I’m hearing an idea that the departure of White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers, announced a couple of hours ago, had something to do with a recent Washington, D.C. screening of Charles Ferguson‘s Inside Job (Sony Classic, 10.8). I don’t even know for sure if there was a recent D.C. screening. The Sony Classics guys aren’t picking up.
Inside Job charts all the Wall Street gambling and thievery that went on for years starting with the Reagan administration and particularly during the eight years of Dubya, and then makes a persuasive case that Summers, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and other Obama administration bigwigs who strongly supported and heavily profited from the Wild West derivative speculations that primarily caused the 2008 crash can hardly be trusted to accurately diagnose, much less correct, the nation’s financial troubles.
It sounds like a bit of a reach, but I love the idea that Inside Job might have been at least a partial factor in Summer’s departure, which of course is a very good thing. I’m supposing that there might have been a concern that anti-Obama candidates would latch onto the film’s assertions as a way to beat up Summers and thereby underline the claim that Wall Street bad guys are shaping and organizing the Obama administration’s financial policy. In any event: Ding Dong, the Warlock Is Dead.
Is there a more admirable personal trait than to show you’re not a fair-weather friend? So here’s to you, Beaver director Jodie Foster, regarding your statement to MORE’s Sheila Weller about Mel Gibson: “When you love a friend, you don’t abandon them when they are struggling. Of course, Mel is an undeniably gifted actor and director, and The Beaver is one of his most powerful and moving performances. But more importantly, he is and has been a true and loyal friend. I hope I can help him get through this dark moment.”
HE to Summit’s Rob Friedman: There’s no sensible reason on earth to keep The Beaver out of theatres. A CBS/Vanity Fair poll reported last month that Joe Popcorn has no significant issues with the guy. It’s just the Hollywood culture (or certain elements with it) telling you to indefinitely postpone this film. Please — grow some cojones to match Ms. Foster’s and release The Beaver already. A platform release in December, and then open it wide in early February. Or forget a 2010 release and debut it at Sundance 2011.
The best liberal neck-rub of the day is Peter Beinart‘s Daily Beast article predicting that Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell, Rand Paul and the purist Teabag contingent are going to push the conservative agenda to such a rightist extreme that the 2012 election will be a disaster for Republicans in the same way the candidacy of the ultra-liberal George McGovern (beautiful man! should have been elected!) destroyed mainstream Democratic hopes in 1972.
“It may seem odd to talk of a blowout Republican defeat in 2012, when the GOP is headed for a blowout victory in 2010. But it is precisely the over-interpretation of the latter that could produce the former. When the dust from this massive recession settles, it will be clear that America is not moving right; it is moving left because America’s fastest-growing demographic groups reside on the center-left. Hold on, Republican moderates — you may be poised for a big comeback in 2016.”
Here comes another immensely shallow but entirely honest statement from yours truly. The instant I clapped eyes on those mid-1800s women’s bonnets in those stills from Kelly Reichardt‘s Meek’s Cutoff, I said to myself, “I’m going to figure some way of avoiding this film for as long as I can.” I suspected it would be a quality-level thing because Reichardt’s Wendy and Lucy proved she’s a talented, dead-serious director. Attracted to downer-type women-facing-tough-odds stories, okay, and not exactly into narrative propulsion, but Reichardt’s films require respect and attention.
And I didn’t care. I was going to avoid Meek’s Cutoff any way I could for as long as I could because I don’t like the gloomy symbolism of floppy bonnets on pioneer women’s heads. To me bonnets spell sexual repression and constipation and tight facial muscles. They suggest the existence of a strict social code (i.e, the film takes place in 1845) that I don’t want to sample or get close to because I know it’s all about men with awful face-whiskers and the wearing of starched collars and keeping everything buried and smothered and buttoned-up among the wimmin folk.
So congratulations to Meek’s Cutoff for having been voted Best Narrative Film in Indiewire’s Toronto International Film Festival poll. It’s important for films like this to get the smarty-pants seal of approval from indie-friendly elites. God, am I not looking forward to this film! I have to get past this — I realize that. I will get past this. I may, in fact, be getting past it as I write this.
Here’s a little background on the Meek’s Cutoff.
I know all these Social Network posts are getting tiresome and that they may inspire a backlash of some kind (though I can’t imagine this happening), but Miami Herald critic Rene Rodriguez has written the following “little blog post” called “The Best Movie of the Year? Probably”:
“I know it’s only September and a lot of Oscar-hopeful films are yet to unspool, but I doubt I’ll see a better movie this year…screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who can start making room on his mantle for an Oscar right now, has taken the story of Mark Zuckerberg, who created the Facebook website while a sophomore at Harvard University, and turned it into a resonant snapshot of our time — the way social class and structure have mutated in the Internet era, the me-first attitude of contemporary business ethics and entrepreneurship.
“The Social Network, which is all dialogue but is paced as rapidly as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, is also the first detailed screen portrait of Generation Y — people born between 1982 and 1995 — and their views on career, money, relationships and their responsibility, if any, to society.
“The movie is recognizably Fincher (Harvard is lit like a dungeon) but the director’s editing rhythm is much faster and more dynamic than usual, and he gets compelling performances out of Jesse Eisenberg, who captures Mark Zuckerberg’s profound emotional dislocation, Andrew Garfield as Zuckerberg’s college roommate and business partner Eduardo Severin, and Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker, the Napster founder who wormed his way into the Facebook enterprise as the website was beginning to take off.”
I love how Justin Chang‘s Variety review of The Social Network — a rave — notes that “the mile-a-minute line delivery recall[s] the verbally dexterous comedies of Howard Hawks and Paddy Chayefsky.” On 9.18 I wrote that “the high-throttle dialogue in David Fincher‘s film is “like His Girl Friday on Adderall,” and “spoken with the same rapidity that Ken Russell chose for 1980’s Altered States,” which was written by Chayefsky.
Some Chang tidbits:
“Moving like a speedboat across two hours of near-nonstop talk, scribe Aaron Sorkin‘s blow-by-blow deconstruction of how Harvard computer whiz Mark Zuckerberg (and friends) stumbled on a multibillion-dollar phenomenon continues Fincher’s fascinating transition from genre filmmaker extraordinaire to indelible chronicler of our times.
“To those who initially scoffed at the notion of anyone, much less the director of Seven and Fight Club, making an interesting film about the internet’s most ubiquitous social-networking site, Fincher has delivered a terrifically entertaining rejoinder…it’s great to see the director engaging the zeitgeist in a film that offers the old-school satisfactions of whip-smart dialogue, meaty characterizations and an unflagging sense of momentum.
“Sorkin’s most significant adjustment [to the source material] is to provide Jessie Eisenberg‘s Mark Zuckerberg with a fictional girlfriend and, thus, a very human motive for the actions that eventually spawned Facebook. The five-minute opening sequence, a brilliantly sustained volley of insults between Mark and Elaine (Rooney Mara) that ends with the former getting dumped, establishes the film’s style.
“Fincher’s direction is a model of coherence and discipline, relying on the traditional virtues of camera placement and editing to tell the story, and never resorting to any of the stylistic gimmicks the subject matter would seem to invite; Facebook itself is shown fleetingly, a decision consistent with the film’s suspicious attitude toward the whole enterprise. Helmer proves more attentive to nuances of Ivy League culture, in which students must reconcile the pressure to fit in with the drive to get ahead, as well as the irony of the socially inept Mark (‘This guy doesn’t have three friends to rub together,’ someone notes) somehow masterminding the world’s biggest online gathering.
“More than anything else, The Social Network is a feast of great talk — scintillating propositions, withering put-downs, improbably witty comebacks — and as such, it doesn’t always know when to quit. But the film is rescued from archness by the humanity of its principals, whom Fincher refuses to exalt or demonize.”
“Still, it’s Eisenberg’s picture. The young actor’s nebbishy persona found a consummate vessel in the role of Mark, and his bone-dry sarcasm lends almost every moment a tetchy, unpredictable comic energy. A shifty-eyed creep whose motives can’t be reduced to a simple yearning for fame and fortune, Mark may be an ‘asshole,’ as he’s called throughout, but as Eisenberg beautifully displays in his rare tongue-tied moments, he’s not entirely without conscience.”
Yesterday afternoon a reportedly dark and murky-looking presentation of David Fincher‘s The Social Network was shown to Boston-area critics at the AMC Boston Commons plex. The reason for the far-from-optimum screening, to go by information provided by two top-level projection consultants, is that the film, beautifully shot by Jeff Cronenweth, was (a) diminished by being projected through a Sony SRX-R220 or SRX-R320 4K digital projector, and (b) more specifically by a decision by AMC execs not to swap out 3D lenses when showing 2D movies, which produces a much darker image.
Sony’s SRX-R220 (or SRX-R320) 4K digital projector
The bottom line is that a major award-quality film that’s been beautifully lighted and captured with a digital RED camera by a world-class cinematographer (I’ve seen The Social Network projected correctly at Sony’s Manhattan screening room) was presented as a dark and diminished thing — nothing close to what is makers would prefer — because of decisions by AMC executives to (a) use Sony’s digital 3D projectors, which are not favored by high-end projection consultants, and (b) save money by not paying for a special field technician to switch out their 3D lenses for 2D ones.
2:55 pm update: A Sony rep is saying that “it was a projectionist error and we are setting a new screening as soon as possible for those who attended.”
This episode fortifies AMC’s reputation as an exhibitor chain renowned for substandard projection, a company “that has been dumbing down their projection booths since the word ‘go'” (as one consultant puts it). It also explains why one consultant refers to the AMC acronym as standing for “Amateur Movie Company” or — this is my favorite — “All Movies Compromised.”
What should distributors do to bypass the problem? A Boston-area professional I spoke to a little while ago says one solution is to insist that all critics screenings show 35mm prints instead of digital. That way (a) the whole 3D lens switchout problem wouldn’t be a factor. and (b) you wouldn’t be showing 35mm prints on 3D-friendly silver screens, which diminish light levels by their own design when 2D films are shown.
Two projection consultants asked to be anonymous. A third, Chapin Cutler of Boston Light and Sound, concurred with the views of the first two and provided a brief on-the-record quote. Here’s how they all explained it:
Projection Consultant #1: “What we’re dealing with is a very tragic consequence that stems from the use of Sony SRX-R220 or SRX-R320 4K projectors. Showing 2D films through a 3D lens results in a projected image that I would have to call wretched…very poor resolution and contrast. The reason the lenses haven’t been swapped out is that you have to hire a field technician to come in and swap them out. It’s a highly involved process that takes about an hour, and it’s not cheap.
“The culprit is the Sony 4K projector, which in my opinion shows 4K in name only. It’s my understanding that producers were very upset to learn that both AMC and Regal have signed on with Sony’s projection system, which uses what is known as a liquid crystal on silicon (LCoS) imaging process. The problem is that it doesn’t produce sufficient color uniformity, limited screen illumination and poor contrast.”
Projection Consultant #2: “You never want to project a film on a silver screen unless you have to [i.e., for 3D purposes]. I’m sure that AMC executives made the decision not to swap out the 3D lens because it’s big and heavy and expensive to switch. Our clients are told to go with Barco, Christie DLP or NEC digital 3D projection systems, which don’t require swap-outs at all. Sony’s LCoS — liquid crystal on silicon — is an alternate system to DLP digital projection. I hope things get better, but with AMC involved I’m not holding my breath.”
Chapin Cutler, Boston Light and Sound: “It’s not unusual for theatre owners not to change out the lenses for special screenings of non-3D films for a single press screening….the way this is handled is that distributors will usually cover the cost of paying for the [lens] switch-out…it’s a little little unusual than Sony didn’t do this.” Cutler agrees that showing films to critics in 35mm would of course bypass the issues described in this article, but he added two points: (a) “35mm projection has been getting pretty grim [in commercial theatres] lately because they’re saying, well, why invest and keep them up if we’re going to dump film in two or three years?” and (b) “Sometmes distributors won’t go to the expense of making a 35mm print if they think the film is not complete, so if Mr. Fincher was still tweeking [The Social Network] they would have waited on that.”
Popeater‘s Rob Shuter has filed some unsettling but probably accurate comments about the situation behind Michael Douglas‘s non-verbal appearance at last night’s Wall Street 2 premiere. Thinking about Douglas’s situation makes me shudder and tremble. I’d rather focus on a thought that came to mind last night as I re-considered his Gordon Gekko performance, which is that in one particular scene Douglas does deliver in an award-quality way.
Shia LeBeouf, Michael Douglas, Carey Mulligan at last night’s Wall Street 2 premiere at the Zeigfeld. (Photo by AP’s Evan Agostini.]
I recognize that I may be allowing sentiment to color my judgment to some extent, but I know for certain that Douglas’s moment with Carey Mulligan — a scene on the steps of Manhattan’s Metropolitan Museum during a big party — is a bring-it-homer. It’s the best thing in the film, I feel, and an acting moment that’s coming from a deep-down place. Douglas is obviously using his personal history as a negligent dad (which he’s copped to regarding his son Cameron, who’s now incarcerated following a drug-dealing conviction), and it’s clearly a no-bullshit moment. Mea culpa, I screwed up, I need a break.
I wish Wall Street 2 had afforded Douglas more opportunities along these lines. He’s very comfortable strutting around in Gekko’s skin, and he has the ‘tude and the patter down cold. Plus there’s something about him that feels weary and slumped, a spiritual characteristic in his eyes and skin and graying hair. It’s hard to express but you feel for the guy. I did, at least. I guess I’m saying that I didn’t full appreciate how good Douglas is when I saw the film in Cannes, or that my critical pores are more open to him now with the bad news and all.
Shuter writes that Douglas “exuded a quiet but resolute presence Monday night as he walked the red carpet at the New York premiere of his new movie, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. [But] sources close to the legendary actor tell me he is riddled with fear and finding it difficult to talk.
“‘It’s cancer, of course he is frightened,’ a friend of Michael’s tells me. ‘He’s 65 years old and has everything to live for. His career couldn’t be better and his personal life with beautiful wife, Catherine [Zeta Jones] and kids Dylan and Cary, couldn’t be more perfect. Now this has come along and knocked the entire family off its feet.”
“Michael, who had a difficult time seeing his older son Cameron sentenced to five years in jail for dealing drugs earlier this summer, finally thought the worst was behind him, sources tell me. And then the cancer diagnosis happened.
“‘He’s had an intensive course of radiation and chemotherapy to treat a tumor in his throat,’ an insider tells me. ‘It’s left him feeling very tired and sometimes finding it very difficult to even speak. In a few weeks, we fear he won’t be able to eat or swallow.’
“At the premiere, Michael rushed past photographers, not stopping to pose for many pictures. He also rushed past the many TV crews and reporters without saying a word — making everyone wonder just how well the star was really doing.
“‘He is in a no-win situation,’ a studio source tells me. ‘If Michael didn’t show up, everyone would be talking about him. Yet at the same time if he did show up, the press would see for themselves that he isn’t doing so great.'”
Wall Street 2 after-party at Cipriani — Monday, 9.20, 10:40 pm. Back-facing blonde is Carey Mulligan; chat companion is 20th Century Fox Filmed Entertainment chairman Tom Rothman. Other attendees: Oliver Stone, Josh Brolin, Tillman Story director Amir Bar Lev. Michael Douglas was at the premiere but not the party, or not so I noticed. I didn’t see Shia LaBeouf at Cipriani either.
Wall Street 2 costar and Death Proof superstar Vanessa Ferlito, who not only holds her own but delivers a series of neat pocket-drop moments in Oliver Stone’s drama. Legendary performance (including a world-class lapdance sequence with Kurt Russell) in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. Brooklyn-born, single mom, three-year-old son. Currently “chillin'” — choosy about parts. Bright, modest — a very likable. very cool lady.
20th Century Fox honcho Tom Rothman, Wall Street 2 costar Carey Mulligan.
Cipriani on 42nd Street, the site of last night’s Wall Street 2 party, is a dazzling calming cathedral — titanic-sized, old-world flavor. One reason I wasn’t sufficiently camera-aggressive is that I couldn’t get over the astonishing size of the place, and particularly the beautiful curtains and columns and soft, candle-like amber light. Either you embrace your inner paparazzi or you don’t, and I couldn’t quite go there.