We opened 2014 with heated anticipation for the next great turns from Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, Christopher Nolan, Lars von Trier, and a number of other cinematic vets. But the year has also treated us to a hefty sum of noteworthy first timers. We've caught a wide variety of debut attempts over the course of these past eight months, with enough qualitative range to incite reactions from "The next Hitchcock!" to "I might be able to get you a gig with my friend who does wedding videos, but don't tell him you know me." Here's a quick rundown of the debut flicks we've seen so far in '14, from great to terrible.
Tribeca Film via Everett Collection
Palo AltoDirector: Gia CoppolaWhy we're already on her bandwagon: In the vein of her aunt Sofia, the young Gia Coppola showcases an indubitable understanding of upper class ennui.
Hide Your Smiling Faces Director: Daniel Patrick CarboneWhy we're already on his bandwagon: Carbone's primarily wordless coming-of-age drama shows off his patience and pensiveness, not to mention his ability to skirt the self-importance than many films of Smiling Faces' ilk seem to bear.
Obvious ChildDirector: Gillian RobespierreWhy we're already on her bandwagon: It's funny as hell even within the margins of genre tradition, and sweet without succumbing to Hollywood sugar.
THE VERY GOOD
Zero MotivationDirector: Talya LavieShows promise of: A knack for absurdist humor and grounded character relationships alike.
It Felt Like LoveDirector: Eliza HittmanShows promise of: A uniquely keen empathy for how young people conduct themselves, both internally and among one another.
Tribeca Film via Everett Collection
The Bachelor Weekend/The StagDirector: John ButlerShows potential in: A good sense of humor, especially when it veers closer to Apatow than McKay.
Are You HereDirector: Matthew WeinerShows potential in: Social commentary through character construction, but Weiner needs a better handle on cinematic pacing.
The One I LoveDirector: Charlie McDowellShows potential in: Big ideas, and the presentation thereof, but lacks in the ultimate execution of where they can and ought to go.
Drafthouse Films via Everett Collection
Beneath the Harvest SkyDirector: Aron Gaudet and Gita PullapillyThere's room for improvement regarding: A sharper attention to the characters and story, which occasionally fade out of focus at the behest of a vivid North Maine setting.
LullabyDirector: Andrew LevitasThere's room for improvement regarding The acerbic but knowing humor shared by the central family members, in favor of the intense melodrama that the film feels impelled to stuff itself with from time to time.
Cheap ThrillsDirector: E.L. KatzThere's room for improvement regarding: The energy set toward invoking a truly interesting story or course of events, rather than the allowance of the "weird" or "dangerous" to take the wheel altogether like it does here.
TammyDirector: Ben FalconeThere's room for improvement regarding: An authentic commitment to the sincerity in the characters, in place of wild and wacky antics like jetski crashes and deer mouth-to-mouth... though these were probably studio notes, we have to assume.
Music Box Films via Everett Collection
Winter’s TaleDirector: Akiva GoldsmanWhat we hope he gets right next time: A more defined storytelling goal. While some of the film's elements worked in a vaccuum, Goldsman had been gestating a Winter's Tale adaptation for years, coming out the gate with something that is oddly both convoluted and terribly narrow.
MaleficentDirector: Robert StrombergWhat we hope he gets right next time: More Angie.
A Coffee in Berlin/Oh BoyDirector: Jan Ole GersterWhat we hope he gets right next time: A better understanding of the fine line between cheeky and irritating. The German comedy/drama plays
Earth to EchoDirector: Dave GreenWhat we hope he gets right next time: Ditch the essentially pointless found footage antic and hone in on the fleeting spirit of the kids.
TranscendenceDirector: Wally PfisterWhy we're nervous for his future: Pfister is a skilled cinematographer, but his grasp of character, story, and ambiance seem dangerously absent.
Goodbye to All ThatDirector: Angus McLachlanWhy we're nervous for his future: Ambitions seem to fall shy of originality, settling instead on retreating the same indie dramedy territory we've seen time and time again, but without any discernible charisma.
If I StayDirector: R.J. CutlerWhy we're nervous for his future: A dastardly aesthetic, paper-thin characters, a devoted marriage to teen movie cliches, and a potentially dangerous mentality driving the story altogether do not bode well for Cutler's future behind the camera.
Behaving BadlyDirector: Tim GarrickWhy we're nervous for his future: Because he made this horrible thing.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter | Follow @Hollywood_com
Focus Films via Everett Collection
The Coppolas are like the Kennedys of filmmaking. Francis, Sofia, Roman, and now Gia have all put their craftsmanship on display, and each has his or her own distinct appeal. They aren't in competition with each other, but we thought it would be fun to compare their contributions to cinema and conclude, at this point in time, which Coppola makes the better movies.
Francis: The Don
Francis is the safe choice if you don't want to flunk film school. Since I've already passed, however, I'm comfortable with knocking him down a few pegs. There's no denying that The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Conversation, and Apocalypse Now are all masterpieces; these four movies are why most people would choose him as the best. Unfortunately, his films since then have been lackluster and pretentious, and despite a few minor successes scattered throughout (Peggy Sue Got Married and Bram Stoker's Dracula are quite good), he really only has four great films to his name.
Sofia: The Daughter
Let's put Sofia's atrocious performance in The Godfather Part III aside and focus solely on her filmmaking. Her debut film The Virgin Suicides is a beautiful, mysterious work of art, and her second feature, Lost in Translation, is one of the best films of the 2000s. Marie Antoinette demonstrates that she is a confident storyteller with a distinct style, and Somewhere pushes this style to glorious, never-before-seen heights. Her latest film The Bling Ring is the least interesting of the bunch, but it isn't a complete train wreck either. Overall, Sofia has made four great films and one passable misfire.
Roman: The Brother
As a director, Roman's two feature films CQ and A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III contain interesting elements but are ultimately disappointing efforts. As a screenwriter, however, Roman's contribution to Wes Anderson's excellent movie Moonrise Kingdom is worth considering, as is his work on The Darjeeling Limited. For the most part, however, Roman's cinematic accomplishments pale in comparison to Francis and Sofia, perhaps because he is more interested in other things.
Gia: The Granddaughter
It's fair to say that Gia wouldn't have been able to make her first film, Palo Alto, without her family connections, but the work stands alone as one of the most beautiful portraits of high school life in America. It certainly trumps any of Roman's directorial efforts, but Sofia's The Virgin Suicides remains a more poignant coming-of-age story. Moreover, with only one film in her oeuvre, it's difficult to determine what the future will be like for Gia. Nevertheless, she is one to watch.
Gia and Roman obviously can't quite compete with Sofia and Francis, but I don't think Francis automatically gets the vote because of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. In fact, I prefer Sofia's moody, evocative dreamscapes, and I believe that Lost in Translation and Somewhere stand up to even the most powerful moments in The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. Taking this into account, as well as the number of disappointing films Francis has made over the past 30 years, and my vote unequivocally goes to Sofia.
Do you agree? Let us know in the poll below.
It takes a misunderstood artist to know one, so when Seth Rogen revealed that his good friend James Franco has plans to play Tommy Wiseau in an adaptation of The Disaster Artist: My Time in The Room, the world responded, "Well, of course." Rogen revealed the plans during an appearance on the Opie and Anthony radio show where he talked about the film, which he will produce with his writing partner Evan Goldberg. Based on the book by Greg Sestero - who co-starred in the infamous cult hit - the film will chronicle the production process of The Room, which was plagued by problems and cost its writer/director/producer over $10 million.
The Disaster Artist isn't the first time that Franco has expressed interest in Wiseau and his work. Last year, he wrote an in-depth piece about The Room for Vice, and described Wiseau as "ageless, muscled, sweet, and scary; he is part vampire, part Hollywood dreamer, part gangster, part Ed Wood, and super lonely." Franco's depiction of Wiseau as a tortured genius is fitting, especially considering Franco is sometimes portrayed as a underrated artistic icon as well. The fact that much of Franco's statement can be used to describe himself seems to illustrate exactly why the Francophrenia star is the perfect person to step into the shoes of Wiseau. It's just one of the many qualities that Franco and Wiseau have in common:
Both Are Multi-Hypenate Artists... Though Wiseau is primarily known for his work on The Room, which he wrote, directed, produced and starred in, he has also produced and acted in several other films, as well as creating a television show and two web series. Franco, meanwhile, has dabbled in almost every artistic medium there is, and in addition to acting, directing, screenwriting and producing. He is also a painter, poet, teacher and novelist. Plus, he starred in Spider Man 3, which is basically The Room of the superhero genre.
Whose Work is Not Taken Seriously.. Though most of the world loves The Room for being so terrible that it's entertaining, Wiseau seemed to believe it to be a great work of artistic genuis. He now seems to admit that it's not very good, though whether he's truly changed his mind about it or is just playing along, we'll probably never know. Similarly, much of Franco's non-acting work has received mixed-to-negative reviews from critics, many of whom dismiss him because of his celebrity status. Like Wiseau, he has also capitalized on the criticism to make fun of himself, although we're almost certain that he still truly believes himself to be an artistic genius.
And Are Famous For the Wrong Reasons. Wiseau's celebrity is due entirely to the fact that The Room is, according to Entertainment Weekly, "the Citizen Kane of bad movies," rather than any of his other, more successful projects. While Franco's been giving solid acting performances since his breakthrough role in Freaks and Geeks, he's more likely to get press coverage for things like taking half-naked selfies, inappropriate Instagram behavior, or fighting with critics on Twitter. And those are just from the last two months.
Both Are Enigmas...The little that is known about Wiseau's life comes from Sestero's book, which reads like the plot of a Nicolas Cage film. According to the story, Wiseau was born in communist Europe, moved to France and worked as a dishwasher before he was wrongfully arrested and tortured by the police. From there, he made his way to Louisiana, then to San Francisco, where he sold toys to tourists, changed his name and somehow made enough money to fund his film. Franco has revealed a lot more about his life, but he still makes it difficult for the public to get a grasp on who he is, primarily due to his strange career moves, various artistic endeavors and inability to open his eyes all the way. As Jonah Hill said at his roast "I've known you for years, and I'm still not sure I've ever actually met the real you."
Who Have Seen Their Writing Adapted Into Films...Franco's collection of short stories, Palo Alto, was recently adapted into a film by Gia Coppola - with Franco starring, obviously - which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival to largely positive reviews. Wiseau, however, preferred to direct his adaptation himself, and turned his 540-page novel into The Room. Since the final product wasn't 9 hours long, that means enough was cut from the novel to be the basis for an entire Room film franchise.
And Both Have a Connection To James Dean.According to Sestero's book, Wiseau was so enamored of the late actor that several lines The Room were based on the dialogue in the film Rebel Without A Cause. He also revealed that Wiseau frequently visited a restaurant owned by one of Dean's friends, although if he's looking for a tenuous connection to Dean, he's probably better off befriending Franco, who won a Golden Globe for playing Dean in a TV biopic. Besides, it'll save him a lot of money in the long run.
Also, They Look Alike Just put a long, dark wig on Franco's head and give him a healthy spray tan, and they could be twins.
Tribeca Film via Everett Collection
Palo Alto bleeds aimlessness in a lot of good ways. In the tradition of Dazed and Confused and The Last Picture Show, Gia Coppola's directorial debut lands us knee deep in the ennui of a self-contained society of small town teens, daring us to dive right into a neon cesspool vacant of hope or self-actualization. Keeping in step with the mentioned films, Palo Alto is far less interested in telling a story than it is in painting a picture. The spectacle that results is beautiful, piercing, and — quite definitely — Coppolian. But it hits some difficulty when it tries to move beyond its frame.
Adapted from the short stories of at-least-he's-always-interesting James Franco (who is featured in the movie as a sneakily lecherous soccer coach), Palo Alto tags us to the corroded souls of a gaggle of misguided high schoolers in suburban Central California. Emma Roberts is the ostensible lead; her April is a sullen young woman whose chief character trait is sympathetic disillusionment. Her paths cross here and there with Mr. B (Franco) and likewise wayfaring classmate Teddy (Jack Kilmer — son of Val, who has a brief part in the film as the space cadet stepfather to Roberts), who is lightyears away from appreciating the gravity in his drunk driving episode and subsequent community service.
Tribeca Film via Everett Collection
The highlight of the bunch is Teddy's pal Fred, a compulsively obnoxious clown who The Naked Brothers Band's Nat Wolff stuffs with palpable agony and confusion. Buried inside of him, April, Teddy, and the scattered secondary players who work to identify the core of the proper main character — Palo Alto itself — lives our story, never progressing in any direction thereon out. The film is a snapshot of the pangs, frustrations, misgivings, malfeasances, and so on of the kids, adults, and neighborhood in question. In this form, it glows.
But Palo Alto tries to drive its story forward, yanking April, Teddy, and Fred out from the stronghold of their communal desperation and throwing them into the beyond. It's this forward motion that brings our attention to the delicate seams of the film, its unpreparedness in handling the story as much more than a lasting glimpse. We feel the elements slipping away from Coppola as she attempts to set them on a motive course for the first time in the third act, and so we have a tough time staying adhered as we once were to the characters — the falter is doubled by the fact that this emancipation comes at the intended peak of their emotional journeys.
Although the film might leave off dabbling in undeveloped turns — feeling frayed, uneven, and incomplete (I suppose it's hard to insist that such qualities are inappropriate for the story at hand) — it spends the lion's share of its time in a remarkable establishment: a portrait as lifelike as it is dreamy and as funny as it is haunting. It might lose its balance when it grabs for agency, but it offers an image very much worthy of our eyes.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
Francis Ford Coppola's actress/director granddaughter Gia made her adaptation of James Franco's book Palo Alto a family affair by casting Val Kilmer and his son Jack. The filmmaker has known Kilmer's kid all her life and attended the same elementary school as Jack, and while she was working behind the scenes on her grandfather's 2011 movie Twixt, she got to know his dad too and thought it would be great to offer father and son roles in her directorial debut.
She tells WENN, "I've known Jack since he was four years old. We went to the same elementary school and in sixth grade I had to mentor his class, so he's been in and out of my life since he was a little kid.
"In that time of working on Twixt I got to be really close to Val, and Jack would come to set. It was really important when I cast Jack. I wanted it to be his movie and not have Val take away from that in any way, but he's a great actor and I wanted to work with him. So I gave him a fun little role of Emma (Roberts)' stepfather."
And the young Kilmer was thrilled to work with his dad in his acting debut: "He's always supported me, whatever I'm into and, as an actor, he told me to be as honest as possible and to follow my instincts."
Another member of the Coppola filmmaking dynasty has directed her first movie after capturing candid moments off-set while hosting the stars of her daughter Gia's new film Palo Alto in her home. Jacqui Getty pieced together a 30-minute 'making of' documentary in between cooking meals for and styling stars like James Franco and Emma Roberts.
Her daughter, Gia Coppola, who is movie mogul Francis Ford Coppola's granddaughter, had such a small budget for the adaptation of Franco's short stories, she asked her mother to open up her home for the cast and crew.
Getty tells The Hollywood Reporter, "We didn't have money for a casting director or housing, so I cooked the kids dinner every night."
She admits Apocalypse Now director Francis Ford Coppola is quite impressed with her filmmaking skills: "Francis was shocked at how I worked the camera."
Getty tells the publication she had a lot of help from her most famous relative's wife, Eleanor, who directed the 1991 documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse while her husband was shooting Apocalypse Now.
The Back To The Future actor will feature alongside a host of celebrities chosen by bosses of the apparel chain to front its festive ads with the tag line Love Comes In Every Shade.
Fox will feature alongside his wife, actress Tracy Pollan, while Nas will appear with his father, blues musician Olu Dara in a segment titled Fatherly Love.
Boardwalk Empire actor Huston cuddles up to his dog Orso for their Puppy Love section, and director Gia Coppola, granddaughter of Francis Ford Coppola, will appear alongside her friend, actress Nathalie Love, in Best Friend Love.
The cast of NBC's sitcom The New Normal, in which two gay men and a woman form a new kind of family, will represent Gap's Modern Love segment, and musician Rufus Wainwright and his new husband Jorn Weisbrodt are also set to appear in an as-yet-untitled portion of the campaign, according to New York Post gossip column Page Six.
The 23 year old, whose father is Coppola's eldest son Gian-Carlo, has taken her first steps into the movie business by making a promo for fashion designer Zac Posen.
Her directorial debut will promote Posen's collection for U.S. store Target, and the designer is convinced Gia is the next big talent to emerge from the Coppola family.
He says, "She's going to be the next Coppola force to be reckoned with. They just genetically, aesthetically, have something - they're able to capture magic."
Coppola's daughter Sofia, Gia's aunt, has forged her own successful directing career, winning her first Oscar for 2003's Lost in Translation.