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Los Angeles -- Alonso Duralde literally wrote the book on Christmas movies: It's called "Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas." So who better to guest-program the Five Most space this week?
Only Duralde – a film critic for The Wrap and (full disclosure) my co-host on the YouTube review show "What the Flick?!" – did it with a twist. He chose five movies that may not initially seem like Christmas movies yet have that Christmasy vibe. After all, anyone can pop "It's a Wonderful Life" or "Elf" into the DVD player on Dec. 25, but we've got the expert, in his own words:
_ "Eyes Wide Shut" (1999): You may remember the notorious orgy sequence – or the scenes of then-married couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman speaking frankly about their sexual fantasies – but Stanley Kubrick's final film is set squarely in the Christmas season, with almost every scene involving twinkle lights or wrapping paper or a decorated tree. »
Here's a rather, um, life-affirming little short by "Where the Wild Things Are" helmer Spike Jonze, in which the skeleton of Macbeth tears himself off the cover of his own book to jump the bones (literally) of Mina Harker on the cover of "Dracula." Complications ensue, Herman Melville is involved.
We guarantee you've never quite seen a short film like this, which is animated entirely using 2-D handcrafted felt puppets designed by Olympia Le-Tan, who also wrote the script. Olympia has specialized in making book cover reproductions using this style.
Shot at France's Shakespeare and Company bookstore, the initial live-action segment features her father, Pierre Le-Tan whom movie fans may recognize as the illustrator for the covers of several Whit Stillman DVDs on the Criterion Collection, such as "Metropolitan" and "Last Days of Disco."
Jonze himself voices Macbeth, and French singer Soko lends her voice to Harker as well as »
- Max Evry
Well, I watched a lot more this week as I had a couple of nights where I just decided I was going to push work aside for a second and watch a few films I wanted to watch rather than had to watch. Below is the result of that decision as I saw four films I had never seen before.
Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) Upon hearing the news Christopher Nolan, Michael Bay and Alfonso Cuaron were on Warner's shortlist to direct a new Twilight Zone movie I decided to watch the original 1983 movie, which I rented from [amazon asin="B000SZS3VU" text="Amazon's Instant Video service"]. I think I may have seen a couple of episodes of the television show a long, long time ago, but this was the first time I can remember ever watching anything "Twilight Zone" related and I can't say I was blown away, though the fourth segment, Nightmare at 20,000 feet, is excellent. Correct me if I'm wrong, »
- Brad Brevet
One of my highlights of this year's Toronto Film festival was getting to sit down with writer-director Whit Stillman. As a huge fan of Stillman's first three features (Metropolitan, Barcelona, The Last Days of Disco), I never thought I'd get the chance to talk with him. But with Stillman writing and directing his first film in 13 years, Damsels in Distress , he was at Tiff to talk about the project and I jumped at the chance to interview with him. Since Damsels doesn't get released until next year, I decided to use more of the time to talk about what he's been doing for since The Last Days of Disco and what's coming up in the future. While I hoped he'd jump into another film immediately, he tells me: “I doubt if, in the best case scenario, there’d be anything underway in 2012. I have to write a commission, get some money, »
- Steve 'Frosty' Weintraub
Damsels in Distress It's been thirteen years since we've gotten a film from the sinisterly funny wordsmith known as Whit Stillman. Thirteen years. Over his long hiatus since the yuppie disco opus The Last Days of Disco, Stillman has had a number of projects on the go, none of which came to fruition until Greta Gerwig, Analeigh Tipton, Megalyn Echikunwoke, and Carrie MacLemore became the Damsels in Distress. Imagine if you tasked the man behind Metropolitan with a job where he must combine the strained sisterhood in Heathers with the ridiculous dumbness and sense of charity in Clueless. That is, essentially, his latest film. The damsels are a tight-knit group of students at an east-coast university set in a timeless modern day (there are e-mails, but they girls...
- Monika Bartyzel
HollywoodNews.com: Greta Gerwig is hot as a pistol right now. After making a splash in Noah Baumbach‘s terrific comedy, “Greenberg,” she’s gotten roles with Woody Allen and Whit Stillman. At Tuesday night’s premiere of Stillman’s wonderful “Damsels in Distress,” Greta was accompanied by Baumbach–pretty nice since he’s already directed her.
Greta and her pals play college chums in the very stylised “Damsels”–an arch, tongue in cheek send up of fast talking kids who just a little “off.” At one point they all perform a very preppy, peppy musical number of “Things Are Looking Up.” Greta’s character runs the college’s Suicide Prevention Center, but of course soon she becomes depressed over the loss of a bonehead boyfriend. I loved this movie. Adam Brody–ex of “The O.C.” and due to break out big time is just great as a student posing »
- Roger Friedman
Says Adaptation Of 'Red Azalea' Is Dead, But He May Yet Make A China-Set Film Considering how long he's been away--thirteen years since his most recent film, "The Last Days of Disco"--there was understandably some concern about the return of Whit Stillman with "Damsels in Distress." Had the dryly funny, literate indie legend behind "Barcelona" and "Metropolitan" gotten rusty in his time away? Would the casting of teen idol Adam Brody, and mumblecore queen Greta Gerwig in a college-set comedy see him water down his work to appeal to the kids? Fortunately, it seems that the answer was no in… »
For those pining for the return Whit Stillman, the 1990s indie sensation whose trilogy of films, Metropolitan, Barcelona and Last Days of Disco carved out a lasting auteur niche in a decade full of American indie-breakouts, his first film in 13 years technically meets that basic criteria - he has made a film - but it is not exactly what the faithful might expect. The director has always leaned towards dense dialogue over visual flourishes making him sort of a socialite, yuppie-focused Kevin Smith (I probably just lost the 'criterion collector crowd' with that comparison and in all fairness, Stillman was there first.) Yet his characters always displayed some level of humanity between the witty dialogue and a signature high-minded, entitled brand of narcissism acting »
Two of my favorite films from days three and four of the Toronto Film Festival were experiments in duration. The less acclaimed of the two, Karim Aïnouz's The Silver Cliff, which premiered in the Directors' Fortnight at Cannes, takes a never-fully-explained family breakdown as a pretext to follow a husband and wife as they pace out their anguish through thirty-six hours. The film has no big revelations up its sleeve, and at times one is forced to observe that people may not be at their most interesting and differentiated at moments of crisis. But if one has to watch 84 minutes of tracking shots through Rio de Janeiro, Aïnouz is the man for the job, with his superb eye and his knack for balancing documentation of the environment with a focus on the individual. Eventually the beleagued couple fight through the worst of their blue funk and start to throw us a few surprises, »
Writer-director Whit Stillman's insightful 1990 debut, "Metropolitan," was a smartly envisioned fantasy about the end of the debutante era. "Damsels in Distress," his first feature in over a dozen years, also works as a fantasy, but a far less purposeful one. Stillman's lengthy filmmaking absence puts an unfair amount of pressure to deliver something transformative, but he hasn't risen to the bait. Playing with the quirky stereotypes of upper class »
Photo: Sony Pictures Classics Whit Stillman's Damsels in Distress marks the writer/director's first film in 13 years following 1998's The Last Days of Disco. My anticipation here was high after seeing Stillman's Disco and Metropolitan for the first time back in 2009. In that sense, Damsels is easily recognizable as a Stillman feature with intelligent dialogue and characters with a gift for gab, but it takes on something of a fantastical edge I never quite became comfortable with. The story could have metaphorically been told in cardboard castles with the cast dressed in Renaissance garb and it would have played almost exactly the same, it's that kind of film.
- Brad Brevet
Would you believe it has been 13 long years since Whit Stillman’s last film, the much overlooked and highly underrated Last Days of Disco. The director first broke into the scene with Metropolitan in 1990 which received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay launching him to the forefront of the American independent filmmaking movement of the ’90s. Now his fourth film, Damsels In Distress, is expected to be released in 2011, and is screening at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival. This time around, mumblecore alum Greta Gerwig stars as Violet, the know-it-all leader of a group of alpha girls at an elite East Coast liberal arts college. The film is essentially about three young women at the university who become romatically entangled with three young men. There is a reason why Damsels In Distress was chosen as the closing night film at Venice, and to quote one of my colleagues, “Stillman is »
Writer/director Whit Stillman is has returned to the director's chair for the first time in 13 years. His last film was the excellent The Last Days of Disco starring Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny and with Damsels in Distress he's surrounded himself with a whole new crop of up-and-coming female talent and I have the first three clips from the film which will have its world premiere screening next Saturday, September 10 at the Venice Film Festival and coincidentally I'll be seeing it one day later in Toronto.
Described as a comedy, the film, written by Stillman, centers on Violet Wister (Greta Gerwig), Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and Heather (Carrie MacLemore) as they set out to revolutionize life at a grungy American university. They welcome transfer student Lily (Analeigh Tipton) into their group, which seeks to help severely depressed students with a program of good hygiene and musical dance numbers. The girls »
- Brad Brevet
With the expanded Gala and Special Presentation line-up announced for Toronto International Film Festival, we have the first look at new films featuring some of the industry’s most popular leading ladies. First up, above, you can see Rebecca Hall in Nick Murphy‘s directorial debut The Awakening. The “sophisticated psychological/supernatural thriller” is being compared to The Others and The Orphanage with a big twist. It also stars Dominic West and Imelda Staunton and you can see the synopsis below.
Haunted by the death of her fiancé, Florence Cathcart is on a mission to expose all séances as exploitative shams. However, when she is called to a boys’ boarding school to investigate a case of the uncanny, she is gradually forced to confront her skepticism in the most terrifying way, shaking her scientific convictions and her sense of self to the very core.
We also have the first »
- email@example.com (thefilmstage.com)
Starry Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy remake among homegrown films competing with Clooney, Polanski and Madonna for Golden Lion
It may not have the star wattage of Cannes, or the cutting-edge credibility of SXSW, but a berth at the Venice film festival is still one of the most sought-after slots in the film industry calendar. And when its full lineup was announced on Thursday, it emerged that three British films were strong enough to secure screenings in the competition for the Golden Lion, Venice's premier award.
The British trio are led by Fish Tank director Andrea Arnold, whose long-gestating new film is an adaptation of Emily Brontë's classic novel, Wuthering Heights, starring Skins' Kaya Scoledario. Then there is artist Steve McQueen, who is following up his debut film Hunger with a sex-addiction drama scripted by Abi Morgan called Shame, featuring Hunger's lead actor Michael Fassbender opposite Carey Mulligan. The »
- Andrew Pulver
La Biennale di Venezia 2011 (aka the 2011 Venice Film Festival) announced its 68th round of selections today and a long absent American filmmaker is making his long awaited return. Whit Stillman, who is known for the indie classic "Metropolitan," "Barcelona" and "the Last Days of Disco," will debut his first film in 13 years, "Damsels in Distress." The comedy stars Gerta Gerwig and Adam Brody and will play out of competition as the festival's closing night film on Sept. 10. As expected, Al Pacino's "Wild Salome," Madonna's "W.E" and Steven Soderbergh's "Contagion" will also premiere out of competition. The films competing for »
We have six months to go and a lot of movies left to watch, and as was evidenced by the six films I included in my "Top Ten of the Year Contenders" on yesterday's The Best and Worst Movies of 2011... So Far post, there haven't been a ton of excellent films in theaters just yet. Three of those six films I saw at the Cannes Film Festival and only one of them has hit theaters so far (Midnight in Paris). This means we have to wash away the taste of the last six months. Sure, there were some good films and films we will all likely revisit over the years, but I think we can all generally agree 2011 hasn't exactly been a stellar year for movies.
So what's coming up? Well, I was able to compile a list of the top 21 (plus three) films I'm personally looking forward to seeing. »
- Brad Brevet
Gavin Wiesen‘s The Art of Getting By is an independent film for those that consider Olive Garden to be authentic Italian food. It’s palatable enough but you know there’s far better places you could have eaten. At the cinema, I’d be glad to recommend whatever auditorium is showing Midnight in Paris as an alternative.
Freddie Highmore stars as George, a high school senior rebelling against something – or going through something; I’m not sure which. He falls for – but lacks the confidence – to close the deal with Sally (Emma Roberts). I’m not sure George is an “artist” because he refuses to settle on one path (which I admire) but he’s aimless and comes close to failing out of high school. We don’t see much of his life before meeting Sally, so his mental state pre meeting her isn’t as established as it might have been. »
- John Fink
Toni Collette is returning to Australia to work with director Pj Hogan for the first time since the two collaborated on their breakthrough film "Muriel's Wedding" 17 years ago on a comedy called "Mental," in which Collette is expected to star as a caretaker for a politician's family of seven that has recently seen their matriarch admitted into the psychiatric ward. The film will not only serve as Hogan's first in his native country since "Muriel's," but it's also the latest indie production to suggest that soon audiences could relive the glory days of '90s, or at least enjoy a nostalgic kick of seeing many of its filmmakers reunite.
Late twentysomethings, you knew this day was coming with the pop cultural markers all around. For years, you've had a fond spot in your heart for "The Goonies," A-Ha and "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, but could only embrace it at »
- Stephen Saito
The Imperialists Are Still Alive! is set in a New York staggering from the events of 9/11, but stylistically, it’s straight out of the ’90s, when Whit Stillman was chronicling the minor travails of the wealthy and overeducated in films like Metropolitan and The Last Days Of Disco. Like Stillman’s self-described “urban haute bourgeoisie,” the characters in Zeina Durra’s feature debut are children of privilege whose painful awareness of that fact doesn’t stop them from saying amusingly obnoxious things. Unlike the Uhb, they’re all expats who sport fetching hybrid accents and handbags they bought »
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