I don’t care about listing Oscar nomination predictions. I’ve been feeling Phase One fatigue for three or four weeks now. I think I’m going to just let the Oscar nominations just happen tomorrow morning without laying claim to being a soothsayer. We all know which films will probably get Best Picture nominated, and so on, etc. I’d rather just react to the oversights and oddnesses.
Today’s screenings, as noted, began with Andrew Rossi‘s Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times, which is tight, absorbing, amusing here and there, zeitgeisty, etc. And media columnist David Carr comes off as a kind of hip samurai poet-warrior.
I then detoured up to the Page One panel discussion at Bing Bar, and then I got a little hung up watching Susan Sarandon play ping-pong. It’s now 7:38 pm and I’ve just come out of Drake Doremus‘ Like Crazy — a nicely sculpted, finely seasoned, up-and-down young love story with intriguing, ultra-watchable performances from Anton Yelchin (who’s beginning to lose his hair…sorry) and Felicity Jones, who seems to be one of those twinkie Tinkerbell-sized actresses.
How do average- or taller-than-average-sized guys make love with women who are in the height and weight realm of average nine year olds? I don’t have a “problem” with guys who do this, but I never could. Too creepy.
Next up, at 8:30 pm, is Sean Durkin‘s Martha Marcy May Marlene. And then I’ll head straight home to put on the earphones and watch a DVD screener of Anne Sewitsky‘s Happy Happy on the Powerbook. And then to bed at a decent hour. Gotta get up extra early for the Oscar nominations.
The remarkable thing was that this guy, who’d hauled his 19th Century piano up from Salt Lake City, was able to keep his fingers limber enough to play as well as he did. Chopin, I think. The temp was in the mid 20s if not lower. Taken on Sunday, 1.23, 8:55 pm.
I was sitting in a fold-up chair at Park City’s Bing Bar, editing and writing, and a ping-pong game began. I watched a bit, went back to writing, watched a bit more and finally took out the camera. And then a crowd materialized. And then other guys started shooting.
Andrew Rossi‘s Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times, a stirring and thoughtful doc that I finished seeing about two hours ago, has been acquired by Magnolia Magnet for theatrical and on-demand and othe platforms. Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson passed the news along during a Park City q & a with Rossi and N.Y. Times media columnist David Carr.
(l. to r.) N.Y. Times media reporter David Carr, Page One director Andrew Rossi, Indiewire columnist Anne Thompson at Bing on Main Street — Monday, 1.24, 2:45 pm.
The Times pay wall, said Carr, will launch within a month or two. Rossi quoted a Wall Street Journal report that the monthly fee for both internet and iPad access would be north of $20, and that internet-only would be under $20.
Today the constantly agitating “CitizenKaned4Life” asked “what do you make of this whole Red State thing, Jeff? The internet’s abuzz — partially about the film, but mainly about Kevin Smith’s self-financed distribution roadshow trek. I understand you’re undoubtedly busy seeing films, but this all went down last night, and — at least compared to other sites right now — your web silence regarding your former employer is starting to become slightly deafening.”
Anyone with the vision, cojones and marketing savvy to self-distribute their reportedly not-great film and make a decent profit has my respect. If Smith succeeds financially, good for him — maybe he’ll inspire others to follow. Saying that he “could not think of anything worse than creating a film and turning it over to a studio to market” is more than understandable.
As for the film itself, there’s been a general “eff the press” policy re viewings. A few days ago I asked Kevin for help in getting a ticket to last night’s screening. He was too busy to respond or whatever, and he was testy with me when I wrote to ask a question a week or two ago. But he’s always been straight and decent with me so I’m figuring he was stressed. I also asked a publicist with ties to the film for help — zip.
I could have worked it some more and landed a ticket, sure, but before last night I’d been persuaded that Red State wasn’t a very good film (a trade reporter told me he’d heard it was close to unwatchable, or words to that effect) and that it frankly wasn’t worth the trouble. So I said “screw it — there are too many better-sounding films to see.”
The post-screening reaction hasn’t been as bad as all that, although Justin Chang‘s Variety review was a decisive thumbs-down. Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn has written that “despite admirably intense performances, the movie can’t seem to settle on a specific tone..[it] movie runs the gamut from suspense to camp and back again.”
So I’ll see it when I see it. No hurry or worry. Here, in the meantime, is Smith’s just-received Red State tour itinerary.
Smith and Red State costars at last night’s after-party.
Filmmaker magazine’s Jamie Stuart (i.e., the New York blizzard short-film guy) talks with writer/director Tom McCarthy and actor Paul Giamatti to discuss their critically approved Win Win “and the difficulties of dramatizing virtuous people,” the copy says. Here again is my 1.21 review.
With the great Ed Helms in the lead, Miguel Arteta‘s Cedar Rapids (Fox Searchlight, 2.11) may look like another raunchy, wild-ass Hangover-type deal in a midwestern setting. Well, it is somewhat, I guess, but it’s a much better thing than The Hangover because it’s a comedy about values , and it basically cares about people in a way you can really accept and settle in with.
(l. to. r) Whitlock, Reilly, Heche, Helms.
It’s a commercial confection, sure, but it’s about trust and corruption and naivete and mad sex in swimming pools, and about friends doing for each other when the chips are down. It has principles, feelings…a soul.
Phil Johnston‘s script, in short, is about way more than just trying to generate laughter. It and Arteta and producers Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor (i.e., the Sideways guys) are working on a level that The Hangover never dreamt of. Now watch the Eloi go to the plexes next month and say, “Hoo-hah, not bad, pretty funny…but it would have been a little bit better if Helms had lost another tooth.” People never seem to appreciate that it’s a much better, higher-plane thing to blend laughs and feelings and values than to just blow confetti out of your ass.
Helms plays a touchingly but almost ludicrously naive small-town insurance salesman — his values and sexual attitudes are roughly that of a solemn-minded 15 year-old — who’s sent by his boss to a big insurance convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. His assignment is to secure a kind of good business seal of approval prize that his company has won three years previously, and which enhances its value in the same way that a positive review from Robert Parker makes life great for winemakers.
Things go to hell, of course, when he arrives at the convention hotel and his assumptions and beliefs graudally fall apart. A back-home love affair with an older ex-teacher (Sigourney Weaver) goes down the tubes, and nocturnal shenanigans get him in trouble with the convention’s big cheese (Kurtwood Smith), and then an encounter with corruption further darkens his brow.
But the donkey-ish Helms finds allies in three newfound chums — a loutish party animal type (John C. Reilly), a hot insurance-rep mom looking to kick out the jams when she’s away from her husband and kid (Anne Heche) and a straight-laced workaholic (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) — and together they stumble through and bond together against the hypocrites and the skunks. And Helms — who doesn’t make fun of his character in the slightest — leaves the schoolboy mindset behind to some extent.
If only the third act wrap-up didn’t come together so easily Cedar Rapids might have been even more, but let’s not quibble over milk not even poured. It isn’t a great film but a very good one. And Reilly gives a howlingly funny, ethically grounded performance that — I’m serious — is good and triumphant enough to be called the first Best Supporting Actor-level turn for 2011. The man is a genius at this sort of thing. The second he arrives on-screen you’re going “uh-oh, the man!…here we go.”
Boiled down, Cedar Rapids is a comedy about facing reality and choosing your friends in an ethically clouded world. It’s partly ape humor, and partly warm and reflective. I don’t want to build it up too much — it ain’t art — but it is roughly akin to Billy Wilder‘s The Apartment in that it’s about a youngish insurance company employee (Jack Lemmon played his variation 50 years ago) waking up to things and deciding which side he’s on.
Is it as good as The Apartment? No. It doesn’t dig in as deeply into personal pain or look at the darker aspects of human nature as bluntly. But it’s an honorable ally of that classic 1960 film. And also those Preston Sturges comedies of the early ’40s about clumsy but lovable dolts (Henry Fonda in The Lady Eve, Eddie Bracken in Hail the Conquering Hero) being confronted by ethical shortcomings in whatever realm.
Cedar Rapids is somewhere between a ground-rule double and a triple — the kind of HE-approved commercial comedy that happens all too rarely. I knew it was a big hit ten minutes in.
The whole cast nails it — Helms, Reilly, Whitlock, Heche, Smith, Alia Shawkat, Rob Corddry, Stephen Root, Mike O’Malley, Thomas Lennon, etc. The producers are Payne, Taylor and Jim Burke. Helms executive produced. And it wasn’t even filmed in Iowa! The principal shooting location was Ann Arbor, Michigan. And cheers again to Johnston’s script.