Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cannes 2012

Other than its Marilyn Monroe promotional poster, this season's Cannes Film Festival is low-key. Heading the jury for the main competition is Nanni Moretti, an Italian filmmaker and actor known for his Palme d'Or-winning film, The Son's Room (2001). He heads a disparate panel of judges made up of independent filmmakers (Andrea Arnold, Alexander Payne), Euro eye candies (Diane Kruger, Ewan McGregor) and a flamboyant French designer known for legitimizing pointed cone bras back in 1990 (Jean Paul Gaultier).

The jury will have a field day choosing from among a staggering number of new films including Carlos Reygadas' Post Tenebras Lux, David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis (seen below) and Walter Salles' On the Road.

Gaining momentum from last year's prize-winning film, The Tree of Life, the United States dominates the main competition with five nominations. Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, Lee Daniels' The Paperboy, Andrew Dominik's Killing Them Softly, John Hillcoat's Lawless and Jeff Nichols' Mud are all vying for the festival's Palme d'Or.

Thirty-three year old Nichols won last year's Cannes Critics Week Grand Prize for his apocalyptic thriller, Take ShelterMud is his third film.

Previous Palme d'Or winners, all of them notable auteurs, bolster this year's main competition lineup. Michael Haneke returns after a three-year Cannes hiatus with Love, an intimate domestic drama; celebrated Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami crosses boundaries with Like Someone in Love, a searing moral drama shot in Japanese; Cannes darling Ken Loach returns to familiar territory with The Angels' Share, his 11th film to be featured in the festival; and Romanian director Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) tests the limits of friendship in Beyond the Hills.

After years of being nominated in the Un Certain Regard category, idiosyncratic Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo finally gets a chance at snagging the coveted Palme d'Or. His new film, In Another Country (pictured below), is quirky cool. For some strange reason, French actress Isabelle Huppert is in it. To top it off, she gets to play three roles—all named Anne.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sneak Preview: May

1. The Avengers 
Release date: April 25, 2012 (Philippines) / Directed by Joss Whedon / Featuring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner 

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) brings together an elite group of superheroes in an attempt to fend off Loki, a deranged Asgardian sorcerer. Egos collide as Iron Man (Tony Stark), Captain America (Steve Rogers) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) suit up and go mano-a-mano with Thor's errant half-brother. There's too much testosterone in this movie you can almost smell it.

2. First Position 
Directed by Bess Kargman / Featuring Aran Bell, Gaya Bommer Yemini, Michaela Deprine and Julues Jarvis Foarty     

It's Billy Elliot (2000) meets "So You Think You Can Dance." Documentary filmmaker Bess Kargman follows six aspiring dancers ages 9-19 as they prepare for the Youth America Grand Prix: an international ballet competition. Good buzz from the festival circuit makes this kiddie treat the must-see documentary of the season.

3. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 
Release date: May 4, 2012 (US)  / Directed by John Madden / Featuring Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith and Tom Wilkinson 

A group of British retirees moves to an elderly home in India only to realize that the place is not as good as they thought it would be. Director John Madden rebounds after a string of disappointments (Captain Corelli's MandolinProofKillshot), giving us what could possibly be this year's best British ensemble. 

4. Dark Shadows  
Release date: May 11, 2012 (US) / Directed by Tim Burton / Featuring Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green and Helena Bonham Carter 

Director Tim Burton and writer Seth Grahame-Smith (Pride and Prejudice and ZombiesAbraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) remake Dan Curtis' 1960s horror/sci-fi TV series, "Dark Shadows," for 2012. 
Johnny Depp, a fan of the series, is Barnabas Collins, an 18th century playboy who, after ditching a witch (Eva Green), is turned into a vampire. 

Keep your eyes peeled for Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Lee and Helena Bonham Carter.

5. Moonrise Kingdom 
Release date: May 25, 2012 (US) / Directed by Wes Anderson / Featuring Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis and Bill Murray

Wes Anderson steers clear from his usual fare with Moonrise Kingdom: a period drama set to open this year's Cannes festival. Two lovers elope (Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman), prompting the girl's parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) and the local sheriff (Bruce Willis) to organize a search party. I don't get it. If people don't want to be found, why bother?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Quick Reads: Two Books for Kinks and Goths

1. The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice (1983)
Published by Plume, November 1990 • trade paperback • 253 pages

It's beyond kinky—it's off the charts kinky. Anne Rice is pretty liberal with her S&M vernacular, giving us a generous serving of male/female domination, royal tween worship and vicious acts of abuse and cruelty. The reigning  queen of goth injects eroticism, violence and pony play into the dusty, centuries old tale of Sleeping Beauty, turning it into something sadomasochists the world over will no doubt approve. It's disarming to say the least, but once the shock waves die down, you'll find yourself blushing. Don't be surprised if you end up devouring each page like the repressed catholic school girl that we all are.

2. Great Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe (1966)
Published by Washington Square Press, Inc., October 1966 • mass paperback • 432 pages

Edgar Allan Poe is a poet through and through and this is none more evident than his extensive collection of short stories. He writes in a flowery, sing-song manner that could, depending on the reader, be good or bad. Poe rarely veers away from his standard themes of paranoia, death and dementia. This inevitably results in monotony and predictability. Every so often, though, through stories like The Gold-BugHop-Frog and The Black Cat, we're remind time and again of his dark, uncommon appeal and trailblazing ingenuity. He's a prolific short story writer; there's bound to be one story of his you'll end up gushing about.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sneak Preview: April

1. Comic-Con Episode Four: A Fan's Hope  
Release date: April 6, 2012 (US) • Documentary • Directed by Morgan Spurlock • Featuring Kevin Smith, Stan Lee, Eli Roth and Seth Rogen

After spewing chewed up Chicken McNuggets in Super Size Me (2004), Morgan Spurlock is back with Comic-Con Episode Four. Armed with a camera, he trails several fans from around the US as they inch their way to the very navel of geekdom on earth: Comic Con. Expect oddballs, nerds and some of the entertainment industry's most prominent geeks (Kevin Smith, Stan Lee, Seth Rogen) to show up in full force.

2. The Hunter  
Release date: April 6, 2012 (US) • Drama • Directed by Daniel Nettheim • Featuring Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill and Morgana Davies

Willem Dafoe and his member last made an impression in Antichrist (2009), Lars von Trier's Cannes gorefest. In The Hunter, the 56-year-old actor returns to leading man territory, playing a mercenary sent to Australia to investigate reported sightings of the long extinct Tasmanian tiger.

3. To the Arctic 3D
Release date: April 20, 2012 (US) • Documentary • Directed by Greg MacGillivray • Featuring Meryl Streep

March of the Penguins (2005) made nature documentaries cool. This year, it's the polar bear's turn to face the limelight. In director Greg MacGillivray's documentary, a female polar bear and her two cubs deal with snow storms, dwindling food supply and the looming threat of global warming. You think you're having a hard time? Try living in the North Pole.

4. Bernie 
Release date: April 27, 2012 (US) • Comedy • Directed by Richard Linklater • Featuring Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey

Director Richard Linklater is reunited with Jack Black (School of Rock) and Matthew McConaughey (Dazed and Confused) in Bernie, a hodge-podge of dark comedy, drama and courtroom mayhem. Bernie Tiede (Black), a gay mortician, kills the town's wealthy 81-year-old widow (MacLaine). McConaughey, echoing his glory days in A Time to Kill (1996), is a district attorney.

If McConaughey plays it right, this could offset his intolerable Dolce & Gabbana ads. (Fingers crossed.)