I took this while waiting inside the tent ouside the Holiday Cinemas to get into yesterday morning’s screening of Margin Call. That’s Variety’s Justin Chang on the phone. Tons of journalists were waiting and waiting, and very few got in. Chang and I were rescued at the last minute by a friendly publicist who escorted us in, although the balcony seats we got were behind an unusually high safety barrier which required sitting on the edge of our seats and leaning forward.
The 20somethings who hang out in packs in front of Tatou and Harry O’s each and every night during Sundance are, of course, party gah-gahs looking to catch a film or two but are mainly looking to get loaded, go Seth Rogen-crazy and maybe get lucky. Okay, “lucky”-ness can be life-transforming — I get that. I don’t care really, but I happened to walk by here last night and it hit me, “Wow…ground zero…I’ll bet most of these guys liked The Green Hornet.”
Tom McCarthy‘s Win Win (Fox Searchlight, 3.18), which screened last night at the Eccles, isn’t quite as good as Little Miss Sunshine — it’s an 8.5 to Sunshine‘s 9 — but it’s a wise, perceptive and affecting little family-relations flick that works just fine. If only more films labelled “family-friendly” were as good as this. McCarthy is always grade-A, and this is more from the same well. Win Win is warm but not sappy, smartly written, very well acted and agreeable all the way.
Win Win star Paul Giamatti, director-screenwriter-producer Tom McCarthy at last night’s after-party at Park City’s High West Distillery.
But it needs to be clarified that it’s not a “wrestling movie,” as Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson has tweeted, as much as a film about parenting, nurturing, values and community.
Paul Giamatti is a financially struggling small-town attorney and family man with a wife (played by the always first-rate Amy Ryan) and two daughters. He coaches the high-school’s wrestling team on the side. During a court hearing about the welfare of an aging, dementia-aflicted client (Burt Young), Giamatti offers to be Young’s arm’s-length caretaker because of an extra $1500 monthly that comes with the job. This is presented as an ethical failing of some kind, but financial motives or fallbacks are always a factor in taking care of an elderly person.
And then Young’s grandson (Alex Shaffer, a high-school wrestling star found in a talent search) shows up on the doorstep of Young’s home. The kid has run away from his Ohio home, but more particularly from his youngish drug-addict mom (Melanie Lynskey) and her atrocious parenting.
Giamatti and Ryan take Shaffer in for a brief period until he’s able to catch a bus home, but everything changes when Giamatti discovers that Shaffer is a world-class wrestler. He winds up enrolling in the local high school and joining the team, of course, and everything’s looking great until the wicked witch — i.e., Lynskey — shows up looking to take Shaffer back home and trying to snag the $1500 gig in taking care of Young, her dad.
Alex Shaffer, Paul Giamatti,
GIamatti delivers another one of his dependably solid half-Gloomy Gus/half-wise man performances. But for my money Ryan is the most enjoyably on-target. She’s so solid, so real. And Shaffer definitely holds his own.
“There’s something about him,” Giamatti told USA Today‘s Claudia Puig last night. “The movie hinges on him. He’s so likeable. If he hadn’t been likeable, the movie would never have worked. And he’s really smart, but tries to hide it.”
Costars include Jeffrey Tambor, Bobby Cannavale and Margo Martindale. McCarthy wrote the screenplay, based on the story by himself and Joe Tiboni. Michael London (Sideways) produced with McCarthy, Mary Jane Skalski and Lisa Maria Falcone.
MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann announced tonight his sudden departure from (and the total collapsing of) Countdown. Shocker. TheWrap is reporting that the underlying motive may have been to create a “new media empire.” But the suddenness of the departure indicates some kind of dispute with MSNBC’s Phil Griffin.
Olbermann is a brilliant and perceptive analyst, naturally funny and quippy, has a nose that is highly attuned and has never missed the subtlest bullshit-dealing trick, and is an excellent if not glorious world-class hater for (almost) all things right, fiendish, regressive, hee-haw, stupid, Fox/, Tea Party, corporate, Palin, Bachmann, etc. May God love and embrace him for this in this life and the next. Re-surfacing is a fait accompli, of course. I’ll follow the guy anywhere.
From AOL News: “Olbermann’s peripatetic career landed him at MSNBC eight years ago — his second prime-time stint on the network — with a humorous show counting down the day’s top stories. That changed on Aug. 30, 2006, when Olbermann aired the first of a series of densely-worded and blistering ‘special comments,’ this time expressing anger at then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld‘s criticism of opponents to the war in Iraq.
“More anti-Bush administration commentary followed. Olbermann dropped any pretense of journalistic objectivity, and he became a hero to liberals battered by the popularity of Fox News Channel and its conservative commentators. Olbermann openly feuded with Fox, often naming personalities like Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck one of his ‘worst persons in the world’ for some of their statements.
“Countdown became MSNBC’s most popular show. Instantly, a network that had often floundered in seeking a direction molded itself after Olbermann. Opinion was in, and MSNBC’s prime-time lineup was filled out with Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell, who both had been subs for Olbermann when he was away.
“During his moment on his final Countdown Olbermann “thanked several people, including the late Tim Russert, but pointedly not MSNBC honcho Phil Griffin or NBC News president Steve Capus.”
About 11 hours ago I wrote that I was planning on seeing five films today. It’s now 7:55 pm and three have been bagged — Jim Kohlber‘s The Music Never Stopped, J. C. Chandor‘s Margin Call and Alison Ellwood and Alex Gibney‘s Magic Trip. I have to be at the Eccles at 9:15 pm for a screening of Tom McCarthy‘s Win Win, and then I’ll be cabbing to the Egyptian for an 11:30 pm showing of Jason Eisener‘s Hobo With A Shotgun.
I got stalled late this afternoon by a personal/business matter, and that killed my writing time. I also have to post two more items before leaving for the Eccles, but every year I come to realization that I’m good for two or three films a day, tops, if I want to keep up with the filing. Five feels industrious, but nothing happens on the site.
My twitter-sized reactions so far:
(a) The Music Never Stopped is an intelligent but tiresome estranged-father-and-son drama blended with a ’60s classic rock soundtrack (not “laid on” but integrated into the story) with fine performances from J.K. Simmons, Lou Taylor Pucci, Julia Ormond and Cara Seymour. The writing is straight and unpretentious and true to the mark, but the film feels tame and square.
(b) Margin Call is a moderately engaging Wall Street drama — I’m giving it a 7.5 — that uses reasonably well-sketched characters in a brokerage firm to dramatize the 2008 meltdown. It’s a decently made film with one especially riveting boardroom scene, but without much snap or tension overall, and it radiates a fair amount of gloom. Solid, workmanlike performances from Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Zachary Quinto, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci. Jeremy Irons is the standout as the ruthless top dog.
(c) Magic Trip offers fascinating color footage of the original 1964 coast-to-coast bus trip of Ken Kesey‘s Merry Pranksters, and tells the legendary story more or less completely with two glaring exceptions. One, there’s no mention whatsoever of Tom Wolfe or his book that almost single-handedly sculpted the Kesey/magic bus legend, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.” And two, there’s only one mention of the word “enlightenment” in the whole film and no down-deep discussion at all of what LSD did for people during the early to late ’60s. The latter strikes me as borderline surreal given that LSD was the prime catalyst for the spiritual revolution of the late ’60s and ’70s.
Day #1 is always ambitious so the plan is to catch five films — The Music Never Stopped at 9 am, Margin Call at 11:30 am, Alex Gibney‘s Magic Trip at 2 pm, Bobby Fischer Against The World at 7:30 and Tom McCarthy‘s Win Win at 9:30 pm. There’s an option of catching Andrew MacLean‘s On The Ice at 8:45 pm but I don’t know.
What defines a must-to-avoid “townie” restaurant in Park City during the Sundance Film Festival? The host has a suspicious, guard-at-the-gate attitude when you walk in and say you’d like to hang at the bar, as I did last night at 350 Main. No well-mannered restaurant host in Manhattan would adopt a look of faint alarm and a ready-to-rock tone and say “do you have a dinner reservation?”
I was about to say “no, but I’ve got 15 minutes to kill and thought I’d chill” but the hostess was a mixture of Faye Dunaway in Network and a barkeep in a Sean O’Casey play and the confrontational vibe was like a Queen lyric — “We will, we will stop you!” Things went downhill from there.
I’ve always gotten this attitude from 350 Main staffers — “Are you riff-raff or are you here to sufficiently spend? You don’t much look like a skiier and that worries us. Don’t come in here with any sort of journalistic-swagger attitude because we have a business to run, bub.” I know that Sundance attracts crude simian types to Main Street and I don’t blame any high-toned establishment for wanting to keep this element from cluttering the place up, but townie eateries always overdo it. Another Park City establishment that I wrote off years ago for having this “hold it, fella!” attitude is the Grub Steak, located across from Prospector Square.
I couldn’t get into tonight’s Egyptian screening of John Michael McDonaugh‘s The Guard, but I was allowed to take pictures of the post-screening q & a with McDonaugh and his cast — Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Mark Strong, Liam Cunningham and Dominique McElligot. I ran into Harvey Weinstein, who said he “liked it…it’s a very charming film.” I talked to another guy who said the same thing. What does that mean?
Post-screening tweet from Entertainment Weekly‘s Anthony Breznican: “Drugs & gun-stealing, prostitute-patronizing, racist smart-ass Irish cop? The Guard has such a sick sense of humor that this is the hero.”
MSN’s James Rocchi‘s response: “Gleeson/Cheadle mismatch cop yarn has a giddily perverse sense of language, morality, genre. Rough chuckles and great bloody fun.” I’m sorry, but that makes me nervous. I don’t trust perversity that’s effing giddy.
(1) Jesse Peretz‘s My Idiot Brother, a comedy w/ Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer; (2) Dito Montiel‘s The Son of No One w/Channing Tatum, Al Pacino, Katie Holmes, Tracy Morgan, Ray Liotta, Juliette Binoche; (3) Jacob Aaron Estes‘ The Details w/Tobey Maguire, Elizabeth Banks, Laura Linney, Ray Liotta and Dennis Haysbert; (4) Lee Tamahori‘s The Devil’s Double w/Dominic Cooper; (5) JC Chandor‘s Margin Call w/Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Demi Moore and Stanley Tucci; and two horror films — (6) Chris Kentis‘s The Silent House and Kevin Smith‘s Red State.
I wrote my ex-employer Kevin Smith this morning about getting into one of the two Sundance screenings of Red State. (Preferably the 8:30 am Library showing on 1.24.) No press screenings scheduled and we all know what this implies, but the only Smith film I’ve had any significant issues with was Jersey Girl. “I know what your policy is, but I’d love to be excepted from it,” I wrote him. “Oh, and I ran into [Red State costar] Melissa Leo yesterday afternoon,” I added. “She’s happy.”
The film’s villains are red-state religious wackos. I’m sure they’re going to get theirs by the conclusion. For this alone I’m half in the tank for this thing.
For what it’s worth, last month director Richard Kelly (a Smith pally) told Slashfilm’s Peter Sciretta that “I’ve never seen a filmmaker reinvent himself” the way Smith has via Red State. “I won’t say anything else because I don’t want to spoil anything. It’s really really exciting. If the movie ends up playing at Sundance, I might actually come up to just see the audience’s response.”
Each and every day casual newsstand and online readers are deluged with hot smokin’ bods. Actresses, models, female musicians, Olympic-level skiiers…they’re all flashing big-time. And I think it’s fair in such an atmosphere to insert a minor anatomical comment about….here it comes…navels. Or more particularly, the importance of innies. Nobody has an outie but flatties, for me, are a bit of a speed bump. Okay, more than that. Then again they’re rare. You should be able to say stuff like this if you keep it simple and brief.