There is nothing wrong or suspect about liking a film that almost everyone else hates. On the contrary, it is the mark of a critic who’s probably worth reading …as long as he/she doesn’t go all Armond White on disliked or discredited films too often. That said, it’s a bit of an eye-opener (or is it a dark omen?) that MCN’s David Poland has given a fairly hearty thumbs-up to Speed Racer (Warner Bros., 5.9)
With tracking looking dicey at best and a Rotten Tomatoes positive rating of 37% (as of Wednesday afternoon), this animated Wachowski brothers action film needs all the friends it can get. I do know that Poland has been totally in the Wachowski tank from the beginning, and that his enthusiastic and persistent praise for both The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions were divorced from the reality of those films that I came to know. (Yes, I was warm on Reloaded at first, but it faded upon reflection and then the curtains parted when I saw it a second time.)
For all I know Poland is on the money, and again, he has my respect for going against the grain. That said, I had a much better time (as I frequently do) reading Anthony Lane‘s New Yorker review, particularly this opening paragraph:
“Gluttons for Duck Soup will remember the scene in which Groucho is faced with an official document. ‘Why, a four-year-old child could understand this report,’ he says. ‘Run out and find me a four-year-old child.’ My sentiments exactly, as I sat in a cathedral-size auditorium, wreathed in the ineffable mysteries of Speed Racer. This is the latest offering from Andy and Larry Wachowski, bringers of The Matrix, and, if it is about anything, it is about the quest to overwhelm a particular stratum of the masses. A four-year-old will be reduced to a gibbering but highly gratified wreck; an eight-year-old will wander around wearing a look that was last seen on the face of Dante after he met Beatrice. But what about the rest of us? True, our eyeballs will slowly, though never completely, recover, but what of our souls?
“I reckon the M.P.A.A. should use the advent of Speed Racer to revive an old ratings symbol: a big Roman X, meaning ‘of no conceivable interest to anyone over the age of ten.'”
Forever partial to the films of Abel Ferrara, the Cannes Film Festival is offering a special screening of his latest, a doc about a certain storied Manhattan hotel called Chelsea on the Rocks. Screening on Friday,. 5.23, it’ll include “interviews with residents past and present” such as Milos Forman, Ethan Hawke, Dennis Hopper and R. Crumb, plus vintage music, archival footage and re-enactments of famous Chelsea episodes — Nancy Spungen and Sid Vicious, Janis Joplin — performed by Bijou Phillips, Jamie Burke, Adam Goldberg, Giancarlo Esposito and Grace Jones.
The press screening is at 11:30 am at the 60th Anniversary Theatre inside the Palais, the press conference is at 3:15 pm, and the official screening is at 7:45 pm. Ferrara, Phillips, Burke and Hooper will attend.
“GOP heavyweight James Baker III and Democratic strategist Ron Klain couldn’t have been more at odds than they were during the disputed Bush v. Gore 2000 election battle in Florida,” writes Politico’s Jeffrey Ressner. “So it’s no small irony that as HBO’s telefilm Recount (debuting 5.25) was being readied, the two men both signed off on a completely fictional scene in which their characters meet briefly on an airport tarmac.”
(l.) James Baker; (r.) Ron Klain
I’m glad Strong made it up. The scene isn’t confrontational or slam-bam, but it hits the right note. It happens at the finale, and after all the haggling and spinning over vote counts for the previous two hours, the viewer is looking for some kind of reflective sum-up. What you get is a few choice words between rivals — a formal but friendly hello, a foreshadowing of dark things to come from Klain (Kevin Spacey) and a suggestion by Baker (Tom Wilkinson) that there’s no right or wrong and that it all boils down to loyalty.
I enjoyed that director Jay Roach made sure that Wilkinson closely resembles Baker, which is mainly accomplished by his wearing a gray-hair wig. It’s a little odd, therefore, that despite the real Klain (above) obviously having a decent head of hair, Roach decided to let Spacey play it with his own sparse follicles, which have been retreating like the French Army out of Russia since the days of American Beauty. Why not wig out if it creates a slightly closer resemblance?
Here again is my 4.30 review of Recount.
We’ve all felt that peculiar irritation that kicks in when news of yet another “special collector’s edition” DVD of a classic film (single or double-disc…same difference) is announced. I say to myself “no, I won’t fall for it…screw those greedy DVD distributors trying to milk me for the second or third or fourth time.” Then I read that the new release will provide a “restored” and presumably improved transfer, and I’m hooked. Even if the transfer on a DVD of the film that I own looks perfectly fine. Because I’m a sucker for any upgrade.
Especially, I should add, if the film is in black and white. I’m a total fool for that luscious silvery sheen. My biggest orgasm in this regard is that Columbia/TriStar Home Video release of Anatomy of a Murder, which came out eight years ago.
Lionsgate’s new two-disc DVD release of High Noon has “what appears to be a reliable report, though unconfirmed, that it will include a new transfer of the film, restored by Paramount,” according to a posting on the Amazon page by DVD aficionado “Sanpete.” He writes that “lack of agreement between Paramount and Lionsgate prevented the earlier release of a restored transfer,” adding that “the current and older DVDs are only of average video and audio quality.”
I haven’t verified the new transfer assertion, but knowing deep down that I’ll probably spring for this disc when it comes out on 6.10 is a real bee in my bonnet. To my fairly sophisticated eyes, there’s nothing the least bit problematic about the version that I presently own, a “collector’s edition” mastered by Republic Home Video and issued in ’02. But I know myself and what’ll happen when I see this on the shelf. I’m a junkie without brakes or discipline.
Cinemorgue, which features listings and descriptions of thousands of death scenes that are alphabetized by the names of actors and actresses, is grim and exhaustive and…valuable, I guess, but also kind of strange. I’d forgotten how many times Elke Sommer has been gruesomely killed on-screen. Two skiiing accidents, shot three times (machine gunned in 1969’s The Wrecking Crew, the Dean Martin-Matt Helm movie), blown up, and bludgeoned to death.
Almost all movie deaths, it seems, are brutal, bloody, sudden, ghastly, traumatic and otherwise unpeaceful. Nod-off deaths — like Sir Cedric Hardwicke ‘s passing in The Ten Commandments — have been few and far between over the last 40 years. Is real-life death ever smooth and easy? Only if you do yourself in with pills. James Toback said during a phone chat, which is that (paraphrasing) “almost none of us are going to die as pleasantly as we’d like to…it’s always under circumstances we can’t foresee, much less plan for, and sooner than we’d like.”
Note: all present and future mentions of cinemorgue.com are permanently indebted to Movie City News because Poland linked to it earlier today or last night.
“The Republican brand has been so badly damaged that if Republicans try to run an anti-Obama, anti- Reverend Wright…campaign, they are simply going to fail.” — a declaration made yesterday by (believe it or not) Newt Gingrich on Human Events, a conservative website.
The DVD of the original 219-minute cut of Michael Cimino‘s Heaven’s Gate has been available for more than eight years, but even those who mostly despise the film (myself among them) will concede that seeing an allegedly “restored” print on a big screen in a first-rate house like Santa Monica’s Aero is definitely the preferred way to go. Kevin Thomas will introduce the 5.22 Aero screening, which will start at 7:30 pm.
History long ago noted that renowned critic F.X. Feeney is primarily responsible for recasting Heaven’s Gate as a film deserving of revisionist respect. I never bought into this but Feeney’s efforts in this regard are a reminder of what a genuiinely caring and impassioned film critic can do when he/she puts his/her mind to it. Or at least was capable of doing in the old days.
I hated Heaven’s Gate when I first saw it 17 and a half years ago, and I couldn’t stay with it when I tried it a second time at home about five years ago. I therefore feel it’s still worth quoting the famous quip from N.Y. Times critic Vincent Canby that Heaven’s Gate “fails so completely that you might suspect Mr. Cimino sold his soul to the Devil to obtain the success of The Deer Hunter, and the Devil has just come around to collect.”
I attended the second critics screening at the Cinema I on November 17th or 18th (one of those) and stood at the bottom of the down escalator as those who’d seen the afternoon show were leaving. I asked everyone I knew what they thought on a scale of 1 to 10. I’ll never forget the gray, deflated expression on the face of journalist Dan Yakir as he muttered “zero.”
Lionsgate has decided to open Frank Miller‘s The Spirit, an adaptation of Will Eisner’s heavy-noir comic strip, on Christmas Day 2008 instead of 1.16.09. Pamela McClintock‘s 5.6 Variety story, quoting Lionsgate theatrical films chief Tom Ortenberg, says the decision to shift the film to 12.25 “came after the project was presented to fans at New York Comic-Con.”
Scarlett Johansson as “Silken Floss” in Frank Miller’s The Spirit
Nick Broomfield‘s Battle for Haditha (Hanway Films), which is playing at Manhattan’s Film Forum from now through 5.20, is arguably the best Iraq War foot-soldier drama to have been released thus far. Mostly because it uses the POV of all the sad victims in this wretched episode and presents the particulars in a way that straddles the line between judgment and lament.
Shot in purposefully ragged docu-drama style with non-actors and deserving, I feel, a solid 8 on a scale of 10, Haditha will certainly be avoided en masse by those brave citizens who don’t want to know from that conflict, and who will absolutely dodge a dramatization of the infamous November 2005 Haditha massacre in which 24 Iraqi men, women and children — 15 of whom were confirmed non-combatants — were slain by U.S.Marines on a revenge bender.
As the Wikipedia page explains, it has been alleged that the killings were retribution for the attack on a convoy of United States Marines with an improvised explosive device that killed Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas.
I won’t strenuously argue with the belief of Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir that it’s “the closest thing this conflict has produced to a Paths of Glory or an All Quiet on the Western Front” or Robert Koehler‘s view that it summons memories of Gillo Pontecorvo’s Battle of Algiers.” It does visit similar tragic turf, and does, for the most part, offer a convincing simulation of the hell fires consuming that cursed country right now as well as those that propelled several regular guy GIs to do what they did two and a half years ago.
The only serious beef I had after seeing in Toronto last September was that “the improvised dialogue feels a little too blunt and on-the-nose at times,” although I said without qualification that it’s “absorbing, bracing stuff.” But because of some of the actors’ delivery and my resistance to some of the dialogue, I wasn’t completely swallowed by it and so the the emotionality didn’t quite kick in.
Coming Soon‘s Ed Douglas has posted a straightforward q & a he did with Broomfield a few days ago.
Interested New Yorkers might want to catch tonight’s 8 pm show at the Film Forum, as it will be followed by a q & a between Broomfield and actor/former U.S. Marine Elliot Ruiz.
Huge exhale and good riddance. Barack Obama wailed in North Carolina and lost Indiana by a nose hair, and that, ladies and gentlemen and undecideds, is finally the end of Hillary Cinton. Tim Russert said this morning that every political player now accepts that Obama will be the party’s nominee in Denver. Politico‘s Mike Allen wrote this morning that Obama “won’t push her out — he’ll let her get her coat, and walk to the door. But he’s talking to the whole country now — not just to Democrats, and not to individual states.”
In the wake of this morning’s breaking news that Clinton has loaned her faltering campaign another $6.4 million on top of the $5 million loan she admitted to earlier this year, her perplexing determination to push on (clearly obnoxious, arguably sociopathic in nature) will only hurt her future prospects. As Politico‘s Roger Simon wrote late last night, “She has options, but only if she manages her endgame carefully. If she becomes known as the candidate who was willing to destroy her party in order to gain the nomination, she is likely to lose not just the nomination but also her political future.”
In the meantime, here’s irrefutable proof of the validity of my earlier suggestion that a Dumbass Amendment be added to the Constitution requiring states to give prospective voters short written quizzes to make certain they’re at least somewhat knowledgable and semi-intelligent before being granted a voice in choosing the nation’s leadership.
Chicago Sun Times reporter Lynn Sweet has reported that yesterday morning “about 50 people were eating breakfast at [the Four Seasons] restaurant in Greenwood when Obama walked in at 7:40 a.m. He went from table to table, chatting briefly with patrons about the economy and gas prices before sitting down to breakfast.
“One of his first encounters went poorly. He approached a man sitting alone at a table and was waved away. The man told me afterward he had no interest in meeting Obama. ‘I can’t stand him,’ he said. ‘He’s a Muslim. He’s not even pro-American as far as I’m concerned.'”
Cue John Mellencamp‘s “Ain’t that America?”