The thumbnail plot for Jerry Bruckheimer‘s Pirates of the Caribbean 4, a connected friend confides, is a search by Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and other parties for the fountain of youth. This is the same MacGuffin plot that George Lucas was supposedly considering for an Indy sequel. There will also be some kdin of Captain Nemo-type villain utilizing new-style technology. Sounds like they’re invoking the “steampunk” style we’ve seen gain more and more of a foothold in genre conventions, including Comic Con.
Doug Pray‘s Art and Copy opened two days ago in Manhattan. At last January’s Sundance Film Festival I said it had “turned out to be a little thin. It’s basically a chapter-by-chapter history of the most legendary ad campaigns of the last 45 or 50 years, each chapter with a corresponding flattery profile of the advertising exec (or execs) who dreamt each one up.
“But there’s no arching theme to it, no undercurrent, no inquiring line of thought. Pray doesn’t begin to think about the odious implications of modern advertising (as Adam Curtis did in The Century of the Self). Nor does he think to draw parallels between certain legendary ad copy lines and the contours and tendencies of the culture from which they sprung.
“One example of this was pointed out by Tom Wolfe in his legendary 1976 essay ‘The Me Decade and the Third Great Awakening.’
“In 1961 a copywriter in the employ of Foote, Cone & Belding named Shirley Polykoff came up with the line: ‘If I’ve only one life, let me live it as a blonde!’ The basic attitude of having ‘only one life,’ said Wolfe, contradicted a general belief among families and nations that had existed for centuries, which you could sum up as a belief in ‘serial immortality.’
“Boiled down, serial immortality means that we’re all part of a familial stream — our lives being a completion or fulfillment of our parents’ lives and our children’s lives completing and fulfilling our own, and everyone understanding that we’re part of the same genetic river of existence and spirit.
“Polykoff’s copy line, which was written for Clairol hair coloring, basically said ‘the hell with that — it’s just me, it’s just my life and my goals, and I’m going to satisfy myself!’ By the time the early ’70s rolled around the culture had begun to believe in the ‘me first’ philosophy en masse.
“I just wish Pray had decided to dig into this and other correlations between advertising and cultural values.”
The big challenge with Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein‘s No Impact Man (Oscilloscope, 9.11, NY and LA) is not to fight it. You need to let it in and let it swim around and settle in of its own accord. Or not. But you have to at least give it a chance. Because if you do…well, no guarantees. But you may find yourself looking at your habits in a slightly more earth-friendly manner, and how can that not be a good thing?
I hated the idea of watching this damn thing. It was showing last Thursday night at a press screening on Hudson Street, and I was going “oh, crap.” What could be drearier, I muttered, than observing a year-long experiment by blogger Colin Beavan and his wife, Business Week staffer Michele Conlin, and their daughter to live for a year in their ninth-floor West Village apartment without contributing in any significant way to the pollution, global warming and general ruination of the planet?
Okay, nice idea but c’mon…don’t make me watch this. I get it but I don’t feel like going there. Really.
We can all reduce our carbon footprints if we choose, and there are obviously healthier ways of living than others. I’ll bet I contribute a lot less garbage to the world than tens of millions of bison-sized fast-food eaters and constant fossil-fuel burners out there. I could probably do better, okay, but the idea of living in such a monk-purist way that I’d have no impact whatsoever? C’mon…that’s excessive. That’s tedious. Get outta here. Or as one guy angrily tells Colin in an email, “I can’t wait to wipe my ass with the pages of your book.”
Oh, right…forgot about the book. It’s called “No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save The Planet and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process.” (They handed out free copies at the screening.) And Colin’s No Impact Man blog is…well, here.
But what happens is that the film starts, the experiment begins and gradually the denial thing doesn’t seem so bad. Or at least it begins to seem tolerable. Colin and Michele get used to this and that deprivation, and so do we in a sense. They stop using their refrigerator. They give up electricity at the six-month point. They wash their clothes by stomping around barefoot in a bathtub filled with their dirties and I-forgot-what-kind-of-cleanser. They stop using toilet paper. (How does that work?) They ride their bikes around and start losing weight due to not eating take-out. They do without air-conditioning in the summer. (Good God!)
“No Impact Man” author Colin Beaven (r.) and wife Michele Conlin (l.), who are the “stars” (along with their daughter Isabella) of Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein’s doc. Taken Thursday, 8.20 at 9:35 pm.
Colin’s basic point seems to be “if my wife and daughter and I could live this purely and monastically for an entire year and have a good happy life in the bargain, can’t you guys change your lives at least somewhat in order to save the planet?”
Is No Impact Man entertaining? Well, Michele is kind of fun to hang with (or at least a bit more fun than the pleasantly candid but glumly earnest Colin) but I can’t say the film actually “entertains.” Does it deliver emotional touchstone moments like a good Michael Moore doc? Uhn…not really. Is it tight and true in that it gets down to business and doesn’t meander and holds its focus? Yeah, for the most part, but at the same time it feels a tiny bit draggy in the final third. It runs 90 minutes. I wouldn’t have minded 75 or 80.
But overall it’s coming from a good and intelligent place and I’m glad I saw it. Really. It got me thinking about my bad habits and how I might erase or correct some of them.
Will the popcorn-munching, KFC-eating 20something Eloi ever pay No Impact Man the slightest heed? Yes — if their children show it to them on their deathbeds 50 or 60 years from now, and I mean if the kids strap them to their beds. inject them with some kind of wake-up drug and make them wear Clockwork Orange eyelid-clamps.
I asked Michele during the after-party how she and Colin and their daughter managed to avoid using toilet paper for a year. Michele went “no!” and kind of half-chuckled when I asked if they used some kind of re-usable cloth rag, but she never said what the actual trick was. (Some kind of sponge in a water pot, is my guess.) A disgusting topic, sure, but the movie is about alternatives, right?
The screening was attended by 85% women. Singles, couples, groups of three, etc. There were two or three boyfriends and a couple of stag guys but Jett and I were the only men who attended together. Why was that? Something to do with nest-tending instincts morphing into earth-tending meditations? That was my theory, at least. The bottom line? At the end of the day No Impact Man will probably settle into the public consciousness as a chick flick.
I don’t know exactly what happened or why, but Inglourious Basterds ending up with $37.6 million domestic (obviously no sharp Saturday fall-off occured) and $65.1 million worldwide is a very good score for the Weinstein Co.
I frankly expected a steep Saturday fall-off based on disappointed word-of-mouth, but that didn’t happen. Against all logic and all good taste, a lot of people seemed to like IGB and have been telling their friends. The rumble is simple and clear. The Weinsteins have won themselves a breather! But only a breather. Deliverance and salvation has to happen steadily over the next few months. (And Nine has to pretty much knock it out of the park.) But remember that the Weinsteins are splitting the domestic IGB revenue with Universal.
Remember also that it cost $70 million to make (it ideally should have been made for $15 or $20 million tops with everyone taking back-end profit-shares) and that selling it cost $35 to $40 million. And that an ideal scenario is for a film to triple its opening weekend haul, so if it triples $65 million worldwide….well, I really doubt that will happen. But if it does it will bring in close to $200 million worldwide plus video and video games and whatever else.
So it’s not looking too bad, and a pretty good thing for the Weinsteins.
If anyone has seen the teaser playing this weekend for Chris Nolan‘s Inception (which I’ve been too lazy or too cheap to pay to see in theatres), perhaps they can add to the following description offered by two Playlist correspondents a day or so ago? The film is shooting as we speak, having only begun principal photography on 7.13.09, so it’s unusual, by my sights, for a teaser to already be playing in theatres.
“[It] starts with an affected WB logo, then goes to footage of a spinning dreidel” — who knows what a dreidel is? I didn’t until two minutes ago. “Then it shows a closeup of Leonardo DiCaprio (who looks way cooler than he does in Shutter Island…more like Ethan Hawke in Gattacca) and has words, ‘from Christopher Nolan, director of The Dark Knight.’
“It then cuts to footage above a city (very Dark Knight, Michael Mann-esque) and then says something about the biggest battle taking place in the mind. Then comes the money shot of the trailer, with DiCaprio fighting another guy in a hallway and they’re flying all over the place as if gravity keeps changing directions on them (very Matrixy but looks quite good — surprised to see an FX shot completed).
“The soundtrack is really great (Hans Zimmer again), with major bass booming at a very pulsated rate. Then the title comes up and Summer 2010.”
Inception is understood to be “a contemporary sci-fi actioner set within the architecture of the mind.” DiCaprio stars as Cobb, a CEO of some big company. Marion Cotillard plays Leo’s wife. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays an associate of some kind. Ken Watanabe plays a villain named Saito, who blackmails the CEO. Michael Caine, Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy costar.
I need to ask a rhetorical question. If you had a fairly tall and strapping lead actor in your film like Leonardo DiCaprio, would you have any concerns about casting the winky-dinky-sized Ellen Page in a costarring role? I’m just struck every time I see her in a movie still alongside this or that actor how she looks like she’s maybe 9 or 10 years old, if that.
Ellen Page (l.) and Leonardo DiCaprio (r.) in a still from Chris Nolan’s Inception.
Just look at the above shot of her walking in front of DiCaprio. I’m sorry to sound like a size-ist asshole but are you going to tell me the discrepancy isn’t striking? His head is at least 50% larger than hers. Look at them! He could pick her up and carry her under his arm like one of those stuffed Jack Skellington dolls. Page is a very fine actress — nobody’s talking about her emoting here — but she’s obviously in the same size realm as the superb Peter Dinklage (who easily gave the best performance in Sidney Lumet‘s Find Me Guilty), Billy Barty, Mickey Rooney and Danny DeVito.
Now that I think of it Page isn’t really analagous to Dinklage. I think of Dinklage as an adult actor of impressive range who happens to be of a very short stature. In the same sense Page, as sharp and powerful as her performances tend to be, doesn’t seem to exude any kind of natural adultness or been-around-the-block femininity. She looks to me like someone’s growth-stunted kid. Like I said in an ’07 riff about Juno , the idea of Page having had sex with some guy like Michael Cera (who’s fairly tall and lanky) and then gotten pregnant seems perverse. She’s too little for that.
Yes, she was great nonetheless in Juno. And I’ll buy her as a spunky roller derby player in Whip It and probably in anything else. She’s really got it within. I guess all I’m really saying is that she looks odd standing next to tall guys. Veronica Lake had the same problem opposite Joel McCrea in Sullivan’s Travels. I guess because it’s a little unusual in real life to see basketball players going out with pixie-sized women. I know it happens from time to time, but it looks really odd when it does.
Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake in Sullivan’s Travels
I’m basically saying Page would be ideally cast opposite Al Pacino or Michael J. Fox or DeVito or anyone in that realm, but not opposite Ryan Reynolds or Jeff Goldblum or Richard Kiel or anyone extra-tall. Well, you could cast her opposite Reynolds but guys like me would say stuff if you did. She would have been perfect alongside Alan Ladd in This Gun for Hire or opposite Humphrey Bogart in anything.
I realize that saying anything about a person’s size is seen in p.c. circles as almost the same thing as remarking about their skin color or ethnic heritage or whatever, but disproportionate sizes in actors in the same scene have a way of standing out in an odd sort of way, and I don’t think I’m being a jerk for pointing this out.
Former Army lieutenant William Calley made his first public apology four days ago (i.e., 8.19) for the infamous 1968 My Lai massacre, in which he participated and for which he was convicted for the premeditated murder of 104 women, children and elderly folk on 3.16.68. Nearly 500 non-combatants were reportedly slaughtered that day in the village, which was actually called Son My.
(l.) George Lois’s famous Calley-and-the-kids Esquire cover; (r.) an August 1971 National Lampoon cover.
“There is not a day that goes by that I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai,” Calley reportedly told a Kiwanis Club gathering in Columbus Georgia, last Wednesday evening. “I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry.”
Calley has also been reported as saying that “if you are asking why I did not stand up to them when I was given the orders, I will have to say that I was a 2nd Lieutenant getting orders from my commander” — Cpt. Ernest Medina, he meant — “and I followed them. Foolishly, I guess.
The guy says nothing about his role in one of the worst U.S. military atrocities for over 40 years? What did he do with those ghosts and demons all that time? Did they take up residence in a guest room? Calley’s silence seems especially appalling considering a 10.6.07 Daily Mail story called “Found: The Monster of My Lai“, which states that the first time he thought about openly discussing it (but only for an hour) was because he thought he might pocket a big check.
Wikipedia summarizes the story as follows: “In October 2007, Calley agreed to be interviewed by the UK newspaper the Daily Mail to discuss the massacre, saying, ‘Meet me in the lobby of the nearest bank at opening time tomorrow, and give me a certified cheque for $25,000, then I’ll talk to you for precisely one hour.’ When the journalist ‘showed up at the appointed hour, armed not with a cheque but a list of pertinent questions’, Calley left.”
Calley during last Wednesday’s appearance in Columbus, Georgia.
At the time of his conviction on 3.31.71 (which resulted in a commuted sentence and being freed from house arrest after three years), a reported 79% of Middle Americans disagreed with the verdict, seeing Calley as a scapegoat. It is presumed that many U.S. soldiers wasted Vietnamese civilians during that infernal conflict, and that Calley is just the only one who stood trial for it.
For what it’s worth I never saw the My Lai massacre as strictly analagous to the citizen-killing situation depicted in Bruce Beresford‘s Breaker Morant. To go by Seymour Hersh‘s reportings the My Lai killings didn’t seem strategically necessary as much as impulsive murders that were primarily emotional in nature. It’s too bad that Oliver Stone‘s Pinkville, which would have dealt with the massacre and the whistle-blower who finally revealed what happened, was deep-sixed.
Miguel Arteta‘s Youth in Revolt (10.30 following a Toronto Film Festival debut) appears to be an above-average, early 20s, angsty sex-and-relationship comedy. Odd that it’s a Dimension release, which signifies primitive and coarse. The YIR trailer is selling a smart upscale thing with clever concepts, wit and half-decent laughs and a role for one-trick-pony Michael Cera that smacks of tension and challenge and complexity, partly by way of a moustachioed alter ego named — yes, a dumb name — Francois Dillinger.
The implication I’m getting is that Cera (whose lead character is named Nick Twisp) may have stopped his free-fall with this film, which could turn out to be the best thing he’s been in since Superbad. Maybe. A trailer is only a trailer. Better to wait and see.
Arteta’s film, which costars Portia Doubleday (i.e., Sheeni, the lust interest), Justin Long, the obviously destined-for-Jabbahood Zack Galifianakis, Steve Buscemi, Ray Liotta, Ari Graynor and Jean Smart, is, of course, an adaptation of C.D. Payne‘s “Youth In Revolt,” an epistolary novel that has had three sequels since the original publishing in the mid ’90s.