News Archive: January – April 2012

Sally Hawkins joins Woody Allen’s San Francisco feature

 

In a potentially intriguing collaboration, Sally Hawkins has joined the cast of Woody Allen’s next feature, scheduled to shoot in San Francisco but currently without a name.  Hawkins came to the fore in Mike Leigh’s Happy-Go-Lucky with the kind of offbeat performance that Allen’s likeable but neurotic characters.  It should enter production this summer for a 2013 release as part of his demanding schedule of shooting a film every year.  The busy Allen is also working on a musical adaptation of his crime-drama, Bullets Over Broadway for the New York stage.  GE 30 April 2012

 

 

Ang Lee’s Life of Pi hits the mark at CinemaCom

 

Adapting novels is a meaningless exercise unless the filmmaker can impose his own authorial stamp and transform it into an original work that is truly cinematic.  Ang Lee’s 3D film version of Yann Martel’s Booker Prize winner, Life of Pi, is one of the more intriguing adaptations currently in post production for the very reason that it does not easily lend itself to the big screen.  The harder the challenge, the greater the demand for originality and the higher the expectations for the final result.  Martel’s philosophical novel has a young boy on board a lifeboat lost at sea with only a tiger for company, and judging by the emphatic reaction to the 10 minutes footage screened at CinemaCom, industry insiders, at least, are confident that Lee has nailed it.  With a US release strategically positioned at the end of the year, we can safely expect a huge awards season push commensurate to its large budget.  GE 27 April 2012

 

 

Lone Scherfig attached to My Life In Orange

 

Lone Scherfig will direct an adaptation of Tim Guest’s My Life In Orange, a disturbing memoir of his childhood experienced in an Indian commune gone wrong.   With the adults pursuing a lifestyle free of formal structures, neglected children formed their own mini society with damaging consequences.  Focus Features, that worked with Scherfig on her romantic comedy, One Day, will fund the production and distribute it worldwide.  Scherfig is best known for An Education, which received three Oscar nominations, including best film.  GE 26 April 2012

 

 

Sticking to the facts

 

Charlotte Gainsbourg will star in Lars von Trier’s latest attempt to push the boundaries of serious cinema and test the resolve of the censors.  It will be the third time that Gainsbourg has placed herself into the firing line of Von Trier’s extremes having played major roles in his last two features, Melancholia and Antichrist.  Von Trier has done a characteristically superb job winding-up the global media and gullible right wingers with a provocative tagline and talk of filming a second version for viewing outside the censorship system.  But, as we all know, nobody enjoys the ‘enfant terrible’ label more than Von Trier and it is prudent to take any comments that he makes with a huge pinch of salt.  Sticking to the facts, his focus on the erotic side of a woman’s life through to 50 will contain controversial material but Von Trier has never once compromised his artistic integrity and we can fully expect a weighty piece of filmmaking that transcends the pre-screening hype and subject matter.  GE 25 April 2012

 

 

Gus Van Sant extends cast for ‘fracking’ drama

 

Titus Welliver has joined the cast of Gus Van Sant’s next feature, Promised Land, that already boasts Matt Damon and Frances McDormand.  A tale of big business clashing with small town American Popularism becomes a pretext for an assault on the reckless practice of ‘fracking’ where huge quantities of chemical solutions crack the bedrock to release previously inaccessible valuable gas.  Documentary filmmaker, Josh Fox, did much to expose the damage it causes to America’s water supply in his Academy Award nominated film, GasLand, best known for the sight of various homeowners waving a lighted match over a running tap, only for the gas in the water to burst into flames.  Matt Damon, who co-wrote the script, originally intended to direct the film before passing the project to Van Sant due to a busy schedule.  GE 20 April 2012

 

 

Cannes line-up for main competition

 

With Cannes predictions being almost as accurate as award season trends, it is often those outsiders for Palme d’Or success, which the pundits have overlooked in the build-up, that grab the headlines upon the announcement of the programme for the main competition.  So it proved today upon the unveiling of this year’s line-up where the inclusion of new films from world cinema heavyweights, Michael Haneke, Abbas Kiarostami and Jacques Audiard was such a shoo-in that their presence was barely newsworthy.  Amongst the surprises, on the other hand, there were some welcome entries, including John Hillcoat’s Lawless, which seemed set for a Venice world premiere at the end of festival season, and Alain Resnais’ follow up to his outstanding late work, Wild Grass.  Perhaps the most notable and telling absence was the complete lack of women filmmakers on the list.  GE 19 April 2012

 

 

Darren Aronofsky’s new George Washington biopic

 

Darren Aronofsky is developing a biopic on George Washington but will not allow the conventions of the genre to restrict his flamboyant style.  Early indications suggest that Aronofsky will not shy away from the uglier side of politics; possibly, focusing on the difference between Washington’s lofty aspirations and the disappointing reality beyond the control of any one individual.  It is very early stages but Paramount is currently considering the project pursuant to a ‘first look deal’ with Aronofsky.  GE 18 April 2012

 

 

Quentin Tarantino releases official synopsis of Django Unchained

 

After months of speculation and alleged leaks, Quentin Tarantino’s official synopsis of his forthcoming Django Unchained does more than provide clarification of the plot and casting.  It is clear that Tarantino will establish unlikely partnerships and conflicts to tease out new complexities surrounding the full reprehensible horror of 19th century American slavery.  Jamie Fox will play an escaped slave who joins forces with Christoph Waltz’s bounty hunter with the aim of freeing his wife from an infamous plantation, which lies under the watchful eye of the owner’s trusted ‘house slave’.  Tarantino will focus on subjects who are operating at the margins of society but have contrasting perceptions of their relationship to the ruling group.  GE 16 April 2012

 

 

Brad Pitt & Javier Bardem join cast of The Counsellor

 

Brad Pitt & Javier Bardem have joined Michael Fassbender in the cast of Ridley Scott’s highly anticipated new feature, The Counsellor.  It generated huge excitement even before Scott’s involvement for being the first film based on an original screenplay from leading author, Cormac McCarthy.  The plot follows a corrupt lawyer who succumbs to temptation before quickly falling dangerously out his depth.  McCarthy uses it as pretext for developing some of the themes that he explored in his best known novel, No Country For Old Men, which the Coen Bros adapted for the Oscar winning film version.  Angelina Jolie is in negotiations to play the female lead.  GE 13 April 2012

 

 

Simon Curtis making online dating romantic comedy

 

Simon Curtis will turn his attention to online dating in his new romantic comedy, Click to Connect, that Fox 2000 will back.  It is still in pre-production with no actors attached but Curtis intends to cover an extensive age range that will respond to the dating service differently.  A key attraction of the project is that it focuses on the precise point where the online personae meet real lives.  It remains to be seen whether Curtis will take advantage of this opportunity to explore some of the important identity issues arising from the development of the net in the 21st century.  Curtis made the switch from TV to cinema with his debut feature, My Week with Marilyn.  GE 12 April 2012

 

Susanne Bier has started filming on Serena

 

Susanne Bier will return to the Depression era in her new film, Serena, a timely parable of greed where a ruthless married couple create a timber empire only for it to implode when they turn on each other.  Jennifer Lawrence is cast in the title role as the wife, whose jealousy undermines her judgement when discovering that she cannot have children.  Based on Ron Rash’s award winning novel of the same name, it is a potentially intriguing mix of flawed capitalism and gender politics.  Bier, who won a best foreign language Oscar for her last film, In a Better World, has commenced filming.  GE 11 April 2012

 

 

David Michod remains in Australia for second feature

 

In demand filmmaker, David Michod, has turned down offers from Hollywood in favour of developing a project that he conceived with Joel Edgerton.  Little is known of the plot beyond that he seems set to retain obsession as a major theme albeit in different circumstances from his impressive debut, Animal Kingdom.  Michod will film in his native Australia and hopes to enter production during the autumn.  It is not known whether Edgerton will make an appearance.  GE 6 April 2012

 

 

Olivia Wilde and Liam Neeson are set to return for Haggis’ next feature

 

Paul Haggis (Crash) is the latest filmmaker to explore the impact of globalization on personal relationships through separate stories in different countries that eventually combine in an unexpected way.  Olivia Wilde and Liam Neeson are set to return from Haggis’ previous feature, The Next Three Days, and Jude Law, who starred in Fernando Meirelles’ thematically similar 360, may join the cast.  The globally-linked stories concept is starting to wear a little thin and Haggis will require some strong plot lines to pull it off. Filming will get under way later this year.  GE 4 April 2012

 

 

US Release for Damsels In Distress this weekend

 

Ruthlessly independent American filmmaker, Whit Stillman, marked his return to the big screen after a 13-year absence when the Venice International Film Festival selected his off-beat comedy, Damsels In Distress, as its closing film.  Sony Pictures, who acquired worldwide rights earlier this year, will now release it in various key territories, starting with the US this coming weekend.  Greta Gerwig stars as a self-appointed post-feminist guru, who pursues increasingly more surreal ways of challenging male domination at a so-called liberal university.  GE 3 April 2012

 

 

Matteo Garrone is the latest filmmaker to focus on reality TV

 

With celebrity obsession seemingly getting worse, Matteo Garrone is the latest filmmaker to focus on reality TV.  His new film, Big House, will explore the ‘reality gap’ emerging in wider society from the delusional many chasing stardom on the back of little talent.  Speculation that the film was set to receive a world premiere at next month’s Cannes increased when it featured on the mysterious list of apparent competition entries that briefly appeared on the film festival’s official website.  Garrone’s previous feature, Gomorrah, won the Special Grand Prix at Cannes 2008.  GE 2 April 2012

 

 

Jonathan Dayton’s and Valerie Faris’ second feature will receive US release on July 25

 

Jonathan Dayton’s and Valerie Faris’ second feature will tackle the pressures of following an unlikely debut smash hit as an integral part of the film’s plot.  Faced with the huge expectations arising from their own breakout Sundance success, Little Miss Sunshine, they have conjured up a surreal tale of a writer unable to cope with the pressures of writing a bestselling first novel.  The impressive Paul Dano will play the novelist, who gets more than he expected when inventing a fictional muse to overcome a classic case of writer’s block.  It is almost six years since Little Miss Sunshine arrived in US theatres but the long wait for the follow-up will end with its release on July 25. Actress, Zoe Kazan, whose credits include Revolutionary Road and Meek’s Cutoff, provides the script.  GE 28 March 2012

 

 

New print of Gance’s masterpiece

 

Such is the dazzling brilliance of Abel Gance’s French Impressionist masterpiece, Napoleon, it remains one of cinema’s greatest artistic and technical achievements some 85 years after the original release. With its astonishing array of innovative stylistic combinations, Gance found a cinematic perfection of a kind that those armed with the latest hi-tech CGI spend their time seeking. A recently restored print, complete with 30 minutes additional footage, receives its US premiere this weekend and provides an opportunity for a new generation to experience it as Gance intended.  GE 23 March 2012

 

 

Expectations high for Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis

 

Anticipation is now reaching fever pitch ahead of David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, a near certainty for a world premiere at this year’s Cannes. With Cronenberg’s dark imagination let loose on Don DeLillo’s novel of the same name, expect an extravagant take on economic meltdown in the vein of Jean-Luc Godard’s masterpiece of noir nihilism, Weekend. Rob Pattinson stars as a Wall Street multi-billionaire tycoon, who loses his fortune on a surreal odyssey across Manhattan en route to receiving a haircut. It receives a French release at the end of May and follows hot on the heels of the strangely underrated A Dangerous Method, where Cronenberg neatly turned the tables on Freud and Jung with a careful deconstruction of both egos upon their own terms.  GE  22 March 2012

 

 

Hopkins plans a spring shoot

 

Duane Hopkins’ hard-hitting debut feature, Better Things, became a surprise success at Cannes for its thought provoking portrayal of addiction in contemporary Western society.  His keenly awaited follow-up, Bypass, explores the ethical implications of a new underclass that has arisen as a by-product of the greed culture.  It features a young father contemplating his son’s prospects of escaping an immorality trap and Hopkins plans to commence shooting this spring.  GE 21 March 2012

 

 

Las Acacias to receive a US release

 

One of the best films of last year and deserved winner of the Camera d’Or at Cannes, Pablo Giorgelli’s Las Acacias, will now receive a US release.  The charming road movie was an important addition to the dynamic Argentinian New Wave, and Spanish-language specialists, Outsider Pictures, made the acquisition at the Miami International Film Festival.  German de Silva and Hebe Duarte star as two unlikely soul matters on a long journey who discover in each other reflections of a former life that had seemingly slipped beyond their grasp.  This is one for the discerning cinephile, who understands that silent moments can speak louder than the written script.  GE 16 March 2012

 

 

Martin Scorsese set to adapt Jordan Belfort’s memoir

 

After a long flirtation period, Martin Scorsese will now adapt Jordan Belfort’s memoir, The Wolf Of Wall Street, as his next project.  Leonardo DiCaprio will play the real life Gordon Gekko-type Wall Street stockbroker whose dodgy dealings led to his serving a stretch in federal prison for securities fraud.  It remains to be seen how Scorsese will tackle financial greed and related themes at a time when many of us, often hypocritically, are still playing the blame game.  Scorsese is hoping to commence shooting this summer.  GE 15 March 2012

 

 

Sally Potter’s new feature pre-sells in various territories

 

Sally Potter’s latest film has already created an early buzz with arthouse specialist, The Match Factory completing pre-sales in various territories.  The strong cast of leading actresses, including Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks and Annette Bening, reflects Potter’s reputation for creating some of the more interesting female roles during recent times.  The film, which is currently in production, will explore tensions that arise for two teenage girls negotiating sweeping changes in Sixties London.  Potter remains best known for her innovative adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Feminist masterpiece, Orlando.  GE 14 March 2012

 

 

Wes Anderson to open Cannes

 

It does not come as any real surprise that Cannes has selected Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom as this year’s festival opener on May 16. Speculation of a Croisette appearance began before Christmas when Focus Features set a US release date for the end of May. Add to that, the ‘red carpet’ star power of Ed Norton, Bill Murray and Bruce Willis, amongst many others, and Anderson’s standing as a leading auteur, it was not difficult to predict the outcome. His seventh feature returns to the mid-Sixties and a New England island somewhat removed from the youth revolution under way on the mainland. Panic sets in when two children elope as a precursor to more significant changes further down the line. Sony Pictures Classics adopted a similar release strategy for last year’s opener, Woody Allen’s most successful commercial film to date, Midnight in Paris.  GE 9 March 2012

 

 

Red Flag Releasing and Fox Searchlight take Duplass’ SXSW title

 

Jay and Mark Duplass (Cyrus) will take a quirky look at contradictions within American ideology in their latest feature, The Do-Deca Pentathlon, which receives a world premiere at SXSW on Sunday. The competitive spirit that underpins many of America’s most sacred values spills over into family life when two adult brothers disrupt the status quo through re-staging childhood games. Red Flag Releasing and Fox Searchlight have already acquired US rights and we can expect a theatrical release during June.  GE 8 March 2012

 

 

Woody Allen joins cast of John Turturro’s latest feature

 

Woody Allen has joined the cast of John Turturro’s fifth feature and will star in another director’s work for the first time in over a decade. It seems appropriate that one of the most resolutely independent auteurs of the last 50 years should join forces with a younger filmmaker cut from the same cloth. Allen and Turturro will play two impoverished accomplices looking to improve their fortunes through the gigolo industry where comedy becomes the pretext for exploring cultural complexities within modern America. Negotiations are also under way for Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara to co-star.  GE 7 March 2012

 

 

Radius-TWC takes Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives

 

The Weinstein Company’s new multi-platform arm, Radius-TWC has acquired US distribution rights to Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives, which is currently in production.  Ryan Gosling returns from Refn’s critical success, Drive, and plays a gangster in Bangkok with revenge on his mind after a policeman killed his brother.  Expect another slick, ultra-cool thriller within the film noir tradition that has much to say about masculinity in the 21st century.  A strong cast also includes Kristin Scott Thomas and Tom Burke.  GE 4 March 2012

 

Emma Watson joins the cast of Sofia Coppola’s new feature

 

Sofia Coppola will commence shooting during the spring on her follow-up to Somewhere, a Golden Lion winner at the Venice International Film Festival.  Emma Watson, who made her name playing Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter franchise, has now joined the cast.  Coppola will dramatise an extraordinary real life case, which goes a long way to epitomising our fame-obsessed society at its most troubling extremes.  A group of teenagers satisfied their star compulsion/fetish by burgling the homes of many celebrities, including Paris Hilton, whom they targeted on more than one occasion.  It will be interesting to see how Coppola handles material caught in a vicious circle, of which her film will inevitably form part.  GE 1 March 2012

 

 

Nicole Kidman in talks for Roman Joffe’s Before I Go To Sleep

 

Nicole Kidman is set to join the cast of Roman Joffe’s Before I Go To Sleep, a potentially intriguing exploration of short term memory loss and the dangers of reconnecting to a lost reality.  Adapted from Steve Watson’s acclaimed novel of the same name, Kidman will play a middle-aged woman, who wakes each morning having forgotten the whole of her married life.  The psychological thriller, which will touch upon some of the same themes as Christopher Nolan’s Memento, follows Joffe’s underrated version of Brighton Rock.  GE 29 February 2012

 

 

Jonathan Demme adapts Ibsen

 

The versatile, Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Rachel Getting Married) will commence filming shortly on his latest film, Wally And André Shoot Ibsen.  Demme has based it on a new adaptation of The Master Builder, Ibsen’s challenging but insightful late play on mid-life crisis.  Wallace Shawn will play the complacent architect who embarks upon a series of dangerous power games with a much younger woman that he had met ten years earlier.  Those who have enjoyed Demme’s work within the independent sector, will be interested in its budget of less than $1 million.  GE 28 February 2012

 

 

The Oscar Dilemma

 

The awards season has created a dilemma for the Oscars that this year’s circus of ‘back smacking’ has fully exposed.  Its ceremony has to take pride of place, of course, climaxing the seemingly endless stream of announcements.  But, with the guilds’ members being key players in the Oscar process and staggeringly susceptible to momentum, there is an obvious danger that the majority of categories will be a foregone conclusion well in advance.  Which is precisely what happened this year with The Artist taking best film, director and actor in line with the trending over a long period of time.  Best actress was the only competitive category amongst the headline awards but, Meryl Streep, the eventual winner, did emerge as the favourite as the ceremony approached.  Even the best foreign language film, renowned for going against the grain, went to the clear frontrunner, In Separation.  Only Undefeated’s success as best feature documentary was a genuine surprise.  GE 27 February 2012

 

 

Weinstein threatens to withdrawal from the MPAA rating system

 

Harvey Weinstein has taken the film censorship dispute to a new level by threatening a withdrawal from the MPAA rating system.  This latest controversy came to a head when his appeal against the R rating for Lee Hirsch’s forthcoming Bully, failed by one vote.  The keenly awaited documentary tackles school bullying from a variety of perspectives but the decision will inevitably restrict access for some of those most directly effected.  Joan Graves, the appeal board’s chairwoman, justified the strict rules interpretation by arguing that parents should have the option of controlling whether their children see the film.  Historically, industry insiders have been reluctant to take direct action against the self-regulating system for fear that an imposed substitute could prove even more draconian. It remains to be seen how far Weinstein will push it.  GE 24 February 2012

 

 

Cristian Mungiu seems set for a Cannes return

 

Cristian Mungiu, who won the Palme d’Or at Cannes five years ago with arguably the finest achievement of the Romanian new wave, 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days, seems set to make a return to the Croisette this May for the world premiere of Beyond The Hills.  Based on a true story, two girls unite in later life having formed a close bond at an orphanage.  Their very different paths provide Mungiu with a pretext to explore migration, nationhood, religion and other themes relevant to Eastern Europe.  Sundance Selects has now acquired North American rights and there should be a release later this year.  GE 21 February  2012

 

 

US release date for Richard Linklater’s Bernie

 

Bernie, the latest in Richard Linklater’s own brand of American indie filmmaking, will arrive in US theatres on April 27 for a limited release.  Linklater employs documentary filmmaking techniques within a dramatisation of a true story that raises moral issues that seem beyond the comprehension of its characters.  Jack Black stars as an affable community man who reveals another side of his character when an elderly widow tests his patience in a sleepy East Texas town.  The film opened last year’s Los Angeles Film Festival and it boasts a strong cast that also includes Matthew McConaughey and  Shirley MacLaine.  GE 20 February 2012

 

 

Terence Davies’ Sunset Song project in pre-production

 

Terence Davies will commence shooting at the end of the year on his adaptation of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s classic novel, Sunset Song, that he first planned over 10 years ago.  Set at the beginning of the last century, it will depict the harsh realities of Scottish rural life against the backdrop of an unstoppable modernisation.  Expect Davies to blend deeply personal stories, universal observations and innovative narration in much the same way as his previous feature,The Deep Blue Sea, which premiered at last year’s Toronto IFF.  Davies almost secured funding five years ago but negotiations faltered at the eleventh hour.  GE 17 February 2012

 

 

Lee Daniels returns to Segregation movie

 

Lee Daniels (Precious) is once again developing his intriguing sideways look at the fight to end segregation through the eyes of Eugene Allen, a real-life butler, who served eight presidents during his long career at the White House.  David Oyelowo  is the preferred choice to play Allen after starring in Daniels’ previous feature, The Paperboy.  There is also a possibility that John Cusack may return for the latest screen portrayal of Richard Nixon.  Daniels, whose proposed civil rights drama, Selma, did not proceed, has rewritten a draft script originally prepared by the actor turned writer, Danny Strong.  GE  17 February 2012

 

 

Release date for Andrew Dominik’s Cogan’s Trade

 

One of the most keenly anticipated films of the year, Andrew Dominik’s Cogan’s Trade, will arrive in US cinemas on September 21st.  The follow-up to Dominik’s outstanding revisionist Western, Assassination Of Jesse James, sees a continuation of his collaboration with Brad Pitt.  Dominik will look to breathe new life into the gangster genre with a lively interpretation of George V. Higgins’ novel of the same name with Pitt playing a mob enforcer.  It seems more than a coincidence that the release date follows the climax of the festival season and we can expect a world premiere at Venice, possibly in competition, followed by a high-profile gala screening at Toronto.  The Weinstein Company will distribute.  GE 16 February 2012

 

 

New Almodovar feature

 

Pedro Almodovar will commence shooting this summer on his new feature, The Brief Lovers, a lively comedy with attitude; possibly in the mode of his early work.  Negotiations are under way with Javier Camara to reunite with Almodovar after starring in Talk To Her and Bad Education.  Almodovar’s previous film, The Skin I Live In, maintained the Spanish auteur’s success at the BAFTA’s, when he won the best foreign film award for the fifth time on Sunday night ahead of the clear favourite, A Separation.  GE 14 February 2012

 

 

Considine adapting The Year of the Locust

 

Paddy Considine is adapting Jon Hotten’s book, The Year of the Locust, a portrayal of boxing at its most seedy, with the real life murder of a dodgy promoter under investigation for match-fixing.  It seems appropriate material for Considine, who did not pull any punches in his hard-edged debut feature, Tyrannosaur, which won a best directors award at Sundance last year.  Considine may also develop an intriguing ghost story that looks at family secrets from unusual perspectives.  GE 14 February 2012

 

 

BAFTA Awards

 

As expected, The Artist dominated the BAFTA awards, bagging seven in total, including the best film, director, original screenplay and leading actor.  Momentum has been firmly behind the silent feature for most of the awards season and it seems set to dominate the Oscars later this month.

 

Meryl Streep won best actress for her performance in The Iron Lady.  She will receive strong competition from Viola Davis and Michelle Williams at the Oscars.

 

The best supporting actor and actresses awards went to the pre-ceremony favourites, Christopher Plummer (Beginners) and Octavia Spencer (The Help) respectively.

 

Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy won best adapted screenplay category.  In an emotional moment, Peter Straughan dedicated the award to his wife and co-scriptwriter, Bridget O’Connor, who sadly died last September.  Tomas Alfredson’s feature also received recognition as best British film.

 

Senna was one of the evening’s main winners taking the inaugural best documentary award and seeing off The Artist to take best editor.

 

Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation, winner of the Golden Bear at Berlin, seemed set to take the best foreign language film but the ceremony proved that, as far as BAFTA is concerned, it is dangerous to bet against Pedro Almodovar.  Winning for a fifth time, Almodovar won with The Skin I Live In.  GE 12 February 2012

 

 

Stephen Kijack to shoot this summer on Shoplifters Of The World

 

One of the more interesting films currently in pre-production, Stephen Kijack’s Shoplifters Of The World, should commence shooting this summer.  Kijack has made his reputation with particularly insightful musical documentaries, including Scott Walker 30th Century Man, an involving exploration into the former chart topping singer’s solitary pursuit of an extreme improvisation of the human voice.  His latest project switches to the dramatisation of a different kind of musical event when a Smith’s fan took a DJ hostage as a protest against the band’s break-up.  Kijack has assembled a notable cast of young talent including Jessica Brown-Findlay & James Frecheville.  GE 10 February 2012

 

 

Ralph Fiennes’ Dickens drama will start production during April

 

Ralph Fiennes will commence shooting during April on his second feature in the director’s chair, a dramatisation of Charles Dickens secret life with his mistress, Nelly Ternan.  He will play the lead alongside rising star Felicity Jones (Like Crazy) in a strong cast that includes Kristin Scott Thomas, who starred with Fiennes in Academy Award winner, The English Patient.  Based on Claire Tomalin’s critically acclaimed biography, it is one of a number of projects celebrating the 200th anniversary of Dickens’ birth.  Fiennes impressed with his debut film, Coriolanus, where he gave contemporary political significance to the first film version of Shakespeare’s final tragedy.  GE 9 February 2012

 

 

Philip Seymour Hoffman set to join A Most Wanted Man

 

Anton Corbijn did not receive the full recognition that he deserved for his last feature, The American, an allegorical portrayal of the US floundering in a new world of invisible enemies that hold the upper hand.  His latest project, an adaptation of John Le Carre’s post-9/11 novel, A Most Wanted Man, tackles the West’s response to that threat in the form of the ‘war on terror’.  A Chechian Muslim illegally emigrating to Hamburg will be the catalyst for the morally ambiguous tale that incorporates elements of the experiences of a real life Guantanamo detainee.  Philip Seymour Hoffman is now at an advanced stage with negotiations to join the cast of this extremely promising production.  GE 8 February 2012

 

 

Oscar frontrunner caught in controversy

 

The critical success of Iran’s vibrant new wave has constantly caused an ideological dilemma for its Government. Virtually all of the films contravened its strict regulations but, pleased with the reflected glory, the Government was reluctant to intervene. An uneasy truce emerged for over a decade, with it turning a convenient blind eye to some abuses but banning any theatrical exhibition within Iran itself. This all changed dramatically with the green revolution, and a new hardline policy lead to the high-profile arrest of Jafar Panahi and other leading filmmakers.

 

A Separation, the clear favourite to take this year’s foreign language Oscar, is the latest film to come under the spotlight, for its remarkable portrayal of a new Iranian middle class at odds with traditional conceptions of gender and religion. Influential pro-Government supporters are now accusing it, as part of a co-ordinated attack, of deliberately painting a distorted view of Iranian society for the appeal of Western audiences.

 

Earlier this year, A Separation received the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.  GE 6 February 2012

 

 

Amy Adams, Samantha Morton and Carey Mulligan circling Spike Jonze’s new feature

 

Spike Jonze is developing his new feature, which in the wonderfully surreal spirit of Being John Malkovich, will take a sideways look at contemporary society via a man who falls head over heels in love with a computer voice.  There is now the mouth-watering prospect that three of the industry’s finest, Amy Adams, Samantha Morton and Carey Mulligan, will join Joaquin Phoenix in a gold-plated cast.  Any new project by Jonze, one of the most interesting voices in world cinema, will always attract ‘A’ listers looking for intelligent roles.  GE 3 February 2012

 

 

Foxfire in line for TIFF

 

One of the most anticipated films currently in post-production, Laurent Cantet’s adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ novel, Foxfire, is likely to receive its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.  It is a morally complex tale of teenage girls taking revenge against their abusive male counterparts when the prevailing legal system was woefully inadequate in 1950’s small town America.  Cantet works with another young cast after inspiring outstanding performances from children in his previous feature, The Class, which bagged the Palme d’Or at Cannes four years ago.  GE 2 February 2012

 

 

Mia Wasikowska joins Richard Ayoade’s The Double

 

Rising star, Mia Wasikowska has joined the cast of Richard Ayoade’s eye-catching new feature, an innovative take on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novella, The Double.  As with his playful debut feature, Submarine, Ayoade intends to blend comedy and pathos to explore serious problems that invade ordinary lives.  He will retain Dostoyevsky’s doppelganger theme but apply it to the debilitating impact of alienation and loneliness in contemporary America.  Wasikowska joins Jesse Eisenberg, whose talent for portraying introverted characters seems particularly well suited to this project.  Ayoade hopes to commence shooting during the first half of the year.  GE 1 February 2012

 

Bier’s Serena adaptation

 

Susanne Bier will return us to the Great Depression for a tale of greed that is as pertinent now as it was then.  Adapted from Ron Rash’s highly acclaimed novel, Serena, it stars Jennifer Lawrence as a business woman without morals looking for world domination of the timber industry.  Bradley Cooper plays her equally ruthless husband who is as handy stabbing his enemies in the physical as well as the metaphorical sense.  Bier showed us the darkest side of life last time out with her powerful Oscar-winning In A Better World, and then compromised her vision during an over-neat ending.  Let’s hope that Bier sees the logic of this parable through to its natural conclusion.  Shooting commences shortly.  GE 31 January 2012

 

 

Weinstein Takes Lay The Favourite

 

The Weinstein Company, which was generally quiet at Sundance, acquired US rights to Stephen Frears’ new feature, Lay The Favourite, as the festival closed. The versatile Frears, best known for The Queen and Dangerous Liaisons, turns his hand to a playful gambling caper starring the impressive Rebecca Hall (Vicky Cristina Barcelona).  It is very different in tone from Frears’ altogether more sinister portrayal of gambling in the outstanding film noir revival piece, The Grifters over twenty years ago.  Frears is, nevertheless, revisiting his back catalogue for a possible remake of his even earlier hard-boiled supergrass feature, The Hit, but within a new American context.  GE 30 January 2012

 

 

Kate Winslet and Catherine Keener on board for Kaufman’s musical

 

Kate Winslet and Catherine Keener have joined the cast of Charlie Kaufman’s forthcoming musical with a difference, Frank Or Francis.  One of the most imaginative minds in cinema, the screenwriter turned filmmaker will focus his surreal eye onto a full-blown cynical deconstruction of contemporary Hollywood.  Having received almost universal praise for penning two of the most memorable films of recent times, Being John Malkovich & Adaptation, Kaufman occasionally veered towards self-indulgence in his directorial debut, Synechdoche, New York.  Steve Carell, Jack Black and Kevin Kline are already on board but there is some way to go before the cameras roll.  GE 26 January 2012

 

 

Spike Lee considers options

 

Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer may signal a more permanent return to his cutting edge roots than first envisaged.  Coinciding with the delayed shoot of his proposed US version of Oldboy, Lee is resurrecting an earlier project exploring current racial tension in areas of urban deprivation.  Funding will be a major issue, as always, but it is generally welcome news for those of us who feel that more original material would better serve Lee’s talent.  It remains to be seen, of course, whether Oldboy will slip down the pecking order.  GE 25 January 2012

 

 

Searchlight acquires The Surrogate

 

Fox Searchlight has acquired worldwide rights to Ben Lewin’s, The Surrogate, which received its world premiere on Monday as part of Sundance’s US dramatic competition.  Searchlight is never slow to spot potential breakout material (Little Miss Sunshine, Juno) and concluded the deal at rapid pace after the standing ovation at the film’s launch.  Based on a true story, a poet with an iron lung discovers a strong emotional attachment after hiring a sex surrogate to lose his virginity.  John Hawkes leads a strong cast that includes Helen Hunt and William H Macy.  GE 24 January 2012

 

 

84th Academy Award Nominations

 

Rule changes make it difficult to predict how many films will receive nominations in the best picture category, but the final tally of nine was higher than anticipated; making a mockery of many pre-announcement predictions and trending reports.  The Artist remains the clear favourite and it is joined by the only realistic challengers, The Descendants & Hugo.  As expected, the list includes The Help & Midnight in Paris, the other two dead certain nominations.  The inclusion of Moneyball, which has looked the strongest of the other challengers, will not raise any eyebrows but War Horse’s nomination is a surprise.  Recent speculation that Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close had made a successful late surge proved spot on.  The most pleasing nomination of all is Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life that would be a serious contender in many categories if the Academy judged the films on merit.  Films missing out include Bridesmaids, which has received a number of high-profile nominations during the awards season, and critics’ favourites, Drive and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  The exclusion of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo will be a surprise in some quarters.

 

Best director provides one of the most intriguing categories as three veteran auteurs, Martin Scorsese (Hugo), Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris) & Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life), all on top of their game, compete against their younger counterparts, Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist) & Alexander Payne (The Descendants), whose films are the current favourites for best picture.  The directors form the most independent branch of the Academy and they will not necessarily follow trends emerging from other awards.  Although Hazanavicius & Payne remain the forerunners, expect a serious challenge from Scorsese, who bagged the comparable award at the Golden Globes earlier this month.  Allen is not completely out of the reckoning but seems more likely to take the Oscar for best original screenplay.  The Tree of Life won the Palme d’or at Cannes ahead of The Artist but Malick remains the outsider here.

 

Golden Globe winner, George Clooney (The Descendants) is the frontrunner for best actor.  None of the other Globe nominees made the list other than Clooney’s main opposition and friend, Brad Pitt (Moneyball).  Jean Dujardin remains a contender and could benefit from the Artist’s standing in the best film race.  Gary Oldman, who received recognition for his outstanding performance in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, could receive growing support.  Mexican actor, Damian Bichir (A Better Life) has gained momentum since his surprising nomination in the SAG awards but is unlikely to challenge.  Notable exclusions in this crowded category include Michael Fassbender (Shame) & Leonardo diCaprio (J.Edgar).

 

The best actress nominations were in line with expectations save for the inexplicable omission of serious ‘awards season’ contender, Tilda Swinton (We Need To Talk About Kevin).  Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) remains favourite with Michelle Williams (My Week with Marylin) and Viola Davis (The Help) providing the main challenge.  Rooney Mara secured a nomination on the back of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s strong ‘awards season’ campaign but remains a long shot.  Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs), looking for her first best actress Oscar, completes the list.

 

Project Nim joins Senna & The Interrupters as the high-profile casualties of the Academy’s controversial process for determining the best documentary feature.  Hell and Back Again & Pina, which have looked like frontrunners for most of the year, both made the short list but there is no place for We Were Here, which had emerged as a challenger.  Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory has attracted considerable publicity in the global media and received a nomination as expected.  Critical success, If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, and the feel good, Undefeated, complete the list.  24 January 2012

 

Written by our Chief Film Critic, Graham Eley for FIU

 

 

23rd PGA Award Winners

 

The  Producers Guild has followed the Golden Globes and awarded its equivalent of best film to The Artist as expected and confirmed Michel Hazanvicius’ silent film in the ascendancy within the awards season and the clear frontrunner to bag the Oscar next month.

 

Michael Rapaport’s  Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest was the surprise winner of the outstanding documentary award ahead of Senna and Project Nim.

 

There was no such surprise in the best animated film category where the Guild again followed the Globes by naming  Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin.

 

The Guild also honoured  Spielberg  amongst the tributes with the David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures.  GE 23 January 2012

 

The Beverly Hilton, Los Angeles hosted the awards.

 

 

Shadow Dancer’s European premiere at Berlin

 

James Marsh’s keenly awaited return to dramatic features, Shadow Dancer, will screen out of competition during the Berlin IFF following next week’s high-profile world premiere at Sundance.  An IRA super-grass thriller staring Clive Owen and Andrea Riseborough, it probes the moral complexities that arise when family and ideological convictions clash.  Tom Bradby, an experienced political correspondent, adapted the script from his own novel of the same name.  Marsh has enjoyed considerable success with his recent documentaries including Project Nim, currently riding high in the awards season, and Man on Wire, which bagged the Oscar three years ago.  GE 20 January 2012

 

 

New print of William Wellman’s Wings

 

Paramount has unveiled its new print of William Wellman’s Wings (1927) at a high profile world premiere as part of its centenary celebrations.  Wings was the first feature to win an Academy Award for best film and, at least for now, it is the only silent movie to have received the accolade.  Its arrival is timely following the recent restoration of the Beggars of Life, which did much to revive interest in Wellman’s early period.  Wellman remains best known for his James Cagney classic, The Public Enemy.  GE 19 January 2012

 

 

Tilda Swinton set to join Bong Joon-ho’s latest

 

Bong Joon-ho (The Host) is negotiating with Tilda Swinton and Jamie Bell to join the cast of his first US film, the Snow Piercer.  In a mouth-watering collaboration, Bong has joined forces with fellow South Korean, Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy, Thirst) for a script that adapts Jean-Marc Rochette’s and Jacques Loeb’s graphic novel of the same name.  It is a project that is ripe for Bong’s subversive genre distortions and will depict survivors forming new power/class positions during a post-apocalyptic Ice Age.  Sound & Sound listed his previous film, Memories of Murder, in their 30 most important films of the preceding decade.  GE 18 January 2012

 

 

The Kid With A Bike will arrive in the US & UK during March

 

The latest film from the Dardennes Brothers, The Kid With a Bike, will arrive in the US & UK during March.  An outstanding portrayal of a young boy coming to terms with an appalling parental rejection, it shared the Grand Prix at last year’s Cannes.  Although filmed in their characteristic realist style, a lighter touch makes it surprisingly uplifting.  There is a compelling performance from newcomer, Thomas Doret in the lead role and Cécile de France adds to her growing international reputation playing a magnanimous hairdresser who takes the boy under her wing.  GE  17 January 2012

 

69th Annual Golden Globes Winners

 

As the awards season approaches its climax, the prestigious Golden Globes delivered its verdict at the Beverley Hilton last night.  Two of the Oscar forerunners, The Descendants and The Artist bagged the best dramatic and comedy/musical awards respectively.  The other major contender, Martin Scorsese’s first excursion into 3D, Hugo, bagged the best directors’ award.  There was recognition also for Woody Allen’s best film for more than a decade, Midnight in Paris, which deservedly won  best screenplay.

 

The Descendants and The Artist further confirmed there Oscar credentials with their respective leads, George Clooney & Jean Dujardin, taking home the two best actor awards.  As expected, biopic’s dominated the best female categories with success for Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady) and Michelle Williams (My Week With Marilyn).  Streep is favourite for the Oscar although it is difficult to imagine a stronger performance than Tilda Swinton in We Need To Talk About Kevin.

 

It was a bad night for The Help, which has fallen away during the awards season.  A best supporting actress nod for Octavia Spencer was its only award.

 

Christopher Plummer was a popular winner of best supporting actor for his outstanding performance in the Beginners.  Expect strong competition from Albert Brooks (Drive) during the Oscars.

 

A Separation won the best foreign language film ahead of The Kid With A Bike in arguably the battle of the two strongest films from all categories.  GE 16 January 2012

 

 

Soderbergh receives funding for The Side Effects

 

Steven Soderbergh will commence shooting during April on his next project, The Side Effects, having overcome funding complications arising from an untimely takeover.  Continuing his recent prolific output, it will be a tense thriller depicting a woman who turns to prescription drugs and a good-looking psychiatrist when faced with her husband’s impending prison release.  Scott Z. Burns, who returns from the The Informant and Contagion as scriptwriter, has hinted that the film will explore the impact of wider social pressures on the woman’s despair notwithstanding its ‘thriller’ tag.  Negotiations are at an advanced stage with Blake Lively, Channing Tatum and Jude Law to head the cast.  GE  13 January 2012

 

 

Rami’s Oz to include 3D black & white sequences

 

Sam Rami’s prequel/homage to The Wizard of Oz will follow the original with some sequences filmed in black and white.  As with Scorsese’s Hugo, it will use latest 3D hi-tech to recreate the cinematic magic of the past in an intriguing correspondence between two eras.  Currently in production, it boasts an outstanding cast that includes Michelle Williams, James Franco and Rachel Weisz.  GE  11 January 2012

 

 

Olivier Dahan portraying another legendary female icon

 

Olivier Dahan, who came to the fore with the biopic of Édith Piaf, La Vie En Rose, is now turning his attention to another legendary female icon, Grace Kelly.  Avoiding the trap of focusing on already well known biographical

trivia, it will portray a lesser known side of her character; the major political operator who did much behind closed doors to defend Monaco’s tax haven status.  Casting is now under way but there is no news on Dahan’s preferred choice for the lead role.   GE  10 January 2012

 

 

Post production closing on Walter Salles’ On The Road

 

Post production is almost at a close on Walter Salles’ keenly awaited adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, giving rise to speculation that it could feature at this year’s Cannes.  A masterpiece of the Beat Generation’s hip resistance to Fifties conservatism, it comes with preconceived notions and high expectations that would present a significant challenge to any filmmaker.  Sam Riley leads an impressive cast that includes Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart and Kirsten Dunst.  GE  9 January 2012

 

 

Gus Van Sant takes over Matt Damon’s Project

 

Gus Van Sant (Milk) will follow last year’s Restless with another addition to the topical ‘corporate greed’ sub-genre. Matt Damon had originally earmarked the project for his directorial debut but his busy acting schedule made it impossible. Based upon a script that Damon co-wrote with John Krasinski, there is a passionate re-assessment of business ethics from different American perspectives. Van Sant, who is unlikely to settle for a typical Hollywood style populist compromise, is a welcome choice.  GE  6 January 2012

 

 

Sarah Polley adapting Alias Grace

 

Sarah Polley will continue her exploration of women faced with dramatic changes for her third feature, an adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace. Based on a real life 19th century mystery, Polley will depict the desperate plight of a 16 year old maid whose apparent amnesia prevents her from knowing whether she was an accomplice in a brutal double murder. Polley received a best screenplay Oscar for her debut film, Away From Her, which she adapted from a short story by another leading Canadian author, Alice Munro.  GE  5 January 2012

 

 

Jeff Buckley biopic to commence shooting

 

Jake Scott, son of Ridley, will commence shooting this spring on his biopic of Jeff Buckley, who tragically died in a mysterious swimming accident almost 15 years ago. It remains to be seen whether Scott’s exclusive access to private archives will go some way to unlocking the many ambiguities surrounding the enigmatic singer-songwriter. Patricia Arquette has now joined the cast, which includes Reeve Carney in the lead role.  GE  4 January 2012

 

 

Producers Guild of America Announce nominations

 

Producers Guild of America’s nominations for the outstanding producer award provided some clarity as to which of the outsiders remain in contention in the Academy Award race.  The new voting system makes it difficult to predict how many films will compete for the best picture Oscar but it is likely to be a shorter list than that of the PGA.  Out of the PGA’s nominations, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Ides Of March are currently off the pace and Bridesmaids, Moneyball & War Horse remain borderline contenders.  The other five nominees are in a strong position;  particularly The Artist and The Descendants.  Other outsiders include The Tree of Life and Drive.

 

There is a best documentary nomination for Senna, which the Academy inexplicably excluded from its long list.  There will be strong competition from one of the Oscar forerunners, Project Nim.

 

Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures’ nominations – The Artist, Bridesmaids, The Descendants, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Help, Hugo, The Ides Of March, Midnight In Paris, Moneyball, War Horse.

 

Full list of nominations

 

Graham Eley

3 January 2012

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