I’ve been a Separation loyalist since Telluride, and I intend to ride it home all the way to the end of the trail. What’s important right now is to launch a respectful but adamant counteroffensive against those Academy schmoes (one of whom I was told about a couple of weeks ago) who have said “meh” after seeing it. These are the same people who said “meh” to Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days.
The BBC will produce The Girl, a 90-minute TV drama about Alfred Hitchcock‘s creepily obsessive relationship with Tippi Hedren during the making of The Birds (’63) and Marnie (’64). Too-short Toby Jones will play Hitch and Sienna Miller will play Hedren.
Herdren was an early ’60s personification of the icy blonde type that Hitchcock always had a thing for, going back to Grace Kelly. (“There are hills in that thar gold,” he reportedly said upon spotting Kelly in a gold lame gown.) He spent much time and effort grooming Hedren into a big-name star (at least in his own Universal realm) but he also wanted…how to say it?…a little action on the side. Hedren, appalled, wouldn’t play along, and Hitch more or less smothered her career in revenge.
Julian Jarrold will direct the script by Gwyneth Hughes; Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto will consult. Imelda Staunton will play Hitch’s wife, Alma. Penelope Wilton will play Hitch’s longtime assistant Peggy Robertson.
The BBC factor means this telepic will probably actually get made, which is more than you can say for that Birds remake, a Universal-related, Michael Bay-developed feature that was finally dumped or died of its own accord. Or Number 13, that young Alfred Hitchcock movie set in the 1920s London that was going to star Dan Fogler.
On the other hand Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, which has been in development hell at Paramount for four years (I read the script in ’08), has been adopted by Fox Searchight. Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren will play Hitch and wife Alma.
As Grantland‘s Mark Harris sagely explains, half of the 2011 Best Picture contenders are about faux-nostalgia (sentiment, storybook gauze, the way we were) and the other half are actually about real adults (and particularly parents) grappling with life in the 21st Century…whoa!
The Faux Nostalgies (which I’m calling the Soft Sappies) are The Artist, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, War Horse and The Help. (I don’t agree with Harris’s opinion that The Tree of Life belongs in this group.) And the Slapped-In-The-Face-With-Reality contenders include Moneyball, Margin Call, The Descendants, Contagion, Ralph Fiennes‘ contemporized Coriolanus and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
Harris doesn’t include Win Win in the latter group, but obviously it belongs. Ditto Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (even though it’s a ’70s piece) and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
It’s my view that Oscar-race predictors and Academy members who are basically hiders and weak at heart — the ones who take extra-long showers as a way of re-experiencing the warmth and security of their mother’s womb, and who listen to soft classic rock when driving — tend to favor the Soft Sappies while the stronger, sharper and more audacious-minded are the primary fans of the 21st Century Reality flicks. There are wrinkles and exceptions to every rule, but you know that’s how it is out there…you know it.
“The Artist and Hugo, are both being hailed as odes to the early days of cinema,” Harris writes. “But really, they’re not. The Artist tells you everything it knows about the painful transition from silents to talkies in its first ten minutes: It’s an undeniably charming but extremely slight comedy-drama that mimics the most basic elements of silents (they were black-and-white! The screen wasn’t wide!), but seems more engaged by their poignant quaintness than by the visual language, wit, beauty, complexity, or psychological richness of the movies it purports to honor.
“And as enchanting as it can be to enter the glittering, hermetically sealed but vividly three-dimensional toychest-train-station universe that Martin Scorsese has created in Hugo, there is something slightly self-adoring about the story it tells. Hugo is not a valentine to the dawn of movies — it’s a valentine to people who send those valentines, a halo placed lovingly atop the heads of cinephiles and film preservationists. (And, not incidentally, film critics and Oscar voters.)
“I’m all for venerating old movies, and if I’m a bit resistant to the allure of The Artist and Hugo, it may be because they practically grab you by the lapels and order you to feel a childlike sense of wonder, goddammit! But as the plot of a third Best Picture contender, Woody Allen‘s Midnight in Paris, reminds us explicitly, nostalgia for values you never actually held from an era you yourself didn’t live through isn’t really nostalgia — it’s sentimentality.”
Boiled down, Dave Itzkoff‘s 12.4 N.Y. Times piece about duelling Arkansas murder case documentaries reports how producer Peter Jackson and director Amy Berg‘s West of Memphis, a doc that will screen at Sundance 2012, has muscled in on the investigative territory that documentarians Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky have been mining for 15 years.
Berlinger and Sinofsky have made three docs — Paradise Lost: The Murders at Robin Hood Hills (’96), Paradise Lost 2: Revelations (’00) and Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (due to premiere on HBO in January 2012) about wrongly convicted Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley Jr., a.k.a., the “West Memphis Three“.
I’ve only seen the latter, but all three delve into the 1994 murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, and cast doubts about their guilt and the credibility of witnesses and evidence.
And yet Jackson, Itzkoff reports, has been following the case of the trio since 2005, and financed (along with wife Fran Walsh) an investigation that “yielded new findings that might have led to a new evidentiary hearing or even a new trial” if not for a plea deal accepted by Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley that resulted in their freedom. So it’s not like Jackson has no territorial rights in this matter, so to speak.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo director David Fincher spoke this morning with Miami Herald critic-reporter Rene Rodriguez about David Denby‘s embargo-busting review of his film in the current edition of The New Yorker. Tattoo producer Scott Rudin responded by banning Denby from future press screenings of his films, including “the Daldry.”
“I think Scott [Rudin]’s response was totally correct,” Fincher said. “It’s a hard thing for people outside our business to understand. It is a bit of a tempest in a teapot. But as silly as this may all look from the outside — privileged people bickering — I think it’s important. Film critics are part of the business of getting movies made. You swim in the same water we swim in. And there is a business to letting people know your movie is coming out. It is not a charity business — it’s a business-business.
“This is not about controlling the media. If people realized how much thought goes into deciding at what point can we allow our movie to be seen, they would understand. There are so many other things constantly screaming for people’s attention. I started shooting this movie 25 days after I turned in The Social Network. We have been working really hard to make this release date. And when you’re trying to orchestrate a build-up of anticipation, it is extremely frustrating to have someone agree to something and then upturn the apple cart and change the rules — for everybody.
“Embargoes…okay, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t show movies to anybody before they were released. I wouldn’t give clips to talk shows. I would do one trailer and three television spots and let the chips fall where they may. That’s how far in the other direction I am. If I had my way, the New York Film Critics Circle would not have seen this movie and then we would not be in this situation. I would be opening this movie on Wednesday Dec. 21 and I would have three screenings on Tuesday Dec. 20 and that would be it.
“That’s where [Rudin] and I get into some of our biggest fights. My whole thing is ‘If people want to come, they’ll come.’ But they should be completely virgin. I’m not of the mind to tell anybody anything about the movie they are going to see. And that kind of thought is ridiculous in this day and age. But by the same token, when you agree to go see something early and you give your word — as silly as that may sound in the information age and the movie business — there is a certain expectation. It’s unfortunate that the film critic business has become driven by scoops.
“Ultimately, movies live or die by word of mouth anyway. All that other stuff doesn’t matter. Nothing against film criticism. I think film critics are really valuable. But the most valuable film critics are usually those people who come see a movie with their Blackberry and then text their friends ‘It sucked.’ or ‘It’s awesome. You should see it.’ You know what I mean?”
There’s nothing like seeing a movie “completely virgin,” or almost virgin. In the pre-internet days of the early ’80s, when I was based in New York, I was fortunate enough to catch long-lead screenings of films I knew relatively little about. What a great thing…but those days are long gone.
In the view of Michael Morpurgo, author of the ’80s War Horse children’s novel, Steven Spielberg‘s War Horse delivers “a wonderfully paced story.” He admits to N.Y. Times “Carpetbagger” Melena Ryzik that “it’s quite slow to begin with, and I’m sure it will be criticized for that. But it should be, because you have to establish the relationship between the boy and the horse, the boy and the landscape.
“And then you find, rather like the walk of a horse, the story begins to trot. And it trots when the horse joins the army and goes off to war, and then when the action starts, it begins to canter, and then you have the terrible gallop at the end.”
Honestly? That sounds pretty good. But then Morpurgo is only talking about structure and narrative pacing.
“Wow! I’m shocked, shocked that the elections in Russia are a fraud. That’s so much worse than an election where, with the complicity of the Supreme Court, a moron was put into the White House. And certainly worse than a group of corporate-owned candidates who are each trying to prove he or she can out-hate the others.” — “Markk” from Seattle, responding to David M. Herszenhorn‘s 12.6 N.Y. Times story about reported election-rigging by the Vladimir Putin gang. The story is titled “Jailing Opposition Leaders, Russia Moves to Quell Election Protests.”