Neil Patrick Harris will host the Oscars this year.
Did you hear Monday’s interview with him?
Neil Patrick Harris will host the Oscars this year.
Did you hear Monday’s interview with him?
The Toronto International Film Festival is solidly underway and producers Ann Marie and Lauren, who both arrived in Toronto Thursday afternoon, have already each seen 9.5 and 10 movies respectively.
There is still a long, long way to go, though. Here are a few more films they are looking forward to seeing and hopefully, these early looks will lead to great Fresh Air guests in the near future.
Ann Marie writes,
It’s no surprise that we are huge Daily Show/Jon Stewart fans here at Fresh Air. So one of the films we are very excited to catch isROSEWATER, the film that took Stewart away from his Daily Show desk last summer. ROSEWATER is based on the 2011 memoir by Iranian-born journalist Maziar Bahari who was arrested, imprisoned, and tortured for close to 4 months after the 2009 presidential election there. The Daily Show and Stewart became a part of the real story—Iranian investigators used Bahari’s appearance on the show as proof that he was working with the West. Perhaps it is this close connection that helped Stewart choose this story as his directorial debut.
Of course, this is not a comedy. Still, early reviews say that there is a dark humor and intelligence that runs throughout the film. Again, no surprise there. Can’t wait to see Stewart go at it. Gael Garcia Bernal stars Bahari. (Release date: November 7th)
A lot has been written as of late about the battle between the Film Festivals and who gets bragging rights about being the site of a films World Premiere. It has always been the case that films that premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May then come to Toronto to get wider, North American attention. The American film, FOXCATCHER is one of those films. Foxcatcher is based on the true, true crime story of two brothers, played by Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo, who are also both Olympic Wrestlers. Their odd relationship with millionaire and benefactor John Du Pont (Steve Carrell) leads to murder. Director Bennett Miller won the best Director price at Cannes for the film. You know Miller’s other films—Capote (2005) and Moneyball (2011), which both had premieres in Toronto (Release date: November 14th)
WHILE WE’RE YOUNG
Full disclosure—I have a soft spot for Noah Baumbach films like Kicking and Screaming, The Squid and The Whale, and Frances Ha. This year, Baumbach is back with WHILE WE’RE YOUNG, about a documentary filmmaker and his wife, who reevaluate their lives after meeting a younger couple in their twenties. The older couple is played by Baumbach regular Ben Stiller (Greenberg) and Naomi Watts. The twentysomethings are played by Amanda Seyfried and Adam Driver, who is in three movies here at Toronto. Word is that Baumbach and FRANCES HA star and co-writer Greta Gerwig shot a film between Frances and While We’re Young that has yet to be heard about or released. Let’s hope Baumbach is not spreading himself too thin. (This film is an acquisition title, which means it is looking for a distributor)
Linklater has always used time as a character. It’s in the titles of his Before trilogy, featuring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as characters at different junctures: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight. They have to reconnect in each film—and fast, because the clock is ticking. I love these films, but they’re talky. Linklater is so literal about time he never seems to use the full, transcendent resources of cinema. He does in Boyhood.
Linklater has always used time as a character. It’s in the titles of his Before trilogy, featuring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as characters at different junctures: Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight. They have to reconnect in each film—and fast, because the clock is ticking. I love these films, but they’re talky. Linklater is so literal about time he never seems to use the full, transcendent resources of cinema.
He does in Boyhood.
I like to be funny to cover the deep, powerful pain, the miserable insecurity.
Paul Mazursky, comedian and director of Moscow on the Hudson, Harry and Tonto, and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
Mazurksy passed away last week at 84.
Sure the Toronto International Film Festival closed a few weeks ago with 12 Years A Slave winning the Audience Award (FYI, that Audience Award isn’t always an indication that a film will do well, but recent recipients include Best Picture Oscar winners The King’s Speech and Slumdog Millionaire and last year’s Silver Linings Playbook). But the films that showed there are slowly but surely making their way to theaters near you and will continue to do so well into 2014. Fresh Air Producers Ann Marie Baldonado and Lauren Krenzel have some final thoughts on some films you may want to look out for.
12 Years a Slave (pictured above)
I say believe the hype. This film about a free black man (Chiwetel Eijofor) who gets kidnapped and forced into slavery is incredibly difficult to watch, but is so incredibly worth it. You see families callously separated, slaves beaten to death or near death, and the quiet, outrageous indignities slaves had to endure on Southern plantations in the 1840s and 50s. During the official TIFF press conference for the film, director Steve McQueen said he wanted to make a movie about slavery because he “wanted to see images from that particular past, (he) wanted to experience it through images.” This visual artist turned feature film director expertly takes us through scenes that are long, in a way too long, forcing viewers to deal with the brutality of what they are watching. At times you are floored, you flinch or shut your eyes, you may cry, but you have to deal with the images. McQueen’s choices are careful, deliberate, political. Yes, it’s a difficult 2 plus hours to sit through, but if 12 Years a Slave is a film that is trying to honestly address slavery, shouldn’t it be? (Also stars Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sara Paulson and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o. Release date: October 18th) – Ann Marie Baldonado
As Nicole Holofcener said during the Q & A after the premiere of Enough Said, this is the film of hers that “actually has a plot.” Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as a divorced masseuse who starts to date a middle-aged man, only to find out she’s also unknowingly befriended his ex-wife who begins listing all of his irritating faults. It’s a comedy of manners and the performances sparkle. Louis-Dreyfus uses her considerable comedic skills to portray a flawed woman you can enjoy. The rest of the cast is also great—-with Toni Collette as a refreshingly honest friend and Catherine Keener as the poetess ex-wife. But it’s bittersweet to see James Gandolfini here in one of his last roles. His presence is so keen and natural and intelligent, you’re left feeling slightly bereft at the end of this adult comedy. (In theaters now) –Lauren Krenzel
This is the movie Matthew McConaughey lost all of that weight for. Sure, dramatically transforming your physical appearance for an acting role is the equivalent of donning a sandwich board that says “Reward me with an Oscar nomination”, but I say you have to hand it to McConaughey; in this film he also managed to strap on the acting chops we all kind of knew that he had ( right?). The film is based on the true story of Ron Woodroff, a straight electrician/rodeo cowboy who contracted HIV in 1986. He denies that he has the “gay disease” for as long as he can, then finally starts looking for treatment. After getting frustrated with the lack of drugs available to treat HIV/AIDS patients, he starts smuggling cutting edge treatments into the US from all over the world. At first, he treats himself, but then begins selling the drugs out of a motel room. He consequently becomes a lifeline for the mostly gay population suffering with the disease, giving his clients the treatments the FDA is too slow to approve. Also looking completely skeletal is Jared Leto, who plays a pre-op transsexual who becomes Woodroff’s unlikely business partner and friend. Leto may also be getting some Oscar attention for his work. The film loses a little narrative steam as it goes on, but it’s matter-of-fact style and extremely strong performances can’t be denied. (Release date: November 1st)- AMB
This latest film by veteran filmmaker Jim Jarmusch could easily be dismissed as just another vampire project. But this one lingers in the mind long after, with great visuals, grinding, dark music and the luminous Tilda Swinton—who could very well be an actual vampire. Here, she is centuries-old and lives in present-day Tangiers but travels to Detroit to help her depressed, underground musician, vampire husband, played by Tom Hiddleston. Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin and John Hurt show up to complicate the plot and in the end, the film becomes an oddly humorous and poetic meditation on eternal life and a very long marriage. (Release date: TBA)- LK
A few years ago, Mumbai and New York City based director Ritesh Batra was working on a short documentary about the century-old practice of delivering homemade lunches to the offices of Mumbai; couriers pick up lunch containers from homes in surrounding towns and through an elaborate system that utilizes bicycles, trains, color coding, and symbols, those boxes somehow find their way to the right desks in the right office buildings, then find their way back to the right homes after lunch. That exposure inspired Batra to write the screenplay for The Lunchbox, a film that charmed film festival audiences in Cannes before doing so in Toronto (I think this film could have been a serious contender for the Audience Prize, had its second public screening not been upended by print problems). A stay-at-home mother (Nimrat Kaur) fears she is losing touch with her husband who is working longer hours. In attempt to get him to notice her again, she pours a lot of love and effort into the lunches she prepares for him (try not to see this film on an empty stomach). The usually fool proof lunch delivery system fails when her culinary masterpieces are wrongfully delivered to a grumpy widower who is about to retire, played by Irrfan Khan. The lonely wife and lonely office worker start writing notes to each other, delivered in the lunchbox, and begin to find the connection they have both been longing for. This is a great first feature by Batra. He finds beauty and interest in Mumbai’s cramped train cars and non descript office buildings— not an easy feat— though perhaps his best directorial move was casting Kahn as his leading man. Here again Kahn displays his ability to impart all of his characters, no matter how taciturn, with an interior life. Inevitably, you can see it in his eyes, a certain longing and regret that is always compelling. Hopefully the news this week that India did not chose The Lunchbox as its Oscar submission this year (and Batra’s vocal reaction against it) won’t stop people from finding this film. (Release date: TBA)- AMB
Here is a piece of trivia. Jason Bateman became the Directors Guild of America’s youngest-ever director when he helmed a few episodes of his show The Hogan Family when he was eighteen. Now over 20 years later, he has finally directed a feature film. Why did he choose Bad Words to be his first feature? He says it was partly due to the fact that the dark, “Blacklist” screenplay was close to his own sense of humor, and partly because “the size and the scope of the film” was something he felt he could take on. He is right that there is something to be said for not biting off more than you can chew, and he does just that. This great, tight little comedy kept me laughing throughout, with lines and bits that were just. plain. wrong. Bateman plays 40-year-old Guy Trilby, a misanthrope who after finding a loophole in the national spelling bee guidelines, decides he is going to compete and take every pre-pubescent kid down. He verbally abuses the children. He uses their insecurities— about their bodies, their nerdiness, their parents—against them, shaking their confidence, disrupting the careful way they attack each word they need to spell. He does befriend one competitor, Chaitanya, a naive Indian-American boy played by relative newcomer Rohan Chand (who at 9 is about the age Bateman was when he started acting). One sequence where Guy takes Chaitanya out for a night on the town, complete with ice cream, car chases, pranks on cops, drinking, and an interaction with a prostitute, left the Toronto crowd howling. Sounds wrong, right? That’s what makes it funny. I say with Bad Words, our love affair with Bateman’s portrayal of morally questionable men continues. Focus features just announced this week that the film will make it to theaters early next year. (Also stars Allison Janney, Kathryn Hahn, and Phillip Baker Hall. Release date: March 21st, 2014)
Even though we saw 15 movies each, we still managed to miss a few that caused lots of excitement and bidding wars at the festival: The F Word, starring soon-to-be Fresh Air guest Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan, and Adam Driver; Can a Song Save Your Life, starring Keira Knightly and Mark Ruffalo, directed by John Carney who directed Once, and All is By My Side, directed by John Ridley, starring Andre Benjamin aka Andre 3000 of Outkast as a young Jimmy Hendrix. Ann Marie saw sections of this film and found Benjamin’s turn as Hendrix to be kind of extraordinary. (Release dates to be announced)
David Edelstein on the new collaboration from director Zal Batmanglij and actress and screenwriter Brit Marling:
[Brit] Marling plays Sarah, an agent who infiltrates the group. She doesn’t work for the FBI. Her employer is a private security and intelligence firm run by the sleek, profit-oriented Sharon, played by Patricia Clarkson. Its clients are Big Pharma, Big Oil, or Big Rich Any Corporation that, according to the group The East, poisons the world and everyone in it.In outline, it’s a standard conversion narrative — one of those melodramas in which someone on the morally wrong side has a spasm of conscience and maybe crosses over. Maybe.
Julie Delpy talks about the thematic thread that links Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight:
The films, each … catch [Jesse and Celine] at a moment where they make a choice, and that’s how their lives [are] carved more and more as we go into by these choices we make. And every time we meet them they’re at that moment, basically: the choice to get off the train, the choice to miss the plane, the choice to, ‘What do we do now? … Do we separate? Do we stick together and figure it out, what do we do?’
Ethan Hawke talks to Terry Gross about how Before Midnight differs philosophically from Before Sunrise and Before Sunset:
The first two films deal so much with romantic projection, and [with] the third one we felt like we really couldn’t do that again. We needed to try to address the harder, more difficult aspects of daily life and what it means when you get what you want, and what you do with what you want when you have it, and do you still want it?
[The movie] is the most incoherent piece of storytelling I’ve seen in years and had me crying, “What? What?” over the din of the explosions. It was Wikipedia’s Oblivion entry that spelled out what was going on in the final flashback. And a few but not all of my complaints were answered on an imdb.com board in which posters argued over whether the problem was our lack of attention spans or atrocious screenwriting. I can’t speak for others but I’ve sat through many three-hour Romanian allegories with no complaint.
Image of Olga Kurylenko and Tom Cruise in Oblivion via Radical Studios
The carnage is quick and conclusive. Bigelow doesn’t serve up a Hollywood shoot-out, and the way the SEALs pump extra bullets into prone bodies — among them bin Laden’s — is disturbing. But for all the supposed neutrality and the sad, ambiguous final shot, the ending is happy. We got him.
Bigelow made big news in 2009 when she became the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director with her film The Hurt Locker. Listen to the Fresh Air interview about that film with Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, who won the Oscar that year for Best Original Screenplay.
This is awesome.