I don’t know why I was reluctant to play the trailer for Mike Newell and Jerry Bruckheimer‘s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (5.28). I guess it was because I knew it would deliver the same old deluge of grandiose CG that looks like nothing except grandiose CG, and the same sublime feeling of being soaked in Eloi-pandering oatmeal. And you know it’ll play like gangbusters when it opens a little more than six months hence.
I love the colloquial dialogue (“Don’t press your luck”), hunky Jake Gyllenhaal diving Batman-style from a great height (a mandatory bit in action epics for the last decade or so), Ben Kingsley conniving his heart out, Alfred Molina saving up for his retirement, etc. “Only the dagger can unlock the sands of time, and there are those who would use this power to destroy the world,” etc. The persistent spirit of Stephen Sommers — corporate factory candy for the toads.
In a piece about David Plouffe‘s The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama’s Historic Victory (Viking Adult), Arianna Huffington contemplates the gap between the ’08 Obama campaign themes and the way things have devolved since he took office. Caution bordering on timidity, status quo half-measures, playing softball with the right, etc.
“How did the candidate who got into the race because he’d decided that ‘the core leadership had turned rotten’ and that ‘the people were getting hosed’ become the president who has decided that the American people can only have as much change as Olympia Snowe will allow?
“How did the candidate who told a stadium of supporters in Denver that ‘the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result’ become the president who has surrounded himself with the same old players trying the same old politics, expecting a different result?
“How could a president whose North Star as a candidate was that he would ‘not forget the middle class’ choose as his chief economic advisor a man who recently argued against extending unemployment benefits in the middle of the worst economic times since the Great Depression?
“I’m referring, of course, to Larry Summers. According to a White House official I spoke with — later confirmed by sources in the White House and on the Hill — Summers was against the extension. And it took a lot of Congressional pushing back behind the scenes for the president to overrule him.
“And, according to another senior White House official, when foreclosures or job numbers come up at the regular White House morning meeting, Summers’ response is that nothing can be done. Nothing can be done about skyrocketing foreclosures or lost jobs.
“Nothing can be done — pretty much the opposite of ‘Yes we can,’ isn’t it?”
And this from Bill Maher, also on the Huffington Post:
“Yeah, I’m disappointed, too. I thought we were sweeping into power; I thought change meant Change. I believed all that talk about another First 100 Days, a la Roosevelt. Well, that didn’t happen. The question is, is this as good as it gets from President Obama, or is he pacing himself? He may have a four and eight-year plan and they included a first year of just gettin’ to know you and not gonna rock the boat too much. Well, Mission Accomplished on that.
“It’s still too early to lose hope in a guy as smart and talented as Barack Obama. But I would counsel him to remember: If you’re going undercover to infiltrate how Washington works, so you become one of them for a while, to gain their confidence, well, it can be just like all those movies where a cop goes deep, deep, DEEP undercover with drug people and — fuck, he’s a drug addict, too!
“Logic tells me that really smart guys like Obama and Rahm Emanuel know better what they’re doing than I do. They certainly know things I don’t know. I think we have the same general goals and beliefs. And this is what they do for a living — I wouldn’t even try it. But I will never stop having this doubt: that maybe if they had really charged in there riding the forceful energy of the historic election, and acted like it was an emergency moment — which it was — they could have gotten some big victories right up front, and there really could have been an historic ‘first hundred days’ for this administration and the country.
“Instead of what happened, which is the Obamas got a dog.
“It could have worked — the country had given its endorsement to ‘…and now for something completely different.’ There might have been a way to knock the Republicans back on their heels right away, with the argument that ‘The American people demanded we make these changes, and you are unpatriotic to stand in their way.’
“We’ll never know. Because that moment passed, and now it could follow the pattern of World War I and devolve into boring, static trench warfare where nothing really gamechanging happens while both sides slowly bleed to death.”
No trailer yet for Extraordinary Measures (CBS Films, 1.22.10), the Brendan Fraser-Harrison Ford true-life drama (based on Geeta Anand‘s The Cure) about a father teaming with a scientist to create a medical-establishment-defying cure for his ailing kids. But here’s a video piece about the actual history that inspired the book and the film.
Harrison Ford, Brendan Fraser in Extraordinary Measures.
The appearance is obviously that of a medical procedural along the lines of George Miller‘s Lorenzo’s Oil (1992), as both deal with finding medical cures for sick kids without the aid of FDA-approved remedies. I’m guessing that Measures probably delivers a bit more raging machismo, which you can pretty much count on with Ford playing a staunch maverick type.
The director is Tom Vaughan (Starter for 10, What Happens in Vegas). Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher and Carla Santos Shamberg produced. The script is by Robert Nelson Jacobs (The Water Horse, Chocolat). The costars are Keri Russell, Courtney B. Vance, Dee Wallace (where’s she been?), Jared Harris and Patrick Bauchau.
I don’t remember Lorenzo’s Oil all that vividly. (I saw it only once, and that was 17 years ago.) But I have a recollection of it being not half bad, and of better-than-decent performances by Nick Nolte (as an Italian) and Susan Sarandon. N.Y. Times critic Janet Maslin wrote that it’s “not the maudlin television-movie version of such a tale. There are no false miracles; there are no self-congratulatory triumphs; there is no smiling through anyone’s tears. [The] film has an appealingly brisk, unsentimental style and a rare ability to compress and convey detailed medical data.”
Among the four breakout performances mentioned on 10.30 by the N.Y. Times Karen Durbin, there’s no question who makes the most robust impression and who seems (to me anyway) the most talented, personable and charming — A Single Man‘s Nicholas Hoult, who’s not yet 20.
Nicholas Hoult in Tom Ford’s A Single Man
Guys this young rarely have this kind of quietly charismatic confidence. Either way he exudes something that feels steady beyond his years. Focus, discipline, some kind of tick-tocky metronomic thing going on inside. Hoult doesn’t seem to be playing an alert and confident student who talks straight, knows how to handle his feelings, and has the confidence to speak his mind (and heart) — he seems to be this guy. That’s solid acting. Plus he has astonishing eyes and a great smile.
Of course, a lot of what I’m describing is due in part to Tom Ford‘s writing and direction of A Single Man. I’m sure Hoult is capable of seeming mediocre, given half a chance. Who isn’t?
Intriguing as they may seem to others, Durbin’s other three — Up In The Air‘s Anna Kendrick, The Road‘s Kodi Smit-Mcphee and Fish Tank‘s Katie Jarvis — strike me as less formidable, presence-wise, and probably less talented (or certainly less developed) than Hoult.
Sony Classics’ deal to acquire Rodrigo Garcia‘s Mother and Child “came together shortly after Toronto but took some time to close,” reports Indiewire‘s Peter Knegt. The plan is to open it sometime next year so Annette Bening‘s Best Actress nomination is of course out the window. I remain persuaded that Bening gives the best performance of her career in this film.
My initial TIFF gush review was a mistake as it was based on having seen most but not all of Mother and Child. I’m still a bit stunned, looking back, that a film that delivered as well as it did for the first 70% or 75% didn’t quite maintain the same on-target current during the final 25 or 30 minutes. A very rare, almost unheard-of thing in my experience. Live and learn.
I won’t purchase the new VCI Bluray of Bryan Desmond Hurst‘s A Christmas Carol (1951) until sometime this evening, but the frame scans posted by DVD Beaver’s Gary Tooze look stunning. I’ve written repeatedly that Hurst’s is the most emotionally affecting, the best acted, the spookiest and the most atmospherically correct of all the versions. So it’s great to finally have an immaculate Bluray rendering to have and hold.
The great Alistair Sim captured on VCI’s Bluray
Scanned off VCI’s 1998 DVD
Tooze chose to compare the Bluray to scans of VCI Video’s 1998 DVD, which looked fairly murky even back then. The contrast would have probably seemed less striking if Tooze had comparison-scanned VCI’s 2007 Ultimate Collector’s Edition, which I own and regard as a relatively decent mastering.
It goes without saying I’m much more cranked about this Bluray than the Robert Zemeckis/Jim Carrey version coming out on Friday — no offense. No matter how good this Disney film looks or plays, it can’t hope to match Hurst’s old-London flavoring and the constant sense that the ghost of Charles Dickens might have co-directed, or at least would have given his stamp of approval.
A little movie about a middle-aged guy getting to know his neighbors by sleeping over at their homes sounds very appealing. Julia Roberts‘ Red Om intends to make such a film, using Peter Lovenheim‘s In the Neighborhood, a forthcoming non-fiction book based on the author’s June ’09 N.Y. Times Op-Ed piece (called “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?“). It sounds like a perfect role for some agreeably seasoned older type — Richard Gere, Jerry Seinfeld, Richard Jenkins, Daniel Day Lewis, etc. (But not George Clooney!)
The “but” factor is in the routine presumption that Roberts sees a role for herself in the film.
The shlumpy, low-key charm of the thing will be compromised (if not lost) if the yet-to-be-announced screenwriter performs a sex-change so Roberts can play the Lovenheim part. Julia Roberts asking a neighbor if she can sleep over obviously presents a whole different dynamic than some graying 40-something guy suggesting the same. And if Roberts portrays one of the neighbors who says “sure, okay, you can stay in the guest room,” that opens the door to one of those intriguing mature-relationship stories that Roberts is known for, which would give the film a formulaic feeling.
This isn’t directly related, but one way of getting to know strangers that has entirely disappeared from the American landscape is hitchhiking. I used to thumb around all the time during my wayward youth, and I can still remember intriguing conversations and faces — vividly — from numerous mobile encounters. (Some of them, okay, involved middle-aged gay guys looking to get lucky. I remember rolling my eyes and muttering “oh, Christ” as one gray-haired dude suggestively stroked the stick shift of his Mustang fastback.) I only know that open and friendly chats with strangers in that context is over and done with. You used to see kids with their thumb out on highway entrance ramps in the ’70s and ’80s, even. No more.
There’s actually one place where you can still hitchhike with a reasonable hope of getting a lift — i.e., in Park City during the Sundance Film Festival. Especially if you’re wearing a prominent press badge and a cowboy hat.
Jon Krakauer‘s Where Men Win Glory investigates the life of former Arizona Cardinals linebacker and U.S. Army Ranger Pat Tillman, and particularly his April 2004 friendly-fire death in Afghanistan. Gen. Stanley McChrystal‘s roundabout admission earlier this year that he fraudulently approved awarding Tillman a posthumous Silver Star as a result of enemy fire has been heavily focused upon by Krakauer’s book and in a 10.14 Daily Beast article.
“After Tillman died, instantly — within 24 hours certainly — everybody on the ground…everyone knew it was friendly fire,” Krakauer said yesterday on Meet the Press. “There was never any doubt it was friendly fire. McChrystal was told it was friendly fire. There was no enemy fire. And yet McChrystal [testified that] he didn’t read this hugely important document [that clarified matters] about the most famous soldier in the Army…he didn’t read it carefully enough that he didn’t [absorb the reported facts]? That’s preposterous…that’s not believable.”
In other words, McChrystal saw a political opportunity to cast valor and glory upon the Afghanistan mission — a move that his Bush administration superiors would obviously reap political gain from. In other words McChrystal is not above spreading a lie if it helps politically. In other words he’s cut from the same cloth as other generals in command of previously unpopular wars who’ve done the politically expedient thing. In other words McChrystal can’t really be trusted any more than Lyndon Johnson could trust Gen. William Westmoreland about alleged progress during the Vietnam War. In other words President Obama needs to wake up.