“Jarhead has more in common with Beckett, Sartre and Banuel than it does with Oliver Stone,” in the view of director Sam Mendes. “In America, they assumed I was trying to make an Oliver Stone movie and that I’d failed.” I don’t think that was the problem. The problem was that nothing really happened. Not to sound too primitive, but that was it.
The 21st Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which runs from February 2nd to 12th, will kick off with Oscar-winner Robert Towne‘s Ask The Dust starring Salma Hayek and Colin Farrell and finish with Jason Reitman‘s very sharp and funny Thank You For Smoking with Aaron Eckhardt, Maria Bello, Katie Holmes,Rob Lowe, William H. Macy and Robert Duvall. I don’t recognize the films yet, but there will be discussions with and tributes paid to Towne, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Heath Ledger, Felicity Huffman, Maria Bello and Naomi Watts. The festival will also present the second annual “Attenborough Award for Excellence in Nature Filmmaking” to director James Cameron (who?…wait a minute…didn’t he direct something about eight or nine years ago…?).
Reader Mike Gebert just wrote and said, “The Oscars could be hosted by Jenna Jameson for all I care, but if the Best Picture nominees are Capote, Brokeback Mountain, Crash, Good Night and Good Luck and Munich, then haven’t the Oscars basically become the Independent Spirit Awards and completely severed any ties with the main American moviegoing public?” And I replied, “First of all, Munich probably won’t make it. But otherwise…hello?…Brokeback Mountain is on its way to becoming a sizable popular hit (it hasn’t even begun to be seen by mainstream America), and Crash connected very nicely before going to DVD. And Capote, thank goodness, will now be seen by more people as a result of its likely Oscar nomination for Best Picture. Oscar winners have been huge financial hits in the past, but those days are pretty much over because the big studios have all but taken themselves out of the Oscar-contending game. Are you suggesting that the finalists should be picked from among the biggest moneymakers? It’s an old analogy of mine, but as movieogers we all live in a Planet of the Apes nation with movies for the smart chimps and movies for the gorillas. You know this, and yet you say it’s disappointing that there aren’t more gorilla movies among the likely Best Picture nods? The days of big-studio movies like Gone With the Wind, The Best Years of Our Lives, The Bridge on the River Kwai, My Fair Lady amd The Godfather are over…but the era of Very Good and In Some Cases Emotionally Riveting Films like the ones that are likely to be nominated is now upon us…and that’s that. I’m not saying it would be impossible for a big studio to finance a Gone With the Wind or Bridge on the River Kwai or The Godfather these days, but obviously those days have all but slipped away. You know it, I know it…get used to it.”
Obviously the best thing about this teaser-trailer for M:I:3 (Mission: Impossible III for those who aren’t into the brevity thing) is Phillip Seymour Hoffman‘s acting in the opening seconds of it. He takes some ordinary bad-guy-threatening-the-good-guy dialogue and really makes it sing. You believe him emotionally, and he puts some great English on the final line — “Then I’m going to kill you right in front of her.” Great actor! And the worst thing about it is Ving Rhames embracing star Tom Cruise at the very end and saying, “Welcome back, brother!” Of course, the overwhelming sentiment about Cruise in Ticket-Buying Land right now is one of concern for his emotional stability, if not pity for what he did to himself last year. So dub over that final line and have Rhames say instead, “Meds are workin’, brother!”
The Paul Haggis surge with this morning’s DGA nomination (on top of the surge for Crash with the recent SAG and Producers Guild noms) is the big story of the morning, and let’s give credit where credit is due. MCN’s Gurus of Gold is about predicting popular industry support, and no one voted for Haggis except for Maxim critic and industry gadfly Pete Hammond. In fact, if it weren’t Hammond’s vote (he listed Haggis as #3 among his five most-likely Best Director nominees) Haggis wouldn’t be on the Gurus of Gold countdown at all. All of these journo know-it-alls (myself included) totally blanked him.
Was I wrong about Munich‘s strength or is this just some corroded political DGA thing? Steven Spielberg has nabbed one of the five Best Director nominations from the Directors Guild of America, and David Poland, one of Munich‘s most die-hard supporters, is now apparently of two minds. Today’s Hot Button is obviously a limited Munich pullback piece on one level, but he also says, incredibly, that “I still believe in my gut that if Munich gets nominated, the month following nominations will see enough people lining up behind the film in this good-not-Oscar-great season for it to win the Oscar.” The reason I believe Poland to be the ultimate Japanese-soldier-holding-out-in-a-cave- in-Okinawa is that I keep hearing there’s no sizable support for Munich among the guilds, so if you ask me (and I’m not the only one) this is just about directors kissing Spielberg’s ass for giving a lot of people a lot of work over the years. The other four DGA nominees (and congratulations to them all) are Capote‘s Bennett Miller (that’s it…Capote is a flat-out Best Picture lock) Brokeback Mountain‘s Ang Lee, George Clooney for Good Night, and Good Luck and Crash‘s Paul Haggis — the beneficiary of the biggest sentiment surge. The DGA winner and the Oscar-winner for Best Director have been the same in 51 of the last 57 years.
I’ve listened and considered and poked at the ground with a stick, and I think I understand what the Jon-Stewart-hosting-the- Oscar-show deal is going to be. The Blue Staters love his tweaky irreverence and are looking very much forward to his wicked bons mots, and the Reds aren’t into him as much (a guy wrote me claiming that people between the coasts and outside the cities don’t even know who he is) and won’t watch as much as they would if someone they felt more comfortable with had been chosen to host. Am I suggesting that the Academy release photos of Stewart waiting in line at a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise while wearing a T-shirt and a baseball hat? Fuck no. But the ratings, I fear, will not…naaah, maybe not. I don’t care about the Oscar show ratings anway. Let ’em fall…what do we care? And besides, as the New York Times “Carpetbagger” David Carr has written, “Mr. Stewart is an enemy of convention, of industrial folkways, of the mannered back-slapping of the entertainment business. Joaquin Phoenix won’t be the only one walking the line on Oscar night.”
Following this morning’s Screen Actors Guild nominations, it’s looking more and more like the four Best Picture locks with the Academy are going to be Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Crash and Good Night, and Good Luck…because these four were nominated (along with the somewhat startling entry of Hustle and Flow…go Terrence Howard, Craig Brewer and Taraji P. Henson!) for the Best Ensemble Cast category — SAG’s equivalent of the Oscar for Best Picture. The likelihood factor kicks in when you consider that these same four films were nominated yesterday by the Producer’s Guild for their Daryl F. Zanuck award. I’m guessing that Walk the Line will nudge out Hustle & Flow…but who knows?
In any event, the Capote team can finally start to exhale — director Bennett Miller, screenwriter Dan Futterman, star-producer Philip Seymour Hoffman. George Clooney and his Good Night team can also, I think, give themselves a premature pat on the back for having (apparently, most likely) made the cut, and ditto Lion’s Gate and the Crash director-writer Paul Haggis and co-writer Bobby Moresco. I’m not congratulating the Brokeback Mountain gang because their film has been locked for a Best Picture nom (and let’s face it, seems headed right now for an almost certain victory in early March) for a good two or three weeks, and you, me and every senior citizen and 16 year-old kid between Guerneville, California, and Newton, Massachucetts, knows it. And oh yeah, no nominations of any kind for poor Munich…again. I want to be gracious about this, but if those who were claiming in October and November that Munich is the presumptive Best Picture winner want to issue their recants and mea culpas, now might be the time. It’s up to them, of course.