Archive | May, 2014

Cannes Do

25 May

Ah, it’s that time again, time for the annual Cannes fest to be a launching pad for several more months’ worth of film excellence and potential awards contenders.  Two years ago, French-Austrian Amour made a splash and went on to score Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Director–ultimately claiming the statuette for Best Foreign Language Film.  On the other hand, last year’s buzziest Cannes winner, Blue is the Warmest Color, garnered all kinds of accolades in the states yet was received, well, less than warmly by the Academy, being shut-out in all categories. Still again, veteran American character actor Bruce Dern scored big for Alexander Payne’s Nebraska at last year’s shindig, thereby setting the stage for a hearty round of nods for Dern, Payne, and the film itself–along with Best Supporting Actress candidate June Squibb.

Bennett Miller

^ Best Director winner Bennett Miller’s credits include 2005’s Capote and 2011’s Moneyball, both of which figured in the Academy’s Best Picture races. His latest stars Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo in a startling true story about Olympic caliber wrestlers, families, coaches, and mental illness.

Here are this year’s big winners:

  • Palme d’Or
 – Winter Sleep (directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
  • Grand Prize
 – Le Meraviglie (The Wonders), dir: Alice Rohrwacher
  • Best Actress
 – Julianne Moore (Maps To The Stars)
  • Best Actor
 – Timothy Spall (Mr Turner)
  • Best Director
 – Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)
  • Jury Prize – Tie
Mommy (dir: Xavier Dolan); 
Goodbye To Language (dir: Jean-Luc Godard)
  • Best Screenplay
 – Leviathan by Andrey Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin
  • Camera d’Or
 – Party Girl (directed by Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger, and Samuel Theis)
  • Short FilmLeidi, dir: Simón Mesa Soto
  • Special Mention: Aïssa, dir: Clément Trehin-Lalanne
, Ja Vi Elsker, dir: Hallvar Witzo

Per published reports, Turkish filmmaker Ceylan has a substantial track record at Cannes, twice winning the Grand Prix award and taking Best Director on another occasion. As recently as 2013, he earned an Independent Spirit nod for Bir zamanlar Anadolu’da (Once Upon a Time in Anatolia).

This is the first Cannes award for England’s Timothy Spall, like Dern a respected character actor in his homeland; however, his work is not completely unknown on the French Riviera as he is a cherished member of writer-director Mike Leigh’s repertory company, and Leigh’s films, such as 1996’s Secrets and Lies,  often do well at the famous film fest. Of course, younger viewers are likely more familiar with Spall from his role as Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter movies, but I digress. Backing up, Spall’s Mr. Turner, about the life of British landscape painter J.M.W. Turner (1775 – 1851) is Leigh’s latest production, and that’s quite a good thing. I’m usually up for a Leigh film, and I still have glorious memories of Topsy-Turvy, his behind the scenes look at Gilbert & Sullivan and their creation of The Mikado, featuring Oscar winning costumes and makeup in addition to a grand performance by Jm Broadbent as the formidable W.S. Gilbert.

Apparently, Julianne Moore was not in attendance, but I’m super-excited for her.  It’s been too long since she had a worthy film role. Oh sure, I know she won an Emmy and a host of other accolades for her role as failed vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin in 2012’s Game Change. That’s great, and I’m not a snob about TV, but I’d rather see Moore work her acting chops on the big screen in the same way that, as much I get a kick out of  watching Jessica Lange in American Horror Story, I’d still love to see her do more feature films. Of course, we all know opportunities for actresses over 50 tend to be somewhat sparse, comparatively speaking, that is. Still, I have to say I was hugely, HUGELY, disappointed that Moore aligned herself with last fall’s unfortunate remake of Carrie, stepping into the role of Carrie White’s whole-heartedly mentally unbalanced mom, a character made famous by Oscar nominee Piper Laurie in 1976.  Just a bad idea, the remake. A friend and I recently discussed Moore and her career as it’s been a dozen years since the heights of Far From Heaven, for which she earned a Best Actress nomination, and The Hours, for which she also scored a nod in the supporting actress category. Those were her third and fourth Oscar nominations, on the heels of 1997’s Boogie Nights (Best Supporting Actress) and 1999’s The End of the Affair (Best Actress).  In  Maps to the Stars, from the ever-controversial David Cronenberg, Moore reportedly plays a fading Hollywood actress looking for a comeback. Right?


I happen to think that Hilary Swank (l) is, in a word, brilliant, but she doesn’t work as often as I would like. I’m sure she would like to work more as well. I’ve often thought that she must be difficult to cast, something I blamed on her almost being too good playing a cross-gender role in 1999’s Boys Don’t Cry, but I  thought those perceptions would have changed after Million Dollar Baby. I whole heartedly recommend 2010’s Conviction, and I eagerly await The Homesman, from actor-director Tommy Lee Jones (r).

Speaking of actresses in need of a comeback, the film I read about most in online Cannes updates was The Homesman starring two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank and directed by Texan–and onetime Oscar winner–Tommy Lee Jones, who wowed Cannes’ jurors in 2005 with The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, which he produced, directed, and starred in, taking home that fest’s Best Actor prize in the process. Swank was all of 30 when she won her second Oscar, for 2004’s Million Dollar Baby, five years after skyrocketing to stardom with Boys Don’t Cry. Now, she’s inching toward 40, and it’s been a while since she had a screen role of any consequence. 2009’s Amelia, with Swank as doomed pilot Amelia Earheart, failed to attract much attention while 2010’s fact-based Conviction, in which she plays a woman who completed law school in order to defend her brother, impressed enough members of the acting community to warrant a SAG nomination–but that seems like a long time ago.

Jones’s period western also features Meryl Streep–with daughter Grace Gummer–John Lithgow, Tim Blake Nelson, James Spader, Wiliam Fichtner, irrepressible Texas born character actress, Jo Harvey Allen, and Hailee Steinfeld, who made a splash a few years ago in the Coens’ acclaimed reboot of True Grit, earning a Best Supporting Actress nomination at a mere 14 years of age. Of all the Cannes entries that I read about, this is the one that I most want to see. Luckily, it has been picked up for distribution. Hopefully, we’ll see it just in time for the second wave of awards contenders.

Thanks for your consideration….



Pretty as a Midsummer Night’s…

22 May

Alas, famed cinematographer Gordon Willis passed away on Sunday at the age of 82. Willis first made a name for himself in the 1970s with such credits as The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, and many films with Woody Allen, including Annie Hall, Interiors, and Manhattan. That’s three Best Picture winners in the bunch; however, Willis was never a favorite with the Academy though critics–and directors–loved him. He never won a competitive Oscar and was only nominated twice, yet he was ultimately honored for his body of work by the Academy in 2009. I originally wrote this piece, mostly as a celebration of him and his work on Allen’s A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy back in 2012, and now I repost it in his memory. Enjoy (I’ll be back soon!)

Confessions of a Movie Queen

Well, it doesn’t look like Michael and I will be going to Arkansas for a mini-vacation this year: we’ve gone there three of the past four summers, opting instead for a trek to Oklahoma in 2010.  Arkansas, of course, is beautiful, it’s not terribly expensive, and it’s just a great way to get out of the harsh concrete-ness that is Dallas and to soak up Mother Nature.  I think all of us at one time or another need to get out of the city and get out of our heads. Arkansas gives us the opportunity to do both, and it’s not so very far from home, so we can drive; flying is such a hassle. I really wanted to see the new Crystal Bridges museum in Arkansas (even with the Walmart connection), but the timing isn’t right. I’m lucky because I live in a nice walking neighborhood near a golf…

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