I once rode shotgun on a cross-country flight (Van Nuys airport to La Guardia Airport) in a 4-seat Beechcraft Bonanza. The pilot was a Russian pediatrician named Vladimir. It was a two-day trip, and I’ll never forget flying blind through heavy fog as we approached St. Louis and having to be talked down by the air-traffic controller there. You couldn’t see a blessed thing for minutes on end, and all you had to go by was the voice of this kindly, intelligent and very comforting man on the radio speaker.
And then suddenly the air-strip lights appeared, and as anti-religion as I am today and was before, I nearly wept when it hit me that the lights really do form a crucifix. William Wellman knew whereof he spoke.
“I am so sick of Anakin Skywalker. Why does George Lucas repeatedly try to shove this guy down our throats? Remember when we all loved Luke and Han? What happened to those characters? If you want to do a cartoon so bad, what about one about those guys? Nope. We get Anakin.
“Do you know why people never quite latched on to Anakin like they did to Luke? Lets see… in the future he will: kill his wife, burn Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru to death, kill Ben Kenobi, freeze Han Solo, and sever his own son’s hand. Nice guy. Well that is just gold ole’ ‘Sky Guy’ for ya. Not to mention the scene where he gets caught in that tree and swings vine to vine leading a pack of monkeys…oops, sorry, wrong terrible George Lucas sequel.” — from an 8.14 slam of The Clone Wars called “I Denounce You, Star Wars,” written by author of A Midwesterner’s Guide to Living in New York City.
Simon Pegg, who was in talks to play British Lt. Archie Hicox in Quentin Tarantino‘s Inglorious Bastards, has had to bail because of a scheduling conflict, according to a post on Pegg’s Myspace page. Pegg would have acted alongside Mike Myers, who recently signed on to play a British general. An 8.16 post on “The Playlist” stating that actors are “dropping like flies” off of the WWII film is a reference to David Krumholtz having also left the project. Two flies, to be precise.
This i-Phone shot of a horse sculpture is inaccurate in one key respect. The horse, located near the foyer of a sprawling Beverly Hills McMansion where a small party was given last night, isn’t flesh-colored but bright orange. Whoever designed the huge home, owned by a French financier-producer (and previously owned, incidentally, by the late novelist Sidney Sheldon), decided to punctuate the interior with bold orange pillows, chairs, vases and whatnot. A stunning decision, to say the least. Otherwise I encountered nice vibes, the aroma of damp grass, a beautiful back lawn, violet-colored pool water and gracious hosts.
The rule of thumb is that the best literary adaptations tend to be based on pulpy novels, or sometimes not even very good ones. (Mario Puzo‘s The Godfather being the paramount example of this.) The more formidable the reputation of the book that’s been made for the big screen, the greater the odds that the film will have problems of one kind or another. The motto, in short, is that it’s not the beauty of the prose but the strength of the bones that counts.
Truthfully or not, fairly or unfairly, that’s the general belief. And given this, it’s hard not to feel a little queasy about Sam Mendes‘ Revolutionary Road, the forthcoming Leonardo DiCaprio-Kate Winslet drama that’s based upon Richard Yates‘ hugely respected novel about suburban middle-class malaise in the 1950s.
The following words of praise for Yates’ book are what gave me pause about the film: (a) “A deft, ironic, beautiful novel that deserves to be a classic” — William Styron; (b) “The Great Gatsby of my time… one of the best books by a member of my generation” — Kurt Vonnegut; (c) “Here is more than fine writing; here is what, added to fine writing, makes a book come immediately, intensely and brilliantly alive. If more is needed to make a masterpiece in modern American fiction, I am sure I don’t know what it is” — Tennessee Williams.
Curiously missing in this minor 8.15 N.Y. Times story about Bradley A. Blakeman‘s lawsuit against the guys behind Swing Vote, claiming that it’s pretty much based on a screenplay he wrote called Go November, is an observation I made a couple of weeks ago that the basic bones of Swing State are fairly similar to Garson Kanin‘s The Great Man Votes (1939).
This is a second-hand but reliably sourced story about the currently-shooting Wolverine movie, the upcoming 20th Century Fox tentpoler that’s currently being shot by Gavin Hood (Rendition, Tsotsi) and an issue that begs the question “who’s really in charge here?” In one corner is Hood, whose once-soaring stock suffered a NASDAQ falloff last year after nobody much liked Rendition, and in the other is Fox co-chairman and CEO Tom Rothman, who’s widely known for being a very willful and meticulous micro-manager.
Wolverine director Gavin Hood; 20th Century Fox co-chairman and CEO Tom Rothman.
There was/is a huge Wolverine set being recently used. I’m not even sure which lot it was built on, but the look or mood of the set is, according to a source who was told Hood’s view of things, supposed to be on the dark, dinghy and somber side. I only know what I was told, but the basics are that Hood was away from the set for whatever reason (shooting something else, taking a day or two off), and when he returned to the big somber set he was shocked to find that it had been repainted top to bottom on Rothman’s orders. The murky-scuzzy vibe was gone, and a brighter and less downish look had taken its place.
That’s all I know, but at the very least, given my confidence in the source, it suggests that a creative tug-of-war is going on, and that Rothman, one can reasonably gather, feels a certain managerial-slash-territorial investment in the X-Men franchise (the technical name of the film is X-Men Origins: Wolverine) and believes that he, being the big Fox cheese and an inheritor of the spirit of golden-age Fox strongman Daryl F. Zanuck, is more or less entitled to make his own Wolverine calls, whether or not Hood fully concurs.
That said, the situation probably isn’t quite as cut-and-dried as suggested by this story. But I do know that Hood was utterly surprised when he got back to the set and saw what had been done.
“Penelope Cruz‘s work in Vicky Cristina Barcelona is the most bolt-out-of-the-blue performance I have seen since Daniel Day Lewis‘ work in There Will Be Blood, which, and of itself, was the most bolt-out-of-the-blue performance since Robert De Niro‘s work as La Motta,” writes an HE loyalist and successful screenwriter. “Nothing I have ever seen from Cruz quite prepared me for what was coming. In fact, no actress’s work would have prepared me for what she gave up here — the ultimate bi-polar portrayal, equally believable in her character’s moments of hysteria and tenderness.
“Woody Allen has given Cruz and costar Javier Bardem the gift of allowing them to navigate two languages within single scenes, sometimes even within phrases and sentences. Its sensational stuff and some sort of case study in reactive acting, in listening (even when she despairs in listening). VCB is loaded up with great performances, I believed every second of every look made and word uttered, but its Cruz’s show all the way.
“Give the release date of the film and my expectation that the movie will crash and burn at the box office, there will probably be no nomination for this woman. That will be an outrage we can all look back on.”
Revised, error corrected: When Tuesday morning’s final roster of Toronto Film Festival selections is announced, I for one would love to see Jim Sheridan‘s Brothers (MGM, 12.4) included. It’s a remake of Susanne Bier‘s 2004 Danish-language original about a younger “bad” brother (Jake Gyllenhaal in Sheridan’s version) stepping into the familial shoes of his older “good” brother Tobey Maguire) after the latter disappears during an enemy skirmish in Afghanistan.
Gyllenhaal, Portman, Maguire
Natalie Portman plays the wife-mother whose loyalties shift, or at least adapt to new realities. Sam Shepard plays the gruff and disapproving pater familias, the father of Gyllenhaal and Maguire. David Benioff (The Kite Runner, The 25th Hour) adapted the screenplay.
Over the last couple of days I’ve written and called Sheridan (who’s in town) to ask if Toronto might happen, and I’ve heard nothing back. I asked incoming MGM marketing guy Mike Vollman, who said something along the lines of “I haven’t heard” or something like that. I also asked MGM corporate guy Jeff Pryor and he, too, claimed ignorance of the particulars, etc. You can interpret these three guys saying nothing as an indication of something or not. Probably not, I’m guessing, but it’s only 72 hours to Tuesday morning.
Tobey Maguire (middle), Natalie Portman (r.) talking to unidentified hooded figure on set of Brothers.
How is a reasonably intelligent person supposed to bridge the gap between Religulous (Lionsgate, 10.3), the Bill Maher-Larry Charles doc that portrays religions as a source of endless worldwide idiocy, ignorance and acrimony (a view I personally embrace), and the spectacle of today’s civil forum discussion (5 to 7 pm) at the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, between John McCain, Barack Obama and pastor Rick Warren?
The answer is to put aside the miraculous dream of a world without religions and settle into the idea that Obama could (a) diminish the idea among some evangelicals that he is a Manchurian Candidate Muslim anti-christ, and (b) that, being by all statements and appearances a more sincere and devout Christian than McCain, Obama could manage to siphon off enough evangelical votes to help alter the final tally in certain swing states.
Warren “is an anti-abortion Southern Baptist who is nonetheless part of a shift away from the religious right’s strict focus on abortion and marriage,” one summary states. “The environment, poverty and education have also become pressing concerns, especially for younger evangelicals.
“Warren is best known for building Saddleback Church into a 23,000-member megachurch in Lake Forest, Calif., and for writing the multimillion-selling book The Purpose-Driven Life.
“But he and his wife, Kay, are also leading advocates for HIV/AIDS victims worldwide. They have invested enormous resources in their PEACE Plan, now under way in Rwanda, which aims to combat corruption, illiteracy and other social problems through church partnerships with government and business.
This weekend, I’m thinking, things might have finally slowed down enough to allow me to impulsively see The Dark Knight in IMAX. It’s important to be able to see a film on a whimsical spur of the moment basis. You need to be able to just saunter up the box-office 15 minutes before showtime and buy a ticket and get in, with any of the bullshit.
- All Hail Tom White, Taciturn Hero of “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Roughly two months ago a very early draft of Eric Roth‘s screenplay for Killers of the Flower Moon (dated 2.20.17,...More »