Well…I’m really exhausted this morning…but it’s my own fault. I was simply having too much fun last night, and I didn’t get to bed until about 2:00. I then got up at 6:00am and darted out the door to land in this line by 6:50. The Fox Searchlight Party was last night, and it was a winner. The cocktails were good, the food was exceptional (though I couldn’t bring myself to sample everything), and the mingling was perfect. The party was celebrating 4 films that the distributor will release this year – BELLE, DOM HEMINGWAY, ENOUGH SAID, and 12 YEARS A SLAVE. I met and chatted with several folks, and the party was full of industry folks including numerous stars (like Michael Fassbender, Alfre Woodard, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Paul Giamatti, Tom Felton, Sarah Paulson and more).
And now the films from yesterday. I saw three.
First off was HATESHIP LOVESHIP – a film by Liza Johnson starring Kristen Wiig and Guy Pearce. This film has a Dayton connection…the production design (done very well!) was by Hannah Beachler – graduate of WSU’s Motion Picture Program. The story is about a socially awkward woman – Johanna – who is hired to take care of a teenage girl with a mother who has died and somewhat absent father (the girl lives with her grandfather – played by Nick Nolte). Upon receiving a note from the girl’s father, Johanna responds with a letter that is ultimately hijacked by the girl and her friend. They devise a scheme where they respond to Johanna via e-mail and make her think that the father has developed a crush and is ultimately falling in love. It’s a cruel, teenage prank, and Johanna goes headfirst into the “relationship.” Though not without some wonderful moments, I didn’t love this film. I felt that it had some tone issues and had a few moments that I just didn’t buy. It’s nice to see Wiig do some serious material, but it was a bit of a challenge to hear her deliver some monotone, unaffected delivery and not be swept back to former SNL characters.
12 YEARS A SLAVE – I finally saw a really amazing film…one that will clearly be nominated for Best Picture along with numerous acting nominations. This new film by Steve McQueen (director of HUNGER and SHAME) is a masterpiece – based on the memoir by Solomon Northup. Northup was a free African American who was kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery. The film is harrowing and beautifully done, and the performances are rich and complex. After the screening, a Q&A with McQueen and several actors provided some eloquent insight into the production. Upon talking about the films of McQueen, Michael Fassbender said something that sums up the challenging material that McQueen often addresses, “As an audience member, you have to contribute. It’s not a passive experience.” Those are the films I love. I don’t want to be spoon fed, and McQueen always presents material that requires some work and introspection. One issue that I don’t think too many people want to talk about is the use of the Bible in the film. Slave owners often refer to it – justifying their rights by the Biblical text. This is not unlike people who continue to use the Bible to promote their hate-filled agendas today. Without making it a focus, I think McQueen wants us to consider how we approach this book.
THERESE was the last film I saw yesterday. Based on the novel THERESE RAQUIN by Emile Zola, this film stars Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Felton, and Jessica Lang – who were all present for a Q&A following the film – along with director Charlie Stratton. This period story (which ultimately became the basis for THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE), is about a sexually repressed young woman who must marry a sickly cousin. Upon meeting an old family friend, she has a sexual awakening and yearns to be set free from the confines of her current surroundings. This film is a bit clunky, but the production values are lovely and the performances are solid. The director mentioned one thing that attracted him to the story – it’s rare to go into a film where you change who you’re rooting for several times. I think that’s rather interesting…and I need to think about it.
A few of you asked which film I walked out of yesterday. You’ll have to ask me in person…as I don’t reveal the titles of films that I don’t watch in their entirety.
More soon! Thanks for reading!