David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts has released its list of nominees for the annual BAFTA Awards, also known as the British Oscars or the only big awards show with a category just for British only. Surprise, surprise, the Brits have come out on top; the historical drama, The King’s Speech swept the noms with 14 in total. Close behind is Darren Aronofsky’s surprising thriller, Black Swan with 12 total nominations. The British Film category that comes in addition to the BAFTA’s “Best Film” category gives a second chance to 127 Hours, which doesn’t make the top five in the overall category but has the chance to take the top Brits-only honor. Also of note, 14 year old Hailee Steinfeld, who’s blowing audiences away in December’s True Grit, merits the grownup honor of a nomination for best lead actress for her role in the film (mini fist pump!).
While the awards will be broadcast exclusively on BBC One, sorry America, it’s still worth knowing which films made the cut.
And the nominees are:
• Black Swan - Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver, Scott Franklin
• Inception - Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan
• The King’s Speech - Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin
• The Social Network - Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Céan Chaffin
• True Grit - Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Outstanding British Film
• 127 Hours - Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy, Christian Colson, John Smithson
• Another Year - Mike Leigh, Georgina Lowe
• Four Lions - Chris Morris, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain, Mark Herbert, Derrin Schlesinger
• The King’s Speech - Tom Hooper, David Seidler, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin
• Made in Dagenham - Nigel Cole, William Ivory, Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley
Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer
• The Arbor - Director, Producer - Clio Barnard, Tracy O’Riordan
• Exit Through The Gift Shop - Director, Producer – Banksy, Jaimie D’Cruz
• Four Lions - Director/Writer - Chris Morris
• Monsters - Director/Writer – Gareth Edwards
• Skeletons - Director/Writer – Nick Whitfield
• 127 Hours - Danny Boyle
• Black Swan - Darren Aronofsky
• Inception - Christopher Nolan
• The King’s Speech - Tom Hooper
• The Social Network - David Fincher
• Black Swan - Mark Heyman, Andrés Heinz, John McLaughlin
• The Fighter - Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson
• Inception - Christopher Nolan
• The Kids Are All Right - Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg
• The King’s Speech - David Seidler
• 127 Hours - Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy
• The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - Rasmus Heisterberg, Nikolaj Arcel
• The Social Network - Aaron Sorkin
• Toy Story 3 - Michael Arndt
• True Grit - Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Film Not In the English Language
• Biutiful - Alejandro González Iñárritu, Jon Kilik, Fernando Bovaira
• The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - Søren Stærmose, Niels Arden Oplev
• I Am Love - Luca Guadagnino, Francesco Melzi D’Eril, Marco Morabito, Massimiliano Violante
• Of Gods And Men - Xavier Beauvois
• The Secrets In Their Eyes - Mariela Besuievsky, Juan José Campanella
• Despicable Me - Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin
• How To Train Your Dragon - Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois
• Toy Story 3 - Lee Unkrich
• Javier Bardem – Biutiful
• Jeff Bridges - True Grit
• Jesse Eisenberg - The Social Network
• Colin Firth - The King’s Speech
• James Franco - 127 Hours
• Annette Benning - The Kids Are All Right
• Julianne Moore - The Kids Are All Right
• Natalie Portman - Black Swan
• Noomi Rapace - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
• Hailee Steinfeld - True Grit
• Christian Bale - The Fighter
• Andrew Garfield - The Social Network
• Pete Postlethwaite - The Town
• Mark Ruffalo - The Kids Are All Right
• Geoffrey Rush - The King’s Speech
• Amy Adams - The Fighter
• Helena Bonham Carter - The King’s Speech
• Barbara Hershey - Black Swan
• Lesley Manville - Another Year
• Miranda Richardson - Made in Dagenham
• 127 Hours - AR Rahman
• Alice In Wonderland - Danny Elfman
• How to Train Your Dragon - John Powell
• Inception - Hans Zimmer
• The King’s Speech - Alexandre Desplat
• 127 Hours - Anthony Dod Mantle, Enrique Chediak
• Black Swan - Matthew Libatique
• Inception - Wally Pfister
• The King’s Speech - Danny Cohen
• True Grit - Roger Deakins
For the full list of nominees, visit the BAFTA site, here.
"Hannibal" can be taken off the endangered film project list, at least for the time being.
Universal has confirmed its intentions to stick by the "Silence of the Lambs" sequel, laying to rest reports on Entertainment Weekly Online last week that the studio was considering canning the project after Jodie Foster bailed out to instead direct Claire Danes in "Flora Plum."
"As far as we know, [this project] is alive," a Universal spokeswoman says. "[Star Anthony] Hopkins and [director Ridley] Scott are both very committed. We like what we've got, and the revised script is really, really good."
What's more, the project apparently will forge ahead with or without Foster.
"We've decided that we're not going to reapproach Jodie as the media has been reporting. We are trying to come up with the right lead to replace Jodie and are putting together a list [of candidates]," the same studio rep says.
The exact names on the titular list are under wraps, but Variety reported Monday that the studio has narrowed the leading lady race to Cate Blanchett ("Elizabeth") and another unidentified actress. Right now, the smart money's on Blanchett.
But the studio may be well served to see what the paying public has to say. Close observers -- in the form of die-hard "Hannibal" fans -- have taken to a net-based poll on Silence of the Lambs -- The Sequel Site (http://hannibal.simplenet.com/lecter/) to give their two cents on who they think should play Clarice Starling (or a character facsimile). And there, Blanchett doesn't figure in the mix at all.
The modest poll (with less than 200 votes cast through Monday) shows "X-Filer" Gillian Anderson far ahead of the pack, with a comfortable 52% lead over fellow Clarice hopefuls Ashley Judd (10%), Helen Hunt (10%) and Holly Hunter (13%).
Though Anderson may be the enthusiastic pick of cyber fans, the fact remains that a Foster-less "Lambs" may be a tough sell at the box office. One rival studio exec told EW Online that "Jodie is synonymous with the part" -- speaking to the belief that Foster is simply indispensable to any "Lambs" franchise. (The actress, after all, won five major film awards -- including the Oscar -- for her turn as Clarice in the 1991 film.)
Hollywood has gambled before -- and lost -- when trying to make sequels minus key players from the original hits. Remember "Speed," the 1994 Keanu Reeves action blockbuster with Sandra Bullock? Probably. Then how about "Speed 2: Cruise Control," the 1997 sequel with Sandra Bullock and ... Jason Patric? Probably not. The Keanu-less flick grossed 60% less than the original. And let's not even get started on "The Sting 2," with Mac Davis (huh?) and Jackie Gleason (what?) trying to make audiences forget about, um, Robert Redford and Paul Newman.
With "Hannibal," Universal apparently is hoping that the franchise's other name-brand star, Anthony Hopkins, coupled with a worthy lead actress replacement, will eclipse the loss of Foster.
Foster, however, is not the first major player to drop out of the sequel. "Lambs" Jonathan Demme and screenwriter Ted Tally both rejected the follow-up project. Even Hopkins expressed doubts about returning as baddie Hannibal Lecter after reading the first draft of the script.
The ultimate question remains whether audiences will cough up cash to go see a "Lambs" sequel without the Foster-Hopkins pairing?
"I think Hopkins' involvement raises the quality of the film considerably," says Stuart Galbraith IV, a Hollywood-based film historian and author. "And if Cate Blanchett does replace Foster, it's not going to ruin the film. [Blanchett] is a very respected actress, and she's obviously been in the industry as long as Foster has. And in terms of pedigree, [Blanchett] would probably bring as much to the film as Foster did."
Another Hollywood analyst agrees a Foster-free "Hannibal" is not necessarily a wash.
"At least one of the leads needs to be there to ensure the success of the sequel. And moviegoers are thrilled that Hopkins is reprising his role," says Paul Dergarabedian of the box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations. "Hopkins's return should be enough to get the audience back in the theater."
But Dergarabedian warns that audiences might not stomach as easily the project if the Foster replacement plays Clarice, as opposed to a different creation.
"If [Universal] creates a new character, the sequel would work," Dergarabedian says. "But it's harder to say [that] if they try to recast the part with a different actress."
No worries there. Works apparently are under way over at Universal to have the script reworked to account for the introduction of a new character (and to delete Clarice), Variety says. Steven Zaillian ("Schindler's List"), who rewrote the first draft of "Hannibal," is said to be on the case again.
Keep your fingers crossed, "Hannibal" fans. Despite a seemingly endless string of stop-starts, the film is scheduled to go in front of the camera this spring. We think.
Go to our Box Office section for recent weekend movie analysis.