I’ve tapped out a summary of the films I’m intending to put into the 2010 Oscar Balloon but without acting nominations, which no one ever knows anything about until they happen. Here’s how the list looks as we speak — suggestions/critiques are welcome. Nearly 60 films of some apparent distinction, or so it would appear.
True Grit (Paramount, d: Joel and Ethan Coen; Inception (Warner Bros.), d: Chris Nolan; Fair Game (Zucker/Participant), d: Doug Liman; The Conspirator (Wildwood), d: Robert Redford; The Social Network (Sony/Columbia), d: David Fincher; Hereafter (Warner Bros.), d: Clint Eastwood; Green Zone (Universal), d: Paul Greengrass; Biutiful (Focus Features), d: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu; How Do You Know? (Sony/Columbia), d: James L. Brooks; Tree of Life (Apparition), d: Terrence Malick; The American (Focus Features), d: Anton Corbijn; Black Swan (distributor), d: Darren Aronofsky; The Way Back (Paramount), d: Peter Weir; London Boulevard (distributor), d: William Monahan; The Descendants (distributor), d: Alexander Payne; Somewhere (distributor), d: Sofia Coppola; Betty Ann Waters (Fox Searchlight), d: Tony Goldwyn, Oliver Stone‘s Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps. (19)
HIGH INTRIGUE / ELITE POPCORN
Eat Pray Love (distributor), d: Ryan Murphy; Rum Diary (distributor), d: Bruce Robinson; Phillip Noyce‘s Salt; The Expendables (Lionsgate); Greenberg (Focus Features), d: Noah Baumbach; You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger (distributor), d: Woody Allen; David Gordon Green‘s Your Highness (Danny McBride, James Franco, Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel, etc.); Tony Scott‘s Unstoppable; Todd Phillips‘ Due Date w/ Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, Jamie Foxx; Rabbit Hole (Fox Searchlight), d: John Cameron Mitchell; Lee Unkrich‘s Toy Story 3; Jon Favreau‘s Iron Man 2, Tim Burton‘s Alice in Wonderland, Ridley Scott‘s Maximus Hood, Matthew Vaughn‘s Kick-Ass, Aaron Schneider‘s Get Low; Mark Romanek‘s Never Let Me Go (Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield); Love and Other Drugs (distributor), d: TKTKTK; Mother and Child (distributor), d: Rodrigo Garcia; Rowan Joffe‘s Brighton Rock (distributor, w/Sam Riley); Roger Michel‘s Morning Glory (Paramount, w/ Harrison Ford); Jim Loach‘s Oranges and Sunshine (w/ Emily Watson); Tom Hooper‘s King’s Speech (w/ Helena Bonham Carter). (28)
PLUS: Buried; Blue Valentine; Please Give; Triage, Untitled Mike Leigh project. (5)
PLUS: The Special Relationship (d: Richard Loncraine), Cast: Dennis Quaid, Michael Sheen, Hope Davis, Helen McCory; The Town (d: Ben Affleck) — Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Chris Cooper; 3 Backyards (d: Eric Mendelsohn) — Embeth Davidtz, Edie Falco, Elias Koteas, Rachel Resheff, Kathryn Erbe; Tamara Drewe (d: Stephen Frears) — Gemma Arterton, Dominic Cooper, Roger Allam, Luke Evans, Bill Camp; The Debt (d: John Madden) — Sam Worthington, Helen Mirren, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Wilkinson, Martin Csokas; Burlesque (d: Steve Antin) — Cher, Christina Aguilera, Stanley Tucci, Kristen Bell, Alan Cumming. (6)
Hotshot director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Kinsey, Gods and Monsters) is reportedly developing and co-writing a proposed half-hour series for HBO called Tilda, about a Nikki Finke-styled Hollywood blogger.
If Condon and co-writer Cynthia Mort base their character too closely on Finke they’ll be stuck with a hugely unappealing character, to say the least — thorny, indifferent to the Catholic-church aspect of movie-watching, vindictive tendencies, curiously hermetic, cut off from the Seinfeld-like aroma of average human experience, etc.
I wouldn’t watch a half-hour series about a Finke-like character with a gun to my head. I would suggest that Condon-Mort focus on at least two other Hollywood blogger types for the sake of balance. I’m just spitballing here, but one prototype could be a middle-aged male blogger with a thoroughly Catholic movie-love theology who blends criticism and reportage with doses of attitude and personality, and who couldn’t give a shit about what agents have signed which clients. And also — you tell me — a Patrick Goldstein-like L.A. Times columnist who knows he’s going to be laid off sooner or later and realizes he has to start his own online column and basically switch horses, but who has to shoulder heavy financial responsibilities.
“Black films looking to attract white audiences flatter them with [a] kind of stereotype: the merciful slave master,” African-American author Ismael Reed writes in today’s N.Y. Times.
“In guilt-free bits of merchandise like Precious, white characters are always portrayed as caring. There to help. Never shown as contributing to the oppression of African-Americans. Problems that members of the black underclass encounter are a result of their culture, their lack of personal responsibility.
“It’s no surprise either that white critics — eight out of the nine comments used on the publicity Web site for “Precious” were from white men and women — maintain that the movie is worthwhile because, through the efforts of a teacher, [Gabby Sidibe‘s character] begins her first awkward efforts at writing.
“Redemption through learning the ways of white culture is an old Hollywood theme. D. W. Griffith produced a series of movies in which Chinese, Indians and blacks were lifted from savagery through assimilation. A more recent example of climbing out of the ghetto through assimilation is Dangerous Minds, where black and Latino students are rescued by a curriculum that doesn’t include a single black or Latino writer.
“By the movie’s end, Precious may be pushing toward literacy. But she is jobless, saddled with two children, one of whom has Down syndrome, and she’s learned that she has AIDS.
Santa Barbara’s Arlington theatre — Thursday, 2.4, 7:40 pm.
The Sports Illustrated editors who are feigning surprise over complaints about this cover photo of 2010 Olympic skiing competitor Lindsey Vonn are full-of-shit liars. We all know what this photo is suggesting, and rather blatantly at that.
In a 2.5 Daily Mail interview, James Cameron‘s ex-wife Linda Hamilton quotes the Avatar director as having said the following: “Anybody can be a father or a husband — there are only five people in the world who can do what I do, and I’m going for that.”
I get that. I never felt this way about fathering, but my own dad kind of went that way — he loved being a big-league advertising hot-shot, and wasn’t that into hugging or nurturing his kids. So I have an understanding. Big-ego men of high or historic accomplishment tend to embrace whatever makes them feel brawny and potent, and kids tend to bring you down to earth and remind you of your bullshit.
It wouldn’t be fair to write about Derek Magyar‘s Flying Lessons, which opened the Santa Barbara Film Festival last night. I watched the first few minutes, but I had to leave to buy some cough syrup and spray. For some reason a slight cough caused by a throat tickle blew up into something worse yesterday. It was awful. So I got the damn cough syrup, came back, watched the film for another 20 or 25 minutes. And then I gave up.
I don’t have to watch a film for a half hour or 15 minutes, even, to know it’s not working. I can tell within two or three minutes. I knew Flying Lessons was in trouble within seconds. It’s one of those “who am I really?,” “I’ve made some mistakes,” “maybe I should wake up?” meditative dramas that makes you want to get a stiff drink — make that several drinks. Except I don’t like stiff drinks any more. A glass or two of wine is my limit.
But I needed to escape so I did, and I went across the street to a first-class Argentinian restaurant. Beautifully designed place, old Spanish flavor, etc.. And there, sitting at a small table with a friend, was Derek Magyar. And there I was my my press badge, so I didn’t say hello. Magyar is a youngish actor. Flying Lessons is his first stab at directing. The screenwriter is Thomas Kuehl. I know how difficult it can be to make a film even half-succeed, and I don’t want to be harsh or cruel.
So I kept my distance from Magyar and ordered my Pinot Grigio. I sat down at a table and struck up a conversation with a Swedish blonde who was wearing a long fur coat. And then a local friend, Rochelle Rose, dropped by and joined us.
I saw In Contention‘s Kris Tapley sitting in the last row of the Arlington Theatre about a half-hour into Flying Lessons, and noticed about 20 minutes later that he’d disappeared. And The Winner Is columnist Scott Feinberg didn’t like it much either.
Flying Lessons is about Sophie (Maggie Grace), a pissed-off 20something blonde whose life in Los Angeles hasn’t been working out due to a lack of talent and focus and drive, and an overabundance of boyfriend drama. She comes back to her hometown in the Santa Ynez Valley and proceeds to anesthetize each and every person she comes into contact with. She despises her alcoholic mom (Christine Lahti) and vaguely wants to get going again with a former boyfriend (Jonathan Tucker) and is looking for some kind of rooted something or other.
Flying Lessons felt flat, lacking in tension, under-energized, “acted.” Movies like this make want to jump off a 20-story office building. The highest building in Santa Barbara is seven or eight stories. With my luck I’d only break a leg or go into a coma.
For me, being with Maggie Grace’s character was awful. Grace is pretty, of course, and radiates the same haughty snot attitude (i.e., “I’m so bored by the idea of talking to you that I can barely summon the lung power to make the words come out”) that Megan Fox has built her worthless career upon. I can’t stand young women who can’t be bothered to look you in the eye and tell you the truth, whatever that may be. All I know is that I wanted to see Grace slapped, injured, kidnapped, attacked by a mountain lion, hit by a car, arrested for shoplifting…anything along those lines.
And I don’t want to see Tucker ever again, in anything. I’m sorry but that’s my reaction. If I run into him at a cafe I’ll get the food or coffee to go. If I see him at a Los Angeles DMV I’ll make another appointment.
There’s an aura of almost rapturous serenity in the hallways of the Hotel Santa Barbara in the early morning hours. It exudes a realm and a mindset so far removed from the world of Hispanic party elephants it’s not even funny. I spoke to a local cab driver last night who didn’t even know that Santa Barbara hosts an annual film festival, much that the festival was beginning last night. So many people live in their little bubbles.
It began to rain in Santa Barbara early this morning, but there’s still that Mediterranean climate, and the pleasant fragrance of flowers and soil and shrubbery just outside and the chiffon yellow color of the walls, and the nice free breakfast downstairs — fruit, bagels, granola, orange juice, coffee.