2012 was a ho-hum year for "serious" cinema. As proof, the Oscar race has narrowed to films like the chipper Argo and dreary Zero Dark Thirty — a chase so routine that the alternative is a Steven Spielberg period piece as wholesome and agreeable as enriched bread. But it was also a banner year for the films that we'll still want to watch in 2022: Ambitious over-reachers (Cloud Atlas, The Master, Les Miserables), loony passion projects (Killer Joe, Magic Mike, The Paperboy), and perfect popcorn flicks (Step Up 4, The Expendables 2, Premium Rush).
That last category is frequently left off top ten lists, but it deserves our applause. When studios get tired of risking $250 million on a single blockbuster (and audiences get tired of paying $14 just to keep up with water cooler conversation), mid-priced modest hits like Looper will be our collective salvation — and help build the next generation of filmmakers and stars. The films that made my Top Ten did so because they were bold, memorable and flawless (or at least two of the three). But of course, if critics can judge art, we should take our own creative risks. And so I've written my remarks in haiku.
Young women bullied by their peers into committing suicide has become a staple of today's news cycle, but as Anna Karenina demonstrates, it's hardly a new phenomenon. Whether you're talking about 19th-century Russian aristocrats or Midwestern teens in the age of Facebook, as Keira Knightley tells me, "The rules of society change, but the way that society works does not." more »
Oscar-nominated actor Jude Law plays a pious aristocrat in director Joe Wright's sumptuous big screen adaptation of Anna Karenina. Almost unrecognizable behind a steely exterior, Law's Karenin is Anna's spurned husband in the film, which begins its roll out Friday and is a possible awards season heavyweight. Law seamlessly pulls off playing the high-ranking nobleman whose position at the heights of Imperial Russian society is rocked when his wife embarks on an affair with a dashing young soldier. Speaking about his role, Law, who turns 40 next month, said that he doesn't think he could have played the character when he was younger — but he certainly would have given it a go.
There's a five-minute tracking shot in the middle of Joe Wright's 2007 film Atonement that is impossible to forget once you've seen it. A wounded Robbie (James McAvoy) is on the beach at Dunkirk, waiting to be evacuated, and in a nightmarish, beautiful single Steadicam take he wanders past crowds of soldiers, burning cars, horses being shot, a beached ship, a choir singing, the ferris wheel still spinning in the ruined background. It's a mind-boggling piece of work, requiring immaculate timing and choreography, and it takes you right out of the movie because it's there to show off. more »
At a time when General David Petraeus' affair with his biographer has become a media obsession, Leo Tolstoy's 19th-century tale of love, adultery and aristocratic downfall, Anna Karenina, is more relevant than ever. And yet, with more than two-dozen film and TV adaptations of the novel in existence, director Joe Wright faced a daunting challenge: bringing a fresh perspective to the classic story. The gamble is whether its unique twist will translate into Oscar nominations. more »
Joe Wright's latest Anna Karenina had a cast, screenplay and plan of action in hand in the spring of 2011, but the acclaimed filmmaker of Atonement and Pride & Prejudice made a bold step a mere two months before beginning the shoot. Instead of another straightforward narrative telling of the story of the epic novel by Russian great Leo Tolstoy, he opted to go for a theatrical angle in depicting the saga of a late-19th century Russian high-society aristocrat who breaks entrenched taboos and embarks in a torrid love affair with affluent soldier, Count Vronsky. In Toronto where the film is having its World Premiere Friday night, cast members including star Keira Knightley and Wright likened the sudden change to "jumping off a cliff," but they were ready for the challenge, though not all were sure if it would ultimately succeed.
Fittingly lavish, new images from Anna Karenina, the splendor of imperial Russia is merely the backdrop for a scandalous love affair. But strict rules and mores adhered to (and then broken) by high society have long been enticing setting for 99 per centers (and their friends) throughout the ages to witness aristocratic crash and burns through fleshly indulgences. And the screen version of Leo Tolstoy's novel appears to not hold back.