Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: I celebrate all levels of trailers and hopefully this column will satisfactorily give you a baseline of what beta wave I’m operating on, because what better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising? Some of the best authors will tell you that writing a short story is a lot harder than writing a long one, that you have to weigh every sentence. What better medium to see how this theory plays itself out beyond that than with movie trailers?

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green zone

/Film reader “Sauce” attended a test screening for the Paul Greengrass war thriller Green Zone, which is based on the 2006 book Imperial Life in the Emerald City by journalist Rajiv Chandrasekaran, and stars Matt Damon, Amy Ryan, Greg Kinnear, and Brendan Gleeson.

There is still no release date for this movie (but last I heard, the studio was aiming for a November/December 2009 opening), so I assume that that it is a very early cut of the film without final effects, sound mix or score. A lot could change between now and the time of release, they might even do some reshoots. Who knows. Just wanted to add a bit of context. Read the review after the jump.

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These days, it feels like more and more character actors are finally getting a chance to step behind the camera. A few months ago, it was announced that William H. Macy would be directing Keep Coming Back with Milla Jovovich. Now, according to Variety, Philip Seymour Hoffman will get the chance to ply his directorial skills as well. Hoffman will direct the romantic comedy Jack Goes Boating for Overture Films, an adaptation of Bob Glaudini’s play. Although word of Hoffman’s directorial debut first appeared last summer, we now know that Amy Ryan is attached to star opposite Hoffman and that the film will begin shooting in New York City on February 9th. Hoffman will play Jack, a stoner limo driver, and the story will center around his quest for perfection, as well as the fellow pothead he falls in love with (Ryan). A New York Times review of the play called it “immensely likable.”

On our film podcast the other night, we praised Hoffman as one of the finest actors of our generation (for an excellent article about Hoffman’s career, check out Erik Lundegaard’s piece, “Philip Seymour Hoffman is us”). I’ll be interested to see if/how Hoffman’s experience in Doubt, another play adaptation featuring four main leads, will inform how he adapts Jack Goes Boating to the big screen. With Ryan now on board, I’m already immensely excited for this film.

Amy Ryan in Gone Baby Gone

“For the last time, I’m not Traci Lords”

War films were notorious for not connecting with audiences (and critics) last year, but the studios seem determined in 2008 to push one or two through to leave an indelible mark for generations. For one, I am glad to see such resilience on the part of Hollywood. The best of these films will be the primary way kids in the future come to gage how much impact events like 9/11, the Iraq War, and the War on Terror had on our current culture. Sadly, it’s not the same with music. Back when I discovered Vietnam films like Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, The Deer Hunter, and especially, Apocalypse Now they informed my nascent political views, creative sense, musical tastes and were like tabs of LSD compared to my AP history books. Even if none of the new war films come to be labeled a masterpiece, films like No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood will be appreciated as time-capsules that bottled up our current zeitgeist and anxieties, and stared into the soul of America to see nothing but a black, oily abyss. And then there’s I Am Legend and Cloverfield, apocalyptic popcorn movies that subversively toyed with the modern death drive we all sensed popping into high gear this decade.

Sorry, I need to turn down Black Sabbath’s Sabotage. Per a definitive Iraq War film, Paul Greengrass Imperial Life in the Green Zone is building up its box office armor with a strong cast that now includes Amy Ryan, hot off Gone Baby Gone, and Greg Kinnear (Talk Soup) in addition to Matt Damon (Matt Damon).The film’s title is lifted from the nonfiction book by Rajiv Chandrasekara, with the author and Greengrass co-writing a fictional screenplay set in Iraq’s Green Zone, the safe zone where U.S. troops, officials, media, diplomats and Kid Rock reside.

Damon will play a CIA officer on the hunt for traces of WMDs, with Kinnear also playing CIA. Ryan’s character is a NY Times reporter sent to Iraq to see what’s what. No word on who will play Curveball, if applicable. I’m sure Horatio Sanz is available. Greengrass seems to exercise the semi-topical Bourne installments as a springboard for timely films like this and United 93; he’s also attached to They Marched into Sunlight, which reportedly focuses on the uproar of college students circa the Vietnam War. Imperial Life in the Green Zone is scheduled to hit theaters in 2009.

Movie Critic Award Results Round-Up

No Country For Old Men PosterMost major city regions have a society or association of film critics, who each year join together to vote on the best films and performances of the year. This weekend the winners have been announced for the National Board of Review, Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO), The Boston Society of Film Critics (BSFC), and the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA). Here is a round up of the results:

Here is the quick briefing:
The Cohen Brothers’ No Country For Old Men took the Best Film of the year award in three out of the five. Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood took the top award in the remaining. Anderson is leading the Best Director category with two wins. Daniel Day Lewis (There Will Be Blood) and George Clooney (Michael Clayton) are tied for Best Actor with two wins each.

Julie Christie took home three best actress wins for her performance in Away From Her, narrowly beating out Marion Cotillard who has two wins for La Vie en Rose. Javier Bardem was awarded three supporting actor wins for No Country for Old Men. Amy Ryan won four out of five for her performance in Gone Baby Gone. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly took home three out of five of the Best Foreign Film Awards. Pixar’s Ratatouille leads with three wins in the Animated category, narrowly beating out Persepolis, which currently has two wins. Diablo Cody is leading with two wins in the Best Original Screenplay section for Juno.

Read the full results after the jump.

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