“Dreamgirls will get the most nominations Thursday morning when the Golden Globe bids will be unveiled at 8:35 a.m. eastern, but I have a hunch that Mel Gibson will be the big media story,” writes The Envelope‘s Tom O’Neil.
“Look for the Hollywood bad boy to rebound from his recent scandal by being nominated for best director. Or if he’s not in that category, he’ll nab a bid as best producer if Apocalypto pops up in the race for best-foreign language film. Yes, foreign-language film, not best drama picture.
“Mel will probably surface in either category (or both) because he’s a Golden Globes darling. It was at the Globes of 1995 that he got launched Oscar-bound when he pulled off an upset to win best director for Braveheart. His Scottish battle epic lost the Globe for best drama picture to Sense and Sensibility, but it ended up slaying the latter literary sudser when both met up later at the Oscars.”
Through a Forest Darkly
“Until I was ten years old, I lived an everyday life full of monsters….having lucid dreams at night in which they became real. As a Mexican I’ve seen my share of weird shit, and this has made me believe in monsters as really tangible, corporeal entities. To me monsters are real. I think they’re creatures of the spirit, and they live in a place deep within us where angels and demons dwell. And to me they are part of my spiritual life, as much as a Christian would accept Jesus into his heart. I accept monsters.”
This is one of the better quotes from my chat earlier today with Pan’s Labyrinth director-writer Guillermo del Toro. I’ve known Guillermo since the mid ’90s — he’s one of the few filmmakers out there for whom I feel a genuine kinship and a sem- blance of real friendship — and I feel that he’s exceptionally wise and gifted and perceptive as hell. This is a commonly held view. He’s an old soul, endlessly generous, compassionate, insightful and possessed of a brilliant wit.
You can hear this in his voice, in his elegant phrasings and choice of words. The guy would kill on The Charlie Rose show.
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I asked Guillermo right after he said the above if he has any conventional religious feelings. “I’m a lapsed Catholic, but, as they say, once a Catholic, always a Catholic,” he answered. “As Luis Bunuel once put it, ‘I’m an atheist….thank God.'”
These are good times for Guillermo and Pan’s Labyrinth, which I feel is his best film ever. It is not, as he calls it, one of his “Ritalin movies” — Hellboy, Mimic, Blade 2 — but then I’ve always been a bigger fan of his quieter, more socially grounded films like Labyrinth and Chronos and The Devil’s Backbone. A lot of film critics feel the same way. Last weekend Pan’s Labyrinth was named Best Foreign-Language Film by the Boston Film Critics, the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the New York Film Critics Online.
Like The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth is half-real, half-fantasy. The subtext is the brutal wounding of Spain by the fascist rule of General Francisco Franco, which began in 1939 after his victory over the Republicans. It’s obvious that Del Toro despises the fascists, but also that he knows and cares as much about the social conditions after the Spanish conflict as he does about creating underworld life forms.
The story, as everyone knows by now, is about a young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) who’s given to fantasy head trips, and how this both conflicts with and provides escape from her new stepfather — a cold-hearted fascist Army officer — Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez) — whom her pregnant and sickly mother (Ariadna Gil) has recently married.
Soon after arriving at Vidal’s military-command outpost within a densely shaded forest, Ofelia soon conjures or encounters (you decide) a tall goat-like Pan figure — a faun — in a hidden-away labyrinth. This eloquent and fascinating creature (Doug Jones) tells Ofelia that she’s the reincarnation of a long-dead princess, but to prove her worth she must complete three dangerous tasks. To which she commits.
Meanwhile, Ofelia eventually learns that Vidal’s head servant Mercedes (Maribel Verdu, the doomed hottie in Y Tu Mama Tambien), is the sister of the leader of the remnants of the local rebellion, and that she’s been stealing Vidal’s supplies to help fortify the Loyalists. Also teaming with her is Vidal’s personal physician (Alex Angulo), who sneaks Mercedes medical supplies when Vidal isn’t looking.
Suffice that the real and the unreal eventually collide in a riveting way, and that the hard realities of the war take their toll on many characters, including Ofelia. The only beef I have with the finale is the storybook notion that by passing through the membrane of death one’s spirit is released into a better place where departed loved ones greet a new arrival. I didn’t buy a character’s death as a happy ending in Steven Soderbergh‘s Solaris, and I’m not buying it here.
Nonetheless, Pan’s Labyrinth is a beautifully woven fable — an adult fantasy film if there ever was one. It’s a kind of light-horror rhapsody — a sensitive and delicate fairy tale on one level, and a gripping political war drama on another. And it has some of the most startling and mind-bending images I’ve seen in any such film, ever.
Here, again, is the mp3 file, recorded off my cell phone as I stood under an awning at the corner of Montrose and Bushwick during a late-morning rainstorm. (The reception in Michael Arndt‘s third-floor apartment is piss poor. For T-Mobile sufferers, I mean.)
Pan‘s costar Sergi Lopez (l.), Guillermo del Toro (r.)
Posterwire.com is announcing that The Weinstein Company is running a movie-poster design contest to create a poster for Factory Girl — not with the idea of putting the winning entry in theatres, mind. I guess that means this is basically a meaningless chickenshit idea, but at least there’s ample precedent. “No major film studio has ever run a contest to design a movie poster where the winning entry was used as the domestic theatrical one-sheet for a film key art ad campaign,” the site explains.”
And yet the one-sheet that the Weinsteiners are going with isn’t very good, so maybe they should consider using one of the submitted entries. I’ve seen a rough version of the film, and while the Andy Warhol-ish silk-screen design of the one-sheet is effective, Sienna Miller‘s facial expression is neutral and stoic — which is totally at odds with what her performance as Edie Sedgwick is like. In the first half she’s jittery, impish, playful, teasing and crazy-girl plucky, and during the last third she’s on the downswirl and wiped out, her face full of stress and streaked with running mascara. In short, the Weinstein poster is a flub — a bland and pointless lie.
Luke Ford has provided terrific coverage of Tuesday night’s (12.12.06) discussion between N.Y. Times writers Sharon Waxman and Laura Holson and L.A. Times writers Patrick Goldstein and John Horn about who’s got the edge in covering Hollywood — the N.Y. Times, the L.A. Times or industry bloggers? (The chat was titled “L.A. vs. New York: Who’s Got the Scoop on Hollywood?”) Variety film editor Dana Harris moderated.
Ford has provided a sound file (very good listening) but here are some choice quotes (provided by Ford): (a) Goldstein: “The Envelope is about attracting Oscar advertising [and] Oscar prognostication is over-the-top and unhealthy”; (b) Horn: “It’s insipid”; (c) Goldstein: “It is almost impossible to beat the internet at the straightforward news game — we have to add analysis”; (d) Horn: “Putting Calendarlive.com behind a paywall was a disaster…a fiasco.”
Ford says he asked the first question of the night: “What makes you think David Geffen [understood to be a possible buyer of the L.A. Times] is a fan of free inquiry? The guy’s a bully. The guy is a blackmail artist. The guy’s a thug. The guy is a lowlife.”
Goldstein: “He’s a thug? I have a list on my wall of people I think of as thugs and David Geffen wouldn’t come close to being on that list.”
Waxman: “Patrick, come on. David Geffen is the one man…who you ask around town, people are afraid of him. They do not pick fights with him because David Geffen has nothing to do. He has a very long memory. He bears a grudge. He will mount a campaign against someone to get back…”
We all know that anyone looking to see Dreamgirls at one of the platform engagements in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, et. al., starting on 12.15 will have to plunk down $25 bucks a pop. And in advance, actually, because advance sales are going pretty well, according to this N.Y. Daily News story by Van Pereira and Nicole Bode. “It’s supposed to be the best film of the year,” says Howard Goldberg, a Hell’s Kitchen businessman. “I would pay $25 dollars for this.”
Thanks to reader Tommy Matolla for sending along a photo of the just-departed Peter Boyle as campaign manager Marvin Lucas in Michael Ritchie‘s The Candidate (1972) — my all-time favorite Boyle performance. When I heard of his passing this morning I thought immediately of how superbly on-target he was as the guy who managed, manipulated and mind-fucked Bill McKay (Robert Redford) in his California campaign for the U.S. Senate.
Well-mannered and nicely dressed in a trimmed beard and glasses, Lucas was a sly politico with a cynical heart and a whatever-works attitude, and Boyle’s air of witty refinement surprised a lot of people given his then-current rep as a thuggish meathead type — due, of course, to his breakout performance in John Avildsen‘s Joe (’70), in which he played a hippie-hating blue-collar guy.
And yet Boyle also portrayed Lucas with a subtle (and in my view, quietly hilari- ous) comedic edge. He delivers each line with total sincerity (as far as it goes) but at the same time lets the audience know that Boyle knows that Lucas is a kind of amiable devil — and at the same time just a practical pro with a job to do. It was this performance, I think, that made people realize he was much more than a one-trick blue-collar pony. (Few seemed to understand when it first opened that The Candidate was a very dry comedy — every scene has an oblique comic thrust.)
98% of the public thought of him as the cantankerous Frank Barone in Everybody Loves Raymond, which ran from ’96 to ’05 (while providing Boyle with much financial comfort) but his glory period was from ’70 to ’76: Joe, The Candidate, Steelyard Blues (another hilarious turn), The Friends of Eddie Coyle (as a sinister Boston bartender who handled the hit on Robert Mitchum), Mel Brooks‘ Young Frank- enstein (his legendary performance as a randy, tap-dancing, Wall Street Journal -reading monster with a huge schtufenhaufer) and lastly Martin Scorsese‘s Taxi Driver (in which Boyle played Wizard, the loutish, know-it-all cabbie).
He had a good career after this, but the quality of roles and films for the last 30 years were touch and go. Boyle’s last solid performance in a first-rate feature film was in Marc Forster‘s Monster’s Ball, in which he played Billy Bob Thornton‘s racist father.
In the summer of ’70 or ’71 a guy I used to know ran into Boyle one night at an outdoor bar on the grounds of the Tanglewood Music Festival. After a couple of pleasantries he offered Boyle a freshly-poured brew and said, “Have a Budweiser, king of beers!” — one of the signature lines from Joe. I don’t remember if Boyle accepted it or not, but as he walked off he said to my friend (or so I was told), “Thanks, kid — you’re all right.”
Alfonso Cuaron‘s Children of Men “has not one or two but three of the most spectacular shots ever conceived by a filmmaker,” writes MCN’s Pablo Villaca. “And the best thing is the film is more than technically marvelous; it tells a touching story full of significance. I fell deeply in love with this movie.
“But it’s also rich enough that it allows its fans to defend it from a more rational, cold and detached point of view as well. And if I’m going to succeed on making a case for why it’s the best film of 2006, that’s how we should proceed.”
Has anyone else besides Pablo Villaca and myself picked Children of Men as their Best Film of the Year? I don’t mind being a party of two — totally cool with that — but I’m curious.
“From a structural standpoint, Children of Men has characteristics of an action movie — a very good one. But what the audience will feel is that they’re watching an essentially dramatic and political narrative, for all the chase is part of very well con- structed plot and always plausible, and it doesn’t merely follows genre formulas.
“Cuaron proves his gifts as a storyteller when he manages to establish the univ- erse in which the story is set even before the title appears on screen. In a gray, chaotic and hostile London, we follow Theo while he barely escapes a terrorist attack — an incident that sets the tone of insecurity and violence that will dominate the whole film.
“Building a convincing portrait of the post-apocalyptic world and its social convul- sion, the film’s production design is phenomenal even in its small details, providing the audience with important information through scenic props such as newspaper clippings, photos and protests written with graffiti on city walls (which is how we’re introduced to the concept of an imminent uprising).
“Finally, the idea of showing Michelangelo’s David (rescued from a destroyed Italy) with a prosthetic leg reveals a curious — but appropriate — sense of humor by the filmmakers.”
Jennifer Holliday, 46, the original “Effie” in the Broadway production of Dreamgirls, is whining to L.A. Times writer Greg Braxton that she isn’t getting enough coattail action off the forthcoming movie version, and that there’s too little respect/acknowledgment from the filmmakers and publicists behind the Dreamamount film. Gee, that’s tough.
There’s a reason that Holliday, 200 pounds lighter than she was during the original play’s run, sounds like only a slightly tamer version of the well-known handful she was 25 years ago. She’s older and presumably wiser, but let’s face it — leopards don’t change their spots.
“She has worked steadily over the years but has never come close to matching her glory days as Effie,” writes Braxton. “Post-Dreamgirls,Holliday’s professional career and personal life could produce enough material for several Broadway shows: A suicide attempt at 30. Bankruptcy. Two failed marriages. Bouts with clinical depression.
“She dropped out of the public eye for years, drawing a startled reaction when she showed up in 1997 — 200 pounds lighter due to gastric bypass surgery — on Ally McBeal in a recurring role as a choir director.
“Although Dreamgirls has not had a major stage production for more than 20 years, Holliday said she had been the only one keeping the torch burning, performing ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’ at the private parties, corporate dates and engagements at gay nightclubs that have been her key source of income.
“Why is it necessary for them to wipe out my existence in order for them to have their success?” Holliday says of the Dreamamount team. “It’s scary that they can be so cruel. I know it’s business, but why do they have to go to this extreme? I’m a human being. I need to work too. Why do I have to die to make them a winner?”
“Some speculate that the filmmakers fear that comparisons to Holliday may dull the glow surrounding the performance of Jennifer Hudson, the former American Idol contestant who plays Effie in the film. Hudson has been considered an early favorite for an Oscar nomination.
“Wrote New York Post columnist Liz Smith: ‘Life is imitating art now. Jennifer Holliday, who was so incredible onstage in Dreamgirls as the original Effie, has incurred the wrath of Paramount for being uncooperative and not helpful in publicizing the movie. Word came down to omit any photo of her from the publicity for the movie version.’
Holliday “lives in Harlem and admits she is a bit of a recluse — she doesn’t go out much, doesn’t have a cellphone, doesn’t do e-mail,” Braxton relates.
“She is a ferocious reader of newspapers and magazines, loves courtroom shows on TV and watching movies — primarily musicals — until the sun comes up (‘”I am definitely not a morning person’). Holliday handles her own career — no agent, no publicist, no manager.”
These last two graphs say everything. Staying up all night watching movies, not getting up until noon or early afternoon, living on her own planet sans internet access and any sort of professional representation…forget it! She obviously wants to hide away, be excluded….lose.