Tag Archives: Cinema

Trailer Reaction – Amy

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Back To Black was a VERY important album, and not just for the mainstream music soundscape. It was an important album to me personally. The Neo-Jazz rhythms, the unflinchingly honest and emotional lyrics, and Amy Winehouse’s Soul-chanteuse vocals. It was easily one of my ‘formative years’ records, and my introduction to a whole new musical world. I got into all kinds of Jazz from all eras thanks to this album’s push. Love her or hate her, Amy Winehouse was a unique artist. There’s still that ever-present buzz in the music aficionado sphere that the Adeles and Duffys owe their big breaks to Winehouse’s first step. Goes without saying that Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi worked wonders with the production.

Okay, enough about the seminal record and more about the trailer. Amy, directed by Asif Kapadia is already looking like a cinematic experience. A humanized portrayal without the Lifetime biopic melodrama. A rise-and-fall chronicle without the True Hollywood Stories sensationalism. I like that the trailer has audio of a young and personable Amy rather than the incoherent, drug-addled mess she became later on. I also love the studio session of Back To Black in the background that gives the song a dark edge.

This is on my 2015 MUST-WATCH and I know tears will fall from my eyes while doing that. Enjoy the trailer here!:

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From The A.V.Club: Can Intimacy Save The Movie Musical?

the last five years

In the wake of the release of The Last Five Years, Caroline Siede at The A.V.Club makes some excellent points about how small-scale musicals that pare down the production value could translate successfully to the screen and perhaps revolutionize the genre. A favorite line: “There‚Äôs nothing inherently bad about big musicals or their big-screen adaptations, but right now Hollywood is only focusing on stadium shows when a whole collection of excellent chamber pieces is waiting in the wings.”

Read it here. And watch The Last Five Years!

http://www.avclub.com/article/can-intimacy-save-movie-musical-215294?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=SocialMarketing&utm_campaign=Default:1:Default

Ava DuVernay Is Bouncing Back With A New Project

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You can throw all the backlash and award snubs her way, but it clearly won’t hold Ava DuVernay down. She has successfully mounted her next project, an as-yet-untitled drama/thriller set in post-Katrina New Orleans.

There are so many great things about this news. First, DuVernay, like countless female directors before her, didn’t have to wait a few years and knock on a few doors before locking her next project. She’s risen from disappointing news to shift her focus on a new film, which is being funded by Participant Media, the distributors of her 2012 Sundance prizewinner Middle of Nowhere.

Also,this is also her third time working with actor David Oyelowo,for all we know these two are headed for a Tarantino/Jackson,Burton/Depp,Scorsese/De Niro(or DiCaprio) kind of long working relationship. Oyelowo is even helping co-produce the project.

And very importantly, this film will deal with the Katrina aftermath from a Black perspective. Instead of the typical ‘Stranger-In-A-Strange-Land’ narrative that would have planted a wealthy White male into the doldrums of destruction among secondary Black characters, the film’s POV will be of the race that bore the biggest brunt of devastation and indifference.

It’s great that DuVernay is getting to pick her projects and do them in quick succession. It’s also great that she’s sticking to these lower-key character-based dramas rather than the proposed bigger-budget alternative. Looking forward to this film already!

Oscar Nominations: What The Hell Guys?

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Before I unload my outrage, I want to maintain that Cheryl Boone Isaacs is the best president A.M.P.A.S has had since Frank Pierson. And based on ‘Dick Poop’, ‘Richard Link-Later’, and an embarrassed moment of silence after announcing the Best Director nominees, she was clearly as shaken as most of us by how The Academy voted this year.

Yeah, isn’t it? To be honest, I smelled disappointment beforehand. Antonio Sanchez’s score for Birdman was disqualified, a good number of impressive films didn’t make the Foreign Language shortlist, and Whiplash was deemed an adapted screenplay.

Then suddenly (like 3 days ago), everyone started falling in love with American Sniper despite it being laced with inaccuracies all over. But since it released wide rather late, it didn’t have to shield itself from accusations the way Selma did for two whole weeks. Deep down, I was scared Selma would pay the price for Sniper‘s upsurge. There was also some overlooking from all the Guilds, but even that didn’t matter.

Here’s an entire pile of shocking snubs in the wake of the nomination announcement:
Selma in most major categories: I called it months ago on this very blog, I said Ava DuVernay will find being nominated much harder than her male counterparts. But I still hoped to be dead wrong, and for a while it seemed that I would be, DuVernay would make history. Today, I hate that I predicted that and I’m amazed that despite her film being superior to three of the nominees (no names will be named), she’s the one who got left out. Moreover, David Oyelowo’s universally acclaimed performance was also ignored in favor of Bradley Cooper. Best Actor, a crowded race this year, was bound to yield some disappointment (Gyllenhaal and Spall also robbed), but Oyelowo was a lock till the last minute, his absence is inexplicable. Bradford Young is the future, his cinematography elevates any indie in quality, also not nominated.

Life Itself: Steve James, the man notoriously overlooked for Hoop Dreams 20 years ago, found himself in the same position with his latest documentary feature despite the acclaim. Roger Ebert would give this move Two Thumbs Down.

Benoit Delhomme: If there’s one fantastic thing about The Theory Of Everything, it’s the breathtaking cinematography. But since Academy voters almost never honor groundbreaking camerawork and lighting (because DP’s should only be people who can shoot vistas of mountains and trees) and thanks to the Reserved For Roger Deakins Spot, younger virtuosos like Delhomme and Young don’t get their due.

Gillian Flynn: The only female scribe with a realistic chance of a screenplay nomination for Gone Girl, was missing from the final list of nominees, a revelation that belied months of Oscar buzz. Flynn used to be a film critic for Entertainment Weekly, could this be a vendetta against her by the voters?

Douglas Crise and Stephen Mirrione: They were supposed to win Film Editing for Birdman, not even nominated. It feels like a cruel joke, except that it isn’t.

Force Majeure: Another apparent lock (in Foreign Language Film) was somehow not in the final five, even though the race seemed down to it and Ida (both films are spectacular btw).

To be completely fair, it isn’t a total letdown, here are some of the pleasant surprises:

Beyond The Lights, the poignant yet little-promoted drama by Gina Prince-Bythewood got some love in Best Original Song with Grateful, a Diane Warren pseudo-ballad. Although, Fly Before You Fall made a far better candidate.

Marion Cotillard landed a Best Actress nod for her phenomenal work in Deux Jours, Une Nuit, and it’s pretty well-deserved. But must say, it’s hard not to feel bad for Jennifer Aniston after the tireless campaigning she did with Cake.

And FINALLY, Wes Anderson got some deserved nominations beyond his staple screenplay nod for The Grand Budapest Hotel, one of my favs this year and one of his best works.

2013 was pretty disappointing in terms of the snubs too, culminating with a horrible ceremony hosted by Seth MacFarlane (We Saw Your Boobs anyone?). But after last year’s wonderful turn, I was hoping things were looking up but clearly, this was a backlash year. Here’s hoping better for 2016.

Ridley Scott’s Response To Exodus Casting Controversy Proves What’s Wrong With Race In Hollywood

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Exodus: Gods and Kings has been trailed by uproar for a while now. Yeah, setting a film in ancient Egypt with an all-White principal cast will do that for you. However, director Ridley Scott has chosen to respond to the criticism. We never got such answers about Noah but that film had issues of its own. Read Scott’s tragic explanation here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/26/ridley-scott-exodus-controversy_n_6225022.html

Well it’s nowhere nearly as tragic as Rupert Murdoch’s ignorance but still. We need to ask ourselves, are we really the shallow, obtuse, self-centered folk they safely assume we are? Is star power more important to us than historical accuracy of a Biblical tale? Do we really want more and more of the same double standards under the guise of our entertainment because it mints studios money? If yes then our species fudged up somewhere along the way. For a film like this where the subject matter alone is controversial, you have a story that could’ve sold the film well, gathering A-list talent isn’t doing much.

To be fair, the film does have some diversity, but the roles they’re in is doubly depressing:
exodus cast image

If you want to fuel this fire by giving it your money, more power to you. If you want this to end, spend your cash on something original instead and wonder why it opened in only six theaters nationwide.

Trailer Reaction : Pan

Guys, I really wanted to give this a fair chance, but sadly it seems to be proving me right.

Joe Wright gave us Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, and one of my favorite pieces of cinematography porn, Anna Karenina. Now he apparently does Studio-Movie-By-Numbers ‘epics’ which will score major intellectualism points because British accents are involved. What’s the point behind such made-up origin stories anyway (apart from the obvious $)? Okay, you want to tell a story differently so that it doesn’t seem overdone, but this one looks absurd. Blackbeard’s getup involves one of the worst wigs ever seen on the screen, in fact the whole look seems too garish. Jackman’s the biggest name in the cast but since the film is called Pan not Blackbeard, the publicity needs to hinge more on young Levi Miller, not the movie’s big bad.It’s been months of ‘Hugh Jackman Shaves Head’ all over the internet as if that alone merits an award of some kind. And when did Hook become a young Indiana Jones? Are we that desperate to market a heartthrob? And by the way, the whole him and Peter being BFFs is not the least bit plausible.

And now a paragraph on the issue I cannot shut up about: Tiger Lily. Yes, despite generations worth of controversy, Wright and Warner Brothers chose to highlight the existence of the cringe-inducingly named Piccaninny Tribe. Casting Rooney Mara alone was a faux pas but based on this first look, they clearly thought they were doing things ‘differently’. Let’s not dress them in earthy tones with a solitary feather around their heads, let’s turn them into exotic parrots! The colorful feathers and Fruit Loops-flavored makeup do nothing to resuscitate a stereotypical image,if anything they perpetuate a new, even more cartoonish one. Here’s to another 100 plus years of indoctrinated racism!

I’m most likely giving this one a miss, but it’s not like there’s much good to miss out on. Like most studio blockbusters today, this one has a glaring lack of shelf life. I just hope Joe Wright returns to the good stuff again.

Movie Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

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(there’s a bonus part at the end)

The closing chapter of The Hunger Games has been opened.

If you’re still asking why the last book was (unnecessarily) split into two films, you’re a naive spirit who knows nothing of the world (hint: $$$$). But the cash grab comes at a cost, Part 1 feels more like a teaser, a build-up of events that will crescendo in Part 2. That’s not to say it doesn’t have it’s own climax, but you wouldn’t be blamed for feeling just a little bit shortchanged. Remember Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1? It’s a similar feeling. However, Suzanne Collins’ books aren’t nearly as lengthy so there’s no beating around the bush, hence this film ends at a reasonable time.

Danny Strong’s screenplay with a rewrite from Peter Craig (who also adapted The Town to the big screen)indicates two strong screenwriters knowing how to tie things up neatly. What’s missing though is the omnipresent tension Simon Beaufoy and Michael Arndt created in Catching Fire. But then again, Catching Fire began and ended within one film.

The unusual nightmare sequence is a fitting start, and things get into action soon after. We’re soon introduced to the familiar faces who survived the events of the Quarter Quell and are now taking refuge in the underground District 13. Then there’s the grand addition of Julianne Moore as Alma Coin, the district’s president.

Moore knows how to play strong and resilient without overdoing the angry or passive-aggressive. She’s a character at peace with herself while at war with the Capitol which makes for a great performance. Equally enthralling is the late Philip Seymour Hoffman in a turn so animated, you forget the actor has been dead for almost a year, until the end credits remind you with a dedication. Mahershala Ali is also introduced as Boggs, the head of security at District 13 and Katniss’ immediate new ally, blending in seamlessly with a dignified presence. But major props go to Elizabeth Banks as a de-glammed Effie, who might have been stripped off of her wigs and costumes but not her snark.

I’ve always felt that the entire book and film series can be summed up as an allegory on various sociopolitical issues. The main analysis of this part is definitely media manipulation. The 13th District use Katniss as their charismatic mascot, their titular Mockingjay. They begin creating video clips with the help of a professional film crew led by Cressida Bonas (a Skrillex-haired Natalie Dormer). They film guerrilla-style snippets to rile up their supporters. On the other hand, the Capitol broadcasts talk show-like one-on-one’s between a hostage Peeta and Caesar Flickerman who does his best using emotionally manipulative language. The film nails this look at two different parties connecting to their core audience with the appropriate platforms and images.

The sound design throughout is a work of beauty. The crashes, bangs, and thuds never shoot out yet still hit you hard.The emphasis is not the volume of the sound, but it’s impact. The foley work is realistic and never sounds looped in during post-production, a problem that plagues many blockbusters today. James Newton Howard’s score too is the right amount of subtle, never highjacking a moment (*cough* Interstellar *cough*)

This subtlety thankfully carries over into the action sequences. Believe it or not, no in your face destruction or bevvy of screen-hogging explosions, even when air raids destroy structures or when a dam explodes in a bomb attack. The Michael Bay’s of the industry need to take cues from Francis Lawrence. Speaking of which, mea culpa time. I was quick to judge Lionsgate’s hiring of Lawrence when Gary Ross departed. Owing to his previous work, the one thing I never thought he would add was subtlety, yet he’s done a commendable job on two and soon three films.

The two lynchpins that hold the conflict are heroine Katniss and big bad Coriolanus Snow. Color me biased, but I find Jennifer Lawrence to be a primary reason why Katniss Everdeen is so iconic. She’s equal parts strength and vulnerability, letting her rage take over when needed and breaking down when her loved ones are at risk. She’s a person, not an archetype. It really helps that Lawrence personable enough to add dimension to her character. Donald Sutherland is a masterclass happening before you. Like the seasoned veteran that he is, he gives Snow – a ruthless tyrant who wears white roses on his lapel to cover the blood stench in his mouth caused by poison sores- a soft-spoken cadence and an almost paternal disposition. The only thing scarier than an angry dangerous man is an unusually calm dangerous man.

Bonus- HERE is the best part:

If you read the book, you know about when Pollux requests Katniss to sing which Cressida & the crew record. Suzanne Collins wrote the poetic hymn The Hanging Tree into the book to be this song. Katniss describes it as a song her father taught her, but people could no longer sing because it was deemed anti-Capitol. Well fans, the song made it to the movie! The Lumineers gave it a melody and James Newton Howard added a score. I personally love the song because it reminds me of Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit and Joan Baez’s The Tress They Do Grow High, rosy melodies coded with macabre subtext. Jennifer Lawrence can definitely hold a note, her husky vocals add a new depth. In the context of when it appears in the film, it’s goosebumps-inducing and becomes the unofficial anthem of protest for all the districts. Listen here: