Finally seeing Army of Shadows here sometime late Sunday afternoon; cab Labyrinth; brief candle; early ’60s L’eclisse poster at Lucky Strike on Grand Street — 12.30.06, 5:35 pm; candlelit bar at Lucky Strike; less said the better; Four-Faced Liar on West 4th Street — 12.30.06, 7:40 pm; sustenance; Film Forum wall display
The Reeler’s Stu VanAirsdale is running some interesting comments from Pan’s Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro about why, despite its themes and violence, kids should be encouraged to see it.
“Fairy tales, when they were created first, they were not only very disturbing tales, but at the same time they were meant to represent very dire circumstances at the time they were written,” del Toro explains. “Famine. Plague. Not, in general, very nice situations, with kids being orphaned, being abandoned, etcetera. And I think in that sense, the movie is just a continuation of that thread in the genre.
“I feel like the movie is a movie about the responsibility of disobedience and the responsibility of choice. It’s a movie about choice and about how your choices affect your destiny and who you are. It’s a girl that refuses to obey either the magical creatures or the fascist captain. And how she essentially forges her own destiny. Chewing up fairies aside, I think that’s a damn valuable lesson in this world.”
Movie City News has assembled 164 Top Ten lists from 164 film critics and calibrated the standings based on a point system, and the #1 film is Paul Greengrass‘s United 93 with 590 points, compared to 533 for The Queen, 524 for The Departed, 402 for Pan’s Labyrinth and 392 for Letters From Iwo Jima.
That’s it — there’s no excuse any more for any Academy member who refuses to see United 93. None. at. all. If you, an Academy member, see United 93 and don’t care for it, fine. But if you flat-out refuse to see it, you’re bringing dishonor upon yourself and the Academy and the entire process. If the United 93 cowards had the smallest shred of character they’d resign, but of course they won’t do that. Say it loud and clear: these people are despicable.
This first-person account by N.Y. Times Baghdad correspondent Marc Santora, appearing in Sunday’s edition, about Saddam Hussein‘s final hour of life is historic, essential reading — tight, terse, riveting. (The eyewitness observations apparently came from Ali Adeeb and Khalid al-Ansary.)
“At 6:10 a.m., the trapdoor swung open. [Hussein] seemed to fall a good distance, but he died swiftly. After just a minute, his body was still. His eyes still were open but he was dead. Despite the scarf, the rope cut a gash into his neck.”
Wait…”he died swiftly” but his body wasn’t still until “a minute” had passed? Doesn’t sound that swift to me. My idea of swift is the way Slim Pickens‘ Major Kong dies at the end of Dr, Strangelove.
The lead graph introducing USA Today‘s “Oscar Oracle” chart begins as follows: “If the Academy Awards were given out based on what the nation’s film critics think, at least two of the races would be over right now: best actor and actress.” And then it goes blah, blah, Forest Whitaker, blah, blah, Helen Mirren (The Queen)….we’re bored, we need something to fill space with, we’re just running another Oscar chart based on critics like Movie City News, blah, blah…it’s the end of the year and we’re plotzing.
The critics have gone good things by celebrating United 93 and Emmanuel Lubezki and Half Nelson, etc., but they’ve also bored everyone to tears with the uniformity of their choices, the result being that nobody wants to hear about them any more. They’re done. The Hollywood guilds — Screen Actors Guild (1.4.07), DGA (noms on 1.9.07), Producers Guild (1.20.07), etc. — are next on the agenda. They’re being announced within the next two or three weeks or so, culminating with the announcement of the Academy Awards nominations on Tuesday, 1.23.07. (The DGA hands its awards out on 2.3.07; the WGA bestows its awards on 2.11.07.)
Having finally watched the Extended Unrated Bugsy DVD last week, I can report with great satisfaction that N.Y. Times DVD columnist Dave Kehr was totally right when he said that this longer version of the 1991 film “plays much more smoothly and inexorably than it did in the edited [theatrical] version,” which ran about 15 minutes shorter.
(l. to r.) Toback, Levinson and Beatty taping discussion about the making of Bugsy, which is included on the DVD.
We all know that extended versions of films are not necessarily better or fuller things to sit through. This one is, however. In so doing the all-new Bugsy ranks alongside Cameron Crowe’s longer “Untitled” version of Almost Famous and James Cameron‘s longer cut of Aliens.
I was going to run a tape of an interview I did with Bugsy screenwriter James Toback just before Christmas at the Harvard Club, but I screwed up by acciden- tally deleting it off the recorder as well as my hard drive — brilliant. I was only able to salvage this pathetically short snippet in which Jim discusses the Hollywood syndrome of “parasites feeding off parasites.”
To make up for the loss, I recorded the opening ten or twelve minutes of a chat between Toback, Bugsy director Barry Levinson and star-producer Warren Beatty that’s included in the DVD doc called “The Road to Damascus: The Reinvention of Bugsy Siegel.”
Night at the Museum, the four-day weekend’s #1 film, will end up with about $44,898,000 on Monday night (1.1.07), for an overall cume of $124 million…pretty good for a piece of CG shit. The Pursuit of Happyness, the #2 film, will have $24,200,000 as of Monday night, and a cume of $103,200,000. Dreamgirls, playing in 862 theatres, will end up with $17 million for the holiday weekend (i.e., not a bad haul), which makes it the #3 film.
The Good Shepherd (#4) will end up with 14,226,000 by Monday night. Charlotte’s Web (#5) will hit $14.091,000. Rocky Balboa (#6), $13,899,000. Eragon (#7), $10,448,000. We Are Marshall (#8), $10,228,000. Happy Feet (#9), $8,846,000. The Holiday (#10), $8,346,000.
None of the limited opening films are knockin’ em down: Children of Men, Pan’s Labyrinth, Notes on a Sandal and Letters From Iwo Jima are all puttering along…nothing earth-shaking or dish-rattling. Iwo Jima is dying, in fact — it did about $28,000 in 6 theatres last night, and will end up Monday night with about $110,000. Perfume, playing in only three theatres, did about $13,000 yesterday and should do about $52,000 for the four-day weekend. Miss Potter did $3000 in two theatres, and will end up with about $12,000 on Monday night. The Dead Girl died in two theatres — $2000 earnings last night, a projected $9000 for the holiday weekend.
Dreamgirls will have roughly a $40 million cume by Monday night (1.1.07), but can it reach $100 million over the next four weeks? Big financial earnings in all sectors are seen as an indicator of Oscar potency, after all. And let’s face it — between now and the end of January (or early February) is the peak earning time for this DreamWorks musical. If it cleans up in the Oscar nominations (which are being announced on Tuesday, 1.23), its hand will obviously be strengthened. But by how much?
It reportedly made $4.7 million yesterday (Friday) compared to $8.7 million on opening day last Monday (12.25). To hit $100 mill by it needs to take in another $60 million over the next four weeks, but I’m guessing (tell me if I’m wrong) that it’s not looking at much more than a $12 to $14 million haul next weekend, tops…perhaps less.
Bottom line: if it doesn’t score with multi-Oscar nominations across the board three weeks and three days from now, Dreamgirls will stall somewhere south of $100 million. Can it still win the Best Picture Oscar with only a respectable (as opposed to astronomical) box-office tally? Sure — if people want it to win, it’ll win. But won’t this make it a tad harder?
Chicago ended up with $170,687,518 domestic, yes, but maybe it’s not fair to expect a musical with a somewhat restricted demographic (if I explain what it is I’ll be called a racist homophobe, right?) to make $100 million-plus. I don’t know. You tell me. Some feel it’s bad form to bring up racial matters in discussing box-office potency, but it’s a fact of American life. It’s nice to think we’re all clever, classless and free, but the lyrics from Randy Newman‘s “Rednecks” still apply in some areas, sorry to say.
Cheers to N.Y. Times reporter Sharon Waxman for writing one of the nerviest (let alone unusual) pieces I’ve ever read in this very staunchly establishment newspaper, renowned for its rigorous prose style and well-deserved reputation for being libidinally restrained (to say the least), if not disinterested altogether. Waxman has certainly sidestepped that attitude in the 12.31 edition by taking a look at “The Graying of Naughty” — i.e., how a new type of porn film starring older, grayer and saggier performers is broadening the market.
“The mature-woman genre,” Waxman writes, “represents one of the fastest growing areas of video pornography, say leading distributors and retailers, and next month it will be inaugurated as a category at the AVN Awards, the Oscars of the skin trade.” Porn film director Urbano Martin tells Waxman that the market for beautiful, airbrushed young women “is oversaturated…this is [about] more normal people, more meat on the bone, like what you have at home.”
The focus of Waxman’s piece is a fairly attractive 50 year-old sex actress named De’Bella, and the somewhat mindblowing element — for a Times reporter, I mean — is that Waxman apparently stood nearby and took notes as De’Bella and her 54 year-old “performing partner” Rod Fontana did the mambo nasty.
“‘What’s the premise on this one?’ Fontana asks De’Bella before starting. ‘Pizza boy?’
“Whatever,” Waxman writes. “Within a few unscripted minutes they’re mostly unclothed, panting and moaning for the camera, engaged in sexual contortions and obviously unbothered by visiting onlookers.”
For their role in deliberately obstructing the showing of An Inconvenient Truth to school kids, which would obviously help to raise awareness about the global warming threat, the administrators of National Science Teachers Association have befouled their reputation by refusing to accept 50,000 free copies of Davis Guggenheim and Al Gore‘s documentary to distribute to their members.
The stated reason was that the NSTA has a policy of not endorsing a particular project — despite the reported fact that the NSTA “has accepted contributions from ExxonMobil, Shell and the National Petroleum Institute” and “[has] even distributed a Petroleum Institute video called You Can’t Be Cool Without Fuel, which Inconvenient Truth producer Laurie David has called “a shameless pitch for oil dependence.”
L.A. Times guys John Horn and Patrick Goldstein in a series of podcast chats about Oscar snubs, the apparent chasm between Academy members and critics regarding Best Picture choosings, the Academy’s problem with violent movies, and the surgings of Volver and Penelope Cruz.