Silver Linings Playbook

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When assessing what present and future filmmakers can learn from David O. Russell’s ideas and practices, it really depends on which David O. Russell we’re talking about. Is it David O. Russell the mad genius auteur, who was as notorious for insisting on his vision as he was for getting in much-publicized spats with actors on set? Or is it David O. Russell the comeback king who, with this weekend’s American Hustle, seems all but guaranteed a third critically lauded and commercially successful film in a row? In several notable ways, the themes of David O. Russell’s films haven’t changed all that much – he’s still as preoccupied as ever with depicting various types of dysfunctional, untraditional, and ultimately affirming oddball “families” – but his filmmaking has changed greatly, a switch that he chalks up to lessons learned from the troubled shoot and reception of (the still-underrated) I Heart Huckabees as well as his unfinished film Nailed. Whatever you think of Russell’s films, he’s found himself in a position to speak about filmmaking from an encyclopedia of experiences (good and bad) and attitudes (egotistical to humble). So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the guy who got Bruce Wayne and Katniss Everdeen their first Oscars.

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On Demand: Jack Reacher

Back after a week of self-reflection, our patented, custom-built supercomputer known as the Video On Demand Power Ranker is back in action. This week it’s all crime thrillers, time-lapsing epics and stories about people with a screw (or seven) loose. And a movie about your uncle’s favorite band, The Eagles.

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discs 043013

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. The Vampire Lovers A small town in the English countryside falls prey to the sensual whims of a vampiric lady, but her bosomy reign of terror approaches its end when a group of men set out for vengeance. Hammer Films’ adaptation of the literary classic “Carmilla” combines the old-school atmospheric horror they’re known for with some truly erotic happenings to great effect. Peter Cushing and Ingrid Pitt bring their own individual strengths in front of the camera while director Roy Ward Baker guides the film with his typically assured eye. It’s a slight story, but the film’s Blu-ray debut by way of Scream Factory looks better than it ever has. [Blu-ray extras: Featurette, commentary, interview]

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mnad_dragons

Tonight on Movie News After Dark, we start with new images from the HBO Game of Thrones production team, both of which include dragons. Because that’s what you’re in it for, right? Beyond dragons, we’ve also got words of warning for GoT book readers, stories about film criticism and the sounds of Michael Bay’s latest to send you off to the weekend. Okay, here’s one more dragon…

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Best Picture

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

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Best Film Editing

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

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Best Adapted Screenplay

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

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Reject Recap: The Best of Film School Rejects

Today is… GROUNDHOG DAY! That means you’re doomed to repeat the day over and over until you’re caught up with the best movie stories of the week. At least you don’t have to go back and relive the whole week in order to read every single post and article published in the last seven days. You just need the ten best, which I’ve compiled for you below (plus an exclusive film clip and TV coverage). And at least you have me to compile it for you, so it’s all nice and easily laid out. Then again, Groundhog Day is on a Saturday this year, so maybe you’ll want to take it slow. Enjoy the day off over and over again. The Recap will be here the whole time. The week started with the end of Sundance and later included a preview of our next favorite film fest, SXSW. We reviewed the major and some minor new theatrical releases, including the genuinely great zom-rom-com (Warm Bodies), the forgettable movie with the old action star (Bullet to the Head), the forgettable thing about old gangsters (Stand Up Guys), the strangely reflexive Charlie Sheen movie (A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan), the the political thriller written by Al Gore’s former spokesman (Knife Fight), the latest Korean dissection from Im Sang-soo (The Taste of Money) and the powerful slow-burn sequel to Yossi & Jagger (Yossi). And we interviewed one of the directors of The ABCs of Death (Angela Bettis) and the director […]

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Life of Pi

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

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JENNIFER LAWRENCE and BRADLEY COOPER star in SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

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

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trailer_beasts of southern wild

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

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Culture Warrior on 2012

In this end-of-year editorial, Landon Palmer discusses the pattern that movies demonstrated in 2012 for telling stories through protagonists defined by their various personality traits rather than through conventional, straightforward characters. In so doing, movies this year showed how our individual identities have become divided within various aspects of modern social life. This trend made some of the year’s movies incredibly interesting, while others suffered from a personality disorder. Landon argues that movies ranging from The Hunger Games to The Dark Knight Rises to Holy Motors alongside cultural events and institutions like the Presidential election, social media, and “Gangnam Style” all contributed to a year in which popular culture is finally became open about its constant engagement with multiple cults of personality. Six years ago, Time magazine famously named its eagerly anticipated “Person of the Year” You in big, bold letters. Its cover even featured a mirror. As a result of the established popularity of supposedly democratized media outlets like Facebook and the home of the cover’s proverbial “You,” YouTube, Time declared 2006 as the year in which the masses were equipped with the ability to empower themselves for public expressions of individual identity. More than a half decade later, social media is no longer something new to adjust to, but a norm of living with access to technology. Supposing that Time’s prophecy proved largely correct, what does it mean to live in a 21st century where we each have perpetual access to refracting our respective mirrors?

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The Best Movies of 2012

I watched 439 new-to-me films in 2012 (so far), and the majority of them were new releases. So, it is with no small measure that I say that this has been a spectacular year for movies, both domestic and foreign made, and anyone who claims otherwise is a dipshit. Narrowing the great ones down to just twelve was predictably difficult… so I’ve included twenty honorable mentions. There are still a few high profile films I need to see, most notably Zero Dark Thirty, and I’ve caught the vast majority of the big titles, but stay tuned through to the end of the piece for all the necessary sidenotes. And this should go without saying, but any film critic’s best-of list is essentially nothing more than a list of his or her objectively preferred movies, and what follows below is mine for 2012. That said, the movies listed below are in fact the twelve (correct) best films of the year. In alphabetical order.

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Zero Dark Thirty

Consider awards season fully, totally, and irrevocably on as of this very moment. The National Board of Review has just announced their winners for the 2012 movie-going season, and their list is packed with a lot of names we should just get used to hearing attached to accolades – names like Kathryn Bigelow, Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Looper, and many more. Missing from the list? Anything related to Paul Thomas Anderson‘s The Master, Ang Lee‘s Life of Pi, and Joe Wright‘s Anna Karenina. Also shocking? Bradley Cooper‘s Best Actor win (for SLP) over Daniel Day-Lewis‘s work in Lincoln. Last year’s big winner was Martin Scorsese‘s Hugo, with that film picking up both Best Film and Best Director, much like Bigelow and her Zero Dark Thirty have for this crop of awards. But ZBD already has a leg up on Hugo here, with Jessica Chastain earning Best Actress honors for her work in the film, while Hugo went without any acting accolades. While the winners list is dominated by ZBD, SLP, and Beasts, there are definitely some wonderful surprises tucked away within the picks – winners like Ann Dowd for Best Supporting Actress for Compliance, the Spotlight Award to John Goodman (for his work in Argo, Flight, Paranorman, and Trouble With the Curve), the inclusion of The Perks of Being a Wallflower in the Top Films list, and a Top Independent Film listing rounded out with some superior picks (like Compliance, End of Watch, […]

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The Best Damn Oscar Blog

Some of this year’s big movies are like a Thanksgiving dinner. They’re elaborate, colorful, and delicious. They also take time to digest, as most meals of such size and ambition do. Filling and complex, they remind us of the important things and inspire us to be thankful for art and the movies. In this category I’d put Anna Karenina, Life of Pi, and The Master. Black Friday films are different, though not necessarily opposite. They are marvelously entertaining, extremely well-executed Hollywood productions. They bring laughter and tears, suspense and comfortable resolution, all in familiar packaging. One could compare them to the thrilling, stressful and often rewarding experience of rushing to a 50%-off television, or go even further and point out similarities to the mass-produced and well-advertised objects themselves. This year’s best examples are Argo and Silver Linings Playbook.

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Silver Linings Playbook

Editor’s Note: Allison’s spot-on review originally ran way back at the beginning of the month, but the film is opening wide today so we’re sharing it once again. Sharing is good. Maybe we are all a bit crazy – whether we are lying to ourselves about the relationships we are in or why we believe holding a handkerchief or having the remote at a certain angle will determine the outcome of a game. But unlike most of us, Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper), has been deemed mentally unstable by both the court and his doctors at the mental institution we find him in at the start of Silver Linings Playbook. Pat may seem fairly sane, albeit unflinchingly honest, but as we learn why he ended up in such a facility and watch him unravel at the sound of a certain song, it becomes clear that Pat is dealing with issues he may not be able to easily control with simple positive thinking. Pat is released to the care of his big-hearted mother, Dolores (Jacki Weaver), and his hot-headed father, Pat Sr. (Robert De Niro), and while their family dynamic is slightly dysfunctional, it is clear that they all truly care about one another.

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Silver Linings Playbook

UPDATED: The Playlist now reports that the cities getting an early release include NY, LA, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, DC, Miami, San Diego, and Austin. David O. Russell‘s Silver Linings Playbook swiftly (and not entirely unexpectedly) became the film to see after its strong Toronto International Film Festival showing, so it’s no surprise that the film’s distributor, The Weinstein Company, is trying to put this thing in front of audiences on the quick side. Deadline Hollywood report that, though the Bradley Cooper- and Jennifer Lawrence-starring production will still open wide on November 21, the film will premiere in ten markets on November 16. Of course, we still don’t know which ten markets that will be (though, Los Angeles and New York, you’re probably safe on this one), and a quick check of both MovieTickets and Fandango don’t shed too much light on the situation, and even the Weinstein site and the film’s official site contain no new information on this limited early release, but we suspect we’ll find out soon enough. Perhaps staying on top of the film’s Twitter is wise? Until then, let’s all look back at Allison’s solid review of the film from AFI FEST. Ah, loonies in love.

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Life of Pi AFI FEST

October offered up plenty of films to give this awards season a proper start. Ben Affleck once again showed he’s got one of the best eyes for tension working today; John Hawkes gave another year’s best performance in Fox Searchlight’s The Sessions; Martin McDonagh made another wicked, original dark comedy with real bite; and, who could forget, The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer made a huge box office smash which received unabashed praise up the wazoo, especially for the seamless makeup work. While I wish Cloud Atlas did fit that description, at least for a few more years the trio’s daring and moving film will go down as a box office bomb which may or may have not been ahead of its time. No matter how Cloud Atlas stands up in a few years, it was the type of ambition which served as another reminder of how important going to the movie theater is and to truly have experiences while you are there, be they good or bad. With November 2012, there are plenty of movies to have a similar experience with, from Ang Lee‘s Life of Pi to a triumphant new Bond movie. Keep reading to find out what other eight movies you must see this month.

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As has become par for the course over the past few years, Hollywood’s own AFI FEST has brought out the big guns for its star-studded Galas screenings, with the festival set to open with Hitchcock and close with Lincoln - and yet, as exciting as both of those titles are (seriously, Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock? Steven Spielberg directing Daniel Day-Lewis as ol’ Honest Abe? it’s all a bit too good), the five films I am most anticipating will arrive smack in the middle of the festival. Some of these titles come with significantly less fanfare than either of the fest’s big guns, and some are just as primed for awards season domination, but all five of them are at the top of my movie-going list. After the break, take a look inside my AFI FEST-addled brain to get a sense on five films I think (hope?) are the true winners of this year’s festival.

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As 2012 begins to wind down, your trusty LA Rejects, Kate Erbland and myself, plan to take on one final film festival – Los Angeles’ AFI FEST. AFI FEST differs from June’s Los Angeles Film Festival as the cooler temperatures (cool, not cold, I know it’s LA) of November seem to bring out slightly heavier fare. Plus, AFI FEST is located in the heart of Hollywood with many screenings taking place at the historic Grauman’s Chinese and Egyptian Theaters, giving further weight and importance to the selections shown during the festival. This year, AFI FEST brings us some of the year’s most talked-about films while also getting in a few last world premieres. The festival boasts an impressive list of titles on its roster, but we have rounded up the six must-see films that should be on the radar (and schedules) of all festival attendees. And for those who cannot attend, make note to track these films down when they come to you. AFI FEST runs from November 1st until November 8th.

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published: 04.19.2014
A-
published: 04.19.2014
B+
published: 04.18.2014
C-
published: 04.18.2014
C

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