“Children of Men takes a while to get rolling. [But] then comes a scene that, checking my notes, had me writing down words such as ‘brilliant’ and ‘ingenious.’ Theo, Kee and their allies are driving down a road when their car is set upon by a terrorist group. The ensuing bloodshed is shocking, and nothing in the scene plays out the way you’d expect.
“[Director] Alfonso Cuaron and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (who shot The New World and is a master of available light) coordinate an extraordinarily tricky action sequence using a camera that manages to cover a variety of carnage inside a speeding car, and then outside of it, and then, if memory serves, back inside. I cannot say how they did it. I can only say that I relish the chance to see it again.” — Chicago Tribune critic Michael Phillips, posted two days ago.
Smart-ass N.Y. Times writer Mickey Rapkin talks to Factory Girl director George Hickenlooper, who was still shooting new scenes for the 12.29 Weinstein Co. release “as of late last week.” Favorite Rapkin line: “The character Billy Quinn…walks and quacks like Bob Dylan, no matter what he’s called.”
Despite news media reports that Hickenlooper had been taken off the project (not true) and that Dylan was upset with how he is portrayed (true), the only opinion that matters now belongs to the executive producer, Harvey Weinstein. He has decided to release Factory Girl√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√Ç¬ù in Los Angeles on Friday, in time, barely, for the Oscars. √É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√Ö‚ÄúHe wants a nomination for Sienna,√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√Ç¬ù Hickenlooper said Wednesday.
I could write an easy 5,000 words about R.D. Robb‘s Don’s Plum, the black-and-white, John Cassevettes-like, unreleased- on-these-shores acting-exercise movie with Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Kevin Connolly, Jeremy Sisto and Ethan Suplee that you can buy or rent on DVD in Europe.
In fact, I did write 5,000 words about Don’s Plum in ‘late 97 for Mr. Showbiz, only the piece has been deleted and presumably trashed — but the backstory boils down to this: Robb and cohorts Dale Wheatley. David Stutman and John Schindler should have gone along with requests from DiCaprio and Maguire and made a short film instead of a feature, and used it as a calling-card thing.
But they didn’t, DiCaprio and Maguire felt betrayed and thereafter went to court to stop the film (which I saw two or three times and liked) from being released, and succeeded.
I also know this: Judge Mary Murphy‘s decision last Thursday to dismiss a December 204 lawsuit filed by Schindler against DiCaprio and Maguire, claiming the two Hollywood stars conspired to block distribution of Don’s Plum, does not reflect the truth of the matter.
My favorite eleven films of 2006, in descending order: 1. Children of Men (Universal); 2. The Lives of Others (Sony Pictures Classics); 3. The Departed (Warner Bros.); 4. United 93 (Universal); 5. Little Miss Sunshine (Fox Searchlight); 6. Volver (Sony Pictures Classics); 7. Babel (Paramount Vantage); 8. Pan’s Labyrinth (Picturehouse); 9. Letters From Iwo Jima (Warner Bros.); 10. The Queen (Miramax); (11) Notes on a Scandal (Fox Searchlight).
Rotely & Unexceptionally Worthy…Almost Boringly So: The Pursuit of Happyness.
Most Agreeable Stylistic Exercise (if it weren’t for that slight sense of stagnation): The Good German.
Most Agreeably Diverting “Entertainment” In Spurts (despite an almost profound lack of substance and connective-tissue movie-osity): Dreamgirls
Most Unpleasantly, Obsessively Violent Film of the Year: Apocalypto.
Most Defiantly Unlikeable “Quality” Movie of the Year: The Good Shepherd
Most Engagingly Modest and Respectable Character Study/Metaphor Movie of the Year, Even If It Isn’t a Home Run: Venus.
Best David Mamet Movie Since Things Change: Edmond.
Efficiently Entertaining But Overshadowed by Star’s (Ongoing) Public Implosion, and Didn’t Take Enough Advantage of Phillip Seymour Hoffman: Mission Impossible 3.
Best Sex Scene: Jude Law going down on Juliette Binoche and sending her over the falls in Breaking and Entering,
Not Necessarily The Year’s Funniest Comedy (For Me), but Definitely The Most Astonishing: Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.
Lightly Enjoyable Mood Piece That Had a Predictable Plot, Yes, But Excessively Bad-Rapped All The Same: A Good Year.
Non-Profound, Studio-Stamped Comedy Drama That Gets Better With Each Successive Viewing: The Break-up.
Best Romantic LSD/Mescaline/Peyote Button Movie in Years: The Fountain.
Well-Made, Affecting, Under-Appreciated: Harsh Times.
Best 007 Film in 43 Years: Casino Royale.
Movies That Delivered, Meant, Epitomized and/or Amounted to Either Very Little or Nothing: For Your Consideration, Bobby, Jonestown: The Life and Death of the People’s Temple, Marie Antoinette, The Prestige, Infamous, Hollywoodland, The Black Dahlia, All the King’s Men, Art School Conifdential, The U.S. vs. John Lennon, Snakes on a Plane, Shadowboxer, Lady in the Water, Scoop, The Oh in Ohio, You, Me and Dupree, Wassup Rockers, The Proposition, The DaVinci Code, Poseidon….I could go on and on.
Hard-Luck Good Movies of the Year: Sketches of Frank Gehry (not enough love), Miami Vice, Catch a Fire, Superman Returns (which could have been so much better with a little editing-room discipline) .
Note: This is just a first stab. There are tons more movies that fit the various categories above, or warrant their own categories. Part 2 will follow tomorrow. This is Christmas Eve day and I’m going to hang back a bit, but I know there’s a good number out there who are just as movie-obsessive as myself so….
The weekend’s big winner was Shawn Levy and Ben Stiller‘s Night At The Museum, which is looking at $33 to $35 million by Sunday night. The big tank was McG and Matthew McConaughey‘s We Are Marshall, which may end up with a piddly $7.5 million in 2,606 situations. (A fairly decent sports film…too bad.) And Robert De Niro, Eric Roth and Matt Damon‘s The Good Shepherd is a fourth-place ho-hummer with an estimated $9 million or so in 2,218 theaters.
Gabriele Muccino and Will Smith‘s The Pursuit Of Happyness will be a second-place finisher with about $15 million, maybe a bit less. Rocky Balboa will be third with roughly $14 million — an impressive comeback by the previously all-but-washed-up Stallone.
James Cameron has half-anecdotally announced in a 12.19 Independent interview that Avatar, his long-awaited return to feature filmmaking, won’t hit screens until 2012. Yeah, I’m joshing: he actually said 2009, but what’s the difference? The guy seems afflicted with a near- terminal case of foreplay syndrome — a condition in which the victim becomes far more intoxicated with the rigors of preparing and diddling around (and endlessly talking about same) than pulling the trigger.
A casting breakdown I was sent about 10 months ago for Project 880 (i.e., Avatar) reported (or indicated) a November ’06 start date, which seemed to synch with a generally-understood projection that Avatar would be finished in time for a summer or fall ’08 debut. Repeating: the longer a cherished dream project festers and meanders, the higher the odds of it feeling like a fizzle when it finally arrives.
“I remember going with a great sense of anticipation to each new Stanley Kubrick film and thinking, ‘Can he pull it off and amaze me again?'” Cameron tells Independent interviewer James Rampton. “And he always did. The lesson I learned from Kubrick was, ‘Never do the same thing twice.’ I always want to find something mentally engaging, [and] Avatar is not like anything else I’ve done…nor were Titanic or Terminator or Aliens.
“I’ll spend many months completing the special effects on Avatar, and it will not be released until the summer of 2009. It’s quite a challenge — and for that reason, I embrace it.”