24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Oscar Senti-meter: A BAFTA bounce for Dujardin, Oldman, Streep

February 20, 2012 |  5:17 pm

Sentimeter 2-12
Trying to predict winners at the Academy Awards can be like trying to read tea leaves, but thanks to tools like The Times’ Oscar Senti-meter, which analyzes Oscar-related buzz on Twitter, we can bring a bit of “Moneyball”-like analysis to the process.

Examining tweets captured by the Senti-meter in the wake of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards, held Feb. 12 in London, shows that BAFTA-watching Twitter users had a lot to say about silent-film star Jean Dujardin (“The Artist”), hometown hero Gary Oldman (“Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”) and perennial favorite Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady”).

The Senti-meter is an interactive tool developed by The Times, IBM and the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab that analyzes opinions about the Academy Awards race by combing through and cataloging a high volume of tweets each day. It uses language-recognition technology to gauge positive, negative and neutral opinions shared in the messages, and it also tracks the number of tweets.

Take, for example, “The Artist,” which is nominated for 10 Oscars and won best picture, director, screenplay and lead actor at the BAFTAs: In the three days leading up to the British awards, “The Artist” was mentioned in 1,253, 1,331 and 1,166 tweets, a daily average of 1,250 tweets. On Feb. 12, the day of the BAFTAs, the Twitterverse exploded with 10,296 tweets about the film, a more than eight-fold increase.

The high volume consisted largely of congratulatory and celebratory tweets, such as “The Artist Best Film !!! #BAFTA ! :D #Proud” and “Fantastic that The Artist did so well. Wonderful, charming film.”

Dujardin, the French leading man of “The Artist,” also received a BAFTA bump after he won the award for lead actor. Dujardin averaged about 454 tweets per day from Feb. 9-11, but shot up to 2,330 on Feb. 12, an increase of more than five times.

One Dujardin fan put it this way: “So happy Jean Dujardin wins BAFTA. Just one more to go ... two weeks tonight #Oscar.”

Dujardin also received some Twitter buzz after guest appearances on “Saturday Night Live,” reprising his silent-star persona, and on the website Funny or Die, humorously auditioning for a surfeit of stereotypical French bad-guy roles.

Among the actors Dujardin bested at the BAFTAs was Englishman Oldman, star of the thriller “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” Oldman remains a long shot to win lead actor at the Oscars (his first-ever nomination), but perhaps he can take some consolation in having lots of fans on Twitter.

Averaging about 119 tweets per day going into the BAFTAs, Oldman shot up to 1,502 on Feb. 12, an increase of more than 12 times. One Oldman supporter (and Grammy hater) tweeted, “grammys can suck my toes, on the other hand the baftas was delightful S/O to Gary Oldman you was snubbed but still a winner and legend.”

Oldman’s movie also won awards for outstanding British film and adapted screenplay. Averaging 900 tweets over the previous three days, “Tinker Tailor” racked up 5,488 tweets the day of the awards, a more than six-fold increase. Positive sentiment for the film, which has occasionally been deemed boring and confusing by Twitter users, also edged upward.

One Twitter user wrote, “So glad Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy won Best British Film at #Baftas. It was brilliant, and should have gotten more Oscar nods.”

Meanwhile, BAFTA-winning actress Streep, who portrays former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the biopic “The Iron Lady,” continued her reign as a favorite Twitter subject. From an average of 1,695 tweets per day captured by the Senti-meter leading up to the BAFTAs, Streep skyrocketed to 14,725 tweets upon winning the lead actress award, dwarfing any other actress (or actor, for that matter).

For comparison, “The Help” star Viola Davis, who is widely considered the other Oscar front-runner alongside Streep for lead actress, managed only 364 tweets the same day.

In the words of one Streep fan, “I love meryl Streep! Superb actress! Classy all round! So happy she won tonight! Bring on the Oscar.”

That said, neither the BAFTA awards nor the Twitterverse is a foolproof predictor of Oscar success; we’ll have to wait till Feb. 26 to be sure. Until then, though, we can see what all the talk is about.

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— Oliver Gettell


Sundance 2012: An Irish spin on 'Tinker Tailor'

January 25, 2012 |  9:32 pm

Shadowda
"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" showed us that there's room in the modern world for a slow-burn spy movie, and one set in period to boot.

On Tuesday at the Sundance Film Festival, the director James Marsh (most acclaimed for his 2008 documentary "Man on Wire") tested the theory when he premiered "Shadow Dancer," his new movie about cerebral intelligence agents operating during a charged period in Northern Island.

Set five years before 1998’s historic Good Friday Agreement, the film centers on an MI5 agent (Clive Owen) who recruits a young Northern Irish woman (Andrea Riseborough) to spy on her own activist IRA family, and the crosses and double-crosses that ensue as attacks are carried out.

But more conspicuous than the plot is the mood: the film is restrained in a way that mirrors "Tinker Tailor" (and can at times make even that movie seem like "The Bourne Identity").  There’s an occasional burst of violence, but characters move slowly, often under gray skies, and there's a hushed feeling about the whole enterprise. The second scene of the film, about an attempted bombing in a London subway station, unfolds for five minutes without anyone speaking a word.

Marsh, who has toggled between documentaries and features--the Oscar winner's two most recent films were the primate-research documentary "Project Nim" and a crime feature in Britain's "Red Riding" trilogy--said he thought the low pitch worked to his advantage.  "I wanted the film to gather weight as it went along," Marsh told 24 Frames at a reception for the film, which is based on a novel by the thriller author Tom Bradby.

Marsh smiled a little at the "Tinker Tailor" comparison" but noted wryly that the Gary Oldman film cost a lot more to make than his low-budget independent. Still, the period details, and the brown and gray tones that Tomas Alfredson used in painting “Tinker Tailor,” are very much on the palette here.

No one’s yet bought the movie, which is hunting for distribution at the festival. The nearly $20 million in box office for “Tinker Tailor” may suggest a sizable audience, though John Le Carre’s name goes a lot further than Bradby’s.

More than “Tinker Tailor,” this movie weaves a lot of politics into its fabric—there’s a showdown between British police and IRA members at the funeral of an IRA member, for instance—but Marsh, who like Riseborough is English, said at a post-screening Q&A session that he was concerned primarily with a “universal human politics.”

Still, Riseborough added that the desperate situation of the Northern Irish shouldn’t be overlooked. “They were so angry,” she said. There was “pain and unemployment. It's almost too much for words.”

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--Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Andrea Riseborough in "Shadow Dancer." Credit: Sundance Film Festival


'Descendants,' 'Moneyball' among Scripter Award finalists

January 12, 2012 |  7:00 am

Dangerous

The screenwriters of "A Dangerous Method," "The Descendants," "Jane Eyre," "Moneyball" and "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" -- as well as the authors of the works each is based on -- are the five finalists for the 24th annual USC Libraries Scripter Award. The announcement was made Thursday morning.

Screenwriter Christopher Hampton is a finalist for "A Dangerous Method," adapted from the nonfiction book "A Most Dangerous Method: The Story of Jung, Freud and Sabina Spielrein" by John Kerr and the 2002 play "The Talking Cure" by Hampton.

Alexander Pyne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash were nominated for "The Descendants" screenplay, adapted from the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, which was an expansion of her short story "The Minor Wars."

Screenwriter Moira Buffini is a finalist for "Jane Eyre," an adaptation of the 1847 classic novel by Charlotte Bronte.

Steve Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chevrin are finalists for their "Moneyball" screenplay, which was adapted from the  book "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game" by Michael Lewis.

Rounding out the finalists are screenwriters Bridget O'Connor and Peter Straughan for "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," adapted from  John le Carre's spy novel of the same name.

The Scripter Award was created by the Friends of the USC Libraries in 1988 and honors the screenwriters of the "year's most accomplished cinematic adaptation as well as the authors of the written work on which the screenplay is based."

Last year, Sorkin won the Script Award for his adaptation of "The Social Network."

The Scripter selection committee chose the five finalists from 109 eligible films. The 32-member selection committee includes Times film critic Kenneth Turan.

Paul Haggis, who won the Scripter for the 2004 drama "Million Dollar Baby," is this year's recipient of the USC Scripter Literary Achievement Award.

The awards will be handed out Feb. 18 at the Times Reference Room of USC's Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library.

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--Susan King

Photo: "A Dangerous Method" is a finalist for the Scripter Award. Credit: Liam Daniel/Sony Picture Classics


'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,' 'Tintin': Kenneth Turan's DVD picks

December 21, 2011 |  2:00 pm

If you've already enjoyed the new versions of "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" and "Tintin," or even if you're just considering your options, newly released DVDs make it possible to look at how these properties have been handled in the past.

 "Tinker Tailor" was made into a nearly six-hour British miniseries back in 1979, and Sir Alec Guinness' work as spymaster George Smiley is considered one of the great performances of his career.

"Tintin's" past is more humble, if no less enjoyable: it was a French Canadian animated television series that lasted from 1991 to 1993. The first 13 episodes are available, and even feature the same story, "The Secret of the Unicorn," that inspired the new film.

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-- Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times film critic


Year in Review: Kenneth Turan's best film picks of 2011

December 16, 2011 |  2:51 pm

The Clock
The best film of 2011 was technically not a film at all. It never played in a commercial theater and likely never will. But those fortunate enough to have seen “The Clock” during its all-too-brief run at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art know how remarkable an event it was.

A collage of clips created as an art installation by Christian Marclay from literally thousands of films, foreign and domestic, silent and sound, with some TV shows thrown into the mix, “The Clock” is structured minute by minute around a 24-hour time cycle. This may sound like a trivialization of the cinematic experience, but the reality is intoxicating. If only LACMA could be persuaded to show it more often.

The rest of my 10-best list, expanded whenever necessary, contains more conventional films, but they are no less exceptional for that. In alphabetical order they are:

Continue reading »

Year in Review: Betsy Sharkey's best film picks of 2011

December 16, 2011 |  2:30 pm

The Descendants
This year, I found myself drawn to certain themes as well as specific films, what follows are my favorites on both fronts.

1. “The Descendants” and other family matters: Exquisite examinations of family pain topped my list this year starting with George Clooney exceptional at being ordinary in “The Descendants.” Other standouts were a surprising Iranian divorce saga “A Separation,” Tilda Swinton’s excruciating tribulations in “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” the clashing Shakespearean politics of family and country in Ralph Fiennes’ “Coriolanus” and finally a boy’s father lost and found in “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.”

2. “City of Life and Death” in black-and-white: Filmmakers proved that black-and-white can be artistically powerful and emotionally unforgettable with Chuan Lu’s heartbreaking Nanjing massacre in “City of Life and Death,” with a nod to Michel Hazanavicius’ buoyant ode to the end of the silent era in “The Artist.”

Continue reading »

George Smiley’s glasses are key to ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’

December 15, 2011 |  1:30 pm

Tinker-tailor-glasses2
In “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” retired British intelligence officer George Smiley is on a mission to find a Soviet mole in the agency in the early 1970s. But before filming could start, star Gary Oldman and director Tomas Alfredson had to do some tough sleuthing of their own to track down the perfect eyeglasses for Smiley, because the spectacles serve as clues for the audience trying to follow the complex tale.

A key break in their case came on Sunset Boulevard, and involved costar Colin Firth, which led to Old Town Pasadena. But before we go any further, some background is in order.

“Tinker Tailor,” based on a novel by John le Carré, is set in 1973-74, with flashbacks to earlier dates. While some directors might change the set, or cars on the street, or clothing — or just simply display the date on screen — Alfredson turned to glasses.

Early in the film, Smiley is forced to retire from the Secret Intelligence Service. He soon steps into an eyeglass shop, has his eyes checked and walks out wearing a distinctly new pair of glasses. From that point, by paying attention to Smiley’s frames, the audience can identify whether a scene is in the present or is a flashback.

“If you have a main character who will be onscreen for 80% of the film, if you put something on the middle of that person’s face, it will be in each and every shot,” Alfredson explained. “In many ways it could be more important than cars, sets and constructions.”

In addition to helping guide the audience, the glasses were also a critical component in constructing the character. “Smiley is a voyeur, he almost doesn’t speak in the film, it’s a very quiet part,” Alfredson added. “So his eyes are extremely important and they are very active in what they are reflecting.”

Alfredson, Oldman and costume designer Jacqueline Durran spent hours discussing exactly what Smiley’s first and second pair of glasses should look like.

For the first pair, Alfredson said that “Smiley is described as someone you would immediately forget. For that reason, we were looking for things that would make him as anonymous as possible. We decided not to put cufflinks on him — he would have a very gray and anonymous suit, white shirts. No details that people would remember. And his old glasses, we thought, should be the kind of glasses you were given in the military service. They’re very anonymous too.

“And with the new glasses, we wanted something that was more contemporary and we wanted them to have a lot of surface so they would reflect what was in the room in front of George,” Alfredson said. “Usually, you have this coating on glasses when you do films because you don’t want reflections, but in our case, we wanted reflections.”

Alfredson wanted Smiley’s second pair of glasses to serve as a mechanism through which the audience could see what Smiley could see. Alfredson chose to shoot a few moments from behind Smiley and through his glasses, so the glasses also needed to be quite wide.

Oldman sent hundreds of photos and images of glasses to Alfredson to fit the part of Smiley’s second pair.

The perfect pair was discovered after Oldman drove past a billboard for Colin Firth’s film “A Single Man” on Sunset Boulevard. Oldman said he remembered thinking to himself, “I have to have those fantastic glasses.” (Ironically, Firth ended up playing a very key role in “Tinker Tailor.”)

Fast forward some time and Oldman found himself in an airport, flipping through a magazine that had an advertisement saying: If you like the glasses Colin Firth wore in “A Single Man,” you can find them at Old Focals in Pasadena.

Oldman went to Old Focals, sifting through 200 pairs of glasses. Russ Campbell, owner of the shop, said he has provided glasses for many films; recently, he supplied 350 pairs for “Men in Black 3.”

“Whenever an actor comes in, the first thing we do is find out who their character is. Then we find the right shape for that character,” Campbell said. “Gary knew what he wanted down to the millimeter.”

Oldman narrowed the search down to 30 pairs, took them to London and a final decision three days before shooting began. Campbell said he isn’t sure what brand the chosen glasses are — being vintage, any markings were worn off.

“Smiley sees everything and he hears everything,” Oldman said. “I wanted wide glasses like a wise old owl for Smiley.”

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-- Jasmine Elist and John Horn

Photo: George Smiley (Gary Oldman) has two sets of glasses in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy." On the left are the "old" ones, and on the right are the "new" ones, found at Old Focals in Pasadena. Credit: Focus Features


Golden Globes: 'Extremely Loud,' 'Tinker Tailor' snubbed

December 15, 2011 |  7:09 am

Among the movies snubbed in the Golden Globes: Stephen Daldry's "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," Tomas Alfredson's John le Carre adaptation, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," and Terrence Malick's "Tree of Life"
While the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. was busy slobbering over A-list celebrities such as George Clooney, Madonna and Angelina Jolie, it left some key films off this year's Golden Globe nominations. Among the movies ignored this year were Stephen Daldry's "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," Tomas Alfredson's John le Carre adaptation, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," and Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life."

Rather than choose Gary Oldman for his portrayal of George Smiley in "Tinker Tailor," the HFPA went with Ryan Gosling for his role in the political drama "Ides of March." Despite being a British-set drama lauded by critics, the foreign journalists ignored the quiet spy story completely.

Though "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" only began screening for voters less than two weeks before the deadline for nominations, only 81 HFPA members needed to see the film, so the movie arguably had enough time to capture votes. But the HFPA members bypassed the film's Max Von Sydow in the supporting actor category, Daldry in the best director category and the film for a best drama nod. Not even the star power of Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks in supporting roles seemed to attract the voters this year.

"Tree of Life," Malick's divisive meditation on humanity, also didn't connect with the voters, with the Brad Pitt-Sean Penn-Jessica Chastain starrer not landing any nominations. Rather, the HFPA went with more commercial fare for the best picture drama category, including "The Descendants," "The Help", "Hugo," "The Ides of March", "Moneyball" and "War Horse."

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-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: Gary Oldman as George Smiley in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy." Credit: Focus Features


'Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy': Betsy Sharkey's film pick

December 14, 2011 |  4:30 pm

GetprevSometimes there is a wonderful madness in the method, and so it is with the superb thrill of "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy," starring Gary Oldman.

Adapted from the dense counter-intelligence maze created by novelist John le Carre, the film begins with the discovery that there is a mole inside the British central intelligence agency, but unearthing him will come virtually devoid of the usual pyrotechnics. Instead, suspense builds like a low-grade fever just waiting to spike and do you in.

To solve a double-agent mystery, sometimes it helps to be on the outside, though Oldman’s top spy George Smiley isn’t really given a choice, unceremoniously ousted as he is in a mini-coup that also took out agency director Control, a terrific John Hurt.

Even better, director Tomas Alfredson understands the power of understatement for his lead actor. The quiet voice, a sideways glance, a raised brow: With those as his weapons of choice, Oldman creates a slow squeeze that proves deliciously deadly.

 

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-– Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times film critic

Photo caption: Gary Oldman as agent George Smiley in the spy thriller "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy." Credit: Jack English

 


'Tinker Tailor': Gary Oldman on the film's repressed sexuality [video]

December 14, 2011 |  2:52 pm

 Tinker Tailor
When you consider Cold War spying, particularly as it relates to the novels of John le Carré, sex and sexuality may not be the first things that come to mind. But the topics are very much a part of the new movie "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy." As Gary Oldman, who plays master intelligence office George Smiley, discusses in this excerpt from the Envelope Screening Series, adultery and homosexuality make up a large part of the film's subtext, a reflection not only of the double lives many spies lived but also a product of the kinds of young men Britain recruited to keep world affairs in order.

 

 

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--John Horn

Photo: David Dencik, left, and Benedict Cumberbatch in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy." Credit: Jack English

 


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