The story about Harvey and Bob Weinstein (and their bucks-up partner Ron Burkle) looking to buy Miramax Films from Disney is essentially an emotional one. The Miramax name was Bob and Harvey’s to begin with, of course — an inspiration from their parents Miriam and Max. I’d like to see the boys win out; we all would. Just let me know when the bidding’s over and it’s a done deal — or not. I’ve got a film to watch.
It’s time for another plug for WordTheatre — a theatrical enterprise that dispenses literary stimulation highs at reasonable prices. The next Manhattan performance happens at Soho House (29 9th Ave, New York, NY 10014) on Sunday, 4.18, at 5 pm. I only know that every time a Word Theatre show ends, I always feel nourished.
The headliners are Kathryn Erbe (Law and Order: Criminal Intent) performing a story by Mary Gordon; Mary Stuart Masterson (Benny and Joon, Fried Green Tomatoes) performing a story by Don Lee; and Jeremy Davidson (Army Wives, Windtalkers) performing the work of Ian Frazier.
Alex Gibney‘s Untitled Eliot Spitzer Film — a work in progress — will be shown once at the Tribeca Film Festival, at the School of Visual Arts theatre on Saturday, 4.24, at 6 pm. “An in-depth look [with] unique access to friends and enemies of the ex-governor, this documentary explores the hidden contours of this tale of hubris, sex, and power.” The theme is self-destruction.
In a brief 4.14 item about that Jackie Kennedy project that Darren Aronofsky wants to direct with Rachel Weisz playing the former First Lady, I said “it doesn’t seem like Aronofsky-type material.” I was sharply disagreed with by a couple of HE readers. Anyway, last night I received a PDF of Noah Oppenheim‘s script (dated 2.12.10), and I’ve now finished reading it. And I’m right.
Jackie does indeed follow the former Mrs. Kennedy’s experience from the day of JFK’s assassination in Dallas on 11.22.63 to his burial in Arlington Cemetery four days hence. I’ve read enough about those four dark days to understand that Oppenheim’s script is basically a tasteful re-capturing of what happened, and that’s all. It’s an elegant, almost under-written thing — straight, clean, dignified. The dialogue seems genuine — trustable — in that it’s not hard to believe that Jackie or Bobby Kennedy or Larry O’Brien or Theodore H. White or Jack Valenti might have said these very lines in actuality.
The portrait that emerges isn’t what anyone would call judgmental or intrusive, or even exploratory. Jackie Kennedy is depicted as pretty much the same, reserved, quietly classy woman of legend, determined to honor her husband’s memory by making decisions about aspects of his state funeral in her own way, according to what she feels he would have wanted, or what would be appropriately dignified.
It’s a very decent script but my first instinct was right — it doesn’t have Aronofsky’s stamp at all. This is strictly an acting project for Rachel Weisz, which is fine. I’d be interested in seeing the film when it’s done, no question, but there isn’t so much as a hint of the feverish grit or edge associated with the Aronofsky brand (The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream, Pi, The Fountain).
I don’t mean to sound like a smart-ass, but it’s more or less in the same wheelhouse as Roger Donaldson‘s Thirteen Days, the drama about the Cuban Missile Crisis. I had a feeling that while writing this Oppenheim was mindful of the screenplay style of Aaron Sorkin, and how the latter has almost authored a “how to” manual about writing emotionally reserved but affecting stories about people who live and work in the White House. The difference is that this time they’re well-known figures and the dialogue is based on historical accounts.
When I said this seemed far afield from Aronofsky’s natural turf, Deathtongue Groupie registered an opposite reaction, equating it to Requiem For Dream‘s story about “four people who live in a bubble of their own reality until it bursts and either crushes the spirit out of them or kills them outright,” etc. And Brandon Boudreaux said it sounded “exactly like Aronofsky material to me…a combination of The Wrestler‘s intimacy with Requiem for a Dream‘s psychological tautness. I don’t see this as being anything close to ‘let’s re-tell history again’ type of thing.”
Trust me, that’s almost exactly what Jackie is — familiar history re-lived and re-told with a veneer of class
“Shall I have feelings, or should I pretend to be cool?,” Roger Ebert asked yesterday in his review of Matthew Vaughn‘s Kick-Ass. “Will I seem hopelessly square if I find [this film] morally reprehensible and will I appear to have missed the point?”
My response to Ebert, of course, is that he’s not hopelessly square at all — he’s sharp and shrewd and never misses a trick — but (and this is a big “but’) by the laws of the comic-book action realm Kick-Ass isn’t morally reprehensible, it’s just “whoaa, dude!” But if you don’t get that realm you’ll never get that feeling, and people like Roger will look at you on the street like there’s something really and truly wrong with you.
“Let’s say you’re a big fan of the original comic book, and you think the movie does it justice,” Ebert says. “You know what? You inhabit a world I am so very not interested in. A movie camera makes a record of whatever is placed in front of it, and in this case, it shows deadly carnage dished out by an 11-year-old girl, after which an adult man brutally hammers her to within an inch of her life. Blood everywhere. Now tell me all about the context.”
The context is this: the comic-book action realm is about itself, which is to say a world of powerless young guys and their emotionally arrested elders who want to hold on in a sense to that feeling. It’s about notions of flash and dash and washboard abs, of studly lethal force and villains who seem to fit the same mold time and again. Nothing in the comic-book action realm represents anything “real” (including 11 year-old girls) because it’s all about stupid simplicity — about moral payback and lurid emotions and a visual ripeness that doesn’t exist anywhere else. It’s also about a huge need for reality-enhancing myth. For archetypes, intensity, testosterone, etc. And imagination, of course.
“The movie’s premise is that ordinary people, including a high school kid, the 11-year-old and her father, try to become superheroes in order to punish evil men,” Ebert writes. “The flaw in this premise is that the little girl does become a superhero. In one scene, she faces a hallway jammed with heavily armed gangsters and shoots, stabs and kicks them all to death, while flying through the air with such power, it’s enough to make Jackie Chan take out an AARP membership.
“This isn’t comic violence. These men, and many others in the film, are really stone-cold dead. And the 11-year-old apparently experiences no emotions about this. Many children that age would be, I dunno, affected somehow, don’t you think, after killing eight or 12 men who were trying to kill her?
“I know, I know. This is a satire. But a satire of what? The movie’s rated R, which means in this case that it’s doubly attractive to anyone under 17. I’m not too worried about 16-year-olds here. I’m thinking of 6-year-olds. There are characters here with walls covered in carefully mounted firearms, ranging from handguns through automatic weapons to bazookas. At the end, when the villain deliciously anticipates blowing a bullet hole in the child’s head, he is prevented only because her friend, in the nick of time, shoots him with bazooka shell at 10-foot range and blows him through a skyscraper window and across several city blocks of sky in a projectile of blood, flame and smoke.
“As I often read on the internet: Hahahahaha.”
Barry Levinson‘s You Don’t Know Jack, an HBO drama about the beliefs and travails of mercy-dispenser Jack Kevorkian, is easily Levinson’s best film since Wag The Dog — a straight-arrow, quietly powerful drama about a courageous if overly headstrong man of principle and compassion vs. the conservative let-them-suffer crowd.
You Don’t Know Jack star Al Pacino, Dr. Jack Kevorkian on the Zeigfeld red carpet before last night’s screening.
And as a somewhat mousey-voiced, gray-haired, bespectacled and bent-over Kevorkian, Al Pacino gives one of his best performances ever, particularly in terms of seeming to truly slip into another man’s skin and with remarkable restraint at that — a feat that feels almost revelatory for a guy who’s been known for decades for his florid chops and shouty line-readings.
Danny Huston also scores as attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who successfully represented Kevorkian in several of his court battles. An audacious legal swordsman and swaggerer in a long-hair wig, Huston seems to really revel in Feigel’s exceptional brainpower and combative spirit — he’s a kind of contact high in this sense.
You Don’t Know Jack (a great title) is a ballsy, no-frills film about a moral-political-cultural issue — whether or not severely afflicted people have the right to die with dignity, and at the time of their own choosing — that pretty much anyone with any life experience has strong feelings about, and which everyone should try to see when it airs on HBO starting on 4.24.
I was particularly moved by real-life video footage (apparently shot by Kevorkian) of a very young sufferer from Lou Gehrig’s Disease — a slender good-looking guy in his early 30s. He’s been explaining to Kevorkian why he wants to end it, and at one point his sister says that she supports him in his effort to be “free.” The young guy is so moved that he begins to weep, and then leans his head over and rests it on her shoulder. Anyone who watches this footage and then turns around and says that what Jack Kevorkian tried to do is fiendish or against God’s will has some serious blockage going on.
British journalist Tom Teodorczuk speaking to You Don’t Know Jack director Barry Levinson. (Co-star John Goodman in b.g.)
And yet despite my beliefs I feel emotionally conflicted about inducing death, no matter how compassionate the circumstances. This is hard to explain because I can’t quite figure why I think one way and feel another, but here goes.
I had a Siamese cat named Zak who was born in ’85 and died in ’00 (or was it ’01)? He passed from pancreatic cancer. He began crying one day for no apparent reason, and then a few weeks later he began to lie on the living-room rug, staring wide-eyed at the fibers. He stopped eating toward the end, prompting me to put Gerber’s baby food on his nose so he would at least lick it off. He was finished and we both knew it. I finally took him to TLC Animal Hospital in West Hollywood for the Big Sendoff. They gave him a sedative, and then something that stopped his heart — and I couldn’t stand it. I couldn’t stay in the room. I couldn’t deal with having taken his life despite the fact that I was relieving him from agony.
I know that it’s inhumane to force people to live past a certain morbid point. Whether or not that point has been reached can only be determined by the suffererer, but if they’re truly in agony and are begging to be allowed to slip away only a monster would insist on keeping them around. And yet I couldn’t face the euthenizing of my cat so what does that say about me?
That I’m a wuss, I suppose. That I don’t have the steel to look tough issues in the face. Because I find the idea of dying horrific under any circumstance. Because I agree with Woody Allen, to wit: “I don’t want to live on through my work. I want to live on by not dying.”
You Don’t Know Jack after-party at the Four Season restaurant on East 52nd Street — 4.14, 11:15 pm.
Happy 28th birthday to the great Seth Rogen, who doesn’t look a day under 37. For some reason I have an image of LexG looking like Rogen, only with less hair. Rogen has The Green Hornet (as opposed to The Green Lantern) in the can, is currently shooting the film formerly known as I’m With Cancer, and after that has a comedy about infidelity called Take This Waltz, directed and written by Sarah Polley and costarring Michelle Williams.
I’m again requesting some kind of rue d’Antibes market screening of The Expendables during the Cannes Film Festival. We’re speaking of the ultimate rube social event as well as a possible cinematic revelation. In a highly boisterous, rock-n-roll, animal-house, cheap-whore, anyone-who’s-anyone-has-to-be-there sense, The Expendables must be screened on the Cote d’Azur between 5.12 and 5.20.
I’m repeating for emphasis that Julian Schnabel told me at last night’s You Don’t Know Jack screening that he chose not to unveil Miral, his latest, in Cannes, and that the period drama will instead debut in Venice and Toronto. (But not Telluride, he added — too much running around in a too-short time frame.)
Julian Schnabel and Miral screenwriter Rula Jebreal — pic is based on her book of the same name. They were sitting side-by-side in row F at last night’s You Don’t Know Jack screening.
Miral costars The Visitor‘s Hiam Abass and Slumdog Millionaire‘s Frieda Pinto with Willem Dafoe and Alexander Siddig supporting. A boilerplate synopsis calls it “a chronicle of Hind Husseini‘s effort to establish an orphanage in Jerusalem after the 1948 partition of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel.” (Abass plays Husseini.)
The Tree of Life — Terrence Malick‘s “little tiny story of a kid growing up in the 50s…juxtaposed with a little, tiny micro-story of the cosmos,” in the words of costar Brad Pitt — didn’t make this morning’s official announcement of entries for the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. It was suggested in a 4.11 Variety story that an absence of Malick on this morning’s slate wouldn’t necessarily mean Tree won’t show in Cannes, only that Malick is still dithering in the editing room.
But Charles Ferguson‘s Inside Job — a documentary about the causes and culprits behind the financial meltdown of ’08 — will be shown with a special out-of-competition screening. This morning’s announcement was the first acknowledgment of this film’s existence by anyone on the planet, officially or otherwise, as not even fragmentary info has leaked about this latest effort by the director of the acclaimed No End In Sight, and certainly not a mention of the title.
There was no mention of any extended product-reel screening of Chris Nolan‘s Inception, but then there wouldn’t be at an official Paris press conference. An announcement of this could happen in days to come, or so I’m hoping.
As previously announced, screenings of Ridley Scott‘s Robin Hood will launch the festival on Wednesday, 3.12. And out-of-competition entries, as previously forecast, will include Woody Allen‘s You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, Stephen Frears‘ Tamara Drewe and Oliver Stone‘s Wall Street — Money Never Sleeps.
The top-tier competition entries include Alejandro Gonzales Innaritu‘s Biutiful, Doug Liman‘s Fair Game, Mike Leigh‘s Another Year, Takeshi Kitano‘s Outrage, Bertrand Tavernier’s La Princesse de Monptpensier and Mathieu Almaric‘s Tournee,
The whosit-whatsit competition entries (i.e., a temporary classification) are Xavier Beauvois‘s Des Hommes et des Dieu, Rachid Bouchareb‘s Hors la loi, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun‘s Un Homme Qui Crie (A Screaming Man), Im Sangsoo‘s Housemaid, Abbas Kiarostami‘s Copie Conforme, Lee Chang-dong‘s Poetry, Sergei Loznitsa‘s You, My Joy, Danielle Luchetti‘s La Nostra Vita, Nikita Mikhalkov‘s Utomlyonnye Solntsem 2 and Apichatpong Weerasethakul‘s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.
The two announced midnight screenings are Gregg Araki‘s Kaboom and Gilles Marchand‘s L’Autre Monde (Blackhole).
Besides Inside Job, the special screening roster includes Sophie Fiennes‘ Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow, Patricia Guzman‘s Nostalgia de la Luz, Sabina Guzzanti‘s Draquila — L’Italia Che Trema, Otar Losseliani‘s Chantrapas, and Diego Luna‘s Abel.
The Un Certain Regard roster: Blue Valentine (d: Derek Cianfrance), O Estranho Caso de Angelica (d: Manouel de Oliveira), Les Amours Imaginaires (d: Xavier Dolan), Los Labios (d: Ivan Fund, Santiago Loza), Simon Werner a Disparu… (d: Fabrice Gobert), Film Socialisme (d: Jean-Luc Godard), Unter Dir Die Stadt (d: Christoph Hochhausler), Rebecca H (d: Lodge Kerrigan), Pal Adreinn (d: Agnes Kocsis), Udaan (d: Vikramaditya Motwane), Marti Dupa Craciun (d: Radu Muntean), Chatroom (d: Hideo Nakata), Aurora (d: Cristi Puiu), Ha Ha Ha (d: Hong Sangsoo), Life Above All (d: Oliver Schmitz), Octubre (d: Daniel Vega), R U There (d: David Verbeek) and Rizhao Chongqing Chongqing Blues (d: Xiaoshuai Wang).
The full Pitt quote about Tree of Life, as initially posted on Ain’t It Cool News: “It’s this little tiny story of a kid growing up in the 50s with a mother who’s grace incarnate and a father who’s oppressive in nature. So he is negotiating his way through it, defining who he’s gonna be when he grows up. And that is juxtaposed with a little, tiny micro-story of the cosmos, from the beginning of the cosmos to the death of the cosmos. So that’s where the sci-fi — or the sci-fact — comes in.”
Spitballed titles that weren’t announced this morning include Julian Schnabel‘s Miral (which will be unveiled in Venice and Toronto, Schnabel told me last night), Guillame Canet‘s Little White Lies, Cam Archer‘s Shit Year, Susanne Bier‘s The Revenge, John Cameron Mitchell‘s Rabbit Hole, Jodie Foster‘s The Beaver, Bruce Robinson‘s The Rum Diary, Oren Peli‘s Area 51, David O. Russell‘s The Fighter, Julie Taymor‘s The Tempest, Peter Weir‘s The Way Back, Sylvester Stallone‘s The Expendables, Julio Medem‘s Room In Rome, Kevin Macdonald‘s Eagle Of The Ninth, David Mackenzie‘s The Last Word, and Peter Mullan‘s Neds.
Nor was there any mention of Bertrand Blier‘s The Clink Of Ice, Isabelle Czajka‘s Living On Love Alone, Julie Bertucelli‘s The Tree, Johnnie To‘s Death Of A Hostage (Hong Kong), or Takashi Miike‘s Thirteen Assassins (Japan).