Tag Archives: Greta Gerwig

SXSW: Isle of Dogs

Read the title out loud and kind of quick, and it’s hardly distinguishable from “I love dogs” but the conflict in the film actually comes from not loving them enough. A city in Japan has a dog-hating mayor who selfishly spreads lies and rhetoric about the dog flu, and gets and\or manufactures enough support that he succeeds in banishing all dogs to Trash Island.

As most of you know (because my bursting heart can’t shut up about it), I’m lucky enough to share my life and home with four of the sweetest doggies in the world. I Isle of Dogs 1 via Fox Searchlight Headersometimes wonder if I prefer dogs to people, and I certainly do prefer my dogs to most people. I think dogs are so much better than we deserve. They are 100% heart. So it’s hard for me to imagine a bunch of dog owners so willing to sentence their dogs to a terrible, lonely, miserable life and death. Of the thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of dogs sent to live and die on Trash Island, only one is lucky enough to have an owner come looking for him – a 12 year old boy named Atari. When Atari becomes stranded on the island, a scruffy pack of dogs generously decides to help him find his beloved Spots. Duke (Jeff Goldblum), King (Bob Balaban), Rex (Ed Norton), Boss (Bill Murray), and even the reluctant Chief (Bryan Cranston) band together to reunite boy and dog on a journey that you  might just say belongs in a Wes Anderson movie.

And it is a Wes Anderson movie, horray! So of course it’s got some truly absorbing attention to detail, a sweet soundtrack, and a poignancy verging on nostalgia. Like Fantastic Mr. Fox, Isle of Dogs is beautifully rendered in stop-motion animation. Each dog puppet is a thing of beauty, with fur (made of alpaca hair, apparently) so pettable and little noses that you’re sure are moist to the touch. Their expressive eyes bore into you, and as Bob Balaban so eloquently put it during the Q&A following the film, it could have been a silent film and still been just as affecting.

As saturated as they are aesthetically, some may argue that Wes Anderson movies are ultimately style over substance. Isle of Dogs has some pretty obvious themes about mass hysteria and maybe even fake news, but for me the takeaway is simply to love better – dare I say, more like a dog, fully, and with devotion.

Advertisements

TIFF’s Famous Dates

George-Amal-Clooney-Venice-Film-Festival-2017George and Amal Clooney welcomed their twins Ella and Alexander in June (at the same hospital where Kate and William’s royal children were born), so people were ecstatic to see them looking terribly in love at the Venice Film Festival in early September. George was there promoting his directorial effort, Suburbicon, starring pal Matt Damon. Clooney has a home on Lake Como (in Italy) where he retreats from the world every summer. It’s where he brought his newborn twins home this summer, and where a paparazzo snuck in to take surreptitious pictures of the babies at their most vulnerable. He started coming to Lake Como 16 years ago, when he and his friend Rande Gerber (Cindy Crawford’s husband) stumbled on the Villa Oleandra while george-clooney-villa-oleandracrisscrossing Italy on their motorbikes. After one of the bikes broke down outside its gates, the owners ushered them in and proceeded to sell Clooney their house for $7.5 million. And it was in Italy where George first met Amal and it was in beautiful Venice itself where they later wed. After the Venice Film Festival, Clooney and family flew to his hometown of Kentucky to show off the twins to his father, who’d been 1297989661099_ORIGINALtoo ill to travel to meet them overseas. Then, sadly, George had to put down his beloved dog Einstein (who co-starred with him in an ad campaign for Omega watches in 2015) in L.A., before dashing back up to Toronto for TIFF, without wife Amal or darling babies.

Another new mum TIFF goers were eager to carey-mulligan-3e906d22-ef3a-484c-9e91-b0398151d67aspot was Carey Mulligan. She made her first public appearance since having her second child in August. Her husband, Marcus Mumford (frontman for Mumford & Sons), stayed home with the kids while she graced TIFF with her presence; she was there for her new film, Mudbound.

 

 

Image_uploaded_from_iOS__2__0006_2017-09-12_09.53.14_2Annette Bening, who was the jury president in Venice, was at TIFF to promote her new film, Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool in which she plays a Hollywood leading lady who catches the interest of a much younger actor, played by Jamie Bell. Both stars brought their famous counterparts: Warren Beatty and Bening have been married since 1992, whilst Jamie Bell and wife Kate Mara have been married all of 2 months. Incidentally, Bell walked the red 2017-09-10_05.07.09_2carpet in kind at the premiere of Mara’s TIFF offering, Chappaquiddick.

2017-09-09_07_0002_Background.jpgAmelia Warner walked the TIFF red carpet. She’s the composer for the new Mary Shelley reincarnation starring Elle Fanning. Her famous date: husband Jamie Dornan. Married for 4 years, they have 2 kids together, who were evidently being babysat elsewhere while Mom and Dad enjoy a glamourous night out.

The Mother! premiere was full of famous dates: star Penelope-Cruz-Javier-Bardem-Venice-Film-Festival-2017Jennifer Lawrence is currently dating her director, Darren Aronofsky (they are usually careful to sneak one or more costars between themselves when taking group photos).  Her co-star Javier Bardem is married to the lovely Penelope Cruz (7 years and counting). Bardem and Cruz star together in a film on offer at the Venice Film Festival, Loving Pablo. And let’s not forget Michelle Pfeiffer and her longtime 843077622partner, David E. Kelley, who accompanied his wife to her photo call in Venice and then she in turn went to the Emmys with him, where the show he was writing for, Big Little Lies, scored some major gold.

Nicole Kidman always has some heavy weight nicole-kidman-cannes-24may17-10arm candy. Her husband, Keith Urban, was on hand for the TIFF premiere of The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and was also by her side at said Emmys (she was nominated and won for her work on the very same Big Little Lies – it’s very good, you should watch).

nicole-kidman-cannes-24may17-09.jpg

2017-09-11_01_0013_2017-09-11_08.25.40_1Alicia Vikander attended the TIFF premiere of Euphoria solo (she was also there with Submergence), but last year she and her boyfriend Michael Fassbender were all over TIFF red carpets since they starred together in The Light Between Oceans.

Also flying solo this year: Jason Sudeikis, who stars in Kodachrome with Elizabeth Olsen and Ed Harris, and appears in Downsizing alongside Matt Damon as well. His better (and prettier) half, Olivia Wilde, stayed home with the kids.rachel-rachel-tiff-11sept17-01

No word on where Daniel Craig was hiding this year but he wasn’t on the arm of his lovely wife Rachel Weisz, who was there for Disobedience, her new film costarring next to Rachel McAdams, even though Craig himself appeared in another TIFF selection, Kings.

I did get to spot Sam Rockwell on the TIFF red carpet for Three Billboards Outside woodshock_050917_03-777x560Ebbing, Missouri and of course in Venice, where he posed with his wife Leslie Bibb, even though I didn’t know until I saw them together that they were together. I know her from all the way back on Popular (and on The League, where she plays Mark Duplass’s nasty ex-wife), but you may have seen her more recently in To The Bone. In this photo, Rockwell’s Three Billboards costar Woody Harrelson poses with his wife, Laura Louie.

I spied Dave Franco on the red carpet for The Disaster Artist, a real family affair. His James+Franco+Dave+Franco+Day+Three+IMDb+Studio+-tqDqQZ9XDFlbrother James directs and co-stars, and their other brother Tom Franco also appears (briefly!). So does Dave’s very new wife, Alison Brie – she plays his sometime girlfriend.

Greta Gerwig debuted her first solo directorial effort at TIFF this year and her partner let her lap up all the attention on her own, but in other years she and beau Noah Baumbach have 2017 Toronto International Film Festival - "Lady Bird" Premiereattended together – particularly when they’ve done a movie together, like Mistress America. This year, Greta posed alongside some of her Lady Bird leading ladies: Lois Smith, Odeya Rush, and Beanie Feldstein (left) who has a famous sibling rather than a famous date – Jonah Hill is her big brother.

 

We’ve had a very crazy month, having attended 3 festivals in as many weeks, and we’re about to do it again in October, so stay tuned. For now, here are a few snaps from Sean and Jay’s big adventure in Venice.

 

 

 

 

TIFF: Lady Bird

ladybird_01In making a coming of age film about a high school student, Greta Gerwig has come into her own – as a writer, as a director, as a woman with a voice.

Lady Bird is the name that Christine (Saoirse Ronan) has given herself. It’s her senior year of high school and all she wants is out. Out of Sacramento, out of her parents’ house, out of her own skin which doesn’t quite seem to fit anymore. Like most teenagers, Lady Bird is kind of a d-bag. She thinks she knows more than any adult she’s ever met. She’s self-centered and blind to the needs of others, but in the sympathetic hands of Ronan, we don’t hate her and we certainly never tire of her. Her flaws should push us away but instead they endear us – maybe even remind us of ourselves at that age.

Her relationship with her mother (Laurie Metcalf) is relatable as heck and among the best I’ve ever seen written or performed on the big screen. Their relationship is a series of clashes between pragmatism and whimsy. Lady Bird doggedly indulges one artistic pursuit after another while her mother does the precarious high-wire act of balancing the needs of an entire family. Ronan and Metcalf are incredible together, the chemistry is electric and complicated and feels so real you’ll intermittently want to send your mother a fruit bouquet of thanks, and a nasty hate letter condemning her every decision. Or was that just me?

But the real kicker is that Lady Bird is not just a mother-daughter movie. Lady Bird’s life is full of characters and it’s amazing how fully realized they all are. We spend time with her father, her brother, her best friend, and several love interests, and Gerwig’s fabulous writing doesn’t lose sight of a single one of them. And her cast – her cast! Have I said yet that Saoirse Ronan is a vision and she brings so much to the role and this is truly the best I’ve ever seen her? Fun fact: she and Greta first met at TIFF two years ago, and Gerwig couldn’t imagine the role going to anyone else. And even though the writing is so, so good, and the character is absolute perfection on the page, Ronan just makes it even better. Even wonderfuller.

And Metcalf. This is such a great role and she really makes it her own: loving, frustrated, conflicted, supportive, scathing. Goddamn. She plays opposite Tracy Letts, who plays her husband and Lady Bird’s dad. He’s the good cop parent but not without his own challenges – believe me, the script does not neglect him. Lois Smith, Timothee Chalamet, and Lucas Hedges all help bring Lady Bird’s world into bold, bright, living colour while also contributing a little of their own. I’m telling you, this has got to be a contender for best script. The layers are many and I have never wanted to peel anything faster in my life! For my money, though, the lovely, luminous Beanie Feldstein has got to be the breakout star here. She plays Lady Bird’s BFF Julie. Don’t mistake her for a second banana. She may have shades of wallflower but she never gives you a second to discount her.

Lady Bird is absolutely one to watch, so do.

20th Century Women

1979: three women. Dorothea (Annette Bening) is an older single mother of a teenaged son who she fears is missing out on some seminal influences, so she enlists his precocious friend Julie (Elle Fanning) and her free spirit\punk photographer tenant Abbie (Greta Gerwig) to “it takes a village” him.

If 20th Century Women isn’t as concerned with being an accurate reflection of the times, it’s a fucking brilliant portraiture. The characters, expertly drawn by writer-director Mike 20th-century-women-annette-benningMills, feel very much like real people because their problems are so distinct. The women don’t bleed into each other; they are each accorded with specific neuroses, anxieties, passions, and influences. We know a little about how they were born, and how they will die, but mostly we know how they are living. 20th Century Women is not plot-driven; nothing “happens” except truth is revealed through meticulous character study.

It helps, of course, to have Annette Bening on board. She’s the reason we’re watching. Her performance was nominated for a Golden Globe. I have been rooting all awards-season long for Natalie Portman in Jackie but having seen this, it will be difficult to go back. Bening treats this movie like a masterclass in acting. Nothing is showy or extraneous. In fact, some of her most brilliant times on screen are in perfect silence, with just the wrinkle of her brow or the droop of her shoulder or some awkward middle-aged dancing communicating all we need to know. Fanning and Gerwig are really quite good as well, but I only know that from the scenes which Bening sits out. If she’s onscreen, my eyes are glued to her. She’s always been this watchable, it’s just been a while since she’s had a role that was equal to her.

Mills’ affection for his characters is evident in their quirkiness. 20th Century Women is funnier than it has to be. Since I’m a strict non-talker at the movies, I tend to communicate approval through hand squeezes. I felt like I’d done a lot of squeezing by the end of the movie, even a little eye-catching and eyebrow lifting, which is probably moot in a dark theatre, but I was feeling magnanimous!  Sean concurred, which I think is an even thumbnail_25085better endorsement for a film that couldn’t be further from his own experience. And that’s what’s so remarkable. Though its genius is in the details, the specificity of the characters, it’s all somehow very relatable. And any movie that’s also a mirror is definitely worth its salt.

Female-Directed Films to Look Forward to in 2017

Put your money where your mouth is: seek out films with women in the director’s seat, and see them in theatres. Women In Film Los Angeles has asked people to take a pledge to see 52 films directed by women in 2017. We’ll be writing about some excellent choices in the back catalogue, but here are some that will be screening in your local cineplex.

Wonder Woman: You’ll have to wait until June for this one, but it’s the first superhero blockbuster to have a female director, and it’s also the first time a woman has been given a budget of over $100 million. Director Patty Jenkins is best known for directing Charlize Theron to her Oscar in Monster. This movie already has a terrific trailer and star Gal Gadot looks pretty badass as the warrior princess, so it’s in pretty good shape.

A United Kingdom: this one hits theatres next month so you’ll soon be able to get a taste of Amma Asante’s work, if you haven’t already (she directed Belle, which you should absolutely check out). A United Kingdom is the true story of  Prince Seretse Khama of Bechuanaland (now Botswana) and the white lady he chose to marry. You might guess that neither of their families are impressed, but it’s the South African apartheid government that poses the biggest problem. It stars David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike and it debuted well at TIFF.

Lovesong: Also out in February, Lovesong is a road trip movie about two women, a single mother (Riley Keough) and a free spirit (Jena Malone) who see a new intensity to their relationship throughout their travels. Sundance has big praise for the Korean American director So Yong Kim and her intimate, nuanced portrait of strong female leads.

Raw: This one is for only the strongest stomachs among us. It debuted at TIFF to rumours of people fainting and\or vomiting over the graphic scenes, in which a young vegetarian is hazed at vet school by being forced to eat meat, awakening in her a real taste for flesh. Writer-director Julie Ducournau was praised for handling the coming of age stuff just as well as she presents the intensely disturbing stuff, and Ducournau’s just getting started: this is her first feature film, so watch out for her.

Their Finest: This is a romantic war comedy. Yes, you read that right. It sounds wrong but it actually is pretty fantastic. It stars Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, and the wonderful Bill Nighy as the people behind morale-boosting movies during the great war. It’s deliciously funny at times but director Lone Scherfig makes sure it’s more than just that, and everyone rises to the occasion.

The Zookeeper’s Wife: I read this book so I know the film will be intense. It’s the true story of the couple who ran the Warsaw Zoo during the second world war; they used the zoo as cover to hide Jews, and ended up saving hundreds of lives, but not without cost. New Zealand director Niki Caro doesn’t have as house-holdy a name as the star, Jessica Chastain, but other notable movies of hers include McFarland USA, North Country, and Whale Rider. Her name is on its way up.

Rock That Body: I’m not quite sure what to make of this one, but I’m putting it on the list anyway. It’s a female ensemble comedy in the style of The Hangover, only instead of losing a friend, they accidentally kill a male stripper. These things happen! Starring Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer, and Zoe Kravitz, and directed by funny lady Lucia Aniello. Fingers crossed that this one works! [Ed. note: this one was renamed Rough Night]

The-Beguiled-Movie-Set-1-1.jpgThe Beguiled: If it sounds familiar, you’re right. It’s a remake of a 1971 film starring Clint Eastwood. This time around it’ll be Colin Farrel in the Eastwood role, a Union soldier being held prisoner in a Confederate girl’s boarding school. All the young ladies fall for him (including Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst, and Nicole Kidman), which means it’s not long until things get complicated. Really complicated. The (new) Beguiled will be directed by Sofia Coppola, who’s got some big titles under her belt like Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette. I hope this one’s a hit!

Lady Bird: This movie is a semi-autobiographical coming of age story about a senior in high school (Saoirse Ronan) who’s getting ready to leave home. It co-stars Manchester By The Sea’s Lucas Hedges, plus Jordan Rodrigues, Laurie Metcalfe, and Tracy Letts’ but oddly enough, this first-time solo director is probably the most famous name of all: it’s Greta Gerwig. Good luck to her, and may it be the first of many.

Unicorn Store: We’re not sure when this one’s even coming out but it’s never too early for mv5bodvinzc2ytetndy0my00odk2lwfkodqtmdvjzwzhndzkzmq3xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjixnde0ote-_v1_sy1000_sx1000_al_anticipation! It’s about a woman named Kit who moves back home to live with her parents and then gets an invitation that makes things interesting. Brie Larson will star AND direct, despite the fact that she’s got an absolutely packed 2017, what with Kong: Skull Island, Free Fire, Basmati Blues, and The Glass Castle all being released, but this quirky future Captain Marvel always has time to surprise us.

 

 

Wiener Dog

I love dogs. I have 4 dogs and I like them more than I like most people. They’re just more genuine, you know? You always know where you stand with a dog. I have 2 shih-tzus, 1 yorkie, and 1 beautiful little mutt. No wiener dogs, but not because I don’t like them. It’s because Sean thinks it’s cruel to breed a dog to be disabled. And he’s right; the short legs and long back of a Dachshund causes them to suffer from ruptured vertebral discs on top of bowed legs and elbow dislocation. Seeing my dogs joyfully running around outside, I would be heartbroken to have one little dog who just couldn’t join in.

Wiener-Dog is a movie ostensibly about a super cute Dachshund who gets homepage_wiener-dog-2016-2passed from one weird owner to another. The film is more like 4 shorts that only have a dog in common. I didn’t even believe that it was the same wiener dog in all 4 vignettes. The first two are clearly linked, the last 2 not so much. The shorts also become increasingly non-entertaining. I thought the first one was the strongest: a father picks up a puppy for his young son, who has recently survived cancer. The dog sparks many serious conversations between mother (Julie Delpy) and son – motherhood, personality, free will, death. But all of the conversations are straight out of a what-not-to-say handbook, with Delpy literally telling her son that her childhood dog Croissant was raped by a dog with AIDS named Mohammed. The satire is delicious. There’s an explosion of joy on the screen as a boy and his dog play together, but this outburst of happiness is quickly punished, and the dog changes hands.

This is how it is with director Todd Solondz. He doesn’t care about your wiener-dog-film-trailer-stillcomfort, he’s not here to cushion the blow. And he’s sure as hell not here to give you a happy ending, so keep that in mind. Next up for Wiener Dog, she gets adopted by a character from another Todd Solondz movie, Welcome to the Dollhouse. Dawn is all grown up now, and played with Greta Gerwig. She runs into childhood…acquaintance (?) Brandon (Kieran Culkin) in a 7-11, and suddenly Wiener Dog’s on a road trip through some really heavy issues. She also meets disgruntled professor Danny DeVito and bitter old hag Ellen Burstyn. Through it all, Solondz’s camera is unflinching, perversely lingering over the gross and unbearable.

Solondz’s rage is evident in spades, from the meta film school vignette to the open mocking of the audience’s queasiness with a tongue-in-cheek intermission (and a great song – The Ballad of the Wiener-Dog). Solondz is all about finding humour in the darkness, and Wiener-Dog is an innocent bystander to all kinds of human stupidity. The film drips with cynicism. It was too much for Sean. And while I can’t really profess to enjoying it, I deeply appreciated the fuckedupness of it.

TIFF: Jackie

Jackie is a beautiful film by Pablo Larrain that focuses on Jacqueline Kennedy in the minutes and days following her husband’s assassination.

Larrain is a Chilean film maker, which makes him at outsider to American politics. He poured over documents and was fascinated to read about this day that every age-appropriate American remembers so vividly: when the car turned, the location of the grassy knoll, the flag-wavers lining the street, the bullet’s trajectory – and always sitting beside the president, his wife, Jackie. e02adc223bf38b822b3e250330bde15cLarrain thought to himself, what if it was the other way around. What if he was sitting beside her? And in that thought was born a beautifully conceived film that puts its female character front and centre.

Larrain thought the script was good but sent it back with a note to cut every and any scene that she wasn’t in. The camera would be on Jackie the whole time. Obviously a film with such unerring focus would need an actress who could carry it, and Natalie Portman is that actress. This is her best role since Black Swan and honestly it may be her best role, full stop. She inhabits Jackie like a second skin. She doesn’t get caught up in the trappings of impersonation, she just embodies the grace, the thoughtfulness, and the mystery of one of America’s most beloved and glamourous first ladies.

Despite being a favourite in the press, Jacqueline Kennedy is perhaps unknowable. She was always careful about her public persona and was closely guarded when speaking on record. The film makes this abundantly clear through scenes with a journalist (Billy Crudup) about a week after tragedy has struck. She edits her remarks, strikes things from the record, and demands final approval before a single word is printed. Noah Oppenheim’s script is 14996precise and offers up tantalizing looks behind the closed doors of Camelot.

Peter Sarsgaard, as Bobby Kennedy, is a charming lurker. Greta Gerwig in her most un-Gerwig role to date is restrained and almost unrecognizable. I’d heard that Natalie Portman gave a stellar performance in Jackie but I was unprepared for how good the film would be as a whole. This isn’t just a candidate for Best Actress but I believe, for Best Picture. It’s so well-orchestrated, each piece comes together perfectly to make a very satisfying picture. JFK, one of the world’s most recognizable politicians, is a mere shadow in this film. Jackie gets her moment in the sun, which makes Natalie Portman the star at the centre of this movie’s universe.

She deserves all the acclaim she’ll receive. She’s brave and courageous here, mixing grief and poise in an intoxicating cocktail that you won’t be able to tear your eyes from. She’s magnetic. She shimmers with loss and outrage as she protects her husband (and more importantly: his legacy) from the vultures already climbing over his coffin. Jackie feels very much like an insider’s peek-a-boo on what has to be an iconic yet little-understood moment in history. Finally we experience JFK’s assassination as Jackie felt it – as the gruesome murder of her husband and the father of her two young kids. She sat beside him, scooping his brains back into his skull, calling to him even as she knew he was already dead. His blood is still fresh on her dress as LBJ is sworn in just 43 minutes later, Kennedy’s body resting just a few feet away. What to tell the children? What to tell the nation? It’s absolutely fascinating. Stephane Fontaine’s cinematography allows us to get very close to the grief, while also appreciating its context: Air Force One, the White House, the Lincoln convertible. Jackie manages to be both historic and quite personal, and Larrain ushers us ably into both worlds. Both Portman and Larrain resist the temptation to over-emote. Like the former first lady herself, restraint, control, and self-possession are at its heart.