Update: The PDF file with an error concerning Steven Soderbergh‘s Che isn’t from the Toronto Film Festival crew. It was put together by a dedicated Toronto film buff named Greg Cruse, who runs a fan site called TOfilmfest.ca. The guy “deserves a lot of credit,” I’m told, “for sifting through all the festival info and putting it together in various bundles and for allowing it to be circulated for free.”
The previous version of this post noted that “the titles and corresponding storylines of Steven Soderbergh‘s The Argentine and Guerilla, which together form his epic-length Che, have apparently been switched in a PDF super-file of all the Toronto Film Festival movies.
“Peter Buchman‘s script of The Argentine and the Part 1 film that showed in Cannes is/was about the successful Cuban revolution of ’56 through late ’58. The script of Guerilla, which corresponds the Part 2 of Che shown in Cannes, is/was about the 1966 and ’67 Bolivian insurrection that ended in failure and Guevara’s death. But the Toronto PDF file says that Guerilla is about Cuba and The Argentine is about Bolivia.”
Watching these John McCain spots produces feelings of slap-shock, numbness, amazement. The irony is that the comical pandering will probably connect with some of the older PUMA types out there, no matter what Hillary Clinton says at the Denver podium (which we all suspect will be one thing verbally and quite another thing in terms of delivery and passion). “She won millions of votes but isn’t on his ticket. Why? For speaking the truth. On his plans. On the Rezko scandal. On his attacks. The truth hurt and Obama didn’t like it.”
The Movie Gods are more or less pleased that Tropic Thunder beat out House Bunny this weekend, if only by a meager million bucks. Ben Stiller‘s Hollywood-actor satire made $16.1 million on its second weekend (for a cume of $65.7 million) compared to Bunny‘s $15.1 million. Then again, Bunny did what it did on 2714 screens compared to Thunder being on 3352 screens.
Another issue that critics will be sternly questioned about when they arrive at the pearly gates — did you ever write a buoyant article-review that reflected positively on a film that you knew in your heart of hearts was absolute plastic trash because you fell in love with the lead performance?
It’s part of the fate of film critics to face a special, sometimes brutal judgment at the gates of St. Peter when they die. Did they diss, ignore or under-value a film they knew was honorable in an exceptional, raising-the-bar sort of way — a movie that unquestionably enhanced the lore of movies as providers of bracing reality baths and deliverers of spiritual revelation — because it didn’t provide familiar comfort in the form of reassuring “movie moments”?
Those critics who are found guilty will be denied entrance to heaven and sent back to earth to try again. Call me an Old Testament sort of guy if you want, but I believe that every critic or blogger-columnist who dismissed Steven Soderbergh‘s Che at Cannes last May because it was too long and wasn’t reassuring enough in terms of conventional drama and emotional whatevs will, I humbly submit, face such a judgment. They will, however, be given a chance to redeem themselves in Toronto. Knowing of the human capacity for frailty and missing the boat, God has decided to cut them some slack.
“This is what I’ve always liked about New York…these little moments on the sidewalk, you can watch the buildings, you can feel the air, look at the people…and sometimes you meet somebody you feel you can talk to.” — line from trailer for New York, I Love You, the more-or-less-finished anthology film in the vein of Paris jet’aime (from the same producers) that will debut at the Toronto Film Festival.
Bruce Eder has written a perfunctory career-review piece about Miklos Rosza for Films in Review, dated 8.21. But it’s a much better thing to simply listen to any one of Rosza’s better compositions. Like this one. There’s a very serene mood that seeps in towards the end, getting quieter and quieter over the last minute or so. Old-school composers were expected to keep the fanfare loud and brassy for films of this type; only artists like Rosza had the cojones to go the other way.
The French-language trailer for Christophe Barratier‘s Paris 36 (known in France as Faubourg 36) tells you it’s an “audience film” — broad, good natured, a little bit square and perhaps Amelie-like. Which is totally fine. Variety reported yesterday that Sony Pictures Classics has acquired distrib rights to the film in the U.S., Scandanavia and “Australasia,” which is located to the northeast of Freedonia, the country featured in the Marx Bros. film Duck Soup. Barratier’s film opens in France on 9.24.
Less than an hour ago in Springfield, Barack Obama introduced Joe Biden as “the next president…the next vice-president of the United States of America.” Which simply meant that deep down BHO regards the Delaware Senator as genuine presidential timber should the unthinkable happen, and not just as a good second banana. Big deal.
Oren Shai‘s Films in Review interview with Israeli producer Menaham Golan reminded me of my service as an in-house publicity writer for Cannon Films, which Golan ran with partner Yoram Globus in the ’70s and ’80s. Cannon was an industry joke but my job, which lasted from ’86 to early ’88, was sometimes fascinating. I became friendly with Barbet Schroeder as we worked together on the Barfly press kit, and I buddied up with a lot of other cool people, including Tough Guys Don’t Dance director-screenwriter Norman Mailer.
I always tell the story of being asked to interview Globus for a corporate profile. During our chat Globus named the biggest selling videos of the ’80s, ticking them off title by title, but his dense Israeli accent presented obstacles. One of these films, he said, was “weezudofauhz.” I couldn’t decipher what he meant when he said it, so after it ended I took my tape recorder downstairs to my office and played the “weezudofauhz” portion for a couple of colleagues. We listened over and over until it finally hit us. Globus was trying to pronounce the title of a 1939 Victor Fleming film that costarred Judy Garland, Bert Lahr, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley and Margaret Hamilton.
My Barfly press-kit duties also allowed for a visit to the modest Long Beach home of Charles Bukowski. The casually-dressed, pot-bellied Bukowski was warm and gracious. Kindly, self-effacing. Chuckling to himself from time to time. And quite sharp. More than once he referred to himself in the third person (“Bukowski has always liked this,” etc.) He knew I was in awe of him to some extent and said at one point, having read some of my stuff, “He’s influenced by Bukowski.” I naturally wanted to drink with the guy, and Bukowski, perceptive fellow that he was, obliged with servings of Coors or Dos Equis. In bottles, as I recall.
Are the low-information types who can’t be bothered with absorbing the particular, easy-to-research facts about Obama or McCain the same ones who didn’t go to The Insider because they didn’t want to see a movie that was about how smoking gives you cancer? That’s how Al Pacino explained the apparent lack of interest in this 1999 film during a press conference that I attended.
The fact that corporations and their sociopathic agendas are taking over everything is as dramatically “real” and punchy as the Capone gang taking over Chicago in the 1920s. Michael Mann‘s movie showed exactly how this malignancy affected CBS News and 60 Minutes back in the mid ’90s, and yet millions of good citizens of the USA didn’t go because they didn’t want to see a smoking-is-bad-for-you movie. Brilliant.
One of the best corporate thrillers ever made and certainly one of the finest films of the ’90s, The Insider made only $29 million domestically. This was partly because Disney screwed up on the marketing, granted, but also because the tele-tubbies couldn’t be bothered to bone up or read reviews.
Here’s an mp3 of my interview with Alex Holdridge, director-writer of In Search of a Midnight Kiss, and his stars, Scoot McNairy and Sara Simmonds, at Le Pain Quotidien on Wednesday, 8.20. It runs 45 minutes. Some of it is fine; some of it is hard to make out. You can’t individually mike four people, and there’s no such thing as a truly quiet restaurant. The clatter of plates and silverware, oppressive mood music, and the wallah-wallah of other customers always intrude.
Midnight Kiss star Sara Simmonds
At one point, having made my admiration for Midnight Kiss extremely clear (particularly the snappy dialogue, the unforced acting, the black-and-white photography), I brought up some of my issues with it. If you haven’t seen the film, skip the rest of this article to avoid spoilers and confusion. In any event and in no particular order, here are my beefs:
(a) What’s so godawful terrible about a guy admitting to a woman he’s just getting to know (and vice versa) that he’s jerked off to a photo of his roommate’s girlfriend? Simmonds’ character goes ballistic when McNairy tells her this, which seemed excessive to me. I wouldn’t find this information very appealing, but I wouldn’t go into an angry rage about it either. Particularly, as McNairy confides, if the roommate’s girlfriend wasn’t offended and was actually mildly charmed by this act of worship.
(b) One thing that turns me off big-time about a woman I’m just getting to know is finding out that her ex-boyfriend is a bullying, emotionally belligerent asshole with a country-boy accent. It shows that she has lousy judgment and probably has something wrong with her to have found this guy attractive in the first place. This is exactly the case with Simmonds and her ex-boyfriend in the film, who’s played by the film’s dp Robert Murphy. If I were in McNairy’s character’s shoes I would have said “outta here!” as soon as Murphy’s personality and behavior became clear.
(c) I didn’t agree with Simmonds’ character telling McNairy’s at the very end that seeing each other isn’t going to work or fit. Even if she’s pregnant. They’ve gone through so much, seem so compatible, have such excellent chemistry. She says at the beginning that she’s looking for “the love of my life,” she finds someone who just might fill the bill, and she blows him off?
(d) McNairy’s rooommate is played by Brian McGuire, a lanky beanpole with a flabby stomach who seems to be at least 6′ 6″ if not taller. His beautiful, beloved girlfriend is played by Kathleen Luong, who appears to be 5’1″ or 5’0″, if that. It’s not unheard of for super-tall guys to hook up with tiny women, but the gulf between these two is so extreme that it veers on the bizarre. Tall guys tend to hook up with tall or mid-size women, shortish guys date shortish women, etc. Basic birds-of-a-feather logic.
(e) Why have Luong twice express a romantic interest in McNairy without showing where it leads? We see that she’s hot for him, and that’s the end of it — nothing carnal happens, nobody’s feelings are hurt, no meltdown with McGuire. So what’s the point?
The N.Y. Times finally went with Obama choosing Biden as a rock-solid story about a half-hour ago. So much for the mass text-messaging. Biden is a stellar choice — good gab, knows his stuff, good looking, amiable, superb attack dog. Thank God it’s not Kaine or Bayh.