“I liked Up In The Air,” a seasoned entertainment journalist has written from Telluride, “but I wonder how many people will Kris Tapley-level love it. Off the record, before I collect my thoughts, I’d say I liked and admired it a lot, but wish I had loved it that much. There’s a semi-downbeat ending that helped redeem the film for me but will leave a certain amount of Juno-lovers cold. And there’s one really bad supporting casting choice I’ll get into…
“I’m off to try to grab a spot in the rain for Paranormal Activity, because I’m hoping it lives up to its hype and people are screaming out loud in the great outdoors.”
First Showing‘s Alex Billington is the first Telluride visitor to post a full-on review of Jason Reitman‘s Up In The Air, which he’s creamed over. “I’ve just walked out of the first-ever screening of the film at the Telluride Film Festival, and I loved it,” he begins. “It’s everything I wanted it to be and everything I was expecting, even after reading Walter Kirn‘s book that it’s based on.
“Not only is it Reitman’s most personal film to date, but it’s his most polished as well. I have so many things to mention about it that I just wanted to get down my thoughts before they fade away. It really hit with me on a personal level as well, which is why I loved it so much.”
Obviously they’re conveying different moods and indications, but my very first thought when looking at the Where The Wild Things Are poster was “why?” Why even vaguely allude to that deeply loathed George Lucas film? What could be the possible upside?
“I wouldn’t dare review Jason Reitman‘s Up in the Air via iPhone from an in-transit gondola,” writes In Contention‘s Kris Tapley from Tellruide, “but I’m compelled to write something immediately.
“The film is a triumph. It drips with Reitman’s passion, his love for his wife and child, his assessment of his own journey into adulthood. He just finished telling the audience at the Chuck Jones theater that it’s probably the most personal film he’ll ever make. One can certainly understand the sentiment.
“I’ll get into this more later, but I consider it a four-star knockout that couldn’t have hit the country and, to speak personally, me, at a more perfect time.”
It’s an effort to find concise declarative sentences in Guy Lodge‘s Venice Film Festival review of Michael Moore‘s Capitalism: A Love Story. But he’s written a fairly tough pan…in part. Moore, Lodge feels, is a shameless sentimental bludgeoner in the tradition of Frank Capra. Except Lodge also admits that it’s hard not to respond to this skewering of the U.S. banking industry in the ways that Moore wants you to respond, and that Capitalism is, after a fashion, brutally persuasive. So Lodge is sort of half-and-halfing.
Some sample graphs and thoughts:
(a) “Michael Moore is this generation’s Frank Capra. And by that token, Capitalism: A Love Story — an artlessly effective slice of rah-rah rhetoric more sincerely idealistic than anything the director has yet put his name to — represents Moore’s It’s a Wonderful Life.” (Wells interjection: Okay, but isn’t It’s A Wonderful Life generally regarded as an earnest and emoitonally effective film by today’s standards? And very well liked?)
(b) “As with the prototypical Capra film, Capitalism places its faith in the American everyman, while blanketing evil as a vaguer collective [and] defending the rights and ability of the former with unashamed sentimentality and sledgehammer subtlety.
(c) “The film is a veritable compendium of all Moore’s most manipulative muckraking tactics, whether it’s the wilfully decontextualized use of vintage news clips or the breathtaking exploitation of having an ordinary Joe tearfully read a love letter to his deceased wife on camera. No button is left unpushed in the service of an argument that already doesn’t have to work very hard to win over the liberal public, but Moore isn’t one to leave much to chance.”
(d) The question, then, isn’t just whether Capitalism: A Love Story (a wholly meaningless title, incidentally) is a good film, but whether it really needs – or even wants – to be one. As cinema, it certainly isn’t as formally inventive or powerful as Roger & Me or Bowling for Columbine, or even as viscerally seething as Fahrenheit 9/11, but it doesn’t speak any less loudly or chidingly than those films.
(e) “Visually and rhythmically, it’s probably his dullest film to date, with a second half that devolves frequently into a mere parade of talking heads. Nonetheless, the film bludgeons you so persistently and gracelessly with its rapid patter of information that it’s hard not to feel what it wants you to feel.”
(f) “Even as one questions the taste of his interviewing approach towards victims of corporate life-insurance scams, one’s anger is directed inexorably towards the corporations in question; even as one groans inwardly at Moore’s old-hat Bush-baiting, the reckless stupidity of the former president’s words ring louder and clearer than one’s inner critic.”
(g) “Moore remains resolutely (and perhaps still necessarily) the people’s filmmaker: sneer if you like, but sometimes the obvious needs to be stated, and in an obvious fashion at that.”
Update: Variety’s Leslie Felperin has filed her Capitalism review and seems to agree with Lodge’s points about Moore’s sentimenal heavy-handedness, but nonetheless says the following: “By returning to his roots, professional gadfly Michael Moore turns in one of his best films with Capitalism: A Love Story..
“Pic’s target is less capitalism qua capitalism than the banking industry, which Moore skewers ruthlessly, explaining last year’s economic meltdown in terms a sixth-grader could understand. That said, there’s still plenty here to annoy right-wingers, as well as those who, however much they agree with Moore’s politics, just can’t stomach his oversimplification, on-the-nose sentimentality and goofball japery.
“Whether Capitalism matches Fahrenheit 9/11 or underperforms like Sicko will depend on how much workers of the world are ready to unite behind the message.”
Telluride Film Festival stars earlier today. Photo by “buckzollo.” An Education director Lone Scherfig (skirt, nice legs) on far left. An Education star Carey Mulligan (pixie haircut) is three heads to Scherfig’s left. Is that White Ribbon director Michael Haneke standing in the rear? Documentarian Ken Burns sitting far right. TFF co-director Tom Luddy rests center front.
Peter Howell‘s Toronto Film Festival Buzz Poll came out this morning, and it’s already behind the eight ball. This is because Werner Herzog‘s already tarnished My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? (to go by one emphatically negative Venice Film Festival review) has been named by certain “anointed cinephiles” as one of the two most buzzed-about TIFF films, the other being Jason Reitman‘s Up In The Air.
On top of which Herzog’s other film, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, is tied for second place in Howell’s survey (having gotten three votes along with three other TIFF films), and it too has already been at least half-dismissed by Venice Film Festival critics as a possibly half-serious Herzogian noir and a half-looney-tunes WTF? crazy-cop Nic Cage drama that doesn’t seem to have itself figured out all that well.
So you’re reading the reactions of Howell’s 25 know-it-alls and wondering, “Wait…do any of these people know anything? Aren’t they supposed to be, like, plugged in on some insect-antennae level? Couldn’t they sense what was probably going to happen with these Herzog films?” I myself am very much looking forward to both Herzogs, but there’s no way I would put them at the top of my list. I mean, you need to step back and apply a little perspective when you compose these things.
The other three that tied for second place with three votes each were John Hillcoat‘s The Road, Reg Harkema‘s Leslie, My Name is Evil, and Lars von Trier‘s spookfest Antichrist. I don’t know about Karkema’s film but what kind of weed could the panelists have been smoking to be seriously cranked up about seeing AntiChrist? If I hadn’t seen it in Cannes I would certainly have it on my list because of the controversy and the Von Trier stamp, but would I name it as one of my top three? Of course not. Ditto The Road — certainly required viewing but hardly a top-of-the-lister.
If I had been Howell I would have written the folks who voted for the Hillcoat, the Von Trier and the two Herzogs and said, “Look, guys…these just aren’t very cutting-edge choices. They indicate a lack of awareness and not-very-sharply-attuned sensitivity to what’s going on out there. I’m trying to do you a favor and spare you some needless embarassment, okay? Please think it over again and come back to me with new choices 24 hours from now.”
Howell insists that contributors provide ultra-concise, one-sentence reasons why they’ve chosen this or that film. I tried to adhere to this but he mutilated my copy regardless. I understand the process and of course bear no grudge, but I’m running both versions here so HE readers can consider and compare.
Here’s how Howell ran my picks and my reasons: “Up in the Air: ‘The research-screening word has been excellent, and George Clooney as a suit-and-tie guy who fires people for a living is perfect!’ A Serious Man: ‘Because of a general blind faith in the Coen brothers, especially when they’re in a sombre/satiric mode, and because the `Jews in 1960s Minnesota’ thing is right out of their own cultural and historical backyard.’ Mother and Child: ‘Rodrigo García is Hollywood’s reigning south-of-the-border soul man in terms of dramatizing women’s emotional issues.'”
And here’s what I sent him:
Jason Reitman‘s Up In The Air because (a) the research-screening word has been excellent, (b) George Clooney as a suit-and-tie guy who fires people for a living — perfect!, (c) I’ve read half the script and had a good time with it, and (d) Reitman’s career and creative mojo are in an upward trajectory.
Joel and Ethan Coen‘s A Serious Man because (a) of a general blind faith in the Coens, especially when they’re in a somber/satiric mode, and (b) because the “Jews in 1960s Minnesota” thing is right out of their own cultural & historical backyard.
Rodrigo Garcia‘s Mother and Child because (a) Garcia is Hollywood’s reigning south-of-the-border Soul Man in terms of dramatizing women’s emotional issues, and because (b) one of the shorts in Garcia’s Nine Lives — a piece called “Diana” with Robin Wright Penn and Jason Isaacs — is the most intensely emotional portrayal of an unresolved relationship that I’ve ever seen in a film. On top of which Mother and Child has been produced by the Cha Cha Cha guys — Guillermo del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.
Jason Reitman Up In The Air will screen at 3:45 pm today at the Telliuride Film Festival. Over by 5:30 or thereabouts plus the q & a means that first online reactions/reviews will start appearing around 7 pm, or 9 pm Manhattan time. If I were Reitman I’d want to kick the behind of USA Today‘s Anthony Breznican‘s for calling me the new Billy Wilder, or words to that effect.
Box-office analyst Steve Mason is reporting that Quentin Tarantino‘s Inglourious Basterds “is holding up very well as the 25-plus audience discovers the movie. The picture managed $2.9 million yesterday (ranking #3 for Friday), and appears headed for a strong second-place finish for the four-day Labor Day weekend with something close to $14 million. That will push the Basterds total past $94 million in the U.S. alone.”
“All the buzz you heard about Red Riding is right and dead-on,” a Telluride Film Festival correspondent informs, having seen the British-produced trilogy yesterday. “It’s a very harsh work and the audience kept diminishing with each chapter,” he reports. “By the last one, half of the original crowd was gone. Each film stands on it’s own but seeing them all together is a richer thing.”
Another tipster, i.e., “buckzollo,” writes that the first Red Riding feature — Julian Jarrold‘s 1974 — “was the best but it really was worth digesting all three. The kid in 1974 has some serious Mark Ruffallo going on, and so much of the cast was bad-ass.”
Otherwise, “buckzollo” “really liked An Education,” which screened yesterday afternoon with director Lone Scherfig and star Carey Mulligan introducing it.”
The conservative-minded, Israel-embracing Washington Times ran a story yesterday about how right-wing director David Zucker and a couple of others are appalled that various leftie actors, writers and musicians have signed their name to a declaration posted by Naomi Klein and like-minded allies on Thursday, 9.3, in support of filmmaker John Greyson‘s protest against the Toronto Film Festival’s alliance with Tel Aviv, which was announced last May.
I summarized the basics in this 9.3 HE story.
Barry Brown‘s Times story quoted Zucker as saying he is “outraged” that actors such as Danny Glover and Jane Fonda, along with about 50 other activists (including David Byrne, playwright Eve Ensler, director Ken Loach, screenwriter Jeremy Pikser, film critic B. Ruby Rich, playwright/actor Wallace Shawn, writer Alice Walker and historian Howard Zinn), would sign a declaration that condemns Israel as an “apartheid regime” and dismisses the work of Tel Aviv filmmakers as “Israeli propaganda.”
On 8.27 Greyson released a public letter stating he would withdraw his film from the 10-day festival to protest, among various complaints, Israel’s military assault on Gaza earlier this year. Klein’s letter, titled “The Toronto Declaration: No Celebration of Occupation,” was posted two days ago on 9.3.
I wrote in my summary piece the same day that Greyson “essentially feels that Tel Aviv and the Israeli government have too much blood and militaristic aggression and kad karma on their plate to warrant partnership with a forward-thinking film festival like Toronto’s. And he’s arguing that TIFF’s Tel Aviv promotion flies in the face of an economic boycott against Israel that he and anti-Israel voices would like to see enforced in order to get Israel to be more reasonable and less belligerent in its dealings with the Palestinians.”
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