Focus Features There are plenty of people who will always associate Kate Winslet with the role of Rose DeWitt Bukater in Titanic. But film buffs and critics know that the English actress is a true indie-lover at heart, having spent much of her career bringing some of the quirkiest, darkest stories to life. Kate has plenty going on right now—newly married to Ned Rocknroll (yes, that is his last name), and pregnant with her third child, we’ll be seeing plenty of her as she promotes two new films —Labor Day, and the highly anticipated adaptation of the YA novels Divergent. Before she gives us any more performances to fawn over — and she will — let’s look back at five of her best indie movie roles.
Sarah Pierce, Little Children
If you don’t know the power of a little red swimsuit, then you’ve missed a hugely important life lesson, brought to us by Sarah Pierce. Winslet takes on the epic cliché — a sexually and intellectually bored, suburban housewife — but this character comes to life in unimaginable, unforgettable ways through Winslet’s performance.
Clementine Kruczynski, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Everyone’s favorite Charlie Kaufman script would not have played as brilliantly with another actress in the lead. The ultimate quirk, Clementine made us all want to dye our hair orange and fall crazy in love on a beach in Montauk.
Nancy Cowan, Carnage
Teaming up with Roman Polanski, Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly, Winslet as Nancy Cowan was the drunk, well-to-do Brooklyn mother of our dreams. You simply have not lived until you’ve seen her projectile vomit onto a collection of fine art books.
April Wheeler, Revolutionary Road
In one of her darkest, most compelling performances (and one that paired her up with Leonardo DiCaprio for the first time since Titanic) Winslet stunned audiences with another portrayal of a woman struggling against the clichés of American life.
Hanna Schmitz, The Reader
Nominated for an Oscar more times than anyone else at age 33, it was this controversial performance of an illiterate Nazi officer (who was also a teenage boy’s lover) that earned Winslet her first Academy Award.
More:Kate Winslet Pregnant With Third Child'Divergent' Fractions Featurette10 Oscar Snubs
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It was the trickle of pee heard around the world. Cannes attendees were aghast and/or amused an infamous scene from The Paperboy that shows Nicole Kidman urinating on Zac Efron; this is apparently a great salve for jellyfish burns which were covering our Ken Doll-like protagonist. (In fact the term protagonist should be used very loosely for Efron's character Jack who is mostly acted upon than active throughout.)
Lurid! Sexy! Perverse! Trashy! Whether or not it's actually effective is overshadowed by all the hubbub that's attached itself to the movie for better or worse. In fact the movie is all of these things — but that's actually not a compliment. What could have become somethingmemorable is jaw-droppingly bad (when it's not hilarious). Director Lee Daniels uses a few different visual styles throughout from a stark black and white palette for a crime scene recreation at the beginning to a '70s porno aesthetic that oscillates between psychedelic and straight-up sweaty with an emphasis on Efron's tighty-whiteys. This only enhances the sloppiness of the script which uses lines like narrator/housekeeper/nanny Anita's (Macy Gray) "You ain't tired enough to be retired " to conjure up the down-home wisdom of the South. Despite Gray's musical talents she is not a good choice for a narrator or an actor for that matter. In a way — insofar as they're perhaps the only female characters given a chunk of screen time — her foil is Charlotte Bless Nicole Kidman's character. Anita is the mother figure who wears as we see in an early scene control-top pantyhose whereas Charlotte is all clam diggers and Barbie doll make-up. Or as Anita puts it "an oversexed Barbie doll."
The slapdash plot is that Jack's older brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey) comes back to town with his colleague Yardley (David Oyelowo) to investigate the case of a death row criminal named Hillary Van Wetter. Yardley is black and British which seems to confuse many of the people he meets in this backwoods town. Hillary (John Cusack) hidden under a mop of greasy black hair) is a slack-jawed yokel who could care less if he's going to be killed for a crime he might or might not have committed. He is way more interested in his bride-to-be Charlotte who has fallen in love with him through letters — this is her thing apparently writing letters and falling in love with inmates — and has rushed to help Ward and Yardley free her man. In the meantime we're subjected to at least one simulated sex scene that will haunt your dreams forever. Besides Hillary's shortcomings as a character that could rustle up any sort of empathy the case itself is so boring it begs the question why a respected journalist would be interested enough to pursue it.
The rest of the movie is filled with longing an attempt to place any the story in some sort of social context via class and race even more Zac Efron's underwear sexual violence alligator innards swamp people in comically ramshackle homes and a glimpse of one glistening McConaughey 'tock. Harmony Korine called and he wants his Gummo back.
It's probably tantalizing for this cast to take on "serious" "edgy" work by an Oscar-nominated director. Cusack ditched his boombox blasting "In Your Eyes" long ago and Efron's been trying to shed his squeaky clean image for so long that he finally dropped a condom on the red carpet for The Lorax so we'd know he's not smooth like a Ken doll despite how he was filmed by Daniels. On the other hand Nicole Kidman has been making interesting and varied career choices for years so it's confounding why she'd be interested in a one-dimensional character like Charlotte. McConaughey's on a roll and like the rest of the cast he's got plenty of interesting projects worth watching so this probably won't slow him down. Even Daniels is already shooting a new film The Butler as we can see from Oprah's dazzling Instagram feed. It's as if they all want to put The Paperboy behind them as soon as possible. It's hard to blame them.
A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
The Titanic beauty stars alongside Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz as two sets of parents who meet up after their kids are caught fighting at school, and one part sees Winslet's character, Nancy, throw up mid-discussion.
The Brit admits the excess vomit made the set rather unpleasant to work on, but she enjoyed every moment of it.
She tells People magazine, "I'm actually quite proud of my vomiting! It was everywhere: in my hair, down my cleavage, and I'd go home every night totally disgusting and smelling of sick, but I loved it."
The film, directed by Roman Polanski, is based on the hit Broadway play God of Carnage.
There's an inherent risk when adapting a play to screen, no matter how many Tonys it racked up on Broadway. Movies rely on "show, don't tell" cinematic techniques, while theatrical productions are all about the language. Even if it's top-notch writing, a play adaptation that feels too talky, too staged, can rub even the biggest theater lovers the wrong way.
So is the conundrum of the new film, Carnage, based on the award-winning play God of Carnage.
The film, set entirely in a Brooklyn apartment, paints a portrait of flaring emotions between two parent couples: The repressed Nancy (Kate Winslet) and her manic businessman husband Alan (Christoph Waltz) vs. the laid back shlub Michael (John C. Reilly) and his type-A wife Penelope (Jodie Foster). The warring duos are pitted against one another after Nancy and Alan's son smacks Michael and Penelope's son in the mouth with a stick. Unfortunately, the request for apologies opens a Pandora's Box filled with vehemence and philosophical debate. A few cocktails and no thoughts go unspoken.
The film was translated to screen by playwright Yasmina Reza and director Roman Polanski (Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby, The Ghost Writer) and their work appears faithful. Carnage is a 90 minute roller coaster—sharp dialogue zipping us up and down the emotional spectrum as the couples unwind and explode. Each character has their own cadence (Foster's Penelope moves and talks like a twitching chipmunk, while Waltz employs a slower, condescending swagger), but hushed moments are few and far between. Everyone wants the last word.
Committing to a heightened reality leaves Carnage feeling like a theatrical affair (which turned off many of the New York Film Festival-goers), but Polanski and his quartet of talented thespians work magic with the material. Foster's always been an understated actress and watching her come alive is a delight. She makes the smallest details—like opening and closing a refrigerator door—mean something. In a claustrophobic space, that's key. Reilly finds a balance between his dramatic films (Magnolia, The Hours) and his comedies (Talladega Nights, Step Brothers) and crafts the perfect pitiful putz. Waltz steals the show, radiating a complete distaste for the situation around him by bouncing back and forth between his cell phone and the real world. He knows he's a douchebag. He loves that he's a douchebag. Winslet is strong, but feels the least involved—that is, until she projectile vomits across the room and becomes completely unhinged.
Watching the quartet shout, glare, run around the apartment and face-off against one another is like watching a visceral dance. Polanski turns the boxed-in set into an obstacle course, gliding along with the actors as they move throughout the house and selecting anxiety-ridden shots to elevate the couples' argument. The cinematics escalate as the throw-down does, keeping shots simple and composed as the couples meet, then relying on near-Hitchcock style when heads start spinning.
After the screening of the film, many of the audience members around me asked, "why was that a movie?" Yes, Carnage is stagey, and that can be an obvious turn-off. But to that complaint I retort: Does every movie have to be like a movie? The film's theatrics are what make it unique, and watching stellar actors like Foster, Winslet, Reilly and Waltz engage each other with unadulterated acting is an exhilarating experience.
That's why it's a movie.
Read our previous New York Film Festival coverage:
Kirsten Dunst Proves Her Range in Melancholia
With the unveiling of the official competition and Un Certain Regard lineups for the Cannes Film Festival Thursday morning in Paris came the news that Mel Gibson will be striding up the red carpet next month.
The actor will be out to support Jodie Foster’s The Beaver which has an out-of-competition berth. That news, which was imparted by the festival’s general delegate Thierry Fremaux ahead of announcing the films in official competition, was just one bit of info which appeared to get the assembled journalists all a-Twitter.
The rest of the announcements, while somewhat anticipated, make for a Cannes festival that will be heavy on art house bigwigs and newcomers alike.
The roster of returning talent includes such powerhouse auteurs as Lars von Trier with Melancholia, Pedro Almodovar with The Skin I Live In, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne with Le Gamin au Velo, Aki Kaurismaki with Le Havre, Radu Milhaileanu with La Source des Femmes, Nanni Moretti with We Have a Pope, Paolo Sorrentino with This Must Be the Place and, of course, Terrence Malick with Tree of Life. That film had actually been expected to be in competition last year but was not ready in time. Malick won the directing prize for Days of Heaven when he was last in competition in 1979.
Sean Penn stars in the English-language Sorrentino film and in Tree of Life which also has Brad Pitt – a near-certain bet to make an appearance in Cannes – and Jessica Chastain. Other stars potentially gracing the red carpet in support of their films include Kirsten Dunst and Kiefer Sutherland who star in Melancholia while Pitt’s partner Angelina Jolie is a likely attendee for the Kung Fu Panda sequel, although that film is not among the official selections.
The cast of Woody Allen’s opening night film, Midnight in Paris includes Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams and model/singer-turned-first-lady Carla Bruni Sarkozy while Rob Marshall’s Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is screening out of competition which can only mean that Johnny Depp and French partner Vanessa Paradis will be on hand on the Riviera.
But, while a major element of Cannes is the glitz and glamour, the most important component is the films.
Along with the big name auteurs this year will be new talent like Australian Julia Leigh whose first film Sleeping Beauty has scored a competition berth. There are 19 films in competition and 19 in the complementary Un Certain Regard sidebar. All told, there are six female directors with films across the two sections which marks a first for the festival.
Austrian Markus Schleinzer is no stranger to Cannes having acted as casting director for many of the films of Palme d’Or winner Michael Haneke, but this time he’ll be on the Croisette with his directorial debut, Michael.
Making his first trip to Cannes is cult favorite Nicolas Winding Refn. The Pusher director will be on hand with competition entry Drive which stars Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan.
Other English-language titles include Sean Durkin’s feature debut, Martha Marcy May Marlene which originally premiered in Sundance and stars Elizabeth Olsen. That film will run in Un Certain Regard. Lynne Ramsay’s We Need to Talk About Kevin with Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly is in competition.
In introducing the selection, which has some notable absences (Dominik Moll’s The Monk and David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method among them), Fremaux remarked that although he and his committees chose 49 films for the official selection, “there were a lot more than 49 films that we liked.”
Cannes runs from May 11-22 with Robert De Niro overseeing the main jury as president. Keep an eye out for Hollywood.com’s Cannes blog which will run down the daily festivities direct from the Riviera and the red carpet.
Full list of official selection films:
Midnight in Paris - Woody Allen
The Skin I Live In - Pedro Almodovar
House of Tolerance - Bertrand Bonello
Pater - Alain Cavalier
Footnote - Joseph Cedar
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia - Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Le Gamin au Velo - Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Le Havre - Aki Kaurismaki
Hanezu No Tsuki - Naomi Kawase
Sleeping Beauty - Julia Leigh
Poliss - Maiwenn
The Tree of Life - Terrence Malick
La Source des Femmes - Radu Mihaileanu
Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai - Takashi Miike
We Have a Pope - Nanni Moretti
We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lynne Ramsay
Michael - Markus Schleinzer
This Must Be the Place - Paolo Sorrentino
Melancholia - Lars Von Trier
Drive - Nicolas Winding Refn
Out of Competition
The Conquest - Xavier Durringer
The Beaver - Jodie Foster
The Artist - Michel Hazanavicius
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Rob Marshall
Un Certain Regard
Restless - Gus Van Sant (opening film)
The Hunter “ Bakur Bakuradeze
Halt auf freier Strecke - Andreas Dresen
Hors Satan - Bruno Dumont
Martha Marcy May Marlene - Sean Durkin
The Snows of Kilamanjaro - Robert Guedeguian
Skoonheid - Oliver Hermanus
The Day He Arrives - Hong Sang-soo
Bonsai - Cristian Jimenez
Tatsumi - Eric Koo
Arirang - Kim Ki-duk
Where Do We Go Now? - Nadine Labaki
Loverboy - Catalin Mitulescu
Yellow Sea - Na Hong-jin
Miss Bala – Gerardo Naranjo
Trabalhar Cansa - Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra
L’Exercice de l’Etat - Pierre Schoeller
Toomelah - Ivan Sen
Oslo, August 31 - Joachim Trier
Wu Xia - Chan Peter Ho-Sun
Dias de Gracia - dir. Tekla Taidelli
Labrador - Frederikke Aspock
Le Maitre des Forges de l’Enfer - Rithy Panh
Michel Petrucciani - Michael Radford
Tous Au Larzac - Christian Rouaud
AdAge wonders what's behind a seeming resurgence of the high-end indie market this summer.
Despite the franchises and tentpoles that are starting to roll out, the summer release schedule appears to have an oddly high number of smaller, original films that would normally seem more at home in the high-art winter months.
In part, says AdAge, the raft of indies coming out is a result of a pretty strong festival season earlier in the year. A number of the films, like Get Low, Cyrus and The Kids Are All Right, debuted at Sundance and other festivals.
While counterprogramming is one reason behind the thrust, part of it might also be because the studios doing the releasing see the opportunity to actually make money by presenting -- from an artistic point of view -- a quality product to the audience.
It also could be that this summer is -- Iron Man 2, Toy Story 3 in a few weeks, and Twilight: Eclipse notwithstanding -- looking a tad anemic. AdAge opines that if you were to ask a serious movie fan what they were looking forward to on the mid-year release schedule, only a couple movies would make their lists until the August debut of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
Right now, Iron Man 2 is still the No. 2 movie in the US, something that shouldn't really be happening after three weeks and at this point in the season.
Says AdAge, there appear to be opportunities for a smaller movie, even one in limited release, to make a relatively big splash on the box office charts. Whatever the root cause of this mini-resurgence, AdAge contends that it means there's life remaining in the high-end prestige film market.
While reports that he was penning a feature adaptation of Laverne & Shirley were shot down last week, Jamie Foxx is back in the spotlight with an urban-flavored sketch-comedy show at Fox.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the network has ordered a pilot for an untitled project executive produced by Foxx and fellow In Living Color writers (and MadTV creators) Fax Bahr and Adam Small.
Wild 'N Out alum Affion Crockett is attached as one of the stars.
THR says the pilot is the result of merging two projects: Foxx was looking to do a sketch-comedy series with an urban twist while Sony TV-based Tantamount (which is producing the show with Fox TV Studios) was working on a sketch-comedy project starring Crockett.
After hearing both pitches, Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly proposed marrying the projects.
Deadline.com is reporting that talks are underway to make a documentary feature out of Conan O'Brien's upcoming 30-city live comedy/music revue, "The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour."
Meanwhile, there are reports today that Fox is inching closer to bringing O'Brien back to late night –- but that he could also opt to go the syndication route.
Regarding the documentary, Deadline says it's heard that Media Rights Capital has already had conversations about coming aboard as financier while Rodman Flender is in talks to direct.
On the TV front, The Los Angeles Times says key Fox executives, including Rupert Murdoch, are on board with a plan to bring O'Brien into the fold and would like to finalize a deal in coming weeks.
However, several significant issues remain and the Fox talks could fall apart, people close to the negotiations told the LAT.
Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly and Entertainment Chairman Peter Rice have been leading the campaign to bring O'Brien to the network, say LAT sources. But their bosses have told them to demonstrate that a late show would be financially viable. (Fox wants to spend less than $60 million a year for the show, people close to the discussions told the paper.)
If talks break off with Fox, its sibling, FX, has made it very clear it would jump at the chance to launch a nightly show with O'Brien, The Wrap notes.
The Wrap also reports that another option for O'Brien would be syndication. The Web site says there has been serious interest from at least two major syndication companies in launching a syndicated version of O'Brien's show not in late night -- but as an early fringe talk show that would air in the hour just before primetime.
Debmar Mercury has talked with O'Brien's reps about such a scenario, two people familiar with the conversations told TW. Another major syndication player has also expressed interest in O'Brien.
Syndication is currently seen as a long shot, but if O'Brien opts for the notion, it could end up being extremely lucrative.
Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly told reporters on Monday, "We're kind of digesting it the same way you are. We are a little bit just in sort of the 'wowee' mode right now." He was talking about the shake-up at NBC and the speculation that Conan O'Brien might find a home at Fox.
At the TCA press tour, Reilly and Fox Entertainment chair Peter Rice said they have very informally discussed O'Brien's situation with the host's reps, but have held no conversations about being a potential home for him.
O'Brien's contractual terms at NBC could affect Fox's pursuit of him in several ways, The New York Times noted. Reilly, according to the NYT, acknowledged that even if O'Brien found a home at Fox, NBC could insist that it had the right to keep him from starting a show for an extended period of time -- as long as a year or more.
Laying aside O'Brien's issues at NBC, another hurdle Fox would face if it were to bring the host over would be clearing a late-night talker. Stations have done quite well with syndicated fare, where they get to hold on to more advertising inventory. "The affiliates have, on a case by case basis, committed to their own programming," Reilly said, according to Variety. "That becomes a very sensitive business discussion. But with a top piece of talent that makes it a conversation to have."
Meanwhile, media outlets also reported yesterday that News Corp. is considering a restructuring of its TV division that would re-shuffle duties among top executives.
Rice is expected to assume greater control over the entertainment assets, including the cable side, while David Hill will gain greater power on the sports side.
Broadcasting & Cable reported that Fox National Cable Networks President Rich Battista could end up either being reassigned within the company or out the door.
Still being determined are changes, if any, to the role of Fox Networks Group chairman Tony Vinciquerra.
The moves are part of News Corp. COO Chase Carey's plans to streamline operations and consolidate TV programming under two executives, The Los Angeles Times reported citing unidentified sources.
Back at the TCA press tour, Rice's and Reilly's session was also spent discussing Simon Cowell's exit from American Idol and the 2011 launch of The X Factor.
Other topics discussed included last week’s shelving of Our Little Genius.
"(Mark Burnett) has indicated he wants to re-produce the show himself, but we haven't engaged him on that yet," Reilly said.
In other FOX-TCA news, Reilly said the network is looking to expand its animation horizon beyond Seth MacFarlane (having recently picked up the series Bob's Burgers, for example). "We're looking to broaden our animation brand a little bit, (so) we're not all Seth all the time," he said.