I’m still at the Intel room at the Yarrow, and an hour ago I was shut out of seeing Warner Indepdedent’s The Jacket, which started at 2:30 pm. It’s some kind of Gulf War-driven time-travel nightmare psychodrama, and the advance talk has been pretty good. I guess you have to arrive at Yarrow press screenings a good 20 to 30 minutes before or forget it. It costars Adrien Brody, Kiera Knightley, Daniel Craig, Kris Kristofferson and Kelly Lynch. My next film (hopefully) is David LaChappelle’s Rize, but it’s screening at the dreaded Library, and that’s always a hassle.
Sick at Sundance
I started to fall ill Wednesday evening — coughing, congestion — and I felt sicker all day Thursday. I did a lot of sleeping, drank a lot of water. And on top of this, I discovered Wednesday night that the phone in the condo I’m staying in has been shut off, so there’s been no internet (and the phone won’t be turned back on until Friday morning…great).
But at least I managed to drop by the Sundance Film Festival headquarters Thursday morning to pick up my press pass, along with three ‘loaner’ tapes of Sundance flicks. I went back to the condo (right behind the Radisson Hotel) and watched them between naps. One sucked, but two were quite good.
Greg Mclean’s Wolf Creek, which has been picked up by Dimension, is dark as shit, but it’s a knockout. It’s going to be a sizable hit when it opens this summer, and for good reason. It’s well made, genuinely scary and very believable.
Shown as part of the just-begun World Dramatic Competition, it will have its first festival showing on Monday evening, and will also screen Tuesday and Wednesday. If you’re in town, don’t miss it.
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The theme of this way-above-average horror flick is basically ‘watch yourself when you go on a trip to an outlying area, because it’s entirely possible that you might run into a degenerate homicidal wack-jobber.’ Especially in the Aussie wasteland, where there doesn’t seem to be any kind of civilized anything, much less a visible police force.
The Wolf Creek rundown is that three late-twentysomethings from Sydney (Nathan Phillips, Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi) run into one of these hayseed nutbags during a camping trip to the outback.
The fiend (deliriously well played by John Jarrat) is a good-natured yokel type with a vaguely charming, wholly diseased personality. The more ghastly his actions, the more he chuckles. He’s like the
bad-seed cousin of Crocodile Dundee who’s gone crazy from loneliness and who probably smells like a dog and farts 24/7.
One of Jarrat’s better lines, spoken during an extremely dark moment, is straight from the first Dundee film.
His coming is expertly foreshadowed by Mclean when the two-girls-and-a-guy meet up with another outback psycho at a roadside rest stop. You can feel the awful stuff approaching from this scene on.
Scene for scene, there’s very little that feels formulaic in Wolf Creek (apart from the boiler-plate borrowings from Deliverance, The Last House on the Left and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).
There are always those in any audience who say they can predict what will happen, or who always claim after-the-fact that they saw it coming. Trust me, there’s no predicting where this film is going. I was genuinely shocked at two third-act plot turns.
Nothing that happens seems conventionally movie-ish, which is partly due to the fact that Mclean based his screenplay on a true story.
My only beef is that it’s hard to understand a lot of the dialogue during the first half. Those ‘strine accents can be mothers. When Miramax puts the DVD out, they should include optional subtitles.
Peter Raymont’s Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire is a documentary companion piece to Terry George’s Hotel Rwanda…or vice versa.
I liked and was moved by Hotel Rwanda, but the doc is sadder, deeper, more affecting. Raymond is a bit more of a visual poet than George. He pays attention to Rwanda’s natural beauty, for one thing, and I don’t mean just the landscapes but the feeling in the eyes of the natives. There’s a quietly focused tone in Shake Hands with the Devil that somehow conveys a fuller absorption of the overall.
Dallaire is a former U.N. peacekeeping commander who went through all kinds of hell and torment during the 1994 Rwandan massacre (he was played, so to speak, by Nick Nolte in Rwanda) as he tried — without much effect — to maintain order and do something to contain the slaughter.
Dallaire feels guilty about this failure, but he was under-funded and under-supported by the U.N., and he doesn’t seem to be a guy who has ever dodged a tough situation. Decency and compassion seem like natural components in his DNA.
The doc was shot last year when Dallaire revisited Rwanda for a ten-year memorial anniversary of the horror. Raymont explains the background of the Hutu-vs.-Tutsi hatred, somewhat. But he never just says (as I feel he should have) that the Tutsis were, for the most part, better educated, jacket-and-tie types with ties to the Belgian colonialists, and that the Hutu killers were basically disenfranchised yahoo rednecks.
Bill Clinton is ridiculed for having said during a visit to Rwanda (i.e., years after the killings) that he didn’t fully grasp the degree of the savagery that was happening during April and May of ’94. An outspoken talking-head authority says in no uncertain terms this is total bunk.
There are supposed to be a couple of decent sex scenes in Hal Hartley’s The Girl from Monday, and this, frankly, is why I wanted to see it. I respect Hartley but his films have always bored me, and this one is true to form. No, it’s worse.
The story is some kind of futuristic political thing, and there’s no energy or tension to any of it. Or rather, the portions of the film that I saw. I was feverish, remember, and I was sitting in a big fat leather easy chair. I just wanted to see the actresses take their clothes off, but I nodded off a couple of times and missed the good stuff.
I heard two tips at a Wednesday evening dinner party in Deer Valley. Take ’em with a grain.
One, forget Kevin Bacon’s Loverboy, a drama about twisted motherhood that will show at the Eccles on Monday evening and at the Library on Tuesday afternoon. I√É¬Ø√Ç¬ø√Ç¬Ωm sorry to pass this along, but a guy who saw it earlier this week told me it’s too gloomy and sluggish.
This was a sales guy talking, however, so maybe David Edelstein, Charles Taylor or Armond White will like it.
And two, I was told I should catch David LaChappelle’s Rize, which is said to be crappy on a story level but apparently has some heat as a dance film…you know, on an anthropologically vital, life-in-the-here-and-now vein.
It’s basically about ‘krumping,’ a South Central dance phenomenon that involves super- quick body gyrations, and various dancers competing with each other, etc.
Shot on a Sony High-def camera, LaChapelle√É¬Ø√Ç¬ø√Ç¬Ωs 84-minute feature is based upon his 24- minute documentary short, Krumped, which showed at Slamdance two or three years ago.
The idea is that kids of a wayward, egoistic persuasion are more into krumping than gang-banging. Krumping is their voice, their expression…whatever, dawg.
An acquisitions guy who claimed to be on vaguely familiar terms with L.A. clubbing said that Rize (which is pronounced ‘rise’) has an aliveness that will work with younger African-American audiences, but his colleagues didn’t agree with him so that was that.
I was telling people at the party that Craig Brewer’s Hustle and Flow, one of the festival’s most hotly anticipated films (said to feature a lead breakout performance by Terrence Howard), kept blurring in my mind with Rattle and Hum , the Phil Joanu U2 concert film, and Shake, Rattle and Roll.
I suppose the blur will go away when I see Hustle at a Saturday afternoon press screening and it takes root on its own terms, but until then…
View of Deer Valley from swanky Solamere Drive chalet being rented by Paramount Classics co-president Ruth Vitale. I love that digital cameras can capture this much light and detail after dark. If I were to manipulate further I could probably whiten the snow a bit more.
Second-floor living room — Thursday, 1.20.05, 1:27 pm.
View from rear porch of condo — Thursday, 1.20.05, 1:30 pm.
An unruly desk indicates a creative mind — Thursday, 1.20.05, 1:33 pm.
An e-mailed press release announced earlier this week that the dreaded Paris Hilton is supposed to attend tonight’s party for Rize at the Gateway Center (at 136 Heber), which starts around 9:30 or 10 pm.
I sent the following e-mail off to a couple of people who are repping the party:
“If it’s okay with you guys, I am going to try and organize a mass boycott of the Rize premiere party, preceded by a march down Main Street (complete with chants, torches and picket signs), all to protest the appearance of Paris Hilton at the Sundance Film Festival.
“Lloyd Grove at the New York Daily News started something, I think, when he promised a few weeks ago that he would no longer write about Paris. I believe her to be this year’s symbol of everything rancid, glossy, overblown and spiritually screwed-up about the Sundance Film Festival…or what it’s become, rather.
“Will Paris in fact be at this party? If so, could you ask her to autograph my picket sign? And why haven’t I been invited to the party instead of being sent this entirely demeaning invitation to ‘cover’ the party?√É¬Ø√Ç¬ø√Ç¬Ω
One of the publicists responded by saying, “I am sure Paris would sign it if you agreed to run a photo of her doing it.”
I am half serious about protesting her presumed appearance. A lot of people out there despise what she seems to be, and certainly what she represents. Do a Google search of √É¬Ø√Ç¬ø√Ç¬Ωprotest Paris Hilton√É¬Ø√Ç¬ø√Ç¬Ω and you√É¬Ø√Ç¬ø√Ç¬Ωll see what I mean.
I guess there’s no point in this anti-Paris venting. We should just be good sheep and lie down and continue to take pictures of the rich and powerful and watch them on tabloid TV. Wherever they go, whatever they are.
In any case, the aesthetic problem presented by the appearance of leeches and ding-a-lings at the festival has been geographically solved.
It’s been clear for the last two or three years that there are two Sundance festivals. The one about movies and people who matter happens at the Marriott, the Eccles, the Library, the Yarrow, the Holiday Village and the Racquet Club. And the one that’s about parties, corporate piggybackers and GenX binge-drinkers happens on Park City’s Main Street.
Other expected “guests” at tonight’s Rize party include Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, Steven Dorff, Erika Christiansen and Busy Philipps.
Where is Al Qeada when you really need them?
You’d think that a rented Park City condo would have a working phone, at the very least for local (internet service provider, medical emergency) calls. You’d think that between the owner and the renter, somebody would ask about this or explain or something. Think again.
When I called Thursday morning about needing to get the condo phone turned back on, the people at Qwest said they’d have to wait three business days to activate the line. That meant Monday afternoon at the earliest, or possibly Tuesday morning.
The only way they could do it sooner, they said, would be if they were faxed a letter from a doctor saying it’s essential that I have a phone. I was feeling shitty anyway so I went down to the Park City Family Medical Clinic and saw a doctor (a nice woman named Eileen Price-Burke), and she agreed to write the letter to Qwest.
But I had to pay her fee of $115 plus $20 for a bottle of codeine cough syrup and $20 for an inhaler. The Qwest account cost $45 to get things rolling so the entire cost to get the phone turned on was about $200…not counting the stress.
The Qwest installation guy didn’t get here first thing Friday morning, like the dispatcher promised. He didn’t even show up in the ayem. Thanks, guys.
Nick and Neville
I’ve had this unformed thought about Nick Lachey for a long time, and it finally hit me last weekend: he’s Neville Brand.
A World War II hero with thick features, a gravelly voice and a street attitude, Brand mostly played heavies. One of his first decent roles was in Stalag 17 (√É¬Ø√Ç¬ø√Ç¬Ω53), and he played Al Capone in the TV series The Untouchables.
Lachey (pronounced “lashay”) is Jessica Simpson’s vaguely doltish husband who hangs around the house, bitches about day-to-day stuff and tries to get his music career rolling on Newlyweds , their MTV “reality” show.
Anyway, they’re more or less the same guy…right?
Check out the shot of Neville in a cowboy hat — that was taken in the late ’50s or early ’60s, when he was in his 40s. By the time Lachey is 40-plus he√É¬Ø√Ç¬ø√Ç¬Ωll also have that portly, beefed-up, potato-head look.
Lachey should start playing bad guys. Right now he’s just a house-husband. In the next Newlyweds season Nick will reportedly “build a studio in his home, sign with Jive Records and works with his label to get his CD in stores,” etc. But all he’s seemed to do on the show so far is walk around in T-shirts and baggy shorts and sometimes help the delivery guys install a new refrigerator.
Note to readers: I’m totally aware of how shitty it looks for the Neville Brand and Nick Lachey photos to be differently sized.
Bad Press Computers
The flat-screen computers in the press room at the Sundance Marriott are unfriendly to journalists.
That’s because the person who set them up made sure that users can’t access the hard drive, which is what you need to do if you’re going to transmit text or JPEG’s off one of those portable USB drive doo-dads. The Marriott computers only let you surf the internet, meaning they’re almost totally worthless from a working point of view.
Thank fortune that the Intel people have a free business center (or press room) on the 2nd floor off the Yarrow hotel, with six or seven connected laptops and nothing preventing you from doing your job. They also have a wireless thing going so you can bring your laptop in and get online as long as you have a wireless card. This is Intel’s second year at the festival.
This was taken from the back balcony of the condo around 10 ayem on Friday morning. Tourists take balloon rides all day long, apparently. This would probably be a very cool thing to do if you√É¬Ø√Ç¬ø√Ç¬Ωre dressed for it.
I came to chortle at Inside Deep Throat and, to be honest, maybe feel a tiny bit excited by it…but I came away feeling leveled-out, sobered-up, un-randy.
Sobered up doesn’t mean bummed, which is how I pretty much felt after seeing Deep Throat itself. It was such a shitty movie…so cheesy, stupid, clueless. But it made raunch seem hip for that five- or ten-minute period in `72 or ’73 with the New York Times-propagated concept of “porno chic.”
Okay, there was something cool and, of course, basically harmless about middle-class couples, single women and other atypical patrons lining up in front of porn theatres to see this film way back when…brazen, liberating, vaguely revolutionary…but from today’s perspective there’s something about it that seems a bit odious.
What did Fear of Flying author Erica Jong once say about watching porn? “After a minute or so, I want to find a partner and immediately have sex. But after watching for ten minutes, I never want to have sex again.”
A woman friend of mine didn’t want to go to a recent screening of Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey‘s 90 minute documentary, which will have its big debut on Friday night at the Sundance Film Festival, because she hates the Deep Throat legend and metaphor, and assumed the doc would be flip and snickering.
It’s not. It’s actually something a conservative-thinking prude could be okay with, as it passes along information here and there that would support the view that pornography is basically demonic. It also passes along the view that it’s all pretty harmless and that the anti-porn forces are a fairly tedious bunch. And it is fairly funny here and there.
The drugstore toupee that Deep Throat‘s writer-director-producer Gerard Damiano wears during his interview says it all, if you ask me.
Inside Deep Throat, which reportedly wouldn’t have been made without the obsessive interest in the subject by producer Brian Grazer, follows the story of the most profitable film of all time right into the scuzzy deep pockets of the mafia, the reactionary mentality of Nixon-era politicians and prosecutors, the ready-teddy libido of the American public in the early `70s and the sadnesses of Linda Lovelace and Harry Reems.
The commentators include Throat‘s Damiano, some of his former cronies, two or three prosecutor or law-enforcement types, Jong, Reems, a friend of Lovelace’s along with a disapproving sister, two or three guys who showed the legendary film in their theatres in the early `70s, Georgina Spelvin, Susan Brownmiller, disco singer Andrea True (“More, More, More”), John Waters, Camille Paglia, Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer.
If there’s a single message than comes through, it’s that working in pornography always seems to lead to great unhappiness and regret for the performers. This point was made by Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Boogie Nights, I think, and seems pretty much supported by facts.
I don’t think anyone needs to be reminded that porn actors and filmmakers are, 96% of the time, staggeringly un-talented people, which of course is what makes porn films so godawful to sit through, but there’s no escaping this observation, in any event.
Barbato and Bailey explore Damiano’s making of the flick in South Florida, the diseased relationship between Lovelace and her psychotic boyfriend (i.e., a control freak who taught her the deep-throat technique), the cultural reaction after the film started to get around in respectable circles, the legal attacks upon it (and particularly upon Reems, who was facing five years in jail in the mid ’70s simply because he acted in it), Lovelace’s difficult, somewhat sad life in the `80s and `90s (she died in a car crash in ’02), and Reems’ descent into alcoholism until he swore off booze and converted to Christianity in the mid `90s.
Reems is today a successful real-estate broker based in Park City, Utah, which of course places him right smack dab in the middle of this year’s Sundance festival. I impulsively called Reems on my cell phone right after Monday night’s screening, and damned if he didn’t pick up. We’re supposed to talk sometime this weekend.
The best material comes from an elderly Florida distributor (forgotten his name, notes weren’t provided) who played Throat and ran afoul of some South Florida goombahs who threatened everyone involved so as to grab an inordinate share of the box-office. While he’s talking to the camera, his wife sits some 20 or 30 feet away and crabs about how he should stop talking, because she’s still afraid of the mob guys.
A New York journalist friend who saw Inside Deep Throat two days ago called it “fun and fascinating, if a little too glib. It’s amazing who they dug up — Reems, Damiano, Spelvin, True. But too many of the pro-First Amendment types seem like the usual suspects: Hefner, Paglia, Waters, Vidal.
“The film delves into the hugeness of porn today, but it has nothing to say about the pornofication of the culture,” he added.
He’s right — the doc could have made more out of this. It could have explored the various forms of pornography that have become commonplace. Pornography has arguably become the dominant social metaphor of our times. It seeps out of every cultural pore, out of nearly every act of mass-media attention-getting.
Paris Hilton is a pornographic manifestation, and I’m not even referring to her sex tape.
Mary Hart, Pat O’Brien and Jann Carl of Entertainment Tonight are pornographers of a mainstream, glitzy stripe.
Every day, I believe, I’m confronted with architectural pornography on the streets of Los Angeles.
It’s gotten so that porn’s least pernicious aspect, by far, is the sexual. Internet porn (especially the amateur stuff) seems so innocuous and inoffensive alongside corporate-level porn that it doesn’t bear mentioning in the same breath.
It Begins Again
Every year five or six films first seen at the Sundance Film Festival punch through and become movies that regular ticket-buyers want to see, or at least feel they should try to catch up with. Or is the number more like seven or eight?
It may be a tad higher this year. I’m envisioning — hearing about — eleven films, give or take, although I’m presuming at least two or three of these will fall on their face. Two or three others not showing up on anyone’s lists right now will also pop through, if previous history means anything.
Hustle & Flow, absolutely. The Chumscrubber. Wolf Creek, for sure. The Dying Gaul….but one should always be wary of a movie with the word “dying” in its title, as it always seems to promise moroseness and downer `tudes. The Aristocrats….possibly. The Jacket . Layer Cake, definitely. Dirty Love, but it sounds extremely shallow. Maybe The Matador.
And The Upside of Anger, for sure, because I’ve seen it and I know it plays in a way that will fare pretty well with general audiences. (Especially due to Kevin Costner’s extremely ingratiating performance.) And Sebastian Cordero’s Cronicas, which I wrote about last Friday.
It’s not like I’m the hippest guy in the room or anything. Most of the handicappers have mentioned these titles in some fashion. But I’ve heard from two acquisitions executives that Hustle & Flow is one to see, and I’m picking up radio-wave signals about it besides, so that’s my big pick of the litter.
I used to call around and try to zero in on the hot tickets in advance, and I’d usually end up being about 60% right…sometimes. But it wouldn’t matter because the films that are fated to penetrate have a certain unstoppable energy about them, and recognition of this always happens with or without my being ahead of the game or not, so who cares? None of it matters. Okay, some of it does.
I’m acknowledging that for most people, reading about Sundance activity — the focus of part of today’s column, as well as the next four (I’ll be running three columns next week instead of the usual two) — is of some interest, and I think it should be paid attention to, but it’s a bit of an insular industry experience. Fun to attend and write about, but….well, let’s leave it at that.
My plane leaves today around 2 pm, I’ll be in the Park City condo by 6 pm or so, off to Robertson’s for groceries by 7 pm, and then over to a private little dinner party being thrown by Paramount Classics honcho Ruth Vitale at her Deer Valley home.
And then the mess-around starts Thursday afternoon.
I’m going to try and file something on Friday. Photos and some random observations about whatever’s moving at the moment is about all I can manage. I’m going to try and work in an appreciation of Sharon Waxman’s smooth and highly readable Rebels on the Backlot (Harper), which is being celebrated at a party in Park City on Monday afternoon.
I called one of my regular sources the other day, and she insisted the whole Sundance shakedown is right there in the pages of program guide.
You just have to know how to decode the smoothly bizarre press prose (Note: by the official aesthetic appreciation standards of Gilmore, John Cooper, Shari Frillot, Diane Weyerman, Trevor Goth, etc., any film can be made to sound artistically worthy and intriguing…even Catwoman) and be up on the recent history of the filmmakers, especially the producers.
Hustle & Flow stars the excellent but relatively unsung Terrence Howard (who had a stand-out second-banana role in Ray, and will be seen in Paul Haggis’ Crash as well as in the Sundance Premiere selection Lackawanna Blues). Directed and written by Craig Brewer, and shot in and around Memphis, it’s about a pimp trying to break out and become a successful rapper. Jim Sheridan is currently cooking up a similar-sound film about the struggle of 50 Cent trying to leave behind a life of crime, etc.
The Aristocrats, a documentary, has been described by Gilmore in the Sundance program notes as “one of the most shocking and, perhaps for some, offensive films you will ever see.” Penn Jillette and Paul Provenza’s film shows the same filthy joke being told more than 100 times. Repetition dulls the point of anything, so how can such a film live up to Gilmore’s description? A lot of folks will want to see it anyway, I imagine, give the hype.
Oh, jeez…it’s 10:30 already. My plane is leaving in less than three hours and I can’t even finish this. Terrific.
Well, just go to the Sundance site (www.sundance.org) and read what you can. Like I said, I’ll start checking in on Friday and we’ll just take it, film by film. I’ve got a party list and between tomorrow night and Thursday, 1.27, it looks as if at least 56 parties (all lavishly catered, and probably costing tens of thousands each) will be thrown.
I’ve already said I’m against seeing Thumbsucker on general principle, as I loathe the idea of watching a film about a young guy (Lou Pucci) with…I don’t even want to think about it. If someone make a movie some day about a guy who can’t stop picking his nose, I’ll try to avoid that one also.
9 Songs — Michael Winterbottom’s low-budgeter has sex scenes that are almost as bad as anything I’ve ever seen in a straight porn film, plus some very slip-shod concert footage. An almost totally worthless film with actors, on top of everything else, who aren’t even especially attractive with their clothes off.
The Ballad of Jack and Rose — Decently made, intelligently conceived and executed, and boasting another first-rate Daniel Day Lewis performance (is there any other kind?) …but too quirky and oddball for my tastes. There’s a repressed father-daughter incest angle that doesn’t quite manifest, or at the least is insufficiently developed.
I thought I’d throw in a plug for the recently re-jiggered Discland column, which is now being edited by Jonathan Doyle, plus a note or two about Doyle and the contributors:
Jonathan Doyle recently completed his Masters degree in Film Studies at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He is the founder and webmaster of the Jonathan Demme website, Storefront Demme (www.storefrontdemme.com) and a programmer for The Fantasia Film Festival, a popular showcase for Asian films, horror films, and other assorted weirdness. He has also written film criticism for countingdown.com and the Canadian film journal, Synoptique. In spite of Jeffrey Wells’ disapproval, he is proud to call The Life Aquatic and The Aviator his favorite films of 2004.
Jason Comerford is a graduate of the North Carolina School of the Arts’ School of Filmmaking, class of `01. He is currently working for Erwin-Penland Advertising as a copywriter/proofreader, while also working as a journalist. His recent pieces include a lengthy review of The Passion of the Christ and tributes to Jerry Goldsmith and Elmer Bernstein for Film Score Monthly.
Christopher Hyatt is a lifelong movie buff living in Chicago with a taste for films that go off the beaten track in terms of style, subject matter, and sensibility, a taste that leads him in all sorts of directions film-wise. As far as DiscLand is concerned, he hopes this will make him “a voice for lovers of cult and offbeat films.” He is also a longtime reader of this column, going back to the reel.com days, and is taking his first baby steps toward becoming a filmmaker, himself.
At only 23, Joey Tayler is the youngest member of the DiscLand team. After graduating from Marquette University two years ago, he began working as a film critic for the Waukesha Freeman, one of the largest newspapers in suburban Milwaukee. He also works as an assistant producer at a local film production outfit. Despite all that, he’s still got too much time on his hands and loves writing about film. His least favorite film of 2004 was Dogville.
“Other writers are waiting in the wings and, as their writing is posted in the weeks to come, the column will expand and move in new and unexpected directions,” says Doyle. “In addition to DVD reviews, future editions of DiscLand will feature DVD editorials, news/rumors, interviews, and much more.”
A 1.19.05 item in the New York Post‘s “Page Six” column read, “Don’t assume that Golden Globes winners will walk off with Oscars next month. The idea that the Globes are still “a major influencer of the Oscar nominations or final outcome is an embarrassment,” declares movie writer David Poland, “much the same as so many Americans believing that Saddam Hussein was directly responsible for 9/11.” Hollywood columnist Jeffrey Wells agrees, noting that the Globes, which are given out by the laughably dilettantish Hollywood Foreign Press Association, “really don’t count anymore. They’re a distraction at best, and are at the beginning of a stage in their evolution in which they’re going to be seen as a bigger and broader object of mockery as the years wear on.” Wells denounces “the dopey idea that 80-something international correspondents, many of a somewhat dubious or shaky reputation, are any kind of harbingers of the sentiments of nearly 6,000 Academy voters.”
I’ll have more to say about the Golden Globe awards on Wednesday, but aside from the surprise of Leonardo DiCaprio winning the Best Actor trophy (a fiercely committed actor who, as Howard Hughes, goes for broke, but still looks like a kid playing dress-up) and The Aviator itself winning for Best Drama, which frankly surprised me, the underlying feeling is that the Golden Globes really don’t count any more…not really. They’re a distraction at best, and are at the beginning of a stage in their evolution in which they’re going to be seen as a bigger and broader object of mockery as the years wear on. The dopey idea that 80-something international correspondents, many of a somewhat dubious or shaky reputation, are any kind of harbingers of the sentiments of nearly 6000 Academy voters has never seemed more pronounced. As David Poland wrote last night, the idea of “the Globes as a major influencer of the Oscar nominations or final outcome is an embarrassment, much the same as so many Americans believing that Saddam Hussein was directly responsible for 9/11. Some ideas belong on the periphery.”
There’s a clip in the trailer for Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbatos’ Inside Deep Throat Inside Deep Throat (Universal, 2.11) quoting a guy involved with the distribution of this infamous 1972 porn film saying, “We have so much cash, we don’t even count it — we weigh it!” This alone supports my long-held suspicion that this will be one very cool documentary…fascinating, hilarious, whatever.
With Miramax’s Bob and Harvey Weinstein only two or three weeks away from signing final divorce papers with Disney, there’s a rumble (about two or three weeks old, apparently) about Mouse execs offering Warner Independent Pictures chief Mark Gill the job of running Miramax after the brothers depart. It’s a flakey rumor, apparently…but not entirely flakey, as as the Miramax gig (presuming Gill has even discussed it) might carry a certain allure, given WIP’s so-far mixed track record. As he was just starting the WIP gig in August ’03, Gill told the Hollywood Reporter‘s Stephen Galloway, “The biggest pitfall is if you choose and market the wrong movies — then you’re dead. The second danger would be to find yourself working for people who are not fully committed, [but] I am not worried about that. They are willing to give this (division) that fullness of time — three or four years, to be sure, and maybe more. I know I have got three years (contractually) to make it work — and I intend to do it in a third of that time.”
To the list of presumed front-runners for the Best Foreign Film Oscar(Cronicas, Downfall, Les Choristes, The Sea Inside, House of Flying Daggers), I’m told I should add Darrell Roodt’s Yesterday, a South African drama about a struggling AIDS-afflicted couple with a young daughter. (“Yesterday” is the name of the mother character, played by Leleti Khumalo.) I missed seeing it on Friday night (1.14) because the screening coincided with my son’s flight to Boston from Long Beach Airport. HBO had something to do with making (or financing) it, although they aren’t mentioned on the IMDB, but I’m told the film may open theatrically in February.
There’s this extremely weird, slightly satiric, observational fly-on-the-wall piece by Christian Moerk in Sunday’s New York Times about the first meeting between Paramount Pictures’ recently hired film division chairman and chief executive Brad Grey and the studio’s “entire senior-executive phalanx” in an executive boardroom last January 6th. There’s no angle or point to it — it’s not some thoughtfully considered New Yorker or New York Observer-type thing. It just says to the reader, “Our guy was told about this big meeting, and here are the details he was given…ten days after the fact.” The three funniest bits are (a) Moerk’s stating for the record that Grey “declined to comment for this article,” (b) reporting that Grey is “likely to focus on completing titles like Charlotte’s Web” — a big family-friendly animated thing, I gather — for which he’d like to snag the voice-acting talents of Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts, and (c) Moerk’s passing along the view that “nobody [expects] the new boss to replace senior staff or production deals immediately.” Hah!
Those heading to the Sundance Film Festival next week will be messing up hugely if they don’t catch Cronicas, a creepy investigation piece and a penetrating morality tale about a tabloid TV news team on the trail of a serial child killer.
It’s the first serious high-performance film I’ve seen this year, and if there’s any justice in the world it’ll be among the five Best Foreign Film Oscar nominees that are being announced on 1.25, along with Downfall, Les Choristes, The Sea Inside and House of Flying Daggers.
Go-getter tabloid-show reporter John Leguizamo (r.) during a jailhouse interview scene with manslaughter suspect Damian Alcazar.
Chronicas shouldn’t be missed, partly for the impact of the drama itself (which holds onto its ethical focus from beginning to end, and never drops into an excitement-for-excitement’s-sake mode) and because it heralds the arrival (*) of a major new Spanish-language director — 32 year-old Sebastian Cordero.
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It’s not about catching the bad guy as much as a study of corruption in an investigative reporter (played by the always feisty John Leguizamo, in his first Spanish-speaking role), who may be just as threatening, the film implies, as the child-killer he’s trying to hunt down.
Set in a low-income area of Ecuador and 98% Spanish-spoken, Cronicas boasts a first-rate cast (Leguizamo, Damian Alcazar, Leonor Watling, Alfred Molina, Jose Maria Yazpik) and has been produced (or would grandfathered by the more appropriate term?) by Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo del Toro.
It was filmed in Babahayo, a capital city of the province of Los Rios, apparently one of Ecaudor’s poorest areas. A series of child murders, all the apparent victim of a serialist called “the monster,” has caught the attention of a three-person news team shooting for a show called “Una Hora con la Verdad” (“An Hour with the Truth”), which is hosted in-studio by Molina’s character.
John Leguizamo, Leonor Watling, Cronicas director Sebastian Cordero on stage at last September’s San Sebastian Film Festival.
Jumping right into this cauldron is a hot-shot TV reporter named Manolo Bonilla (Leguizamo), along with his producer (Watling) and cameraman (Jose Maria Yazpik).
And they happen to be right there and shooting when a seemingly decent, soft-spoken salesman named Vinicio Cepeda (Alcazar) accidentally hits and kills a young kid with his truck. This almost gets Cepeda killed by an angry mob.
When Bonilla later visits Cepeda in jail, where he’s awaiting trial for manslaughter, what seems to be a major scoop is dropped into his lap. Cepeda tells Bonilla that he’s met the serial killer and can provide crucial information about him…which he’ll pass along in trade for a sympathetic TV story about the accident, which may lead to his legal exoneration.
Cepeda’s information (or some of it, rather) turns out to be solid, which of course leads Bonilla to decide to keep his scoop from the cops so he can make a big splash. And this is all I’m going to say, except that the movie has a riveting ending that doesn’t leave you alone.
Cronicas will be released in the U.S. on 5.27 by Palm Pictures, and then — mark my words — it’ll eventually be remade by some U.S. producer-director team and almost certainly downgraded, because they’ll jazz up the standard-thriller aspects and probably diminish the moral element, which is what makes Chronicas so absorbing in the first place.
I wasn’t in Toronto last September when Cronicas played the festival there, but I’m kicking myself for not even making an effort to see it when I was in Cannes last May.
As we were coming out of last Wednesday night’s screening, my 15 year-old son Dylan said, “It’s funny, but it’s like almost all the really good films these days are being made by guys from Mexico and South America.”
And Spain, I added. It’s certainly seemed this way over the past three or four years. It’s always fascinated me how the Movie Gods seem to serendipitously pick certain countries and cultures to produce especially vital and profound films during a given period.
The industry crowd, in any event, can now add Cordero to the Spanish-speaking cool-cat list headed by Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu (21 Grams, Amores Perros), Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy), Alejandro Amenabar (The Sea Inside ), Pedro Almodovar (Bad Education), Fernando Meirelles ( City of God), Julio Medem (Sex and Lucia) and Fabiane Beilinsky (Nine Queens).
Leguizamo, Leonor Watling and Jose Maria Yazpik during first-act Cronicas scene.
Cordero, who went to NYU film school and is fluent in English, is repped by UTA’s Stuart Manaschil. His Sundance p.r. rep will be Kristi Avram of Palm Pictures
Has anyone out there seen Cordero’s first film — Ratas, Ratones, Rateros?
Amazon says the Vanguard Pictures DVD has been available since March ’03.
(*) For those who didn’t see Cronicas last year at the Cannes, Toronto or San Sebastian film festivals, I meant to say.
I was just reading a press kit biography of actress Camilla Belle, whose first name is pronounced Ca-MEE-la. She’s 18, lives in Los Angeles and has acted in about 18 movies (including TV movies). She’s costarring in two Sundance movies — The Ballad of Jack and Rose and The Chumscrubber. I’ve seen her in Jack and Rose and she’s quite good in it, and has become quite beautiful
But for a mere 18 year-old she’s way too accomplished. I just think there should be limits.
14 year-old Camilla Belle (r.) with costar Cameron Diaz in The Invisible Circus (2001).
Camilla speaks “several” languages fluently, the bio says, and she’s also “an aspiring classical pianist.” I’m hoping that means she’d just like to play piano one day with a certain assurance. She’s also been “actively involved” (as opposed to being inactively involved?) in various charities, and has become an international spokesperson for Kids With A Cause.
She was also recently invited to speak at the United Nations as part of the Earth Day celebration in New York, the bio adds.
There’s an ancient Chinese curse that goes, “May you peak in high school.” Many of the kids I knew who were introverted and withdrawn and anti-social when they were sixteen or seventeen have turned out to be very (or at least fairly) interesting adults, for the most part, whereas the goodie-goodies who ran for Student Council and got straight A’s and whatnot have mostly put on weight and become alcoholics and bad dressers.
Here we go again with the dueling Christmas truce movies, except now there are three instead of two.
On 12.17 I reported that two high-profile directors — Vadim Perelman (House of Sand and Fog) and Paul Weitz (In Good Company, About a Boy) — are both planning to make (or produce, in the case of Weitz and his brother, Chris) a movie about the brief Christmas truce that happened between British and German soldiers in 1914 somewhere around Belgium in the early days of World War I.
The new kid on the block is a French-German co-production called Joyeux Noel, directed by Christian Carion and costarring Daniel Bruehl, Benno Fuermann, Diane Krueger and Guillame Canet. It was shot in Roumania last year, with expectations of a theatrical release in December ’05, according to the IMDB.
Perelman’s project, which was officially announced by reporter Dana Harris in Variety a couple of days ago, is called The Truce.
Collateral screenwriter Stuart Beattie wrote the script, casting is now underway, and the studio backing is from Warner Independent.
The Weitz project would be called Silent Night, and is based on a book about the truce that has the same title and was authored by Stanley Weintraub. The book has been adapted into screenplay form by Jon Robin Baitz (People I Know).
According to information provided in mid-December by the Weitz’s partner Andrew Miano, who runs their Depth of Field production company, Miano would produce Silent Night along with Paul and Chris. The funding would come from Universal, and the plan would be to shoot somewhere in Europe, or maybe England.
Miano said in December that he and his partners intended to hire a director for their project right after the holidays. I tried reaching him twice — yesterday and today (1.14) — to see if this was still on, but I never heard back. If I were them I would chuck it. Three movies about the same exact incident…c’mon. Two is too many.
Since I’ve gone on a bit about finding “money” shots (stills, video footage) of the Southeast Asian tsunami, I might as well put a cap on it and share these video clips, which, I imagine, most the hard-core types have already downloaded by now.
These amateur clips don’t exactly show that “wall of water” shot everyone’s been hoping to find, but they provide some riveting images of the tsunami from various angles and locales: Clip #1 , Clip #2 , Clip #3 , Clip #4 , and Clip #5 .
“I thought you might like to know that the BBC News website has a nice article from the producer of Adam Curtis’s The Power of Nightmares that answers the critics of the program, and in doing so summarises the whole thing.
“Since I’m English it was easy to see this really great documentary last October, but I find it shocking that there’s no way this will most likely ever be seen on American television. It’s going to be shown on BBC 2 here again from the 18th to the 20th of this month, if your readers would be interested.” — Laura Aylett.
You can toss out the concept of Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales, which has been described in some circles as a genre hybrid of comedy/musical/thriller/science-fiction or, in somewhat plainer terms, as a big social-political satire….you can forget any ideas of it coming out in ’05, despite my having listed Tales in Wednesday’s column as a hot-ticket due sometime later this year. Too bad, but there’s no way it’ll be out before ’06. But if you want a little taste now (and I highly recommend this), click here .
Two more connections between those sound-alike Sundance movies, Thumbsucker and The Chumscrubber. One, they were both produced by Bob Yari, a former real-estate guy who now heads a company called the Yari Film Group. And two, they both costar 19 year-old Lou Pucci. Thumbsucker, which costars Tilda Swinton and Keanu Reeves, was shot almost a year before Chumscrubber, which stars Jamie Bell, Camilla Belle (also the costar of The Ballad of Jack and Rose), Ralph Fiennes, Rory Culkin, and Glenn Close. There’s also a Park City at Midnight film called Ass-Muncher….kidding!
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