Tim Burton‘s Alice in Wonderland looks like the one I had in my head when it was first read to me when I was, like, five or six. I suspect that Burton was drawing from the same kind of well when he began to create the film. There’s a Tim Burton drawn-art exhibit kicking off at MOMA on Tuesday, 11.17,
IFC Films has acquired North American rights to Jordan Scott‘s Cracks, a somewhat bent and frenzied thriller staring Eva Green, Juno Temple, Imogen Poots and Maria Valverde. I talked with a couple of acqusitions guys about Cracks during the Toronto Film festival. They were chortling and snorting and going “whooo!” Lots of merriment and not much belief that it was any kind of “audience” film. Which is okay with me.
Variety‘s Todd McCarthy called Cracks “a drear account of adolescent reveries gone south [that] plays like a cross between Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, shot through with a nasty Lord of the Flies streak.
“Debuting feature director Jordan Scott does a reasonable job of conjuring up a hothouse atmosphere in a depressing English boarding school circa 1934, but the psychological and latent erotic aspects remain largely undeveloped. Eva Green’s star turn in an exotic role will be enough to win the film a berth in most markets, but theatrical flight looks to be short, with better results in ancillary.”
What exactly will Scott Foundas‘s appointment as associate program director of the NY Film Festival mean? He’ll be handling series and event programs, and good for that — Foundas is a very bright and knowledgable and plugged-in guy. I’ve seen him interview several distinguished filmmakers in various venues, and few are better at it than he.
On the other hand Foundas did trash A Serious Man in Film Comment and was one of those NYFF programmers who stood in the way of screening it at last month’s festival. So as Anthony Quinn‘s Auda Abu Tayi said of Peter O’Toole‘s T.E. Lawrence, “He is not…perfect.”
And I don’t know to what extent, if any, Foundas’s appointment will influence the general programming choices of the NYFF, which is currently regarded as the most elitist (i.e., indifferent to popular tastes), Trappist monk-minded, granola-and-goat’s-milk flavored of all the prominent second-tier festivals. The only way the NYFF could truly be transformed…naah, forget it. It can’t happen. The NYFF has carved out a rep as one of the dweebiest operations in the world, and why should they give up that handle? It’s been hard won.
Foundas will move to New York, which means unless he’s being paid a huge salary that he’s probably going to have to suffer for many weeks as he looks for a decent place to live, and at the end of the process he’ll choose a place that’s much smaller than the one he had/has in Los Angeles.
I’ve just watched the first half of the new Gone With The Wind Bluray, and I’m truly dazzled. No, levitated. This is by far the most beautifully rendered old-time Technicolor film I’ve ever seen on a high-def system — razor-sharp, pulsing with color, pretty close to grain-free and significantly upgraded over the 2004 DVD version, which was excellent for what it was.
I haven’t talked to Robert Harris or George Feltenstein or anyone else in the know, but I do know what my eyes tell me. This Gone With The Wind is amazing — a candy-store Technicolor eye-bath like nothing I’ve ever sunk into before. The key element is “next to no grain.” I haven’t come up with a term that conveys the opposite of a “grainstorm” but this delivers that. Hallelujah — somebody finally heard!
The grain levels are roughly at par with WHV’s Casablanca Bluray, which didn’t have a digitally scrubbed-down look but a naturally clean quality. Why didn’t WHV deliver the same nearly-grain-free quality (or an approximation of same) in the sepia-tone sections of The Wizard of Oz?
My approving-but-not-exactly-blown-away reactions to Warner Home Video’s other two “Murderer’s Row” Blu-ray titlles — Oz and North by Northwest — led me to expect that GWTW would be of a similar quality, which is to say noticably but not mind-blowingly better than the last DVD. Riper, sharper and more fully rendered, okay, but not in a way that would make anyone gasp or drop their pants. Well, the GWTW Blu-ray is a serious gasper and pants-dropper.
That’s all I’m going to say for now except that for my money DVD Beaver’s Gary Tooze was too restrained in his recent review of this disc. He said that “there are times when it makes you gasp” and that “detail advances to as high a degree as we are likely to see for this 70-year old classic,” okay. But he didn’t convey sufficient excitement. He didn’t jump and down and say “this is the kind of Blu-ray of a Hollywood golden-age film that you’ve always dreamed of but not never quite saw.”
I ran into Men Who Stare at Goats director-writer Grant Heslov on 10.13 at the opening-night party for the London Film Festival. He had flown up from Italy with George Clooney, the star of Anton Corbijn‘s then-shooting The American, of which Heslov is one of the producers. It’s about an asssassin (Clooney) hanging back and chilling down in a Southern Italian village as he prepares for the proverbial final assignment while coping with a romantic entanglement and local friendships, etc.
Photo copied from an 11.11 Playlist posting.
You know what this sounds like? Local Hero with high-powered rifles and scopes and silencers.
I told Heslov I was especially excited to see this film because of my delight with the visual compositions in Corbijn’s last film, Control. I asked if there’s any chance that The American is being shot in black-and-white. “Nope,” said Heslov, faintly amused.
It had somehow slipped my mind that Sam Worthington is the star of Louis Leterrier‘s Clash of the Titans (Warner Bros., 3.26). This on top of Avatar and the last Terminator film plus Last Night, The Debt and the possible/discussed The Candidate and The Tourist…it’s a kind of deluge. Worthington is into and all over everything in the same way that Christian Bale was the absolute go-to guy two or three years ago.
Part Arnold, part Clint, past Chuck Norris…I get it, fine. I’m just feeling like I’ve been Sam Worthington-ed in a Paul Simon/”A Simple Desultory Philippic” sense.
That said, I’m not sure how closely Leterrier and his screenwriters, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, have adhered to Beverley Cross‘s 1981 screenplay, but this version, to go by the trailer, will clearly be a lot crazier and 300-ish and visually ruthless than the almost 30 year-old original with its quaint Ray Harryhausen stop-motion animation and borderline embarassing visual effects.
This Up In The Air trailer was posted yesterday, and it seems to be precisely the same one I was watching a month or so ago. The release-date shifts have thrown me off, so this is an opportunity to reiterate that the presumed Best Picture front-runner opens on 12.4.
“Contemporary Hollywood has steadfastly avoided the workplace — unless the jobs are particularly glamorous (Broadcast News, The Devil Wears Prada), or the workers unfairly exploited (Silkwood, North Country) or the fodder for gallows humor (the Mike Judge oeuvre). And so there’s an immediate and ingratiating novelty to the fact that so much of Jason Reitman‘s Up in the Air unfolds in cubicles and conference rooms in nondescript office buildings in Wichita, Kansas City, and other outposts of the great American in-between.
“Likewise, the people Up in the Air are neither the laugh-tracked eccentrics of TV sitcoms nor Michael Moore‘s congenitally oppressed proles. They are, rather, the white-collar career middle-managers, useful but ultimately inessential to their employers, who believed they had jobs for life — until a tough economy rendered them expendable. They may not be the stars of Up in the Air, but they are what gives the movie its soul.”
Collider‘s Steve Weintraub caught up with a red-band trailer for Hot Tub Time Machine during his American Film Market wanderings. A red-band version has sitting on YouTube for several weeks — presumably Weintraub saw a new one. In any event he posted the following last night:
“If you haven’t heard of Hot Tub Time Machine, it stars John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson and Clark Duke. It centers on a group of high school pals who reunite at an old ski lodge party spot they went to when they were teenagers. After a night of binge drinking, they wake up in the same spot but it’s now 1986, due to the hot tub’s magical time-travel powers.
‘You may think this premise sounds crazy, but after watching the first footage from the film I’m almost ready to say this might be The Hangover of 2010. The trailer had me laughing out loud from beginning to end and it absolutely played like a 80’s movie except it knows it’s an 80’s movie. I also thought it was great that Cusack is returning to his roots.
“While I won’t spoil the jokes, I have to tell you one: When they wake up they wonder why everyone is dressed like it’s the 1980s. They can’t figure out what’s going on and slowly they begin to sense something’s up. Somehow Robinson realizes they might be in another era. He runs up to a random woman and asks her what color is Michael Jackson. When she says black, he freaks and runs off.
“Trust me, this movie is going to be huge.”
It’s time to ease up on Precious after yesterday’s double-header. But as a friend has passed along Raina Kelley‘s well-written “The Problem With Precious” essay (11.5) in Newsweek, I may as well keep the ball in the air a bit longer.
“Depending on who you are, where you grew up, and, frankly, the color of your skin, you’ll most likely react in one of two ways to Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” Kelley begins. “The film tells the story of Claireece (Precious) Jones and her struggle to survive a life overfull with misery. Pregnant for the second time with a child fathered by her own father, abused physically, emotionally, and sexually by her mother, Precious is also illiterate, obese, and friendless.
“Precious is not an easy movie to watch, and there are people in the black community who wish that you wouldn’t. They insist that it is yet another stereotypical, demonizing representation of black people. The other camp, however, is thrilled to see a depiction of a young African-American woman that, while heartbreaking, is a portrait of the black experience that has been overlooked on the sunny horizon that stretches from The Cosby Show to House of Payne.
“Unfortunately, both of those reactions miss the movie’s most searing message.
“I wish I could agree with those who say Precious is just one more movie that feeds our vision of ourselves as victims. Even that would have been better than what lies underneath: the fact that black people have begun to accept as unchangeable the lot of those stuck in the ghetto.
“How else to explain that while the film is set in 1987, no one seems outraged that so little has changed in the inner city in the more than 20 years since? Precious is a period piece that feels like a documentary. The public-education system is still failing to raise graduation rates above 50 percent in the worst neighborhoods. The public-welfare system has yet to offer a real path out of poverty, and child-protection services is still struggling to protect children. While I agree that we’ve gotten too comfortable seeing ourselves on film as martyrs and underdogs, so what? The real devastation at the heart of this film is that it can’t offer Precious a more concrete way out of her predicament.
“Yes, Precious is changed at the end of the movie, able not only to read and write but also to move toward a better life. But that isn’t enough. I wanted just a hint that she would also escape the hell that was (is) urban poverty. Precious was lucky to find the alternative school that could help her. But that’s fiction. In reality, there are far more Preciouses than there are teachers to help them. Movies such as this one allow us to forget that.
“Still, I understand people who complain about the lack of positive role models more than those who applaud just for telling this story. In their admiration of Precious’s strength and resilience, these people also implicitly accept the status quo. Precious’s parents are certainly villains, but they are also red herrings. Her situation feels so extreme that we lose sight of the bigger picture. I’m tired of movies presenting black people as grateful to find a helping hand to rise above their abusers. Not because we’ve seen this movie before — starring Sidney Poitier, Michelle Pfeiffer, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman, and even Matthew Perry — but because the story never changes.
“How about a ‘based on a true story’ tear-jerker that ends with some tangible improvements in the lives of impoverished children? Where’s the African-American Norma Rae or Silkwood? Hell, I’d even take an all-black remake of Brubaker. Anything that sends the message that one person — even one who is poor, black, fat, female, and abused — can change the system. Then I won’t feel like my tears have gone to waste.”