City Beat’s Andy Klein has suggested that Clint Eastwood‘s Flags of Our Fathers is “The Americanization of Emily without jokes.” That sounds like a smart-ass thing to say but it’s not. Okay, it is somewhat, but not really. I happen to love and respect the latter film, written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Arthur Hiller, and I feel the analogy is valid, although obviously only in the broad strokes.
Both films are essentially about the fraudulence that goes into selling war to the public, and how the lies and the bullshit role-playing weigh upon the souls of U.S. military men who are ordered by higher-ups to play the role of p.r. spokes- persons.
And both are about the power of a single combat photo to advance and strengthen the agenda of the U.S. military, and about how this photo, when published in just every newspaper and magazine in America, amounts to a visual distillation of the fakery involved, and how the men in these photos — a London-based Naval Lieu- tenant played by James Garner in Emily, and two Marines and a sailor played by Adam Beach, Jesse Bradford and Ryan Phillippe in Flags — are repulsed by the charade, even though all but one decide in the end to swallow this feeling and move on.
The hard fact is that The Americanization of Emily is more succinct that Flags of Our Fathers in making these points. It is also spunkier and more persuasive. I respect Flags — Eastwood has made a war film that says something solemn and truthful about the men who are forced or persuaded to fight our nation’s enemies — but I like Emily more.
Very different films, separated in almost every stylistic way imaginable…but pushing very similar talking points
Come to think of it, I might have felt more supportive of Flags if one of the three guys had been a cynical wiseacre like Garner’s Charley Madison and if he’d mouthed off all through the film’s war-bond tour with irreverent Chayefsky zingers about the guilt he was feeling and the absurdity of selling war as a noble activity, etc. At least it would add a little seasoning from time to time.
A London journalist friend tells me it was a bit of a touch-and-go thing about whether Oscar hopeful Peter O’Toole, 74, would attend tonight’s London Film Festival “Mayor of London” gala screening of Roger Michell‘s Venus, but word came down late yesterday that he’d be dropping by after all, although probably not for long.
It’s not touch and go, however, about whether O’Toole will attend the AFI Film Festival’s special screening on 11.7 or the 11.10 Los Angeles Venus junket — he’s flat-out not coming. These two no-shows on top of O’Toole being too sick to attend the Toronto Film Festival’s festivities for Venus last month (i.e., his doctor said no), and you can’t help but wonder and ask questions.
The answer, apparently, is that O’Toole’s doing okay — he works a lot (Stardust, One Night with The King, Romeo and Me, Lassie, Venus and a TV Casanova in just the last year and a half, and another film — La Fenice — in the wings) and apparently he just hates flying back and forth to Los Angeles and is going to concentrate his Oscar-promoting chores to a period between December-January.
The flying aversion has something to do with the fact that O’Toole fell and busted his hip on 12.26.05 during the shooting of Venus, which led to surgery and a three-week filming delay, and because it’s painful for a guy with that kind of recent history to sit on a nine-hour flight.
Being 74 years old doesn’t automatically mean a withered lifestyle and cutting back. I know about guys in their late 70s and 80s who play tennis and go out to dinner and ride bicycles and everything else. The great Norman Lloyd, whom I met last year when he was 90, was driving a Jaguar around town and playing doubles tennis at the time. On the other hand it’s no secret that heavy imbibing in the prime of one’s life will often lead to a withered condition or an early check-out when you’re older. It’s called paying the piper.
Clint Eastwood‘s Flags of Our Fathers will be the #1 film this weekend — 83 general, 43 definite interest, 14 first choice. Look for a decent opening ($20 million or so) but not a spectacular one. Chris Nolan‘s The Prestige, a turn-of-the-century duelling magician flick that doesn’t quite work all the way around the track, will be #2 with about $15 million, give or take. (Nolan-heads will be out in force, but regular-guy reactions will probably result in a sharp dropoff next weekend.)
20th Century Fox’s Flicka — 53, 23, 7 — is looking like it’ll do fair business with families. The odd thing is that it’s not a typical family entry, to judge by Todd McCarthy‘s review in Variety. No screening invitations have come this way from Fox (decisions are apparently made in advance whether you’re going to like something or not, and then you’re invited accordingly) but this appears to be another Lassie.
There was some mystification earlier this morning about how many theatres Marie-Antoinette is going to open in tomorrow (check back after lunch) but the numbers — 65, 28, 8 — suggest moderate levels of interest. Among the long throws, Stranger Than Fiction (Columbia, 11.10) is the only one with any real apparent strength.
Director Bill Condon locked the final edit of Dreamgirls last week and is now working on the sound mixing. The final critic-ready print won’t be ready until 11.10 at the earliest, so there won’t be any earlybird screenings before then. The first showing will probably happen on or about 11.14 or 11.15…just a guess. The Dreamamount release opens in N.Y. and L.A. on 12.15, and goes wide on 12.25.
MSNBC’s Dave White begins his monstrous-movie-moms piece, naturally, with Annette Bening‘s diseased hell-hag in Running With Scissors (Columbia, 10.20). Based, naturally, on someone real and still living — book author Augusten Burroughs‘ mom — Deirdre Burroughs’ neuroses are so extreme and curdled she seems to be suffering from a kind of leprosy of the soul. She’s too much by my standards, but excessiveness, clearly, seems to be the point. Gay guys will probably wet themselves over Bening’s performance the way they went ga-ga over Faye Dunaway’s in Mommie Dearest . They’re both gargoyles for the ages.
(l. to r.) Leopoldine Konstantin, Bergman, Rains
Because of my straight-guy affinity for personalities and performances of a more naturalistic leaning and partly because my maternal grandfather was German, my all-time bad mom trophy goes to Leopoldine Konstantin ‘s elfin Nazi housefrau in Notorious. (White mentions her but almost half-heartedly, lumping her together with Angela Lansbury ‘s mom in The Manchurian Candidate in the same graph.) Bad because she’s recognizably human, unlike Bening, and yet malevolent and willful and and always ready to pounce — a formidable spider.
That early-morning scene in the bedroom when Konstantin’s son Alex (Claude Rains) confesses that he’s just learned he’s married to an American agent (i.e., Ingrid Bergman) is her magic moment. The way she props herself up in her bed, takes a cigarette from a case, lights it…that look of scheming concentration. Alex mentions a colleague named Mathis who is “very sharp” and will spot what’s happening, and she answers, “Yes, he dislikes you. But his criticism of your talents wouldn’t go that far to imagine that you are married to an American agent. You are protected by the enormity of your stupidity. For a time.”
And the Becket DVD delays continue, courtesy of MPI Home Video. The Illinois-based company had rights issues with the family of playwright Jean Anouilh to deal with, but these have been settled. Despite the current interest in Peter O’Toole, who nearly won a Best Actor Oscar for his performance in this 1964 film, and his Oscar-calibre performance in Roger Michell‘s Venus, MPI still has no plans to release the Becket DVD. A great film, remastered and ready to go, is being kept in the cupboard by a third-rate outfit; it seems like a kind of hostage situation. The MPI Home Video website makes no mention of Becket DVD whatsoever — not in their “new releases” or “upcoming releases” section — not even if you do a search. This despite the fact that a message on an IMDB board on 5.30.06 from Christie Hester which said that “MPI Home Video intends to release Becket on DVD during the first quarter of 2007.”
The Envelope‘s Tom O’Neil has this notion — along with some reporting to back it up — that Diana Ross could wind up dissing Dreamgirls, a show she allegedly “hates”, which could result in adverse vibes of some kind.
“If Dreamgirls is truly the best-picture frontrunner, as many pundits claim, this year’s biggest awards cliffhanger may be the answer to this question: Will Diana Ross, the original Dreamgirl, finally embrace the fictionalized story of her career 25 years after it debuted on Broadway or, now that it’s immortalized on film, publicly disapprove and turn on it like a true diva?
“If the latter, Dreamgirls could face an Oscar nightmare. Some sources insist that Miss Ross — as she likes to be called — has finally accepted the show that may define her career, so much so that she secretly inquired about securing a role in the Dreamgirls film, but scoffed when all she was offered was a cameo as her own mom.”
Ich bin ein frommer Bewunderer dieses neuen Anhangers fur Steven Soderbergh‘s den guten Deutschen (Warner Bros. 12.8). Eine vierziger Jahre Atmosphare, hartgekochtes noir, direkter Ton, schone Schwarzweiss-Fotographie. Reizvoller George, reizvolles Cate, creepy Tobey Maguire…ja!
HE is now aware of two excellent films about the ’04 Presidential election in Ohio — a feature documentary I’ve already written about and a short documentary I just saw today. And boy, do they wise you up and make it clear what an incomplete, fuzzy-minded job regular TV news reporters did in covering what was really going down.
No Umbrella director Laura Paglin at 2006 Sundance Film Festival
The feature is James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo‘s …So Goes The Nation, which I’ve called “the smartest, the most perceptive and the most fair-minded reading of the election I’ve ever seen or considered.”
The short is Laura Paglin‘s No Umbrella: Election Day in the City, a documentary short (20-something minutes) that shows how a polling place in a black neighborhood in Cleveland was under-served and under-maintained — thus forcing would-be voters who couldn’t afford to wait two or three hours to vote to do just that — by an unresponsive bureacracy.
We all know what really happened, of course. Ohio’s Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell happened. A postscript at the end of Paglin’s film says that “a Congressional report found ‘massive and unprecedented voter irregularities and anomalies through the state of Ohio’ caused by ‘intentional misconduct and illegal behavior, much of it involving Blackwell, the co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio. One result was “a wide discrepancy between the availability of voting machines in more minority and Democratic and urban areas as compared to more Republican, suburban and exurban areas.”
Nation has an embrassment of brilliant talking heads al through it — Republican National Committee chairman Edward Gillespie, his Democratic counterpart Terry McAuliffe, Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman, Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill, senior Democratic adviser Paul Begala, local Democratic strategist Evan Hutchison, et. al.
Umbrella delivers several memorable personalities also, but the unquestionable star is Fannie Lewis, a plucky, spirited councilwoman from Cleveland’s 7th Ward who tries to deal with shortages of polling booths, voting machine inserts that take forever to arrive, anger among voters waiting in line and whatnot. She’s a real trip.
Los Angeles residents will have a chance to see both films in fairly quick succession if they care to: …So Goes The Nation will open on Friday, 10.20 at the Regent Showcase on La Brea just south of Melrose, and No Umbrella will show at the Pacific Palisades theatre on Sunday, 10.29 at 8:15 pm, as part of the Pacific Palisades Film Festival.
I spoke to Stern and Del Deo earlier this afternoon. I didn’t realize until today that their film’s website uses that very same HE quote I mentioned earlier in the piece. I told them I had decided sometime during the early part of the Kerry campaign that Bob Shrum and Tad Devine were definitely two of the bad guys who mis-advised Kerry on just about every key issue. One said, “I don’t know if Shrum was literally the bad guy” but neither argued with the basic thesis.
We talked about the inevitability of Barack Obama and why, in my view, Hilary Clinton, if she gets the presidential nomination, will lose big-time. This will happen because the working-class bubbas hate her guts, and if you don’t get the bubbas on your side you’re dead. Stern reminded me that “political landscapes change rather suddenly at times,” and told me that after the ’04 election a major news organization took a post-Presidental election poll in Ohio and that Kerry beat Bush 57 to 43.
They said they didn’t know when …So Goes The Nation will be out on DVD, but said their film has been qualified to compete for a potential Best Feature Documentary Oscar nomination.
Bert Fields was obviously entwined with accused wiretapper Anthony Pellicano over several years, but not in any indictable way. The feds couldn’t build a solid case against him in the Pellicano wiretapping casestick and now, according to Deadline Hollywood Daily‘s Nikki Finke, Fields is “ virtually free and clear of almost every aspect of [prosecution], including the wiretapping and conspiracy accusations which prosecutors have been pursuing against Pellicano.
“This is done and over,” sources told Finke earlier today. She adds that the news “comes despite prosecutors calling at least 10 members of [Fileds’] Century City law firm Greenberg Glusker before a federal grand jury in recent weeks, as reported yesterday by The New York Times‘ Pellicano-probing duo of David Halbfinger and Alison Hope Weiner.”
Another story confirming that Vaughniston is still happening …bummer. On the other hand I rented The Breakup last night and discovered to my surprise that it plays just as spritzy the second time (since seeing it last May), and maybe even better than that.
In my initial review I said “there are no laughs after the first third of The Break-up, and there’s no bouncy comic energy or pacing in any of it…but it’s not intended to deliver this stuff. It’s a decently made, reasonably mature, well-acted relation- ship drama with humorous punctuation from time to time (i.e., mostly in the early portions).”
I still didn’t “laugh” when I saw the DVD last night, but it was consistently amusing (again), well acted and never dull. Here’s a less funny recording of the first big argu- ment scene, and here’s the first post-breakup argument, which is actually funny here and there.