Last week we looked at Sundance films from years past. Here are the top award winners from Sundance 2011, presented over the weekend:
Grand Jury Prize, Dramatic: Like Crazy
Drake Doremus, director
Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones and Jennifer Lawrence
A cross-continental relationship drama
Audience Award, Dramatic: Circumstance
Maryam Keshavarz, director
An The Iranian lesbian romance drama (sui generis, I’d bet)
Grand Jury Prize, Documentary: How to Die in Oregon
Peter D. Richardson, director
A heartrending look at Oregon’s right-to-die law
Audience Award, Documentary: Buck
Cindy Meeh, director
The story of Buck, the real-life horse appearing in the Robert Redford film The Horse Whisperer
You can get more info and the rest of the winners at the festival blog.
Sean Smith, former L.A. bureau chief of Entertainment Weekly and former writer for Newsweek:
Writing about Hollywood is like being a reporter at Disneyland. At first, you can’t believe that you get to spend every day in The Happiest Place on Earth. Everyone wants to ask you about your work. You’re surrounded by princesses, and the sky sparkles with pixie dust. But as the years go on, you learn about the oily machinery that manufactures all that enchantment. You see what Cinderella’s really like when that glass slipper comes off. And then one day you notice that the magic is gone, and all you’re left with is a small, small world.
After thirteen years as an entertainment journalist, Smith has given away almost everything he owns, and at 43, joined the Peace Corps.
It’s official. Ricky Gervais will not be hosting the Golden Globes next year. His body was found this morning in a Dumpster behind the Beverly Hills Hotel. Apparently he was the victim of a brutal attack following the show last night. The list of suspects includes Bruce Willis, Johnny Depp, Scarlett Johansson, and Charlie Sheen. Local police say they will not investigate.
Meanwhile, the award winners can be found here.
YouTube turns six next month. By many standards, it’s been a huge success. Google paid more than $1 billion to buy it, making YouTube’s founders rich. It’s a popular site for catching up with whole variety of things (news, politics, music, sports, other entertainment), and for connecting people in new and different ways (social networking, education, marketing, etc.). It’s been a wonderful time-waste for millions of bored workers around the world. Where else can you find hours of video of dumb things pets do in the backyard? Or hours of new and old movie clips, for that matter—hey, what would this site be without YouTube?
On the other hand, much of the content newly created for YouTube is dismal, very primitive. We’re just a few years into the small-d democratic video age, and it seems that no one quite knows what to do with it yet. (Let’s agree that mumblecore and mashups are not the answer.) I’m not looking to compare YouTube videos with big-budget Hollywood productions. But the fact is, the tools needed to make a decent video are available to virtually anyone who has the interest, yet the appeal and production values of the typical YouTube clip doesn’t measure up to what you could have found in the past on public-access TV.
YouTube is just a distribution outlet (like Hulu and other sites), and it’s not in the production business. I understand that. But I think there’s much greater promise for independent video and film than what we’ve seen so far. Which may be, I hope, just around the corner. Looking back to the very early days of cinema, it took about a half-decade before some very creative storytellers started using the tools that were available then to make films that had aesthetic and lasting appeal. Maybe that’s where we are today.
With that said, here’s a perfect example of the future of independent film. In three minutes and thirty-five seconds, Jamie Stuart captures a few hours from a snowstorm in New York in a wonderfully fresh way that’s impossible to stop watching.
This film deserves to win the Academy Award for best live-action short subject.
(1) Because of its wonderful quality. (2) Because of its role as homage. It is directly inspired by Dziga Vertov’s 1929 silent classic “Man With a Movie Camera.” (3) Because it represents an almost unbelievable technical proficiency. It was filmed during the New York blizzard of Dec. 26, and Jamie Stuart e-mailed it to me with this time stamp: December 27, 2010 4:18:18 PM CST.
Here’s more from Ebert, comments from Stuart, and other clips, including Vertov’s Man With a Camera.
I count at least eight movie posters for Black Swan. Here are three of them.
My favorite, and it’s not even close: the one on the right. It’s startling, and it captures Natalie Portman in all her beauty and fragility. My choice for best movie poster of the year.
One question for any movie based a real-life story is how close to the truth does it get. Truth can be viewed in different ways, of course, and one of them is just getting the facts straight. As I was saying at the end of the year, I’m not sure that’s the most important thing. I expect some invention in the storytelling, as long as we’re not talking about a documentary.
Perhaps there is another standard for films—or at least, scenes in films—that are part of the public record. They invite, and receive, a higher level of scrutiny. Here’s one example: Kevin B. Lee’s fascinating look at the title fight sequence in The Fighter.
Director David O. Russell does take one or two liberties with his re-creation, but overall I’d say it’s some remarkably true-to-life filmmaking.
You can tell that Oscar campaigns are in full swing when you see front-page articles like this in the New York Times:
Mr. Moore of Paramount stopped short of making Oscar predictions. But he noted that only two western dramas, “Dances With Wolves” and “Unforgiven,” had been major hits in the last 20 years.
“And both won best picture,” he said.
The article asks the burning question: “As a Hot Ticket, Will ‘True Grit’ Sway the Oscars?” Good for the Coens that they have their top box office success evah! Asked if he had any idea why, Joel Coen said, “None at all.” But it’s not as though the season’s more critically acclaimed films have been flops.
Case in point:
Domestic: $89,292,295 (13 days)
The Social Network (95 days)
And there’s this:
Inception (172 days)
Besides, wasn’t the question about any box office/best picture connection answered last year?
The Hurt Locker
I don’t recall James Cameron thanking the Academy on Oscar night.
On a separate note, anyone associated with a system that calls True Grit a PG-13 film (killings left and right, dismembered fingers, other bloody behavior) and The King’s Speech an R (one brief flurry of mild cursing that wouldn’t make a nun blush) should be locked in an asylum. It’s ratings madness.
Great news. I’ll be watching.
Christy Lemire of The Associated Press and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of Mubi.com will be the co-hosts of “Ebert Presents at the Movies.” The two experienced and respected critics will also introduce special segments featuring other contributors and the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Roger Ebert.
The new weekly program debuts Jan. 21 on public television stations in 48 of the top 50 markets, representing more than 90% national coverage. It will be produced in Chicago at WTTW, where Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert began taping “Sneak Previews” some 35 years ago.
“It was pretty emotional for me, walking down the same corridors, into the same studios, even meeting some of the same camera operators, editors and stagehands we worked with,” Ebert said.
‘Tis the season to look back at films of 2010. Here are links to a couple of discussions worth checking out.