Coming Attractions Winter 2014: Civil Rights Drama Selma Marches to the Top
By Cheryl Dixon, DC Film Society Member
A cozy group of diehard film fans gathered on November 19, 2014 at Landmark E Street Cinema to cast their votes, both informal (applause) and formal (ballot), on over 30 trailers of upcoming, mostly soon-to-be-released Winter movies. Film Society P.R. Co-director Larry Hart observed “It’s the holiday season, and no one knows it more than the movie studios. They save the best for last on the theory that awards go to those late year films.” What better way is there to get an early preview of these holiday blockbusters and “prestige films” than attending Film Society’s “Coming Attractions Trailer Night?” Director Ava DuVernay’s Selma trailer was selected as the best of the best from six categories.
Our popular co-hosts Bill Henry and Tim Gordon led the always-spirited discussion on the trailers and gave the audience the full buzz on the effectiveness of the trailers themselves and a peek at the movies they represent. Bill and Tim, having explored the film festival offerings, and seen more movies than the Academy voters themselves, weighed the merits and made their predictions for the best movies of the year. The Imitation Game, Birdman, Still Alice, and Foxcatcher were just a few of the movies that will likely appear on their top 10 lists. Both agree it’s not been a terrible year for movies so far and there were some really good trailers representing them.
The categories, the winners of each category, and general commentary follow. Whether by applause vote or official ballot, attendees are never shy about expressing their opinions. And they know that their vote counts. Audience feedback just might impact the course of future trailers and how they are used to more effectively market the films they represent. By now, many of the films associated with the trailers have been released, but remember that attendees at this event saw the trailers first! If you liked what you saw in the trailers, go see the movies! And if you missed the trailers, but like what you’re reading here, go see the movies!!
Here’s a summary of the winning films in each of the six categories and further discussion:
Playing the Numbers
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Horrible Bosses 2
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 WINNER!
Katniss and Peeta emerge victorious from The Hunger Games and rebellion follows. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 again brings incredible special effects and a great story in part one of the third installment of the trilogy. This trailer includes one of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman’s final appearances.
Commentary: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies with its dramatic fire scenes, falling buildings, archers, massive armies (and killer trees) found an appreciative audience. Horrible Bosses 2 - Bill assures us - has its moments, the trailer features the hapless trio going into business for themselves and again joining Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Anniston. Chris Pine, Kevin Spacey, and Christoph Waltz are their foes. Liam Neeson goes for another round of fighting to protect his family. Martin surmises (predicts) in “Taken 4”that Liam Neeson will be kidnapped and there’s no one to rescue him. Writer/Director Chris Rock gathers Rosario Dawson together with a long list of comedians: Adam Sandler, Kevin Hart, Cedric the Entertainer, Tracy Morgan, Jerry Seinfeld, J.B. Smoove, Sherri Shepherd, and Leslie Jones. Too much fun? Tim thinks that this is the best movie Rock has done thus far.
And Your Nominees for Best Actor
The Imitation Game WINNER!
The Theory of Everything
This category certainly captures Oscar-worthy performances. Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game portrays English mathematician Alan Turing, who helped break the Enigma Code during World War II.
Commentary: There’s serious, nail-biting competition in this category. Watch a very serious Steve Carell in Foxcatcher, as the wrestler’s sponsor; Timothy Spall In Mr. Turner as the eccentric British painter, J.M.W. Turner; Gael Garcia Bernal in Rosewater as the journalist detained in Iran; and Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything as the British physicist Stephen Hawking. And what about Michael Keaton in Birdman? Enough said.
The Journey of a Thousand Miles
Exodus: Gods and Kings
Heart of the Sea
Into the Woods
Selma WINNER! BEST TRAILER OVERALL!
David Oyewolo, Carmen Ejogo, and Tom Wilkinson star as Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King, and President Lyndon B. Johnson in Selma. The trailer depicts the civil rights marches and violent police attacks on American citizens in 1965 as they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge enroute from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. History flashback: Martin Luther King, Jr. led organized, non-violent marches to expand on voter registration drives begun in 1963. The bloody confrontations eventually led to the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt are amongst those producing this film in commemoration of 50 years since the passage of this landmark legislation. Oscar buzz for female Director Ava DuVernay. Tim’s impressed with Oyewolo’s performance. Another Oscar worthy performance?
Commentary: Tough competition in this category. There were some great trailers. Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings has stunning special effects and an Oscar-worthy performance for Christian Bale as Moses in this story of Moses’ challenge to Egyptian Pharoah Ramses to free the Hebrew slaves, or endure the deadly plagues. There’s Heart of the Sea featuring “sexiest man alive” Chris Hemsworth on a whaling ship. There’s Into the Woods, a Broadway musical adaptation with ensemble performances by Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep, Chris Pine, Emily Blunt, and Anna Kendrick, with several fairytales combined into one narrative. There’s Unbroken with Angelina Jolie directing a biopic on Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete made a POW in Japan during World War II. Finally, there’s Wild with Reese Witherspoon undertaking the journey of 1,000 miles to heal herself. Bill and Tim agree, she’s going to be nominated for an Oscar. Tim predicts a possible faceoff between two female directors (Jolie v. DuVernay)….
Over-Compensation Dept.: Big Men with Bigger Guns
American Sniper WINNER!
A Most Violent Year
Kudos to director Clint Eastwood if the movie, American Sniper, is a fraction as suspenseful as the trailer. Bradley Cooper packs on the pounds of muscle as he looks buff and ready as a Navy SEAL taking the shots in Iraq. This one had the audience on the edge of their seats.
Commentary: Jupiter Ascending has fantastic special effects. Directors Andy and Lana Wachowski guide Mila Kunis, Eddie Redmayne, and Channing Tatum, in this sci-fi, action trailer. “Kingsman received huge applause, but not quite enough to win this category. A suave, James Bond-like Colin Firth introduces a young man to the British Secret Service, but first he must succeed at the most dangerous interview ever. Michael Caine and Samuel L. Jackson round out the cast. Watch for Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain in A Most Violent Year set in crime-ridden NYC, 1981.
Thank Heaven for Little Girls
Beyond the Lights
Inherent Vice WINNER!
Inherent Vice’s trailer looked a bit like a comedy as well as a drama. The ensemble cast featuring Joaquin Phoenix, Benicio Del Toro, Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, Jena Malone, and Michael Kenneth Williams looks really good. Bill says the movie is based on a Thomas Pynchon novel set in the 70s about a missing girl.
Commentary: Apologies, we’ve shown this Annie trailer before. It features music, starting with an updated version of Broadway’s “Annie.” This time Quvenzhane Wallis and Jamie Foxx are cast, respectively as the endearing Annie and “Daddy Warbucks-like” character in modern-day Manhattan. It’s still a hard knock life. Beyond the Lights looks like a formula movie about the challenges and pressures of rising stardom for a singer. Definitely worth a look, though, to see Belle star, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, as the lead character. Director Tim Burton helms Big Eyes, a movie about an artist whose figures had extra large eyes, and who fights for credit for her work. You’ve seen these portraits before, and this is based on a true story. Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz appear in the trailer.
Great Idea Dummies, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Dumb & Dumber To
The Interview WINNER!
Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb
Penguins of Madagascar
In The Interview, James Franco and Seth Rogen play talk show hosts who schedule North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for an interview, but the CIA intervenes and recruits them to assassinate him in the process. “So silly, it’s funny,” exclaimed one attendee.
Commentary: Director Kevin Macdonald’s trailer for Black Sea skillfully depicts the tension as a captain portrayed by Jude Law seeks a fortune in gold lost on a submarine. Sequels galore: Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels reprise their roles in Dumb & Dumber To, Ben Stiller, Robin Williams (in one of his final appearances), and all the familiar characters reappear for a third outing in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (with the action set abroad this time at the British Museum), and just the penguins of Madagascar get the spotlight this time and got the biggest laughter of the night.
Of course, the evening would be incomplete without the bonus trailers. We saw Tomorrowland, a miraculous place where you can change the world, featuring George Clooney and set for a May 2015 debut. Right around the same time comes the Marvel Comics Avengers: Age of Ultron and the gang’s all here to fight for justice and keep the peace. Finally, we also saw Inside Out, a Disney/Pixar animation film set for a June 2015 release. This trailer began with a montage of Disney/Pixar films including Toy Story and The Incredibles. The trailer asks where do our emotions live? It’s about the voices inside your head. These trailers weren’t included in the audience voting.
And so, our very sated movie-going audience enjoyed a full evening of trailer film surprises and promotional giveaways and prizes just for showing up. Always nice to add a free DVD to one’s collection, and there were lots of t-shirts, books, movie posters and other assorted movie memorabilia to please any discerning movie fan. See you at our next trailer program, and at the movies!
Thanks to all of the DC Film Society Directors, Coordinating Committee Members, and Volunteers for putting together this twice-annual educational program. And thanks to our uber hosts, Bill Henry and Tim Gordon for sharing their opinions and tolerating ours, Allied THA, Landmark Theatres, DC Shorts, Women in Film & Video, and Filmfest DC.
Calendar of Events
American Film Institute Silver Theater
On January 8 at 7:15pm is the concert/backstage documentary Elvis: That's the Way It Is (Denis Sanders, 1970) in celebration of Elvis Presley's 85th birthday.
On January 19 is the documentary King: A Filmed Record--Montgomery to Memphis, (Sidney Lumet, 1970) on Martin Luther King's birthday.
On January 15 at 7:15pm director Ruben Östlund will be present for Q&A after Force Majeure (2014), Sweden's Oscar selection. Other films by Ruben Östlund will be shown in February.
Freer Gallery of Art
The Freer's 19th annual Iranian Film Festival begins in January and continues in February. On January 9 at 7:00pm and January 11 at 2:00pm is Manuscripts Don't Burn (Mohammad Rasoulof, 2013); on January 16 at 7:00pm and January 18 at 2:00pm is Fish and Cat (Shahram Mokri, 2013); on January 23 at 7:00pm and January 24 at 2:00pm is What's the Time in Your World? (Safi Yazdanian, 2014) and on January 30 at 7:00pm and February 1 a 2:00pm is Bending the Rules (Behnam Behzadi, 2013.
National Gallery of Art
While the East Building is being renovated, films are shown in the West Building and in other locations. Please check the locations for each show.
The film series "Marco Bellocchio: Morality and Beauty" has two films remaining which have been rescheduled from December. On January 10 at 2:30pm is The Prince of Homburg (1997) and on January 10 at 4:30pm is The Butterfly's Dream (1994). Both are shown at the National Portrait Gallery.
"Selections from Oberhausen" is a three-part program of films from the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen. On January 3 at 2:00pm is Program I including Time and the Wave (William Raban); Orizzonti Orizzonti (Anna Marziano); Sea of Vapors (Sylvia Schedelbauer); Utskor: Either/Or (Laida Lertxundi); Resistfilm (Pablo Marin); and The Dark, Krystle (Michael Robinson). On January 3 at 3:30pm is Program II including Two Museums (Heinz Emigholz); Broken Tongue (Monica Saviron); Just Like Us (Jesse McLean); Seven Times a Day We Bemoan Our Lot and at Night We Get Up to Avoid Our Dreams (Susann Maria Hempel); Construction of the Day (Wojciech Bakowski); and Listening to the Space in My Room (Robert Beavers). On January 10 at 3:00pm is "New Artists' Film and Video" including River Plate (Josef Dabernig); xx-xx-xx-gewobenes papier (Michel Klöfkorn); L’Amour sauvage (Lior Shamriz); La Estancia (Federico Adorno); and False Twins (Sandro Aguilar). All three programs are shown in the West Building.
Special events in January include Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq (Nancy Buirski, 2014), about a prima ballerina on January 4 and January 11 at 4:00pm in the West Building; a restoration of Robert Flaherty's Samoan film Moana (1926) with sound on January 14 at 7:00pm at the National Archives; and "Peter Hutton: Landscape and Time" on January 25 at 4:00pm with the filmmaker in person with four new works, shown in the West Building.
"Discovering Georgian Cinema" (January 12-March 26) surveys a century of filmmaking from Georgia with films shown at the Goethe Institute, the American Film Institute, the Embassy of France and the Freer Gallery of Art. Films are 35mm from international archives. On January 12 at 6:30pm Peter Rollberg introduces Blue Mountains (Eldar Shengelaia, 1984); on January 13 at 6:30pm is The White Caravan (Eldar Shengelaia and Tamaz Meliava, 1963); on January 15 at 6:30pm is An Unusual Exhibition (Eldar Shengelaia, 1968); on January 26 at 6:30pm is Bakhmaro (Salome? Jashi, 2011) shown with Felicità (Salomé Alexi, 2009); on January 27 at 6:30pm is In Bloom (Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross, 2013) shown with the short film Waiting for Mum (Nana Ekvtimishvili, 2011); and on January 29 at 6:30pm is The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear (Tinatin Gurchiani, 2012). All are shown at the Goethe Institute. More in February and March.
"Cruzamentos: Contemporary Brazilian Documentary" begins in January and continues in February. On January 23 at 7:00pm Christopher Stults introduces Iracema (Jorge Bodanzky and Orlando Senna, 1974); on January 25 at 4:30pm is Housemaids (Gabriel Mascaro, 2013) shown with Santiago (João Moreira Salles, 1992-2007); and on January 30 at 7:00pm is Like Water Through Stone (Marilia Rocha, 2009). All are shown at American University. More in February.
Smithsonian American Art Museum
On January 20 at 6:00pm is the short film Aves: Magnificent Frigate Bird, Great Flamingo (Nancy Graves, 1973), an experimental nature film about these two species in flight. Introduced by Christina Hunter, director of the Nancy Graves Foundation and shown to complement the exhibition "The Singing and the Silence."
Washington Jewish Community Center
On January 6 at 7:30pm is A Place in Heaven (Yossi Madmony, 2013), an epic drama spanning Israel's history through 40 years and three wars.
On January 20 at 6:30pm is Joachim Prinz: I Shall Not Be Silent (Rachel Eskin Fisher and Rachel Nierenberg Pasternak, 2014), a documentary about an outspoken rabbi living under the Nazi regime who became an American civil rights activist. Q&A after the screening with Rabbi Deborah Prinz.
Library of Congress
"The 80s: The Decade the Musicals Forgot" is a series of 1980s musicals. On January 16 at 7:00pm is Streets of Fire (Walter Hill, 1984); on January 23 at 7:00pm is Xanadu (Robert Greenwald, 1980) and on January 30 at 7:00pm is Breakin'2 (Sam Firstenberg, 1984). See the website for ticket information.
The Goethe Institute is one of the venues for the Georgian film festival see above. There is also an exhibit of 1991 photographs from Tbilisi by Barbara Klemm.
National Geographic Society
The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour takes place at National Geographic January 26-31 at 7:00pm each day. Films are shown about mountain sports and cultures.
On January 13 at 7:00pm is Attila Marcel (Sylvain Chomet, 2013).
The Japan Information and Culture Center
On January 21 at 6:30pm is A Gentle Breeze in the Village (Nobuhiro Yamashita, 2007). An anime film The Place Promised in Our Early Days (Makoto Shinkai, 2004), winner of the Best Animated Film award at the 59th Mainichi Film Awards.
Arlington Arts and Artisphere
On January 24 at 12:30pm is the Rosebud Film and Video Festival, a day of locally made short and experimental film.
On January 14 at 7:00pm is the restored Moana (Robert Flaherty, 1926), presented by the National Gallery of Art.
On January 23 at noon is the North American premiere of To Tell the Truth: Working for Change (Cal Scaggs, 2013), Part I of a history of the documentary film in the U.S. and U.K., covering 1929-1941. On January 30 at noon is part two To Tell the Truth: The Strategy of Truth (David Van Taylor, 2013).
On January 27 at 7:00pm is The Decade of Discovery (2014), followed by a panel discussion.
National Museum of Natural History
On January 18 at 2:00pm is the premiere screening of Language Matters, a documentary about languages that are no longer spoken. Filmmaker David Grubin will be present for discussion.
The "Programmer's Choice" film is Pelican Dreams (Judy Irving, 2013) on January 7 at 8:00pm.
On January 14 at 8:00pm is this month's "Film in Focus" Led Zeppelin Played Here (2014) with director Jeff Krulik participating in a Q&A afterwards.
For this month's "French Cinematheque" is a new HD restoration of Eric Rohmer's A Tale of Winter (1992) on January 21 at 8:00pm.
The comedy Zero Motivation (Talya Lavie, 2014), shown on January 28 at 8:00pm is this month's "Reel Israel" film.
Italian Cultural Institute
On January 13 at 6:30pm is The Birds, the Bees and the Italians (Pietro Germi, 1966) starring Virna Lisi.
Anacostia Community Museum
On January 13 at 1:00pm is The Conspirator (Robert Redford, 2011) about those charged with conspiring to kill Abraham Lincoln. On January 31 at 2:00pm is the award-winning documentary American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs (2013) about the social activis and philosopher.
On January 16 at 7:30pm is A Path Appears: Episode 3--Violence and Solutions, based on the book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (John Irvin, 1979), based on the book by John le Carré and starring Alec Guinness, will be shown in episodes, and also as a marathon. On January 8 at 7:30pm are Episodes 1 and 2. On January 15 at 7:30pm are Episodes 3 and 4, on January 22 at 7:30pm are Episodes 5 and 6 and on January 25 at 1:00pm is a marathon of all six episodes.
On January 6 at 7:00pm is American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs (2013), a documentary about writer and social activist Grace Lee Boggs. A discussion follows with local activist Jenny Xie.
On January 21 at 1:00pm is Jurassic Park (1993), part of the "Midday Thrillers."
Reel Affirmations XTra
On January 30 at 7:00pm is the documentary Out in the Night (Blair Dorosh-Walther, 2014) followed by a reception and Q&A with the director, producer and film subject.
Busboys and Poets
On January 25 at 5:00pm is A Path Appears, about young women forced into a life of prostitution. At the 14th and V location.
On January 15 at 7:00pm the documentary series about WWI Apocalypse continues with Episodes 3 and 4.
See a selection of comedy shorts from last year's DC Shorts Film Festival combined with live performance. January 9 and January 10 at 7:30pm and 9:30pm. At the U.S. Navy Memorial's Burke Theater. See the website for list of films, comics and details.