I’ve been looking at some of my old Mr. Showbiz columns for the last half-hour or so and was struck by this particular “What’s My Line? query. They were fun, these things. But a pain in the ass to select and transcribe.
Guy No. 1: Are you a beer drinker, sir, or would you like to share a martini with me?
Guy No. 2: A martini? Oh, that would be… I’d love a martini.
Guy No. 1: I think you’ll find these accommodating. They’re quite dry.
Guy No. 2: Don’t you use olives?
Guy No. 3: Olives? Where the hell d’ya think you are, man?
Guy No. 1: We do have to make certain concessions to [the situation we find themselves in].
Guy No. 2: Yes, but a man can’t really savor his martini without an olive, you know? Otherwise, you see, it just doesn’t…quite…make it. (Plop.)
Both The Atlantic‘s Andrew Sullivan and Daily Kos‘s “rickrocket” wondered aloud today about the origin of John McCain‘s “cross in the dirt” story, which the presumptive Republican candidate repeated yesterday during his Saddleback Church discussion segment. Sulllivan and “rickrocket” aren’t making firm claims, but they’re both noting that the story is remarkably similar to one recounted by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago (or perhaps in Burt Ghezzi‘s The Sign of the Cross — one or the other).
“I loved The Prestige but didn’t understand The Dark Knight,” Robert Downey, Jr. said to a Moviehole correspondent two weeks ago. “Didn’t get it, still can’t tell you what happened in the movie, what happened to the character and in the end they need him to be a bad guy. I’m like, ‘I get it. This is so highbrow and so fucking smart, I clearly need a college education to understand this movie.’ You know what? Fuck DC comics. That’s all I have to say and that’s where I’m really coming from.”
As the intensely despised Stars Wars: The Clone Wars opened this weekend to a kind of half-dud response ($15 million and change), and since it’s been called the absolute end of the road by many a longtime Star Wars fan, I thought it appropriate to rewind nine years and three months to the first major display of Star Wars prequel-mania.
I was off the boat like that after seeing The Phantom Menace, but to think that it took others nine years to come to the realization that bloated Beelzebub George Lucas had spiritually destroyed his own franchise while making money hand over fist is amazing. Nine years of holding on and keeping the faith, and for what?
I’ve scanned five pages of my Mr. Showbiz article, which ran in early May 1999 and which I called “The Fandom Penance.” Here are page #1, page #2, page #3, page #4 and page #5.
Here’s hoping or presuming that Enrique Rivero‘s Parque Via, which today won the top prize at the Locarno Film Festival, will turn up at the Toronto Film Festival. If it’s already been programmed or listed, great — I just haven’t found it yet. Which means nothing. Here’s Derek Elley‘s Variety review.
Parque Via helmer Enrique Rivero
The old Siskel and Ebert movie-review show was the first to teach hoi polloi film lovers that “the argument was the thing — that art itself was arguable, and that was okay,” Chicago Tribune guy Christopher Borelli said today.
“Ebert still writes dazzling reviews for the Sun-Times that make complicated points in approachable language, as does [Michael] Phillips, for the Tribune. Richard Roeper continues as a Sun-Times columnist. And there are more than a few thoughtful voices left in criticism, of course — outside Chicago, even.
“But it’s hard to overstate the importance of a nationally syndicated TV show that speaks up for small fine movies without marketing budgets and reinforces names such as Werner Herzog, Robert Altman and Spike Lee and, oh, say, a David Gordon Green. Indeed, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that for a generation or two of moviegoers, it was Siskel and Ebert who introduced the idea that good criticism is not about finality or consensus or putting your thumb up or down.
“It’s about argument itself.
“The irony, of course, is that it wasn’t so long ago that Ebert and Siskel themselves and those opposing critical digits were often raised as the primary catalyst in the dumbing down of film criticism. But I bet for the average everyday moviegoers who rarely think beyond ‘I liked it’ or ‘I hated it’ and who rarely consider aesthetics or polemics or politics when they go to a multiplex, the end of the original incarnation of At the Movies will feel like the finale of film criticism itself.
“The argument has ended. The informed movie review can be placed officially on the endangered species list. On TV, let’s just declare it extinct.”
I keep expecting Barack Obama to say something electric or wowser when he’s interviewed, as he was yesterday by Pastor Rick Warren during yesterday’s Saddleback Church civil forum. It’s not that he lacks charm or feeling when he speaks, or that he fails to express his beliefs plainly or concisely. I guess I’ve just heard him speak so often that he holds no surprises. He can’t not be careful. Not that I expect him to be cavalier. Not in this rancid predatory climate.
I know he’ll probably make history when he delivers his big closing-night speech in Denver, which will happen a week from this coming Thursday. I guess I’m just easily bored because whenever he speaks off the cuff, he always seems to go for the bunt. What I’d like to hear him say, I suppose, is something Eric Rothian or Tom Stoppard-esque or early David Mamet-level. Zappers, zingers, sliders. As it is now I feel like I know what he’s going to say before he says it, and it’s always right across the plate. And more often slow than fast.
As for the content of yesterday’s Saddleback discussion, I’m more or less with Zennie Abraham.
“What is widely known is the skin-deep, out-of-date McCain image,” writes N.Y. Times columnist Frank Rich in an 8.17 column. “As this fairy tale has it, the hero who survived the Hanoi Hilton has stood up as rebelliously in Washington as he did to his Vietnamese captors. He strenuously opposed the execution of the Iraq war; he slammed the president’s response to Katrina; he fought the ‘agents of intolerance’ of the religious right; he crusaded against the G.O.P. House leader Tom DeLay, the criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff and their coterie of influence-peddlers.
“With the exception of McCain√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s imprisonment in Vietnam, every aspect of this profile in courage is inaccurate or defunct.”
The Criterion guys are coming out with a restored high-definition digital transfer DVD of Martin Ritt‘s The Spy Who Came In From The Cold (1965). And as much as I respect and appreciate this company and their first-class efforts, my first thought when I read about this was “uhhm…what for?”
It’s not as if the existing DVD, which Paramount Home Video put out in July 2004, is anyone’s idea of poor quality or underwhelming or whatever. It allegedly suffers from dirt and scratches, but it’s never caught my attention, much less bothered me to any degree. All I knew when it came out is that the PHV DVD was a big improvement over the godawful versions that had played on the tube in decades past.
The Criterion web page for their Spy Who Came In From The Cold disc says that their “new high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35 mm composite fine-grain master positive,” and that “thousands of instances of dirt, debris, and scratches were removed using the MTI Digital Restoration System.” Okay…if they say so. I sound like a rube who doesn’t get it, but I know the difference between so-so and high-quality monochrome, and the Paramount DVD is a lot closer to “very good” than “good enough.” By my standards, at least.
The Criterion disc extras sound to me like the usual upscale fellatio. They include (a) new interviews with original book author John Le Carre and cinematographer Oswald Morris; (b) The Secret Center: John Le Carre (2000), a BBC documentary on the author’s extraordinary life and work; (c) Acting in the ’60s: Richard Burton, a 1967 interview with the BBC’s Kenneth Tynan examining the actor’s performances and accomplishments; (d) a gallery of set designs; (e) a theatrical trailer for the film; and (f) a booklet featuring a new essay by critic Michael Sragow and a reprinted interview with Ritt.
I may as well post an mp3 of Oscar Werner‘s summation speech to the East German tribunal, even though I’ve posted it at least once before. I love his pauses, particularly after he says “with the advantage of hindsight”; I love the way he says “quite” and his decision to use the word “grotesque” to describe an erroneous conclusion; I love the way he respectfully cautions the tribunal not to fail to appreciate the “full bestiality” of a crime committed by a rival East German agent.
An HE reader saw Jim Sheridan‘s Brothers, which I briefly discussed yesterday. I asked him to elaborate and he did, but I found his claim that Tobey Maguire‘s performance is the “revelation” as opposed to Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman‘s, whose performances he described as “sweet.”
Maguire plays the solid, responsible, hard-wired husband-father who’s captured by the bad guys during a skirmish in Afghanistan and is thereafter presumed dead; Gyllenhaal plays his younger, irresponsible, substance-abusing brother who gradually begins to take Maguire’s place with his bereaved wife (Portman) and the kids. (There were two girls in Suzanne Bier‘s 2004 original, or so I recall.)
“Teeem” claims to have attended a test screening at Sony a month ago. “I also saw [Bier’s] original Brothers a year ago, [after which] Sheridan himself questioned the audience for feedback about what they liked and didn’t like, what would work better, etc. That’s why i was especially interested in seeing what he did with it. He ignored or couldn’t work in my comment to him about the KIA/MIA problem, which was also in the original.
“I felt the original was a bit weak, reminding me of Things We Lost in the Fire. I did fall in love with Connie Nielsen, but didn’t buy the military character as portrayed by the lead from The Celebration, which I absolutely loved.
“Jake and Portman were sweet; Sam Shepard adds a small but interesting motivation that i don’t remember from the other version; Tobey is the revelation.”
Here’s another mediocre old film that not even bad-movie buffs are likely to ever see or even think about it (except for the brief blip afforded by this item) due to the 99% certainty that it’ll never see the light of a DVD or Blu-ray release. There are hundreds if not thousands of films that exist on this nowhere level, and yet their titles and artwork once blazed from super-sized marquees and wall paintings on Times Square, causing talk and suspicion and hoo-hah. Here’s Edward Margulies‘ review, stored in the Movieline archives.