Crispin Glover and David Brothers‘ It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE shows today (12.7), tomorrow (12.8) and Monday (12.10) at the American Cinematheque. It’s an intense, hallucinatory, soul-of-madness movie. The one-sheet pretty much says it all. A screaming, middle-aged, moustache-wearing nerd in a wheelchair (inspired by Francis Bacon‘s Pope paintings?), a shadow of guy holding a noose, a nearly naked Vargas girl on her knees. One look and you know that unbalanced people made this film.
Paper‘s Dennis Dermody wrote that “what Diane Arbus was to photography, Glover is swiftly achieving as a filmmaker. Training his sardonic eyes on the strange and afflicted he achieves a mad dark poetry on celluloid.Ã¢â‚¬Â I’ll concede that. The portion of It Is Fine that I saw at the ’07 Sundance Film Festival is mad, dark and not in the service of naturalism. Due respect, but I threw up my hands. I’m running from film to film, story to story…I haven’t got time for this shit. Obviously others do and some are into this film, and that’s fine. Everyone’s entitled.
But there’s no excuse for the words “it is fine” in a film title. No one except David Mamet has ever said the words “it is fine” in a conversation. When I first read the title I knew that Glover and Brothers and the late Steven C. Stewart (the afflicted guy who wrote the original screenplay) were playing a precious game.
There are many industry folk who feel that John Carney‘s Once was easily one of the best films of 2007, but a greater number don’t feel this way because they haven’t been persuaded that they’ll reap any worthwhile political I.O.U.’s by voting for it. Nominated films are usually made by or acted in by high-powered artists who are “in the game” and might pass along reciprocal favors down the road, or who simply possess an aura of well-established power that Academy members feel comfortable bowing down in front of.
Anyway, it’s probably a settled issue that Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova‘s “Falling Slowly”, which was nominated today for a Grammy (i.e., Best Song written for a motion picture, TV or other visual media), will be nominated for a Best Song Oscar also. Their main competitor will probably be Eddie Vedder‘s “Guaranteed” (from Into The Wild), which was also Grammy-nommed.
Since Once‘s rep is that of a sweet little film that everyone loved (as opposed to Wild‘s rep of being a powerfully directed film about a brave but asshole-ish nature boy who died because he couldn’t be bothered to own a detailed map of the area he was camping in), it will probably win. I didn’t mean to take a swat at Into The Wild. It’s very strong and commendable with award-level performances, and Sean Penn‘s best directed film ever. But Chris McCandless did die in part because he couldn’t get back to civilization to get treatment for root poisoning, and if he’d had a decent map he could have found his way — but he didn’t.
The front-running Best Foreign Language contenders, I’m told, are Stefan Ruzowitzky‘s The Counterfeiters (Austria), Cao Hamburger‘s The Year My Parents Went on Vacation (Brazil), Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud‘s Persepolis (France…but what will the foreign branchers say to an animated entry?), Fatih Akin‘s The Edge of Heaven (Germany), Giuseppe Tornatore‘s The Unknown (Italy), Cristain Mungiu‘s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Romania) and Juan Antonio Bayona‘s The Orphanage (Spain).
The most-likely Best Feature Documentary contenders are No End in Sight, Autism: The Musical, Body of War, Lake of Fire, Sicko, War/Dance. and A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman.
I accept that I will probably never ever see Outpost in Malaya (a.k.a., The Planter’s Wife), a Jack Hawkins-Claudette Colbert adventure flick with elephants, a cobra and a mongoose. It’s not on DVD, was never issued on VHS and hasn’t even aired on TCM or TNT. But if I hadn’t wandered across this shot of 1952 Times Square, I never would have even heard of this Ken Annakin film. And to think that people lined up to see it, bought popcorn and everything.
The reason Universal has decided to open Charlie Wilson’s War against four other 12.21 releases — Sweeney Todd, Walk Hard, National Treasure: Book Of Secrets and PS I Love You — instead of the previously slated 12.25 is because they’re figuring they can beat Sweeney Todd, which is going for the same semi-educated, over-30 demo. Book of Secrets will have the family-action audience, and the under-30 comedy fans will go to Walk Hard.
And the Harvard Law School grads who patronize every Will Smith film no matter what will still be lining up I Am Legend, which will have opened a week before.
L.A. Times reporter John Horn thinks Charlie Wilson’s War is run into trouble because the date change. But the films that are really going to suck it are Book Of Secrets and P.S. I Love You.
The shenanigans of slippery French producer- distributor Philippe Martinez may well have been the reason that Michael Traeger‘s The Amateurs was kept out of theatres for the last two years, but really good films are never stuck in limbo for too long. And having seen The Amateurs, I feel that L.A. Times reporter John Horn is being generous in implying that this small-town comedy about a group of middle-aged dorks (Jeff Bridges, Tim Blake Nelson, Joe Pantoliano, William Fichtner, Ted Danson) making a porn flick is worth the price of a ticket.
Sorry, but I don’t think it is. I wouldn’t recommend it as a rental. I know the film has been through rough times and all, but reality is reality.
I saw The Amateurs at the Santa Barbara Film Festival almost three years ago (back when it was called The Moguls), and I was into my agony mode — quiet moaning, foot-tapping, covering face with both hands — less than 20 minutes in. The performances seemed way too broad, the characters too yokelish. And the film, which has been titled Dirty Movie in Germany, is way too chaste. Why make a movie about schlubs making a porno if you’re going to keep everything this zipped and this buttoned?
In the 12.7 L.A. Times piece, Traeger tells Horn that the list of plagues visited on The Amateurs for the last two years or so means “you could only conclude that someone put a curse on us. This is a little indie movie that was struck by unbelievable tragedy.” He also describes the production of The Amateurs as “a blessing.” Not from my end it wasn’t.
The Envelope‘s Tom O’Neil talks to Red Carpet District‘s Kris Tapley at last night’s Sweeney Todd premiere.
Tapley: “Charlie Wilson’s War has fallen out…Juno has gained some ground. It’s got even more heart than Little Miss Sunshine. Is Atonement the [current] front runner? I don’t know…is it? The reviews say it’s No Country. I don’t believe in the Michael Clayton [thing]…it was no home run. I think it’s about star power. What fits the classic Oscar profile? Ten years ago The Great Debaters would have been a classic Academy picture. Today…who knows?”
O’Neil: “Covering the Oscars is the Super Bowl of showbiz. We have seen some real best Picture love for No Country for Old Men…it’s at least part of the top five. It’s not, it’s not [the front runner]. I think The Kite Runner is opening way too late…a lot of movies have come out in front of it.”