I finally saw Stuart Gordon‘s film of David Mamet‘s Edmond last night, and I was startled by how good most of it is. Good as in brave, brazen, uber-declarative. It’s about a middle-aged businessman (William H. Macy) who just can’t stand it any more and cuts loose and goes mad over the course of a single evening in Manhattan’s seamy sexual underground. (If you have to ask what “it” is then you won’t get this movie.) I’ll get into this more in a day or two but here’s a taste of the dialogue. It’s a little echo-y and hard to make out, but it’s Macy and costar Joe Mantegna having a very pared-down, Mamet-like conversation.
Sometimes it’s okay to just go with an idea that pops into your head. Because sometimes that idea can be astonishing. (And sometimes it can go the other way.) A guy wrote in today said he didn’t care for the title of Curtis Hanson’s film Lucky You, and right away an alternative came to me: Lucky Jew. Not because it sounds like an impertinent Mel Brooks title, but because I would simply want to see a movie about a Jewish gambler. I just would. It speaks to me. It sounds like rude fun. I would also be a bit more intrigued if the film was called Luck You. This implies that being visited by luck can be a bad thing, because it throws you off your game. I don’t mind Lucky You as a title — it’s okay — but I like these alternatives better.
Oregonian critic Shawn Levy has interviewed Gus Van Sant about his next film, Paranoid Park, which the director-writer is calling “Crime and Punishment in high school.” (Wait…Larry Gross wrote a script in the late ’90s literally called “Crime and Punishment in High School”, and it was called Crime and Punishment in Suburbia when it came out in 2000.) Van Sant’s film will be based on a novel by “sometime Portlander” Blake Nelson. The book will be published in September by Viking Juvenile, and Gus’s film will begin shooting around Portland in the fall. Set in the world of Portland’s skateboarders, it’s about a teenage kid “who accidentally kills a security guard and has to figure out what to do when police start to investigate the death.”
Of all the weekend’s five openers, Little Miss Sunshine has by far the highest Rotten Tomatoes rating — 93%. In fact, it’s the only film with a passing grade (i.e., anything with a 70% or more average). But it’s only opening in L.A. and New York so the big opener, presumably, will be Miami Vice (64%), followed by The Ant Bully (33%). Woody Alllen’s Scoop (31%) is unfortunately the worst film he’s ever made, and no comment on John Tucker Must Die.
Kevin Smith is going to sit in for Roger Ebert “next week” (whatever that means in terms of air dates….the weekend after this one coming?) and trade quips with Richard Roeper. Wait a minute….Kevin’s My Space announcement says “we’ll be checking out Miami Vice, Ant Bully Talladega Nights, Barnyard and maybe (fingers crossed) World Trade Center.” In other words he and Roeper are going to review Miami Vice a week or so after the 7.28 opening? Is that how the show sometimes works? You’d think it would be reviewed this weekend…no?
Wait a minute…Curtis Hanson‘s Lucky You (Warner Bros., 9.8) is opening in six weeks? It’s a presumably well-written gambling flick (how can it not be with Hanson having collaborated with screenwriiter Eric Roth?) about a bigtime poker player with issues working against him. Hanson (In Her Shoes, 8 Mile ) has cast Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore, Robert Duvall and Debra Messing in the lead roles. You will obviously open during the Toronto Film Festival but it won’t be part of it, I’ve been told.
The trailer, which started playing in theatres last weekend, is now online at the AOL Moviefone site. But you need the dreaded Mozilla Active X plugin to see it and I’ve found it impossible to download this damn thing so I’m out of luck. WB should make it available through a different viewing software.
I’m one of those odd ducks who hates actual gambling — losing money to some guy across the table who has a better hand or is a better buffer makes me want to punch a refrigerator (especially if it’s the latter) — and yet I love good gambling movies like California Split, Rounders and The Gambler , so I’m pretty stoked about this one. Theoretically, I mean.
The only thing that gives me slight concern is the Bana karma. He’s only starred in two U.S.-made films thus far (The Hulk, Munich) and as far as I’m concerned they were both stiffs. I liked Bana in his modest role in Black Hawk Down and he was great in the Australian-made Chopper (which launched his career) but he doesn’t seem to have any heat right now. I hope Lucky You changes this, but so far the cards have been cold and the dice haven’t been rolling.
Just watched the trailer for Stranger Than Fiction (Columbia, 11.10). It’s basically about Will Ferrell as an IRS agent named Harold Crick hearing his life being narrated by a woman’s voice as he lives it, and the narrator turning out to be an actual writer named Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson) working on a story about Crick’s life. Zack Helm‘s script is a variation on an idea floated in Woody Allen‘s The Purple Rose of Cairo, which is that characters have wills of their own that argue with the plot decisions made by the writers who’ve created them. If you’ve ever worked on a screenplay you know how true this can be. At a certain point the characters tell you what they would do, and not vice versa. The costars are Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, Tony Hale and Kristin Chenoweth.
For all I know this is totally standard, but Sebastian Selig, a regular reader from Stuttgart, Germany, who works at an ad agency and has a background in film distribution, is telling me that trailers from Michael Mann‘s Miami Vice have been re-dubbed with more simplistic dialogue by UIP Germany, a.k.a., the “German Paramount.”
The dubbed German trailers areviewable in three versions at this location.
“As you can see, they are all based on the three US-trailers but dubbed quite differently,” Selig writes. “About 98% of all released prints of U.S. films dubbed into German here, and some distributors see this as a chance to reshape pictures into a new direction which they think are more suitable for a German audience (which in theire opinion seems to be a lot dumber than an international crowd).
“For example Wes Anderson‘s The Life Aquatic got the Naked Gun treatment. Buena Vista Germany erased nearly all of the dry humor by letting everyone sound like they were obvious joking, even changed some line of dialogue and added ‘funny’ German accents to some of the main parts (something they especially like to do for animation pics like for example Finding Nemo, Ice Age and many more).
“Judging by the now-running trailers this also seem to have happened with Miami Vice. It`s obvious that UIP hates the movie because of it`s not-so-easy sell, so they apparently said to themselves, ‘Let`s make this an easy sell by changing it so it wil play for the dumbest audience imageanable.’ Compare the dubbed German trailer with the original and you’ll see they’ve changed lines to make the actors sound more dumb-macho.
“A Colin Farrell line — ‘Do you understand the meaning of the word ‘foreboding’, as in badness is happening right now?’ — has now been dubbed and changed to “Do you know what a bad feeling is? It√É‚Äö√Ç¬¥s like when you feel something is about to blow.'( ‘Weist Du was ein ungutes Gef√É∆í√Ç¬ºhl ist? Wenn man genau sp√É∆í√Ç¬ºrt gleich knallt`s!’)
“And to even more underline this is a ‘bad boys’ pic the announcer gives his best to sound as an schoolyard-bully straight out of hauptschule.
“Even more so regarding this Jamie Foxx line: ‘Smooth. That’s how we do it.’ It has now become ‘Easy man, eaaasy…’ (“Ganz locker man, gaaaaaanz locker”), or spoken by someone who’s obviously trying to go for a 50 Cent attitude.
“You can squirm in your seat by the trailers alone. An original version of Miami Vice will only be shown on comparable small screens in the bigger cities so the general impression over here in Germany will be this is dumbass action-fare (more Dukes of Hazzard than Heat).
“And yet UIP will hold most of the press screenings in English with subtitiles so critics will have a different impression than most of it`s audience, so it can be expected they will give this Mann film the thumbs-up.”
Cool-cat screenwriter Larry Karaszewski (1408, Man on the Moon, Ed Wood) has written in response to that Nic Cage-as Liberace item I wrote that dissed Liberace project screenwriters Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg, the gag-men who wrote large portions of the Scary Movie and Date Movie and Spy Hard screenplays. Karaszewski, who oversaw the development of the Liberace script with partner Scott Alexander, says “it’s actually very good.” I believe Larry because I respect his work, but I’m having trouble digesting this. How can Friedberg and Seltzer write crap like Scary Movie and
I missed David Poland’s 7.24 summary of an old media vs. new media dustup that largely occured the day before, but better late than never. The highlight was a short but stinging criticism of Time magazine critic and documentarian Richard Schickel by Hollywood Reporter columnist and RiskyBiz blogger Anne Thompson for a recent and obviously resentful Schickel diss of online film critics and columnists.
Poland’s account opens with a 7.23 Cathy Siepp guest editorial in the L.A. Times that laments a persistent tendency of old-media Times staffers to diss online writers and reporters in a clueless and petty way. (Poland has been one of the dissees in a David Shaw piece that ran in the Times five years ago.)
Time film critic, author and documentarian Richard Schickel; Hollywood Reporter columnist Anne Thompson
Then it shifts over to the brief Schickel-Thompson contretemps, which was over a remark in a Schickel-penned book review that ran in the 7.23 L.A. Times. Schic- kel began his piece with a diss of online film columnists by saying that the current film-writing “pendulum seems to be permanently stuck at the burbling end of the spectrum, where the bloggers — history-free and sensibility-deprived — weekly blurb the latest Hollywood effulgence and are rewarded by seeing their opinions bannered atop movie display ads in type sizes elsewhere reserved for the outbreak of wars and the demise of presidents.”
This brought a response from Thompson titled “Is Time‘s Richard Schickel out of date?”, and it said the following: “Is Schickel feeling the pressure of younger critics nipping at his heels? Enough. If you’re too outmoded to understand today’s movie aesthetic — or the existence of many blogs that feature excellent film criticism, along with the ones that don’t — stop writing about them. Schickel is a terrific book writer, documentary filmmaker and voiceover artist. There are plenty of worthwhile activities to keep him busy.”
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Do most online film columnists exude the aesthetic sensibility and historical perspective of, say, Schickel or Charles Taylor or David Edelstein? Some don’t. But there are just as many (if not more) insufficiently cultivated writers in the print world as in the cyber, and what certain online pundits may lack here and there in terms of cultured perspective and/or sophistication is more than compensated for with their passion and to-die-for particularity.
It’s widely recognized, I think, that online film writers convey far more in the way of personality and hot-blood conviction than old-media types, who, I sense, are often constrained by their editors’ insistence upon conveying a tone of measured semi- dispassionate journo-speak. Obviously not always — I ‘ve always loved the honed precision of Schickel’s Time reviews along with those by print guys Joe Morgen- stern, David Ansen and Peter Rainer (among dozens of others) but I sometimes wonder what these guys really, really think deep down, and how they’d phrase it if they’d let their hair down a bit.
But of course, Schickel’s ire is mainly about the attention the online pundits are getting by way of quotes in print ads. My God…this is one of the brightest, most learned and most sophisticated film critics in the world, and with these words Schickel has put on the cloak of a grumpy old coot swatting at pesky young whippersnappers nipping at his professional heels. He and some of his brethren obviously feel threatened by the encroaching presence and power of the online film crowd. As well they should.
Shickel should really try and shake this attitude off. He knows all about the dynamics of change and how young conquistadors have always moved up and eventually displaced the entrenched. Nobody wants to be the older guy who doesn’t get the new sensibility, but it happens to the best of them. It’s an old story. Where’s his perspective?
A similar kind of old order-new order clash between film writers and their editors happened 46 years ago in the case of a young upstart critic named Andrew Sarris. In the summer of 1960 Sarris was lambasted in some Manhattan editorial circles for writing far too seriously and respectfully about Alfred Hitchcock‘s Psycho, which obviously casts Sarris in a perceptive forward-thinker mold by today’s standards.
Three years later N.Y. Times critic Bosley Crowther, easily the biggest frog in the pond back then, ran a rave review of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra. Try and find anyone today who feels Cleopatra is even a half-good film. (I think the opening 20 minutes with Rex Harrison are pretty good, but then Elizabeth Taylor rolls out of that Persian carpet and it all goes to shit.)
Later that year Crowther expressed dismay at the impudence of Dr. Strangelove, and particularly its lack of respect for the U.S. military. Four years later Crowther viciously panned Bonnie and Clyde, and that was it. He was over. The culture had passed him by.
Crowther’s fuddy-duddyisms and Schickel’s disdain of new-media film writers obviously aren’t analagous in every respect, but the older-guy analytical tendencies are, I feel, at least somewhat similar. Older entrenched writers don’t tend to get new stuff as completely as younger, not-as-corporately-connected writers, and some of them tend to bash avatars of the new for being crude or pandering or not worldly enough. But worlds change.
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