Updated: The thrust of this Anne Thompson Variety piece is that Will Smith is pretty much the only guy right now whose movies can’t seem to fail, no matter how mediocre they may be. The article is written with a sportswriter-like aplomb and a seasoned understanding of the how the marketplace works, etc., but it’s basically a show of obeisance before box-office power.
The best thing that could happen to the guy, of course, would be to fail as this would make him dig deeper and try harder, which would lead to growth and maturity as an artist-performer. Smith has made exactly three “growth” movies since he graduated from Fresh Prince of Bel Air — Six Degrees of Separation (’93), Ali (’01) and The Pursuit of Happyness (’06). Three such efforts in 15 years time obviously indicates an attitude of cruising and contentment. Which, of course, a true artist should never embrace. Although I have to say he really nailed that dog-dying scene in I Am Legend.
Stay anxious, stay hungry. Just ask Bob Rafelson.
My father died last night. I got the news right after last night’s memorial service for former Orion and Magnolia exec Jay Peckos at the Landmark Cinemas. I’m mentioning this because a touching photo montage (one of those computer-driven deals with a music soundtrack) was shown at the Peckos tribute, and I’d like to create the same kind of presentation for my dad’s memorial service, which will be held in Southbury, Connecticut, next month.
Except I want to mix in some video clips with the stills. To edit this together on my laptop I’ll first need to transfer some 8mm videocassettes to disc, but I don’t want to pay the rates charged by pirates who do this sort of thing for a living. If anyone knows of a cheaper backdoor way to go, please advise. Sorry but I hate paying retail. Can’t hurt to ask.
For me, Man on Wire (Magnolia, opening in late July) — the story of Petit’s illegal high-wire walk between the World Trade Center’s towers in August 1974 — is the most stirring and suspenseful film of its kind that I’ve seen since Touching The Void. It’s too electric and gripping to be called a mere documentary; another term has to be found. The L.A. Film festival screening happens tonight at Westwood’s Crest theatre.
Three of my favorite scenes from Karel Reisz‘s Who’ll Stop The Rain? Rich cryptic dialogue on this level (which is largely taken verbatim Robert Stone‘s novel) has almost completely disappeared from movies. Clip #1 — “I’ve been waiting all my life to fuck up like this.” Clip #2 — “All my life I’ve been taking shit from inferior people…no more!” Clip #3 — “I hate jailbird chess…I hate the style…like a fuckin’ little tweety bird…’eeww, here‘s a move!”
An interview between original Inglorious Bastards director Enzo G. Castellari and Quentin Tarantino on the forthcoming three-disc DVD (out 7.29) of his 1978 film reveals that Tarantino’s new version of the film, which may be shot and released sometime before 2010, will be a two-parter like Kill Bill. This, at least, is what Harry Knowles is reporting. Good God.
The interview, says knowles, also reveals that Tarantino “has been writing almost non-stop on Inglorious Bastards.” Is that why Tarantino said at last month’s Cannes Film Festival that he’d finished a first draft? After talking about wanting to make this thing for…what, the last nine or ten years?
My only concern about Burn After Reading, the comic tone of which seems exqisite in its dry, deadpan-ness (being a smart but broad lampoon of stupid people with delusions of grandeur), is that it’ll be too fully appreciated and digested by the time in opens in mid-September. Meaning that people may go to it saying, “Yeah, yeah, we get all that, fine. But that was last summer and this is September, so what else can you show us?” I’m speaking, of course, about a very small group of online trailer-watching aficionados.
Pierre Morel‘s Taken (20th Century Fox, 9.18.08) is a thriller about an ex-spook (Liam Neeson) using his espionage skills to save his estranged daughter (Maggie Grace) from baddies who’ve kidnapped her and sold her into the slave trade. A rescue is necessary because once a beautiful young woman has been abducted and sold, she has no choice but to do what she’s been told to do, and is of course powerless to attempt an escape on her own.
“Hillary Clinton is taking a month off from her job as senator to rest up from her campaign. How does that work? You’ve been neglecting your job trying to get a better job. You don’t get that job, so you to take a month off from the job you were trying to get out of and go on vacation. Imagine if you tried that with your boss. ‘Hey boss, listen — I’ve been looking for another job, and I’m exhausted. I want to take a month off. Here’s where you can send my checks.'” — from a Jay Leno monologue delivered the night before last (i.e., Wednesday).
“Barack Obama is the most split-personality politician in the country today,” writes conservative-minded N.Y. Times columnist David Brooks. “On the one hand, there is Dr. Barack, the high-minded, Niebuhr-quoting speechifier who spent this past winter thrilling the Scarlett Johansson set and feeling the fierce urgency of now. But then on the other side, there’s Fast Eddie Obama, the promise-breaking, tough-minded Chicago pol who’d throw you under the truck for votes.
“This guy is the whole Chicago package: an idealistic, lakefront liberal fronting a sharp-elbowed machine operator. He’s the only politician of our lifetime who is underestimated because he’s too intelligent. He speaks so calmly and polysyllabically that people fail to appreciate the Machiavellian ambition inside.
“But he’s been giving us an education, for anybody who cares to pay attention. Just try to imagine Mister Rogers playing the Ari in Entourage and it all falls into place.
“I have to admit, I’m ambivalent watching all this. On the one hand, Obama did sell out the primary cause of his professional life, all for a tiny political advantage. If he’ll sell that out, what won’t he sell out? On the other hand, global affairs ain’t beanbag. If we’re going to have a president who is going to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Vladimir Putin, maybe it is better that he should have a ruthlessly opportunist Fast Eddie Obama lurking inside.
“All I know for sure is that this guy is no liberal goo-goo. Republicans keep calling him naive. But naive is the last word I’d use to describe Barack Obama. He’s the most effectively political creature we’ve seen in decades. Even Bill Clinton wasn’t smart enough to succeed in politics by pretending to renounce politics.”
Okay, Brooks — we all get the Fast Eddie analogy. But think about that Paul Newman character from The Hustler and the concept starts to fade a bit. Fast Eddie was a hustler, all right, but he was nothing if not morally and ethically bothered by who he was and what his life amounted to. He was obsessed with not being a loser, but guilt-wracked over having looked the other way when poor alcoholic Sara (Piper Laurie) begged hjim not to hang with the likes of Burt the operator (George C. Scott). And he ended up following her lead in the end, saying goodbye to the work of hustling and pool-sharking.
The truth is that we all have a little Fast Eddie inside of us. We’re all ambitious and opportunistic to varying degrees, but we all feel a little guilty about it, and the best of us take the high road at the end of the day.
Someone told me about a script that tells the story of when Robbie Robertson and Martin Scorsese lived together. It’s supposed to be pretty remarkable, but you can’t trust the talk. Does anyone know the title or the history of it? If it’s real and all it’s cracked up to be, does anyone have a PDF they can send along?