So this is the weekend that finally brings awards season to an end. The Film Independent Spirit Awards will be presented tonight (and here’s an overview of the nominations), and tomorrow’s the Big Night (again, the nominations). The one piece on the Oscars to catch up with at this point, one that has nothing to do with odds or predictions, is A. S. Hamrah’s for n+1, an opinionated survey of the contenders. A few snippets:
- On Dunkirk: “I longed for just one moment where something wasn’t perfect, to remind me that humans had made this study of improvised naval success.”
- “Mudbound has the most forlorn semi-happy ending I can recall in any war movie.”
- “Like everything James Franco directs, The Disaster Artist is a work of appropriation art.”
- “Call Me by Your Name’s strength is that it really does seem like the character played by Timothée Chalamet made the film himself.”
- “Combined with the film’s witty conflation of labor as both giving birth and working for a corporation, The Boss Baby began with a lot of promise, like most babies. As usual, though, time passed and the baby got annoying.”
- “Despite all the positive representation of marginalized people and the explicit condemnation of men who work for the government,” The Shape of Water “takes a gleeful delight in torture and pain.”
- On Phantom Thread: “People attracted to working in sound design no doubt have sensitive ears. But directors have got to dial this down.”
Last night, France’s rough equivalent of the Oscars, the Césars, were presented. As Variety’s Elsa Keslassy reports, Robin Campillo’s BPM (Beats Per Minute) has taken six, “including best film, original script, male newcomer, supporting actor and music.” Keslassy has the full list, but let’s make note here of a few more awards:
- Best Director: Albert Dupontel, Au revoir là-haut
- Best Actress: Jeanne Balibar, Barbara
- Best Actor: Swan Arlaud, Petit Paysan
- Best Documentary: Raoul Peck, I Am Not Your Negro
- Best Foreign Film: Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless
One more note from Keslassy: “One of the evening’s highlights included the honorary César given to Penélope Cruz presented by Pedro Almodóvar and Marion Cotillard.”
“Emailing from the Paris hotel where she lives, Dame Olivia de Havilland sounded defiant, and understandably so,” writes Paul Brownfield in the New York Times. “The topic at hand was her lawsuit against the FX network and Ryan Murphy Productions over her portrayal by Catherine Zeta-Jones in last year’s docudrama Feud: Bette and Joan, about the rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. . . . On March 20, the California Court of Appeals will hear arguments over whether Ms. de Havilland can proceed with her suit, which alleges unauthorized use of her name and likeness to endorse a product—a ‘right of publicity’ claim—as well as false light, which sounds like the old Vaselined lens trick but in fact is a privacy tort akin to libel and defamation. Few expect her to win, but the action is nonetheless reverberating as a kind of last stand against the current bricolage approach to facts.”
Also in the NYT, Brooks Barnes tells the story of A24, “a little New York company that has—seemingly out of nowhere—established itself as Hollywood’s leading tastemaker brand: Miramax for a new generation.”
In his feature debut, Tehran Taboo, Ali Soozandeh “impressively weaves together stories of characters who must contend with Iran’s sexually restrictive laws and society,” writes Muhammad Muzammal, introducing his interview for Reverse Shot. “Soozandeh utilizes rotoscope-style animation to colorfully depict a world disrupted by a sexually oppressive culture that impedes upon characters’ inner lives.”
“As Meryl Streep delivers her first lines in The Post,” writes Karen Chernick at Hyperallergic, “the camera pans over a distinctive Cubist still life, in which fragmented planes of purple and yellow serve as a backdrop for a clay pot with a teal shadow. It hangs on a set inspired by the Georgetown home of Katharine Graham, former publisher of the Washington Post. The painting is No. 9, Nature Morte Espagnole (1915) by Diego Rivera.” And it “turns out to be a surprisingly good fit for the movie and its themes.”
“We do have some real artworks in the film, for example the neon saying ‘You Have Nothing’ is by Berlin-based artist Ruby Anemic,” The Square director Ruben Östlund tells Jörg Heiser in frieze. Heiser: “There you got me, because I thought that was a parody.” Östlund: “And the text quoted by Anne when she interviews Christian, with all the babble about ‘the exhibitable’ and ‘the exhibition as non-exhibition’—I stole that from an actual press release.”
“A strong contender for the title of Most Iconic Hollywood Actress, Bette Davis built her reputation on tough, no-nonsense, self-assured, and bitchy characters that held their own against any man,” writes Patrick Friel for the Chicago Reader, spotlighting five classics currently streaming on FilmStruck.
In Other News
Fifteen filmmakers from fifteen countries have been invited to the fourteenth Cinéfondation Atelier in Cannes. “Together with their producers, they will be able to meet potential partners, a necessary step to finish their project and start the making of their film.” At Cineuropa, Fabien Lemercier has a few notes on the selected projects.
New York. Neighboring Scenes: New Latin American Cinema is on at the Film Society of Lincoln Center through tomorrow, and tonight sees a screening of Niles Atallah’s Rey. Writing for Film Comment, Jonathan Romney finds Rey to be “about as strange and as handcrafted as a piece of cinema can be while remaining ostensibly a coherent reality-based narrative.”
Let’s note again that the fiftieth anniversary restoration of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet’s Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach is screening at the Quad Cinema through Thursday. It’s the “strangest and most uncompromising of all musician biopics,” disregarding “most conventions of costume drama to ask some very human questions about history, what it takes to be an artist, and what movies can tell us about ourselves,” writes Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at the A.V. Club. In the Village Voice, Alan Scherstuhl adds that it’s “committed to nothing less than situating us in the audience that first heard the most gorgeous music the world has ever known.” More from Ela Bittencourt (Hyperallergic), Steve Erickson (Kinoscope), and again, Critics Round Up.
Los Angeles. Olafur Eliasson’s site-specific installation at the Marciano Art Foundation, Reality Projector, on view until August, “is built around highly saturated color produced by shining intense beams of pure white light through monochrome gels,” writes Christopher Knight for the Los Angeles Times. “Essentially derived from the film process known as Technicolor, a movie staple launched in rudimentary form a century ago and honed to a fine edge after World War II, the installation resonates against its Hollywood context. Eliasson has deconstructed the process into something new and exhilarating.”
Janelle Zara talks with Eliasson for the Guardian: “I’m very excited about presenting the most minimal film in the context of the Oscar hullaballoo. The idea is that by dematerializing the work, removing the conventional painting or sculpture, the work is all about the experience.”
Chicago. In this week’s Cine-List, you’ll find previews of work screening in and around town by Jon Jost, João Moreira Salles, Basma Alsharif, Zeinabu irene Davis, Kelly Reichardt, Jean-Pierre Melville, and more.
Toronto. “Since its premiere thirty-five years ago,” writes Craig Caron, “Tony Scott’s chi-chi vampire movie The Hunger has defied any sort of critical consensus, yet both its harshest critics and most ardent defenders agree on its best quality—namely its bewitching trio of stars, Susan Sarandon, Catherine Deneuve, and David Bowie.” TIFF presents The Hunger tonight; Caron traces the evolution of Bowie’s onscreen personae.
In the Works
Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington are teaming up “to topline and executive produce a limited series based on a bestselling book, Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere,” reports Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva. “The novel is about two families living in 1990s Shaker Heights [in Ohio] who are brought together through their children.”
“The Hunger Games screenwriter Peter Craig is ready to dabble in one of the properties that inspired it,” writes the Hollywood Reporter’s Aaron Couch. A remake of Logan’s Run (1976) “has long been in development, with X-Men: Dark Phoenix director Simon Kinberg set to helm back in 2015,” and now Craig’s been hired to write it.
First off, big congratulations to Alicia Malone, who, along with Dave Karger, joins Ben Mankiewicz as a permanent host on Turner Classic Movies. Even better, Malone will remain a host on FilmStruck—and its podcast. On the latest episode (41’21”), Malone and Mankiewicz talk about the Hollywood classics that have just been added to FilmStruck before Malone discusses the work of Jane Campion with Holly Hunter. Malone then talks about Annihilation with writer and director Alex Garland.
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