Yeah, we know, it’s a bit ridiculous. Day one has just closed on the Venice Film Festival, Telluride kicks off in a couple days and by this time next week, the first 24 hours in TIFF will be nearing an end. It’s that time of year, a bonanza of movie related goodness, and aren’t you just glad it’s not TV Spot #9 for some blockbuster movie you already forgot about? Long story short, there’s a whole bunch of stuff headed to Colorado and with it some new images to go with it.
By now, you’ve probably heard us talk to death about some of these — “Under The Skin” and “Nebraska” in particular — so we’ll just let the new longform synopses speak for those. As for some of the others, Agnieszka Holland‘s HBO miniseries “Burning Bush” and David Mackenzie‘s “Starred Up” — starring Ben Mendelsohn, Rupert Friend (“Homeland“) and rising star Jack O’Connell (he’ll be in Angelina Jolie‘s next movie) — hopefully the images and descriptions will shed a bit more light on them, until we get a chance to screen them ourselves. So, on this page the latest from Jonathan Glazer and Alexander Payne and on the next, the two newbies.
“Under The Skin“: In search of loners, Laura (Scarlett Johansson) drives around the exquisitely moody landscapes of the Scottish highlands. She’s an alien,sent from afar and equipped with enough human language and awesome seductive power to capture, destroy and presumably send home human males. And then, her curiosity about her human body and an accidental act of pity disrupt her mission: talk about lost in translation! Jonathan Glazer, known for his brilliant music videos and SEXY BEAST, and cowriter Walter Campbell adapt Michael Faber’s acclaimed novel to create a surprisingly layered tale. UNDER THE SKIN begins like an effectively creepy sci-fi horror film, but soon deepens into a lyrical evocation of solitude and estrangement and a mournful lament for ephemeral earthly beauty.The photography by Daniel Landin is richly atmospheric, and Mica Levi’s musical themes provide an ominous depth. –LG (U.K., 2013, 107m)
“Nebraska“: Woody (Bruce Dern, winner of Cannes best actor prize for a nearly wordless performance)is a broke, bitter,recovering alcoholic who barely speaks to his shrewish wife (scene-stealer June Squibb) or grown sons. After falling under the delusion that he’s won a mail-order sweepstakes, he embarks on a cross-country journey, his youngest son David (Will Forte) playing Sancho to his Don Quixote, and making discoveries about his father he never could expect. Telluride favorite Alexander Payne (THE DESCENDANTS,TFF 2001) explores cruelty, frustration and greed in this Middle American landscape, tempering it with thorough and obvious love. Phedon Papamichael’s bleakly beautiful black-and-white vistas and a superb cast of supporting performers(Stacy Keach, Bob Odenkirk and beautifully picked-and-managed nonprofessionals) make NEBRASKA Payne’s toughest,most tender and complex work yet.Think Ozu on the modern American prairie. –LG (U.S., 2013, 110m)
“Burning Bush“: In 1968, Soviet tanks moved in to crush the “Prague Spring” experiment in democracy. In January 1969, Jan Palach, a 21-year-old student,set himself on fire in Wenceslas Square,searing the national conscience and setting a movement alight. Agnieszka Holland’s harrowing, courageous and utterly mesmerizing film, commissioned by European HBO and made in collaboration with members of the Palach family, traces the extreme price exacted behind the scenes from those who make history and on those closest to them. Across three epic chapters, the grey areas are filmed with scorching intensity, radiating both fury and hope against hope.This is the kind of fierce, historic document that never existed before, and that is arriving on schedule to feed the fires of a rising generation that is resisting a culture of lies, erosions and erasures of democracy, from Egypt to Oakland. –PS (Czech Republic, 2013, Episode 1, 84m; Episodes 2&3, 152m)
“Starred Up“: The teenage criminal Eric Love (Jack O’Connell) seems street-smart enough to navigate the corruption of the British prison system. But after his violent streak sends him to an adult prison, Eric comes face to face with Nev (Ben Mendelsohn), a career criminal…and hislong-lost father. The two have not seen each other in years, and while they warily test each other, other murderous authority figures attempt to control the boy. Director David Mackenzie (YOUNG ADAM,TFF 2003) has crafted a lean, vigorous film, shot economically by WINTER’S BONE DP Michael McDonough from the utterly convincing script by Jonathan Asser, a former therapist in the prison system. But STARRED UP’s greatest pleasure is O’Connell’s sensationally kinetic breakout role, reminiscent of Tahar Rahim in A PROPHET. Somewhere in Movie Star Heaven, James Cagney is applauding. –LG (U.K., 2013, 100m)