Cinemalinks: Weekly Reads

Director Jean-Marc Vallee filming on location for Wild. Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Weekly reads – Oscars Edition! Catch up on some notable coverage of award season contenders, from the craft of the films to the politics behind the campaigns to take-aways from the gongs leading up to the Oscars, here’s some worthy reads on films in the hunt:
By: Scott Bowles, Deadline

This great interview with Wild director Jean-Marc Vallée sees the filmmaker open up about his recent success in American independent film, taking his work to a new level while drawing comeback performances back-to-back from Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon:

“You know what’s funny? I learned that some actors, like Matthew and Reese, they’re eager to do it. Let’s be honest at where these people are in their lives. They have everything: health, good looks, amazing kids, great houses. What’s next? What could they possibly want when they have everything? They want to be taken out of their comfort zone. They want to be challenged. The key is being willing to challenge them.”

By Bill Desowitz, Thompson on Hollywood

One name that isn’t getting nearly enough credit this year is Wild cinematographer Yves Bélanger for his breathtakingly beautiful lensing of the Pacific Crest Trail and of Reese Witherspoon’s down-to-earth performance. The DP talks about how the striking compositions of Wild were largely achieved using only natural light:

“It was very minimal on "Wild." Bélanger shot everything with available light but he controlled it by choosing where and when and which angles. But sometimes he had to break the concept when shooting in town and ran out of daylight. So he cheated with a couple of small lights in the interiors.”

By Alexander Heller-Nicholas, Bright Lights Film Journal

One film that’s received smatterings of awards love is Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook. Even if the film isn’t winning much, it’s certainly garnering lots of exposure this winter and, better yet, generating some intelligent conversations about women in horror. It’s also generating some rather lame babbling, too, like Alice Robb’s “WhatIt Says About You If You Enjoy Horror Movies,” which takes outdated views on gender and spectatorship, but Alexander Heller-Nicholas at Bright Lights Film Journal intuitively offers a counterargument that builds on current views on gender in horror. “In short,” he writes, “to disparage the ethics of an entire fan demographic based on a few out-of-date articles (not to mention an obvious unaddressed personal dislike of the genre as a whole) is offensive for no other reason than it denies the diversity of the cultural and social experience of film spectatorship.” His article builds on the work of notable writers, including an essay by up-and-coming Montreal filmmaker Maude Michaud, whose debut feature Dys-, like The Babadook, proves that the joy of watching horror movies says a lot more about us than old notions of passive/aggressive female/male roles. Films like The Babadook and Dys- (and this year’s other breakout feminist horror film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night) aren’t making their way to award shows, but they’re generating some of the best dialogue on film spectatorship today. (Hat tip to my CDFF teammate Gina for pointing out this article!)

By Jesse Hassenger, The AV Club

It’s silly that a seemingly arbitrary category like Best Original Song usually causes the most controversy among the Oscar nominees. Great songs are frequently left off the ballot due to time limits, original use, and other nonsense. The AV Club, however, points out that the category with the trickiest rules actually has a history of exceptions, including bending the rules for 2007’s beloved Best Original Song winner, Falling Slowly, which was recorded long before Once was shot, but deemed eligible regardless. Lots of worthy songs are still ignored, though, and perhaps it’s time for more changes in the category: “But surely the “Falling Slowly” distinction can be applied more widely than that particular exception, which all but screamed: ‘This is usually against the rules, but we really, really, really like this song and would like to see it performed on the ceremony, so never mind.’”

-Susan Wloszczyna, Thompson on Hollywood

It’s a very competitive year for actors, but Susan Wloszczyna writes that three thesps in contention—Emma Stone (Birdman), Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), and Jake Gyllenhaal—could earn some favour by impresses their peers with their chops on both stage and screen. Maybe, but who has time to see plays during award season? Does Emma Stone do live theatre as well as she does Birdman theatre?

“British film actors are more apt to have attended a drama school than Americans, and they regularly go back and brush up their Shakespeare in plays. But when Hollywood stars choose to brave a live audience, it is often seen as a sign of being committed to their craft. What better way than to show you are worthy of an Academy Award?

By Scott Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter

Today’s nominations for the Directors’ Guild of America nominations offer some surprises for the Oscar race: is Clint Eastwood really a stronger contender than Ava DuVernay? Selma’s absence in these nominations once again bring charges of racism and sexism from the Twittersphere and blogosphere, but Scott Feinberg quickly debunks a lot of the claims against Selma, including the excuse that Paramount didn’t send screeners of Selma to voters. The analysis hits on the heart of the fact that a lot of voting is simply happening too early for us to take the precursor awards at face value as bellwethers for the Oscars:

If anything, the DGA's noms tend to reflect which way the wind was blowing a few weeks before they're announced, since the guild's voting — which takes place online — began way back on Dec. 3, finally winding to a close on Jan. 12. And that can distort the actual regard held for films that only really began accruing buzz over and after the December holidays.”

By Peter Knegt, IndieWire

A short history of the Selma snubs absences may be seen in IndieWire’s roundup of all the guild awards, aka industry gongs, which may foreshadow how individual branches of the Academy may vote come nomination day. Keep in mind, though, that despite the overlap, there are major differences in terms of the sizes of voting bodies with the Academy branches being significantly smaller and generally older (they’re the experienced vets) and therefore likely to offer a few surprises with few voters to even out the field. The leaders: “Three definite standouts as the dominant winners: Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel," Alejandro G. Iñárritu's "Birdman" and Morten Tyldum's "The Imitation Game." All three men received support from the DGA today, with "Budapest" and "Birdman" both receiving nine Guild mentions and "Imitation Game" receiving eight.” This breakdown is handy, but isn’t it disparaging to see so little love for Wild? Really, the editors chose The Imitation Game instead?

By Sasha Stone, Awards Daily

From the guilds to the Globes, no corner of award season goes without inspection. Awards Daily’s Sasha Stone offers 10 takeaways from the Golden Globes. I think she’s bang-on with this one, dubbing Boyhood this year’s The Artist, although nobody’s turned on Boyhood quite as viciously as they did when the black-and-white ditty swept award season in 2011:

“It’s still a wide open year. Even with Boyhood winning Picture and Director there is no telling if the Producers Guild and Directors Guild will follow suit. But probably we’re looking at a juggernaut on the level of The Artist, which can’t be stopped. We’ve been predicting Boyhood since the beginning of the season and have had no other film in the number one spot.”

I’ll admit, I’d completely forgotten about the existence of The Artist until reading this article.

By: Sophie Monks Kaufman, Little White Lies

This article isn’t Oscar related, but Little White Lies asks what the future of short film looks like as the landscapes of film production and distribution evolve in the digital age. Virtually anyone can shoot a video on their phone and throw it up on YouTube these days, so the “art” of the short is more relevant than ever:

“Short films are everywhere right now intuitively fitting into however long you've got to kill in your workday. If you want these breaks to be nurturing rather than gaping voids it's time to take seriously a medium whose beauty is its quietude.”

"Beauty vs. Beast: Bombing the Globes"
by  JA, The Film Experience

The funnest and most participatory community of the Oscar hub is Nathaniel Rogers' The Film Experience. A good example of TFE's let's-just-go-with-it play on award season nonsense is this week's user poll to find the communal villain of the Golden Globes. Up for grabs are hotly debated moments like the Margaret Cho bit, which I'll admit I liked.
"Meryl Streep, for instance, seemed genuinely mortified being roped into the routine. That said I don't know if you've heard this but Meryl Streep is considered a fine actress -- her horror might've been a ruse. A terribly terribly convincing ruse. (Maybe she'll win an Emmy for the performance next year?)"
I voted for Meryl, but I doubt even she can get me to watch the Emmys ever again.

By Oliver Lunn, Grolsch Film Works

Julianne Moore is the Best Actress frontrunner for her devastating performance in Still Alice and many critics, pundits, and fans say that she’s long overdue. Moore’s been breaking hearts for years with her impeccable craft, and Oliver Lunn of Grolsch Film Works gives a short history of Moore’s secret weapon: the cry face, which has her competitors shaking: “When Moore turns on the waterworks, her face melts off her skull, her eyes squint and, as the credits roll and critics think of something smart to say, she's showered with plaudits.” I hope Moore busts out the cry face on Oscar night!

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