Flight

Best Original Screenplay

The very foundation of any film is its screenplay. It presents the story that inspires the director’s overarching vision, and ideally it gives him or her a road map to follow on a creative journey. It creates human beings out of thin air, and it steers actors toward the motivations that will allow them to bring said human beings to life with an authenticity that makes them resonate. Adapted screenplays are often great, but there’s always an inherent compromise that comes with them. You’re taking material that worked in a different medium and trying to shoehorn it into film, even though it might have strengths or weaknesses that don’t translate to motion picture well. Thus, the award for Best Original Screenplay may be the most pure award when it comes to recognizing artists for their ability to create within the realm of cinema. Here are the original screenplays that the Academy feels best represent the potential of what film can be from this past year (with my predicted winner in red):

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discs paul williams

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Paul Williams: Still Alive Like many kids in the ’70s Stephen Kessler was a fan of singer/songwriter Paul Williams‘ particular brand of sad, melodic songs that gave equal time to love and loneliness. As an adult Kessler wondered what happened to his childhood idol, and being a film/commercial director he decided to investigate and make a documentary on the 5’2″ award-winning legend. The result is a fascinating look at a man and a talent who could never have attained such stardom in today’s physically-obsessed world, and for Williams it’s a chance to look back and publicly acknowledge his past demons. At least, that was Kessler’s plan, but he may have neglected to share the idea with the talent. Williams makes for an engaging subject, due both to his personality and his aversion to the whole process. Kessler’s own needs permeate the film, and while he threatens to take over as its focus he actually adds an interesting element to the story about fame. [Extras: Bonus concert footage]

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CharlieVictorRomeo_still3

Sundance generally isn’t the film festival you turn to if you enjoy horror films, but Robert Berger and Karlyn Michelson’s Charlie Victor Romeo is one of the most terrifying movies I’ve seen, inside or outside the festival. It’s a filmed adaptation of a play that was first performed in 1999 utilizing actual transcripts of cockpit recordings from airline incidents as the script, with actors portraying the crew. The name itself comes from the NATO phonetic alphabet designation for cockpit voice recorder, or CVR. The film plays out entirely in the cockpit of six different aircraft from several real accidents, with a very minimal set and actors playing the roles of pilot, co-pilot, and so on. It’s a fascinating and terrifying look at at a world most of us never see. Whenever you board a plane, you might get a fleeting glimpse at the banks of instruments, or perhaps the pilot will say “thank you” as you disembark, but what goes on in the cockpit remains a complete mystery to nearly all air travelers.

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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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2012-rejectawards

It’s funny. We spend so much time honoring the triumphs of 2012, and the big game won’t even roll around until February. The Academy Awards aren’t a paragon of perfection for some, and they aren’t the final word, but they are (like it or not) the closest thing we have to a standard for celebrating creative film talent. There job is to hand out the general cheers for performances, make-up, songs and the like, and since they’ve got those covered, it falls to us to hoist filmmakers and films on high for unique reasons. Reasons that might make the average Academy voter spit out their tea. From the far corners, here are the 2nd Annual Reject Awards.

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Culture Warrior on 2012

In this end-of-year editorial, Landon Palmer discusses the pattern that movies demonstrated in 2012 for telling stories through protagonists defined by their various personality traits rather than through conventional, straightforward characters. In so doing, movies this year showed how our individual identities have become divided within various aspects of modern social life. This trend made some of the year’s movies incredibly interesting, while others suffered from a personality disorder. Landon argues that movies ranging from The Hunger Games to The Dark Knight Rises to Holy Motors alongside cultural events and institutions like the Presidential election, social media, and “Gangnam Style” all contributed to a year in which popular culture is finally became open about its constant engagement with multiple cults of personality. Six years ago, Time magazine famously named its eagerly anticipated “Person of the Year” You in big, bold letters. Its cover even featured a mirror. As a result of the established popularity of supposedly democratized media outlets like Facebook and the home of the cover’s proverbial “You,” YouTube, Time declared 2006 as the year in which the masses were equipped with the ability to empower themselves for public expressions of individual identity. More than a half decade later, social media is no longer something new to adjust to, but a norm of living with access to technology. Supposing that Time’s prophecy proved largely correct, what does it mean to live in a 21st century where we each have perpetual access to refracting our respective mirrors?

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2012year_worst

Years from now, cinema fanatics will probably look back at 2012 fondly, remembering that this year brought us new films from Spielberg, Bigelow, Anderson (P.T.), Haneke, Affleck, Anderson (Wes), Van Sant, Arnold, Tarantino, Johnson, and many, many more. But amidst all the good stuff (and, rest assured, there was plenty of good stuff to go around), there were plenty of rotten, silly, messy, sloppy, boring, and insulting films to fill our theaters and empty our heads. The worst, if you will. Just the worst. Settle in, gird your loins, and prepare yourself for The 12 Worst Films of 2012, as determined by your faithful Rejects. Oh, 2012, you really packed some doozies.

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Culture Warrior

Twelve years ago, the western and the musical, two genres that were incredibly successful during Hollywood’s heyday, had been considered long dead with no hopes of a revival on the horizon. After all, why would either of these genres make a comeback? The western is a remnant of a sense of American cultural imperialism and pre-Howard Zinn history-writing long past, and the film musical requires such an astounding degree of suspension of disbelief that audiences who seek special effects that blur distinctions between the fabricated and the real simply aren’t willing to engage it. But lo and behold, on December 25th, 2012 (always a day for big movies), a western (Django Unchained) and a musical (Les Miserables) will be launched into wide release on the heels of outstanding buzz (sure, Tarantino’s film is a revisionist western, but since revisionist westerns have been around for nearly fifty years, let’s just refer to them as the current standard western, shall we?). It’s difficult to say how this particular revival of these Hollywood genres has taken place. Of course, the unexpected success of previous films of these genres that took a risk with audiences (3:10 to Yuma and True Grit, Moulin Rouge and Chicago) certainly helps create the terrain for more such films, but this doesn’t necessarily explain why updated versions of classical Hollywood genres come back into style. Arguably, there are a multitude of genres we could use today, but unfortunately have no contemporary examples of. For instance, the ’30s and ’40s-style […]

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Wreck-It Ralph

On the leaderboard at the box office arcade this weekend, the initials read WIR, for Wreck-It Ralph. They could also read WDP for Walt Disney Pictures, as it was Disney’s incredible marketing push that led Ralph to a $49.1 million opening weekend, dwarfing the competition in the same weekend it swallowed Star Wars. Although it wasn’t just marketing, it was quality. Ralph rode an A Cinemascore grade and an 84% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes to become the highest opening for a Disney Animation movie ever, narrowly beating Tangled‘s $48.8 million take.

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Flight

Flight has without a doubt the best opening scene of any film in Robert Zemeckis‘ career. Granted, that’s due more to the glorious and fully nude form of Nadine Velazquez walking around a motel room while audiences pretend to be watching Denzel Washington than it is to the director’s myriad skills. Eye candy aside though the scene makes a bold and immediate statement that this is not your niece’s typical candy-ass, motion-captured Zemeckis fluff. Instead, this is going to be a return to form for a talented director rediscovering the dramas, moral complexities and adult themes possible with live-action filmmaking. If only someone had shared the plan with the film’s writer. Whip Whitaker (Washington) wakes after an all-nighter with a naked stewardess beside him, finishes off a beer and a line of coke, gets dressed and heads to work. He’s an airline pilot, and his morning flight is full and ready for takeoff. A possible mechanical failure causes a loss of control shortly after they leave the tarmac, but Whitaker’s quick thinking leads to an extraordinary maneuver and a controlled crash landing that results in minimum casualties. He’s immediately hailed as a hero, but when a routine investigation threatens to reveal the condition he was in while flying and send him to jail for life he discovers this is one impending crash he may not be able to control.

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This year’s New York Film Festival ended on Sunday night with the world premiere of Robert Zemeckis‘s Flight, a big Hollywood movie that many saw as too mainstream a selection for the event. But it’s apparently decent enough to currently have a very high rating on Rotten Tomatoes — our own Jack Giroux gave it a “B” in his review from the fest — so it’s not like they closed things out with Alex Cross. Other big movies that some didn’t see as fitting were opening night film Life of Pi (review)and the “secretly” screened debut of Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln (review). However, for the most part the 2012 programming was the typical New York cinephile’s dream smorgasbord of highbrow indies and foreign films. And these seemed to mainly meet the approval of our two primary critics covering them, Daniel Walber and Caitlin Hughes (both of whom are new additions to the FSR team and did an excellent job). And all together, our 22 reviews of NYFF features averaged mainly in the range of “B” to “B+” grades. And the only thing to get less than a “C” was Brian De Palma‘s Passion, to which Caitlin gave a “D.” We weren’t only interested in new works, either. Caitlin had some fun with the anniversary screening of The Princess Bride, while Daniel had requested that one of his picks of the fest be an older film: “If I can say the new (Dolce and Gabbana funded) restoration of Satyricon that made its […]

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For anyone who has been clamoring for Robert Zemeckis‘s return to live-action, Flight should appease those fans of the director who haven’t embraced his recent motion-capture adventures. This isn’t exactly a triumphant comeback, but with Flight he mostly knows what buttons to push in order to please. It’s a true testament to Denzel Washington‘s performance that the blunt drama doesn’t fall on its face. Washington has major obstacles to overcome in making the character of Whip Whitaker as empathetic as he is. From frame one, Zemeckis and screenwriter John Gatins unflatteringly show us who this guy is: a bad father, an alcoholic, a coke addict. There is nothing to admire about him, not even his surface level charms, which are best showcased in scenes between Washington and John Goodman.

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Silver Linings Playbook

While most of Austin, Texas is currently busy gearing up for Fantastic Fest (including our own Fantastic Fest Death Squad), we’d be remiss to not mention that another one of ATX’s homegrown film festivals, the concisely-named Austin Film Festival, has just released their lineup. And it’s a real beauty! The festival, kicking off in just under a month, will open with David Chase’s Not Fade Away and will also include screenings of such buzzed-about titles as Flight, Silver Linings Playbook, The Sessions, Quartet, and The Sapphires. The festival has yet to announce their Closing Night Film, but with such an already-strong lineup, it should be a doozy. After the break, take a look at the current feature-length lineup for the 2012 Austin Film Festival and Conference, including listings for their comedy and documentary sections.

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Austin Cinematic Limits

I have been anxiously awaiting Fantastic Fest 2012 (September 20-27) ever since the carnivalesque tomfoolery of the Fantastic Fest 2011 closing party. Year after year, Tim League and the Fantastic Fest programmers have totally blown me away with their impeccable curating of genre films. And the parties… Oh, the parties! If my liver could talk, the stories it would tell… If history serves, Fantastic Fest 2012 will continue to expand upon its awesomeness, so this year will probably be ten times more amazing than last year’s festival. The announcements that Fantastic Fest has made so far with the first wave and second wave of programming have already solidified the fact that this will be the best damn Fantastic Fest of them all. First off, Tim Burton will be in attendance at the world premiere of Frankenweenie on the opening night of Fantastic Fest 2012. Sure, I have not been a fan of most of his recent work, but that makes him no less of a cinematic genius in my mind. And, while on the subject of this year’s festival guests, I pretty much peed my pants with excitement when I heard that Rian Johnson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt will be coming to Fantastic Fest with their film Looper. Color me thrilled!

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A long, long, loooong time ago, director Robert Zemeckis made live-action films – and good ones, too! Stuff like Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part II and Romancing the Stone and Contact and a whole mess of others (you can even count Who Framed Roger Rabbit, if you want), but he jettisoned that entire portion of his career to pursue performance capture technology. Which is why we have films like The Polar Express, Beowulf, and A Christmas Carol – the motion capture stuff of your Uncanny Valley nightmares. But Zemeckis has finally returned to live-action films (rejoice, those of you who hate motion capture as much as I do) with the Denzel Washington-starring Flight. With shades of the real-life “Miracle on the Hudson” story, the mystery thriller sees Washington starring as Whip Whitaker, “a seasoned airline pilot who miraculously crash-lands his plane after a mid-air catastrophe, saving nearly every soul on board. After the crash, Whip is hailed as a hero, but as more is learned, more questions than answers arise as to who or what was really at fault, and what really happened on that plane?” This first trailer won’t tell you the answer to that, but it might make you want to find out for yourself.

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Man, sometimes these things just write themselves! Paramount Pictures has just sent over what will be Friday’s last gasp casting announcement before we all go home for the weekend and watch Unstoppable or The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 or something similar on a loop because, duh, that’s what weekends are for. And if that’s how you’re spending your weekends, have I got a treat for you! Denzel Washington is set to star in another film about mass transportation! Can we just get that Speed reboot going now, just to round out his resume? Washington will star in Robert Zemeckis’ Flight for Paramount, proving that no one knows how to steer things like Denzel. Written by John Gatins (who most recently penned Real Steel – man, this guy loves technology!), the film will star Washington as “a commercial airline pilot who pulls off a heroic feat of flying in a damaged plane, saving 98 lives on a flight carrying 106 people. While the world begs to embrace him as a true American Hero, the everyman struggles with this label as he is forced to hold up to the scrutiny of an investigation that brings into question his behavior the night before the doomed flight.” So it’s basically the story of Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger with a hefty dose of self-reflection and probably a bunch of awkward Today Show appearances and likely a big secret reveal round the hour and fiften minute mark? Eh, I could be on board for this one (see what […]

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I’ve always found Robert Zemeckis’s films to be hit or miss. Lately he’s been pretty solidly in the miss category though. Sometimes it’s hard to remember he directed films like Back to the Future or Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. Movies that were full of genre weirdness, but were undeniably mainstream because they had that certain Robert Zemeckis touch. It’s even kind of hard to remember that he made the movie with perhaps the most universal appeal of all time in Forrest Gump. It’s hard to remember because of the last ten years of weird looking, off putting, motion capture animation movies that he’s insisted on making. His next film was set to be another of those creepy exercises in something nobody ever asked for, this time a motion capture take on the Beatles classic Yellow Submarine, but then Mars Needs Moms tanked at the box office. Suddenly the hammer was put down on weird, experimental forms of animation, and that left Zemeckis scrambling to find a script for a live action film to direct.

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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