Roland Emmerich’s Shakespeare conspiracy thingamajig Anonymous makes its Toronto debut

Awards: Aleksandr Sokurov’s Faust takes Venice’s Golden Lion. Check out some of the reviews in yesterday’s edition of Festival Falderal. Michael Fassbender meanwhile won best Actor for Shame. LiC’s Shame review roundup is here and a full list of Venice winners can be found at In Contention.

Business: Some outlets predicted a lot of action on the business front going in to Toronto as opposed the relative quiet of the last couple of years. The most interesting announcement so far was Fox Searchlight picking up Steve McQueen’s well-reviewed Shame which reteams the director with his Hunger star Michael Fassbender.

The Big Stuff:

To dwell on who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays, as disaster monkey Roland Emmerich does in Anonymous, is to utterly miss the point of what is good about those plays and why we care in the first place. The play’s the thing, dumbass, not the hand that may or may not have put it to paper. We know so little about Shakespeare’s biography, does it really change anything if we assign a different name to his plays? And don’t get me started on the fact that Roland Emmerich just plain sucks. Then again, just because the conspiracy thriller is based on nonsense, that doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining, right? Turns out many critics kind of like Anonymous. More than one even called it Emmerich’s best film. That’s not saying much, but maybe it’s enough. Anonymous starring Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, David Thewlis, Joely Richardson and more debuted at Toronto and it opens October 28th. Kirk Honeycutt, THR. Mike Goodrige, Screen Daily. Damon Wise, Guardian. S.T. VanAirsdale, Movieline. Kristopher Tapley, In Contention, Robert Koehler, Variety.

The Smaller Stuff:

Sarah Palin: You Betcha! d:Nick Broomfield

I’d rather watch The Undefeated than a Palin slam. Sure the former is singing to a choir of idiots, but at least it’s a glimpse into a world I can’t fathom. I already know Sarah Palin is a piece of shit and I don’t need to wallow in it with Nick Broomfield and his documentary wank. If this changes the mind of a single low-information voter, I will eat my boxers. It sounds like people who’ve actually seen it agree. Sarah Palin: You Betcha! follows its Toronto debut with a September 30th US release.

Catherine Shoard, Guardian:

“Broomfield’s film has had some of its edge sanded off by the fact its target is now, effectively, neutralised, superseded by a younger model, and so discredited her getting her mitts on the keys to the White House feels a pipe dream, rather than an imminent nightmare. There’s not a lot that’s truly new here, and Broomfield must bulk his testimonies out with file clips. As cuttings jobs go, though, it’s razor sharp. He may look like a pussycat, but Broomfield, too, is a pitbull within.”

Karina Longworth, Village Voice:

“Broomfield has turned traipsing across America in pursuit of a documentary subject who wants nothing to do with him into something of a cottage industry. But after successfully spinning the caginess of Courtney Love and Suge Knight into suspicion in Kurt and Courtney and Biggie and Tupac, his effort to do the same to Palin falls flat. It doesn’t help that there are no new revelations in the film, just old scandals (Troopergate, Palin’s lack of preparation on the McCain campaign) rehashed from a position of obvious bias. Aside from a couple of meetings with Palin’s parents (during which it’s evident that Broomfield is being sold a well-rehearsed script), the film’s only substantive subjects are bitter former colleagues of Palin’s who have an axe to grind and no comparative venue in which to do it.”

Mark Adams, Screen Daily:

“Not exactly a watershed entry in Nick Broomfield’s nonfiction oeuvre, Sarah Palin – You Betcha! is more of a lark than a revealing expose. And for those expecting a hit job, Broomfield offers few devastating punches. Instead, this mildly amusing documentary assembles a ‘greatest hits’ of Palin gaffes and embarrassments, intercut with verite-style interviews with a small handful of people who have known the former Alaskan governor or worked with her.”

Gregory Ellwood, HitFix:

You Betcha! is a mess of a documentary that is neither enlightening or entertaining.  Broomfield and his crew spend most of their time in Palin’s hometown of Wasilla, Alaska interviewing family, friends and former friends (well, very few of them to be honest).  Things look promising at the beginning as Broomfield is surprisingly able to befriend Palin’s parents, Charles and Sally Heath, but the continuing ‘joke’ of the picture is how difficult it is to get Palin to actually talk to them.  It all feels like a documentary you’ve seen many times before.”

Eric Kohn, indieWIRE:

“Broomfield’s project is plagued by two flawed assumptions: That his audience, which obviously excludes devout Tea Party members and other dedicated Palinbots by default, hasn’t heard the horror stories about her power lust and governmental mismanagement; and that any member of that theoretical audience would actually care to sit through something like this again. He’s wrong on both counts. Part clip show, part Alaska travelogue by a plucky Brit faking his naivete, Sarah Palin lacks a coherent reason to exist.”

Rob Nelson, Variety:

“A sarcastically toned, strategically timed character assassination, comic documaker Nick Broomfield’s Sarah Palin — You Betcha! shovels enough dirt on the Tea Party leader and self-described hockey mom to satisfy her haters, but lacks sufficient humor and insight to make it a must-see for anyone outside the Brit muckraker’s fan base.”

Trishna. d:Michael Winterbottom. s:Frieda Pinto, Riz Ahmed, Roshan Seth

Michael Winterbottom puts an Indian spin on Thoomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

Meredith Brody, Thompson on Holllywood:

“Winterbottom never makes the same movie twice, but I don’t think he quite managed to make this one once. I found myself thinking longingly of Polanski’s overheated 1979 version, starring Nastassja Kinski, Peter Firth, and Leigh Lawson.”

Allan Hunter, Screen Daily:

“In a year of striking literary reinterpretations (Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre etc), Trishna may be the boldest of them all as writer/director Michael Winterbottom successfully translates the dark tragedy of Thomas Hardy’s late Victorian classic Tess Of The D’Urbervilles to the streets and mores of contemporary India.”


Damon Wise, Guardian:

“Like Polanski’s Tess, Winterbottom’s heroine is rather passive, a woman who lets things happen to her, and for many, the gorgeous but woefully reactive Trishna will be frustratingly meek. Likewise, Ahmed’s Jay, a nice guy who transforms somewhere along the way into a boorish bully, will be a test of an audience’s sympathy. But for those prepared to take the journey, the film is a seductive, allegorical study of male-female relationships that says more about what its characters are than who they are.”

David Rooney, THR:

“Eclectic director Michael Winterbottom brought raw power to a Thomas Hardy adaptation once before, with Jude in 1996. In Trishna, he updates Tess of the d’Urbervilles to contemporary Rajasthan, India, delivering more emotionally muted yet arresting results, with Freida Pinto instilling fragile dignity into Hardy’s tragic heroine…Winterbottom is less interested in echoing precise events from the late-Victorian novel than he is in exploring how love can be poisoned by class divisions, even in a modern, urbanized environment.”

Peter DeBruge, Variety:

“From Clueless to Cruel Intentions to Easy A, high school has provided directors a quick setting to approximate the conservative mores of classic novels in the modern world. With Trishna, Michael Winterbottom happens upon an inspired alternative, relocating Tess of the d’Urbervilles to contempo India, where the Victorian attitudes of Thomas Hardy’s romantic tragedy still echo in a meaningful way today. Starring an incandescent Freida Pinto, Trishna acknowledges but doesn’t exactly embrace the Bollywood tradition, marrying Winterbottom’s naturalistic style with terrific songs by Amit Trivedi.”

The Hunter. d:Daniel Nettheim. s:Willem Dafoe, Frances O’Connor.

Frank Hatherly, Screen Daily:

“Mixing international espionage with save-the-wilderness activism, The Hunter is both unpredictable and unsettling… Director Nettheim has a track record of quality television drama, though nothing to prepare us for the breadth, style and confidence of his cinema debut.”

Daniel Walber, Spout:

“There’s something deeply mysterious about extinct species…It’s something about which I’m sure Werner Herzog would be terribly articulate and which in theory could make for an intriguing and thought-provoking film. Unfortunately, The Hunter isn’t it. Perhaps had Herzog directed this adaptation of Julia Leigh’s novel it would have gone differently. As it stands, the movie squanders the obvious potential for real thematic weight.”

Richard Kuipers, Variety:

“A mercenary searching for the extinct Tasmanian Tiger has his suppressed humanity stirred in uneven Aussie psychological drama-cum environmental thriller The Hunter. Beautifully lensed and impeccably performed by topliner Willem Dafoe, debut helmer Daniel Nettheim’s adaptation of the novel by author-filmmaker Julia Leigh (Sleeping Beauty) maintains an intriguing ambience, but general auds may feel they’re not given enough information about the protag to become fully immersed in his journey toward redemption.”

Megan Lehmann, THR:

“Willem Dafoe’s extraordinary face, with its startling proportions and rivulets of flesh, seems to have been fashioned for the sole purpose of playing the fixated title character in The Hunter…the actor’s unwavering gaze almost single-handedly propels the narrative of this haunting psychological thriller from Australia… Precisely directed by Daniel Nettheim, a Sydney-based helmer with mostly TV credits to his name, it taps into questions of solitude and loneliness, obsession and repression of emotion, all tied up with an eco-conscious bow. “

4 Responses to “Festival Falderal Round 7: Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous is surprisingly un-terrible”

  1. “The play’s the thing, dumbass.”

    I’d like to think that, if Shakespeare was alive today, he’d write the line that way.

  2. Ha ha. With his mastery of the high-brow and low-brow, he must might.

  3. Yeah, great line, Craig. Made me laugh out loud earlier.

  4. “And don’t get me started on the fact that Roland Emmerich just plain sucks.”

    Amen to that Craig!!! Ha!

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