Shareholder Cinema

Earlier today MSN’s James Rocchi posted an opinion piece that basically said corporations, which are generally sociopathic in nature and care only about profits, often finance expensive films for…well, sociopathic reasons.

“‘Shareholder Cinema,’ as I call it — moviemaking built around maximum profit first and always — is real,” he says at midpoint. “Movies have always been good and bad, money-makers or money-losers, balancing each other out with the invisible hand of capitalism smoothing out the marketplace. It’s just that, to be blunt, the way it’s all happening these days seems a little too calculated, a little too coldly executed, a little too formulaic. And the decision of what to do, at a studio level, seems less...

Love and Pain

In a just-posted interview with Amour director Michael Haneke, Gold Derby‘s Tom O’Neil mentions a comment I recently shared that Amour can be viewed “as a horror flick.” Haneke’s reply: “If someone wants to see this film as a horror film, I’m fine with that. I don’t think of it like that. To me, the film is a love story.

“It’s a film about the difficulty and pain of watching someone you love suffer, [and] not being able to do anything about it,” Haneke explained. “If you see the film as a horror film, you’re...

Mr. Whitaker Drinks A Little

I’ve talked to a lot of people who’ve seen Robert Zemeckis‘s Flight (Paramount, 11.2) and they all agree that it holds the line and doesn’t mess around. But they also feel it’s a bit somber and even a downer because it’s just about a drunk (Denzel Washington) facing a situation from which there’s no good escape. That doesn’t mean the film doesn’t work or pay off on its own terms. It does. For what it is, the ending chosen by Zemeckis and screenwriter John Gatins seems right. But people were still giving me these looks when I asked them about it.

“But what about Denzel?,” I said to some of them. “He’s a real drunk…he really sank into that.” Yeah, but…. “But what? You don’t think so? It’s one of the best roles he’s ever...

This Is Not Now

Producer Glenn Zoller has been riding my ass to post this “Fifty Ways to Hate Obama” video, which I frankly don’t agree with. I’ve told Glenn I really don’t think it’s reflective of the current mood or zeitgeist. Obama is not in a down cycle in which people are beating him up left and right. He was during the budget crisis but that was then. I just don’t agree with it.

On the other hand Glenn has been kind enough to give me free shelter at Telluride for the last two years. And the singing is pretty good with pro-level recording. And there are millions of assholes determined to hate Obama no matter what so whatever…fine.

Billions of Crawling Ants

I saw Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson‘s Samsara the night before last. It’s a kind of ohm movie…ohhhmmm! A fixed-tripod, tableau zone-out film without any dialogue or lip movement even, but a drop-dead beautiful 70mm forehead-smacker. It premiered over a year ago at the 2011 Toronto Film Festival. Fricke has become a Zen master of movies in this vein — he co-shot Koyaanisqatsi (’82), and directed Chronos (’85) and Baraka (’92). Oscilloscope opened Samsara in August, and it might become one of the Best Feature Doc Oscar nominees.

But if you get beyond form, it’s something else. A friend asked me what I really thought of it, and I wrote the following:


Vince Vaughn Facelift

If you were Joshua Jackson, wouldn’t you feel a tiny bit slighted by the art on this one-sheet for Stephen FrearsLay The Favorite (Weinstein Co., 12.7)? The poster is clearly indicating that Jackson (lower right) is professionally known as Vince Vaughn. Vaughn is allegedly in the film but it’s hard to spot him in the trailer. Jackson is definitely a Favorite costar, but the poster is conflicted about that fact. At war with itself.

Vaughn is in our film, and…wait, who’s the guy on the bottom? You don’t care and neither do we, frankly. His name is…wait a minute…Jackson, Josh Jackson. Why did we put him on the poster if we don’t even know who the hell he is? You tell us. We don’t really know. It probably has something to do with...

Stone’s History Finally Airing

After I-forget-how-many-years of announcing, shooting, editing and promotion (going back to least 2008 if not 1997, depending on shifting definitions of when it really began), episodes of Oliver Stone‘s Untold History of the United States will finally start airing on Showtime on Monday, November 12th, and will continue…what is it, eight or ten weeks? Ten, I think.

Screenings of the first three episodes at the 2011 NY Film Festival were cancelled because they weren’t quite ready. So they screened instead at the 2012 NY Film Festival, or about

Guardians at Arclight

During after-party for this evening’s Arclight screening of Rise of the Guardians (l. to. r): producer Christina Steinberg, director Peter Ramsey and executive producer Guillermo del Toro. The jolly Del Toro regaled everyone with the usual intellectual agility, shared visions, exhortations, insights, witticisms.

35-foot-tall Bond display in Arclight lobby.

Samsara producer Mark Magidson, musical composer Marcello De Francisci following Monday night’s screening at Chinese 6.

George Lucas Is Richer

Lucasfilm will always be a respected name for post-production services, but it means relatively little if you’re talking about audience-attracting brands or franchises outside of the Star Wars films, and you have to a strenuously unhip person to be excited about seeing another Star Wars flick in this day and age. The series creatively peaked 32 years ago with The Empire Strikes Back, for God’s sake. So can somebody please explain Disney paying $4.05 billion for the company and pledging to make another Star Wars flick by 2015? “Lucasfilm” generated real excitement in the ’80s, but this is now.

A Few Days in Hanoi

I’ve accepted a generous invitation to visit and cover the 2012 Hanoi Film Festival (11.25 through 11.29). I’ll leave a few days before Thanksgiving to visit Danang and Hue before returning to Hanoi for four days of moviegoing, interviewing and event-covering. I’m figuring there will have to be at least four...

Guess The Movie

“This is one of those movies that depend on your not thinking much about it; for as soon as you reflect on what’s happening rather than being swept up in the narrative flow, there doesn’t seem much to it aside from the skill with which suspense is maintained despite the fact that you know in advance how it’s going to turn out.

“Nothing hangs on the way it turns out. Once the deed is successfully done, there’s really nothing much to say, and anything that is said seems contrived. That is the virtue of an entertainment like this; it doesn’t linger in the memory and provoke afterthoughts. One need not, and should not, pause for an instant while consuming it. It is a confection — perhaps that’s the message; everything is confection; movies, diplomacy, what’s the difference? — and it goes down well, leaving no aftertaste whatsoever.”...

Hold Up On Central Park Five

New York City needs to do more than simply admit error in case of the wrongly-convicted, wrongly-imprisoned Central Park FiveAntron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise and Yusef Salaam. Nine years ago the five filed a federal lawsuit against the city, seeking $50 million each in damages or $250 million total. “If anyone deserves to be financially compensated for a perversion of justice, it’s these guys,” I wrote seven weeks ago.

I came to this conclusion after seeing Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon‘s The Central Park Five, a PBS-funded doc about the 1989 Central Park Jogger rape case, at the Telluride Film Festival. Earlier this month the N.Y. Times

Expect Changes

Gold Derby‘a Tom O’Neil has a “wacky Best Picture race chart” up — a capturing of how Best Picture betting has fared over the last five weeks. Silver Linings Playbook and Lincoln were the front-runners on 9.23, but now Argo leads with 12 pundits out of 25 picking it to win. Les Miserables, which no one will see until early December, follows with 8. Prediction: the SLP haters will modify their positions after it opens on 11.21.

Shoulda Been There

My initial reaction to the oncoming Hurricane Sandy (posted on Sunday) was that I wished I could be in New York to experience it. I still wish that. I also said it might be another Hurricane Irene and that New Yorkers who were “genuinely worried” struck me as a bit candy-assed. And I shouldn’t have said that. I apologize. I went past the limit. The worst is over now but Frankenstorm turned out to be a really heavy deal.

The house fires in Breezy Point, Queens especially. Just flat-out tragic. I understand and respect the hurt and the fear that Hurricane Sandy has caused. Of course I do. Very bad news for many millions. Very traumatic, unsettling all around. Seven million without power. The Con Ed sub-station explosion on East 14th Street. Hospital evacuations. 14 people dead. At least the worst is over.

Best Suddenly But Who Cares?

Lewis Miller‘s Suddenly (’54) has always been a second-rate melodrama about an attempted assassination of a U.S. President by three psycho goonies (one played by Frank Sinatra). Many crappy-looking public domain VHS and DVD versions have appeared over the years, but a better looking Bluray version came out two weeks ago from HD Cinema. DVD Beaver’s Gary W. Tooze praises says it “actually supports some of the film’s grain structure” and it “seems the best of the digital editions.”

1.85 screen capture from one of the cheesy DVD versions of yore.