Robert Zemeckis is a blockbuster director at heart. Action has never been an issue for the man behind Back to the Future. When he puts aside the high concept adventures for emotional human stories — think Forrest Gump or Cast Away — he still goes big. His latest Flight continues the trend revolving the story of one man's fight with alcoholism around a terrifying plane crash. Zemeckis expertly crafts his roaring centerpiece and while he finds an agile performer in Denzel Washington the hour-and-a-half of Flight after the shocking moment can't sustain the power. The "big" works. The intimate drowns.
Washington stars as Whip Whitaker a reckless airline pilot who balances his days flying jumbo jets with picking up women snorting lines of cocaine and drinking himself to sleep. Although drunk for the flight that will change his life forever that's not the reason the plane goes down — in fact it may be the reason he thinks up his savvy landing solution in the first place. Writer John Gatins follows Whitaker into the aftermath madness: an investigation of what really happened during the flight Whitaker's battle to cap his addictions and budding relationships that if nurtured could save his life.
Zemeckis tops his own plane crash in Cast Away with the heart-pounding tailspin sequence (if you've ever been scared of flying before Flight will push into phobia territory). In the few scenes after the literal destruction Washington is able to convey an equal amount of power in the moments of mental destruction. Whitaker is obviously crushed by the events the bottle silently calling for him in every down moment. Flight strives for that level of introspection throughout eventually pairing Washington with equally distraught junkie Nicole (Kelly Reilly). Their relationship is barely fleshed out with the script time and time again resorting to obvious over-the-top depictions of substance abuse (a la Nic Cage's Leaving Las Vegas) and the bickering that follows. Washington's Whitaker hits is lowest point early sitting there until the climax of the film.
Sharing screentime with the intimate tale is the surprisingly comical attempt by the pilot's airline union buddy (Bruce Greenwood) and the company lawyer (Don Cheadle) to get Whitaker into shape. Prepping him for inquisitions looking into evidence from the wreckage and calling upon Whitaker's dealer Harling (John Goodman) to jump start their "hero" when the time is right the two men do everything they can to keep any blame being placed upon Whitaker by the National Transportation Safety Board investigators. The thread doesn't feel relevant to Whitaker's plight and in turn feels like unnecessary baggage that pads the runtime.
Everything in Fight shoots for the skies — and on purpose. The music is constantly swelling the photography glossy and unnatural and rarely do we breach Washington's wild exterior for a sense of what Whitaker's really grappling with. For Zemeckis Flight is still a spectacle film with Washington's ability to emote as the magical special effect. Instead of using it sparingly he once again goes big. Too big.
Robin Williams, Betty White, Malin Akerman and celebrity couple Jon Hamm and Jennifer Westfeldt have teamed up to sing the Beatles' Hey Jude anthem for a new public service announcement. The actors join singers Jennifer Hudson and Darius Rucker in the new Hey St. Jude video, in which celebrities sing the hit alongside sick kids and staff at the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. The promo was filmed to encourage people to visit new website HeyStJude.org and donate to the California medical centre.
It's a big day for indie film appreciation. First, last night's 21st Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards recipients were revealed (you can read the list of winners and nominees here). And now, we can cast our judgments and make our predictions about the announcements for the 27th Annual Independent Spirit Awards nominations.
2011 was no slouch when it comes to the release of some quality independent cinema, and the Spirit Awards are paying tribute to that with its diverse list of nominees. On the list, we have comedy, drama, action, romance...and, for the first time in quite a while, a silent film. Check out the list of nominees below, and start your deliberations on the "Who Should Win" vs. "Who Will Win" battle—that's the bread-and-butter of awards season, after all.
27th ANNUAL INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARDS NOMINEES
BEST PICTURE50/50 The Artist Beginners The Descendants Drive Take Shelter BEST DIRECTOR Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist) Mike Mills (Beginners) Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter) Alexander Payne (The Descendants) Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) BEST FIRST FEATURE Mike Cahill, Another Earth Patrick Wang, In the Family J.C Chandor, Margin Call Sean Durkin, Martha Marcy May Marlene Robert Pickering, Natural Selection BEST FEMALE LEAD Lauren Ambrose (Think of Me) Rachael Harris (Natural Selection) Adepero Oduye (Pariah) Elizabeth Olson (Martha Marcy May Marlene) Michelle Williams (My Week with Marilyn) BEST MALE LEAD Demian Bichir (A Better Life) Jean Dujardin (The Artist) Ryan Gosling (Drive) Woody Harrelson (Rampart) Michael Shannon (Take Shelter) BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE Jessica Chastain (Take Shelter) Anjelica Huston (50/50) Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs) Harmony Santana (Gun Hill Road) Shailene Woodley (The Departed) BEST SUPPORTING MALE Albert Brooks (Drive) John Hawkes (Martha Marcy May Marlene) Christopher Plummer (Beginners) John C. Reilly (Cedar Rapids) Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris) BEST SCREENPLAY The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius) Beginners (Mike Mills) The Descendants (Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash) Footnote (Joseph Cedar) Win Win (Tom McCarthy) BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY Mike Cahill & Brit Marling, Another Earth J.C. Chandor, Margin Call Patrick deWitt, Terri Phil Johnston, Cedar Rapids Will Reiser, 50/50 BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY Joel Hodge (Bellflower) Benjamin Kasulke (The Off Hours) Darius Khondji (Midnight in Paris) Guillaume Schiffman (The Artist) Jeffrey Waldron (The Dynamiter) BEST DOCUMENTARY An African Election Bill Cunningham New York The Interrupters The Redemption of General Butt Naked We Were Here Spirit Awards
The Independent Spirit Awards kicked off the night with prizes going out to James Franco and Penelope Cruz for their supporting roles in Milk and Vicky Cristina Barcelona respectively.
Click Here: Watch Spirit Awards Live & Uncut
The night ended with The Wrestler and Mickey Rourke taking took top honors for best film and lead actor. Melissa Leo, who some may have seen as the under dog, rounded out the night winning best female lead for her performance in Frozen River.
The complete list of nominations & winners:
Rachel Getting Married
Wendy and Lucy
The Wrestler -- WINNER!
Ramin Bahrani, Chop Shop
Jonathan Demme, Rachel Getting Married
Lance Hammer, Ballast
Courtney Hunt, Frozen River
Thomas McCarthy, The Visitor -- WINNER!
Best First Feature
Medicine for Melancholy
Sangre de Mi Sangre
Synecdoche, New York -- WINNER!
John Cassavetes Award
In Search of a Midnight Kiss -- WINNER!
Prince of Broadway
Turn the River
Best First Screenplay
Dustin Lance Black, Milk -- WINNER!
Lance Hammer, Ballast
Courtney Hunt, Frozen River
Jonathan Levine, The Wackness
Jenny Lumet, Rachel Getting Married
Woody Allen, Vicky Christina Barcelona -- WINNER!
Anna Fleck and Ryan Boden, Sugar
Charlie Kaufman, Synecdoche, New York
Howard A. Rodman, Savage Grace
Christopher Zalla, Sangre de Mi Sangre
Best Female Lead
Summer Bishil, Towelhead
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Melissa Leo, Frozen River -- WINNER!
Tarra Riggs, Ballast
Michelle Williams, Wendy and Lucy
Best Male Lead
Javier Bardem, Vicky Christina Barcelona
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Sean Penn, Milk
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler -- WINNER!
Best Supporting Female
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona -- WINNER!
Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married
Rosie Perez, The Take
Misty Upham, Frozen River
Debra Winger, Rachel Getting Married
Best Supporting Male
James Franco, Milk -- WINNER!
Anthony Mackie, The Hurt Locker
Charlie McDermott, Frozen River
JimMyron Ross, Ballast
Haaz Sleiman, The Visitor
Maryse Alberti, The Wrestler -- WINNER!
Lol Crowley, Ballast
James Laxton, Medicine for Melancholy
Harris Savides, Milk
Michael Simmonds, Chop Shop
The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)
Encounters at the End of the World
Man on Wire -- WINNER!
The Order of Myths
Up the Yangtze
Best Foreign Film
The Class (France) -- WINNER!
Secret of the Grain (France)
Silent Light (Mexico/France/Netherlands/Germany)
Robert Altman Award: (Given to one film's director, casting director and ensemble cast)
Synecdoche, New York
Director: Charlie Kaufman Casting Director: Jeanne McCarthy
Ensemble Cast: Hope Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Catherine Keener, Samantha Morton, Tom Noonan, Dianne Wiest, Michelle Williams
Someone to Watch Award
Barry Jenkins, Medicine for Melancholy
Nina Paley, Sita Sings the Blues
Lynn Shelton, My Effortless Brilliance -- WINNER!
Truer Than Fiction Award
Margaret Brown, The Order of Myths -- The WINNER!
Sacha Gervasi, Anvil! The Story of Anvil
Darius Marder, Loot
Lars Knudsen and Joy Van Hoy, Tireless Mountain and I'll Come Running
Jason Orans, Goodbye Solo and Year of the Fish
Heather Rae, Frozen River and Ibid -- WINNER!
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