Martin Scorsese

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:

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We all know the story. In a panic to find a spectacle that could provide a bit of magic and a higher ticket price for the cinema, the studios turned again to 3D. Thanks to technological advances and a long vacation from the third dimension, it all seemed fresh and new again (even if the bulk of it was put together with rushed post-conversion). Whether you believe it’s just a fad that’s on the way out or believe it to be grand revolution of the art, time is the only one who has the final word on it, but for now the truth (like in all things) probably lies somewhere between those two extremes. And it’s a lack of extremes that make Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese the wisest public speakers on the subject. Here’s Spielberg at Comic-Con last year: “I’m certainly hoping that 3D gets to the point where people do not notice it, because once they stop noticing it it just becomes another tool and an aid to help tell a story. Then maybe they can make the ticket prices comparable to a 2D movie and not charge such exorbitant prices just to gain entry into a 3D one, with the exception of IMAX, where we are getting a premium experience in a premium environment, but to show a 3D movie in a similar theater in a multiplex next to another similar theater showing a 2D movie. I’m hoping someday there will be so many 3D movies that […]

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Culture Warrior

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:

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Roger Corman’s career in show business spans nearly 60 years, so audiences may initially wonder what might be left to say in a documentary about the exploitation master. Yet Alex Stapleton’s Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel offers a comprehensive, enlightening portrait of this most influential filmmaker-mogul. The doc offers a well-rounded treatise on Corman’s indelible influence, benefiting from a strong cast of talking head contributors and the ease with which Stapleton parallels his subject’s career with larger historical currents within the industry. The movie employs a straightforward linear approach in charting Corman’s filmmaking life, which began when the Stanford engineering grad found work in 20th Century Fox’s mailroom, advanced to the position of story reader, and eventually quit to begin making pictures himself during the ’50s. It charts the highlights of Corman’s various periods, including the American International Pictures and New World Pictures eras, and offers a wealth of testimony from Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, and others of the premier cinematic talents who got their starts with the B-movie maestro.

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This year has brought us back to classic filmmaking from the silent film era with The Artist to the fantasy adventure Hugo, which recalled classic film moments (as The Film Stage rounded up here). The New York Times has even gotten in on the classical score action, drawing on booming horns and frenetic strings to help create horror and unease in their portraits of various actors’ impressions of classic film villains. It is an almost surprising turn in a year that awarded Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s electronic influenced score for The Social Network the Oscar for Original Score and saw electronic duos The Chemical Brothers and Basement Jaxx creating the scores for Hanna and Attack the Block, respectively. Film scoring seemed to be going the way of the electric guitar, swapping out full orchestrations for synthesizers, but as 2011 comes to a close, it seems classic orchestration is not on its way out just yet. Full orchestrations of horns, drums, strings, and wind instruments filled theaters in films like The Artist and Hugo, taking us back to a time when live orchestras would play along with films. Their electronic counterparts tend to turn up the volume (who wasn’t rattled when Reznor and Karen O’s booming “Immigrant Song” in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’s teaser trailer came on screen?) while classical scores are able to gain that same power from the sheer number of instruments called upon and layered together. Both work to draw an emotional reaction out of […]

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Hugo

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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Culture Warrior

The self-reflexive practices of the meta-film take various forms. On the one hand, there’s the legacy of cinephilic directors from Brian De Palma to P. T. Anderson to Robert Rodriguez who shout out to specific films through their in-crowd referencing, or even go so far as to structure entire narratives through tributes to cinema’s past. Then there’s “the wink,” those film’s, like this weekend’s The Muppets, who exercise cheeky humor by breaking the fourth wall and by constant reference to the fact that they are in a heavily constructed film reality. The third category is less common, but perhaps the most interesting. There has been a recent influx of films that don’t use past films to construct present narratives or engage in Brecht-light humor, but have as their central narrative concern the broad developmental history of the medium itself, from practices of filmgoing to particularities of projection, and anything in between. Bertolucci’s The Dreamers is a good example of this mode of meta-filmmaking, but more high-profile films have begin to make this turn, specifically by directors who formerly operated in the first (and perhaps most common) category, like Tarantino with Inglourious Basterds two years ago. Now Martin Scorsese has followed suit with the 3D love letter to early cinema and film preservation that is Hugo.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr gets his grading done early because school is off for the rest of the week. With three family movies opening in theaters for the Thanksgiving weekend, Kevin tries to keep things respectable. Reliving his childhood, he sings and dances his way into the theater for the revival of The Muppets, then takes a serious look at 3D and avant-garde filmmaking with Martin Scorsese’s latest film Hugo. Finally, he bundles up and heads to the North Pole on a search for Santa and his family, knowing it has to be exactly like it is depicted in Arthur Christmas. Movies don’t lie, after all, do they?

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It’s hard to overstate just how amazing it is to consider a big-budget, major studio-produced 3D family adventure centered on Georges Méliès. Before now, the work of the early cinematic innovator, whose movies (most famously 1903’s A Trip to the Moon) revolutionized and advanced special effects, has been relegated to film history texts and brief snippets of televised specials. If there’s one filmmaker to make Méliès matter again, to introduce him to a mass audience, it’s Martin Scorsese. After all, the Oscar-winning legend is not just one of the foremost cinematic masters, as a noted film preservationist, he’s among the chief protectors of the long, glorious and frequently threatened legacy of the motion picture. In Hugo, Scorsese transforms the trappings of a 3D holiday picture into a loving tribute to Méliès and the earliest masters of the cinematic dream factory. From the structure of its narrative, to the details of its plot, and the industrialized nature of its majestic visuals, this is a film infused with the joy and wonder of movies. Set amid the glittering magic of Paris in the early 1930s, the film follows 12-year-old orphan Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), who secretly lives in a train station. Hugo, who winds the station’s clocks, dwells inside a labyrinthine interior comprised of enormous grinding gears, rising steam currents, and other elaborate metallic concoctions. Among the latter is a non-functioning automaton brought home by Hugo’s late father (Jude Law), which the young man works on incessantly in the hope that he can bring […]

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It’s likely going to be a very happy holiday season for the Butterfield family, as rising star Asa Butterfield is already lining up his next big starring role even before his biggest project hits screens. Butterfield leads Martin Scorsese‘s Hugo this Thanksgiving in the title role, based on Brian Selznick‘s book “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” and it looks like the young star is next jumping to another massively anticipated adaptation. With Hugo already pulling in positive reviews (particularly from dyed-in-the-wool cinephiles), it’s no surprise that the young star is already book further heavy-hitting roles. Deadline Bondville reports that Butterfield has been offered yet another titular role in a book-to-film adaptation, that of Andrew “Ender” Wiggin in Gavin Hood‘s upcoming big screen Ender’s Game, his take on Orson Scott Card‘s sci-fi classic. Card’s character first appeared in a short story in 1977, which went on to spawn the 1985 book (which this film is based on), along with a continued series that now consists of eleven books (with at least two more planned). Can we say “sequels”? Ender’s Game already has a March 15, 2013 release date set, so Summit Entertainment is not resting on their laurels with their potential next-big-thing franchise.

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Last month the Oscar season officially kicked off, and this month we’ll be getting plenty more Oscar baiters and real contenders to add to the mix. We’ll get another Brett Ratner film, the 25th film of the decade from Clint Eastwood, another upbeat audience friendly film from Lars von Trier, and the most expected and clichéd, a Martin Scorsese “kids” film. A fairly promising month, right? I’ve already seen a few films coming out this month, and there’s plenty of good-to-great films to see, even one or two that didn’t make it on this list. Honorable Mentions: My Week with Marilyn (an extremely enjoyable film with a great performance by Kenneth Branagh), Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, and London Boulevard (a solid anti-cliché gangster film). But here are the names who made it all the way to the top ten:

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Writer, now director, William Monahan crafts a unique brand of hard-boiled men. The Departed and Kingdom of Heaven screenwriter never follows a guy who’s gonna throw-down and flex at any chance he gets. His protagonists are flawed, paradoxical, and in London Boulevard, even kind of feminine. Monahan’s adaptation of Ken Bruen’s novel features a sensitive lead with no interest in being a gangster, an antagonist who’s more interested in kissing the Farrell character than killing him, and every other so-called mobster in this film could not be more incompetent. Unlike The Departed, Monahan has written an anti-gangster picture. Here’s what writer-director William Monahan had to say about vulnerable men, the current state of exposition, and why the last shot of The Departed still works, even if you didn’t get it:

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Big man on campus Martin Scorsese is just about done working on his upcoming film Hugo, so it’s about time that he figures out what his next project is going to be. To that end, he’s reportedly been circling around a potential film called The Snowman, which is set to be an adaptation of a Jo Nesbo novel of the same name. Nesbo is a Norwegian author known primarily for mystery stories and children’s books whose Harry Hole series has sold more than 5 million copies. The Snowman is the seventh book in a series of them about detective Harry Hole (I definitely recommend turning on your safesearch before researching these novels). Hole is one of those drunken, self-destructive detective archetypes who is always close to be thrown off the force because of his behavior, but ultimately kept around because he gets things done. The Snowman is  a serial killer story that starts off with missing woman’s pink scarf found wrapped around the neck of a creepy snowman. I don’t know exactly what would make a snowman creepy, but the story is set in Oslo, and they probably have a lot more kinds of snowmen there than we do here in the Windy City. I picture it as being snowy.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that has been working really hard lately at its other job. So if it gets a little loopy this evening, please cut it some slack. We begin tonight with Keanu Reeves and Chloe Moretz reenacting a scene from Taxi Driver. It’s part of a photo spread in Harper’s Bazaar celebrating the work of Martin Scorsese. Something about this is a little creepy.

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Sitting at a formidable and weighty 98% on Rotten Tomatoes is legendary director Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull, a biopic of Jake LaMotta, a 40s era boxer who was nicknamed “The Raging Bull” because of his short fuse and aggressive style in the ring. Michael Ritchie isn’t a legendary director. Despite the fact that he’s made movies like The Bad News Bears and Fletch, I’ve never even heard someone bring his name up in a conversation. And his attempt at a boxing movie, 1992’s Diggstown, is sitting at a paltry 54% on Rotten Tomatoes, derided and then forgotten by a cruel world unwilling to look past the ridiculous shirt and tie combinations James Woods wears in the film. This injustice will not stand.

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Editor’s Note: This article will be updated in real time as the winners come in during the Primetime Emmys broadcast. Winners will be highlighted in bold and you can check out the winners that were already announced at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards. The very first Emmy Award was given to a ventriloquist named Shirley Dinsdale who worked with a puppet called Judy Splinters. Is that significant? Of course it is. That fact coupled with the design of the award itself – a woman holding an atom – represent the true heart of television’s most significant celebration: artistic inspiration, scientific technology, and wooden humanoids that only talk with a hand shoved up their back. Ponder that while you bask in the glory of the victorious. Here are the winners of the 2011 Primetime Emmy Awards.

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we take on the cinematic emotional roller coaster by speaking with comedian Bill Bailey about getting him hired for the next Star Trek movie and by dissecting Taxi Driver‘s Travis Bickle with psychologist, Dr. Jeff Greenberg. Plus, Landon Palmer joins me for a long-form discussion about the terrorist attacks of 9/11, their effects on movie culture, and on audiences. Download This Episode

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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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Yes, Martin Scorsese is planning a remake of 1974′s The Gambler with Departed screenwriter William Monahan (and trying hard to get Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role). Yes, the original’s writer James Toback isn’t happy that he wasn’t told about the project. Yes, he wrote a letter to Deadline saying so. But, with all due respect to Toback and the slight that was committed against him, the boring interpersonal drama of who didn’t call whom is nowhere near as fascinating as the rest of the story that he relates – namely, him selling a very personal script, finding the right lead, and the impact the film had. There are at least a half dozen times in his brief recounting that will draw either genuine laughter, or the kind that comes when no other response will do. His situation with getting his check signed at Paramount is outrageous, but it has this spark of what working in that world can sometimes be like. At any rate, it’s a compelling tale of Hollywood success and confusion that deserves to be read.

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It’s fascinating that the director of Taxi Driver is the man who put this together. Martin Scorsese once again shows his versatility by tackling Hugo, an adaptation of the popular children’s novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” Interestingly, it look like he’s channeling Chris Columbus here with a healthy dose of Lemony Snicket. Yes, it looks fun and silly, but this trailer makes it look a bit too childish (and features far, far too much of Sacha Baron Cohen falling down and smashing into things Kevin James-style).

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