“You’re No Jerry Bruckheimer”

FBI agent Gregg Schwarz‘s belief that former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was utterly straight “is based on the notion that Hoover condemned extra-marital affairs and anyone who was homosexual was considered a “security risk,” writes Time‘s Melissa Locker.

Neither Clint Eastwood nor Dustin Lance Black “were told there was no evidence whatsoever that Mr. Hoover was homosexual,” Schwarz says in the video. “They took the historical facts, twisted them to their own personal agenda, which is purely profit and sensationalism, and now it ls out there…for you to evaluate...

Sundance Spelled Backwards

I’m as good as the next guy at spotting the likely hot tickets at an upcoming Sundance festival, but I’m effing brilliant at missing at least one or two of these films when I actually hit the festival and try to cover it. Old story. Let’s just focus for now on the Sundance 2012 competition films that have that certain “yeah, this might be something” factor. Here’s the whole kit ‘n’ kaboodle so far.

U.S. Dramatic Competition (6 picks):

The First Time (Director/screenwriter: Jonathan Kasdan) — Two high schoolers meet at a party, discover what it’s like to fall in love for the first time, etc. Original! If Jon (son of Lawrence) is anything like his brother Jake Kasdan (Bad Teacher), this might be hellish. But a little...

Lincoln Logs

A Richmond-residing government guy named Michael Phillips took this snap of Daniel Day Lewis at the Arcadia restaurant, and Richmond.com posted it earlier today. On 11.28 Variety‘s Jeff Sneider tweeted a report that he “hasn’t broken his Lincoln accent since March” and his “real name doesn’t even appear on the call sheet.” (First glimpse via Movieline.)

Lewis will take the 2012...

Mr. Greenjeans

What’s with the attention given to all these friggin’ animals in this year’s awards race? What does it say about us, the audience, that so many sharp, accomplished people are saying “I like The Artist a lot but I really love that dog” and “boy, that horse sure can act up a storm in War Horse!” and “whadja think of that goose in War Horse…whuck-whuck!” What would the late Michael O’Donoghue say?

(l.) Uggie the wonder-dog, costar…let’s just call him the star of The Artist; (r.) One of the biggest-selling National Lampoon covers ever, or so I’ve read.

We’re only talking about two movies so it’s hardly a trend, but I...

A Plea to Nation’s Critics

With The Artist having taken yesterday’s New York Film Critics Circle Best Picture prize, there will be a natural tendency for critics groups around the country to regard this Weinstein Co. release as a safe and likable default choice for Best Picture in their own balloting. Plus any critic voting for an entertaining black-and-white silent film is sending a message to colleagues, editors and especially readers that he/she is willing to embrace the novel or unusual, which indicates a certain integrity.

Most Joe Schmoe readers are going to say “what?” at first. And the critic will be able to say, “Yes, a black-and-white film without dialogue….which you should really see! It’s fun! Trust me!” And they should. The Artist is a special film and a very nice ride. But the critics need to take two steps back and...

NYFCC Balloting Rundown

Yesterday afternoon NY Post film critic/blogger Lou Lumenick explained how the New York Film Critics Circle balloting (and its “arcane weighted system”) actually went down. And guess what? Melancholia was dead even with The Artist, the Best Picture winner, in the first round, and its director, Lars Von Trier, was just a notch behind Artist helmer Michel Haznavicius in the initial Best Director balloting,

The Artist was tied with Melancholia (27 points each) for Best Picture,” Lumenick reports, “followed by Hugo with 16 points. The Artist finally won on the third...

Ellis On Shame

From novelist Bret Easton Ellis: (a) “Steve McQueen‘s Shame would have been so much more disturbing if Brandon (Michael Fassbender) had actually enjoyed the sex”; (b) “Watching Shame I just kept thinking about the Woody Allen joke in Annie Hall: the experience of empty sex being better than no sex at all.” That line about “my worst orgasm was right on the money”? That’s from Manhattan.

Tyranny Gets The Boot

I thought I’d write you regarding Tyrannosaur since you’re such a supporter of the film,” a publicist friend just wrote. “I’ve learned that this Thursday is the last day it’ll play in NY and LA. In NY it moved over from the Angelika to Village East after the first week where it is now playing only one screening a day, at 11am. And it has two daily matinee showtimes at the Sunset 5 thru Thursday. I’m told that the film won’t be playing at all in NY/LA after Thursday.

“I found this surprising/disappointing and wanted to share the news in case you want to encourage folks to try to catch the final two days in NY/LA.”

When people don’t wanna see something, you can’t stop them. I’ll be remembering this film and those astonishing performances by Olivia Colman and Peter Mullan for the rest of my life,...

They Slum To Conquer

A special pleasure often results when high-aspiration filmmakers sink into the commonality of genre. Those who’ve made their bones doing ambitious, high-reaching dramas or super-cool high-style pieces…whose natural inclination is to crank out critical favorites or award-winners or arty-farties for their own sake…when the elites sink below their station, it’s always a huge kick.

The upshot is that the best kind of popcorn genre films are usually those made by those who don’t live in the neighborhood, so to speak, and are demanding high achievers.

“Meh” reactions ricochet when Jason Statham, say, makes an action film with some journeyman director, but the crowd always salutes when Michael Mann directs Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx in an actioner like Collateral.

The artfully inclined, Oscar-winning...

Somebody Actually Says It

It can be a perfectly natural thing or an extremely clunky thing when a character in a film says the title…when he/she just spits it out. There’s a moment in Steven Spielberg‘s War Horse when a soldier standing next to Joey and discussing him with another soldier actually calls him a “war horse.” Right away that struck me as odd. Why did he have to actually say it? Couldn’t Spielberg have left well enough alone?

It felt the same to me as if Clint Eastwood‘s Unforgiven character had said to Morgan Freeman‘s, “You and me, we’re unforgiven…by most people, I reckon, and by the Lord, for sure.”

It felt the same to me as if Joe Pesci‘s character in Raging Bull had said to his prizefighter brother, “Jesus, Jake…you’re a real raging bull, you know...

Missed This Part

“I would love to do a musical,” Steven Spielberg said last weekend during a War Horse q & a in Manhattan. “I would love that. I would have to find the right book, the right story, but some day I’m going to make one. I would really like to go off and direct a musical. That’s what I would really like to do when I grow up.”

Does anyone have a suggestions along these lines? What unshot musical plays or potential remakes of old movie musicals would be a good match for Spielberg?

I have one. Spielberg should make a present-day musical based on Carousel but set in suburbia. Update the milieu in the same way that Romeo and Juliet‘s Verona was transformed into the slum nabes of Manhattan’s Upper West Side in the 1950s.

Key question: Does Spielberg have the character and cojones...

New York Film Critics Delight, Confound

10:14 am Update: This is the final ignominious straw for the NYFCC — they’ve just given their Best Picture award to The Artist. God! All right, calm down…a little grace and dignity here. This will obviously help Harvey Weinstein‘s effort to get more under-40 nabobs to check out this perfectly delightful diversion (and then tell their friends about it), and that’s fine. The Artist should be seen and enjoyed. But this is otherwise wrong, wrong…not cool.

Repeat after me for the 17th or 37th time — The Artist is all about re-creation, backward visitation and reflective surfaces. It possesses and radiates nothing that is truly its own, except for a desire to give entertainment-seekers a nice pleasant time. And that’s not nearly enough to warrant a Best Picture prize. Shame on the NYFCC in this respect…shame!


Vox Populi

In the interest of fairness towards Cameron Crowe‘s We Bought A Zoo, which I wasn’t entirely sold on, I’m told that it sold out all over (New York, Philly, Boston, Kansas City, Memphis, Detroit, Orlando, Salt Lake City, L.A., etc.) during last Saturday night’s nationwide sneak, and that the Fox team did some polling and found that it scored excellent with 70% and highly favorable with 94%. 82% said they’d give Zoo a definite recommend. Even if you knock those numbers down to account for a general reluctance to speak bluntly to strangers, the film still did pretty well. So I get it. I’m in the minority.


Before it was Times Square theatre marquees from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. Now I’m on the hunt for high quality color publicity stills (or color film footage) of actors during the shooting of black-and-white films. Except for color production shots of Some Like It Hot during filming — I have plenty of those.

Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra during Oahu filming of From Here To Eternity.

Full Dweeb

The results of Sight & Sound‘s annual film critics’ poll will be online next week, but In Contention‘s Guy Lodge has posted the top 11. 100 elite film critics (Peter Bradshaw, “Harmin’ Armond” White, etc.) were asked to tally a list of 2011’s five “best, favorite or most important” films.

Lodge says it was “a foregone conclusion” that Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life would be #1, and that it got way more votes that the runner-up, Asghar Farhadi‘s A Separation.

1. The Tree of Life (d: Malick). Wells comment: First hour is deeply moving, beautiful, and at times astonishing. The second hour not so much. Things come apart, the center...

The Hill

The Jonah Hill transformation story is a one-two punch. He’s broken out of comedies by nailing a good dramatic part (i.e.. baseball player analyzer Peter Brand) in a great film, Moneyball. And he’s slimmed down with a healthier diet and (presumably) a more moderate lifestyle. He’s a walking metaphor for “you can up your game and change your life.”

Jonah Hill in Toronto last September. (For some reason I forgot to take a closeup during our chat.)

Some have said that Hill’s thinner shape makes him somehow less funny. I don’t think it’s the weight. I think it’s the 1959 certified public accountant haircut that he’s been walking around with since last September. Audiences expect funny guys to look wild and rambunctious on some level, so Hill just...

Moneyball Merit, Pitt’s Compassion

Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill sat for a q & a last night with Entertainment Weekly‘s Dave Karger after a screening of Moneyball at Sony Studios. I’m not ignoring what they said or the still-potent pleasures of the film, but the standout moment was Pitt’s gentle handling of a strange, inappropriate confession from a gloomy guy in the left-front row who said he’d been feeling depressed and was “contemplating suicide.” Everybody in the room whispered “what the fuck?” but Pitt took it in stride and offered a nice brotherly reply.

Brad Pitt at Sony’s Cary Grant theatre following last night’s Moneyball q &a.

Find Another Word

Each and every time a job-appointment release is sent out, the new hire is quoted as saying that he/she is “excited” by the upcoming task or challenge or opportunity. They never omit that word…ever. And I can’t remember the last time an appointee has said they’re enthused or aroused or elated or intoxicated or intrigued or enthralled or charged or throttled or invigorated, or that they’re humming or tingling with anticipation.

They never convey an inkling of any particular passion, and in fact go to some lengths to suggest that particularity of any kind is not something they intend to even consider, much less look into.

The under-message is always the same: “It sure is nice to land a high-paying gig, and for starters I’m not going to say anything that will even vaguely hint that I’m anything other than a very grateful go-alonger.”