Oscar Watch: Looking Back on Birdman

Birdman Mirror

Written by Alex Gibson on . Posted in Blogs

By Nella Fitzgerald

Originally posted on Nelle De Jour

I could not be more relieved and galvanized by the films I’ve seen been watching lately. Whiplash and Birdman were both incredibly immersing and soul-stirring movies. On a basic level, they perform the way film is supposed to, reflecting universal aspects of human spirit with such authenticity and intensity that you have no choice, but to feel connected to the characters. Their vulnerabilities, their idiosyncrasies, the way, ultimately, like us all, they just want to be loved. 

Oscar Watch: Looking Back on The Grand Budapest Hotel

Grand Budapest Hotel

Written by Alex Gibson on . Posted in Blogs

By Don Malvasi

Originally Posted by Cinedork.com

Wes Anderson prefers not to enter himself into a particular time and place unless he’s able to twist and turn his subject until it’s ready to fit into HIS world. In The Grand Budapest Hotel, his eighth and best feature, his enchanting stylization rises to a level of obsessiveness that bodes well for the adventurous filmgoer. Anderson pulls all the stops in production values in taking on the vanished elegance of Old World Europe between the World Wars. His stock company, now enlarged by an even wider swath of familiar actors (no fewer than 17 this time) is here bolstered by a zany, bravura performance by Ralph Fiennes. Fiennes plays Gustave H., a genteel and dapper yet manic and profane hotel concierge who has a way with words and with ladies of a certain advanced age. He controls the Grand Budapest Hotel with a courtly whip.

PFS Review – Into the Woods

INTO THE WOODS

Written by Alex Gibson on . Posted in Blogs

By Don MalvasiSee it at the Roxy!

Originally Posted on Cinedork.com

Rife with colorful characters and brimming with the signature rhyming banter of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine, Into The Woods is the closest thing this Christmas season to a rewarding family film. Just don’t expect things to come with a ribbon wrapped around them. If the mashing of familiar Grimm fairy tales into a not-so-conventional tale sounds like your idea of good fun, you wouldn’t be far wrong. Although the Rob Marshall adaptation of the 1987 stage production loses some steam in its second half, it is a well-cast showcase for the likes of Meryl Streep, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp (as the Big Bad Wolf), and especially the amusing Tracy Ullmann and the excellent Emily Blunt.

PFS Review – Foxcatcher

Foxcatcher1

Written by Alex Gibson on . Posted in Blogs

By Don MalvasiSee it at the Roxy!

Originally Posted on Cinedork.com

It’s as dramatic as when you first lay eyes on Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull. In Foxcatcher, Steve Carell is not at all the Steve Carell with whom we’ve become accustomed. There’s not a sliver of the character from The Office or The 40 Year Old Virgin to be found. Nor does Carell, fitted with a prosthetic nose, smile once in the film. In one of the year’s very best performances, a super serious Carell gives an uncanny, haunting take on John Eleuthere DuPont.

PFS Review – Black or White

la_ca_1201_black_or_white

Written by Alex Gibson on . Posted in Blogs

By Don Malvasi

Reposted from Cinedork.com

See it at the Roxy!Director and screenwriter Mike Binder will be called on the carpet by the gripe-happy protectors of the politically correct. He’ll be accused of tripping over stereotypes as he presents the story of a custody battle over a racially mixed seven-year-old, Eloise. Despite being a little obvious around the edges, Black or White essentially presents a modern day racial drama with solid conviction and fresh ideas.

Raised by her maternal grandparents after her mother died in childbirth, Eloise (Jillian Estell) faces another tragedy when her grandmother dies in a car accident just before the film begins. Her grandfather, Eliot (a riveting Kevin Costner), a corporate lawyer, suddenly faces the task of raising the child by himself. Just when he begins to get his footing, Eloise’s fraternal grandmother, Rowena (Octavia Spencer, very good) decides the girl would be better off in her custody–especially since her long-estranged, miscreant son, Reggie (Andre Holland), is suddenly eager to get involved with his daughter Or is he?

PFS Rapid Recommendation – Inherent Vice

inherent_vice_movie-wide

Written by Alex Gibson on . Posted in Blogs

By Davis Rivera

Though many dismissed Thomas Pynchon’s 2009 novel Inherent Vice as ‘Pynchon Lite,’ Paul Thomas Anderson proves the naysayers wrong by remaining dutifully faithful to the source material and exposing the book’s literary merit and how perfectly Pynchon’s verbal acrobatics and exquisitely written characters translate to the screen.  These two masters of matchless attentiveness are an ideal artistic combination and one can only hope that this level of virtuosity will befall other classics in the reclusive author’s oeuvre.

PFS Rapid Recommendation – Top Five

Top Five - Chris Rock

Written by Alex Gibson on . Posted in Blogs

By Davis Rivera

Seven years after his under-appreciated Rohmer remake I Think I Love My Wife, Chris Rock returns with 2014’s best comedy Top Five.  From its frenzied foray into the hedonistic side of Houston to its riotous jailhouse crooner closing out the film, with world-weary eyes staring fixedly at our wounded protagonist as he demonstrates their worth as multifaceted artists, the film rarely missteps and cements Rock’s reputation as an artist as gifted at filmmaking as he is at standup.

PFS Interview – Ava DuVernay, Director of Selma

selma-trailer

Written by Alex Gibson on . Posted in Blogs

By Alex Gibson

An early scene in Selma depicts Annie Lee Cooper, played by Oprah Winfrey, sitting in an Alabama courthouse. She nervously approaches the window and hands in a completed voter registration form. The white man behind the counter, who has clearly thwarted her previous attempts at voter registration, studies her form. He looks up and challenges her to recite the preamble to the Constitution. She does so perfectly from memory. Annoyed, he asks her how many county judges there are in Alabama. Sixty-seven, she answers confidently, probably having been stumped last time. The man sneers back at her, “Name them,” he says.

When she cannot, the man stamps DENIED on her registration form, and she is sent away again.photo (32)

Though by 1965, all Americans technically had the right to vote, experiences like Cooper’s (and worse) were extremely common in the South. African Americans were met with derision, oppression, institutional obstacles, and violence when trying to register to vote. As a result, masses of black people were disenfranchised and denied a basic American right. The marches from Selma to Montgomery, led by Dr. Martin Luther King and other Civil Rights Leaders of the time, eventually led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits racial discrimination in voter registration and is considered one of the most important events of the Civil Rights Movement.

When Selma opens nationwide on January 9, it will be making history for a couple of reasons. Not only is it the first studio film about Dr. King, but it has also garnered director Ava DuVernay with a Golden Globe nod, making her the first African-American woman to be nominated. She will make history again if nominated for an Academy Award this month.

DuVernay recently visited Philadelphia for a pre-holiday screening of Selma, and I was honored to speak with her about her film and activism for African-American filmmakers.