Marina Zenovich‘s Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, which HBO opened in Manhattan and Pasadena last Friday in order to qualify the doc for a Best Feature Documentary Oscar, was reviewed by plenty of people at last January’s Sundance Film Festival, but N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis has taken advantage of last Friday’s very limited, zero-profile opening to formally review it.
The doc “gets at the strong, curiously divisive reactions” that the famed director of The Pianist, Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown “has long inspired, reactions that have as much to do with the disturbing power of his best work as his own history as a victim and a survivor,” she writes. “Mr. Polanski survived the Holocaust and the murder of his wife, Sharon Tate, in 1969 by followers of Charles Manson. It was the American legal system that almost did him in.”
With his direction of Leatherheads (Universal, 4.4),
George Clooney has attempted “one of the hardest
things there is to do — re-create the fizz of old Hollywood
notesVariety‘s Todd McCarthy. The
result, lamentably, is “just a mild buzz.”
Indeed, the best screwball comedies play as if everyone in the
cast is (a) slightly deranged and (b) on some kind of light flutter
drug. Like the effect of two or three sips of champagne and a
half-quaalude. Or a half tab of ecstasy. His Girl Friday, Some
Like It Hot, 20th Century, The Lady Eve, My Man Godfrey, Bringing
Up Baby, Ball of Fire and The Awful Truth all feel
like this. They’re so stoned that they provide a kind of
George Clooney‘s Leatherheads (opening Friday) is tracking well at 73, 40 and 18 — it should do close to $20 million, maybe a bit more. Nim’s Island, a kid’s picture with Jodie Foster, is running at 59, 27 and 7. The Ruins is at 44, 22 and 6…doesn’t look like much. Among next weekend’s (4.11) openings, Prom Night is at 59, 28 and 5; Smart People is running at 39, 22 and 2, and Street Kings (Fox Searchlight) is at 47, 35 and 3. 4.18 openings: 88 Minutes at 42, 33 and 4, Fobidden Kingdom is at 59, 39 and 6, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall is running 47, 28 and 3.
As it must to all men, death
came today to the great Jules Dassin at age
96. A Greek-descended, Hollywood-employed, highly-rated noir
director, Dassin was blacklisted in 1949 only to bounce back with
(’55), the greatest heist film ever made. (Rififi
was actually released in France in ’54.)
Dith Pran, the real-life Cambodian-born
photographer whose story of capture, enslavement and eventual
escape from the hands of the psychopathic Khmer Rouge was
dramatized in Roland Joffe‘s The Killing
died yesterday of pancreatic cancer.
Dith Pran (l.), Haing S. Ngor (r.)
I never met him, but I interviewed Haing S.
Ngor, who not only played Dith in the film but knew
him as a close friend, for an Us magazine piece in
A lovely hard-core guy who wore his memories and emotions on his
sleeve, Ngor had gone through the same kind of Khymer Rouge horrors
as Dith, and later wrote a book about this called...
It may as well be acknowledged that Hillary
Clinton has a brief appearance in Shine a Light
(Paramount, 4.4), Martin Scorsese/Rolling Stones
documentary that I reviewed
on 3.26. (She and Bill have a handshake moment with
Mick Jagger and Keith Richard on
the Beacon theatre stage before the show begins.) She’s also
told reporters she’s a big Stones fan, and admires Jagger’s
“incredible presence…he’s very disciplined, he works out, and he’s
incredibly devoted to what he does.”
HE’s Moises Chiullan participated in one of the many mismanaged and frustrating Texas county delegate conventions two days ago (i.e., Saturday), and has promised to provide an account of how it all went down. Here‘s a site that’s keeping tabs with the latest Texas delegate tallies, but the long and the short is that despite his narrow loss in the Texas primary popular vote, Barack Obama has scored a clear delegate victory over Hillary Clinton so far, making it more
than likely that when the process is finally completed in June, Obama will have more Texas delegates going to the August Denver convention than Clinton.
“Look at Yahoo or Google or CNN, [and] take away the branding and just look at the headlines, and they’re very similar. But if you take away the branding of The Huffington Post and the signage, you’d probably still recognize us.” — Huffington Post editor Roy Sekoff says in a 3.31 N.Y. Times profile of the site and its co-founder Arianna Huffington, by Brian Stelter. “We’ve always wanted to be part of the national conversation,” Sekoff also says.
This is pretty much what every successful site does — provide a distinctive attitude-personality and a community vibe, offer a scan of the daily happenings, and start and fuel a conversation about the topics that matter (or about angles on topics that are unique to the site).
Given a theoretical choice between a sublime dinner of
Herb-Roasted Amish Chicken with White Wine Jus, Sauteed Wild
Mushrooms, Green Market Arugula and Parmigiano Bread Pudding at
Manhattan’s Union Square Cafe
and a steak and lobster meal at any evening-trade restaurant in the
country, most Americans would choose the latter. Not because they
have peon-level taste buds (although this could be argued) but
because known quantities trump surprises every time.
By the same token, Fandango’s list of Most Anticipated
Summer 2008 Movies (conducted on Fandango.com from 3.13 to
3.30) is made up of nothing but brand-name lazy-boy movies, 60% or
70% of which are almost sure to let moviegoers down in a big way,
as in “back to the salt mines,” “I’ve seen this before,” “why do I
Joel and Ethan Coen have called George Clooney‘s characters in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Intolerable Cruelty and Burn After Reading “my trilogy of idiots,” Clooney said in a 3.28 Screen Daily interview. “The only thing that made me feel better [about Burn] was that Brad Pitt is as stupid as I am in this one. I get to play Tilda Swinton‘s lover who hates me and is rotten to me throughout the whole thing. It’s a flat-out comedy. There’s not a message in it.”
4.7.08 review, New Yorker critic David
Denby is playing my Stop-Loss song, or vice versa
or something in between. But Kimberly Peirce‘s
film opened two days ago and didn’t exactly rewrite box-office
history, so Denby’s support has come late in the game. Perhaps too
Stop-Loss “is not a great movie,” Denby says, “but it’s
forceful, effective, and alive, with the raw, mixed-up emotions
produced by an endless war — a time when the patriotism of military
families is in danger of being exploited beyond
“This movie may become the central coming-home-from-the-war story
of this period, just as The Best Years of Our Lives, made
in 1946, became...
Another big-name print critic has been trap-doored —
Newsweek‘s David Ansen! One of the best
critics in the country, certainly one of the wisest and most
learned, a good fellow and a major voice on the big-time movie
circuit since 1977 is being proverbially put out to pasture due to
plummeting ad revenues and the general downswirling of
dead-tree journalism. Ansen, 63, is one of 111
Newsweek staffers who accepted buyout deals last week.
“…and Hillary said if her pastor had been blown by Monica Lewinsky, she would have stayed.” Plus two or three other goodies from Bill Maher’s Real Time monologue the night before last.
And a joke in the same vein from Jay Leno: “James Carville was really upset the other day, really upset…he called Bill Richardson a ‘Judas.’ There’ve been a lot of Biblical references in this campaign. The latest one is they’re calling Bill Clinton ‘Jonah’ because he’s the one who got swallowed by a whale.”
According to this
Slashfillm posting that went up Friday night, a clueless
Ben Affleck was recently fooled by Sacha
Baron Cohen during filming of Bruno. Or so
claimed National Enquirer gossip Mike
Walker during last Thursday’s Howard
Stern show. Forget the Affleck b.s. — how can Cohen get
away with this routine with anyone? What 30 year civil servant on
the edge of retirement isn’t in on the joke?
Affleck allegedly called Sarah Silverman “after
doing a sit-down interview with a person he was told was a ‘very
famous openly gay fashion journalist,’” blah, blah. “Affleck called
Yesterday was “a day that will live in infamy,” according to
sagwatch.net, since it
marked a huge split in the contract bargaining posturings of SAG
and AFTRA over attempts to decertify memberships among TV show
performers. An instant doze-off for most HE readers, I realize, but
the allusion to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (12.7.41)
caught my attention. Especialy since the statement uses the word
“The possibility of SAG and AFTRA engaging in joint bargaining with
the industry collapsed today,” the statement reads, “after SAG’s
Doug Allen refused to renounce raiding activity by
which he and other representatives of Membership First are
seeking to promote decertifications among AFTRA
shows, including the long running soap The Bold and the
“Allen’s refusal to renounce raiding led to the cancellation
The Kids Choice Awards aired last night in Nickleodeon. I agreed with Ratatouille being named the Favorite Animated Movie. Otherwise I was fantasizing about being Jay Silverheels (a.k.a. Tonto) and rounding up all my renegade Indian pallies and getting on our horses and riding down to the place where the show was taped and kicking up dust and causing trouble. Which is merely a variation on my standard reaction to treacly pop plasticity, which is that the Taliban has a point.
Borys Kit-Carl DiOrio wrote a
story for last Thursday’s Hollywood Reporter about
Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio
being signed to write a Lone Ranger movie for producer
Jerry Bruckheimer. The news about the project
itself, however, was
revealed almost a year ago by Collider‘s Steve
I wrote in response that the idea is “an obvious non-starter for
the simple fact that westerns haven’t mattered for decades.” Open
Range showed that one could make a good solid western that stood on
its own two feet, but the genre lost its cultural vitality back in
In a short q & a that ran two days ago, Wall Street Journal softballer John Jurgensen put the following pregnant question to My Blueberry Nights star Nora Jones: “Have you read any of your reviews?” To which Jones replied, “No. Never have, never will. This acting thing has been fun and if I never do it again, I had a great experience. If I do do it again, I hope I get better at it. But I don’t have ambitions to conquer Hollywood or anything.”
I saw Wong Kar Wai‘s My Blueberry
Nights (Weinstein Co., 4.4) eleven and a half months ago
at the Cannes Film Festival. It’s finally opening this Friday at
limited venues. The best thing about it, honestly, is the title —
the allusions to eroticism and delectability within. I was going to
say I can imagine hip urban thirtysomething couples being okay with
some of it, but I honestly can’t do that. Here’s are portions of
what I wrote
from the Orange Cafe so many months ago:
(a) “I could sense trouble fairly early on in Wong Kar
Wai‘s My Blueberry Nights, a horribly written,
woefully banal self- discovery mood piece (the word ‘drama’ really
can’t be applied)...
Can you imagine being dead for 48 years, just floating around in some airy-fairy, non-material way, when a bulletin from earth suddenly punctuates your cosmic head-space? The news being that a guy named David Bret has nailed you in a book for having had halitosis, hepatitis, rotting teeth and “shovel-like” hands? I don’t know that these and similar revelations concerning Clark Gable‘s life are things that I need to know. I can deal with his halitosis (read about it years ago) but that’s as far as I’d like to go, thanks.
Nourishing, semi-leisurely Sunday activity is a good thing. Tomorrow, if you live in Los Angeles, satisfaction on that level could and perhaps should include (a) Word Theatre’s 11 a.m. event at the Venice Canal Club (brunch plus readings about sex and death) with Tess Harper, Rae Dawn Chong, Gary Dourdan, Sarah Maclay, etc., and (b) a 5:30 pm screening of Sydney Pollack‘s The Yakuza (1974, w/ Robert Mitchum, Ken Takakura, Brian Keith, Richard Jordan) at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre.
Honoring the recently-departed Richard
Widmark‘s performances, N.Y. Times DVD columnist
shows a little more passion and vigor that he usually does
within the boundaries of his tweedly-deedly prose style.
Here‘s a graph about Widmark’s work in Jules
Dassin‘s Night in the City (1950):
“It’s hard to imagine another tough-guy actor of the period
allowing himself to come as close to tearful
impotence as Widmark does, at the moment his character
realizes that there is no escape from the vengeful associates he
has betrayed. Running toward the camera, as well as toward his
I’ll post a thought or two about Stanley Weiser‘s W, formerly known as Bush, on Monday. I couldn’t get my hands on a recently revised draft, but if the film that Oliver Stone will begin shooting next month is at all similar to what’s on the page, W won’t be any kind of breathtaking, guns-blazing, political-zing movie. It’s primarily a modest, brick-by-brick character study about who George W. Bush really is deep down. We tend to bring a certain level of expectation to Stone’s films. We’ve been conditioned a certain audacious, holy-shit element, but sometimes a movie simply is what it is. W, which might be shot, cut and released in near-record time (i.e., before the end of the year), may be seen as more performance-driven than anything else.
John Edwards is the essence of petty equivocation. He’s a phony. Obama didn’t provide the right kind of oral pleasuring so he didn’t endorse him, this 3.28 John HeilemannNew York article reports. He’s a slinky performance artist who likes power and money, y’all. The mere sound of that awful buttery drawl gives me the willies. He’s selling vacuum cleaners.
“I realize this will sound geeky, but for me a good character
match for Hillary Clinton is the old Star
Trek character of Dr. Janice Lester, played in the
original late ’60s series by Sandra Smith. All it
takes is her breakdown scene at the finale when she sobs, ‘I’ll
never be the Captain!’ If you haven’t seen it or don’t recall, I’m
sure plot capsules abound on the net.” — HE reader
ChuckW, writing this morning.
I’ve been told that producer Jean Doumanian is
partnering with the Weinstein Co. to produce a
film version of Tracy Letts‘ masterful August:
Osage County, which N.Y. Times critic Charles
Isherwood called “the most exciting new American play
Broadway has seen in years” in his
Deanna Dunagan (r.) as Violet Weston, the family matriarch; Amy
Morton (l.) as her daughter, and Rondi Reed (center) as Violet’s
As always, a Broadway hit (Osage County is certain to
triumph at the ’08 Tony Awards in
June) is one equation and a satisfying hit movie is another.
21 will crest $25 million by Sunday night — the exact rival-studio estimate is $25.7 million — after earning $8.6 million yesterday. Dr. Horton Hears a Who will come in second with $19.9 million, give or take. The Weinstein Co.’s Superhero Movie is disappointing with a distant third-place showing with a projected weekend tally of $9.4 million. Tyler Perry’s Meet The Browns will be fourth with about $8 million, and Drillbit Taylor will be fifth with $5.9 million. Shutter will come in sixth with about $4.8. Poor Stop-Loss — the finest new film of the weekend, and second only to In The Valley of Elah in the Iraq-War arena — will do about $4.7 million (averaging $3300 to $3400 a print). 10,000 BC will be eighth with $3.9 million, followed by College Road Trip ($2.7 million), The Bank Job ($2.6 million) and Never Look Back ($2.25 million). David Schwimmer‘s Run Fat Boy Run will do about $2 million.
These are the late-winter dog days.