As the winds of award show nominations pick up, you won't be surprised to find 12 Years a Slave at the top of every list. But the Academy, the Golden Globes, and the various other captains of the circuit are inclined to overlook some of our smaller, more personal favorites in lieu of the big, grand, and wholly unavoidable awardable pictures like Steven McQueen's American slavery epic. That is not to rob 12 Years of Slave of its due credit — the film absolutely deserves as much awards attention as it is getting. It's simply the sort of movie that you know will get awards attention right out of the gate... whereas pictures just as pristine such as Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig's Frances Ha, likely won't be the center of attention come Oscar night. But that's what the Independent Spirit Awards are for: to recognize the movies that we cherish with intimacy rather than with grandeur. Among them are Frances Ha, new release Nebraska, Robert Redford's nearly wordless All Is Lost (also a viable candidate for the Academy, due to its own dezzling veneer), the Coen Bros' upcoming Inside Llewyn Davis, and, yes, of course, 12 Years a Slave.
Check out the full list of nods below.
BEST FEATURE 12 Years A Slave All Is Lost Frances Ha Inside Llewyn Davis Nebraska
BEST LEAD FEMALE Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine Julie Delpy, Before Midnight Gaby Hoffman, Crystal Fairy Brie Larson, Short Term 12 Shailene Woodley, The Spectacular Now
BEST LEAD MALE Bruce Dern, Nebraska Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years A Slave Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club Robert Redford, All Is Lost
BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE Melonie Diaz, Fruitvale StationSally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years A Slave Yolanda Ross, Go For Sisters June Squibb, Nebraska
BEST SUPPORTING MALE Michael Fassbender, 12 Years A Slave Will Forte, Nebraska James Gandolfini, Enough Said Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club Keith Stanfield, Short Term 12
BEST DIRECTOR Shane Carruth, Upstream Color J.C. Chandor, All Is Lost Steve McQueen, 12 Years A Slave Jeff Nichols, Mud Alexander Payne, Nebraska
BEST FIRST FEATUREBlue Caprice Concussion Fruitvale Station Una Noche Wadjda
JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD Computer Chess Crystal Fairy Museum Hours Pit Stop This Is Martin Bonner
BEST SCREENPLAY Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Richard Linklater, Before Midnight Nicole Holofcener, Enough Said Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber, The Spectacular Now John Ridley, 12 Years A Slave
BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY Lake Bell, In A World Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Don Jon Bob Nelson, Nebraska Jill Soloway, Afternoon Delight Michael Starburry, The Inevitable Defeat Of Mister & Pete
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHYSean Bobbitt, 12 Years A Slave Benoit Debie, Spring Breakers Bruno Delbonnel, Inside Llewyn Davis Frank G. Demarco, All Is Lost Matthias Grunsky, Computer Chess
BEST EDITING Shane Carruth & David Lowery, Upstream Color Jem Cohen & Marc Vives, Museum Hours Jennifer Lame, Frances Ha Cindy Lee, Una Noche Nat Sanders, Short Term 12
BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM A Touch Of Sin Blue Is The Warmest ColorGloriaThe Great Beauty The Hunt
BEST DOCUMENTARYThe Act Of Killing After Tiller Gideon's ArmyThe Square Twenty Feet From Stardom
PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARDToby Halbrooks & James M. JohnsonJacob JaffkeAndrea RoaFerderick Thornton
TRUER THAN FICTION AWARDS Kalyanee Mam, A River Changes Course Jason Osder, Let The Fire Burn Stephanie Spray & Pancho Valez, Manakamana
SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARDS Aaron Douglas Johnston, My Sisters' Quinceanera Shaka King, Newlyweeds Madeleine Olnek, The Foxy Merkins
ROBERT ALTMAN AWARDMud
If you've seen The Spectacular Now, then you know it is no ordinary teen drama. Not a bit like most other "last day of high school" movies with which you're well acquainted. And while the genre is filled with fun, moving, and otherwise memorable entries, the new endeavors taken on by The Spectacular Now are more than just inventive, they're invaluable. In speaking with director James Ponsoldt, we touched on how he made his film so "special," what the powerful story means to him, and where the genre is heading as a whole.
First off, I want to know, did you come onto the movie based on a relationship you had with the book?
I had known of the book because it had been nominated for a National Book Award a couple of years before. I hadn't read it. The producers of Spectacular Now approached me after Sundance 2012 — I had a movie called Smashed there — and they said, 'Hey, we loved your movie. Do you want to read this script?’ Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber adapted it.'
I never really thought that I would direct someone else's script, but I was open to it. It sounded interesting, and I was profoundly moved by it. I read Tim's novel immediately afterward and loved.
Was there something specific about the way that they write that made you more willing to take on their script?
I had always been interested in writing something that had dealt with adolescence, and dealt with some stuff that I was dealing with as a teenager. I had never gotten around to it. And then with Tim's book — this character, Sutter, is kind of who I was when I was that age. It was kind of like, 'Oh my God, someone wrote my story.' So it was very much just loving that character and feeling that I had to tell it. Also, the producers were very open. If I was going to do someone else's script, I wanted to do it in a very specific and personal way. I wanted specific actors, I wanted to shoot it in my hometown of Athens, Georgia — there were a lot of things I wanted to do that I thought they would probably… I wanted to give them every reason to say no. But they're like, 'We want to make this with you. Make it in whatever you want. We love it.'
I like the way you use the phrase "my story." There's an authenticity to this that I haven't seen in a movie about adolescence in years. Can you put into words how you guys worked to achieve that?
I think it started from [the fact that] the novel and the screenplay respect the characters and don't passing judgment over them. They allow the characters to not be overly clever or overly cynical. There's an earnestness to it, I think, in the casting. Across the board. I cast actors who I think are unbelievably natural, and who I, and I think the audience, want to spend time with. But who also can really handle dramatic scenes, bring levity to the dramatic scenes, and, in more comedic scenes, can ground them. You never know exactly, emotionally, which pitch or valance a scene's going to have — if it's going to go dark or light. And then really recognizing who these people were as actors, and not micromanaging them. Planning a lot with the actors. Talking about the scenes a ton. Really allowing the freedom for there to be happy accidents — almost seeking those things out.
I feel like a lot of these types of movies are being attempted. Perks came out last year, The Fault in Our Stars is in development now. There have always been movies about teenagers. But is there something about this era that is more conducive to open, honest, and biting movies like these? Or that really needs them?
I think people always need books and films to make them feel less alone. A world where they can connect. I think that everyone has that experience — whatever that book was for them. Whether it's a Judy Blume book, or whether it's Catcher in the Rye. Whatever it is, when you were 13 or 14 and thought, 'Oh my God, I thought I was the only person who was dealing with this.' You really connect strongly [to firsts]. When you get your heart broken for the first time, or you 'break up' with your best friend. You feel like, 'I'm gonna die.' You don't have an elaborate system of coping mechanisms that you develop as an adult to deal with these things. The truth is, if you look at European films or Asian films, they've always been making movies about young people. And they dignify them and take them seriously whether they're six or 16 or 60. As for the American Hollywood studio system, maybe there needs to be a financial incentive for them. At some point, it seems like they decided that these movies aren't financially viable. Or that we need to really go for blockbusters. And these movies are never going to be huge blockbusters the way a four quadrant tent pole comic book movie will. Though I think people can actually articulate now, 'Holy shit. It's been almost 30 years since John Hughes was making those movies.' Say Anything came out in '89. A lot of people who grew up watching those movies are now running studios. So hopefully, they'll realize there is a financial viability. And then actually, I think it's just having a fundamental respect for your audience. Respect for a younger audience. Realizing, 'No, no, they want to see movies about them where it's just them. Not them turning into werewolves. Just them.'
Do you think the movies of John Hughes, or the people who grew up with them and are now making these movies, do you think they lent to them
Yeah, John Hughes… there are some things that I like, but there are things in those movies that I don't like, too. I didn't grow up in a rich white suburb in Chicago. Race and class in those movies I don't really relate to. I grew up in the Deep South, went to a public school. There was a lot of poverty in my school, more black than white. It was very different in that regard.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off is an amazing movie, but it is a fairy tale. It's a fantasy. There's no consequence. You can do anything. The pain and fear and anxiety in something like The Breakfast Club is real. Cameron Crowe — I think his movies are really tonally spot-on. Richard Linklater, of course. Dazed and Confused is a masterpiece. I think those are movies that you watch at a certain time and they are meaningful. For myself … Lukas Moodyson's first movie Show Me Love is really meaningful. Kes, Ken Loach's film, is really meaningful. Over the Edge. River's Edge. There's a lot of other movies from the '70s and '80s that are more meaningful to me. They go to darker places and don't get as goofy. Humor is great, but it has to be earned. Injecting an emotional scene in the middle of a sitcom isn't really my thing. It's bits and pieces. I'm pretty democratic, I'm not a snob about it. I love having a good time when I see a movie. You know, I'll go back and watch Sixteen Candles. Anthony Michael Hall is still amazing in that movie. Still really, really funny. Amazing in that movie. When you see Robert Downey Jr. in Weird Science, you see that guy is electric. You can just tell: "That guy is going to be somebody!"
What's interesting about this movie is that you don't often have a movie with a character like Sutter. He's dynamic. On the surface, Sutter is what you'd have in a normal teen movie. And then you combine that with a more sensitive character that you'd see in, say, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I'd like to know what you think is achieved by showing that these heroes, these class presidents, also have this darkness and pain.
I think part of what Tim Tharp's novel does, and what the screenplay and the film try to achieve… one thing they deal with is gender politics, and the false notions of masculinity that I think especially young men have been forced fed. If you look at Hollywood studio comedies of the past 15 years, there's an archetype of this crazy, wacky 45-year-old guy who won't grow up! And then he meets a girl and he grows up, or something. And it's kind of absurd. Those movies are fun — they're fairy tales, they're fantasy, they're goofy and not grounded in reality — but the fact is, a lot of these characters are kind of raging narcissists. And if you've ever been raised by a guy who is 45 but still thinks he's 20, that's a horrible person to raise you. That person would abandon your mother, because he's like, "I can't settle down! I like ladies!" Or whatever the thing is. It's kind of a corrosive role model. And I think, at the end of the day, this is a story about a kid who worships a father who abandoned his mother. And he kind of hates his mom for it, for no good reason. He has this idea that this guy is who he should be as a man. And consequently, he treats his mom kind of bad. He's not really that great to the women in his life in general. And all that crazy social drinking he's doing, he's actually medicating pain or deflecting. He's got that laissez-faire "Live in the now, bro!" attitude. It sounds great, it sounds kind of Zen. But it's also ethically lazy. It means, actually, "I don't care what I do to you, or how it affects you in the future, because I'm just living in the now." Actually thinking about the future and being concerned about other people is not such a bad thing. It's actually pretty great.
Do you see that sort of epidemic, the carefree mentality, as a big problem in how it is portrayed in movies?
I don't know. In movies or in life… I just think a lot of movies, in most big movies, I don't connect with them emotionally. I don't connect with the characters. The characters feel totally two-dimensional. I can't see myself in them. I don't think they really think about the characters. I think they're thinking about the action figures. About the plot and the effects. And that's fun. I watch big, dumb event movies. I love 'em. Give me some popcorn and some 3D glasses and I'll have a blast. I do feel that there's an appetite in audiences for a different type of movie, though. Where the characters still live on in their imagination, and people can actually see themselves in them. And they can relate, and access the movie as a compass for what they're doing. I don't know if, or I hope I would never make a "message" movie, or anything like that. I don't know about epidemics. I think there is a lot of lazy filmmaking out there. I think the world needs more films with characters who we can really root for and find ourselves in. That's where it should start from. Start with simpler stories but more complicated characters. That's what I want to see, personally, as a film buff.
I think my favorite line in the entire movie is the final line Sutter says to Bob Odenkirk's character. I'm interested in how you managed to keep such a dramatic scene from fleeing too far from the naturalistic feel of the movie.
It's of note that the guy who delivering that [scene] is Bob Odenkirk. People know him now from Breaking Bad, but he's one of the creators and costars of Mr. Show with David Cross. If you want to cast a really funny, boring-looking middle-aged white dude, you couldn't do much better than Bob Odenkirk. He's almost like this sad, middle-aged clown, saying something very sobering and very serious. I guess it sort of stems from my value system. I've never understood, even from a young age, when I would see in a video store: here's the drama section, here's the comedy section. That's just a movie that I love, and life as I know it doesn't function that way. Some of the funniest people I know are epically depressed and suicidal. And it goes all ways. I like populating movies with really funny people who can do drama, and vice versa. And just taking the characters seriously. Taking the wants and needs very seriously. Figuring out how to create a story and make the scenes have real stakes. It's really important to these characters — if there's no stakes, then who cares? Why watch the movie? Why waste people's time?
Follow Michael Arbeiter on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter | Follow hollywood.com on Twitter @hollywood_com
More:'The Spectacular Now' Review'The Spectacular Now' Trailer'Spectacular Now' Does the High School Drama Right
From Our PartnersBattle of the Bikini Bodies (Celebuzz)Complete Guide to Strippers in Movies and TV (Vh1)
Though ostensibly successful 2009’s The Final Destination represented to many a horror franchise on its last hackneyed legs. Rote uninspired and humorless it scored a (modest) hit only by virtue of the novelty -- and added ticket price -- of its 3D transfer. Two years later Final Destination 5 arrives with a slightly tweaked formula a beefed-up storyline actors you might actually recognize and genuine honest-to-goodness 3D. It’s still schlock mind you -- but artful schlock and a marked improvement over the preceding entry.
The story begins in familiar fashion with a cursory introduction to the characters followed by a grisly premonition that sees them perish wholesale. An assortment of cubicle-dwellers at a paper factory are being bused to a corporate retreat when one of them Sam (Nicholas D’Agosto perpetually bug-eyed) dreams of a massive bridge collapse in which he and his co-workers are impaled beheaded bisected crushed by cars singed by tar -- however many ways a suspension bridge can kill a person the film’s opening set-piece explores it gruesome detail. Sam awakens duly horrified and demands the bus be evacuated. Seconds later the employees watch in horror from the sidelines as Sam’s vision comes to fruition.
You know what happens next. One-by-one death stalks the survivors who meet their fate in a series of elaborately-staged incidents. Some are relatively straightforward; others involve fiendish head-fakes and red herrings. The range of victims is older and more colorful than in previous Final Destination films in which death preyed exclusively on attractive nubile teenagers but the end result is invariably the same. (Not to give anything away but those considering acupuncture or laser eye surgery would be wise to avoid the film entirely.) As death’s scheme becomes achingly evident Sam his lachrymose girlfriend Molly (Emma Bell) and his increasingly unhinged buddy Peter (Miles Fisher) become increasingly desperate. Enter the ever-ominous Tony Todd returning to the franchise after (wisely) taking the previous film off offering a potential way out. But is it genuine or just another of death’s cruel tricks?
Director Steven Quale a James Cameron protege hired principally for his 3D expertise takes full advantage of the added dimension delivering some of the most vivid and immersive 3D sequences in recent memory. Unlike The Final Destination which seemed little more than a amalgam of crude one-liners Final Destination 5 feels like a real movie one with a discernible plot an element of suspense and a handful characters who are more than just punchlines. Most of the actors are surprisingly competent save for Fisher a credible doppelganger for Tom Cruise (he parodied him 2008’s Superhero Movie) who imbues every line with couch-jumping intensity.
Final Destination 5 ends with a twist that while genuinely unexpected feels like a Hail Mary for a franchise that can’t forestall its inexorable descent into stale irrelevance despite the best of efforts from Quale. Its trademark formula has simply lost its potency -- a problem no amount of cosmetic upgrades however welcome can fix. That the film is bracketed by two pointless and time-consuming montages -- the first an animated sequence that hurtles various hazardous objects at the audience the second a greatest hits compilation of memorable kills from previous Final Destination films -- is a telltale sign that the saga’s creativity is on life support. Perhaps it’s time to pull the plug.
September 02, 2010 11:19am EST
When the animated opening credits of Warner Bros. Going the Distance begin a barrage of colorful images envelope the screen shaking and shifting to the sounds of contemporary pop-rock like a hipster-chick in a SoHo lounge. It sets the tone for a lighthearted but levelheaded romantic comedy that like the music is cool and crafty but not completely above the clichés of the tried-and-true genre.
Making her feature-film directorial debut Oscar-nominated documentarian Nanette Burstein (On the Ropes) set out to make a film that as she put it “would feel as real as possible” – a tough job when taking on a studio comedy. But with a relatable premise a punchy script and a cast that possesses a ton of personality she succeeds at delivering a surprisingly fresh film that chronicles the pros and cons of a long-distance relationship between Justin Long’s Garrett and Drew Barrymore’s Erin.
The first half hour is filled with the standard situational set-ups and character introductions that one expects from any film. We learn everything we need (and want) to know about Garrett and Erin: He’s a New York record label workhorse and she’s an aspiring journalist interning at a metropolitan newspaper. They frequent the same dive bar in downtown Manhattan and have a beer and barbeque-wings fueled fling which turns into a steady summer-long relationship. But all good things must come to an end and as September approaches she prepares to head back to Stanford for another semester much to their mutual dismay. However the feelings between them are sincere and they decide to give their spatially challenged relationship a shot.
Real-life couple Long and Barrymore have a few touching moments throughout the film mostly when the trials of their long-distance relationship take a toll but they are a bore in comparison to the supporting cast. Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day bring frat-house etiquette and bro-mantic charm to the movie as Garrett’s best friends Box and Dan. Together they are the living embodiment of testosterone and man-child — archetypes that have become all-too common in current rom-coms — but with legitimately funny performances they really pay off. Christina Applegate is good for a load of laughs as Erin’s older sister Corinne who is skeptical of Erin’s eagerness to engage in yet another risky romance; she steals the show with her unrelenting commentary.
Going the Distance doesn’t break new ground within the genre or redefine cinematic romance but it balances the sweet and sour moments of its story very well. Burstein minimizes the drama and keeps the comedy raw to maximize the entertainment value of the movie which should please all who purchase a ticket. Somehow the long distance dilemma hasn’t been tackled on film before and that makes the movie appear to be more original that it really is but in a year where so few romantic comedies have brought the goods (The Back-Up Plan Sex and the City 2) Going the Distance does just that.
January 11, 2010 11:00am EST
The Writers Guild announced its screen nominees this morning with Best Original screenplay nods going to Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber for (500) Days of Summer, James Cameron for Avatar, Jon Lucas and Scott Moore for The Hangover, Mark Boal for The Hurt Locker and Joel and Ethan Coen for A Serious Man.
Contenders in the adapted screenplay category are Scott Cooper for Crazy Heart, based on the novel by Thomas Cobb; Nora Ephron for Julie & Julia, based on the books Julie & Julia by Julie Powell and My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme; Geoffrey Fletcher for Precious, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman for Star Trek, based upon Star Trek, created by Gene Roddenberry, and Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner for Up in the Air, based on the novel by Walter Kirn.
Documentary screenplay nominations are: Richard Trank for Against the Tide, Michael Moore for Capitalism: A Love Story, Mark Monroe for The Cove, Robert Stone for Earth Days, Chris Rock & Jeff Stilson and Lance Crouther and Chuck Sklar for Good Hair, and Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman for Soundtrack for a Revolution.
The 2010 Writers Guild Awards will be held on Saturday, February 20, simultaneously at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles and the Hudson Theatre at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in New York City.