Having suffered through the low-rent environs of Agrigento, a moderately ratty (i.e., economically hurting, mafia-influenced) city on the west coast of Sicily that tourists visit in order to bask in the Valley of the Temples, Jett and I wanted only to escape and chill out at some cute little beach town. We decided upon Cefalu, a cozy medieval village with a nice mix of sensual comforts and real-life textures. It’s sublime here — sparkling blue sea, bars on the beach, pretty girls — and the hotel has superb wifi.
As part of a seemingly orchestrated campaign to begin whipping up the lather prior to Roman Polanski’s probably inevitable Moment of Truth before a Los Angeles judge, Big Hollywood‘s Kurt Schlicter (or a Big Hollywood editor implying he could be Schlicter) has picked on yours truly as an example of a typical Polanski supporter — morally slip-sliding, shape-shifting, anti-Pope, etc. I don’t much like the photo (thanks again, Glenn Kenny!), but the quotes are all mine, of course, and I have no problem with them in any context.
Thanks to The Playlist‘s Simon Dang for his mildly funny posting of what’s being hailed as the “first behind-the-scenes production still” of Jessica Chastain on the set of Terrence Malick ‘s The Tree Of Life, pictured with a “crew member.” Both of them silhouetted within an inch of their lives, like it’s a joke or something.
How does Dang (or rather the guy who sent it to him, “Graham from Minnesota”) know it’s a crew member? it could be Brad Pitt or Malick’s teenage cousin or a pizza delivery guy. How do we know it’s Chastain for that matter? This could be a shot of Kate Winslet and a producer (or a pizza delivery guy) on the set of Revolutionary Road.
The Tree of Life will presumably have its preem at the Venice Film Festival and then the Toronto Film Festival, followed by a theatrical debut in November. It will mark the first time in the history of either of these festivals in which a respected world-class auteur unveils a film involving two major-league actors (Pitt, Sean Penn ) and dinosaurs. Never before, in other words, has anyone dared or dreamed to offer this particular combination at either of these festivals.
The Temple of Concordia, the well-preserved main attraction in the Valley of the Temples, a series of Greek-era Doric structures and scattered remnants just south of Agrigento, Sicily. The park was closed before we arrived at 8:30 so we drove onto the grounds of a swanky hotel located only a couple of hundred yards below the above-named structure, pretending we were guests, in order to get a bit closer before shooting. Taken Tuesday, 5.25, 8:55 pm.
On one hand he calls the higher resolution “staggeringly sharper, [which] has swept away any reservation this reviewer had. It looks that good. Is it a digital smoke and mirrors? Probably, but I am indifferent at present. I don’t have [Harris’s] discerning eyes as to readily dismiss. You may make up your own mind.
And on the other he acknowledges that “people are speaking out against this title making a solid point that the majors won’t get the point unless we are vehement in our dismissal. I believe they are right. Our recommendation is to own the Criterion DVD until this title is transferred correctly in the new format.”
A week ago HE’s Moises Chiullan wrote the following: “There’s so much visible de-graining [on this Spartacus Bluray) that it’s like Universal added a ‘botoxify’ button to the machines that do their masters. The Blu-ray horror show I’d compare it to the most is Fox’s Patton, which suffers from similar digital plastic surgery. There’s a shot here and there that looks…all right, I suppose, but this is a movie that should transfix you on this format, not make you squint or shrink back.”
I plan on reluctantly buying the Bluray of John Sturges‘ The Magnificent Seven when I return (it streeted on 5.11 — the day after I left for Cannes), but who in their right mind would want to watch, much less own, the three sequel/knock-offs? It’s a kind of fan punishment for MGM video guys to have packaged it this way.
All my life I’ve admired the knife-throwing skills shown by James Coburn‘s character. If you’ve seen the film you know what I mean.
“Fans will be glad to see that the print used here is relatively clean, with only a few scattered white flecks throughout the duration,” the Bluray.com reviewer says about the main attraction. “Clarity is as strong as could be expected, and though there are definitely some soft shots — a product of the original film elements, not this transfer — most of the time you’ll notice a fairly impressive level of fine detail.
“Horses’ coats have a discernable texture, and so does suede, the cloth weft of the village elder’s poncho, and the weathered, sun-beaten faces of our heroes. There are some minor color fluctuations, but the film’s dusty palette has been reproduced nicely, with rich neutrals, creamy sky blues, and vivid reds. Black levels are perfectly tuned, and strong contrast carves out an image with a palpable dimensional presence.
“The film’s grain structure is intact, and you will see some spikes in analog noisiness during longer establishing shots and lap dissolves between scenes. Compression artifacts and other issues are almost entirely absent, and the only oddity I noticed was some occasional telecine wobble — when the film shakes subtly back and forth as it runs through the telecine machine. This is most apparent near the beginning of the film, but it lets up quickly.”
An HE reader wrote yesterday about how Chris Nolan‘s Inception (Warner Bros., 7.16) is the Great White Hope of the summer — the only May-to-Labor Day movie that semi-discriminating moviegoers want to see. Or something in this vein. I wouldn’t say it’s the year’s only hope — that’s pushing it. I wish it was coming our sooner rather than later. I’m still hot to see a shooting script, if anyone has a clue (or knows someone who might). There’s a part of me that likes to pre-process.
Iranian director Jafar Panahi will reportedly be released on bail soon, according to france24.com, quoting Tehran’s public prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi. A =”green” opposition ally, Panahi has been sitting in the slammer since 3.1. He was most likely incarcerated for the same reason that all ugly-thug regimes imprison political opposition leaders or figureheads — i.e., he pissed them off.
We’ve all been expecting Sex and the City 2 to be vulgarly profligate and surface-y and generally reprehensible. To go by David Edelstein‘s New York review, it apparently is that. The challenge in reviewing such a film isn’t to state the obvious (i.e., confirm the expected) but to come up with fresh and exhilarating ways to trash and befoul the franchise, and particularly the four stars.
About all Edelstein attempts in this regard, part from rote lamentations about the fading or diminished appearances of Sarah Jessica Parker, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall and Kristin Davis, is to say that Liza Minnelli, who has a cameo, “looks more human.”
“The most depressing thing about Sex and the City 2 is that it seems to justify every nasty thing said and written about the series and first feature film,” Edelstein begins. The SATC dynamic has always been fragile, but at its most affecting you could see beyond the costumes and artifice and feel the characters fighting for validation — and connecting with one another in their struggle. Now there’s nothing but surface. And what a surface.
“The film is an epic eyesore. It’s as if they set out to make a movie that said, ‘You’re right! We are hideous!’
“The thinking behind the movie (written and directed by Michael Patrick King) is undisguised. Let’s start with an over-the-top gay wedding! Then we’ll send the girls to Abu Dhabi so they can rile up the fundamentalists with their sexuality! Then they’ll make fun of women in niqab (‘Certainly cuts down on the Botox bill!’) but later show (campy) feminist solidarity! Won’t they look great swishing around the desert being waited on by smooth young Arab men?
“Amy Odell, of nymag.com’s The Cut, accompanied me to the screening and was kind enough to whisper that a particular dress of Carrie’s cost 50 grand. But what’s the point of spending that much when the cinematographer, John Thomas, lights Sarah Jessica Parker to bring out the leatheriness of her skin? How did he manage to mummify the lovely Cynthia Nixon? Kim Cattrall, fresh off her witty, subtle work in The Ghost Writer, is costumed to look like a cross between (late) Mae West and (dead) Bea Arthur. Kristin Davis gets by (just) pulling little-girl faces, probably for the last time.
“For all the sniggery double entendres, virtually all of Sex and the City 2 is a pale shade of vanilla. But there is this one moment [in which] Cattrall, in short shorts in the Arab marketplace, has a flurry of hot flashes, drops to the ground, and writhes around screaming, ‘I have sex, yes! I quite enjoy it!’ People coming out of surgery with bad reactions to the anesthesia have been known to behave like that, which gives it some fleeting connection to real life.”
For me, nothing so far has topped the Onion‘s image of this quartet being thrown into a vat of acid and melted alive.
Taormina is a quiet, comforting, pleasantly scenic mountainside town…or was, I should say, before it was transformed into a kind of Sicilian-hamlet theme park for middle-aged (50-plus) tourist couples. The high-view location is calm and settling, and the silences and especially the cool air in the late evening are transporting, but the silver-haired Club Med vibe almost makes it feel like a retirement community. My mother would love it here.
The only place we could find in town with decent wifi, and reasonably priced — only 73 euros.
Today was almost entirely consumed by a brutal 10 and 1/2 hour drive from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport to Messina, Sicily (including, naturally, a 25-minute ferry across the Italy-Sicily channel). Repeatedly becoming mired in slow, one-lane traffic in southern Italy’s mountainous area, hour after hour after hour, was far more stressful than I anticipated. Jett doesn’t drive a stick so I was at the wheel start to finish so I couldn’t even post from the iPhone.
Saturday, 5.22, 1:10 am
Wait…Simon Monjack died? Of “natural causes”? I pulled over to a rest stop this afternoon to ask director George Hickenlooper, who had an unpleasant experience with about Monjack over Factory Girl, for a comment.
“Its a sad and pathetic story,” he wrote back. “I loathed Monjack and what he did to Brittany Murphy. Regardless every living thing has a soul and its classless to bash someone when they’ve passed. So all I’ll say is I hope they’re both resting in peace, but not together. She deserves better company.”