Last night I happened upon this shot of Mark Ruffalo (r.) on the set of some currently-shooting period drama. (Does anyone know the title? It’s apparently being filmed in Los Angeles.) I’m not identifying the other two but you can tell from the clothing and haircuts that they’re playing “period.” The guy on the left looks amazingly like Fred Zinneman — odd.
A true story told by Pittsburgh Pirates hurler Dock Ellis. Except the poor guy died of alcoholism at age 63, in 2008. “Ellis, an alcoholic, retired to Victorville, California, and a career as a drug counselor,” the bio says. “He was diagnosed with cirrhosis in 2007 and was on the list for a transplant at the time of his death. ESPN.com reported on 12.19.08 that he’d died at USC Medical Center due to ‘a liver ailment.'”
This Gucci Guilty ad underlines that director Frank Miller is a one-trick pony. “You wanna work with me?,” he says. “Fine, but understand that I do one thing and just one thing — that sexy-ass, color-tinted, black-and-white, slinky femme fatale neo-noir Sin City routine….that’s me. And that’s it.” Evan Rachel Wood and Chris Evans are the stars. I couldn’t even tell it was Evans the first time I watched it.
Seven years ago I researched and wrote a piece about the leading eccentric film critics of the day, and I thought it might be fun to revisit this topic and ask once again, “Who are the reigning loons?” It’s fair to say the roster has probably expanded with the growth of internet film sites. Keep in mind, of course, that there are good nutters — picayune contrarians off on their own moonbeam, but smart and feisty and often a kick to read — and bad nutters, which is to say illogical fruitloops who seem to exist to curry favor.
“Nutters are made, not born,” I wrote in 2003. “I’m kind of one myself, but I didn’t start out this way. I came into this racket as a relatively sane, even-tempered youth, wanting only to be spelled and lifted up by those wonderfully crafted confections I’d first seen as a child on late-night TV. Now look at me — delighted by those 20 or 25 movies each year that ring my critical bell, but most of the time oozing acid cynicism and choking from the residue of a thousand crappy films released over the Hollywood downturn period of the last 22 or 23 years.
“You could subject St. Francis of Assisi to the same experience, and at the end of the road he’d be a film critic version of Kirk Douglas‘s character in Ace in the Hole, or else a complete junket-whore sellout. One way of not giving in to a Douglas attitude is to isolate and perhaps over-praise any film that comes along that seems the least bit unusual or distinctive. Then, at least, you have something to root for.
“There are two kinds of nutter film critics — the good (i.e., scrappy, finger-poking, irreverent) and the bad (lazy, smarmy, go-alonger). But ask around about the nutters who irritate or tick people off the most, as I did last weekend, and you’ll find that most of them ignore the softies and take aim at the rarified elite. I guess it’s always the oddball malcontents in any society who get singled out for punishment.
“‘Good’ nutters may irritate people, yes, for their high-horse pans of movies many of us have enjoyed or loved, or for their praising of movies that only they and other nutters have seen at European film festivals, but at the end of the day their occasional support of obscure filmmakers and a general willingness to buck the popular tide obviously lives up to the job description of ‘film critic’, and is obviously better for us culturally than not.
“Whereas the easy lays who give passes and sometimes raves to big-studio dreck and whose pulses invariably race at the prospect of taking home another goodie bag…well, fill in the blank.
The leading good nutters, according to a poll that resulted in 30-something responses (i.e., extremely unscientific), were N.Y. Press critic Armond White and the then-L.A. Times critic Manohla Dargis. Runner-ups included, in alphabetical order, included Entertainment Weekly‘s Owen Gleiberman, Variety‘s Robert Koehler, the Chicago Reader‘s Jonathan Rosenbaum, the San Diego Reader‘s Duncan Shepard, and then-New Times critic Luke Y. Thompson.
Here’s the original article again. Send in your nominees and we’ll go from there.
Manohla Dargis has been absent from her N.Y. Times film critic duties since…what, mid-June? I had assumed she’d taken time off for the writing of a book, or maybe some simple chill time in Paris, a favorite city of hers. Contemplation, battery-recharging, whatever. But nobody would say anything when I asked around this morning. Dargis didn’t reply. Nothing from mutual journalist pallies or Times colleagues. Silencio.
So I wrote her N.Y. Times editor, Lorne Manly, and said I didn’t recall any announcement in the Times about her taking time off. “We don’t tend to do announcements about leaves around here,” he replied, “but everything is fine and she’ll be back in action after Labor Day when her leave comes to an end. You’ll see her in Toronto, and you can catch up with her then.”
“So this wasn’t a book-writing sabbatical?,” I wrote back. “Just a plain and simple leave for the purpose of smelling the grass and the flowers and the coffee and…like that?” Manly’s response: “I’m sure Manohla will be happy to fill you in when you see her.”
So I asked some other folks if they’d heard anything. A Manhattan publicist said she was told Dargis “has been doing some graduate school work and perhaps writing a thesis,” but this is “very, very unconfirmed.”
Remember the “too soon!” crowd that refused to watch United 93? The Movie Godz were aghast that anyone would take such a position against one of the finest films of the aughts, but what can you do? I wonder, in any case, if the too-sooners will return in force for the forthcoming film version of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which was announced over the weekend.
Scott Rudin is producing, Stephen Daldry is directing, and Eric Roth has written the screenplay that is based on the Jonathan Safran Foer novel. No word on who will play Oskar Schell, the precocious nine year-old kid, but Tom Hanks, I gather, will play his dead dad (killed on 9.11.01) and Sandra Bullock will play the mom. Warner Bros. is the “lead studio” with Paramount handling the overseas distribution, or something like that.
The idea, I would think, would be to get the film released at least somewhat concurrent with the tenth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks. I mean, doesn’t that make basic sense? Maybe not. Maybe it’s best to ignore all that and just release it when it’s good and ready to be seen.
“Message one. Tuesday, 8:52 a.m. Is anybody there? Hello? It’s Dad. If you’re there, pick up. I just tried the office, but no one was picking up. Listen, something’s happened. I’m okay. They’re telling us to stay where we are and wait for the firemen. I’m sure it’s fine. I’ll give you another call when I have a better idea of what’s going on. Just wanted to let you know that I’m okay, and not to worry. I’ll call again soon.”
At best, Ben Mankiewicz became known as the less objectionable half of that miserable misbegotten At The Movies show he co-hosted with Ben Lyons. But check him out on The Young Turks. He’s reasonable, intelligent, relaxed…himself. It’s another example of how mainstream TV producers always demand the exact same speaking style — fast-talking, sound-bitey, uptempo — from anyone doing any kind of analysis show. But take it down a notch and the guy who pissed you off on ABC is suddenly okay.
Mankiewicz’s reviewing partner is Associated Press critic Christy Lemire.
That Digital Bits announcement about Columbia Tristar Home Video deciding to release an Ishtar DVD on 10.19 is incorrect, I was told this morning. It’s actually coming out sometime in the first quarter of 2011. Whatever the facts, I’m happy to assume that various HE articles pushing for this may have had a minor impact. (The first, posted on 1.8.10, was called “Free Ishtar!“). I’ll allow that New Yorker‘s Richard Brody may have also influenced, although he didn’t speak up until early this month.
Now I have to go out and pay money to see Piranha 3D? I know I’ll hate it but it’s apparently the new Human Centipede so there’s no ducking out. “An imitation of B-movie beach schlock and John Waters” with “visual humor that lacks wit or nerve,” in the words of Wesley Morris? Or “hands down and body parts floating, the most irresistibly sick movie in years,” in the view of Tampa Bay’s Steve Persall?
It’s managed an 81/60 hoi-polloi vs. elite divide on Rotten Tomatoes. Any film with Eloi Roth in a supporting role has to be at least a bit repellent.
Last Friday The Digital Bits announced that Warner Home Video is currently preparing Bluray editions of Stanley Kubrick‘s Lolita and Barry Lyndon, for release in 2011. Their WHV source also “hinted” that the films are going to be available both as singles and as part of a new Stanley Kubrick Blu-ray Collection.
Essential buys, of course, but I wonder how much of a big Bluray bonanza Barry Lyndon is likely to be. It’ll look better than the DVD, of course, but to what extent? There’s no overpraising John Alcott‘s cinematography, but how much better can a slightly grainy 35mm film that mainly relied on natural light and is distinguished mainly for its framings (i.e., simulating the look of 18th Century landscapes) look on Bluray? I’m asking. I think the better Bluray high will come from Lolita, a monochrome jewel with lush silvery tones and velvety blacks and…I don’t know how to put it but there’s always been something vaguely sensual and Bijou-ish about the textures.
Cenk Uygur‘s rant about Fox News’ constant servings of non-journalistic propaganda is fairly boilerplate. Uygur delivered this last Friday, the final day of his guest-hosting stint on MSNBC’s Ed Show. And it’s obvious how MSNBC producers have made him into a slightly different guy. He’s been told, like all mainstream TV journos, to talk faster, keep it peppy and wear slick powerball suits with vivid ties. I prefer Cenk’s slightly slower, more natural-sounding patter on The Young Turks, and with the collar unbuttoned.
The pronunciation of his name, I finally figured out, is “Jenk Yoo-gerr.”