Dallas Buyers Club
“Dallas Buyers Clubs” has been lurking on the circuit for a while, as critics and viewers waited to see whether the film would be just another notch in Matthew McConaughey’s continued career resurrection or a complete package. Rave reviews out of Toronto has everyone leaning towards the latter, with everyone insisting that the true-life tale of homophobe-turned-HIV-patient-turned-drug-smuggler Ron Woodroof is not just a baity performance piece but a genuinely touching account of redemption and survival. McConaughey’s scary physical transformation sure seems to be matched by an emotional dedication to the character – it seems like the whole key to his sudden rebirth has been that he’s started picking out roles that he can genuinely invest in, and good for him. This season’s Best Actor race is a tight field already, but factor in all the good vibes for his career turn-around and a nomination’s all but assured.
We don’t get to see as much as him, but I should think Jared Leto’s also a pretty safe bet. I don’t see how the Academy resists an actor playing an HIV-positive transgender woman (see: Felicity Huffman in “Transamerica,” Jaye Davidson in “The Crying Game”). The film itself sure looks to tug at the heartstrings – but as is always the question with these prestige pics, can it do so without feeling manipulative?
Speaking of resurrections, apparently we’ve decided to give this whole “Jared Leto acting” thing another shot. Although, the circumstances behind “Mr. Nobody” are a bit odd – it debuted in 2009 at the Venice and Toronto festivals to overwhelmingly favorable reviews (and even some raves) and earned a release in Europe, but for no discernible reason didn’t get American distribution until this year. Considering its level of acclaim and fair share of recognizable Hollywood actors, that’s really inexplicable. But no matter – “Mr. Nobody” looks to satisfy those who were frustrated by the bombast of “Cloud Atlas” with a smaller-scale sci-fi investigation of the way our choices resonate across our lifetimes (devoted readers might recall that I thought the pure bombast was actually the only thing keeping “Cloud Atlas” afloat, but sure, let’s try again).
Kill Your Darlings
The trailer for this Sundance favorite is a bit disjointed, but somewhere in there’s a moody depiction of Beatnik-era New York – and the plethora of intriguing young acting talent is certainly enough to keep an eye on this one. Daniel Radcliffe is on a mission to leave his Harry Potter days behind him, and he might just do it – I’m actually starting to think he might end up with the best career of that whole bunch, although Emma Watson was pretty spectacular in “The Bling Ring”. But he certainly seems to challenge himself with his roles more than Watson does – there’s no real consistent through-line from Harry Potter to “Equus” to Broadway musicals to young Allen Ginsburg, but there he goes. Meanwhile, Dane DeHaan was basically the best part of Cianfrance’s “The Place Beyond the Pines” – keep an eye on this guy. Ben Foster I’m always happy to see, and he should have plenty of fun with the eccentric William S. Burroughs. Jack Huston (as Jack Kerouac), Michael C. Hall, Elizabeth Olsen, Jennifer Jason Leigh – a tremendous cast all around and a fascinating true story that I personally know nothing about.
I couldn’t quite decide how I felt about Richard Ayoade’s debut film “Submarine” – an odd little coming-of-age film that felt like Wes Anderson filtered through Mike Leigh. But I love love love this brief but very atmospheric look at his follow-up feature, an adaptation of Dostoevsky’s short story with pitch-perfect casting on paper. Jesse Eisenberg plays the dual lead role of a nebbishy office worker who starts to be replaced by a charismatic, asshole doppelganger that no one seems to notice looks exactly like him. That’s basically an ideal personality split for Eisenberg, who combined both halves so well in “The Social Network.” Mia Wasikowska also strikes me as a great fit for one of Dostoevsky’s idealized, sweet but distant romantic objects. The film has gotten solid reviews out of Toronto, but as a Russian literature lover this one will be a priority for me.
Escape from Tomorrow
So this one needs some explanation. “Escape from Tomorrow” was filmed, astoundingly, almost entirely on location inside both Disney World and Disneyland. And director Randy Moore did it all without the company’s permission. As you can imagine, it’s unlikely that Disney Studios would be too thrilled about a fantasy-horror flick criticizing the soul-sucking insanity of its own ubiquitous entertainment, so the entire production was cloaked in secrecy, right up until the film’s furtive debut at Sundance. Critics found the film uneven in execution (rather unsurprising, considering the technical limits of such guerilla filmmaking) but obviously fascinating if only as an artifact – this is a movie that really shouldn’t exist. And most people assumed that would be the end of that; surely Disney would never let the movie actual secure distribution and see the light of day.
It’s possible that they think, in fact, that legal action would just bring unwanted attention to the film, and would prefer to just let it fade away in limited release. So pass the word around – I want everyone to start talking about this movie, if only to see what the hell Disney does next. Should make for fascinating discussion in my copyright class.