Kersh was a feisty guy, fun to talk to, full of piss and vinegar, no day at the beach. I loved his brief little performance in The Last Temptation of Christ (“…but we want it!”). And yes, let’s acknowledge that he deserves eternal credit for defying George “it doesn’t have to be that good” Lucas on production values and other matters and making the best Star Wars film of all time.
The Fighter had another triumphant Manhattan showing last night, and at a good theatre for a change — i.e., Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade as opposed to the always-crappy-sounding Lincoln Square. After the lights came up star-producer Mark Wahlberg, director David O. Russell and Best Supporting Actress contender Melissa Leo sat for a q & a. Strong applause greeted the closing credits. New Yorker critic David Denby was there. Smart crowd, pretty middle-aged women, etc. It was the place to be.
The sound is indistinct on these iPhone clips (I forgot my camera due to being fagged and shagged from a red-eye flight I took on Saturday night), but if you turn the sound way up or wear headphones you can make it out.
So why weren’t Christian Bale or Amy Adams there? And why aren’t they taking part in today’s Four Seasons luncheon (which I’ll be attending at 12:30 pm)? Both give serious heavy-hitter supporting performances, and both are very likely Oscar nominees in their respective categories. And that’s not just the usual blah-blah.
Adams gave birth to a daughter about four months ago but if she bails on these events she’s going to weaken her standing, and in my opinion she’s easily Leo’s equal. (Her character is just as feisty, and is clearly the more sympathetic of the two.) We all know Bale doesn’t like to do these dog-and-pony shows but it’s December, for Chrissake, and he needs to get over it. You have to lube up and bend over. Is Bale this year’s Monique in this respect? Monique mixed with George C. Scott, I mean?
The Fighter delivers like a total champ the second time — no weakening, no diminishment. And the sound, as mentioned, was much cleaner and more crisp-sounding at the Walter Reade than it was at the Lincoln Square. Beware of Lincoln Square at all times!
On 11.12 I said that The Fighter is “a rugged little blue-collar thing that (I know this sounds like a cliche) pulses with grit and real feeling and emotional immediacy. It’s loose and crafty with a hurried, shot-on-the-fly quality. Which makes it feel appropriately “small” and local-feeling. To watch it is to be in it
I also said that “ten minutes into it I was saying to myself, ‘Wait…this is good…this is good…this feels right.’
“Hollywood has made good films about Massachusetts blue-collar people, but for me they felt ‘acted’ (like The Town and, no offense, The Departed). But Russell and Wahlberg, shooting almost entirely in Lowell on a fast 33-day schedule, have made some kind of real-deal thing here.
“And the cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema (Let The Right One In) is brilliant — it feels close and true as it bobs and weaves and circles like a boxer And the soundtrack is full of great music, ’60s and ’70s pop tracks and lots of newer-sounding, heavy-percussion stuff, and it all just seems perfect for the task at hand. In this sense The Fighter is almost like Hal Ashby‘s Coming Home with one right-sounding cut after another playing like a juke box in a diner.”
Yesterday’s Oscar Poker was just Sasha, Phil Contrino and myself. We got into early True Grit talk, the award-worthiness of Shutter Island, general box-office tallies, Black Swan, spoilers, the diminishing theatre presence in the heartland, and the current leading candidates for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. Here’s an independent, non-iTunes link.
The Pursuitist is reporting that Naked Gun guy Leslie Nielsen, 84, has died in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The website was reportedly notified of Nielsen’s passing by his nephew, Doug Nielsen of Richmond, Virginia. Nielsen passed due to “complications from pneumonia.” Nielsen’s comic signature was a classic deadpan response to whatever foolery was put before him.
Neilsen’s comic breakthrough was in Airplane (1980), particularly when he said, “I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.” His delivery always said “I’m letting you, the audience, know I’m being ‘funny’ without my character clearly indicating any awareness of anything other than the apparent facts of the matter…hmm?”
Nielsen’s two coolest straight roles were (a) the spaceship captain in Forbidden Planet and (b) Francis Marion in the Disney miniseries The Swamp Fox . His Wiki bio notes that in a 1988 interview, Neilsen called it “a great experience because the Disney people didn’t do their shows like everyone else, knocking out an episode a week. […] We only had to do an episode a month, and the budgets were extremely high for TV at that time. So we had location shooting rather than cheap studio backdrops, and very authentic costumes.” Eight episodes were produced and aired between 1959 and 1961.”
I passed out Michael Dukakis literature in the Hollywood hills in either September or October of 1988. On eweekend I knocked on the door of a large home at the top of a hill that was off Franklin Avenue, and Neilsen answered. He was in his early 60s at the time, and was wearing only swimming trunks and flip-flops. I must have been surprised (“Oh my God, it’s Frank Drebin!”) but I’m guessing I didn’t show it. Neilsen said nothing at all, giving me one of those “so…can I help you?” looks. I mumbled something about Dukakis and handed him the brochure and that was it.
Neisen had 84 good years, and eight or ten exceptional years as a major cultural figure. His passing is big news tonight. I’m sorry, but we all have to go sometime.
Richard Levine‘s Every Day (Image, January 2011) flew under my radar when it played at last spring’s Tribeca Film Festival. I heard nothing. IFC.com’s Stephen Saito marginally approved with reservations. I’m only paying attention now because the trailer has popped up. I’m telling myself that any adult-flavored drama that isn’t based on a comic book has to be, on some level, a good thing. But I’m not sensing anything new here.
In an 8.21.10 riff about Criterion’s America Lost and Found: The BBS Story, I said that “the only keepers” are Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces and The Last Picture Show. But these three look and sound terrific on Bluray, like pristine celluloid prints straight out of the lab, and are fully worth the price. Prime shelf space, to have and to hold.
I still say The King of Marvin Gardens is an interesting failure with, okay, fascinating performances from Bruce Dern and Ellen Burstyn . Head, essentially a Monkee movie, is hell to sit through. A Safe Place is an ethereal Henry Jaglom dud. Drive, He Said is a Jack Nicholson-directed failure about basketball and the convulsive mood of the country in the early ’70s.
Earlier today Awards Daily‘s Ryan Adams posted two new King’s Speech posters — an English-language version (possibly the new Weinstein-approved one-sheet) and a Spanish-language poster. Both are superior to that really crappy one that a few columnists ripped to shreds earlier this month. The Spanish poster, I feel, is easily the most attractive of the three. But it has, of course, a glaring sideburn problem.
I presume I don’t have to remind anyone that hairstyles among the male British royals have always been ultra-conservative, and certainly didn’t allow for sideburns in the late 1930s. The right-side photo of Colin Firth-as-King George VI (above) is the correct look with only a bit of hair alongside the ears, or just this side of military. But in the Spanish poster (far left), Firth is wearing early 1970s-level sideburns — i.e., close to the kind that White House press secretary Ron Zeigler used to have and even a little bit like Elvis Presley‘s in Jailhouse Rock. Obviously someone in the Weinstein Co. art department noticed this error and raised Firth’s sideburns by a half-inch or less for the English-language version (middle). But they didn’t quite get it right, keeping the sideburns thick and squared off, which still argued with Firth’s appearance in the film.
If you want a wild guess I’d say that Firth (and also possibly Rush) posed for the new posters fairly recently. Firth’s hair looked like it does in the Spanish poster, sideburns and all, when I spoke with him earlier this month. How else to explain the 1970s styling on the head of a late 1930s British king? Firth posed, everyone was in a hurry, nobody thought about the sidies and then someone finally said “hey, wait a minute!” when the English-language poster was in the final-approval stages.
It supposedly dates you if you admit to playing stickball as a kid. I don’t know why. It just means that when you were nine or ten or eleven you pitched some kind of rubber ball at a batter who stood in front of a concrete wall that had a batter’s box drawn in chalk, and sometimes with another guy (i.e., the pitcher’s teammate) fielding occasional flyballs and grounders. I’m bringing this up because I’m wondering if anyone else ever had a dispute over what my friends and I used to call the “splatter effect.”
When the batter didn’t swing there were always disputes about whether the pitcher had thrown a strike. I hit upon an idea one day that involved dipping the worn-down, next-to-no-fuzz tennis ball that we used into a nearby puddle, or just pouring water over it. The ball would then make a mark when it hit the wall, making it indisputable whether or not a strike had been thrown.
Nonetheless, disputes arose. They happened when the ball had been soaked in too much water and would every so often hit exactly on the chalk line. If it was wet enough, the charge went, it would leave a splatter mark in the strike area even though it hadn’t really hit inside the box. Huge arguments would come of this. 50-50 splatter (a toss-up?) vs. 70-30 splatter (i.e., favoring one or the other). It was even claimed that the ball could theoretically hit completely outside the box and still splatter into the strike zone.
Initial reactions to Joel and Ethan Coen‘s True Grit will be posted here and there on Wednesday, 12.1, around 1 pm. I can’t say exactly when or where, but the Scott Rudin-produced western is starting to be shown. I’m told there was a restricted screening (i.e., no Poland, Tapley or Hammond) that happened last Tuesday. (Gasp!) Attendees were sworn to secrecy, etc.
This is an old refrain, but everyone needs to start treating the Oscar telecast as merely the end of the road — a moderately exciting, amusing, occasionally touching, usually harmless, sometimes irksome, sometimes gratifying ceremony in which certain heavy-predicted favorites have their night in the sun. And that’s all it is — just a televised finale. We all know it’s not the destination that counts as much as the quality of the journey, so act accordingly.
So people need to invest a bit more in the season as a whole, and at the risk of alienating Oscar advertisers, start talking more about week-to-week personal passions and what the critics groups and the bloggers and the ubers and early adopters are saying, and endeavor as much as possible to (and I mean no harm or disrespect) ignore the deadwood and just stop talking about what “they” — i.e., the older, sleepier, stodgier, sometimes fatally clueless set that ALWAYS seems to be bringing up the rear in terms of receptivity to the best that’s out there — think.
They should be listened to, of course, and taken note of and paid a certain respect. But that’s all. The deadwood sector of the Academy too often does one thing and one thing only — they choose default winners that tone the whole thing down in terms of vision and hipness and coolness. They are the people walking slowly up or down the subway stairs who cause you to miss your connection.
Marriages between filmmakers are tinderboxes. They’re never long for this world, especially if the husband is a director-screenwriter-producer and the wife is an actress, and double especially when they make films together. Jointly-created films are like children, and if the film fails to ignite commercially and/or boost the career of the wife, the parents will start to blame themselves. Most talented actresses are intensely ambitious and no day at the beach to begin with, and this will only intensify if you put them in a movie that doesn’t take off or make them seem as mesmerizing or pistol-hot or Meryl Streep-ish as they feel is their due. It becomes even worse, obviously, if the husband has an issue or two of his own, which is not unusual among director-writer-producers. On top of which infidelity is so easy on that level.
For years I’ve been lamenting the “CinemaScope mumps” distortion syndrome — that face-broadening, weight-adding effect that resulted from the use of anamorphic CinemaScope lenses from ’53 through ’59 or ’60. It would be heaven if someone could figure a way to horizontally compress these films so that it would all look right. There’s a fundamental feeling of being cheated out of the correct proportions that were captured but not represented by those effing Bausch & Lomb Scope lenses.
William Holden’s face was never this wide, even after he’d gotten much older after decades of drinking.
I hate the “mumps” syndrome. It makes me grind my teeth. It angers me that no one else seems to care. Millions of moviegoers watched widescreen “mumps” films in the ’50s and didn’t notice or say anything, of course. It’s my cross to bear that I do notice this stuff and am one of the few people who complain.