ENJOY THE MOVIES
It may seem a bit odd that a B&W silent film titled The Artist (one of my favorite films of the year) about Hollywood's silent film era was actually written & directed by a French filmmaker. Not only that, but it stars two incredible French actors - Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo. After seeing the film, initially at the Cannes Film Festival and again at the Telluride Film Festival, I've come to recognize it's a story where the language (including the filmmaker's) doesn't matter, and that's part of its brilliance. I met writer & director Michel Hazanavicius in Telluride to ask him nearly everything I could about making one of my favorites of 2011.
With a filmography including Scanners, The Fly and Videodrome, one would expect David Cronenberg to dabble in fascinating subjects yet still craft a film that's entertaining—even exciting—to watch. That's what I was hoping to see with A Dangerous Method, his new film about psychoanalysis, Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, but unfortunately Cronenberg only included half of that cinematic equation in this film. That half is the fascinating half, as Dangerous Method is immensely fascinating to watch, delving into the early origins of psychoanalysis in a very intriguing way, but the film overall is rather dull and ultimately quite forgettable.
I've been converted. Three years ago when I saw British filmmaker Steven McQueen's debut film Hunger at the Telluride Film Festival, I hated it, with not much care or concern for McQueen. I've followed from the side as his latest film, Shame, a sexual drama set in New York City, developed with a great cast - Michael Fassbender (who was also in Hunger) as the lead and Carey Mulligan as his sister. Shame premiered at Telluride this weekend, and I will fully admit that I'm warming up McQueen in a very big way. I can now see his potential, his refined, meditative, yet brilliant filmmaking that, while may bore some, fascinated me.
One of the surprise secret screenings at the Telluride Film Festival this year was the upcoming indie comedy Butter, a high ranking Black List script by Jason A. Micallef, directed by Jim Field Smith (She's Out of My League). Set in conservative Iowa, the film is about the state competition of mastery in butter carving, and what went down one year to push loving, cutesy, conservative wife Laura Pickler (played by Jennifer Garner) to the brink of madness. Garner not only stars, but is a producer, making this very much her film, but it is the rest of the very talented and diverse cast that makes this such an enjoyable American comedy.
It may seem a bit odd to read a review for a short film, especially a Pixar Animation one, but this deserves the attention and praise, as it's one of their best in years. It's called La Luna and is written/directed by Pixar's head of story Enrico Casarosa, an Italian artist who started work as a storyboard artist before working his way up as an animator. As with most Pixar shorts, it's created to appeal and connect with all audiences, no matter what language they speak or where/how they were raised, using "gibberish" to convey dialogue. However, it certainly has the same Pixar magic that's found in all of their feature-length films, too.
The first film I caught at the Telluride Film Festival was writer/director Alexander Payne's long-awaited follow-up to Sideways, a Hawaii-set dramedy called The Descendants, adapted from the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings. The film stars George Clooney and, as expected for Payne, is a drama-comedy mix that switches tones in an instant and deals with sometimes very heavy, emotional subject matter, but fits in some snappy, humorous dialogue. Alas, I wasn't a big fan, I felt like the dialogue was forced most of the time, and Clooney didn't fully impress me as much as he did in Up in the Air, but it may just be me who feels this way.
Back up into the mountains we go. I'm once again headed out to Colorado, the state where I grew up, to attend one of my favorite annual fests - the 38th Telluride Film Festival. Four years ago, my good friend Peter Sciretta from SlashFilm and I started attending a non-stop series of three film fests throughout September every year. While the Venice Film Festival is underway at this moment, we head deep into the mountains to the quaint, charming town of Telluride, CO, where the line-up is kept a secret from everyone until the day before it starts (it was just revealed today). But that's what makes this film fest so unique.