Indie producer Christine Vachon (Far From Heaven, Boys Don’t Cry) has it in for Manhattan’s Angelika Film Center, according to a N.Y. Post excerpt from her upcoming memoir called “A Killer Life: How An Independent Producer Survives Deals and Disasters in Hollywood and Beyond” (Simon & Schuster, 9.19). “I hate the Angelika,” Vachon has reportedly writen about the Houston street plex. “I won’t see movies there. The seats are uncomfortable, the sound is crummy, you can hear the 4/5/6 train rumbling underneath you, and the film projectors are terrible. Don’t even get me started on how the Technicolor [in] Far From Heaven looked on their screens. I couldn’t watch.”
“I must ask why you (and others, including David Poland) are ignoring the artistic crime being committed by Fox against Mike Judge‘s Idiocracy this weekend. By most accounts, this film’s satire sounds quite scathing. And the reviews seem to be generally positive (67% positive from Rotten Tomatoes), except for EW‘s truly idiotic online non-review, so I can’t buy the ‘it must be really awful’ studio line.
“That the film hasn’t been released anywhere on the east coast, and has been unceremoniously dumped in limited release in a few cities — dumped to the extent that frickin’ Moviefone actually refers to the films as ‘Untitled Mike Judge Project,’ and very few people have even seen a poster for the damn thing — is news of some sort, certainly, for entertainment journalists.
“I know you’re not in LA right now (where it’s playing), but I still think this deserves a mention. Also, it’s playing in Toronto (though not at the festival). Let’s hope some critics and journalists do their duties and see it this week or next.” — Bilge Ebiri
Okay, you’re right. I’ll see it when I get back to Toronto and then run something, before the festival starts.
A powerful untamed beast of the water — a sting ray — finally nailed Australian wild-kingdom daredevil Steve Irwin, 44, and the poor guy’s dead. An Australian news service is reporting that Irwin “was killed by a stingray barb that went through his chest” during an underwater shoot in the water off Cairns, Australia.
“Irwin was swimming off the Low Isles at Port Douglas filming an underwater documentary when the tragedy occured,” the news service report reads. “The Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) was called about 11am [Australian time] and an emergency services helicopter was flown to the crew’s boat on Batt Reef, off the coast near Cairns, with a doctor and emergency services paramedic on board.
“Irwin had a puncture wound to the left side of his chest and was pronounced dead at the scene.”
It’s sad as hell to report this, but we all know Irwin’s been tempting fate by hunting, stalking and sometimes taunting dangerous wild animals for years. If there was ever a guy whose epitaph deserved to read, “He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword,” it’s Irwin. He was mainly a TV guy, but he made a reasonably successful feature with his wife, Terri, called The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course, which grossed just under $30 million domestic.
However poorly The Wicker Man performed this weekend (third place, $10 or $11 million), it’s nowhere near as bad as I’d been led to expect. I paid to see it this evening in Syracuse ($40 bucks for the back-and-forth cab ride to the Carousel Mall, $20 for two tickets, $10 or $12 for drinks and popcorn…almost $75 bucks to see The Wicker Man!) and I didn’t come out pissed. I’ve seen much, much worse.
The Wicker Man freaks out a bit and loses its cool at the finale, true, but I liked Nic Cage punching that older butchy woman along with Leelee Sobieski. I laughed, I mean. (I’m not sure that was helmer Neil LaBute‘s desired reaction or not.) And the ending wouldn’t have been nearly as painful if LaBute had just figured some way for Cage not to put on that bear suit and forgotten that epilogue scene.
Otherwise, the first 85% isn’t too bad. It’s not great or exceptional, even, but it putters along and doesn’t piss you off, and LaBute’s dialogue is sharp and aware and contentious. I kept telling myself to imagine the film as a stage performance and imagine how it would play if I were watching it live, and the experiment worked in the film’s favor. No way isMan an all-time clunker and a career embarassment for LaBute and Cage, like you’ve been reading. Most of it somewhere between passable and mildly okay, and overall it’s far from abysmal.
Naturally, Hollywood being Hollywood, there are cowards and caution freaks out there who feel that releasing Clint Eastwood‘s Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima within a couple of months of each other (the former via Paramount/DreamWorks on 10.20, the latter sometime in December via Warner Bros.) will be risky and “will be seen as a stunt” and may wind up splitting Academy votes if and when both get nominated for Best Picture.
A split vote situation could happen — I haven’t seen either film and haven’t a clue about which is better, or even if either film is Oscar quality — but we all know what will most likely occur. All of us except for the nervous nellies, that is, who are running around in circles right now going “ooh! ooh! risky! risky!” and wiping sweat beads off their brows.
Flags — a story about the American soldiers who were over-celebrated as the flag-raising heroes of Iwo Jima’s Mt. Surabachi, and about the torn feelings they experienced as a result of all the hero worship — is, naturally, obviously, the Clint Eastwood Iwo Jima film most likely to be touted as a Best Picture recipient.
And no matter how good Letters From Iwo Jima turns out to be, it’s still not a film about Americans and the American combat experience, and therefore won’t channel American feelings — boomer sentiments, patriotic stirrings, sympathy for Iraqi war veterans — the way Flags will, and will therefore be regarded by 95% of the Academy as strictly backup — a respectable support movie for Flags that will provide poignant echoes and whatever else it manages to stir up.
“Qualifying Letters for awards consideration could destroy Flags‘ Best Picture chances,” wrote one prognosticator. “Maybe WB and consultant Michelle Robertson have decided that it’s a soft field this year and they can get two nominations. But I don’t really think so. Maybe the WB team thinks they can out-hustle Terry Press and make the Japanese film the nominee.”
At least this trembling observer threw in the following words, which are obviously the bottom line: “If it turns out that Flags is the Oscar movie of 2006, all of this will be a footnote after a great deal of media hype. If it turns out that Flags is just another quality contender, the strategy could be a disaster.”
I don’t know about Alice Fisher‘s Guardian sell-job about Scarlett Johansson being the ultimate class-act screen goddess of our time, and her having “more in common with Katharine Hepburn or Lauren Bacall than brattish contemporaries such as Lindsay Lohan.” And what’s wrong with being Lohan-esque, apart from the offscreen behavior issue? A lot of what Johansson has to offer is quite similar to what Lohan has, and that’s nothing to carp about.
I don’t get the Bacall-Hepburn thing at all. Johansson isn’t thin or poised or gifted enough in the realm of sexual suggestiveness to warrant comparison with Bacall in her mid 40s heyday, and she has none of the upper-class attitude airs that Hepburn had in spades. She doesn’t have 20th Century ruling-class features — she looks like a Brooklyn, Queens or low-rent Jersey or Long Island girl who’s made good. She’s a bit too carnal and booby, too full-lipped and open-mouthed (her lips are always slightly parted) to exude the vibe of genuine class.
Johansson is a very smart and peceptive actress who can really deliver the soul when the elements are right, but I’ve cooled on her a tiny bit since Match Point, which was probably her high point sofar. I’m starting to see her as just another in-and-outer, dependant — like everyone else — on good material and not being all that wildly extraordinary in her own skin. A good, feisty actress, yes, but not necessarily bursting with the genes of legend.
Johansson floundered embarassingly in Scoop and I didn’t believe her for a split second as a 1940s glamour-puss in Brian De Palma’s The Black Dahlia. I didn’t believe her in The Girl with the Pearl Earring either. There’s something about her that screams non-period. That means I’m going to have trouble with her playing a friend of Napoleon Bonaparte’s in Napoleon And Betsy and The Other Boleyn Girl, in which she’ll “play Mary to Natalie Portman‘s Anne in the tale of sisters vying for Henry VIII’s affections.”
Rachel McAdams has it — Johansson doesn’t.
I hate to be the bearer of bad tidiings as far as Bob Berney and the fortunes of Picturehouse are concerned, but the Telluride consensus so far is saying we should all forget about Nicole Kidman being any kind of Best Actress contender for her Diane Arbus performance in Fur. if there’s a standout performance, they’re saying, it belongs to Robert Downey, Jr.
Memo to Paramount: remember that item from two or three days ago with that sound-mixer woman who’s worked on Zodiac saying that Downey “gives an incredible Oscar-level performance” in that film…? If Zodiac comes out this year Downey will have two head-turning supporting performances to his credit, or so we’re hearing, and…I guess I don’t need to spell it out.
Let’s call this one Anonymous Telluride Guys Tells All:
“First off, you’re right and whoever else you’re hearing from is wrong about The U.S. vs. John Lennon. I saw it ahead of the festival so I didn’t witness the supposed ‘rapturous’ response. But this is a deifying, talking-heads TV special piece of crap. And I say that as one of the biggest Beatlemaniacs you’ll ever meet; unfortunately, I’m also a fan of real documentary filmmaking, which this is not.
“David Poland‘s high opinion of Little Children seems to be shared by no one here. I liked it more than anyone else I’ve talked to in line, and I wasn’t over the moon about it. There’s a lot to admire about it, and I think it will work for a lot of audiences and critics. But it’s also very slick and overly schematic.
“If Poland thinks ‘there’s not a wrong shot in the movie’, I would start with the one in which the indecent-exposure guy, whom all the parents are afraid of, gets into the pool and all the parents grab their kids and jump out like it’s Jaws, and then they stand around the edge with their children staring at him in silence. This is such a not-real-world moment that it really throws off the movie. And there are more such moments where stylization trumps suburban realism.
“But there are some great performances in it. Does it have a shot at a Best Picture nomination? Maybe, in a weak year. But after hearing a lot of negativity about it from average viewers, I’m thinking my positive-but-ambivalent take may be in the minority…much less Poland’s over-the-moon reaction.
“I loved Severance. There was a wee, wee feeling of letdown at the end, partly because of the buildup about the film and partly because the ending really isn’t as good as it needs to be. But it’s such good fun, with many, many laugh-out-loud moments. If ‘horror comedy’ doesn’t work at the box-office, as we keep being told, this probably won’t be any different, but it will definitely be a critical hit (not with everyone, obviously) and find an appreciative cult. You can still look forward to it at Toronto, whatever naysaying you may have heard.
“I went to Catch a Fire because of your recommendation after the rough cut, but I really wish I’d spent those two hours seeing something else I’ll end up missing. Seems churlish to knock it, but it felt like a poof to me.
“Fur…where would I begin? Will have to save that for another message, if you’re interested. It’s probably the film I’ve liked the least here so far (not counting the Lennon film), but being such a bizarre take, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Since it has next to nothing to do with the actual life of Diane Arbus, it will make many, if not most, fans of hers very angry. But there’s something about Robert Downey being covered head-to-toe in hair that somehow works…up to a point.
“Just saw Ghosts of Cite Soleil, the documentary about Haiti — great. The Italian is terrific, though the ending seemed like a cop-out. Babel is great also, but another weak ending (for me) after a 142-minute investment.”
“Great buzz on Venus and The Last King of Scotland, or at least the lead performances. I liked Volver, but reactions are mixed. I’m hearing nothing but loathing for Day Night Day Night , but maybe I’m not talking to the artsier crowd here. Up next for me: Venus and Infamous.”
Editor’s addendum: Sorry, but I have to interject here — the ending of Babel is, for me, just-right beautiful…a nice clean pocket drop that “says” the right thing in precisely the right way, by which I mean softly and tenderly.
The word is sinking ever-so-slightly on Christopher Smith‘s Severance after playing with a Telluride audience or two. A decision has been reached by two plugged-in prognosticators that it’s been overhyped (i.e., as a result of items like this one), isn’t that great, has some good jokes and so on but isn’t radically different or audacious enough to qualify as something really special, etc. Nobody’s trashing it — they’re just saying “calm down, it’s not that brilliant”. It still looks to me like a midnight-movie hit, and I still can’t wait to catch it in Toronto.
Julia Noktev‘s Day Night Day Night , which is screening for the third and final time this evening at the Telluride Film Festival and which will also screen at the Toronto Film Festival, is developing a certain kind of elitist heat that will be reaching critical mass as it begins to be seen during the second phase of the Toronto fest. The terms I’m hearing are “Bressonian” (as in Robert Bresson) or “Dreyer-like” (as in Carl Dreyer).
A certain blowhard know-it-all was spreading the word on this film a couple of weeks ago, but now that it’s been seen and chewed over at Telluride it feels more real. Shot by Benoit Debie (Irreversible), it’s about a 19 year-old girl (Luisa Williams) of indeterminate origin andintense eyes who’s in New York City to do something. The big “what” is answered about two thirds of the way through. I’m not going to spoil at this stage, but it’s not going to stay a secret for very long. Think Paradise Now, only much artier.
I don’t know why the release plan for Clint Eastwood‘s Letters from Iwo Jima has changed, but Variety editor Peter Bart is reporting today that a previously decided-upon January release date for the Japanese-language film — a kind of mirror version of Clint’s Flags of Our Fathers, which opens via Paramount/ DreamWorks on 10.20 — is apparently out the window.
I was told two or three weeks ago that Letters from Iwo Jima was going to come out sometime in early to mid January. But now, says Bart, who’s getting his information straight from Eastwood, it will open “two months” after Flags , or sometime in mid to late December.
“Thus,” Bart writes in a column posted today (it will appear in the Variety print version tomorrow), “the possibility exists that Clint will be the first filmmaker in history to have two films in awards contention in the same year, in two different languages.”
Eastwood is “now completing post-production on both films with an eye to opening both at the Tokyo Film Festival in October,” Bart writes. “The distribution pattern is predictably complex: Warner Bros. is handling both films overseas along with DreamWorks, now owned by Paramount, which is distributing em>Flags in the U.S. The production costs of the two films together is under $70 million. There are no big stars involved: Ryan Phillippe is in Flags and Ken Watanabe in Letters.”
The two Iwo Jima films will complement each other in interesting ways, Eastwood has told Bart.
“One scene in Flags shows American soldiers chatting in their foxhole, when suddenly one of them disappears, having been yanked into a tunnel by the Japanese. The Japanese film does not show the Americans, but rather the Japanese who are pulling down the American soldier.”
Variety‘s Pamela McLintock wrote an analysis story about the dual Iwo Jima pic release.
“Marketing and publicity execs at Warner Bros. and Paramount who are charged with opening [Eastwood’s] two Iwo Jima films believe it’s critical that the two movies be released within a short time of each other in the U.S. and Japan. However, they don’t want the films to crowd each other out. ‘Each movie needs its own space…it can’t be seen as a stunt,’ one marketing vet says.
“There are also a lot of generals in the mix. DreamWorks and Warner Bros. were the original partners on the films, but once DreamWorks was sold to Paramount, Par became involved.
“Paramount bows Flags of Our Fathers (the battle from the American viewpoint) next month in the U.S., while Warners begins opening Letters From Iwo Jima (told from the Japanese side and shot entirely in Japanese) in December. Warners is releasing Flags overseas, and Letters everywhere.”
Friday night’s Telluride Film Festival screening of The U.S. vs. John Lennon was rapturous, according to Santa Barbara Film Festival director Roger Durling. “In over 20 years of coming to Telluride, I’ve never seen a more positive reaction to a film than [this],” he wrote yesterday. “People were on their feet crying, clapping, hooting and hollering.” Congratulations to David Leaf and John Scheinfeld , the guys who put this film together, for scoring with such a direct emotional hit. Lennon was a phenomenal artist-performer-rockstar and in some ways a lovable human being, but my reaction to their film was not one of absolute enthrallment, which I tried to explain the other day.