N.Y. Times Carpetbagger Melena Ryzik has just tweeted that she ran into Fran Lebowitz at the premiere of Scorsese’s 3D, family-friendly Hugo. FL’s verdict, a rave: “This film is too good for children.” I’d call it half a rave. What Leibowitz seems to be saying is that Hugo will sail right over children’s heads, especially the last 20% to 25%. It’s not simple-minded enough to be a kid’s film. If Paramount thought it was a real family flick they’d be opening Hugo on more than just 1200 screens.
You can dribble the Viola Davis basketball all over the court and shoot swish shots to your heart’s content, but that won’t change the fact that Meryl Streep‘s freakishly dead-on performance as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady (Weinstein, 12.30) seems like a much more likely winner of the Best Actress Oscar right now. As far as I’m concerned it’s a Streep vs. Michelle Williams (i.e., as Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn) contest with Davis half-elbowed aside.
Okay, maybe it’s a three-way race but I’m thinking again about Davis, superb as she is in The Help, not really playing a lead role in that whiter-than-white movie about domestic racial relations in 1962 Mississippi. And you can’t argue this point by tap-dancing around it. At best she’s playing a very strong supporting role, but not a lead.
I have to leave for two screenings in 30 minutes for I’m just going to paste what I wrote to some journalist friends a little while ago about The Iron Lady, which I feel is an acceptably okay and sometimes better-than-okay biopic with a curious emphasis on the destination rather than the journey. Here it is:
“Am I wrong or is at least 45% of The Iron Lady about octagenerian Maggie (superbly played by Streep and assisted by a first-rate makeup job — much better than Leo’s old-age makeup in J. Edgar), 45% about Maggie in her political prime (Streep again, guns blazing) and 10% about very young Maggie (Alexandra Roach) and young Denis Thatcher (Harry Lloyd)?
“I didn’t clock it but I was almost amazed that so much of the film is about the ravages of age and coping with senility and delusion. I mean, the film keeps going back to dithery old Maggie as she probably is right now, over and over and over. I think this was thrown in as (a) a sympathy ploy to get the audience on Maggie’s side and (b) to hand Meryl a juicy acting opportunity in the playing of a proud stubborn woman suffering an inevitable decline along with middle-aged gunboat Maggie standing up to British male chauvinism, and in so doing cinching that Best Actress Oscar.
“I honestly think that Viola Davis’s chances are lower now. I think Glenn Close‘s nomination (assuming it happens) is going to be the tribute she’s looking for, and that’s all. It’s Streep vs. Williams, as far as I can foresee. Am I wrong?
“Apart from Streep’s impersonation of Lady Thatcher being truly delicious (but then you knew that) and the film applying a kind of suppressive gloss on Thatcher’s generally cruel, heartless policies and her cynical ploy (I believe) to distract the nation from domestic issues and ensure her reelection by going to war against Argentina, I thought the film on its own terms was somewhere between half-decent and pretty good….if a bit curious. At the very least it’s far from the boilerplate biopic I expected, and I rather enjoyed the boldness of that.
“I didn’t think Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!) had it in her to make an interesting film out of this character and this material. The Iron Lady isn’t what I would call great or excellent, but it’s a curious, unusual biopic about a rugged, not especially likable and yet admirable (in some ways) woman, and is intriguing for the ways in which it diverts from the usual-usual.
“I must say I was surprised and almost shocked by the emphasis on the old, withered, hallucinating Thatcher, coping with the ravages of old age, veering in and out of senility and lucidity, etc. It’s odd that so much screen time is given to this portion of her life as there’s really nowhere to go with it (except, I suppose, into the issue of Maggie trying to eradicate her hallucinations of her late husband Denis, played in gray-haired maturity by Jim Broadbent), but that was the choice.
“The Maggie-in-her-prime-as-Prime-Minister stuff is good enough. It’s my idea of assured, comprehensive, disciplined, well-shaped and nicely paced. But it also feels a teeny bit rote and rushed at times.
“All in all it’s a rather lamenting and bittersweet drama about life slipping away, drop by drop, at the end of the road, and also, I have to say, a somewhat stirring feminist piece and an effective delivery of conservative propaganda. Which I fell for slightly. If you have any backbone and toughness in you, if you’ve trusted and relied upon yourself to get out there and build your life into something, and if you feel anything for the plight of women being marginalized and patronized by old-school chauvinist pigs, then the movie is somewhat moving. It just is. Somewhat.
Margaret and Denis Thatcher as they were comically portrayed in For Your Eyes Only.
“I know there are a lot of lefties out there who will hate it and trash it because it doesn’t condemn Thatcher sharply enough. Or not at all, I’m sure some will say. But the bottom line is that Streep made me chuckle with pleasure from time to time. I was saying to mself, ‘Oh, God…this is so good, so amazing…I can’t help feeling delighted.’
“The octagenarian Maggie stuff, as noted, has been emphasized, I believe, to create a sense of sympathy for the character, as her mind and senses are clearly going bit by bit and without this tragic falling-apart-at-the-end she’d be a staunch, flinty harridan. If the movie was all about Maggie in her prime, the character would be admired for her brass balls but wouldn’t be very likable, and might be seen in some circles as the out-and-out monster that her detractors call her, and the movie wouldn’t, in all likelihood, do as well as the box-office (and with Academy members).
“Olivia Colman (Tyrannosaur) is sharp and believable as Thatcher’s daughter Carol (I barely recognized her due to a wig and prosthetics) and the young Margaret actress (Ms. Roach) is also quite impressive. I’m not entirely sure about Broadbent’s Denis. His goofy, spectacle-enlarged eyes made him look like the guy who spoofed him at the end of For Your Eyes Only (’82).”
Toward the end of this Hugo promotion video (i.e., Jim CameronMartin Scorsese), Scorsese mentions the idea of a 3D version of Citizen Kane …and then says, “I’m not saying do that.” Well, I am. If that 1941 classic could be 3D-converted with the same demanding exactitude that Cameron has reportedly applied to creating Titanic 3D, I’d be fine with it. Really. It would be exciting if someone could really do it right. Any classic film, for that matter. Monochrome 3D is mesmerizing.
The problem, of course, is that most 3D conversions have been unexceptional. The people in charge are not of Cameron’s calibre and they take shortcuts, and the end product winds up looking underwhelming or even like hell.
Roughly three hours ago New York Film Critics Circle honcho John Anderson informed the membership that Warner Bros.will not be screening Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by this coming Sunday, 11.27, and will therefore not be meeting the org’s deadline to allow it to vote yea or nay on Steohen Daldry’s 9/11 drama by Tuesday, 11.29.
Anderson wrote that he’s been told that the film won’t be shown any time before December 2nd. “This despite my having received assurances before that they would [work within our deadline],” Anderson wrote. “Draw your own conclusions.”
National Board of Review members have also been told of this decision, which obviously means that Extremely Loud is out of the running as far as their voting is concerned, which will happen on Thursday, December 1st.
A Warner Bros. source declined to be quoted but explained the following on a background basis: (a) Extremely Loud was never promised for a screening within the NYFCC or NBR deadlines, (b) This early deadline was not made by us but by somebody else, (c) It won’t be completely done until after the deadline, (d) The film will begin to be screened in early December, (e) Filmmakers need to fulfill their process and finish their films to their satisfaction, and (f) We want to show it to everyone but filmmakers need to fulfill their process…that is the moral of this story.
A publicist from the same side of the fence who also didn’t want to be quoted said there was a theoretical contingency plan of showing the film on Sunday, 11.27, but that this date eventually fell out due to post-production requirements which couldn’t be met in time. “We love critics groups. but nobody wants to compromise a director’s vision,” she said. “We never promised that the 11.27 screening was a done deal…we said ‘maybe, could you see it on Sunday?’…and then we had to alter that. I don’t know why John Anderson has reamed us, but it’s a witch hunt…I wish we could have had it ready earlier.”
I’m told that N.Y. Post critic Lou Lumenick said in a message this morning to NYFCC members that WB’s decision “would invite speculation that WB doesn’t think [Extremely Loud] stands a chance.”
Sometimes old songs that you haven’t listened to in a long while suddenly come into your head while you’re driving or showering or writing, and they hang around for a day or two and sometimes longer. Every now and then they’ll stay with you for four or five days or a week even, and that’s too long. It can drive you nuts. The cure is not to sing it to yourself but to download it to iTunes and just listen to it over and over until you can’t stand it any more.
Last night I tried flushing out Bowie by listening to the other “Five Years” song, the one by Jonah and the Whale, but this made things worse because they’re one of those oodly-doodly bands, a group of oh-so-dry-and-clever musicians wrapped in a fey musical head-space attitude who create songs that are kind of precious and tweedly-deedly…songs that fiddle around with melody without really feeling it or lifting it off the ground.
You know what I mean. Bands that seem to be going “eewww, this is cool”…bands who always seem to perform with a kind of dorky, dispassionate irony…bands who seem to be saying “are we kinda kidding or do we mean it or should we turn it up or down or…? Ohh, whatever…let’s not choose.”
I’ve also described this kind of music as the product of “flutter” bands. In an 8.13.10 piece I described their music as “ethereal, dreamily feminine and generally unpunctuated…music that seems dead set against any kind of thump-crunchin’ sound or attitude [and] that seems to summon the candy-assed spirit and attitude of Michael Cera, and which the almost seems to exists in order to counteract and nullify the spirit of Lou Reed, Liz Phair, Patti Smith, Television, the Kills, the Beta Band, Nirvana…basically any band with any kind of brass musical balls.”
I would rather listen to a continual loop of “The Very Best of Herman’s Hermits” than a flutter band…seriously.
According to Jett and Dylan Wells (as well as HE reader George Prager), the leading flutter bands of 2010 are these:
(1) Passion Pit, (2) Phoenix, (3) matt + kim, (4) Downlink, (5) Datsik, (6) Excision, (7) Burial, (8) James Blake, (9) Diplo, (10) Akira kiteshi, (11) bar 9, (12) Dirty Projectors, (13) Grizzly Bear, (14) Panda Bear, (15) Animal Collective, (16) Beach House, (17) Girls, (18) Arcade Fire and (19) Fleet Foxes.
Some fresh Chris Nolan commentary about The Dark Knight Rises has appeared in a currently-print-only issue of Empire. Details have been provided by Heisenberg, thej0ker, Zorak (what is that, a law firm?). Nolan’s big reveal is that the DKR story picks up eight years after The Dark Knight — i.e., Christian Bale‘s Bruce Wayne in his early 40s?
“It’s really all about finishing Batman and Bruce Wayne’s story,” Nolan comments. “We left him in a very precarious place. Perhaps surprisingly for some people, our story picks up quite a bit later, eight years after The Dark Knight. So he’s an older Bruce Wayne [and] he’s not in a great state. With Bane, we’re looking to give Batman a challenge he hasn’t had before. With our choice of villain and with our choice of story we’re testing Batman both physically as well as mentally.”
The unnamed Empire interviewer also speaks to Tom Hardy, who surprisingly if not shockingly describes Bane as “brutal…a big dude who’s incredibly clinical, in the fact that he has a result-based and result-oriented fighting style.” As opposed to other brute beasts who regard fighting as an existential “whatever” exercise in ennui?
“It’s not about fighting — it’s about carnage,” Hardy explains. “The style is heavy-handed, heavy-footed…it’s nasty. Anything from small-joint manipulation to crushing skulls, crushing rib cages, stamping on shins and knees and necks and collarbones and snapping heads off and tearing his fists through chests, ripping out spinal columns. He’s a terrorist in mentality as well as brutal action.”
Costume designer Lindy Hemming also talks about Bane’s mask…oooh, the mask! Bane is “injured early in his story,” she says. “He’s suffering from pain and needs gas to survive. He can’t survive the pain without the mask. The pipes from the mask go back along his jawline and feed into the thing at his back, where there are two cannisters.”
Nolan explains that the DKR prologue that will be shown with Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol in IMAX “is basically the first six, seven minutes of the film. It’s an introduction to Bane, and a taste of the rest of the film.”