Win Win

The Writers Guild of America has released the nominees for their Writer’s Guild Awards today, and while there’s certainly some room for quibbling as far as their choices go, the screenplays they’ve nominated in their film categories are at least a diverse array of projects. There’s something here for everyone. I balked at these choices a bit on first glance, they’d left off many of my favorite films of the year. But after thinking about what was missing for a few seconds I started to realize that a lot of the films I really loved over the course of 2011 relied more on mood and photography than they did their screenplays. In my mind, there was no real superstar script this year, like Inception and The Social Network last year. I loved things like Drive and Shame, but did their greatness really lie in their screenplays? Still, I can think of a handful of things that I would have liked to have seen included that weren’t. As far as original screenplays go, I think a film like Warrior was a master of structure, and is more deserving than something like Bridesmaids, which was a fairly generic comedy plot and which probably relied largely on improvisation for its humor. And I really miss a nomination for something like The Skin I Live In when it comes to the adapted screenplay section; especially when they’ve nominated a film like The Help, which cannot name writing as one of its strengths. Check out […]

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Hundreds of movies are released each year in theaters or straight to DVD, and a large percentage of them suck. A much smaller group though are fantastic slices of cinema that thrill, excite, invigorate and entertain, and while some of them are recognized at the box office many more are left to die a quick and undeserved death. And it’s essentially your fault. Of course I don’t mean you specifically, but instead I’m referring to the average American movie-goer who chose not to see these movies in the theater. They ignored the critical acclaim, reviews and recommendations from sites like ours and instead bought multiple tickets for the latest Twilight or Transformers movie. So while it’s too late to affect their box office returns (most of them anyway), Jack Giroux and Rob Hunter have put together a list of eleven movies that deserved far better treatment in 2011.

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The Best Films of 2011: The Staff Picks

As you may have noticed, this final week of 2011 has been almost completely taken over by our third annual Year in Review. It was born in 2009 out of our love for lists and your thirst for reading, discussing and ultimately hating them. And each year the entire project gets a little bigger, a little bolder and slightly more absurd. With that in mind, I’m once again proud to present you with The Best Films of 2011: The Staff Picks. Each of our 14 regular staff writers, contributors and columnists, almost all of whom have been with us the entire year, were asked to present their top 5 films, in no particular order (although many of them placed their top film at the top, as logical people tend to do), each with an explanation. Some even included curse words as a bonus to you, the reader. Read: The Best Films of 2010: The Staff Picks | The Best Films of 2009: The Staff Picks Once again, the Staff Picks are a testament to the diversity we have here at Film School Rejects, with picks ranging from the likely suspects (Take Shelter, Hugo, Shame) to the slightly more nerdy (Attack the Block, Super 8, The Muppets) to several movies that may not yet be on your radar (see Landon Palmer’s list for those). And once again, it’s with a deep sense of pride that I publish such a list, the best of 2011 as seen through the eyes of the movie […]

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Culture Warrior

Usually I’m quite cynical about end-of-year lists, as they demand a forced encapsulation of an arbitrary block of time that is not yet over into something simplified. I typically find end-of-year lists fun, but rarely useful. But 2011 is different. As Scott Tobias pointed out, while “quiet,” this was a surprisingly strong year for interesting and risk-taking films. What’s most interesting has been the variety: barely anything has emerged as a leading contender that tops either critics’ lists or dominates awards buzz. Quite honestly, at the end of 2010 I struggled to find compelling topics, trends, and events to define the year in cinema. The final days of 2011 brought a quite opposite struggle, for this year’s surprising glut of interesting and disparate films spoke to one another in a way that makes it difficult to isolate any of the year’s significant works. Arguments in the critical community actually led to insightful points as they addressed essential questions of what it means to be a filmgoer and a cinephile. Mainstream Hollywood machine-work and limited release arthouse fare defied expectations in several directions. New stars arose. Tired Hollywood rituals and ostensibly reliable technologies both met new breaking points. “2011” hangs over this year in cinema, and the interaction between the films – and the events and conversations that surrounded them – makes this year’s offerings particular to their time and subject to their context. This is what I took away from this surprising year:

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, screenwriter Marti Noxon discusses the lack of sparkles in Fright Night and writer/director Tom McCarthy talks good people doing bad things in Win Win. Plus, good old Rob Hunter faces off against Hollywood.com Movies Editor Matt Patches in a grudge match that will be written about for hours to come. Listen Here: Download This Episode

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This Week in DVD

After some lackluster weeks in the DVD department today sees a pretty solid selection of titles. Even better for viewers is the fact that some of this week’s best releases are movies you probably missed in theaters… if they even hit theaters. Our pick of the week for example never had a theatrical run in the States, but it’s an absolutely brilliant film from actor/director Peter Mullan. The two other titles with Buy recommendations saw a limited release and deserve better than the small number of viewers they received. As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. NEDS (Non Educated Delinquents) Peter Mullan directs this drama about growing up in the rough and tumble world of 1970s Glasgow Scotland. We first meet young John McGill around the age of thirteen, and while he’s the head of his class in smarts every other aspect of his life seems stacked against him. His father is an abusive drunk, his older brother is an infamous thug, and the choice between being bullied by a gang or joining one is really no choice at all. Mullan, who wrote and co-stars as well, has crafted a fantastic film highlighting one boy’s early life, and while these kinds of movies can often feel too bleak and oppressive he manages to accentuate the drama with heart, humor, and honest suspense. And the final shot is wild.

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Tom McCarthy is a man that needs no introduction. The man’s face has been in Little Fockers, 2012, and The Lovely Bones. We all know him. We’ve all seen him in this or that. All kidding aside about those so-so films in his filmography, McCarthy is not only a strong actor, but the director behind some of the most dramatically subdued and compelling films of the past few years. The Station Agent, The Visitor, and his latest film, Win Win, are perfect companions to each other. The three films share similar thematics and devices, but Win Win is the first film of his to delve into modern suburbia. Unlike many mean-spirited explorations of that lifestyle, McCarthy never pokes fun or goes for easy satirization. There’s a consistent realism and grounding to Win Win. Whenever the film feels like it’s about to take a turn towards being trite or sappy, McCarthy pulls away and adds a spin. Here’s what writer/director Tom McCarthy had to say writing subtlety, revisiting themes and, of course, we start off by discussing the possibility of a graphic novelization of The Visitor…

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 Director Tom McCarthy is back with his third feature film, following the incredibly well received and reviewed films The Station Agent and The Visitor. I’m ashamed to say I’ve seen neither, but based on reactions from trusted colleagues, I have no doubt they are both great films. Unfortunately, Win Win didn’t bowl me over. It’s a fine film that has a good deal of warmth and charm, but it just doesn’t cross that line from good to great. Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is a typical family man. He has a nice home, a loving wife, and a few adorable kids. He spends his time working in a private law practice and coaching the local high school wrestling team. But lately the work has gone from steady flow to trickle. The office needs a new furnace, the kids need food and clothes and the mortgage isn’t going anywhere, but the money is starting to dry up. Mike reaches his breaking point, unable to tell his wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) about the financial troubles and admit to what he sees as a failure as the provider, and decides to take advantage of a situation with an elderly client. Leo Poplar (Burt Young) has been deemed incapacitated by the court and despite his strong desire to stay in his own home, he’s going to have to be moved to an assisted living facility. Leo has no family to speak of, only a daughter he hasn’t spoken to or heard from in years. […]

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Whether you’re trying to avoid the releases this week or augment them with even more movie, Your Alternate Box Office offers some options for movies that would play perfectly alongside of (or instead of) the stuff studios are shoving into the megaplex this weekend. This week features a foul-mouthed alien, proof that taking pills making you better, Matthew McConaughey refusing to leave his vehicle to practice law, and a schlubby wrestling coach.

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South By Southwest has already begun heating up, but there are still plenty of movies and buckets of Schlitz to go. If you’re in Austin right now, you’re probably puzzling day to day over what you’re going to see. If you’re not in Austin, you’re probably still wondering what might escape the confines of the festival to see theaters near you. Although there’s no guarantee (except for a few big names we already know will see theaters), here are the hot tickets that might just earn themselves distribution deals. Our intrepid SXSW patrol (comprised of Adam Charles, Jack Giroux, Rob Hunter, Neil Miller, Luke Mullen and Brian Salisbury) have put together a list of what they’re most looking forward to for your reading and viewing pleasure. Keep in mind, there are over 250 movies playing this year, so this represents only a small amount of the quality programming. These are the movies that stand out even amongst the best of the best at the fest. Check it out for yourself:

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So you’ve eaten at Pita Pit and Best Wurst (because there’s nothing wrong with two lunches) and you’re scoping out theaters ready to get more movies on, but you have no idea what you’re going to see. That teary indie drama or that ridiculous sci-fi comedy? You don’t know do you? And you can’t figure it out on your own for some reason. Fortunately, we’ve created this handy guide to help you in your time of duress. Use it wisely. There’s no chance it’ll send you to the porno theater across the highway, so if you end up there, it’s on you.

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We realize that you’re probably sitting at home right now, chewing your own nails off and wondering what movies are coming out this month. Maybe you’re even wondering why no one on the entire internet has said anything about them. Strange, we know. How will you know what to watch this month? Fortunately, Rob Hunter and Cole Abaius spent the entire month of February drinking tiger’s blood, wandering the Oscar red carpet, and copying by hand every copy of Below The Line in order to keep you informed about what’s coming out in March. You watch movies, so this guide’s for you.

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There are 130 films this year at Austin’s SXSW, and 60 of them being world premieres. When you scroll down the list of the films showing there, 99% of them you’ve never heard of before. Only a handful stick out that you actually know about or have eagerly (or mildly…) been anticipating. The films at the fest that currently are the most exciting for us are also the most high profile. That’s not to say there won’t be far superior little known flicks playing there – there most definitely will be – but the big ones showing are always the early attention grabbers. We’ll be running a bigger and more comprehensive list of SXSW must-sees closers to the fest, which is basically when we’ll have more info on the films there that aren’t being released by Universal or Summit. But as of right now, here are a few features that already got our excitement on high. As for those of you interested right now in knowing more about those 130 films, check out the full list here.

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