Somebody told me during the Cannes Film Festival that OSS 117: Nest of Spies is funny and that I should try and catch it in Paris (it opened in France in early May), but it’s French-made and was therefore playing sans English subtititles so there wouldn’t have been much point in my going. It played three times at the Seattle Film Festival, but too late for me. (There’s some talk about a DVD loaner kicking around.) The trailer tells you it’s a somewhat dryer Austin Powers, and that Michel Hazanavincius, the director, is good at reanimating the look and mood of 1950s thrillers.
Hollywood Wiretap‘s assessments of reactions to Kim Masters’ Los Angeles piece about the continuing or gathering threats (all being a matter of public relations perception) to Paramount studio president Gail Berman. I’m so on top of this situation…not. The implication in the piece seems pretty obvious, but I’d love to dig up something of my own. That’s a hint.
The trailer for David Leaf and John Scheinfeld‘s The U.S. vs. John Lennon (Lionsgate, 9.15) looks pretty good. Maybe the interest levels and/or perceived impact of this film will up the chances of Scheinfeld’s Who is Harry Nilsson? landing the right distributor.
Zodiac director David Fincher and casting director Laray Mayfield are looking to hire an African American actress to play a bus driver in a new scene that will shoot in late June/early July. “Unnerved by the Zodiac’s threat against children on school buses, this African-American woman asks the police what they are doing to stop the killer…1 speech & 2 lines, 1 scene,” the breakdown reads. Big deal…extra stuff is shot all the time. I still don’t see why the Zodiac release date has to be bumped to January ’07. And it doesn’t necessarily mean anything that Anthony and Joe Russo‘s You, Me and Dupree (Universal, 7.14) sent out breakdowns for additional shooting three weeks ago. Okay, so they shot something extra…so what?
I caught John Scheinfeld‘s Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everbody Talkin’ About Him)? for the second time last night, having first seen it last February at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. My reaction back then was one of admiration mixed with personal anger at Nilsson’s high-octane self-destructiveness, which is pretty much the focus of the film’s final third. (In real life it kicked in right after the success of his landmark 1971 album “Nilsson Schmilsson”.) But for some reason this aspect didn’t bother me nearly as much last night, and I was able to better appreciate (I think) how finely constructed and incisive Scheinfeld’s portrait actually is. I don’t want to know the contractual particulars, but it greatly surprised me to hear that a distribution deal has yet to manifest. This film has it all — great music, a portrait of a great chapter in rock-music history, sadness/tragedy, intense emotion, some wonderful humor — on top of being a riveting cautionary tale. Anyone with an inkling of an idea of what musical genius is basically about, or who has any appreciation and/or respect for Nilsson’s songwriting and singing has to respond to this film. You can’t watch it and go, “I don’t get it” or “uhhhm, who cares?” Not if you have any life in your veins. Who Is Harry Nilsson? needs to show in N.Y. and L.A. theatres in time to qualify for the 2007 Best Feature Documentary Oscar, even if it means four-walling it. But that shouldn’t be necessary.
“It’s happening all over Hollywood…the studios have finally started to just say no,” writes Hollywood Reporter columnist Anne Thompson. “Ambitious big-budget movies with A-list directors and stars that might have gotten an enthusiastic green light a year or two ago are sitting in limbo. The studios that were once eager to land top talent aren’t as willing to sign on the dotted line. And agents and managers are sitting up and taking notice.” It’s a wave…a movement. I really do believe that this show of cojones and fiscal resolve is analagous to the toppling of one European communist government after another in 1989.
Film critic and “I Wake Up Screening” author Jon Anderson (second from left), Hollywood Reporter columnist Anne Thompson and daughter Nora Thompson-Chute at a “Filmmaker’s Diner” at Cutter’s (2001 Western Avenue) — Thursday, 6.15.06, 7:05 pm.
(a) Westward view from Seattle’s Western Avenue — Thursday, 6.15.06, 5:45 pm; (b) The Seattle Film Festival has it all over Cinevegas in at least one respect, which is that the W Hotel rooms offer a DVD player and widescreen TV and the festival staff lets you borrow festival films on DVD; (c) (l. to r.) Arlene Wszalek, associate producer of Who is Harry Nillson (and Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?)“, Nilsson director-writer producer John Scheinfeld , Meghan Wurtz of filmmovement, “I Wake Up Screening” author and film critic Jon Anderson at Cutter’s — Thursday, 6.15.06, 7:07 pm; (d) facing south on Western — — Thursday, 6.15.06, 5:40 pm; (e) Walked all over trying to find a laundromat this morning — forget it; (f) Lobby of Seattle’s W Hotel; (g) Seattle’s public market area; (h) Local papers and a cup of mud — Friday, 6.16.06, 9:25 am; (i) 5th Avenue near Pine (or was it Pike?) — Friday, 6.16.06, 10:05 am; (j) looking out on Seneca (from W Hotel room — Friday, 6.16.06, 8:55 am.
The tracking guys are in disagreement about this weekend, but Nacho Libre has apparently picked up a bit and may — I say “may” — edge out The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift by a nosehair. Both are expected to come in somewhere in the low to mid 20s. Oh, and it’s looking like Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties will edge out The Lake House with projected earnings of roughly $14 million and $12 million, respectively.
My 6.11 paraphrasings based on my having run into critic, author, screenwriter and Cinevegas juror F.X. Feeney last weekend in Las Vegas weren’t good enough, or so Feeney has told me. I’m not saying he’s wrong, and I’m very glad that he’s written in to correct what I wrote and elaborate about what he meant. The topics are Michael Mann and Miami Vice (Universal, 7.28), which Feeney knows something about as he’s seen a cut of the film and has written an exploratory essay for an upcoming Taschen coffee-table book about Mann. Anyway, here’s a Feeney quote that sums up his thoughts a little more fully:
“In some ways it’s too bad Mann’s movie has to be called Miami Vice because in terms of theme and plot, the story moves far beyond the confines of the old TV series. If anything, it more forcefully advances the artistic path that Mann began with Collateral. Where the TV show dealt with the Columbian drug cartels which were the crime web of the 1980s, now the economic epicenter has moved to the ‘triborder area,’ the nexus where Argentina, Uraguay and Brazil intersect. The traffic is no longer just drugs, but ‘whatever you want, from anywhere to anywhere.’ Weapons, pirated software, even human beings. Think of the hit-man Tom Cruise played in Collateral’ — this is the world he served. Mann is very plugged in to the way the world works. To my mind, that’s his great theme — whether you’re a Mohican, a career criminal, a cop, or a world-famous boxer trying to find your way to becoming a responsibly moral being without conforming to a society you don’t respect. Hawkeye, McCauley — DeNiro’s guy in Heat — and Ali are all men who study how the world works, act independently, and know themselves thoroughly from that study and interaction. This is, I feel, an insight into Mann himself. He might dispute this — part of what makes him great, I think, is that he’s allergic to categories.
Anyway, you’ve confided to me a worry, based on what you saw of an early draft, that the Miami Vice film will be all about the toys and gadgets. I can assure you that it isn’t — that it draws on wellsprings of romantic passion that haven’t surfaced this vividly in Mann’s films since Last of the Mohicans . Two kinds of passion are represented — you have a stable relationship between Jamie Foxx (as Tubbs) and Naomie Harris as the fellow undercover cop, who are trying to make love work in the dangerous arena of undercover work, and then you have Colin Farrell as Sonny Crockett pursuing a dangerous liason with Gong Li , the wife of a stateless plutocrat who rules in the triborder, and closer to Miami, the Carribean. When Mann was first thinking the film through, he asked himself what had attracted him to executive produce the TV series Anthony Yerkovich created back in the ’80s, and concluded that it was the psychological cost of working undercover, of leading a life in a mask for months on end, of behaving in terms of ‘impulse without inhibition.’ So Crockett must answer to a spontaneous passion while Tubbs must secure a more traditional, if endangered, one. This balances the Tubbs/Crockett partnership in fresh, unpredictable ways I don’t recall from the series, and my sense was that the subtle fractals of push-me pull-you in their friendship and partnership is what Mann is now taking his customary round-the-clock pains to refine.”