Jason Reitman, director of Thank You For Smoking and Juno, joined Twitter a few days ago to provide a few updates about his post-production work on the forthcoming Up in the Air, starring George Clooney. “A brief chronicle of my attempt to finish my film in time for the Toronto Film Festival,” he calls it. (I’m continually pleased by the evolving capabilities of the Internet to allow me to observe creators at work while making me feel as is I’m working at the same time.) So while the film may well still have a December release date, it could well premiere at Toronto (editors note: or sneak premiere at Telluride), just like Juno did.
The two posts that followed had some good, if brief info. First, that he’s nearly done with the first edit, which currently clocks at 2’04″. (Though I generally hate even reporting this; anyone who isn’t a distributor or exhibitor shouldn’t care about running time before seeing the movie.) The other is that Shadowplay, the outfit that animated the titles to his first two features, is doing the same for Up in the Air. Read More »
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I had the opportunity to sit down one on one with director Danny Boyle at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival. We talked about his new film, Slumdog Millionaire, which hit theaters this week in some markets. I even got a chance to ask him about a third film in the 28 Days Later series.
Peter Sciretta: I had talked to you before this film became such a film festival success. Everybody seems to love it.
Danny Boyle: I feel a little bit numb really, you know. It was like four weeks ago we were dead and buried in Central North America really. We were dead and you couldn’t really see any way out of it because Warner Bros is a big studio. They don’t know how to release this kind of film. And then we had the grace, thank God, to show it to Peter Rice who was like, “Fox Searchlight are the experts”. You couldn’t dream of somebody like that to release this kind of film. And they put it in Telluride, in [Toronto] and you get the kind of responses that we’ve had. It’s unbelievable really, and it’s a funny place, India, making the film there. These kind of things happen and there is a kind of reason that they happen. And you can’t quite explain — and you sound like a bit of a hippie idiot when you start going on about it, but there is– it’s bizarre the way it works.
Peter Sciretta: So as they say “it’s written.”
Danny Boyle: [Laughs] Well, that’s what I mean. It’s really weird. And it’s happened on a number of occasions to us throughout the making of the film. And you have to be prepared for it. You have to be relaxed and actually accept your destiny is going to be written in a funny kind of way. Rather than going around screaming and shouting about, blaming people and all these kind of things. You have to relax and trust that you’ve been honest and respectful in a way that you’ve made the film, and that it’ll find it’s way. And so far it seems to be doing that thank God, yeah. So it’s weird, very weird. So hence, I feel a bit numb. I’m not quite sure, I kind of feel a bit dazzled really, and I shouldn’t be.
Peter Sciretta: When I first heard about the film, the only thing that really attracted me to it was your name. Because at first glance, the concept of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire…
Danny Boyle: Yeah, I felt the same way about that show. Yeah, I thought, I don’t want to film about that show. It’s like I don’t know whether I like that show, I don’t think I do. I know when I watch it, it’s kind of compulsive viewing and there’s something vile about it and– but there’s also something wonderful about it which is why it’s a huge success around the world. And the great thing about it is you can tell the underdog story through it, because– and obviously that’s what we use it for is a device by which an underdog, a guy who apparently has nothing, climbs this ladder, apparently, and you climb it with him. And some of the questions and answers you can work out, and some of them are guesses. But because he’s got that relaxed thing I was talking about, about the beginning, about being kind of– he’s got that as well because his agenda for being on the show isn’t just to win the money, it’s something else as well. And because he’s after that, he’s kind of like, “Okay, I’ll guess,” and he gets it right. Anyway…
Peter Sciretta: So you had hesitations going in to this. What made you choose this project?
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One of the reasons why I love The Brothers Bloom, is because the film cons the audience. The Brothers Bloom is a story about two brothers, disguised as a love story, disguised as a con movie. The perfect con is where everyone involved gets what they wanted. By the time the credits roll, you will be happy to have experienced a film you weren’t expecting.
The Brothers Bloom have been in the con game since they were young children. Now, along with their speechless explosive expert sidekick Bang Bang, have become the best con team in the world. Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) writes his cons “like dead Russians write novels, full of thematic arks and symbolism.” Now in his 30′s, Bloom (Adrien Brody) wants out of the Con game, hoping to live a real story for a change. But he is lured into one last con, to trick an eccentric shut-in rich woman named Penelope Stamp (Rachel Weisz), out of millions of dollars. But when Bloom falls for the mark, the con begins to unravel.
Comically absurd and fantastically fun, The Brothers Bloom is like a film from another era in another dimension. Weisz is wonderfully cute, and Ruffalo tells a story “so well that it becomes real.” The only problem with Rian Johnson’s follow-up to 2005′s critically acclaimed high school noir indie Brick, is that it is hard to resist comparing it to the filmmakers triumphant directorial debut. And it would be extremely unfair to compare the two films.
Johnson will likely draw comparisons to Paul Thomas Anderson and Wes Anderson. For example, the opening narration is done by Ricky Jay, who also provided the incredible bookend narration for PTA’s Magnolia. Johnson’s use of the swish pan, sharply cut montages, the core brother story, and cast of quirky characters is reminiscent of Wes Anderson. If you’re going to be compared to anyone, Anderson and Anderson are certainly good company. Johnson brings to the table absurd comic moments, sharp and stylish dialogue, and a story with more twists and turns than an elaborate card trick. While Weisz is juggling chainsaws on top of a unicycle, you will believe a lie can tell the truth.
/Film Rating: 8 out of 10
Sunday night at the Telluride Film Festival, I was sitting in a half empty theater waiting to watch the new Mike Leigh film. I later learned that my friend was also at a half empty screening during the same time slot. A volunteer for the festival came over and began to make small talk with me. He said “You know, this is the first screening at this theater that is not to sold out.” I responded that it was strange, especially considering Happy-Go-Lucky was getting good buzz at the fest. You see, buzz is to a film festival like gas is to a car. The volunteer looked at me and said he knew why. He waited for for me to ask why. “Slumdog,” he said. Danny Boyle‘s latest film Slumdog Millionaire was the smash hit of Telluride. I have yet to meet or talk to one person who didn’t like it. I’m not sure if the theater was really half full because everyone as trying to get into the Slumdog screening that night, but it makes for a fun story.
Fox Searchlight is hoping to capitalize on the buzz and has released a clip from the film. I think the biggest obstacle Slumdog has to contend with is its own logline. People read “Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and instantly turn off. But as I wrote in my review, the game show plot line is just a framing device to tell a City of God like tale about two orphaned brothers growing up on the streets, and a love story that spans a decade. Watch the clip below and tell me what you think.
[flv:http://bitcast-a.bitgravity.com/slashfilm/trailers/slumdogtrain.flv 470 200]
There is no reason why I shouldn’t have loved the Telluride Film Festival. Heck, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every film festival I’ve ever attended, even including my first – The Boston Film Festival, which was very lame in retrospect. I’ve attended Sundance for five years, today I will be heading to Toronto for my second time. I love film festivals. So why is it that I didn’t love Telluride?
Telluride’s system is much improved over all of the other festivals I’ve attended. They even have a system that saves your place in line so you can grab something to eat before seeing your next movie. Think of it almost like the Disney fast pass. The mountain views rival Sundance, and the ritualistic Gondola ride over the mountain every morning and night was a great way to book end the day. The intimate atmosphere is also a refreshing change of pace. You don’t have to zag zag around groups of people while walking down main street. It’s pretty stress free.
But the Telluride line-up was somewhat lacking this year, and I think almost everyone can agree. Some people were blaming the writers strike, others were blaming a change in the guard, and others are still trying to claim independent film is dead (Peter Bart, where are you?). Outside British and Asian cinema, my interest in foreign films is almost nonexistent. You can call me closed minded. You can lose your respect for my cinematic opinion, but I’m only willing to devote two or three hours to a foreign film if the buzz is fantastic or an interesting director or star is involved. The line-up for this year’s festival was very heavy on international, and I was left craving the selection of Sundance’s dramatic competition.
Over the course of the last four days I had the opportunity to attend a tribute to David Fincher, screen 20 minutes of Benjamin Button (even if it was disappointing), stand up and cheer for Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, and later talk to Boyle for 15 minutes at a party, discover a little Irish gem titled Kisses, being amazed at Greg Kinnear’s performance in Flash of Genius, and end the festival with and awesome Asian spaghetti western The Good, The Bad, and The Weird.
And on the other hand, I also sat through the Cannes award winning film Hunger, which I just wasn’t into, and Adam Resurrected, which was the weirdest film I’ve seen in years, and not in a good way. I can understand why people would love either of the aforementioned films, but they just weren’t for me. Somehow I only screened 9 movies over the four days of the festival, much less than I had anticipated.
Today I fly to Toronto where I have a better idea of what to expect. I had a lot of fun last year, and the film selection this year looks just as good if not better. I’ll keep you guys up to date with more video blogs, reviews, and news updates. And speaking of video blogs, check out the Telluride wrap up below. I recorded it with Alex from FirstShowing as we were heading out of Telluride. We talk about Telluride, Slumdog Millionaire, The Good The Bad The Weird, and more. It’s probably the most subdued video blog to date.
[flv:http://bitcast-a.bitgravity.com/slashfilm/trailers/tell15.flv 300 226]
[flv:http://bitcast-a.bitgravity.com/slashfilm/trailers/tell16.flv 300 226]
Filmmaker photo thanks to Alex at FirstShowing.
Last week, I screened 20 minutes of clips of scenes from David Fincher‘s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. In our first impression article, I expressed my concern and disappointment over the footage shown, partly because I felt some of the short scenes dragged. Note: I haven’t seen the entire film – I want to be clear on this…, I only screened 20 minutes of selected scenes. It was good but not great. I wasn’t alone, FirstShowing and Jeff Wells also posted articles about the disappointing buzz the footage received at the festival.
In my blog posting, I told you about the rumors of Paramount’s vicious fight with Fincher behind the scenes over the running time of the film. We also tried to connect the dots between the departure of Fincher’s planned adaption of Heavy Metal and the rumored fight. Now The Playlist has found an interview with Kevin Eastman, creator of the Ninja Turtles and publisher of Heavy Metal, where he finally confirms the rumors:
“We developed it for Paramount in January… And it was time for them to make a decision [about going forward with the project] and they were at odds with Fincher over another project, ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,’ [because] they wanted him to reduce the running time… and so they said, ‘Until you step up to do what we want you to do with Benjamin, we’re not going to greenlight any other of [your] movies.’ And David said, ‘Fine, fuck you, I’m going to set up [Heavy Metal] somewhere else,’ so we jumped over to Sony and set it up there.”
Yes, Fincher is a bad ass who won’t take crap from anyone – including the studio who has supposedly spent over $150 million on a film aiming for award consideration. I’ve been told that this is his best and worst quality as a filmmaker.
But what if Paramount is right? I loved Fincher’s Zodiac, but I think the theatrical cut could have benefited by losing 20-30 minutes on the back end. (Hey, there will always be a director’s cut on DVD) It seems to me that Paramount might believe they are in the same situation with Button. It is worth noting that around the time of the Heavy Metal departure, the film was supposedly just under three hours long. An AICN reader saw a screening of that cut and admitted that “By an hour and a half/forty five, the audience was getting restless.”
Anne Thompson’s sources claim the film has since been cut to around two and a half hours, which probably meets with Fincher’s studio obligations. But is that still too long? Another website reports that the latest cut is around two hours and fourty minutes. I havent seen the film, but the scenes Paramount and Fincher decided to screen at Telluride dragged in parts. I’m hoping the pacing issues will be resolved in the finished movie / in the context of the finished movie, because this film has the potential to be really magical.
They say that if you give out positive energy than you should receive positive energy in return. The person who coined that phrase never met Poppy. Dressed in bright colors and wearing big earrings, Poppy has a personality that is as obnoxiously perky as her wardrobe, if not more so.
Mike Leigh‘s latest film is a character study focusing on a 30-year-old primary school teacher with the attitude of a child, who has to deal with a series of problems ranging from her bicycle being stolen to a problem child at school, to her pregnant/married sister who lectures her about responsibility and settling down. She joins a dancing class with a co-worker and takes driving lessons from an angry racist.
If you’re looking for a story, there isn’t much of one. The film is purely about Poppy, and how the world reacts to her quirky upbeat attitude. Sally Hawkins delivers one hell of a performance, which you might only begin to realize late into the film when Poppy is forced to get serious. Happy-Go-Lucky is fun and endearing, but the character might be too in-your-face for easily annoyed viewers.
/Film Rating: 7 out of 10
Sunday has been dark and dreary at the 35th Telluride Film Festival. The rain stops for a few minutes, and only a few minutes. For the most part, festival-goers can be seen hiding under umbrellas or the make-shift tents set up outside the festival venues. It’s one of those days where you can see everyone would just rather be in their beds, sleeping in. I mention the mood because this is the feeling I have after my first two screenings of the day. It’s not that they were bad films, they just weren’t for me. And you will notice a theme, both movies contained notable cinematography, both for elegance and annoyance.
Steve McQueen‘s (no relation to THE Steve McQueen) Hunger won the Golden Camera prize for first-time filmmakers at the 61st Cannes Film Festival. The film tells the story of Bobby Sands, an Irish republican maze prison hunger striker. The film is grueling to watch. You should probably know that Requiem for a Dream is one of my favorite films, and I have watched it many times. But watching Hunger is a lesson in depression. Prisoners are tortured, humiliated, and beaten bloody. One of the prison guards regularly washes his bloody bruised knuckles in a sink of water.
The center piece of the film is a 20-or-so minute dialogue scene between Sands and a Priest (seen in the photo above), which takes place in one complete wide shot, with no camera movement or cuts. And if Funny Games taught us anything, it is that if you don’t move the camera during an extended film sequence, it’s all of a sudden considered artsy. And the conversation is followed up a few minutes later with a five minute long shot of a prison worker sweeping a hallway in another non-moving wide shot. Don’t get me wrong, the one strongpoint of the film was the cinematography. But to me, it is the complete opposite of cinematic and screaming “look at me, I’m not moving the camera”. Michael Fassbender’s transformation during the six-week hunger strike is extremely hard to watch. Fassbender lost 35 pounds over the two months which lead up to the hard to watch final sequences.
And the other film was Helen, the feature film debut by Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor. 18-year-old Joy has disappeared, and was last scene walking into the woods. Joy’s coat and personal items were found in the forrest, but the police are hopeful that she might still be alive. They plan a television reenactment of the disappearance in hopes that it might help someone remember more details. But Helen is not about the mystery, and you should know going in not to expect a conclusion. Helen is about Helen, an 18-year-old classmate of Joy’s who volunteers to be Joy’s stand-in for the reenactment. She was picked in a volunteer casting session because she has a strong physical resemblance to Joy.
Helen has been living in the custody of the state since a young child, and currently works at a hotel a few days a week in between school hours. She’s never had a boyfriend, or friends for that matter. Joy convinces herself that she might be able to uncover the mystery of Joy’s disappearance by integrating herself into Joy’s former life. She has dinner with Joy’s parents, kisses Joy’s boyfriend, and so on. And in the process of pretending to be someone else, Helen finds out who she really is, or at least was. Like Hunger, the most interesting and annoying part of Joy is the cinematography. Malloy and Lawlor love to use simple slow extended dolly shots in almost every sequence. They are done for tonal reasons, rather than for dramatic effect. The shots are both beautiful and elegant but will test the patience of almost any audience.
And this morning I decided to record another quick video blog, again with Alex from FirstShowing, on our gondola ride over the mountain. We talk about Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, Alex shares his opinion on Flame and Citron, and we go over the Benjamin Button controversy.
[flv:http://bitcast-a.bitgravity.com/slashfilm/trailers/tell14.flv 300 226]
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