I never read enough of Manny Farber‘s stuff to be able to liberally quote him or, frankly, feel all that close to the guy. If you’re talking majestic old-timers I was always more of an Otis Ferguson or a James Agee man. I always knew — recognized — that Farber was one of the great all-time film critics, but…ahhh, I can’t do this. I can’t say it like I ought to because I’m not feeling it because I’m under-informed.
All I know is that Farber was a wonderfully jazzy writer, and that he’ll always warrant respect. He died sometime Monday in San Diego, but he lived until age 91 so he had the right genes or the right diet or something.
Of all the essay-obits I’ve read this evening since coming home at 11 pm, I liked Village Voice critic Jim Hoberman‘s the most, followed by Glenn Kenny‘s on Some Came Running.
Since In Contention‘s Kris Tapley has broken the news that Rod Lurie‘s Nothing But The Truth is going to the Toronto Film Festival, and since he’s offered some favorable impressions of the lead performances (having seen a version a while back), I may as well admit I’ve also seen a not-quite-finished cut and that I feel it’s Lurie’s best, hands down.
Alan Alda, Kate Beckinsale, Matt Dillon
“Best” because it’s feels smoother and crisper and more confidently dug into the soil than The Contender or Resurrecting The Champ or The Last Castle. It’s a growth-spurt thing, a movie that says, almost with a kind of shrug, “Okay, now I really know what I’m doing.” And because each and every actor nails what they’ve been hired to do like the pros they are, and I don’t just mean the leads — Kate Beckinsale, Vera Farmiga, Alan Alda and Matt Dillon, all of whom hit triples and homers.
I also mean costars Noah Wyle and David Schwimmer and even the homie-girl actresses who play Beckinsale’s cellmates when she goes to the pound for refusing to give up a source. I mean everyone up and down. Everybody delivers, nobody “acts.”
The story and theme of NBTT won’t cause the tectonic plates to shift under your feet, but it’s not coming from that kind of place. It’s simply an efficient political drama — no small feat! — that reshuffles the cards provided by the Valerie Plame-Joseph Wilson episode. Beckinsale isn’t Judith Miller, thank God, but a hungry journalist for a major Washington Post -like daily who learns the identity of a CIA agent (Farmiga) from an unlikely source and, for reasons too complex to get into, reveals this in a front-page story.
And is soon being pressured by a tough special prosecutor (Dillon) to give up her source. And who’s counselled by a smoothie defense attorney (Alda). And who isn’t supported enough by her husband (Schwimmer). And who misses her kid(s) and is eventually carrying the cross — incarcerated, traumatized, no makeup, blue.
The film has a little bit of that Alan Pakula ’70s paranoia going on. Everyone is fairly above-board as to their actions and motives, yes, but the world of Nothing But The Truth is faintly unnerving in that one always senses what may be waiting around the corner, patiently and with a court order.
One could call NBTT a prime example of the kind of smart, middle-budget movie that producers and studio guys are making fewer and fewer of these days. I for one worship the ground films like this walk on. Lurie’s film is as good as the highly satisfying Recount, the HBO political drama with Kevin Spacey, and that’s a serious compliment. I know the marketing people always go “eeeek!” when they hear someone say this, but it’s a badge of pride and distinction.
NBTT has been well shot by Alik Sakharov — unpretentious, nicely shaded. The political tension is leavened by occasional servings of wit, humor, attitude. It feels believable in terms of milieu and even the small performances (even Lurie is good in a brief cameo), and basically has every key aspect nailed down and humming and completing the whole.
Each and every performance works, but the best, for me, is Alda’s clothes-horse attorney. (I particularly loved his work in a delicious restaurant scene with Schwimmer, which I can’t explain without spoiling.) Beckinsale’s work is absolutely her finest ever, such that I’m almost persuaded to forgive her for Pearl Harbor and those two awful vampire films. Farmiga’s anger moments are grounded and pan-fried, and I felt completely accepting of (and half-enjoying, in a perverse way) Dillon’s right-wing prosecutorial hard-ass.
And I was very impressed with a conjugal prison scene between Beckinsale and Schwimmer, whom I don’t want to overlook — he’s solid and true in every at-bat.
I came away from this film satisfied and sated (except for a slight reservation about the ending). I had read the script several months ago and yet the film played better than what I expected. That happens every so often, and sometimes the film isn’t as good as the script. All I know is that about 10 or 15 minutes in, I was saying to myself, “Okay, this is entertaining, this is very good, I’m liking each and every scene, there’s no fat, the actors are at the top of their game,” etc.
Yes, I know and am friendly with Lurie, but I know good craft and good material when I see it, and I’m sure as hell not going to sit on what I know and feel because of a reverse-blowjob concern.
On Thursday evening the remnants of the company once known as New Line Cinema — 48 people, although it could be more like 45 — will be celebrating their annual summer shindig at Sky Bar. The theme of the party, I’ve been told, is “hey, we didn’t get whacked!” Okay, I wasn’t really told that.
Something in the vicinity of 450 L.A. New Line employees were guillotined last April as part of the Warner Bros.-mandated engulfment-and-downsizing, and that’s not counting the New York staffers who were also given their walking papers. It’s an old New Line tradition to have a big summer celebration in August and also a holiday party in December. NL production chief Tobey Emmerich could have decided to cancel the Thursday party as a gesture of mourning for the chopped ex-employees, but you have to grim up and live in the now.
Bill Maher and Larry Charles‘ Religulous, the Lionsgate doc that will play at the Toronto Film Festival roughly two weeks hence but won’t open in theatres until 10.3, is now playing twice daily at Laemmle’s Claremont 5, about 20 minutes east of downtown Los Angeles. Here’s the link to the Yahoo page showing the current Claremont 5 listings, and here‘s the recording.
No reference to the crybaby musical genre — it’s just that the letters “clar” and “nt” were dark when the shot was taken.
The reason for the early booking is the Academy’s Rule 12, which states that to be eligible for a Best Documentary Feature “a documentary feature must complete both a seven-day commercial run in a theater in Los Angeles County, and a seven-day commercial run in a theater in the borough of Manhattan between September 1, 2007 and August 31, 2008.”
That means Religulous is probably playing in some out-of-the-way theatre in the Manhattan area also. No critics will be reviewing off the Claremont booking. Even though, it must be noted, N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis reviewed Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired off of a qualifying booking in a theatre in Yonkers last March.
Eleven or twelve years ago Robert Evans shared an unfortunate biological truth with me, which is that “when you get older your nose gets bigger, your ears get bigger and longer and your teeth get smaller.” This is what came back to me, in any event, when I read Elizabeth Snead‘s photo-comparison article about nose jobs.
Snead puts it thusly: “Ears and noses are made mostly of cartilage that may continue to grow as we age. So when a person’s nose is perceived by others to be getting smaller and more refined over the years, it raises question for the eagle-eyed star watchers.”
Cheers to Owen Wilson for holding back, standing his ground and not going with the flow.
I’m one of the many people in this town who are grieved to hear about manager Joan Hyler‘s traumatic accident last Friday night. She was hit by a car while crossing Pacific Coast Highway. She sustained “severe and multiple injuries” and lost a lot of blood. I called the UCLA hospital where she’s being cared for and was told to go to www.carepages.com — my first internet attempt to check up on someone in a hospital and wish them well. My best wishes to Joan. She’s always been a good egg and a kind soul.
In response to hopes that the recently finished W will show up at the Toronto Film Festival, HE talk-backer Rodrigo called this an unlikely scenario. He’s forgetting that W director Oliver Stone is a very fast editor (he whipped JFK together in near-record time). He also needs to be reminded of the production schedule of Otto Preminger‘s Anatomy of a Murder, which began shooting on 3.23.59, wrapped on 5.15.59 and opened on 7.2.59. It was later nominated for seven Academy Awards.
As one who’s reported on the shortcomings of movie-ad campaign decisions by Lionsgate marketing vp Tim Palen (such as Dane Cook‘s 8.12 complaint about the one-sheet for My Best Friend’s Girl) and voiced my own issues from time to time (like the gay-metrosexual ads for 3:10 to Yuma), I have to take my hat off and say “job well done” regarding those new W ads.
The slogan, in particular, is a bulls-eye: “A Life Misunderestimated.” (And it’s not finessed. About.com’s Daniel Kurtzman has reported that Bush said “they misunderestimated me” in Bentonville, Arkansas, on Nov. 6, 2000.) Crew Creative was hired to turn out the ads, but the final creative call always rests with the top in-house marketing guy.
Ad Age‘s Claude Brodesser-Akner is reporting that the W posters will be billboarded in Denver and Minneapolis during the respective Democratic and Republican conventions. The piece doesn’t make clear if the more swaggering poster image of Josh Brolin‘s Bush (look of calm and confidence, cowboy boots up on desk) will be used in Minneapolis while the more doofusy-looking one will be used in Denver, or if the posters are meant to be regarded side by side.
It would be great, of course, if W is on tomorrow morning’s list of the final Toronto Film Festival titles. Here’s hoping. W is opening on 10.17, or slightly more than a month after the festival concludes.
Sidenote: A page on Crew Creative‘s website takes credit for the much-maligned poster for My Best Friend’s Girl….whoops.