Anne Francis, an actress of the ’50s and ’60s who knew all about mascara and pizazz, passed on yesterday at an assisted living facility in Santa Barbara. Forbidden Planet, Blackboard Jungle, The Hired Gun, The Crowded Sky, etc. But who ever saw The Girl of the Night (’60)? One of her sassiest, most come-hither supporting performances was in John Sturges‘ Bad Day at Black Rock (’55).
Dennis Lim‘s dismissive little dissertation about the campy nature of Darren Aronofsky‘s Black Swan (“Is it anti-camp? Post-camp? Failed camp?”) expresses so completely what I despise about the ingrown toenail culture of too-cool-for-school film critics. It was posted on Slate on 12.29, but I only read it yesterday.
Aronofsky has made a ballet film with a ballet-performance and ballet-production attitude — gasping, highly theatrical, consumed, emotionally grandiose, contorted, half-hysterical — and with a clearly stated intention to echo the story of “Swan Lake.” What is there to misunderstand? It’s not calculus. Everything in the film is plain as day and yet arch and heightened and horror-film screwy, and all of a piece in a sort of mad-Polanski way. Either you levitate or you don’t.
I can just imagine Lim watching it in a theatre with a sour-faced, scrunched-up expression and wondering whether to call it “a dubious milestone in the mainstreaming of camp” or to state that it lacks the “tenderness” of camp, or to write “eew, what kind of camp is it? Is it ‘camp in quotation marks’ or ‘camp about camp’?” Or maybe to write all of this and go from there.
“Hardly naive and in no way coded,” Black Swan “is willful, overt, strenuous,” he writes. “It’s a high-profile movie that strains for respectability, a barefaced Oscar grab. Despite some diva catfights and lesbian sex, there’s not a queer bone in its body: Its derisive view of female ambition, its crude linking of art and madness, and the leering frenzy of its girl-on-girl fantasies are as familiar and banal — as straight — as can be.” [The italics are Lim’s.]
Wait — no “queer” bones? Unmistakably “straight”? Oh, I get it. I think. Wait…do I?
Vimeo is hosting a report from London’s ITV on Jamie Stuart‘s Idiot With A Tripod. Stuart has also launched a special Idiot page on his Mutiny Company site. The Oscar producers should hire Stuart to capture the preparation for the big show (meetings, rehearsals) and the concurrent boola-boola around Los Angeles, and then run his video on the AMPAS site as a year-round promotional thing.
My French Film Festival (January 14th through 29th) is a low-cost online film festival of ten French-produced films that haven’t a prayer of getting theatrical play in the States. Such a festival could play at MOMA or the Film Society of Lincoln Center, of course, but filmgoers aren’t nearly as queer for French films as they were in the ’60s and ’70s so online makes sense, and it’s brassy to offer these films not just to New Yorkers but the world.
The festival is the brainchild of uniFrance, and is being called a co-venture between uniFrance and Allocine with the support of the Centre National de la Cinematographie, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Alliance Francaise.
I’ve looked at all ten trailers , and it’s obvious that at least four have something extra: (a) Christopher Thompson‘s Bus Palladium, an ’80s rock-tour romantic drama that may have been influenced by Cameron Crowe‘s Almost Famous ; (b) Frederic Mermoud‘s Partners (Complices), winner of a best fiction film at the Chicago International Film Festival; (c) Leah Fehner‘s Silent Voices (Qu’un Seul Tienne Et Les Autres Suivront), which had a Venice Days slot in 2009; and (d) Patrick Mario Bernard & Pierre Tridivic‘s The Other One (L’Autre), a 2008 Venice Film Festival entry that won Dominique Blanc a Volpi Cup for Best Actress.
Manhattan’s Alliance Francaise will launch the festival with a screening of Bus Palladium on Thursday, 1.13, followed by a q & a with Christopher Thompson.
The trailers for the other films suggest either comme ci comme ca material or formulaic commercial lungings. The Eloi virus has spread throughout Europe, Asia…it rules so much of world cinema.
The how of My French Film Festival is fairly simple. Viewers will stream directly from www.myfrenchfilmfestival.com with no link to You Tube or Netflix or any other platform. It will all come directly from that site. You can choose individual films or the whole program. The site will be live in the next day or so, I’m told, with tons of extras; interviews, clips, trailers, etc. The trailers are on YouTube for promotional purposes and that’s all.
There’s some kind of fee structure for individual films but the festival as a whole is only 20 dollars for more than…what, 20 films? I thought it had ten. Whatever. Nice deal.
Charlotte Rampling in a still from All About Actresses.
Our little weekly podcast is now three and a half months old! New Year’s reflections (including the fact that I hate New Year’s Eve), True Grit inspections, Black Swan ‘s wack factor (and the $47 million gross so far), and a pop-quiz review of some of the films expected to be the hottest Oscar contenders of 2011. Here’s a non-iTunes link.
Several Wrap staffers have compiled a list of of 11 hot attractions/events in 2011. With the exception of Terrence Malick‘s The Tree of LIfe , the films they’ve chosen to highlight are enough to make anyone jump out of a 17th-floor window — Zack Snyder‘s Sucker Punch, fucking Thor, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Hangover 2, Green Lantern, Captain America: The First Avenger, Transformers 3, Cowboys & Aliens, the latest X-Men and the last Harry Potter flick. Oh, and they’re really excited about Snyder’s Superman movie, and the coming double dose of Steven Spielberg — Tintin and War Horse.
On 12.27 the Online Film Critics Society announced that Darren Aronofsky‘s Black Swan had gathered seven nominations, or more than any other contender. This hinted at the possibility of Swan also winning OFCS awards above and beyond the expected Natalie Portman win for Best Actress. Perhaps a Best Director win for Darren Aronofsky? Or a Best Picture trophy? I for one was ready and eager for something different to happen…please.
But today’s announcement of the winners delivered the same old usual-usual — The Social Network as Best Film, TSN‘s David Fincher for Best Director, The King’s Speech Colin Firth for Best Actor, Portman fpor Best Actress, The Fighter‘s Christian Bale for Best Supporting Actor and — okay, one surprise — True Grit‘s Hailee Steinfeld for Best Supporting Actress.
Plus Inception‘s Chris Nolan winning for Best Original Screenplay and TSN’s Aaron Sorkin winning for Best Adapted Screenplay.
It ain’t the revenues as much as the number of bodies passing through the turnstiles. And the reality, as reported by USA Today‘s Scott Bowles, is that 2010 wasn’t a very good year in this respect. 1.35 billion tickets were sold — the smallest tally in 14 years, or since 1.33 billion were sold in 1996. The headline over Bowles’ story calls 2010 “dismal,” in fact.
The average 1996 ticket price in the U.S. was $4.42. The average 2010 ticket price was $7.85. 2010 attendance fell 5.4% below 2009 levels, which was the largest drop since attendance fell 8.1% in 2005, Bowles reports.
Of course, the option of watching films on demand or via online streaming, or resorting to illegal downloads, or people deciding to wait for the Bluray/DVD is where some of the lost theatrical take has gone. There’s also the fact that the big chains play lowest-common-denomiunator Eloi crap 85% to 90% of the time, and that the picture-and-sound quality of the theatrical experience at many if not most megaplexes doesn’t measure up to a good home-theatre system with Bluray and amplified sound.
Bowles’ statistics came from a just-released study by Hollywood.com.
Pugnacious Pete Postlethwaite, 64, died yesterday. He was a bright and thoughtful fellow, and a first-rate character actor. Peppy, those penetrating eyes, a deep snappy voice, working-class manner, wiry frame. Postlethwiate was a smoker and had been dealing with testicular cancer since the ’90s. A too-early departure despite that. Hugs and condolences to his family and friends.
I could never quite lick the pronunciation of his last name, but I think you were supposed to ignore the t’s and the h and say “possulwaite,” or something like that. And I always had trouble remembering if the second syllable was spelled “le” or “el.”
Postlethwaite’s most recent role was as a small-time Boston criminal in Ben Affleck‘s The Town. He always gave good snarl.
For me Postlethwaite peaked in the late ’80s and ’90s. His first big standout performance was in Terence Davies‘ Distant Voices, Still Lives (’88), a scrappy Liverpool family drama. He landed a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his performance as Daniel Day Lewis‘s father in Jim Sheridan‘s In the Name of the Father (’93). Two years later he played “Kobayashi” in Bryan Singer‘s The Usual Suspects.
And yet my most vivid recollection of Postelthwaite comes from Steven Spielberg‘s The Lost World (’97), in which he gave a hammy, straight-paycheck performance that didn’t approach the quality of his work for Davies, Sheridan or Singer. (Why is that, I wonder?) He was also memorable in The Constant Gardener, Baz Luhrman’s Rome+ Juliet, Inception and Clash of the Titans. Okay, forget Clash — nobody really scored in that.
Postlethwaite’s final role, apparently, was in Killing Bono, a working-class comedy about wannabe rock stars. It’s set to open in England in April but no U.S. release date is currently slated.