Earth, in Neill Blomkamp’s new science fiction thriller Elysium, set in 2154, is one big wretched slum: arid, diseased, dangerous and overcrowded. There is little hope for its denizens, though at least all are equal in their own miserable destitution. Until they look up.
Their poverty is thrown into sharp relief by a giant orbital space station visible high in the sky above them like some exotic moon, to which the ultra-wealthy have absconded. In this paradisiacal gated community writ large—it resembles an elaborate golf course, dotted with mansions, palm trees and other gold-plated trappings—the rich live extremely well.
Most of Elysium takes place in Los Angeles, a filthy hellhole of stacked homes and narrow streets patrolled by robot police. Max (a ripped, tattooed Matt Damon) is an ex-car thief who works at a factory. One day at work, he is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation and is told he has five days to live. Unless, that is, he makes it to Elysium, where the rich have developed tanning-bed-like contraptions that will cure any illness. Elysium, however, is assiduously guarded by the sociopathic defense secretary Delacourt (a cold-blooded Jodie Foster); a voyage into space is a death wish.
CANNES, France — Liberace fluttered into the Cannes Film Festival this morning and graced the masses with the heartfelt Behind the Candelabra, Steven Soderbergh’s directorial swan song and a touching May-December love story between Mr. Showmanship (Michael Douglas) and Scott Thorson (Matt Damon), his longtime arm-candy companion. (American audiences with a good cable package Read More
Awards Season Gets Underway
As The Observer—and every other news outlet—has been scrambling to report in detail, the city is abuzz over the high-profile indictment and arrests of figures in an art-world money laundering scheme involving seven-figure card games, international sports betting rings and mixed martial arts fighters who played the Rocky Balboa role of Read More
The Eight-Day Week
The red carpet was aglow with the incandescent twinkle of Hollywood’s stars on Monday night at the 22nd annual Independent Film Project Gotham Awards. With Oscar winners Matt Damon and Marion Cotillard amongst the evening’s honorees and the likes of Jack Black, Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski and so many more blazing a trail through the double doors of Wall St.’s Cipriani’s, it was no wonder that the less glamorous side of the velvet rope was a veritable press feeding frenzy. Lucky for us, then, that we had sharpened our claws.
As the guests took their seats for the ceremony, The Observer was whisked upstairs to a private viewing room, lest we cavort too rambunctiously with the delicate A-List crowd. There we watched over the evening’s events like demi-gods looking down from the heavens upon the cherubs pecking away at their meals, with eight year old nominee Quvenzhané Williams and 13 year old Jared Gilman leading the underage coterie.
The awards soon got underway, much to the delight of the recipients. Honoring their intentions as champions of independent cinema, the jury not only rewarded the biggest Hollywood names but the industry’s up-and-comers for their contribution to film. Beasts of the Southern Wild writer and director Benh Zeitlin was undoubtedly the big winner of the night, scooping statuettes – well, glass cuboids – for Breakthrough Director alongside the Bingham Ray Award, dedicated to the late film executive.
Awards season begins in earnest tonight, as Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon and director David O. Russell will be among those getting a new tchotchke at the Gotham Independent Film Awards. Those very famous people receive honorary awards tonight, while still-emerging talents are nominated for the balance of the prizes. Among them: This American Life stalwart Read More
Fashion Week Observed
This year’s Gotham Independent Film Awards, a November fete that is part of the late-year slurry that’s ultimately processed into Oscar nominations, are to feature special tributes to actor Matt Damon, director David O. Russell, and Participant Media’s Jeff Skoll. The Gotham Awards organizers aren’t just big fans of the Bourne movies and I Heart Read More
In celebration of the long desired end of Fashion Week, DeLeon Tequila and Nur Khan hosted what would be the last of their fabled Electric Sessions last night at the Hiro Ballroom (which, for the record, is still open) with Guns n’ Roses.
There isn’t much to add to We Bought a Zoo, since the title says it all. Away from the screen for six years, director Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire) returns with this holiday-season sugarplum designed to please children of all ages in multiplexes of all sizes. Based on a book by Benjamin Mee, a British writer and former columnist for The Guardian whose family actually purchased a run-down zoo called Dartmoor Zoological Park and turned it into a 30-acre tourist attraction in Devon, England, that is still thriving, the movie (written by Mr. Crowe and Aline Brosh McKenna, who wrote The Devil Wears Prada) transported the setting to Southern California, but it lost none of its sense of fun and adventure in the trip across the pond. Animals are the same everywhere, and so are the people who love them.
Benjamin Mee is played by Matt Damon, a smart and gifted actor who brings an abundance of intelligence and heart to a role that is not much more than a pencil sketch on paper, fleshing out the role of a tired, confused, overworked and heartsick widower with two kids to raise (see George Clooney in The Descendants) who is fed up with the declining world of journalism.
Trapped somewhere in the red tape of independent filmmaking between money and marketing, Anna Paquin delivers a very fine performance in the very odd starring role of a very bewildering film called Margaret. Written and directed by the excellent award-winning playwright Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me), which is one of its major draws, it was filmed in 2005, tied up for years in lawsuits, and hindered by the deaths of its two most illustrious producers, Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack. Six years later and 30 minutes shorter, it is finally being released in limited runs as a 2½-hour art film that is something of a well-intentioned mess. In the time between shooting Margaret, editing it down from its original three-hour director’s cut and Anna Paquin’s emergence in True Blood, we watched her grow up from troubled teenager to vamping vampire. Some things are better off left unchanged.
It is often predicted that the world will no longer end with the whimper of a long, boring war, but with the scream of a fatal, incurable and fast-moving plague. Addressing that theme in time to scare the living daylights out of everybody, Contagion is a star-studded, apocalyptic wake-up call to the horrors that await mankind in a test tube. We’ve made so much progress in terms of immunology, technology, scientific research and medical miracles that the planet considers itself immune to everything from small pox to swine flu. But there’s still no cure for cancer or AIDS, and the canvas of new viruses gets broader every year. So the topicality in Contagion is dark and unquestionable, if not creepy and off-putting.