Friday, May 24, 2024

Hamptons Fest Serves Up Oscar Buzz with “Wild,” “Birdman,” “Still Alice”


The Hamptons Film Festival is over and is the big one in New York from the Film Society of Lincoln Center. And how did things shake out? We got to see three big movies –“Wild,” “Birdman,” and “Still Alice,” not to mention real showings for “Foxcatcher,” “The Imitation Game,” “Whiplash,” and “St. Vincent.” Here’s how things shook out.

“Birdman” directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, is a dark comedy, very dark, really a tragedy with some comic moments. Sometimes it soars. At other times this grand life lesson drags with preposterous notions. You have to accept it as a fable. Michael Keaton is exceptional, and is a solid Oscar nominee for Best Actor. He’s playing himself, sort of, as a big movie star whose main credits are a superhero (Keaton was original Batman). Amy Ryan, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Andrea Riseborough are a solid supporting cast. When “Birdman” flies, your heart goes with it. A Best Picture nominee? Unsure.

In “Wild,” Reese Witherspoon gets her take on “127 Hours” and “Into the Wild.” She curses, has promiscuous sex, and doesn’t wash her hair. Women love this movie. Jean Marc Vallee, who made “The Dallas Buyers Club,” affects a nice character study but I’m not sure where it all leads. I preferred “Tracks” with Mia Whatsername and Adam Driver. Laura Dern steals her scenes as Reese’s mother. (Come on really, is Laura Dern old enough for this?) As Cheryl Strayed, Reese takes on a 1,000 mile hike up the Pacific Coast that you know will include making friends, avoiding rape, and finding herself etc.  Even though the story takes place in the summer of 2005, most of the music is from Simon & Garfunkel circa 1970.

“Still Alice” will definitely bring Julianne Moore another Oscar nomination. Will she win the big prize this time? Maybe so. This 90 minute drama is also a character study based on the novel of the same name. Julianne’s over achieving, ambitious 50 year old Columbia University professor of linguistics gets early on set Alzheimer’s. It comes on like a freight train, too. Luckily she has Alec Baldwin as her understanding husband and three beautiful kids (Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish). Moore is just jaw dropping, never maudlin, dead on perfect. Wash Westmoreland is the co-director with his partner Richard Glatzer. Glatzer has ALS and directed the movie from a wheelchair with an iPad and his index finger. What did you do last winter?

Meantime, those four other films– holdovers from other fests– “Imitation Game,” “Whiplash,” “Foxcatcher,” “St. Vincent”– were the popular kids at school. They all have Oscar pedigrees with Bill Murray kicking ass as Vincent. In the end, the Best Picture race may pit “Foxcatcher” vs. “Imitation Game.” Stay tuned…

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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