Todd Haynes

WATER FOR ELEPHANTS

After Reese Witherspoon dyed her hair and stepped into June Carter Cash’s shoes for Walk the Line, it was no longer a secret that she could sing, and sing well. The 2005 biopic that earned her the Oscar for Best Actress is a dark and complicated journey through the singer’s life with Johnny Cash, just as much about their volatile relationship as it is about the music. And though Carter was never someone with a just an ordinary voice, Witherspoon absolutely nailed what made her tick, hitting ever lilt and country twang with ease. Now she’s tackling another giant: legendary jazz singer and songwriter Peggy Lee (who herself received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination). There’s actually no title for the biopic yet — who wants to bet good money that it’s called Fever? — but Witherspoon has actually been circling the project for over four years, during which time it was to be written and directed by the late and great Nora Ephron. When she passed away in 2012, it was assumed that the project wouldn’t be moving forward, but news surfaced from Witherspoon herself that indicates otherwise. The actress revealed during an onstage interview at the Toronto Film Festival last night that Ephron completed her script before her death, and Todd Haynes will now be directing. He is the man to talk to when it comes to original and unconventional music biopics, so this is promising news for getting the project back in the running. Among his larger filmography, Haynes is responsible for the very unauthorized Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, the fictionalized-but-little-too-real glam-rock […]

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rooneymara

When Carol first got announced to the world, it seemed like the perfect package to make for an important movie. Its script was an adaptation of a novel from famed writer Patricia Highsmith, called “The Price of Salt,” which is considered to be one of the seminal pieces of gay fiction. Its director was Todd Haynes, the interesting voice behind projects like Velvet Goldmine and I’m Not There. And, perhaps most importantly, it cast two of our strongest working actors today, Cate Blanchett and Mia Wasikowska, as the two women who make a connection over the course of the film. That’s what the project used to look like, but today there’s some good news and some bad news about how it’s been coming together. The good news is that every element that made the film look so promising except for one is still in place. The bad new is that Mia Wasikowska can no longer play the younger of our onscreen lovers, Therese. Don’t let that upset you too much though, because along with the news that Wasikowska is no longer in the film comes a little bit of sugar to help the medicine go down. It’s also been announced [via Screen Daily] that a replacement has already been found for her, and wouldn’t you know it, they got another one of the best and most high-profile actresses working today to step in and do the job, Rooney Mara.

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Criterion Files

The 1980s proved to be an interesting and difficult time for auteurs of the 1960s and 1970s. Directors like Copolla, Scorsese, De Palma, Altman, etc. offered works that were far from their classics of the previous decade, but many of these films have aged well and proven to be compelling entries within the respective ouvres of these directors precisely because they aren’t part of their canon. While British director Nicolas Roeg did not play a central part in New Hollywood in the same way as the directors I listed, his 1970s work was certainly part and parcel of this brief countercultural revolution in narrative storytelling. I see Roeg as something of a British equivalent to Hal Ashby: someone who made brilliant entry after brilliant entry throughout a single decade, only to fade out of the spotlight once the 1980s began. But unlike the late Ashby, Roeg has continued making films during these years, and The Criterion Collection has taken one of his most perplexing entries from the era of Reagan and Alf out of obscurity. Insignificance (1985) is a strange film about a strange time. Based on the play by Terry Johnson, Insignificance stages an impossible meeting between iconoclastic minds as the likenesses of Marilyn Monroe (Roeg’s then-wife Teresa Russell), Albert Einstein (Michael Emil), Joe DiMaggio (Gary Busey), and Sen. Joe McCarthy (Tony Curtis) move in an out of a hotel room as they share a variety of 50s-topical dramatic scenarios.

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Culture Warrior

One of the great misconceptions about Hollywood is that it is a liberal institution. Several false assumptions inform this misconception: thinking of “Hollywood” as a monolithic entity in any way besides its shared corporate infrastructure, confusing public endorsements of celebrity politicians by celebrity movie stars as political activism, thinking that left-leaning consumers of movies see Hollywood as representing their political beliefs in any way, selectively reading a limited number of texts (e.g., Green Zone “proves” Hollywood’s liberalism, but every superhero movie ever isn’t proof of its conservatism), and, most importantly, thinking that the most public figures associated with Hollywood (i.e., stars and filmmakers) are Hollywood. This last point I think is one that has continued to be the least considered when such straw man critiques are drawn, because Hollywood here is equated only with its most visible figures who overshadow its intricate but also not-so-shrouded political economy. It’s no mistake that despite the fluctuating numbers of major and minor Hollywood studios in the past 100 years, the most powerful studios, like the biggest banks in the nation, have been referred to as “The Big Five.” And indeed, to the surprise of no one, both Big Fives have had and are continuing a lucrative relationship with one another. Hollywood’s agenda, of course, has always been profit, and the representatives of this ideology are not George Clooney and Matt Damon, but Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal (Chairman/CEO & Co-Chairman, Sony/Columbia), Stephen Blairson (CEO, 20th Century Fox), Brad Grey (Chairman/CEO, Paramount), Ronald Meyer […]

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Director Todd Haynes certainly has a vision with his new film I’m Not There but that vision doesn’t translate well onto the screen.

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I haven’t seen the right kind of review for I’m Not There yet. While critics struggle to shove the title into the review template that made up years ago, readers and movie-goers alike are finding out that it just doesn’t fit.

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Todd Haynes’ supposition on the life and music of Bob Dylan, “I’m Not There,” is unlike a film experience you’ll have this year.

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Todd Haynes’ I’m Not There, aka “The Bob Dylan Movie”, attacks, head-on, the hokum that is the standard Hollywood biopic.

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