From Boston To Hollywood With Roadside Attractions

Friday, March 4, 2011
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(L-R) Roadside Attractions co-president Eric D'Arbeloff, Writer/Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Roadside Attractions co-president Howard Cohen arrive at Los Angeles premiere of Biutiful.

March 4, 2011

Massachusetts was well represented in the audience of this past week’s Oscar ceremony. Not only did the cast, crew, and even the real life characters behind Lowell-based The Fighter attend, but two local boys were there to represent a couple of small movies that have attracted big Oscar attention. Newton-born Howard Cohen and Brookline-born Eric d’Arbeloff are the co-presidents of Roadside Attractions, an independent film distribution company whose two movies, Winter’s Bone and Biutiful, were among those nominated in major categories.
Cohen started in the movie business as an agent, and d’Arbeloff was a producer whose credits include small indie films like Lovely & Amazing and Trick. After watching Hollywood turn in favor of making fewer movies with bigger budgets, the two figured they could successfully market and distribute cheaper, independently-financed movies made for grown ups.
“For me as a producer,” says d’Arbeloff. “I was at the flipside of a number of distribution deals, and I felt like there was an opportunity for a non-studio entity to be passionate about these smaller films. And that’s where we really found our niche.”


Roadside Attractions first hit was Super Size Me, which chronicled Morgan Spurlock’s self-inflicted dare of eating only meals from McDonalds for an entire month. From there, they went on to release a diverse slate of films, including Good Hair, The September Issue, and this past year’s critically-acclaimed and award-winning Winter’s Boneand Biutiful.
How does the duo choose which films they are going to distribute?
Says Howard Cohen, “They are joint decisions, but we also let each other have the films that we really champion. You get the diversity of opinion.”
“For instance,” continues Cohen. “In 2009 we distributed The September Issue, the Anna Wintour Documentary. Eric was really the promoter of that, and saw that there was a big audience for it. I liked the movie, but I think he really had the vision for that one.”
On whether or not they like every movie they distribute, Cohen answers, “It’s better if you like it.  I think we definitely distributed films that were not our personal taste, but I would say the vast majority were films that we liked.”
Cohen and d’Arbeloff bring to Hollywood a New England sensibility, especially in how they approach their decision-making process.
“We want our films to have a willingness to entertain,” explains d’Arbeloff, “and maybe that comes from a little bit from our New England roots. We are not just about pleasing critics, and being kind of urbain.”
“We want movies that audiences can really connect with, and that I think is the ideal Roadside Attraction Film. So maybe we have a little bit of Bostonian, New England humility in the mix versus some of our competitors. I think that has opened our eyes to a number of films that aren’t geared towards critics, but that have really sound audiences.”
Cohen add, “We talk how key particular theatres are for our films. They are not the downtown art houses, but actually a little more suburban theaters. The West Newton Cinema is our prototype theatre.”
“We go to the West Newton Cinema every time we visit Eric’s family, who still live in Brookline. We talk to the manager and ask what’s working, what’s not working. There’s a kind of too high brow or very narrow kind of movies that doesn’t work there. And there is a sort of a King’s Speech kind of movie that works really well there.”
What’s worked for Cohen and d’Arbeloff this part year is the Ozark-set mystery Winter’s Bone, nominated for four Oscars including Best Picture, and the Spanish drama Biutiful, which earned its star Javier Bardem a best acting nomination. 
What does Cohen and d’Arbeloff attribute their success to?
Cohen explains, “There is group think abut a film, and you don’t want to be taken in by that, because it is sometimes about going the other way. That’s how you have opportunity and success.  If everyone loved the move it would probably sell for ten million dollars.”
“It’s picking the one that everyone didn’t love. At Sundance 2010, Winter’s Bone was well liked, but no one thought it would do well,” says Cohen.

Oscar Snubs, Surprises And Predictions

Wednesday, January 26, 2011
1 Comments   1 comments.

During depressions and recessions, good times and bad, Americans go to the movies. With 1.3 billion movie tickets sold, 2010 was another banner year for Hollywood. It’s precisely that infatuation with the big screen that makes the Academy Awards one of the year’s truly momentous events. The Emily Rooney Show’s Jared Bowen and Thomas Doherty, film buff and American studies professor at Brandeis University, walk us through the snubs, surprises, and predictions.

Best Picture:

 Jared Bowen: It’s predictable straight down the line. For Bostonians, it was a mixed bag. While The Fighter was nominated, there was only one nomination for The Town(Jeremy Renner for Best Supporting Actor).
Thomas Doherty: It was predictable... but these are ten really worthy films. There may be one or two that are not your cup of tea, but there a lot of good films from a lot of different genres. One thing that’s missing are comedies. It’s a really somber list.
JB: I think it’s going to go to the King’s Speech… either that or True Grit.
TD: I know King’s Speech is the middlebrow pick, but I still really enjoyed it.
Emily Rooney:True Grit was pretty predictable. It was just straight western with no Coen Brother twists or weird plotting.
TD: This might be why it’s the Coen Brother's most successful movie. It’s sort of the anti-No Country for Old Men. They were really smart to stick with the original literary voice of the girl from the book.
JB: Despite getting no attention from Golden Globes or other awards shows, it was the second most highly nominated film by the Academy. Whatever the Coen Brothers do, they have such an eye for everything. The music always work, the costumes are great, and the cinematography is always beautiful.

Best Actor

TD: I bet you both dinner that Colin Firth will win this category.  

ER: I thought 127 Hours was just a fantastic movie, and I really liked James Franco.
TD: What’s strange is that he’s also hosting the Academy Awards.
JB: This has happened before. Michael Caine hosted the Academy Awards years ago when he was nominated (in 1973, Michael Caine was nominated as Best Actor for Sleuth). History shows that if you are hosting, you will not win… I’m not sure he will win, but I really liked Jesse Eisenberg will win. I usually get to interview all the nominees, but this year he’s the only one I’ve interviewed.
TD: I thought Bridges mumbles too much in True Grit.
ER: Christian Bale was great, but the movie was just okay.

Best Actress 

JB: This is Annette Benning’s fourth nomination and she completely deserves to win it for The Kids Are Alright… but there is also Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole. Kids was so original, and so basic. It’s a simple movie that has a great exploration of traditional family dynamics.  

TD: I think Kids is weirder than that. It’s one of the few movies where the heterosexual sex is hotter than the homosexual sex. Julianne Moore has this great hetero sex, but then she returns to being in this boring homosexual couple. The gender dynamics are really curious.

JB: I really loved Black Swan.
TD: I like Black Swan but it’s a film that really divides people. People who like ballet tend to not like it, while those who don’t know ballet tend to really like it.
JB: You’re not really supposed to be paying attention to the ballet, you’re supposed to be paying attention to Natalie Portman’s descent into madness. It’s born out her obsession with her art. It really works for me. I think she will win best actress over Annette Benning.
TD: It scores very well with the young female demographic. It was surprised how at the screening I was at, the audience was much younger than I expected.

Best Supporting Actor

 JB: Christian Bale will get best supporting actor. I thought Geoffrey Rush played the part as fairly creepy, which I don’t think was the intention, so it didn’t really work for me.
TD: I agree.

Best Supporting Actress

JB: I was a little surprised by Hailee Steinfeld’s nomination for best supporting actress. Mellissa Leo from The Fighter is my pick, and she’s up against Amy Adams from the same movie. As the mother, Leo is indomitable.

Glaring Omissions

 JB: What’s missing is Mila Kunis from Black Swan and Julette Lewis from Conviction, who had about 4 or 5 minutes of screen time but she gives a master-class in acting.
TD: For me, it was Never Let Me Go, which had Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield, who was in the social network. That movie really got to me, but it slipped under the radar.

Greater Boston’s Jared Bowen and film critic Joyce Kulhawik give Emily their take on what Oscar night might bring.


Few Surprises In This Year's Oscar Nominations

By Linda Holmes   |   Tuesday, January 25, 2011
0 Comments   0 comments.

The Best Movies Of 2011

Wednesday, December 22, 2010
2 Comments   2 comments.

WGBH's Jared Bowen and Boston Globe film
critic Ty Burr.

It’s been another banner year for Hollywood with more than a billion tickets sold. We’ve seen the return to form of one of America’s most critically acclaimed directors with Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, the end of one of the most popular franchises in film history with the 8th and final Harry Potter film...even a 24-hour film experience here in Boston as the MFA screened, The Clock. With so many movies to see and so little time, we turn to Boston Globe film critic Ty Burr and our own Jared Bowen - a couple of certified film fanatics, to walk us through some of the best of the year.

Jared Bowen's Picks

Jane Eyre
Directed By: Cary Fukunaga
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Machal Fassbender
Michael Fassbender explodes off the screen (and into a year of prominence) in an exquisitely rendered film.

Directed By: Paul Feig
Starring: Krisen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne
I definitely did not see a funnier movie this year. And let me be upfront—I loves me some low-brow. And how about something revolutionary—give Melissa McCarthy the Oscar.

The Debt
Directed By: John Madden (Proof, Shakespeare in Love)
Starring: Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Tom Wilkinson
Intense and riveting—it’s great when the film ends and you can finally catch your breath (which you’d been holding forever).

Midnight in Paris
Directed By: Woody Allen
Starring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams
A quirky sweet film with a most novel concept

The Help
Directed By: Tate Taylor
Starring: Emma Stone, Viola Davis
All glossy and slick and somewhat pat—but that doesn’t matter after an extraordinary cast led by Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Emma Stone is finished

War Horse
Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson
Spielberg opens and closes the film with a distracting John Ford take. But for the actual war crux of the film, War Horse slips into Spielbergian rhythm and just gallops brilliantly.

My Week with Marilyn
Directed By: Simon Curtis
Starring: Michelle Willims, Kenneth Branagh
What I like to call a Vanity Fair film—completely overstylized in lighting, costumes and set and for all that I love it. Eddie Redmayne is just utterly charming (even though he only ever smiles) and Michelle Williams is just absolutely captivating as Marilyn. Plus there’s an equally decadent supporting cast including Branagh, Ormond, Dench, Wannamaker and more.

For Kids - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Directed By: David Yates
Starring: Danielle Radcliff, Emma Watson
Jared Says: This series went off the rails for me awhile back. But this edition completely returned me. Just an exceptional end to the series.

Ty Burr’s Picks

The Artist
Directed By: Michael Hazanavicius
Starring: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell
Hollywood, 1927: As silent movie star George Valentin wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion, he sparks with Peppy Miller, a young dancer set for a big break. *Opens this Friday

The Clock (MFA film installation)
Directed By: Christian Marclay

Le Quattro Volte
Directed By: Michelangelo Frammartino
Starrring: Guiseppe Fuda
Italian film - An old shepherd lives his last days in a quiet medieval village perched high on the hills of Calabria in northern Italy

Bill Cunningham New York
Directed By: Richard Press
Starring: Bill Cunningham and others
A documentary profile of the noted veteran New York City fashion photographer.

A Separation
Directed By: Asghar Fahadi
Starring: Peyman Moaadi, Leila Hatami and Sareh Bayat
Iranian film - A married couple are faced with a difficult decision, to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimers.

Directed By: Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson, Valhalla Rising)
Starring: Ryan Gossling, Carey Mullligan, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks 
A Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a wheelman discovers that a contract has been put on him after a heist gone wrong.

Directed By: Bennett Miller (Capote)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Robin Wright, Philip Seymour Hoffman
The story of Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane's successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players.

Win Win
Directed By: Thomas McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor)
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Jeffrey Tambor
A struggling lawyer and volunteer wrestling coach's chicanery comes back to haunt him when the teenage grandson of the client he's double-crossed comes into his life.

For Kids - Hugo
Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Voices of Ben Kingsley, Sacha Baron Cohen, Christopher Lee
Animated film set in 1930s Paris, an orphan who lives in the walls of a train station is wrapped up in a mystery involving his late father and an automaton.

Human Trafficking Confronted By The Power Of Images

By Jared Bowen   |   Wednesday, December 1, 2010
2 Comments   2 comments.

The Day My God Died will screen at the BITAHR Saturday at 2:30pm, followed by a panel featuring the
Director Andrew Levine, and Brigitte Cazalis-Collins and Joe Collins, Founders of Friends of Maiti Nepal.

Dec 2, 2010

CAMBRIDGE — The Boston Initiative to Advance Human Rights has organized a group of local filmmakers, survivors, activists, and academics to participate in the Human Rights and Sexual Trafficking Film Forum, taking place at the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Dec. 2-5. This forum presents 12 documentaries that explore how the power of film can combat commercial sexual exploitation and modern-day slavery.
Suffolk law professor Kate Nace Day organized the film forum with fellow Suffolk law professor Alicia Foley Winn. Day says the event forwards the notion that film can spark change in ways other mediums can’t. “Documentaries have the power to make the experiences of the victims and the survivors very real… and very human,” Foley Winn said.

Day said she was struck by the effect documentary film had on her students when a film on sex trafficking was shown at Suffolk five years ago. "We decided that film was a powerful way to teach and move forward this growing social movement… to give it a political voice… and to lead to local, national, and international law reform,” Day said.
The forum aims to make a singular impact by presenting in stark terms the most powerful visual images that stem from this issue. “One of the advantages film has as a medium is that it pierces illiteracy," Day said.
“Film also has the power to create concrete change,” Day said. “For example, one of the films, Playground (playing at BITAHR Sunday at 2pm and 3:15pm), about domestic minor sex trafficking, is a film we asked Congressmen Jim McGovern to watch. That lead to opening hearings in congress on the problem of sex trafficking in the United States.”

How do Kate and Alicia advise audiences brace themselves for the often shocking imagery they will face throughout the course of the forum? “I think if you want to understand what’s involved in violent sexual inequalities,” Day said, “Then you have to be prepared to see some part of it.  None of it is exposed in its entirety in any one of these films.”
“But if you have a young person, there are a number of films in the forum on Sunday that are designed to stress preventive measures that work in combating sex trafficking," Day continued.

She admits it's difficult. "You want to make young people aware of the vulnerability, but without violating important social norms about what young people should be seeing or being exposed to,” Day said.
The Human Rights and Sex Trafficking Film Forum opens on Dec. 2 and runs through Dec. 5 at the Brattle Theatre.

Globe Critic Ty Burr Shares His Favorite Football Flicks

Wednesday, November 24, 2010
1 Comments   1 comments.

North Dallas Forty took a cynical look at the North Dallas Bulls, a team which had a
striking resemblance to the real-life Dallas Cowboys. Mac Davis and Nick Nolte starred.
Credits: Buena Vista Pictures

Jared Bowen sits down with Boston Globe film critc Ty Burr to talk whatelse, football, and what you should be watching this Thanksgiving.
if you’re not going to be watching football on Thanksgiving, the second best thing to do is watch a football movie. And there are plenty of choices.
What makes a good football movie? According to Boston Globe film critic Ty Burrr, “It’s got to have a knowledge of the game, and get the audience in there, so they know what’s going on.  And, you also need a certain amount of sentiment, but not too much sentimentality.  And the best ones balance mom and apple pie, football, and Thanksgiving sentiment with some tougher outlooks on life.”

What Do You Think?

What are Ty’s favorite football movies? “There are some really good football movies, not as many as I think baseball movies, but it’s a smaller genre. North Dallas Forty is one of my favorites.  That’s the cynical sort of pro-movie, but I think the all around sentimental favorite has to be Rudy. “
“Oh, I know, the grizzled hardened movie critic…but Rudy gets me weeping every time. When Charles S. Dutton gets up at the end of the movie and starts doing the slow clap. I actually think this may be the first instance of the slow clap in movie history.  You know you do the, clap... clap... clap... And then everybody starts getting on there and chanting Rudy, Rudy. It’s the classic little guy who wants to prove himself on the football field. You gotta get behind that movie.  I mean, it’s corn, but it’s honest corn, well served and well mounted.”

Rudy's locker room speech

So, what’s the worst football movie out there? “For my money,” says Ty. ”It has to be Radio with Cuba Gooding Jr.  The one in which he plays a mentally challenged young man who becomes sort of the mascot for this local high school team with Ed Harris as the coach.  Remember, what I said that a football movie has to have sentimentality, but not too much—man this movie lards it on. It’s an embarrassment to watch.”
Now, what’s the movie that people should seek out that they haven’t seen that they won’t know about?
“The sleeper of football movies, to my mind, is a documentary that came out a couple of years ago. It’s called Harvard Beats Yale 29-29. It’s a documentary about a 1968 football game played in Harvard stadium against Yale. Both teams undefeated, but Harvard the underdog. With a minute and 42 seconds to go, Harvard was down 29 to 13,  and they came back to tie it.”

View the trailer for Harvard Beats Yale 49-49

“It’s not just about that, it’s about everything else that was going on in 1968. The movie’s a microcosm of what was happening in this country. One of the players was a Vietnam vet, one of the player’s was dating Meryl Streep, another one had George Bush as a roommate at Yale. Tommy Lee Jones is interviewed cause he was on the Harvard football squad, and his roommate was Al Gore. There’s so much that sort of criss-crossed into this movie. This game sort of reflects that in the background and solves it a very weird, sort of triumph surreal way.”

About the Authors
Jared Bowen Jared Bowen
Jared Bowen is WGBH’s Emmy Award-winning Executive Editor and Host for Arts. 


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