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List Watch: Most Improved Celebs Include Franco, Young Indies Who Happen to Like New York

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood December 13, 2010 at 7:33AM

- Forget Best Movies of the year. The Daily Beast is handing out honors via another type of list altogether: Most Improved Stars of 2010. The only name included that will also be seen on many Top Film and Top Performances lists? James Franco. TDB says "[this] Renaissance man did so much serious work this year that some critics wondered if it was all part of a Joaquin Phoenix-style elaborate joke." He is accompanied by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Justin Timberlake, Russell Brand, Toy Story's Woody, and geriatric comedienne Betty White, whose irreverent hilarity should make Tina Fey "feel threatened."
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Thompson on Hollywood


- Forget Best Movies of the year. The Daily Beast is handing out honors via another type of list altogether: Most Improved Stars of 2010. The only name included that will also be seen on many Top Film and Top Performances lists? James Franco. TDB says "[this] Renaissance man did so much serious work this year that some critics wondered if it was all part of a Joaquin Phoenix-style elaborate joke." He is accompanied by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Justin Timberlake, Russell Brand, Toy Story's Woody, and geriatric comedienne Betty White, whose irreverent hilarity should make Tina Fey "feel threatened."

- NYMag, meanwhile, lists nine directors who, while under the age of thirty, couldn't have shot their indie films anywhere but New York City. Here's a sampling and reasons why:

1. JODY LEE LIPES
NY Export: Opus Jazz; Brock Enright: Good Times Will Never Be the Same
Neighborhood: Upper West Side
Best thing about working here: “The locations. I love places that are in transition, that used to be something else, that had been destroyed, or that represent an old New York: McCarren pool, the High Line, a warehouse in Red Hook.”
Favorite New York moment on film: “In Manhattan, when Woody Allen is playing racquetball with Michael Murphy— you don’t see the city at all, but it has this great feel. Two quintessential New York guys awkwardly trying to play sports in this totally different world.”

4. ARIEL SCHULMAN
 Catfish

Neighborhood: “Deep, deep Chinatown”
Best thing about working here: “Nobody waits for green lights: You don’t need money, you don’t need a studio, you don’t need any approval. You need, like, a camera. And reckless ambition.” 
Favorite New York moment on film: “In Bennett Miller’s documentary The Cruise, when tour guide Speed Levitch is walking over the Brooklyn Bridge and releasing all his inner demons. He’s on this epic structure, it’s totally scenic, and he’s just ripping on everyone who’s ruined his life.”

7. LENA DUNHAM Tiny Furniture
Neighborhood: Tribeca
Best thing about working here: “The architecture is incredibly cinematic. I spend a lot of time—especially at night—walking down the street looking up into apartment-building windows and trying to imagine who lives there and what they’re doing. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid.” 

Favorite New York moment on film: “This is a trite one, but I really love the Annie Hall scene at the New Yorker Theater with Marshall McLuhan when he says, ‘You know nothing of my work!’ Just that New York talk-to-each-other-in-the-line culture. The scene in Tiny Furniture in front of Film Forum is totally a reference to that.”


This article is related to: Genres, Headliners, Hollywood, Daily Read, Media, Independents


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.