It’s interesting that the trailer never shows us the predator’s face. Prior to the Toronto Film Festival I read an idiotic and misleading synopsis of David Schwimmer‘s film that mentioned security and a dad obsessing about how to protect his family and blah, blah, blah. Never once mentioned false cyber relationships or a violation of a young girl.
Columnist Scott Feinberg has very plainly and eloquently put the whole Melissa Leo self-financed ad brouhaha in its place, and taken a swipe at Deadline‘s Pete Hammond in the bargain. Read it and tell me Feinberg hasn’t put this issue to bed and then some. That rash-minded boob who told The Hollywood Reporter‘s Tim Appelo that “she’s lost my vote” needs to consider all the angles and pro-Leo arguments that Feinberg has voiced.
If you listened closely to what was said at tonight’s Oscar panel at the 92nd Street Y — called “Reel Predictions: Countdown to the Oscars” — you heard several subtle, polite and deftly worded putdowns of The King’s Speech. So subtle that I can’t offer (i.e., remember) a single money quote, but the sound of Tom Hooper‘s drama being needled throughout the evening for being too pat and tidy, too “safe,” and not all that interesting was music to my ears.
Quite possibly the blurriest and/or least distinct photo anyone has ever taken of N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott (l.) and Columbia film professor Annette Insdorf (r.), either together or separately.
These and other light-fingered reprimands were voiced by Columbia University Film Professor Annette Insdorf, the discussion’s moderator, and at least two of the four panelists — N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott and author/film journalist Mark Harris. Remarks by author and essayist Molly Haskell didn’t exactly flatter The King’s Speech, but they didn’t downsize it either. Or so I recall.
42West marketing director Amanda Lundberg restricted herself to explaining how award season marketing is basically a process of monetizing client assets and that line of country. My mind glazed over.
Harris briefly brought up the Melissa Leo brouhaha about her self-financed ads, but nobody else had anything to add and before you knew it Insdorf had changed the subject.
Insdorf is one of the brightest and most knowledgable film mavens on the planet, but at times she plays, I feel, the gracious diplomatic card to a fault. Butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth when it comes to voicing any sort of negative judgment, or encouraging it in others. And so it seemed to me that she too often led the discussion in directions that were more college-classroomy than critical or exploratory or…whatever, Bill Maher-ish.
If you ask me there were entirely too many clips of Oscar-nominated films shown. The evening would have been much more interesting, in fact, if Insdorf had just tossed them altogether. It’s February, after all. Haven’t we seen the same clips from the same films over and over and over?
(l. to r.) 92 Y Oscar panelists Amanda Lundberg, Mark Harris, Molly Haskell and A.O. Scott; host Annette Insdorf.
Insdorf noted that while personal loyalty is a strong and consistent behavioral trait in many of the year’s Best Picture contenders — certainly in The King’s Speech, The Fighter, The Kids Are All Right, Toy Story 3, True Grit and Winter’s Bone — it is absent from The Social Network in the behavior of Jesse Eisenberg‘s Mark Zuckerberg, and that perhaps this was a factor in the industry’s choosings. Scott and Harris quickly jumped in and said that Eisenberg’s capacity for betrayal didn’t affect their enjoyment of The Social Network one iota; indeed, it made the film all the more intriguing.
I wanted to ask my question of the moment, to wit: “Why after choosing three tough films with tough subjects for Best Picture — The Departed, No Country For Old Men, The Hurt Locker — has the Academy, like a lapsed alcoholic, gone back to favoring a very good-but-not-great, lump-in-the-throat, comfort-blanket movie like The King’s Speech?” But I candy-assed out and didn’t raise my hand. I guess I’ve lost the fire in the belly. February 27th can’t get here soon enough.
There was also a certain element of suspense in my trying to take photographs of the panelists without getting busted by the 92nd Street Y ushers. The place has a strict no-photography rule. That’s to keep flashbulbs from going off, I’ve always presumed, but how could a non-illuminated snap or two from my little 14 megapixel Canon Elph be a problem? But it was. At one point I thought I was about to get heave-ho’ed. My inability to get close enough to the stage and/or sufficiently focus, in any event, resulted in the worst shots I’ve ever captured of a public event.
It’s important to remember what Submarine director-screenwriter Richard Ayoade told me prior to the Toronto Film Festival, which is that his romantic dramedy (costarring Craig Roberts, Noah Taylor, Sally Hawkins and Paddy Considine) is more of a Mike Nichols-meets-Wes Anderson thing than just an Anderson-y thing about quirky young love. The Nichols aspect alludes, I gather, to the anguish and heavy heartache thing that has turned up in various Nichols films, including The Graduate.
This is a way of saying that despite opportunities in Toronto and Sundance, I still haven’t seen Submarine. But I’ll get there.
And Pete Hammond and Tom O’Neil and Sasha Stone and Kris Tapley all the other Oscar pulse-takers. Because the 2011 Best Actress race is all but settled as of this moment. Or at least, it has an obvious front-runner in the star of The Iron Lady. Look at her! And imagine her Margaret Thatcher accent….are you kidding? With Academy members being the suckers they are and always will be for lofty-realm British drama?
The only thing that can screw things up is if the film itself turns out badly, which is certainly possible given that Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia) is directing.
There’s also a slight complication from the Streep’s post-Iron Lady role, a sure-to-be-knockout performance as the chain-smoking Violet Weston in John Wells‘ film version of August: Osage County, which the great Harvey Weinstein is distributing. If Streep takes the Best Actress Oscar for playing Margaret, it’ll be just a bit tougher for Harvey to land her an Oscar nomination as Violet because people might be feeling a wee bit Streeped out. So it would suit Harvey’s game if The Iron Lady turns out to be not so hot. Just sayin’.
Cedar Rapids played like gangbusters when I saw it at the Eccles a couple of weeks ago during the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Everyone in the theatre got every last joke and allusion, and they laughed and applauded their asses off. But much of Miguel Arteta ‘s film played kinda flat and ho-hummy when I saw it last night at the Lincoln Square with my son Jett and maybe 50 or 60 others.
Why? A good film is a good film no matter where you see it or with whom, right? No — some well-made, quality-level movies need a good audience. It’s a give-and-take, back-and-forth thing — the film feeds the audience and vice versa. Al I know is that the folks I saw it with last night (my son included) were so dead and unresponsive that they sucked the oxygen right out of the room and out of the film. That put me into a bad mood and I began to feel irritated. I turned around and glared at the audience a couple of times.
There’s a tiny little bit in the beginning when Ed Helms starts to give a faint attaboy hug to a star salesman in his Brownstar Insurance office. But the salesman, who wants as little to do with Helms as possible, ever so slightly flinches. The Sundance audience got it, chuckled. Last night’s audience sat there like crash-test dummies.
It’s the same dynamic that Broadway theatre critics have been writing about for decades. A dead audience can make a good comedy seem a lot less funny than it actually is in the eyes of God. Same deal with sharp comedians in a comedy clubs — if an audience is too thick or slow of pulse to respond to the material in the right way, they can kill any joke or punchline — they can reduce a comedian to tears.
All I know is that I could feel the deadness at the very beginning, and I knew it wasn’t the film’s fault. It was the damn people around me, and particularly Jett. He was checking messages on his iPhone three minutes into the film. I backhanded his leg and told him
to cut it out. Five minutes later he leaned over and whispered, “This isn’t funny.” But his reaction would have been different if he’d seen Cedar Rapids with me at the Eccles. I know it would have been.
I’ve never gone to South by Southwest because it always seemed too pain-in-the-assy in various ways. My far-off impression has always been that it’s a slightly hipper and more discriminating cousin of ComicCon, which is to say slightly more tolerable than that San Diego gathering but more fanboyish that I would normally find comfortable. But now that Summit’s release date for Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson‘s The Beaver has been bumped back to May 6th, I feel that I need to attend SXSW in order to catch it on March 16th in Austin.
Yes, I’ve decided to spend at least $600 or $700 bills that I could otherwise keep in my savings account so I can (a) see The Beaver a few weeks earlier and (b) see how it plays with the under-35 Austin beer-and-taco crowd.
Yes, I can also catch up with (a) the super-special Ain’t It Cool News 15th Anniversary screening of whatever, (b) Takashi Mike‘s 13 Assassins (which I couldn’t be bothered to see in Cannes last May because I despise fetishistic Asian chopsocky, (c) Rodman Flender‘s Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, (d) Greg Mottola‘s Paul (which I’m probably going to hate), (e) Duncan Jones‘ Source Code (which is probably going to make me sigh and groan a lot), and (f) James Gunn‘s SUPER (which I’m probably going to hate). Plus it’ll probably be fun socially. And I can wear my cowboy hat again.
Nearly a month ago I mentioned an inability to play my Broadcast News Bluray because of a Bluray firmware update I need to install. Right after that I asked Sony to send me a firmware software disc, and they said they’d do so right away but it didn’t arrive until after I left for Sundance/Santa Barbara. So I installed it last night (easy, no big deal) and now I can watch my Broadcast News plus two other Blurays that wouldn’t play due to lack of proper firmware.
The downside is that right now it doesn’t feel as vital and exciting to savor Broadcast News as it did, say, three or four weeks ago. It’s an excellent film and I’m glad I own it, but the fresh-Bluray-coolness moment has passed. Now the cool Bluray to have and to watch is Sweet Smell of Success, which Criterion will street on 2.22.
- All Hail Tom White, Taciturn Hero of “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Roughly two months ago a very early draft of Eric Roth‘s screenplay for Killers of the Flower Moon (dated 2.20.17,...More »