Liam Neeson as Abraham Lincoln? Perfect…not just because of the facial and body-type similarities, but also a look of kindliness in Neeson’s eyes that I’ve noticed in those two or three Matthew Brady portraits of Lincoln. Variety is reporting that Steven Spielberg has begun talks with Neeson to play Lincoln in a film based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “The Uniter: The Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” which will be published next fall. The plan is for the biopic to start production in January ’06.
It would be highly unlikely, not to mention beside the point, if Kearns or Spielberg were to touch upon the recently-raised issue of the younger Abe Lincoln’s alleged bisexuality, as explored by C. A. Tripp’s controversial book, “The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln.” The focus of the Spielberg film, after all, will be the middle-aged Lincoln’s grappling with the Civil War. In any event, Lincoln biographer and respected historian Gore Vidal discusses Tripp’s work and the evidence about Lincoln’s friendships with Joshua Speed, A.Y. Ellis and fellow lawyer Henry Whitney in a current posting on Vanity Fair‘s website.
And speaking of Neeson, it seems slightly odd to see him happily grinning alongside his Phantom Menace costars on the cover of the current Vanity Fair, considering the stories that went around in ’99 that the one-two punch of acting in front of green-screen digital backgrounds in that George Lucas film plus the same experience on Jan de Bont’s The Haunting led Neeson to briefly consider quitting acting…or so it was reported at the time.
After directing films for no other studio but Warner Bros. for 28 years straight (i.e., except for Columbia’s Absolute Power), Clint Eastwood will briefly jump ship when he makes his next movie — a time-shifting father-son World War II flick called Flags of Our Fathers — for DreamWorks this summer.
The film will be based on James Bradley and Ron Powers’ book of the same name, which was published in 2000. It recounts the sometimes tragic tales of the six Marines who raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi (*) on February 23, 1945, during the American forces’ battle for Iwo Jima against Japanese occupiers.
In less than a month’s time (from 2.19.45 to 3.10.45), more than 22,000 Japanese soldiers and 5,391 U.S. Marines were killed, with an additional 17,400 Americans suffering wounds.
One of the six flag-raisers was Bradley’s father John, a Navy corpsman who later received the Navy Cross for bravery under fire. The senior Bradley, who died in 1994, never told his family about his heroism, and only after his death did James Bradley begin to piece together the facts.
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As I understand it, the film will portray the younger Bradley’s investigation of his dad’s experience in a narrative, non-documentary, actors-speaking-lines fashion, as well as the back-stories of the other five flag-raisers, presumably with the use of frequent flashbacks and whatnot.
Eastwood couldn’t be hotter right now with the nominations and coming Oscar noms for Million Dollar Baby, etc., and it does seem as if directing a film without Warner Bros. funding for the first time in nearly three decades would be a milestone of some kind. But making Flags of Our Fathers for DreamWorks doesn’t mean he’s pulling up stakes.
That would be a significant story, but a guy who’s close to the situation is saying “nope.”
Eastwood is not acting, he says, on an alleged long-simmering frustration with Warner Bros. execs, including president Alan Horn, over their purported lack of enthusiasm for his making Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby …although WB execs were naturally delighted with both after they caught on.
Eastwood’s frustration was very real last spring when the Million Dollar Baby negotations were hanging in the balance and Warner Bros. execs were exuding, I’ve heard, half-hearted enthusiasm over the boxing film.
Nor is Eastwood venting, I’m told, over Warner Bros.’ reported lack of faith in both Baby and the earlier Mystic River as indicated by the Burbank-based studio having allegedly sold off foreign rights to both films at a lower price than their U.S. receptions would indicate.
That’s all water under the bridge, my guy tells me. Relations between Eastwood and Horn these days are pleasant and amicable, he says.
Eastwood, I’m told, will simply direct the Iwo Jima film, working from a script that was completed last August or thereabouts by Million Dollar Baby screenwriter Paul Haggis. He’ll then return to Warner Bros. after Fathers is wrapped and promoted to make another Haggis-scripted film, the details about which my source was unwilling to confide.
The DreamWorks deal, which had its first stirrings when DreamWorks partner Steven Spielberg, who’d worked with Eastwood on The Bridges of Madison County in ’95, sent the “Flags of Our Fathers” book to Eastwood last year, with urgings that he consider directing a film version.
Eastwood read it, liked it and approached Haggis to adapt it in January ’04. The intention to shoot the film for DreamWorks was more or less decided upon, I’m told, before the Million Dollar Baby animus happened last spring.
Although a DreamWorks spokesperson told me yesterday that nothing is really in place on the Fathers project, the closely-involved guy says it’ll definitely film this summer, probably on Iwo Jima itself and perhaps also on one of the Hawaiian islands (i.e., somewhere where there are black-sand beaches).
No Fathers casting or anything else is happening just yet. Eastwood and DreamWorks are “going over budget issues” right now.
(*) The flag-raising by the six G.I.’s was actually the second that happened atop Mt. Suribachi on 2.23.45. Another U.S. flag was raised around 10 a.m. by five G.I.’s, but the event was repeated for p.r. purposes a few hours later with a second flag (on top of a 100-pound pole) and photographers capturing it for posterity.
Explanation: Clint’s Absolute Power (’97) was initially distributed by Columbia, although Warner Bros. currently owns the title due its purchase of Castle Rock…even though the 35mm prints still open with the Columbia logo.
Does it seem to anyone else as if Entertainment Weekly has a very big crush on Finding Neverland? The film’s lead Johnny Depp graced their Fall Preview issue last August 30th, and now Depp and costar Kate Winslet have re-appeared on this week’s cover. And both covers draw attention to big sum-up articles about promising and/or stand-out films.
Ignore the first Depp cover, as it was published before anyone had seen Neverland
Let’s just call a spade a spade and say that among EW‘s editors and senior film writers there appears to be a great deal of support for Neverland and Depp getting nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor. Can anyone think of another instance in which a national entertainment publication has so openly lobbied for a particular Oscar contender? I can’t…although it’s probably happened before.
I spoke to EW senior editor Mark Harris about this two or three days ago, and of course he sought to downplay this impression. He said at one point that the August 30th cover didn’t really figure in the Oscar race because it came along at an early stage when almost no one of any consequence had seen it. Still…
There are now 42 intriguing films — 28 that seem especially promising, and 14 that might be worth a tumble — due to open in ’05.
I’ve added five films to the ’05 first-rate list (Breakfast on Pluto, The Ice Harvest, Manderlay, Old Boy, Southland Tales) and four to the maybe list (Aeon Flux, The Constant Gardner, Revolver, Serenity).
These are joining titles assembled in two recent articles about the year’s most promising features ( Whole ’05 Enchilada and Son of Enchilada ).
I’m going to start running a box called “Best of `05” (or something less dull-sounding) with all the choices listed whether they’re opening in the first, second or third quarters.
The presumed hotties…
Neil Jordan’s Breakfast on Pluto (Pathe — no U.S. distributor but late ’05 seems fairly likely) Cross-dressing mixed with Irish politics. Set in the 1960s and `70s, a supposed black comedy about an orphan (Cillian Murphy) who escapes from his foster home in small-town Ireland to become a transvestite and a performer in London. Jordan adapted the screenplay from the 1998 novel by Patrick McCabe (The Butcher Boy). Cast: Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, Liam Neeson, Stephen rea, Laurence Kinlan, Ruth Negga.
Harold Ramis’s The Ice Harvest (Focus Features, 11.4.05) Set in Wichita, Kansas (but filmed in the northern Chicago `burbs), based on an allegedly funny Coen brothers-like noir novel by Scott Phillips, and adapted by Robert Benton and Richard Russo. Comedic story unfolds on Christmas Eve, and deals with a sleazy attorney named Charlie (John Cusack) who embezzles $2 million from a Kansas City mob guy (Randy Quaid) with the help of another sleazeball (Billy Bob Thornton). Charlie wants to run off with girlfriend Renata (Connie Nielsen), blah, blah…and the usual complications ensue. An interested party claims “buzz evidently is great so that Focus delayed the release from early this year until the fall.”
Lars von Trier’s Manderlay (No U.S. distrib, probably debuting at Cannes ’05, and if Dogville‘s distribution pattern kicks in it may not open in the U.S. until early ’06). The continuing adventures of Grace, the gangster’s daughter, in 1930s America…only with Bryce Dallas Howard as Grace and Wilem Dafoe (and not the sardonic James Caan) as her dad. Pic is a racially incendiary metaphorical piece about the complicity of African-Americans in their own enslavement. John C. Reilly walked off the film in protest over the killing of an old donkey. Cast: Howard, Dafoe, Lauren Bacall, Jean-Marc Barr, Jeremy Davies, Isaach De Bankole, Danny Glover, Udo Kier, Chloe Sevigny, Zeljko Ivanek.
Chan Wook Park’s Oldboy (opengin 3.25) Everyone in the world, it seems, has seen this Taratino-esque South Korean crime thriller except U.S. audiences. Made in ’03, played in Cannes last May. Fans of Amores perros and City of God should probably take notice.
Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales (currently shooting – financial entity unknown). The writer-director of Donnie Darko (and the writer of Tony Scott’s Domino) is currently shooting this musical comedy set in Los Angeles during a heat wave in the year 2008. (Whatever the hell that implies.) Obviously one of those ambitious films that could turn out either brilliantly or horribly. Cast: Sara Michelle Gellar, Sean William Scott, Jeanane Garafalo, Ali Larter, Jason lee, Tim Blake Nelson, Kevin Smith, Kristen Stewart.
And the maybe’s…
Karyn Kusama’s Aeon Flux (Paramount, late ’05). A presumably lesbian-tinged chick action flick, directed by Karyn Kusama (Girlfight ), based on the animated MTV series. Set 400 years in the future, by which time disease has wiped out the majority of the earth’s population except for those living in a walled-off place called Bregna. Theron’s Aeon Flux is a heavyweight among a group of rebels known as the “Monicans” (what is that?….a reference to gay filmmakers who live in Santa Monica?) led by The Handler (Frances McDormand). Cast: Theron, McDormand, Charlize Theron, Marton Csokas, Jonny Lee Miller, Sophie Okonedo, Pete Postlethwaite, Amelia Warner, Caroline Chikezie.
Fernando Meirelles’ The Constant Gardener (Focus Features, late ’05) Brazil’s celebrated City of God director has apparently made a token English-language feature as a “hello, how are you?” commercial credibility enhancer with the U.S. film industry. Adaptation of John Le Carre’s novel about an English diplomat (Ralph Fiennes) in Kenya whose wife (Rachel Weisz) is rubbed out after she uncovering a scandal at a pharmaceutical company. Readers are advised to totally beware any movie co-starring Danny Huston. Cast: Fiennes, Weisz, Huston, Anthony LaPaglia, Pernilla August.
Guy Ritchie’s Revolver (No U.S. distrib, but mid to late ’05 release sounds reasonable). Written and directed by Ritchie, and some kind of chip off the Lock Stock block, or so it seems. Jason Stratham plays a hotshot gambler with a price on his head because he’s humiliated a thin-skinned mob boss named Dorothy during a card game. Cast: Stratham, Ray Liotta, Derk Mak, Vincent Pastore.
Joss Whedon’s Serenity (Universal, 9.30) The feature-film directing debut of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator, and based on a TV show he did called Firefly (which got cancelled after 15 episodes). A favorably previewed (according to rumor), futuristic GenY attitude-in-space thing…small band of galactic outcasts 500 years in the future, a ruffian Han Solo-type guy known as Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), leading a crew of misfits, etc. You know the drill…I can feel this movie already, but who knows? It might work. Cast: Fillion, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Maher, Jewel Staite.
BEST OF JANUARY TO APRIL: Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s Inside Deep Throat (Universal, 2.11); Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker’s Gunner Palace (Palm Pictures, 3.4); Mike Binder’s The Upside of Anger (New Line, 3.11); Woody Allen’s Melinda and Melinda (Fox Searchlight, 3.18); Jonathan Nossiter’s Mondovino (Thinkfilm, 3.23); Gore Verbinski’s The Weather Man (Paramount, 4.1). Sydney Pollack’s The Interpreter (Universal, 4.22); Paul Haggis’s Crash (Lions Gate, 4.29). MAYBE’S: Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller’s Sin City (Dimension, 4.1); Steven Soderbergh, Michelangelo Antonioni and Wong Kar Wai’s Eros (Warner Independent, 4.8.05); Chan Wook Park’s Oldboy (opening 3.25) (11)
BEST OF MAY TO AUGUST: Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven (20th Century Fox, 5.6); Ron Howard’s Cinderella Man (Universal, 6.3.05); Catherine Hardwicke’s Lords of Dogtown (Columbia, 6.10); Cameron Crowe’s Elizabethtown (Paramount, 7.29); Stephen Gaghan’s Syriana (Warner Bros, 7.29); Tony Scott’s Domino (New Line, August); Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain (Warner Bros., mid to late ’05). MAYBE’S: Doug Liman’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith (20th Century Fox, 6.10); John Stockwell’s Into the Blue (MGM, 7.15); Liev Schreiber’s Everything Is Illuminated (Warner Independent, 8.12.05) (10)
BEST OF SEPTEMBER TO DECEMBER: Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly (Warner Independent, 9.16); Terry Zwigoff’s Art School Confidential (UA, mid-fall); Robert Towne’s Ask the Dust (Paramount Classics, mid to late fall); Curtis Hanson’s In Her Shoes (20th Century Fox, fall ’05); Steve Martin and Anand Ticker’s Shopgirl (Touchstone, fall ’05) ; Sam Mendes’ Jarhead (DreamWorks, 11.11); Terrence Malick’s The New World (New Line, 11.9); Steven Zallian’s All The King’s Men (Columbia, November-December); Lars von Trier’s Manderlay (no U.S. distributor); Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales (currently shooting); Harold Ramis’s The Ice Harvest (Focus Features, 11.4.05) . MAYBE’S: Oliver Assayas’ Clean (Palm Pictures, 9.05); Bennett Miller’s Capote (United Artists, fall); David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence (New Line, fall ’05) ; Atom Egoyan’s Where the Truth Lies (Thinkfilm, fall ’05); Terry Gilliam’s The Brothers Grimm (Miramax, 11.23); Guy Ritchie’s Revolver; Joss Wheedon’s Serenity (Universal); Fernando Meirelles’ The Constant Gardener; Karyn Kusama’s Aeon Flux (Paramount, late ’05); Fernando Meirelles’ The Constant Gardener (Focus Features, late ’05). (21)
The rain storms were over as of Tuesday morning, and it’s blue skies again…until the usual conditions take hold and L.A.’s milky-blah skies return and start in with their usual downer effect.
The Sunset Strip shot was taken on Sunday evening during a pizza run. The other was taken late Monday evening on my way home from a screening of Rebecca Miller’s The Ballad of Jack and Rose.
The supports on a guard rail mounted on a curvy road up in the wilds of Nichols Canyon gave way, half-revealing a sheer soggy drop into total nothingness.
With the Golden Globes happening this Sunday (1.16), an oddsmaker for Tom O’Neill’s GoldDerby.com named David Scott is asserting that Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator is a 6-to-5 favorite to win the Best Drama trophy. This implies, of course, that the Howard Hughes biopic is also slightly more favored to take the Best Picture Oscar than other contenders. I have two words for the east-coast contingent that seriously believes in the Marty/Aviator mythology — Miramax kool-aid. (Is that three words?) Truly, the delusion behind this prediction reminds me of Jonestown. Now, it may be that Scorsese will take the Best Director prize this Sunday (maybe)…but that’s because this once-towering filmmaker has been denied Oscar recognition for so many years and should have won the Best Director Oscar for Raging Bull 23 years ago, not because The Aviator is a shatteringly good film or anything along those lines…. please! It should be noted that O’Neill’s prognosticators haven’t totally gone over the waterfall. O’Neill, David Germain of the Associated Press, Scott Bowles of USA Today and Hollywood Reporter columnist Anne Thompson are predicting a Scorsese win for Best Director (4 to 5 odds) while Us Weekly‘s Thelma Adams, film writer and L.A. gadfly Pete Hammond, Entertainment Weekly‘s Dave Karger and Newsday‘s Gene Seymour are forecasting a win for Million Dollar Baby‘s Clint Eastwood (whose chances are said to be even).
Got another gig for a clever trust-fund journalist looking to build a rep. I need a 20-something man/woman to author a Hollywood Elsewhere column that almost totally rips off Defamer…same attitude, style, tone, brevity…only a bit different. And I need someone to run it — write it, grab and crop photos, do headlines, publish it from their home/office, etc. I have no shame about ripping off other sites and columns, as long as you don’t totally copy them. Get in touch and we’ll talk.
As expected, it’s happened — Michael Moore’s Fahrenhit 9/11 has won the ’05 People’s Choice Award for favorite movie of the year. “We live in a great country and we all love our country very much and I am so amazed that you did this…the people of America…that you voted for this film,” Moore said at the podium, not letting on that he’d been tipped a couple of days ago, probably because it’s a fairly common practice. Moore dedicated the award to the U.S troops fighting in Iraq, and said, “I’m honored and gratified.” Will this up the odds of F 9/11 getting a Best Picture nom from the Academy? Probably.
A flattering quote from Slate critic David Edelstein on behalf of Universal’s more-or-less dreadful White Noise ran in a full-page ad in last Friday’s Los Angeles Times. It says, “I screamed louder than I’ve ever screamed before”…which seems odd. Knowing the film’s “scary” moments to be on the cheap and hackneyed side, and knowing Edelstein to be fairly sharp and all, it seemed bizarre that he would have said this…unless, of course, he was being insincere. Then I found the original quote and discovered Edelstein more or less meant it. He called White Noise “an otherwise lousy horror movie,” and besides the screaming louder than he’s ever screamed, etc., he said, “[I] buried myself in Stephanie [Zacharek’s]’s lap, and literally wet my pants — by which I mean I spilled my Diet Coke all over them.”
Much of Southern California has been taking a shower for the last several days, and it won’t be toweling off until at least Tuesday or thereabouts. What this is is a kind of metaphorical cleansing, or perhaps even a metaphysical comment of some kind. It is, to me, almost the same thing as the raining frogs in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. L.A. will be, for a few days at least, a slightly less soiled and shallow place because of the rain. Tens of thousands are experiencing similar epiphanies and reviewing their lives as they stare out the window and lie in their beds at 1:30 ayem and listen to the downpour, and I’ll bet everyone will be sleeping better also. The day-to-day sounds of distant sirens and car alarms and overhead choppers are gone.
The story wasn’t about Paul Newman’s being unhurt after the engine of his race car caught fire during a test run at Daytona on Saturday,1.8 — the story is that a 79 year-old guy is driving race cars. I know people who are 39 or 29, even, who would choke at the thought of testing or pushing themselves, and will never know what it is to step outside their comfort zone and put it on the line. Winston Churchill once said of his experience in the Boer War that “there is nothing so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.” I’ll bet Newman was feeling a little bit of that after Saturday’s incident.
I’m shocked, shocked to read that Michael Moore has allegedly been tipped off in advance that Fahrenheit 9/11 has been named the People’s Choice Favorite Film of 2004, according to Gold Derby.com’s Tom O’Neill. Big deal — it’s not like it’s the Oscars or anything. O’Neill admitted in an e-mail announcing his exclusive about Moore’s early information that “even though People’s Choice Award winners usually pretend to be surprised when their names are announced as champs, the fact that CBS really tips them off early has always been a poorly kept secret in the media world and, strangely, has never become controversial.” So…?
Son of Enchilada
I guess √¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢05 isn√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t going to be such a bad year after all.
I asked readers to suggest upcoming film titles to complement Wednesday√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s piece about the year√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s most promising features (√¢‚Ç¨≈ìWhole √¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢05 Enchilada√¢‚Ç¨¬ù), and I was reminded of a few good ones. The overall list of probable good√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s to very good√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s is now up to 23, and the list of maybe√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s and wait-and-see√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s is up to 10, for a grand total of 33.
I√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve broken the whole list down into three seasonal sections in an article that follows this one.
I√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve added six films to the √¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢05 first-rate list (The Fountain, In Her Shoes, Lords of Dogtown, A Scanner Darkly, Shopgirl, Syriana) and seven to the second-tier.
Darren Aronofsky√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s The Fountain (Warner Bros., mid tolate √¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢05) A searching sci-fi thriller about a search for immortality via a mystical “tree of life” in Central America. Situation is explored in three different centuries, √¢‚Ç¨≈ìthe ultimate lesson being that death, as part of the process of rebirth, is to be embraced, not feared.√¢‚Ç¨¬ù (Those aren√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t my words.) Directed and written by Aronofsky. Cast : Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn, Sean Gullette, Sean Patrick Thomas, Donna Murphy.
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Curtis Hanson√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s In Her Shoes (20th Century Fox, fall √¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢05) Said to be a √¢‚Ç¨≈ìcomedy drama,√¢‚Ç¨¬ù directed by Hanson and written by Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich), but it sure sounds like a chick flick to me. (Hanson- level, I mean.) Two motherless sisters (Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette) with a history of conflict stop speaking to each other when the more carefree and irresponsible one seduces the other√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s boyfriend, but they eventually reconcile with the help of a grandmother Shirley Maclaine) they never knew they had. Cast: Diaz, Collette, Maclaine, Mark Fuerstein, Eric Balfour, Francine Beers.
Catherine Hardwicke√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s Lords of Dogtown (Columbia, 6.10) A big studio√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s token stab at street cred. Stacey Peralta wrote the script for this dramatization of his award-winning doc Dogtown and Z Boys, which told the story of the birth and growth of skateboarding, largely in southern California. Cast: Emiel Hirsch, Victor Rasuk, Heath Ledger, Nikki Reed, Rebecca de Mornay, Johnny Knoxville.
Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly (Warner Independent, 9.16) Another Waking Life-type animated thing from Richard Linklater, but this time with a futuristic sci-fi thriller plot. Based on a Philip K. Dick short story about an undercover cop (Keanu Reeves) who gets addicted to a split personality-inducing drug called Substance D. This leads to Reeve√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s good side sets up a sting operation with his superiors to catch his drug-dealer dark side. Cast : Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, Wynona Ryder.
Steve Martin and Anand Ticker√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s Shopgirl (Touchstone, fall √¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢05) Based on Martin’s best-selling “Shopgirl,” about a fifty-something guy (Martin) falling in love with 20-something Mirabelle (Claire Danes), and the various turns and difficulties of the relationship that follows. Eventually, of course, a younger suitor (Jason Schwartzman) winnows his way into the picture. Cast: Martin, Danes, Schwartzman, Sam Bottoms, Frances Conroy, Bridgette Wilson-Sampras.
Stephen Gaghan√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s Syriana (Warner Bros, 7.29) A first-person account of the CIA’s false confidence concerning the future of Middle East after the end of the Cold War, based on Robert Baer√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s book See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA’s War on Terrorism, with George Clooney as Baer. Screenplay by Gaghan. Cast: Clooney, Chris Cooper, Matt Damon, Michelle Monaghan, David Clennon, Gina Gershon.
And seven possible√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s, maybe√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s, wait-and-see√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s√¢‚Ç¨¬¶.
Oliver Assayas√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ Clean (Palm Pictures, 9.05) Woman struggling to survive after her boyfriend dies from drug overdose, eventually hooks up with his dad. Didn√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t hear much about this during Cannes √¢‚Ç¨Àú04. Cast: Maggie Cheung, Don McKellar, Nick Nolte, Beatrice Dalle.
Steven Soderbergh, Michelangelo Antonioni and Wong Kar Wai√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s Eros (Warner Independent, 4.8.05) Three-part anthology pic about love, lust, longing. Wong√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s is about a high-end prostitute having it off with her tailor, Soderbergh√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s is about ad exec Robert Downey exploring an erotic dream with psychiatrist Alan Arkin, and Antonioni√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s is about a m√É¬©nage-a-trois between a couple and a young woman on the coast of Tuscany. (Soderbergh stepped into project when pedro Almodovar dropped out.)
Liev Schreiber’s Everything Is Illuminated (Warner Independent, 8.12.05) I am struggling to suppress my negatives feelings about star Elijah Wood, whose moist-eyed Frodo performance in the Rings will live in infamy for decades. He plays a Jewish kid who goes to the Ukraine to find the woman who saved his granddad from the Nazis during WWII. √¢‚Ç¨≈ìNot your standard Holocaust tale,√¢‚Ç¨¬ù a reader informs, √¢‚Ç¨≈ìbut a complex story-within-a-story type deal, and I wonder if a first-time director like Liev Schreiber can pull it off.”
David Cronenberg√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s A History of Violence (New Line, fall √¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢05) Said to be a thriller, but you never know with Cronenberg. Viggo Mortensen is a small-town family guy dealing with something really bad and having to consequently save his family from peril, blah, blah. Cast Ed Harris, Maria Bello, William Hurt, Ashton Holmes.
Atom Egoyan’s Where the Truth Lies (Thinkfilm, fall √¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢05) Based on Rupert Holme’s novel about the breakup of a 50’s comedy team (sort of Martin and Lewis-y, I gather) after a girl is found dead in their hotel room. A young female journalist goes after the truth, even though both comedians were off the hook with alibis. Cast: Kevin Bacon, Colin Firth, Alison Lohman. (The only problem is that while I√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ll buy Alison Lohman as Nick Cage√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s pretend daughter in Matchstick Men, I can√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t buy her as a journalist — she looks and behaves too much like an actress. Her eyes are too dewy, too open to emotion. Female journalists I√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve known all have faces that say √¢‚Ç¨≈ìenough with the mushy stuff√¢‚Ç¨¬ù and √¢‚Ç¨≈ìlet√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s get down to it.√¢‚Ç¨¬ù)
Out of dark curiosity if nothing else, I was going to put Rob Reiner√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s Rumor Has It (Warner Bros., 4.15) down as a √¢‚Ç¨≈ìmaybe,√¢‚Ç¨¬ù but despite the intriguing cast and all (Jennifer Aniston, Mark Ruffalo, Shirley MacLaine, Kevin Costner) this project has a bad-vibe, damaged-goods feeling. This is due to the guillotining of one-time director Ted Griffin early in the shoot (an act aided and abetted by producer Steven Soderbergh, Griffin√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s former friend and supporter who turned against him or at least didn√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t protect him when push came to shove) over issues of slowness and alleged bickering between Griffin and the stars.
Griffin√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s replacement by Rob Reiner, who brought in his own writers to tweak the script and in so doing imposing what I expect will be a mainstream-meathead imprint upon Griffin’s original script, added insult to injury.
All Together Now
I think I√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ll start a Good Vibrations box at the bottom of the column with the following titles, and then start to put together a separate Oscar Balloon √¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢05 box as it all starts to coagulate. Which means, of course, that some titles will be added and some will be dropped, etc.
Like I said in Wednesday√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s piece, with a few exceptions I√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢m ignoring all the broad, big-budget, mass-appeal studio films on the assumption that they√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ll offend or disappoint in one way or another.
BEST OF JANUARY TO APRIL: Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s Inside Deep Throat (Universal, 2.11); Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker’s Gunner Palace (Palm Pictures, 3.4); Mike Binder’s The Upside of Anger (New Line, 3.11); Woody Allen’s Melinda and Melinda (Fox Searchlight, 3.18); Jonathan Nossiter’s Mondovino (Thinkfilm, 3.23); Gore Verbinski’s The Weather Man (Paramount, 4.1). Sydney Pollack’s The Interpreter (Universal, 4.22); Paul Haggis’s Crash (Lions Gate, 4.29). MAYBE√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢S: Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s Sin City (Dimension, 4.1); Steven Soderbergh, Michelangelo Antonioni and Wong Kar Wai√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s Eros (Warner Independent, 4.8.05). (10)
BEST OF MAY TO AUGUST: Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven (20th Century Fox, 5.6); Ron Howard’s Cinderella Man (Universal, 6.3.05); Catherine Hardwicke√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s Lords of Dogtown (Columbia, 6.10); Cameron Crowe’s Elizabethtown (Paramount, 7.29); Stephen Gaghan√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s Syriana (Warner Bros, 7.29); Tony Scott’s Domino (New Line, August); Darren Aronofsky√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s The Fountain (Warner Bros., mid to late √¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢05). MAYBE√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢S: Doug Liman’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith (20th Century Fox, 6.10); John Stockwell√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s Into the Blue (MGM, 7.15); Liev Schreiber’s Everything Is Illuminated (Warner Independent, 8.12.05) (10)
BEST OF SEPTEMBER TO DECEMBER: Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly (Warner Independent, 9.16); Terry Zwigoff’s Art School Confidential (UA, mid-fall); Robert Towne’s Ask the Dust (Paramount Classics, mid to late fall); Curtis Hanson√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s In Her Shoes (20th Century Fox, fall √¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢05); Steve Martin and Anand Ticker√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s Shopgirl (Touchstone, fall √¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢05) ; Sam Mendes’ Jarhead (DreamWorks, 11.11); Terrence Malick’s The New World (New Line, 11.9); Steven Zallian’s All The King’s Men (Columbia, November-December). MAYBE√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢S: Oliver Assayas√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ Clean (Palm Pictures, 9.05); Bennett Miller’s Capote (United Artists, fall); David Cronenberg√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s A History of Violence (New Line, fall √¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢05) ; Atom Egoyan’s Where the Truth Lies (Thinkfilm, fall √¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢05); Terry Gilliam’s The Brothers Grimm (Miramax, 11.23). (13)
Man Near London
I was looking yesterday at the VHS trailer for Ron Howard√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s Cinderella Man (Universal, 6.3) and agreeing with the general consensus that it looks solid — well-acted, well-organized — and enjoying the vague sepia-tone shadings in the color photography, when this letter from a London reader I√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve heard from before, Poly Giannaba, came through.
Now, she could be a studio √¢‚Ç¨≈ìplant√¢‚Ç¨¬ù (it happens) but it would be awfully tricky and rather elaborate of some Universal/Imagine guy to try and send along a rave from way over there. Plus a planted review would probably be more explicit that what Poly has provided in terms of plot and scene descriptions.
√¢‚Ç¨≈ìI just saw Cinderella Man in a test screening a couple of weeks ago, and in my opinion the online trailer doesn’t do it justice. The trailer looks a bit soft, and the film feels leaner and more confident, and is very involving.
√¢‚Ç¨≈ìIt’s hard to tell with these things but I think that all three actors (Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger, Paul Giamatti) will get Oscar nominations. It has gorgeous photography and almost a kind of documentary feel in places. The boxing action is exciting and brutal, but also emotionally relevant to the story.
√¢‚Ç¨≈ìThe film literally starts with a punch near the end of the 1920s, when Jim Braddock’s (Crowe) star is ascending. And so the scene is set, both in the ring and in his domestic life. Things are looking very good and then there is a very nice, simple and effective transition to a few years later, when things are totally different.√¢‚Ç¨¬ù
Poly doesn√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t spill, but any Braddock website will tell you he lost a fifteen-round decision to Tommy Loughran in 1929, and that the combination of this and the 1929 stock market crash made things tough for Braddock and his family over the next two or three years.
√¢‚Ç¨≈ìThat first scene, when we first see the change of fortune, is a different kind of punch, all the more upsetting because there is a sense of normality about it. The whole film is like that — neither the direction nor the acting tries to emphasize that what we√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢re seeing is extraordinary or appalling. Things speak for themselves.
√¢‚Ç¨≈ìThe first part of the film is mostly about Braddock√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s day-to-day struggle and keeping his head above water. My stomach felt cold, like lead — it really hits you. That first part might need some trimming — not to lose any one scene but to make it all play tighter.
√¢‚Ç¨≈ìWhen Braddock starts to win, it’s still about the day-to-day struggle. At no point does he want to win in order to celebrate himself. It’s still about keeping the family together and the children fed and warm. It’s great seeing a film hero who isn’t self involved.
√¢‚Ç¨≈ìThen the interest shifts a bit, and you want to know why Braddock keeps fighting when the consequences are potentially devastating. Max Baer, his final opponent, had killed two men in the ring. When Braddock articulates the reasons for wanting to fight, it’s a great moment, both simple and powerful.
√¢‚Ç¨≈ìThe final fight is long and brutal. I heard some people say that it’s too long but I didn’t think so. That’s the whole point — the beating isn’t over quickly and you have to feel it. The result of the fight is almost irrelevant, but it’s not flashy and it feels very good. Ron Howard doesn’t overstay the moment and the final sequence of brief scenes, each one freezing to create a photograph, is aesthetically fantastic and genuinely sweet.
√¢‚Ç¨≈ìThe version we saw was 2 hours and 20 minutes, with no credits. It seemed to me like 90 minutes.
√¢‚Ç¨≈ìThe boxing scenes are thrilling — directed, played and edited to perfection. I can’t remember boxing in any other film being both so physical and so integral to the emotional life of what it’s about.
√¢‚Ç¨≈ìThe film has a great sense of time and place, which has, in part, something to do with the color. Thinking back, I remember it as black and white.
√¢‚Ç¨≈ìCrowe plays Braddock like the everyday man, very quiet but direct. Very few actors can inhabit characters with such inner conviction. I don√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t always like Zellweger, but she√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s very earthy here, doesn’t try too hard and looks great as a brunette.
√¢‚Ç¨≈ìIt’s great to see Giamatti with a really good role in a mainstream film. The part is big, he doesn’t play a loser and his relationship with Braddock is at least as vital as Zellweger’s. He has great chemistry with Crowe. His explosiveness works great with Crowe’s stillness — kind of a yin-yang thing.
√¢‚Ç¨≈ìThe test screening was at Kingston upon Thames, a little town outside London, on 12.16.
“The company that organized it was First Movies (www.firstmovies.com). I was surprised that they had a test screening in the U.K. but I wasn’t going to complain.
√¢‚Ç¨≈ìThe cinema was full, about 300 people. Very diverse crowd. The fact that several rows were filled with teenagers didn’t make me happy before the film started, as I didn’t think they would sit still for the whole film. I was wrong — they seemed as involved as everyone else.
√¢‚Ç¨≈ìI wasn’t part of the discussion group but all the people around me seemed to enjoy the film immensely. All the boxes I saw checked were √¢‚Ç¨Àúvery good√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ and √¢‚Ç¨Àúexcellent.√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ I can√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t wait to see it again.√¢‚Ç¨¬ù
I like the name Poly, which alludes in a left-field way to “poly-sci.”
There are two Truman Capote movies coming — one from Warner Independent called Every Word is True that√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s just starting to shoot, and another from United Artists called Capote that√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ll be out sometime in the fall.
The big draw of Bennett Miller√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s Capote is Phillip Seymour Hoffman. You just know that performance will cook. Miller√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s last film was the totally delightful Speed Levitch doc The Cruise. Capote√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s script, based on Gerald Clarke√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s √¢‚Ç¨≈ìCapote,√¢‚Ç¨¬ù was written by actor Dan Futterman, who√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s a friend of Miller√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s from high school.
Every Word is True, which will have to race to be in theatres by year√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s end, is being directed by Douglas McGrath, whose script is based upon George Plimpton√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s bio √¢‚Ç¨≈ìTruman Capote.√¢‚Ç¨¬ù McGrath√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s best-known credit is his co-authoring of Woody Allen√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s Bullets Over Broadway. Toby Jones plays Capote, with support from Alan Cummings, Anjelica Huston and Sandra Bullock.
Capote has been dead since 1984. Clarke and Plimpton√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s books came out in √¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢88 and √¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢97-√¢‚Ç¨Àú98. Why is there a horse race between two filmed biopics now? Why do these same-subject duels always happen?
Or why didn√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t the warring Capote teams simply merge assets? Jean Francois Allaire, who knows from good writing (as we√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve corresponded about this and that screenplay for years), has read McGrath√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s and Futterman√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s scripts, and has this to say:
√¢‚Ç¨≈ìCapote has a really good cast but the screenplay isn’t great. Every Word is True√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s screenplay is far superior. It’s a shame they couldn’t combine the projects together, as in taking Capote√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s A-List cast and folding it into Every Word is True.√¢‚Ç¨¬ù
One of Netflix critic James Rocchi√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s slams against Million Dollar Baby is that it leans on Morgan Freeman√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s narration, which he says is usually a sign of weakness. In response to this, a guy who forgot to put his name at the bottom of his e-mail wrote me and said√¢‚Ç¨¬¶.
√¢‚Ç¨≈ìThe only thing more tired than narration is movie critics complaining about narration. It’s a shame Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard, Double Indemnity ), Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve), Terrence Malick (Badlands), Francis Ford Coppola (Apocalypse Now) and Alexander Payne (Election) didn’t trust their audiences. They might’ve made decent movies.√¢‚Ç¨¬ù
Bum Tsunami Pics
I just got back in this evening and everyone has written to tell me the tsunami pics I ran earlier today weren’t taken during the recent Asian tsunami, but happened some two years ago. Checking with www.snopes.com before putting them up would have been easy enough. And a decent money shot of the tsunami still hasn’t surfaced.