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Five Oscar Bait Movies You Won’t See This Awards Season

Five Oscar Bait Movies You Won’t See This Awards Season (photo)

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As demonstrated by our recent holiday indie film preview, there will be nearly a hundred films opening in theaters before the end of the year, with many of them aspiring for Oscar gold. But in a tradition that’s getting to be as commonplace as end-of-the-year gift-giving, there are a handful of movies that seemed destined to compete during awards season that won’t be seeing the inside of your local theater until next year. Internal studio strife, endless tinkering or simply bad early reviews have contributed to why these five particular pieces of Oscar bait will be sitting on the sidelines instead of jockeying for awards attention.

“Miral”

Since the awards season success of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” Oscar prognosticators had been anticipating the arrival of Julian Schnabel’s latest film with the idea that the director would once again bring a true artistic sensibility to journalist Rula Jebreal’s semi-autobiographical novel that covers three generations of women in Jerusalem, but centers on a young Palestinean orphan (“Slumdog Millionaire”‘s Freida Pinto) emboldened to become a revolutionary under Israeli occupation during the late 1960s. However, even before the film premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September, it had already caused some ripples for taking a pro-Palestine point of view, which Schnabel has tried to downplay, telling The Huffington Post in an interview, “This film is not a treatise in political history, nor a polemic. It is a poem.”

But it turned out that U.S. distributor (and noted pro-Israel supporter) Harvey Weinstein’s headaches in Venice weren’t caused by the film’s content, but by the response from critics, who ranged from calling it heartfelt but misguided, as IndieWire‘s Anne Thompson did, to calling it “a disaster,” per The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw. Some might argue that the dour reception to the film in Venice and subsequently, Telluride doomed its awards chances, but it was also probably the emergence of “The King’s Speech” at those same festivals that deep sixed its December release, which has now been moved to March. Just this week, Schnabel seemed unfazed by the move and the polarizing response in an interview with The Guardian, saying “If Arab people see a Jewish person can do this, they might think, ‘Maybe there’s somebody on the other side we can talk to.’ I’m not a saint. I’m just somebody who thought this was a worthwhile thing to do.”

“Shanghai”

While “Miral” was a last-minute call, The Weinstein Company likely never had plans to release this long-shelved production that once started with such high hopes. It was a coronation of sorts for director Mikael Hafstrom, who did right by the Weinsteins with the financially bankable thrillers “Derailed” and “1408” before being handed the keys to the film penned by “The Wings of the Dove” scribe Hossein Amini and a cast with awards bait written all over it, mixing Chow Yun Fat, Ken Watanabe, Rinko Kikuchi and Gong Li with John Cusack, Franka Potente and David Morse in a ’40s murder mystery centered around Cusack’s American intelligence officer snooping around for clues concerning the murder of his friend (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) shortly before Pearl Harbor in World War II.

Although the Chinese wouldn’t allow the production to shoot on its soil in 2008, the film did make its premiere at the Shanghai International Film Festival in June before being released in much of Asia over the summer. (This was only after a 2009 awards run in the States was scrapped.) In his review for Film Business Asia, Derek Elley noted “[‘Shanghai’] has the feel of one that has been ruthlessly pared in post-production,” but generally gave the film a positive review, making it slightly strange that the company hasn’t rescheduled the film’s release in the U.S., let alone dropping it into awards season just to test the waters for acting nominations. A Weinstein Company rep recently told The Los Angeles Times that the film needed to be released in China first, which caused part of the delay, but as the article goes on to note “Shanghai” has endured other post-production issues. Still, Hafstrom will have one film out while all those ceremonies start rolling around, only it won’t be competing – his next film “The Rite,” a supernatural thriller which does boast an Oscar winner in star Anthony Hopkins, will is headed to theaters in January, and perhaps not coincidentally it’s his first English-language film not made for the Weinsteins.

Carol Cate Blanchett

Spirit Guide

Check Out the Spirit Awards Nominees for Best Male and Female Leads

Catch the 2016 Spirit Awards live Feb. 27th at 5P ET/2P PT on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Wilson Webb/©Weinstein Company/Courtesy Everett Collection

From Jason Segel’s somber character study of author David Foster Wallace, to Brie Larson’s devastating portrayal of a mother in captivity, the 2016 Spirit Awards nominees for Best Male and Female Leads represent the finest in the year of film acting. Take a look at the Best Male and Female Leads in action, presented by Jaguar.

Best Male Lead 

Christopher Abbott, James White
Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation
Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind
Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
Koudous Seihon, Mediterranea

Watch more Male Lead nominee videos here.

Best Female Lead 

Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Rooney Mara, Carol
Bel Powley, The Diary of A Teenage Girl
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Tangerine

Watch more Female Lead nominee videos here.

Last Minute Halloween Costume Ideas for the Lazy Film Fan

Last Minute Halloween Costume Ideas for the Lazy Film Fan (photo)

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Here are six concept-heavy suggestions for timely film-related costumes that require relatively little effort, wardrobe-wise.

Mal from “Inception”

Wear a cocktail dress. Overturn tables and throw drinks in people’s faces. When confronted about this, point at someone else in the room and claim to just be a manifestation of his or her guilt-ridden subconscious.

Recovering “Human Centipede” Segment

Apply bandages to both sides of your mouth. Tell people you’re not yet back on solid foods (badum-ching).

Aron Ralston in “127 Hours”

Wedge your arm between two cushions on the couch. Wail piteously for someone to bring you a beer.

Anyone from “Twelve”

Arrange for a friend to follow you around narrating what you’re doing in a jaded, sarcastic monotone: “Dan went to eat some hummus. He liked to be seen eating hummus — he thought it made him seem more worldly, as if it were 1980 and no one had even heard of sushi yet.” Extra effective if the friend is Kiefer Sutherland.

Banksy From “Exit Through the Gift Shop”

Wear a hoodie with the hood down to obscure your face. Sit in the shadows and speak through a kazoo to alter your voice.

Abbas Kiarostami

At the last minute, send your regrets to the host and say you’ll be unable to attend because you’re once again being given a hard time about your visa application.

The 30 Greatest Drug Scenes of All Time

The 30 Greatest Drug Scenes of All Time (photo)

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There are plenty of movies that depict drug use, but often it’s just a prop, a shortcut — a character does drugs on screen because he or she is bad, or out of control, or doomed, or simply not to be trusted. The effects are exaggerated, the consequences over the top or unrealistic. And so we felt driven to make this list, to sort through countless films to find drug scenes, some famous, some not, that have a ring of authenticity to them. The 30 scenes we picked are funny, sad, outrageous and sometimes awful, and they’re certainly not all depictions of drug use as fun, but we feel pretty certain of their legit greatness. In other words? No “Reefer Madness” here.

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30. Creedence Car Crash
“The Big Lebowski” (1998)
Directed by Joel Coen

White Russians may be the Dude’s poison, but it is a simple joint that nearly proves to be his undoing when he finally recovers his crapped out ’73 Ford Torino and the beloved Creedence Clearwater Revival tape that he left inside when it was stolen. Paranoid that he’s being followed by a mysterious VW beetle while listening to “Looking Out My Back Door,” the Dude finds himself in the nightmare scenario for anyone who’s ever smoked in their car when his attempt to flick the remnants of his doobie out the window lead to it bouncing back into his lap. He furiously fumbles for it out of concern it’ll set his crotch ablaze, yelping and trying to douse things with the beer he’s been drinking. What’s amazing about the scene is how what begins as a simple sight gag turns into a microcosm of the Dude’s entire odyssey, ending with the revelation of who destroyed his car (via a term paper on the Louisiana Purchase in the crevice of the cracked vinyl interior) when all he really wanted was to find his joint. And as with any trip, revelations occur in the most unexpected places, sometimes leaving a crashed car to show for it. –SS


29. Drey Discovers Dan in the Bathroom
“Half Nelson” (2006)
Directed by Ryan Fleck

One of the most empathetic and original portraits of drug addiction in recent memory is that offered by “Half Nelson,” the 2006 debut of writing and directing partners Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden. The film follows a Brooklyn junior high school teacher and basketball coach named Dan Dunne (played by Ryan Gosling) who also happens to be a crack addict. The pivotal scene is one in which Dunne seems about to cross the line between being a high-functioning addict and one who is officially out of control. Following a basketball practice he steals into the emptied girls’ locker room, shutting himself into a stall to smoke some crack. Tension builds around Dan’s need for release and competing need, perhaps, to be caught; the scene is shot as a sort of mosaic of impressions and fragmented angles. After taking his first hit a young student (Shareeka Epps) enters the next stall, and upon leaving discovers her teacher and coach in the throes of obliterative high. Her response is what makes the scene and sets the movie on its course. Fearful and yet contained, she doesn’t run and doesn’t yell, she just stays by his side until he’s able to figure out what he has to do. –MO


28. Elliott Joins Beverly in Drug Addiction
“Dead Ringers” (1988)
Directed by David Cronenberg

Whether they involve drugs or not, nearly all of David Cronenberg’s movies touch on the ecstatic euphoria and physical decay of addiction. In “Dead Ringers,” the schizophrenic life of a high-functioning addict is doubly made flesh in the persons of twin gynecologists of Beverly and Elliot Mantle, both played by Jeremy Irons. As Beverly descends into addiction, aided by drug-seeking actress Genviève Bujold, Elliot keeps up appearances, seamlessly substituting for his brother in high-pressure situations. But the façade inevitably cracks, and Elliot follows his brother down the rabbit hole. The final sequence, in which one eviscerates the other, serves as a chilling encapsulation of addiction’s endgame. In the end, all they have is their need, which consumes them both. –SA


27. Dinner Party Disaster
“The Boost” (1988)
Directed by Harold Becker

The afternoon before his big dinner with prospective investors, Lenny Brown (James Woods) does everything right, tipping the maître d’ to book his favorite table at an upper crust restaurant and refusing the Quaaludes offered by his neighbor to calm his nerves as ’80s smooth jazz swells in the background. But on the verge of landing the real estate deal of his career, Lenny can’t keep up the act, sneaking two lines of coke in the bathroom after his reservation gets screwed up, thus screwing over himself by returning to the table and launching into a tirade after his integrity is questioned. “My idea’s going to be on the cover of Fortune. You know what these guys are going to be doing? Carrying around some Arab’s dick,” he barks at his helpless wife (Sean Young). The anti-Middle Eastern sentiment may be the influence of “The Boost”‘s author, noted conservative and “Ferris Bueller” star Ben Stein, but the live wire act is all Woods, who probably unleashed a similar invective backstage at that year’s Spirit Awards where he was nominated, but did not win, for his electric performance. –SS


26. Church Hallucination/Confession
“Bad Lieutenant” (1992)
Directed by Abel Ferrara

If drugs can provide ecstatic highs, they can also result in the deepest of lows, magnifying pain and suffering in ways that border on the cruel. It’s this latter effect that marks the torturous church sequence in Abel Ferrara’s notorious “Bad Lieutenant,” in which Harvey Keitel’s dissolute cop confronts his moral and spiritual crisis through a narcotized encounter with Jesus. Wailing in agony, Keitel is visited by a vision of Christ, whom he first berates for being silent in the face of his own suffering, and then to whom he confesses his sins (“I’ve done bad things!”). It’s a portrait of accusatory rage, grief and self-castigation that encapsulates the character’s torment — and, via a final shot in which Keitel kisses Jesus’ feet and then looks up to see that he’s actually accosting a stunned parishioner, the film’s black sense of humor. Repudiating the notion that they’re merely a gateway to escape, Ferrara argues that, though drugs may offer momentary reprieve from personal misery, they ultimately amplify, and thus reveal, the true self. –NS


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