Originally posted on 8.31.15: In a Cowboys & Indians piece called “Quentin Tarantino: Rebel Filmmaker?”, Variety critic Joe Leydon has noted several similarities between the basic plot bones of Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight (Weinstein Co., 12.25) and an episode from the Nick Adams western series The Rebel (’59 to ’61) called “Fair Game.” The episode, written by Richard Newman, premiered on 3.27.60 as one of 33 Rebel episodes directed by Irvin (The Empire Strikes Back) Kershner.
I’ve read a draft of the Hateful Eight script and to go by Leydon’s synopsis of “Fair Game”, there are quite a few plot points shared by the two.
Leydon is quick to say that he’s “not accusing Quentin Tarantino of plagiarism.” He notes that everybody stole from everybody else back in the old TV days, and that Tarantino has already admitted to Deadline‘s Michael Fleming that he drew inspiration for The Hateful Eight “from such fondly remembered series as Bonanza and The Virginian.” QT to Fleming: “What if I did a movie starring no heroes, no Michael Landons? Just a bunch of nefarious guys in a room, all telling backstories that may or may not be true. Trap those guys together in a room with a blizzard outside, give them guns, and see what happens.”
I was going to say something about Carrie Fisher’s flinty remarks in a Good Housekeeping article about how she was irked by a request by the Star Wars: The Force Awakens producers to lose 35 pounds. Fisher: “I did it the same way everybody has to — don’t eat and exercise more! There is no other way to do it. And when I do lose the weight, I don’t like that it makes me feel good about myself. It’s not who I am. My problem is they talk to me like an actress, but I hear them like a writer.” Being thinner is not who she is? Fisher doesn’t like that being thinner makes her feel good about herself? Before she dropped the weight Fisher was definitely on the chubby side. In her “Wishful Drinking” show a few years back she admitted she looked more or less like Elton John. Question to HE readership and in fact to Fisher herself: What producer in his/her right mind would say “hey, let’s go with a fat Princess Leia“?
Yesterday I posted a short piece about how Elmo Williams‘ cutting of the famous High Noon tick-tock sequence has always bothered me slightly. It was edited to match Dimitri Tiomkin‘s music, and so every cut was supposed to happen at the precise instant of the final beat…but it doesn’t quite do that. Today editor Matthew Morettini wrote to say the reason for my slight irritation is that the picture is four frames ahead of the music. But now Morettini has fixed it. “I’m a professional editor and had a few minutes on my hands today and re-synced the clip the way I always felt it should be,” he wrote. “And guess what? It’s better. Each and every picture edit was exactly four frames early.” Compare the Morettini version (top) to the Elmo Williams version (below). For the first time in 63 years, this famous montage has finally been cut right.
Matthew Morettini 2015 version:
Elmo Williams 1952 version:
The package includes (a) Spotlight screener, (b) 139-page Spotlight screenplay, written by Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy, (c) high-quality, simulated-leather-bound reporter’s notebook, (d) Howard Shore‘s soundtrack score on CD and (I love this) cassette tape, and (e) a laminated reproduction of the original 1.6.02 Boston Globe story about the Boston Archdiocese‘s corrupt response to the misdeeds of John J. Goeghan, the first Boston priest to be investigated and reported on by the Spotlight team. (I hadn’t read until today that Goeghan was murdered in prison in 2004.)
After last night’s Hateful Eight screening I posted some virulent Twitter disputes after noticing that a few Tarantino fans (David Erlich, Kris Tapley, Mike Ryan, Erik Davis) were creaming all over it. Then I beat a hasty retreat in lieu of the 12.21 embargo. Sorry but my emotions got hold of me. I was all but spitting on my Oriental rug. Angie Han’s 12.2 Slashfilm piece about last night’s embargo breaking indicates that reactions were fairly orgasmic all around. They were within a certain perverse community, okay, but not “all around,” trust me.
A Carol cabal almost totally dominated the New York Film Critics Circle today, resulting in wins for Best Picture, Best Director (Todd Haynes), Best Screenplay (Phyllis Nagy) and Best Cinematography (Ed Lachman). We all love Carol & sincere congratultations to these four, but boy, that Carol cabal!…they really strong-armed this normally eclectic, spread-the-wealth-around group into submission. I was expecting a Spotlight win but whatever. Obviously this ups Carol‘s stock among the Academy and guild members — a very welcome gift for the Weinstein Co.
Spotlight‘s Michael Keaton won for Best Actor — a welcome but somewhat confusing surprise given that Spotlight is totally an ensemble piece — there are no leads in that film & the NYFCC definitely knows that. Brooklyn‘s Saoirse Ronan won for Best Actress (brilliant, agreed). Kristen Stewart (Clouds of Sils Maria) won for Best Supporting Actress — a rich performance but the film (which doesn’t work at all) belongs to 2014 — I’m telling you straight out that the NYFCC is wrong to regard Stewart’s performance as better than Jane Fonda‘s in Youth or Elizabeth Banks‘ in Love & Mercy. Bridge of Spies‘ Mark Rylance won for Best Supporting Actor — fine.
Inside Out won for Best Animated Film (the NYFCC should have gone against the grain and given it to Anomalisa). Frederic Wiseman‘s In Jackson Heights won for Best Non-Fiction Film (really?). Timbuktu won for Best Foreign Film (a bit of a head-scratcher but fine). Laszlo Nemes‘ Son of Saul won for Best First Film.
With the exceptions of the Keaton, Rylance and Wiseman awards the NYFCC rule seems to have been that if a film/performance was seen or released after 9.1.15, it didn’t qualify. Carol was Cannes (May 2015), Brooklyn was last January (Sundance 2015), Clouds of Sils Maria was May 2014 (Cannes), Inside Out was last May (Cannes), Timbuktu was May 2014 (Cannes), Son of Saul was last May (Cannes).
Keaton is superb in Spotlight and all power to him and the proud and gifted Spotlight team (HE worships this film body and soul), but giving him a Best Actor trophy is category fraud, plain and simple. And that’s not a slam against Keaton at all. He simply doesn’t give a “lead” performance by any standard or criteria I’m familiar with.