Take This Waltz

Stories We Tell

Even if you don’t buy into the game and you prefer not to live in a world in which the term “Oscar snub” is used with a straight face, sometimes a lack of recognition for worthy nominees can still sting a little. Such was the case with the conspicuous absence of Sarah Polley’s name when the Best Documentary Feature nominees were announced two weeks ago. After two strong narrative explorations of romantic relationships in the bitter winter of old age and the summer splendor of late youth (Away From Her and Take This Waltz, respectively), Polley redirected her interest in the world of human coupling by turning the camera on herself – or, more accurately, her family, or, even more accurately, who she thinks may be her family, or… Well, just see it if you haven’t already, because Stories We Tell is one of the more passionate, involving, and incisively intelligent mainstream documentaries to be released in quite some time. AMPAS has had a history of recognizing more conservative, journalistic notions of “documentary” and shown favor for the crowd-pleasers (like this year’s Sugar Man-esque hit 20 Feet From Stardom). But that only speaks more in Polley’s film’s favor, as it potentially joins the ranks of other productively unconventional yet contemporaneously unrecognized documentaries that we continue to regard as seminal well after their release, like Errol Morris’ The Thin Blue Line. Regardless of the reputation and recognitions of Stories We Tell, now or in the future, Sarah Polley is certainly a filmmaker […]

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2012-rejectawards

It’s funny. We spend so much time honoring the triumphs of 2012, and the big game won’t even roll around until February. The Academy Awards aren’t a paragon of perfection for some, and they aren’t the final word, but they are (like it or not) the closest thing we have to a standard for celebrating creative film talent. There job is to hand out the general cheers for performances, make-up, songs and the like, and since they’ve got those covered, it falls to us to hoist filmmakers and films on high for unique reasons. Reasons that might make the average Academy voter spit out their tea. From the far corners, here are the 2nd Annual Reject Awards.

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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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Culture Warrior

It’s nothing new to say that the term “independent filmmaking” has come to no longer reference the actual practice of making films outside the studio system, and alerts more directly to an aesthetic of hipness. That the cute-and-quirky consecutive multi-Oscar nominees Little Miss Sunshine and Juno were similarly marketed by Fox Searchlight as “independent films” despite the fact that the former was actually produced independently and the latter was funded by studio dollars, effectively put the nail in the coffin for actual independent filmmaking to have any meaningful visibility. Meanwhile, first-time directors who make their name at Sundance like Marc Webb, Doug Liman, and Seth Gordon quickly reveal themselves to be aspiring directors-for-hire rather than anti-Hollywood renegades. Tom DiCillo, Hal Hartley, and Jim Jarmusch seem ever more like naïve, idealist relics each passing year. It’s clear what the blurring of the lines between independence and studio filmmaking has meant for the mainstream: as my friend and colleague Josh Coonrod pointed out last week, it renders “platform release” synonymous with “independent,” it means that movies featuring Bradley Cooper and Bruce Willis are the top competitors at the “Independent” Spirit Awards (see the John Cassavetes Award for actual independents), and it means that Quentin Tarantino is, for some reason, still considered an independent filmmaker. American independent filmmaking has lost its ideological reason for being. But when it comes to films that are actually independently financed – films for whom the moniker is less an appeal toward cultural capital and more an accurate […]

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THR Directors Roundtable 2012

One of the highlights of the Oscar season is the series of round table discussions produced by The Hollywood Reporter, and for good reason. We spend much of the fall and winter comparing drastically different films only on the most basic of levels, who is deserving of awards and who isn’t. Any real conversation between the creators of the best movies of the year is therefore worth watching. Unfortunately, the list of the participants is not often as diverse as the films themselves. This year’s directors’ round table was made up entirely of men, as was the one last year. The same is true of this year’s writers’ panel. Meanwhile, the one real opportunity for us to hear a genuine dialog between women in cinema, the actresses’ panel, was bungled by the typical soft and silly questions that plague American actresses. As Monika Bartyzel so astutely points out in her piece over at Movies.com, it might not be intentional on the part of THR but that doesn’t make it any less problematic.

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“In a perfect world, ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ would be a lock for a Best Original Screenplay nomination.” – Joey Magidson, The Awards Circuit It must be frustrating to write for an awards blog (aka an Oscar blog, since the Academy Awards are always the main focus of these sites), and know that the best films of the year are not necessarily the ones that will be nominated. Magidson’s comment above, from his April review of The Cabin in the Woods, sort of sums that up. But at the same time I don’t know if the movie truly deserves the statement. Something to consider, semantically speaking, is that the Academy’s award is not for “Most Original Screenplay” but “Best Original Screenplay.” This isn’t to say that the script, by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, isn’t well-written, and you’re welcome to argue its case for a nomination. Is it the best-written original screenplay of the year, though? All my time as a movie lover and watcher of the Oscars, including the past few years of hate-watching, the original screenplay category is one I’ve constantly been excited about. It’s the place where you could find some of the more clever and creative efforts, including a number of films that might not get other nominations. You could find a good number of interesting foreign films outside of the foreign-language award ghetto (such as Bunuel‘s two nominations for writing), as well as an interesting showing of mainstream and blockbuster fare, especially in the […]

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Depending on who you ask 2012 is either on target to be a great year for movies or an underwhelming one. It’s worth noting though that anyone who answers with the latter is a complete and utter tool. There have already been several fantastic movies in theaters over the past six and a half months including The Grey, The Avengers, The Raid: Redemption, 21 Jump Street, The Cabin In the Woods, Moonrise Kingdom and more. In addition to being fantastic entertainment though, most of those movies also had studio support to increase awareness and help make them big hits. As for The Raid and Cabin, well, you can’t say the internet didn’t do its damnedest to get the word out on just how awesome they are. Not our fault if American moviegoers didn’t listen… But a third group of great movies exists this year too. Ones that had little to no push from studios or distributors, a minimal presence on movie blogs and a near negligible presence at the box-office. The year’s only half over, but we wanted to share our choices for the best movies you’ve most likely missed this year…so far.

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In 2003, Sarah Polley starred in Isabel Coixet’s wonderful My Life Without Me as a young wife and mother who discovers that she has terminal uterine cancer – and only two months to live. Keeping the news from her loved ones, Polley’s Ann assembles a list of things to do before she dies – things like making tapes for her young daughters to listen to on their birthdays, finding a new wife for her beloved husband, and having a sexual relationship with another man. The driving force behind Ann’s decision to (eventually) embark on a passionate affair with no less than Mark Ruffalo (who can blame her) is Ann’s imminent demise and her desire to fill her last days with rich experiences. It’s one of her best performances as an actress, and it’s perhaps one of the best ways to approach Polley’s second directorial debut. In Polley’s Take This Waltz, Michelle Williams‘ Margot suffers in a way not wholly different than how Ann suffered in My Life. But Margot’s particular death sentence is of the Hamlet variety – she’s not sick and she’s not obviously falling apart, but Margot is decomposing of her own volition, dying since the day she was born, and both unable and unwilling to notice her blooming unhappiness. In short terms, Margot is bored and doesn’t realize it.

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Prometheus

One month down in the summer movie season. We got a decent opener, certainly not a grand start. Joss Whedon‘s box-office juggernaut and Wes Anderson‘s lovely Moonrise Kingdom aside, we faced disappointments. The Dictator was hit and miss. Battleship was more bloated than big. Although it was better than its harsher critics suggested, Dark Shadows didn’t exactly win over any of Depp and Burton’s naysayers. Now, with June, we’ve got an even more promising month; 30 days packed with Abraham Lincoln killing vampires, a rock musical, and a talking bear movie. All the required ingredients for a proper moviegoing month. This is such a busy month the honorable mentions are more honorable than usual, even Adam Shankman‘s Rock of Ages, that movie being marketed as a celebrity karaoke party. Even though The Loved Ones is apparently a must-see movie, 99.9% of you will not be able to see it this month, hence why it’s not on the list. But what is?

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Nothing says “summer at the movies” quite like a metric ton of big name blockbusters flooding theaters near you – superheroes on top of superheroes, classic television series brought back from the dead, animated gems about finding yourself – oh my! But with the cinema summer growing ever-larger, the stakes being pushed ever-higher, and enough content to keep audience members in their seats ever-longer, a line has to be drawn somewhere. Which is why all the members of the Voting Body of Film School Rejects gathered together in our secret chambers to vote on just which films have won our Most Anticipated nod. Twenty films emerged from our complicated, decades-old voting process (read: a Google doc) to be crowned winners. Why twenty? Well, there are twenty weeks in the cinematic summer season (if you count May, which we do – April will be included next year if Hollywood keeps this up), and that should give you movie-lovers a reasonable goal to meet for the viewing season. We’ve even managed to pinpoint our most anticipated movie-going weekend of the summer – June 22nd, when four films open in theaters, all of which made our list. But beyond the mathematics that went into picking the summer’s best weekend, there were also some genuine surprises on the list – including big tentpole films missing completely (sorry, Battleship and Dark Shadows), some indies that sneaked in with lots of votes, a battle royale that went down between our number one and number two picks, […]

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Earlier this week, our own Cole Abaius announced the first wave of this year’s Tribeca Film Festival‘s film lineup. That assault was impressive enough, complete with lots of compelling picks in the World Narrative Feature Competition, World Documentary Feature Competition
, and Viewpoints sections, but today’s release of the final feature film sections is a whole other volley of firepower. With today’s announcement of their Spotlight, Cinemania, Special Screenings, and the 2012 Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival, the fest has completed their feature announcements – and made me start to wonder if I should try to hit Gotham for the festival, running April 18 – 29. Picks that stand out to me already include the delightful 2 Days in New York, Chicken With Plums, Don’t Stop Believin': Everyman’s Journey, The Giant Mechanical Man, Headshot, Lola Versus, Take This Waltz, Your Sister’s Sister, and Sleepless Night. Check out the full list of films (along with Tribeca-provided synopses) after the break.

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There’s a solid chance that you haven’t heard of most of these movies. Yet they exist – out there somewhere as a thorn in the side of movie fans trying to see as much as possible. Nuggets of potential waiting to be picked up from the movie orphanage by a distributor and given a warm home with cup holders in every seat. The European Film Market is fascinating for that reason and for the way people attend it. Tickets this year were around $600, but that’s a reasonable price for companies sending representatives trying to find the next moneymaker for their company or the hot movie to bring to their festival. That means screenings come complete with people on cell phones and unimpressed buyers walking out after ten minutes to hustle next door to see if the other movie playing has any promise to it. It’s a bizarre way to watch movies, but it makes a kind of sense given the massive size of the movie list compared to the tiny amount of time to see everything. There were upwards of 675 movies in the EFM this year, all of them with their own selling points. Here are the 87 most interesting-sounding with descriptions found in the official catalog. For the most part, I haven’t seen these movies (and didn’t even know about many of them until the Berlin Film Festival), but they all have something going for them that should earn them a spot on your radar.

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It will be perhaps my greatest cinematic accomplishment of the summer if I can somehow manage to walk out of a viewing of Sarah Polley‘s Take This Waltz without feeling an abject loathing for Michelle Williams. Even now, watching the film’s longest trailer to date, I am filled with a deep, hissing hatred for her character, Margot. That is actually a good thing – it shows just how effective even a monologue- and music-heavy piece of marketing for the film can be, setting the stage for a big, gorgeous, moving film. Polley’s latest film stars Williams and Seth Rogen as seemingly happy married couple Margot and Lou. But when Margot meets a handsome new dude (Luke Kirby) who, oops!, just so happens to live next door to the pair, all bets are off and Margot struggles against her deep and unresolved desires for Kirby’s Daniel. Surprise – she doesn’t succeed, “succumbing to the moments” that this monologue skirts around. Think about the meaning of wedding vows and check out the trailer for Take This Waltz after the break.

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During a recent Howard Stern appearance, comedian Sarah Silverman talked about her upcoming foray into the film world. Silverman is set to co-star in the Sarah Polley-directed film Take This Waltz alongside Seth Rogen and Michelle Williams. The IMDB plot synopsis of the film says that it’s, “A funny, bittersweet and heart-wrenching story about a woman struggling to choose between two different types of love.” But what IMDB fails to mention is that Silverman is going to be showing her goodies in it. Silverman told Stern that when she recently met President Obama and he asked her what she was working on next and she said, “I’m going to be naked in a movie,” to which Obama responded, “Oh, you’ll have to send me a copy of that.” This exchange proves two things: that Sarah Silverman is going to be naked in a movie, and that President Obama is pretty funny. Silverman fanboys shouldn’t get too excited about the prospect of seeing her onscreen nudity, however, she warns that, “It’s not sexual. It’s like a shower scene at the YMCA. So of course it’s not going to be well lit. I know people are excited to see [the nude scene], but they’re not excited to see it like [if it was] Megan Fox naked in a movie. They’re excited to see it [like when] Kathy Bates was naked in About Schmidt.” Okay, so probably I’ll be excited to check it out anyways. That Kathy Bates had some killer gams. Source: Worst […]

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If this were a tabloid, the headline above would refer to a strange sex tape involving comedian Sarah Silverman and Christoph Waltz. However, being just slightly better than a tabloid, it refers to Silverman’s revelation that she’s done a nude scene for noted actor/director Sarah Polley (Away From Her). The scene is for Take This Waltz, a dramedy that also features Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen in lead roles. We reported on the odd acting pairing back in January, and it looks like they’ll be joined on screen by full frontal Silverman, a reality that Silverman claims, “is going to be awful. It’s so not pretty.” Silverman is known more for stand-up and for her television show, although she’s appeared in films like School of Rock. Still, it brings yet another strange dimension to an already interesting-sounding project. [Moviefone]

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