1. Jesse and Celine have lost the essential element that made them fall in love in the first film, and drop everything to be together in the second. They have lost the ability to listen to each other and connect. More than a romance between a man and a woman, the films were about the romance of communication. That the writers and audience both forgot this simple fact makes what could have been the most important cinematic love story of all time into the norm it once skewered.”

    Why Before Midnight is a failure

     


  2. We remember Philip Seymour Hoffman through his eclectic, iconic filmography.

    Listen and subscribe to The Week’s podcasts on SoundCloud here, and on iTunes here.

     

  3. Monica Bartyzel, in Girls on Film:

    Frozen only vilifies the Prince Charming fantasy as it currently stands: The idea that Prince Charming can be recognized in a moment, and that true love can come from a single kiss on dead lips or a perfectly sized shoe. In Frozen, Kristoff is the one because he falls in love with the girl he’s taken the time to know — for her attitude and resourcefulness, and for her spirit and candor. If Kristoff offers her passionate, respectful, and reciprocal love, how can Hans’ villainous twist shame girls’ fantasies? The fantasy remains, but in a more worthwhile form.

    How Frozen killed Prince Charming

     

  4. Laurence Olivier:

    Between 1939 and 1978, Laurence Olivier was nominated for 10 Oscars, with a Best Actor win for the title role in 1948’s Hamlet and a Lifetime Achievement Award at the ceremony in 1979. Just two years later, he won a Razzie for playing General MacArthur in the critically maligned Inchon, beating out the likes of Willie Aames in Zapped! and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian. When asked why he had agreed to star in a film like Inchon in the first place, Olivier gave this now-legendary response: “Money, dear boy. I’m like a vintage wine. You have to drink me quickly before I turn sour.”

    8 Oscar-winning actors who have also won Razzies

     


  5. To commemorate the polar vortex, we’ll be recommending a different movie set in the snow each week in the month of January. This week’s icy movie: Let the Right One In, an unconventional horror/romance set in snowy Sweden.

    2008 was a pivotal year for the vampire. That September, HBO premiered True Blood — a massive hit that paved the way for a still-thriving subgenre of erotic horror. Just a few months later, the first film based on Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series hit theaters, launching a billion-dollar franchise that attracted countless tweens and continues to reverberate through Hollywood today. 

    But between those two blockbuster landmarks, the arthouse set was treated to their very own vampire story: Let the Right One In, an unconventional Swedish genre-bender based on John Ajvide Lindqvist [ASH-vide LIND-ka-vist] novel of the same name. When it arrived in limited release in the United States in October, Let the Right One In happened to hit theaters on the same day as both Saw V and High School Musical 3 — and it turned out to be both a more affecting horror movie and a better coming-of-age story.

    Let the Right One In follows Oskar, a 12-year-old misfit living in a Stockholm suburb. Life isn’t going so well for Oskar; his parents are separated, he doesn’t have any real friends, and he’s constantly tormented by bullies. But things start looking up when Eli, a girl who appears to be about Oskar’s age, moves in next door. The duo reluctantly strike up a friendship, bonding over Morse code and a Rubik’s Cube. Everything would be perfect — if Eli wasn’t a vampire.

    Let the Right One In is a strange, fascinating blend of horror and young romance that feels utterly unlike anything you’d normally see in a Hollywood release. The film is unusually quiet, which makes its few graphically violent scenes feel unnaturally eerie. Director Tomas Alfredson leaves lots of room for ambiguity, which makes Eli’s true nature a question that viewers will need to puzzle out for themselves. And the two young leads, who are required to carry the vast majority of the movie on their shoulders, were untested and virtually unknown, which makes their performances feel uniquely naturalistic. It’s a truly distinctive film that shows how every genre, no matter how hackneyed, can feel fresh again if it’s handled with the right touch. For anyone who’s written off the vampire genre altogether: Give Let the Right One in a try, and see if it doesn’t change your mind.

    Listen to all of The Week’s weekly Netflix streaming recommendations here.

     


  6. In fact, though we see no physical embodiment of Samantha — and glean just a bit of her existence outside Theodore — she is the one who instigates the relationship and uses it to evolve. Nathan Rabin at A.V. Club has said, “The Manic Pixie Dream Girl exists solely…to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” But in Her, the situation is reversed. Theodore has taught Samantha. He is a quirky guy who plays videogames, wears high-waisted pants, and loves to cry. He’s the strange paramour easily titillated by running through a crowd, and the man amused by a raunchy doodle. “I want to discover myself,” she says, and he answers: “I want to help,”…
     

  7. Rush:

    Ron Howard adapted this story of the bitter rivalry between motor racers James Hunt, a Brit played by Chris Hemsworth, and Niki Lauda, an Austrian played by Daniel Brühl, and how their relationship evolved throughout their parallel careers.

    But, as Alex von Tunzelmann writes for The Guardian, the main conceit of the film is largely embellished: “In fact, judging by Gerald Donaldson’s biography of Hunt, their rivalry was quite friendly. Hunt won a Formula Two race against Lauda at Oulton Park in 1972; Donaldson notes that Lauda and another driver, Ronnie Peterson, congratulated him and ‘were genuinely happy to see James finally get a share of the success they felt he deserved’. Hunt — who was not in the habit of sugar-coating anything he said to the press — said: ‘I got on very well with Niki and always had done since we first met in Formula Three and gypsied around Europe together. We raced against each other but we also teamed up as mates, not just casual acquaintances.’”

    Though this inaccuracy is not exactly confidence-inspiring, one major part of the movie is real: James Hunt’s incessant partying. As Grantland’s Patricia Lee writes, Hunt was something of a lothario. “Hunt was believed to have slept with more than 5,000 women, ‘sometimes having sex minutes before a race.' Apparently 'Hunt's appetite for wine and women was legendary.' Exactly how legendary? Well, Hunt slept with 33 British Airways stewardesses and a number of Japanese fans during his two-week stay in Tokyo for the 1976 Japanese Grand Prix.”

    Based on a true story? Fact-checking 5 Oscar contenders

     

  8. Saving Mr. Banks

    The making of Mary Poppins was famously rocky. Creator P.L. Travers wrote the first book in 1934, but it took another 30 years for Walt Disney to finally release the now-beloved movie version.Saving Mr. Banks follows the story behind the story, tracking the ups and down of the Travers-Disney relationship as portrayed by Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks.

    But though there is much truth to the tale, the film is also “corporate myth-making on a large scale,” as Drew McWeeny writes for HitFix, since it mostly glosses over the real-life personality of Disney. “The difficult part of Walt Disney Studios telling this story is that they have a vested interest in making sure that Walt Disney, the icon, emerges from this as the hero of the story,” he writes.

    Alex von Tunzelmann expands on this at The Guardian: “The film goes soft on Uncle Walt, who by many accounts may have been less sweet-natured than he is portrayed here.”

    Also: Disney was a notorious chain smoker, which was entirely left out of the movie, complying with modern Hollywood’s unwritten rule that only bad guys can smoke.

    Based on a true story?  Fact-checking 6 Oscar contenders

     


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  10. Girls on Film:

    Giving an Oscar-centric gift set is just about the easiest present there is, because there are only four films in history directed by women that have earned a Best Director nomination. They are:

    Lina Wertmuller for Seven Beauties: This film focuses on a criminal sent to the army, who escapes during World War II, only to get captured by the Germans and sent to a prison camp. The film is also part of “The Lina Wertmuller Collection.”

    Jane Campion for The Piano: The 1993 film stars Holly Hunter as a mute woman who communicates through her piano. She is sold into marriage with one man while being drawn to another. Though Campion didn’t win the Oscar for Best Director, the film nabbed Best Actress, Supporting Actress, and Original Screenplay.

    Sofia Coppola for Lost in TranslationFollowing in her famous father’s footsteps, Coppola courted big success with her second feature, which follows a blossoming friendship between an aging actor (Bill Murray) and a recent graduate (Scarlett Johansson) experiencing culture shock in Tokyo. Coppola won an Oscar for Best Screenplay, as the film enjoyed an impressive $120 million gross on a budget of $4 million.

    Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker: Finally, in 2009, Bigelow became the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar. The win solidified her standing as the female director at the top of every movie wish-list, as she won for her gritty look at a bomb disposal team during the Iraq War.

    This doesn’t, however, mean that the countless other female-directed films got no love. Nominees who missed Oscar nods while earning other recognition include: Debra Granik for the Jennifer Lawrence-starring Winter’s Bone, Marleen Gorris for Antonia’s Line (Best Foreign Language Film winner), Deepa Mehta for Water, and Penny Marshall for Awakenings. And that’s on top of the nominees and winners for short and documentary films, like Jessica Yu’s Documentary Short winner Breathing Lessons.

    A holiday gift guide for film fans

     


  11. As a film critic, I’ve seen nearly 4,000 movies over the last 15 years. Right now, I can’t think of one worse than Movie 43.
    — 

    Elizabeth Weitzman at the New York Daily News.

    The 10 worst-reviewed movies of 2013

     


  12. British war films, in my childhood and beyond, were always from a British viewpoint. Germans were probably stereotyped as psychopathic Nazis — and I can’t recall seeing average German people in a small town, and how that particular fanatical ideology impacted their lives. I think from Markus’ point of view — and what I believe has been taken into the screenplay — is that there’s a kind of original empathy to try and work out. When I read the stories, I felt that this could happen.
    — 

    Geoffrey Rush, on his new Holocaust-era film, The Book Thief.

    The Book Thief: An interview with the stars, director, and author

     

  13. The Invisible Woman
    Directed by Ralph Fiennes
    Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, and Kristin Scott Thomas

    What is it?
    Based on Claire Tomalin’s 1991 book of the same name, The Invisible Woman looks at the life of Ellen “Nelly” Ternan (Felicity Jones), a young actress who met Charles Dickens (Ralph Fiennes) at the height of his career and became his secret mistress until his death.

    Should you see it?
    Yes, but keep your expectations in check. The Invisible Woman is a relatively surface-level look at the relationship between Ternan and Dickens. The main reason to see The Invisible Woman is Felicity Jones, who turns in an excellent, layered performance as a woman caught between her need to keep secrets and a desire to freely live her life. (Thankfully, Fiennes understands that this is Ternan’s story more than Dickens’ and keeps the bulk of the focus on her.) That’s enough to make it worth seeing — but don’t go in expecting a new period-piece classic.

    AFI Fest 2013: 6 movies you should know about