Where has Alexander Payne been? The Stanford graduate and critically adored director of Election, About Schmidt and Sideways used to churn out a movie every “two, two-and-a-half” years, a pace he plans to resume after Friday’s release of The Descendants, his poignantly funny adaptation of Kaui Hart Hemmings’ 2007 novel.
The Mill Valley Film Festival is in full swing, Napa Valley's first is just around the corner, and with the arrival of Take Shelter and George Clooney's Ides of March, the season of Oscar has begun in earnest. Here's a look at what's playing this week at an indie theater near you.
1. Take Shelter
Summer is officially over, but Hollywood is still churning out enough remakes (Footloose, The Thing), tech-savvy adventures (Real Steel) and physics-defying thrillers (In Time) to make the adjustment that much smoother. With the first weekend of October about to begin, let's take a look at what the month has to offer.
Real Steel (Oct. 7)
The fighters: Hugh Jackman, Evangeline Lilly, Kevin Durand, Anthony Mackie
Calling the shots: Shawn Levy
The inaugural Napa Valley Film Festival opens Wednesday, Nov. 9, in the picturesque communities of Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga. A must for cinephiles, foodies and wine lovers alike, the five-day "extended weekend" features a premier selection of independent films and hotly anticipated Oscar contenders, as well as conversations with some of the most exciting actors, directors, producers and writers working in movies today.
If your post-holiday plans don't involve football and a tryptophan-induced nap, make your way to Embarcadero Center, where some of this year's strongest Oscar contenders, including 127 Hours and Fair Game, are now playing. Check out the Castro's two-day celebration of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, beginning Saturday. Or update your Netflix queue to include John Hughes' classic Thanksgiving comedy Planes, Trains & Automobiles. Happy Turkey Day!
1. Animal Kingdom
Daly City's Sam Rockwell Talks 'Conviction,' Movies Overlooked and His Unwavering Passion for Acting
What if you made a movie and nobody saw it? The studios didn’t promote it. The theaters didn’t play it. It died a quiet and overlooked death. Sam Rockwell knows the feeling too well.
That didn’t happen to a surefire juggernaut like this spring’s Iron Man 2, in which the Daly City native played a corporate rival to the unsinkable Tony Stark. And it probably won’t happen to Conviction, directed by onetime Ghost star Tony Goldwyn and inspired by the true story of Betty Anne Waters, a Massachusetts wife and mother who put herself through law school in a desperate bid to overturn her brother’s conviction for murder.
Who is Jack, the painfully distant protagonist at the heart of Anton Corbijn’s new thriller? We suspect he might have been an assassin, and indeed, when thrust in harm’s way, he responds with pistols drawn, coldly gunning down friends and foes alike – anyone, it seems, who might compromise his work.
He is a difficult man to engage. Personal disclosures are few, and whatever concessions he offers to inquiring strangers – about his job, or his technological acumen – are often misleading. Yet he takes no joy in the deception. Jack, whose real name might be Edward, is hungry for human contact, a luxury his lifestyle doesn’t afford.
Anna Kendrick doesn’t expect to win an Oscar for her ferociously perky supporting turn as a corporate terminator in Jason Reitman’s Up in the Air. That, she says, is an honor earmarked for another actress, though she coyly declines to reveal the mystery winner’s identity.
Even if Kendrick, 24, is right, it would take nothing away from her remarkable breakthrough starring opposite George Clooney in Reitman’s meditation on the value of human contact in an age of digital communication. Nor would it diminish the impact of her scene-stealing performance as a vapid, shopping-obsessed teen in one of the year’s biggest blockbusters, New Moon.
He’s touted as a dark horse in Oscar’s Best Actor race, a relative unknown in a field of nominees highlighted by presumed frontrunner Jeff Bridges and George Clooney. Yet Modesto native Jeremy Renner, the fair-haired star of Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, is no stranger to the screen, or to awards consideration.