Time Out‘s Dave Calhoun has sliced and diced William Monahan‘s London Boulevard, which opens in London this weekend. The London-based crime drama needs a stateside supporter but Collider‘s Steve Weintraub, who has seen and liked it (according to Weintraub’s 11.17 Monahan interview), is strangely silent. A man stands by his friends.
“Monahan draws on this big-name cast and employs superior talent behind the camera such as cinematographer Chris Menges, ” Calhoun says, “but still manages to serve up a tired, lifeless film which fails to realise either the style or sexiness it craves and which lacks any real sense of energy or momentum in its plotting.
“Although the film is contemporary, Monahan aims for a 1960s vibe, with vague nods to Performance in its crim-boho crossover, period songs on the soundtrack, including Bob Dylan and The Yardbirds, and a scene in which Farrell, in shirt and tie, drives an open-top classic car across Waterloo Bridge.
“Yet such stylings feel like add-ons to a by-the-numbers, staccato story.
“Monahan wheels out every Brit-gangster cliche in the book — Ray Winstone as a secretly gay, bookish hard man with a reserve of childhood trauma; Eddie Marsan as a cop stuck in the 1970s; Colin Farrell as a criminal who can’t escape his past; and Ben Chaplin as the hothead who’s got it coming. The film’s weakest element is the romance between Mitchell and Keira Knightley‘s Charlotte, which emerges from nowhere and is one of the dampest screen liasons in a long while.
“It doesn’t help that Farrell is handicapped not only with a character who doesn’t do emotions, but with his obvious discomfort at trying — and failing — to pull off a South London accent. Knightley, in turn, doesn’t have much to do but look harried, cross her arms a lot and, as expected, pout.
“Only the most forgiving fans of London crime movies will find much to enjoy beyond Menges’s nicely moody shots of London and a few amusing side players, and even Knightley’s loyal fans might tire after a few scenes of her faux-slobbish act as a celebrity in hiding. Husband-and-wife actors David Thewlis and Anna Friel are respectively wasted (in both senses) as Charlotte’s sole confidante and Mitchell’s wayward sister, but each must have had a word in the other’s ear as they play their roles for laughs and lighten their scenes by plumping for caricature.
“You start off strolling lazily down London Boulevard, but after 104 minutes you’re on your hands and knees begging for a passing cab to take you anywhere but this.”
Coast of Gualala, California — about three hours north of San Francisco, an hour south of Medicoino. Thanksgiving is happening at a home in Sea Ranch, just south of here.
I can’t remember the last time I saw a red sign that said “5 & 10.”
The AT&T air in Gualala/Sea Ranch doesn’t exist.
Trinks Cafe, one of the only friendly places in Gualala that offers wifi to average Joes.
I regret to say that having finally seen Peter Weir‘s The Way Back, I now understand why it took so long to find a distributor. It’s a high-level outdoor survival drama in a long, gloomy, sloggy vein. It has a rote and rudimentary quality that, for me, places it apart from everything in the Weir canon. The man who made it knew what he was doing, but it was a bad idea or a bum steer or something.
It’s not in the realm of Gallipoli or Picnic at Hanging Rock or Master and Commander or The Mosquito Coast, even. It’s better than Green Card or The Truman Show, but that’s not saying much. I can at least say it’s not painful to sit through. Because it isn’t.
It’s about what people can do when they have no choice but to suck it in and go the extra 4000 miles in order to live. The slogan that wasn’t used is “These raggedy men wanted desperately to survive…and they did!” And it’s very well acted and convincingly brutal and handsomely framed. It’s watchable and absorbing for what it is.
The Way Back is about six or seven guys who escape from a Soviet Siberian gulag in the early 1940s and hike between 4000 to 5000 kilometers to freedom — across Siberia and Mongolia (including a vast desert), then across the Himalayas and into India. The escapees are played by Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, Gustaf Skarsgard, Alexandru Potocean and Sebastian Urzendowsky. And along they way they hook up with Saoirse Ronan. (Thank goodness nobody tries anything with her.) And the elements are brutal. No one catches a break.
A title card tells us from the get-go that only three finally made it to India so right away you’re asking yourself, “Okay, which ones are the weak sisters who are going to crap out along the way?”
I knew going in that anyone making a journey of 4000 or 5000 kilometers on foot will face terrible strain and hunger and hardship. I knew that. What, then, did The Way Back tell me? It told me that making a journey of 4000 or 5000 kilometers on foot involves terrible strain and hunger and hardship.
I’m not persuaded that Weir’s story was all that rich or interesting to begin with. It’s essentially a film about endurance and surviving the elements and blah-dee-blah. It’s about cold and hunger and baking heat and swollen feet and snow and wolves and aching joints and beards and dampness and a big lake and a cave.
A critic friend said that film “seems to last almost as long as the actual trek did.” I don’t feel that way. The Way Back is not a boring film. It is, however, a “why did they make this film again?” film. It seems as if Weir was just able to get it done and not much else. He and his team deserve approval for having made the effort, but I don’t know how anyone can see this thing and then do cartwheels in the lobby. It’s just okay, and at times a bit tedious. I didn’t mean that. I meant trying.
In Contention‘s Kris Tapley feels differently. Or did, at least, when he saw The Way Back in Telluride.
Work stopped yesterday afternoon. That’s why I left New York City yesterday morning, before the deluge. Anyone flying anywhere today or tonight is asking for it. CNN just showed a motion map of all the flights happening today. Hundreds (thousands?) of flying blue dots. Forget it. And for what? In-laws and room-temperature gravy and yams and sweet potatoes and lots of TV watching, and mostly football. Bah, humbug.
If only Drew McWeeny was around to show me how to find joy in all this.
I’ll be watching mostly Academy screeners and a couple of films from the Elia Kazan box set, particularly Letter to Elia, which I saw initially during the N.Y. Film Festival.
“Letter to Elia, on the other hand, is a delicate and beautiful little poem. It’s a personal tribute to a director who made four films — On The Waterfront, East of Eden, Wild River and America America — that went right into Scorsese’s young bloodstream and swirled around inside for decades after. Scorcese came to regard Kazan as a father figure, he says in the doc. And after watching you understand why.
“Letter to Elia is a deeply touching film because it’s so close to the emotional bone. The sections that take you through the extra-affecting portions of Waterfront and Eden got me and held me like a great sermon. It’s like a church service, this film. It’s pure religion.
“More than a few Kazan-haters (i.e., those who couldn’t forgive the director for confirming names to HUAC in 1952) were scratching their heads when Scorsese decided to present Kazan’s special lifetime achievement Oscar in 1999. Letter to Elia full explains why, and what Scorsese has felt about the legendary Kazan for the last 55, going-on-60 years.”
Sure, pat-downs are invasive and sometimes angering. Obviously. We knew people would probably respond as they have. And that agent should have let that woman keep her nipple rings. But get used to it. Whine all you want — we’re doing this. We have two choices, as we see it. One, the TSA eases up and some Islamic wacko slips through and something happens and the TSA gets roasted by the media and the top guy gets fired. Or two, bureaucratic molestations continue and flyers seethe and maybe the wacko doesn’t slip through. We have the power, you don’t, sorry but this is the world we live in, unbutton your pants.
I’ve now seen Black Swan three times. Once at the Toronto Film Festival; twice via the Fox Searchlight screener. It doesn’t get old. I could watch it another couple of times, easy. I could barely get through one viewing of Never Let Me Go or, for that matter, Bruno. And it’s wonderful, finally, to be able to hear each and every line of dialogue. Because the sound renderings on my 42″ Panasonic plasma have Toronto’s Scotiabank plex beat all to hell.
It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that visual swing. Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson needed to gently illuminate the left side of the face of Social Network star Jesse Eisenberg with a small table lamp. If she was lucky she might’ve achieved an early ’70s Vittorio Storaro quality. I realize they were chatting at the notoriously dark Musso and Frank, but they’ve got all kinds of little lamps in there. It’s a pre-war place, been there since 1919.
I’m picking up little signals from my insect antennae that suggest things are shifting in the awards race. Things always shift, of course. Nothing is static. And I’m not saying I have better information that anyone else — far from it. But over the last 7 to 10 days little tingly intuitions have been telling me that (a) The Fighter is about to break out big-time, (b) The Social Network is in a kind of level holding pattern — it hasn’t dropped or gained but people keep saying it’s too temperamentally cool and there’s no one to root for (bullshit…root for the smart guy who knows exactly what he’s doing!), and (c) The Kids Are All Right is slowly slipping down the slope.
Or maybe the movement is elsewhere and I’m not getting a reading. So I’m asking — what allegedly award-worthy films have been dropping or gaining ever so slightly?
I’ve been talking to various people outside the journalist-industry loop over the last few days, and one of the things I’ve been hearing (and I’m not saying this to cause any grief) is “why are people so in love with The Kids Are All Right? It’s okay but it’s not that great. And I don’t get the Annette Bening thing either.” I explain to them that there’s a certain novelty and intrigue in wading into the life of a bright, somewhat neurotic, upper middle-class professional gay woman who’s dealing with what she regards as a serious threat to her family, and also that there’s an industry consensus that Bening has lost twice before and is therefore “due.” And they seem unmoved when I say this. Mostly they say, “Okay, but she’s just all right…what’s the boola-boola?”
All along I’ve been a sincere admirer of Tom Hooper‘s The King’s Speech as far as it goes. I regret to say that I’ve failed to fully define the meaning of those last five words in this context. Or at least, I haven’t defined it as well as New Yorker critic Anthony Lane has. Lane admires Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush‘s performances; he in fact calls them the film’s saving graces. But I defy any champion of The King’s Speech to read this 11.29 review and tell me it hasn’t affected their view of the film.
The Marrakech Film Festival (12.3 to 12.11), which I’ll be attending 75% of, is looking pretty damn good in terms of interview opportunities. I’ve been offered a shot at speaking with John Malkovich (jury chairman), Sigourney Weaver (doc jury chairman), possibly Martin Scorsese, Gael Garcia Bernal, Francis Coppola, Susan Sarandon, Eva Mendes, Luc & Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Harvey Keitel, James Caan, Charlotte Rampling and Alan Parker. A formidable group by any measure.
Cher‘s comeback is stillborn, apparently, and Christine Aquilera‘s film career is also dead on the tracks. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen a stinker as obvious as Burlesque,” Marshall Fine posted this morning. “As a colleague and I noted afterward, it made us long for something as coherent and restrained as Showgirls. Or Glitter. Not that there’s all that much difference.
“Burlesque is Showgirls without the redemptively gratuitous sex and nudity. Or 42nd Street without the originality,” he adds. “The script is free of credible friction or jeopardy. The club shows look like post-Bob Fosse knock-offs. There’s nary a surprise to be had, except for Christine Aguilera’s apparent misconception that she has acting talent. And that’s not really so surprising.”
Other critics were chiming in on a recently launched awards-season chatroom.
“Thanks to Burlesque we now have the answer to the question ‘which film ended the film careers of both Christina Aguilera and Cher?,'” one guy said. “Holy FRACK…did anyone see Burlesque?,” another exclaimed. “Crossroads with Britney Spears was better, for God’s sake. ” “Yeah, I saw it,” a colleague commented, “in a screening room full of critics who were laughing out loud at every other line…except for the jokes.”
“I had a friend who was an insider at Screen Gems who told me months ago — I’m not making this up — that Clint Culpepper was gearing Burlesque up as their entry for the Oscars and wanting to get Cher another nomination…it was hard not to remember that as I watched that piece of crap.”
Another guy said, “Aaah, c’mon — Burlesque was fun. it’s totally disposable and derivative, sure. but it had some fun moments (mostly thanks to Cher and Stanley Tucci). I guess it’s the type of movie that critics love to savage regardless of whether or not it’s fun for what it is.”
In response to this a colleague wrote, “Stop it…stop it right now. It is not fun. It is pure torture aside from the unintentional laughter. How dare that movie be a full two hours filled up with absolutely nothing!?”