So what about Rachel Weicz deserving a Best Suppporting Actress nom for her work in The Constant Gardener? Right up there with In Her Shoes‘ Shirley MacLaine, Match Point‘s Scarlett Johannson, The Family Stone‘s Diane Keaton, Junebug‘s Amy Adams, et. al. And who except a total Producers water-carrier would seriously put forward Uma Thurman’s performance as any kind of competitor? Playing a dumb-blonde sex poodle in a broad, brassy comedy-musical…? C’mon!
Gold Derby’s Tom O’Neill, writing on the L.A.Times-owned site “The Envelope,” is projecting Peter Jackson’s King Kong as a credible Oscar nominee for Best Picture because director-writer Peter Jackson has taken three hours to “flesh out the love story between Naomi Watts and Adrien Brody” and “expand the psychological complexity of the movie’s lead characters, thus giving them more substance, while also fleshing out the plot so it can better explore the theme of commercial man exploiting innocent beast.” Uh-huh…and the 100-minute 1933 original didn’t address this theme sufficiently?
It’s not just me any more. New York Press critic Armond White has stood up and strongly praised Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat, which recently came out on a Fox Home Video DVD. Lifeboat shows Hitchcock using “suspense tactics to reveal spiritual and philosophical mystery, [and] thus achieves profundity akin to The Birds. Hitchcock’s famous toying with psychological dread [in this film] has a complexity that also speaks to the present political moment. Contemporary critics feel no relation to John Steinbeck’s story, to judge by the DVD’s recent reviews; they simply dismiss it as WWII sentimentality. [But] Lifeboat deals with moral and sexual compulsion no less effectively than Vertigo. Hitchcock looks deeply into the circumstances of human crisis and creates in your mind (before your eyes) the essence of their terror, passion, vitality and horror. The reason Godard called Hitchcock ‘the greatest poet among us’ was to point out this gift for imagining the depth of human experience in the most deceptively simple, ‘popular’ ways. Between silent Griffith and Spielberg/DePalma, Hitchcock stands as the finest exemplar of genre filmmaking. But actually, his best films transcend genre and become strangely poetic visions”.
An interesting coincidence that the three biggest take-down movies of the holiday season — The Producers, King Kong and Munich — are all Universal releases. Did I just say that? I just know that prior to every holiday season a journo consensus forms about which of the big hoo-hahs are cruisin’ for a bruisin’ in the biggest, most self-aggrandizing way…movies coming in with such high expectations that’s probably a good idea to smack them down on general principle. I don’t want to hate anything or anyone, but if I had to predict which of the Big Three will give forward-thinking moviegoers the most difficulty, I would have to presume The Producers, closely followed by King Kong. I’ll be surprised if Munich is a problem on its own terms, but the teaser trailer (see item below) suggest that expectations are way overblown.
Has the big emotional fight scene between Anthony Rapp’s Mark and Adam Pascal’s Roger, one of the big emotional highlights of the Rent stage show, been cut from the Chris Columbus film? Rent has begun screening and there are issues…people having trouble with this and that…the staging of certain numbers, the infamous Columbus sugar-touch. Wait, there are good things. Rosario Dawson handles the singing and dancing pretty well. Pascal holds his own. Some of it works. Is it commonly known that Sarah Silverman has a brief, comedic, non-singing role? She told me so yesterday during our Boston interview. Her character is called Alexi Bright.
Saturday morning and the Munich trailer…er, teaser…is up. No surprises, no oddities…precisely the focus and tone anyone who’s been following this project might expect. Impressions can be misleading, but the teaser is telling us that Munich will totally adhere to the mode of a typical hard-wired procedural about some Israelis agents killing Palestinians and then feeling guilty about it. A hard-wired procedural directed by a relentlessly praised, obeisance-before-power, affluent-bubble-dwelling, 58 year-old director named Steven Spielberg. A teaser is obviously its own thing, and usually bears a catch-as-catch-can relationship to the film it’s selling…at best. But even with this acknowledgment, I’m starting to feel what this film (probably) is…I can feel the radio-antennae vibrations from the raised hairs on the back of my neck. The fact that the teaser starts off front-and-center with clips from Jim McKay’s “Wide World of Sports” coverage of the Munich tragedy speaks volumes about the apparent sensibility behind the film. (McKay’s Munich coverage is legendary, and therefore the most generic, least-imaginative, what-else-is-new? way to pass along what happened there.) I’m telling you…I’m telling Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea….that while Munich may turn out to be good or thrilling or rich in morality, the whole “wait for Munich….this is the big one…Oscar, Oscar!” drumbeat is based on little more than a generic kneejerk Spielberg kowtow. (There is also, to some extent, the Jewish-entertainment- journalists-who-want-to-see-Israel-kick-ass factor.) Watch the teaser and explain to me how it makes Munich look even a little bit challenging or startling..a bringer-of-the-next-thing aesthetic. It looks like a guilty license-to-kill so-whatter. A decent man with a family (Eric Bana in a ’70s haircut with sideburns) accepts the charge of Israel’s Mossad (his “M” is played by Geoffrey Rush) to lead a team of four (including a guy played by Daniel “007” Craig) to assassinate the Palestinian perpetrators of the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre of Israeli athletes. Ohhh, we have to do this for justice’s sake but I feel a little bit bad. Ohhh, mistakes are being made and innocent people are being killed along with the terrorists. Ohhh no…was that a little girl’s voice? Ohhh, I hope my daughter still loves me after the mission is accomplished. Am I a good man or a bad man? Honey, did you leave some pasta in the refrigerator that I can put into the microwave when I come home at 3:30 ayem? Ohhh, what a holiday muddle.