An over-examined subject, agreed, but The Australian‘s Eddie Cockrell has nonetheless interviewed yours truly, USA Today and Talk Cinema’s Harlan Jacobson, and Hopscotch Films’ co-owner Troy Lum about the uniform snubbing in this country of all the Iraq War movies. And he’s done a good job of mapping it all out in very precise detail. The piece ran two days ago.
Explanation #1: “Iraq war movies have all been guilt-trippers about an ongoing conflict, whereas the Vietnam movies were all made after the last helicopter left the roof of the American embassy.” Explanation #2: “There have been no surreal, eye-popping, epic-scaled Iraq war movies along the lines of Apocalypse Now or anything that has attempted to sum up the tragedy of the war, except for one, In the Valley of Elah, which deserved a better reception.” Explanation #3: “Everyone is waiting for a facsimile of the last 40 per cent of Stanley Kubrick‘s Full Metal Jacket, which is arguably the best Vietnam War film.”
“Yet Segel’s flaccid member looks pathetic and laughable, especially because it’s attached to a body that is doughy and pallid. It can’t seriously be accused of being capable of anything, let alone of breaking a taboo. So obviously devoid of sexual intent, it symbolizes not so much his character’s abject emotional condition at his girlfriend’s rejection of him, but the sorry state of masculinity in American movies today.” — from still another galumph rant, this one by London Times‘ staffer Christopher Goodwin in yesterday’s issue. Straight out of the HE playbook. He gets it, all right.
My political-junkie hunger suddenly faded last week. The get-Obama ugliness being generated by the Clinton campaign, the Republican attack dogs, the Reagan Democrats and the media chattering class has begun to act on my soul like Zyklon B. I’m finding myself starting to just tune it all out. For the time being, at least. After following this damn race for God knows how many months I’m starting to feel physically sick at some of things being kicked around. MSNNC’s Chris Matthews began one of his shows last week by asking “is race a factor?” He actually said this in so many words.
Iron Man gripe #1 from New Yorker critic David Denby: “Without a continuous infusion of visual poetry, digital spectacle quickly burns through one’s sense of awe.” Gripe #2: “There’s a slightly depressed, going-through-the-motions feel to the entire show.” Gripe #3: “Apart from Downey’s private sense of amusement, the kidding lacks conviction.”
Illustration by John Ritter
The only tactical advantage to seeing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in Cannes on 5.18 is that critics there will have a jump on those seeing it stateside by perhaps as little as seven or eight hours.
The Cannes press screening will happen at 8:30 am with reviews going up an hour or so after it ends at 10:35 am — make that 11:30 am to 12 noon, Cote d’Azur time. That’s 6:30 am to 7 am New York time, and 3:30 am to 4 am L.A. time. If U.S. domestic screenings happen in the evening, the word from Cannes will be exclusive for two-thirds of a day, give or take. Obviously less so if they happen in the afternoon. I’m hearing that U.S. screenings may begin around noon or 1 pm in the east.
One of the best critics in the business, Matt Zoller Seitz, who’s recently been doing freelance reviews for the N.Y. Times, has decided to bail on the profession in order to be a filmmaker. His comments about this decision suggest he also wants to absorb life in less neurotic, more open-pored terms. You know…a little of that Frank Capra-esque, final-ten-minutes-of-It’s a Wonderful Life quality from time to time.
Matt Zoller Seitz
Seitz seems to think that a film critic’s life doesn’t provide enough in the way of cleansing “happiness moments,” like what some people get from walking in the woods or watching basketball or going bowling or murdering a deer in the forest with a high-powered rifle.
Well, it’s not supposed to do that…hello? If you’ve been lucky enough to be called to the profession of film criticism (or any profession that most people are unable to do for lack of talent or persistence or both), then you do that thing until you die at your desk — simple. And no moaning.
“There’s more to life than movies,” Seitz tells colleague Keith Uhlich, “and I don’t think that, ten years ago, I don’t think I would have said that. But I’m saying it now: there is more to life than movies.
“And I remember a conversation with Sean Burns — I think it might have been in the comments section of the blog — he casually mentioned that Gene Siskel, God rest his soul, was… there was somebody who looked down on Siskel for saying that he skipped some film festival to go to a basketball game. And Burns was completely approving of [Siskel], and I am too. I am too: Go to the goddamn basketball game!
“And when I look back on those hundreds and hundreds of hours that I spent watching movies — many of which were not that memorable, and many of which did not tell a whole lot that I didn’t know — when I realized that they were hours that are gone now and I’m not getting them back…it makes me mad. It makes me mad, honestly, that I’m not gonna get those hours back. You know those are hours I could have been spending with my family. With my loved ones.”
Family? Loved ones? Movies were invented, in part, so you can occasionally escape from these good people. Those near and dear are fine in their time slots (weeknight dinners, Sunday morning, Thanksgiving, the occasional outing or vacation) but “family and loved ones” are certainly not my source of peace or serenity on a day-to-day basis. If you want to be hard-but-honest about it, you could refer to “family” and “loved ones” as your jailers. If you want to go there, I mean. You certainly don’t have to, of course.
I was confused by two Amazon.com statistics regarding Fox Home Video’s 5.13 DVD release of Raoul Walsh‘s The Big Trail (1930). This staid, somewhat cornball John Wayne wagon-train western is immensely watchable due to its being the first Hollywood film to be shot and released in a 70mm widescreen format (which was called “Fox Grandeur”). The problem is that Amazon says the aspect ration is 1.85 when the true aspect ratio is 2.1 to 1. And the running time is given as 212 minutes despite the actual length (according to packaging) being 122 minutes.
Take no notice of the IMDB listing stating that the film’s varying running times are 125 min (35 mm version) and 158 min (70 mm version). Mordaunt Hall‘s N.Y. Times review (which ran on 10.25.30) mentions a Fox Movietone Newsreel as well as an “atmospheric prelude” to the feature. There’s your additional 26 minutes.
Gothamist writer John Del Signore has posted an interview with Elliot Gould to discuss Richard Ledes‘ The Caller, a Tribeca Film Festival pick in which Gould costars with Frank Langella and Laura Harring.
“I spoke with Jack Nicholson and told him I didn’t want to see The Bucket List,” Gould tells Del Signore. “I’m not a big fan of Rob Reiner. I respect Rob Reiner to some degree but, you know, Rob Reiner, whatever. I just didn’t want to see The Bucket List. It seemed so formulaic to me.
“But I told Jack I saw it anyway and I loved it. He was pleased to hear that and said to me, ‘I’m trying to change my attitude.’ And I said, ‘Oh?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, people are dying every month, every week.’ And I said, ‘Every day, Jack.’ It’s so mournful. There’s so much remorse and so much sorrow and I was so impressed because Jack’s very well read and I felt remorse.
“I really can’t consider being sorry for someone else because the only one you can be sorry for is yourself. And he said, ‘Oh, yeah that’s true.’ And I am never going to be sorry for myself. If I’ve done something that isn’t right I’ll make an adjustment. But to feel sorry for myself? Never. You know? So sometimes I get depressed but I won’t accept it. And I was depressed for a very, very long time; way before I got into movies. It is the way it is.
“When I was about 32 I was a very hot movie commodity, not knowing how it worked. I’ve realized that my problem when I fell out of favor in Hollywood was that I was unwilling and incapable of compromise. But I couldn’t come down and there was really no one there for me; everybody was just in business. But that was an opportunity and I can’t say that I have any complaints.
“This was during the early `70s. When I fell out was in February of 1971. [Note: a date concurrent with the release of Alan Arkin‘s Little Murders.] I didn’t know I had no perspective and I didn’t know I had no judgment. I just thought, ‘Here I am. I’m batting a thousand. I’m not going to fail. Why don’t you just follow me?’
“I didn’t know how political it was, that it was an industry, and that if I didn’t play ball on that level then that was that. I was so out there. You think you’re important? You think you have meaning? Boom. You’re dead meat. And you’re fucking crazy. I didn’t drown. I almost drowned in The Long Goodbye but I made it. I found my balance.
“There’s nothing of value other than what we have to share. And it’s one thing to share goodness and accomplishment and another thing to share a problem. And once people are willing and capable of communicating here like we are, then we can see that no one of us can have a problem another one of us didn’t have before. Therefore what we need to do is revolutionize and reorganize government so our government can evolve and really be what it was supposed to be at the beginning.”
Given persistent speculation about the Coen brothers’ Burn After Reading being destined to play at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival (9.4 to 9.13), it comes as no surprise that it’s now been chosen to open the 65th Venice Film Festival on 8.27. It’s a standard tactic for fall films with a modicum of class to do the old Lido-Toronto two-step prior to their commercial debut. Focus Features will open Burn stateside on 9.12. It will preem in the U.K. on 9.5.
When is Focus going to release a decent assortment of stills from Burn After Reading? I’m getting sick of looking at this popcorn still over and over.
The third film in George Clooney‘s “idiot trilogy” (following his turns in the Coen’s O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Intolerable Cruelty), Burn After Reading, which the Coens wrote and directed, is about a couple of Washington, D.C. gym employees trying to shake down an ousted CIA official (John Malkovich) after they find a disc containing his inside-the-agency memoir.
I forget who plays the gym employees (read the script a long time ago and I wasn’t sure even then), but the costars are Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Richard Jenkins.
Burn is a Working Title production, produced by Joel and Ethan and executive-produced by Working Title’s Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Robert Graf.