Three and a half years old, I mean. Dennis Lee‘s Fireflies in the Garden, shown at the 2008 Berlin Film Festival and having played theatrically across the globe in ’08 and ’09 primarily, is finally getting a limited U.S. opening on 10.14. It has the earmarks of a rote family-dysfunction-and-abuse drama. Ryan Reynolds Julia Roberts and Willem Dafoe costar. It has a 28% Rotten Tomatoes average thus far.
“Hud thrives,” the UnTexan wrote or or about 9.20.10, following the death of screenwriter Irving Ravetch, who co-wrote Hud with his wife, Harriet Frank. “His offspring litter their shit in McMansion-sized heaps across the landscape. They’re everywhere and they go by various names. Texas Governor Rick Perry is a hardcore Hud-ite. Wasn’t Jesse Jackson just warning President Obama to beware of Hud-ism and its many charms?
“Now Texas is all over the place. Hud’s world is our world. It’s the world of the minor character writ large. That makes it a scary place. See the movie. It’s a good movie. And think about Irving Ravetch, the man who saw Hud coming down the road, and tried to warn the rest of us what was headed our way.
“Ravetch found a relatively minor character in Larry McMurtry‘s novel, “Horseman, Pass By“. He was called Hud Bannon and Ravetch recognized him for what he was, and pumped him full of bullshit and hot air and turned him into the unprincipled, greedy, Bible-thumpin’, money-grubbin’, land-grabbin’, stripmall-buildin’, queer-baitin’, Mexican-cheatin’, black man-draggin’, prisoner-executin’, sleaze-baggin’, fuel-suckin’, George W. Bush-electin’ (a minor character writ large if ever there was one), aw-shucks-dumbass-from-Dumas shit kickin’ good ol’ boy we all have come to recognize as the charming Texan next door.
“Ravetch saw Texas for what it was and called it Hud.
“Here’s what Hud’s old daddy Homer Bannon says in the movie: ‘You don’t care about people, Hud. You don’t give a damn about ’em. Oh, you got all that charm goin’ for ya. And it makes the youngsters want to be like ya. That’s the shame of it because you don’t value anything. You don’t respect nothin’. You keep no check on your appetites at all. You live just for yourself. And that makes you not fit to live with.’
“Or as Hud himself puts it: ‘This country is run on epidemics, where you been? Price fixing, crooked TV shows, inflated expense accounts. How many honest men you know? Why you separate the saints from the sinners, you’re lucky to wind up with Abraham Lincoln….I say let us dip our bread into some of that gravy while it is still hot.’
“To which Hud’s daddy replies: ‘You’re an unprincipled man, Hud.’ To which Hud answers: ‘Don’t let that worry you none. You got enough for both of us.’
“It’s ‘The Hud-ite Creed.’ It’s as American as Obama and apple pie. And it’s a pretty good description of the Republicans (official motto: ‘We don’t care about you’) and the way they do their business in Texas and everywhere else. In fact, it’s a pretty good description of the world we’ve let ourselves get cozy with whether we’re Republicans or not.”
“You know how to hunt”? I’ve privately interviewed Jennifer Lawrence and seen her at a couple of events and in four movies (Winter’s Bone, The Burning Plain, X-Men: First Class and Like Crazy), and honestly? She doesn’t really look like herself with dark brown hair. I suppose I’ll get used to it, but why did they brown her up in the first place? Because Katniss Everdeen, her Hunger Games character, has dark hair? Who cares?
As rendered by Universal’s new Bluray, Brian DePalma‘s Scarface “has, quite simply, never looked better,” according to Bluay.com’s Kenneth Brown. “There are a number of scenes that look quite good, fantastic even,” he says. And yet “edge enhancement has been liberally applied, edge halos and minor ringing are apparent throughout, intermittent noise reduction takes a toll, and crush is a serious issue.”
I need to take a night-school class so I’ll know what Bluray “crush” is. And “ringing” — I need to bone up on that one too. And “edge halos.” And “macroblocking.” And “rimjobbing.” I do, however, know what “edge enhancement” is.
I’m getting my Scarface Bluray on Tuesday morning, and will try to post a review before I leave for Telluride on Wednesday morning.
It might be better for younger would-be viewers of Rod Lurie‘s Straw Dogs (Screen Gems, 9.16) to not see the 1971 Sam Peckinpah original, which is out on Bluray on 9.6. They’re very similar films, and I for one couldn’t stop thinking how similar as I watched Lurie’s version. It’s his best film ever, I feel, but seeing it clean without any back-and-forth going on in your head is preferable, I think, for Peckinpah virgins. See Lurie’s film and then see the Peckinpah — that’s my advice.
DVD Beaver‘s Gary Tooze says that MGM Video’s Dogs Bluray “is probably as good as it’s going to get…with a very high bitrate, it has definite visual advantages over the standard DVD editions. [It] looks pretty good but not pristine — it’s actually better than I expected in motion with some depth sneaking in here and there and detail in close-ups is notable.”
Two days ago I wrote about Paramount’s planned remake of Karel Reisz and James Toback‘s The Gambler (’74), and expressed curiosity about Paramount’s hiring of William Monahan (The Departed) to rewrite Toback’s jewel-perfect script. “Monahan is too good of a writer to just update or do touch-ups,” I noted, “so I’m wondering if Paramount wants to make The Gambler into a somewhat different thing?”
Leonardo DiCaprio, James Toback at a Revolutionary Road luncheon, thrown by Manhattan blue-chip party madame Peggy Siegal and Paramount Vantage in the Plaza’s Oak Room bar and restaurant — Wednesday, 12.3.08, 1:10 pm.
I called Toback about this right away and he didn’t pick up. I assumed, naturally, that he knew all about this Martin Scorsese project, especially as he’s friendly with Leonardo DiCaprio (who’s attached to play the James Caan part) and because Leo and Marty are longtime allies and why would Leo sign off on any kind of “fuck you Jim” move? I presumed this was understood all around and that Paramount had called Toback and talked it out with him, if for no other reason than courtesy.
No, reports Nikki Finke — Paramount didn’t call and talk it out with Toback. They didn’t even tell him through his agent. They’re not legally obligated to consult Toback, apparently, so they didn’t. Nice manners!
A few minutes ago Deadline‘s Nikki Finke posted an angry letter from Toback about this announcement. It expresses his justifable outrage. By all means read the entire Toback letter on Deadline — good stuff about the making of (and particularly the casting of) The Gambler.
Toback explains that Brett Ratner, for whom he’s writing a John Delorean screenplay that Reliance and Bob Evans are producing, told him Friday night about Mike Fleming’s story about the intended Scorsese remake. Here’s how he describes that moment:
“‘Not my Gambler!’ Toback said. ‘That’s not possible! No one said a word to me!
“‘Who owns it?’ Ratner asked.
“‘I guess they didn’t have to.’
“‘Legally, I guess you’re right,’ I said.
“‘Maybe that’s all anyone gives a fuck about: whether something is legal.’
“The film in question, The Gambler, was financed and distributed by Paramount in 1974 and directed by the late Karel Reisz,” Toback explains. “It was derived without a syllable of alteration from the final draft of my blatantly autobiographical original screenplay and starred James Caan as Axel Freed, a City College of NY literature lecturer whose addiction to gambling overrides every other aspect of his richly diverse life.
“It might seem odd that my initial response to the news of the purported remake would be something south of ‘flattered and honored,’ but the truth is that my main feeling was one of disbelief that I was learning of these plans at the same time and in the same fashion as any of the regular devoted readers of [Deadline Hollywood],” Toback continues.
“It struck me as particularly odd since I have been a friend and unlimited admirer of Leonardo’s since our initial encounter in 1994 when we were, in fact, all set to close a deal on his playing the lead in Harvard Man – a deal sabotaged only by Bob Shaye‘s overriding the greenlight which Mike DeLuca had conveyed to Jeff Berg and Jay Moloney.
“Equally odd was not hearing anything from Irwin Winkler who, I was soon to learn, is to be the producer on this projected new version as he was on the original.
“Perhaps my inability to view this ‘tribute’ as primarily flattering was additionally influenced by a recent and infinitely more felicitous experience which involved remarkably similar circumstances. My movie, Fingers, was remade as a Cesar prize-sweeping film, The Beat That My Heart Skipped by Jacques Audiard, the great French filmmaker who called me from Paris and then flew to New York to discuss Fingers in great detail before redoing it, apparently not sharing the current group’s quaint — if indeed entirely legal — notion that as long as they ‘own’ something — even a movie — they are fully entitled to do whatever they wish to it without even bothering to consult its creator.
“Of course, the French have always had an entirely different set of laws and values governing intellectual property based on the poignant notion that a writer’s work cannot be tampered with by anyone even including someone who paid money to take ownership of it. This current experience conjures up memories of a banker who owned Harvard Man and once said to me: ‘To you this is a movie. To me this is a pair of shoes. My pair of shoes. And I will do whatever I like with it.’
“Learning of the plan to ‘remake’ my movie at the same time and in the same fashion as any other devoted reader of this esteemed column, I suppose I should feel…what? That a tribute is being paid to a creation I left behind? I suppose. But one doesn’t always feel what one is supposed to feel.
“As the late, great Jackie Wilson sang:
‘Just a kiss
Just a smile
Call my name
Just once in a while
And I’ll be satisfied.’
“Rudeness, on the other hand, and disrespect yield their own unanticipated consequences.
“Footnote: Now that such an esteemed bunch of luminaries seems so inspired by The Gambler that they are contemplating the devotion of masses amounts of time, money and energy to redoing it, perhaps the home video crew at Paramount will consider making The Gambler available on DVD and Bluray which it presently isn’t. And perhaps by On-Demand as well — if it isn’t there already. They can look it up and find out if they have the time.”
Wells note: The Gambler may not be an active DVD title by Toback’s reckoning, but I ordered a new copy from Amazon two nights ago.”
It’s rare…well, relatively rare in films today for an actor to stop the action and converse directly with the audience. Most people think of this tactic as theatrical or uncinematic or bothersome, I gather. And if it isn’t done right (and I mean with exactly the right touch and emphasis), it can be excruciating. I’m trying to think, in any event, of my favorite moments along these lines as well as my least favorite.
Topping the list, for now, is a scene when Dirk Bogarde addresses the audience in the opening moments of Rainer Werner Fassbinder‘s Despair. Bogarde has explained to us what a slow and tedious person his attractive wife is. (“Intelligence,” he tells her, “would take the bloom off your carnality.”) And when his wife proves this to us with some line or action, Bogarde looks at us with a sigh and delivers a “see?” gesture with his open hand. Or something like that.
Second-ranked are the several fourth-wall asides in Tony Richardson‘s Tom Jones (’63). Followed by Woody Allen‘s bitching to the audience in Annie Hall about a loudmouthed professor going on about Marshall McLuhan in a theatre line. These are the three that pop out.
I think there’s a rule about fourth-wall breakthroughs having to occur in the first act, and probably as early as possible in that act. Right?
The only time I can recall an actor eyeballing the audience for the first time outside of the first 10 or 15 minutes is a moment in the third act of Treasure of Sierre Madre. Walter Huston is being attended to by a couple of beautiful young women in a Mexican village, and after one leans over and gives him an amorous indication, Huston gives us a “whoo boy!” expression. He’s basically saying, “I don’t believe I’ve got it this good or have gotten this lucky at my age, but you and I both know there’s no way I’m passing this up.”
If the Criterion Collection wasn’t such an elitist, foo-foo, too-cool-to-schmooze-with-the-little-people outfit, I’d call to ask who’s calling the shots on the design of their Bluray covers. The art on their Rules of the Game Bluray (due 11.15) is one of their best ever. I also think the photo used for their Fanny and Alexander Bluray is the most intriguing piece of ad art I’ve ever seen associated with this landmark Ingmar Bergman film.
Update: I checked the Criterion website and looked at all the copy I could find to see who designed the new Rules of the Game and Fanny and Alexander Bluay jacket covers, and…you know, I spent a good while snooping around and I just couldn’t find anything. I don’t have the booklet for or the Blurays of either. But thanks to David Erlich for informing that the cover artist for Rules is Edward Sorel (I obviously should have looked more closely at the bannister) and that Criterion’s marketing person “calling the shots” is Sarah Habibi.
I honestly found it difficult to pick up this info on my own. I honestly believe that Criterion is an elitist organization. I’ve admired them since Day One, but they’re always rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t like snoots, and I never will.
Three weeks and two days after the opening of Rise of the Planet of The Apes, the N.Y. Times runs a piece by Annie Eisenberg that states once again how 2011 performance-capture technology has made it very, very hard to tell that the apes in Rupert Wyatt‘s film aren’t real? That‘s what they’re bringing to the table as Labor Day approaches? Why didn’t the Times wait until October? Don’t half-ass being late to the table — go all out.
Remember Steven Soderbergh intimating during a ComicCon panel last month that perhaps he might not retire after all? The first journalist to draw this conclusion, or so I recall, was Movieline‘s Stu Van Airsdale when he posted a riff that was titled “Steven Soderbergh Apparently Not Retiring After All.” But read past the headline and Soderbergh didn’t really say or imply anything like that.
Matt Damon in Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion (Warner Bros., 9.9)
Soderbergh said that Matt Damon was indiscreet in passing along “this drunk conversation [I had] with him while shooting Contagion” in which SS said he wanted to get out of directing. He also said that “nobody in this economy wants to hear about someone quitting a good job…[so] that kind of got blown out of proportion, and that’s Matt’s fault.” If anything Soderbergh blurting out his feelings about quitting directing while drunk suggests that he meant what he said, and saying that his remarks about same “got blown out of proportion”…I don’t know what that means.
In any case Soderbergh is retiring, according to Dennis Lim‘s 8.28 N.Y. Times story about Soderbergh’s latest film, Contagion (Warner Bros., 9.9). Or he’s committed, at least, to what may turn out to “a Frank Sinatra retirement,” as I described it a couple of months ago — i.e., two or three years of painting and then back on it.
“Mr. Soderbergh was speaking last month in his office space-cum-painting studio in the Flatiron district of Manhattan, where, having announced his imminent retirement from directing, he will soon be spending a lot more time,” Lim writes. “Mr. Soderbergh, 48, sounded matter-of-fact about the career change. ‘I’m interested in exploring another art form” — painting — “while I have the time and ability to do so,’ he said. ‘I’ll be the first person to say if I can’t be any good at it and run out of money I’ll be back making another Ocean‘s movie.”
With Haywire in the can and opening in January 2012, Soderbergh will direct three more films before hanging up his jodhpurs and megaphone: (a) Magic Mike , inspired by Channing Tatum‘s time as a male stripper; (b) a big-screen version of the 1960s TV hit The Man From U.N.C.L.E.; and (c) that long-gestating Liberace biopic with Michael Douglas. Wait, shouldn’t Soderbergh direct the Liberace pic first?
Last night I finally visited The Old Place — a McCabe and Mrs. Miller-type tavern in the small hamlet of Cornell, a few miles north of Malibu via Malibu Canyon. John Landis used the Old Place for a locale in Shlock, his early ’70s debut film. TV actor Peter Strauss owns a big ranch across the street from the Old Place. Steve McQueen, Ali McGraw and Sam Peckinpah occasionally hung here in the early ’70s. There’s a biker hangout just down the road called the Rock Store.
I’ve known disappointment in my life and I’ve seen what disappointment can do to hardened professionals, but I’ve rarely seen the kind of panicky disappointment that CNN reporters are conveying right now. Suppressed but all the more for that. These people clearly realize that Hurricane Irene is a shortfaller, and is nowhere near the aggressive destructive force that the media has been warning everyone about for the last two days. And they don’t know how to play this.
They’re flopping around like beached flounders, the news anchors are. The “we’re in for some big weather trouble!” current won’t fly any more, and they don’t know whether to panic (“Oh, God…the ratings are going to drop and we might be severely reprimanded if not fired for failing to jack up viewer anxiety levels!”) or breathe a sigh of relief and confess to viewers. “Whew…it’s not gonna be that bad! Wet and windy and loss of power, but nothing too scary.” Update: Hurricane Irene is no longer a hurricane but a candy-assed tropical storm.
All the way from California I can sense that the New York harbor seagulls are generally unimpressed. You can hear them calling out to each other, “It’s okay, guys…caw! caw!…it’s cool! It’s just heavy rain and blustery wind…a storm but nothing to sweat that much.”