Midnight in Paris

The Last of Robin Hood

In Maleficent, Angelina Jolie recreates her iconic curse with such perfect charisma that it’s a big letdown when she changes tune about 2.5 seconds later as Disney strives to make her relatable. Our beloved villainess became the reactionary scorned woman, and all of that potential for more evil cackles flies out the window. Thinking about this terribly missed opportunity for excellent evilness, I couldn’t help but think about the many real-life, often larger than life names who have been immortalized in cinematic biographies in ways more bittersweet than satisfying. It’s great to see them and get the rush of their performance, but sad to watch it wasted on an inferior film, or a bit part in someone else’s larger whole.

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Perhaps we were spoiled with last year’s Midnight in Paris, auteur Woody Allen‘s return to (delightful) form after a few years of basically forgettable, minor efforts like Whatever Works, Scoop, Cassandra’s Dream, and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. Suffice to say, Allen’s next cinematic trip to a classic, romantic European city has come complete with heightened expectations, and while his To Rome With Love occasionally harnesses some of the charm and ease of Paris, it’s a wholly different film experience, and a less enjoyable one to boot. Much like Paris, Allen has lined up a sizable and talented cast for his latest outing, though he’s chosen Rome as his own spin on throwaway rom-coms like New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day and the far superior Love, Actually, instead of focusing on a single leading character. Allen uses the city of Rome as the (often only) link between all manner of people – Italians, Americans, young, old, famous, common, talented, sexy, unsexy, ambitious, bored, confused, the list goes on – and lets them play out their theatrically-tinged trials and tribulations against a gorgeous Roman backdrop. It’s frothy and fizzy enough, but To Rome With Love isn’t the sort of film that is likely to leave a lasting impact on its audience. It’s popcorn entertainment for the indie set.

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Over Under - Large

Woody Allen is a legendary filmmaker, to be certain. But he’s also a filmmaker who is perceived to have had a golden age, a period where the movies he made were head and shoulders above the things that he makes now. That’s not such a great place for an artist to be, but Woody managed to shut up a lot of his critics with Midnight in Paris. It’s not only one of Allen’s most financially successful films, it’s also one of his most critically acclaimed, and it’s been held up as proof that we might be in the midst of a Woody comeback. Is it really worthy of all the hype though? Lots of people love this movie—like me—but it’s also a film that has glaring flaws. What is it about Midnight in Paris that makes our Internet culture, that is so quick to tear everything down with snark, give it such an easy pass? Back in 1989 Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure was also a huge success. It made so much money that it spawned not only a sequel, but also an animated series, video games, and who knows how many other kinds of merchandise that time forgot. Yet, despite this success, it’s not a film that many people take seriously. There’s a love for it still, but one that seems more ironic than anything else. Why is that so, when there’s so much respect for the other big genre hits of the 80s? Why doesn’t this film get […]

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Ever since French actress Lea Seydoux dropped my jaw playing back-to-back roles in Midnight in Paris and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, I’ve vowed to follow her career very closely. You see, it’s not stalking, because I write about movie news. The first news about Seydoux’s career that perked up my ears was word that she was going to be starring in a new telling of the Beauty and the Beast story opposite acting powerhouse Vincent Cassel which, to that point, I thought was about the best news ever. But now there’s a new development in the lovely young lady’s career that just might rival it. According to Variety, Seydoux is set to star in a film called Blue Is a Hot Color, from Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche. It’s set to be a relatively low budget adaptation of a graphic novel by Julie Maroh that tells the story of a girl who, quite unexpectedly, falls in love with another woman and then has to face the judgment of her friends and loved ones. This not only sounds like a story that’s ripe with both dramatic and comedic potential, but it also sounds like a movie that will be full of moments that I’ll have no problem shamelessly ogling. If any of my other favorite, young, French actresses get cast as the love interest, then I just might keel over from excitement.

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Boiling Point

The 84th Academy Awards have come and gone: let the bitching begin! As someone who is more of a genre fan than anything, I’ve never really cared too much about the Oscars, but that sure as hell doesn’t prevent me from complaining about them. Granted, over the years, some great films have won. I’m a big fan of Unforgiven and I dug Shakespeare In Love. I just think far too many good films are ignored in favor of “Oscar movies.” I can’t say that I was particularly impressed with any of the films nominated this year, but there were a few categories were I feel like the little golden man statue when to the wrong film. Luckily, the internet exists and I can complain about it!

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Editor’s Note: This article will be updated in real time as the winners come in during the Academy Awards broadcast. Please join us for our Live-Blog tonight (because we ask nicely), and while you wait for the winners, check out our Oscar Week Series, where you will find breakdowns and predictions for all of the major categories. It’s finally here! The time of year where I can write a paragraph that no one will read because they’ve already scrolled down to see who’s won. But even though this won’t be seen by humans, here’s a personal reminder that this night may be about politics and back-slapping, but it’s also about the splendor of cinema. It’s about the magic of movies. The genius of thousands of images all strung together with blood, sweat and tears to create characters and a journey through the heart of a story. There are some great stories on display tonight. That’s what matters second most. What matters most, of course, is crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you and hearing the lamentation of their women. Let’s get to the winning, right? And the Oscar goes to…

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In a couple of hours, we’ll start live-blogging our little hearts out as Neil pretends to know what “chiffon” is, and after the red carpet, we’ll sink into that fifth drink while reveling in the sheer majesty of the 2012 Academy Awards. Stifling cynicism can take a taxi outta town for a while, because no matter what, if you want to see it, there’s still something magical about this night. Part of that magic is being completely wrong. We’re confident now, but when the winners are announced, there’s always the tiny possibility of a big surprise. So who did you put down in your office pool to take home gold tonight? Our team spent all week tossing out their best analyses, and it all comes down to this. Here’s who we picked. Would you take us up on these bets?

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Oscar 2012 Predictions: Best Picture

The Best Picture Academy Award is really what explains film as a collaborative effort. The Best Picture is what the Academy has found to be the best combination of every aspect that film has, whether thematically or structurally. The producers of the winner take home the Oscar, because, well, they footed the bill. They were also the decision-makers. We know its more of a gray area than that, but the classic Academy likes to think like classic movie-making. It doesn’t stop the Best Picture winners from being some of the greatest pieces of work in the artform. One film this Sunday will be written in along with films like It Happened One Night, On The Waterfront, The Godfather parts 1 & 2, and No Country For Old Men. That’s a list of 83 movies that will be or already are considered essentials when it comes to film history. We don’t look down on the nominees who didn’t win. What are they called? Oh, yeah. Losers. But, seriously, they are all films of value in some form or another, films that were still able to make their mark on some part of this history. But it’s that big boy. That one who gets its name yelled out at the end of the night, who hears the orchestra play their music for the climax of the show, that’s the one that’ll make headlines come Monday morning. Which one is it gonna be? The odds seem better for some, but here’s the breakdown […]

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Oscar 2012 Predictions: Best Director

Film directors are responsible for every single aspect of their movie. That doesn’t mean they actually do each and every task on set, but it’s their job (and prerogative) to get each element just right. It’s a lot of responsibility, and judging by the nominees for this year’s Best Director, it’s clearly too much for a woman to handle. Sorry, Kelly Reichardt, Lynn Ramsay, and Sarah Polley…maybe you can bake something nice for the boys who were nominated? For the record, the director who should walk away with the Oscar this year isn’t even nominated. Nicolas Winding Refn deserved (at least) a nomination for Drive as he was able to craft something of raw beauty from some seemingly disparate parts. The film’s look and style, its exquisitely jarring shifts from calm to explosive, and its unexpectedly affecting score and soundtrack all make for a unique cinematic experience. The nominees are listed below with my prediction for the winner in red…

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Oscar 2012 Predictions: Best Original Screenplay

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 […]

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Culture Warrior

The Oscar montage reel is a genre on its own. It’s transparently demonstrative of the overall function of the Academy Awards. These montage reels summarize and make explicit what the annual ceremony attempts to accomplish writ large: to create and solidify a canon of important American films, along with a delimited understanding of their importance. Yes, the Oscars have occasionally given a voice to the indie underdog and rush through their obligatory movies-with-subtitles category, but besides the occasional screenplay nomination for a truly innovative film and the rare foreign language film that broaches through the marginal categories, the Oscars are by and large a celebration of American cinema, specifically Hollywood cinema. During the 2006 ceremony, a moment occurred that has been seared into my memory. I haven’t been able to find a clip of it online since it aired six years ago, so I hope this isn’t wishful or inaccurate. The 2006 ceremony consisted of a spate of overtly political films, as Crash, Brokeback Mountain, Munich, Good Night and Good Luck competed for top honors, and Syriana was in the running for other awards. In likely hopes of gaining cultural capital from celebrating mainstream cinema’s rarely explored but ever-present political function, the Academy aired a self-congratulatory reel of past Oscar-nominated films that have addressed other topical social problems, from In the Heat of the Night to Philadelphia. When the lights came back and the audience applauded with anticipated decorum, host Jon Stewart then graced the stage and stated, in a […]

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The Reject Report - Large

Not to be confused with Reject Report, The White, which is what happens after we do battle with the Balrog. Reject Report, The White is never NEVER wrong. But in our current form we have to take into account things like star power and demographics and mass appeal, the kinds of aspects that go into making a film financially successful. This week sees three new movies wanting that success and one Oscar contender expanding to wide release. Liam Neeson fights wolves, Sam Worthington faces a ledge, and Katherine Heigl takes on…money, I guess. I’m not really sure. Only one of these movies can be the victor while the other two scrounge for scraps to make up $10-15m. Not even worth the effort really. It’s the Reject Report, and you shall not pass. Okay, now you can pass. Go ahead.

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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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The Writers Guild of America has released the nominees for their Writer’s Guild Awards today, and while there’s certainly some room for quibbling as far as their choices go, the screenplays they’ve nominated in their film categories are at least a diverse array of projects. There’s something here for everyone. I balked at these choices a bit on first glance, they’d left off many of my favorite films of the year. But after thinking about what was missing for a few seconds I started to realize that a lot of the films I really loved over the course of 2011 relied more on mood and photography than they did their screenplays. In my mind, there was no real superstar script this year, like Inception and The Social Network last year. I loved things like Drive and Shame, but did their greatness really lie in their screenplays? Still, I can think of a handful of things that I would have liked to have seen included that weren’t. As far as original screenplays go, I think a film like Warrior was a master of structure, and is more deserving than something like Bridesmaids, which was a fairly generic comedy plot and which probably relied largely on improvisation for its humor. And I really miss a nomination for something like The Skin I Live In when it comes to the adapted screenplay section; especially when they’ve nominated a film like The Help, which cannot name writing as one of its strengths. Check out […]

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Criterion Files

Luis Buñuel’s adaptation of Octave Mirbeau’s novel “Diary of a Chambermaid” (1964) was made at a decisive point in the master filmmaker’s long, dynamic, and illustrious career. The film marked Buñuel’s second foray into European filmmaking after an almost thirty-year hiatus, during which time he made a large number of films in Mexico, contributing greatly to what is now considered the nation’s midcentury cinematic Golden Age. The Spanish filmmaker first returned to Europe to make Viridiana (1961) in Spain (the only film Buñuel ever completed in his native country). Viridiana proved a sensation in every sense of the word: it made a huge splash for international critics and audiences starting with its enthusiastic reception at that year’s Cannes Film Festival and it was met with legendary controversy (no stranger to the filmmaker) in Franco’s tightly-regulated Spain. Viridiana revisits several of Buñuels’ thematic preoccupations from his Surrealist years in France and his pseudo-social-realist films in Mexico, specifically in terms of the infamous atheist’s routine subversion of religious iconography. The now-iconic scene where a group of vagrants sit around a grand dinner table, positioned in a way reminiscent of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper (1495-98), proved to be a heretical image for one audience and a brilliant and beautiful inversion for another (By the way, why did nobody in the Catholic community say that critiquing Renaissance art isn’t heretical? Is Da Vinci Jesus?).

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This started out as a list of overrated movies, but we (“we” being Rob Hunter and Kevin Carr, rabblerousers) decided fairly quickly that “overrated” is an overused and abused term. Who are we, or anyone, to tell you that you like a movie too much? It’s a rude thing to say regardless of whether or not we’re right. But thanks to the internet sometimes one person’s exuberance can find a virtual megaphone in all the tubes and anonymous users online, and that misguided praise can become deafening. And yes, we’re just as guilty as the rest of you…especially in regard to our first pick below. To be clear, most of these are not bad movies. The majority of them are actually good. But none of them deserved the near-constant accolades that seemed to echo from one corner of the web to another ad nauseum. So without further ado, pomp, or circumstance, here are 11 12 movies (in alphabetical order) you people wouldn’t shut up about in 2011. (**Note, there may be a few minor spoilers below.**)

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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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This Week in DVD

It’s a fairly quiet week in the world of DVD releases, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some quality titles hitting shelves. Two fantastic films arrive today, and while they barely made a ripple at the box office that doesn’t mean they’re not worth your time. Other movies out today include the wonderfully suspenseful Julia’s Eyes, the ridiculously overrated Midnight In Paris, the just plain ridiculous Columbiana and more. As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Warrior Two men, one a high school teacher with a family (Joel Edgerton) and the other an ex-Marine hero (Tom Hardy), find themselves on different paths to the same goal: winning a high-profile MMA tournament and the large cash prize that goes with it. The story moves back and forth between the men and their situations until they finally merge together in the ring. Sports stories in general aren’t really my thing, but I do enjoy a tale well told. Director Gavin O’Connor and his two leads (as well as supporting player Nick Nolte) fill the film with heart, great character and honest suspense. Most surprising of all, both men have an equal shot at victory and viewers will be thrilled and satisfied whichever way it ends. Lots of fantastic films were missed by audiences by year, but this is one underdog that deserves a second shot at victory. Check out Robert Levin’s full review.

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Good morning from Los Angeles, where we announce major award nominations at 5:30AM on a Thursday morning. That’s how much we value your sleep patterns and sanity. Now that I’ve pulled myself out of a state of under caffeinated shock over some of the Golden Globe nominations – namely, that Ryan Gosling was nominated for lead actor in both the drama and comedy and musical categories, though neither of those nods was for Drive (Crazy, Stupid, Love.? really? I had no idea that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association was so into abs!). Beyond that jolt to the system, there were a number of standard choices for the awards. The Artist? Well, of course? But all that Ides of March love? Interesting. The Artist leads with six nominations, followed by The Descendants and The Help with five each, and The Ides of March, Midnight in Paris, and Moneyball with four nods. But despite the overwhelming sense that (per usual) the Globes are just softball awards, there are some surprisingly good picks buried amongst the fluff – Tilda Swinton getting a lead actress (drama) nomination, Michael Fassbender earning a lead actor (drama) nod for Shame, Bridesmaids and Midnight in Paris up for Best Picture (comedy or musical), Charlize Theron getting a lead actress (comedy or musical) nomination for Young Adult, The Skin I Live In up for Best Foreign Film, and Albert Brooks getting his nod for supporting actor for Drive (drama). The Golden Globes will air live on January 15. Check out […]

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Labor Day marks the end of summer, and like every other year the online bitching and moaning about how bad of a summer it was at the movies has already begun. Twenty-one rejects got together for our bi-weekly bake sale/FSR office cleaning day, and we got to thinking. That’s just bullshit. Because there were actually some surprisingly solid and entertaining movies that hit theaters over the past four months. From comic book heroes that soared above the competition, to legendary directors who returned with their best work in decades, to R-rated comedies that made us wet ourselves, to prequels that proved going backwards can sometimes be a genius move, this summer offered up plenty of bang for the buck. So we each jotted down our five favorite films of the summer, assigned a point value to each rank (5 pts for 1st, 4 pts for 2nd, etc), and fed the raw data into our Commodore Vic-20 office computer. It finished processing eighteen hours later, and we ended up with the results below. So screw the haters… let’s embrace the movies that made us laugh, gasp, applaud, and sit up and take notice this past summer. Here are FSR’s Favorite Movies of Summer 2011!

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