In a 8.14 Auteurs essay, Some Came Running‘s Glenn Kenny summarized for history and posterity the Elbert/Scott/Maher/Yours Truly/McWeeny/H.G. Wells/George Pal/Morlock & Eloi meme, a.k.a. “You Damn Kids.” And at the conclusion — I love this — Kenny notes that “the age argument seems played out [as] Wells is onto a new class of people who suck: Chicks, ’cause they won’t go see The Cove.”
I haven’t begun to even ask which Toronto films without name-level actors and directors I ought to see. All I’ve done is list the ones I intend to see because of my familiarity with the actors and directors behind them. They comprise a pretty amazing list so far. Here they are in no particular order:
Jason Reitman‘s Up in the Air; Jean-Pierre Jeunet‘s Micmacs; Werner Herzog‘s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans; Tom Hooper‘s The Damned United, Dagur Kari‘s The Good Heart, Joe Dante‘s The Hole, Fatih Akin‘s Soul Kitchen, Brian Koppelman and David Levien‘s Solitary Man, Atom Egoyan‘s Chloe, Jon Amiel‘s Creation (even though it’s the festival -opener, which is always regarded as a black spot), Aaron Schneider‘s Get Low, and Terry Gilliam‘s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (12).
Plus Jean-Marc Vale‘s The Young Victoria (another black spot due to its selection as the closing-night film), Hirokazu Kore-eda‘s Air Doll, Manoel de Oliveira‘s Eccentricities of a Blond Hair Girl, NOT Jane Campion‘s Bright Star (having seen it in Cannes); NOT Pedro Almodovar‘s Broken Embraces (having seen it in Cannes); Ruba Nadda‘s Cairo Time; NOT Lone Scherfig‘s An Education (having seen it twice); possibly Brigitte Berman‘s Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel; Tim Blake Nelson‘s Leaves of Grass; Todd Solondz‘s Life During Wartime; NOT Alejandro Amenabar‘s Agora (having seen it in Cannes); possibly Jan Kounen‘s Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky. (13 minus 4 = 9)
Plus Carlos Saura‘s I, Don Giovanni; Don Roos‘ Love and Other Impossible Pursuits (wow…bad title); Grant Heslov‘s The Men Who Stare at Goats; Rodrigo Garcia‘s Mother and Child; Giuseppe Tornatore‘s Baaria; John Hillcoat‘s The Road; Derrick Borte‘s The Joneses; Arnaud Larrieu and Jean-Marie Larrieu‘s Les Derniers Jours du Monde; Werner Herzog‘s My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done; Tom Ford‘s A Single Man; Claire McCarthy‘s The Waiting City and Miguel Arteta‘s Youth in Revolt. (12).
That’s 33 films so far and as I’ve said I haven’t even begun to decide on those I haven’t heard anything about or don’t feel at ease with due to lack of name talent. If it was only these 33 I’d maybe see 25 of these, at best. It always works out this way. Which is why I’m always asking NY or LA publicists if they intend to show any of their TIFF films before the festival begins. In fact, this is what I’m doing right now in a public way — i.e., asking for early look-sees.
Oh, one more — Rachel Ward‘s Beautiful Kate. That’s 34.
So here I am, the last guy in the world weighing in on Neill Blomkamp‘s District 9. It’s obviously a semi-thoughtful, hard-jolt, sit-up-in-your-seat thing from a young director out to make a name for himself. I was never bored and knew all the time I was watching a riveting, exception-to-the-rule sci-fi actioner. It’s certainly the best film I’ve ever seen that has the name “Peter Jackson” in the opening credits. It’s hard and mean and fast and fat-free, so Jackson must have left Blomkamp alone. Hard to accept but the proof’s in the pudding.
The racial apartheid/crappy ghetto metaphor fueling the story of alien “prawns” having been abandoned on earth like alien “Marielitos” and being kept in a kind of outdoor concentration camp/shanty town….all to the good. I fell 100% in love with that static image of the massive alien mother ship hovering over Johannesburg. The way the dust and polluted sunlight made it look slighty hazy in the distance…perfect.
But then I began to half-wonder why it was hovering, frankly. When you think of the energy required to counteract earth’s powerful gravity to keep a 150-million ton craft from crashing to earth…so much waste! And all because Blomkamp wanted it kept in the air because it looks cool.
Sharlto Copley‘s performance is…well, okay. He starts out as a smiling dork who’s married the boss’s daughter only to screw up when he’s asked to direct the relocation of the prawns confined to District 9 to another concentration camp….this is a sloppy sentence. But I’m not going to fix it. I’m the last guy to review this film so I can take liberties.
Copley, a sort of poor man’s Daniel Day Lewis, was, for me, too much of a grinning dork during the first 15 minutes, and then once he’s infected with the liquid and starts growing a prawn arm all he does is run around with wild eyes and breathlessly going “oh my gawd,” “no!,” “please!,” “I love my wife!” and so on. He never gets in front of the situation and studs-up. I wanted him to channel a little Clint Eastwood but he never lets go of the dork moves.
It’s a style movie in the sense that Blomkamp decided early on to desaturate the color and create an experience that was all about piss and beans and dust and garbage and gooey-gross-outs and scuzzy Nigerians. It’s an exceptionally well-honed and vigorous film for its type (i.e., the political sci-fi actioner), and I think it’s fair to say Blomkamp has cut his teeth and made his bones in the tradition of the first two Mad Max films.
But it’s not a movie that sent great waves of pleasure surging through my system. I liked it and respected the craft that went into creating the dusty, crappy-ass look of it. But bit by bit I began to feel a little trapped, and I gradually began to think about escaping. I wanted to see it through to the end, but watching it began to feel like being in a room with no a.c. during mid July, and I didn’t care for the sensation.
There’s so much garbage, dirt, dust and detritus in this film that I started to feel physically dirty after a while. I almost began to smell the stench. I began to feel like taking a shower or at least using some sanitary wipes.
If someone had come up to me and said “if you give me $20 bucks I can fix it so that the movie will stop with the dust and the desaturated color and all the scuzzy gooey stuff and cut to a full-color scene in a fashion mall with a couple of pretty women talking about nothing over margaritas,” I would have given him the money. Dust! Fucking smelly dust and skanky garbage and black goo leaking out of wounds! I needed to get away from this for a minute or two.
And I wasn’t all that rocked by the way the story rocks and lurches, taunting you into thinking “aah, okay, things are going to work out” only to pull the plug and leave you in the lurch, only to push the plug it back into the wall again. Up, down, in and out, oh my God!, here we go!, hair-trigger, cliffhanger. Writing a story along these lines is a wanker’s game. Come to think of it, it’s an old Peter Jackson tactic.
And I’m not a big fan of “the cackling villain who can’t be killed & shan’t be killed until the very end” cliche. Nor do I admire endings that leave everything & everyone hanging in the lurch in preparation for the sequel. District 9 is definitely playing this game.
But I agree with those who’ve been saying that Michael Bay could learn a thing or two from Blomkamp. District 9 is watchable and inventive and alive on the screen, which is more than you can say for Transformers 2.
District 9 director-writer Neill Blomkamp (r.), guy who plays the ultimate bald/studly/heavily-armed bad-ass.
I’m not trying to sound like a simpleton, but an association came to mind when I first saw the Na’vi hybrids during the showing of the 24-minute Avatar reel at ComicCon. “I’ve seen those ears before,” I told myself. It finally hit me today what that association is. It came after I saw this just-released photo of Sam Worthington and a submerged Na’Vi hybrid. No biggie. Just sayin’.
Na’vi hybrid in James Cameron’s Avatar; morph victim in Walt Disney’s Pinnocchio.
Is it fair or achievable (in a legitimate, fair-minded sense) to compare rabid believers among true-believer, herd-mentality fanboys with the right-wing birthers and townhall “death panel” protesters? This idea was thrown into my lap several minutes ago, and so far…well, it’s not coalescing. That’s because there’s nothing that fanboys have said or done in response to, say, District 9 that echoes rightie nutters screaming about socialism poisoning the American tradition and so on. Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t see it.
I suppose a case can be made by the more-than-500 comments on Rotten Tomatoes that attack N.Y. Press critic Armond White for having written a District 9 pan. And a few aimed at Spoutblog‘s Karina Longworth for doing the same. There is a religious current inside the fanboy mentality — a current that gets really mad if you dump on the faith they’re buying into.
MTV News correspondent Jett Wells pitches the idea of Brad Pitt as a dry-attitude comedian by way of his performances in Se7en, Snatch, Fight Club, Ocean’s 11 and Burn After Reading. Wait…are we missing something? The brain-dead couch stoner he played in True Romance, perhaps?
The Toronto Film Festival press office team hasn’t made its final, last-minute calls about who will be getting press badges for the forthcoming festival (9.10 to 9.19). They’re re-reviewing the situation next Monday, a rep says. It nonetheless seems curious, especially considering the rampant implosion of print outlets all over the world, that the TIFF-ers are giving three well-read, thoroughly respectable online voices — Movieline‘s Stu VanAirsdale, Spoutblog‘s Karina Longworth and Cinemablend‘s Katey Rich — the vague idea that they may not make the cut. Or that they might…not sure yet!
(l. to r.) Movieline‘s Stu VanAirsdale; Spoutblog‘s Karina Longworth; Cinemablend‘s Katey Rich; In Contention‘s Kris Tapley.
On top of which In Contention‘s Kris Tapley, owner and master of one of the key quality-calibrating, awards-chasing sites that shifts into high gear starting with Toronto, has tried to get himself credentialed this year instead of the previously credentialed In Contention correspondent John Foote (Tapley having told Foote he’ll be taking over the beat). Tapley has nonetheless been told by the TIFFers, “Uhm, sorry, but we already have Foote covering for your site.” In response to which Tapley said, “Uhm, no…I’m covering this year for my site, not Foote.” In response to which the TIFFers said, “Uhm, sorry, but we already have Foote covering for your site.”
On top of which the very smart, aggressive, constantly poking-and-hammering film blogger Rodrigo Perez of The Playlist (whom I read daily because he’s always on to something I haven’t heard about) has been officially turned down . This just doesn’t add up. Perez is no fanboy. He’s on the Big Picture 24/7, chasing down scripts, putting his nose into things, assessing the whole equation, etc.
It’s kind of a strange way to treat a crew of respected, trend-spotting, ahead-of-the-curve types. Is the newspaper community not deflating and shrinking? Are the ad dollars that are spent online not starting to overtake print in some markets? It’s a profound changing-of-the-guard situation going on, and festivals, bless ’em, always seem to be slow to wake up to the new-coffee smell.
Whatever the final determination the Toronto Film Festival begins three and half weeks from now and they’re keeping these guys, who need to figure out plane travel and some hotel-room situation as far in advance as possible in order to get good deals, on pins and needles. Longworth, Tapley, Van Airsdale, Rich and Perez are hardly new to the net or the festival circuit. Longworth especially is…Karina Longworth! And Stu is, like, Mr. Shoe Leather. And Tapley is a brand-name guy who collects ad dollars from the biggies every fall and winter.
They’ve all been around, paid their dues, earned their stripes. Tapley does ComicCon and has been to Sundance. Two of them covered Cannes last May. VanAirsdale has been credentialed for Sundance and Cinevegas, and his Moveline colleagues did a bang-up job last month covering ComicCon. Rich covered ComicCon also and has done Showest.
It’s just seems sorta weird and clueless, is all. The Tapley situation especially, which sounds like something out of Kafka.
A TIFF press relations spokesperson told me this morning that (a) “we’ve pulled the files of the people you mentioned [and] we’ll be re-reviewing these files on Monday,” (b) “We get hundreds and hundreds of applications each year and have only a certain amount of passes to give out each year…there are about 1000 revolving/returning press people who come each year and every year we decide on about 200 new people,” and (c) “There are certain outlets we’ve said no to — the ones who focus just on celebrities, for instance — because we want steady persistent festival coverage…it’s not who they are as much as how persistent their coverage will be.”
The German-soldier-clubbing scene that I wrote about yesterday and also two days previously has been given the graphic-novel treatment over at playboy.com. Good work by artist R. M. Guera and fine coloring by Giulia Brusco, but the action and dialogue…well, look it over.
In an 8.13 L.A. Times article, John Horn reported that “because ticket buyers prefer escapist fare these days, [they’ve] been reluctant to swim to The Cove, a documentary on Japanese dolphin-killing that has some of the year’s best reviews. Despite a ton of publicity, The Cove labored after expanding into limited national release last weekend. Roadside Attraction’s Howard Cohen admits that ‘when people hear there is violence against animals, it’s tough for them to think about it…but the concept…is much more off-putting than the experience of watching it.'”
Methinks Cohen and Horn are side-stepping the nub of it. When they say/report that “people” are squeamish about seeing The Cove, what they really mean is that a fair amount of women are pretty much boycotting it. My head and my gut have been telling me for weeks that for every impassioned woman who will attend The Cove because she cares about the plight of dolphins and wants to feel and do something that might help the cause in some way (like my dolphin-loving friend Gini Kopecky), there are nine others who are saying to their girlfriends/dates/ boyfriends/husbands, “No way…can’t watch that…too much.”
Please present any sort of observational evidence that indicates I’m wrong. I haven’t polled a cross-section of a couple of hundred women or hired a research firm to do same. I just know what women are like when it comes to blood. Sorry.
Women call the shots when straight couples go to the movies. Guys can be harassed or cajoled into seeing a flick they wouldn’t otherwise catch on their own, but if a woman doesn’t want to see a particular film…forget it. End of discussion, wasting your breath. Which is why good-movie-seeking, green-minded guys aren’t pushing their girlfriends/ wives to see The Cove with them — they know it’s futile. Which is why The Cove is falling off the radar. Tell me I’m wrong.
I warned/half-predicted this might happen two or three weeks ago but I can’t find the corresponding HE story/item. (I spent ten minutes searching for it under various search criteria…zip.) I know I’ve had at least five or six conversations with women since I wrote this (including two Brazilian women I spoke with during the InFilm tour) and they all said they had strong reservations about seeing The Cove because they don’t want to see Flipper harpooned to death.
Cohen told Horn that Roadside Attractions “will revise the film’s advertising campaign, showcasing more of The Cove‘s critical plaudits than some of its more troubling elements, most of which are confined to the film’s final five minutes.”
Postscript/update: I wrote the following on 7.18 in response to a comment asking why I suspected that women won’t be attending The Cove: “Outside of female artists and female edge-junkies and female adventurers and other self-defined X-factor types, have you ever known a woman who didn’t instinctively flinch and turn her head away from violence, particularly violence visited upon defenseless animals?”