Emilio Estevez‘s Bobby (Weinstein Co., 11.17) has been showing a lot in the small VIP screening rooms the last couple of days, but it will face the press on a big screen tomorrow morning at 8:45 ayem. A respected journalist saw it yesterday and was amazed, he said, that (a) it plays like a “comedy“, or at least as a series of scenes that seem to be trying to elicit chuckles and/or guffaws, and that (b) the Grand Hotel scheme is a bit like “Love Boat ’68”. I know I wrote that earlier and all, but that’s what this guy said. Yesterday, I mean
The Severance word continues to sink after this morning’s Toronto Film Festival press screening. I’m not calling it a terrible film — it’s moderately passable, amusing at times — but it was way overpraised a few weeks ago and it’s not living up to the hype.
When I heard Severance was playing Telluride I assumed it must be up to something quite special, outrageous, uproarious…and it’s not. It’s definitely hipper and funnier than Eli Roth‘s Hostel , but otherwise it’s markedly similar to that Lionsgate release. It (a) takes place in rural eastern Europe, (b) is about a group of westerners getting slashed and chopped to death by a gang of fiendish Eastern European paramilitary goons, and (c) has an extended torture-cellar sequence in which a screaming guy is strapped into a chair and disembowled.
That said, there are several excellent death and mutiliation scenes — a talking-head beheading, a chopped-off leg, a flame-thrower torching, a guy blown to pieces by a land mine, etc.
Here’s a 9.12 Daily Mail story about the diplomatic impact of Sacha Baron Cohen‘s Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (20th Century Fox, 11.3).
It reads like a piece from The Onion but it’s not — it’s apparently been written with total sincerity. Could it possibly be an extra-covert continuation of the film’s put-on humor and/or ad campaign? I’m not 100% sure. A rigorously unhip view of Cohen’s film is that it trashes Kazakhstan by depicting its citizens as primitve, borderline idiotic anti-Semites. And yet that’s pretty much what it does…although the humor is in quotes.
“Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev is to fly to the United States to meet President Bush in the coming weeks and on the agenda will be his country’s image,” the piece begins. “Nazarbayev will visit the White House and the Bush family compound in Maine when he flies in for talks that will include the fictional character Borat.
“He has [also] confirmed his government will buy educational TV spots and print advertisements about the ‘real Kazakhstan’ in a bid to save the country’s repu- tation before the film is released in the U.S. in early November.
“Roman Vassilenko, a spokesman for the Kazakhstan Embassy, says it is unlikely that President Nazarbayev will find Borat funny. “The Government has expressed its displeasure about Borat‘s representation of our country,” he said. “Our opinion of the character has not changed. We understand that the film exposes the hypocrisy that exists both here in the USA and in the UK and understand that Mr. Cohen has a right to freedom of speech.
“I cannot speak for the president himself, only for the government, but I certainly don’t think President Nazarbayev and Mr Bush will share a joke about the film. The bottom line is we want people to know that [Cohen’s character] does not represent the true people of Kazakhstan.”
I’m sorry to deliver an ixnay on Julia Noktev‘s Day Night Day Night , but that’s how I see this worthy but incomplete low-budgeter. It’s distinctive, unsettling and fascinating in this and that way, but it just doesn’t make it in the end.
The pic acquired a rep during its Telluride Film Festival exposure that it was some kind of “Bressonian” (as in Robert Bresson) or “Dreyer-like” (as in Carl Dreyer) exercise, and therefore deserving of everyone’s attention and respect. (What this boils down to is a certain type of elitist buzz that some critics find intimidating — I do not.) Anyway, I saw it yesterday evening at the Cumberland and I basically emerged feeling respectful but underwhelmed.
It’s a very spare and exacting account of a 19 year-old girl (Luisa Williams) of Middle East origin and intense eyes who’s holed up in a motel (possibly in New Jersey) outside of Manhattan to prepare for a suicide bombing in Times Squate. Hang the spoiler element — I don’t think it’s realistic to try and keep Williams’ mission a secret so we might as well just blow the lid off. I saw it knowing what the deal was in advance, and if anything it helped me to deal with the tedium that dominates during the first half.
All I can say is that Day Night Day Night doesn’t pay off in a way that any Average Joe moviegoer would consider remotely satisfying. You know nothing “big” (as in KABLOOM!) is going to happen because Noktev obviously doesn’t have the budget to convey this, or even suggest it. Noktev skillfully exploits the audiences’ sense of dread and anticipation as Williams gets closer and closer to her big button-pushing moment, but the movie still feels like a rip. An interesting, well-made model, yes, but a rip nonetheless.
I’ve finally seen all 54 minutes’ worth of Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein‘s intensely absorbing The Prisoner or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair — half of it at the Royal Ontario Museum a couple of days ago, and the second half via a DVD screener that was graciously provided by publicist David Magdeal.
One of the things everyone loves about the Toronto Film Festival is that you sometimes out of nowhere you find yourself watching a political documentary that’s unusually smart and exceptional all around the track. The Prisoner is one of these.
It’s basically about a freelance Iraqi journalist named Yunis Khatayer Abbas telling Tucker and Epperlein his story of having been arrested by U.S. troops (the incident was originally seen in Tucker and Epperlein’s Gunner Palace) and subsequent imprisonment for plotting to kill the British Prime Minister
The charges against Abbas were total bullshit, but at the time his prosecutors and incarcerators weren’t kidding. Months after being cuffed and thrown in the slammer, Abbas was let go after U.S. officials finally realized that a mistake had been made. Sorry, dude, shit happens, etc.
The Prisoner is partly a tragedy, partly a comedy and a 100% metaphor for the daily parade of bogus accusations, poorly considered military maueuvers and adminstrative screw-ups that apparently are par for the course for U.S. and British officials and soldiers in Iraq these days. That’s my take, at least.
I especially enjoyed Tucker and Epperlein’s use of graphic-novel images to emphasize the story points. I suppose Iraq tragedy is a cartoon on some level these days, or at least seems that way to some.
It took a while to get over there and then wait around for an hour or so before finally doing it, but I had a quiet, interesting, no-pressure chat yesterday with Little Children director and co-writer Todd Field at Toronto’s Hotel Intercontinental. I recorded it with an IPAQ hand-held organizer — it’s not too hard to make out the words.
If you haven’t seen the film it’ll be hard to follow some of what we discuss, but mainly I asked Field about (a) the film’s narration, which has an adult, erudite, slightly avuncular tone; (b) the faint sense of dread that you can feel all through Little Children, (c) the superb Little Children trailer, (d) the excellent choice he made in casting Phyllis Somerville as the mother of Jackie Earle Haley‘s balding, pale-faced, freckly, oddball sex-offender character, and (e) the Kate Winslet-Patrick Wilson post-coital photo adorning the Little Children one-sheet.
A bunch of journos were shuffling in and out of the suite while I waited — Chicago tribune critic Michael Phillips, The Envelope‘s Tom O’Neill, Toronto Star‘s Peter Howell, Daily Mail‘s Baz Bamigboye, David Poland, etc.
There was no finger food to pass the time with….just Cokes and Ginger Ale and ice water. I took a photo of the museum outside on Bloor Street at one point.
That “anonymous Toronto buyer” has struck again with reactions to a pair of pics-of-the-moment….
(1) All The Boys Love Mandy Lane — Brilliant little film with a refreshing cast of unknowns. Imagine an episode of The O.C. mixed with Texas Chainsaw Massacre. An inspired quick-draw pick-up by the Weinstein Co.
(2) El Cantante (i.e., the Jennifer Lopez project that I went “yipes!” about two or three weeks ago) — I thought it was too long. The screenplay is lazy . The crowd reaction last night at the Elgin was lukewarm even though there was a strong Puerto Rican contingent in the house. This isn’t a home-run. Might have trouble finding a strong U.S. distributor. Only the music makes it interesting.
In one stand-out moment from Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck‘s Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing, singer Natalie Maines “watches news footage of President Bush being interviewed about the furor that followed her on-stage comment that she was ‘ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas,’ which resulted in the group being dropped from most radio stations, as well as protests and plummeting sales.
”’The Dixie Chicks are free to speak their mind,” Bush tells interviewer Tom Brokaw, adding, ‘[But] they shouldn’t have their feelings hurt just because some people don’t want to buy their records when they speak out. You know, freedom is a two-way street.’
“After watching this footage, Maines, incredulous, repeats the president’s comment about how the group shouldn’t have their ‘feelings hurt,’ and then says, ‘What a dumb fuck.’ She then looks into the camera, as if addressing Bush, and reiterates, ‘You’re a dumb fuck.'”
— from Chris Willman‘s EW piece about the doc, which wsas press-screened yesterday morning and screens again today.