Wild

Selma

The end of any calendar year is traditionally marked by a glut of biopics, the kind of true-life tales that frequently pack an emotional wallop, particularly the “inspirational” kind. It’s easy to feel compelled to action — some action! any action! — after sitting in a theater for two-plus hours, having your heart broken by a story that’s both cinematically rich and personally touching, but it’s far harder to turn that into actual movement. Let’s put it this way: when was the last time you walked out of a movie theater and felt like you’d had the crap kicked out of you? If you’re keeping up with 2014’s staggering rash (not that kind of rash, unless you’ve been tempted to imitate Wild) of dramatically upsetting biopics, it was probably mere days ago. But how can you fix that movie-sized hole in your heart after watching genuine human beings go through terrible, terrible things on the big screen, purely for your entertainment? What if you’re too busy feeling sad about said biopics to get your holiday shop on? Open up your pocketbooks, buddy, ’tis the season!

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Monsters Vs Aliens

Wild opens this weekend, heralding the triumphant return (and likely second Oscar nomination) of Reese Witherspoon. It’s actually only the highest profile of three performances by the actress this fall. She’s also in The Good Lie, which opened in October, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming Inherent Vice. As if that weren’t enough, she also produced Gone Girl. It’s a fortuitous few months, especially given what many consider a years-long fallow period. We’re only now emerging from the unfortunate wake of How Do You Know, This Means War, and smaller failures like Devil’s Knot. It’s about time. And, as every American knows, a good year for Witherspoon is a good year for us all. So, to celebrate, let’s watch a cartoon! Monsters vs. Aliens opened just over two years after the star won her Oscar for Walk the Line. It was her only feature film in 2009, stuck between 2008’s Four Christmases and 2010’s How Do You Know. She’s the lead, the only technically human major character in a film about blobs and space cockroaches. Yet given the way animation isn’t taken too seriously, particularly the stuff directed toward children, no one seems to talk about the film’s massive success in the context of Witherspoon’s career. Monsters vs. Aliens wasn’t only her biggest hit during the post-Oscar slump, it made more money worldwide than anything else she’s done.

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interstellar-anne-hathaway-and-david-gyasi

One of the many criticisms I’ve seen of Interstellar, mostly on social media, is that its depiction of the future is too white, racially. Never mind the Africa-American school principal or the African-American scientist among the four-person mission through space, I guess. What would be the right number of non-white characters for a movie like this? I will admit that it’s strange how absent David Gyasi is from the trailers, but we don’t really see much of fellow crew member Wes Bentley either. There will always be someone to complain about something, of course, and while representation of minorities continues to be an issue in Hollywood, it’s difficult to imagine a solution that will please everyone all time time. Take, for instance, the Bechdel Test, which has become a pretty big deal for an idea originating in an indie LGBT comic strip almost 30 years ago. Debates are frequent about whether or not the test is a proper measure of a movie’s representation of women. We took the test to task a while back with our list of 10 Famous Films That Surprisingly Failed the Bechdel Test, the top title being the female-character-driven Run Lola Run. And besides the argument that there are empowering movies for women that fail the test, further discussion in response to the test showed in our comments section. What about Asian-American representation? Or Latinos?

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Focus Features

This year’s Toronto International Film Festival boasted dozens upon dozens of films to sate the cinema-hungry masses, and we’re willing to bet that we saw…well, at least a hearty fraction of them. The festival has just wrapped up, and as we all attempt to recover from ten-plus days of universally excellent film-going, it only seems appropriate to revisit our favorite films of the festival. These are the titles that stuck with us, the ones we recommended to anyone who would listen, the ones we couldn’t quite shake, a big mix of the funny and the fantastic, the sad and the silly, the wild and the weird. Are these the best films of TIFF? We certainly think so.

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Reese With Her Spoon Going Wild

“Strayed” isn’t really Cheryl Strayed’s last name. The author and subject of “Wild” was originally born Cheryl Nyland, and eventually decided to change her surname after years of pain and a particularly wrenching divorce – and, if the movie adaptation of her novel is to believed, it was literally plucked out of the dictionary after careful consideration – into something that echoed, well, how she had strayed from her path, and possibly her wish to get back on track. When we first meet Cheryl (Reese Witherspoon) in Jean-Marc Vallee’s lovingly crafted Wild, she’s bloody and bruised and gasping, perched high atop a mountain, desperately pulling off her too-tight hiking boots to reveal a blood-soaked sock and a big toe that’s in bad shape. Terrified and alone, Cheryl yanks loose a cracked toenail, practically spits in pain and jostles loose a single boot, which tumbles down the rocky incline, never to be seen again. Cheryl’s next move is perhaps a bad one: she stands, screams and chucks her other boot after it. How do you get back on track after that? You stand and you yell and you chuck your other boot. And then you keep walking.

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Reese With Her Spoon Going Wild

There comes a time in every woman’s life where she has to face a couple forks in the road. When her life is going completely to hell and there’s really nothing that can remedy the situation. Is this the time to give up and curl into the fetal position indefinitely? Or does she gather up a fat stack of Oprah magazines and take life by the steering wheel, setting forth some impossible self-help journey to cleanse her system of whatever’s bringing her down? Girlfriend, you know the answer. The first trailer for Wild, the Nick Hornby-scripted adaptation of the wildly popular memoir by Cheryl Strayed, gets a few things clear straight off the bat. The source material for the film contains much darker depths than we’re used to seeing from the “find yourself” genre. One of the main reasons for Cheryl setting out on her journey is to cope with her former heroin addiction, and it’s clear from flashbacks peppered into the trailer that while the habit might be kicked, the emotional toll may still be present. It’s a stark contrast to Eat, Pray Love, where Elizabeth was dissatisfied with a mostly okay life and went on an extended vacation to canoodle with handsome dudes, or even something like How Stella Got Her Groove Back, where Stella … gets her groove back … directly via Taye Diggs on vacation. The other point is that Reese Witherspoon‘s hair after weeks on the Pacific Crest is much better than mine looks after sitting at a desk writing all day.

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Reese small

If anyone has seen Legally Blonde or Sweet Home Alabama one of the approximately 700,000 times they have played on daytime TV during the past decade, you would know two things to be true: that Reese Witherspoon is the queen of romantic comedies, and that the woman is a spitfire. Save for the unspeakable This Means War, she’s left the ro-mcom genre alone for a few years, choosing instead to exercise those dramatic acting chops that got her the Best Actress Oscar in 2005 for Walk the Line. Currently, she’s doing just that by filming Jean-Marc Vallée‘s Wild, the adaptation of the best-selling novel of the same name by Cheryl Strayed. Wild tells Strayed’s personal tale of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which stretches more than 1000 miles of the Pacific Coast, by herself after her life spins out of control. She has some things to work out, okay? Witherspoon recently tweeted the first look at herself as Strayed, in her hiking getup “on set” in Oregon. Looking a little bedraggled and saddled with gear, it’s different from what we’re used to seeing from the usually glamorous star. And that’s potentially a good thing – gritty gets the gold.

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While most movie-going audiences familiar with author Nick Hornby know him best for seeing his own written works turned into films (like High Fidelity, Fever Pitch, and About a Boy), the writer has recently begun adapting other authors’ books into screenplays. We know, it’s a bit complicated. Hornby notably penned the screenplay for An Education, based on Lynn Barber’s memoir, and recently finished the script for Brooklyn, which is based on a Colm Toibin novel. Next up, Hornby will adapt another memoir for the big screen, turning his talents to Cheryl Strayed‘s “Wild,” a tome that Strayed wrote about her soul-saving 1,100-mile solo hike up the Pacific Crest Trail. Reese Witherspoon‘s production company, Pacific Standard, will produce the project, and Witherspoon is also expected to star. Witherspoon also personally drafted Hornby for the film, telling Deadline that “Nick’s innate blend of humanity and humor are a perfect match for Cheryl’s raw emotional memoir.” Hornby was just as filled as praise, commenting that he “loved Cheryl Strayed’s memoir. It’s moving, funny, painful and brave, and the moment I’d finished it I wanted someone to let me have a go at adapting it, because it was clear to me that it could make a wonderful movie. I’m thrilled to be given the chance; the fact that this chance was given to me by Reese Witherspoon, a great actress who feels exactly the same way about the book as I do, makes this project all the more exciting.” What a lovefest! ComingSoon rustled up the book’s official […]

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


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