I just bought my ticket to see Watchmen: The IMAX Experience at the 3.6 10 ayem show at the Lincoln Plaza. I tried to buy one for the Thursday midnight show but it was sold out. I won’t be able to see it before then because I’m still on the Warner Bros. shit list. I was led to think a couple of months ago that I might be reprieved, but no dice.
AP writer Lynn Elber‘s 2.27 interview with At The Movies‘ Ben Lyons and Ben Machieweicz was neither here nor there. The guys sat down because they wanted to counter-spin the negativity, but Elber didn’t hammer them or get any live-wire quotes. The best thing that came out of it was Erik Childress‘s mock poster that accompanied his riff on the piece.
“There’s one genre of filmmaking in which the ‘they-would-have-gotten-rid-of-the-grain-if-they-could’ line holds a great deal of water,” Some Came Running‘s Glenn Kenny wrote yesterday, “and that’s animation. Disney works with Lowry Digital on (thus far) all the restorations of its classic animation titles, and the digital work goes beyond erasing scratches and smudges. It extends well into the issue of the grain that was produced when the actual animation cels were photographed.
“It aims to give a representation of what the artwork would have looked like had the intermediaries of the camera lens and the film stock never, shall we say, interfered.
“The first high-definition demonstration of this wizardry was with 1959’s Sleeping Beauty, released on Blu-ray last fall, a staggeringly beautiful disc. In a week and a half, DIsney unveils a 70th-Anniversary edition of Pinocchio on Blu-ray, and in a way, it’s even more of a stunner.
“Okay, the actual 70th anniversary of this 1940 title is a year away, but let’s not quibble. For borderline boomers such as myself, Pinocchio never played as an ‘old’ movie when we saw it, or bits of it, on the color version of The Wonderful World of Disney on our households’ first color televisions in the early ’60s. But to look at this version is to look at something not just not old, but brand new.
“The colors, the detail, the almost preternatural absence of smudges, scratches, and whatnot…this does, I think, inarguably, honor the intentions and the labors of the filmmakers in a way that even they themselves could not have envisioned.” Yes!
DVD Beaver capture of Sleeping Beauty Blu-ray.
Sandstorm-strength grain is a technological blight that classic-era filmmakers had no choice but to work with as best they could. Bring the great directors back to life — Wilder, Lubitsch, Fleming, Capra, Hawks, Ford, Griffith, Keaton, Hitchcock — and they would all say, “Yes, naturally, obviously, of course…ask Lowry Digital‘s John Lowry to do what he can to tastefully take down the grain levels in our films! Because we want our films to be seen, and we never liked that damn grain gravel to begin with.”
Take no notice of the present-day monks who say that grain is beautiful, vital, essential. It is a visual hindrance to be fought tooth and nail down to the last dying breath. Because if they have their way the grain monks, who care only about the perpetration of their own dweeby world in the Abbey of St. Martin in rural France, will strongly discourage today’s younger generations of film lovers (as well as generations to come) from even thinking about watching the great classics.
I suspect that younger film lovers are as averse to Arabian grainstorm images as I’ve been all my life to silent films. I’m ashamed to admit that I’m always putting off watching this or that great silent classic on DVD because of a lifelong impatience with lack of dialogue (among other tinny ’20s elements that tend to get in the way for a TV generation guy like myself, such as the exaggerated acting styles and too-often static cinematography). I watch these films but grudgingly. I’m not proud of this, mind, but it’s a fact. And I’m probably more receptive to movie lore than your average non-pro film buff.
The younger folks of today (i.e., 25 and under) regard movies made before the ’90s as old, and films from the big-studio era as Paleozoic. Silent films are almost totally out the window for my two sons (who are 20 and 19), but to foster at least some degree of reverence and affection for the 1930-to-1970 era, the old films have to be semi-watchable in a cleaned-up way, and by this I mean aesthetically free of any rickety aroma.
That doesn’t mean they should be degraded down to a plastic visual realm akin to digital video games, as some irrational monks on this site have suggested. It means de-graining them with respect, taste and affection. But it also means removing the damn sand already, or as much as possible without violating the core intentions of the filmmakers.
These guys didn’t love grain. Their films were covered with the stuff — hello? – because they had no choice.
Grain reduction can be done correctly, reverently. Look at the Blu-ray Pinocchio (which Some Came Running’s Glenn Kenny has just written about), or the Blu-ray Casablanca. (I’ve never seen the Blu-ray of Michael Curtiz‘s Robin Hood — how is it?)
And that means one thing — elevating John Lowry and his grain-reduction technology to a position equal to that of Jonas Salk and his 1950s polio vaccine. But before this happens there can be no more tolerance of the monk aesthetic. These people are equivalent to the ultra-right-wing Hebrew rabbinicals who’ve been the most persistent opponents of accord with the Palestinians. Due respect, but people on my side of the issue need to get all Torquemada on their ass. The more the monks get to call the shots about transferring old films to high-def formats, the worse things will be as far as the future of film culture will be. Because they are standing in the way of the church taking in new members and making new converts.
The very survival of the culture of classic film lovers over the next ten to twenty years and beyond is at stake. These well-meaning purists are doing everything in their power to preserve the celluloid grain reality of the past (okay, for the “right” reasons, granted) but are, I suspect, dimming enthusiasm among GenY and GenD viewers for pre-1970 Hollywood classics in the bargain.
This issue has only come to the fore with Blu-ray technology because now you can see the grain much more clearly. I popped in an eight-year-old Dr. Strangelove DVD the other day and was shocked at how much grainier it looks on my 42-inch Panasonic plasma than on my six year-old 36″ Sony analog flat-screen.
High-def, in short, is exposing the granular reality of how these films look more than ever before. In the same way that the most recent digital mastering of George Pal‘s War of the Worlds (’53) exposed the wires holding up the Martian space ships. Only an oddball like DVD Talk‘s Glenn Erickson would say that seeing the wires is an okay thing. (“There was no CG wire removal in 1953,” Erickson wrote in ’05, “and it would be detrimental revisionism to change the picture now [so] learn to live with it.”) The wires obviously weren’t intended to be seen, and the obvious remedy is to go into the current transfer and digitally remove them — simple. That’s all I’m talking about in general. Remove the stuff from older films that distracts the viewer from the dream state that movies are supposed to lull you into. Because grain is the worst waker-upper of all.
In a figurative way the monks already have already been excommunicated or I wouldn’t be referring to them as monks, but they clearly hold sway among the current generation of film preservationists and restoration experts (Robert Harris, Grover Crisp, Scott McQueen , etc.) and at the Criterion Co., which is pretty much mad monk central these days, to go by their work on the Blu-ray of The Third Man.
A day and a half ago Variety‘s Anne Thompson said that “for the most part, women will not go for Watchmen. I can take neck-crunching, body-bashing, blood-spattering action, but this was tough for even me to sit through.
“While the movie is set to open big on March 6 — some folks are guessing as high as $70 million — I’ll wager that the ultimate audience will be limited to male action fans only. As someone with only fleeting exposure to the graphic novel, I watched the movie with little engagement or understanding of what was going on.”
In response to this, HE’s Austin-based columnist & correspondent Moises Chiullan points out that the Watchmen violence is “nowhere near as bad” as the violence in Saw and Hostel-type films. Well, of course. It’s not torture porn and Watchmen is supposed to be wrangling a huge nationwide audience. One thing he said stands out: “What The Dark Knight cut away from, Watchmen shows.”
“I’m not saying that Crossing Over is a masterwork,” I wrote on 1.31. “It’s not. It uses a familiar strategy — five or six story lines woven into a social-issue tapestry — in an attempt to be an illegal-immigrant Traffic. But it’s really Crash. Which, to some, may sound like damnation. But sitting through Crossing Over isn’t hell. Far from it. Within the boundaries of its scheme and particularly given what Kramer had to deal with in post, it’s not half bad. The bruises and abrasions show, but it has a certain integrity. You can feel the efforts of a strong impassioned director trying like hell to make it work.”
In short, I tried to show a little understanding and compassion for poor Wayne Kramer, the director-writer, and for what he went through in post. Here‘s a largely accurate article that reviews what happened.
For simplicity’s sake I want to say thanks to everyone who sent along those scripts I asked to see on Wednesday, and to list them all once again: Fair Game, Dave Eggers & Vendela Vida‘s Away We Go (for Sam Mendes), Noah Baumbach‘s Greenberg, Jason Reitman‘s Up In The Air, The Human Factor (the Clint Eastwood Mandela film), Imperial Life in the Green Zone, James Schamus‘s Taking Woodstock, Peter Straughan‘s The Men Who Stare At Goats, Brothers, untitled Nancy Meyers (the Meryl Streep movie), Amelia, a faded 2007 draft of Shutter Island, The Informant, The Lovely Bones, Hot Tub Time Machine, David O. Russell and Kristin Gore‘s Nailed, Jonah Hill, Matt Spicer & Max Winkler’s The Adventurer’s Handbook, and Joel and Ethan Coen‘s A Serious Man.
Variety‘s Michael Fleming posted a story last night about Jim Carrey and Jake Gyllenhaal being attached to star in a “contemporized” musical remake of Damn Yankees, which opened as a Broadway musical in 1955 before the screen version, directed by Stanley Donen and George Abbott, opened in 1958.
Carey would play Mr. Applegate, i.e., the Devil, and Gyllenhaal would play the dual role of Joe Boyd and Joe Hardy. The plot is about Applegate offering Boyd, a middle-aged baseball fan, a chance to become a suddenly younger man and a gifted ball player (with the last name of Hardy) who could join his favorite team, the Washington Senators, and help them out of a slump and possibly win the pennant.
New Line would fund and distribute, according to Fleming. Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel are set to write the script with the film to be produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (Hairspray). The plan, said Fleming, is “to get the Ganz and Mandel script before meeting directors and actresses who’ll want to play Lola.”
The amusing part of Fleming’s story, presumably fed to him by one of the players, is that “the trick” in making this new Damn Yankees work will be “finding a balance that retains the show’s classic tunes while injecting a contemporary feel on a musical that is firmly rooted in the 1950s.”
Are Lowell and Babloo listening? There’s absolutely no way to contemporize Damn Yankees. It’s a very old-fashioned, 55 year-old musical that seethes with the mood and attitudes of Dwight D. Eisenhower‘s America — a way of living and thinking and dreaming that is long gone, up in smoke and dead, dead, deader-than-dead.
You either have to do it as a full-on period musical (which would actually be pretty cool, now that I think of it) or not at all. Because those songs (Whatever Lola Wants, Goodbye Old Girl, Six Months Out of Every Year, You Gotta Have Heart) are timepieces that have no connection to Obama America…none. The idea could be updated and “contemporized,” but the songs are impossible.
On top of which Damn Yankees has been done to death by community and high-school theatres in every corner of the country for the last 40 or 50 years so doing a movie version is almost like re-making Arsenic and Old Lace.
An hour or so ago Indiewire‘s Peter Knegt ran a piece about Tribeca Film Festival creative director Peter Scarlet resigning his post, effective immediately. Knegt ran a statement from Scarlet saying that the decision results from a “seven year itch” and an urge to “seek new challenges” and so on.
Right away I wrote Knegt and Tribeca Film Festival spokesperson Tammie Rosen the following note: “Scarlet’s resignation has nothing to do with Geoff Gilmore taking over as the festival’s new creative director? Simply passing along Scarlet’s ‘seven year itch’ comment seems dishonest. Shouldn’t the Indiewire story have addressed the Gilmore takeover factor? Why write the story in a boilerplate way that doesn’t convey an interest in what may have actually happened here?”
Rosen didn’t respond. Knegt basically reshuffled the official press release, but said “you can be sure that the suggested relation [of Scarlet’s resignation] to Geoff Gilmore’s recent taking over will be part of our continuing coverage.”
“Few are begrudging Kate Winslet‘s Oscar win,” writes Chicago Tribune columnist Mark Caro, “and yet few contend that her portrayal of former Nazi concentration camp guard Hanna Schmitz in The Reader is her strongest work ever.
Winslet’s performances in Revolutionary Road and Little Children, he argues, “were more complex and searing, and she transfixed even in Heavenly Creatures, her 1994 debut.” Caro uses this as a launch into a piece about 10 accomplished artists — Al Pacino, Martin Scorsese, Paul Newman, Sydney Pollack, etc. — who won Academy Awards for the “wrong” movie.
I could come up with a few myself, but it’s easier to let HE readers do this and then bounce off their calls in the comments section. Almost all acting Oscars are for a body of work, of course — the performance cited is always deemed worthy, of course, but an acting Oscar is basically a career-capper tribute.
John Wayne won his Best Actor Oscar for True Grit, but it might not have happened if he hadn’t given several verging-on-great performances in They Were Expendable, Red River, The Searchers, Rio Bravo, North to Alaska and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.
Yes — North to Alaska. It’s perhaps Wayne’s only flat-out comedic performance but he’s just about perfect in every scene, goofing on his tough-cowboy machismo, confident, playing it relatively straight but also having fun at times, always in good spirits, etc.
A Defamer report about Jeremy Piven‘s tearful pleading during yesterday’s Speed-the-Plow hearing, sourcing Patrick Healy‘s N.Y. Times report and filed at 2:10 this morning by Ryan Tate, is so tartly written and seething with such heartless cynicism that I’m just going to paste most of it here:
“Jeremy Piven [yesterday] convinced five other actors his mercury poisoning is real, deadlocking a union hearing and sparing Piven penalties for leaving Speed-the-Plow. How did he do it? Maybe with some crying.
During a 20-minute interview with Healy at the Times, conducted after the three-hour Actor’s Equity hearing that ended in a split-vote and a non-conviction, the Entourage star “twice broke down in tears,” Healy reported.
“He cried as he described the stress of fearing for his health while pushing himself to continue with the play. ‘I’ve never missed a day’s work or a rehearsal in my life,’ Piven said. ‘I think there’s a reason you’ve never heard of any problem like this before.’
“Healy also noted that Piven ‘looked exhausted and often meandered’ during his interview,” Tate wrote. “Which, along with the crying, is totally fake-able, especially by, say, an actor. And which could also be symptoms of suddenly-curtailed access to a stimulant.
“There’s no word yet on the results of tests performed by a doctor other than Piven’s sketchy personal M.D., results that had been expected at the hearing, so all we have to go on is the word of Piven and his doctor. The actor also said he was in bed ‘almost every night’ — you can find the known exceptions here.
“Certainly the producers [at the hearing] were not convinced. Their five reps all voted against Piven, while the five Actor’s Equity reps voted with him. (Actor’s Equity includes both actors and stagehands.) The producers have the option of escalating to more aggressive proceedings. It’s not clear if they’ll do that , but lead complainant Jeffrey Richards pulled an apparently snarky move on the Times:
“‘Reached by telephone at home after the hearing,” Healy writes, “Mr. Richards said he was sick and on medication and would have no comment.’
“This snide joke is actually a nice opening for Piven’s p.r. team. If it trumpets Richard’s purported sickness as evidence that illl health regularly prevents hardworking people from doing their jobs, Richards will be in a bind: He either concedes the point or, to dispute it, admits he was lying.
“As for Piven’s honesty, it’s almost irrelevant at this point,” Tate concludes. “If Piven told the truth Thursday, and has [indeed] been going through hell, he deserves more credit for his acting, specifically for his professional commitment to Speed-the-Plow. If he lied, duping fellow thespians and a Times reporter, he also deserves more credit for his acting, specifically for being such a convincing con man.”
Here’s another version of the story by the N.Y. Post‘s Michael Riedel, Jeremy Olshan and Kirsten Fleming.
A Summit snitch informs that a company-wide email was circulated yesterday announcing that Kathryn Bigelow‘s The Hurt Locker will get a slow-build release starting on June 26. New York and LA first, and then 200 screens around the country and so on. I’ve e-mailed the Summit spokesperson but she won’t be responding for another two or three hours (i.e., probably still sleeping) so let’s just run this for now and wait. But I’ve been told by a second source (i.e., a good one) that this story is accurate.
This is excellent news, if true, as it implies that Summit seems to finally understand that The Hurt Locker isn’t an Iraq War film but a kind of monster movie (the paradigm being James Cameron‘s Aliens), and that it needs to be sold as such. Or at least as a half-Aliens, half-reality hybrid.
The limited 6.26 break will happen opposite My Sister’s Keeper and Surveillance; further competition will commence on 7.1 with Ice Age and Michael Mann‘s Public Enemies. It will then go up against Sasha Baron Cohen‘s Bruno with the July 10th expansion. On 7.17 comes Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (kids), 500 Days of Summer and a limited All The Boys Love Mandy Lane opening, leaving Hurt Locker‘s gritty action lure unchallenged.
What was that rumble about a late August break, which came from Hurt Locker star Jeremy Renner via Coming Soon‘s Ed Douglas? Douglas reported that during a Hurt Locker presentation at New York ComicCon, which happened on the weekend of 2.7, “someone from the audience yelled out to Renner when the movie was coming out, and he yelled back ‘late August!'”
Unless Douglas misheard or unless Renner is coping with some major self-delusion issue, Renner was probably told about a late August release by his agent or someone else in the loop and simply passed it along.
Perhaps Summit had decided as much then reconsidered after people (myself included) pointed out that it was fairly insane to open Hurt Locker against two other big-time, hot-ticket war films — Paramount and Stephen Sommers‘ G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (8.7.09) and Quentin Tarantino‘s Inglorious Basterds (8.21.09)? Which would have made The Hurt Locker third in line that month and facing an audience that would be almost certainly be feeling well-fed if not sated as far as bullets, tanks and helmets are concerned.
In any event, a limited June 26th break — if true — is an excellent way to go.