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Oscars: 'Les Miserables' and 'Zero Dark Thirty' Make Big Splashes In Screening Debuts

25 November 2012 10:03 AM, PST

Two of the most highly anticipated potential fixtures in this year's Oscar race made their debuts this weekend, and the reaction was extremely positive. Further complicating an awards race that already has seemingly surefire contenders in Ben Affleck's "Argo," Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln," Ang Lee's "Life of Pi" and David O. Russell's "Silver Linings Playbook" (all four of which were in the box office top ten this weekend), early reaction from the screenings of both Tom Hooper's "Les Miserables" and Kathryn Bigelow's "Zero Dark Thirty" (collectively and notably directed by two of the last three best director Oscar winners) suggest there's now six films most definitely in the best picture race, with a trio of others -- Michael Haneke's "Amour," Benh Zeitlin's "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" -- waiting in the »


- Peter Knegt

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Specialty Box Office: 'Hitchcock' and 'Silver Linings' Underperform Against Mammoth Studio Competition

25 November 2012 9:19 AM, PST

In what was overall the biggest Thanksgiving weekend ever, the two specialty films with the greatest expectations underperformed against an unusually high quality batch of studio films. Fox Searchlight opened "Hitchcock" on 17 screens Friday. The film -- which stars Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock and Helen Mirren as his wife Alma -- grossed $300,799 over the weekend for a so-so $17,694 per-theater-average. Last weekend, a film with even higher expectations -- David O. Russell's Oscar hopeful "Silver Linings Playbook" -- averaged $27,688 from 16 screens in an opening that was something of a disappointment. Again, it was a decent number (and a much better debut than "Hitchcock") but a film with that kind of buzz surrounding it should have easily managed $30,000 or more per theater. For Thanksgiving, "Silver Linings" expanded to 367 screens (after initially being planned to go wide, The Weinstein Company slowed down the »


- Peter Knegt

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"First Cousin" Claims Top Idfa Prize; "Sugar Man" Takes Both Audience and Music Awards at Dutch Doc Event

24 November 2012 1:11 PM, PST

The awards for the 25th anniversary International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (Idfa) were announced in a ceremony today, covering the various competition sections of the world's largest documentary event. Alan Berliner's Nyff entry, "First Cousin Once Removed," a moving portrait of Edwin Honig facing Alzheimer's, took Idfa's top honor, the Vpro Idfa Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary, a distinction that comes with a hefty €12,500 prize. Esther Hertog's "Soldier on the Roof," a look at a small community of Jewish settlers in the overwhelmingly Palestinian West Bank city of Hebron, claimed both the First Appearance Award and the Best Dutch Documentary Award, a total of €10,000. Also taking home two nods was Malik Bendjelloul, whose "Searching for Sugar Man" received €7,500 between his Audience Award and Best Music Documentary Award, repeating the film's double win from its premiere at the beginning »


- Basil Tsiokos

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Friday Box Office: 'Hitchcock' and 'Silver Linings' Underperform Against Stiff Studio Competition

24 November 2012 8:39 AM, PST

In what's heading to be the biggest Thanksgiving weekend ever, the two specialty films with the greatest expectations underperformed against an unusually high quality batch of studio films. Fox Searchlight opened "Hitchcock" on 17 screens Friday. The film -- which stars Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock and Helen Mirren as his wife Alma -- grossed $112,092 for a $6,594 per-theater-average. That should give it a weekend gross in the $350,000-$400,000 range, giving it an average in the low $20,000s. Defintely a respectable number, but high profile specialty films like this usually manage averages of $30,000 or more easy. Last weekend, a film with even higher expectations -- David O. Russell's Oscar hopeful "Silver Linings Playbook" -- averaged $27,688 from 16 screens in an opening that should end up being very similar to what "Hitchcock" manages. Again, it was a decent number but far below what films like "The King's »


- Peter Knegt

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Scorsese Editor Thelma Schoonmaker Explains Why Old Movies May Never Look (or Sound) the Same Again

23 November 2012 10:22 AM, PST

You've heard it plenty of times by now: cinema, as we have come to know it, is dead. In a new piece for The Atlantic, Daniel Eagan explains why old films, shot and exhibited on film, may not be getting the restorations they deserve. Helped out by the wise words of Martin Scorsese's editor Thelma Schoonmaker, Eagan explains why Sony does not have, nor can it produce, a film print of Scorsese's 1993 film "The Age of Innocence."  The Museum of Moving Image wanted to screen the film in their gorgeous theater in Astoria, Queens, but the studio no longer stores a copy of the print.  Nor do they want to pay the high prices of a digital conversion for just one screening. Just screen it on DVD, you say?  Could you say that about every film that doesn't have a film print, without batting an eye? Schoonmaker has a »


- Bryce J. Renninger

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'Downton Abbey' Renewed for a Fourth Season

23 November 2012 10:17 AM, PST

In what's bound to be happy news to fans if no real surprise, "Downton Abbey" has been renewed for a fourth season. ITV, the British network that's the original home to the Julian Fellowes-created period drama, announced today that it's commissing a new series of the acclaimed and popular show. The eight episode third season of "Downton Abbey" finished airing the U.K. on November 4th and will premiere in the U.S. on PBS on January 6th. The just-announced fourth season, which will air in the U.K. next year with no U.S. date yet set, will also run eight episodes, and will in addition include an extended Christmas special. The opening and closing episodes will, according to ITV, be feature length as the show takes the Crawleys and their servants into the early 1920s. Given the continued ratings success of "Downton Abbey" -- the third season »


- Alison Willmore

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The Serious Unserious Pleasures of R. Kelly's Continuing Musical Saga 'Trapped in the Closet'

23 November 2012 9:43 AM, PST

After a five-year break, tonight sees the return of "Trapped in the Closet," singer-songwriter R. Kelly's self-described "hip hopera" following the dramas of a group of urbanites connected by sex, lies and phone calls. The next installment, better known as Chapters 23 through 33, premieres Friday, November 23  at 9pm on IFC and will be followed by a release online at IFC.com, a chapter each day. What started as an all-sung object of bemusement when introduced on Kelly's "Tp.3 Reloaded" album has grown into a formidable (if still totally strange) creation -- at this point, i's not a question of whether "Trapped in the Closet" is a self-aware parody of serialized storytelling, but that it's one of the most entertaining modern soap operas in the last seven years. The episodic opera started with the morning after a one-night stand between Sylvester (Kelly, who plays several roles) and Cathy (LeShay Tomlinson), one. »


- John Lichman

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Oscars: What's Age Got to Do With It? Possibly Everything for Michael Haneke's 'Amour'

23 November 2012 9:32 AM, PST

Every year, the Hollywood Reporter does a great series throughout awards season called "Anatomy of a Contender." These are basically detailed production stories that get into why a particular film is likely to end up a best picture nominee. (Full disclosure: I did a few when I worked there, on "Up in the Air," "The Descendants" and others.) In its most recent issue, the magazine focused on Michael Haneke's "Amour," which many peg as the rare foreign film that may potentially capture a best picture slot. The director of "The White Ribbon," "Funny Games" and more, Haneke of course is much more a darling of the Cannes set. While his most recent film, "Amour," is a warmer (though no less depressing, ultimately) film than he usually makes, it also features two elderly actors as its protagonists -- a choice that nearly doomed the project before it could get made. »


- Jay A. Fernandez

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Cahiers du Cinema Unveils Its Top Ten Films of 2012 -- How Do Yours Match Up?

23 November 2012 8:00 AM, PST

It’s that time of year again — and no, we’re not talking about Thanksgiving stuffing and holiday shopping. Top Ten lists will overrun every entertainment news site, personal blog and Twitter feed for the next six weeks. That bastion of film history and cinematic sophistication Cahiers du Cinema has published its best-of-the-year list already, below. Some of its choices are somewhat predictable (Ferrara, Carax), and some, as always, strain credulity (we know he’s Coppola, guys, but "Twixt," really?). Read More: 2013 Oscar Predictions See how the CdC’s judgments match up with your favorites from 2012, and click through to each film’s Criticwire page to see how Indiewire’s own network of top-tier critics and reviewers feels about them. 1. “Holy Motors,” Leos Carax 2. “Cosmopolis,” David Cronenberg 3. “Twixt,” Francis Ford Coppola 4. “4:44 Last Day on »


- Jay A. Fernandez

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Vote for Project of the Week! Will It Be 'Johnny,' 'Kathleen,' 'Irene' or 'Gnomes'?

23 November 2012 7:14 AM, PST

Vote below for this week's Project of the Week. The winning filmmaker will receive a digital distribution consultation from SnagFilms and will become a candidate for Project of the Month. That winner will be awarded with a creative consultation from the fine folks at the Tribeca Film Institute! The four projects up for the prize: "Johnny Physical Lives," "Kathleen and Eddie," "Irene and Marie" and "Gnomes." Voting will end on Monday November 26, at 11Am Eastern. Which Project Do You Most Want to See? »


- Indiewire

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Critic's Notebook: Is Barack Obama a Bigger Movie Star Than Brad Pitt?

23 November 2012 5:00 AM, PST

One popular angle for Barack Obama's detractors is to accuse him of being an empty celebrity. Recall this 2008 John McCain attack ad: Juxtaposing Obama with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton suggested not only unearned, ephemeral attention but the possibility that Obama was a bad-decision time bomb waiting to detonate and generate unflattering tabloid-esque headlines. In "2016: Obama's America" -- the surprise top-grossing documentary of the year -- Dinesh D'Souza returns to and excavates some of the tediously familiar worst-case scenarios (Obama is a secret Marxist, kowtows to the Muslim world, and so on), an annotation of some of the popular pejorative attempts to fix the president's image. These marginal efforts speak to a pre-selected audience. But what about broader cinematic responses? Obama often invokes Ronald Reagan as both a communicator and a pragmatic political actor skilled in leading executive compromise, but their presentational »


- Vadim Rizov

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With Chevy Chase Departing 'Community,' Here's A Look at Pierce Hawthorne's Five Greatest Moments

22 November 2012 10:14 AM, PST

On Wednesday, Deadline reported that Chevy Chase was dropping out of "Community" after a three and a half seasons filled with creative clashes and public feuds. Chase will leave the show immediately, not appearing in the one or two episodes that have yet to be shot in the 13-episode fourth season (slated to premiere February 7th).  Chase has not been shy about expressing his displeasure with the show's particular sense of humor and the sitcom form itself, but it's his battles with departed showrunner/creator Dan Harmon (best exemplified in an ugly leaked voicemail) that have come to define his stint as moist towelette fortune heir Pierce Hawthorne, even bleeding into the show, with the character's peevish obliviousness took on an edge of actual antagonism as the seasons progressed. Even with Harmon gone and new showrunners David Guarascio and Moses Port in place, Chase is apparently unwilling to stick out the season -- which, »


- Alison Willmore

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Anthony Hopkins Discusses the Insecurities He Felt Playing 'Hitchcock' and How Darren Aronofsky Fared On the Set of 'Noah'

22 November 2012 8:05 AM, PST

Anthony Hopkins may very well be regarded as one of our greatest living actors, but that doesn't mean he's all that different from you and me. The 74-year-old, who insists you call him "Tony," is, as it turns out, insecure about his day job. This, despite the fact that Queen Elizabeth II knighted him in 1993 following his Oscar-win for playing everyone's favorite cannibal in Jonathan Demme's "The Silence of the Lambs." But really, considering his latest role, who can blame him? In Sacha Gervasi's narrative feature debut "Hitchcock," Hopkins embodies none other than Alfred Hitchcock, one of the most revered and scrutinized filmmakers of all time. And unlike most directors, Hitchcock spent just as much time in front of the camera as he did behind it -- leaving not much room, on Hopkins' part, for 'interpretation.' Taking place during the filming of one of Hitchcock's most troubled productions. »


- Nigel M Smith

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Here's The Top Grossing Thanksgiving-Related Movies

22 November 2012 6:57 AM, PST

In honor of the holiday weekend, Indiewire has decided to count down the top 10 grossing films where Thanksgiving itself factors into the film. While Thanksgiving might be an intensely popular time to go to the movies, it's not exactly a powerhouse of a film subject in itself. Only 7 films with Thanksgiving as a major plot or setting point have grossed over $20 million domestically, and only one of those films - last year's Adam Sandler comedy "Jack & Jill," which is distubringly the #1 exampe - was released in the past 10 years. If one adjusts for inflation, two classics from the mid-1980s are the clear winners: 1987's John Hughes comedy "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" (which took in $99.4 million in 2011 dollars) and Woody Allen's "Hannah and Her Sisters" ($85.5 million).  Here's the top 10 (without adjusting for inflation). Note that the holiday is a more dominant theme in some films over others. »


- Peter Knegt

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Project of the Day: A Woman's Daily Adventure with Gnome Al

22 November 2012 6:54 AM, PST

Here's your daily dose of an indie film in progress; at the end of the week, you'll have the chance to vote for your favorite. In the meantime: Is this a movie you’d want to see? Tell us in the comments. "Gnomes" Tweetable Logline: Every afternoon, Linda tries to reconnect with Gnome Al. Every night, Gnome Al forgets Linda exists. A love story. Elevator Pitch: Gnomes is a short film about the lengths a woman named Linda goes to in order to stay connected to a guy named Gnome Al. It’s about making gnome hats. And showing up. It’s about the benefits of simple repetition. And for me, it's about magic. Production Team: Writer/Director: Abram Makowka Producer: Setu Raval Co-Producer: Rebecca Green About the Production: "When I was little, my mom taught me how to make gnome hats. She was Santa Claus. She was the tooth fairy. »


- Indiewire

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Out This Week: 6 Reviews Of New Releases, From 'Central Park Five' to 'Rust and Bone'

22 November 2012 5:00 AM, PST

This weekly column is intended to provide reviews of nearly every new release, including films on VOD (and in certain cases some studio releases). Specifics release dates and locations follow each review. Reviews This Week "The Central Park Five" "Gottfried Heinwein and the Dreaming Child" "Hitchcock" "Life of Pi" "Red Dawn" "Rust and Bone"   *** "The Central Park Five" "The Central Park Five," which opens in several cities this Friday, provides a welcome exception to the usual Ken Burns routine. Burns co-directed the movie with his daughter Sarah Burns and her husband David McMahon; the subject matter is partly derived from Sarah Burns' book "The Central Park Five: A Chronicle of a City Wilding," released last year. Nevertheless, its polemical content stands out in the elder Burns' oeuvre and deserves »


- Indiewire

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Watch: Judd Apatow Says a 'Simpsons' Spec Script He Wrote in His Twenties Is Actually Getting Made

21 November 2012 11:07 AM, PST

At a screening of "This Is 40" hosted by Film Independent earlier this month, director Judd Apatow told the crowd that the first thing he ever wrote in his professional career was a spec script for "The Simpsons." From Slash Film: After only five 'Simpsons' episodes aired, I sat down and tried to write one when I was in my early twenties. And what it was about was they went to see a hypnotism show and at the hypnotism show, they made Homer think he was the same age at Bart. And then the hypnotist had a heart attack. So now Homer and Bart became best friends and they spent the rest of the show running away because Homer didn’t want responsibility and didn’t want to be brought back to his real age. So I basically copied that for every movie I’ve made since. Now, sitting down »


- Alison Willmore

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The Edge of Documentary: The Not-Fiction Film

21 November 2012 10:04 AM, PST

"At The Edge of Russia," a film observing the daily routines of a small group of Russian soldiers posted in the far north near the Finnish border, was one of the most successful international documentaries on the 2010/11 film festival circuit. It seemed to play at every second doc event. And it won many awards at these festivals, including the "Filmmaker's Award" at Hot Docs 2011 (in which attending filmmakers nominate their favorite film). I had seen "At The Edge of Russia" at it's world premiere at Cph:dox 2010. Later that day I met the film's young director, a sharp, ambitious Polish filmmaker, Michal Marczak. I congratulated Michal on his work, especially on the access and the seamlessness of the stylization in the film. It looked like a movie movie, I may have said (because it's the weird, lazy way I often describe how some docs play like, well, movies). Michal was using »


- Sean Farnel

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Sundance 2013 Wishlist: 25 Films We Hope Will Head To Park City

21 November 2012 9:31 AM, PST

Thanksgiving is an anxious holiday for indie filmmakers as the Sundance Film Festival begins making its round of calls with (hopefully) good news. The first round of programming announcements are expected following the four-day holiday weekend, with over 100 features expected over various sections of the January 2013 festival. Ahead of those announcements, Indiewire is offering 25 films as a Sundance wish list. Basically, it's a wholly unscientific collection of films that might reasonably make the cut and/or we hope will make it to Park City. Much more so than fellow festival powerhouses Cannes or Toronto, Sundance is a hard lineup to predict. Tiny films from up-and-coming directors often end up being the most talked about films at the festival (who'd ever heard of Benh Zeitlin or Quvenzhané Wallis this time last year?). Of course, some of the lineup will be comprised of more high-profile possibilities -- and it's all but certain that some of the. »


- Indiewire

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Watch: Common is Torn Between Bright Future and Troubled Past as Ex-Con in Trailer for 'Luv' (Video)

21 November 2012 8:55 AM, PST

Common stars as a kind of latter-day Stringer Bell in the role of Uncle Vincent, in Sheldon Candis's full-length feature debut "Luv," which world premiered at Sundance this year and comes out in January. A newly-paroled convict with nearly half a twenty-year sentence to his name, Vincent arrives home to find himself a role model to his 11-year old nephew Woody -- a shy, bright child played by newcomer Michael Rainey Jr. who, in his parents' absence, has been living with his grandmother. Vincent walks with a swagger that straddles yuppie and street-wise sensibilities, and aspires to real estate development on the Baltimore waterfront. He drives a long, sleek Mercedes and wears tailored suits. He plays the concerned parent, admonishing his young protege about homework. Vincent's plan hits a snag, though, on a day that he keeps his nephew out of school to tutor Woody in "real world shit, »


- Chris Pomorski

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