A couple of hours ago Sony Pictures Classics announced that they’ve acquired Amy Berg and Peter Jackson‘s West of Memphis. The acclaimed doc about the wrongly imprisoned West Memphis Three (i.e., Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, Jessie Misskelley Jr.), who were finally released last summer, was screened at the 2012 Sundance and Santa Barbara film festivals.
(l. to r.) West of Memphis director Amy Berg, Damien Echols, Lorri Davis.
I was told about the Sony Classics’ deal late last month in Santa Barbara. (Right before I posted this story, in fact.) I guess it takes a while to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s and get everyone on the same page.
In this SNL promo, Lindsay Lohan has clearly acquired a plumper face and what seem to be (am I wrong?) surgically-augmented cheekbones. And what’s with the bangs? She’s definitely remade herself. I for one prefer that slightly haggard, worn-down, worse-for-wear look she’s had the last couple of years. At least that was honest.
During last Monday’s Oscar Poker Sasha Stone and I got into a little back-and-forth about Viola Davis‘s Denzel Washington/Malcolm X cut. She said at one point that ‘fros are making a comeback these days, at least among teenage girls, and I said “but why?…to what end?”
Today she sent along a post from forharriet.com, and a quote that reads as follows: “Our personal guides for aesthetic liberation need not be famous women. Do you have a Viola Davis in your own life? Maybe you are someone’s Viola Davis.”
To which I replied, “Maybe you are someone’s Angela Davis. Break out the ‘fro, girl!
Here’s how it went from that point on….
Sasha: “Hah! You and I both stepped into it talking about it because neither of knows enough about the subject. But I dug [Viola’s] ‘fro. It was like a big FUCK YOU to Hollywood.”
Me: “Well, I know what I know. African American-identity-wise, the ’60s and ’70s were a time of rocks and Molotovs, up against the wall, revolutionary attitudes, riots, Stokely Carmichael and the Black Panthers, etc. Among the militant set ‘I’m black and I’m proud’ went hand in hand with no kowtowing whatsoever to the glossy, glamoured, glitzy Diana Ross or Dionne Warwick approach to female beauty. So Angela Davis and her legions broke out the ‘fro, and that lasted for…what, six or seven years? Less?
“What’s going on now to fortify what you were calling the New 21st Century ‘fro? What ‘s happening politically or culturally to augment this new African-American Naturalism, which you say is breaking out in schools? I don’t see anything out there except style for style’s sake. Last Sunday I just saw Viola breakin’ out the Malcolm X/Denzel Washington reddish-brownish hair because it’s closer to the real her. It makes her less attractive to me, but more attractive to herself and perhaps to many thousands of women who feel similarly about their appearance…who knows? If you ask me it’s a fringe thing.”
Sasha: “Why does [her Denzel-Malcolm hair] make her less attractive? I think it’s lovely. But maybe because when I was a kid I had a Jamaican stepfather who taught us about racism pretty early on. My sister and I would braid our hair at night so that when we went to school we would have kinky hair like our black classmates. Our favorite movie was Cooley High. Anyway, I’ve always had kink envy. My daughter’s best friend has a great fro, as does her mom, but they both straighten them and wear wigs to fit in and be more attractive in white culture.
“It is more than fashion, I think, for black women. It’s an obliteration of a trademark made ‘okay’ by Oprah. And a source of shame, I think, for black girls growing up in our culture. In the 1970s the fro was a powerful thing. I love it that Davis did that. As I just wrote on my site it was like a big old ‘I DON’T GIVE A SINGLE FUCK.'”
Me: “Short tight hair is a huge turnoff for 98% of the guys out there. Make it 99%. Guys wants soft, luscious hair with length and body, shampoo-fresh and smelling like lilacs and all that good stuff. Viola doesn’t give a fuck? Okay, fine. But she’ll never play Brad Pitt’s maid whom he has an affair with if she plays it that way. She herself said she wants ‘that perfect part’…that’s her whole life, her big ambition. If she mans herself up with short hair she’s taking herself out of the running for a lot of stuff. Just sayin’.”
Sasha: “Yeah but guess what? Her career doesn’t have be defined by whether Brad Pitt wants to fuck her or not. And to play his maid? Oh, could she be so lucky to play Brad Pitt’s maid? Are you serious? There is a whole world out there ready to accept women in all different sorts of ways. Reality check: the Academy oldsters are the backwards, out of touch, pampered, insulated group of people whose taste is so bad most people think of them the way they do their own grandparents whose tastes must be condescended to over and over again. Who were the main group of people who weren’t afraid to call out War Horse for being a stinking pile? The women! The men, when it comes to choosing greatness in art, aren’t the last word and they aren’t the smartest, necessarily.
“If actresses had to always worry that they weren’t fuckable for old white guys, believe me, our films would freefall into the shit pile. Actually, they already have. And anyway, are you really going to tell me that, if given the choice between Meryl Streep and Viola Davis, any grown male with an erection isn’t going to pick Davis?”
“I think that’s a weak argument. If she really wants to win an Oscar, yeah, she has to dumb herself way down to match the puny reptilian IQs of most male Academy voters. But if she wants to say something bigger than that, if she wants to truly be powerful, she will fight against the status quo. And more power to her.”
Me: “You can call it a weak argument, but for the most part men pay to see movies starring women they want to do it with…sorry. Failing that, they pay to see movies starring actresses they know are top-of-the-line great and masters of their craft, which is where Davis comes in. But she’s limiting her options if she wants to butch up. You know it and I know it. A remake of Too Beautiful For You would be a very touching, very original, very high-end thing. Don’t make fun of that concept. Oh, and I applaud the bloc of women critics who stood against War Horse. Hats off.”
Sasha: “Jeff, you’re so funny. I don’t think Viola was butching up. I thought she looked hot and beautiful and way sexier than any of the stick figures who were walking the carpet. Why would you want to rest your body on the body of a little boy, moreover…a bag of skin and bones? I wouldn’t. If I were a guy I’d much rather sink into a woman’s body with actual curves like Davis has. I think her hair looks great like that. The wigs are okay but they always say to me, ‘I’m trying to white-ify myself.'”
“And fine if you want to kiss the ass of dinosaurs — have at it. I would rather see them give Davis a part where she could act, not as Brad Pitt’s maid but as a woman with an actual identity beyond that which appeals only to men. I’m tired of the dinosaurs. We’ve had enough of them. They need to step aside now because they’re ruining Hollywood.”
I only got 63% of the Oscar winners right last Sunday. (In part because I was unable to absorb what I’d sensed about Meryl Streep winning Best Actress.) In any event I relate to others who are so swayed by their own determinations that their ability to gauge what the Academy is thinking is, shall we say, compromised. I feel kinship, in other words, with prognosticators like Anne Thompson, David Poland, Greg Ellwood, Mark Harris and Stu VanAirsdale, all of whom wound up with not-so-hot rankings among the Gurus of Gold Oscar-pickers.
Poland always refuses to post the final results of Gurus of Gold Oscar predictions, so once again here are the results with the number of correct calls (the total categories being 24) in parantheses:
1. Pete Hammond (19); 2. Kris Tapley (19); 3. Mark Olsen (18); 4. Sasha Stone (18); 5. Steve Pond (18); 6. Anthony Breznican (17); 7. Peter Howell (17); 8. Susan Wloszczyna (17); 9. “Safe Dave” Karger (17); 10. Anne Thompson (16); 11. David Poland (15); 12. Greg Ellwood (14); 13. Mark Harris (14); and 14. Stu VanAirsdale (14).
“A brutal, unapologetic comedy about the fantasy every high school kid carries around in his head about being popular and cool and beloved, Project X is an astounding, superlative movie about adolescence,” declares Miami Herald critic Rene Rodriguez.
“This is a cinematic mix tape of every conceivable teen-film staple — Rebel Without a Cause, Over the Edge, Porky’s, John Hughes‘ entire body of work — cranked up to deafening volume and given a modern spit-polish. There isn’t a single thing in Project X that isn’t derivative or borrowed. You’ve just never seen it done quite like this before.
“Every generation grows up smarter and more aware than the previous one, and many teens today have lost their innocence long before they’ve even hit puberty. Project X is a comedy about kids weaned on the Internet and video games and cable: They know too many things they probably shouldn’t know, but they can still tell right from wrong. The characters do bad, bad things, but they’re not rotten: They’re just driven by the impulsive nature and sense of indestructibility that belongs to the young, and the movie is a wish-fulfillment fantasy about adolescents giving in to every one of their impulses, consequences be damned.
“Producer Todd Phillips, who has pushed the envelope of taste and propriety throughout his career (he made Old School, The Hangover and the infamous documentary Frat House), also has a taste for the absurd, and he knows the value of a good visual gag.
“Project X has a running bit of business involving [a] Yorkshire Terrier, who suffers a series of indignities as the house party begins to spiral out of control (before the first keg has run dry, the animal has already been tied to balloons and sent floating into the air). But the movie, beneath its raunchy veneer, is so noble and good-hearted that even the dog gets laid before the night is out. Twice.”
This looks half-tolerable…maybe. But I’m still intimidated by the thought of watching anything with the handprint of the dreaded Joss Whedon. I also have a problem with any film in which Samuel L. Jackson uses the word “hopelessly.” I’m also concerned that the film has been converted from 2D to 3D.
The architecture of any proverbial city always suffers when a superhero dukes it ou with an adversary. The hands-down winner of the Urban Destruction prize so far is Michel Bay‘s Transformers 3. Let’s see where The Avengers takes us in this regard. Get that old 9/11 ash-and-ruin vibe going again.
The last time I gave a thought to former Monkee Davy Jones was a year or so ago in Manhattan. I was walking south on Eighth Avenue when I happened to notice he was doing a live show in a modest venue near the corner of 42nd Street. I remember thinking to myself, “Well, it’s a gig at least.” The show continued, according to this interview with timesquare.com’s Peggy Hogan, with an opening set for Saturday, 2.18.
The Monkees were an embarassment even when they were hot, of course. Jones never stopped playing “cute” to the cameras…intolerable. But I’ve always had a soft spot for their cover of Neil Diamond‘s “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You.”
The creators of this piece, the footage for which was captured during Rio’s 2011 Carnaval, are Jarbas Agnelli and Keith Loutif. The process is called “tilt/shift,” but it’s obviously a mixture of real footage and miniature-simulating stop-motion/CG/whatever. The fascinating thing is that you can’t always tell where the action leaves off and the tilt/shift tweaking begins. Take the real world and make it look fake — what a concept!
Last night a respected critic and film journalist emailed about yesterday’s article regarding Paramount’s curious decision not to press-screen Titanic 3D between now and 4.3. “I’ve seen Titanic 3D too,” he said, “and Ebert and Poland are wrong, and Lou Lumenick — for once — is right.
“Yes, the image is slightly darker through the glasses. I took them off several times during the movie to compare. I have no basis whatsoever for saying this, but I suspect Cameron may have brightened the image slightly for the 3D presentation in order to compensate. But it looks terrific — as good as any upconverted 3D presentation I’ve seen. Was it necessary? No. But it’s an excuse to get excited about seeing the movie on the big screen again, and the 3D doesn’t detract anything from the experience.
“There was never a moment in the movie when I thought ‘man, I wish this was in 2D!” Most of the 3D is used for spatial effects instead of ‘wow’ stuff. There were only a few shots, all of them post-iceberg, that felt designed to elicit shock and awe…and it works. Cameron knows exactly what he’s doing — he’s a fucking genius. I bow to the guy, even though I though Avatar was shit. The re-release is going to be a huge hit and make another $100 million.”
Can anyone explain why Ed Helms starts driving his Porsche like a crazy man in this scene from Jeff, Who Lives At Home (Paramount Vantage, 3.16)? There’s one funny line — “Porches are for normal people, you’re a Sasquatch” — and then Helms says “check this out” and it’s off to Whacko City with the car slamming into a tree. Nonsensical isn’t funny. Funny is when an apparently rational person tries to make something turn out right but events overwhelm him/her.
Directed and written by Jay and Mark Duplass, Jeff, Who Lives at Home is about a 30 year-old still living in his parents’ basement (Jason Segel), and his older prick brother (Helms) whose marriage is winding down. Susan Sarandon plays the mom, and Judy Greer plays Helms’ wife.