Just a reminder that the mustard-background 2010 Oscar Balloon is now up and open for additions and refinements. (Sitting just above the ’09 Balloon.) As things stand now there are 19 films that…well, who knows which will earn Best Picture consideration? But a decent percentage certainly appear formidable. Plus I’ve listed another 17 or 18 that seem to have been made with some degree of X-factor exceptionalism. The game starts now.
Several midtown restaurants, coffee shops and delis closed late this afternoon to allow their employees to get home safely due to inclement weather. I for one am consumed with disgust. Remember that line in the Rolling Stones‘ “Shattered” that went “to live in this town you must be tough tough tough tough tough tough tough”? No longer. People who went home early today are babies. They probably lack the character to feel ashamed of themselves so let me invoke it on their behalf.
What kind of a flabby-bellied managerial mentality decides that wind gusts, falling snow, smallish snow drifts and annoying slush puddles are exceptional threats to pedestrians? I’m sorry but this is a measure of the backbone and resilience of the mainstream work force, or lack of I should say. I’m sure it was mainly middle-aged and older women employees who expressed concern to their bosses. I went out last night with a woman who suggested yesterday afternoon that walking two avenue blocks to the subway at Eighth Avenue and 23rd Street might be a little too challenging and that perhaps we could call a cab or a private limo?
I’m mostly cool with Niels Arden Oplev‘s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the Danish-Swedish thriller that’s finally opening in the U.S. on 3.19. I have a slight beef, however, with the over-hypers, particularly the views of a friend, Jeffrey Ressner, that I recently posted.
Girl With The Dragon Tattoo director Niels Arden Oplev, star Noomi Rapace — Wednesday, 2.24, 5:55 pm at Manhattan’s Park Regency hotel.
Ressner called it “the best movie of the year thus far…in the same vein of gripping genre genius as Let The Right One In…The Silence of the Lambs with a punk-rock Clarice.”
Dragon Tattoo is fine for what it is (particularly during the first and second acts) but it’s hardly a relative of The Silence of the Lambs. If anything it’s a cousin of The DaVinci Code. It’s not so much a character-driven emotion piece (certainly not by Silence standards) as much as a high-throttle Nordic whodunit.
For the time being I’m calling it a combination female payback/revenge movie against male oppression and misogny (which star Noomi Rapace plays to the hilt) plus an airport-lounge whodunit page-turner — plot, clue, plot, clue, plot, clue…and then more plot-clue.
I’m getting kicked out of the Starbucks I’m sitting in (the weenies are closing at 5 pm because of the snowstorm — tell that to the Starbucks employees living in Moscow) but I’ll be posting a video interview later tonight.
I saw this 60 Minutes/Kathryn Bigelow teaser at Awards Daily and copied the code— big deal. Leslie Stahl and crew shot most of her piece during the Santa Barbara Film Festival. This is almost the only Hurt Locker uptick after all the “get the front-runner” potshots that happened this week — i.e., the Nicolas Chartier thing, Martha Nochimson‘s dig at Bigelow for not being a womanly-enough filmmaker, and the military authenticity nip–nips.
Getting drowned, mauled and chomped to death by a killer whale is a horrible way to go, so my sympathies to the friends and family of the late Dawn Brancheau, 40, who suffered this grisly fate two days ago at a SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida.
The late Dawn Brancheau
But — yup, here comes the thing that you’re not supposed to say — the instant I read this I said to myself, “This is a captive animal getting some payback…an inmate letting a prison guard have it across the chops on behalf of tens of thousands of killer whales and dolphins who’ve been forced to perform at sea parks.”
The Cove explained this situation very clearly. Making sea mammals perform tricks for suburban-schmuck families is not only an agonizing life-sentence jail term but a form of emotional torture. In the film Ric O’Barry tells of a dolphin who was so depressed by a SeaWorld-type confinement that it committed suicide.
SeaWorld employees seem to be getting this on some level. A SeaWorld spokesperson has said “it will resume its killer whale shows on Saturday” but that trainers won’t enter the water. “I wouldn’t begin to speculate what he was thinking,” the spokesperson said in response to a reporter’s question about the whale’s state of mind when he lunged at Brancheau. “It’s too premature to guess what happened.”
The guy added that an investigation into what happened to Brancheau is presently underway. That’s it — bring in Detective Colombo.
Brancheau “was standing knee-deep in one of the Orlando park’s pools Wednesday when killer whale Tilikum leaped out of the tank, grabbed hold of her ponytail and dragged her underwater. Her cause of death was likely drowning and multiple traumatic injuries. The tragedy occurred at 2 p.m. during a post-show event at Shamu Stadium as about two dozen horrified visitors watched. Witnesses reported seeing the 12,000-lbs. whale thrashing Brancheau around in the water and carrying her in his mouth.”
The following xerox of Todd McCarthy‘s Alice in Wonderland review is for anyone and everyone, of course, but it’s particularly aimed at the HE reader/twerp known as Wrecktem, who earlier today (a) said that my alleged meme about how “‘this movie is going to be a disaster’ is a bust”; and (b) suggested that “the UK “exhibitor Wells supposedly talked to about this film should be banned from this industry for life for lying about the quality of the film.”
Here’s McCarthy’s mostly dismissive assessment:
“‘You’ve lost your muchness,’ Johnny Depp‘s Mad Hatter remarks to his newly shrunken teenage friend, and much the same could be said of Tim Burton in the wake of his encounter with a Victorian-era heroine of imaginative powers even wilder than his own.
“Quite like what one would expect from such a match of filmmaker and material and also something less, this Alice in Wonderland has its moments of delight, humor and bedazzlement. But it also becomes more ordinary as it goes along, building to a generic battle climax similar to any number of others in CGI-heavy movies of the past few years.
“A humongous Disney promo effort and inevitable curiosity about the first post-Avatar 3D extravaganza will pull wondrous early B.O. numbers, although long-term forecast could become clouded by the imminent arrival of further high-profile kid-friendly features.
“It all seemed like such a natural fit — Burton and Lewis Carroll, Depp as the key component in fiction’s most eccentric tea party, and 3D put at the service of a story offering unlimited visual possibilities. Not that it’s gone all wrong; not entirely. But for all its clever design, beguiling creatures and witty actors, the picture feels far more conventional than it should; it’s a Disney film illustrated by Burton, rather than a Burton film that happens to be released by Disney.
“The script by Linda Woolverton (a Disney standard-bearer with a major hand in Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and Mulan) crucially skews the material by advancing the leading lady’s age from pre-pubescence to 19. The main upshot of the change is that this trip to Underland, as it’s referred to here, becomes Alice’s second, not first.
“The not-inconsiderable benefit is that enables Alice to be played by Mia Wasikowska, an actress of willowy, Gwyneth Paltrowesque beauty but, more important here, of a pale but powerful resolve that confers upon the picture any gravity it may possess.
“After an over-the-rooftops cinematic entry into London that could as easily have alighted at the residence of Sweeney Todd (or, for that matter, Ebenezer Scrooge), a delirious little Alice awakens from yet another nightmare to ask her father, ‘Do you think I’ve gone ’round the bend?’ To which he offers the encouraging, tone-setting reply, ‘All the best people are.’
“Thirteen years later, in an amusing framing story invented by Woolverton, a pale, sulky Alice is put up for an arranged marriage by her widowed mother (the enchantingly mordant Lindsay Duncan) with the twitty son of an aristocratic family. The lavish would-be engagement party quickly and appealingly establishes Alice as an impudent contrarian with a mind of her own; when, in front of hundreds of elegant guests, she is meant to accept the fatuous lad’s proposal, she cries out, ‘I think I need a moment!’ and promptly follows a white rabbit down a hole.
“Just as, at such a transformative interlude, The Wizard of Oz switched from black-and-white to color, this should have marked the point when ‘Please Put on 3D Glasses!’ flashed onscreen and everything took on an all-consuming, eye-popping look (the 3D in the garden party sequence is actually banal, even poorly judged). In fact, Alice enters a verdant, overgrown world that undeniably resembles Avatar‘s Pandora and encounters at least one creature, a skeptical caterpillar, that is actually blue.
“As things get ‘curiouser and curiouser,’ she also meets the round, argumentative twins Tweedledee and Tweedledum; the vaporous and grinning Cheshire Cat; the manic March Hare; Depp’s Mad Hatter, with saucer eyes, Bozo-like red hair and gap teeth that bring Madonna to mind; and, inevitably, the fearsome Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), who spares Alice from her favorite edict — ‘Off with their heads!’ — because she, like all the others, needs to know if this is ‘the’ Alice who visited so many years before.
“Script arguably needed a narrative backbone of a sort not to be found in the episodic books, and Woolverton has obliged. Unfortunately, it’s one that turns Alice into a formulaic piece of work, which Carroll’s creation was anything but. Climactic action setpiece, with an unlikely young warrior taking on a fearsome beast while gobs of CGI soldiers clash, smacks of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Golden Compass, The Chronicles of Narnia and any number of other such recent ventures. Thus does Alice become normalized, a tilt Burton is surprisingly incapable of opposing.
“A jaw-dropping coda pivots on a ‘visionary’ character’s forthcoming voyage to open up trade with China, provoking musings about Disney’s rationale for this sort of corporate encomium to a vast young market, as well as thoughts of a never-to-be-made sequel set among 19th-century Chinese as inscrutable and combative as the population of Underland.
“To be sure, the design, effects, makeup and technical work is of a high order. Other than Alice, the most memorable characters are the wonderful hunting dog Bayard and the elusive Cheshire Cat, superbly voiced by Timothy Spall and Stephen Fry, respectively.
“Among thesps whose faces can be discerned, Bonham Carter authoritatively takes dudgeon to a new high as the Red Queen. Unfortunately, Anne Hathaway is miscast as her sister, the White Queen, as her white hair and black eyebrows look weird and she’s not temperamentally suited to the role’s benign superciliousness. And Depp is Depp, slip-siding among moods, accents, looks, rhythms and keys like a jazz player on his own wavelength, to disarming, if transient, effect.”
Greenberg director-writer Noah Baumbach‘s LA-to-NY flight was cancelled by the blizzard, so he did his round-table interviews at this morning’s Greenberg junket at the Waldorf Astoria hotel via Skype and a portable speaker. Baumbach’s confinement to a Macbook Pro screen reminded me of the Martian leader inside the glass bowl (i.e., “the sum of all intelligence”) in William Cameron Menzies‘ Invaders From Mars, and the two publicists who carried Baumbach into the room were like the three-fingered Martian goons.
I’ll post my video of a portion of the Baumbach chat later tonight — my YouTube upload troubles are keeping me from uploading from my Toshiba, al though I’m able to upload off my iMac.)
Greenberg costar Greta Gerwig is much more lithe and aerobicized than she appears in the film, for which she gained roughly 15 pounds. A bit of a pleasant surprise. Her video will post also tonight.
Waldorf Astoria lobby — Friday, 2.26, 9:25 am.
An extremely wet and slushy (although not horribly cold) Park Avenue and 51st Street.
Neither Kevin Smith‘s Cop Out nor The Crazies are going to make box-office history this weekend, but both will do nicely, reasonably, decently. Ditto Alice in Wonderland (3.5)…actually, this looks like a better-than-decent performer. The film that appears to be in trouble is Paul Greengrass‘s Green Zone, which opens on 3.12 and has only tepid definite interest numbers — 36 and 38 among younger and older males, and 21 and 29 among younger and older females.
Wells to 42West: “I’m determined to attend your Waldorf Astoria Greenberg junket despite the blizzardtopia outside, but I’m just checking to see if you guys are having second thoughts. Damn the torpedos?” 42West to Wells: “The junket is on!”
Which means I need to be at the Waldorf by 9:00 am or so. I have no rubber boots, but don’t get me wrong — I love a good blizzard. But all the material I was meaning to post yesterday afternoon (but didn’t due to that horrendous video upload problem) is delayed until early this afternoon.