“It was long hoped that Cannes vet Steven Soderbergh‘s Che Guevara double bill, The Argentine and Guerrilla, would premiere on the Croisette, but it seems that the director, who has wanted either both or neither of the films to play the fest, won’t be able to finish the four-hour-plus opus by deadline. Evidently, Soderbergh has essentially finished the second film but, despite non-stop work in recent weeks, hasn’t quite gotten the first half of the Benicio Del Toro starrer where he wants it.” — from Todd McCarthy‘s Cannes 2008 report in Variety, posted at 8 pm this evening.
The most interesting numbers in today’s tracking are those for Larry and Andy Wachowski‘s Speed Racer (Warner Bros., 5.9), which stars Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, John Goodman and Susan Sarandon. So far it’s running at 77 general awareness, 28 definite interest and 3 first choice. That’s not much for a big-budget event film that has been showing its trailer in theatres for weeks and weeks.
If there was any kind of serious interest the first choice number would be closer to 6 or 7 at this stage, if not higher. It’s too early to draw conclusions, but this looks to me like reason for concern.
What a weird capitulation for the Cannes Film Festival to give the closing-night screening slot to Barry Levinson‘s What Just Happened?, which bombed big-time when it was shown at last January’s Sundance Film Festival. The offer is a gesture to the fact that the film’s story ends at the Cannes Film Festival (even though the red-carpet footage was shot at Cal State Northridge). It’s also a sop to jury president Sean Penn, who appears as the star of the film-within-the-film in the picture.
Catherine Keener, Robert De Niro in Barry Levinson’s What Just Happened?
No self-respecting filmmaker wants to accept the closing-night slot, although many obviously do. It’s basically an insult honor that basically says “your film is pretty good — just not good enough to be shown in competition during the first six or seven days of the festival.” What Just Happened? has been tightened, I’ve heard, but nothing is likely to save it in terms of its U.S. distribution prospects. The Cannes screening is about selling it to European and Asian markets, of course.
Based on Art Linson‘s book of the same name, What Just Happened? is about a frazzled Hollywood producer trying to (a) get an absurdly unbalanced and immature director (Michael Wincott) to change the ending of a movie that has tested in the toilet and (b) persuade a movie star (Bruce Willis) to shave his beard before starting work on a film.
Like all people of any standards, I too was disgusted by the sleazy gotcha questions thrown last night at Barack Obama by ABC’s Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous. They asked the kind of questions that might be of interest to regular readers of the Globe or the Enquirer, or people who don’t even do that and watch only television. Gibson and Stuffin’ Envelopes were wallowing, lowballing, dragging things down.
Last night’s debate “was another step downward for network news,” wrote Washington Post columnist Tom Shales. “In particular ABC News, which hosted the debate from Philadelphia and whose usually dependable anchors, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, turned in shoddy, despicable performances.
“For the first 52 minutes of the two-hour, commercial-crammed show, Gibson and Stephanopoulos dwelled entirely on specious and gossipy trivia that already has been hashed and rehashed, in the hope of getting the candidates to claw at one another over disputes that are no longer news. Some were barely news to begin with.
“The fact is, cable networks CNN and MSNBC both did better jobs with earlier candidate debates. Also, neither of those cable networks, if memory serves, rushed to a commercial break just five minutes into the proceedings, after giving each candidate a tiny, token moment to make an opening statement. Cable news is indeed taking over from network news, and merely by being competent.”
Clinton was scummy also, continuing to say over and over, “I’m only raising issues that the scumbag Republicans are going to raise, and if Senator Obama can’t cope with these questions any better than he has tonight, you would probably be better off with me as the Democratic candidate.” What a loathsome rationale.
I also emphatically agree with this Will Bunch column from this morning’s Philadelphia Daily News.
That said, I agree that Obama has to spunk up and stop deflecting so much and show a little hellfire and brimstone. His cautious manner is starting to get on my nerves a bit. His genteel refusals to mix it up with Clinton and give her a taste of her own medicine are not what I want to see him do. Michelle, his wife, has lately shown more spit and gusto when she answers questions.
Yesterday a 20th Century Fox publicist told Newark Star Ledger critic Stephen Whitty there would be no screenings of Deception before its 4.25 opening. Then I heard this morning that there would be two screenings next Tuesday on the Fox lot on Pico Blvd. Then Whitty was told by the N.Y.-based Fox publicists they they’ve changed their minds and will screen it after all. So the item I wrote yesterday was correct when I wrote it.
Kim is quite the admirer, especially the way it’s all put together just so and pays off in a surprising way. I’m more of a fan of the way Perlman’s film looks and feels and, despite the foreboding subject matter, soothes. Perlman has an immaculate eye; he’s very much the visual composer. It’s what I liked also about House of Sand and Fog
Everyone knows The Life Before Her Eyes is a flashback thing with two versions of the main character, whose name is Diana — the high-school-age version played by Evan Rachel Wood and the thirtysomething version played by Uma Thurman. It’s basically about their characters grappling with a Colombine-like shooting and particularly how Wood’s response to this threat affects the fate of her friend Maureen (Eva Amurri).
Two things in The Life Before Her Eyes irked me during the first 20 minutes. The first happens when Woods and Amurri hear gunshots and screaming coming from the hallways as they stand side by side in the girls’ bathroom. Obviously sounds of panic and horror, and obviously something to hide or escape from. Do they sense danger and hide in the bathroom closet, or maybe open the window and duck out? No — they stand there like bowling pins, waiting for whatever to walk through the door. This struck me as ridiculous. Every living thing can sense heavy trauma if it’s near them (steers can feel it as they approach the slaughterhouse), and not even dumb beasts would just stand there.
The second thing (and this is barely worth mentioning) happens when Thurman is driving by her old high school, noticing some yellow banners that have been draped over the main entranceway…and like too many people who drive cars in movies, she keeps staring to her left and not looking at where she’s driving. This kind of thing drives me insane. Movies in which actors don’t look at the road while driving deserve to die, in my view.
Perlman and I spoke late last week. He’s bright and friendly and engaging to talk to. At one point we discussed his plans to make a film of Ayn Rand‘s Atlas Shrugged in the late fall with Lionsgate and (he expects or believes) Angelina Jolie. We also talked about Russian producer Leonid Rozhetskin (Hamlet 2) and whether he’s been whacked by the Russian mob. It’s a good conversation, lasting about 24 or 25 minutes.
It’s time to set things straight about Gavin O’Connor‘s Pride and Glory. I saw it last night, and as far as I’m concerned it’s the absolute opposite of a “problem movie” despite last fall’s diseased, head-scratching decision by New Line’s Bob Shaye not to release it in 2008. That may change.
Edward Norton in Pride and Glory
The issue was aired last February when O’Connor complained to Variety‘s Michael Fleming that New Line’s honcho Robert Shaye had done obvious harm to his film by pulling the plug on a 3.14.08 release date and bumping it into 2009.
Costar Colin Farrell elaborated during an In Bruges junket interview when he said “there’s this rumor going around that [Pride and Glory has been bumped] because it’s a mess or it’s a really bad film. I feel the need to kind of speak up, not from my own end but genuinely for Gavin O’Connor because he wrote and directed it. It’s just a really really strong piece, but I think New Line lost the bollocks on The Golden Compass…and they literally don’t have enough money to market things.”
Having finally seen O’Connor’s film, I can say with authority that Shaye’s decision was cowardly and pathetic. In this context, he was just as much of a criminal as the murdering, drug-dealing cops in the movie. Pride and Glory isn’t letter perfect from top to bottom, but it’s much, much better than I thought it would be, and the truth is that I drove home last night feeling close to delighted. If you’re a distributor, you don’t yank movies like this. You need to show some moxie and push them as best you can because quality wills out, damn it, and demands a day in the sun.
This thing, I swear, has a carefully parsed intensity that woke me out of my usual Wednesday-night blahs. Most of it seems to happen in Brooklyn or Queens with a little Manhattan thrown in. It’s wild and manic and surging with energy and sometimes mad as a loon (but rightly so, given the dirty-borough-cops storyline), and it really left me open-mouthed at times. I get that way when confronted by fierce but subtle acting, and especially when it’s all beautifully shot and swirled together in a big fat energy milkshake.
About halfway into the screening it hit me that the performances reach and even surpass, at times, the level of delivery in Michael Mann‘s Heat. Seriously. Power and Glory is an exceptional high-throttle thing that absolutely needs to see the light of day this year. Word around the campfire is that with New Line now reduced to a small production company status, Picturehouse or Warner Independent or perhaps Warner Bros. itself may acquire it and do just that.
The plot and the milieu are familiar, but it’s the singer, not the song. Emotionally complex and yet clear-headed with a carefully worked-out story, it’s basically about working-class ethics and morality under pressure and under fire. Like with James Gray‘s We Own The Night, Pride and Glory is about a big blue-collar family of cops, this time called the Tierneys. It’s primarily about having to struggle with crime and corruption within their own ranks.
It’s also similar to (though much better than) David Ayer‘s Street Kings, which dealt with a gang of rogue cops involved in drug dealing and all the attendant sins.
The conflict comes when Ray Tierney (Edward Norton) investigates a case that involving the murder of four policemen, and eventually leads to a dirty-cop scandal involving his brother-in-law Jimmy (Colin Farrell). The third brother, a go-alonger named Francis Jr., is played by Noah Emmerich. Their father, Francis Sr., a king of rationalization no matter the crime or the level of stink, is played by Jon Voight.
The script apparently began with an original by Robert Hopes, and then a rewrite collaboration between O’Connor and his brother Greg, and then another rewrite by Joe Carnahan. I just wish it wasn’t titled Pride and Glory, which unfortunately suggests an emotionally simplistic sports saga.
The gifted O’Connor (Miracle, Tumbleweeds) has put together something very vulnerable, soulful and alive-in-the-moment. Pride and Glory is a cup-runneth- over drama in that intensity rules and emotions are often (but not always) fully cranked. All I know is that I was driven half-mad with exasperation as I sat through similar stuff in We Own The Night, but I felt aroused and lifted during last night’s showing. This is not just another crazy-sick-cops movie. Melodrama is melodrama and the form is the form, but special things happen when exceptional craft and restraint are brought to bear.
Noah Emmmerich, Norton in Pride and Glory
I don’t know when I started to realize that P&G was a few cuts above, but it was early on. It started with the combination of Declan Quinn‘s darting hand-held photography, the knockout editing by Lisa Zeno Chrugin and John Gilroy, and the acting…my God! We’re not talking just two or three standouts but several brave, refined, super-intimate performances.
Norton is as good here as he was in The 25th Hour, and by my standards that’s as good as it gets. Farrell has now hit three homers in a row playing tragic, troubled losers — in O’Connor’s film, Martin McDonagh‘s In Bruges and Woody Allen‘s Cassandra’s Dream. Emmerich is as good here as I’ve ever seen him. John Ortiz (who played Russell Crowe‘s corrupt detective partner in American Gangster) is also special, and so are Frank Grillo, Manny Perez, Jennifer Ehle (whose head is shaved in this thing — what’s that about?), Wayne Duvall, Ramon Rodriguez, Carmen Ejogo, Shea Wigham.
Some IMDB guy wrote a few months ago that Pride and Glory “is the kind of American movie you don’t see anymore, a throwback to the big themes and dramatic tone of the 1950s, when Elia Kazan was making movies like East of Eden and On the Waterfront and Arthur Miller was writing plays like Death of a Salesman and All My Sons.
“Family, honor, corruption, right and wrong, fathers and sons–these are the kinds of issues that director/co-writer Gavin O’Connor is taking on, and in doing so he’s made a timeless film. Sincere without being sentimental (much like Miracle, O’Connor’s last effort) and familiar and original at the same time, this is a muscular, old-school American film, with big themes splashed on a big canvas. In the Age of Irony, these are the kinds of movies you rarely see anymore.”