The Hollywood Reporter‘s Gregg Goldstein examines how the indie movie glut has overwhelmed print critics and made it tough for some low-budget films to get reviewed on paper. The result is that many are only reviewed online. The crunch has gotten so bad that, amazingly, the N.Y. Daily News didn’t even run a print review of 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days. Alex Gibney‘s Taxi to the Dark Side was stiffed by the News and the N.Y. Post in the same way.
Goldstein talks to Thinkfilm honcho Mark Urman, N.Y. Post critic Lou Lumenick, MCN’s David Poland, myself and critic Joe Neumaier.
My full quote (edited for space in the piece) is as follows: “Today’s marketing world is not about moviegoers meekly accepting the word of the lofty know-it-alls. People who follow and support indie movies tend to be more internet-fluent, and there’s a small group of maybe 8 or 10 online critics who genuinely matter and are, in the parlance of the trade, ‘conversation starters.’
“These were the people who helped Once and Little Miss Sunshine and No Country for Old Men get traction, and who tried to keep Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead afloat last fall and into December, and who will play a significant part in the selling of Young at Heart.
“Due respect, but insisting that review quotes are still about print critics is generational hubris, to some extent. Many people in distribution, boomers mostly, can’t shake the idea that effusive quotes mean more to moviegoers if they come from critics whose words are printed on paper that come from paper mills in Oregon and Georgia. The irony is that I myself feel this way from time to time. A rave from the Wall Street Journal‘s Joe Morgenstern will probably always mean more to me than any online critic.”
John McCain and Mike Huckabee both played it fairly and decently when asked about the Reverend Wright horseshit. This is just one sidelight, but right now I’m feeling a humanity from these two that I’m pretty sure Hillary Clinton has never heard of, even in her sleep. If only McCain wasn’t a nutjob on Iraq, was a little smarter and maybe a tad younger, didn’t have a dicey history with lobbyists, and knew something about the economy.
Drillbit Taylor is, sorry to say, a stiff. This is surprising given that Judd Apatow produced and the great Seth Rogen co-wrote it. (The fact that Little Nicky‘s Stephen Brill directed means nothing either way.) I wasn’t so much bummed by it as, like, deflated. It’s tedious. And almost never funny. And dull. And I’m trying to be even-toned here.
It’s the usually amusing and resourceful Owen Wilson, a guy I almost always enjoy to some degree, spinning his wheels with some really weak material about a pathetic loser acting like one and doing little else until the very end. It’s a really good film to take breaks from. Hit the head, make phone calls, do squat thrusts in the lobby, flirt with the candy girl.
On top of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, another Apatow comedy that I’ve yet to review but which I felt kind of badly about, this is probably the beginning of a temporary downgrade in the brand. It’ll be restored in August with Pineapple Express, and it may be turn out that Marshall will do okay commercially. But the notion of the Apatow seal being some kind of dependable assurance of a rollicking good time is, for now, out the window.
Drillbit Taylor is about three high-school nerds — Nate Hartley (smart, bespectacled, rail-thin)), Troy Gentile (obese, smart) and David Dorfman (tiny, dorky, braces) — who hire a full-of-shit homeless guy (Wilson) to protect them from a couple of psychotic bullies who humiliate and beat up on them all the time. My knee was vibrating like a jackhammmer ten minutes after it began.
The two thugs (Alex Frost, Josh Peck) are awful in every sense. They’ve been written without a hint of humanity or dimension. They’re just assholes — sadistic thugs who make life miserable for the nerd guys (and the audience) because…no clue, no nothin’. I felt like I was sitting though a Crown International youth comedy from the ’80s. I just sat there thinking about my life and about stuff I had to do when I left the theatre. I realized that I’d lost my wallet on the way over. I thought a lot about which files I needed to put on my external hard drive.
Wilson’s unshaven jerkoff has no redeeming characteristics at all, and there’s no escape. He can’t even fight. He puts the kids through a kind of boot-camp training and promises to bitch-slap the two sadists, but he shilly-shallies when push comes to shove. He’s just interested in the kids’ money and agrees to a plan to steal stuff from their parents’ homes with two loser-asshole friends.
You know going in that Wilson will have grow a conscience and do the right thing in Act Three. And that the bully dickheads will eventually be slapped down and taught a lesson. And that you’ll come of this movie feeling really, really bad.
“And so, at 11 o’clock in the morning, a prominent politician spoke to American voters as if they were adults.” — Jon Stewart on last night’s The Daily Show.
And a suggestion by Chris Matthews about what Obama could/should say to Clinton about the Michigan revote. One minute and 31 seconds long, and a complete Clinton stopper.
In their 11.18 Variety story about Gran Torino, a just-revealed Clint Eastwood that film will not only begin shooting soon but will also open in mid to late December (a month or so after The Changeling comes out on 11.7). Diane Garrett and Pamela McLintock report that “details” — like the basic plot — “are being kept under tantalizingly tight wraps.”
Well, it’s the second Eastwood movie named after a car (the last being Pink Cadillac), so the odds seem to suggest — do we dare go out on a limb? — it’ll be some kind of jocular blue-collar comedy. You know…one of Clint’s easy-going films like Bronco Billy or Every Which Way But Loose. A good-natured good-old-boy thing, something folksy and easy-going. Right?
Eastwood will also costar in Gran Torino. Cool. He’s obviously got more behind-the-camera energy than your average 45 year-old and he looked at least 10 years younger than his calendar age of 76 when I last saw him in person a year ago.
The other possibility is that Gran Torino will be a family drama on the surface, but will actually be a Robert Bresson-ian political parable about how American middle-class and lower-middle-class voters consistently take the donkey bait tossed to them by the flag-waving, fear-bating right-wing political machine and vote against their own economic interests, over and over and over and over.
It’s a little bit weird that possibly the two hottest comedies of the summer — Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen‘s Pineapple Express (Sony, 8.8) and Ben Stiller‘s Tropic Thunder (DreamWorks, 8.15) — are opening only a week apart.
More than “possibly,” I think. I’ve spoken to someone who saw Pineapple way back in August ’07, and he assures me it’s hilarious and went over big. There’s no serious persuasion to be made from that Tropic Thunder trailer, trailers being the essence of film-flam, but it sure seems hilarious, and how can any film with Downey’s performance as a white actor playing a black guy not be make the film an essential see?
You’d think that Pineapple would have to move itself back a week or two to create at least a couple of weeks’ worth of box-office breathing room. Seems like the wiser move (not that anyone can tell Sony’s distribution chief Jeff Blake anything) might be to open Pineapple on August 1st or, maybe even July 25th. Isn’t it better for Pineapple‘s fortunes, speaking basically, not to have another hot comedy with a lot of heat opening a week later? Won’t that cut into your second- and third-week action, to some extent?
These exclusive EW shots of Rick Baker‘s Wolfman makeup, worn by Benicio del Toro in the forthcoming Joe Johnston-directed feature, are evidence of a clearly meh sensibility.
Benny’s beast is a boilerplate blend of Lon Chaney‘s Wolfman (’41) and David Naughton‘s growlin’ wolf in John Landis‘ An American Werewolf in London (’81), which Baker also designed. The appearance is right down the middle, completely safe and has no particular personality whatsover.
Jack Nicholson‘s Wolf-man in Mike Nichols‘ 1994 film was more particular, more Jack-like. Covering Benicio in makeup this familiar-looking means he won’t be able to act during his wolf episodes. All he’ll be doing is run around and howl and so on. Blah.
“In my home state of Pennsylvania Hillary has a nearly 20 point lead,” writes HE reader George Bolanis. ” We were expecting an HRC win but that margin is crazy. You know the deal of the Pennsytucky factor in the central part of the state. But even in the metro areas she seems to have a comfortable lead. The exit polls on swing white voters in OH was very telling.
“I have a feeling the ship is heading the wrong way for Obama and that he is going to lose momentum and perhaps the chance of brokering a nomination. While yesterday’s speech was magnificent, people like my in-laws just can’t get past his ‘angry’ and ‘dogmatic’ church.”
To which I replied, “And your in-laws are in their….what, 50s? Older? Over the past several months many fair-minded older folks have been responding to, or at least have tried to focus on, the positive, uplifting aspects of Obama and his candidacy while at the same time (and most of them will never admit to this) suppressing their gut feelings about African Americans. The Reverent Wright thing gives them license to vent those repressed feelings. That’s all that’s going on here.
“Yesterday’s speech reminded me once again that Barack Obama is the best man to come along for the presidency in decades. He said exactly the truth of the matter in yesterday’s speech — nailed it straight and true — and I believe in him wholeheartedly. If Hillary wins by 8% or 10% in Pennsylvania, it’s nothing. But if she beats him by 20%, he’s in some kind of trouble. The ugly tide has been rising in recent days. Fear, ignorance and stupidity have always been strong currents among American proles — always been that way, always will be.
“I think Obama will probably still win North Carolina, and there’s certainly no re-ordering the delegate math. And the Michigan re-vote bandwagon is all but stopped in its tracks. But the gutter-residing Hillary Clinton and the forces of the American Malignancy have managed to cast Obama as the black candidate, which is a tragedy of immense proportion.
“The America that has been routinely derided by Brits and Europeans for its stupidity and butt-ugly racism is rearing up again, and it’s not just my face that is curdling with disgust. It’s not healthy or productive to give yourself over to hate, but I have loathed and despised the beer-gut rank-and-filers all my life, starting with the construction workers beating up on anti-war protesters in the early ’70s and this same crowd’s refusal to consider the Watergate scandal as it evolved and so on down the line, and I’m feeling it again big-time.
“I’m angry at the Obama team for not stepping up sooner and putting HIllary’s bullshit into its place. A friend told me this morning he feels Obama is basically Adlai Stevenson, which is kind of a damning thing to say. But the greater damnation belongs to the race-card players, for whom Hillary has been their Joan of Arc. Obama spoke more frankly and plainly yesterday than he ever has, and he has another big speech to make today and another tomorrow. But an awful lot of people don’t want to know from nuthin’.
“And if the super-delegates start to get really scared and threatened by the dumb-asses turning away from Obama in the voting, all bets are off. In the words of Tracy Morgan, ‘We are a racist country….the end.'”
To which Bolanis replied, “The Rev. Wright thing brings out mistrust because his words are divisive and extreme. I know many people who are sick of listening to the complaints of the Sharptons, Jacksons and Wrights, that many of the social ills of the black community are self-inflicted. Barack addresses this but his church will scare whitey.”
To which I replied with a palpable sigh, “But Obama is not one of them, and has expressed himself repeatedly to this end. Does he feel obliged to make room for their views, or at least not condemn thing in a public way? Yes, just as John McCain, looking to gather as much reactionary-conservative support as possible. is obliged to make room for the rancid nutbag views of certain wackjob preachers who are standing by him.
“Wackjob preachers are ubiquitous. The Rev. Billy Graham once spoke to Richard Nixon in the White House about controlling the Jews, or words to that effect. C’mon, man….this is one-sided.”
To which Bolanis replied, “The Wright thing doesn’t affect me but the old guard will be put off and this can be a swift-boat issue. The difference here is that there has not been an orator with a command of language and the smarts of Obama for a long time to take the stage, so it will not be as easy as it was with Kerry, but this will prey on a deeper well of black water.”
Anthony Minghella “was a realistic romanticist,” says the director’s former partner Sydney Pollack in a statement printed in Variety‘s 3.18 story (which appears in the print edition today). “[He was] a kind of poet, disciplined by reality, an academic by training, a musician by nature, a compulsive reader by habit, and to most observers, a sunny soul who exuded a gentleness that should never have been mistaken for lack of tenacity and resolve.
“The cliche that you don’t know anyone well until you’ve lived through wars with them, is an absolute truth. Sometimes making films is a form of war. Having weathered several with Anthony, I will tell you that his dignity never softened, his artistry never suffered, and his mind remained as sharp and clear in wartime as it was in quietude.”
It is sadly significant that the authors of the Variety story — Adam Dawtrey, Dade Hayes, Ali Jaafar — and their editors have described Pollack in a parenthetical reference as “gravely ill.” I’m not aware of this being stated in so many words in a major publication before. By the timing and luck of the draw, we’re living through a very mournful and tragic streak right now.
“Dear Mr. Clarke: It’s a very interesting coincidence that [a] mutual friend mentioned you in a conversation we were having about a Questar telescope. I’ve been a great admirer of your books for quite a time, and have always wanted to discuss with you the possibility of doing the proverbial ‘really good’ science-fiction movie.
“My main interest lies along these broad areas, naturally assuming great plot and character: 1. The reasons for believing in the existence of intelligent extra-terrestrial life. 2. The impact (and perhaps even lack of impact in some quarters) such a discovery would have on Earth in the near future. (3. A space with a landing and exploration of the Moon and Mars.
“Would you consider coming to New York for a meeting? The purpose of which would be to determine whether an idea might exist or arise which would sufficiently interest both of us enough to want to collaborate on a screenplay?” — Stanley Kubrick in a letter to Arthur C. Clarke, dated 3.31.64. Excerpted in “The Stanley Kubrick Archives” (Taschen).