SUDDENLY EVERY DAY IS LADIES DAY BEHIND THE CAMERA
This may well be the year that Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman ever to win a Best Director Oscar, scores again. Read about the new movie from the unflinching lady who shocked us with the “The Hurt Locker,” as well as other noteworthy current and upcoming films from women who have triumphantly invaded what was once an exclusively male club.
ZERO DARK THIRTY
America’s friends and enemies alike were stunned last year by the swift termination of Osama bin Laden by a Navy SEAL team following a scenario green-lighted by President Obama. While more than one prominent Republican politician dismissed the daring maneuver as no big deal, the vast majority of both major political parties applauded the Commander in Chief for bringing down the fiend responsible for the nightmare of 9/11. Now director Bigelow has re-partnered with Mark Boal, the screenwriter of “The Hurt Locker,” to tell the inside story of this historic event. The actors chosen to convey the brilliance and bravado of these true-life warriors and their behind-the-scene allies include Joel Edgerton, Edgar Ramirez, Mark Strong, Jessica Chastain and James Gandolfini. Opens 12/19/12
MIDDLE OF NOWHERE
Ruby, the young African American woman played by Emayatzy Corinealdi, is forced to make a painful decision in this film by Ava DuVernay, winner of the Best Director award at this year's Sundance Festival. What Ruby decides to do is immediately drop out of college and scrap her dream of a career in the medical profession so that she can spend as much time as possible with her husband Derek. That time will be severely limited, however, since not every day is visiting day at the prison where Derek (Omari Hardwick) has just begun serving his five-to-eight year sentence, and the ride on the visitors’ bus takes four hours, round trip. Still, on non-visiting days she’ll be able to stay home sitting by the phone and hoping that he’ll be given permission to call.
It’s not going to be a cakewalk for Ruby, but there’s always a chance that Derek will receive a parole. Or possibly it will be discovered that he was innocent of the charges that led to his incarceration. On the other hand, aren’t we asking a lot of Ruby to insist that she spend years ignoring the appeal of various admirers, especially the magnetic, earthy bus driver played by David Oyelowo? We don’t know the answer to that question, but we do know that the audience at the recent Los Angeles Film Festival gave “Middle of Nowhere” not one, but two standing ovations. Now Playing
GINGER & ROSA
The woman who introduced the one-of-a-kind Tilda Swinton to us in the fascinating "Orlando" back in 1993 now makes us want to see what viewers at the Telluride, Toronto and New York festivals have been calling a dazzling performance by exquisitely maturing American kiddy star Elle Fanning. Although Fanning was a mere 13 during the shooting of director Potter's film, Ginger, the character she plays, is 17. And she is perhaps the most fiercely intellectual, oppionated, ragingly nervous Brit in all of England.
So why is Ginger snapping? Because this is 1962, and there's widespread Cold-War panic in the turbulent London air. Nuclear nightmares haunt just about everybody, including Ginger's beloved life-long friend Rosa (played by Alice Englert, the daughter of director Jane Campion). These girls--each born on the day Hiroshima was bombed--clearly doubt they'll make it to 1963. Which, oddly enough, doesn't mean they won't find time for at least playing hookey from boring, boring school, a little flirting (and drinking and smoking) with sex-hungry boys, or that they'll swear off bellyaching about their boring, socially sluggish families.
Thank god they have one another. Or do they? I hope I'm not spoiling anything by telling you that Ginger's dad, played by Alessandro Nivola, is sick of playing house with his wife. So he leaves home, takes a close look at Rosa, and makes a surprise move on the teen. And guess what--she likes it!
But how do you think Ginger will take the news? See the movie, which also stars Annette Bening as a fiery feminist, and find out. Opens 10/19/12
STORIES WE TELL
As an actress, Sarah Polley exhibited impressive complexity and clarity in Atom Egoyan's "The Sweet Hereafter," Wim Wenders' "Everything Will Be Fine," David Cronenberg's "eXistenZ" and Doug Liman's "Go." But her power and maturity as a filmmaker is what has impressed us most--first with "Away From Her," next with "Take This Waltz" and now with "Stories We Tell."
Here is what A.O. Scott had to say about Polley’s “Stories” in The New York Times. “ ‘Stories We Tell,’ a remarkable movie by the Canadian actress and filmmaker Sarah Polley, blends factual inquiry and something else — not quite fiction, but also not really documentary — to astonishing effect. I hesitate to say too much, since the movie is built around a series of formal and substantive revelations that must be seen to be believed. The story Ms. Polley has to tell is intensely personal, and in trying to verify some elusive facts about her mother (an actress who died in 1987) she comes close to unraveling her own sense of identity. She may not be who she thought she was, and ‘Stories We Tell’ is decidedly not what it seems, at first, to be.” Now Playing
Some of the most compelling actresses working in movies today owe more than a sliver of gratitude to a sharp, probing, amusing writer-director named Nicole Holofcener. This blessed band of thespians includes Frances McDormand, Jennifer Aniston, Allison Janney, Amanda Peet, Rebecca Hall, Brenda Blethyn, Emily Mortimer, Toni Collette, Joan Cusack and Julia Louis-Dreyfus. And, taking top honors, the mercurial, fearlessly game Catherine Keener, who has been a sterling participant in all five of Holofcener’s indie gems, starting in 1996 with “Walking and Talking” and progressing through “Lovely and Amazing,” “Friends With Money,” “Please Give” and now the still-untitled seriocomedy currently shooting in Los Angeles.
With or without a title, what’s the movie all about? The initial focus is on a lonely single, an emotionally insecure divorcee who is reluctant to burden others with her problems. But suddenly the fog lifts and the sun comes out for this chronic mope (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus). She encounters a sophisticated, vibrant, funny and just-plain-smart woman and dares to open up a bit to her in an unusually candid manner. To her amazement, her new acquaintance (Catherine Keener) is a solid, sympathetic listener. A friendship is born, but that’s not necessarily the best thing that happens to the newly daring divorcee. She also gets a new man in her life, a jolly, virile dude who’s nothing like her ex-mate.
So what could possibly go wrong? Just this: the prince charming who’s come to her rescue, played by James Gandolfini, turns out to be her best pal’s sour-faced ex-husband! Stay tuned.
JANE GOT A GUN
And she probably got it from her former red hot lover, a cool hombre she has now persuaded to help her protect her outlaw husband from villains who recently pumped several bullets into his body. But Jane's major worry seems to be that these wannabe assassins will eventually boot her from her cherished home on the range. The plucky heroine of this western shoot-'em-up written by Brian Duffield is Oscar winner Natalie Portman, and her lethal playmate is Michael Fassbender. Most surprising of all, the director is Lynne Ramsay, the esteemed helmer of such unsparing, offbeat dramas as "Morvern Callar," "Ratcatcher" and "We Need to Talk About Kevin."
Possibly we need to talk about urging Ramsay to slow down a bit. She's already planning "Mobius," an outer space horror flick based on "Moby Dick." In addition to directing the film, she will share co-author credit with Rory Kinnear, the screenwriter of "We Need to Talk About Kevin." Mr. Kinnear is also the husband of Ms. Ramsay.
THE LONELIEST PLANET
“Day Night Day Night,” a critically acclaimed 2006 film written and directed by Russian-American helmer Julia Loktev, was a favorite at numerous festivals, including Cannes, Toronto, Telluride and New York. Virtually nobody saw the movie in a mainstream theater, possibly because of its difficult subject matter. The harrowing drama’s central character is a frail, seemingly American 19-year-old girl who has volunteered as a suicide bomber and in the last few minutes of “Day Night Day Night” she is seen approaching Times Square, armed with a backpack containing a 50 pound bomb.
It’s been a long wait for this exceptionally promising director’s follow-up film, “The Loneliest Planet.” Her screenplay is an adaptation of Tim Bissell’s “Expensive Trips Nowhere,” a variation on Ernest Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” (which, under the direction of Zoltan Korda, was turned into a 1947 movie called “The Macomber Affair,” starring Robert Preston and Joan Bennett as a cowardly big game hunter and his unfaithful wife, plus matinee idol Gregory Peck as their sexy guide on a Kenyan safari). In “The Loneliest Planet,” set in the remote ex-Soviet republic of Georgia, the hunter and his wife are merely engaged, not married, and they are played by Gael Garcia Bernal and Hani Furstenberg. The role of the guide-turned-furtive-lover is acted by Bidzina Gujabidze. The traumatic jolt they eventually experience is set in motion by a surprise encounter with an armed stranger who is certainly nothing ever dreamed up by Hemingway. Below, comments on “The Loneliest Planet” from a trio of prominent critics.
“Breathtaking. A strikingly successful piece of daring by Julia Loktev.” – Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal
“A film you will never forget because it turns on the kind of small incident that could happen to any of us and alter our life in just a few seconds… Loktev is one of the most radical, intelligent and talented filmmakers now at work. THE LONELIEST PLANET is an experience you deserve. So search it out.”
– David Thomson, The New Republic
“Bracingly gorgeous…PLANET sketches wildly detailed relationship dynamics through its characters’ faces, bodies, and responses to their environment and turns wordless shots into spoiler–alert–worthy events.” – Karina Longworth, Village Voice
In 1982 rookie director Amy Heckerling made a star of Sean Penn in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” the cult comedy about wacky but endearing teens written by Cameron Crowe. And in 1995 the helmer made a star of young and lovely Alicia Silverstone in “Clueless,” this time working from her own modernized take on Jane Austen’s “Emma.” Although Silverstone has kept busy in films and on TV, she hasn’t shone as brightly as anticipated, a situation that may improve after the release of Heckerling’s giddycontribution to the ceaseless vampire craze. She’s top-billed as a sizzly New York City single looking for a man sexy enough to persuade her to shake her vampire habit. Her sharp-fanged, bloodthirsty roommate, played by Krysten Ritter, has the very same goal. Also present and aiming for a few bloody good laughs are Sigourney Weaver, Justin Kirk, Dan Stevens, Malcolm McDowell and Wallace Shawn. Opens on 11/2/12
THE BLING RING
Lots of thwarted, low-achieving losers out in far Hollywood long to play and prowl with night-owl stars like Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and Orlando Bloom. Evidently, more than a few of these youthful malcontents--some in their twenties but the majority of them still in their teens--refuse to settle for merely crashing a celebrity party. The ultimate goal of these fringe creatures is burglary, to be achieved once they've quietly crept into a mansion whose residents are frantically relaxing the night away at the Chateau Marmont or some other anything-goes establishment. And that's precisely the fate that befell seriously sybaritic victims Lohan, Hilton and Bloom not so long ago.
The robberies occurred in 2008 and 2009, and the alleged perpetrators were dubbed "The Bling Ring." That's a colorful label, of course, but upon reflection, do you feel this tawdry slice of Hollywood night life really rates a cinematic salute? Personally, I do, but that's primarily because writer-director Sofia Coppolla, whose splendid track record includes "The Virgin Suicides," "Lost in Translation," "Marie Antoinette" and "Somewhere," has been totally in command of the action, night and day, scene by naughty scene.
THE GUILT TRIP
Having toiled for a decade or so as a minor Hollywood actress, Anne Fletcher is now building a reputation as a reliable director of light, not particularly subtle comedies. She directed Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds in "The Proposal" and Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan-Tatum in "Step Up." Now, in "The Guilt Trip," she's coping with what promises to be the oddest couple of all: Seth Rogen plays a klutsy aspiring inventor and Barbra Streisand's the long-absent mom who pops back into his life and joins him on a nightmarish, slapsticky road trip. This could turn out to be a fun, feelgood lark, the perfect holiday treat. On the other hand, not everyone has applauded the film's trailer, with its depiction of a loud, bossy, interfering, if loving, Jewish Mother. Opens 12/25/12
Remember the lyrical black and white imagery of William Wyler’s 1939 adaptation of Emily Bronte’s saga of the passionate but poisonous relationship between Heathcliff and Cathy? And the lush, rhapsodic sound of Alfred Newman's music as Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon romped and rolled through the British moors?
Well, if you do recall all of that, I suggest you simply click your inner delete button and rush off to a theater showing Andrea Arnold's extreme makeover of Bronte's book. True, some purists have complained that the director of the harsh, uncompromising "Fish Tank" and "Red Road" has gone way over the top this time, replacing the author's power and sensitivity with jarring, sadistic violence. Others regard this retooling of Bronte's only published novel as a cerebral, sensual and, yes, shockingly violent knockout. Click here for Guy Flatley's review. Now Playing