Dec 7POSTED BY - 10:54AM
The film MOON took home top honors at this year's British Independent Film Awards
The results from this year's British Independent Film Awards are in, which include MOON's award for Best Film and Andrea Arnold's award for Best Director (FISH TANK). Other highlights from the ceremony include:
Tom Hardy (BRONSON)
Carey Mulligan (AN EDUCATION)
BEST FOREIGN FILM:
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN
MUGABE AND THE WHITE AFRICAN
For a complete list of winners, visit the British Independent Film Award's site.
In the US, the number one movie of the weekend was THE BLIND SIDE, a football movie starring Sandra Bullock. As the film just earned $20.4 million in domestic theaters, it has already become a bit of a "box office phenomenon" since its target audience was originally "older females", as VARIETY reports. "Initially, the film's core audience was older. What we're finding now is that it is becoming a movie that people are finding age appropriate for kids 8 years and older," said Alcon's Broderick Johnson, who shares the CEO title with Andrew Kosove at Warner Bros. and Alcon Entertainment (more).
Jack Black is set to produce a feature-length animated film about cryptozoology (the study of animals whose existence has not been proven), and the project has already been preemptively picked up by Universal-based Illumination Entertainment. Borys Kit from ABC news has already suggested Bigfoot, the Yeti and the Loch Ness Monster as possible stars.
The British film director Julien Temple is making a film about the British rock band, The Kinks. The plot of his film, titled YOU'VE REALLY GOT ME, surrounds the tension between the band's brothers, Ray and Dave Davies, who formed the band in London in 1964. Ray Davies himself will be collaborating on the project with Temple, a director who tends to focus on the social history of Britian's scene, as his previous films include THE GREAT ROCK 'N' ROLL SWINDLE and OIL CITY CONFIDENTIAL (more).
Dec 4POSTED BY - 2:27PM
Film Fresh’s ever-growing collection boasts a number of films from around the world (subtitles included!). Today, we’d like to highlight 3 fantastic films from China that have been hailed by critics from Hong Kong to New York:
KUNG FU HUSTLE
Directed, Produced & Starring Stephen Chow
When Roger Ebert first saw the action-comedy KUNG FU HUSTLE at Sundance 5 years ago, he described it as "Jackie Chan and Buster Keaton meet Quentin Tarantino and Bugs Bunny". The film went on to receive the award for Best Picture at the 2005 Hong Kong Film Awards, was nominated for Best Foreign Language film at the 2006 Golden Globes, and received a 90% approval rating on the website Rotten Tomatoes. Fans of this film have expressed their admiration for its “cartoon” style and use of traditional Chinese music, which accompanies zany kung fu showdowns and dance sequences. Other critics described KUNG FU HUSTLE as a comedic yet equally captivating version of CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON.
The charming, manipulative prostitute of Zhang Yimou's
Directed by Zhang Yimou
Jack Matthews from NEWSDAY says, "From the glowing artifice and warm surfaces of chic Shanghai to the natural blues and greens of the misty countryside where the tale leads, it is, in the truest sense, poetry in motion." This film follows a beautiful prostitute, who is used as bait between feuding ganglords in 1930’s Shanghai. Janet Maslin of the New York Times expressed her initial reservations that this film would merely use the cliched genre of the "gangster film.” Nevertheless, as she writes, the film "movingly affirms the magnitude of [Zhang Yimou's] storytelling power.” Poetry in motion, indeed.
THE WOODEN MAN’S BRIDE
Directed by the fifth generation filmmaker Huang Jianxin
Hal Hinson of the WASHINGTON POST calls this film “the most visually stunning, emotionally powerful western since Clint Eastwood's UNFORGIVEN" (more). The story revolves around a young woman who is kidnapped on the way to her wedding, and her fiancé is killed while trying to rescue her. What ensues is a shocking and tragic tale of a woman’s oppression. As Stephen Holden of THE NEW YORK TIMES describes, the film is a "methodical, cool-headed expose of an oppressive sexual code that treats women as chattel and metes out brutal punishment to violators" (more).
Dec 4POSTED BY GERRY - 2:19PM
The National Board of Review declared UP IN THE AIR to be the best picture of 2009. The film, directed by Jason Reitman (THANK YOU FOR SMOKING, JUNO), places George Clooney in the role of a man who travels around the country to fire people. Based upon the book written by Walter Kirn (THUMBSUCKER), the film balances aspects of comedy and drama, while also offering a commentary upon the nation’s current economic conditions. (more)
Critics have had overwhelmingly positive things to say, finding that Reitman perfectly balances the comedic aspects of the film with its overall darker and more serious tone. Anthony Lane of THE NEW YORKER writes, “the tension between the bleak and the blithe, the prime source of this movie’s strength.” (more)
Owen Gleiberman from ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY offers glowing praise, stating “Here are a few of the kinds of movies that I wish Hollywood made more often (like, you know, two or three times a year): a drama that connects to an audience because it taps, in a bold and immediate way, into the fears and anxieties of our time; a romantic comedy in which the dialogue pings with stylish wit and verve; a film that keeps surprising us because its characters keep surprising themselves. The beauty of UP IN THE AR is that it's all those things at once.” (more)
While the film prmiered at the 2009 Toronto Film Festival, it finally opens today in a limited release. A larger release is scheduled for December 11 and a wide release is set for Christmas day. As the award season gets into full swing in the coming months, be sure to keep an eye on UP IN THE AIR.
Dec 3POSTED BY - 12:05PM
The Sundance Film Festival unveiled its 2010 lineup of films that will be competing for awards, which will be decided in Park City, Utah between January 21st and 31st, 2010. The program’s directors received 9,916 submissions earlier this year, and only 113 feature-length films were selected.
John Cooper, the newly-appointed director of Sundance, explained that the films this year are particularly challenging. "A lot of our films are hard to describe, and that's very attractive," says Cooper. "We put marketability on the sidelines for a while and said, 'Let's just go for films that were highly original and pushed the envelope.'”
It appears that this year’s Sundance programmers are more than willing to take risks, as they have also made several major changes to the Festival. A new section will be devoted entirely to low- and no-budget filmmaking. Additionally, eight filmmakers from Sundance will visit eight cities throughout the US on one night of the festival. Once there, they will lead cinema-oriented discussions that will be screened live across the US.
Ultimately, the films that emerge as big winners in the festival usually become highly influential in both the Indie film community and in Hollywood, as well. Last year, PRECIOUS was the biggest winner. An extensive list of the selected films is now available for viewing on Sundance’s Official Website.
We’ve posted a few highlights from the US Dramatic Competition list below to give you just a taste of what is to come:
U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION
DOUCHEBAG (Director: Drake Doremus; Screenwriters: Lindsay Stidham, Drake Doremus, Jonathan Schwartz and Andrew Dickler) —On the verge of getting married, Sam Nussbaum insists he escort his younger brother, Tom, on a wild goose chase of a journey to find Tom's fifth grade girlfriend. Cast: Andrew Dickler, Ben York Jones, Marguerite Moreau, Nicole Vicius, Amy Ferguson, Wendi McClendon-Covey. World Premiere
THE DRY LAND (Director and screenwriter: Ryan Piers Williams)—A U.S. soldier returning home from war struggles to reconcile his experiences abroad with the life and family he left in Texas. Cast: Ryan O'Nan, America Ferrera, Wilmer Valderrama, Ethan Suplee, June Diane Raphael, Melissa Leo. World Premiere
HAPPYTHANKYOUMOREPLEASE (Director and screenwriter: Josh Radnor)—Six New Yorkers negotiate love, friendship, and gratitude at a time when they're too old to be precocious and not ready to be adults. Cast: Malin Akerman, Josh Radnor, Kate Mara, Zoe Kazan, Tony Hale, Pablo Schreiber, Michael Algieri. World Premiere
HESHER (Director: Spencer Susser; Screenwriters: Spencer Susser and David Michod; Story by Brian Charles Frank)—A mysterious, anarchical trickster descends on the lives of a family struggling to deal with a painful loss. Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, Rainn Wilson, Devin Brochu, Piper Laurie, John Carroll Lynch. World Premiere
LOVERS OF HATE (Director and screenwriter: Bryan Poyser)—The shaky reunion of estranged brothers takes a turn for the worse when the woman they both love chooses one over the other. Cast: Chris Doubek, Heather Kafka, Alex Karpovsky, Zach Green. World Premiere
SKATELAND (Director: Anthony Burns; Screenwriters: Anthony Burns, Brandon Freeman, Heath Freeman)—In the early 1980s, in small-town Texas, dramatic events force a 19-year-old skating rink manager to look at his life in a very new way. Cast: Shiloh Fernandez, A.J. Buckley, Ashley Greene, Brett Cullen, Ellen Hollman, Heath Freeman. World Premiere
SYMPATHY FOR DELICIOUS (Director: Mark Ruffalo; Screenwriter: Christopher Thornton)—A newly paralyzed DJ gets more than he bargained for when he seeks out the world of faith healing. Cast: Orlando Bloom, Mark Ruffalo, Juliette Lewis, Laura Linney, John Carroll Lynch. World Premiere
WELCOME TO THE RILEYS (Director: Jake Scott; Screenwriter: Ken Hixon)—On a business trip to New Orleans, a damaged man seeks salvation by caring for a wayward young woman. Cast: James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart, Melissa Leo. World Premiere
Dec 2POSTED BY - 10:58AM
The Independent Spirit Award Nominees were announced yesterday by Matt Dillon (CRASH) and Taraji P. Henson (THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON). Awards will be presented two days before the Academy Awards on Friday, March 5th, 2010. Watch the awards live onIFC at 8pm. Here are the nominees:
BEST FEATURE FILM
(500) DAYS OF SUMMER
THE LAST STATION
Ethan Coen & Joel Coen for A SERIOUS MAN
Lee Daniels for PRECIOUS
Cary Joji Fukunaga for SIN NOMBRE
James Gray for TWO LOVERS
Michael Hoffman for THE LAST STATION
Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman for THE MESSENGER
Michael Hoffman for THE LAST STATION
Lee Toland Krieger for THE VICIOUS KIND
Greg Mottola for ADVENTURELAND
Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber for (500) DAYS OF SUMMER
BEST FIRST FEATURE
A SINGLE MAN - Director: Tom Ford
CRAZY HEART - Director: Scott Cooper
EASIER WITH PRACTICE - Director: Kyle Patrick Alvarez
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY - Director: Oren Peli
THE MESSENGER - Director: Oren Moverman
BEST FEMALE LEAD
Maria Bello - DOWNLOADING NANCY
Nisreen Faour - AMREEKA
Helen Mirren - THE LAST STATION
Gwyneth Paltrow - TWO LOVERS
Gabourey Sidibe - PRECIOUS
BEST MALE LEAD
Jeff Bridges - CRAZY HEART
Colin Firth - A SINGLE MAN
Joseph Gordon-Levitt - (500) DAYS OF SUMMER
Souleymane Sy Savane - GOODBYE SOLO
Adam Scott - THE VICIOUS KIND
ANVIL! THE STORY OF ANVIL
MORE THAN A GAME
WHICH WAY HOME
BEST FOREIGN FILM
Dec 2POSTED BY - 9:13AM
The Gotham Awards, an annual ceremony in New York City honoring independent films, took place on Monday night; winners were announced yesterday.
The biggest winner of the evening was THE HURT LOCKER, an Iraq War drama directed by Katherine Bigelow, which won for both Best Feature and Best Ensemble Performance. “While the Gothams is not necessarily a precursor to the Oscars, this is definitely the winner of the night which has the best chance of making it to the Academy Awards next year,” writes blogger Matt Dentler. Other nominees for the Best Feature award presented some serious competition to THE HURT LOCKER, which beat out BIG FAN, THE MAID, and A SERIOUS MAN.
THE HURT LOCKER follows a US Army EOD team through the Iraq War in 2004.
Still, other independent films managed to get their fair share of attention. “Many thought Jeremy Renner was a lock for Breakthrough Actor for his performance in THE HURT LOCKER,” writes Ward Porrill on THE EXAMINER’s website, but the award went to Catalina Saavedra for her title role in THE MAID. The Award for Breakthrough Director went to BIG FAN’s Robert Siegel, who also wrote last year’s hit movie THE WRESTLER. BIG FAN stars Patton Oswalt as a crazy New York Giants fan. FOOD INC. won Best Documentary while Ry Russo-Young's YOU WON’T MISS ME won the award with the funny title: Best Film Not Playing At A Theater Near You.
Last year's Gotham Award winners are very well-represented on Film Fresh (which means that you can watch them - right now!). This includes Lance Hammer's phenomenal BALLAST, which one the prize for Breakthrough Director in 2008. Courtney Hunt’s film FROZEN RIVER won the award for best feature, and its star Melissa Leo, won the "Breakthrough Actor" award. Two films won the award for best ensemble performance last year: SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK written and directed by Charlie Kaufman, and VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA written and directed by Woody Allen.
Dec 1POSTED BY GERRY - 2:24PM
The TERMINATOR film franchise continues on Film Fresh with TERMINATOR SALVATION. The fourth installment in the series stars Christian Bale and Sam Worthington. Unlike the other TERMINATOR films, SALVATION is set in the future and focuses on the machine/human war referenced in the previous three movies. Director McG (CHARLIE’S ANGELS) takes the helm this time around and does so without the star power of series veteran Arnold Schwarzenegger.
When Warner Bros. announced that McG would be taking over the franchise, the internet community reacted quite negatively. However, McG worked to restore faith in the eyes of the die-hard TERMINATOR fans. He paid a visit to series creator James Cameron, cast Christian Bale as John Connor and brought in Jonathan Nolan (THE DARK KNIGHT) to do script re-writes. (more)
A.O. Scott of THE NEW YORK TIMES calls SALVATION “a mastery of the vernacular of chases, fights, explosions and crashes” and that McG “manages speed, impact and the choreography of technomayhem with aplomb and a measure of wit.” (more)
Mary Pols of TIME has a different take on McG’s visual style. She argues that his focus on action prevents him from telling an engaging story with compelling characters. “We're too busy thinking about how cool that stunt was, the one where that body skimmed the river's surface like a skipping stone.” (more)
The film failed to leave a major mark at the box-office, grossing only $125 million in the U.S. despite its $200 million price tag. (more)
Did the fourth TERMINATOR film get you excited about the franchise again, or did you long for the days of James Cameron and even Jonathan Mostow?
Film Fresh also has the 2008 indie film HALF-LIFE. Directed by Jennifer Phang, the film tells the story of two siblings coping with their broken family. Phang utilizes rotoscoping-style animation giving the film a sureal quality. HALF-LIFE made its round at several film festivals, including: Sundance, the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival and the Tokyo International Film Festival. (more)
The documentary AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL looks at America’s increasing low self-esteem and the way a media saturated culture creates images of unattainable beauty. In 2007, the film won the Special Jury Prize for Best Director at the 43 Chicago International Film Festival. Catch the film and catch a special Q & A with the director, Darryl Roberts. (more)
TOXIC SKIES tells the story of a government that sprays a virus upon its population in order to kill the old and sick. Anne Heche stars as Dr. Tess Martin. She attempts to uncover the truth behind this political conspiracy.
In STEVIE, a young couple adopts a little girl and her violent imagainary friend, Stevie. Bryan Goeres directs.
Finally, we have 2 DUDES AND A DREAM. Thomas and Sebastian must leave their hometown to pursue their dreams of becoming an actor and supermodel. Jason Mewes (Jay of Jay and Silent Bob) co-stars.
Nov 30POSTED BY - 11:01AM
AVATAR filmmakers challenge you to ask them anything.
On December 3rd, MTV will host a live webcast of a roundtable with the makers of AVATAR, including director James Cameron, producer Jon Landau and actors Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington. The event will last 30 minutes and will include footage from the movie. Visit the movie's official facebook page to submit your questions for the roundtable (you could ask, for example, why AVATAR took 14 years to make).
THE NEW YORK TIMES' story on Jason Reitman, the director of JUNO, talks about his latest Oscar-worthy film, UP IN THE AIR. Based on a novel by Walter Kirn (see also: THUMBSUCKER, also based on a Kirn novel),Reitman's movie focuses on a man (George Clooney) who fires people on behalf of companies who don't want to do it themselves. The filmmakers decided to hold on open casting call for those who were recently fired in St. Louis and Detroit; even reading the script aloud became unexpectedly emotional for unemployed auditioners. “The second they heard the language of firing, you could just see it,” Mr. Reitman said. “Their eyes would turn, their posture would change, their face would go sallow. One girl broke into hives. It just happened, and they would be in the moment" (more). The L.A. TIMES also writes about UP IN THE AIR as a huge marketing challenge for Paramount, given how touchy the subject of layoffs has become in 2009 (more)
INDIEWIRE released a list of the top-grossing foreign language films of the 00's, which includes films like Austria's THE COUNTERFEITERS and China's KUNG FU HUSTLE. France had the most films on the list with AMELIE, BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF, LA VIE EN ROSE, THE CLOSET, A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT, and TELL NO ONE, while director Pedro Almodovar is included twice in the list with VOLVER and TALK TO HER. Another Almodovar movie, BAD EDUCATION, just barely missed the cut (more).
Nov 25POSTED BY - 1:13PM
The Swiss Court accepted Polanski's bail offer of $4.5 million! He will be released from prison and placed under house arrest at his Swiss Chalet. But fear not, Polanski-detractors: the justice system has yet to decide whether or not he will be sent to Los Angeles (more). A poll on the L.A. Times blog asks readers, "Would Roman Polanski skip out on $4.5 million bail to avoid extradition to Los Angeles?". So far, an overwhelming majority of readers have voted "yes".
THE LOST BOY posted their updated predictions for this year's Oscars, which includes everything from Best Supporting Actress to Best Picture. Their predictions for Best Director are: Kathryn Bigelow for THE HURT LOCKER, Clint Eastwood for INVICTUS, Lee Daniels for PRECIOUS, Jason Reitman for UP IN THE AIR, and Quentin Tarantino for INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (more).
Judd Apatow picked up a few new comedy pitches, according to a report from VARIETY (more). Aziz Ansari, who plays opposite Amy Poehler in the television show "Parks and Recreation", pitched three ideas to Apatow. “We didn’t expect all three to work,” said Ansari. “We had a breakfast meeting with Judd and pitched them. We were like, ‘Which one do you like?’ He wanted all three.” One of the untitled comedies would feature Ansari in a supporting role that draws on his character in FUNNY PEOPLE.
Nov 24POSTED BY GERRY - 1:52PM
This week, Film Fresh brings you ANGELS & DEMONS, the prequel to the 2006 blockbuster THE DA VINCI CODE. Based upon the best-selling book by Dan Brown, ANGELS & DEMONS is directed by Ron Howard and stars Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor and Ayelet Zurer.
This story of Catholic conspiracy grossed $46 million when it opened last May, and it went on to make nearly $500 million in total ticket sales. (more)
The release of the film generated a bit of controversy due to its representation of the Catholic Church. President of the Catholic League Bill Donohue accused both the film and book it was based upon of being anti-Catholic. Donohue’s wanted to ensure that audiences saw the film as a fable “based on malicious myths.” (more)
In David Denby's review published in THE NEW YORKER, he argues that, “Brown and now Ron Howard have added an incendiary element to trash—open hostility toward the Catholic Church.” (more)
Richard Corliss of TIME, however, came to the film’s defense. In his positive review, Corliss writes, “[ANGELS & DEMONS] portrays the Catholic hierarchy as the victim, not the perpetrator, of a grandly evil plot.” (more)
In an interview with the TELEGRAPH, director Ron Howard explained what he ultimately believes the film says about the church. (more)
Give ANGELS & DEMONS a view and decide for yourself.
After making a name for himself with the documentary THE KING OF KONG: A FISTFUL OF QUARTERS, filmmaker Seth Gordon returned with the holiday comedy FOUR CHRISTMASES. Starring Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon, the film tells the story of a couple who are forced to spend the holidays with their extended family.
In an interview published in the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER, Gordon discusses how he went from an indie documentarian to big-budget Hollywood director. (more)
Writer/director Robert Rodriguez seems to alternate between doing exploitation gore fests and family friendly kids movies. SHORTS is one of the filmmaker’s latter endeavors. SHORTS tells multiple interweaving stories surrounding a colorful rock that grants wishes. While the film only earned $6.4 million in the U.S., it received favorable reviews from some top critics. Claudia Puig of USA TODAY called it, “Fast-paced, imaginative and often cute” (more) and Amy Biancolli of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE says the film is “a wild kinetic jumble of images, ideas and flying-candy-bar product placement that would offend if it weren't so forthright.” (more)
New to our Indie section is THE MAIDEN HEIST. Starring Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman, William H. Macy and Marcia Gay Harden, the film premiered at the Edinurgh International Film Festival in May of last year, but lost its distribution deal after the Yari Film Group declared bankruptcy. (more) Now this comedy of three museum security guards who plot to steal valuable artworks finally comes to audiences on DVD and DivX download.