Touchstone Home Entertainment’s Bluray of Michael Mann‘s The Insider looks perfectly fine. It looks like film, which is the right way to go, of course. Noticable but tolerable grain levels. Dante Spinotti‘s cinematography looks as good as it did when I first saw The Insider at the big Academy premiere in late October 1999.
It’s a significant upgrade from the DVD, of course, but how could it not be? If I had my druthers the look of this Bluray would be tweaked just a bit more because I like my Blurays to “pop” just a bit more, but that’s me. I don’t mean to indicate that the Bluray hasn;t been “done right.” It has been. It’s fine. No beefs.
But I do have a problem with the lack of a decent “making of” documentary. There’s so much to get into with this film, so much to look back and reflect upon in terms of issues that reach well beyond the concerns of the entertainment industry, that it’s a shame that Disney decided to merely remaster the elements for a bare-bones release.
For openers there’s the story of Marie Brenner‘s researching and writing of “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” the May 1996 Vanity Fair story that inspired the film. The writing of the screenplay by Eric Roth, and Mann’s massaging and tweaking and whatever else. The casting. The shooting and the logistical challenges. The reactions by CBS News and 60 Minutes staffers, particularly the late Mike Wallace.
You wouldn’t expect that a Disney Bluray would include an honest look at the spectacularly awful marketing of the film by Disney feature publicity, which in my mind is one of the great cock-ups of all time. The Insider is basically about how CBS corporate interests allowed a major 60 Minutes news story to be diluted over fears of a Big Tobacco lawsuit. And yet Disney marketers somehow allowed the public, some in the press and even some in the filmmaking community to run with the idea that The Insider was an anti-smoking film.
I recall attending an Insider press conference with Mann and Al Pacino and Russell Crowe and others, and that’s exactly what was on the minds of at least some of the journalists.
Consider a piece I wrote three years ago:
“Most of the moviegoers who’ve heard of The Insider probably still think it’s an anti-smoking drama, but you’d think that a smart guy like Jason Reitman would know better. The Insider is about the killing of a major 60 Minutes news story, and about the wreckage (personal, professional, cultural) that this action causes. At most the film was peripherally or tangentially about smoking.
“The fact that Big Tobacco had enough money and legal power to make CBS corporate feel legally threatened (and thus leading to the story being de-balled on 60 Minutes) is what’s crucial to the story. It was a movie about big-time TV journalists being pushed around and then folding their tent. But the adversarial element could have just as easily been weapons manufacturers or any politically powerful concern.
“Since The Insider was released in ’99, it’s become common knowledge that due to their corporate-ownership and corporate priorities, major news media orgs can’t really be counted upon to report the tough stories (’03 Iraq invasion, WMDs). Robert Kane Pappas‘ Orwell Rolls In His Grave (’04) spelled this out pretty clearly. For my money the serious hardball information today comes sporadically from the N.Y. Times and from Bill Moyers’ Journal but mostly from online reporting and columnists and from the British newspapers. TV network news is pretty much out of the game.”
Last night’s Irish shindig (for the US-Ireland Alliance) at Bad Robot was cool. Thanks to JJ Abrams for inviting me. Nice vibe, nice guests, nice food, nice potato chips and dip, pretty girls. Colin Farell was one of the honorees. I spoke for a bit with director-producer Tony Bill, who was sharp as a tack and in a chipper mood.
Bar Robot honcho and host JJ Abrams delivering remarks at last night’s event.
I have to mention that it was partly an outdoor party, and you know how Santa Monica can be at night with the chilly damp air and all. After a while I started to say to myself, “This is a really good gathering but fuck this cold damp air…this feeling of wanting to be someplace warmer but not really feeling that warmth.” So I exited out of a side door, got into the car and fired up the heat. And then I drove back to West Hollywood for some sushi and parked my car in the wrong lot and got towed.
I switched from Softlayer to Liquid Web late yesterday afternoon, but the ISP-to-root server propagation process is slow and grinding. Did I mention frustrating? 19 hours have passed so far and HE’s appearance is spotty — great on the iPhone and IPad, better on Safari, not so hot on Firefox or Google Chrome. Things won’t really be smooth as silk until sometime tomorrow, I’m guessing. Some sources say website propagation can take as long as 72 hours, but I’m not buying that.
In a cab on my way to Melrose Tow, where my car is being held prisoner. They got it late last night while I was having sushi on West Third Street. It was parked in an empty commercial lot, blocking nothing, hurting no one. What will they charge me? You can’t negotiate with racketeers. Update: $147 bills! Not that bad.
This is the only vaguely amusing poster in an otherwise crude and sophmoric series. I don’t know why I’m even posting this. I guess because this was more or less my basic reaction as I watched Life of Pi. CG paintbox, typhoon, lifeboat, Bengal tiger, CG paintbox, high seas, flying fish, faux-spirituality, CG paintbox.
From my Cannes Film Festival review of Wayne Blair‘s The Sapphires (Weinstein Co., 3.22): “A healthy portion is cool, snappy, rousing, well-cut and enormously likable. (And dancable.) That would be the first 40%, when the true-life tale of an Aboriginal Supremes-like group assembled and took shape in Australia in 1968. This 40-minute section, trust me, is definitely worth the price.
“But the main reason the film delivers overall is Chris O’Dowd‘s performance as Dave, a charmingly scuzzy boozer and Motown fanatic who steers the four girl singers (played by Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell) away from country and towards soul music, and then takes them to Vietnam to entertain U.S. troops. Dowd’s manner and personality are a total kick — an absolute hands-down winner and the best reason to see The Sapphires, even when it turns sketchy in the last half or so.
“I was saying to myself during the first 10 or 15 minutes, ‘Whoa, this is pretty good…not as high-throttle razzmatzzy as Dreamgirls but I like it better.’ And then it kept on going and hitting the marks for the most part. Blair is a talented director who knows how to cut and groove and put on a show. [Even during the parts] when it’s not really working The Sapphires at least keeps the ball in the air with reasonable agility and sass. The analogy, come to think, isn’t really Dreamgirls as much as Hustle and Flow and The Commitments, at least during those first 40 minutes.
“The soul classics are delightful to savor throughout. The music put me in a good mood right away and kept me there.
“The script is by Aboriginal actor-writer Tony Briggs and Keith Thompson, and based on Brigg’s 2004 stage play, which was based on his mom’s true story (as the closing credits infom).
In this “ask Joe and Jane Schmoe about the Oscars” bit, Hollywood Reporter award-season columnist Scott Feinberg wisely avoids questions that would point out public apathy about the Academy Awards, as former “Carpetbagger” David Carr used to do in Times Square. Instead he gets them to act out famous lines from Best Picture nominees.
The only funny part? When they repeat a line from Michael Haneke‘s Amour: “I want to die.”
But is this a line from Amour? Or is it a line that people think they’ve heard spoken by Emmanuelle Riva‘s character? In other words, is Amour‘s alleged “I want to die” line analogous to Casablanca‘s “Play It Again, Sam”…which also was never said?