I didn’t mean to diss this evening’s American Cinematheque tribute to Ben Stiller at the Beverly Hilton, which I attended. Not overtly. But I did get bored and I did express that, and then Rian Johnson (Hey, Rian!) came along and said “let’s exchange jokes” and it was all downhill from there. The tribute reels and jokes from the lecturn (Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Patton Oswalt, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Justin Theorux, Jennifer Aniston) were fine or funny enough. But the tweeting was more fun.
I saw this last night at Ameoba and when I realized it would only set me back $20 bills and change I bought it. Total impulse and without much of a point as I don’t have a turntable sound system. It has an extra-heavy vinyl record inside with the Parlophone label on it and those extra tunes, and I just caved into the idea of owning it and…I don’t know, the idea of being able to hang it on my wall or something.
The enemies of Joe Wright‘s Anna Karenina (Focus Features, 11.16) just can’t seem to open up and let it carry them off. They can’t or won’t submit to the swirl and the thrill. It gets heavy and dirge-like toward the end, okay, but the first 60% to 70%? Forget about it. It’s so “theatrical” in its concept that it pole-vaults over that and becomes a kind of cinematic ecstasy ride. Once you’ve decided to not fight this film, it’s all about lying back in a cushioned, adjustable, red-velvet orchestra seat and just letting it pour over you.
Free popcorn and drink ticket handed out at last night’s Anna Karenina premiere.
Cinematic and choreographic audacity and production-designed and costumes and sets and backdrops all jiggered and fitted together just so and orchestrated like music and ballet…a ballet with words, all of it cascading and dancing and brimming over and making those who can submit to it feel the kind of delight that hasn’t come along since the glory days of the madness of Ken Russell, only more so.
The dissers and the shruggers complain that Anna Karenina is all dazzling genius style and that they can’t get into the story with so much stagey ingenuity going on. Let me explain something. If it hadn’t been for the super-brilliant, live-performance-at the-Winter Garden-theatre arranging of Anna Karenina I wouldn’t have seen it four times so far. The style doesn’t defeat the material — it saves the film from feeling like just another re-mounting of a classic historical melodrama.
Wright’s decision to abandon traditional historical realism and go the way he did was prompted by financial restriction. He realized he couldn’t do a traditional piece set in 1870s Russia for $30 million (which is what Keira Knightley has told me it cost), or at least not one that would add up or make any kind of difference for modern audiences, so he decided on the all-happening-in-a-theatre approach. He didn’t get the money he wanted so he resorted to his imagination.
Is this not a metaphor for what many filmmakers are often faced with? And the best solution possible? Not having enough of a budget always sparks creativity, and for the better. If Wright had been given $60 or $75 or $100 million, Anna Karenina wouldn’t have been as good, I swear.
Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir calls Wright’s scheme a “crazy idea,” but says “it works maybe 70% of the time [and] when it does it’s both daring and brilliant. It largely frees Wright from staging laborious outdoor location shoots — although there are several occasions when the movie breaks the frame into the ‘real world’ outside the demimonde of Moscow and St. Petersburg society — and entirely frees him from distracting questions of realism or period accuracy.
“[This] a furiously ambitious literary adaptation, the best of Wright and Knightley’s careers, that tries to make us feel the intense sexuality and terror and grief of a classic novel, and to force us to face its questions about love and marriage and agree that we still can’t answer them.”
Now that I’ve seen Brett Morgen‘s Crossfire Hurricane (HBO, debuting tonight at 9pm), I have to say that it’s not a significant addition to the Rolling Stones’ cinematic catalogue. It’s basically old footage with present-day narration. The real deal, as previously noted, is Charlie Is My Darling, “the 1965 black-and-white Rolling Stones-touring-in-Ireland movie that runs only 65 minutes but is, I feel, a perfect capturing of a fascinating moment in time — concise, unforced and almost mild-mannered.” Best appreciated via the ABKCO Bluray and played through a strong sound system.
I did a total turn-around on Channing Tatum in Magic Mike, but unless he continues to be a three-hour-a-day gym Nazi every day for the rest of his life, he’s going to become a serious beefalo when he hits a certain age. It’s in his genes, and he can’t do anything about that. He’s going to turn into Aldo Ray in The Green Berets when he’s 38 and eventually Teddy Kennedy when he hits his 50s. Enjoy the lean times while they last, pal.
In a recent Daily Beast Hero Summit, Aaron Sorkin has confided that his Steve Jobs movie “is going to be three scenes, and take place in real time.” Further, each of the three 30-minute scenes will take place backstage before a major product launch. The three products Sorkin is referring to will be the original Macintosh in 1984, the something-or-other, and the iPod….right? The Jobs material begins at 22:35.
When N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis catches a writerly wave, the result isn’t just stirring but occasionally joyous because it doesn’t capture but re-animates the “it.” For me anyway. Her just-posted Silver Linings Playbook review is such a piece of writing — at par with her brilliant August 2004 review of Michael Mann‘s Collateral:
“A virtuoso of chaos, David O. Russell has supreme command over a movie that regularly feels as if it’s teetering on the edge of hysteria, in respect to the characters and director both. But Mr. Russell doesn’t just choreograph bedlam, he also tames it, and worrying that it might all go kablooey with one shout too many. Like a singer who quavers tauntingly, thrillingly close to going off-key, Mr. Russell never loses control. Watching him pull back from the brink can be a delight.
“As its title announces, Silver Linings Playbook honks, waves and pleads for happiness. Happy endings used to be de rigueur in American movies, and while they often still are, the feelings accompanying them tend to feel as canned as Katherine Heigl’s laughter, maybe because filmmakers no longer buy them, or think that we don’t.
“Russell’s affinity for sight gags and the slap and tickle that makes lovers of combatants derives from his affinity for screwball comedy, a genre that emerged in the 1930s and that he borrows for his own singular purposes. His movies embrace different problems and character types — a strung-out drug addict rather than an alcohol-soaked swell — but like the classics of the form, they have zippy, at times breakneck pacing, rapidly fired zingers and physical comedy that, taken together, reflect the wild unpredictability of the greater world.
“The world in Silver Linings Playbook looks different from the way it does in old screwball comedies, of course, but it too is racked by pain and worry, and there are lost jobs and pensions amid its hiccupping laughter. For all its high-flying zaniness the movie has the sting of life, and its humor feels dredged up from the same dark, boggy place from which Samuel Beckett extracted his yuks.
“Silver Linings Playbook is crammed with people talking and shouting and weeping and also yielding to what are sometimes called boundary issues but which here turn out to be the mad, loving scrambling of people finding and saving one another. These are characters who get in one another’s faces and occasionally punch a loved one right in the kisser. They must go on, they can’t go on, but together they do.”
This also from Hitfix‘s Drew McWeeny:
“For a romantic comedy or dramedy, as I guess you’d call this film, to really work, you can’t just sit silently and watch the mechanics of the thing play out. You have to get personally invested in seeing the two main characters find some peace and love with each other, and Silver Linings Playbook does that better than any film of its type that I can name in the last few years. It might be my favorite romantic film since Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, and I think that’s because this film acknowledges just how hard we make things for ourselves, and just how easy they could be if we got out of our own way sometimes.
Like Flirting With Disaster or Spanking The Monkey or even I Heart Huckabees, this is a film with its own cadence [and] its own particular sense of music, and it is a tremendous success for writer/director David O. Russell. Seems like he got out of his own way here, and the result should be nothing but sunshine for him and for audiences this holiday season.”
I’ve been wanting to say something, but my liberal mentality kept shutting it down or something. The righties never say in so many words that they want to cut back on entitlements in order to significantly reduce the deficit, but that’s what they want to do. They’re afraid to say this in so many words, of course, because for most Americans entitlements cannot and must not be fucked with, come hell or high water. But they almost certainly have to be…don’t they?
As much as I think it’s essential to restore Clinton-era tax rates for the wealthiest individuals and the big corporations, the righties aren’t wrong when they say that upping tax rates on the bucks-up crowd won’t cut into the deficit that much. The only way to really, really get things in order is to cut down on entitlements, which have grown quite a lot over the last 30 years (or so I understand). There — I’ve said it. It needs to be faced. Well, doesn’t it?
For openers, raise the retirement age to 70. 65 is way too young to leave the workforce. It’s not the way people live these days. 65 is the new 50 or 55. 70 is the new 55 or 60. Once you stop working you start to die anyway so the government would be doing people a favor by insisting on retirement at 70.
Wow…where did this come from? I initially dismissed the idea of a series produced by Netflix, but you can sense right away that House of Cards (a 10-episode deal that begins in early February) is top-grade stuff. Sharp, cut-to-the-chase dialogue by Kate Barnor, Sam Forman and Michael Dobbs. Seemingly one of Kevin Spacey‘s best roles in a dog’s age, easily in the league of his Margin Call guy. Two episodes directed by David Fincher (whoa!), three by James Foley and two by Joel Schumacher.
Lincoln screenwriter Tony Kushner, obviously a fair-minded, highly intelligent and deeply respected artist and good fellow, and Gold Derby‘s Tom O’Neil on the personal side of Abraham Lincoln, and less so the film. Kushner: “There is very little evidence that [Lincoln] was robustly heterosexual.” Yeah, agreed, but William Shakespeare was “definitely bisexual”? That’s a new one, no?