Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Margin Call Review

by Francisco Salazar

Power, money, and corruption describe Margin Call, a solid thriller about the 2008 financial Meltdown. The film opens as junior employees Peter Sullivan (a passive Zachary Quinto), his co-worker  Seth Bergman (a charismatic Penn Badgley) and senior trader Emerson (Paul Bettany) watch human resources layoff workers. One of the laid-off workers is their boss Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci), in charge of risk management. As he leaves his office Eric gives Sullivan a USB he believes has important information for the business. His parting words are "Be Careful." These words come back to haunt Sullivan as he finishes Eric's work and discovers that the firm is in crisis. All hell breaks loose sparking all the company's big guns into action until eventually CEO John Tuld (Jeremy Irons) reveals that he will sell all his worthless assets in order to save his company.

All the events occur in a time frame of 24 hours making for a tense ride. However, the film lacks a true central character even though the film initially hints at Peter Sullivan as our hero. However, after setting the entire film in motion, Sullivan becomes nothing more than a plot device, doling out information for those who need some updating. During one scene, Sullivan and Rogers (Kevin Spacey) are having a conversation about their next moves and all Sullivan can think to do is ask question after question. Even when you think the scene is done, he comes up with another question, which gets a bit testy. It doesn't help that Zachary Quinto plays Sullivan with a poker face and does not seemed worried in the least. He's one of the youngest workers in the company and even if he made the discovery, there's no assurance that he's well protected. And even if he was, there should be other concerns on his mind right? Quinto does not provide the viewer with any insight into Sullivan's mind. 

I wouldn't complain about the lack of character development. This is more of a slice of life so to speak and its characters mere symbols to help the uninitiated have a clearer understanding of how the events unraveled. However, we are treated to some excellent performances throughout. Kevin Spacey stands out as Sam Rogers, who faces a moral dilemma of  whether he should fall into the trap of corruption or quit the firm before they commit fraud. He takes the mantle of being the film's central character in the final half as everyone else's actions hinge on his. Spacey's performance is internalized and doesn't give away much. Spacey is one of those actors who has the ability to pull the viewer in and make him/her wonder what is going on inside the character's mind. That is no exception in this performance and it is easily one of the more compelling I have seen from Spacey in some time. 

However, it is Jeremy Irons who steals the show in a towering performance as charismatic CEO John Tuld with coldness and assertion. Knowing full well that this is one of those men that has ruined our country, it is easy to hate him. However, the charisma and passion that Irons brings to Tuld sucks you in and even makes you understand him despite your every attempt to resist. Paul Bettany plays an ambiguous executive with a tragic aura. 

The film making is relentless. The subject matter is heavy, but a strong script and balanced pacing enables for the audience to keep up without letting up on the tension. 

Margin Call demonstrates that no matter how much dilemmas or moral qualms human's have, money and power ultimately win over. While it may not appeal to a wide audience, Margin Call is certainly a thought-provoking and engaging film that shows promise in J.C Chandor’s directing abilities.


The Artist and Take Shelter dominate the Indie Spirit Awards

The Independent Spirt Awards have announced their nominations. The Artist and Take Shelter scored 5 nominations including Best Feature. 50/50, The Descendants, Beginners and Drive also scored a best feature nomination. 

Curiously though George Clooney, Glen Close, Bernice Bejo, Ewan McGregor and Carey Mulligan were snubbed from nominations in their respective categories. Also missing was Midnight in Paris in the best film category. Many have stated that it is one of the best films of the year. 

Previous winners include The Wrestler, Black Swan and Brokeback Mountain. 

The Nominations
Best Feature 
The Descendants
Take Shelter
The Artist
Best First Feature
Another Earth
In The Family

Margin Call
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Natural Selection
Best Male Lead
Demian Bichir-A Better Life
Jean Dujardin-The Artist
Ryan Gosling-Drive
Woody Harrelson-Rampart
Michael Shannon-Take Shelter

Best Female Lead
Lauren Ambrose-Think of Me
Rachael Harris-Natural Selection
Adepero Oduye-Pariah

Elizabeth Olsen-Martha Marcy May Marlene
Michelle Williams-My Week with Marilyn
Best Supporting Male
Albert Brooks-Drive
John Hawkes-Martha Marcy May Marlene

Christopher Plummer-Beginners
John C.Reilly-Cedar Rapids
Corey Stoll-Midnight in Paris
Best Supporting Female
Jessica Chastain-Take Shelter

Angelica Huston-50/50 
Janet McTeer-Albert Nobbs
Harmony Santana-Gun Hll Road
Shailene Woodley-The Descendants
Best Screenplay
Joseph Cedar-FootNote
Michel Hazanavicius-The Artist
Tom McCarthy-Win Win
Mike Mills-Beginners
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash-The Descendants
Best First Screenplay
Mike Cahill & Brit Marling-Another Earth
J.C. Chandor-Margin Call 
Patrick DeWitt-Terri
Phil Johnston-Cedar Rapids
Will Reiser-50/50
Best Cinematography
Joel Hodge-Bellflower
Benjamin Kuh-Sulk-The Off Hours
Darius Kond-Jee-Midnight in Paris
Gui-omme Shiffman-The Artist
Jeffrey Waldron-The Dynamiter
Best International Film
A Separation
The Kid With a Bike
Best Documentary
An African Selection
Bill Cunningham's New York
The Interrupters
The Redemption of General Butt Naked
We Were HereSomeone to Watch Award: Simon Arthur
Mark Jackson and Nicholas Ozeki
Piaget Producers Award:  Chad Burris, Sophia Lin and Josh Mond
Truer Than Fiction Award: Heather Courtney, Danfung Dennis, and Alma Har'El
John Cassavetes Award
Hello Lonesome
The Dynamiter
Robert Altman Award for one film’s director, casting director and ensemble: Margin Call

The Artist wins the New York Film Critics Circle

The Artist has been picked as the Best Picture award at the NYFCC. The film also won Best Director.

Moneyball also scored key awards for Best screenplay and Best Actor. The Tree of Life scored three awards for Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Cinematography.

Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Descendants, War Horse and Midnight in Paris which were expected to win awards today were ultimately snubbed.

Previous winners include Milk, The Hurt Locker and The Social Network. All these films picked up a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards with The Hurt Locker winning the Best Picture.

Best Picture: The Artist
Best Director-Michel Hazanvicius-The Artist
Best Actor-Brad Pitt-Moneyball, The Tree of Life
Best Actress: Meryl Streep-The Iron Lady
Best Supporting Actor-Albert Brooks-Drive
Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain-The Tree of Life, The Help, Take Shelter
Best Foreign Film: A Separation
Best Screenplay-Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian-Moneyball
Best Cinematography: Emanuel Lubeski-The Tree of Life
Best First Feature: Margin Call
Best NonFiction Film: Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Oscar Race: Lionsgate

Here is Lionsgate's  Oscar campaign: http://www.lionsgateawards.com/

Monday, November 28, 2011

Gotham Award Winners

Beginners and The Tree of Life win big at the Gotham Awards.

Best Feature
  • Beginners-WINNER
  • The Descendants
  • Meek's Cutoff
  • Take Shelter
  • The Tree of Life-WINNER
Best Documentary
  • Better This World-WINNER
  • Bill Cunningham New York
  • Hell and Back Again
  • The Interrupters
  • The Woodmans
Best Ensemble Performance
  • Beginners-WINNER
    Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Mélanie Laurent, Goran Visnjic, Kai Lennox, Mary Page Keller, Keegan Boos
  • The Descendants
    George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Beau Bridges, Robert Forster, Judy Greer, Matthew Lillard, Nick Krause, Amara Miller, Mary Birdsong, Rob Huebel
  • Margin Call
    Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley, Simon Baker, Mary McDonnell, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci, Aasif Mandvi
  • Martha Marcy May Marlene
    Elizabeth Olsen, Christopher Abbott, Brady Corbet, Hugh Dancy, Maria Dizzia, Julia Garner, John Hawkes, Louisa Krause, Sarah Paulson
  • Take Shelter
    Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Tova Stewart, Shea Whigham, Katy Mixon, Kathy Baker, Ray McKinnon, Lisagay Hamilton, Robert Longstreet
Breakthrough Director
  • Mike Cahill for Another Earth
  • Sean Durkin for Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Vera Farmiga for Higher Ground
  • Evan Glodell for Bellflower
  • Dee Rees for Pariah-WINNER
Breakthrough Actor
  • Felicity Jones in Like Crazy-WINNER
  • Elizabeth Olsen in Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Harmony Santana in Gun Hill Road
  • Shailene Woodley in The Descendants
  • Jacob Wysocki in Terri
Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You
  • Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same
  • Green
  • The Redemption of General Butt Naked
  • Scenes of a Crime-WINNER
  • Without

Monday, November 21, 2011

Oscar Race: Roadside Attractions

Roadside Attractions unveils their awards website as they gear up for the Oscars.

Here is the link: http://www.roadsideawards.com/

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Melancholia Review

By: David Salazar

Lars Von Trier's Melancholia begins with an extended 10 minute montage set to the glorious Prelude from Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde (the only non-diegetic music in the entire film that reoccurs time and time again)." This piece of music is both legendary and notorious for its profound impact on the direction of the music world in the middle of the 19th century. It is the music of longing, of sadness, of depression, and yes, of melancholy. More importantly, this music is famous for its "Tristan" Chord, a tonal conglomeration that remains suspended with no real direction or resolution. It is the ultimate expression of the lost soul searching for healing where there is none.

Which brings us to Von Trier's film. The entire opening sequence presents us with images of suspension. Particularly striking to me was a wide profile of Kirsten Dunst's Justine in a wedding dress, the tail of the dress being pulled into the dirt and her intended forward movement made impossible. Another striking image is Charlotte Gainsbourg's Claire holding her child, attempting to run through a field but making no progress. This opening collage of suspended, seemingly eternal moments sets the mood for Von Trier's analysis on the unhappiness of humanity and how it ultimate leads to the world's downfall.

The film is operatic in scope and even structure. It opens with the aforementioned prelude and is then divided into two acts, one emphasizing Justine and the latter emphasizing Claire. The first act takes place mainly in the public sphere, while the latter emphasizes the personal, the intimate. The reoccurence of Tristan Prelude throughout the film serves as a leitmotif to remind the audience of the  helplessness and search for wholeness of its characters. The use of the music is sparring, but there is a great deal of precision with regards to the timing of the editing in combination with the music's distinct phrases. For example, the prelude's 7th phrase has the orchestra erupt in one grand plea of sound. During the opening montage, the first few shots portray the two main women suspended in time. When this explosion of sound from the prelude occurs, Von Trier takes us to space to see the two planets preparing to converge: the enormity of the conflict is presented to us for the first time accompanied by the grandiosity of the musical lament emphasizing the lament not just of two people, but the entire world. This same explosive phrase is reused to portray the audience's discovery of a character naked by the river and gazing up at the destructive planet. Both times that the prelude was employed in this manner were truly incredible.

As the film begins, Justine has just gotten married and is on her way to the party at her sister Claire's mansion. Justine and her new husband Michael (Alexander Skarsgard) are late to their wedding party because their limo got stuck in the road and they were forced to walk all the way to the party. Claire and her rich husband John (Kiefer Sutherland) are unhappy with the late arrival. Once they arrive at the party everything seems to be going decently until Justine's mother Gaby (a humorous yet somewhat vicious Charlotte Rampling) presents a negative attitude about the wedding. From here everything goes south and Justine who was initially giddy becomes increasingly detached from the proceedings. Her attitude irritates a great majority of the guests, leading to mass pandemonium.

The second half of the film emphasizes Claire's fear of a planet "Melancholia" coming into the contact with the world and potentially destroy her entire family and existence. Her husband John, an expert on astronomy assures her that there will be no problem, but it does not seem to alleviate Claire's concerns.

The film is slowly paced, much like its opening montage, but maintains a gritty style thanks in part to its dependence on natural lighting that underexposes a great deal of the indoor visuals (essentially partial Dogma film making). However, this slow pace does not only enhance the dark and hopeless feel of the film, but enables the viewer the opportunity to digest the wealth of ideas that Von Trier throws his/her way.

The film does not really reveal much information regarding the origins of the planet, or the nature of Justine's problems. It is also essential to say that Von Trier's narrative is straightforward and predictable.  While some critics may have found fault with these elements, I do not. It is clear that the film, like many of Von Trier's, was intended as a philosophical statement and that the planet and the majority of its characters are merely symbols and ideas through which he wishes to express his perceptions.

Just because the characters are symbols does not mean the actors have nothing to do here. The performances are strong throughout, led by a breakout performance (in my opinion) by Kirsten Dunst, who goes from cheerful to moribund throughout the film. And yet, in her final moments she regains control and salvages some dignity for her character. There are moments where there is a dark, almost haunting edge to her Justine that makes one shudder. Gainsbourg's Claire juxtaposes Dunst's Justine in their arcs as she goes in the complete opposite direction: In control during the early stages to being overwhelmed by her fear.

Much has been said about Von Trier's treatment of women in his films and the negative connotations associated with them (see "Antichrist"). However, this film is more of a condemnation of humanity as a whole. He cuts women a bit more slack here (though as usual they continue to suffer endlessly), but men are portrayed as irresponsible and unwilling to stand up and fight. The film's ending (which many will likely guess), emphasizes a pessimistic existentialism in which humans cause their own destruction through their lack of emotional control and the very fickleness and pointlessness of life in general. The dark subject matter may be too difficult for some, but the simultaneously grand and intimate film making, while not necessarily inspiring, leaves the viewer in a combined state of discomfort and ecstasy.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Today we have the Documentary shortlist and many favorites including Pina and Buck have made the list. However Into the Abbyss and Cave of Forgotten Dreams have been left out.  
Check out the list of the 15 films that made the academy cut.
  • Battle for Brooklyn (RUMER Inc.)
  • Bill Cunningham New York (First Thought Films)
  • Buck (Cedar Creek Productions)
  • Hell and Back Again (Roast Beef Productions Limited)
  • If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (Marshall Curry Productions, LLC)
  • Jane's Journey (NEOS Film GmbH & Co. KG)
  • The Loving Story (Augusta Films)
  • Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (@radical.media)
  • Pina (Neue Road Movies GmbH)
  • Project Nim (Red Box Films)
  • Semper Fi: Always Faithful (Tied to the Tracks Films, Inc.)
  • Sing Your Song (S2BN Belafonte Productions, LLC)
  • Undefeated (Spitfire Pictures)
  • Under Fire: Journalists in Combat (JUF Pictures, Inc.)
  • We Were Here (Weissman Projects, LLC)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Second Oscar Predictions: Visual Categories

Best Art Direction
1. Dante Ferretti-Hugo
2. Laurence Bennett- The Artist
3. Stuart Craig-Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part2
4. Rick Carter-War Horse-NEW
5. James McAteer-A Dangerous Method
Rick Henrichs-Captain America:The First Avenger-The film looks gorgeous but prestige films should easily land a slot in this category taking Captain America out.

Best Cinematography
1. Janusz Kaminski-War Horse
2. Emanuel Lubezki-The Tree of Life
3. Eduardo Serra-Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2
4. Robert Richardson-Hugo-NEW
5. Guillame Schiffman-The Artist
Previously on the List-Tom Stern-J. Edgar-The film received mixed reviews and Tom Stern was criticized for some lighting choices. This is never a good thing in such a competitive category.

Best Costume Design
1. Sandy Powell-Hugo
2. Ariane Phillips-W.E.
3. Michael O'Connor-Jane Eyre
4. Jill Taylor-My Week with Marilyn-NEW

5. Mark Bridges-The Artist

Previously on the List-Denise Cronenberg-A Dangerous Method-This category is alwys difficult to predict especially when there are so many period films this year. Never the less, Cronenberg's costumes should be fierce competition.

Best Editing
1. Michael Kahn-War Horse
2. Kirk Baxter and Angus wall-The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
3. Matthew Newman-Drive
4. Dino Jansater-Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
5. Thelma Schoonmaker-Hugo-NEW
Previously on the list-Stephen Mirrone-The Ides of March-I've compared this to Michael Clayton but this film looks like all the buzz is gone

Visual Effects
1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes-NEW
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2-NEW
3. Hugo-NEW
4. Transformers:Dark of the Moon-NEW
4. Pirates of the Carribean: On Strangers Tide -NEW

1. J.Edgar-NEW
2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2-NEW
3. Hugo-NEW

Oscar Race: Weinstein Company

The Weinstein Company just released their campaign website. 

Here is the Link http://twcguilds.com/

Oscar Race: More Adds

Today we have the latest campaign add for A Dangerous Method

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Brodcast Critic's scores

Courtesy of awards daily we have the broadcast critics scores to a few films. "Broadcast Film Critics’ scores of Oscar contenders often give us an early clue to what Oscar might like, since BFCA and AMPAS share similar tastes in many cases. Here are the BFCA scores for contenders in major categories. I’ve left out the documentaries, which will be dealt with later. Quite a few significant films aren’t rated yet – War Horse, Extremely Loud, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Tinker Tailor, The Artist, Young Adult, Shame, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Albert Nobbs, Iron Lady, A Dangerous Method, Carnage, Rampart – as they’re late releases. Still, this gives us a pretty good set of info for mid-November. It’s relevant to note that in recent years, no film with a BFCA score lower than 85 has been nominated to Oscar’s BP lineup. Yet that doesn’t preclude an acting nom for such a film (Rachel Getting Married – 71). Anyway, here’s the current BFCA hit list."
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 – 93
Martha Marcy May Marlene – 92
The Descendants – 91
Drive – 91
The Ides of March – 91
Moneyball – 91

Oscar Race: More campaign adds

The awards campaigns continue to come.
Here is a look at a number of high profile

Oscar Race: Dreamworks animation

Dreamworks animation has released their official awards campaign for Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots.

Here is the link to their website. http://www.dwaawards.com/

Monday, November 14, 2011

Second Oscar Predictions: Best Picture, Director, and Acting Categories

1. Warhorse
2. Midnight in Paris
3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
4. The Descendants
5. The Artist
6. Shame
7. The Tree of Life
8. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
9. Moneyball
10. Hugo-NEW
Previously on my list-J. Edgar-After mixed reviews and a lukewarm box office, Eastwood's latest endeavor will easily be forgotten. 

Best Director
1. Steven Spielberg-Warhorse
2. Stephen Daldry-Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
3. Michel Hazanavicius-The Artist
4. Alexander Payne-The Descendants
5. Terrence Malick-The Tree of Life-NEW
Previously on my list-Woody Allen-Midnight in Paris-Competition is rough this year and Allen seems like the weakest link in this category.

Best Actor
1. Michael Fassbender-Shame
2. Brad Pitt-Moneyball
3. George Clooney-The Descendants
4. Leonardo Dicaprio-J. Edgar
5. Jean DuJardin-The Artist
No Change but heavy contender-Gary Oldman-Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Best Supporting Actor
1.Christopher Plummer-Beginners
2. Viggo Mortensen-A Dangerous Method
3.Phillip Seymour Hoffman-The Ides of March-NEW
4.Kenneth Branagh-My Week Marilyn
5.Max Von Sydow-Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close-NEW
Previously on the List-George Clooney-The Ides of March, Colin Firth-Tinker Tailor 
Soldier Spy-Clooney's nomination will undoubtedly come from The Descendants and as a result he has no chnace for The Ides of March. As for Firth he did not score a nomination from the BIFA and his two costars Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy did instead. 

Best Actress

2012 Oscar Best Actress predictions
1. Meryl Streep-The Iron Lady
2. Glen Close-Albert Nobbs
3. Elizabeth Olsen-Martha Marcy May Marlene-NEW 
4. Viola Davis-The Help
5. Michelle Williams-My Week with Marilyn
Previously on the List-Keira Knightley-A Dangerous Method-Knightley's performance has scored mixed reception making it a difficult sell.

Best Supporting Actress
1. Carey Mulligan-Shame
2. Vanessa Redgrave-Coriolanus
3. Bernice Bejo-The Artist-NEW
4. Octavia Spencer-The Help
5. Shailene Woodley-The Descendants
Prevously on my list-Sandra Bullock Extremely Loud and  Incredibly Close-The film hasn't been seen yet so it is hard to tell whether the performance is actually great.