The special thrill and value of flying six thousand or so miles to Cannes to personally witness, in part, the rooty-toot-toot Dreamgirls shebang that happened tonight at the Martinez Hotel (which I enjoyed very much, by the way — the four scenes that were shown were seriously killer wham-bam)…where was I?…oh, yeah…the value of seeing this presentation in Cannes is diminished somewhat by David Poland having seen the same thing back in Los Angeles. (But not, I’m told, by way of DreamWorks publicity.) In fact, it sppears he saw it earlier than the Cannes gang did because he managed to post his reactions earlier than me or anyone else who attended in Cannes. This sounds petty, I realize.
(a) Jeff Skoll, founder and CEO of Participant Productions, and PP president Ricky Strauss to the right (i.e., viewer’s left) of Inconvenient Truth-teller Al Gore, with producer Lawrence Bender to his immediate left and Paramount Vantage honcho John Lesher next to Bender, all gathered at a beach party that kicked off early this evening in Cannes to celebrate the launch of Paramount Vantage — Friday, 5.19.06, 6:40 pm; (b) If I were this car, my feelings would be hurt and I would probably have a case of very low self-esteem despite the likelihood of my movie earning about $70 million this weekend and $200 million worldwide — Friday, 5.19, 8:25 pm; (c) Paramount Pictures chairman Brad Grey at today’s Paramount Vantage party — Friday, 5.19.06, 7:10 pm; (d) Waiting in line in front of the Salle Debussy — Thursday, 5.18.06, 7:50 pm; (e) Dreamgirls star Beyonce Knowles flanked by fans, bodyguards and DreamWorks publicist Mitch Kreindel following screening of Dreamgirls footage plus a live pep talk by director Bill Condon, producer Larry Mark and cast at Hotel Martinez — Thursday, 5.19.06, 9:50 pm; (f) professional facing some kind of difficult work load in Orange Cafe inside le Grand Palais — Friday, 5.19.06, 5:10 pm; (g) On the Croisette, two blocks west of the Carlton during an aimless wander — Thursday, 5.19.06, 5:10 pm
(a) Cannes’ Carlton Hotel last night around 10 pm or so, at which time I was wandering around and fried with nothing to do, having mislaid the piece of paper with location of the Paris Je’taime party — Thursday, 5.18.06, 10:10 pm; (b) Pedro Almodovar and the Volver crew entering this morning’s press conference — Friday, 5.19, 11:36 am; (c) Some of the festival’s more serious boozers (with a high percentage of British journalists) hang out every night at the Petit Carlton, where a bottle of Desperado beer will cost you about five Euros; (d) Taking a quick break and looking out at the Med — Friday, 5.19.06, 11:05 am.
Snakes on a Plane buzz is dropping. It’s peaked! The juice it had two months ago is evaporating! Or at least, that’s what Marketing Prof’s Matt Collier believes. “The key concern all along was that perhaps this was a case of buzz-building too soon for a movie that was still five to six months away from release. As the Alexa traffic for Snakes on a Blog, the ‘unofficial’ fan site for the film suggests here, the buzz for the B-movie appears to be fading. As New Line is learning the hard way, perhaps the only thing harder than building buzz for a movie, could be sustaining it.” I think everyone knew from the get-go that the Snakes buzz wouldn’t sustain. The idea all along, in fact, was that New Line’s marketing campaign would start revving up sometime in early to mid July and get the hype going again.
Apparently that analogy I was handed about the end of Brett Ratner’s X-Men 3: The Last Stand (20th Century Fox, 5.26) being a bit like the finale of The Wild Bunch was not on the mark. Here’s what Maxim critic Pete Hammond says, having recently seen it at on the Fox lot: “While there’s a considerable amount of violence in the final battle scene plus a couple of others, it’s not of the Sam Peckinpah variety but more in line with what we’ve all come to expect from these films. What astounded me is apparently Fox is determined to end the series with this one. It’s flatly stated in the first line of the press notes: ‘….the climax of the X-Men motion picture trilogy.’ Apparently there will be spinoffs including a Magneto film (Ian McKellen, great here again and by the far the best thing in The DaVinci Code) movie that is listed as ‘announced’ on IMDB as is Wolverine for Jackman, but who knows? There are definitely some surprising twists in Brett Ratner’s film but perhaps the best of all is saved for absolute last in an end sequence after the final (endless) credits roll. Fox publicists told the handful of people at the screening to stay all the way through and it was worth it. (I’m usually the last person in the theatre when the lights come up.) I think Ratner put this last bit in there for the true fans. He’s done an excellent job taking over for Bryan Singer, keeping the humanity and tone of the first two and adding his own thing. The action scenes are dynamite. For me this was the best of the three films. It will be interesting to see the reaction when it screens on Monday in Cannes and at the all-media screening [in Los Angeles].”
So the name Paramount Classics is more or less out (i.e., put on the back burner, relegated to a lower status, etc.) and a new jazzier-sounding moniker — Paramount Vantage, a creation of company honcho John Lesher (pictured below) — is in.
Does this mean the company is going to be making and/or releasing fewer esoteric, out-there films? One presumes as much. Is the idea to try and be successful like Fox Searchlight was in ’04 and ’05, or ultimately be more like the genre-milking Rogue or Screen Gems? Sounds like a mixture of the two, to judge by this statement in the Variety story, to wit: Par Vantage “is set to release a diverse slate of eight to 10 films a year, including “sophisticated films with a strong arthouse sensibility, as well as smaller-budgeted comedy and horror films.”
The festival is cranking up now and the things-to-get-done list is starting to overwhelm. Fissures of sea water are starting to shoot out from the dike. Once Cannes starts rolling it’s about one aonizing decision after another…see this and you miss out on that. All you have to do is hesitate a little bit and suddenly you’re behind the eight ball. I’ve only seen five films over the past two days — Ken Loach‘s The Wind That Shakes The Barley, Lou Ye‘s overpraised Summer Palace, Richard Linklater ‘s Fast Food Nation, Pedro Almodovar‘s Volver and the surprisingly spritzy anthology film Paris Je’taime …and yet I’ve written stuff about only two of them. Now it’s 4:35 pm, which is only got an hour and a half until this Paramount Vantage launch party starts at 6 pm on the beach (which means having to blow off the 6 pm screening of Andrea Arnold’s Red Road). And then there’s the Dreamgirls shindig at 8 pm. Maybe I’ll jump back and do some more filing from 10 pm to midnight, which is when the Fast Nood Nation party begins. I know, I know…eliminate the parties and you’ll start to see light breaking through the clouds.
Richard Linklater‘s Fast Food Nation, which screened at the Cannes Film festival yesterday afternoon at 5 pm, is Traffic with meat. Based on Eric Schlosser ‘s best-selling nonfiction “Fast Food Nation”, it’s a sprawlingly ambitious ensemble drama (i.e., meaning it’s not a documentary) about how different people at different economic stratas are coping with or reacting to the gastronomic yuck factor at the core of the fast-food industry . If Super-Size Me put you off McDonald’s, wait until you see this puppy. Yet another in a fascinating run of political films that are suddenly pouring out of Hollywood these days, Fast Food Nation isn’t without flaws. It meanders a bit and isn’t exactly strung tight with story tension, but it’s an agreeable meandering. I was so “with” this film and what Linklater was up to in his rambling-shambling way that I forgave the frilm for its occasional detours that don’t quite pay off. Others have been telling me they think FFN has too many loose story strands, others feel as I do, and still others are creaming over it. N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis is calling it “devastating” and “ferocious” and “the most essential political film from an American director since Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.” (Manohla showed up for the early afternoon Fast Food Nation press conference today, and she rarely attends press conferences, so there you go.) A woman I know just walked in and said some people didn’t like it “because of all the blood.” That’s the single dumbest thing I’ve heard so far from anyone at this festival. The slaughterhouse killing-floor sequence comes only at the end, and is obviously justified, necessary and non-gratuitous. Some of the characters feel under-written, but restrained, lived-in performances are given uniformly by Gregg Kinnear, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Bruce Willis, Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Paul Dano, Esai Morales, Wilmer Valderrama, Kris Kristofferson, Ashley Johnson, Lou Pucci, Jr., Luis Guzman, Avril Lavigne, Ana Claudia Talancon and Bobby Cannavale.
(a) Carmen Maura, Penelope Cruz and director Pedro Almodovar at this morning’s Volver press conference — Thursday, 5.18.06, 3:40 pm; (b) Glistening beach-bay view from American Pavillion — Friday, 5.19, 11:40 am; (c) Astoux & Brun, an excellent seafood restaurant at foot of hilly “le Suquet” section near Hotel de Ville — Thursday, 5.18.06, 11:45 pm; (d) Something about the milky light in this otherwise uninteresting shot taken in the lounge of the Orange cafe; (e) waiting for entrance into the Debussy theatre for screening of Paris Je’taime — Thursday, 5.18, 7:45 pm; Fast Food Nation costars Gregg Kinnear, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Wilmer Valderamma at this afternoon’s Palais press conference — Friday, 5.19.06, 12:38 pm