If the Blu-ray industry really wants the format to gain a serious foothold, drop the prices of those damn Blu-ray discs. I’m getting angrier and angrier at those $31 dollar prices on movies like Pineapple Express. Hell, I’m getting really angry at those $31 dollar prices on movies like The Third Man. Which, by the way, is a very slight burn in my book. The Criterion Blu-ray looks fine, but not that much better than the standard Criterion DVD version.
Digital Domain’s wondrous digital effects in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button — particularly the “aging and youthing” of Brad Pitt — “are so perfect as to be virtually invisible, free of the usual trappings of CGI — that too-fluid, too-fake, superimposed look that makes the cattle stampede in Australia, for instance, feel so unthreatening.
“‘The thing about Benjamin Button,’ says Judy Duncan, editor of the visual effects trade mag Cinefex, ‘is that, obviously all the [Academy] voters in the visual effects category know what they’re looking at, but the vote for the final winner goes to the entire Academy — including actors and writers and producers — and I don’t know if most of those people are going to know what they’re looking at. They’re going to assume it was all makeup.
“It’s stunning work — I actually think it should win — but I don’t know if the average moviegoer is going to recognize that.'”
That would be absurd, of course. The standard of good visual effects is not to be able to identify them. And yet to think that some people out there would be oblivious of this aesthetic…God!
Because the prosecutor’s office in Shreveport, Louisiana has dropped all charges in the Josh Brolin-Jeffrey Wright bar incident that happened last July (and which was recounted by Brolin during a W. interview last fall), the cell-phone video footage has finally been released.
It’s now on TMZ. If anyone can send me an embed code, please do.
The shaky camera work is maddening, but what’s been captured is quite intense. Theatrical even. The sight of the teary-eyed Brolin and Wright embracing each other before being cuffed is quite the statement about sticking by your buddy as the wolves circle. And the shots of Brolin kneeling on the sidewalk with his head down — he’s Albert Finney-as-Martin Luther preparing to be lashed. It’s almost like Willem Dafoe‘s last scene in Platoon. Not to mention the bulls holding Wright face-down on the sidewalk and zapping him with a taser gun, and a woman shouting at the cops, “What are you doing!? Why are you doing that!?”
This really would make for a fascinating short film. Seriously. Brolin (a talented man before the camera) needs to do this.
In his 1.5 story about David Fincher‘s q & a the night before last at the Time Warner Center, conducted by the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Kent Jones, Variety‘s Sam Thielman did the standard cherry-picking of money quotes. But to me, the undercurrent was a lot more interesting.
Fincher, I sensed, was feeling somewhat chagrined by — or was certainly mindful of — the unpersuaded reactions to Button in some quarters. (Including those among the audience that night.) He spoke much more freely about the technical aspects of shooting Button than what he believed the film was basically about and/or was saying. Of course, no film director likes to spell out the themes of his/her latest film. Every artist believes that the audience should come to its own conclusions.
Fincher said at one point that Button was making the case that a life lived naturally — babyhood first, old age last — was the best way to go, even with all the pain and suffering and heartbreak. When he said this I thought to myself, “That’s a good observation to make, I like that.” But now that I’ve written it down and thought about it, I’m not sure it’s all that profound.
I think he was finally attracted to Benjamin Button because it wasn’t Se7en, Zodiac, Panic Room, Fight Club or The Game. It’s an artistic process movie — a stretching exercise he felt he needed to make, an intimate subject he wanted to explore and find his way through. And because of his Button experience, the next real David Fincher movie — Ness — will be all the better. That’s what I think, anyway.
I tried to take a non-flash photo of Fincher sitting on the stage with Jones, but a female usher stopped me before I had a chance to push the button.
I once had a dispute with a guy over the proper role of a Hollywood columnist-commentator. He felt that columnists should basically be receiver-responders — that they should only write about what the entertainment community puts before them. Baaaah. That’s obviously part of the game, I said, but he was thinking too passively. A go-getter columnist should also adopt the mentality of a senior vp of creative affairs for the entire entertainment industry. Come up with new ideas, approve or disapprove of scripts, and so on.
Jeff Goldblum, Chris Walken
All to explain that during a recent phone interview with Adam Resurrected star Jeff Goldblum, I hit upon a great idea for a movie he would absolutely shine in. Not that Goldblum doesn’t give a rich and savory performance in Adam — he does. But he needs to star in a vehicle that won’t get in the way of his naturally smooth charm. He’s never quite been in such a film. And he’s in a prime condition right now. And the clock is ticking.
I’m thinking about a kind of remake — call it a revisiting — of My Dinner with Andre costarring Goldblum and Christopher Walken. Two older guys of roughly the same generation (Walken is a little bit older) shooting the shit over dinner for 90 minutes or so in midtown Manhattan. Can anyone think of a more entertaining pure-talk proposition? Both are seasoned charisma machines with live-wire personalities and smart-ass urban attitudes. And both have great voices and signature speaking styles.
The thing that triggered the idea was Goldblum telling me during our chat that he knows, likes and gets along well with Walken.
If I had the power and influence I would sit down with these guys and come up with some kind of fictional-situational backstory that could be discussed and picked through during their long chat, and then get them to sit down for a week’s worth of conversation. Shoot it on high-def video, cut the best passages together, and you’d have a great chit-chat movie. I for one would pay to see this. I have a feeling it would be a very popular DVD title. Everybody knows these two guys and what they’re about. And it wouldn’t cost very much to make.
If not Goldblum and Walken, who would be a bigger attraction?
Wait…how about a short series of films about famous actors sitting down together and just yapping away? A DVD package of five or six, say. Maybe an HBO series.
In a New York/Vulture poll of 57 film critics, Gabriele Muccino and Will Smith‘s Seven Pounds has been named the worst film of 2008. Perhaps now that Seven Pounds has been fully reviled and discredited it’s okay to allow people to check out this mock poster, although please understand that it’s a complete spoiler.
Here’s a list of all the critics polled or quoted, along with their own lists of the year’s worst.
The other worst-of-the-year picks, going from tenth-worst to second-worst, is as follows: (10) Diane English‘s The Women; (9) Clint Eastwood‘s Changeling; (8) Frank Miller‘s The Spirit; (7) M. Night Shyamalan‘s The Happening; (6) Baz Luhrman’s Australia; (5) The Wachowski brothers’ Speed Racer; (4) Michael Haneke‘s Funny Games; (3) Jon Avnet‘s 88 Minutes; and (2) Mike Myers’ The Love Guru.
Here’s New Yorker critic David Denby on the reasoning behind his choosing The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as the year’s worst: “Director David Fincher and writer Eric Roth have taken a playful early story by F. Scott Fitzgerald and literalized and solemnized it to death. It’s a work of extraordinary craftsmanship devoted to an idea that’s dramatically inert. When Brad Pitt finally grows young enough to look like his actual age, he doesn’t have any memories of the ardency or anxiety of youth but only relief that he’s no longer a crotchety old man. Even as a young blade, he’s an old fart. It just doesn’t work. That people can find serious ideas about death and mortality in it suggests the power of weirdness to inspire fancy sentiment.”
As expected, the award-giving party thrown by the New York Film Critics Circle last night at Strata (Broadway at 21st) was a convivial, stimulating, enjoyable thing. Thanks to the NYFCC and IHOP publicity for inviting me. The food and drink were choice and abundant. The swanky, two-tiered room was filled with distributors, publicists and all manner of talent. And the best critics, bloggers and entertainment writers around. My idea of a class-A event.
Almost all the winners were there — Happy Go Lucky‘s Mike Leigh (Best Picture, Best Director) and Sally Hawkins (Best Actress), Milk‘s Sean Penn (Best Actor) and Josh Brolin (Best Supporting Actor), Rachel Getting Married‘s Jenny Lumet (Best Screenplay), Vicky Cristina Barcelona‘s Penelope Cruz (Best Supporting Actress), etc.
The most amusing moment happened when N.Y. Times columnist David Carr (a.k.a. “the Bagger”) invited Envelope columnist Tom O’Neil and myself to do an on-camera interview, and began things by asking “how many Oscar bloggers does it take to screw in a light bulb?”
Three or four minor issues surfaced during the four-hour event, but nothing to ruffle anyone’s feathers. Not mine, anyway. I wouldn’t bring them up but I may as well for the sake of colorful reporting.
One, the acceptance speeches rambled on and on and were, for the most part and by common consensus, boring. Josh Brolin‘s lubricated comments were blunt (he called Russell Crowe an asshole) but he could have used a red pencil or a friend signalling him from a nearby table. It was very difficult to sift through the French accent of Man on Wire‘s Phillipe Petit, who accepted the Best Doc award for director James Marsh, who couldn’t attend because he’s directing a new film, Nineteen Eighty, in England.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona‘s Penelope Cruz accepting the NYFCC’s Best Supporting Actress award.
Lisa Schwarzbaum, critic for Entertainment Weekly, resented some recent backstage reporting about the how the NYFCC voted last month — she feels the voting should be kept private — which resulted in said journalist being banned from the NYFCC event, which he attended anyway after threatening to make a stink. For what it’s worth I love reading reports about how this or that critics group voted — which films led initially only to fall behind when second and third ballots happened (or when proxies were disqualified), who argued with whom, who said what, etc. Critics groups should learn to roll with this. It’s the way of today’s world — nothing is private, everything is public, every imaginable personal embarassment is on YouTube, etc.
IHOP publicist Jessica Uzzan watching over talent and paparazzi — Monday, 1.5.08, 6:55 pm
I spoke briefly to playwright/screenwriter Tony Kushner (Angels Over America, Munich). I asked him what the deal was with Steven Spielberg ‘s long-delayed Abraham Lincoln movie, the screenplay for which Kushner been been working on since ’07. (Earlier?) Kushner said (a) he’s not aware of any hesitancy or disinclination on Spielberg’s part to shoot the Lincoln film (all actions to the contrary), and (b) that he’s now on his fourth draft. I told him I had spoken to Liam Neeson three and a half years ago about Neeson’s great hunger to play Lincoln under Spielberg’s direction.
Spielberg “has become a kind of delaying sadist regarding the Lincoln film,” I wrote last March. “Chicago 7 this, Tintin that…and we never hear diddly about the Lincoln project. It’s a classic avoidance syndrome thing (a kid avoiding a homework assignment, a guy who keeps putting off doing his taxes). If a benevolent God took any kind of interest in human affairs, Spielberg would (a) officially abandon the Lincoln film and (b) arrange for another esteemed director to step in so it can finally move forward.”