Today the Kansas City Film Critics Circle chose Christoph Waltz — Waltz! — as their Best Supporting Actor for 2009. The echo chamber of critics’ group choices has been lampooned in this space repeatedly and still the KCFCC fell in line. Okay, Up In The Air for Best Picture is a wee bit afield but they went for Kathryn Bigelow as Best Director, Meryl Streep for Best Actress, George Clooney as Best Actor, Mo’Nique as Best Supporting Actress, Jason Reitman‘s Up In The Air screenplay for Best Adapted, Quentin Tarantino‘s Inglourious Basterds screenplay for Best Original, etc. Shameless.
Gold Derby‘s Tom O’Neil has reported the balloting particulars about today’s National Society of Film Critics voting. Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges led on the first ballots for best actress and actor, but then lost to Yolande Moreau and Jeremy Renner when proxy votes could no longer be counted after the initial round, etc.
Irked by salacious excerpts that have appeared here and there (like in Sara Stewart‘s story in today’s N.Y. Post), Warren Beatty has issued a statement through his attorney that Peter Biskind‘s “Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America” is “not an authorized biography.”
Biskind hasn’t responded to an e-mail I sent him a while ago, but as far as I can discern he’s never claimed that the book is authorized. He’s been a little vague about it (like Beatty tends to be about many things), but has written that Beatty spoke to him off and on, but not, apparently, in a way that added up to very much. My impression is that Beatty’s input wasn’t substantial.
Biskind says in the introduction that he’s talked with Beatty many times over the years and that he “sat down [with Beatty] a few times” as part of his research. He also writes that during these sessions Beatty “was clearly uncomfortable, watchful about what he said, dispensing his responses one grain at a time, telling me nothing I didn’t already know.”
He also says Beatty told him during a lunch “that the only reason he had agreed to do the book was because he thought that once word of [the] book spread around, the other writers with books in progress, specifically Ellis Amburn and Suzanne Finstead, would just go away…in other words, he was just using me to scare other writers off.”
In a statement to the Huffington Post, Beatty’s attorney Bert Fields states the following: “Mr. Biskind’s tedious and boring book on Mr. Beatty was not authorized by Mr. Beatty and should not be published as an authorized biography. It contains many false assertions and purportedly quotes Mr. Beatty as saying things he never said. Other media should not repeat things from the book on the assumption that they are true or that the book is an authorized biography.”
It was announced two or three hours ago that the National Society of Film Critics didn’t give its Best Supporting Actor award to Inglourious Basterds costar Christoph Waltz — they split the award between Waltz and Bright Star‘s Paul Schneider. How could the NSFC possibly misunderstand that 2009 is a Waltz-and-Waltz-only year?
Kathryn Bigelow‘s The Hurt Locker won for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor (i.e., Jeremy Renner).
Seraphine‘s Yolande Moreau won for Best Actress — her second major domestic award after winning same from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. (She also won Best Actress from the Cesars and the European Film Awards.)
Mo’Nique‘s Precious performance took the Best Supporting Actress award…who else and what else? (Hearing her name makes me numb.) Joel and Ethan Coen received the Best Screenplay award for A Serious Man.
Avatar‘s right-wing dissers “are essentially right,” says The Punch‘s Joel Meares. “James Cameron has made over the bitch extraterrestial of his early film, Aliens, and birthed an outer-space race straight from the hearts and minds of leftist hippies everywhere.
Sydney Morning Herald illustration by Simon Bosch.
“As a (skim) latte-sipping lefty and current resident of New York, a place that makes Sodom and Gomorrah look like Amish villages, I’m delighted with the result. And so should you be, whether you vote Liberal or Labor.
“As even its critics attest, Avatar is a great entertainment. If there’s an ideological undertone — or overtone — so what? Just slap on your 3D glasses, sit back and disagree.
On 1.2.10 the Sydney Morning Herald‘s Miranda Devine — a conservative — said she’s “thankful for more ‘human-affirming’ movies,” citing Juno and Knocked Up as examples. “Leftist critics have cried foul at both of those,” says Meares, “reading into them a strong anti-abortion message. It’s been argued that the one says it’s better for pregnant teens to keep their babies while the other says career women should not abort theirs.
“I don’t disagree with those sentiments, but I am pro-choice. I didn’t feel the need to decry the hissing pythons of the right once the credits had rolled on either of those films.
“I also tune in weekly to watch 24‘s Jack Bauer save the world from extremists, one mode of torture at a time.
“Hollywood’s entertainments are driven by ideologies right and left — okay, mostly left — that we might not like. Pointing them out is merely acknowledging the obvious. Avatar‘s a big expensive ad for the green lobby. Okay, then what? Does that discredit the entertainment?
“Do we really need to waste any more time writing about it? Or for that matter, responding to those who do?
“In my defense, they” — the righties — “started it.”
Hours after my first viewing of Avatar on 12.10 I wrote it was “ardently left, pro-indigenous native, anti-corporate, anti-rightie, anti-imperialist, anti-troop-surge-in-Afghanistan,” etc. Then I said on 12.24 that one of the great pleasures of this film is the way it makes right-wingers furious and miserable. So I’m very sorry that I missed this 12.25 rant by Telegraph‘s conservative commentator Nile Gardiner, because it says all the right things.
Avatar is “a distinctly political work of art, with a strong anti-American and anti-Western message,” he stated. “It can be read on several levels — a critique of the Iraq War, an assault on the U.S.-led War on Terror, a slick morality tale about the ‘evils’ of Western imperialism, a futuristic take on the conquest of America and the treatment of native Americans — the list goes on.
It’s also “a highly manipulative film,” he wrote. “When I saw the movie last night in a packed theatre, I was disturbed by the cheering from the audience towards the end when the humans — U.S. soldiers fighting on behalf of an American corporation — were being wiped out by the Na’vi. Washington is one of the most liberal cities in America and you come to expect almost anything here – but still the roars of approval which greeted the on-screen killing of U.S. military personnel were a shock to the system, especially at a time when the United States is engaged in a major war in Afghanistan.
“Avatar is more than just a cinematic thrill-ride. It is an intensely political vehicle with a distinct agenda. In fact I would describe it as one of the most left-wing films in the history of modern American cinema, and perhaps the most commercially successful political movie of our time. While the vast majority of cinemagoers will simply see it as popcorn entertainment, Avatar is at its heart a cynical and deeply unpatriotic propaganda piece, aimed squarely against American global power and the projection of US economic and military might across the world.”
If by some curious twist of fate James Cameron takes the Best Director Oscar instead of Kathryn Bigelow (as indicated by Pete Hammond, Ed Douglas, Scott Feinberg, Dave Karger, Kevin Lewin, Michael Musto and Sam Rubin predicting that Cameron will take the Best Director Golden Globe), Cameron will be obliged to say the following to the Academy:
“Thank you all from the bottom of my heart and from everyone on Team Avatar, but I have to say you made a mistake. Kathryn Bigelow deserves this Oscar more than I do because she had less to work with than I did, and she still made a great war film. Not just kick-ass but emotional and granular and profound — for the ages. This was her year — everyone knew that — and you guys blew her off to pay tribute to the fact that Avatar made over a billion dollars. Well, thanks sincerely, guys. I love you for this — and please, please don’t take offense at this because I really am grateful as hell — but I have to say ‘thanks very much but no thanks.’ Kathryn? C’mon up here. This Oscar belongs to you.”
Five or six days ago An Education director Lone Scherfig told Notes on a Season‘s Pete Hammond that she “wants to break into action by doing a gangster movie” and is actually predicting it may happen. “Exploring the criminal mind is truly interesting and something I haven’t done,” she said. “I’m interested in someone more violent and more flawed.”
Earlier in the chat Scherfig spoke admiringly of Hurt Locker helmer Kathryn Bigelow “for breaking into territory most in the film industry think is reserved exclusively for men by doing a gritty action war film…I think she’s admirable and it means a lot to me that she does that because it’s important that it’s not so much about gender as it is about storytelling.”
Avatar crossed the worldwide billion-dollar mark this weekend. It was reported last night that the projected North American cume after 17 days in release will be $350.5 million, and that the worldwide haul will be $1.05 billion by this evening. Boxoffice.com’s Phil Contrino says Fox’s int’l figure is $1.022 billion.
I’m guessing that Sherlock Holmes‘ $140.5 million cume is 65% its own attraction and 35% Avatar coattails (i.e., people seeing it because they couldn’t get into Avatar).
On page 129 of Peter Biskind‘s “Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America,”Bulworth screenwriter Jeremy Pikser (who also worked on Reds) explains the basis of Beatty’s lefty political philosophy.
I not only feel that Beatty’s is a wise way of regarding the world, but that it counter-illuminates the core of conservative thinking — i.e., we’re taking care of ourselves, and the hell with those who haven’t the smarts, chutzpah or connections to put money on their own kitchen tables. In essence, screw the have-nots.
“Warren’s fundamental belief about politics is that the world is a safer and better place for everybody if nobody get shit on too badly,” says Pikser. “He doesn’t want anybody in the world to be so poor, miserable and so pissed that they want to kill rich people. Because that’s bad for him. [He readily admits that this is the point of view of] a rich, selfish, self-interested individual. He realizes that his life is an embarassment of riches, so envy is not a good thing for him.”
Boiled down to basics, the troubles we’re having with Middle Eastern Islamics are at least partly if not essentially due to (a) conservative politicians’ screw-the-have-nots attitude and/or (b) these same people aligning themselves with others in the world who feel the same way. The world would be a far less volatile place if Beatty’s philosophy was this country’s governmental rule of thumb.
As a reader of Walter Kirn‘s “Up In The Air“, Matthew Morettini suspects that Jason Reitman shot Up In the Air with an undercurrent of fatality in mind — i.e., George Clooney‘s Ryan Bingham suspecting his days may be numbered.
Those who haven’t seen the film should know that spoilers follow.
“Kirn’s 2001 novel is told in the first-person from Bingham’s point-of-view,” Morettini begins. “By the time we reach the third act, after a series of strange and confusing episodes, it becomes clear that Bingham is an unreliable narrator. It is only in the last few pages that we learn he has been suffering from seizures, black-outs for hours on end, and has an upcoming appointment at the Mayo clinic for treatment of this unnamed affliction.
“In short the book has a twist ending that makes you go back and rethink everything you read. I think director-cowriter Reitman had the same ending in mind when he made the movie only to pull his punches in post.
“The first clue to Reitman’s intention is the ‘Would you like the cancer?/Would you like the can, sir?’ joke during Bingham’s maiden flight. When I saw this scene, I immediately knew the meaning of the signal since I’d read the book. My presumption was that unlike Kirn in the novel, Reitman was going to be a bit more clever about planting clues about Bingham’s health throughout the story.
“As it stands in the film now, without the twist, the ‘cancer/can, sir’ joke is an odd bit that doesn’t really make sense. It’s merely a joke that seems to have been written to demonstrate Bingham is preoccupied with thoughts of cancer and death.
“There are other hints of mortality. If you go back and watch the movie again in your mind, almost everything else Bingham does makes more sense if we suspects he may be dying.
“As in the novel, Bingham is obsessed with frequent flier miles. (One million in the book, ten million in the film) “I would be number seven,” he explains. “More people have gone to the moon.” If we look at his quest through a mortal lens, we see that instead of just being a guy trying to score points, Bingham is someone racing the clock, trying to achieve something that would give his life a kind of meaning before he meets his early end.
George Clooney, Jason Reitman
“Bingham’s rash decision to throw away his whole life/relationship philosophy as he tries to connect with Alex in Chicago is something a sick guy with emotional avoidance issues might just do.
“Ditto his reaching out to reconnect with his family in northern Wisconsin, however awkwardly, and his trip down memory lane when he and Alex break into his old high school. Not to mention his ‘we all die alone’ declaration whenever he discusses relationships with Natalie.
“My gut tells me that Reitman watched his movie from start to finish and decided the ending was dark enough without piling a cancer diagnosis upon his main character.
“I’m not arguing that movie needed the twist; it works brilliantly without it. But the threads of this lost ending are woven through the film, and I do think it was there at the start. I think the whole story was started down that path and I think Clooney played the character as a goner, and that Reitman had second thoughts in post.
Sidenote: Morettini says that when Bingham tells his boss (Jason Bateman) that he doesn’t remember a bridge-jump suicide threat of one of the women Natalie laid off, “it didn’t read to me that he was protecting Natalie…it seemed to me he that he just forgot about the incident altogether.” That’s obviously not true. Bingham had forgotten nothing. He was protecting Natalie. And himself, of course.