“Gov. Sarah Palin, Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, McCain spokesperson Nancy Pfotenhauer and Rush Limbaugh have revealed that there is a measurable portion of this country that is not interested in that which the vast majority view as democracy or equality or opportunity. They want only control and they want the rest of us, symbolically, perhaps physically out.
“‘We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington D.C.,’ Gov. Palin told a fund-raiser in North Carolina last Thursday, to kick off this orgy of condescending elitism. ‘We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation.’
“Governor, your prejudice is overwhelming. It is not just ‘pockets’ of this country that are ‘pro-America’ Governor. America is ‘pro-America.’ And the ‘Real America’ of yours, Governor, is where people at your rallies shout threats of violence, against other Americans, and you say nothing about them or to them.”
Fans of downmarket torture-porn gore films, I mean. Okay, you can be a clever educated film buff and like this stuff (I respect Eli Roth‘s chops in some respects), but the blood, screams and disembowelment genre is primarily aimed at the animals out here. C’mon, we all know this. The point is that they go these films to have their souls frozen solid with fear and to be grossed out by arterial gushings, mutilated bodies and severed heads. And in a way that not’s predictable…right?
Most horror fans will be going to Saw 5 this weekend, and I realize they can’t be stopped from doing so. They should know, however, that Let The Right One In, the other horror film opening on Friday, will do it to them in a way they’ve never seen before. Here‘s David Ansen‘s review in the current Newsweek:
“Let the Right One In is both a coming-of-age tale and a love story. The pale, lonely, 12-year-old protagonist, Oskar (Kare Hedebrant), is a serious, solitary boy constantly picked on by his schoolmates. He retreats into fantasies of revenge, collecting newspaper clippings of violent crimes.
“Then, in the snow-banked courtyard of his apartment complex in the suburbs of Stockholm (circa 1982), he meets Eli (Lina Leandersson), a strange, unkempt, raven-haired girl who walks barefoot in the snow and doesn’t feel the cold. ‘I’m not a girl,’ she warns him, skittish of starting a friendship. Indeed she’s not — she’s a vampire, eternally frozen at age 12, and dependent on an older man who’s not a vampire (perhaps her father, perhaps not) who kills for her, and brings her the blood of his victims to sustain her eternal life.
“Before he realizes what she is, young Oskar falls in love. He asks her to go steady. Wanting to seal his love, he cuts his hand to share his blood with hers — and we freeze in anticipation of how she’ll react to the sight of his bleeding hand. It’s a breathtaking scene but, like everything in this haunting film, it tilts genre expectations on their sides. By the time Oskar figures out Eli’s true nature, it’s too late to turn off his feelings. She’s transformed his life — she teaches him to defend himself, she’s pierced his solitude and there’s no turning back.
“Grave, melancholy, romantic, with bursts of off-beat comedy, Let the Right One In unfolds with quiet, masterly assurance. It’s based on a bestselling Swedish novel by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote the screenplay. He and his talented director don’t deny us the genre’s grisly thrills (strikingly but always obliquely staged), but it’s their psychological acuity that draws the deepest blood: this is a prepubescent love story for the ages.”
I forgot to respond to Tom O’Neil’s latest Gold Derby Oscar prediction query. I tapped it out just now and then wrote him and asked if I could be put in on a last-minute basis. Here”s the current rundown as of 10.20.08 at 4:48 pm:
BEST PICTURE: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount/Warner Bros.); Revolutionary Road (Paramount Vantage/DreamWorks); Gran Torino (Fox Searchlight), Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) and Milk (Gus Van Sant)
BEST DIRECTOR: David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button); Sam Mendes (Revolutionary Road); Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino), Gus Van Sant (Milk).
BEST ACTOR: Leonardo DiCaprio (Revolutionary Road); Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler); Brad Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button); Richard Jenkins (The Visitor); Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon).
BEST ACTRESS: Kristin Scott Thomas (I’ve Loved You So Long); Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married); Melissa Leo (Frozen River); Angelina Jolie (Changeling); Meryl Streep (Doubt).
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight); Alan Alda (Nothing But the Truth), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt), Robert Downey, Jr. (Tropic Thunder), Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road).
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Taraji P. Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button); Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona); Rosemary DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married); Elsa Zylberstein (I’ve Loved You So Long); Hiam Abbass (The Visitor).
The new-movie battle this weekend will be between High School Musical 3: Senior Year (88, 22 and 7 — almost totally under-25 females drawn in by Zac Effron) and Saw 5 (63, 44 and 15 — tracking very well with younger males).
Gavin O’Connor‘s Pride and Glory (Warner Bros.), easily the best movie opening this weekend, is running at 54, 29 and 3. Weak.
The following week Clint Eastwood‘s Changeling (Universal — opening limited on 10.24, wide on 10.31) makes its big play for mainstream America. Right now it’s running at 65, 34 and 5.
The Haunting of Molly Hartley (also 10.31) is tracking at 34, 31 and 1, and Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno is at 53, 34 and 5
The two 11.7 wide openers are Madagascar (83,.39 and 7), Role Models (34, 30 and 2) and Soul Men (42, 32 and 1) costarring Samuel L. Jackson and the late Bernie Mac.
Just a reminder that Cristian Mungiu‘s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days came out on DVD last Tuesday, and that those who missed it in theatres…you know the rest. Set the time aside, make some popcorn or order in some pita and hummus, open a bottle of white wine, sit down with a significant other and pop it in. It’s a landmark film, an unmissable classic.
Six years ago I wrote a short piece about a very touchy anatomical subject for my Reel.com column. I happened to come across it again today. It struck me as a very odd thing, and yet truthful. This is a slow news day so I’m re-posting with add-ons and modifications. The subject is why feet are almost never given close-ups in movies.
“Has anyone every wondered why directors and their cinematographers almost never include close-ups of actors’ feet in movies? Because 90% of human feet are strange and alienating, is why. But it goes farther than that. For me, bare feet are a contemporary pestilence that no culture since the sandal-wearing Greeks and Romans has had to deal with. Once upon a time sandled feet were a subject for light mockery, something that only eccentric beatniks went for. Exposed digits have been ubiquitous, of course, in warm weather months since the mid ’60s. I for one regret it.
“Nobody talks about it, but everyone understands. In real life all but the most unusually perfect feet are good for a glance at best, and should rarely be contemplated further. This goes double for the movies. Hands, kneecaps, ear lobes, fingers, noses, biceps, chest hair (or lack of) — these and others anatomical features are routinely displayed in films. But never feet.
“Well, almost never.
“There’s a close-up of Michael Keaton and Geena Davis‘ bare feet soaking in a fountain in Ron Underwood‘s relationship comedy Speechless (1994). An argument could be advanced that this insert shot was one of the reasons it bombed. I remember recoiling in my theater seat after glancing at those gleaming, well-pedicured nubs and deciding I would give Speechless a failing grade.
“The only tolerable close-up of feet I can recall happens about a half hour into Nicholas Ray‘s King of Kings (1961). Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus Christ is walking in the desert and looking for spiritual purification, and at one point the camera cuts to a shot of his bleeding feet stepping on sand and cactus thorns and sharp stones. Hunter’s feet (or maybe Ray used a foot double?) looked good to me — lean, tanned, athletic, perfect pedicure.
“Having bad feet can really mess with the aura that an attractive or extra-talented movie star has carefully built up. One definition of bad feet are feet with extra-long European-styled toes. New York writer Pete Hamill once described the toes belonging to Nastassja Kinski‘s for an interview he did with her in the early ’80s as ‘bad toes.’ So I’m not the first one to bring this up.
“The following actors, in my opinion, have either unappealing feet or bad toes: Meg Ryan (too long and bony), Terence Stamp (I noticed his bulbous toes after catching a restored print of Pasolini’s Teorema), Debra Winger (too-long toes) , Diane Keaton (ditto), and British actor Robert Newton. I distinctly remember not being pleased when Sam Mendes showed us the balls of Kevin Spacey‘s naked feet in a scene in American Beauty.
“The list is short for the simple reason that most directors are careful not to give audiences even a glimpse of these bare appendages.
“Bad feet can even mess up a stage performance. I remember cooling on British actor Stephen Dillane‘s performance in a Broadway revival of Tom Stoppard‘s The Real Thing because he was shoeless throughout most of the play, and because his toes were knobby and protruding.
“Is it allowable to acknowledge how unfortunate it is these days that virtually every American woman walks around these days in open-toed shoes or sandals, and that a good 70% should probably consider alternatives? I’ve seen some women’s feet that are drop-dead beautiful, but these are the exception. Most of the female feet I see are so-so or okay, at best. Some are close to dreadful. Most men over the age of 35 or 40 should just forget about going barefoot or wearing sandals, period.
“Every time I see a friend or acquaintance approach on a street or in a mall and I notice they’re wearing sandals, a little part of me dies inside. Or at the very least grims up and prepares.”
Kim Voynar‘s Film Essent blog is now up at Movie City News. Kim hopes “to see many of you over there getting into some great discussions on film, politics, feminist issues and what-have-you.” (Somebody has to tell me what “essent” means, aside from being a re-imagined root of “essential”).
It’s incredibly rare when a main-title sequence simultaneously (a) uses a very cool pop song, (b) is stylistically sharp and creative, (c) introduces the characters, (d) tells you a little bit about who the lead character is, and (e) manages to be smart and entertaining with exactly the right attitude (i.e., one that agrees with and expresses the milieu and spiritual world of the characters).
When’s the last time any film managed to do all these things in a single credit sequence? I’m not saying it hasn’t happened in the last ten or twenty years. I’m saying it’s not coming to me.
Lance Hammer‘s austere, somber, incontestably over-praised Ballast has snagged four nominations for the upcoming Gotham Independent Film Awards, which will be held 12.2 at Cipriani Wall Street. The snooty elites have embraced this low-key atmospheric mood piece since it played at Sundance ’08. I saw it there (i.e., at the Eccles) and went “uh-huh…okay…fine.”
Cipriani Wall Street
I’m not saying Ballast doesn’t deliver a nicely immersive sense of reality, or that it doesn’t deliver credible, first-rate art-film chops. I’m saying I don’t get the critics who’ve wet themselves after seeing it. Ballast never really got hold of me. It’s like a cross between an early Lars von Trier film and a Cristian Mungiu Romanian film (and that’s a good thing to see from an American filmmaker) but without the gathering intrigue. I kept saying to myself, “This is it? This is what Robert Koehler is doing cartwheels over?” As Armond White wrote, “It’s simply another calling-card movie establishing the director’s credentials.”
Here are the nominee GIF Award nominees and my pick about who (or what) should win:
BEST FEATURE: Ballast, Frozen River, Synecdoche, New York, The Visitor, The Wrestler. Suggested HE Winner: Tom McCarthy‘s The Visitor. Runner-up: The Wrestler.
BEST DOCUMENTARY: Chris & Don: A Love Story; Encounters at the End of the World, Man on Wire, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, Trouble the Water. Suggested HE winner: James Marsh‘s Man on Wire. Runner-up: Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. Special HE Standout That Wasn’t Nominated But Should Have Been: Patti Smith: Dream of Life.
BEST ENSEMBLE PERFORMANCE: Ballast — Micheal J. Smith, Sr., JimMyron Ross, Tarra Riggs, Johnny McPhail; Rachel Getting Married — Anne Hathaway, Rosemarie DeWitt, Bill Irwin, Tunde Adebimpe, Mather Zickel, Anna Deavere Smith, Anisa George, Debra Winger ; Synecdoche, New York — Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams, Catherine Keener, Emily Watson, Dianne Wiest, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Hope Davis, Tom Noonan; Vicky Cristina Barcelona — Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz; The Visitor — Richard Jenkins, Hiam Abbas, Haaz Sleiman, Danai Gurira. Suggested HE winner: If it’s finally a question of which ensemble cast seems the most grounded and penetrating without conspicuously “acting,” the winner has to to be The Visitor team. Runners-up: the Rachel Getting Married crew minus Tunde Adebimpe, who basically just stands around and smiles and good-vibes everyone.
BREAKTHROUGH DIRECTOR: Antonio Campos, Afterschool; Dennis Dortch, A Good Day to Be Black & Sexy, Lance Hammer, Ballast; Barry Jenkins, Medicine for Melancholy; Alex Rivera , Sleep Dealer. Suggested HE winner: What the hell, give it to Hammer. Runner-up: Alex Rivera.
BREAKTHROUGH ACTOR: Pedro Castaneda in August Evening; Rosemarie DeWitt in Rachel Getting Married; Rebecca Hall in Vicky Cristina Barcelona; Melissa Leo in Frozen River; Alejandro Polanco in Chop Shop; Micheal J. Smith, Sr. in Ballast. Suggested HE winner: Rosemarie DeWitt. (I love Melissa Leo’s work in Frozen River, but how is she a breakthrough type? She’s been around the track a few times.) Runner-up: Alex Rivera.
BEST FILM NOT PLAYING AT A THEATER NEAR YOU: Afterschool, Antonio Campos, director; Meadowlark, Taylor Greeson, producer/director; The New Year Parade, Tom Quinn, director; Sita Sings the Blues, Nina Paley, producer/director; Wellness, Jake Mahaffy. Suggested HE winner: No opinion.