“With nearly 2,000 shows already sold out, Summit Entertainment’s teen vampire romance Twilight is looking more like a studio blockbuster than some of the blockbusters,” reports Variety‘s Pamela McLintock. “[The film] has whipped up such a frenzy among tween and teenage girls that advance ticket sales are the biggest for any film since The Dark Knight. How high Twilight, directed by Catherine Hardwicke, opens this weekend depends on whether the movie leapfrogs beyond its target demo. On the strength of girls and moms alone, Twilight could open in the $45 million-to-$60 million range. Some say it could go higher.”
So I’m not entirely alone. Pro-Twilight critics include Entertainment Weekly‘s Owen Gleiberman, the Village Voice‘s Chuck Wilson (“gives really good swoon”), the S.F. Chronicle‘s Peter Hartlaub (director Catherine Hardwicke “has a knack for making her young actors seem unpolished and real, even when the events from the book and the dialogue are inherently ridiculous”), the Star-Tribune‘s Colin Covert, the Orlando Sentinel‘s Roger Moore, etc.
For some reason I found myself unable to post anything after catching Australia yesterday afternoon at the AMC 25 on 42nd Street. I turned on the laptop-avec-aircard in some noisy irritating sports bar on Eighth Avenue….nothing. Some kind of lethargy virus had taken over my system. I tried later on at home…still nothing. Sometimes it’s better to just give in to the veg impulse.
Summit Entertainment is insisting on a no-review embargo on Catherine Hardwicke‘s Twilight for another 36 hours or so (12:01 am on Friday, 11.21), although the Chicago Tribune‘s Michael Phillips has said his review will be up tomorrow (i.e., presumably sometime late tonight online). It can be deduced that Summit is expecting a torrent of press negativity. Well, they’re wrong. At least as far as this horse is concerned.
Before last night’s all-media screening at Manhattan’s AMC 25 a publicist got a mid-sized laugh when she told everyone to “keep your reactions to yourself until Friday.” You could hear the murmuring responses…”right!,” “in a pig’s eye!,” etc. You have to give Summit’s top publicist Vivian Mayer props for laying down the law with such whip-cracking vigor, but not long after Twilight started I began saying to myself, “What are Mayer and her Summit bosses thinking? We all know that Titanic-level business among teenage girls this weekend is a foregone conclusion, but do Summit execs really understand what they have here?”
Due apologies to those middle–aged male journalists making smart-ass cracks outside the theatre after it ended, but they’re wrong. They’re living in their own world — blinded, blocking, reactionary. Because within its own emotional teenage-girl, imagining-and-longing-for-the-ideal-boyfriend realm, Twilight… should I say this? I don’t want to anger Vivian Mayer. But what publicist would be upset if a guy like myself, an unregenerate adult-movie, classic-movie, indie-movie, Pasolini-admiring, Kubrick-worshipping fan who hates sitting next to giggling groups of women in cocktail bars — what if a guy like me said that this sucker works?
Because it does. On its own attitudinal terms and given what it’s addressing and saying. And you can take that to the bank and put it in your IRA account. I’ve been in this racket for nearly 30 years and I know when a film is working so don’t tell me.
Does saying “it works” constitute a review? I don’t think so. It’s a two-word declaration. Don’t reviews have to be at least two or three paragraphs long?
I can at least describe the vibe in the room as it played. The crowd , which admittedly was at least half-packed with under-25 women, was with it — engaged, attuned, emotional pores open. Some of them screamed when Robert Pattinson came on screen. Okay, the crowd chuckled here and there at this or that line of on-the-nose dialogue. Big deal. Forgive and forget. The movie had the crowd in the palm of its hand.
And I can at least describe a conversation I had with a sharp Manhattan female columnist in the outer foyer. “Whadja think?” I asked. “I liked it!,” she said, nodding and wearing a serene little smile that spoke of resolution. Then she quickly added, perhaps thinking I was a hater and not wanting to argue, “I’m a girl.” And I said, “And I’m a guy and I don’t think it was half bad! In its own realm it works. And Pattinson is great! And Kristin Stewart is such a good actress that she knows how to finagle her dialogue and it all goes down pretty smoothly.”
That’s what I said to a colleague, okay? Street reportage, not a review. I think it’s fair to say, eminently fair, that Twilight is a lot better than you might have been led to believe. Within the swoony romantic teen-girl ethos it’s an absolute bulls-eye. I suspect it’ll be the biggest power-hitting, repeat-viewing grand-slammer since Titanic. Possibly $200 million, I’m thinking. Young women were palpitating with pleasure as they spoke to a BBC video crew getting reactions outside the theatre.
Here are some talking points from the Tribune‘s Phillips:
Site of last night’s Manhattan screening.
1. Twilight “is low-keyed supernaturalism. Director Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown) doesn’t go in for heavy blockbuster or franchise machinery. Likewise, Tuesday’s preview audience at the AMC River East 21 seemed relatively subdued on the way out.”
2. Kristen Stewart’s Bella Swan “is far less the Victorian teen simp than she is in Stephenie Meyer‘s novel.”
3. “The leads look pretty together.Stewart, who played the desert wild child in “Into the Wild,” enters Deep Smolder Mode (Celibate Division) earnestly and well with Robert Pattinson, who’s best known — prior to Twilight — as Cedric Diggory in two of the Harry Potter pictures and here plays Edward Cullen of the mysterious traveling Cullen clan.”
4. “The musical score by Carter Burwell, a frequent Coen brothers colleague, is effective, subtly creepy. No bombast or big orchestral wows.”
Sydney Morning Herald Critic Sandra Hall, who’s been on the beat for 30 years, has posted the best-written review of Australia yet. “Nothing succeeds like excess,” she begins. “Oscar Wilde coined the phrase and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Baz Luhrmann has it embroidered on scatter cushions all over the house.
This still of Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman exudes a certain you-know-what, in part because of the placement of Jackman’s right hand.
“Not that he needs reminding. It is a mantra stamped on everything he does and Australia is the apotheosis. It has become the movie as superhero, charged with the job of rescuing the Australian film industry and giving us a new and shiny view of ourselves. And shiny it certainly is.
“It’s also much too long at almost three hours, deliriously camp and shamelessly overdone — an outback adventure seen through the eyes of a filmmaker steeped in the theatrical rituals and hectic colors of old-fashioned showbiz. To quote Oklahoma, one of the few Hollywood classics not to lend its influence to Luhrmann’s style, or rather medley of styles, the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye.
“And so strong is his urge to celebrate the exoticism of old Australia that you half-expect to see the elephant, as well, lumbering across one of those majestic stretches of the Kimberley. Yet the film’s vigor and yes, its passion — that overused word — do engage you.
“Anachronisms abound. Kidman and Jackman speak quaintly of doing a drove. There’s an action sequence that pushes the concept of the cliffhanger much further than it was ever meant to go, and Sarah’s romance with the Drover is rife with Mills & Boon moments.”
In his latest “Notes on a Season” (posted yesterday), The Envelope‘s Pete Hammond reports that Clint Eastwood‘s Gran Torino “was shown to a handful of top critics (okay, exactly three) on the Warner Bros. lot last Thursday afternoon, and consensus is it’s a slam-dunk acting nomination for Clint.”
This has been speculated all along as a potential gold-watch gesture due to the assertion-belief that Gran Torino may be Eastwood’s final performance, but now the idea has a little more meat on its bones. Draw your own inferences from Hammond not passing along “consensus” talk about Gran Torino being Best Picture material.
“Eastwood always lets a very select few on his approved list see his movies first, and in this case it was a highly respected top-tier critic from a major daily newspaper” — the L.A. Times‘ Kenny Turan, one presumes — “a major Hollywood trade paper” — Variety‘s Todd McCarthy, obviously — “and a major consumer entertainment news TV show” — i.e., Entertainment Tonight‘s Leonard Maltin.
I’m about a month and a half late to the table on this, but this Sean Connery photo in the Louis Vuitton double-truck ad in the current Esquire (among many other publications, subway ads, billboards), which I happened upon while flipping through it (i.e., Vince Vaughn on the cover) on my way up to last night’s Twilight screening, is the most righteous image-and-vibe statement Connery has put out since The Rock, and before that The Hunt for Red October. Photo by Annie Leibovitz.
IFC Films has decided to open Matteo Garrone‘s Gomorrah, the Italian Oscar entry for Best Foreign Language Film, in Los Angeles for a one-week award-qualifying run on Friday, 12.19, at the Laemmle Sunset 5. The widely acclaimed crime pic will thereafter be eligible for all categories of the Oscars as well as Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), National Society of Film Critics (NSFC) and other film critics’ awards. Gomorrrah will re-open theatrically on 2.13.09.
“It’s not newspapers that might become obsolete,” Rupert Murdoch said two or three days ago. “It’s some of the editors, reporters, and proprietors who are forgetting a newspaper’s most precious asset — the bond with its readers.
“Their complacency stems from having enjoyed a monopoly — and now finding they have to compete for an audience they once took for granted. And the condescension that many [editors and proprietors] show their readers is an even bigger problem.
“It takes no special genius to point out that if you are contemptuous of your customers, you are going to have a hard time getting them to buy your product. Newspapers are no exception.
“It used to be that a handful of editors could decide what was news — and what was not. They acted as sort of demigods. If they ran a story, it became news. If they ignored an event, it never happened.
“Today, editors are losing this power. The internet, for example, provides access to thousands of new sources that cover things an editor might ignore. And if you aren’t satisfied with that, you can start up your own blog, and cover and comment on the news yourself. Journalists like to think of themselves as watchdogs, but they haven’t always responded well when the public calls them to account.”
“If hard times are here again, maybe it’s time for Hollywood to once again stand up for the downtrodden.” — N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott in a video assessment of John Ford‘s The Grapes of Wrath (1940), one of the older big-studio films that I’ve sworn by all my life.