Shailene Woodley

Jenny Slate in Obvious Child

The Oscar Hopefuls is a new series that allows us to take a dive into the Oscar race. Instead of focusing on the marketing campaigns or the buzz, we want to focus on what really matters: the movies and performances themselves. This will include deep dives into individual movies and musings on various categories throughout awards season. Originally I had intended to kick this series off with a look at a spectacular movie that will likely be overlooked. However, today a topic was brought to my desk that feels equally deserving of the space. That great movie, to be named later, will be the focus of the next edition of The Oscar Hopefuls. For now, I’d like to focus on a topic that’s always been important to me: leading ladies. Over at The Washington Post, Alyssa Rosenberg writes about A Year without Best Actresses in response to a Gregg Kilday article at the Hollywood Reporter about the lack of quality Best Actress candidates in comparison to the wealth of choices in the Best Actor category. And while there’s much to be said about the balance between male and female leads overall, I’m not entirely sold on the lack of quality candidates in 2014.

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20th Century Fox

We’re told from the very beginning that this is a different kind of cancer story. There will be no Hollywood fluff or gloss here says our narrator and lead character Hazel (Shailene Woodley). Instead, she’s going to tell us the cold, hard truth of what it’s like to be a teenager facing a health-related death sentence. Well, the cold, hard truth as filtered through a slightly less glossy Hollywood lens anyway. Hazel’s childhood cancer has moved into her lungs leaving her a teenager whose constant companions are an oxygen tank on wheels and a pair of tubes up her nose. She spends her days re-reading her favorite book and watching with wistful eyes as young couples in love live their lives around her until a chance meeting with a fellow cancer survivor named Augustus (Ansel Elgort) leads not only to her very own love story, but also to a new appreciation for metaphors. Despite Hazel’s`protests to the contrary, The Fault In Our Stars belongs to a dramatic sub-genre that consists primarily of young love and deadly illness. It’s most always cancer because cancer is a bitch like that, but the steady theme through this and films like A Walk to Remember, Here on Earth and Love Story is that life is short and every moment — especially the ones when you’re in love — should be fought for and cherished. And if you can find a way to smoothly transition the memory of Anne Frank from metaphor to foreplay? That works too.

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The Fault in Our Stars

Later this week, John Green‘s beloved YA new classic, “The Fault in Our Stars,” will hit movie theaters in the form of a cinematic adaptation, appropriately titled The Fault in Our Stars. The film’s title has already caused plenty of tongue-twisting trouble (just this morning, The Today Show‘s Al Roker referred to it as “The Fault in the Stars” without missing a beat or issuing any kind of correction, bless his heart). The film’s relatively heavy subject matter — it follows a pair of teenagers, played by Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, who meet and fall in love in a support group for kids who have cancer — means that it should come with a certain level of respect. This isn’t the kind of film that you make fun of, that’s just bad manners and bad karma, but its unwieldy title isn’t helping matters. Even more serious? Green’s title is inspired by a line penned by Shakespeare himself, and the book’s Wikipedia page tells us that it’s “inspired by a famous line from Shakespeare‘s play Julius Caesar (act 1, scene 2). The nobleman Cassius says to Brutus, ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.’” You don’t want to mangle that, do you? Let us help, with ten ways you should not refer to this week’s latest tearjerker.

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Paramount Pictures

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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The Fault In Our Stars

Late last night, as you were attempting to watch Mad Men or Game of Thrones, or file your taxes at the last minute, you might have heard an eerie howling carried in the wind through your open window, making you pause for a minute and consider the possibility of something terrible afoot. Nope, it was just the sound of thousands of teens simultaneously freaking out while watching the MTV Movie Awards — the first clip from The Fault In Our Stars was released during the broadcast, and it was positively swoon-worthy. Stars is the highly anticipated adapatation of the YA novel by John Green that has a near cult-like following at this point by teens and younger readers. The story follows Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley), a sixteen-year-old girl suffering from cancer whose parents make her attend a support group meeting for young patients. There she meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), an ex-basketball player whose beaten bout with osteosarcoma cost him his leg in the process. The two strike up a friendship over their unfortunate bond, as well as their passion for books, and as these things happen, they begin to fall for each other as well.

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Maggie Q and Shailene Woodley in DIVERGENT

Let’s just get this out of the way. Divergent is not a good movie. And before you start lobbing accusations that YA adaptations never get a fair shake, know that the problem here isn’t that the film is aimed at teens. The issue is that the script, and presumably the source novel, are incredibly dumb. Post-war Chicago is a fractured place. It’s by design though as the survivors created a plan to ensure the people would never fight again. How? By crafting a system guaranteed to lead to war. Basically, everyone is born into one of five factions. Erudite is for brainiacs who look down their noses at those around them. Candor is for those who always tell the truth, a characteristic that we’re told (with a straight face) makes them the best lawyers. Dauntless are the parkour-loving punks who run and jump all over town while learning how to protect it from the possible threats beyond the great fence that surrounds the city. Amity are the peaceful farmers, a group apparently most notable for always being happy. Finally, Abnegation consists of the selfless, grey-wearing folk who give up mirror time in exchange for running the government. Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) is Abnegation born, but her heart belongs with the free-runners so she chooses Dauntless and changes her name to Tris. Her test results were inconclusive though, an outcome known as Divergent and something she has to keep secret. This essentially means she has varied interests and common sense enough to […]

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stars

Quick, like a bomb going off, young actress Shailene Woodley made an impact in Hollywood. All it took was starring opposite George Clooney in The Descendants and she was made. Honestly, people were only buzzing about her for about fifteen minutes and she had already lined up a dozen or so new jobs starring in adaptations of various, popular works of youth-oriented literature. Recently we’ve started to see the end results of those early deals, and so far the results have been good. Though The Spectacular Now was a bit more of an acting showcase for the equally great Miles Teller, Woodley continued to convert fans with her performance as the female lead there, and now we have a trailer for her latest YA adaptation, The Fault in Our Stars, which not only seems to be a film that shines the spotlight fully on her growing star, but is also one that gives her the inherent drama of a deadly illness to tug at our heartstrings with. This one should be an easy layup for her. Now she’s a shoo-in for being the favorite actress of a whole new generation of weepy teen girls. Or, at the very least, this thing looks a lot more promising than that questionable Divergent movie they’ve also got her starring in. That one’s encroaching just a little bit too much on Jennifer Lawrence’s turf for comfort.

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DIVERGENT

It’s a feeling that’s familiar to anyone who has ever been a fan of a preexisting property that gets the adaptation route – this isn’t how I pictured it. Hollywood’s current love affair with turning bestselling books into feature films, crafting beloved productions into “reimagined” versions, and generally just mining other material to make “new” films means that such a particular feeling is one experienced with startling regularity. The next big project on the adaptation track – a big screen take on Veronica Roth’s bestselling “Divergent” book series – will kick off early next year with the Shailene Woodley-starring Divergent. As marketing for the feature ramps up, we wondered – but what do the fans of the original material think? Over at GoodReads, a site that fosters bonds amongst book readers while also giving them a place to post reviews of their reading material, the “Divergent” community is a thriving one. The first book is a hit with many GoodReads readers, and of a current 761,152 reviews of the book, 354,106 of them are either five- or four-star reviews, making it the second-best reviewed book in the very popular YA dystopia novel genre (“The Hunger Games” is number one). It’s also number nine on the Best Young Adult Books, a list that also includes classics like “The Giver” and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” alongside newer stuff like “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Twilight.” The book rates higher than both “The Hobbit” and “The Outsiders,” so yes, it’s thought […]

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DIVERGENT

If you are not of the YA set and have never heard of Neil Burger‘s Divergent before the teaser trailer surfaced several days ago, fear not, because the cast and creators of the film are here to explain you a thing. This isn’t The Hunger Games. Oh no, this isn’t The Host. Or Twilight. Or Harry Potter. And don’t you dare compare it to Mortal Instruments: City of Bones: Bonetropolis: Thunderbone. Divergent is based on a YA novel by Veronica Roth, set in the wondrous dystopian future Chicago (they don’t all have to be mystical lands), where society is now divided into five factions based on your personality. But then there’s Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), who is categorized as “divergent” – meaning she can’t be put in one of your societal boxes, man. And that makes her a threat. Check out the featurette for yourself:

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DIVERGENT

There’s a way to know when a YA adaptation is going to be the next big thing, and that’s when everyone had heard of the books prior to the making of the movie. Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games all fit that rule, at least as far as I noticed. Divergent does not. I hadn’t heard the title before production began. In fact, I hadn’t heard about it until Comic-Con last month. I understand that many people are excited about this movie, which stars Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller, Kate Winslet and Theo James. But now that the first trailer has arrived, by way of MTV and the VMAs, I can’t for the life of me see why. Perhaps it’s a matter of just seeing The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones this week and being reminded of all prior YA adaptations, success and failures. Then only afterward learning that it began as Harry Potter fanfiction. In the discussions of fanfic turning into actual hot “original” YA properties, I’d heard the notion that Divergent seems like it was born out of The Hunger Games, and this preview really drives that idea home. Sort of. It looks like a Hunger Games knockoff with a plot inspired by Harry Potter‘s Sorting Hat. For a movie that’s apparently about not fitting into a conventional box, Divergent sure doesn’t look very divergent.

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SHAILENE WOODLEY stars in DIVERGENT

One of the more useless trends to come around in the past few years is the “trailer for a trailer.” Trailers themselves are little teases for a film; a tease for a tease is redundant and unsatisfyingly brief. So it’s not super-surprising that the teaser for Divergent is pretty much useless. There’s so much to absorb here: multiple close-ups of Shailene Woodley, wide-eyed and vaguely upset. Someone takes an elbow to the face. Someone else gets flipped upside-down. The film’s name is mentioned, and then Woodley leaps a small gap in slow-motion. The end. Ideally, we’d be tiny glimpses of some nifty effects or set pieces that the trailer would showcase in far grander detail, but the only thing here that raises even the slightest bit of curiosity is some guy waving around some sort of fire-whip glow stick. The full trailer for Divergent premieres at the MTV Video Music Awards this Sunday, but it seems highly unlikely that seeing more of Divergent will be stirring up any real hype. Check it out below, and learn from Divergent‘s example: this is not the way to tease a film.

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THESPECTACULARNOW_still1

Editor’s note: Allison’s review of The Spectacular Now originally ran during this year’s Sundance Film Festival, but we’re posting it again as the film opens this week in limited release. There are two kinds of people who go to high school: those who love every second of it, and those who cannot wait to get out. In The Spectacular Now, Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) is a charming screw-up who falls in the first group, but he is also acutely aware that this is the best time of his life. And he is living that life to the fullest, embracing and living in every moment, but unfortunately doing so with a super-size booze-filled slurpee clutched in his grasp at every turn. When he sits down to start writing his college essay (pulling on a PBR as he does), he uses the question about the biggest hardship he has had to overcome to unload about his recent break up. After yet another party and another night getting loaded, Sutter finds himself waking up on the lawn of Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a pretty girl from his school that he has never quite noticed before because she does not have a specific “thing” that defines her from the pack.

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spectacularnow

Sometime around the mid-nineties, the classic high school-set coming-of-age movie shrugged off its emotional resonance and turned into a genre marked by nonsensical dance scenes (She’s All That), poorly-adapted takes on Shakespeare plays (Get Over It), perfectly-adapted takes on Jane Austen novels (Clueless, and no, I will never apologize for my love for Clueless), cheerleader-driven narratives (Bring It On), and embarrassing outings that even James Franco wants to expunge from his resume (Whatever It Takes). Yet, slowly, the influence of such genre heroes as Cameron Crowe and John Hughes is bubbling back up, and the possibility that the real, sweet, funny, dramatic, and honest high school film isn’t dead just yet seems stronger than ever. As someone who grew up on a steady, TBS-fed diet of Crowe and Hughes films, the resurrection of the great coming-of-age production is music (Peter Gabriel, naturally) to my ears. A recent example of the rise of the emotionally rich teen movie? The Spectacular Now, a film that I’ve thought about consistently and affectionately since catching it back in January at Sundance. In support of the upcoming theatrical release of James Ponsoldt’s Sundance favorite, Landmark Theaters (along with one Angelika in NYC and the independent Los Feliz theater in LA) have curated a special screening series that they are calling “The Spectacular Classics.” Basically, it’s a month-long screening series of classic coming-of-age films that, in one way or another, influenced the new Shailene Woodley- and Miles Teller-starring film. It sounds like a very fun event […]

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DIVERGENT

As Hollywood’s love affair with popular YA properties grinds relentlessly on, we’re doomed to be inundated with a whole mess of stories asking if the newest something or other is “the next Twilight” or “the newest Hunger Games” (hey, sometimes we wonder about it too), but easy associations aside, there really are some great teen-focused adaptations hitting the big screen soon. We promise. Fine, maybe we’re just talking about the cinematic version of Veronica Roth‘s three-book “Divergent” series, which will kick off next year with the release of the currently-filming Divergent, but Roth’s future-set and vividly imagined series is one of the best we’ve read recently, and we’re pretty highly anticipating it. Even better? The film stars Shailene Woodley in a role that has “starmaker” written all over it (if this summer’s The Spectacular Now doesn’t already accomplish that for her). Woodley stars as Tris Prior, resident of a future Chicago where all residents (and its a slim bunch, thanks to some sort of event that seemingly wiped out most of the world) have been divided into very different factions. Despite growing up in the Abnegation faction, Tris discovers that she’s (dun-dun-DUH!!!) “divergent,” someone who doesn’t neatly fit into just one faction. With an annual event that lets teenagers pick a new faction coming up, Tris is faced with a big choice. Oh, and discovering that being divergent is dangerous isn’t helping things. The film is filming in Chicago now, so we’ve been treated to a few looks at the production already, but today brings a new batch […]

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sm-maryjane

Why on Earth are we already reporting on The Amazing Spider-Man 3 when The Amazing Spider-Man 2 isn’t even finished being made? It’s a long story, one that starts with Monday’s news that Sony is so happy to have the rights to the Spider-Man property in their portfolio, they’ve already scheduled release dates for ASM 3 and 4, even before ASM 2 can be completed and released. For fans of Marc Webb and the principal cast he’s put together for this new Spidey franchise, Sony’s faith and commitment to new films has to be seen as a good thing, but, unfortunately, planning for two more movies has forced some things to be shuffled around, and all of that shuffling doesn’t come without at least one casualty. From the looks of things, said casualty is going to be Shailene Woodley’s portrayal of Mary Jane Watson, which we were supposed to be seeing in ASM 2.

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spectacularnow

On its surface, The Spectacular Now looks like any other teenage drama you’ve ever seen. It’s about confused young people who fall in love, make mistakes, and generally just live in abject terror of the future. If word of mouth can be believed though, this is a movie that has a couple of tricks up its sleeve—a couple of tricks that keep it from being the same old, forgettable teenage drama that everybody always makes. Okay, so they’re not so much tricks as they are two of the more promising young actors who have hit Hollywood in the past few years: Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley. Not only have these two already shown us that they have quite a bit to offer in movies like Rabbit Hole and The Descendants, but they both won the Special Jury Award for Acting at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and it was for the performances they give in this very film. Intrigued? Then click through to see what everyone was raving about back in January.

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jackman

What is Casting Couch? It’s desperately trying to round up all of the casting news that’s been put out there today, but those casting agents over on the west coast have been busy beavers. This time we’ve got news about what funnyman Tim Heidecker and scaryman Vinnie Jones have planned next. Harlan Coben’s novel, “Six Years,” has yet to be published, but it’s already got a film adaptation in the works. And the film adaptation has yet to have a writer or director, but THR is reporting that it already has a star. Hugh Jackman, who’s best know for being Wolverine in all of those X-Men movies are for earning an Oscar nomination for Les Miserables (heard of him?), has been attached to play the lead role of the film, which is about a man seeing an obituary for the husband of one of his lost loves in the newspaper, deciding to go to the funeral to catch a glimpse of her, and realizing that the woman there who’s claiming to be his wife isn’t the woman that he was in love with six years ago at all. This apparently brings up all sorts of questions about memory, what he really knows, and what he can actually believe. Well, either that or the dead guy happened to get divorced and remarried over the course of the last six years. You should really check Facebook for stuff like that.

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Snow

It is time to say goodbye. Some of us have already left, some of us have a few more days, but the festival is officially winding down as quickly as the brief snowfall from two days ago is melting on the ground. (I’m getting deep, y’all, get ready.) The end of Sundance is always bittersweet; you are ready to get back home, but at the same time the idea of leaving friends, movies, and popcorn (okay, that’s not true — we are all more than sick of the popcorn) is sad. The final few days of the festival are always a bit different since the pack of people you know has whittled down and the majority of the movies have been watched. I started the day actually getting to sleep in (even I don’t understand how I pulled this off) and these extra few hours somehow helped me stay alert enough to take things in as I went through the day, a task I have never been able to attempt before due to exhaustion and the perpetual “end of the fest” daze. I spent the morning working at the Bloggeratti Condo and relishing the fact that I can crack jokes and fact check with colleagues in person instead of over social media (although Eric Snider and William Goss’s jokes are hilarious both in person and on the Internet).

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Robert Downey Jr

What is Casting Couch? It’s a column that’s trying to talk about casting news on a day when Oscar nominations are king. Pity it. Paul Thomas Anderson is the sort of filmmaker who casts amazing actors in his movies and then directs them to the best performances of their careers. From Philip Baker Hall in Hard Eight, to Tom Cruise in Magnolia, to Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood, to Joaquin Phoenix in The Master, this has always been true. According to Showbiz 411, Robert Downey Jr. may be adding his name to that list soon. They say that he and possibly Charlize Theron are looking like they’re going to be the stars of Anderson’s upcoming adaptation of reclusive author Thomas Pynchon’s novel, Inherent Vice. If this ends up being true it would, of course, be completely awesome for film fans, and probably be the biggest thing that’s happened to Downey’s career since he got cast as Iron Man. That’s a win-win for everybody.

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Jon Hamm

What is Casting Couch? Today it’s mostly about smaller-name actors getting roles in upcoming projects, but that can be interesting too. Not everyone can be an old favorite coming back to an X-Men movie or getting hounded about the new Star Wars. It’s been known for a while that Mad Men’s Jon Hamm is a big fan of comedy—just look at how many lowly podcasts he’s appeared on, bit parts in comedies, and even his SNL host gigging for proof of that—but he’s yet to get his chance to take his love of the yuks further and actually star in a comedic feature. That might soon change though. Variety is reporting that he’s currently circling a project called Epic Fail that’s about a down-on-his-luck high school teacher who hires two students to kidnap his wife, in the hopes that if he swoops in and rescues her he might rekindle his marriage. The film has been written by Kevin Costello and will be directed by Mark Teitelman.

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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