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Best Documentary Short Films Oscar 2015: Illness and death are top subjects (photo: 'White Earth' by J. Christian Jensen) Eight films — most of them featuring illness and/or death as their focus — remain in the running for the 2015 Best Documentary Short Subject Oscar, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced. Of those eight semi-finalists, three to five titles will be shortlisted for the 87th Academy Awards. (Scroll down to vote in our Best Documentary Short Subject Oscar 2015 poll.) The remaining eight Oscar 2015 contenders are listed below in alphabetical order by title, with their directors and, in parentheses, their production companies: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1, directed by Ellen Goosenberg Kent (Perry Films) Joanna, directed by Aneta Kopacz (Wajda Studio). Kehinde Wiley: An Economy of Grace, directed by Jeff Dupre (Show of Force) The Lion's Mouth Opens, directed by Lucy Walker (Tree Tree Tree) One Child, »
- Steve Montgomery
Red Queen’s Lost Her Head: Westmoreland & Glatzer’s Poetic Elegy of Familial Tragedy
It’s been a busy year for Julianne Moore, in between tent pole studio fare like the last Hunger Games installment and a Liam Neeson action flick she managed to snag Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for her perversely satisfying role in David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars. While that role is unlikely to generate the same amount of buzz from the Academy, it’s her moving performance in Still Alice that’s likely to garner her considerable awards attention and rightly so. The third film from Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, it’s a return to quiet, and subtle examinations of human interactions that so generously marked their breakout debut with 2004’s Quinceanera.
A Columbia University Linguistics Professor, Alice Howland (Moore) has just turned fifty. Happily married to her husband, Dr. John »
- Nicholas Bell
Based on a popular novel by Lisa Genova, Still Alice is a weepy portrait of a linguistic professor, Dr. Alice Howland, battling early onset alzheimers shortly after turning 50 years old. Boasting a cast that includes Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth and the always electric Julianne Moore, above all else this is a film that leans on strong performances. This is not a film about script, ideas or even direction, it is about the intimacy of faces and the passion of performers.
Still Alice falls into the “social problem” genre, exploring the crippling and devastating effects that Alzheimer’s has. As North American society grows older, we have been told that Alzheimer’s will increasingly be a medical issue that needs to be addressed. Much like Cancer, nearly everyone is »
- Justine Smith
If you’ve managed to heave yourself back into your safety canoe after floating away adrift in a sea of your own wracking sobs for the past three weeks, no thanks to The Fault In Our Stars, maybe you’re finally emotionally stable enough to hear word about John Green’s next tearjerker — Looking For Alaska. The news comes from the author himself; Sarah Polley (Stories We Tell, Take This Waltz, Away From Her) has signed on to adapt Green’s other novel, taking on both writing and directing duties with the coming-of-age dramedy. You can stop holding your breath right now, because this one is devoid of any and all cancers; don’t get too relaxed, though, because it’s still going to be a nightmare of emotions and feelings and worries about your misspent youth. Were you ever really that carefree and beautiful? Or knew that many literary references offhandedly? Kids »
- Samantha Wilson
The John Green wave continues.
Green confirmed the news on Twitter, writing, “So excited to announce that the brilliant filmmaker Sarah Polley will be writing and directing a film adaptation of Looking for Alaska. I’m a Huge fan of Sarah’s movies, and her ideas about Looking for Alaska are really wonderful, and I am So Very Excited.”
Looking for Alaska takes place at a boarding school. The coming-of-age tale follows new student Miles Halter »
- Erin Strecker
Following the success of The Fault in Our Stars, everyone wants to get their hands on some of that John Green box-office magic. Now, Canadian actress and filmmaker Sarah Polley (Away From Her, Stories We Tell) is in talks to adapt Green's debut novel Looking for Alaska, about a teenage boy away at boarding school who falls in love with his beautiful, volatile best friend Alaska. While Paramount has owned rights to the book since 2005 and even had a script penned by The O.C.'s Josh Schwartz, there hasn't been much movement on the project until now. Meanwhile, adaptations of two of Green's other novels, Paper Towns and An Abundance of Katherines are also in development. Can somebody please start working on an Avengers-esque John Green team-up movie? »
- Anna Silman
Paramount has decided to go “Looking for Alaska” with Sarah Polley, signing her to adapt the coming-of-age comedy-drama.
The studio is in talks with Polley to direct the adaptation of John Green’s novel of love and loss at an Alabama boarding school. Green tweeted that Polley will direct.
So excited to announce that the brilliant filmmaker Sarah Polley will be writing and directing a film adaptation of Looking for Alaska.—
John Green (@realjohngreen) June 26, 2014
Paramount picked up rights to “Alaska” in 2005 and set up the project with Mark Waters and Jessica Tuchinsky after outbidding several other studios. The novel is centered on Alaska Young, the reckless girl who’s the object of affection for most males at the school.
Polley is repped by Wme, »
- Dave McNary
Looking for Alaska
Actress/filmmaker Sarah Polley ("Away From Her," "Stories We Tell") is in talks to adapt "Fault In Our Stars" author John Green's "Looking For Alaska" for Paramount Pictures. Mark Waters and Jessica Tuchinsky will produce.
The story follows a sixteen-year-old Florida boy who moves to a boarding school in Alabama and learns coming of age lessons from his roommate and his beautiful, mysterious and self-destructive best friend Alaska Young. [Source: Deadline]
The story follows five bodyguards hired to protect a Mexican politician over the course of a contentious election after his father is murdered by a drug cartel. [Source: The Wrap]
- Garth Franklin
Fans of John Green had to wait a long time to get any of his films to the big screen, but it looks like our birthdays and Christmases might just come at once! It has been revealed that Paramount Pictures are currently developing Green’s debut novel Looking For Alaska, and is eyeing up actress/director Sarah Polley to pen and possibly direct the project.
Looking For Alaska tells the story of a teenager Miles Halter who is sent away to boarding school and learns about living life on the edge from his beautiful and mysterious roommate Alaska Young. While Polley has starred in such films as Dawn Of The Dead, Go and The Sweet Hereafter, she has been causing a buzz with her film projects, even earning an Academy Award nomination in Best Adapted Screenplay for her movie Away From Her.
But with the success of The Fault In Our Stars, »
- Lucy Cave
Not only was the swell and emotional drama The Fault in Our Stars one of the biggest surprise successes of the year, but the film is also poised to be one of the most profitable. Following positive reviews and a hefty opening weekend, the pic just recently crossed the $100 million mark at the box office against a budget of just $12 million. Author John Green—whose who wrote the book—was a big presence during the film’s marketing campaign, and now another one of his books is poised to get the feature treatment following the success of Fault. Paramount Pictures is currently in talks with filmmaker Sarah Polley to write and possibly direct an adaptation of Green’s debut novel, the coming-of-age story Looking for Alaska. Hit the jump for more. Per Deadline, Take This Waltz, Away from Her, and Stories We Tell writer/director Sarah Polley has been tasked »
- Adam Chitwood
We're not sure what's in the water right now, but in the last 48 hours or so, it seems every director around the world is lining up new gigs. Maybe they're looking for a summer project to keep them busy? We have no idea, but we'll run them down, so let's get to it: "Crazy Heart" and "Out Of The Furnace" director Scott Cooper is looking for another intense drama to tell. This time he'll helm the true story tale "about the Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighter crew that perished in a wildfire that blazed in Prescott, Az. In June, 2013, 19 members of the elite firefighting crew perished while fighting the Yarnell Hill wildfire. Only one of them survived in what became the largest loss of firefighters since 9/11 and the greatest loss of wild-land firefighters in 80-years." Ken Nolan ("Black Hawk Down") will write the script. [Deadline] Sarah Polley ("Away From Her," "Take This Waltz »
- Kevin Jagernauth
After scribing and sitting behind the camera on indie Take This Waltz and documentary Stories We Tell, it may be time for actress/writer/director Sarah Polley to hit the big time. Deadline reports that Paramount is eying her to adapt Looking for Alaska, working from the novel by The Fault in Our Stars writer John Green.
Apparently, Polley, who received an Oscar nomination for her debut screenplay Away from Her, made a strong pitch to Paramount, which led to studio execs signing her to adapt. Polley may also direct the film, but that hasn’t yet been determined. Though the actress starred in Dawn of the Dead and Splice, writing and directing has taken priority for her in recent years. Both Take This Waltz and Stories We Tell received rave reviews, which likely factored into Paramount’s decision.
According to Deadline, Green’s novel, his first, centered on a “16-year-old boy named Miles Halter, »
- Isaac Feldberg
Written by Mark Jude Poirier
Directed by Liza Johnson
Alice Munro is one of the finest living fiction writers, consistently able to create tight stories with hidden depths about uniquely aching and awkward characters. A few years ago, Sarah Polley adapted one of her stories from the collection Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage into the exquisite and painful Away From Her. So it’s possible for Munro’s work to shift from one medium to another and transition smoothly. Unfortunately, the new film Hateship Loveship, adapting that collection’s title story, was created by people with less confident hands; this particular short-story adaptation feels more slack and lacking in focus than is appropriate.
Kristen Wiig, playing as far against type as possible, is Johanna, a meek caretaker whose elderly charge passes away in the opening scene. So she moves onto a new job, as housekeeper for a grizzled older man, »
- Josh Spiegel
Taylor Kitsch’s film career did not get off to the best of starts in 2012, when John Carter, Battleship and Savages all disappointed at the North American box office. However, the actor, who shot to fame with his role as Tim Riggins on Friday Night Lights, chose wisely to try his hand at some smaller projects with more refined stories. He has two films set for May, the HBO drama The Normal Heart with Julia Roberts and Mark Ruffalo, and the film festival favourite The Grand Seduction, a Canadian comedy from director Don McKellar (Last Night).
The Grand Seduction feels like a modest, charming crowd-pleaser that will hopefully not get trampled over by blockbuster behemoths when it comes out on May 30th. In the remake of a 2003 French-Canadian film, Kitsch plays Dr. Paul Lewis, employed by the small Newfoundland town of Tickle Bay. Since the tiny, beleaguered population wants to »
- Jordan Adler
Shipping Out: Johnson’s Sophomore Effort Misses the Boat
Director Liza Johnson follows up her 2011 directorial debut, Return, with Hateship Loveship, an adaptation of a short story by Alice Munro (whose works was also the basis for Sarah Polley’s Away From Her, 2006). Johnson revisits favored motifs, a central female character struggling to fit into an assigned part she has no interest in playing, as well as high profile casting in throwaway supporting roles that similarly plague this outing. Despite a committed performance from Wiig, the film feels discombobulated, a Cinderella of the slums fairy tale tinged with minor classist woes that’s nicely trimmed into all’s-wells-that-ends well blandness.
With Johanna’s (Kristen Wiig) last elderly ward recently deceased, she takes a new job in Iowa as the caretaker for motherless teen (and woefully named) Sabitha (Hailee Stanfield), who’s being raised by her well-heeled grandpa (Nick Nolte). Sabitha’s dad, »
- Nicholas Bell
Justin Chang: Scott, I know it will come as little surprise to you that when Peter Debruge and I sat down to discuss this year’s Oscar nominees for best supporting actor and supporting actress, we spent almost as much time talking about the performances that should have been nominated as we did talking about the ones that actually were. This is hardly a new ax for any critic to grind, but it bears repeating: Those who vote on the Academy Awards are largely in the business of making movies — not seeing them, thinking about them and writing about them week in and week out. No wonder this organization’s choices often strike us as so pedestrian and provincial, less engaged by the boundary-expanding possibilities of cinema than beholden to the power of hometown hype.
See Also: Oscars Picks: Variety Critics on Who Should Win Best Supporting Actor »
- Justin Chang and Scott Foundas
What’s new, what’s hot, and what you may have missed, now available to stream.
new to stream
A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman: Python-esque collection of animated shorts tell a true fiction of the late comedian [at Lovefilm]
British films you missed
Fast Girls: standard underdog sports flick is totally predictable yet wholly infectious, with a brute bodily exuberance of competition and movement [my review] [at Lovefilm] Hunky Dory: charming tale of a 1970s schoolteacher struggling to put on a rock musical with less than cooperative students; Minnie Driver is fab [at Lovefilm] The Look of Love: the entertaining lead performance by Steve Coogan cannot quite make up for poorly fleshed-out characters or a rote narrative [my review] [at Lovefilm] Tyrannosaur: brutally good performances by Peter Mullan, Olivia Colman, and Eddie Marsan in a story about violent men; pity it has less sympathy for their women victims [my review] [at Lovefilm]
streaming now, »
- MaryAnn Johanson
The Oscars are uncomfortably close. We’re less than three weeks away from the big moment where Judi Dench will (hopefully) cackle menacingly as her Notes on a Scandal costar Cate Blanchett picks up a second statue. “You’re a vampire!” Cate will holler from the stage. And I’ll jump into the TV.
The point is it’s time to think about actresses in a big way. Today’s topic: the 10 greatest losing Best Actress nominees of the past 10 years. Forget “winning performances” like Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side or Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line. These are the runners-up whose work also deserved formal, fabulous recognition. (Keep in mind I’m not necessarily saying these actresses should’ve won, but I will tell you who they were up against.)
Natalie Portman’s win »
- Louis Virtel
The screen adaptation of the Penguin Canada book about Toronto’s controversial major will be produced by Blue Ice’s Daniel Iron (“Away From Her”) and Lance Samuels (“The Book of Negroes”). Blue Ice is headquartered in Toronto, with offices in L.A., London and South Africa.
Doolittle, who appeared on “The Daily Show” Feb. 6, was one of three journalists to view the infamous “crack video” that brought Ford to worldwide attention. Doolittle is represented by Anne McDermid & Associates and Great North Artists Management.
“If you tried to make this story up, people would think it was over the top,” commented Doolittle. “The Rob Ford investigation is something I’ve been working on for more than two years. It’s so »
- Jennie Punter
Even if you don’t buy into the game and you prefer not to live in a world in which the term “Oscar snub” is used with a straight face, sometimes a lack of recognition for worthy nominees can still sting a little. Such was the case with the conspicuous absence of Sarah Polley’s name when the Best Documentary Feature nominees were announced two weeks ago. After two strong narrative explorations of romantic relationships in the bitter winter of old age and the summer splendor of late youth (Away From Her and Take This Waltz, respectively), Polley redirected her interest in the world of human coupling by turning the camera on herself – or, more accurately, her family, or, even more accurately, who she thinks may be her family, or… Well, just see it if you haven’t already, because Stories We Tell is one of the more passionate, involving, and »
- Landon Palmer
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