“All I can think of, right here and now, is how wrong every inch of this production felt, from start to finish (minus that nifty opening credits montage).” — from Kris Tapley‘s Watchmen pan. Which, he writes, “should go at least some small way toward disproving your ‘fanboys will love it when the rest of us don’t’ thing.”
To commemorate the ten-year anniversary of the death of Stanley Kubrick , I’m going to run a March 2000 trash piece called “Stanley Was Slippin’,” which I re-posted last June. It’s not that I don’t love and worship Kubrick’s films (with the exception of Fear and Desire and Eyes Wide Shut); it’s just that this is the cleanest and tightest thing I’ve ever written about him:
“I [once] referred to Eyes Wide Shut as a ‘perfectly white tablecloth.’ That implies purity of content and purpose, which it clearly has. But Eyes Wide Shut is also a tablecloth that feels stiff and unnatural from too much starch.
“Stanley Kubrick was one of the great cinematic geniuses of the 20th century, but on a personal level he wound up isolating himself, I feel, to the detriment of his art. The beloved, bearded hermit so admired by Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg (both of whom give great interviews on the Eyes Wide Shut DVD) had become, to a certain extent, an old fogey who didn’t really get the world anymore.
“Not that he wanted or needed to. He created in his films worlds that were poetically whole and self-balancing on their own aesthetic terms. But as time went on, they became more and more porcelain and pristine, and less flesh-and-blood. Eyes Wide Shut is probably the most porcelain of them all.
“The lesson is simple: If you want your art to matter, stay in touch with the world. Keep in the human drama, take walks, go to baseball games, chase women, argue with waiters, ride motorcycles, hang out with children, play poker, visit Paris as often as possible and always keep in touch with the craggy old guy with the bad cough who runs the news stand.
“Kubrick apparently did very little of this. The more invested he became in his secretive, secluded, every-detail-controlled, nothing-left-to-chance lifestyle in England — which he began to construct when he left Hollywood and moved there in the early ’60s — and the less familiar he became with the rude hustle-bustle of life on the outside, the more rigid and formalized and apart-from-life his films became.
“Kubrick’s movies were always impressively detailed and beautifully realized. They’ve always imposed a certain trance-like spell — an altogetherness and aesthetic unity common to the work of any major artist.
“What Kubrick chose to create is not being questioned here. On their own terms, his films are masterful. But choosing to isolate yourself from the unruly push-pull of life can have a calcifying effect upon your art.
“Kubrick was less Olympian and more loosey-goosey when he made his early films in the `50s (Fear and Desire, The Killing, Paths of Glory) and early `60s (Lolita, Dr. Strangelove). I’m not saying his ultra-arty period that began with 2001: A Space Odyssey and continued until his death with A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut, resulted in lesser films. The opposite is probably true.
“I’m saying that however beautiful and mesmerizing they were on their own terms, these last six films of Kubrick’s were more and more unto themselves, lacking that reflective, straight-from-the-hurlyburly quality that makes any work of expression seem more vital and alive.
“So many things about Eyes Wide Shut irritate me. Don’t get me started. So many others have riffed on this.
“The stiff, phoney-baloney way everyone talks to one another. The unmistakable feeling that the world it presents is much closer to 1920s Vienna (where the original Arthur Schnitzler novel was set) than modern-day Manhattan. The babysitter calling Cruise and Kidman ‘Mr. Harford’ and ‘Mrs. Harford.’ If there is one teenaged Manhattan babysitter who has ever expressed herself like a finishing school graduate of 1952 and addressed a modern Manhattan couple in their early 30s as ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.,’ I will eat the throw rug in Dave Poland‘s apartment.
“The trite cliches that constitute 85% of Tom Cruise’s dialogue. The agonizingly stilted delivery that Nicole Kidman gives to her lines in the sequence in which she’s smoking pot and arguing with Cruise in their bedroom. That absolutely hateful piano chord that keeps banging away in Act Three.
“The ultimate proof that Kubrick was off his game in his final days? He was so wrong in his judgment that the MPAA wouldn’t hit him with an NC-17 rating for the orgy scene that he didn’t even shoot alternative footage he could use in the event he might be forced to prune the overt nudity. He was instead caught with his pants down and forced to resort to a ridiculous CGI cover-up that makes no sense in the context of the film. (Would Cruise’s sexually curious character be content with just seeing the shoulders and legs of the sexual performers as he walks through the mansion? Wouldn’t he make a point of actually seeing the real action?)
“No one has been blunt enough to say it, but Kubrick obviously played his cards like no one who had any serious understanding of the moral leanings of the culture, let alone a good poker player’s sense of the film business, would have. He played them like an old man whose instincts were failing him, and thereby put himself and Warner Brothers into an embarrassing position. I wish things hadn’t ended this way for him, but they did.
“I hope what I’ve written here isn’t misread. I’ll always be grateful to have lived in a world that included the films of Stanley Kubrick. He’s now in the company of Griffith, Lubitsch, Chaplin, Eisenstein and the rest. Prolific or spare, rich or struggling, lauded or derided as their artistic strivings may have been, they are all equal now.”
Big Hollywood‘s Steve Mason reports that while that $25.2 million Watchmen figure from yesterday is accurate, the Warner Bros. release is downticking “due to running time and shaky word-of-mouth.” Mason is now projecting $57 million instead of $70 million by Sunday night and a grand domestic tally of $145 million.
If by clapping my hands three times I could Dr. Manhattan the right-wing teardown agents who are doing everything they can to block and tarnish Team Obama without offering anything in the way of constructive ideas or strategies for getting us out of this rancid mess (which the righties got us into with their free-market coddling of Wall Street sociopaths), I would clap my hands three times. If there was ever a time in this country’s history in which the term “smite the Philistines” needs to be literally acted upon…
“Tomorrow’s convenience”? This was carved only two years into the Great Depression. A decade of difficult deprivation would follow for all but the wealthy. Which we’re facing now, most likely. Read this 3.7 N.Y. Times story about “a vast remaking of the economy” now underway. It’s worse than generally realized.
The mood-setting visuals before the strum-and-wail music portion are striking, to say the least. Exquisite photography and a generally fine job by Portland-based actor-director Scott Coffey (Ellie Parker). The band is the Handsome Furs.
I had a nice plate of Eggs Benedict and some very cool conversing this morning with Duplicity director-writer Tony Gilroy at BLT, an upscale country-type restaurant at the corner of Sixth and Central Park South. An industrial espionage caper romance with Clive Owen and Julia Roberts, Duplicity is agreeably layered and much sharper and more agile-minded than yours truly. That’s a compliment. Don’t people hate thrillers they can figure out too easily? Those smarter-than-me types, I suspect, are going to love this.
Duplicity director-writer Tony Gilroy — Saturday, 3.7, 9:35 am.
As Michael Clayton did a year and a half ago, Duplicity made me feel like the slow kid in the back of the class. I was into it, on top of it, closely examining, leaning forward, waiting for the Big Thing to happen, wondering if I’d somehow missed it, getting worried…and then it all kicked in. I can’t review the film until 3.19, but I’ll tap out something about our chat tomorrow.
For what it’s worth, Joel and Ethan Coen recently told a director pal who ran into them socially that they’re not going to Cannes this year. So I guess we can all forget seeing A Serious Man there. Unless…you know, the boys decide it’ll be ready in time and they’re into it after all. Focus Features will be releasing it early next October. A Toronto Film Festival preem…right?
Described on the Wikipedia page as a “gentle but dark period comedy” (i.e., 1967), A Serious Man “is based loosely on the Coen’s childhoods in a Jewish academic family in the largely Jewish suburb of St Louis Park, Minnesota.
“That Runaways script has to be the biggest load of dog crap I’ve ever read. Every other word is ‘dog cunt’ or ‘dogshit, and Joan Jett is always taking a piss or rubbing her crotch. It is really a poor excuse for a screenplay, and I can’t believe that Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart are signed for it.” — Written by a moderately long-of-tooth mainstream journalist friend who read Floria Sigismondi‘s script a day or so ago.
This opinion obviously isn’t the last word, and I’m not so sure I found the idea of Kristen Stewart-as-Joan Jett acting coarse and vulgar unappealing, per se. At the very least this might prompt Sigismondi to consider the possibility that the script needs a little soul and refinement. Does anyone feel otherwise? There must be advocates out there.
The reason I was never into The Runaways is because very few in this country were. The band recorded five albums, toured around the world and met with huge success abroad, especially in Japan, from ’75 to ’79. But they couldn’t connect here. Jett was a headliner and co-founder. The others were Sandy West. Micki Steele, Jackie Fox, Lita Ford, and Cherie Currie.
I’d personally love to see a film about the rise and fall of Bow Wow Wow. I first heard them when I was in London in December 1980, where I’d flown for a Peter O’Toole interview piece I was trying nail down for GQ. I flew back to the States 100% totally mad for “Louis Quatorze” and “Sexy Eiffel Tower.”
I had heard of them a bit when I first arrived, and I remember being at loud party about a week into my stay with some Time Out friends. I was standing with a group of guys and there was this raunchy drum-heavy track playing, and I asked who it was. “You know who it is!” one of them said. No, I don’t, I answered — who is it? “Don’t hand me that shit…you know who it is!” he shouted. I do? “You know it, you know it!” Bow Wow Wow? “That‘s right!”
“It is easy to appreciate Anna Faris: a cult is forming around her. It is less easy to shed the slightly moralistic hand-wringing that accompanies much of the acclaim she has received – the idea that she is wasting her talent on bad projects; that her collaborators should recognize her skill set and exploit it; and that serious fans are only ‘mucking about’ in bad movies for the certain redemptive quality that her great turns bring to these (largely) unworthy titles.” — from a Zachary Campbell piece on rouge.com.
This columnist will never get on the Anna Faris cult bandwagon until she starts appearing in better films, which it to say work with better people. If Alfonso Cuaron, Bennett Miller or Alexander Payne use her one day, great…then I’ll pay attention. But I’m 90% sure it’ll never happen. Because she seems to be no more than a quarter-inch deep.