Another enjoyable discussion between In Contention‘s Kris Tapley and Indiewire columnist Anne Thompson, this time focusing on the Toronto Film Festival highlights. They also get into the strange (some would say reality-defying) winning of the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion by Sofia Coppola‘s Somewhere.
The best film I saw at the Toronto Film Festival — the most sharply sculpted, exciting, electric — was Darren Aronofsky‘s Black Swan . I wasn’t the only one to feel this way, and this consensus gave the Fox Searchlight release serious Best Picture heat.
The most delicious film I saw during the festival — the most culturally profound and deeply satisfying all around — was David Fincher‘s The Social Network, but then I had to travel to catch it.
Danny Boyle‘s 127 Hours was certainly one of the best acted (i.e., James Franco‘s lead performance), the most surprising (in terms of the arm-cutting scene being less traumatic than I anticipated) and, perhaps the most surprising discovery of all, the most sensuous.
Matt Reeves‘ excellent Let Me In was the most surprising as no one expected to easily equal if not surpass Tomas Alfredson‘s original.
Tom Hooper‘s The King’s Speech is an old-fashioned, traditional-type drama, but appropriately so given the late-1930s English-royalty milieu. It’s a very well-crafted and emotionally satisfying drama. It emerged as a definite Best Picture contender; Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush will certainly compete for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor honors.
I didn’t see Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Biutiful during the festival because I’d seen it in Cannes, but I can’t repeat strongly enough how penetrating Javier Bardem‘s lead performance is, and how rich and encompassing the film is in terms of considering the weight of it all.
Casey Affleck‘s I’m Still Here, the Joaquin Phoenix staged-meltdown doc, was easily the most grotesque in all senses of that term, although it is, to be fair, tightly assembled and never boring.
Errol Morris‘s Tabloid felt to me like the most satisfying documentary, but that was because I’d already seen and raved about Alex Gibney‘s Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer at the Tribeca Film Festival and Charles Ferguson‘s Inside Job in Cannes.
The festival’s most underwhelming film was either Robert Redford‘s The Conspirator or Clint Eastwood‘s Hereafter — a toss-up.
One of the best written dramas was John Cameron Mitchell‘s Rabbit Hole — an honestly presented, very well-acted piece about grief recovery.
Perhaps the most irritating bad film I saw at the festival was John Madden ‘s The Debt.
I wasn’t able to stay through all of Tom Tykwer‘s Three, a German-language drama about basic older-married-person issues (death, infidelity, change, illness, the whole shebang), struck me as the most engaging Tykwer film I’ve seen since Run Lola Run.
I missed Richard Ayoade‘s Submarine…sorry. I missed a few others (irritating). Many other films wa=were shown and various events occured, but these were the standouts.
The best party, hands down, was the shindig thrown for Biutiful at Toronto’s Soho House.
It was first reported last April by Movieline‘s Kyle Buchanan that Social Network director David Fincher made Jesse Eisenberg and Rooney Mara perform an eight-page scene — the first in the film, a breakup scene — 99 times.
The same story is reported in Mark Harris‘s New York article about the making of The Social Network.
“Yes, you do a lot of takes,” says Social Network costar Armie Hammer, “but you feel extremely protected. He told me he knows that actors are inherently vain — we sit in front of a mirror and think to ourselves, Oh, in this moment, I’m gonna give him this look. And he didn’t want us to bring that to set.”
“So many Oscars are won in the tub,” Fincher tells Harris. “I want to take [the actors] past the point where they go, ‘But I had it all worked out!’ You have to be hypervigilant, especially with [Aaron] Sorkin’s writing, because sometimes actors will want to add another course to the meal that isn’t there. They’ll think that if you pause between sentences, it gives the lines meaning, and we had to disabuse everyone of that notion. And once they got that, they took to it like ducks.”
A little more than three months ago I begged the Warner Home Video guys to consider respectfully and tastefully degranulating their then-forthcoming Bluray of the original King Kong. Not radically, and certainly not in a way that would compromise detail, but to do what they could to diminish that blanketed feeling in certain portions of this 1933 classic, that unnecessary sensation of Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot and Fay Wray being swarmed over and bitten by a billion silvery mosquitoes.
Well, they didn’t listen.
DVD Beaver’s Gary W. Tooze has reviewed the new Kong Bluray and says that “the biggest benefactor of the move to 1080p appears to be the prevalence of the grain, which is now more consistent [and] seemingly thicker and giving off a nice textured feel…this looks much more pure [than the 2005 DVD], cleaner with stronger grain.”
Tooze sounds like an Islamic fundamentalist reading from the Koran. He isn’t saying that the Kong grain is a regrettable but unavoidable component — he’s saying the more the better. It’s beautiful! If only we could all be covered in dense mosquito storms in real life! He sounds like a heroin junkie talking about what a great human being his dealer is. I can only shake my head.
Here’s how I put it on June 11th: “Let’s hope that the WHV guys (a) haven’t recently succumbed to radical Criterion-style grain-monk theology (i.e., the home-video equivalent of Taliban fervor), (b) understand that certain portions of King Kong are simply too grainy for average eyeball consumption (particularly the scene when the freighter drops anchor off the coast of Skull Island in heavy fog), (c) further understand that Bluray only sharpens and intensifies the monochrome granules occupying a given frame, and (d) therefore came to the conclusion that they needed to hire John Lowry of Lowry Digital to de-granulate in a way that respects the integrity of the image but at the same time recognizes that a classic black-and-white film buried in an Iraqi grainstorm is a bad thing all around, and that the ghosts of Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack are hovering over them like Bruno Ganz and whatsisname in Wings of Desire and quietly pleading that they do the right thing.”
The irony is that I’ll probably buy this sucker later this evening. I know a store that sells Blurays prior to their street date.
It’s not that Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell flirted with witchcraft. A mildly creepy thing to admit, sure, but at least she was honest in doing so on Politically Incorrect in 1999. The problem is that O’Donnell explained it by saying that she “dabbled into witchcraft.” That’s a disqualifier right there. What else doesn’t she know how to correctly express?
Complete O’Donnell quote: “I dabbled into witchcraft. I hung around people who were doing these things. I’m not making this stuff up. I know what they told me they do. One of my first dates with a witch was on a satanic altar and I didn’t know it. I mean, there was a little blood there and stuff like that. We went to a movie and then had a little picnic on a satanic altar.”
Posted a month ago. Decent effort. A legit Tree of Life teaser could be easily assembled at this stage, of course, but the Fox Searchlight marketers (a) haven’t had the time to put it together and (b) have probably said to themselves, “What’s the hurry? We’re probably not putting it out until the fall of 2010 anyway.” You know what would be cool? A mid-summer counter-programming release in June or July.
This video would have worked a little bit better before Scott Pilgrim vs. The World had come out and bombed. Now with everyone on the planet understanding that Michael Cera has screwed the pooch and jumped the shark, it seems curious that any male actor would want to attend MCSA. What for? To double-down on chances of terminating his own career?
Presumably Ben Affleck‘s The Town (i.e., the weekend’s top film) has now been seen by a fair percentage of HE regulars. Did anyone find Rebecca Hall‘s character — a fetching, upstanding, kind-hearted bank officer — remotely believable? Particularly her immediate romantic embrace of Ben Affleck‘s amiable, blue-collar Charlestown shlub, particularly after he confesses that he’s a bank robber?
Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall in The Town
The script is basically about Affleck’s felon seeking a kind of redemption from Hall, but I didn’t believe a woman like her — cautious, business-suity, emotionally balanced — would pick an Irish lunchbox townie as her main squeeze, much less stay with him after learning he’s a criminal sociopath.
I touched upon this in my initial 9.9 review from the Toronto Film Festival.
Single women in the banking industry are exposed to (and therefore have a decent shot at hooking up with) yuppie professional types with much higher potential incomes than most Charlestown chowderheads. And a woman like Hall would certainly run in the opposite direction once she realizes the guy is a hair-trigger adolescent who doesn’t get that armed robbery is going to destroy his life in record time, and who is blind to this realization because he believes that being tight and close with townie pallies is more important than any kind of rational evaluation of priorities. I mean, c’mon.
A woman who would be able to roll with Affleck and his manic, self-destructive lifestyle would have to be a little bit manic and self-destructive herself — it’s that simple. A woman like Hall would have never gotten a job as a bank officer if she had emotional makeup that would allow for falling in love with a sociopathic edge-junkie chowderhead — it’s also that simple. This is why The Town, which is fairly well made and obviously jolting from time to time, didn’t work for me. I’d love to hear how it could work for anyone.
The high-throttle dialogue in The Social Network is, for me, a key reason why it works as well as it does. As I wrote last Monday night, David Fincher‘s film is like “His Girl Friday on Adderall.” It’s also spoken with the same rapidity that Ken Russell chose for 1980’s Altered States (a decision, incidentally, that so angered screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky he removed his name from the credits).
(l.) Social Network star Jesse Eisenberg, (r.) Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg
The reason for the pacing of The Social Network, in any event, is explained in Mark Harris‘s New York article (“Inventing Facebook”) about the forthcoming Sony release.
“[Aaron] Sorkin‘s shooting script was 162 pages,” Harris writes. “Using normal one-page-equals-one-minute Hollywood calculus, [this] would have yielded a two-hour-and-42-minute film instead of the one Fincher made, which clocks in at a fleet two hours, not including closing credits.
“After Sony looked at the draft and told them they’d have to cut the script, [director David] Fincher says he and Sorkin went back to his office, ‘and I took out my iPhone and put the little stopwatch on and handed the script to Aaron and said, ‘Start reading.’ He was done in an hour and 59 minutes. I called the studio back and said, ‘No, we can do this. If we do it the way Aaron just spoke it, it’ll be two hours.’
“Sorkin’s and Fincher’s confidence was boosted when they watched Jesse Eisenberg’s audition. Eisenberg, 26, who has become, in The Squid and the Whale, Zombieland and Adventureland, something of a specialist in motor-mouthed, sharp-minded, neurotic young men, put himself on a QuickTime video reading a scene as Zuckerberg.
“Sorkin’s characters, says Fincher, ‘are people who need to work their way through the kelp beds of their own thought processes on their way to the exact idea they’ve been trying to find.’ And Eisenberg was ‘the first person who could do Sorkin better than Sorkin. He can just flat-out fly. You can see in his eyes that he’s searching for the best way to articulate something in the middle of articulating two other things.”
“Other actors, however, didn’t find those familiar rhythms until they were in the presence of the screenwriter. When Justin Timberlake, who plays an impish, diabolical version of Napster founder and early Facebook partner Sean Parker, auditioned, he read opposite Sorkin, who was playing the role of Zuckerberg.
“‘It was awesome,’ says Timberlake. ‘Aaron writes like he speaks, so when you say his words, you hear his voice in your head a little, dry and witty. And in the audition, when I heard him say his words, I thought, Oh, so that‘s how fast this screenplay of 100,000 pages is gonna go by!'”