We all know the movie cliche about a character having a nightmare. The vibe gets more and more intense until the person wakes with a start — bolting upright, eyes wide open, damp-faced. I remember complaining about these scenes a year or two ago in the column (can’t find the link), but damned if this exact thing didn’t happen to me a couple of nights ago. I was submerged in a dream in which something scary or threatening happened (ducking an oncoming truck, trying to avoid falling off a cliff), but it happened so suddenly that I flinched. So severely that it woke me up, and so suddenly that I experienced some kind of whiplash spasm that gave me an aching neck. (What the hell just happened?) The pain subsided a few minutes later but talk about your James Stewart-waking-up-from-a-nightmare-in-Vertigo moment. I haven’t experienced anything like that since my early 20s, when I dreamt I was in a propeller airplane that had lost a wing or been hit by a missile and was tumbling in a tailspin. I remember that dream like it was yesterday.
I learned earlier today (and I’m told that some kind of statement will be forthcoming) that the currently running New York Film Festival (9.27 to 10.13) won’t be presenting a secret screening this year. As I hear it, the festival’s programming director Kent Jones had hoped to arrange a special showing of Martin Scorsese‘s Wolf of Wall Street, but that dream went south when a elephant-sized cut delivered by Scorsese and editor Thelma Schoonmaker failed to satisfy Paramount Pictures, the film’s distributor, necessitating their return to the editing room. For whatever reason no other unreleased film quite fit the bill. A fair-sized portion of Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel was viewed but it’s nowhere close to being completed. David O. Russell‘s American Hustle seemed like a good candidate but it’s currently going through a fine-tuning process via research screenings and isn’t quite ready to be shown. I’m guessing that the NYFF statement will say something like “with sad regret we’ve decided not to have a NY Film Festival secret screening this year but we’re having a great festival regardless,” etc.
The bottom line is that Stephen Frears‘ Philomena “despises the policies of the old-school Catholic church of Ireland and rightly so,” I wrote on 9.9. “Variety‘s Justin Chang called it ‘a howl of anti-clerical outrage wrapped in a tea cozy.'” I called it a “gentle, tender-hearted, intelligently written film about an elderly Irish mother named Philomena Lee (Judi Dench) looking for a son she was forced to surrender for a blind adoption back in the mid ’50s, and about the fiendish Irish nuns who, consumed by the belief that Philomena was an unfit mother due to becoming pregnant out of wedlock, arranged to sell the boy to American parents and kept his origins a secret, even when he returned to Ireland as a grown AIDS-afflicted gay man, trying to find his biological mom.
“The nuns, based in a convent near Limerick, refused to tell the grown son anything. Philomena had likewise been unsuccessful in learning any facts about her long-lost child (whose adopted name was Michael Hess) and didn’t come to the truth until she hooked up with author and former government guy Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), whose book, ‘The Lost Child of Philomena Lee,’ is the basis of Coogan and co-writer Jeff Pope‘s screenplay.
“These are the facts behind Sixsmith’s book as well as the film, and anyone who wants to complain about spoilers can stuff it. The story is out there, the book was published in ’09…you can’t spoil a story that’s been widely absorbed for four years, and which has been Amazon’ed and Wikipedia’ed and discussed all to hell.”
I was told this morning by a trusted source that despite sobering reports from In Contention‘s Kris Tapley and The Hollywood Reporter‘s Pamela McLintock about Martin Scorsese‘s The Wolf of Wall Street possibly getting bumped into 2014 by Paramount due to concerns about its length, the intention of Scorsese and editor Thelma Schoonmaker is to finish and deliver the film in time for release in December. This would be glorious news if true. We need all the award-season nutrition we can get. The instant I heard this I checked with a Paramount source and with Schoonmaker herself for a confirmation…radio silence. But at least there’s hope.
I’ve also heard from two sources that the initial cut that Scorsese showed to Paramount execs or or about the weekend of 9.20 (or roughly two and a half weeks ago) might have been as long as three hours and 50 minutes. (McLintock’s 9.24 story said sources told her it ran 180 minutes.) A publicist with limited knowledge of the situation says she’s been told that the plan to is whittle the bear-sized cut down to three and a half hours, although a more reasonable goal (at least from an exhibitor point of view) would be to trim it down to three hours. Put the super-long version on the Bluray — simple.
By letting Ben Stiller‘s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty speak for itself, this is a trailer that sells by way of laid-back confidence. It’s quietly persuasive. It guides you into submission. If I hadn’t seen and been somewhat disappointed in the second half of Stiller’s film, this trailer would have me fully convinced that the film is a deft and engaging sweet-spot thing. Alas, the Rotten Tomatoes guys….aahh, what do they know?
Joel and Ethan Coen‘s Inside Llewyn Davis (CBS Films, 12.6) is about as perfectly composed as anything you’re ever going to see in a commercial plex. Perhaps the most significant characteristic is that it immerses the audience in character and atmosphere without “telling a story” per se. We all know that a good part of the popcorn crowd wants a story, generally speaking, and we might as well face the fact that they’re going to feel unsatisfied by this. But this is what high cinematic art does on occasion. By the time Llewyn Davis is over you’ve really gotten to know a bygone era and a consciousness that existed among West Village folk singers in the early days of the Kennedy administration (i.e., about two years before Dylan began to break out) and you know exactly where Oscar Isaac‘s Llewyn Davis character has been and where he’s going. It’s hundreds upon hundreds of bull’s-eye brush strokes that come together to make a really superb painting. Brevity, clarity, authority. I’ve seen it three times, and I could easily sit through another two or three viewings.
With this clip from Alfonso Cuaron‘s Gravity I’ve done another count of all the “aahh!” and “no!” sounds that Sandra Bullock makes during…well, this portion of the extended opening sequence. I attempted a rough count of the whole thing when I saw the film in IMAX 3D two nights ago at Universal CityWalk, but I was wrong to surmise there are only 25 or so. In fact Bullock lets go with between 25 and 30 distress sounds in this clip alone. Not to mention this other clip.
The Dodge Durango marketing guys are obviously attracting big awareness by participating in these put-on Ron Burgundy TV ads. Paramount is obviously getting the same for its 12.20 opening of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. But…well, I guess I don’t pay much attention to ads for big-penis, gas-guzzling SUVs and I don’t mean to sound like a kneejerk pantywaist liberal, but do people who buy these things care about climate change at all? These ads are basically saying that the buyers of Dodge Durangos are macho jerkwads whose mentalities and attitudes are stuck in the ’70s and ’80s…guys who just want to drive around in a big, bad Sherman tank…yeah!
It’s generally understood that Ralph Fiennes‘ The Invisible Woman (Sony Classics, 12.25) is the story of a secret affair between Charles Dickens (Fiennes) and Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones). I shouldn’t comment as I wasn’t able to see more than 45 minutes worth in Toronto, but it has the mood and the tone of a properly constrained Victorian period piece. And there’s no denying that Fiennes’ voice is a beautiful instrument. One look at the fat woman playing Dickens’ wife and your heart goes out.