How much do you want to bet that Don Scardino’s Lennon musical, due to open on Broadway on August 14th, will totally ignore the central point of John Lennon’s life? You’d have to figure anyone whose name ends with a vowel would probably get John Lennon wrong anyway, especially with Yoko Ono’s support and cooperation being part of the bargain, but the central point is this: the combustability and diamond-sharp edge in the creative output of any genius is often accompanied by personal unhappiness or chaos of one kind or another, and once this artist tries to bring order, mental positivism and serenity into his/her life as an end in itself, it usually means that his/her best work has already been produced. Most of the Pollyanna’s hate this viewpoint because it argues with their belief that positive outlooks are essential components, but it’s true. Once Lennon found personal happiness with Yoko Ono and withdrew into the Dakota and became a good father to Sean and all that domestic stuff, he was finished as a major artist. He was said to be “unhappy” when the Beatles first started to get rolling in ’63 until their breakup in ’69 or thereabouts, but he was at his creative peak all through most of this period. (Same point made by Orson Welles in The Third Man about the productivity of the tumultuous Italians vs. the ordered Swiss.) Art is not about being happy and serene.
All right, I’m sold…Lord of War (Lions Gate, 9.16), a snarky-attitude comedy about weapons dealers, is going to be a guilty pleasure. The trailer had me grinning from the get-go, and toying with the possibility that Andrew Niccol’s film is better than William Freidkin’s Deal of the Century (’83), which trod on the same turf. Nic Cage, Ethan Hawke, Jared “large wang” Leto and Bridget Moynahan are the leads in the newbie. The only thing that scares me is the fact that Niccol also directed Simone, which was the worst piece of shit Al Pacino’s ever been in. But seriously, the trailer is very cool. My favorite bit: a guy in a gray suit comes up to Cage, flashes his ID and says, “We’re with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.” And Cage wearily replies, “And this is not about the alcohol and tobacco.”
I haven’t seen Steven Greenstreet’s This Divided State yet, but it looks like a pretty good red-state-vs.-blue-state doc and we’re all into that, right? It’s opening at San Francisco’s Victoria theatre on 8.4 (wait a minute…isn’t that a Thursday?) and will open at New York City’s Quad on 8.19 and at the Fairfax on 9.9 and a lot of places in between. If anyone’s seen it and wants to throw me a review, please do. And it’s okay if you’re a red-state bubba and you think it’s crap or ungodly…just write it like you feel it.
This morning the Oscar Balloon nominees went into the news ticker. From now until early March of ’06, day in and day out you’ll be seeing those nominees clickety-clacking their way across the top of this column…all part of a new attention surge being devoted to this very serious competition by Hollywood Elsewhere…a competition that will have a decided effect upon the reputations, fates and income levels of many talented people over the next two or three or four years. I’ve also put in a click-down feature right under the main column logo that takes you right to the new updated Oscar Balloon box.
There are five or six reasons why Fernando Meirelles’ The Constant Gardener (Focus Features, 8.26) should immediately rank among film cognoscenti as one of the year’s absolute best, and two of them are the cinematography by Cesar Charlone, who also shot Meirelles’ City of God, and the editing by Claire Simpson, whose best work before this was for Oliver Stone’s Salvador and Robert Towne’s Without Limits. The photography has that fast, on-the-fly feeling and the cutting puts it all together magnificently. It’s all in the timing and the sense of jazzy-musical interplay, but there’s a world of difference between Charlone and Simpson’s work here and the irksome, too-frenetic, slow-it-down-for-Chrissake cutting of The Bourne Supremacy.
Hooray for the Toronto Globe and Mail‘s Leah McLaren for saying plainly what Jessica Simpson (and her brand of femininity) is all about. And especially for quoting Liisa Ladouceur, the music and pop culture critic for CBC, Eye Weekly and US magazine, as follows:
“It’s Janet Jackson’s fault,” [Landoucer] says. “Before her nipple thing, pop stars were getting skankier and skankier. Say what you want, at least Britney and Christina were pushing the boundaries of what we felt comfortable seeing our pop stars exhibit. Then the nipple popped out and America got scared. So instead we get Jessica Simpson, with her religious family values and her father in the background with a finger on the marketing dollar. The truth is, we’d rather have someone who’s stupid than truly sexual.”
MSNBC’s Eric Lundegaard has written an odd piece called “10 Sexy Movie Broads.” His definition of sexy is pretty good (“Sexy is balance…cool and hot at the same time…interest and disinterest”) but his selections are almost mind-blowing in their bizarre-itude. Sigourney Weaver is sexy when she’s in outer space (Alien, Galaxy Quest), sure…but her terra firma outings are debatable (they’ve certainly been spotty) and I don’t mean to be cruel but time does march on. Annabella Sciorra? Her sexy breakthrough, Lundegaard says, was playing Tony Soprano’s doomed girlfriend Gloria Trillo, an obsessive kamikaze who spoke with a charming Bayonne, New Jersey accent. That’s a very curious notion of a sexy woman, Eric! Cameron Diaz? I know Lundegaard has heard Diaz do her bouncy kid-like exuberance routine in interviews, and I know that he knows that women who go “uhhmm” and “aaaah-hah!” and “I am so…” more than three or four times during the delivery of a typical sentence (i.e., a thought) are not sexy because such expressions are a very strong indicator of diminished cranial capacity. Kelly Preston? An attractive woman and, I hear, a good soul, but somehow her offscreen domestic situation steers my head away from the notion of absolute live-wire sexiness (and Lundegaard knows what I’m talking about). Catherine Zeta Jones, the T-Mobile greed lady known for excellent inhabitings of users and manipulators? Angelina Jolie became especially sexy a couple of months ago when everyone read that news report about her making sounds like an animal being killed when she was having sex with Brad Pitt in that African bungalow, but she’s been leaving hints for years that she’s fundamentally insane and that she harbors a certain coldness…a kind of rage…deep down that probably clouds her innate sexiness a good deal of the time. Jessica Alba…? The only one I half-agree with is Salma Hayek. And none of them hold a candle to the thing that Anouk Aimee exuded in the ’60s and ’70s.
Okay, I think this settles it. Tim Onosko writes in, “I’d like to tell you that I’m 57 years old, and I heard the Aristocrats joke FORTY-EIGHT years ago, when I was ten. It was told to me and a group of similarly-aged kids, at a public swimming pool, by a pool attendant. There were few variations, but the version I remember had the audition in front of Ed Sullivan, not a talent agent, which would make sense, given the era. But the real question is why anyone would be telling that joke to a ten year-old kid. Still, it’s amazing. I never forgot that joke, and I’ve regaled a number of friends with it over the years.” Case closed.