Here’s a think piece by Cahier du Cinema‘s Herve Aubron that’s so French think-piecey it turns into a marble statue with a baguette up its butt as you’re reading it. The premise is that Michael Mann and M. Night Shyamalan have “a shared taste for the lackluster and the dull. The worlds of Mann and Shyamalan are gray because they are limbs. Their occupants are already dead. In Shy, the motif of the phantom persists well beyond the final reversal in The Sixth Sense. In Mann, it is less a question of phantoms than of condemned persons in a hurry to be executed. Already dead, in the sense that their execution is already intended and decided — they run to meet it.” De Niro’s Neil in Heat or Cruise’s Vincent in Collateral may have an inner death-wish thing going on, but their sense of alertness and urban vitality is so acute it’s a contact high.
Stu VanAirsdale (a.k.a. “the Reeler”) had a moment last night with M. Night Shyamalan at a big-deal Lady in the Water screening at the Museum of Natural History. Naturally, Night is going to deflect and sidestep any questions about all the negative reactions to the film and the book and his alleged ego problems. Nothing new here.
What got me were the two tiny photos of Paul Giamatti. This sounds shallow as hell but I don’t want the poor guy to lose any more hair, and he seems to be doing that. Giamatti has to hold onto that Miles thing — he can’t let himself get too Uriah Heep-y. It’s obviously cool for prominent character actors and stars to have balding or thinning conditions, but the key thing is to not let too much erosion occur so things tip over into flirting-with-egg-bald territory.
Sean Connery is the exception — Gene Hackman is the rule. Hackman has had sparse hair for the last 40 years, but he grimmed up and held on to those 250 or 300 follicles on the top of his head. Same with Jack Nicholson — he kept those sprigs and never went 100% billiard-ball.
In Michael Bamberger‘s “The Man Who Heard Voices” it’s reported that some kind of brief discussion about Giamatti wearing a going-bald wig came up priot to the shooting of Lady, so obviously M. Night Shyamalan gave this issue some thought. It’s not a huge deal, but Giamatti should try and hang on to his Sideways hair for the next 20 or 25 years. Just hold onto it somehow and don’t follow in the footsteps of Kevin Spacey and his constantly expanding Martian forehead in the seven or so years since American Beauty.
Abe’s Still On Hold
It’s funny how the progress of unfilmed movies evolve in conversations with the principals. Take Steven Spielberg‘s still-delayed Lincoln, which I’m very keen on seeing because of enthusiasm over Liam Neeson‘s playing the lead role, and because I’ve been longing for some kind of big-ass sweeping Civil War feature since falling hard for Ken Burns ‘ The Civil War way back when, and because there’s never been a decent film about Lincoln’s White House years.
In August ’05 (almost exactly a year ago) I ran a summary of two conversations I’d recently had in Manhattan with Neeson, who was very excited about the opportu- nity and immersed in study about Lincoln, and particularly how to do his voice. Neeson told me about a March ’06 start date, adding, as I wrote, that “there was an earlier plan to begin filming in February…but with this, that and whatever (including, probably, some Oscar campaigning for Spielberg’s Munich movie) this date will probably get bumped.”
Now there’s a fresh twist contained an interview with Spielberg running on a fan site called Spielberg Films. Conducted by Steven Awalt, the transcript came out of a q & a than happened three days ago — Saturday, 7.15. Spielberg is asked at one point (and remember that Awalt is a total Spielberg fan who follows every twist and turn in his career) if Lincoln is “still viable.” Awalt doesn’t ask when it will shoot, or how excited Spielberg is, or how the research and preparation is coming along. He asks if Lincoln has a pulse.
Spielberg tells him yes, it has a pulse…”it’s viable.” (There is no word in the English language that alludes to a more profoundly neutered state of being than “viable” — a truly hateful term.) “The script’s being written, and hopefully sometime in September/October of ’07 I’ll have the chance to start that. I can’t guarantee that, it’s just, once again, like Indy 4, that script is in process.”
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Just to underline, Spielberg is saying there’s a “chance” he’ll start on the Lincoln pic in the early fall of ’07, and if that happens the film might be completed and released in late ’08….maybe. At least two years away and then some.
Awalt then asks, “Could it go before Indy 4?” And Spielberg replies, “I don’t know, you know…everything’s in process right now.” Another hateful term — “in process.” A term that refers at best to a state of fog or hesitancy or being immersed in some kind of bureacratic muddle.
It just sounds like there’s a lack of passion on Spielberg’s part, no? You can feel it in his words — he’s into making Lincoln but…well, let’s see how it goes. There’s clearly a lack of enthusiasm for the script, which was supposedly being worked on a year or so ago by British playwright Paul Webb, who has written at least two previous screenplays, Four Knights and Spanish Assassins.
There must have been something supporting Neeson’s belief a year ago that Lincoln would be shooting by the spring of ’06, and just as obviously something Very Big got in the way of that. If Webb’s Lincoln screenplay is “in process” like Indy 4, which has been in development since the late ’80s, the film might never be made. Spielberg has been talking about making a Lincoln movie since `01, when DreamWorks bought rights to a bio by Doris Kearns Goodwin. Her book — “Master Among Men: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” — came out last fall
“As you might have guessed, I think World Trade Center is the first serious contender to be nominated for Best Picture this year,” David Poland wrote last night after slipping into an even-earlier screening than the earliest one I was told about yesterday…harumph. (Before we go any further, it’s clear what David’s saying but it would’ve been a better sentence if he had inserted “that deserves” after the word “contender” and before the word “to.”)
“I hate the release date,” Poland continues. “It really feels to me like a November movie. I wanted the sharp sting of cold air on my face as I walked out into the street.” (Except there are no sharp stings to be had from Los Angeles weather …ever. Poland is dreaming about seeing WTC in Chicago around Thanksgiving.)
“I wanted a hot drink and a long conversation with a fire crackling nearby. This is a heavy, heavy movie to be hitting America in August.” (I don’t know what that means at all. August is a time for all God-fearin’ folks to emotionally sidestep anything that isn’t Snakes on a Plane or Sherrybaby ?)
“But the weight I felt on my chest walking out of the theater was much like the weight I felt after Munich …” (thud, penalty buzzer) — “after Amadeus, after Million Dollar Baby, after In The Bedroom , after The Pianist, after In America. ” (I’m presuming Nic Cage doesn’t have any Paddy Considine “fee-fi-fo-fum” lines in WTC.)
“It was the weight of something that touched me in a deep, almost inexplicable way, greater than the sum of its parts.” (I know what this feels like when a movie kicks in just the right way, and seems to gather force in your chest the more you think about it afterwards, and yet you can’t quite figure exactly why.)
Anyway, point taken. I’m pumped, as other perhaps are. World Trade Center opens three weeks and one day from now — on Wednesday, August 9th.
And just to remind everyone, my choice for the first deserving Oscar nominee for Best Film of the Year so far, as I said in mid-June, is Paul Greengrass‘s United 93 — a film that many, many people are still too chicken to see, but is “truly a pulse-pounder for the ages, in part because it’s so stunningly well-made, but mainly because the extraordinary craft manifests in all kinds of haunting ways. Composed of a thousand details and a thousand echoes, United 93 is a film about revisiting, recapturing, reanimating…about death, loss and a portrait of heroism that, for me, was too much to absorb in a single viewing. I’ve seen it five times, and I can’t wait to watch and re-watch the DVD.”