Why am I the only one who seems to be enjoying the emotional catfights and verbal spitballing that’s been going on between MSNBC’s Keith Olberman, Chris Matthews, Joe Scarborough, etc.? For me, flying fur on a news channel is great entertainment and doesn’t happen enough.
Tom Brokaw reportedly said that Olbermann and Matthews have “gone too far.” Wrong — that’s an older guy talking about the old days. Chris and Keith are right in tune with what’s going on in media culture. If you’re not some kind of advocate willing to put your cards on the table, you’re really not in the game. Exactitude and fairness are essential but true neutrality has never existed. Be who and what you are. Own up to it. No apologies.
Remember when newsmen used to play the role of the dispassionate pundit, trying to fit that classic avuncular Edward R. Murrow mold, intelligent thoughts expressed so carefully, striving to seem neutral but essentially conveying the spirit of conservative corporatism? That stuff doesn’t go now. We’re living in a talk-back, let-fly, tit-for-tat realm, and big media news guys aren’t Gods with a special access to the truth of things and the temperament to share it — they’re just smart beat reporters with good jobs and great sources. Not educators or pundits or ordained ministers as much as as intellectual fighter pilots in the catbird seat.
I see the mild acrimony between the MSNBC guys (which has hardly been constant — wer’e only talking about a few incidents) as livewire entertainment in the confessional, caustic, let-it-all-hang-out vein of Peter Finch‘s Howard Beale in Network. And it reflects the intensity and immediacy of today’s blogging culture — know what you’re talking about but let it out, don’t hold back, shoot from the hip.
We all know that Fox News shills for the the reptilian ogres of the right and serves as the home base for creature-feature neocons…lizard tails, sulfur breath, flicking tongues, the “beast.” And we all recognize the need for balance. MSNBC delivers solid professional reporting and first-rate analysis but the commentary and the personalities, bless ’em, are what they are — “unfairly” slanted, aimed at smart, well-read lefties, and what of it? We need Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity antidotes.
I love the energy of MSNBC — it’s my place to hang and get riled up about the other side. It’s like sitting in on a lively political discussion at the family dinner table. I love Chuck Todd, Rachel Maddow, Pat Buchanan, the Newsweek commentators and everyone else who drops by, Mike Murphy included. Scarborough has the wrong attitude but he’s okay. I loved what he said in the wake fo Kerry’s defeat in ’04 about the youth vote “always leaving you at the altar.”
And yet I strongly dislike David Gregory — he constantly slips the negative into his Obama questions and commentary. He’s a shithead at heart. And I despise Tamron Hall, not that she matters in the greater scheme.
In 30 seconds, this Heineken ad (a) shows us that our hero is a resourceful quick-thinker, and capable of grace under pressure, (b) suggests a complex emotional history between the hero and the brunette involving at least one previous beer-soaking, and (c) allows us to imagine that despite the humiliation, the guy just might make out with the blonde. She’ll be guarded for the rest of the date, but she can’t ignore the fact that the guy took his soaking, smiled and shrugged it off.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain decided on a running mate early Thursday,” the AP’s Liz Sidoti reported a little while ago, “and one top prospect, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, abruptly canceled numerous public appearances. Without explanation, Pawlenty called off an Associated Press interview at the last minute, as well as other media interviews in Denver, site of the Democratic National Convention. The Arizona senator will appear with his No. 2 at an Ohio rally on Friday.”
Slate‘s John Swansburg has just posted a piece asking readers to divulge which Netflix movie they’ve hung onto the longest without actually watching. He’s referring, of course, to DVDs people have rented for purposes of nutrition or artistic intrigue (a 1950s Samuel Fuller film, say, or or an Iranian film that Scott Foundas or Robert Koehler have done back-flips over) rather than something in the way of straight entertainment, easy emotional comfort (Howard Hawks‘ Only Angels Have Wings) or sleazy-cheesey exploitation.
“It happens to all Netflix subscribers eventually,” writes Swansburg. “Your buddy the film buff drags you to a revival of Antonioni‘s L’Avventura. To your surprise, you find yourself rapt. Upon returning home, you log in to your Netflix account and move La Notte, the second film in Antonioni’s ennui trilogy, to the top of your queue. It arrives a few days later, just as L’Avventura‘s spell is starting to wear off.
“You watch Anchorman instead. You totally still want to see La Notte …but now you’ve mailed Anchorman back and here is Ghost Rider— starring Nic Cage! La Notte can wait. And it does. For weeks. You’re never quite in the mood to watch it, but you can’t quite bring yourself to return it, either.
“Back in the days of the late fee, there was no shame in returning a movie unwatched. You had every intention of settling in for an evening with Jean Renoir, but then the dog ate a Lego, there was a great rerun of Frasier on, and next thing you knew the tape was due at the video store. Oh well. With Netflix, sending a disc back unviewed feels like an admission of failure. You thought you had the patience to sit through Interiors. Turns out you didn’t.”
The David Fincher tribute aside (which will include a short reel of scenes from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), does this year’s Telluride Film Festival contain the most underwhelming, least exciting slate of all time? A Telluride fest without at least one oh-wow Oscar derby contender than no one’s yet seen is a stiff, and this one, the 35th, seems to have earned this distinction.
Eugene Hernandez pic stolen from today’s Indiewire story about Telluride
I can feel the flatline mood already and I’m sitting at a desk in West Hollywood, hundreds and hundreds of miles from this beautiful, peak-shrouded hamlet in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.
What do we have besides the Fincher tribute? Mike Leigh‘s well-made but also (for me and many others) infuriating Happy-Go-Lucky, four well-respected Cannes entries — Bent Hamer‘s O’Horten, Matteo Garrone‘s Gomorrah, Ari Folman‘s Waltz With Bashir and Steve McQueen‘s Hunger — plus Tim Disney‘s American Violet with Alfre Woodard and Paul Schrader‘s Adam Resurrected, which some people are afraid of due to concerns it may play like a cousin of Jerry Lewis‘s The Day The Clown Cried.
Variety‘s Michael Jones has reported that “with limited slots over four days, the fest didn’t invite Jonathan Demme‘s Rachel Getting Married or Clint Eastwood‘s Changeling.” Does that make any sense to anyone? The absence of Demme’s film is a head-scratcher as it would have fit right in with this crowd. (I’ve seen it.) Jones also reports that Sam Mendes‘ Revolutionary Road, John Patrick Shanley‘s Doubt, Gus Van Sant‘s Milk and Oliver Stone‘s W weren’t finished.
“Last year was one of the strongest for American film,” co-director Tom Luddy has told Jones. “But this year I didn’t get any calls from Warner Independent, Picturehouse, Vantage. They’re gone.” Luddy also thinks the writers strike could have played a role in delaying projects.
The sneaks may include Danny Boyle‘s Slumdog Millionaire and Marc Abraham‘s Flash of Genius, which will both play Toronto.
N.Y. Times guy Michael Cieply has written a kind of handicap piece about the various films showing at the Toronto Film Festival — what they’re offering or looking for, their commercial potentials, etc. But Times editors always softball such pieces — they’ll allow implications of what’s doing but no blurting it out. So let’s give Cieply’s article the old shake, rattle and roll.
Tim Robbins in Neil Burger’s The Lucky Ones
Warner Bros. is “hoping” that Gavin O’Connor‘s Pride and Glory — a first-rate, fiercely acted drama about a conflicted cop family — “will generate excitement for a much-delayed Oct. 24 release.” Cieply doesn’t mention that less than three weeks ago WB honcho Alan Horn was also hoping to sell Pride and Glory, or was, at least, “open to offers.”
As I wrote yesterday, the people behind Steven Soderbergh‘s two-part Che have until today done an excellent job of convincing Toronto-covering journalists that they’ve all but thrown in the p.r. towel. I learned this morning that Canadian publicists GAT + M.LINK will be handing duties for the film in Toronto, so good for that. Cieply has written that “the producers of Che are finalizing a deal for United States distribution, their spokeswoman said.” Aaah, but this year? And if so, in time for the Oscar derby?
Charlie Kaufman‘s Synecdoche, New York didn’t find a distributor in Cannes because — get real — buyers knew ticket-buyers would run in the opposite direction of a movie whose title they can’t pronounce. At best, it’s an uphill commercial prospect. And yet it’s a high-end, smart-person’s drama that has some truly transcendent aspects (including a great sermon about the spiritual deflation of dealing with the 21st Century human condition).
Neil Burger‘s The Lucky Ones, about a trio of Iraq veterans on a bittersweet cross-country journey, is looking for festival support to build up interest in a 9.26 release by Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions. It’s a fine little road film (decent story, well acted) but even Burger wouldn’t claim that it’s trying to tap into serious groundwater or unleash ultra-passionate or disruptive currents in the American psyche. It’ll gather some positive reviews, but indie flicks of this sort — let’s face it — don’t tend to get a super-size bounce when they show at festivals. But it’s better to play at Toronto than not.
Darren Aronofsky‘s The Wrestler, currently without a distributor, and Jonathan Demme‘s Rachel Getting Married, a Sony Pictures Classics release, are described by Ciepley as “works by directors in peak form.” No comment yet on the Demme, which I’ve seen and agreed to not write about until next week, but I wrote before that I’m not looking forward to looking at Mickey Rourke‘s plastic-surgery-mangled face for 110 minutes or whatever in the Aronofsky.
Cieply notes “the kind of big studio releases — Michael Clayton, Walk the Line, Ray, etc. — that in the past used Toronto to start Oscar campaigns “are “in relatively short supply” this year.
And yet there are two films that “may fit the mold”in this respect, he writes — Marc Abraham‘s Flash of Genius, with Gregg Kinnear as a Tucker-like the inventor of the windshield wiper, and Spike Lee‘s Miracle at St. Anna, about a group of black soldiers in Italy during World War II. No offense, but I’m not detecting any “gotta see this” heat from these two at all. Which doesn’t mean things can’t change next week.
Joel and Ethan Coen‘s Burn After Reading got panned yesterday in Venice and is looking at a murky or at least uncertain Toronto reception as a result. The upside is that it has nowhere to go but up.
I have an issue with Fox Searchlight’s The Secret Life of Bees sight unseen due to the presence of Queen Latifah in a lead role. I made a blanket declaration last year about steering clear of all Queen Latifah movies for life unless something miraculous happens. Of course (and this is what I love about movies), that’s always a possibility..
“The divisions of the major studios who have released ‘art-house-type product’ have poisoned the market by spending so much money to advertise those movies,” indie producer Ira Deutchman has told Cincinatti City Beat‘s Jason Gargano. “It’s become impossible for people with smaller movies to compete, and that’s just thrown the whole market out of whack.
But — get this — the demise of the dependents may be a half-good thing, Deutchman feels.
“One of the things, frankly, that makes me slightly optimistic is that the studios seem to be retrenching a little bit right now. The fact that Picturehouse and Warner Independent have been put out of their misery and the fact that Paramount Vantage has been folded into Paramount, if it reduces the amount of companies that are actually spending that kind of money, it might actually reopen the market a little bit.”
A guy who’s been sub-contracted to finesse issues with Movable Type 4.0 (and with Typekey, blah-blah, whatever) is tied up with other stuff and can’t attend to repairing the problem we’re now experiencing with reader comments until later in the day. Or maybe not until this evening. He might want to catch a movie after work and then pick up some groceries. So whatever I write today, there’s going to be lots of “0 Comments” until the problem is fixed. One question: How did “Richardson” manage to post two replies this morning in response to “Rollover”?
Hollywood Elsewhere has switched servers — happened last night — and of course the usual uh-ohs and “oh, wow…we didn’t think of that” stuff is now being dealt with. Like enabling the new Movable Type 4.0-whatever software to post reader comments. Once again quoting Mickey Rourke‘s felon character in Body Heat as he tells William Hurt not to commit a capital crime: “There are fifty ways you can screw up, counsellor, and if you can think of 35 of them you’re a genius.”