An anonymous buyer whose judgment is usually on-target has shared the following about some Toronto Film Festival entries that are up for grabs, or were up for grabs until recently:
Richard Linklater‘s Me and Orson Welles: So-so. The first half drags a bit too much. Christian McKay gives an incredible performance as Orson Welles but it’s not enough to save the film.
Davis Guggenheim‘s It Might Get Loud: A fun rockumentary. Sure to enjoy a long life on DVD and TV.
Lance Daly‘s Kisses: Dark, gloomy, and a bit fucked-up for a movie about two kids spending a night on the mean streets of Dublin. Could have been so much better…
Darren Aronofsky‘s The Wrestler: Great, fantastic and downright sublime, although it will be a very tough to sell to the immature (pathetically so) U.S. movieger. Fox Searchlight was the perfect choice to distribute. Hopefully, it will enjoy a bountiful Oscar run.
Richard Eyre‘s The Other Man: A disaster. The biggest cinematic trainwreck of the festival. It had so much potential but the last act is one of the worst pieces of garbage ever assembled on-screen.
New York, I Love You (anthology film, many directors): Very cute and funny. The best segments belong to Brett Ratner (a nice surprise) and Yvan Attal.
Stephan Elliott‘s Easy Virtue: Surprisingly not bad. A bit of editing in the first act could turn this one into a potential surprise hit. Jessica Biel‘s performance is — no kidding — a comedic revelation.
Watching Kathryn Bigelow‘s The Hurt Locker is like having your heart operated on by a construction worker wielding a power pneumatic nail-driver. And the high-voltage stuff, which happens often, is, no joke, on the level of the armed creature-hunting and creature-evading sequences in Aliens, the classic 1986 thriller directed by Bigelow’s one-time-squeeze James Cameron. Where are the monsters, will they rise up and kill us when we round the next corner, and do we have a chance of killing them first? Except this time the monsters are just lying there, waiting to go fuck-you-bluh-doom!
Hurt Locker star Jeremy Renner
I had a couple of minor issues and confusions, one of them to do with the not-good-enough ending, another about the identity of a minor character who seems to die and then perhaps is alive later on. But you can’t sweat the small stuff.
Set in Baghdad and the full maelstrom of that godforsaken conflict, this is a full-power throttle, nail-biting, bomb-defusal suspense film that gradually becomes a kind of existential nerve ride about the risk and uncertainty of everything and anything, plus an explanation of the addiction that war is for some guys who go through it and can’t quite leave it alone.
The Hurt Locker is absolutely a classic war film in the tradition of Platoon, The Thin Red Line, Pork Chop Hill, Paths of Glory and the last 25% of Full Metal Jacket, and it damn well better be acquired by someone and set for release sometime between now and 12.31. Because I’m getting tired of this shit.
Something is very wrong with life, the world, human nature and the film business when a movie this knock-down good is still hunting for distribution. I’m obviously aware of all the Iraq War films that died last year but this movie is something else. You don’t shun movies like this. If you’re a distributor and that’s your judgment — walk away, we can’t sell it, we’ll lose our shirts — then you need to get out of the movie business and start selling refrigerators or cars. A buyer told me a little while ago that it only cost about $15 million or less. How could the numbers not work?
This is a huge bounce-back for Bigelow, whose career has been on a low-flame for the last five or six years despite the fine, tight chops she showed on K-19: The Widowmaker (2002) and The Weight of Water (’00). This is unquestionably her best film ever. It’s also a great boon for Jeremy Renner, who plays the lead role Staff Sergeant William James, a bomb-defusing risk junkie. It’s a solid plus for costars Anthony Mackie and Brian Gerahty, and an occasion for three strong cameos by Guy Pearce, Ralph Fiennes and David Morse.
There is no “wrong” or “right” judgement about any film, but now that I’ve seen The Hurt Locker I’m stunned that Variety‘s Derek Elley could have panned it the way he did, calling it a hellish thing to sit through, and one that says nothing new about the Iraq War U.S. troop experience, and that it takes too long to get to the point (such as it is). What did Elley see over there? Was he on painkillers?
Mark Boal‘s screenplay is based on his first-hand experience with with a bomb squad in Baghdad sometime in ’04 or ’05. I loved that it doesn’t tell a carefully structured story with some kind of problem that has to solved or catharsis built into the third act. What it is, mainly, is a kind of you-are-there docudrama — feel it or run from it but this is what’s it really like, hombre.
There are something like six or seven action-suspense scenes, but what moves it along, simply, is character. Renner’s risk addiction, Mackie’s alarm at this tendency (and then his gradual acceptance and even submission), Gerahty’s shock and horror at what he encounters almost every day.
Hurt Locker costar Anthony Mackie
The movie starts to get classically emotional a little less than hour in when Renner becomes friendly with a young Arab kid named “Beckham” (Christopher Sayegh). The next beat in this bond shifts into a dark and tragic gear about 25 or 30 minutes later.
I don’t want to reveal too much here, but the only thing that didn’t feel quite right was a close-to-the-end sequence when Renner goes home to his (divorced?) wife and kid, and right away we can spot the familiar syndrome of the war veteran who can’t quite settle down and groove with a midle-class, comforts-of-home lifestyle. I don’t want to register a major complaint about this; it doesn’t work against the film as much as it fails to add anything significant.
This is probably the best film I’ve seen at the Toronto Film Festival so far. And to see it I had to blow off my last shot at seeing The Wrestler as well as a 12 noon press screening of I’ve Loved You For So Long, which I’ll at least be able to catch tomorrow night. But no Wrestler, dammit! Sorry, Darren Aronofsky, for this twist of fate. Hoping to see it very soon back in Los Angeles.
Yesterday morning MTV.com’s Casey Seijas reported from the Toronto Film Festival that he’d spoken with Michael Caine — here to talk about Is There Anybody There? — and that Caine is persuaded that Johnny Depp and Phillip Seymour Hoffman are the top candidates to play the Riddler and the Penguin in Christopher Nolan‘s next and final Batman film, which will be shot…what, two or three years from now?
“They’ve already got them in mind,” Caine reportedly said. “I read it in the paper.” That admission right away would seem to throw out the authority and/or legitimacy of Caine’s observation, except that he also allegedly said that “he confirmed the news through the studio itself.”
Assistant: Mr. Robinov? Michael Caine on the line!
Jeff Robinov: What’s he want?
Assistant: He’s calling to confirm whether or not we’re absolutely and finally inclined to hire Johnny Depp and Philp Seymour Hoffman for the next Batman movie.
Robinov: Sure, whatever…tell him we like those guys. Wait a minute, let me pick up. Put him through. [Click] Michael? Howza boy?
The principle reason for the McCain-Palin surge in the most recent Gallup and Zogby national polls, to hear it from one CNN analyst this morning, is the under-educated, blue-collar older female vote. A lot of these gals, many of whom were Hillary Clinton supporters previously, have fallen for Palin largely because she’s (a) female, (b) feisty and (c) being attacked or looked down upon by the snooty liberal media for her teenaged daughter becoming pregnant out of wedlock — an occurence that tens of thousands of not terribly bright or inquisitive Walmart moms can apparently relate to.
What hope can there be for anyone — for any of us, for the fate of this country — when an election decision of this magnitude is being made by a large portion of the citizenry on the basis of female identity, gut character assessment and cultural lifestyle issues alone, and absolutely no attention paid to Palin’s record or beliefs, her being inadequate to the task of the Presidency, her hypocrisy, her alleged “sambo beat the bitch!” line, her appalling views on nearly everything (global warming, eradicating polar bears, teaching creationism, an apparent interest in banning certain books from her local library)?
On top of which it shows that gender is all with these incredibly wise and perceptive women. Hillary, Sarah…what’s the difference? Does it matter all that much who a candidate is, her beliefs about what government should or can do for its citizens, he kind of policies and priorities that she stands for? Just vote for the woman candidate because she’s one of us, and because she’s stand-up tough like you have to be in this world.
“For what it’s worth, I was at [last night’s 6 pm screening] of The Hurt Locker and liked it quite a bit,” writes Newark Star-Ledger critic Stephen J. Whitty. “I’ve always liked Kathryn Bigelow (and yet strangely, Point Break least of all) and thought this one not only hit all her old themes (male bonding, the rush of risk, loyalty vs duty) but also managed a take on this war I haven’t seen before.
“I agree it’s going to be a challenging sell down the road, but this really is one of those iraq war movies that’s not about the Iraq War. It’s about “what do you do when your boss is an adrenaline junkie?” The guys in it could just have easily been cops or firemen or John Ford cavalrymen.”