Salon‘s Matt Zoller Seitz feels that The Hangover 2 cast is guilty of hypocrisy (or certainly inconsistency) for shunning Mel Gibson while giving a wink and a pass to Mike Tyson, who cameo’ed in the first Hangover film. And that Hollywood itself has pulled the same crap by looking the other way when it came to the transgressions of Alec Baldwin, Elia Kazan, Charlie Sheen, Kate Moss, Roman Polanski and Lindsay Lohan.
“I don’t care how horrendously a person behaves behind closed doors,” Seitz writes. “Knowing what swine they are informs but does not veto my appreciation of their work, if in fact I appreciate that work to begin with, and even if I don’t, the gossip, arrest reports and tortured personal history add flavor to what I know, or think I know, about what such people do and represent. But the private melodrama never becomes the whole story for me — partly because of that whole, pesky ‘judge not lest ye be judged’ thing, but also because when we feast on these headlines, we’re treating selective knowledge as the whole story.
“We have no idea whether Tyson, Gibson, Baldwin, Lohan, Moss or anyone else are truly among the worst-behaved creative types in the entertainment industry, or just the ones that happened to get caught.”
I just want to be a perfect web columnist, so on a certain level I can relate to Natalie Portman‘s Black Swan character. But if I’d designed the Nina website, I’d include a reference to her Aunt Carole, who did two decades of medical confinement in England after killing two men with a straight razor.
In a 9.15 Toronto Film Festival review, I wrote that John Cameron Mitchell‘s Rabbit Hole “isn’t half bad. A little better than that actually. It may, in fact, begin to penetrate as a Best Picture contender down the road. It contains Nicole Kidman‘s best acting in a long while, and Aaron Eckhart, as her emotionally subdued husband, has his best part since his amiable biker guy in Erin Brockovich.
Rabbit Hole “is a restrained/contained middle-class grief drama in the vein of Ordinary People (i.e., dead son), and yes, it does seem curious (although perfectly fine and allowable) that Mitchell has made such a quietly effective MOR drama without so much as an allusion to wang sandwiches or semen facials or that line of country.
“David Lindsay-Abaire‘s screenplay (based on his play) never lays it on too thick, but doesn’t hold back too much either. It’s a process drama about keeping the trauma buried or at least suppressed, and about how it comes out anyway — a little hostility here and there, odd alliances and connections, a little hash smoking (a la American Beauty), stabs at organized grief therapy, questions of whether to keep or get rid of the son’s toys.
“It finally explodes in a bracing argument scene between Kidman and Eckhart, and then it subsides again and comes back and loop-dee-loops and finally settles down into a kind of acceptance between them. Not a peace treaty as much as an understanding that overt hostilities will cease.
“A few people applauded at the end of this afternoon’s press screening. I haven’t heard any clapping at all at any TIFF press screenings so far, so this probably means something.
“There’s a wonderful scene in which a Kidman disses a group-therapy couple who’ve also lost a child. They’re sharing the notion that God has a plan and He needed their child so he could have an extra angel in heaven, blah blah, and Kidman just shoots that shit down like Sgt. York. Perfect
“The only jarring element in the whole enterprise is the casting of the chubby, big-boned, dark-haired Tammy Blanchard as Kidman’s sister. They don’t just look like they couldn’t be sisters or cousins — Blanchard doesn’t look like she’s from Kidman’s genetic family. She might as well be Aborigine for all the resemblance. The only explanation (and if it was offered I apologize for missing it) is that Blanchard was adopted or sired by a different dad than Kidman’s. Their mother is played by the always spot-on Dianne Weist.
“Is Rabbit Hole a Best Picture contender? With ten nominations, yeah. Any film that inspires critics to clap has a shot in this game. So I think it’s in there. It’s a very decently made film that, the Blanchard casting aside, never gets anything wrong, and gets a lot of things right. It’s not in the class of The Social Network or Black Swan or Let Me In or Biutiful, but it’s a well honed, entirely respectable, honestly affecting drama.
“Sandra Oh gives a fine performance (her best since Sideways) also as a divorcee whom Eckhardt develops a certain interest in.”
Who wants to see a revolt-of-the-robots movie called Robopocalypse? Show of hands? I personally don’t think the title has enough syllables. It’s not hard enough to pronounce. Why not call it Robopoppadiddypopalypse? (Nine being better than five, right?) Like it or not, this will be the next high-crank, super-wank popcorn movie from the billionaire hack known as Steven “Abe Who?” Spielberg.
The book it’ll be based upon, written by Daniel H. Wilson, won’t be out until next June, but it’s obviously a Transformers-type deal aimed at 13 year-olds with the once-great Spielberg, a guy who used to make films that at least sounded semi-original, picking up discarded Reese’s Pieces dropped in the forest by Michael Bay and James Cameron, whose “war against the machines” in T2 sounds fairly similar.
TheWrap‘s Jeff Sneider reports that shooting will commence after Spielberg finishes his War Horse movie and after The Adventure of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn has been released and after Spielberg has arranged for all his checks to be sent to the right bank accounts and signed off on all his merchandising deals.
Box-Office Mojo is reporting that The Tree of Life, that dysfunctional ’50s Texas family + dinosaurs movie from The Artist Known As Mr. Cuckoo Bird, and costarring slightly younger versions of Sean Penn and Brad Pitt than the ones that currently exist, will open stateside on 5.27.11. This will be just a few days after the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, which of course raises expectations that the film will debut there.
What are the chances that The Artist Known As Mr. Cuckoo Bird will attend said festival? It’s a given he won’t show up at the press conference, but will be stay at the Hotel du Cap and send out smoke signals from some remote location on the grounds? What are the chances that publicists for Fox Searchlight, distributor of The Tree of Life, will do what they can to actively prevent journalists from speaking to or even seeing Mr. Cuckoo Bird? Will Mr. Cuckoo Bird give interviews in the manner of Banksy in Exit From The Gift Shop, wearing a hoodie with his voice electronically altered?
Last night’s screening of Paranormal Activity 2 at the Regal Union Square went pretty well. I was riveted at all times, as was the woman who sat next to me who was going “uhmm-hmm” or “whoa-hoa” and so on throughout the film. I love the technique of using security cameras to catch the spooky stuff without embellishments.
But I must report that some guys were booing at the end. They felt it was too dry and cryptic/ They felt that it failed to tie things together and bring tit all home, so they rebelled. “Booooo! Booooo!”. Sorry, but that’s what happened.
The best part of this trailer for Jan Tenhaven‘s Autumn Gold is the shot of a 100 year-old guy painting a nude model in her 20s. The idea, of course, is that no one has to succumb to “old age.” We can all be wily and spirited and loose right to the end. Clint Eastwood obviously gets this.
Gold has a showing on Saturday, 10.23, at Santa Monica’s Aero theatre as part of the German Currents Festival. It will also play the following day (10.24) at San Francisco’s Castro theatre as part of a series called “Berlin and Beyond.”
Almost all documentaries are about some historical event, recent or not, or some evolving socio-political trend. Banksy‘s Exit From The Gift Shop is therefore a serious standout because it’s an exceptionally perceptive film about art and culture as currently configured. It’s simultaneously about (a) how art, once the calling of a relatively select fraternity, is now open to anyone with energy and chutzpah, regardless of how good they may be, and (b) the fact that this is happening not only because art-world “taste” is devolving, but the standards and sensitivities of an entire culture.
Gift Shop, in short, is a really important film that’s about everything that’s going on right now, including the degradation of movies themselves. Which, given the generally behind-the-times, slow-on-the-pickup nature of the typical voter for Academy documentaries, means that Exit From The Gift Shop is looking at an uphill fight to even get on the doc shortlist. Naturally. Or so says TheWrap‘s Steve Pond, who’s written a piece that explains why.
The best explanation comes from blogger, cultural seer and co-chair of the CinemaEye Honors AJ Schnack. “The hardest thing for a film like Exit Through the Gift Shop will be getting onto the shortlist,” he tells Pond. “I expect it to get nominated if it gets on the shortlist, and if it gets nominated it could even win. But its biggest wall to climb will be getting on that shortlist.”
The reason, a documentarian says, is that “the people who are really doing the work are not the ones who vote. And the ones who do vote just don’t understand what’s going on in the field these days.”
As a result, says Schnack, the field is “stacked against docs that aren’t old-fashioned and traditional, at least in the early rounds.”
The basic conditions are as follows, Pond reports. (1) “Documentaries are judged by surprisingly few people”; (2) “The most active filmmakers are ineligible or unable to vote”; and (3) “The final slate of nominees is almost invariably made up of issue-oriented docs — to the exclusion of the odder, entertaining works that make the field so vital these days.”
“In mid-November, when the Academy releases its shortlist of feature docs that will remain in contention for the Oscar, it’s a near-certainty that some eminently deserving films will be left out.
Besides Exit From The Gift Shop, the “likeliest to be snubbed,” says Pond, are Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work and Catfish and Louder Than a Bomb. Wait — what’s Louder Than A Bomb?
The Academy has “made a lot of internal changes, and the system is definitely better than it used to be,” says Schnack, “but I would argue that the folks who are really contributing to the field, who are responsible for what’s really happening in non-fiction film these days, are not participating.”
Five years ago, at age 53, Liam Neeson had a rep as a soulful prestige-level actor (Schinder’s List, Husbands and Wives, Kinsey, Gun Shy) with a soothing Irish brogue. Then he started to take macho gravitas paycheck roles (Batman Begins, voicing the Narnia lion, Kingdom of Heaven). And then Taken — the biggest hit of his career — happened in ’08, and now he’s became a total paycheck popcorn-movie guy.
It’s gotten to the point, I’m afraid, that when I see Neeson’s face on a poster or in a trailer, I immediately say “okay, what’s this piece of shit?” Next to Neeson Harrison Ford looks like Jim Broadbent.
Chloe was painful. After.Life was agony. Clash of the Titans was 3D agony. The A-Team was mute nostril agony. And now Unknown, obviously a forgettable programmer. No one’s seen Paul Haggis‘s The Next Three Days, in which Neeson plays the desperado who helps Russell Crowe bust Elizabeth Banks out of jail, but the word from a recent exhibitor convention is that it’s somewhere between good, not bad and okay.
I’ll allow that ’09’s Five Minutes of Heaven wasn’t exploitive and tried to do it right, but it still wasn’t very good. I certainly don’t mean to criticize Neeson for wanting to provide for his kids, particularly in the wake of the death of his wife, Natasha Richardson, in a freak skiing accident last year. But I miss the Liam Neeson whose choice of roles didn’t make me wince or sigh with exasperation. I miss the guy from the early to mid ’90s.
Neeson actually had an earlier run of shit paycheck roles and macho bellowers in the late ’90s and early 21st Century when he made The Phantom Menace, The Haunting, Gangs of New York and Love Actually. Okay, there was also the eminently decent K:19 and the aforementioned Gun Shy — no shame in either of those.
Update: A tipster claims that Neeson’s role in The Next Three Days is miniscule. “He has a one-scene cameo…what you see in the trailer is pretty much his entire role.”
Clint Eastwood may not be up on the fake Jimmy Kimmel-Matt Damon feud, but apart from his thighs looking a little bony he looks and sounds terrific for an 80 year-old. That’s a result of fighting what naturally happens at that age with serious daily work-outs. On top of which brown suits can be lethal, as I explained in a recent riff about James Stewart‘s brown suit in Vertigo. And yet Clint looks good in his.