I’m as much of a fan of this kind of photo as the next guy, but it seems as if Scarlet Johansson has stopped acting for a reason. Maybe she’s figuring “what’s the point?” She needs to get back into it again, only this time appear in some good films. Because I don’t know or care what Mango is.
An Education‘s Carey Mulligan playing verbal table tennis with the charmingly rat-a-tat-tat David Poland. That’s my girl you’re messing with, pal! Kidding.
I believe none of what I hear and only half of what I see, but a Sydney reader named Warren wrote a few minutes ago saying “you may be interested to know that Steven Soderbergh is directing a play for Cate Blanchett‘s Sydney Theatre Company here in December this year. Maybe that’s where he sees his future.” “Mystery project” alluded to and half-assedly confirmed by the website.
Jacket art for the forthcoming North by Northwest Blu-ray, expected sometime in November in the U.S. and U.K. Posted yesterday by www.blu-ray.com. Cary Grant isn’t running with any particular conviction. He could have just come in from a rainstorm and is running through an apartment building lobby and trying not to slip. Poor-ass choice on someone’s part.
Vanity Fair‘s Julian Sancton has compiled a list of critics who’ve used the term “fish in a barrel” in their critiques of Bruno.
The Toronto Film Festival has announced four gala presentations and eighteen special presentations that will play from 9.10 to 9.19. I’ve been unofficially told that An Education is going to Toronto but it’s not on this particular list — no biggie. But where’s Nowhere Boy? That one has to go to Toronto. Harvey wouldn’t dare not bring it…would he?
Kristin Scott Thomas, Sergi Lopez in Catherine Corsini’s Partir
Here’s a partial rundown and some gut reactions:
Get Low (d: Aaron Schneider). Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek, Lucas Black. Fringe-y 1930s rural period drama. Gut reaction: Doubtful.
Max Manus (d: Joachim Ronning and Espen Sandberg). True story of Norway’s most colorful resistance fighter Max Manus. Gut reaction: “Colorful”?
Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire (d: Lee Daniels). Known quantity, screened left and right, no mysteries remain.
The Boys Are Back (d: Scott Hicks). Suddenly widowed, ill-prepared dad (Clive Owen) struggles to raise two sons on his own. Laura Fraser, Emma Booth. Gut reaction: Maybe but Hicks has been giving me trouble for years. Especially from No Reservations.
Bright Star (d: Jane Campion). Saw it in Cannes, found it immaculate and quite fine according to the Masterpiece Theatre terms it was shot in accordance with. Grieg Frasder‘s vermeer-lit photography is Barry Lyndon-like.
City of Life and Death (d: Lu Chuan). Chinese-produced epic about the 1937 Nanjing Massacre. Liu Ye, Gao Yuanyuan. Gut reaction: A must-see.
Cracks (d: Jordan Scott). Very vague descriptions of this Irish drama about a girls boarding school, a diving team, a glamorous teacher (Eva Green), the arrival of a beautiful Spanish girl, a secret midnight party…there’s no reading it. Gut reaction: Yes, out of curiosity.
Hadewijch (d: Bruno Dumont). About a female religious novice whose ecstatic, blind faith leads to her expulsion from a convent. Gut reaction: Disinclined.
The Informant! (d: Steven Soderbergh). Oddball true-life whistleblower drama tinged with farce. Matt Damon as Mark Whitacre, a guy who decides to rat out his colleagues in exposing a multinational price-fixing conspiracy, and then gets into hot water for being dirty himself. Gut reaction: Of course.
The Invention of Lying (d: Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson). The trailer has made the world very wary, very concerned. Gut reaction: Could be trouble.
Leaves of Grass (d: Tim Blake Nelson). Allegedly a fast-paced comic film about Oklahoma-based growers of hydroponic pot with Edward Norton playing twins. Gut reaction: Of course.
London River (d: Rachid Bouchareb). Allegedly an intimate drama about a Muslim man and a Christian woman whose kids are missing after the July 2005 London bombings. Gut reaction: Suspicion, reluctance, maybe.
Ondine (d: Neil Jordan). Modern Irish fairytale auot a man (Colin Farrell) and a mermaid (Alicja Bachleda), and not an Irish Splash. “Like all fairy tales, enchantment and darkness go hand in hand,” says the TIFF copy. Gut reaction: Certainly.
Partir (d: Catherine Corsini). Some kind of middle-aged, In The Realm of the Senses-like affair between Kristin Scott Thomas and Sergi Lopez. “Sudden,” “violent,””all-engulfing passion to the fullest,” etc. Gut reaction: No question.
Solitary Man (d: Brian Koppelman, David Levien). Portrait of a 60ish disempowered womanizer, played by Michael Douglas. Costarring Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito, Mary Louise Parker and Jenna Fischer. Gut reaction: Of course.
The Vintner’s Luck (d: Niki Caro). A wine-and-creation movie about “an ambitious young peasant winemaker” and the three loves of his life — his wife, an intellectual baroness, and an angel named Xas. Gut reaction: First feature in four years by director of North Country and Whale Rider = sure.
I’ve been listening to Judge Sonia Sotormayor‘s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. She’s basically okay — prudent, fair-minded, intelligent. Not anyone’s idea of a dazzling intellect but her heart’s in the right place and confirmation is a lock. But people who use the word “absolutely” as a way of trying to convey emphatic resolve and agreement are a problem to me. I think it’s a term that less-than-fully-honest people use to snow others with. Not maliciously but as a mild sidestep move.
When I hear “absolutely” my eyes narrow involuntarily and I start to pull back a bit. People in sales use it relentlessly in order to soothe and reassure, and in my judgment they deserve to be regarded askance for this. The world is divided into two camps — those who use this word and those who will use any word other than “absolutely” as a matter of honor. I prefer “emphatically”or “most certainly” or a simple “yes.”
Steven Soderbergh, clearly in a dispirited post-Moneyball mood, has told the Guardian‘s Henry Barnes that he’s feeling marginalized and roughed up and may be looking at a diminished future. “In terms of my career, I can see the end of it,” he says. “I’ve had that sensation for a few years now. And so I’ve got a list of stuff that I want to do — that I hope I can do — and once that’s all finished I may just disappear.
“I’m looking at the landscape and I’m thinking, ‘Hmmm, I don’t know. A few more years maybe. And then the stuff that I’m interested in is only going to be of interest to me.”
I buy this and I don’t buy this. The triple whammy of Che‘s box-office wipeout, the admired but under-patronized The Girlfriend Experience and the total collapse of the Moneyball project were jarring upsets, for sure. But Soderbergh is too much of a filmmaking nut to just ride off into the sunset like Alan Ladd‘s Shane or fade away like Gen. Douglas MacArthur. He was just in the one of those moods when Barnes called him. We all go there from time to time.
“It would all sound depressing if Soderbergh didn’t pepper his speech with fits of incredulous laughter,” Barnes writes. “Perhaps the last few years – capped by his recent run-in with Sony over his revised script for Moneyball, a baseball movie starring Brad Pitt, that saw him elbowed off the project – have left him punch-drunk.”
“‘Everybody got scarred by Che a little bit,’ Soderbergh says. ‘I don’t know how to describe it. It took a long time to shake off. It was just such an intense four or five months that it really…’
“There is a long pause. He speaks slowly and evenly.
“You know, for a year after we finished shooting I would still wake up in the morning thinking, ‘Thank God I’m not shooting that film.’
“Does he wish he hadn’t done it?
“‘Yeah. Literally I’d wake up and think, ‘At least I’m not doing that today.'”
“Soderbergh knew Che (recently released on DVD in the UK, coming from Criterion sometime in the vague fall) would be difficult from the start. The project was brought to him by its eventual star, Benicio del Toro, and producer Laura Bickford, during the shooting of Traffic — the drug war docudrama that won Soderbergh the best director Oscar in 2001.
“Che was essentially Del Toro’s baby and Soderbergh, who was interested in the man but nowhere near as smitten as the actor, approached the movie cautiously, heading into the production with what he describes now as a ‘pretty significant sense of dread’.
“Lack of funding fuelled his fear. And the money wasn’t there partly because of Soderbergh himself. In the characteristically noble pursuit of authenticity he decided to film Che in Spanish, a decision that effectively blitzed any hope of finding significant investment within the US.
“‘It’s a film that, to some extent, needs the support of people who write about films,” he argues. “If you’d had all these guys running around talking in accented English you’d [have had] your head taken off.’
“Eventually European investors were tapped for $58 million (35 million quid) — a paltry figure considering the project’s ambition. As a result Soderbergh was forced to shoot extremely quickly to stay on budget. The two parts were filmed over 76 days, four days fewer than for his glitzy Vegas action comedy Ocean’s Eleven, an $85 million capitalist fat-cat of a movie in comparison with Che.
“‘It’s hard to watch it and not to wish we’d had more time,’ he says of Che. ‘But I can’t tell you that if we’d had more time it would be better — it would just be different. There was an energy and intensity that came out of working that quickly.’
Steven Soderbergh, columnist Anne Thompson at an elite after-party following Che screening at Mann’s Chinese, taken sometime last fall.
“Indeed, Che is easily Soderbergh’s best film since Traffic. But it was a terrible failure at the box office, grossing under $2 million worldwide. Soderbergh blames piracy (‘We got crushed in South America…we came out in Spain in September of last year and it was everywhere within a matter of days…it killed it.”) but it probably didn’t help that his film is a foreign-language marathon with an admittedly distant and impersonal lead.
“Che seems, in retrospect, like a glorious, sad aberration: a niche-audience epic it would be impossible to commission in these straitened times. Today, the willingness of the studios to take such a punt has all but evaporated – a fact that Soderbergh is more alive to than most.”
An interesting group attended last night’s In The Loop premiere at the IFC Center. Hangover star Zach Galifianakis was there (and giving me what felt like a bit of a dirty look as the theatre emptied out). Three or four Sopranos guys (Paulie Walnuts, Artie Bucco, Big Pussy, Furio) came at the invitation of Loop costar James Gandolfini. Famke Janseen (Nip/Tuck, Taken, “Jean Grey” in X-Men) was there; ditto Tom Arnold. Several great-looking women with legs to die for were waltzing around the after-party. Plus the usual assortment of journalists (myself and Jett among them).
James Gandolfini, Federico Castelluccio (a.k.a., “Furio” on The Sopranos) prior to last night’s In The Loop premiere screening at IFC Center on lower Sixth Avenue.
(l. to r.) In The Loop costars Zach Woods, David Rasche, James Gandolfini and Steve Coogan (apologies for the blur) prior to last night’s Loop screening. I have a concern with any older guy who wears sandals but there’s no point in harping.
The gradual left-to-right degradation of the cellar wall opposite the bathrooms in the basement level of the IFC Center (i.e., the way it goes from a faux natural jagged-brick texture to a smoothed-over Mexican restaurant look) reminds me of a bit Lenny Bruce delivered toward the end of John Magnuson‘s Lenny Bruce Performance Film (’65). “This is a real classy wall…looks good, good, decent…and here’s where the brother-in-law took over. ‘People don’t know quality, they’ll settle for shit, let’s give ’em shit.'”
Basement wall opposite bathrooms at Manhattan’s IFC Center — Monday, 7.13, 7:25 pm
The only thing that concerns me about Neill Blomkamp‘s District 9 (Sony, 8.14), which is about insect-like aliens being imprisoned and ghettoized and treated worse than Darfur refugees, is Blomkamp’s visual effects background. This tells me the film will mainly please fanboys and leave people like me wanting more. But maybe not.
I’m also concerned with the dreaded Peter Jackson having produced and the Jackson-allied screenwriter Phillipa Boyens having a co-producer credit. This means that the over-emphatic Jackson stamp — grandiose and hammering visuals without a corresponding passion for believable characters and narrative tension and thespian restraint — could be a prevalent trait in District 9. The fact that the 29 year-old Blomkamp is perhaps a little wet behind the ears in terms of directing prowess certainly leaves the door open for Jackson to have exerted a strong influence.
I’m also a little concerned about aliens looking like those giant cockroaches who knock on doors in those Orkin commercials (“Did you order a pizza?”).
This is three or four days old, but anyone who saw/liked/was aroused by Michael Moore‘s Sicko absolutely needs to watch this scalding Bill Moyers Journal interview with Wendell Potter, former vp corporate communications for CIGNA and current health-care activist with the Center for Media and Democracy. Part #1 is below; here‘s part #2.
Bill Moyers: So what did you think when you saw that film?
Wendell Potter: I thought that he hit the nail on the head with his movie. But the industry, from the moment that the industry learned that Michael Moore was taking on the health care industry, it was really concerned.
Moyers: What were they afraid of?
Potter: They were afraid that people would believe Michael Moore.
Moyers: We obtained a copy of the game plan that was adopted by the industry’s trade association, AHIP. And it spells out the industry strategies in gold letters. It says, “Highlight horror stories of government-run systems.” What was that about?
Potter: The industry has always tried to make Americans think that government-run systems are the worst thing that could possibly happen to them, that if you even consider that, you’re heading down on the slippery slope towards socialism. So they have used scare tactics for years and years and years, to keep that from happening. If there were a broader program like our Medicare program, it could potentially reduce the profits of these big companies. So that is their biggest concern.
Moyers: And there was a political strategy. “Position Sicko as a threat to Democrats’ larger agenda.” What does that mean?
Potter: That means that part of the effort to discredit this film was to use lobbyists and their own staff to go onto Capitol Hill and say, “Look, you don’t want to believe this movie. You don’t want to talk about it. You don’t want to endorse it. And if you do, we can make things tough for you.”
Potter: By running ads, commercials in your home district when you’re running for reelection, not contributing to your campaigns again, or contributing to your competitor.
Moyers: This is fascinating. You know, “Build awareness among centrist Democratic policy organizations…”
Moyers: “…including the Democratic Leadership Council.”
Moyers: Then it says, “Message to Democratic insiders. Embracing Moore is one-way ticket back to minority party status.”
Moyers: Now, that’s exactly what they did, didn’t they? They…
Moyers: …radicalized Moore, so that his message was discredited because the messenger was seen to be radical.
Potter: Absolutely. In memos that would go back within the industry — he was never, by the way, mentioned by name in any memos, because we didn’t want to inadvertently write something that would wind up in his hands. So the memos would usually — the subject line would be — the emails would be, “Hollywood.” And as we would do the media training, we would always have someone refer to him as Hollywood entertainer or Hollywood moviemaker Michael Moore.
Potter: Well, just to — Hollywood, I think people think that’s entertainment, that’s movie-making. That’s not a real documentary. They don’t want you to think that it was a documentary that had some truth. They would want you to see this as just some fantasy that a Hollywood filmmaker had come up with. That’s part of the strategy.
Moyers: So you would actually hear politicians mouth the talking points that had been circulated by the industry to discredit Michael Moore.
Moyers: You’d hear ordinary people talking that. And politicians as well, right?
Moyers: So your plan worked.
Potter: It worked beautifully.
Moyers: The film was blunted, right?
Potter: The film was blunted.
- Thumbs Down on “Pearl”
Some are under an impression that Ti West‘s Pearl (A24, currently playing), the X prequel, is some kind of unusual,...More »
- Emily’s Journey
It only took me five weeks to finally watch John Patton Ford‘s Emily The Criminal, which is pretty close to...More »
- Once More With “Empire”
Yesterday I tried to elaborate upon my positive Telluride reaction to Sam Mendes‘ Empire of Light (Searchlight, 12.9). Toward the...More »
- RT Cooking “Woman King” Scores?
At what point can The Woman King, which cost $50M to produce and another significant chunk of change to sell,...More »
- Don McLean’s “The Day The Academy Died”
An article by a veteran Academy member has appeared on The Ankler, and it says something that The Ankler‘s Richard...More »
- Nightmare at Village Market
Last night I ran into an old friend who’s no longer a friend because he’s more or less turned into...More »