Speaking of David Fincher‘s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount, 11.26.08), a longtime HE reader and sometime correspondent wrote a few days ago about a very early reaction to this adaptation of an F.Scott Fitzgerald story which costars Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton with a script by Eric Roth:
“A friend of my wife’s who is a costume designer was back in Pittsburgh visiting family over the holidays. During her visit we were discussing interesting projects she is or will be working on, and she said she’s unequivocally excited about her latest film — The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
“Top to bottom she said the set and production was a dream, that both David FIncher and Brad Pitt were consummate professionals, and that the script was top-notch — the only script she can recall making her cry, she said. She added that the look and scope of design of the film while ambitious is also intricate and exacting
“Furthermore, she mentioned that some of the sequences they saw that had been edited were absolutely stunning. Her desciption of the mood of those who worked on it is that of bated breath — a near universal belief that they have made an outstanding and moving film, one that transcends and one they wish not to jinx by too much loose talk.
“I take this with more than a passing interest as she has worked on Traffic, all of the Ocean’s movies, Solaris and Miami Viceone of the highlights of her career.”
Red Carpet District‘s Kris Tapley has come up with a list of ten movies that may, he suspects, be the top Best Picture contenders next year. At the top of the list are Steven Soderbergh‘s two Che Guevara films — The Argentine and Guerilla. I’ve read the scripts for both and believe in the potential for these films immensely. (Here are two articles about them — #1 and #2 — I posted in mid ’07.)
The other Tapley contenders are Baz Luhrman‘s Australia, Ridley Scott‘s Body of Lies, Clint Eastwood‘s Changeling, David Fincher‘s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Edward Zwick‘s Defiance, Ron Howard‘s Frost/Nixon, Anthony Minghella‘s The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, Stephen Daldry‘s The Reader and Sam Mendes‘ Revolutionary Road.
The only ones I feel any real enthusiasm for are Body of Lies (have the script, too lazy to read it so far but it has a great action-thriller idea), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Revolutionary Road…maybe.
Follicular traumatic expression caused by the WGA strike is the subject of Ben McGrath‘s “Strike Beards,” a piece in the 1.7.08 New Yorker. “Beards have always marked transitions in men’s lives,” says Allan Peterkin, author of “One Thousand Beards: A Cultural History of Facial Hair.”
And so, McGrath writes, “we get Al Gore after the election (whiskers of grievance and release), and Ted Kaczynski in his cabin (isolation, madness), and Johnny Damon with the Red Sox (superstition) — all iconic beards in their proper context.” And now David Letterman and Conan O’Brien and scores of striking writers, including Saturday Night Live writer Colin Jost. Asked to describe what he’s got growing so far, Jost says, √É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√Ö‚ÄúLet√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s see…it√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s sort of a Russell Crowe, 3:10 to Yuma beard.√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√Ç¬ù
I can’t even grow a Seth Rogen Knocked Up man-beard. The best I’ve ever managed is a pathetic Bob Dylan-on-the-cover-of-New Morning-beard.
Ellen Page‘s Best Actress Oscar odds have surged, according to The Envelope‘s Tom O’Neil, because Juno became a huge indie cross-over hit last weekend and…wait, what? I love Page’s sass and spirit, but since when have actors won Oscars because they project good spunk?
Away From Her‘s Julie Christie may be dooming herself with her Roman Polanski-esque non-campaign, agreed, but actresses barely out of their teens can’t win Best Actress Oscars. Nominations, yes, and more power to them — but winning is out. You’re not a winner because your film makes a lot of money. You’re a winner because you strike deep chords , and the only time Page did that in Juno was when her note to Jennifer Garner was revealed: “If you’re in, I’m in.”
The Best Actress Oscar is, I think, still Marion Cotillard‘s to lose. Months have passed, but her Edith Piaf was about so much more than posture and makeup. Am I misreading? Cotillard and Picturehouse need to do something right now, however, to combat the Page surge. I don;t know what exactly, but I suppose the usual round of interviews along with a big party and a new mailer of some sort would help. You don’t want to seem too desperate, but you can’t just sit on the sidelines and cross your fingers either.
With the first dawn of 2008 and the first screening of Cloverfield (Paramount, 1.18) just around the corner, a final prediction- slash-statement of HE principles conveyed to producer JJ Abrams.
If you don’t visualize the monster, in my eyes Cloverfield will be an instant landmark monster film. It will stand shoulder to shoulder with Alfred Hitchcock‘s The Birds and way, way above Gojira, Gorgo, King Kong, Konga, Roland Emmerich‘s ’98 Godzilla, 20 Million Miles to Earth, The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Steven Spielberg‘s The Lost World and all the rest of the urban-rampage monster flicks.
If you do show it, no worries. Most of the knuckle-draggers will be happy with that, and the film will be all the more successful. Financially, I mean. Your Paramount benefactors will obviously be pleased as well. But if you don’t show it, the thin- lipped ivory tower elites in their velvet smoking jackets and suede lounge slippers will love you into eternity. Your reputation (and eventually your life) will be transformed. You’ll officially be a member of the Major Visionaries club. 50 years from now people will look back upon you as a film artist who had the character and cojones to defy conventional expectations and piss off the lowbrows. It’s all within your grasp — just don’t show it.
But it’ll be okay if you do. People like me will think slightly less of you, but you can weather that. It won’t be a crime. You’ll have a crowd-pleaser on your hands, and that, after all, is what the business of motion picture entertainment is about.
Manhattan HE Reader Ira Hozinsky has pointed out that David Denby‘s Starting Out in the Evening review, which I linked to yesterday, is actually the New Yorker‘s second review of this film in the 12.24 issue, as Richard Brody‘s withering capsule review confirms:
“As Leonard Schiller, an aging, ailing old-school novelist seemingly born in a suit and tie, Frank Langella gives his all in a hopeless cause. This soporific quasi-literary soap opera finds the writer, a lonely widower, clacking away at a novel on a manual typewriter in a prewar Upper West Side palace when Heather Wolfe (Lauren Ambrose, too perky by half), a grad student, turns up. She wants to write a critical biography of Schiller to rehabilitate his name and his work, and she worms her way into his confidence and, unsurprisingly, his bed, with predictably unhappy results.”
And so begins and ends the Starting Out in the Evening 2008 takedown campaign…a month late and a dollar short, perhaps, but there’s nothing gets those juices flowing like a surge of rebel opinion.
“There√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s also something about his unfulfilled daughter (Lili Taylor) and her relationship problems,” Brody continues, “but the story runs on Schiller√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s embattled rectitude and the fantasy that great writers embody a lost gentility of austere habits too sacred to be sullied by mere carnality. In real life, he would have eaten her up by the end of the first reel.”
Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee are on top in the just-out Des Moines Register poll, making it seem increasingly likely that these two will achieve a similar statistical victory in Thursday’s Iowa caucuses…”seems” being the operative term. Obama came in with 32% of likely Democratic caucusgoers (up from 28% in the paper’s late November poll), Hillary Clinton was at 25% and John Edwards was at 24%.
Des Moines Register columnist David Yepsen cautions that this latest poll can’t be taken as a predictor due the perceived softness of support, Democratic and Republican respondents being respectively 6% and 4% undecided, the fact that 60% and 40% of the Democratic and Republican respondents are first-timers (“the youth vote will always leave you at the altar” — MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, 2004) and so on.
C’mon…this is where the excitement is this week, not with Ellen Page‘s growing chances of nabbing the Best Actress Oscar or the new Harry Langdon DVD box set. The only thing that beats it is the prospect seeing Cloverfield within a few days.
Update: Mark Halperin‘s “The Page” reports that a CNN/Opinion Research has a final poll with Clinton 33, Obama 31 and Edwards 22. Zogby has Clinton at 30, Obama at 26 and Edwards at 25