Writer/director Dee Rees has spent six years with Pariah, a film she wrote as a full-length script in 2005, then recalibrated as a short subject in '07, and finally re-adapted as a feature film that premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Pariah concerns a teenager named Alike (Independent Spirit Award nominee Adepero Oduye), an expressive girl who only encounters more identity issues as she tries establishing herself as an out lesbian. Though Rees came out as a lesbian in her 20s, she feels a deep connection to Alike -- especially in her resistance to "butch" and "femme" labels. Movieline caught up with Rees to discuss Pariah's wonderful story, the visibility of the LGBT coming out experience in 2011, and Rees's unexpected connection to Dallas.
For nearly three years, Movieline's Verge feature has introduced you to the likes of Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Lawrence, Armie Hammer, Emma Stone, Chris Hemsworth and dozens of other bright young screen talents on their ways to the big time. 2011 was no exception, so wind down the year with a look back at -- and a word with -- a few major new players you'll be seeing plenty of in the future.
Drew Barrymore. Christian Bale. Bruce the Shark. It's an elite class of young talent that has found launching pads in the films of Steven Spielberg. And while Jeremy Irvine is a little older than those actors who preceded him, you can go ahead and add the 21-year-old to the list thanks to his breakthrough in Spielberg epic Oscar hopeful War Horse.
Paddy Considine's British drama Tyrannosaur opens with an act of violence so brutal and bleak that, as Olivia Colman told Movieline earlier this month, it caused some audience members to bolt out of theaters. If they had stayed, though, they would have seen the film evolve from the portrait of an alcoholic widower's despicably primal urges to the tale of his redemption.
The roster of actors in the world who could reduce megastar George Clooney to rubble with a single withering look is short, but add newcomer Shailene Woodley to the top of the list. As Alex, the acerbic 17-year-old daughter of Clooney's Hawaiian landowner and family man in Alexander Payne's The Descendants, Woodley (of ABC Family's The Secret Life of the American Teenager) makes an auspicious film debut that could land her in the Oscar race -- not that Woodley, perhaps the most well-adjusted young star on the rise in Hollywood, would take awards razzle-dazzle too seriously.
Director Sam Levinson on Another Happy Day, Learning from Dad, and Ellen Barkin's 'F*cking Genius' Twitter Account
In his debut feature Another Happy Day, director Sam Levinson (yep, Barry's son) worked with a cast including actors who've been legends since before he was born in 1985: Ellen Barkin, Ellen Burstyn, George Kennedy, Demi Moore, Thomas Haden Church, and newcomer Ezra Miller play stubborn, dysfunctional family members who bicker, spar, and essentially fail to communicate at a tumultuous wedding. Levinson garnered the 2011 Sundance Film Festival Waldo Salt screenwriting award for penning Another Happy Day, and -- like Barkin on Twitter -- is proving himself to be a fearsome, perceptive, and honest voice. We phoned Levinson to discuss his father's influence, why he screened Carnal Knowledge for his cast and crew, and Ellen Barkin's amazing candor.
It's every young filmmaker's dream scenario: Break through and sell your film at Sundance before making the rounds at not one, not two, not three, but four major international festivals. Then bring it home and watch it open strong in limited release ahead of a likely awards campaign that will find you back in the spotlight while developing your eagerly anticipated follow-up. Think it's too good to be true? Meet Sean Durkin.
Writer-director J.C. Chandor isn't traditional Verge material -- a 15-year veteran of commercials, documentaries and short films whose dramatic feature debut, Margin Call features a eye-popping ensemble cast of Oscar winners (Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons), seasoned pros (Stanley Tucci, Demi Moore, Paul Bettany, Simon Baker) and next-generation standouts (Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgley) taking on the tale of a New York City investment bank flirting with oblivion at the dawn of the ongoing financial crisis. And thanks to both the cast and his own formidable chops, Chandor pulls it off with impressive aplomb.
And you thought Jessica Chastain was having a busy year. Check out the resume of Juno Temple, the 22-year-old British actress whose early roles in such films as Notes on a Scandal and Atonement have given way to a 2011 comprising work on movies from The Dark Knight Rises to The Three Musketeers to this week's quirky indie dramedy Dirty Girl.
If you haven't yet seen Woody Allen's fantastic Midnight in Paris, do yourself a favor and stop reading this now. (Then do yourself a bigger favor and go check it out.) Arguably the best way to enjoy the film is knowing little to nothing about its protagonist Gil (Owen Wilson) or his late-night exploits around the City of Light, which culminate in encounters with Gil's literary and artistic heroes. Sort of. Corey Stoll knows what I'm talking about.
UK writer/director Andrew Haigh's Weekend is pretty much perfect: a sweet, small, intimate story of an unassuming lifeguard named Russell (Tom Cullen), who meets and falls in love with a cheeky chap named Glen (Chris New) over one poignant weekend. Glen insists on tape-recording many of his conversations with Russell for a project, including the first exchange they have after making love. This confidential rapport evolves into a highly emotional, sexually frank connection, and when Glen announces that he's moving to the U.S. for schooling, Russell must resolve his own feelings about himself and Glen's departure.
Maybe it's coincidence that Ezra Miller had two films premiere at last year's Tribeca Film Festival, including Beware the Gonzo -- which finally arrives theaters this weekend in limited release and is currently available everywhere on VOD. (His 2009 Tribeca entry, City Island won the festival's audience prize.) But it's no accident: Since his 2008 screen debut in the harrowing prep-school drama Afterschool, the 18-year-old actor has built a reputation behind the scenes for fearlessness, intensity, comic chops, and holding his own against alpha-castmates like Andy Garcia, Liev Schreiber and Helen Hunt. And coming soon: Tilda Swinton.
Television watchers have been hip to Chris Pratt since he first appeared on The WB series Everwood in 2002. Other supporting roles in television (The O.C.) and film (Bride Wars) followed, but the Minnesota-born star really came into his own with his winning turn as Andy Dwyer, pratfaller extraordinaire-cum-romantic lead, on the beloved NBC series Parks & Recreation. Now, with three films coming out this fall, including two next month, Pratt is poised to tackle the big screen with a fervor his Parks & Rec alter ego would usually reserve for the Meat Tornado.
Where have America's sweethearts gone? Seventeen-year-old Dakota Fanning is charging hard towards adulthood, with Abigail Breslin (15), Chloe Moretz (14), and sister Elle (13) hot on her heels. Enter 11-year-old Bailee Madison (Bridge to Terabithia, Conviction, Just Go With It), a young actress who's already been acting for half of her life and shows it by holding her own opposite Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes in the Guillermo del Toro-produced horror thriller Don't Be Afraid of the Dark.
Now that his feature film debut as a hoodlum-turned-savior in Attack the Block is finally hitting theaters stateside, 19-year-old John Boyega is savoring his big moment. As Moses, the hardened teen anti-hero of Joe Cornish's British alien invasion romp, Boyega leads a gang of misfit delinquents into battle against a horde of vicious E.T.s to defend a South London council block. Off-screen, the charismatic up-and-comer has a new territory in his sights: Hollywood.