Sunday, November 29, 2015

Archive: November, 2011

POSTED: Tuesday, November 29, 2011, 4:20 PM
In the photo: Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo.

Moving their awards confab up ahead of the National Board of Review’s (traditionally the first out of the gate) – and moving it so far ahead that the group didn’t get a chance to see the much-buzzed Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close -- the New York Film Critics Circle kicked the awards season into gear with Tuesday’s doling out of the-best-of-2011 prizes.

The Artist, a lovely tip-o’-the-fedora to Old Hollywood, took the best picture prize, with its director, Frenchman Michel Hazanavicius, winning best director, too. Brad Pitt received the actor nod for both Moneyball and The Tree of Life. Meryl Streep  took the actress prize for her performance in The Iron Lady, in which she incarnates British prime minister Margaret Thatcher (opening here in early 2012). Albert Brooks, normally a funny kind of guy, got the supporting actor citation for his turn as a sadistic mobster in Drive, and Jessica Chastain was awarded supporting actress kudos for her work in a trio of releases: The Help, Take Shelter and The Tree of Life.

Best foreign language film: A Separation, an Iranian film that's floored everyone who's seen it. Best documentary: Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams, which didn’t even make the short list for Academy consideration. (Boo, hiss.) And speaking of not making the list, the New York Film Critics failed to give Alexander Payne’s beautiful, funny, sad, surprising The Descendants, with George Clooney in the strongest performance of his career, any props whatsoever. Egregious, I say!

POSTED: Monday, November 28, 2011, 5:27 PM

Drawn to the outrageousand outlandish like a giant freaky moth to a flame, Ken Russell, the English filmmaker best known for his stormy adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's "Women in Love," and for turning a Franz Liszt biopic into an over-the-top rock opera with robot Nazis, and for the religio-sexual brouhaha of his 17th century witchcraft drama "The Devils," died in his sleep Sunday.

Russell was 84; he recently had suffered a series of strokes, but had been planning any number of new projects.

POSTED: Wednesday, November 23, 2011, 11:18 AM

The Adventures of Tintin, Steven Spielberg’s lavish motion-capture romp based on the comic books about the cowlicked kid reporter, his dog Snowy, and his drunkard sea captain pal, Captain Haddock, doesn’t open stateside until Dec. 21. But overseas, where the Tintin books have long been essential reading for kids and grownups, the film is already out – and already closing in on $200 million in box office receipts.

Spielberg, producer Peter Jackson and screenwriters Joe Cornish and Edgar Wright based their adaptation mostly on The Secret of the Unicorn, the 11th book in Tintin creator Hergé's beloved series. (Red Rackham’s Treasure and The Castafiore Emerald are two other Tintin books whose plots and personnel figure prominently in the Spielberg's pic.) Checking out a copy of any of the Tintin volumes would certainly serve as a good introduction to the characters and the concepts first introduced to the world in the pages of a Belgian newspaper in 1929.

But another great way into the world of Tintin is The Adventures of  Hergé  (Drawn & Quarterly, $19.95), a biographical comic about Georges Remi, aka Hergé, written and illustrated in the clean lines and multi-panel style of the Tintin books themselves. The work of French novelist Jose-Louis Bocquet, graphic novelist Jean-Luc Fromental and artist Stanislas Barthelemy, the book follows its protagonist from his boyhood in Brussels and his very first box of crayons, to his school years and adventures as a Boy Scout, then into the 1930s, when his strips in the children’s newspaper XXe Siecle took off, then through World War II, when some believed Hergé to be a Nazi sympathizer, and onto the professional successes and personal tumult of the post-war years. Chang Chong-Jen, the Chinese art student who became a lifelong friend and key influence of Hergé’s is here, but so, too, surprisingly, is Andy Warhol, who met up with Hergé at an art gallery appearance in 1977. Cool and concise, witty and affectionate, The Adventures of Hergé is charming stuff.

POSTED: Wednesday, November 16, 2011, 10:35 AM

“He really wears his heart on his sleeve, he’s a big hugger,” says Owen Wilson about Woody Allen, his director on this year’s surprise box office and critical hit, Midnight in Paris. And then Wilson pauses for effect, and lets out a piercing, debunking  “No-o-o.” The famously unforthcoming director (actors often talk of getting absolutely NO feedback on his sets) is the subject of American Masters -- Woody Allen: A Documentary, premiering this Sunday and Monday on PBS.

Along with Wilson, the talking heads on the Robert Weide doc include Allen’s Match Point and Vicky Christina Barcelona star Scarlett Johansson, fellow New York director Martin Scorsese, funny guys Larry David and Chris Rock, and Allen veterans Sean Penn (Sweet and Lowdown) and Naomi Watts (You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger). And, of course, there’s Diane Keaton, Allen’s Annie Hall muse, who muses thusly: “On the one hand he’d be brilliant, and his insights were amazing. But on the other hand, he’d be an idiot.”

Allen is interviewed, too, talking about the myth and the man on the two-part American Masters show. Expect Allen and his Midnight in Paris cohorts to be more visible and vocal over the next month or so, as the awards-season gears start grinding. Allen’s 41st feature as director is also his most successful at the box office (it’s earned $55.5 million, domestic), and Sony Pictures Classics is on the hunt for Oscar gold.   

POSTED: Friday, November 11, 2011, 11:14 AM
Ophelia goes for a swim and contemplates Charlotte Gainsbourg while she's at it.

John Everett Millais’s famous Pre-Raphaelite painting, “Ophelia ,” depicting Hamlet’s doomed lover floating in a stream just before she drowns, figures prominently in two films in theaters right now. More than that, the two films are linked by the presence of Charlotte Gainsbourg. In Melancholia, Lars von Trier’s trippy and momentous end-of-the-world tale, the actress presides over an elaborate wedding ceremony for her sister (Kirsten Dunst) and then retreats to her library, where an art book is open to the Millais’ painting. We also see Dunst, in her bridal dress, floating in a stream in a similarly Ophelian pose.

And in Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life, Joann Sfar’s nicely loony biopic of the French pop icon Serge Gainsbourg, there’s a scene in which he waxes artily about Millais’ “Ophelia.” Serge, of course, was the father of Charlotte – with his long-time partner and collaborator, the English model and actress Jane Birkin.    

POSTED: Friday, November 11, 2011, 4:27 PM
Kristen Stewart, right, and Robert Pattinson in "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse."

Twilight series producer Wyck Godfrey joined for a live chat. Read the transcript.

About Wyck Godfrey

In February of 2006, Wyck Godfrey partnered with his friend Marty Bowen, to create their own production company - Temple Hill Entertainment.

POSTED: Wednesday, November 9, 2011, 2:33 PM

Less than 24 hours after director Brett Ratner was booted as producer of the 84th Academy Awards telecast set for February 28, Eddie Murphy – the designated host of the upcoming Oscars and star of Ratner’s just-out caper dud, Tower Heist – has bailed the awards show, as well.

Ratner had handpicked his buddy Murphy for the job, but then the Hollywood big shot made an anti-gay slur during a Q&A session following a Tower Heist screening, and followed that with a Howard Stern Sirius Radio interview in which he seriously offended Academy board members with descriptions of his sex life.

So, what now for the Academy, which had gone with Ratner as a (desperate?) move to add edge and hip-osity to moviedom's annual lovefest…. James Franco and Anne Hathaway, anyone?

POSTED: Tuesday, November 8, 2011, 12:54 PM

Irv Slifkin, aka “Movie Irv,” a screen savant and native of the City of Brotherly Love, will show a stupendous set of clips and talk about some of the many, many movies to have been shot in and around Philadelphia,  this Thursday evening at the Cherry Hill Public Library (just across the cine-iconic Ben Franklin Bridge from Center City). Slifkin’s Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies (Middle Atlantic Press) is indispensible stuff for diehard movie fans -- especially diehard Philly-lovin’ movie fans. Join Slifkin as he screens classic scenes from The Burglar, National Treasure, Jesus’ Son, Marnie, The King of Marvin Gardens, Pride of the Marines and more.

This Thursday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m. at the Cherry Hill Public Library, 1100 Kings Highway North, Cherry Hill, NJ. Info: (856) 667-0300, email:

About this blog

Steven Rea has been an Inquirer movie critic since 1992. He was born in London, raised in New York City, and has lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Iowa City, Iowa. His column, "On Movies," appears Sundays in Arts & Entertainment, his reviews appear in the Weekend section on Fridays. He is a member of the National Society of Film Critics.

Read his most recent columns and reviews, here. He is the author of the book “Hollywood Rides a Bike,” and also curates the movie stars and bicycling photo blog, Rides A Bike.

Reach Steven at

Steven Rea Inquirer Movie Columnist and Critic
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