Earlier today Awards Daily‘s Ryan Adams posted several one-sheets inspired by the 2012 Best Picture nominees. The show, co-sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Gallery1988 (7021 Melrose Ave. just east of La Brea), is called “For Your Consideration.” My favorite by far is Matt Owen‘s Amour poster.
“If you’re any kind of fan of Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining, Rodney Ascher‘s Room 237 is one of the greatest pure-pleasure organisms out there as it very entertainingly explores numerous hidden-meaning interpretations (some fruit-loopy, some fascinating) various folks have found in Kubrick’s 1980 classic. It’s so incredibly dense and labrynthian and jam-packed with thoughts and probes and speculations that you almost have to see it twice — there’s just too much to take in during one sitting.” — from a 9.14.12 Toronto posting.
10:20 pm Update: So Nemo is (a) a serious Boston blizzard and (b) snow and slush in greater New York City. I remember the blizzard of ’78 (I was living in Westport, Connecticut at the time) and this doesn’t sound like a repeat of that for anyone in the Tristate area. A hassle for thousands, I’m sure, but I for one feel like slightly let down.
Melissa McCarthy is a sharp, provocative, never-boring comedian. She plays obnoxious, compulsive, anti-social low-lifes who are oblivious to how appalling their behavior is. The fact that she’s obese fits right in with this. What undercuts this, of course, is that she’s in the same unhealthy boat as Gov. Chris Christie, who gets called out all the time for his girth. Watch McCarthy in one of her films and you can’t help but say to yourself “she’s funny and brilliant but on some level she’s also self-destructive.”
Chubby is one thing but whopper-size means you’re possibly flirting with a shorter life span (i.e., John Candy). Maybe. You can’t keep that thought out of your head.
I missed last Tuesday’s all-media screening of Identity Thief and I probably won’t see it anytime soon, but if I’d posted something I never would’ve gone after McCarthy’s weight like Rex Reed did in his New York Observer review. “Hippo,” “tractor-sized,” “a gimmick comedian who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success,” etc. I respect that she’s brainy and nervy and accept the fact that she’s plus-sized, and that’s more or less it.
Except for the obesity metaphor, that is. Fatter comedians are thought to be funnier than slim ones, and maybe that’s true on some level. But McCarthy would still be funny if she were 30 or 40 pounds lighter. I don’t think it’s being mean or insensitive to say she should work on that.
Bette Davis gave a legendary performance as the snapdragon Margo Channing in Joseph L. Mankiewicz‘s All About Eve. Insecure, proud, bitchy, tempestuous…quite the bucking bronco. But watching her the night before last on a sizable screen reminded me that by today’s standards, Davis looks roughed up for a woman who was only 41 or a young 42 when the film was made. Strikingly attractive but with puffy features and baggy eyes and other indications of age gaining the upper hand.
(l. to r.) Anne Baxter, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe and George Sanders in All About Eve.
Honestly? By today’s standards Davis looks like a woman of 55 or even 60 with dyed hair. (I suppose that “dyed hair” is a redundant term — who doesn’t these days?)
If Davis were around today at this age she’d look much better as she probably wouldn’t be smoking at all (only kids and low-lifes smoke these days) and not drinking half as much (probably restricting herself to wine), and of course she would have had those bags taken care of. It’s not a felony to look your age or a bit older. Not everyone ages well. But no 41 or 42-year-old actress working today would dream of allowing herself to look like Davis did back then. Society expects 45 year-olds to look like 35 year-olds, 60 year-olds to look like 50 year-olds and so on.
Anne Baxter‘s Eve Harrington is, of course, quite the conniving liar — playing the role of Channing’s most devoted fan and assistant when all she wants is to push Channing aside. But by today’s standards, Baxter’s readings are so sterile and poised she almost seems inhuman. She’s supposed to be calculating but she reads her lines like a bloodless sociopath. At the end of the day most of the characters — Margo, Celeste Holm‘s Karen Richards, George Sander‘s Addison DeWitt, Thelma Ritter‘s Birdie — have seen through her, but you’re wondering why Gary Merill and Hugh Marlowe‘s characters don’t. They’re supposed to be sharp operators.
True story: I was driving along Melrose Ave. near Doheny in late 1983. (Or was it ’84?) I noticed that a new BMW in front of me had a framed license plate that came from a dealer in Westport, Connecticut, where I had lived only five years earlier and which is next to my home town of Wilton. I pulled alongside the Beemer and saw right away that it was Baxter (who looked pretty good for being 60 or thereabouts) behind the wheel. I rolled down my window and said, “Hey, Westport…I’m from Wilton!” And Baxter waved and smiled and say “Hiiiiii!” She died of a brain aneurysm a couple of years later.
The night before last I attended a special screening of Joseph L. Mankiewicz‘s All About Eve on the 20th Century Fox lot. I’d been invited by Fox’s restoration guru and archive protector Schawn Belston and Fox Home Video’s in-house publicist James Finn, and it was delightful watching this 1950 Best Picture winner in such a clean, rich and spotless state. The source was a DCP but we were basically watching the version contained in the Bluray that came out two years ago.
But in his opening remarks, Belston said that the DCP Eve is a visually different entity than what was seen by audiences 62 years ago when nitrate (or “silver nitrate“) prints were the industry standard for monochrome. Famous (or infamous) for having been phased out in 1953 because they’re highly combustible, nitrate prints delivered a glistening, gleaming quality. Somebody once wrote that they seemed to be “etched in liquid silver.” And even the best digital mastering can’t recreate this. The Eve I saw Wednesday is very nice but it doesn’t shimmer. It looked sumptuous but a bit flat.
Is this an arcane observation? Yes. Will most people who buy the All About Eve Bluray share this view? No. But I nonetheless began to wonder why a gifted digital engineer couldn’t somehow devise a form of software that would simulate that gone-but-not-forgotten silver nitrate look. Seriously, why not?
In 2001 MGM Home Video released a Moby Dick DVD managed to simulate the look of a special faded-color blend that dp Oswald Morris and John Huston came up with when they made their release prints by blending color with a monochrome or “gray” negative. I saw a reel of that film once at the Academy, and the simulation that MGM Home Video came up with wasn’t quite the same thing — it lacked a blunt scontrasty quality that delivered a steely, grayish color — but at least they made an effort, and it wasn’t half bad.
Something tells me that at least an effort could be made to simulate that silver nitrate sparkle through some kind of tweaking software. I think it could be a marketing tool to boost sales of old black-and-white classics on Bluray. Faced with a choice between purchasing the currently available Bluray of All About Eve and a Special Liquid Silver Edition, I wouldn’t think twice about it — I’d buy the latter.
Has anyone ever heard of anyone at least theorizing that a process along these lines could perhaps be created?
This morning I asked a knowledgable expert about this possibility and he said it wasn’t in the cards. “The main thing about nitrate,” he said, “is that unlike safety stock, it looks crystal clear [and] you can’t simulate this look because you would first need an original camera negative, and then you need a white-white screen, preferably one smelling of cigarette smoke…but there’s no replicating the look of that absolutely crystal clear base. You can’t do it.”
Okay, a true replication can’t happen but shouldn’t technicians at least try to create a software makeoever process that would make restored black-and-white classics look a little more sparkly and a little less flat?
On Tuesday, 2.5, Connecticut Rep. Joe Courtney posted a complaint about Lincoln having dishonored his state’s voting legacy by showing two fictitiously-named Connecticut representatives voting against the 13th Amendment on January 31, 1865. On Wednesday everybody wrote about it including myself. When I asked for a comment I was told Lincoln screenwriter Tony Kushner was on a plane. That’s where I left it.
One presumes Kushner eventually landed and made his way to a heated room with a computer, all the while mulling Courtney’s beef and talking it over with friends and colleagues. Sometime Wednesday or more likely Thursday Kushner wrote a reply to Courtney, and at 1:49 am this morning it appeared in the Wall Street Journal‘s Speakeasy section by way of Christopher John Farley.
Boiled down, Kushner said that (a) yes, Courtney is correct but (b) he’s okay with having marginally fictionalized history (not just by misrepresenting the votes of two Connecticut Congressmen but depicting the vote as being “organized state by state, which is not the practice of the House”) because he and director Steven Spielberg “wanted to clarify to the audience that the Thirteenth Amendment passed by a very narrow margin that wasn’t determined until the end of the vote.”
Really boiled down: “Ask yourself, ‘Did this thing happen?’ If the answer is yes, then it’s historical. Then ask, ‘Did this thing happen precisely this way?’ If the answer is yes, then it’s history; if the answer is no, not precisely this way, then it’s historical drama.”
Reasonable rationale: “In making changes to the voting sequence, we adhered to time-honored and completely legitimate standards for the creation of historical drama, which is what Lincoln is.”
Kicker: “I hope nobody is shocked to learn that I also made up dialogue and imagined encounters and invented characters.”