The L.A. Times Deborah Netburn has put up a chart chronicling the rise and fall of Russell Crowe. Is that a given? Has he in fact fallen? I’ve been getting hammered over the last couple of days for suggesting that one reason not to vote for Eddie Murphy is that he’s a flagrant asshole. Crowe, obviously, is coping with that reputation also. Crowe and Murphy both have immense talent, but the former has authority, presence, conviction, creative cojones…he’s a real actor, the real deal.
This is a week old, but Peter Howell‘s review of the Oscar nomination disappointment factor among IMDB readers is interesting, especially considering there were more people dismayed that Children of Men failed to be Best Picture nominated than for any other film.
The word from three well-placed distribution execs — one here, two from Manhattan — is that Fox Searchlight closed a deal last night with Summit Entertainment’s Patrick Wachsberger for domestic distribution rights to John Carney‘s Once. Naturally, neither Fox Searchlight nor Wachsberger is confirming — they’d rather give the story to Variety.
It sure as hell sounds true. “I heard Fox Searchlight, but that’s all I know,” a guy told me an hour ago. Do you know how much the deal was for? “No,” he said. When did you hear? “Last night.” Another top exec also said that “the deal closed last night — I heard it was Fox Searchlight or Sony Pictures Classics.” I called SPC right after this and was told by another highly-placed person that “we haven’t bought anything since before Sundance.”
I know that Thinkfilm and First Look were in negotiations earlier this week, and that one bid was in the vicinity of $500,000. One of the disappointed bidders just told me that “they” — Fox Searchlight — “were at $600,000. We lost it because of their significant pay deal….shit!”
Hollywood Shuns the ’07 Super Bowl Ad Blitz…blah, blah. The 300 trailer is one of many you won’t be seeing during the usually clip-strewn Super Bowl this year…blah, blah. I don’t know why I’m saying this — the TV ads that run during the Super Bowl are often superb.
Risky Biz blog’s Anne Thompson has written that a “juicy Rush & Molloy gossip [item] about Sienna Miller‘s Factory Girl canoodling with Hayden Christensen” — the item alleged that Miller and Christensen literally did the deed while filming a love scene — “reeks of a gossip column plant designed to drive curiosity seekers to check out the movie.”
Maybe, but not on George Hickenlooper‘s part. I checked with the Factory Girl director about Rush & Molloy’s reporting, and he says (a) it’s dead wrong and (b) running such an item degrades Miller and Christensen’s dignity.
“This story in the Daily News is completely untrue,” he said. “There was no sexual intimacy during the filming of this scene. Sienna and Hayden are actors. The physicality of the scene was completely simulated. So I completely deny the claims. I know — I was in the room with them.
“Here are the details of how I was misquoted. After the Factory Girl premiere, I went to the part where I was cornered by George Rush. There he kept persisting that there were stories about Hayden and Sienna having sex while we were shooting. What I told him is that I don’t ever deign to comment on questions like that because they are insulting. He kept asking about Hayden and Sienna’s romantic relationship and I said to him I don’t comment on the personal lives of my cast (as I have consistently done with respect to Sienna over the past two years). He asked if Sienna and Hayden were close, I replied that we were all close while making the film.”
Rush & Molloy reported today that that “of course, Sienna Miller [has] denied she and her Factory Girl co-star and then-boyfriend Hayden Christensen actually had sex on camera, as several knowledgeable sources told us this week. She was standing next to her parents when we asked her.
“We suggest anyone who doubts it go see Hickenlooper’s vision of Warhol girl Edie Sedgwick, which opens today. We freeze-framed the movie’s hot spots (as rigorous journalism demands), and there’s no question Sienna and Hayden are deep into their roles.”
Sincere thanks to the Toronto Star‘s Peter Howell for saying I “may be on to something” in dissing Eddie Murphy‘s energetic-but-far- from-profound Dreamgirls performance and the notion that he’s got the Best Supporting Actor Oscar locked. This is probably true, but it may not be. And all I was trying to do was articulate a widespread but unarticulated disdain for the guy — trust me, the Murphy dissers are out there in force.
It’s such a pleasant thing to be misinterpreted, and to have the words that you’ve carefully assembled in order to make a precise point ignored. I really recommend it because at the very least, it shows you who the real jackals are. Topping the list are those who’ve tried to link the Murphy diss to that “bling” riff I wrote a couple of months ago. (Hint, hint…I’m an unconscious racist.) I’m going to try this again (and remember what your teachers told you about reading carefully and taking notes): dissing the “blings” was a flip-off critique of sartorially gaudy get-down types who are guilty of a kind of nocturnal insecurity and/or pretentiousness.
Men and women who flash the cash and strut around in hotel lounges and hard-to-get-into clubs wearing cheap-ass sequined T-shirts and way too much jewelry on their fingers and around their necks are looking to enhance their cred on some level by putting put on a show for their peers. The “bling” mentality has, of course, been around for centuries. Sinclair Lewis and F. Scott Fitzgerald certainly wrote about the 1920s variety, and if they were around today they’d be saying the same things about present-day offenders. And in these present-day writings, they would no doubt observe…naahh, leave it alone.
An Eddie Murphy jab coming from someplace else! Radar‘s Jeff Bercovici has written that “a well-placed Hollywood insider” is predicting that David Geffen‘s Oscar strategy for Dreamgirls strategy “will not result in an Oscar for Murphy, noting the way the actor has alienated Academy voters by complaining in public about not getting paid enough for Dreamgirls. Says the insider, ‘You got paid for Norbit, you stupid prick.'”
The other half of Bercovici’s item says that “a source close to Jack Nicholson says the Departed star has been complaining about Geffen’s over-the-top campaigning for Dreamgirls. According to the source, Nicholson believes Geffen strong-armed Academy members into nearly shutting out The Departed‘s cast in the acting categories. (The exception is Mark Wahlberg, who is up against Dreamgirls‘ Murphy in the supporting actor category.)
“What particularly annoys Nicholson, adds the source, is the cynical way Geffen used the promise of an Oscar nomination to get Murphy to settle for less than his usual rate.”
The end-of-the-item residue is a bit muddled, but the linkage is more or less established: a vote against Murphy is a vote against a manipulative billionaire’s “over-the-top” Oscar strategy, which is also a vote against Geffen himself. Academy members, it’s in your hands. If I were voting I would say to myself, “No question about it — Geffen wants all the Dreamgirls Oscars he can get, and I, being a member of this industry and naturally susceptible to the animal-kingdom impulse to show obeisance before power, am going to vote to support Geffen’s latest power lunge.”
The Oregonian‘s Shawn Levy recently pointed out the divide between “boy” nominations and “girl” nominations. The girl noms are for Best Art Direction, Costume Design, Best Original Song and Best Makeup — the boy noms are for all the others. Not surprisingly, of the eight nominations earned by Dreamgirls, six came from the girl side of the ledger — three Best Songs plus Makeup, Costume Design, and Art Direction. The boy noms handed to Bill Condon‘s film are Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy‘s in their respective Best Supporting Actor categories.
Likewise, Hollywood Wiretap columnist Pete Hammond has written in his latest entry that “with the technical categories mostly at odds with the Best Picture nominees, there has never been a greater gap within the organization, or so it seems. It’s a kind of blue state (actors, writers, directors, producers) vs. red state (editors, sound mixers, art directors, etc.) divide.”
“Is it really time to talk about missteps?” Sasha Stone has written in response to a David Poland “Hot Button” piece that summarizes ’06 as “the Year that The Blog Rose” but which lightly admonishes N.Y. Times Oscar guy David Carr.
“Maybe it’s time to talk about those sage words of wisdom by our patron saint William Goldman: ‘Nobody knows anything,'” Stone retorts. “Not the mainsteam media, not the critics, and most definitely not the blogger who proclaimed six months out that DREAMGIRLS WILL WIN BEST PICTURE, and [who] shot down anyone who suggested other possible scenarios, at once digging an impossibly deep hype hole for the movie to have to struggle out of.
“Poland scoldsCarr, but one of the most obvious differences between the former and the latter is that when Carr gets something wrong, he admits it with glorious self-deprecating prose. When Poland gets something wrong, he assumes a rewritten history and slithers on. To paint Carr and all of mainstream media with a sullied brush, and then put him into that picture so far above the fray, is a very Poland-esque diversion. Sometimes this blogger wonders if he actually believes the stuff he writes, or if he doesn√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢t have a touch of the old P.T. Barnum.”
February is usually a crap month, but some decent attractions are being offered over the next few weeks. It’s worth visiting Factory Girl on February 2nd, certainly for Sienna Miller and Guy Pearce‘s performances as Edie Sedgwick and Andy Warhol. (Even Hayden Christensen, playing a close approximation of Bob Dylan, is pretty decent.) If you live in a big town, The Lives of Others, a masterful, deeply moving drama, is the one to catch on 2.9. Billy Ray‘s Breach is apparently the one to see on 2.16; two above-average French films, Days of Glory and Avenue Montaigne, are also worth visiting; Craig Brewer ‘s Black Snake Moan, a pulpy Southern-fried redemption drama, is the only 2.23 release I’ve seen — it played much better than expected at Sundance. That’s six films — a good month for DVDs
No one deserves to win the Best Cinematography Oscar more than Emmanuel Lubezki, the dp of Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men. His shooting of that futuristic thriller isn’t just striking or painterly or what-have-you, but legendary. The sheer brilliance of those three (or is it four or five?) long uncut action sequences are not just exciting or breathtaking — they signify a turning of the page. No serious action film will be shot in quite the same way hence; Children of Men has heightened the bar.
Children of Men cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki in lobby of W Hotel — Tuesday, 1.30.07, 8:25 pm
Lubezki and Cuaron’s decision not to shoot master shots or close-ups (a heretical practice by the standards of most cinematographers) is a key part of an approach to cinematography that, they decided, would make Children of Men visually exceptional in two ways. One was to ape the Stanley Kubrick/Full Metal Jacket kind of photography (intricate choreography, long uncut scenes, hand-held) that we’re all familiar with, but also with a shooting style that not only allowed for but embraced accidents, like the splattered blood on the lens during the final battle sequence.
Lubezki deserves the Oscar, I feel, for those blood spots alone. Cuaron, he says, didn’t like the spots at first and had to be persuaded that they weren’t a mistake that needed re-doing, but, as Lubezki puts it, “God-sent.”
It’s obvious after speaking with Lubezki, who also shot Terrence Malick‘s The New World and Michael Mann‘s Ali, that he’s not into your father’s cinematogra- phy. He doesn’t believe in shooting films that are awesome to look at in the traditional Freddie Young sense– films that stand out for their drop-dead handsomeness — as much as ones that put the viewer into the action in a way that feels raw and immediate, but with images that feel extremely controlled and well-tuned.
We met at Westwood’s W hotel two the night before last and talked about everything. I loved hearing how he and Cuaron managed that first extended shot in Children of Men in which five people in a van are attacked by marauders and have to run for it — a shot that required an elaborate rig built on top of the van, but which ends with the van driving away with the rig having disappeared. (The secret obviously involved a “digital switch” — Lubezski wouldn’t reveal the particulars.) And I loved hearing that Lubezki has been as frustrated with cruddy sound, light and focus levels in out-of-the-way commercial theatres as I have.
At W Hotel check-in area Tuesday, 1.30.07, 8:29 pm
I loved hearing his view that “coverage” — a standard requirement to shoot masters and close-ups to complement the shooting of each scene — “is almost the worst thing that’s happening to film right now…it’s like a formula and the shots don’t mean anything any more….you can cut a lot of movies together and they all look the same…I think we’re abusing it.” He says he;s getting more excited these days by hand-held internet videography and particularly “Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone,” the Yahoo-funded site that’s all about a guy going from one conflict area to another and shooting raggedy-ass video footage.
Lubezki’s visual influencers and heroes, he says, include Max Ophuls, Roberto Rossellini, Martin Scorsese and Orson Welles. And he didn’t agree with everything that happened on Children of Men, he confides. He didn’t want the film to end with the arrival of the rescue ship, called “Tomorrow,” but with the rowboat just floating on the sea. “I’m still so close to the movie, and I have my own problems with the movie, that it’s going to take me a couple of years to see it objectively,” he explains.
I so loved listening to the rough cut of the interview recording that I decided not to edit it. (Okay, I shortened it slightly but only because the conversation was starting to digresses too much toward the end.) Anyway, here it is. You need’t listen with a good sound system, but it’ll sound better if you do. The ambient noise doesn’t get in the way much. Lubezki ‘s gentle, softly-accented voice comes through fairly clearly all through.
Taken by Lubezki with my own Canon PowerShot A540, with lighting provided only by a small candle
What if William Monahan‘s The Departed sequel was about Irish gangster zombies? A kind of ghost story? Mark Wahlberg‘s character rejoins the undercover/covert branch of the Staties, and as he begins to investigate a series of bizarre killings…naah, that sucks. In fact, Wahlberg’s guy being the lead isn’t much of an idea in itself. There’s really no reason to remake this other than to make money, which is a terrible reason from the get-go.