Speaking before the N.Y. Film Festival press corps this morning via projected video, Antichrist director Lars Von Trier called Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho “a classic, but not because it was scary. In horror films, the scary things are not what I remember. I remember a style or a mood. I didn’t find The Shining very scary, I must say. But today, I’m rather involved with it. I think that, as with all other films, it has to do with a personality that you feel in it as you watch what happens in it.” — as reported by Movieline‘s Stu Van Airsdale. (I was at home at the time, writing about Awards Daily‘s Oscar Poll and whatnot.)
Mackenzie Phillips‘ admission that she and her father, Mommas and the Poppas creator John Phillips, had a ten-year incestuous relationship has blackened the late musician’s rep for all time and poisoned that good old Mommas and the Pappas vibe, to say the least. I now think of Phillips in the same light as Ray Winstone‘s character in Tim Roth‘s The War Zone.
In Contention‘s Kris Tapley has linked to a quote from Cove hairshirt star Ric O’Barry that gives credit to Ben Stiller for playing a key role in getting the film screened at the Tokyo International Film Festival. I reported on 9.16 that TIFF jury president Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu was a prime mover behind the inclusion, but whatever. The point is that everyone who wanted The Cove to be seen at this festival got together and cajoled and finagled and made it happen.
Samuel Moaz‘s heavily-hyped Lebanon screened for the New York Film Festival press early this afternoon, and my sense of the reaction in the room was…well, a little subdued. A bit of sneering going on. A “disappointment,” one guy declared. “Didn’t love it, didn’t hate it…it’s okay.” Who was it who wrote the seminal rave review of this?, I asked another fellow. He wasn’t sure, he said, but he’d “like to find him and beat him up.”
The problem, I suspect, is that people had it in their heads that Lebanon was going to be some kind of Israeli Hurt Locker. But as Cinemascopian‘s Yair Raveh explained in an HE reader response post a few days ago, it ain’t that. He called it a “visually striking think-piece” and “a haunting memory poem that’s more Bela Tarr then Katherine Bigelow.”
The Lebanon hook is that it’s an allegedly riveting experiment since no one, to my knowledge, has ever shot a war film completely from inside a tank. The result, based on Moaz’s personal experience during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, is a grim, occasionally poignant and extremely claustrophobic rendering of an Israel tank crew’s 24 hour ordeal during this conflict. The idea is to make you feel stuck and trapped and very afraid, and to feel the grease and the oil against your skin and the smoke in your lungs and smell the rank urine. And you do feel and sense these things.
But I think Lebanon is finally limited by the claustrophobic scheme. After an hour or so you start saying to yourself, “How long is this again? It’s 92 minutes but it feels like 110 or more. You’re supposed to feel the discomfort — I get that — but the conceit eventually begins to overwhelm and diminish the human element. In the same way, now that I think of it, that Alfred Hitchcock‘s Rope (’48) began to feel constrained by Hitchcock’s decision to shoot and compose without edits in a series of unbroken takes.
But before the “lemme outta here” feeling kicks in, Lebanon disturbs and provokes in a fairly striking way. There’s something undeniably arresting about watching various victims of the Israeli and Christian Phalangist carnage, including a dying donkey and a mother who’s just lost her five year-old daughter in a shelling, entirely through a tank lens without sound. And the disputes between the tank crew members — Yoav Donat, Itay Tiran, Oshri Cohen, Michael Moshonov, Zohar Strauss — certainly increases the tension and desperation..
The heat, in any event, has now been turned down on Moaz’s film, which was recently acquired by Sony Classics after winning the Golden Lion at the 66th Venice Film Festival. It’s also a possible Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominee, assuming that Israrel submits it (although this is far from assured).
After wining the Golden Lion Maoz reportedly dedicated the award “to the thousands of people all over the world who, like me, come back from war safe and sound.Apparently they are fine, they work, get married, have children. But inside, the memory will remain stabbed in their soul.”
A fresh thought hit me as I watched this E.T. spot on Rob Marshall‘s Nine. One look at the Italian-suited, stylishly unshaven Daniel Day Lewis brooding and strolling around all these women and wearing that look of “oh, my…it just hasn’t come together yet, has it?” and I said to myself, “I don’t know if I care if DDL’s character has his vision together or not. I don’t know that a guy like this cracking the code and finding creative fulfillment is all that important to me.”:
I mean, I love Rome and the look of cavernous sound stages and the beautiful Amalfi coastline, but I don’t know that I relate to this world. Life is harder than usual right now. We’re dealing with a recession and all. The HPE has managed to get me evicted. And DDL is wearing great looking threads and tooling around in a cool sports car and fielding the attentions of several tantalizing women. What’s in this for me?
I’m also not sure if I cared all that much if Marcello Mastroianni‘s character had his creative ducks in order in Federico Fellini‘s 8 1/2 (i.e., the 1963 film that Nine is based upon). It was Fellni’s special surrealist atmosphere that kept you interested and aroused. I’m basically saying I don’t feel all that engaged in the ennui and emotional atmosphere of Nine. I know I’ll be seeing it soon but I’m not hungry to see it. Not like I’m hungry to see Invictus or Tree of Life or Zombieland or (sorry) Couples Retreat.
“I need to post this,” Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone wrote a few minutes ago, “because Jeff Wells just posted an absurd run-down of why the [Awards Daily Oscar Poll] is wrong. He gives various reasons why [although] most do not hold water. A Single Man has ‘gay-o-vision,’ Amelia has been dissed by an ‘insider’ and therefore has no shot, Food, Inc. is a ‘doc’ and therefore has no chance to make the Best Pic cut. Um. Lebanon is a foreign language and therefore won’t make the cut. Um. Sherlock Holmes is a ‘joke suggestion’ — I could go on. But do I really need to?”
Yeah, you do because (1) of all the things I’ve written about Sasha and Awards Daily, I’ve always managed to keep viciousness (i.e., describing something she’s written as “absurd”) out of the mix; (b) I said that A Single Man is “a sublime film in certain respects” and that it “could qualify” but that “the Gay-O-Vision factor could inhibit”; (c) Amelia, I’ve been told by a trusted source, hasn’t been precisely dissed by an insider as much as respectfully categorized (whatever its assets may or may not be) as not appearing to be an awards contender; (d) the last time I looked docs and foreign-language features don’t qualify for Best Picture consideration; and (e) all indications are that Sherlock Holmes, especially with a weakened, eager-to-please Guy Ritchie at the helm, is a product of whorishly imitative follow-the-formula satanic CG corporate-think, and it goes without saying that such an enterprise wouldn’t even begin to be considered in Best Picture terms…c’mon!
“Anyone who claims to have expert authority on the Oscars is usually one who will end up with egg on his or her face,” Stone writes. “The good predictors fly under the radar and do not brag about how good they are. if you have to put your faith in someone, there are a few who play the predicting game pretty well — Anne Thompson, David Karger, Damien Bona, Kris Tapley, David Poland and a few others whose names escape me — none of them brag about being good at predicting the Oscars. They are good at it because they keep their hearts entirely out of their decision-making. If your heart gets involved, you may get it wrong on occasion.”
Thompson, Karger and Tapley, sure, but Bona is strictly a stats man — he’s written reams of Oscar copy over the years and he’s never struck me as very reliant or trusting when to comes to listening to the Movie Gods or gut intuition. And don’t even mention Poland’s accuracy record over the past few years….please.
Note to Sasha and all the experts: If your heart gets involved, you may get it wrong on occasion — true. But if your heart doesn’t get involved ((along with your inner wizard-cap seance divining rod) then you have no soul. And you’ll wind up putting some of the readership to sleep.
This E.T. “exclusive footage of Nine” spot was posted on 9.18, and I don’t see what the big deal is. It’s just another whirling smorgasbord of glamour cuts and black-and-white rehearsal footage. (I would be earnestly salivating right now if the entire film had been shot in monochrome.) Since I never watch E.T. the standout element is the Stepford Showbiz News delivery style of co-host Mark Steines. His plastic-complacent manner is a self-directed parody. Don’t copy-reading styles ever evolve?
Listen sometime to the way TV announcers sounded in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. It seems astonishing that copy-reading delivery this phony and artificial was actually the norm at one time. But all cultures gradually evolve, and with this the manner and verbal comnmunication techniques of TV performers. Except Mark Steines sounds exactly the way E.T. robot-announcers sounded in the late ’70s. Everything has changed — Jimmy Carter was president 30 years ago — but E.T. is frozen in amber.
Ryan Adams‘ Best Picture poll on Awards Daily asks readers to choose 10 likely finalists among some 55 or 56 suggestions. The ten I’ve chosen (listed alphabetically) are Bright Star, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Invictus, Nine, Precious, A Serious Man, The Tree of Life, Up In The Air and Where The Wild Things Are. (I obviously haven’t seen Malick’s Tree but…well, you know. And haven’t I read two men-weeping stories about Wild Things? Or just one?)
Here’s why Adams’ other suggestions don’t rate, with due respect: Amelia (unseen but said by an insider to simply not quite cut it in terms of award-season chops), Antichrist (be serious!), Avatar (Delgo/Ferngully, furry ballerina, space Marines), Away We Go (too nice, modest, low-key), The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (joke suggestion), Broken Embraces (very fine Almodovar, but obviously in the foreign language category), City of Life and Death (foreign language), Coco Before Chanel (allegedly too middlebrow boilerplate), Coraline (animated), The Cove (documentary), Creation (forget it), District 9 (too dusty sci-fi, too cultish, too many empty cat-food cans), Everybody’s Fine (unseen but beware of this),
(500) Days of Summer (intriguing film but won’t make the cut), Food, Inc. (doc), Funny People (a very strong contender & a totally honorable film, but perceived as an under-performer), Get Low (haven’t seen it), Goodbye Solo (forget it), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (be serious), The Informant! (jaunty and quite good in some respects, but lacks that thematic award-season dimensionality), The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (not in the game), Inglourious Basterds (baseball bat beating! fresh cow’s milk! foot-fetish shots!), In the Loop (superb satire but but lacks thematic depth and scope), Julie & Julia (nice movie, not in the game), The Last Station (allegedly very straghtforward & middlebrow…but where’s the distributor?), Lebanon (foreign language), The Lovely Bones (haven’t seen it but always be fearful of Jackson), The Men Who Stare at Goats (clever, amusing, not award quality), Moon (overpraised), 9 (nope), Ondine (not by my yardstck), Ponyo (who?), The Princess and the Frog (be serious), The Prophet (superb but foreign language), Public Enemies (admirable wth killre finale, but not as popular as it needs to be), The Road (good but not good enough), Seraphine (nope), Sherlock Holmes (another joke suggestion), A Single Man (sublime film in certain respects, could qualify but Gay-O-Vision factor may inhibit), Sin Nombre (masterful, certainly among the best of the year, but isn’t it Spanish speaking?), Star Trek (not that kind of film), Summer Hours (don’t know it), Tetro (best cinematography?), Up (animated), The White Ribbon (foreign language), Within the Whirlwind (Siberian gulag love story..what?).