Swinging like Spider-Man from the top of a Mumbai skyscraper for a shot in Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol is a ballsy thing. But will anyone who hasn’t seen this video believe, when they see the finished film, that Tom Cruise actually hung his ass over the side? These days seeing is not believing. Every ambitious action shot or complex composition is presumed to have been CG’ed to some extent. Nobody believes anything.
To paraphrase Lee Strasberg‘s Hyman Roth from The Godfather, Part II, “This is the sensibility we’ve chosen.” Ben Stiller movie #1, the subversive and brilliant Greenberg, opened earlier this year and made $4,234.170. On 12.22 Ben Stiller movie #2, Little Fockers, will open and probably make eight or ten times that amount the first weekend. Let’s hear it for formulaic sitcom baby food!
I learned three things from attending last night’s Manhattan premiere of Paul Haggis‘s The Next Three Days (Lionsgate, 11.19). One, it’s a well-assembled thriller about the brutal trauma that comes from crossing over into lawlessness. Two, Brian Dennehy, who portrays Russell Crowe‘s father, delivers the most moving scene in the film, and with only one word: “Goodbye.” And three, someone or something has persuaded Crowe that I’m okay. We’ve never conversed, but he called out my name and offered his hand as he left the after-party at the Plaza’s Oak Bar.
(l. to r.) The Next Three Days director-cowriter Paul Haggis, wife Deborah Rennard, and his dad, Ted Haggis.
The authorities are quite intimidating in this thing. Over and over the story says, “If you’ve done something and maybe even if you haven’t, the cops are motivated and fierce and omnipotent, and they will find you and cuff you.” I was disappointed that Liam Neeson is onl in one scene. I would have preferred to see Neeson partnering with Crowe in order help spring Elizabeth Banks from prison instead of Crowe going it alone. There’s a glaring WTF moment in the third act involving something that Banks does during a crucial action moment, but this, for me, was the only significant speed-bump.
Legendary director Werner Herzog, who’s not exactly Pete Hammond when it comes to chatting up awards-season hopefuls, will conduct an interview with Biutiful director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu this coming Sunday at 7 pm at the DGA Theater on Sunset. Here’s hoping that Roadside Attractions captures it all on video and then posts on YouTube in segments. Right away, I mean.
(l.) Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, (r.) Werner Herzog
The blogger consensus out of last night’s AFIFest screening of David O. Russell‘s The Fighter is that Christian Bale is a lock for Best Supporting Actor, and that the film itself has a fighting chance for a Best Picture nomination. Mark Wahlberg, they’re saying, may not make the cut as a Best Actor contender, but that’s okay because the movie pleases and engages and looks like an across-the-board hit (i.e., snooties + Eloi).
“As far as The Fighter‘s awards potential is concerned, Best Picture is more of a probability than a possibility now that most of the contenders have been screened for critics. Paramount is still testing everyone’s patience by holding True Grit like a carrot over critics’ heads, but give the studio credit for a shrewd marketing move with its AFI surprise.
“Best Actor is, to be perfectly honest, going to be difficult for Wahlberg, but I wouldn’t count him out just yet, as I expect the film to be warmly embraced by both critics and audiences alike. Like I said, it’s not a showy role for Wahlberg, and some of my colleagues argued last night that Bale was more of a co-lead, but Wahlberg was the 4th or 5th Departed cast member who I thought should’ve been nominated for an Oscar and yet his performance was the only one recognized by the Academy, so who knows?
“While Wahlberg may not give a ‘great, iconic screen performance,’ as former Variety critic Todd McCarthy wrote of Mickey Rourke‘s work in The Wrestler, his years of training and preparation for the role result in a surprisingly quiet and restrained performance that ranks amongst the best of Wahlberg’s career (I’m tempted to call it his best but Boogie Nights is pretty epic).”
Bale “might well walk away with the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor this year,” says In Contention‘s Kris Tapley. “He’s mercilessly precise, committed and authentic as Ward’s crack-addicted half-brother, Dickie Eklund, a former next-big-thing boxer who blew his chances and lives life vicariously through Ward. The film mostly concerns itself with that sibling relationship and finds its most profound notes of grace therein, and Bale is really something to behold throughout.
“I’d say we’re looking at a solid contender for a Best Picture nomination. The film played like gangbusters and I’ve heard from numerous critical minds responding likewise, so erase all doubt. The Fighter is here to play, and what a coup for Paramount to have this dual reveal to the populace and industry alike. It was smart to eschew the typical festival strategy. This is a film meant to hit and hit big.
The piece by Deadline‘s Pete Hammond doesn’t really say if he truly admired it. For me calling a film a “vivid and colorful crowd pleaser” feels like a slight hedge. A circus act with elephants and lions can be vivid and colorful, and crowds can be easy to please if that’s all you want to do (as opposed to accomplishing something really special and/or unique in terms of new territory).
“The crowd ate it up” — the film, Hammond means — “and seemed to be with Wahlberg all the way. The supporting cast is rich, too, including choice roles for Melissa Leo as Micky’s mother/manager, and Amy Adams as his tough bartender girlfriend. Bale is terrific. He’ll go up for supporting actor, while Wahlberg will go for lead. All have real shots for this vivid and colorful crowd pleaser.
“Although The Fighter could be classified as a boxing picture, it’s [essentially] a character study of two very different brothers and spends much of its time defining that rocky relationship,” Hammond adds.
Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson says Bale “risks going too far with his druggie extrovert, but he slowly wins us over. He seems to excel when he’s dieted and sweated out every ounce of fat on his frame. He should land a supporting nomination; it would be his first.
“Will The Fighter make the best picture top ten? If all goes right (reviews/box office/critics and guild prizes), it’s possible. [But] it’s the actors shine in this, and should be rewarded.”
Hollywood Elsewhere believes in the Toronto Film Festival-to-Oscar night cycle as much as anyone else, and probably more than most. But let’s reiterate once again, as I do every year at this time, that while Oscar night is the climax — the event that delivers the stamp of history — it mainly feels like an anti-climax, or has felt that way, it has seemed, to more and more readers because the final preferences of the slow-to-awaken Academy parochials are not (and never will be) the stuff that shakes the rafters.
The Oscars only ignite when a big shocker happens — Crash beating Brokeback Mountain, The Pianist taking the Oscar for Best Director and Best Updated Screenplay and nearly(?) toppling Chicago — or when history is made like The Hurt Locker‘s Kathryn Bigelow becoming the first woman to take the Best Director Oscar. Otherwise they mainly confirm what we’ve all been kicking around for months and have all known was coming, etc.
You want interesting? Exciting? It’s us. We’re it. Our daily advocating-and-arguing entanglement and the unruly storms that follow. Filmmakers and distributors and the general community of film lovers repped on this site, I mean, and others like it. People who care much, much more about movies, and for far more interesting and compelling reasons, than the lazy-ass Academy default-thinkers.
The Academy and the Oscars comprise the Big Classic Narrative…fine. And it’s obviously what drives the award-season economy and thank God for that, but we’re the show. Hell, we’re the payoff. Right now, here, tomorrow, next week, last month in Toronto and Telluride and Venice and what may or may not have happened last night during the AFI Fest showing of The Fighter .
The best thing about awards season — the thing that really and truly matters — is the debate and the rancor and (apologies for alluding to a certain 1957 Stanley Kramer film) the pride and the passion. For Don Logan it was “the bolt and the buzz…the sheer fuck-all of it,” and for people like me (and presumably the bulk of HE’s readership) it’s the movies and the conversation and the wrestling, even, about cinematic and cultural and political values that delivers the excitement and the “meaning” and the memories.
It’s the daily “this is what moves me” and therefore “this is who I am or who we might be or could be” that floats the boat. These are the days of judgment and celebration, and it doesn’t get any better than right now, this moment, the digital travelling roadshow that thousands (or tens of thousands) of us are pushing along in different ways.
The serious multitudes and the Really Big Money kick in when the critics groups and the nominations and finally the Oscar show itself occur — I obviously get that — and yet a little part of me groaned slightly when I read Sasha Stone‘s state of the race piece this morning. She’s my Oscar Poker partner and I love her, but she’s so spelled by Academy mythology you want to tap her on the shoulder or more appropriately give her a hug and say, “Sasha…it’s not about an ABC telecast next February, or those extremely nice and likable sheep who vote. It’s about you and me and all of us. We love the Oscars and the dough but let’s not forget what matters. We matter. We’re it. We’re the jugglers and acrobats and trapeze artists and lion-tamers. We are Jumbo.”
Or, to further belabor the point, the foreplay and the build-up are where the real fun is. The Oscars are the rote orgasm. I’m more of a Kama Sutra man myself.
Harrison Ford was deadpan amusing on Letterman Monday night, but reality may as well be faced: Morning Glory isn’t drawing universal hossanahs. And yet — and yet! — Salon‘s Andrew OHehir is totally down with it, and O’Hehir is no easy lay so put that in your pipe.
“Am I reading way too much symbolism and subtext into a brightly colored Hollywood comedy that rips off the Mary Tyler Moore Manhattan TV-girl story for about the 46th time?,” O’Hehir asks. “Maybe, kind of — but not really.
“Morning Glory is worth your attention amid the overcrowded fall movie calendar precisely because it was directed with love and imagination by Roger Michell, a talented British filmmaker who’s been kicking around the margins of the industry since he clicked with Notting Hill 11 years ago. This is a brash, lightweight backstage comedy that looks lovely, doesn’t insult its audience and uses its stars, both young and old, to terrific effect.
“Despite the presence of Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton, who are highly enjoyable as the dueling co-hosts who represent Rachel McAdams’ hail-Mary attempt to save a morning infotainment show called ‘Daybreak,’ the movie belongs to McAdams.
:She’s gotten to stardom a bit late, given the pitiless march of time for women in Hollywood (McAdams turns 32 this month), but after Sherlock Holmes and The Time Traveler’s Wife, this skillful Canadian comedienne seems determined to make the most of it. I use that old-fashioned noun for a reason, since McAdams has clearly gone to school on some of the great comic actresses of film and TV history. It’s invidious to compare young women to Audrey Hepburn, but McAdams has a dash of Audreyness, to go along with doses of Lucille Ball, Doris Day and, let us note, one of the greatest of all graceful WASP klutzes in movie history, who happens to be her co-star herein.
“It takes impressive command of voice, body and demeanor to play a character who’s as awkward and tightly wound as Becky Fuller, and more still to make her seem appealing rather than scary or desperate. OK, she is a little desperate; after Becky gets cashiered at a second-rate local morning show in New Jersey, her mom (Patti D’Arbanville, very good in a teensy role) gently tells her that her long-standing dream to work at the Today show is on the rocks. When she finally gets an interview with a New York studio exec (the ever-wonderful Jeff Goldblum, who as usual nails every line without appearing to care), she pitches him with so much up-with-people, believe-in-me, spring-loaded force she virtually topples from her chair. ‘Are you going to sing now?’ Goldblum asks.
“Indeed, McAdams is so much fun to watch it almost wouldn’t matter what happens in the movie, but Michell and screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna (The Devil Wears Prada) keep the pretty pictures, the R-rated dialogue and the backstage histrionics coming fast and furious.”