A four-story building was blown up and incinerated in Chicago today — at around 2 pm, or about six hours ago — for a scene in Chris Nolan‘s The Dark Knight, the latest Batman movie that’s been shooting in and around Chicago for the last few months. The demolition/ implosion/explosion happened at the old Brach’s Candy Factory in western Chicago. The building, vacant for several years, was dressed to look like “Gotham General Hospital,” blah, blah.
There is nothing in the world more boring that big explosions in action movies, but the live video footage taken today — here’s one angle, here’s another — is actually fairly cool. [Thanks for HE contributor and HollywoodChicago.com columnist Adam Fendelman for passing this along.]
This once-controversial film was despised and protested against by hip Manhattan gays back in the day. They were angry that the film’s hunt-for-a-serial-killer story not only used the world of downtown Manhattan gay bars (and the anonymous sex that was routine in these places in the pre-AIDS era of the ’70s) as a backdrop, but as a creepy-atmospheric thing that suggested that guys who went to the Mine Shaft on weekends were flirting with an element that was on some level malevolent and not at all healthy.
27 years later, Friedkin is still saying stuff like (a) “I didn’t set out to make a movie that would be offensive to people [but] a murder mystery set against the backdrop of this particular milieu” and (b) “I could see why some people felt like it was not the way to put the best foot forward at the time, but I also felt I had the right to make a movie, not a political statement.”
Except he was making a kind of political statement, and Friedkin damn well knew this all along. if Cruising wasn’t fastidiously political it was obviously a cultural statement that said, “Eewww, look at what these leather-clad gay guys are doing with each other in skanky downtown bars…..eewwww! Amyl nitrates, fist-fucking, golden showers….how perverted is that? Is it any wonder that in a scene as dark and kinky as this that a serial killer — a guy in denial about latent gay tendencies, perhaps — might be attracted to the nocturnal intrigue and wander into it and start stabbing gay guys to death?”
Cruising was a thriller first and foremost, but it was obviously a straight-male, straight-culture message flick that was going “tsk tsk” at an exotic culture. It was eyeballing something within the downtown gay-sex scene that, to some at least, seemed possibly self-destructive. The irony, of course, is that there was something self-destructive going on back then. If thousands of guys weren’t fucking each other left and right in backroom bars coast to coast, it’s certainly plausible that the AIDS virus might not have spread as quickly as it did.
The thing that always bothered me about Cruising was that the voices of the killer didn’t match. We hear (but don’t see) a shadowy baritone-voiced killer in the beginning, and then the killer is identified as Stuart Richards (Richard Cox) in Act Three and his voice is nowhere near as deep, and then we hear the voice of his father (i.e., the guy he’s really trying to kill) and it’s still not quite the same as the original baritone killer’s voice. I could never figure this out.
And I could never really figure the ending as far as Al Pacino‘s cop character was concerned. The film’s second-to-last shot is of his girlfriend (Karen Allen) trying on a gay-bar leather jacket and hat in their apartment, and the last shot is of a tug boat on the Hudson. Abrupt cut to black and mass confusion.
But I always liked Paul Sorvino‘s line to Pacino at the beginning, when he’s giving him his undercover assignment: “Have you ever been corn-holed?” And I remember that Pacino looked a little beefy in this film, and that I took to calling him “Porky Pacino” when I was discussing the film with friends.
Derek Elley is one of Variety‘s finest critics — a guy who knows his stuff all around the race track and the rodeo — but he’s also a British citizen who’s probably susceptible to feelings of national pride, and so you can’t fully trust his rave review of Joe Wright‘s Atonement, which was shown at the opening-night attraction at the Venice Film Festival just a few hours ago.
Knightley, McAvoy in Joe
Wrights’ Atonement (Focus Features, 12.25)
I feel, in other words, that the British film industry has been a nearly moribund thing for so long that you have to process any seasoned British critic reviewingAtonement — a thoroughly British film that was shot with British actors, crew and money on English soil — with at least a half grain of salt. Elley may be speaking God’s truth 80% or 90% of the time in his review, but a little voice is telling me “watch it…hold your horses…deep down he may be cheerleading for the home team.”
That said, Elley is doing cartwheels and somersaults over this Focus Features release which will also play next week in Toronto before debuting in December.
“Rarely has a book sprung so vividly to life,” he begins, “but also worked so enthrallingly in pure movie terms as Atonement, a smart, dazzlingly upholstered version by young British helmer Joe Wright of Ian McEwan‘s celebrated 2001 novel.
“Period yarn, largely set in 1930s and 1940s England, about an adolescent outburst of spite that destroys two lives and crumples a third, preserves much of the novel’s metaphysical depth and all of its emotional power. And as in Wright’s Pride & Prejudice, Keira Knightley delivers a star turn — echoed by co-thesp James McAvoy — that’s every bit as magnetic as the divas of those classic mellers which pic consciously references.
“Released in Europe next month and as a U.S. specialty item via Focus in December, this should reap good returns on the back of positive reviews and figure heavily in upcoming kudo derbies. It proved a popular opener of this year’s Venice fest.
“Though clearly by the same director, film is almost the polar opposite of Wright’s debut. Where Pride took a relatively free hand in reworking Austen’s classic in more youthful terms, Atonement is immensely faithful to McEwan’s novel, with whole scenes and dialogue seemingly lifted straight from the page in Christopher Hampton‘s brisk adaptation.
“And where Pride took a deliberately unstarchy, more realistic approach to Austen’s universe, Atonement consciously evokes the acting conventions and romantic cliches of ’30s and ’40s melodramas — from the cut-glass British accents, through Dario Marinelli‘s romantic, kinetic score, to the whole starchy period look.
“It’s a gamble that could easily have tilted over into farce. But as in Pride and Prejudice, Wright’s approach is redeemed by his cast and crew, with leads like Knightley, McAvoy and young Irish thesp Saoirse Ronan driving the movie on the performance side and technicians like d.p. Seamus McGarvey and designers Sarah Greenwood and Jacqueline Durran providing a richly decorated frame for their heightened playing.”
I’m not saying Elley has necessarily lost hs bearings ro that Atonement isn’t a god, well-made film (I won’t catch it until it shows in Toronto sometime around September 8th or 9th), but we need to hear what a few non-vested smart-ass American critics hae to say. Until a few of these come along we’re in a holding pattern.
In the wake of yesterday’s (8.28) Variety story about Owen Wilson dropping out of Ben Stiller‘s now-rolling Tropic Thunder, MTV.com’s Josh Horowitz is exploring to what extent Wilson’s reported attempted suicide will affect his other projects. Josh asked me for some comments this morning and wound up using a couple of them, but here’s the unexpurgated chat as it unfolded 90 minutes ago.
MTV question: Does this incident jeopardize Wilson’s standing as a leading man?
HE answer: Owen is far too complex and interesting and whimsical to be a leading man. He’s a flaky poet dreamer, a briliiant space-case…a witty intellectual adolescent whom women might find charming for a night or two, but he’s the very antithesis of a Clark Gable oak tree. He’s the kind of guy women can spot in a second as undependable because his basic nature is to go wherever his whims or dreams or ambitions may lead him at a given moment. His true inner whatever has always been hidden, and he doesn’t wear his passion on his sleeve.
He’s Dignan, he’s Dupree in front of that classroom full of kids, he’s that Wedding Crashers guy, he’s that plucky oddball friend of Jackie Chan‘s. But he’s never carried a film on his own shoulders. Look at what happened with Behind Enemy Lines, Minus Man, The Big Bounce. Owen is partner material, but the partner stuff that has happened so far is golden. He and Vince Vaughn could be the Hope-Crosby of our time if they wanted to — I would go to see Vaughn-Wilson movies for the rest of my life. And the routines he’s done with Ben Stiller in various films and on the Oscar show have been classic.
Career-wise, Owen will be fine if — I say “if” — he gets right back up on the horse. Face up, be honest, talk about it on TV with Jon Stewart or whomever, get back in the program, accept that he’s had problems, etc. The only thing that might hurt him, on the other hand, is the notion that he’s Andy Dick. If that concept takes hold, Owen will have a problem.
MTV question: Will audiences easily be able to forget something as serious as a suicide attempt when seeing him in a comedy?
HE answer: Tragedy and comedy are the twin faces of a very thin dime, and if Owen absorbs this episode in the right way, his sense of humor — which was always dry and sardonic and even fatalistic at times — will be even better. All Owen did, really, was fall into a slightly deeper pit that the sort of pit that almost everyone — including Josh Horowitz — falls into. Not everyone’s into illicit substances (see the Us magazine story about the factors that may have led to Owen’s suicide attempt) but everybody’s been at the edge of the cliff once or twice or thrice.
MTV question: What do you make of the prospects for The Darjeeling Limited now?
HE answer: This probably doesn’t help Darjeeling Limited, but I don’t think it will hurt either. Everyone is now thinking of Owen as a fucked-up guy with issues to solve, and his Darjeeling character is a fucked-up guy with issues to solve. I mean, c’mon, he wears a big head bandage throughout most of the film. I don’t see the problem.
To hear it from a just-out Us magazine story, the jackal in the recent-druggy-downfall-of-Owen Wilson saga is none other than British attitude-humorist Steve Coogan, the 24 Hour Party People and Around the World in Eighty Daysstar and costar of Night at the Museum. The story says that Wilson’s troubles are due in part to “Owen hanging out [with] the wrong people again,” and that “at least two sources blame Coogan,” who’s described as “the party boy rehab veteran.”
“I went through it with Steve,” Courtney Love has told Us about her relationship with Coogan, which ended in 2006. “I was just out of rehab, and he was right there with the drugs. I tried to warn Owen. I tried to warn his friends. I hope from the bottom of my heart that Owen stays the hell away from that guy.” Us quotes “another source” as saying that Owen’s ex Kate Hudson “forbid [Wilson] from letting Coogan into his house. She knew he was bad.”
75% of the Rotten Tomatoes gang hates, hates, hatesBalls of Fury. Let’s all get together and sledgehammer this one to death before it gets rolling. The Metacritic rating is 42% positive, but that ‘s because of three critics who give it a thumbs-up — the Seattle Post-Intelligencer‘s Andy Spletzer, the N.Y. Daily News‘ Elizabeth Weitzman and the Hollywood Reporter‘s Shari Linden. (They’re entitled — there’s no one “right” way to regard a film — but henceforth they’re going to be watched for further irregularities.)
It would be cruel to hope for Dan Fogler‘s film career to be stopped in its tracks, but I’ve had an animal dislike for this guy from the get-go. Like Peter Jackson (whom Fogler resembles), he has no sense of restraint or Zen calm. He’s a roly-poly ape. N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott says he looks like “the love child of Jack Black and the pornographic-film star Ron Jeremy.”
DVD Journal, the anonymously-written DVD-connoisseur website that launched in August 1997, has closed up shop. I read the nameless editor’s statement (posted yesterday) about what’s going on, only he doesn’t really say anything. There’s an acknowledgement that the DVD market share is going down and that this may have something to do with ad revenues or the moon’s orbit or whatever, but he definitely has trouble with the concept of just spitting it out. Real men put their cards on the table. If anyone really knows why these guys are dimming the lights, please advise.