Director Face/Off: Wes Anderson Vs. Richard Linklater (Part Four – Memorable Quotes)

Wes Anderson
and Richard Linklater –prominent writer/directors, Texas natives (both have roots in Houston) and coincidentally my two favorite humans. Their latest films were nominated for Best Motion Picture this year and, delving further, their careers have evolved at very similar rates, humbly paving the quaint dirt road that was the indie film scene in the ‘90s with
Slacker and Bottle Rocket. Onward, they transitioned to tastemakers, acquiring cult followings with Dazed and Confused and The Royal Tenenbaums. With each film Anderson and Linklater make, their toolbox gets a little bigger without compromising their eclectic and pridefully offbeat styles, one vastly different from the other, yet hauntingly similar. Which leads to the question, who does it better?

Wes Anderson’s oh-so-deadpan characters spout off some wise, sometimes just straight up madcap tidings, whereas Linklater’s characters go for the gold with philosophical revelations even too deep for Tiny Buddha, and one-liners that end up on t-shirts. Let’s compare the two directors’ most memorable quotes.

Battle 4: Memorable Quotes

Round One:


“That’s what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the same age.”
Linklater – Dazed and Confused

“Why would a reviewer make the point of saying someone’s *not* a genius? Do you especially think I’m *not* a genius? You didn’t even have to think about it, did you?”
Anderson – The Royal Tenenbaums

In Dazed and Confused, David Wooderson is a grown-up loser who still hangs out with high school kids. In The Royal Tenenbaums, Eli is a self-absorbed author of western books and also an endearing stalker who hangs out in closets wearing only his underwear. His prose is truly hilarious, as we discover when he reads an excerpt at a press conference: “And they rode on in the friscalating dusklight . . .” Both memorable characters, but Wooderson’s wacky wisdom lives on forever in frat houses across the world.

Winner: Linklater/ Dazed and Confused

Round Two:


“I have been touched by your kids… and I’m pretty sure that I’ve touched them.”
Linklater – School of Rock
“I’ve never seen so many electric jellyfish in all my life!”
Anderson – The Life Aquatic

Both School of Rock and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou have ample amounts of hilarious, memorable quotes. Nothing beats that awkward moment at the parent-teacher conference when Dewey Finn says that perverted quote without even realizing. Ned Plimpton, in his nasally, southern accent-y voice, declares his quotes in a state of enamored fascination. Quotability, in my opinion, is based on if you can shout an obscure quote at a dinner party totally out of context and have people laugh, rather than stare are you questioningly.

Winner: Anderson/ The Life Aquatic

Round Three:


“You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment? I don’t know, I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us.”
Linklater – Boyhood

“I saved Latin. What did you ever do?”
Anderson – Rushmore

Linklater’s most recent coming of age opus Boyhood is ripe with wisdom and heartfelt realizations. So is Anderson’s Rushmore, which follows a confused kid as he gets caught up in an obsession with a teacher at his school. I could be biased here, since I’ve been quoting Rushmore avidly for years, but there is just so much angst-filled honesty in Max Fischer, such vulnerable truth.

Winner: Anderson/ Rushmore

Subjective Winner: Wes Anderson’s Quotes are Better


Join us next week for the next Wes/Dick showdown and check out prior segments:

Battle #1: Reuse of Actors
Battle #2: Locations
Battle #3: Music

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2015 Oscar Predictions (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Winning Your Oscar Pool)


It’s that magical time of year when film come to a head, colliding in a battleground of prestige, vying for golden statuettes that boast careers and fatten paychecks. This year’s Academy Awards nomination met with controversy out of the gate – most notably for the exclusion of noted female and African-American directors, actors and screenwriters – but that hasn’t stalled the herds of celebrities literally waiting in the wings to reward each other and today is the biggest and easily the most important of the awards season. So don your fanciest dress, pop your priciest wine and set out the stinkiest cheeses because today months and months of speculation and prognostication end to the tune of shiny statues. Read More


Top Ten Movies of 2014

Let’s be frank: 2014 was a killer year for film. It was so murderous, you could call it Lou Bloom; so voluptuous, you could call it Eva Green. It was so sweet and sexy, you could call it Hello Kitty. If you were amongst the ranks of dissenters, whining on some Lazy-E-boy somewhere about how there weren’t enough Trans4mers movies or Hercules adaptations, you’re wrong. That’s all there is to it. 2014 popped cherries. It was violently mayhemious, hallucinatorily glorious, redonkulously fist-to-facey and totally, wholeheartedly, unapologetically weepy (yeah, I teared up more than once, what’s it to you?).

2014 was the year that Bill Murray aped a grump, Tom Cruise aped Bill Murray and Andy Serkis aped an ape. It was a kick-to-the-shinception of a year with title releases that saw anal polyps pop in sexplotitation flicks (Wetlands), hammer fights (The Raid 2), Ridley Scott falling on his face (Exodus: Gods and Godhelpmethismovieisbad), doppelgängers galore (Enemy, et al.), hungry games (some that involved auto-cannibalism, some that didn’t), Christopher Nolan falling on his face (Inter-mitently-stellar), STDemons (It Follows), Walrusfurmations (Mr. Tusk, Tusk, Mr. Golden Tusk) and lots and lots of bloody bloody vengeance (too many to list.)

It told the tales of Martin Luther King (Selma), of James Brown (Get On Up), Stephen Hawking (The Theory of Everything), Alan Turring (The Imitation Game), John Du Pont (Foxcatcher), Cheryl Strayed (Wild), Noah (Noah), Roger Ebert (Life Itself), Robyn Davidson (Tracks), Alejandro Jodorowsky (Jodorowsky’s Dune), Maziar Bahari (Rosewater), Jimi Hendrix (All is By My Side), Dido Elizabeth Belle (Belle), Joe Albany (Low Down), Cesar Chavez (Cesar Chavez), Abraham Lincoln (The Better (more like worse! heyooo!) Angels), and a dude named Sky Lord.

This 14th year of the 21st century crammed every element possible into the indie box, shook it up and spurted it out like spicy hot cream. From sci-fi (Space Station ’76, Young Ones) to DIY game shows (Cheap Thrills, Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter), road trips (Chef, The Trip to Italy) to Twilights Zones (The One I Love, The Double), there was more buried treasure than a pirate map. Trouble is, with all these untrumpeted indie releases, you often do need a map to find them.

Maybe the fact that I attended three film festivals (Sundance, SXSW and SIFF) and was able to eke out some hidden gems that would go on to sneak past most audiences (and critics. Poor, lonely, lonely critics) helped me come to the assertion that 2014 rocked the socks off of c*cks but even without those underground, super covert, keep-them-secret-keep-them-safe riches, 2014 had a trove of wide-releases to match.

Those who guard galaxies, John Wicks, men with X’s in their names, Hobbitses, noir Liam Neesons, Godzillas and lobby boys all helped transformed the mass media cinema culture of 2014 into one worth remembering, even in the face of a fast approaching year that will see Han f*cking Solo behind the wheel of the Millennium f*cking Falcon.

Honorable mentions won’t be ticked off as we’re in the process of cranking out a top 100 movies of 2014 list and that does more than the duty of a normal man’s honorable mentions section. So ten tops and ten only. No funny business. No ties. No b*llshit. So strap in, check yourself before you wreck yourself and let’s make a f*cking list.




If 2014 was a year about blowing minds, none did it more casually and assuredly than Denis Villenue‘s total tonal WTF-fest Enemy. Starring not one but two Jake Gyllenhaals, Enemy tracks a man coming to terms with his own fracturing identity. Or did it? This existential experiment about giant spiders, locks’n’keys, balls’n’chains, dreamscapes, unrelenting ambiguity and twinsies might at first appear to be a bundle of malarky but once you dig your heels into it and break it down like a certifiable horse whisperer, everything miraculously makes sense. Not necessarily in a 5+5=10 kind of makes sense way but I’m willing to content that I have an explanation for this film (that I won’t divulge here) that will convincingly put the many aggressively jigsawed pieces into satisfying place. As the unholy apex of violently disorienting endings, there’s yet to be a movie this year that tops the complete and total f*ck you that Enemy seemingly ends on and yet, going back over it all with a fine-toothed comb (or a scalpel, it’s really up to you) it’s a masterpiece of a mind-game that isn’t as unsolvable as the casual observer may assume. For blowing my mind and allowing me to eventually recover it, Enemy sneaks into the tenth spot.

“What occurs as Enemy progresses is quaking, the earth below your feet seems to tremor faster and faster, moving its way up the Richter scale. A floating Tarantula as big as a Goodyear blimp slinks its way over Toronto. A woman’s body with a Tarantula’s head walks upside down through a corridor. At 90 minutes, it shrinks and expands the mind, then ends abruptly with no questions answered. Enemy is a rollercoaster personally designed by the Devil. Twist and turn, crash and burn.” (Full Review)


Heading into last year’s Sundance Midnight Premiere of The Guest, I had nothing to go on save for the above image – an armed, robo-faced Arayan slipping through a blood-red colorscape with all the wrong kind of intent. The film that followed knocked me out (and this is after seeing five (!!!) films already that day). The Guest left me humming and high on transcended genre thrills, shellshocked from grenades and ringing in the ears from some large caliber weapon or other. I was hooked like a junkie on that sweet blue sky. Dan Stevens is a dream in the eponymous role, guiding us through Adam Wingard‘s hallucinatory and unapologetically violent landscape with the cold-hard gusto of a seasoned pro, forcing smiles, guffaws, sneers and drop jaws in equal, calculated doses. The concept of the film could be reduced to “What if Bourne malfunctioned?” and the result manages to feel fresh, even through curtain after curtain of homage. When I caught The Guest for a second time, I found that my initial enjoyment hadn’t been stayed so much as intensified – this was clearly one of the most entertaining films of the year and for it, has earned a spot on this list.

“Slam Drive and Stocker together, rub them down in a spicy 80’s genre marinate and sprinkle with mesmerizing performances and dollops of camp and you have The Guest. Like a turducken of genre, Adam Wingard‘s latest is a campy horror movie stuffed inside a hoodwinking Canon action flick and deep fried in the latest brand of Bourne-style thriller. It’s clever, tense, uproarious, and hypnotizing nearly ever second.” (Full Review)



There were no blockbusters this year that came close to topping Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. I mean, the freakin’ thing had apes firing automatic weapons on horseback. And tanks. And some of the most harrowing depictions of war ever set to screen. And tanks. That’s because Reeve’s film dealt with the idea of the anatomy of war and of a war mentality with a kind of sobering ideology that so few blockbusters dare to touch. It’s war sans glory. There are no heroes, just a bunch of wounded f*ck-ups. Andy Serkis‘ monkey-work was arresting as always (green screen bling king) but it was Toby Kebbell who stole the show as the year’s best villain, the emotionally-and-physically scarred Koba. There were few scenes this year that were more powerful than when all-out warfare erupts at the hands of Koba. That 360 tank sequence was a dream within a nightmare but when Koba literally drags an unwilling soldier to his death, you realize that the dreams of revolution can only be written in bright red streaks. These were haunting moments of filmmaking somehow stuffed into a PG-13 movie about monkeys ruling the world. What the hell? But even when you strip back all the ambitious themes of the film, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is still a mighty entertaining piece of blockbuster fare with unbelievably perfect FX work and stunning camera work. It really does work on every level.

“As Reeve’s film leaks historical allegories like a zesty geyser, his political astuteness pans to a smart dissection of why we choose war in the first place. War is a side effect of fear, fear a scar of misunderstanding. Koba’s are scars that cannot be healed. Dreyfus won’t stand for Three-Fifths of a vote. Peace is a process. Wars start inevitably. It’s not that these two civilizations could not peacefully co-habitate, it’s that sometimes a punch in the face seems like a more swift resolution than drawn-out talks.” (Full Review)



And then there’s Gareth Evans borderline genius The Raid 2; an action movie that makes guns look p*ssy-shaped in the face of a fury of hand-to-hand combat, that unloads scene after scene of inhumanely choreographed fistsplosions and that delivers perhaps the best martial arts movie of all time (or at least of the last decade). What this second Raid movie has over the first is a good story, and a damn good one at that. Like Internal Affairs and The Departed before it, The Raid 2 tells the tale of a deep cover agent, set with all the angsty check-behind-the-lamp paranoia and grueling psychological breaks that such a position demands. But that doesn’t really matter once the car chase scene rolls around and is filmed by a dude disguised as a seat cushion. Evans – who wrote this before he wrote and directed the first film – doesn’t skimp on the narrative gooeyness and when he eventually launches into a balls-to-the-walls orgy of violence that’ll have your blood pumping in ungodly, death-inviting spurts, you’ll know that you were born to behold this film. It’s just all so righteous.

“To try to boil down what is so sublimely excellent about The Raid 2: Berandal is a futile exercise in tilting at windmills. It’s like boxing a griffin, outthinking a Sicilian, or KY-Jelly wrestling an anaconda. Instead of trying to describe the irrepressible satisfaction this balls-to-the-walls, smarter-than-your-dad actioner elicits, instead conjure up what it felt like to lose your virginity, if you lost your virginity in a ten-on-one man brawl in a pit of mud.” (Full Review)


Boyhood topped my most anticipated list for 2014 and for some time, I considered it my favorite film of the year. There is something undeniably magical about watching young Ellar Coltrane grow up before our very eyes in Richard Linklater‘s ambitious 12 year experiment and that something makes for a film that demands our uninterrupted empathy like few others have. It truly gave me all the feels. Some have confused Linklater’s long-gestated gimmick as a form of indie-cred beating off where it’s really just offbeat genius. Watching Boyhood for the second time didn’t ignite all the fiery passions that it had the first so it’s lost a little traction throughout the year with me, but nothing can make me forget that first magical experience I had with it, sitting amongst the first audience to behold its glory in a giant Sundance screening room. Revisiting the oh-so-true growing pains of adolescence was heart-rending enough but Boyhood really thrives in the quieter moments where we just sat back and watched an unextraordinary young boy mature, awkwardly bragging about hooking up with a girl from out of town, huffing back on a doobie and having the cavalier gaul to admit his highness to his mom, chatting with his dad about girls and Star Wars. It may be the film on this list that I’ll re-watch the least, but it shouldn’t be.

“Calling it a coming-of-age story feels slight as Boyhood tracks the joy and pain of growing up, one delicate moment at a time. We find ourselves in Macon, a perceptive youth, in his strength and in his weakness, in his whiny teenage angst and his youthful abandon, in his quasi-stoned prolific moments of reflection and his meekest helplessness.” (Full Review)


I’m willing to admit that David Ayer‘s Fury is a bit of a mess. Then again, aren’t most of Tarantino’s films? (If you say no, I’d like to direct you to the Django Australian miner scene…) Django was my favorite movie of 2012 because it was big and weird and overwritten. And dazzling and savage and brilliant. It was great not in spite of its giddy flaws but because of them. Fury shares the same traits. Somewhere in the midst of it, the crew settles down to an impromptu dinner party (a scene that has divided critics and audiences alike). It sticks out from the rest of the movie like a sore thumb and yet is one of the most beautiful, affecting scenes of 2014. Then Ayer follows that up with Fury‘s tracer-fire highlighted Tiger tank battle and you can forgetaboutit. It’s a movie that works scene-to-scene maybe a touch better than it does as a whole but as an assemblage of scenes, Fury is a big, beautiful, bent out of shape ball of fire and I unabashedly loved it. Ayer dares to air out old things in new light (war as a job. As a mostly shitty but sometimes awesome job) and his film features the best ensemble cast work of the entire year. Push back all you want, Fury is here to stay.

“To boil Ayer’s masterful Fury down to “war is hell” is to ricochet off the mark. To call it a movie without subtext is to poke holes in a block of swiss. The themes stare you in the face, they thump into your cranium and they sick in your soul. They bear witness to wartime masculinity pig-piling on itself in a nasty, self-fulfilling  prophecy that causes and perpetuates war. The rally speeches become just as dangerous as the nuclear weapons. The hoorahs build into their own Manhattan Projects.” (Full Review)



We’re getting down to the big ones at this point and there’s perhaps no movie bigger, bolder and more bonkers this year than Dan Gilroy‘s Nightcrawler. From the very moment we stumble upon Lou Bloom, the sociopath with a banker’s name, everything feels like a happy accident, as if Gilroy’s camera just happened upon this X-manly-purported slip of a human and decidedly followed him like a nightly news crew. But there’s no accidental filmmaking in Nightcrawler (there are many accidents, though mostly of the vehicular kind) and as Gilroy bends his titular Nightcrawler into bigger and odder shapes, he makes room for one of the most important and mind-altering filmic trips of the season. With the borders filled in by revivalist performances from Rene Russo and Bill Paxton – and a whole chunk of space dedicated to Riz Ahmed‘s consciously unconscious thespian discharge – Gilroy’s perfectly written diatribe to greed and America’s obsession with suburbian horrors becomes the most arresting and visceral thematic account of where we stand as a nation and featured the best performance of the year in Jake Gyllenhaal. Greed is good is dead. Long live all is greed. Long live Lou Bloom. Long live Jake Gyllenhaal.

“With a name as innocuous as Louis Bloom, you wouldn’t initially suspect the lead character of Nightcrawler to be so dangerous. But the virulent Lou is the kind of guy who dissolves into shadows; who feeds vampirically in the darkness. He’s not a villain so much as a force of nature. Silent but deadly. Throughout the film, Lou’s facial expressions percolate with a kind of serpentine other-worldliness. As if his tongue could dart from his mouth at any moment to nip at the night air. It doesn’t. He remains squarely within the realm of the human. No matter how inhumane he is. A testament to Dan Gilroy‘s narrow degree of restraint and Gyllenhaal’s tightrope-walking ability.” (Full Review)


The fourth (and final) entry to this list that I caught at Sundance 2014, Whiplash knocked me on my ass. Adapted from an award-winning short film, Damien Chazelle‘s Full Metal Jazz Kit is a whirlwind of genre. It’s a sports movie blanketed in a war movie and punched in the face by a character study. JK Simmons roars as a drill sergeant of a conductor and we gratefully whimper in response. His performance is monsterous and marked by some of the best one-liners of the year (“That’s not your boyfriend’s d*ck; don’t come too early). Whiplash is a film that’s all about keeping tempo and getting walloped when you don’t. That beady stare that Fletcher’s perfected promises a hearty verbal wallops if not a lashing or two from those unnaturally muscled 60-year old guns. Like the most studious graduates of the school of hard rocks, Chazelle keeps tempo like Buddy Rich, chugging us along to a grand finale that is nothing short of grand. Really, really f*cking grand. If you don’t want to explode up from your seat with hands full of applause at curtain time, you’re probably deaf. Or at least tone deaf.

 “Through Chazelle’s assured hand and Blacklist-topping script, Whiplash is fantastically dynamic – a perfect ode to that musical constant acting a central catalyst to the film’s narrative. While students get smacked for being the slightest bit off tempo, Whiplash is unmistakably paced to precision –  the loving design of a satisfied perfectionist.” (Full Review)



Ben Affleck‘s grin can eat shit like none other and only a genius like David Fincher could cast on a grin alone. If there’s but one linchpin moment to Gone Girl (there’s so many) it might be his solitary poo-scarfing beam. Planted next to his wife’s missing poster, smirking like a grinch, the man looks a positive jackass. And this is the brilliance of Gone Girl – to present two sides and make us uncomfortable choosing either. As much a dissection on media as it is on marriage, Gillian Flynn‘s adaptation of her own novel presents a darker Amy and a less reasonable Nick. In this dark tale, no one gets away with being called “amazing”. Backed up some of the best score work of the year (Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor solely backing Fincher’s horse is just too perfect to be true) and one-upped by the preeminent kill of the year, Gone Girl is a masterclass stroke of jet black intelligence.

“Always going, going, gone, David Fincher absolutely knocks it out of the park. Gone Girl is one of the best, and darkest, visions he’s ever dished up. Always one step before the action, Fincher demands we race to catch up. Each shot ends just marginally too quickly. His vision is frantic by design. Things get lost in the dark that are never recovered. You just have to pretend along with it.” (Full Review)


Ka-KAW! Number one. Explosions in the sky. Theater in the streets. Birdman is the most relevant, important and downright entertaining film of the year. Kind of a comedy, kind of a drama and 100% a showcase of actors doing their best acting, Iñárritu’s jeremiad on the death and resurrection of art in the 21st century is as bitingly funny as it is boldfaced misunderstood. Existentialism has never seemed so moody and hysterical as Michael Keaton, Edward Norton and Emma Stone tear up the world stone-by-stone and try and piece it together to fit their narrow-minded narratives. Their undressings are their undoings and Iñárritu shoves the camera oh-so-perfectly down their throats. No film this year played with the mounting importance of social media, the unbecoming preeminence of superhero culture and the distressing role of celebrity status while meticulously piecing together a construct of high art like Birdman was able to and from the no-cut gimmick to a firing-on-all-cylinders ensemble cast, Birdman left me as intellectually rock hard as Mike Shiner on dress rehearsal night. No need to fade to black, this is what movies are made for. Period. The end.

“Steeped in an exacting degree of irreverent relevance, Iñárritu’s able to pull off the rare feat of raising existential questions in the same scene that he blows up a cityscape. It’s like seeing Black Swan and A Beautiful Mind fist-fighting in a Charlie Kaufman play; a crossroads of cinema and theater that’s entirely novel and entirely brilliant.” (Full Review)


So there you have it. Ten magical films to cherish from henceforth until happily ever after. Ten Bountiful beauties that will transport you to a better (or worse) place, regardless of your potentially feeble headspace. No need to thank me, just doing my critic-y duty. If you happen to disagree, I’m willing to afford you one spoonful of words. Anything more than that is a waste of breath and probably warrants a punch in the mouth.


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2015 Oscar Nominee Predictions

2014 has been one big toss up for Oscar contenders. With the release of nominees from the Golden Globes (winners now), SAGs, the PGAs, the ADGs, the ASCs, the WGAs and the BAFTAs as well as AFI Top Ten, LAFCA, NYFCC and more things have been shaping up into more and more of an unconventional top crop for contenders. Front runners Boyhood, The Imitiation Game, Birdman, The Theory of Everything, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Selma look to nab nominations across the board while darker films like Nightcrawler, Gone Girl and Whiplash are looking more and more likely to be amongst the conversation as serious players.

However hazy some of the later-down-the-list nominees might be, the front runners and potential winners are looking more locked up than they do most year before the nominations are even announced, with few big battleground categories. You could assuredly put your money on a Richard Linklater win for Best Director, Michael Keaton for Best Actor, Julianne Moore for Best Actress, JK Simmons for Best Supporting, and Patricia Arquette for Best Supporting Actress. Wes Anderson‘s script for Grand Budapest Hotel looks like a shoe-in win while Gillian Flynn hopes to score Oscar gold for Gone Girl.

I would bet money on a second Emmanuel Lubezki win in a row (Gravity, now Birdman) for Best Cinematography, even though it’s looking like a crowded field. This happens to be the case with many of the technical fields. Just too few slots for too many contenders. Those categories that I really feel like I’m just taking a shot in the dark at are Best Song, Sound Editing/Mixing and Best Visual Effects (which could go many, many ways.)

Otherwise, I’m just hoping that my Best Picture contenders are on the money since if things go the way I’m thinking they will, we’ll have one of the best Best Picture collections in recent history.

The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Gone Girl

Richard Linklater “Boyhood”
Alejandro G. Inarritu “Birdman”
David Fincher “Gone Girl”
Ava DuVernay “Selma”
Wes Anderson “Grand Budapest Hotel”

Michael Keaton “Birdman”
Eddie Redmayne “The Theory of Everything”
Jake Gyllenhaal “Nightcrawler”
Benedict Cumberbatch “The Imitation Game”
David Oyelowo “Selma”

Julianne Moore “Still Alice”
Reese Witherspoon “Wild”
Rosamund Pike “Gone Girl”
Felicity Jones “The Theory of Everything”
Jennifer Anniston “Cake”

JK Simmons “Whiplash”
Mark Ruffalo “Foxcatcher”
Edward Norton “Birdman”
Ethan Hawke “Boyhood”
Robert Duvall “The Judge”

Patricia Arquette “Boyhood”
Emma Stone “Birdman”
Keira Knightley “The Imitation Game”
Jessica Chastain “A Most Violent Year”
Meryl Streep “Into the Woods”

Gone Girl

Wes Anderson “Grand Budapest Hotel”
Alejandro Inarritu et al “Birdman”
Richard Linklater “Boyhood”
Dan Gilroy “Nightcrawler”
Ava Duvernay, Paul Webb “Selma”

Gillian Flynn “Gone Girl”
Graham Moore “The Imitation Game”
Nick Hornby “Wild”
Damien Chazelle “Whiplash”
Anthony McCarten “The Theory of Everything”

Fource Majeure
Ida (Poland)
Leviathan (Russia)
Wild Tales (Argentina)
Tangerines (Estonia)
Mr. Turner
Grand Budapest Hotel

Grand Budapest Hotel
Into the Woods
The Theory of Everything

Into the Woods
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers 4

Into the Woods
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Into the Woods
Grand Budapest Hotel
Mr. Turner
The Imitation Game
A Most Violent Year

Gone Girl
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Theory of Everything
The Imitation Game

Life Itself
Jodorowsky’s Dune
The Overnighters
Last Days in Vietnam

The LEGO Movie
Princess Kaguya
How to Train Your Dragon 2
The Boxtrolls
Big Hero 6

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

The Theory of Everything
The Grand Budapest Hotel

“Glory” (Selma)
“Mercy Is” (Noah)
“Opportunity” (Annie)
“Yellow Flicker Beat” (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part I)
“Miracles” (Unbroken)

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BOYHOOD Pretty Much Sweeps SIFF Golden Space Needle Awards

At the awards brunch this morning, I admitted to a programer that I didn’t even vote for any of the categories for this year’s SIFF awards. “There’s just too many and no one sees them all anyways,” I remarked. “Even though I saw it at Sundance, I guess I would just give all the awards to Boyhood.” It seems the masses were clued into my wave length, as Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood pretty much went on to take all the audience awards including Best Film, Best Actress for Patricia Arquette and Best Director for Linklater (whom I interviewed last week.)

I have a hard time giving much credit to these awards as there’s just too many films for any one person to have a reasonable grasp on what they’re actually voting on and some of the best stuff always seems to wind up overlooked. The unanimity of support for Boyhood does make me wonder about its eventual Oscar odds. At this point, I think it’s the only film of the year that is a set lock for a Best Picture nomination but will it actually have a shot at winning? While I’d like to say yes, it’s barely even June. No matter, I’ll continue to root for it until I see something else that delivers an equally stunning experience.

The only other win on this list that I was really excited to see was Carlos Marques-Marcet taking a prize for Best New Director for 10,000 KM, which I loved. I actually just interviewed him the other day and will be posting that shortly for anyone interested in the (now award winning) director.

The full list of winners, and accompanying SIFF press release, is included below:



SIFF celebrates its most popular films and filmmakers with the Golden Space Needle Award. Selected by Festival audiences, awards are given in five categories: Best Film, Best Documentary, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Short Film. This year, nearly 90,000 ballots were submitted.



Boyhood, directed by Richard Linklater (USA 2014)


First runner-up: Life Feels Good, directed by Maciej Pieprzyca (Poland 2013)

Second runner-up: How to Train Your Dragon 2, directed by Dean DeBlois (USA 2014)

Third runner-up: The Fault in Our Stars, directed by Josh Boone (USA 2014)

Fourth runner-up: Big in Japan, directed by John Jeffcoat (USA 2014)



Keep On Keepin’ On, directed by Alan Hicks (USA 2014)


First runner-up: Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory, directed by Michael Rossato-Bennett (USA 2014)

Second runner-up: I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story, directed by Dave LaMattina, Chad Walker (USA 2014)

Third runner-up: Strictly Sacred: The Story of Girl Trouble, directed by Isaac Olsen (USA 2014)

Fourth runner-up: The Case Against 8, directed by Ben Cotner, Ryan White (USA 2014)



Richard Linklater, Boyhood (USA 2014)


First runner-up: Maciej Pieprzyca, Life Feels Good (Poland 2013)

Second runner-up: Zaza Urushadze, Tangerines (Estonia/Georgia 2013)

Third runner-up: Pawel Pawlikowski, Ida (Poland 2013)

Fourth runner-up: Sara Colangelo, Little Accidents (USA 2014)



Dawid Ogrodnik, Life Feels Good (Poland 2013)


First runner-up: Guillaume Gallienne, Me, Myself and Mum (Belgium/France/Spain 2013)

Second runner-up: Matt Smith, My Last Year With the Nuns (USA 2014)

Third runner-up: Felix Bossuet, Belle & Sebastien (France 2013)

Fourth runner-up: Igor Samobor, Class Enemy (Slovenia 2013)



Patricia Arquette, Boyhood (USA 2014)


First runner-up: Juliette Binoche, 1,000 Times Good Night (Norway 2013)

Second runner-up: Agata Kulesza, Ida (Poland 2013)

Third runner-up: Jenny Slate, Obvious Child (USA 2014)

Fourth runner-up: Jördis Triebel, West (Germany 2013)



Fool’s Day, directed by Cody Blue Snider (USA 2013)


First runner-up: The Hero Pose, directed by Mischa Jakupcak (USA 2013)

Second runner-up: Strings, directed by Pedro Solis (Spain 2013)

Third runner-up: Mr. Invisible, directed by Greg Ash (United Kingdom 2014)

Fourth runner-up: Aban + Khorshid, directed by Darwin Serink (USA 2014)



Bound: Africans Versus African Americans, directed by Peres Owino (USA 2014)


This award is given to the female director’s film that receives the most votes in public balloting at the Festival. Lena Sharpe was co-founder and managing director of Seattle’s Festival of Films by Women Directors and a KCTS-TV associate who died in a plane crash while on assignment. As a tribute to her efforts in bringing the work of women filmmakers to prominence, SIFF created this special award and asked Women in Film Seattle to bestow it.



SIFF announced three Competition Awards for Best New Director, Best Documentary, and Best New American Film (FIPRESCI). Winners in the juried New Director and Documentary competition each received $2,500 in cash, while the New American Cinema competition winner was awarded a copy of Adobe Creative Suite 6: Production Premium edition in addition to the FIPRESCI prize.



10,000KM,directed by Carlos Marques-Marcet (Spain/USA 2014)

JURY STATEMENT: Our unanimous winner is Carlos Marques-Marcet’s 10,000KM for its ability to simply and creatively convey the complexity and fragility of human relationships with gorgeous attention to detail.


B For Boy, directed by Chika Anadu (Nigeria 2013)

JURY STATEMENT: Our special jury mention goes to B For Boy‘s director Chika Anadu for her assured and fierce storytelling.

Festival programmers select 12 films remarkable for their original concept, striking style, and overall excellence. To be eligible, films must be a director’s first or second feature and without U.S. distribution at the time of their selection. The New Directors Jury is comprised of Ron Leamon (costume designer), Sharon Swart (journalist), and Helen du Toit (Artistic Director, Palm Springs International Film Festival).

2014 Entries:

10,000KM (d: Carlos Marques-Marcet, Spain/USA 2014)

40 Days of Silence (d: Saodat Ismailova, Uzbekistan/Tajikistan/Netherlands/Germany/

France 2014, North American Premiere)

B For Boy (d: Chika Anadu, Nigeria 2013)

Eastern Boys (d: Robin Campillo, France 2013)

History of Fear (d: Benjamín Naishtat, Argentina/Uruguay/France/Germany 2013)

Life Feels Good (d: Maciej Pieprzyca, Poland 2013)

Macondo (d: Sudabeh Mortezai, Austria 2014, North American Premiere)

Me, Myself and Mum (d: Guillaume Gallienne, Belgium/France/Spain 2013)

Remote Control (d: Byamba Sakhya, Mongolia/Germany/USA 2013)

Rhymes for Young Ghouls (d: Jeff Barnaby, Canada (Québec) 2013, US Premiere)

Standing Aside, Watching (d: Yorgos Servetas, Greece 2013)

Viktoria (d: Maya Vitkova, Bulgaria/Romania 2014)



Marmato, directed by Mark Grieco (Colombia/USA 2014)

JURY STATEMENT: We give the documentary prize to Marmato. With courage and ambition, director Mark Grieco artfully brings to life a personal story with global significance and provides a window into a world that few would have access to.


Dior and I,directed by Frédéric Tcheng (France 2014) and Garden Lovers, directed by Virpi Suutari (Finland 2014)

JURY STATEMENT: We want to give special recognition for the aesthetic richness and cinematography of these films.

Unscripted and uncut, the world is a resource of unexpected, informative, and altogether exciting storytelling. Documentary filmmakers have, for years, brought these untold stories to life and introduced us to a vast number of fascinating topics we may have never known existed-let alone known were so fascinating. The Documentary Jury is comprised of Brian Brooks (, Claudia Puig (USA Today), and Pat Saperstein (Variety).

2014 Entries:

Ballet 422 (d: Jody Lee Lipes, USA 2014)

#ChicagoGirl – The Social Network Takes on a Dictator (d: Joe Piscatella, USA/Syria 2013, North American Premiere)

Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus (d: Madeleine Sackler, United Kingdom/USA/Belarus 2013, US Premiere)

Dior and I (d: Frédéric Tcheng, France 2014)

Garden Lovers (d: Virpi Suutari, Finland 2014, US Premiere)

I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story (d: Dave LaMattina, USA 2014)

Leninland (d: Askold Kurov, Russia/Germany/Netherlands 2013, North American Premiere)

Marmato (d: Mark Grieco, Colombia/USA 2014)

Obama Mama (d: Vivian Norris, USA/Poland/France 2014, World Premiere)

Shake the Dust (d: Adam Sjöberg, USA 2014, World Premiere)

Song of the New Earth (d: Ward Serrill, USA 2014, World Premiere)

Two Raging Grannies (d: Håvard Bustnes, Norway/Denmark/Italy 2014,

North American Premiere)



Red Knot,directed by Scott Cohen (USA/Argentina/Antarctica 2014)

JURY STATEMENT: An ethnographic journey to the South Pole becomes an unsettling tale of fumbled love and transcendent redemption, capped by an extraordinary performance from Olivia Thirlby.

Festival programmers select 12 films without U.S. distribution that are sure to delight audiences looking to explore the exciting vanguard of New American Cinema and compete for the FIPRESCI Award for Best New American Film. The New American Cinema Jury is comprised of members of the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI): Juan Manuel Dominguez, Gerald Peary, and Amber Wilkinson.

2014 Entries:

Alex of Venice (d: Chris Messina, USA 2014)

Another (d: Jason Bognacki, USA 2014, World Premiere)

Five Star (d: Keith Miller, USA 2014)

Kinderwald (d: Lise Raven, USA 2013)

Layover (d: Joshua Caldwell, USA 2014, World Premiere)

Little Accidents (d: Sara Colangelo, USA 2014)

Medeas (d: Andrea Pallaoro, USA/Italy/Mexico 2013)

Red Knot (d: Scott Cohen, USA/Argentina/Antarctica 2014, World Premiere)

Sam & Amira (d: Sean Mullin, USA 2014, World Premiere)

The Sleepwalker (d: Mona Fastvold, USA/Norway 2014)

Time Lapse (d: Bradley King, USA 2014, North American Premiere)

X/Y (d: Ryan Piers Williams, USA 2014)






Dear White People, directed by Justin Simien (USA)

JURY STATEMENT: For skillfully using humor as a vehicle for social awareness, breaking the mold of traditional cinematic archetypes, and unifying audiences of all backgrounds.




Belle & Sebastien, directed by Nicolas Vanier (France)

JURY STATEMENT: For its realistic characters, beautiful scenery and cinematography, and strong, touching theme of friendship through hard times.



Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang, directed by Óskar Santos (Spain)

JURY STATEMENT: For being a funny, adventurous story about the importance of creativity in children’s lives.




Malone Lumarda, Black Rock Creek (USA)

JURY STATEMENT: For its gentle depiction of a young girl exploring her natural surroundings that was both captivating and realistic.



While We’re Asleep, directed by Summer Matthews (USA)



Khidr Joseph, Clapping for the Wrong Reasons (USA)




All short films shown at the Festival are eligible for both the Golden Space Needle Award and Jury Award. Jurors choose winners in the Narrative, Animation, and Documentary categories. Each jury winner will receive $1,000 and winners in any of the three categories may also qualify to enter their respective films in the Short Film category of the Academy Awards®.




Twaaga, directed by Cédric Ido (Burkina Faso/France)

JURY STATEMENT: A rich and compelling world with beautiful cultural and generational chapters. The seamless use of animated comic book imagery to reflect the protagonist’s journey and the larger political backdrop.



Aban + Khorshid, directed by Darwin Serink (USA)

JURY STATEMENT: A beautifully filmed and tragic story, based on real life events, about freedoms here that carry the death penalty elsewhere.




Maikaru, directed by Amanda Harryman (USA)

JURY STATEMENT: An honest, vulnerable and authentic piece that exposes an invisible issue that is happening in Seattle and worldwide. The character’s story of healing leaves the audience with a sense of hope. The use of artistic footage illustrating the character’s transformative journey.



The Queen (La Reina), directed by Manuel Abramovich (Argentina)

JURY STATEMENT: Effective framing, to craft a haunting portrait of youth in exhibition pageants.




Rhino Full Throttle, directed by Erik Schmitt (Germany)

JURY STATEMENT: A story of self redemption told through quirky and playful animation bounding with shifting formats that would be dizzying if the story wasn’t so timeless. An animated love story that tips its hat to its own genre.


The Short Film Jury comprised of Laura Jean Cronin (B47 Studios), Craig Downing (Couch Fest Films), and Brooks Peck (EMP Museum).

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Talking With Richard Linklater of BOYHOOD

I made no secret of my admiration for director Richard Linklater. Over the course of 25 years, the self-taught auteur has been responsible for some of the finest, most human pieces of film to grace the silver screen. From his hauntingly perfect Before series to his most recent – and most ambitious – masterpiece Boyhood, Linklater is not a guy who plays by the rules. Where traditional films zig, Linklater zags. Read More


2014 SIFF Offers 435 Films, I Offer 25 Must Sees

Update June 3: More reviews added, no standing replacements.

Update May 17: Seeing that some of these didn’t live up to expectation, some prior “Must Sees” have been yanked and new additions have taken their place. After all, who doesn’t love some corrections and omissions?!

For its 40th, the Seattle International Film Festival is again raising the bar on itself, this year offering a whopping 435 films including 198 feature films, 60 documentaries, and 163 short films from 83 countries. Of those, 44 are world premieres, 29 North American premieres and 13 US premieres. All this amongst a slew of festival favorites from this year and last. Let’s just say that the odds of seeing them all just got that much slimmer. 

Kicking the festival off is Oscar-winner (12 Years a Slave) John Ridley‘s Jimi: All is By My Side, a zero frills biopic that chronicles the afro-ed classic rocker’s year in Britain leading up to his iconic Woodstock performance. And all by his side is 12 Years alum Chiwetel Ejiofor who will be in attendance May 19 (6 PM @ The Egyptian Theater) to talk about his new film Half of a Yellow Sun, an African-produced historical drama about Nigerian’s civil war through the 60s. Ejiofor will also take place in a Q&A with an audience eager to speak with the Academy Award nominee that same evening.

The festival will close June 8 at the glorious Cinerama with The One I Love starring Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men) and Mark Duplass (The League) which saw strong reviews opening at Sundance and is said to mix elements of modern romance with “Twilight Zone” twists and turns. Add it to the ever growing “To See” List.

But likely the most exciting and anticipated film of the festival will be found in SIFF’s Centerpiece Gala in Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood on Saturday, May 31 @ 5 PM. I had the great fortune of being amongst the first audience to see this at Sundance and it did nothing short of blow me away. Though I don’t want to be greedy and steal away the seats of those yet uninitiated to Boyhood, I look forward to experiencing it again and may not be able to resist a second viewing.

Since it’s all but impossible to see everything at SIFF, I have a list of 25 must sees that should put you on the right track for this year’s festivities.

The 25 Must Sees of SIFF 2014

Obviously Boyhood is gonna be on the list. I absolutely loved it and could wax said love over this page all day but I’ll spare the gushing and just tell you that of the 80+ films I’ve reviewed this year (!!!) this is the only to have yet received an A+. Sundance review here.

Mood Indigo
Michael Gondry returns to the realm of the weird, this time in his native French language, in what should be equal measures charming, bittersweet, and esoteric. The incredibly alluring Audrey Tatou is Chloe, who becomes wrapped up with a quirky inventor, even though she’s dying (because she has flowers growing in her lungs.)

Grand Central
Blue is the Warmest Color star Lea Seydoux puts in her second turn against A Prophet‘s Tahar Rahim in this French/Austrian production about a risky love affair set at the nuclear power plant where they both work.

Venus in Furs
Carnage wasn’t exactly the prodigal return for Roman Polanski we might have hoped for but it was anything but bad. Polanski continues his recent tradition of adapting lauded plays with Venus in Furs which stars Mathiew Amalric (Quantum of Solace) and is filmed in Polanski’s native French. Venus focuses on a playwright’s battle with his creative side. SIFF review here.

The chilling promo image alone gets me thinking Psycho and added to the fact that this production is in part Spanish, Romanian, Russian and French, gives it the taste of “something new.” Hopefully it brings the scares to the table in a SIFF surprisingly short on them. No longer considered must see, read our SIFF review here.

The Double (new addition)
Jesse Eisenberg stars as two polar opposites in this Orson Welles inspired black comedy. Wickedly weird but quietly potent, The Double might not be the best doppleganger film of the year (that award goes to Enemy) but it’s certainly compelling viewing that’ll leave you oddly fulfilled. SIFF review here.

A brilliantly told German satirical sexploitation/black comedy based on the popular and controversial German novel from Charlotte Roche. Wetlands is ooey, gooey fun that’ll make the hardest of stomachs churn every now and again but fully worth it for anyone up to the task. Sundance review here.

Lucky Them
What better to symbolize Seattle than the Sub Pop music scene? Megan Griffiths, who directed last year’s critically acclaimed Eden, takes on an entirely different subject right here in the rainy city and feel aided by performances from Toni Collette, Thomas Haden Church, and Oliver Platt.

They Came Together
Although the trailer shown seems to suggest a movie so deep in meta that it didn’t know which way was up, They Came Together found loads of fans when it played at this year’s Sundance. The ingredients alone – Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, David Waine (director of Wet Hot American Summer) in a doubly farcical, heavily tongue-in-cheek rom-com – seems primed for success.

How to Train Your Dragon 2
This is a tricky one to really anticipate as sequels are as much of a toss up as one can plan for but if the quality boast of Toy Story 3 and the wild success of the first How to Train Your Dragon are any indication, this could be the best widely-released animated feature of the year.

Time Lapse
Bradley King‘s directoral debut follows a group of three friends who discover a camera that shows events in the future, and looks to combine elements of sci-fi and horror into a thrilling narrative ride. Set for it’s North American premiere at SIFF, Time Lapse looks more promising than most within its field. Not gushing SIFF review here.

The Trip To Italy (new addition)
Four years after The Trip, Steve Coogan may be more clean cut than the shaggy Brit we once was but his and Rob Brydon’s chemistry is as flammable as ever. “Their old-as-they-are relationship paves the way for improvisation prowess so organic its feels more like second natural than performance. More impressions, absolutely stunning vistas, Alanis Morissette’s croon, lazily waxing on life and pasta, pasta, pasta gives intrepid life to The Trip to Italy.” SIFF review here.

The Skeleton Twins

SNL favorites Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig join Bellingham director Craig Johnson to tell his droll comedy about a pair of twins who cheat death and reunite to vent about it. Glowing SIFF review here.

Happy Christmas
Joe Swanberg returns to SIFF to present yet another unscripted, inescapably 21st-century dramedy this time starring Girls creator and star Lena Dunham. I was a big fan of Drinking Buddies and hope this can replicate a similar sense of realism in its relationship. SIFF review here.

Leading Lady
One of SIFF’s world premieres and the return of Fanie Fourie’s Lobola (SIFF’s 2013 Best Film winner) director, Leading Lady sees a struggling actress move to South Africa to prepare for the role of a lifetime but ends up finding so much more. An absolutely abysmal film that I regret ever suggesting. Please accept my apology.

Intruders (new addition)
Considering that I’ve hacked a lot of Foreign language World Cinema out of this list of Best Sees, I wanted to make sure to draw some attention to one of the better of the foreign films and a film that is sure to excite audiences willing to pop on their glasses for 90 minutes. Intruders is Hitchcock by way of South Korean, an exciting thrill ride that doesn’t let up until the credits roll. SIFF review here.

Obvious Child
Jenny Slate might be the new face of NYC faux-chic after the string of success Obvious Child has seen. Honest, hilarious and horny, this tale of growing up in a modern age has been winning support like Daenerys liberating Slavery’s Bay. SIFF review here.

If you leave the theater after Calvary dried-eyed, you must be at least part Fembot. With a monstrous performance from Brendan Gleeson, stunning cinematography and a decidedly more mature turn for director John Michael McDonagh, Calvary is a must see. Sundance review here.

This 2013 Hong Kong feature was nominated for a slew of native film awards including Best Action Choreography, Best Editing, Best Visual Effects and Best New Director and with my penchant for violent Asian cinema, I have trouble believing that this won’t be a surprise victory for SIFF. Could not be less of a must see. Ugly SIFF review here.

10,000 KM (new addition)
A vivid portrayal of love fading under the constaints of long distance, this Spanish romance is filmed with lively realism and overflowing with brillant performances from its captivating leads. A definer of the phrase “must see”. SIFF review here.

Although the stars seem alligned to keep me from this film (I stood in line for it at Sundance and SXSW and was denied) the fact that it’s coming to Seattle seems to either be mocking me or setting up a third times a charm situation. The fact that I already own a Frank mask pretty much necessitates me seeing this strange musical drama starring Michael Fassbender enclosed in a giant head. SIFF review here.

The Grand Seduction
Taylor Kitsch plays a doctor, Brendan Gleeson a fisherman in this Canadian comedy that looks to play fast and loose with the deadpan side of things. Seeing Kitsch and Gleeson (much anticipated) return to comedy oughta be worth the price of admission alone. SIFF review here.

Mark Duplass returns again, this time as a twisted stalker. He chews up the scenery like never before and is an absolute joy to watch. First time director Patrick Brice has made the found footage flick his own, crafting an unnerving thriller that’s frightening and cleverly twisty to boot! SXSW review here.

The Internet’s Own Boy
I asked someone at Sundance what their favorite film at the fest was and they pointed out this unassuming documentary. Following the life of Aaron Swartz, who laid the groundwork for RSS feeds and all but invented Reddit before killing himself at age 26, The Internet’s Own Boy appears heartbreaking and need to know. SIFF review here.

In Order of Disappearance
Stellan Skarsgard plays a snowplow driver who’s son is brutally murdered, leading to a chilling dark comedy that marries bloody revenge to belly laughs in this twisted fantasy said to be a tonal cousin to Fargo. SIFF review here.

SIFF programmer Dustin Kaspar gave the insider tip on the Africa Film segment, calling Difret the early “best of fest.” A 14-year old Aberash guns down an attacker that leads into a long court trial that bleeds into an ethical tribunal on Ethiopia’s warped marriage traditions that smile on kidnapping and rape. All based on a true story. Mild SIFF review here.

To Kill a Man
You know when you’re a critic when you look at a movie’s description and “Grand Jury prize-winning,” “vigilantism” and “Chile/France” pop out to you like solid gold. In sum: a man weighs the benefits and consequences of taking revenge. SIFF review here.

Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter
There must be something in the water making us all think Fargo as the cult Coen classic seems to be at an all-time high in terms of its popularity and influence. Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter sees an outcast Japanese misanthrope travel to Minnesota to seek out Steve Buschemi‘s abandoned satchel stuffed with cold, hard ransom cash. It’s a delightfully unorthodox romp, nothing short of epic. SXSW review here.

Fight Church
A documentary about a group of church goers who beat each other up to prove their devotion to God? Sign me up. Mildly disappointed SIFF review here.

Starred Up (new addition)
A brutal prison drama starring Jack O’Connell and Ben Mendelsohn showcasing the transformative power of a jail cell, Starred Up is certainly a hard watch but one that will leave you thinking. SIFF review here.


Surely there are many, many (many) more and there’s a good chance that some on the above list may end up stinking and sinking but we’re still mostly doing guesswork at this stage. However from word of mouth, early reviews and first hand experience, you have a good chance of catching some great material if you follow any above recommendations.

Check out the trailer for SIFF’s 40th anniversary here and visit SIFF’s website to buy tickets and check out more of the lineup.

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Richard Linklater and Cast Talk BOYHOOD

Even if you won’t be able to see Richard Linklater’s stunning Boyhood for another five months or so, the epicly elongated process that went into making this film is undeniably amazing and certainly worth a read. Shot over 12 years as a young boy grows from age six to eighteen, Linklater’s ambitious project is truly one of a kind and the product reflects his thoughtful dedication. Alongside his cast, including Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, daughter Lorlei Linklater and debut star Ellar Salmon at his side, Linklater took to the stage at Sundance’s Eccles Theater to answer a host of questions after the world premiere of his sensational film.

Richard Linklater: We couldn’t imagine any place else to show this film to its first audience so it’s really special for us. We started this film 4,208 days ago. So thanks for coming along with us. I’m just so proud of these guys! We’re here to answer any questions you might have.

Q: Was it all your idea and script Richard, or do you collaborate with what’s going on in their lives?

RL: Very collaborative. It’s kind of outlined. But every year we would work out the scenes. The great thing of having that gestation period, roughly a year between shoots, so I could think about it, you know, fourth grade, fifrth grade, and then we would get together and just work on it, sometimes really quickly. It was very intense, like three or four day shoots every time, about a year in between to think about it. That’s the way I always work. At some point, the ideas merge, as the kids got older, at some point Ellar was writing with me much of it.

Q: How did you approach casting?

RL: Casting. Well, you know that’s the key. That was the lucky thing. I mean, I talked to Ethan first. We’d worked together and we’re friends, we run ideas by each other. So he jumped in. Do you guys wanna talk about how you came aboard?

Ethan Hawke: It all started with me. (Laughter) No, sometimes I think that Rick either has a lucky star or sold his soul to the Devil, because this movie couldn’t have worked without Lorelei and Ellar. And you couldn’t really know that they would be able to contribute the way they did. Except for the fact, for your writing question, one of the ways that Rick likes to write a movie is to invite his performers to be a part of the filmmaking process with him. It’s very clear the way he wants to make it and he lets it be incredibly open to us. So Lorelai, what’s going on in her life could inform what is happening in Samantha’s life and vice versa. For all of us, a lot of it was talking about it for us, what it was like in fourth grade, but now a lot of us are parents of fourth graders or have been. So we could benefit from having both points of view. I mean, Lorelai signed up for something…what age were you when you agreed to do it?

Lorelei Linklater: Eight.

EH: Eight. He held you to that promise for twelve years? What was the year you decided you no longer wanted to be involved in it?

LL: Maybe around the fourth year. I asked my Dad (director Richard Linklater) if my character could die. (Laughter) He said it would be too dramatic.

Patricia Arquette: Another thing that Rick did during the process, in regard to the writing thing, sometimes I think Ellar would be a little more advanced than Mason would be, because Ellar’s parents are really cool experimental artists and musicians, incredible people. Rick would say, “So here’s where Ellar’s at, but Mason’s a couple of years behind, so we’ve got to cut his hair, make him look not so cool.” So we had to uncool Ellar. Yeah, the coolest seventh grader on Earth happened to be working on our movie. But when Rick called, we met at Ethan’s hotel at a little party for ten minutes–

EH: In 1994.

PA: So he called me and said, “What are you going to be doing for the next twelve years?” I don’t know, hustling, trying to get a job, unemployed, what I’m doing now. “Ok, wanna do this movie?” Absolutely, coolest opportunity on Earth.

Q: Ellar, do you remember being cast?

Ellar Salmon: Very vaguely, I remember being a variable in an audition process. And, I remember having a distinct feeling that a large part of why I was cast was because of how cool my parents are. He knew he wouldn’t have to deal with those kind of parents. But I don’t remember it. It goes in and out. There are things early on that I watch and remember really clearly and then there are other things that I just have absolutely no memory of.

EH: It was fascinating to see Ellar develop as an actor. Because when he was a little boy, it was like playing with a kid and trying to capture moments. And when I came in, I would miss two years at a time sometimes. We had a camping trip scene, and that was the first time you had agency in the writing, bring in where he thought the character would be. You really wanted to talk about this Star Wars thing and talk about girls. So watching you learn how to act and how to collaborate as a filmmaker as a participant in this film. You learned how to improvise and how to be in character. And that just started growing. And the process of making it felt differently because Ellar was becoming a young man.

Q: With a three hour film, I’m curious if there was something that was a little difficult to cut that the audience would be interested in hearing about?

RL: All of my scenes. There was quite a bit on the floor.

Q: What was your favorite scene that you cut?

RL: Well it would be in the movie if it was my favorite. It was an interesting editing process. You got to spend all those years. Two months ago I trimmed something from Year 2. I had ten years to think about what I wasn’t totally happy about. Everything about this movie was odd. But there’s nothing. The movie’s long but it had to be. I never made a movie over two hours but this one had to be for a reason.

Q: As far as it how it was shot, seamlessly, it looks so beautiful and has incredible the production value but I was just curious about the technology involved. Did you keep using the same camera or was it changed in post?

RL: That’s a good question about technology. That was a big issue upfront. So we shot it on 35mm, negative, I wanted it to look the same way. I knew it’d look a lot different if we jumped into the digital, hi-def formats. So I don’t know how many 35mm films are at Sundance this year, but we’re one of them. Can I give a big shout out? There’s a hero in this film. It’s the crazy guy who took a leap of faith. Obviously, this whole thing, we all took leaps of faith. It was a lot of belief in the future to commit for something for so long. But it’s the strangest proposition to ask someone to help finance something for twelve years, in our industry. So I want to really thank Johnathan Sirak, at IFC. He doesn’t make a lot of films, and as years went on, I’d run into him and he’d say “Well, we have one film in production.” (Laughs) Every year, I just had a board meeting. Everyone asks what the hell this is on the books. He had to lie, every year. But we have to thank him so much for his support.

Q: You guys wanna let me know about any other films?

EH: You’re gonna be in the next episode. This is part of the movie now.

RL: We started a reality show actually. (laughs)

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Sundance Review: BOYHOOD

Directed by Richard Linklater
Starring Ellar Salmon, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater
163 Mins 

A monolith of cinema, Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood is a soaring accomplishment of product and process. Famously filmed over the course 12 years, Linklater’s long form approach allows for an intimacy and connection like no film before. From the time we meet young Macon at the tender age of six until he moves to college, Linklater fosters his audience’s near parental ties to this young man, making us feel for a character in unprecedented manner. It’s a masterpiece in all senses of the word; a rare trailblazer of a film with macroscopic vision that’s as uniformly jaw-dropping as the final product.

The cat has been in the bag for the bulk of filming on Boyhood but when Linklater and frequent collaborator Ethan Hawke announced last year that their yet untitled 12 Year Project would likely see the light of day in 2014, I wasn’t the only one to rush it to the top of my most anticipated films of 2014 list. While most movies film over the course of a few months, Linklater showed unprecedented patience with a willingness to craft this story over the course of a dozen years. Although the end product probably shared a similar amount of shoot time, breaking it up over that extensive period of time is wholly original (even in regard to Paul Almond‘s celebrated Up series which only checked in once every seven years.) Going into the project, Linklater had a general arc in mind but would let the times reflect unforeseeable changes, moving the direction of the film in line with the sway of culture and ethos. In that regard, the film serves as a time capsule for an ever changing American zeitgesit over the past decade.

Not above chats of Star Wars and girls, The Beatles and drinking, and the once celebratory naivety of Obama’s campaign of hope, Boyhood feels like a film Linklater designed particularly with me in mind. I wonder how many other people will feel the same way; how many will experience such a visceral gut punch and how many will find younger versions of themselves in a morphing Mason. Feeling such a instinctive connection urges questions on the universality of the human experience, it compels us wrestle with the past and acutely acknowledge the shifting paradigm that is the individual. Scientists, and stoners, say that because of our cellular lifespan, a human body is completely replaced within the span of 7 years. Looking at snapshots in time like this, we could be easily convinced this process is even more rapid. From one year to another, there’s a base consistency of character in Macon but its overshadowed by the omnipresent winds of change perennially blowing him into new directions.

Calling it a coming-of-age story feels slight as Boyhood tracks the joy and pain of growing up, one delicate moment at a time. We find ourselves in Macon, a perceptive youth, in his strength and in his weakness, in his whiny teenage angst and his youthful abandon, in his quasi-stoned prolific moments of reflection and his meekest helplessness. When he’s too young to stand up for himself, I felt the pangs of my 8-year old vulnerable self, reeling from my parent’s separation. As his hair grows long and he starts dipping into the pleasure pool, his raw arrogance is a relic I can robustly relate to.

I found myself beaming with pride at moments, disappointed in him at others and silently heartbroken and yet joyful as he reached new milestones. I watched him grow up, I witnessed him learning valuable life lessons, I feel in love beside him. To young Ellar Salmon‘s credit, there’s never a moment where we don’t fully believe the deeply personal yet universal John Doe plight of a boy coming of age. He’s an every man and an intellectual and Salmon’s maturing performance helps to auction the many faces one man can put on. When you stop to consider that Linklater had to take a half-blind shot in the dark with Salmon, casting him well before he could prove himself as a consistent and talented actor willing to put in a dozen years of his life into one performance, the fact that Salmon turned out as good as he was is nothing short of a miracle, much like the film itself.


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Ten Most Anticipated Movies of 2014


So before you go asking about Lars von Trier‘s 5-hour sexcapade Nymphomaniac, Woody Allen‘s latest period piece starring Emma Stone or any of the three Terrence Malick films that may or may not debut this year, let me just stop you short and let you know that they didn’t see their way onto this list. Though Allen’s newest may be good, he shoots out so many duds that it’s hard to really look forward to any one piece of his work. And Trier, well, do I really have to say anything beyond look at the description? Maybe they’ll be bits of interest but I’m more dreading it than I am anticipating it. As for Malick’s certain pedigree of art film, let’s just say I’m wildly uninterested in anything the man does as I find his work more a chore than anything else.

Although I tried to keep my list as tidy as possible, I did make a bit of a miscalculation so this top ten will actually be a top 11. I was thinking of chopping one but when we’re down to the wire like this, I really want to make sure to get all these top-tier selections out there. One extra film to look forward to right?

If you haven’t yet, take a look back at number 30-21 and 20-11. Otherwise, let’s get down to my Ten Most Anticipated Movies of 2014.


10. Snowpiercer


Korean director Joon-ho Bong (The Host the good one, not the bad one) makes his English-language debut with this dystopian film set on a high-speed train. Starring Captain America‘s Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Ed Harris, and Octavia Spencer, Snowpiercer opened in France in October to rave reviews. Some even went so far to call it “the best pure science-fiction film since ‘Children Of Men.” [The Playlist]. There’s been a little controversy over it’s US release, such as when will it actually release, amongst stirrings that a US release under the Weinstein Co. banner may see extensive cuts but I’m hoping that if this film ever arrives intact and well, it’ll be a stunner.

No official release date yet but it’s likely 2014 or bust.

10…Again. Map to the Stars


(Accidentally) sharing that top ten spot is David Cronenberg‘s Map to the Stars. Although Cronenberg has largely dropped the ooey, gooey sci-fi-horror genre that made his name what it is today, he’s still a director with a tremendous amount of passion and ideas. Obviously the cast is stacked; Julianne Moore, Robert Pattinson, Carrie Fisher, Mia Wasikowska, John Cussack; but this isn’t the sci-fi adventure the name may suggest. No, instead that star map refers to the celebrities of Hollywood as Cronenberg, backed by a script from Bruce Wagner, turns a satirical lens on child stars. With back-to-back collaborations, it looks like Cronenberg has found a new muse in Twilight‘s Pattinson and I must admit to strongly enjoying their last effort Cosmopolis so sign me up for a trip to Map to the Stars.

So far all we know is that this’ll hit screens sometime in 2014.

9. Foxcatcher


Continuing down the list, it’s all about the guys behind the camera. In Foxcatcher, Bennett Miller (Moneyball) tells the tragic story of how paranoid schizophrenic John duPont killed Olympic Champion Dave Schultz. Yikes. Even a year out, this film screams Oscars and is already poised to make contenders out of the likes of Mark Ruffalo and, however unexpectedly, Steve Carell. Miller has shown a knack for telling a true story in a way that we could never have expected so I’m fascinated to see what he does with a crazy dude and a murder plot.

Yet another without an official release date, Foxcatcher was pushed out of 2013 so there’s no chance it won’t see the light of day in 2014.

8. Fury


Brad Pitt is back to war and I’m already saving my seat. Backed up by Logan Lerman, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal, and Shia LaBeouf (…) Fury tells the story of one Sherman tank and its five-man crew as they hunt down Nazis with a tank. While Pitt’s glorious recent track record may be the only thing immediately popping out about this one, Fury has something much bigger going for it: David Ayer. The only director to have two entries on this list, Ayer has proven that he can balance drama and tension like none other with End of Watch and this looks even better than entry #15 SabotageI’m really wagering a lot on Ayer this year but I have a feeling that neither of his latests will disappoint. If End of Watch is any indication, Fury could be the sleeper hit of the year.

November 12 will see Fury rolling in.

7. Inherent Vice


Paul Thomas Anderson. Joaquin Phoenix. Nuff said. Ok fine, I’ll go on. Even after the fuzzy disappointment that was The Master (and I’ve had enough of arguing why it was or was not a good movie), PTA will be returning to a more wacky and linear story. I started the 2009 Thomas Pynchon novel of the same name and found it a little dry and noirish for my reading taste but I can already imagine the kind of cinematic flair that PTA and Phoenix will bring to it. Needless to say, I’m confident that it’ll be a superior film experience. Although the source material suggests the story may be too pulpy for real awards consideration, could this be the film that brings Phoenix his awaited Oscar?

More 2014 films without confirmed release dates.

6. Gone Girl


Dark, dour, depressing. The three D’s of David Fincher. But what can you expect from the man who brought us Se7en, Fight Club and Zodiac? Based on the bestselling novel by Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl tells the tale of a woman who disappears on her wedding anniversary. Although I’m trying to go into this one with as little details as possible, the mere fact that Fincher is on the case is enough to whet my curiosity. However much next year will revolve around his Batman role, Ben Affleck will have the chance to offer a much more interesting performance here and it’ll be nice to see the man stretch his wings and step outside of his easy, breezy comfort zone.

A pre-Halloween release with an October 3 date.

5. The Grand Budapest Hotel


I feel like I stand alone by being merely lukewarm on Wes Anderson‘s last celebrated film, Moonrise Kingdom, but I’m a staunch believer that his earlier, and more adult, work is his finest. So it’s no wonder that I silently celebrated when The Grand Budapest Hotel got a R-rating. All of Anderson’s usual quirk and OCD-level of visual detail appear to be in tow as are Anderson regulars Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Murray. This time newbies include Ralph Fiennes, in the starring role, Saoirse Ronan, Lea Seydoux, Tom Wilkinson, Harvey Keitel, and F. Murray Abraham. It really seems like Anderson can put a cast together like none other and with a cast list this stacked, you have to imagine that these actors are just lining up at the door to work with him.

In theaters March 7.

4. Chuck Hank And The San Diego Twins


Jonathan Keevil’s debut, Bellflower, was one of the most jarring and visceral films to date and I simply could not wait to see what he did next. So when it was announced that he would write and direct what seems like a loose adaptation of Romeo & Juliet (well there’s warring families and a captured girl so pretty much…alright scrap the R & J reference) I was pretty pumped. Keevil constructed his first film with less than fifteen grand and considering that this budget is about ten times that ($150K) it puts it in a great position. Still far enough away from the mainstream to retain a wholly original flair and yet loaded enough for a little financial flexibility to do more stunts, Chuck Hank and the San Diego Twins is a definite risk pick but one I’m confident making. In Keevil’s Kickstarter campaign, he noted they needed the funds to create such awesome action sequences as: “jumping out of a helicopter”, “Molotov cocktails everywhere” and “punching a guy and he bursts into flames.” Righteous.

It seems like none of my most anticipated have release dates as this one has nothing locked down yet either.

3. Noah


For years, Darren Aronofsky has led us on about his Noah project and finally this year we’ll see what it was he was chomping so hard at the bit about. Once Black Swan made 25 times its production budget (which for those of you don’t already know is totally insane) the folks at Paramount felt it was right to dish out the 130 million dollars Aronofsky wanted to make Noah the big budget spectacle film he always dreamed about. All evidence points to Aronofsky as a tremendous dramatic director (see Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, Black Swan) but his first “spectacle” film (The Fountain) was seen as a bit of a failure. Hopefully he’s learned from his mistakes and Noah will satisfy us on a visual and emotional level unlike anything else this year.

Storms into large format theaters on March 28.

2. Interstellar


Speaking of spectacles, there’s no denying that Christopher Nolan is the undisputed king of the blockbuster. Forget about James Cameron, Nolan’s films have staying power and pepper coveted spots on top ten lists every year one of his films is released. Amazingly enough, Nolan’s films have the uncanny ability to attract fanboys and high-nosed film critics in equal measure and it all comes down to his ability to mesmerize an audience. Like Inception before it, Interstellar is an entirely original idea this time revolving around space travel and time warps. Of course we’re interested. Largely abandoning regulars like Christian Bale, Ken Watanbe and Cillian Murphy, Interstellar looks to a new generation of Nolanites in Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Wes Bentley, Casey Affleck, Ellen Burstyn, John Lithgow and, naturally, Michael Caine. Let’s just be honest with ourselves: there is no summer movie of 2014 that we’re anticipating more than Nolan’s.

You’ll be able to see Interstellar at the biggest screen in a 100-mile radius on November 7.

1. Boyhood


When you think about it, it shouldn’t be a surprise that my most anticipated film of 2014 goes to Richard Linklater (whose Before Midnight was my Top Movie of 2013) but I’m willing to bet you haven’t even heard of this one. Ambitious to a fault, Boyhood has been in the making for 12 years. And by being in the making, I mean in legitimate development. As in filming for 12 years. Like Linklater’s Before series, Boyhood tracks a father’s (Ethan Hawke) relationship with his son as he grows from 6 to 18. With filming taking place for a few weeks every year, this film will not only serve as a time capsule for the ever-changing Hawke, Linklater, and newcomer Ellar Coltrane but will reflect a changing American culture in the most unaltered of ways. When asked about the film, Hawke said, “[we do] a scene with a young boy at the age of 7 when he talks about why do raccoons die, and at the age of 12 when he talks about video games, and 17 when he asks me about girls.” Essentially, the film will be like growing up all over again. As I said earlier, it’s ambitious beyond compare but I just can’t wait to see what is in store.

Of course there’s no official release date on this.

So there you have it ladies and gentlemen. Just to recap:

30. How to Train Your Dragon 2
29. Jupiter Ascending
28. Chef
27. Dumb and Dumber To
26. Only Lovers Left Alive
25. Wish I Was Here
24. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
23. Locke
22. Edge of Tomorrow
21. Godzilla
20. Dom Hemingway
19: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
18. X-Men: Days of Future Past
17. Exodus
16. Guardians of the Galaxy
15. Sabotage
14. Big Hero 6
13. The Raid 2: Berenthal
12. The Monument’s Men
11. Transcendence
10. Map to the Stars
10. Snowpiercer
9 Fox Catcher
7. Inherent Vice
8. Gone Girl
6. Fury
5.The Grand Budapest Hotel
4. Chuck Hank And The San Diego Twins
3. Noah
2. Interstellar
1. Boyhood

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