AICN’s Harry Knowles has an engaging, certainly readable conversation with M. Night Shyamalan about Lady in the Water. This, for me, is the stand-out comment: “There’s a kind of very independent spirit about [this] movie. You know, we are in the mix right now and I’m watching it and I’m like, ‘God, this is like a Coen brothers movie or something.’ Like, this is way (chuckles)…it’s just very independent and that kind of humor and sensibility, really offbeat kind of stuff all over. It turns into kind of a mainstream movie eventually, but it really has its kind of language in a very independent spirit, and in a way, that’s where I was going — especially with The Village and coming into this for sure it’s this movement that’s kind of a more independent world, like the kind of stuff I would be doing I were just, you know, working-in-the-art-houses kind of thing. But again, it kind of comes in a mainstream body but definitely it peaks as all independent.”
Will Tom Hanks and Ron Howard return to Da Vinci Code Land by making a film of Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons, which would be based upon Brown’s six year-old novel? “We are definitely planning to make this movie with Ron Howard and Tom Hanks,” Sony Pictures chief Amy Pascal has told Slate‘s Kim Masters. Lord help us indeed. Sony has hired The Da Vinci Code screenwriter Akiva Goldsman to write Angels & Demons “but there’s no deal with Howard or Hanks,” Masters writes, “and many question whether either will return. Going through the opening of The Da Vinci Code had to be one of the most complete agony-and-ecstasy experiences for any filmmaker — and that’s leaving aside the stress of dealing with the religious objectors. First the picture was savaged by reviewers, and then it opened huge. It’s nice to make money, but even the rich and successful don’t like to be heaped with public scorn. So, there’s a strong incentive for the principals to declare victory and move on.” Please, guys…do that.
My Paris publishing partners Faycal Cheikh (l.) and Jamal Akhiad (r.), proprietors of Cybercafe, 55 rue du Ruisseau, 75018 Paris — Thursday, 6.1.06, 10:17 pm.
War is Cruel
I finally caught up this morning with Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross’s The Road to Guantanmo (Roadside, 6.23). I realize that I’m expected to jump up and down like many critics did when this half-doc, half-recreated drama had its debut last February at the Berlin Film Festival, but I don’t quite feel it…sorry.
I never felt less than absorbed by Guantanamo. I respected and believed what I was seeing…but I didn’t feel all that heavily caught up in it for reasons I’ll soon explain.
Rizwan Ahmed, Farhad Harun and Afran Usman, although not necessarily in left-to-right order. (If anyone can help…)
Guantanamo is an anti-American political horror film. It’s a true story of three young British Muslims who made an ill-advised visit to Afghanistan after celebrating a wedding in neighboring Pakistan in October 2001. The upshot was that they were rounded up as suspected Al Queada collaborators and later flown to the U.S military base in Guantanamo, Cuba, and then detained for over two years.
I don’t mean to say that the film has an anti-American attitude — the facts about what happened to these guys are damning in and of themselves.
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It’s a sad portrait of what undoubtedly happened to many innocent Muslims unlucky enough to get caught up in America’s Mideast assault on all suspected 9/11 collaborators and/or supporters, in the weeks that followed the World Trade Center attacks.
The stories of Shafiq Rasul, Ruhel Ahmed and Asif Iqral (who recount their saga in talking-head footage while being portrayed in the dramatic sections by Rizwan Ahmed, Farhad Harun and Afran Usman) are shocking, pathetic, appalling. Their brutal treatment at the hands of American troops and various U.S. intelligence officers smells like stupidity, ignorance and racism every step of the way.
The heart of the film is the depiction of their abusive treatment at Guantanamo’s Camp X-Ray and Camp Delta. Geneva Convention be damned — America was enraged and hell-bent on vengeance after 9/11, and these poor guys caught the brunt of it.
But I have to say I felt a certain distance from their story, despite the repellent nature of their treatment and the deplorable behavior of their captors, because their decision to travel to Afghanistan in the first weeks after 9/11 was awfully reckless.
The real guys say to the camera that no one expected American troops to come thundering into Afghanistan so they were caught unawares…to which one can only say, “Come again?” The entire world knew that US forces were going to hit Afghanistan in a search for Osama bin Laden. Anyone watching CNN knew that Afghanistan was definitely not a smart place to be back then, especially if you were a Muslim from England.
Nonetheless, with all manner of military Armageddon being predicted to slam into Afghanistan by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and every other media guy in the U.S. and Britain, these three dudes decided to visit that beleagured country because it seemed like a good idea at the time.
A little perspective, if I may: Berlin women were raped by Russian soldiers. Those conquered by Roman troops in the ancient days were humiliated and slaughtered by God-knows-how-many-thousands? Innocent people have been getting victimized, bludgeoned and chewed up by wars for thousands of years. The conquering army marches in, looking to punish and subjugate (or interrogate), and those too weak or old or dumb to get out of their way catch hell.
So Lord knows it’s a horrid world when warriors pick up the sword, but only a careless person walks into a potentially lethal situation without fully considering the consequences.
I’m not saying that the “Tipton 3” (the victims were all from the British town of Tipton) were stupid, but they sure didn’t think things through.
In fact, given the worked-up state that Americans were known to be in after 9/11 and the virtual certainty that bombs would soon be falling upon Taliban forces and suspected Al Queada sympathizers in that region, why didn’t the Pakistani woman that the British-residing groom (a guy named Monir, who later disappeared) intended to marry come to England instead, so both parties would be out of the danger zone?
The first half-hour of Guantanamo, which quickly intros the trio and begins the renactment of their story, immediately pulls you in. Their initial visit, fleeing the bombs, seeing dead victims being buried…all of it feels authentic and then some.
The pace slows, naturally, after their capture by British troops in Afghanistan, their being handed over to the U.S. military and taken first to Kandahar Air Base (where the beatings and interrogations start) and then flown to Guantanamo in January 2002.
The poor guys are kept inside chain-linked cells that are always lit and resemble dog kennels. No sleep, constant inspections, berated and brutalized…all depicted with terrible realism.
They’re interrograted by careless intelligence officers who claim to have video footage of them attending an Osama bin Laden speech, which of course the three guys deny.
And they’re beaten up and shat upon in all kinds of grotesque ways. The most Orwellian torture they’re put through involves being tied up and forced to absorb super-loud heavy metal music with incessant strobe lights flashing.
Their innocence is eventually discovered in 2004 and they’re slowly, gradually freed. Winterbottom and Whitecross remind us, however, that 500 or so prisoners are still sweating it out in Guantanamo.
But my basic problem remains: I didn’t identify with the Tipton 3 because if I were Muslim, I certainly wouldn’t have travelled to the Middle East for a wedding in the immediate wake of 9/11. I mean, who would? Think about it.
Alpha Dog director Nick Cassevettes and producer/financier Sidney Kimmel wanted their film, a controversial, taken-from-real-life, River’s Edge-like drama about a pack of teens dealing with the death of one of their own, to be released wide, or at least wide-ish (1000 screens or thereabouts). New Line, however, wanted to platform it. So the guys have jumped ship and now Universal has agreed to distribute it in a wide-ish fashion in early 2007, or a bit more than a year after Cassevetes’ film played at Sundance ’06. Something about this explanation in Variety doesn’t ring entirely true. Methinks there’s more to it.
If you take the time to read this review of Milos Forman‘s Goya’s Ghost (Warner Bros., late ’06 — wide release early ’07) and particularly the description of the alleged Natalie Portman nude scene, it tells you straight away it’s a torture scene. (Portman’s character is put through major Spanish Inquisition suffering because she’s suspected of being Jewish.) Anyone who reads this through and then goes “whoa…a Natalie Portman nude scene!” (as some guys in the talkback section do) is effin’ diseased and needs professional help. Ghost also stars Javier Bardem, Stellan Skarsgaard (as Goya) and Randy Quaid.
There’s something here…a straight-shooting, mid ’60s Truffaut-ish quality…not modelish (which is what’s so appealing)…with that frank expression and those friendly-knowing eyes, she could have starred in Bed and Board or Two English Girls (assuming she can act)…her name is Jennifer Laemlin, and she may not even know who Francois Truffaut was, but she’s been very gracious and accomodating as I’ve sat and typed away inside Le Cafe qui parle (where she works) for hours and hours on end — Thursday, 6.1.06, 2:10 pm.
(a) Cafe on Boulevard de Courcelles — Thursday, 6.1.06, 12:05 pm; (b) ditto; (c) Outdoor banner for La Rupture on front facade of Pathe Wepler in Place Clichy — Thursday, 6.1.06, 12:40 pm; (d) One gallon equals 3.8 liters means that the more expensive gas on the right is selling for 6.34 Euros per gallon…right? And the slightly less expesnive “super” is going for 5.92 Euros per gallon — Thursday, 6.1.06, 12:55 pm; (e) View from just outside the Champs Elysee screening room where I saw The Road to Guantanamo this morning; (f) Graffiti on bathroom door inside facilities at Parc de Monce — Thursday, 6.1.06, 11:20 am; (g) Lunchtime snoozers at Parc de Monce — Thursday, 6.1.06, 12:25 pm; (h) I’m pretty sure you can’t buy lemon-flavored Tic Tacs in the U.S.; (i) Indian restaurant on rue Ruisseau near internet cafe that I’ve never gotten around to eating at, despite high recommends from the locals; (j) A single futon on the floor with electricity that shuts down if you run the heater, the kitchen hot plate and the bathroom fan at the same time is what you get for a weekly $500 rent in Paris these days , and with no accessible wi-fi (which sucks).
In Focus interviewer Mike Russell asks, “Is Superman Returns the unofficial Superman III?” And SR screenwriter Michael Dougherty replies, “Okay, uhm, it’s funny…I think Bryan [ Singer] and Dan and I need to sit down and discuss this answer before we talk to too many other reporters. My personal belief — and I know Bryan has been quoted as saying differently — is that this is not Superman III. I don’t feel like it’s appropriate to discount Superman III and IV, because a lot of people put a lot of hard work into them, and even if you don’t like them or don’t think they’re up to a certain quality, they’re still Superman movies.” And then SR screenwriter Dan Harris says, “It√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s complicated. If this is a sequel to I and II, then everything in I and II happened. But if we√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢re picking and choosing what we want — which is what I think is what happened, using our memories of Superman: The Movie to build our back story √É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Ç¨¬ù then I can guarantee that it’s not the specifics, but the broad strokes of those movies that are part of the Superman we√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢re making.” — from Russell’s In Focus interview with the screenwriters (June ’06 issue).
Harry Knowles is reporting that Darren Aronofsky‘s The Fountain is going to be be released by Warner Bros. on 10.13. The darkly intellectual fantasy flick was a Cannes no-show because Arnofsky would settle only for a competition status and the powers-that-be wouldn’t give him that.
“The whole point of a remake is to either improve upon a flawed film, or to bring a new and/or different perspective to a classic tale. The Omen does neither, [being] essentially a shot-for-shot remake of the [Richard Donner] original, but with weaker performances and more deliberate ‘jump scares’ to get the teen girls screaming and gripping their boyfriends in fear. In many ways it’s disturbing how much director John Moore has adhered to the original film, so much so that those familiar with it in any way will very quickly get irritated or bored with this rehash. Even those new to the tale will find its now somewhat dated material and the inherent flaws from the original still visible, despite various attempts to hide them by ‘jazzing up’ the horror quotient.” — from a review by Dark Horizon‘s Garth Franklin. (Here, also, is the view of critic Paul Byrnes of the Sydney Morning Herald.)
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