I thought the same thing everyone else thought when I heard Ken Tucker is going back to Entertainment Weekly and giving up his New York magazine film critic gig. I thought, shit, give the job back to Peter Rainer, who was whacked last year to make room for Tucker.
Thank God someone shares my feelings about the Harry Potter franchise, which is that I’ve had it…want nothing more to do with wizards or Hogwarts or Robbie Coltrane…be gone. I didn’t even go to last Monday’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire all-media screening…even though I’m vaguely enticed by the idea of seeing Emma Watson again. MSNBC contributor Dave White calls this syndrome (one I’ve been suffering from since the summer of ’03) “Harry Potter fatigue”…whatever. Goblet of Fire opens 11.18, and we all need to look the other way.
All new things are a little awkward and off-balance at first and I’m not exactly a seasoned radio personality (and I don’t want to sound like some motor-mouth KABC talk-show hyena anyway), but this coming Sunday, 11.20, at 7 pm Pacific, “Elsewhere Live” — a new twice-weekly live internet movie talk forum — will launch. Airing every Sunday and Thursday at that hour, it’ll be an actual “live” thing. Click on the “Elsewhere Live” ad this Sunday and you’ll be able to listen in with Winamp or iTunes, and each segment will be saved and archived for anyone who wants to listen to the Podcast version later on. Here’s the cool part: a special vertical ad with a flashing red light bulb and an RKO Radio Pictures antenna flashing red signals will appear when the show is in progress, so anyone who drops by will know right off the top that a show is in progress. I’ll have James Mangold, director of Walk the Line, as my first big-name guest. I won’t have anyone screening calls, so if you want to get in touch and talk about something, send me an e-mail with your phone number and I’ll call you back as soon as I can. It’ll probably just last an hour, but I can go longer any time I want.
The Envelope is reporting that David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence is a possible early favorite to win the Best Picture award from the New York Film Critics Circle. “A veteran Oscar campaigner not involved with the film” says so, and so does NYFCC chairperson Thelma Adams. Adams hasn’t “snooped and made an early vote count”…oh…but she’s a big fan of A History of Violence and…what? I love the Cronenberg, but it’s not the film that Brokeback Mountain is…c’mon. And Capote is far more haunting and aromatic. And nobody’s seen The New World or Munich yet. I really don’t get it. Adams likes Violence, and she believes that the taste of the NYFCC — 85% male — skews “notor- iously gritty and guy-friendly” and…I don’t know what this means. I don’t think it means anything.
I’ve been asked to refrain from running my review of Stephen Gaghan’s Syriana (Warner Bros., 12.3) until 11.23, but Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers is running his because…he’s Peter Travers! We all know he gets quoted too often, and that he’s creamed over far too many mediocre films, but I agree with Travers all the way this time. “Written and directed in a fever of risk-taking provocation, [Syriana] takes off with the lightning speed of a thriller, the gonzo force of frontline journalism and the emotional wallop of a drama that puts a human face on shocking statistics,” he proclaims. “No dry civics lesson, this fighting-mad film isn’t just hot, it’s incendiary…and no one gets off the hook. You see Syriana with the exhilarating feeling that a movie can make a difference. The first surprise is George Clooney. Bearded and bloated from the thirty-five pounds he packed on to play CIA opreative Fred Barnes, he gives us a ground soldier who’s been used and used up by the CIA’s war on Middle East terrorism. Here is a man, struggling to put his son through college, who can order the assassination of Prince Nasir (the superb Alexander Siddig) for favoring China over the U.S. in an oil deal (‘Hit him with a truck going fifty miles per hour’), stand up to fingernail-yanking torture from former operatives and still be amazed when the Firm plays him for a patsy. This is the best acting Clooney has ever done — he’s hypnotic, haunting and quietly devastating. [And] Gaghan is in top form, mixing potent writing with images that tear at the heart, such as the sight at the madrassa of a Pakistani migrant worker (Mazhar Munir) — both he and his father are laid off by Connex after Nasir’s deal with the Chinese — being indoctrinated into Islamic fundamentalism. Syriana is a tough nut that demands attention, refuses to ingratiate and keeps throwing curves…it’s the kind of give-’em-hell filmmaking that Hollywood left for dead, the kind that matters.”
Here comes the gay Superman movie…whoops, sorry…that just slipped out. It’s the lavender-red bikini briefs worn by Brandon Roush more than anything else. Sorry, but they’ve always looked a little bit West Hollywood gay bar-ish, which sort of argues with the standard notion of Superman/Clark Kent being a kind of a big-hearted dork from the Middle-American heartland. And I don’t care about the Superman saga either. Lex Luthor, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White…I’m sick of all of ’em. This movie is a metaphor for Hollywood’s cancer of the imagination.
Fifteen documentaries have accumulated enough points with the Academy’s selection committee to be considered semi-finalists, and Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man doesn’t make the cut? Uhhhm… it’s only one of the finest films of the year. I’m also a big fan of Michael Tucker’s Gunner Palace and that didn’t make it either, although Occupation: Dreamland, another U.S.-grunts-in-Iraq doc, did. The other fourteen finalists: After Innocence, The Boys of Baraka, Darwin’s Nightmare, The Devil and Daniel Johnston, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Favela Rising, Mad Hot Ballroom, March of the Penguins, Murderball, On Native Soil: The Documentary of the 9/11 Commission Report, Rize, Street Fight, 39 Pounds of Love and Unknown White Male. Another superb doc that didn’t get in because of a foreign-TV-airing mishegoss: Eugene Jarecki’s Why We Fight.
Terrence Howard killed in Hustle & Flow. This alone warrants a Best Actor nomination. He was easily the best thing in Get Rich or Die Tryin’…he raised the energy levels in the third act. He gave one of the best performances in Crash…right up there with Matt Dillon and Don Cheadle. He was first-rate and fully invested in his detective role in the likable if not stallar Four Brothers, and I didn’t even see Lackawanna Blues. This has really been his year and…well, I trust the SAG membership isn’t thinking about blowing him off. He may not win, but he’s at least assured of a Best Actor nomination against Capote‘s Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Brokeback Mountain‘s Heath Ledger…right?
Movie City News columnist Kristopher Tapley has included two whoppers in his just-posted article about the dearth of suitable Best Actress contenders. Fantasy #1: Apart from Mrs. Henderson Presents star Judi Dench and Walk The Line‘s Reese Witherspoon, the only other person Tapley would “put money on is Ziyi Zhang in Memoirs of a Geisha.” The 26 year-old Chinese actress, he says, “really comes into her own opposite Gong Li and Michelle Yeoh in one of the only satisfying films of the awards season thus far.” The other concerns Keira Knightley. Tapley says buzz is building for this pretty but talentless attitude actress due to “stellar reviews flooding in for the Jane Austen adaptation, Pride & Prejudice….[and] she’s got October release Domino keeping her on radar this year as well.” It feels good to pat people on the back and all, but these claims are pure needle-in-the-arm, Tom O’Neill- level fantasies.