Cinemalinks: Weekly Reads

Lol, Furious 7 at the Oscars?
It’s been a busy two weeks since I last posted a link round-up, but there’s lots to review. The big topic in movieland is the impending decision from the Academy as it decides the fate of the Best Picture category. Will they revert back to five nominees? If so, does this mean we can finally agree that The Reader got in over The Dark Knight on merit??? Either way, this flexible 5-10 thing needs to go. A firm five or a firm ten, please!

By Sasha Stone, Awards Daily

Let’s start with a case for ten from one of the supporters of a wider, more inclusive field. Do we need a bigger number to get the fuller picture?

Like it or not, the awards race is bigger than the Oscars now. They are the final word on the season. On the one hand, they will blame the drop in ratings or lack of interest in the Oscars on awards season fatigue – it is exactly the opposite of that. The public is watching the Academy and waiting for a dramatic finish.

By Anne Thompson, Thompson on Hollywood

On the other hand, do the changes in the film industry even warrant ten possible Best Picture nominees? I think Anne Thompson makes a good point here that the blockbusters have changed in recent years—perhaps the overall decline in the quality of major studio fare is a fairer reason to account for the absence of films like The Dark Knight (or The Avengers, etc) rather than voter snobbery.

The studios have stopped making, for the most part, the movies that used to be in Oscar contention. Prestige dramas are now the purview of specialty distributors. Hollywood studio big budget A-list movies are what used to be B-list fare. Which is why so many comic book blockbusters are relegated to the tech categories that celebrate the best sets, costumes and spectacle cinematography. The closest this year's Oscar race came to an old-fashioned Hollywood Oscar movie was Wes Anderson's elegantly designed European valentine, "The Grand Budapest Hotel," which won four Oscars. 

By Ramin Setoodeh, Variety

Any Oscar predictions being tossed around this early in the year need to be taken with a grain of salt (a big one), and the funniest and looniest forescast so far is Vin Diesel’s own bold claim that Furious 7 is the film to beat. That’s all fine if the Oscars want a big blockbuster to draw in the ratings, but do voters need to have seen the other Fast and the Furii films to appreciate Furious 7?

“Universal is going to have the biggest movie in history with this movie,” Diesel said in a lengthy interview with Variety for this week’s cover story. “It will probably win best picture at the Oscars, unless the Oscars don’t want to be relevant ever.”

... Maybe Diesel is on to something, after all. Or maybe not: when told about the prediction, a Universal executive chuckled and then asked to go off the record.

By Tim Brayton, The Film Experience

The first years of a fixed ten Best Picture nominees seemed to hold much promise for animation as Up and Toy Story 3 received back-to-back nominations. Animation’s on the rise, but is one of it’s power players on the decline? This look at Dreamworks, whose How to Train Your Dragon 2 was last year’s best animated film, is an insightful look at the studio machinery that doesn’t quite seem to work anymore.

Having perfected a factory for producing animated features that anyone could follow, DreamWorks was as responsible as any studio for the glut of animation that hit in 2009 and has continued largely unabated ever since. By making its products too ubiquitous, the studio was making them routine and increasingly easy to ignore.

"The Thin Blue Line, The Jinx and Why We Love True Crime Documentaries"
By Jason Bailey, Flavorwire

I really need to find a way to make at least six days of the week run for twenty-five hours so I ca make time to finally watch The Jinx. I'm fascinated by the response to it--and by the response to the response. Before looking to the fascination behind The Jinx, though, it might be worth visiting one of the landmarks of crime docs, The Thin Blue Line.

It’s all too easy to imagine ourselves caught in those wheels — and thus, it’s easy to see a filmmaker like Morris as the kind of advocate we’d want on our side. Having supported himself for three years as a private investigator, The Thin Blue Line was an opportunity for him to merge his two skills, digging deep into the tiny details of the decade-old case and training his camera on those who had something to gain from Adams’ conviction. His hands-off style — which amounts to giving his interviewees enough rope to hang themselves — results in a clear picture of what really happened in Dallas, and an indirect confession from the man who, by that point at the end of the film, Morris has made a very strong case against.

By the team at The Playlist

Cannes is on the horizon! What films are you most excited to hear about from coverage on the Croisette?      The team at The Playlist breaks down a list of possible/hopeful contenders including Todd Hayne’s Carol, Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash and the Marion Cotillard/Michael Fassbender Macbeth. I’m hoping to see another strong year for Canadian films, although last year’s coup of Mommy, Maps to the Stars, Tu dors Nicole, and (sort of) The Captive isn’t to be expected.

Normally, we’d have learned at least what the opening film of the festival by this this time would be, but the line-up remains very much under wraps at the moment. Yet there are plenty of likelies and strong potentials, and so with our eyes on the Croisette, we’ve rounded up twenty of the films that we most hope will be screening at Cannes when the festival kicks off on May 13th. Take a look below, let us know what you’d like to see at the the festival in the comments, and keep your eyes peeled for an official announcement for the lineup in the coming weeks.

By Brendan Kelly, Montreal Gazette

One of the Canadian films I’m most looking forward to is Rafael Ouellet’s Gurov and Anna. The director’s first film in English seems to be earning some admiration in Montreal. It’s pitched as a campus infidelity drama, but this collaboration between Ouellet and writer Celeste Parr sounds like a wonderful play on our relationship with art, love, and life.

But this beautifully shot mostly Mile End-set drama is so much more than that[ an infidelity drama]. It’s also a meditation on literature, constructing narratives and losing oneself in those constructed narratives. Ah yes — it’s the product of a former McGill literature and cultural studies student! In fact, the first draft of Gurov & Anna was Parr’s master’s thesis at McGill. But fear not: Parr and Ouellet have created a riveting, emotionally charged work far removed from its academic beginnings.

By Matthew Hoffman, Scene Creek

Mommy’s Suzanne Clément has another powerhouse performance on the circuit with Sitting on the Edge of Marlene. The actress talks with Scene Creek about delving in to such a mysterious character and enjoying the rare pleasure of working with a female director of her own age.

[On her character Marlene]: The more I got into her the more I understood her. You have to be in a state of Marlene to do Marlene. It took a while. What was most interesting was the unbalance of Marlene. The fact of working with Ana who is a woman of my age also was attractive. Some of our preoccupations or desires in life were similar. We related to each other. The force and strength that she has. It’s what is in Marlene, this strength and vulnerability

By Noah R. Taylor, Dork Shelf

Dork Shelf talks with Matt Sadowsk about his film Pretend We’re Kissing, which recently sold out at the Canadian Film Festival in Toronto and screens as part of the Canadian Indie Film Series in select Landmark theatres this Wednesday. The film sounds like a lot of fun, especially for those of us who’ve grown up with a love/hate relationship for the way romantic comedies give us unrealistic expectations about life. (It’s a “non rom-com,” too!)

[on the film as a response to rom-com]: Originally Pretty in Pink wasn’t supposed to end well, she wasn’t supposed to get together with Andrew McCarthy at the end. Then they tested it and everyone was really upset that she didn’t hook up with him after all that, so they reshot. I would have been satisfied with that, because sometimes it is about all that build up, then it’s like ‘alright, I’ve learned my lesson’. I don’t think anyone thinks those characters end up marrying each other, so why do they have to get together in the end? I wanted to write a film about spending that one magical day with someone, can you hold on to that? Should you hold on to that?

Crowdfunding Shout-out:

I don’t usually get excited by crowdfunding projects anymore, but the Canadian horror film The Void sounds really interesting and is doing gnagbusters. They’re seeking help to make some monsters the good old-fashioned way, which isn’t easy to do for independent filmmakers. As they say, “Mo’ money, mo’ monsters!” (Visit their campaign here.)

Video of the Week:

Christopher Plummer leaves his prints outside the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood to mark the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music. Congrats to Canada’s finest actor!

Read anything good this week?