Blackfilm’s Wilson Morales reported today that director Ava Duvernay screened about five minutes’ worth of Selma (Paramount, 12.25), the broad-canvas ’60s-era civil rights drama, last night at the Urbanworld Film Festival. A discussion with Duvernay and star David Oyelowo, who plays Martin Luther King, was moderated by Urbanworld executive producer Gabrielle Glore.
“Based on the two clips presented, which ran a total of five minutes, David is good enough to be in conversation for one of the five Best Actor slots,” says Morales. “He embodies King. If you watch the video, he was asked about being a Brit playing MLK and he said ‘If Meryl Streep can play Margaret Thatcher, then I can play Dr. King.’
A persistent if whispered thought I keep hearing: apart from the sheer brilliance of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Birdman, the affecting naturalism of Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood and the poignancy of James Marsh‘s The Theory of Everything, 2014 feels like a weak Best Picture year. I realize that a lot of people are serious believers in The Imitation Game. I’m not about to do a 180 on my 8.30 Telluride review — it’s smooth, efficient, well-ordered — but there’s a distinct resistance to its avoidance of any depiction of any aspects of Alan Turing‘s private life as a gay man. Quote from a dinner last night among three film cognoscenti: “If Nebraska had opened in this relatively weak year, it would be in a much stronger Best Picture position than it was last year with 12 Years A Slave and Wolf of Wall Street as competition.” The stage is clearly set for some significant, highly charged film to bulldoze its way into the conversation, elbow Birdman aside and take a commanding lead…but what?
Here’s a portion of Wesley Morris’ review of A Walk Among The Tombstones, a ’70s-style Liam Neeson thriller of a superior caste. Some of the critics called it a “dad movie” (assholes) and the popcorn crowd more or less blew it off this weekend in favor of The Maze Runner, although Tombstones managed a moderately decent $13 million and change.
Remember Fury (Columbia, 10.17), that David Ayer-directed war film that was first mentioned as a potential award-season hopeful in an 8.3.14 N.Y. Times article? Fury “promises to be one of the most daring studio movies in an awards season that will bring several World War II films,” Michael Cieply wrote, by delivering “relentlessly authentic” — i.e., brutally violent — “depictions of the combat realm” that “the popular culture has rarely seen.” But an accelerated post-production schedule kept it out of the fall festival circuit. I thought it might turn up as a special presentation during the upcoming N.Y. Film Festival — this could still theoretically happen. What I know for sure is that press screenings are about to begin so tally ho and saddle up.
After she finishes directing and cutting By The Sea, Angelina Jolie will direct Africa, a true-life drama about paleoanthropologist and Kenyan citizen Richard Leakey — a willful, intrepid fellow who seems cut from a similar cloth as the late Louis Zamperini, the real-life hero of Jolie’s Unbroken. Variety reports that Eric Roth‘s script will focus on Leakey’s battle with ivory poachers, who of course are threatening to exterminate the African elephant population. Leakey’s Wikipedia bio doesn’t mention elephants all that much, but it does tell a history of a guy who’s been extensively involved in Kenyan politics and who lost his legs in a 1993 plane crash, when he was in his late 40s. All you have to do is throw in a romantic interest and you have Out of Africa With Elephants. Definite Best Actor potential for whomever plays Leakey.
Liv Corfixen‘s My Life Directed By Nicholas Winding Refn, a Hearts of Darkness-like doc about the making of Refn’s Only God Forgives, screened twice yesterday at Fantastic Fest. My interest is fanned by reports that it includes a sequence in which Refn reads a portion of my Cannes Film Festival pan of Only God Forgives. Dispenser’s Spencer Howard writes that the 58 minute-long film “is as fascinating as it is insightful.”
“Corfixen throws the promo-reel notion to the side by showing Refn’s struggles without resulting to a ‘we are a champion’ mentality at the end. Refn struggles with the technical and emotional making of the film and Corfixen doesn’t turn away, and sometimes leaves her anger with him on camera. No one looks like a good or bad guy — they both come off as real people who are trying to their jobs.
My preferred Matthew McConaughey MKC Lincoln ad is the one in which he stares down a bull and then backs off from a confrontation. The other one in which he says he’s been driving Lincolns “before anyone paid me to do it” is…well, it may not be bullshit but it sure sounds like it. Both were directed by Nicholas Winding Refn. The spots premiered online about two and half weeks ago; the TV debut was on Saturday, 9.6. What is McConaughey saying at the end of the bull commercial? I’ve listened to it five times and all I can hear is “ankee sahrs.” He’s saying “thank you” something?
Matthew McConaughey will be tributed at the American Cinematheque’s annual gala at the Beverly Hilton on 10.21. He’ll be helping to raise a significant sum for the organization — obviously a good thing. The other motive, of course, is to raise notions about his performance in Chris Nolan‘s Interstellar (Paramount, 11.7) meriting Best Actor attention. Due respect but the industry is McConaughey’ed out right now. It’s been less than a year since his Dallas Buyer’s Club Oscar plus all that True Detective praise…enough. Give someone else a chance. Incidentally: The idea of an exploratory, time-bending space mission somehow saving the world from its own ecological ruination strains credulity. But the idea of a demanding, all-consuming job stealing decades of family time and causing dedicated pros to miss out on sharing their children’s lives…that is a metaphor people can and will relate to.