The brittleness and acidity in Carrie Fisher‘s personality feels just right in this scene from Hal Ashby‘s Shampoo. And the look of resignation on Warren Beatty‘s face when she pops the question is perfect. I wish there were more movies like this today. Whip-smart social comedies with more on their minds than just wanting to make people laugh, I mean.
“The Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the United States into World War II has inspired a splendid movie, full of vivid performances and unforgettable scenes, a movie that uses the coming of war as a backdrop for individual stories of love, ambition, heroism and betrayal. The name of that movie is From Here to Eternity.” — A.O. Scott‘s lead paragraph in his 5.25.01 review of Michael Bay‘s Pearl Harbor. It is still one of the most withering put-downs of a mainstream big-budget Hollywood movie ever written.
This dialogue-free Cliffhanger teaser — an arty-looking music video to the strains of Mozart’s Requiem “Dies Irae” — is without question one of the greatest and most inspiring film trailers ever cut by a mainstream Hollywood studio. The reason is that it made a mediocre and needlessly brutal action movie look classy and cool. Most trailers try to reach the lowest-common-denominator dolts. This one went for the PBS wine-and-cheese crowd, selling the choreography, Alex Thomson‘s awesome photography and the splendor of northern Italy’s Dolomite mountains.
I was totally sold on Cliffhanger after seeing it. And then, of course, I saw the film.
Was the Cliffhanger teaser-trailer included in IFC.com’s “50 Greatest Trailers Ever Made” article, which went up yesterday? Of course not. Does this omission call the legitimacy of the article into question? Yes, it does somewhat. Especially since it salutes this Zabriskie Point trailer, which has one of the most comically awful ad-copy narrations ever heard.
There was a movie-theatre moment eight years ago when I thought Michael Bay might one day grow into a semi-mature film artist. Maybe. To my delight and surprise the opening seconds of Pearl Harbor began with Hans Zimmer‘s music playing for nine beautiful seconds over a black screen — a semi-overture, I thought at first. But the black gave way to a shot of World War I-era biplanes cruising over cornfields during magic hour — a middle-American nostalgia scene. But that black-screen opener was still…well, mildly impressive.
This YouTube clip cuts off a couple of seconds’ worth of blackness so it doesn’t give the full effect. The first 45 to 50 seconds of this clip are a little too photogenic in a slick-TV-ad sort of way, but they’re otherwise engaging and certainly restrained by Bay standards. If only he’d held that black screen for another five seconds!
I asked Bay about the blackness at a press conference the next day. He talked about how he had to fight hard to begin the film this way, especially since it meant not starting this Jerry Bruckheimer-produced film with the traditional highway-tree-lightning Bruckheimer logo.
It wasn’t much of an artistic call on Bay’s part but it was at least something, I felt. I came away from Pearl Harbor half-convinced that if Bay ever wanted wanted to move beyond shallow whambam blockbuster movies that he had the potential to do so.
“After settling into the second hour of the movie, dismayed I had over another hour ahead of me, it started to come to me: Michael Bay is a surrealist. He may not know he is, he may not like that I’m calling him one, but this money-sucking action filmmaker extraordinaire would do well by Bunuel or Jodorowksy or Gilliam or hell, Aqua Teen Hunger Force (which is absurdist surrealism at its finest, especially the ingenious movie, and the characters would have featured brilliantly in this picture — better than Bay’s ‘jive talking’ bots).
“If the filmmaker had some chutzpah, if he truly tapped into the melting pocket-watch corner of his brain, if he understood his full dreamweaving potential (because I do believe Michael Bay can ‘get me through the night’), the next Transformers would be titled Un Chien Andalou LaBeouf.”
ScriptShadow’s Carson Reeves has read Steven Soderergh‘s 6.22.09 draft of Moneyball — i.e., the one that freaked out Sony chief Amy Pascal and prompted a shutdown last weekend. Having also read Steven Zallian‘s December 2008 draft, Reeves pretty much agrees with Pascal and her Sony team that Soderbergh’s draft more or less messed up a good thing and that their decision to deep-six his film was correct.
“The biggest faux-pas is the handling of the all-important ‘on-base percentage’ stat,” Reeves writes. “This is what the Oakland A’s figured out that no one else did — the hidden statistic which is the key to their success. It’s what allows them to compete with half the salary of all the other teams. This is the movie. Yet here it’s treated like an afterthought.
“In fact, I couldn’t even tell you what the A’s secret to success was in Soderbergh’s draft. It’s implied that there’s a spreadsheet involved but the explanation stops there. A spreadsheet of never-explained numbers? That‘s how the team wins? That’s your hook for the movie?
“Look, Soderbergh is the kind of director who likes to find his movies in the editing room. Shoot a bunch of stuff, see what sticks. If something doesn’t connect logically, throw some voiceover in there and add a little score. That seems to be his plan of attack with Moneyball. I don’t know what the final movie would look like so I couldn’t definitively tell you if he would of salvaged this, but I do know he turned a solid script into an incomprehensible mess. And that’s why his movie was shut down.”
(Thanks to The Playlist‘s Rodrigo Perez for commenting on and passing along the Reeves’ piece.]
The death of Michael Jackson “forced a last-minute cut to Sacha Baron Cohen‘s Bruno,” according to the Guardian‘s Xan Brooks. As the news of Jackson’s passing broke, a scene in which Cohen interviews the singer’s sister, LaToya “was hastily removed from the film” for last night’s premiere screening, he reports. “Sources at Universal, Bruno‘s distributor, said the decision had been made ‘out of respect for Jackson’s family.'”
Ten minutes ago I asked Universal publicity if the LaToya footage would be permanently cut. Their response, received at 11 am LA time, was that they “can’t offer comment just yet.”
The offending scene, as Brooks explains, “features Cohen, in the guise of Bruno, attempting to find Michael Jackson’s phone number on LaToya’s BlackBerry. After Bruno reads aloud what he claims to be the singer’s number, an apparently enraged LaToya terminates the interview and storms off the set. Reports suggest that the scene will not be restored for its official release on July 10th.”
I’ve seen the scene and it’s very mild. It doesn’t slag Michael Jackson — it merely pokes fun at his worldwide fame. LaToya is made fun of but who cares about that? I wouldn’t cut it if I were Universal. Stick to your satirical guns, guys! Stand with Sacha and let the Jacksons eat cake. Why be extra-sensitive about a super-popular and super-talented performer who nonetheless became a full-fledged Frankenstein monster who had his way with young boys?
Compulsively chatty airline passengers and fat movieplex customers who load up on junk food like squirrels getting ready for a long winter — I can’t decide which I despise more.
I’ve cumulatively stood for days (if you consider all my years of going to airports since I was 18) watching airline passengers go up to the initial check-in ticket counter and then proceed to yap-yap-yap with the airline rep for eight or ten or twelve minutes or more. About what?, I’m always wondering. They’ve bought the ticket and their luggage is tagged — what could there be to discuss? And yet they do it every time. Perhaps it’s because some people are nervous about flying and they just want to feel comforted by a friendly voice. Of course, the idea that they’re making others wait in line much longer than necessary never occurs to them. Why should it?
I’ve stared with amazement at Target-dressed, pudgy-bodied moviegoers who go up to the candy counter and buy a couple of extra-large buckets of popcorn, two or three supersize Cokes, trays of nachos with cheese and jalapenos, hot dogs with mustard and relish and an extra-large pack of red licorice, and then load it all onto a couple of carboard trays. Watching this tends to bring about feelings of nausea, of course. On top of the fact that ordering and paying for all this crap takes almost as much time as the yap-yappers at the airport.
It’s well and good for The Hurt Locker to have Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic ratings of 98% and 91% respectively, but you know something really special is happening when the notoriously fickle and eccentric N.Y. Press critic Armond White is standing arm-in-arm with the usual elite-critic suspects — i.e., Joe Morgenstern, A.O. Scott, David Denby, David Edelstein, Scott Foundas, Dana Stevens, etc.
(a) “The Hurt Locker might be the first Iraq-set film to break through to a mass audience because it doesn’t lead with the paralysis of the guilt-ridden Yank. The horror is there, but under the rush.” — Edelstein, New York;
(b) “So far, the best fiction films about the Iraq War are Nick Bloomfield‘s Battle for Haditha, Irwin Winkler‘s Home of the Brave and John Moore‘s allegorical Flight of the Phoenix remake. It’s sufficient praise to say The Hurt Locker joins that short list. Kathryn Bigelow has found her perfect subject.” — White, N.Y. Press.
(c) “The Hurt Locker is a viscerally exciting, adrenaline-soaked tour de force of suspense and surprise, full of explosions and hectic scenes of combat, but it blows a hole in the condescending assumption that such effects are just empty spectacle or mindless noise. If it’s not the best action movie of the summer, I’ll blow up my car.” — Scott, N.Y. Times.
(d) “With her strength of revealing character through action, Bigelow comes closer to the tradition of Anthony Mann, Sam Fuller, and other bygone practitioners of the classic Hollywood war movie than to today’s dominant breed of studio A-listers, who create (mostly incoherent) action at the expense of character. The Hurt Locker is the best American film since Paul Thomas Anderson‘s There Will Be Blood.” — Foundas, Village Voice.
(e) “In this period of antic fragmentation, Bigelow has restored the wholeness of time and space as essentials for action. Occasionally, a plaintive reader writes me a note after I’ve panned some violent fantasy movie and says something like ‘Some of us like explosions. Ease up.’ Well, I like these explosions, because I believe in them. Realism has its thrills, too.” — Denby, New Yorker.
(f) “A first-rate action thriller, a vivid evocation of urban warfare in Iraq, a penetrating study of heroism and a showcase for austere technique, terse writing and a trio of brilliant performances. Most of all, though, The Hurt Locker is an instant classic that demonstrates, in a brutally hot and dusty laboratory setting, how the drug of war hooks its victims and why they can’t kick the habit.” — Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal.
(g) “After The Hurt Locker (which is without question the most exciting and least ideological movie yet made about the war in Iraq), everyone will remember Jeremy Renner‘s name.” — Stevens, Slate.
Cue all the bloated empties out there in middle America. Are we ready? One, two….”we’re not seeing it because we’d rather just be entertained!”
If the people behind Michael Jackson‘s now-scuttled concert tour have any sense, “they’ll assemble an all-star tribute concert,” writes HE’s Moises Chiullan. “There are plenty of faded-glory performers who could use a boost. They’ll retitle the concert to something like ‘Long Live the King’ that’ll inspire angry responses from Elvis fans in rural areas. Paula Abdul will be there — who else needs a major leg up? Part of the proceeds will go to charity, the rest to paying down Jackson’s crushing debt his kids are saddled with.”
For what it’s worth, TMZ is passing along information from “a close member of Michael Jackson‘s family” that Jackson “received a daily injection of a synthetic narcotic similar to morphine — Demerol — and yesterday he received a shot at 11:30 am” and that “family members are saying the dosage was ‘too much’ and that’s what caused his death.”
TMZ is also reporting that “law enforcement [reps are] looking for a doctor who may have given Jackson an injection before he died. [The doctor] lived at Michael Jackson’s home [but] is nowhere to be found. Law enforcement sources tell us a BMW belonging to the doctor was towed from Jackson’s home last night.”
Here’s an hour-long mp3 of yesterday’s sitdown with Humpday costars Mark Duplass and Josh Leonard. I found their easy manner, sage observations and steady wit relaxing — I felt like I knew them quite well within minutes — and of course interesting. They let me ask the questions but we mainly just talked. The recording, in a sense, is a kind of preview of the flavor of their back-and-forth in Humpday (Magnolia, 7.10). Wait for Leonard’s second-hand anecdote about Michael Bay — “trust the box-office!”
Humpday costars Josh Leonard, Mark Duplass — Thursday,6.25, 1:42 pm.