Tom Stoppard

Anna Karenina

The 2012 awards season is coagulating. Thanks to SAG and the HFPA, we now have a solid list of contenders for Best Picture and a narrowing group of potential nominees for everything else. Forgive the metaphor, but it does feel a bit like goop. Both major lists of nominees this week are full of easily predicted choices, and the few unexpected picks that take us by surprise only do so because we thought they were too bland even for the HFPA. (Except for you, Nicole Kidman! There’s nothing bland about The Paperboy.) Don’t get me wrong, I love Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, and Maggie Smith, but this is getting unseemly. And the days are running out for films to make their way in from the sidelines. However, I am going to take this last chance to fight through the often claustrophobic box of awards watching and shout to the heavens a bit about a movie I think should be getting substantially more attention. I was sort of hoping that the Golden Globe nominations would do that for me, given how hard they went for Atonement a few years ago. They like to shake things up in a good way, at least now and then. Alas, it seems it was easier to go out on a limb for Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Anna Karenina is the best awards-ready movie of the year that isn’t getting an ounce of awards attention. Frankly, I find it somewhat surprising. Joe Wright’s three literary […]

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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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Anna Karenina Review

Director Joe Wright’s latest film, a lush and visually striking adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” is uniquely suited to the filmmaker’s tastes and tones. Joining his other love-struck and leading lady-centric films like Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, Wright again adapts well-tread material with an eye for emotion, dizzying and overwrought as it may be (or truly, as it can be). Utilizing a “theater-set” concept to frame up his film, Wright’s Anna Karenina offers up his most original film yet, but one that still fails to ultimately come together and connect with his audience. Tolstoy’s novel has been adapted countless times before and in a variety of mediums. While not a complicated story, the trials and tribulations of the young Mrs. Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) are still ripe for discussion and dissection, and Wright’s choice to keep the film in the book’s period setting does nothing to diminish its aching relatability. A dazzling society maven, Anna’s life centers on her husband (the beloved politician Alexei Karenin, Jude Law, whom she seems to simply admire, not adore), parties, and her young son. Mildly upended by the news of her brother’s (Matthew Macfadyen) cheating ways, Anna sets off to visit the broken family in Moscow and to help mend some long-simmering wounds. Upon her arrival in Moscow, she meets the dashing (sure) Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), and the pair eventually fall into an all-consuming affair that threatens to destroy every element of Anna’s life.

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Focus Features has just announced a helmer for their Anna Karenina adaptation penned by Tom Stoppard, and while it’s a bit of a no-duh assignment, it’s still a very fine one. Joe Wright will direct the film, adapted from Leo Tolstoy’s classic (read: every high school kid is assigned to read it, and none of them ever do) novel. Despite my more bookwormish tendencies, my familiarity with Anna Karenina is quite lacking, so we’ll turn to Focus’ plotline for the film, which tells us that “the story unfolds in its original late-19th-century Russia high-society setting and powerfully explores the capacity for love that surges through the human heart, from the passion between adulterers to the bond between a mother and her children. As Anna questions her happiness, change comes to her family, friends, and community.” Also, it’s Russian and it’s Tolstoy, so it’s also not a feel-good work by any stretch. But the film has a solid cast already attached to it, including some names that Wright has worked with before, including Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina (in her third role in a Wright production), with Jude Law as her husband Alexei Karenin, and Aaron Johnson as Count Vronksy, with other roles filled by Kelly Macdonald, Matthew Macfayden (Mr. Darcy in Wright’s Pride & Prejudice), Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Emily Watson, Olivia Williams (from Hanna), and Ruth Wilson.

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Jane Austen is a zombie hunter, Abraham Lincoln’s going after vampires. It was only a matter of time before the Bard got into the act.

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