United 93 is “the feel-bad American movie of the year”? Catchy pull-quote from N.Y. Times Manohla Dargis, the only problem being that it’s a highly debatable claim. I know what Manohla means, but this is simplistic emotional coding . My idea of a serious feel-bad movie in Barry Sonnenfeld‘s RV. (I would imagine it’s Manohla’s also.) For the life of me I can’t get my head around the idea of a movie as assured and expert and heavily throttled as United 93 making anyone feel “bad.”
Brian Burrough and John Connolly‘s Vanity Fair piece about the Anthony Pellicano wiretap magilla is being called inaccurate by Paramount chairman Brad Grey plus reps for Brad Pitt, Adam Sandler and the late Chris Farley, who were all named in the piece as having engaged Pellicano’s services. Gabriel Snyder‘s Variety piece says that “Pitt, Sandler and the Farley rep deny ever hiring the P.I. In addition, HBO has denied that Grey once pushed a TV show based on Pellicano as a replacement for The Sopranos, as the mag also reported.” This story must have been fact-checked over and over to the breaking point, and yet Connolly and Borrough are accused of being flat-out wrong…weird. I hope this story doesn’t develop into the equivalent of Woodstein naming H.R. Haldeman as the fifth man in that Washington Post story. The article went online Wednesday and will be available in the June issue, which will hit newstands on Wednesday, May 3rd.
Truly, this Jamie Stuart riff on the American Express “my life, my card” ads is fucking-ass brilliant . Give this guy a Wes Anderson or M. Night Shyamalan life…enough mad money to patronize cool restaurants, big-loft-size digs in Philly or Paris, $15 million to make his next film, a Mensa-class blonde girlfriend, etc. The delay in the beginning with nothing happening, and then that slamming-into-the-brick-wall image approaches the realm of near-genius. Seriously.
Holy shit…this is awful, tragic news. Jennifer Dawson, the 35 year-old wife of New York Press critic Matt Zoller Seitz (and mother of their two kids), died suddenly late yesterday afternoon. Alan Sepinwall has delivered the news in a “House Next Door” posting that went up today. Jennifer was in good health, didn’t drink, smoke or take drugs, “so there will be a medical examin- ation to find out what happened,” Sepinwall writes. If anyone wants to send cards, the address is 343 State Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217. Matt’s also on e-mail a lot, either his work address (firstname.lastname@example.org) or his home one (email@example.com).
The two most passionate, best-written reviews of United 93 I’ve read this morning — one extremely postive, one more of a mixed response — are by the L.A. Weekly‘s Scott Foundas and N.Y. Press critic Matt Zoller Seitz. Foundas calls United 93 “nothing short of a direct refutation of all the conventional Hollywood wisdom concerning how such a movie should be made…it is the highest compliment I can pay Greengrass to say that he is a master of the mundane, the routine and the everyday…when he makes a movie about a historical event, he spends as much time showing us the buildup to that event as he does depicting the event itself…he’s fascinated by the gradual convergence of disparate people on a single point in time that then becomes immortalized by tragedy, and what interests him most is the randomness of it all — the way one minute life is just rolling along the way it always does and then, suddenly, it isn’t.” Seitz, likewise, is dead-on when he says that “anyone who denies its power is lying” but I disagree fiercely with his contention that “anyone who justifies that power on aesthetic grounds is perpetrating a greater lie.” I am speaking straight from the heart when I say the thousands of accumulated verite “truths” that this film is composed of, assembled into a unified reality-flow piece, deliver a kind of wondrous symphony of minutae that is all the more affecting because it’s not trying to sell a conjured or formulated idea, or even an emotional point of view. But Seitz scores in saying that Greengrass “delivers what he promised months ago — a movie shorn of almost any signifying sentiment from any recognizable school of thought on what 9/11 meant and where it led us. This conflation of mass-murder memorial and virtual reality experience marks United 93 as a queasy milestone in post-9/11 American cinema…after the attacks, commentators observed that 9/11 was, in some horrendous but palpable way ‘like a movie,’ with good reason. Like so many modern terrorist attacks, 9/11 was an example of mass murder as televised homicidal performance art, designed not merely to kill large numbers of people, but to create spectacular images which could then be replayed ad infinitum — the mass media equivalent of a dirty bomb, with lingering psychic residue. [United 93] is still more reenactment than art, and any praise heaped upon it should be qualified with this realization: almost five years after the attacks, Hollywood finally rose to the challenge of representing a grim day that was ‘like a movie’ by making a movie out of it. The 9/11 Show!”