24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Michelle Williams

Home theater: 'Take This Waltz,' 'Certified Copy' offer off-beat romance

May 22, 2012 |  2:17 pm

Take This Waltz

Looking to catch a film on Video on Demand or DVD or Blu-ray? Following are some of the newest options available to home theater aficionados.

'Take This Waltz'
Available on VOD beginning May 25

Actress Sarah Polley made her feature directorial debut with the achingly sad 2006 Alzheimer’s drama “Away From Her.” Her new film is funnier and sexier — albeit with an equally weighty core. Michelle Williams plays a flighty Toronto writer who develops a crush on her hunky new neighbor (Luke Kirby) that threatens to derail the comfortably childlike relationship she has with her cookbook-writing husband (Seth Rogen). As the crisis turns more serious, so does “Take This Waltz,” though Polley’s stylized dialogue and faintly fanciful tone keeps the movie from becoming too hard of a slog through a crumbling marriage. That mix of everyday problems with comic brightness can be jarring at times, but it’s also partly the point of the film, which is about how young couples deal with the revelation that life won’t always be some kooky rom-com. “Take This Waltz” opens in theaters in Los Angeles June 29.

'Certified Copy'
Criterion Blu-ray, $39.95

Legendary Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami goes international with his beguiling puzzle-film starring Juliette Binoche and William Shimell as a couple — possibly married, possibly strangers, possibly just actors in a movie — who spend a day walking around Tuscany, having an ever-shifting conversation about their ever-shifting relationship. “Certified Copy” will baffle those looking for explanations (or plot), but it should enchant those looking to watch attractive actors in a gorgeous locale, sharing powerful and playful moments. Criterion’s DVD and Blu-ray edition include an Italian documentary about the film and interviews with Kiarostami, Binoche and Shimell.

'The Secret World of Arrietty'
Walt Disney, $29.99; Blu-ray, $39.99

Japan’s animation masters Studio Ghibli do a typically superb job of adapting Mary Norton’s classic children’s novel “The Borrowers,” about a sickly boy who visits his aunt in the country and discovers a family of miniature people living in the house’s walls and floorboards. Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi captures the sense of wonder and white-knuckle suspense in Norton’s book, but mainly he conveys the sense of proportion, always making sure the viewer knows just how tiny these “borrowers” are as they fight to survive. The DVD and Blu-ray don’t have much in the way of special features, aside from a look at the original storyboards, a music video and some Japanese promotional materials. However, Ghibli fans will be pleased to know that Disney is releasing two more of the studio’s classics on Blu-ray this week: Hayao Miyazaki’s 1986 aerial adventure “Castle in the Sky,” and Yoshifumi Kondo’s beautiful 1995 teen romance “Whisper of the Heart.” Available on VOD beginning today.

'The Woman in Black'
Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $35.99

Susan Hill’s 1983 gothic horror classic has been developed previously into a long-running stage play and an acclaimed British TV movie, each of which took its own liberties with Hill’s story, about a melancholy lawyer who stumbles into a mystery involving a ghostly figure and dead children. Director James Watkins and screenwriter Jane Goldman take a similarly free hand with their Hammer Films version, which stars Daniel Radcliffe as the solicitor who’s trying to figure out why he’s being plagued by a dark apparition. The film isn’t fully faithful to Hill’s plot, but it gets the book’s spirit right, working some classic ghost-story scares into an evocative sketch of a world where the living envy the dead. The DVD and Blu-ray add two short featurettes and a chummy Watkins/Goldman commentary. Available on VOD beginning today.


Cannes 2012: Brad Pitt's 'Killing Them Softly': Anti-capitalist screed?

Cannes 2012: Auteurs take a shine to Americana

James Bond 'Skyfall' trailer released [video]

— Noel Murray

Photo: Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen in "Take This Waltz." Credit: Magnolia Pictures.

The Oscar Senti-meter: Your Tweets on Meryl Streep vs. Michelle Williams

February 7, 2012 |  7:10 am


Welcome to the Oscar Senti-meter –- an interactive tool developed by the L.A. Times, IBM and the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab to analyze opinions about the Academy Awards race shared in millions of public messages on Twitter.

Focused on the best actor, best actress and best picture categories, the Senti-meter combs through a high volume of tweets daily and uses language-recognition technology, developed in collaboration with USC’s Signal Analysis and Interpretation Lab, to gauge positive, negative and neutral opinions shared in the messages. It also tracks the number of tweets. Cataloging these tweets over time gives insight into the vox pop surrounding Hollywood’s award season and gives a voice to average fans who may endorse -– or abhor –- the selections made by Tinseltown’s elite.

Check out our interactive tool: For example, you can compare volume and tone of tweets about the best actress contest on two days, Saturday, Jan. 14, the day before the Golden Globes, and Sunday, Jan. 15, the day of the awards.

As you’d expect, the volume of tweets about the actresses shot up sharply on Golden Globes day. Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams, winners of the best actress statuettes for drama and musical/comedy, respectively, saw the most chatter.

On Saturday, Streep and her awards prospects were the subject of 3,774 tweets registered and rated by the Senti-meter. She saw her volume rise tenfold to 37,583 tweets on awards day, but the overall tone of those tweets was more negative than it had been on the eve of the Globes. The drop in sentiment seemed to be due to some displeasure about her awards speech, and catty comments about her dress. 

For instance, one tweet read: "Being ‘surprised’ at her Golden Globe win is probably the worst acting Meryl Streep has ever done. Come on! You're MERYL STREEP.” While another commenter said: “Does Meryl Streep get her outfits from Chico's or Talbots?”                      

Other comments included:

  •  “Meryl Streep won because she's Meryl Streep, yawn, boring. I heard that movie was unbearable too. Just saying.”  
  • “I hate meryl streep and her false humility.”
  • “Was Meryl Streep wearing a cow girl shirt that they just extended into a horrible dress?”

On Saturday, Williams’ awards prospects were the subject of just 115 tweets registered by the Senti-meter, but 4,394 messages about her were logged on awards night. And along with her volume rising 38-fold, the overall tone of the messages on Globes evening was more positive, driven by her speech and her choice of dress.

Among the messages about Williams that night:

  • “Nice speech by Michelle Williams, but strange category for #MyweekwithMarilyn” 
  •  “Loving Michelle Williams' dress and win for My Week With Marilyn. Toast her in style with a Norma Jean punch!!” 
  • "Best speech ever, Michelle Williams. She said she's a mother first, an actress 2nd. Thanked her daughter first."
  • “Michelle Williams wins for acceptance speech for my week with Marilyn!”

Have fun exploring the Senti-meter, and who knows, if you tweet about your favorite Oscar movie, actor or actress, your messages might just be highlighted in our sample tweets section.


Oscar Ballot: Play-at-home

Heatmeter: Who's hot this awards season?

Cheat Sheet: Your guide to the Oscar nominees

-- Julie Makinen, Emily Rome, Rebecca Keegan and Oliver Gettell

Image: Oscar Senti-meter on the day of the Golden Globes. Credit: L.A. Times, IBM and the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab

Hollywood foments a Marilyn Monroe moment

December 23, 2011 |  9:56 am



Next August will bring the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's death. (She would have been 86, which is as weird to write as it is to think about.)

But Hollywood is getting an early jump on the remembrances. Currently playing in about 250 movie theaters around the country is Michelle Williams' "My Week With Marilyn," a dramatized (and possibly fictionalized) look at the screen siren during a critical period of her life while filming "The Prince and the Showgirl.”

In February, Monroe comes to the small screen via the NBC scripted series "Smash," in which theater producers mount a fictional Broadway show about the bombshell’s life. The real-life Broadway actress Megan Hilty and "American Idol" star-cum-recording artist Katharine McPhee, putting her own spin on "Happy Birthday, Mr. President," each vie to play her.

As if that weren't enough, the series could spawn an actual Broadway musical, with creators developing lyrics and music with an eye toward putting it all on a stage.

"You can actually squint and see a real Marilyn musical," said Craig Zadan, an executive producer on "Smash" and a Broadway producer of note in his own right. "There are already a bunch of new songs, and one of the possibilities if the show becomes a hit is to regroup and try to put it on Broadway." (A 1983 Broadway effort, "Marilyn: An American Fable," flopped, though that was heavily fictionalized and largely panned.)

What's behind the 2011-era Monroe-mania? Certainly, nostalgists say, rightly or not, that she’s a symbol of when celebrity was purer. And even less doe-eyed types will note that Monroe was a forerunner of modern celebrity, someone whose outsized fame derived from her persona as much as her work.

McPhee has her own perspective, telling 24 Frames that she believes there was a striving quality to the woman born Norma Jean Mortenson, who, of course, came from humble beginnings. "I think it's the aspirational quality people relate to," McPhee said.

Williams said that, for her at least, there was an element of reassurance in the Monroe legend. "If even a woman that beautiful clearly has trouble and is damaged and has insecurities, then we're all entitled," she said. (Her film has so far grossed more than $6 million at the U.S. box office in roughly one month of release.)

But the actress also said she believes there was something to admire in how the bombshell crafted her image.

"To be Marilyn Monroe, to be what people expect, to be that open and sexual and gorgeous, it takes an incredible amount of effort. I read something where she said that that’s a very difficult thing to be when one is feeling unlovable," Williams said. "It’s a drain to put out that much energy. It leaves you exhausted."


Mystery surrounds 'My Week with Marilyn'

Michelle Williams channels Marilyn Monroe

The Artist, Marilyn, have old-school charm at the box office

--Steven Zeitchik, with additional reporting by Amy Kaufman



Photo: Marilyn Monroe at 19. Credit: EPA/Julien Auctions.


SAG Awards: Sleepy Michelle Williams on strenuous 'Marilyn' turn

December 14, 2011 |  9:36 am

Michelle Williams said she was too tired to be excited over her SAG Award nomination for best actress Wednesday morning
Though groggy, Michelle Williams was still excited Wednesday morning over her SAG Award nomination for outstanding performance by a female actor in a leading role. She spent the previous evening working late into the night on the Detroit set of Sam Raimi's "Oz: The Great and Powerful", and woke up early to have breakfast with her daughter, Matilda.

While she'd already dropped Matilda off at school, she admitted she was still in pajamas.

"Sorry, I'm still waking up. It was a really long night. I'm so out of it. Whoa," the “My Week with Marilyn” star said, trying to shake off her fog and find the appropriate words to describe her gratitude.

Williams has been nominated for SAG Awards before -– once in 2006 for her supporting role in "Brokeback Mountain," whose ensemble scored a nod, and as part of the cast of 2003's "The Station Agent." But the 31-year-old acknowledged she has found it difficult to enjoy the honors in previous years.

"I just recently started to try to enjoy it. Before, I would have been embarrassed or not really said anything when good things happened," she said. "I don't know, I guess I don't like attention -– or I embarrass easily."

Because she spent so much time preparing to play Marilyn Monroe in director Simon Curtis' film, this nomination felt especially gratifying, Williams said.

"I guess all my roles feel at the time like the most important and strenuous thing you've done to date -– and they probably are, because they grow and feed off of each other," said the actress, who's scheduled to wrap up Sam Raimi's "Oz" on Dec. 23. "'Marilyn' has a relationship to 'Blue Valentine' -– but now, 'Marilyn' feels like the most ambitious thing I’ve ever done. I don't favor it over the others, but yeah, sure, it's another mini-relief in a long series for 'Marilyn.'"


SAG Awards: The complete list of nominees

SAG Awards: Who should win the ensemble honor? [Poll]

SAG Awards: "The Help," "Bridesmaids" among cast nominees

-- Amy Kaufman

Photo: Michelle Williams in "My Week with Marilyn" Credit: Laurence Cendrowicz / The Weinstein Company

Michelle Williams: I'm reinventing my 'Wizard of Oz' character

November 16, 2011 |  4:40 pm

Michelle Williams on Oz The Great and Powerful
In preparing to play Marilyn Monroe, Michelle Williams pored over research, watching the tragic icon’s  cinematic oeuvre and sifting through a stack of biographies.

Williams’ latest role as Glinda the Good Witch in Sam Raimi’s “Wizard of Oz,” however, required far less prep work, the actress said. For starters, she was much more familiar with the source material.

“I’ve already watched the ‘Wizard of Oz’ a lot, because it’s one of my daughter’s favorites,” Williams said during a recent trip to Los Angeles to discuss “My Week With Marilyn,” which opens here Wednesday. “But Sam didn’t want to be bound to Glinda of old, anyway. He wanted a fresh take on it.”

Raimi’s “Oz: The Great & Powerful” centers on a Kansas con man (James Franco) who seeks fame and fortune in Oz. That plan is quickly derailed when he arrives in the mysterious land and encounters three witches (Williams, Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis).

Williams said she was attracted to playing an earlier incarnation of Glinda, one who is still discovering the true extent of her powers.

“In the ‘Wizard of Oz’ film we all know and love, she’s omniscient and doesn’t have a lot of human qualities,” the 31-year-old explained. “She’s not fully realized in that way -- she’s not a dimensional person. That’s where she ends up, and my Glinda is where she’s starting out.”

Williams has been juggling her promotional responsibilities for “Marilyn” while shooting “Oz." At the AFI Fest premiere of the film in Hollywood this month, she walked the red carpet and then hopped back on a plane to “Oz’s” Michigan set for a 4 a.m. call time.

She said the sleep deprivation has been worth it, in part because of the positive effect the shooting experience had had on 6-year-old daughter Matilda, Williams' child with the late Heath Ledger.

“It’s been such an amazing move for us as a family. It’s a really happy place to go to work and a happy place for her to come visit,” Williams said. “Often -- the ‘Marilyn’ sets and the ‘Blue Valentine’ sets -- they aren’t really ideal places for children. She can still come visit, but she can’t really get comfortable and hang out for a while. This really integrates my life and my work in a great way."

For more with Williams, check out Sunday's Calendar section, where a profile of the actress will appear.


A Wizard of Oz reboot follows the prestige road

Toto Recall: Disney now in the Wizard of Oz game too

'Wizard of Oz' prequel will win over skeptics, star says

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: Michelle Williams, left, and Billie Burke as Glinda the Good Witch in “The Wizard of Oz.” Credit: Associated Press / Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

Can Michelle Williams pull off Marilyn Monroe? [Trailer]

October 6, 2011 |  6:00 pm

A new trailer for My Week With Marilyn is online
Months before award season began, many Oscar pundits were predicting that Michelle Williams could earn a lead actress nomination for her upcoming turn as Marilyn Monroe in "My Week With Marilyn."

That was a judgment based on the strength of Williams' past performances — and, of course, Oscar voters' penchant for nominating actors playing larger-than-life historical figures.

On Thursday, a trailer for the film hit the Web, finally giving prognosticators something substantive with which to evaluate Williams' performance. The film, which will be released by the Weinstein Co. on Nov. 4, is based on two memoirs by Colin Clark, who was an assistant director on the Monroe-Laurence Olivier 1956 collaboration "The Prince and the Showgirl." "Marilyn" centers on the emotional and physical troubles Monroe was grappling with during the production, when she allegedly had an extramarital dalliance with Clark. The film seems to present Monroe as a fragile, insecure woman hoping to fill the void in her life with drugs and the constant attention of men.

The trailer also suggests a movie with atmospheric period detail and convincingly shows Monroe's numerous dimensions, while also making larger — and timely — points about the nature of celebrity obsession. But those eager to size up Williams' Monroe turn may be disappointed. While we see the actress dolled up in full Monroe garb — big blond curls, figure-hugging dresses and bright lipstick — we don't hear much of the actress emulating the icon's famously breathy voice.

Williams has earned two Oscar nominations before for her work in 2005's "Brokeback Mountain" and last year's "Blue Valentine." Could "My Week With Marilyn" mark her third nod? Critics will have their say in a few days: The drama is premiering at the New York Film Festival on Sunday.


Michelle Williams to receive Hollywood Actress Award

Michelle Williams, Ryan Gosling ad-lib on 'Blue Valentine'

Michelle Williams' 'My Week With Marilyn' lands NYFF slot

— Amy Kaufman


Photo: Michelle Williams stars in "My Week With Marilyn." Credit: The Weinstein Co.

Michelle Williams' 'My Week With Marilyn' lands NYFF slot

August 4, 2011 | 10:39 am

Between Margaret Thatcher biopic "Iron Lady" and Marilyn Monroe docudrama "My Week With Marilyn," this fall is shaping up to be the season of the 20th century iconic woman.

Now one of the films depicting those icons is getting a sizable publicity platform: The New York Film Festival announced Thursday that "Marilyn" would occupy the centerpiece slot at this year's film gathering on Oct. 9.

The Weinstein Co. release, which is directed by Simon Curtis, stars Michelle Williams as the legendary screen siren. The story is set in the summer of 1956, when Monroe, newly married to Arthur Miller, travels to a British set to film "The Prince and the Showgirl," where a production assistant soon helps her escape the pressures of Hollywood life.

Film Society of Lincoln Center chief Richard Pena, who oversees programming at the festival, said that "after seeing Marilyn Monroe so often portrayed in films as a caricature, it is a pleasure to see this complex personality and unique on-screen presence portrayed so well by such a talented actress as Michelle Williams." The festival previously announced that Roman Polanski's "Carnage" will open the confab.

The centerpiece slot is generally given to an awards contender and can be the bellwether of Oscar heat. In 2006 the festival chose Penelope Cruz's "Volver,"  for which the actress wound up garnering an Oscar nomination. Still, it remains to be seen how "Marilyn's" absence from the heady mix of the Toronto and Venice film festivals will affect its prospects.

One of this season's more intriguing questions will also be how Williams fares with awards voters when the movie comes out Nov. 4. Voters tend to favor actresses playing real-life icons, but to nab a best actress Oscar nomination Williams would need to pull off a rare repeat:  She was nominated for best actress for her role as an embattled wife in last year's "Blue Valentine."


'Carnage' will open the New York Film Festival

Is NC-17 rating on 'Blue Valentine' a buzzkill?

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe in "My Week With Marilyn." Credit: The Weinstein Co.


Ryan Gosling: NC-17 rating on 'Blue Valentine' is a 'buzzkill' [video]

November 8, 2010 |  5:32 pm

When "Blue Valentine" was slapped with an NC-17 rating last month, many in the industry were stunned — including Ryan Gosling, who stars in the film opposite Michelle Williams and said he found the MPAA's decision confounding.

"It's a buzzkill, you know?" he told reporters on the red carpet Saturday in Hollywood at AFI Fest, where the film was screening. "We worked so hard ... and it's about to come out, and they hit us with that, which means that so many people can't see the film. It really limits us."

When one journalist suggested that the Oscar buzz surrounding the movie might help get the word out about it, Gosling scoffed. Awards chatter, he said, means nothing if movie theaters refuse to screen the film altogether because of its NC-17 rating — which means the movie includes "violence or sex or aberrational behavior or drug abuse or any other elements which, when present, most parents would consider too strong and therefore off-limits for viewing by their children," according to the MPAA's website.

"It helps you know about it, but if you can't go see it, what good does that do?" he asked. "The rating really hurts your chances of getting into theaters so people can see the film."

Director Derek Cianfrance, who spent over a decade trying to get the film made, also said he found the rating shocking because he doesn't view it as an "exploitation film."

"We're still fighting it," he said of the MPAA ruling. "Hopefully, we can get in with an R rating so people can see the film. Because that's the biggest bummer of it all ... I think anyone can watch it and see something in there that they can relate to — that they can see themselves in."

— Amy Kaufman



Ryan Gosling rates at Hollywood premiere of 'Blue Valentine'

Harvey Weinstein on the 'Blue Valentine' controversy: Can't we all just get along?

The MPAA's mystifying call on 'Blue Valentine'

Toronto 2010: The Northwest wagon train of 'Meek's Cutoff'

September 17, 2010 |  5:42 pm


With its North American premiere at the new Bell Lightbox venue in Toronto, Kelly Reichardt's "Meek's Cutoff" announced itself as one of the major works of recent American independent cinema and quite likely a film that will be talked about for years to come.

Set in 1845 and based on real events, it tells the relatively simple story of a wagon train made up of three families -- the cast includes Michelle Williams, Will Patton, Zoe Kazan, Paul Dano, Shirley Henderson, Tommy Nelson and Neal Huff -- being led across what is now Oregon by a trapper and scout named Stephen Meek. Brought to vivid, roaring life by Bruce Greenwood -- resplendent in buckskin and prodigious beard -- Meek takes them on a supposed shortcut, and they are unable to find water. When they capture a lone Native American (Rod Rondeaux), the group, with the exception of Meek, reluctantly agree to use their captive as their guide.

Reichardt's two previous films, "Old Joy" and "Wendy and Lucy," both assayed aimless sort-of hipsters in the Pacific Northwest. In a sense, "Meek's Cutoff" is the origin story for those films, the tale of how a certain iconoclastic mind-set made its way to the region. Here, Reichardt's signature airy openness allows the film to be many things at once -- feminist allegory, parable of American imperialism, a plea for open-minded inquiry and simple human kindness. Throughout, Reichardt's filmmaking assures that everything comes across in a manner both emphatically declarative and defiantly subtle.

Reichardt has here both contracted and expanded her style, narrowing her focus onto the most specific and sometimes slightest of incidents to convey her drama, while broadening her thematic horizons. Though much of the film is made up of simple tasks such as the group walking, fixing a wheel or preparing meals, they build an accelerating sense of importance. As the characters, especially the women, emerge from the anonymity of their bonnets and beards to take on personalities, they come to seem less like ciphers and more like people.

Continue reading »

Sundance 2010: Finally, a drama that ... works?

January 25, 2010 |  7:30 am


It's been a long, long time in the desert -- longer than Jets fans have been wishing for a Super Bowl, to use one completely arbitrary example -- since a Sundance drama merited film-reporter recognition. We've been through "Welcome to the Rileys," "Sympathy for Delicious," "Hesher" and a host of highly touted, dubiously excuted star-driven dramas. And that's just in the last three days.

It's been a strange Sundance Film Festival, one in which the most celebrated movies have been those with comedic or genre elements (see: Lionsgate's opening of the wallet for "Buried"), not the hard-boiled premises for which Sundance historically has been known. But "Blue Valentine," a story of a couple in and out of love -- simultaneously, for most of its flashback-happy, high-concept existence -- offers a cool glass of water at a table full of the dusty and lukewarm. The Ryan Gosling-Michelle Williams tale of a marriage unraveling, which screened for the first time to buyers and audiences Sunday afternoon, isn't particularly new to Sundance-goers or especially groundbreaking in the history of dramatic enterprise. But its nuances are entirely specific -- and its performances sufficiently convincing -- that it rates mention as one of the more interesting films in Park City this year.

The coup here doesn't come in the way of dialogue or story -- though both are strong. (Filmmaker Derek Cianfrance will enjoy a fruitful career after leaving the land of Joe Smith and John Stockton -- he cited both "The Godfather II" and D.W. Griffith in discussing his influences at a post-screening Q&A.) No, the real coup is Ryan Gosling, one of the best actors of his generation and consistently part of the most interesting story lines to emerge from Park City.

It was just four years ago when Gosling dazzled as a crack-addled teacher in "Half Nelson," on his way to the most unlikely of Oscar runs later that year. Gosling has had his genre and rom-drama turns, but, hey, we're all allowed our mistakes. If the fates have any sense of justice, a small distributor will buy this film and champion it the way the dearly departed ThinkFilm did with "Half Nelson." "Blue Valentine" is that kind of movie, and Gosling that kind of actor. Sometimes the dramatic is that simple.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in "Blue Valentine." Credit: Hunting Lane Films


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