Lincoln

Neil Armstrong Portrayed in Transformers 3

Among the criticisms I’ve seen of Gotham, the new Fox series set in a pre-Batman Gotham City, is that it opens with an event we’ve already seen too many times on TV and in movies — the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents, complete with pearls flying about in slow motion. But it’s an iconic scene, isn’t it? That starting point to the origin of the Caped Crusader is almost as much a part of pop culture as the Apollo 11 Moon landing. And the latter has been been replicated on screen a lot more times. I guess the fictional event could be reworked, though, even if it might upset some fans. The Moon landing, though it’s often shown to be a hoax of some kind or another, is for the most part an unchangeable scene. That’s why it’s more remarkable that nobody seems to get tired of it. “They could make a thousand movies about the Apollo space missions and I would be right there on opening night for every single one of them,” wrote FSR publisher Neil Miller more than six years ago, when a Neil Armstrong biopic was announced at Universal with Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy) scripting the film based on James R. Hansen’s book “First Man.” Now, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the project has resurfaced at the studio with Whiplash filmmaker Damien Chazelle likely to helm from an adapted screenplay by Josh Singer (The Fifth Estate). In the time between our first hearing about the biopic and now, Armstrong […]

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blackfishmovie

Welcome to my 6th annual list of halloween costume ideas. These are mostly original, yet also mostly unlikely suggestions. One thing a lot of them have in common is the fact that you’ll need to explain exactly what you are, even if there is some mainstream-recognized foundation. For example, if this was a list of costume ideas based on movies that haven’t come out yet, one might be “Justin Bieber as Robin in Batman vs. Superman.” The basic Robin uniform would probably be easily understood, but the fact that the colors have been changed to purple, white and black, and why you’ve got a mop top will require the clarification that it’s based on a casting rumor the singer made up. I’d like to preface this year’s list by saying that I feel the past 12 months have either been uninspiring compared to other years — and/or I haven’t seen the hip movies of 2013. And I didn’t bother with much from the last quarter (as in post-Halloween) titles from 2012, because they all just feel like they’re from a century ago. Seriously, if you see anyone dressed as Abraham Lincoln and mention Spielberg’s movie, you’re sure to get a reaction of “oh yeah, there was that movie.” Feel free to borrow any of the following ideas for your Halloween festivities, especially if you want something that’s a conversation starter. But you must send us pictures. And if you don’t like my suggesions but you come up with your own very […]

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New on VOD: Lincoln

The Video On Demand Power Ranker returns this week with a batch of new movies to watch. Sure, there are some holdovers on the list, such as (the still excellent) Life of Pi, but our brain-implanted super computer appears to be feeling that which is fresh this week. Will you go along for the journey? Don’t say no. It doesn’t like being told no.

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discs natalie portman

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Beautiful Girls Willie Conway (Timothy Hutton) has returned home for his high school reunion at a very confused time in his life. His long time girlfriend (Annabeth Gish) joins him on the trip as he visits with friends, strikes up a purely platonic relationship with a 15-year-old neighbor girl (Natalie Portman) and decides if he’s ready to settle down and get married. The late Ted Demme has a few fine films to his name including The Ref and Blow, but this sweet, honest and funny movie remains his high point. Portman’s perfect encapsulation of the untouchable teen is fantastic in every regard, but to be fair her storyline is only a small part of the whole. Willie’s friends (Matt Dillon, Noah Emmerich, Max Perlich, Michael Rapaport, Rosie O’Donnell and more) run the gamut of emotional stages as some are satisfied with their lives and others are not, but all of them feel authentic. The story threads fold together so effortlessly, the performances feel so real and the Blu-ray debut is long overdue. Also, Natalie Portman. [Blu-ray extras: None]

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MSDNAGU EC038

With the Academy Awards finally taking place tomorrow (can you believe that for a long time they were regularly held in April?), there wasn’t a whole lot going on this week around the movie blogosphere except Oscar predictions and guides and other fun Oscar-related content. There was a spot of news here and there, maybe a review of one of The Rock’s billion films coming out this year, but mostly we and other sites have just been posting stories about Hollywood’s biggest night. So, this week’s Reject Recap is solely devoted to the Oscars, a mix of our own features and great stuff we found elsewhere around the web.

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Best Picture

Here it is: the Big Kahuna of the Oscar season. Bestowed upon the producers, the Best Picture award is easily the most memorable category of the Big Six. It often coincides with a Best Director win, but with almost twice the nominations than Best Director and some high-profile snubs, there’s always a chance for an upset. Best Picture is also one of the most divisive categories out there. To target a specific talent or role, it’s easy to zero in on one element of a film. A medicore film can have fantastic, Oscar-worthy cinematography. A film that has no shot at comprehensive awards can offer a scene-stealing performance for a Best Supporting Actor or Actress win. But Best Picture? That’s as comprehensive as it gets. Since the nominations have been made and all the complaints about why certain movies weren’t on the list (like the awards-forgotten Moonrise Kingdom) have been logged, it’s now time to focus on the nine films that made the cut. While the statuette is handed to the producer of the film, it’s an honor that everyone involved in the production can enjoy. Such a picture will either become a minor all-but-forgotten footnote in Oscar history (like The Last Emperor or last year’s The Artist), or it will become a well-known winner of cinematic legend (like The Godfather or Titanic). It will also serve as great marketing copy for any future DVD or Blu-ray release from now until the end of time. Read on for the nominations […]

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Best Film Editing

Just yesterday, word spread about a new iPad app that will offer professionals and hobbyists alike around 90% of the tools that an editor would use on a blockbuster movie. It’s an exciting technological development to be sure, but simply having access to a kitchen doesn’t make us all chefs. Francis Ford Coppola talked about editing in mythical terms,  calling it the “essence of cinema” and the “alchemy” that brought everything together. In other words, editing is the magic of movie magic. Because of that, there’s historically been a clear correlation between the flick that wins Best Picture and the one that wins for Best Editing. Namely, about 2/3rds of all Best Picture winners also snag the editing statue. Although the past two years haven’t seen that trend fulfilled — with wins from The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo editors Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter — there’s a solid chance that Best Picture and Best Editing may be reunited on Sunday. To become a nominee, work must first pass through the professional gauntlet of the Editing Branch of AMPAS where a few hundred experts nominate their favorites. The 5 with the most votes make it to general voting where any AMPAS member can make their voice heard. Here are this year’s contenders with my prediction in red:

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Best Cinematography

Cinematography, like many technical awards, is an incredibly difficult art form requiring years of experience, an encyclopedic knowledge of light and color, and an impossible ability to adapt to an industry whose technologies of capturing moving images are always changing. But that doesn’t mean someone as inexperienced as the Academy voters or myself shouldn’t be allowed to judge all that hard work! This year’s cinematography category is surprisingly controversial. Mihai Mălaimare, Jr’s work on The Master, once thought a shoo-in for this category, wasn’t even nominated, nor were other visually enthralling films, like Darius Wolski’s work on Promtheus. That said, the films that were ultimately nominated no doubt contain some expert cinematography (because I would know), but, as the political nature of these things always indicates, the question of “best” is highly suspect. Here’s how the nominees size up, with my prediction for the winner in red…

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Best Production Design

It’s got a new name! Best Art Direction is now Best Production Design, in keeping with the equivalent change of the Academy branch. Of course, the name change doesn’t have any practical impact on the content of the category or its predictability, but it is cool nonetheless. This year’s crop is an interesting bunch. Three of the five nominees are also up for Best Picture, though the category doesn’t align with the top often enough to make it a no-brainer. There are three period films and two fantasy films, in keeping with the Academy’s reluctance to award contemporary design. And it goes without saying that most of the nominated films are visually stunning. Check out the nominees for Best Production Design with my prediction in red:

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Best Adapted Screenplay

The art of adaptation is a tricky one. Taking someone else’s material, made for an entirely different medium, and reworking it to fit in the confines of a feature film is much like attempting to fit a square peg into a hexagonal hole. The elements aren’t designed to work together. It’s even trickier to take that same material and make it into a good movie, where the integrity of the original remains in tact but the quality of its adaptation still retains a palpable uniqueness. The best adaptations, then, are hardly transcriptions, but deliberate acts of taking a work that exists elsewhere and making it speak to the possibilities of cinematic storytelling. This year’s nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay run the gamut of possibilities for different types of adaptation. The category includes the history of our most celebrated president to the true story of a little-known CIA operation to adaptations of celebrated novels to an independent adaptation of an obscure stage play. Oh, and whoever wins on the big night will be a first-time winner. That’s pretty cool. Here are how the nominees size up, with my prediction for the winner in red…

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Best Original Score

Film scores can be considered a dime a dozen – a bunch of orchestration that certainly needs to be there, but plays to the background and is rarely ever noticeable. And while that can be true, the last few years have introduced new composers and new ways of creating music into the world of film composing, electrifying and shaking up the “boring ol’ orchestration” into something undeniably new and exciting. And attention should be paid. The nominees in the Best Original Score category this year may not be new to the game or beat on the side of a car for a new look at percussion, but these scores come from a variety of films that needed very specific tones to be conveyed through their respective sounds. From the scandalous period piece Anna Karenina to the visually stunning journey of Life of Pi to a new adventure with a well-known secret agent in Skyfall to two historic films from two very different time periods, each attempting to overcome adversity with Argo and Lincoln. While most of the nominees have been up to bat in this category before, there is a newcomer among their ranks and it may be this fresh voice that bests them all (my prediction of his win noted in red.) Read on as we take a closer look this year’s five Best Original Score nominees and see who may end up being the best of the best come Oscar night…

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Life of Pi

What does Best Picture say about who we are? On the one hand, nothing. It’s very easy to write the whole thing off as Hollywood congratulating itself, the height of cultural irrelevance. Plenty of critics write anti-Academy pieces every year, highlighting the limited scope of the nominees and the out-of-touch reputation of the voting membership. They aren’t necessarily wrong. Yet the Oscars are part of a larger picture of American cinema and society, and they reflect it. It’s been said that the raucous comedy Tom Jones was just what we needed at the Oscars in early 1964, only a few months after John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The Best Picture battle between Coming Home and The Deer Hunter was emblematic of the troubled legacy of the Vietnam War, which had come to an end only four years before. In recent years, the success of Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech and The Artist seems to hint at globalization and the importance of the international market. (A victory for Life of Pi would continue that trend.) So, what do we do with this year? If Lincoln wins, there will no doubt be plenty of writing around the connections between Honest Abe and President Obama. More than that, however, Steven Spielberg’s film is a work of profound faith in America and its institutions. In that respect it opens a dialog with the other films nominated for Best Picture, and gives us some insight into Oscar’s mood going into 2013.

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argo_29

One of the big surprises of the 2013 Golden Globe Awards involved a sort of “Argo-f**kyourself” to the Academy Awards, as Oscar-snubbed Ben Affleck was named Best Director of the year. His film, Argo, also ended up winning Best Picture in the drama category. Early in the night, in a brilliantly hilarious monologue by co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, the ceremony offered some foreshadowing with subtle jabs at the Oscars with immediate shout outs to Affleck and fellow Academy snubs in the director category, Kathryn Bigelow and Quentin Tarantino. They even fit in a joke directed at Anne Hathaway about her 2011 Academy Awards ceremony co-hosting gig with James Franco. Hathaway expectantly wound up winning for Best Supporting Actress, though, and her film, Les Miserables won Best Picture – Comedy or Musical. Co-star Hugh Jackman was a bit of s surprise as Best Actor – Comedy or Musical. More than who won and what didn’t, people will be talking about the somewhat cryptic speech by Cecil B. DeMille Award winner Jodie Foster and the appearance by Bill Clinton to present Best Picture nominee Lincoln. Speaking of Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis surprised nobody by winning Best Actor – Drama. But at least I ended up surprised that he did a comedy 25 years ago called Stars and Bars, which I need to see immediately. My Golden Globes live-blog co-host, Daniel Walber, alerted me to that. And if you didn’t follow us during the ceremony, which we found far more enjoyable than […]

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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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JENNIFER LAWRENCE and BRADLEY COOPER star in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

The 70th Golden Globe Awards will be held tomorrow night, and I invite you to join myself and FSR’s awards guru, Daniel Walber, for live-blog commentary during the ceremony. We’ll try to keep it smart, avoid too much snark and will likely be obeying the rules of the drinking game that co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have devised. It will also hopefully be more conversational than remarks we could have just tweeted, in order that I can turn the discussion around as a more readable post-event recap of the night. In case you’re too busy paying attention to your TV to also read our words simultaneously. Anyway, you can’t head into a big awards telecast viewing without predictions for what you think will win. Daniel and I seem to agree on exactly half of the movie categories. So, maybe it won’t be such a predicable night. Check out our choices after the break and give us your own predictions in the comments. If you do better than either of us, we commend you in advance (and maybe at the end of our GG coverage too).

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trailer_beasts of southern wild

Everyone calm down. The Oscar nominations are not a disaster. They actually make for the most exciting awards season in recent memory. I know that for many of us this took a few minutes to notice. I am, frankly, still pretty ticked off about Kathryn Bigelow somehow missing a nomination for Best Director. I’d rant about this, but Monika Bartyzel over at Movies.com has already done an excellent job breaking it down. Other things aren’t so much infuriating as they are irritatingly dull, like a Best Supporting Actor category full of former winners and a studio-dominated Best Animated Feature. Add that to the embarrassing jokes Emma Stone and Seth McFarlane threw at us at 8:30AM EST, and it’s not surprising Twitter turned into a mini-maelstrom of bitter resentment. However, there is much to be stoked about! There are the little things, like four nominations for my beloved Anna Karenina. There are littler things, like Quvenzhané Wallis becoming the youngest Best Actress nominee in history. There are the littlest things: PES’s Fresh Guacamole might be the shortest Oscar nominee in history with a running time of just over 90 seconds. Finally, the big picture is also a lot more intriguing than anyone would have guess just a few months ago.

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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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IntroBioPic

Biopics are always praised for their lead actor or actress’ realistic or unique portrayal of the subject, but what of the supporting cast? Sure, we do recognize their efforts, they might even receive an Academy Award, but rarely are they honored with something as prestigious as an online comedy list. It’s time to rectify that. Here are some of the more talented, memorable, or uncanny portrayals of people who were important enough to be featured in a movie, but not important enough for that movie to be about them.

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The Ingredients is a column devoted to breaking down the components of a new film release with some focus on influential movies that came before. As always, these posts look at the entire plots of films and so include SPOILERS.  There are two films in particular that I thought about while watching Hyde Park on Hudson, the new historical film about an alleged love affair between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Bill Murray) and distant cousin Margaret “Daisy” Suckley (Laura Linney). Three films if you count Rushmore, due to the reunion of Murray and Olivia Williams, who plays First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and the much-talked-about scene depicting a handjob in a car (not a bloody Jaguar, unfortunately), but I don’t consider this one to be an ingredient in the same way. The two that I do think of as more content-based precursors are Dave and The King’s Speech. Regarding the former, I’m surely highlighting the wrong film as an earlier instance of a leader and his wife who are all but legally separated behind closed doors, the wife fully aware of the husband’s mistresses. But Dave does involve the POTUS and First Lady, and Williams’s Eleanor did remind me at times of Sigourney Weaver’s character in the 1993 doppelganger comedy. There are very likely other dramas of adulterous true stories that relate more to the overall plot of Hyde Park. I haven’t seen the JFK-mistress movie An American Affair, which might more closely fit. But given that I really despised every moment […]

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