I haven’t read anything or spoken to anyone about Laurent Cantet’s Vers le sud, which will show at the Toronto Film Festival. But the following description of it (provided by TIFF director Piers Handling) in Peter Howell’s insider-forecast piece (“The Buzz Stops Here””) in the 9.3 Toronto Star strikes me as odd. “I loved Cantet’s last film, Time-Out,” Handling explains, “and this take on three middle-aged (North American) women in Haiti looking for sex and companionship from the islanders is bound to be smart, intelligent and well-acted.” Hold on…middle-aged North American women looking for sex in with Haitian islanders?
Oh, yeah…Howell contacted me for the same piece, and here’s what I said about three eagerly awaited Toronto Film Festival selections (among many others): (1) Elizabethtown, directed and written by Cameron Crowe: “I’ve read the script so I know what it more or less is, and unless Crowe is suffering from a drug-dependency problem or has somehow lost his ability to direct movies as skilfully as he has before, it’s simply going to be one the festival’s best.’ (2) Bubble, directed by Steven Soderbergh: “Sooner or later Soderbergh is going to pull himself out of his slump, and he’s always better when he’s working small and quirky so maybe this’ll do it for the poor guy. If he flubs it again, the next film will be the Che movie, I guess, with Benicio del Toro.” (3) Romance and Cigarettes, directed by John Turturro: “Anything that risks ridicule gets my vote, and any time you have actors like James Gandolfini, Kate Winslet, Steve Buscemi et al singing or lip-synching or whatever, you’re definitely risking or at least flirting with ridicule.”
Here’s what Glenn Sumi of Now, the Toronto weekly, is saying about Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain: “This eagerly anticipated film, based on Anne Proulx’s short story, tracks the decades-long love affair between two cowboys. Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) meet and eventually merge while herding sheep on a mountain, and though both get married and live in different states, they occasionally hook up to go ‘fishing,’ although that’s not enough for Jack, the more needy of the two. After all the thinly veiled homo-eroticism in westerns, there’s something cathartic about seeing men go homo on the range, and Ledger and Gyllenhaal give it their best, physically and emotionally. The theme of unfulfilled love never misses, and it’s handled with taste and restraint. But like all of Lee’s films, the pace occasionally lags and the pic could easily be 15 minutes shorter.”
Limits of Charm
It’s not “nice” to have a Keira Knightley problem. Speaking against a beautiful spirited young woman never wins you any favors. It is seen as impolite and ungentlemanly, and perhaps even uncouth. But I can’t suppress it any longer.
She’s 20 years old and beautiful and a near-star…her face on the one-sheets, her name in the gossip columns. And she keeps making film after film. Her next outing is Domino (New Line, 10.14), a Tony Scott urban actioner, and then comes Pride and Prejudice (Focus Features, 11.18) and then, early next July, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.
And I swear to God she doesn’t have it. I don’t mean sex appeal or vivaciousness or any of that natural-aura stuff. I mean she doesn’t have “it.” And it’s not for lack of experience. She’s been acting since she was five or six, or for the last 14 or 15 years.
Everything she’s in, in every role she played except one, I’ve never believed her. Certainly not for the last couple of years, since she became a big name. I went with her performance in Bend It Like Beckham (which seemed natural and unforced), but everything since has felt arch, postured, projected.
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There’s an unfussed-with, straight-from-the-heart vibe you can sense when an actor or actress is in the zone, and Knightley doesn’t seem to know the first thing about this.
It was her performance in The Jacket that woke me. There was a scene in which her character got extremely angry and defensive when Adrien Brody tried to explain his relationship to her, and I remember being pulled out of the film by Knightley’s overplaying…the way her eyes glared and went nutso and she opened her mouth and trembled with what was supposed to be rage or fear.
I saw her play Julie Christie’s Lara role in a 2002 TV miniseries of Dr. Zhivago …about ten or fifteen minutes worth, I should say…and found it draining. Christie put soul and sensuality and a certain disciplined cultivation into her performance in David Lean’s 1965 version. Knightley’s performance wasn’t in the same galaxy.
As Guinevere in King Arthur
She’s felt the same way to me in Love Actually (I didn’t feel a hint of genuine emotion from her in that abominable film) and King Arthur (nothing but nothing happened between her and Clive Owen) and Pirates of the Caribbean, etc.
Now it’s gotten to the point of my going “uh, oh” when I hear she’s in something.
I’ve seen Knightley in Pride and Prejudice (Focus Features, 11.18) and I’ve told a publicist I won’t get into it until it plays at the Toronto Film Festival. But I think at this point she needs to be drop-dead exceptional in Domino (New Line, 10.14).
She’s got to be good enough in it so people like me don’t just say, “Oh, she’s better in this one.” She’s got to be good enough so that she doesn’t get in the way of whatever the movie is trying to do. She’s got to just be and then flow with it.
People are delighted with Knightley…that young, beautiful, Audrey Hepburn-ish quality, and the way she seems to add fizz to any movie she’s in. (“Seems” being a relative term.) And I know all the guys crave her and dream about her. Last year London’s Tatler called her the most desirable single woman in the England.
But there’s nothing about her that sticks or sinks in. Whatever it is that Rachel McAdams possesses and dispenses, Knightley has not.
All she has is her youth, her sexual spirited-ness (that playful, slightly taunting thing she does with her eyes whenever a male costar is sniffing around), and her good looks…but there’s even something a tad off in that department.
I do know that when Knightley smiles something odd happens. I don’t know if “smile” is really the right word. Her eyes compress into feral little slits and little bags bunch up above and below, and it looks a bit scary. And then her mouth opens and her almost-fearsome teeth are exposed (she could play a vampire at a drop of a hat) and there’s a slight glint of madness in all of this as her head tilts back and she lets go with a throaty “hah-hah-hah!”
Granted, a certain exuberant joie de vivre gushes out, but just as some people are said to have intoxicating smiles, can’t the opposite be true as well?
I was at a party last January for Inside Deep Throat at the Sundance Film Festival, and I was talking to Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly, and Knightley — her hair cropped like it is in Domino — was there. She and Kelly had been together on the Domino set (he wrote the excellent script) and they had a brief chat at the party, and when they finished Kelly told me Knightley made him weak in the knees in a very special way.
That’s probably what most guys want from actresses, to feel aroused and desiring. There’s nothing wrong with that, and we might as well let it go at that.
As Robert Mitchum’s character said in Out of the Past, “I can let it all go.”
With Adrien Brody on the set of The Jacket
I never liked John Landis’ The Blues Brothers (1980). I’ve always found it obnoxious, egoistic, forced, unfunny. I had always heard it was a big cocaine movie, and I always believed that story because the film has a cranked-up quality.
I was a pretty big fan of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd’s before it came out. I remember going to see them perform a Jake and Elwood blues concert at Carnegie Hall in ’80 or thereabouts, and having a pretty good time. But I cooled down on these guys big-time after The Blues Brothers.
I remember having a breakfast interview with Landis at a New York hotel with a Universal publicist sharing the table. It was 1982 and we were talking about An American Werewolf in London, which I liked. And I remember Landis wolfing down his soft-boiled eggs and toast and home fries and slurping his coffee as I poked around with my chickenshit questions (i.e., ones that didn’t try to challenge or probe as much as kiss ass).
Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi in late ’70s Blues Brothers mode.
And then, out of nowhere, an unfortunate but honest question came out. I asked Landis about the discrepancy between the “enormity” of The Blues Brothers — the massive over-whacked scale of the thing, like those ridiculous car chases through Chicago with fifty or six cop cars after Jake and Ellwood’s — and the “humble origins” of the Chicago blues.
“That movie was not about the humble origins of the Chicago blues,” Landis retorted. “It was a musical comedy in the style and attitude of ‘Saturday Night Live’…”
But it was about Chicago blues music, I said, and the music came from black guys who’d moved up from the south and lived on the South Side, taking from the ache and the rough-and-tumble of life and turning it into blues numbers, and the movie was funny and all” — I was lying when I said this — “but it just didn’t seem…”
“It wasn’t a documentary!” Landis repeated. He was getting pissed, and the Universal guy was looking concerned and gesturing with his hand, telling me to let it go. So I turned the subject back to American Werewolf and the mood was cool again.
In any case, I was a bit startled to read some very kind and admiring comments about the new Blues Brothers DVD the other day from Dave Kehr, the New York Times DVD guy.
The Blues Brothers “may have arrived near the end of one tradition” — i.e., the old-school movie musical — “but it helped to found another: the ‘Saturday Night Live’ spin-off.
“Giving a feature-length depth and interest to characters conceived for (and through) sketch comedy is no easy proposition, as the many disastrous SNL vehicles over the years have copiously demonstrated.
“But Jake and Elwood have a staying power unusual for the form, perhaps because Mr. Aykroyd (who wrote the script with Mr. Landis) draws so affectionately and authoritatively on the blues tradition that stands behind them.”
This is precisely what the film doesn’t do. It gives, as Kehr notes, “slam-bang [musical] production numbers” to James Brown, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin, but there’s never a feeling that the film is really “with” them.
The Blues Brothers was a jape, a flamboyant showboat and a kind of musical put-on. It was Landis, Belushi and Aykroyd leading a splashy Hollywood parade that was mainly about money and enormity and drugs and bloat.
I asked a tongue-in-cheek question in Wednesday’s column: “If Hollywood was run like the mythological mafia and you, the reader, were the boss of all the families with absolute control, who in the Hollywood filmmaking game would you decide to whack for the good of the industry?”
And here’s what came in…a torrent. I think it’s safe to say there’s a lot of anger out there. It’s also apparent that the most famously loathed Hollywood figures (Michael Bay, George Lucas, Brett Ratner, Jan de Bont, Cuba Gooding, et. al.) of recent years are still tops of the pops.
Here and there I’ve inserted in a Wells exception at the end of whatever statement I think is unfair or incorrect.
“Oh good God, where do you begin with this list? So many awful, worthless, snot-nosed filmmakers and actors, so little time. But here are a few….
“Martin Lawrence. Crimes: Every single starring movie this big zit has ever appeared in should be stomped out. To call Lawrence an actor or a comedian is an offense to anyone who ever took the profession seriously. Without question the single unfunniest person to ever sully a movie screen.
“Adam Sandler — Crimes: Big Daddy, Billy Madison, Little Nicky, Mr. Deeds, helping give Rob Schneider work, etc, etc, etc. Nowhere near as awful as Lawrence, and PT Anderson managed to make Punch Drunk Love work nicely, but I’d sacrifice that swell little movie if every other lazy piece of crap Sandler has made, or nursed along, would disappear with it.
“Rob Schneider — So obvious it needs no explanation.
“Rob Reiner — Crimes: Everything he directed after A Few Good Men. Reiner is a tragedy — a director who started out very impressively (This is Spinal Tap, Misery) and seemed infallible until he flipped over and decided to suck at everything.
“Rob Cohen — Crimes: direction of Dragonheart, The Fast and Furious, XXX, Stealth. Whacking not necessary. Will probably commit suicide in wake of Stealth. It’s a bad time to be named Rob.
[Wells exception: Rob Cohen has his issues, as we all do, but The Fast and the Furious is a great B movie in the Sam Arkoff tradition, and, I think, his best film ever.]
“Michael Bay — Too easy! Let him live so we can continue to revel in telling him how much he sucks.
“George Lucas — WAY too easy!
“Chris Columbus — Crimes: Home Alone 2, his Harry Potter movies, Bicentennial Man, etc.
“Cuba Gooding, Jr. — Crimes: Snow Dogs, Chill Factor, Rat Race, Instinct…worst post-Oscar career ever. Two final words: Boat Trip. Probably begging Jamie Foxx for a job as we speak.” — Erik Ainsworth
“I think a lot of the people who’d be whacked would be the backroom players, by which I mean the ones who seem to inhibit creative people by trying to make the movies more of a product and business and less of an art form.
“It goes from the ridiculous (Jon Peters and his quest to make Batman more merchandisable than God, Tom Rothman and his hiring Brett Ratner to direct X3 as a big FU to Bryan Singer) to the not-so-ridiculous (Walter Parkes for emasculating Cameron Crowe’s Untitled, every development exec who has given Terry Gilliam and Martin Scorsese hell for anything, etc.)…but either way these guys all need to go on a ride to the New Jersey Meadowlands.
“I think, and not to sound like a geek, that the above phenomenon happens most with geeky movies, so things like The Watchmen (which I’ve never read, but the idea of Paul Greengrass doing a comic book/superhero movie gets me jazzed), Gilliam’s Good Omens, Quixote, etc., tend to get scrapped because of this focus on merchandising and tie-ins and all of the stuff that has nothing to do with filmmaking, but everything to do with product.
“Not to say this isn’t a business — it is, and companies are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in making movies, and need to show returns to keep making movies — but when it’s entirely about product, the real reason why you’re in the movie-making business kind of flies out the window…I don’t know if there’s a slump or not, but as someone said, the easiest way to bring crowds into the movie theatres is just to make better movies. People who don’t get that don’t deserve to work in Hollywood.
“And the senior executive at Warner Bros. who made the call to hire Chris Columbus to direct the first two Harry Potter films…unless this person was also behind hiring of Alfonso Cuaron….whack!
“I’m torn on the Weinsteins, because they did screw with Scorsese on Gangs of New York, Gilliam on The Brothers Grimm, and they spiked Spike Lee’s version of Rent. (Which led to Chris Columbus directing it!) But they’ve also being pushing the envelope for 20 years trying to get films that no one else makes made. For that, I’d spare them.” – Sridhar Prasad.
“Is whacking the way to go? Are we past the point of reprogramming? Locking up Michael Bay, McG, etc. in your prison and then forcing them to watch good movies 16 hours a day, until they can’t comprehend the shit they made before? It might be kinda fun to see how long it would take to break them.” — James Watson, Tallahassee, FL.
“At the very top of my hit list would be Tom Cruise. His recent actions and public behavior sets a bad example for the organization as a whole. He needs to be reprimanded and made an example of in the most obvious way possible.
“Taking out Cruise would be a very Fredo-esque hit, and one that could set in motion the downfall of the family if not handled properly. Regardless, I can’t think of a stronger way to send a message to any who would follow in his footsteps. Though he is at the top of the list, he is by no means to be the first to be dealt with, rather the last. It makes the job that much more poignant.
“The second one to be iced would be Brett Ratner. Making horribly bad big-budget cinema is okay, but a minimum standard must be set. Here is that bar.
“Rounding out the list to make a solid three would be Ben Affleck. I like Ben, so he wouldn’t actually be a full-on hit. Just a warning, broken legs or a trashed mansion….something like that. You got one more chance kid, better make it work.
“So there you have it, in this order: Affleck (a warning), Rattner (a message) and Cruise (an example).” — Gabriel Groves
“Okay, first off, this wouldn’t be a one-shot deal. This would be about sending a message. Those who survived would have to live in fear of me. So here goes…
“Steven Spielberg. I worship this guy at the altar, but if he were to get clipped, imagine the fear this would instill in Michael Bay and Rob Cohen, wondering what in God’s name might happen to them, etc. They wouldn’t be able to sleep.
“Mark Wahlberg. His last bit of Boogie Nights goodwill went away with `I got the rock now.’
“Larry or Andy Wachowski. I’d make Keanu pick which one survives, Sophie’s-Choice style. Somebody has to pay for the total Matrix collapse of ’03, and you can only blame Joel Silver to a certain extent.
“And finally, ironically, compassionately…Francis Ford Coppola. To put the poor man out of his misery.” — John Sheridan
“For the good of Hollywood and the moviegoing public, I propose that first in line to be whacked (metaphorically, of course) should be either John Carpenter or John Landis. Preferably both.
“Don’t get me wrong, they’ve both contributed just fine in the past. Halloween, The Thing, The Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London..but that was then, this is now. The creative well’s dried up, they’re going through the motions and when a studio somehow forgets what dross Ghosts Of Mars or Beverly Hills Cop III really were, millions of dollars get wasted on their next cinematic atrocity. Money that could have been spent on up-and-coming talent.
“They’re like pet dogs. Years ago, they were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, full of energy and good fun to be with. Now you’ve got to spend your time around their embarrassingly insipid shit. It’s better for you…better for the dogs…that they get put down.” — Phil Guest, Bournemouth, UK.
Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone in The Godfather.
“Michael Bay. Car chase. Slow-motion shooting. Then blow him up. Let him sleep with the birds.” — Chris Andrien
“Hit #1: Brett Ratner and fast, before he can do any more damage to X3.
“Hit #2: Everyone at Dark Castle Entertainment except Robert Zemeckis, although I still might kneecap him for producing Gothika.
“Hit #3: George Lucas, for perverting everything good about Star Wars for more money than anyone could ever spend in a lifetime.
“Hit #4: Uwe Boll, who somehow got $60 million for something called Dungeon Siege, and without the help of anyone at Dark Castle. It’s insulting to guys in angora sweaters everywhere to call this guy our generation’s Ed Wood.
“Hit #5: Jan De Bont, and here’s why: Speed 2, The Haunting, Tomb Raider 2 and The Haunting. Men of good conscience need to do whatever’s necessary to keep that man from getting behind a camera again, and he’s already prepping a movie about a giant Megalodon shark. Put Luca Brasi on this one.” — Man with No Name
“If I were the Hollywood Don, I would just start killing all the big names who’ve failed in egregious ways to live up to the promise of their earlier careers….in order to scare all the young guys. The following filmmakers would need to die:
“1. Ben Stiller. The man has to go for the sake of his comedies. He’s been making the same movie with the same character for too many years.
“2. Steven Spielberg or George Lucas. Major complacency from two guys that have defined the whole blockbuster system is too much. If I’m the big boss, they get put in a room together and whoever walks out still has a job.
“3. Oh, and while I’m at it? No rappers in movies. The few good actor rappers, like Mos Def, will just have to be cut for the general good…sorry.
“4. Same thing as #3 for pop stars.
“5. Same thing as #2 and #3 for models and any cast member of SNL. Stick to short skits and assume that your brilliant idea won’t translate into a 100-minute feature film.
“6. Quentin Tarantino. His movies are not good enough to come out once every five years or whatever.
“7. Wes Craven. Red Eye shows he still has it, but someone must take the blame for the rush of crappy horror films, especially the recent onslaught of PG-13 shitbombs. I’d blame him since Scream really got the ball rolling. I think the money it made convinced too many smaller studios to come out with similar splatter flicks and forced the big companies to cash in with all the horror fluff we see today.
“8. No more sports movies or movies based on extreme sports. Miracle and The Rookie were decent, but you also have ones like Torque , The Bad News Bears, Motorcross, The Fast and the Furious, etc. etc.
“9. Tim Burton. Too many movies nowadays think quirky characters or inventive set design equals good.
“10. Eddie Murphy. I’d make him an example of talented people who must stay in the genre that made them famous. His death would serve as a warning to Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, and others.
“The following who would get a sound beating and be threatened with worse:
“1. Robert DeNiro. He had a free pass from me until about five years ago. I’ll let Meet the Parents/Focker thing go, but him being in every other “thriller” that comes out has to stop. Have your career go out with a bang.
“2. Ben Affleck. I’m convinced he can act, so perhaps scaring him to death will inspire some better performances and/or script selections.
“3. Brad Pitt. Same thing as Affleck. More films like Fight Club and 12 Monkeys and less Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Troy, etc….or else!
4. Anyone thinking of a sequel or making a movie that may require a sequel. All must be approved.” — Jason Tanner
“To do any good with an epidemic as large as the creative-deprivation tank known as Hollywood, you’d need something larger than Corleone ordering a hit — something along the lines of Stalin ordering a purge is what’s needed. The film business is one asylum that needs to be run by the inmates. To `what do you call 500 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?’ I would add bean-counters and development executives.” — David Ludwig
“If you were looking for a power play you might seriously have to consider a big player like George Lucas. Put a stop to the man who felt that CGI was more important than story. The film industry might just be the better for it.
“Angelina Jolie. All of the Hollywood wives would rejoice. She won’t be done until somebody stops her.
“Michael Bay. Enough is enough.” — James Kent
“You don’t have to whack Tim Burton and Kenneth Branagh, but you might want to break their thumbs for squandering real ability on masturbatory, self-indulgent junk. I would do a quick knee-capping on George Lucas” — Griff Griffis
“Don’t take this personally, but as the Don I would whack all the critics and sites that spend an inordinate amount of time dissecting and criticizing every movie several months before it comes out.
“I’m speaking specifically of sites like Ain’t It Cool News. Much like Fox News has the effect of feeding and reinforcing the viewpoints of the converted that follow it, AICN uses its clout to try to mold films into the vision of the guys that run the site. This predigesting is another thing contributing to the demise of movies.
“I’ve read good reviews on AICN, but most of the time, AICN’s pieces start something like, `I truly hope this movie is good, but the signing of so-and-so as director/star etc. really has me worried.’ From that point on, the movie doesn’t have a chance.
“Or, alternatively, ‘The news out of the latest Spielberg/Lucas/Jackson flick has my geek heart aflutter.’ The result of these posts is that, no matter how big a piece of shit the movie eventually turns out to be, Knowles and his crew will support it with their last breaths.
The widely despised McG, captured, one presumes, on the set of one of the Charlie’s Angels films.
“This stuff creates a bizarre pack mentality and buzz which pigeonholes a movie long before it has a chance to stand or fall on its own merits. I single out AICN because it’s the site I’m most familiar with, but they’re not the only offenders. It’s a shame that some movies can barely get a fair shake any more, simply because they had the misfortune of using a non-genre director, while others get accolades simply because some faded fanboy god is in the director’s chair.
“Luca, Luca…my very good friend.” — Rich Swank, Orlando.
“Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer — kings of the big, dumb, stupid movies that have ripped the heart out of filmmaking. Soul-less, plot-less, script-less, their movies are all about blowing things up, and VERY loud soundtracks. They’re obscenities. Tie them to cement shoes, and dump ’em both in the Pacific. The film world will be lots better off without ’em. “– Lewis Beale
“If I were going to execute people, I’d start with Keanu Reeves. His movies qualify as crimes against humanity. In fact, just about everyone associated with Point Break would get at least a near fatal beating. Also, McG’s body would mysteriously turn up at the bottom of a mine shaft.
[Wells exception: Keanu has been pretty good in more than a few films. He was perfect in The Matrix and in the Bill and Ted movies and in River’s Edge. And what’s so terrible about Point Break?]
“I’d give the horse in the bed treatment to Tom Hanks to warn him to never make another movie like The Terminal again; in fact, never do any kind of movie that requires an accent again. I’d also take a hammer to Spielberg’s hands until he recut War of the Worlds so that the son dies. ” — Brad Sims
“The #1 person on my hit list would have to be Joel Schumacher. Next would be George Lucas. Before the most recent Star Wars trilogy I would have simply had my goons dangle him out of a window until he agreed to hire a writer to redo the crap Lucas calls dialogue just so I wouldn’t have to stick my fingers in my ears and hum loudly in the theater during the love scenes.
“I’m not a big Star Wars fan and haven’t been since I turned 15 or 16 but most of my friends are and they don’t appreciate that loud humming let alone the sound of me shifting uncomfortably in my seat after/during every bad line.” — Jon Scott
“If I were the absolute Don Corleone of Hollywood, these are people who would need to go…
“Peter Jackson and New Line, and Mr. and Mrs. Wachowski. You must pay for your sins, and those sins include forcing people to pay to see more than one movie to get closure. No matter how you dress it up, you still have to tell a story.
“Anyone who is so unoriginal that they have to produce remakes of old movies that don’t need to be remade and shouldn’t be remade, especially by decent filmmakers trying to cash a check.
“Anyone making a film for the express purpose of depressing you into winning an Oscar because their film is important. Hello, Mr. Minghella? This is your mountain. Sure is cold now, isn’t it?
“Actors so determined not to be typecast that they will sign on to any piece of crap just to break the mold, and refusing to listen to that little voice in their head that says that it just isn’t right. With that goes the managers and agents and entourage feeding these actors the ego boosting b.s. at the expense of all of us.
“Filmmakers not named Wes Anderson playing madlibs cinema. Anderson perfected the genre with The Royal Tenenbaums, but now you have so many people trying to do it. Garden State had the same problems (Portman in a helmet, Gulf War cards, etc.? )” — Evan Boucher.
“I saw Curtis Hanson’s In Her Shoes at an early press screening a few weeks ago, and your source is right on the money. It’s a terrific film that is destined to go over very well with audiences, if Fox can bring them in.
“Another critic said, ‘Women will love it because of the relationship between the sisters and guys will love it because Cameron spends a lot of her time in her underwear or in a skimpy bikini.’ But it’s more than that. It’s witty, credible and exceptionally well-played by everyone, including MacLaine, who comes into the picture halfway through and becomes kind of the touchstone for the second half of the story.
Cameron Diaz as she appears in Curtin Hanson’s In Her Shoes (20th Century Fox, 10.7)
“I also appreciated how the screenplay doesn’t throw in a last-minute tragedy to get the tears flowing. The tensions and the happier moments between the sisters felt genuine because Diaz and Collette get ample time to really establish the personalities of these women.
“Collette is an overachieving lawyer who thrives in the workplace and doesn’t really know how to function outside of it. She operates almost entirely on brain power, but she doesn’t have much time for compassion or even relaxation. Diaz plays a troubled, dyslexic cutie with unrealistic expectations from life.
“In one of the film’s most painful scenes, she skips out on a job interview her sister set up for her to zoom up to New York for an audition to be an MTV host. She’s bubbly enough, but she can’t follow the teleprompter.
“Ashamed of her lack of education, she forces herself to play the ditzy good-time gal who can always get free drinks, even though she’s becoming aware of the fact she can’t get away with that forever.
“Collette tells her something that’s cruel but true, along the lines of `young, promiscuous women are considered fun, but middle-aged promiscuous women are just pathetic.’ (I cringed, because I’ve actually said that same thing to someone I know who was on a similar course.)
“MacLaine’s character is outwardly strong, but a bit lonely, the kind of person who takes care of everyone else so well in order to avoid considering her own needs. Her scenes with Diaz (who initially sees MacLaine as someone she can sponge off of, but quickly figures out that’s not going to be the case) are just terrific.
“I give a lot of credit to Hanson, who took what could have been chick-flick soap opera and turned it into a movie that’s going to connect with a whole lot of people, like As Good As It Gets, which it often reminded me of.
“If I can squeeze it into my schedule, I would happily see it again in Toronto. One thing to note: The print we saw (about 90 % complete) ran about 125 minutes and the Toronto Film Festival page lists it as being 130 minutes, so unless they beefed it up at the last minute it’s not quite as long as you were told.” — James Sanford
“It’s good you’re going to grab Truman Capote’s ‘In Cold Blood’ for another read. It’s been one of those for me that, about once a year, it’ll be a rainy Sunday or something, nothing else to do, and I’ll say, ‘Think I’ll read ‘In Cold Blood’ again,” and then spend the better part of the day with it.
“I know there’d been a lot of random murder-robberies before the Clutter killings, but this one, and what Capote did with it, I think ended a lot of our innocence. I went to college in Kansas and saw the movie in Wichita when it hit, about a decade or so after the murders, surrounded by those infinite plains and very interested Kansans.
“I had a similar, more pointed experience a few years later in Wichita Falls, Texas, viewing the premiere of The Last Picture Show, which was shot in black-and-white the year before in the area, surrounded then by local extras in the film, the small group of movie aficionados in the town, and more of those infinite plains.) — Joe Hanrahan.
“I think Keira Knightley is easily the most over-rated actress that my country has ever produced. Every film she’s in she always has her mouth slightly open, giving the impression that she’s a zombie. (She has the acting talents of one) I saw her in that Dr. Zhivago drama, and she looked like a lost child in it, drawing me out of the story. (I haven’t seen the David Lean version).
“You are spot on saying that she hasn’t got ‘it’ like, say, Natalie Portman. I realize she’s only 20, but at the moment she has a lot of catching up to do to get anywhere near our best actress working at the moment, Kate Winslet.” — Ben Colegate, London, England.
Keira Knightley and Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean.
“Oh my God, it is so refreshing to see your comments about Keira Knightley! I’ve been wondering what is wrong with me, because in every film I’ve seen her in (except maybe Bend it Like Beckham) I’ve failed to see what the hype is all about.
“She definitely does not have ‘it.’ I don’t think she’s a good actress at all, and, in fact, her looks bug me to no end as well. It’s that pouty mouth, I guess, it has one expression…pouty. She is actually the main reason I have no desire to see Pride and Prejudice, and at this point I’m real ‘iffy’ on whether or not to see Domino. I’ll wait until I read more reviews and hear from friends.
“Your comparison to Rachel McAdams is a good one. In my mind, however, perhaps because her looks are similar, every time I see Keira I think about Natalie Portman. Natalie is also young, also has been acting for a long time. But Natalie definitely has ‘it.’ I think she has talent in spades, has been getting better and better and will be seeing lots of critical acclaim and award attention in the future. I don’t see that for Keira.
“Thanks for making me feel I’m not alone.” — Cindy Wick
Pub in Yorkville area of Toronto, about five blocks from where I’m staying.
On St. George, just north of Bloor.
My last Manhattan shot of the summer — bootleg DVDs laid out on the cement floor of the Union Square L line.
I don’t know why Robert Towne’s Ask the Dust didn’t make the Telluride Film Festival line-up. I know there was a definite interest in showing it there, but I guess it wasn’t quite fine-tuned enough. (Towne told me a few weeks ago he wasn’t sure if it would be done in time.) But the festival is certainly showing Edmond, a David Mamet downer drama abut Bill Macy wandering around a city in a state of suicidal depression; Bennett Miller’s Capote; Liev Schreiber’s Everything is Illuminated, Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s Bee Season; James Mangold’s Walk the Line with Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon; Andy Garcia’s Lost City; Conversations With Other Women; Brokeback Mountain; Be With Me, Hany Abu-Assad’s Paradise Now and several others. They’re also showing a restored print of the 1976 Dino de Laurentiis remake of King Kong…kidding! They’re actually showing the 1933 Merian C. Cooper version, plus a doc about its making.