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Screen Talk: Indie Spirits Go Rogue, Critics May Follow Suit in a Non-Consensus Awards Year

20 minutes ago

Indiewire critic Eric Kohn and I dig into the Indie Spirit nominations, which went off the rails in a welcome way in this non-consensus year. That doesn't mean there aren't a plethora of titles to choose from during this awards season. We discuss some of the alternatives to the heavily marketed movies, and hope the critics' groups--New York votes on Monday morning--will range far and wide. »

- Anne Thompson

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A Conversation with Spirit Nominee Pawel Pawlikowski on the Making of 'Ida'

1 hour ago

Director Pawel Pawlikowski's "Ida" is devastating, and he knows it. Set in Poland 1962, when the British-trained Pawlikowski was a little boy, this dreamlike road movie follows a convent-raised orphan girl named Anna who is told that her birth name is Ida Lebenstein, and that her parents were Jewish and murdered in the war. The courier of this shocking news is Ida's caustic, free-spirited aunt Wanda who resents her niece's innocence but takes the girl under her wing anyway to uncover the dark reality of her family's past in the Polish pastoral. "Ida" played the festival circuit up and down between last year and 2014, sweeping accolades and acclaim along the way. It collected nearly $4 million at the Us box office, outmatching its take in France where the film was deemed a hit. "ida" has now been nominated for five European Film Awards: Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenwriter, »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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In Indie Spirit Nominee 'Virunga,' Gorillas Caught in the Crosshairs of Corporate Greed

1 hour ago

Set in the vast Congolese national park of the same name, “Virunga,” the debut feature doc by Orlando (“Skateistan”)  von Einsiedel, and showing at Tribeca, is an exhilarating balance of politics, ecology, market forces and utter corruption, all of which play out across the landscape. Coveted by an oil-seeking corporation called Soco, it’s also home to the 800 or so mountain gorillas left in the world, who are little more than an inconvenient obstacle for the British company -- which, as if delivered to von Einsiedel by central casting, is morally bankrupt, oblivious to history, and a casual creator of misery upon which it feeds like a flea.  “Who gives a fuck about a fucking monkey?” asks a self-described mercenary in the Soco employ. To the movie’s credit, it makes a very good case why everyone should -- unless he or she is a stockholder, or a soulless cretin. »

- John Anderson

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How Composer Alexandre Desplat Captures Different WWII Vibes for 'Imitation Game' and 'Unbroken'

2 hours ago

He's been nominated six times and has scored five movies released this year ("Monuments Men," "The Grand Budapest Hotel," "Godzilla," "The Imitation Game," and "Unbroken"). But the latter two could conceivably land him two noms given their best picture potential. "The Imitation Game" and "Unbroken" are fascinating for their similarities and differences. They are highly unusual World War II biopics about two lonely, tortured geniuses: Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch), who broke the German Enigma code with his revolutionary electro-mechanical bombe while tragically being trapped by England's homophobic code, and Louis Zamperini (Jack O'Connell), the Olympic champion runner-turned war hero, who survived multiple Japanese prisoner of war camps. "'The Imitation Game' is very educated and full of dialogue and has humor; 'Unbroken' is big, provocative, spiritual, beautiful, very hard because it's extremely »


- Bill Desowitz

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Trailers From Hell on 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom'

3 hours ago

The result is one of the most propulsive action-comedies ever made with one head-spinning set piece after another. Its lighthearted approach aside, the film is faithful enough to its grisly pulp fiction roots that certain scenes (like a bloodthirsty high priest burrowing into an unlucky native’s chest to pluck out his heart) heralded the new PG-13 rating from the MPAA. »

- Trailers From Hell

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Palm Springs Fest: 'Boyhood' Writer-Director Linklater Gets Visionary Award

6 hours ago

The 26th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival (Psiff) will give "Boyhood" filmmaker Richard Linklater the Sonny Bono Visionary Award at its annual Awards Gala on Saturday, January 3 at the Palm Springs Convention Center. The Festival runs January 2-12.  Past recipients include Tom Hooper, Danny Boyle, Quentin Tarantino, and Michel Hazanavicius.  Nominated for two screenwriting Oscars for "Before Sunset" and "Before Midnight," Linklater wrote, produced and directed Oscar frontrunner "Boyhood," whose star Ellar Coltrane literally grew up on screen over 12 years of filming. Supporting actor and actress contenders Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette play his parents, and Lorelei Linklater is his sister. The film was produced by Linklater, Cathleen Sutherland, Jonathan Sehring and John Sloss, and was financed and released by IFC Films. Linklater also directed "Slacker," "Dazed and Confused," »


- Anne Thompson

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Why Kevin Costner Paid for 'Black or White': Sneak Preview Q & A

7 hours ago

Kevin Costner knows how to play the studio game as well as anyone, from directing 1991 Best Picture winner "Dances with Wolves" and his streak as a major movie star in such hits as "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," "Bull Durham," "Tin Cup," "Field of Dreams" "JFK" and "The Bodyguard," not to mention the infamous "Waterworld," which made  a lot more money and is a better film than anyone remembers. What a career! He doesn't lack for confidence, and has always had a maverick streak--he loves his westerns, from "Open Range" to TV's "Hatfields and McCoys." Heading toward 60, Costner takes on character roles in "Superman: Man of Steel" and carried the recent football drama "Draft Day." But the guy has always been a maverick, and when director Mike Binder kept plying him with roles to follow up "Upside with Anger," it was "Black or White" that »


- Anne Thompson

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Watch: Josh Brolin Explains His Flat Top in Paul Thomas Anderson's 'Inherent Vice' and More (Exclusive Video)

8 hours ago

Josh Brolin credits his mid-career turnaround to Robert Rodriguez on "Grindhouse" which led to the Coens and "No Country for Old Men" and "True Grit," not to mention Gus Van Sant's "Milk" and Oliver Stone's "W" and "Wall Street 2" and Woody Allen's "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger." Brolin is a chiseled American actor who boasts that rare combination: dangerous masculinity and sexy vulnerability. He plays both villains and lovers. See Jason Reitman's sexy "Labor Day." Brolin clearly had a blast working with Paul Thomas Anderson on his adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's 2009 novel "Inherent Vice" (December 12) and gets to dig into into one of the more colorful character roles of any year. He tells me, in our video interview below, how "Renaissance detective" Bigfoot Bjornsen comes to sport his dramatic flat top. This is not your usual straight-arrow foil to 70s hippie gumshoe Doc. »


- Anne Thompson

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Indie Spirit Nominee 'Evolution of a Criminal' Is Provocative, Must-See Doc Debut

20 hours ago

"Evolution of a Criminal" is a documentary and a provocation, a movie and a bitter truth to swallow. First-time filmmaker Darius Clark Monroe returns to the scene of a crime he committed ten years ago in this docu-confession that subtly raises questions about how harsh economic realities in certain pockets of the Us turn young people into lawbreakers. Monroe not only has an urgent story he needs to tell, involving a bank robbery he committed with two friends at the age of 16, he's also an exceptionally gifted filmmaker who finds novel ways to recreate, and evoke, his past mistakes. "Evolution" layers interviews alongside Monroe's door-to-door catharsis quest, or something like it, as he tracks down the people affected by the robbery to ask for forgiveness. And, in effect, to put a rather banal face on what the law deemed a hideous crime. Monroe's family—including a loving mother, doting grandmother »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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Spirit Nominee Ag Iñárritu Took Risks on 'Birdman' (Video)

21 hours ago

Alejandro González Iñárritu is a happy man. Since "Birdman" earned raves on the festival circuit, it's doing well at the box office, too. He laughed as he shot the film for the first time in his life, he says, describing the process as "a joy. Michael Keaton got naked spiritually and physically."  When the filmmaker turned 50, his examination of his life and psyche led him to collaborate with a team of writers on this sharp show business comedy that skewers the current Hollywood obsession with superheroes as it reveals the psychological pitfalls of the creative process. This is something Iñárritu knows something about, as he followed up his breakout "Amores Perros" with a series of tough English-language dramas ("Babel," "21 Grams") as well as Spanish "Biutiful," which garnered an Oscar nomination for Javier Bardem. Now he's already prepping his next movie set to start »


- Anne Thompson

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Spirit Nominee Ruben Östlund on Directing 'Force Majeure,' Messing with Gender Roles

21 hours ago

"Force Majeure" is Ruben Östlund's gruesomely funny fourth feature, winner of the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes and now a top contender for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. A marriage hits the rocks — or better yet the ice — in this Swedish dark comedy that pits nature against the sacred, so-called nuclear family. Tomas and Ebba (terrifically played by Johannes Kuhnke and Lisa Loven Kongsli) are on holiday in the French Alps when an avalanche, in the film's spectacularly enacted centerpiece, nearly swallows them and their two blond children. Though the threat turns out to be a false alarm, it sends the cowardly Tomas literally running away from his family, leaving Ebba alone with the kids in a fog of snow. Leery of her husband, Ebba twirls into a tizzy of doubt and confusion as Tomas' already frail male ego implodes: it's fascinating to watch their discussions of the he-said/she-said particulars, »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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Watch: Indie Spirit Nominee Jenny Slate on Sex and Standup in 'Obvious Child' (Exclusive)

23 hours ago

Stand-up comic Jenny Slate didn't go from zero to breakout overnight. Typically, like many performers, she's had wins and losses--like her gig on Saturday Night Live. It wasn't a good fit, she admits now in our video interview below. Clearly, Sundance hit "Obvious Child" suited her talents perfectly, as writer-director Gillian Robespierre carefully crafted this dramedy vehicle for her.  "Obvious Child" started out as a 2009 20-minute short starring Slate. After the short nabbed positive attention online and from film festivals, Robespierre went ahead with a full-fledged feature. It took more than four years to get made. She funded the film independently with private equity investors and grants--Rooftop Films, the San Francisco FIlm Society, the Tribeca Film Institute-- and finished it with Kickstarter funds. A24 acquired the film out of Sundance; it's holding well in current release.  "When I read the script I thought I was very »


- Anne Thompson

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Weinstein Plants Clever 'Imitation Game' Fyc Ploy in New York Times

25 November 2014 12:30 PM, PST

Weinstein is pulling out all the stops for his Indie Spirits-snubbed "The Imitation Game"—the handsomely directed drama by Morten Tyldum that neatly fills this year's Brit Biopic Oscar slot—with a contest! Nyt crossword lovers, and Cumberbitches alike, can check out a reprint of the original 1942 Daily Telegraph puzzled used by Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his team to recruit codebreakers for the war effort. Those who could solve the crossword in 12 minutes or less became candidates to join the British Intelligence, which was working to break the Nazi's Enigma Machine. Here's the gist of the contest, from TWC: "Entrants who solve the puzzle can mail in their results for a chance to win a trip for two to London and a tour of the infamous Bletchley Park facilities where Turing and the Hut 8 team worked to help end WWII. The contest will run from November 27th to December 4th, »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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Why 'Test' Director and Indie Spirit Nominee Chris Mason Johnson Is a Queer Cinema Rising Star

25 November 2014 11:56 AM, PST

Chris Mason Johnson's 1980s-set AIDS panic drama "Test" belongs loosely to a trio of recent films that capture the realities and rhythms of gay urban life without succumbing to the cliches that tend to plague queer cinema. Let's call it the New New Queer Cinema. These filmmakers want to tell stories, and their films are as much about a specific time and place as they are about depicting real, relatable erotic relationships between men. Johnson's second film as writer/director, the startlingly intelligent, visually mesmerizing "Test" sets the moody tale of brooding modern dancer Frankie (Scott Marlowe) against a backdrop of dread as quickly-escalating as the outbreak of the then-unknowable HIV virus. Off the dance floor, the film flirts with death and looming romance, while evoking the emptiness and fleeting fulfillment of one-night stands, and the spikes of self-loathing, endemic to being gay in the city. Onstage, the choreography, »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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Richard Linklater on Indie Spirit Nominee 'Boyhood,' with Coltrane, Hawke & Arquette (Exclusive Video)

25 November 2014 11:50 AM, PST

How often do we get to see a movie that is utterly unlike anything we have ever seen before? It is rare. For his entire career, from the start with his Sundance breakout  "Slackers" in 1991, Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater has worked outside the box. He tracked the couple Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) across 18 years and three "Before" films (1995-2013), opening up the writing collaboration to his two lead actors. Linklater is a generous soul. He doesn't try to control as much as to steer his outcomes, with a great deal of confidence, something he needed with the philosophical rotoscoping animation experiments "Waking Life" and the Philip K. Dick adaptation "A Scanner Darkly." The secret of Linklater's success is his willingness to fail. He left some audiences behind with his earnest attempt to fictionalize Eric Schlosser's nonfiction food expose "Fast Food Nation," which played Cannes. But »


- Anne Thompson

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Seven Films That Dominate the Visual Effects Oscar Race

25 November 2014 11:14 AM, PST

With the VFX Oscar shortlist coming in the next week, I predict the race will come down to seven contenders: "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,"  "Interstellar," "Guardians of the Galaxy," "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies," "Godzilla," "Transformers: Age of Extinction," and "Maleficent."  Beyond that, look for the big battle between Caesar, Gargantua, and Groot. 1. Andy Serkis' amazing Caesar is still the one to beat. Weta Digital revamped its performance capture system (including bodysuits, cameras, markers, lighting and simulation of fur, skin, moisture, and especially the eyes), and went more photo-real by shooting outdoors primarily in Muir Woods under less than ideal conditions. Added detail and fidelity of performance weren’t enough: the process had to hold up to the rough elements as well as the scrutiny of IMAX 3-D, which provides further depth and dynamic »


- Bill Desowitz

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Independent Spirit Awards Nominations 2015 Led by 'Boyhood,' 'Birdman'

25 November 2014 11:06 AM, PST

The Spirit Awards voted on by the members will be awarded in Santa Monica on February 21 and air live on IFC and will be rebroadcast at 10 pm.  As always, surprises abounded in this year's nominations announced on November 25. Who came out ahead and behind?  There's always some degree of overlap between the Spirits and the Oscars as winning momentum comes into play, right before the critics groups awards break in the coming weeks. Last year, "12 Years a Slave" took home the top feature prizes at both the Spirits and the Oscars, and actors Cate Blanchett, Matthew McConaughey, Lupita Nyong'o and Jared Leto also collected two sets of awards. This can lead to a very dull Spirit show. This year the jury supplied some zingers, includingmicro-indie "Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter." That's their job. Besides Spirit frontrunners "Birdman" (six nominations including A.G. Inarritu, Michael Keaton, Emma Stone and Edward Norton) and »


- Anne Thompson

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Watch: Full 'Jurassic World' Trailer Finally Drops

25 November 2014 10:48 AM, PST

Set 22 years after the original "Jurassic Park" (which came out in 1993), "Jurassic World" takes place on a fully functional theme park on Isla Nublar that welcomes 20,000 visitors a year. The storyline involves a new dino DNA experiment gone horribly awry. Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D'Onofrio, Jake Johnson and more, the film opens via Universal Pictures on June 12, 2015. Watch: NBC Goes Behind the Scenes of "Jurassic World" The film has been in the works since the early 2000s, when "Jurassic Park" director Steven Spielberg confirmed a new installment in the mythology which has, so far, produced three feature films. This is director/co-writer Trevorrow's followup to his 2012 sci-fi indie "Safety Not Guaranteed," a far-cry from the big-budget world of prehistoric creatures seen here. Read More: "Jurassic World" Director Trevorrow Sets Record Straight on New Plot Details and Leaks »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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Warren Beatty Emerges from 13-Year Hiatus with Howard Hughes Film

25 November 2014 10:26 AM, PST

Warren Beatty has not appeared onscreen in a new film since the romantic comedy "Town and Country," a costly 2001 box office flop. But now, as revealed in the latest issue of Closer Weekly, he's been working on a new directorial effort, and has come out of retirement to turn his decades-long obsession with reclusive American tycoon Howard Hughes into a movie. The project, according to Closer, focuses on the reclusive mogul's May-December romance with a young ingenue, played by 25-year-old actress Lily Collins ("Mirror Mirror"). Tessa Farmiga, Chace Crawford, Alec Baldwin, Matthew Broderick, Martin Sheen, Candice Bergen and Beatty's wife Annette Bening also star. Matthew Broderick tells Closer that the film, which cost $27 million on a 72-day schedule, has finished shooting. The yet-to-be titled project remains shrouded in secrecy (allegedly only Collins received the full script), but one thing we know for sure is that Beatty himself, 77, will play Hughes, »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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First-Ever Authorized Kurt Cobain Doc, 'Montage of Heck,' Coming to HBO

25 November 2014 9:19 AM, PST

For the first time ever, Cobain's story will be told in this documentary set to air exclusively on HBO in 2015. Brett Morgen, Oscar-nominated filmmaker of boxing doc "On the Ropes," Rolling Stones tribute "Crossfire Hurricane" and "The Kid Stays in the Picture," directs the film, which Cobain's daughter Frances Bean Cobain executive-produces. Named for Cobain's 1988 4-track mixtape from his own favorite records, "Montage of Heck" is the first doc to be made in cooperation with the Cobain family, allowing no-holds-barred access to his archives, with never-before-seen footage, newly unearthed recordings, demos, journey entries and more. The doc also features dozens of Nirvana songs and performances leading up to his controversial death in 1994 at the unlucky age of 27. Few filmmakers have successfully captured Cobain as he was. To name a few: In 1998, "Tales of the Grim Sleeper" director Nick Broomfield investigated Courtney »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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