Oliver Stone‘s South of the Border, cowritten by Tariq Ali and premiering at the Venice Film Festival on Monday, is a friendly portrait of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. And that’s cool because, hey, a little balance would be a nice thing. Chavez is a big-ego personality who likes to swagger around, but I’ve been sickened for years over the relentlessly negative portrait of the guy as pushed along by mainstream U.S. media. The film that sold me on Chavez being an impassioned nationalist and an understandably defensive firebrand was The Revolution Will Not Be Televized.
The Wrap columnist Steve Pond speaks to AMPAS executive director Bruce Davis, and he doesn’t even mention Jamie Stuart‘s recently floated suggestion of a Top Ten, American Idol-like framework on the Oscar telecast? Not even in jest? This is what seasoned responsible entertainment journalism is all about — i.e., ignoring the radical nutball idea that might just change the game and turn everything around.
Is Stuart’s idea appropriately dignified and straight-laced and smacking of organizational tradition and black-tie conservatism? Of course not. It’s an idea very much of its time, which is to say an idea that reflects a culture driven by corporate fast-food ADD values, which is to say a kind of degradation of movie culture. Serious movie culture is believed in and kept afloat today by some 10,000 industry and media people, if that, and I don’t know how many thousands of serious true-blue movie fans out there. Most film lovers watch the Oscar show. Begrudgingly and cat-callingly, but they watch it. The bottom line is that they aren’t enough. The Oscar show producers either have to accept a smaller and smaller audience (which would be fine with me) or they need to attract the Eloi.
In other words, if ratings and popularity are of concern to the Oscar telecast producers (and I hear each and every year that they are), they have to somehow reach the mob that couldn’t care less and never will care about the best films of the past, present and future. I believe that Stuart’s idea would deliver ratings and a kind of coarse vitality that would represent a regrettable tradeoff, yes, but also provide a new lease on life for the show. Okay, in a somewhat gaudy and hucksterish way. But who would argue that the Oscar show hasn’t been trying to attract ratings for years with at least somewhat similar showbiz values?
In Who’ll Stop The Rain, Nick Nolte‘s Ray Hicks is sitting in a grimy Oakland bar and looking at the strippers on a nearby stage and saying to the overweight bartender, “What a lotta shit this place is now.” And the bartender replies, “You’ve gotta go with the times.” That’s all I’m really saying. It’s not 1939 any more, and it’s not 1974 or 1988 or 1999 even. Democracy can’t function when there are too many stupid and under-educated people out there, and a rich movie culture can’t thrive when the overwhelming majority refuses to see films like The Hurt Locker (except to the tune of a truly pathetic $12 million) and The Cove and yet vigorously rewards the makers of films like G.I. Joe, Transformers 2 and (in all likelihood, God help us) Jennifer’s Body.
Who would deny that mainstream movie culture has been and is being steadily degraded each and every weekend by the generally appalling choices of the majority? Which is then reenforced by bottom-line big-studio decisions to greenlight more idiot movies in a vicious cycle of mediocrity? Mainstream appetites and big-studio tentpole movie culture has come to represent an assortment of impulsive, cretinous and under-educated attitudes and assumptions. The days of mainstream movies like To Kill a Mockingbird and Nashville and The Road Warrior, even, are pretty much over as far as the attentions of the mob are concerned. The American public, trust me, is not going to wake up and start reading books and eating better foods.
Since when has the Oscar show been anything but an attempt to honor in some cases unseen (or under-seen) quality-level films for history’s sake, and — incidentally, in the meantime — persuade several million Eloi to maybe give them a looksee when they turn up on Netflix? (Or, in the old days, in neighborhood and sub-run theatres.) That’s the goal, right? So what’s the problem with changing the format as long as it accomplishes same?
It doesn’t please me entirely to admit this, but implementing Stuart’s idea would most likely provide a shot in the arm to the Oscar telecast. The traditional same-as-before Oscar show has been swirling into the bowl for many years now. The producers have to wake up and make it a vital or a thrilling thing. Stuart’s idea (and it doesn’t have to be done cheaply or vulgarly) would make it, after a fashion, kind of thrilling. Given a choice between Hugh Jackman performing “Top Hat” and Stuart’s idea, I honestly wouldn’t mind seeing an Oscar show with a top-ten elimination structure of some kind. It wouldn’t be that bad. Or it wouldn’t need to be, I mean.
I’ve become hugely disappointed by the Obama team’s failure to stand up to the right-wing fiends who’ve been stirring up fear among the selfish and aggressively ignorant hinterland types in order to serve the interests of the insurance companies, and by allowing the public option to be weakened or (I greatly fear) cast aside as a result. The right is appalling, rancid and malicious, and the tea-baggers are truly grotesque in their small-mindedness. Ignore these awful people, brush the “stoppers” aside, and please do what is right and true and restorative. (Along the lines of what David Brooks wrote today.)
But if Obama piddles around and winds up signing some mushy, watered-down health care bill, he’s lost me. I mean, I’ll still continue to like him a lot more than a lot of other would-be leaders but the carte blanche thing will be over, and the glow that he used to give me will be greatly subdued, if not dead. Public option or death, I say. Pull down the temple and let the stones fall where they may if it can’t happen.
Yesterday Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan wrote that President Obama “is cold, like someone who is contained not because he’s disciplined and successfully restrains his emotions, but because there’s not that much to restrain. This is the dark side of cool. One wonders if this will play well with the American people. Long-term it is hard to get people to trust your policies if they think you’re coolly operating on some intellectual or ideological abstractions.
“I don’t think as a presidential style it will wear well with the center. And it may not wear well with the president’s own party. They may come to see him, in time, as not really one of them. And that’s when things will really get interesting.”
The Toronto Star‘s Rob Salem reported this morning that director Kevin Smith “has all but confirmed the rumors that he and Bruce Willis did not get along on the set of their recently completed comedy, A Couple of Dicks.
“Speaking at the recent New York wrap party for the film, Smith reportedly used the F-word adjective while referring to the absent Willis as a dick, a likely loaded reference to the movie’s punny title.
“In an interview with the Toronto Star, Smith spoke enthusiastically about the film, the first he has directed but not written himself. ‘It was a lot of fun,’ he said. ‘I didn’t write it, so it was never like, `My way is the right way.’ I was not the be-all and end-all authority…I listened to everybody.”
“But when asked about Willis, there was a pregnant pause. ‘Yeah, I got to work with Bruce Willis,’ he allowed, sounding anything but sincere. ‘Everybody should do that once before they die. It’s tough to direct Bruce Willis…to say the least.'”
Why is it when I hear a film is really bad that I’m seized by an urge to see it at all costs? Brian Lowry‘s 9.3 Variety review of All About Steve has really put the hook in. “Sandra Bullock (The Proposal) and Bradley Cooper (The Hangover) have both been associated with hit comedies this summer, a thought they should cling to as reviews of All About Steve dribble in,” he begins. “Misfiring on every conceivable front, it’s that rarest of comedies — one whose stabs at humor fall painfully flat, while eliciting unintentional giggles every time the film seeks to be serious or deliver a message (which it actually does). Sitting through the pic is an endurance test, but its theatrical durability should be brief.”
A “buckzollo” shot of Telluride Film Festival patrons lining up for this morning’s patron brunch. The patron pass will set you back $3900, with $1900 of that tax-deductible. It buys you priority admission to all films, tributes and events, as well as priority seating at all theatres. Patrons also are guaranteed access to the “first screening of an important new film” on Friday afternoon, a.k.a. the “Patron’s Preview.” Update: This turned out to be a showing of An Education.
The Criterion Collection site, per custom, is doing everything in its power to hide and/or obscure its plans to release Steven Soderbergh‘s twin Che pics on DVD and Blu-ray in December. And yet Variety‘s Peter Debruge confirmed this three days ago (on Tuesday, 9.1) in the midst of his story about the IFC/Criterion deal, which I paid no attention to because it only mentioned two IFC titles, Gomorrah and A Christmas Tale, that I’d read about earlier.
Agreed, Dave McNary — Jason Reitman‘s Up in the Air isn’t in the official Telluride Film Festival schedule, but it’s definitely there and going to play sooner rather than later. The publicity team is roaming around Telluride, and a friend has asked them directly if Up In The Air is going to screen there and they said yes. It just wasn’t included in the schedule to keep it a “surprise.”
To the great surprise of the Global Post‘s Paul Hockenos, Quentin Tarantino‘s Inglourious Basterds “has rocketed to the top of the German charts and even charmed the country’s most discerning film critics. When I showed up at my neighborhood theater in Berlin, the ticket line reached out to the curb. Once inside the jam-packed theater, I found myself as intrigued by the reaction of the German cinema-goers as I was by the film.
It is entirely fair and logical to assume that Brad Pitt, to go by his gray suit jacket and gray tie, was also wearing gray slacks and dress shoes when this shot was recently taken in Berlin, and not shorts, black socks and sandals.
“It was plain from the bursts of laughter and applause that they thoroughly relished all two-and-a-half hours of it, even though the graphic, blood-soaked farce would appear to break every German’s rule for political correctness. It’s a Nazi-era splatter film.”
The Cove director Louie Psihoyos has told Gothamist editor John Del Signore that he doesn’t believe director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu should walk away from his role as jury president of the Tokyo Film Festival if the allegedly green-themed festival declines to show his film, which exposes the dolphin-slaughtering Taiji fishing industry. And yet Psihoyos calls the director of the festival (a possible reference to TIFF chairman Tatsumi ‘Tom’ Yoda) “a hypocrite” in the same breath.
“Jesus, it’s a little bit daunting,” Psihoyosa says about The Cove‘s dismal box-office so far. “I mean we thought we had this crossover film. This film has action, adventure, was set up like an Ocean’s Eleven film, and at the end of the day, you know, you feel better for it. I think it’s a great date film, actually, because you want to see that hardcore guy next to you crushed, you want to see him crumble, you want to see a tear, you want to have something really interesting to talk about when you get back to his place?
“This is the film to do it. It makes the guys feel alright cause it’s got this action-adventure component, and for the women, it’s emotion-packed. It’s got everything. Except an audience!”
The Del Signore/Psihoyos q & a doesn’t specifically address one of the reasons — if not the main reason — why The Cove isn’t doing the business it could and should, and guys like Some Came Running‘s Glenn Kenny will just laugh and snort if I bring it up again. But I’ll donate my car, my motorcycle, $500 out of my savings and my 42-inch plasma to a charity of choice if it’s not true.
The Cove is dying commercially in large part because of skittish women not wanting to see Flipper harpooned to death.
In an 8.14 piece called “The Girls Won’t Watch It,” I wrote that “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, I suspect, 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.”
Screen Daily‘s Fionnuala Halligan (“[The] hopelessness will make The Road hard going for general audiences”), The Times Online‘s Wendy Ide (“Hillcoat’s vision is forthright and brutal”), and In Contention‘s Kris Tapley (“a bleak residue of style in the shadow of potential substance”) were yes/no/mixed on the Weinstein Co. release, contrasting with yesterday’s flat-out pan by Variety‘s Todd McCarthy.
Ide again: “Two elements let the film down. First is a voiceover from Mortensen, which is a little heavy on the explication for my tastes. Second, and more serious, is the labored score (co-written by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis). We know that it’s sad that the last children on Earth are starving and scared. We don’t need a musical signpost to tell us so. It would have been better to have no music at all, and let the story play out to the accompaniment of the groans of the dying planet.”
Oh, right…the review by the Hollywood Reporter‘s Deborah Young. Except it’s much more of a stand-offish description of the film than a review of it. Hillcoat does “an admirable job of bringing Cormac McCarthy‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel to the screen as an intact and haunting tale,” she says, “even at the cost of sacrificing color, big scenes and standard Hollywood imagery of post-apocalyptic America. Shot through with a bleak intensity and pessimism that offers little hope for a better tomorrow, the film is more suitable to critical appreciation than to attracting huge audiences.”