As a movie fan, I love summer. It's the season when Hollywood puts every dollar they've got on screen in extravagant, often-ludicrous blockbusters, realizing fantastical worlds that, before, we could only close our eyes and imagine. Every weekend is another bombastic mega-budgeted event, and while quality ranges from "brilliant" to "evidence of the end of days," each one plays its part in the dynamic of the summer stretch.
The four month run is the perfect lead up to the awards season, when the studios pull back and pay their respects to the dramatic, unleashing a wave of prestige pictures that prioritize high art and great performances over popcorn-munching action sequences. The Oscars are like a second Christmas for me, and I look forward to the annual race of who could take home Hollywood's top prizes by year end. Cinematic greatness as competition — while others root for their favorite sports team, I have Best Actors and Actress to champion.
At the end of the day, I have to admit to myself that these two annual waves of movies barely scratch the surface of "the year in film." The international scene, independently financed films that only play a few theaters in the U.S., even movies that find major release stateside but go under-appreciated by the award season machine — hundreds of films emerge each year only to slide under the radar of the average movie-goer. That's why I count on the Cannes Film Festival, a gateway to the movies that aren't on anyone's radar. Mostly, because no one has seen them until they debut at the prestigious French fest.
Standing on the fringe of a film festival rather than diving into it on one's own can be a seemingly pointless experience. "If I'm not there, why do I care?" is a reasonable question. But like the fest-goers, Cannes can be a moment of discovery and a celebration of the finer voices in moviemaking for the people who stayed home (the perk of not attending Cannes: no lines, no chaos, no soaking wet clothes due to torrential downpour!). Suddenly, amongst the alien invasions of Battleship and Men in Black 3, the rave reviews are all for the latest from Oscar-nominated German filmmaker Michael Haneke's devastating dissection of old age, Amor, or Marion Cotillard's knockout performance as a disabled gymnast struggling with love in Rust and Bone. If the latest Marvel superhero movie or mega-budget sci-fi is the ying, the Cannes film slate is the yang. They're not incompetition, but rather, one helps complicate and appreciate the other.
Cannes is about the best of the best, bold, creative efforts from filmmakers old and new. This year, it's best exampled by the legendary David Cronenberg and his son, Brandon. The former sports Cosmopolis, the trippy road movie across New York City starring Robert Pattinson, while young Cronenberg debuts his first feature: Antiviral, a horror satire infecting celebrity culture. And with tween heartthrobs like Pattinson teaming with known auteurs, Cannes offers a proving ground where expectations can be shattered. Zac Efron, Kristen Stewart and older actors like Matthew McConaughey flock to Cannes ready to stand by their challenging roles and pit them against a demanding audience. Keep eyes on Cannes and see entire careers fortified with one night of films.
While breakouts and star-driven movies can trek all the way to Oscar night (as last year's The Artist did after Jean Dujardin picked up the Best Actor award), Cannes' real gems can be found with a little digging. Scope out the list of movies playing in festival and a little Google searching later, you'll find raves for movies like Mattero Garrone's Gomorrah follow-up Reality, The Celebration director's The Hunt and Cristian Mungiu's film Beyond the Hills (Mungiu won Cannes' top prize, the Palme d'Or, for his highly acclaimed 2007 film 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days). Unlike the rest of the world, that devours American film by the boatload, films from overseas rarely find large audiences in the U.S.. Cannes spoonfeeds us the great ones.
My mother often tells me they don't make movies for her anymore. They do, of course, she's just not looking hard enough. Sifting through Cannes coverage from across the globe is worth it for the adventurous pop culturalist. And there's a gateway for everyone: Cannes is the center of high fashion, the apex of ludicrous party behavior and the shrine for which cineastes bow to the greats of filmdom. Cannes isn't just a fancy film fest for Hollywood bigwigs, it's an opportunity for anyone with a passion for movies to indulge upon.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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[Photo Credit: Cannes Film Festival]
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.