In this Time Richard Corliss piece about the battle between celluloid and digital photography, director Michael Mann (Collateral, Heat) argues that digital is “capable of a chromatic subtlety that film can’t match.” Collateral, Mann claims, was “the first photo-real use of digital…[and] in the nightscapes in Collateral, you’re seeing buildings a mile away. You’re seeing clouds in the sky four or five miles away. On film that would all just be black.” Mann used the same digital process to shoot his big-screen version of Miami Vice with Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx.
MSNBC’s Dave White giving props to actress Vera Farmiga for “making them all finally pay attention. I had no idea who Farmiga was until [I saw] Down to the Bone where she played a deadpan drug mom, struggling to keep both food on the table and sober, only to lose her job by admitting that her performance at her grocery clerk√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢√É‚Äû√É¬¥s job was enhanced by cocaine. And she’s got a clear-eyed resolve that Anthony Minghella and Martin Scorsese both must have noticed because she’s about to work with both of them.” No biggie, but what White really means is that Farmiga has already worked with Scorsese on The Departed and with Minghella on Breaking and Entering, and that both will open later this year.
An excellent defense of V for Vendtta by David Poland in his Hot Button column. “V for Vendetta is, simply, a wake-up call. The film is not about terrorism, though it is about terror. The film is not about threatening civilians to make a political point in any way. It is about threatening a state that has lost control of itself, absolutely corrupted by absolute control. But for control to be absolute, the people must remain asleep. It is, perhaps, instructive that the extreme right wing — which I never realized had a representative in Newsweek‘s Jeff Giles — feels compelled to pull out all kinds of rhetoric to kill the movie.”
A journalist doing a story about the possible fading of IMAX says he’s spoken with solid tech-industry sources (Dolby, Tehnicolor, IT Access, In Three, etc.) and they all seem to believe that the rollout of digital and 3-D digital projection in the big theatre chains is imminent. So do I think that this digital rollout will render IMAX obsolete? I replied, “Not to get all primitive on you, but there’s something extremely cool and oh-wow about watching a movie on that huge friggin’ screen. Digital and 3-D digital in regular theatres sounds fantastic and bring it on, but typical theatre screens are…what?…10 or 12 feet tall? The IMAX screen is 40 or 50 feet tall, and that’s big. It’s been years since I was 12 years old, but I’m telling you (and I can’t emphasize this strongly enough) that simple grandeur matters.”
Columnist Alan Lopuszynski agrees with my just-posted WIRED observation about the girl-on-girl subtext in the Wachowski movies, but adds, “No need to stop at Bound and V for Vendetta, really…what about the entire world of The Matrix, in which androgynous freedom fighters strive to awaken from a fantasy world in which everything they know is a lie? Where ruthless, society-controlling agents (hmmm…who are all men) try to force the ‘we just want to live our lives the way we want’ rebels into ‘normal’ lives of acceptance? What about the perponderance of fetish gear? I’ll tell you, when news Larry’s red-pill lifestyle broke between Matrix and Matrix Reloaded, a lot of the more confusing motivations of that entire franchise became very clear indeed.”
I’m sorry, but those Michael Douglas quotes about Brangelina, Renee Zellweger and Julia Roberts in the April issue of GQ are funny. Funny in the sense that Douglas is apparently getting into that Shirley Maclaine mode…i.e., a celebrity who’s done it all and is tired of playing the game and has adopted a come-what- may-but-I’m-gonna-say-what-I-think attitude, and if certain people don’t like this, too bad. “I don’t know about Brad Pitt leaving that beautiful wife to go hold orphans for Angelina [Jolie]…I mean, how long is that going to last?” Douglas said. “[And] don’t ask me what happened with Renee Zellweger (turning on a dime and annulling her marriage to country singer Kenny Chesny). I don’t know how you get married for four months. And Julia [Roberts] with Lyle [Lovett].”
Diallo Tyson of Woodbine, Georgia, happened to see John Milius‘s Red Dawn (1984) the other night, and was struck by the parallels between how the Wolverines (Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Charlie Sheen, et. al.) respond to the Russian/Cuban invaders of the U.S.A., and how those no-good Iraqi resistance guys have been responding to the U.S. invaders since ’03. And how both have vague echoes in the Wachowski’s V for Vendetta. Red Dawn‘s Wolverines, says Tyson, are “a band of insurgents determined to fight and get their country back. They steal munitions, blow up envoys, set up ambushes, and other general terrorist activities. They don’t really succeed in the end but they put up one hell of a fight. When Dawn was first released, it was described as a piece of right-wing jingoistic-patriotic schlock. But when I was a kid I loved it. You wanted the Wolverines to kick some Russo-Cuban butt, and I know I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. I’ve just mentioned it because this reminded me of some of the criticism V For Vendetta has been getting. I believe you ran a recent quote from someone saying in effect, ‘How can we cheer for a guy in a mask who is a terrorist?’ Well, we’ve cheered for terrorists before….obviously a lot can change in 22 years.” The notion of Wolverines as terrorists (which of course they are, albeit sympathetically portrayed) carries a double irony in that the effort to capture Saddam Hussein in Iraq was called Operation Red Dawn, and, according to Wikipedia, the name came from an American commander, Col. James Hickey, who “was a fan of the Milius film.” He also dubbed the military units who actually captured Hussein ‘Wolverine One’ and ‘Wolverine Two’ after the fictional Wolverines unit in Red Dawn.” I trust the ironies have sufficiently sunk in and I don’t have to trot out the old chesnut, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” (I called Milius three times about this yesterday, explaining the gist of my journalistic interest in one of my phone messages, and he never got back…which isn’t like him. He knows me, we’ve spoken over the years, etc.)
Call this invasive prying, but all art is personal and if you can’t stand the heat don’t pick up the paint brush. I’m referring to the obvious echoes of Larry Wachowski‘s transgender personal life in his and brother Andy’s V for Vendetta (Warner Bros., 3.17), as well as Bound, the Wachowski’s 1996 crime drama. Both deal with passionate love affairs between women, and given that Larry, who’s been a woman for the last two or three years, has been paired with a dominatrix namd Karen Winslow (a.k.a., Ilsa Strix) and…well, it’s fairly obvious. And yet there seems to be some kind of p.c. embargo about discussing the girl-on-girl subtext in the Wachowski gallery. As I understand the rules, it’s permissible to tough upon Alfred Hitchcock’s passion for icy blondes and his real-life thing for Tippi Hedren in a past-tense context, but discussing the Wachowski-lezzie angle in the present tense is a no-no…got it.
“Spike Lee’s Inside Man, a crime drama, is nothing short of brilliant,” critic Emanuel Levy has written. “It’s also one of the two or three best films he has made in his 20-year career, along with Do the Right Thing and He Got Game. At once celebrating, deconstructing and surpassing the heist films and police corruption movies of the 1970s, Lee joins forced with producer Brian Grazer to craft a pressure-cooker thriller. After making many social commentary films, such as Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, Jungle Fever and The 25th Hour, Lee seems reenergized by the opportunity to helm an interlocking puzzle, in which no piece is what it seems to be. It’s a pleasant surprise to realize that the multi-layered and both character and plot-driven screenplay, in which no detail is unimportant and no clue is a throwaway, was written by a newcomer, Russell Gewirtz.” I’m seeing it this evening but I’ve been asked not to write about it until early next week, or three or four days before the 3.24 opening.
Like the N.Y. Times DVD guy Dave Kehr, Newsweek‘s Malcolm Jones is a huge fan of director John Ford, and particularly the Criterion Collection’s recently released double-disc DVD of Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln (1939). I love his earlier stuff (The Informer , especially, and I still love Drums Along the Mohawk as much as I did when I was 12) and I’ll never cool down on The Horse Soldiers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but let’s face it — Ford’s Irish Catholic sentimentality seems to get thicker every year. Those films that are heavily covered in the stuff haven’t aged well…sentimentality never does. Ford’s movies “are a little antique, a little prim,” Jones admits. “Still…he made movies for everyone, although not in the dumbed-down sense in which we understand that today. The best Ford movies…are things a child can appreciate, and there are deeply contradictory elements that engage the wisest observer. His genius — and it took a genius to do this — was to put all these things in the same picture. Somehow he makes it all hang together.” So what the hell, I went out and actually bought the Young Mr. Lincoln DVD for $33 bucks and change because Kehr and Jones, no slouches in the persuasive-prose department, made it sound good enough to eat. Kehr actually called it “one of the highest accomplishments of American film.” It’s not quite that, I’m afraid. It’s just a solid, sturdy, well-crafted piece of homespun Americana, not without intrigue and complexity here and there but deep down just another Irish spitoon-and-bar-stool movie. The best thing about it is Henry Fonda‘s modest, just-right performance as Abraham Lincoln when he was a cagey and crafty attorney practicing in Springfield, Illinois. Of course, watching Fonda made me think again of Liam Neeson‘s commitment to play Lincoln in that Steven Spielberg film about his presidency …except that Spielberg is reportedly in a lazy-ass mode, taking a year off and “working” on the Lincoln film in between naps and slurps of soup. Anyway, I found this amazing colorized photo of Lincoln this morning. Amazing because it seems exactly like a 142 year-old color photo might look if photographers worked with color plates in 1864 and some archivist had come along and found it and touched it up.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is supposed to be among the new and slightly delayed crop of HD-DVD titles from Warner Home Video, and I’ve recently heard a conspiracy theory about the recently-issued regular-format DVD of this title from some staffers at a popular Los Angeles DVD store. The resolution on this DVD isn’t especially great…a little soft and unsatisfying, as if the people who mastered it didn’t really give it their best shot. (DVD Talk‘s Holly Ordway has written that it “looks good, but not as good as I expected, given that it’s a high-profile release…the main issue that I noticed is that the contrast feels a bit ‘off’…in a number of scenes, the contrast feels too heavy, so that we lose detail in dark areas of the scene, and in others it seems like there’s not enough contrast.”) And the theory going around is that Warner Home Video has sorta kinda allowed this second-rate DVD to go out in this fashion so that the HD-DVD version will look all the better. I don’t buy this — I don’t think Warner Home Video executives have it in them to be this baldly conniving about it…there’s no room in a big corporation for Snidely Whiplash-type scheming of this nature…but it’s indicative of the anti-corporate paranoid culture we live in that rational, level-headed DVD-loving clerks are telling each other this story and half-believing it.
The new HD-DVD players are purchasable but the first generation of HD-DVDs from Warner Home Video, which were supposed to be out 3.28, are on hold for two or three weeks. Due to some technical bureacratic bug manifestation…what else? (With every new product there are always has cockups and delays…has it ever not been so?) “To be honest, the outlook is tenuous,” said WHV division president Ron Sanders. “We’re still coming out with an initial slate, but we may be a week or two later…we just don’t know.” The cheapest Toshiba HD-DVD player so far is the HD-A1, whcih is selling for $499.99 at Amazon.com. Toshiba is also offering a souped-up model, the HD-XA1, for $799.99.