Merger stories are so damned fascinating. I’m kidding. You have to pay attention and all, but like I wrote last January when I first heard of the planned merger of Lionsgate (it was called Lions Gate back then) and MGM, there’s no cosmic dimension to the mere shifting of funds from one entity to another, no more than the daily ebb and flow of the seas.
“I’d been hoping to shadow a writer for a show on a major network, [and] I was looking for some hands-on experience to round out a rather theoretical film school education, and hoped to gain some as an intern on [his] show,” writes Andrea Janes in the N.Y. Press‘s film issue. But this writer would come running onto set screaming, ‘There’s no Diet Coke in the fridge! Hello!? Interns!’ That’s when I questioned what I was getting into by entering this field. I wanted to pay my dues to figure out the industry, but on this particular show, interns’ primary duties consisted of sorting the mail and stocking the fridge.” There is nothing more tedious than an intelligent younger person looking to gain a foothold by interning who doesn’t get it and and in fact gets all surly and offended when people expect him/her to do drone-work. People who get it — who don’t have any problem with shit work because they know the truth of Jean Anouilh’s words in Becket, which is that “honor lies in the man, my prince, not in the towel” — are always the ones who move up. Interns have to be bushy-tailed, period. That’s the job. And if they aren’t…sack ’em!
Sean Penn will always be a fascinating great actor, but a thought hit me this morning as I watched this All The King’s Men trailer (which I first saw in a theatre two or three weeks ago): Penn’s Willie Stark, a ruthless, power-hungry politician, is not charismatic, much less attractive, and if I were a rural Southerner in the 1950s (or whenever) I don’t know that I’d want to vote for the guy. So right away there’s trouble because King’s Men is about a guy who had an exceptional rapport with voters before anything else.
I could feel something vital coming out of Broderick Crawford ‘s Willie Stark in the 1949 version — he wasn’t handsome or smooth, but you could feel he’d been through tough times (a look of pushed-down hurt would pop through every so often), and you couldn’t help but admire his gutsiness and the fact that he wouldn’t be pushed around. I don’t think Penn makes this character work half as well as Crawford did. The way he bellows his words and phrases when addressing voters with his voice sounding so ragged he almost squeals at times, Penn’s not being very tall, the rage contorting his face and making his eyes seem beadier than usual, the street-fighter body language, the constant shine of sweat, the Southern accent that I don’t believe despite its (probably) accurate sound — none of it plays. He’s not in any way sexy (not in terms of inner conviction or eloquence, certainly), and even in a Southern period film that’s how most of us want our politicians to be on some level. I don’t see how this won’t be a factor in how paying audiences respond to Steven Zallian ‘s film when it opens in the early fall. The more I think about it, the more I’m persuaded that Zallian and producer Mike Medavoy erred in going with Penn, and for the very best reasons.
“I can watch the world through Michelangelo Antonioni ‘s eyes forever. He is the greatest stylist of the modern era, and The Passenger may be my favorite film,” David Thomson has written in The Guardian . “It’s the one I think of offering whenever people ask that question. And they ask a lot.
“No, it’s not in my top ten, but sometimes I think [The Passenger is the one I like the best, by which I fear I mean it’s the film I’d most like to be in, instead of just watching.” Dream-projecting ourselves into films we really like is what many — most — of us do, I think, when we’re really taken by them. And when we’re watching films that we respect or admire but aren’t that into, that’s all we’re doing — watching from our side of the window. Every time I’ve re-watched any of Antonioni’s five or six greatest — La Notte, Blow-Up , L’eclisse, Il Grido, L’Avventura — I’ve felt this exact same urge to dissolve into a spectral cellluloid spirit, and disappear into the world of these films and wander around and maybe never come back. What would it be like to hang around in an Antonioni film after the movie is “over”? Mesmerizing, I would think. But what if a malicious side of this fantasy manifests? This is obviously Purple Rose of Cairo idea (and probably some Japanese horror-film director’s also), but what other films have readers wanted to literally dissolve into? The reason Mia Farrow leaves the physical realm is that she desperately wants to belong to the world of those silver-toned, champagne-sipping sophisticates in the film she’s been watching in that 1984 Woody Allen film, but what if films were to reach out and kidnap this or that audience member at random (or, better, for a reason) and suck them body-and-soul into their worlds, whether they want to be absorbed or not? Complete this sentence: ‘I can think of nothing more torturous than to be forcibly vacuumed into the realm of [the name of the film].” My Personal Worst along these lines: 20th Century Fox’s Dallas movie, with or without Jennifer Lopez in it.