Steven Soderbergh‘s The Informant! — an entertaining enough LQTM dramedy with a jaunty Marvin Hamlisch score and a knockout lead performance by Matt Damon — is, in my mind, a Midwestern gene-splicing of Joe E. Brown‘s Alibi Ike (1935) and Sidney Lumet‘s Prince of the City (1982). Soderbergh’s film is basically about pathological lying, and Ike was a Chicago Cubs baseball movie about a guy who couldn’t help telling one whopper after another. Mix that in with the Prince of the City ethos (i.e., nothing can be hidden) and there it is.
Henry Gibson‘s finest acting moment in his entire career is viewable at the 1:43 mark in this Long Goodbye trailer. He died Monday at age 73.
My favorite Long Goodbye dialogue:
Marty Augustine (Mark Rydell): “When I was in junior high school I was terrified of gym class. Because I never had any pubic hair until I was 15 years old.”
Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould): “Oh, yeah? You musta looked like one of the three little pigs.”
I caught and very much liked Tom Ford‘s A Single Man this morning. It’s basically about passing through grief and despair and coming out alive on the other side. We’re speaking of a very lulling and haunting thing to settle into. I can’t rouse myself into full-on review mode, but the thoroughly readable feelings in the features of star Colin Firth — longing, grief, numbness, curiosity, contentment — keep the film aloft.
Along with the immaculate visual values, of course. A Single Man reminded me at times of Michelangelo Antonioni‘s Red Desert and La Notte. The conservative gayish vibe will mean box-office issues with hinterland heteros, I suppose (i.e., support hose), but it’s so exquisitely composed and refined and well-written, etc. A huge hit with urban gay audiences, but film lovers of all persuasions owe it to themselves.
“It does not bespeak great wisdom to call the film The Bad Lieutenant, and I only agreed to make the film after William (Billy) Finkelstein, the screenwriter, who had seen a film of the same name from the early nineties, had given me a solemn oath that this was not a remake at all. But the film industry has its own rationale, which in this case was the speculation of some sort of franchise.
“I have no problem with this. Nevertheless, the pedantic branch of academia, the so called ‘film studies,’ in its attempt to do damage to cinema, will be ecstatic to find a small reference to that earlier film here and there, though it will fail to do the same damage that academia — in the name of literary theory — has done to poetry, which it has pushed to the brink of extinction.
“Cinema, so far, is more robust. I call upon the theoreticians of cinema to go after this one. Go for it, losers.” — an excerpt of Werner Herzog‘s statement in the Bad Lieutenant press notes, as passed along by The Wrap‘s Eric Kohn.
Tokyo Film Festival jury chief Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu played a crucial negotiating role in the decision of the festival chiefs to screen The Cove, as reported this morning by Variety‘s Mark Schilling. This despite Cove director Louie Psihoyos having stated that the festival wouldn’t be showing The Cove for political reasons.
“I truly believe that festivals exist as spaces of resistance against the easy distractions our culture offers us on a day-to-day basis,” Imnaritu wrote yesterday as the situation was being resolved. “I hope this film is exposed and as many others, and that it will generate some emotions and reflections that trigger discussions and conscience in order to put an end to the horrifying dolphin slaughter, which is now going on.”
A little over a month ago the selections for the forthcoming New York Film Festival (9.25 through 10.11) were revealed. Many noted that the slate seemed to reflect the tastes of a rather hermetic, esoteric, film-dweeby selection panel with an aversion to anything that smacked of accessibility and across-the-board engagement. But I didn’t know how dweeby until just a little while ago when I was told by an excellent source that the NYFF committee turned down the Coen Bros.’ A Serious Man, Lone Scherfig‘s An Education and Jacques Audiard‘s A Prophet. To which I said, “What?”
On 8.11 Film Society of Lincoln Center programmer Richard Pena tried to explain the dweeb slate to the Hollywood Reporter‘s Stephen Zeitchik as follows: “Two years ago, we had the Coen brothers and Wes Anderson and Julian Schnabel and Noah Baumbach and Sidney Lumet. Last year, there was less, and this year there is much less.”
Except the NYFF selection committee did have the Coens this year in the form of A Serious Man, which, in the view of many who’ve seen this film in Toronto, is arguably one of the best they’ve ever made. And yet the NYFF selection committee — Pena and critics Dennis Lim, Scott Foundas, J. Hoberman and Melissa Anderson — for the most part disliked it and declined to show it.
I don’t know who specifically voted against it except for a vague understanding that Foundas is not a fan. (Apparently Foundas and Hoberman gave A Serious Man a “bomb” rating in the Critic’s Choice chart in the new issue of Film Comment.) But having seen A Serious Man myself and given the large Upper West Side Jewish audience that attends this festival, I can say with absolute authority that the NYFF committee is imbedded way too deeply inside its own posterior cavity. I mean, they’re really nuts not to show this film. As they are in having also turned down An Education and A Prophet.
These are three movies with serious critical cred that also play to an audience. Each would be a huge hit, trust me, with the NYFF crowd that attends each and every year. The NYFF selection committee has become a gathering of Trappist monks who’ve been slurping too much goat’s milk with their granola. I’m not the only one who thinks this, trust me.
Last night’s chat with Mother and Child director-writer Rodrigo Garcia went smoothly enough, but it was partly a technical disaster on my end. I forgot to take a photo of him for some reason, and the video footage I shot was accidentally erased during a file transfer I attempted an hour after we parted. But at least I have the mp3. I’d summarize what we discussed but my first film of the day — Love and Other Impossible Pursuits — starts in 17 minutes.
Mother and Child director-writer Rodrigo Garcia in a N.Y. Times photo taken four years ago.
Film festivals always start to wear me down by the fifth or sixth day. Even people who work fewer hours than I tend to feel exhausted at this point. I’ve been doing the usual 6:30 wakeup and hitting the sack no earlier than 1 am each night, and today marks the beginning of the seventh day of that pace. I’m holding up reasonably well and keeping as focused as can be expected under these circumstances.
One of the tables at Bymark, the elegant restaurant on Wellington Street where Miramax held its after-party Tuesday evening for Scott Hicks’ The Boys Are Back. Costars Clive Owen and Sam Neill attended.
I did, however, fall asleep in a sitting position on the westbound Bloor Street subway the night before last, and awoke only at the very end of the line.
“Kipling! Kipling!” I opened my eyes and looked up at a woman standing over me and trying to wake me up. “This is Kipling, sir…last stop!” I stumbled out of Kipling station and looked around at the break nocturnal landscape — acres of unlit nothingness and endless stretches of parking lot depression — and realized I was in Toronto’s equivalent of western Siberia. I suppose I should be thankful to that woman. If she hadn’t woken me some kid might’ve come along and stolen my bag.
I spoke early yesterday evening with Mother and Child director-writer Rodrigo Garcia, and then dropped by a delightful after-party for Scott Hicks‘ The Boys Are Back (Miramax, 9.25). And that was it.
Today’s activities: Don Roos‘ Love and Other Impossible Pursuits (9 am), Tom Ford‘s A Single Man (11 am), Fatih Akin‘s Soul Kitchen at 1 pm, Steven Soderbergh‘s The Informant! at 3:15 pm and a chat with Werner Herzog around 5;15 pm. Where’s the writing time in that schedule? Beats me.
Toronto-based artist Richard Kruger gave me a lift yesterday in this contraption, taking me from the Elgin theatre to the Soho Metropolitan hotel on Wellington Street.
The month-old trailer for Oliver Parker‘s Dorian Gray (which played twice last weekend at TIFF, is currently running in the UK, but has no US distributor or release date) makes it quite clear that the film does everything it can to coarsen and vulgarize and make sticky with blood Oscar Wilde‘s original 1891 novel. Which is why I didn’t even flirt with the idea of seeing it here.
It should therefore come as no surprise that the 9.15 review by Variety‘s Todd McCarthy says that Parker “takes a meat cleaver to Wilde’s work [with] a film as coarse and crude as its source material is refined and sublime.
“To paraphrase the great Irish scribe himself, the picture is a monstrous corruption [that’s] more at home stylistically in the bloody vicinity of Elm Street or Hammer Studios than in the loftier realms of distinguished literary adaptations, film festivals or the earlier incarnation of Ealing Studios.
“There are three good things in this latest version of Wilde’s only novel: Colin Firth, who tosses off the vast majority of the script’s appropriated witticisms with seasoned aplomb; Rebecca Hall, who singlehandedly revives the moribund enterprise with a jolt of vitality in the final reels; and the painting itself, which is stunningly rendered.
“Otherwise, Parker goes for the jugular, literally, splashing blood all around the famous story of an exquisite young man whose devil’s bargain allows him to retain his beauty and lead a life of depraved debauchery while his portrait ages hideously in an attic. It’s as if the director envisioned a companion piece to Sweeney Todd, but with a porno-worthy synth score rather than Stephen Sondheim.”
- All Hail Tom White, Taciturn Hero of “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Roughly two months ago a very early draft of Eric Roth‘s screenplay for Killers of the Flower Moon (dated 2.20.17,...More »