If you’ve been following the rumbles and the mutterings about Peter Segal‘s Get Smart (Warner Bros., 6.08), you’ve probably got your guard up. But this trailer, God strike me down, is mildly funny. Making a film about Maxwell Smart may have been a lame idea, but Steve Carell, it appears, was the right guy to play him.
How can Sleuth (Sony Pictures Classics, 10.12) not be good with Michael Caine starring in a Harold Pinter rewrite of Anthony Schaffer‘s very clever (at times delicious) hit play? If Kenneth Branagh isn’t renowned as a great director, he’s certainly a proficient one, and Jude Law — inhabiting the young-cad role that Caine played in the 1972 version opposite Laurence Olivier — will be fine. This movie can’t be a problem…it can’t. Here‘s the trailer.
Michael Caine, Jude Law
American Cinematographer executive editor Stephen Pizzello has posted a podcast interview with Sopranos director of photography Alik Sakharov, and extracted this quote about the meaning of the blackout.
“To me, [it means] this person will die, whether he dies in the next second or [in] six months,” Sakharov says. “It’s not about whether he’s dead or he’s alive, really. It’s not even important. What’s important is the [thought] process. You know, [it’s] like you have very, very fine caviar: you eat it, and then you let it sit on the palate of your mouth, and then you begin to enjoy the aftertaste.”
It’s not important if Tony Soprano is dead or alive? In what ectoplasmic realm? Saying he may die in the next second or six months from now is like saying he could die 25 or 40 years into the future — it’s a meaningless statement. And we all know about the caviar and the aftertaste and all that — that’s just more bullshit evasiveness.
Of all the new Toronto Film Festival films announced today, the most intriguing (for me) is Alan Ball‘s Nothing is Private, a Scott Rudin production that has no distributor as of this writing. I read the script last April and called it “a very solid and sharply observed thing, and sexually audacious as the dickens.”
Actually I was only describing the first 55 pages, which was all I’d read at that point. But I finished it the next day, and if anything my admiration gained. It may not be a monumental film (whatever that means), but it had, on paper, a feeling of discipline, completeness and clarity of character.
Based on Alicia Erian‘s “Towelhead” and costarring Aaron Eckhart, Maria Bello, Peter Macdissi, Toni Collette and Eugene Jones, it’s about a 13 year-old half-Arab, half-Irish girl named Jasira (Summer Bishil, said to be exceptional in the part) getting sexually involved with two older guys while living with her strict Lebanese father in Houston in the early ’90s.
The other films locked into Toronto are Julian Schanbel‘s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (beautifully made with rivers of feeling, but also a film that makes you wish it would end sooner); Tony Gilroy‘s Michael Clayton (George Clooney in the lead role), Gavin Hood‘s Rendition (Reese Witherspoon, Jake Gyllenhaal, Meryl Streep); Neil Jordan‘s The Brave One (Jodie Foster, Terrence Howard); Terry George‘s Reservation Road (Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Connelly), and Peter Greenaway‘s Nightwatching.
Lionsgate has decided to push out James Mangold‘s 3:10 to Yuma, the western with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, on Sept. 7th instead of October 5th. That lets out the Toronto Film Festival (9.6 to 9.15), but does this also mean no-go’s for Telluride and Venice?
Variety‘s Pamela McLintock is saying this will make it the first fall western out of the gate, beating Andrew Dominik‘s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Warner Bros., 9.21) and Joel and Ethan Coen‘s No Country for Old Men (Miramax, 11.9)….although it’s not really accurate to call the Coen’s film a western. It’s more of a mythic end-of-the-world movie set in Texas.
“We are a Date Destination for Grownups,” Landmark megaplex co-owner Mark Cuban tells L.A. Times columnist Patrick Goldstein in a piece about a pair of cool movie-watching houses in West Los Angeles . “You aren’t going to see kids running around. There won’t be Hostel 33 or Saw 15 playing. We will program for our audience. The mix will still lean toward art and indie fare simply because that is how great movies geared toward adults skew.”
Cuban further predicts that the Landmark will be the beneficiary of this glut of new product. “Some producers will face some financial pain,” he says. “But it will result in better movies making it to our screens. Good movies will find an audience.”
But “all the good movies in the world may still not save the Crest,” a single-screen indie theatre running on upper Westwood Blvd. by owner Robert Buxbaum. “Like the other aging one-screen theaters that populate Westwood, it’s a gas-guzzler in a neighborhood full of Priuses. All those lights on its marquee come with a cost — Bucksbaum complains that his electricity bill probably rivals any theater in the country.”
There are three theatres on the Paramount Pictures lot — a big swanky one, an older smaller one and an upstairs screening room above the older one. The theatres have different names but calling one venue “the Sherry Lansing theatre” and another one the blah-dee-blah theatre is too vague. It would be much simpler and clearer if Paramount publicists would just say in their invites that they’ll be screening their new movie at “the big swanky theatre,” “the older little theatre” or “that old funky screening room upstairs.” Keep it simple and colloquial and you can’t go wrong.
I received a DVD screener of Shortcut to Happiness last week, but I lent it to a friend last weekend and only got around to watching it this morning. It opens in six mid-size burghs (Las Vegas, Rochester, Fort Myers, Columbus, Albuquerque and Santa Fe) on 7.13 on its way to the bargain bin.
Alec Baldwin directed a version of this film six years ago (in addition to starring and producing) before washing his hands and having his name taken off — the direction is now credited to “Harry Fitzpatrick.” I reviewed the whole story last October, and the N.Y. Post ran a little thing on it today.
I knew this reputed train wreck of a movie would be problematic, but you always have the hope that it won’t be totally forgettable and that at least part of it — a scene, a line of dialogue, anything — will be worth the effort of watching.
There’s one moment that qualifies. It’s an anger scene with Baldwin, who’s playing the lead role of a frustrated, somewhat talented writer who sells his soul to the devil, played by Jennifer Love Hewitt, in exchange for “success.” We all know that Baldwin does anger pretty well, and here he gets to do one of those self- loathing, had-it-up-to-here, “I can’t do this anymore!” scenes that climaxes with his throwing an IBM Selectric out of his living-room window. It comes around 20 or 25 minutes into the film, and it’s the first scene that doesn’t feel poorly written or badly acted or just plain inert. It feels hard and real.
It got me in particular because I’ve experienced a little writer’s rage myself. Most of it when I was younger and hadn’t yet figured out how to let it out, and or at least write with a semblance of assurance. Mainly when I was struggling with low-pay freelance work and living on Bank Street in the West Village, back when I had to use white-out to fix errors and when little dabs of white-out would stain my jeans and shirts.
On top of which Baldwin’s flying-typewriter scene reminded me of Jane Fonda doing precisely the same thing in Fred Zinneman‘s Julia (1978), when, as Lillian Hellman, she sends her Underwood crashing through an upstairs window of a Cape Cod cottage she’s living in with Dashiel Hammett (Jason Robards).
Yesterday’s big argument on CNN’s “Situation Room” between Sicko director Michael Moore and host Wolf Blitzer was splendid, riveting television and one of the strongest truth-in-media grenade blasts that has ever been felt on a mainstream news show. Here’s the YouTube video and here’s the transcript.
Before bringing Moore on Blitzer presented a video report by CNN’s medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta that reviewed Moore’s occasional fact-fudging and simplifying in Sicko (which is true in some instances), particularly focusing on Moore’s unmitigated admiration of Canadian and European health systems. But it was a typically slanted report that quoted a typical corporate-minded anti-universal health care analyst. Moore was understandably pissed and hit the roof when questioned, calling the report “biased” and “crap.”
Moore then derided Gupta and Blitzer for spinning the Big Lie. He asked Blitzer to “tell the truth to the American people…just once…you guys have such a poor track record, and for me to come on here and listen to that kind of crap….you fudged the facts about this issue and the war in Iraq…why did it take you so long, Wolf, to take on Vice President Cheney? I’m just wondering when you’re going to apologize to the American people and the troops….I just wonder when the American people are going to turn off their TV sets and stop listening to this stuff.”
And then at the very end Lou Dobbs comes on and says Moore “as more of a left-wing promoter than Cesar Chavez, for crying out loud!” Dobbs is my idea of a real establishment prig, and the Cesar Chavez that I came to know in The Revolution Won’t Be Televized isn’t such a bad guy.
Moore will return to “Situation Room” at 5 pm eastern for Part Two of the debate, and then he’ll go up against Gupta on Larry King this evening at 9 pm eastern.
Variety reported on 7.6 that a 44-second promotional clip posted by the European Commission on YouTube has angered a politician or two. Called “Film Lovers Will Love This,” the montage shows 18 couples doing the mambo in various European films (Breaking The Waves, Goodbye Lenin!, Amelie, Bad Education, et. al.) with a concluding slogan — “Let’s come together.” All of the excerpted films are supported by the European Union’s MEDIA Program, which supports the circulation of films in other EU countries.