My Kind of Town

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.

Obama + Na’vi Minus Eloi

The Obama family saw Avatar in Hawaii this morning — alone. The story doesn’t say if they saw it in 2D, RealD, Fake IMAX digital 3D or real IMAX celluloid 3D. Why didn’t they watch it with a paying crowd? You’re missing something if you see a film like Avatar in a vacuum. Or are you?

Far Afield

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...

“Physical Elevation”

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...

Stanley’s Fault

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.

Saldana for Best Actress

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...

Soulless

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...

Sartorial

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.

Once Again…

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...

Irish Death Laughs

“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...

Blue Moon

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…”

Have a Dream Today

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...

Knight and Day

The trailer for James Mangold‘s Knight and Day (20th Century Fox, 7.2.10) suggests it may be the only formulaic throw-away movie of Tom Cruise‘s career.

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 that

War Against The Monks

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...

Travesty of the Year

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...

The Masses

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...

“Systemic Failure”

“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...