4 Shots From 4 Films: Akira Kurosawa


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking.

With the latest entry to the Star Wars franchise set to be released in just a few days I thought it was appropriate to share four particular scenes from one filmmaker who has been a huge influence on George Lucas’ vision for Star Wars. This filmmaker also became a huge influence on other master filmmakers such as John Ford, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola and Sidney Lumet just to name a few.

Many consider this filmmaker to be one of the greatest filmmakers who ever lived and in this humble individual’s opinion he was the greatest filmmaker who stood above all and whose storytelling and visual techniques would become part of the modern filmmaker’s toll bag.

The man I speak of is Akira Kurosawa.

4 SHOTS FROM 4 FILMS

The Hidden Fortress (dir. by Akira Kurosawa)

The Hidden Fortress (dir. by Akira Kurosawa)

Dersu Uzala (dir. by Akira Kurosawa)

Dersu Uzala (dir. by Akira Kurosawa)

Yojimbo (dir. by Akira Kurosawa)

Yojimbo (dir. by Akira Kurosawa)

Kagemusha (dir. by Akira Kurosawa)

Kagemusha (dir. by Akira Kurosawa)

Mad Max: Fury Road dominates the 21st Annual Critics Choice Nominations!


MadMaxFuryRoad

It’s been a busy few days as far as the Oscar precursors are concerned.  Let’s see how quickly I can get us caught up.  First off, the 21st Annual Critics Choice nominations were announced yesterday and Mad Max: Fury Road totally dominated them!

And you know what that means — its time to say that the Critics Choice nominations are …. MAD ABOUT MAX!

Anyway, here are the nominations!

BEST PICTURE
The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn

Carol
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Room
Sicario
Spotlight

BEST ACTOR
Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
Matt Damon – The Martian
Johnny Depp – Black Mass
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl

BEST ACTRESS
Cate Blanchett – Carol
Brie Larson – Room
Jennifer Lawrence – Joy
Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Paul Dano – Love & Mercy
Tom Hardy – The Revenant
Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight

Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies
Michael Shannon – 99 Homes
Sylvester Stallone – Creed

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
Rooney Mara – Carol
Rachel McAdams – Spotlight
Helen Mirren – Trumbo
Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs

BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS
Abraham Attah – Beasts of No Nation
RJ Cyler – Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Shameik Moore – Dope
Milo Parker – Mr. Holmes
Jacob Tremblay – Room

BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE
The Big Short
The Hateful Eight
Spotlight
Straight Outta Compton
Trumbo

BEST DIRECTOR
Todd Haynes – Carol
Alejandro González Iñárritu – The Revenant
Tom McCarthy – Spotlight
George Miller – Mad Max: Fury Road
Ridley Scott – The Martian
Steven Spielberg – Bridge of Spies

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen – Bridge of Spies
Alex Garland – Ex Machina
Quentin Tarantino – The Hateful Eight
Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley – Inside Out
Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy – Spotlight

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Charles Randolph and Adam McKay – The Big Short
Nick Hornby – Brooklyn
Drew Goddard – The Martian
Emma Donoghue – Room
Aaron Sorkin – Steve Jobs

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Carol – Ed Lachman
The Hateful Eight – Robert Richardson
Mad Max: Fury Road – John Seale
The Martian – Dariusz Wolski
The Revenant – Emmanuel Lubezki
Sicario – Roger Deakins

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Bridge of Spies – Adam Stockhausen, Rena DeAngelo
Brooklyn – François Séguin, Jennifer Oman and Louise Tremblay
Carol – Judy Becker, Heather Loeffler
The Danish Girl – Eve Stewart, Michael Standish
Mad Max: Fury Road – Colin Gibson
The Martian – Arthur Max, Celia Bobak

BEST EDITING
The Big Short – Hank Corwin
Mad Max: Fury Road – Margaret Sixel
The Martian – Pietro Scalia
The Revenant – Stephen Mirrione
Spotlight – Tom McArdle

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Brooklyn – Odile Dicks-Mireaux
Carol – Sandy Powell
Cinderella – Sandy Powell
The Danish Girl – Paco Delgado
Mad Max: Fury Road – Jenny Beavan

BEST HAIR & MAKEUP
Black Mass
Carol
The Danish Girl
The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Ex Machina
Jurassic World
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
The Walk

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Anomalisa
The Good Dinosaur
Inside Out
The Peanuts Movie
Shaun the Sheep Movie

BEST ACTION MOVIE
Furious 7
Jurassic World
Mad Max: Fury Road
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Sicario

BEST ACTOR IN AN ACTION MOVIE
Daniel Craig – Spectre
Tom Cruise – Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Tom Hardy – Mad Max: Fury Road
Chris Pratt – Jurassic World
Paul Rudd – Ant-Man

BEST ACTRESS IN AN ACTION MOVIE
Emily Blunt – Sicario
Rebecca Ferguson – Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Bryce Dallas Howard – Jurassic World
Jennifer Lawrence – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST COMEDY
The Big Short
Inside Out
Joy
Sisters
Spy
Trainwreck

BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Christian Bale – The Big Short
Steve Carell – The Big Short
Robert De Niro – The Intern
Bill Hader – Trainwreck
Jason Statham – Spy

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Tina Fey – Sisters
Jennifer Lawrence – Joy
Melissa McCarthy – Spy
Amy Schumer – Trainwreck
Lily Tomlin – Grandma

BEST SCI-FI/HORROR MOVIE
Ex Machina
It Follows
Jurassic World
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Assassin
Goodnight Mommy
Mustang
The Second Mother
Son of Saul

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Amy
Cartel Land
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
He Named Me Malala
The Look of Silence
Where to Invade Next

BEST SONG
Fifty Shades of Grey – Love Me Like You Do
Furious 7 – See You Again
The Hunting Ground – Til It Happens To You
Love & Mercy – One Kind of Love
Spectre – Writing’s on the Wall
Youth – Simple Song #3

BEST SCORE
Carol – Carter Burwell
The Hateful Eight – Ennio Morricone
The Revenant – Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto
Sicario – Johann Johannsson
Spotlight – Howard Shore

Trailer: The BFG


Right now, the jury’s out on whether or not Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies will be an Oscar champ or an Oscar also-ran.  But, regardless of how things go with the Academy, Spielberg’s follow-up to Bridge of Spies is already scheduled for a July 1st, 2016 release!  It’s called The BFG and here’s the trailer!

For Whatever They’re Worth, Here are The Satellite Awards Nominees!


Sicario_poster

The International Press Academy has announced the nominees for the Satellite Awards!  Who are the International Press Academy?  They’re kind of like an even less credible version of the Golden Globes.  They’re also the same people who, last year, nominated The Wolf of Wall Street for five awards, despite having not seen the film.  I would suggest viewing these nominations more as a guide to conventional wisdom than anything else.

Motion Picture
Spotlight, Open Road
Sicario, Lionsgate
Room, A24
The Revenant, 20th Century Fox
The Martian, 20th Century Fox
Carol, The Weinstein Co.
Brooklyn, Fox Searchlight
Bridge of Spies, DreamWorks
Black Mass, Warner Bros.
The Big Short, Paramount

Director
Tom Hooper, The Danish Girl
Thomas McCarthy, Spotlight
Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies
Ridley Scott, The Martian
Lenny Abrahamson, Room
Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant

Actress in a Motion Picture
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Carey Mulligan, Suffragette
Brie Larson, Room
Blythe Danner, I’ll See You in My Dreams

Actor in a Motion Picture
Will Smith, Concussion
Tom Hardy, Legend
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Matt Damon, The Martian
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Johnny Depp, Black Mass
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Actress in a Supporting Role
Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
Rooney Mara, Carol
Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
Jane Fonda, Youth
Elizabeth Banks, Love & Mercy
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Actor in a Supporting Role
Sylvester Stallone, Creed
Paul Dano, Love & Mercy
Michael Keaton, Spotlight
Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight
Christian Bale, The Big Short
Benicio Del Toro, Sicario

Motion Picture, International Film
South Korea, The Throne
Brazil, The Second Mother
Croatia, The High Sun
Belgium, The Brand New Testament
Taiwan, The Assassin
Hungary, Son of Saul
France, Mustang
Germany, Labyrinth of Lies
Austria, Goodnight Mommy
Sweden, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media
The Prophet
The Peanuts Movie
The Good Dinosaur
Shaun The Sheep Movie
Inside Out
Anomalisa

Motion Picture, Documentary
Where to Invade Next
The Look of Silence
The Hunting Ground
He Named Me Malala
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead:The Story of the National Lampoon
Cartel Land
Best of Enemies
Becoming Bulletproof
Amy

Screenplay, Original
Josh Singer, Thomas McCarthy, Spotlight
Michael A. Lerner, Oren Moverman, Love & Mercy
Josh Cooley, Meg LeFauve, Pete Docter, Inside Out
Andrea Berloff, Jonathan Herman, Straight Outta Compton
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Matt Charman, Bridge of Spies
Abi Morgan, Suffragette

Screenplay, Adapted
Jez Butterworth, Mark Mallouk, Black Mass
Lucinda Coxon, The Danish Girl
Emma Donoghue, Room
Drew Goddard, The Martian
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Mark L. Smith, The Revenant
Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs

Original Score
Thomas Newman, Spectre
Michael Giacchino, Inside Out
Howard Shore, Spotlight
Harry Gregson-Williams, The Martian
Carter Burwell, Carol
Alexander Desplat, The Danish Girl

Original Song
“Writing’s On The Wall”, Spectre
“Till It Happens To You”, The Hunting Ground
“See You Again”, Furious 7
“One Kind Of Love”, Love & Mercy
“Love Me Like You Do”, Fifty Shades of Grey
“Cold One”, Ricki and the Flash

Cinematography
Roger Deakins, Sicario
John Seale, Mad Max: Fury Road
Hoyte Van Hoytema, Spectre
Dariuz Wolski, The Martian
Emmanuel Lubezki, The Revenant

Visual Effects
Spectre
The Walk
The Martian
Mad Max: Fury Road
Jurassic World
Everest

Film Editing
Pietro Scalia, The Martian
Joe Walker, Sicario
Michael Kahn, Bridge of Spies
Lee Smith, Spectre
Elliot Graham, Steve Jobs
Affonso Goncalves, Carol

Sound (Editing and Mixing)
The Martian
Spectre
Sicario
Inside Out
Mad Max: Fury Road
Jurassic World

Art Direction and Production Design
Fiona Crombie, Macbeth
Eve Stewart, The Danish Girl
Dennis Gassner, Spectre
Dante Ferretti, Cinderella
Colin Gibson, Mad Max: Fury Road,
Adam Stockhausen, Bridge of Spies

Costume Design
Wen-Ying Huang, The Assassin
Shim Hyun-seob, The Throne
Sandy Powell, Cinderella
Paco Delgado, The Danish Girl
Janet Patterson, Far From the Madding Crowd
Jacqueline Durran, Macbeth

Ensemble: Motion Picture
Spotlight

Sicario

At least these nominations gave me an excuse to drag out some Sicaro-related media.

Film Review: Bridge of Spies (dir by Steven Spielberg)


Bridge_of_Spies_poster

I saw Bridge of Spies last weekend and I’m a little bit surprised that I haven’t gotten around to writing a review until now.  After all, this is not only the latest film from Steven Spielberg but it also stars the universally beloved Tom Hanks and it’s currently being touted as a possible best picture nominee.  (Mark Rylance, who plays an imprisoned spy in this film, is also emerging as a front runner for best supporting actor.)  The screenplay was written by the Coen Brothers.  (Oddly enough, films scripted by the Coens — like Unbroken, for instance — tend to be far more conventional and far less snarky than films actually directed by the Coens.)  Even beyond its impressive pedigree, Bridge of Spies is a historical drama and by now, everyone should know how much I love historical dramas.

And the thing is, I enjoyed Bridge of Spies.  I thought it was a well-made film.  I thought that Tom Hanks was well-cast as an idealistic lawyer who stands up for truth, justice, and the Constitution.  I agreed with the pundits who thought Mark Rylance was award-worthy.  It’s become a bit of a cliché for Amy Ryan to show up as an understanding wife but it’s a role she plays well and she made the most of her scenes with Tom Hanks.  Steven Spielberg knows how to put a good film together.  This really should have been a film about which I rushed home to rave.

And yet, at the same time, I just could not work up that much enthusiasm for Bridge of Spies.  It’s a good film but there’s nothing unexpected about it.  There’s nothing surprising about the film.  Steven Spielberg is one of the most commercially successful directors in history and the American film establishment pretty much orbits around him.  He’s good at what he does and he deserves his success.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t have a subversive bone in his body.  Bridge of Spies is a lot like his previous Oscar contender, Lincoln.  It’s very well-made.  It’s the epitome of competence.  But there’s not a truly surprising or unexpected moment to be found in the film.

And I have to admit that, even as I enjoyed Bridge of Spies, I still found myself frustrated by just how risk-adverse a film it truly was.  After all, we’re living in the age of Ex Machina, Upstream Color, and Sicario.  Bridge of Spies is a good movie and, in many ways, it provides a very valuable history lesson.  (The film’s best moments were the one that contrasted the U.S. with the cold desolation of communist-controlled East Germany.)  But, overall, it just didn’t make a huge impression on me.  It was just a a little bit too safe in its approach.

Lisa Reviews An Oscar-Nominated Horror Film: Jaws (dir by Steven Spielberg)


JAWS_Movie_poster

There’s little that is more intimidating than trying to write a review of the 1975 best picture nominee, Jaws.

I mean, seriously, what’s left to be said about this film?  Jaws is one of those movies that everyone has seen and everyone loves.  And, even if someone somehow hasn’t seen the film, chances are that they still know all about it.  They know that it’s a movie about a giant shark that attacks Amity Island, just as the summer season is starting.  They know that the town’s mayor refuses to close the beaches, because he doesn’t want to lose the tourist dollars.  They know that the final half of the film is three men (Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw) floating around in a boat, searching for a shark.  And they certainly know that, whenever you hear John Williams’s iconic theme music, it means that someone is about to get attacked.

Jaws is such a part of our culture that probably not a single day goes by without someone saying a variation on “we’re going to need a bigger boat.”  Did you know that, on twitter, Ben Gardner’s boat has its own account?  And despite getting pretty graphically dismembered about halfway through Jaws, poor little Alex Kintner has an account as well!

What’s amazing about Jaws is that, even though everyone’s seen it and it’s been parodied a few thousand times, Jaws remains incredibly effective.  I still find myself cringing whenever the shark catches Alex Kintner and that geyser of blood explodes out of the ocean.  I still jump whenever the shark suddenly emerges from the water and scares the Hell out of Roy Scheider.  I still laugh at Richard Dreyfuss’s hyperactive performance and I instinctively cover my ears whenever I realize that Robert Shaw is about to drag his nails across that chalk board.

And then there’s that music, of course!  Even after being used, misused, and imitated in countless other films, the Jaws theme still fills me with a sort of existential dread.  The mechanical shark was notoriously fake-looking and was rarely seen onscreen as a result.  The camera and the music stand in for the shark and it works beautifully.

The one unfortunate thing about Jaws is that it’s been so critically acclaimed and so embraced by audiences that I think people tend to forget that it is primarily a horror film.  Mainstream critics tend to look down on horror as a genre so, rather than admit the obvious, they claim that Jaws is more of a thriller than a horror film.  Or they talk about how it’s actually meant to be a political allegory or an environmental allegory or an examination of male bonding.

So, let’s just make this clear.  No matter what the elitist critics or even Steven Spielberg himself may say, Jaws is primarily a horror film, with that relentless killer shark serving as a prototype for such future horror fiends as Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, and both of the Ghostface and Jigsaw Killers.  (Jaws even opens with a stereotypical slasher movie death, as a nude and stoned swimmer is suddenly attacked by an unseen killer.) If not for Scheider, Shaw, and Dreyfuss floating in the endless ocean, you would never have had films — like the Blair Witch Project — about people being lost and stalked in the wilderness.  And when that shark attacks and graphically rips apart its victims, how different is it from something you might find in a George Romero or Lucio Fulci zombie film?

On the basis of Jaws and Duel, I think it can be argued that, if Steven Spielberg hadn’t become America’s favorite director of crowd-pleasing, Oscar-contending blockbusters, he could have been one of our best horror directors.  Sadly, Spielberg has pretty much abandoned horror and I doubt that Jaws would be as effective if it were made today.  (I suspect that the temptation to resort to a cartoonish CGI shark would be too great.)

But that’s all speculation.

What matters is that Jaws remains one of the greatest films ever made.

And it’s a horror film!

 

Lisa’s Early Oscar Predictions for July!


Sicario

It’s shaping up to be a strange Oscar race.  Here we are halfway through the year and, yet, there are no front-runners.  Some very acclaimed films have been released this year and yet, few of them seem to be getting the type of buzz that usually accompanies a surprise Oscar nomination.  Last year at this time, there was cautious buzz for Grand Budapest Hotel while almost everyone felt pretty safe assuming that Sundance favorites like Boyhood and Whiplash would be players in the Oscar race and many of us were highly anticipating the release of films like Birdman and The Imitation Game.  (For that matter, a lot of people were also still convinced that Unbroken would win best picture.  The buzz is not always correct but still, the buzz was still there.)

This year, some people are hoping that Mad Max: Fury Road will somehow break through the Academy’s aversion to “genre” filmmaking.  (And seriously, the Doof Warrior deserves some sort of award, don’t you think?)  Quite a few are hoping that Ex Machina will not be forgotten.  Personally, I have high hopes for Inside Out.  The buzz around Bridge of Spies is respectful, largely because it seems like the type of film that usually would be be nominated.  (That said, this film also seems like it could bring out the worst impulses of both Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, leading to a movie that will have more in common with The Terminal than with War Horse.)  Carol was beloved at Cannes.

So there are definitely possibilities out there.  When I made my Oscar predictions for this month, I didn’t quite have to blindly guess as much as I did way back in January.  But still, it cannot be denied that — as of right now — this race is wide open and there’s a lot of room for surprise.

Below, you’ll find my Oscar predictions for July.  You can also check out my previous Oscar predictions for January, February, March, April, May, and June!

Best Picture

Black Mass

Brooklyn

Carol

I Saw The Light

In The Heart of the Sea

Inside Out

Sicario

Suffragette

The Walk

Youth

Best Actor

Michael Caine in Youth

Johnny Depp in Black Mass

Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs

Tom Hiddleston in I Saw The Light

Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Carol

Marion Cotillard in MacBeth

Sally Field in Hello, My Name Is Doris

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn

Lily Tomlin in Grandma

Best Supporting Actor

Albert Brooks in Concussion

John Cusack in Love & Mercy

Benicio Del Toro in Sicario

Harvey Keitel in Youth

Kurt Russell in The Hateful Eight

Best Supporting Actress

Joan Allen in Room

Helena Bonham Carter in Suffragette

Jane Fonda in Youth

Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara in Carol

Best Director

John Crowley for Brooklyn

Todd Haynes for Carol

Ron Howard for In The Heart of the Sea

Denis Villenueve for Sicario

Robert Zemeckis for The Walk

tom-hiddleston-hank-3