nominees//2014 GOTHAM AWARDS

AWARDS COVERAGE



Traditionally the first award nominations announced each year, the Gotham Independent Film Awards celebrate independent film and directors. As independent film has grown in popularity in the last decade or so, several nominees end up joining the list of potential Oscar nominees, such as last year's 12 Years a Slave.

Leading the nominees is Richard Linklater's Boyhood, with four nominations. A special jury prize has been announced for the stars of Foxcatcher: Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo. Special tributes will be given to actress Tilda Swinton, director Bennett Miller, and Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos.

The awards will be handed out December 1 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York.

Here's a complete look at the nominees.

BEST FEATURE
Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Boyhood
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Love Is Strange
Under the Skin

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Actress
CITIZENFOUR
Life Itself
Manakamana
Point and Shoot

BINGHAM RAY BREAKTHROUGH DIRECTOR AWARD
Ana Lily Amirpour, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
James Ward Byrkit, Coherence
Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
Eliza Hittman, It Felt Like Love
Justin Simien, Dear White People

BEST ACTOR
Bill Hader, The Skeleton Twins
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Oscar Isaac, A Most Violent Year
Michael Keaton, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Miles Teller, Whiplash

BEST ACTRESS
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Beyond the Lights
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin
Mia Wasikowska, Tracks

BREAKTHROUGH ACTOR
Riz Ahmed, Nightcrawler
Macon Blair, Blue Ruin
Ellar Coltrane, Boyhood
Joey King, Wish I Was Here
Jenny Slate, Obvious Child
Tessa Thompson, Dear White People

 

review//FURY

Grade: A+

FURY
Directed by David Ayer
Starring Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal

Movies set in WWII are a dime a dozen when looking at the war genre. It's a time that has become romanticized in every aspect of the word. American troops are gleamingly the heroes and concentration camps are the one constant that will have everyone choking back tears. As far as movies go, films set in WWII are possibly the most overdone, but welcome, of any other type of movie. There's something inspiring, emotionally, about seeing what the world went through together, even in the most direct or exact moment. David Ayer's Fury is one of those stories. Minute in its scope compared to the rest of the war, but spectacular in its visage of heroism and sacrifice.

Pitt stars as Don 'Wardaddy' Collier, a sort of antihero, at first. He's a rough and tough army sergeant bent on taking out any and every enemy he finds in Nazi-controlled Germany. He leads a ragtag crew of soldiers armed with the same mission. There's Boyd 'Bible' Swan, a charming Christian who reads last rites to dying enemy soldiers and tries to be an inspiring voice, played with fervor by Shia LaBeouf. Trini 'Gordo' Garcia, played by Michael Pena, is a Mexican-American always up for a good time. And, Grady 'Coon-Ass' Travis is an irreverent, white-blooded American who isn't afraid to push the buttons, played by Jon Bernthal. War has jaded their minds and nothing seems bad enough to make them falter. The team has been together for four years and you can tell by the way the respect each other and know each other's ticks. When a rookie army clerk is assigned to the frontlines and placed in their tank crew, the fight for survival becomes a little shaky. Logan Lerman becomes the star as Norman Ellis, a bewildered soldier whose fresh mind is quickly put to the test. Riding around in a tank called Fury, the crew develops a certain ability to masterfully take on any battlefield in which they are placed. When they find themselves at a crossroads alone with hundreds of enemy soldiers approaching, the ultimate sacrifice begins.

First and foremost, this is a war movie. There is plenty of violence and gory sights that'll make you squirm in your seat, very similar to Saving Private Ryan's opening beach scene. Director Ayer has a knack for creating interesting and realistic worlds in each of features, no matter how gritty they might be. The Germany we're introduced to here is very believable and the terrifying WWII images are subtle, but haunting. It's a vision of Nazi Germany we're familiar with, but a version we've not quite endured before.

Pitt is at the helm of the ensemble cast, who works wonders with the great script, also written by Ayer. While, at first, it may feel like a new rendition of Pitt's role in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, it is in fact a more sincere turn that the scalp-hungry Nazi fighter we've already seen. His Wardaddy can still be mean, though. A scene where he forces Ellis to shoot an enemy solider at close range is all things startling and intense. Lerman, as the inexperienced Ellis, quickly reminds why he's one of Hollywood's best young talents. He portrays Ellis with a brutal honesty that makes the final chapter all the more emotional. LaBeouf is the other standout. He's almost unrecognizable with his bushy mustache and focused accent. His personal life may have overshadowed his talents in recent years, but there's no denying the guy is hugely brilliant when given a meaty role like Bible. Like Lerman, the final act is his true moment to shine. Trust me, he's incredible.

The film works on every level. The effects are great. I especially liked the Stars Wars-like green and red chasers following the bullets. It was a nice touch that could've been distracting, but wasn't at all. There was so much meat in the script and the flow was just right that the entire two hours felt like nothing.

The final act, which I won't say too much more about, is so cleverly done that it is a great example of how giving a good director this type of material means you'll get the best version it can be. I could easily see a run-of-the-mill director take this film into ultra-action movie mode. It wouldn't work. Sure, it'd be exciting to see all of those explosions. But, what holds Fury together is its heart.

Rating: R
Runtime: 134 minutes
 

history//PLAZA THEATRE, ATLANTA

HISTORY AT THE MOVIES



From the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, let's travel across the country to the southern capital city of Atlanta and the historical Plaza Theatre.

Situated on Ponce de Leon Avenue among the famous Druid Hills, Virginia Highlands, and Poncey-Highlands neighborhoods, the Plaza Theatre was designed by George Harwell Bond as an art deco styled building for both cinematic and live entertainment shows. Opening in 1939, the Plaza Theatre was part of a new Atlanta being showcased around the world with the release of high profile films like Gone with the Wind.

While the theatres located further downtown received things such as the premiere of Gone with the Wind and a better selection of first-run shows, the Plaza Theatre quickly became the hub for a busy area of town, boasting 1,000 seats, a lot for that era. Plus, it was not only located in a central travel location, but was an anchor to the Briarcliff Plaza shopping center, the first-of-its-kind shopping center in Atlanta featuring off-street parking.

The theatre celebrated its grand opening on December 23, 1939 with screenings of The Women, starring Joan Crawford. For the next almost-30 years the Plaza would be the destination for many Hollywood films like Around the World in 80 Days, as well as unique live events, such as musical cabarets.

But, by the free-spirited 1970's, the Plaza became a different type of theatre, promoting screenings of adult films like Teeny Buns and showcasing live burlesque shows with large XXX letters on the neon marquee. It wasn't until a decade later that the entire shopping center received a facelift after George Lefont purchased the theater. He completely renovated the space. The second floor became a second screening room and the entire theatre became known for its eclectic show schedule, featuring foreign films, art-house movies, and independent features.

The theatre struggled throughout the next two decades until it was purchased by Jonathan and Gayle Rej, Atlanta natives, in 2006. They created the Plaza Theatre Foundation in 2010 to help with the theatres restoration and preservation. Briarcliff Plaza saw a similar restoration with Urban Outfitters now occupying the other anchor position and allotting itself as a popular destination in the midtown Atlanta area.

Still running today, the Plaza Theatre holds the title of the longest continually running theatre in Atlanta. Beyond screening new and old fare, the theatre is home to several special events, like Atlanta's own version of the traditional Friday at midnight screenings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, complete with live performances as the movie plays, encouraging audience participation.

The theatre screens new and classic films on a regular basis, hosts special live events in conjunction with special screenings of films, and is home to the Atlanta Film Festival, the only Oscar-qualifying film festival in the city. For its 70th anniversary in 2009, the theatre hosted screenings of The Wizard of Oz and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, both films released in 1939. Turner Classic Movies' Robert Osborn officiated the event.

The theatre was purchased by Michael Furlinger in 2013. As a theatre enthusiast, Furlinger has continued the Plaza Theatre Foundation's efforts to keep the Plaza going by financing another renovation, as well as adding a full-service bar featuring signature cocktails.

The Plaza offers a unique and special movie experience. It's a piece of cinema history still available to experience today. For an even better experience, grab a bite to eat at the historical Majestic Diner next door, an eatery that opened in 1929 still serving delicious diner food.

news//'FURY' SLAYS THE BOX OFFICE; 'GONE GIRL' TOPS $100 MILLION

BOX OFFICE



It was a great weekend for Brad Pitt as his newest film, Fury, opened to a stellar $23.5 million, knocking Gone Girl out of the top spot for the first time in three weeks. Pitt stars in the WWII film alongside Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, and Michael Pena. The R-rated film has received some Oscar buzz and benefits from a great fall movie season. As Variety notes, this is the fourth straight weekend, in a row, that an R-rated film has taken the top spot.

Gone Girl still has plenty to celebrate as the film crossed the $100 million mark, quickly inching towards becoming director David Fincher's highest grossing film. 2008's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button currently holds that title, having earned just over $127 million.

The Book of Life, featuring the voice talents of Channing Tatum and Zoe Saldana, was the weekend's other new release to make a splash. The animated film, fashioned after the Day of the Dead holiday, took in $17.3 million.

The third wide release was the Nicholas Sparks adaptation, The Best of Me, starring James Marsden. It ended in fifth place with $11.5 million, a relatively small number based on other Sparks adaptations.


In limited release, current Oscar favorite Birdman earned an impressive $415,000 from just four theaters. The film by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu stars Michael Keaton in a stellar comeback performance. Dear White People debuted in 11 theaters, earning a nice $344,136. St. Vincent, starring Bill Murray, expanded, bringing in $685,000.

A specialty live streaming of the Metropolitan Opera's The Marriage of Figaro was a seminal hit. An estimated 90,000 people attended the event in 900 theatres in North America, earning $2.1 million.

Here's a look at the Top Ten:

1. Fury, $23.5 million (NEW)

2. Gone Girl, $18 million (Total: $107m)

3. The Book of Life, $17.3 million (NEW)

4. Alexander...Very Bad Day, $12.9 million (Total: $37.7m)

5. The Best of Me, $11.5 million (NEW)

6. Dracula Untold, $9.3 million (Total: $40m)

7. The Judge, $7.7 million (Total: $26.6m)

8. Annabelle, $7.6 million (Total: $73.8m)

9. The Equalizer, $5.5 million (Total: $89m)

10. The Maze Runner, $4.4 million (Total: $90.7m)

SOURCES: VARIETY, BOXOFFICE.COM

thoughts//TOP TEN NICHOLAS SPARKS FILMS

TOP TEN

If you've seen one movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, then you've seen them all. Or, at least, that's the basic consensus. Nicholas Sparks movies aren't necessarily surprising. You know exactly what you're getting yourself into. They, along with the common cold, are the reason Kleenex is a tissue conglomerate. The films are mostly cliche and everything a romantic drama can be. They are stereotypical date night/girl's night out fare and, for the most part, not usually included on any end-of-year lists. But, in the midst of their cheesiness, there's a subtle comfort in that idea of unrequited love and fighting for that special someone, even if it involves lots of kissing in the rain.

To celebrate this weekend's release of the newest adaptation, The Best of Me, here's a look at how all 8 of Nicholas Sparks' books-to-movies rank. Admittedly, I have only seen a handful of these, so it wouldn't be fair to rank them on my personal preference. Instead, they are ranked by their North American box office clout.

8. A WALK TO REMEMBER (2002)
Directed by Adam Shankman
Starring Mandy Moore, Shane West, Daryl Hannah
2002 Tagline: "There's more to attraction than meets the eye." 
Box Office: $41,281,092
RT Score: 27%

7. NIGHTS IN RODANTHE (2008)
Directed by George C. Wolfe
Starring Diane Lane, Richard Gere, Christopher Meloni
2008 Tagline: "It's never too late for a second chance."
Box Office: $41,850,659
RT Score: 30%

6. MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE (1999)
Directed by Luis Mandoki
Starring Kevin Costner, Robin Wright, Paul Newman
1999 Tagline: "A story of love lost and found."
Box Office: $52,880,016
RT Score: 32%

5. THE LUCKY ONE (2012)
Directed by Scott Hicks
Starring Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner
2012 Tagline: None.
Box Office: $60,457,138
RT Score: 20%

4. THE LAST SONG (2010)
Directed by Julie Anne Robinson
Starring Miley Cyrus, Liam Hemsworth, Greg Kinnear
2010 Tagline: "Do you ever really forget your first heartbreak?"
Box Office: $62,950,138
RT Score: 20%

3. SAFE HAVEN (2013)
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom
Starring Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel, Cobie Smulders
2013 Tagline: "You know it when you find it."
Box Office: $71,349,120
RT Score: 12%

2. DEAR JOHN (2010)
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom
Starring Channing Tatum, Amanda Seyfried, Richard Jenkins
2010 Tagline: "Is Duty enough reason to live a lie?"
Box Office: $80,014,842
RT Score: 28%

1. THE NOTEBOOK (2004)
Directed by Nick Cassavetes
Starring Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, Gena Rowlands
2004 Tagline: "Behind every great love is a great story."
Box Office: $81,001,787
RT Score: 52%