I should have mentioned earlier that Hollywood’s Arena Cinema (1625 No. Las Palmas, just south of Hollywood Blvd.) is screening Michael Apted‘s 56 Up twice today — Saturday, 2.16, at 5 and 7:45 pm. After the first screening Richard Botto will moderate a discussion with Apted.
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning “is the most exceptional movie of 2012 in part because it has no right to be as good as it is,” writes Paris Review‘s Nick Antosca. “I begrudge nothing to films like Silver Linings Playbook and Django Unchained (which I loved and saw three times) when I say that, given their extraordinary pedigrees and healthy budgets, they had at least a fair shot at being excellent.
“On the other hand, all [director] John Hyams had to do was get Jean Claude van Damme and Dolph Lundgren in the same place at the same time and string together a few coherent fight scenes, and he would have exceeded expectations. Yet somehow he made a strange, haunting, sometimes even beautiful odyssey that lingered with me more than any American movie in recent memory.
“Despite a few surprised critical notices (like this and this), it was too disreputable to be talked about during awards season, but that’s okay. Anything this unusual deserves its own conversation.”
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning, which opened on 11.30.12, has a 50% Rotten Tomatoes rating.
A summary by N.Y. Post critic Kyle Smith: “An intensity of purpose and a patient, suspenseful directing style make the B-movie Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning superior to most of the big-budget action films I’ve seen lately.”
Best Film (Golden Bear) — Child’s Pose, d: Calin Peter Netzer (Romania); Jury Grand Prix (Silver Bear) — An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker, d: Danis Tanovic (Bosnia); Best Director (Silver Bear) — David Gordon Green for Prince Avalanche; Best Actress (Silver Bear) — Paulina Garcia, Gloria; Best Actor (Silver Bear) — Nazif Mujic, An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker (Bosnia); Best screenplay (Silver Bear) — Jafar Panahi and Kamboziya Partovi, Closed Curtain; Outstanding artistic contribution (Silver Bear) — Kazakh cameraman Aziz Zhambakiyev, Harmony Lessons; Alfred Bauer Prize (honoring innovation) — Vic + Flo Saw a Bear, d: Denis Cote (Canada).
How would the world not be at least somewhat improved if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the blustery, Obama-hating Republican Senator from Kentucky, were to be defeated by Ashley Judd in next year’s election? Trip Gabriel‘s 2.15 N.Y. Times story (“Don’t Rule Out Ashley Judd as a Potential Senator”) says Judd is probably going to run against McConnell.
“I would actually be surprised if she didn’t run right now,” Kentucky Democratic Representative John Yarmuth tells Gabriel. “She’s done everything a serious candidate would do.”
Every time I watch video of the 70 year-old McConnell he looks and sounds like a gruff obstructionist — a corroded old-fart reactionary who supports entrenched interests and all the plodding ways that seem to get in the way of new ideas and remedies. Judd, 44, is a liberal Democrat who hails from Kentucky. Whatever she might not know about being a Senator would be more than counter-balanced by the fact that she’s not McConnell.
Judd was great in that one scene in Heat when she saves Val Kilmer with a subtle wave of her hand.
“‘She may be a little too liberal for me,’ said Janice Taylor, a 71-year-old retiree. But neither [is] she a fan of Mr. McConnell’s. ‘I’ve got tired of him. He’s always against everything.’
“Republican Perry Dalton, 67, who retired from the AK Steel plant in Ashland, says he likes Ms. Judd because she was not a typical politician. ‘I know she wants to come back to help her state, her community, just from her heart,’ says Mr. Dalton, holding the hand of a granddaughter before a ride on an electric indoor train at the Town Center mall. ‘I know she’s more liberal than me. But honesty is more important to me than anything.’
Joan Christian, 42, a hospital technician, says she previously voted for Mr. McConnell but would not rule out Ms. Judd even because of her current residence out of state. ‘I think she’s as qualified as anyone. She was an educated professional woman before she was an actress.'”
I’ve always been respectful of Tony Kushner‘s Lincoln screenplay, and have been presuming all along he’d win the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, at least as consolation for Lincoln not winning Best Picture. Sasha Stone predicts otherwise: “Kushner won’t win. Chris Terrio‘s Argo screenplay is going to win tomorrow at the WGA Awards and Kushner will lose the Oscar to Terrio.”
At least Kushner’s intelligence and perception is his own. He said the following on Charlie Rose the night before last:
“You could argue that Barack Obama faced in ’08 a situation as bad as any president since the Great Depression. What Obama inherited from the Bush administration, we all remember, was just an absolute global catastrophe.
“The fact of the matter is that when you’re elected president of the United States rather than king of the United States, you have to work with a very cumbrous, unwieldy machinery. Obama has made a very determined and conscious effort to keep saying over and over again: ‘Government is not the enemy. Government is an expression of the better angels of our nature.’
“You have people like these Tea Party people protesting government, and then asked if they really want to give up their Social Security payments and they don’t seem to know that that’s actually part of what government is. There’s this rejection of this sort of basic idea of human community.
“Now that we’re facing challenges like climate change that absolutely demands a global, collective response…we have no hope for survival as a species if we continue down the path of this kind of psychotic individualism.”
Stone again: “Argo is a film you can get all in one viewing — the jokes, the theme, the plot. It doesn’t require you do any of the work.”
On the strength of the trailers alone, Diego Rougier‘s Sal seems like the most visually striking of all the films playing in the upcoming First Time Fest (Friday, 3.1 through Monday, 3.4). A present-day Chilean western inspired by the widescreen stylings of Sergio Leone, etc. Which isn’t to dismiss the other entries. This is simply the grabbiest.
The Grand Prize winner of this nascent Manhattan-based festival will open theatrically via Cinema Libre Studio “in at least one major city (New York or Los Angeles) with the option for the expansion,” etc. Why not both cities? A movie doesn’t really open theatrically without playing on both coasts.
Several New York-based filmmakers will attend the festival — Darren Aronofsky, Sofia Coppola, Chrstine Vachon, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Nancy Savoca. Aronofsky (now in post-production on Noah) will accept the John Huston Award for Achievement in Cinema at the festival. The Players Club will host the social portion of the festival, but the films will screen at the Loews Village plex on Third Avenue and 11th Street.
FTF founders are Johanna Bennett, the actor and philanthropist daughter of Tony Bennett, and producer Mandy Ward (Palestine Blues).
My first reaction to this Oblivion (Universal , 4.12) trailer was “here we go with another dystopian sci-fi action theme-park ride.” This time with Tom, the Weathered Energizer Bunny. I chortled when Morgan Freeman‘s character turned up and told Cruise “it’s time for you to hear the truth” or words to that effect. About how the game is rigged by the bad guys and we’re all screwed?
Oblivion was directed, produced and cowritten by the 38 year-old Joseph Kosinki. Before Tron came out I heard he might be “the new James Cameron.” That doesn’t seem like a valid observation any more. At best Kosinki is, right now, a complacent flash-bang CG hustler — clearly content to operate within video-game fantasy realities in an ongoing attempt to satisfy the ADD appetites of the under-40 generation.
And honestly? I’m not saying I had trouble telling Olga Kurylenko and Andrea Riseborough apart, but in this futuristic setting they look fairly similar. In the realm of this trailer, at least. It’s fine to cast one “off”-beautiful actress with opaque features, but two in the same film?
“What this year was greatly missing was any kind of strong critical voices. Stu Van Airsdale left his post at Movieline and Mark Harris left Grantland for the year and that left us with objective Oscar coverage and advocacy. We still have the Carpetbagger [and] David Poland, but Jeff Wells has turned into a one-man take-down machine which has rendered his voice as useless as my own.” — from Sasha Stone’s latest Awards Daily Oscar-race-assessment piece, dated 2.15.
Response: I reviewed all the major films last year with as much soul and passion and exactitude as I was able to find or bring, and I was very pro-Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, Anna Karenina and No, of course, and also, after my initial encounter in Cannes, Amour. Not to mention dozens of other films I liked or found worthy in this or that way. I got into everything and what I ended up really liking, I ended up really liking. I respected Lincoln after a fashion but I found it laborious and tiresome in some respects and certainly over-praised, and while I felt very strongly, as always, about Spielberg industry kowtowing manifesting as Best Picture hoo-hah…ahh, I’ve said all this before.
But I am hardly “a one-man takedown machine.” That is grossly unfair. I try to absorb and wrestle with the whole realm, with everything, every day and doubly on weekends. Awful movies, cool movies, classics, Blurays…all of it. Not to mention every film festival I can squeeze in or afford to visit. Every significant or semi-significant or interesting looking film that comes out (including those on HBO, AMC, Netflix and Showtime), I see and settle into and grapple with. You really have to get off my case and stop bashing me just because everyone (apart from people like myself and David Carr) liked or respected poor Lincoln but didn’t sincerely love it. Your dream dog made money but it didn’t have the stamina or the horses to score in the awards race. Let it go and stop slapping me around for this.
I wanted the portentous Lincoln to lose, yes. The idea of another Spielberg coronation with films like War Horse, Tintin, Always, Amistad and The Color Purple under his belt seemed intolerable. And yes, I pushed this viewpoint with a compulsive vigor but that shouldn’t be a damning or libelous offense. What about the haters (of which you were one) who ganged up on poor Silver Linings Playbook like African wild dogs tackling an antelope? And what about the Soviet apparatchik assassins of Zero Dark Thirty? Now, those were takedown campaigns!
SLP is one of the most nimble witted and emotionally rooted romantic dramedies ever made, obviously not a film of epic scope or classic dramatic gravitas but a confection of real beauty and a kind of transcendence even, and look what happened — elbowed out of consideration as a possible winner by the handicappers and now even poor Jennifer Lawrence is on the ropes. You and yours (and the relentless commentariat on HE and elsewhere) helped to kill its Best Picture chances as surely as you’re reading this letter, and you’re calling me a takedown machine?
Sasha is nonetheless spot-on with this: “The Oscar race is all over but the shouting. History will be made one way or another. [But] history had already been made once the Academy pushed their [nomination] ballot deadline to occur before the big guilds announced. That one little move forever altered the race, throwing it into complete chaos.”