An absolutely terrible-looking video of The Wrestler‘s Mickey Rourke and Milk‘s Sean Penn thanking the Boston Society of Film Critics for the “discerning indecisiveness” that resulted in the org splitting the Best Actor award between these two. The BSFC ceremony was held at the Brattle Theatre on 2.8.09, the video was posted on 2.10.
Last night I paid to see Tom Tykwer‘s The International, having missed the Manhattan press screening. And I knew right away that the downish critical response (Rotten Tomatoes ratings of 52% and 55% from the rank-and-file and creme de la creme, respectively) was at least somewhat unfair and inaccurate.
This is a pretty nifty shot when you consider that the rear-wall glass should but doesn’t reflect the presence of a camera in front of Watts and Owen. Very nice CGI, this.
For The International is another smart and mostly satisfying “tween.” A thriller that isn’t (as someone else has already said, I’m sure) a Bourne thing but not a LeCarre-type deal either. And yet it’s not half bad on its own terms until the tension slackens and a kind of manic action vibe takes over during the final 25%.
You could call The International an old-fashioned ’70s thriller that tries, yes, to ape the moody paranoid vein of Alan Pakula‘s The Parallax View — unsuccessfully — and yet one that benefits from a sensible and modest approach, no-nonsense direction, solid performances (particularly from Clive Owen and supporting players Armin Mueller-Stahl and Brian F. O’Byrne), nicely aromatic Euro-backdrops and an agreeably tidy, well-ordered script by Eric Warren Singer.
Some of the popcorn munchers in theatre #13 at the AMC Empire were laughing and hooting during that final 25%, though. A guy sitting behind me began loudly tapping his feet on the floor and complaining to his friend. The International feels a little too literal and earnest in the final laps, agreed, but it doesn’t deserve cat-calls. I wasn’t about to stand up and say “will you guys shut the fuck up?” but I was definitely thinking about this. I was close but I wimped out. Which at times has been the story of my life.
There was this corpulent black kid sitting three seats to my left whose main activity was eating popcorn and candy and slurping down his 48-ounce drink. This 11 year-old African-American beach balloon took his jacket off and then put it back on and then took it off again, chatted with his Jabba-sized mom and dad incessantly, and hit the bathroom (or took a video-game break) twice. The more this little junk-food eating machine failed to watch, much less appreciate, what was going on the screen, the more allegiance and affection I felt for The International.
The International is about a sociopathic bank, called IBBC, that we soon discover is into all kinds of unsavory criminal fundings. IBBC is an anagram, of course, for the real-life BCCI, which flourished in the ’70s and ’80s before getting caught up in a criminal investigation in the early ’90s. The bank’s relationship with underworld elements led to the nickname “Bank of Crooks and Criminals International.”
Anyway, it’s about an unshaven, tie-less and tireless Interpol agent (Owen) who’s determined to expose the IBBC’s malignancy, particularly its pattern of offing anyone who may have the goods and rat to the authorities. The timing of having a bank as a “bad guy”, of course, is perfect. “This is the essence of the banking industry,” one character says early on, “to make us all slaves to debt.” Right.
Early on Owen picks up an investigative ally in the New York D.A.’s office, played by Naomi Watts. Every time they get close to talking to someone who might offer proof of the IBBC’s ties to terrorism and gangsters, the whistle-blower, of course, gets offed. Even a hired Irish hitman (O’Byrne) who’s done some of the offing winds up dodging bank bullets.
But The International is into working with you rather than fucking with your head, so you can follow what’s going on without a great deal of effort. The script goes from point A to B to C and on down the logical line. There’s something very pleasurable and ’70s-like about this. It kept me aroused but made me feel relaxed at the same time. Until, that is, the final portion, at which point the exposition started to feel a little ploddy. A voice inside began to say, “C’mon, c’mon…we need more than just this!”
The International begins to fall apart right after the peak action sequence — an automatic weapons shoot-out at Manhattan’s Guggenheim Museum. But up until that point it’s an almost completely satisfying medium-grade thriller. That is, if you’re like me and not like one of those wildebeest assholes in theatre #13 last night.
The Parallax parallel is in the view — the final resolution, in fact — that taking down today’s nefarious evildoers just isn’t within the power of an impassioned good-guy protagonist. However true or untrue that may be, this isn’t a very satisfying way to end a thriller.
The only standout in the latest Envelope/Gold Derby prediction poll is the support for Best Actor contender Mickey Rourke from myself, In Contention‘s Kris Tapley, Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone and Mike Olsen. Gold Derby daddy Tom O’Neil cautions that Rourke’s chief competitor, Sean Penn, still leads among all the Gold Derby pundits.
Meanwhile, Slumdog Millionaire‘s dp Anthony Dod Mantel has been handed the top prize by the American Society of Cinematographers.
And WALL*E, Slumdog Millionaire and Man on Wire have taken three choice ACE Awards for editing.
Jeffrey Wells to Bertrand Tavernier (sent in an e-mail just now that I might as well share): “Bertrand — We haven’t spoken since Cannes in ’04 or ’05, but I hope you’re well. I’m writing to say that I’ve just found a copy of In The Electric Mist at a DVD store in Manhattan, even though it’s not supposed to be released until March 3rd. And I’d like very much to see your 15-minute-longer version of this film.
Snapped inside an anonymous Manhattan DVD store this evening — Sunday, 2.15, 8:20 pm.
“I’ve read all about all the troubles, mainly by having read Scott Foundas‘ article in the L.A. Weekly. I wasn’t at the Berlin Film Festival, however. Is there any way I can see your version from my Manhattan base? Does someone in this country has a disc they can let me look at? Might there be a NYC screening of your cut? I naturally want to write a comparison piece. Sorry for all the grief, but it seems only right that U.S. critics should at least see your version and write about it, even if it’s not available to the general public over here. (Unlike viewers in Europe, who are being shown your director’s cut.)”
“We can’t lose with Jerry Lewis at the Oscars next Sunday,” Chicago Tribune critic Michael Phillips wrote today. “Like the clashing personalities showcased in Lewis’ greatest film, two scenarios present themselves.
“Scenario 1: The perpetually divisive screen icon takes a gracious pill and accepts the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award with his own brand of charm, plus a couple of inoffensive jokes, steering clear of any references to ‘broads’ or homosexuals or his ‘kids.’
“Scenario 2: Lewis forgoes the gracious pill. He seizes the moment. And he tells the Academy how he really feels about never having been nominated for a regular Oscar.
“The 82-year-old writer, producer, director and star will no doubt be greeted by one of those ‘waves of love’ moments Lewis once referred to, on his old talk show, describing how audiences flood him with adoration.
“But Lewis was never recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for any of his efforts in, well, motion picture arts or sciences. (Lewis patented the video-assist playback system, which he first used on The Bellboy in 1960.)
“Part of it relates to the age-old prejudice against comedy. Robert Downey Jr.’s supporting actor Oscar nod for Tropic Thunder is a gratifying exception to the rule. But I’m here to tell you: This is a matter of the wrong statuette for the right guy. Lewis should’ve won an Oscar a long time ago.
“1964, to be exact. That year, the Oscars recognized the screen achievements of 1963, and in 1963 Lewis released his masterwork, The Nutty Professor.”
I respect Lewis’s Professor but I’ve always been a bigger Bellboy fan.
I’ve always liked Michelle Pfeiffer in recent years but I haven’t paid serious attention to her since The Fabulous Baker Boys, so it’ll be a welcome thing when Stephen Frears‘ Cherie (Miramax) goes into the screening and promotional dance, which I suspect won’t happen until the fall (i.e., either during or just after Toronto). The last time I was seriously focused on Pfeiffer due to serious ardor was…well, a long time ago.
By pinching his reptile fingers and sending out unmistakable brain signals, this guy is telling the Wall Street bankers, the donkey-stubborn Republicans in the House and Senate, and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner exactly what to say and do. Thank fortune there are some with the will to resist.
Arianna Huffington was dead-on when she wrote the following: “The battle lines over how to deal with the banking crisis have been drawn. On the one side are those who know what needs to be done. On the other are those who know what needs to be done — but won’t admit it. Because it is against their self-interest.
“Unlike the conflict over the stimulus package, this is not an ideological fight. This is a battle between the status quo and the future, between the interests of the financial/lobbying establishment and the public interest.
“What needs to be done is hard but straightforward. As Martin Wolf of the Financial Times sums it up: ‘Admit reality, restructure banks and, above all, slay zombie institutions at once.’
This 2.12. Cenk Uygur piece is also worth reading. It’s about the cap on executive pay having been removed from the stimulus bill, how it seems as if the system of everyone having been bought and paid for is unchanged, and what kind of guy Geithner really is.
Andrew Sullivan said this morning on the Chris Matthews Show that President Obama would “end up nationalizing several major banks….and that the stress tests for these financial institutions that Treasury Secretary Geithner has proposed are the first step in explaining to the American public, for which nationalization is a charged word, why this has to happen.”
“All the companies are laying off employees. There will be fewer deals. Budgets will be tighter. It will shrink the business, I’m sure. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. When you look back on some of these weekends when you have five, six movies opening the same day, they cannibalize each other. So with fewer films it’s better for all concerned. Even the consumer — it’s easier to decide what to see.” — producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Confessions of a Shopaholic) speaking on the current economic climate in Hollywood.
“…and we’re gonna catch the hell. Gonna be pretty goddam bad. [But] that’s all right. These things happen every so often. Five years, ten years. Gets rid of the bad blood. Been ten years since the last one.” — Clemenza (Richard Castellano) in The Godfather.
1999 is commonly regarded as an excellent movie year, and just as commonly 2008 is seen as a relatively weak one. I didn’t realize how weak until I spent some time today looking over a month’s worth of HE clips from November 2006. Volver, Children of Men, The Lives of Others, Tsotsi, United 93, Babel, Pan’s Labyrinth, Little Miss Sunshine, The Queen, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada — I hereby nominate ’06 as a classic year also. The movies weren’t just better then, but this column, I regret to say, was a more engaging and inventive read.
“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” — quote attributed to Jesus Christ in the Gospel of Thomas, used in the opening credits of Amy Berg‘s Deliver Us From Evil and initially mentioned in this column 2 years and 3 months ago.