So what could have led Roger Michel, the obviously bright and perceptive director of Enduring Love, to take Ian McEwan’s 1998 novel about a bizarre romantic obsession and turn it into a “jokeless gloomarama?” wonders New Yorker critic Anthony Lane. “The ideas behind Enduring Love may be fascinating, but they don’t play, they sulk, and so it was during another annoying rant from Jed the Pest [i.e., Rhys Ifans' thoroughly revolting stalker character] that I leaned over to the friend beside me and whispered, ‘All I really, really want at this moment, in the whole world, is to be watching Dodgeball.”Read More »
In Tom Wolfe’s scheme of things, reports a New York Times Magazine profile (11.31), social behavior is almost always determined by status consciousness — an instinct to preserve your place in the social pecking order. Pretty much all human endeavor “has to do with status,” says the 74 year-old author of “I Am Charlotte Simmons” (excerpted in Rolling Stone, in book stores November 9). “Or STATE-us, which is the way you say it if you want more status.” Our status awareness is so fundamental, Wolfe says, that “there may even be a specific place in the brain that creates it,” the article relates. “Status is neurological, in other words…people aren’t so much interested in scaling the social ladder as in clinging to their own, hard-earned rung.” For what it’s worth, I can say with some authority that Wolfe’s theory is observable in Los Angeles entertainment journalist circles.Read More »
Two days before the election, and there’s a definite downshift thing going on. Can you feel it? Whatever’s going to happen is going to happen, and that’s that. (Save for the last-minute lurches of the fence-sitters, of course…but they’ll never know who they are or what they really believe.) A lot of readers are telling me they’re sick of the whole thing and can’t wait, etc. I for one am ready and willing to get back into all-movies, all-the-time…unless there’s a Florida-style recount debacle-muddle of some kind. It’s clearly time to get our priorities straight and ask when exactly will the Farrelly’s make their Three Stooges movie? And what happened to that Russell Crowe-as-Moe thing?Read More »
Follow-up to my 10.27 item (see below): Wired magazine made the same call I did about not capitalizng the words “internet” or “web” two months ago. Is this clearly understood? I hope so. “Effective with this sentence, Wired News will no longer capitalize the ‘I’ in internet,” editor Tony Long wrote on 8.16. “At the same time, Web becomes web and Net becomes net. True believers are fond of capitalizing words, whether they be marketers or political junkies or, in this case, techies. If It’s Capitalized, It Must Be Important. [But] the simple answer is because there is no earthly reason to capitalize any of these words. Actually, there never was.”Read More »
An anonymous “Black Man, Husband, Father, Son, Actor, Producer, Director, Poet, Warrior,” et. al. who wrote in to Movie City News a day or so ago says he’s sick of a lot things in movies today, with all-around mediocrity among the offenders. One things that stick in his craw is Halle Berry’s role in Monster’s Ball,” a single mother who falls for the great white racist white man WHO PUT HER HUSBAND AND FATHER OF HER CHILD TO DEATH.” Okay, except Billy Bob Thornton’s death-row prison guard character (i.e., Berry’s love interest) isn’t a “great racist white man” — he’s a middle-aged cog in that great racist white-man machine/mentality who slowly divests himself of that ugliness and emotionally comes into his own, partly because he can’t stomach the pain of having driven his son to suicide, but largely and more simply because he’s fallen in love with Berry and wants/needs to redeem himself in God’s eyes through his feelings for her.Read More »
Roar of Greasepaint
I predicted this a few weeks ago, and now it’s coming to pass:
Joel Schumacher’s The Phantom of the Opera (Warner Bros.,
12.22) is making its way, buzz-wise, into the Best Picture Oscar
This lavishly produced (I’m told) musical, which almost no one has seen but is based, as everyone knows, on the popular Andrew Lloyd Webber stage musical, has become a big Best Picture “maybe” largely due to a story written by New York Times reporter Sharon Waxman that ran yesterday (10.28).
“You know it’s going to be a strange year for the Oscars when
November is just around the corner and the talk in Hollywood is
about The Phantom of the Opera,” her story began.
Schumacher, Waxman continued, “is not exactly an Oscar habitu√É¬©, never having been nominated before. But the need for...
The breeze is now blowing in John Kerry’s direction. Can you feel it? I can. The tightening of the national poll numbers, the strengthening of the looted weapons depot in Iraq story by eyewitnesses and video footage, the just-announced FBI investigation into Halliburton contracts, etc. The breeze was blowing for Bush a week, week and a half ago….but now it’s not.Read More »
Vincent, Tom Cruise’s hit-man character in Collateral,
is diamond-like — hard and sharp and full of glints and
reflections. For me it’s a hot-cold thing…acting that burns through
not because of some forced intensity, but an artful hold-back,
Cruise, never much for passivity, wants a Best Actor nomination for this tour de force. He’s not out of line. His Vincent is a monster and a cripple, but at the same time a kind of tough-love therapist. By the end of the film he’s saved the life of Jamie Foxx’s procrastinating Max as surely as if he’d taken a bullet for him. (Which he does, in a way.)
The more you think about Tom/Vincent, the more the ironies accumulate. Deftly played by a guy known for his own hard-wired intensity, this gray-suited assassin seeps through as a fairly sad figure despite Cruise...Read More »
Some day, somehow, major-publication editors are going to give up and start spelling the word “internet” without that fucking capital “I.” However you want to define the worldwide web — an environment, a digital information delivery system, an intergalactic atmosphere — “internet” is a generic term like “highway” or “radio” or “television.” I got into the same kind of idiotic dispute with a writer at the Hollywood Reporter in the early ’80s who insisted that every time a mention was made of CDs that they be referred to as “Compact Disks.” (Or was it “Discs”?) I argued that this was like insisting that anyone writing an article about Michelin or Goodyear be required to write “Rubber Tire.”Read More »
New York magazine critic Peter Rainer√É¬≠s review of Alexander Payne’s Sideways is, to me, really quite beautiful. An exquisitely cut stone. Fully in tune with the film itself. I√É¬≠d like to see Ken Tucker, Rainer√É¬≠s recently-hired replacement, write something as good. Perhaps he will. Here’s hoping Rainer finds a new berth sometime soon…hopefully a berth with an editor who will respect his talents more than New York editor Adam Moss apparently does.Read More »
I haven’t been invited to see The Polar Express (Warner Bros., 11.10), the $200 million-plus, digitally groundbreaking, Christmas storybook flick made by director Bob Zemeckis and star-producer Tom Hanks, despite being invited to the product-reel, dog-and-pony show at the Warner lot a few weeks ago. I suppose there’s a reason for some concern now that Variety‘s David Rooney has called it The Bi-Polar Express and complained that the story doesn’t pay off particularly well. Along with an emerging view that the digitally-composed kids are “dead-eyed” and resemble the alien tykes from Village of the Damned. Plus David Poland declaring that “this thing is one of the most expensive films ever made, and it will not gross [back] its cost at the domestic box office.” All contributing to the basic consensus that November’s big animated feature isn’t The Polar Express but….drum roll….Read More »
Brad Bird’s The Incredibles (Disney/Pixar, 11.5)!! This animated comedy about a family of gone-to-seed superhero parents and their two kids, ducking their enemies under the Witness Protection Program but looking to get those old juices flowing again, is looking like a monster hit with all ages. A friend who went to an Academy screening on Monday, 10.25, said, “I loved it…it’s funny…people applauded the especially good parts…it runs about 115 minutes but feels like 80 or 90…and it’s a crowd-pleaser, a blockbuster…it’ll make $200 or $300 million.” I could’ve gone, but I went to the Tom Cruise tribute thing instead. Choices, choices.Read More »
New Yorker critic David Denby on Paul Giamatti’s sublime performance in Sideways, from a 10.18 posting : “Giamatti has no chin to speak of, a round-shouldered physique, an adenoidal snarl, and the nervous grin of a craven dog. He√É¬≠s the national anti-ideal, and he√É¬≠s making a brilliant career out of it. In American Splendor, as the cartoonist Harvey Pekar, he dragged his miseries around the deserted lots and slag heaps of Cleveland [and was] a genuine oddball. Miles is closer to common dreams and chagrins, and in this role Giamatti gives his bravest, most generously humane performance yet. Women may be repelled, but men will know this man, because, at one time or another, many of us have been this man.”Read More »
There are two words that describe the reported thinking among certain undecided voters out there, as relayed in a New York Times story out today (10.25), and those words are “staggeringly ignorant.” Perhaps the better adjective for ignorant is “willfully,” since the only way to support Bush in the face of all the damning indicators is to invest in massive levels of denial. The bad guys seem to be inching up, up, up…polls say Kerry is slightly behind in Hawaii, Florida, et. al. The New York Times says support for Bush among black voters is higher than it was in ’00….what?? Even the www.electoral-vote.com guy is sounding dispirited. The last hope is in the preferences of the newly registered and the under-30s, whom pollsters supposedly aren’t talking to.Read More »
“Closer is, I suppose, a Carnal Knowledge for 2004,” cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt has told San Francisco Chronicle columnist Hugh Hart. “It’s obsessed with sexual politics. It’s a quite upsetting, very adult drama, and [director] Mike Nichols is a fanatic about reality.” Glamour was not a concern. “When it worked dramatically, I wanted Julia Roberts not to look good,” he informs. “She was game. For one scene with Clive Owen that was very emotionally raw, she didn’t wash her hair, she wore no makeup at all. It was very much about the drama involved, so everything worked from the rehearsals and from the play.”Read More »
The unfolding Paramount Classics situation boils down to this: (a) as run by co-presidents Ruth Vitale and David Dinerstein over the last six years, the division has been steadily profitable but not overwelmingly so, mainly due to financial-strategy restrictions placed upon Vitale-Dinerstein by former Paramount COO Jonathan Dolgen; (b) with Dolgen out as of last June, Viacom co-prexy Tom Freston has said he wants Par Classics to become a more dynamic, Fox Searchlight-resembling operation, and (c) in line with this, Paramount vice-chairman Rob Friedman is thinking about hiring John Sloss (the New York-based indie sales vet and producer√É¬≠s rep), former UA topper Bingham Ray or maybe distrib-marketing vet Danny Rossett to run a new, re-jiggered Paramount Classics, the basic idea being to focus more on production and building relationships with filmmakers. Great, but I don√É¬≠t get why Vitale-Dinerstein are being painted with the Dolgen brush. Hitting only bunts and singles wasn√É¬≠t their idea, and they know the ins and outs of the acquisitions game as well as Sloss, Ray or Rossett.Read More »
It was clear from an early John Logan draft of The Aviator, subsequently shot by director Martin Scorsese and the film now awaiting a Warner Bros. release on 12.17, that the resounding love affair in the piece isn’t between Howard Hughes and a woman (Cate Blanchett’s Katharine Hepburn, Kate Beckinsdale’s Ava Gardner, et. al.) but between Hughes and his flying machines. The longish film (a recent cut ran around 165 minutes) is also, apparently, buoyantly free of glumness or heavy-osity. “I know enough about it to say it is escapism, certainly for Scorsese,” says industry tipster Pete Hammond. “That doesn’t mean it’s comedy, but it doesn’t have the heavier feel of some of his other stuff. It’s all about Hollywood, aviation and the larger-than-life persona of the young Howard Hughes.” A publicist who’s seen the film told Hammond late last week this was a good way to describe the film, agreeing it’s “just good entertainment.” Blanchett is said to be quite robust as Hepburn, but wouldn’t that be a hard one to miss?Read More »
“The challenge of taking on esteemed material has evidently inspired Alfie director [Charles] Shyer to shake off the bland and bloodless polish of his ultra-mainstream Hollywood pictures to inject this remake with welcome vitality,” writes Variety critic Todd McCarthy. “Shyer employs a jumpy, quick-cutting style he’s never used before. He also gets the dynamics among the characters right, is generous to his actors (all the actresses come off very nicely indeed) and guides Jude Law to an entirely engaging performance that does not so much compete with Caine’s as comfortably co-exist alongside it at a nearly four-decade remove. Many men meeting an Alfie in real life would no doubt be put off by his impossibly good looks and luck with women, but Law makes him entirely palatable company.”Read More »
Take this with a very small grain, but remarks from a couple of
actresses have upped my interest in Clint Eastwood’s Million
Dollar Baby (Warner Bros., 12.15).
Paul Haggis’s script is a surrogate father-surrogate daughter relationship piece. It’s about an aged ex-prize fighter (Eastwood) who decides to train a young woman (Hilary Swank) who’s determined to box. Morgan Freeman plays Eastwood’s longtime pal and confidante…the character with the pithy sayings and sage ringside commentary.
Haggis’s script is said to be based upon two short stories from the novel “Rope Burns,” by F.X. Toole. The plot has always sounded to me like a riff on Karyn Kusama’s Girlfight, with maybe a tad less emphasis on the girl boxer and a bit more on her trainer.
Roman Polanski, your legend is about to be challenged. Before shooting Washington, the third and final installment of his Amerika trilogy, Lars von Trier is going to make some kind of classy horror film about the Devil. To be called Antikrist, it will √É¬¨put an end to the big lie that God created the world,√É¬Æ according to von Trier√É¬≠s producer, Peter Aalbek Jensen, and will explore von Trier’s contrarian view that √É¬¨it was Satan who created the human race and the world.√É¬Æ There√É¬≠s no script yet apparently, but according to a story in the Danish daily Berlingske Tidende , the plan is for the amply-budgeted, digitally-shot, English-language film to be completed in time for showing at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. The plot will be about an American biologist (probably to be played by a big-name American actor) who develops a fear of nature, finding...Read More »
The fundamental yea-nay on Oliver Stone’s Alexander
(Warner Bros., 11.25) will hinge, I’m guessing, on one basic
Has Stone sufficiently channeled the times of Alexander — the beliefs and core values that provided a sense of identity, cohesion and destiny to players in the period from 356 to 334 B.C.? Has Stone sufficiently imbedded his film in the bedrock faiths and realities of that time and culture?
And in so doing (that’s if he’s accomplished this), has Stone resisted inevitable studio pressures that he (a) reimagine Alexander’s life so it unfolds in synch with the attitudes of 2004 youths, and (b) that he adopt a competitive video-game attitude in the shooting of action scenes (i.e., make it play like The Matrix by stuffing in all...Read More »
From Bill Maher’s “New Rules” routine on last Friday’s (19.15) “Real Time with Bill Maher” HBO show, to wit: “New Rule: No puppet fucking. The South Park guys have a new movie called Team America, which features graphic sex scenes between marionettes. Hey, you know what? If I had any interest in wooden sex with strings attached, I’d get married.”Read More »
Natalie Portman’s striptease-club scene in Closer will, I’m told, be cause for hormonal excitation among younger males, particularly those who haven’t seen her in Garden State (in which she gives a wonderfully ripe and robust performance)and who know her primarily as Princess Amidala. I don’t know what I can add to this, except to say that strip clubs are very exciting places to be for about five minutes…until that rancid predatory vibe starts to seep into your pores and you can’t wait to leave. But those first five minutes are great.Read More »
Another totally detestable movie idea being developed by Joe Roth’s Revolution Studios: a Beatles film musical called “All You Need Is Love,” currently being written by Brit screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. Pic would use well over a dozen cover versions of Beatle songs to “drive the narative” of a love story between an English lad and an American lassie, set against the backdrop of the social upheaval of the 1960s.
If this thing ever gets made, it could one day share the marquee of West Hollywood’s New Beverly cinema with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band.
If you buy what some Democratic pulse-takers are saying, the election is closer than it seems because the historical record is that the vast majority of undecided voters have always gone for the challenger at the last minute. I’d like to believe this, but with an apparent majority of red-staters still preferring Bush in every poll except the most recent New York Times and Zogby surveys, my gut is giving me that old sinking feeling again. I also suspect that TV news media types believe it’s in their interest to push the scenario that it’s still a neck-and-neck race…even if the bottom-line indications suggest otherwise. Very dispiriting.Read More »
There was an early-bird press screening of Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Touchstone, 12.25) last Monday evening (10.18), and one reasonably discerning guy who attended says he “loved it….I was laughing hysterically…it was a real rush…my heart and mind were completely in synch over it.” This from a guy, F.Y.I., who liked Anderson’s first three films — Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums — but didn’t quite love them.Read More »
In her role as Tea Leoni’s mother in James L. Brooks’ Spanglish (Columbia, 12.17), Cloris Leachman has all the great hilarious-obnoxious lines, I’m hearing, and generally knocks it out of the park. “She has all the classic Brooks lines…lines that turn in on themselves,” this guy is saying. “You know, like ‘sometimes having low self-esteem just shows good sense’?” I guess this means Leachman could be one of the five Best Supporting Actress contenders, as mothers with sharp tongues always seem to strike a special chord with people. And to think…Jane Fonda wanted this role for her big comeback vehicle, and she auditioned for it, but Brooks felt she wasn’t right for it. And now Leachman has nailed her best role since The Last Picture Show.Read More »
Nothing further on Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s political sympathies needs to be said, but here’s New York Times critic Tony Scott riffing on them anyway: “A number of commentators have discerned a pronounced conservative streak amid the anarchy of South Park, a hypothesis that Team America to some extent confirms. Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins and other left-leaning movie stars are eviscerated (quite literally — also decapitated, set on fire and eaten by house cats), while right-wing media figures escape derision altogether. It seems likely that [Stone and Parker's] emphases and omissions reflect a particular point of view.”Read More »
It was George Bush ’41, not President Bush, who was quoted Friday as having called Michael Moore a “total ass” and “slimeball” for pushing “outrageous…lies about my family” in Fahrenheit 9/11.Read More »
A reader named Mark Zeigler says he’s having doubts about my enthusiasm for Sideways (Fox Searchlight, 10.22) because Salon critic Charles Taylor has mostly panned it and called its director-cowriter, Alexander Payne, “a pretentious wiseass.” First, it’s okay for Taylor to trash Sideways. He’s going to feel pretty lonely with that viewpoint, but fine. But second, Zeigler may want to consider what New York Times critic Manohla Dargis has said about the criticism that Payne treats his characters with condescension, which she calls “a puzzling assessment.” She adds that “it’s hard to understand the genesis of this discomfort” except to note that “like Sideways, Payne’s films cut close to the emotional bone and even movie critics can get squirmy when the screen turns into a mirror.” She adds that “since the late 1970′s we have been under the spell of...Read More »