With reader assistance I’ve located a slow-loading online trailer for Julio Medem‘s Room in Rome, which CHUD’s Devin Faraci wrote about on 1.19. The quality of Medem’s Sex and Lucia indicates that Room in Rome will have a mitigating touch of class. IFC will open it domestically later this year.
Almost anytime an American film shoots in Rome, they get it wrong by doing everything they can to gloss and tidy it up. Medem apparently shot most of Room in Rome in Madrid except for a few exteriors. Thinking about Rome put me in a mood to run one of my own pics, shot in June of ’07.
A 1.28 Hollywood Reporter story about an HBO project called Emergency Sex caught my eye because it reminded me of (a) the 9.11 “terror fucking” syndrome that was observed in Manhattan, and (b) the heated romantic triangle in Iraq involving CBS News correspondent Lara Logan that was reported about during the summer of 2008.
Emergency Sex will star Maria Bello, is being written by Slumdog Millionaire writer Simon Beaufoy, and will be executive produced by Bello, Beaufoy and Russell Crowe.
Inspired by the book “Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures: A True Story From Hell on Earth,” by Kenneth Cain, Heidi Postlewait and Andrew Thomson, the project “revolves around the larger-than-life exploits of expatriate nongovernment-organization workers who find their sanity tested in the face of atrocities, loneliness and primal desires,” the story says.
The book chronicles the real-life experiences of Cain, Postlewait and Thomson, who met in Cambodia during the 1990s as members of a UN peacekeeping mission.
Eighteen months ago I wrote that Logan’s story “would make for a good filmed drama. The considerate way to go about it would be to use the facts (romantic Baghdad triangle, emotions at a fever pitch, divorce proceeding, bullets whizzing past lovers’ heads, IEDs exploding) but with made-up names and perhaps a slightly fictionalized story line just to blur things up.
In early July ’08 Washington Post columnist Howard Kurtz wrote that “while some may accuse [Logan] of tawdry conduct, what happened to her is an all-too-familiar tale of someone consumed by a career and needing a partner who understands the peculiar pressures involved.”
Those pressures being reporting from an intense war zone where violence, bodies and bomb blasts are part of the daily drill. As I put it a few days before, “There’s always something strangely erotic in the air when there’s a lot of random death and danger floating about…the more ghastly or threatening the surroundings, the more likely it is that like-minded professionals of a certain age are going to get down in the heat of the moment.”
Scott Feinberg‘s final Oscar nomination forecast include the following the Best Picture picks: The Hurt Locker, Avatar, Up in the Air, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, An Education, Up, Invictus, District 9, The Blind Side. He omits A Serious Man because, being a real-world handicapper, he obviously believes that most Academy voters will omit it also.
No rag on Scott but that’s just (a) sick, (b) derelict and (c) decrepit. To nominate Invictus, a decent but second-tier Clint Eastwood film primarily because it honors Nelson Mandela by way of a steady and soothing Morgan Freeman performance, and at the same time not nominate one of the finest-ever Coen brothers’ films — a pitch-black comedy with a riveting exactitude of tone, cultural satire and misanthropic worldview — is outrageous. Putrid. Shame on anyone who would think and nominate along these lines.
March 23rd will be a banner day for Blu-ray aficionados with Paramount Home Video’s long-awaited African Queen restoral/remastering and Criterion’s Days of Heaven, already devastating on standard DVD, making their debuts in this format. And then a week later (3.30) comes the Collateral Blu-ray.
Pic is “a discussion between two mentally ill vagabonds who only believe themselves to be Der Fuhrer and the Savior, set against Vancouver’s wine country on East Hastings Street,” said one summary.
In his capsule review, Metroactive’s Richard Von Busack wrote the following: “Like Nixon, Hitler is a part that is good for any actor, and Moriarty does it proud, even with just the hint of the famous mustache visible above the grizzled beard. His Hitler is scatological and taunting.
“But he doesn’t seriously miss his lost empire. What he seeks, instead, is death and oblivion — a nothingness he can only achieve by repenting, as if surrendering to God’s son. Dismissing this ultimate act of egocide, Hitler tells Jesus, ‘You’re crazier than Rudolph Hess.’ The intriguing idea never transcends the level of a squabble.”
Why would a lanky Abe Lincoln-sized guy want a Tinkerbell-sized girlfriend, regardless of how hot she might seem? Why would any confident, self-respecting guy want to have sex with a woman small enough to be eight or nine years old? I can understand Hobbit-like women wanting a Richard Kiel-sized boyfriend for protection or whatever, but such couplings do seem a bit perverse from the guy’s perspective.
(l.) When in Rome‘s Josh Duhamel, Kristin Bell; (r.) Twilight‘s Rob Pattinson, Kristen Stewart,
I’m not saying that men in such relationships are necessarily having wicked fantasies, but it’s only natural to hook up with someone who’s in the same approximate realm (physically, emotionally, attractiveness-wise) so why do Gort-sized guys hook up with little bitty pixies with Tiny Kingdom feet and hands and little peep-peep voices?
I was just considering the odd disparity between When in Rome‘s Kristen Bell, who could easily pass for a fifth grader if she weren’t biologically mature in other ways, and Josh Duhamel, who’s so much taller than Bell he seems almost Navi-sized.
Or the romance between Twilight‘s Rob Pattinson, who’s a good 6’2″ or 6’3″, and the elfin Kristen Stewart. It hit me as I looked at her on the Eccles stage in Park City that she’s not just short but tiny in a growth-stunted way. She physically got to age nine or so and then just stopped.
On top of The Hurt Locker‘s win at last weekend’s Producer’s Guild awards, Kathryn Bigelow‘s triumph at last night’s DGA Awards means she’s truly fortified and Movie Godz-favored to take the Best Director Oscar. This also slightly strengthens The Hurt Locker‘s shot at taking the Best Picture Oscar, although I doubt this will happen.
Bigelow became the first woman to win the DGA’s highest honor in its 61 years of award-bestowing. (The org’s first feature-directing trophy went to Joseph L. Mankiewicz in 1949 for his helming of A Letter to Three Wives.) In so doing Bigelow nudged aside Avatar‘s James Cameron , Precious helmer Lee Daniels, Up In The Air‘s Jason Reitman and Inglourious Basterds maestro Quentin Tarantino.
Bigelow said she was “stunned, honored and proud…this is the most incredible moment of my life.”
Taking Chance director Ross Katz was handed the DGA’s best movies for TV-miniseries award. For hoodwinking everyone into thinking he’d made a film about restrained hinterland sadness over a young soldier’s death (instead of a sneaky Iraq War sell-job, which is what Taking Chance frundamentally is), I think Katz deserves this award. In the same way that three-card-monte dealers have to know what they’re doing on the streets of Manhattan, Katz is an expert salesman with high-end chops.
Louis Psihoyos won the DGA’s documentary award for The Cove, which won the PGA documentary award last Sunday
I wrote from Sundance on 1.26 that “if you remove the first 20 or so minutes, Jay and Mark Duplass‘s Cyrus could be called a mature, somewhat comedic and satisfying handling of an unusual romantic triangle situation. It’s ‘funny’ here and there but mostly it’s just believable, buyable and emotionally even-steven. A truly welcome surprise.
“In the hands of Adam McKay or Shawn Levy or any of the other big-studio whores who are always directing expensive Eloi comedies, Cyrus would have been a Joe Popcorn torture-chamber movie like Stepbrothers, in which Reilly costarred with Will Ferrell.
“It’s something else with the Duplass brothers running the show. It’s quietly absorbing and occasionally hilarious, and made all the better by superb acting.
“But those first 20 or so minutes are very weird. For during this period Cyrus plays like it was directed by McKay or Levy. Reilly behaves so over-the-top needy and neurotic and boorish and lacking in social skills that I was ready to leave. “I really don’t want to hang with this asshole,” I was saying to myself. I was just about to bolt when all of a sudden Reilly hooked up with Tomei, went home with her, fell in love and turned into a different person.
“It plays as if the Duplass brothers suddenly changed their minds about Reilly’s character and decided to go with a much calmer and more emotionally secure vibe.
“It’s almost as if they sat down and said ‘we need to get the animals to see this so let’s make an animal comedy straight out of the Will Ferrell loser file so the Fox Searchlight trailer guys can sell this portion, and then turn around and make Cyrus into a whole ‘nother bird — a movie aimed at a smarter crowd — about 20 or so minutes into the running time.”
The Sundance Grand Jury Awards are generally thought to be meaningless — the political preferences of industry elites. The Sundance Audience Awards, however, are regarded as meaningful indicators of genuine audience favor. Which means that in the case of this year’s U.S. Dramatic Audience Award, the audience is composed of shallow, easily seduced dingbats. Giving it to Josh Radnor‘s happythankyoumoreplease, a thoroughly artificial, Woody Allen-with-a-lobotomy 20something sitcom, affords no other conclusion.
L.A. Times reporters Mark Olsen and Steven Zeitchik have written that upon accepting the award, Radnor, “better known as the star of TV’s How I Met Your Mother, thanked ‘the people at my day job, for giving me time to do this. I come from the fertilizer of network television.'” (Radnor was echoing a remark made earlier in the evening by co-host David Hyde Pierce.)
Two or three days after linking to Stu Van Airsdale‘s 1.18 Movieline critique of Carey Mulligan‘s Best Actress campaign, I got a “what the hell?” e-mail from a friend at Sony Classics. I tried to get into this during Sundance but the screenings and deadlines were overwhelming, as usual.
“We have several weeks of voting after the Oscar nominations are announced,” he said, “so the Best Actress game is not over. It’s not even half-time yet. We were one of the first to send An Education to the complete SAG membership. And consider Capote‘s or Rachel Getting Married‘s release plan at Oscar announcement time. We were roughly at the same place with these films, and with the same odds.
“And look at all the awards Carey has accumulated so far (including her BAFTA Best Actress nom) and consider a scenario in which Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep split the mainstream Hollywood vote, and Carey wins by getting the rest. Don’t think that couldn’t happen.
“We’re not Carey’s personal p.r. people,” he concluded, “so don’t look for villains at Sony Classics.” (Mulligan’s p.r. rep is Jessica Kolstadt at Wolf-Kasteller.)
I didn’t think I was pointing figures at these guys — not really. I was just linking, for one thing. And all I said boiled down was that Sony Pictures Classics co-chiefs Tom Bernard and Michael Barker are “known to be equitable and hands-offish when it comes to acting-awards campaigns.” In other words, they’re not Weinstein-type blitzkreigers, and that they tend to defer to an actor’s personal publicist. No biggie in that.
I was mainly expressing my disappointment with the fact that so many critics groups had given their Best Actress awards to Streep, and for a relatively minor performance. Does Sandra Bullock have a front-runner position now after the SAG win? Quite possibly. Mulligan will be nominated for Best Actress, of course. She’s received a huge launch from An Education, and the film will continue to benefit when it goes to video. If she doesn’t win, fine. It’s all been to the good.
An apparent Variety insider (or an ex-staffer) named “Jason” has written a tough-minded critique of the venerated trade publication for Paid Content.org. “Change or die” is his basic message. Brutally honest stuff but hard to argue with in sections.
“The fact that Nikki Finke and Sharon Waxman compete at all — reasonably — is simply incredible considering The Wrap has six people in a small office in Santa Monica, Nikki has three people all working virtually from home…but Variety has 100 people. In a high-rise. With insurance. And 401K payments. And travel expenses for many of them…and, well, you get the point.
“This isn’t only an editorial discussion — it’s a business-plan discussion. Can Variety survive as is? Of course it can’t. There’s no revenue stream besides advertising. And it’s cratering. And the staff is big, even after they cut it down…and working in a brick-and-mortar building is EXPENSIVE.
“This really has hit a critical point for Variety, and one problem is that nobody seems to have a plan of reasonable action. I know plenty of people there, and they all say the same thing. Great brand, no leadership. And sure, some are griping because journalists gripe. But don’t they have a decent point?
“What is Variety doing to change the game? What is Variety doing – with its history, access, talent and management – to shake it up? To change everything. This is about MORE than just tomorrow or 2010. This is about years from now.
“It’s not working. The newspaper is thin. The site is a mess. There are some decent things on Variety.com, but nobody’s commenting. Why? And where are all of the links? And where’s the ‘bigness’ to some items? These aren’t minor things that they should be scoffing at. These are real things. Bona fide things to do to change the culture.
“And most importantly, where’s the analysis? Opinion. Edgy columnists. Have you seen the blogs? Where’s the tiger of the bunch? Not just ‘Hey — I like this show.” But rather, meaningful stuff.
“So what’s coming down the pike? What are the changes? It’s 2010, so I assume if there were major changes, they’d already be here, because this deterioration is something that has been going on for years. And I know I’m not privy to the war room planning, so of course, many will scoff at this as, ‘What does this guy know?’
“Variety is a great name. So where is the braintrust to kick everyone’s ass? Where’s the same attitude of the people it covers. The creativity. The work-at-all-hours people. The idea people. And I don’t mean a web redesign.
“And hiring an ex-LA Times staffer whose job, by the way, isn’t to produce copy — is that what they really need right now — another editor? Where’s the new Mike Fleming? The new young columnist? The new hot get? Where are the stars? And hiring a guy from Philadelphia (?) to run the site doesn’t count.
“Have you all sat in a room, looked at each other and said, “This isn’t working…let’s go get us people who can kick ass.” And I don’t mean by typing fast. Or giving orders. Or having good meetings. Or being a nice person. I mean…who can change the game?
“Variety let 30 people go. Mike Fleming left. What more does it take for all of you to say, ‘Jesus…time to stop living back in the heyday of 1982.’ David Begelman isn’t walking through the door anymore. Frank Mancuso doesn’t make movies anymore. These people were your audience during a great time. Now you have a new audience. So how are you appealing to them?
“Bart, Fleming, Adalian, Fritz, Speier, Hammond, Gallo, Frater…these people were talented. And brought a sense of importance to your place. Okay, they were let go…no problem. So go get new giants. Is Leo Wolinsky a giant?
“I’m not naive. I know every paper is going through this. I know it’s hard. I know it’s not an easy fix. So don’t get me wrong. It’s not your fault that it’s happening. But isn’t it your responsibility to do EVERYTHING you can to give your team, your staff and your readers what they deserve? Mainly, a great site with a great look and a great search engine and a great archive and, if you desire, great stuff behind a paywall?
“And speaking of paywalls, I bet everyone at Variety loves the internet. They seem like a prudent, intelligent bunch who obsesses over news and information and details. So if the sites they go to all day long are free, isn’t that proof enough? What do you do when you see a pay-only site? Click away, I am sure.
But most importantly, what are you putting behind it? I know you know that’s the big question. If you put an archive of every film review behind it, cool. If you put Red Carpet photos of every premiere ever, cool. But what are you charging people for that they can’t get somewhere else pretty quickly? Seriously. Nobody over there has an answer to that.
“What’s more frustrating, from what I hear, the management team is the only team who doesn’t use their own experiences to learn. They all read Nikki and 20 other FREE sites every day. Hell — their writers get scooped by them. And they’re making a smart move by going behind a pay-wall?
“And let’s talk about Tim Gray. Funny man. But is he a leader? Is he? The man HATED the internet and everything about it until one year ago when he was made editor…and IN CHARGE of it. Ask anyone. People say he routinely scoffed at the web staff. Respected none of them. He was a guy who pondered Weekly placement and amusing columns…but HATED everything about the web. I ain’t lyin’. Just ask.
“To that point, where does it say that a man who has 30 years experience sitting at a desk and being quippy means he can redefine a newspaper’s entire identity? Why is he better choice than some hot-shot who knows about web architecture? The answer…he’s not. He’s a detriment, not a help. He’s a great columnist. A good lunch date. But in leadership: is funny what matters? They are slowly eroding. Can ‘funny’ give way to some ass-kicking…finally?
“And links — don’t get me started. Why is Variety the only site that hasn’t figured out that links are key? Sharing is caring. Everyone’s good will comes back. So people share…and like to share. But Variety is still in ‘newspaper’ mode: our news…nothing else. How’s that working out for you?
“And about people. I am quite sure everyone loves talking about movies with critic Todd McCarthy. Fun around the water cooler. Intelligent discourse. Great debates. Cool chatter. Makes you feel smart. And I know everyone thinks he is ‘great.’ He’s indeed one of the best ever. For 20 years. But making six figures to say Nine sucks — no matter how smartly — is bad business in 2010.
“I bet you have young people on your web staff who are MORE employable and valuable then Todd McCarthy. Yes, having an important voice matters. He is an important voice. But it doesn’t seem to be paying off. So what’s the plan there? His movie reviews don’t get picked up. None of them seem to anymore. But hey – at least people had a great talk about whether Inglourious Basterds was better than Kill Bill…or whatever.”
Wells interjection: McCarthy is one of the best and brainiest critics in the country, and if he isn’t worth a decent salary at whatever publication then I don’t know what critic would be.
Back to Jason: “But again — it’s not about you but readers,” he continues. “And do they care about 1000-word reviews from the Giffoni film festival? Ask them. Please tell me if I am being unreasonable.
“But I go back to this: Doesn’t anyone there get it? It’s not a newspaper — it’s a website. Just because there are words and headlines, that doesn’t make it the same.
“It’s time for a change. Isn’t it? Variety can’t get past the newspaper mentality. They just can’t, it seems. Where’s the new hire to talk about behind-the-scenes stuff, what it all means. Reactions to hot news. Mike Fleming had 250 comments on Spider-Nan and American Idol at his new home. When he was at Variety, he never had 5 comments. No joke.
“I know you want to praise 3D stories and indie film in Peru. That’s cool and good and interesting and necessary. But while you have interesting and necessary…so many places are kicking their butt. Change — it’s time.”
Whomever and wherever he is, Jason must know he is now a hunted man. Like Walter Pidgeon trudging through the swamp in Fritz Lang‘s Manhunt, he can hear the barking howls of the approaching hounds.