Shocker! The Producers Guild — not exactly a recent harbinger of Best Picture Oscar wins, but a significant indicator of industry sentiment — has given Little Miss Sunshine its Best Picture award. I didn’t see it coming, I thought they’d give it to The Departed…. amazing! Obviously the Dreamgirls Golden Globes momentum has been stopped in its tracks, Babel is back to maybe-but-who-knows? status, and it’s a wide-open race for the Best Picture Oscar. There is no joy in Mudville (and you know where & what that is) this evening. Dreamgirls could still take it; so could Babel or The Departed. Nobody knows…but none of them have a commanding headwind.
“Sasha, you’re right about it being a long night. I’m already heading down to the Century Plaza. We’re going to start drinking in our hotel room at about 4 before heading down to the cocktail hour at 6. The group I’m with is all about The Departed but we’re realizing Dreamgirls is a very big possibility. In the last two hours I spoke with two other PGA members who said they voted for Sunshine. I’m baffled as to how this thing is going to turn out tonight.” — industry guy discussing tonight’s Producer’s Guild Awards on Oscarwatch.com.
The Society of Online Awards Prognosticators (SOAP) winners have been announced, and as I am a member, it’s very gratifying to bestow the Best Picture award on Children of Men, and the Best Director award on its creator, Alfonso Cuaron. I would take the time to paste in and format the other winners, but I should have left and begun my Saturday Sundance expedition two hours ago. If the winners were listed on someone’s site, I would naturally link to them/it.
“Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton jumped into the 2008 presidential race yesterday,” per N.Y. Times reporters Patrick Healy and Jeff Zeleny, “immediately squaring off against Senator Barack Obama and the rest of the Democratic field in what is effectively the party’s first primary, the competition for campaign donations.
‘I’m in,’ Mrs. Clinton said in an e-mail message to supporters early yesterday. ‘And I’m in to win.'” No, not correct. The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan‘s opinion of Clinton aside, she’s a smart egg and a fairly savvy operator, but she’s a polarizing figure, she’s carrying all kinds of ’90s baggage, the Bubbas and the rabid right despise her to no end, and if she gets the nomination she will lose.
L.A. Weekly‘s Scott Foundas has written partly about the trials of indie filmmaker Gary Walkow, whose late ’80s Grand Jury prize-winner The Trouble With Dick has been more or less remade as Crashing, Walkow’s “fourth independent feature and the first-ever sequel to a Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner,” Foundas notes.
Crashing director Gary Walkow; Park City’s main street around 1991
“Now, exactly 20 years after his first Park City premiere, Walkow is readying himself for another. Only when the curtain goes up on Crashing, it will be at Slamdance, the 13-year-old alterna-festival that offered Crashing a slot after Sundance gave it a pass.”
The piece is also partly about how the Sundance Film Festival of two decades ago “was a very different animal from the one now stalking the streets of Park City. As Walkow remembers it, ‘The hospitality suite for the festival was contained in the Moose Lodge, on the second floor of some building. They had a coffee urn and some rolls and stuff. It was that small. Saundra Saperstein, who was one of the festival publicists, also sold all the T-shirts and paraphernalia.
“‘When I came back in ’96 with Notes From Underground, it was completely different. Look, Main Street basically doubled in length. In how many cities does Main Street become twice as long in the course of 10 years?'”
“The cosmopolitanism of international filmmaking is matched by the parochialism of American film culture.” — N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott so concludes in a rambling, searching-with-a-flashlight piece about how foreign films are receiving ever-smaller, ever-weaker receptions in this country.
“Sundance movies have devolved into a genre [and are ] getting as predictable as Hollywood’s,” writes Time‘s Richard Corliss. “The style is spare and naturalistic. The theme is relationships, beginning in angst and ending in reconciliation. The focus is often on a dysfunctional family (there are no functional ones in indie movies) that strives to reconnect. Within this genre are a few subspecies: the family breakup film (The Squid and the Whale), the finding-your-family-at- school movie (Half Nelson, Brick), the gay drama (Mysterious Skin). Way too frequently, the family goes on a trip. Given the typical Sundance pace, which is leisurely to lethargic, these road movies rarely get in the passing lane.
“The predictability of recent Sundance films is a pity, because the fest used to discover original movie minds. The honor roll of those who introduced their early work there includes both the big fish of indie cinema (among them Joel and Ethan Coen, Jim Jarmusch, Kevin Smith and Darren Aronofsky) and some of the mainstream’s champion swimmers (including Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino, Bryan Singer and Christopher Nolan).
What most of these directors share is a gift for bending, sometimes gleefully mutilating, film form: taking old narratives styles like the crime movie or musical or horror film and making them fresh, vital, dangerous. The subjects could be familiar — amnesia in Nolan’s Memento, obsession in Aronofsky’s Pi — but when the story was told in reverse, or turned into a weird thriller, the narrative ingenuity became bracing and delicious. They were different from Hollywood — and different meant better.
“You don’t find as much originality in Sundance films these days, and for a simple reason. In the beginning, the festival was a home for the homeless, for a rambunctious outlaw take on filmmaking. There was no need to be cautious, since indie films were rarely hits. But as Sundance became the showcase for a form of movie-gaining marketplace pull, young directors naturally made films to fit the new mold. Sundance films weren’t quirky; they did quirky. Quirky became another genre.”
The box-office is looking fairly lousy this weekend, and the two big Golden Globe winners — Dreamgirls and Babel — aren’t getting that much of a bump from their respective wins last Monday. Night at the Museum, #1 again with the super-sophisticates, will end up with around $11,849,000 and a rough cume of $204 million by tomorrow night. Stomp the Yard, off 47%, will earn about $11,352,000. Dreamgirls will earn $7,826,000 this weekend, up about 6% but they added close to 300 runs this weekend so it’s actually close to flat.
The Hitcher, #4 on the list, is doing about $4600 a print for a weekend tally of $7,400,000…nothing. The Pursuit of Happyness will make about $6,151,000, and the sixth-place Freedom Writers will end up with $5,166,000. Guillermo del Toro‘s Pan”s Labyrinth went to 600 runs and did pretty well — $4,461,000, $7320 a print. Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men, #8, will made $3,229,000 — it’s not gaining or even holding, sad to say. The Queen expanded from 1200 to 1500 runs, and will do about $2,800,000, about $2800 a print.
Ninth-place Alpha Dog, off 45%, will end up with $2,200,000. And Babel, last of the top ten, will do about $2 million or $2300 a print, having expanded from 700 to 800 runs..
Yesterday was half-consumed by hellish vagabonding; the rental-share I had fell apart and I had to scramble to find a close-to-the-action crash pad with good wifi. Despite this, I’ve managed so far to see Brett Morgen‘s Chicago 10, Tamara Jenkins‘ The Savages, Mike Cahill‘s The King of California and Jorge Hernandez Aldana‘s The Night Buffalo.
None really did it for me in an emotional world-rocking sense, although Jenkins’ film is by far the best written and acted. It’s a wise/sad/funny downhead drama about a 40ish brother and sister (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laura Linney) trying to care for their withered, close-to-death dad (Phillip Bosco) and cope with the inevitable.
That’s what we’re all doing, no? (Apart from living our lives, I mean.) Facing the fact that we’re all going to die, and grappling with the fact that every child has to do what he/she can to aid their parents as they gradually submit to the end-game process? Jenkins’ screenplay is certainly a high-end treatment of this. It somehow transforms an innately gloomy situation into something that keeps you interested and, as far as it goes, aroused.
I had to bolt toward the end (my parents are close to this stage — it hit too close to home and I just couldn’t handle it) but The Savages is a totally grade-A indie drama. Except for one aspect, that is — it makes you feel caught in a downward spiral the way life itself can feel that way when death is hovering. Jenkins has my respect for facing this issue squarely and honestly without any Hollywood-style jacking around, but the movie unfolds as a series of vignettes rather than a building/expanding drama with two or three significant turns in the road.
Good God….I just lost over two hours worth of writing — thoughts on Chicago 10, The King of California and The Night Buffalo — by hitting the wrong key or something. It’s all gone and I can’t start over again. I have films to get to, stuff to do, etc. This is infuriating, but I have a radical new idea (for the time being) — what I think about yesterday’s Sundance films doesn’t matter because, The Savages excepted, they all didn’t make it in one way or another.
If you’re not really turned on by a string of films, why get into them? If something really does it for me, I’ll write about it. Otherwise, screw it. I’ll just experience what I can and write what I can manage, and that’ll have to be enough.
Nearly two and half hours worth of work….1200 words, a lot of thought, a single stroke of a key.