Tonight I caught a two-hour performance by Woody Allen & His New Orleans Jazz Band at UCLA’s Royce Hall. I’m so used to hearing this kind of music behind the closing credits of Allen’s films that I didn’t know what to do with it live on-stage. It’s loose and joyous and at the same time too sedate and regulated. But it was fun overall. Thanks to 42West, but no thanks to the Royce Hall usher who stopped my video recording in the middle of a song.
John Williams‘ score for War Horse is relentless. It doesn’t just tell you what to feel at every turn — it browbeats you into each new emotional moment like a schoolyard bully. “Feel this…and now that…feel it!” And yet Dimitri Tiomkin‘s High Noon score does exactly the same thing, and I have no problem with that. It’s one of my all-time fave scores, and Williams’ War Horse score is one of my all-time peeves.
Tiomkin’s score is so consistent with that melody (“Do Not Forsake Me,” etc.) and persistent and all over you that it almost turns High Noon into a kind of musical. Emphatic out-front movie scores are so great when they work, and so awful when they don’t. Two samples: High Noon #1, High Noon #2.
For those who read too quickly: I didn’t write this to slam War Horse for the 319th time. I was pointing out an irony. I don’t like Williams’ score for mauling viewers and telling them what to feel every step of the way, but I love Tiomkin’s score for doing the exact same thing.
Criterion’s Bluray of Luis Bunuel‘s Belle du Jour streets on January 17th. Could this be remade today by an American director? Would there be an audience for it, or have the seeds of intrigue and/or receptivity for this sort of thing passed? I don’t want to hear about this photo being NSFW — don’t even go there.
Imagine that award-season bigmouths like myself received report cards for their efforts to gather or diminish support for this or that contender during Phase One. Here’s how mine would read right now:
Effort to push Moneyball for Best Picture: C-minus. A BP nomination looks good but a win is out of the question — let’s face it. The best that Bennett Miller‘s masterwork can hope for is to place among the Best Picture nominees. The more I’ve pushed Moneyball the more people talk about the unstoppable strength of The Artist and War Horse. There are only so many times you can register disgust and spit on the sidewalk.
Effort to Promote The Descendants for Best Picture: A, but Alexander Payne‘s film has pretty much sold itself.
Effort to Diminish The Standing of The Artist: F.
Effort to Diminish The Standing of The Artist director Michel Hazanavicius: F.
Effort to Diminish The Standing of War Horse: C-minus.
Effort to Diminish The Standing of War Horse director Steven Spielberg: C-minus.
Effort to Diminish The Standing of Hugo: B-minus. But this hasn’t been an abiding passion. I don’t hate this film. I just don’t think it really takes off until the last 25 minutes.
Effort to Promote Moneyball and Tree of Life‘s Brad Pitt as Best Actor finalist: B. Variety‘s Jeff Sneider has claimed on Twitter that Pitt will be nominated but won’t win. We’ll see about that.
Effort to Promote A Better Life‘s Damian Bichir as worthy Best Actor contender: A-minus, judging by Bicihir’s SAG nomination.
Effort to Promote Drive‘s Albert Brooks as leading Best Supporting Actor contender: B, but then everybody is on the train.
Effort to Promote Young Adult‘s Patton Oswalt as leading Best Supporting Actor contender: F.
Effort to Promote Tyrannosaur‘s Olivia Colman as a worthy Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress contender: F, but I managed through that screening-room fundraising drive to at least throw her name into the hopper and goad other Oscar prognosticators to kick it around.
Effort to Respectfully Point Out That The Help‘s Viola Davis, good as she is, is not really a Best Actress contender given the clearly supporting nature of her role: D-minus. No one seems to give a shit about this opinion.
Effort to Promote The Descendants‘ Judy Greer as worthy Best Supporting Actress contender: F.
Effort to Promote Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation as the leading Best Foreign Language Feature Oscar contender: A, but then everybody is on the train.
Effort to Promote Gerardo Naranjo‘s Miss Bala as a worthy Best Foreign Language Feature Oscar contender: Incomplete.
I’ve taken another look at the various Sundance 2012 offerings and rated them 1 to 10 in terms of interest. I’ve only got 23 films listed here, which is a little less than what I usually wind up seeing at this festival. I’m thinking there must be another five that I’m overlooking, and perhaps more than that.
Lay The Favorite / U.S.A. (Director: Stephen Frears, Screenwriter: D.V. Devincintis) — An adventurous young woman gets involved with a group of geeky older men who have found a way to work the sportsbook system in Las Vegas to their advantage. Cast: Rebecca Hall, Bruce Willis, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Vince Vaughn. (9)
Shadow Dancer / United Kingdom (Director: James Marsh. Screenwriter: Tom Brady) — When a widowed mother is arrested in an aborted bomb plot she must make hard choices to protect her son in this heart-wrenching thriller. Cast: Andrea Riseborough, Aiden Gillen, Domhnall Gleeson, Gillian Anderson and Clive Owen. (9)
Bachelorette / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Leslye Headland) — Unresolved issues between four high school friends come roaring back to life when the least popular of them gets engaged to one of the most eligible bachelors in New York City and asks the others to be bridesmaids in her wedding. Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, James Marsden, Adam Scott, Kyle Bornheimer. (8.5)
Red Lights / U.S.A., Spain (Director and screenwriter: Rodrigo Cortes) — Psychologist Margaret Matheson and her assistant study paranormal activity, which leads them to investigate a world-renowned psychic. Cast: Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Olsen, Toby Jones. (8.5)
2 Days in New York / France (Director: Julie Delpy, Screenwriters: Julie Delpy, Alexia Landeau) — Marion has broken up with Jack and now lives in New York with their child. A visit from her family, the different cultural background of her new boyfriend, her sister’s ex-boyfriend, and her upcoming photo exhibition make for an explosive mix. Cast: Julie Delpy, Chris Rock, Albert Delpy, Alexia Landeau, Alex Nahon. (8)
Liberal Arts / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Josh Radnor) — When 30-something Jesse is invited back to his alma mater, he falls for a 19-year-old college student and is faced with the powerful attraction that springs up between them. Cast: Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins, Allison Janney, John Magaro, Elizabeth Reaser. (7.5)
West of Memphis / U.S.A. (Director: Amy Berg) — Three teenage boys are incarcerated for the murders of three 8-year-old boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. 19 years later, new evidence calls into question the convictions and raises issues of judicial, prosecutorial and jury misconduct – showing that the first casualty of a corrupt justice system is the truth. (7.5)
The House I Live In (Director: Eugene Jarecki) — For over 40 years, the War on Drugs has accounted for 45 million arrests, made America the world’s largest jailer and damaged poor communities at home and abroad. Yet, drugs are cheaper, purer and more available today than ever. Where did we go wrong and what is the path toward healing? (7.5)
Nobody Walks (Director: Ry Russo-Young / Screenwriters: Lena Dunham, Ry Russo-Young) — Martine, a young artist from New York, is invited into the home of a hip, liberal LA family for a week. Her presence unravels the family’s carefully maintained status quo, and a mess of sexual and emotional entanglements ensues. Cast: John Krasinski, Olivia Thirlby, Rosemarie DeWitt, India Ennenga, Justin Kirk. (7)
Save the Date (Director: Michael Mohan / Screenwriters: Jeffrey Brown, Egan Reich, Michael Mohan) — As her sister Beth prepares to get married, Sarah finds herself caught up in an intense post-breakup rebound. The two fumble through the redefined emotional landscape of modern day relationships, forced to relearn how to love and be loved. Cast: Lizzy Caplan, Alison Brie, Martin Starr, Geoffrey Arend, Mark Webber. (6.5)
Celeste and Jesse Forever / U.S.A. (Director: Lee Toland Krieger, Screenwriters: Rashida Jones, Will McCormack) — Celeste and Jesse met in high school, married young, and at 30, decide to get divorced but remain best friends while pursuing other relationships. Cast: Rashida Jones, Andy Samberg, Ari Graynor, Chris Messina, Elijah Wood, Emma Roberts. (6.5)
The First Time (Director/screenwriter: Jonathan Kasdan) — Two high schoolers meet at a party, discover what it’s like to fall in love for the first time, etc. Original! If Jon (son of Lawrence) is anything like his brother Jake Kasdan (Bad Teacher), this might be hellish. But a little voice is telling me he’s different…maybe. Cast: Brittany Robertson, Dylan O’Brien, Craig Roberts, James Frecheville, Victoria Justice. (6)
For Ellen (Director/ screenwriter: So Yong Kim) — Beware of any child-custody-battle drama…unless Paul Dano is starring. Then it’s probably okay. Cast: Dano, Jon Heder, Jena Malone, Margarita Levieva, Shay Mandigo. (6)
Hello I Must Be Going (Director: Todd Louiso / Screenwriter: Sarah Koskoff) — Divorced, childless, demoralized and condemned to move back in with her parents at the age of 35, Amy Minsky’s prospects look bleak…until the unexpected attention of a teenage boy changes everything. Cast: Melanie Lynskey, Blythe Danner, Christopher Abbott, John Rubinstein, Julie White. (6)
Untitled Paul Simon Project / U.S.A. (Director: Joe Berlinger) — Paul Simon returns to South Africa to explore the incredible journey of his historic Graceland album, including the political backlash he sparked for allegedly breaking the UN cultural boycott of South Africa, designed to end Apartheid. (6)
Simon Killer (Director/screenwriter: Antonio Campos) — A recent college graduate goes to Paris after breaking up with his girlfriend of 5 years. Once there, he falls in love with a young prostitute and their fateful journey begins. Cast: Brady Corbet, Mati Diop, Constance Rousseau, Michael Abiteboul, Solo. (6)
The Invisible War (Director: Kirby Dick) — An investigative and powerfully emotional examination of the epidemic of rape of soldiers within the U.S. military, the institutions that cover up its existence and the profound personal and social consequences that arise from it. (5.5)
ME at the ZOO (Directors: Chris Moukarbel, Valerie Veatch) — With 270 million hits to date, Chris Crocker, an uncanny young video blogger from small town Tennessee, is considered the Internet’s first rebel folk hero and at the same time one of its most controversial personalities. (5)
L (Director: Babis Makridis / Screenwriters: Efthymis Filippou, Babis Makridis) — A man who lives in his car gets caught up in the undeclared war between motorcycle riders and car drivers. Cast: Aris Servetalis, Makis Papadimitriou, Lefteris Mathaios, Nota Tserniafski, Stavros Raptis. (5)
My Brother the Devil (Director/screenwriter: Sally El Hosaini) — A pair of British Arab brothers trying to get by in gangland London learn the extraordinary courage it takes to be yourself. Cast: James Floyd, Said Taghmaoui, Fady Elsayed. (5)
Wish You Were Here (Director: Kieran Darcy-Smith / Screenwriters: Felicity Price, Kieran Darcy-Smith) — Four friends embark on a carefree holiday, but only three return home. Who knows what happened on that fateful night? Cast: Joel Edgerton, Teresa Palmer, Felicity Price, Antony Starr. (5)
Wrong (Director/screenwriter: Quentin Dupieux) — Dolph searches for his lost dog, but through encounters with a nympho pizza-delivery girl, a jogging neighbor seeking the absolute, and a mysterious righter of wrongs, he may eventually lose his mind… and his identity. Cast: Jack Plotnick, Eric Judor, Alexis Dziena, Steve Little, William Fichtner. (5)
Young & Wild (Director: Marialy Rivas / Screenwriters: Marialy Rivas, Camila Gutierrez, Pedro Peirano) — 17-year-old Daniela, raised in the bosom of a strict Evangelical family and recently unmasked as a fornicator by her shocked parents, struggles to find her own path to spiritual harmony. Cast: Alicia Rodri¬≠guez, Aline Kuppenheim, Mari¬≠a Gracia Omegna, Felipe Pinto. (5)
So it’s settled, then, that Andy Serkis (Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and Patton Oswalt (Young Adult) are out of the Best Supporting Actor race? That doesn’t seem right. Christopher Plummer, Albert Brooks and Jonah Hill deserve their slots. But Kenneth Branagh‘s Laurence Olivier in My Week With Marilyn was just sufficiently good, and Nick Nolte‘s ex-rummy dad in Warrior played the same note over and over.
Shamelessly stolen from Movieline‘s latest Oscar Index.
L.A. Times staffer Amy Kaufman has reported on the gradual mongrelization of Hollywood’s Grauman’s Chinese plex by its sleazebag owners, Donald Kushner and Elie Samaha. They’re not high priests of cinema, these guys, so they’re after the dough, of course. And that means lowering the value of the place by inviting various downmarket types to leave their handprints and footprints.
(l.) Elie Samaha, (r.) Donald Kushner.
Okay, not all the changes are for the worse. Kaufman writes that “plans are in the works to relight the forecourt and restore old theater signs to resemble their 1930s appearance.” But the aura is otherwise being downgraded on a step-by-step basis, it seems, with the cement handprints and footprints of Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner, Mickey Rourke and Kobe Bryant having been added, and with the deteriorating handprints of Groucho Marx being given the heave-ho.
“It has nothing to do with who is an authentic, for-the-ages star,” film critic and documentarian Richard Schickel tells Kaufman. “That has deteriorated. It’s obviously driven entirely by what is hot at this moment, publicity and money. I guess it’s kinda nice, but it’s not the ultimate accolade for a movie actor.”
I ran a piece about the apparent intentions of Kaufman-Samaha on 4.29.11. The sporadic or special-event conversion of the main Chinese theatre into a Studio 54-like space with removable seats hasn’t happened yet, but tomorrow is another day.
The first (and not all that successful) screen version of The Quiet American, directed and written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Phillip Noyce’s 2002 version was much better written, more atmospheric, movingly acted and beautifully photographed.
Mark Robson’s Phffft! opened on 11.10.54.