From novelist Bret Easton Ellis: (a) “Steve McQueen‘s Shame would have been so much more disturbing if Brandon (Michael Fassbender) had actually enjoyed the sex”; (b) “Watching Shame I just kept thinking about the Woody Allen joke in Annie Hall: the experience of empty sex being better than no sex at all.” That line about “my worst orgasm was right on the money”? That’s from Manhattan.
I thought I’d write you regarding Tyrannosaur since you’re such a supporter of the film,” a publicist friend just wrote. “I’ve learned that this Thursday is the last day it’ll play in NY and LA. In NY it moved over from the Angelika to Village East after the first week where it is now playing only one screening a day, at 11am. And it has two daily matinee showtimes at the Sunset 5 thru Thursday. I’m told that the film won’t be playing at all in NY/LA after Thursday.
“I found this surprising/disappointing and wanted to share the news in case you want to encourage folks to try to catch the final two days in NY/LA.”
When people don’t wanna see something, you can’t stop them. I’ll be remembering this film and those astonishing performances by Olivia Colman and Peter Mullan for the rest of my life, but the amount of coin Tyrannosaur has made since it opened on 11.18 has been almost laughable. Nobody wants to see it. People can smell a tough one a mile away. No juice, no sex, no mad humor, no violent payoff, no wow moments, no thrills.
Director Paddy Considine didn’t have the slightest interest in reaching Joe Popcorn when he wrote and directed Tyrannosaur. His attitude was “Joe, I can help you expand your filmgoing vistas and maybe open you up a bit as a person if you’re willing to sit through my film, which is a bit hard at times but rewarding.” Joe Popcorn has spoken.
A special pleasure often results when high-aspiration filmmakers sink into the commonality of genre. Those who’ve made their bones doing ambitious, high-reaching dramas or super-cool high-style pieces…whose natural inclination is to crank out critical favorites or award-winners or arty-farties for their own sake…when the elites sink below their station, it’s always a huge kick.
The upshot is that the best kind of popcorn genre films are usually those made by those who don’t live in the neighborhood, so to speak, and are demanding high achievers.
“Meh” reactions ricochet when Jason Statham, say, makes an action film with some journeyman director, but the crowd always salutes when Michael Mann directs Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx in an actioner like Collateral.
The artfully inclined, Oscar-winning Steven Soderbergh directing Haywire, a kick-boxing martial arts film that’s basically about a tough girl kicking male butt, resulted in a beautiful, lean-and-mean high. But more or less the same thing was attempted in Columbiana, a female-hero actioner with Zoe Saldana and directed by Olivier Megaton, and it was crap.
One of the best futuristic apocalypse dramas with three of the best action sequences seen in many years, Children of Men, was made by Alfonso Cuaron, a guy who doesn’t exactly rub shoulders with Michael Bay and Tony Scott and James Cameron, and whose best film before Men was Y Tu Mama Tambien.
Francis Coppola was always a hired gun, but in the late ’60s he had it in him and was apparently inclined to favor sensitive meditative dramas like The Rain People, and then five years later The Conversation. But when he was hired to direct The Godfather in ’71, he was obliged to shoot a pulp novel about primal forces and primitive plot twists, and it became his best film ever.
For me, the most satisfying movie from Germany’s meditative, solemn-mannered Wim Wenders was when he stepped down into a genre piece about corruption and contract killings and noirish ennui called The American Friend.
If Bela Tarr was to make a cop drama and was forced by his producers to pick up the pace a bit, something exceptional might result.
Disaster films were all the rage in the early to mid ’70s, and they were all fairly cheesy and obvious and mostly a slog to sit through. And then along came the gifted Richard Lester with Juggernaut, a drama about bombs aboard a luxury liner, and suddenly there was a disaster film that was pretty damn good.
You know who needs to direct a nice sleazy genre film? The Descendants‘ Alexander Payne or Moneyball‘s Bennett Miller. With the right material the results might be astounding.
It can be a perfectly natural thing or an extremely clunky thing when a character in a film says the title…when he/she just spits it out. There’s a moment in Steven Spielberg‘s War Horse when a soldier standing next to Joey and discussing him with another soldier actually calls him a “war horse.” Right away that struck me as odd. Why did he have to actually say it? Couldn’t Spielberg have left well enough alone?
It felt the same to me as if Clint Eastwood‘s Unforgiven character had said to Morgan Freeman‘s, “You and me, we’re unforgiven…by most people, I reckon, and by the Lord, for sure.”
It felt the same to me as if Joe Pesci‘s character in Raging Bull had said to his prizefighter brother, “Jesus, Jake…you’re a real raging bull, you know that, ya fuck?” (An anonymous sports announcer saying this nickname in the film is okay because it was a very common term after Jake La Motta became famous.)
It’s always better to not have anyone say or repeat any kind of metaphorical or alliterative description of a character or situation. It would have been overkill, for example, in Arthur Penn‘s The Left-Handed Gun if someone had literally called Paul Newman‘s Billy the Kid “a left handed gun.”
A character saying a name (Spartacus, Bullitt, Dr. No, Patton, Beetlejuice) is never a problem and is pretty much unavoidable. And neither is saying a locale (or an alliterative description of a locale like Sea of Grass or The Big Country) an issue of any kind. But sometimes an explicit description of a location or its whereabouts is verboten. What if someone had said to Cary Grant during the first or second act of North by Northwest that Mount Rushmore “is in a north by northwesterly direction from here”?
It’s actually kind of neat when Some Like It Hot‘s Tony Curtis says to Marilyn Monroe, “Well, some like it hot but I prefer classical.” And it’s intriguing when Anthony Hopkins‘ Hannibal Lecter alludes to The Silence of the Lambs without actually saying those exact words. (The closest he comes is when he talks about “that awful screaming of the lambs”).
It’s fine and sufficient in in The Americanization of Emily when Julie Andrews says “don’t try to Americanize me, Charlie” to James Garner. But if James Coburn had said to Garner that “you’re doing an excellent job with your Americanization of Emily campaign,” it would have been chalk on a blackboard
If anyone in Point Blank had said to Lee Marvin‘s Walker that “you’re too rough and rude, Walker…you’re too point blank” or “if you don’t watch your step someone’s gonna nail you point blank,” audiences would have cringed.
Here’s an even more general rule — if at all possible, don’t ever have any character say the title of a film in a film. Just don’t do it. Simple.
“I would love to do a musical,” Steven Spielberg said last weekend during a War Horse q & a in Manhattan. “I would love that. I would have to find the right book, the right story, but some day I’m going to make one. I would really like to go off and direct a musical. That’s what I would really like to do when I grow up.”
Does anyone have a suggestions along these lines? What unshot musical plays or potential remakes of old movie musicals would be a good match for Spielberg?
I have one. Spielberg should make a present-day musical based on Carousel but set in suburbia. Update the milieu in the same way that Romeo and Juliet‘s Verona was transformed into the slum nabes of Manhattan’s Upper West Side in the 1950s.
Key question: Does Spielberg have the character and cojones to deal with a nihilstic, dark-souled character like Billy Bigelow? Has he ever dealt with such a fellow? There’s your answer. (And don’t bring up Leonardo DiCaprio‘s rakishly charming impersonator in Catch Me If You Can.)
Side pocket #1: “You can’t start a movie having the attitude that the script is fined,” Spielberg said on another jag. “To me a movie is fluid…a living organism. A movie script is a living, breathing organism, and it must change, as we change, daily. War Horse probably went through about 25 revisions.”
Side pocket #2: I totally understand and agree with Spielberg’s wide lens comment . “I just shot with wide lenses and that’s not something that’s shot today,” he said. “And some people who see War Horse think it looks old fashioned because I shot it the way a lot of the directors from the ’30s and ’40s shot their movies: by giving the audience the respect of being editors.”
10:14 am Update: This is the final ignominious straw for the NYFCC — they’ve just given their Best Picture award to The Artist. God! All right, calm down…a little grace and dignity here. This will obviously help Harvey Weinstein‘s effort to get more under-40 nabobs to check out this perfectly delightful diversion (and then tell their friends about it), and that’s fine. The Artist should be seen and enjoyed. But this is otherwise wrong, wrong…not cool.
Repeat after me for the 17th or 37th time — The Artist is all about re-creation, backward visitation and reflective surfaces. It possesses and radiates nothing that is truly its own, except for a desire to give entertainment-seekers a nice pleasant time. And that’s not nearly enough to warrant a Best Picture prize. Shame on the NYFCC in this respect…shame!
9:50 am Update: NYFCC has given its Best Screenplay award to Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin for Moneyball. That’s more like it! Major Moneyball awards-cred momentum is now established and unmistakable. (Very much looking forward to slapping around those Moneyball detractors.) But NYFCC probably won’t give it their Best Picture award. A voice is telling me that The Tree of Life will win in that respect. But if The Artist takes it….yeesh. I’m still reeling from that Hazanavicius win
9:33 am Update: NYFCC has handed its Best Director prize to Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist. WHAT?? For making a highly engaging curio, a nostalgic bauble…a shimmering, silver-toned audience pleaser? And in so doing blowing off the efforts of Bennett Miller, Alexander Payne, Terrence Malick (which I could totally live with) and others? This is a major NYFCC embarassment.
8:56 am Update: Somewhere in this realm there is a God, and justice besides, and a good amount of satisfaction — Moneyball and Tree of Life‘s Brad Pitt has won Best Actor from the NYFCC. Throw a chair through a glass window! Tapley: “Now is the time for Moneyball to strike. An uncertain time in the season.”
8:44 am Update: Hooray for Drive‘s Albert Brooks! He’s just won the NYFCC’s Best Supporting Actor trophy. Waiting for Brooks’ Twitter acceptance riff. 8:48 am Brooks Update: So where is it? Deciding what tone to take, Albert? C’mon, man…just let fly.
Update: The Iron Lady‘s Meryl Sreep has won the NYFCC Best Actress award. Beginning of a sweep? Uncertain impact upon Viola Davis, Michelle Williams bandwagons. Awareness is settling in that Glenn Close‘s Albert Nobbs performance has never lit anyone up. She deserves a career tribute Best Actress nom, but the performance itself is recessive, overly congealed.
Spirit Awards Nominations for Best Feature: 50/50, Beginners, Drive, Take Shelter and The Artist. I’ll have to post the entire slate of nominees after the NYFCC voting is over. Here’s the Hollywood Reporter‘s rundown.
Earlier: The slowly tweeting, drip-dri[–dripping New York Film Critics Circle has given the expected Best Supporting Actress award to Jessica Chastain for Take Shelter (best), The Tree of Life (2nd best) and The Help (not so much).
NYFCC’s Best First Feature: Margin Call — an unpopular choice among fans of Martha Marcy May Marlene, which also lost last night at the Gothams. NYFCC Best Documentary: Werner Herzog‘s Cave of Forgotten Dreams.