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(No) Cut and Run

Posted by: Colin Covert Updated: April 10, 2015 - 1:18 PM
Victoria     Photo: Adopt Films

Victoria Photo: Adopt Films

Fresh into Berlin, an attractive young Spanish immigrant decides to spend her late night in a techno nightclub, dancing, drinking and looking to meet some handsome twentiesh locals. What can possibly go wrong? Hang on tight, here comes the answer.

The German action film “Victoria,” filmed in one continuous uncut shot across two dozen locales and 134 minutes, grabs viewers by the collar and pulls them along for a wild, antsy, bumpy ride. Spain's Laia Costa plays the clever, impulsive title character; German actors Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski, Burak Yigit, and Max Mauff play her new mates who need her help to pull off a quick job for a large stash of money. Don’t expect subtitle overload; because she doesn’t speak their native language, everyone uses English. Digging deeper into the plot details would be like telling the route of a roller coaster.

Cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen and director Sebastian Schipper stunningly merge the chases from “Run Lola Run” and the magical realist feel of “Birdman.” Berlin Film Festival Jury president Darren Aronofsky (“The Wrestler,” “Black Swan,” “Noah”) made it a prize-winner declaring, "This film rocked my world." Don’t bother to look for an editing credit; this one shot marvel isn’t a bag of technical make believe, it’s a showpiece of dynamic choreography right down to the improvised dialog.

New York/Twin Cities art movie exhibitor Adopt Films has the film’s North American rights. After its debut at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, it’s heading toward a late summer or early fall national release.

Grøvlen will attend tonight’s 6:45 presentation at St. Anthony Main,” Victoria’s” only screening at the festival. For ticketing and more information, visit the MSPIFF website at http://bit.ly/1DpUaOR

Walker Art Center to host 'Dark Knight' director Christopher Nolan

Posted by: Colin Covert Updated: March 24, 2015 - 4:06 PM
Director Christopher Nolan on set for "Interstellar," 2014. Photo courtesy Photofest © Paramount Pictures.

Director Christopher Nolan on set for "Interstellar," 2014. Photo courtesy Paramount Pictures.

Over the last quarter century, Walker Art Center’s program of Dialogues & Film Retrospectives has presented outstanding filmmakers from a broad variety of backgrounds. The series has hosted Hollywood celebrities (Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks, Harry Belafonte, Jodie Foster and Robert Altman) and international notables (Taiwan’s Ang Lee, Germany’s Werner Herzog, France’s Marcel Olphus, Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Hungary’s Bela Tarr, and Heddy Honigmann, the Peruvian-born Dutch director of Polish heritage). The 57 public conversations have included some prominent oddballs (John Waters and Guy Madden), and even Minnesota-bred talents (Jessica Lange, Terri Gilliam, Joel and Ethan Coen).

But never in its 25 years has it presented a billion-dollar box office genie like Christopher Nolan. The 44-year-old London-born filmmaker is a 21st century pop wizard whose closest British rival might be Mick Jagger. He’ll be the guest at a dialogue with Variety chief film critic Scott Foundas May 5, and the focus of a Walker full-career retrospective running May 7-24.

As director and screenwriter Nolan has created some of the last two decades’ most critically praised and commercially successful films, adding unusual levels of humanity, pathos and metaphysical inquiry to outstandingly popular mysteries. His 2000 feature “Memento” was followed by “Insomnia,” “Batman Begins,” “The Prestige,” “The Dark Knight,” “Inception,” “The Dark Knight Rises” and 2014’s much discussed and debated sci-fi epic “Interstellar.” Each will screen, along with Nolan’s 1998 debut “Following,” a stylish 69-minute black and white film noir.

Fitting Nolan’s traditionalist filmmaking preferences, each film will be shown in 35mm. Screenings of “Following” and “The Prestige” are free. Triple admission to the films in The Dark Knight Trilogy is $15 for Walker members, seniors and students, $20 for the public. The other features are $7 for members and $9 for the general public.

Tickets for Nolan’s appearance and dialogue (which he does outstandingly well) will go on sale for $25 for Walker Film Club members April 7, Walker general members April 14, and $30 for the public beginning April 21, though the Walker advises that it could draw an early sellout. Tickets are available to Walker Film Club member by calling 612-375-7641, to Walker members and the general public at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612-375-7600.

It's a spider! It's a mosquito! It's "Insectula!"

Posted by: Colin Covert Updated: March 12, 2015 - 6:28 PM
Where's the mosquito repellant?  Photo: Digital Melies

Where's the mosquito repellant? Photo: Digital Melies

Sometimes things that are deliberately ridiculous are big fun because they’re intentionally silly. Case in point, “Insectula!,” a micro-budget fan fiction film for admirers of B movies from 1950 to yesterday.

By far the most ambitious giant monster from space movie ever shot in White Bear Lake, it makes its Midwest debut at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. tonight at the Theatres at Mall of America. It shows twice nightly Friday through March 19 at 7:30 and 9:55 p.m. with 12:05 a.m. late shows Friday and Saturday.

Viewers who thrill to inside jokes about cult filmmaker Ed Wood’s stinkers, delightfully gross bloodshed, and the sort of moviemaking that puts as many attractive actresses in skimpies as possible will admire this proudly, shamelessly,  gloriously brainless production. It boasts the sort of unlikely plot that made “Sharknado” a cult smash – a man-eating mosquito-spider hybrid from another world splashes into White Bear Lake with a powerful appetite. Fear novelist R.L. Stine called the cut he viewed "a hilariously bad horror movie."

Four years in the making, “Insectula!” began in 2010 as a feature involving more family and friends than Hollywood talent. Mike Peterson, an art school graduate turned computer programmer did the script, direction, camerawork and PC-powered visual effects. His wife Danielle Cezanne, education director of the White Bear Center for the Arts, produced. Their daughter Arielle Cezanne plays the female lead, a wise casting choice, because she is charming. Peterson’s friend Pasquale Pilla plays the hero, an ineffective government agent who investigates after a mysterious life form pulls his lady friend to the bottom of White Bear Lake in many small pieces. When the alien mosquito-spider creature goes on a mad blood sucking rampage against the state capitol, the endangered occupants of downtown St. Paul include the couple’s little dog Kip. It’s 101 minutes of hoots.

Adopt Films' new film may be its latest Oscar contender

Posted by: Colin Covert Updated: February 27, 2015 - 1:51 PM
Laia Costa as "Victoria." Photo: Adopt Films

Laia Costa as "Victoria." Photo: Adopt Films

Since it started in 2011, Adopt Films has marketed four best foreign feature Oscar nominees in the U.S.

The New York/Twin Cities film distributor may soon be adopting a fifth.

Its new acquisition is the Berlin film festival prize-winner “Victoria.” Jury president Darren Aronofsky (director of “The Wrestler,” “Black Swan” and “Noah”) awarded the Silver Bear, saying “This film rocked my world.”

“Fly away, ‘Birdman,' there’s a new one-shot wonder in town,’” crowed Variety’s breathless review, calling it a “heart-in-mouth heist thriller … with a surprising degree of grace and emotional authenticity.”

Adopt founder Tim Grady calls “Victoria” a sort of updated “Run Lola Run” with a bravura technical breakthrough. Celebrated films like “Rope,” “Russian Ark” and “Birdman” have presented the illusion of one continuous take from start to finish, but “Victoria” truly delivers the goods. A single shot by Norwegian cameraman Sturla Brandth Grøvlen chases the cast across Berlin uninterrupted for two hours.

They race from a throbbing rave club to a botched bank robbery to a landslide of dangerous and funny consequences. The diverse international cast improvised their all-English dialog from a terse 12-page script by German actor turned director Sebastian Schipper.

“This is younger than a lot of our films,” Grady said. Adopt has acquired over 20 foreign language films since it began, mostly promoting mature fare like the 2014 Oscar nominee “Omar,” and last fall’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner “Winter Sleep.” “But there’s an audience for this,” he said, thanks to its creative verve. Its American release is planned for fall, the customary start of Oscar season.  

20 facts Oscar doesn't want you to know

Posted by: Colin Covert Updated: February 19, 2015 - 3:26 PM
Cate Blanchett at the red carpet in the 2014 Oscar gown that cost -- HOW MUCH???!!! Photo: Associated Press

Cate Blanchett at the red carpet in the 2014 Oscar gown that cost -- HOW MUCH???!!! Photo: Associated Press

The Academy Awards are a battle royal not only amid performers and filmmakers, but between sources desperate for attention and insiders wanting privacy. Many a question about the competition receives a routine “Mind your own business.” Thanks to the efforts of several publications digging into movie data and statistics, however, it’s become harder for Oscar to keep all his secrets. Here are 20 behind the scenes insights to carry you through Sunday’s mêlée. (Special thanks to Stephen Follows, creator of the movie data site stephenfollows.com, and sources Variety; Los Angeles Times; The Guardian; Huffington Post; awards-tracking website goldderby.com and boxofficemojo.com.)

1) Oscar voters are 94% white, 77% male with a median age of 62. 

2) In recent years November or December releases account for 56% of best picture nominees. Most winners tend to be released in October and November. In the Oscars’ 86 year history only 22 best picture winners have been released between January and July. July has never produced a best picture-winning film. 

3) The cost of a best picture winning Oscar campaign is around $10 million in elaborate packaging, publicists, and parties.

4) Half the money spent on Oscar campaigns goes to advertising.

5) A Page One ad in the L.A.-based entertainment magazine The Hollywood Reporter during Oscar season costs $72,000.

6) "Crash," 2005's surprise best picture winner spent $250,000 distributing DVD screeners to the entire membership of the Screen Actors Guild.

7) Average price of a DVD mailer: $3. 

8) It costs an average of $3,500 to prepare a Hollywood actress for the red carpet. Cate Blanchett’s Armani Prive ensemble with diamond jewels cost approximately $18 million.

9) Oscar nominated films earn an average of $12.7 million more than films not nominated

10) A best picture Oscar (occurring at the end of a film’s theater release cycle) is worth $3 million in increased box office gross.

11) A Golden Globe (occurring earlier) is worth $14.2 million.

12) The non-financial benefits to studios of an Oscar best picture are worth $7 million.

13) Best actor winners can expect a $3.9 million salary increase.

14) Best actress winner salaries receive an extra $500,000. 

15) Just four movies have won the best picture Oscar without also receiving a best director nomination:  "Wings" (1928), "Grand Hotel" (1932), "Driving Miss Daisy" (1989) and "Argo" (2013). 

16) Oscar nominees tend not to dominate ticket sales. The nine films up for 2014 best picture ranked 6th to 117th in the 2013 U.S. box office chart.
6th – “Gravity” (total gross: $274 million)
17th – “American Hustle” ($150 million)
29th – “The Wolf of Wall Street” ($116 million)
32nd – “Captain Phillips” ($107 million)
65th – “12 Years a Slave” (best picture winner, $56 million)
80th – “Philomena” ($37 million)
94th – “Dallas Buyers Club” ($27 million)
98th – “Her” ($25 million)
117th – “Nebraska,” ($17 million)

17) Dramas are most likely to be nominated and to win, though in the last decade the genre has seen a decline. Romance, the most popular when the Oscars began in the late 1920s, now receives fewer nominations, despite a brief revival in the 1990s with “The English Patient” (1996), “Titanic” (1997) and the part love story “Forrest Gump” (1994). 

18) Public relations consultants for film studios earn from $10,000 to $15,000, with bonuses of $20,000 for each nomination or win.

19) Hollywood spends approximately $150 million dollars annually to win an Oscar. 

20 ) Cost  to manufacture an Oscar:  $400. 

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