The names of 35 world-class gentlemen directors have been named as creators of a series of three-minute films that will make up a feature film called “To Each his Own Cinema,” which will be shown during the 60th Cannes Film Festival in May. The chosen all have a certain elite, Cannes- sanctified tasteful aura about them. They are Theo Angelopoulos, Olivier Assayas, Bille August, Jane Campion, Ethan & Joel Coen, David Cronenberg, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, Atom Egoyan, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Takeshi Kitano; Andrei Konchalovsky, Ken Loach, Nanni Moretti, Roman Polanski, Walter Salle, Gus Van Sant, Lars Von Trier, Wim Wenders,Wong Kar Wai, Zhang Yimou, etc. You know…that crowd.
“Howard Dean has been a virtual Nostradamus on predicting what would happen in Iraq from the beginning. But he screamed once. He said ‘yee-ha’ — publicly! He screamed louder than a crowd of people screaming at him, and the media acted like Grandpa just yelled out the ‘N’ word at a ball game.
“And before the war began, it was Al Gore who got it right, who spoke unequivocally about not making this bad choice, a choice that 77 Senators voted for. But during the debates of 2000, Al Gore…sighed! We can’t have a sigh-er for president!
“That’s why I think every candidate has to come out now, and say or do the stupidest thing they possibly can, and get it out of the way.” — Bill Maher in a posting that appeared four days ago on the Huffington Post
The Envelope‘s Tom O’Neil is reporting that “one of the best gurus of all — Pete Hammond of Maxim and Hollywood Wiretap.com — [has] just switched his best-pic prediction today from Little Miss Sunshine to Babel.” But if you ask me, it’s a shaky prediction based upon a dry hunch and a sense of Oscar fatigue.
“I’ve been talking to my Academy voter people and getting this survey, which told me last year Crash, Crash, Crash and not Brokeback at this point in the race,” Hammond explains. “But I’m not getting that [this year]. It’s all over the map. I talk to a Departed person, then I get a Little Miss Sunshine, then I get a lot of Babel and so there doesn’t seem to be a consensus.
“A lot of them think Little Miss Sunshine is too slight for their vote as best picture. That’s its biggest drawback. That and the fact that it doesn’t have editing and directing nominations, which would make it the first in academy history to win that way. And The Departed is too ‘genre.’ Scorsese — they appreciate him and all of that…but some people think it’s not the best Scorsese. There have been better ones. So it’s always odd that you’re going to give an award to a guy for something that’s not his best work, but that’s what we often see.
“Then you’ve got Babel, which is really appealing to people’s social sense and it has a little more to it. And it’s an international picture, which is what the business has become — worldwide. It’s one drawback is the lack of guild support…”
If you’re determined to believe something and you’re smart enough, you can always make a case for it — and it will sound half-reasonable. But when certain know-it-alls get into making a pitch along these lines, it can be truly fascinating to consider the motives, the personal politics and the mental contortions that went into it.
The defeat of Dreamgirls — i.e., its exclusion from being nominated for Best Picture — was a surprise to everyone, myself included. But it was also a thunderclap moment along the lines of Roman Polanskiwinning the Best Director Oscar for The Pianist. I didn’t like Dreamgirls all that much but I didn’t despise it, and yet I was thrilled by the sheer drama of hearing it had been slapped down. It was one of those “my God, the voters have really and truly spoken!” moments in history.
Given the shock-corridor factor and the difficulty of recovering from same, I can understand on a certain level why an almost comically revisionist view such as this one is being listened to and picked over. LIstening to this tape/video is like watching little lumps of mashed potatoes being thrown at the wall and watching some of them stick and others fall to the floor…plop.
It wasn’t good enough, the third act was weak, Beyonce’s character amounted to almost nothing, that moment with Jamie Foxx looking at Jennifer Hudson’s kid at the very end — throw it all together and the ensemble message on the ticker tape read, “Not bad, pretty good but no cigar.”
Do you, HE readers, believe that (a) Dreamgirls would have won the Oscar if it had been nominated for Best Picture?, (b) that it lost $30 million in revenue “at least” because it wasn’t nominated? and (c) that the Dreamgirls slapdown “hurt the industry”?
This Best Picture slide show, which I saw a little while ago on Sasha Stone‘s Oscarwatch, is, for starters, technically substandard with its cavalcade of muddy desaturated third-generation poster images. And the music that plays with the images is trite and tedious. But the main import is one of vague depression as the thing that hits you most if how “meh” a good percentage of the Best Picture winners now seem to be, particularly those from the late ’20s and ’30s. The best decade by far was the ’70s, no question.
Why is it I can’t seem to make myself rent a DVD of Dances With Wolves, which took the 1990 Best Picture Oscar. I’ve said to myself time and again, “Why don’t I rent the long version?” There’s a part of me that wants to, but I never do it. That’s because the Wolves-friendly part of me is a fairly small part — the much larger and stronger and more passionate part would rather watch Goodfellas for the 17th time. This is what much of the Best Picture Oscar legacy feels like to me — something I nominally respect but don’t really want to get into all that much.
I can watch Gone With the Wind, Million Dollar Baby, The Best Years of Our Lives, On The Waterfront, From Here to Eternity, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Apartment, The Godfather I & II, American Beauty, Unforgiven, All About Eve, Ben-Hur and The French Connection over and over again, but will I ever actually sit down and watch Wings again, or You Can’t Take It WIth You, Gigi, Marty, Driving Miss Daisy, Mrs. Miniver, Around the World in 80 Days or any of the other not-too- bad-but-really-not very-goods, which, after watching that video, seem more plentiful than the former group?
Michael Tucker, co-director (with Petra Epperlein) of Gunner Palace and The Prisoner, or How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair, has written a piece for Vanity Fair.com (“My Prisoner, My Brother”) about an American soldier from Ohio named Benjamin Thompson who “formed an unlikely friendship in the crucible of Abu Ghraib with an Iraqi detainee named Yunis” — the Iraqi central character in The Prisoner who refuses to take any shit from U.S. soldiers — “who was under his command.”
The Bagger (a.k.a., N.Y.Times Oscar David Carr) has written that he “has no idea what horse, or frog, to saddle up” as far as picking the Best Picture nominee most likely to win.
“His industry sources left him even more baffled than before, and while some of the comments he got from readers, whose predictions he solicited yesterday, where amazingly cogent and persuasive, they also tended to argue for different movies. Expect to hear much sound and fury for the rest of the week, signaling precisely nothing.”
It’s Babel, okay? It’s that old Crash magic plus the three countries and three languages plus the look on that young Tokyo detective’s face when he realized what was going on (and not going on) with Rinko’s deaf teenager character plus her very upset and concerned dad hugging her at the end. But if it turns out to be The Departed (i.e., my personal favorite), cool. And “yay, team” also if it’s Little Miss Sunshine.)
Collider‘s Steve Weintraub (a.k.a. “Frosty”) has posted some mildly nervy, undoubtedly fascinating comments from Departed screenwriter William Monahan that came out of an interview. One of the more interesting riffs concerns the rumors about one or more Departed sequels being planned.
“I read the prequel and sequel to Infernal Affairs for the first time a couple of weeks ago and there wasn’t anything I could use in Boston situation, not now. The thing is, that world of The Departed is sort of an intensely personal literary construct. If you analyze what the commodity is now, it’s that literary construct.
“People are talking about a sequel, but the reality is that I could propose Untitled Boston Crime Picture and sell it for more than I’d get for a sequel. I’m not putting the screws to anybody, I’m stating a fact. The commodity has transformed. I’ll be writing about Boston as long as I live, but whether or not I do it in the form of a Departed sequel is up to other people.
“I’d honestly love to bring back Dignam, (Wells note: Mark Wahlberg‘s character, he means. Duhhhhh….who the hell else could Monahan bring back? Everyone else is dead except for Alec Baldwin and Vera Farmiga.)
“And I know how the picture would open. With The Departed Tango and snow falling on the Boston Common. I know every scene in the picture. Maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t, maybe fuck yourself.” (Wells note: Monahan didn’t say those last three words — I stuck them in on my own because it sounded right and so damn similar to a line of dialogue that Wahlberg said in The Departed.)
“When I say that I couldn’t use Infernal Affairs 2 and 3 I’m not criticizing either film, I’m saying that “The Departed” now points in its own direction. Mak and Chong are brilliant filmmakers. I think that the give and take between American and Asian cinema is one of the great energizing cross-cultural relationships, like rock music getting to England in the ’50s and coming back as the British invasion. Except both are the R&B record and both are the British invasion.
“If there were no Martin Scorsese or Michael Mann there probably never would have been an Infernal Affairs, so there’s a chicken and the egg situation to begin with. I’m in negotiations to do another adaptation of a Mak and Chong script, somewhere down the road. And I may do an original in Hong Kong. I love the way they make films, they just run them up and get them in the theaters. If one doesn’t work you do another one. There’s no over-thinking.”
“Instead of living in Hollywood or Beverly Hills, Ryan Gosling has found a home in downtown LA for himself and his canine alter-ego George (‘He doesn’t like it that he’s a dog, you can tell’). There, Gosling says, people ‘are all doing something different. They don’t all have a script in their car. I live on Skid Row. You can’t filter yourself from reality there.'” — from Gaby Wood‘s interview with Gosling in the 2.18 Guardian.
Interior of Tagine, a Beverly Hills Moroccan restaurant that Gosling partly owns and sometimes even works in.