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Thompson on Hollywood

Exclusive Featurette: A Look Inside the Cult of Martha Marcy May Marlene; Olsen and Durkin Vie for Oscar Slots

Fox Searchlight's mighty marketing machine is in full force right now as they seek to not only push "The Descendants" and "Shame" into movie theaters and the Oscar race, but a less obvious indie contender, "Martha Marcy May Marlene" ($1.6 million in limited release to date). Check out this exclusive featurette, complete with footage, commentary from breakout dramatic actress Elizabeth Olsen (younger sibling of the Olsen twins) and a psychologist who specializes in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. They address the nature of Martha's experience both within and outside a cult led by a charismatic, seductive Svengali leader ("Winter's Bone" Oscar nominee John Hawkes). More likely than Olsen landing a slot as best actress is "Martha" writer-director Sean Durkin's shot at scoring an original screenplay nomination--as usual that field is wide open.
  • By Anne Thompson
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  • November 16, 2011 11:57 AM
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Third Annual Hollywood Fringe Festival Sets 2012 Dates: How to Join Up

Los Angeles culture lovers: the third installment of the Hollywood Fringe Festival has set its dates for 2012. From June 14-24, Hollywood will get an "explosion of theatre performances, solo artists, dancers, experimental art, comedy, films, and cabaret" from this non-profit fest. An opening night gala, awards ceremony and after party are all part of the fest, which is open and non-curated. More information on how to be involved and key dates are below:
  • By Sophia Savage
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  • November 16, 2011 11:44 AM
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The Three Gifts of Andy Serkis: Hobbit Teaser, Caesar and Captain Haddock

Among the many things to be thankful for at this time of year, such as compelling art house films fighting for your box office dollar after a summer of mindless tent-poles ("Shame" beats "Green Lantern" any day), let us acknowledge Three Gifts from Andy Serkis for the year 2011. The first two may never get the credit they deserve, but "Hobbit" fans will be excited for the third:
  • By Sophia Savage
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  • November 15, 2011 4:45 PM
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Media Watch: ABC Sets Oscar Ad Rates, NYT Launches The Collection, Skype Co-Founder Leads Social Gift Wrapp

  • By Maggie Lange
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  • November 15, 2011 3:57 PM
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Dragon Tattoo Soundtrack Art, Another Trailer Reworking

"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" soundtrack boasts its own striking artwork, while the trailer has gotten a one-minute reworking. Both are below (ThePlaylist has more details on the soundtrack and score), where you can also listen to a taste of the Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross collaboration. "Dragon Tattoo" lands just in time to tarnish your Christmas cheer, December 21. Don't worry: its dogged marketing team won't forget to remind you.
  • By Sophia Savage
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  • November 15, 2011 3:19 PM
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Straights Who Play Gay and Die Painful Death Win the Oscar

In Gays: Dying for an Oscar, Gold Derby spells out the rules for winning an Oscar in a gay role: "Gay roles can win Oscars but only if the characters, who must die hideous deaths, are portrayed by straight people." Among the Oscar-winners included in their round up: Charlize Theron ("Monster," death by lethal injection), Best Actress, 2003; Tom Hanks ("Philadelphia," death by AIDS), Best Actor, 1993; Hilary Swank ("Boys Don't Cry," death by gun, knife), Best Actress, 1999; and Sean Penn ("Milk," death by gun), Best Actor, 2008. Colin Firth was of course nominated for "A Single Man" but lost (was death by heart attack not painful enough?). Here's the rest.
  • By Sophia Savage
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  • November 15, 2011 2:23 PM
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  • 3 Comments

CASTING WATCH: Jolie Gets Agent to Go Indie, U.N.C.L.E. Eyes Tatum, Beatty Picks Felicity Jones

  • By Sophia Savage
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  • November 15, 2011 1:40 PM
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Oscar Watch: Glenn Close Talks Gender Bender Albert Nobbs

  • By Anne Thompson
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  • November 15, 2011 1:26 PM
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The Iron Lady Review: No Thatcher Hatchet Job, Streep Splendid

  • By David Gritten
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  • November 15, 2011 11:39 AM
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  • 3 Comments

AFI FEST: Mumblecore Maestro Swanberg Tips Exit

During a recent three-night stand at AFI FEST in Los Angeles, micro-budget indie filmmaker Joe Swanberg suggested that he's ready to move on from mumblecore-style dramas toward films on adult topics-- perhaps to explore the type of free-form transmedia content spawned by the Internet. Selected as the festival’s Spotlight section director, Swanberg screened a trio of new films from his “Full Moon” trilogy -- "Silver Bullets and Art History," which debuted at Berlin earlier this year, as well as the world premiere of "The Zone." Adopting a loose creative process, Swanberg frequently works with just an outline rather than a finished script, with the actors improvising much of their dialogue. Performers often play themselves or close facsimiles, frequently opposite Swanberg, appearing as an indie filmmaker shooting a low-budget feature. Despite the typically slim narratives and narrow thematic scope of his movies, Swanberg has said that he considers himself a director of “meaningful art films.”His digitally shot features often incorporate handheld camerawork or alternatively a “press record” aesthetic, with a fixed camera that’s switched on when takes begin so that he can appear in the frame shooting his actors for a film-within-a-film scenario. Other production values are equally basic and sometimes downright murky, with slight attention to formal considerations. Swanberg frequently produces, shoots and edits on his own or with minimal collaboration. Emotional and relationship dynamics dominate the three new films, along with issues of artistic creativity and the cinematic process. During Q&As following each of the three screenings, he responded to a wide range of questions in what amounted to a summation of where he stands now regarding the themes and no-budget format of his substantial mumblecore catalog. Making art films: While studying film production at Southern Illinois University, Swanberg was inspired by the types of writer-director-driven productions championed by the Sundance Film Festival. Disillusionment gradually crept in as the budgets and star casting of independent films accelerated during the 90s. “Once celebrities started acting in art films they were no longer art films,” Swanberg complained. “Now I feel most of the independent films I see are Hollywood films on a low budget.” A documentary aesthetic: Swanberg explained that Southern Illinois University has a strong documentary program and that he expected to make docs following graduation. After deciding to take the feature-directing route, he adapted his university training for short, intense shoots, shaping a personal visual style that mixes loose, handheld camera techniques with fixed, static shots. “The films I’m directing now incorporate that process,” he observed. Art History for instance was filmed in just four days: “We started with shooting a very loose idea of what the film would be – it was very intuitive.”  Let’s talk about sex: “It’s really confusing to me that sex is still a taboo subject in filmmaking,” Swanberg commented. “Early in my career I was focused on depicting sex realistically,” he recalls. “I was attempting to find a more middle ground to portray sex the way I was experiencing it,” he said, rather than adopting the allusive approach of mainstream movies or the explicitness of porn. “But I found out it was complicated,” he acknowledged. The three films are in part about “finding out where we draw those lines and why we draw those lines [about sex],” he asserted. Moving on from mumblecore: Now that he’s married and the father of a young son, Swanberg is talking about refocusing on films about parenthood, as well as further exploring the online space, as he sees the proliferation of unscripted and documentary-like content created on iPhones or streamed online. (He’s already made several web series and some of the scenes in "The Zone" were shot on Apple’s versatile phone.) “I often still wonder why I’m making these small movies,” he mused. “In general I don’t know how the films are making the world a better place,” he said of his digital features. “I hope I’m part of a tradition of art filmmaking that started in France in the 50s,” Swanberg continued, and although he likes the idea of “carrying the torch forward for art films,” he noted that “filmmaking is almost becoming a connoisseur experience.” He went on to say that “The really interesting stuff is happening online and on Facebook,” noting that he’s looking more at non-narrative forms and structures of storytelling, although he conceded that “as long as there are performers there will be a need for directors.”
  • By Justin Lowe
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  • November 15, 2011 3:08 AM
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  • 2 Comments

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