I don’t care that much about 24 coming to the end of the road. Eight seasons and I may have watched a grand total of 2 episodes, maybe 3. So what? Who cares? It never rocked my world like The Sopranos. It was fine for what it is, etc., but I don’t see how its absence affects anything or anyone to the slightest degree.
Eleven days ago Showbiz 411‘s Roger Friedman became footloose and fancy free as far as his Hollywood Reporter deal was concerned. The withering trade “simply decided for budgetary reasons not to renew my employment agreement which expires next week,” Friedman told Nikki Finke earlier today. THR editor Elizabeth Guider said that Friedman “was originally hired by Nielsen Corporate in New York last May,” although “he did report to me and to a Nielsen executive on the content side in NY.”
I’m not understanding the specifics behind the higher-ticket-prices-for-3D-movies story. I paid $14 to see Avatar in 3D at the AMC 34th Street and the Lincoln Square. If prices for 3D films at Regal, Cinemark and AMC theatres are going up (“in one case as much as 26%,” according to a 3.25 Wall Street Journal story), does this mean they intend to charge…what, $17.50 or something?
The WSJ headline says “movie chains are [seeking] to cash in on consumers’ willingness to pay.” Isn’t $14 high in itself? What has happened to provoke this other than a decision to rake as much dough as possible? Is the idea to somehow kill or diminish audience interest in 3D?
Movieline‘s Stu VanAirsdale has satirized L.A. Times film critic Betsy Sharkey for writing glowing things about Atom Egoyan‘s Chloe (and particularly costar Amanda Seyfried) during last September’s Toronto Film Festival, and then going fairly negative in her 3.26 review.
Well, I sympathize because it happens. Any critic who doesn’t admit to having semi-liked or half-tolerated a film at first and then said “what was I thinking?” weeks or months later is not being truthful. Nobody knows everything about everything all the time. The train is always pulling into or leaving a station, and every so often it will lurch and somebody will yank the hand brake. Or tectonic plates will shift in the wee hours. Sometimes a lack of sleep has an effect.
Just as often critics will pan something and then realize down the road they were having a bad day or whatever. Like the critics who ripped 2001: A Space Odyssey or Bonnie and Clyde after their initial exposures, only to re-think things.
I was way too easy on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull when I saw it in Cannes, although I did say it “lacks the stuffings of a great adventure film” and that I wished Spielberg, et. al. “had attempted at least a superficial injection of a little heart and soul.” I have no explanation other than I should have been tougher and snarlier. (Was I feeling kindly because I spoke to Harrison Ford at a cocktail party a day before seeing it? Pathetic excuse.)
I went fairly positive for Eyes Wide Shut after my first looksee only to pull back after seeing it a second time. Since all Kubrick films always seem a bit fuller or deeper or more thoughtful after the second viewing I expected that EWS would follow suit — but it didn’t. It went down in estimation.
And I praised Tim Burton‘s Planet of the Apes when I first saw it, and I know I’ll never live that down. I also half-panned The Royal Tenenbaums at first only to modify that view after a second exposure a few days later.
“Let me reaffirm that the [Holywood Reporter] offer was real and detailed and made to me by [one of the bosses of e5 Global Media CEO Richard] Beckman during a phone conversation on the night of January 13th.
The offer “consisted of: $450,000 annual salary for becoming editor-in-chief of The Hollywood Reporter. Plus a $1 million Malibu home which, I was told, “you can keep whether you stay 5 minutes or 5 years” in the job. (Why this? Because I had said that some day I want to buy a Malibu condo with an ocean view.) Plus a sum “roughly estimated” at $650,000 a year for my share of several cable TV deals which e5 anticipated making for THR. And so on. Other people know about this offer, too.
“Let me reiterate that I did not negotiate. Instead, I set in motion a dialogue about mutually beneficial business between my parent company MMC and the new THR owners. That discussion continues.” — Deadline Hollywod Daily‘s Nikki Finke responding to a statement by Beckman that “there is no truth to the report” that she’d been offered THR‘s editor-in-chief job.
Vulture‘s Lindsay Robertson has listed most of the significant gross-out moments that probably led to Hot Tub Time Machine being R-rated. The one she left out is “a straight man is forced to orally copulate his straight friend in front of a crowd of hooting animals as a result of losing a bet.”
I’ve tried watching this trailer a couple of times now, and I can only focus on one thing, which is that Jonah Hill has become such a wildly out-of-control beach ball that his appearance is getting in the way of his shtick. It’s obviously okay or even de rigeur for a comedic actor to be “the fat guy,” but Hill has become the “working-on-a-heart-attack guy” or “the guy who’s shooting for John Candy status when he hits his 40s.”
Hill’s Superbad physique was relatively svelte compared to how he looks now. You think one or two of his Judd Apatow pallies would stage an intervention, but I guess they’d rather be cool and low-key about it, just like Harry Nillson‘s “friends” never forced the issue about his alcoholism.
The film is called Get Him To The Greek (Universal, 6,.4,). Nicholas Stoller directs from a script he co-wrote with Rodney Rothman. Russell Brand, Rose Byrne, Sean Combs and Elisabeth Moss costar with Hill.
Why have so few critics tuned into the political/war metaphor in How To Train Your Dragon? It seems obvious as hell to me, and yet the ones I’ve read have steered clear, perhaps feeling that it’s somehow inappropriate to mention our Middle East conflict when discussing a family film. And yet the filmmakers had no problem weaving in a pronounced lefty-peacenik message about understanding your enemy and getting past the knee-jerk instinct to draw swords etc.
Not mentioning this is like reviewing Gone With The Wind and not saying it’s basically a Great Depression metaphor that praises tenacity and gumption.
The only critic who seems to have spotted the liberal Dragon metaphor (besides myself) is the New York Post‘s Kyle Smith. He’s riled by it, being of an apparent conservative bent, but at last he’s discussed it.
“One interesting aspect of the movie, apart from the design, is that it puts so much effort into projecting a moral,” Smith writes. “Hiccup begins to think about a different approach to dragon-human relations. Shouldn’t the dragon wars stop? Shouldn’t we all live together in a warm, friendly human-dragon commune? Hiccup tells the dragons, ‘Everything we know about you guys is wrong‘ and believes the beasts are not killers — ‘They defend themselves, that’s all.'”
“Of his own folk, he says, ‘The food that grows here is tough and tasteless — the people, even more so.’
“Hurrah for all this. Really, it’s never too soon to get your kids to accept that their own culture is pathetic — and that the alien one their society is at perpetual war with is really friendly, peace-loving and misunderstood. Hiccup may not be much of a dragon-slayer but in the sequel maybe he’ll go on to a brilliant career in the State Department.”
Here’s how I put it:
“How To Train Your Dragon is quite pronounced in its liberal metaphorical messaging. The core theme is the saga of the young finding their own way — about the young minds of a Viking tribe standing up for their own beliefs and defying traditional ways. But it’s also Avatar-like in that it’s about (a) befriending the supposed ‘enemy’ and (b) thereby breaking the bonds of an age-old warfare tradition — i.e., in order to be ‘proud Vikings’ (i.e., good Americans) we must defeat and destroy those who threaten us.
“The proverbial baddies were alluded to in Richard Lester‘s How I Won The War as the ‘wily pathan,’ and if you let your mind go you could view the dragons as a metaphor for ‘them’ — i.e., terrorists, Islamic fundamentalists, those who would attack and kill us.
“In line with this, the big super-dragon which all the smaller dragons serve could be seen as Islamic jihad, the theology of martyrdom, radical fundamentalism, etc. The super-beast, the film is saying, is the real enemy because left to their own devices the regular dragons are actually fairly cool pets (i.e., just like the big screeching lizard birds the Na’vi flew around on in Avatar) who respond to petting and training and whatnot.”
Every review of How To Train Your Dragon has writ rhapsodic about the dragon-riding flying scenes. I’m not persuaded that they’re all that terrific (possibly because I saw a 2D version) but whatever. As N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott puts it, they recall “the basic, ecstatic reasons you go to the movies in the first place.”
I was thinking “yeah, pretty good” as I watched these scenes, but also that the lizard-bird flying scenes in Avatar were somewhat cooler because they felt a bit more realistic. But the point is made — big-screen movie-watching becomes extra-special when something really “wowser” happens and you’re suddenly six years old again — eyes wide, pulse racing, mouth agape.
If you ask me the greatest theatrically-viewable awe moments this weekend are the two blast-off capturings in Hubble 3D — the fierce orange-white glow of the fuel discharge, the magnificent mega-rumble of the engines, the exploding cloud formations surrounding the gantry. You can’t “get” this from a DVD playing on a 40-inch flat screen, even with amplified sound. You have to see and hear it right through super-bad 3D on a 100-foot tall IMAX screen with super-powerful sound. I’ve heard or read people say “I don’t know” because the doc only lasts 43 minutes, but the launches are worth the price.
The first time I heard someone say that a film was “about awe” was when I came out of my second viewing of Close Encounters of the Third Kind — a film that I can’t stand to watch any more, incidentally, except for the opening 20 or 25 minutes. But I was viscerally sold on the damn thing (which has one of the highest tallies of deeply irritating ingredients among any of the major event films of the 20th Century) when that first crash of sound and Sonoran desert light hit the screen — precisely at the 1:33 mark in the video below.
This moment didn’t mean or amount to anything except that it excited and delighted. And because it happened quite early in the film — an important thing. A CG-heavy flick like Transformers 2 can wear you down pretty quickly. Awe isn’t awe unless it’s break-out amazing — unless it stops you in your tracks in some way. It has to knock or melt you down. The cancer of CG-driven cinema, of course, is that it goads producers into trying to make films that are about nothing but awe, which results in sensory assaults that are nothing but punishment.
Which have been the great awe moments in films over the last 50 or 60 years? And I don’t just mean “big” technical awe, come to think of it. That plastic bag video I posted yesterday made the grade.
Yesterday L.A. Times columnist Patrick Goldstein reported that Variety editor Tim Gray and various entertainment reporters at the trade have been telling publicity execs that if they give casting scoops to any of Variety‘s online competition, the paper won’t run their big announcement stories in print, relegating them to online posts only.”
Gray confirms this to Goldstein: “We’ll put the [already-posted] story on the web — for the record — but we won’t put it in the print edition.”
The “print edition”? As Goldstein notes, “Many of the younger studio executives, managers and agents in town probably haven’t seen a print copy of Variety in years, preferring to get their news from web alerts sent to their BlackBerries.”
I had a wake-up moment yesterday morning. I’d just come back from a diner with copies of the N.Y. Daily News and New York Post, and I threw them on top of a small pile of newspapers in the kitchen that I’ll eventually recycle. And I suddenly stopped and looked at all that newsprint, that weight, that adder of clutter, that metaphor for the past, that waste of lumber and household space, that unsightly annoyance. And I said to myself, “What a waste newspapers have become.”
I may have said this to myself once or twice before over the last ten years, but I said it with real conviction this time. There’s only one specific circumstance in my life in which newspapers are really and truly welcome, and that’s when I’m sitting down alone in some European cafe. Then I regard newspapers as dear friends. And I guess you could add the solace of reading newspapers on trains (i.e., until trains start providing wifi-on-the-go). But in every other instance you can have ’em.