A chance encounter this evening with Guillermo del Toro, director of Hellboy II: The Golden Army, at West L.A.’s Laser Blazer — 6.28, 7:50 pm. We spoke about a scheduled junket interview sometime on Sunday, 6.29, about our fathers, about some Blu-ray transfers looking too much like digital data and not enough, he feels, like film.
It’s been a long while — two or three months, at least — since I’ve seen Alex Gibney‘s Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson (Magnolia/HDNet, 7.4), which I mostly enjoyed and fully respected. David Carr‘s story about it in the 6.29 N.Y. Times has jarred my memory somewhat. And yet mainly I’m reminded that my primary impression of Thompson’s life can be summed up in four words: “Wow, what a waste.”
Hunter S. Thompson sometime in the mid to late ’60s, to judge by his hairline.
The “wow” part — Thompson’s productive years from the mid ’60s to mid ’70s — is what 90% of Gibney’s film is about. The largely non-productive downturn phase — the last 28 or so years of his life from ’77 until his suicide in ’05 — occupies, no exaggeration, maybe 10 or 12 minutes of screen time, if that. It’s understood, of course, that ruination from booze and drugs is not interesting because there’s absolutely nothing say about it except “and then, lacking the courage to kill himself quickly, he decided to slowly commit suicide on a snort-by-snort, bottle-by-bottle basis.”
And yet Carr’s sentence about Thompson’s coke-and-tequila poisoning carries a certain poignancy: “By the time most of America knew who Thompson was, he was pretty much washed up, having gradually been overtaken by his own legend, with steady assists from the bottle, the drugs and his coven of enablers.” Gibney’s handling of it, by contrast, is a little on the hurried and perfunctory side.
The only big problem I had with Gonzo is the pop-tunes soundtrack. Gibney has used cut after cut of the music that was big in the late ’60s to mid ’70s, but listening to these songs, trust me, will drive you up the wall.
What prevented Gibney, an extremely smart guy, from realizing that it’s virtually impossible for a person watching a doc about the social upheavals of the ’60s to listen the Youngbloods singing “Let’s Get Together” without wanting to fire a bullet into his or her right temple? There is no other reaction to that song at this stage of the game. You hear those fucking lyrics — “C’mon, people now, smile on your brother, try to love one another right now” — and you want to die as soon as possible.
I felt this over and over as Don MacLean‘s “American Pie,” Jimi Hendrix‘s “Hey Joe” and Janis Joplin‘s “Piece of My Heart” and I don’t how many other ’60s standards were heard. These songs, of course, are part of the 245-song repertoire that every classic-rock radio station has been playing for the last 35 years and torturing everyone to death with. Has Gibney ever heard of B sides? Of ’60s bands and tracks that don’t make people want to jump off the top of 30-story office buildings? Apparently not.
I wish I could help it, but every time a woman (or a group of women) registers astonishment at something another woman has said by saying “oh…my…god!” I feel hugely repelled. In real life, in a TV series, in a film…anywhere. Chalk on a blackboard times ten. So I’m naturally concerned about a moment in the Mamma Mia trailer in which Amanda Seyfried tells her friends she has three possible dads coming to her wedding and she doesn’t know which is the actual sire, and…you know the rest. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Fingers crossed. It opens on 7.18.
Three thoughts came to mind on Thursday when I read various accounts about some passionate mucky-muck involving CBS News Baghdad correspondent Lara Logan, a married US State Department contractor named Joe Burkett and CNN international correspondent Michael Ware.
The first two thoughts were (a) this is private material and nobody’s business so why don’t they leave her alone? and (b) passion is as passion does, and is no big deal.
Logan has been a feisty and outspoken reporter about the war and probably has a serious fire going in the furnace whatever the subject or concern. On top of which there’s always something strangely erotic in the air when there’s a lot of random death and danger floating about, and hence a sense of impermanence. The more ghastly or threatening the surroundings, the more likely it is that like-minded professionals of a certain age are going to get down in the heat of the moment. Remember the “terror fucking” phenomenon that happened in Manhattan in the days following 9/11?
The third thought is that Logan’s story since she’s been on the Baghdad beat would make for a good filmed drama. The considerate way to go about it would be to use the facts (romantic Baghdad triangle, emotions at a fever pitch, divorce proceeding, bullets whizzing past lovers’ heads, IEDs exploding) but with made-up names and perhaps a slightly fictionalized story line just to blur things up. Roger Donaldson‘s Under Fire, which used actual events that happened in Nicaragua, had some of this element, as I recall.
That said, it seemed disingenuous that Brian Stelter‘s 6.26 N.Y. Times story reported that CBS News has just decided to base Logan in Washington, D.C., with a new title — chief foreign affairs correspondent — rather than in London, without at least briefly acknowledging the Baghdad mess. I mean, c’mon…it happened and some of the facts made the tabloids and now she’s getting reassigned. People’s private business is their private business, but once the snake is out of the box you can’t pretend it’s not there.
We’re a few days away from a full six months having passed in the year 2008, and so it’s time to briefly assess the best, worst and in-betweens. It’s understood I’ll be leaving a few off that I should (and will) be adding to this or that category once the outraged responses come in, but these are the films that popped out when I sorted them all through. I’ve only mentioned 63 films here. There have been at least nine, I believe, that deserve to be called creme de la creme, but maybe I’m forgetting one or two.
Best So Far (in order of excellence): A tie between WALL*E and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (the latter technically being an ’07 film even though it opened on January 23), The Bank Job, The Visitor, Shine a Light, Iron Man, Young @ Heart, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, Son of Rambow. (9)
Decent, Solid, Respectable: In Bruges, Stop-Loss, The Band’s Visit, Cassandra’s Dream, Cloverfield, War, Inc., The Incredible Hulk, Taxi to the Dark Side, Chicago 10, The Counterfeiters, Then She Found Me, Standard Operating Procedure, Battle for Haditha, Speed Racer (more for its ambitious and mostly unique visual design than for what it actually was), Surfwise, Encounters at the End of the World, OSS117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, The Edge of Heaven, Mongol, Irina Palm. (20)
Best Ridiculous-Machismo Action Movie of the year: Rambo. (1)
Flawed Film, Genuinely Creepy Vibe, Righteous Theme: The Happening (1)
Best Stupid-Ass Adam Sandler Attitude Comedy In Years: You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. (1)
Loathsome but Respectable: Funny Games. (1)
Not Bad but Also Bothersome, Irritating: The Tracey Fragments, The Babysitters. (I need to add to this list.) (2)
Passable but Mostly Negligible (in order of preference): Be Kind Rewind, Semi-Pro, The Other Boleyn Girl, Leatherheads, Nim’s Island, Forgetting Sarah Marshall (galumph aesthetic, penis shots), 21, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (fastest fading movie of the year, death-button upon second viewing), Kung Fu Panda, Get Smart, Street Kings. (11)
Worst So Far (in order of awfulness): Wanted, Sex and the City, 10,000 B.C., Vantage Point, Mad Money, 88 Minutes, My Blueberry Nights, The Hottie and the Nottie, Chapter 27, The Love Guru, Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, Deception, Drilllbit Taylor, College Road Trip, Smart People, What Happens in Vegas, Reprise. (17)
Didn’t See ‘Em: City of Men, The Year My Parents Went on Vacation, Married Life, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Redbelt, The Fall, The Foot Fist Way.
Thursday’s tracking predicted that WALL*E would $50 to $60 million this weekend. Well, it made $23.1 million last night and is looking at $66,441,000 by Sunday night. Handicappers will have to consider next weekend’s numbers (remember that woman at my Disney lot screening who said she was bored?) for a long-range projection, but it’s sure to at least end up in the $200 million-plus realm. A friend went to a commercial screening early yesterday afternoon and saw “plenty of kids but also a lot of adults on their own.”
Wanted — Jesus wept! — did $18,700,000 last night and will end up with $52,500,000 for the weekend. It was supposed to do somewhere over $30 million but not more than $40 million, according to Thursday’s tracking. Just goes to show that among younger males, the appetite for brutish ultra-violent degeneracy is alive and thriving. “Are there really adults who want to sit through this kind of mindless, bullying mayhem?” wrote the Austin Chronicle‘s Josh Rosenblatt. “Maybe I don’t want to know the answer to that one.” Sorry to be the bearer.
Get Smart‘s 2nd week will result in $20,500,000 by Sunday night — a 47% drop. Kung Fu Panda got hit by WALL*E, will do $11.7 million by Sunday night. The cume is $179.3 million, but it’s doing $3 thousand a print now and it may not make the $200 millon mark, although a $1,900,000 tally looks safe.
The Incredible Hulk will do $9.1 million for the weekend for a cume of $115 million. It’s down to $2700 a print, might squeak out another $10 million for a final figure of $125 million. Ang Lee’s Hulk did $132,177,234 at the end of the day, but then ticket prices weren’t as high five years ago.
The Love Guru died last weekend when it opened so it doesn’t matter, and this weekend it’s off 58% — $5,800,000
Indy 4 will do $4.984,000 this weekend for a cume of $299,890,000 — $110 thousand away from $300 million mark. Watch the Paramount guys goose the ads this weekend
SATC will do $3.729 million and The Happening is $3.712 million. The latter will be barely over $60 million at the end of the road. Adam Sandler’s You Don’t Mess with the Zohan will make $3.2 million. It’s currently above $90 million but down to $1400 a print and almost out of the theaters — it’s be a push to $100 million.
Iron Man will make $2.2 million by Sunday night.
Kitt Kittredge dropped 68% Friday-to-Friday in its 2nd platform week (i.e., five theatres), and will experience a 54% drop for the weekend. That obviously suggests big trouble when it goes into national release mode.
Wanted gets a 75% positive from the Rotten Tomatoes creme de la creme? Even the 64% rating on Metacritic is offensive. I suffered through this film; it gave me convulsions; I thought once about going to the head and throwing up. The Oregonian‘s Shawn Levy and New York‘s David Edelstein are good fellows who know their stuff, but what had they eaten or drunk before seeing it? After?
ABC News guy Jake Tapper reported last night that Barack Obama will travel to Iraq, Afghanistan, Germany, France and England in mid-July. The Iraq-Afghanistan portion of the trip will be in the company of a congressional delegation. Cue the Middle American xenophobes waiting to take offense.
Saturday update: The NY Times‘ Jeff Zeleny is reporting that Obama’s Middle East itinerary will include Jordan and Israel. He also says that the Iraq and Afghanistan visits will be part of a “separate trip” — presumably a reference to these visits being part of a congressional delegation tour. Zeleny is reporting no additions to Germany, France and Britain as far as the western Europe stopovers are concerned.
Gavin O’Connor‘s Pride and Glory is finally out of the distribution woods. Former New Line honcho Bob Shaye’s decision early this year to bump this exceptional New York cop film into ’09 is now null and void with Warner Bros. having just slotted a 10.24.08 release. It’s an exceptional film (I saw it in mid-April) and never should have been bumped in the first place. The question now is how wide or vigorous a release will it receive? How much of a p & a investment? How committed will the p.r. people be?