I just had a conversation about how being hungry has always been a great incentive to do good work and being too well fed has always had the opposite effect. Nothing new in this, but when I mentioned the curious case of the once-great Cameron Crowe and how he seemed to go off the rails after Elizabethtown, the guy said “I think he got too rich. Too comfortable, too much luxury, too many friends in the same position with the same comforts, and after a while the fire just simmers down.”
The Providence Journal and the Ivy Film Festival website declined to run anything about the Jack Nicholson-Robert Evans-Brad Grey-Peter Bart‘s panel discussion at Brown University last Saturday (which I had considered attending until practical considerations intervened). But Variety‘s recently laid-off Dade Hayes attended and filed a report yesterday afternoon.
After nearly 22 years of reviewing films for the Charlotte Observer, Lawrence Toppman has been taken off the beat and will concentrate on the barely existing Charlotte theater scene and start an arts column of some kind. “Except for the Orlando Sentinel‘s Roger Moore and another guy in Miami, I was the last critic at a daily paper in the Southeast reviewing as often as I did,” Toppman wrote last Friday. To supplement his reduced income Toppman will now do occasional deliveries and pick up sandwiches and coffee for the remaining staffers at lunch hour…kidding! But not that much.
In The Loop costar Anna Chlumsky at last night’s after-party (following a 7 pm screening) for this brilliant IFC release, which in my book is easily the fastest and sharpest political farce of the 21st Century — Sunday, 4.26.09, 9:40 pm.
Tribeca Film Festival wait-line outside AMC 7 plex on Third Avenue and 11th (or thereabouts) — Sunday, 4.26.09, 7:15 pm
In The Loop costar David Rasche, director-writer Armando Iannucci. Hosted by Quintessentially, the after-event was held at Madam Geneva at Double Crown — 316 Bowery at Bleecker St.
“I strongly suggest you make time to see Racing Dreams, which is easily the best film I’ve seen so far at the [Tribeca Film Festival] and probably this year,” wrote Scott Feinberg in a Sunday e-mail. “It’s a documentary by Marshall Curry, the guy who did Street Fighter a few years ago, and like Hoop Dreams it follows kids who aspire to become professionals at race-car driving.
“Without giving anything away I’ll just say (a) Curry found three perfect subjects, (b) the film was tremendously moving, and (c) it received a standing ovation through the entire credits at Saturday’s screening. I have no stake in it, but know you need to catch it at one of the next showings. It’s definitely gonna be nominated for the Best Feature Documentary Oscar, and could well win.
“The three competitors — Annabeth Barnes, Josh Hobson, Brandon Warren — are shown going through a year of ‘NASCAR Little League,'” says a festival blog post. “Their search for the title takes them from Michigan to North Carolina to upstate New York, and Curry delves deep into their worlds, both personal and professional. The kids interact with each other, and we also see the toll their aspirations take on their families. The result is both a multifaceted look at a world most New Yorkers know nothing about and a classic coming-of-age story with three charismatic kids as the centerpiece.”
I’ll be seeing JJ Abrams‘ Star Trek (Paramount, 5.8) very soon so Dave Itzkoff‘s N.Y. Times profile of Abrams and his filmmaking partners — Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Bryan Burk — had my attention right off.
Star Trek director JJ Abrams
“Abrams and his partners are guys with mainstream pop-culture aspirations,” Itzkoff writes. “Their forte is taking on genres with finite but dedicated fan bases — science fiction, fantasy and horror — and making them accessible to wider audiences. And what they had in mind for their Star Trek movie is a film that is consistent with 43 years of series history but not beholden to it.
“Despite their collective reverence for Star Trek — and Star Wars and Indiana Jones and X-Men, and other cultural artifacts of their awkward adolescence — none of them are total Trek completists (not even Orci, who once owned a telephone shaped like the Enterprise). They say that makes them the ideal candidates to upgrade Gene Roddenberry‘s creation for 21st-century audiences.
“There’s just too much stuff out there to be loyal to everything,” Lindelof said. “Someone will find 50 ways to tell us we’re idiots, and it wouldn’t be Trek if they didn’t.” At the same time they appreciate the perils of chiseling away at a cultural touchstone whose influence has remained enormous even as its reputation has varied wildly over the years.
“If Star Trek fails, Kurtzman said, ‘it’ll be the biggest personal failure we’ve ever had, because we will have actually violated something that means a lot to us.'”
Fear Me Not director and cowriter Kristian Levring (l.), IFC Films Ryan Werner (r.) at last night’s dinner at Freeman’s Sporting Club, which is near the Bowery and just off Rivington. Thanks to IFC and 42West for inviting me. Freeman’s is a nicely atmospheric, 19th Century-styled eating and drinking place.
A relatively new turn in women’s footwear, I was told last night. The only thing you need to avoid are shoes of this type with flesh-colored straps, which tend to resemble Ace bandages.
What kind of person would buy a soft drink or a Big Mac or a pack of smokes and then just toss the cup or empty cardboard container into a 42nd Street gutter? I’ve walked the 42nd Street corridor between 7th Avenue/Broadway and 8th Avenue dozens of times, and I’m telling you it’s Animal Row every night starting around 10 pm, especially now with the warm weather.
Former Fox 411 columnist Roger Friedman hasn’t wasted any time in launching his own site, which he’s calling Showbiz411. Starting out slowly, gradually. The graphics could use enhancement and refinement, but so could Hollywood Elsewhere’s in the early days. He’s running around the Tribeca Film Festival, going to Cannes, etc.
There was a Tribeca Film Festival screening and after-party last night for Barry Ptolemy‘s Transcendent Man, a proflle of futurist and “singularity” proponent Ray Kurzweil. He’s been projecting that singularity — the creation of super-intelligent, long-lived beings via the fusing of humans and computers — will happen within 30 years. Ptolemy profiles Kurzweil as well as followers — including Steve Wonder and William Shatner — of his regimen, which he says will bestow eternal life.
Transcendent Man director Barry Ptolemy, producer Felicia Ptolemy.
Ptolemy “also interviews evangelists who believe that Kurzweil is challenging God, especially by his ongoing endeavor to bring his father back from the dead,” says a Popular Mechancis summary. “Ultimately, Ptolemy asks if singularity is the theory of a genius or a sci-fi idea taken too seriously.”
I missed last night’s screening due to being at IFC’s Fear Me Not dinner near Rivington and Bowery, but I wanted to very much to meet Transcendant Man composer Phillip Glass, whom I’ve admired for decades. I was told when I got to the party, however, that Glass was unable to attend due to a concert he was performing. This “concert,” I later found out, was a private party that Glass was hosting at his home near the intersection of 2nd Avenue and 3rd Street. He did perform there, I’m told.
“In the year 2050, if Ray Kurzweil is right, nanoscopic robots will be zooming throughout our capillaries, transforming us into nonbiological humans,” an article reads. “We will be able to absorb and retain the entirety of the universe’s knowledge, eat as much as we want without gaining weight, shape-shift into just about any physical form imaginable, live free from disease, and die at the time of our choosing.
“All of this will be thrust on us by something that Kurzweil calls the Singularity, a theorized point in time in the not-so-distant future when machines become vastly superior to humans in every way, aka the emergence of true artificial intelligence. Computers will be able to improve their own source codes and hardware in ways we puny humans could never conceive. This will result in a paradigm shift that sees mankind coalescing with its own creations: man and machine, merging into one.
“These grand-scale premonitions are largely based on Kurzweil’s law of accelerating returns, which states that the development of technology has been increasing exponentially since the beginning of time. That concept isn’t really compelling to anyone but science nerds until you focus on the ‘knee’ of this exponential curve — the point where the perpetual doubling of technological growth skyrockets and negates the linear models of progress that people like economists have relied on for so long.
“Kurzweil says we’re just about to start rounding this bend and that the rate of progress will be so great it will ‘appear to rupture the fabric of human history.’ In other words, we will trump nature and take control of our own evolution.”
Has anyone mentioned an obvious analogy about Kristian Levering‘s Fear Me Not, a current Tribeca Film Festival attraction? Levring and Anders Thomas Jensen‘s script is about a mild-mannered family man who undergoes big changes and wreaks havoc after taking an experimental mood-altering drug. This is the basic premise of Nicholas Ray‘s Bigger Than Life. IFC On Demand is opening the film on 6.10.
This comic short has been playing before every feature shown over the last three or four days at the Tribeca Film Festival. Directed by David Gray for Ogilvy New York, it’s about a nebbishy flasher (Doug Moe) who hits it off with one of the women he’s tried to shock. Moe and the women playing the would-be victims (Jennifer Morris, Jennifer Bowen) are appealing and amusing, but the piece doesn’t work after the friendly-flirty stuff begins. I’ll explain why in a second.
Ogilvy creative directors Dustin Duke and Jon Wagner have been quoted as saying that the short’s “basic premise is that New Yorkers have seen everything — flashers, drug dealers, prostitutes, muggers, mobsters — and have become immune to it all. [So the short is] honoring New Yorkers’ resilience and optimism and ability to turn an unpleasant and negative situation into something that is positive and opportunistic.”
That’s true regarding the smiling 40ish brunette who’s open to having coffee (i.e., Morris). New Yorkers aren’t easily shocked and are open to spontaneous feeling, etc. Except the short only half-expresses this because Moe’s flasher doesn’t adapt.
Humor isn’t humor unless it connects to reality, and flashers, make no mistake, are about aggression and rage. Like rapists, they’re expressing contempt and loathing for their victims. So what should’ve happened (i.e., if Gray had been a better director) is that Moe would have stopped flashing after he hits it off with whatsername. He’d drop the hostility and fully surrender to her smile and spirit instead of what he does, which is laugh and grin and flirt and continue to show the monster.
By the end of the piece Moe’s character is saying (a) “hey, I’d love to go out with you!” and (b) “I still despise you so much that the possibility that I might continue to inspire revulsion despite our repartee gives me a wonderful sense of sociopathic satisfaction.”
This is what mediocre directing is all about — i.e., failing to take the reality of the human condition into account. If Alfonso Cuaron or Luis Bunuel or Wes Anderson or Mike Nichols had directed this short, it would have ended — trust me — with Moe buttoning his coat.