Updated: As predicted last night during the
ceremony, The Hurt Locker won the best feature as well as
best ensemble award at the Gotham Independent Film Awards, held at
Manhattan’s Cipriani Wall Street. And director Kathryn
Bigelow was given a career tribute. As if the Summit
release needed a further boost for a Best Picture nomination. It’s
(l. to r.) Hurt Locker producers producers Nicolas
Chartier and Greg Shapiro, director Kathryn Bigelow, costars
Anthony Mackie, Brian Gerahty, producer-screenwriter Mark Boal,
star Jeremy Renner.
On 11.25 James Cameron‘s Avatar had a first choice rating of 10 — today (11.30) it’s gone up to 15. If it keeps going up 5 points every five days it’ll be at 30 by opening day on 12.18. Unaided awareness is now at 10, total awareness is at 82 and definite interest is currently at 40.
“We are in no position to battle Google on this. And without StudioBriefing.net being included in Google search results we cannot draw sufficient readers to remain viable. We are therefore left with no alternative but to shut down. We thank you for checking us out during the past months, and please check back here on occasion. We’re still hoping that a White Knight might ride to our rescue.” — Lew Irwinexplaining Google’s destruction of “longest-running showbiz news site in internet history,” as Roger Ebert has declared.
“Sources and friends close to the Bourne 4 project tell us that Paul Greengrass has quitBourne 4 and walked away from the project,” a Playlist story reported earlier today. “This actually happened more than a week ago, and we’ve been getting our ducks in a row before publishing this report (and again, we’re shocked Nikki Finke or The Wrap didn’t get wind of this yet and way before us).”
“I wept at the idea of a world that can hold so much beauty and
so much horror at the same time. This is a significant,
powerful film, one that I will revisit soon and
I don’t trust Hitfix’s Drew McWeeny
take on The Lovely Bones because of the residual DNA
of anyone who was heavily invested in Ain’t It Cool culture (as he
was for many years) and the almost contractual requirement that you
had to be in the tank (along with Harry) for anything directed or
even produced by Peter Jackson.
McWeeny is, of course, his own man and a good guy and a very
fine writer and all, but a strong instinct is telling me to regard
“It’s okay…kind of a nice thing, nothing particularly special, a who cares? Not much for Morgan Freeman to work with. If it were not a Clint Eastwood movie, if it were not Oscar season, it would probably be direct to HBO, [and] showing during Black History Month
“I don’t expect that a lot of people are going to want to go see it in a theatre, and I don’t know that the Academy is going to see it as that important.”
What would the last couple of weeks before a new super-costly
James Cameron movie be without a Kim Masters article saying “uh-oh…big
financial risk…look out!” But her
11.29 Daily Beast piece, titled “James Cameron’s
Titanic Gamble,” does introduce an Avatar impression that
I’ve never heard before. The Na’vi don’t look like cats but
goats, in the view of “a veteran producer of
“If one is talking Oscars with a film like Invictus
then it’s worth considering that even fans of the piece couldn’t
possibly, credibly consider it one of Eastwood’s top tier
works,” writesIn Contention‘s Kris Tapley. “An expanded
Best Picture category and enough traditionalist voting methods will
likely secure it a spot in the field, and Morgan Freeman has enough
gravitas to coast to a most undeserved nomination, but beyond that,
nothing rings true.
“Best Director? It would be surprising. Best Supporting Actor?
The acting branch would be voting on autopilot. Below the line? Not
“But away from the black hole of awards considerations, it’s
difficult not to see Invictus as a warning that Eastwood
could be on the precipice of a Woody Allen-like
I love the podcast
moment when In Contention‘s Kris
Tapley and Indiewire‘s Anne
Thompson are discussing Invictus and Tapley
presses her to say if she thought it was “flat” or not and she says
yeah, she sorta did find it flat, and yet she
found it moving all the same.
If there’s one description that applies to Thompson as a film
critic or commentator it’s “diplomatic.” She knows the film world
over under sideways down, but butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.
And yet I felt for her this time because I expressed a somewhat
similar view in my own
review, which went up on 11.27. I didn’t call Invictus
moving, although I did equate it to good pasta.
So now it’s even more certain that Inglourious Basterds
will wedge its way onto the list of ten Best Picture nominees
because all the December releases are falling short…is that it?
That’s more or less how In Contention‘s Kris
Tapleyexpressed it over the
Thanksgiving holiday in his podcast chat with Anne
I’m sensing that Quentin Tarantino may have
agent, Mike Simpson at William Morris,
sometime last week to kibbutz.
Tarantino: “You’re hearing what I’m hearing,
right? Nobody’s seen Avatar but all the other December
releases are, like, good or pretty good or whatever but nothing’s
really going through the roof so...
An industry friend who also attended yesterday afternoon’s
Named Desire performance at BAM wrote and asked what I
thought. “A pretty good first act but a great second act,” I
replied. “Cate Blanchett is devastating,
“I was very closely attuned to the line readings in the first
act. I know Elia Kazan‘s 1951 film extremely well,
and I noticed how each and every line was delivered differently in
this production. As if the actors had studied it also and resolved,
‘I will say each and every line differently…no exceptions!’
“I didn’t care at all for the set, which felt needlessly
cramped, claustrophobic. I guess I’m used to the French Quarter
flavor of the set in the film. All that...
This 11.30 Claudia Eller/L.A. Times piece about the marketing of Up In The Air reminds us that selling motion pictures to the American public today is about the fine art of communicating with the dumbest, most under-educated and most culturally insulated people in the history of western civilization. Not to mention the most heavily narcotized (i.e., via food, alcohol, prescription drugs, constant TV watching, frequent visits to malls).
Listen to the marketing guys Eller runs quotes from. The way they talk about how audiences have to be approached just so, using just the right attitude and carefully chosen words. The marketers could be orderlies in an Oregon mental hospital in the early ’60s talking about how to deal with Billy Bibbit, the Chief, Dale Harding, George Sorensen, Martini and Charles Cheswick.
So Josh Leonard‘s The Lie, which would be called a mumblecore marital drama if the word “mumblecore” hadn’t been expunged from the indie-realm vocabulary, won’t be ready for Sundance ’10. L.A. Times reporter Mark Olsensuggests South by Southwest or Cannes as possibilities. Mark Webber and Jess Weixler costar.
The Lie director Josh Leonard (the bearded goofball smoothie in Humpday) directing Mark Webber.
If I hadn’t wandered into an upscale framed-poster store in Chelsea, I probably never would have visited the IMDB page of this 1969 Vittorio Gassman-Sharon Tate film, which has an English-language title of 12 + 1. It was Tate’s last film. She was three months pregnant and starting to show very slightly when production began in March 1969. Movies have been my faith and religion all my life and I’ve never heard of this thing. It’ll almost certainly never see a DVD release.
I realize I’m pretty much alone in believing that Oscar pundits
should try and lead a little bit — maybe even inspire on some level
— in their award-season scribblings. They could and should do this,
I feel, by subtly or superstitiously or irrationally stepping
outside the box and doing more than just predicting which films and
performances the Hollywood voting community is going to favor. Now
and then, at least.
Like me and Gold Derby‘s Tom O’Neil
and one or two others, they should mysteriously and inconsistently
blend their predictions with some personal conviction of their own
— a little feeling, a little seat-of-the-pants instinct or passion
or spittoon-spitting. I realize that some sorta kinda do this but
others seem averse. With a soapbox comes responsibility, and I
think they should try to stir the pot and rouse the choir a little.
From November to mid December, at least. Or until early...
Sincere thanks to Ben Stiller for mentioning my involvement in the Tokyo Film Festival screening of The Cove on last Thursday’s Larry King Show. Stiller and Cove hero Ric O’Barry discussed The Cove and how, as the Huffington Post summarizes, “with Stiller’s help [the film] was shown at the Tokyo Film Festival.” Close enough.
I started to do a riff on The Hurt Locker as in order
to explain why it’s sitting at the top of the 2009 Pure Pleasure
list, but it went off in another tangent after I began talking
about having recently met a couple of women who hadn’t heard of
Kathryn Bigelow‘s film. Not 20-something
waitresses this time but two well-to-do women in their 50s
who’ve obviously been around and gotten a good grasp of things.
Here’s how I put it:
Bigelow’s Iraq War thriller took me into a world of zero safety
and security — the anxiety-plagued, dry-sweat realm of a military
bomb-defusal squad in 2004 Baghdad. Except Bigelow and screenwriter
Mark Boaldo give us security — the kind
that a person who’s “good” (in the Howard Hawks
sense of that term) brings to this daily threat. A guy, in...
By my yardstick at least 13 extraordinary films
— each with some kind of striking, original-seeming quality and
made from deep-seated, rock-solid material — opened in 2009, and
four others came close to breathing the same air.
Anyone who whines that ’09 was a weak year just hasn’t been paying
attention or has been living in a cocoon. It wasn’t one of the
all-time great years, okay, but it was certainly more than decent
if you brought an intelligent, open-minded, ready-for-the-next
thing attitude to the theatre.
On 11.18 I said
I’d be assembling a list of ’09 films and filmmakers that achieved
one of two things. One, they simply gave me enormous
viewing pleasure. (Even if an isolated aspect of some of
these films was the primary provider with other aspects registering
or satisfying less than 100%.) Or two,...
I’ve assembled sequential excerpts from my original reviews of
Pure Pleasure films of 2009, starting with my
5.24.08 review of Il Divo and ending with
my Toronto Film Festival 9.17.09 review of
Collapse. I haven’t seen Avatar yet (it’s
supposed to screen on 12.10), but the bottom line is that there are
no October, November or December ’09 releases on the
“Never overdramatize things. Everything can be fixed. Keep a
certain detachment from everything. The important things in life
are very few.” — former Italian Prime Minister Giulio
Andreotti, whose political career, particularly the events
that led to...
Without the slightest doubt the single most soothing image I have in my entire photo library. Positano has been overtaken and polluted by schmuck tourists, but I’d go back there again in a second. Taken in late May 2007.
One of my many derelictions right now is not having seen John Lee Hancock‘s The Blind Side, which I’m planning to catch tomorrow. It’s a much bigger hit than box-office pundits were expecting, of course. “A 47% uptick from its opening day B.O. with $16.2 million on 3,140 runs…pic’s domestic cume stands at $76.3 million,” Varietyreports.
The basic appeal, I’m guessing, is that it’s a good Middle American movie that’s not informed by the neurotic mentalities of the coasts. I heard this morning that a rival distributor (i.e., not a Warner Bros. guy) recently projected to a friend that it will ultimately make north of $200 million. It’s the only film besides Up to have a CinemaScore A-plus so far. Old news, chasing the tail, etc.
“Bright vivid technicolor…like Spielberg directed it…a serial-killer movie meets The Color Purple…Silence of the Lambs meets What Dreams May Come.” — a friend who caught a screening last night in Los Angeles.
A couple of hours hence I’ll be heading over to BAM’s Harvey
Theatre and a matinee performance of the Sydney Theatre Company’s
Named Desire, which began yesterday and runs only through
12.20. The lure, of course, is a reputedly devastating Cate
Blanchett as Blanche Dubois. The classic Tennessee
Williams play was directed by Liv Ullman,
and costars Joel Edgerton as Stanley Kowalski and
Robin McLeavy as Stanley’s wife and Blanche’s
Cate Blanchett in BAM’s A Streetcar Named Desire.
“If Blanchett’s nerve-shattering turn doesn’t
knock the wind out of you, then there is nothing on a stage that
can blow you away,”
I had a half-hour chat last Tuesday evening with Me and
Orson Welles star Christian McKay, and
despite enjoying our time and really liking the guy — he’s spirited
and razor-sharp and full of buoyancy — I waited five days to post.
I don’t know why and I’m sorry. It doesn’t indicate anything. I
just fell into a lazy pocket.
Me and Orson Wells star Christian McKay outside the Regency hotel
just before we said out farewells — Tuesday, 11.24, 5:20 pm.
Actually, that’s not true. I was reluctant to get into a McKay
thing because as gifted as he seems to be — he’s actually brilliant
in MAOW — he’s in his mid 30s now and only just starting
to happen, and I knew I’d have to answer what he’s been doing all
this time and why he wasn’t on the stick in his early 20s.
And the reaction to Yoostar, the cinema karaoke software with studios licensing clips for Average Joes & Janes to put themselves into movie scenes…? Actually, I’d rather be William Munny in the climax of Unforgiven.
“All the airports kind of feel and look the
same now,” Jason Reitman told the
N.Y. Times‘ David Carr in an
11.25 interview piece. “Some are more beautiful, some are less
beautiful, but for the most part you’re going to find a Starbucks
in every airport. You’re going to get your coffee and the USA
Today or New York Times in every airport. All the
things that you want are there, so you can land anywhere, and you
feel at home. You’re given the sense that you’re everywhere, but
you’re nowhere; that you are constantly with your community, yet
you have no community. There’s kind of a terrific irony to
But you do have community in an airport. You’re
surrounded by hundreds of people who are just like yourself. You
“I’m really disappointed” in Barack Obama, writes playwright Christopher Durang. “I mean, I know he’s way better than Bush. I guess I miss the oomph that LBJ had both in civil rights and in getting Medicare/Medicaid passed into law. Then he let his mistakes in fighting in Vietnam sink him.
“Obama is cool and charming. But oomph? Seemingly not. Hip and appealing. Yes, but can he do aggressive arm twisting to get something passed? Can he bring some power and aggressiveness to explaining things the country needs, to get people on board?” Not so much. So far.
“And if Obama isn’t the one to change things in a major way for the better — health care, environment, people’s rights — who is? I am a disappointed idealist.”
The Toronto Star‘s Peter Howell has
bravely comparedGone With The Wind, a metaphor about
the miseries and deprivations of the Great Depression of the 1930s
(and a comment about how the nicest people aren’t necessarily the
ones who do well in tough times, and vice versa) with New
Moon, a stunningly dull and tension-less Mormon metaphor about
just saying no to pre-marital sex.
Howell is one of the nicest and smartest guys I know and one of
the best film critics bar none, but this article is…uhm,
unpersuasive. To me, anyway.
Howell actually calls New Moon a “well made,
competently acted” thing that “properly complements the
Twilight book series.” It’s...
The way I hear it Clint Eastwood arrived in
South Africa to shoot Invictus on a Friday, never having
visited the country before as an explorer looking to absorb and
learn. He began shooting two days later (i.e., the following
Monday) and, typically for Clint, shot it fairly quickly — two days
under schedule, I’m told. He would always finish at five and then,
my source says, work out for a couple of hours each day.
My heart and admiration goes out to anyone with that level of
vigor and discipline at an age when most people have downshifted if
not ceased operations altogether. The guy is amazing — an
inspiration. Daily workouts are obviously a way of keeping flush
and toned and attuned and overpowering the natural aging process,
which tends to begin shutting things down once you’ve hit your late
’70s or thereabouts, if not sooner.
Clint “obviously knows what’s coming” — who doesn’t?...