Paris is the only place in the world to welcome in the new year. The kids and I stood in front of the Eiffel Tower exactly ten years ago tonight, and I would do it again. This isn’t the greatest New Year’s video I’ve ever seen, but it ends with the best upward-pan spectacle shot I’ve ever seen on YouTube. Taken only seven or eight hours ago.Read More »
When someone writes the obit for Variety critic Derek Elley (not for many decades!), it’s likely he/she will feel obliged to mention the biggest wrongo of Elley’s career — his September 2008 pan of The Hurt Locker at the Venice Film Festival. There’s no right or wrong view of any film, of course, but Elley’s view is so drastically divorced from the opinion of 98% of the critics who’ve written about it since that you have to wonder, as I did in my 2008 Toronto review, what Elley saw over there.
You can slam any film you want for any reason, but if it’s doing something well you have to at least acknowledge this. If it seems to be touching a nerve or connecting in some efficient way you have to...Read More »
At the end of his best-of-aughts piece (in which he names Charlie Kaufman ‘s Synecdoche as the best of the bunch!), Roger Ebert finishes with a thought that I’ve conveyed several times myself. Actually thousands of times, in a sense.
“All of these films are on this list for the same reason — the direct emotional impact they made on me,” he explains. “They have many other qualities, of course. But these evoked the emotion of Elevation, which I wrote about a year or so ago. Elevation is, scientists say, is an actual emotion, not a woo-woo theory. I believe that, because some films over the years have evoked from me a physical as well as an...Read More »
There seems to be a growing consensus that you can’t say “two thousand-something” any more — you have to say “twenty-ten” or whatever. This has been the only century since the acceptance of the Gregorian or Roman calendars in which English-speaking people have referred to a year by saying the word “thousand.” This has mainly been due, I suspect, to the grammatical influence of Stanley Kubrick‘s 2001: A Space Odyssey. I’ve been a twenty-something advocate since ’01, to no avail.Read More »
I’ve been feeling more and more persuaded over the last couple of weeks that Zoe Saldana deserves a Best Actress nomination for her motion-capture performance as Neytiri in Avatar. In the manner of a silent-film actress Saldana’s emoting is necessarily broad, and I understand the uninformed suspicion that it’s not she who deserves the credit as much as the motion-capture tweaks that fine-tuned her performance, but my heart knows what it feels. Saldana got me.
Don’t even mention Meryl Streep‘s Dan Aykroyd-y performance in Julie & Julia alongside Saldana’s. When I think of Avatar I think first of the 3D-eyeball-sex aspect, and then the final embrace moment between big Neytiri and Sam Worthington‘s little...Read More »
I’d like to add 50% agreement to a recent AOL Moviefone poll verdict, which is that Megan Fox was the worst and the sexiest actress of 2009. I concur with the “worst” part because no other actor in an ’09 film seemed quite as falsely mannered to me — as devoid of anything recognizably human. There’s nothing behind her eyes. She really does seem to exude the personality, attitude and talent level of a porn star.
I’m talking mainly about her acting in Jennifer’s Body, of course. You can’t judge anyone by their performance in either of the Transformers films.
The dead-eye factor is also why I don’t find Fox sexy. So many under-25 guys fail to realize that looks are only a third of the package. (And less when you’re talking about Fox’s porn-star package.) No woman can...Read More »
A Manhattan street artist sold this to a friend, who turned around and gave it to me for a Christmas present. I don’t like to wear anything brown (not even underwear or socks) but this is exceptional. Research hasn’t revealed what “Il Maco” means.
Jett, who tunes out on certain subjects every so often, just asked who the likely Best Supporting Actor winner will be, and when I said “Christoph Waltz, the milk-sipping Nazi Colonel from Inglourious Basterds,” he said “what?” He’s seen Quentin Tarantino‘s film and was okay with it, but the Waltz certainty shocked him. Write a fast piece about why you just said that, I suggested. He’s not responding so I guess not.
This was a banner year of Stephen Lang in Public Enemies and Avatar — why isn’t he in the loop? Peter Capaldi‘s potty mouthed rage-hound performance in In The Loop made him a major indie star. Alfred Molina‘s awkward English dad was wonderfully bent and vulnerable in An Education, and Peter Sarsgaard was curiously sly and winning as...Read More »
“While there is violence galore in Ian Fitzgibbon‘s A Film With Me in It, the lion’s share is accidental,” writes critic Marshall Fine. “That’s the joke in this blackly humorous Irish film. People drop dead at an alarming rate in this movie, and the deaths are unbelievably accidental — and are certain to seem so to the authorities.
Doherty or Moran? You decide.
“Unemployed actor Mark (Mark Doherty) and his would-be writer-filmmaker friend Pierce (stand-up comic Dylan Moran) are ne’er-do-wells, renting flats in the same building from the same gruff landlord (Keith Allen), who is badgering them for their respective rents. Mark has spent the rent on other bills – like heat for the...Read More »
Orangutans have very expressive faces. Nothing startling in this. I first realized it when I was in third or fourth grade. I thought that Clyde, the orangutan who co-stared with Clint Eastwood in Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can , performed well, but I’d like to see someone try to direct an orangutan into a straight drama. “Without a dream in my heart, without a love of my own…”
With Nine not doing as well as it could and Harvey Weinstein feeling the financial pressure even more, I’ve no desire to add to anyone’s grief. But from a sporting perspective I’m wondering if anyone besides myself is perturbed in the slightest that Mo’Nique and Christoph Waltz, portrayers of a gruesome twosome in Precious and Inglourious Basterds respectively, have been so relentlessly predicted to win Best Suppporting Oscars?
Because so many pundits and critics groups have predicted both to win, I would love to see one or both apple carts overturned. Just for the pleasure of seeing certain people shout “no!…no!”.
A Mo’Nique loss would be especially glorious, but the odds are almost insurmountable. And no one seems persuaded that her competitors are formidable enough. I’m actually of two minds about Waltz. He’s apparently...Read More »
Which isn’t to suggest that it is that. Trailer always accentuate the most stupidly appealing aspects of any film, etc. It’s just that Cruise — think about it — has one of the best track records of all time in terms of almost making quality-level, or at least quality-aspriring, films. (What’s his all-time worst? Far and Away? Days of Thunder? Cocktail?) And he’s been maintaining this brand for 30 years now. He’s never really made a 1980s Chevy Chase movie in his entire life.
When all is said and done I suspect thatRead More »
In all modesty, I would like to believe that my 2009 war against the Blu-ray grain monks may have been…well, at least a significant anecdotal factor in the evolution of industry thinking about how to wisely master Blu-rays of classic films. I ranted about this over and over, but the best-written column article on the subject, called “Damn Sand,” ran on 2.28.09. I am genuinely proud of how I put the case.
And here it is again, the second 2009 looking-back post for the purpose of filling column inches as everyone kicks back and does nothing until January 2, 2010:
Sandstorm-strength grain is a technological blight that classic-era filmmakers...Read More »
Since I have little else to write about in these late December doldrums, I’m going to re-run some of HE’s 2009 highlights over the next couple of days. And one piece I’m especially proud of is the slapdown I gave to director William Friedkin and his “high-contrasty, snow-grained, color-bleeding, verging-on-monochrome” Blu-ray of The French Connection that came out last February.
This Blu-ray disc was, no exaggeration, the most offensive act of corporately-sanctioned vandalism to happen to a classic film in motion-picture history, and I’m...Read More »
MCN’s Michael Wilmington has assembled a somewhat lengthy but well-chosen list of 2009 DVDs that he considers the year’s 21 best — most of which I agree with. Wings of Desire, Z, Do The Right Thing, North by Northwest, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Wizard of Oz…the usual-usuals.
But surely a key value in determining “best” in this context alludes to high-end appearance. Wilmington should be talking about best looking, best mastered, best restored, etc. But he barely mentions this, focusing instead on the lasting long-view film-bum value of the movies themselves. Which you can get from any greatest-flicks-of-all-time book written by anyone.
And why is Wilmington focusing on DVDs in the first place? Isn’t this a little like writing a piece in 1999 about the best VHS tapes of the year? A sophisticated uptown...Read More »
“If we can’t catch a Nigerian with a powerful explosive powder in his oddly feminine-looking underpants and a syringe full of acid, a man whose own father had alerted the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, a traveler whose ticket was paid for in cash and who didn’t check bags, whose visa renewal had been denied by the British, who had studied Arabic in Al Qaeda sanctuary Yemen, and whose name was on a counterterrorism watch list — who can we catch?” — from a 12.29 Maureen Dowd column in the N.Y. Times.
Indeed — you’d think that someone in airline security.that day would have put two and two together and stopped Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from boarding. But as the security system has an apparent “systemic” weakness or two, doing so would have required a security employee to apply...Read More »
An HE correspondent says he’s been “getting reports from theatre managers that many people are choosing to see Sherlock Holmes only after finding Avatar to be sold out.” How would Holmes be doing on its own, without the Avatar feed-through? I wonder. Avatar pays off — Holmes is a burn.Read More »
We all know about the supposed relationship between box-office earnings and being nominated for Best Picture (i.e., not enough dough = forget it), but Pete Hammond has amended this thinking in a passage from his 12.28 Envelope/Notes on a Season column.
Director-screenwriter Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Gods and Monsters), who co-produced last year’s Academy Awards show, tells Hammond that “voters are more understanding” when it comes to low-earners like The Hurt Locker.
Kathryn Bigelow‘s film cost $11 million to make and has taken in a bit more than $12 million, but...Read More »
In a 12.28 piece that attempts to explain the low-tech tabulating process that determines Oscar nominations, The Wrap‘s Steve Pond says the following about the Best Picture nomination process: “You’re listing 10 films on your ballot, but you’re only actually voting for one. Your ballot gives you a single vote, which goes to a single film. And if a movie’s not ranked number one on somebody’s ballot, it’s out.”
Pond also points out that “the magic number for a Best Picture nomination is 501,” based on (a) the goal of 10 nominations, (b) having started with 5,500 Best Picture ballots and (c) dividing 5,500 by 11, giving you a magic number of 500.
I think I understand this, but maybe I don’t. To a guy who’s always had trouble with...Read More »
On page 84 of Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America (Simon & Schuster, 1.12.10), author Peter Biskind summarizes Beatty’s thinking about the character who eventually became George Roundy, the scampy hairdresser in Shampoo.
Freudian analyses had a certain currency in the ’60s and ’70s, and, as Beatty puts it, “I wanted to challenge the fashionable assumption that the proverbial Don Juan figure is expressing self-hatred, self-love, hatred of women, homosexuality, sadism, masochism, a wish for eternal life and so on.”
“Beatty never thought about himself as someone who was inordinately interested in sex, obsessed or addicted to it in any way,” Biskind explains. “His attitude was, it’s perfectly normal, and society was too...Read More »
The holiday doldrums — 12.25 through 1.2.10 — are upon us now. This may seem like a good thing from an impulsive-adventure perspective (read two books, drive to Vermont, fly to London, walk into the city), but I was outside this morning and it’s 22 degrees (and feels like 4, according to weather.com). So I suppose I’ll go with the reading. If only Criterion’s Che Bluray was obtainable…Read More »
I made a mistake running my Best of the Decade piece back in early October. It got 109 comments, but I still don’t think many people were thinking sum-ups at the time. Since then every critic and blogger on the planet has posted a best-of-decader, of course. So I may as well post mine again only with four extra titles [UPDATED] — James Cameron‘s Avatar, Michael Mann‘s Collateral, Pedro Almodovar‘s Volver and Joel and Ethan Coen‘s A Serious Man — for a total of 42. The top ten are obviously indicated so if that’s what you’re looking for…
In order of preference: (1) Zodiac, (2) Memento, (3) Traffic, (4) Amores perros, (5) United 93, (6) Children of Men, (7)...Read More »
Besides being a great headline in the tradition of ‘Headless Body in Topless bar,’ it also turns down the terror factor by making the underwear bomber a figure of foolery.
Who in their right minds would want to watch, let alone Netflix or buy, the forthcoming Bluray of John Wayne‘s The Green Berets when it streets on 1.10.10? The only star-fortified Hollywood film that was wholly supportive of the U.S.war effort in Vietnam, The Green Berets (directed by Wayne and released in July 1968) became legendary for its ludicrousness — a turgid propaganda film that screamed “reality detachment!” at every turn.
It’s set in Vietnam, of course, and is basically about a special Green Beret mission to capture a North Vietnamese general. (Or so I recall.) It feels informed by 1950s war movie cliches — totally divorced from the raggedy look and...Read More »