24.January.2012: The Academy Awards announced its full slate of nominations this morning. Up for Best Foreign Language Film: Bullhead, Footnote, In Darkness, Monsieur Lazhar, and A Separation. In the always embattled Documentary category: Hell and Back Again, If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, Pina, and Undefeated. Last but not least, Best Picture noms are: The Artist, The Descendants, Moneyball, Midnight in Paris, The Tree of Life, The Help, Hugo, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and War Horse.
Both the Sundance Institute and the San Francisco Film Society shared the news that Bingham Ray died yesterday after suffering a stroke while attending the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. He was 57. Ray, who was only named San Francisco Film Society’s executive director last November, has long been considered an instrumental figure in American independent film. In the past thirty years Ray had cofounded October Films, served as acting president of United Artists, adjunct professor at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, had been an executive consultant to SnagFilms, and had done first-run programming for New York’s Film Society of Lincoln Center. The Los Angeles Times obituary by Dennis McLellan, recalls Ray’s arthouse triumphs with October, where he distributed “[Mike] Leigh’s Secrets & Lies, Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves, John Dahl’s The Last Seduction, Robert Duvall’s The Apostle, David Lynch’s Lost Highway, Robert Altman’s Cookie’s Fortune and Jim Jarmusch’s The Year of the Horse. An Indiewire page collects various personal tributes to Ray from his friends and colleagues. “News of Bingham’s passing spread around [Sundance] this afternoon, and cast a palpable pall on the proceedings,” writes Karina Longworth. Glen Kenny describes first bonding with Ray over Lost Highway and remembers Ray as “an incredible idealist about movies but also a stone cold realist.”
It’s perhaps inevitable that Spike Lee’s self-financed Red Hook Summer is already drawing sharply divided reactions. Lee thundered about Hollywood’s cluelessness in his Q&A (“They know nothing about black people” seems to be the quotation with legs), which Owen Gleiberman used as an entrance for his Entertainment Weekly pan: “My own feeling is that if the film had been better, he might not have been reduced to griping about the movies the Man won’t let him make. For Red Hook Summer isn’t just a letdown. It’s a bit of an ordeal.” But Andrew O’Hehir writes that he’ll “long treasure” the memory of the film’s premiere: “This is an unpolished, loosey-goosey, street-level film that surely isn’t for everybody. It’s also a passionate, painful, tragic, haunting love letter to Brooklyn and New York City, to black America and the black church, to the possibility of childhood innocence in rough circumstances.” Eric Kohn falls somewhere between dissenting views but ultimately sounds disappointed: “Each flaw stands out like a jagged edge; collectively, they accumulate into an assemblage of rough ideas for better Spike Lee movies that, like his career, maintain terrific potential in theory while falling into a hit-or-miss rhythm throughout the lively execution.”
Horror fans will definitely want to check out a new site dedicated to restorations of classic Hammer films. Upcoming restorations announced on the blog include Dracula Prince of Darkness, The Plague of Zombies, and The Reptile. Additionally, an expanded cut of Terrence Fisher’s Dracula will screen on February 3 as part of London’s VAULT Festival. The blog promises that newly rediscovered footage features “an extended and particularly gruesome death scene for Dracula, as well as a moment considered too erotic by the censors of the day.”Finally, Vulture divulges the complete ballots of its “Worst Movie of 2011” critics’ polls: nothing like a good takedown to redeem a bad movie.