Two months ago, I encouraged several people to watch this year’s crop of Oscar-nominated documentary shorts. My only instruction: have tissues handy. Hard-hitting themes ranged from Syria, to end-of-life decisions in an ICU, to Syria, to the Holocaust, to Syria.
So months before the White House fired its missiles in the direction of the Middle Eastern country this week, the Academy was providing us privileged folk sitting in soft recliners with varied perspectives on the crisis that’s happening halfway around the world—where instead of privilege there are regular shellings, and instead of soft recliners there are scared children. The nominated documentaries, “The White Helmets” (the eventual winner), “Watani: My Homeland,” and “4.1 Miles” each offer a completely different take on Syria’s civil war, and each gives us reason to care. This is essential viewing. Below I give a brief synopsis for each film, including the full version of “4.1 Miles.”
Crew defections, brutal cold, a global search for snow and even a naked actor dragged on the ground — ‘Birdman’ director Alejandro G. Inarritu responds to critics of his ambitious methods: “When you see the film, you will see the scale of it. And you will say, ‘Wow.'”
A version of this story first appeared in the July 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Veteran crewmembers who have toiled on director Alejandro G. Inarritu’s The Revenant say the director’s follow-up to Birdman could turn out to be epic and Oscar-worthy. Some also say that making the film has been by far the worst experience of their careers — “a living hell,” as one bluntly puts it.
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as early 19th century explorer Hugh Glass, Revenant went into production in September and was supposed to wrap in March. But cameras still will be rolling into August as the budget has climbed well past $95 million, with insiders predicting it will reach or exceed $135 million. Crewmembers say they have seen huge turnover, including many who were fired and others who quit. They say the behind-the-scenes drama led Inarritu to bar producer Jim Skotchdopole, who worked with him on Birdman, from the set.
This summer, TCM is shedding light on some pretty dark films. The second “Summer of Darkness” (the first was in 1999) is a de facto film noir film festival, airing 24 hours of films noir every Friday this June and July. With over 100 films scheduled, the festival is hosted by Eddie Muller, producer and host of Noir City: The San Francisco Film Noir Festival and president of the Film Noir Foundation.
This morning, the Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) announced the nominees for its 24th annual Gotham Independent Film Awards, honoring the best in independent cinema. The Gothams are regarded as the first major award show of the awards season. Richard Linklater’s 12-year odyssey, Boyhood, leads the pack with four nominations, including Best Feature.
I love lists. In particular, I love movie lists. This should be obvious since I dedicated this blog to the list of 170 films I sought out to watch before my 30th birthday. Well, here’s one more list. The Hollywood Reporter recently released its list of “Hollywood’s 100 Favorite Films.” Filmmakers and industry brass were given the opportunity to vote on the films that would make up the final 100, and I can say that I was honored to be among them. Many of my picks made the final cut. Are your favorites on it? Check it out here.
This week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences launched its first original web series. Every Monday, a new Academy Originals webisode will be released, exploring a range of film-related topics. Three webisodes were part of this week’s launch, including time spent with film buff Patton Oswalt as he ventured through the Academy Archives, a look into how innovations in motion pictures allow the blind to enjoy films, and a meet with screenwriter Tina Gordon Chism as she describes her creative process.
This is a must-see for any film and Academy enthusiast. Subscribe to the YouTube channel here so you don’t miss each week’s new webisode.
Star Wars fever has captivated the world since the original film’s initial release in 1977, but with recent news of Episode VII‘s casting and today being … um … May the 4th, it’s only fitting that news comes out about the 15th anniversary re-release of celebrated short film “George Lucas in Love.” At under 9 minutes, the Joe Nussbaum-directed film takes a hilarious look at the “origin” story of the iconic movie franchise by following a young George Lucas, a film student struggling with writer’s block, who learns that sometimes the best untold stories are the ones staring you right in the face.
The film was released in 1999, one year after Best Picture winner Shakespeare in Love was popular in theatres, so imagine the short’s added relevance then. Fifteen years later, it remains as funny as ever —and perhaps even more relevant as the world prepares itself for J.J. Abrams’s latest incarnation next year.
“George Lucas in Love” will be available for download on iTunes on May 20.
It seems appropriate to honor Nelson Mandela with this trailer for the newly released Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. The fictionalized account of Mr. Mandela’s life, starring Idris Elba, opened in limited release on November 29, just six days before the world leader passed away.
In the past few weeks, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has revealed the shortlists for all short film categories for the 2013 Oscars. Official nominations will be announced on January 16, 2014. Here’s what will be vying for a nomination in all three categories:
“Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me),” Esteban Crespo, director (Producciones Africanauan)
“Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything),” Xavier Legrand, director, and Alexandre Gavras, producer (KG Productions)
“Dva (Two),” Mickey Nedimovic, director, and Henner Besuch, director of photography (Filoufilm Dani Barsch)
“Helium,” Anders Walter, director, and Kim Magnusson, producer (M & M Productions)
“Kush,” Shubhashish Bhutiani, director (Red Carpet Moving Pictures)
“Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?),” Selma Vilhunen, director, and Kirsikka Saari, screenwriter (Tuffi Films)