During last March’s South by Southwest I wrote a highly positive appraisal of Cindy Meehl‘s wise and winning Buck. I called the piece “Horse Sense.” Next Tuesday the Sundance Selects team is having a screening and an after-party at a West Los Angeles venue so I thought I’d repost. It’s easily one of the year’s finest, most spiritually soothing docs so why not…right?
Buck “seems at first like a straightforward portrait of Buck Brannaman, a renowned horse-trainer who was the real-life inspiration for The Horse Whisperer (both the book and the film). But it gradually becomes more of a meditative heart-warmer about healing and parenting.
Like Brannaman himself, with whom I had an agreeable chat after yesterday’s screening, Buck has a spiritual, settled-down vibe.
At first I had a notion that Buck was just a nice emotional atmosphere film that didn’t have any wider echoes or implications, but I gradually began to see that it’s as much about healing humans as horses.
As it reveals more and more about Brannaman’s work and personal life, Buck passes along lessons about getting past childhood trauma and correcting parental errors and ways to heal…all that good stuff. The fact that youngish horses are the recipients of said therapy doesn’t obscure the fact that many if not most of Brannaman’s teachings apply to troubled kids and teens also, and for that matter (in theory at least) troubled adults.
Feeling unloved and ganged-up-upon and pressured isn’t a good thing for any man or beast. We all just need to chill and feel safe and unthreatened, and to not be so afraid of making a mistake that we can’t move. What I got from the film is that if all afraid, angry and unhappy people had someone like Brannaman to calm them down and steer them in healthier, more positive directions, the world would be a much calmer and better place.
The irony and ultimate lesson of Buck is that Brannaman was himself raised by a highly abusive and alcoholic dad. He and his older brother were adopted by foster parents when it became evident what they’d been going through, and that plus getting into horse training and discovering an exceptional empathy and communion with horses led to Buck’s becoming centered and secure and ending the abuse cycle. Brannaman is happily married and by all appearances a good dad.
Last August Press Play‘s Matthias Stork posted a landmark two-part essay called “Chaos Cinema,” which, as I wrote on 8.22, “articulates and clarifies a lot of things that many of us have been feeling for a long while.”
Today a third “Chaos Cinema” essay was posted, primarily intended to answer a few onliners who criticized the original two essays. (I would post the video but the embed code is ridiculous.)
“Contemporary blockbusters, particularly action films, trade visual intelligibility for sensory overload,” Stork wrote/narrated last summer. “[It’s] a film style marked by excess, exaggeration, over-indulgence, a never-ending crescendo with no spacial clarity…chaos cinema. The new action films are fast, forward, volatile, an audio-visual war zone.”
The only art in this form, Stork declared, “is the art of confusion.”
I was going to write that no one with a sliver of taste would pay $12 or $14 to see Garry Marshall‘s New Year’s Eve….brrnnng! It’s an absolute certified stinker with a 5% Rotten Tomatoes rating, and it’s being projected by Nikki Finke to end up as #1 this weekend with $19 million at 3505 theatres for a per-situation average of $5420.
I wrote Marshall off about ten years ago, but he used to be okay. The Flamingo Kid (’84) wasn’t too bad. I loved his cameo in Lost in America. I found ways to tolerate Beaches (’88), Pretty Woman (’90) and Frankie and Johnny (’91), and I genuinely enjoyed Runaway Bride (’99).
What nudie-hound with a decent-sized PDA (or just a simple iPhone) would shell out for the Lindsay Lohan pics in Playboy? They appeared all over the net today — free. Hugh Hefner‘s publication paid Lohan something close to $1 million to pose for a nude photo spread, which was shot as a tribute to the original 1949 Marilyn Monroe calendar photos.
The photos, for which Monroe was paid $50 some 62 years ago, later turned up in Playboy’s 1953 debut issue.
Hefner announced today “that the leak had prompted him to rush the issue to newsstands this week,” TMZ reports. The issue was originally intended to go on sale next week.
In a 12.9 Oscar-race article focusing on producer Scott Rudin (Extremely Loud & Extremely Close, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), N.Y. Times reporter Brooks Barnes writes that “the buzz from the few people who have seen Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close so far? Superb, but emotionally harrowing — one box of Kleenex might not suffice.”
Barnes also quotes a high-ranking studio executive as saying that Rudin “knows exactly what he has” in Stephen Daldry‘s 9/11 drama, “and it’s a jewel.”
And then a friend who’s seen Extremely Loud said something today that others may agree with: “It’s a better film than War Horse.” Meaning that it’s more or less the same kind of tear-soaked experience but that it uses a tad more restraint and is less emotionally scattershot than Steven Spielberg‘s film.
And then I remembered hearing from a person who’s witnessed reactions to screenings of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, and how “they’ve been through the roof” on an “emotional gut level.”
Two seconds later a lightbulb went on and a little chime went “ding!”
Now, it may be that The Artist will eventually take the Best Picture Oscar, and if that happens…whatever. But if that black-and-white film loses steam and the choice comes down to War Horse vs. Extremely Loud…well! People like me will understand which side of the bread has the butter. So if — I say “if” — it comes down to an either/or, those with War Horse issues will, as Gen. Patton once said, “know what to do.” Just sayin’.
I have to leave in a few for round-table interviews at the Four Seasons for Angelina Jolie‘s In The Land of Blood and Honey. Everyone is looking to get what they want from these things, but whenever an object of tabloid fascination like Jolie sits down at the table, it’s highly likely that some ninny is going to go “off-topic” and ask some idiotic, inane, downmarket question. This is always cause for major eye-rolling, and is one reason why I hate these occasions. Hell, sometimes, is other journalists.
1:25 pm Update: Then again surprises happen from time to time. I’ve just returned from the Blood and Honey junket, and the q & a with Jolie was perfectly fine. In room #1414, at least. Nobody asked any inane tabloid questions. One person asked if handling a brood of seven children was analogous to directing a film, but that was allowable, I felt.
John Williams‘ War Horse soundtrack is about calculated symphonic dictation. It’s one of those scores that goads you, like an overbearing, baton-waving music teacher, into feeling this or that emotion on cue. Williams + Spielberg have been pushing the same buttons and working the same levers since Jaws. I once listened to an orchestra perform a summation of Williams’ best known movie themes at the Hollywood Bowl (with Williams conducting, of course). Well plowed and well trod, to put it mildly.
Mychael Danna‘s Moneyball score is more of a subtle, half-spooky weaver of spells. It’s hardly lacking in the activation of feeling or the use of compositional complexity, but it goes much easier and always seems to be slipping into your inner reservoir, creating spot-on ripples and currents but never trying to overwhelm or wash over. Danna, clearly, is trying to augment what you’re already feeling. As Jonah Hill put it in a recent HE interview, Danna’s score “watches the movie with you.”
Indiewire‘s Amy Dawes attended last night’s Dark Knight Rises prologue IMAX press screening, and has this to say about the big-screen debut of Tom Hardy‘s Bane character: “You’d have to know in advance [that] the villain was Hardy, given that he’s muscled up and puffed up, has a shaved head, and wears a disturbing-looking gas mask that hides all his features save his eyes – kind of a Hannibal Lecter hockey mask-look on steroids.”
On top of which Hardy’s “voice behind the mask is metallic and muffled — another cause for concern.”
The effect, says Dawes, “is more likely to appeal to S&M fetishists than to anyone who hopes to gaze upon the physically blessed actor, who also appeared in Nolan’s most recent movie, Inception.”