MCN’s Len Klady has called Mike Leigh‘s Happy-Go-Lucky (Miramax, 10.10) “a miracle.” I don’t know about that. No, I do know about that. I know how this very well-made movie made me feel. It made me feel like I was in a jail cell with Bobby Sands, but eating really good food.
HGL is a very “together” and confidently made film. It knows itself and what it’s up to. Leigh, after all, is one of the finest directors around; he has been for a couple of decades. And as I wrote last month, Sally Hawkins‘ performance as the cheerful and indefatigable Poppy is a full-on inhabiting, and she brings it all home in the last 15 to 20 minutes with quiet maturity and resigned grace.
But for some of you, the Poppy character will feel like an absolute horror. She certainly felt that way to me. I explained it all before. Here’s the 8.26 piece.
Some Vanity Fair editors threw together a list of the 25 best documentaries of all time, and they don’t mention the Oscar-winning The Times of Harvey Milk? Which is hands down one of the most emotionally affecting films ever made (i.e., including features). And they blow off Grizzly Man? And Sicko? And Que Viva Mexico? And…forget it. These guys weren’t that serious.
The November 4th writing is on the wall, many if not most never-say-die righties are admitting to the likelihood of Barack Obama’s election, and John McCain, who surely understands the math, has one decision to make: does he go down slimy or does he go down clean? Because if something terrible happens, God forbid, it’s not just McCain who will have blood on his hands — it’ll be the rightie-kook wing of the Republican party
He could decide to stop the inflammatory hate rhetoric and winking at (or certainly doing nothing to discourage) yahoos yelling “traitor!,” “terrorist!” or “kill him!” about Obama, and talk instead about vision-identity stuff — dreams and designs, can-do policies and things that have always mattered to him deep down. He could become, in other words, a Reaganesque right-wing soul man. He’d still lose, but he would at least have a semblance of honor to call his own, which he has all but forfeited since the Wall Street crisis began and he began his angry, erratic, low-road, stirring-up-the-wackjobs thing. (Not in the debates but on the trail.)
David Gergen, appearing on Anderson Cooper 360 last night [and excerpted in the video above], said that “one of the most striking things we’ve seen in the last few day, we have seen it at the Palin rallies and we saw it at the McCain rally today, and we saw it to a considerable degree during the rescue package legislation. There is a free-floating sort of whipping-around anger that could really lead to some violence. And I think we’re not far from that.”
Someone yelled “traitor!” again today during a McCain speech. Big John said nothing to calm down the vibe. He has fallen so far, so deep into the pit
The Envelope‘s Tom O’Neil has posted another Oscar prediction chart. The participants voted big for Frost Nixon. They include Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers, the Daily Beast‘s Tom Tapp, Richard Rushfield of LATimes.com, The Envelope‘s Mark Olsen, Variety.com’s Jeff Sneider, T.L. Stanley of the Hollywood Reporter, In Contention‘s Kris Tapley and Star magazine’s Marshall Fine.
My Tuesday chat with W. director Oliver Stone at the Four Seasons. And here‘s the press conference with Stone, Josh Brolin, Scott Glenn, Richard Dreyfuss, Rob Corddry, Thandie Newton, Elizabeth Banks, James Cromwell. There’s a bizarre moment at the beginning of the press conference recording when an electronic fire alarm goes off.
W. director Oliver Stone at the Four Seasons — Tuesday, 10.7.08, 6:15 pm
I just wrote L.A. Weekly critic Scott Foundas about an interesting terminology matter that’s cropped up over the past week or so. It’s basically about the 21st Century definition of porn, or rather the expanded cultural “street” definition that doesn’t apply to sex. I love chasing new terms and understandings, but I’m not quite 100% on all the wrinkles here so I’m asking for counsel.
“I was amused by and posted a comment from a reader who said that Revolutionary Road “looks to be the Citizen Kane of Gen X marital-strife porn.” It may be that a certain party on the DreamWorks marketing team has taken this as a slam against the Sam Mendes film, which it isn’t. What ‘porn’ means in this context is (and tell me if I’m wrong) an obsessive waist-deep immersion in any intense or demanding or melodramatic activity, be it war or Wall Street or baseball or politics or anything.
“In your L.A. Weekly review of Body of Lies,” I continued, “you used the term ‘terror porn,’ which came from a colleague who had amusingly used this term to describe the entire wave of recent Middle East Hollywood espionage movies — Syriana, The Kingdom, Rendition, Body of Lies. Does this mean your friend regards these films as somehow lewd or marked by questionable taste? Not unless you’re Ed McMahon. He’s saying they’re extremely immersive, whole-hog experiences. I mean…right?
“Does ‘porn’ in this context allude to something obsessive or repetitive? I’m not sure if it does. What do you think? I’ve only been using this term recently. I do know that the older crowd flinches when they hear it, presuming that it means something icky or distasteful. A journalist friend has this same reaction yesterday, but he’s now coming to terms with the new definition.
Foundas replies: “Basically, I think ‘porn’ when it is used in the context of ‘terror porn’ (per the colleague I cited in my Body of Lies review) or “disability porn” (as I referred to Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) or even ‘torture porn’ (which is probably where all these other ‘porn’ derivations started) has less to do with obsession and repetition than with a certain superficiality or tastelessness — in other words, the idea that the thing being classified as ‘porn’ is somehow being used shamelessly to manipulate or titillate the audience, without any serious comment being made on the subject at hand.
“So the person who says that Revolutionary Road looks like ‘the Citizen Kane of Gen X marital-strife porn’ probably means to imply that somehow the iconography of middle-class domestic unrest is being used for its iconographic value and little deeper meaning. Of course, it’s partly an inane comment, in that Revolutionary Road takes place in the 1950s, so it has nothing whatsoever to do with Gen X, but I digress.”
[Wells comment: I took the GenX thing to mean an allusion to Kate and Leo’s own generational alignment, although the reader may have cooked it up in ignorance of the ’50s backdrop in Revolutionary Road.]
“To offer another example, I myself tried to address some of what you seem to be getting at here in my LA Weekly review of Grace is Gone last December, where I wrote:
“[Strouse has] devised Grace Is Gone to work on our sentiments the way a porn movie works on our libidos — only Strouse postpones the money shot with 80-odd minutes of emotional foreplay en route to the inevitable, orgiastic climax where Stanley finally spills the beans and the girls spill forth the entire contents of their tear ducts. It’s a horribly contrived bit of catharsis, and, as if to underline the crassness of his instincts, Strouse drowns out the dialogue of that crucial scene with music — a reminder that, in all pornography, talk is expendable.”
Wells response: If Foundas’ definition of porn (“shameless manipulation or titillatation of the audience, without any serious comment being made on the subject at hand”) is more commonly understood than my own (“an obsessive waist-deep immersion in any intense or demanding or melodramatic activity”) then it was wrong — incorrect — to run that “Citizen Kane of GenX marital-strife porn” line because no one’s seen Mendes’ film and has any clue if it’s shamelessly manipulative or not. I rather doubt that it is, knowing Mendes’work as I do. So it’s probably best to drop it and put the whole porn issue to bed.
Film Experience guy Nathaniel R. wrote to say he’s glad I liked his redo of the Blob poster, which I posted last week. Also glad to see I’m still championing Things We Lost in the Fire. But he doesn’t get where I’m coming from at all with Rachel Getting Married, which he feels is the best of the year thus far.
And I wrote back that while I admired and enjoyed much of Rachel Getting Married, I couldn’t accept it as anything other than an expression of director Jonathan Demme ‘s soul and sensibility and world view. Which is fine as far as it goes. It’s just that the wedding doesn’t seem to be actually happening in Stamford, Connecticut, or any other recognizably “real” milieu for that matter. Any more than the characters behave in a way I would consider familiar, at least as far as the under-written (or non-written) African American characters are concerned.
The whole shebang is basically taking place in Demme Land, which to me is no different than Munchkinland or Emerald City. Cool places, engaging people, color and verve…but only tangentially related to the planet Earth.
People in Demme Land are very highly alert and attuned. Their hearts are light and gay, and their eyes are almost always sparkling with joy or full of feeling, and sometimes moist with tears. They laugh and pass along witty lines. They’re spunky but sincere types, and very inquisitive. When they’re in a crowd they have this irrepressible tendency to open their hearts and souls and let it all pour out. They kind of twitch and go “ooh!’ a lot. They drink good wine and serve each other healthy food and drive sensible Priuses and Volvos. I would much rather hang with these people than, say, the family of Sarah Palin but they’re still bothersome in some respects.
There’s nothing much to add to Patrick Goldstein‘s story (posted late yesterday afternoon) about powerhouse producer Scott Rudin walking away from The Reader (Weinstein Co., 12.12), the David Hare-scripted WWII drama with Kate Winslet.
I know that Rudin and Reader director Stephen Daldry are allies and amigos, having worked together on The Hours (which was also written by Hare). And that Daldry is pretty much on his own in the rush to finish The Reader in time for the early December release date that Harvey Weinstein has been pushing for all along. On top of which Daldry has also been directing the Billy Elliot musical on Broadway, which is currently in previews.
Rudin has been “embroiled for weeks in a nasty squabble with Weinstein over the release date of the film,” Goldstein notes, and “has [finally] decided to quit the project and take his name off the film. The two men have had a very contentious public feud over Weinstein’s insistence that the film be released this year for Oscar consideration.
“Rudin and Daldry had insisted they needed more time to finish the picture. After intense negotiations, they eventually agreed late last month that, in return for Weinstein putting up more money for round-the-clock editing, scoring sessions and optical work, Daldry would finish the film in time for a Dec. 12th release.
“In recent days, negotiations had apparently taken a turn for the worse. Upset with Weinstein and worried that many of his long-standing talent relationships would be harmed, Rudin decided to separate himself from the project. Daldry remains contractually obligated to complete the film, though it’s uncertain of how he will complete the film without Rudin, a longtime collaborator with both Daldry and Hare.
“There have been constant rumors that the Weinstein Co., whose hits have been few and far between, has financial problems which may have contributed to Rudin’s departure. It’s also possible that the two men simply can’t put their personal differences aside long enough to get the movie into theaters. Whatever the root cause, this is another body blow to The Reader, which loses a strong producer who is always a major force during awards season. Rudin will continue as producer of two other year-end pictures, Revolutionary Road and Doubt.”
A trusted Manhattan guy tells me the Weinsteins are relying on producer Donna Gigliotti to be their onsite person as far as working with Daldry and his editing crew on the completion of the film. Except Daldry and the entire team “despise her,” “won’t deal with her” and “regard her as a [Weinstein] stooge.”
Movie production people love their conflict dramas, of course. On any shoot or post-production push people always seem to be spreading the word about this or that person being a stooge or a stopper or an enemy figure of some kind, or at least into giving each other dagger looks. So the Daldry-Gigliotti thing is just another variation on a theme.
Newish one-sheets for a pair of major year-end releases came through yesterday — the Australian-market poster for Baz Luhrman‘s Australia (which opens in Oz on Thursday, 11.13, according to the IMDB, preceding its Wednesday,11.26 U.S. release by 13 days) and a fresh image — less communal, emphasis on Daniel Craig’s studliness — for Ed Zwick‘s Defiance (Paramount Vantage , 12.12). The latter was exclusively previewed late yesterday afternoon by Kris Tapley‘s In Contention.
Ed Zwick’s Defiance (Paramount Vantage, 12.12); Baz Luhrman’s Australia (20th Century Fox, 11.26)
There’s something a bit unusual about the Australia poster, or the fact that the eyes of the embracing Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman are both shut tight. This indicates something besides just intimacy and bonding — it indicates relief (having recently experienced serious trauma, one gathers) and Kidman-Jackman communing with some inner aspect of themselves as much as with each other. It doesn’t just say “I love and need you” — it says “whew, thank God we got through that one!” and “let me just hold you and imagine that our troubles are no longer waiting around the corner and ready to pounce.”
They look scared or shaken up. Actually, the more I look at the poster the more Jackman looks like he’s sleeping.
It seems, in a word, vaguely unmanly for Jackman, who seems to be taking comfort in Kidman’s embrace the way a 3 year-old boy would take comfort in being held by his mother. Real Men Never Close Their Eyes — they keep their eyes at least half open in case predators are lurking about. As Marlon Brando‘s Don Corleone put it, “Women and children can be careless, but not men.”
Look at any number of passionate-lovers-embracing images from past films and posters, and you’ll find that most (or the vast majority) shows the male with eyes half-open or slitted. The only other love-embrace poster I can think of in which both partners’ eyes are closed is the Warren Beatty-Diane Keaton Moscow train platform poster for Reds. (Come to think, you can’t see Beatty’s eyes in that image, but the implication is there.)
I’m not saying embracers don’t close their eyes in real life — of course they do. All I know or feel is that Jackman looks wussy with his eyes closed. He seems to be going “mommy, mommy.” Or nodding out on something.
Here’s a larger image of the Defiance poster plus a larger Australia. And here’s a recent Defiance trailer.