The Oscars are boring. It's pretty much a fact by now. Yes, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tries to spice up their live telecast of the annual awards ceremony with comedians, celebrities and musical numbers, but turning a few hours of backslapping and self-congratulations to and from Hollywood into true entertainment is hard in this age of YouTube and DVR's. So how do you turn something like the Academy Awards into a truly fun and entertaining event without pandering to a certain audience? I've got a list of five ideas that AMPAS might want to consider for the Oscars next year, and things might get better.
This Sunday night, the 85th Annual Academy Awards Ceremony will take place at the Dolby Theatre right here in the heart of Hollywood. It's the biggest of all award shows, the culmination of months and months of speculation from supposed "experts" and millions of dollars spent behind the scenes to jockey certain films into the best position possible to take home as many trophies as they can. The question in the headline isn't meant to single out this year specifically, but instead to wonder, in an age in which technology makes award shows like these more ubiquitous than ever before, if the Oscars really still mean anything anymore.
In 1994, Quentin Tarantino stormed into the mainstream with the dark, twisted world of Pulp Fiction. Two years later, another powerful and independent-minded duo of directors gripped audiences with their own dark comedy set in the far north, Fargo. The Coen Brothers and Tarantino have since been turning genre after genre upside down by tearing them apart and then blending them into single films. Now in 2012 we find the Coen Brothers and Tarantino have both decided to take on a similar classic genre. This time, the Coen Brothers would come first with their 2010 remake of the classic John Wayne Western True Grit, and Tarantino would follow suit two years later with his own homage to the genre in Django Unchained.
After the disasters that are now known as the Star Wars prequels sullied many a childhood memory of the classic sci-fi trilogy from George Lucas, it's truly amazing to see the rabid fanbase generally be so thrilled and excited with the prospect of a new trilogy with director J.J. Abrams kicking things off in Episode VII from screenwriter Michael Arndt. And it's even more interesting that in the face of what is essentially pure commercialism and money milking, that many fans are behind the idea of spin-off films featuring characters like Han Solo and Boba Fett (maybe even Yoda). While the prospect of films featuring some of our favorite characters in their own movies seems promising, we must not forget the shortcomings of the past.
The word is out that Disney and Lucasfilm are working on standalone Star Wars movies to hit theaters in between the episodes of the new trilogy, starting with Episode VII hopefully arriving in 2015 (though there's no guarantees). Just today we learned that two of the standalone spin-offs will feature a young Boba Fett, and another will feature his smuggler adversary Han Solo, brought to life to famously by Harrison Ford. It's hard to envision anyone else in that role aside from Ford himself (and the same can be said for Indiana Jones), but since Ford is no longer 35, a younger actor must be brought in to play the scoundrel. But who?
Recently, the internet buzzed when Harry Knowles at AICN posted a rumor that one of the standalone Star Wars spin-offs would center on none other than Yoda, the 900-year old Jedi Master who trained Luke Skywalker and countless others. This could very well turn out to be false, but if it ends up being true, it says a lot about the mindset of Kathleen Kennedy at Lucasfilm and the creative minds behind the scenes who are now running the Star Wars franchise. Some people have found the news of a possible Yoda movie to be exciting, but I'm skeptical: do fans really want more prequels when the series has just been resurrected?
The film industry is constantly evolving. Pundits have been heralding the decline of traditional theaters for years, and increased ticket prices, additional charges for 3D, IMAX, or HFR, and the affordability of high quality HD televisions and sound systems have been tipping the scales toward the consumer staying in instead of going out. But Future Cinema — a live events company based in London — is here to change all of that. They host incredible realistic live recreations and screenings of classic movies, and this insane level of interactivity is more than enough to convince people to not only watch a film, but to experience it, too.
I unabashedly, unequivocally love film festivals. Even after 7 years straight of attending 11-day long fests all over the world, I still love them. Sundance 2013 has just wrapped up and I'm on my flight home from Utah now, thinking back over the last 10 days, the 30 films I saw, the people I met, the experiences that defined this year at Sundance. It was another unforgettable, exciting, iconic year for me. In fact, one of the best in a long time. I saw a grand total of 30 films, something I haven't done since 2007/2008 when I first started attending this fest. Everything worked out perfect, and while I'm exhausted, I'm extremely happy.
Why do we watch movies? Why do we go to film festivals? What does all of this really mean? Is there more to cinema than just entertainment? Asking these questions is the way I continue to challenge myself while at this festival. It's the beginning of Day 6 at Sundance 2013, I'm 16 films in (with three more today and four more days to go) and I can't help but take a brief pause to think about my life at this point. The other night I caught the world premiere of Before Midnight, the third film in the Before Sunrise/Sunset series from Richard Linklater, and it floored me. But left me an emotional mess and I've been different ever since.
We're back yet again in cold but beautiful Park City, UT, bundled in layers of clothing and jackets, ready to kick off another Sundance Film Festival. This will astonishingly be my seventh year in a row I've attended (my very first year was 2007) and I'm always anxious to return, I love this fest and everything about it. From the snow to the town itself to the people/friends to the screening venues to the films and staff and volunteers and everyone/everything else inbetween. There's nothing like it, and I'm always excited to arrive and start seeing films, hoping to discover some true cinematic gems. Let's kick off Sundance 2013!
The nominations for the 85th Annual Academy Awards arrived this morning, and while many films and performances that were expected to get recognized ended up on the list, there were still plenty of surprises and snubs in the the spectacular year of film that was 2012. While we'll be talking about the potential winners for the weeks to come leading up to the live broadcast of the show on on Sunday, February 24th, 2013, now is the time to talk about the most surprising nominations and also the most frustrating snubs by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. There are quite a few wild cards this year. More below!
After naming my personal Top 20 Films of 2012, it's time to look forward to an all new year of hopefully great films. This weekend kicks off with a whimper as Lionsgate sends Texas Chainsaw 3D to theaters, but movies like The Impossible, Not Fade Away, Promised Land and Zero Dark Thirty get wider releases. However, there's plenty of great films on the horizons, and while most of them are a few months away, I've decided to compile my 13 Most Anticipated Films of 2013 (because why not?). There aren't too many indies on this list because we'll catch a lot of those at Sundance in a couple weeks, and many of them don't have release dates or distributors just yet. But we'll cover all of those films soon enough. See the list below!
"I think cinema is a great place for secrets and intimacy." Its been quite a year. Looking back at 2012, I've been lucky enough to speak with legendary directors like Ridley Scott (for Prometheus) and Ang Lee (for Life of Pi), up-and-comers like Josh Trank (for Chronicle) and Rian Johnson (for Looper), interview esteemed actors like Michael Fassbender (for Prometheus) and Jason Clarke (for Zero Dark Thirty). Over the course of a year, we get to speak to many talented peopled in many places, in many different ways - over the phone, in person with a Flip cam, transcribed from audio, or even over Skype. I still consider it an honor every time we get to do an interview, and we wanted to recap all our interviews from this year below.
Just one weekend stands between us and 2013, and looking back at all the great films of 2012 has been a real treat. Myself and the rest of FirstShowing (not to mention most of our colleagues) think this was truly a year to remember for fantastic cinema. Starting all the way back at Sundance and ending with this awards season, there have been tons of stellar stories on the big screen (along with some big disappointments). And while there's plenty to look forward to in 2013, here's one more look back at some of the best films of the year with my personal picks for the 20 Best Films of 2012. Yeah, I couldn't pick just ten. Full list below!