The Best of BlackBook’s 2012 Film Coverage

2012 was an interesting year for cinema—whether it be Hollywood franchise blockbusters, independent stage-play-turned-comedies , or haunting and heartbreaking foreign dramas. In the first half of the year, we saw young filmmakers such as a Brit Marling, Benh Zeitlin, and Leslye Headland debut their innovative and fresh take on modern stories, with films that established them as unique new voices of independent American cinema. Hollywood staples David O. Russell, Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, and Whit Stillman once again pleased audiences and won critical praise for their idiosyncratic features. And then there were the beautifully guttural foreign films from Michael Haneke, Miguel Gomes, and Leos Carax that constantly reinvent, not only what film can be, but the experiential nature of cinema as well. 

So as the year draws to a close and we begin to anticipate next year’s film slate, here’s the best in BlackBook’s film coverage of the past twelve months—highlighting our favorite films of 2012 that will linger on in history and the one’s to breakout next year’s biggest stars.

Holy Motors
Silver Linings Playbook

Damsels in Distress

Django Unchained

Moonrise Kingdom
The Deep Blue Sea
The Queen of Versailles
Beasts of the Southern Wild

Sound of My Voice
Wuthering Heights

The Loneliest Planet
Sleepwalk with Me

Beware of Mr. Baker
Anna Karenina
The Imposter

The Snowtown Murders
The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Trailer Featuring Fleetwood Mac Cover Almost Makes Me Want To See ‘Safe Haven’

I caught the trailer for Safe Haven, the latest movie based on a Nicholas Sparks weepie, over the weekend while patiently waiting for Anna Karenina to start (Leo Tolstoy was probably the Nicholas Sparks of Imperial Russia, right?). The movie looks OK, but what really stood out for me was the song playing in the trailer: a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s "Go Your Own Way." Instead of being sung by some dude who sounded like Lindsey Buckingham, the singer was a lady with a fairly recognizable, scratchy voice. "Holy shit," I thought. "Did Stevie Nicks cover a Fleetwood Mac song originally sung by Lindsey? That seems like the kind of thing she would do."

In fact, it is the kind of thing she would do—she covered "Crystal" for the Practical Magic soundtrack about fifteen years ago. But it wasn’t until my Google search for "Safe Haven trailer Fleetwood Mac cover" this afternoon that I realized that Stevie is guilty of another sonic "fuck you" to Lindsey. Instead, it’s California-based singer-songwriter Lissie whose voice has those Stevie Nicks notes to it—although it’s plain to my ears now that she sounds completely different from Stevie. The song comes from her covers EP Covered Up With Flowers that she released last year, although it’s news to me and therefore newsworthy. Don’t you love how blogs work?

Here’s Lissie’s cover of "Go Your Own Way" and the trailer for Safe Haven below:

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Why Do Women Hate Keira Knightley?

It’s a thing, right? I’ve never had strong feelings either way, but I will say that three of her films (Atonement, this year’s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and the recent Anna Karenina) have brought joy to my heart. I don’t really hear much from my male friends about it, either; she’s just kinda there, I think. But man, it seems that most women I know really don’t like her. What gives, ladies?

I don’t mean to be a Dude Who Calls Out Women here, but the criticisms I hear about Knightley’s failings here are generally reduced to "she sucks" or "her chin is too big." Yeah, sure, she has a prominent chin. But that’s like saying that Christina Hendricks is a shitty actress because of her tits, no? Isn’t there something deeper here that we can point our fingers at? I mean, compared to other figures who receive well-documented vitriol (Zooey Deschanel or Gwyneth Paltrow, to name just two examples), Keira Knightley hardly does anything annoying. She doesn’t have any lifestyle websites, and she doesn’t make an attempts at a music career. All she has done, really, is been in pretty good movies and done pretty good jobs in all of them. I mean, she did get an Oscar nomination, people. It’s not like everyone is convinced she is horrible.

So please, explain this one to me? Because I’m generally fascinated. (Is it really her chin?)

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Talking With Director Joe Wright About His New ‘Anna Karenina’

Many consider Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina to be the greatest novel ever written. Not surprisingly, it’s been adapted for film many times over. Today marks the opening of a new take at the classic love story, this time starring Keira Knightley as the doomed Anna, Aaron Johnson as her young lover, Vronsky, and Jude Law as Anna’s dull and cuckolded husband. But what makes the film special is director Joe Wright (who has had success with two other recent book-to-film adaptations, Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, both starring Knightley) and screenwriter Tom Stoppard’s decision to set all of the action of the gossipy 19th Century Russian aristocrats entirely on stage, giving this well-known story a fresh look.

I sat down with Wright last week for a brief chat about his desire to bring a new Anna to the screen, his love for the source material, and his conceptual take on a classic love story.

Where you just such a fan of the book that gave you the inspiration to tackle another adaptation of the book?
I just found that I was at a point in life where Levin and this mediation on love that Tolstoy had put down for us began to feel even more pertinent and relevant. I read it and just wanted to spend time with it, really. I was also a big fan of Tom Stoppard and wanted to spend time with him and learn from him, as well, so I approached him and was he interested in adapting it with me. So that was the beginning of the journey.

I’ve read that the theatricality of the film—the stage setting in which you placed the film—was a decision made fairly late in the creative process. What was the revelation that sparked that?
It came out of this desire to find a form of filmmaking that allowed me to get closer to the emotional lives of the characters. I think period films often get so caught up in historical reenactment that it distracts in the end from the characters’ lives, and people, including myself, find them quote cold and sort of distancing. I wanted to find a way of focusing on just the essence of the story and the essence of the characters. And so to do that, I thought if I stripped away the stuff that wasn’t really about the story—the physical house or the carriage, you know—then I might achieve something that had modernity and directness and a communication of the essence.

There were many musical qualities to the film, but it never felt like a filmed play. Did you have any experience in directing theater?
I don’t have any directing experience, but my parents had a puppet theatre in Islington, London. There was a theater and a workshop next to our house where the puppets and scenery were made, so it was this kind of complete little magical world that seemed to exist all on its own. And so I think this film is closer to that kind of childhood aesthetic than any I’ve made before. Another influence on the movie was Jan Svankmajer, the Czech animator that made Alice. He has this incredible kind of handmade aesthetic and is constantly playing with scale and I enjoy those kind of visual motifs.

I started reading the book after I saw the film, and I’m impressed that you’ve been able to balance the second storyline of Levin and Kitty so well.
I think that without that story, Anna’s story doesn’t make sense. The book is a meditation on love in all its many forms. Anna’s love is deeply flawed, as is Anna, really. She’s not the heroine that she’s been held up to be. She’s almost an anti-heroine—but I mean almost. For me, Levin and Kitty’s story is the point of the book. I think the title is misleading; I think it should be called “A Group of Interesting People Battling With the Challenges of Love in 1870s Russia.” But that’s not as catchy. But it’s really an ensemble piece, and Levin’s story is important because he gives us not the answers, but the resolution. He finds us at the end and takes us up and shows us that it’s a book about love and a book about humanness—about how to be human and the idea that love can teach us how to be human. And that is a kind of spiritual path, although I’m not talking about religion.

Did you look at any other previous film adaptations of the novel?
The only one I watched was the 1935 film with Greta Garbo. I was interested when I saw that film to see that they had cut Levin, and therefore they had to make Anna this kind of big romantic heroine. It is a love story, but her love is founded on something that isn’t necessarily real. So I saw how that didn’t work. There’s one kind of gender reversal moment that Tom and I took from that film, which we thought was quite fun. There’s the famous scene, where Garbo’s Anna gets off the train and emerges through the steam to see Oblonsky; in our film, we did it the other way around and had Anna get off the train and Oblonsky emerge through the steam, which we thought was kind of fun.

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How Are We Surviving Hurricane Sandy?

My family is crazy and can’t say no to a good deal, so every summer I went on vacation in the Outer Banks the week before Labor Day—otherwise known as knee-deep in hurricane season. You see, that’s the week where rentals are much cheaper than the rest of the summer. Naturally, we evacuated from the resort town twice, and there were a couple of years where we spent our days bored out of our wits as tropical storm-strength winds blew around outside. (We saw a lot of movies and went bowling.) Even last year my vacation was cut short, and I spent four days in my mother’s house in Virginia playing Uno in the dark as Hurricane Irene raged on outside. (I won four games in a row, though.) This is my first hurricane in Brooklyn, though, and it turns out they aren’t so different up here. What am I going to be doing for the next two days? Here’s a quick run-down of my plans.

1. Trying not to eat all of my food. I’m afraid to report that the Wheat Thins I expected to last me throughout this entire mess were gone in less time than I spent in line buying them. 

2. Getting drunk. It turns out my local grocery store started carrying 312, which happens to be my favorite beer from when I lived in Chicago. I bought a lot of it. 

3. Reading Anna Karenina. I’m very literary and smart. Nobody spoil this one for me; I have about 600 pages to go.

4. Watching Netflix. Look, I’m ready for all of you to get off my ass about having not seen Friday Night Lights or Breaking Bad, but I have a feeling I’ll just re-watch Reno 911

5. Ignoring my mother’s hurricane preparation reminders. I was mature and did not respond to her text with, "Jesus, mother, I am 29 years old, I know how to do this," and instead wrote, "Please stop worrying and enjoy your vacation, I love you," because of course she is freaking out about this hurricane while she is on a cruise in Hawaii.

6. Lamenting the fact that I did not buy that roll of chocolate chip cookie dough. You know what would be delicious right now? Eating that shit with a spoon. Alas, I am 29 years old.

7. Ignoring everyone on Twitter. Seriously, how many Frankenstorm jokes can you people make?

8. Watching my boyfriend sleep all day. Because apparently he’s too tired from working an all-nighter to "entertain" me. 

9. Working on my novel. Hahahahahaha, just kidding.

10. Taking pictures of the cat. Sorry, Instagram followers, but my roommate’s cat is FREAKING OUT and I am, therefore, taking full advantage of this.

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Snooze Alert: ‘Anna Karenina’ Comes Back to the Big Screen

Hey, Russian Lit majors and Oprah Book Club members! Anna Karenina, a really long book about love and death and Russia (those three typically go hand-in-hand), has been adapted into a brand-spanking-new Oscar-baiting film by Pride and Prejucide and Atonement director Joe Wright. True to form, Wright pulls his usual leading lady Keira Knightley back into his web (after giving her a break from starring in the miserable Hanna) and has cast her in the title role. Also on board is Jude Law with a creepy mustache! 

Here’s the gushy trailer for the new adaptation:

Once again, Wright has turned out what appears to be a Chanel ad, full of heightened drama and needless camera angles and shots that only show off his technical abilities. I guess you have to make this story exciting somehow, huh? At least he didn’t follow in Baz Luhrmann’s footsteps and avoided any Jay-Z/Tolstoy mash-ups. But it will certainly be long. And sad, unless the idea of Keira Knightley throwing herself in front of a train excites you in some way. (Yes, for those of you who didn’t make it through the Cliff’s Notes, it has a very sad ending!) 

(via Indiewire)