I saw this 60 Minutes/Kathryn Bigelow teaser at Awards Daily and copied the code— big deal. Leslie Stahl and crew shot most of her piece during the Santa Barbara Film Festival. This is almost the only Hurt Locker uptick after all the “get the front-runner” potshots that happened this week — i.e., the Nicolas Chartier thing, Martha Nochimson‘s dig at Bigelow for not being a womanly-enough filmmaker, and the military authenticity nip–nips.
Getting drowned, mauled and chomped to death by a killer whale is a horrible way to go, so my sympathies to the friends and family of the late Dawn Brancheau, 40, who suffered this grisly fate two days ago at a SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida.
The late Dawn Brancheau
But — yup, here comes the thing that you’re not supposed to say — the instant I read this I said to myself, “This is a captive animal getting some payback…an inmate letting a prison guard have it across the chops on behalf of tens of thousands of killer whales and dolphins who’ve been forced to perform at sea parks.”
The Cove explained this situation very clearly. Making sea mammals perform tricks for suburban-schmuck families is not only an agonizing life-sentence jail term but a form of emotional torture. In the film Ric O’Barry tells of a dolphin who was so depressed by a SeaWorld-type confinement that it committed suicide.
SeaWorld employees seem to be getting this on some level. A SeaWorld spokesperson has said “it will resume its killer whale shows on Saturday” but that trainers won’t enter the water. “I wouldn’t begin to speculate what he was thinking,” the spokesperson said in response to a reporter’s question about the whale’s state of mind when he lunged at Brancheau. “It’s too premature to guess what happened.”
The guy added that an investigation into what happened to Brancheau is presently underway. That’s it — bring in Detective Colombo.
Brancheau “was standing knee-deep in one of the Orlando park’s pools Wednesday when killer whale Tilikum leaped out of the tank, grabbed hold of her ponytail and dragged her underwater. Her cause of death was likely drowning and multiple traumatic injuries. The tragedy occurred at 2 p.m. during a post-show event at Shamu Stadium as about two dozen horrified visitors watched. Witnesses reported seeing the 12,000-lbs. whale thrashing Brancheau around in the water and carrying her in his mouth.”
The following xerox of Todd McCarthy‘s Alice in Wonderland review is for anyone and everyone, of course, but it’s particularly aimed at the HE reader/twerp known as Wrecktem, who earlier today (a) said that my alleged meme about how “‘this movie is going to be a disaster’ is a bust”; and (b) suggested that “the UK “exhibitor Wells supposedly talked to about this film should be banned from this industry for life for lying about the quality of the film.”
Here’s McCarthy’s mostly dismissive assessment:
“‘You’ve lost your muchness,’ Johnny Depp‘s Mad Hatter remarks to his newly shrunken teenage friend, and much the same could be said of Tim Burton in the wake of his encounter with a Victorian-era heroine of imaginative powers even wilder than his own.
“Quite like what one would expect from such a match of filmmaker and material and also something less, this Alice in Wonderland has its moments of delight, humor and bedazzlement. But it also becomes more ordinary as it goes along, building to a generic battle climax similar to any number of others in CGI-heavy movies of the past few years.
“A humongous Disney promo effort and inevitable curiosity about the first post-Avatar 3D extravaganza will pull wondrous early B.O. numbers, although long-term forecast could become clouded by the imminent arrival of further high-profile kid-friendly features.
“It all seemed like such a natural fit — Burton and Lewis Carroll, Depp as the key component in fiction’s most eccentric tea party, and 3D put at the service of a story offering unlimited visual possibilities. Not that it’s gone all wrong; not entirely. But for all its clever design, beguiling creatures and witty actors, the picture feels far more conventional than it should; it’s a Disney film illustrated by Burton, rather than a Burton film that happens to be released by Disney.
“The script by Linda Woolverton (a Disney standard-bearer with a major hand in Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and Mulan) crucially skews the material by advancing the leading lady’s age from pre-pubescence to 19. The main upshot of the change is that this trip to Underland, as it’s referred to here, becomes Alice’s second, not first.
“The not-inconsiderable benefit is that enables Alice to be played by Mia Wasikowska, an actress of willowy, Gwyneth Paltrowesque beauty but, more important here, of a pale but powerful resolve that confers upon the picture any gravity it may possess.
“After an over-the-rooftops cinematic entry into London that could as easily have alighted at the residence of Sweeney Todd (or, for that matter, Ebenezer Scrooge), a delirious little Alice awakens from yet another nightmare to ask her father, ‘Do you think I’ve gone ’round the bend?’ To which he offers the encouraging, tone-setting reply, ‘All the best people are.’
“Thirteen years later, in an amusing framing story invented by Woolverton, a pale, sulky Alice is put up for an arranged marriage by her widowed mother (the enchantingly mordant Lindsay Duncan) with the twitty son of an aristocratic family. The lavish would-be engagement party quickly and appealingly establishes Alice as an impudent contrarian with a mind of her own; when, in front of hundreds of elegant guests, she is meant to accept the fatuous lad’s proposal, she cries out, ‘I think I need a moment!’ and promptly follows a white rabbit down a hole.
“Just as, at such a transformative interlude, The Wizard of Oz switched from black-and-white to color, this should have marked the point when ‘Please Put on 3D Glasses!’ flashed onscreen and everything took on an all-consuming, eye-popping look (the 3D in the garden party sequence is actually banal, even poorly judged). In fact, Alice enters a verdant, overgrown world that undeniably resembles Avatar‘s Pandora and encounters at least one creature, a skeptical caterpillar, that is actually blue.
“As things get ‘curiouser and curiouser,’ she also meets the round, argumentative twins Tweedledee and Tweedledum; the vaporous and grinning Cheshire Cat; the manic March Hare; Depp’s Mad Hatter, with saucer eyes, Bozo-like red hair and gap teeth that bring Madonna to mind; and, inevitably, the fearsome Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), who spares Alice from her favorite edict — ‘Off with their heads!’ — because she, like all the others, needs to know if this is ‘the’ Alice who visited so many years before.
“Script arguably needed a narrative backbone of a sort not to be found in the episodic books, and Woolverton has obliged. Unfortunately, it’s one that turns Alice into a formulaic piece of work, which Carroll’s creation was anything but. Climactic action setpiece, with an unlikely young warrior taking on a fearsome beast while gobs of CGI soldiers clash, smacks of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Golden Compass, The Chronicles of Narnia and any number of other such recent ventures. Thus does Alice become normalized, a tilt Burton is surprisingly incapable of opposing.
“A jaw-dropping coda pivots on a ‘visionary’ character’s forthcoming voyage to open up trade with China, provoking musings about Disney’s rationale for this sort of corporate encomium to a vast young market, as well as thoughts of a never-to-be-made sequel set among 19th-century Chinese as inscrutable and combative as the population of Underland.
“To be sure, the design, effects, makeup and technical work is of a high order. Other than Alice, the most memorable characters are the wonderful hunting dog Bayard and the elusive Cheshire Cat, superbly voiced by Timothy Spall and Stephen Fry, respectively.
“Among thesps whose faces can be discerned, Bonham Carter authoritatively takes dudgeon to a new high as the Red Queen. Unfortunately, Anne Hathaway is miscast as her sister, the White Queen, as her white hair and black eyebrows look weird and she’s not temperamentally suited to the role’s benign superciliousness. And Depp is Depp, slip-siding among moods, accents, looks, rhythms and keys like a jazz player on his own wavelength, to disarming, if transient, effect.”
Greenberg director-writer Noah Baumbach‘s LA-to-NY flight was cancelled by the blizzard, so he did his round-table interviews at this morning’s Greenberg junket at the Waldorf Astoria hotel via Skype and a portable speaker. Baumbach’s confinement to a Macbook Pro screen reminded me of the Martian leader inside the glass bowl (i.e., “the sum of all intelligence”) in William Cameron Menzies‘ Invaders From Mars, and the two publicists who carried Baumbach into the room were like the three-fingered Martian goons.
I’ll post my video of a portion of the Baumbach chat later tonight — my YouTube upload troubles are keeping me from uploading from my Toshiba, al though I’m able to upload off my iMac.)
Greenberg costar Greta Gerwig is much more lithe and aerobicized than she appears in the film, for which she gained roughly 15 pounds. A bit of a pleasant surprise. Her video will post also tonight.
Waldorf Astoria lobby — Friday, 2.26, 9:25 am.
An extremely wet and slushy (although not horribly cold) Park Avenue and 51st Street.
Neither Kevin Smith‘s Cop Out nor The Crazies are going to make box-office history this weekend, but both will do nicely, reasonably, decently. Ditto Alice in Wonderland (3.5)…actually, this looks like a better-than-decent performer. The film that appears to be in trouble is Paul Greengrass‘s Green Zone, which opens on 3.12 and has only tepid definite interest numbers — 36 and 38 among younger and older males, and 21 and 29 among younger and older females.
Wells to 42West: “I’m determined to attend your Waldorf Astoria Greenberg junket despite the blizzardtopia outside, but I’m just checking to see if you guys are having second thoughts. Damn the torpedos?” 42West to Wells: “The junket is on!”
Which means I need to be at the Waldorf by 9:00 am or so. I have no rubber boots, but don’t get me wrong — I love a good blizzard. But all the material I was meaning to post yesterday afternoon (but didn’t due to that horrendous video upload problem) is delayed until early this afternoon.
In a Huffington Post-ed AP interview, Mo’Nique is asked about “a lot of talk about you not showing up early on to promote Precious because you were worried about money.” And she replies as follows:
“Well, when they say Mo’Nique was worried about money, I wasn’t worried about money. Mo’Nique has a talk show that comes on five nights a week and she tapes six times a week for that talk show. And yes, when I leave my home, I leave my home and get paid to leave my home, so I wasn’t worried about money. They simply said, ‘You know, well Mo’Nique we can’t pay you to do that.’ [And] we said, ‘OK, baby. Well, then, that’s not something we can do.’ Because, when I leave out, why ever would I go do something for free when I can go and do something and bring money back home to my family?”
I’ve been totally jammed on video upload issues. I’m getting instant error messages when I try to upload on both YouTube and Vimeo. The response from the online help staff, of course, has been less than instantaneous. It’s been pure throbbing hell for the last three hours or so, and nothing posted the whole time. Now I’m down to calling freelance whiz kids for assistance. Delightful.
During a 2.18 conversation with Oscar telecast co-producer Adam Shankman, Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross was informed that the original request for a host was Sasha Baron-Cohen, but this was shot down by the Academy elders. “Too much of a wild card,” Shankman explained.
Let me explain what the Hurt Locker-related, Nicolas Chartier wildcat e-mail non-story is all about…okay? A certain party saw a chance to somehow hurt The Hurt Locker‘s chances of taking the Best Picture Oscar, and thought that creating a little hoo-hah out of a relatively minor e-mail blunder might help in that regard.
In short it’s a typical “do whatever you can to take down or damage the front-runner” maneuver — no more than that. Except it’s a non-starter.
On 2.19 (i.e., last Friday), one solitary guy with politically clueless instincts sent out an e-mail to friends and colleagues in the Academy urging them to give their Best Picture vote to The Hurt Locker. His appeal basically invoked the old David-vs.-Goliath scenario — i.e,., The Hurt Locker is a little movie going up against the big swaggering Avatar, etc.
According to Pete Hammond‘s 2.23 column, Chartier wrote that “we need independent movies to win like the movies you and I do, so if you believe The Hurt Locker is the best movie of 2010, help us!
“I’m sure you know plenty of people you’ve worked with who are academy members whethere a publicist, a writer, a sound engineer, please take 5 minutes and contact them. Please call one or two persons, everything will help! — best regards, Nicolas Chartier, Voltage Pictures.”
“Whethere”? Sloppy run-on sentences? A comma instead of a period after “engineer”? Followed by a sentence beginning with the word “please” that requires “please” to be capitalized?
Chartier is a French-born foreign sales guy with, I’m told, one of those colorful personalities that foreign-sales guys are sometimes known to have. He didn’t know the rules of the Academy game when he sent the e-mail, and no doubt presumed he was doing a good thing for the Hurt Locker team when he sent the e-mail. And Clarence Thomas thought he was being seductive when he mentioned the sight of pubic hair on a Coca-Cola can.
To my knowledge the Academy hasn’t made it specifically clear to all the nominees that they have to observe certain rules and decorum, nor have they told Oscar-campaign publicists to point out these rules to their clients. Shouldn’t they have?
Last night The Wrap‘s Steve Pond reported that the Academy has “confirmed that the e-mail violated an AMPAS campaign guideline stating that ‘ads, mailings, websites or other forms of content’ that ‘cast…negative or disparaging light on a competing achievement are not permitted.'”
The thinking is that Chartier disparaged Avatar by referring to it as a very expensive Goliath-like movie. Which of course it isn’t. Where did Chartier dream that one up?
The bottom line is that Chartier committed a faux pas in terms of Oscar-campaigning do’s and don’ts. People are fallible and sometimes they screw up. But this wasn’t some sleazy whispering campaign against another contender. It wasn’t some poorly calculated trade-ad campaign that cost tens of thousands. Bags of money filled with unmarked bills weren’t left on people’s back doorsteps. The carte-blanche services of Nevada prostitutes weren’t offered, and no remnants of cocaine lines were found on anyone’s desk.
The guy sent out a dumb e-mail….BIG DEAL. Read the e-mail, shake your head in amazement, hit delete…END OF STORY.
Chartier has issued an apology, and the Academy has reportedly called a meeting about this, and will probably issue some kind of statement that says this sort of thing isn’t done, etc. Can we all go back into nodding-out mode now?
I have to leave to do a Girl With The Dragon Tattoo interview and then a screening of Kevin Smith’s Cop Out. Apologies for the black-blanket effect that the Crazy Heart skin ad has been having on some browsers. It’s fine on Firefox and Safari but apparently Internet Explorer users have had difficulty. Is this pretty much the case?