Baahhd Feeling

I’ve been as anxious as the next guy to see Nowhere Boy, Sam Taylor Wood‘s biopic about the young John Lennon in Liverpool. I’ve written about it several times, praised Matt Greenhalgh‘s script (saying it “has the same concise, straight-from-the-shoulder British scruffiness that his Greenhalgh’s script for Control had”), expressed interest in Kristin Scott Thomas‘s portrayal of Aunt Mimi, etc. But I’m thinking the good vibes may be over.


(l.) Aaron Johnson as John Lennon in Nowhere Boy; (r.) ex-Beatle Pete Best sometimes around 1961 or ’62.

The reason is that after seeing the

Overshadowed

The key sentence in Katrina Onstad‘s profile of director Atom Egoyan in yesterday’s N.Y. Times reads as follows: “A complex, Egoyan-esque meta-narrative has been imposed on the film that was supposed to be [Egoyan’s] most direct” — i.e, Chloe, an emotionally-intimate drama that will play at the Toronto Film Festival. “It’s now the tragic movie about marriage during which one very famous marriage ended so tragically.


Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore in Atom Egoyan’s Chloe.

Onstad refers, of course, to Chloe star Liam Neeson having lost his actress wife, Natasha Richardson, last March when she died from a...

Disney’s $4 Billion Marvel Buy

Disney’s decision to buy Marvel (i.e., hundreds upon hundreds of Marvel-created characters and storylines) for $4 billion is such glorious news that I can’t stand it. The identity of the corporate entity that will henceforth be free to exploit the Marvel elements is a huge thing for me personally. Well, not really, but I’m sure it’s a big deal for millions of Marvel fans worldwide. Okay, maybe not.

The only angle of any interest is whether or not this will serve to bland down the Marvel brand and take things in a kind of corporate Mickey Mouse direction. Wouldn’t this give Disney the force to veto any edge-pushing content from future Marvel character and creations? What’s the last genuinely cool and edgy film to come out of Disney culture? Would Iron...

Sasquatch

Four years ago I ran a transcript of an odd Terrence Malick phoner that I suddenly found myself doing on a fall morning in 1995. I was unprepared, winging it, trying to keep the chit-chat going and getting nowhere. It was nonetheless historic for the rareness. I’m re-posting it in recognition of Malick’s Tree of Life (Penn, Pitt, dinosaurs) opening later this year. I’ve heard from a money guy that it’s definitely opening before 12.31. I guess I should call Apparition’s Bob Berney and see what’s really what.


Terrence Malick around the time of the shooting of The Thin Red Line.

I’m one of the only journalists to have any kind of conversation with Malick since he went into his Thomas Pynchon-like withdrawal about 20 or 21 years ago (not long after the release of Days of...

Improvement

Toronto Int’ Film Festival staffer Jen Bell has responded to yesterday’s rant (“Toronto Wifi Jail“) about there not being enough free wifi at the festival with an announcement that TIFF will be hosting a media lounge on the sundeck of the Sutton Plaza this year, complete with complimentary wifi access.

Not Feeling It

I’m not the first one to say this, but scan the lineup for the 47th New York Film Festival and tell me where the big-jolt films are. Because all I see are a lot of Cannes and Toronto re-runs along with a few marginals and oddities.


The old Alice Tully Hall (i.e., before the big renovation).

I’m sorry but I’ve been visiting this festival off and on for a bit more than 30 years now — I remember what a charge it was in the Richard Roud days of late ’70s and early ’80s — and it’s hard to look at what’s happening today and go, “What happened?” Because the NYFF really used to matter.

I...

Will Oz Be Wired…or Not?

Warner Home Video’s Blu-ray restoration of The Wizard of Oz will be out less than a month from now, debuting Tuesday, 9.29. The restored classic will also have a one-day showing on screens nationwide on 9.23, and a special 11 am screening at Manhattan’s Alice Tully Hall (a program presented by the New York Film Festival) on Saturday, 9.26.

But no one has yet spoken about the key qualitative aspect regarding this upgrade of America’s most beloved family film. In a phrase, the question every videophile across the...

Untruths in Advertising

What are some of the most successful flim-flam movie marketing campaigns of all time? Ad and trailer campaigns, I mean, in which the content of a certain film was almost completely hidden and/or ignored, and the marketing guys sold a film that didn’t really exist — at least not in the way it was represented by the one-sheets and trailers. A marketing campaign, in short, that didn’t exaggerate this or that aspect of a film (which all movie campaigns do) as much as one that pretty much deliberately lied about what a film actually was.

And got away with it, I mean — that’s the important part. People showed up and then realized ten of fifteen minutes into the film that they’d been hoodwinked by the ad guys, but they stayed anyway and liked the film and came out and told their friends to go see it. Normally I’d come up with two or three examples to start things off, but let’s just toss it out and see where this goes. And if...

How Do I Know?

I want The Informant! (Warner Bros., 9.18), which certain parties saw in Los Angeles a week or two ago and which I’ll be seeing fairly soon, to be a dark and sardonic verite satire piece. A movie, I mean, that’s dryly amusing in a way that will leave Eloi viewers cold…yes! Nobody does non-laughy undercurrent humor like Steven Soderbergh. But what if the film isn’t that amusingly whatever, even for guys like myself, and the Warner Bros. poster creators are just trying to sell this idea in a flim-flammy sort of way in order to boost the first-weekend gross?

Confession

“Well, what can I tell ya? Last year, two or three…it goes way back, I suppose. I can remember entertaining suicidal thoughts as a college student. At any rate, I’ve always found life…demanding. I’m the only child of lower middle-class people. I was the glory of my parents, ‘my son the doctor’…you know. I was always top of my class, scholarship to Harvard, the boy genius, the brilliant eccentric. Terrified of women. Clumsy at sports. My home is hell. I left my wife a dozen times. She left me a dozen times. We stay together through a process of attrition. Obviously a sadomasochistic dependency.”

Traumatic Visuals

Yesterday afternoon Los Angeles attorney Eric Spiegelman posted a time-lapse video — 90 minutes compressed into 24 seconds — of the enormous smoke clouds over the 818 and 626 areas over the San Gabriel mountains and near the La Canada, Flintridge, La Cescenta and Altadena areas. Indiewire’s Anne Thompson and L.A. Observed posted it last night. I’m just tagging along — a day late and a dollar short.

Downhill Droid

Compare the jacket art for the forthcoming Criterion DVD of Downhill Racer to the art for the two theatrical posters used during the film’s original release. The middle poster is obviously the sexiest and most sophisticated. The electric-blue one on the right is…well, okay. But the Criterion DVD jacket looks like a robot-droid skiier — like Peter Weller‘s Robocop negotiating a slope on the ice planet of Hoth.


(l. to r.) Jacket of forthcoming Criterion Downhill Racer DVD; theatrical release poster #1; alternate theatrical poster.

What was Criterion thinking? The cover makes me almost not want to buy it, and I love this film.

Calm Return

A clean and handsome-looking Blu-ray of Phillip Noyce‘s nicely sculpted Dead Calm (’89) will be out on 9.8.09. Hard to believe it’s been 20 years since I’ve seen it. A very tight and well-ordered thriller, to say the least. It’s a little bit curious to consider the way Nicole Kidman used to look. Sam Neill looked so young back then! (Who didn’t?) It’ll be nice to get a copy before I leave for the Toronto Film Festival.

Noyce, currently in post on Salt, his Angelina Jolie Russian spy movie for Sony, told me yesterday he hasn’t...

Last Light

I’m watching the Ted Kennedy funeral procession make its way to Arlington National Cemetery, and particularly the area adjacent to JFK and Bobby Kennedy’s grave with the rough stones and the eternal flame with the biege-colored Custis-Lee Mansion atop the sloping green hill. I’m listening to MSNBC’s Chris Matthews talk about Jimmy Breslin writing that 11.25.63 interview/profile of Clifton Pollard, the guy who dug JFK’s grave. Here‘s that story.

Trim

The version of Alejandro Amenabar‘s Agora that’ll screen at the Toronto Film Festival will run 126 minutes, give or take, which is roughly 15 minutes shorter than the Cannes version, which I believe ran 141 minutes. My Cannes observation: “I was surprised, really, that it moved as fast as it did.”

Toronto Wifi Jail

The biggest tech headache of the year is about to take place in Toronto. There is no film festival anywhere in the world that makes people like myself suffer like the Toronto International Film Festival. Compared to Cannes and Sundance and given the generic expectation level of a major film festival, Toronto wifi is similar to the wifi in Oxford, Mississippi. Or nearly.


My iPhone was showing five bars this morning but the AT&T Communication Manager (i.e., the air card software) was saying no dice. It does this from time to time. Actually, more often. Technology lets you down all the time.

A festival without lots of plentiful free wifi all over the place is a drag — that’s all there is to it. Every journalist who attends needs to constantly file, and getting online in Toronto — or more particularly in the areas near theatres and screening rooms —...

Talk Soup

The L.A. County coroner’s ruling about Michael Jackson‘s death being called a homicide isn’t specifically worded, to my understanding. The secondary definition of second-degree murder is “a killing caused by dangerous conduct and the offender’s obvious lack of concern for human life…a middle ground between first-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.” Dr. Conrad Murray, Jackson’s personal physician, had been thought to be suspected of manslaughter. What’s the precise difference between manslaughter and the kind of second-degree murder described above, and what will be the penalties if Murray is charged with the latter?

Bergman on Hewitt

“My relationship with Don Hewitt was never close,” writes former 60 Minutes producer Lowell Bergman (who was played by Al Pacino in The Insider). “It was marked not just by arguments, but a kind of dance where he would regularly ‘fire’ me during my first decade at the program.

“But it finally disintegrated during a critical period in 1995 when CBS management and lawyers changed the rules, citing a little-used legal concept (‘tortious interference’) to justify killing an investigation of the tobacco industry that I was working on. Hewitt’s acquiescence, and then public justification of management’s decision, was the last straw. That episode convinced me he was willing to abandon the basic trust that a real news organization has to maintain...

AntiChrist Icing

These three are contending that Cannes journalists over-reacted to Lars von Trier‘s AntiChrist, and in so doing revealed their emotionally timid natures plus a lack of historical perspective. Poland/Morgan/Gross have seen AntiChrist but had many weeks, of course, to prepare themselves. What were they going to do — agree with the mob? Whatever their motives they’re clearly bending over backwards to be contrarian for the sake of contrarianism. And they’re flat-out ignoring how amateurishly awful Antichrist is. Forget shock value — I’m talking about basic chops.