The badness of a movie is directly proportional to a lot of things. Dave Barry once wrote that the more helicopters a film has, the worse it is. (Obvious exception: Apocalypse Now.) I say it’s animal yelling. Not Al Pacino-type shouting or the profane bluster in Glengarry Glen Ross or F. Lee Ermey barking at the “ladies” in Full Metal Jacket, but emphatic groaning, screaming or bellowing of any kind, for any effect. Live Wire, a Pierce Brosnan film that was on earlier today, reminded me of this fact.
The “WGA strike being settled by Pearl Harbor day” line, passed along a week and a half ago, evaporated last week. Two days ago Variety‘s Dave McNary wrote that “with both sides back at the barricades, many believe the writers strike won’t be resolved until March at the earliest.” Three more months? March? What happened to the mind games being over and serious horse-trading about to begin?
Deadline Hollywood Daily‘s Nikki Finke has just posted a letter sent to WGA membership from WGA board member Tom Schulman. The gist is Schulman quoting a conversation he had at a party few years ago with “a gentleman who until recently had been for decades the chief negotiator for the companies in another segment of the entertainment industry” who told Schulman about his negotiating strategy. Schulman write it down and here it is, more or less:
“Strategy for Hardball Negotiations:
“Piss off the leaders and spokespersons for the other side. A leader who loses his temper loses something in negotiations. Why? because anger clouds judgment, and because a person who loses his temper is embarrassed, usually comes and apologizes, and always gives something away to get back into the good graces of the other side.
“The end game is the money, but hardball negotiations aren’t about money, until the end. The real game is dividing and conquering.
“Lower the expectations of the other side — divide and conquer. Raise and lower the expectations of the other side — divide and conquer. Do everything possible to destroy the credibility of the other side’s leadership — divide and conquer. Use confidantes and back-channels to go over the heads of the stronger leaders to the softer targets — divide and conquer. When you figure out the other side’s bottom line, offer a fraction — it’s surprising how many times that stands.”
If I was better at persuading DVD publicists to send me freebies I might have seen some of the 24 films in the big fat Ford at Fox box set, which streets tomorrow. But I’m not (too much work) and I don’t have an extra $210 to blow, so thank fortune for the The Essential John Ford Collection (The Frontier Marshall, My Darling Clementine, Drums Along the Mohawk, How Green Was My Valley, The Grapes of Wrath and Nick Redman‘s 93-minute doc, Becoming John Ford), which is only $35.
Although it may be the least of the five, Drums Along the Mohawk (’39) is the one I’m most eager to see. This is because it was shot in three-strip Technicolor at the dawn of the color era, and I can’t get enough of the semi-surreal look of this process. The colors almost look painted on, which they were in a sense. The result is something strangely luminous and “fake”, and yet strangely agreeable. Obviously produced from a crude technology, but that’s the fun of it.
To me, Henry Fonda has always been the monochrome middle-aged architect in Twelve Angry Men, mild-mannered and balding, but here he is with unlined, light-peach skin and thick jet-black hair and a young man’s anxiety. I know, I know…but I eat this stuff up. It’s so much fun to watch I can overlook the blustery cornball acting styles that are a hallmark of almost all Ford films. (Fonda and costar Claudette Colbert aren’t guilty of this in Mohawk, but almost everyone else is.)
The difference this time, apparently, is that the new Mohawk has toned down the poster-paint colors so it looks, to judge by the stills on DVD Beaver, a little less forced.
The 13 Annie Award nominations gathered by Ratatouille have made it a favorite to take the Best Feature Animation Oscar. And the one nomination given to Beowulf (for production design) is obviously a fairly significant diss. Unquestionably, the animators who voted this way did so for small reasons. No film this year delivered quite like Beowulf. Its crime (and that seems an appropriate term now, given the Annie snub) was having used live actors as a mere starting point, in much the same way that portions of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs were built upon live acting. I only know that the result fit my idea of a wondrous fantasy through and through. If Beowulf isn’t animated, I’d like to know what term I’m supposed to use.
Judd Apatow‘s benevolent hand hasn’t exactly been bitten by Knocked Up costar Katherine Heigl, but it’s certainly been nipped. In an interview in January’s Vanity Fair, Heigl says “it was hard for me to love [Apatow’s] movie” because it’s “a little sexist…it paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as goofy, fun-loving guys.”
No one would argue that Knocked Up‘s attitude isn’t on the guy-skewing side, and yes, Heigl and female costar Leslie Mann, who plays Paul Rudd‘s unsatisfied wife, do come off as a little scolding. But every comedy needs “straight men” to bounce the humor off of, and that’s their function — to ask for a little maturity and sensitivity from men who are reluctant, to say the least, to provide this. At first, anyway.
This is an old gripe, but given Seth Rogen‘s slacker-stoner constitution the issue isn’t so much Heigl’s character being uptight and humorless as much as her credibility-straining decision, no matter how many shots of tequila she’s downed, to go horizontal with Rogen in the first place. There were 12 year-old kids watching Knocked Up in Kabul who found this incomprehensible.
As a result of Knocked Up‘s success, Heighl’s asking price reportedly went from $300,000 to $6 million, so I guess she can stomach her aesthetic disappointment.
The only way that the National Board of Review awards, to be decided upon and then announced on Wednesday, would have any effect on award-season thinking would be if they made some kind of radical Best Picture choice…which isn’t likely. The NBR did the right thing last year in giving Letters From Iwo Jima their Best Picture prize, but their generally conservative tendencies indicates a vote for one of the comfort-blanket films over the less-soothing darkhearts — Sweeney Todd, No Country for Old Men, There Will be Blood, etc. A big surprise would obviously be welcome.
NBR president Annie Schulhof, Volver star Penelope Cruz at last year’s NBR award presentation ceremony at Manhattan’s Cipriani
I was hoping that Fox 411’s Roger Friedman, who’s passed along some tough judgments about the inside doings of the NBR over the years, would have posted predictions today, but nope. He says he may have something along these lines up tomorrow, including his own calls.
Red Carpet District‘s Kris Tapley has posted a link to some In Contenton predictions by the Klaus Kinski-admiring “Aguirre” that went up yesterday. Marc Forster‘s The Kite Runner for Best Picture, he says. That sounds about right for the NBR. It’s an intelligent, well made heart-tugger about an adult looking for healing and redemption for a bad thing that happened in childhood. It’s also struck chords with over-40 audiences. But a voice is telling me that Joe Wright‘s Atonement, which has a somewhat similar story and theme, will take it.
And La Vie en Rose‘s Marion Cotilliard is said to be a locked call for Best Actress.