Bruce Dern

Oscar Predictions 2014: Actor

The Best Actor field this year is a bit different than normal. Christian Bale is the only nominee to have won an Oscar, and that was in the Best Supporting Actor category. More over, two of the nominees (Chiwetel Ejiofor and Matthew McConaughey) have never received a nomination before. It’s not that these guys are newcomers. They’ve been acting for years, some of them in respected and popular films. The Academy is just finally getting around to giving them some recognition. Still, each nomination comes with a social issue attached to it. Whether it be the greed of American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street, the plight of the elderly in Nebraska, slavery and white guilt in 12 Years a Slave, or good old fashioned AIDS baiting for the Academy voters in Dallas Buyers Club, these nominations could be seen as a nod to the issue rather than the actor. (This could explain why Robert Redford and Tom Hanks were shut out of the contest this year: no social issues with lost yachters and captains who thwart Somali pirate attacks.) No matter what, someone will be winning his first Best Actor Oscar. Keep reading for a look at all five nominees for Best Actor along with my predicted winner in red…

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the burbs femur

Joe Dante‘s The ‘burbs, which turns 25 tomorrow, was a nice way to end a decade filled with a nostalgia for the simple 1950s idea of suburbia as well as a trend towards uncovering terrible things amidst the modern ideal of perfection of the new suburbia of tract house developments. In the latter camp, there’s Poltergeist and Gremlins, both produced by Steven Spielberg (whose own E.T. nearly fits) with the latter helmed by Dante (who’d go on to make another suburbia tale almost 10 years later with Small Soldiers). The ‘burbs is, more than its ’80s brethren, a satirical leveling of the former camp, particularly the early TV sitcoms re-introduced to a new generation through Nick at Nite and update spin-offs like Still the Beaver/The New Leave It to Beaver. The movie, fittingly, was shot on the same cul-de-sac neighborhood lot at Universal Studios as that Leave It to Beaver sitcom sequel and co-stars Corey Feldman, who’d played the Beaver’s son in the pilot TV movie of Still the Beaver. The ‘burbs also features TV sitcom staple Gale Gordon, a regular fixture in Lucille Ball series including The Lucy Show (there are photos of him and Ball in the movie) and a main cast member on Dennis the Menace as the second Mr. Wilson. That the movie’s plot revolves around Gordon’s character going missing, seemingly murdered by the new neighbors, is a great metaphor for the loss, again, of that era. At the hands of the unknown strangeness of the Klopeks, […]

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review nebraska

Editor’s note: Our review of Nebraska originally ran during this year’s Cannes film festival, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens in limited release today. From the old-school Paramount logo that opens the film, it’s clear that Alexander Payne‘s latest has no aspirations to being a hip meditation on the turmoils of modern life in much the same way that his previous film, The Descendants did. More a quaint drama with modest ambitions that nevertheless hits a sure stride, Nebraska should please the Payne devout despite this being the first of his films which he did not also write (instead relying on a deft screenplay from Bob Nelson). Needless to say, while entrusting the words to a confidante, this is another coolly controlled, wickedly funny and subtly heartfelt drama from the master filmmaker. Cantankerous, alcoholic, senile old Woody Grant (Bruce Dern) has become convinced that he has won a million dollars on account of a (clearly phony) sweepstakes certificate mailed to his home. Son David (Will Forte) and wife Kate (June Squibb) try to talk sense into Woody, but he’s having none of it; he’s going to head to Lincoln, Nebraska no matter what, so David volunteers to drive him all 850 miles, in the hope that they might get to spend some quality father-son bonding time together along the way.

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review nebraska

The difference between Will Forte‘s aging father in the trailer for Nebraska and any of our elderly loved ones is that this man makes good on our fear that they’ll follow through with phone scammers or that poor Nigerian prince who emailed them last week. And despite his son’s insistence that this sweepstakes does not actually exist and he is not, in fact, an overnight millionaire, dear old dad (Bruce Dern) just tunes out the news like it’s coming from one of the more liberal TV stations. The Alexander Payne (The Descendants, Sideways) film could end there, but it takes a sweet turn when Forte’s character decides to humor his dad and pretend that the $1m prize exists, setting off on a road trip to claim it. That decision in itself is worth it just to make up the bulk of the trailer where you get to see the weird and wonderful faces of their family members, who all look like roughly varied versions of Forte’s dad wearing flannel. Adding to the strange surreality of the trailer is the fact that the film is shot entirely in black and white, which makes their roadtrip and that $1m seem so much more dire. Check out the trailer for yourself here:

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inside llewyn davis 04

Three-hour lesbian drama Blue is the Warmest Color was announced the winner of the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, a choice that many foresaw as likely but not a sure thing. The jury that awarded the honor was led by Steven Spielberg and also included Nicole Kidman, Ang Lee, Christoph Waltz and Lynne Ramsay. For the second place Grand Prix winner, they picked the latest from the Coen Brothers, Inside Llewyn Davis, while for Jury Prize (considered the third biggest deal) they chose Hirokazu Kore-eda‘s Like Father, Like Son. Like Father, Like Son was also recipient of an honorable mention from the Christian-based Ecumenical Jury, whose top prize went to The Past — the star of which, Bérénice Bejo, was named Best Actress by the main Cannes jury. Blue is the Warmest Color also earned multiple honors from the fest, taking the critic choice FIPRESCI Award for the In Competition category. The biggest surprise of today’s announcement seems to be Spielberg and Co.’s naming of Bruce Dern as Best Actor for the new film from Alexander Payne, Nebraska. After the jump, you can find a full list of main jury winners (from the festival website) and other honorees announced over the weekend accompanied by links to our review of the film where available.

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DJANGO UNCHAINED

Quentin Tarantino has very quickly, but not so quietly, found a new niche for his filmmaking talents as a teller of tall tales with a historical bent. He’s less interested in historical accuracy than he is historical tomfoolery, but that never lessens the sheer entertainment he finds in mankind’s relatively recent foibles and misdeeds. From Inglourious Basterds‘ band of World War II Nazi-killers to his latest film’s vengeful slave turned bounty hunter, Tarantino has shown a knack for fitting his charismatic and electric characters into unexpected historical contexts with entertaining as hell results. It’s 1858 in America, and Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) is a dentist on a mission. It’s light on tooth decay, heavy on bloodshed and utterly unrelated to the field of dentistry. He’s a bounty hunter whose latest targets, The Brittle Brothers, present a challenge in that he has no idea what they look like. Undeterred, Schultz acquires, apprentices and befriends a slave named Django (Jamie Foxx) who can identify the brothers. In exchange the ex-dentist will help the newly freed Django reunite with his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who currently belongs to a cruel but undeniably charming plantation owner named Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). What follows is a tale that would have made American History class a hell of a lot more memorable as Schultz and Django cut a bloody swath across the post-Civil War South through racists, enforcers and recognizable TV actors (Tom Wopat! Lee Horsley!) from decades past. The cinematic violence is paired with […]

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Bob Odenkirk and Stacy Keach

As if the news that The Descendants director Alexander Payne was going back to his filmmaking roots and making a low-key road trip movie set in Nebraska wasn’t exciting enough, when the news broke that he had cast Bruce Dern and Will Forte as his main characters, a curmudgeonly old man and his estranged son, suddenly Nebraska really started to get interesting. Which is probably the first time anyone has ever expressed that sentiment, ever.

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Alexander Payne probably achieved his greatest level of success and recognition after casting a huge movie star, George Clooney, in his most recent film, The Descendants. Given the taste of mainstream acceptance that this director of pitch-black dramatic comedies got by working with a well-known name, you might think that he would be tempted to go back to the well and snag more big stars to play the father/son duo in his upcoming road movie, Nebraska. It seems like we should have been hearing rumors over the past few months that he was courting Leonardo DiCaprio and Michael Douglas, or something of the like. Not Payne though, who seems to be wholly concerned with finding the right actors to fit the parts, and if a report from Deadline Benkelman is to be believed, he’s found an off-the-beaten-path duo that look on paper like they could make for a delightful pair. The report says that Payne has been meaning to make Nebraska his next film for quite some time, but he didn’t want to move things forward until he could find the right actor for the father role. For the longest time he was fixated on Gene Hackman, but that screen legend’s continued retirement made his casting an impossibility. Payne feels like he’s found his man now though, in Bruce Dern, and he also wants Saturday Night Live alum Will Forte to play the son.

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Sitting at a formidable and weighty 98% on Rotten Tomatoes is legendary director Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull, a biopic of Jake LaMotta, a 40s era boxer who was nicknamed “The Raging Bull” because of his short fuse and aggressive style in the ring. Michael Ritchie isn’t a legendary director. Despite the fact that he’s made movies like The Bad News Bears and Fletch, I’ve never even heard someone bring his name up in a conversation. And his attempt at a boxing movie, 1992’s Diggstown, is sitting at a paltry 54% on Rotten Tomatoes, derided and then forgotten by a cruel world unwilling to look past the ridiculous shirt and tie combinations James Woods wears in the film. This injustice will not stand.

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Criterion Files

Bob Rafelson’s highly underrated The King of Marvin Gardens (1972) works as something of an unofficial sequel to his beloved previous film and the rightful centerpiece of the BBS Story, Five Easy Pieces (1970). After the “farcidelia” of Head, Rafelson’s second film could not be further from its opposite in tone, aesthetics, and overall relation to the counterculture, whose narrative absence is used to great effect in the latter film. It wasn’t until Rafelson’s third film as director that his identity as a filmmaker started to solidify through his continued exploration of themes shared between films. Like many filmmakers of the New Hollywood generation, Rafleson possessed symptoms of the self-conscious auteur, but the similarities between Five Easy Pieces and The King of Marvin Gardens go far beyond surface connections that denote a consistent cinematic personality behind the camera in terms of themes and style, but instead point to a rare kind of filmmaker altogether during New Hollywood or any era.

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This year’s Comic-Con was predictably more quiet than in years past, so when Francis Ford Coppola announced his revolutionary presentation plan for his next film, Twixt, at the project’s panel, it swiftly turned into the hit of the convention (check out Cole’s wrap-up of the panel here for a bevy of other details and information). Coppola’s plan involves taking his film on the road and editing it as he fits for each individual screening, thanks to his own computer set-up and a specialty program. A lauded director using new technology to flip the script on how movies are shown, paired with some gimmicky 3D face masks and a talented cast, it all sounds like damn interesting stuff, right? So why is none of that innovation even hinted at in the film’s first trailer? Probably because a tiny Francis Ford Coppola can’t shrink down and fit inside everyone’s computer and edit the trailer as he sees fit for each individual trailer-watcher. Or can he? Okay, no, he can’t, sorry to get your hopes up.

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Movies We Love

“Ricky Butler says they’re nocturnal feeders.” Tom Hanks became pretty much the biggest actor in the world once he turned to dramatic roles, but I’ve always preferred him back when he was goofy. The ‘burbs represents the pinnacle of his goofy period for me, as collaborating with a great filmmaker in Joe Dante allowed him to craft a unique, outstanding performance that anchored a unique, outstanding horror comedy. In this movie he drinks a glass of orange juice better than anyone has ever drank a glass of orange juice on film. He traverses a set of stairs after being blown up more artistically than even Wile E. Coyote in his prime. He owns his character and the screen. The ‘burbs tells the story of a sleepy, suburban cul-de-sac that gets disturbed when a new family moves in. You see; they’re a creepy group of three men. They never come out of their house. There are weird lights and smells coming out of their basement. Their name is Klopek. What is that, Slovek? Sure, we don’t know exactly what they’re doing down there, but it isn’t normal. At least when the Knapps lived there they mowed their lawn. So, all things considered, it’s up to Ray Peterson (Hanks) and his cadre of suburban sleuths to find out what’s going on, and what they’re keeping down in that cellar.

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There are several names that look perfect together, but for some reason, have never made it anywhere near each other. When those names happen to be brought together near the phrase “horror thriller,” it’s like learning you can have oatmeal cookie ice cream with your chocolate peanut butter cups. Hopefully the ice cream being made by Francis Ford Coppola and Val Kilmer will have some blood in it. According to Deadline Warrenville, Coppola is “quietly working” on a flick (which means they’re using inside voices) called Twixt Now and Sunrise (subtle candy product placement there) in which Kilmer plays a horror novelist. Elle Fanning and the incredible Bruce Dern are also involved, and that’s all it takes to generate some excitement. It’s great to see Coppola picking up steam again (and hopefully taking a break from grapes), and it’s promising to see him return to some horror roots with a talent that deserves more than direct-to-video fare. It’ll be fascinating to see what these two can come up with together.

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


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