Even though I’ve been studying the new Wikileaks scandal in detail for a class I’m taking (and because it is a fascinating disruption of U.S. politics), I’ve found few intersections between the leaked diplomatic cables and what we do here at /Film. Until now.

According to Wikileaks cables, satellite broadcasts of U.S. TV shows and films are doing more to prevent Saudi youth from participating in jihad than U.S. government-funded propaganda.
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If it wasn’t for the blasé title, Duplicity might have a more pronounced blip on 2009 movie radars. Director Tony Gilroy‘s debut, Michael Clayton, scored seven Oscar noms, including Best Picture and Best Director, and the cast to his follow-up is of similar caliber, with Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Wilkinson now joining Clive Owen and Julia Roberts in the thriller about the pharmaceutical industry, modern greed and espionage.

However, the casting does sensically play into the title, with Thornton and Wilkinson in the roles of rivaling CEOs for massive drug companies and Owen and Roberts the opposing spies they set in motion in a race to obtain an invaluable “innovation.” Like Clayton, the film was written by Gilroy, and it’s good to see Wilkinson and the director working together again so soon after the former’s deserved Best Supporting Actor nom.

No word on whether Duplicity‘s characters will stealthily cruise around in 2009 Mercedes-Benzs, but I’d count on it; returning cinematographer Robert Elswit (There Will Be Blood) can shoot a luxury automobile like it’s the second coming, and even make light reflect off the hood like existential drizzle.

Warner Bros. is re-releasing the well reviewed George Clooney legal thriller Michael Clayton on January 25th, one month before the Academy Awards. What’s somewhat surprising about the announcement is that the film will return to 1,000 theaters around North America rather than a limited run in the usual cities. Is there really such demand?

When it was released wide last October, the film opened to $11 million, which was considered a mild disappointment and sparked a fair share of knee-jerk “George Clooney isn’t a big draw outside of the Ocean films” editorials. It chugged along, and as of January 6th, it’s grossed $39 million. Made for a tidy $25 million, it wasn’t a flop, but it performed like a mini sleeper instead of like a ’90s John Grisham adaptation, which is probably what Warner Bros. imagined for it success-wise.

Did you see it? I thought it was a cool choice for a matinee, but definitely not a Best Picture hopeful as many are suggesting. Tony Gilroy‘s direction was stylish and deft, and one would never guess it was his debut as a director, but the script, also by Gilroy, rang too many of the same bells as Sidney Lumet’s classic The Verdict to be included beside a great film like There Will Be Blood. I also found the ending to be a little full of itself in a year full of similarly quiet, melancholic ones. Will any of you who didn’t catch it be first on line this go around? And more curiously, why did so many choose not to see it last year in spite of stellar reviews?

AFI’s Top 10 Movies of 2007

AFI Top 10

On Saturday, the American Film Institute picked its Top Ten American Films of 2007. The list is available below in alphabetical order:

  • Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
  • The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
  • Into the Wild
  • Juno
  • Knocked Up
  • Michael Clayton
  • No Country for Old Men
  • Ratatouille
  • The Savages
  • There Will Be Blood

I tend to agree with this list more than I agreed with the Golden Globe nominations. I’m not sure if “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” deserves to be up there, and while The Savages is a great movie, I’m not sure if it deserves to be in the top 10. Fox Searchlight’s Once would have been my choice. errr I forgot the AFI list only includes American films. I’m glad to see that AFI included my favorite comedies of the year: Juno and Knocked Up. And why has everyone forgotten about David Fincher’s Zodiac?

Here are AFI’s Top 10 lists from the last six years:

  • 2006: Babel, Borat, The Devil Wears Prada, Dreamgirls, Half Nelson, Happy Feet, Inside Man, Letters From Iwo Jima, Little Miss Sunshine, United 93.
  • 2005: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Crash, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Good Night And Good Luck, A History of Violence, King Kong, Munich, The Squid and the Whale, Syriana.
  • 2004: The Aviator, Collateral, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Friday Night Lights, The Incredibles, Kinsey, Maria Full of Grace, Million Dollar Baby, Sideways, Spider-Man 2
  • 2003: American Splendor, Finding Nemo, The Human Stain, In America, The Last Samurai, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Lost in Translation, Master and Commander, Monster, Mystic River
  • 2002: About a Boy, About Schmidt, Adaptation, Antwone Fisher, Chicago, Frida, Gangs of New York, The Hours, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Quiet American
  • 2001: A Beautiful Mind, Black Hawk Down, In The Bedroom, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Memento, Monster’s Ball, Moulin Rouge, Muholland Drive, Shrek
  • 2000: Almost Famous, Before Night Falls, Best In Show, Erin Brockovich, Gladiator, High Fidelity, Requiem For A Dream, Traffic, Wonder Boys, You Can Count on Me.

Toronto Film Festival LogoToday I finally found some time to sit down and sift through the 352 official selections of the 2007 Toronto Film Festival. Many hours later, I present to you 65 must see movies at the Toronto International Film Festival. I did the work so that you don’t have to. So why should you care about these films if you’re not making the trip up to Canada in September?

In 1998, Variety acknowledged that the Toronto International Film Festival “is second only to Cannes in terms of high-profile pics, stars and market activity.” Roger Ebert has also said that “although Cannes is still larger, Toronto is more useful and more important….”

Toronto is essentially a preview of which Independent to mid-sized film releases might be big in the next five months. The festival is considered a launch pad for many studios to begin “Oscar-buzz” for their films.

How do I know that you should see these movies? Well, in most cases I don’t. I have seen some press screenings of a couple of the films listed below (Valley of Elah, My Kid Could Paint That…) and can personally recommend them. But for the most part, I have no idea. I have cobbled this list from an exhaustive day of research. Some of the films I chose because of the director, writer, or cast. Others because of the plot synopsis.

When a review was available, I read it. If a trailer was available, I watched it. I’ve included films that were recommended to me by trusted friends. Some films that I missed but were highly reviewed at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival (Son of Rambow, The Savages).

I must offer this disclaimer: I tend to be attracted to American, British and Japanese cinema to a fault. I do have a handful of picks outside my comfort realm, but if you’re looking for more “Worldly” selections, you might have to look elsewhere.

It should also be noted that some of the films (especially in the Gala and special presentation sections) will hit theaters within the next two months. Some films even hit theaters days within the festival’s conclusion. I put these movies on the list because they are movies of interest. But you, like me, might want to hold off on some of these flicks until they hit your city next month. For me, there are some films that I won’t be able to resist like Across The Universe and No Country for Old Men. I know they come out sooner rather than later, but I need to see them sooner. I’ve noted the release dates of films that are opening in the next two months, just so you have that information.

I’ll be at the festival for nine and a half days, so chances are, I won’t be able to see all of these films. The reality is, I won’t see even half of these films. I’ll be doing some interviews, so I’ve lowered my goal to around 30 movies, which most people would still consider extreme (that’s at least three movies each day of the festival).

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