All Over Hurt

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 locked, certified…next?

(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.

If those ladies I spoke to at the Regency hotel last week or those waitresses at Extra Virgin are reading this, I have a...

Avatar Tracking

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.

Google Snuffs Site

“We are in no position to battle Google on this. And without 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 Irwin explaining Google’s destruction of “longest-running showbiz news site in internet history,” as Roger Ebert has declared.

Bye-Bye, Greengrass?

“Sources and friends close to the Bourne 4 project tell us that Paul Greengrass has quit Bourne 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).”

Hold Up on Bones Rebound

“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 often.”

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 his positive...

“I’ve Already Forgotten”

“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.”

Na’vi Evolution

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 A-list films.”

My initital Na’vi impression, which I

“Precipice of a Plunge”?

“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,” writes In 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 enough frills.

“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 plunge following...

Invictus Fusilli

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.

“I almost admire [director Clint]...

Love This

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 Tapley expressed it over the Thanksgiving holiday in his podcast chat with Anne Thompson.

I’m sensing that Quentin Tarantino may have called his 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...

Streetcar Was…

An industry friend who also attended yesterday afternoon’s A Streetcar 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, brilliant, heartbreaking.”

“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...

Medication in Paper Cup

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.

The Lie

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 Olsen suggests 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.

Here’s the T. Coraghessan Boyle short story the film is based upon.

Snap Daddy

Saturday, 11.29, 7:48 pm.

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.

Pepsi Pundit Challenge

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.

Can’t Be Moved

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 Boal do 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...

Best Pure Pleasure Films of 2009

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,...

17 Revisitings

I’ve assembled sequential excerpts from my original reviews of the 17 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 list.

(1) From “Gospel of Il Divo,” 5.24.08:

“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...