After losing out to Ang Lee at the 2013 Oscars, a win that would have earned him his third Best Director statue, Steven Spielberg has found an equally prestigious gig: leading the 2013 Cannes Film Festival jury.
Slated to begin on May 15, the Festival de Cannes enters its 66th year, with the legendary director presiding over the committee that will hand out the coveted Palme d'Or award. Spielberg is no stranger to Cannes, having screened Sugarland Express, The Color Purple, and E.T. at the festival. In a press release, film festival President Gilles Jacob admits to having chased Spielberg for years, never being able to secure him as Jury President due to his demanding shooting schedule. From the sounds of it, the Lincoln director couldn't be happier to squeeze Cannes into his 2013.
“My admiration for the steadfast mission of the Festival to champion the international language of movies is second to none," says Spielberg. "The most prestigious of its kind, the festival has always established the motion picture as a cross cultural and generational medium.”
RELATED: Steven Spielberg Opens Up About His Dyslexia
Unlike the Academy Awards or most big name film festivals, Cannes is known for its worldly and eclectic lineups — not your standard Hollywood "prestige films." And while Spielberg continues to challenge himself with topics and styles outside his comfort zone, he certainly has an American film industry gloss to his movies. Which makes us wonder: will Spielberg wind up picking the most "Spielbergian" film of the crop? Cannes may be a chance for Spielberg to show off his tastes for movies he would never make, but we wouldn't be surprised if the winner winds up being an uplifting story following a person struggling against great odds (if it's a kid, even better) accompanied by a sweeping score and peppered with instances of the Spielberg Face: that mouth-agape moment embodying true amazement.
That's half of what's expected from the head juror: personal reflection. What Spielberg brings to the table as a filmmaker and as a movie-watcher will be reflected in his decision — and he won't be alone. Here are a few examples of Jury Presidents of yesteryears and the Cannes films they bestowed with the Palme d'Or. Just surprising enough:
2011: Robert De Niro, Tree of Life
As a performer highly regarded across the globe, it's not surprising that De Niro gravitated towards the grandest of 2011 competition entries. Terrence Malick's didn't win over everyone in France — apparently, they're not as keen on wheat fields as most Americans — but the story of troubled boyhood must have resonated with an actor who made a career out of playing dangerously warped men.
2010: Tim Burton, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Apichatpong Weerasethakul's winning film Uncle Boonmee revolves around a dying man wading through his memories alongside his family… including the ghosts of his loved ones. The weird and wonderful played right to Burton's tastes.
2009: Isabele Huppert, The White Ribbon
The White Ribbon is a dense, chilling exploration of how even the nicest kids can grow up to be murderous Nazis, but there may have been a little favoritism when Michael Haneke (Amour) picked up his second Palme d'Or: Huppert previously starred in his 2001 film The Piano Teacher.
2008: Sean Penn, The Class
Penn leads a double life: he's an award-winning actor who spends most of his time promoting social advocacy. The Class speaks to his off-screen quests, diving into the tricky world of education and boiling it down to human stories.
RELATED: In Defense Of 'Django' Director Quentin Tarantino's Worst Movie, 'Death Proof'
2004: Quentin Tarantino, Fahrenheit 9/11
His divisive and, often times, bizarre tastes (a published list of his favorite films of 2011 included Moneyball and The Three Musketeers) made Tarantino an unpredictable jury member. The fact that he landed on Michael Moore's caustic George W. Bush documentary — the first non-fiction film to win the Palme d'Or since 1956 — was both a shock and perfectly aligned with his sensibilities.
1994: Clint Eastwood, Pulp Fiction
Speaking of Tarantino, cinema's resident badass took the opportunity to award the rising directorial star at the 1994 Cannes Film Fest. When anyone pictured a lawman stuffing a gun in goon's face, the man holding the pistol was Eastwood. He was iconic. Tarantino's Pulp Fiction reshaped the identity of violence in movies, and it's logical that Eastwood would be the man to award the work.
1976: Tennessee Williams, Taxi Driver
Even today, Williams is one of the most recognizable American dramatists, a voice capable of reflecting the underbelly of the country's picture perfect image (in fact, he feels so mythical, it's hard to believe he was once a Cannes judge). So leave it to Williams to name Martin Scorsese's harrowing Taxi Driver — one of the director's many this-can't-possibly-be-how-this-country-actually-is-oh-wait-it-totally-is-NOOOOO films from the '70s and '80s — with the Palme.
1966: Sophia Loren, The Birds, the Bees and the Italians
Legendary Italian bombshell picks Italian sex comedy? Perfetto!
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: FameFlynet]
From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)33 Child Stars: Where Are They Now? (Celebuzz)
Do the Bourne movies make any sense? Enough. The first three films — The Bourne Identity Supremacy and Ultimatum — throw in just enough detail into the covert ops babble and high-speed action that by the end Jason Bourne comes out an emotional character with an evident mission. That's where Bourne Legacy drops the ball. A "sidequel" to the original trilogy Legacy follows super soldier Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) as he runs jumps and shoots his way out of the hands of his government captors. The film is identical to its predecessors; political intrigue chase scenes morally ambiguous CIA agents monitoring their man-on-the-run from a computer-filled HQ — a Bourne movie through and through. But Legacy has to dig deeper to find new ground to cover introducing elements of sci-fi into the equation. The result is surprisingly limp and even more incomprehensible.
Damon's Bourne spent three blockbusters uncovering his past erased by the assassin training program Treadstone. Renner's Alex Cross has a similar do-or-die mission: after Bourne's antics send Washington into a tizzy Cross' own training program Outcome is terminated. Unlike Bourne Cross is enhanced by "chems" (essentially steroid drugs) that keep him alive and kicking ass. When Outcome is ended Cross goes rogue to stay alive and find more pills.
Steeped heavily in the plot lines of the established mythology Bourne Legacy jumps back and forth between Cross and the clean up job of the movie's big bad (Edward Norton) and his elite squad of suits. The movie balances a lot of moving parts but the adventure never feels sprawling or all that exciting. Actress Rachel Weisz vibrant in nearly every role she takes on plays a chemist who is key to Cross' chemical woes. The two are forced into partnership Weisz limited to screaming cowering and sneaking past the occasional airport x-ray machine while her partner aggressively fistfights his way through any hurdle in his path. Renner is equally underserved. Cross is tailored to the actor's strengths — a darker more aggressive character than Damon's Bourne but with one out of every five of the character's lines being "CHEMS!" shouted at the top of his lungs Renner never has the time or the material to develop him.
Writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton Duplicity and the screenwriter of the previous three movies) is a master of dense language but his style choices can't breath life into the 21st century epic speak. In the film's necessary car chase Gilroy mimics the loose camera style of Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass without fully embracing it. The wishy washy approach sucks the life out of large-scale set pieces. The final 30 minutes of Bourne Legacy is a shaky cam naysayer's worst nightmare.
The Bourne Legacy demonstrates potential without ever kicking into high gear. One scene when Gilroy finally slows down and unleashes absolute terror on screen is striking. Unfortunately the moment doesn't involve our hero and its implications never explained. That sums up Legacy; by the film's conclusion it only feels like the first hour has played out. The movie crawls — which would be much more forgivable if the intense banter between its large ensemble carried weight. Instead Legacy packs the thrills of an airport thriller: sporadically entertaining and instantly forgettable.
This week’s Big Miracle, about a duo’s (John Krasinski and Drew Barrymore) struggles to save a family of whales, is “inspired by the incredible true story that united the world.” While it’s not often that movies bear such a heartstring-tugging tagline, it is quite often that they're inspired by or loosely based on real events. Below we list our favorite such movies, not to be confused, however, with biopics, docudramas or alteration-less “true story” fare. So no Schindler’s List, etc. Also no Titanic – but not because it doesn't qualify.
“True story” notes: Based on the book of the same name – self-adapted by William Peter Blatty – which itself is based on a real-life exorcism that was purported to have included supernatural events.
It is often forgotten that the scariest movie of all time – according to my recurring nightmares – is ultimately “inspired by true events.” Or perhaps we just don’t want to believe that the devil can inhabit cute little kids and turn their voices into gravel. And enable them spin their heads around. And spider-crawl down the stairs.
Saving Private Ryan
“True story” notes: The invasion of Normandy and horrors of war are, of course, the stuff of nonfiction, but the last-surviving-brother plot is largely the result of screenwriter Robert Rodat’s imagination (he was inspired after a story of eight siblings who died in the Civil War).
The opening sequence is forever burned in our brains – if there’s a moviegoer version of PTSD, it is induced here – but Spielberg masterfully, and characteristically, mixes humanity and adventure with unforgettable visuals.
“True story” notes: Fictional but based loosely on writer/director Cameron Crowe’s time as a young writer for Rolling Stone.
Crowe’s best movie (sorry, Jerry Maguire fans and Say Anything diehards) captures what the writer/director always seems to be reaching for: the rock ‘n’ roll of life.
“True story” notes: Adaptation of Nicholas Pileggi’s novel Wiseguy, based on real-life mobster-turned-informant Henry Hill; other characters’ names were changed but mostly based on actual people.
Pileggi and Martin Scorsese might’ve changed names and condensed a lot of the Henry Hill saga, but it’s hard to imagine Goodfellas feeling any more authentic, even if had it been an all-inclusive 10-hour movie. We’ll give The Godfather the top spot and maybe Part II the No. 2 spot, but not many would disagree with Goodfellas being ranked the third-best Mob movie ever.
“True story” notes: Loosely based on/inspired by the life and times of porn star John Holmes.
Our proper introduction to – and thus fascination with – Paul Thomas Anderson commenced with this pseudo-biopic about the Golden Age of porn and the, um, rise of its, ahem, biggest star. Great performances were in abundant supply, but it was Anderson’s unwillingness to do anything conventional and/or expected that kept our interest, er, aroused. (Sorry.)
One of the best-ever sports movies is also quite possibly one of the best “true story” movies – even though it isn’t, per se: The only keywords that the movie and real-life story have in common are “Indiana,” “basketball” and “high school.”
Terrence Malick’s mesmerizing feature-film debut – loosely based on a killing spree perpetrated by a teenaged couple, and about a similar couple’s (Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek) murderous road trip … and so much more – earned him the right to make us wait sometimes a decade between each of his films. But if he wants to speed up the pace, as is reportedly the case nowadays, that’s OK too.
The French Connection
With The Exorcist (see above) two years after this crime-thriller masterpiece – in which several of the characters have real-life counterparts – director William Friedkin is the sole two-time “true story” director on our list, and he boasts one of the best back-to-back movie runs of all time. How he wound up directing Blue Chips, we’ll never know.
The Hitchcock classic is based on a book loosely inspired by infamous murderer/grave robber/body snatcher Ed Gein. So, uh, thanks for being such an unfathomable psychopath, Mr. Gein … ?
Tim Burton could’ve made an honest, earnest biopic about “one of the worst directors of all time,” but it wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting or fitting – and it wouldn’t have made our list, which was no doubt on Burton’s mind at the time – as the zany homage he paid with Ed Wood.
While we make no guarantee on the overall quality of this week’s Immortals, but one thing—thanks to its aesthetics-crazy director, Tarsem Singh (The Cell)—is clear: The film will be beautiful.
This fact got us thinking about the directors who’ve shown time and again that they can take our breath away in the way their films are shot (with the help of their cinematographers, of course); who have a vision and convey it to us, to spectacular, singular, instantly recognizable results. Here are the visual-obsessed directors who pull it off the best.
The Must-See: The New World
The notoriously deliberate Malick has only directed five films (I repeat: five films!) in his almost 40-year career—all of them visually breathtaking and hyperbole-worthy. The most recent example was summer 2011’s The Tree of Life, which featured nature shots as jaw-dropping as the oftentimes too-obtuse storyline. But the non-prolific Malick’s work prior also displayed his visual visions and penchant for natural beauty, never more so than in 2005’s The New World, a so-so movie made unforgettable by its stark beauty.
The Must-See: The Science of Sleep
Gondry doesn’t have a ton of big-screen work to cite, but every movie he’s made has looked pretty – and anyone who used to direct music videos for Bjork and others has cred aplenty in this department. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the consensus masterpiece of Gondry’s limited resume, but the best-looking film is undoubtedly 2006’s mind-trip fantasy The Science of Sleep, which teems with beautiful shots of Paris and the mind’s eye … during the REM cycle.
The Must-See: 2001: A Space Odyssey
He’s considered by many to be one of the best overall directors of all time, and for good reason, but what is probably most memorable about Kubrick’s film is his eye for visuals; it’s what makes a Kubrick film instantly recognizable. And Kubrickian. All of his many masterworks stand out for the way they’re shot – most notably the horrifyingly colorful A Clockwork Orange; the flat-out horrifying The Shining; and even his last film, the divisive Eyes Wide Shut – but none holds a candle, visually, to 2001: A Space Odyssey, as much a mind-f**k for its dizzying, stylized camerawork as for its themes and sci-fin-ess.
The Must-See: Avatar
It’s easy to dislike the Blockbuster King, especially on a list like this, but there’s no denying that he has advanced movie technology maybe more than any director ever. And although the look of his films is almost always aided by special effects – ones that, again, he has usually pioneered himself – there’s also no denying that they tend to be quite the sight to behold. Avatar might be an annoying example, but can anyone honestly say he or she wasn’t blown away upon seeing the Cameron-created Pandora for the first time, be it in 3D or 2D?
The Must-See: Beetlejuice
Nothing exemplifies Burton’s artistic stylings better than one of his earliest feature films – his third, to be exact. Burton now relies on special effects and CGI to create his gothic, trippy landscapes and characters (and they still look amazing every time), but in 1988, when none of that was readily available – nor was a big budget – Burton’s true colors shone in a way they haven’t since. Beetlejuice was, visually, a dark, twisted, funhouse of weirdness that gave us an idea of what Burton was really about. His singular visual aesthetic can also be seen in films like Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow and even Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
The Must-See: Lost in Translation
Coppola has only directed four feature films, but they’re more visually striking than most others that have been released in her 11 years as a filmmaker. Lost in Translation, in which Coppola visually conveys the feeling of being lost, and the beauty of Tokyo, is the shining example. Not all agree on the greatness of her movies, but most are taken with Coppola’s ability to catch our eyes via beautiful, albeit somewhat cold and detached, imagery. See also: Somewhere.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Cannes organisers announced on Thursday (06Jan11) the Raging Bull star will serve as the chairman of the festival's competition jury, which will select the winner of top awards, including the prestigious Palme d'Or.
The 64th annual event is expected to feature new work from Pedro Almodovar (The Skin That I Inhabit) and Lars Von Trier (Melancholia), as well as Terrence Malick's Tree of Life, although official film selections have yet to be announced.
De Niro is the third American chosen to lead the Cannes jury in the last four years, following Sean Penn in 2008 and Tim Burton in 2010.
Confirming the appointment, the star says, "The Cannes Film Festival is a rare opportunity for me as it is one of the oldest and one of the best in the world.
"As co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival and the Doha Tribeca Film Festival I have an increased appreciation for the jury, who serve, undertaking an important role in choosing films that are represented in the world of film at its highest level, and these types of festivals help connect the international film community and have a lasting cultural impact.
"Having served as President of the Jury in the eighties twice, I know this isn’t an easy task for me or my fellow jury members, but I’m very honoured and happy to head the jury for this year’s Cannes Film Festival."
The festival will run from 11 to 22 May (11).
The Cannes Film Festival lineup was announced Thursday morning in Paris with a relatively un-starry group of titles making up the as-yet incomplete competition slate.
Among the highest-profile films out of competition are Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, which will see Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett swathe up the red carpet on May 12, and Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.
Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf (who first came to Cannes a couple of years ago for the fourth Indiana Jones) and Carey Mulligan are also thus likely to put in an appearance on the Croisette.
Doug Liman’s CIA/political thriller Fair Game will bring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts to the Riviera while Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is set to screen out of competition. Watts also stars in that film as do Anthony Hopkins, Josh Brolin (also in Wall Street), Antonio Banderas and Freida Pinto.
The 16 films in competition will be augmented in coming days as festival director Thierry Fremaux intends to add extra titles. For the moment, fanboys will be happy to see Takeshi Kitano return to competition with Outrage while art-house lovers have Mike Leigh (Another Year), Nikita Mikhalkov (Burnt By the Sun 2) and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Biutiful) to ponder. A full lineup of films across the main competition, special screenings and Un Certain Regard sections can be found here.
On the jury side of things, Tim Burton will be joined by such luminaries as Kate Beckinsale and Benicio Del Toro.
The jury, however, is still out as to whether Brad Pitt will once again grace the red carpet as it has yet to be determined if a film he’s starring in, Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, will be ready in time for the festival.
For more Cannes coverage, click here.