And The Winner Is columnist Scott Feinberg reported yesterday that “over the past few days, several L.A.-based rabbis — either on their own initiative or at someone else’s urging — have written articles in which they describe Inglourious Basterds as a modern-day retelling of the story of Purim, the Jewish holiday which began Sunday and continues through today, and urging people to vote for it on their Oscar ballots (which are due on Tuesday — i.e., tomorrow).
Remember the excitement that accompanied Robert Harris and James Katz‘s 1991 restoration of Kirk Douglas and Stanley Kubrick‘s Spartacus? Called the “most extensive film restoration in history, painstakingly reconstructed from decades-old negative and color separation prints, at a cost of nearly $1 million,” etc.? The sumptuous detail of a large costume epic (set in Biblical times but not the least bit Biblical in story or theme) shot in Super Technirama 70 and all that?
It’s now nearly 20 years later and guess what? The 2001 Criterion DVD version of this restored epic, which I happened to buy at Barnes and Noble yesterday, doesn’t look very good when you play it on a Bluray player and watch it on a 42″ HDTV plasma (i.e., my own). It looks okay at times, and at other times vaguely shitty — weak, not sharp enough, second-tierish.
And yet the same disc looked fine when I played it on my old 36″ Sony flatscreen. The problem, I’m told, is the Bluray player, which tends to bring out weaknesses on standard DVDs that don’t show up when you play them on a regular DVD player. So basically I’ve pissed away the dough that I bought the Criterion DVD with, and I’m not happy.
And I’m not sure I’ll be all that happy either when the Spartacus Bluray from Universal Home Video comes out on 5.25. If it’s anything like their 1998 DVD, which looks pathetic — i.e., washed-out color and a 2.35 to 1 aspect ratio framing for a film intended to be shown at a 2.2 to 1 — it’ll obviously be a problem.
What needs to happen, of course, is for Criterion to produce its own Spartacus Bluray. But this can’t occur because Criterion doesn’t have the Spartacus home-video rights any more. Universal owns them, and they’re not about to let Criterion show them how the film should really look (corporate egos and all that) so forget it. Which means that all that incredibly difficult and super-costly work on the ’91 Spartacus restoration is basically a thing of memory. It would be nice if the full lustre of that restoration is revealed by the Universal Bluray, but it’s not very likely.
Who doesn’t despise President Obama‘s stated dreamscape belief in the notion of bipartisan support for health care reform, or more particularly the fantasy of Republicans having the slightest interest in allowing the less-well-offs to receive comprehensive health care at more affordable rates?
Apart from the general venality of Republican positions on this matter, there’s nothing quite as contemptible as the inability of Democrats to achieve what they claim they want to achieve by whatever means necessary. Everyone loathes ineffectualness and flaccidity.
A portion of last Wednesday’s chat with Girl With The Dragon Tattoo director Niels Arden Oplev covered his not having directed the two sequels — The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest. Both were directed by Daniel Alfredson.
As I mentioned during our chat, Oplev’s reason for declining to helm these films (or at least the one he shared) sounds similar to Catherine Hardwicke‘s reason for not wanting to direct New Moon. He basically felt that the second two books (or did he mean the second two scripts) had a rushed, slapdash quality — less emotionally grounded, more plotty-for-plot’s-sake, etc.
This is almost a Shutter Island-type shot — gothic vibe, moonlight, ominous clouds — and I took it without thinking the other night. I love this kind of accident.
The day I took this my little 12 megapixel Canon Digital Elph cracked open, leaving me no option but to return to Best Buy for a replacement. To my surprise they’d just gotten in a brand-new 14 megapixel model called the SD1400 IS. It takes noticably cleaner video than the other one, or so it seems. It’s still only 720p, of course. Two or three years hence these little guys will have 1080p, and then we’ll be cooking.
Martin Scorsese‘s Shutter Island was the top ticket seller yesterday ($6.7 million) for a second weekend in a row. I have one question — why? It’s laboriously over-shot and over-saturated. Why would anyone recommend it to a friend with any enthusiasm? Is it the word “island” that’s attracting people? Cop Out (Warner Bros.) is second with $5.9 million, and The Crazies (Overture) is third with $5.9 million.
To hear it from a trusted research-screening informant, Anne Hathaway‘s performance as Jake Gyllenhaal‘s Parkinson’s-afflicted love interest in Ed Zwick‘s Love and Other Drugs is “wonderful, really wonderful…she knocks it out of the park.” Plus their love affair, he says, is portrayed in strongly compelling terms. Resulting, he reports, in significant deep-down feeling plus some heavy love scenes with ample nudity.
Love and Other Drugs costars Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway.
My concern here is with Zwick, a problem director who’s always emotionally overplayed this or that aspect of his films. But my informant, who saw the film last week at Pasadena’s Pacific Paseo, is, in my judgment, a sharp and reliable observer with taste. And — hello? — everyone knows the meaning of a recently Oscar-nominated actress (as Hathaway is/was for Rachel Getting Married) returning with another powerhouse performance that involves coping with a delibilitating disease.
Hathaway’s Love and Other Drugs performance, in short, sounds like the first strong contender for a 2010 Best Actress Oscar.
I don’t know when 20th Century Fox is releasing Love and Other Drugs, but I know it was shooting as recently as last November in the Pittsburgh area. The fact that it’s already being research-screened seems to indicate some kind of fast-track thinking. I would guess a fall release, perhaps beginning with Toronto/Telluride, but who knows? I wrote a couple of Fox guys about this but I guess they don’t work on weekends.
Set in the mid ’90s, the drama-with-comic-flavorings (as opposed to a full-out dramedy) is partly based on James Reidy‘s “Hard Sell: Evolution of a Viagra Salesman.” The IMDB says the script was co-written by Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz and Charles Randolph.
Gyllenhaal plays Jamie, a Jerry Maguire-ish pharmaceutical salesman on the make. Hathaway’s character, Maggie Murdock, is coping with first-stage Parkinson’s disease, and…why am I trying to be the authority here when I haven’t seen it? Here’s how my source put it — his descriptions are ragged and unfocused at times but I don’t have the knowledge to sharpen or hone.
“It’s pretty ambitious story about the mid ’90s Viagra boom and selling pharmaceuticals for Phizer. Hathaway, Hank Azaria. Oliver Platt plays Gyllenhaal’s mentor, and it’s probably the best role he’s ever had, and perhaps his best performance. He teaches Gyllenhaal the ropes, and he has a really great speech toward the end. The story line, which is basically about Gyllenhaal becoming a pharma salesman, is fairly complex. George Segal and Jill Clayburgh play his parents. Josh Gad is the fat younger brother — the Jonah Hill character.
“Gyllenhaal and Hathaway’s love affair is the main thing. Hathaway’s Maggie is coping with stage one of Parkinson’s — a very intense and interesting charatcer, well versed in her sickness. And Jake is trying to sell Viagra, and they meet and are attracted and end up having an affair.
“The script take pains to paint the Gyllenhaal character as a rake, a ladies’ man. Zwick doesn’t do that good a job in some respects. There’s a lot of bullshit Eloi humor and basically shitty schtick. Mostly about the younger brother being a fat-ass. There’s some lame orgy in the middle of it with Jake accidentally overdosing on Viagra…girls at a party cause him to swallow too much of it, and he won’t go down, resulting in priapism.
“The most exciting part of the film is their relationship. A lot of nudity, a lot of really well done lovemaking stuff, and some of it that isn’t so good. It’s hard to explain. But Hathaway really knocks it out of the park…she’s amazing, wonderful. Gyllenhaal is not as impressive, in my view. He’s good in this but he can be a cypher. He’s got a pretty narrow range. His character is a really smart guy with no drive…he could have been a doctor but he didn’t do it. He’s a good salesman but also a ladies’ man. But Hathaway dominates.
“So the relationship part is good, the pharmaceutical stuff is good. And like I said, Platt has a great speech at the end.
“Hathaway is so great she’s almost in a different movie. They movie spends some time on the Parkinson’s effects. She and Jake go to a big drug fair, and there’s an alternative convention across the street focusing on organic Parkinson’s remedies, and she goes over to this event. We see some real Parkinson’s people talking up their personal stuff the way the unemployed talked for Up In The Air. At one point she’s shown taking senior citizens across the border to get cheaper drugs in Canada.
“Hathaway is a hard case, in a sense. She doesn’t want a real love affair with anyone because she knows it’s not going to last because she’s fucked. The symptoms of stage one Parkinson’s are intermittent jitters and losing physical ability, hands shaking…she’s in that stage, and taking drugs to control that. But you’re feeling all through it that this is a must-happen relationship.
“The core of the romance is Jake’s overcoming his shallow relationship history, and Anne overcoming her emotionally aloof thing. And she’s really wonderful, absolutely wonderful.”
“I don’t know what I was expecting, maybe just another idiotic rom-com, but this movie is original, funny, unbelievably sexy, and really moving. And it’s about something.
“I have to admit I’ve never been much of a Jake Gyllenhaal fan, but as a slick Viagra salesman he’s not only charming and witty, he’s also got this new warm, strong and quiet leading-man thing going.
“Anne Hathaway burns up the screen, and not just because she’s naked half the time. Even when she’s dressed you simply can’t take your eyes off her. I thought she was good in Rachel Getting Married, but in this one — as a free-spirit arty girl with early-onset Parkinson’s — she’s very funny and really hard-core. My guess is another nomination will be coming her way.
“What else…? Josh Gad, who I recognized as one of the correspondents on The Daily Show, is the potty-mouthed younger brother. Sometimes it feels like he’s a refugee from a Judd Apatow movie, but he’s also sweet and innocent. Oliver Platt, who’s always good, is in it, too. And Judy Greer has got some funny stuff but she seems underused (like maybe they cut part of her story?)
“I’m the big know-it-all who always predicts what’s going to happen next in a movie, but this time I was always surprised. One minute I was laughing hysterically and the next I found myself wiping tears away. Some people will compare it to Jerry Ma-fucking-guire, which I think is a truly great movie. But this one has real depth to it. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a comedy show a relationship with this kind of intimacy and authenticity. I don’t know how else to say it — I really believed these two people were in love.”
Just a reminder that the mustard-background 2010 Oscar Balloon is now up and open for additions and refinements. (Sitting just above the ’09 Balloon.) As things stand now there are 19 films that…well, who knows which will earn Best Picture consideration? But a decent percentage certainly appear formidable. Plus I’ve listed another 17 or 18 that seem to have been made with some degree of X-factor exceptionalism. The game starts now.
Several midtown restaurants, coffee shops and delis closed late this afternoon to allow their employees to get home safely due to inclement weather. I for one am consumed with disgust. Remember that line in the Rolling Stones‘ “Shattered” that went “to live in this town you must be tough tough tough tough tough tough tough”? No longer. People who went home early today are babies. They probably lack the character to feel ashamed of themselves so let me invoke it on their behalf.
What kind of a flabby-bellied managerial mentality decides that wind gusts, falling snow, smallish snow drifts and annoying slush puddles are exceptional threats to pedestrians? I’m sorry but this is a measure of the backbone and resilience of the mainstream work force, or lack of I should say. I’m sure it was mainly middle-aged and older women employees who expressed concern to their bosses. I went out last night with a woman who suggested yesterday afternoon that walking two avenue blocks to the subway at Eighth Avenue and 23rd Street might be a little too challenging and that perhaps we could call a cab or a private limo?
I’m mostly cool with Niels Arden Oplev‘s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the Danish-Swedish thriller that’s finally opening in the U.S. on 3.19. I have a slight beef, however, with the over-hypers, particularly the views of a friend, Jeffrey Ressner, that I recently posted.
Girl With The Dragon Tattoo director Niels Arden Oplev, star Noomi Rapace — Wednesday, 2.24, 5:55 pm at Manhattan’s Park Regency hotel.
Ressner called it “the best movie of the year thus far…in the same vein of gripping genre genius as Let The Right One In…The Silence of the Lambs with a punk-rock Clarice.”
Dragon Tattoo is fine for what it is (particularly during the first and second acts) but it’s hardly a relative of The Silence of the Lambs. If anything it’s a cousin of The DaVinci Code. It’s not so much a character-driven emotion piece (certainly not by Silence standards) as much as a high-throttle Nordic whodunit.
For the time being I’m calling it a combination female payback/revenge movie against male oppression and misogny (which star Noomi Rapace plays to the hilt) plus an airport-lounge whodunit page-turner — plot, clue, plot, clue, plot, clue…and then more plot-clue.
I’m getting kicked out of the Starbucks I’m sitting in (the weenies are closing at 5 pm because of the snowstorm — tell that to the Starbucks employees living in Moscow) but I’ll be posting a video interview later tonight.
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