Young adult fiction is the hottest commodity in the studio filmmaking market right now, especially books written about and for young women. With the huge financial success of the Twilight films, it’s no wonder Lionsgate wanted their own piece of the pie, and so they chose to bring forth an adaptation of The Hunger Games, the first of a trilogy of novels that chronicles lethal gladiatorial games set in a dystopian future. The difference between the two franchises couldn’t be more stark and clear, though. While one pushes dangerous messages for young girls with a protagonist who defines herself solely based on the abusive boyfriends she has, The Hunger Games features the strongest, most well-developed female lead in a tentpole film in God knows how long, brought to life in a star-making performance from Jennifer Lawrence.
Author Kevin Ketchum
Film festivals are funny things. I often begin them with unmatched determination and excitement, but towards the end, I’m stretched thin and lose a lot of motivation. In that case, the social aspect of these things often takes over as my primary reason for continuing. I attend three film festivals a year in Austin. SXSW, Fantastic Fest, and Austin Film Festival. The latter has a frankly pathetic social element, because it’s mostly a very formal event that comes off rather chilly at times. But the other two thrive on the social scene. Social networking tools such as twitter are the way careers in this industry are born, mine included, and it’s always such a treat to get to spend a week hanging out with colleagues I otherwise rarely see but talk to every day online.
SXSW Festival Diary Days 2 & 3: Universal Studios film restoration panel and different shades of American Indie filmmaking.
After an early wake up call Monday morning, I was able to settle into the groove of SXSW quite nicely. First up was the Universal Studios film restoration panel, as part of their celebration of the 100th anniversary of the studio’s creation. To start off, we were treated to a quick glance of the various incarnations of the studio’s logo throughout the decades, including the new design and re-scored version of Jerry Goldsmith’s fanfare that accompanied it. Things quickly moved along, despite technical difficulties that prevented the panelists from getting right into their power-point presentation about The Sting. Originally, Universal selected 12 titles for restoration; in addition to the 100 popular titles they will be re-releasing throughout the year. Those titles were To Kill a Mockingbird, All Quiet on the Western Front, Pillow Talk, Buck Privates, Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, Out of Africa, The Sting, The Birds, Jaws, and Schindler’s List. The last two films in that list got an audible reaction from me, as both are in my top ten favorite films of all time. Universal decided, however, to also go back and restore the Spanish version of Dracula, which was filmed at night after the American film had finished shooting for the day, and is widely considered to be the cinematically superior film, due to the sensual nature of the imagery and costumes.
SXSW Festival Diary Day 1: Willem Dafoe shines in The Hunter and The Raid kicks my ass six ways to Sunday.
After two days of miserable weather that made even the simplest forms of travel impossible (thunderstorms, hail, you name it), I was finally able to get out and start enjoying my time at SXSW, a festival for music, film, technology, and culture here in my beautiful hometown of Austin, TX. The festival serves as a convergence of artists and innovators to come together and share their visions in one of the great cultural capitals of the country.
We enter this world through the eyes of two men, Jacky and Diederik, both part of the criminal underworld of growth hormones. Jacky runs the region’s most prominent cattle farm, and is approached by a shady meat trader to make a mutually beneficial deal of supply and demand. During the meeting, he encounters Diederik, a ghost of sorts from his past. After the meeting, events are set in motion that takes us through past and present as we learn just what makes Jacky tick.
Michael Roskam’s screenplay beautifully weaves past and present together in an intricate but never overly complex manner, slowly peeling away the emotional motivations of each character
With the nationwide rollout of Lynne Ramsay’s surrealist horror film, We Need to Talk About Kevin, happening this month, I was given the chance to sit down with Ezra Miller, who plays the titular character. A well-rounded and intelligent young man, there wasn’t a wasted word that came out of him. When asked about the most challenging aspect of the performance, he answers in a very matter of fact way about the dark psychological places he had to go to, and how it was hard to shake that at the end of the day.
Harakiri is a sort of antithesis of a typical samurai film. Rather than have honor be the motivation that drives the characters, it openly criticizes the social system of feudal Japan, which was often hypocritical and driven to an age of cynicism during peace. But the film isn’t just seeking to explore a subject so specific. Rather, it is a brilliant deconstruction of all arbitrary social and cultural constructs that we live our lives based upon.
War Horse is a strange film to talk about critically. It’s unashamedly old-fashioned, and outwardly sentimental. In many ways, it’s a litmus test for each individual viewer’s threshold for this kind of sweetness. Living in a cynical age, we’re much more wary of a film that openly manipulates our emotions. Had the film been released 20 years ago, it would have immediately been declared a classic. Featuring sweeping vistas, a soaring John Williams score, and universal subject matter, it’s a film from a different time. But this is the 21st century, and we’ve become hardened and cynical in a post-9/11 world. So how does War Horse shape up in the modern age? Quite well, as it turns out.
As I worked through my list of favorite films of the year, I was surprised at what stood out, and what didn’t. I liked a lot of films this year, and loved quite a few. But when narrowing down what films I considered the ten best of the year, I was taken aback by what didn’t ultimately make the cut.
There’s effortlessness in David Fincher’s latest film, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which makes it feel a bit slight. The film is impeccably made on a technical level, as one would come to expect from Fincher, known for being a perfectionist. But still, there’s just that little bit of extra something that feels like it’s missing here, and it’s hard to put a finger on it.