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[VIDEO] Best Political Speech by an Entertainment Celebrity: Who Will Win? 

Forget the Oscars, the Golden Globes, and the Emmys: the stars are all out for the Hollywood Awards. But who will take home the prize for Best Political Speech by an Entertainment Celebrity?

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Written and produced by Austin Bragg. Performed by Andrew Heaton and Austin Bragg

 

 

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This Film Reveals the Cruel Dysfunction of the British Welfare System

Brandon Harris writes: Cannes came and went yet again, handing out prizes to a bevy of films that left many in attendance scratching their heads. Arch left-wing Brit realist Ken Loach walked away with the coveted Palme d’Or for his newest drama of working-class strife, I, Daniel Blake, about a heart-attack victim who can’t navigate the shameful labyrinth of the British welfare system to secure the disability benefits he’ll require to keep himself afloat. Loach, who soon will be an octogenarian and has been bringing his films to Cannes since the late 60s, last won the prize for 2006’s Irish Troubles saga, The Wind That Shakes the Barley.

“It’s shocking because it’s not just an issue for people in our country, it’s throughout Europe. There is a conscious cruelty in the way we’re organizing our lives now where the most vulnerable people are told that their poverty is their own fault. If you have no work, it’s your fault you haven’t got a job.”

He came out in full Bernie Sanders stump-speech mode at the atypically long and Oscar-ish Cannes Awards night, launching broadsides against British austerity and the increasingly ungenerous welfare system—the latter of which is taken for a persuasive, moving, and aesthetically dull lambasting in the film—before pointing out that, “When there is despair, the people from the far right take advantage. We must say that another world is possible and necessary.”

[Read the full story here, at VICE]

Loach’s political drama, which will be released stateside by Sundance Selects later this year, had few calling it a masterpiece after it debuted early in the festival to quaint praise. Coming off a decade of films that were widely seen as disappointments, I, Daniel Blake follows an aging joiner (Dave Johns), who finds that the dole isn’t as peachy keen as the Tories make it out to be, and a young mother of two (Hayley Squires) who finds the uncaring system just as useless as she tries to claw her family out of homelessness and hunger. Read the rest of this entry »


[BOOKS] Hitchcock: The Fine Art of Fear

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Robert Nason writes: In Alfred Hitchcock’s films, the lack of information—or the possession of it—can have deadly consequences. The titles are revealing: “Suspicion” (1941), “Notorious” (1946), “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1934, 1956). In his concise, insightful book on the director, Michael Wood asserts that in Hitchcock’s films there are “only three options: to know too little, to know too much . . . and to know a whole lot that is entirely plausible and completely wrong.”

“Some claim that Hitch was a sadist who took ‘pleasure in seeing beautiful women in harm’s way.’ Mr. Wood argues that Hitchcock worked out his own fears on film: ‘Far from enjoying the torments of these women at risk, he identified with them.'”

Hitchcock was born on Aug. 13, 1899, the son of a greengrocer. Members of this economic class, Mr. Wood says, were suspicious of the posh people above them and the unruly ones below. Hitchcock’s hitchcock-bookfilms would abound with upper-class villains and fearful mobs. As a Catholic, Hitchcock was an outsider in Protestant England; he would later be an English outsider in America.

[Order Michael Wood’s book “Alfred Hitchcock: The Man Who Knew Too Much” from Amazon.com]

Shy, chubby and intelligent, the young Hitchcock had few friends. He preferred attending sensational London trials—and movies. Instead of fan magazines, Hitch—as he preferred to be called—avidly read technical film journals and landed a job designing movie title cards. As a fledging director of silents, he was influenced by the shadowy lighting and dynamic camera movements of German Expressionist cinema. He would combine their beauty and atmosphere of anxiety with a dash of black humor and a blonde in jeopardy. All the ingredients were in place for his third feature, “The Lodger” (1927), the film “in which he became Hitchcock,” as Mr. Wood puts it. The title character is suspected by everyone as a notorious-posterJack-the-Ripperish killer. Is he or isn’t he? “Innocence and guilt,” Mr. Wood notes, “leave many of the same traces.”

When Hitchcock came to Hollywood in 1939, he had already imparted alarming warnings to his British countrymen in a recent string of thrillers. He would send the same message to Americans: A menace threatened not only Great Britain and the United States but civilization as a whole. In many of Hitchcock’s great British films, from “The 39 Steps” (1935) to “The Lady Vanishes” (1938), we’re usually not told who the spies are working for, but there’s little doubt who the enemy is. Likewise, in his early Hollywood film “Foreign Correspondent” (1940), the “peace activist,” suavely played by Herbert Marshall, is actually a spy working for the unnamed foe.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

While some Hitchcock films deal with global threats, the truly frightening works dwell upon more intimate dangers. In the film that was the director’s personal favorite, “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943), pshychoJoseph Cotton plays a dapper killer of wealthy women, proving that evil could lurk even in anytown America. In “Strangers on a Train” (1951) and “Rear Window” (1954), brutal murders occur, respectively, in an amusement park and a middle-class apartment building. Hitchcock became an American citizen in 1955, the same year that his hit television program “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” debuted. Mr. Wood suggests that the habitually fearful Hitchcock worried about “losing what he most cared about” at the pinnacle of his career, and this contributed to the richness of his confident yet melancholy films during the next few years.

Mr. Wood devotes more space to “Vertigo” (1958) than to any other Hitchcock film. In this masterpiece of misinformation and obsession, Jimmy Stewartplays a retired private investigator fascinated by a suicidal woman who is hardly who she seems to be. In “North by Northwest” (1959), Cary Grant plays Roger Thornhill, a shallow Madison Avenue advertising man thought by enemy spies to be an American intelligence officer who in fact doesn’t exist. Read the rest of this entry »


The Academy Flips America The Bird

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Birdman is an incredible movie. If you haven’t seen it, see it. The script, acting, storytelling style, cinematography, and directing, risky, exciting, innovative, ingenious stuff. I admire it, a lot, though it’s not the kind of movie that lends itself to repeated viewings. The extended, impossibly long single-camera takes (only 16 shots in the entire movie) is reason enough alone to not miss this film.

I was, however, disheartened that the members of the Academy chose to give its top award to a movie that can fairly be described as an “insider” movie. A theatrical confection. An elite industry celebrating itself, rewarding an inward-looking movie within a movie, about movies. One that will never reach a wide audience. Many viewers will understandably feel that the Academy passed over movies with more heart and soul.

The predictable self-congratulating sanctimony of the 2015 Academy awards made it almost unwatchable, though it did have some good moments.


What’s Your Pick for #Oscars Best Picture?


Dark Horse Contender: 6 Reasons American Sniper Could Upset to Win Best Picture

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Three days from now, the Academy Awards will give its top prize to one of eight nominees, with Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood and Alejandro González Iñárritu‘s Birdman currently leading the pack as favorites to take home Best Picture. But there’s a Not-So-Little Engine That Might in this illustrious group, a dark horse that could sneak across the finish line in first before the night is done, decimating scores of pundit predictions in the process. Clint Eastwood’s Chris Kyle biopic American Sniper remains a long shot to pull it off, and yet as Sunday approaches, there are many reasons to believe that the Iraq War drama has a chance at pulling off a stunning upset. We’re not saying it willwin, but given the reasons below, it now definitely has a shot at Oscar’s most coveted statuette.

1. It’s the Popular Choice

At $309 million strong just in the U.S., American Sniper is already the second-highest-grossing R-rated film in movie history,and its $16.4 million haul last weekend means that it isn’t ready to slow down just yet—and, in fact, it may benefit from a post-Oscar telecast boost. Primed to be one of 2014’s most lucrative films, it exists in a different stratosphere than the rest of the Best Picture nominees, and its A+ CinemaScore rating means that audiences actively love it. While the Oscars rarely award films simply because they’ve made boatloads of cash, American Sniper is the one contender that boasts both a resounding critical and commercial endorsement. It’s the people’s choice.

2. The Indie Split

Further helping American Sniper’s odds is the fact that, while it stands as the natural mainstream choice for Oscar voters, its two main competitors both occupy a quirky-arty-indie space. Consequently, Boyhood and Birdman (and even, to a lesser extent, The Grand Budapest Hotel) may find themselves directly battling each other for votes, rather than American Sniper. If those two smaller-scale efforts split the “indie” vote just enough, it may allow American Sniper to surpass them both in the final tally.

3. Old Hollywood Eastwood

As usual, much has been made this awards season about the demographics of the Academy, which is heavily skewed toward older, white members. That may also wind up aiding American Sniper, considering the film’s pedigree as the latest work from 84-year-old Clint Eastwood. One of Hollywood’s old guards, Eastwood has a living-legend aura about him that could very well prove endearing to Academy voters disinclined to bet on younger auteurs with long careers still in front of them. True, Eastwood has already helmed two Best Pictures (1992’s Unforgiven, 2004’s Million Dollar Baby), but it’s not a crazy stretch to imagine some voters trying to further augment his legacy with a third winner. Read the rest of this entry »


Sundance Awards: The Winners List

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After 10 days of premieres and deals in Park City, the Sundance Film Festival jury handed out honors across a range of categories on Saturday evening.

Comedian Tig Notaro presided over the ceremony, which saw Me and Earl and The Dying Girl nab both the U.S. dramatic grand jury prize and the U.S. dramatic audience award.

“This movie was about processing loss and, but really to celebrate a beautiful life and a beautiful man, which is my amazing father. So this is to his memory and to celebrate him through humor, so thanks again for this opportunity.”

Me and Earl Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

“This movie was about processing loss and, but really to celebrate a beautiful life and a beautiful man, which is my amazing father. So this is to his memory and to celebrate him through humor, so thanks again for this opportunity,” said Earl director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon upon accepting the grand jury prize.

Meanwhile, The Wolfpack, a look at a family of six siblings living in Manhattan, claimed the U.S. grand jury prize for a documentary. Robert Eggers, whose film The Witch was acquired by A24 films shortly after the festival opened, claimed the directing award for U.S. dramatic title.

Rick Famuyiwa‘s Dope, which was acquired by Open Road and given a June 12 theatrical release, claimed the special jury honor for excellence in editing while Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s The Stanford Prison Experiment took home the U.S. dramatic screenwriting award. Read the rest of this entry »


Why the Left Hates American Sniper

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Hating evil is just as important as loving the good. Because if you don’t, you’re likely to give evil a pass

 writes: American Sniper is a film of soaring patriotism and an ode to our courageous military. For too long Americans have lived with only two percent of the population losing arms and legs and dying so that the other ninety-eight percent can be safe and free. If we’re not going to copy the heroes of the military at least we can salute them. But the prerequisite of gratitude is knowledge and so few of us really know how much our military sacrifices that it’s hard to feel indebted. That’s what makes American Sniper a movie that portrays Hollywood at its best, telling the story of a valiant and selfless soldier with complexity, truth, and depth.

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“What American Sniper is really about is the battle by decent men against truly dark forces of wickedness. The American soldiers who battle the terrorists in Iraq do not hide their contempt for the killers. They hate them, despise them, loathe them, and want to kill them.”

So why are so many people on the left attacking the film? What is their issue with a hero like Chris Kyle, who dedicated his life to saving Americans from murder and was himself killed when he tried to help a psychologically damaged marine?

In this photo taken from video by Nigeria's Boko Haram terrorist network, Monday May 12, 2014 shows the alleged missing girls abducted from the northeastern town of Chibok. The new video purports to show dozens of abducted schoolgirls, covered in jihab and praying in Arabic. It is the first public sight of the girls since more than 300 were kidnapped from a northeastern school the night of April 14 exactly four weeks ago. (AP Photo)

In this photo taken from video by Nigeria’s Boko Haram terrorist network, Monday May 12, 2014 shows the alleged missing girls abducted from the northeastern town of Chibok. The new video purports to show dozens of abducted schoolgirls, covered in jihab and praying in Arabic. It is the first public sight of the girls since more than 300 were kidnapped from a northeastern school

“The most accurate standard in judging our commitment to humanity is the  extent to which we fight to preserve life. For some that fight involves research in a lab to defeat cancer. For others it involves climbing a ladder in a terrible inferno to rescue a stranded child. And for some it involves going to war against barbarous terrorists so that they cannot blow up pregnant women.”

The answer lies in our failure to hate evil. What American Sniper is really about is the battle by decent men against truly dark forces of wickedness. The American soldiers who battle the terrorists in Iraq do not hide their contempt for the killers.

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“Churchill spoke openly of his utter hatred of Hitler…And because he hated the beast he inspired a nation to fight him. The French, who did not hate Hitler, collaborated with him and sent Jews and many others to the gas chambers instead. But on the political left, hatred has gone out of vogue.”

They hate them, despise them, loathe them, and want to kill them. Not because they have any bloodlust and not because they enjoy violence. Rather, they are committed to life and are well aware of the fact that the only way to prevent the murderers from slaughtering the innocent is through the necessary evil of conflict.

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“Hating evil is just as important as loving the good. To be truly righteous, it’s not enough to love good people. You have to hate—and fight—bad people.”

From time immemorial theologians have debated what makes a person truly righteous. How do we know when someone’s faith is sincere? Some say it is evidenced by a love of humanity. But I have met legions of confirmed atheists who are the finest human beings alive.

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“We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

Others argue that it is martyrdom and a readiness to lay down one’s life for a great cause. But suicide bombers blow themselves up in the name of their faith all the time. Still others argue that goodness is judged by religious ritual observance. But we all know religious people who are devout church and synagogue-goers but who are utterly unethical in other spheres.

Which brings me to this conclusion. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] ‘SNIPER’ SETS BOX OFFICE RECORD: American Sniper: Official Trailer

From director Clint Eastwood comes “American Sniper,” starring Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. In theaters December 25th.

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