Lynne Ramsay

Eraserhead

I love looking at filmmakers’ early work. Sure, it might be juvenile or lacking the grace of experience, but it’s also the artistic eye before fame, celebrity personas or narrowly honed visions. It’s the work they made before output was partially (if not totally) influenced by investors, studios and critics. First films can be like cinematic diaries of the directors’ vision – like David Lynch’s iconic Eraserhead, which is now on Criterion Blu-ray with almost all of his short films – or whiffs of artistry before the mainstream. Some, sadly, are still out of reach to the Internet masses, though they’d be fascinating first glimpses at cinematic themes and techniques. Long before 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen debuted with a revealing video installation, Bear, which only makes the rounds at live events. Kathryn Bigelow “plays down” her first film from 1978, The Set-Up, where Gary Busey and another guy fight each other as semioticians deconstruct the images – a film that certainly speaks to her future work, but hasn’t been released for modern audiences. And though someone who thinks they’re clever put up a slave scene on YouTube, insisting it was Spike Lee’s first film, his debut – the Super 8 film Last Hustle in Brooklyn – is actually about “Black people and Puerto Rican people looting and dancing.” Those three might remain out of reach, but here eight filmmakers’ early visions that speak to humor, darkness, unexpected twists, and for one – an artistry before an obsession with […]

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Lynne Ramsay

It’s the ill-fated production that just won’t die, no matter how many bullets you put in its head. The Brian Duffield-penned Blacklist screenplay Jane Got a Gun got off to a solid start (perhaps even with a bang?) when lauded director Lynne Ramsay signed on to helm the tale of a Western woman who must turn to her ex-lover to help protect her homestead and husband from a band of baddie thugs (well, horseback thugs) out to kill them. The addition of stars Natalie Portman (who also signed on to produce the project), Michael Fassbender, and Joel Edgerton only made the project sound still more enticing before, well, everything just went to hell in a big, Hollywood-shaped handbasket. And now it’s going to court! But first, let’s begin with a recap of the situation – an extensive enough series of events that we truly hopes spawn some sort of behind the scenes book or oral history or something at some point in time.

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Jude Law

The Jane Got a Gun news just does not stop around here. Just a day after original director Lynne Ramsay exited the project in spectacular fashion and mere hours after Warrior helmer Gavin O’Connor stepped in to direct, newly-minted lead Jude Law has now left the film. Deadline Hollywood reveals that Law has “formally withdrawn from the film. It is because he signed on to work with Ramsay, best known for the edgy drama We Need To Talk About Kevin.” Law only recently came on board the project after Michael Fassbender dropped out and Ramsay reportedly reshuffled other leading man Joel Edgerton into a different role to fill the gap. Edgerton will likely stick around, as he has a positive working relationship with O’Connor after their Warrior. Ramsay has still not commented on the situation.

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Lynne Ramsay

As pre-production chatter for the Brian Duffield-penned Black Listed Western Jane Got a Gun has been nothing but positive (especially when it comes to the film’s very talented cast), today’s news that director Lynne Ramsay has exited the project in spectacular fashion is nothing short of genuinely shocking and quite confusing. Deadline Hollywood reports (via The Playlist) that the film’s cast and crew (including stars Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton, Jude Law, and Rodrigo Santoro) showed up on Monday (the project’s official first day of production) in Santa Fe, New Mexico, only to find that Ramsay “was a no-show and had abruptly dropped out of the film.” Producer Scott Steindorff “confirmed the crisis” and weighed in to Deadline in a passionate plea, saying, “I have millions of dollars invested, we’re ready to shoot, we have a great script, crew and cast…I’m shocked and so disappointed someone would do this to 150 crew members who devoted so much time, energy, commitment and loyalty to a project, and then have the director not show up. It is insane somebody would do this to other people. I feel more for the crew and their families, but we are keeping the show going on, directors are flying in, and a replacement is imminent.”

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Michael Shannon

What is Casting Couch? It’s the roundup of casting news that knows what Gillian Jacobs is going to be doing with her upcoming break from Community. All that time in the bushes finally paid off. Most people probably thought Wild Things director John McNaughton’s career hit its zenith when he directed Wild Things. That movie was basically the most ’90s thing ever, and it practically introduced the concept of the three-way to the square community through the communicative power of Denise Richards’ boobs. He may yet top that work though, because Deadline reports that he’s just recruited the best actor in the world, Michael Shannon, to star in his upcoming thriller The Harvest. The film will star Samantha Morton as a successful heart surgeon and Shannon as her co-dependent husband. Its conflict comes in when their sick son meets a new friend, and suddenly the very controlled routine that Morton’s character has created starts to break down. Sounds like a creepy mom.

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Lynne Ramsay

Typically, when we hear that an upcoming feature will be “sci-fi, with a twist,” it’s cause for major raspberry-blowing, but when the name Lynne Ramsay is attached to such a production, it’s cause for celebration. THR reports (via ComingSoon) that the Scottish auteur (and that she most certainly is) has snagged the necessary producers (and their finances) for an ambitious new project, titled Mobius. Ramsay will direct and co-write the film (along with her husband Rory Kinnear, who she previously adapted We Need to Talk About Kevin with), which is described as a “science fiction-oriented project inspired by ‘Moby Dick.’” Yes, that Melville element is the twist. But a fun one, right? The film is reportedly a “psychological action thriller set in deep space” in which “a captain consumed by revenge takes his crew on a death mission fueled by his own ego and will to control an enigmatic alien.” Oh, a death mission!

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Jane Got a Gun has been an attractive package from the very beginning, seeing as it pairs a Black List script with a talented director in Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin) and a huge movie star lead in Natalie Portman (Mars Attacks). But now, as the production inches closer to a start date, it’s going to have to start filling out the rest of its cast, and a report from Vulture says that Ramsay and crew are looking to get that process started off with a bang. The story of the film is said to follow a woman (Portman) whose husband comes home one day riddled with bullet wounds and barely breathing. It turns out that her low-down dog of a hubby has gone and got himself involved with some criminal Confederates, and now they’re hot on his heels and looking to finish the job they already started. Seeing as said man is seemingly on his death bed, it falls on said woman to reach out to an ex-lover and ask him to help her defend her farm, a proposition that sounds ripe with dramatic stickiness.

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Natalie Portman to Star in Jane Got a Gun

Looks like Natalie Portman is coming back to Hollywood in a big, big way. THR reports that the actress will star in and produce Lynne Ramsay‘s first post-We Need to Talk About Kevin project, an intriguing Western that comes complete with a Black List script. Brian Duffield penned the film, Jane Got a Gun, which ended up on last year’s Black List of best unproduced screenplays (that list included scripts like Graham Moore’s The Imitation Game, Andrew Baldwin’s The Outsider, and John Scott’s Maggie also popped up on the list). The film is focused on “a woman whose outlaw husband returns home barely alive and riddled with bullet wounds. She is forced to reach out to an ex-lover and ask if he will help defend her farm when her husband’s gang eventually tracks him down to finish the job.” The film has reportedly spark a bit of a bidding war in Cannes. While Portman took some time off from acting after her Oscar win for Black Swan and the birth of her first child, she appears to be jumping right back in with a number of bold, meaty choices. She also has two Terrence Malick films lined up and, though she did not end up with the role, she was the Wachowskis’s first pick for their Jupiter Ascending. But can Portman go rough and tumble? Can she ever:

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Culture Warrior

Ambiguity is no stranger to the arthouse film. Over fifty years after a group of daytrippers never found their lost shipmate in Antonioni’s L’Avventura, the ambiguous ending still retains the power to frustrate, confuse, anger, and challenge viewers. Continued controversies over ambiguity in narrative films point to Hollywood’s enduring dominance over the notion that films must be coherent and contain closure. However, the convention of closure can be a maddening limitation for filmmakers who intend to ask questions with no easy answers, or pose problems with no clear solutions (assuming that such answers or solutions exist in the first place). But ambiguity can take on a variety of forms, and with different degrees of effectiveness. Sometimes a film’s ambiguous hole can be more fulfilling and thought-provoking than any convention of linear causality in its place, but at other points ambiguity can become a handicap, or a gap that simply feels like a gap. Here are a few films from the past year that engage in several modes of intended ambiguity.

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The Must See Movies of January 2012

With the gut-wrencher Shame, an uncomfortably funny Young Adult, Spielberg’s heart-string pullin’ War Horse, a high-flying Tintin adventure, the shining return of Cameron Crowe, the oversized popcorn blockbuster Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, the overlooked hilarity of Carnage, the pulpy thrills of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and the subdued near-masterpiece that is Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, last month was a pretty fantastic time at the movies. Now we’re entering January. While this time of the year is usually a dumping ground — and we’ll be getting plenty of films of that low-caliber — there’s a surprising amount of films to check out this month, mainly the award-ready expanding releases.

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There has been a lot of talk about We Need to Talk About Kevin. It’s divisively made its way through the festival circuit, even being kind enough to grace Fantastic Fest 2011 with its presence. After an Oscar qualifying run, it was all set to bow on January 27th in limited markets, but according to The Hollywood Reporter, Oscilloscope is delivering it two weeks early. The film from Lynne Ramsay starring Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly will now hit New York on January 13th (up against a re-re-release of Beauty and the Beast 3D, The Iron Lady and foreign remake Contraband starring Mark Wahlberg) and Los Angeles January 20th (up against a dozen other movies). Oscilloscope head David Fenkel touts the critical strength of the movie and large reception during its qualifying run as the reason to get it in front of eyeballs sooner, but there’s also a shrewd move here to make the film capture the spotlight just before Oscar voting is completed. If it can expand the stir it’s already caused beyond the festival and critical circles, the move to change the release date might just pay off in statuettes.

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I spoke with John C. Reilly a few months ago for Terri, and now the seemingly always-working actor has two drastically different films coming out for the holiday season. While Terri was a humanistic and empathetic portrayal of naturally flawed people, Roman Polanski‘s Carnage is a cynical and full-blown satire of pretentious, childish adults. It is 79 minutes of characters slowly revealing their dark, immature, and somewhat understandable views. Reilly’s other film, We Need to Talk About Kevin, a mostly liked but slightly divisive film, is probably one of the most misunderstood movies of the year. Lynne Ramsay‘s film, as Reilly perfectly puts it, is meant to be taken almost as a dream. Very few scenes should be taken literally. I recently had the chance to discuss both films with Reilly, along with Roman Polanski’s specificity, the responsibilities of an actor, and when tools become human beings.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr hunkers down and braces for award season. He also prepares for an onslaught of celebrity guest stars in New Year’s Eve, which features a poster that looks like a “Friends available to chat” sidebar on Facebook. In order to watch all the movies for the week, Kevin hires the only babysitter available… Jonah Hill. What could possibly go wrong with that? Fortunately this frees him up to see some of the smaller releases, like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, W.E. and I Melt with You. And he wraps up the week wondering why everyone needs to talk about him.

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There are few human connections as assured and indelible as the bond between a mother and her child. At least, that’s what we’re led to believe. But what happens when that connection simply isn’t there? What happens when these two beings physically part ways after existing as one for nine months only to see their emotional tethering end as well? We Need to Talk About Kevin explores that theme to a tragic and painful conclusion, but it does so with a beautiful emptiness. Style trumps content in an effort to examine the origin of a monstrous act, but while the film seems content letting everyone blame the mother (including the mother herself) for what eventually happens it never passes up an opportunity to show the child’s inherently evil nature. Neither of them change or grow from beginning to end, but the lack of a real narrative or character arc sure does look pretty.

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One of the biggest cinematic disasters in recent years is, without a doubt, Peter Jackson‘s adaptation of The Lovely Bones. The word “disaster” gets hyperbolically thrown around too often, but that film earns the title. Jackson bit off far more than he could chew, which is only one of the few major problems with the ’09 release. The book isn’t exactly cinematic, so all of the film’s faithful-to-a-fault problems made sense. Jackson tried to cram a whole lot into a two-hour-and-so runtime, including some of the hokier-sounding aspects of the book. Through the blockbuster visionary’s eyes, Susie  Salmon having fun in that bland CG heaven could not have been more tonally wrong. If only a director knew that the book doesn’t lend itself to film too well… Well, one director did know that: Lynne Ramsay. The indie darling was once attached to helm the film and turned in several drafts, even before the book was published. Once the book hit big, her greater and less faithful-sounding adaptation went out the window. It wasn’t an easy experience for Ramsay, and I almost felt bad for probably being the thousandth person to ask her about it. However, I was less interested in the politics of the situation and more intrigued by how she was going to handle the sprawling structure. After I asked what her script was like and mentioned how the book isn’t very cinematic, the director – who I was talking to about her fantastic new film, We Need to […]

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As it turns out, I’ve been slightly remiss when it comes to praising this year’s 25th edition of AFI FEST 2011 presented by Audi. I’ve tossed off comments about how the festival gets better with every passing year, but in the wake of today’s announcement of the festival’s Centerpiece Galas and Special Screenings, I’ve realized that I have not gone far enough. AFI FEST has not just gotten better this year, the festival has made a dramatic jump to top-tier status, rolling out titles that play like a cinephile’s Christmas list for 2011. Today’s lineup announcement is essentially a “best-of” list of this year’s festival favorites, including Michel Hazanavicius‘s The Artist, Steve McQueen‘s Shame, Oren Moverman‘s Rampart, Lynne Ramsay‘s We Need to Talk About Kevin, Roman Polanski‘s Carnage, Simon Curtis‘s My Week with Marilyn, Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, Gerardo Naranjo’s Miss Bala, and Wim Wenders‘s Pina. AFI FEST will run from November 3rd through the 10th in Hollywood, with all screenings taking place at The Chinese, the Chinese 6 Theatres, and the Egyptian Theatre. The best part? Tickets for all screenings are free (and available starting October 27). After the break, check out the full list, including descriptions and showtimes, of the films to be featured as AFI FEST Centerpiece Galas and Special Screenings.

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This weekend’s 38th annual Telluride Film Festival has just announced their slate, including a number of buzzed-about titles from the likes of Cronenberg, Payne, Ramsay, Kaurismäki, Scorsese, Herzog, and McQueen. Telluride differs from other film festivals by keeping mum on its lineup until the day before the festival opens, though speculation runs high in the weeks before opening, with a bevy of well-educated guesses often revealing the festival’s top picks well in advance (an example from this year would be We Need to Talk About Kevin, as star Tilda Swinton is a consistent Telluride favorite). The festival will continue to announce additions to its lineup throughout its run. The festival seems to have a taken a number of cues from Cannes and Venice, with Cannes picks The Artist, Le Havre, Footnote, The Kid with a Bike, Bonsai, and We Need to Talk About Kevin showing, along with Venice films A Dangerous Method and Shame. The festival also announced that they will be bestowing the Silver Medallion Awards (which “recognize an artist’s contribution to the world of cinema”) to George Clooney (starring in The Descendants at the festival), Swinton, and French filmmaker-actor Pierre Etaix. The festival runs this weekend, from September 2 through September 5. Check out the full lineup for the festival’s main program, which also includes Albert Nobbs, Living in the Material World, and The Tuirn Horse, after the break.

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After nearly a decade out of the cinematic limelight, director Lynne Ramsay returned to the film world with her Cannes Film Festival entry, We Need to Talk About Kevin. The film drew stellar reviews at the fest, with most people pointing squarely at Tilda Swinton‘s performance as one to watch. The film was also nominated for the Palme d’Or, which it lost to The Tree of Life. Simon saw the film at Cannes and gave it an A-, with his review paying particular attention to the strengths of the film’s performances, and adding to the kudos heaped on Swinton’s performance. The film tells the story of Swinton and John C. Reilly‘s characters, a regular married couple who have a not-so-regular son in the titular Kevin. Classy festival terminology aside – Kevin is a Grade A whack job, a nutcase of the highest order, an utterly terrifying child who grows up to be an even more unnerving teenager. And if the few glimpses we get at Ezra Miller‘s dead-eyed stare are any indication of his performance in the film, it looks like his eldest incarnation of Kevin will join the pantheon of all-time cinematic creepsters. Basically, watching this trailer will make you never want to have children – ever. You’ll never be able hear a baby cry without listening for a sinister lilt underneath the howls ever again. Fine, you should probably just never have sex ever again, because you may spawn something like Kevin. Consider it birth control by way of movie […]

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Aptly, one of the most talked-about movies of Cannes 2011 was We Need to Talk About Kevin, which had a stronger impact on our reviewer than Tree of Life did. The film from director Lynne Ramsay stars Tilda Swinton as the mother of a son who commits a grand atrocity. Through alinear storytelling, more and more of her life is shared as she copes with motherhood, aftermath, and responsibility. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Oscilloscope head Adam Yauch was one of the audience members affected, and the group has bought rights to distribute the film in North America. Great news for movie fans hoping to see this in a theater near them. It’s also generally good news for anyone who loves seeing that Oscilloscope logo and assuming they’re about to see a science fiction B-movie from 1954. It’s no surprise that the goal is a winter release. Be on the lookout for plenty of awards season push for this one alongside Best Actress prediction headlines entitled “We Need To Talk About Tilda Swinton.”

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It is an odd coincidence to note that Scottish director Lynne Ramsay‘s We Need To Talk About Kevin screened immediately before Gus Van Sant’s Restless today, since the subject matter positions this irresistibly dangerous film an almost sequel to Van Sant’s equally controversial Elephant, which itself walked away with the Palme d’Or in 2003. But this is a far different affair entirely, because, at its heart We Need To Talk About Kevin is both a situational horror and a domestic/maternal horror story. Tilda Swinton, who must surely be a contender for many, many Best Actress gongs in the coming year, plays Eva, a mother whose son has committed the atrocious crime of attacking and killing a number of his schoolmates in a Columbine style shooting. We don’t actually learn about this until the end of the film, but since the marketing material references it heavily, and since there is a far more affecting twist in this tale, it’s fine to say it here. Ramsay successfully employs an alinear structure, jumping back and forth in time to reveal jigsaw pieces that flesh out characters and events in a perfectly captivating manner, and ultimately converge with astonishingly affecting results – but really the film is quite restrained in its focus. The film’s focus is far more on the relationship between Eva and Kevin as the boy grows up, and the difficult position Eva is left in after he is imprisoned, rather than on the actual flashpoint that the story blossoms out from. In that respect, the story becomes more that maternal […]

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published: 12.23.2014
B+
published: 12.22.2014
C-
published: 12.19.2014
A-


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