My theory-of-the-moment is that a good portion of the Departed dissers who’ve written in over the last 28 hours or so are basically responding to all the praise from professional critics. They’re posting, in other words, out of a longing to slap down the know-it-alls and set them straight. I believe that the actual hoi polloi verdict — i.e., one more fully reflective of how most ticket buyers are responding — is more enthused than what’s been coming in so far. Or am I…you know, wrong again?
Ridley Scott has told Comingsoon’s Edward Douglas that his next project will be a Middle Eastern drama based on a forthcoming book (due in March ’07) by journalist David Ignatius called “Penetration”, and that the script will be written by Departed scribe William Monahan. “It’s really about what’s happening now in the Middle East, our complete misunderstanding of what’s going on and how we’re not dealing with it,” Scott tells Douglas. “Inevitably, [it gets] into the heat in terms of a man who is actually a par journalist that gets sucked into working on a peripheral level in a special department where he gets into real trouble in the Middle East. But it’s so accurate.” In other words, something Syriana-ish served with Scott’s usual visual pizazz?
“I want to be respectful,” Ellen DeGeneres recent told N.Y. Times writer Jacques Steinberg about her upcoming Oscar Awards hosting gig. “I know what the job is. It’s to honor movies and to honor people who worked hard. Those people take it seriously. I’m there to make them feel good and take their minds off it a little bit and make it a fun night.” I honestly don’t think anyone needs respectful or disrespectful — everyone just wants the Oscar show host to be really sharp and funny, like Billy Crystal was during his mid to late ’90s hosting heyday.
I forgot to post the latest Jamie Stuart NY Film Festival video thing a couple of days ago. Pedro Almodovar, Penelope Cruz, Warren Beatty, Michael Apted, et. al. Does Suart wear those sneakers and that knit beanie everywhere he goes? Is that like a signature thing, the way Stanley Kubrick of the ’60s and ’70s would always wear a dark suit and a white shirt?
The legendary Clint Eastwood answered questions this morning about Flags of Our Fathers (Dreamamount, 10.20). Tall and trim, a model of silver-fox urbanity, he strode in and sat at a table in front of 60 or 70 seated entertainment journalists inside a small “ballroom” inside the Four Seasons hotel, and talked straight and plain about his World War II drama for just over 47 minutes.
The guy looked only slightly (or do I mean vaguely?) bowed by his 76 years. Tanned face, tight features, perfectly cut grayish-white hair, and wearing a beautifully tailored gray suit and light blue shirt with a tie with some kind of conservative dazzle pattern.
Before listening to this recording of the q & a, you should recall a few things.
Flags is Eastwood’s sad and elegaic drama that’s partly about the Marines who fought and died during the battle of Iwo Jima in early ’45, but is mostly about three veterans of that battle who raised the American flag on a pole atop Mt. Surabachi during the fighting, resulting in a photo that was sent around the world and came to symbolize the valor and sacrifice of U.S. forces.
These three men — — John Bradley (Ryan Phillipe), Ira Hayes (Adam Beach) and Rene Gagnon (Jesse Bradford) — were sent home to take bows and raise funds and build morale on a big public relations tour arranged by the military. Flags partly deals with the conflicted and/or buried feelings that arose from this effort, and from the conflict between two worlds — the godawful battle-of-Iwo-Jima world where everything was ferocious and pure and absolute, and the confusing, lost-in-the- shuffle world of back home, where almost everything felt off and incomplete.
This isn’t a review or reaction of any kind — that won’t happen for another several days. But I can at least say that Flags is a mature and very soulful meditation piece with its head and heart in the right humanistic place, and that a couple of hot-shot critic friends are feeling a good amount of respect and admiration for it.
It was also obvious that the room this morning was full of respect for Eastwood and his storied career as a director, with the critical highpoints (prior to Flags of Our Fathers) being Bridges of Madison County and the Oscar-winning Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby.
Now that you know the basics, listen away.
I”ve heard it before, of course, but I was moved again this morning after listening to this brief but very eloquent Robert F. Kennedy speech in which he announced the death of Martin Luther King, invoked the words of Aeschylus, and reminded his listeners how we all need to seek wisdom and restraint. Just as I was moved during the final minutes of Emilio Estevez‘s Bobby when Kennedy’s speech about the lamentable violent traditions of this country is heard on the soundtrack.
I feel more or less the same things that Estevez has expressed in recent interviews about RFK, about what a terrible loss his death was and how it seemed to deflate the national spirit and send the country down the wrong path with the election of Nixon. But the RFK current isn’t all that vivid in Bobby and vice versa. Not to me, it isn’t….except during those final minutes. The film is a tribute to him, of course, and like I said in Toronto it’s half tolerable, but….
Ethel Kennedy, the Senator’s widow, issued a statement through the Weinstein Co., saying that “our family is grateful to Emilio Estevez and the extraordinary cast of Bobby for remembering Robert Kennedy’s life and his commitment to social justice, peace and equality.” Yeah, well…naturally.
The Aeschylus quote that Kennedy spoke that night, in the above-linked speech: “And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”
With about $8,400,000 earned yesterday (3017 theatres, $2785 per print), it’s been estimated that The Departed will have about $25,207,000 by Sunday night. The demographic is primarily older males. It’s not performing all that well with teenaged boys (yet) and is undoubtedly doing poorly with women of all ages, and is almost certainly playing stronger in urban blue state areas than in middle-red America.
Miramax has its first real hit with The Queen. Playing in only 11 situations, it did almost 10,000 a print for a total of about $105,000. I was at the Arclight last night (i.e., my second look at Flags of Our Fathers) and the 7:10 pm show of The Queen was sold out.
The widespread critical view that Little Children is an insightful, well acted, finely crafted drama didn’t seem to mean much with first-day audiences. It opened in five theatres and made about $6000 a print, for a total of $30 grand.
Weekend estimates: Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning — $18,890,000; Open Season — $17,437,000, off 26%; Employee of the Month — $12,341,000; The Guardian, $9,869,000, off about 45%; Jackass Number Two — $7,021,000, off about 52%; School for Scoundrels — $3,819,000, off 56%; Gridiron Gang, $2,562,000; The Illusionist — $1,890,000.
Okay, we finally have a roster of serious Departed dissers — the Toronto Globe & Mail‘s Rick Groen and the Charlotte Observer‘s Laurence Toppman. Because of these two trashings plus a Jim Hoberman half-pan, the Metacritic rating for Martin Scorsese‘s crime film has dropped to 88%. Rotten Tomatoes is still above 90 — 92%, to be exact,