Philip Seymour Hoffman
The second Oakland Underground Film Festival kicks off tonight at the historic Grand Lake Theater with South by Southwest Film Festival favorite Thunder Soul, about the charismatic band leader who turned an inner-city Houston high school's jazz band into a powerful funk outfit, and American Grindhouse, a revealing documentary about cheerfully trashy exploitation cinema. Elsewhere:
The 34th Toronto International Film Festival, billed by organizers as "the most important festival after Cannes," concluded Sunday, Sept. 19, with the announcement of this year's Audience Award winner: The King's Speech, Tom Hooper's account of Bertie (A Single Man's Colin Firth), the man who overcame a humiliating stutter to become King George VI. (Bay Area moviegoers will get a sneak peek of Speech when it opens the 33rd Mill Valley Film Festival on Thursday, Oct. 7, at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center.) Here's an account of the 10-day Toronto festival's highlights, lowlights and (almost) everything in between.
The final days of December are not just an excuse to eat, drink and be merry, but also to organize our most beloved cultural offerings into a series of lists. Who am I to buck the trend? With 2009 winding to a close, the time is right to reflect on the past decade and the movies that made it great. Among those honored: Michel Gondry, the French-born auteur whose Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Science of Sleep proved two of the most poignant romances in recent memory, and Jake Gyllenhaal, the quietly effective star of Donnie Darko, Brokeback Mountain and Zodiac.
If Richard Curtis’ passion for pop wasn’t evident enough in his directorial debut, 2003’s Love Actually, he puts it on full display in Pirate Radio, his affectionate tribute to the spirit of rock, which was put to the severest of tests in the ’60s by censorious British bureaucrats. For Curtis, this is clearly a love letter signed, sealed and delivered to the artists of his youth, and to the DJs who broadcast the music.
Sure, it’s only rock n’ roll, but Richard Curtis likes it – so much that he wrote and directed Pirate Radio, a joyous ode to the irrepressible spirit of rock, put to the severest of tests in the ’60s by closed-minded British government bureaucrats.
Best known as the screenwriter responsible for hit comedies including 1994’s Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill (1999) and Love Actually (2003), which marked his directorial debut, Curtis, 53, says Radio reflects a personal passion for music that has been increasingly evident with each of his films.
Rumors of Charlie Kaufman’s reclusiveness have been greatly exaggerated.
Kaufman, the soft-spoken New York native who began his career in television churning out scripts for short-lived Fox sitcoms like Get a Life before graduating to feature films with the Oscar-nominated screenplay for 1999’s Being John Malkovich, is, according to his IMDb.com biography, a voracious reader notorious for avoiding the press. And yet here he is, cordial and seemingly at ease as he lounges in a conference room at San Francisco’s Prescott Hotel, ready for a rigorous day of interviews.
You may not have heard of Michael Shannon, but it would be impossible to walk away from the Eisenhower-era marital drama Revolutionary Road without being shaken by his blistering performance as John Givings, a recovering psych-ward patient who might just be the sanest inhabitant of a Connecticut suburb where desperation and malaise seem almost universal.
How does one begin to approach Synecdoche, New York, first-time director Charlie Kaufman’s tortured and often brilliant tale of an artist paralyzed by his insecurities and haunted by opportunities missed?
It’s not so much that his film defies description as that none could adequately prepare you for the experience of watching it. Kaufman’s existential musings on life, death and the pursuit of love are sometimes messy and maddeningly self-indulgent, and they're stuffed into a sprawling, surreal narrative that unfolds like a dream. But they are also heartfelt, painfully honest and wickedly funny.