Someone wrote this afternoon that “if someone tells you Talladega Nights is hateful, look at the hatred of the source” and that “only an arrogant jackass would suggest that large groups are too stupid to know they are being made fun of.”
Just for fun, let’s assume this guy was referring to my Talladega review. What I wrote (and what’s being indicated this weekend at the box-office) is simply that the people that Talladega “shits on the heaviest” — Southerners, NASCAR fans — “are going to be its biggest fans.” Where I come from that’s called irony. I didn’t say the NASCAR crowd is “stupid” to be liking this film. I didn’t laugh much when I saw it, but it’s got some funny stuff here and there. Co-writer Will Ferrell and director and co-writer Adam McKay know what they’re doing. They’re pros, I mean.
But what’s unmistakable, as I wrote a few days ago, is that “joke after joke, scene after scene, Talladega show us what total fools white-trash Southern hee-haws are. It says they’ve got no real values and they care only about conspicuous consumption, and that all they like to do is tear around in muscle cars, buy new stuff, serve their kids junk food and go apeshit at NASCAR races.”
I guess I didn’t put it the right way. Ferrell and McKay respect and admire local TV newsmen, which is where the humor in Anchorman came from. It came from love and affection. And now they’re chiding NASCAR fans affectionately, like one friend or family member to another. Oh, and there are no hee-haws, no rednecks, no downmarket sons of the South. These terms are evil media myths. Everyone is beautiful in their own way, and anyone who thinks differently needs to be shown the error of their ways.
After seeing Patrick Stettner‘s The Night Listener at a Sundance screening last January I wrote that “watching it felt like being in a kind of prison…a windowless isolation cell in Iraq during the Hussein regime. It’s a movie for dead people — the whole thing feels entombed. Almost every shot is enveloped in shadows and blackness, and your kindly torturer is a bearded and withered-looking Robin Williams . ”
Well, I saw it again last week and Stettner’s film has been slightly trimmed and tightened since Sundance. I got through it with less grimacing. But it’s still slow, shadowy, grim and odd.
Co-written by Stettner, novelist Amistead Maupin and Terry Anderson (and based upon a true episode in Maupin’s past) , it’s about a gay radio talk-show host named Gabriel (Williams) who’s become intrigued by a young AIDS-afflicted kid (Rory Culkin) he’s spoken to on the phone but has never seen, and about his search for the boy and some very curious encounters with a blind woman who says she’s the kid’s mom (Toni Collette ).
I haven’t read any reviews that have brought this up, so I guess I’ll have to: a 50ish gay man developing a fondness for a 14 year-old boy over the phone — hello? — feels icky.
A gay journalist friend explained to me last week that older gay guys having nurturing relationships with teenage boys isn’t necessarily what it seems to be. It can just an uncle-mentor type thing. Okay, but turn this around for a second. Would any movie deliver a story about a 50ish straight guy getting into a close relationship with an afflicted 14 year-old girl, and then have him try to visit her at home? Anyone who watches The Night Listener will be wondering about the undercurrent. But all the reviewers are dancing around it.
N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott has written that “we understand that Gabriel, who nursed [his ex-boyfriend] through a period of life-threatening illness, needs someone to protect and care for, and that [Culkin’s character] represents a beguiling mixture of toughness and innocence”…and not a word about what anyone seeing this film would definitely be thinking.
Hollywood Elsewhere’s self-sponsored follow-up to the Netflix Rolling Roadshow — a non-approved, unofficial fall sequel to the current tour — has just added (1) Elia Kazan‘s Viva Zapata! (’52) , to be screened at an open-air faciity near Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles (Friday, 10.7), (2) Peter Yates ‘ The Friends of Eddie Coyle (’73) at an outdoor theatre adjacent to Boston’s Government Center (Friday, 10.14), and (3) Anthony Mann‘s El Cid (’61) at an undetermined location on 10.21. Admission is free. Bring your own food, drink and blankets. There’s just one problem…
An argument against “in vino, veritas” has been written by security consultant Gavin de Becker in an open letter to Endeavor agent-partner Ari Emanuel, who suggested earlier this week that people in the industry should blacklist Mel Gibson over his anti-Semitic remarks. The letter appeared in Friday’s Hollywood Reporter, but it’s not linkable so here it is on Defamer. And here’s the Defamer intro .
Standard studio-produced sell-job video for World Trade Center, and yet it has a straight, comprehensive and emotionally honest tone. It’s viewable on I-Film. The idea behind this movie is catching on. I can feel this happening. But I still say Paramount should have snuck in this weekend.
Here‘s a N.Y. Times piece that’s a portrait of GenX males getting older and not getting married — marriage levels are down all over — and just shuffling along and scratching their heads. Written by Eduardo Porter and Michelle O’Donnell, the article is called “Facing Middle Age with No Degree, and No Wife.” It basically says that women with jobs and maturity and a firmer sense of responsibility don’t see that much upside in getting married to some 37 year-old dude who’s trying but not pulling down much of a salary. And so the guys whose careers aren’t going great guns are kind of getting pushed aside.
It seems as if a whole new social class is being formed — single middle-aged pudgeballs. (A pudgeball being a guy who was a major bong-head and ESPN-watcher and Frito-muncher in his 20s and early 30s but is now trying to grim up and fly straighter as he approaches the big four-oh.) Imagine hundreds of thousands of these guys amblin’ into their 40s and 50s, nudging the hockey puck along with the toe of their lace-up Converse shoes.
This ties in on some level to that piece I wrote in early July about “a trend in movies about GenX guys in their early to mid 30s who’re having trouble growing up. Guys who can’t seem to get rolling with a career or commit to a serious relationship or even think about becoming productive, semi-responsible adults, and instead are working dead-end jobs, hanging with the guys all the time, watching ESPN 24/7, eating fritos, getting wasted and popping Vicodins.”
Take a moment and think about Arthur Lee, who died Thursday from lukemia at age 61. And if you don’t have a CD of Forever Changes in your collection then I guess that’s your choice. You can always do something about this later on.
Recapping for precision’s sake: The three Darjeeling Limited brothers are going to be Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson. In Movieland, as we all know, brothers rarely look like each other and there’s almost never any resemblance — none — between parents and their kids. But The Darjeeling Limited is a Wes Anderson pic, and Andersonville is a much more particular and exacting place, and the usual bullshit doesn’t apply.
(l. to r.) Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson
So with this in mind, I have to say I’m having a little trouble with these three being from the same brood. I’m seeing vague gene-pool sharings between Schwarztman and Brody, and Brody and Wilson both have big thin noses…but in real life it would be tough to accept that Wilson and Brody are cousins, much less brothers. Well, maybe. I could buy into it a little easier if Wes’s script gives them different mothers or fathers.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is doing much better than those projected figures in the low to high 30s that showed up on Thursday and Friday. It did $18,254,000 last night (i.e, Friday) and one estimate is projecting $49,287,000 by Sunday night. The reason is that’s doing extremely well in the red-state boonies. If this pattern holds you can bet Columbia will claim a first-weekend figure of just over $50 million. Sunday is always weaker for a redneck white-bread comedy like this, which — face it — won’t be attracting much support from African American filmgoers. Movies that play stronger on Sunday tend to have an “urban tint”, which Talladega definitely lacks.
Steve Oedekerk’s Barnyard, a Nickelodeon/ Paramount animated film that I didn’t care about seeing, did a decent $5,463,000 — a little over $1600 a print. — yesterday, and is projected to bring in $16,936,000 by Sunday night. The weekend projection for Pirates 2 is $10,875,000, off 47%. The expected weekend tally for Miami Vice…hold on to your hats…is $9,577,000, which is a drop of 63% from last weekend. It’s over — it’ll be a push to reach $60 million. Lionsgate’s The Descent will do about $9,438,000, which means they’ll probably report over $10 million. John Tucker Must Die will wind up with $6,697,000. Monster House, $5,907,000. Dupree, $3,716,000. Ant Bully, $3,706,000. The Night Listener with Robin Williams is toast with $3,561,000 projected for the weekend. It’s playing in 1367 theatres and did a bit more than $2000 a print.
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