The Weekly World News is reporting that the Alien has switched his endorsement from Barack Obama to John McCain, which they call “a shocking reversal with major implications for the U.S. presidential election.” Both political camps “are buzzing about the implications,” the newspaper reports, “as the Alien has correctly predicted the winning president in every election for the past 28 years.”
Federico Fellini‘s La Strada delivers one of the saddest and most fully satisfying endings in cinema history (providing you see the entire film before it), and surely one of the most penetrating moments ever from Anthony Quinn. He’s hearing words as clearly as Charlton Heston did when he knelt before the burning bush in The Ten Commandments. Did Lars Von Trier “steal” from this in a sense when he decided on the heavenly bells visual at the end of Breaking The Waves?
Barack Obama‘s half-hour infomercial Wednesday night didn’t teach us a lot we didn’t already know, ” Slate‘s Christopher Beam wrote tonight, “except that an Obama administration would likely feature immaculate stagecraft.
“The spot opened with a shot of — I’m not making this up — amber waves of grain. Obama reiterated his plan to cut taxes for families making less than $250,000 in a softly lit room in front of an oak desk. He explained his Social Security plan to moist-eyed retirees in what could have been a church vestibule. Then a guy behind a register tells Mark Dowell, a laid-off auto worker, the price for groceries. The camera cut to Dowell, scowling, in a way that could not have possibly been live. Not to mention the well-coordinated switch to Obama’s live address in Florida, with sweeping cameras straight out of a Rolling Stones concert movie.
“Improved artifice easily fits under the banner of ‘change.’ Some of President Bush’s worst political moments came from poorly executed stagecraft. Dressing up as a fighter pilot and standing before a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner was the epitome of tone deafness. Bush’s team also goofed in allowing him to be photographed looking down at post-Katrina New Orleans. Optics aren’t everything, but Bush’s visual flops were especially damaging.
“And it’s not just choreography that matters: It’s making the choreography look effortless. Tonight’s episode featured all sorts of shots that simply had to be rehearsed: a couple praying before dinner, a mother walking out of a grocery store toward a fixed camera, a woman with arthritis massaging her knuckles. You can imagine the cinematographer saying, ‘Can you pray a little longer this time? OK, now try moving your mouth a little.’ It’s heavily choreographed.
“But the production quality is high enough that the transitions are almost invisible. It’s the opposite of George H.W. Bush‘s famously clunky statement to the people of New Hampshire in 1992: ‘Message: I care.’ The trick is not to let the seams show.
“Smart propaganda does not a smart administration make. If anything, it means we have to be more vigilant in calling out theater when we see it. But whatever the next four years may bring, we’re in for some damn good camera angles.”
In Benjamin Schwarz‘s Atlantic website review of David Thomson‘s Have You Seen…? (Knopf, 10.14), the book’s basic prejudice is explained. That is, the single-page entries are Thomson’s favorites. “But he also writes about many pictures he can’t stand,” says Schwarz, “including the 1959 Ben-Hur (“Has anyone made a voluntary decision to see [it] in recent years?”), Kramer vs. Kramer (a work of “inane studied gentility”), and Rain Man (“the smug movie of a culture charging down a dead-end street”).
“All of these films won the Oscar for Best Picture, so the reader might assume that Thomson has gathered both movies he esteems and ones he judges influential commercially, culturally or otherwise.”
I have willfully watched Ben-Hur at least twice over the past year, and would gladly see it again if I could catch it in 70mm in Berlin. Rain Man is a tolerably okay film, partly due to Tom Cruise‘s performance, especially in the last act. And I can watch Kramer vs. Kramer anytime and not have an enema. It’s got Dustin Hoffman‘s most likable performance, Howard Duff as the attorney with the silver-tapped cane (“Well, does she talk to walls?”), the guy who fires Hoffman at lunch (forgot his name), Jobeth Williams in an affecting little cameo, Jane Alexander in a near-great supporting part, etc.
Politico‘s Jeffrey Ressner reported a little while ago that Joe the Plumber — i.e., Samuel Wurzelbacher — is “being pursued for a major record deal and could come out with a country album as early as Inauguration Day.” Don’t stop there! What about using Joe to play Mr. Clean in TV ads? (Seriously.) How about a reality show about Joe trying to make his way? Trying to pay back taxes, raise the dough to buy the business, etc.
Wurzelbacher has “just signed with a Nashville public relations and management firm to handle interview requests and media appearances,” Ressner adds, “as well as create new career opportunities, including a shift out of the plumbing trade into stage and studio performances.”
The climax of the final interview between David Frost and Richard Nixon in 1977 came when Nixon said the following about his Watergate legacy: “I let down my friends, I let down the country, I let down our system of government and the dreams of all those young people that ought to get into government. I let the American people down. And I’ll have to carry that burden the rest of my life.”
Richard M. Nixon; George W. Bush
It hit me as I was watching the Nixonified Frank Langella say these words in Frost/Nixon (Universal, 12.5) that for his all his venality and paranoia, Nixon — a very intelligent and knowledgable fellow by even the yardstick of his enemies — at least had the character to admit this. Who believes that George Bush, Jr. will ever say anything similar?
Every indication is that Bush will go his grave before saying anything like the following: “I not only misled the country but shamed the office of the Presidency by lying and fabricating our way into the Iraq invasion, by turning the huge Clinton surplus into a massive deficit, by ignoring the Kyoto Accords and hastening the onset of global warming, by presiding over a the creation of a new class of super-wealthy Americans that undermined middle-class economic security, by sitting in that Florida classroom like a chump after hearing about the WTC attacks, ” etc.
George Hickenloooper (Factory Girl) and R.J. Cutler (The War Room) have put together an upcoming documentary series about Denver mayor John Hickenlooper (George’s cousin) called Hick Town. Below is a 156-second teaser that includes a private moment between Mayor Hickenlooper, Senator Barack Obama and co-director George. Get out the vote, watch the show, cheer on the mild-mannered mayor, etc.
Hickenlooper-the-director describes Hick Town as “a high-end reality series about a big city Mayor keeping his office and town together. Think a real life version of Spin City or The Office. The first five episodes were shot while John (who Time ranked one of the top five Mayors in America) hosted the Democratic National Convention and dealt with everything from bomb threats to assassination plots to overly eager marijuana enthusiasts to stray dogs. This is a fun show that puts a very human face on public service.”
Hick Town is executive produced by Cutler, Donald Zuckerman and Jeff Chianakas. It was directed by George Hickenlooper. The show will premiere on a soon-to-be-named major network.
“I’ve had just about enough of the patronizing bullshit of Kris Tapley,” writes And The Winner columnist Scott Feinberg. The fight began with Feinberg’s responding to my quickie Milk reaction post last night, which led to Tapley bitch-slapping Feinberg over something he wrote and then it was off the races. I’m just passing this along, okay? I’m not in this.
“Incidentally, who the hell is [Tapley]?,” writes Feinberg. “We’re about the same age, we both started covering the Oscars in the same place, we’ve been doing this for roughly the same length of time, and — acknowledging something that he won’t — we both know our stuff, which is why we’ve both had opportunities to contribute to the websites of mainstream outlets. The difference is that Kris has lost perspective and actually believes he’s a big-shot now, and that everyone else is merely a pee-on whose opinion is less worthy than his own.
“Kris didn’t like that this web site was generating attention on other Oscar sites, and he particularly didn’t like that I periodically e-mailed the Oscar other bloggers links to interesting pieces/or scoops of mine (just like they did to me), so he removed a link to my site from his blogroll. Eventually, he restored a link to AndTheWinnerIs, but he has never linked to The Feinberg Files, even though I linked to both InContention and Red Carpet District (R.I.P.). But, hey, it’s his right.
“What’s really perplexed me is what I ever did to Kris that led him to completely blacklist my name or anything to do with me from his site — except to snidely note, as one of his news-recap items the week I was hired to do a new blog, that “The Los Angeles Times has hired an east coast outsider and called it awards coverage. Well, we wish him well.’
“Look, Kris obviously has a problem with me, although we’ve never met and I’ve never done anything to him. I’ve kept this between Kris and me until now, but his complete eruption over a two-sentence harmless observation that I shared on Jeff Wells’ site is absurd and rather pathetic. It makes me wonder if we’re dealing with a Captain Queeg type of personality here… maybe Dan White is more fitting. (Kidding.)
“But you’ve gotta admit that it takes some chutzpah for Kris, of all people, to be this condescending to anyone.”
I’ve been otherwise engaged (which is sometimes a euphemism for “lazy”) but let’s get down to this, link-wise: (a) Stephen Zeitchik‘s 10.28 Hollywood Reporter piece about the alleged “Milk marketing conundrum” (which broke late yesterday evening as I was on my way out of the Milk screening and on my way to the Frost/Nixon one); (b) the angry response from Focus Features honcho James Schamus; and (c) a comment from Nathan Lee that echoes back into what Devin Faraci has raised today.
One of the things that’s striking a lot of people about Milk is how regrettably timely it is right now, with Proposition 8 (i.e., eliminating gay marriage) on the ballot in California. Which makes you wonder if the movie should have been released before Election Day as a way to organize people to vote this measure down. In the view of CHUD’s Devin Faraci, in the 30 years since Harvey Milk died we really haven’t come very far in terms of gay rights.