So what could have led Roger Michel, the obviously bright and perceptive director of Enduring Love, to take Ian McEwan’s 1998 novel about a bizarre romantic obsession and turn it into a “jokeless gloomarama?” wonders New Yorker critic Anthony Lane. “The ideas behind Enduring Love may be fascinating, but they don’t play, they sulk, and so it was during another annoying rant from Jed the Pest [i.e., Rhys Ifans’ thoroughly revolting stalker character] that I leaned over to the friend beside me and whispered, ‘All I really, really want at this moment, in the whole world, is to be watching Dodgeball.”
In Tom Wolfe’s scheme of things, reports a New York Times Magazine profile (11.31), social behavior is almost always determined by status consciousness — an instinct to preserve your place in the social pecking order. Pretty much all human endeavor “has to do with status,” says the 74 year-old author of “I Am Charlotte Simmons” (excerpted in Rolling Stone, in book stores November 9). “Or STATE-us, which is the way you say it if you want more status.” Our status awareness is so fundamental, Wolfe says, that “there may even be a specific place in the brain that creates it,” the article relates. “Status is neurological, in other words…people aren’t so much interested in scaling the social ladder as in clinging to their own, hard-earned rung.” For what it’s worth, I can say with some authority that Wolfe’s theory is observable in Los Angeles entertainment journalist circles.
Two days before the election, and there’s a definite downshift thing going on. Can you feel it? Whatever’s going to happen is going to happen, and that’s that. (Save for the last-minute lurches of the fence-sitters, of course…but they’ll never know who they are or what they really believe.) A lot of readers are telling me they’re sick of the whole thing and can’t wait, etc. I for one am ready and willing to get back into all-movies, all-the-time…unless there’s a Florida-style recount debacle-muddle of some kind. It’s clearly time to get our priorities straight and ask when exactly will the Farrelly’s make their Three Stooges movie? And what happened to that Russell Crowe-as-Moe thing?
Follow-up to my 10.27 item (see below): Wired magazine made the same call I did about not capitalizng the words “internet” or “web” two months ago. Is this clearly understood? I hope so. “Effective with this sentence, Wired News will no longer capitalize the ‘I’ in internet,” editor Tony Long wrote on 8.16. “At the same time, Web becomes web and Net becomes net. True believers are fond of capitalizing words, whether they be marketers or political junkies or, in this case, techies. If It’s Capitalized, It Must Be Important. [But] the simple answer is because there is no earthly reason to capitalize any of these words. Actually, there never was.”
An anonymous “Black Man, Husband, Father, Son, Actor, Producer, Director, Poet, Warrior,” et. al. who wrote in to Movie City News a day or so ago says he’s sick of a lot things in movies today, with all-around mediocrity among the offenders. One things that stick in his craw is Halle Berry’s role in Monster’s Ball,” a single mother who falls for the great white racist white man WHO PUT HER HUSBAND AND FATHER OF HER CHILD TO DEATH.” Okay, except Billy Bob Thornton’s death-row prison guard character (i.e., Berry’s love interest) isn’t a “great racist white man” — he’s a middle-aged cog in that great racist white-man machine/mentality who slowly divests himself of that ugliness and emotionally comes into his own, partly because he can’t stomach the pain of having driven his son to suicide, but largely and more simply because he’s fallen in love with Berry and wants/needs to redeem himself in God’s eyes through his feelings for her.
Roar of Greasepaint
I predicted this a few weeks ago, and now it’s coming to pass: Joel Schumacher’s The Phantom of the Opera (Warner Bros., 12.22) is making its way, buzz-wise, into the Best Picture Oscar race.
This lavishly produced (I’m told) musical, which almost no one has seen but is based, as everyone knows, on the popular Andrew Lloyd Webber stage musical, has become a big Best Picture “maybe” largely due to a story written by New York Times reporter Sharon Waxman that ran yesterday (10.28).
“You know it’s going to be a strange year for the Oscars when November is just around the corner and the talk in Hollywood is about The Phantom of the Opera,” her story began.
Schumacher, Waxman continued, “is not exactly an Oscar habitu√É¬©, never having been nominated before. But the need for buzz, any kind of buzz, is very real, and a sure sign of Oscar desperation.”
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I haven’t seen Phantom either, but knowing Schumacher’s work as I believe I do, and having spoken to a bright fellow who has in fact seen Phantom, it sounds to me like the sort of Best Picture nominee that the squares and the blue-hairs will rally ’round, like they did last year for Chicago.
I’m inclined to believe this (although, to repeat, I know absolutely nothing first-hand) because my source has told me that Phantom, although well performed, richly assembled and probably very commercial, is glitzy and overwrought. He also doubts it’ll become a critical darling “and you need critics in an Oscar race.”
Oscar talk is building nonetheless, one gathers, because red-state moviegoing tastes are as much in evidence in Beverly Hills as they are in Mobile or Duluth, and we all know (or at least suspect) that folks who think red tend to applaud emotionally grandiose “art.”
For Academy members of this persuasion, an emotional plunging-over-the-waterfall experience — i.e., one that’s not necessarily abundant in terms of delicacy or succinctness or representations of plain-truth reality, but is lathered in faux-emotional foam — is what Oscar-bequeathing is all about.
Here’s what my guy says, precisely:
“I think [Waxman’s] out of her mind,” he began. “This is a big, over-the-top, glitzy Joel Schumacher special. It’s a theatrical construct that Joel has chosen not to turn it into something realistic, but into a visually lush, overwrought Hollywood musical.
“It’s just a question of taste…of being over the top and a little campy…a little bit of the Batman syndrome…it’s a little `much.'”
“It’s very commercial, actually. It’s a very commercial movie. I just don’t see it as an Oscar film because the critics are going to be hard on it. I could be wrong. [A friend] saw it with me, and we both didn’t think it was going to be an Oscar film. One of the problems is Gerard Butler, who plays the Phantom, but Emmy Rossum and Miranda Richardson are very good.
“I could be wrong about the Oscar chances. It could be a Chicago thing all over again, with people of discriminating taste saying no but Academy members loving it anyway – it’s a gorgeous film to look at, it’s absolutely stunning, and Academy members tend to love that and tend to fall all over themselves in admiring the craft of it.”
Set in 19th Century Paris, the story concerns an obsessive mask-wearing hideaway named Erik (Gerard Butler), and his growing impassioned love for a pretty young opera singer named Christine (Emmy Rossum).
“Everyone knows this, but thematically, of course, it’s a beauty and the beast tale,” the guy continues. ” It says we should get beyond the superficial appearance of things, and Butler plays one of those damaged outsiders. You’re supposed to see the beauty of his soul, and there’s a musical connection, an artistic connection, between [he and Rossum], and there’s this great realm that the two of them inhabit in Paris.”
Most of the Phantom action takes place at the Paris Opera house (the old one at Place de L`Opera, not the relatively soulless one at Place Bastille). The film was shot at England’s Pinewood Studios and in London.
I’m not saying Joel Schumacher hasn’t sometimes risen to the occasion. His best films — Falling Down, The Client, Tigerland — show he’s capable of this. I really loved one of his earliest films, D.C. Cab. It’s got a great spirit, and Gary Busey gave one of his career-best performances in it.
But the idea of the director of A Time to Kill, Flatliners, Dying Young, Batman Returns, Batman and Robin, Flawless and Veronica Guerin having supposedly found something new and vital within himself and directed a film that genuinely warrants Best Picture consideration…I don’t know. That’s a tough one to process.
Here’s how the rest of yesterday’s Sharon Waxman piece breaks down in terms of red state vs. blue state movies. I may have hit on a new permutation here. Movies and politics have been bleeding into each other for a long time, so it’s not surprising to hear handicappers using similar terminology.
Bottom line: the Academy is made up almost entirely of blue staters who tend to lean red when handing out Best Picture Oscars.
Red being, of course, indicative of common emotional themes that Average Joe’s with pot bellies and baseball caps can easily understand and relate to and digest, and blue referring to stories and emotional matters reflecting the lives of folks with better educations, tonier lifestyles and cultivated lefty attitudes.
There’s nothing new or trail-blazing in the observation that a lot of the Best Picture Oscar winners — Titanic, Braveheart, etc. — have been red. I guess I’m also saying that a blue movie, no matter how good it is, will always have an uphill fight.
The Phantom of the Opera is almost surely a red-state movie — allegedly broad, lavish, grandiose emotions worn on its sleeve, etc.
Alexander Payne’s Sideways, which Waxman acknowledged as a critical favorite (read: not necessarily Oscar-worthy), is without question the most deserving Best Picture candidate so far. It’s a soulful, mature, quietly emotional film about love and pain and the whole damn thing, etc. It’s got it all (including some great laughs), and the Hollywood mainstreamers Waxman spoke to for her piece are going, “Eh.” Why? Because it’s blue.
Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator is about a blue-state kind of guy (the hard-driving, OCD-ish Howard Hughes) and directed by a hard-core blue-stater (Martin Scorsese), but it supposedly has an escapist entertaining mood, which is kind of a red-state concept (keep your head down, live in your own self-created zone, go into denial and be “happy,” etc.). So it’s kind of a red-blue mix.
Oliver Stone’s Alexander is basically about redeeming courage and life being for the stout-of-heart few, but it’s also selling itself as a bloody action thing, so that makes it mainly a red-state package.
Walter Salles The Motorcycle Diaries (viva Che!) is, of course, a total blue-stater. Ditto Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s A Very Long Engagement (soldiers ducking out of battle, searching for a lover), Pedro Almod√É¬≥var’s Bad Education (same-sex soap opera) and Alejandro Amen√É¬°bar’s The Sea Inside (assisted suicide).
Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby, a surrogate father-daughter relationship piece about a lady boxer, seems to have a populist red-state mentality, for the most part. Sports movies in and of themselves tend to be red, and don’t forget that Eastwood’s a longtime rightie.
Fahrenheit 9/11 — obviously blue through and through. Finding Neverland is blue. Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset is blue. The sexually frank Kinsey is totally, obviously blue. Maria Full of Grace, blue. Mike Nichols Closer and James L. Brooks Spanglish, both blue.
The rousing, relatively uncomplicated, all-American Ray is red. The small town, football-worshipping Friday Night Lights is obviously red. The Passion of the Christ, drenched in the sticky stuff, is clearly the reddest of the bunch.
Let It Go
A couple of weeks ago I was talking about throwing sound clips into the column on a semi-regular basis, and of course I haven’t done it since. So here’s a supplement to the defunct What’s That Line? page, which I jettisoned a month or so ago. Just listen to this guy and tell me what movie it’s from. I made it deliberately easy, so no complaints about this. Harder ones are soon to come.
Root of It
Apologies to David O. Russell and the Independent Film Channel for not putting this article about Soldiers’ Pay up until now. I tried last Friday but the clock and the schedule said no.
Soldiers’ Pay is a 35-minute documentary that was shot by Russell, Tricia Regan and Juan Carlos Zaldivar last summer, and then edited by Russell. Essentially about a strange discomforting episode experienced by certain G.I.’s in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, it’s set to air three times on IFC on Monday, 11.1, as part of an Election Eve marathon.
The doc tells a real-life story that echoes the story of Russell’s Three Kings, which was about three Gulf War soldiers trying to make off with gold bullion worth many millions. The Soldiers’ Pay version is about the actual finding of hundreds of millions in cash while G.I.s searched homes of this or that Hussein Baghdad loyalist.
The temptation was severe and some soldiers pocketed whatever loot they could. Some of them were found out and paid the price. By telling their story Russell is trying to shed light on the various corruptions going on over there, and the matter of who’s making out and who isn’t. He calls their story a “holographic paradigm…it’s a part representing the whole.”
The intention was to “just let these guys tell their story,” Russell said in a phoner last Friday morning.
The doc asks “whether we went there to defend the oil, and says if we treat this arena as a supermarket for our own oil needs, then this [mentality] trickles down.”
Russell, Regan and Zaldivar didn’t just interview veteran noncoms, but native Iraqis, journos like the New York Observer‘s Nicholas von Hoffman, politicos (Republican Rep. David Dryer), psychologists, and Major General J. Michael Myatt, a Gulf War veteran who delivers the film’s saddest and most emotional moment.
Russell said he hoped the doc “might make a difference before the election.” The plan was for the doc to be included on a new DVD of Russell’s Three Kings , but Warner Bros. marketing execs kibboshed this when the doc’s pronounced political import was highlighted in a Sharon Waxman New York Times article that ran last August.
Soldier’s Pay will be distributed on DVD by Cinema Libre, the distribution arm of leftie documentarian Robert Greenwald. Russell said he didn’t know precisely when the DVD will come out, but I would imagine sometime fairly soon. The three 11.1.04 IFC airings will happen at 9:35 pm, 12 midnight and 2:15 am EST, or 6:35 pm, 9 pm and 11:15 pm Pacific.
I’m late on this, but like everyone else I’m very sorry about the passing of Golden Apple Comics owner Bill Liebowitz, a good hombre who died suddenly last Wednesday, 10.27.
Bill wasn’t a friend, but he sometimes helped me with an occasional story and was always ready to help with anything. He was gracious, accommodating and spirited as hell. There was no missing his quickness and aliveness, or the size of his heart.
Liebowitz’s Melrose Avenue Golden Apple store (the other one is in Northridge) is one of the greatest retail-level pop culture meccas ever created. Crammed with comic books, action figures and all kinds of movie-related products and promos, it will remain a tribute to the guy who put it all together.
Liebowitz said on his website that his goal was “to develop Golden Apple as the world’s greatest comic book store… and more. We are constantly changing and experimenting with new ideas, and we don’t intend to stop. We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved, and where we are today.”
My sympathies to his wife Sharon and the rest of the Golden Apple crew.
The breeze is now blowing in John Kerry’s direction. Can you feel it? I can. The tightening of the national poll numbers, the strengthening of the looted weapons depot in Iraq story by eyewitnesses and video footage, the just-announced FBI investigation into Halliburton contracts, etc. The breeze was blowing for Bush a week, week and a half ago….but now it’s not.
Vincent, Tom Cruise’s hit-man character in Collateral, is diamond-like — hard and sharp and full of glints and reflections. For me it’s a hot-cold thing…acting that burns through not because of some forced intensity, but an artful hold-back, cold-steel strategy.
Cruise, never much for passivity, wants a Best Actor nomination for this tour de force. He’s not out of line. His Vincent is a monster and a cripple, but at the same time a kind of tough-love therapist. By the end of the film he’s saved the life of Jamie Foxx’s procrastinating Max as surely as if he’d taken a bullet for him. (Which he does, in a way.)
The more you think about Tom/Vincent, the more the ironies accumulate. Deftly played by a guy known for his own hard-wired intensity, this gray-suited assassin seeps through as a fairly sad figure despite Cruise barely revealing his emotional cards. Sad but oddly charitable, almost evangelical.
Cruise won’t win. The top contenders are Jamie Foxx’s Ray Charles performance in Ray and Paul Giamatti’s touchingly morose wine connoisseur and failed novelist in Sideways. But he deserves to be one of the five finalists, along with Javier Bardem in The Sea Inside and Liam Neeson in Kinsey.
This, in any event, is why Cruise showed up at UCLA’s Royce Hall on Monday evening. To goose his Oscar chances…without appearing to be precisely doing that.
It was billed as an American Film Institute event called “An Evening with Tom Cruise.” MTV personality and journalist Chris Connelly was the moderator. There were two soft leather chairs at center stage, and a huge screen just behind them for showing film clips. The tickets were $20 bucks a pop. The auditorium was just about filled, but not quite.
There was a lavishly catered press reception before the event. Dressed entirely in dark brown (his sister-publicist LeAnn Devett swore that his close-cropped hair hadn’t been dyed that color, but it looked that way to me) and wearing a two or three-day stubble, Cruise stood near the main entrance and talked to anyone who had the patience and the moxie to wait 15 to 20 minutes to push through and wait their turn.
I’m too aloof for that kind of grovelling. What would I say if I got to the guy? I guess we could talk about our mutual friendships with Cameron Crowe and Robert Towne. And I could ask why his Last Samurai character managed to survive that samurai-on-horseback charge straight into a hailstorm of machine-gun bullets. And I guess I could float my pet theory that Cruise’s character was actually a werewolf — i.e., killable only with silver bullets.
A journalist friend who’d interviewed Cruise at press junkets was complaining that “he doesn’t give you anything.” A lot of journos feel that Cruise’s patter is too much about precision, exactitude, presentation. He never relaxes, never lets his guard down.
His fans see things differently. It’s one thing to look at the big grosses for Cruise’s films in the pages of Variety, and another to actually feel the ardor. The fans at Royce Hall were squealing, whooping…it felt almost Beatle-esque when Cruise walked on stage just after 8 pm. “We love you!,” cried a group of college-age girls to my left. “We love you too!” said another group to the right.
Cruise was obviously “on,” but he seemed fairly open to the give and take. He didn’t act or sound like an especially icy type. He seemed more in the realm of being intense, focused….not so much a controller as an uber-regulator. He showed an obvious liveliness of spirit and seemed eager to really listen to people, although perhaps a bit too eager to laugh at times. I forgave him for that.
The show lasted just under two and a half hours. Every 20 minutes or so, the house went dark and Cruise clips were shown. And yet no clips from All The Right Moves or The Outsiders or Curtis Hanson’s Losin’ It. And no acknowledgements than any of these films might have been letdowns for the audience, or for Cruise, which of course happens from time to time.
I couldn’t hear any groans when they ran clips from Days of Thunder (i.e., Top Car) and Far and Away, but then the sound levels were high.
Connelly was crisp, polished and TV pitchman-like. Always going for the jovial chummy tone. Cruise said at one point that he used to imitate Donald Duck as a youth, and Connelly urged him to do it for the crowd. Cruise gave it a shot and made a sound like a duck farting. Connelly to crowd: “What about that? Not bad!”
Cruise is a pretty good mimic though. He did an excellent Jack Nicholson a while later (i.e., acting the bar-rage scene from The Last Detail). I read somewhere he’s great at doing an Al Pacino/Tony Montana. He did a first-rate imitation of Jon Heder doing his Napoleon Dynamite voice.
The place went wild when they showed the famous clip of Cruise dancing in his underwear in Risky Business. The crowd was clapping in time to that Bob Seger beat. “I’ve never done anything like this in which they show clips,” Cruise said later on. “This is pretty amazing.”
Cruise posing for photos with fans after Monday’s AFI Royce Hall event
Cruise recalled that when he first got to Los Angeles and hadn’t worked anywhere, he went to an open audition and read some lines. The casting director asked him, “New to California?” Cruise said yes. “Staying long?” Depends, Cruise answered. The casting director said, “Get a tan.”
He was also told during this stage, “Do movies. You’re too intense for television.”
Connelly asked him about always being recognized and dealing with the fame game. He quoted a line from Bob Dylan’s recently released book: “Privacy is something you can sell, but you can never buy it back.”
The clips reminded me that Cruise was on the physically chunky side in the early to mid `80s, and that he suddenly slimmed down when he appeared in Rain Man in ’88. Cruise said he became a Scientologist right around (or was it right after?) doing Martin Scorsese’s The Color of Money in ’86. I guess he went on some kind of Scientology diet.
“Before making The Color of Money, I had seen Raging Bull five times,” he said at one point. “If I like a movie I see it over and over. Now with DVD I sometimes just sit and re-watch scenes.”
He recalled that when he started shooting Taps and didn’t know how well he or the film would perform, he said to himself, “If this is it, then this is it…enjoy it for what it is.”
“I was always the kid who climbed to the top of the tree in a rainstorm,” he said later. “I’ve always wanted to risk it all.”
Cruise said more than once that “money doesn’t matter” to him as much as going for the challenge and the creative excitement. He said he only wants “a fair exchange in regard to what I’m worth.” Monetarily, he declared, “I’m doing okay.”
“I’ve never met a normal person,” he said toward the end of the chat. “Every person is unique. Every person has a story to tell. Films are personal, character is personal…”
When he was younger he always used to call people “sir.” His publicist Andrea Jaffe finally told him, “Look, you’re freaking people out. Stop saying ‘sir’ and ‘yes sir.'”
He told an amusing story about the months-long shooting of Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, and how long it took his costar Sydney Pollack (who’d directed him in The Firm) to understand that sometimes Kubrick was more into blocking and thinking things through than actually filming. But EWS only cost $250,000 per week to shoot, or $1 million a month, he said. (That’s relatively cheap for a big-studio film.)
After many, many months of shooting, Cruise went up to Kubrick and said, “I gotta go, Stanley.” Kubrick said okay “and I left,” said Cruise. “And the movie was done.”
He said his goal is to climb Mount Everest. He said he was open to doing a musical. He said he was also willing in doing a straight play, although he seemed a little hesitant about this. His most emphatic statement of the night was, “I was born to make movies,”
Right now he’s doing final pre-production work on Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, which starts shooting in early November and will be out next June. Then he’ll start work on Mission Impossible 3. During the q & a portion near the end I wanted to ask Cruise about the creative conflicts that resulted in Narc director Joe Carnahan’s leaving that project, but I wasn’t chosen.
An agent friend said to me later that evening, a couple of hours after the show was over, that the fans love him because Cruise projects regular-guy vibes — “He’s someone they feel they can relax with over a drink” — and because women think he’s cute and guys want to be like him.
“But he’s not that guy,” my friend argued. “He’s royalty and acts like royalty. He always gets the biggest perk packages when he shoots a film. He lives in a royal realm. He’s not an average type of guy at all.”
Okay, I said, but isn’t that what made him a star in the first place? Not being average?
And don’t people like worshipping royalty? Isn’t that built in to our genes? The urge to show obeisance before power?
“I’m just saying he’s not the guy he presents himself to be,” she said.
To the Wolves?
It’s no secret that I really like Charles Shyer’s Alfie. I don’t think it plays well; I know it does. It may not have the jolt or punch that the original Michael Caine version had in `66, but it’s a believably acted, exquisitely edited, richly scored character piece. It’s not quite Rules of the Game, but it’s a long way from a burn.
I especially liked that Alfie has the character and intelligence not to go all mushy at the end and deliver a conventionally happy turnaround ending. This despite the fact that one of Paramount’s Alfie trailers seems to suggest that Jude Law’s lead character, a hard-core hound who casually hurts women’s feelings through the film, hooks up with costar Marisa Tomei at the end and makes like a father to her young son, etc.
The problem is this: I was told earlier this week that Alfie is “not tracking.” This means it isn’t showing up in moviegoer surveys as something that a good-sized percentage of the audience wants to see. Apparently Law’s name isn’t enough of a draw on this score. He’s seen as more of an “industry star” than a public one.
The standard way to raise awareness and create want-to-see with an upcoming film is to show nationwide “sneaks” the weekend before it opens so people will see it, like it and spread the word. The only reason you don’t do this is if distribution execs are concerned that the word of mouth may not be so hot, which could result in the opening weekend tally coming in lower.
Paramount is apparently not planning any Alfie sneaks this weekend, so draw your own conclusions. I understand why, and at the same time I don’t. This movie sells itself and doesn’t screw anyone over. Law gives his most movie-star-ish performance ever. He really leaves that character-actor attitude in the dust.
I think distribution should be like parenting. Your love should always be absolute and bountiful. Especially when it’s time for your child to meet the world and fend for himself. You shouldn’t raise, bathe, feed, nurture and teach your little boy only to push him out the front door on his very first day of school and say, “Okay, buddy…the bus is down the street….see ya later!” You have to stand by your child, hold his hand, show support and keep showing it.
It’s not just that deceptive trailer. The Alfie one-sheet is also a bit lame. By emphasizing only the fact that Jude Law is good looking and not indicating there are all kinds of layers to this film (which there are), they make it look like lightweight fluff.
Alfie isn’t that. It’s a far better film than what Paramount marketers are trying to suggest, and I just can’t imagine average filmgoers seeing this en masse and going “eh.”
“Dude, you have to calm down about the election. Kerry is going to win this thing and win it big. When you see these poll numbers that don’t look good for Kerry, take a look at the internals. They invariably oversample GOP voters (assuming more Republicans will turn out to vote than Democrats).
“That’s not the case. It wasn’t the case in 2000, when all the polls had Bush winning by 6-8% and he wound up *losing* the popular vote. And it certainly isn’t the case this year, when Democrats are more fired up than they’ve ever been and millions of first-time voters will pick Kerry. Hang in there.” — Clay Clifton
I ran into the mythical producer’s rep Jeff Dowd (a.k.a. “the Dude”) Tuesday night at the Grove. He told me he was on his way to Ohio today to do some kind of get-out-the-vote work for the Kerry campaign. Dowd’s positivism about what he’s certain will happen next Tuesday is almost a contact high.
Dowd also told me that George Butler’s Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry is now viewable for free online. The URL is www.thekerrymovie.com.
Big Lebowski star Jeff Bridges (l), original “Dude” and one-man Kerry vote-driver Jeff Dowd
Dowd had nothing do with the following, but here’s a well-reasoned endorsement from the pages of The New Yorker:
“[John] Kerry’s performance on the stump has been uneven, and his public groping for a firm explanation of his position on Iraq was discouraging to behold. He can be cautious to a fault, overeager to acknowledge every angle of an issue; and his reluctance to expose the Administration’s appalling record bluntly and relentlessly until very late in the race was a missed opportunity.
“But when his foes sought to destroy him rather than to debate him they found no scandals and no evidence of bad faith in his past. In the face of infuriating and scurrilous calumnies, he kept the sort of cool that the thin-skinned and painfully insecure incumbent cannot even feign during the unprogrammed give-and-take of an electoral debate.
“Kerry’s mettle has been tested under fire — the fire of real bullets and the political fire that will surely not abate but, rather, intensify if he is elected — and he has shown himself to be tough, resilient, and possessed of a properly Presidential dose of dignified authority. While Bush has pandered relentlessly to the narrowest urges of his base, Kerry has sought to appeal broadly to the American center.
“In a time of primitive partisanship, Kerry has exhibited a fundamentally undogmatic temperament. In campaigning for America’s mainstream restoration, Kerry has insisted that this election ought to be decided on the urgent issues of our moment, the issues that will define American life for the coming half century.
“That insistence is a measure of his character. He is plainly the better choice. As observers, reporters, and commentators we will hold him to the highest standards of honesty and performance. For now, as citizens, we hope for his victory” — New Yorker editors.
Xan Cassevettes, director of Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession, after last Monday’s Movie City News screening at the Pacific Design Center. MCN is holding a series of weekly screenings of possible/likely Oscar-worthy films and they’re open to all awards voters including AMPAS, SAG, WGA and BFCA members. I have a problem with the seating (there’s not enough leg room) at the PDC auditiorium, but it’s otherwise a very agreeable amtosphere for seeing films.
Some day, somehow, major-publication editors are going to give up and start spelling the word “internet” without that fucking capital “I.” However you want to define the worldwide web — an environment, a digital information delivery system, an intergalactic atmosphere — “internet” is a generic term like “highway” or “radio” or “television.” I got into the same kind of idiotic dispute with a writer at the Hollywood Reporter in the early ’80s who insisted that every time a mention was made of CDs that they be referred to as “Compact Disks.” (Or was it “Discs”?) I argued that this was like insisting that anyone writing an article about Michelin or Goodyear be required to write “Rubber Tire.”
New York magazine critic Peter Rainer√É¬≠s review of Alexander Payne’s Sideways is, to me, really quite beautiful. An exquisitely cut stone. Fully in tune with the film itself. I√É¬≠d like to see Ken Tucker, Rainer√É¬≠s recently-hired replacement, write something as good. Perhaps he will. Here’s hoping Rainer finds a new berth sometime soon…hopefully a berth with an editor who will respect his talents more than New York editor Adam Moss apparently does.
I haven’t been invited to see The Polar Express (Warner Bros., 11.10), the $200 million-plus, digitally groundbreaking, Christmas storybook flick made by director Bob Zemeckis and star-producer Tom Hanks, despite being invited to the product-reel, dog-and-pony show at the Warner lot a few weeks ago. I suppose there’s a reason for some concern now that Variety‘s David Rooney has called it The Bi-Polar Express and complained that the story doesn’t pay off particularly well. Along with an emerging view that the digitally-composed kids are “dead-eyed” and resemble the alien tykes from Village of the Damned. Plus David Poland declaring that “this thing is one of the most expensive films ever made, and it will not gross [back] its cost at the domestic box office.” All contributing to the basic consensus that November’s big animated feature isn’t The Polar Express but….drum roll….
Brad Bird’s The Incredibles (Disney/Pixar, 11.5)!! This animated comedy about a family of gone-to-seed superhero parents and their two kids, ducking their enemies under the Witness Protection Program but looking to get those old juices flowing again, is looking like a monster hit with all ages. A friend who went to an Academy screening on Monday, 10.25, said, “I loved it…it’s funny…people applauded the especially good parts…it runs about 115 minutes but feels like 80 or 90…and it’s a crowd-pleaser, a blockbuster…it’ll make $200 or $300 million.” I could’ve gone, but I went to the Tom Cruise tribute thing instead. Choices, choices.