"Who is the National Board of Review, anyway?" is the question. The answer: one of the few major awards groups that's routinely capable of surprise.
Call it a bloodbath. Not literally, of course, but it sure felt like one.
It was a Friday afternoon in late spring 1993 at The American Film Institute. The Class of 1992, which had pretty much killed itself making short films ("cycle projects") since starting the program in September, was waiting for a list. Dreading it, too. Because everybody'd known all year that of 168 "Fellows," as AFI calls them --- only 40 (or just 8 across 5 disciplines - directing, producing, cinematography, editing, production design) would be invited back, making that coveted Second Year cut for the opportunity to produce a second year film.
A top secret selection committee debated late into the day. Even I, then Special Projects Coordinator and right hand to the Dean of Studies, didn't know who was meeting. There was tension everywhere, clinging like the humidity of a Midwestern summer, as the committee decided, and the Fellows waited.
"Beauty is overrated": Patrick Wilson to Kate Winslet in "Little Children."
What are your expectations about the second feature directed by Todd Fields (Nick Nightingale in "Eyes Wide Shut") after "In the Bedroom"? Ditch them -- a smart thing to do before watching any movie. If "In the Bedroom" was the child of Chabrol (specifically "La Femme Infidel"), "Little Children" takes a sample of Todd Solondz's DNA. I don't think it's giving away anything too important to say that "Little Children" is a melodramatic tragi-comedy (co-written by novelist Tom "Election" Perratta, based on his novel), and that the title refers not so much to wee ones who have been born recently as to the immature young adults who are now faced with raising their offspring.
It's a funny, frustrating, even infuriating film -- and at Toronto people seemed to either love it or hate it. I know I did. It just depended on the scene. I think I appreciate it more now, 24 hours later, than I did the moment it was over. It's an odd film, with a wryly intrusive, deep-voiced narrator who appears to be standing just behind the screen reading excerpts from the novel.
Q. I just saw a TV commercial for the new kids' movie "Big Fat Liar." The voice-over said it had won an "Award of Excellence" from the Film Advisory Board. Since the movie doesn't exactly look like "Citizen Kane"--who's on the board and what's with the award? (Ramin Setoodeh, Stanford CA)
PARK CITY, Utah -- This was an especially satisfying Sundance Film Festival. Day after day, clicking off three to four screenings, I became heartened by the good health of independent films. Of course, thanks to the dumbed-down movie distribution system and bookers with blinders, some of the films I liked most may never play in some cities (or states). But at least they exist, and thank God for cable and video stores.