Payback humor at its absolute best. Every time I see this…hell, every time I think of this scene, I chortle. Gregory Hines vs. a charming Spanish-American couple in William Friedkin‘s Deal of the Century, which I realize was otherwise a problematic film. If only Josh Brolin and Jeffrey Wright…naaah, let it go.
I’m sorry if this sounds insensitive, but the images of Annette Bening and especially Meg Ryan in this poster for The Women (Picturehouse, 9.12) simply don’t resemble the actresses in their 21st century incarnations. Bening, bless her enormous talent and sense of class, had been made to look like her Bugsy or American Beauty self, and Ryan…c’mon. Did she ever look like this? What happened to the Botox lips that nearly killed her career? It’s all the doing of the art person behind the poster, of course. A simple case of over-sweetening.
The Telegraph‘s Sheila Johnston on the combative distribution history of Jose Padhilla‘s Elite Squad (Weinstein Co., 9.19), which I saw and liked during the L.A. Film Festival. Except for the narration, I mean, which I’m told was put in at Harvey Weinstein’s urging. I half-admired the fascist philosophy (i.e., the “shoot first and forget the questions” approach of Brazil’s paramilitary BOPE squad). There aren’t that many good right-wing crime films. The last high-grade one was Tony Scott‘s Man on Fire.
“Doing Milk was an incredible experince,” James Franco tells N.Y. Times writer Lynn Hirschberg in a recently-posted video interview. “I talked [to director Gus Van Sant] about how My Own Private Idaho and Drugstore Cowboy and how [he’s] been a hero of mine since I was a teenager, and of course Sean Penn as well.
“I will be asked about a million times what it was like to kiss Sean Penn. The few times I run into paparrazzi, that’s their new annoying thing. It was uncomfortable. The first time we did it…we didn’t do it many times, but the first kiss of the film, he had on…he grew a beard but he needed a slightly thicker beard so he had some [makeup] hairs interwined in his real hairs, and these hairs kept getting in my mouth. Uncomfortable. Not that fun. But yeah, Jeff Spiccoli…I got to make out with him.”
“If you take Harvey Weinstein out of the equation, you’re talking about removing one more layer of soul and passion and emotion from the movie business, which is already strapped on that level as it is. Whatever you say about his business dealings, Harvey loves and cares about movies. In this sense he’s one of the last guys who represent what Hollywood once was and should always be in terms of the spirit. It would be a tragic thing if we didn’t have him or his ilk in this business.
“Without guys like Harvey in the film business would be all corporate guys and Hollywood would become like Gotham City in The Dark Knight…no sense of history or soul, full of dark operators and cynical angles.” — Envelope columnist Pete Hammond during a chat about the Harvey-is-on-the-ropes articles by the Hollywood Reporter‘s Gregg Goldstein and Business Week‘s Ronald Glover.
I really don’t think there’s a need for another Chris Nolan Batman film now. On the audience end, I mean. From the Warner Bros. end they’ll absolutely make another one regardless because of the money, obviously, but The Dark Knight has done it, said it and triple-noired this already gloomy urban legend all to hell. No Bat franchise super-villain is ever going to top Heath Ledger‘s Joker so forget it. Job well done, now leave well enough alone.
I feel like I’ve had a great gourmet meal this morning, but in perhaps too-great amounts. And I don’t want any more rich foods in my system for a long while. I sincerely admired The Dark Knight but I want to be a vegetarian now, thank you. 177 aural chest whomps, seven or eight building falls, one big flipped-over truck, 78 or 79 wrecked cars, 78 million shards of shattered glass…all right already! The meat has been pounded flat. I feel pounded in a good way, yes, but pounded nonetheless.
And as sated and satisfied as I now feel, I don’t want to do this again for years. In fact, never again. I’m saying this with full-on respect. This not a back-pedal. It’s an “okay, cool…now I need a break for the next couple of decades” riff.
Anyone who helped to dream up, make and/or market The Dark Knight has reason this morning to feel enormous pride and satisfaction. I don’t mean to sound un-American or un-greedy, but what if all these folks were to step back, take a breath and let it go?
I really don’t care about Christian Bale‘s Batman taking the rap…oh, that’s right, I can’t talk about the last act. I’m just saying it feels “complete” regardless of the hanging thread, which I didn’t care all that much about. Threads are always hanging in movies. Nothing is ever resolved. My life is hanging by a thread. There are no ends, only means. I’ll sleep when I’m dead.
Where is it written that super franchises have to keep going until they fail by ruining or diluting the original magic and making everyone sick of them? The corporate Bat boys should think about showing a little class, is all I’m saying. Take a bow, count the money, open your hearts, get creative and think up something else that will earn several hundred million in various currencies.
A strong story has been told, and the best villain we’ve ever seen in a movie like this has been captured for all eternity, so back off and stop beating this thing to death. The corporate mentality is constitutionally incapable of hearing what I’ve just said — I realize that. I just thought I’d throw this idea out there because it would be, I feel, a sublime gesture on Warner Bros.’s part. Not that they would or could go there.
Deep, dark, longish and almost Macbeth-like in its meditations, The Dark Knight is a class act that will never suffer a re-assessment from me because it’s made of solid mahogany. But my basic take is, apart from a thousand different satisfactions, that I don’t want to get bogged down in the philosophical mumbo-jumbo of it all. I could have done with about 20 or 30 minutes less of it. Which isn’t to say that the length gave me pain. It didn’t. I just like movies better when they’re smarly pruned down. Don’t we all? Who likes girth for its own sake?
We are a deluded people living in a dark time, this movie is saying. Our culture is besieged by madmen, thugs and feral urban terrorists. Everyone is afraid, nobody knows the truth, nobody knows what to do but we need a tough good-hearted leader to look up to. And what else? Oh, yeah — the heroic Batman and the evil Joker are both freaks under the skin, and regarded as not all that different so what’s the difference? I think that more or less covers it.
How much of this got to me deep down? Some. Okay, not that much. Is the script some kind of truthful reflection in the pan of the world we’re actually living in now? Yeah, and I respect the Nolan brothers for having strengthened their hand in this fashion. But The Dark Knight‘s burdensome aspect,for me, is the relentless spouting of cryptic noir theology by each and every major character — Batman, Aaron Eckhart‘s Harvey Dent, Michael Caine‘s Alfred, Morgan Freeman‘s mellow engineer guy, etc.
The thoughtfulness is what makes the film stand tall, yes, and yet I wasn’t moved all that much (or I was moved only marginally) by this effort. What moved me was the intelligence, the adult layering, the constant story tension, the velocity, and the refusal to..well, indulge the usual third-act finale shenanigans. But the thing that lifted me up and sent me to the velvet pleasure chamber was Greasy Madman Heath — his flicking tongue and white face and red lipstick and skanky hair and heavenly sharp-toned snarl.
I love this Carrie Rickey line from her Philadelphia Inquirer review: Boiled down, Knight asks whether “the dark and stormy knight (Christian Bale‘s Batman) can defend Gotham City from Osama Bin Gene Simmons?”
This is a good one also: “When the Joker puts the moves on Maggie Gyllenhaal‘s Rachel, it marks Ledger as the only actor to come on to both Maggie and her brother, Jake, on-screen.”
I just realized I haven’t said a single thing about anyone else’s performance. Okay, here goes. Bale is fine but on the dull side. Eckhart is actually touching at times…tragic. Freeman and Caine phone it in. Eric Roberts, playing a gangster, delivers some nice seasoning. Maggie Gyllenhaal does a fine job. There are other stirring, noteworthy supporting perfs. But the fact that I was moved to mention them out of guilt says something.
Fantasy Moguls‘ Steve Mason is reporting that the all-night shows of The Dark Knight that began late last night have earned $18.4 million. Wait…the film has made that much in the last twelve hours? This beats the midnight opening record of Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, Mason says.
I have this thing about getting to bed before the sun comes up. I got home from The Dark Knight at 4 am, and I can’t start banging out a review…not now. Okay, a few words. Some have lamented the oppressive, too-convoluted, over-labynthian pitch darkness of Chris and Jonathan Nolan‘s script. But the film is so well slapped together, you see, and committed to its Trip of Darkness, and it doesn’t really drag all that much besides so what’s to complain about? This movie knows itself, knows the turf, keeps the engine tuned, nails it all down.
Are the action sequences confusing? Uhh, yeah…they are. Like all action scenes these days. I was asking myself why they’ve gotten harder and harder to follow and sort through over the last ten years or less. I was keeping up for a while there with the Knight fights, and then I would fall behind and after a while I just said “fuck it.” But I really quite liked the way the Joker’s social experiment with the two ferry boats worked out. To me, that was the movie’s beating-heart payoff. It’s almost a kind of Obama moment.
But if that doesn’t work for you there’s Heath Ledger‘s wet mangy hair to look forward to, and what a delight that is. The Dark Knight never once pissed me off or pulled me down, and I loved the ending. But Ledger lifted me out of my seat. I fell in love with life again as I watched him — with humanity, with acting, with the whole joy-of-movies thing. Ledger brought me to tears in Brokeback Mountain, and here he was making me feel another current. And the poor guy’s dead, dammit. What a godawful sad thing. Burns right through.
Ledger’s cackle-voice voice alone made me laugh, chuckle and grin continuously. That “hiiii” he does in front of the bed of a certain hospital patient will never leave my head for the rest of my life. I’m resolved to start looking around for sound clips tomorrow and start practicing my Ledger/Joker voice so I can perform it at parties. The usual praise terms — delicious, delectable, deranged — apply to his swagger, of course, but this is more than just another nutso swan dive into frazzled delirium. It’s a piece of instant history.
I’m not feeling a second’s hesitation in saying that Ledger’s Joker is now part of the eternal firmament of legendary screen villains. Now and forever he’ll stand side by side with Robert Mitchum‘s Night of the Hunter preacher, Anthony Hopkins‘ Hannibal Lecter, Victory Jory in The Fugitive Kind, Robert Walker‘s Bruno Antony in Strangers on a Train, Tony Perkins‘ Norman Bates…who else? I can’t think anymore. I’m whipped. I’m going to bed.
It’s 12:15 am, and I’m sitting in the fourth row of theatre #14 at Universal City plex, waiting for a 35mm screening of The Dark Knight to begin. (The midnight IMAX show would have been preferable, of course.) I’m the only over-40 guy in the theatre. Jett just called from Boston, walking home from a midnight showing at the Fenway plex. “Fasten your seat belt,” he said. “The time flies right by. Ledger is phenomenal…amazing.”
Knight is my third film of the evening. Three films in a row feels like something here, but at Sundance or Toronto it’s nothing. I’ve had two king-sized Red Bulls within the last three hours. Cranked and primed.
The evening began with a Stepbrothers screening at 7:30 pm at the Sherman Oaks Arclight. I sat next to “JoMo” (the hip-hop “street” name for Wall Street Journal critic Joe Morgenstern) and talked a bit about the breaking Dark Knight reviews and poor Sydney Pollack. Nothing to say yet about Stepbrothers except that Richard Jenkins gives the funniest performance.
I next drove down to Santa Monica’s Aero Theatre to catch a 9:45 pm screening of Blake Edwards‘ Experiment in Terror, which still works in an alluring monochrome time-machine sort of way but is paced slow as molasses. I caught about 75 minutes’ worth, and then drove up to Universal City. I’ll probably bang something out when I get home around 3 am.