J.C. Chandor

A Most Violent Year

J.C. Chandor started off as a promising but cold filmmaker. His first two feature films, Margin Call and All is Lost, showed us the nuts and bolts of those worlds, whether it be the life of a lost sailor or the strangest day at a Wall Street investment bank. In the latter case, the world was far more compelling than the characters, but he brought some of the humanity and nuance lacking in his directorial debut to All is Lost. Thankfully he’s cranked up the emotion even higher for his latest film, A Most Violent Year, which is a paradoxical title for this stirring drama. Much of the drama derives from the unsexy world of heating oil supply. This is not a gangster movie about drugs. This is not a gangster movie with shootouts. This is a gangster movie about a man, Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac), who doesn’t want to be a gangster. To Abel, success comes from hard work and luck, not cheating one’s way to the top. Unfortunately his competitors and wife, Anna Morales (Jessica Chastain), disagree. Set in the most violent year in the history of New York, 1981, the businessman tries not to stray from his honest path, while everyone else accepts the lawless world they’re living in. Chandor depicts this New York as the wild west, to the point where Alex Ebert‘s score even sounds like it came out of a classic Western. There’s always danger lurking somewhere, whether on the streets or on the radio. It’s an abrasive environment. Rarely when Abel is […]


Mark Wahlberg in Age of Extinction

It should be no surprise to anyone that there’s a BP oil spill movie in development. It’s primo subject material in that it hits all the necessary check marks for any “based on a true story” event movie. It’s timely – it was a mere four years ago the Deepwater Horizon oil rig blew, seeping a small ocean of oil into the Gulf. It’s exciting – the spill first stemmed from an explosion, which certainly perked up Hollywood’s ears — if Hollywood is a sucker for one thing, it’s non-fiction violence. Exhibit A through E: Twelve Years a Slave, The Hurt Locker, Titanic, Braveheart and Schindler’s List. It’s just as relevant today as it was in 2010 – did you know that the plugged-up well may still be leaking oil into the Atlantic? Deepwater Horizon already has its director in J.C. Chandor (All is Lost) and screenwriter in Matthew Michael Carnahan (World War Z) and what it’s just gained according to Deadline is a potential star in Mark Wahlberg who’s now in negotiations to play the Deepwater Horizon’s number two manager. The man fought to save lives while everything in his general vicinity was covered in crude oil and also on fire. Classic Wahlberg.


Vince Lombardi

Good news, football fans! There’s finally going to be an inspirational film centered around the sport made just for you. All is Lost  and  Margin Call writer and director J.C. Chandor will take pen to paper once more to channel the tale of legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, the man who led the team to five NFL championships and their first two Super Bowl titles. It seems crazy that there hasn’t been some kind of Lombardi flick yet (save for a 70’s TV movie, Legend in Granite starring Ernest Borgnine) considering his achievements in the sport. Lombardi coached the Packers from 1959-1967, accomplishing those stellar titles in those brief nine years. As head coach, he garnered a 105-35-6 record with zero losing seasons. There’s no denying that he was one of the most talented and celebrated coaches in the NFL’s history. So naturally, his story of coming to the Packers’ aid and his rise to success needs to be told on screen; before Lombardi’s influence, the Packers were doing so poorly that the franchise was about to crumble altogether. But like all great sports movies, the presence of a man with a plan and some probably noteworthy inspirational speeches to dole out on a frigid game day was not only enough to boost their playing abilities — it was enough to make them champions.


Into Silence Header

Captivity/survivor narratives are hardly unfamiliar to our movie screens, and such films tend to come in bunches. Three years ago, for instance, both Buried and 127 Hours boasted solo or near-solo performances from two rising Hollywood stars who spent the duration of their films as the solitary face we see. But last month brought a prominent and concentrated group of such films, all met with overwhelmingly good reviews, promising major performances from their leading survivor types, and coasting on significant awards buzz. While each film explores near misses, false moments of possible redemption, the necessary instance of despair, and ultimately an incredible optimism in the possibility for human beings to survive a conflagration of elements that work overwhelmingly against them, each of these films go about this differently. Yet the major factor connecting J.C. Chandor’s All is Lost, Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips, and Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity is that they all stage humans’ fraught relationship to nature through the problems and failures of human commerce and its attendant production of waste. Their respective fights with or on the landscape of nature, in other words, are inaugurated by the failure of humans to wield their own devices.


review all is lost

Editor’s note: Our review of All Is Lost originally ran during this year’s Cannes Film Festival, but we’re re-posting it as the film opens today in theatrical release. J.C. Chandor follows up his sturdy 2011 debut Margin Call with a staggeringly ambitious if niche project that will appeal most to fans of its star – and, in fact, its only actor – Robert Redford. If the actor is better known for his iconography than his acting prowess these days – though is highly respected as a director and founder of the Sundance Film Festival – he delivers what is easily one of his all-time best performances as a lone man lost at sea. Much hype has followed the film considering the claim from Redford that the drama unfolds free of dialogue, and aside from a brief opening narration, a desperate plea to a fuzzy radio signal, and an enraged expletive, this is true. Chandor’s minimalist effort begins with the man discovering a hole in his boat, and finishes with the very end of his predicament – whether that is death or rescue will be the prime question occupying viewers’ minds.



The success of last year’s Life of Pi and the continued prevalence of people making “Wilson” jokes any time a volley ball happens to be lying around proves that movie audiences have an affection for a good lost at sea story. With this in mind, director J.C. Chandor has decided to follow up his head-turning debut feature, Margin Call, with a sinking ship survival tale starring screen legend Robert Redford. The film is called All is Lost, it sounds like it’s a pretty harrowing tale of sharks, storms, and sun exposure, and it has now released a trailer so that we can all get a glimpse at what exactly Chandor made Redford go through while they were out there filming.


The Artist

Hey, who says there are no original ideas in Hollywood? Well, us actually, whenever we have to write about the next 80s-era television show getting a big screen reboot that no one on God’s green earth could possibly want to flash in front of their eyeballs on a giant cinema screen. But this year, there were at least five films that sprung from original ideas that were solid enough to get the ol’ Best Original Screenplay nod. Really, at least five. There’s five in this category! There could be more, but I’m too busy thinking about the Valley Girl reboot to come up with any of them right now. Giggles and bad jokes aside, this year’s Oscar race for Best Original Screenplay is actually pretty, well, original. We’ve got an awards season frontrunner, a raunchy lady-centric comedy (how often do you hear “raunchy” when it comes to the Academy Awards? Not often, that’s how often), a Sundance flick about the financial crisis, a foreign film getting all sorts of (well-deserved) praise, and the latest from one of the Academy’s most nominated filmmakers. This category is truly one hell of mixed bag. What’s perhaps most interesting about this race is that it four of its nominations belong to newcomers to the Oscars, while its fifth nominee is Woody Allen, who has received more nominees in this category (15) than any other screenwriter in the history of the awards. But does that little bit of trivia spell “winner”? Read on for the […]



It’s been a year filled with silent screen stars seeking redemption, the 1920s coming alive in Paris, a young boy searching for the first great director, sex addicts in New York City, horses going to war, maids of dishonor, and skulls getting crushed in elevators. Now it’s time to celebrate all of those things and more with the 84th annual Academy Awards. They’ve come a long way since the Hotel Roosevelt in 1929 (although sex addicts have almost always been a fixture). Get to ready to smile, ball your fists with snubbed rage, or be generally unsurprised. Here they are. The 2012 Oscar nominees:


James Franco and Anne Hathaway

Usually I’m quite cynical about end-of-year lists, as they demand a forced encapsulation of an arbitrary block of time that is not yet over into something simplified. I typically find end-of-year lists fun, but rarely useful. But 2011 is different. As Scott Tobias pointed out, while “quiet,” this was a surprisingly strong year for interesting and risk-taking films. What’s most interesting has been the variety: barely anything has emerged as a leading contender that tops either critics’ lists or dominates awards buzz. Quite honestly, at the end of 2010 I struggled to find compelling topics, trends, and events to define the year in cinema. The final days of 2011 brought a quite opposite struggle, for this year’s surprising glut of interesting and disparate films spoke to one another in a way that makes it difficult to isolate any of the year’s significant works. Arguments in the critical community actually led to insightful points as they addressed essential questions of what it means to be a filmgoer and a cinephile. Mainstream Hollywood machine-work and limited release arthouse fare defied expectations in several directions. New stars arose. Tired Hollywood rituals and ostensibly reliable technologies both met new breaking points. “2011” hangs over this year in cinema, and the interaction between the films – and the events and conversations that surrounded them – makes this year’s offerings particular to their time and subject to their context. This is what I took away from this surprising year:



Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of this year’s awards circuit is just how many awards and nominations filmmaker J.C. Chandor has picked for his debut film, Margin Call. Chandor’s star-packed film debuted at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and while that festival also featured a notable debut from Sean Durkin with his Martha Marcy May Marlene, one that seemed much more poised to rack up the awards, it has been Chandor and his tale of the Wall St. financial crisis that has earned some big accolades. Chandor has already picked up Best Debut Director from the National Board of Review, Best First Film from the New York Film Critics Circle, and Best Original Screenplay from the San Francisco Film Critics Circle, along with nominations from the Boston Society of Film Critics and the Film Independent Spirit Awards, and that’s likely only the beginning for Chandor and his Margin Call. So with so much promise and so much praise, it’s high time that Chandor unveiled his next project, one that apparently owes its own type of debt to Sundance. Chandor’s next is titled All Is Lost, and the filmmaker is looking to cast Robert Redford as its lead. Let’s hope that works out, as Chandor reportedly Chandor met Sundance founder Redford “at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, and was so taken by him that he wrote the movie around him.”



It is day four of awards season, and already some names are growing wearyingly familiar, and even the surprises don’t quite pop like they used to. On Monday evening, the Gothams announced their annual awards, followed swiftly by the Film Independent Spirit nominations announcement and the NYFCC’s winners, but director Martin Scorsese and his latest film, Hugo, were without some big awards love – until now. The National Board of Review has announced their best-of picks for the year, and Hugo has topped out as Best Film, with Scorsese grabbing Best Director. As the film opened just last week, here’s hoping that this NBR endorsement will pump up somewhat lackluster box office returns. Paired with a weekend box office free of new major releases, and maybe Hugo can swing up to the top of the heap. As for the rest of the Board’s awards, there’s a bevy of names here that already seem like old hat – picks like Christopher Plummer for Beginners and The Artist, The Descendants, and The Tree of Life as a “top” films for the year – but there are still a few eyebrow-raisers, as our friends over at /Film note, J.C. Chandor picking up another award for his debut, Margin Call, continues to be surprising. Where is Sean Durkin and his own Sundance hit Martha Marcy May Marlene? And J. Edgar as one of the year’s best? And a Breakthrough to Felicity Jones and Rooney Mara, but no Elizabeth Olsen? Bizarre, really. But there are […]

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published: 01.31.2015
published: 01.30.2015
published: 01.30.2015
published: 01.29.2015

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