Variety‘s Justin Chang has joined the growing throng of Blindness panners. “The personal and mass chaos that would result if the human race lost its sense of vision is conveyed with diminished impact and an excess of stylish tics in
“Despite a characteristically strong performance by Julianne Moore as a lone figure who retains her eyesight, bearing sad but heroic witness to the horrors around her, Fernando Meirelles‘ slickly crafted drama rarely achieves the visceral force, tragic scope and human resonance of Saramago’s prose. Despite marquee names, mixed reviews might yield fewer eyes than desired for this international co-production.”
The timing of John Edwards‘ endorsement of Barack Obama, which I heard about 90 minutes ago, is, I admit, a stroke of good timing. It blows Obama’s West Virginia loss (downmarket racist rubes realizing it’s now or never to try and stop the black fella) off the proverbial front page. Clinton will hang tough until early June, but never have her true colors flown more brightly.
“Somehow we are locked at the hip to Hillary Clinton, who won’t stop her manic tarantella until her party whirls into ruins, like the run-amuck carousel in Alfred Hitchcock‘s Strangers on a Train. [Her] campaigning has come to: a monotonous exercise in showboating solipsism, like Shirley MacLaine as the geriatric mother in Postcards from the Edge, hijacking her daughter’s party and kicking up her heels to sing ‘I’m Still Here!’
“Even with strong wins in Appalachia, Hillary has no true rationale for her candidacy, other than her inflamed gender and her putative Washington ‘experience’ — which has yet to produce a tangible legislative achievement. Her persistence is now keyed to her hope (chillingly close to a curse) that her rival will make a major gaffe or be besmirched by some unknown past scandal. And her message maliciously undermines Barack Obama, the presumptive nominee, by targeting his presumed weakness in the general election.
“But the gifted Obama is just getting started on the national stage, while his opponent, John McCain, is a clumsy, fusty, narcissistic waffler whose party is in disarray and revolt against him.” — from Camille Paglia‘s 5.14 Salon column, titled “She Won’t Go Easy.”
Myself and Cinematical’s James Rocchi at last night’s journalist dinner at La Pizza. Shot taken by Glenn Kenny and posted on his new blog, Some Came Running. Rocchi and I look glum and fatigued, I admit. Then again, we were that! Kenny wrote that the pic portrays “the pulse-pounding excitement that suffuses the evening before the first day.”
An American Pavillion panel discussion about “Buzz Builders,” sponsored by Skype, concluded about 90 minutes ago. Alex Ben Block moderated with Variety‘s Mike Jones, IFC.com’s Alison Willmore and Indiewire‘s Eugene Hernandez participated along with MCN’s David Poland on a live video hook-up. A few interesting subjects were tossed around, including a speculation by Poland that the Hollywood Reporter may be toast in three years’ time.
(l. to r.) IFC.com’s Alison Willmore, Variety‘s Mike Jones, Indiewire‘s Eugene Hernandez, moderator Alex Ben Block.
Hernandez took a bow for delivering extremely fast coverage of festival news and events, such as posting about this morning’s Jack Black/Kung Fu Panda stunt 30 minutes after it ended.
Block asked the panelists where they stood on respecting review embargos, the between-the-lines implication being that internet bloggers have a rep for playing fast and loose on this score.
In the q & a portion I brought up the fact that a N.Y. Daily News feature writer recently jumped the embargo by running a sweetheart review of Sex in the City and nobody said boo, but if an online columnist had done the same the c.w. would have been “there goes the internet again, being untrustworthy.” I voiced doubts about New Line/HBO allegedly being surprised by the NYDN review. Poland voiced a belief that that “of course” they okayed it in advance, adding (a) that this is nothing new and (b) that both he and I have run similar-type friendly reviews in advance of embargo dates.
Poland said that the difference between print and online film writing is a “lack of editing” and seasoned judgment. He mentioned a propensity on the part of the former to emphasize (or certainly allow for) “personality journalism” a la Nikki Finke‘s Deadline Hollywood Daily. (As well as — let’s be candid — yours truly.) Jones added that “some” of the online reporting about the WGA strike (he didn’t mention Finke by name but this seemed the implication) was “wrong…a lot of screenwriters lived through these reports and got their hopes up.”
Skype-fed image of MCN’s David Poland during panel
Poland lambasted the N.Y. Times for running a recent Michael Cieply story about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crustal Skull suffering bad internet buzz, which he said was a non-story. And yet the exhibition word on the film is real, I contend, having been told myself by a trusted source about a negative reaction from a Southern-based exhibitor, and also having heard loose talk along these lines from an industry source whom I’ve known for several years.
Both Hernandez and Jones mentioned the importance of judgment and “context” in the reporting of news stories. Jones particularly referred to Anne Thompson‘s Variety reporting about Warner Bros.’ decision to kill Picturehouse and Warner Independent as a fine example of such standards.
I mentioned later that although Thompson’s seasoned understanding of the business makes her a first-rate reporter and analyst, the fact remains is that Defamer‘s Stu Van Airsdale was more correct in his piece about the imminent demise of Picturehouse than Thompson was in her subsequent article which said that Picturehouse’s Bob Berney and W.I.’s Polly Cohen were “likely” going to share the running of a merged operation. My point was that you need to read everyone and consider everything.
Poland said that Warner Bros. simply changed its mind about keeping Picturehouse/W.I. at the last minute, although a reliable-sounding report has been published saying that the decision to whack the two companies was made about a week before it was announced.
Poland said later that an online hurdle thus far is that “there’s no money” in blogging for many if not most writers who toil in this medium. Or at least, “not enough to live on.” And yet “having a seat at the table” is what everyone wants, he said, including the N.Y. Times.
He also said he “would be very surprised if The Hollywood Reporter is still [around] three years from now.” (I think he meant in its present form, but maybe not.) Poland posted a Hot Blog column a year or two ago about how THR needs to get with the program and become a big-time online trade site, and that he would be a good choice to manage this transition and maintain it thereafter, or words to this effect.
A remake of Abel Ferrara‘s Bad Lieutenant will begin shoting in the late summer with Nicolas Cage reinterpreting Harvey Keitel‘s coked-out, self-destructive Manhattan cop and — talk about a curious but totally dynamite call — the great Werner Herzog directing. Inspired! I love it sight unseen.
The only uh-oh is that it’s being partly slapped together by the very “bad” (in a manner of speaking) Israeli producer Avi Lerner, who’s long been regarded as more of a wheeler-dealer in the Dino de Laurentiis-Eli Samaha-Giancarlo Perretti tradition of movie-producing by way of an Oriental rug salesman mentality. The more respectable Edward R. Pressman is also a producer on the film. Nobody pushes Herzog around, but the general rule-of-thumb is that a movie is only as good and smart as the lamest link in the chain.
Has this rule ever been proved wrong? Yes — when legendary schlockmeister Willam Castle helped produce Roman Polanski‘s classic Rosemary’s Baby.
N.Y. Times critics A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis have written that “for many” — code for themselves and other top-dog elites like Jim Hoberman, John Powers, Glenn Kenny, Scott Foundas, et. al. — Cannes-spotlighted directors like Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (Le Silence de Lorna), Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Three Monkeys) and Lucrecia Martel (The Headless Woman) “are the real stars of Cannes. In America their names may be met with blank stares, but here they walk up the same red carpet as some of the most prominent Hollywood filmmakers and celebrities. And this may be the ultimate measure of the festival√É¬¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s integrity as well as a reminder of its noble traditions.”
There’s at least one solid defense of Recount screenwriter Danny Strong, who’s been criticized in Edward Wyatt‘s 5.14 N.Y. Times story for having unfairly portrayed former Secretary of State Warren Christopher as “one of the great all-time wimps” (my quote) during the spin battle over the Florida vote in the 2000 presidential election, which Strong brings up.
He tells Wyatt that “one of his primary sources” on the Christopher-wimp angle was ‘Too Close to Call,’ a book by Jeffrey Toobin, reports Wyatt, “who served as a consultant on the film. In it Mr. Toobin argues that by the end of the first week, both Christopher and Gore campaign chairman Edward Daley were ‘making the case for surrender.'” Is there anyone out there who believes Toobin isn’t a good reporter or, being that, an astute judge of character?
The problem with Fernando Meirelles‘ Blindness, which screened this morning at the Cannes Film Festival, is that the milieu of the story, which is based on a novel by Jose Saramago, is bleak and confining. It’s more than just the milieu, actually. The second and third act of this film delivers a kind of lockdown vibe.
A darkly emotional mood piece about of an outbreak of mass blindness, Blindness constitutes a blunt metaphor about how a pervasive lack of sight (i.e., perception, understanding) makes beasts or slaves of us all. Yes, agreed, of course…but this is basically an insane asylum drama — most of it taking place in a squalid prison in which the victims of said blindness plague have been quarantined — and as such produced, in me, a deep hunger to escape. Imagine a melodrama about blind people set inside the New Orleans Astrodome after Hurricane Katrina, after the toilets stopped working.
Not having read Saramago’s book (or even having taken the time to to read reviews), I had gathered — presumed — that Don McKellar‘s screenplay adaptation would be about the widespread societal effects of a blindness epidemic. I was envisioning a kind of docudrama-like portrait of what happens when sight goes. Some kind of capturing of the logistical, political and even mundane results. I was hoping especially for a film that would rigorously avoid any attempt at pushing metaphor into viewer’s faces. That is precisely what this film does by way of a narration voice-over by costar Danny Glover. This is mistake #1.
Mistake #2 is setting most of the film inside the “blindness prison,” as it were. I know, I know…we’re all living in a prison because we can’t or won’t “see,” but I really, really didn’t want to be stuck in this filthy hell-hole, and particularly being forced to witness the cruel and tyrannical thug behavior of the blind brutes (led by costars Gael Garcia Bernal and Maury Chaykin) as they humiliate and brutalize the reasonable blind people (opthomologist Mark Ruffalo, his wife Julianne Moore, call girl Alice Braga, random victim Yusuke Ilseya, old man Danny Glover and so on).
It’s well directed as far as it goes, although I found the constant depictions of “white-out” blindness irritating. In actuality as well as generic cinematic depictions, blindness is a state of darkness — blackness — and so Meirelles and cinematographer Cesar Charlone , looking for a little stylistic intrigue, have gone in the other direction. I understood the why of it, but it began to tick me off after the eighth or ninth white-out.
Two or three people clapped at the end of the press screening. The reception at the press conference was on the muted side. The movie, I fear, is going to be generally “meh”-ed when it opens, and audiences are almost certainly going to steer clear. I respected Blindness — I certainly agree with what it’s saying — but it didn’t arouse me at all. Opening-night films at big festivals are often underwhelming on this or that level — bland, suckish, so-so. I’m sorry to be saying what I’m saying as I worshipped Meirelles’ City of God and very much admired The Constant Gardener. But the truth is that Blindness is more than a bit of a flub.
For what it’s worth, the pacing, performances and tech credits are first-rate.