The Journal Sentinel‘s Duane Dudek reported yesterday that Woody Allen‘s next film, the Larry David-Evan Rachel Wood relationship thing, will be called Whatever Works. Allen called it a “a blackish comedy.” I think it’s fair to say that the title doesn’t imply this in the slightest. Generically speaking, of course.
In a piece that’s largely about Dorothy Fadiman‘s Stealing America: Vote By Vote (opening Friday at NYC’s Quad Cinemas and spreading out in August), Politico‘s Jeffrey Ressner quotes Ion Sancho, a Florida-based election supervisor who was involved in the Florida recount situation during the 2000 presidential race, as saying that Pennsylvania and Indiana are expected to be “problem areas” (i.e., states with potential incidents of vote fraud) in the coming November election.
“Pennsylvania and Indiana are jurisdictions with partisan election administrations, and that’s one of the things that the film tries to illustrate,” Sancho tells Ressner. There is a particular concern about an Indiana law that requires voters to show government-issued photo identification. “Senior citizens, young people, low-income and minority voters often lack photo IDs and, as a result, they may potentially be disenfranchised,” Sancho says.
After seeing and loving Tropic Thunder I figured Pineapple Express (which opens one week before Thunder, on 8.6) couldn’t be quite as funny, despite the many months of advance praise. I trusted the buzz about James Franco being a revelation, but that “meh” Variety review by Justin Chang lowered the expectation factor a notch or two. I finally saw it last Monday night at the Grove, in any event, and about 20 or 30 minutes in I said to myself, “Wow, this is a wee bit funnier than Ben Stiller‘s movie.”
One reason is that Pineapple Express is a classic Cheech-and-Chong-meet- Laurel-and-Hardy stoner comedy. Thunder has a flaky-surreal, stoned-in-Vietnam weirdness thing going on, but Pineapple Express is just funny-funny in a character-chemistry way, although it takes a weirdly violent detour over the last half hour or so. They’re both great rides but their funny bones have different DNA.
The reason for the infectious Pineapple humor is the dumb rapport between Franco’s Saul, a low-rent pot dealer, and Seth Rogen‘s Dale Denton, a 25 year-old joint-sucking process server who’s reasonably bright but is also fairly silly and clueless at times, especially when the heat’s on. The best parts of this film are simply about Rogen and Franco talking to each other in a room. Their back-and-forths are beautifully acted. Franco plays the sweet, not-educated, not-very-bright Stan Laurel character and Seth Rogen does the blustery, somewhat more assertive but almost-as-clueless Oliver Hardy thing. Some of their scenes together are inspired. I was levitating out of my seat.
I also love how even the bad guys in this film (i.e., big-time drug dealers and their gun-toting goons) are given quirks, personalities, back-stories, odd traits and whatnot. Everybody has a bit of a story to tell and some weirdness to spread around.
I have to split for the afternoon, but I’ll have more to say about Pineapple Express over the coming days. It’s easily the best Judd Apatow-produced comedy since Superbad. It almost erased my memories of Jason Siegel‘s jiggly man-boobs in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. If it’s legit to suggest Robert Downey, Jr.’s performance in Tropic Thunder is Oscar-worthy (and I do feel that way), it also has to be cool to talk about Franco in the same light. As a Best Supporting Actor contender, I mean. The man is dead perfect in the role. It’s easily the best thing he’s done since that TNT James Dean biopic…what was that, seven years ago?
I was interviewed Monday morning by a Washington Post writer about stoner comedies, and today she wrote back to ask my feelings about Pineapple Express. “The first three quarters makes for a bona fide classic — I would go so far as to say legendary — stoner comedy,” I wrote back.
Due respect to The Envelope‘s Tom O’Neil, but I don’t think it’s fair to characterize an argument or miscommunication between Frozen River star Melissa Leo and first-time director Courtney Hunt as evidence of Leo having had a “diva fit.” It’s fine to argue, misread, blow off a little steam. If above-the- liners don’t argue now and then during a shoot it’s probably an indication that the film will be mediocre.
O’Neil’s ire was triggered by Leo’s account of the argument in a q & a between herself and Us critic Thelma Adams in this 7.29 Huffington Post-ing. I think Tom, good fellow that he is, has made a mountain out of a molehill. I’m sorry, but there will be no dinging Melissa Leo on this site about anything. She’s too talented, too phenomenal, too world-class.
With the exception of Heath Ledger‘s performance, which they love, Lorenzo Semple, Jr., and Marcia Nasatir, a.k.a. the “Real Geezers,” have come down pretty hard on Chris Nolan‘s mega-hit. “There seems to be an attempt to say we’re living in some kind of fascist state,” says Nasatir. “The Joker seems to rule supreme the same way Osama bin Laden does…I think the director intended it to remind us of what happened to the twin towers…[but] the reason I think it’s such a success, tragically, is because of the death of Heath Ledger.”
“So I got back to my apartment and I had an epiphany,” Steve Guttenberg says to the N.Y. Observer‘s Spencer Morgan in his second hangin’-with-the-Goot column.
Morgan explains that Guttenberg had been reading Roman history about “how Mark Antony had accidentally led a ship carrying 150 soldiers to an island where they found, to their surprise, 500 enemy soldiers. But instead of allowing his men to flee, Antony burned the ship. And then they won because they had to.
“So I sat on my bed, and across from me was my pile of meaningless phone numbers of women that I’ve met,” he said. “This is 4 in the morning, Wayne Dyer and everybody says 4 in the morning is the time when the world is quietest and it’s super-spiritual — and I said, `The only way I’m going to meet terrific women [is] I have to burn the ship.’ So I took this pile of numbers and I went to the incinerator and I blessed all the women and asked them for my soul back. And I blessed it and kissed it, and I threw it down the incinerator.”
That’s a pretty good epiphany — seriously. I can count on less than five fingers the times that I’ve willingly burned the ship in order to free myself from the past and move forward unencumbered. Say what you will about Guttenberg, but these are words of wisdom.
Wait…Guttenberg also says this to Morgan: “A poet said, `Men are dumb, women are evil.’ And I think that’s partially true. I’m not a commitment-phobe — I’ve had girlfriends — but I am weary of the power of women.”
Wells to Guttenberg: What you really mean is, you can’t handle the mentality of smart, shrewd, powerful women who are A-plusses, As and A-minuses. If beautiful women who have power and pizazz make you weary and/or bring you down, then you’re going to have to accept the idea of partnering with a B or a B-minus. The best women in the world come from that group. That or you’re doomed to end up with a hot bimbo, which always leads to thoughts of suicide sooner or later.
Update: I stilll say that the new John McCain ad suggests that Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, who represent two-thirds of the dumbest, emptiest and most repulsive celebrity trifecta in the history of western civilization, are endorsing the trashing of Barack Obama. Others are saying the ad equates their shallow celebrity status with Obama’s, but that is not what this ad implies. At the very least the ad is ambiguous enough to suggest that Spears and Hilton (both of whom are known or believed to be conservative-minded) are in cahoots with the McCain campaign. Here’s the link to the official website.
I don’t know if Spears is narrating or not (doesn’t sound like her) but it’s definitely not Hilton. Anyway, the visuals are all of Obama and the narration goes like this: “He’s the biggest celebrity in the world, but is he ready to lead? With gas prices soaring, Barack Obama says no offshore drilling? And says he’ll raise taxes on [something]-tricity? Higher taxes, more foreign oil — that‘s the real Obama.”
A friend just called to suggest that the ad equates Obama’s celebrity with the legendary shallowness of Hilton and Spears. In other words, it’s trashing these two along with Obama. That wasn’t my impression at all, but to each his own. Throwing in clips of Spears and Hilton and then having a young-sounding female read the narration clearly implies they’re endorsing the ad’s negative Obama assessment
Prostitute intrigues are fairly popular these days among younger cable viewers, to judge by the existence of Showtime’s Secret Diary of a Call Girl, HBO and Darren Star‘s forthcoming Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl, Rod Lurie‘s Hillary Jones (a Showtime drama “about a woman who works as a vice cop in Los Angeles during the week and as a legal prostitute in Nevada during the weekend”) and the recent talk about Ashley Dupre (the service-provider of former New York governor Eliot Spitzer) getting some kind of a reality TV deal.
And so The Frisky‘s “Amelia” has taken this recent flurry of activity to remind that playing a prostitute almost always works out in terms of Oscars, Oscar nominations and/or glowing reviews.
Two days ago — 48 hours! — the Patrick Goldstein-Peter Bart jousting came to a temporary end with this posting from Goldstein, which I think is well said: “If Bart had read my piece more carefully, he might have noted that I praised Paramount Pictures production chief John Lesher for the quality of his films [while he was running Vantage]. The problem was that Vantage lost money on most of those movies. Because of its lack of fiscal responsibility, Vantage won’t have a chance to make many more of them.
L.A. Times blogger/columnist Patrick Goldstein; Variety editor Peter Bart
“That’s the real issue here,” Goldstein concluded. “You can make the greatest movies in the world, but if you can’t find a way to pay for them, the bean counters are going to show up some day and padlock your doors.”
“Barack Obama has enjoyed leads in the vast majority of national tracking polls, which is, of course, terrible news for the Obama campaign. Now, I’m all in favor of far less attention being paid to tracking polls, but if they must remain a fixture, no one should have to tolerate the media assigning artificial constructs to these metrics that set out to prove that leading in a poll is a disadvantage. If someone in the press knows precisely where Obama’s numbers should be at this very moment, they need to reveal their sources, or quit pretending to be so damned sure about it.” — HuffPost’s Jason Linkins in a 7.29 posting titled “Resisting The Conventional Wisdom On Polls: It’s Possible!”