X-Men 3 is a Brett Ratner coarsening of a action franchise that had more than a touch of class — wit, smarts, well-sculpted characters — when Bryan Singer was directing. But of course, everyone knew this was in the cards when Rattner was hired, and if you accept the downgrade as the way of the corrupted world it’s not that bad to sit through. One of the beefs I have with the Ratner is the same I had with Singer’s first installment, which is Hugh Jackman‘s Wolverine getting clobbered so hard that he flies backwards and slams into walls (and usually though them). This happens so much in that Wolverine’s fight scenes become almost humorous after a while. He acts tough and talks tough, but as soon as he gets into a fight, no matter who his opponent may be…there he goes! A scowling, mutton-chopped backwards-soaring missile…wham! Then he’s on the ground…grimacing, grunting…wow, that hurt…but I guess I’m okay. Fifteen mintues later and another fight happens, and there goes Hugh again! He suffers through a good five or six flying back-slams before the damn thing’s over. If they do a Wolverine movie, please…no more of this.
“It doesn’t have a sales agent. It was shot in digital video by a rookie director and cost less than $1 million. But it could prove itself one of the unexpected success stories of the Festival de Cannes.” So begins an Anne Thompson story in the Hollywood Reporter about M. Blash’s Lying, which has, I believe, something to do with the telling on un-truths. I’ve been watching for it because my friend Tricia van Klaverman produced it with about seven others. Playing in the Directr’s Fortnight section, it stars Chloe Sevigny, Jean Malone, Leelee Sobieski, Maya Goldsmith and Haley Wegryn Gross. I’m also attuned to it because I’ve been invited to a Tuesday afternoon yacht party in its honor.
The first 20 minutes of World Trade Center, which was shown last night at 10 pm at the Salle Debussy, is smooth, well-cut, understated and pro-level all the way. But as I suspected, it doesn’t feel very much like a Stone film…not this portion of it, at least. One of the most urgent, hyperkinetic, go-for-it directors of the late 20th Century has chosen to go tasteful, respectful, and understated (no shots of the planes hitting the towers, only one glimpse of a jumper, etc.). Which is an okay way to go for a film like this, I suppose — it just feels like a film thatg anyone could have directed. I’ve said it before, but World Trade Center is basically Ollie’s make-up film for having failed with Alexander — he’s proving to the powers-that-be that he can play the role of a de-balled functionary who can turn out a money-making film. I guess we’ll see how the rest of it plays a month or two from now, but at the risk of boring everyone (including myself) I still don’t understand — I will never understand — what is so fascinating and meaningful about a couple of Port Authority cops buried by North Tower rubble on 9/11 and unable to free themselves until help comes along, etc. And I still really despise that soothifying Craig Armstrong music (i.e., music meant to tell you that what you’re watching is supposed to produce a lump in the throat). The warning buzzer sounded for me when Nicolas Cage‘s John McLoughlin character looked in on his sleeping kids and we suddenly hear tinkly Marvin Hamlisch piano music. But the sound is fantastic, and the film looks sturdy and disciplined. The only “bad” thing comes when the building starts to collapse and it goes into slow-mo when Cage says “runnnn!!” to his men. (Slow-mo action scenes are bad…very bad…they haven’t been hip since The Wild Bunch .) I was scrunched into one of the balcony seats. Before it began Stone came up to the stage and talked a little bit about WTC and also Platoon, which is being honored for its 20th anniversary. Three of his Platoon stars — Charlie Sheen, Willem Dafoe (the French emcee called him “Weeleem Dahfoohh!”) and Tom Berenger (“Tohm Behhrangeahrr!”) joined him on the stage, but they just smiled. Dafoe and Sheen look almost as young and trim as they did in ’86, but Berenger has clearly bulked up some. I sat through about a half hour’s worth of Platoon, a superb film that will hold up for a long time to come. The print looked fine but not spectacular (Stone said it hadn’t been restored) but I was totally shagged and fagged and couldn’t keep my eyes open. Stone abalogized the two films by saying, “For me, the struggle [all along] has been to try and make these stories about people who really see it with their own eyes and their ears, whether they were in the jungles of Vietnam or the deserts of Iraq or rubble of the World Trade Center.”
Read Andrew C. Revkin‘s N.Y. Times piece about Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (Paramount, 5.24 limited) and tell me if you detect a skeptical, slightly patronizing tone in some portions of it, as I do. Example #1: “The frustrations of a man whose long-sought goal remains out of reach are vividly on display in the [film during the] first few minutes.” (This is a skewed observation, to say the very least — there isn’t so much as a whiff of frustration in the film’s opening section, which is basically footage of a peaceful flowing river with Gore speaking voice-over about the serenity of nature.) Example #2: “For the moment, opinions on prospects [for the doc to change attitudes] range from hopeful to scornful, not so much a reflection on the film’s quality as the vast distance between combatants in the fight over what to do, or not do, about human-caused warming.” (Scornful? Only a person with styrofoam between the ears (or a die-hard Cheney-head) can watch this film and come out of it spewing scorn. There perhaps may be some who will worship The DaVinci Code and call it one of the finest American motion pictures of all time — would it therefore be legitimate for a N.Y. Times writer to declare that reactions to the film “range from derision or dismissiveness to unqualified adoration”?) Example #3: “Mr. Gore…tries just about every possible tactic to make his points…he tries to connect the dots…he often chooses his words to avoid making direct causal links that most scientists say are impossible to substantiate”. (Gore tries, Gore does what he can, Gore struggles, etc…the obvious implication being that he doesn’t fully succeed.) Example #4 : “The libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute, in a clear jab at both the film and recent news media coverage focused on worst-case climate risks, unveiled two television commercials last week that amounted to a defense of the main gas linked to warming, each with the tag line: ‘Carbon dioxide. They call it pollution. We call it life.'” This is tantamount to including a positive quote from NAMBLA (the North American Man-Boy Love Association) at the end of an article about reactions to a documentary about Catholic priests who’ve molested altar boys. New York Times articles rarely make me furious and sickened — this one did.
Back from the less-than-elegant but somewhat entertaining- passable-not painful X-Men 3…thank the gods for the wondrous Shakespearean energy and laser-like performing precision of Ian McKellen…Magneto forever! …3:15 pm Cannes time…working on a review and e-mailing about events and interviews over the next four days, which is the time I have left here (not counting the remainder of today)…and incidentally…
Sitting in the Orange Wi-Fi cafe with 40 or 50 other journalists in the mid-afternoon often feels like a very peaceful, almost serene thing…the crowded streets, the yelling photographers (whom Elton John, visiting the festival yesterday or the day before, said “should be shot”), the intense sunlight, the strain of racing around…none of this penetrates…journalists murmuring on their phones in Italian, Serbo-Croat, French, Spanish, Polish, Portugese…the vibe is almost as peaceful as my own home, because I am at home, I feel.
For only the second time in seven days, I allowed myself to sleep past 6:30 ayem so I’m only just starting. It’s 11:10 now and I have to pack up and get over to the X-Men 3 screening at the Lumiere, which I feel obliged to see in a half-resigned, half-teeth-gritting way. More postings later…kind of a uneventful Monday, and that’s fine for a change.
After the regrettable but inescapable duty of writing my reactions to Southland Tales (which could, it seems to me, be trimmed and refined and re-shaped to its benefit, so there’s another critical-reaction chapter yet to come…I hope), I shuffled out of the Palais and down the Croisette to a very pleasant HBO beach party, with the blustery winds buffeting the see-through plastic barriers that had been draped around three beach-facing sides of the tent. mPRm’s Michael Lawson and James Lewis were hosting, and I had a pleasant shmooze with senior vp media relations Nancy Lesser. Around 6:45 pm I arrived at a Southland Tales party on a Cadillac Escalade-type yacht called the Big Eagle in the Cannes harbor. I had a great talk with bright and engaging Senh Duong, the Emeryville-based creator and major domo of Rotten Tomatoes. I also had a good chat with Persistent Entertainment’s Matthew Rhodes, who hands-on produced and/or handled financing for Southland Tales, Walker Payne and Lasse Hallstrom’s An Unfinished Life, among several others. Rhodes is now preparing to produce The Beautiful Ordinary, a suburban high-school drama written and directed by Jessica Manafort, whom Rhodes said is cut from the same kind of imaginative, creatively audacious cloth as Southland‘s Richard Kelly.