MCN Originals Archive for February, 2012

DVD Wrapup: Myth of American Sleepover, Hugo … More

David Robert Mitchell’s debut feature easily qualifies as one of the most criminally under-screened and neglected movies of the young century. While Hollywood continues to search in vain for the new John Hughes and independents hope to capture the same lightning in a bottle as “American Pie,” “The Myth of the American Sleepover” was there all along. Even in DVD, it succeeds at almost every level in capturing the joys, angst and insanity of being a teenager in middle-class America.

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The Weekend Report, February 26, 2012

Oscar went bump in the night as the mockuventure Act of Valor ascended to the top of the weekend ticket charts with an estimated $24.7 million. Runnerup was another freshman _ Good News from Tyler Perry _ with $15.6 million. Further done the list the comedic Wanderlust bowed to a disappointing $6.6 million and the thriller Gone went missing with $4.8 million.

In the niches the hockey antics of Goon grossed a solid $1.1 million in Canada while a trio of Indian imports failed to shake up that sector of domestic box office. Exclusive starter were largely inert save for the controversial Albanian drama The Forgiveness of Blood that opened to $29,700 at three venues.

This weekend’s projection is up 23% from last year.

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GROSS BEHAVIOR

Now, let’s consider a film financed, written and developed in France that stars two French actors and was shot, edited and scored by French folk. It’s called The Artist and on Friday was named best French film of the year at the Cesars in Paris. And, believe it or not, on Saturday was cited as the quintessence of American independent cinema by the Spirit Awards.

What makes The Artist soooo American?

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DP/30: The Artist, actors Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo

We spoke to Jean & Berenice back in November, the afternoon after their AFI opening night went into the wee hours. The conversation was as much about the language barrier as it was about the movie itself.

There’s a lot of info about making the movie, but there’s an awful lot of laughter and lulls coming out of not quite understanding one another all the time. But a couple of months later, it feels like an amusing landmark on the way to The Oscars. Hope you enjoy.

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Wilmington on Movies: Act of Valor

With its cast of real-life Navy Seals playing characters based on themselves, in a script partly drawn from real life, in scenes that the Seals actors helped design and choreograph, Act of Valor should really be the last word in Seals combat realism.

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3 Days To Oscar: Pissing on The Artist

Here is the question I ask people when they make a face after they ask, “What’s going to win?” and I say, “The Artist” (as I have since September). “We all now there are some excellent films that are nominated. Is there any one of the nine this year that you feel desperately needs to win… should win Best Picture?”

In almost every case, I get a blank stare and some mumbling.

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Gurus o’ Gold: The Last Gasp

The Gurus make their final calls this week in two ways. First, there is a chart of categories that are the most likely to end up in Oscar night upsets.

And then, specific changes in specific races by specific Gurus. Some made as many as four changes, some made none. Many of the changes brought outlying picks into conformity with the rest of the group. A few went against the grain. But all of the categories in which changes have been made are listed.

Here is the full list of the Final Gurus Predictions

Here are last week’s final charts for your perusal as well.

Have a great Oscar night. The Gurus know you will.

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Wilmington on DVDs: Tower Heist

Tower Heist. Wheww! That was one hell of a movie. Hell of a movie! Brett Ratner: Rush Hour! Rush Hour 2!!. Rush Hour 3!!! He‘s one moviemaker who can really make a movie move. Didn’t ya think?

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DVD Geek: Design for Living

Made before the Production Code cleaned up his innuendos and flagrant sexual metaphors, Lubitsch constantly teases the viewer with his balancing act of sharing and hiding what the characters are thinking and doing. Almost as an afterthought, each man’s fortunes rise because of his association with Hopkins’ character, and yet, for each, it is a downward trajectory of spirit when she turns her attentions elsewhere.

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The DVD Wrapup: J. Edgar, Puss in Boots, On the Bowery, more

It’s the rare documentarian whose sympathizes don’t lie with common men and women, especially those dealt a weak hand at birth. Compassion isn’t something that can be taught at film school, like cinematography, history and theory. It pretty much has to be bred in the bone.

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Wilmington on DVDs. J. Edgar

This is a movie you should see both for its storytelling skills and the intense interest of the story it tells. So the hell what if it’s not constructed like the usual movie. Who wants it to be?

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6 Days To Oscar: You Might Be An Asshole If…

YOU MIGHT BE AN OSCAR ASSHOLE IF… you write about how this filmmaker or that filmmaker was too busy chasing Oscar to make the movie they should have made.

As someone who actually has fairly lengthy conversations with almost every filmmaker who has made an Oscar nominated picture in the last five years or more, I am particularly conscious how stupid and self-serving this notion is.

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Wilmington on Movies: Ghost Rider

No screenings for critics here on Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance — for reasons that become quickly apparent when you watch it — so I decided to fork over coin of the realm anyway and catch it at a multiplex. After all, I thought, how bad could it be? I mean really: How bad?

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The Weekend Report: Feb 17-19, 2012

Weekend box office pushed to about $160 million and a 12% slippage for the three-day portion of the holiday frame. It was however 9% improved from the comparable 2011 session when newcomers Unknown and I Am Number Four ranked one and three in the lineup with $21.8 million and $19.4 million.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance had been tipped to top the charts by pundits with estimates in the low to mid $30 million range. While hardly a review driven title, the picture received withering response and diminished the crowd composed 61% male and 52% aged 25 years older plus. According to studio sources just 352 playdates were 3D engagements and accounted for 72% of box office … but those details seem highly questionable.

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Friday Estimates: February 18, 2012

The Vow continues to hold the lead, keeping the return of Ghost Rider in the 2 spot. And Safe House, in #3, holds off This Is War.

In holdovers, The Woman in Black has become CBS Films’ highest domestic grosser. And Star Wars: Episode 1’s 3D re-release has to be seen as a bit of a bust.

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9 Days to Oscar: In Memoriam

Voting closes Tuesday… but the die is pretty much cast at this point.

In the 9 days to come, there will be plenty of conversation about the nominees and who should or should not win. But at this moment in the season, I find myself thinking about the ones that got left behind.

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Wilmington on Movies: The Secret World of Arrietty

Who, I pondered, were the craftsmen who made all the wonderful furniture and clothes and hand-crafted-looking household items that graced the Clocks’ house? Did these objects come from dollhouses? Are Pod and Homily master artisans as well as brilliant borrowers? As I said, I thought about it, but not much.

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Wilmington on DVDs. Mozart’s Sister

The movie begins lyrically, with a scene that recalls the openings of both Bergman’s The Magician and Max Ophuls’ Lola Montes: the Mozart family traveling to an engagement in a nearly broken down coach through the woods. When it does break down, we’re made painfully aware of how vulnerable their existence really is, the dilemma of many artists.

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The DVD Wrapup: Take Shelter, Tiny Furniture, More …

You’ll either buy into Aura and her world or you’ll find Tiny Furniture excruciatingly pretentious and boring.

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Wilmington on DVDs: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn; A Fish Called Wanda

The movie, despite its hollow dialogue and sometimes punishing slow pace, does look sort of good. But it seems odd at times that this movie was directed by a man who made a movie about the Kinsey Report.

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MCN Originals

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin