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 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
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 head...
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
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...
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
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...
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.
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.
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
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?
“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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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
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
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?
“My relationship with Don Hewitt was never
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
“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...
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.
Still looking for distribution, Alejandro
Amenabar‘s Agora will show at the Toronto Film
Festival. In my Cannes reaction, posted
on 5.18, I called it “a visually ravishing, intelligently
scripted historical parable about the evils of religious extremism.
And I don’t mean the kind that existed in 4th century Alexandria,
which is when and where this $65 million dollar epic is set. I mean
the evils of the present-day Taliban and the Neocon-aligned
Christian right, and the way Agora metaphorically exposes these
movements for what they are.
On what planet could a 53% second-weekend drop be considered
“solid”? This is how box-office analyst Steve
described the projected Inglourious Basterds fall-off
this weekend, based on yesterday’s figures.
In the old days a 25%-to-30% second-weekend fall-off was
considered a decent hold, a 40% fall-off was thought to be
worrisome and a 50% fall-off was a major “uh-oh.” But in today’s
era in which some highly-touted films have fallen off 60% and even
70% on their second weekends, a 50% drop is now considered par for
the course as in “not great but not catastrophic.” Perspective is
Warner Bros.’ 3D The Final Destination brought in $10.5
million yesterday, and is projected to top out...
The decent, obliging thing to do if you’ve seen Robert
Fan is to give it a pass. If you care about independent
cinema and you’d like to see at least a trickle of blunt, feisty,
low-budget character dramas turning up at Sundance and Toronto and
Cannes for years to come, you’ll put away the things that bothered
or half-bothered you and just say, “Okay, very cool! Love
that pudgy Patton Oswalt angst and the whole
lower-depths, lower-middle-class Staten Island loser thing…love the
grayness, the bleakness and the spirit-deflating self-loathing…love
the shitty story…love the whole package.”
But I can’t do that, man. Because Big Fan wound up
frustrating me all to hell.
I love movies that have gotten hold of something genuine...
“The tragedy of Tarantino is that he could have been so much
more than the Schlock and Awe merchant that he has devolved into,”
writesLondon Independent columnist Johann
Hari. “If he had stopped mistaking his DVD collection for
a life, he — to borrow a phrase from a real film, etched with real
pain — could’ve been a contender.
“When I remember the raw force of Reservoir Dogs, I
still hope that he will. It’s not too late. He could do it. How
about it, Quentin? Step out into the big world beyond celluloid,
and use your incredible talent to tell stories about it. As Mr.
Blonde says, ‘Are you going to bark all day, little doggie — or are
you going to bite?’”
I was writing post-Jackie Brown comedown pieces like
back in ’98 and ’99. It’s hard to...
Is Steven Seagal: Lawman an actual A & E reality series? “The show’s real real…this is not a joke,” Seagal says in the clip. No script, no stunt double, no second chances. It’s getting to a point in which everything is suspect. Nothing is “real” and everything is in quotes. Even if several news sites are writing about it with a straight face. I trust no one. This must be a put-on…no?
Kansas congresswoman Lynn Jenkins yesterday
tried to backpedal her 8.19 remark about fellow Republicans
seeking a ”great white hope” to challenge President Barack
Obama in 2012. The woman was obviously caught in a
Freudian slip and is a flat-out liar for saying
the remark has been misunderstood or taken out of context. There’s
no shortage of ugly in this country. There is in fact a bottomless
well of the stuff, most of it coming these days from the white
hinterlands. (I should have posted this
“I just watched Guillermo Arriaga‘s The Burning Plain
with Charlize Theron and Kim
Basinger on VOD last night,” entertainment journalist
Lewis Beale wrote this morning. “I was surprised
it had suddenly popped up on my local cable system, so I went to
the IMDB and found it had gone the festival route (Venice, Toronto,
Seattle), and that the official TV premiere release date was
Bizarre as it may seem, the comic material in Grant
Heslov‘s The Men Who Stare
at Goats (Overture, 11.6) is based on reported truth, or
more precisely Jon Ronson‘s 2004 non-fiction book
about the U.S. Army’s exploration of New Age concepts and the
potential military applications of the paranormal. Does the trailer
convey a verite element? You tell me.
I found this official release poster for Capitalism: A Love Story on In Contention. And then I read some of the comments. Every In Contention reader who says the one-sheet is cool but they need to remove Moore is dealing from a short deck. One, Moore is always the star of his films. His mentality/attitude/snark is the point. He’s the roly-poly Gary Cooper figure ready to stand up to City Hall and/or the Frank Miller gang. And two, he’s depicted as a small-scaled monochrome figure, which suggests a contained ego.