I’ve always believed that James Horner‘s score for Ron Howard‘s A Beautiful Mind is one of the main reasons Academy members liked the film so much. (And possibly why others hated it.). The music is lulling and layered and curiously emotional at times. The track that did it, the one that played when the film won Best Picture, Best Director (Ron Howard), Best Adapted Screenplay (Akiva Goldsman) and Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Connelly) at the 2002 Oscars, is “A Kaleidoscope of Mathematics.” Horner’s score didn’t win an Oscar or a Golden Globe, although it was nominated for both. The other thing that led to the wins is the pen scene.
There’s a Paleyfest screening of the first episode of the final Mad Men season. Screening at 7pm, q & a with the principal cast (Jon Hamm, January Jones, Vincent Kartheiser, Elisabeth Moss, Christina Hendricks, Robert Morse, Jessica Paré, John Slattery, Kiernan Shipka) at 8 pm. I begged yesterday afternoon for a press seat but the Lippin Group publicist said nope because I needed to have applied for Paleyfest credentials weeks ago. She said she’ll try to find me one but to be on the safe side I might want to pay $42.00 for a bleacher seat. So like a total chump, I just did that. The AMC series kicks off on April 13th.
I’m not driving to see Noah in Mexico today. After prolonged begging and several emails between myself and Darren Aronofsky and Paramount, I finally got myself invited to a screening that’s happening tomorrow. Noah was shown over a week ago to several East and West Coast critics, and their reviews (posted concurrent with the Mexico opening) appeared late last night. Variety‘s Scott Foundas and The Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy are fans. Nobody’s calling it rote or banal. Everyone seems to agree that it’s ambitious and “not stodgy.” Some have issues with what they see as a mixed bag quality…a lack of thematic purity or trying to be all things to all audiences. Noah is imaginative, they say, but at the same time semi-conventional (the battle stuff at the end) and trying not to offend the Christian nutters. The best Russell Crowe performance since Gladiator or A Beautiful Mind, some are saying. Everyone seems to be annoyed by Ray Winstone‘s Tubal-cain. “Though it’s not without its faults, Noah is a powerful experience with some truly stunning scenes.” — Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn.
Two ladies and I went to the Smokehouse last night after the Captain America: Winter Soldier screening. The last time I visited was about a year ago. The Smokehouse was about elegant dining when it opened in 1946, but now it’s a bit of a downmarket, below-the-line joint. But you can’t beat that old-timey, red-leather-booth atmosphere. It’s like walking into a 1955 Robert Aldrich film with Jack Palance and some peroxide floozy sitting in the booth in the corner. Nicholas Ray, James Dean and Natalie Wood must have eaten there at least once during the making of Rebel Without A Cause. You know you’re in a yesteryear place when you order a Greek Salad with chicken and they bring you enough food to feed a family of five, or to sustain an entire village in Darfur for a day or two.
Even with my admiration of Captain America: Winter Soldier, I still loathe and despise fanboy movies. I just don’t see what’s to be gained by smiling and winking at them and going, “Ahh, well, at least they’re selling popcorn.” Fanboy flicks are a profitable malignancy. They are well on the way to kicking real, adult-level movies out of mainstream cinemas and into VOD, streaming and other home viewing options altogether. Super-amped fanboy flicks are the latest manifestation of the corporate influences which Pauline Kael noticed in 1980 and wrote about in her famous “Why Are Movies So Bad? Or, The Numbers” piece in The New Yorker. They are flagships of a trend that are coming closer and closer to suffocating a mainstream movie culture that used to at least occasionally be about mirroring or capturing who we were (our values, needs, hopes) and how we lived. Theatres used to be the equivalent of community churches (i.e, places for inner communion and contemplation), but fanboy flicks are turning them into the spiritual equivalent of roller rinks and amusement parks. Fanboy flicks are a metaphor for the overall devolution of art and culture, not just in this country but all across Europe and Asia. They are injections of corporate heroin and Hollywood is the dealer. They are not pathways into our common histories and values and deep-down places. They are things we shoot into our minds and souls, but they are obviously inorganic. They’re not herbal tea or pot or peyote. They aren’t even Valium or Xanax. They’re Demerol.
Yesterday I expressed skepticism about Scott Foundas‘s rave review of Anthony and Joe Russo‘s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I just feel he’s been a little too generous and obliging with CG fanboy crap. But not this time. Foundas was right on the money. I saw Winter Soldier last night at Disney and I have to give praise where due. This is one sharp, well-written (by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely), rock-solid, mega-efficient, super-expensive something or other, and with a certain humanist empathy that seeps through from time to time. It’s going to be a huge hit.
Speaking as a confirmed hater of comic-book movies, I was really and truly okay with this thing. It’s way, way above the level of The Avengers (which I mostly despised) and the second and third Iron Man movies. If you’re going to shell out your hard-earned coin for a comic-book movie, this is the way to go. Smart and swift and clean. The Russo brothers have been working on TV productions and M.I.A. from theatrical features since You and Me Dupree, but now they’re the new champs. And they have another Disney-distributed Captain America film due in May 2016.
I also admired Joe Johnston’s Captain America (2011), and I can shower the same praise upon Winter Soldier — “It speeds right along, cuts to the chase, does it right…it moves, mad-dashes, soars, whooshes, runs, delights and barrel-asses.” The CG is super grade-A (five VFX companies contributed) and the $175 million budget is all on the screen. It’s almost on the level of a James Cameron film…almost. Every line, every scene, every frame exudes shrewd judgment and tip-top craft.