2013’s Best: Perfect posters for Only God Forgives

This strange, hypnotic image is, well, perfect for one of the most violent, strange works of 2013: Only God Forgives. It’s now streaming on Netflix, but note that it is … not for everyone.

This, however, should even impress the Refn haters:

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Here is another that fits the mood of the film, focusing on mother-from-hell Kristen Scott Thomas:

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And one more, of star Ryan Gosling:

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Weekend Preview: Sci-Fi, Strippers, Hallucinogens, Porn, Ultraviolence, Talking Aircraft, and Greek Gods

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I’m not sure there has been a more wildly diverse weekend for movies this summer, although I have a feeling I’ve said that before. There is big-budget, socially conscious science fiction (“Elysium”), an R-rated comedy (“We’re the Millers”), an odd Pixar-spinoff from Disney (“Planes”), a porn-star biopic (“Lovelace”), a strange, brutally violent revenge story set in Thailand (“Only God Forgives”), a story of a quest to find a Chilean hallucinogen (“Crystal Fairy”), and a kid-lit sequel about a teenager/Greek god (“Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters”).

It’s a strange mix, really, and I find myself with little to say about most of it. I could care less about “Millers” (Jennifer Aniston continues her stellar march to big screen greatness), “Planes” (Disney tries Pixar, minus Pixar?), and “Percy Jackson” (the Chris Columbus-directed first film evaporated from my brain within seconds of viewing). Michael Cera stole “This is the End,” so I am curious about “Crystal Fairy,” but it has not really intrigued me yet.

“Elysium” is perhaps the must-see of the group. I was one of the few folks in America who did not like “District 9,” Neil Blomkamp’s ugly sci-fi smash, but I did admire its ideas and rough-around-the-edges aesthetic. I love the idea of seeing what he can do with lots of money, studio backing, and star-power (Matt Damon and Jodie Foster).

Response so far has been very mixed, but I am hopeful. I would expect it to spend one week on the top of the box office, but I fear it will underwhelm commercially. Like “Pacific Rim,” whether the movie interests you or not, we should all want big movies from unique directors to fare well. We need more Del Toros and Blomkamps.

I reviewed Linda Lovelace biopic “Lovelace” for the Buffalo News, and I’d call mine a mixed but slightly positive verdict; I gave it 2 ½ stars, and considered 3, but it’s very grim (intentionally, of course) and not all that insightful (especially after “Inside Deep Throat”). Yet much of it works, and as I explain in the review, it succeeds in showing why the success of “Deep Throat” should not always be viewed with a giggle. The circumstances for its star were awful, and that is clear after watching “Lovelace.”

Then, of course, there is “Only God Forgives,” which I wrote about a few weeks ago. It’s still a tricky one for me; I’m glad I was not reviewing it, since I still find it fascinating, absurd, and very, very difficult.

So invariably, there is SOMETHING of interest for everyone this weekend. Outside of the multiplex, The Screening Room offers “Murder on the Orient Express” — why not? — at 7:30 on Friday, Sunday, and Wednesday (August 14);

Bacchus has the great “Moneyball” on Wednesday (August 14); the UB North Campus shows two recent hits, “Iron Man 3” and “Fast & Furious 6,” at 8:45 on Friday and Tuesday (August 13), respectively; and UB South Campus features “Furious” at 8:45 on Wednesday (August 7).

Note also that David Gordon Green’s “Prince Avalanche” has arrived on VOD, and a number of interesting picks — “Drinking Buddies,” “The Canyons,” and this week’s “Crystal Fairy,” “Only God Forgives,” and “Lovelace” — can also be enjoyed at home. What is especially cool is that David Lowery’s “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints,” one of the most acclaimed films of the year, will be available on August 23. I’ll be watching.

Photo from “Elysium”s official site

Wednesday Round-Up: The Agony and the Ecstasy of “Only God Forgives”

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Has there been a recent film from a major director that’s drawn a reaction quite like the tidal wave that has greeted Nicholas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives”? From boos following its debut at Cannes to an award as best film of the Sydney Film Festival, it has been a wild, crazy, gleefully violent road.

Here is a film that many have called THE WORST MOVIE EVER MADE, yet also received five stars from The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw. I’d say the boos are outnumbering the cheers, but still — the praise section is not small.

The film finally opened last Friday, appearing in theaters, on pay-per-view, and on iTunes, one of the most high-profile VOD releases to date. It leaped to No. 2 on the iTunes chart, yet, says Indiewire, “[i]n 78 theaters, the film managed a $315,000 gross, averaging $4,038.” An adequate, but certainly not great, number.

Calum Marsh summed up the explosion of outrage that greeted the film over the weekend for Film.com:

“This past weekend, Nicolas Winding Refn and his blonde-haired muse returned with their latest endeavor to perplex the multiplexes, ‘Only God Forgives,’ and this time they’ve upped their game by making the oblique Thai ‘thriller’ molasses-slow and hyper-violent. It’s a combination that has already proven unbearable for the many hundreds of unsuspecting patrons who have happened to wander into — and then quickly out of — the film since Friday, at least if early reactions on social media are any indication. These experiences have been compounded by the film’s availability on VOD and iTunes, a distribution strategy which has opened the door to vast new groups of disgruntled viewers. … [I]t can’t be denied that, even with ‘Drive’ fresh in their minds, large swaths of viewers were simply not prepared for what Refn and Gosling had on offer this time around.”

(Incidentally, there are way too many interesting articles on the film and the responses it has garnered for me to catalog here.)

So why THIS movie? Why has “Only God Forgives” drawn such outrage? I think the answer is two-fold: First, the star is Ryan Gosling, an actor who has a fanbase as passionate as any young actor in filmdom. That he chose this movie — this stunningly violent, stylized, downright absurdist creation — is, I think, confounding to many of his fans. That’s probably part of what appealed to him. But he is playing a non-character; the role requires little of the actor short of getting physically pummeled. (Kristen Scott Thomas as Donatella Versace-meets-Cruella de Vil has the fun part; “fun” is perhaps the wrong word for it.)

Second, “Drive” was a film that divided audiences to a much-lesser degree, but those who loved it, LOVED it. “Only God Forgives” is NOT “Drive.” If “Drive” was meant to divide audiences, “Only God Forgives” was meant to divide, and then bludgeon.

Of course, there is another possibility: That the film itself is terrible. Whatever its quality, it may prove a game-changer for video-on-demand releases. This is an admittedly offbeat but highly visible movie with a major star, one that appeared at Cannes just two months ago. Releasing it in this way probably ensured a larger audience that it ever would have received at theaters only, so this is a win for Radius-TWC.

Note that I have not offered up my opinion yet, and with good reason: I have not decided. I rented the film from iTunes last weekend, and watched it on my iPad as a storm raged outside. Somehow, that seemed an ideal way to watch the film. Many of the scenes that may have drawn guffaws or near-vomit in a full theater seemed more effective when viewed solo. The film also did not feel as slow to me as many had said it was, perhaps another feeling lessened outside of the cinema.

But they weren’t kidding about the violence. I was particularly annoyed with a long torture sequence involving a relatively minor character. For the life of me, I cannot rationalize exactly what the point of this epic, eye-gouging sequence could be. It took me out of the movie, big-time.

Yet … I certainly did not hate “Only God Forgives.” In fact, I found almost every minute of it luridly fascinating. The look, the music (by Cliff Martinez), the utter strangeness of it all, it grabbed me. I don’t know whether or not I can say it is “good.” But I can say it is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, even the films it is clearly alluding to.

I am quite certain that is exactly what Nicholas Winding Refn was hoping to hear. So for me, let’s say three stars out of four, but tomorrow, it could be two-and-a-half or three-and-a-half (or one, or four) …

The rest of our Wednesday round-up:

  • The AV Club looks at Academy Award winners that opened before fall Oscar season.
  • The strange, haunting “Possession” is a film I must watch again, and soon.
  • How great is it that Peter Bogdanovich is directing a new comedy starring Owen Wilson and produced by Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach?
  • “Summer Box Office Casualties,” according to Variety.
  • Spike Lee turns to Kickstarter.
  • One of my most eagerly-awaited films still set to open this summer is “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”; here, director David Lowery discusses some of the film’s most important shots.
  • Paul Thomas Anderson and Fiona Apple dated, quite memorably, and they must have ended things on good terms: PTA has directed her latest video. 

Photo courtesy of TWC-Radius

Weekend Preview: “The Godfather” is Screening … Plus, Killer Horror and a Sure-Fire Bomb

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The best film showing this weekend in Buffalo? No brainer: On almost any weekend, if “The Godfather” is screening somewhere, the answer is going to be “The Godfather.”

The 1972 classic will be showing at The Screening Room for the first time ever on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday at 7:30, but note that the Saturday (July 20) show is a “‘Godfather’ food and film event,” an idea that is very fun in theory, at least.

Meanwhile, at the multiplex, we are nearing that strange point of the summer blockbuster season when most of the biggies have been released, and some of the iffier commercial propositions start dropping. Sometimes these are simply films that needed a wide berth from the major blockbusters. Such is the case with “Turbo,” the animated film coming out a few weeks after “Monsters University” and “Despicable Me 2” cleaned up. But “DM2” is SUCH a hit that perhaps a few more weeks would have helped …

“Turbo” should hit No. 1, but the other new releases this week — “The Conjuring,” “R.I.P.D.” and “Red 2” — could then fall in any order. I reviewed James Wan’s “Conjuring” for the Buffalo News, and, quite honestly, loved it — one of the finest horror films in recent years. These flicks tend to overperform, and I believe that will be the case here. Considering how cheap they cost to produce, it is rather shocking there are not more horror films being turned out.

On the other end of the spectrum is “R.I.P.D.,” a movie that has carried the whiff of a disaster for months. This one will flop, big, I believe, and that is a major dent in Ryan Reynolds’ career. It might even lose to “Red 2,” one of the more puzzling sequels of the year. “Red” was likable, and had a fine premise, but … “Red 2”? Really? It could prove a draw to over-40s, though, and might end up a solid earner.

Yes, it’s a weird week, indeed, although you can’t say there is not something for every demo.

Interestingly, the Elmwood Regal brings to town two Indian films, “Ramaiya Vastavaiya” and “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.” The latter is three hours long!

One of the year’s most buzzed-about indies, the Sundance hit “The Way, Way Back,” opens at the Amherst and Eastern Hills Dipsons, and I’m a bit torn. It looks hugely likable, and very “Adventureland,” yet its hard to summon up much enthusiasm. Its likable writer-directors, Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, should be enough to draw me in, and I’m hoping for a pleasant surprise.

Also opening at the Amherst Dipson is the Kristen Wiig-starring “Girl Most Likely,” a so-so film I saw at TIFF 2012, and reviewed for the Buffalo News. “Girl” is also opening at the Quaker Crossing in OrchardPark.

In addition to “Way,” the acclaimed documentary “20 Feet From Stardom” and the is-this-still-up? Pierce Brosnan romance “Love is All You Need” are continuing their Eastern Hills runs.

Interestingly, Nicholas Winding-Refn’s “Only God Forgives” did not open at any local theaters, but it is available on VOD starting today. You can bet I’ll be ordering.

Ang Lee’s Best Director-worthy — to the Academy, not to me — “Life of Pi” is this week’s choice at Bacchus , while the UB North Campus features Tom Cruise in “Oblivion” on Friday and Bryan Singer’s “X-Men” on Tuesday (July 23), both at 9:15, and the UB South Campus offers up the crappy, but timely, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” on Wednesday (July 24).

Yes, “The Wolverine” is on its way. In a summer of some surprise flops, it looks like a safe bet … But that’s what they said about “White House Down,” isn’t it?

Poster art courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Wednesday Round-Up: The Dissolve Kicks Off by Demonstrating Why “Innocence” is “Unmistakably Scorsese”

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I’m not sure why it took Pitchfork so longer to enter the film criticism realm, but taking its time may have been wise. Last week, The Dissolve finally launched, and it features a murderer’s row of cinema heavyweights: Keith Phipps, Scott Tobias, Nathan Rabin, Tasha Robinson, Matt Singer. These are some of my favorites, and the site that has brought them together, Avengers-style, is—so far, at least—a treat.

For example, check out the “Departures” column, explained thusly: “Departures looks at films by talents who defied expectations and tried something different. Are these films true anomalies, or not quite the left turns they appear to be?”

That’s a great idea, and Tobias’s first pick, Martin Scorsese’s “The Age of Innocence,” is an ideal selection:

“It’s hard to compare the New York of ‘The Age of Innocence’ to the savage criminal underworlds of Scorseseland a century later, but only because the kills here don’t stain the hardwood. But Newland is rubbed out just as surely as the pileup of gangsters in ‘Goodfellas’—to a point, he’s responsible for pulling the trigger—and for the same reason: With the world outside threatening change, the mobs in both films have to close rank to survive.”

“Innocence” is, I think one of Scorsese’s least best films, and is deserving of such a close analysis. If this is where The Dissolve is going, I applaud it.

Or consider the column “Performance Review,” in which “each entry focuses on a specific category in a given year, in several different awards ceremonies, in an effort to determine the year’s most criminally overlooked performances. First stop: Bes Supporting Actor, 1991.

I love Mike D’Angelo’s appreciation of Samuel L. Jackson’s un-nominated—by Oscar—role as Gator in Spike Lee’s “Jungle Fever”; he was honored by the New York Film Critics Circle:

“[I]n his final confrontation with his father, his act of defiance takes the form of a silent, murderous hate-shimmy that conveys far more contempt than words ever could. It’s chilling to behold. One year earlier, Jackson was still playing roles like ‘Taxi Dispatcher’ in films like ‘Betsy’s Wedding’; Gator changed that, and it’s no surprise it was the New York critics who acknowledged it.”

The Dissolve seems a worthy entry in the crowded field of online movie criticism, and it will be interesting to watch it develop.

And the rest:

  • “Eyes Wide Shut” opened on July 16, 1999. To commemorate, The Film Stage offers a doc on symbolism in Kubrick’s swan song.
  • “Only God Forgives finally opens this Friday, and I am having an internal debate: theater, or home? Chances are I’ll opt for VOD. I’m very much looking forward to it, although it’s difficult not to go in expecting a major letdown. Here is one of the more interesting reviews I’ve come across so far.
  • A Tweet about the ending of Jeff Nichols’ “Take Shelter” led me to this nice analysis of that film’s mysterious and controversial ending.
  • Two must-see trailers: The latest American preview for Wong Kar-wai’s “The Grandmaster,” and the first look at Spike Lee’s “Oldboy.” I did not spot a squid.
  • The great Indiewire is 15. Take a look at its “first issue.” Author Irvine Welsh made an appearance: “According to a story in this week’s issue of _New Yorker Magazine_ (July 15, 1996) the novelist who wrote TRAINSPOTTING spent a night in jail following ‘a recent four-day binge’ which featured ‘everything—everything you can imagine.’”
  • David Cronenberg’s latest has begun filming. “Map to the Stars” John Cusack, Julianne Moore, Robert Pattinson, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Williams, and Sarah Gadon.
  • The unrealized projects of Alan Resnais.
  • Guess what? Only 50 days until TIFF.

“The Age of Innocence” still is from a TIFF retrospective of the film

Wednesday Round-Up: Defending “Marie Antoinette,” Debating “Man of Steel,” and Keeping Up With Patrick Bateman

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The middle of the week means it is time for my usual round-up of some of the articles I’ve been digging this week, including a handy list of “movies to see” at the mid-point of 2013. I’ve seen my share, but I have plenty of catching up to do …

First: I’m not sure what it is about Sofia Coppola’s films that seems to garner such strong reactions. I’ve met few folks who are in the middle about her work — it’s a love/hate thing, it seems. Her latest, “The Bling Ring,” starring Emma Watson, appears to open Friday in Buffalo (there is some confusion, but it is listed on Fandango), and it seems to be as glossy and surface-oriented as the rest of her films. But I have actually liked that about them. “Marie Antoinette” seems to be the most love-it-or-hate-it of the Coppola filmography, and on the occasion of “Bling”‘s release, New York Magazine’s Vulture website is mounting a spirited defense.

As author Amanda Dobbins puts it:

To be fair, not everyone hated Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette.” New York’s David Edelstein called it “one of the most immediate, personal costume dramas ever made”; 55 percent of the critics on Rotten Tomatoes sided with him, to varying degrees. But seven years later, “Marie Antoinette,” loosely based on the best-selling Antonia Fraser biography, is probably Coppola’s least-loved film. It’s the one that got booed at Cannes (though of course it did, Cannes is in France); it is the one that didn’t live up to “Lost in Translation.” And if you are anti-Sofia, then it is probably the most obvious example of her worst tendencies: style over substance, minimal plot, overprivileged young women who refuse to speak in full sentences or really at all.

But I think I’m with Ms. Dobbins here: “I happen to love ‘Marie Antoinette’; it’s probably my second favorite of Coppola’s films, right behind ‘Lost in Translation.’ And while I understand some of the criticisms (specifically the part about no one using words, ever), most of its so-called weaknesses — even that famous pair of Chuck Taylors — are the reasons I enjoy it. For all its historical trappings, ‘Marie Antoinette’ is just a painfully hip period film about how annoying and fun and terrifying it is to be a teenage girl. It is a high-school movie transplanted to Versailles.”

And the rest:

  • Speaking of Sofia Coppola, Movie City News has posted her debut short from 1998, “Lick the Star.”
  • Bret Easton Ellis himself said “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” “star” Scott Disick would be an ideal Patrick Bateman in an “American Psycho” remake, but it took Kanye West to make it so.
  • I finally saw “Man of Steel” last night, and I’ll share some thoughts soon. (Let’s say I enjoyed it, with reservations.) The Playlist offers a solid breakdown of the best and worst of Zack Snyder’s Superman epic, and there are lots of good points here.
  • Roger Ebert’s birthday was yesterday, and his website offered up a nice list of films for which his review “made the difference,” including “Hoop Dreams” and “Dark Skies.”
  • Pitchfork’s new movie website, The Dissolve, has not launched yet, but its Tumblr site has, and the great Scott Tobias has posted the aforementioned “movies to see” so far in 2013 list, along with DVD and Blu-ray release dates for some.
  • Now the Rob Ford scandal is impacting the Toronto International Film Festival.
  • Will Brad Pitt’s “World War Z” flop? This writer seems to think so, and offers some convincing reasons why.
  • Yet another trailer for Nicholas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives,” starring Ryan Gosling.
  • Interestingly, after a mixed — well, mostly negative — response at Cannes, the filmmanaged to beat “Stories We Tell” and “The Act of Killing” for top honors at the Sydney Film Festival.
  • Lastly, Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing” is finally set to open in Buffalo this weekend. Here is a nice Guardian interview about that film, “The Avengers,” his career, and more.

 

Photo Credit: Sofia Coppola
**ALL IMAGES ARE PROPERTY OF SONY PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC. FOR PROMOTIONAL USE ONLY. SALE, DUPLICATION OR TRANSFER OF THIS MATERIAL IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED.

Wednesday Round-Up: Coppola, Cannes, Tarkovsky, and More

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I feel like Wednesday is a good day for another round-up, and we start with some very cool news involving the man I like to call FFC:

  • The Hollywood Reporter says Francis Ford Coppola is working on “an untitled film that will chronicle an Italian-American family and span from the 1930s to the 1960s,” and that, my friends, is intriguing. In recent years, Coppola has made mention of mounting an epic drama (not his abandoned “Megalopolis”) and it sounds as if this could be it. Coppola’s most recent film, “Twixt,” was a fascinating mess. My colleague Jared and I saw it at TIFF 2011, and as I put it way back when, “while it was a joy hearing Francis Ford Coppola discuss his horror film ‘Twixt’ at a post world-premiere Q-and-A, he has made what is probably the worst film of his career. (‘Jack’ was scarier.)” Completists and the curious will be pleased to know that the Val Kilmer-starrer is coming to Blu-ray and DVD sometime in 2013.
  • Another interesting bit of FFC, also from The Hollywood Reporter, finds him discussing his role writing the screenplay for Robert Redford’s 1974 “Great Gatsby.”
  • Speaking of Robert Redford, the Cannes consensus seems to be that he gives an Oscar-worthy performance in J.C. Chandor’s “All is Lost,” the “Margin Call” director’s almost-dialogue-free survival story.
  • The last two films from director Claire Denis rank among my favorites in their respective years of release — “35 Shots of Rum” in 2008, and “White Material” in 2009 and that excites me for her latest, the controversial “Bastards.” As Mike D’Angelo put it for The AV Club, “Word from the first screening of Claire Denis’ ‘Bastards,’ inexplicably playing in Un Certain Regard rather than in Competition, was that it was nigh-well incomprehensible.” D’Angelo gave the film a B, comparing it with Olivier Assayas’s “Demonlover” (a film that’s sure to come up on this site sooner or later); it has already drawn a very, very mixed response, and I can’t wait to see it for myself.
  • Film Comment talks “Behind the Candelabra,” which premieres Sunday night on HBO and screened at Cannes to strong reviews.
  • I’m a bit crestfallen at the negative reactions to Nicholas Winding Refn’s “Only God Forgives” — yep, it got booed — although, quite honestly, I’m not shocked, either. Interestingly, Peter Bradshaw raves in The Guardian, but … That’s about the only truly positive review I’ve read so far.
  • Since I wrote about it a few days ago, “Blood Ties” has been picked up for American distribution by Lionsgate.
  • Manohla Dargis talks Cannes 2013, specifically the Coens’ “comedy in a melancholic key.”
  • Did you know that all seven of the late Andrei Tarkovsky’s films can be watched online, free?
  • And last, but certainly not least, it’s never too early for some Toronto Film Festival news: Deadline reports the Godfrey Reggio-directed “Visitors,” featuring music by Philip Glass and presented by Steven Soderbergh, will have its world premiere on September 8 at the suitably ornate VISA Screening Room at the Elgin Theatre. Reggio is the director of the much-loved “Koyaanisqatsi.”

 

Photo from The AV Club

Gosling, Coens, and More Reasons I Should Really Be in Cannes This Week

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The Cannes Film Festival kicks off today in the south of France, and yes, I should be there. Not only is it probably sunny and warm, but there are the movies, and the boos, and crazy photographers.

But let’s stick with the movies. Cannes often sets the rest of the film-going year in motion. Last year’s Palme D’Or winner, Michael Haneke’s stunning “Amour,” went on to win an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and even squeaked into the Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, and Actress categories. It probably should have won those four, too.

Sometimes, other awards stand out. In 2011, “The Artist” missed out on the Palme D’Or but received major praise, earning Best Actor honors for Jean Dujardin. (Remember him?)

On a personal level, I’ve been keeping track of Cannes for years now. I can recall watching the awards on some choppy, buffering website in the early 2000s, and seeing the late Roger Ebert host coverage on cable at some point. Some of my most beloved movies of recent years – “Drive,” “Rust and Bone,” “Holy Motors,” “Blue Valentine” – screened there, and waiting anxiously to hear what earned cheers and what earned jeers has become a May pastime.

The 2013 lineup has its share of highlights. Here are the top five reasons I wish I were sitting in a crowded movie theater in Cannes:

  • “Only God Forgives”: I don’t know what it is about “Drive,” exactly. I saw it shortly after its TIFF premiere in 2011, and my response was, roughly, “Meh.” Then, days later, I noticed I couldn’t get it out of my head. I began listening to the soundtrack like mad, and when I saw the film again, it had easily burrowed its way onto the (lengthy) list of my favorite films. The idea of Nicholas Winding Refn working together again, this time on a film about revenge and Thai boxing clubs? Yeah, I’m in. The trailer sealed the deal. This is my most eagerly awaited film of the summer.
  • New Polanski: “Carnage” was stagy and a bit dull, despite some strong performances and some piercing dialogue, but his new film, “Venus in Fur,” stars his wife, Emmanuelle Seigner, and the actor I would cast in a Polanski biopic, Mathieu Almarac. (I just enjoyed his great performance in “Chicken and Plums.”) Quite frankly, it’s always interesting to see what Roman is up to.
  • Capital-M MAJOR directors unveiling their latest creations: Alexander Payne, the Coen Bros., James Gray, Sofia Coppola, Jim Jarmusch. Wow. We will get to see Coppola’s “Bling Ring” soon, but the others might not show up until autumn, at the earliest.
  • The jury is fascinating: I love the idea of Steven Spielberg as jury president. What will he seize on? Wouldn’t it be awesome if it was “Only God Forgives”?! But the jurors are also fascinatingly diverse: Nicole Kidman, Lynne Ramsay (fresh off of her “Jane Got a Gun” controversy), Ang Lee (who just beat Spielberg for a Best Director Oscar!),Christoph Waltz, Daniel Auteuil, Cristian Mungiu, Indian actress Vidya Balan, and Japanese director Naomi Kawase. I’d love to be in on those jury meetings.
  • The premiere of Paolo Sorrentino’s “La Grande Bellezza”: I see a lot of movies. So when I say I was taken aback at a film’s utter strangeness, that means something. “Il Divo” director Sorrentino’s last film, the Sean Penn-is-Robert Smith-sorta “This Must Be the Place” is truly, truly odd. It is streaming now on Netflix, and note I did not say it is bad, exactly. I’m not quite sure how I’d rate it, honestly. But it’s certainly unique, and I can’t wait to see how Sorrentino follows it up. I know little about “La Grande Bellezza” (“The Great Beauty”), but this IMDB description intrigues me: “The story of an aging writer who bitterly recollects his passionate, lost youth. A portrait of today’s Rome.” Will “banga banga parties” be referenced?

The Cannes Film Festival runs through May 26. My Palme D’Or pick: I could see Spielberg and co. embracing Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska.” I don’t expect a Spielberg-led jury to go for Takashe Miike, so “Nebraska” seems a safe choice.

Poster art courtesy of Radius-TWC