Nathaniel Rogers Hub




Weekend Movie: The Miraculous 'Birdman'

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Washed Up Actor vs. Difficult Thespian Round 1 in the hilarious, awesome "Birdman"  

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

A card in the bottom right hand of the star's mirror reads:

"A thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing."
-Susan Sontag

Which immediately complicates or maybe simplifies celebrity and art, two major themes (among a handful) of Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu's one of a kind new film experience. It's destined for major Oscar nominations and you should see it immediately. The movie has the simple and then complicated title of BIRDMAN, Or (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) which fits its two-faced nature perfectly. This quote is never addressed in the film but it's always stubbornly lodged there in that mirror, defying or playfully encouraging conversation about what this movie actually is. And what are reviews or after-movie conversation other than attempts to interpret and define?

Critics are often treated with petulant hostility in movies about show business, as if the filmmakers have an axe to grind and need to do that with grindstone in hand while their critical avatar/puppet hangs there limply, waiting to be struck with the sharpened blade. Birdman is no exception, immediately insulting its formidable theater critic Tabitha (Lindsay Duncan) as having a face that 'looks like she just licked a homeless man's ass,' before she's even spoken a line. But Tabitha is a slippery mark, portrayed as a voice of integrity in one scene and then a vicious unprofessional monster in another. This calls into question the reality of her scenes altogether.

Is each scene in the movie meant to be taken at face value or are plenty of them partially or fully projections of the actors, warped by their egos and neurosis. Birdman is filled with these kind of mindf*** questions while also being completely hilarious and emotionally compelling. The story revolves around a has-been movie star named Riggan Thomson who used to be very famous for playing a superhero. In the movies all-around genius casting he is played by has-been movie star Michael Keaton who used to be very famous for playing a superhero.

MORE, AFTER THE JUMP...

Birdman-and-birdman

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A Closer, Gayer Look at Oscar's Foreign Film Race

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French stars Louis Garrell and Gaspard Ulliel have a dangerous liaison in "Saint Laurent"  

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

As you may have heard last night AMPAS (The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) announced that a record 83 films will compete for favor in this year's BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM showdown. This Oscar category has long been a specialty of mine and a couple of years back I even had the opportunity to speak about it on CNNi. The number of competing films and the media interest seem to grow each year. A dozen or so years ago when Oscar blogging first began to flourish, I was the only writer giving it a lot of attention and now virtually every movie outlet covers it, at least in list or press release format. The growing interest is somewhat odd since it becomes harder and harder for subtitled pictures to find audiences or get decent theatrical releases in the States. 

Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 6.14.05 PMSome movies with early heat in this category include Poland's Ida, an amazing black and white drama about a nun discovering her family history is a must see (it's available on DVD), Argentina's Wild Tales, a raucuous crowd-pleasing collection of outre comedic stories that's produced (but not directed) by Pedro Almodovar which is due in US theaters early next year, Belgium's Two Days One Night, a socioeconomic drama starring Marion Cotillard in yet another incredible performance which opens on December 24th. And.... No, no. We're getting sidetracked. Let's stop there.

There are so many movies worth loving.

For now let's look at movies (and their trailers) with something specific for LGBT audiences 
AFTER THE JUMP...

Xavier-cannesscroll
Xavier Dolan, the Queer Canadian prodigy, at Cannes with "Mommy" 

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An Interview with Director Matthew Warchus on His Cheer-Inducing Film 'Pride'

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Have you seen PRIDE yet? It'll make you feel like cheering.  

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS
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Last weekend while Denzel Washington was making news with yet another big hit in THE EQUALIZER (good for him but when is he going to challenge himself?) the new film that won the most crowded theaters was actually PRIDE (previously reviewed) the true life LGBT story of a group of activists in the 1980s that stood up for striking miners during Margaret Thatcher’s bullying reign.

This surprisingly entertaining film about a tough subject is on its way to being at least a small success. The film was even more popular later in the weekend which means that the coveted “Word of Mouth,” which can trigger long runs, is there. CBS Films knows that they’ll have to nurture this one along to sleeper hit status so they’ll be expanding carefully. They’ll add more theaters this Friday and additional cities follow on October 10th. If you’ve already seen it tell your friends how much you enjoyed it, or see it again with them. Support great gay films so that we get more of them!

Just before opening weekend I had the opportunity to talk with the director Matthew Warchus. He’s best known for stage productions (winning the Tony for God of Carnage) but he’s already working on his follow up to Pride, a big screen adaptation of the Broadway hit Matilda The Musical. He'll start filming that one in about two years.


Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 4.47.49 PMTR: You’ve done a lot of stage work before this. What do you think most prepared you to tell this particular story and on film?

MATTHEW WARCHUS: One great bit of preparation: I grew up in a village in the middle of nowhere in the North of England surrounded by coal mines and massively isolated. We had moved into that village so we were outsiders, wanting to to assimilate and be accepted. That gave me an understanding of how those communities work and the positives and minuses.

You were a teenager when the events in the film happened, right?

MW: I remember local picket lines during the strike. But at that age I don’t think I really understood. When I went to university I learned much more about the politics and the social upheaval. And then, you know, being interested in theater and music wasn’t common where I was growing up. There wasn’t a theater or drama group or anything nearby so that was considered as odd as dancing at a disco where only the women dance! [Laughs]

MORE ON 'PRIDE', COMMUNITY AND MUSICALS, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Movie Review: 'Pride'

  Pride-disco
You'll feel like dancing, too. "Pride" is the year's most adorable movie.  

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

Truth is stranger-than-fiction and also often gayer. The new feature PRIDE dramatizes a largely unknown historical anecdote from the bitter year-long miner’s strike in Thatcher-era Britain when a group of gay activists fundraised for the miners. This alliance is at first an awkward tense match but it eventually finds heartwarming pockets of oxygen when these two unlikely groups are breathing the same air.

It begins with a handful of gay activists (“and lesbian!” their only female member interjects with a small wave in a recurring joke), notice a sudden decline in police bullying in their neighborhood. They make the connection: the conservative government has a new minority to scapegoat. They form a group called LGSM “Lesbians and Gays for the Striking Miners” to help the people suffering without paychecks for months on end — a byproduct of Margaret Thatcher’s war against the unions.

At first, though, these gay heroes can’t even find a miner’s group that will take their money in this cross culture dramedy. MORE AFTER THE JUMP...

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Weekend Movie: 'The Maze Runner'

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No, Dylan, the Maze is not a metaphor for navigating your sudden stardom.  

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

The last thing anyone will ever enjoy about THE MAZE RUNNER, should they be so lucky as to enjoy it, is a review describing the finer points of its narrative. Let if suffice to say that Stiles from Teen Wolf wakes up in a large glade surrounded by a huge stone maze. The only inhabitants of this sealed environment are a group of similarly aged boys, none of whom are frequently shirtless werewolves, dammit.

Why are they there?

Who put them there?

Can they ever escape?

What’s different about Dylan O’Brien besides the largest paycheck?

Will there be a sequel?

The movie shall answer all of these questions in 113 minutes! And many more. In fact The Maze Runner so loves to ask and answer questions, that it does so in literally every scene rivalling Inception in sheer expository percentages of dialogue uttered.

Since the movie loves to answer questions, TEN QUESTIONS AFTER THE JUMP...

Entermaze

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Gay Films, Star Power, and Oscar Buzz: a Report from the Toronto International Film Festival

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Eddie Redmayne got a huge thumbs up in Toronto. Oscar-bound?

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

Hello all. Just back from Canada from the Toronto International Film Festival, aka the best film festival in the world, which wrapped up on Sunday. My fellow Oscar bloggers like to shill for Telluride these days but I’m convinced it’s simply Stockholm Syndrome since Telluride actually makes the press pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars for a pass for the privilege of giving them free publicity. In Toronto, if you’re lucky enough to write about the movies for a living, you get your press pass for free and your only expense, other than travel and lodging (which can add up) is your time. But what person who loves movies, wouldn’t want to spend that gorging on selections from all over the world, the best of Cannes and Sundance and a ton of new ones, some of them courting Oscar gold, too.

I was so giddy all week that even when I failed to spot Reese Witherspoon at her own party for WILD (she’s short, y’all and thus hides easily in a crowd even in a sparkly dress) I remained elated to chat with Laura Dern (one of the greats who needs big roles again!) and wonder what possessed Chris Evans to what looked like gloriously form-fitting white longjohn shirt to a party where everyone else was in suits. I’m not complaining, I’m just saying. I was so thrilled that even the sight of Eddie Redmayne’s back in his daring aquamarine suit and Andrew Garfield’s giant beard at THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING party was as good as actually talking to them, but I made do with talking to Oscar-buzzing Felicity Jones who, like Redmayne, gives her best screen performance yet in that new Stephen Hawking biopic.

MORE AFTER THE JUMP..

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