ENJOY THE SHOW
This year has been flying by, and it's hard to believe that it's already July. We've still got six more months of great movies on the way, including the latter half of summer and the entirety of awards season releases, but that doesn't mean we haven't seem some truly spectacular films hit the big screen so far. Therefore, it seems like a wholly appropriate time to countdown my 10 Favorite Films of 2014 So Far. It's hard to say whether or not any of these films will make my final list at the end of the year (but I feel good about a few of them), but these are definitely the ones I've enjoyed the most at this mid-point of the year 2014. See below!
This Independence Day weekend, Roger Ebert returns to the movies in the documentary Life Itself, based on the legendary film critic's memoir of the same name. Hoop Dreams director Steve James has painted a wonderful and honest portrait of the man known for putting his thumb up and down towards thousands of movies throughout his decorated career. So we figure there's no better time to look into the past when Ebert first took to TV with his would-be adversary and friend Gene Siskel, all the way back in 1975. Their first show was a mouthful, "Opening Soon at a Theater Near You," and it's full of 70s glory (and jumpy video like it's a bad VCR) with just a hint of the chemistry that makes these two a dynamic duo.
One of the real masters of modern cinematography is Roger Deakins, a British cinematographer who has been nominated a whopping 11 times for the Best Cinematography Oscar, yet hasn't won one yet. Every year he always seems to end up a talking point during the awards season, because every year he continues to turn out amazing work. Plot Point Productions has decide to pay tribute to Roger Deakins in a video they've just released called "Deakins: Shadows In The Valley", a five-minute montage of some of his best shots and visual techniques. From Skyfall to The Assassination of Jesse James to Fargo to Prisoners to True Grit, his work is always astounding to see, and this video beautifully highlights some of his finest work so far. Enjoy.
"F*!k the system." Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho has been one of my favorite filmmakers since the very early days of FirstShowing. I fought hard to secure an interview with him four years ago during the release of his fourth film Mother, and had a wonderful time talking in person in Los Angeles. At the end of our interview we discussed plans for his next project, Snowpiercer, a sci-fi/post-apocalyptic adaptation of a graphic novel set entirely on a train. Now, four years later, here we are again and Snowpiercer has finally arrived. I met up with Bong Joon-ho again in New York City this time, as he's touring the US to promote the release, and we chatted about crafting this sci-fi masterpiece. It's a fun discussion, focused on the film itself.
The next couple years will be very busy for Steven Spielberg as he's tackling a Cold War thriller that will reunite him with Tom Hanks and an adaptation of Roald Dahl's The BFG, with the films being dated for release in 2015 and 2016 respectively. For those who have been a fan of the iconic filmmaker for decades, it's always nice to take an extended look back at the impressive and varying work of the director of films like Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, Munich, Duel, Minority Report and more. And we have an awesome, lengthy 50-minute tribute to Speilberg's work below. Watch!
It was a humid, mid-80 degree night in Burnet, Texas this past Saturday. Crickets and mosquitos were out in full force as were the fair vendors who were set up in the small town's square. But they weren't alone this evening. The Alamo Drafthouse's inflatable, Rolling Roadshow was erected. The movie screening was Snowpiercer, South Korean director Bong Joon Ho's American debut, and the few hundred film lovers who spilled out of the steam train that pulled into the town from Austin were in for more than an exciting two hours of escapism. Like past Rolling Roadshows, the fine people at Drafthouse had an entire evening planned out: the train ride itself, the film, plenty of food and drink, a Q&A with the film's director, and even a surprise and unplanned intro. In a nutshell, it was like all Rolling Roadshow events, an absolute blast.
"You're Birdman... Let's go back and show them what we're capable of." Last May, I got a call from Fox Searchlight inviting me to come down to the St. James Theatre on Broadway to visit the set of the new Alejandro González Iñárritu film. Setup like an actual play, complete with an audience and a set on the stage, I watched a few takes of a scene being filmed inside the famous Broadway theatre on 44th St. in New York City. Now over a year later the first teaser trailer for Birdman, the new Iñárritu film, has debuted and it looks incredible. Way better than even I was expecting, and I already have very high hopes for this film. But the set visit was a very fun experience, and the best part about it was watching the cameraman at work.
"Maybe the eye really is some kind of window to the soul." We're excited to announce that FirstShowing is partnering with Disqus to host a special screening this week of Mike Cahill's new sci-fi, I Origins, on Thursday, June 26th, in New York City. The film first premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival (read my review) and will arrive in theaters starting this July, but we're happy to offer the opportunity to come check out this film a bit early. This thought-provoking, riveting thriller is best experienced without knowing anything about it. "What if I bring you something that will take your breath away?" It's free, you'll get free popcorn, and you can be a part of an engaging and exciting movie night highlighting a fantastic new indie.
"There are cameras everywhere." One of the best video essays on Hollywood in, well, a long time. In just a few weeks, we'll be experiencing the latest in the Transformers franchise, Michael Bay's fourth movie about giant alien robots Transformers: Age of Extinction. As is always the case with movies on this scale, fans follow the production all over the world, capturing videos and photos of the filming in Chicago, Detroit, Texas, Hong Kong, China, all over the place. But, as always, Hollywood is sensitive about certain content. Using a simple computer-screen narrative, this essay examines the struggle between fans and productions and the (financial) politics of filmmaking. It's a fascinating must watch, even if you don't like Michael Bay.
"It feels important to me that the specificity of the world be known." At the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, one of my most anticipated films was David Michôd's The Rover, his follow-up to the Sundance 2010 breakout Australian film Animal Kingdom, one of my favorites that year which lead me to first interview him back in 2010. He's back and it was time to talk about his second film and what lead him to this one, starring Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson. Excerpt: "I've always wanted to be a part of the big world of of it, it just felt so important to me the second [film], that I controlled it, that I consolidated something rather than making one movie, and people getting excited, and me just losing control of my career." Watch in full below.
"Fear the man with nothing left to lose." Simple, but perfect tagline for this film, it says it all without saying too much. A24 has launched a sleek new website for The Rover, the second film from Australian filmmaker David Michôd (of Animal Kingdom previously), a post-apocalyptic western thriller starring Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson. Designed by agency Column Five, the site features photos, video, and a "Timeline of the Collapse" and interactive "Remapping the Future" page, which tie into the backstory behind the world the film is set in; think of it like a modern Mad Max, in a way. I'm glad they provide a context - take a look.
It's been just four months since we lost the incomparable Philip Seymour Hoffman. Even as I look back at the tribute that poured from my mind after his death, it's difficult to believe that he's still gone. The man was my favorite actor and at least once a week I'm reminded of one of his films, and immediately become filled with momentary sadness because of his eternal absence. But he lives on in the movies we loved, and now we get the chance to dive deeper into the mind of the great actor in an interview that is heartbreaking in hindsight. PBS Digital Studio's "Blank on Blank" just released a previously unaired, animated interview segment with Hoffman where he talks about happiness in his life. It's kind of difficult to sit through. Watch!
"It's too bad she won't live, but then again who does?" There's a new art show that just opened in Brooklyn themed to Ridley Scott's seminal sci-fi classic Blade Runner, first in theaters in the summer of 1982, 32 years ago. The gallery hosting the show is the Bottleneck Gallery, located right near the Williamsburg Bridge on the Brooklyn side, just off the Marcy Ave subway stop. In the same vein as Gallery1988 from LA, they host kick ass pop art shows in NY, this one featuring Blade Runner art and music inspired by the movie and it's a stellar show, worth visiting if you're in the area. I stopped by the grand opening on Saturday night.
Two weeks have come and gone. The 67th Cannes Film Festival has wrapped up, the awards have been handed out, hundreds (of thousands) of reviews have been written, interviews conducted, parties held, deals closed, cinema experienced, films sold, arguments had. We lost one of the greatest voices in film last year, Roger Ebert, but his presence is still felt everywhere. Ebert, a Cannes regular, was honored with a tribute screening of the doc Life Itself this year. But I am thankful he also joined me at my side through his book, as I navigated the deluge of cinema. "Will you be back next year?" "Everybody will always be back next year."