“Batman: The Killing Joke is a one-shot superhero comic book written by Alan Moore and drawn by Brian Bolland, published by DC Comics in 1988. Dark Knight director Chris Nolan has said that The Killing Joke [served] as an influence for Heath Ledger‘s Joker character. Ledger stated in an interview that he was given a copy of The Killing Joke as reference for the role.” — from the B:TKJ Wikipedia page.
Out west we call them carpool or diamond lanes, but here in Boston (and apparently throughout the New England and mid-Atlantic states) they’re called H.O.V. lanes — i.e, lanes for “high-occupancy vehicles.” In other words, people in these parts prefer a dorky acronym over plain English. I was driving into Boston the other day and I didn’t have a clue what H.O.V. meant, but then I read in Glenn Kenny‘s L.A. Times Mike Nichols profile that Charlie Wilson’s War “belongs in the H.O.V lane”…what?
Variety columnist and In Contention owner Kris Tapley has chosen his top ten films of ’07. I can at least state my strong agreement with the pickings of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (#1), The Bourne Ultimatum (#3), There Will Be Blood (#5), Lake of Fire (#6) and Control (#9). The rest are a bit of a muddle.
The Broadcast Film Critics Association and VH1 have pooled forces, and part of the deal is a VH1 show called “Critics Choice: Best Movies of 2007” which kicked off last Saturday night and will be repeated throughout the month and into January, leading up to the Broadcast Critics Association’s Critics Choice Awards on 1.7.07. The next airings: 12.19 at 8 pm, 12.20 at 11 am, 12.23 at 10 pm and 12.28 at 9 am. Pete Hammond handles some if not most of the on-air schpiel.
“Our church is called the Church of the World…[and] we’re told in the book not to discuss our faith with strangers, even ones that have been so nice and helpful.” — Daniel Day Lewis in a campfire scene from There Will Be Blood that’s not in the finished film. (But is viewable here.)
“For all the wild swipes of Sweeney’s razor, spattering red on the lens, was there not more threat, and mystery, in the sight of Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands — the lost soul who could kill at will but never did?” — from Anthony Lane‘s Sweeney Todd review in the 12.24 New Yorker.
Shouldn’t Lane be tapping out a blog of some kind? Is there a major-league film critic who writes less frequently? No one’s saying that volume rules above all, but reading appetites have become much more voracious over the least five years or so and you just can’t loll around and and bang out two or three elegantly-phrased reviews per month and call it sufficient. Because it isn’t. Not any more.
I can’t suppress a couple of responses to Glenn Kenny‘s L.A. Times profile of Charlie Wilson’s War director Mike Nichols, which ran yesterday.
Kenny cautions that “one shouldn’t underestimate the Nichols touch” in having made War into a potentially popular “sand” movie, despite Americans having said “no way” to every ’07 film with the slightest whiff of any Middle Eastern elements. Maybe Charlie Wilson’s War will be the exception — it’s certainly entertaining enough. But nobody has a “touch” to have and to hold. Artists are touched by inspiration like lightning — it passes through them, and they are nothing more than lucky conduits when this happens.
The exceptional, long-lasting artists are those with a knack for keeping themselves open to inspiration, or who at least know how to position or trick themselves into the right state of mind so that lightning comes their way more often than not. The fact that creative lightning touched Nichols repeatedly from the days of his Nichols & May routines in the early ’60s until the end of his Phase One career caused by the total crash-and-burn reception to The Fortune, or that he got a version of it back in his Phase Two career with Biloxi Blues, Heartburn, Silkwood, The Birdcage, Primary Colors, Closer and Angels Over America is no indication, much less an assurance, that the lightning was still with him when he shot and edited Charlie Wilson’s War.
Kenny mentions a profile piece by the New Yorker‘s John Lahr in which Nichols “described the waning inspiration that struck him in the years after his steep ascent” and that “he also reveals that in the ’80s he struggled with a Halcion dependency that induced a breakdown.” But Kenny doesn’t acknowledge the extreme unusualness of Nichols’ career in that his Phase One brushstrokes — his signature style as a filmmaker from The Graduate to The Fortune — had totally disappeared when he returned to filmmaking in ’83 with Silkwood. He had literally abandoned his muse of the ’60s and early ’70s and become an entirely different (one could say less distinctive and more accomodating) man.
The late Richard Sylbert, the fabled production designer who worked for Nichols on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff, The Graduate, Carnal Knowledge, The Day of the Dolphin and The Fortune and obviously saw it all first-hand, explained this directorial-personality-change arc a few years ago over a lunch at Swingers.
The fact that more people saw Alvin and The Chipmunks last weekend than will likely see No Country for Old Men in its entire release (as pointed out yesterday by “BNick”) is, I agree, depressing. But if my kids were four or five I’d have probably popped for tickets last weekend along with everyone else.
Question is, how many viewers over the age of 12 saw it for their own reasons?
This, possibly, is where this month-old YouTube essay comes in. One dispute with the guy who wrote and taped it: I believe in ghosts. I think it is ignorant and illogical not to. I have felt the presence of swirling spirits all my life.
Heath Ledger was, of course, obliged to make his Joker look more street-loony and smeared-up than Jack Nicholson‘s green-haired goblin, and make him stagger and prance and lunge around in an even more wackazoid fashion. Ledger has definitely created a Joker that owes nothing to either Nicholson or Cesar Romero. This is certainly indicated by a new high-deffy Dark Knight trailer. It’s almost stunning to realize that Nicholson’s Joker made his big-screen debut 18 and 1/2 years ago.