This is going to sound a little strange, and it’s definitely way late. But something hit me this evening as I was looking at the front cover of the Rachel Getting Married Blu-ray, which comes out March 10th. It’s odd that I never noticed it before since the jacket photo art is the exact same photo art used for the theatrical one-sheet. Anyway…
Rachel, as we all know, is played by Rosemarie DeWitt, and the guy she’s getting married to in the film is a bit of a dullard named Sidney, played by Tunde Adebimpe. And Anne Hathaway‘s character, of course, is Kym, Rachel’s older sister who suffering from guilt trips and drug-abuse problems.
Anne/Kym has the closeup on the right, of course, and Rosemarie/Rachel is the much smaller, out-of-focus woman in the background dressed in a flowing gown and carrying a floral bouquet. The guy standing next to her, one would presume, is her fiance. But it’s not, of course. It’s some white guy, presumably Bill Irwin, who played Rachel’s dad in the film.
I think the Sony ad guys put Irwin (or some other unfocused white guy) next to Rachel so as not to raise the interracial marriage issue on the poster. I think they did that as a kind of dodge. Think about it for four or five seconds. The movie’s title refers to a marriage and yet the guy Rachel is standing next to in her wedding gown is not the guy she’s marrying. This doesn’t seem a wee bit strange?
You can say it doesn’t matter because Rachel has a close relationship with her dad in the film (true enough) and dads do give their daughters away in marriage ceremonies so why can’t he stand next to her? I get that, okay, maybe. But consider a flipside view.
Rear-jacket shot used for Rachel Blu-ray.
Let’s imagine that Rachel Getting Married is a slightly different film in which Rachel is getting married to some white guy but her stepdad, with whom she has a very close and affectionate relationship, is African American. Let’s go one further and say that the stepdad is the most important relationship in Rachel’s life except for the one she’s about to embark upon with her new husband. Now, what are the odds that the Sony ad guys, wanting to reflect the emotional underpinnings of the film, would put a small, out-of-focus African American guy next to Rachel in the background?
You can say, “Okay, but look at the back of the Blu-ray jacket and there’s a photo of Rachel and Sidney together! Doesn’t that rebut your point?” Partly, I would answer, but not that much. For the photo they’ve chosen shows Adebimpe’s left profile with most of his face covered by Roisemarie DeWitt’s right hand. All you can see of his face is his forehead, which, okay, is dark. But it seems to me that they chose a photo with allows the casual viewer to not necessarily grasp what’s going on.
HitFix’s Greg Ellwood ran an exclusive earlier today about Eddie Murphy being attached to play Richard Pryor in a biopic called Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said? for director-writer Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Kinsey, Gods and Monsters) and Fox Searchlight.
Very cool, looking forward, etc. But my first reaction when I heard this was that it will be surprising if Murphy really plays Pryor — i.e., not just does his voice and comic manner and speech rhythms, but really gets into his life and under his skin. I just don’t believe that Murphy, renowned for rampant egoism and his “fuck you, I’m leaving” routine when he lost the Best Supporting Actor Oscar to Alan Arkin in early ’07, has the hunger and humility to seriously burrow into the soul of another artist, and especially another black comic. I think Murphy is way too invested in being #1 to allow for any kind of profound submission/transformation.
Doing a clever Pryor impression on-stage is one thing; trying to really become the guy (which involves a serious suppression of one’s own personality) is quite another deal.
Boiled down, Murphy’s whole career since ’86 or ’87 has been about “hold up, you come to me ’cause I’m King Shit and not you, suckah.” I could be dead wrong and may have to apologize for this down the road (which I’ll be happy to do because Murphy is a very talented guy), but my suspicion, knowing Murphy, is that he’ll kind of “do” Pryor — i.e., repeat his bits, do his body language — in a nominal way but his performance will end up as a kind of Murphy-Pryor hybrid with things slightly tilting in his favor.
Again, I’d love to be proved wrong.
Ellwood reports that the Pruor biopic was “originally developed with The Weinstein Company, [but that] Condon and producer Mark Gordon were able to free it up in turnaround and have shopped it to different studios. Paramount Pictures was close to securing the project, but Fox Searchlight recently stepped in after having no qualms with the film’s $25 million budget.
“Murphy, who featured impersonations of Pryor in his early stand up routines and cast him in his own directorial effort, Harlem Nights, is said to be enthusiastic about playing his longtime idol and has dropped his usual salary requirements for the role.
“The script also features prominent roles for Pryor’s four wives and Red Foxx. Those roles have not been cast as of yet. Additionally, the film’s title will likely change before release.”
A.O. Scott‘s 50th anniversary appreciation of’ William Wyler‘s Ben-Hur (which actually opened 49 years and nine months ago, in November 1959) is a bit too gracious. Being the kind of film they don’t make any more doesn’t make it particularly special. What makes it special is Miklos Rosza‘s music. Eliminate the chariot race and it’s mainly a film that accompanies the score rather than vice versa.
On top of which Scott doesn’t address the central Ben-Hur conceit, used to sell stage and screen adaptations of Lew Wallace‘s book since the mid 1800s, that it’s “a tale of the Christ.” It’s actually a good revenge story — ambitious Roman guy screws over princely Jewish guy whom he loved on some homoerotic level as a child (and vice versa), Jewish guy survives years of incarceration, returns and beats Roman guy in a chariot race. Ben-Hur doesn’t exactly fall apart after the chariot race, but it’s certainly marking time.
Almost 18 months after debuting at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival, Roger Spottiswoode‘s Shake Hands With The Devil has been acquired from Halifax Films by Regent Releasing. It will open next summer. Spottiswoode’s drama covers the same ghastly events depicted in Hotel Rwanda — i.e., the Rwandan genocide of 1993. The main character is Canadian Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire, played by Roy Dupuis here and by Nick Nolte in Hotel Rwanda.
The L.A. Times can consolidate and revamp and re-arrange the deck chairs all they want, and it won’t really change anything. The dead tree/Gutenberg empire is going down, down, down. The Rocky Mountain News will publish its last issue on Friday. The Tuscon Citizen will cease publishing on 3.21 after 138 years in business. One by one, newspapers are dropping like flies.
It is nothing short of a Biblical scourge. Frogs, locusts…the Nile turned red. It’s the green mist descending from the sky and gliding along the ground, bringing death to every publication that doesn’t have lamb’s blood (i.e., a primarily web-based focus with a lean staff and low overhead) smeared on its front door.
I forgot to ask if anyone has PDFs of these scripts also — untitled James L. Brooks, The Rum Diary and The Matarese Circle. I promise to return the favor. Update: I’ve so far received Up In The Air, The Human Factor (i.e.,Eastwood/Mandela), Imperial Life in the Green Zone, The Men Who Stare At Goats, Fair Game, Brothers, Amelia, a faded 2007 draft of Shutter Island, The Informant, The Lovely Bones and A Serious Man.
As that Pineapple Express Oscar short proved, James Franco‘s stoner character is one of the great comic incarnations of our time. He was so euphorically good as “Saul Silver” in Pineapple Express that it’s a little hard to come to terms with the idea of Franco performing in a dramatically straight, soulful and sincere vein.
Nonetheless, a straight, soulful and sincere Franco will be giving a Word Theatre performance this Sunday at Manhattan’s Soho House from 3 to 5 pm. I’ve attended several Word Theatre readings and remain a big fan. I love being part of that Word Theatre atmosphere, which is basically a classy literary salon-type deal.
I’d actually like to attend this Sunday’s thing — it’s only $25 a pop — and maybe bring my ex-wife along but there are complications. Don’t ask.
Franco will host and read from a new story by Jim Shepard. Julianna Margulies (Ghost Ship) will read a story by Amy Hempel. And Lynn Whitfield (Stepmom, Head of State) will read a story by John Edgar Wideman.
Just understand that Franco will not be wearing a hippie wig, love beads, a tie-dyed T-shirt, bell-bottoms or sandals. I for one would love to see him read the Shepard story like Saul would read it — stumbling here and there, giggling, mispronouncing this and that name, improvising, etc. But that wouldn’t be fair to Shepard, I suppose. Although it would be fine with me.
I’m looking to get hold of PDF scripts of all the prospective 2009 Best Picture contenders plus whatever shot scripts that I haven’t read or heard about that might be surprise contenders. If you don’t ask…
At a bare minimum I’d be most happy to receive Mandela/Playing The Enemy (d: Clint Eastwood), Biutiful (d: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu); Nine (d: Rob Marshall); Amelia (d: Mira Nair); Green Zone (d: Paul Greengrass); Taking Woodstock (d: Ang Lee); Shutter Island (d: Martin Scorsese); Cheri (d: Stephen Frears); The Informant (d: Steven Soderbergh); Away We Go (d: Sam Mendes); Up In The Air (d: Jason Reitman); The Lovely Bones (d: Peter Jackson); Agora (d: Alejandro Amenabar); Brothers (d: Jim Sheridan); A Serious Man (d: Joel and Ethan Coen); Bright Star (d: Jane Campion); Julie and Julia (d: Nora Ephron); The Tree of Life (d: Terrence Malick) and that untitled Nancy Meyers project that’ll costar Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin.
A non-proofed review copy of Paul Newman: A Life, written by Shawn Levy, arrived today. I’ve been hearing about this sucker for a long time, and how some really good material about Newman’s early days has been dug up. I’m two pages …no, three pages in and so far it’s a very clean, smooth and easy read. It’ll be buyable in early May.
Newman never sat down with Levy, but he didn’t tell friends and colleagues not to cooperate either. It’s obviously a good time for an in-depth review of the life of Henry Gondorf, Ben Quick, Eddie Felson and Butch Cassidy. I presume everyone heard that applause during the Oscar telecast death tribute? Check out this high-school photo…amazing.
Those Leslie Nielsen Naked Gun movies did pretty well in their time — the 1988 original took in $78 million (an excellent gross for the Reagan era) and the last one, Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, earned $51 million domestic in ’94. But they’re old news and they’re over, for God’s sake. There’s no room for an old-dog comedy franchise in the Age of Obama. That’s what my attitude was, at least, until a Paramount employee slipped me a PDF copy of — prepare yourself — The Naked Gun: What 4? — The Rhythm of Evil.
Would such a property have worked a year or two after 9/11? Or two or three years ago? Maybe, maybe not. But right now people are so zombie-freaked by the destruction of their stock portfolios and retirement funds and the devaluation of their homes and their sharply-reduced ability to pay for their kids’ college tuitions that they’re probably ready to laugh at really dumb stuff again. Maybe. The key element, of course, is that is has to be seriously stupid. No fooling around, I mean.
What makes funny funny? There’s no explaining the how and why (and if you do you kill the joke), but I know it when I read it. And this script, penned by veteran sardonic-comedy guy Alan Spencer (Sledge Hammer, Hexed), made me laugh. It’s funny in a dry, smart, surreal-toxic sexual way. But then I’m from Mars so what do I know?
On top of which the films that I direct in my head when I’m reading stuff like this are always underplayed in an Ingmar Bergman-esque way, and the tendency of many (if not most) professional comedy directors is to broaden and underline so the least sophisticated dolts in Mumbai will get the joke. But the best stupid comedies are never aimed low — they’re written and directed by smart guys, and played as straight as Hamlet and aimed at jazz musicians and corporate CEOs and people who donate foundation money. Because once you start winking at the audience, you’re dead.
The three lead cop characters in Naked Gun: What 4? are Det. Vince Conklin (“Look, I represent the new America, the average person on the street desperate for change… like pennies, nickles, dimes”), Police Commissioner Roy McGlade (flip, blunt, crusty but benign) and Lt. Erica Litvak (30s, no-nonsense, a looker). Nielsen’s Lt. Frank Drebin has been put out to pasture, of course — living in Florida, golfing — so it’s wide open for whatever.
All I know is that “it’s ugly out there….like a boil on the buttock of a Sumo wrestler suffering from excema.” That’s a throwaway line from page four, delivered by a minor character.