I’ve been TIFFing it for three or four hours now. Hangin’ at the Hyatt. All credentialed up and moved in. Porter flight from Newark was smooth and uneventful. Surfing, doodling, tapping stuff out for the last three, four hours. Nothing. Homework and research tonight. Figure out the next three, four days. A lot of invites to gala screenings, parties, etc. Play it conversative tonight, take it easy, prepare.
Eddie Murphy‘s decision to bail on his Oscar-hosting gig is unwise, to put it mildly. He got a bounce out of Tower Heist, delivering his funniest performance since Bowfinger, and he obviously could have built on that with some extra-funny Oscar-show material…but no. He just has to be the asshole. Smug indifference to anything except his own mercurial whims is his basic default position.
The decision smacks of the old arrogant Murphy of yore. Ladies and gentlemen, the guy who bolted out of the Oscar ceremony when he lost for his nominated Dreamgirls performance is back! The guy who had that eat-my-ass look in his eyes that said “I’m Eddie Murphy and I’m rich and famous and all that other good shit, and ain’t jumpin’ through no hoops for you or anyone else.”
His decision doesn’t exactly say to the community, “You know what? Maybe rehearsing is for fags.” But he’s kinda vaguely implying that. And he’s certainly not endearing himself to the gay community.
Murphy’s decision also says “you do it to Brett, you do it to me.” In windier terms, Murphy is basically saying, “To hell with that ‘an Oscar producer needs to show a little class and dignity’ stuff. If you like to eat the pussy and want to talk about that with Howard Stern, I don’t see the problem. You want to cut Brett lose because of that, fine. That’s your call. But I don’t hold with that so I’m walking. Yeah, you heard me, Academy. Kiss my ass.”
From Pete Hammond‘s 11.9 Deadline piece about the Ratner departure: “There is some media speculation that, with Ratner gone, Eddie will follow him out the door. I see that as highly unlikely — and I also don’t think Ratner himself would let that happen. Granted, Ratner’s exit caused a big ripple inside Hollywood. But Murphy’s exit would be a high-profile PR nightmare inside and outside Hollywood, creating the impression to the general public that the Oscars is in complete chaos.”
I heard this morning from an old friend whom I hadn’t spoken with since the early ’80s. He told me that his 2005 divorce from his former wife, whom I knew in the old days, was basically about her decision to become a full-time gay woman after flirting with bisexuality for many years. You have to roll with these situations when they happen, but imagine living in a kind of limbo state about your true sexual nature for five or six decades. My first thought is always, “What took you so long?”
The typical beer-drinking, ESPN-watching, straight-guy response to this kind of thing is to assume that the guy had something to do with nudging his formerly straight girlfriend into the clutches of lesbianism. I used to hear this crap when a highly significant ’70s girlfriend turned gay about four years after we broke up. If anything I was the one between us who took it in the neck and ate most of the pain.
I’ve been told time and again that most gay people have an inkling of their true nature fairly early in life, but I’ve also heard of older women going gay over frustration with their asshole husbands or boyfriends so maybe there’s something to it. Or maybe it’s simply delightful to be in synch with another woman who really gets you and makes you feel truly loved.
I’ve sometimes imagined that the ideal marriage situation for a straight guy might be to have a wife who’s passionately bisexual — a woman who genuinely loves being with her husband for security and love and straight sex, but who also has a yen for this or that girlfriend from time to time. That way things are always titillating on a certain level (and no, I’m not even thinking about three-way scenes) and the pressure is off the husband to be 100% responsible for his wife’s emotional and sexual satisfaction.
“Released a few weeks ago in the UK, TT3D: Closer To The Edge is a documentary following three young motorcycle riders as they tackle the world famous Isle of Mann TT. It’s beautifully shot and cut, uses 3D sparingly and only to enhance the sensational race scenes, and in Guy Martin (one of the riders) has found a genuine star — think Northern English Wolverine, complete with sideburns.
“The most exhilarating film I’ve seen since C’etait Un Rendezvous.” — Dylan Glover, London.
I saw James Gunn‘s Super (IFC Midnight, 4.1) last night…what a surprise! I went in hoping it might not be too painful and that I might get through it without walking out. I came out singing its praises, admiring the hell out of Gunn and his script, worshipping Ellen Page‘s balls-out performance and wondering what could be wrong with the critics who dismissed it at last September’s Toronto Film Festival.
Super is partly a dark and bracing satire of superhero movies, partly a withering “eff you” to T-shirted ComicCon culture dweebs who live for superhero fantasies, and partly a violent, surreal-ish Troma comedy. However you want to slice it, it is not selling the same old bilge about a lonely neurotic dork finding transcendence and salvation by adopting a super alter-identity and kicking criminal ass and getting the girl of his dreams, etc.
The fact that it’s dopey-funny in a dry and anarchic way doesn’t change the fact that Super is, deep down, a rather harsh and unsparing portrait of marginally sociopathic comic-book readers-and-dreamers (as represented by Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page‘s characters) who are so full of rage and caught up in absolutist fantasy themes that they can’t really process reality, and who hand out severe bloody beatings in an oddly giddy but mean-spirited way.
Gunn’s movie, which also delivers sincere-anguished-weeping and praying-to-God scenes, is really quite the original thing. By my standards Super is way, way better than Kick-Ass because the latter was made with an underlying affection for superhero movies & mythology while Super mostly feels contempt for it. It’s the closet approximation I’ve ever seen of my own view of superhero films and fans of same. I now have another fantasy to resort to apart from my dream of strafing the ComicCon faithful in San Diego in an F-14 Tomcat.
It’s about a glum short-order cook (Wilson) who decides to become a vigilante superhero called The Crimson Bolt after his unstable former-addict wife (Liv Tyler) succumbs to the temptations of a of a local drug dealer (Kevin Bacon). Wilson soon after partners with a hyper, semi-delusional comic-store clerk (Page) who dress up in yellow and green outfit and calls herself Boltie.
Super star Rainn Wilson, director-writer James Gunn during post-screening q & a at Austin’s Paramount theatre.
It never occurs to Wilson and Page that the kind of justice and punishment they mete out to lawbreakers and selfish ne’er do wells is just as bad and dangerous and socially threatening as anything that riled them up in the first place. When Wilson gets into fights he clubs his adversaries with a wrench, crunching skulls and splattering blood and sending them to intensive-care wards, and Page’s delight and ecstasy when she delivers similar-type woundings is both hilarious and appalling. She’s really quite the loony firecracker in this film — it’s a wicked, super-spirited, no-holds-barred performance.
JoBlo’s Chris Bumbray wrote last September that Wilson and Page’s third-act assault on Bacon’s headquarters “is almost like the superhero equivalent of Taxi Driver” which was precisely my thinking as I watched it last night. In part because I never believed in Taxi Driver‘s post-shoot-out aftermath of Travis Bickle being called a hero in N.Y. Daily News accounts and receiving a thank-you-for-saving-our-daughter letter from Jodie Foster‘s parents and Cybil Shepherd looking at him admiringly and longingly as he drives her home, etc.
The divorcement from reality was total and absolute in Martin Scorsese‘s epilogue, just as the comprehensions of Wilson’s character in Super are saturated with visions of delusion. Okay, at the very end there’s a glimmer of self-recognition and acceptance of the way things really are, but mostly Wilson is DeNiro’s Bickle and vice versa. An excellent thing, that.
Super costar Elllen Page.
My Rutger Hauer/Bloody Mary encounter this morning was cool, smooth and groovy. Hobo With A Shotgun, which I saw directly after, is a relentlessly low-rent Troma splatter film — another ’70s grindhouse flick in “quotes.” (You don’t mind the awful dialogue spoken by the bad guys, right? Of course you don’t!) But the title and the whatever-you-want-to-make-it metaphor are brilliant, and Hauer, 66, is reaping the benefits. His scumbag-blasting bum is the most iconic role he’s played since The Hitcher (’87), and before that Roy Batty in Blade Runner (’82).
Hobo With A Shotgun star Rutger Hauer — Wednesday, 1.26, 11:15 am.
If I was a director-writer, I’d write something for Hauer in which he plays the absolute opposite of an enraged, socially-avenging hobo. I would cast him as a rich, hip sculptor who lives in lower Manhattan and meditates and writes poetry and knows how to prepare Northern Italian cuisine and has his grandkids over on weekends. I would leave the hobo behind and never look back.
Hauer is gentle, polite, considerate. Being a famous actor he’s used to a certain amount of attention. And (I mean this in the most admiring way possible) he’s a bit of an eccentric. He talks about whatever mood he might be in. He goes outside to smoke. He politely declined to drink Bloody Marys with everyone else. (Discipline!) He wore black Converse lace-up sneakers — very cool.
When Jen Yamato seemed to indicate that her brief interview with him was starting to wind down, Hauer appeared to take mild offense — “What, is the fuckin’ interview over now?” I loved him for that. Actors put it right out there. They’re a particular breed. You need to keep the ball in the air and keep feeding the fire.
Hauer’s Converse sneakers
Falco Ink’s Steve Beeman got out a shotgun — a real one — for Hauer to pose with in photos. I snapped a couple in the hallway. And then Hauer and the shotgun charged into the room in which everyone has hanging out, playing the raging bad-ass and shouting, “You’ve seen your last movie!” Love any kind of playtime stuff. I’ll bet Hauer is great with kids.
We all drove up to the Egyptian for the 11:30 am showing in a Magnolia-rented SUV. On the way there I said to Hauer and Eisner with a grin, “I thought we were all going to walk up to the theatre with Rutger carrying the shotgun, and that maybe we might attract the attention of the Park City police.” Hauer, smoking again, was vaguely amused but said he was in the wrong mood for that kind of crap.
We pulled up to the theatre. I went in and sat down in the front, and Eisner and Hauer came on stage to rev the crowd. Hauer’s money quote: “We shoot fucking movies — we don’t shoot fucking people.”
David Kaplan‘s Today’s Special (Reliance Mediaworks, 11.19) is a mild little foodie comedy that would like to be an Indian Tampopo. You’d think that a film based on an Obie Award-winning stage play (i.e., Sakina’s Restaurant, written by the film’s star and cowriter Aasif Mandvi) might have a certain quality of refinement, but all it delivers is a kind of innocuous likableness, largely due to Mandvi’s performance (he has presence, a certain gravity) and an appealing older actor named Naseeruddin Shah.
Otherwise Today’s Special doesn’t have the chops or the style or that extra X-factor that might lift it up and over.
There’s one profoundly irritating scene in Today’s Special that I have to at least mention. Aasif, a Manhattan-based sous chef stuck running his father’s Indian food restaurant in Queens, is shown pedaling his bike down a crowded Queens boulevard. Several large bags of Indian take-out are crammed into the basket. Suddenly he spots Jess Weixler (Alexander the Last), whom he knows from his previous job and would like to get down with. And right away I began muttering to myself “please…please don’t crash the bike and spill the take-out food on the street because you’re so distracted by the sight of Weixler….please don’t do that…I’m begging you…please, PLEASE” — and that’s exactly what he does.
As soon as this happened I said to myself, “Okay, that’s it — I don’t respect Mandvi any more, I don’t want these two to get together, I don’t want to watch this film…I’m out.”
But the party for Today’s Special, which I attended the night before last, was brilliant.
It was held in a private residence (the home of Noelle Twiggs, founder of a health-food website called Green Lemonade) on Soho’s Greene Street. The guests were seated on both sides of two long banquet tables adorned with candelabras, and with red Indian-style fabric hanging on the walls. Magnificent Indian food was prepared and served by chefs Akhtar Nawab (La Esquina), Kevin Patricio (Blue Hill) and Michael Hebb (One Pot). And Siddharta Khosla (of the band Goldspot) sang three songs for an after-dinner entertainment.
I attended the Today’s Special party (which meant blowing off a dinner with The Fighter‘s David O. Russell and Mark Wahlberg) because I wanted to chat with Weixler, whom I’ve taken a mild shine to, and maybe snap a couple of photos. I’d tried to arrange an interview earlier in the day but the obstructions from 42West and Weixler’s Baker Winokur Ryder reps were too much for me to handle. (They said I could do an hour-long phoner but not a half-hour long in-person chat, despite my willingness to meet near her Brooklyn home.)
So I found it strange that after all the problems in not getting this interview that I went to the party and hung out the entire night near the front of the room, adjacent to the kitchen area, with the idea of catching Weixler’s eye and taking a shot or two, and I never even saw her. No publicist said word one to me all night about where she was sitting, or offered to introduce or anything along those lines. Weixler must have slipped in very stealthily, apparently, or stealthily, at least, as far as I was concerned, and stayed in her seat. The room was candle-lit and on the dark side, as mentioned, and everyone was sitting at the two long tables but…well, it was just weird.
So the food was sublime and everyone was charming and helpful, but I’m trying to think of the last time I went to a party with the express intent of speaking with an actress and not even seeing her or her reps the whole night. It was like some kind of bizarre avoidance game that everyone was in on except me. And to think I could have avoided this whole charade and hung out with Wahlberg and Russell uptown.
Weixler sent a note the next day by way of BWR. It said thanks for saying “such lovely things about me” and that she was “sorry our schedules didn’t work out,” etc. And that’s fine. She’s cool. But those publicists, I’m telling you, were playing an odd game.
“I had to laugh after I saw Creation at the Toronto Film Festival last fall,” writes Marshall Fine, “because I’d read speculation in the press that the reason it was having trouble finding an American distributor was its controversial content.
Paul Bettany as Charles Darwin in Creation.
“As if this weak-tea, droopy-drawers drama had a scintilla of anything that might be mistaken for controversy squirreled somewhere within its overlong running time. Perhaps I dozed through that part.
“What most people were too polite to say was that Creation (1.22.10) is a colossal snooze, a drama allegedly about a hot-button topic — Darwin’s theory of evolution — that buries its most interesting material beneath a mountain of sudsy and dreary psychodrama that’s not all that dramatic.”
Mark Lisanti, the Defamer hotshot from ’04 to ’08, starts today as Movieline‘s new editor-at-large with three commentaries per week. And what if something really astonishing happens on a Tuesday or a Saturday or a Monday night? Lisanti is going to sit on his hands and wait for the next scheduled posting op? That’s not cool, man, if that’s the deal. If you’re in it, you’re in it.
“This is dialectics. It’s very simple dialectics. One through nine. No maybes, no supposes, no fractions. You can’t travel in space…you can’t go out in space, you know, without like, you know, with fractions. What are you gonna land on? One-quarter? Three-eighths? What are you gonna do when you go from here to Venus, or something? That’s dialectic physics, okay? Dialectic logic is, there’s only love and hate. You either write for a movie site full bore or you don’t. No chickenshit fractions.” — Dennis Hopper‘s photojournalist speaking in Francis Coppola‘s Apocalypse Now (1979).
The legend is that whenever disaster movie director Irwin Allen yelled “cut!” on the set, the next words out of his mouth would always be “is everyone okay?” Allen’s The Towering Inferno (’74), which he directed the action sequences for (while John Guillermin handled the straight-dialogue scenes), is pricey merd, of course. And yet I’ve watched it several times for the cheap and tawdry thrills (i.e., watching actors pretend to die horribly), and because of a sense of oddly enjoyable revulsion I get out of hearing the awful Maureen McGovern sing “We May Never Love Like This Again.”
Fox Home Video’s Towering Inferno Bluray comes out on 7.14.09.
I’m a huge fan of that little “I’m okay, baby” look that the damp-towel-protected Robert Wagner gives his girlfriend (Susan Flannery) before running out of an office suite and immediately getting roasted alive — delicious! Plus I’ve never been able to get enough of watching Flannery, Jennifer Jones, Robert Vaughn and Richard Chamberlain fall over 100 stories to their deaths. And I’ve always respected the fact that instead of succumbing to cynicism over taking a straight-paycheck job, costars Steve McQueen and Paul Newman man up and deliver solid, earnest performances.
“In the DVD commentary, it is pointed out that because both McQueen and Newman were promised the same pay and identical number of lines of dialog,” says the film’s Wikipedia page. “One actor had to go back to the studio to shoot additional scenes to equalize the final number of lines of dialogue.”
Slate‘s John Swansburg has just posted a piece asking readers to divulge which Netflix movie they’ve hung onto the longest without actually watching. He’s referring, of course, to DVDs people have rented for purposes of nutrition or artistic intrigue (a 1950s Samuel Fuller film, say, or or an Iranian film that Scott Foundas or Robert Koehler have done back-flips over) rather than something in the way of straight entertainment, easy emotional comfort (Howard Hawks‘ Only Angels Have Wings) or sleazy-cheesey exploitation.
“It happens to all Netflix subscribers eventually,” writes Swansburg. “Your buddy the film buff drags you to a revival of Antonioni‘s L’Avventura. To your surprise, you find yourself rapt. Upon returning home, you log in to your Netflix account and move La Notte, the second film in Antonioni’s ennui trilogy, to the top of your queue. It arrives a few days later, just as L’Avventura‘s spell is starting to wear off.
“You watch Anchorman instead. You totally still want to see La Notte …but now you’ve mailed Anchorman back and here is Ghost Rider— starring Nic Cage! La Notte can wait. And it does. For weeks. You’re never quite in the mood to watch it, but you can’t quite bring yourself to return it, either.
“Back in the days of the late fee, there was no shame in returning a movie unwatched. You had every intention of settling in for an evening with Jean Renoir, but then the dog ate a Lego, there was a great rerun of Frasier on, and next thing you knew the tape was due at the video store. Oh well. With Netflix, sending a disc back unviewed feels like an admission of failure. You thought you had the patience to sit through Interiors. Turns out you didn’t.”