The absence of a comma between the words “bad” and “can” drove me up the wall the minute I had a look at the Good poster last night. I’m convinced that movie advertising people enjoy running copy that ignores basic punctuation because they know it irritates people like me. I think it gives them a little perverse kick. Seriously.
What Doesn’t Kill You director-writer-actor Brian Goodman on Prince and Lafayette — Friday, 12.12, 4:35 pm. After shooting pics we went upstairs to a friend’s office and did a half-hour interview. An excellent fellow all around — candid, a humanist, unaffected, no bull. Relatively few guys with hard-knocks experience within the criminal world have gone on to a life of writing and entertainment, but Goodman’s a member in good standing.
The career of Van Johnson, whose death was reported earlier today, peaked in the ’40s and ’50s. I never much liked his country-hick accent (he came from Rhode Island) and particularly the way he repeatedly groaned “ohhh, no!” in William Wellman ‘s Battleground (’49). But I’ve been watching that film all my life so Johnson obviously wasn’t that alienating. I’ll always remember his grim- faced Lieutenant Stephen Maryk in The Caine Mutiny (’54), and the pilot he played in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (’44). He lived for 92 years, which is a pretty good long run. He was allegedly closeted.
Of all the Nazi-slash-Holocaust movies that have screened or opened over the last few weeks, I was surprised to discover that Vicente Amorim‘s Good (Thinkfilm, 12.31), an adaptation of C.P. Taylor’s play with Viggo Mortensen and Jason Isaacs in the lead roles, is the best of the lot. More satisfying than The Reader, slightly more engaging than Valkyrie, more period-believable than The Boy in Striped Pajamas, more emotionally affecting than Adam Resurrected.
Good exec producer and costar Jason Isaacs (l.), star Viggo Mortensen (r.) during an after-screening discussion at Manhattan’s Museum of Jewish Heritage.
(l. to r.) Isaacs, Mortensen, Vicente Amorim, Annette Insdorf
I braved pouring rains last night in order to attend Good’s New York premiere at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place (between 1st Place and West Street). Mortensen, Issacs (who also executive produced) and Amorim were interviewed on-stage by film scholar Annette Insdorf .
For whatever reason I haven’t yet been able to make myself write my review of Brian Goodman’s What Doesn’t Kill You (opening today in NYC and LA), which I saw and liked immediately at last September’s Toronto Film Festival. Go figure. It’s a straight-up, character-driven, top-drawer Boston crime movie with hugely satisfying performances (Mark Ruffalo and Ethan Hawke playing the leads), dialogue that is fast and unforced and believably ragged, and a climate of seedy blue-collar realism that feels honest and planted each step of the way.
I’d write more if I had the time, but I have to be in town no later than 3 pm. So I’ve pasted most of Manohla Dargis ‘s N.Y. Times 12.12 review, which I agree with entirely.
“Fifty years ago What Doesn’t Kill You, a no-nonsense, few-frills crime drama about two losers hustling their way into an early grave, might have dropped into theaters, rattled its audiences and quietly slipped out, only to be rediscovered by later generations of insomniacs who spend their nights plugged in to Turner Classic Movies. This isn’t to say that the film, which was directed by Brian Goodman, is a classic in waiting, though neither is it trying to be. Rather it tells a good story well, and in the process quietly says a little something about what it means to look at the American dream from the bottom up.
“It opens with some chaotic bang-bang and a couple of guys with ski masks and guns trying to rob an armored truck. Whatever the take, it looks like penny-ante stuff, from the crummy getaway car to the generic mini-mall parking lot with its few random passers-by, one of whom turns out to be a cop with a gun. For reasons that become clear only later, one of the thieves, Paulie (Ethan Hawke), pulls off his mask and goes after the cop, walking into the line of fire and popping bullets before a freeze frame stops him in his tracks.
“The whole setup feels like a story you’ve seen a hundred times, a crucial difference being that there is something about this one that keeps you hooked.
“The image of a man walking into a blizzard of bullets is a grabber, but what keeps you tethered to this film is the low-key action, the no-exit rooms, the pitifully small stakes and the way Paulie slams a guy’s head against a bar with no ceremony, no mercy, no feeling. Along with his boyhood friend, Brian (Mark Ruffalo), Paulie works for a small-time gangster, Pat Kelly (Goodman), who runs the South Boston neighborhood where much of the story unfolds.
“Glorified errand boys, Paulie and Brian break heads and worse for Pat, who keeps them on a leash with meager wages and the threat of violence, which might not be bad for lowlifes if these two didn’t appear to be pushing 40.
“But they’re old for errand boys, too old, and it’s their jittery, mounting apprehension about being dead-ended in nowhere lives that helps separate the film from the usual generic chaff. Goodman, a character actor making a fine directing debut, apparently based the film on his own early life, and his performance as the pettiest of mob bosses is so unsympathetic, as if the character had been bled dry of goodness, that I can believe he has an inside track on this world. There’s a sense of intimacy with its lived-in houses and worn-out people that feels genuine, a touch of the real that extends to the accents, which for once in a South Boston film don’t sound like the achievement of a dialect coach.
“Goodman does stumble: one screeching showdown between Brian and his wife, Stacy (a strong Amanda Peet), sounds like a screenplay, not life. Brian’s spiral into addiction, however true, doesn’t escape the crack-den clich√É¬©s, and the ending, which literally spells out the true-life fates of the characters, is awkwardly managed. You may notice these flaws, but the desperation and grit and especially the actors keep you watching.
“His head shaved down to fuzz, skin stretched tight across his gaunt cheeks, Mr. Hawke holds you with a physically expressive performance that telegraphs each byroad of his character’s inner world. There is something haunted about Paulie that he makes true, so much so that it sometimes feels as if you’re looking past the character and into Mr. Hawke himself.
“Because Mr. Ruffalo approaches his roles like a character actor instead of a star — he slips into his films, doesn’t take ownership of them — it can be easy to take him for granted. We shouldn’t. Mr. Ruffalo is one of the greatest actors working in movies right now, and each performance is a gift.
“As he often does, he plays his character with such palpable sensitivity and empathy that you understand not just what Brian is going through at each moment but also the larger implications of these moments. Brian wants to do right by his wife and two young sons, to be a good and decent man, to keep his home and dignity. But he’s trapped in a world not of his making, in a life not fully of his design. His face is an open wound; his heart, too.”
12:35 pm Update: 23 minutes ago AP reported that “the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that Hugh Jackman will host the 81st Academy Awards.”
Earlier: Deadline Hollywood Daily‘s Nikki Finke is reporting that Oscar show producers Bill Condon and Larry Mark have offered Hugh Jackman — People‘s 2008 “Sexiest Man Alive,” star of the dead-in-the-water Australia and the forthcoming Wolverine — the job of hosting the February ’09 Oscars.
But “while the 40-year-old Sydney-born thesp of English parentage has received the AMPAS offer and is very interested, I’m told that he’s not yet fully committed,” Finke reports.
Finke has “learned that the people around Jackman want to know exactly what would be expected of him, especially when it comes to opening the Oscar broadcast. One segment of the show which reps for Jackman are objecting to specifically is the joke-telling monologue. ‘I don’t want that for him,’ an insider told me. ‘He is an actor with big movies behind him and one coming this summer. He didn’t work the last 20 years to suddenly be a stand-up comedian.'”
So what is Jackman going to do then? Perform a big swanky dance number with a bunch of Vegas showgirls and sing “O What A Beautiful Mornin!”? I have to be honest — I don’t like this. This feels like an Alan Carr makeover.
Just as Carlo had to answer for Santino, the 20th Century Fox honchos who greenlighted The Day The Earth Stood Still have to answer for their judgment. If I was Rupert Murdoch I’d send three goons over to the office of the primary responsible party who said “yes, this is a good idea and ready to roll — it has chops that could really burn down the box-office, and David Scarpia‘s script kicks it,” and I would sever his ass and have him driven off the lot.
Jennifer Connelly, Keanu Reeves in The Day The Earth Stood Still
I wouldn’t have Clemenza garrot him from the back seat as he drives away because we live in a liberal-minded society and for the most part believe in cutting people slack — i.e., refrain from having them killed — when they screw up. But what an infuriating, intensely dull, stunningly unimaginative film this is…my God.
A remake of the half-sublime, half-embarassing 1951 Robert Wise original (which I just bought on Blu-ray a week and a half ago), The Day The Earth Stood Still is the total end of director Scott Derrickson as any kind of credible-dependable second-string techno helmer. The man is now instant Jan De Bont.
The plodding tone of TDTESS — the feeling it gives the viewer of being stuck and slowly smothered in slumbering mentalities and high-tech ooze — recalls the hand and mind of Plan Nine From Outer Space director Ed Wood, Jr. And if you ask me anyone who manages to resuscitate even a semblance of the spirit of that Angora-sweater-wearing legend needs to be hunted down with a deer rifle. Or at least howled and pointed at, like the zombies in Phil Kaufman‘s Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
What Derrickson, Scarpia and Co. have done is take Edmund H. North‘s original screenplay (itself based on a short story by Harry Bates), changed the subtext of Klaatu’s “change or else” ultimatum (stop pollution and ruination of the planet rather than halt nuclear-weapon aggression), and thrown in a lot of faux-Spielbergian spooky atmospherics (i.e., having all major events happen at night to allow for the fog-pierced-by-bright-lights effect) in hopes that it will all coagulate into something as strong and purposeful as the ’51 film, only bigger and flashier.
Forget it, fuck it, blow it off and go drown your spirits at the nearest pub/bar/restaurant. One way or another, you need to get this movie out of your head.
The failure of TDTESS has been compressed and condensed into the suffering eyes of Kathy Bates, clearly in hell as she tries to play a steely-blustery Secretary of Defense determined to militarily repel the invasion of planet earth by Klatuu and Gort, who arrive in a massive nonsensical space ship in the form of a Jupiter-like (i.e., gas-enshrouded) sphere. It’s awful, so awful to watch poor Bates says the lines in Scarpia’s script, dying inside a little bit more with each new utterance.
I can’t write about this. I really can’t. All right, I’ll give it another shot because I agree with what the film is saying (i.e., stop with the greenhouse gases or else). But I can feel the acid building in my stomach
Derrickson’s instruction to Keanu Reeves (i.e., Klaatu) to talk like an alien who doesn’t know the terrain of the human heart was grand-slam redundant since Reeves already exudes a slightly not-of-this-world apartness. We don’t care about Klaatu’s personality, or the history of it. All we want him to do is act like Michael Rennie and be a clever smoothie — i.e., blend in and use his intelligence to defeat and outmaneuver the macho-kneejerk militarists. That’s almost exactly the way this movie doesn’t go.
I hated the recurring decision by the micro-biologist hero-mom (Jennifer Connelly ) to constantly lie to her obviously bright and mature young son (Jaden Smith ) whenever anything dark or momentous happens. (Parents who keep the truth from their children are monsters — Taliban-ists at heart.) Of course, I didn’t believe for a second that Connelly was a micro-biologist in the first place. She looks and behaves like an actress trying like hell to play one, and getting no help from anyone out of camera range.
Kill this movie, stop this review, put an end to the pain, I can’t stand it.
Myself to HE tech guy: “We really need to dump Typkey and replace it with something better, or install something better alongside it as an option that will allow people to post comments without all this horseshit. For too many readers Typekey is nothing but grief, grief, grief.” HE tech guy response: “Yesterday I suggested OpenID as an alternative. Are you happy with going with that?” Me back: “Uhhm, no. OpenID is free software so there must be problems! I don’t trust anything that’s free. You get what you pay for. It could also provide a back-door portal of some kind for hackers. Isn’t there something secure and solid that we can purchase and easily install? Something that works…no muss or fuss?”
Collider’s Steve Weintraub recently learned from Reese Witherspoon at a press event for DreamWorks Monsters vs. Aliens that Cameron Crowe‘s somewhat curious-sounding next film, a Scott Rudin production in which RW was to costar with Ben Stiller for Columbia Pictures, has been “postponed.” She didn’t say the Crowe movie has been jettisoned, but “postponed” sounds a little more ominous than “delayed.” To me anyway.
Last summer Crowe’s script was described on www.goneelsewhere.com as “a tropical romantic adventure comedy with light sci-fi and heavy supernatural aspects,” so it sounds like someone (i.e., Amy Pascal) has gotten cold feet on the project.
Witherspoon said she’s now “actually in James L. Brooks‘ next movie so we’re going to start that in the Spring.”
“With deep personal sadness I must announce that my dear friend and client Bettie Page passed away at 6:41 pm Pacific this evening [Thursday, 12.11] in a Los Angeles hospital. She died peacefully but had never regained consciousness after suffering a heart attack nine days ago.” — A statement issued last night by Mark Roesler , Page’s business agent.
The right-side, less routine pic of the late, legendary Bettie Page was taken in 2003 — she was 80 at the time. Reasonably foxy for an octogenarian.