There seems to be near-unanimous opinion among journos and editors that Marc Forster’s Finding Neverland (Miramax, 11.12) is a very prominent contender for Best Picture honors. Baby, I’m amazed. As big a fan as I was of Forster’s Everything Put Together and especially Monster’s Ball, and as much as I’m looking forward to his next film, Stay, which 20th Century Fox may or may not release at the end of the year (although I’m sensing it may get pushed into ’05), I found this delicate period drama about playwright J.M. Barrie’s emotional undertow during the creation of ‘Peter Pan’ way too caring and tender-hearted. It’s tailor-made for the more-sensitive-than-thou’s. And while I’m on the subject…
Two or three weeks ago I nay-nayed Depp’s Neverland performance, and I feel I should run it again since I’m about to retire the Word column: “Depp seems to really get the eccentric Scottish playwright who wrote ‘Peter Pan.’ The actual Barrie, according to the press notes, was said to have a quiet, puckish personality and always spoke in a low burr…and that’s Depp in the film. The problem is that his Barrie seems so internal, so into his own quiet determinations and oddball kindnesses, that you feel a strange urge to strangle him after a while. Plus there’s something too actorly about his Scottish accent; it sounds at once uncertain and overly studied. In short, Depp did everything right…and in so doing created a character and a vibe that feels curiously wrong.”
Three comments from those who’ve recently seen Bill Condon’s Kinsey (Fox Searchlight, 11.12), the story of Alfred Kinsey’s pioneering studies of human sexuality in the late ’40s and ’50s. One, that it’s intelligent, absorbing and quite accomplished…although its appeal might be a tad stronger among sophisticated blue-staters than with the red-state mom-and-pop crowd. Two, that the sexual scenes are pronounced enough that some have expressed amazement that it managed to get an R rating. And three, that there’s a scene involving sexual intimacy between star Liam Neeson (who plays Kinsey) and costar Peter Sarsgaard that will grab attention. Kinsey will be screening soon at the Toronto Film Festival.
Oliver Stone’s Alexander opens in less than two months (only eight weeks from Friday, 9.10), and yet no editors or long-lead journalists I’ve spoken to have seen it or been told about a screening…yet. The historical epic is going through a final editing push, apparently. Warner Bros. executives have seen a version that runs about three hours, I’m told, and they’ve allegedly asked Stone to tone down the violence in the battle scenes. (When this info was relayed to a small group of journos after Thursday’s Polar Express press luncheon on the WB lot, a female writer quipped, “That Oliver…he’s so subtle!”) No word on what the WB suits thought of the quasi-gay sexual content scenes between Colin Farrell’s Alexander and…I don’t know who with. (One of the friends-of-Alexander characters played by Jared Leto or Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, I’m guessing.) There’s an expectation (hope?) that after all is said and done Alexander will run somewhere between 150 and 165 minutes.
A certain eyebrow-raising clip allegedly taken from the forthcoming Return of the Jedi DVD has already shown up online, but I wasn’t sure if it was bogus or not. But DVD Newsletter editor Doug Pratt has told me it’s definitely true: George Lucas has replaced that ghostly image of Sebastian Shaw (the British actor who played Darth Vader/Annakin Skywalker) in the 1983 theatrical version of Jedi‘s finale…you know, that sentimental farewell moment in which he’s shown standing next to Yoda and Alec Guiness’s Obi-wan Kenobi?…with a ghostly image of Hayden Christensen, who of course played Annakin in Attack of the Clones. But why stop there, George? As long as you’re taking this tack, why not eliminate Shaw altogether from Jedi and re-shoot Annakin’s death scene with Christensen and digitally paste it in? And then (what’s stopping you?) destroy the original ’83 Jedi negative and create an all-new Christensen version.
The Guardian has reported that Jonathan Glazer’s Birth, the Nicole Kidman film about a widow who comes to believe that her dead husband has been reincarnated in the body of a 10 year-old boy (played by 11 year-old Cameron Bright) “was greeted with a chorus of boos by journalists” at a Wednesday press screening for the Venice Film Festival. (I’m guessing that the booing, if it in fact happened to any noteworthy degree, came from British journos, who have a history of shouting down films they don’t like at press screenings.) The trailer for this New Line release looks intriguing enough, and it’s hard to imagine the director of Sexy Beast having cocked things up so badly as to trigger vocal outrage. A scene in which Kidman shares a bathtub with Bright “has already provoked criticism, prompting New Line [spokespersons] to insist that neither actor was naked when the scene was filmed,” the Guardian reported. So where are the reviews already? The official screening happened Wednesday night…hubba-hubba.
That “vaguely bothersome echo” in Walter Salles’ beautifully rendered The Motorcycle Diaries — i.e., the dramatizing of young Che Guevara’s growing compassion for the downtrodden without dealing with the severe and murderous fruit of this compassion that manifested after Guevara came to power in Cuba with fellow revolutionary Fidel Castro — has struck an adverse chord with at least a couple of major-league critics. If other journos pick up on this (and I have no knowledge that this view is widely shared), Diaries, which has been the recipient of heartfelt praise since its debut at last January’s Sundance Film Festival, may encounter a critical backlash when it opens limited on 9.24. This may muddy the waters in terms of its ultimate reception (i.e., awards and whatnot), or what I’m hearing may just be an insignificant ripple.
Variety reporter Ben Fritz’s story about a deal between Howard Stern and Movielink, the internet video-on-demand outfit, to sell access to uncensored clips of nude or topless women visiting Stern’s radio show studio, is interesting enough. But the online version of this story has a more interesting headline: “Movieline, Stern offer uncut antics.” This will probably be fixed by the time you read this, but it gave me a bit of a start. Movieline publisher Anne Volokh pacting with Stern to show nudie footage? Especially with Movieline having long ago renamed itself Hollywood Life? Ahh, well…