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Film Comment, Chopin, Oscars

The Auteurs DailyRed Riding 1983

"Tony Grisoni adapted 1974 [directed by Julian Jarrold] from the first novel in David Peace's Red Riding Quartet, named for a Grimm's fairytale, the color of blood, and the West Riding district of Yorkshire," writes Graham Fuller in a piece on the Red Riding Trilogy in the new issue of Film Comment. Selections from this January/February issue went up on Friday, the same day an impressive trailer debuted online and a day before the Guardian ran Peace's conversation with James Ellroy. In the US, the Trilogy's screened in Telluride and at the New York Film Festival and, in the entry gathering reviews from both festivals, you'll find the Telegraph noting that it's "attracted some of British television's most achingly hip talent."

Fuller notes that Grisoni "also adapted 1977, which wasn't filmed; 1980, which was directed by James Marsh; and 1983, directed by Anand Tucker. The absence of 1977 doesn't dilute the overall intensity, but producer Andrew Eaton still hopes to greenlight it once Ridley Scott has completed his American feature adaptation of the entire quartet. It's been mooted that Scott's film will be set in a run-down industrial state such as Pennsylvania, but whether the screenwriter, Steve Zaillian, will feel obliged to replicate the fierce regionalism of Peace's novels, as did Grisoni, is another matter."

Also in Film Comment: Lists, or polls, rather, which I've made note of in the current lists and awards tracker. You've seen the decade list, but here it is again, cut to 100. Dozens of critics have also voted on the best of 2009 and Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker squeaks past Lucrecia Martel's The Headless Woman into the #1 spot. Women, by the way, have directed four out of the top ten films on that list. Contributors also look back on the "Movies That Mattered in 2009: For Better or for Worse" and ahead, in a way, in another annotated batch (duly noted, too, in the 2010 entry): "Terra Incognita: 19 unknown pleasures from around the world to look out for."

And also online: Andrew Sarris on Marco Bellocchio's Vincere, Amy Taubin on Jacques Audiard's A Prophet, Chris Chang on Philippe Grandrieux's Un Lac, Paul Fileri on the African Film Library and Laura Kern on last fall's Thessaloniki International Film Festival.

Meantime, as Poland begins a year-long celebration of Chopin's 200th, the Film Society of Lincoln Center marks the bicentenary with the brief series, Fryderyk Chopin and the Cinema. Aleksander Ford's The Youth of Chopin (1952), screening this afternoon, "has everything going against it," writes Dan Sallitt: "not only the unrewarding conventions of the biopic, but also an apparent governmental mandate to cast Chopin as a people's revolutionary. And it's a knockout anyway, a film that only gradually reveals how unorthodox and experimental it is."



Though the Oscar nominations won't be announced until February 2 (the ceremony itself is on March 7) and, granted, the Golden Globes are awarded just a week from today, the awards season hoopla is well underway. In part because there isn't much else to do until the triple whammy of Sundance (January 21 through 31), Rotterdam (January 27 through February 7) and Berlin (February 11 through 21), but also in part because "coverage" sells ads. We like to pretend it's all fluff, but the season does give, say, the critics of the New York Times an opportunity to return to the films of the previous year that spoke to them and probe just how they spoke to them.

The Hurt Locker

For Manohla Dargis, "The Hurt Locker is a war movie that successfully goes where few do or can: inside the kill zone of a man's head, namely that of Staff Sgt William James (Jeremy Renner), a young bomb tech who lives for his near-death experiences." She's particularly interested in the way one scene works, in Kathryn Bigelow's directorial finesse. Her "accordionlike editing, along with the zooms and hand-held camera work - which at times feels almost frantic even as it remains utterly controlled - all help to destabilize the visuals, which adds more edge to the already tense setups." By the way, in today's Los Angeles Times, Cristy Lytal talks with Paul NJ Ottosson, the film's sound supervisor, sound designer and re-recording mixer.

Back in the NYT, AO Scott chooses a scene early on in Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are: "Nearly everything that happens on that island is foreshadowed in the first few minutes of the movie, in which nothing very extraordinary happens at all." Stephen Holden is still struck by the scene in Oren Moverman's The Messenger when Capt Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) and Sgt Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) "inform Olivia Pitterson (Samantha Morton), the young mother of a 9-year-old boy, of her husband's death." Betsy Sharkey profiles Harrelson in the LAT.

More profiles: Terrence Rafferty on George Clooney and David Carr on Mo'Nique in the NYT and Mark Olsen on Fish Tank's Katie Jarvis in the LAT.

"If 3D takes hold, it won't be the exclusive doing of Avatar, but the result of a long series of small technological steps and tiny adjustments in audience expectations," writes the NYT's Dave Kehr. "The process is far from over, and its outcome is by no means clear." In the LAT, John Horn reports on a screening of Waking Sleeping Beauty, "a new documentary recounting the 10 years starting in 1984 when Disney's animation arm was transformed from a rudderless shadow of its former self (the dark and disturbing The Black Cauldron marking the nadir) into the creative and financial heart (with the life-affirming The Lion King at the apex) of the sprawling entertainment conglomerate."

The NYT's Michael Cieply reports on the mood in Hollywood: "Privately, some academy governors - who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid tarnishing their big night - have called the doubling of best-picture nominees an experiment. It will be put back on the shelf, one governor said recently, if ultimately the new plethora of contenders does not boost the energy level, and ratings, of ABC's annual Oscar broadcast."

Also: Terrence Rafferty on why Roger Corman's "Special Oscar" is long overdue; and Douglas McGrath argues that the Academy needs to give one to Doris Day: "there is no one more deserving."

The NYT also presents key scenes from screenplays that might get nods from the Academy: Inglourious Basterds (written, of course, by Quentin Tarnatino), A Serious Man (Joel and Ethan Coen), Bright Star (Jane Campion) and An Education (Nick Hornby).

Dave Kehr: "Only three men (and, needless to say, no women) have won more than two Oscars for directing: Frank Capra, John Ford and William Wyler. A look at their winners - all have been issued on home video, though The Best Years of Our Lives is out of print - suggests how the taste of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has developed since its founding in 1927."

One more item: "And the Nominees Should Be..."

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