“There’s one documentary that’s been put out recently that has generated a lot of interest called Freedom to Fascism. And we’re moving in that direction. Were not moving toward Hitler-type fascism, but we’re moving toward a softer fascism.
“Loss of civil liberties, corporations running the show, big government in bed with big business. So you have the military industrial complex, you have the medical industrial complex, you have the financial industry, you have the communications industry. They go to Washington and spend hundreds of millions of dollars. That’s where the control is. I call that a soft form of fascism, something that is very dangerous.” — Republican presidential nomination contender Ron Paul, speaking to Tim Russert on the 12.23.07 Meet the Press.
This 12.23 N.Y. Times piece by Judd Apatow and Leslie Mann, called “Holiday on Thin Ice,” is a pseudo-transcription of an argument Apatow and his actress-wife have every year. Their discussion has two themes: (a) Apatow is a mildly inconsiderate, passively selfish gift-giver and (b) Mann can be testy and grasping when she puts her mind to it.
And as long as we’re talking back-and-forth dialogue, it goes without saying that “Holiday on Thin Ice” doesn’t begin to compare to “Dont Have a Cow, Man,” that famous exchange of e-mails between Apatow and Mark Brazill, the creator of That ’70s Show, over Brazill’s belief that Apatow stole an idea he had for a TV comedy series called “The Grungies,” about a Seattle grunge band shot in the light-hearted slapstick mode of “The Monkees.” (It helps to know that Topher Grace was one of the stars of That ’70s Show.)
Stephen Sondheim‘s Sweeney Todd numbers “are more like art songs than show tunes, attempts at Brechtian insight and scale, which I presume is Sondheim’s design: Anyone looking for hummable toe-tappers of the ‘chicks and geese and ducks better scurry’ variety should go play elsewhere. Only a shallow person would expect an actual melody to accompany lyrics of such nihilist significance as ‘There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit/ and it’s filled with people who are filled with shit/ And the vermin of the world inhabit it.’ This is complex, important music, people! Not for simple, cheerful folk by any means.” — from Stephanie Zacharek‘s Salon review.
Over my decades of watching and loving movies, I’ve had a big problem with one and only one cinematographer — Janusz Kaminski. He’s obviously a widely-admired pro, but I’ve never liked and never will like those bleachy, sunny flood-lit shots that he’s put into so many Steven Spielberg films. When I hear he’s the dp I think right away, “Uh-oh, here we go with the milky desaturated colors again.” It’s just hit me that he’s a side reason that I’m not as big a fan of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly as I could be. That said, I love his work on Jerry Maguire.
14 cities (including Boston!) are being treated to a special midnight sneak of Paul Thomas Anderson‘s There Will Be Blood on Saturday, 12.29. PTA put together this special “haircut” video for fans to announce the sneaks. The Paramount Vantage release opens in NY & LA on Wednesday, 12.26.
The updated Movie City News list of journo/critic picks: No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Zodiac, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Once. Is anyone taking this in? Two films that have long been considered dead in terms of potential Best Picture consideration — Zodiac and Once — are, in the view of dozens of top-dog writers whose lives are devoted to evaluating movies as best they can, among the top five of the year. Hats off to the Zeligs, go-alongers and Academy fuddy-duds who turned their backs months ago.
HE reader James Kent just wrote the following: “With the whole WGA strike going on, what impact do you think that could have on Best Picture nominations this year? As the entire academy nominates Best Picture, I’m wondering if there might be enough bad blood among SAG, WGA and DGA members that they might steer away from a big studio production in favor of the little guy?”
In other words, if it comes down to a choice between nominating a deserving big-budgeter like Sweeney Todd or American Gangster and a deserving mid-level or low-budgeter, will the rank-and-file vote against the expensive movie as a way of saying eff-you to the big studios and the producers they’re in league with? Sounds too sweeping and simplistic to me. If this turns out to be any kind of factor (which I’m doubtful of), then yes, Atonement, American Gangster and Sweeney Todd could conceivably lose votes. But which prospective Best Picture nominees are truly independent and unsullied by big-studio lucre?
“This is one of the few years where it is easy to imagine the DGA nominations being off of Oscar’s Top 5 by at least two directors,” David Poland wrote in his most recent “20 Weeks to Oscar” column. I’ve read this sentence five times and the sucker won’t ring true. Let’s try it this way: “This is one of the few years in which it’s easy to imagine the DGA’s Best Director nominees being, in at least two instances, different than the directors of the five most likely Best Picture nominees.”
Cut to the chase and Poland is more or less saying that while Jason Reitman‘s Juno and Joe Wright‘s Atonement‘s are likely Best Picture nominees, Reitman and Wright haven’t quite shown the chops and passion one associates with a sturdy and unassailable Best Director Oscar nominee.
Rewriting Poland again, he says the following: “Due respect, but if you have (a) Paul Thomas Anderson‘s work in There Will Be Blood, (b) Julian Schnabel‘s work in The Diving Bell & The Butterfly, (c) a living legend like Sidney Lumet delivering, at age 83, a vibrant, rough film in Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, (d) Todd Haynes bending time and personality in I’m Not There, and (e) Ridley Scott delivering the highest caliber of commercial cinema in American Gangster, is the DGA really going to go for a Joe Wright or a Jason Reitman?
“Moreoever, will they embrace a first-timer like Tony Gilroy? Can anyone miss the stride that Sean Penn, who has always been a very serious director, however you feel about the output, has made with Into The Wild?”
The thing about Penn and Into The Wild is this: having made a personal best (which he unquestionably has) doesn’t necessarily mean that Into The Wild, spirited and reaching as it may be, is finally a classic, world-class, power-punch achievement. The bottom line is that I don’t believe Penn gave me the whole-hog truth about Chris McCandless. The movie gave me his view of the guy and that’s fine…but it didn’t feel like enough.
McCandless could have lived and thrived and had a life that was about more than just saying “no” to his parents’ values, but he pissed it away because he was too arrogant to own a decent map of the area where his rusty bus was located — a map he could have used to save himself when he wanted to get back to civilization. And I don’t have any respect for a guy who refuses to write or call his parents for as long as McCandless did. He was brave and strong in some respects, but in others he was an asshole. And that’s fine. Everyone’s tangled up in this way or that. But at the end of the day this portrait of McCandless left me feeling a little distant.