Just wrote a piece about how Mike Binder‘s Man About Town, which screened at Santa Barbara’s Arlington theatre Tuesday night, played cooler and funnier than I remember after sitting alone in a living room and watching an unfinished version of it on DVD two or three months ago. I’m a proponent of the late Peter Ustinov’s idea that comedy and tragedy should always be mixed together, alogn with Christopher Fry’s observation that “in tragedy every moment is eternity; in comedy, eternity is a moment.” I guess this makes me a sucker on some level for Binder’s tragi-comic sense of humor, but to my surprise the audience went for it even more than I and laughed at all the right places. I heard only one diss at the after-party. (Three people who were there last night told me they think it’s better than Binder’s The Upside of Anger.) I loved the unreal anarchic way that Binder throws grief at his lead character, a Beverly Hills literary agent played by Ben Affleck. Distributors may have issues about this and that and it may run into some trouble with a portion of the critics, but last night told me that Man About Town definitely plays with a crowd. (The well-heeled Santa Barbara kind, at least.) In any event, I had the piece written with photos and everything, but I wrote it on Movable Type and didn’t save it as I was going along, and the damn thing crashed on me five minutes ago.
Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (Columbia, 10.13) won’t be treading in the footsteps of Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon or Andrzej Wajda’s Danton, if the trailer is a half-honest indicator. Emphasizing the notion that Coppola’s film will be a “stylized” take on Antoinette’s life, the trailer is scored with a song by New Order called “Age of Consent.” Does this mean the whole of Antoinette is going to be scored like A Knight’s Tale and basically be a piece of historical fluff aimed at the women of taste, education and breeding who read Cosmopolitan? I can feel loathing building for this thing already. Coppola’s screenplay is based on Lady Antonia Fraser’s “Marie Antoinette: The Journey,” which I haven’t gotten around to, but the impression is that it’ll basically be a girl movie about what a fun-filled erotic dream palace Versailles was in the 1780s, and how Ms. Antoinette was basically the Paris Hilton of her day. One of the main reasons people went to House of Wax was to see Hilton get killed, and I don’t think I’m alone in saying there will be severe disappointment if Coppola’s fantasist-protagonist, played by Kirsten Dunst, doesn’t get her head cut off at the end…and I really want to see the head falling into the basket, please. (Like in the beheading scenes in the Wajda film…sticky blood soaking the cobblestones.) But I’m a bit worried about this prospect because the trailer doesn’t contain noticable hint of that pesky French revolution brewing outside the gates. Dunst’s costars are Jason Schwartzman (as King Louis XVI), Rip Torn (King Louis XV), Judy Davis (Comtesse de Noailles), plus Asia Argento, Marianne Faithfull, Steve Coogan, Shirley Henderson, et. al.
The middle-aged machismo clock has struck twelve for Harrison Ford, 63. I’m sorry to say this, but you can tell in the trailer that Ford has gotten too old to be playing that same late 40ish-early 50ish guy — older but studly and physically trim — he’s been in film after film since Clear and Present Danger. He looks his age and then some in Firewall (Warner Bros., 2.10), and you just don’t believe that a guy with a military-style haircut with white sidewalls and a kind of imperceptibly bent-over walk who basically looks like Uncle Festus from Bakersfield would have a teenaged daughter and a 10 year-old son with a 42 year-old wife (Virginia Madsen). Audiences may decide this doesn’t get in the way of the film (which is pretty good by the way…review coming this Friday), but Ford’s appearance keeps intruding into your consciousness as you watch it. There’s a rugged fight sequence that Ford performs with a younger costar near the end, but you can’t help think while watching it, “Could a guy this old, even if he works out like a Marine every day, really keep up against a guy 30 years younger in a knockdown brawl like this?” At a certain point movie stars known for their cool, panther-like machismo have to face up to the calendar and think about playing their age. (And no, this doesnt invalidate my idea about Ford and Steven Spielberg totally ignoring his age factor in the forthcoming Indy 4 flick and having him do the same grueling physical stuff he did in Raiders of the Lost Ark because it would be a good running joke if they did that.)
The second of its kind to be acquired by Paramount Classics, White Planet is an animals-struggling-to survive-in-a-barren-white- wilderness movie. Just because it sounds like a Penguins wannabe doc doesn’t mean it necessarily is. We all know life is rarely a day at the beach, and here are two films — White Planet and The Call of the North — reiterating this emphatically and at the same time stressing the importance of good parenting.
This 2.7 New York Times story about detective Anthony Pellicano‘s latest difficulties with the law (i.e., prosecutors have hit him with a 110-count indictment accusing Pellicano of racketeering and conspiracy, wiretapping, identity theft, witness tampering, and destruction of evidence) says he “masterminded a sprawling wiretapping ring that helped his clients gain an advantage in disputes with opponents including actors, reporters and talent managers.” Uhm, yeah, I know…my phone was tapped by Pellicano (or one of his guys) in the summer of 1993 not long after my Last Action Hero dustup. I don’t know who hired him to do this, but it was a little chilling and I was ticked off at the time,. Amd yet looking back it all seems mildly amusing, like an episode of Mission Impossible. That aside, I’ve come to an opinion about Pellicano, which is that he’s a decent guy. He helped me with some research for an article a couple of years ago, and it made my work easier and the piece ultimately better. I believe in turning pages and moving on to new chapters. He who lives by the sword will die by the sword, etc., but by doing me a favor in ’03 I think Pellicano was making amends on some level for what happened ten years earlier. I think we both kind of knew that, and I felt a kind of symmetry from this.
Putting aside the curious matter of James Cameron‘s Battle Angel, which Cameron said last September would be rolling by early ’06 but which he didn’t even briefly mention during an on-stage interview in Santa Barbara the night before last (Monday, 1.6), it’s been revealed in a Business Week piece that Cameron is working on a screenplay called Project 880, which he describes as a piece of “completely crazy, balls-out sci-fi.” If it gets made, Cameron intends it to be a video experience first and a movie second. The article said it would be a “unique interactive experience” that “will be preceded by the opening of a massively multiplayer online RPG √¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢√É‚Äû√É¬Æ a video game in which thousands of Internet-connected players simultaneously interact, compete, and cooperate….before seeing the film at the theater.”
Grizzly Man director Werner Herzog seems to have a knack for encountering (or is it attracting?) a certain odd chaotic energy in Los Angeles. First he came across Joaquin Pheonix in his rolled-over car and helped him get out of the car and get to his feet, only to disappear into the night. Then last week (i.e., apparently within the last few days) he was shot in the lower abdomen with an air rifle pellet while doing a video interview with a BBC Two’s “Culture Show” host Mark Kermode. Here’s Kermode’s video piece. First you see the shooting happen with Herzog flinching in response to the crack of rifle fire and asking Kermode, “What was that?” (Kermode told Slash Film’s Maria Belilovskaya for a story filed on 2.6 that Herzog said “as if it was the most normal thing in the world, ‘Oh, someone is shooting at us. We must go.'”) Later Herzog shows his wound to Kermode’s camera and he’s not only bleeding, and bravely nonchalant about it. “It was not a significant bullet, and I’m not afraid…I’m not afraid of anything,” he tells Kermode. “The poet must not avert his eyes. You have to talk a bold look at your environment, at what is around you…even the decadent things, even the dangerous things. Danger is out there, but so what? I’ve done good battle. I’ve been a good soldier…a good soldier of cinema. And that’s what I want to be.”