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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 20:52
Earlier this year, it was reported that David Simon — the man behind "The Wire" and "Treme" — was writing an HBO miniseries biopic about Martin Luther King Jr. Whether that project is still going or perhaps shifted directions is unclear, but Simon has a new project coming on HBO, with similar thematic matter, and it sounds great. Oscar Isaac and Catherine Keener will lead the Simon co-penned miniseries, based on the book "Show Me A Hero" by Lisa Belkin, that will follow "a young Yonkers mayor (Isaac) in the 1960s who is faced with a federal court order requiring that he build a small number of low-income housing units in his town’s Caucasian neighborhoods. His attempt to do so tears the entire city apart, paralyzes the entire municipal government and, ultimately, destroys the him and his political future." Hot damn, that sounds great, and stepping into to direct the first episode is Paul Haggis of "Crash" fame. Put this on your must see for 2015. [Variety]

"Girls" star Allison Williams will play Peter Pan in NBC's "Peter Pan Live!" She'll be singing and dancing opposite Christopher Walken's villainous Captain Hook in the live-to-the-air production. It's a risky role for the actress with no room for error, but also one that could be magic if she pulls it off. [Variety]

Elle Fanning is set to play writer Mary Shelley in "A Storm In The Stars." Haifaa al-Mansour, the filmmaker behind the excellent "Wadjda," will direct this one about "the passionate love affair between dangerously charismatic poet Percy Shelley and 17-year-old Mary Wollstonecraft, who would a year later write Frankenstein as Mary Shelley." Financing is coming together for filming to shoot next year. [THR]

Olivia Wilde, Luke Wilson, Elisabeth Moss and Natasha Lyonne have been lined up to star in "Meadowlands." Reed Morano is making his directorial debut on the project that "follows a couple, Sarah (Wilde) and New York City cop David (Wilson) who are dealing with the crisis of their son’s disappearance. While David loses his way, Sarah also places herself in dangerous situations following the calamity." Production begins next month. [Deadline]

Domhnall Gleeson is joining Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy and Will Poulter in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "The Revenant." The story will follow "a 1820s frontiersman on a path of vengeance against those who left him for dead after a bear mauling" and will shoot this fall. [Variety]
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Author: "Kevin Jagernauth"
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 20:33
The comic web series "Don't Walk," featured on Thundershorts, is the brainchild of Kemp Baldwin, Gates Bradlet and Mike Laskasky. Depicting the bizarro world that surrounds common 'Don't Walk' signs, it follows a guileless Midwestern transplant, played by the always-hilarious Max Silvestri, trying to get to his first day of work in NYC. As the creators explain, "anything can happen while you wait to cross the street because it’s a New York street." So far, seven episodes have been released. Watch them below.

READ MORE: Guest Post: Here's How to Get A Web Series Off The Ground

Tell us about yourself! How did you get started in comedy?

Comedy was sort of a fallback for all of us. Mike was a local sports anchor in Iowa before selling out to try to get a high-paying job in internet comedy. Kemp went to college wanting to become a novelist. But he quickly realized that he needed to be responsible and set more attainable and financially secure career goals like trying to be funny for a living. Gates is an amazing director and editor and stumbled into it comedy – in a pratfall kind of way.

But the three of us met working on a show that wasn't funny. To pass the time, we joked around and tried to develop funny shows because that's what we really wanted to do. With that said, we're not sure Gates knows this is a comedy. We're trying figure out how to break it to him gently.

What inspired your online series?

We spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to shoot something quickly, relatively easily, and without paying for locations or setting it in our small Brooklyn apartments.

Street corners seemed perfect for a micro-sitcom. They're free to use, which fit nicely into our budget. The Don't Walk sign gave us a loose format that everyone understands – the hand flashes, people stop walking, people wait, the light changes and people continue on their way. The great thing is anything can happen while you wait to cross the street because it's a New York street – nothing is bizarre because everything is bizarre; you just go about your day. And there are thousands of street corners in the city and they're all their own weird little worlds whose populations change with every light. We liked that this gave us the freedom to "write what we know" while writing whatever the hell we wanted. And the Don't Walk sign creates a tight structure to fit it all in, which seemed perfect for people's limited attention spans and our limited budget.

But it snowballed a bit. A series of unrelated sketches became a narrative with a main character and a season-long arc. We also learned why people shoot in their apartments: you can regulate the heat even on three of coldest days of the year, thousands of strangers don't walk through your set unannounced, and there are no cars whizzing by ruining takes.

What's they key to getting noticed online?

Nudity. Cats. Clickbait. And then way far down the list is make something with really funny people. "Don't Walk" was noticed because we crammed as many funny people into it as possible, starting with Max Silvestri. Having folks like Jermaine Fowler, Kate Berlant, John Early, Brooke Van Poppelen, Rob Cantrell, and Nick Turner involved really helped make it funny and also grabbed people's attention.

What separates online short form comedy from longer form TV/film comedy? Advantages/disadvantages?

There's a lot less competition from Judd Apatow online, which is nice. This isn't groundbreaking news, but you can pretty much do whatever you want online without anyone giving you stupid notes. Nothing – but financial limitations – is standing in your way to go from idea to screen quickly. The scary part is because no one is giving you stupid notes, you're sort of wandering out there in the wilderness and hoping to get someone other than your mom's attention. The great thing about working with Thundershorts was they consolidated and highlighted a handful of very funny shows, so it took the pressure off a bit.

With that being said, we'd be happy to point out more of the advantages/disadvantages of longer form TV/Film if someone wants to give us a show or three-picture movie deal. We're looking forward to finding that success and then complaining endlessly about how restrictive it is.

What advice do you have for people who want to succeed in the online comedy market?

We're still figuring that out ourselves. It's tough. But if people want to follow our road map, here it is: 1.)Try to write something a little different and funny (and hopefully succeed.) 2.) Cast the funniest people you know or know of (They'll make what you wrote better and make people want to watch it.) 3.) Stop talking about the "great idea" you have and actually make the thing. (This is hard. But you can't watch an idea.) 4.) Do it in a professional manner with an incredible crew. (If you take it seriously, other people will too.) 5.) Keep everyone involved happy. (Hopefully they will be as proud of it as you are and want to help you promote it.) But, if you're looking for sage advice from us, you may have already made a grave error.

What IS funny to you?

Honestly, we were fans of a lot of the folks in our cast before making Don't Walk. These are some of the funniest people in New York. We feel very lucky that they wanted to work with us. Max should be a household name. If that's not clear from just watching Don't Walk (please watch it over and over again. It's got, uh, layers.) listen to his new stand-up album and watch Gabe and Max Have Issues. The guy is a comedic force. The same could be said about everyone in our cast. Copy and paste these names into Google and have fun: Jermaine Fowler, Nick Turner, Kate Berlant, Rob Cantrell, Brooke Van Poppelen, John Early, Murf Meyer, Matt Klinman, Don Fanelli, Shamikah Martinez, Siobhan Thompson, Justin Brown, Dan Ramos and Lawrence DeLoach. Besides our cast, Carlos Mencia was obviously a huge influence.

Check out all seven episodes below:
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Author: "Oliver MacMahon"
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 20:26
NewFest, New York's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Film Festival today announced its 2014 winners. The Audience Award for Best Feature was awarded to director Daniel Ribeiro for "The Way He Looks" and the Audience Award for Best Short was awarded to Brumby Boylston for "Cruising Electric."

READ MORE: Brazilian Drama 'The Way He Looks' Acquired by Strand Releasing

Programmer KP Pepe said, "I am thrilled that the audience selected these two films - they represent NewFest well. While the films are quite different, they are refreshing, entertaining and span the complexity, humor and beauty of LGBT life."

"The Way He Looks" premiered in the Panorama section of the 64th Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year, winning both the FIPRESCI Prize for best feature film and the Teddy Award for best LGBT-themed feature. It also screened at Outfest earlier this month, where it won the prize for best dramatic feature.

The film follows Leonardo, stuck fending off bullies and over-protective parents, spending his days allowing his best friend Giovana to drag him around town. Being blind has always been an inconvenience for Leonardo, but his angst-y adolescence gets a lift when the handsome and smooth-talking Gabriel turns down numerous offers from ogling girls to hang with Leonardo after school. The longer they spend together, the more apparent their shared attraction becomes -- not just to them but to a spurned Giovana as well. As social pressure mounts on both to fit within their confined social boxes, the two must decide whether to ignore their feelings or to throw caution to the wind and admit that they might actually be falling in love.

It is scheduled for theatrical release on November 7, 2014.
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Author: "Oliver MacMahon"
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 20:10
A couple of years ago, things were looking grim for Kodak. The legendary film company couldn't keep up with the digital age, and were on the brink of bankruptcy, but managed to bounce back last fall. While the company promised to be more contemporary in their approach going forward, they also said that film stock was part of their future as well. And a bunch of filmmakers teamed up to make sure the industry ensures that in an increasingly digital age, there is still room for good, old fashioned physical film stock.

The Wall Street Journal reveals that behind-the-scenes, Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Judd Apatow, and J.J. Abrams went to the heads of studios to make the case for film, and to have them invest in the format. How? The studios have agreed to buy an unspecified amount of film stock each year from Kodak, even if they don't know how many movies will be shot using it. It guarantees Kodak a consistent flow of money, and a reason to keep making celluloid, even though the photo company initially tried to get the studios to invest in a manufacturing plant. And the feedback, as you might expect, is a bit mixed, but mostly supportive.

"It's a financial commitment, no doubt about it. But I don't think we could look some of our filmmakers in the eyes if we didn't do it," said Bob Weinstein, likely referring longtime pal, and film enthusiast, Quentin Tarantino.

Meanwhile, Apatow just wants the option available. "[Digital and film] are valid choices, but it would be a tragedy if suddenly directors didn't have the opportunity to shoot on film," he said. "There's a magic to the grain and the color quality that you get with film."

But as you might expect, there are practical considerations to make too. "I'm a huge fan of film, but it's so much more convenient digitally," "Transformers: Age Of Extinction" producer Ian Bryce stated.

But real test will be how this plays out in the longterm. For younger directors, digital is still a much cheaper way to get movies made on a reasonable budget, so it remains to be see if this solution is merely a minor hold what is the inevitable demise of film stock. That said, if the studios do stay supportive, and make it an option for directors who aren't just marquee names, we could see celluloid survive for years to come. Thoughts? Leave 'em below.
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Author: "Kevin Jagernauth"
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 19:23
For its fourth edition, the Festival del film Locarno’s Carte Blanche initiative (August 9-11, 2014) turns the spotlight on Brazil. Supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Carte Blanche offers a look at films in post-production from a different country every year.

Of the 45 submissions received by Cinema do Brasil, the Festival del film Locarno chose 7 films for the Carte Blanche showcase. 

At the beginning of each screening, the producers and directors will introduce their film to the various international sales agents, funders, distributors and festival programmers attending.

The selected films are:

  • "Aspirantes" ("Hopefuls") by Ives Rosenfeld, produced by Luiz Alberto Gentile (Crisis Produtitvas) and Tatiana Leite (Bubbles Project)
  • "Beco" ("Alley") by Camilo Cavalcante, produced by Camilo Cavalcante and Caio Zatti (Aurora Cinema)
  • "Nise Da Silveira" (photo above) by Roberto Berliner, produced by and Rodrigo Letier (TV Zero)
  • "O Touro" ("The Bull") by Larissa Figueiredo, produced by Rafael Urban (Tu i Tam Filmes)
  • "Oracao do Amor Selvagem" ("Wild Love Prayer") by Chico Faganello, produced by André Gevaerd (Cineramabc), Chico Faganello (Filmesquevoam) and Flavia Castro (Orbital)
  • "Ponto Zero" ("Point Zero") by José Pedro Goulart, produced by Aletéia Selonk (Minima) and Graziella Ferst (OKNA)
  • "Que Horas Ela Volta?" ("Where is She?) by Anna Muylaert, produced by Fabiano Gullane, Caio Gullane (Gullane Films) and Africa Filmes

“The great number of submissions to the Carte Blanche and the variety of genres and styles coming from many regions of Brazil reaffirm the maturity of the Brazilian production. We’ve sought to send to Locarno films that reflected this diversity, and the Festival has finished the selection of these 7 titles, which have now a great opportunity in their hands. The fact that these films are being shown in the post-production stage to such important international players increases a lot the chances of these titles in the international market, not only in Sales, but also in the selection of renewed festivals throughout the world," said André Sturm, Cinema do Brasil’s Chairman.

On August 11, the jury, comprised of Vincenzo Bugno (World Cinema Fund Project Manager, Member of the Competition selection committee, Festival Delegate, Berlin International Film Festival), Christian Jeune (Director of Film Department, Deputy General Delegate, Festival de Cannes) and Eva Morsch Kihn (Member of the selection committee of Cinéma en Construction Toulouse/San Sebastian - Manager of the professional platform Cinélatino, Toulouse) will award a prize of 10,000 CHF (about $11,000) to the most promising film in order to help with its completion.

This year’s Festival del film Locarno will welcome a delegation of more than 50 Brazilian professionals including producers, distributors, filmmakers, funders and journalists. Among the confirmed guests are the “ambassador” of this year’s Carte Blanche, Alice Braga (juror of the Concorso internazionale), Helvécio Marins Jr. (Pardi di domani juror) and many more.

To honor their presence at this year’s festival, there will be a special focus on the Brazilian market during the distribution initiative, Step, set for August 10. The panel is open to the public. Confirmed panellists: André Sturm (Chairman, Cinema do Brasil), Renata de Almeida (Programming Director, São Paulo International Film Festival), Jean-Thomas Bernardini (President, Imovision), Marcos de Oliveira (General Manager, Europa Filmes), Sara Silveira (Producer, Dezenove Som e Imagem).
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Author: "Tambay A. Obenson"
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 19:03
After a bit of back and forth by Stephen Sondheim over the changes made to his musical "Into The Woods" for Disney's big screen, star-studded version, he's ultimately behind the "first-rate" production, and now the studio can push on with promoting the film. And today they've dropped a handful of new images to take you into the alternate fairy tale world you'll experience later this year. 

Featuring Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, Tracey Ullman, Lucy Punch and many, many more, "Into The Woods" turns the stories you thought you knew right upside down. The characters—The Wolf, Cinderella, Jack, Rapunzel, and more—are not quite wholesome, and the reconfigured tales are a bit darker and more twisted (but on this side of being family friendly we'd wager). Still, it's imaginative source material and it gives director Rob Marshall a lot to play with.

"Into The Woods" arrives on Christmas Day.
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Author: "Kevin Jagernauth"
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 19:00
Anna May Wong, Hollywood's first Chinese-American star, never got her due. After attracting notice as a slave in the 1924 Douglas Fairbanks swashbuckler film The Thief of Bagdad, she became a fashion plate and the go-to actress for every Evil Oriental Temptress role the studios had to offer. California's anti-miscegenation laws prevented her from kissing any co-star of another race, and thus Wong was stymied in her acting career until she left for Europe, where she had made a handful of films in the late twenties and early thirties. 

The biggest disappointment of Wong's career occurred in 1935, when she was passed over for the female lead in Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth. German actress Luise Rainier was cast instead to play the Chinese farmer O-Lan, and later rewarded for playing yellowface with a Best Actress Oscar. (Good job, Hollywood.)

Born and raised in Los Angeles but never fully accepted by its most powerful industry, Wong has a life story ripe for a biopic. And so Chinese production company Fundamental Films is developing one, with Chinese star Fan Bingbing in talks to play the lead. Given that Wong's career exemplifies the difficulties of Asian-American actors in finding opportunities in Hollywood -- a problem that evidently continues in today's studio system -- it's a little disappointing that her story will be told in China instead of her own country and that this rich role won't go to one of Wong's Asian-American successors. But nobody ever said we fixed racism. 

[via Angry Asian Man, Variety]
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Author: "Inkoo Kang"
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 18:39
Armond White can be a difficult figure to reckon with in contemporary criticism. At his best he's a remarkably erudite and thoughtful critic who's simply working on a different wavelength than most. At his worst, he's wasting time in his reviews misrepresenting the other side – see his "Boyhood" review, in which he claims that the Antoine Doinel or "Up" series aren't mentioned in any of the film's positive reviews, rather than almost every single damn one – or allegedly heckling Steve McQueen at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards, an incident that got him expelled from the organization. 

This week sees him at his best. Writing for Out Magazine, White discussed the new not-bad "Hercules" film starring Dwayne Johnson. White didn't go over the moon for the film itself, saying that it was split between parody and full-blown adventure spectacle and that Brett Ratner's workmanlike direction couldn't compare to Renny Harlin's superior work on this year's earlier "The Legend of Hercules" (that's the Armond we know!), but he praised Johnson's performance and noted how Johnson represented "an advance in masculine sexual iconography by including multiracial features, skin tones, and subtle ethnic echoes."

It is The Rock himself who, by taking on a role usually limited to European types, helps broaden awareness of gender icons and idealized figures of male sexuality. "Hercules" is a minor film but The Rock’s image recalls the breakthrough made by legendary Hollywood photographer Georges Hurrell who, in 1929, posed Mexican actor Ramon Navarro for a landmark series of mythological portraits: one as the Knight Percival shown contemplating his own sword and, another of Navarro, in the signature softly erotic Hurrell style, wearing a crown of laurel leaves. Hurrell titled it “The New Orpheus.”

White's essay touches on Johnson taking on an iconic role traditionally played by white men, but it could also stand to serve as an example of just how multiracial actors can take on and improve upon classic or cinematic heroes. He mentions how Johnson's "wall-of-man immensity" and black and Polynesian background makes him unique among actors who have played Hercules, but why can't that carry over to, say, an Asian Superman? Let's get a hispanic Jedi in one of the next "Star Wars" movies – in a lead role. And in terms of male sexuality and heroism, a black James Bond (the internet wants Idris Elba, but Chiwetel Ejiofor would do nicely, too) wouldn't just broaden possibilities, it could make a nice bit of semi-subversion of a traditionally white imperialist figure. Johnson's among the first (and Michael B. Jordan's taking on Johnny Storm in "The Fantastic Four"), and he shouldn't be the last.
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Author: "Max O'Connell"
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 18:36
Quinton Aaron ("The Blindside") is attached to star in a the debut feature film of writer/director Ben Caird, titled "Halfway."

The drama tells the story of a recently released convict who faces the conflict of enduring ties with his old gang world, while struggling to adapt to a life on probation as the only black man in a conservative white Midwestern farm town. The character, Byron, is described as physically imposing, yet socially reserved. Further, he's said to be far from your typical gangster. An aptitude for mathematics, he was very much the brains behind the gang he used to be a part of, than brawn, despite his imposing size. And it is because of his math skills that his old gang leader wants to continue to utilize. He is sent to work on his white stepbrother's family farm as part of his probation, where he struggles to integrate himself in to this foreign world - a predicament that isn't helped by tensions with the head of his adopting family who sees him as just another problem to deal with, at a time when his family is suffering tough financial times.

The JP International Productions Ltd project is produced by Jonny Paterson.

No ETA yet.

Aaron can next be seen in Tommy Oliver's yet-to-be-release (although it's played a handful of film festivals) "1982." "Halfway" is just one of a handful of projects the actor is set to appear in.
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Author: "Tambay A. Obenson"
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 18:15
IndiePix Films today announced that it has acquired all domestic rights to "Dick: The Documentary," a co-production of first time filmmaker Brian Fender and Isotope Films, the production company of acclaimed documentary producer/ director Chiemi Karasawa ("Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me," "Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction"). The film premiered earlier this year at the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, and features a thoughtful discussion of male sexuality by 63 men across a wide range of ages, backgrounds, and orientations. In a press release, Fender described the project: "It's touching, it's funny, it's honest... an honest depiction of what it means from first perceptions all the way to the loss of function that men experience."

IndiePix plans the online equivalent of a theatrical presentation, opening in mid-September of 2014, with an exclusive on-line 90-day general market streaming premiere presentation, followed by a home and institutional market release in January of 2015.
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Author: "Oliver MacMahon"
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 18:00
American Horror Story co-star Jessica Lange will become the first female recipient of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival's Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film. 

Lange boasts two Oscars (for Tootsie and Blue Sky) and two Emmys (for Grey Gardens and American Horror Story). In 1982, she received two separate Oscar nominations: a Best Supporting Actress for Tootsie and a Best Actress for Frances, the biopic of actress Frances Farmer. She has also received nods from the Academy for Country, Sweet Dreams, Music Box.

"Jessica Lange possess the three key elements in making it in this crazy business: talent, beauty and intelligence, all of which have served her well and continue to do so," commented Kirk Douglas. "It is my honor to give her my award."

SBIFF will run from January 27 to February 7. 

[via THR]
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Author: "Inkoo Kang"
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 17:54
“Mankind was born on Earth. It was never meant to die here.” That’s the tagline for Warner Bros.’/Paramount’s upcoming fall blockbuster, Christopher Nolan's “Interstellar." Those words could be modified for the fans-travaganza in San Diego last weekend: “Christopher Nolan was born on Earth. He was never meant to go to Comic-Con.” The notoriously secretive filmmaker had never been to the preeminent sci-fi and fantasy convention in his entire career, despite having made his 'Batman' trilogy, a series made for the Comic-Con crowd. Yet Paramount Pictures took over Hall H on Thursday, and quite unexpectedly, Nolan was in attendance with his "Interstellar" lead Matthew McConaughey (read our report here). Of course, he unveiled the latest trailer at the Con, which has now hit the Internet today.

The clip peels back a lot of layers, unveiling a lot of footage we haven't seen before of lead actors McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain. But the mystery within still remains and will probably stay under wraps well until the fall. Nolan seems to be channeling  a Kubrick-ian variety of majestic grandeur: Evidently, the movie concerns a group of explorers who employ a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel. Why? Because Earth appears to be dying.

"Interstellar" also co-stars Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, Topher Grace, David Oyelowo, Wes Bentley and even Matt Damon in a small role. There had been rumors that the film could be screnned during the fall film festival circuit, but given that Toronto, NYFF and Venice have already unveiled their main slates, it’s a near certainty it won’t turn up now. Co-written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan (and once originally pegged to be a Steven Spielberg project), "Interstellar" opens in theaters on November 6.
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Author: "Edward Davis"
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 17:45
Critic and Vanity Fair columnist James Wolcott is among this year's PEN Literary Award winners. Wolcott won the PEN/Diamondstein-Spielvogel Award for his excellent decade-spanning collection "Critical Mass." The collection includes pieces on television (his career-making essay on the Norman Mailer vs. Gore Vidal blowup on "The Dick Cavett Show"), music (Lou Reed), stand-up comedy (Johnny Carson), and film (tributes to Brian De Palma and Sam Peckinpah). Wolcott also includes some excellent pieces on critics, including the late Lester Bangs and Manny Farber.

Wolcott remains an vital and versatile critic, capable of writing incisively about seemingly any subject (though his "TV has surpassed the movies" essay "Prime Time's Graduation," included in "Critical Mass," is enough to prompt some serious tooth-grinding). Wolcott's recaps on the past season of "Mad Men" for Vanity Fair were among the best. Here's an excerpt from his review of the penultimate episode of the half-season, "The Strategy":

Last Sunday the estrangement between Don and Peggy dissolved in a slow dance to the musing drone of Frank Sinatra memorializing himself in “My Way,” preparing to mount Pegasus and soar into the moon. Peggy rested her head on Don’s shoulder and he affectionately, paternally pressed his lips against the top of her hair. It was one of Mad Men’s few gestures of tender gallantry over these many seasons of surly malice and floating angst that was unaccompanied by a thorn prick of irony or unease: a grace note in a season dominated so far by Ginsberg’s gift-boxed nipple. I can’t say I savored its sweetness as much as nearly everyone else going swoony in my Twitter timeline. I found Don’s “Shall we dance?” invitation and the mid-shot staging (the slow camera pullback at the fade) corny and contrived, worthy of Nora Ephron at her most catering, a sentimental cherry the scene didn’t need. Still, it was deeply satisfying to see Don and Peggy reunited in late-night, lunar-module, mind-combing collaborative partnership, casting us back to one of Mad Men’s richest episodes, “The Suitcase” (season four).*

Wolcott also gets a lifetime pass for this headline for the season's second episode: "Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, Ad Men Are Awful, Especially Lou." On a different note, Wolcott proves that it's possible to both a) have new experiences later in life, and b) write well about them in "My Night at the Opera," a recap of his first experience at the New York Metropolitan Opera. The link to the article's single page seems to be broken, so for the full experience just go to the fourth article from the bottom here, but here's a sample:

Like so many boomers, my familiarity with opera is almost completely a warped by-product of pop culture spoof — the sort of funhouse mirror sensibility that critic Wilfrid Sheed once summed up in the phrase, “No, but I saw the parody.” The Marx brothers in A Night at the Opera (“Either there are cops in Il Trovatore or the jig is up!”), Bugs Bunny’s “What’s Opera, Doc?,” the mock operettas in I Love Lucy, Bart and Homer Simpson bonding at a performance of Carmen (“Toreador, don’t spit on the floor/Use the cuspidor/That’s what it’s for”), Tony Randall’s Felix Unger of The Odd Couple with his scheme for “Great Moments in Opera” trading cards (“number 16: ‘Mimi gets a cough’”) — this is what happens when you start out in life having your meals on a TV tray in front of the set, cut off from civilization.

Finally, for a post on critics, Wolcott actually wrote a blog post in response to a Criticwire Survey on whether or not critics should have a background in film production or theory.

Technical know-how helps in the filmcrit racket — my faith in Dwight Macdonald was shaken when he confessed in On Movies that for forty years he thought a lap dissolve meant "holding the camera in the lap" — and a background in film theory may supply a useful trellis to provide your personal predispositions and prejudices a semblance of structural grid, but I personally wish film critics had more interest in fashion, interior design, and the organic mechanics of acting than they evince. I don't get the impression that most film critics today have dipped their beaks into acting theory or seen enough theater to take in what actors are capable of when they're not serving up flashcard closeups or being razored with edits. Too much film reviewing is boys'-club auteurship deciding whether the director is deserving of the winner's belt this time out and can continue to the next championship round. 
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Author: "Max O'Connell"
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 17:25
As you've no doubt heard, there are few films like Richard Linklater's "Boyhood." A coming-of-age story that was literally shot as the lead actor, Ellar Coltrane, grew from a boy to a young man, Linklater filmed the movie for a few days over the course of a dozen years, compiling a unique cinematic scrapbook. There is, however, at least one other film project that has allowed us to see the lead character grow up with its audience, and that's the Harry Potter franchise, which not only catapulted Daniel Radcliffe to worldwide fame, but also put him in the position of living out his awkward years on the big screen (as a wizard).

So it didn't take long for the parody trailer "Potterhood" to arrive, courtesy of Slate. And it's nicely cut, taking viewers on a journey through the eight film series, as we watch Radcliffe age before our eyes. The video editors have wisely kept Family of the Year’s “Hero,” which powers the "Boyhood" trailer, to do the emotional lifting here. But enough of our yakkin'! Watch it below. [via Slashfilm]
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Author: "Kevin Jagernauth"
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 16:39
For his role in making independent film as accessible as it has ever been, the Independent Filmmakers Project is going to honor Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos with the 2014 Industry Award at the Gotham Independent Film Awards this December. The Industry Award is given to a veteran in the film arena who has significantly impacted the business. In previous years it has been awarded to Roger Ebert, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, David Cronenberg, Spike Lee, Charlize Theron, Kate Winslet, and Bob & Harvey Weinstein. 

READ MORE: Indiewire's Ongoing Oscar Predictions

"[Sarandos] saw where streaming was going long before most in our industry," said Joanna Vicente of IFP, "and was the first to create online original programming and allow us to binge entire seasons of it to our hearts content at one go." 

In addition, the Gotham Awards will honor two others with special achievement honors, and seven competitive awards. These are Best Feature, Best Documentary, Best Actor, Best Actress, Breakthrough Director and Breakthrough Actor. Top honors in 2013 went to "Inside Llewyn Davis" and "The Act of Killing." Submissions for these competitive categories must be made by September 19 and nominees will be announced on October 28. Sarandos and the lucky winners will be honored at the Cipriani Wall Street on December 1.
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Author: "Brandon Latham"
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 16:28
The feature documentary, "National Diploma" ("Examen d’Etat") follows a group of young Congolese high school students who are about to take the exam for their National Diploma (somewhat the equivalent of the the SAT's here in the USA), in Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Directed by Dieudo Hamadi, the film captures the students as they prepare for the exam - from the benches of the school that they are regularly ejected from because they haven’t paid the "teachers’ fees," to the “maquis” (a communal house) where they gather to study, and the chaotic streets of the city where they spend their time "looking for a living."

The documentary has been selected by the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), as part of its TIFF Docs lineup. 

Director Hamadi, born in the DRC, studied medicine until 2008, before taking workshops in documentary filmmaking. His first two films, "Dames En Attente" and "Tolérance Zéro," both short films, have screened at festivals across the globe, winning acclaim along the way.

"Atalaku" (2013), his first feature-length documentary also won several awards.

His latest, "National Diploma" ("Examen d’Etat"), which will screen at TIFF in September, has already picked up some awards, including the SCAM International Prize and the Potemkine Prize at Cinéma du Réel.

Watch a preview of the film below.

This year's Toronto International Film Festival, one of the top movie showcases and a favored platform to unveil Oscar contenders, will run from September 4-14.

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Author: "Tambay A. Obenson"
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 16:17
The story is the stuff of video game legend. In 1982, Atari — the dominant player in the nascent field — rushed the release of the "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" game, based on the Steven Spielberg film that would quickly become the top grossing movie of all time, in time for Christmas. It was nothing short of a disaster. Widely cited as one of the worst games ever made, it was developed and approved in five weeks, a process that for any other game would take months. As you might expect, the finished product was a mess, and it became one of the biggest financial failures in the industry's history, leading to the downfall of Atari. In 1983, it was reported that the company's unsold merchandise —including millions of copies of the 'E.T. 'game— were buried in the desert. The tale passed into urban legend, and now it's the basis of the documentary "Atari: Game Over" and the first trailer has arrived.

Directed by Zak Penn, the doc delves into the story of the game and how the ensuing disaster ruined Atari. The interested should check out this feature article by Engadget which digs up even more info, including Spielberg's reaction to the game. "We're presenting the design; I laid out the whole plan and at the end of the presentation, Spielberg looks at me and says, 'Couldn't you do something more like 'Pac-Man'?' I was flabbergasted," Atari developer Howard Scott Warshaw said. "Of all the people in the world, Steven Spielberg suggested that I do a knock-off! My impulse was to say to him, 'Well gee, Steven, couldn't you do something like 'The Day the Earth Stood Still'?' But, you know, I didn't say that. It was Steven Spielberg. In retrospect, [taking Spielberg's advice] might not have been such a bad idea."

The documentary will premiere on XBox this fall, and hopefully be available via other outlets not long afterwards. Watch below. [Den Of Geek]
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Author: "Kevin Jagernauth"
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 16:00
Filmmakers Andrew Droz Palermo and Tracy Droz Tragos didn't reinvent the wheel for their documentary "Rich Hill." They simply turned the camera on Andrew, Harley, and Appachey, three youngsters on the verge of adolescence in the titular small town, resulting in a movie that took the Best Documentary prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

The film's score, composed by Nathan Halpern, is particularly key. He has a strong track record of documentary work behind him ("Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present," "The Loving Story," "All the President's Men Revisited"): Below, you can hear the lovely tune, "Fourth Of July," from the "Rich Hill" soundtrack.

"Rich Hill" opens in limited release on August 1st. The soundtrack will be available digitally on the same day via Halpern's Copticon Music, distributed by The Orchard on outlets like iTunes, Amazon and more. Listen below and check out Katie Walsh's review of the film after that.

This is a reprint of our review from the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

In looking at two of the lauded Sundance 2014 documentaries, “The Overnighters” (a Special Jury prize winner; read our review) and “Rich Hill” (which won the Grand Jury Prize), a common theme makes itself apparent, with these two films running parallel to each other in their milieus, but in very different ways. The particular concern is a wrenching, deeply intimate look at a specific kind of American masculinity—a masculinity that is very much in a state of instability. While “The Overnighters” takes up the grown men of the unstable Midwestern lower-middle class seeking riches in the North Dakota oil fields, “Rich Hill” focuses its lens on the boys and young men who might grow up into these oilmen. A finely observed and mesmerizing portrait of three teenage boys in Rich Hill, Missouri, the film (directed and produced by Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo) is a tough but tender journey into their lives, and a sort of state of the union address of Middle America in the twenty-teens.

“Rich Hill” takes a largely observational, Direct Cinema-inspired of approach to documentary form, akin to the technique of the Maysles Brothers, simply following our three protagonists, Andrew, Appachey, and Harley throughout their daily lives. However, the boys directly address the camera, treating the lens as as friend, partner in crime, and confidant, allowing a truly unvarnished look into their realities, dark secrets and all. This breaking of the fourth wall allows for a deeper authenticity onscreen and serves the film well. These three come from similar impoverished backgrounds, and are dealing with many of the same problems that trouble most teenage boys: school, parents, struggling to assert an individual identity.

Of the three, Andrew seems the the most equipped and adept to better his circumstances, bound and determined to get a steady job and settle down once he’s old enough, a far cry from the nomadic lifestyle that his unemployed handyman/Hank Williams Sr. tribute artist father has saddled the family with. But Andrew is only a slip of a boy at first, embodying that fleeting liminal moment between boyhood and manhood, wanting to remain his mother’s baby but also feeling the need to take a stronger leadership role in this rudderless family as they drift from town to town, ramshackle house to ramshackle cousin’s house, all in search of “work,” which never seems to materialize. Andrew is quite bright and sensitive, but his parents don’t seem quite all there, and frankly appear to come from another era, not quite caught up with the realities of today. 

Appachey, with the cherubic pudge of a young boy, carries himself with the dejected stature of a world-weary man, dragging on a cigarette with the weight of the universe on his shoulders. Though he’s diagnosed with a long list of mental and developmental problems, in his quiet moments with the camera crew, he’s quite self-aware and introspective. He doesn’t seem like a bad kid, just a confused and lost one. His mother, a widow, is a tough and smart woman, saddled with a hard life, having been married with kids at just a few years older than Appachey. Their relationship is difficult and tense in many ways, but clearly loving and tender too. She has to make a lot of difficult decisions about him, but the film sensitively balances their struggles with their good moments too. It’s neither one thing nor the other, and “Rich Hill,” while trafficking in some seriously dejecting issues, takes extreme care to show the happy moments, the moments of beauty, love, joy, and togetherness that coexist along with all of the problems.

Harley’s story is possibly the hardest of all. With his mother in prison for a reason that is not revealed until deep into the film, he has bounced from his dad’s house to his grandma’s. Harley puts on a tough exterior, smoking cigs, listening to rap, painting his face Juggalo-style for Halloween, but he’s still a sweet and funny mama’s boy (yes, he takes that Juggalo get-up trick or treating), and obviously dealing with some serious trauma and rage issues. He’s not doing well at school, awkward in that teenage boy way, and constantly skipping out on class to go back to grandma’s house, but not really for any other reason than to just hang. “Rich Hill” finds these boys probably right before they get into drugs and booze (at least we only see them consume mass quantities of Monster energy drinks), and they are all extremely tight with their family units, at least for the time being.

“Rich Hill” doesn’t impose an agenda on its viewers in any real way. Depending on where you come from and what your background is, you might be horrified or mystified or find familiarity in these specific lives. All that matters though, is that it’s real, and these are very real people with real lives and problems and emotions. In a time when the middle class is being pushed to the limit, a film like this shows us just what that looks like: Harley walking down a street where every store is boarded up and abandoned, where his grandma can’t buy Monster on food stamps, where Andrew’s family doesn’t have a stable home and often doesn’t have gas for heating water. That’s the reality of economic instability, and these boys and their families live it uncomplainingly. Ultimately, it’s a story of survival.

The film is gorgeously photographed, which lends to its dreamy and captivating quality, which is crucial since there’s no real plot—it just follows these boys and their lives for an unspecified amount of time, and we watch them grow and change and learn in the process. The excellent score by Nathan Halpern boosts the moody, mesmerizing and immersive effect that the film has. A truly moving and edifying film, “Rich Hill” is the type of media object that could and should be put in a time capsule for future generations. For urbane coastal types, it can seem unbelievable that a place like this exists, encompassing both the nostalgic dream of retro Americana (green lawns, youthful mischief, 4th of July sparklers) and the devastating blight that has crept into the American dream. And that’s why “Rich Hill” is an important film, for capturing these stories in such an authentic and artful manner and with a great deal of sensitivity and respect. [A-]
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Author: "Kevin Jagernauth"
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 16:00
Internet film forum discussions are largely dominated by comic book movie fanboys, many of whom don't seem to have much of a sense of humor about liking stories in which men dress up in big rubber or spandex suits and punch people (see: death threats following pans of "The Dark Knight Rises" in 2012). Rotten Tomatoes has had so much trouble on this front that a handful of forum uses have banded together to form a group called the Trollfighters, who try to keep the forums in check, lest the boards for "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" devolve into an endless stream of cursing and empty threats.

The history of the Trollfighters is chronicled on the RottenTomatoes Wiki, and it points to a year's worth of squabbles between the regulating users and the site's actual admins stemming back to the deletion of forums that have culminated in The "Guardians of the Galaxy" Wars, where head administrator Ryan Fujitani banned a number of Trollfighters from posting, leading to admin-spamming and mass bannings across the website, with any attempts to quell the disputes mucked up by trolling by another party. Here's a sample:

In one final act of defiance and rage, the admins shut down all commenting capabilities for users on the forums. Chris Conley was then banned, and all his posts deleted. With the forums shut down, the Trollfighters were forced to wander the website of Rotten Tomatoes, without purpose or hope. However, Treet Johnson just so happened to find a settlement known as the General Discussion forums (or GDs), a colony of users that had thus far been unknown to the Trollfighters. Here, thousands of neckbeards dwelled, and the King in the Forums was Quite-Gone Genie, an admin who was far easier to get along with than Fujitani. The Trollfighters made their debut on these forums immediately, and took them by storm. They had lost the battle. But they had not lost the war.

Part of this is another case of comic book and tentpole movie fans and internet trolls acting up again, which is hard to bat an eye at anymore. But throughout the debates on RottenTomatoes and the records kept by the Trollfighters, there's a smug tone that suggests that every online forum has to be a battle between drooling fanboys (a lazy characterization even if the worst cases are irritating) and the "serious movie lovers" that the group wants to represent themselves as. Never mind that it's hard to take a group seriously when they refer to themselves as "The Trollfighters," start a Wiki page lionizing themselves as internet heroes, and refer to the head administrator alternatively as "The Great Satan" or "Fuckitani."

It's also a case of anti-fanboyism going to the kind of absurd degrees associated with fanboyism in the first place. There's the same "us vs. them" mentality, the same feeling of victimization over the most trivial of matters (a damn internet forum), the same devotion to attacking anyone who might disagree with them. The number of times on the Wiki page speaking of wars against either trolls or administrators makes it seem like it's little more than another group of bullying internet commenters with a really bizarre sense of power. 

What's most irritating about the decidedly minor brouhaha is that it turns a site that's ostensibly made for movie lovers into little more than another arena for needless bickering. RottenTomatoes might have inherent flaws — most notably in the Tomatoscore, in which any negative reviews for highly-anticipated projects are taken like declarations of war — but at the very least it aggregates reviews from critics and publications of wildly varying taste, which for more curious users could lead to a broadened sense of criticism rather than a myopic one. Turning a bunch of stupid arguments into a faux-epic internet war doesn't just do a disservice to movies, it does a disservice to movie lovers. Don't feed the trolls, as they say, and don't pretend seeking them out isn't being one.
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Author: "Max O'Connell"
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Date: Wednesday, 30 Jul 2014 15:49
One of the most accomplished Foley artists in Hollywood, award-winner Gary Hecker, has worked on over 200 films, in a career that began in 1973 with "The Exorcist." Since then, he's worked as the foley artist or supervising foley artist on some 220 films, mostly Hollywood hits, including "Coming to America," "Man of Steel," "Django Unchained," and most recently, "Divergent."

In the video below, he shares tips and tricks he’s learned throughout his 40+ year old career that also includes working on titles you'll be familiar with, like "The Empire Strikes Back" to "Robin Hood," "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3," "Angel & Demons," "Watchmen" and Sam Raimi's "Spiderman" trilogy.

I post this in part because I think it's actually really cool, what he does. There are other paths to take, and thus, other ways to make money in this business, as you can see (which comes with its own set of learned skills). And this is one of the many behind-the-camera positions that the majority of us probably don't give a single thought to, even though it's quite crucial to the movie-making process.

If there are any foley artists of African descent reading this, let us know who you are.


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Author: "Tambay A. Obenson"
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