MCN Originals Archive for January, 2014

Sundance 2014 Last Call

As a documentarian, Balmès shows more than tells; his work tends to curate moments that strike him as meaningful into a largely abstract tapestry and let you make of them what you will. Consequently, Happiness is not a neatly delineated picture of narrative storytelling, nor is it quite traditionally structured documentary. True to form, the director’s work here tends toward the languid and fluid; we float gently along the placid life rhythm of this small village on a faraway mountaintop as the camera captures the subtle – and sometimes not so subtle – shifts in the cultural and social landscape wrought by the march of technological progress.

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The DVD Wrapup: Long Day Closes, Downton 4, Cloudy 2, Bad Grandpa

Apart from the Beatles, no artist is as associated with Liverpool as director-writer Terence Davies, whose autobiographical dramas and documentaries go well beyond the impact of the Cavern Club on world culture. Even so, it would be difficult to confuse the Liverpool into which Davies was born and the one in which the Fab Four were raised.

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The Gronvall Report: Joyce Maynard On LABOR DAY

Real love stories, where the exhilaration of two people falling headlong for each other is also laced with the dangers such plummets can bring are an endangered species. Real love, however sensual and joyful, is seldom without darkness, risk, and sorrow.

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20W2O: 10 Best Picture Nominees – Part 2, Call & Response

This column was inspired by some smart people arguing that, somehow, the expansion to as many as 10 Best Picture nominees is a failure and worse, is dragging down the entire Oscar franchise. I disagree.

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20W2O: 10 Best Picture Nominees – Part 1, Why It’s Good

Was there something to complain about here? Did we all want to see Winter’s Bone kicked to the curb? Was Inception not worthy? The Kids Are All Right? If 500,000 more people see Philomena, Dallas Buyer’s Club, Her, or Nebraska because they were Best Picture nominees, viva la system! These are terrific films that are not easy to market. I just don’t see how it’s not a win for everyone.

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The Weekend Report

A very quiet box office weekend with only one new wide release, I, Frankenstein, which pieced together a near-dead $8.1 million opening. Re-expansions of Dallas Buyers Club, 12 Years A Slave, and Gravity all did $1.9m-$2m over the weekend. Ride Along is well on its way to being the first $100m domestic grosser for both Ice Cube and Kevin Hart as leads.

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Sundance 2014 Review: The Better Angels

A film created to be seen on a big screen, where the gorgeous cinematography can fill your soul. Dialogue is sparse, used only to augment the narration and visuals, with the result that in many ways feels almost like watching a silent film with narration over it. Or perhaps, to be more accurate, it’s like immersing yourself into a black-and-white landscape of stunning beauty, where there happens to be this story happening around you. Edwards’ time spent as a cameraman on Malick’s films is evident here in the framing of shots, the extensive use of nature in storytelling, and his willingness to let his tale breathe in quiet spaces.

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Sundance 2014 Review: Listen Up Philip

Here’s a truism about men like Philip: smart women who tell themselves they would never put up with his particular brand of bullshit no matter what nonetheless can and do fall prey to the allure of the reclusive, temperamental, misunderstood genius, and will keep coming back for more. Men like Philip present a challenge to overcome, a puzzle to solve – until the women in their lives finally have enough and say “no more.” And then those men end up alone, feeling misused and mistreated, looking everywhere save within themselves for the answer to the riddle of their loneliness and isolation.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

Universal continues to sit on top of the chart with 2 genre hits while I, Frankenstein is the only newcomer, not being chased out of town with pitchforks and torches, but not exactly getting the key to the city either. The “Oscar bump” remains soft, with Hustle and Wolf getting the best of it and August: Osage County continuing its mediocre run.

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Sundance 2014 Review: What We Do In The Shadows

This is one of the festival’s most pleasant surprises because it’s gotten to the point where certain horror tropes are dead or dying: recent zombie movies have been more shambling than exciting; vampires in general have become anemic and fangless (shout-out to the Twilight series, driving nails into the rhetorical coffin).

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Sundance 2014 Review: War Story

The death of Lee’s friend has perhaps made her see the wages of war as a price higher than she ever thought she’d pay to be in the thick of it. She’s captured so many losses, so many tragedies, through the lens of her camera, but she has no idea how to capture and cope with her own. The film’s final moments elegantly underscore the truth about the death of those we love and how we grieve the impact of losing them: It hurts, it will always hurt, when you lose someone you love, and even more so when you feel yourself responsible. But life moves on, wars continue to happen, the world spins around its axis just like it did before you lost this person you cared about.

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Gurus o’ Gold: A Week Since Nominations (1 of 2)

One week after nominations, the Gurus go through all the categories (except for shorts) again. And while most of the changes are shifts among the runners up, the big shake-up is at the top of the Best Picture chart, as 12 Years A Slave retakes the top slot and American Hustle falls all the way to…

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Picturing Sundance 2014: 21 Images

Sleep is good. Seeing movies is better. Writing solid, thoughtful reviews instead of instant reactions longer than a well-wrought tweet: even better. A few quick descriptions and some more glimpses of 10 days at Sundance.

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Sundance 2014 Review: Imperial Dreams

Bambi’s story is something we in our cozy middle class lives maybe prefer not to think about too hard when we ponder the abstract idea of projects and prison terms. The real plight of poverty is the disparity of opportunity, and the way in which we blame those born into an urban war zone for growing up in a way that enables them to survive in it. It’s nature versus nurture: How do we expect a kid with the potential to do something amazing with his life to navigate his way there with no support system save for the friends and relatives who have him working the corner and holding a gun in his hand from childhood?

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Wilmington on Movies: The Wolf of Wall Street

    THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (Four Stars) U.S.: Martin Scorsese, 2013   “An idea came to me. The thing to do was to skip the heroes and heroines, to write a movie containing only villains and bawds. I would not have to tell any lies then.” —Ben Hecht, describing the genesis of his…

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Picturing Sundance 2014 x 13 (Plus 140-Character Grasps For Instantaneous Truth)

If you go to parties, you miss movies. If you go to movie after movie after movie, you don’t have time to write, let alone think. But! Thank the Movie Godz for Twitter and for photographs.

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Sundance 2014 Review: Obvious Child

I laughed a lot while watching Obvious Child. Not everyone will, to be honest. If fart jokes and sex jokes, abundant cursing, peeing in public and pooping in front of your best friend while awaiting the results of a pregnancy test are things that you can’t handle, this might not be the film for you. If you can get past those things to the core of this film, though, you might just find the places where the story resonates for you, too. It certainly did for me.

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Sundance 2014 Review: Boyhood

A little after 1 AM on Monday, January 20, 2014, in a 1,296-seat high school auditorium in Park City, Utah, a piece of cinema history was made: the lights came up on the world premiere of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, a film in production for more than a decade.

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The Weekend Report

Buddy comedy Ride Along breezed into the top slot on the Martin Luther King holiday session with an estimated $41.2 million debut (all figures reflect 3-day portion of the weekend). Three other films made national bows with the family animated The Nut Job displaying unexpected strength of $20.5 million and the rebooted Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit submerged below expectations with $16.9 million. The chiller Devil’s Due was further down the list with a spooky $8.5 million.

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Sundance 2014 Review: I Origins

Cahill’s fully-realized premise comes into view as Ian and Karen discover something astonishing about the nature of the human iris. There are some really interesting grand narrative implications here, suggesting a life of rigorous science is blind to some of the more arcane secrets of the universe.

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MCN Originals

Quote Unquotesee all »

“I suddenly couldn’t say anything about some of the movies. They were just so terrible, and I’d already written about so many terrible movies. I love writing about movies when I can discover something in them – when I can get something out of them that I can share with people. The week I quit, I hadn’t planned on it. But I wrote up a couple of movies, and I read what I’d written, and it was just incredibly depressing. I thought, I’ve got nothing to share from this. One of them was of that movie with Woody Allen and Bette Midler, Scenes From a Mall. I couldn’t write another bad review of Bette Midler. I thought she was so brilliant, and when I saw her in that terrible production of ‘Gypsy’ on television, my heart sank. And I’d already panned her in Beaches. How can you go on panning people in picture after picture when you know they were great just a few years before? You have so much emotional investment in praising people that when you have to pan the same people a few years later, it tears your spirits apart.”
~ Pauline Kael On Quitting

“My father was a Jerome. My daughter’s middle name is Jerome. But my most vexing and vexed relationship with a Jerome was with Jerome Levitch, the subject of my first book under his stage and screen name, Jerry Lewis.

I have a lot of strong and complex feelings about the man, who passed away today in Las Vegas at age 91. Suffice to say he was a brilliant talent, an immense humanitarian, a difficult boss/interview, and a quixotic sort of genius, as often inspired as insipid, as often tender as caustic.

I wrote all about it in my 1996 book, “King of Comedy,” which is available on Kindle. With all due humility, it’s kinda definitive — the good and the bad — even though it’s two decades old. My favorite review, and one I begged St. Martin’s (unsuccessfully) to put on the paperback jacket, came from “Screw” magazine, which called it “A remarkably fair portrait of a great American asshole.”

Jerry and I met twice while I was working on the book and spoke/wrote to each other perhaps a dozen times. Like many of his relationships with the press and his partners/subordinates, it ended badly, with Jerry hollering profanities at me in the cabin of his yacht in San Diego. I wrote about it in the epilogue to my book, and over the years I’ve had the scene quoted back to me by Steve Martin, Harry Shearer, Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette. Tom Hanks once told me that he had a dinner with Paul Reiser and Martin Short at which Short spent the night imitating Jerry throwing me off the boat.

Jerry was a lot of things: father, husband, chum, businessman, philanthropist, artist, innovator, clown, tyrant. He was at various times in his life the highest-ever-paid performer on TV, in movies, and on Broadway. He raised BILLIONS for charity, invented filmmaking techniques, made perhaps a dozen classic comedies, turned in a terrific dramatic performance in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” and left the world altered and even enhanced with his time and his work in it.

That’s an estimable achievement and one worth pausing to commemorate.

#RIP to Le Roi du Crazy

~ Biographer Shawn Levy on Jerry Lewis on Facebook