Unless they’re sick or have found a better, higher-paying gig somewhere else, people almost never resign from cushy prestigious jobs. When somebody leaves a cool job it’s because they’ve been shown the door. So when you write a news story about some highly-placed person resigning, you have to try and convey what really happened. Who did the pushing and for what reason? Generic so-and-so is resigning stories along with generic “I’ve had a great run and am looking forward to the next challenge” statements are awfully damn annoying.
You need to check out this new music player that’ll eventually replace iTunes,” Jett wrote a few minutes ago. “It’s called Songbird and is so dynamic. It has so many cool applications.” The download site says the goal “is to create a non-proprietary, cross-platform, extensible tool that will help enable new ways to playback, manage, and discover music. There are lots of ways to contribute your time to the project. We’d love your help! There are several features we’re proud of, but we’ll be the first to admit that others need ironing out, are experimental, or are just plain missing. There’s still a lot to do.”
Five and a half hours ago The Oregonian’s Shawn Levy quoted from a Gus Van Sant Twitter post (128 characters) that said the following: “My next film is Dustin Lance Black‘s adaptation of Tom Wolfe‘s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. It’s going to be really funny.” The Twitter post was reportedly taken down after it appeared.
Levy noted that “the project has been in development, but this is the nearest thing to confirmed word that’s appeared anywhere so far. Take that, Variety!” In fact, the book’s Wikipedia page says that “a film adaptation of the book, directed by Gus Van Sant, is expected to be released in 2009. The screenplay was written by Dustin Lance Black, who also worked on the HBO series Big Love and Van Sant’s 2008 film Milk. The movie is being produced by Richard N. Gladstein.”
It might be funny but I’m predicting failure, or certainly an underwhelming reception. Van Sant gets the drug culture thing like no one else, but there’s no story here — Wolfe’s book is about mythology, performance art, wild episodes, characters (Ken Kesey, Neil Cassady, Wavy Gravy), ’60s atmosphere and, of course, the way it’s all described. Spiritual pyschedlic soul-searching material doesn’t play in cinematic terms. It can’t — it’s simultaneously too much and not enough.
(Thanks to HE’s Moises Chiullan for the alert.)
The first four months are never expected to yield much, certainly not in terms of award-quality fare. But a few made the grade with me. Three or four can be called exceptional, and the rest good, mostly satisfying, decent, or at least diverting in an art-house indie obscura vein. Forget awards eligibility in terms of rules and release dates. This is simply the best of what’s opened so far in ’09, in order of preference.
Except for The Hurt Locker, that is, which opens on 6.26. I’m including it because it’s been showing around and has contributed to the winter-spring current.
(In order of preference): Kathryn Bigelow‘s The Hurt Locker, Cary Fukunaga‘s Sin Nombre, Greg Mottola‘s Adventureland, James Toback‘s Tyson, Rupert Wyatt‘s The Escapist, Andrezj Wajda‘s Katyn, Kevin McDonald‘s State of Play, strong>Matteo Garrone’s Gomorrah,Ramin Bahrani‘s Goodbye Solo, Tony Gilroy‘s Duplicity, Steve McQueen‘s Hunger, Paolo Sorrentino‘s Il Divo, Carlos Reygadas‘ Silent Light, Terrence Davies‘ Of Time and the City, Henry Selick‘s Coraline, Tom Tykwer‘s The International, Jan Troell‘s Everlasting Moments, and Adam Del Deo and James D. Stern‘s Every Little Step.
No complaints about my not yet posting multi-paragraph reviews of some of these. If I didn’t review two or three or four it’s because I haven’t fucking felt like it…okay? I’m not a machine. I never got around to seeing Matt Aselton‘s Gigantic, which might have made the list. (Or maybe not.) Ditto strong>Mary Stuart Masterson’s The Cake Eaters. And whatever happened to poor Killshot? Why won’t Harvey let some of us see it?
A rental-car guy told me this morning that today is Good Friday. An hour later an ex-girlfriend told me she’s visiting her parents for Passover tomorrow. If not for them I would be thinking about this weekend like any other. No holiday seems very important these days. Religious ones especially. At best, I’m guessing, Easter Sunday is regarded by regular Joes in the same light as President’s Day and Martin Luther King Day. If that. I remember giving a damn about Easter when I was a kid. I played a Roman soldier in a little Easter Sunday pageant in my local Episcopalian church when I was ten or eleven. I hunted for chocolate eggs when I was younger. It all fades away.
Yesterday’s article about movies that never made it to DVD (i.e., “The Disappeared“) got me thinking again about James Bridges‘ Mike’s Murder (1984), which I wrote about 13 months ago. The point was to urge Warner Home Video to release it on DVD, and if possible to release the original Bridges cut. A print of this version exists, according to Bridges’ longtime partner Jack Larson (with whom I spoke after the article was posted). And so I’m basically bugging WHV’s George Feltenstein again, is what it comes down to.
Here’s Pauline Kael‘s mini-review: “Debra Winger, in a superb full-scale starring performance, as a radiantly sane young bank teller in LA who has an affair with a curly-haired clear-faced young tennis instructor called Mike (Mark Keyloun). It’s a wobbly affair: She hears from him randomly over the course of two years — whenever the mood hits him, he phones her. One night, he’s supposed to come over late, but he doesn’t show. When she gets a call telling her he’s dead, it’s abrupt, bewildering. She can’t let go of him so quickly, and she tries to find out everything she can.
“Winger has thick, long, loose hair and a deep, sensual beauty in this movie. James Bridges, who directed, wrote the role for her after directing her in Urban Cowboy, and her performance suggests what Antonioni seemed to be trying to get from Jeanne Moreau in La Notte , only it really works with Winger — maybe because there’s nothing sullen or closed about her. The picture is atmospheric yet underpopulated; at times, it feels thin, and it turns into overheated melodrama in a sequence featuring Darrell Larson.
“But its view of the cocaine subculture (or culture) of LA is probably Bridges’ most original and daring effort, and it has a brief, intense appearance by Paul Winfield (as the record producer who brought Mike to LA) that’s right up there with Winger’s acting. With Brooke Alderson, Robert Crosson as Sam, and Daniel Shor as Richard, the performance artist. The Warner executives refused to release the picture until Bridges made some cuts and changes, and they probably breathed a few sighs of relief as they buried it.”
Here’s part of what I wrote last March: “It didn’t register very strongly in the mid-Reagan era because it didn’t shoot for the stratosphere or deliver fierce visceral thrills, which is what audiences seemed to be responding to more and more back then. (The ’70s heyday had drawn to a close, and blunt-impact movies — sci-fi epics, actioners, tits-and-zits comedies — were gaining big- time.) But it handled itself and its subject — the L.A. drug-dealing scene — in a way that was almost deceptively powerful. It’s a sad and somber little piece that leaves a haunting after-vibe.
“And it had some unusually penetrating performances from Debra Winger, Paul Winfield, Mark Keyloun (a newcomer at the time who seemed to work mostly on television after Mike’s Murder and who retired from acting in the early ’90s) and Darrell Larson. There was real ache and loneliness in their emoting. Which lent unusual gravity to a story that structurally was only a murder-mystery.
“I wish I could find at least a fragment of Kael’s New Yorker review online. I remember how her review noted that a N.Y. Times TV page editor had written ‘skip it’ in response to an airing of Mike’s Murder on a New York-area station, and Kael saying in response, ‘Please, don’t skip it.’
Winger plays Betty, a practical minded but lonely bank teller living in Brentwood. She falls for Mike, a light-hearted tennis instructor (Keyloun) who spends a single night with her after a brief flirtation. He’s obviously immature and irresponsible, not returning calls and whatnot, but she can’t let him go. Then after he doesn’t show up for a date, Betty learns to her shock that he’s been slain by drug dealers.
“And so she decides to assuage her pain by looking into his sordid past to learn what happened, and the journey she takes into the toney, drug-dealing underworld that gives Mike’s Murder its strange, unsettling edge.
“An IMDB posting by James Sanford says that Mike’s Murder has “a beautifully evoked, vaguely creepy atmosphere that hangs over every scene….the crime that sets the story in motion remains unsolved at the end, and perhaps that’s how it should be. It’s not important who really killed Mike Chuhutsky, Bridges seems to be saying. Not when it’s so obvious what killed him.”
“It’s been over ten years since I’ve seen Mike’s Murder, but I remember three things in particular: (a) the look of immense sadness on Winfield’s face as his character, a wealthy gay man who had a thing for Mike, considers the character flaws that led to his death, (b) the horrific howl that comes out of Larson, Mike’s not-very-smart best friend, as he’s about to be murdered by thugs for having stolen cocaine from a major dealer who lives in the hills, and (c) a nifty little sequence in the very beginning that shows a hamburger being prepared at Tomy’s on Pico Blvd.”
It seems lamentable that poor Liam Neeson, who’s probably (and of course understandably) not fully himself in the wake of Natasha Richardson‘s death, has agreed to play Zeus, for God’s sake, in a remake of Clash of the Titans under director Louis Leterrier (Transporter 2, The Incredible Hulk). I’m thinking back to Neeson’s expressions of despair in the late ’90s after starring in the double-whammy blue-screen nightmare of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and The Haunting. He wanted to quit acting, if I correctly recall.
Ralph Fiennes (who has a memorable cameo in The Hurt Locker ) is scheduled to costar in the new version, which is being funded by Warner Bros. It’ll begin production in England later this month.
Laurence Olivier played Zeus in the original 1982 Clash of the Titans — strictly paycheck, an all-time career low.
Nobody invited me to see The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (Peach Arch, opening today in NY and LA). I’ve asked the film’s p.r. reps if I can get a screener from them so I can sit in a Starbucks somewhere in Manhattan and watch it on my computer. If that doesn’t work I guess I’ll actually pay to see it this afternoon. Because I know Peter Sarsgaard’s performance will be engaging (because he always is), and because I’ve always wanted to see it (despite the buzz) as a way of paying tribute to Sienna Miller‘s ballsiness is calling Pittsburgh “shitsburgh.” She earned my lifelong respect with that one quote. On top of which Pittsburgh deserves the sobriquet — I’ve been there.
Of course, I had a sense from the get-go that The Mysteries of Pittsburgh might be a problem movie. I suspected this when I saw that the director’s name was Rawson Marshall Thurber. That’s one too many names, man. That’s the name of a guy with ego issues or family issues or something. It sounds southern, literary, to-the-manor-born and pretentious as hell. I remember Francis Coppola announcing back in the early ’80s that he was officially dropping “Ford” as his middle name because he knew it sounded too high falutin’ and obnoxious.
Entertainment Weekly‘s Owen Gleiberman gave it a D, which is exceptional given EW’s tendency to grade on a curve. “The paradox of a truly atrocious literary adaptation,” he wrote, “is that everything on screen — a crummy postcollegiate job, a love triangle, even a ?burglary — must be embedded with little wisps of higher ”meaning,” and therefore ends up meaning nothing at all.
“In The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, a stillborn rendering of Michael Chabon’s first novel, Jon Foster plays Art Bechstein, the son of a Jewish gangster (Nick Nolte), but he comes off as the dullest of WASP preppies. His fascination with a young couple — heartfelt Jane (Miller) and her pretentious, chopper-riding, bisexual boyfriend Cleveland (Sarsgaard) — “plays like Gossip Girl written by a bad F. Scott Fitzgerald imitator.”
“If you thought Abu Ghraib was a laugh riot then you might love Observe and Report, a potentially brilliant conceptual comedy that fizzles because its writer and director, Jody Hill, doesn’t have the guts to go with his spleen.” — from Manohla Dargis‘s 4.10 N.Y. Times review.
“Observe and Report might have been an interesting film if Hill had committed to the dark side and stayed there, but he wants it both ways: to get laughs for being mean and to shake it off and say, ‘No, I was just being goofy and playful.’ But Ronnie isn’t a playful construct; he’d be fascinating if there was consistency to him, if Hill had the depth or the guts to stick with the vision he initially creates. But Observe and Report wants it both ways and ends up with neither.” — from Marshall Fine‘s 4.10.09 review on Hollywood & Fine.
“Hill is a copout compromiser who lacks the courage of his interests and instincts. He’s made a semi-dark nerd-psychopath comedy and (just to be safe) a moronic, logic-free, dumb-ass Paul Blart comedy with an infuriating finale. Particularly for a film that is supposedly delving into the dark side and dealing with human derangement with at least a semblance of bluntness. — from my own 4.7.09 review, called “Citizen’s Arrest.”
The finale “ends on a note of triumph that’s curiously out of keeping with the movie’s own logic. All along we’ve been watching Ronnie slowly hoist himself on the petard of his own unchecked aggression. For there to be even a hint of redemption throws everything that came before into question, and breaks an unwritten contract with the viewer. What’s meant (I think) to be a ‘fuck you’ to action-movie conventions reads instead as a ‘fuck you’ to the audience. Observe and Report tickets should come with a free breath mint, because however hard you’ve been laughing, that ending leaves a seriously bad taste in your mouth.” – from Dana Steven‘s 4.10 review on Slate.