17 items from 2013
Imagine you’ve just spent the Summer and 27 million quid of tax payers money staging an Olympic Opening Ceremony that looked like Leni Riefenstahl’s History of the Industrial Revolution.
You’ve built a Hobbit village in the centre of Stratford and filled it with peasants and sheep before Kenneth Branagh, looking like Abe Lincoln in the Electric Six “Gay Bar” video, rips apart the countryside and turns it into a factory from Mordor.
You’ve stuck a blow for gay rights across the globe and men who like watching pretty girls get off with each other by slipping Brookside’s infamous lesbian kiss into a montage of British TV clips broadcast uncensored in authoritarian, homophobic regimes across the Middle East and also the USA .
- David Watson
A 1980s piece of anti-communist propaganda has been remade for the modern age. Did they have to?
Say what you will about John Milius's 1980s rightwing cold war flag-waver Red Dawn, at least it had the courage of its convictions. The new remake – released three years after completion, thanks to the MGM bankruptcy restructuring – can't even decide who its real enemies are. When it wrapped, the invading superpower was still Red China; in the interim, some wise suit remembered the billion-plus Chinese moviegoing market and decreed that the enemy should henceforth be North Korea, a black hole for Hollywood releases. Cue some retroactive digital adjustments – commie signage, uniforms, etc – a new opening voiceover, a couple of reshoots and, voila! – a new enemy. The late Kim Jong-il, a budding auteur himself, would have been charmed by the attention.
He might also have wondered, just as I did, what the hell was going on. »
- John Patterson
*This story has been updated to reflect Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s statement.
A day after the Academy Awards failed to recognize Zero Dark Thirty with any major awards — and nearly seven weeks after snubbing director Kathryn Bigelow altogether — the U.S. Senate closed its investigation into “inappropriate” meetings and conversations that Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal may have had with members of the CIA to research their movie, which tells the story of the secret American effort to track and kill Osama bin Laden. Reuters cited an anonymous congressional aide who said the Senate Intelligence Committee, chaired by Sen. Dianne Feinstein »
- Jeff Labrecque
Investigation into whether Zero Dark Thirty film-makers were granted access to classified CIA material is closed
Just a day after Zero Dark Thirty foundered at the Oscars, taking just a single technical prize, the high-profile Us senate investigation that may have helped scupper the drama's awards season has been quietly dropped.
With Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal having previously won best film in 2010 for The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty – about the hunt for Osama bin Laden – was one of the early frontrunners for this year's Oscars and took many of the critics' prizes that preface the bigger awards ceremonies. But then disquiet grew over the film's depiction of the CIA's alleged use of torture in the hunt for the leader of al-Qaida.
In January the Us Senate intelligence committee launched an investigation into whether Bigelow and Boal were granted "inappropriate access" to classified CIA material after the committee's Democratic »
- Ben Child
The stigma attached to the pro-torture CIA propaganda vehicle, beloved by film critics, results in Oscar humiliation
Just a few months ago, the consensus of the establishment press and the nation's (shockingly large) community of film critics was that Zero Dark Thirty was the best film of the year and the clear (and well-deserved) front-runner to win the most significant Academy Awards. "Ok, folks, you can plan something else for Oscar Night 2013 . . . . Zero Dark Thirty will win Best Picture and Best Director (Kathryn Bigelow)," pronounced Time Magazine's Richard Corliss. "'Zero Dark Thirty' and Kathryn Bigelow won major critics' prizes on Sunday, confirming the Osama bin Laden manhunt thriller as an Oscar frontrunner," said Entertainment Weekly. The film "looks like the movie to beat right now" as the critics' awards "landscape is dominated by Kathryn Bigelow's 'Zero Dark Thirty,'" reported the Washington Post's Jen Chaney.
- Glenn Greenwald
J Michael Straczynski will make his feature directorial debut on The Flickering Light.
The writer has secured funding from Reliance Entertainment's Motion Picture Capital and will direct from his own script, reports Variety.
The film centres around a group of Romani prisoners from the Marzahn Concentration Camp.
The Flickering Light is set to enter production in November, using the same sound stages that Studio Babelsberg used for Tiefland. »
J. Michael Straczynski might not be a household name, but chances are, most people are familiar with his work. In the 1980s and 1990s, Straczynski wrote for several notable series, including everything from He-Man and Masters of the Universe as well as Murder, She Wrote, before creating the cult sci-fi series Babylon 5 in 1994.
Lately, the writer has been focusing more on feature films. His credits include Ninja Assassin, Thor and, most recently, Underworld: Awakening. However, his latest project will venture into more grim territory.
According to Variety, Straczynski will write and direct World War II drama The Flickering Light. The project will mark his directorial film debut.
The movie follows a group of concentration camp prisoners in 1942 who are forced to take part in the filming of a Nazi propaganda flick by Leni Riefenstahl. This ...
- Robert Yaniz Jr.
Eva Braun was the most intimate chronicler of the Nazi regime, capturing Hitler's private life with her cine-camera. But it was only the obsession of artist Lutz Becker that brought her films to light. Robert McCrum and Taylor Downing uncover the story of the footage that shocked the world
Lutz Becker was born in Berlin, he says, "during the anno diabolo, 1941. Mine was the generation that was sent into a dark pit." Meeting this survivor of the Third Reich, now in his 70s and living in Bayswater, London, it's hard to suppress the thought that Becker, a distinguished artist and film historian, has conducted most of his life in a circle of hell.
Becker's childhood passed in the fetid, terrifying atmosphere of Berlin's air-raid shelters as the Allied raids intensified and the city was reduced to burning rubble. He recalls the radio announcements – "Achtung, achtung, ende ende, über Deutschland sinfe bender. »
- Robert McCrum
Cinema is the weapon of mass destruction in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. On its surface the film is a war movie about a group of Jewish-American soldiers performing an apache resistance of the Nazis in the later days of World War II. The eponymous group is led by Lt. Aldo Raine (played by Brad Pitt). The goal of he and his men is to kill and scalp every Nazi that comes in their way.
It’s impossible to discuss the film without divulging the ending in which the heads of the Third Reich, including Hitler himself, are gathered together in a movie theatre burned alive, shot to death, and blown to smithereens. Tarantino’s brazen historical revisionism garnered strong controversy and criticism, with the critic Jonathan Rosenbaum going as far as to say that the film “seems morally akin to Holocaust denial…Insofar as [the Holocaust] becomes a movie convention — by »
- Cristian Duran
Mark Strong has waded in to defend his director Kathryn Bigelow, saying it’s impossible to believe such “a shy, pleasant, gentle” woman could possibly be endorsing torture in her film, 'Zero Dark Thirty'.
Plus: Strong's advice to Daniel Craig... see below
The British actor, who plays George, a CIA executive in charge of the Afghan/Pakistan division pushing his agents to find Osama Bin Laden, says it’s strange “to find yourself a spokesman for a film, but I do feel a sense of injustice".
He goes on: “What on earth makes people think Kathryn Bigelow and (writer) Mark Boal would endorse torture when everybody around the world knows it’s horrific, despicable and to be avoided at all costs – why suddenly would these two »
- Caroline Frost
“Everybody breaks, bro” croaks Jason Clarke’s shaggy faced CIA interrogator Dan – “it’s biology.”
The statement is directed to Ammar, a detainee with strong links with Saudi terrorists and 9/11. Strung up by his wrists, the prisoner – already beaten and subjected to a bout of waterboarding – perseveres until Dan, alongside newly transferred Maya (Jessica Chastain) tricks him in to believing that eventually, after keeping him awake for 96 hours straight, he divulged the information they needed. As Ammar is suffering from short-term memory loss throughout the interrogation techniques used against him, it works.
This, it seems, is the main discussion point of Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s highly anticipated follow-up to her Academy Award winning The Hurt Locker. Interestingly, it’s not the violent acts and techniques depicted in these scenes that are making the headlines, but the result of them. That is, with the film, within the arc of its narrative, »
- Jordan McGrath
There's no mistaking it: the film industry awards season has moved into high gear this week. Wednesday and Thursday saw, in rapid succession, the announcement of nominations for the Baftas and the Oscars, and Sunday sees actual statuettes being dished out in the first major awards ceremony: the Golden Globes. With prizes having been handed out since well before Christmas by organisations large and small – from the Boston Society of Film Critics to the People's Choice awards – the buzz of background noise has been getting ever louder: but all eyes are focused on the big payoff, the Academy Award ceremony in the last week of February.
The Oscars have retained their pre-eminent status through simple cause-and-effect: in recent years, nominated films have added an average of $20m to their box office in the »
- Andrew Pulver
Tom Hooper's film is a colossal effort – after 158 minutes, you really have experienced something. It's just not clear what
Like a diabolically potent combination of Lionel Bart and Leni Riefenstahl, the movie version of Les Misérables has arrived, based on the hit stage show adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel set among the deserving poor in 19th-century France, which climaxes with the anti-monarchist Paris uprising of 1832. Even as a non-believer in this kind of "sung-through" musical, I was battered into submission by this mesmeric and sometimes compelling film, featuring a performance of dignity and intelligence from Hugh Jackman, and an unexpectedly vulnerable singing turn from that great, big, grumpy old bear, Russell Crowe. With the final rousing chorus of "Do you hear the people sing?", the revolutionary-patriotic fervour is so bizarrely stirring, you'll feel like marching out of the cinema, wrapped in the tricolour, and travelling to Russia to »
- Peter Bradshaw
"Who are those guys?"
George Roy Hill doesn't get written up much these days. People either like some of his films or not, but don't usually have much to say about them. In the breadth of subjects and tones he tackled, the former TV director certainly made it hard to perceive an authorial voice, and even his visual style was inconsistent, veering between the flatly televisual and a more nouvelle vague playfulness. Regular collaborator William Goldman praised him as one of the greats precisely because of his versatility, but he seems destined to be recalled for only a couple of movies, and as an able journeyman rather than as a unique artist.
The World of Henry Orient (1964) is a charming oddity. It deals with a fantasy world concocted by two 14-year-old schoolgirls in New York, based around a minor local celebrity, concert pianist Henry Orient (Peter Sellers), whom they encounter »
- David Cairns
Hooded protesters target Washington DC premiere of Kathryn Bigelow's Oscar-tipped film about hunt for Osama bin Laden
Anti-torture campaigners wearing orange jumpsuits and black hoods staged a high-profile protest outside the Washington DC premiere of controversial Oscar-tipped film Zero Dark Thirty last night.
Holding placards stating "torture is wrong" and branding Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal's film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden a "Pentagon-sanctioned movie" the protestors made a cacophony of noise outside the Newseum centre in central Washington as journalists, politicians and members of Us president Barack Obama's administration filed into the auditorium. There was also a separate protest organised by so-called "Truthers," who believe the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by the Us government.
Zero Dark Thirty's status as one of the frontrunners for next month's Oscars has been overshadowed by criticism from commentators and politicians over its depiction of the use of torture »
- Ben Child
Depicting torture is not same as endorsing it, say film-makers as they accept prizes at New York Film Critics Circle award
The makers of Zero Dark Thirty, the Oscar-tipped film about the decade-long hunt for Osama bin Laden, have once again poured scorn on suggestions that they endorsed torture by including scenes of waterboarding and sexual humiliation in the drama.
Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, who won Oscars three years ago for their highly acclaimed Iraq war drama The Hurt Locker, made the comments as they took to the stage to accept prizes from the New York Film Critics Circle last night. The release of their new film has drawn a stream of criticism from media commentators and high-profile politicians over its depiction of the CIA's alleged use of torture to find and kill the head of al-Qaida, but both film-makers made it clear they stood by their work. »
- Ben Child
By peddling the lie that CIA detentions led to Bin Laden's killing, you have become a Leni Riefenstahl-like propagandist of torture
Dear Kathryn Bigelow,
The Hurt Locker was a beautiful, brave film; many young women in film were inspired as they watched you become the first woman ever to win an Oscar for directing. But with Zero Dark Thirty, you have attained a different kind of distinction.
Your film Zero Dark Thirty is a huge hit here. But in falsely justifying, in scene after scene, the torture of detainees in "the global war on terror", Zero Dark Thirty is a gorgeously-shot, two-hour ad for keeping intelligence agents who committed crimes against Guantánamo prisoners out of jail. It makes heroes and heroines out of people who committed violent crimes against other people based on their race – something that has historical precedent.
Your film claims, in many scenes, that CIA torture »
- Naomi Wolf
17 items from 2013
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