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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: 127 Hours

Danny Boyle: I have no idea what James Franco will be up to at the Oscars [video]

February 27, 2011 | 11:00 am

Danny Boyle spent months working intimately with James Franco during production of "127 Hours," so they should know each other pretty well.

But when it comes to Franco's hosting gig during the Academy Awards on Sunday, Boyle said he's as unsure as the rest of us about how the quirky actor will pull it off.

"He'll be a surprise. He'll be unpredicatble. Maybe he'll bring out all his class along from college or something, I don't know what he'll do," Boyle said, chuckling at the possibilities.

The filmmaker, along with "127 Hours" screenwriter Simon Beaufoy and the film's real-life analog Aron Ralston, were at the Film Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday. And while it's been a long award season, Ralston -- who famously cut off his arm to escape from a canyon where he was trapped -- said he's not ready for it to end.

"It's almost this nostalgia already. These guys in the industry," he said, looking at Boyle and Beaufoy, "you get to go on to your next projects -- your next writing and directing. So it's kind of like [for me,]  'Well, this is it.' So I'm gonna miss you guys."

Boyle, who was on the award trail just two years ago for "Slumdog Millionaire," seemed ... less upset about the fanfare coming to an end.

"It's a funny business, but you do end up meeting again," he said. "It's weird. You kind of separate for years on things and then come back somehow."

-- Amy Kaufman


The filmgoers' guide to getting your drink on

January 12, 2011 |  3:24 pm


With so many good films in theaters this time of year, dinner and a movie may figure in your night-life plans. Nice idea. But this season’s crop of films seem to be more about booze than cuisine. Apparently, you're not a serious Oscar contender this year unless you have a drink associated with your movie.

Film-cocktails With that in mind, we’ve compiled a pairing guide to help you match your flick ("The King's Speech," "Black Swan," etc.) to your firewater (Scotch, tequila, you get the drift...). Check out the gallery at right, settle on a film and tip back a glass (though maybe not in the theater). To do anything else would be ... un-cinematic.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Colin Firth sips a Scotch in "The King's Speech." Credit: The Weinstein Co.

With so many good films in theaters this time of year, dinner-and-a-movie may figure in your night life plans. Nice idea. But this season’s crop of films seem to be more about booze than cuisine. Apparently, you're not a serious Oscar contender this year unless you have a cocktail associated with your movie.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled a pairing guide to help you match your flick to your firewater. Check out the list, settle on a film and tip back a glass (though maybe not in the theater). To do anything else would be ... un-cinematic.

Movies take a page from reality TV

December 27, 2010 | 10:29 am

Among other trends at the movies this year, 2010 has been a year when nonfiction films have increasingly assumed the shape of the scripted feature. The social-media movie "Catfish" was as much a thriller as a documentary. "Jack-Ass 3-D" was a true story, but with as many gross-out hijinks as "Bruno."

But as nonfiction films imitated their scripted cousins, the trend has also unfolded in reverse : scripted features are now more influenced -- and constrained -- by the conventions of documentary.

At least 13 movies this fall season are based on real-life stories, including a survival drama ("127 Hours"), a Silicon Valley history ( "The Social Network"), a legal tale ( "Conviction"), a boxing saga ("The Fighter"), a heart-stopping action flick ( "Unstoppable") and a heart-tugging romantic dramedy ("Love & Other Drugs").

In a story in Monday's Times, we take a look at the fact-based trend: what's behind it, where it's leading and what risks it poses. As "127 Hours" director Danny Boyle says: "As a director, you like having a real story because that's what makes it more powerful. But it's also hard because you know you're dealing with someone's life." Or as "Conviction" star Hilary Swank says of the subgenre: "You can't take a lot of liberty with the storytelling."

After a decade of reality television, the movie business is finally catching up. Studios are flogging the truth (or at least truthy) horse. And judging by how well some of the movies have performed so far, it's not a moment too soon. We're all suckers, it seems, for stories that come with a based-on-a-true-story tag.

But are we consumed by reality-inspired stories at our peril? 

"I think everybody is exhausted by neat, shapely fictional stories we've had for so long, and a compelling situation from real life is much more interesting," film historian David Thomson tells The Times. "But there's a great danger. Every time a story is made out of a real person's experience, we enter into a process of distortion."

More on all these issues and entanglements here.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: James Franco in "127 Hours." Credit: Fox Searchlight

Mark Wahlberg tells the world that, if it's anyone, it's him [Video]

December 25, 2010 | 11:48 am

"The Fighter" is starting to cross over into cultural spoof territory. But then with Marky Mark, dramatic speeches and Boston accents, it was probably only a matter of time. Below, a riff on Micky Ward's  not-you moment of empowerment, complete with George Costanza, Emilio Estevez and Cookie Monster.

Elsewhere on the viral-video front, Fox Searchlight and James Franco continue to embrace the I'm-not-sure-I-can-watch-that reactions to "127 Hours." After the studio created a T-shirt and a website tweaking those who either didn't see or couldn't watch the movie, Franco's grandmother offers a jab at her own in this home video. Despite plaudits and awards attention, the campaign hasn't quite worked yet: Only about 1.3 million people have given the critically well-regarded Danny Boyle film a shot.

-- Steven Zeitchik



Fox Searchlight celebrates those who survive '127 Hours'

December 15, 2010 |  4:40 pm

Fox Searchlight isn’t growing lightheaded from all the fainting spells its “127 Hours” is generating. Instead, the studio has decided to have fun with how difficult some moviegoers find watching director and co-writer Danny Boyle’s account of how Aron Ralston (played by James Franco) amputated his own arm following a Utah hiking accident.

1 On Thursday, the studio will launch the website www.ikeptmyeyesopenfor127hours.com. Fox Searchlight also is sending out promotional T-shirts with the website’s logo and is distributing free pins carrying the same message in about 200 theaters showing “127 Hours” this weekend.

Among the contenders for the best picture Academy Award, “127 Hours” has sparked visceral reactions at its earliest screenings, with a number of people people keeling at its initial screenings at the Telluride Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival.

Although the movie has drawn steady box-office business, with a cumulative gross of $8.5 million through six weeks of release, "127 Hours" is running about 50% behind the pace of “Slumdog Millionaire,” Boyle’s last, Oscar-sweeping effort.

It's unclear how much the amputation scene -- which somehow feels more graphic than it really is -- can be blamed for the performance. But now Fox Searchlight is trying to see if the film's potential liability can cut the other way.

-- John Horn


Movie review: '127 Hours'

'127 Hours' crowds stay upright

At '127 Hours' premiere, another call for paramedics

'127 Hours' crowds stay upright

November 8, 2010 |  7:00 am


After all the talk about fainting at "127 Hours" screenings, it turns out that the only people passing out might be those monitoring the film's grosses.

Fox Searchlight opened Danny Boyle's film, in which James Franco plays a trapped canyoneer forced to cut off his own arm to survive, to a very impressive $66,000 average on four screens in Los Angeles and New York, for a weekend total of $266,000. With a number of sellouts, the movie had one of the best limited openings of the year, edged by only "The Kids Are All Right" among mainstream releases.

Though it's impossible to know how the fainting reports ultimately affected the box office, moviegoers in these markets appeared unconcerned about -- or perhaps even piqued by -- a string of pre-release incidents in which filmgoers fainted during the movie's graphic amputation scene.

The real test, however, is yet to come. The film is turning into something of a media darling, but as the movie expands to 21 theaters in seven cities next week and eventually to a national rollout on Dec. 3, Searchlight aims to do something trickier: transfer the interest from the nation's two biggest media markets to smaller and more suburban realms.

To do that, it will deemphasize the movie's visceral aspects in favor of a theme of uplift. "What we want to show people is that this movie is about more than one graphic scene," said Sheila DeLoach, Fox Searchlight executive vice president. "It's a heartwarming movie about how strong our will to live is and what one person does in order to live."

As it seeks new horizons, the studio hopes to attract older audiences (many of the filmgoers this weekend, it said, were in the 20- to 40-year-old range).

In the meantime, the studio is happy about one thing: the absence of paramedics at screenings. "People may have closed their eyes or gripped their seats," DeLoach said. "But we didn't have any incidents."

— Steven Zeitchik

Photo: James Franco in "127 Hours." Credit: Fox Searchlight


How much will the fainting reports hurt '127 Hours?'

At '127 Hours' premiere, another call for paramedics

Company Town: A Blowout weekend, but no blowout openers



How much will the fainting reports hurt '127 Hours'?

November 5, 2010 | 11:08 am

The e-mails and tweets came back the moment I'd sent out a message chronicling the latest fainting/seizure at a "127 Hours" screening this week: Is it possible that at least some of this could be a publicity stunt from distributor Fox Searchlight, designed to emphasize the movie's edginess and draw in audiences?

It's a kooky but not entirely illogical question. The Danny Boyle movie about stranded canyoneer Aron Ralston (James Franco) already is expected to skew a little younger, with its flashy direction and extreme-sports undertones. Could making the experience seem like an extreme sport in its own right help it appeal to endurance-minded filmgoers?

Unfortunately, it's a bunk theory. Those involved with the film are unquestionably worried about these reports, and rightly so. The pre-release talk, at least among a certain squeamish section of the moviegoing public, reminds a little of the vibe just before "United 93" came out in 2006: Words of  admiration followed quickly by "But I could never watch that in a theater." (In reality, the amputation scene in "127 Hours" that has caused all the panic is hardly that graphic, and the incidents have occurred at a rate of a fraction of 1%. Mike McClellan, an executive at Landmark, did say the chain is prepared for the incidents, although he didn't specify how.)

The question now will be how much of a liability these reports turn into. Perception is reality when it comes to word-of-mouth-driven movies, and it's unlikely the occasional filmgoer who comes to check out what the fuss is about will offset the larger number of queasy types who stay away. Then again,  the movie has strong reviews and an appealing star and director, and a Searchlight push to sell it as much as a story of redemption as a tale of outdoor survival might broaden the audience. 

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: '127 Hours.' Credit: Fox Searchlight


At 127 Hours, another all for paramedics

 Movie Review: 127 Hours

Some viewers need a hand after the amputation scene in 127 Hours

Danny Boyle: I'm very concerned about '127 Hours' fainting victims [video]

November 4, 2010 |  3:22 pm

Confusion broke out at the Beverly Hills premiere of "127 Hours" Wednesday evening when a young woman suffered a seizure midway through the film. (At the end of the screening, director Danny Boyle promptly took to the stage to say that the incident was unrelated to the movie.)

Only hours before on the red carpet, Boyle downplayed the incidents of fainting and vomiting during some of the film's early screenings after viewing a graphic amputation scene. The director emphasized that only a "very small number of people" had passed out, and said that often, those individuals returned to the theater after coming to.

"It’s not like a revulsion, like they’ve been caught out by something," Boyle explained. "I think the intensity of the journey he takes them on climaxes and they just kind of go away for a few minutes in their minds. It’s like, ‘I’m overloading.' " Check out the full video below.

--Amy Kaufman



'127 Hours' premiere: Don't faint! It's just a James Franco movie [video]

At '127 Hours' premiere, another call for paramedics

Some viewers need a hand after the forearm amputation in '127 Hours'

For Danny Boyle and company, much more than '127 Hours' of toil

At '127 Hours' premiere, another call for paramedics

November 3, 2010 | 11:17 pm

The "127 Hours" curse has struck again.

The movie that has seen filmgoers faint with amazing consistency at various screenings claimed another casualty Wednesday evening -- at the film's Beverly Hills premiere, no less. A young woman suffered a seizure about 45 minutes in, and paramedics were called to help her out of the theater at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The incident began with the woman first slumping in her seat and people next to her murmuring that someone should call 911. A man then stood up and called for a doctor as a crowd gathered in the aisle next to her, with some passing water to the victim. The movie continued to play even as a commotion developed in the darkened theater. Most filmgoers, however, stayed in their seats, and when the paramedics arrived, the woman walked out, wobbly but under her own power.

At the screening's conclusion, director Danny Boyle rose and said the incident was the result of a diabetic condition, and that it was the first time the woman, who appeared to be in her 20s, had had such an episode since she was 5 years old. Boyle assured the audience that she had been taken to Cedars-Sinai medical center and was doing well, adding, to laughter from the audience, that "she said it had nothing to do with the movie." A Fox Searchlight executive later echoed that account.

The episode marked the latest in an oddly frequent chain of medical incidents at screenings of the film, which depicts the real-life ordeal of a hiker trapped for nearly a week in a remote crevasse in Utah after his arm becomes pinned by a falling boulder. Wednesday's incident was unusual, however, in that it happened early in the film, well before the hiker, played by James Franco, amputates his own arm below the elbow -- the scene during which most faintings seem to take place.

The film's ability to unsettle the squeamish is by now taking on a kind of mythic power: When the graphic scene did approach, dozens of people covered or averted their eyes before the amputation even occurred.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Aron Ralston (James Franco) has to sever his arm to survive in "127 Hours." Credit: Chuck Zlotnick / Fox Searchlight/MCT


Some viewers need a hand after amputation scene in '127 Hours'

For Boyle and company, more than '127 Hours' of toil

How Danny Boyle recreated the canyon in '127 Hours': An interactive graphic

Toronto 2010: With '127 Hours' and 'Black Swan,' a festival enters a time machine

September 19, 2010 |  8:24 pm

The calendar might say 2010, but when it comes to awards, Toronto this year felt a lot like 2008.

That was the year when "Slumdog Millionaire" director Danny Boyle and "The Wrestler" director Darren Aronofsky came to the Toronto International Film Festival with unknown commodities and emerged with awards-season favorites.

This year, they had new films to premiere -- and did pretty much the same thing. Boyle brought “127 Hours,” the story of trapped climber Aron Ralston (James Franco), and Aronofsky unveiled “Black Swan,” the supernatural-tinged tale of a fragile ballerina (Natalie Portman). Coming in to Toronto, no one knew what to expect from either. Coming out? Each has loads of goodwill and front-runner status, as we explore in a Toronto wrap-up story in Monday's Calendar section.

There's reason for Fox Searchlight, which is distributing both films, to want history to repeat itself. Two years ago, a strong Toronto catapulted “Slumdog” to eight Oscars, including best picture, while "The Wrestler” went on to land two Oscar acting nominations and won six BAFTA, Golden Globe and Independent Spirit awards.

Of course, as many pundits here have been noticing, the directors have, in a way, switched positions. Boyle's movie, like "The Wrestler," is the more intimate study of one man on the margins of society, while Aronofsky, in the manner of "Slumdog," tells a genre-bending story against an exotic backdrop.

But in many other ways the comparisons are unmistakable. Nor is it the only parallel to 2008. That year, a David Fincher movie that didn't come to Toronto hovered in the background of awards season. (Then it was "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; this year it's the Facebook drama "The Social Network").

Meanwhile, with another movie, Tom Hooper's "The King's Speech" from the Weinstein Company, vaulting to the top tier, there's another layer of drama. Weinstein and "Speech" will be pitted against "Social Network" and its producer, Scott Rudin. The two outsized personalities famously and publicly tussled over the awards-season status of "The Reader," resulting in Rudin walking away from that picture. The year that happened? Of course. It was 2008.

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: James Franco in "127 Hours." Credit: Fox Searchlight.


Toronto 2010: King's Speech, Incendies, among awards winners

Toronto 2010: Black Swan gets an academy dry run

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