I got thrown out a screening of Nanette Burstein‘s American Teen at the Library after seeing about 15 minutes’ worth. The heave-ho happened about 80 minutes ago. I had a ticket and everything, but because I got there late (due to my own laziness plus misplaced faith in the Park City transit system) there were no seats at all, and the woman running the Sundance volunteers insisted over the mike that no one could stand in the back. You’re in a seat or you’re out, she said.
Those are the Park City fire regulations, yes, although we’ve all stood in the back or sat on the floor before. I did this plenty of times in the ’90s.
The issue for me wasn’t that the woman insisting on following orders. The issue was that she seemed to be in the grip of one of those pinched Nurse Ratched personalities. The issue was that she had a menacing expression that might have prevented Chinese troops from crossing the 49th Parallel. The issue was that one of her volunteer colleagues kindly offered me a chair to sit on against the back wall, and then this butch boss came along and escorted me outside.
The issue, also, honestly, was that I didn’t give that much of a shit in the end because Burstein’s film didn’t seem all that interesting or original. I was saying to myself less than five minutes in, “This is nothing new. I’ve seen this shit dozens of times. I know it backwards and forwards. Something else has to happen. Someone’s going to die in a car accident, get cancer…something. This is too familiar.
I was also saying, “Oh, no…is that volunteer looking at me? Look at the screen and ignore her. You belong here, you were invited…think positively! Oh, shit, here she comes…”
Slickly designed (I saw a couple of cool CG animation sequences) and scored with lots of punch, American Teen is a study of four seniors at a small Indiana high school. I couldn’t believe the film was about the same old stereotypes as we’ve seen in I don’t know how many teen dramas, including Election. A basketball hero jock, a goodie-goodie blonde cheerleader type, a nerdish male musician with bad skin who’s into video games, and a nerdy female who plays rhythm guitar. Good heavens!
Don’t we all know this story? And especially how it’s going to turn out? The nerds are probably going to turn into cool adults and lead interesting lives, and the jocks and the cheerleaders, suffering under the ancient Chinese curse that says “may you peak in high school,” are going to put on weight, lead ordinary lives, have “work” done when they hit 45, possibly become alcoholic, have kids who may wind up ignoring them when they leave the house, and so on.
Unless the reviews are over the moon, I think it might be a good idea to shine American Teen and wait for the HBO airing or a screener or whatever.
The fools…the mad fools. I’m fuming, weeping, sputtering. The thought of all of those over 40, not-very-well-educated women voting for Hillary Clinton (she’s just won the Nevada primary, beating Barack Obama 50 to 45) because of gender allegiance and (don’t tell me this isn’t a factor) race. Yeesh.
No mind to the fact that she’s chilly and menacing, or the fact that she inspires loathing like few other politicians in U.S. history (especially among males), or that the threat of Tracy Flick in the Oval Office will, if Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, prompt tens of millions of Democrats and left-leaning indies to at least consider voting Republican. She’s yesterday, she’s divisive, she’s poison…and her female supporters are behind her the way the O.J. jury in the crminal trial refused to find him guilty.
I just got a letter from “Hillary” via the Clinton team: “Dear Jeffrey, Have you heard? We just won the Democratic caucuses in Nevada. You have done so much to make winning moments like this possible. Thank you!” You’re welcome!
Update: Buck Guilt Update: Seven or eight people shared various muted enthusiasms about The Great Buck Howard yesterday afternoon. No one hated it; one guy (a major critic) was very pleased. There was general agreement about a rich, near-great performance by John Malkovich as a second-tier illusionist. An okay, somewhat less stellar performance from Colin Hanks, I heard from two or three viewers. Mixed-positive.
Yesterday: Two slivers of information about The Great Buck Howard, the Tom Hanks-produced, Sean McGinly-directed relationship drama that will screen at 3:30 this afternoon at the Eccles theatre. I don’t have it in for this film, but you hear these things and you go, “Hmmm….maybe later.”
One, a buyer told me this morning he’s heard it’s not too hot. Not bad, mind you, but not good enough to be called essential viewing. Two, a critic friend told me the talent did interviews in Salt Lake City yesterday rather than up here, which sounded a wee bit lame. (They had two gala screenings in Salt Lake City last night, and doing interviews in SLC, the critic said, “saved them a trip up the mountain.”
Chris Pine, who gives the second best performance in Randall Miller’s Bottle Shock (i.e, right behind Alan Rickman) and who will be seen as Cpt. Kirk in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek next December. Snapped at Bottle Shock after-party at Bon Appetit, which is what the Riverhorse is being called during the festival.
Blackout on Main Street, taken sometime around 10:50 pm on my way up to Microsoft House and the Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired party — Friday, 1.18.08
Donzalo Arijon, director-writer of Stranded: I’ve Come From a Plane That Crashed in the Mountains, at Park City Marriott’s press lounge — Friday, 1.18.08, 2:25 pm
Three or four anecdotes/observations stand out in Michael Ceiply‘s 1.19 N.Y. Times piece about Writers Guild president Patric Verrone and his lieutenant David Young, and altogether they indicate that as far as these two and the WGA strike siutation is concerned, particularly in the wake of the just-announced Directors Guild deal, the name of the game is “move it or lose it.”
WGA president Patric Verrone
Verrone and Young are described as as currently “stuck deliberating a question that may bode ill for both: Is their writers√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢ rebellion over?” They are called an “odd couple, not invested in the clubby ways of show business.” Their outsider status is analogized to that of David Putnam, the British producer who ran Columbia for a while before pissing off the big wheels and getting whacked as a result. The piece says they may be sent “quickly back [into] the shadows if they fail at what has usually been an insiders√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢ game.”
In other words, they’re being seen as weakened if not on the ropes. Is there another way of reading this article?
When I came out of last night’s Holiday Village screening of Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, who do I see jabbering on his cell phone over in the corner but Harvey Weinstein? I waved; he waved back. A few minutes later he was standing outside in the cold air, coatless and still jabbering away, when I left for the Bottle Shock screening at the Library.
Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired director Marina Zenovich at Friday night’s after-party at the MIcrosoft House.
Just before this morning’s 9 am screening of Perros Come Perros, a brilliant if viciously brutal Columbian crime flick, an IFC guy told me he heard that the Polanski film had been bought late Friday evening. I toldl him that the film’s director, Marina Zenovich, hadn’t mentioned a buy when we spoke last night around 11 pm, but then she’s not in sales.
A little more than an hour later — 10 am Sundance time — the news broke that the Weinstein Co. had picked up all international rights for a figure in the low six digits. Domestic rights are still in play. Variety‘s Anne Thompson wrote this morning that the Weinstein Co. and Focus Features are among the bidders.
Everything is piling on and I’m dropping balls and starting to fall behind, filing-wise. I’m on my first coffee and today’s first film, Carlos Moreno‘s Perro Come Perro (a.k.a. Dog Eat Dog), starts in less than an hour. I’ll try and elaborate on a couple of things later this morning. Probably. Most likely. Maybe not.
At 6:15 pm last night I saw Marina Zenovich‘s finely studied, exquisitely sculpted Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, which doesn’t take Roman’s side of the mid ’70s unlawful sex with a minor scandal that led to his leaving this country as much as it slams the judge who ignored justice in his handling of the case.
HE readers of this column have never shrunk from trying to permanently blacken Polanski’s rep from here to eternity, as well as try to mischaracterize my feelings about his crime, which was horrible but needs to be considered in light of the many details of the case, and of course proportionately. Bottom line: Roman Polanski gets a pass from me. Just as he’s got a pass 11 years ago from the woman he violated when she was 13. Let it go, tub-thumpers. I’ve seen Repulsion eight or nine times, and I’m good for at least another nine. And his Macbeth totally rules, and so do all the others except for Frantic. Polanski is a genius and a near-God. Case closed.
Then came Randall Miller‘s Bottle Shock, which tells about the commercial birth of the Napa Valley wine industry in the mid ’70s. I’m going to take a pass on this one for now, but it has a splendid Alan Rickman performance.
Then came the Great Park City Blackout — a total power failure that darkened every street light, restaurant, wine bar and homie saloon in the downtown area. For about a half hour, starting around 10 pm or so. I was walking up the street in the eclipse-like gloom, illuminated only by car headlights, and loving the pandemonium when suddenly the lights came back on to cheers and whoo-whoos…and then the power went off again about four or five minutes later.
I spotted Dan Rather walking around the Park City Marriott a couple of hours ago. I should have cornered him, asked what’s doing, taken his picture…but I’m a notorious wimp when it comes to such opportunities. Unlike Rather, I presume. Let’s face it — in the old days Rather would have looked down his nose at covering this festival and schlepping around like the rest of us. We’re living in a new world.
My only Sundance screening today (so far) has been Gonzalo Arijon‘s Stranded, the doc about the Uruguyan plane-crash survivors who were forced to resort to cannibalism after landing in the snow-covered Andes mountains in October 1972 and being stuck there for 72 days.
Stranded is partly a first-hand, looking-back, talking-heads doc, partly a revisiting of the crash scene and partly a grainy, dialogue-free re-enactment. It’s touching from the start, and holds you all through its 122-minute length. (The Sundance program notes are incorrect in saying it’s 113 minutes long.)
This famous saga, dramatized in Frank Marshall‘s Alive (’93) as well as Piers Paul Read‘s “Alive: Sixteen Men, Seventy-two Days, and Insurmountable Odds–the Classic Adventure of Survival in the Andes,” is about how 16 young men (most members of a rugby team) managed to survive over a 72-day ordeal, partly by eating the flesh of those who’d been killed.
I was told earlier this month it’s as good as — certainly in the realm of — Kevin McDonald‘s Touching The Void, and I’m in full agreement. Right away you sense this is no run-of-the-mill revisiting. The emotionally delicate tone and complex layers and shadings imply from the get-go that Arijon has the hand of a poet-maestro.
The doc’s unique aspect is not only talking to many of these survivors (kids at the time, now in their 50s and 60s), but also joining them on a trip back to the site of the crash for some reliving and reflecting.
Everyone has a morbid curiosity about this story, and while I admire Arijon’s sensitivity a part of me wishes he had been a bit more blunt about the particulars of being forced to eat dead friends, relatives and loved ones in order to survive. What does human flesh taste like? Are certain sections of the body more appetizing than others? (I’ve always heard that the ribs are slightly more choice.)
Starnded will show four times at Sundance, and is also booked to show at Roger Durling’s Santa Barbara Film Festival at the end of the month. The full title is actually Stranded: I’ve come from a plane that crashed on the mountains.
What happened to those Cloverfield projections in the mid 20s? Smashed on the rocks. Fantasy Moguls Steve Mason is reporting that over the 4-day Martin Luther King holiday weekend J.J. Abrams‘ hand-held monster film “will likely finish in the $39 million to $42 million range. 27 Dresses starring Katherine Heigl appears to be headed for a solid $17 million to $20 million while Mad Money, the first film from Overture, will probably finish with less than $10 million.