Not a spoiler but it may read like one to someone who hasn’t seen Spike Lee’s Inside Man, so beware: A reader has mentioned a curious detail in Inside Man that’s probably nothing, but it bugged him. At the very end as Clive Owen and his colleagues drive off (and keep in mind all the discussions about Christopher Plummer‘s past and dealings with the Nazis and the profits that came from that), they’re driving away in a Volkswagen. [I haven’t verified this, but I know and trust the guy who’s passing this along.] I’ve got a copy of Russell Gewirtz‘s Inside Man script and there’s no mention of anyone driving a Volkswagen, so if this was meant as some kind of extremely dry and subtle joke it was Spike Lee’s (or his production designer’s) idea. It’s not a joke, of course, that Volkswagen AG, the German manufacturer of the first VW’s, got started with slave labor. It began around 1940 by using Polish women between the ages of 14 and 32. By 1944, tens of thousands of Ukrainian, Polish, Danish, Dutch, and Belgian citizens; Soviet, French, and Italian prisoners of war; and Jewish concentration camp prisoners were being used as unpaid slaves at Volkswagen’s plants throughout Europe. At times they totalled 85 percent of Volkswagen’s wartime workforce. Anyway, it’s either a coincidence that Owen and the gang drove off in a VW or it’s not, but of all the cars Lee and his crew could have chosen, it’s odd that they chose a car that’s famous for having been created way back when by Nazis.
“Too soon! Too soon!“….this is the mantra of people who aren’t breathing in and out, and who are basically coming from a place of emotional denial or suppression. Days pass, seasons come and go, things change and snakes shed their skin. Obviously a lot of “too-soon”-ers are talking about avoiding United 93 and/or World Trade Center…whatever. But eventually you have to move on.
Okay, okay…Tom Cruise recently said on a German TV game show that he and Katie Holmes are going to be married this summer after the birth of their baby and the release of his new movie, Mission: Impossible III. Tomkat forever…fine. What got me about the story was going to Wikipedia and learning about the game show Cruise appeared on, which is called “Wetten Dass” (i.e., “Wanna Bet?”). Airing since ’81, and broadcast live six or seven times a year with each show lasting two hours (an occasional overrun happens), it’s described as the most successful show in Europe. Hosted since 1987 by Thomas Gottschalk, the show is
about people betting whether this or that Average Joe can successfuly perform some unusual, sometimes bizarre, always difficult task. Like, for example, contestants trying to assemble a V8 engine from parts within 9 minutes, or 13 swimmers trying to tow a 312-ton ship over a distance of 25 meters. In short, fans of the show have a certain taste for the bizarre.
On Tuesday, 3.28, I wrote an item about having been told that David Fincher‘s Zodiac (Paramount, 9/22) had been retitled as Chronicles, but I also quoted a Paramount spokesperson who said “we have the rights” to use the word “Zodiac” as a movie title, which led to my observation that the rumor sounded “a tad questionable” so “don’t take this one to the bank just yet.” The next day (Wednesday, 3.29) I wrote that Fincher’s Zodiac “is absolutely going to be called that” and that Chronicles “is just what it was called during casting and shooting, apparently …as a ruse.” And now, some three or four business days later, there’s a story by Variety‘s Pamela McLintock debunking the Chronicles rumor and citing an “internet rumor” as the source of said erroneous notion.
Al Gore and Davis Guggenheim‘s An Inconvenient Truth, the global-warming documentary that knocked me and everyone else for a loop when it played Sundance ’06, is being released by Paramount Classics on 5.26 — only seven and a half weeks from now — and there’s still no website for the film. There’s nothing at the Paramount Classics site, and there are no links to a Truth site on the IMDB or Coming Soon. This is perhaps the most important documentary to ever receive commercial distribution — it’s essential that mainstream Americans (especially those who voted for Bush and who drive big fat SUV’s) see and think about the message it contains — and the lack of a website at this stage of the game seems kinda derelict…no? There’s no such thing as getting the information out too early with a subject like this. Here, at least, is the main Gore-sponsored site that runs it all down, and here’s the column page containing my review out of Sundance. (An excerpt: “I’m starting to think that Gore’s entire political career, which culiminated with his run for the White House in 2000, has been about getting people to see and fully consider this absorbing slide-show lecture movie about global warming…An Inconvenient Truth is Gore’s crowning achievement…the summation of his life…the reason he was put on this earth to become a politican and a stirrer-upper and influencer of public opinion.”) Even the Amazon page for the Rodale book version, also called “An Inconvenient Truth” and due in book stores on 5.16, doesn’t even have jacket art…amazing. Whoever is in charge of the online promotion of this film belongs in the same effectiveness category at former FEMA chief Michael Brown. He/she obviously needs to be canned, and someone more on the ball needs to be brought in pronto.
Chat-boarders have been talking about this since early January, but I didn’t care about it until yesterday. The Omen (20th Century Fox), a remake of the classy 1976 horror-thriller that starred Gregory Peck, Lee Remick and David Warner, will open worldwide on an unusual day in early June — Tuesday — because the date will be 6.6.06. A clever marketing idea, and certain to strike a chord with the wack-jobbers…I’m sorry, devoted religious righties…who believe we’re approaching the End of Days. I’ve always half-liked Richard Donner‘s original, and re-doing it sounds cool, but the director, John Moore, is…I want to put this delicately so as to not to hurt Moore’s feelings, or those of his agent….a second-tier hack. (If you doubt it, compare his Flight of the Phoenix remake to the Robert Aldrich original, and re-watch Behind Enemy Lines….I mean, forget it.) Liev Schreiber has the Peck role (the U.S. ambassador to Great Britain in the Donner version), Julia Styles is playing his wife (will Moore have her repeat Lee Remick’s falling-backward-over-the-stair- bannister scene?), Mia Farrow has the evil Mrs. Baylock part (played by Billie Whitelaw in ’76), David Thewlis performs the David Warner/Jennings part (which means Thewlis’s head is going to get sliced off by a large sheet of flying glass, right?). Perhaps the creepiest element in the Donner version was Jerry Goldsmith‘s music, and it’s worth noting that Moore’s composer, Marco Beltrami, will be sampling Goldsmith’s music in his score, and particularly his “Ave Satani” composition. (The IMDB credit says Beltrami is the composer but that “themes” by Goldsmith are part of the mix.)
I’m restating the obvious, but yesterday’s “Not-So-Bad Summer” piece reminded me what an unusual late July-early August we’ll be seeing this year. Four audacious, high-calibre films from a cluster of heavyweight older-guy directors — Michael Mann, Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson, Oliver Stone — opening within a three-week period (7.28 to 8.11). Mann’s Miami Vice on 7.28, Eastwood’s Flags of our Fathers and Gibson’s Apocalypto on 8.4, and Stone’s World Trade Center on 8.11.
A typical summer season always seems to come down to one big-budget, lowest- common-denominator no-brainer after another…Hollywood being sort of like Steve McQueen firing diseased buckshot into the body aesthetic with a pump shotgun… wham!…discharge…wham!…discharge.
I was thinking along these lines myself the other day, but that was before I began to really go over the May-to-August releases with a fine tooth comb. It gradually hit me after an hour or so that the 2006 summer is looking a little bit craftier and less dumbed-down than usual.
Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell in Michael Mann’s Miami Vice (Universal, 7.28)
Four late summer films in particular — an exotic end-of-the-world action drama from Mel Gibson, a sad-eyed World War II combat drama from Clint Eastwood that’s squarely aimed at adults, some kind of undercover drug-smuggling thriller from the masterful Michael Mann, and Oliver Stone’s right-in-your-face depiction of the horrors of 9.11 in downtown Manhattan — are giving the ’06 summer a pedigree all by themselves.
I’m ready to concede, in fact, that out of 15 major summer releases, only two or three seem deliberately aimed at the bozos. And there’s only one, really, that seems to relish the idea of being an empty big-studio wanker — Gore Verbinski’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (Disney, 7.7).
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The Big 15 are so described because they have big, obvious selling points (stars, sequels, high concepts), because they cost the most to produce and are obviously going to enjoy the benefits of saturation advertising well before they open. (The preceding sentence could’ve been written ten or twenty years ago. I think I might have used it in a summer preview piece I wrote in April 1984.)
From the top…
Mission: Impossible III (Paramount, 5.5). Cast: Tom Cruise, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ving Rhames, Laurence Fishburne, Billy Crudup, Michelle Monaghan, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Keri Russell. Director: J.J. Abrams. Guaranteed score factor : Hoffman as the villain. Concern: What are the odds that Abrams, a first-timer, will be able to do anything except hold the pieces together, or that he’ll deliver any kind of visual flair in the vein of Brian DePalma? Bad trailer/website thing: That ghastly theme music. Worthwhile alternate 5.5 openers : Sydney Pollack’s Sketches of Frank Gehry, Magnolia’s One Last Thing.
Mission: Impossible III (Paramount, 5.5)
Poseidon (Warner Bros., 5.12). Cast: Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell, Emmy Rossum, Jacinda Barrett, Richard Dreyfuss. Director: Wolfgang Petersen Screenwriter : Mark Protosevich. Guaranteed score factor : (a) That kinda-fake-but-still-cool CG footage of a massive rogue wave toppling a huge luxury liner, (b) costar Kurt Russell, who always rocks in an action mode; (c) “There’s nothing fair about who lives or dies”, (d) savoring the various deaths, and (e) knowing this is basically a revisionist 9/11 film in disguise. Concern: The possibility that Rossum’s character might survive; the suspicion that Peterson-Protosevich will pretty much adhere to what most of us are expecting — a 2006 version of a 1972 disaster film with better effects. Bad trailer/website thing: Characters talking about feelings of love for their mates and family members. (Compensation: the more someone in a disaster film talks about being in love with someone else, the more likely it is that they or their loved one will die a horrible death.) Worthwhile alternate 5.12 opener: New Line and Nic Cassevetes’ Alpha Dog.
The DaVinci Code (Columbia, 5.19). Cast: Tom Hanks, Jean Reno, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Alfred Molina, Paul Bettany. Director: Ron Howard Screenwriter: Akiva Goldsman. Guaranteed score factor : Howard is simply too proficient at mainstream filmmaking these days to seriously blow it, so I guess this amounts to a score factor; the Paris locations. Concern: Big, beefy Tom Hanks looks kind of old and ample of girth opposite his pixie-ish costar, Audrey Tatou; the more I look at those shots of Hanks and Tatou runnning while holding hands….hurry! hurry! we haven’t much time! — the more turned off I get. Worthwhile alternate 5.19 opener: Dominik Moll’s Lemming (Strand Releasing).
Poseidon (Warner Bros., 5.12)
X-Men: The Last Stand (20th Century Fox, 5.26). Cast: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Kelsey Grammer, Rebecca Romijn, James Marsden, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Vinnie Jones, Patrick Stewart. Director: Brett Ratner Screenwriters: Zak Penn, Simon Kinberg. Guaranteed score factor : The fact that the bar has been set very low, due to the fact than nobody expects this third (and quite possibly final) installment to be as good as the first two because the director, Brett Ratner, isn’t on the same aesthetic-creative plane as Bryan Singer. Concern: Brett Ratner. Worthwhile alternate 5.26 opener: Al Gore’s global-warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth (Paramount Classics).
The Break-Up (Universal, 6.2). Cast: Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Aniston, Joey Lauren Adams, Ann-Margret, Judy Davis, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jon Favreau, Cole Hauser. Director: Peyton Reed Screenwriters: Jeremy Garelick, Jay Lavender Guaranteed score factor : Not sure if there is one except for a general presumption that this is the big definitive GenX relationship comedy of the summer. Everyone wants to re-sample Vaughn’s wise-ass motormouth character, which made him a star in last summer’s The Wedding Crashers. Concern : Aniston needs to be in a quality vehicle of some kind or sooner or later she’ll be in trouble. Worthwhile alternate 6.2 opener: Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion (Picturehouse).
Nacho Libre (Paramount, 6.14)
Cars (Disney, 6.9). Cast: Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Bonnie Hunt, “Larry the Cable Guy”, Cheech Marin, George Carlin, Richard Petty, Michael Keaton, Tony Shalhoub, Paul Dooley. Director/screenwriter: John Lasseter. Guaranteed score factor : The superb-looking animation, “name” voice actors delivering sharp punch-line humor. Concern: Word around the Pixar campfire is that it’s “okay,” “entertaining,” et. al. but not quite the knockout that Brad Bird’s The Incredibles was. (One guy who saw it two or three weeks ago actually said, “Well…I’d rather not say anything.”)
Nacho Libre (Paramount, 6.14). Cast: Jack Black, Ana de la Reguera, Hector Jimenez, Richard Montoya, Peter Stormare. Director: Jared Hess Screenwriters: Hess, Jerusha Hess, Mike White. Guaranteed score factor : Napoleon Dynamite ‘s Jared Hess doing his dry, visually static, neo-Wes Anderson thing and letting Jack Black go to town as a Mexican priest moonlighting as a lucha libre wrestler…certainly a marketable combo. Concern: Disciplined enough? A developed-enough script? Too lowbrow? Worthwhile alternate 6.14 opener: Patrick Creadon’s Wordplay (IFC Films).
Superman Returns (Warner Bros., 6.30). Cast: Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, James Marsden, Frank Langella, Eva Marie Saint, Parker Posey, Sam Huntington, Kal Penn, Kevin Spacey. Director: Bryan Singer Screenwriters : Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris. Guaranteed score factor : The DC Comics brand plus the presumption of smarts and stylistic pizazz from Singer, and yet the more you think about this thing and listen to Marlon Brando’s voiceover in that trailer… Concern: Take away the gay maroon-red bikini briefs on Brandon Roush and it all seems a little too similar to the 1978 Richard Donner Superman. (Singer has been fairly upfront about this, apparently.) Many of the same characters turn up. (Kevin Spacey’s Lex Luthor will be half about whatever he brings to it, and half about avoiding the tone and attitude of Gene Hackman’s Luthor in the ’78 film). And the same old places (Krypton, Smallville, Daily Planet) are used, and even some similar-looking sets. (No missing the Donner influence in that Singer set that’s supposed to be Krypton or Superman’s North Pole lair). And it seems like yet another origin story. I’ve been sensing geek resistance to this thing all along, frankly. Worthwhile alternate 6.30 opener : The Devil Wears Prada (20th Century Fox).
M. Night Shyamalan, Paul Giamatti during filming of Lady in the Water (Disney, 7.7)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (Disney, 7.7). Cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Stellan Skarsgard, Bill Nighy, Jack Davenport, Kevin R. McNally, Jonathan Pryce. Director: Gore Verbinski. Screenwriters: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio. Guaranteed score factor: I’ve already spoken bluntly about this film. No point in beating a dead horse…not to suggest in any way that Dead Man’s Chest is a dead commercial prospect. Far from it. Concern: I can’t stand the thought of watching Depp do Keith Richards again…I just can’t take it.
Lady in the Water (Warner Bros., 7.7). Cast: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeffrey Wright, Bob Balaban, Freddy Rodriguez, Sarita Choudhury, Jared Harris, Bill Irwin. Director/screenwriter : M. Night Shyamalan. Guaranteed score factor : The M. Night brand is widely appreciated by audiences these days — they know they’re at least going to get something distinctive and particular. And you can’t go wrong with Paul Giamatti these days. Concern: The story was initially written for Night’s children, apparently, and the trailer refers to the movie as a “bedtime story.” Worthwhile alternate 7.7 opener: Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly (Warner Independent).
Miami Vice (Universal, 7.28). Cast: Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell, Gong Li, Naomie Harris, Ciaran Hinds, Justin Theroux. Director/screenwriter : Michael Mann Guaranteed score factor : The legend of the ’80s TV series, Farrell and Foxx, the hand of Michael Mann, and costar Gong Li. This has to be some kind of knockout. The creator of Heat, Collateral, The Insider and Ali is too exacting and ambitious to have anything to do with a lazy summer movie. Concern : I tried reading a draft of the script early last year and I couldn’t stay with it. It felt like it was more about expensive toys and South Beach machismo than anything else. (But then I bailed, so what do I know?) And then there were those set stories about Mann not having a decent ending worked out until the tail end of the shoot. Worthwhile alternate 7.28 opener : Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’s Little Miss Sunshine (Fox Searchlight).
Flags of our Fathers (DreamWorks/Paramount, 8.4). Director : Clint Eastwood. Screenwriter: Paul Haggis. Cast: Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford, Adam Beach, Paul Walker, Jamie Bell. Guaranteed score factor : It’s a rare thing these days for a big studio to produce and distribute a high-calibre drama aimed at the over-30 trade, but that’s what this is. Flags is essentially a World War II art film about the space between ordinary soldiers and the civilians and family members who regard them as “war heroes.” Eastwood’s track record as a winner of two Best Picture Oscars lend an expectation that this may rank as one of the year’s most affecting dramas, whether or not it ends up as an ’07 Oscar finalist. Concern : The script I read doesn’t have much of a through-line. There’s a lot of time-trip, back-and-forth cutting and it certainly progresses in a manner of speaking…but it doesn’t exactly “build” and pay off according to the Robert McKee definition of those terms. Worthwhile alternate 8.4 opener: Michel Gondry’s The Science of Sleep (Warner Independent).
Nicolas Cage in Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center (Paramount, 8.11)
Apocalypto (Disney, 8.4). Director: Mel Gibson. Screenwriters: Gibson, Farhad Safinia. Cast: Buncha no-namers. Guaranteed score factor : The family righties who came out for Gibson’s The Passion will most likely be attuned to Apocalypto‘s story about an ancient civilization going through a period of self-destruction from within, which obviously conveys an end-of-days metaphor. Concern : Gibson is a good, go-for-broke filmmaker. If there are serious concerns about Apocalypto, I dont know what they are.
World Trade Center (Paramount, 8.11). Director: Oliver Stone. Screenwriter: Andrea Berloff. Cast: Nicolas Cage, Michael Pena, Maria Bello, Maggie Gyllen- haal, Jay Hernandez. Guaranteed score factor : The “too soon!”-ers who are claiming they won’t go to Paul Greengrass’s United 93 probably won’t go to this one either, but an awful lot of us are going to find it hard to resist wanting to know how Stone will depict the nightmarish events of that day, even though his story focus (the fate of two Port Authority guys who were buried alive in the rubbble) is fairly narrow. Concern: Stone and producers Michael Shamberg and Stacy Sher have, in their press statements, seemed so concerned about offending anyone that their melodrama may, in the end, be so ultra-politically correct it won’t have any teeth. Worthwhile alternate 8.4 opener: Ryan Fleck’s Half Nelson (THINKFilm).
Snakes on a Plane (New Line, 8.18). Director: David Ellis. Screenwriters: John Heffernan, David Loucka. Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Nathan Phillips, Benjamin McKenzie. Guaranteed score factor : Everyone’s going to want to see this thing after all the internet hype — SOAP geeks, mainstreamers, young kids, African- Americans, etc. Concern : That the tone will be a bit too lampoonish. It has to be more or less straight with just a hint of a wink. Worthwhile alternate 8.18 opener : Kevin Smith’s Clerks 2 (Weinstein Co.).
Westbourne Drive and Melrose Avenue during this morning’s rain — 3.4.06, 9:05 am.
Melrose and Westbourne, looking west — 3.4.09, 9:08 am.
If a movie is going to try and tell the truth about a real event, I believe it should stick as closely as possible to what is actually known, and if certain things about this event aren’t crystal clear then that should be acknowledged and somehow worked into the film.
With this theory in mind, it hit me this morning how United 93 (Universal, 4.28), Paul Greengrass’s 9/11 thriller, should best unfold. Since nobody knows what specifically happened during the last few minutes before United #93 slammed into muddy ground in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the best way is to end it, I feel, is with three different scenarios a la Rashomon .
United 93 director-writer Paul Greengrass as he appears in a promotional video sent to the media earlier this week by Universal publicity
One, passengers burst into the cockpit, grapple with terrorists and plane goes down over a struggle for the controls. Two, passengers charge but are kept out of the cockpit, and then panicky terrorists take the plane into a suicide dive to keep them from taking back the plane.** And three, passengers rush the hijackers but before anything can happen a white military plane hits United #93 with a missile, smoke pours into the cabin and the disabled plane goes down.
Showing all three is not only the most open way to come at it, but it also wouldn’t get in the way of the basic, agreed-upon scenario about the passengers having been courageous and self-sacrificing and doing the hard thing.
Granted, a multiple ending would be more satisfying for bring-it-on types like myself than the “no, no…too soon!” types who reportedly groaned and snorted around the country last weekend when the United 93 trailer, attached to prints of Spike Lee’s Inside Man, had its theatrical debut.
Is there any chance that director-writer Greengrass isn’t aware of the too-soon crowd and hasn’t made his film with the idea of somehow luring them in and winning them over?
It’s probably a safe assumption that scenario #3, which probably didn’t happen in actuality but can’t be 100% dismissed, was never considered for inclusion in United 93. And scenario #2, obviously, isn’t quite “there” in a dramatic sense.
Scene from United 93
I mean, think about it. Angry passengers chasing the bad guys into the cockpit, and then minutes of banging on the cockpit door, and then wham.
I won’t see the film for another two and a half weeks, but if you’re looking for a slam-bang finish then scenario #1 plays best. Wouldn’t it? Universal seems to be looking to sell this movie as a stirring uplift thing, after all, and it must have been clear to Greengrass all along that any 9/11 film that fails to stir is probably going to tank.
I’m sure that Oliver Stone, Michael Shamberg and Stacy Sher are also keeping this in mind as they prepare World Trade Center, a true-life rescue drama about a couple of Port Authority workers who were buried under the rubble of the collapsed towers, for release in August.
But even with the scenario #1 ending there are indications that United 93 may be facing some resistance from the public.
The strongest evidence of this is that Universal publicity has sent out a promotional video to the media (and also made it available online — click on “A Look Inside”) that directly addresses the “too soon!” attitude. Here’s how it sounds from start to finish.
It features four people whose mates or family members died on United #93, and shows them saying that they fully support the film because it shows their deceased loved ones in a courageous and inspirational light.
Lyzbeth Glick Best, wife of passenger Jeremy Glick, as she appears in Universal promotional video
The video begins and ends with Greengrass saying that before deciding to make United 93 he and his producers visited the victims’ families, and “what we found when we went to each of these families, is that they all want this film to be made.”
The message, clearly, is that if these family members are down with this film after losing one of their own, surely those who simply feel squeamish about a 9/11 recreation drama can deal with it and maybe derive something also, especially since it doesn’t seem to be a downer as much as a heart movie about courage.
The four people in the video are Kenny Nacke, brother of United #93 passenger Louis Nacke II; Allison Vadhan, daughter of passenger Kristin White Gould; Lyzbeth Glick Best, former wife of passenger Jeremy Glick; and Sandy Felt, whose husband, Edward P. Felt, was also on board.
Vadhan says that United 93 is “about standing up for what you believe in, never letting fear take over and doing everything you possibly can…until you can’t.
Felt says at one point that “I want this movie to encourage people to believe that we have [this courage] within all of us.”
Sandy Felt, wife of Edward P. Felt
Greengrass returns at the end and says that not only “immense courage and fortitude” were shown by the United #93 passengers that day, but also “wisdom.”
Greengrass finishes with the following: “I don’t think you ever know when is the right time to make a film like this, and that’s why you start by going to these families…they feel clearly feel this is the right time, and we should listen…we should listen to what their story is.”
I believe that too, but also that United 93 should try to reflect the full gamut and be as inquisitive as possible and admit what it really knows or doesn’t know, and shape itself accordingly. Maybe this is how Greengrass plays it. The only thing for sure is that right now, the cards are still hidden.
** A portion in Wikipedia’s recounting of the United #93 disaster says that the plane’s “black box recordings revealed that, contrary to popular belief, the passengers were never able to enter the cockpit.”
Sweet Bird of Youth
It’s not so much how the 23 year-old Marlon Brando looked, although this is fascin- ating in itself. It’s more the metaphor of a life not yet blemished or sullied…an aura of freshness, vitality, raw presence.
These are stills from a screen test Brando made in 1947 for a planned film of Rebel Without a Cause, in which he would have played the famously troubled teenager Jim Stark, whom James Dean made into a legendary inconographic figure in Nich- olas Ray’s 1955 film of the same name.
Still from 1947 screen test reel of Marlon Brando reading for role of Jim Stark in an early, never-shot version of Rebel Without a Cause.
The Brando Rebel screen test footage, which lasts about five minutes, will be included in a two-disc special edition DVD of A Streetcar Named Desire that Warner Home Video is bringing out May 2nd, or five weeks from today.
The exact date of the test footage isn’t known (not to me, at least) but Brando was playing Stanley Kowalkski in the stage version of “A Streetcar Named Desire” that year (and most likely at the same time). This was three years before he made his first Hollywood film, Fred Zinneman’s The Men (’50), in which he played a paraplegic.
A story by Dalya Alberge in today’s (3.28) edition of The Australian provides a description of the footage, which I may be lucky enough to see sometime soon, perhaps as soon as this weekend.
Brando “is seen crying, slamming his fist on a table, vulnerable and kissing the girl,” Alberge writes. The test “convinced the producers that he was the man for the Rebel role, but Brando turned them down. After much delay, including at least 40 script revisions, the role was taken by Dean in 1955.
Alberge quotes Darwin Porter, author of a reportedly tawdry biography called “Brando Unzipped” (Blood Moon), as follows:
“Screen tests preserved of the great stars are usually pretty awful …this one had me mesmerized. From the moment Brando enters the room in the test, he is lightning…there is a magnetic appeal to him, as he is at the peak of his physical beauty and virile power — both as a man and an actor.”
Brando “never disclosed precisely why he rejected the role, but Porter suggests that the actor may have been reluctant to sign a seven-year contract with the studio, which would have been required at the time.
In the footage, Brando “is seen walking into a room, angry about his parents. He tells a girl who meets him: ‘My old man … he didn’t give me a chance. He hit me before he even said anything. I hate him. I hate his stupid face.’ He slams the table.
“Comforted by the girl” — I wonder the who girl was? — “he kisses her, asking her whether she has been with ‘other fellows while I was gone.’ His face lights up as he talks of getting a gun and the two of them leaving together for ‘any place, away from here.'”
N.Y. Daily News gossip columnist Ben Widdicombe — a.k.a., “the Gatecrasher” — wrote on 1.21.06 that Porter’s Brando book “promises to be the definitive gossip guide to the great actor’s life.”
Widdicombe wrote that “collectors of Brando ephemera might appreciate the inclusion of a certain infamous photograph [that] depicts a Monica Lewinski moment between Brando and another man.” He then quoted Blood Moon publisher Danforth Prince as saying “we ran [the photo[ at a tasteful 2 inches by 1 3/4 inches on page 404,” adding, “In journalism, we call that ‘burying the lead.'”
This morning I happened across Truman Capote’s portrait of Brando for The New Yorker, which came from a visit with the 33 year-old actor while he was filming Sayonara in Kyoto, Japan, in early 1957.
The Brando that emerges from Capote’s prose is a guarded, withdrawn, somewhat frail figure — a hint of the ruined Brando to come, and a far cry from the sugges- tions of buoyancy and naivete in the face of the young man pictured above.
On the red carpet for premiere of Nicole Holofcener’s Friends With Money (Sony Classics, 4.7) at the Egyptian theatre, headquarters of the American Cineatheque — Monday, 3.27, 7:12 pm. (Just to the right of the face of the brunette with the green handbag and to the left of the burly photographer with the white T-shirt is costar Jennifer Aniston, speaking at that particular moment in time to Entertainment Tonight‘s Leonard Maltin)
Dancer-models dressed as twin sisters of Casper the Friendly Ghost, and perhaps expressing a sensual appreiciation of life in Los Angeles in the year 2006. Snapped at Friends with Money after-party at Mondrian Hotel’s Sky Bar — Monday, 3.27, 10:20 pm.
Friends with Money costar Bob Stevenson at Sky Bar — 3.27, 11:05 pm. A subtle, soft-spoken actor with piercing blue eyes, Stevenson portrays one of Jennifer Aniston’s love interests in Nicole Holofcener’s film.
Scott Caan (blue jeans, black jacket), also costarring in Friends with Money, on red carpet at the Egyptian theatre — Monday, 3.27, 7:18 pm. (I had an interview set up with Caan at a hotel in Soho last summer to talk about Dallas 362, his fairly good debut as a director, but he wasn’t there when I showed up, and he didn’t leave a note or call later on to apologize…nothing. I was going to ask him what happened last night, but I didn’t see him at the after-party.)
Like old habits, movie titles you’ve gotten used to can die hard. Even relatively recent ones, like Universal’s Flight 93, the Paul Greengrass 9/11 thriller that’s opening on Friday, 4.28. Or the former Flight 93, I should say. The old-shoe, boilerplate-sounding Flight 93 of yore…a label I was totally down with.
I was so accustomed to the sound of it that when I linked to the trailer three days ago (on 3.24), I didn’t even notice that Universal had snuck in like a cat burglar on the Cote d’Azur and changed it to United 93.
Wait a minute…is it United 93 or United93? The title art seems to indicate this, but maybe not. You don’t want to get too anal about this stuff.
Here’s my best guess (this being Sunday) as to why Universal did this five weeks before the release date: they suddenly decided there was something thematically appealing in the sound of United 93 because it alludes to the unity of purpose among the passengers who decided to take back the flight from the Al Qeada hijackers.
The 9/11 flight depicted in the film having been operated by United Air Lines is parallel-tangential.
The only other reason I can imagine is that someone realized at the last minute that the public might confuse the Universal feature with the A&E Channel’s Flight 93, which aired last January. But they obviously knew about the A&E movie for months, so why would they react this late in the game?
If nothing else, this last-minute decision is proof that Universal’s management is thinking on its feet.
A few movie sites apparently had the new title art up and running by the end of the week, but the switch came as a bit of a shock when I finally tuned in Saturday morning. West Hollywood detectives paid a visit a few hours later and dusted my hard drive and did their usual poking around, and for a while there they were just as befuddled as I was.
Their best estimate — mine also — is that Flight 93 became United 93 sometime between Sunday, March 19, and Tuesday, March 21.
The grand old IMDB hadn’t gotten the message as of Sunday, 3.26, as you can ascertain by clicking here. (They’ll update sooner or later, but they totally believed in Flight 93 as of 11:25 a.m. Sunday morning.)
Rotten Tomatoes still had it listed as Flight 93 as of Sunday, 3.26, although Scott Weinberg ran a post on Friday, 3.24, saying that Universal has gone with the title change, adding at the same time that the change was “old news.”
JoBlo.com is still calling it Flight 93, and a Google search shows that several other sites are still in the old mode.
A 3.19 story by Variety‘s Ted Johnson referred to Flight 93 but a Nicole LaPorte story that went up Sunday, 3.26 used United 93.
Nobody from Universal publicity told me — no e-mail announcements, no phone calls — but the first IMDB chat board question about the title change was posted on Tuesday, 3.21.
Here’s hoping Universal starts screening United 93 sometime soon so there’ll something to write about. April is looking like an incredibly flat month. Maybe my memory is foggy, but it seems worse than usual.
People like me are going to be reaching for anything to write about, but for the most part will have to make do with acceptables, pretty goods and not-too-bads: The Notorious Bettie Page, Free Zone, The Death of Mr Lazarescu, Hard Candy, Kinky Boots and the limited, all-but-invisible northwest release of Mozart and the Whale.
I’m going to have April visits to Houston’s Worldfest Film festival and the San Francisco Film Festival to distract me, but marquee-wise United 93 is the only film due within the next five weeks that seems to have any kind of major voltage. Am I wrong?
And it won’t just be the movie to discuss. There will be plenty to delve into with the head-in-the-sand types chanting their two basic mantras: (1) “Too soon! No 9/11 movies!” and (2) “Don’t mention the concept of U.S. foreign policy having anything to do with motivating the 9/11 attacks…the attackers were the devil’s emissaries and the U.S. was nothing more than a totally innocent, God-fearing victim of evildoers.”
“I am of the opinion that inner happiness is impossible without idleness. My ideal: to be idle and love a fat girl. For me, the greatest delight is to walk, or to sit and do nothing; my favorite occupation: to collect what is not needed (papers, bits of straw) and to do useless things.” — Anton Chekhov…who couldn’t have spent too many days collecting bits of straw and making love to cute fatties, given what I know it necessary to keep the creative waters flowing, and also considering the number of plays Chekhov wrote and the debts he had to satisfy.
A fellow movie columnist (reputable, “name” guy, works for big-city newspaper) wasn’t permitted to post this, so he sent it to me: “Just about every movie now gets a ‘director’s cut’ DVD, but I must admit I still almost sprung out of my seat when I received a package containing Bambi: The Director’s Cut. What really got me was the sticker: ‘Contains never-before-seen footage of the death of Bambi’s mother.’ Holy moley! The original Walt Disney film never showed this traumatic event (it was signaled by the sound of a gunshot) and yet this sequence is credited with sending generations of children into therapy. I was neither here nor there when I saw it as a kid, but when I re-saw the film as an adult in a crowded theater in Boston, I could hear high-pitched voices in the audience whimpering, ‘Where’s Bambi’s mommy?’, ‘What happened?’, ‘Did Bambi’s mother die?’ and ‘Will you ever die, Mommy?’. And yet it turns out that the first cut of Bambi included an entire extra minute involving the death of Bambi’s mom, and the reaction to it wasn’t conclusively negative. There were some who thought — and some modern-day psychiatrists on the featurette agree — that the scene was quite moving and poetic. As Dr. Robert Bleb of the University of Pennsylvania states: ‘Children who see this [version] now are likely to become less troubled than audiences of the past because what they see is so much less horrific than what those other children had only to imagine.’ I’ve seen it and I think he’s right. Here’s how it goes: As in the released version, Bambi and his mom are happily frolicking to celebrate the new spring when the mom senses the approach of Man and tells Bambi to run. The two of them sprint across a field, and as the camera stays on Bambi, a shot rings out. But this time there’s a quick cut back to Bambi’s mother, whose head jerks back as her body hits the ground, sending up a thin cloud of snow dust. (A faint trickle of blood is visible behind her.) She lies on the snow, her breath vaporizing in the air, and she whispers with her last breath, ‘Bambi.’ After the vapor of the mother’s last words dissipates and her eyes become shrouded with what look like white drapes, her deer spirit levitates out of her body with newly-sprouted wings slowly flapping her heavenward while Edward H. Plumb’s lush score swells to a crescendo. A trio of sweetly chirping bluebirds escorts her up to a thick layer of white puffy clouds, which the mom’s deer spirit passes through alone. On the other side, she is greeted by a large gathering of similar deer spirits, including one who maternally licks her on the head and says in a soft voice, ‘Welcome home.’ (Gulp…talk about the cycle of life.) Then the action returns to Bambi alone in the forest as seen in the original release, with him calling for his mommy until he is greeted by his father, the Great Prince. At the end, when Bambi has triumph- antly taken his father’s place, a superimposed picture of the mother appears in the upper-left corner of the frame, in the sky. She’s smiling down at Bambi, though if you look closely her head appears to be mounted on a wall. That Walt Disney was a cruel ironist. By the way, Happy April 1st.”
“I’m on the same page with you about Dallas, but when it comes to actual Texas work being lost, that’s a whole different story. I’m a sometimes-employed actor here [in Texas], and for a lot of us the news of the Dallas shutdown is devastating. There are a lot of crew members who need something like this. (I’ve seen bumper stickers posted around sets saying ‘Shoot J.R. in Dallas’, which were made up by the Dallas Film Commission). I hope that when Fox gets this film rolling again that they hire Betty Thomas to direct because she at least knows how to do a good parody/tribute.” — Alfred Ramirez, Fort Worth, TX.
Huge earnings for Ice Age: The Meltdown (20th Century Fox), the Carlos Saldanha-directed sequel to ’02’s Ice Age, which was co-directed by Saldanha and Chris Wedges. One projection has the animated family film earning $69.5 million for the weekend. (Another studio is projecting just over $70 million.) Inside Man (Universal) will be #2, with weekend totals projected at $16,754,000. ATL (Warner Bros.) will come in second with close to $14 million. V for Vendetta (Warner Bros.) is projected to earn about $6,518,000…obviously losing steam. Stay Alive, She’s The Man, The Shaggy Dog and Slither will most likely finish in fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth place. Sharon Stone‘s Basic Instinct, which opened in 1453 situations, will end up in ninth place with an estimated tally of $3,385,000…right down the toilet.