A day before today’s French debut of Ridley Scott‘s Prometheus, Le Monde critic Isabelle Regniertrashed it. I’m translating it word for word as we speak, but the headline reads as follows: “Prometheus – Alien betrayed by his own creator, Ridley Scott.”
The snippiest quote in the 5.29 review doesn’t read all that eloquently (blame Bablefish) but here it is : “In the role of a company man being paid handsomely for his work, Ridley Scott follows the typical commercial road map. His mission: ressurect the Alien franchise and give the audience something a copy of something they like, nothing more.”
Wells to HBO publicists: How would you feel about sending screeners containing the first two or three episodes of Aaron Sorkin‘s The Newsroom to me in Prague? That wouldn’t be such a big deal. An int’l Fed Ex form instead of a domestic one and a bit more money. I really don’t want to be behind the eight ball on this one.
HE reader John English found Men in Black 3 “a fun, fluffy return to form for the franchise,” he writes. “It buries all those bad Men in Black II memories, but honestly, ten years later, who remembers anything about all that specific about that decade-old film? But enough of generalities. This is about age gaps.
“The present day in MiB3 is firmly established as 2012, and the time Agent J travels back to is firmly established as 1969. That’s a 43-year difference. Now the only time anyone gives their age is Young Agent K (Josh Brolin) who reveals he’s 29. It’s a funny line. K apparently ages quickly. This also means that Current Agent K is 72. Okay, I can accept that. In real life Brolin is 44 and Jones is 65, so Agent K aged horribly in his 20’s, and then it slowed down. Like Walter Matthau.
“But then we have Current Agent O (Emma Thompson) and Young Agent O (Alice Eve). Thompson is only 53 years old, but Eve is 30, not 10. Okay, so maybe K and O are the same age? You’re telling me Thompson’s okay with playing a 72-year-old with no aging make-up?
“And then there’s Will Smith‘s Agent J. Smith is 43, but with the events in this movie, that means Agent J is really over 50 years old. And J does not act like he’s over 50.
“The screenwriters really wanted the year to be 1969 so they can have the moon launch and the hippies and the clothing and Andy Warhol (nice one, Bill Hader), but it feels like a script that was written six years ago, when the ages would have been less of an issue. Even so, why does Emma Thompson take a role that says she’s over 70?”
“Shot largely in desaturated gray palettes, Snow White and the Huntsman makes impressive use of gothic imagery best exemplified by a stone castle rising high above a raging sea. The set design, spare in detail, conjures up an atmosphere both medieval and otherworldly.
“It begins as a supposed prisoner of war named Ravenna, played with biting ferocity by Charlize Theron, marries a benevolent king and promptly murders and usurps him. She imprisons his daughter, the fair Snow White (Kristen Stewart), and begins a reign of terror so poisonous the entire kingdom withers and blackens.
“Theron storms about with caustic nastiness; she screams and browbeats but her performance isn’t campy. It’s as if Young Adult‘s Mavis Gary turned her attention away from Patrick Wilson and toward despotism. With raccoon make-up and intricate hair-braiding, she looks stunning at her best; at one point, she descends bare-backed into a massive vat of milk and emerges with the appearance of being cast in white chocolate.
“But her obsession with preserving her youth and beauty drives the plot. A witch or sorts, given the power of immortality by her mother, Theron’s Ravenna stands to lose her powers should a fairer figure come of age. When Snow White does so, Ravenna sends her lackey brother to bring her to him, prompting an escape, a chase, a mission, planned revenge and the usual usual usual.
“Once Snow White escapes, the story turns to the titular characters, the latter played by Chris Hemsworth. Hemsworth brings a rakish edge to his character’s depressive self-destructive tendencies, and he and Stewart make a fine pair in their storyline. While she’s received criticism for colorless turns in the Twilight series, Stewart does an excellent job with Snow White, giving her ethereal character a steely quality that makes her a worthy heroine for the film.
“Overall, Snow White and the Huntsman deals in an interesting mix of rugged action and feminine burdens. Theron’s anti-aging paranoia gets played with utter seriousness, but it reads similarly to her scenes of excessive primping in Young Adult. Stewart holds the center of the film’s second and third acts, and the script admirably holds the focus on her as an individual. The film’s universe needs her to ascend to the throne but Snow White never needs a king to do so.
“Visually the film thrives when its tone trends toward enchantment. One scene, shown briefly in trailers, features Stewart wandering into a meadow filled with mythical creatures like mossy turtles and a pair of coltish fairies set against luminous greenery. It brings to mind Pan’s Labyrinth in its strange splendor, a considerable feat indeed. 1st time Sanders holds complete control over his bizarre universe, which moves from dark age castles to enchanted forests to gruesome skirmishes large and small with impressive handling.
“The 2.35:1 aspect ratio absorbs the dramatic landscapes effectively, far more so than The Avengers, which felt cramped in 1.85:1. Snow White maneuvers the widescreen views and more intimate stagings with equal effectiveness, allowing for the more taciturn scenes of quiet menace to help amplify the brutal action.
“A trope of the film involves moments of repose getting broken up by bursts of severe carnage. Like The Hunger Games, it engages best through intimate moments between its actors, whether they be Theron and her own insecurity or Stewart finding security through Hemsworth. But once the film shifts its tenuous balance toward the volatile realm of CGI havoc, it loses itself. The ending isn’t difficult to predict and it follows two hours of myth-building that feels under-explained. Theron’s actual powers and how they specifically relate to Snow White aren’t clear until the end; I don’t get the impression that the filmmakers intended to be so cryptic.
“Unlike recent blockbusters like The Hunger Games and The Avengers, Snow White contains an entire story within its singular time frame. It concludes, if shakily, with an almost admirable finality as opposed to working as a set-up for a larger narrative framework.
“Snow White also marks Stewart’s first truly involving turn as a leading actress. Stewart never performs like she’s working for tips, staying within the dour nature of the film’s tone. Eschewing lazy verbal laments, the film instead relies on Stewart’s melancholy body language to remind the audience that she’s lost her mother and father to tragic circumstances before getting her childhood robbed by Theron. After years locked away in a castle, her sudden brush with pastoral beauty and a wondrous white stag forces her face open.
“Like Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games, Stewart opts for reality over charm and affects viewers more deeply in the process.
“Instead of a starting point for a slew of sequels, Snow White and the Huntsman showcases its talented veterans like costume designer Coleen Atwood, Theron, and composer James Newton Howard while previewing the budding skills of Stewart, Hemsworth and Sanders. It’s a flawed but intriguing film that succumbs to convention only in the broad structure of its plot. Within its individual scenes and performances, it engages more deeply than any blockbuster yet this year.”
Boil down Steven Zeitchik‘s 5.28 L.A. Times piece about the impact that the 2012 Cannes Film Festival may have on the Oscar race, and you’re left with one solid: Michael Haneke‘s Amour will be a major contender for Best Foreign Language Film. (Unless the foreign language committee finds it too dispiriting.)
I would like to think that Leos Carax‘s Holy Motors would also figure strongly in that competition. (Unless the rank-and-file dismiss it as too hallucinatory.) That’s what everyone always says when a unmistakably fine film is about to open in the U.S. — i.e., how will the older slowpokes respond?
Yes, Garrett Hedlund has stepped up and out of the box with his Dean Moriarty/Neal Casady turn in Walter Salles‘ On The Road — it’s a bracing, live-wire performance — but it’s destined for Spirit Awards attention, at most. I haven’t seen Mud (many thanks, WeAreFilmNation) so I obviously can’t get into Matthew McConaughey‘s admired performance in the titular role. What about Marion Cotillard‘s exacting but subtle work in Rust and Bone?
HE reader Jenny Frankfurt submitted this Cannes-related guest piece yesterday — one that may not endear her to women who’ve complained about the lack of a female-directed film at this just-concluded gathering. She’s basically saying that discrimination is a problem, but that it serves a kind of Darwinian purpose. Frankfurt is with the LA-based High Street Management, a division of Bohemia Entertainment. [Note: I trimmed the original down a bit.]
“There has been some discussion that none of the 18 films chosen for the 2012 Cannes Film Festival were directed by a woman,” Frankfurt begins. “The suggestion was that festival organizers might have deliberately shunned such films. Perhaps, but perhaps there weren’t any female-directed films that were good enough for Cannes.
“Granted, it’s harder to make it as a female director than a male. Studios are less willing to take risks and for anyone, male or female, independent financing is difficult to find. Some have made it through and the road has been long for their films to be recognized by commercial audiences or even to get anything but very limited distribution. Kathryn Bigelow, Nicole Holofcener, Lisa Cholodenko and Debra Granik have made it through, but many more female filmmakers throughout the world are making films that are not getting seen. Why?
“I just have to throw out the idea that perhaps, in this male dominated business of
filmmaking, men make better films. It is still a ‘male sport’ and women are catching up. I know many females who have graduated from film school and haven’t produced anything of great note. It might be worth considering that there is something called ‘positive discrimination.’
“The head of Women in Film and Television has said that the gap between male and female filmmakers is a ‘cultural thing’, and that it will take time for women to catch
up with men for many reasons. One is that women make more short films as calling cards, because ostensibly they are not given the money for a feature or cannot raise it. Can an independent producer not raise money on the back of a talented female director? I hardly think so. I have represented female directors and they have worked. I have represented male directors and they have not.
“Women directed 7% of last year’s 250 top grossing films. The year before that is
was less and the year before that it was less. So as slow as it may be, as in every
industry, it is building. Women started off at the back of the bus and are working
their way forward. It takes time for every minority to catch up.
“It is mostly ardent feminists who call out what they describe as discrimination
of women at Cannes, and while they are not wrong in that there were no female
directed films, I challenge them to find one that should have been there but wasn’t and really should have been there. There is never any point in laying blame; one always has to look within when something is seemingly amiss. One cannot always blame those in charge for having tunnel vision; the creatives have to produce material that is of quality, and because there are more male filmmakers, more men get recognized.
“It must be known as well that this is a worldwide issue. All films this year that won
awards were not from the U.S. so it is not a Hollywood issue but as mentioned, a
cultural one. And yes, it is a problem.
“Hollywood and the rest of the international filmmaking community need to be open to women, but I don’t believe they are closed. I am in it every day and the door is open, it’s just that the talent has to be strong enough to walk through it.”
I’m pleased to report that Petr Slavik of Bontonfilm.cz has graciously accepted my rsvp for a screening of Ridley Scott‘s Prometheus on Friday, June 1st. So at least I’ll be up to speed on that score. The film opens in Prague on June 7th, or one day before the U.S. release. It opens tomorrow in Paris, Belgium and French-speaking Switzerland.
I love that Quentin Tarantino wore a cowboy hat while directing Django Unchained, or at least when this shot was taken. Creative submission to the material. Did he also wear a gun belt, chaps, a Good, Bad and the Ugly poncho, spurs and cowboy boots? Or would it have been cooler to wear Stanley Kubrick‘s dark blue suit, white shirt and black lace-ups and thereby create his own particular authority?