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Screen Talk: Breaking Down Gothams vs. Oscars, 'Interstellar' and Awards Buzz

7 hours ago

Indiewire's Eric Kohn and I discuss "Interstellar" buzz, "Citizenfour," "Force Majeure," "Beyond the Lights" (my interview here) and what this week's Gotham nominations tell us about award season. The Gotham Awards have little influence on Oscar voters, but do start to build positive momentum for certain buzzy titles. They have more influence over L.A.'s upcoming Indie Spirit Award nominations.  Next week is our 20th episode and we want to hear from you! Send us your questions in the comments section. »


- Anne Thompson

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Stream These: Laura Poitras, 'Heart Machine,' 'Carnival of Souls' for Free and More

8 hours ago

From Swedish Oscar entry "Force Majeure" to Laura Poitras' Edward Snowden doc "Citizenfour," this weekend boasts a strong slate of in-theater offerings. But if you're feeling like a homebody over the next few days, here are a few alternative streaming options: Catch up on the politically charged documentaries of muckraking-journalist-turned-filmmaker Laura Poitras on Fandor, where you can stream parts one and two of her "9/11 Trilogy" ahead of "Citizenfour."  -Her Oscar-nominated 2006 film "My Country, My Country" looks at the Us occupation of Iraq, following a Sunni Arab doctor as he prepares to run for early 2005 democratic election in Iraq. La Times' Kenneth Turan writes: "What 'My Country, My Country' does best is show us that while both the Americans and the Iraqis care about the country's future, their cultural backgrounds and world views inevitably make them seem alien to each other. -Also on Fandor, Poitras' »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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Watch: Gina Prince-Bythewood on Gotham Nominee 'Beyond the Lights' (Exclusive Video)

9 hours ago

There are many talented women directors working--if not often enough--in Hollywood today. One of them is writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood, who broke out of UCLA winning prizes, writing and directing shorts and television (HBO's "Disappearing Acts"), and delivering a well-reviewed Sundance hit for New Line Cinema, "Love & Basketball" (2000), starring Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan, which scored Prince-Bythewood an Indie Spirit award and a Humanitas prize and grossed $27.4 million domestic. After producing 2003's "Biker Boyz," Prince-Bythewood followed up with Fox Searchlight's 2008 literary adaptation "The Secret Life of Bees," starring Dakota Fanning and Queen Latifah, which played better for audiences ($37.7 million domestic) than critics.  It's been another long stretch until "Beyond the Lights" (November 14), which played to raves in Toronto and Urbanworld, and just earned a Gotham Best »


- Anne Thompson

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Morelia Fest Tips Hat to María Félix, Mexican Classics and Pawel Pawlikowski

9 hours ago

Although I saw it last year in Morelia's Arturo de Cordova retrospective, I find the opportunity to see "The Kneeling Goddess," starring María Félix as well as de Cordova, irresistible, at the Morelia International Film Festival. It's an amazing melodrama with noirish elements. Felix, something of a glorious amalgam of Rita Hayworth and Ava Gardner, is literally statuesque, in that a nude statue of her figures prominently in both the plot and many shots. Steven Jacobs and Lisa Colpaert, authors of "The Dark Galleries," about the paintings used in film noir and gothic melodramas, are working on another book about statues. I commend "The Kneeling Goddess" to their attention, along with Rouben Mamoulian's "The Song of Songs," with its statue of a nude Marlene Dietrich. I especially enjoy the sequences set in a fantasy sailor's dive bar in Panama, where Felix is the singing star of a lavish revue. »


- Meredith Brody

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Watch New Trailer for Griffin Dunne Doc About His Aunt, Joan Didion

10 hours ago

I first encountered Griffin Dunne, now 58, as one of the New York producers, with partner Amy Robinson, of Joan Micklin Silver's "Chilly Scenes of Winter." He went on to produce "Baby It's You" and "Running on Empty" as he pursued an acting career, starring in Martin Scorsese's "After Hours" and John Landis's "An American Werewolf in London," and more recently, "House of Lies," "Red Band Society," "The Discovers" and "Dallas Buyers Club."  Read: Griffin Dunne Talks Acting, "The Discoverers" Dunne is also a director; among a string of decent indie features, his 1995 debut short film "Duke of Groove" was nominated for an Oscar, and he's been directing "The Good Wife" and writing a feature that he'd like to direct. Mostly he's been fine-tuning the doc about Joan Didion, now that he's finished interviewing her. "She was really »


- Anne Thompson

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'Vertigo' Hits Film Forum: Why It's Still One of the All-Time Greats

10 hours ago

It's this simple: If you don't like "Vertigo," you don't like the movies. But don't take my word for it: as of August 2014, Hitch's mesmeric, fantastical 1958 mystery still sits proudly atop Sight and Sound's Greatest 50 Films of All Time poll, dethroning the long-reigning "Citizen Kane" yet again. 4K restorations are all the rage these days so in spirit, Film Forum is screening the dazzling new transfer of "Vertigo" from October 24-30 in New York. The presentation played Cannes in 2013, alongside an appearance by the film's still-beautiful star Kim Novak (who, as the object of Scottie's fetishizing, uncannily inhabits two roles in the film). Though considered a commercial and critical misfire at the time, "Vertigo" — which Paramount wanted named, of all things, "Without a Trace," "Checkmate," "Afraid to Love," "The Night Is Ours," "Two Kinds of Women" and a bevy of other melodramatic titles — »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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Edward Norton and Andrea Riseborough Dig Into Actors' Egos and 'Birdman'

10 hours ago

It’s worth seeing Alejandro G. Iñárritu's "Birdman" a second time. For me, the first viewing was about spotting cuts and marveling at the elaborate camera work. The second time I was caught up in the performances. 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 G. 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.  This movie was not easy to realize, given the logistical and aesthetic risk of shooting in a radical new way via a series of long single takes--giving the illusion »


- Anne Thompson

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'Interstellar' Screenings Launch Upbeat Buzz

11 hours ago

But one way to spread positive buzz ahead of the press is to let influencers in Hollywood take to Twitter. They have no embargo. Thus San Francisco Film Society exec director Noah Cowan and filmmakers Rian Johnson, Brad Bird and Edgar Wright are already spreading the advance word that "Interstellar" is amazing, among others.  Sunday night Paramount chief Brad Grey hosted a starry New York opinionmakers screening. And Tuesday night at the Beverly Hilton, Matthew McConaughey was the recipient of the American Cinematheque Ball's annual tribute (our on-the-ground coverage is here). Nolan, Jessica Chastain and Anne Hathaway were on hand as part of a major Paramount push for--"Interstellar." Update: On Thursday, NY and La press got their first gander at the movie; those lucky enough to be at the Chinese Theater Guild screening got the added bonus of a Q &A with Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain. »


- Anne Thompson

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Why Gotham Nominee 'Under the Skin' Took a Decade to Make (Videos)

23 October 2014 4:17 PM, PDT

UK music video star Jonathan Glazer took a decade to follow up his first two films, 2000's paeon to kinetic violence, "Sexy Beast," which earned raves and gave Sir Ben Kingsley and Ray Winstone careers as villains, and 2004's reincarnation drama "Birth," starring Nicole Kidman, which met a more mixed reaction. (For his part, Toh's Ryan Lattanzio defends it.)  So what took Glazer so long to finish the visually stunning "Under the Skin," starring Scarlett Johansson as an alluring alien trawling for human specimens in the foggy crags of Scotland? The director insisted on making his own the film adaptation of Michael Faber's 2001 novel brought to him by longtime producer Jim Wilson--while testing his ideas on various music videos and commercials. Over the years he worked his way through various writers including Milo Addica and then ad writer Walter Campbell, who moved from two characters (Brad Pitt was going to play one) and a. »


- Anne Thompson

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Watch: John Lithgow, Star of Gotham Nominee 'Love Is Strange'

23 October 2014 3:22 PM, PDT

There are so many coming-of-age stories every year that it's rare to see a mature love story. Even though Ira Sachs' "Love is Strange," which debuted at Sundance and landed a best feature nomination for the Gotham Awards, is about two gay men who get married, it's more about aging love. It's touching how much these people love each other.  John Lithgow and Alfred Molina have both generated buzz in the early awards discussion. I spoke with Sachs and Lithgow at Sundance: "It's love at the end of your life," says writer-director Ira Sachs, who was inspired by not only Woody Allen's New York relationship movies "Husbands and Wives" and "Hannah and Her Sisters" but his mother and stepfather's marriage of over 40 years, and the long relationship between his Memphis great-uncle and his partner. "There's something imperfect and beautiful and I wanted to make a film about that. »


- Anne Thompson

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Watch: Gotham Nominee Jenny Slate Talks Sex and Standup in 'Obvious Child' (Exclusive)

23 October 2014 2:06 PM, PDT

Stand-up comic (and Gotham Award-nominated breakout) 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 »


- Anne Thompson

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How Gotham Nominee James Ward Byrkit Made 'Coherence' in 5 Days with No Script or Budget

23 October 2014 2:03 PM, PDT

"Coherence" is not just smart science fiction: it's a triumph of crafty independent filmmaking, made with few resources and big ambition. Gotham-nominated debut director James Ward Byrkit stripped his vision down to the barest of bones to achieve a mind-shifting, metaphysical freakout about a dinner party gone cosmically awry. This film explodes with ideas, and it has that thing we always hope for at the movies: the element of surprise. Shot in sequence, in one location on a beer budget, "Coherence" gathers eight longtime friends and lovers hoping for a pleasant night on Earth -- only they, along with space and time and reality, are about to be torn inexplicably asunder by a comet passing overhead. Inject some heady quantum physics, volatile emotions and parallel realities into the equation, and the film goes completely rogue. Byrkit brought eight unwitting actors to his Santa Monica home, threw them a few red »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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Watch 'E-Team' Q & A: Filmmakers Follow Four Human Rights Watchers Into Danger

23 October 2014 1:32 PM, PDT

During the intense fall season, the International Documentary Association screens a series of the year's best documentaries with Q & As to follow. I sat down recently with doc vets Ross Kaufman (Oscar-winner "Born Into Brothels') and Katy Chevigny ("Deadline," "Election Day"), co-directors of "The E-Team" (theaters October 22, Netflix October 24), an extraordinary doc that follows four intrepid Humans Rights Watchers as they go deep into dangerous territory to establish-- in a way some journalists do not-- exactly what human rights abuses are happening in countries like Libya and Syria. When they share their results, their fearless work has a huge impact on how the rest of the world reacts to these horrific situations. This should be a strong awards contender. Here's a slightly edited version of the Q & A which is also viewable, along with the trailer, in the videos below.  Anne Thompson: You premiered “The E-Team” at Sundance, where »


- Anne Thompson

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Mexican Noirs Screen in Morelia (Plus the Film 'Gone Girl' Should've Been)

23 October 2014 12:53 PM, PDT

It's hard to express the sharp sense of joy I felt when I first opened the program for the 12th Morelia International Film Festival.  The late and much-lamented Peter von Bagh named a section of the Cinema Ritrovato festival in Bologna "the cinephile's paradise," and though there's nothing anywhere in the world like Il Cinema Ritrovato, I am still excited by the cinephilic banquet that Daniela Michel and her programmers assemble in Morelia. It's not just a survey of the films, both narrative and documentary, that are currently making the festival circuit, which would be appealing on its own.  And it's not just the strong section of current Mexican movies, few of which travel outside of the Spanish-speaking world. There's also the festival's link with the Semaine de la Critique, or Critics' Week, in Cannes, which traditionally brings a number of its films to Morelia. But what seduces me and »


- Meredith Brody

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Watch: Peek 'Into the Woods' with Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep

23 October 2014 11:41 AM, PDT

Stephen Sondheim's sprawling Broadway fairytale "Into the Woods" gets the big-screen treatment this Christmas Day. Director Rob Marshall leaves the "Pirates of the Caribbean" to return to his musical "Nine" and "Chicago" roots, leading a top-drawer cast that includes Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine and Johnny Depp as various characters from Grimm stories. The musical was adapted by James Lapine, who co-wrote the original book to accompany Sondheim's music and lyrics. This new featurette from EW is basically a puff piece touting the efforts of Marshall, whose "Chicago" won Best Picture in 2003. But the video offers our first real sense of "Into the Woods" aside from the trailer--and includes plenty of singing from the witch (Streep) and Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), especially. (Toh! contributor Susan Wloszczyna breaks down the film's Oscar and box office prospects here.) »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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What Gotham Award Noms Tell Us About Awards Buzz: 'Birdman,' 'Boyhood,' 'Budapest' Looking Good

23 October 2014 10:55 AM, PDT

Arriving early in the awards cycle are the Ifp's Gotham Independent Film Awards (in seven competitive categories). They have little influence on Oscar voters, but do start to build positive momentum for certain buzzy titles. They have more influence over L.A.'s upcoming Indie Spirit Award nominations.  So it's no surprise that Richard Linklater's "Boyhood" (IFC)--the current Oscar frontrunner for Best Picture--led the way with four nominations, nor that two Fox Searchlight films, Wes Anderson's "Grand Budapest Hotel" and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's  "Birdman," are strong award season contenders. Of the other two feature nominees, Ira Sachs' "Love is Strange" could have used nominations for its two actors, John Lithgow and Alfred Molina, while Jonathan Glazer's under-appreciated indie feature "Under the Skin" and Best Actress nominee Scarlett Johansson mainly gained awareness for the Indie Spirits--if the British film is »


- Anne Thompson

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New 'Interstellar' Clues Revealed (Video)

23 October 2014 10:28 AM, PDT

The Hollywood Report pulls ten new details about "Interstellar" from its recent roundtable with the cast and director Christopher Nolan. Here's what we know about the film thus far from THR, and the recent Entertainment Weekly exclusive on the film, which was handily recapped by Vulture. Early inside buzz on the film is high, but what self-respecting industry player would publicly disparage Nolan's film on Twitter anyway? On Tuesday night, Anne Thompson collected intel from the American Cinematheque career tribute to Matthew McConaughey (handed to him by Nolan) and met "Interstellar"'s consulting astrophysicist (and Stephen Hawking pal) Kip Thorne. (That story is here; THR roundtable video below.) The film opens Tuesday night, November 4, in 70mm, IMAX and 35mm screens: 4k digital and regular digital will play wide Friday, November 7. Nolan insists that the science behind "Interstellar" is authentic: "If a »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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Weinstein Seals Deal on Female-Led, Will Ferrell-Produced Comedy 'Plus One'

23 October 2014 10:04 AM, PDT

'Plus One' will be produced by Gloria Sanchez Productions,which is dedicated to female-driven film and TV projects, alongside executives Jessica Elbaum, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. This is Prosser's second screenplay to enter development, as her 2012 Black Listed script "The One That Got Away" is currently in production via Amazon Studios. Weinstein's Julia Rapaport and Melissa Wells will oversee "Plus One."  Here's the synopsis: In "Plus One," Rachel comes out of a long-term relationship only to realize all her friends have married off and there’s no one single left to go out with…except Summer, the loud, sexually-oversharing wild card who is now Rachel’s only option for a wing woman. Harvey Weinstein says Prosser is a "talented up-and-comer" and that "female-driven comedies continue to be a tremendously exciting force in film these days." Weinstein has a solid slate of Fall 2014 films led by women: »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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Watch: Brad Pitt A.K.A. "Bradley Pitts" on 'Between Two Ferns' with Zach Galifianakis

23 October 2014 9:35 AM, PDT

Brad Pitt, or "Bradley Pitts" as he's introduced by Galifianakis in the latest "Between Two Ferns," is game for anything. Watch Galifianakis make Pitt hilariously uncomfortable in the new episode of the Funny or Die web series: "Can I borrow some of your sperm?" "You look like Hitler's dream." "Tell us about your new movie 'Furry.'" Louis C.K. eventually joins in the fun. Galifianakis can currently be seen as Michael Keaton's fussy stage manager in "Birdman." Also worth seeing, if you haven't, is the hysterical Charlize Theron episode of "Between Two Ferns." »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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Here Are 5 Films Opening This Weekend, and Why You Should See Them

23 October 2014 6:30 AM, PDT

A marriage hits the rocks, or better yet the ice, in Ruben Östlund's gruesomely "Force Majeure," winner of the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes and now a top contender for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. The film centers on a Swedish couple and their children who are nearly destroyed by a false-alarm avalanche, and how the father's split-second reaction to the incident shatters the family completely (and comically). As we enter full award season mode, this Swedish Oscar entry is one to watch, a chilly and impeccably mounted chamber dramedy that ridicules every one of its affluent characters without any compunction. (Read our interview with the director here.) Director Gregg Araki sheds his new queer cinema roots for the Shailene Woodley vehicle "White Bird in a Blizzard," about a 17-year-old girl named Kat whose sexual awakening is sparked by the spooky disappearance of her down-in-the-doldrums alcoholic mother, »


- Ryan Lattanzio

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