orson Welles (who famously pursued his own uncompleted Quixote film) has a respected filmmaker had such an endlessly difficult time bringing his ideas to screen. That makes the announcement of a late summer release date for Gilliam’s newest feature, The Zero Theorem, all the more remarkable. The film looks like prime Gilliam territory, with its dystopic representation of a certain future burdened by blinding consumerism and Kafka-esque bureaucracy reminiscent of the director’s most notorious battle for artistic autonomy, 1985’s Brazil. As notable as Gilliam’s work is for its visual inventiveness, its wry humor and its trenchant political themes, Gilliam’s career is just as famous for the unceasing uphill battle through which his inimitable filmmaking is achieved. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the only American member of Monty Python who is actually no longer American.

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A WOLF AT THE DOOR

Sylvia (Fabiula Nascimento) arrives at school to pick up her daughter but it is told by the teacher that not only has the girl already been taken by their neighbor Sheila, but that Sylvia herself called earlier granting permission. This leaves Sylvia a bit perplexed and panicked as not only did she not call the school, but she also has no neighbor named Sheila. The police arrive, and with a missing child at risk they immediately begin a hard press on everyone involved. The detective grills the teacher, Sylvia, her husband Bernardo (Milhem Cortaz), and others, and it’s Bernardo who puts forth a name as a possible suspect. Rosa (Leandra Leal) is a young woman he’s been having an affair with, and he has reason to believe she may be involved. A Wolf at the Door is a harrowing slow-burn of a thriller that tackles the dramatic suspense in an unconventional way. Instead of proceeding like a traditional procedural, the film quickly settles on one witness and lets the story unfold through her recounting of events. It becomes less a story of what happened to the little girl and more a tale of why it had to happen at all.

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Orson Welles

The morning’s most fascinating articles from around the movie website-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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IntroInterrogation

Any psychotic can smash someone’s fingers or beat a head to a pulp until they get what they want – and thanks to the spree of bizarre torture porn movies like Saw and Hostel, seeing people get cut apart is almost standard at this point. Still, filmmakers do manage to get creative every now and then, and from it we get a scene of brutality the likes of nothing before it. Shall we celebrate that? Oh, and warning – this is going to be painful.

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Christmas-Vacation-Squirrel

I should have known that the Film School Rejects team would be all about Christmas scenes from horror films. I reached out to the site’s other editors and writers this week to compile some favorite moments from both legitimate holiday movies and other films that just happen to have Christmas scenes in them, and a third wound up being classifiable as being from the horror genre. Three others are from versions of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, which is a pretty scary story as well. Then there’s my personal pick, which is a rather cynical and frightening bit (I would have gone with The Thin Man, but I’d be repeating something I wrote years ago for the now-defunct blog Cinematical). Fortunately (depending on your tastes this time of year), we also have some more conventional people among our staff, and you’ll find some Jimmy Stewart and Chevy Chase here as well. Oh, and it just wouldn’t be Christmas without a shot of William Fichtner‘s buttocks. So, check out 12 of our favorite Christmas scenes after the jump, and tis the season for giving, so let us know the scenes you love in the comments section.

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IntroTwistedHoliday

If you’re anything like me, the same five holiday movies that run every year just aren’t enough to quench that festive thirst so deeply embossed on your very soul. You need more than that. If you are like me, you deserve more than that. You are also not wearing any pants. The general rule for holiday films is that they must at least take place around the season, right? And so, if we simply twist that logic to say that “takes place during the holidays = holiday movie”, then there’s a lot of fun to be had the next time mom and dad come caroling. Just go right ahead and pop in one of the following…

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Ever wonder why people usually don’t wear elaborate costumes in real life when they are out killing teenagers or robbing banks? Chances are it’s because the whole damn point of wearing a disguise is to draw attention away from your face. Of course that would be no fun in movies. No one wants to see a crime committed by someone wearing an off color ski mask – so costume designers tend to get a little… creative, and sometimes the result can be downright horrifying.

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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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Foreign Objects - Large

The Brazilian city of Racife is like any other urban locale. It’s a big, bustling mix of upper and lower class residents, there’s a sense that anything could happen here and the place is never truly quiet. Plagued by a series of petty crimes the residents of a particular block decide to take a street security team up on their offer to protect the area at night. Each business and household chips in a monthly fee, and they sleep easy knowing their valuable are safe. At least, that’s the plan. But as the new security guards patrol the block at night tensions begin to increase. As the residents go about their days working, playing and screwing an unease begins to settle over the area. Mistrust between employers and their lower class employees builds. And the noises, constantly, fill the air.

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Culture Warrior

Most dystopian science-fiction narratives feature stories in which a protagonist experiences a process of ‘waking up,’ transitioning from a state of blind ignorance to one of newfound enlightenment. The protagonists of The Matrix (1999), Brazil (1985), and the ur-text for dystopian futures, George Orwell’s 1984 (and its numerous film adaptations), all feature primary characters who transition from a state of passivity and complicity in an oppressive and manufactured society and transition to a newly critical, empowered state of being in which they are able to see beyond the veil of ignorance and witness the world for what it ‘really’ is for the first time. These protagonists are made capable of seeing beyond the structures of propaganda and carefully constructed illusion that they previously accepted to be objective reality and develop a political impetus in direct reaction to their previous state of complicity and ignorance. As someone previously uninitiated to the world of Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games (I hadn’t read any of the books prior to seeing the film), what struck me most about Gary Ross’s adaptation is the spin it puts on the typical ignorance-to-enlightenment narrative of dystopian science-fiction.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s the mysterious tribute from District 12. A coal minor’s daughter who learned to hunt in the woods outside the fence. A girl on fire. Survivalist. Star-crossed lover. Oh wait, that’s not right. It’s a nightly column dedicated to bringing you the best in stuff about movies, TV and happenings across Panem. Or something like that. We begin this evening with a shot of Snake Eyes from G.I. Joe: Retaliation. He’s got a rebooted mask for this sequel, which reboots the G.I. Joe series in a way by taking out most of the previous film’s characters and bringing in Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson instead. Good move.

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*FSR traveled to Manaus, Brazil to attend and cover the 8th Amazonas Film Festival. See all our coverage here.* I’m sitting in a small van and staring at a Brazilian police officer standing a few feet away with a submachine gun in his hands. He’s not alone. The van starts up and soon our motorcade is weaving its way through the city streets of Manaus, from the hotel and commercial area through the graffiti filled downtown, heading towards the Amazonas Opera House. Police officers on motorbikes escort the caravan along, rushing past at tremendous speed to block off the intersections ahead before repeating the process once all the cars have passed. The experience was more than a little surreal, and I can only wonder what the throngs of pedestrians watching the caravan of tinted windows speed by were thinking. As my movie-addled mind is prone to do I immediately started thinking of similar scenes from films with the most notable one being Clear and Present Danger. Sure that was Columbia and not Brazil, but that didn’t stop me from scanning the rooftops for rebels aiming rocket launchers down upon us. As frenetic as the ride was, especially when combined with the already aggressive driving style of every single person in the city, it served as a tonal balance to the events of earlier in the day. Nothing like a lazy ride on the Amazon River to clear your mind and soul of unnecessary daily debris.

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*FSR traveled to Manaus, Brazil to attend and cover the 8th Amazonas Film Festival. See all our coverage here.* I am in Brazil. Those four words are easy to type and even easier to read, but the journey to make them a reality has been anything but. From Visa problems at the Brazilian consulate, to mechanical issues that delayed my trip by a full day, to a mix-up in Miami that left me forced to pay a few hundred bucks in change-flight fees, to a drunken blowhard in my seating row loudly insulting those around him until I commented and he promptly fell asleep. (To be fair, he may have actually passed out before I commented…) It was not a great experience. But then my plane began to descend over Brazil, and the lush, vibrant rain forest spread out beneath me like a giant and deliriously green shag carpet dissected by the mysterious waters of the Rio Negros. The river resembles a dark lightning strike cutting a swath through the jungle, its main body constantly breaking off into jagged streams and tributaries until it finally meets up with the Amazon. It’s an awesome and belittling thing to see from above as it appears endless in every visible direction… and then you hit Manaus, a city of two million people sitting squarely in the middle of the jungle.

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*FSR traveled to Manaus, Brazil to attend and cover the 8th Amazonas Film Festival. See all our coverage here.* The most talked about elements of any film festival are usually the films that play there, but there are other aspects that can make or break a fest as well. The atmosphere, the attitudes of both organizers and attendees, the local cuisine, the quality of the theaters… And of course, location. Sundance has the snow-covered beauty of small town Utah. Cannes has the sun-dappled beaches of Southern France. SXSW and Fantastic Fest have the film lover’s mecca of Austin, Texas. And the Amazonas has a Brazilian city on the Amazon River surrounded by rainforest. A city which this year, from November 3rd through the 9th, will be invaded by FSR (in the form of yours truly).

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James Cameron puts more work into his films than perhaps anyone else working in Hollywood right now. It’s fun to juxtapose what he does with the way another living legend like Woody Allen works. Woody makes a movie every year. He writes up a script, gets some actors, and gets the thing shot. James Cameron has to invent new technologies in order to make a new movie, he has to take quests all around the globe. He doesn’t seem content to just make a new movie anymore, he has to make movies that do things nobody else has ever done. We already know that he plans on showing off the oceans of Pandora for his sequel to Avatar. And we’ve heard about how he wants to take dive teams to the deepest parts of the ocean in preparation for creating those scenes. Well now it appears that actors in the film are going to have to trek out to the jungle as well. While attending an international forum about sustainability in Brazil, Cameron had this to say, “Avatar is a film about the rain forest and its indigenous people. Before I start to shoot the two films I want to bring my actors here, so I can better tell this story.” This expedition could end up going one of two ways, either the Avatar sequels are going to end up being the most authentic space-jungle movies ever, or Cameron is going to disappear into the bush with his crew never […]

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Every week, Landon Palmer and Cole Abaius log on to their favorite chat client of 1996 as OutofFoucault23 and RockRockRockRocknRollHS in order to discuss some topical topic of interest. This week, the pair digs deeper into a question plaguing all of mankind: can a studio interfering with the artistic process actually create positive results? What happens when a director’s cut is worse than the initial release? They put their heads together to come up with just about every single example (take “single” literally) of a movie saved by studio intervention.

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Every day, come rain or shine or internet tubes breaking, Film School Rejects showcases a trailer from the past. Saaaaaaaam…….Saaaaaaaam……. It’s interesting to see how little Robert De Niro is featured in this trailer, but Jonathan Pryce is the star after all. Or, rather, Terry Gilliam’s visuals are the true star alongside a big dose of face-stretching nihilism. After all, it’s only a state of mind. Think you know what it is? Check the trailer out for yourself:

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Every day, come rain or shine or internet tubes breaking, Film School Rejects showcases a trailer from the past. This trailer features extreme plastic surgery, dream girls walking through real life, and terrorist bombings. It also features an absolutely insane Robert De Nio trying to fix your tubes. From the mind of one of the Pythons, it’s only a state of mind. Think you know what it is? Check out the trailer after the jump.

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Criterion Files

Just as film noir isn’t one single definable thing, noir itself contains many offshoots and categories. And every Noirvember, it’s important to not only examine good ol’ film noir, but its corresponding variants as well. One aspect of noir that complicates its designation as a genre or a style is the persistence of neo-noir, a cinematic form that arose in direct reaction to noir. In the US, canonical neo-noirs include films like Roman Polanski’s Chinatown or Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye. These were films made by filmmakers who knew cinema’s history, who have seen and studied noir’s origins and staples. These were filmmakers who worshiped film history and used classic cinema as a prototype for their own creation, embedding references to the old while departing from it in creating the new.

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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
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