Making the Movie

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Your Weekend Viewing: A Brief History of Cursing in Cinema

Your Wednesday Links: Oscars Snowy White

Most of these links come from the @makingthemovie Twitter stream. If you’d like to see them as they come, follow us on Twitter.

New York Times: Academy Board Endorses Changes to Increase Diversity in Oscar Nominees and Itself – A radical move yet one that is unlikely to please Academy members or the general public. Doubling the already small number of women and minorities in the Academy is probably still a small ratio of women and minorities. Also, can the Academy be sure that the ’emeritus’ member votes are the ones that are disadvantaging deserving actors and crew members of color? Mightn’t it also be younger members whose personal and business networks are extremely white? Might some older members be the ones who have time to seek out and view the more obscure films by people they don’t know? Might publicity campaigns for white movies be given more money because of the perception that white movies are preferred by the Academy? It’s a sticky problem that echoes the problems with a lot of entrenched, powerful institutions in this country.

SEE ALSO: Academy Member FAQ

The Guardian: Internet cat video festival is ‘harder to get tickets to than Burning Man’

Kottke: Max Mad: Fury Road sped up 12X is still watchable – See also the Mad Max Fury Road vfx reel

Lynn Cinnamon: How The Big Short’s Michael Burry invests in water

Variety: ‘Southside With You’ Review: Barack and Michelle Obama’s First DateSwiss Army Man is also getting some, ahem, interesting reviews out of Sundance. And Birth of a Nation sold for a record amount.

A chart of every death in John Wick

The New Yorker: The Oscar Whiteness Machine

LA Times: Netflix: The most feared force in Hollywood? – Every day the studios continue to back the failed UltraViolet format is a huge win for Netflix.

IndieWire: The 11 Must-See Movies Completely Rejected By the Oscars

Your Weekend Viewing: The Exam

This unsettling thriller, written and directed by William Speruzzi, follows what happens when a man up for a job promotion gets a rather unorthodox medical examination.

Read more about the film on the official website.

Your Wednesday Links: Post Golden Globes Hangover Edition

Most of these links come from the @makingthemovie Twitter stream. If you’d like to see them as they come, follow us on Twitter.

Hollywood Reporter: The Making of ‘Sicario’: How the Cast Survived a Trip Through Juarez

The new Trailer for Hail Caesar built entirely around one (hilarious) scene – The Zootopia teaser also did this. Could be the start of an interesting trend. It is a known technique for trailers to “stop down” and play an extended part of a scene in order to demonstrate quality. So what effect does showing an entire scene have?

SlashFilm: Pacific Rim 2 Might Not Be Dead (And We Probably Have China to Thank for It) – Would much rather see this franchise keep going than Transformers.

New Republic: Our Most Anticipated Movies of 2016

Little Gold Men Podcast analyzes what the Globes wins mean for Oscars – Hint: not a whole lot. Sorry, Matt Damon.

US Mag: What Ricky Gervais said to Mel Gibson

NBC Didn’t Stream the Golden Globes – A bad trend… for movie lovers and for NBC’s ratings.


Anne Coates, editor of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, accepts her lifetime achievement award.

A photo posted by Devin Faraci (@birthmoviesdevin) on

Movie Review: The Hateful Eight

This is Quentin Tarantino epynumerous eighth film — an homage to Fellini’s 8 1/2, perhaps? — and one of his most divisive. It is both shot in epic, difficult 70mm and staged as an intimate, intricate theater piece. It is also perhaps his most defiantly social-justice-themed, a companion to Django Unchained in more than the period and plethora of bounty hunters.

I’m not sure precisely which of the characters are supposed to count as the ‘eight’ of the title, but the meat of the story centers around a group of people trapped in Minnie’s Haberdashery during a postbellum Wyoming blizzard. Just like in today’s headlines, the fault lines of the Civil War are still visible, and the plight of African-Americans hinges on their capacity to “disarm” self-appointed lawmen and criminals alike.

To me, that makes it a great deal more successful than Django Unchained, which seemed to apply the Inglorious Basterds playbook of anachronistic revenge to the amorphous evil of slavery instead of Nazis, with far less success. Here, the playbook is straight out of John Carpenter’s The Thing. How? To get into more specifics will require spoilers, and boy does this movie have spoilers!

But first… Is the film worth seeing in the 70mm roadshow version? Definitely. Only check reports to see if your local theater’s projectionist isn’t up to snuff. Running a 70mm screening is no joke. I can’t be sure, but I feel like the film stock used and the color treatment (in the opening credits) evokes the only 60’s extravaganzas. Even the camera movement, on an early complicated opening shot, is far less smooth than Tarantino or the world’s #1 lighter of tables, d.p. Robert Richardson, would normally allow.

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Movie Review: Spotlight

spotlight_posterSpotlight is an excellent drama of journalism in action. All those people saying it is the best since All The President’s Men are wrong. It is, in fact, better.

It’s virtues are subtle but wonderful: a graceful script, a verité sense of the production design, unshowy direction, calibrated performances — not least by Mark Ruffalo — and a wallop of a dramatic conclusion that beats the pants off All The President’s ‘hey, you know the rest of this story’ abrupt ending.

The events of Spotlight took place not long ago, but as the film dramatizes without underlining too much, the changes in journalism thanks to the internet have changed everything. One shot really, which shows an AOL billboard looming over the Boston Globe parking lot, visually communicates it all.

Actor-cum-writer/director Tom McCarthy has quietly been making excellent films for years. Win Win, in particular, I felt did not get its due. Still, the control exhibited here, both in the economy of the storytelling and subtlety of the performances, evinces a new level of confidence. Like All The President’s Men, Spotlight trusts the inherent drama of chasing a story, the small triumphs over petty bureaucracies and the nagging fear that a rival reporter is going to beat you to the big headline.

Ruffalo, as is his tendency, is a bit mannered for my taste. He still transforms himself with this role in a way I’ve never seen, and his big speech near the end of the film is a truly great acting moment. Rachel McAdams, Liev Schrieber, Stanley Tucci and Michael Keaton are less attention-grabbing but still excellent. By true picks for acting MVPs are the lesser-known character actors, all of whom inhabit their roles in a way that seems effortless: Brian d’Arcy James, James Sheridan, Neal Huff, Michael Cyril Creighton & the man who played the victim who finally consents to use his name and picture. (I cannot find the actor’s name.)

Spotlight is the conventional wisdom pick to win Best Picture. For me, it didn’t give me the same frisson as The Revenant or The Big Short. It is, however, an excellent and important film. Like The Big Short it reminds us in closing that, sadly, even exposure of scandals does little to change the status quo.

The Catholic Church continues to be, in Star Wars parlance, a hive of scum and villainy. I say this ruefully, and from my perch within a family of Catholics. What can even great filmmaking do in the face of religious conviction? At least with Bill Cosby finally facing arrest, perhaps there is some hope that our most corrupt institutions will see justice, even if it has been a justice delayed.

Movie Review: The Revenant

revenant-custom-posterAs if it was in doubt after last year’s masterful Birdman, director Alejandro Iñárritu and lenser Emmanuel ‘Chivo’ Lubezki have delivered another cinematic masterpiece. Here we see them effortly switch genres into an elemental story of survival and revenge.

Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t so much perform his role as the Pawnee-speaking trapper and guide Glass as he endures it. Without giving much away, his character faces more than one situation that would earn him the eponymous appellation of revenant. He is, in fact, quite explicitly compared to another figure who returned from the dead. Merry Christmas, movie fans!

Lubezki’s work with Terrence Malick comes into full effect here, with image after image — breath-takers all — of the natural world commenting on the action of the film. It is only in one narrative turn, late in the story, where I was taken out of the savage beauty of the world that the filmmakers created. Spoilers ahead!

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Your Wednesday Links: Who Cares about Star Wars?

Most of these links come from the @makingthemovie Twitter stream. If you’d like to see them as they come, follow us on Twitter.

Filmmaker Magazine: Sundance Announces 2016 Festival Premieres, Spotlight, Kids and Special Events

Ray Pride: Review Flashback: Star Wars: Episode I

Raindance: 10 Film Distribution Basics

Guardian: Behind-the-scenes photos of Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon – Despite a recent surge in love, this film is still an underrated part of the Kubrick cannon.

The Kernel: To truly love the ‘Star Wars’ prequels, stop watching them – This is good advice for many movies. Some movies stand the test of re-watching. And some do better when fermenting in memory.

Inverse: Muppet Christmas Carol’s Missing Song

Yahoo! Finance: Netflix to double original shows next year – The article casts this as a result of original content performance, but it may just be a factor of the content owners jacking up prices. Netflix is great, but a world where media companies own both production and distribution is not good for indies or audiences.

Variety: Sylvester Stallone could become sixth actor nominated for playing same character – Can you guess the others?

FiveThirtyEight: A Complete Catalog Of Every Time Someone Cursed Or Bled Out In A Quentin Tarantino Movie

iO9: How Star Wars’ Insane Toy Frenzy Changed Movies Forever

Slate: The Big Short editor Hank Corwin discusses the creation of those crazy montages and what it’s like to work with Adam McKay

“No one ever talks about the agony of viewing the first cut, even though it is always felt.” –Ralph Rosenblum (and Robert Karen), When The Shooting Stops… The Cutting Begins: A Film Editor’s Story

Movie Reviews: The Big Short and Macbeth (2015)

The Big Short movie posterThe Big Short

Michael Lewis is one of my favorite non-fiction writers. He’s a phenomenal storyteller and he uses a simple formula. He finds fascinating characters who have managed to get caught up in some of the big stories of our times, and he leverages their own personal stories to access the wider subject. His book The Big Short is about the weirdos who foresaw the 2008 mortgage-backed securities financial crisis.

If your eyes just glazed over at the phrase “mortgage-backed securities,” then this is the film for you. Writer-director Adam McKay and co-screenwriter Charles Randolph (with a great assist from editor Hank Corwin) pull out all the stops to make this one of the funniest, most illuminating films of the year.

They do this by leaning in to some of the intricacies of the financial elements, stopping down the film for entertaining footnotes, and allowing Ryan Gosling’s character (a “unreliable yet reliable narrator”) to speak directly to camera.

The term for looking at the camera is “barreling” and normally it is an actor sin. But here, it is a plenary indulgence. This is Adam McKay’s most mature work by far, which might not be a compliment considering how excellent his immature films are (Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers). But his misfires, like The Other Guys, which tried to meld the Second City aesthetic onto McKay’s anger at corporate malfeasance, never gelled.

The Big Short gels like a felon. Using a British-New-Wave-meets-Martin-Scorsese aesthetic, the camerawork is maybe a tad verité, but the film is never boring. The copious stock footage gives the sweep of history. The realization that the heroes are betting against all of Western civilization hits with the ton of bricks that it should.

The final note of the film, which looks into which of the Wall Street fraudsters was ultimately punished for their transgressions, is where I went all in. If you don’t know who took the rap, I won’t spoil it for you, but you need to see this film.


Shakespeare’s plays wallow in blood, but “The Scottish Play” is often cited as the bloodiest. This new version, helmed by Australian director Justin Kurzel (The Snowtown Murders) is appropriately brutal. It is not quite as bleak as the 1971 Macbeth, directed by Roman Polanski, to which it owes a great deal. In this iteration, the violence takes on a Phantom-camera-induced hypnotic beauty, even as it revisits again and again in the form of PTSD-like flashbacks.

The first decision the filmmakers make is a fantastic one. The film opens with Macbeth and Lady Macbeth burying their child. This backstory is something that is hinted at in the text of the play, but here it overlays the whole story, providing a sympathetic view of the Macbeths as decent people whose faith in good has been so shaken, they are willing to cross over into evil. They are not unique in their ambition for power, but having seen the darkness, they are now willing to do “more than will become a man.” And then, of course, the tragedy is that they find themselves unable to live with what they’ve done.

I’ve never seen a film or production dramatize this arc better. Credit to the leads Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard (a Francophone who performs King James’s English admirably), they give us a window into the souls of murderers. The performances and the production design, cinematography and stirring score all contribute to the dark mood of a kingdom creeping in a petty pace from day to day.

In Kurzel’s Scotland, there is no levity. Shakespeare at least gave the audience some comedy with the Porter character. But there are always choices us Bardophiles will quibble over. What’s important is the movie makes the big choices right, and maximizes what must have been a meager budget. (Not a lot of dollars for Shakespeare movies floating around these days.) Some parts feel truly epic, especially the clever way Kurzel & co. bring Birnam Wood to Dunsinane.

I will not spoil how this prophecy comes to pass in the film. Suffice it to say it is appropriately infernal. There may be no higher powers in this indifferent universe, this Macbeth seems to say, but human beings have it within them to make a hell on earth. And thus again did Shakespeare manage to be untimely ripped from today’s headlines.

Your Wednesday Links: An Honest Set of Movie News Links

Most of these links come from the @makingthemovie Twitter stream. If you’d like to see them as they come, follow us on Twitter.

New York Times: Hollywood Is Producing Higher Highs, Lower Lows – This is what comes of leaning on the high-risk/high-reward tentpoles.

The Poster Boys Podcast #12: Star Wars Poster Spectacular – And be sure to check out the collection of artwork on their tumblr.

Hollywood Reporter: Layoffs, Defections: Is The Weinstein Co. For Sale?

WIRED: Don’t Look Now, But Netflix Just Became a Traditional Studio

How Facebook is Stealing Billions of Views

Idiot Joy Showland: The Englishman and the Octopus – A very unique review of the latest Bond movie. NOTE: spoilers!

Jesse Eisenberg in The New Yorker: An Honest Movie Review

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