I’ve been attending Sundance Film Festival kick-off news conferences-starring-Robert Redford for several years now, and they’re just not very newsworthy. There’s nothing else to do today, I realize, but I’m still sitting here in the condo and I’m gonna pass this time…no offense. Let me put it differently: as a new-media experiment I’m going to watch it via video-streaming.
So far Ivan Reitman‘s No Strings Attached has a 50% Rottten Tomatoes rating — flunk. This is underlined by a portion of Karina Longworth‘s L.A. Weekly/Village Voice review when she points out the irony of the film being about “introspective outsiders waging the good fight against Hollywood assholery” while leaving “a shtick stain that reeks of crass Hollywood conventionality.”
Ashton Kutcher, Natalie Portman in No Strings Attached.
But the L.A.-residing Longworth is more culturally and generationally akin to Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman‘s characters than most other critics, and so her sympathetic remarks are worth considering.
“Very little happens in this film that couldn’t realistically happen in the lives of actual beautiful-but-brainy, non-obnoxiously moneyed and ambitious twentysomethings circa now,” she writes. “At times, No Strings Attached feels almost shockingly attuned to the particular angst of its time and place.
“Portman’s third-act flight from Kutcher’s feelings would play as a predictable beat in a rom-com that only wanted to tear its lovers apart so it could bring them together again; it’s to Reitman and [screenwriter] Elizabeth Meriwether‘s credit that here it feels organic, a testament to the difficulty of accepting love at face value in a culture in which artificiality is the norm, sincere feelings are foreign enough to be frightening, and old-fashioned romance can seem like a suspicious affect.
“The idea of keeping it real in a highly artificial climate is mirrored by Meriwether’s script itself, which takes a moribund stock genre skeleton and animates it with multilayered characters who, for the most part, speak in the casual cadences of real people….[and with the film] confidently making the case that the tsuris of just being 26 and trying to figure out how to love and be loved is conflict enough.”
In short, Longworth is cutting the film a break in part because she’s living a similar kind of 20something/early-30something Los Angeles life in this or that way, and because she relates to the youngish Meriwether and the world she created and conveyed on the page before Reitman came along and, apparently, Reitmanized it.
College Humor’s Natalie Portman extended-laugh video is cheap bullshit. It’s viralling around so I may as well address it rather than ignore. Yes, she let go with a dorky laugh, but it’s coming from a deep libidinal place (i.e., I’m loved and desired by a handsome guy, hah-hah!). In any event some women just laugh that way. I’ve been listening to packs of 20something females laugh iike this in Starbucks cafes and bars for years, and so what? You can create a repeat-loop video of anyone laughing and make them look doofusy.
I realize that Quentin Dupieux‘s Rubber (on demand 2.25, theatrical 4.1) has played at other festivals including Cannes 2010, but wouldn’t it be great if it could show at Sundance or Slamdance? You can tell right away from this recently-posted trailer that Dupieux knows exactly what he’s doing. And a journalist-roommate who caught it at last November’s Stockholm Film Festival says it’s “really good.”
Right now the ratio of Green Hornet-type movies (corporate crap, death of the spirit, serious wounding of Seth Rogen) vs. Rubber-type movies (cleverness, originality, coolness) is about 20 to 1. That needs to change. Rubber and Hobo With A Shotgun are both about a strange outsider who kills with impugnity. At best I’m approaching Hobo with extreme caution (especially given emphatic claims that there’s no way I’ll be able to extract a kill-the-Wall-Street-guys metaphor), but I’m already in the tank for Rubber.
I should have seen it at last May’s Cannes Critics Week. I wrote about it as the festival began but I dropped the ball for some reason.
Rubber “is the story of Robert, an inanimate tire that has been abandoned in the desert, and suddenly and inexplicably comes to life,” the site says. “As Robert roams the bleak landscape, he discovers that he possesses terrifying telepathic powers that give him the ability to destroy anything he wishes without having to move.”
The cast includes Stephen Spinella, Jack Plotnick, Wings Hauser, Roxane Mesquida, Ethan Cohn (I presume this isn’t a typo and that it’s not Ethan Coen),
Charley Koontz and Daniel Quinn.
This YouTube trailer is okay, but it isn’t nearly as grabby and well-cut as the more recent one that went up a day or two ago.
Fake Cedar Rapids insurance office on upper Main Street, Park City, UT. It was a mess inside — construction guys were still tinkering, painting, etc. Miguel Arteta’s comedy will play at the Eccles on Sunday evening. Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Isiah Whitlock Jr.
Slamdance Film Festival honcho Peter Baxter (r.) and Slamdance cohorts at homey little sandwich-and-soup joint located just under the infamous Star Hotel, which is adjacent to Slamdance headquarters — Wednesday, 1.19, 2:10 pm. I haven’t sorted out all my Slamdance choices, but Atrocious — a Spanish horror film in the vein of Paranormal Activity — is one of them.
Wednesday, 1.19, 3:40 pm.
What do American producers always do when an interesting, off-center character actor delivers some kind of strong, wake-up performance in a foreign-made or indie flick? Simple — they sentence the poor guy to villain jail. He’ll get cast in big movies for big pay, but whatever colors he might have on his palette that don’t fit into standard movie-bad-guy behavior are ignored. Not each and every time but pretty damn often.
Michael Shannon, a cool and perceptive fellow, doesn’t look or act like Tom Cruise or Armie Hammer and so he’s obliged to play obsessives and nutbags. Christoph Waltz, a bright, worldly and sophisticated fellow, has apparently already been pigeonholed as an anti-social fiend. Tom Hardy exuded intelligent cultivation in Inception, but you know that playing Bronson and “Bane” in The Dark Knight Returns has almost certainly sealed his fate.
Some actors are better at playing heavies, agreed, and we’ve all heard time and again that it’s a lot more enjoyable to play darker personalities than dutiful good guys. But I’d really love to see Shannon and Waltz and Hardy break out of their respective cells. The world is full of gentle, brilliant and compassionate men and women who don’t look like conventional movie stars. It would be nice if American mainstream films could acknowledge this every so often.
The Academy’s Foreign Language Film Award committee has decided on a shortlist of six finalists and the exec committee has shortlisted three for a total of nine. The finalists are Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Biutiful, Rachid Bouchareb‘s Hors la Loi (Outside the Law), Denis Villeneuve‘s Incendies, Susanne Bier‘s In a Better World, Yorgos Lanthimos‘ Dogtooth, Tetsuya Nakashima‘s Confessions, Oliver Schmitz‘s Life Above All, Iclar Bollain‘s Even The Rain and Andreas Ohman‘s Simple Simon.
Unwarranted shaftings? Predictions? A voice is telling me that Incendies has the edge to win. Maybe.
Last night Salt Lake City was all but devoid of snow with the temperature nudging 40. But Park City was/is blanketed and in the mid 20s. Snow showers this morning, and happening again as we speak. An hour more on the column and then over to the Park City Marriott (a short walk) to pick up press badge, press materials, etc.
Mark Pellington‘s I Melt With You, which will have its first Sundance showing on Wednesday, 1.26, is about four 40ish pallies (Thomas Jane, Jeremy Piven, Christian McKay, Rob Lowe) “going down the rabbit hole of bacchanalian excess.” Because they’re hurting inside, of course. Drinking only makes things worse, guys. Get a clue.
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Entertainment Weekly‘s Dave Karger, among the leading advocates of a King’s Speech Best Picture win scenario, yesterday confessed that The Social Network‘s sweep of the Broadcast Film Critics and Golden Globes awards has given him pause and that “my No. 1 Best Picture pick is hanging by a thread.”
The odd thing is Karger’s statement that Speech‘s “trouncing” of The Social Network in terms of BAFTA nominations constitutes “conflicting signals.” The Brits are obviously and genetically in the tank for The King’s Speech (history, culture, tradition) so describing them as “a voting body that has significant overlap with the Academy” is a moot point.
Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone said this morning that this weekend’s PGA awards and the following weekend’s DGA and WGA awards “will give us a much firmer grasp of where this is going.” Firmer grasp about what? I replied. Isn’t it all but over? What category competition do you find uncertain or inconclusive?
“The guilds determine how Best Picture will go,” she replied. “PGA, Saving Private Ryan. DGA, Saving Private Ryan. SAG ensemble, Shakespeare in Love. Best Picture Oscar, Shakespeare in Love.
“Even if by a thread, Karger is PREDICTING a Crash/Shakespeare in Love-type freak accident. But that means, if there is to be any hope at all for the film, it HAS to win the SAG ensemble. But I think The Fighter wins there. So I can’t imagine any film winning without a major guild award. I am fairly certain that the last one to do it was Chariots of Fire, so Karger is predicting a Chariots of Fire type of win.
“The guilds will firm up The Social Network‘s dominance, as they did with The Departed, No Country, Slumdog and The Hurt Locker. Without them, TSN cannot win.
“It should win PGA (Rudin, for godsakes), the DGA (who else can beat Fincher?), the WGA (Sorkin owns that category) and so all that’s left is the SAG. If it wins there, game over.”
In a piece called “Here’s Why The King’s Speech (As Good As It Is) Won’t Win Best Picture,” EW critic Owen Gleiberman brings up “the zeitgeist factor…it doesn’t happen every time, but the movie that ends up winning the Academy Award for Best Picture often taps into and gives voice to something that’s happening in the culture at large.”