The Screening Room Blog
Monday, October 27, 2008
Return to form for Woody Allen
LONDON, England -- Lust, passion, laughter, art, a beautiful city and a ménage a trois with two of the world’s most beautiful actresses -- you couldn’t ask for more perfect ingredients for a great Woody Allen tragic-comedy.

What some are calling a true return to form for Allen with “Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona,” is actually the evolution of a form he has been experimenting with for quite some time.

Allen, a self-confessed neurotic, seems to have found a new self in Europe, filming most of his latest movies on the continent which has often been more appreciative of his talents than his native United States.

Mostly, his new-found confidence has paid off. “Match Point” was received in the main positively and while 2007's “Cassandra’s Dream” is one of only few movies that made me fall asleep, he has now succeeded in most critics’ eyes with “Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona.”

Scarlett Johansson and equally luscious-lipped co-star, Rebecca Hall, who play respectively Cristina and Vicky, are best friends spending the summer in Barcelona. While Vicky, who is engaged to a good but terribly lackluster man, believes that true love can only mean commitment and stability, Cristina is a fervent soul who insists love can only mean deep passion and bottomless pain.

Both their worlds are turned upside down when they meet Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), a confident, passionate Spanish painter with a taste for ménages a trois -- Bardem being infinitely sexier in this role than he was as a serial killer with a bob haircut in “No Country for Old Men.”

But the incontestable star of the movie is Penelope Cruz, who plays Maria Elena, the psychotic but brilliant ex-wife of Juan Antonio. Cruz brings a depth to the character that Allen rarely elicits from his actors and that Johansson and Hall could only dream of.

In the end, the movie works because it deals with a theme to which most women can relate. Should I stick with that great guy, who guarantees a stable and fine life-partnership, or do I leave him to roam the world in search of the passionate, sexually-charged, volatile artist-type more likely to leave me in pieces?

I somehow hoped that Woody Allen, who has himself been through the torments of love, would provide that magic answer. As usual, however, Allen offers only questions.

But while parts of the movie come off tragic, he takes the theme of love with a pinch of salt. A choice the audience seemed to appreciate responding with little other than laughs and applause.

Do you think "Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona" is a contender for Best Picture at the Oscars?

-- From Anouk Lorie for CNN

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008
'Frost/Nixon' to open London Film Festival
LONDON, England -- "All the best things happen in the dark, and that's all that matters," London Film Festival Artistic Director Sandra Hebron quipped to an audience of more than 300 reporters in a nice twist on some of the Hadron Collider stories that have been dominating the headlines recently.

She was talking at London Film Festival's own bid to grab some headlines with its announcement of the line-up for this year's event.

The opening reel unwinds on October 15th with the world premiere of "Frost/Nixon," director Ron Howard's adaptation of Peter Morgan's stage play about the historic encounter between British TV showman David Frost and the disgraced ex-U.S. President three years after Watergate. Watch a clip from the film below.

Another American President comes under the spotlight at LFF in the shape of George W. Bush. Oliver Stone has aldready tackled Nixon and JFK on-screen and now turns his attention to Bush in "W." It is already causing controversy in the U.S. as it is a rare feature about an incumbent President.

A recent feature of the London Film Festival is to make use of the city's landmark venues. Hence the world premiere of the latest Bond movie "Quantum of Solace," which will be shown free in an open-air screening in Trafalgar Square moments after it's world premiere in nearby Leicester Square. It's hoped the stars might wander the short distance from one venue to the other to delight their fans.

Former Bond girl Eva Green is among the stars expected to shine in London this year. Hollywood-hunters can look forward to the likes of Peter O'Toole, Penelope Cruz, Gwyneth Paltrow, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney Jessica Alba, Benicio del Toro and Rachel Weisz as well as directorial delights from Steven Soderbergh, Michael Winterbottom and Danny Boyle

Boyle is currently the focus of critical acclaim at Toronto Film Festival with his latest film "Slumdog Millionaire." It is the rags-to-riches story of a boy from Mumbai who becomes a star on the game show "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," and it will close LFF on October 30th.

-- From CNN's Neil Curry

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