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Around the Circuit: (September 1st – 7th)

It’s time to visit the week that was via our Around the Circuit piece, where we look back at articles that we feel are worth your time covering the Oscar race, new releases, or really just anything film related.

Link(s) of the week:

With the arrival of September comes the fall film festivals that we all look forward to hearing about. This week, Telluride and Venice got the party started, and the main attraction appears to have been Ben Affleck’s third film, Argo. The early word brings nothing but strong praise for his efforts, with many telling you what we’ve been saying since the film was just a synopsis and names on paper. After the trailer first dropped, most of us – and you – have felt like this was a no-brainer to snag a few of the biggest Oscar nominations this awards season. Gregory Ellwood, attending Telluride for In Contention, claims that Affleck’s “attention to detail in the picture is impressive,” and refers to the cast as one of the “better ensembles in recent memory.” Kris Tapley at the same site says Argo is “the first major Oscar play to come along this year.” In their video blog, Slashfilm’s Peter Sciretta and First Showing’s Alex Billington call Argo Affleck’s “smartest film yet”, and “fascinating to watch unfold.” Pete Hammond at Deadline agrees, proclaiming the film to be a major Oscar contender. His review clearly shows he enjoyed the balance Argo brings as it “not only works as a suspense thriller, it also has strong comedic elements.” Anne Thompson at Thompson on Hollywood is on board as well, praising Affleck who “delivers a movie that couldn’t be more timely, or more resonant with the world today.”

Also at Telluride, Bill Murray’s Oscar vehicle, Hyde Park on Hudson, played to mixed reviews, with In Contention’s Kris Tapley calling it a “stuffy drama” that he felt was “problematic.” He also felt Murray’s role was more of a supporting one than a lead. It’s starting to sound more and more like My Week with Marilyn than we were already expecting. On Murray’s performance, Pete Hammond believes he “pulls it off without a hitch,” but worries about his chances at a nomination in what looks to be a crowded year for Lead Actor. Alex Billington of First Showing, however, called the film an absolute delight.

Over in Venice, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master is a tad divisive, with many sources stating the film will require multiple viewings (the best films always do) before it will firmly sink in. The Master is sounding more and more like this year’s The Tree of Life, which pleases me all the more so. The Playlist’s Oliver Lyttleton feels the film is complex yet distinctive, while Thompson on Hollywood’s Matt Mueller calls it a film that is “majestic and masterly if not a masterpiece.” Deadline’s Nancy Tartaglione reports that while the “immediate reaction following the screening was enormously positive, applause when the credits rolled was muted.” In Contention’s Guy Lodge leaves nothing uncertain with his appraisal of The Master, crediting its “uniformly remarkable performances and quite astonishing sense of craft, unmatched by anything in American film so far this year.”

Also in Venice, Joe Wright’s new adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina was met mildly, with In Contention’s Guy Lodge asserting that this version was “a richly, rewardingly, improbably alive Anna Karenina, but there’s a difference between a film that is constantly in motion, and one that actually moves.” David Gritten at Thompson on Hollywood feels the film is destined for a date with Oscar, with splendid visuals and lavish design, and while he doesn’t believe it is a perfect film, he states there is much to appreciate. Oliver Lyttelton at The Playlist feels Anna Karenina will divide audiences, but for his part believes it is a bold and inventive reimagining.

Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder also debuted at Venice, where Lyttelton felt it was “more coherent, deeply felt and satisfying film than” Malick’s The Tree of Life from just last year, and that it will be as “divisive as its predecessor, but we found the director’s latest to be a beautiful, hearfelt and raw piece of work.” Meanwhile Mueller respects Malick for the poet that he is, but doesn’t allow that to be an excuse for the film failing “to offer enough substance to nourish the spirit.” Lodge felt more moved by Wonder than Tree, perhaps due to the former delivering a more linear narrative, and appreciates the beauty in Malick’s work.

Mr. Lyttelton also tried to console those of us not lucky enough to go to Telluride,Venice, or TIFF by giving us a list of the 10 best films to see in September. He included The Master at number one, so his selections interest me from the start.

The Gurus of Gold have returned, and they’ve taken their first stab at Best Picture, pre-TIFF. No big surprises, though it is strange that each pundit was able to vote for 20 films in an unweighted system, when at best there will be 10 nominees.

On Wednesday, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) kicked off with Rian Johnson’s Looper, and the early reviews have trickled and state just about the same thing across the board – and it is exactly what most of us were hoping. Anne Thompson called Looper “a must-see hardboiled thriller for any cinephile.” Kevin Jagernauth at The Playlist found it equally riveting, praising the young director’s work, proclaiming that “Johnson has always been a clever storyteller, it’s with Looper that we see him becoming a smart filmmaker.” Matt Goldberg at Collider might have enjoyed the film the most, stating it was “sci-fi at the genre’s best, and it will leave your head spinning.” Alex Billington simply starts his review by saying “Holy crap this movie is awesome.” And that is after having seen it for the second time, so it’s nice to see it holds up.

Kris Tapley takes a look at the troubled Best Original Song race now that there are new rules in place.

What do you think?

72 points
AC Fan

Written by Mark Johnson

Lover of all things film and Oscar. Fantasy sports’ equivalent of George Steinbrenner. Your very own Han Solo, making friends all over the movie-loving galaxy in spite of himself. When he’s not ranking just about everything or dominating boardgames, Mark is breaking down the Oscar race 24/7 with Rain Man-like stats and knowledge. In his downtime, you can find him commiserating with other Northeast Ohio sports fans because a hero isn’t complete without a little heartbreak. If Game of Thrones, Lost, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Survivor are your style, then congratulations, you have something in common with this inglourious basterd.

The Words (*½)

TIFF: The Sessions (****)