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04/19/2007


Christmas Movies: Wolf of Wall Street, Walter Mitty, and More

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"Gatsby" wasn't enough. Leonardo DiCaprio is throwing more baucherous parties again

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

Who can keep up at Christmas time at the multiplex? At the moment you can indulge in three more hours of Hobbitry (as pleasurable as the first nine hours were, ten years ago, can we move on?), the eye-candy cast of American Hustle with their 70s tight curls and plunging cleavage (and that's just Bradley Cooper), supercalifragilistic Emma Thompson as the creator of Mary Poppins in Saving Mr Banks, and Joaquin Phoenix falling in love with Scarlett Johansson's operating system (not a euphemism) in Her. And there's still more movies to come before Oscar nominations. Happy Holidays!

As is their yuletide tradition all the major movie studios have fused together into one frightening Mecha-Santa and are dropping so many gifts that you'll be crushed in the bows and boxes and festive bedazzlements alone. So can we talk about gift-wrapping for just one second?

NEW RELEASES AND ONE MISLEADING TRAILER AFTER THE JUMP...

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Interview: Jonathan Groff on 'Frozen' and HBO's 'Looking'

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Jonathan Groff stars in "Looking" on HBO.

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

One of the surest signs of progress in 2013: Jonathan Groff, an out gay actor, who has already conquered the stage ("Spring Awakening"), and a hit television gig ("Glee"), is moving up to leading roles ("Frozen" and "Looking"). No one is complaining about it or suggesting that he shouldn't be playing a romantic lead in a Disney blockbuster! Not that anyone could make a convincing case against this engaging actor, his stellar pipes and the sly spark in his eyes, if they tried.

In person, at the Waldorf Astoria, where we sat down to talk about his role in FROZEN, the new Disney animated musical (it plays like a fusion of The Snow Queen and Wicked), he was less the intimidating STAR type than the charismatic 'boy next door'. He gushed about the opportunity to sing as a Disney character even though he only gets one song. It's a memorable comic duet... with himself; he plays a lonely mountain man whose only companion is a reindeer and he provides both voices.

NR: How many voices did you try out for the reindeer?

JONATHAN GROFF: We did a bunch and sort of landed on that one. I loved that! That was the most fun I had in the booth. Because, you know, you normally do the scene and the reader reads the line and then you read the lines. But to do the whole scene as myself as Kristoff and then Kristoff as Sven was really trippy and fun.

[More Frozen and the pressure of being an out gay actor AFTER THE JUMP...]

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Movies: 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'

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Post-Oscar win, JLaw gets dragged back to The Hunger Games

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

The Hunger Games is not without its charms. Which is a very strange thing to say about a beloved bloody genre franchise about children murdering each other... but then *I'm* not the one suggesting it become a family theme park or inspire a cosmetics line. (Both very sensible and in no way inappropriate spinoffs!) As these things go, it is infinitely preferrable to the Twilight Saga. They're the immensely popular twin (non-identical) poster girls for the increasingly crowded subgenre of YA dystopian fantasies in which a mopey teen passively navigates treacherous waters (and woods) and love triangles with death looming all around her.

Both series trade on grand suicidal gestures ('I'll die of depression/eat the poison berries, if I can't have my man... I swear!') but at least The Hunger Games is self aware. It performs these defiant adolescent gestures with a sly and stately sense of morbid theatricality instead of self-pitying angst and is generally smart enough to express ambivalence about its content beyond the binaries of Team This Boyfriend vs Team That Boyfriend.

But, yes, when we return to the deadly adventures of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) for HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE she is flip-flopping between Boyfriends.

More, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Movies: The Aggressive Oscar Campaigns Begin

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Supercalifragilistic Tom, Emma, and Colin at AFI 

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

I apologize for my absence. I recently returned to NYC from Hollywood's annual AFI festival (November 7th-14th) and its been hard to see clearly since. The galas were blinding with star wattage and the air was foggy with golden dreams - Oscar approaches! Awards buzz begins in force in Toronto each September but there the conversation is largely shaped by the critics. By early November, studios and their awards strategists (yes, it's an actual job) have read the tea leaves and begun to take back the conversation in the form of aggressive media campaigns. At AFI the path to Oscar is lined with star tributes and interviews. This year the honorees were director David O. Russell (American Hustle), director Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) and the actors Bruce Dern (Nebraska) and Annette Bening (the sole honoree without an Oscar vehicle to push).

The Bening surprised her appreciate fans with a screening of next year's romantic drama Face of Love, in which she falls for a dead ringer of her dead husband played by Ed Harris. (Do you think they co-miserated on set over their rotten Oscar luck? Both of them have 4 nominations but have lost repeatedly to lesser actors.)

George Clooney on "AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY" plus "NEBRASKA", AFTER THE JUMP...

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Movies: Dallas Buyers Club

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Leto & McConaughey have great bristling chemistry in "Dallas Buyer's Club" 

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

"Silence = Death" was a particularly genius political slogan for AIDS activists in the 1980s. Potently succinct, righteously angry, and, best of all, both literally and spiritually true. The conversations it prompted about systemic gay oppression, political complacency, the importance of frank sexual discussion, and gay liberation -- particularly in regards to the fight against HIV and AIDS -- surely saved countless lives. But isn't it a curious thing that HIV/AIDS in the arts and entertainments still remains so tied to gay-only narratives of roughly a ten year window from the early 80s through the early 90s? Time to tell new stories from fresh perspectives?

Enter DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, one of the first AIDS dramas (that I can recall at least) that is not about the gay community. Matthew McConaughey stars as Ron Woodroff, a hard-living homophobe electrician. When we first meet him he's having a drug-fueled three way with two women behind the scenes at the rodeo. While we're watching him getting it on, he's watching a man getting gored at the rodeo. This opening sequence arguably shoves the entirely less useful 'Sex = Death' argument in your face, but the film quickly finds its footing as an involving drama about a man who doesn't know what's knocked him out and also is too damn stubborn to stay down.

MORE AFTER THE JUMP...

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Movies: Alfonso Cuáron's 'Gravity' and Other October Pleasures

  Gravity-huddle
Outer Space Movie Star Huddle: Sandy & Clooney 

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

There's a brief scene in Nicole Holofcener's engaging indie hit ENOUGH SAID that repeats enough times that it could be the chorus if the movie were a song. A massage therapist (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) arrives at the home of a fit male client who lives on the top floor of his building. Every time she arrives he pops out with a killer smile looking down to greet her. He never thinks to help her as she arduously lugs her massage table up the entire steep flight of stairs.  

Excuse the stretch but this is sometimes how it feels to write about movies. Especially the ones that are true lookers that you're still just not that into.

By any definition GRAVITY is the movie of the moment and by some measures it will come to be regarded as The Movie of the Year. (You can lock it up for a Best Picture nomination).  If you've ever wondered "What's all the fuss?" about something that everyone else loved I hope you'll choose empathy when you learn that I did not love it. In the binary-thinking of the 21st century the internet this makes me a hater but this is not the case.  At every zero gravity step of its way I was trying to love it.  And I did mostly like it... at least through its astounding 20 minute (?) opening act, which appears to have been miraculously filmed in one continuous shot.  

MORE AFTER THE JUMP...

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