Fox Searchlight

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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news 12 years a slave

It’s no secret that Michael Fassbender has become one of the most respected, sought-after new faces to hit Hollywood in the last ten years. The guy went from supporting face to leading man in record time, and is now looked at as being the sort of talent who will raise your movie to a whole other level if you manage to land him. If you’ve been following his career so far, then you know that a big reason for his success is the work he’s done with director Steve McQueen on his features Hunger and Shame. McQueen, a visual artist turned film director, has a unique style and a patient camera that’s well-suited to showing off an actor’s performance, and it was largely the work Fassbender did in his films that opened up eyes all over the industry to what he was capable of if given a meaty role. While Hunger was mostly the Michael Fassbender show, Shame added Carey Mulligan to the mix, and gave her a platform to remind us how talented she is as well. If McQueen has proven anything with his first two features, and unquestionably he’s proven a lot, it’s that he works well with actors. He gets what makes them special, and he gets how to shine a spotlight on that specialness. The point of all this is that his third film, Twelve Years a Slave, should be pretty damned spectacular.

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As much as Hitchcock is a romantic bio film comedy, it’s also very much about the ups and downs of filmmaking. Hitchcock may act like a drama queen in the picture, but nearly anyone who’s picked up a camera or acted has gone through similar troubles. Speaking with actor Danny Huston, he confirmed that’s often the case. The Hitchcock co-star, playing the director’s romantic rival, has faced the worry of one of his films never reaching an audience. He’s certainly been a part of movies which didn’t takeoff upon their release, but have been remembered more fondly later on than whatever movie opened #1 that weekend. That’s how Huston sees it, who also discussed with us dealing with critics, seeing your work with an audience, and taking a shower with Helen Mirren and Anthony Hopkins:

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Susan Boyle

The sort of fame that comes from appearing on reality television can be fleeting. Remember Puck, the filthy bike messenger who put his finger in Pedro’s peanut butter on MTV’s The Real World? No? Let’s go with something more recent. How about Richard Hatch, the manipulative nudist from CBS’ Survivor? Still no? Omarosa, that bitch from The Apprentice? William Hung, that Ricky Martin wannabe from American Idol? At one point these people were the darlings of popular culture, and now their names conjure up barely a glimmer of recognition. Hopefully for Fox Searchlight the name Susan Boyle is recent enough that it’s still at the tips of everyone’s brains though, because Deadline Hollywood is reporting that they’ve just signed off on a deal that gives them the rights to her life story. It turns out that, in the time since her revelatory 2009 performance on Britain’s Got Talent, where she taught the world that even people who aren’t 16-year-old girls with hair extensions can sing, Boyle has been spending her time doing things like cutting albums and signing deals to have a stage musical about her life story made.

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Culture Warrior

A week and a half ago, Anthony Hemingway’s Red Tails was released. On the surface, the film breathes Hollywood oxygen through-and-through. It’s a WWII era action film that uses its setting for broad family-friendly cheese-banter and CGI-heavy eye candy rather than an opportunity for a sober interrogation of history. Red Tails looks and feels like any Hollywood film geared toward as mass an audience as possible. But the studio that’s distributing it – 20th Century Fox – didn’t pay a dime to produce it. The reported $58 million cost to make Red Tails came solely out of the pocket of producer George Lucas, who had been attempting to get a film about the Tuskegee Airmen made since the early 1990s. He was continually met with resistance from a studio system that saw anything less than the biggest guaranteed appeal to the largest possible audience as a “risk,” including a heroic true story about African-American airmen. The ideology that closed the doors on George Lucas of all people reflects the same business mentality that inspired Jeffrey Katzenberg’s lengthy warning to other studios in a memo written during the same years that Lucas was first trying to get Red Tails financed.  In the memo, Katzenberg warned studios regarding their practice of exponentially centralizing all their resources in a few very expensive projects, resulting in high risk, little room for experimentation, and an increasing reliance on that coveted monolith known as the “mass audience” (which, to make things even more complicated, now includes […]

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John Hawkes describes his cult leading character Patrick as if he “just came from outer space.” After you’ve seen the film, you’ll know that that description could not be more apt. Patrick is a walking and talking enigma with no past or future. He’s someone who lives in the moment and is only interested in feeling that moment. Does he have a greater agenda? Maybe. Are his intentions malicious? Possibly. Where does he come from, and what does he believe in? No idea. That’s Patrick: a mystery. The gentle and quietly frightening character is one of the many mysteries in Sean Durkin’s feature debut, Martha Marcy May Marlene. The Sundance hit raises far more questions than the answers it barely gives. Durkin’s psychological horror film trusts you to fill in the blanks, as does John Hawkes. Here’s what the actor had to say about the oddly and charming ways of Patrick, the walking mystery:

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Feel free to stand up from your seat and slow clap while loved ones and strangers stare, because one studio has decided to slap the stigma of the NC-17 rating right in its moronic little face. As we all know, that stupidity is two-fold. The first is in its existence in the first place. A betting man or woman could win easy money that most don’t even know that the NC stands for No One 17 and Under Admitted (because there’s a confusing C in there), but it might as well just stand for No Children. There’s an absurdly thin line between R and NC-17 that becomes all the more apparent when you hear a screaming 4-year-old in the theater where Jason Statham is beating a dude to death on screen before banging down Amy Smart’s doors. Come to think of it, the No Children of NC sounds pretty good in those cases. The second part of the stupidity surrounding the rating (which inherited its bad reputation from the X rating that it morphed into), is in the connotation that some doomed by Puritanical high horsemanship slather onto it. Yes, NC-17 means adult, but there’s also nothing wrong with making a film for an adult audience. Those that don’t think so, aren’t adults.  In a way, the rating’s reputation does a small service in weeding out those too emotionally, psychologically or sexually infantile to handle a solid adult drama (no matter their age). Sadly, that small service is a life […]

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Very few films resemble the structure of Martha Marcy May Marlene. The story follows a young girl, Martha (Elizaebth Olsen), both when she was a part of a cult and when she leaves it to try to relive a normal life. The psychological drama doesn’t give you the introduction of how Martha made it into the cult, which one would expect to take up the first act, and the film also ends on a scene that would’ve been the beginning of any other story’s third act. Martha Marcy May Marlene features subverted conventions, bare-boned exposition, and a whole lot of ambiguity. However, writer/director Sean Durkin never approached his drama to deliberately “subvert conventions,” it just happened to turn out that way. Durkin confessed to never quite getting the lessons from screenwriting courses, and perhaps that was for the better. By avoiding expected screenwriting tropes, in his feature debut, Durkin made an anti-cliche cult film. There are no heroes. There is no third act bang. Plus, the moral compass of the film, Ted (Hugh Dancy), is almost as off-putting as the ambiguous cult leader, Patrick (John Hawkes). Clearly, not your regular “cult” film. Here’s what Sean Durkin had to say about cracking the structure of Martha Marcy May Marlene, approaching the story with a fresh perspective, despising lazy flashbacks, and the mysterious ways of the warm and scary community leader, Patrick:

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After all these years of Margaret being stuck in legal and release limbo, it wouldn’t have been surprising if Kenneth Lonergan‘s (subtle) post-9/11 film turned out to be a misfire. All the turmoil made it doubtful that we’d ever get the masterpiece that Scorsese and many others claimed Lonergan’s film to be. The final, two-and-a-half-hour cut — which is unfortunately being dumped on a few screens — actually features hints of that masterpiece. Those hints, ultimately, make for a messy-yet-poignant dramatic opera about the power of regret, loss, and worst of all, being a teenager. Lonergan aims high in a way that, even if Margaret was a disaster, it’d still be an admirable (but failed) passion project. This isn’t that film, though. The playwright’s tremendous You Can Count on Me was small-scale, but full of power. His follow-up attempts to operate on a grand-scale, and it contains most of the power exhibited in his directorial debut.

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Another Earth isn’t a sci-fi film. It’s a drama. While this idea may disappoint some of you, the sci-fi backdrop for the film is purely there for symbolism. Blending the science-fiction element with the core drama, on a structural and tonal level, must not have been an easy task. As director and co-writer Mike Cahill discusses, it wasn’t. It’s difficult to really talk about Another Earth fully without going into spoiler territory, so the conversation I had with Cahill was a revealing one. Once you’ve seen the film, then you’ll know why the ending can’t go un-discussed. Another Earth asks a handful of questions, and the ending raises the biggest and most divisive one. So, of course, beware of Spoiler-y hints. Here’s what Mike Cahill had to say about end theories, finding a cohesive structure, and the similarities between the star and co-writer Brit Marling‘s other feature, Sound of My Voice:

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Culture Warrior

Last week, as I watched Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber, I noticed that the trailers on the rental Blu-Ray were all of titles sharing space at the top of my queue: titles like Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins, Kim Ji-woon’s I Saw the Devil, and Jason Eisener’s Hobo with a Shotgun. All, I quickly realized, had been released by the same studio, Magnet Releasing, whose label I recalled first noticing in front of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson. After some quick Internet searching, I quickly realized what I should have known initially, that Magnet was a subsidiary of indie distributor Magnolia Pictures. The practices of “indie” subsidiaries of studios has become commonplace. That majors like Universal and 20th Century Fox carry specialty labels Focus Features and Fox Searchlight which market to discerning audiences irrespective of whether or not the individual titles released are independently financed or studio-produced has become a defining practice for limited release titles and has, perhaps more than any other factor, obscured the meaning of the term “independent film” (Sony Pictures Classics, which only distributes existing films, is perhaps the only subsidiary arm of a major studio whose releases are actually independent of the system itself). This fact is simply one that has been accepted for quite some time in the narrative of small-scale American (or imported) filmmaking. Especially in the case of Fox Searchlight, whose opening banner distinguishes itself from the major in variation on name only, subsidiaries of the majors can hardly even be argued as “tricking” audiences into […]

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The Tree of Life is a film that, as most of you have surely already noticed, will be hailed for its beauty and visual ecstasy. Everyone will discuss how every frame could make for a great photo or whether or not Terrence Malick is actually saying something with all those incredibly long non-narrative shots, but thematically, Malick backs up his eye-candy. While the headline title and statement made by actress Jessica Chastain could be read as being very hyperbolic, it couldn’t be closer to the truth. The Tree of Life does not hit the standard narrative beats, something that will either excite or annoy viewers. When there’s a 20-minute sequence of seeing the beginning of time unfold, you’ll quickly realize you’re not watching your typical drama. Here’s what Jessica Chastain had to say in our quick conversation about the film’s truthful exploration of childhood memories, the film’s structure, how Malick’s scripts read, and her interpretation of the ending.

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When I heard that Alexander Payne’s next film was going to be starring George Clooney, what I was picturing didn’t look anything at all like what we get in the new trailer for The Descendants. Payne is a director who finds inspiration in the mundane. He casts regular looking people and shoots them in real life settings. There is always a relatably human element to the way he presents his characters, but there’s a sort of mocking, exploitive undercurrent as well. His films can be funny, but the humor is dark, it comes from exploring the baser nature of the human animal. Whether it’s an alcoholic Paul Giamatti drinking the spit bucket at a wine tasting in Sideways, a thrifty Jack Nicholson cutting corners on his wife’s funeral in About Schmidt, or a perverted Mark Harelik seducing a teenage girl with a Diet Mug Rootbeer in Election, Payne has always presented us with characters that you couldn’t 100% sympathize with.

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This year, movies like Battle: Los Angeles, I Am Number Four, Hoodwinked 2 (did anyone even see the first one?), another Tyler Perry movie, Red Riding Hood, and the Justin Bieber documentary all easily made their way into theaters. Know what hasn’t come out this year (or the past couple) while films like Something Borrowed get their big studio pushes?  Margaret. Kenneth Lonergan‘s follow-up to his brilliant debut, You Can Count on Me, has had a notoriously rough time making it to theaters, both due to legal issues and a dispute over final cut. The film was shot almost six years ago. The editing process has been called a nightmare. Lonergan has a three-hour cut that Fox Searchlight isn’t too keen on releasing. Why? Because they won’t release a version over two hours long. Lonergan has final cut, which hasn’t made the situation any easier. Great talents such as Thelma Schoonmaker, Martin Scorsese, Scott Rudin, and Sydney Pollack did passes on the film to get it down to a shorter length. And right now, Scorsese is doing another edit of the film with Lonergan.

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We reported back in November about Chan-wook Park setting up his first English-language gig with Fox Searchlight, but at the time, the synopsis for Stoker merely alluded to foul play by the hands of a young girl’s uncle who comes to town when her father dies. According to the usually questionable Daily Mail (via Screen Rant), the uncle is definitely a vampire. What’s more, the rag claims that Oscar winner Colin Firth is set to star as the bloodsucker alongside Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska. All of those names are various replacements for Carey Mulligan, Jodie Foster and Johnny Depp (that guy is everywhere) who were all name-dropped last Fall. Park handled vampires with his trademarked insanity in Thirst, so seeing him return to that is bittersweet. The most fascinating prospect is seeing him handle someone else’s material (sense the script for Stoker was written by Wentworth Miller). Park has written for others, but he’s never directed a screenplay that wasn’t his own. That could be a challenge, especially in the face of the curse of brilliant directors making the jump to American cinema. At the very least, it will be interesting to see the auteur try on someone else’s writing for size. Firth in the mean time will be seen in the forthcoming Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and at some point we’ll get to see Park’s iPhone movie in all its glory.

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Ed Helms is breaking free of the office grind, leaving his friends on a roof in Las Vegas, and taking an earnest shot at playing the leading man. This new trailer for Cedar Rapids – the story of a completely sheltered dweeb who lets loose at an insurance convention (thanks to the bad influence of John C. Reilly) – is very, very funny. Plus, it hints at the movie being a bit more heartfelt than the average fish out of water story. Mark my words. At some point, either Ed Helms or John C. Reilly’s character will break down on a roof somewhere. Maybe it’ll be both of them. But mostly there will be John C. Reilly drunk with a trash can lid on his head. Check it out for yourself:

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The director goes from Searching for a Midnight Kiss to making Friends with Andy Samberg.

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darren-aronofsky-header

There’s been a lot of news in the past 24-hours around the next project of director Darren Aronofsky.

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RobocopREboot

We may have taken for granted that Darren Aronofsky was going to end up being the director for Robocop. It’s likely that he’ll still do it, but a new scheduling problem may make it that much harder to pull off.

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postgradmovie

It’s hard to tell from the trailer, but it looks like Post Grad might move beyond simple comedy to explore the frustration of graduating college without any job prospects.

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