The reason I haven’t put The Departed into the Best Picture category in the Oscar Balloon is that there’s not a whole lot going on underneath. It doesn’t have any kind of human-condition theme that hatches and builds and sticks to your ribs after it’s over. But did The French Connection, which won the ’71 Best Picture Oscar, have any kind of theme? Not that I can remember. Shouldn’t pure moviegoing pleasure — the kind that comes from a film that’s knows what it’s doing and how to deal it, and is therefore totally confident and well-ordered — be one of the criteria that qualifies a film for Best Picture? Maybe The Departed should be one of the nominees on this basis.Read More »
It’s amazing what can happen when the right
song is laid onto the soundtrack of the right
scene in the right film. This special
chemistry happens for reasons I don’t yet fully understand when
Martin Scorsese uses John
Well, Well” in a scene in The Departed — a scene
between Leonardo DiCaprio‘s frazzled cop-mole
character and Jack Nicholson‘s grizzled mob
I haven’t listened to this song in a long time, but it popped through in some live-wire way the other night when I was watching The Departed for a second time. A couple of lines of dialogue about Lennon are heard around the same time. Nicholson asks DiCaprio, “Do you know who John Lennon was?” and DiCaprio answers,...
The 1981 Oscar-winning biopic of journalist and “romantic revolutionary” John Reed, beautifully shot by Vittorio Storaro, was restored at least five years ago. I know this because I was told sometime in early ’02 by Paramount Home Video exec Martin Blythe that the work had been done a while before that, and because a spotless, superb looking print was shown in concert with aRead More »
“Guillermo Del Toro was a man on a mission.
He’d been sent a tape of Amores Perros by a mutual friend,
another up-and-coming Mexican auteur, Alfonso
Cuaron, who [like Del Toro] thought the movie was an
overlong chef d’oeuvre.
“Though Del Toro was ‘very broke’ at the time — he’d recently paid a hefty ransom to rescue his father from a kidnapping — he caught one of the first available flights to Mexico from Austin, Texas, where he was living then.
“‘Next day, or two days after, I opened the door and I see a fat man with the face of a kid, and with very intelligent blue eyes,’ Inarritu, 43, recalls. ‘And in the next three days he ate all the food in my refrigerator but he made me laugh like nobody, he made my life so happy. And he helped me, really toughly, to get those seven, eight minutes out of it.’
Sometime around ’82 or ’83 there were two plays playing next to each other on 45th Street — one was called “Good” (written by C.P. Taylor, about an ordinary guy who becomes a Nazi) and the other was called “Plenty” (by David Hare). It was silly — bizarre, really — but those titles being proclaimed from their respective marquees looked like some kind of put-on. I remember standing nearby after the two were up and flashing and saying to myself, “This is a joke, right?”
In the same silly-ass vein we have two “good” movies coming out in December — Steven Soderbergh‘s The Good German (Warner Bros., 12.8) and Robert De Niro‘s The Good...Read More »
Is it me, or do these Departed judgments sound vaguely
(a) “Mixing it up with modern mobsters for the first time since Casino 11 years ago, Martin Scorsese cooks up a juicy and bloody steak of a movie in The Departed…[which] pulses with energy, tangy dialogue and crackling performances from a fine cast…after the elaborate exertions of the period pieces Gangs of New York and The Aviator, it’s good to see Scorsese back on home turf” — Variety critic Todd McCarthy;
(b) “Thank God we have Martin Scorsese back…after a couple of films where one of the best directors ever seemed more...Read More »
What’s made clear in Jackass: Number Two when
Johnny Knoxville and Chris
Pontius take a couple of swallows of horse
semen “is that in a society still driven by the Christian
right and red-state morality, 30-year-old men with wives,
girlfriends, and masculine reputations to uphold still cannot whip
out the lubricant and give in to their primal urge to slip
it into the backdoor.
“And unfortunately for these poor, subdued men — two of whom have children — the only real outlet for the repressed sexual frustration is to drink the ejaculate of a horse, or stand around in the nude and inflict pain on one another, while anointing the appropriately named Wee Man as their phallic mascot. It’s a cheerless state of affairs — nearly a year after Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger mainstreamed man-love into...
The New York Film Festival selections “aren’t so much programmed
as curated,” observes N.Y. Times critic
A.O. Scott. The curators are led by program
director Richard Pena, the festival’s program
director, and otherwise made up of film critics — Film
Comment editor Kent Jones, Entertainment
Weekly critic Lisa Schwarzbaum, Vogue magazine critic
John Powers , and Phillip Lopate,
“editor of a recently published Library of America anthology of
American movie criticism.
“These critics, like others in their profession, incline toward material that is sometimes described as difficult or challenging, but that requires a disciplined, active attention,” Scott writes. That’s a polite way of saying they’re film snobs. I don’t think...
What film caught the strongest hottest buzz out of the Toronto Film Festival? Easy — Sacha Baron Cohen ‘s Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (20th Century Fox, 11.3). I didn’t catch it in Toronto (I never do midnight screenings at film festivals plus I’m always super-busy so I missed the one non-midnight showing) but I knew there’d be opportunities to see it in L.A., either in late September or sometime in October.
Borat is the hottest envelope-pushing comedy going right now; some have even suggested that Cohen could be in line for a Best Actor nomination. And guess what? Borat opens five weeks from now and Fox has no L.A. press screenings scheduled between now and November 2nd. Strange as this sounds, that’s what I’ve been told. So if you’re based here and you haven’t seen it by now, you’re out of luck and will have to go cold turkey all next week and throughout the entire month of October.
The Queen is a witty, very dry Stephen Frears film about the almost-comical aloofness and generally queer behavior exhibited by Queen Elizabeth II and her family in the wake of the 1997 death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Helen Mirren, as noted in my initial review, is fairly wonderful in the title role, and the film does gain slightly after a second viewing. But if you pay to see The Queen this weekend you will notice, trust me, a difference between the projected experience that fills the screen and the one that Manohla Dargis describes and does cart- wheels over in this N.Y. Times review.
As Sigmund Freud once said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
A naive but charming Scottish doctor (James McAvoy) arrives to begin his career in early ’70s Uganda. He is at first intrigued and excited at becoming a favorite and then, down the road, the”white monkey” of General Idi Amin (Forrest Whitaker), but the doctor gradually comes to regret being close to the psychotic dictator, and then finally he has to run for his life.
That’s an interesting but less-than-fascinating story, and the bottom line with Kevin McDonald‘s The Last King of Scotland, which has a solid 86% positive Rotten Tomatoes rating, is that it’s only a pretty good because of this. It’s above average, but doesn’t quite have that...Read More »
At one point Patrick Wilson‘s Brad tells Kate Winslet‘s Sarah “that beauty is overrated, something that, as the narrator notes, only someone secure in his own beauty would say. He may nonetheless be right. But in too many recent movies intelligence is woefully undervalued, and it is this quality — even more than its considerable beauty — that distinguishes Little Children from its peers.” — N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott in his review of Little Children.Read More »
A Manhattan-based journalist wrote me earlier today and
suggested that Little Children‘s Jackie Earle
Haley, who plays a profoundly creepy child
molester/flasher, and Phyllis Somerville , who
plays his caring, strong-willed mom, could both qualify as Best
Supporting Actor nominees in their respective categories. “Both are
terrific,” he enthused, “but I think Somerville’s portrait of a
mother’s unconditional love is absolutely
heart-breaking…just great work.”
Sommerville is wonderful, I agreed, but Haley’s sexual deviant is extremely icky. “Haley’s a fine actor and it’s good he’s back,” I responded, “but that character he plays…forget it.” The East Coast guy replied by saying “Icky is not bad, and in this case, icky is heartbreaking.”
And I said, “Because of this character,...
Obviously there are two competing Oscar handicapper gangs taking
shape — one at Tom O’Neil‘s “The Envelope” (expect at least
12 journos when it’s all finalized) and the return of Gurus
of Gold (roughly 80% in place) at David
Poland‘s Movie City News.
The Times rule is that you can’t be an “Envelope” team member plus a Poland Guru. I know there’s been some soul-searching among journos about whether to side with the Hatfields or the McCoys, and I for one have heard the crack of rifle fire over issues of alleged guru-poaching.
I know this: it’s not “early” in the Oscar handicapping racket. It’s all happening right now, fast and furious.
Just yesterday I heard uh-ohs...
Sacha Baron Cohen‘s best jotting so far in his theatrical put-on campaign for Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (20th Century Fox, 11.3) wasn’t inviting “Premier George Walter Bush” to a screening of the film (Cohen actually went up to the White House gates on Wednesday to try and hand-deliver the invite), but the announcement that “Mel Gibsons” has also been sent one.
Cohen’s was at the White House to capitalize on today’s...Read More »
Nobody’s bothered by Scarlett Johansson agreeing to play the title role in Mary, Queen of Scots in a forthcoming mid-budgeted historical drama on top of already playing Mary Boleyn (older sister of Natalie Portman‘s Anne) in The Other Boleyn Girl for producer Scott Rudin and Columbia Pictures? The two characters were almost alive at the same time. (Anne Boleyn was born in 1504 and died of a severed head in 1536. Mary Queen of Scots was born in 1542 and died in early 1587.) I don’t mean to carp, but I already have issues with Johansson being in period dramas in the first place.Read More »
“I think this is Leo’s year,” a director said to me yesterday. He was referring to a generally presumed one-two combo from Leonardo DiCaprio‘s performances in Martin Scorsese‘s The Departed and Ed Zwick‘s Blood Diamond. The latter has everyone’s attention because Leo has nailed his South African accent quite well, to judge from what people are hearing in the trailer.
I’m developing this nob of an idea, however, that Djimon Honsou may be formidable also in that film. My information comes from an interested party so there’s nothing to consider all that heavily. And like I said before, The Last Samurai and Legends of the Fall are reason enough to instill caution when approaching a new Ed Zwick movie. And…I could say something but I won’t. I think it’ll be shown sometime in October, though, and not November.Read More »
David Poland is
calling yours truly, “The Envelope’s” Tom
O’Neil and and Fox 411′s Roger Friedman a
team of “walking orifices” and “Butt Monkeys”. It has to do with my
having praised Sienna Miller‘s performance in
Factory Girl and then having put her on my “Envelope” Best
Actress list, and O’Neil having written a piece about
Harvey Weinstein intending to launch a Best
Actress campaign for her, etc. I don’t know if Friedman has written
anything about this, but Rolling Stone critic
Peter Travers has put Miller on his Best Actress
The only substantial bottom line on this matter is that I’ve seen Factory Girl and Poland hasn’t.
Harvey depends on certain...
I don’t know or care, really, if Josh Hartnett and Scarlet Johansson are still entwined and it doesn’t matter either way, but the general belief is that they met during the making of Brian De Palma‘s The Black Dahlia. If they’re still happening at this moment, by the law of Hollywood relationships the failure of Dahlia — critically, commercially — means that if they’re still together, they won’t be for much longer. Doomed. A movie is like a child — a creative by-product of an alliance that began with an on-set affair — and if it goes out into the world and is dissed by critics and the ticket-buying public, it’s like a thumbs-down on the relationship itself. Which makes the lovers feel like they’ve contracted a virus of some kind. And before you know it they’re “done.”Read More »
More Flags of Our Fathers deck shuffling: a friend tells me Clint Eastwood‘s Iwo Jima film (Dreamamount, 10.20) was scheduled to screen in the evening in Manhattan over the last 36 to 48 hours, but then it was cancelled. (That’s on top of a few people alegedly being invited and then disinvited to see it at yesterday’s L.A. screening.) Flags screened this morning in New York at 9 ayem, and then the print flew out.Read More »
On one hand those Movie City News interview clips from last weekend’s The Departed junket are cool because they’re video — robust aural-visual immediacy! On other hand the quickie-question format reduces everything to banaility. Individuals lose, the promotion machine wins…and I always feel a little less alive and more like a spoon-fed monkey in a cage when I watch one of these pieces. The thing to run (and which I would be proud to create some day on HE) would be an ongoing Jamie Stuart-type video journal. Stuart is an avatar of a streetcorner reality vs, showbiz sensibility that’s fermenting out there right now.Read More »
It’s been a hunker-down week for Clint Eastwood‘s two Iwo Jima films. Flags of Our Fathers (Dreamamount, 10.20) was screened for a tight little group yesterday, but if any press people were invited I wasn’t told about it. (Not that I made a big deal about finding out.) The first Left Coast journo showing apparently won’t be happening until next week. And Warner Bros., apparently, continued to explore and negotiate and re-examine all over again what date will be best for the release of Letters From Iwo Jima, Eastwood’s Japanese-soldier war film intended to complement Flags. Dither, dither, dither.Read More »
What an amazing, exciting, profitable thing all around:
Peter Jackson is
partnering with Microsoft to create at least
two Xbox 360 video games, one of which will be based on
Jackson’s upcoming Halo, under the aegis of a new outfit
called Wingnut Interactive. I’m getting the chills just thinking
about it. Jackson and close partners Fran Walsh
and Phillipa Boyens will dream up the particulars
together. Think of the joy, the jazz…the cultural adrenalin that
will be felt from these games. Not to mention the truckloads of
money to be earned.
I’m saying, in other words, that Jackson is perhaps better attuned or suited to the video-game creator mentality than that of a genuinely intriguing filmmaker, which is to say someone with an...
“There has never been anything quite like Asger Leth‘s Ghosts of Cite Soleil,” Variety‘s Todd McCarthy has written. “It’s amazing it even exists and that the director is still alive. Rough as can be in both content and style, Ghosts will be welcome everywhere tough, provocative docus are shown.”Read More »
This Matt Damon-Jimmy Kimmel confrontation happened a week or so ago. What’s wrong with it, of course, is that it’s an act. It would have been brilliant — historic — if Damon had really gotten angry and stormed off. It would have been something real and rude instead of another damn mock- ironic put-on. Everything is on this level these days — on talk shows, SNL, sitcoms. Nothing laid on the line, every statement in “quotes.”Read More »
I need to be honest and admit something, which is that I’m not particularly enthused about watching a forthcoming F/X TV series called 4 oz., as in one quarter of a pound, which is the weight of a surgically severed penis. I don’t think this one holds great interest for me. 21 Grams — the weight of a human soul — worked as a title but not this…sorry. Ryan Murphy‘s forthcoming series is about a married sportswriter who decides to become a woman…terrific. I haven’t been permitted to see Murphy’s Running With Scissors (Columbia, 10.27), but as far as I know it’s only about verbal (as opposed to surgical) slicings.Read More »
I don’t know how many people are making personal /quirky New York Film Film Festival video diaries, but Jamie Stuart is probably better at this sort of thing than anyone else. He really has a handle on something here — the precisely timed cutting style, the grungy lonely-guy narration…he’s really the best. He just needs to do more sit-ups and eat more fruit and fewer cheeseburgers. And everything loads way too slowly on the site — it’s like watching paint dry. Stuarts’s first NYFF encounter is with the Little Chidren team — Todd Field, Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson, Noah Emmerich, etc.Read More »