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Category: AFI Fest

AFI Fest 2011: The sultry swoon of Sophia Takal's 'Green'

November 4, 2011 | 11:39 am

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Sophia Takal's "Green" has been among the most notable debut films on this year's festival circuit. She picked up an emerging female filmmaker prize at the South by Southwest Film Festival, landed on the list of Filmmaker Magazine's 25 New Faces of Independent Film and is a Gotham Award nominee. "Green" has its Los Angeles premiere as part of AFI Fest, with screenings on Friday and Saturday.

A hothouse portrait of female jealousy, competition and desire, the film is about an urban couple (Lawrence Michael Levine and Kate Lyn Sheil) spending time in the country so he can work on a blog about sustainable farming. A neighboring local (Takal) inserts herself into their routine, first striking up a friendship with each of them, before seemingly wanting more, making herself a wedge in their relationship. Imagine a micro-budget back-to-the-country "Black Swan," flirting with psychological horror as rural quiet is mined both for its pastoral beauty and creeping sense of menacing unease.

The film sprang directly from the process of making Levine's 2010 "Gabi on the Roof in July," in which a series of urban parties go wrong. Takal, Levine's fiance and an actor and producer on "Gabi," wanted a project with fewer people and less equipment on set. Having edited "Gabi," she knew she wanted to spend her time looking at more spacious landscapes after staring at the apartment-set close-ups of Levine's film.

Takal wrote about a 30-page start and the last 10 pages of the script. The middle sections of the film were improvised at first, but dissatisfied with the footage, Takal reworked the scenes and shot them again, ending up with a scripted hybrid based on improvised scenes. The emotional impetus for the project was Takal's own feelings of jealousy at seeing Levine acting in scenes with other women in "Gabi," spurring the deep, diffuse currents of her debut.

"I don't want to make it seem like these movies are just there to work through these issues," Takal, 25,  said this week in Los Angeles. "I feel like with 'Green' I had already looked at those issues and then I wanted to make a movie about them once I sort of understood them. So it was not like I was plodding through, 'Watch this movie while I figure myself out.' The movie was made in hindsight. It's taking control of the feeling and then manipulating it yourself, rather than feeling like you're being manipulated by it."

Takal, Levine and Sheil also all appear together in "The Zone," which is having its world premiere as part of AFI Fest. The film's title comes from the nickname given to the Brooklyn apartment the three of them share. More than just sexually explicit, "The Zone," directed by indie provocateur Joe Swanberg, captures a sense of intimacy that can leave a viewer wondering if these were moments even created for public consumption.

"Kate, Joe, Sophia and myself, we really share the aesthetic that any acting that seems like it could be on a theater stage, like somebody screaming in a sitcom, makes us all want to puke," said Levine of the offhand naturalism that runs through their work. "And when we act we want to make it seem as real as possible. And that's not always what every director wants, but with our movies and with Joe's movie it's a trick that people are just going to think that's you. But it's really a technique, to watch how people really talk and how they use words to communicate."

Takal and Levine have recently been busy acting in other projects both together and apart. They plan to co-direct a film together soon, to be called "Always Shine."

"Sometimes I feel possessive of this way of making movies," said Takal of their low-key, low-budget shooting style. "If someone were trying to make a Hollywood version of this, I feel like part of the point of it is to not have to exist in the context of pretty people and an easy story. Part of what is exciting about the new technology is the ability to take your time and use your friends and take a lot of risks.

"In my mind I was always like, I never have to show this movie to anyone. So if I fail, what's the big deal?"

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-- Mark Olsen

twitter.com/indiefocus

Photo: Lawrence Michael Levine, Kate Lyn Sheil and Sophia Takal in "Green." Credit: AFI Fest


Spielberg's 'The Adventures of Tintin' to close AFI Fest

October 31, 2011 |  3:33 pm

The Adventures of Tintin will close the 2011 AFI Fest
Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn" will be the closing night screening at AFI Fest.

The Hollywood festival -- which kicks off Thursday evening with the world premiere of Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar" -- will conclude with a gala screening of the animated 3-D picture on Thursday, Nov. 10.

While the Peter Jackson-produced movie opened in 19 foreign markets this last weekend, the movie doesn't hit theaters in the U.S. until Dec. 21. The film, based on a beloved 82-year-old Belgian comic about a young reporter in search of treasure, is already off to a strong start abroad. Not only did it rake in an estimated $55.8 million overseas over the weekend, but early critical reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. 

For the Fest's 25th anniversary edition, festival director Jacqueline Lyanga said it was special to be opening and closing with big films from two iconic American directors.

AFI Fest is offering free tickets to all of its screenings for the third year in a row. 

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Spielberg's 'Tintin' will open in Europe two months before U.S.

-- Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: A scene from "The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn." Credit: Paramount Pictures


'The Artist,' 'Shame' among AFI Fest highlights

October 18, 2011 | 11:00 am

The Artist is set to be a gala screening at AFI Fest
Angeleno movie lovers who weren't able to shell out the big bucks to fly to the Cannes or Toronto film festivals will get the chance to see some of the season's most buzzed-about movies at the upcoming AFI Fest.

A slew of films popular on this year's festival circuit will screen at the upcoming event, held Nov. 3-10 in Hollywood. Among the festival's centerpiece galas are the "The Artist," the silent black-and-white film which became a sensation at Cannes, and "Shame," the drama starring Michael Fassbender as a sex addict that was a hit at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Other red-carpet events include Roman Polanski's "Carnage," Luc Besson's "The Lady" and the Marilyn Monroe drama "My Week With Marilyn." Pedro Almodóvar, who is the festival's guest artistic director this year, will also screen his 1987 film "Law of Desire" starring Antonio Banderas.

AFI Fest will offer special screenings of a number of other well-regarded movies that have made the festival rounds. They include Lynne Ramsey's dark drama "We Need to Talk About Kevin," Lars von Trier's "Melancholia," Mexico's foreign-language Oscar submission "Miss Bala" and the Dardenne brothers' "The Kid With A Bike," which all premiered at Cannes. Also screening are Oren Moverman's "Rampart," the Duplass brothers' "Jeff, Who Lives at Home" and Jim Field Smith's "Butter," which all played in Toronto in September.

A limited number of free tickets to most of the screenings will become available beginning Oct. 27. But if you want to guarantee a seat at the most in-demand films, you can buy a special pass at AFI.com/AFIFEST.

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-- Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Jean Dujardin, left, and Bérénice Bejo star in "The Artist." Credit: The Weinstein Co.


Hammer, Yelchin, Wood and Dunst set for Times roundtable

October 14, 2011 |  6:00 am

Armie Hammer, Kirsten Dunst, Anton Yelchin and Evan Rachel Wood will be on this year's LA Times Young Hollywood roundtable at AFI Fest
They're in some of this fall's most-talked about films and each, in his or her own right, stands among the most buzzworthy actors of their generation: Armie Hammer, Anton Yelchin, Evan Rachel Wood and Kirsten Dunst.

And at this year's AFI Fest, all four will gather to discuss their careers during the Los Angeles Times' second annual Young Hollywood roundtable, moderated by staff writer Amy Kaufman.

During last year's panel -- which featured Oscar nominees Carey Mulligan and Jesse Eisenberg and new Spider-Man Andrew Garfield -- the up-and-comers discussed everything from how to ease red carpet anxiety to the experience of working with veteran filmmakers. 

Many of this year's participants may be able to shed light on the latter topic. Hammer, for one, is starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in the upcoming Clint Eastwood-directed biopic "J. Edgar," which is the opening night film at 2011's AFI Fest. The actor, 25, earned acclaim last year for his portrayal of two characters -- the jilted Winkelvoss twins -- in the Oscar-nominated Facebook flick "The Social Network."

Wood, too, has been directed by some of Hollywood's A-listers. The 24-year-old -- who plays a sultry intern who seduces Ryan Gosling's character in the recent film "The Ides of March" -- was Woody Allen's muse in 2009's "Whatever Works." She also played Mickey Rourke's daughter in "The Wrestler," and has appeared on HBO's popular television series "True Blood."

Dunst, meanwhile, has had her share of top directors as well, from Brian De Palma to Neil Jordan to Michel Gondry. Her most recent film, "Melancholia," has taken some heat after director Lars von Trier made some controversial comments at a Cannes Film Festival press conference that suggested he was a Nazi. The outrage that followed, however, did not overshadow Dunst's performance and she was awarded the festival's best actress prize. Dunst, 29, has been acting since she was a child, and was nominated for a Golden Globe award at age 12 after starring opposite Brad Pitt in "Interview With the Vampire."

Yelchin has recently been turning heads for his performance in the intimate romantic drama "Like Crazy," which was beloved by audiences at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Earlier this year, the Russian-born 22-year-old played Mel Gibson's son in "The Beaver" and starred in a remake of the '80s horror flick "Fright Night."

The roundtable will take place at 6:45 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 4, at the Mann Chinese 6 Theater in Hollywood. The evening is in partnership with AFI Fest. Tickets are free, but you must RSVP at the AFI Fest site.

If you have a question for one of the panel participants, submit it in the comments section below or on our Facebook page. We will select some to ask during the roundtable. We will also videotape the conversation, so check back for clips from the event on 24 Frames next month.

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--Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo, from left: Armie Hammer (Getty Images), Anton Yelchin (Associated Press), Evan Rachel Wood (Associated Press) and Kirsten Dunst (Getty Images).


AFI Fest to spotlight Joe Swanberg, indie film director

October 13, 2011 |  2:40 pm

Joe Swanberg will be the subject of a Spotlight section at the 2011 AFI Fest
Joe Swanberg, best known as one of the pioneers in the independent filmmaking movement known as mumblecore, will be the subject of the Spotlight section at AFI Fest Nov. 3-10 in Hollywood.

Three movies written and directed by Swanberg in what he calls his "Full Moon Trilogy" will be screened during the festival, organizers announced Thursday. The trilogy begins with "Silver Bullets," which examines the director's own attitudes toward filmmaking; continues with "Art History," in which Swanberg plays a director who has cast his wife in an erotic picture; and ends with the world premiere of the final installment, "The Zone."

Swanberg's past films have included "Hannah Takes the Stairs" and "Nights and Weekends," both low-budget pictures that examined the lives of young people using naturalistic dialogue and vérité-camera techniques.

AFI also announced the slate for its Young Americans section, which includes work from up-and-coming U.S. filmmakers such as Alex Ross Perry, Tristan Patterson and Clay Liford. Its New Auteurs section, which features work from first and second-time international feature film directors, will this year spotlight films from countries including Greece and Norway. 

Free tickets for all films are available beginning Oct. 27; For more information, visit AFI.com/AFIFEST.

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-- Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Director Joe Swanberg. Credit: IFC.


Eastwood's 'J. Edgar,' starring DiCaprio, to open AFI Fest

September 7, 2011 |  1:00 am

J Edgar will be the opening night film at AFI Fest 2011
Sight unseen, Clint Eastwood's upcoming J. Edgar Hoover biopic has already been deemed a best picture contender by a number of Oscar prognosticators. Pundits will officially be able to back up -- or back off of -- those claims at AFI Fest 2011, as event coordinators announced Wednesday that "J. Edgar" will be the opening film at the annual festival. Celebrating its 25th year, AFI Fest will kick off in Hollywood on Nov. 3 and run through Nov. 10.

"J. Edgar," slated for limited release the week following its AFI premiere, stars Leonardo DiCaprio as the respected-but-feared FBI director who was often controversial. Beyond its A-list director and star, the film also boasts a well-known cast that includes Armie Hammer, Judi Dench and Naomi Watts. The movie's script was written by Dustin Lance Black, whose screenplay for "Milk" earned him an Academy Award in 2009.

Last year, AFI Fest launched with "Love and Other Drugs," the romantic drama starring Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal that fared decently at the worldwide box office but failed to spark any awards buzz. It remains to be seen whether Eastwood's latest effort will follow a similar fate. While the 81-year-old filmmaker has long been a critical darling, his most recent film, last year's "Hereafter," garnered only one Oscar nomination, for visual effects. Eastwood does, however, have a long-standing relationship with AFI, and took home the festival's Life Achievement Award in 1996.  

For the third year in a row, AFI Fest will offer patrons free tickets to the majority of its screenings. But those who want to guarantee their seat in the theater for Eastwood's film will have to pay a hefty sum for that opportunity. To reserve a spot at the gala screening of "J. Edgar," one must purchase either a Star Patron or a Marquee Patron Package -- the prices of which range from $1,500 to $5,000.

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-- Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Leonardo DiCaprio stars in "J. Edgar." Credit: Warner Bros.


Pedro Almodovar to be AFI Fest guest artistic director

August 29, 2011 |  6:00 am

Pedro Almodovar

Director Pedro Almodóvar will serve as the guest artistic director of the American Film Institute's 25th AFI Fest in Hollywood in November.

Almodóvar, the Spanish writer-director of such films as "All About My Mother," "Talk to Her" and "Volver," will present a screening of his film "Law of Desire," made 25 years ago. He also will curate a program of films that have inspired his work. Those films and other festival programming are to be announced in October.

The institute's festival is scheduled to run Nov. 3 to 10 at the Chinese Theatre, the Chinese 6 Theatres, the Egyptian Theatre and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

Almodóvar's latest film, "The Skin I Live In," starring Antonio Banderas, opens in October.

-- Sherry Stern

Photo: Pedro Almodóvar. Credit: José Haro / El Deseo / Sony Pictures Classics


L.A. Times Young Hollywood Roundtable: Working with veterans

November 10, 2010 |  7:01 am

Director David Fincher is known for insisting that actors do multiple, multiple takes on the sets of his movies. So before Andrew Garfield even began filming "The Social Network," the 27-year-old said he was worried about the director's demands.

"We were told a bunch of horror stories about actors keeling over and dying ... having to, like, urinate in jars because they weren't allowed off-set," he said Friday at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre during a roundtable moderated by Los Angeles Times entertainment writer Amy Kaufman that also included  Jesse Eisenberg and Carey Mulligan.

Ultimately, Garfield said, he didn't end up passing out on set. Instead, he discovered Fincher's style "was actually an incredible gift for young actors" because it allowed the freedom to "do your own thing."

Fincher was also incredibly "in tune" with his actors, said Eisenberg, who also starred in "The Social Network." During one scene in which Eisenberg's character -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg -- is being deposed and has a notepad, the actor jotted down which takes he considered best. Then he compared notes with Fincher.

"The two out of the 50 that I thought were good were the ones that he had circled as well," Eisenberg said. "...When you do a lot of takes [for Fincher], it’s not this kind of haphazard obsessive compulsive behavior."

Mulligan, meanwhile, said she had a somewhat different relationship with her "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" costar Michael Douglas, who played her father in the film. In January, the veteran actor's son Cameron pleaded guilty to drug charges, and in April was sentenced to five years in prison. After production had wrapped, Douglas learned he had throat cancer.

"Michael and I didn't really hang out or have any contact -- in a nice way," she said. "I think he sort of kept a distance. He didn't want to get all pal-ly with me, because we had this sort of weird relationship [in the film]. ...I think Michael was in a sort of interesting place in his life, and I was terrified of him."

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L.A. Times Young Hollywood Roundtable: Adjusting to fame

November 9, 2010 | 11:08 am

On the red carpet, actress Carey Mulligan always seems so poised. Her secret?

"I learned something this year, which is if you have a martini before you do red carpets, that's a very good idea," she joked Friday at the Egyptian, where she sat alongside Andrew Garfield and Jesse Eisenberg on a Young Hollywood Roundtable moderated by Los Angeles Times entertainment writer Amy Kaufman.

Of course, it was only a year ago that Mulligan first became the subject of intense media attention during awards season, which culminated with her earning a lead actress nomination at the Academy Awards for her role in "An Education."

"Last year, I was just horribly nervous all the time," she admitted. "And those banks of photographers. I literally weep by the end of it."

What's helped ease the anxiety of such situations, she said, is bringing her family along to the ritzy events.

"If you bring your family and you see it through their eyes -- we went to the Oscars, and my brother was in the car with me, and he was, like, hopping, he was so excited," she said, "because all of the policemen had enormous guns, and they were checking all of the cars for bombs."

Still, the 25-year-old insisted that having "Academy Award nominee" before her name hadn't really affected her career -- though it is pretty cool.

"It's really cool, first of all, when you see it in the trailer," she said. "It is kind of cool. But no, it doesn’t change anything. ... The offers don’t roll in, and you still have to audition and fight for the jobs that you want and get disappointed and it’s the same deal, really. You just get a little bit more access to cool people, but it’s the same."

Check back for a final clip from the event on Wednesday.

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The bell will ring for 'The Fighter' at AFI Fest

November 9, 2010 |  9:39 am

Fighter
"The Fighter," one of the most anticipated but shrouded-in-mystery movies of the fall, is unexpectedly coming out of the shadows.

AFI Fest said Tuesday morning that it has slotted the David O. Russell boxing drama into its secret Hollywood screening at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday,  playing for the public more than a month ahead of its Dec. 10 release. Pass-holders to the festival will be granted access to the screening, as will non-pass-holders who make ticket reservations at the box office or on the AFI website.

The movie is one of the final remaining fall dramas yet to screen for audiences (the movie did not play any fall festivals and has not screened for media; its first scheduled screening of any kind of was to be a Screen Actors Guild  event Wednesday night).

The movie stars Mark Wahlberg as the underdog prizefighter “Irish” Micky Ward, a working-class Boston boxer who came to prominence in the 1990s and early '00s in part for his endurance skills and in part for a left hook that saw him defeat larger and sometimes more skilled opponents. Ward is perhaps best known for a trio of brutal and dramatic fights with rival Arturo Gatti. He also had a complicated relationship with half-brother Dickie Eklund, played in the movie by Christian Bale.

--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Scene from "The Fighter." Credit: Paramount Pictures.


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