Warner Home Video will release a nine-disc “Director Series: Stanley Kubrick Collection” on 10.23.07. New two-disc special editions of 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Eyes Wide Shut and The Shining as well as a “deluxe edition” of Full Metal Jacket (which would be…?). Also included: the doc called Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures. The whole kit ‘n’ kaboodle with set you back $79.92, but titles will also be sold individually for $26.99 a throw.
Ruthless, ogre-ish, heavily-armed invaders descend from the sky, take over the reins of government, and before you know it rebel groups are forming into grass-roots militias, fighting back like proud guerillas and asserting their nativist rights — this is our country! Death to the invaders! Death before submission! Does this like, uhm.. remind anyone of anything?
This double-disc DVD of John Milius’ Red Dawn hit stores on 7.17. Do you think the MGM/UA Home Video guys had any ideas about present-day parallels, or were they just after some 20th anniversary bucks? I once asked Milius himself about the Iraqi rebellion angle — he didn’t bite, but he didn’t strenuously argue it either.
An MTV.com observer at today’s Paramount panel at Comic-Con reports that Karen Allen appeared on a video feed earlier this afternoon to confirm that she’ll have some kind of supporting or cameo role in Indiana Jones IV.
Spielberg and Allen on Indy IV set in Hawaii.
Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf and Ray Winstone “were all appearing via satellite when Spielberg left the scene for a moment to [grab] another director’s chair. He came back with a chair with Marion Ravenwood written on it, and of course the crowd went bananas” — bananas? — “and then out came Allen to talk briefly about her return to the series.”
One of my most excruciating movie-watching memories of all time is listening to Allen go “Indiiieee!” in Raiders of the Lost Ark. I saw that movie three or four times during the summer of ’81 (loved it) but Allen’s distress squeal made the second, third and fourth viewings something of a mixed bag.
Mia Farrow has told Slate‘s Kim Masters why she submitted that blistering public letter last March to Steven Spielberg (via a Wall Street Journal article) about how China’s bankrolling of the Darfur genocide might mean that his serving as artistic director for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games would paint him with a Leni Reifenstahl brush.
Mia Farrow, Steven Spielberg
The short answer is that Farrow sent Spielberg two urgently-worded letters that were either (1) blocked by obsequious staffers or (b) were seen by Speilberg and duly ignored until Farrow submitted that now famous WSJ article that finally got his attention.
Masters reports that Farrow “had written Spielberg two letters several months before the op-ed piece appeared. In the first, she asked for advice on what to do with footage she had compiled on a visit to the Darfur region. Included was a photo album with handwritten annotations. ‘I used each photograph to convey the enormity of the situation and the staggering statistics,’ she says. ‘And I thought the faces that I showed him spoke so eloquently.’ That communication also contained information about China’s role in the crisis, she adds.
“Farrow got no response. Then she read that Spielberg was going to be an artistic director of the games. ‘I wrote him a letter of conscience saying I hoped he knew all these things,’ she says. ‘I really suggested he think twice. And then when I didn’t hear back, I had a vision of a box within a box within a box — that he has an office, and then there’s a real office behind that and maybe a really real office after that and maybe three letters a month actually get to him. So to be fair, maybe he didn’t get any of my letters.”
Wells to Farrow: Hey, maybe you’re right. Maybe Spielberg was too busy to give those letters a quick scan. Give him the benefit of the doubt, right? I think your first reaction was dead-on, though. He’s a guy who operates in such a deep and heavily protected membrane that the real world gets in only occasionally, and then only by luck or chance.
“[But] I’m on another time schedule where ten thousand people a month are dying. So you wait two weeks, that’s five thousand people right there. I just could not wait any longer. So the piece was born.”
“If failure, as the saying goes, is an orphan, then Charles Ferguson‘s No End in Sight can be thought of as a brief in a paternity suit, offering an emphatic, well-supported answer to a question that has already begun to be mooted on television talk shows and in journals of opinion: Who lost Iraq? On Mr. Ferguson√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s short list are Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and L. Paul Bremer III. None of them agreed to be interviewed for the film. Perhaps they will watch it.” — from A.O. Scott‘s 7.27 review in the N.Y. Times.
Bush administration boob & bad guy L. Paul Bremer III (l.) and retired Army general Jay Garner in Iraq in 2003
“You’ve mentioned that your father served in WW II (Iwo Jima ,wasn’t it?). I wasn’t close to my father, but he served also. I may not have known him well, but he didn’t consider himself a hero, as I suspect your father didn’t. We may not always agree, but that’s the meaning I took upon reading your parenthetic on ‘Iraq war hero.’ I don’t think Audie Murphy considered himself a hero either.” — HE reader Chuck Wagner.
“Never forget, never forgive”? A slouching Johnny Depp in striped pants and a shock of white hair with a big straight razor? Tim Burton doing his usual indulgent production-design wallow with cooler-than-cool photography? Is this anyone’s idea of a likable slogan and an enticing “key” image for a big-studio, gotta-see-it, end-of-the-year musical?
I’ve seen Sweeney Todd twice on stage and enjoyed it greatly both times — it’s a brilliant work — but there’s something about the energy and attitude that this DreamWorks-funded film (opening 12.21.07) is putting out that I don’t much care for. Call me nuts, but this is translating into (I’m admitting it) a donkey-like resis- tance to the film, sight unseen. I’m not saying I can “tell” anything. Obviously I’m clueless about how the movie plays. Completely. I’m just being honest. Something about this film is dislikable.
I can’t quite figure what this is about except for my belief that Burton is over. Well, isn’t he? His last half-decent film was Sleepy Hollow, and that was eight years ago — two or three zeitgeists have come and gone since then. The appalling Planet of the Apes was the first harbinger of the downturn, Big Fish was under- whelming at best (it certainly didn’t come together emotionally), and if you ask me Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was poison. I’ve done no calling around, but something tells me others may be feeling the same way.
Every now and then an audacious, high-profile, summer or year-end movie gets beaten up and slapped around by everyone (straight press, bloggers, critics), and something’s telling me that Sweeney Todd is shaping up to be one of those punching bags — the Munich of musicals. I’m not trying to be a jerkwad. I’d seriously like to be wrong. I’d love to see Sweeney Todd work as a film musical. I’d like to see Burton come back. I’m just saying that three and half months out, something feels twitchy…not right.
This piece was triggered by a snap of a Sweeney Todd one- sheet that I received today. There’s no poster art sitting on the official website. I’ll admit that David Poland got me going about Sweeney Todd way back when he predicted last February that Depp “is a 95% bet to be nominated for Best Actor” for his lead performance in Burton’s film, but that was then and this is now.
“We both were looking to do something different. We both were single at the time, and we would compare these stories [about our personal lives]. We wanted to do a frank, romantic comedy about sex and relationships. Aaron Abrams is fond of saying romantic comedies usually end with a kiss. But for us, the really interesting stuff happens after the kiss.” — Vancouver-based director Martin Gero speaking about Young People Fucking, his $1.5 million feature that ThinkFilm has picked up, and which will launch Canada First! program at September’s Toronto Film Festival.
Does that title set off warning alarms with anyone out there? I don’t know squat about this movie — for all I know Gero is the new Francois Truffaut — but I’ve learned over the years that films with pistol-hot, attention-grabbing, hot-marquee titles can be worrisome.
Paul Haggis‘s In The Valley of Elah (Warner Independent, 9.14) turns on an act of savage murder by a group of soldiers recently returned from the Iraq War, and the efforts of the father of a victim of this act (Tommy Lee Jones) to find out what the hell happened. In the view of N.Y. Times reporter Michael Cieply, Elah will be asking moviegoers “to decide if the killing is emblematic of a war gone bad.”
Tommy Lee Jones, Susan Sarandon in Paul Haggis‘s In The Valley of Elah
In a broader context, Cieply observes, this anti-war viewpoint puts Elah in the vanguard “of a new and perhaps risky willingness in the entertainment business to push even the touchiest debates about post-9/11 security, Iraq and the troops’ status from the confines of documentaries into the realm of mainstream political drama.”
Ciepley’s piece (titled “While Real Bullets Fly, Movies Bring War Home”), which appears on the front page of today’s Times and not the Arts section, reviews various upcoming Hollywood films that “use the damaged Iraq veteran to raise questions about a continuing war.”
In this light as well as own one of general “immediacy” he mentions Kimberly Pierce‘s Stop-Loss, Paul Greengrass‘s currently-preparing Imperial Life in the Emerald City, Brian De Palma‘s Redacted, James C. Strouse‘s Grace is Gone and Gavin Hood‘s Rendition.
Cieply doesn’t mention Kathryn Bigelow‘s The Hurt Locker, a film about an elite bomb squad unit in Iraq that’s either rolling right now or fiarly close to that status. And he doesn’t mention the Americans-in-Afghanistan films — Robert Redford‘s Lions for Lambs, Mike Nichols‘ Charlie Wilson’s War, and Oliver Stone‘s planned movie of Jawbreaker. Or Peter Berg’s The Kingdom (FBI guys in Riyahd). Or Marc Forster‘s The Kite Runner, which is set in Kabul, spoken largely in Farsi, and, as far as I’ve been able to tell, doesn’t reflect upon political or cultural conflicts caused by or involving Americans at all…but then I haven’t read the book.
But “among the new films, Valley of Elah is sure to be one of the most closely examined,” Cieply says, “thanks to Mr. Haggis’s credentials — he shared an Oscar for writing Million Dollar Baby and was nominated for another as co-writer of Letters From Iwo Jima — and because of his opposition to United States policy in Iraq.”
In yesterday’s item about Kimberly Pierce‘s Stop-Loss (Paramount, 3.8.07), I quoted a plot synopsis that used the term “Iraqi war hero” and thereafter wrote in parentheses, “What would that be exactly?” Those five words brought down a torrent of hate. I won’t dignify what was said by quoting the bashers (read ’em if you want), but I tapped out a response this morning.
Wells to All Vigilant Defenders of U.S. Military Guys in Iraq: Sorry, but as soon as I read the term “Iraqi war hero” in that synopsis of Stop-Loss, I flinched. I regard the word “hero” seriously, you see, unlike some of the jerkweeds who joined last night’s lynch mob. It doesn’t mean being a hard-ass mo’ fo’ or simply a guy who’s over there and toughing it out as best he can. It means someone who’s commits a profound act of selflessness or sacrifice, who comes to the aid of those who desperately need help, who does the strong and noble thing when push comes to shove. And a question in my mind was lit — how does heroism fit into the day-to-day calamity and misery over there? A question, not an indictment.
Anyone with a passing familiarity with what U.S. soldiers are up against over there knows that heroism as I’ve defined it here is a little outside the realm (or certainly on the fringe) of what the armed forces are encountering and dishing out. At least as far as I’ve what I’ve picked up from news reports, books, book reviews, first-hand accounts, documentaries and whatnot.
Maybe some of the wolf-packers can show me all the accounts by imbedded journalists (or those on G.I. websites or G.I. chat rooms) in which classically heroic actions have been observed and written about. If they’ve happened with any frequency or regularity, great — I stand corrected. Believe me, any soldier who toughs it out over there with a semblance of focus and honor (i.e., shooting straight, keeping it tight and being vigilant within his area of responsibility without giving in to Abu Graib sadism or otherwise grinding the faces of Baghdad citizens into the dust or cement as U.S. troops bust into their homes at 4 a.m.) and watches the backs of his buddies has my deepest respect, but (it is indicative of the level of awareness that I detect among some HE readers that it actually seems necessary to point this out) we are not the good guys over there.
It would be great to hear about good things happening between U.S. forces and Iraqi citizens (apart from handing out the proverbial footballs and Hershey bars, I mean), but my understanding of the situation is that the day-to-day experience of U.S. forces is not fulfilling anyone’s definition of shining knight-ism or good-guy heroics. Anyone who believes that the day-to-day over there is glorious or noble needs to take the needle out of their arm. We are not up to good things. We can’t be. Ask H.G. Wells about the fate of all foreign invaders and occupiers. (He wrote about them in “War of the Worlds.”)
In the Valley of Elah (which I’ve seen twice) advances the notion that the Iraq War experience is generating a kind of poison that is affecting the souls of the troops (and in turn U.S. citizens). Other films about the Iraq War being planned or shot will, trust me, have this element in their narratives as well to whatever degree. The Iraq War docs that I’ve seen or read about have also passed along despairing messages and conclusions about the dehumanzing aspects — the brutality, the cruelty, the ugliness.
Hence, when I saw the terms “Iraq War” and “hero” side by side, I paused. I said to myself, “Really? How would that be exactly?” On an incident-by-incident, day- to-day survival basis, I’d like to think that U.S. soldiers are doing the hard brave thing for each other each and every day. But the overall mission over there is vile, founded upon smoke and lies and neocon delusion, and those being ordered to fulfill it are doomed to failure and, in the long historical sense, ignominy.
Good heavens, another movie — Grace is Gone, a Sundance ’07 entry that echoes Iraq anguish but doesn’t quite deal with it in a specifically confrontational sense — wasn’t previously put on the Hollywood- Iraq-Afghanistan list. So make it eleven films now — six Iraqs (In The Valley of Elah, Redacted, Stop Loss, The Hurt Locker, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, Grace is Gone), four Afghanis (The Kite Runner, Lions for Lambs, Charlie Wilson’s War, Jawbreaker) and the Riyahd shoot-em-up thriller that is Peter Berg‘s The Kingdom.
I’m not at the present time including Gavin Hood‘s Rendition (New Line, 10.12.07), although I could in the same sense that The Kingdom is included. It’s about U.S. counter-terrorism efforts, more particularly about the wife (Reese Witherspoon) of an Egyptian-born terrorism suspect (Omar Metwalley) trying to discover the reason for his disappearance, and a CIA analyst (Jake Gyllenhaal) who has played a part in her husband’s fate. It deals with the post-9.11 climate and threats from the Middle East, so I guess it sort of belongs. All right — let’s make it twelve.