Steven Spielberg thought he had all the time in the world to dawdle and delay on his Abraham Lincoln biopic. But now Mr. Harvey Tintin has been beaten to the Civil War punch by Robert Redford, who reportedly intends to direct The Conspirator, the story of Lincoln assassination conspirator Mary Surratt, sometime this fall.
You’d think with all the fanboys out there and all the Avatar hype that the free tickets to Friday evening’s “Avatar Day” preview would be totally gone coast-to-coast after this afternoon’s online giveaway. Actually not so far (i.e., as of 10 pm eastern). I thought this would be like the sale of Bruce Springsteen concert tickets, but nope. Avatar looks seriously hot in the big cities but elsewhere….well, not quite a stampede.
All the big-city theatres are online-requested out and some of the IMAX theatres have filled up in various territories, but there are scores of regular and IMAX theatres in the hinterlands that still have tickets left. Florida is wide open except for Orlando and Tampa. Kansas City and Las Vegas still have seats. Philadelphia-area New Jersey theatres have room. Columbus, Ohio, is sold out but theatres in Charlotte and Concord, North Carolina still have seats. All the New York theatres outside of Manhattan are still open for business. Four Houston IMAX theatres still have seats but two San Antonio IMAX theatres are all filled up. Twelve theatres in Washington state (Seattle and outlying areas) have seats open.
Does this mean that (a) people in outlying realms are always slow to pick up on viral happenings?, or (b) that some people are figuring what’s the hubba-hubba about a 16-minute reel?, or (c) that Avatar has a ways to go with the middle-American geek-Eloi? Maybe a bit of all three. But if I was a Fox marketing guy I’d be wondering why tickets to a free peek at the year’s biggest event pic weren’t Gone in Sixty Minutes.
I was so overjoyed by losing the services of my second Windows laptop today (incredible dumb luck for both of them to crap out in the space of two weeks) that I forgot to even try to get my tickets to Avatar Day. The Avatar site crashed soon after the noon Pacific/3 pm Eastern deadline, of course, but I just tried to get a pair for the 7 pm Leows Lincoln Square showings on Monday and the site didn’t laugh and tell me to forget it.
I have to admit that one of the reasons…okay, perhaps the reason why my second laptop stopped working and may in fact be dead is because I bitch-slapped it a couple of times. It was acting all gummy and sluggish so I slammed it with the palm of my hand a couple of times. Remember how Han Solo whacked the Millenium Falcon when it wouldn’t start up in The Empire Strikes Back? Anyway, what’s done is done so I had to buy another one today. $500 bills and change. Much bigger hard drive, more memory, etc.
Criterion’s November schedule has been inspected and Steven Soderbergh ‘s two Che movies aren’t on it so a December release is the earliest possibility. Criterion will put a Bluray version of Matteo Garrone‘s Gomorrah in November, but only standard DVDs of Arnaud Desplechin‘s A Christmas Tale and Michael Ritchie‘s Downhill Racer (’69) that month.
The Downhill Racer disc “will feature a restored high-definition digital transfer; new video interviews with screenwriter James Salter; film editor Richard Harris; production manager Walter Coblenz; and former downhill skier Joe Jay Jalbert, who served as technical adviser, a ski double, and a cameraman; audio excerpts from a 1979 American Film Institute seminar with director Michael Ritchie; and a booklet featuring an essay by critic Todd McCarthy.”
Hollywood & Fine‘s Marshall Fine is an Inglourious Basterds fan because he basically sees it as a delicious suspense film. And he’s right to the extent that the best pop-through scenes convey a sense of impending violence that is drawn out over several minutes, hence the growing suspense. (As before, all spoiler whiners are advised to stop reading at this stage.)
Except these money scenes all involve a suspicious and well-spoken German officer, and deliver the same three elements. One, the German has sniffed out a secret that an anti-Nazi character is trying to keep hidden. Two, he begins to voice his suspicions ad infinitum. And three, he suggests with increasing Tarantino-ish panache that he’s might well bust or kill that person for keeping this secret and being in league with anti-Nazi forces.
As I recall this happens four times in the film, and three of these times with Christoph Waltz‘s Col. Hans Landa in charge of the verbal games. The one time he’s doesn’t do this is during a scene in a cellar-level French bar, but the German officer who handles the honors is a Landa stand-in — less humor and banter but with similar inflections and insinuations, like a cat playing with a mouse before killing and eating it.
The first interrogation between Landa and a French farmer is the best scene in the film because it comes at the very beginning and is therefore a fresh and alarming (and very nicely written) thing to grapple with. But the second time it happens you’re going, “Oh, this again.” And the third and fourth time it’s like “again? How many times is Quentin going to repeat this bit?”
“What Tarantino understands is that the key ingredient in a thriller – the thrill, if you will – is the suspense, not the payoff,” writes Fine. “Sure, in any work built on a tension/release model, the release feels good – but it’s the tension that thrills you, that makes you squirm and feel totally alive to the moment.
“That’s why the saying goes, ‘The suspense is killing me.’ It’s the anticipation that makes every nerve jangle, not the catharsis.
“And that’s what the cagey, canny Tarantino has done with Inglourious Basterds, his most accomplished, crazily entertaining film yet: He’s created a series of scenes of unbearable, exquisite tension. He positively luxuriates in suspense — just before he hits the release and lets the screen explode with gunfire and other pyrotechnics.
“It’s as if the five acts into which this film is divided are each a big bomb with a long fuse. Early on in each act, he lights that fuse, then lets the audience simmer in the suspense he creates, even as they wonder how much longer before the burning fuse reaches the dynamite.”
The problem is that it’s basically the same bomb and the same fuse, five times over.
District 9 pulling down $37 million last weekend is good balancing news for those who’ve been tempted to think in recent weeks (i.e., like me) that the moviegoing public is divided into mindless Elois who will only pay to see crap and discriminating fans who prefer films like The Hurt Locker and David Twohy‘s The Perfect Getaway and The Baader Meinhof Complex. District 9 was a bridge attraction — a high-octane Joe Popcorn movie with better-than-respectable chops.
Despite (500) Days of Summer essentially being a film about how to make yourself miserable by living in your own romantic bubble and ignoring obvious warning signs about the character of your beloved, which makes it a partly intriguing but partly tedious thing to sit through because it’s obvious early on that the relationship between Joseph Gordon-Levittt and Zooey Deschanel can’t work because “she’s not there,” the film has caught on with 20somethings and that’s the bottom line.
I’m okay with that. Everyone is. Marc Webb‘s film has some mildly arresting aspects. Gordon-Levitt’s looks are still too Japanese dweeby for my tastes, but his performance is more tolerable in this film than anything he’s previously done. The Graduate allusions are well realized. The musical fantasy sequence is very nicely done. There’s a class of guys out there who regard Deschanel as hot stuff (Jett among them) so why not leave well enough alone? Because I can’t. If I was 25 and ran into her in a bar (and if she wasn’t “Zooey Deschanel”) I wouldn’t even turn my head.
President Obama’s reported decision to bail on pushing public option health insurance — a government-subsidized alternative to private health care that would obviously push prices down — is, for me, a heartbreaker. I confess to knowing zip about whether insurance co-ops, which the Obama administration is now floating as an alternative, would have as strong and decisive an effect on keeping costs down…but I strongly doubt that they would.
I do know that there’s no honor in compromising in order to save face. By my sights the public-option tent-fold is a wimp move. A bad day for the Obama brand. The greedy insurance-company bastards are having their way.
N.Y. Times columnist Paul Krugman, whom I trust, says in an 8.16 column that Obamacare (as it was understood before the public-option capitulation) is basically “a plan to Swissify America, using regulation and subsidies to ensure universal coverage.”
But “if we were starting from scratch we probably wouldn’t have chosen this route,” he adds. “‘True ‘socialized medicine’ would undoubtedly cost less, and a straightforward extension of Medicare-type coverage to all Americans would probably be cheaper than a Swiss-style system. That’s why I and others believe that a true public option competing with private insurers is extremely important: otherwise, rising costs could all too easily undermine the whole effort.”
Howard Dean said this morning on talk shows that “you can’t really do health reform without” a public-option program. He called a direct government role “the entirety of health care reform. It isn’t the entirety of insurance reform…we shouldn’t spend $60 billion a year subsidizing the insurance industry.”
Did I believe disgraced football player Michael Vick‘s pre-scripted apology on 60 Minutes last night for running a sadistic dog-fight operation that landed him in jail and all but destroyed his career? Nobody did. The guy can’t act. Plus he never talked about his deep-down attitudes and feelings about dogs and how he could see them not as super-loyal friends to love and care for but as snarling gladiators good at killing and being killed. On top of which 60 Minutes interviewer James Brown was too scared to touch on the real cultural “why.”
Dog-fight culture is an ugly thing that stems, I believe, from a predatory, inner-city, watch-your-back vibe that its fans initially encountered in their growing-up neighborhoods. But Vick and Brown never even glanced at, much less alluded to, this. Because that would take them into the machismo thing that has obviously influenced African-American and Hispanic guys of a certain economic strata and their seeming preference (based on years of my own first-hand observation) for fearsome attack dogs. Too close to the bone so they dodged it entirely.
Vick revealed his true self with three lines. The first came when he began one his unconvincing run-on apologies with “whatever the reasons I did this.” (translation: “I probably know why but I sure as shit ain’t gettin’ into it on nationwide TV”). The second came when he said “I don’t know how many times I gotta say [I’m sorry].” (translation: “I’m gettin’ a little sick of apologizin’ over and over for this shit”). The third was his admission that “the first day I walked into that prison and he slammed that door…I knew the magnitude [and] the poor judgment that I allowed to happen to those animals” (translation: “Damn…gettin’ caught and being punished sucks!”)
“It’s wrong, man, ” Vick said. “I don’t know how many times I gotta say it. I feel tremendous hurt about what happened. I deserve to lose the $135 million [contract]. I feel disgusted because of what I allowed to happen to those animals. The first day I walked into that prison and he slammed that door…I knew the magnitude and the poor judgment that I allowed to happen to those animals…I cried over what I did, being away from my family, letting so many people down, letting myself down….being in a prison bed, in a prison bunk…that wasn’t my life, that wasn’t the way things were supposed to be…[and all] because of the so-called culture I thought was right and cool…I thought it was fun and exciting at the time.”