A little more than a year ago I saw and reviewed James Rasin‘s Beautiful Darling: The Life and Times of Candy Darling, Andy Warhol Superstar as part of the New Directors, New Films series at the Museum of Modern Art. It opens tomorrow at the IFC Center so here’s the review again.
Boilerplate synopsis for Ruben Fleischer‘s 30 Minutes or Less (Columbia, 8.12): “After hiring an assassin to murder his father for his insurance money, chubby asshole antagonist Dwayne (Danny McBride…who else?) and partner-in-crime Travis (Nick Swardson) kidnap a pizza delivery driver (Jesse Eisenberg) and force him to rob a bank with a bomb vest attached to his chest in order to pay for the hit job.” Aziz Ansari costars.
You realize, of course, that Will Beall‘s Gangster Squad is The Untouchables all over again, except it happens in ’50s Los Angeles with temperamental hair-trigger gangster Mickey Cohen (to be played by a bald-headed Sean Penn) being the target instead of Robert De Niro‘s Al Capone.
Otherwise, as a friend who’s read the script puts it, “Brian DePalma and David Mamet might want to think about a plagiarism lawsuit.” He didn’t mean that literally but in a flip, drink-in-his-hand sort of way.
Ryan Gosling has the Kevin Costner role and Josh Brolin…will he play Sean Connery? The Warner Bros. film will begin shooting in the fall under Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer.
Gosling, meanwhile, has read my 4.15 “Farewell, My Dignity” post, come to his senses and decided against doing The Lone Ranger — one of the wisest better-late-than-never decisions of his professional life.
After Tuesday night’s The Greatest Movie Ever Sold experience in North Hollywood, I dropped into a brand-new joint called Phil’s Diner — a recreation of the old small diners of the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s (actually modelled on a dining car) with a healthy menu and nice wood panelling and all. The idea, I was told, is to create a Phil’s franchise network all over Los Angeles and perhaps beyond, which would be great.
In the mid ’90s I attended a lecture about screenwriting by the great Robert Towne (Chinatown, The Last Detail, The Firm), and I remember his stressing the importance of being able to weave refrains into a script. He was referring to a line or a thought or an offhanded remark that is used or understood in one particular way early on, and then is used again in Act Two or Three in a way that adds to the first meaning and perhaps even doubles back and reverses it in some way. Most HE readers know what I’m talking about, and I’m trying to think of examples of refrain used in any mainstream films over the last….oh, five years or so.
This is a courtyard of an apartment I rented for two days in Venice, Italy, in May 2007. The place is called Ca Guardiani (Calle Dei Guardiani 2403, sestiere Dorsoduro). Hanging outside around dusk with a glass of white wine and doing nothing in particular is one of the most peaceful things I’ve ever done or felt in my life.
On 3.28 I ran a heavily pixellated blowup of the Tree of Life raptor, and today — 23 days hence — The Playlist‘s Kevin Jagernauth, Movieline‘s Christopher Rosen, and Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson ran sharper, larger, better-looking versions of the same shot. Is that enough?
“Clearly, Terrence Malick has an attachment to secrecy. He seems to live for it almost. To be able to work within such an utterly secret vacuum that no one is able to learn any substantive-sounding information is perhaps (who knows?) the bottom-line electric lightning-bolt element in Malick’s life and head. Secrecy! But with all the sniffing around no one, it seems, has stopped to consider the absolute lunacy of attempting to blend a story about an anxious 20th Century man (Sean Penn) and recollections of his distant father (Brad Pitt) with prehistoric pre-time elements, including [in a script description that I heard 20 years ago] a prehistoric creature sleeping in a sea of magma. Good God!” — from 3.23.09 HE riff called “Secrecy and Dinosaurs”
In Morgan Spurlock‘s The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, “the viewer is left to wonder who is getting played: the brand, the filmmaker or maybe even the audience,” writes N.Y. Times media columnist David Carr. “Ralph Nader has spent much of his career speaking out against corporate manipulation of consumers. But in one of the movie’s funnier moments, he receives a gift from Mr. Spurlock of Merrell shoes — one of the film’s sponsors — and proceeds to give the company a pretty nice endorsement on the spot.”
“‘Ralph told me that you have to be careful with satire because you could literally spoof yourself out of your objective,” Spurlock tells Carr. “I think we did the job of walking that line, being questioning, being critical, but not spoofing ourselves out of our objective.”
Francis Lawrence‘s Water for Elephants (20th Century Fox, 4.22) would be your mother’s or aunt’s idea of a nice circus movie with a love story…if it weren’t for Christoph Waltz, or what should probably be called the “Waltz effect.” I’m speaking of any character this 54 year-old actor plays that’s strongly reminiscent of his Oscar-winning turn as Col. Hans Landa, the grinningly sadistic Nazi “Jew hunter” in Inglorious Basterds.
Waltz plays August, a sadistic travelling-circus owner with a faint Austrian accent who likes to bully and threaten his economic dependents and also torture circus animals and feed them rotting food and order his henchmen to throw workers off a moving train at night when he can’t afford to pay them. That’s what audiences are paying to see these days, right? Movies with lush orchestral scores about guys getting pounded and bloodied and wives being threatened and psychologically brutalized and animals getting jabbed with sharp instruments and made to bleed?
Water for Elephants is the kind of emotional mood-trip film that could have been made in ’83 or ’71 or ’58 or ’51. It’s shaped like Titanic (i.e., bookended with a choked-up elderly person telling a story of his/her romantic past) and tries to invoke Days of Heaven in a couple of shots and is scored within an inch of its life, but it’s basically a handsomely mounted pageant for squares who smile and go “aahhh” as they watch elephants raise their trunks and stand on their hind legs. Because the elephant (called Rosie in the film) is definitely the best thing about it. That, at least, is what I said to a friend as we left last night’s screening.
Except if Water for Elephants had been made 60 or 53 or 40 or 28 years ago Robert Pattinson‘s character, Jacob Jankowski, would probably have acted in a semi-rational fashion at the beginning of the film. By which I mean he wouldn’t abandon Cornell University, where he’s studying to be a veterinarian, before graduating simply because his parents have died and his home has been sold. Life is hard but you have to hold on. Because bailing on an already-paid-for education in the middle of the 1930s Depression is something only a bone-dumb moron would do.
I quit Water for Elephants when this happened. I stayed in my seat and kept watching until the end, but I had basically resigned and was just marking time. Because I can’t and won’t abide idiots who refuse to act sensibly in the face of major threats.
You might think Water for Elephants is a love story given the ad images of hunky Pattinson and platinum-blonde Reese Witherspoon standing close together and touching and staring into each other’s eyes. But that’s not the movie…not really. Water for Elephants is basically about cruelty, brutality and stupidity. The lights go down, the curtains part and the film basically smiles and says, “Shake hands, Mr. and Mrs. America, with a truly cruel and venal sick fuck of a character — Waltz! — and prepare to wait and wait and wait through most of the film until he finally gets his just desserts. It’ll be moderately satisfying when this finally happens, of course, but he’s a one-note fellow who’s rather tedious company, trust us, during the first two acts. But he’s ‘the guy’, the narrative engine, the man with the bullwhip. And the task of watching Water For Elephhants means you’ll be stuck with this asshole, and at the end of the day you’ll be the worse for it.”
Otherwise Water for Elephants is prettified…make that laquered sentimental nostalgia and a boilerplate romantic-yesteryear bromide with two “lead” performances that don’t quite work. The good-looking but unemotive Pattinson smiles alot but spends a lot of time glaring and sulking and not looking especially bright. Witherspoon is supposed to be playing some kind of squawky-voiced, Jean Harlow-ish floozie type but can’t quite pull it off — she’s too nice and Reese-y for that. The film also has an odd-looking Hal Holbrook, who’s had some kind of work done to his much-wider face to the extent that he looks very different than he did in Into The Wild.
Anyway, this is what I meant when I brought up your mom or your aunt. They like soft-soap romanticism and weird plastic surgery and young leads who look pretty but don’t really connect, etc.
The film is based on Sara Gruen’s popular book, which I haven’t read. I’m guessing that Lawrence and screenwriter Richard LaGravanese have taken what was good and appealing and mulched it down into something else.
MSN’s James Rocchi, who recently shared some kind words about this film, needs to retire to the privacy of a bathroom and look at himself in the mirror and say, “Who am I? What have I done?” He also has to answer to the Movie Godz, who read his remarks the other day and have already gotten in touch and asked me, “What’s up with this guy? He’s supposed to be a tough brilliant critic and he calls this thing ‘a gorgeous romantic tale of life, love and beauty’? Which it is, we suppose, but only in the most superficial picture-postcard sense. Get in touch and ask him what the deal is.”