Tonight I saw a significant portion of George Gallo‘s Middle Men, an overly emphatic faux-Tarantino crime movie about a fair-minded, level-headed businessman (Luke Wilson) who gets caught up in a porn-related internet billing service in the ’90s. Anyway, there’s an extended walking-through-an-orgy sequence that didn’t make the final cut sitting on pornhub.com.
The sequence isn’t as good as Stanley Kubrick‘s in Eyes Wide Shut and it isn’t exactly Scorsese-ish either, but it’s not half bad.
Opening on 8.6 through Paramount Vantage, Middle Men is based on the ’90s experiences of producer Christopher Mallick. Gallo directed and co-wrote the exaggerated script with Andy Weiss. Costars include Giovanni Ribisi, Gabriel Macht and James Caan.
Watch the first 15 minutes of Lennon Naked, a John Lennon biopic that aired on British TV six weeks ago, and you’ll understand right away that it kicks Nowhere Boy‘s ass, and that Christopher Eccleston‘s lead performance is, like, way better than Aaron Johnson‘s.
You can complain that Eccleston, 46, is way too old to be playing Lennon in his 20s, but his performance more than compensates.
“It’s a brilliant performance in a brilliant film,” exclaimedThe Guardian‘s Sam Wollaston, “because what Eccleston does get spot-on is the spirit of Lennon, with all his complications, contradictions and demons.
“It’s certainly no whitewash. He’s cruel to everyone – Brian Epstein, Cynthia, little Julian, the rest of the band, everyone except Yoko. He’s bitter and troubled, yet also idealistic. Very funny too, full of acerbic putdowns. The press conferences, where he returns caustic one-liners with top spin at the assembled press, are fabulous.”
Another Guardian piece notes that Lennon Naked “was shot on a shoestring budget in 18 days.”
Warning: Late last night HE reader Richard Huffman urged me to “remove the video embed immediately. Clicking on it and watching that movie through Megavideo managed to install some bullshit malware called ‘antimalware doctor’ on my machine. Not your fault, but I’m dreading the next four hours of disinfecting. Right now I have like 15 pop ups all over my desktop…ugh. Megavideo is notorious for putting up videos of questionable legality and then delivering viruses and malware when you click on the various play and pause buttons.”
I had my reasons for not getting into last Friday’s conversation about Liam Neeson saying he’s no longer attached to play Abraham Lincoln because he’s gotten too old.
For one thing that’s bullshit. Lincoln was 56 when he was shot and Neeson is a trim and healthy-looking 58. On top of which Lincoln wasn’t exactly a vision of youth and vigor with his haggard features and scraggly beard so give me a break. Neeson could be 60 or 62 and still get away with playing him, easy.
Spielberg is seemingly (a) afraid of anything too Amistad-y (i.e., political principle in a historical context), and (b) probably doesn’t want to suffer through the same kind of reputation-diminishing pans that greeted Amistad‘s release. Deep down he’s afraid of the expectations that would be attached to any Honest Abe film. I think we all sense that now.
So if you ask me Neeson saying he’s too old to play Lincoln was code, I suspect, for (a) “I can’t deal with this bearded little pussy any longer,” (b) “I have my pride” and (c) “he’s kept me in limbo long enough.”
I understand that Eat Pray Love (Columbia, 8.13) is for over-30 women and gay guys, for the most part. But speaking as a yellow-sneaker-wearing metrosexual film buff, I’d like to find a place for it in my head. I’m down with any woman-friendly film that at least tries to deliver the basic goods. Give me some reasonably rounded characters, believable motivations, smartly sculpted dialogue and a reasonably satisfying story, and I won’t squawk. Really.
On top of which I’m a sucker for beautiful footage of Rome, Naples, India and Indonesia. That is, as long as the cinematography doesn’t make me feel that these locales have been, in a manner of speaking, re-constituted according to the requirements of sumptous big-studio imagery. Beautiful places always seem cooler when they haven’t been lighted too carefully.
So I don’t have an attitude about this Ryan Murphy-directed film. I do have a blockage, yes, about Julia Roberts. I look at her and see a raging me-aholic, but then I’m a me-aholic myself so I should be able to get around this. I was fine with her in Ocean’s 12, especially during the Rome hotel scene when she was playing a character who was pretending to be herself. As long as she doesn’t do that cackling laughter thing, I’m cool.
My other attitude is that any film with Richard Jenkins, Javier Bardem and James Franco can’t be all that bad.
I’ve called around this morning and haven’t found anyone yet who’s seen it. The Eat Pray Love premiere and the press showings are happening next week, and I know it was recently shown to the junket crowd in Napa, and to Stephen Farber‘s film class last night.
All this said, I couldn’t help but laugh when I read the following comment on the IMDB chat board” “Watching Eat Pray Love [will be] exactly the same as having a testicle removed.”
Jeffrey Ressner‘s Hollywood Reporterpiece about Hollywood Republicans and their “Friends of Abe” organization was posted last night. It mentions an FoA soiree last June at “a sprawling horse ranch near the Ventura County line” that was attended by Republican Senate hopeful Carly Fiorina.
Ressner lists the usual roster of industry-linked righties — Kelsey Grammer, Gary Sinise, Dennis Miller, Jon Voight, Lee Greenwood, Andrew Breitbart, Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry. Whom we’ve all been hearing and reading about for years, right? What about the next generation of Hollywood Republicans? Are there any industry righties from among the under-35 set? A movement without young blood is no movement at all.
Ressner scours some political-donation sites and concludes that “it’s easier to figure out what side Angelina Jolie is on in Salt than to understand the political motivations of some studio chiefs.” Sony honcho Michael Lynton and DreamWorks animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg are described in the piece as apparent political fence straddlers.
Big Hollywood‘s John Nolte tells Ressner than Friends of Abe members keep a low profile because they fear a “chilling effect” on showbiz careers. “There’s no blacklist in the classic sense…it’s more of a peer-pressure thing,” he explains.
It was announced yesterday that the longest-delayed documentary with the worst title in the history of motion pictures has found a distributor. John Scheinfeld‘s Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is He Saying Terrible Things About Me)?, which had its debut four and a half years ago at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, has been acquired by Kino Lorber.
The widely praised doc will get a 9.10 Cinema Village opening in Manhattan along with (one presumes) another in Los Angeles on or near the same date, followed by a DVD debut (complete with an extra 93 minutes of footage) on 10.26.
I’m sorry…I got the title wrong. It’s actually Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?. The wording doesn’t matter, of course, because a title with 18 syllables doesn’t work any way you slice it. Scheinfeld’s film should have been called Everybody’s Talkin’ — the title of Nilsson’s most famous song, or at least among those who’ve seen and/or know anything about John Schlesinger‘s Oscar-winning Midnight Cowboy (’69), which Nilsson’s tune became a kind of theme song for.
Why did it take Scheinfeld four years to put a deal together? Music rights. The film uses 48 Nilsson tracks that are owned by Sony, and all along Scheinfeld had been trying to persuade the company to grant the rights gratis and then use the film as a promotional tool to market the Nilsson catalogue, The public has mostly forgotten about Nilsson (aside from mostly boomer-aged buffs), but a soundtrack CD released along with Scheinfeld’s doc might have re-ignited interest.
But a lack of visionary leadership at Sony BMG — initially under the stewardship of CEO Rolf Schmidt-Holtz from early ’06 to August ’08, and then for roughly a year at the Sony Music Entertainment after Sony BMG was dissolved — kept this from happening. Certain business affairs execs felt that gratis music rights would set a bad precedent. Scheinfeld describes the atmosphere at Sony from early ’06 through mid ’09 as a “chaotic landscape” and a “black hole…no one person seemed to be able to make a decision.”
Things finally loosened up last fall when SME honcho Adam Block came to the conclusion that the film could “be a great advertisement of Harry’s catalogue” if distributed.
Early last December I briefly discussed Who Is Harry Nilsson? with Jeff Bridges (a huge Nilsson fan) during a Crazy Heart press party. We agreed it was a shame that Scheinfeld’s doc, which Bridges had seen at the Santa Barbara Film Festival debut, was apparently doomed to obscurity. I went home and voiced this feeling in a piece called “Homeless Forever.”
Scheinfeld told me this morning that reading this article “kind of spurred us on” — i.e., acted as a kind of kick in the pants. Whatever the truth of this, I’m glad that he and his film are finally out of the woods.
“At the ’06 Santa Barbara Film festival — sixteen and a half months ago — I ran my first piece about John Scheinfeld‘s Who is Harry Nilsson (and Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?. I started out both liking it enormously and disliking it — I couldn’t get past the depressing aspects of a story about another ’60s-era rock musician self-destructing, but I was deeply moved by the music and the obvious love and care that Scheinfeld put into his film.
“For whatever reason a distribution deal never happened. A logical suspect, Sony Pictures Classics, never bit despite Sony BMG owning the Nilsson catalogue, which would allow for an obvious cross-promotion potential.
“I don’t know what the problematic particulars may be, but a film as good as this one deserves to be seen. It’s a profound insult to Nilsson, his legacy and his thousands of fans that the best this doc can hope for is some cruddy straight-to-video deal. The man was one of the greatest songwriter-singers of the ’60s and early ’70s — what’s the problem?
“Obviously Nilsson never attained Beatles-level fame, and obviously Scheinfeld’s doc has a limited commercial potential. But for the film to fail to get any kind of deal whatsoever is absurd. Sounds like somebody’s being obstinate or unrealistic or both, and that other parties are asleep at the wheel.”
Six and a half years ago filmmaker Les Blank, best known for his legendary Burden of Dreams (1982), a doc about the making of Werner Herzog‘s Fitzcarraldo, took part in a Santa Barbara Film Festival panel discussion about documentary filmmaking. I don’t remember what Blank said (a video of the discussion sits below), but I do recall his decision to lay out DVDs of his films on a blanket outside the theatre and offer them for sale.
The fact that Burden of Dreams is now free on Hulu indicates that it’s not exactly a hot-selling Criterion Collection title. It is nonetheless one of the most stirring making-of-a movie docs ever made. It is arguably equal to Fitzcarraldo itself, as both films deal with a white man’s manic obsession and borderline lunacy in a remote South American jungle, and how it impacts a native culture. Klaus Kinski‘s Fitzcarraldo = Werner Herzog = Fitzcarraldo and back again.
In my book BOD is in the same realm as George Hickenlooper ‘s Hearts of Darkness, Laurent Bouzereau‘s two-hour-long “making of Jaws” doc (i.e., originally included on a Jaws special edition laser disc in the ’90s, re-appeared on a 30th anniversary Jaws DVD that came out in ’05) and Charles Lauzarika‘s Tricks of the Trade, an innovative 71-minute doc about the making of Ridley Scott‘s Matchstick Men.