Simon Beaufoy‘s Slumdog Millionaire script, based on the novel “Q and A” by Vikas Swarup, tonight won the Writers Guild of America award for best adapted screenplay. It beat out screenplays for Frost-Nixon, The Dark Knight, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Doubt.
“I recommend Scene It? Box Office Smash for Xbox,” writes Ben Lyons on a Daily Beast “Smart People Recommend” page. “It helps me improve my movie knowledge, and it’s a lot of fun to play either alone or with some of the homies when they come over.
“With Xbox Live it downloads new questions all the time over the Internet, so no matter how many times I play it, it always has new puzzles and questions. The material is sometimes really challenging, even for someone like me who watches about 300 films a year. Even if you’re not as big a fan of movies as I am, the anagrams and games within the game are a lot of fun. I challenge anybody who dares to step into The Lyons Den to a game of Scene It? on Xbox… Let’s get it on!”
In a portion of a piece about the downish aspects of being a movie star called “Being Famous Mostly Sucks,” N.Y. Times columnist David Carr (a.k.a. “the Bagger’) writes that “the money is nice and all, but what if you want to just be with your pals and have a good time? That is never going to happen if you leave the house.
“It’s not that fans are trying to bum you out by getting an arm on you. They are just being themselves, which is to be riveted by the sight of someone who they have seen on their television. Everyone who approaches a famous person has a need for validation. I saw her, him or it. We had a moment. She seemed really great or horrible or freakish. We all want a taste of this, not so that we can savor it, but so that we can report back to our friends. And some of the motives, especially of the press, are less than friendly.
“As a writer, the Bagger has found that just about the time he is ready to sink his fangs into somebody, the area he is about to chomp on is already full of bite marks. That does not excuse a freak like Christian Bale, who is on the web dripping in vulgar entitlement, but it makes the whole celebrity disengagement a lot easier to understand.”
Just a few more licks to post on this cranked-up, trumped-up Oxford Film Festival media-panel fracas, and that’ll be it for good:
(a) I forgot to mention in my initial post about this yesterday morning that I tried using my AT&T air card service (which I pay $60 bucks a month for) and that it worked for a while and then it didn’t. I’m used to the fact that it’s a temperamental device, but when it crapped out on me along with the hotel wifi and the ethernet cable connection, something collapsed inside. I felt as if the four horsemen of the apocalypse were circling and going for the kill.
(b) If I had it do over again, I would have gone to the friggin’ media panel and listened to moderator James Rocchi do his brilliant pontificator routine while I waited for a chance to get a word in edgewise in front of 50 or 60 people who’d been partying like the panelists into the wee hours the night before. When I said to a couple of fellow panelists (Rocchi and someone else) on Friday morning that I wouldn’t doing the panel due to fatigue and rage and a general deadness-of-the-brain, I wasn’t coming from a place of firm resolution but from what you might call a mood pocket. Mood pockets are temporary emotional foxholes — not a home or a fortress or any kind of fortified structure but a place you’ve just sort of crawled into for a bit. If Rocchi or Kim Voynar or anyone had come up and said, “Look, you have to do this and the hell with your mood pocket!,” I probably would have shaken myself out of it and done the damn thing. But nobody said zip. One of the panelists told me a few hours ago that they were all in shock — novocained! unable to respond! — and that’s why nobody said anything. I’m not saying the no-show wasn’t my call entirely, but if I had been one of the others I wouldn’t have numbed out if one of them had been in a dispirited mood. You could go so far as to say that’s what friends do when you’re depressed and funked out — they come over and tell you to snap out of it, get over it, do the right thing. Sentimental me!
(c) Imagine I’m the film festival chief and you’re coming to my town to watch movies and take part in a panel discussion. I pick you up at the airport, take you to the local motel. You notice after unpacking your things in your room that the bathroom has a strip of yellow tape across the entrance that says “out of order.” You come up to me and ask what’s up, and I say “Uhhm, I know, it’s fucked up…but you can use the bathroom near the front desk in the lobby and” — I hand them a roll of peach-colored Charmin bathroom tissue — “there are also woods right outside, so you can always go there in a pinch.” Let’s say one of the panelists doesn’t show up the next day. Now, I might be disappointed in this, having paid for their airfare and hotel room costs and so on, but if I were honest with myself I might allow that an emotional cause-and-effect symmetry might have been a factor.
(d) “Regardless of the wifi-gate specifics, the cool kidz are ganging up on you,” a journalist friend wrote me today, “and the winners write history, so to speak, even if they’re idiots. I was initially horrified and then I thought about it in context. That things were so screwed up with the motel wifi that you thought something was wrong with your own shit is a major organizational error on their part. But you’re cool with the fest people, and frankly controversy is the BEST publicity known to man…but all these other critics? I haven’t seen them writing shit up all over the place, have you? They showed up for a panel, but have they been pimping that place large?
“If you post any further followup, the only recommendation I have from a debater’s standpoint is that you reiterate that the no-showing for the panel is something the festival organizers and you are cool about, and that you’d challenge these other folks to show any of their coverage of the trip or experience that isn’t Defamer fodder that has nothing to do with promoting the festival. You ‘agree’ with all the jerks that you answer to the festival folks, and according to them, you’re cool. So what’s the problem?”
(e) “Don’t let the bastard commenters get you down,” a seasoned journalist pal wrote two or three hours ago. “The Oxford coverage is great. If I wanted to read bland coverage of movies and other crap at a small regional film festival, I can go to Variety or the Reporter or one of those earnest film blogs that think covering every last lame movie is important. but your bizarre adventures (and your very fine tourist photos) is what makes your site so fucking readable. The only thing i would change is (a) add some photos of cute Oxford girls and (b) maybe an mp3 of Scott Weinberg or one of the other pissheads getting into a verbal harrangue with you over this thing.”
(f) “Hey Jeff, how are you? I just wanted to email you to make sure that you and your readers know that I am Scott Feinberg from the L.A. Times and NOT Scott Weinberg the guy who commented on your post about the Oxford Film Festival, since I’ve been getting emails for hours from people who think you and I are in a big fight, when in fact I consider us to be friends. Perhaps you can post a clarification?” Sorry, Scott — clarification posted.
“I’ve just watched the entirety of Che,”says HE reader Yu Zun, “and absolutely, unequivocally loved it! I cannot imagine watching the two films separately. Did the film’s monk-like aesthetic distance and commitment remind you at all of Barry Lyndon? I feel that both films, in their hands-off portrayal of the central character, ultimately present the most compassionate portrait we can ascribe to a human being. They can only be judged, if at all, through their actions, and by the viewer’s lens, and not by the generic filmmaker’s sermon.
“This — i.e., the sermon — consists of the dramatic, narrative elements that are supposed to humanize the hero. It’s the basic building block of a well-made and involving narrative film. But the stuff of great movies demands more — a personality and deeper thought beyond that label, and Che and Barry Lyndon do not partake in that sermon. They forego what we expect to find in a film that’s centered around one character. Che and Barry Lyndon are as removed from us as the people that live under our roofs. I thought that decision, in both films, was a very brave, perhaps even stubborn, choice.
“So Erenst Che Guevara’s actions simply ARE, and the man behind the action becomes a contradiction through what he does. In a way, the film is the character. There is no sermon, there is no gospel — just the facts. The film pays high respect to the viewers, by acknowledging that we are merely interpreters of identical facts — no more, no less. Whether it’s a high-art fuck-you or an act of faith, I suppose, depends on who you are.”
Yesterday James “Miracle-Gro” Whitmore left the earth. He was 87, one year older than my dad when he passed last June. And to a marginal extent an angry or at least a brutally candid type, which I relate to. An actor who never seemed to really “act”, which of course is the best way. My favorite Whitmore performances all happened in the early to mid ’50s: William Welman‘s Battleground (with the constant wad of chewing tobacco), Them, John Huston‘s The Asphalt Jungle.
The Oxford Film Festival cool kidz (Rocchi, Voynar, Yamato, etc.) are shunning me, or certainly not initiating contact. I guess yesterday’s cruddy wireless funk along with my subsequent disinterest in taking part in yesterday’s media panel was a factor. In any case this feels like high school all over again. The cool kidz didn’t hang with me back then either.
Guys, it’s okay with me. I have my own stuff to do. The cool kidz were going to pile into a van and visit Graceland Too, which I was never all that thrilled with frankly (although I may go there anyway on my own, depending). As a matter of courtesy and professionalism I’ll be covering tonight’s awards ceremony at Oxford’s Lyric Theatre. Photos, quotes, some kind of play.
Today’s plan included seeing Micki Dickoff‘s and Tony Pagano‘s Neshoba, a doc about the 1964 Missisippi civil rights worker murder case (i.e., the one fictionally depicted in Mississippi Burning) as well as the long-delayed prosecution of 80 year-old preacher Edgar Ray Killen, the alleged mastermind of the killings, in 2005. But I had to finish some business stuff and post stories and whatnot, so I missed it.
I’m leaving now for Tupelo and a visit to Elvis’s birthplace, and possibly the Boondocks Grill for some vittles. And then maybe a drive west to the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, which is just a few miles from the Mississippi river, which I might stand on the banks of before dark.
To repeat from my 2.1 post (“Do The Right Thing“) about the mtvU.com Oscar competition, “Please help stamp out the Stepford virus and vote for David Distenfeld. You’ll be helping to shape the tone of future TV entertainment coverage if you do.” And then return on 2.9 to vote for the top 3 finalists.
The Envelope‘s Tom O’Neil is reporting how Fox Searchlight has decided to deliberately under-support M.I.A.’s “O Saya,” one of the two Oscar-nominated songs from Slumdog Millionaire. Fox Searchlight’s overt support (by way of a CD mailing) has gone instead to “Jai Ho,” which, I’ll admit, is the more catchy of the two.
“Fox Searchlight is daring to choose between its Oscar children,” O’Neil writes. “The studio wants voters to focus their Slumdog Millionaire love on one song, fearing that the vote might split otherwise, causing both to lose. So this is good strategy, although poor politics. Inevitably, the studio is inviting a chorus of discontent from the folks behind the song not being hyped.”
Of course, neither song is as power-poppy or soul-stirring as “Chaiyya Chiayya,” the Indian-flavored Inside Man tune that I first heard in late ’06. The song was composed, ironically, by Oscar-nominated Slumdog Millionaire composer A.R. Rahman (who also wrote “O Saya”). “Chaiyya Chaiyya” was used as the opening-credit song for Spike Lee ‘s film as well for — I think, not being 100% sure — Bombay Dreams.
Was Inside Man‘s “Chaiyya Chaiyya” nominated for a Best Song Oscar in early ’07? Of course not. Why? Because it wasn’t written for the film. But it wouldn’t have been nominated anyway because bank-job movies don’t get nominated for anything, in any category.