Earlier today the Guardian‘s David Thomson, a longtime admirer and recent biographer of Nicole Kidman, asked if Ms. Frozen Forehead is “becoming box-office poison.” Becoming?
“The best sequence in The Wrestler, even more likely to lodge in your mind than the soaring sadness of the climax, takes place not on the wrestlers’ canvas, with its carpet of blood and broken glass, but at the deli counter of the supermarket,” writes New Yorker critic Anthony Lane in the current issue.
Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler
“Here Randy (Mickey Rourke), needing the money, dons a protective hairnet and doles out pasta salad. He even pins on a name tag that says ‘Robin,’ randiness being too rich for this clientele. The dent to his pride is profound, more wounding than any professional blow to the head, and the scene closes in agony, as he takes out his frustration on a meat slicer.
“But here’s the thing: while the job lasts, he’s pretty good at it, bringing a brief shaft of pleasure to the customers, and suffering any taunts that come his way. What Rourke offers us, in short, is not just a comeback performance but something much rarer: a rounded, raddled portrait of a good man. Suddenly, there it is again — the charm, the anxious modesty, the never-distant hint of wrath, the teen-age smiles, and all the other virtues of a winner.
“No wonder people warmed to Randy Robinson twenty years ago. I felt the same about Mickey Rourke, and I still do.”
“Though Slumdog Millionaire has a hoary plot device, the kind of narrative armature that could have come out of the vaults of Warner Brothers five decades ago, the ability of Danny Boyle to find both the movie and the humanity in that story make it a tough Oscar competitor,” says N.Y. Times Oscar guy David Carr, a.k.a., “the Bagger.”
“[Still], the more Slumdog Millionaire rolls, the harder the push-back will get. Nothing is writ. And it won’t be long before we start hearing, ‘Sure, it was a darling movie, a surprise really, but that third act? Please.'”
That’s exactly the opposite view I have of Slumdog Millionaire. It’s a buzz-kick movie but also a rough one to get through because of all the cruelty and violence visited upon the lead character (played in his adult years by Dev Patel) in the first and second acts. It’s hard, it’s a chore, but then along comes that third act and the film starts to sing. The third act saves it, and the train-station finale knocks it out of the park .
Boston Herald critic Jim Verniere informs that the Boston Film Critics will vote this coming Sunday, and yet he can’t get get his hands on a screener for Steven Soderbergh‘s Che, or one for Rod Lurie‘s Nothing But The Truth. If I were IFC I would have rented a room and have a big Che screening for the whole Boston gang.
Update: IFC, I’m told, “did send the Boston Film Critics screeners by priority mail,” and that its mailing house “did send a copy to Verniere a while ago.” They are nonetheless “overnighting him a new screener today,” I’m told. “These things happen but it is not on purpose.”
No offense, but the people who’ve been slamming Gran Torino have their heads up their posterior cavities. Or maybe just broomsticks. They sure don’t seem to understand the legend and the mythology of director-star Clint Eastwood, which is what this film is mainly about (apart from the sections having to do with love, caring, guilt, moral growth and father-son relations). But to watch and fail to get this thing is to admit to a failing — a void — in your own moviegoing heart. Anyone who mocks this film, I mock them back double.
Set in a lower middle-class Detroit neighborhood, Gran Torino is a plain, straight, unpretentious…okay, a tiny bit hokey-here-and-there racial-relations drama by way of an older conservative sensibility — Clint’s, obviously, but also, it seemed to me, John McCain‘s. Get off my lawn, etc. McCain needs to see it and review it for the Huffington Post — seriously. That would be perfect.
It’s an old-fashioned film in that the pacing is gradual and methodical in a good 1962 way, but primarily this is a clean, disciplined, older-guy’s urban western — a kind of growly, sardonic, at times lightly comedic racial-relationship drama. But also a sad and fatalistic Shane movie about a morally compromised guy facing down the baddies at the finale. Light and darkish, brusque and kindly, spitting up blood. Old-guy angst, doubt, warmth, uncertainty, fear-of-death, fear-of-life, family– the whole magillah. What’s to dislike?
Popcorn-wise, this is a doddering Dirty Harry vs. evil-ass gangbangers conflict piece, except it takes its time getting to the Big Showdown parts and there aren’t that many of them to begin with. Like Shane, GT keeps the guns holstered and makes every shot count.
But the confrontation scenes in this vein are awfully damn satisfying because we’re watching the same old Harry, a little weathered but just as fierce as he was nearly 40 years ago, standing up and refusing to take any shit from any cheap-ass punks. But at the same time Walt Kowalski — i.e., Clint’s character — is the kind of guy who’s always letting slight little shafts of light in as he deals with and talks to others. The kind of light, I mean, that comes in odd underhanded ways. Blunt honesty, kindliness, vulnerability, consideration, and tender-gruff father-son conversations, etc. Tough sentiment, but not sentimentality.
Either you get and cherish the Clint thing, or you don’t get and cherish the Clint thing. There’s no third way. Either you understand that he makes films that sound a certain way, share a certain pictorial signature, are cut a certain way and unfold at a certain pace — the same way Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby, Letters From Iwo Jima, The Bridges of Madison County and all the rest of them played, looked and unfolded — or you don’t understand that.
I understand that. I got it. I admired it. Gran Torino knows itself, is true to itself. And there’s nothing the least bit embarassing or short-fally or Razzie about it. Not in the least. David Poland, hang your head.
Under-30s are advised to stay away. Seriously — you’ll just be wasting your time. Especially younger women. But over 35, over 40 and especially over 50 types are welcome. Guys who’ve been around for the long Clint ride and know what it’s always been about I’ve seen it twice now and GT is about as good as this sort of thing can get. You just have to know what “this sort of thing” really and truly means — the deep-down content and perimeters of it, I mean.
I’ll get into this film again tomorrow, most likely. The other actors, the jokes, the warmth moments — there’s a lot that’s rich and rewarding in this film.
Is Clint’s performance likely to draw a Best Actor nomination? Most likely, yeah. Partly a gold-watch thing, partly for the acting itself. The current inside his acting is quite strong, his whole life running through it. It’ll feel weird if a nomination doesn’t happen — put it that way.
I came upon Doubt costar Phillip Seymour Hoffman around 9:40 pm as I was leaving the premiere party at the Metropolitan Club, and a question suddenly hit me that I thought he might know the answer to.
“Philly, what’s the name of Bennett’s new movie?,” I asked. “The one he’s working on now, gonna shoot early next year…something?” I meant Bennett Miller , who directed Hoffman four years ago in his Oscar-winning performance in ’05’s Capote.
“Uhhmm,” Hoffman said, knowing what I meant but drawing a blank. “It’s some kind of darkish romantic thing, some kind of relationship drama,” I prompted. “Uhhm, yeah, it’s…not coming to me,” Hoffman said, shrugging. “Okay, two of us,” I said. Be well, see ya, happy holidays.
The reason we couldn’t remember Bennett’s film is because it’s called Foxcatcher, and what the hell does that mean? Something about a hound, a lady-killer? But doesn’t that sound overly literal? Not to mention anachronistic with that seeming reference to women as foxes? If it’s nothing like this then what’s the allusion or metaphor? A person who literally catches foxes in the forest? Naaah. Too D.H. Lawrentian.
We all get Dogcatcher, but Foxcatcher? Doesn’t feel right.
I’m just saying your film has to have a title that’s easy to remember, one that Average popcorn-munching Joes can make an easy connection with. You sure don’t want one of your pallies having trouble thinking of it. That says a little something, I think. A word to the wise.
I was reminded last night that Matteo Garrone’s Gomorrah, the Italian mafia drama, won not three, not four but five of the top European Film Awards — best film, director, actor (Tony Servillo), screenwriter and photography — at last Saturday’s Copenhagen ceremony, and that no other film has done this before. IFC Films will open the pic in the U.S. on 12.19 after a current Oscar-qualifying run in Los Angeles this week.
Gomorrah director Matteo Garrone, Daily Beast writer Rachel Syme at last night’s Gomorrah dinner at the Plaza’s Oak Room bar/restaurant, hosted by Peggy Siegal — Sunday, 12.7.08, 7:35 pm.
Last night I told Doubt costar Viola Davis that I’m a somewhat…okay, a flaming fan of her killer one-scene performance in the film, which is almost guaranteed to result in a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. Everyone agrees with this; the discussion is over; she’s a genuine supporting player (as opposed to the “slumming” supporting performance by Doubt‘s Phillip Seymour Hoffman) so forget “almost” — it’s stamped, finito, a done deal.
Doubt costars Amy Adams, Viola Davis at last night’s Doubt premiere party at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Club — Monday, 12.7.08, 9:25 pm
N.Y. Daily News gossip columnist George Rush, Doubt star Phillip Seymour Hoffman at same — Monday, 12.7.08, 9:35 pm.
Another expected, nothing-new, run-of-the-mill 2008 award roster arrived yesterday from the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association, a group of 46 DC, Virginia and Maryland-based film critics from television, radio, print and the internet. Is any critics group going to go rogue or wildcat on us over the next two or three weeks? Is any group at all saying to say, “The prevailing winds on Best Picture are well and good, but we don’t happen subscribe to them”?
Of course not. Everyone is going to vote for Slumdog Millionaire as Best Picture, no matter what. Because doing this puts the voter into a nice, safe, warm and cuddly place. A place that will result in smiles and hugs and mistletoe and cups of egg nog. Is anyone going to stand up with me and salute the best film of the year, hands down — i.e., Che? Are any critics outside of Chicago going to stand up for The Dark Knight or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or Revolutionary Road?
WAFCA went for Slumdog Millionaire as Best Film, SM‘s Danny Boyle as Best Director, The Wrestler‘s Mickey Rourke as Best Actor, Doubt‘s Meryl Streep as Best Actress,
the Doubt gang as Best Ensemble, The Dark Knight‘s Heath Ledger as Best Supporting Actor, Rachel Getting Married‘s Rosemarie DeWitt as Best Supporting Actress, Let The Right One In as Best Foreign-Language Film and Man on Wire as Best Documentary.
You can rely upon…all right, strongly consider the following in the matter of Summit’s dismissal of director Catherine Hardwicke off the next two Twilight movies, New Moon and Eclipse:
Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke, star Robert Pattinson
(a) Whatever actually happened, Summit’s image has gone from that of a suddenly successful and very formidable indie player with a hot franchise into a greedy, money-grubbing, mob-styled operation looking to grab those upcoming Twilight bucks as fast as possible, and in order to get their mitts on the moolah hubba-hubba were willing to do without (and this is me talking here) that angular sensitivity and teenage-girl verisimilitude that Hardwicke brought to Twilight and, now that I think of it, Thirteen.
(b) Summit wants the next installment, New Moon, out by late ’09 or early ’10, meaning it would have to shoot sometime in the spring or early summer, or three or four months from now. In her exclusive report on the Hardwicke whacking, Nikki Finke described this schedule as “ridiculously speeded-up.” You can be sure that Hardwicke, whatever her shortcomings, wanted…okay, more money, I’m sure, but also more time in order to fine-tune all the elements and bring them to a fine point. Studios always just want the money, fast and hot; directors, obviously, understand that putting out a feature that feels even a little bit slapdash will play hell with their rep and legacy.
(c) Say what you will about Hardwicke’s personality, directing chops and political skills — the honest, true-to-life teenage-girl in the throes of emotional upheaval vibe in Thirteen and Twilight felt very similar to me. They seemed, in fact, nearly one and the same. And this, for me, is what makes Twilight work as well as it does — what gives it resonance and vertisimilitude. (Credit for this aspect is also due to Melissa Rosenberg‘s screenplay. And the film itself is greatly enhanced by Elliot Davis‘s cinematography and Nancy Richardson‘s editing.)
Hardwicke, original Twilight author Stephenie Meyer, star Kristen Stewart
The Hardwicke shit-canning just seems…I don’t know, Sopranos-y. Like some kind of coarse James Gandolfini clip job. And that doesn’t seem at all fitting or appropriate for a very feminine property and franchise like this one. Twilight is a young woman’s story, written by a young woman, made for young women. It obviously needed and benefitted from the hand of a sharp and, as far it goes, sensitive female director. And it just feels wrong and brutish for Summit to have clipped Hardwicke, given the vibe and the imprint that she brought to Twilight . Somebody needs to find out what really really happened.
(d) This comment from “realworldperson,” a Finke reader says it correctly: “To quote Robert Evans, ‘There are three sides to every story: my side, your side, and the truth.’ I’m sure [that Hardwicke’s [temperamental nature had something to do] with letting her go. But how many male directors are assholes or crazy? And how many are dragged through the press like this after a huge hit? When men are crazy or abrasive they are celebrated, and a woman is shrill [and called unstable and gotten rid of]. She should fire CAA for this, especially if Summit goes with a CAA client.”
(e) And this one: “Try and read Twilight. It’s crap. Hardwicke had no budget, a silly script adapted from a silly book, two wooden actors, and she turned it into a hit. Is it a great film? No, but it’s fine, It’s serviceable. And they owed her more than to fire her now. (They should have paid her off after the European p.r. tour wrapped.)”
(f) That said, a more negative Finke reader comment adds context: (a) “She was a nightmare on Nativity — unprofessional, prone to crying outbursts, and seemingly lacking even the most basic understanding of filmmaking. This has nothing to do with gender, and everything to do with her lack of talent.” — written by “ex-New Liner.
(g) And especially this one, posted by “the sad truth“: “Hardwicke has had it coming for years. I have heard from producers who have worked with her that she is quite possibly the worst human being they’ve ever had the displeasure of working with. That’s why Wyck Godfrey was brought on to the movie — he somehow was able to tame the beast while she directed their Bible loser movie, so Summit paid him to babysit. Why she continues to work amazes me. Julie Taymor is the same but at least she has talent. The sad truth is that there are few working women directors and these two do nothing to make producers want to hire the fairer sex and put them behind the camera. But I hear Darnell Marin, who directed the awesome Cadillac Records, is very talented and that talent loves working with her. Then of course there’s the obvious double standard. Michael Bay‘s an asshole too but you don’t see him on the unemployment line, do you? Hollywood creeps me out sometimes.”
Here, also, is HE’s Moises Chiullan on the Hardwicke dismissal.
MTV.com’s Josh Horowitz has assembled all the bizarre movie-linked interviews he and his crew have posted over the last 11 months or so. Caption-described by JH as “Kurt Loder kicks my ass, Val Kilmer talks dwarf sex, Brendan Fraser goes bananas, Charlize Theron swears like a pirate, Steven Seagal hawks his energy drinks,” etc. I would post the video screen, but MTV’s embed code doesn’t adapt to my 475 pixel wide column space — it overlaps. I hate that.
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