Results of the First Annual L.A. Weekly Film Poll were announced on Wednesday evening, and it was basically a rehash- remix of the generic 2006 film-elite selections we’ve read about before. Good stuff, good calls…and I’m sure the choice for Best Film of 2006 will generate interest in Jean Pierre Melville‘s Army of Shadows when it hits DVD. Wait a minute…Mirren again!
Forget observing any moments of silence for Saddam Hussein during the Sundance Film Festival, as projected a couple of days ago. The former Iraqi dictator will reportedly be put to death by hanging before sundown on Saturday, which would be sometime in the early afternoon or late morning New York time. (If you’re going to take the meaning of the term “before sundown” literally, that is.) It could even be a tad earlier. I wanted a YouTube video clip up and running no later than Sunday evening, but it could take longer. Iraq’s national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie told the N.Y. Times there would be “no television, no press…nothing.√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√Ç¬ù
There’s no such thing as global warming — it’s all liberal crackpot malarkey. And yes, giant ice shelves the size of 11,000 football fields have been snapping free from Canada’s Arctic for thousands of years. Totally normal, no big deal, stop worrying.
“I saw Dreamgirls last night for the second time, and I’m wondering if there really isn’t something to the notion that black and white audiences sometimes see things differently. Because this was a mostly black audience. And vocal audience, which can be both hilarious and irritating. But also, with a film like this, it was…right.
“I am also black (this I think you knew) and I loved it again, Jeff. And last night’s audience really loved it. So did the audience in Conyers, Georgia. which was sold out and had maybe four black folk in the theater. But this audience, here in Tallahassee…it was like the film was ours.
“Does that make sense? Like there are films like Inside Man, in which the lead character is black, but the story is so universal that it isn’t about him being black…it’s about him and he happens to be black. God bless Spike Lee for that. There are films like The Departed in which every major character is white, but they just happen to be that way, and God bless Martin Scorsese for that (and, by the way, black folk love The Departed — huge black contingent there).
I am a high-school drama teacher, and divisiveness is not something I tolerate. I am a firm believer in all of us mixing it up and hanging in there together. But a story like this? It’s like our story, which hardly ever happens.
“I wonder if Dreamgirls holds more resonance with black folk because we get it — we know black songs were redone by white artists, we understand assimilating equaled acceptance and most definitely success, we know single mothers and absent fathers and all the other things that (white) critics feel the movie glosses over. Except for black people, just the mention of these things make them valid.
“Maybe it’s just so cool to see so many different kinds of people of African-American heritage up on the screen (and a narrative that is specific to black people – not like a Glory or Blood Diamond, but more like a Hotel Rwanda or even a The Color Purple). It was cool to see black people of different hues and shades and sizes and ages…acting and singing songs that speak to us — all of us really, but especially other black folk.
“And maybe, after all the flash and glitz, Bill Condon is saying that we all –ALL — want the same things. Success and love and to be heard, you know? Now, I am well aware that many people don’t get this from Dreamgirls. But I did. And so did most of the black people who stood up at the end of the movie last night.
“It’s funny that two of the best movies about black folk, Dreamgirls and the great Akeelah and the Bee, were written and directed by white men. That gives me the most hope — and makes me think in my corny, liberal way, that we are all connected after all.” — Roderick Durham, in an e-mail he sent to me directly,
“Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, Pan’s Labyrinth is something alchemical. To an astonishing degree, the 42-year-old Mexican filmmaker — best known for his contribution to the Blade and Hellboy franchises — has transformed the horror of mid-20th Century European history into a boldly fanciful example of what surrealists would call ‘le merveilleux.'” — from Jim Hoberman‘s Village Voice review, one of the most sagely written reactions I’ve read to this remarkable film.
The AFI’s “Moments of Signifiance” awards are at least more thoughtful and somewhat less politically-inspired than the “best of” awards that litter the landscape. But it seems as if the AFI shovels out an awful lot of awards to an awful lot of people and movies these daysd…that their organizational need to hand these out is stronger and more primal than anything else.
My sons and I saw Children of Men Wednesday night inside a packed theatre at Leows’ Lincoln Square cinemas, but before I get into reactions I need to point out once again that the sound in the smallish theatre in which this Alfonso Cuaron film was playing sucked — nothing close to the super-robust, room-filling, razor-sharp sound I heard in Westwood’s Village theatre at the Children of Men premiere several weeks ago. It was muffled and down at least two volume notches too low.
Beware of the sound in the right-rear shoebox!
Naturally, I got up and found the manager and asked him to please turn it up at least two notches. I went back in and the sound had come up slightly, but it still felt kind of weak. As I was thanking the manager guy for listening and responding as he did, he said, as all managers inevitably do, that my request was isolated and that most of the time people ask him to turn the sound down.
Why has each and every theatre manager I’ve ever spoken to about sound levels said the exact same thing? Why is the sound always perfect when I watch a film an an all-media screening in New York or Los Angeles (or when I go to any paid-ticket show at the Arclight or at Mann’s Village or one of the other high-end theatres), and why is the sound always a little weak and indistinct when I see a film in that smallish rear-shoebox theatre at the Lincoln Square? I had the same problem when I saw Match Point in the same space during the summer of ’05.
My sons were agreeably stunned by Children of Men last night — they both were going on and on about what a mindblower it was, about the awesome production design and the visual innovation, etc. — but the general crowd was not in the same place. You could feel it plain as day. They were not the least bit charmed or aroused — you could tell by their shoulder-shrugging expressions and murmurings as we all shuffled out of the theatre.
I think it’s because Children of Men delivers a kind of atmospheric nightmare that hits too close to home. It portrays a kind of devolved-degenerated future that many of us fear is possibly/probably in the cards, and a lot of us don’t want to deal with. At all.
It’s like what Alan Arkin said to Time magazine a while back, to wit: “We’ve pushed the buttons too far. We’ve been greedy and selfish. Everybody knows what we’ve done to the rivers and the oceans; the fact that there’s only 35 years’ worth of fish in the oceans; the fact that the polar ice caps are melting. I think that right under the surface of everybody’s consciousness is the full understanding that we’re in for a really tough ride and everybody is really afraid to face it.”
And what that woman I spoke to on a plane last summer said when I showed her read David Denby‘s New Yorker review of An Inconvenient Truth (“detailed, deep-layered, vivid, and terrifying…every school, college, and church group, and everyone else beyond the sway of General Motors, ExxonMobil, and the White House should see this movie”). She read it, handed me the magazine, and said with a chuckle, her eyes dropping to her lap, “Some people aren’t comfortable hearing about this.”
The curious thing, I told her, is that Truth is touching and never boring. She didn’t disagree with the urgency of the Gore’s message, but we both knew what she meant when she said “people.” It seemed obvious she considered Davis Guggen- heim’s film a bringer of unpleasant vibes.
Mirren-Whitaker have again won the Best Actress and Best Actor trophies, this time from the herd-mentality Chicago Film Critics. Worthy choices, certainly, but it’s as if critics nationwide were all injected with the same drug. Jackie Earle Haley (Best Supporting Actor), Martin Scorsese (Best Director, The Departed), Peter Morgan (Best Original Screenplay, The Queen), William Monahan (Best Adapted Screenplay, The Departed), An Inconvenient Truth (Best Documentary), et. al.
The only semi-standout award is Rinko Kikuchi winning the Best Supporting Actress award for her performance in Babel.
Here’s a take on the CFC awards by Pop Machine’s Mark Caro, also of the Chicago Tribune.
Anyone can download pirated films from this and that illegal source, but I’ve never seen a site like www.peekvid.com, which has a long list of new and/or fairly new movies (Night at the Museum, The Departed, etc.) that you can simply click on and pow!…there they are. The usual crappy visuals (vidcam shooting from inside a theatre) and atrocious sound, but I’m amazed that the big-studio pirate hunters haven’t jumped all over the Netherlands-based person[s] running this site. The Alexa figures are exceptionally high. I think the guys behind this operation need to be busted but good.
The reason that Dreamgirls, which has been doing pretty great business since opening semi-wide last Monday (i.e., Christmas Day), isn’t playing in more than 852 theatres is…? My understanding is that there’s some degree of concern that the want-to-see isn’t strong enough in the more rural areas of the country, so DreamWorks marketers are waiting for the Oscar nomination announcements on 1.23.07 — three and a half weeks away — to open it wider.
What about all the musical-loving women out there who want to see it now? There must be tens of thousands cooling their heels as we speak.
I know that as far as musical sizzle goes, Dreamgirls has that in spades. It didn’t make me suffer like Chicago did, and I’ve been thinking for the last couple of weeks that I’d really like to see it again just to see how it plays. I know my kids (aged 18 and 17) don’t give a hoot about it. I know it didn’t come up in conversation with friends in Connecticut last weekend, or with my sister or my brother or my parents. I still believe the Dreamgirls support is basically urban/female/black/gay…but it would be interesting to be proved wrong.
“I haven’t even seen the damn film yet,” says N.Y. journalist Lewis Beale, “but I’m thinking Dreamgirls will be a monster because it will attract (1) the Beyonce crowd, and she’s just huge, (2) zillions of boomers, ’cause it’s about Motown, the music they grew up with, (3) boomer kids who grooved on their folks’ Motown records, and now (4) the James Brown necrophilia crowd.
“I got shut out of an incredibly mixed-race Dreamgirls screening in Clifton, N.J. on Monday. And my sister-in-law tells me they saw it with a sold-out, almost all-white crowd in Durham, N.C.”
Wells to Beale: Dreamgirls may be “about” Motown history, but the music isn’t very Motown-y at all….not to my ears. Important point, this.