18 items from 2017
If the saying "no guts, no glory" holds true, then there's a serious discrepancy happening in the world of horror. Though women -- your scream queens, your final girls -- have so often offered up their guts to genre films, men are still predominately pulling the strings behind the scenes. That's not the case with Xx, a horror anthology featuring four killer tales by four female directors: Annie Clark (aka rocker St. Vincent, making her directorial debut), Jovanka Vuckovic, Karyn Kusama and Roxanne Benjamin. The story of how Xx came to be -- and how it hopes to upend the horror industry -- is best told by the women behind it.
A director and student of horror maestro Guillermo del Toro, Vuckovic conceived Xx after noticing that despite the horror anthology's extensive history, female creatives have been virtually absent. She partnered with producer Todd Brown of Xyz Films to change that.
Jovanka Vuckovic (writer-director »
British experimental-pop musician Mica Levi, composer of “Jackie,” is only the fourth woman in Oscar history to be nominated for an original film score. “Jackie” director Pablo Larrain liked her first score for 2013’s “Under the Skin,” and sought her out to bring what he called “a feminine sensibility” to his portrait of JFK’s widow in the days following the 1963 assassination. Levi talked to Variety about the experience while she was on tour in Europe with her band, Micachu and the Shapes.
How did “Jackie” come to you?
Pablo got in touch with some of the people I’ve worked with. He hadn’t cut the film much, and he sent me some scenes. I sent him some music, and he cut the film using that music. He didn’t want to get attached to a temp score.
Was there something that appealed to you about Jacqueline Kennedy and her story? »
- Jon Burlingame
We didn't actually have to travel to Tokyo for the latest Ghost in the Shell trailer, but we sure as hell were transported nonetheless.
A new preview for Scarlett Johansson's live-action take on the cult classic manga dropped at midnight and, though we've seen Johansson kick a** as superhero assassin Black Widow and merciless antihero Lucy and whatever she was in Under the Skin, Gits features a new side to the star -- the cyborg side.
In Ghost in the Shell, Johansson plays The Major, a special ops hybrid who hunts down the most dangerous criminal as part of an elite task force called Section 9. This is but the latest look at the flick. A sneak peek dropped during the Super Bowl that ripped open Johansson's face to show her robotic inner workings:
When Et traveled »
Berlin– “Drib,” Kristoffer Borgli’s stylish, comedy-filled feature set to world premiere at SXSW, is a hot title on TrustNordisk’s Efm slate. Weaving fiction and documentary, the pic turns on Amir Asgharnejad, an Oslo-based comedian and prankster who almost became the face of an energy drink.
Shot in Oslo and Los Angeles with Brett Gelman (“Joshy”), Adam Pearson (“Under the Skin”), “Drib” marks the feature debut of Borgli, a Norwegian filmmaker who gained critical acclaim with his short “Whateverest.” Ahead of SXSW, Borgli spoke to Variety about the themes at stake in “Drib,” from media manipulation and to the art business.
Variety: What made you want to tell the story of your friend Amir Asgharnejad?
When real life serves you up a story this good you sort of have to.
How relevant do you think this story is in today’s world?
Media manipulation, rage profiteering and trolling felt »
- Elsa Keslassy
The film, which mixes fiction and documentary turns on Amir Asgharnejad, an Oslo-based comedian and prankster who almost became the face of an energy drink.
The movie, which marks the feature debut of Borgli, who gained critical acclaim with his short “Whateverest,” exposes media manipulation and sheds light on how art becomes commerce, how something fake can have real effects.
Related storiesStudiocanal, Japan's Gaga Acquire Fenar Ahmad's 'Darkland'TrustNordisk Acquires Fenar Ahmad's Action Thriller 'Darkland'Jonathan Rhys Meyers to Star In WWII Drama 'The 12th Man' (Exclusive) »
- Elsa Keslassy
More Mica Levi is always a good thing. The musician and adventurous pop artist turned composer behind Jonathan Glazer’s “Under The Skin,” Pablo Larraín’s “Jackie” (for which she earned an Oscar nomination), and Sundance entry “Marjorie Prime” (read our review) is quickly turning into one of the finest of her generation. And now she’s lined up another promising-sounding project.
- Kevin Jagernauth
One of our most-anticipated upcoming films has just secured one of the best composers working today. Following Under the Skin and her Oscar-nominated work on Jackie, Mica Levi‘s next project was the small-scale sci-fi feature Marjorie Prime (which we saw at Sundance), and her prolific streak is continuing with Brady Corbet‘s follow-up to The Childhood of a Leader, the ambitious-sounding music drama Vox Lux.
The film follows Rooney Mara as Celeste, “a young woman who survives a traumatic shooting and goes on to become an international pop sensation. The 15-year odyssey, set between 1999 and present day, tracks the cultural evolutions of the 21st century via her unique gaze.” Along with this new plot synopsis, Sierra/Affinity’s sales brochure from Berlinale (sent in by a reader) refutes some misinformation from a trade report last week by confirming shooting begins this month in New York, Los Angeles, Stockholm, and Atlantic. »
- Jordan Raup
Even when you live in Los Angeles, as I do, if you’re not in the network of critics groups and press screening and screener DVDs it can be a challenge to keep up with everything you tell yourself you have to see before attempting an informed roundup of the year currently in the rearview mirror. And I also try to not let more than a couple of weeks of the new year go by before checking in, regardless of how many of the year’s big presents I have left to unwrap, though in past years I have not lived well by this dictum—let’s just say that if I’m still posting stuff on the year’s best after even Oscar has thoroughly chewed over the goods, as has happened in the past, well, I’ve overstayed my welcome.
2016 was, in most ways, a disaster of a year, »
- Dennis Cozzalio
“I will remember that now.” Such is the repeated reply from the various “primes” — holograms, and damn fine ones — who populate Michael Almereyda’s “Marjorie Prime,” a big-screen adaptation of Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer-nominated play about artificial intelligence and the 85-year-old Marjorie, whose handsome companion is programmed to feed the story of her life back to her. Starring acting legend and multiple Tony nominee Lois Smith (reprising the role she originated on stage in 2014) with Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, and Tim Robbins, Almereyda’s feature is rich in acting talent, but this stagey, flat drama can’t match the wattage of its leads.
Read More: The 2017 IndieWire Sundance Bible: Every Review, Interview and News Item Posted During the Festival
Awkward pacing and questionable narrative choices pepper the feature, which starts strong and raises bigger questions to which it will return during its otherwise lumpy run. Now in her twilight years, »
- Kate Erbland
Humanity’s most invaluable asset is our memory. It fuels our imagination, ignites conversations, and can unite us. It can also be distorted, reshaped, and forgotten altogether. Marjorie Prime, a micro-scale sci-fi chamber drama, fascinatingly explores the perception and dissolution of what we remember throughout our lives. Michael Almereyda’s contemplative new film, which could double as the best-written episode of Black Mirror yet, most poignantly serves as catalyst for a personal self-reflection on the part of the viewer.
Adapted by Almereyda himself from Jordan Harrison’s play, it opens on the 86-year-old Marjorie (Lois Smith) — presumably around the year 2050, based on a pop-culture calculation courtesy of My Best Friend’s Wedding — talking to a man on her couch (Jon Hamm). With his cold, calculated manner of response, we soon learn he’s actually a hologram of her late husband. (Think the most advanced version of Alexa.) Presumably purchased by her child, »
- Jordan Raup
It was almost a little too on-the-nose for Entertainment One to release Jackie last Friday, given that it's a film about mourning for a political figure lost in the wake of a terrible tragedy as the peaceful transfer of power takes precedence over anyone's feelings. Then again, the film itself, which stars Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy, is so much a callback to a bygone age that any comparisons to current affairs are moot.
The film dramatises a pivotal Life magazine interview by reporter Theodore H. White (here represented by Billy Crudup as an unnamed character), which took place in the week following John F. Kennedy's assassination in November 1963. Mrs. Kennedy reserves strict editorial control over the cover story, but insists on fulfilling her duty »
Does every good play benefit from becoming a movie? In the sense that it brings a broader audience to a hitherto limited-access entertainment, of course. But the camera can have a diminishing effect on some highly expansive stage works — and so it proves in “Marjorie Prime,” a sporadically fascinating but airless adaptation of Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer-shortlisted study of family, memory, and the artificial intelligence that binds them. Though it mostly resists contrived “opening-out” devices, and preserves the decidedly low-tech visualization of the play’s sci-fi premise, Michael Almereyda’s well-cast film never finds a suitably complex cinematic language for its tangle of intellectual and emotional ideas, settling instead for serving as a neutrally carpeted showcase for its stars. Fine as they are, and as heartening as it is to see Geena Davis in a rare lead role, it’s hard not to feel a headier opportunity has been missed. »
- Guy Lodge
Of 20 sampled films, 11 fulfill all three requirements of Alison Bechdel’s litmus test for female representation in storytelling, according to a new Bustle survey. The sample pool is admittedly subjective, with a mix of ten of the year’s highest grossing films, and ten of what the author deemed “the most buzzed about films.”
The top-grossing films of 2016 were:
Bustle’s most buzzed about films were:
To pass the so-called Bechdel test, a movie or story must have: At least two named female characters, who have a conversation, about something other than a man. »
- Jude Dry
A24 has us putting on our detective hats with their mystery trailer.
Okay, gumshoes. Grab your notebooks because the game is afoot. Jinkies! We’ve got a movie mystery to solve. The suspect is A24 and the what is this very mysterious video that was uploaded this week:
Note how the video is simply called “Untitled.” It was also uploaded without any sort of announcement or fanfare. The caption reads, “In our near future.” In Whose future, A24?! In Whose?!
The trailer is striking, with visuals of a young boy, a couple, a baby, and what might be some sort of pod. Words move across the screen as well, in time to an ominous drum beat: Beyond Reality. Bear Witness. Question Life. Live Beyond. It’s hard to tell exactly what is happening (because that would be too easy), but the visuals and tone »
- Siân Melton
To call 2016 a good year for horror would be an understatement. It was a fantastic year with a little something for every genre taste. You didn’t have to venture very far to find something that was absolutely fantastic. With great television shows like Channel Zero: Candle Cove or The Exorcist, wonderful films like The Witch and Green Room, and music from labels like Waxwork Records and Death Waltz Recording, the horror genre was finely taken care of. Here are few of the standouts for me in 2016.
Twin Peaks Vinyl Soundtrack (Death Waltz Recording / Mondo): Every single year, Death Waltz comes out with a release that makes me absolutely overjoyed. David Lynch’s films are stunning genre works. The lurid imagery, the bold characters, and the music composition within his films give Lynch’s work a unique quality. The Twin Peaks soundtrack, lovingly released by Death Waltz, comes »
- Monte Yazzie
This year’s Sundance Film Festival is mere days from unspooling in snowy Park City, Utah and, with it comes a brand new year of indie filmmaking to get excited about. As ever, the annual festival is playing home to dozens of feature films, short offerings and technologically-influenced experiences, and while there’s plenty to anticipate seeing, we’ve waded through the lineup to pick out the ones we’re most looking forward to checking out.
From returning filmmakers like Alex Ross Perry and Gillian Robesepierre to a handful of long-gestating passion projects and at least one film about a ghost, we’ve got a little something for every stripe of film fan.
Read More: Sundance 2017: Check Out the Full Lineup, Including Competition Titles, Premieres and Shorts
Ahead, check out 20 titles we’re excited to finally check out at this year’s festival.
The trifecta behind previous Sundance »
- Chris O'Falt, Eric Kohn, Graham Winfrey, Jude Dry, Kate Erbland, Steve Greene and Zack Sharf
2016 was chock-full of big blockbuster releases, many of which either failed to make a sizable profit or were incredibly divisive among audiences. But out of the ashes rose a beautiful flower: the indie film. Yes, independent movies had a wonderful year, some even breaking per-theater records and making their way onto my favorites of 2016 list, which also includes a Denis Villeneuve film, a comic book series, collectibles, an excellent comprehensive horror documentary, and more.
Arrival: Denis Villeneuve's Arrival is a beautiful take on language and how communication (or the lack of proper communication) can either doom or ensure our survival as human beings on this planet. The way Villeneuve tells a story is the perfect fit for a film like Arrival because its focus is small but the ideas are big, much like his previous works, Enemy, Sicario, and Prisoners.
My hope is that the takeaway from Arrival »
- Tamika Jones
Micachu (Courtesy: Daniel Bergeron Photography)
By: Carson Blackwelder
When it comes to the world of composing for films, it’s most definitely a man’s world — but this year there’s one woman who is a part of the conversation: Mica Levi, a.k.a. Micachu. Let’s get to know the 29-year-old talent that is garnering Oscar attention this year for working on Jackie and see where this talent fits into Academy Awards history.
Micachu, the daughter of two musicians who began writing and playing music at the age of four, is an English multihyphenate — singer, songwriter, composer, and producer — best known for creating experimental music in the band Micachu & The Shapes. The Surrey native has released six mixtapes, six albums (two of which were soundtracks — more on those later), and, while at Guildhall School of Music & Drama, even wrote an orchestral piece for the London Philharmonic Orchestra »
- Carson Blackwelder
18 items from 2017
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