There was supposed to be an embargo on Sweeney Todd reactions until Monday, but then Envelope guy Tom O’Neilposted last night and then N.Y. Times Oscar columnist David Carr (a.k.a. “the Bagger”), let go. So I called my Paramount guy this morning and begged for a release from bondage, and he said okay.
Then David Polandposted this morning, mentioning also the embargo and being careful to point out that the film “plays a lot better on multiple viewings.” (Mutliple viewings because, you know, Poland is so important and well-connected.) The only guy who’s unmoved so far is Red Carpet District‘s Kris Tapley.
I went to last night’s screening of Sweeney Todd
(Dreamamount, 11.21) with a guarded attitude. Here we go, another
flush of the downward Burton swirl, get ready for it. The man has
been in a kind of losing-it mode since Planet of the Apes
and he’s had his day…live with it. And then it began, and less than
two minutes in I knew it was exceptional and
perhaps more than that.
Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter
Ten minutes later I was feeling something growing within me.
Surprise turned to admiration turned to amazement. I felt filled
up, delighted. I couldn’t believe it…a Tim Burton film that
reverses the decline! Call me a changed man. Call Burton a changed
man. Sweeney Todd is his best film
I have to leave for LAX and a flight to Boston in less than an
hour, but I have...
fresh slate of Sundance ’08 titles were announced again today —
premieres, spectrum, etc. The pop-through titles are Martin
McDonagh‘s In Bruges (opening nighter),
Bernard Shakey‘s CSNY Deja Vu
(closing-nighter), Brett Simon‘s Assassination
of a High School President, Michel Gondry‘s
Be Kind Rewind, Steven Schachter‘s
The Deal, Rupert Wyatt‘s The
Escapist, Sean McGinty‘s The Great Buck
Howard, Mark Pellington‘s Henry Poole Is
Here, Sharon Maguire‘s Incendiary,
Tom Kalin‘s Savage Grace, Bill
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s decision to put
Charlie Wilson’s War, The Savages, Margot at
the Wedding, Juno, The Darjeeling Limited,
Waitress and Lars and the Real Girl into the
comedy/musical category for the Golden Globes Awards is, of course,
a bizarre call. Because the HFPA is committed to filling an annual
slot of comedy/musical contenders, they seize upon any
dramedy they can find and call it a comedy.
The general definition of a dramedy is a drama leavened with
humor that is either (a) dry, (b) cryptic, (c) deadpan or (d) acid
but almost never out-and-out “funny.” Juno is probably the
most hah-hah-ish, although it’s very much a mainstream dramedy.
Charlie Wilson’s War is a dramedy with some genuine laughs
courtesy of Philip Seymour Hoffman‘s performance.
The Savages isn’t even a...
Late to the table on Michael Cieply‘s 11.28 N.Y. Times piece about Disney and Pixar wanting to push Ratatouille for Best Picture rather than the “less prestigious,” ghetto-ized Best Animated Feature Oscar. Answer: the Best Animated Feature Oscar is a very high honor and should be regarded as such. Only the very best animated films are considered so what’s the problem? The friends of Ratatouille should leave well enough alone and stay on their side of the fence.
The first Sweeney Todd L.A. media screenings are happening today — one at 4 pm, another at 7 pm — but there will be no reactions like the ones posted after last Monday’s Charlie Wilson’s War showing. The trade review date is 12.17 — Paramount is otherwise saying no reviews “until time of release.” Tongiht’s second high–voltage event is a post-screening q & a with Zodiac director David Fincher at the Arclight. Variety‘s Todd McCarthy will deliver the questions following a showing of the Zodiac Director’s Cut.
I need to take a little credit for pushing an idea with
Entertainment Weekly when I freelanced with them (’91 to
’96) that they totally ignored, but are now
finally going with — a Hollywood “Smart List” that champions
“the savants and the wunderkinds
whose ideas are driving the film industry forward,” according to
In ’93 or ’94 (it may even have been ’95), I sent at least a
couple of faxed memos urging my then-editors (Cable
Neuhaus, Maggie Murphy, Jim Seymour) to blow off the idea
of putting out an annual Hollywood Power 100 list and go instead
with an MVP issue — Most Valuable Players. The
idea was to honor the people in the film industry who’d made the
best movies, written the best scripts, introduced...
Manhattan hotshot journo Lewis Beale is the latest smart guy to allow his personal feelings to get in the way of acknowledging the malignant greatness of There Will Be Blood. In his not-yet-posted Film Journal review he admits it’s “a major work from an extremely talented director that’s been “meticulously made and contains some astonishing set pieces,” and another one of Daniel Day-Lewis‘s “astonishing, burrowing-into-the-role performances.” But it “centers on a pretty reprehensible human being whose actions become less sympathetic, and more bizarre, as the story unfolds.” Beale calls it “a flawed, at times distasteful piece that will turn off as many viewers as it turns on. Is it art? Undoubtedly. Commercial? Probably not.”
Michael Fleming‘s Variety
story about Jake Gyllenhaal agreeing to play
famed quarterback Joe
Namath put me to sleep when I read it two days ago.
The fact that Namath was “the first football player to find
rock-star status” means zip in terms of a strong
story ingredient. I remember Namath and the reports about his
big-star swagger — fame, girls, money, endorsements. But nothing
happened in his life that would make for strong drama.
The most exciting thing that happened in Namath’s life was
beating the Colts in the ’69 Super Bowl. But a win
has to be more than just a win. It has to mean something above and
After seeing Charlie Wilson’s War last Monday night I
wrote that I liked it, and I meant that. I said “there is edge and
attitude in this Mike Nichols film — certainly
irony upon irony. And it does stay with you.” I also said that if
you can “kick back, chill down and enjoy what’s awfully
well-crafted and efficient about it (which isn’t hard), you’ll be
fine with it too.”
But the honest fact is that I like Aaron
Sorkin‘s 5.25.05 version of his Charlie Wilson’s
War script somewhat more.
I don’t know how much of Sorkin’s script Nichols actually shot,
but it’s been said that Nichols cut, re-cut and then re-cut some
more, and then did some extra shooting. Nichols’ game plan, in any
case, seems to have been to water down the...
In his 11.29 article about the ’08 Sundance Film Festival, N.Y. Times reporter David Halbfinger quotes festival honcho Geoffrey Gilmore as saying that more than half of the 2008 lineup emerged “from the pile.” The term “pile” is usually accompanied by the adjective “slush,” and taken together they mean films that have been submitted by unconnected nobodies. Or, as Halbfinger writes, “without the benefit of advance buzz from the festival’s network of talent and sales agents, established filmmakers and other scouts.”
Two positive trade reviews for Charlie Wilson’s War went up today. Variety‘s Todd McCarthycalled it “a smart, sophisticated entertainment for grownups…snappy, amusing and ruefully ironic.” And the Hollywood Reporter‘s Kirk Honeycuttsaid…well, it’s hard to find a tight summation of opinion, but he notes that this “outrageous tale of 1980s-era good corruption, apparently largely true and all the more outrageous for that, might be the perfect antidote to today’s shrill political scene with Republicans and Democrats staking out intractable positions and accomplishing little.”
Another thoughtful letter about No Country for Old Men
came in today, this one from HE reader Matthew
Leicht. “I saw it yesterday, and it kind of shook me in a
way that no movie has in recent memory,” he begins. “For the most
part, there seems to be a debate over various scenes in the film
and why they’re there, blah blah, but my thumbnail view is that
this is a movie about principles and morals.
“Anton Chigurh is dismissed as a psycho by almost
everyone in the film, but he explains in three different scenes
(gas station, Carson Wells, Carla Jean) that he has a principle,
and that he sees life as a fleeting occurance as opposed to some
epic drama. He reduces life and death to a coin flip, which is
masterfully played on with the random car accident
that closes the film. Ed Tom Bell wants to make sense of
life, Llewelyn wants to move forward…every character
“I can’t tell you much about last night’s [Manhattan] screening of Walk Hard– there’s a review embargo for a few more weeks– but I will tell you this: I haven’t heard an audience laughing so hard since Superbad,” writes Screener‘s Katey Rich. “Coming after a long fall of grim (but often great) movies, Walk Hard is the perfect holiday season antidote for grownups, riotously silly but well-made, a thumb to the nose at the pretension and preening that often takes the screen this time of year.”
At last night’s Gotham Awards, Entertainment Weekly‘s Dave Kargerconfessed to The Envelope‘s Tom O’Neil that Michael Clayton is his favorite pet pony in the Best Picture race. And that strategy-wise, he sees Atonement and No Country for Old Men as the likeliest contenders.
A statement of general policy, effective now and locked for the indefinite future: I hereby refuse to see any movie starring Queen Latifah, and I’m going to really and truly think twice about any film in which she plays a supporting role. As far as I’m concerned every film she’s in carries the Mummy’s curse, and that includes the mostly insipid Hairspray.
Q.L.’s track record is worse than Cuba Gooding‘s even, and that’s saying something. The Perfect Holiday, Life Support, Stranger Than Fiction, Last Holiday, Beauty Shop, Barbershop 2: Back in Business, Chicago, etc. No reflection on her person or personality. She may be a great and generous human being, but her taste in movies seems to be primarily based on the concept of getting paid.
A Wired/Underwired blogger named John Scott
today that two sources (a working movie producer, the other a
show-runner on an upcoming sci-fi pilot) have told him that the WGA
strike is set for a 12.8 settlement, which is pretty close to what
I heard last weekend about the strike settlement to be announced
sometime close to Pearl Harbor day (i.e., Thursday, 12.7).
The bad news, he admits, is that he might be passing along “a
rapidly spreading rumor that might be, in fact, a
rapidly spreading rumor. Both of my sources refused to go on the
record because the date is not official and they don’t want to
appear stupid if the dispute wraps before or well after that date.”
Throwing caution to the wind, Lewsinki writes that “when the strike
ends on Dec. 8, I reported it here first.” Nope — you actually
Right off the top and without thinking too much, here are some
gut-response standouts among the 2008 Sundance Film Festival
selections. The dramatic competition, world cinema, world cinema
docs and domestic docs were posted at 1 pm today
by Variety‘s Todd McCarthy. Premiere
selections will be released tomorrow.
Rawson Marshall Thurber, Sienna Miller on the set of The
Mysteries of Pittsburgh.
As usual, one looks for catchy or provocative subject matter, a
proven director, veteran actors…anything that pops through among
the Sundance grim-itude. You certainly need to be on the lookout
for any film that appears to use chronic downerism
as a badge of artistic sincerity or authority. Road movies,
marginal lifestyles, bizarre dysfunctional behavior, warring family
An excellent new trailer for There Will Be Blood — the best pocked-sized conveyance of what this film is — performances, plot points and all — is viewable from the Paramount Vantage website. But the embedded code is insane — it relaunches every time you refresh HE — and you’re forced to watch trailers for Into The Wild and other PV films over and over. It was torturous so I dumped it and replaced it with this YouTube trailer, which is almost as good.
I sense limited interest in the 25th anniversary
screening of E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial at the
Academy theatre on
Thursday night. Just as Steven Spielberg‘s
esteem has begun to diminish, so has the legend of this 1982 film.
And I’m saying this as someone who truly worshipped E.T.
when it first came out, and who interviewed Henry
Thomas and Drew Barrymore for an
Us magazine cover story.
It’s certainly one of Spielberg’s finest, but the saturation has
been so commercially relentless — the Universal theme-park ride,
that awful Neil Diamond song “Heartlight.” the
endless parade of DVD re-dips — that it’s pretty much worn out its
welcome. Universal’s eagerness to exploit it again...
capsule review, Time critic Richard
Corliss — usually a fairly adventurous sort and certainly
no rigid conservative — has slammed Paul Thomas
Anderson‘s There Will Be Blood (Paramount
Vantage, 12.26), using terms like “daft” and “deranged zone.” No
worries — it’s a solvable issue. Corliss has to see it a second
time, is all.
After my first Blood screening, I knew it was masterful
but I felt traumatized, appalled, thrown off. The second time I saw
it for what it was — a diseased but riveting American epic without
an ounce of fat or pretense — and the matter of my initial
emotional response went by the wayside.
“Ambition can drive a man to greatness or drive him to...
Rudolph Giuliani has a brief but significant
mention in Charlie
Wilson’s War (Universal, 12.25) . It’s just a quick line
in a consultation scene between Rep. Charlie Wilson (Tom
Hanks) and his secretaries over his being investigated for
snorting cocaine at a hot-tub party in Las Vegas in ’86. The
debauch is depicted at the very beginning of the Mike
(l.) the real Rep. Charlie Wilson; (r.) Rudolph Giuliani
Wilson asks a secretary, “Who’s running the thing? Who’s the
prosecutor?” She answers, “Rudolph Giuliani. From the Southern
District.” Another assistant asks, “Do you know him?” Wilson says
Indiewire’s Eugene Hernandez and Peter Knegt have reported on all the managed generosity. Michael Moore‘s Sicko won the best documentary feature award, Juno‘s Ellen Page won the breakthrough actor award and Craig Zobel was named best breakthrough director for Great World of Sound. The casts of Talk To Me and Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead tied for the best ensemble cast award.
There aren’t very many Republican actors in Hollywood, granted, but they’re out there. And it seems reasonable to assume that at least some of them would be supporting Fred Thompson‘s bid for the Republican Presidential nomination. The guy has acted in “40 film and TV projects, after all, and appeared with thousands of other performers during his years in Hollywood going back to the mid-1980s until a recent turn as Ulysses S. Grant in HBO’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” as Politico‘s Jeffrey Ressnerreports. And yet “only one recent contributor to ThompsonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s presidential campaign, with a donation of $350, put down ‘actor’ in the ‘profession’ category.” So local conservatives prefer Rudy Giuliani or (choke) Mitt Romney?
Yesterday’s announcement about Warner Bros. production president Jeff Robinov being handed the reins of the newly formed Warner Bros. Pictures Group as of January ’07 means he’ll be running all worldwide marketing and distribution while continuing to oversee production for all studio releases. WB president and COO Alan Horn will continue to have “final greenlight authority” but will have less overall power and no dominion over marketing, which leaves domestic marketing president Dawn Taubin, a longtime ally/protege of Horn’s, in a vulnerable spot or at least a somewhat weakened position.
There are hints that the Broadway stagehands strike might not go on too much longer. A guy with some knowledge of the Broadway theatre world told me earlier today that a resolution doesn’t seem too far off. And N.Y. Times reporter Campbell Robertsonwrote today that “in a sign that this stoppage might have been more of a break than a breakdown, the League of American Theaters and Producers announced that it was canceling performances only through WednesdayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s matinees” — i.e., tomorrow’s. “Two weekends ago, when the talks fell apart, the league canceled all of Thanksgiving week,” Robertson notes. The two plays to see (if I were doing my usual NYC holiday visitation, which I’m not) would be Aaron Sorkin‘s The Farnsworth Invention and Tom Stoppard‘s Rock ‘n’ Roll.
11.26 Envelope piece about the ten worst Oscar losers
is based upon behavior actually witnessed by TV viewers, as opposed
to what’s been reported about this or that loser throwing a hissy
fit. Sore-losing legend Eddie Murphy doesn’t rate,
therefore, because the cameras didn’t see him leaving the Kodak
theatre in a huff last year after losing to Alan
Arkin in the Best Supporting Actor category.
This despite the L.A. Times‘ Joel
Stein having run a 2.27.07
first-person observation piece about Murphy’s limo driver being
told to pick up Murphy just after Arkin’s triumph.
Carr has run a “comment of the day” from Kate who complains that
little if anything in the way of late fall prestige movies have hit
her local plex so far. HE’s reponse: Kate, the key
to 21st Century moviegoing is to give up on the old lofty pedigree/
warm-emotional-bath feelings that award-level films have given you
in the past. Forget about movies soothing your soul. You’re not
going find deer and rabbits in the North Pole, and the state of
things right now is probably about something other than what you’re
looking to find right now.
David Lean is dead, Francis
Coppola is in creative remission, James