The new Hollywood issue of Vanity Fair is on the stands and the cover, shot by fashion guru Tom Ford, features a buck-naked Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johansson posing with Ford himself. An MSNBC news story says that Johansson’s pear-shaped buttocks are fully viewable in the cover’s fold-out portion. Angelina Jolie is reportedly also bare-assed in the issue, posing in a bathtub. Here’s a B-roll video of the photo shoot, which happened Nov. 11 in Manhattan.
Anthony Breznican‘s 2.6 piece in USA Today says that Kevin Smith‘s Clerks II, which will hit theatres in the fall, “is so audaciously raunchy — one scene is sure to challenge the squeamishness of even the most ardent gross-out comedy fan — that Smith says the film may ultimately make its debut unrated, even if that restricts its availability at some theaters.” He quotes Smith as saying that “in terms of the edginess of the humor, I don’t think we’ve ever gone this far before. People who are really critical of us and dismiss us for making (dirty-joke) pictures: They’re right, they’re not wrong. But at the same time, that’s not all we do.”
I wrote a column last July complaining about Fox Home Video having failed to put out a DVD of Lamont Johnson‘s near-great, largely unsung The Last American Hero, a moonshine-smuggling and race-car movie with Jeff Bridges, out on DVD. And now, almost seven months later, Fox Home Video has put it out on DVD. Pauline Kael loved this film, and Johnson (whom I called last summer) is alive and well and with a lot of stories to tell, so of course, naturally, FHV has put out a bare-bones DVD without any kind of making-of doc or a commentary track from Johnson or Bridges. (I told Bridges about the release of the Hero DVD last weekend prior to the screening of the Harry Nilsson doc, and he didn’t even know about it.) The Last American Hero “was the only high-velocity ’70s redneck film that was any good, and it wasn’t even a redneck film,” I wrote on 7.15. “It was a scrappy piece of backwoods Americana about a young guy on the wrong side of the law who went on to become a famous stock-car racer, a movie that was actually loved by critics and was also an unfortunate financial disaster. For me, this is the super-daddy of redneck movies, the one that got it right with unaffected realism and a kind of dignity by not dealing in the usual cliches and showing respect for its characters, and by being intelligent and tough and vivid with fine acting. Hero was loosely based on Tom Wolfe’s legendary 1965 Esquire article about one-time moonshine smuggler and stock-car racer Junior Johnson. Wolfe’s piece was called “The Last American Hero is Junior Johnson. Yes!” As movies steeped in rural southern culture go, The Last American Hero had roughly the same levels of honesty and sincerity as Coal Miner’s Daughter, which came out in 1980.” Read the Wolfe article, and please, please buy or rent the DVD. (I’m more than a little surprised that none of the leading DVD sites and columnists are even mentioning it, much less reviewing or recommending it. The New York Times‘ usually on-top-of-it DVD columnist Dave Kehr has ignored it entirely, or did in today’s column at least. And you can’t even find the Hero DVD when you do a search on www.dvdtalk.com)
I’ve been a Crash fan all along, but I was impressed and taken aback, even, at how incisively New York Times critic Manohla Dargis, writing in a reader q & a column, has explained why the Academy loves this film as much as they do. “First, Los Angeles, where most of Academy members live, is a profoundly segregated city,” she writes, “so any movie that makes it seem like its white, black, Asian and Latino inhabitants are constantly tripping over one another has appeal. If nothing else it makes Los Angeles seem as cosmopolitan as, well, New York or at least the Upper West Side. Second, no matter how many times the camera picks out Oprah Winfrey on Oscar night, the Academy is super white. Third, the Academy is, at least in general terms, socially liberal. You see where I’m going, right? What could better soothe the troubled brow of the Academy’s collective white conscious than a movie that says sometimes black men really are muggers (so don’t worry if you engage in racial profiling); your Latina maid really, really loves you (so don’t worry about paying her less than minimum wage); even white racists (even white racist cops) can love their black brothers or at least their hot black sisters; and all answers are basically simple, so don’t even think about politics, policy, the lingering effects of Proposition 13 and Governor Arnold. This is a consummate Hollywood fantasy, no matter how nominally independent the financing and release. I also think it helped the film’s cause that its distributor sent out more than 130,000 DVD’s to the industry, insuring easy viewing.”
Here’s another Dargis riff (from the same column) that got to me, this time about why she likes Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain: “I’ve almost always liked Ledger, but I didn’t think he had anything going on as an actor until Monster’s Ball. But while he was amazing for the 10 seconds he was in that film, I wasn’t prepared for Brokeback, where he creates a world of pain with a tight mouth and a body so terribly self-contained it’s a wonder he can wrap his arms around another person. But here’s the thing — and this is the part that’s hard to explain √¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢√É‚Äû√É¬¨- I don’t just admire the performance on the level of craft, I am also deeply moved by it, just as I am by the film.”
Two days ago (on Sunday, 2.5), Variety posted a Nicole LaPorte piece that went after internet news and gossip sites (she named Defamer, David Poland‘s Movie City News, MediaBistro.com’s “FishBowlLA” and Zap2It.com) running unconfirmed, un-fact-checked, apparently untrue scuttlebutt about two alleged developments — (a) Universal’s Stacey Snider looking to bail on her job and take a top post at Paramount, with Par’s president Gail Berman getting whacked to make room for her, and (b) ICM and Endeavor looking to merge. Poland’s response has been to note that LaPorte’s story “fails to report the many times that Movie City News has scooped Variety while falsely associating MCN standards [in her piece] with those of self-labeled gossip site Defamer” and to note that despite the touting fact-checking she “failed to contact [MCN] before making self-serving proclamations.” Anyway, that happened last weekend and yesterday. And now here’s another good retort by MCN’s “The Reeler.”