Mutt-and-Jeff comedies are always a little funnier, I think, when the characters are older than usual unless, of course, they’re playing serious dumbasses, in which case it’s not as funny as it could or should be. But what works, I think, is when one of the characters is in the grip of genuine self-loathing, and yet the kind of self-loathing that’s been pushed so far down that he’s not even aware that it’s there. Jason Bateman and Billy Crudup appear to be in their mid 40s or thereabouts. In ten years we’re going to see comedies about guys in their 50s still trying to grow up and act like adults.
An excerpt from Glenn Kenny‘s Phaidon/Cahiers Du Cinema’s “Anatomy of an Actor” book about Robert De Niro. Except that…well, the portion I’m interested in is lifted from the N.Y. Times. No biggie. Just saying.
“It was understood [during the shooting of Midnight Run] that Charles Grodin might have some opportunity to improvise. The ‘night boxcar scene,’ as Grodin calls it, was, he said, improvised entirely. The situation begins with Grodin shutting a boxcar door on De Niro’s face in an effort to escape him. De Niro, in the role of Jack Walsh, promptly boards the car from the other side — enraged.
“But, Grodin said of the scene, ‘We knew it had to end with De Niro revealing something personal about himself’ — the history of a wristwatch that has sentimental value. ‘How do you get to that point in a couple of minutes where he’s going to reveal himself? What do you say?’
Leaving aside the uninspired-bordering-on-cheeseball cover design of those Cahiers du Cinema “Anatomy Of” profile books (tinted and bendayed closeup of actor/actress’s face with ransom-note lettering on upper-left portion), where does the art director find the arrogance to paste the author’s name in a point-size so small you can’t even read it if the image is reduced? The author worked his or her ass off for two or three or four months to deliver a definitive study of this or that actor, and Cahiers du Cinema’s cover design seems to almost say to the reader, “The writer…okay, we have to put the writer’s name on the cover, fine, but he/she is a minor cog in our mechanism.” What is that, nine- or eight-point bold? Why not make it seven- or six-point? If you’re going to try and diminish the value of the writer, why not go all the way? Why put his/her name on the cover at all? Why not just mention it inside somewhere?
Michael Egan’s sexual-abuse case against director Bryan Singer has all but collapsed over dumb pride. Egan’s attorney Jeff Herman has apparently washed his hands of the guy because he wouldn’t agree to a $100 grand “take-it-and-shut-up” deal offered and signed late last month by Singer and his attorney Martin Singer. A couple of hours ago Buzzfeed reported that as a result of Egan refusing the deal, the specifics of which are viewable via an apparently legit “Memorandum of Settlement” obtained by Buzzfeed and verified by Herman, Herman’s firm is “in the process of withdrawing from representing Mr. Egan in all his cases and [has] no further comment concerning his matters at this time,” according to a statement given to Buzzfeed.
Way to go, Egan! Your claims again Singer may be truthful but they’ve been portrayed as questionable at the very least, and you’ve already dropped three sexual abuse or exploitation lawsuits against three other guys — producer Gary Goddard and TV execs David Neuman and Garth Ancier — so you’re not exactly looking like a pillar of reliability or stability. The only thing you could have gotten out of this whole mess was a cash payoff and now you’ve apparently blown even that…brilliant.
I don’t mean to sound aloof or unaffected by the carnage that’s currently engulfing Gaza, but I was startled this morning by Wissam Nassar‘s photo of a firefighter reacting to a huge inferno. It’s included in a 7.29 Times story about Israel’s latest barrage (“Israel Broadens Targets in Gaza Barrage; Power Is Out” by Ben Hubbard and Jodi Rudoren). The photo looks like something out of a Ridley Scott or Oliver Stone film. Composed rather than caught on the fly.
I’ve already got 21 Toronto Film Festival films on my priority list so there’s not a lot of room to jam in selections from this morning’s announcement of fresh titles. I’my definitely adding four or five but I can’t fool around. I can’t be whimsical or open to exotic experiments. Well, I usually wind up succumbing to precisely those experiments due to occasional scheduling gaps and pocket-drops but for the most part I have to be hard and mean.
I’m definitely adding Michael Winterbottom’s The Face of an Angel because it’s Winterbottom doing a real-life, Italy-based murder tale “inspired by” the Amanda Knox case (i.e., Kate Beckinsale and Daniel Bruhl as journalists looking into the case, Cara Delevingne as the femme fatale). MW’s last real-events recapturing, A Mighty Heart, was quite good. Pic is more or less based on “Angel Face,” a 2010 investigative study.
I’m expecting to catch my second viewing of Andrei Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan in Telluride (following my first immersion in Cannes two and a half months ago) so there’s no need for a third go-round in Toronto, but it’s an absolute must-see for anyone who hasn’t yet had the pleasure.
Mark Hartley’s Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films is a definite add-on. I’ve been hearing all along that Hartley’s doc is tougher and snarkier than Hilla Medalia’s The Go-Go Boys, which I saw and reviewed in Cannes last May. (Medalia’s doc was produced, I’m told, to counterbalance the expected impact of the Hartley.) I’m also invested as I worked as a Cannon publicity press-kit writer in in ’86, ’87 and early ’88.
Toronto Film Festival artistic director Cameron Bailey has told L.A. Times reporter Steven Zeitchik that the reason he changed Toronto’s policy vis a vis the Telluride Film Festival was because of the intense “hothouse” press coverage of first-anywhere Telluride screenings. In other words, he changed TIFF’s policy because of Telluride snap judgments and predictions by the likes of Zeitchik, Deadline‘s Pete Hammond, myself, The Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg and Todd McCarthy, Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone, In Contention‘s Kris Tapley and Greg Ellwood, N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott, Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson and Eric Kohn, Variety‘s Scott Foundas and Justin Chang and maybe…what, five or ten others if that? MCN’s David Poland used to cover Telluride but when was the last time he showed? Last year Vulture‘s Kyle Buchanan covered only Toronto (or so I recall). Who else? Will Toronto Star critic Pete Howell come to Telluride this year? Has Grantland‘s Mark Harris (“It’s September, for God’s sake!”) ever attended?
Argo director/star Ben Affleck, Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy at 2012 Telluride Film Festival picnic.
Marion Cotillard, Hollywood Reporter award-season columnist Scott Feinberg at Sony Pictures Classics lunch during 2012 Telluride Film Festival.
In other words, the elite award-season blogging mafia takes the temperature of Telluride and lights the initial fuse…blows the trumpet, sets the bar, guides the conversation, launches certain films and puts others on hold, says what goes, starts things off, rides the horse through town and says “the British are coming!”, etc.
Obviously Luc Besson‘s Lucy sold a shitload of tickets last weekend, taking down nearly $44 million, which is certainly a kind of feather in the cap of Scarlet Johansson. Her Lucy character, a drug-enhanced superwoman, is the third super-formidable she’s played over the past four years — a woman who beats the shit out of or kills male opponents (or victims) like it’s nothing. The other two characters, of course, are Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, whom she’s played in Iron Man 2, The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Laura-the-zoned-out-alien in Under The Skin. If you add Johansson’s mesmerizing voice-performance in Her as Samantha, a kind of ghost in the software with an enormous, constantly evolving intellect, it’s clear she and her agent have forged a new hotshit ScarJo identity — a woman of unearthly powers and confidence whom you don’t want to mess with and perhaps not even talk to unless…you know, you have super-powers that match hers.
But ScarJo is not — repeat, not — an action star. Someone applied that term within the last two or three days and it’s just not selling. She’s been playing some kick-ass, super-powerful women, yes, but without the slightest real-world authority. Whupass Scarlett is an act, a marketing idea — a feminist conceit or some kind of tip-of-the-hat gesture to women who crave power and control over their lives, and that’s fine. But I’m not actually buying it for a second because for one thing she’s just too small to be an action star. I talked to her once at a party (I mentioned I was looking to try a little opium for old time’s sake, and she said it didn’t sound like the impossible dream), and she’s only about 5′ 3″ or thereabouts. No way. She just doesn’t look tough enough.
After watching this 3 minute and 23 second-long trailer for Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller‘s Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For (Dimension, 8.22), it’s hard not to ask yourself “what do I need to see the full-length version for? What could the trailer be holding back on?” Miller’s misogynist sexual fantasies (several grizzled, 50-and-older tough hombres enjoying the attentions of four 30-something, lingerie-clad madonna-whore femme fatales) served in glistening black-and-white in a realm entirely defined by broadly rendered noir cliches. Two exceptions among the guys: the 30-something Joseph Gordon Levitt and the 40-something Josh Brolin. Don’t forget that Miller is an arch-conservative. I loved the rich monochrome images in the ’05 original but this just seems like a rehash…sorry.
I’ll be attending a special Fox lot screening tomorrow night of the director’s cut of James Cameron‘s Aliens (’86), which Cameron has said is the absolute go-to. For whatever reason Fox Home Video, which is hosting the screening, has chosen not to reveal their decision to show the 154-minute cut (which was first assembled in 1992 for VHS and laser disc and then was refined again for Bluray in 2010) rather than the 137-minute theatrical version. This is a fairly big deal as I’ve never seen the longer version in a first-rate theatre. I, presuming that the longer Aliens has been shown theatrically here and there, but to my knowledge not in my orbit. (I’m not counting any screenings that may have happened at the New Beverly as that place does not offer state-of-the-art projection, to put it mildly.)
14 or 15 years ago I came up with an idea for one big lollapalooza super-parody of all CG superhero/disaster/monster/zombie films. A movie that would hit you with everything — tidal waves and earthquakes and an asteroid slamming into earth, and thousand-year-old zombies being awoken by the rumbling as well as dinosaurs — dinosaurs battling zombies! — and vampires and wolf men and slithering CG serpents, and each and every world-famous landmark being destroyed (including the Egyptian pyramids) while zombies eat Frankenstein alive and Dracula has his head bitten off by a T-Rex. And then Rodan swoops down upon an airborne Air Force One and carries it (and the U.S. President) off to a hidden super cave in Southern Japan. Godzilla and King Kong join forces to stomp on the big-mother Alien. And then another big-ass meteor (bigger than the first one…a planet killer) slams into the southern Pacific Ocean, causing further onslaughts of super tidal waves and earthquakes, and soon everything and everyone is just flattened and covered with rubble and burned all to hell. It always takes the world a while to catch up but between Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice and an apparently imaginary King Kong vs. Godzilla project, people are finally saying to each other, “Wow, yes…of course!”
Mosab Hassan Yousef‘s “Son of Hamas” was published five years ago, but the current Israel-vs.-Hamas hostilities led to an appearance on CNN on 7.24. A recent touchstone is The Green Prince, an admired documentary about Yousef’s Middle Eastern melodrama that premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and which is echoed or reflected in the much-hailed Bethlehem and Omar. What Yousef is saying is nothing new but the CNN interview got my attention because he emphasized that Hamas’ true agenda is not just the destruction of Israel but the creation of an international militant Islamic state. Israel’s oppression of Palestinians created the agony — they authored it. At the same time I’ve been thinking about what a Godsend it would be (and I know this is a terrible way to look at things) if every radical Islamic nutter could be pushed into a huge cave in the desert and then covered up with sand. For me, the brutal ISIS murders in Iraq are what broke the camel’s back.