Friday, April 17, 2015

End of Week roundup, April 17

The big news this week was the Star Wars trailer, but it was hardly the only thing worth mentioning. (We haven't clicked the trailer yet, holding out to see it for the first time theatrically, but we're certainly seeing Episode VII come Christmas.)

--The Peabody Awards went to some profoundly deserving folks, not the least of which was Steven Soderbergh and the creative team of The Knick, maybe last year's finest novel for television. At first we thought we'd simply never seen anything like it on television (a period drama, set in a New York City hospital in 1900 - all camerawork is handheld, and the thing is propelled by an electronic score by Soderbergh mainstay Cliff Martinez). Though it occurs to us that this may simply be the next step in period television after Mad Men it's still cracking viewing, leavened with intelligence and heart, and we're delighted to see it take home a Peabody (and eager to catch season 2).

--We're delighted that Olivier Assayas' Clouds of Sils Maria is finally getting wider release in the States. Assayas has long been a favorite of ours, and we lucked into an advance screening of the movie late last year. Juliette Binoche is in fine form as an actress steeling herself to return to perform in a play that made her famous, opposite a brash Hollywood newcomer (Chloe Grace Moretz) in the role Binoche initially created. Kristen Stewart is a revelation as Binoche's assistant, running lines and helping Binoche keep hold of herself; much of the movie is the two holding an extended, engrossing conversation about life/death, art/commerce, high art/low art, film/theatre, and indeed time/space. But the film is never pedantic, maintaining a strong sense of suspense in even its airiest moments. Its feminine grace and contemplativeness are a nice rebuff to the masculinist stridency of Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), which explored very similar themes last year.

--Some folks in the US may have heard of Clouds of Sils Maria previously, since Kristen Stewart picked up a  César Award for her performance in it earlier this year. Stewart's the first American actress to win a César, which is noteworthy. Though we were never serious fans of either her movies or her work within them we'll be among the first to say that this award was well-deserved; Stewart's role is arguably the most difficult of the three leads, and she handles all of its twists and turns remarkably, without ever looking like she's capital-A Acting. We're hoping that other naysayers will approach her work in Clouds of Sils Maria with an open mind, and that fans of her more mainstream work will also give the movie a chance.

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