Variety‘s Todd McCarthy is the first big gun to weigh in on Mr. and Mrs. Smith (20th Century Fox, 6.10), and…let’s see, the opening sentence says that “marital therapy acquires life-or-death ramifications [in this] exhaustingly elaborate romantic fantasy actioner.” Uh-oh. “Built on the cutesy premise that a great-looking husband and wife are paid killers without the other knowing about it, the at-least $110 million two-hander pirouettes entirely on the script’s whimsical approach to serious business and the charm generated by leads Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. But it doesn’t take long for the souffle to fall.” Yikes. McCarthy adds that “this is one of those films for which viewers willing to buy into the premise might happily go along for the ride…[but] for those who find it resistible, if not...Read More »
Six or seven weeks ago I called Hans Petter Moland’s The Beautiful Country (Sony Classics, July 8) “some kind of masterwork…one of the most profound and compassionate and finely nuanced films about the rough-and-tumble, never-say-die life of a roaming, disenfranchised person I’ve ever seen.” Only no one voiced their agreement and I couldn’t figure out why because it’s an extraordinarily fine film and I know what I’m talking about. But now — finally! — N.Y. Daily News critic Graham Fuller has joined forces with a blurb that appeared in 5.29′s Sunday Now section, to wit: “Though it has generated little buzz so far, this wrenching sea-and-road odyssey could attract Oscar attention next year.” The main character Binh (Damien Nguyen), a 20 year-old Vietnamese whose American parentage has...Read More »
I’ve never patted or pinched the ass of any unacquainted person in my life, male or female, and if someone were to pat or pinch my derriere the groper would be sorry about this immediately, trust me…unless she happened to be an attractive woman, of course. Why am I talking about this stupid subject? Because there’s something bizarre about the following AP news report, which is linked to a front page call-out on the cyber edition of the N.Y. Daily News: “The actor Christian Slater [now appearing in The Glass Menagerie with Jessica Lange) was arrested early Tuesday for allegedly groping a woman on a Manhattan street, police said. Slater, 35, was accused of touching the woman’s buttocks near 93rd Street and Third Avenue on the Upper East Side around 1:50 a.m., said a police spokesman, Detective John Sweeney. The woman, who was not identified, flagged down police to report the incident, Sweeney said. Slater was found nearby and the...Read More »
I haven’t paid to see a midnight movie in a lonng time.
I don’t even go to midnight madness screenings at film festivals. I
don’t even watch DVDs at midnight in my crib. But I’m glad they’re
happening and that people like going to them. If for nothing else
than tradition’s sake.
Today’s midnight movie culture (if you want to call it that) may not have much of a relation to what it was in the `60s and `70s, when the phenomenon was festive and throbbing and influencing this and that mainstream filmmaker. Youth culture was turning everything upside down back then, and midnight movies were the cinematic component of this.
Zombie shuffle scene from George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.
The difference is that today’s midnight screenings, however enjoyable they might seem to you or your...Read More »
I’ve run Cinderella Man tipoffs before, but here’s a conservative variation. National Review and New York Post columnist John Podhoretz is calling Ron Howard’s 1930s boxing film (Universal, opening 6.3)”a thrilling piece of work. No, more than thrilling. I left the screening room this afternoon exhilarated, moved, excited, stirred and overwhelmed, convinced that Cinderella Man is one of the best movies ever made. It’s a great boxing movie…but it’s not just a boxing movie. It’s a terrific Depression melodrama, but it’s not merely a Depression melodrama. It’s a sterling biopic, but it’s not a standard-issue biopic. It’s, rather, the story of a family man and a portrait of a good marriage — and it’s the depiction of these simple phenomena that makes Cinderella Man so wonderfully powerful. Howard has become his generation’s answer to William Wyler — a classic cinematic storyteller who can work wonders in any genre.”Read More »
New York Times reporter Laura M. Holson is not Chicken Little. She is, of course, on to something…a turn of the cultural screw that has seemed evident to me for some time…in her 5.27 article about younger folks being less and less interested in going to theatres to see movies. The headline says it all (“With Popcorn, DVD’s and TiVo, Moviegoers Are Staying Home”) and while the drooping box-office over the last few months is about more than just this phenomenon, the leisure-time paradigm does seem to be shifting. A lot of people just watch the tube, rent DVDs from Netflix, instant message their friends, futz around with video games and go to theatres only to see monster attractions like Star Wars. It’s terrible in a way (the death of communal movie-watching would constitute one of the coldest social winds to ever blow through this country), but...Read More »
Richard Linklater is making Fast Food Nation into a fictional story? Come again? What’s next….French Women Don’t Get Fat as a thriller starring Jet Li? If the hoi polloi who can’t be bothered to read and who continue to patronize the sludge peddlers want to remain ignorant, why make a movie just to reach them? I don’t get the concept of inventing characters in order to lightly touch upon the ideas so thoroughly explored in the book. Then again, it’ll probably still be better than anything from George Lucas.Read More »
Instead of spending 10 bucks to see Adam Sandler clobber prison
guards this weekend, think about dipping into your slush fund and
coughing up a portion for The Stanley Kubrick Archives
(Taschen). Take it home and bolt your doors and let it seep in,
page by lustrous page.
I’m so in love with this thing that I packed it in my suitcase earlier this month and hauled it all the way from Los Angeles to New York, and then up to my parent’s home in Connecticut. I almost took it with me to the Cannes Film Festival. It’s my best friend, my rock `n’ roll, my lump-in-the-throat. I haven’t felt this way about a mere possession in a long, long time.
Stanley Kubrick (r.) directing Peter Sellers in his President Merkin Muffley guise on the set of Dr. Strangelove, or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
I had begun to entertain the soothing notion that with wi-fi being so commonly available that all the technical mucky-muck that used to be part of getting a new cyber hookup in a new location (like, for example, my modest new swap pad in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where I’ll be parking it this summer) was a thing of the past. Nice dream. The last day and a half has reminded me that tech hassles are as constant as the moon, not to mention huge gulpers of time…especially when you’re on the receiving end of technical “support” provided by those Indian guys. You know who I mean…those extremely polite, undeniably fastidious, collosally dim professionals who do their part to make life a living hell for so many of us, courtesy of those cost-saving dedicated phone feeds from the land of Gandhi. One of these guys in particular is the main reason why the column is so late today (i.e., Wednesday, 5.25). I don’t need to tell anyone this and nobody likes a whiner, but these guys are a menace. Please send in your own horror stories about tech support from Bombay…I’ll run some on Friday.Read More »
In a 5.21 Cannes Journal entry, New York Times critic A.O. Scott wrote that he was “disheartened” by Anne Thompson’s also-recent Hollywood Reporter column which reported/asserted that U.S. moviegoers don’t know and almost certainly won’t care about this year’s big Cannes attractions, much less who their creators are. Her column quoted indie distributors like Warner Independent’s Mark Gill and ThinkFilm’s Mark Urman expressing this realistic (although certainly pessimistic-sounding) view. Scott complained that Thompson’s piece “seemed almost intended to perpetuate the situation it pretends to describe. If you assume that American audiences aren’t interested in certain kinds of movies, and therefore don’t...Read More »
It’s 2 pm on Sunday afternoon in London, and it looks like it’s going to rain. Unusual! If any London readers are in the mood for a pint or two sometime this evening, write me this afternoon and we’ll figure something out. I’ll be checking mail off and on all day.Read More »
Flash! You’re reading it here dead last! The surprise Palme d’Or winner did turn out to be Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s L’enfant (The Child) after all…which I was told might happen just as I was unplugging at the American Pavillion on my final day in Cannes (i.e., Saturday). Hearty congrats to (a) Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers for copping the Grand Prize, (b) Tommy Lee Jones for taking the Best Actor award and Guillermo Arriaga winning the Best Screenplay trophy for The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, (c) Hidden‘s Michael Haneke for winning the Best Director award, and (d) Free Zone‘s Hanna Laslo for being named Best Actress. Good calls all around.Read More »
I couldn’t file when I got to London last night due to my lodging situation being up-ended when I arrived at the hotel, and then having to scramble around town betwen 11pm and midnight for a place I could afford. The hotel I found (near Sussex Gardens) didn’t have Wi-Fi, of course. (Which is partly what makes places like this affordable.) And the nearby internet cafes start to shut down around midnight, so the hell with it. I walked around in the surprisingly chilly and windy night air and had a really delicious, super-greasy shawarma. I don’t take days off anymore — I take hours off. But it felt like peace.Read More »
…to these shores late Tuesday night, and currently putting finishing touches to Wednesday’s column this morning, i.e., Thursday. Apologies to those who’ve come to expect a stricter adherence to the schedule.
It’s straight-up noon on Saturday (5.21), and the aura of
finality is everywhere. This is one totally flatlined film
For 94% of the visiting journalists, I mean. Make that 96%. The locals are gearing up for the awards ceremony tonight, which I’ve never attended and probably never will attend.
I’m gone early this evening, which is unfortunate because there’s an opportunity to see the movies I missed (most notably the presumed Palme d’Or winner, Michael Haneke’s Cache) at the catch-up screenings on Sunday.
American Pavilion beach, looking westward —...
Do you literally have to live in the U.S. to knock its values or criticize its culture or politics? David Cronenberg, a Canadian whose recently-screened A History of Violence addresses America’s shoot-em-up, fistifcuff tendencies, is quoted thusly by L.A. Times critic Kenneth Turan: “Does a fish know about water? Living in a tributary, not the ocean, [Marshall] McLuhan had a different perspective. The insights he had into America would not be possible to anyone living in America. Stepping away has a lot to do with it.”Read More »
A lot of press people in Cannes have been doing their usual ranting against Lars von Trier for making another film critical of the U.S. (i.e., Manderlay) without having ever visited American shores. Certainly one needs to absorb a country’s culture first-hand to get a thorough understanding of what it’s about…but it also seems absurd to insist that a visitation has to happen before one can render a strong opinion about a country’s history with a film like…well, Manderlay. As von Trier told the Hollywood Reporter‘s Anne Thompson, “America dominates world culture” and “is a big part of our lives in my country. 60% of the main words in all the experiences of my life are American…I am an American, but I can’t go there to vote [and] I can’t change anything. That’s why I make films about America.”Read More »
“The general opinion of Revenge of the Sith seems to be that it marks a distinct improvement on the last two episodes, The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. True, but only in the same way that dying from natural causes is preferable to crucifixion.” This from Anthony Lane’s pan in the current issue of The New Yorker. Hail to this fellow…his review is hilarious.Read More »
Eight Days In
It’s late Wednesday morning, 5.18, and this signifies, among
other things, that the Cannes Film Festival started a week ago and
there’s another couple of days to go before everyone collapses into
This morning’s competition film, Peindre out Faire L’Amour (To Paint or Make Love), did nothing for me or to me. It’s another one of those leisurely paced, mezzo-mezzo domestic French dramas about middle-class, middle-aged people, and I’m sorry but I couldn’t abide it.
I know it sounds lazy and arrogant to dismiss a film like this without giving it its proper due, but I’m just being honest. I have enjoyed films of this type before and I hope to again, but not this morning, Monique.
I took this out-of-focus shot around 8 pm yesterday evening (5.17) aboard a large yacht that Stella Artois beer and the...
…out a lead piece about Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers,
which everyone saw at this morning’s 8:30 am press screening (and
which will have its black-tie premiere tonight), I may as well put
up these photos from the post-screening press conference, which
ended a bit after 12 noon.
I respected and mostly liked Broken Flowers, bit I didn’t find it entirely sublime. It felt a bit under-fueled and sketchy at times, but that’s Jarmusch for you…he likes his characters…his movies, I mean…cut and dried without any of that emotional backstory stuff.
Broken Flowers star Bill Murray, costar Tilda Swinton and (half cropped) director-writer Jim Jarmusch.
Broken Flowers is actually fairly penetrating. It’s a dryly intriguing comedy about a middle-aged lonely guy (Bill Murray)...Read More »
Manderlay didn’t do it for me, and I’m speaking as a
totally ardent fan of von Trier’s Dogville, Dancer in
the Dark and Breaking the Waves, as well as being a
general fool for his bad-boy provocateur routine.
This is a relentlessly talky, intelligent and provocative film that addresses…well, American racism, certainly, but more generally a do-gooder tendency by American governments to try and shape other societies so they more resemble our own (Iraq, Vietnam, etc.).
And it indulges in the usual proddings and agitations that are par for this Danish filmmaker. But not enough to satisfy.
Willem Dafoe and Bryce Dallas Howard in opening scene from Lars von Trier’s Manderlay.
I don’t know when it’ll open in the States, but I’m presuming Manderlay will piss...Read More »
The Power of Nightmares director Adam Curtis told me last night (Saturday, 5.14) that Sony Pictures Classics has submitted a bid for U.S. theatrical distribution of his controversial documentary. Sony Classics’ Tom Bernard confirmed his company’s interest this afternoon (“We want it!”) at the American Pavillion. Nightmares points out philosphical parallels between Al Qeada and the American neocons and contends that U.S. government fears about a coordinated, single-minded Al Qeada organization are pretty much a myth. The two-hour, 35-minute doc would probably never be shown on U.S. television, and I’ve long presumed, given the ultra-British tone and slant of Curtis’ work, that U.S. theatrical distribution is out of the question. Congrats to Sony Classics for having the cojones to step up and exhibit a truly superb, tough-minded political film.Read More »
Those who’ve seen a five-minute DVD reel of David Lynch’s next film, called Inland Empire and starring Laura Dern, Jeremy Irons, Justin Theroux and Harry Dean Stanton, are describing it as a surreal oddball thing involving people in rabbit costumes (or wearing rabbit heads). “It’s great in a typical dark-weird Lynchian way,” said one distributor at Saturday’s Picturehouse party. “It feels like a cross between Lost Highway and Mulholland Falls,” said another. Side note: Mulholland Drive costar Laura Harring told me during an interview a year or so ago that she had acted in a short for Lynch (in ’03 or perhaps a bit earlier) that involved dressing up in a rabbit costume.Read More »
Picturehouse, that new HBO/New Line Cinema joint venture being headed by former Newmarket marketing-acquisitions hotshot Bob Berney, has, I feel, acted wisely in acquiring Paul Reiser’s The Thing About My Folks. I wrote about this amiable, family-values dramedy after seeing it at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in early February. The company has also acquired distrib rights to Steven Shainberg’s Fur, a Diane Arbus biopic starring Nicoel Kidman and Robert Downey, Jr.Read More »
That story that Reuters’ Mike Collett-White ran two days ago about the Star Wars legacy (“Was Star Wars Good or Bad for Cinema?”) has stayed with me. Particularly Paul Schrader’s quote that the series “ate the heart and soul of Hollywood,” and Peter Biskind’s that the rudimnetary good-against-evil storyline of all the Star Wars films “has become a simplistic prototype for today’s blockbuster. Unfortunately, we will be living in the shadow of Star Wars for a long time.”Read More »
George Lucas and his digital galactic posse arrived in Cannes
today (Sunday, 5.15), and attracted, to no one’s surprise, more
attention than any other film or team of filmmakers who’ve dropped
by thus far.
Which is symmetrically appropriate, I suppose, since we all realize that Stars Wars: Episode 3 — Revenge of the Sith will most likely attract more ticket buyers than probably all the other films showing here (including the market offerings) combined.
Star Wars: Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith director-writer George Lucas and costar Natalie Portman during Sunday afternoon’s Cannes Film Festival press conference, which I would have attended if I didn’t have better things to do — 5.15.05, 1:10 pm.
There’s no percentage in being a sorehead and teeing off on George and his unstoppably mediocre film...Read More »
Match and Set
I’m going to crawl out on a bit of a creaky limb and just say
it: Woody Allen’s Match Point is his darkest and strongest
film — certainly his most moralistically bitter and ironic — since
1989′s Crimes and Misdemeanors.
I’m not saying it’s as good as Crimes and Misdemeanors, but this mixed-bag drama — somewhat stiff and artificial here and there, and at the same time scalpel-like in its social observations — deals the same kind of cards and has its footing in more or less the same philosophical realm, and it has a finale that absolutely kills.
Match Point costar Emily Mortimer, writer-director Woody Allen, and costar Scarlett Johansson at this morning’s press conference inside the Grand Palais — Thursday, 5.12.05, 11:05 am.
I’m speaking of one the...Read More »
Here we are again, Cannes-ing around and dropping pounds from
all the walking up and down the Croisette with my black computer
bag around my shoulder and saying “hey” to all the (mostly) smiling
journalists and publicists who say “hey!” or “hello, Jeffrey!”…the
usual traipsing-around bon ami stuff.
The festival’s lineup looks pretty good this year. I don’t even know where to begin, but there’s James Marsh’s The King, David Cronenberg’s The History of Violence, Johnnie To’s Election, Woody Allen’s Match Point , Lars von Trier’sManderlay, Martha Fiennes’ Chromophobia and Carlos Reygadas’ Battle in Heaven.
Facing le plage and all that, sometime in the late afternoon on Tuesday, 5.10.05...
Box-office commentator Paul Dergarabedian sums it all up in a much darker way than he (probably) realized in Sharon Waxman’s New York Times story that ran yesterday (5.9). It’s about Hollywood suits biting their nails and furrowing their brows over ’05′s sluggish business so far, and more particularly the underwhelming response to last weekend’s openers, Kingdom of Heaven and House of Wax. “The marketplace is obviously in a malaise, and it’s going to take movies like Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith to get us out of it,” Dergarabedian said. He means it’ll be a huge hit, of course, but good God…if there’s one thing Sith doesn’t accomplish, it’s make anyone feel like they’ve been lifted out of a malaise. This is the aridity of Hollywood in a nutshell — a film that everyone will go to but not that many will truly enjoy being described as some kind of restoration trip that will set things right.Read More »
In his review of Monster-in-Law in last Friday’s Hollywood Reporter, Kirk Honeycutt called it “a deeply dispiriting movie, not just because it is grindingly bad but because Jane Fonda actually chose this for her comeback after a 15-year absence from the screen.” Correction: Fonda didn’t exactly select Monster-in-Law as the very best comeback vehicle she could find. She decided to do it as a fallback thing after (a) she auditioned for but didn’t get the Cloris Leachman alcoholic-mother role in Spanglish (director James L. Brooks felt she wasn’t quite right), and (b) after she blew off a chance to play Orlando Bloom’s mother in Cameron Crowe’s Elizabethtown because she didn’t think the role was big or fully-written enough. I reported this in some detail in my 12.28.04 column. (It’s the third story from the top.)Read More »
I’m at the Amsterdam airport, my plane for Nice leaves about three hours from now, and writing a WIRED item about this no-big-deal fact is, no argument, lame. And yet…I’m sitting in the “communication centre” on the second floor, and for 10 Euros you can get a wireless hookup for 24 hours, and it’s awfully damn nice to plug in right away on foreign soil and use your laptop as a U.S.-based phone. I’m referring to Vonage’s Soft Phone software, which lets you call the States for a flat fee of $10 for 500 minutes. It works fine as long as you have a decent set of headphones with a microphone.Read More »