Okay, I missed another Iraq film — director Kimberley Pierce and producer Scott Rudin‘s Stop Loss (Paramount, 3.08). About an “Iraqi war hero” (what would that be exactly?) who freaks when his enlistment is extended and he’s ordered to return to Iraq. Channing Tatum, Ryan Phillipe, Mamie Gummer, Timothy Olyphant, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jay Hernandez and Abbie Cornish costar.
So that makes ten upcoming Hollywood movies either set in or dealing in some way with Iraq and Afghanistan — five Iraqs, four Afghanistans, and a thriller set in Riyahd, Saudi Arabia film (i.e., The Kingdom). The Drudge Report is saying that Rudin is quoted in Michael Ciepley‘s 7.26 N.Y. Times story about this recently evolved genre.
A professional guy who knows the dog track has seen Tony Gilroy‘s Michael Clayton (Warner Bros., 10.3), and he’s calling it “a superior, impeccably crafted piece of big-studio entertainment.
“Aside from being a terrific legal drama, it’s especially noteworthy for the astonishingly assured direction by Gilroy. The pared down, rat-tat-tat efficiency he brought to the Bourne scripts is very much in evidence here. Pic otherwise reeks of the serious-cool craftmanship of other Soderbergh/ Section Eight productions like Out of Sight, Traffic and Syriana. What a debut!
“Onscreen talent is all top grade. The front-and-center Clooney manages for the most part to avoid his usual droll-sardonic schtick, and is complimented by right-on-the-money supporting perfs by Sydney Pollack and especiallyTom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton.
“The film might be just a little bit too dour to be a massive mainstream success, and perhaps has a slightly inflated sense of it’s own importance. Ultimately it presents a fairly simplistic message about corporate greed, but from frame to frame I’d challenge anyone not to be entertained by it.”
John Stockwell, whose career took an exploitation turn after the success of crazybeautiful and Blue Crush, has finally broken out of the youth-in-peril genre that he’s been shackled with over the last three years (Into The Blue, Turistas). He’s about to direct Middle of Nowhere, a decently written relationship drama with Susan Sarandon as a flaky, irresponsible mom who squanders her eldest daughter’s college fund ($30 grand) on her youngest daughter’s beauty pageant campaign. I had a chance to flip through Michele Morgan‘s script earlier today, and it’s obviously a straight character-driven thing — no babes in bikinis, no buried booty, no tropical waters. Costars include Anton Yelchin, Justin Chatwin, Willa Holland and Eva Amurri.
It turns out that Film Jerk’s announcement about Brian De Palma‘s Redacted now being a December 14th release came from a bum source. (FJ’s Edward Havens simply ran with what he was given; bogus information was put out.) A Magnolia Pictures source has just told me that this lower-budgeted Iraq War feature will in fact hit theatres sometime in November, and that a booking at September’s Toronto Film Festival wouldn’t be totally out of the realm.
The fact that Redacted, which has been described on the IMDB as “a montage of stories about U.S. soldiers fighting in the Iraq conflict,” was shot in Jordan in a verite fashion conflicts, of course, with DePalma’s rep as a dispenser of visual opera, being an acknowledged master of bravura, carefully choreographed photography in a controlled setting. Does Redacted have two or three of De Palma’s signature sequences? “I think it’s better that I don’t put up expectations one way or the other” the Magnolia guy said. All he would say is that “it’s very, very different.”
That pounding fuzz-bass rock track on that Blackberry Curve ad that’s been playing over and over and over again on MSNBC is called “Jique“, by a New York group called the Brazilian Girls. The embedded code has been withdrawn by request, but here’s the YouTube video of the group performing the song. Everyone’s heard it. A sassy-voiced lady singing, “You know I really, really like you…he said I really, really like you,” etc. The Blackberry people are obviously going for 30-and-under single women.
Brazilian Girls, a quartet, has no Brazilians and just one girl — vocalist Sabina Sciubba, who performs in various states of disrobe-itude. There’s also keyboard player Didi Gutman, bassist Jesse Murphy and drummer Aaron Johnston.
The Guardian‘s Geoffrey McNab has written about the the radical youthifying of Beowulf costar Ray Winstone by director Robert Zemeckis and the sophisticated CG monkeys hired to facilitate. Interesting, but I’ll take bets with anyone that the final visuals won’t be convincing. I just don’t think we’re “there” yet. Ian McKellen‘s digital facelift in Brett Ratner‘s X-Men: The Last Stand didn’t get it.
Ray Winstone in Sexy Beast (’01); in Robert Zemeckis‘ upcoming Beowulf
I first met Winstone in ’79 at a Manhattan party for Scum, a good tough drama about British “borstals” (prisons for juvie delinquents). I was with two women — a slender blonde I was seeing at the time and her pretty, endearingly buxom friend. I was feeling a little fizzy, but Winstone was even more in his cups because he told me he wanted them both. “What about it?” he said with a smile. I was startled for a second or two, but I laughed and said, “Sure, man…go for it.”
I said this knowing two things. One, his chances were zip with the blonde, and two, that he therefore had very little chance of scoring with her friend. (They were totally glued together that night — Winstone would have had to have gone home with both or neither.) Besides, Winstone wasn’t serious. He was probing to see if I’d get pissed or defensive. When I said okay he smiled and put his arm around my shoulder and said “you’re okay, man” or words to that effect.
I’ve never forgotten this night for one other reason. What Winstone was dreaming about came to pass for yours truly. Thank God for the spirit and generosity of the times.
The irony is that he said he remembered this episode when we met again in Toronto in ’01. Or at least, he gave that impression. Instant recognition, instant smile. I remember also how he pronounced my first name in that Cockney or East London accent of his — sounded a little bit like “jayfe.”
Windy City film critic Erik Childress has announced that the Chicago Film Critics Association and 20th Century Fox have resolved their screening and embargo issues. Of course, I posted an e-mail heralding this agreement last Friday (7.20) and was asked by two or three CFCA members to please take it down because Fox flacks were angry about some parliamentary detail. (Trust me, it takes very little to raise the hackles of certain Fox publicists.) And it only took another three business days for Fox and CFCA to iron things out.
“I think we need a trial, in this country, where Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush would be brought up on charges for causing the deaths of so many people.” — Michael Moore on Chris Matthews‘ Hardball, 7.23.07, on MSNBC. A portion of a PBS documentary called “The Dark Side” that supports this view. Rep. Dennis Kucinich explaining three months ago (to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer) his reasons for wanting Cheney impeached.
It’s hard not to sympathize with the Walt Disney Co.’s decision to become the first major Hollywood studio to ban depictions of smoking [by] “saying there would be no smoking in its family-oriented, Disney-branded films and it would ‘discourage’ it in films distributed by its Touchstone and Miramax labels,” according to a 7.25 Reuters report. They’d be wrong to push this too far with Touchstone and Miramax films, however. Life is life and some people still smoke for this or that reason, and any film that artificially suppresses that reality will devalue itself.
Last May the MPAA decided to consider giving R ratings to movies that “glamorize smoking or movies that feature pervasive smoking outside of an historic or other mitigating context may receive a higher rating.” I said at the time that “this is almost akin to prohibition and will probably raise a stink among who make their living playing bad guys, but anything that cuts down on a truly offensive acting tendency is okay with me, even though the MPAA’s idea is on the dopey side.
Point #1: “Smoking is a shorthand device for characters who are meant to be seen as outlaw-ish or anti-social. But what about an actress playing a middle-aged divorcee with self-destructive or low self-esteem issues? What about a nervous 15 year-old who’s trying to look cool in front of his friends. There are all kinds of characters who could light up in a valid way.” Point #2: “It’s not smoking in movies per se that’s so bad, but actors who use constant smoking as a behavioral crutch. Smoking can look marginally cool depending on how skilled or preternaturally cool the actor is, but it becomes extremely tedious and off-putting when done to excess.”
Last October 15th a Charles Lyons piece appeared in the N.Y. Times about Marina Zenovich‘s documentary about the great Roman Polanski. I ran a shout-out and followup that same day. The Lyons article described Zenovich’s film as “untitled and unfinished,” but the timing of it, as I noted, indicated “a possible debut at [the 2007] Sundance Film Festival and some kind of commercial exposure in ’07.”
Sundance never happened, and a commercial opening is now an ’08 prospect, at best. But it’s been nine months since the Lyons’ piece so something must have happened. Zenovich didn’t respond to a call and an e-mail but Lyons got back. He says “she isn’t locked on the film yet– as it turns out, she never would have been ready for Sundance ’07. I’m not sure if she’ll even be ready for Toronto, were that a possibility.” I’m given to understand from another party that a booking at Sundance ’08 is “tacitly firm.”
Zenovich will, of course, have to include footage of Polanski’s Cannes press conference tirade against the banal questions being asked by journos.
Clean My Ride is a pro-ethanol, anti-big oil website pushing fuel efficiency and ethanol use as a means to reduce global warming. The webmaster is a guy named Phin — a spirited, 32 year-old, Michael Moore-sized activist from Springfield, Vermont. No last name, man beard, and chummy with GenX celebs like Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner and Sarah Silverman. These four have appeared in four Phin videos. Excellent message, meh quality. The best moment is in #4 when Damon slugs Phin.