Here’s What Won At Cannes!


Here’s what won at this year’s Cannes Film Festival!  As always, the list is full of intrigue and surprises.

Also, as always, it’s debatable whether any of this will actually effect that Oscar race.  To be honest, other than The Tree of Life, it’s hard to think of any recent Oscar nominee that was undeniably helped by a victory at Cannes.  During the Festival, both Robert Pattinson and Adam Sandler (yes, Adam Sandler) started to receive some Oscar buzz but neither of them — nor their films, Good Time or The Meyerowitz Stories — were honored.

(As enjoyably weird as it would be for Adam Sandler to become an Oscar nominee, I imagine The Meyerowitz Stories will be ignored come Oscar time because it’s a Netflix film.  If the Academy couldn’t even give one nomination to the previous Netflix contender — the powerful and important Beasts of No Nation — I doubt that they’re going to surrender their bias for a film starring Adam Sandler and Ben Stiller.)

That said, I am very, very happy to see that one of my favorite artists, Sofia Coppola, was honored!  I can’t wait to see The Beguiled!

Here’s the winners:

2017 Main Competition winners: 

Palme d’Or: The Square (Ruben Ostlund)
Gran Prix: “BPM (Beats Per Minute)” (Robin Campillo)
Jury Prize: “Loveless” (Andrey Zvyagintsev)
Best Director: Sofia Coppola — The Beguiled
Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix — You Were Never Really Here
Best Actress: Diane Kruger — In The Fade
Best Screenplay: “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” (Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou) and “You Were Never Really Here” (Lynne Ramsay)

OTHER PRIZES

Camera d’Or: “Jeune femme” (Montparnasse-Bienvenüe) (Léonor Serraille)

Short Films Palme d’Or: “Xiao Cheng Er Yue” (Qiu Yang)

Short Films Special Mention: “Katto” (Teppo Airaksinen)

Golden Eye Documentary Prize: “Faces Places” (Visages Villages) (Agnès Varda, JR)

Ecumenical Jury Prize: “Radiance” (Naomi Kawase)

2017 Un Certain Regard winners: 

Un Certain Regard Prize: Mohammad Rasoulof – A Man of Integrity
Best Actress: 
Jasmine Trinca – Fortunata
Best Poetic Narrative:
 Mathieu Amalric – Barbara
Best Direction: 
Taylor Sheridan – Wind River
Jury Prize:
 Michel Franco – April’s Daughter

2017 International Critics Week winners:

Nespresso Grand Prize: Emmanuel Gras – Makala
France 4 Visionary Award: Fellipe Gamarano Barbosa – Gabriel and the Mountain
Leica Cine Discovery Prize for Short Film: Laura Ferrés – Los Desheredados
Gan Foundation Support for Distribution Award: Fellipe Gamarano Barbosa – Gabriel and the Mountain
SACD Award: Léa Mysius – Ava
Canal+ Award: Aleksandra Terpińska – The Best Fireworks

2017 Director’s Fortnight winners:

Art Cinema Award: Chloé Zhao – The Rider
SACD Award: Claire Denis – Let the Sunshine In, Philippe Garrel – Lover for a Day
Europa Cinemas Label Award: Jonas Carpignano – A Ciambra
Illy Prize for Short Film: Benoit Grimalt – Back to Genoa City

Cleaning Out The DVR Yet Again #25: Marie Antoinette (dir by Sofia Coppola)


(Lisa recently discovered that she only has about 8 hours of space left on her DVR!  It turns out that she’s been recording movies from July and she just hasn’t gotten around to watching and reviewing them yet.  So, once again, Lisa is cleaning out her DVR!  She is going to try to watch and review 52 movies by the end of Tuesday, December 6th!  Will she make it?  Keep checking the site to find out!)

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On November 12th, I recorded 2016’s Marie Antoinette off of Starz.

Before I review Marie Antoinette, I think it’s important that you know that I am an unapologetic Sofia Coppola fan.  I love every film that she’s made and I look forward to her upcoming remake of The Beguiled.  At the same time, I can also understand why some people feel differently.  Sofia Coppola’s films are not for everyone.  For one thing, almost all of her films deal with rich people.  The existential angst of the wealthy and/or famous is not a topic that’s going to fascinate everyone.  When you watch a Sofia Coppola film, you never forget that you’re watching a film that’s been directed by someone who largely grew up in the spotlight and who knows what it’s like to have money.  An ennui born out of having everything and yet still feeling empty permeates almost every scene that Sofia Coppola has ever directed.  (If you have to ask what ennui is, you’ve never experienced it.)  Many viewers look at Sofia Coppola’s filmography and they ask themselves, “Why should we care about all these materialistic people?”

However, while Sofia Coppola may not know what’s it’s like to be poor (or even middle class for that matter), she does understand what it’s like to feel lonely.  Her filmography could just as easily be called “the cinema of isolation.”  It doesn’t matter how much money you may have or how famous you may or may not be, loneliness is a universal condition.  A typical Sofia Coppola protagonist is someone who has everything and yet still cannot connect with the rest of the world.  More often that not, they turn to excessive consumption in order to fill the void in their life.  To me, the ultimate Sofia Coppola image is not, regardless of how much I may love them, Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation.  Instead, it’s Stephen Dorff (playing a far less likable version of Bill Murray’s Translation character) standing alone in the desert at the end of Somewhere.

Marie Antoinette, which was Sofia’s follow-up to Lost in Translation, is technically a historical biopic, though it makes little effort to be historical or accurately biographical.  Kirsten Dunst plays Marie Antoinette, the final queen of France before the French Revolution.  It was Marie Antoinette was accused of dismissing starving French peasants by announcing, “Let them eat cake!”  (For the record, it’s probable that Marie Antoinette never said that.  It’s certainly never heard in Coppola’s film.)

Marie Antoinette opens with the title character arriving in France at the age of 14.  She’s an Austrian princess who has been sent to marry the future king of France, Louis XVI (Jason Schwartzman).  From the minute we meet her, Marie Antoinette is portrayed as being a pawn.  Her mother arranges the marriage as a way to seal an alliance with France.  The king of France (played by Rip Torn) expects Marie Antoinette to get produce an heir to the throne as quickly as possible.  Meanwhile, her new husband is an infantile and immature fool who doesn’t even know how to make love.  Marie Antoinette finds herself isolated in a strange country, expected to be all things to all people.

And so, Marie Antoinette does what I always do whenever I’m feeling unsure of myself.  She hangs out with her girlfriends.  She throws expensive parties.  She gambles.  She flirts.  She shops.  She has fun, regardless of whether it’s considered to be proper royal behavior or not.  Occasionally, she is warned that she is losing popularity with the French people but she’s not concerned.  Why should she be?  She doesn’t know anything about the French people.  All she knows about is the life that she was born into.  She didn’t choose to be born in to wealth and power but, since she was, why shouldn’t she have a good time?

The French Revolution doesn’t occur until near the end of Marie Antoinette and when it does happen, it happens quickly.  And yet, the shadow of the revolution hangs over the entire film.  We watch the knowledge that neither Marie Antoinette nor her husband possess: eventually, they are both going to be executed.  And knowing that, it’s hard not to cheer Marie Antionette on.  She may be destined for a tragic end but at least she’s having a little fun before destiny catches up with her.

Kirsten Dunst makes no attempt to come across as being French or Austrian but then again, neither does anyone else in the film.  After all, this is a movie where Rip Torn plays the King of France without once trying to disguise his famous Texas accent.  Coppola isn’t necessarily going for historical accuracy.  Instead, in this film, Marie Antoinette serves as a stand-in for countless modern celebrities.  In the end, Marie Antoinette is portrayed as not being much different from Paris Hilton or Kardashian.  Meanwhile, the people who eventually show up outside the palace, carrying torches and shouting threats, are the same as the viewers who loudly condemn reality television while obsessively watching every episode of it.

Coppola’s stylized direction results in a film that is both thought-provoking and gorgeous to look at and which is also features several deliberate anachronisms.  (In many ways, Marie Antoinette blatantly ridicules the very idea that history can be accurately recreated.)  Perhaps because it was following up the beloved Lost In Translation, Marie Antoinette has never got as much praise as it deserves but I think it’s a film that is totally deserving of a reevaluation.

(Sidenote: Fans of Italian horror should keep an eye out for Asia Argento, who has a small but very important supporting role.)

A Few Very Late Thoughts On Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel


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It took me a while to come around to appreciating The Grand Budapest Hotel.

When I first saw Wes Anderson’s latest film, way back in March, I have to admit that I was somehow both impressed and disappointed.  The film’s virtues were obvious.  Ralph Fiennes gave a brilliant lead performance as Gustave, the courtly and womanizing concierge of the Grand Budapest Hotel.  As played by Fiennes, Gustave came to represent a certain type of old world elegance that, I’m assuming, died out long before I was born.  As is typical of Anderson’s film, The Grand Budapest Hotel was visual delight.  Even when the film’s convoluted storyline occasionally grew self-indulgent, The Grand Budapest Hotel was always interesting and fun to watch.

At the same time, I had some issues with The Grand Budapest Hotel.

One of the major ones — and I will admit right now that this will seem minor to some of you — is that halfway through the film, a cat is killed.  The evil Dimitri Desgoffe von Taxis (Adrien Brody) is attempting to intimidate a nervous lawyer, Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum).  Kovacs’s owns a cat and, at one point, Dimitri’s henchman, Jopling (Willem DaFoe), tosses the cat out of a window.  Kovacs runs to window and sees his dead cat splattered on the sidewalk below…

And this is when the audience in the theater laughed and I got very angry.

To me, there was nothing funny about killing that man’s cat.  But the more I’ve thought about it, the more that I’ve come to realize that my reaction had more to do with the audience than the film.  The film was not saying that the cat’s death was funny.  The film was saying that Dimitri and Jopling were evil and dangerous, as their actions throughout the film would demonstrate.  It was the audience that decided, since Grand Budapest Hotel is full of funny moments and has the off-center style that one has come to expect from Wes Anderson, that meant every scene in the film was meant to be played strictly for laughs.  The fact of the matter is that a typical Wes Anderson film will always attract a certain type of hipster douchebag.  They were the ones who loudly laughed, mostly because they had spent the entire movie laughing loudly in order to make sure that everyone around them understood that they were in on the joke.

But that’s not the fault of the film.  Despite what you may have heard and what the Golden Globes would have you believe, The Grand Budapest Hotel is not a comedy.  For all the deliberately funny and quirky moments, The Grand Budapest Hotel is actually a very serious film.  For all of the slapstick and for all of Ralph Fiennes’s snarky line readings, The Grand Budapest Hotel ultimately ends on a note of deep melancholy.

When I first saw The Grand Budapest Hotel, it seemed like it was almost too quirky for its own good.  And, to be honest, I could still have done without some of Anderson’s more self-indulgent touches.  The sequence at the end, where Gustave, who has been framed for murder, gets help from a series of his fellow hotel concierges started out funny but, as everyone from Bill Murray to Owen Wilson put in an appearance, it started to feel less like the story of Gustave and more like the story of all of Wes Anderson’s famous friends.

However, the more I’ve thought about it (and The Grand Budapest Hotel is a film that I’ve thought about a lot over the past year), the more I’ve realized that the quirkiness is only a problem if you made the mistake of thinking that the film is meant to be taken literally.

The more I thought about it, the more obvious it became that the most important scenes in The Grand Budapest Hotel were to be found at the beginning and the end of the film.

The film opens with a teenage girl sitting in front of the grave of a great author.  She opens a book and starts to read.

As soon as the girl starts to read, we flashback 29 years to 1985 where the author (Tom Wilkinson) sits behind his office desk and starts to talk about the time that he visited the Grand Budapest Hotel.  

We flashback again to 1969, where we see how the author (now played by Jude Law) met the owner of the Grand Budapest Hotel, a man named Zero (played by F. Murray Abraham).  Over dinner, Zero tells the author the story of how he first came to the Grand Budapest and how he eventually came to own the hotel.

And again, we go back in time, this time to 1932.  We see how the young Zero (Tony Revolori) first met and came to be the protegé of Gustave (Ralph Fiennes).  We see how Gustave taught Zero how to be the perfect concierge.  Eventually, Gustave would be framed for murdering a guest, Zero would meet and fall in love with Agatha (Saoirse Ronan), and then Zubrowska (the fictional Eastern European country in which this all takes place) would be taken over by fascists who would eventually claim the hotel as their own.

After the story of Gustave, Zero, and Agatha has been told, we suddenly flash forward to the author talking to Zero and then to the old author telling the story to his grandson and then finally back to the teenage reader sitting in the cemetery.

In other words, the Grand Budapest Hotel may be the story of Zero but we’re experiencing it through the memories of the author as visualized by the reader.  Gustave, Zero, and the entire Grand Budapest Hotel are not just parts of a story.  Instead, they become symbols of an old way of life that, though it may have been lost, still exists in the memories of old travelers like the author and the imaginations of young readers like the girl in the cemetery.

As I said at the start of this, I was vaguely disappointed with The Grand Budapest Hotel when I first saw it but, perhaps more than any other movie that I saw last year, this has been a film that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind.  Having recently rewatched the film on HBO, I can also attest that both The Grand Budapest Hotel and Ralph Fiennes’s performance not only hold up on a second viewing but improve as well.

I still stand by some of my original criticisms of The Grand Budapest Hotel.  I still wish that cat had not been thrown out the window, even though I now understand that Anderson’s main intent was to show the evil of Dimitri and Jopling.  And I still find some of the cameos to be jarring, precisely because they take us out of the world of the film.

But you know what?

Despite those flaws, The Grand Budapest Hotel is still a unique and intriguing film.  When I sat down tonight and made out my list of my top 26 films of 2014, I was not surprised that Grand Budapest Hotel made the list.  But I was a little bit surprised at how high I ended up ranking it.

But then I thought about it and it all made sense.

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Film Review: Venus in Fur (dir by Roman Polanski)


One of the best films to be released in American theaters last year was also one that never really got as much recognition as it deserved.

Roman Polanski’s Venus In Fur (which, itself, is based on a play by David Ives that was loosely adapted from a novel written by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, whose name and book would inspire the term masochism) features only two characters.  Thomas (Mathieu Almaric) is a neurotic playwright and director whose latest production is based on Sacher-Masoch’s book, Venus in Furs.  Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner) is an actress who shows up late to audition for a lead role.

At first, Thomas is annoyed with and condescending towards the actress.  After all, she shows up late for the audition and gives a rather long and convoluted explanation as to why.  (It involves a dog wanting to fuck her.)  Despite the fact that she’s auditioning for a play set in the 19th century and featuring repressed members of the upper class, she shows up for the audition wearing leather and a dog collar.  (“I’m usually really demure and shit…” she assures him.)  At first, Thomas refuses to allow her to audition and says that there’s nobody in the theater for her to read with. Vanda suggests that he read with her.  Reluctantly, Thomas agrees…

And suddenly, Vanda goes from begging for his permission to taking control of the situation.  It turns out that she’s brought a period costume with her.  Before going up to the stage, she skillfully sets the stage lights to create the perfect effect.  (A stunned Thomas admits that he’s not even sure how the lighting board works.)  And when they’re on stage together, Vanda stuns Thomas by suddenly transforming herself into the character that he wrote.

The audition itself quickly becomes a not-quite friendly game between the two.  (This is a film that anyone — even little community theater actresses like me — who has ever auditioned for a role should be able to relate to.)  Vanda frequently interrupts the audition to question what Thomas has written and Thomas finds himself growing more and more disoriented as he’s frequently pulled out of the world he created and into reality.

Whenever challenged by Vanda, Thomas argues that the play has no deeper meaning.  It’s simply an adaptation of a work of literature.  However, as the audition continues, it becomes apparent that there’s more to the play and to the two people on stage than was originally apparent…

Venus in Fur is a fascinating film.  In its way, it’s also a playful one.  (You have to love the scene where a lingerie-clad Vanda suddenly takes on the role of therapist and perfectly psychoanalyzes Thomas’s fiancee.  Never has the invoking the name of Jacques Derrida led to so much laughter.)  Intelligently filmed by Polanski and wonderfully acted by both Amalric and Seigner, the power struggle between Thomas and Vanda makes for compelling viewing.

And hey, it’s currently on Netflix so you can watch it anytime you want.  Of course, it is subtitled but so what?  If you don’t know how to read, how did you make it through this review?

Seriously, find 93 minutes to spare and watch Venus In Fur.

James Bond Review: Quantum of Solace (dir. by Marc Foster)


So, here we are at the end of all things.

About 22 days ago, The Shattered Lens started a project to cover all of the Bond Films in order leading up to the release of the 23rd film, Skyfall. Spearheaded by Lisa Marie and Arleigh, It’s been a fun ride seeing everyone’s thoughts on James Bond over the movies and it’s cool to know that after 50 years, they still (well, most of them) hold their own. Today, we cover the second Daniel Craig film, Quantum of Solace.

Quantum of Solace reunites the same writing team from Casino Royale – Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis (Academy Award Winner for 2006’s Crash), and brings on Monster’s Ball director Marc Foster for filming duties. As far as I can tell, it seems to be the first 007 film to start not far from the previous film ended. Literally, there could be a 20 minute difference between the end events of Casino Royale and the opening sequence here. The movie veers away from the classic gun barrel sequence and gets the audience right into the action with Bond avoiding villains in his Aston Martin DBS. The chase leads into a quarry, where he manages to get rid of his opponents. It’s only when he arrives in an unknown location within Siena, Italy that we find he’s had Mr. White in the trunk of his car the entire time. Mr. White was the individual that Bond wounded and introduced himself at the end of Casino Royale.

We basically find James Bond dealing with the loss of Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), and though she never makes any kind of appearance in the film, her presence (or lack thereof) is certainly felt. While Quantum of Solace has some remarkable scenes, for me it suffered from at least one major problem early on. Near the beginning of the film, after the credits, there is a chase between Bond and a villian, as always. At the same time, we’re given shots of a bullfight that’s occurring. While I understand that we’re supposed to see the similarities between both actions, I felt as if I was being pulled away from the story at hand. Foster does this a number of times, including one in the middle of an opera scene. That seemed really strange to me, though others may appreciate it.

Bond is told by M (Dame Judi Dench), after securing Mr. White that she has a lead on Vesper’s boyfriend, but also believes that he’s not quite dead. She asks Bond to leave it alone, but being someone who sees things through, he takes a copy of his photograph. It’s revealed that Mr. White is part of a larger group called Quantum, similar to SPECTRE in some respects. Although Bond loses Mr. White, he gets a clue that leads him to Haiti.

The Haiti sequences were done prior to the earthquake that happened there, and it makes Quantum of Solace one of the last films to show how that area looked before the devastation. 007 is able to find his suspect, but in the course of fighting, he kills him. This becomes something of a thread in Quantum of Solace. Just about anyone that Bond encounters is either killed by him or because of him and at some point, restraint needs to be made. At some point, it goes so far that it becomes something of a “Bond Goes Rogue” tale in the vein of License to Kill. There’s a slight reference to The Spy Who Loved Me with a rooftop fall that’s interesting, as well as a great one for the movie Goldfinger. The Craig Bond stories seem to want to make sure they remind us of all the films before it, though it’s hardly the first 007 story to do so.

The Bond Girls in Quantum of Solace are Olga Kurlyenko and Gemma Arterton. Kurlyenko’s Camille has a mission of her own, as she’s trying to avenge the death of her mother. Arterton’s character, Miss Fields (who’s first name I believe may be Strawberry, but don’t quote me on that) is send in by MI6 to bring Bond back in for debriefing (as he’s been avoiding M’s requests). The actual villain of the movie is played by Mathieu Amalric (Munich), who is more of a hands-off baddie with tons of henchmen at his side.

The problem I had with Quantum of Solace is that it seemed like the Vesper angle was a side note. Yes, we know Quantum is out there, and we learn there’s a plot to control the water of a small area, but outside of all that, it didn’t seem like much of a revenge story. This is unless, of course, it wasn’t meant to be. I’m not a big fan of Quantum of Solace overall. It’s not as bad as Die Another Day (which a number of people consider to be one of the worst) by a longshot, but after what we were given in Casino Royale, it almost seems like it builds on things in the wrong direction.

This weekend, Skyfall is out, and by the time the weekend is up, we’ll have a review for it. We leave you the theme song to Quantum of Solace, “Another Way to Die” by Jack White and Alicia Keys. The Instrumental version of this song is actually really good, though the actual song itself was just a little off.