10 items from 2015
The sudden loss of one parent and the looming death of another set the stage for “James White,” a stripped-bare family drama that marks the feature directing debut of indie producer Josh Mond. Familiar in its general trajectory, but unusually raw and ragged in its emotional architecture, Mond’s fraught portrait of a mother and son in crisis sports a pair of knockout performances by Cynthia Nixon and “Girls” alumnus Christopher Abbott, and a vivid feel for wayward New York youths cocooned by upper-middle-class privilege, but little in the way of redemptive creature comforts. Audiences seeking spiritual uplift are strongly advised to look elsewhere.
Mond, who previously directed several short films, is best known as the longtime producing partner of directors Antonio Campos (“Afterschool”) and Sean Durkin (“Martha Marcy May Marlene”), whose New York-based Borderline Films collective has carved out a certain niche of dark, provocative psychological dramas strongly influenced »
- Scott Foundas
A fiercely committed ensemble and an exquisite sense of historical detail conspire to cast a highly atmospheric spell in “The Witch,” a strikingly achieved tale of a mid-17th-century New England family’s steady descent into religious hysteria and madness. Laying an imaginative foundation for the 1692 Salem witchcraft trials that would follow decades later, writer-director Robert Eggers’ impressive debut feature walks a tricky line between disquieting ambiguity and full-bore supernatural horror, but leaves no doubt about the dangerously oppressive hold that Christianity exerted on some dark corners of the Puritan psyche. With its formal, stylized diction and austere approach to genre, this accomplished feat of low-budget period filmmaking will have to work considerable marketing magic to translate appreciative reviews into specialty box-office success, but clearly marks Eggers as a storyteller of unusual rigor and ambition.
A New England-born, Brooklyn-based talent who started out in the theater, Eggers has several film »
- Justin Chang
The Museum Of Modern Art and the Film Society Of Lincoln Center announced the first nine films in the long-lived showcase for new work. They include Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s winner of the Critics’ Week grand prize at Cannes, which is set in a Ukrainian school for deaf and mute coeds and is told entirely in sign language, with no subtitles. The Tribe is one of four films that will make their way to Manhattan from Park City, Utah, where they’re also on the Sundance roster: Charles Poekel’s Christmas, Again, about a heartbroken Christmas-tree salesman; Rick Alverson’s Entertainment, a follow-up to The Comedy, about a broken-down comedian doing stand-up across the Mojave Desert and Kornél Mundruczó’s White God, winner of the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes about a dog’s journey back to its owner after being abandoned in the city.
Representing 11 countries from around the world, »
- The Deadline Team
Arriving on DVD without having experienced a Us theatrical release, The Dark Valley toured several smaller film festivals after premiering a year ago at the Berlin International Film Festival. Multiple category winner at both the German Film and Bavarian Film Awards, with a stop at Karlovy Vary and a late 2014 North American stint, which included programming in the mini German Currents events in Los Angeles, it’s unfortunate the title didn’t receive a wider platform considering its rather curious elements.
Selected as Austria’s entry for this year’s Foreign Language Oscar submission, this is perhaps director Andreas Prochaska’s most accomplished narrative effort, as he’s generally steeped in television or pulpy genre. His latest, a by-the-numbers Western, captures a rather poetic ambience, even as it manages to neglect both its protagonist and rather garish details that skews the film into horror film territory. UK star Sam Riley »
- Nicholas Bell
Marrakech’s jury prexy, Isabelle Huppert, has just completed a four-month stint in the United States, where she co-starred with Cate Blanchett in the Sydney Theater Company production of Jean Genet’s “The Maids,” at the Lincoln Center Festival, followed by her film roles in Joachim Trier’s “Louder than Bombs,” alongside Jesse Eisenberg and Gabriel Byrne, and in Guillaume Nicloux’s “The Valley of Love,” with Gerard Depardieu.
In an interview at the Marrakech film festival she explained that her recent intensive U.S. experience is a pure coincidence of back-to-back projects.
Huppert explained that she’s very happy with the roles that she has been offered recently and is not overly concerned about being typecast, for example »
- Martin Dale
The Directors Guild of America (DGA) is notable in the season for a number of reasons. First, it's a massive voting body unlike most on the circuit, so their nominations choices can often hint toward consensus. Second, their winner very often goes on to win the Academy Award for Best Director, which as we all know tends to presage the Best Picture Oscar. But... ...one wonders how those two elements are being viewed as of late. After all, the last two years have seen a split, once by necessity ("Argo" director Ben Affleck was not nominated), the second time in a close race. Could it be that the Academy will start looking at these categories differently rather than as a package deal? Maybe, maybe not. I have no real answers there. I'm just asking the question. Anyway, the DGA nominated mostly expected names today. Clint Eastwood, naturally. "American Sniper" is cruising. »
- Kristopher Tapley
The cinema of Michael Haneke may be described as cold, distant, even isolating, as the Austrian auteur prizes the examination of estrangement and the discontent of families or individuals trapped within the confines of what we refer to as modern society. He also cares little for coddling audiences, often directly criticizing what we’ve come to expect and desire from cinematic narratives. Starting out as a director in television in the early 1970′s, it would be his 1989 feature debut The Seventh Continent that first garnered attention, followed by 1992′s Benny’s Video (starring Angela Winkler), which played at Director’s Fortnight, as did his 1994 title 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance. In 1997, Haneke would direct a television adaptation of Kafka’s The Castle, starring Susanne Lothar and Ulrich Muhe, the acting couple that would headline one of his most galvanizing titles also that year with Funny Games, »
- Nicholas Bell
Mention the word “overcrowded” and awards pundits immediately talk about the best-actor race. But the director ranks are just as jam-packed — and offer a more interesting insight into the state of the film biz.
There are at least a dozen individuals whose 2014 efforts are worth remembering; however, there are only five slots, meaning some deserving folks will be disappointed on Jan. 13, when the Directors Guild of America announces nominees, and on Jan. 15, when the Academy unveils the Oscar contenders.
This year’s director crop includes some interesting trends:
Two women: Ava DuVernay for “Selma” and Angelina Jolie for “Unbroken” mean history could be made this year. Admittedly, two is not a lot, considering there are 323 eligible films. But it is a sign that things are changing.
- Tim Gray
Looking for more highbrow fare to supplement your holiday binge-streaming of "Friends" on Netflix? While several of 2014's best films now on Amazon Prime are also up on Netflix—including Pawel Pawlikowski's Oscar-shortlisted beauty "Ida" and Roger Michell's underseen autumn-years romance "Le Week-End"—Amazon Prime subscribers can enjoy even more this weekend. We've rounded up the best of the best: "Borgman" (dir. Alex van Warmerdam) A dark suburban fairytale that takes cues from Yorgos Lanthimos ("Dogtooth") and Michael Haneke ("Funny Games"), while firmly remaining its own strange beast, "Borgman" hovers perilously over a stiff upper-class family whose bearings are unmoored by the appearance of a mysterious vagrant fellow (Jan Bijvoet). A creepy blast from beginning to end. "Coherence" (dir. James Ward Byrkit) "Coherence" is not just smart science fiction: it's a triumph of crafty »
- Ryan Lattanzio
Can you believe that Oscar nominations are less than two weeks away? Yes, on January 15th the first phase of the awards season ends with the Academy Award nominations. Wow. Time flies once the precursors start. As such, this is the second to last set of Oscar predictions that I’ll be sharing with you before the announcement. So, I better figure this all out in a hurry! The Academy has sent out ballots, members are getting ready to finalize their choices, and precursors are going on all around them. It’s truly the busy season, with all the contenders in release and no excuses left to be made. Time to put up or shut up for the Oscar hopefuls, while voters hopefully do their due diligence with all of the potential players. Earlier today the Ace Eddie announcement was made, which could give some insight into both the Best »
- Joey Magidson
10 items from 2015
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