Academy Screenings 2013
Tuesday, December 25th
The Master at 4:00pm
In an arresting return to the big screen, Joaquin Phoenix plays a troubled soldier in post–WWII America on a quest for selfhood. Raging through life like an animal, he is unable to keep a job, attract a woman, or live in his own skin. By chance he befriends Lancaster Dodd, the charismatic founder of a new religion (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who with his wife (Amy Adams) probes the unconscious minds of his subjects to discover their vulnerabilities. The cerebral Dodd and his feral disciple appear to be complete opposites, but they strike up a surprising friendship.The Master is a provocative study of masculine power: the camaraderie, deception, and hubris. Accompanied by a score by Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead), Paul Thomas Anderson’s brilliant new film demonstrates why he commands a position at the very pinnacle of American cinema.
(US, 2012, 138 min., Rated R, Special thanks to The Weinstein Company)
Lincoln at 7:30pm
In another tour-de-force performance, Daniel Day-Lewis stars as Lincoln in this screen adaptation of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s bestseller Team of Rivals , a tale of D.C. political intrigue and gamesmanship circa 1864. Directing a script by playwright Tony Kushner (Angels in America ), Steven Spielberg brings the climactic months of one of the gravest crises in U.S. history to vivid, complex life. Facing a nation divided by war and the strong winds of change, the sixteenth president pursues a course of action designed to end the conflict, unite the country, and abolish slavery. Braced with the moral courage and fierce determination to succeed, he makes choices that will change the fate of generations to come. Also starring Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, David Strathairn, and a marvelous host of actors in supporting roles, including Hal Holbrook, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and James Spader.
(USA, 2012, 150 min., Rated PG-13, Special thanks to DreamWorks)
Wednesday, December 26th
Silver Linings Playbook at 5:30pm
David O. Russell’s (The Fighter ) latest film is a funny and moving examination of one man’s unerring quest to rewrite his own happy ending after a personal and professional meltdown. Recently released after a court-ordered stint at a psychiatric facility, Pat (Bradley Cooper) has lost everything, including his wife, Nikki. Moving in with his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver), he is maniacally determined to restart his life and reunite with his wife. His parents, meanwhile, would prefer that Pat focus his energies on rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles, their favorite football team and a source of near-religious significance in their lives. Into his orbit flies Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), an equally volatile young widow with an offer to help Pat get Nikki back – but for a price. Based on Matthew Quick’s novel, Silver Linings Playbook is effortlessly dysfunctional, thrillingly acted, and thoroughly rewarding.
(US, 2012, 120 mins., Rated R, Special thanks to The Weinstein Company)
Amour at 8:15pm
Amour won Michael Haneke his second Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival this year. (Haneke also received the prize for his last film, The White Ribbon, which screened at Aspen Filmfest 2009). With this new film, Haneke gives us a masterpiece of compassion and tenderness told through the brilliant performances of two acting legends, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, who play married musicians in their 80s. Their long, happy routine of life is sharply interrupted when after a stroke, one of them gradually succumbs to paralysis and dementia. In reaction, they both retreat from the world — to the point of not even allowing their daughter, Eva (Isabelle Huppert), into their apartment. She ultimately has to force her way inside in order to find out what is going on with her parents. Fearless and intimate, without cliché or cynicism, Haneke gives us permission to believe that unconditional love will endure after death.
(Austria/France/Germany, 2012, 120 mins., Rated PG-13, Special thanks to Sony Pictures Classics)
Thursday, December 27th
Hyde Park On Hudson at 5:30pm
Bill Murray gives a career-topping performance as President Franklin D. Roosevelt in this winningly acted drama that pulls back the curtain on the complicated domestic arrangements at FDR’s New York country estate. Told from the perspective of Roosevelt’s neighbor and member of his feminine inner circle Margaret “Daisy” Suckley (Laura Linney), Hyde Park on Hudson revolves around the royal visit of King George VI on the eve of World War II. In a film both buoyantly comic and inescapably serious, screenwriter Richard Nelson and director Roger Michell (Notting Hill) examine the tricky dynamics of the chief executive’s relationships with his wife, mother, and devoted female staff while also taking stock of his ego, shrewd manipulations, and consummate ability to win people’s favor and confidence — most notably in the case of the insecure young king. It’s an entrancing peek into a time when the personal secrets of our leaders were well and truly kept.
(USA, 2012, 95 min., Rated R, Special thanks to Focus Features)
Friday, December 28th
Argo at 3:15pm
Life imitates art, and art imitates life in this riveting thriller from director-star Ben Affleck (The Town). Based on true events, this smart, entertaining feature chronicles the life-or-death covert operation that unfolded during the 1979 Iran hostage crisis — a plan unknown to the public for decades. When Iranian militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, six Americans managed to slip away and find refuge in the Canadian ambassador’s home. Knowing it is only a matter of time before they are discovered, a CIA “exfiltration” specialist, Tony Mendez (Affleck), comes up with a risky plan to smuggle them safely out of the country — one so incredible and seemingly far fetched that it could only happen in a Hollywood movie. Alan Arkin, John Goodman, and Bryan Cranston also star. Audience Special Recognition Award, Aspen Filmfest 2012.
(USA, 2012, 120 min., Rated R, Special thanks to Warner Bros.)
Ginger and Rosa at 6:00pm
While tied to the hip of Rosa (Alice Englert), her best friend, Ginger (a superlative Elle Fanning) is beset by two crises: the collapse of her parents’ marriage and the growing worldwide anxiety sparked by the Cuban missile crisis. It’s then that she begins experiencing the joys and terrors of discovering her sexual identity and creative ambitions. From writer-director Sally Potter (Orlando, The Tango Lesson) comes this vivid Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman, simultaneously lyrical and nostalgic, and utterly clear eyed and honest. Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt, and Annette Bening are wonderful as Ginger’s intellectual godfathers and mother, and Alessandro Nivola and Christina Hendricks are equally strong as her flesh-and-blood parents. As her private dramas unfold against the backdrop of a broader historical spectacle, Ginger proves to be a fascinating and formidable young heroine. Personally or globally, the world may not end, but nothing will ever be quite the same again.
(U.K., 2012, 90 min., Not yet rated, Special thanks to A24)
Rust and Bone at 8:15pm
Jacques Audiard follows his Oscar®-nominated crime story A Prophet with a different but equally compelling, taut drama: an unusual romance with mismatched lovers facing extraordinary obstacles. Alain (rising star Matthias Schoenaerts) is an inarticulate back-alley boxer who can barely keep his five-year old son fed, clothed, and in school. Stéphanie (Marion Cotillard) is a free-spirited, streetwise dolphin trainer who suffers a devastating injury. As their stories intersect and diverge, Alain and Stéphanie navigate a world in which strength, youth, and blood are commodities – but trust, truth, and love cannot be bought and sold, and courage comes in many forms. In extraordinary performances, Schoenaerts and Cotillard bring deep commitment and physical intensity to their roles, creating full-blooded characters whose struggles are deeply felt.
(France, 2012, 120 min., Rated R, Special thanks to Sony Pictures Classics)
Saturday, December 29th
Anna Karenina at 2:45pm
Imperial Russia, 1874. Vibrant, beautiful, and married to a high-ranking government official (Jude Law), Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) is impeccably placed in lavish St. Petersburg society. Yet a chance encounter on a train bound for Moscow will dramatically transform her life, as well as the lives of those around her. Leo Tolstoy’s masterful tale of family, love, and desire in the context of social mores and self-realization has been adapted for the screen more than a dozen times. Yet it is safe to say that it has never before been realized with anything close to the bold, imaginative brio of this latest incarnation from British director Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement ). With a script by Academy Award® winner Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love ), Sarah Greenwood’s glorious production design, and a stirring performance by Knightley (collaborating with Wright for the third time), this is both a faithful rendering of the novel’s spirit and a brilliant piece of conceptually audacious filmmaking.
(U.K., 2012, 129 min., Rated R, Special thanks to Focus Features)
Quartet at 5:45pm -
Dustin Hoffman makes a winning directorial debut with Sir Ronald Harwood’s delightful and poignant comedy about four opera singers preparing for an upcoming performance. Three of them (Billy Connolly, Tom Courtenay, and Pauline Collins) live in a home for retired musicians, where each year residents stage a fundraising concert on Verdi’s birthday. It’s usually a pleasantly nostalgic affair, but this year an aging diva (Maggie Smith), having fallen on hard times, arrives at the home and quickly ruffles the manorly calm. Before too long buried grievances resurface, rivalries resume, and tempers flare. Featuring playful banter, enchanting music, and terrific performances by a cast of veteran actors, this affecting cinematic valentine will resonate with anyone who believes that art is the spark of life.
(UK, 2012, 95 min., Rated PG, Special thanks to The Weinstein Company)
Promised Land at 8:15pm
In this topical drama directed by Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Milk), and co-written and produced by Matt Damon, ace corporate salesman Steve Butler (played by Damon) is sent along with his partner, Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand), to close a deal for gas-drilling rights in a rural town key to his company’s expansion plans. With the town having been hit hard by the economic decline of recent years, the two outsiders are confident their company’s offer will be welcomed by the local citizens as much-needed relief. What seems like an easy job becomes complicated when the objections of a respected schoolteacher (Hal Holbrook), with support from a grassroots campaign led by another man (John Krasinski), as well as the emotional interest of a local woman (Rosemarie DeWitt) call Steve’s sales pitch, beliefs, and loyalties into question. Promised Land explores contemporary America at a crossroads where the interests of big business and the values of small-town community collide.
(USA, 2012, 107 min., Rated R, Special thanks to Focus Features)
Sunday, December 30th
The Sessions at 3:00pm
John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone) has a knack for creating deeply compelling characters. In the award-winning The Sessions, as Berkeley-based poet-journalist Mark O’Brien, confined to an iron lung, Hawkes crackles with wit, frustration, and anticipation as he determines, at age 38, to lose his virginity. With the guidance of an unusual priest (played with humor and wisdom by William H. Macy), the poignantly optimistic and always droll O’Brien swallows his fear and hires a professional sex surrogate (an effervescent Helen Hunt). What transpires over a handful of sessions transforms them both as the clinical exercise, while fairly explicit, becomes a tender, awkward, and gracious journey from isolation to connection – corporal and spiritual. Often funny and exceptionally moving, The Sessions asserts that even if the body is a cage, the mind and heart can still soar.
(USA, 2012, 95 min., Rated R, Special thanks to Fox Searchlight)
A Royal Affair at 5:15pm
Illicit love, social reform, and palace intrigue form the center of this sumptuously mounted drama based on one of the most scandalous chapters in Danish history: the 18th-century romantic and power triangle among Princess Caroline Matilda, mad King Christian VI, and Johann Struensee, the King’s royal physician and chief advisor. A child of the Enlightenment, the charismatic Struensee (Mads Mikkelsen, Casino Royale) finds a kindred spirit – and lover – in the progressively minded queen (Alicia Vikander, Anna Karenina). Together they push for major reforms that stand in direct opposition to the king’s conservative governing council. But the lovers’ electrifying passion blinds them to the corridor conspiracies taking shape around them. With a sweeping combination of political maneuvering, lush romanticism, and rich characterization, writer-director Nikolaj Arcel (screenwriter of the original The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) makes this an affair to remember. (Denmark/Sweden/Czech Republic/Germany, 2012, 137 min., Rated R, Special thanks to Magnolia Pictures)
On The Road at 8:15pm
Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries) and based on Jack Kerouac’s iconic Beat classic, On the Road tells the timeless story of Sal Paradise (Sam Riley), a young writer whose life is shaken and ultimately redefined by the arrival of the devastatingly charismatic Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund), one of American literature’s great characters. Together they travel cross-country, venturing out on a personal quest for freedom from the conformity and conservatism engulfing them as they search for uncharted terrain, themselves, and the pursuit of “it” – the pure essence of experience. Also starring Viggo Mortensen and Tom Sturridge as the alter egos of William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, as well as Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams, and Elizabeth Moss. Accompanied by a jazzy soundtrack, On the Road reveals 1950s American nonconformity in all its unkempt, poetic glory.
(USA, 2012, 139 min., Rated R, Special thanks to IFC Films)
Tuesday, January 1st
The Intouchables at 2:45pm
France’s most-talked-about performance and film of the year come in the shape of this emotionally involving comedy about an unlikely but true story of friendship. Paralyzed from the neck down after an accident, gloomy millionaire Philippe (François Cluzet, Tell No One) finds little worth living for until the arrival of his new assistant, Driss (Omar Sy), a Senegalese rowdy from the projects. Not quite on doctor’s orders, Driss takes Philippe as far out of his comfort zone as possible and into a world he never knew existed – or, rather, always tried to avoid. More significantly, both men find someone to whom they can relate. A cultural phenomenon, as well as France’s second-biggest box-office hit of all time, The Intouchables travels well beyond boundaries of country, class, and race, delving straight into hilarity and heart.
(France, 2012, 112 min., Rated R, Special thanks to The Weinstein Company)
Not Fade Away at 5:15pm
The time is the mid-1960s, on the cusp of the Summer of Love. The place, suburban New Jersey. The music, 100-percent-pure rock and roll. For his feature filmmaking debut, The Sopranos creator David Chase has crafted a wise, tender, and richly atmospheric portrait of a group of friends trying to do what so many kids of the time dreamed of doing: form their own rock band. And these guys are good, fronted by a preternaturally gifted singer-songwriter (terrific newcomer John Magaro) who’s a dead ringer for the young Bob Dylan, even if his dad (James Gandolfini) doesn’t take kindly to seeing junior strut around in long hair and Cuban heels. Masterfully capturing the era’s conflicting attitudes and ideologies, and set to a killer soundtrack produced by the legendary Steven Van Zandt, Not Fade Away just might be the best coming-of-age movie since Barry Levinson’s Diner — and one of the best rock movies ever.
(USA, 2012, 112 min. Rated R, Special thanks to Paramount Vantage)
Zero Dark Thirty at 8:00pm -
For a decade, an elite team of intelligence and military operatives, working in secret across the globe, devoted themselves to a single goal: to find and eliminate Osama bin Laden. Infused with docudrama realism, this powerful thriller stars Jessica Chastain as a female CIA agent (based on an actual operative) with a far-out hunch that was instrumental in bringing down America’s most-wanted fugitive. Zero Dark Thirty reunites director-producer Kathryn Bigelow and writer-producer Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker) as they deploy a rigorous, unflinching approach to recreate the story of the greatest manhunt of our time. The results are terrifically imposing. Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong, James Gandofini, and Jennifer Ehle also star.
(US, 2012, 149 min., Rated R, Special thanks to Sony Pictures Entertainment)