If you’ve ever read Jim Romanesko’s Poynter.org media watchdog site,
check this out. It’s funny. To me, anyway.
I could never buy the denouement of Taxi Driver, and I never will. Travis Bickle, suspected by Treasury agents as a nutjob assassin who almost killed Sen. Charles Palatine, is portrayed as a hero by the media for shooting a corrupt cop and two pimps in an East Side tenement building? And this shooting in some way helps the parents of Jodie Foster to find her and bring her back home to Indiana? And then the dreamily erotic Cybil Shepard is giving Travis a come-hither look in the rear-view mirror when he gives her a ride in his cab? It’s all Travis’s death fantasy… the stuff he wishes would happen as he sits on that tenement couch, bleeding profusely and eyeballing the cops in the doorway as he pretends to shoot himself in the head. The very last shot in Taxi Driver is of a seemingly startled Travis looking into his cab’s rearview mirror, and then whoosh…he’s gone. No reflection. Because Travis isn’t really there.Read More »
In her 3.31 New York Times piece, Caryn James mentioned a slate of recent films or plays (the Ashton Kutcher-Bernice Mac comedy Guess Who?, Neil LaBute’s This Is How It Is, etc.) that have dealt in some front-and-center way with racism. She mentioned a pair of indie films that grapple with it also (Face, A Wake in Providence) and yet, oddly, she didn’t mention Paul Haggis’ Crash (Lions Gate, 5.6), the most ambitious and stylstically assertive movie about racism to come down the pike in a long while. This Los Angeles-based ensemble drama, which I’m showing at my UCLA Sneak Preview class on Monday, is about little besides racism. It costars Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Brendan Fraser, Sandra Bullock, Terrence Howard, Jennifer Esposito,Ryan Phillipe (delivering his best acting yet) and Thandie Newton.Read More »
If you’re going to see Sin City, see it digitally projected.
Robert Rodriguez’s shimmering silvery black-and-white photography is heaven on the eyes, and digital makes it look that much better. The photography (and a sincere congrats to Rodriguez for getting this aspect right) is all this movie has. Sin City is geek noir, or noir for T-shirt wearing, beer-bellied guys who rarely get laid and didn’t graduate from college. Hard guys talking tough and fatalistic and cryptic, constantly shooting or slugging bad guys or getting shot or slugged themselves…sucking cigarette smoke and worhsipping women for their goodness while smacking their lips at their carnal allure….and I am telling you it’s all crap. And the odd thing, it doesn’t read like crap when you read one of Frank Miller’s graphic novels.
Sock That Choppy
I loved Crouching Tiger and all, but it’s no secret
there are more ardent fans of martial-arts movies than myself.
I like aerial chop-socky the way I like musical numbers in a ’50s Arthur Freed musical — visually exciting and beautifully performed, etc., but if there’s too much exposure to restricted worlds of this sort you can start to go a bit nuts. Sublime choreography, Chinese mythology, inspired cutting…I get it but all right already.
Kung Fu Hustle Stephen Chow performing obligatory single-hero-vs.-eighty-bad-guys fight sequence…done before by the Wachowski brothers and Quentin Tarantino, but never so hilariously.
That said, Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle, which I saw last night at the L.A. premiere at the Arclight, is truly something else. Part parody and partly a genre redefiner,...Read More »
There’s no way James Reston Jr., author of “Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade,” is going to prove that Ridley Scott and 20th Century Fox used historical material taken from his book in the making of Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven (Fox, 5.6)…no way in hell. The basic story was in yesterday’s
New York Times. Did Scott and/or his screenwriter, William Monahan, browse through Reston’s book at some point and take a few notes? I would be astounded if they didn’t, but the supposed “smoking gun” incident — producer Mike Medavoy having sent the book to Scott in December ’01 with a letter suggesting that they collaborate — probably won’t be enough to make the case, especially since Scott had an assistant call Medavoy right back and decline. “What was said at the time was, [Scott] had a Crusade project of his own,” Medavoy told Times reporter Sharon Waxman.
Few things in life are quite as downerish as a formulaic Sandra Bullock movie. Almost as gloomy is looking at the poster for such a film two or three weeks before it’s about to open, or hearing from a woman friend who doesn’t go out to films much and has never seen an Antonioni film (and almost certainly never will) that she’s really looking forward to it.Read More »
The announcement of Warner Home Video’s July 5th DVD release of John Boorman’s Point Blank is…great news! The only cool-sounding extra is the commentary track featuring Boorman and Steven Soderbergh. (Soderbergh’s interview commentary with Mike Nichols on Paramount Home Video’s Catch 22 DVD was highly absorbing.) It’s a low-cost effort, all right — no docs, no deleted scenes and a couple of crappy “vintage” featurettes. Let’s hope the transfer isn’t as pinkish and bleachy looking as the MGM/UA laser disc was.Read More »
I am so deeply bored or at least underwhelmed with all the crappy or so-so new films out there…even with all the fairly good indie films noew playing like Sergio Castellito’s Don’t Move, which has a truly amazing performance from Penelope Cruz and a first-rate one from Castellito…I am bored with even the half-good films like this one…so bored I could plotz. So bored I can barely make myself write these Wired items, but I know if I literally slap myself in the face and make myself do them the feeling will come back and I’ll be rolling again. I know what this is — I’ve been here before.Read More »
A friend said he was going to a surprise 50th birthday last Saturday night for some lawyer, and that the super-secret arrangements were being handled by the guy’s wife. This struck me right away as something only a wife would do. There’s no way a guy turning 50 is on Cloud Nine about this. He may be spiritually or philosophically at peace with reaching the half-century mark, but on a gut emotional level he’s definitely not delighted with it. At the very best he has mixed feelings. I’ve known guys who were bummed when they hit 30 and a lot of people are freaked when they hit 40, so don’t talk about the big five-oh. But this lawyer guy’s wife wants to celebrate it. People who throw surprise birthday parties are always presumed to be coming from a place of love for the significant others, but if you ask me this is the wife proclaiming to their circle of friends and acquaintances that her husband is passing the official threshold into...Read More »
There’s a film series that just finished at the L.A. County Museum about the paranoid movies of the 1970s (The Parallax View, Three Days of the Condor, etc.). This reminded me of a famous definition of paranoia — “knowing all the facts.” But who coined it? I was told a long time ago it was William S. Burroughs. I found an online source claiming that Woody Allen said it.Read More »
End of the Affair
I wonder (and I realize this is a vaguely cynical question) if
ticket sales for Million Dollar Baby are going to go up or
down this weekend because of the Terry Schiavo thing?
The Schiavo case is just about over, and I’m not just speaking about her parents’ many failed attempts to have her feeding tube re-inserted. I’m not going to get into this sad saga any more than necessary (a reader wrote on Wednesday he hasn’t been this ashamed to be an American since the Clarence Thomas hearings), but before God’s alleged grace actually steps in and releases this poor manipulated woman, a curious synergy deserves note.
Two-thirds of one of David Rees’s recent Terry Schiavo cartoons.
Has it occurred to anyone else that the flaring up and final climax of the Schiavo case, which, after all, is rooted in a medical situation...Read More »
If you have any kind of feelings about wine and the art of
making it, or just the pleasures of taking small little slurps of
the stuff, Mondovino (Thinkfilm, opening today) is two
things: essential viewing and a delightful education.
You’ve probably heard it has a contentious side. A recent New York Times piece began, “If you want to start a fight, mention Mondovino to people in the wine business and step back.”
Jonathan Nossiter (in white) in Sardinia during filming of Mondovino.
The basic thrust of this longish (135 minute) documentary is
that the wine-making world is becoming more and more homogenized
and marketing-driven, and that global commerce is diluting the
poignance and particularity of local cultures.
Mondovino is a tiny bit sloppy and unfair…okay. It...
Every time I agree to hold on a story, someone else runs its first. I was told about Ben Affleck’s plan to direct Gone, Baby, Gone, a Boston-based drama about a hunt for a four year-old kidnapped girl, a couple of weeks ago, but I was asked to wait so as to not screw up negotiations. I did this, and then Daily Variety broke it. Affleck has also written the screenplay, which is adapted from the novel by Dennis Lehane (“Mystic River”). Shooting is supposed to happen in the fall.Read More »
The hiring of Gail Berman — the Fox Broadcasting chief — to pull strings/run things/work right under Brad Grey at Paramount Pictures and have something to do with movies but mainly help synergize the operation, is another Hollywood media circle-jerk story, and of marginal importance to the people on the street. That said, she’s said to be a extremely shrewd, take-charge, go-getter type, blah-blah…but stories about the Gail Bermans of the world are, at most (and no offense intended), bubbly fizz on the surface of a freshly-poured glass of Alka Seltzer.Read More »
The deep-down, ground-level sentiment on the part of righties who want Terry Schiavo’s feeding tube put back in? Anything, even life as a vegetable, is better than death. Human dignity and quality of life is never, it appears, a big concern of the Christian hardcore. The thing that gets their goat in this case is the importance of not sending a helpless, vegetative woman into the void, the black tunnel, the great howling nothingness of death…nothing is more terrible than this. The irony, of course, is that righties are always saying how sold they are on the concept of God and Jesus waiting at the end of that tunnel, waiting to greet the dear and departed, etc.Read More »
Sin Peeks Out
I’m moderately cranked about seeing Frank Miller and Robert
Rodriguez’s Sin City (Dimension, 4.1) tonight, and doing
the junket tomorrow on Saturday.
I’ve also been feeling a tiny bit wary, like before any comic-book movie. Does each and every one have to be about breathtaking visual coolness above all? That’s been the basic deal all along…but if this was the core attribute of the original graphic novels, would they have such loyal followings?
I do, however, respect films that have the confidence to stand their ground and be what they are. And according to a certain Midwestern journalist who saw it earlier this week, a fierce emphasis and sureness of purpose comes out of Sin City like sweat.
Mickey Rourke (l.), barely discernible, in Frank Miller and Robert Rodrigeuz’s Sin City.
Except for the Spy Kids flicks, I know I can always count on Robert Rodriguez to get actresses in his films to take their clothes off…so I was into seeing Sin City for this, and, of course, for the promise of scrumptous black-and-white cinematography. But take no notice of anyone (Rodriguez included) calling this a film noir flick. There is real film noir — crime movies made with a downbeat fatalistic attitude, and grounded in a reasonable facsimile of human truth — and there is simplified noir lite for chumps. By this I mean noir archetypes mixed in with hardboiled machismo, Mickey Spillane-type dialogue, slinky man-eating dames and superhero action bullshit with guys taking four or five bullets in the chest and still breathing, or jumping from 30-story buildings like they’re Batman (which never worked for me either…the Dark Knight can float down to the street from the top of a skyscraper because he’s wearing a large leather...Read More »
It was sorta kinda predictable that Jamie Foxx would get an outstanding actor trophy from the NAACP Image Awards for his Ray performance. Okay, he deserved it and all, but the honor is definitely a little “yeah…so?” at this stage. The Oscars are the last stop, the final crescendo…enough already.Read More »
I wish I’d taken the time today to write something longer about the coolest and classiest DVD out there right now…one of the most disturbing, penetrating, transcendent art films ever made: Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’eclisse, which the Criterion Collection has just brought out on a special double-disc edition. I’m not an Antonioni scholar (I’ve never even seen La Notte), but this 1962 film — the conclusion of his Italian alienation-and-desire trilogy — is flat-out masterful. The genius element? There’s no story whatsoever. It’s purely a meditation about indifference, drifting, emptiness, ennui. I have never felt such a profound sense of nothingness — such an immaculate, beautifully composed void — from any other film, ever. L’eclisse is nominally about Vittoria (Monica Vitti)breaking up with her...Read More »
Melinda and Melinda is Woody Allen’s best film, I feel, since Mighty Aphrodite. But it’s not one of his very best, and he’ll probably never get back up there to Manhattan or Crimes and Misdemeanor-land until he hooks with a co-writer, preferably someone a good 25 years younger. Allen is almost 70 and he just isn’t getting the world as sharply as he used to. He needs a younger guy (or woman) to challenge him and give his scripts some zip, and that’s not a tough pill to swallow. He partnered with Marshall Brickman on Annie Hall and with Douglas McGrath on Bullets over Broadway…so it’s not like this is a new concept.Read More »
Most of us have an opinion about Robert Blake’s culpability in his ex-wife’s death, but trial prosecutors “couldn’t put the gun in his hand” (in the words of a Blake trial juror) and that’s the name of that tune. For a reason that had nothing to do with the case, a part of me that felt glad when I read of his acquittal yesterday. I used to tool around on a scooter when I first came to L.A. in ’83, and one day it was stolen. I reported the loss to the cops right away, and a few hours later an officer called to say it had been found in Studio City. I was told where to go to pick it up (i.e., a location on the concrete L.A. river bed near Magnolia), and when I got there I saw two uniformed cops approaching from a couple hundreds yards away with a much shorter civilian walking between them. The civilian was Blake — he was the one who had spotted the abandoned scooter and made the call.Read More »
Seven and a half years…whoa…after the opening of Titanic in late ’97, writer-director James Cameron has finally gotten down to assembling material for a special-edition DVD. Actually, two Titanic packages will hit the market next October — a two-disc special edition and a four-disc collector√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢√É‚Äû√É¬¥s edition. Among the bonuses with be all those deleted scenes fans have been talking about for years. (Roughly an hour’s worth, including the longer build-up to Kate Winslet’s attempted suicide and the Leo “payback” scene when he wallops David Warner.) The “arduous” process of making Titanic was so hard on Cameron’s psyche, he says in the press release, that “until recently, I wasn√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢√É‚Äû√É¬¥t really ready to dive back into it all.” In fact, Cameron hasn’t been ready to dive into directing a movie since. He’s...Read More »
This is going to sound odd, but Universal Pictures and Double Feature partners Michael Shamberg and Stacy Sher are planning on dramatizing the wrong 9/11 story.
I don’t mean it that way, exactly. How could “wrong” apply to a
true-life story about surviving the World Trade Center disaster?
But Shamberg and Sher are focusing on a generic rescue saga instead
of (and this only a portion of it) a mind-bending divine
intervention story that happened only a few dozen yards away from
the subjects of their movie, and at precisely the same time.
The Shamberg-Sher story is about a couple of Port Authority police officers named Will Jimeno and John McLoughlin, who found themselves buried inside a small pit under 20 feet of rubble after the collapse of the North Tower, and were eventually found and dug out. They were the last two victims to be pulled...
Film industry reporters (and their editors) love writing about how this or that middle-aged corporate white guy has come into power, and what they’ll do when they start using it. (Or how they lost their grip on it.) Disney’s Bob Iger, the guy taking Michael Eisner’s place, is the current topic. Last week it was Howard Stringer becoming the first non-Japanese Sony CEO. The Weinstein brothers had the heat in February for concluding contractual talks about relinquishing Miramax to Disney, and announcing their plans to start a new operation. Paramount’s Brad Grey was the guy in January…and believe me, nobody outside of a small New York-Los Angeles clique cares. Because corporate white guys don’t affect the movies — filmmakers and their producers do. Brad Grey and his boss, Tom Freston, are, in some ways, going to make Paramount Pictures more of a go-getter operation than Sherry Lansing’s Paramount was…fine. And there’s a...Read More »
“In a couple of days throngs of movie theater owners and managers will descend on Las Vegas for four days of schmoozing, a smattering of screenings, a Mobius strip of meals and receptions, seminars and sundry other activities. It’s called ShoWest”… and most of these exhibition guys will be secretly miserable, because Vegas is the worst money-grubbing place in the world and the vibes are seriously awful. Unless you’re someone like Len Klady, it’s a tolerable environment for roughly four to six hours and then it’s agony…all you want is to leave and never come back.Read More »
Too Fast Farewell
It can sometimes take a while — two or three days, I mean — for
the real soul of a place to be felt.
I’ve met several more good people at the Mar del Plata Film Festival since arriving here last Thursday evening (and composing Friday’s column, which took a while), and the warmth — not just the efficiency or commitment to the staging of a first-rate event — has been seeping through.
Close to the beach in Mar del Plata — I know not specifically where.
Of course, a visiting Hollywood journalist would be
treated with all kinds of caring and graciousness. I’m speaking of
something beneath this.
It would be facile to try and sum up Argentina’s basic attitude in one or two sentences, but Ines Vionnet, a whip-smart Buenos Aires woman who translated my comments during Saturday’s “master...
State of Siege
I’ve been thinking and calling around about Steven Spielberg’s
“Untitled Munich Project” for the last couple of days, and decided
it’s in the cards for it to be something more than a revenge flick.
I’m thinking it pretty much has to be.
It’s about the 1972 murders of Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympic games, partly…but mainly the response to this atrocity by Mossad, or Israel’s CIA. And the moral and ethical mucky-muck that results, I gather.
A member of Black September standing on balcony of Israeli athletes’ condo in Munich’s Olympic Village during September 1972 hostage stand-off.
This will be the heart of it, I presume. It can’t just be a Black Sunday-like piece about killing Palestinian terrorists. It might be this, I suppose, but I can’t see the humanist New York...Read More »
Dreams May Come
The shooting and projecting of movies on 35mm film is a dying
practice, and it won’t be long before everything is digital this or
that…no argument there.
But when will digital projection really be here, and from what digital source or delivery system will movies be obtained and projected — satellite transmission, fibre optic cable, pirate-proof DVDs?
I don’t know how long it will all take, but probably a while. Five years, ten years. Big changes in the way things are done never happen until economic conditions demand them…until the captains of industry feel the flames licking their feet.
But while we’re waiting and trading scnearios, here’s one that’s been passed along that’s more diverting than most. Some of it is fact, the basic thrust of it seems sensible, and the parts that aren’t...Read More »
Of all the summer’s hot-sounding marquee titles, my biggest want-to-see is Richard Linklater’s The Bad News Bears (Paramount, 6.10). Everyone knows it’s Billy Bob Thornton as a surly, vaguely alcoholic manager of a kids’ baseball team, and understands this basically translates into another Bad Santa movie. I guess that’s the comfort factor — that heartwarming, exposing-minors-to-rot, slovenly-misfit-redeemed-by-innocence formula….as long as it’s done in a low-key way. Linklater mined this pretty well in School of Rock with Jack Black as the bum, so Bears will probably be smooth sailing. In any event, here’s the trailer . Gregg Kinnear and Marsha Gay Harden are the costars. I don’t know which of the kid actors has the Tatum O’Neal part, but I’ll bet one of them sorta does.Read More »