A nicely written piece by Christopher Durang about catching repeat viewings of Alistair Sim‘s A Christmas Carol on WOR-TV’s “Million Dollar Movie” way back when, and why the film still sinks in emotionally like few others.
“Can you forgive a pig-headed old fool for having no eyes to see with nor ears to hear with all these years?”
Directed by Brad Silberling, Land of the Lost (Universal, 6.9.09) is…there’s no point in saying anything smart-ass about this. Night at the Museum meets Jurassic Park and Jumanji. A klutzy but likable forest ranger Will Ferrell and his two kids “inadvertently stumble into a mysterious land populated by dinosaurs and other creatures, including the mysterious and dangerous race of Sleestak,” etc.
N.Y. Times guy Michael Cieply reported today that a federal judge in Los Angeles intends to grant 20th Century Fox’s claim that it owns a copyright interest in Zack Snyder‘s Watchmen, which has been funded/produced by Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures and set for release on 3.6.09.
“Fox owns a copyright interest consisting of, at the very least, the right to distribute the Watchmen motion picture,” the ruling said. The judge, Gary A. Feess of the United States District Court for Central California, “said he would provide a more detailed order soon,” Cieply wrote.
What will happen from this, presuming that the expected challenges and whatnot don’t change the Feess ruling? WB, I would imagine, is going to have to fork over a significant chunk of the forthcoming Watchmen revenues….right? I mean, WB isn’t going to actually hand over the distribution of this much-anticipated film, lock, stock and barrel…are they?
“Before killing something, I always talk to it. An animal that’s been caressed before it’s killed dies peacefully, and its muscles don’t contract with adrenalin. If an animal is slaughtered in a stress-free way, it tastes better.” — Gerard Depardieu quoted today on contactmusic.com.
Except an animal can always tell when he/she/it is about to die. All living things can. They can smell the intent to slaughter like a lie-detector machine can read tension and anxiety. Knowing you’re about to lose your head jacks up your sensitivity levels. (Say whatever you want, but I imagined this once when I was 19 years old and tripping on mescaline, and I’ve never forgotten it.) How does the quote go? “The clarity of mind that comes to a man standing on the gallows is wonderful.” So spare us your b.s., Depardieu. No animal dies unaware of the coming of the blade.
Bonus question: “This little piggy went to the market / as meek and mild as a lamb / but he stopped in his tracks when they gave him the axe / because he knew he’d turn out to be Wham.” What film is this rhyme from?
In a 12.23 Film Threat interview to promote The B List: The National Society of Film Critics on the Low-Budget Beauties, Genre-Bending Mavericks, and Cult Classics We Love (De Capo), co-author John Anderson is asked to differentiate between A-List and B-List movie journo-blogger-critics.
“Can we boil it down to pros vs. wankers?,” Anderson replies. “There are a lot of alleged critics out there trying to prove that the internet was created to unleash the untalented, untaught and probably unwashed” — the leading voice in this camp is Time‘s Richard Schickel — “but those people exist in print too. The most marked difference, I have learned, between what’s in ‘the B List’ and what’s generally available on blogs is the quality of the writing. There’s no comparison. Some of these NSFC people are scarily good at what they do.”
As long as Anderson has brought it up, can we see some reader selections for those journo-blogger-critics who squarely belong on the pro or wanker lists? I would put Anderson at the top of any pro list, but not that’s not a very ballsy call, is it? The more I think about it, the fewer people I can think of who really deserve to be called wankers. It’s very hard work to bang good stuff out every day. I’m inclined to give anyone a pass as long as they’re coming from a place of passion and commitment and the use of spell check.
“It is theoretically possible to make an apparently bigoted remark that is also factually true and morally sound. Thus, when the Rev. Bailey Smith, one of the deputies of the late Jerry Falwell, claimed that ‘God almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew,’ I was in complete agreement with him. This is because I do not believe that there is any supernatural supervisor who lends an ear to any prayer.” — from a 12.19 Christopher Hitchens Slate piece titled “Three Questions About Rick Warren’s Role in the Inauguration.” The subtitle: “If we must have an officiating priest, surely we can do better than this vulgar huckster.”
A synopsis of Shane Acker‘s 9 (Focus Features, 9.9.09) reads as follows: “When 9 (Elijah Wood) first comes to life, he finds himself in a post-apocalyptic world. All humans are gone, and it is only by chance that he discovers a small community of others like him taking refuge from fearsome machines that roam the earth intent on their extinction.
“Despite being the neophyte of the group, 9 convinces the others that hiding will do them no good. They must take the offensive if they are to survive, and they must discover why the machines want to destroy them in the first place. As they’ll soon come to learn, the very future of civilization may depend on them.”
The animated pic, directed by Acker and produced by Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov, costars Wood, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Martin Landau, Christopher Plummer and Crispin Glover . It also features the music of Danny Elfman.
Anything that has Bekmambetov’s paw prints on it has to be approached cautiously. His direction of Wanted showed that he’s energetic and relentless in the worst possible way. He’s a gross and undisciplined brute…a three-toed sloth in need of a neck-chain.
Apologies for not taking note two days ago of a scathing Tom Cruise career-analysis piece by Slate‘s Stephen Metcalf. The gist is that Cruise’s legend wasn’t just born in the ’80s but exemplifies — is spiritually bonded to — the Age of Reagan, and that he’s now threatened by the current consensus that the Wall Street junk-bond/hedge-fund alcoholic greed splurge of the last 25 years is finally over and done with. As that spirit and attitude is tanking, Metcalf says, so is Cruise’s career.
“More so than any of his contemporaries,” says Metcalf, Cruise “brought to ’80s cinema an aura that corresponded to the novel tonalities of Reaganism.” And in order to triumph as the ’80s incarnate — here’s the interesting part — Cruise “had to kill within himself every tendency to messiness and ambivalence.” And the end result of this lethal discipline, he’s arguing, has left Cruise without the basic personality components that he could dig into and expand upon in middle age.
Cruise’s career, he explains, “maps perfectly onto the 25-year bull market in stocks that, like Cruise, is starting to show its age. Nascent in the early ’80s, emergent in 1983, dominant in the ’90s, suspiciously resilient in the ’00s, and, starting in 2005, increasingly prone to alarming meltdowns. For both Cruise and the Dow Jones, more and more leverage is required for less and less performance.
“Place Cruise next to Jack Nicholson, Paul Newman and Spencer Tracy , and he is a riddle. Place him next to Ronald Reagan, and he is not so confounding at all.
“A worry shadows the forthcoming Tom Cruise thriller Valkyrie,” the article begins. “The worry is that, upon seeing Cruise done up in an eye patch and Nazi jackboots — trick or treat! — audiences will laugh. This is not a high bar for the world’s biggest movie star.” And yet tracking says Valkyrie will do pretty well this weekend.
“Cruise is now 46 years old, roughly midcareer for an actor of his stature; and yet the brand has fallen so far that a throwaway summer goof, his cameo as Lev Grossman , the too-Jewish super producer of Tropic Thunder , was regarded as a ‘comeback.’ By way of contrast, when Jack Nicholson was 46, he appeared in Terms of Endearment. Nicholson’s performance as retired astronaut Garrett Breedlove won him an Oscar, but more importantly, it permitted some humanity to rise up through accumulated strata of stock deviltry, and stand forth warmly. Cruise, meanwhile, gyrates in a fat suit.
“In a cold balancing of assets and liabilities, it’s hard to see how Cruise is on the verge of a silver-years renaissance of the kind that awaited Jack Nicholson or, say, Paul Newman (44 for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 48 for The Sting) or Spencer Tracy (49 for Adam’s Rib, 52 for Pat and Mike).
“Cruise has that famous smile, of course, his boyish good trim, and a synthetic American normalcy that puts him over with audiences in Bhutan or Sri Lanka. Now think about what he lacks: humanitas, gravitas, carnality, whimsy — everything, in short, that might rise up to fill a midlife smile with feeling. Even premium Cruise, the A-game actorly actor of Born on the Fourth of July and Magnolia , who gears up a half-berserk lour when working with a directorly director, offers more of the same: bark, glare, seethe, repeat.”
Wrong — the best grade-A Cruise came with his turns in Jerry Maguire and Collateral. The key to a grade-A Cruise role is not playing romantic or heroic — it’s playing someone under siege, taking hits, vulnerable, hurting, flawed.
“I can’t name another American icon who has been so popular,” writes Metcalf, “and for so long, and yet so hard to like, and for so long.
“From the counterculture nebbishes (Hoffman, Sutherland, Gould) Cruise borrowed a certain insouciant charm. From the silent-majority fascists (Eastwood, Bronson) he borrowed a body queen’s emphasis on physique. From the new Brandos (DeNiro, Pacino) he borrowed flashes of Method intensity. He measured and admixed these to create a wholly new male persona in American acting. He is the boyish hard-body, pin-neat, sleek, yip-yippily filled with self-celebration. (He is Andy Hardy, but he can beat the crap out of you.) Certain that the world will find him charming, his biggest challenge is his own dubious maturity.
“The perfect apotheosis of Cruise remains Maverick in Top Gun. But before he emerged as the ’80s incarnate, Cruise had to kill within himself every tendency to messiness and ambivalence.
“How do I know? Because before he became the ’80s incarnate, Cruise played Joel Goodsen, the neurotic suburban boy of Risky Business. It is a beautiful and authentic piece of acting. To watch his performance today–and you should–is to be present again, not only at the creation of Cruise, the movie star, but at the death of Cruise, an actor bounded by normal human proportion.
“The ’80s did for money what the ’60s did for sex. They told a miraculously tempting lie about the curative powers of disinhibition. It took AIDS, feminism, and sociobiology a while to catch up to our illusions about free love. It has taken cronyism, speculation, and manic over-leveraging a while to catch up to our illusions about free money. Now that Ponzi capitalism is collapsing in on itself, the perverse disjunction, of saying ‘what the fuck’ and thereby securing your ‘future,’ is simply no longer tenable.
“Risky Business tried to be clear on the fate of the homely virtues once implied by the label ‘conservative.’ Thrift, patience, deferred gratification, self-reliance — all were about to be swept aside like a cobweb, lost as pitiably as Joel’s sexual innocence. But in a final irony, the logic of ‘what the fuck’ took over the production itself. Brickman and David Geffen, the executive producer, fought over the ending, with Brickman finally agreeing to let Joel’s exploits win him, improbably, a place at Princeton. Is it any wonder we remember the Wayfarers and not the catcher’s mask?
“‘I was just thinking,’ muses Lana in the film’s penultimate scene, done up, Ralph Lauren-style, in the faked old money duds of new privilege, ‘Where we might be 10 years from now.’ ‘You know what?,’ says Joel, totally secure in his own huckster charms, ‘I think we’re both going to make it big.’
“Over the course of the decade, Cruise would play a pool shark, a cocktail mixer, and, of course, a cocky flyboy in a time of peace. By Top Gun, an act of pure kitsch, Cruise was wholly unshadowed by Joel Goodsen, the prudish boy of the first half of Risky Business.
“As a full co-production of Reaganism, Cruise helped synthesize a new personality type: neat, clean, personable, and lacking in either adult probity or the stray edge, for fear of pricking the surface of a giant bubble. But to live within ‘what the fuck’ is to die within ‘what the fuck.’ Jerry Maguire is Maverick’s idea of an adult, just as Valkyrie‘s von Stauffenberg is Jerry Maguire’s idea of a serious acting role. Of course audiences are tempted to laugh. The Cruise persona, like a junk bond, was never meant to reach maturity.”