The AFI’s “Moments of Signifiance” awards are at least more thoughtful and somewhat less politically-inspired than the “best of” awards that litter the landscape. But it seems as if the AFI shovels out an awful lot of awards to an awful lot of people and movies these daysd…that their organizational need to hand these out is stronger and more primal than anything else.
My sons and I saw Children of Men Wednesday night inside a packed theatre at Leows’ Lincoln Square cinemas, but before I get into reactions I need to point out once again that the sound in the smallish theatre in which this Alfonso Cuaron film was playing sucked — nothing close to the super-robust, room-filling, razor-sharp sound I heard in Westwood’s Village theatre at the Children of Men premiere several weeks ago. It was muffled and down at least two volume notches too low.
Beware of the sound in the right-rear shoebox!
Naturally, I got up and found the manager and asked him to please turn it up at least two notches. I went back in and the sound had come up slightly, but it still felt kind of weak. As I was thanking the manager guy for listening and responding as he did, he said, as all managers inevitably do, that my request was isolated and that most of the time people ask him to turn the sound down.
Why has each and every theatre manager I’ve ever spoken to about sound levels said the exact same thing? Why is the sound always perfect when I watch a film an an all-media screening in New York or Los Angeles (or when I go to any paid-ticket show at the Arclight or at Mann’s Village or one of the other high-end theatres), and why is the sound always a little weak and indistinct when I see a film in that smallish rear-shoebox theatre at the Lincoln Square? I had the same problem when I saw Match Point in the same space during the summer of ’05.
My sons were agreeably stunned by Children of Men last night — they both were going on and on about what a mindblower it was, about the awesome production design and the visual innovation, etc. — but the general crowd was not in the same place. You could feel it plain as day. They were not the least bit charmed or aroused — you could tell by their shoulder-shrugging expressions and murmurings as we all shuffled out of the theatre.
I think it’s because Children of Men delivers a kind of atmospheric nightmare that hits too close to home. It portrays a kind of devolved-degenerated future that many of us fear is possibly/probably in the cards, and a lot of us don’t want to deal with. At all.
It’s like what Alan Arkin said to Time magazine a while back, to wit: “We’ve pushed the buttons too far. We’ve been greedy and selfish. Everybody knows what we’ve done to the rivers and the oceans; the fact that there’s only 35 years’ worth of fish in the oceans; the fact that the polar ice caps are melting. I think that right under the surface of everybody’s consciousness is the full understanding that we’re in for a really tough ride and everybody is really afraid to face it.”
And what that woman I spoke to on a plane last summer said when I showed her read David Denby‘s New Yorker review of An Inconvenient Truth (“detailed, deep-layered, vivid, and terrifying…every school, college, and church group, and everyone else beyond the sway of General Motors, ExxonMobil, and the White House should see this movie”). She read it, handed me the magazine, and said with a chuckle, her eyes dropping to her lap, “Some people aren’t comfortable hearing about this.”
The curious thing, I told her, is that Truth is touching and never boring. She didn’t disagree with the urgency of the Gore’s message, but we both knew what she meant when she said “people.” It seemed obvious she considered Davis Guggen- heim’s film a bringer of unpleasant vibes.
Mirren-Whitaker have again won the Best Actress and Best Actor trophies, this time from the herd-mentality Chicago Film Critics. Worthy choices, certainly, but it’s as if critics nationwide were all injected with the same drug. Jackie Earle Haley (Best Supporting Actor), Martin Scorsese (Best Director, The Departed), Peter Morgan (Best Original Screenplay, The Queen), William Monahan (Best Adapted Screenplay, The Departed), An Inconvenient Truth (Best Documentary), et. al.
The only semi-standout award is Rinko Kikuchi winning the Best Supporting Actress award for her performance in Babel.
Here’s a take on the CFC awards by Pop Machine’s Mark Caro, also of the Chicago Tribune.
Anyone can download pirated films from this and that illegal source, but I’ve never seen a site like www.peekvid.com, which has a long list of new and/or fairly new movies (Night at the Museum, The Departed, etc.) that you can simply click on and pow!…there they are. The usual crappy visuals (vidcam shooting from inside a theatre) and atrocious sound, but I’m amazed that the big-studio pirate hunters haven’t jumped all over the Netherlands-based person[s] running this site. The Alexa figures are exceptionally high. I think the guys behind this operation need to be busted but good.
The reason that Dreamgirls, which has been doing pretty great business since opening semi-wide last Monday (i.e., Christmas Day), isn’t playing in more than 852 theatres is…? My understanding is that there’s some degree of concern that the want-to-see isn’t strong enough in the more rural areas of the country, so DreamWorks marketers are waiting for the Oscar nomination announcements on 1.23.07 — three and a half weeks away — to open it wider.
What about all the musical-loving women out there who want to see it now? There must be tens of thousands cooling their heels as we speak.
I know that as far as musical sizzle goes, Dreamgirls has that in spades. It didn’t make me suffer like Chicago did, and I’ve been thinking for the last couple of weeks that I’d really like to see it again just to see how it plays. I know my kids (aged 18 and 17) don’t give a hoot about it. I know it didn’t come up in conversation with friends in Connecticut last weekend, or with my sister or my brother or my parents. I still believe the Dreamgirls support is basically urban/female/black/gay…but it would be interesting to be proved wrong.
“I haven’t even seen the damn film yet,” says N.Y. journalist Lewis Beale, “but I’m thinking Dreamgirls will be a monster because it will attract (1) the Beyonce crowd, and she’s just huge, (2) zillions of boomers, ’cause it’s about Motown, the music they grew up with, (3) boomer kids who grooved on their folks’ Motown records, and now (4) the James Brown necrophilia crowd.
“I got shut out of an incredibly mixed-race Dreamgirls screening in Clifton, N.J. on Monday. And my sister-in-law tells me they saw it with a sold-out, almost all-white crowd in Durham, N.C.”
Wells to Beale: Dreamgirls may be “about” Motown history, but the music isn’t very Motown-y at all….not to my ears. Important point, this.
The fascist dictatorship awards mindset known as Mirren-Whitaker prevailed again with yesterday’s Oklahoma Film Critics Circle Awards. Why do I seem to be the only one who’s admitting to feelings of being irked — i.e., almost but not quite “sick of” — this oppressive and monotonous dominance?
There were other actresses (Penelope Cruz, Kate Winslet, Judi Dench, Sienna Miller) who gave beguilingly crafty and affecting performances besides The Queen‘s Helen Mirren, but you’d never suspect it to judge by the 14 critics groups who’ve handed out Best Actress awards this month. It’s been Mirren, Mirren, Mirren, Mirren, Mirren, Mirren, Mirren, Mirren, Mirren, Mirren, Mirren, Mirren, Mirren and Mirren. The Last King of Scotland‘s Forrest Whitaker has been the Best Actor choice with twelve critics groups, losing out to Borat‘s Sacha Baron Cohen two or three times.
The Oklahoma posse otherwise did well by handing Paul Greengrass’s United 93 its fifth Best Picture award (on top of the New York Film Critics Circle and critics groups from Dallas-Forth Worth, Phoenix and Washington, D.C.).
And cheers (again) to Martin Scorsese winning the Best Director award for The Departed, and Little Miss Sunshine winning for Best First Film (award going to co-directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris). And to Guillermo del Toro for Pan’s Labyrinth winning the Best Foreign Film.
The decision of the Florida Film Critics to give Peter O’Toole a kiss-of-death, gold-watch, career achievement award is unfortunately symptomatic of the thinking out there, which is that O’Toole can’t win against Will Smith and/or Leonardo DiCaprio in the Best Actor competish, but let’s gather round and show our respect, etc. O’Toole’s decision to wait until mid-January to show up in Los Angeles probably sealed his fate. I wish it were otherwise and I’m genuinely sorry, realizing he’s been coping with forces beyond his control. All hail Becket!
Variety‘s Ian Mohr on the box-office implosion of Apocalypto following a surprisingly strong opening weekend. I love how Mohr sidesteps the matter of Apocalypto‘s Oscar-nom prospects (saying”it remains to be seen,” blah blah) when Mohr and everyone else knows full well that no one outside of the Latino community truly enjoyed Apocalypto, and that while some Academy mainstreamers may feel respect for Mel Gibson‘s visceral filmmaking chops, they’re strongly inclined to blow it off anyway (and we all know why), not to mention Gibson’s “sugartits” problem with women voters.
It’s good to read that Manhattan is marginally less dead than Los Angeles this week, since HE is heading back there this morning and staying through January 4th or 5th. Seeing the final version of Factory Girl, visiting the Bob Dylan exhibit at the Morgan Library, probably paying to see Rocky Balboa, etc.
With the news of the passing of former president Gerald Ford — in office for 896 days from 8.9.74 to 1.20.77 — my mind rewound the following clips/impressions: (a) Chevy Chase‘s falling-down routines on Saturday Night Live, (b) the dutiful apparatchik who pardoned Richard Nixon, (c) the way he looked totally wrecked and red-eyed the morning he conceded the 1976 election to Jimmy Carter; (d) Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme‘s apparent intent to shoot Ford in front of San Francisco’s Fairmount Hotel in ’75, (e) that N.Y. Daily News headline: “Ford to City: Drop Dead“, (f) Saying “there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe” during a ’76 election debate with Carter; (g) his fascinating defense of the Warren Commission’s “magic bullet” theory and particularly his explanation that JFK fell back and to the left after being shot the second time because of “a neuromuscular reaction“; and (h) saying “I am a Ford, not a Lincoln.” Correction: It was Sara Jane Moore who tried shoot Ford (on 9.22.75) outside the St. Francis (not the Fairmount) hotel in San Francisco; “Squeaky” tried to shoot Ford in Sacramento 17 days earlier, on 9.5.75.
Salon‘s Stephanie Zacharek has compiled the most independent-minded Ten Best of ’06 list I’ve read anywhere. It’s so described because she’s included Marie-Antoinette (in some kind of royal tie with The Queen), Bryan Barber‘s Idlewild (not clever or crafty enough to be considered even an off-perverse choice), The Painted Veil (a tiresome dirge), The Notorious Bettie Page (scattershot), etc. Her choices are off the planet, but Zacharek deserves moxie points.