Variety reported earlier today that Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Paul Rudd are the two frontrunners for Edgar Wright‘s Ant-Man, based on a script by Wright and Joe Cornish. Disney execs have scheduled a 7.31.15 release for the would-be franchise film. Is there an analogy to be drawn between looney-tune House Republicans threatening a debt default and sub-moronic studio zombies who can’t resist ludicrous CG superhero pulp? Could someone take a crack at it?
Not long ago a “picky but discerning” European screenwriter confided the following to a friend (no names, no hints) about Steve McQueen‘s 12 Years A Slave. “For me it was just a little too heavy-handed and exhausting because of its relentless brutality,” the screenwriter wrote. “But it’s a very important movie nevertheless for its subject and the fact that aside from Tarantino’s ‘spoof’ no one has yet made [a film of this type] here. If you’re in the mood for this kind of movie, I’d say go and see it. Otherwise, wait for the screener.” This is what I was talking about when I said I could feel a certain pushback coming from a certain element within the industry. Are we primarily talking about women? Perhaps the same contingent who refused to go see The Cove because they didn’t want to watch the brutal slaying of dolphins? I’m not in agreement, needless to underline, but this viewpoint is out there. Just saying.
Released today, this is supposed to be the “new” international trailer for Ben Stiller‘s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (20th Century Fx, 12.25). Whatever, man. With the exception of an on-the-nose excerpt from Queen‘s “Bohemian Rhapasody” (“Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide. No escape from reality”), it doesn’t play that differently than the domestic versions. I understand that you have to saturate, saturate and then saturate some more to get Joe Schmoe to pay even a little bit of attention. I accept that. I get it. No argument. I can roll with it.
I’ve decided to punk down three dollars for a 7-day Amazon Instant Video rental of Solomon Northrup’s Odyssey (a.k.a. Half Slave, Half Free), a 1984 adaptation of Northrup’s “12 Years A Slave,” which of course is the basis for Steve McQueen‘s highly praised, same-titled film which opens on Friday. Directed by Gordon Parks and costarring Avery Brooks, Rhetta Greene, Petronia Paley and John Saxon, Solomon Northup’s Odyssey was originally telecast on PBS on 12.10.84. You can half-tell that Chicago Tribune critic Gene Siskel was trying to be nice when he was wrote that “I don’t believe Roots was any more powerful or better acted than [Parks film].” (A statement that’s vaguely analogous to “I don’t think we don’t love each other.”) Somebody who wrote for the Seattle Daily Times called it “one of the best movies of the year.” Obviously it’s a lesser effort than McQueen’s film, but hopefully it’s at least watchable. Monterey Video is selling the DVD, originally released in 2005, directly from its website.
A three-day-old Live Science piece that quotes recent anthropometric data says that “the average 30- to 39-year-old American man is 5 foot 9 inches, has a 39-inch waist, and a body mass index (BMI) of 29, just shy of obesity, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.” “Men also didn’t used to be so round in the United States,” the article says, “but lifestyle changes over the last 50 years have made the American population increasingly overweight.” No shit?
My waist size was 32 in the ’80s. Then it went up to 33, and then 34. Now it’s back to 33 with alcohol eighty-sixed. I could be thinner, I suppose, but now I don’t feel so bad. 39 inches is the average? The CDCP considers a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 as normal, 25.0 to 29.9 overweight and 30.0 and above as obese. So if the average 30something guy is right on the edge the average 40- to 49-year-old guy is over the line, right? Don’t even talk about the 50-plus set.
I mentioned yesterday that I’d written “a brilliant remedy” for Her‘s soft-third-act problem, and that while I couldn’t post it in the column I’ve emailed it to a few columnist-critic friends. One of them got back to me last night, and explained what he felt is the proper role of a columnist-critic. He basically feels that the best way to go is to be passive and reactive — to write only about what is put in front of you (i.e., what is commercially released) and nothing more. The ideal critic, in other words, behaves pretty much like a lamb grazing on a hillside pasture, going “baahhh!” and eating whatever grass is growing.
“I might be in the minority here, but I 100% don’t care what your alternate ending to the film is,” he wrote. “If you don’t like the film’s ending as is, write about that. Explain yourself. Discuss what you wanted from it that you didn’t get. But manically deciding you’re going to send Spike Jonze the ending he ‘should’ shoot in any kind of even half-assed effort to get him to change his film? Not in your job description, pally. Not even a little bit. Even as a joke, this is exactly what no filmmaker ever wants or needs to get from a critic.
I never think about what big-name actors and filmmakers are worth. I know most of them are loaded but I don’t think about it. I’ll read an occasional Forbes article about who’s the richest or highest paid, but you know me — I try to focus on the purely creative and spiritual, what’s going on inside. At least to the extent that external aesthetic choices are often metaphors for “internal affairs,” so to speak. (Even during my battle with the now-legendary Hispanic Party Elephant, the guy who lived upstairs from my place in North Bergen in ’08 and ’09, it was essentially about sensitivity and spiritualism or rather the lack of as that guy was toxic — he was fucking nowhere.) I know that if I sense that a woman I’ve met is inordinately impressed by financial splendor, I immediately write her off. The important thing is to do what you love and then live with the rewards of that, whatever they may be. Which is what I’m doing, and I’m reasonably happy as a result. Especially since ’06 or thereabouts.
But I have to say there’s something that gets in the way of a film-watching experience when you’ve just read about the salaries and net worth of the actors and filmmakers involved. I’m not saying that knowing this or that actor has an ample income is alienating or off-putting. To me, at least. It’s entirely okay for actors to live well and drive nice cars. But when you’re watching a film about middle-class characters who have jobs and bills to pay and are struggling to some extent without investments or trust funds to lean on, you have to imagine or presume that the actors are drawing from some kind of real-deal, hard-knocks, rough-and-tumble experience to make their performances seem real. Even if the story they’re enacting has little directly to do with money, you still want to imagine that they understand what it’s like to live the life that you and your friends and your parents live. Obviously the vast majority of actors and directors and screenwriters manage to convey that. But knowing that they’re worth $20 or $40 million or $75 million…sorry, but that knowledge becomes part of the absorption process. It colors things a bit.