A distribution guy who knows everyone and has been around forever saw Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life a good while ago, and while discussing it with a friend several weeks ago said somewhat perfunctorily, “I’m a fan.” Now, you have to understand what it means when a distribution exec says “I’m a fan.” That’s like some dude who’s just gone out on a blind date saying the next morning that the girl has a nice personality. It means (a) the film has problems, (b) the distribution guy is being polite, and (c) he doesn’t want to say anything too strong for fear of being identified as a rapt admirer. (I almost said “raptor” admirer but that’s another thread.)
It appears as if some kind of mistake was made by England’s Icon Distribution in announcing (or failing to convincingly deny) that it would commercially release Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life on May 4th, as reported earlier today by Empire‘s Helen O’Hara.
A shock wave went around for a couple of hours later this morning when it seemed at least possible that the story might be true because such a move would have completely undercut the hoopla effect of the expected Cannes Film Festival debut of Malick’s film, which will probably happen a week after the questionably-reported British opening.
I was told by two senior execs with Fox Searchlight, the film’s domestic distributor, that the Empire report is most likely untrue. I then asked Jill Jones, chief of int’l distribution for Summit Entertainment, which holds int’l rights on The Tree of Life, to deny or confirm the story, and through her spokesperson she refused to do either — thanks, Jill! Instead she referred me to Zak Brilliant, VP distribution and publicity or Icon Distribution UK, which will open Malick’s film sometime in May, and he also refused to respond.
So I haven’t been told for sure that it’s an incorrect story, but it probably is.
Earlier but never posted: If today’s Empire magazine report about the May 4th British release date for Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of Life is solid, the air is not only rapidly hissing out of the Malick/Life/Cannes Film Festival balloon — the balloon is deflated and lying on the pavement. For Empire‘s Helen O’Hara is essentially reporting that the expected Cannes debut of Malick’s Penn/Pitt/dinosaur movie has been made completely meaningless by the British release plan.
Summit has international rights to The Tree of Life, and they’ve sub-licensed the British film rights to Icon Releasing. I’m currently waiting for Summit’s Jill Jones to confirm yea or nay. I’ve spoken to two reps from Fox Searchlight, which is releasing Tree of Life domestically, and been told that O’Hara’s report sounds extremely suspect.
But if it’s true this is the end of The Tree of Life because it’s been completely devalued as a Cannes attraction. It not only kills the Malicky coolness factor chasing the festival’s expected unveiling, but indicates that the film is less than the cat’s meow. If it were something special you know that the film’s producers and Cannes honcho Thierry Fremaux wouldn’t allow it to open anywhere before Cannes because a pre-festival commercial opening completely suffocates the tingle.
What a shocker if true! Years of waiting and all this delay, and the Cannes booking of The Tree of Life not even confirmed and it all might all come down to a commercial opening in England? A young mom in Leeds who can’t afford a babysitter will be able to take her two kids to an afternoon showing of The Tree of Life at the local plex before the Cannes elite has a looksee? No, no…that’s too much, too ridiculous. It can’t be true.
Awards Daily ‘s Sasha Stone, Boxoffice.com‘s Phil Contrino and myself, at it again. Michael Caine, Taxi Driver, Natalie Portman, Sucker Punch, IKEA moving guys, Don’t Look Now, annoying hums, Notorious, Win Win, cats, etc. Here’s a non-iTunes, stand-alone link.
I was surprised by the results of a 3.24 poll, published by Awards Daily‘s Ryan Adams, revealing his readers’ favorite gay-themed films. It’s a respectable list, but the absence of William Friedkin and Mart Crowley‘s The Boys in the Band (’70) — arguably the most groundbreaking-in-its-time gay film ever made — tells me Adams’ voters weren’t interested in films that weren’t about them, or which failed to provide comfortable and/or stirring self-images.
It’s common knowledge, of course, that the gay community turned its back on The Boys in the Band almost immediately after it opened in March 1970. That was nine months after the June 1969 Stonewall rebellion, and the sea-change in gay consciousness and values that happened in its wake — pride, solidarity, political militancy — had no room for a satiric and rather acidic drama about a group of Manhattan gay guys, gathered at a friend’s birthday party in the West Village, grappling with various forms of frustration, misery and self-loathing due to their sexuality.
Mart Crowley‘s revolutionary stage play, which opened off Broadway in April 1968, was a culmination of decades of frustration with straight society’s suppression and/or intolerance of gays mixed with the up-the-establishment freedoms of the late ’60s, but the film didn’t fit the post-Stonewall mold. Obviously. And it hasn’t aged well at all.
When Boys was re-released in San Francisco 12 years ago, Chronicle critic Edward Guthmann wrote that “by the time Boys was released in 1970…it had already earned among gays the stain of Uncle Tomism…[it’s] a genuine period piece but one that still has the power to sting. In one sense it’s aged surprisingly little — the language and physical gestures of camp are largely the same — but in the attitudes of its characters, and their self-lacerating vision of themselves, it belongs to another time. And that’s a good thing.”
But Boys deserves respect as a revolutionary play of its time, and, as a film, as a kind of landmark presentation for its candid, amusing, sad and occasionally startling presentations of urban gay men and their lifestyles during those psychedelic downswirl, end-of-the-Johnnson-era, dawn-of-the Nixon-era days, made all the more entertaining and memorable by several bottled-lightning performances (particularly Cliff Gorman‘s).
And it’s just not right on some level that gays (whom I’m presuming represent most of Adams’ respondents) haven’t included Boys on their list at all…not even down near the bottom, for Chrissake. That’s uncaring, disrespectful, short-sighted, shallow.
I guess I’m extra-mindful of Crowley’s play/film because a couple of months ago I saw Crayton Robey‘s Making The Boys, a longish but mostly absorbing account of (a) Crowley’s life, (b) the writing of the play and (c) the making of the film. It reminded me of what a singular accomplishment Boys was in its day, and that the play, at least, really was a kind of gay earthquake…before anyone called anyone else “gay.”
My favorite gay-themed (partially or completely) films, in this order:
(1) Brokeback Mountain, (2) The Times of Harvey Milk, (3) Angels in America, (4) The Opposite of Sex, (5) Prick Up Your Ears, (6) A Single Man, (7) Gods and Monsters, (8) The Kids Are All Right, (9) Milk, (19) Longtime Companion, (11) Kiss of the Spider Woman, (12) The Boys in the Band, (13) Priest, (14) Maurice, (15) The Hours and Times, (16) The Crying Game and (17) Philadelphia.
Albert Brooks has a book, “2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America,” hitting shelves and Kindles on 5.10.11. A few hours ago he was complaining that recent tweets haven’t resulted in online sales. I wrote him and offered to read the book and do an interview, etc.
There was a morning bike ride and breakfast followed by an hour-long Oscar Poker chat, and then the IKEA guys deivered the couch…not a single piece but in sections inside big boxes and plastic cases with wing nuts and screws and slipcovers, etc. So I had to put it together — not any kind of a problem but it took about 90 minutes. Time flew.
God, these guys were perfect in 1950 or ’51! Why can’t they invent a drug that prevents you from physically aging beyond the age of 22 or 32 at the oldest for the rest of your life while allowing for the usual gathering of intellectual knowledge and spiritual wisdom? It wouldn’t be for everyone and perhaps not for most, but…
Today I took my samurai sword to be sharpened at The Sword and the Stone (723 Victory Blvd., Burbank), the greatest ancient weaponry store (newly crafted “old” swords, medieval and Roman helmets, breastplates, hand-hooks) and hot medieval bikini-babe fantasy environment I’ve visited in months, if not years. The blade of my samurai sword is now razor sharp. If anyone breaks into my place I’ll chop his hand off and open him up like can of beans.
Gittes: “Tell me, are you still puttin’ chinamen in jail for spittin’ in the laundry?” Escobar: “You’re a little behind the times, Jake. They used steam irons now. Besides I’m not in Chinatown any more.” Gittes: “Oh, yeah? Since when?” Escobar: “Since I made lieutenant.”
Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk and David Fincher told us to stay away from Ikea. But that’s where I go when I need a couch that I can afford — a new one, I mean, that doesn’t smell like someone else.
Listen to this fascinating discussion of the impossible-to-swallow, fantasy-projection finale of Martin Scorsese‘s just-restored Taxi Driver by Slate‘s Dana Stevens and John Swansburg. It feels like a two-character play about a gap in comprehension among two extremely bright observers, and how they can absorb every detail of a classic film and still miss something really obvious.
Stevens and Swansburg list all the incredulous stuff during the film’s final minutes — tabloid news stories describing Robert De Niro‘s East Village whorehouse shootout as “heroic,” Jodie Foster‘s parents writing to thank him for saving their daughter, Cybil Shepard getting into his cab out at the very end and giving him admiring looks, De Niro’s Mohawk haircut completely grown out two or three months later — and they still can’t accept and in fact half-dismiss that the dreamlike coda is fantasy. Why? Because there hasn’t been any “precedent” or “cue” for a fantasy sequence. Swansburg actually calls it “a little bit of a false note.”
If I never see another movie about fierce and growly Asian guys leaping around and fighting each other with swords, it’ll be too soon. I’m serious. If powerful forces were to sent a rep to my door with this message — “You will never again see another Asian-machismo sword-fight movie in your life” — my answer would be, “Okay…I can live with that.” And I’m saying this as someone has has three real-deal swords in his apartment, including a samurai sword.
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