Will 2018 Have More Female Oscar Contenders Than Ever?

Will 2018 Have More Female Oscar Contenders Than Ever?

2018 is already shaping up to potentially be a history-making year when we finally see more than one woman nominated in the category of Best Director at the Oscars. This victory will not come as a result of political sentiment fueled by the sexual harassment scandals committed against females in the industry, though it will be most welcome in light of it. How wonderful would it be to see multiple women nominated in the Best Director category in the same year that saw the highest-grossing female-directed blockbuster of all time, Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman“? 

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Upon its debut this month, Greta Gerwig’s critically acclaimed, semi-authobiographical coming-of-age comedy, “Lady Bird,” earned the highest per theater average of the 2017 box office. Audiences are clearly hungering for an authentic, richly textured portrait of the female experience, and Gerwig’s film delivered just that with Oscar-caliber performances by Saoirse Ronan (channeling her director with uncanny precision) and Laurie Metcalf (so moving as the teen heroine’s tough love mother). 

Other potential female contenders in the Best Director category this year include Dee Rees for her wrenching period drama, “Mudbound“; Kathryn Bigelow for her brutally affecting factual film, “Detroit“; Aisling Walsh for her touching character study of a naive artist, “Maudie“; Angelina Jolie for her bracing film about Cambodian genocide, “First They Killed My Father“‘; and Valerie Faris for her timely and entertaining tennis dramedy “Battle of the Sexes,” which she co-directed with her husband, Jonathan Dayton. Sorely deserving of more attention is “Novitiate,” Margaret Betts’ powerful ensemble film set in a Catholic church during the Vatican II reforms.

Amanda Liptz, a first time director with her inspirational documentary, “Step,” about a high school girls’ dance team in inner-city Baltimore, could also emerge as a frontrunner in the Best Documentary race. I loved this film so much because it made me root for the dogged resilience of these high school seniors and their families in negotiating the slings and arrows of life, while not dimming their persistence and determination to seek a higher education. And on top of that, it is just downright entertaining. Another of the year’s best documentaries is “Whose Streets?“, a street-level view of the uprising in Ferguson, co-directed by Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis. (Two other documentaries I hope make this year’s shortlist is Steve James’ “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” and Ben Lear’s “They Call Us Monsters“).  

Rachel Morrison also deserves to be in contention for her striking cinematography in “Mudbound” (she also lensed “Fruitvale Station” and the upcoming “Black Panther”). You don’t hear much about women cinematographers and it is good to see that she is amassing an important body of work.

Many films this year contain Oscar-worthy performances from women, both in the leading and supporting categories.

In addition to Ronan, some of the key contenders for Best Actress include Sally Hawkins for her transformative turns in both “The Shape of Water” and “Maudie”; Jessica Chastain’s magnetic work as Molly Bloom in “Molly’s Game”; Emma Stone’s transformation into tennis great Billy Jean King in “Battle of the Sexes,” Margot Robbie’s stunning portrayal of Tonya Harding in “I, Tonya”; Annette Bening’s dead-on turn as Gloria Grahame in “Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool”; and Frances McDormand’s crowd-pleasing performance in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” McDormand commands the screen at every turn. 

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Earning considerably less buzz though no less deserving of contention are past Oscar winners Jennifer Lawrence in “mother!”, Cate Blanchett in “Manifesto” and Anne Hathaway in “Colossal.” Other potential Dark Horse candidates could prove to be Cynthia Nixon in “A Quiet Passion,” Florence Pugh in “Lady Macbeth,” Lois Smith in “Marjorie Prime” and Salma Hayek in “Beatriz at Dinner.” 

I also cherished Tatiana Maslany and Claire Foy’s portrayals of devoted caregivers in “Stronger” and “Breathe,” respectively. And we still have yet to see two eagerly anticipated performances slated for a Christmas release: the fabulous Meryl Streep in Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” and Lesley Manville in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread.”

Joining Metcalf in contention for Best Supporting Actress this year are Allison Janney’s scene-stealing mother in “I, Tonya”; Holly Hunter as the angry protective mother in “The Big Sick“; Elisabeth Moss in “The Square” (among my top three favorite films of the year); Octavia Spencer in “The Shape of Water,” Melissa Leo’s galvanizing Reverend Mother in “Novitiate”; and deeply moving work from Carey Mulligan and Mary J Blige in “Mudbound.” I also want to give an honorable shout-out to Laura Prepon in “The Hero,” whose presence made her romantic scenes with Sam Elliott interesting and believable. 

There are also plenty of young female newcomers deserving of recognition, including Brooklynn Prince in “The Florida Project,” Sareum Srey Moch in “First They Killed My Father”, Seo-Hyun Ahn in “Okja” and McKenna Grace in “Gifted” (she also plays the young Tonya Harding in “I, Tonya”).

And though this performance may not have enough screen time to be in contention, let’s not forget Betty Gabriel’s bone-chilling performance as the maid in Jordan Peele’s “Get Out“, my #1 movie of the year. It’s been months since I’ve seen that movie and I cannot get her Oscar-caliber, off-kilter performance or her haunted face out of my head. In fact, Academy, let’s not forget her. 

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A Disappearing Act: Gary Oldman on “Darkest Hour”

A Disappearing Act: Gary Oldman on “Darkest Hour”

With roles like Lee Harvey Oswald, George Smiley, Dracula and Commissioner Gordon in his resume, Gary Oldman has made a special career out of his chameleon-like approach to acting. His latest endeavor is none other than the British Bulldog himself, Winston Churchill, in a film by Joe Wright that looks at the prime minister in the early days of World War II. Oldman is impeccable as the iconic leader, treating his many speeches with fascinating vigor, and looking exactly like him, thanks to prosthetics work and precise physicality. While the role has Oldman designated as an official front runner for this year’s Best Actor Oscar, it’s already a home run for an actor who has made so many distinctly different characters shine on the silver screen.

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Oldman spoke with RogerEbert.com about the physical and mental process of getting into the character, looking at Churchill as a type of performer and more. 

I’m very curious about your chameleon-like approach to acting. What kind of skill do you think gives you the ability to recognize so many different lives and then portray them? 

I think for an actor you need … it’s about observation. I think a lot to do with it is one’s concentration and focus. I sort of have a good ear, a facility for that kind of thing. It’s all the things that you need as an actor. I think you can hone and sharpen intuition, but you kind of have to have it. It’s in the choices that you make. I suppose I was a bit of an impersonator when I was a kid. Even as a young kid. But I do have an ability to meet people and I could very … not with everyone, and not that I consciously do it, but I can meet people and find that I can do an impersonation of people very quickly. 

But with Winston, it was exactly that. It was not only the reading material, which is of course voluminous. But the footage of the man, there’s actually more there than I thought. And so it was a case of really just watching and re-watching and studying everything from speech patterns to mannerisms to how he used his hands how he moved through a space. I think that we have an idea of who Churchill was, and I’m not sure if that idea of him is not influenced by other people that have played him, so you feel that you have an idea of who he is because you saw Robert Hardy, or Albert Linney. For me it was to really go back to the man, and avoid all of the other … I watched Robert Hardy at the time when it was programmed, but I didn’t want to be contaminated sort of by anyone else’s performance. 

In this telling of Churchill, there’s this angle of him being a type of performer or an actor. There’s even a sort of line about, “which ‘Sir’ am I going to be today?” Did you ever look at him as an actor or connect with him like that? 

I think he had a real sense of branding, of marketing. He was an unusual, he was a bit of a dandy. As time moved forward he seemed to sartorially stay in that sort of Victorian attire with the button boots and the waistcoat and the fob watch and that kind of thing and the hats. The cane. The walking stick. So he had a certain affectation, and obviously was a great orator and had a great sense of language. And we have recordings of him, speaking those sort of speeches and three or four of the most glorious speeches ever written over a short period of time. But they were all done after the event, they were all done, some of them, years later. He either went to the BBC and recorded them or the BBC came to him and he recorded them. So, my thinking was, is that when you’re in Parliament, in front of 600 people, that you would do them with more gusto than you would two, three years after the war and record them in a cold, dry setting. My feeling was that he had such a sense of who he was, with the cigar, the Churchill. That he was a bit of an actor. He had a public persona. And loved language, loved plays, loved poetry. I just felt that someone who loved words that much would have performed for the house. 

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I had heard in a previous interview you’ve done for this film where you said something along the lines of “Joe saw only Winston for three months.” What is your own pitch as to why method acting is a productive idea on set? 

It wasn’t so much a conscious decision to do it. What it was, was that I came in four hours before everybody else, to have all the … by the time Joe and the other crew arrived, and the other actors, for rehearsal, I was already Winston. I was completely made up and dressed. Some of the actors I rehearsed with had curlers in their hair, and were half made-up and wore dressing gowns over their street clothes. But I was always on the set as the prime minister. It wasn’t a sort of method thing, it was just the way it worked out. So that Joe would meet me in the morning as Churchill, we would wrap, and then everybody would leave and then it was of course 45 minutes to an hour to take [the prosthetics] off. He would never see me as Gary. He saw me once as Gary at Christmas. My wife and I, he cooked Christmas lunch for us. That was the only time he had seen me as Gary in two months. 

Is Joe Wright a good cook? 

Yes. He did a good spread [laughs]. 

The amount of time to put on the prosthetics, does it provide a type of artistic clarity? Could you imagine doing this type of role without prosthetics? 

The overriding thing, at the very beginning, was the physicality. It was not so much the getting into the psychology of the character or play the character or move like the character or sound like the character. But could one look like the character? And he is such an iconic figure, he’s so particular looking, that was the hurdle. That was the road block that one had to get around. Yes, I think it would probably be a lot easier in the theater to do it without, but for this film we all felt it was a necessity and there was only one man in my mind that could even remotely pull it off, and that was Kazuhiro [Tsuji]. And then of course, on the day to day running of the show, I had Lucy and David who were my … once Kazuhiro had come in and set it up as it were, then they took the training wheels off and then Lucy [Sibbick] and David [Malinowski] were with me through the whole shoot and they were applying and painting it. But it’s quite a remarkable make-up, I think. 

Film artists are always trying to avoid that uncanny valley when portraying old-age with performance and makeup. It seems like a very precise craft here especially, even in how you talk with food in your mouth or with the cigar going in and out of your hands. 

And it’s odd with this because, going back to the idea of concentration or focus, you couldn’t watch a movie or be on your phone and fidget, because the make-up was so delicate that you had to surrender to it every morning and focus. As good as the make-up was, David said, “As good as the make-up is, and as good as we are, if you weren’t so patient, this could look like shit.” It’s one of those things, and people roll their eyes when I say it’s three-and-a-half hours in makeup, and they ask, “Did you go crazy?” It’s knowing about what you’re getting into. We had tests, I wore the makeup, with the tests that we did I wore the makeup 63 times. And I wore it 48 consecutive days in the shoot. You know what you’re getting into. You have to surrender to it and enjoy it as enjoy it as part of the character and the whole process of this. Otherwise, I know actors who are kicking and screaming and going crazy, and they can’t bear the claustrophobia. But it’s oddly very freeing. It doesn’t restrict you, it’s not uncomfortable. It’s hot. 

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Does it ever get more comfortable to do these mountainous monologues, once you’ve been Churchill for 30 days in prosthetics? 

Yeah. Yes. But see, also, I had a year to prepare it. And also we had rehearsal, which is a huge help. Because once you get to the set, and you’re very comfortable in the skin. In the artificial skin, I should say with this one. 

What were you thinking about when you were in that make-up chair for all of those hours? Are you in a zen place? 

Zen place. You close down, because you know then that you’ve got a ten-hour, twelve-hour day ahead of you, on top of the four hours that you’re there. So you just kind of shut the engine down.

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A Disappearing Act: Gary Oldman on “Darkest Hour”

A Disappearing Act: Gary Oldman on “Darkest Hour”

With roles like Lee Harvey Oswald, George Smiley, Dracula and Commissioner Gordon in his resume, Gary Oldman has made a special career out of his chameleon-like approach to acting. His latest endeavor is none other than the British Bulldog himself, Winston Churchill, in a film by Joe Wright that looks at the prime minister in the early days of World War II. Oldman is impeccable as the iconic leader, treating his many speeches with fascinating vigor, and looking exactly like him, thanks to prosthetics work and precise physicality. While the role has Oldman designated as an official front runner for this year’s Best Actor Oscar, it’s already a home run for an actor who has made so many distinctly different characters shine on the silver screen.

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Oldman spoke with RogerEbert.com about the physical and mental process of getting into the character, looking at Churchill as a type of performer and more. 

I’m very curious about your chameleon-like approach to acting. What kind of skill do you think gives you the ability to recognize so many different lives and then portray them? 

I think for an actor you need … it’s about observation. I think a lot to do with it is one’s concentration and focus. I sort of have a good ear, a facility for that kind of thing. It’s all the things that you need as an actor. I think you can hone and sharpen intuition, but you kind of have to have it. It’s in the choices that you make. I suppose I was a bit of an impersonator when I was a kid. Even as a young kid. But I do have an ability to meet people and I could very … not with everyone, and not that I consciously do it, but I can meet people and find that I can do an impersonation of people very quickly. 

But with Winston, it was exactly that. It was not only the reading material, which is of course voluminous. But the footage of the man, there’s actually more there than I thought. And so it was a case of really just watching and re-watching and studying everything from speech patterns to mannerisms to how he used his hands how he moved through a space. I think that we have an idea of who Churchill was, and I’m not sure if that idea of him is not influenced by other people that have played him, so you feel that you have an idea of who he is because you saw Robert Hardy, or Albert Linney. For me it was to really go back to the man, and avoid all of the other … I watched Robert Hardy at the time when it was programmed, but I didn’t want to be contaminated sort of by anyone else’s performance. 

In this telling of Churchill, there’s this angle of him being a type of performer or an actor. There’s even a sort of line about, “which ‘Sir’ am I going to be today?” Did you ever look at him as an actor or connect with him like that? 

I think he had a real sense of branding, of marketing. He was an unusual, he was a bit of a dandy. As time moved forward he seemed to sartorially stay in that sort of Victorian attire with the button boots and the waistcoat and the fob watch and that kind of thing and the hats. The cane. The walking stick. So he had a certain affectation, and obviously was a great orator and had a great sense of language. And we have recordings of him, speaking those sort of speeches and three or four of the most glorious speeches ever written over a short period of time. But they were all done after the event, they were all done, some of them, years later. He either went to the BBC and recorded them or the BBC came to him and he recorded them. So, my thinking was, is that when you’re in Parliament, in front of 600 people, that you would do them with more gusto than you would two, three years after the war and record them in a cold, dry setting. My feeling was that he had such a sense of who he was, with the cigar, the Churchill. That he was a bit of an actor. He had a public persona. And loved language, loved plays, loved poetry. I just felt that someone who loved words that much would have performed for the house. 

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I had heard in a previous interview you’ve done for this film where you said something along the lines of “Joe saw only Winston for three months.” What is your own pitch as to why method acting is a productive idea on set? 

It wasn’t so much a conscious decision to do it. What it was, was that I came in four hours before everybody else, to have all the … by the time Joe and the other crew arrived, and the other actors, for rehearsal, I was already Winston. I was completely made up and dressed. Some of the actors I rehearsed with had curlers in their hair, and were half made-up and wore dressing gowns over their street clothes. But I was always on the set as the prime minister. It wasn’t a sort of method thing, it was just the way it worked out. So that Joe would meet me in the morning as Churchill, we would wrap, and then everybody would leave and then it was of course 45 minutes to an hour to take [the prosthetics] off. He would never see me as Gary. He saw me once as Gary at Christmas. My wife and I, he cooked Christmas lunch for us. That was the only time he had seen me as Gary in two months. 

Is Joe Wright a good cook? 

Yes. He did a good spread [laughs]. 

The amount of time to put on the prosthetics, does it provide a type of artistic clarity? Could you imagine doing this type of role without prosthetics? 

The overriding thing, at the very beginning, was the physicality. It was not so much the getting into the psychology of the character or play the character or move like the character or sound like the character. But could one look like the character? And he is such an iconic figure, he’s so particular looking, that was the hurdle. That was the road block that one had to get around. Yes, I think it would probably be a lot easier in the theater to do it without, but for this film we all felt it was a necessity and there was only one man in my mind that could even remotely pull it off, and that was Kazuhiro [Tsuji]. And then of course, on the day to day running of the show, I had Lucy and David who were my … once Kazuhiro had come in and set it up as it were, then they took the training wheels off and then Lucy [Sibbick] and David [Malinowski] were with me through the whole shoot and they were applying and painting it. But it’s quite a remarkable make-up, I think. 

Film artists are always trying to avoid that uncanny valley when portraying old-age with performance and makeup. It seems like a very precise craft here especially, even in how you talk with food in your mouth or with the cigar going in and out of your hands. 

And it’s odd with this because, going back to the idea of concentration or focus, you couldn’t watch a movie or be on your phone and fidget, because the make-up was so delicate that you had to surrender to it every morning and focus. As good as the make-up was, David said, “As good as the make-up is, and as good as we are, if you weren’t so patient, this could look like shit.” It’s one of those things, and people roll their eyes when I say it’s three-and-a-half hours in makeup, and they ask, “Did you go crazy?” It’s knowing about what you’re getting into. We had tests, I wore the makeup, with the tests that we did I wore the makeup 63 times. And I wore it 48 consecutive days in the shoot. You know what you’re getting into. You have to surrender to it and enjoy it as enjoy it as part of the character and the whole process of this. Otherwise, I know actors who are kicking and screaming and going crazy, and they can’t bear the claustrophobia. But it’s oddly very freeing. It doesn’t restrict you, it’s not uncomfortable. It’s hot. 

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Does it ever get more comfortable to do these mountainous monologues, once you’ve been Churchill for 30 days in prosthetics? 

Yeah. Yes. But see, also, I had a year to prepare it. And also we had rehearsal, which is a huge help. Because once you get to the set, and you’re very comfortable in the skin. In the artificial skin, I should say with this one. 

What were you thinking about when you were in that make-up chair for all of those hours? Are you in a zen place? 

Zen place. You close down, because you know then that you’ve got a ten-hour, twelve-hour day ahead of you, on top of the four hours that you’re there. So you just kind of shut the engine down.

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Call Me by Your Name

Thumb call me

Luca Guadagnino’s films are all about the transformative power of nature—the way it allows our true selves to shine through and inspires us to pursue our hidden passions. From the wild, windswept hills of “I Am Love” to the chic swimming pool of “A Bigger Splash,” Guadagnino vividly portrays the outside world as almost a character in itself—driving the storyline, urging the other characters to be bold, inviting us to feel as if we, too, are a part of this intoxicating atmosphere.

Never has this been more true than in “Call Me By Your Name,” a lush and vibrant masterpiece about first love set amid the warm, sunny skies, gentle breezes and charming, tree-lined roads of northern Italy. Guadagnino takes his time establishing this place and the players within it. He’s patient in his pacing, and you must be, as well. But really, what’s the rush? It’s the summer of 1983, and there’s nothing to do but read, play piano, ponder classic art and pluck peaches and apricots from the abundant fruit trees.

Within this garden of sensual delights, an unexpected yet life-changing romance blossoms between two young men who initially seem completely different on the surface.

17-year-old Elio (Timothee Chalamet) is once again visiting his family’s summer home with his parents: his father (Michael Stuhlbarg), an esteemed professor of Greco-Roman culture, and his mother (Amira Casar), a translator and gracious hostess. Elio has the gangly body of a boy but with an intellect and a quick wit beyond his years, and the worldliness his parents have fostered within him at least allows him to affect the façade of sophistication. But beneath the bravado, a gawky and self-conscious kid sometimes still emerges. By the end of the summer, that kid will be vanquished forever.

An American doctoral student named Oliver (Armie Hammer) arrives for the annual internship Elio’s father offers. Oliver is everything Elio isn’t—or at least, that’s our primary perception of him. Tall, gorgeous and supremely confident, he is the archetypal all-American hunk. But as polite as he often can be, Oliver can also breeze out of a room with a glib, “Later,” making him even more of a tantalizing mystery.

Chalamet and Hammer have just ridiculous chemistry from the get-go, even though (or perhaps because) their characters are initially prickly toward each other: testing, pushing, feeling each other out, yet constantly worrying about what the other person thinks. They flirt by trying to one-up each other with knowledge of literature or classical music, but long before they ever have any physical contact, their electric connection is unmistakable. Lazy poolside chats are fraught with tension; spontaneous bike rides into town to run errands feel like nervous first dates.

Writer James Ivory’s generous, sensitive adaptation of Andre Aciman’s novel reveals these characters and their ever-evolving dynamic in beautifully steady yet detailed fashion. And so when Elio and Oliver finally dare to reveal their true feelings for each other—a full hour into the film—the moment makes you hold your breath with its intimate power, and the emotions feel completely authentic and earned.   

The way Elio and Oliver peel away each other’s layers has both a sweetness and a giddy thrill to it, even though they feel they must keep their romance a secret from Elio’s parents. (Elio also has a kinda-sorta girlfriend in Marzia [Esther Garrel], a thoughtful, playful French teen who’s also in town for the summer.) One of the many impressive elements of Chalamet’s beautiful, complex performance is the effortless way he transitions between speaking in English, Italian and French, depending on whom Elio is with at the time. It gives him an air of maturity that’s otherwise still in development; eventually his massive character arc feels satisfying and true.

But Oliver’s evolution is just as crucial, and Hammer finds the tricky balance between the character’s swagger and his vulnerability as he gives himself over to this exciting affair. He’s flirty but tender—the couple’s love scenes are heartbreaking and intensely erotic all at once—and even though he’s the more experienced of the two, he can’t help but diving in headlong.

And yet, the most resonant part of “Call Me By Your Name” may not even be the romance itself, but rather the lingering sensation that it can’t last, which Guadagnino evokes through long takes and expert use of silence. A feeling of melancholy tinges everything, from the choice of a particular shirt to the taste of a perfectly ripe peach. And oh my, that peach scene—Guadagnino was wise when he took a chance and left it in from the novel. It really works, and it’s perhaps the ultimate example of how masterfully the director manipulates and enlivens all of our senses.

There’s a lushness to the visual beauty of this place, but it’s not so perfect as to be off-putting. Quite the opposite. Despite the director’s infamous eye for meticulous detail, cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom’s 35mm images provide a tactile quality that heightens the sensations, makes them feel almost primal. We see the wind gently rustling through the trees, or streaks of sunlight hitting Elio’s dark curls through an open bedroom window, and while it’s all subtly sensual, an inescapable tension is building underneath.

Guadagnino establishes that raw, immediate energy from the very beginning through his use of music. The piano of contemporary classical composer John Adams’ intricate, insistent “Hallelujah Junction – 1st Movement” engages us during the elegant title sequence, while Sufjan Stevens’ plaintive, synthy “Visions of Gideon” during the film’s devastating final shot ends the film on an agonizingly sad note. (You’ll want to stay all the way through the closing credits—that long, last image is so transfixing. I seriously don’t know how Chalamet pulled it off, but there is serious craft on display here.)

In between is Guadagnino’s inspired use of the Psychedelic Furs’ “Love My Way,” an iconic ’80s New Wave tune you’ve probably heard a million times before but will never hear the same way again. The first time he plays it, it’s at an outdoor disco where Oliver feels so moved by the bouncy, percussive beat that he can’t help but jump around to it and get lost in the music, lacking all sense of self-consciousness. Watching this towering figure just go for it on the dance floor in his Converse high-tops is a moment of pure joy, but it’s also as if a dam has broken within Elio, being so close to someone who’s feeling so free. The second time he plays it, toward the end of Oliver and Elio’s journey, it feels like the soundtrack to a time capsule as it recaptures a moment of seemingly endless emotional possibility.

They know what they’ve found has to end—we know it has to end. But a beautiful monologue from the always excellent Stuhlbarg as Elio’s warmhearted and open-minded father softens the blow somewhat. It’s a perfectly calibrated scene in a film full of them, and it’s one of a million reasons why “Call Me By Your Name” is far and away the best movie of the year.

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Teen Angst Meets Marvel Superheroics In Hulu’s Fun ‘Runaways’

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Runaways wouldn’t rank particularly high on a list of unadaptable comic book or sci-fi/fantasy epics, especially in an era that’s given us TV shows based on the likes of Game of Thrones and Preacher. But it has some inherent challenges in moving from page to screen. In Marvel comic book form, created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona, the series introduces an array of wild concepts about six kids who discover that their parents are supervillains, run away together, and realize that most of them have powers themselves, involving magic, aliens, time travel, and more. In part because Vaughan assumed the book would be canceled any second, it churns through what feels like years’ worth of plot in every issue, and of course takes advantage of the comic page’s unlimited effects budget to show the kids fighting with, or against, dinosaurs, extraterrestrials, and giant demons.

That the Runaways TV show (it debuts tomorrow; I’ve seen the first four episodes) slows the plot waaaaaay down and makes other significant changes(*) could be a warning sign that the people involved either don’t understand what makes the comic great or simply can’t make it work in this format. But the creative team of Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage have made one of those adaptations that’s true to the spirit of the original, even if the letter looks very different.

(*) One change is institutionally-mandated: per Schwartz (from a spoiler-filled interview running tomorrow), Marvel Television has a “no magic” rule, which means what was sorcery in the comics is here treated as advanced technology that just looks like magic. It’s dumb, but as we’ve seen from many of the recent Marvel TV shows, their executive decisions are often head-scratchers.

Schwartz and Savage first worked together on The O.C. and later Gossip Girl (among others), and Schwartz was co-creator of Chuck. They know from teen drama, and from nerd culture, and both the Vaughan/Alphona Runaways and their version neatly intersect the two. It’s essentially The Breakfast Club with powers, involving six high schoolers who were once close but are now tied together because of what they think is their parents’ shared charity work: Alex (Rhenzy Feliz) is a nerd, Chase (Gregg Sulkin) a jock, Nico (Lyrica Okano) a goth, Karolina (Virginia Gardner) a good church girl, Gert (Ariela Barer) an outspoken activist, Molly (Allegra Acosta) the younger kid who tags along. Even after they witness their parents committing a crime together, they opt to hide in plain sight at first, living at home and going to school while they work in secret to figure out exactly what they saw and what it means.

Where Preacher has altered/slowed the plot of the comics because a straight translation would be too difficult (and has yet to come up with an interesting enough alternative), and where most of Marvel’s Netflix shows move at a crawl because of the “13-hour movie” nonsense, Runaways‘ deviations from the source material feel less like Schwartz and Savage running away from something they don’t know how to make and more running towards something that’s interesting in its own right, and faithful enough to Vaughan’s ideas that it feels worthy of the name.

Schwartz, Savage, and company continue to have a great eye and ear for casting and writing young characters. Even though it’s a slow burn waiting for each kid to realize what they can do (only a couple of powers are on display even briefly in the first hour), the kids themselves are so well-articulated, so quickly — and so impeccably cast — that a version of the show without superheroes and villains would probably still be compelling. But Runaways deftly borrows the Buffy model of using all these heightened elements as metaphors for adolescent rites of passage, from Molly’s abilities manifesting themselves in a way that others mistake for her getting her first period, to the many secrets the kids and parents keep from one another.

“Finding out my mom is evil would actually be the least surprising explanation,” Nico suggests at one point.

The parents are often played by more recognizable actors (James Marsters from Buffy as an Elon Musk-type inventor, Kevin Weisman from Alias as a crunchy scientist whose presence the other parents barely tolerate, Annie Wersching from 24 as the head of a cult with more than a passing resemblance to Scientology) and are given more complex motivations than the comic had room for. Because Hulu’s releasing the first three episodes at once (after that, it’ll be weekly, as was the case with The Handmaid’s Tale), Schwartz and Savage employ a binge mode play, telling the first hour from the kids’ POV, then devoting most of the second episode to seeing what the parents were up to during those same events. That approach quickly answers a lot of questions on a show with several metric tons of backstory — when you have six kids and five sets of parents (Molly’s an orphan living with Gert’s family), you have many origin stories to tell, even if some overlap — but feels like it maybe could have waited until later, if only because the kids and their stories come so much more vividly to life in the early going.

Documentary filmmaker Brett Morgen (whose Jane is in theaters now) directs the pilot episode, establishing a visual template that employs a lot of harsh natural LA light, and jittery camerawork, clearly distinguishing it from all the Marvel shows set on the East Coast. (The show makes no reference to Daredevil or the Avengers, whether or not it’s meant to be set in the same fictional universe.)

Though the pace is drastically slower than the comic’s, it feels positively breathtaking compared to Luke Cage or The Punisher, not only because it has so many characters to bounce around between who all feel like narrative equals, but because Schwartz and Savage are by nature aggressive storytellers. The O.C.‘s first season moved at a rate that makes the Runaways comic feel like a Henry James novel in comparison. They’ve grown more patient over the years, in large part because The O.C. suffered later on for discarding too much plot in that opening year, but for the most part it feels purposeful, rather than like stalling; the kids, their world, and the conflicts within each family feel too rich to simply jump to the next thing.

So no, this Runaways isn’t a literal recreation of a beloved comic. But it works in its own right, and feels more fun and durable than a lot of its Marvel TV counterparts.

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@uproxx.com. He discusses television weekly on the TV Avalanche podcast. His new book, Breaking Bad 101, is on sale now.

Source: http://uproxx.com

‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ Revisits The ‘Seinfeld’ Finale In ‘Never Ask For Seconds!’

HBO

A review of last night’s Curb Your Enthusiasm coming up just as soon as I’m okay with gratitude sex…

If I didn’t know that there were two episodes to go in this season, “Never Wait For Seconds!” would have struck me as a season finale — which for Curb Your Enthusiasm, especially at this late date, would mean it was designed to function as a potential series finale, too. But it was also weirdly reminiscent of the Seinfeld finale, which almost everyone hated, and which Larry David seemed to have freed himself of back in 2009 with the faux-Seinfeld reunion on Curb.

Larry’s mysterious Muslim savior interviewing people Larry had encountered in the past — including Krazee-Eyez Killa, Denise Handicapped, the hooker from “The Car Pool Lane,” and Michael J. Fox — to determine whether he deserved punishment was pretty much a mirror image of Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer being tried for violating that town’s Good Samaritan law. Of all the Seinfeld ideas to revisit here (which David has done many times in the past), you would think this is one best left alone.

At least it was interesting to see this trial come to the opposite conclusion from the Good Samaritan one, as the interrogator encounters a bunch of people who paint Larry as being in the right morally, either by universal standards (Michael J. Fox really was klomping on purpose) or from the interrogator’s perspective (Larry refused to adhere to Orthodox Jewish law when stuck on the ski lift with that woman). Curb is usually at its best when there’s at least a kernel of Larry being right about things — among this season’s many flaws is that he’s mostly just been an oblivious jerk — and the comic highlight of “Never Wait For Seconds!” was Larry passionately defending the eponymous theory about the buffet line.

(There are, of course, arguments to be made for both sides — i.e., let everybody get their firsts before going for your seconds — but Larry’s not being wildly unreasonable here, especially at a restaurant where there will constantly be new people getting in line for their firsts.)

But if David was going to take a second shot at his most universally-derided story idea, he probably should have gone all the way and devoted more than just a few minutes to the concept. Instead, like pretty much all of season nine — and most of this episode — it was one underfed idea among many, wrapping up before it had a chance to really start generating laughs. The only story this week that felt fully-developed was handyman Cesar (Hemky Madera) flipping the tip so that Larry would be indebted to him, which ended up preventing Eddie’s admission to the boarding school(*) and possibly dashing Larry’s relationship with Bridget, the rare woman who not only isn’t turned off by Larry being Larry, but seems to find the behavior appealing.

(*) Also underdeveloped: Larry threatening Eddie, “You’re gonna go to sleep, and I’m gonna have sex with your mother!” If the show’s not done with Bridget and Eddie, maybe there will be the requisite karmic comeuppance for that move. If not, very dark tonally, even for Curb — even for a season where Larry started a chain of events that led to the death of poor Kenny Funkhouser.

Mainly, though, “Never Wait For Seconds!” left me wondering what David has in store for these final two episodes — which could, like usual, be the last two episodes of the series ever. The fatwa has been seemingly ended, we’ve already gotten the parade of past guest stars like Kym Whitley and Mo Collins, and even the status of Larry and Bridget’s relationship, or Larry and Marilyn’s feud, don’t feel like enough to fuel a season/series-ending arc. Either David has something huge up his sleeve, or he burned through too much story too quickly across these eight episodes.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@uproxx.com. He discusses television weekly on the TV Avalanche podcast. His new book, Breaking Bad 101, is on sale now.

Source: http://uproxx.com

Who Wants a “You Can’t Save The World Alone Justice League Hoodie”? [Giveaway]

We’ve all been waiting for Justice League for the most part of the year, and when it finally came out, all sorts of controversy came along with it – especially the delayed release of Rotten Tomatoes’ (bad) review.

To be fair to the movie, though, the audience score is not so bad (80% liked it as opposed to the Tomatometer score 40%). Whatever you think of it (if you’ve already seen the movie, that is), we’re pretty sure you’ll love what we have for you today: a “You Can’t Save The World Alone Justice League Hoodie”.

Thanks to Angel Jackets, one of you guys will receive this awesome Justice League hoodie worth $49.

justice league hoodie giveaway

Angel Jackets has a wide array of apparel that caters to us geeks. They’ve got Blade Runner Collection as well as a Star Wars Collection. Of course, there is the Justice League Collection. Aside from the Justice League Hoodie we’re giving away, here are the other items from the line.

Wonder Woman Leather Jacket

justice league jacket

Flash Jacket

justice league jackets

Black Leather Justice League Batman Jacket

justice league jacket

Justice League 2017 Cyborg Letterman Jacket

Justice League Aquaman Jacket

This week, though, it’s all about the team and not the individual jackets (although the Wonder Woman and Aquaman one is really really calling to us).

So, a “You Can’t Save The World Alone Justice League Hoodie” is up for grabs, and here’s what you need to know.

  • The giveaway starts today, November 20 (Monday) and ends on November 26 (Sunday).
  • The winner will be announced on November 27 (Monday).
  • Only US and Canada residents qualify.
  • Unlock more entries upon tweeting.
  • You can tweet once a day, every day to earn more entries.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A bit of fun: Which Justice League Member Should You Date? [QUIZ]

Source: http://ift.tt/2gQ94pW

Second Trailer for Ava DuVernay’s Epic ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Adaptation

A Wrinkle in Time Trailer

"Be a warrior." Whoa! Disney has launched the second official trailer for Ava DuVernary’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, based on the novel by Madeleine L’Engle, and it’s quite epic. This trailer is packed full of some crazy awesome sci-fi footage, this you need to see. The sci-fi fantasy story follows three people – Meg, her brother, and her friend – who are sent into space by three peculiar beings in order to search and find their missing scientist father. The very impressive ensemble cast for this film features Chris Pine, Reese Witherspoon, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peña, Zach Galifianakis, Oprah Winfrey, Bellamy Young, Mindy Kaling, Rowan Blanchard, Levi Miller, André Holland, Daniel MacPherson, Will McCormack, Deric McCabe, plus with Storm Reid as Meg. This looks great! I’m very excited to see it.

Here’s the second trailer (+ poster) for Ava DuVernary’s A Wrinkle in Time, direct from YouTube:

A Wrinkle in Time Poster

You can also still watch the first teaser trailer for A Wrinkle in Time here, to see more footage from this.

For more updates on the movie, follow @WrinkleInTime on Twitter. Or you can follow Ava DuVernay @ava.

The film, which is an epic adventure based on Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless classic which takes audiences across dimensions of time and space, examining the nature of darkness versus light and ultimately, the triumph of love. A Wrinkle in Time is directed by talented American filmmaker Ava DuVernay, of the films I Will Follow, Middle of Nowhere, and Selma previously, as well as episodes of "Queen Sugar". The screenplay is written by Jennifer Lee (Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Zootopia). Based on the bestselling novel written by Madeleine L’Engle, first published in 1963 and receiver of the Newbery Medal. Disney will release DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time in theaters everywhere starting March 9th, 2018 next year. Your thoughts?

Source: http://ift.tt/g0Io3r

Second Trailer for Ava DuVernay’s Epic ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Adaptation

A Wrinkle in Time Trailer

"Be a warrior." Whoa! Disney has launched the second official trailer for Ava DuVernary’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, based on the novel by Madeleine L’Engle, and it’s quite epic. This trailer is packed full of some crazy awesome sci-fi footage, this you need to see. The sci-fi fantasy story follows three people – Meg, her brother, and her friend – who are sent into space by three peculiar beings in order to search and find their missing scientist father. The very impressive ensemble cast for this film features Chris Pine, Reese Witherspoon, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peña, Zach Galifianakis, Oprah Winfrey, Bellamy Young, Mindy Kaling, Rowan Blanchard, Levi Miller, André Holland, Daniel MacPherson, Will McCormack, Deric McCabe, plus with Storm Reid as Meg. This looks great! I’m very excited to see it.

Here’s the second trailer (+ poster) for Ava DuVernary’s A Wrinkle in Time, direct from YouTube:

A Wrinkle in Time Poster

You can also still watch the first teaser trailer for A Wrinkle in Time here, to see more footage from this.

For more updates on the movie, follow @WrinkleInTime on Twitter. Or you can follow Ava DuVernay @ava.

The film, which is an epic adventure based on Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless classic which takes audiences across dimensions of time and space, examining the nature of darkness versus light and ultimately, the triumph of love. A Wrinkle in Time is directed by talented American filmmaker Ava DuVernay, of the films I Will Follow, Middle of Nowhere, and Selma previously, as well as episodes of "Queen Sugar". The screenplay is written by Jennifer Lee (Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Zootopia). Based on the bestselling novel written by Madeleine L’Engle, first published in 1963 and receiver of the Newbery Medal. Disney will release DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time in theaters everywhere starting March 9th, 2018 next year. Your thoughts?

Source: http://ift.tt/g0Io3r

Second Trailer for Ava DuVernay’s Epic ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ Adaptation

A Wrinkle in Time Trailer

"Be a warrior." Whoa! Disney has launched the second official trailer for Ava DuVernary’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, based on the novel by Madeleine L’Engle, and it’s quite epic. This trailer is packed full of some crazy awesome sci-fi footage, this you need to see. The sci-fi fantasy story follows three people – Meg, her brother, and her friend – who are sent into space by three peculiar beings in order to search and find their missing scientist father. The very impressive ensemble cast for this film features Chris Pine, Reese Witherspoon, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peña, Zach Galifianakis, Oprah Winfrey, Bellamy Young, Mindy Kaling, Rowan Blanchard, Levi Miller, André Holland, Daniel MacPherson, Will McCormack, Deric McCabe, plus with Storm Reid as Meg. This looks great! I’m very excited to see it.

Here’s the second trailer (+ poster) for Ava DuVernary’s A Wrinkle in Time, direct from YouTube:

A Wrinkle in Time Poster

You can also still watch the first teaser trailer for A Wrinkle in Time here, to see more footage from this.

For more updates on the movie, follow @WrinkleInTime on Twitter. Or you can follow Ava DuVernay @ava.

The film, which is an epic adventure based on Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless classic which takes audiences across dimensions of time and space, examining the nature of darkness versus light and ultimately, the triumph of love. A Wrinkle in Time is directed by talented American filmmaker Ava DuVernay, of the films I Will Follow, Middle of Nowhere, and Selma previously, as well as episodes of "Queen Sugar". The screenplay is written by Jennifer Lee (Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Zootopia). Based on the bestselling novel written by Madeleine L’Engle, first published in 1963 and receiver of the Newbery Medal. Disney will release DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time in theaters everywhere starting March 9th, 2018 next year. Your thoughts?

Source: http://ift.tt/g0Io3r