Tony Goldwyn‘s Betty Anne Waters, a Hilary Swank-starring Oscar-bait drama opening on 10.15, will henceforth be known as Conviction. The Fox Searchlight release, based on a true story, is about a high school dropout/single mom (Swank) who puts herself through law school in order to free her wrongfully-convicted brother (Sam Rockwell) from serving time for a murder rap. Sounds like a fall movie, all right; it also sounds like a stacked deck of Erin Brockovich cards.
She’s playing strong, determined and unafraid in the film — you feel admiration for her almost immediately. What you mainly get from the Esquire shoot is that she’s tall and leggy and ambitious.
I’m getting 10 or 12 minutes with her tomorrow morning so we’ll see where that goes.
Her Winter’s Bone character is 17 and named Ree Dolly. Her goal in the pic is to find her no-good ayehole dad who put the family’s backwood home up for his bail bond and then skipped. If he stays gone Ree and her family will be living under the stars. The film is basically about Ree asking questions of several grungy Ozarkians, smokers all. They lie, threaten, stare her down, evade and dance around the truth, but she hangs in and won’t back off.
Winter’s Bone is straight, sturdy, “real.” But my primary thought as I left my viewing is that I’m glad I wasn’t born to poor folk in the Ozarks, and that I’d be accepting if not grateful if the Emperor of the Universe told me I’ll never visit this region ever again for the rest of my life.
The Weinstein Co. has acquired Julian Schnabel’s Miral, which won’t stay in my head some reason. There’s something…I don’t know, vague and indistinct about the name “Miral,” which is the name of the the main character, played by Freida Pinto. The film is obviously being positioned as an Oscar contender — Best Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actress, etc. The whole shmear.
Julian Schnabel and Miral screenwriter Rula Jebreal — pic is based on her book of the same name.
Based on a book by Rula Jebreal, pic is about a real-life orphanage established in Jerusalem by a Palestinian lady named Hind Husseini (Hiam Abbass) following the 1948 creation of Israel by Lee J. Cobb, Sal Mineo and Paul Newman. A fictional storyline shows Miral being sent to the orphanage in 1978, and then going on to teach at a refugee camp and falling for an activist.” An anti-Isareli or pro-Isareli activist?
“[This] is the first film I am involved in that shows the ‘other side’ of the Israel-Palestine conflict,” Harvey Weinstein said in a statement “As a staunch supporter of Israel, I thought this would be a movie I would have a hard time wrapping my head around. However, meeting Rula moved me to open my heart and mind and I hope we can do that same with audiences worldwide.”
Schnabel told me some weeks back that he would unveil Miral in Venice and Toronto. (But not Telluride, he added — too much running around in a too-short time frame.)
The second an actor of any age turns up in a film wearing sandals or flip-flops, he’s dead to me. And the film has cast a shadow upon itself. I don’t want to know from men’s feet, especially if they’re somewhat older with a bad pedicure. In movies or real life, I mean. I could do, in fact, with a lot of women who wear sandals not wearing them. Bare feet are generally a problem all around. My grandmother used to tell me this when I was seven or eight.
The only way the sandal/flip-flop rule doesn’t apply is if the film is set in ancient times.
I remember a scene in Backdraft when Billy Baldwin showed up in flip-flops, and I went, “All right, that’s it, he’s done….and not just in this film. His entire career might be in jeopardy.” That’s all it took! There’s a scene in Miami Vice in which Colin Farrell is wearing sandals while sitting at a kitchen table, and while I was down with the fumes in this film (along with Gong Li) the sight of Farrell’s digits gave me the shudders.
I’ll tolerate bare feet around pools and beaches for short periods, but sandals of just about any kind are killers. This is one of my biggest problems with 30-something and 20-something guys in the summer. They love their damn sandals. I’m already thinking of my worst nightmare — four heavy-set 20something guys sitting next to me at a cafe as I try to file, and howling with laughter at each other’s jokes.
I’m assuming that I’ve tapped into something universal here.
This two-month-old Salt trailer is highly engaging, well-cut, an expert sell. But what’s the pitch exactly? I understand about Angelina Jolie‘s Evelyn being a spy who’s been wrongly-fingered as a Russian mole and has to go on the lam, etc. And I love the acrobatics and the CG (it looks much less “animated” now) and her sexy black-haired wig. And I can feel a certain authority between the frames.
But boil it down to basics and Salt, it seems to me, is gourmet comfort food — a high-class, high-impact, super-costly, skillfully made action thriller that does that cool thing we’ve all seen before, only differently this time.
The questions are (a) “how differently?” and (b) is it strong enough in terms of general wow-ness and holy shit-ness to compete with Chris Nolan‘s Inception, which will open only a week before Salt‘s 7.23 debut?
The marketing problem that Sony faces is that the smart audience has already decided that Inception is some kind of imaginative game-changer, and that Salt has to somehow position itself so that it’s not seen as chasing Inception‘s tail. It has to show everyone that it has its own muscle and panache and energy field and dance moves.
How do you get that idea across? I don’t know, but one obvious option at this stage is to start showing it to certain conversation-starters and taste-makers. It may not seem fair or fitting, but the fact is that Salt and Inception are major adrenaline-drivers with big-name directors (Phillip Noyce, Chris Nolan) and highly talented star casts (Jolie, Liev Schreiber, “Chewy” Ejiofor, Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, etc.) and which have cost their respective studios (Sony and Warner Bros.) huge amounts of money to produce and sell, and which are opening with seven days of each other.
That’s close enough to feel each other’s body heat, to smell each other’s breath.
That’s no small concern on either side of the equation, but the current reality is that Inception seems to have managed a better job of pre-selling itself to ubers and early adopters. My sense of things right now is that Inception is regarded as something people have to see, and that Salt is something that might be pretty good. The ball is now in Sony’s court. They need to somehow punch up the pizazz and raise the anticipation.
I threw this montage video in because it summarizes that high-end action current that I was trying to describe earlier. We all enjoy this kind of thing when done well. The yea-nay decisions come down to “what’s different?,” “what’s special?” and “what’s unusually cool about this latest one?”
One look at this Bruce Willis vodka ad and you know Willis is just pocketing a check and probably hasn’t the slightest interest in sipping Sobieski vodka. Which is why this photo of Smart Water pitchwoman Jennifer Aniston is impressive. She’s off in some Caribbean hideaway and drinking the stuff with no assumption that anyone’s looking. Her ad-deal payment probably included a provision that she’d be supplied with cases of Smart Water for life, but still…
Noah Baumbach‘s Greenberg didn’t exactly burn up the box-office last winter. Those who went looking for a hah-hah Ben Stiller comedy encountered a sly, subtle and somber flick about a morose, self-absorbed 40 year-old guy looking at the downslope of a life. It was one of the finest character-driven, psychologically acute, no-laugh-funny flicks in a long while, but the “just entertain us” crowd didn’t show. Greenberg racked up $4,234,170 in ticket sales, and then slinked off to the showers.
(l.) Greenberg Bluray jacket; (r.) theatrical release poster.
On 7.23 Greenberg returns on DVD/Bluray, and I guess you can’t blame the Universal Home Video marketers for throwing out the theatrical one-sheet and trying to persuade potential customers that Greenberg is a nice, slightly nutty, slap-happy relationship comedy. Stiller and Greta Gerwig are pictured as some kind of shaggy-cerebral fun couple, and…well, you just have to admire the chutzpah. What they’re doing here is almost on the level of that mock Shining trailer from three or four years ago.
I think Greenberg is a “fun” movie, sort of. You just have to be hip enough (jaded enough? perverse enough?) to get it. I wound up seeing Greenberg four times, and felt amused, oddly tickled, and quietly fascinated each time. I therefore shared the reactions of A.O. Scott (“I love this movie!) and Joe “JoMo” Morgenstern (“extremely entertaining”). The people who loved the MTV Movie Awards are going to hate it, of course, but let’s hope Greenberg catches on with at least a portion of the Netflix crowd and stays alive in critics’ heads so they’ll remember to put it on their ten-best lists next December.