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Well, here's something that will sit nicely alongside our 15 Best Documentaries Of 2013 -- a one hour THR roundtable with some of the filmmakers who brought forth some of biggest highlights of the year: Errol Morris ("The Unknown Known"), Lucy Walker ("The Crash Reel"), Alex Gibney ("The Armstrong Lie," "We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks"), Morgan Neville ("20 Feet From Stardom"), Teller ("Tim's Vermeer") and James Toback ("Seduced and Abandoned"). And as always, the talk is fascinating. For example, Morris -- who managed to get the controversial and divisive Donald Rumsfeld to be the subject of his documentary -- reveals that the politician wasn't even a fan of his work. "He told me that he had seen 'The Fog of War,' my film about a former secretary of defense like himself, Robert McNamara. And he told me he hated the movie," he explained. But perhaps more fascinating is Morris' »
- Kevin Jagernauth
Errol Morris makes documentaries. He also plays the cello. So a recent conversation in Manhattan turned from film to a performance the previous night of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony, and its eloquent silences. “You could go as far as to say silence is what the Ninth is all about,” Morris said. And you might say the same about the director’s latest movie. “The Unknown Known” takes its title from a pseudo-cryptic quote by its subject, Donald Rumsfeld, but also describes the subject himself. The former secretary of defense, a chief architect of the inexplicable Iraq War, doesn’t provide explanations in Morris’ documentary portrait. He doesn’t offer apologies. He doesn’t grasp the need for either -- or why anyone would question a man who seems incapable of questioning himself. But it is that absence of introspection, or expression of same, that has left some viewers flummoxed, largely »
- John Anderson
The 2003 Supporting Actress Smackdown is just 15 days away! If you're like "um... it's 2013" you should know that each month we look back at a particular Oscar race and debate it.
This month we're having a tenth anniversary party. For context before we get to the main event we're revisiting films. So far we've hit Finding Nemo, The Triplets of Belleville, The Fog of War, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Much Ado About Nothing, and Love Actually.
Let's meet our panelists for the main Supporting Actress event. They'll be sounding off soon enough on Renée, Holly, Marcia, Shohreh and Patty. For now we're asking them "What does 2003 mean to you?" »
- NATHANIEL R
Ten years ago Errol Morris won the Best Documentary Oscar for his investigation of former Secretary of Defence, Robert S. McNamara. It’s telling that even Morris was surprised, noting in his speech that “I thought it would never happen.” Given his stance as one of the most important documentarians of his time, it genuinely was surprising that he had never even been nominated before let alone won. I guess it didn’t help that titles like Fast, Cheap & Out of Control and Gates of Heaven were likely easily swept aside as unsubstantial, but The Thin Blue Line? A Brief History of Time? It seemed like the documentary branch clearly weren’t fans.
Still, The Fog of War was fairly hard to ignore even for the Academy who have an innate ability to let grudges and bug bears continue for decades and vice versa (I hear Mia Farrow has an »
- Glenn Dunks
Over the last 10 years, documentary filmmaker Errol Morris has been preoccupied with the methodology behind warfare, specifically investigating the mismanagement of American armed conflicts from Vietnam to Iraq. With the exception of his fascinating 2010 crime doc Tabloid, his output over the last decade has been a sober postmortem on our recent overseas failures: The Fog of War, Standard Operating Procedure and now The Unknown Known, which is the best of the bunch. Where his earlier documentaries looked at aspects of the military mindset, his newest feels nearly definitive, putting a face to hawkish policies. »
It started in Telluride, the word that somehow Errol Morris didn't "nail" Donald Rumsfeld in his mano a mano confrontation in "The Unknown Known" (Participant, Radius TWC). While I am fascinated by this portrait of a man who was close to the seat of power in this country for decades, from the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations through George W. Bush and the aftermath of 9/11--the biggest reveal is that he wished that his boss had allowed him to tender his resignation after the damning Abu Graib pictures were revealed--Morris lets Rumsfeld off easy. I'm not sure that he realizes how much his tried-and-true interratron filmmaking method lets him down in this particular case, unlike his Oscar-winning "The Fog of War" or his torture doc "Standard Operating Procedure." Rumsfeld is a particularly oily politician with a real gift of gab and prevarication. And so Morris focuses on his word skills, »
- Anne Thompson
The Slash-produced Nothing Left to Fear landed on Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand outlets today. If you're unsure about whether or not you want to check it out, perhaps a creepy sheep-infested clip will persuade you. Check it out baaahh-low!
The cast includes Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption), Anne Heche (Psycho, Rampart), James Tupper (Mr Popper’s Penguins), Jennifer Stone (Wizards of Waverly Place), Ethan Peck (In Time), and Rebekah Brandes (Bellflower).
Nothing Left to Fear is the first feature from the horror shingle launched by iconic rocker Slash (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver) and Academy-Award winning producer Michael Williams and Rob Eric (Transsiberian, Session 9, The Fog of War). At the directing helm is Gore Verbinski protégé Anthony Leonardi III, who has worked alongside Verbinski on such films as Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Rango, and The Lone Ranger. Leonardi has also worked as a creature designer on many films, »
- John Squires
A few days ago, I’d never been to an Alamo Drafthouse location, whereas I’ve now spent hours upon hours inside of one. I was in comically close proximity to roughly 2,000 people over the last week, the same 2,000 people. I had to not get even remotely awestruck when I walked into the men’s bathroom at the Lakeline Drafthouse in Austin, Texas, and Elijah Wood walked by me to exit. Or Doug Benson. Or Pat Healy. Or Harry Knowles. They’re all real! I can prove it, even if I didn’t speak to any of them.
Yes, Fantastic Fest 2013 is now in the history books. (Well, after tonight, at least, with the closing night selection The Zero Theorem, from director Terry Gilliam. But like the rest of you, I’ll have to wait to watch it at a later date.) From last Thursday to Monday, I watched 26 films at Fantastic Fest. »
- Josh Spiegel
Somehow, I survived my six-movie day yesterday at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. My mind was amazed to have held firm throughout the day, but my body was basically operating on fumes if today was any indication. I stayed alert and awake through the four films I watched, but there were a couple of moments where I was thankful for the Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline for offering an espresso chocolate milkshake. Anything to keep me buzzing. (Sorry for all the buzzing, Fantastic Fest friends. It’s the only way I can stay awake!) As you’ll see from the end of this post, this was my last day at the festival proper. Before I get into what I saw today, I just want to say exactly how much damn fun I’ve had these past few days. I met a lot of Twitter friends in person and, if I’m lucky, »
- Josh Spiegel
By Søren Hough
* * *
“Never capture what you can’t control.”
So says the tagline for Blackfish, Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s muckraking new documentary — currently being distributed in select art-house theaters by Magnolia Pictures — which is a stunning indictment of the manner in which SeaWorld has captured and treated wild orca whales over the years. The film could have an enormous impact on tourism and revenue for the theme park chain — but the ramifications of this exposé will extend beyond the director’s intended target.
Blackfish has been welcomed with open arms by critics. With an 84 on Metacritic and a 98 on Rotten Tomatoes, the film is being hailed as a well-crafted documentary that has brought about a paradigm-shift in terms of the public’s thoughts about show animals. And it is also generating some serious awards buzz — see our own Scott Feinberg‘s latest forecast over at The Hollywood Reporter — with »
- Søren Hough
There are just two—count ‘em, two—days until Fantastic Fest 2013 kicks off in Austin , Texas, at the Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline. In case you hadn’t been keeping track, I’ll be there for the majority of the festival covering as many movies as possible. (I will be a movie-watching/reviewing machine, just you watch.) If you’ve been paying attention to Sound on Sight’s Fantastic Fest 2013 lead-up coverage, then you know that films like Robert Rodriguez’s Machete Kills and Keanu Reeves’ directorial debut Man of Tai Chi will be getting the red-carpet treatment before being unveiled to adoring audiences. But as you’ll see from my list of those films I’m anticipating most of all, these big-name movies aren’t there. So what am I dying to see at Fantastic Fest? Which movies are complete must-sees? Read on, friend.
Yes, stop the presses, »
- Josh Spiegel
Ten years ago, filmmaker Errol Morris sat down to interview Robert S. McNamara, the Secretary of Defense who’d molded the country’s Vietnam War policies in the 1960s, for the Oscar-winning documentary, The Fog of War. McNamara, one of the “best and brightest” minds from the Kennedy Administration, had come to regret some of his decisions, and his expansive conversation with Morris, conducted through an Interrotron camera that allows the subject to look directly into the eyes of the audience, became a cautionary tale at a time when the country was revving up its war machine to take down »
- Jeff Labrecque
Funny you mention Casanova and Dracula, because that could easily be one way to describe the legitimately uncanny Under the Skin. Another would be Species directed by the Antonioni of Red Desert. From the opening shots—a staring retina emerges from a wandering dark orb, the cosmic unto the visceral—there’s a sense of ineffable dread making the images vibrate. It’s an otherworldly film, but the locations are scraggly, overcast, wintry, a Scotland very much like that of Ken Loach. Against this naturalism lies the most extreme stylization, patches of abstract blackness literally swallowing up young men as they march towards the beckoning heroine, a body-harvesting creature that happens to look exactly like Scarlett Johansson. Just as a human body can be evacuated of everything but its skin (one of several remarkable visions), so is an alien skin gradually filled with… what? Horror? Longing? Compassion? The »
- Fernando F. Croce
Watching and listening to former United States Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld speak at length—close to two hours, in fact—about his life and career in politics is a bit of a dizzying ordeal. Even with Errol Morris directing, The Unknown Known is frustrating at times and stupefying at others. But rather than being a weakness or a reason to dismiss the film as a slog through circular reasoning and overanalyzing minute details of history, the movie indeed seems to capture qualities inherent to Mr. Rumsfeld, working in a way that is emblematic of the great documentarian’s preference to create portraits rather than incisive and conclusion probes of public figures. That is to say, the audience is ultimately left to judge the exploits and demeanor of the former Secretary, rather than being blatantly instructed on what to think of him.
It’s not until the end of the »
- Darren Ruecker
In a national culture that thrives on irony, detachment, the postmodern hum of advertising, and the communicative cool enforced by technology, good old sincerity — remember that golden oldie? — can seem not just out-of-date but a little embarrassing. Who wants to be caught saying what they mean and meaning what they say, or wearing their heart on their earnest, pleading sleeve? John Carney does. He’s the Irish-born writer-director of Can a Song Save Your Life?, an unapologetically sincere movie that is modeled on the beautiful, almost desperate sincerity of the music-movie that put Carney on the map: Once, that lovely »
- Owen Gleiberman
In his Oscar-winning 2003 documentary The Fog of War, Errol Morris got former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to reflect on the mistakes made during the Vietnam War. In his new doc, The Unknown Known, Morris, 65, who lives in Cambridge, Mass., with his wife, art historian Julia Sheehan, and their two French bulldogs, tackles another controversial defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. But the results this time, reflecting Rumsfeld’s unapologetic defense of his actions, are quite different. Why a film about Donald Rumsfeld? I won’t call it an epiphany, but reading Rumsfeld’s book, Known and Unknown, and then
- Gregg Kilday
Documentarians-turned-feature-length-narrative filmmakers is a long and storied tradition and almost a rite of passage. Some of the greats—Krzysztof Kieslowski, Louis Malle, Luis Buñuel, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne—got their start working in the medium. And more recently, documentary names like Paul Greengrass, Todd Phillips, Bennett Miller, Kevin Macdonald and Derek Cianfrance (who started out in narrative, but then carved out a decade long documentary career), have been making strong waves in the dramatic and comedy fields. Others like Werner Herzog or Steven Soderbergh vacillate between the two mediums effortlessly. Another old documentary veteran trying his hand at narrative-length features again is Errol Morris, the documentarian behind "The Thin Blue Line," "The Fog Of War," and more recently, his upcoming Donald Rumsfeld doc, "The Unknown Known" (watch a clip of it here, read our review from the Venice Film Festival here). Naomi Watts is boarding »
- Rodrigo Perez
Filming has been set for April with Le Grisbi Productions’ John Lesher and Adam Kassan producing. The script, written by Andrew Sodroski, centers on a woman who begins her own affair after suspecting her husband of cheating only to discover her spouse is a serial killer.
Watts will be seen next in “Diana.” She is repped by CAA and Untitled Entertainment.
Morris won the Oscar for Best Documentary in 2003 for “The Fog of War.” He’s repped by Wme.
News of Watts being in talks for “Holland” was first reported by the Deadline.com site. »
- Dave McNary
• We might still be lamenting the fact that Tom Hiddleston will not be appearing in The Avengers: Age of Ultron as the tormented Loki, but at least it frees him up to work with some other actors. Hiddleston has signed on to replace his War Horse co-star Benedict Cumberbatch in Guillermo del Toro’s thriller Crimson Peak, alongside Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, and Charlie Hunnam. [THR]
- Lindsey Bahr
Exclusive: Naomi Watts is in talks to star in Holland, Michigan, a thriller that will be directed by Oscar-winning documentarian Errol Morris from a script by first time screenwriter Andrew Sodroski. The script is described as a suburban thriller with pitch black humor. Le Grisbi Productions’ John Lesher and Adam Kassan are producing and Sean Murphy will be co-producer. Production will start in April. Watts will be seen next as Princess Diana in the Oliver Hirschbiegel-directed biopic Diana. She just wrapped the Ted Melfi-directed St. Vincent De Van Nuys with Bill Murray and the Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu-directed Birdman, the latter of which Lesher produced. Morris is at Toronto to unveil his latest documentary, The Unknown Known and his past work includes The Thin Blue Line, Tabloid and the Oscar-winning The Fog Of War: Eleven Lessons From The Life Of Robert S. McNamara. Morris served as executive producer on »
- MIKE FLEMING JR
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