Eat Me

Here we go with another sad-irony weekend at the box-office…
The big openers are Four Brothers (spirited action crap), Asylum (British wife self-destructs from hunger for crazy sex with an emotionally unstable asylum inmate), Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo (simian-level geek-sex comedy), The Great Raid (passable, historically-invested World War II heroism drama), Pretty Persuasion (cynical time-waster about a pair of soulless manipulative high-school heathers) and The Skeleton Key (disposable southern horror crapola).
And oh, yeah…Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man (Lions Gate, limited), for which internet ads aren’t even being composed because no one wants to stick their neck out.

Timothy Treadwell during one of his many Alaskan taping sessions, in a monochrome still from Werner Herzog’s living-color Grizzly Man.

This riveting doc is, of course, the best new film of all…and it’ll probably end up selling the smallest number of tickets (which will be only partly due to the number of screen it’s showing on). Of all the newbies, this is the one least likely to leave you feeling burned or under-nourished. But don’t let me stop you….Deuce!
It may not sound nourishing to involve yourself in the fate of a guy who got mauled and eaten by a grizzly bear but…
It happened less than two years ago in the Alaskan wilderness to an oddly brave, vaguely-loony former boozer named Timothy Treadwell, 46. He had become known in naturalist circles as a guy who’d gotten into communing with grizzly bears on their native turf and had published a book about his exploits (“Among Grizzlies,” co-written with Jewel Palovak) and landed himself a guest slot on Late Night with David Letterman, etc.
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And it all ended like that because a certain bear was hungry and didn’t care and just charged right over and slashed and tore into Treadwell and then got down to business and started biting in and chowing down.
And then he moved onto Treadwell’s girlfriend, Amy Huguenard, who was cowering in a nearby tent when it happened and for some reason didn’t run.
Guys like Hideo Nakata and Wes Craven dream up and manufacture horror presentations, but all their films put together are spit in the wind compared to the blind shrieking agony of what Treadwell and Huguenard endured in their final minutes.
Nature is not always sweet and calming, Herzog is telling us. It is often beautiful but it is what it is, and woe to the man or woman who expects it to behave according to their own neurotic imaginings.
Most of the Grizzly Man is composed of Treadwell’s videos, and they’re a fascinating window into all sorts of realms…not the least of which is Treadwell’s wacked but serene psychological state during his bear face-offs.

Timothy Treadwell and companion Amy Huguenard

“They’re challenging everything, including me,” he says at one point as a couple of grizzlies prowl around nearby. “If I show weakness, if I retreat, I may be hurt, I may be killed. I must hold my own if I am going to stay within this land. For once there is weakness, they will exploit it…they will take me out, they will decapitate me… they will chop me into bits and pieces.”
But Treadwell’s camera time with the bears was about proving to viewers (as well as himself and maybe God) that he was nature’s Exception Man…the guy who so loved and understood grizzlies that the usual laws and likelihoods didn’t apply.
Herzog has been drawn his entire life to stories of men who dig into their souls by traveling to exotic dangerous places and searching for something ecstatic or obliterating…or both.
Treadwell is cut from pretty much the same cloth as that manic 16th-century explorer in Aguire, the Wrath of God or the opera-loving fanatic in Fitzcarraldo (both played by Klaus Kinski) or that helium-balloon guy, Dr. Graham Dorrington, who was recently profiled by Herzog in The White Diamond.
Herzog’s documentaries, which he’s been making since the early `70s, are always extra-personal, intense and down to the marrow. Check out his authorized site or do a little reading about the guy, especially if you’re just discovering him. He’s a madman in the best sense of that term.
A friend who’s had dealings with Herzog says he’s not especially nice and is in fact an obstinate manipulative prick….whatever. Very few artists who are heavy drill-bitters are sweethearts. I will never forgive deliberate cruelty, but otherwise I believe in cutting artist eccentrics all the slack in the world.
I obviously can’t prove that Herzog will be one of the few filmmakers that people will speak of in hushed respectful tones 100 or 200 years from now, but I’m fairly certain of it.

Werner Herzog during last January’s Sundance Film Festival,where Grizzly Man had its U.S. premiere.

The thing about Treadwell is that his life only started to come together when he began to seriously invest in something greater than himself, and yet, paradoxically, at the same time began to celebrate an imagined sense of himself…when he began to invest in performance art that portrayed the power of his personality and sensitivity to this corner of nature.
There is arrogance and foolishness in what Treadwell was doing in the Alaskan wilds, but also a kind of serenity. Herzog knows nature can be savage and unforgiving and that only fools risk their lives to prove otherwise, but he also regards Treadwell as a kind of kindred spirit, or at least treats him with understanding.
I still say this is finally a movie about a meal, and that viewers of the Grizzly Man DVD should be allowed to sample the horror straight-up.
I’m referring to that audiotape of Treadwell and Hugenard suffering their last…the one that Herzog is shown listening to in Grizzly Man but doesn’t share and in fact recommends, on-camera, that it be burned. That is nothing but showmanship on Herzog’s part. I don’t believe the sensitivity angle for a second.


Leonard Cohen is coming to the Toronto Film Festival. And I don’t just mean that Lian Lunson documentary about Cohen called I’m Your Man. I mean Mr. Zen-Cool himself.
Or…how else can I put it?…Mr. Former Buddhist Monk who couldn’t quite handle the austerity thing with the robes and seclusion and just had to go back to wearing suits and shades and inhabiting the persona of that guy who wrote “Susanne” and “Everybody Knows” and “I’ve Seen The Future, It Is Murder.”
Falco Ink is handing interview requests, if you’re so inclined.

Leonard Cohen

Cohen, architect Frank Gehry and stoner-comedian Tommy Chong are among the subjects receiving documentary attention at the festival, which unspools September 8th through 17th.
The Gehry doc, Sketches of Frank Gehry, was made by director Sydney Pollack (The Interpreter, The Firm). I love Gehry’s work, as far as I know it. Director Phillip Noyce, a friend, lives in a very cool Gehry creation on Melrose Avenue.
Josh Gilbert’s A/K/A Tommy Chong will focus on Chong’s bust and imprisonment for selling bongs online.

Bass Hail

Here’s my idea of a must-visit site — a showcase for the work of the great Saul Bass.
If you don’t know this guy, you oughta. He’s the main-title-sequence designer who gave birth to all those iconic visual concepts for all those cool ’50s and ’60s Otto Preminger films (Bonjour Tristesse, The Man with the Golden Arm, etc.) as well Psycho, Spartacus and so on.

It doesn’t have downloads of the actual credit sequences, but it lets you click along on each one and savor the still images as they were presented on film. There are also a couple of essays about Bass’s work.
Congrats to website creator-editor Rumsey Taylor, editors Matt Bailey and Leo Goldsmith, and contributing editors Thomas Scalzo, Beth Gilligan and Rich Watts.

They Live!

“There are still drive-ins, Jeff! I’m sure you were speaking in general terms and not meaning to proclaim their utter distinction. But as I pointed out in my sidebar on drive-ins in this week’s Entertainment Weekly, there are still over 400 in the U.S., representing about 600 screens.
“That’s a pretty serious comedown from 4,000-plus at their peak, obviously. And it’s mostly a small-town phenomenon at this point, since the land was too valuable in bigger cities for these lots not to become Walmarts. But there are plenty of small bergs across America where the drive-in is the only place in town to see a film.
“And plenty of big cities still have one or two — including L.A., which has the Vineland in the City of Industry and, a little further out, the Mission out in Pomona/Montclair (both four-screeners).

“There are still those of us who look at a trailer and think, ‘Probably sucks… but it’d be fun at the drive-in,’ then make good on that.
“Right now I’m in Massachusetts and I’m considering going to the Northfield Drive-in near the Mass./New Hampshire border to see The Dukes of Hazzard a second time, just because I love the experience and Dukes is a quintessential ’70s-style drive-in movie, at least for someone like me who grew up on Dirty Mary, Crazy Mary and other car-crash/chase films in the great outdoors.
“But Four Brothers? I don’t know if even a night under the stars would be worth braving something that smells from that far away.” — Chris Willman
Wells to Willman: I haven’t driven by a drive-in and seen a movie playing in the darkness in I don’t know how long, which is why they seem dead to me. But I’m glad to hear there are 600 or so still kicking. Four Brothers is first-rate crap. The Dukes of Hazzard isn’t crap — it’s gas.

Lincoln Ford

“I was staring at the photo of Abraham Lincoln on your site this morning, trying to place the not-Liam-Neeson actor it reminded me of. There was something about the way his lower lip plopped out on the left side that set off the dead-ringer alarm in my head. Finally it hit me: Harrison Ford.
“You don’t have to look any further than the picture on Ford’s IMDB page to see that, facially, Ford has a lock on this role.

“The lips are a match, from the plopping lower to the philtrum above the upper. Neeson’s nose, though prominent, is too chiseled and lacks the squat, bulbous nostrils of Lincoln and Ford. With the amount of weight he’ll likely lose for the role, Neeson will develop Lincoln’s hollow cheeks naturally, but the prominent cheek lines on Ford’s face compare exactly to those on Lincoln’s.
“Finally, Neeson’s eyes are crystal clear and alive, and will leap past whatever facial prosthetics and bushy eyebrow makeup he is outfitted with. Ford’s eyes are more closed up and less expressive, much closer to the beleaguered, blunt eyes of Abraham Lincoln in the photo on your page.
“But when you stop comparing the photos and evaluate the two actors on a performance level, Neeson books the role hands-down. While I’d much rather see Ford and Spielberg re-team on this project than the inevitably regrettable Indiana Jones 4 we’ve been promised, it’s been obvious for years that Ford is not at all interested in the stretch that a role like this would demand of him as an actor.
“Can you imagine how he would react, for instance, to the note you passed along to Neeson about the pitch of Lincoln’s speaking voice?” — John C., Brooklyn, NY.
“Ford did play Lincoln on the cover of George magazine back in 1997. You’re right…he’s perfect.” — Rob Thomas, Entertainment Writer, Capital Times, Madison, Wisconsin.
[Note: I don’t know why the link won’t work but one URL for the Ford/George cover is]
“Glenn Close would make a fine Mary Todd Lincoln, but Cherry Jones would be even better.” — Richard Hashagen


“It wasn’t on your Toronto list but Terry Gilliam’s Tideland is premiering there on September 9.
“I’ve been looking forward to it since reading Mitch Cullin’s novel last year. It’s a terrific ballsy little book about a little girl whose father dies of an overdose and leaves her stranded in a country house in the middle of nowhere.
“If the film is even half-true to what I read, it’ll be the darkest, most twisted thing Gilliam’s ever done, and that’s saying something.

Tideland director Terry Gilliam and star Jodelle Ferland.

“It’ll definitely be a divisive film, it’s not gonna break any opening weekend records, and it might even cause controversy among the League of Decency types, but it should be interesting.
“The little girl is played by Jodelle Ferland. Her adult costars are Janet McTeer, Jeff Bridges, Brendan Fletcher and Jennifer Tilly.
“If you’re going to Toronto I’d love to hear your take on it, even if you trash it… actually especially if you trash it.” — Max Evry.

Brothers Blows

“Jeff, sometimes you are truly confounding. You railed on Mr. & Mrs. Smith, a piece of harmless fluff, for what seemed like years, and then you turn around and give a pass to a piece of worthless shit like Four Brothers…a movie that is fucking
garbage from start to finish.
“It’s impossible to care about their mother because she is gunned down in the first scene and we never get to know her. The attempt to humanize her by having her lecture the kid she catches stealing candy is laughable.
“The action scenes are horribly shot and poorly edited. It’s one of those movies in which the bad guys can’t hit anything despite having automatic weapons and outnumbering the good guys.
“The story is totally predictable the whole way through. Walhberg is okay, but his fag jokes get old after about ten minutes. The villains are a joke. There isn’t an original moment in the entire flick. The emotional scenes are unintentionally funny. I could go on and on.
Four Brothers is an awful, awful movie with no redeeming qualities at all. There’s clearly a reason it’s an August release.” — Paul Doro


Hollywood Reporter columnist Anne Thompson with daughter Nora (center) and a friend, waiting for the L train at the 14th Street and 8th Avenue station last Monday evening, after we’d all visited the Reel Paradise party and hung with John Pierson, Kevin Smith, Ming Chen and the gang.

Underneath the graffiti another person wrote that “the 4th Amendment really isn’t that important” and that the other person should “get over it!”

A dull photo…really and truly nothing.

I’ve been thinking all along that Seann William Scott is going to give his career a fresh infusion when he appears in Richard Kelly’s currently shooting Southland Tales, but damn…that haircut! It makes his ears look juggy and his teeth a bit more feral than usual.


“What I’ve read so far about The Constant Gardener has left me wondering if Fernando Meirelles could make the first genuinely kickass Bond film in ages.
“And by the way, maybe it’s the color correction or just a light
trick, but does he have violet-colored eyes? On my monitor, that’s what they look like, or are they just intensely blue?” — Lindsey Corcoran
Wells to Corcoran: I know you mean well, but you don’t ever want to use the term “Bond film” in any sentence containing the words “Fernando Meirelles.”

Beach Girls…baah!

“I’m amazed that the helicopter banner for Lifetime’s Beach Girls resulted in your declaration that ‘apparently it’s not too bad.’ I watched the two-hour debut with my girlfriend, and we both agreed that it was almost unwatchable.
“And I know from where I speak. I regularly watch the teen/parents soap opera One Tree Hill on WB to see what my production friends in Wilmington, NC are up to, and while I admit it’s a mere guilty pleasure, this show at least knows how to create dramatic tension beyond just providing backstory conflict for characters.
Beach Girls seems so flat and all the actors come off badly, either through poor direction or the leaden dialogue (you would think George Lucas was the ghostwriter). Searching around after your comment, I found that it is getting surprisingly okay reviews, but this one from the Boston Globe agrees with my assessment. Here are the key quotes:
“And much of the dialogue feels like heavy-handed psychological exposition — in case we can’t deduce their emotional states, the characters will make it all very, very clear. ”Aunt Stevie and Aunty Maddy were Mom’s best friends,” Nell tells her father during one confrontation. ”They have all these memories, all this information about her. If I can’t see them, it’s like you’re taking her away from me all over again.”
“Like most scenes, this one smacks of actors reading lines: too many awkward pauses, too little chemistry. Nobody behaves like a real person, which might be acceptable if Beach Girls was either highly literary or highly schlocky. But it’s neither. It’s far too dull and heavy for a hot summer night.” — Jay Smith

Round Trip

“I was pretty surprised to see Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Passenger on your list of upcoming releases. I’ve thought about that film often. I don’t think it’s available on DVD, but knowing your fondness for Antonioni (I just looked at L’eclisse after your mention of it…a treat), and wondered about your thoughts on it.
“I saw The Passenger when it first came out, and was left cold. It seemed an attempt to capture all the clich√É∆í√Ǭ©s of foreign films.
“But then I went back to the same theatre a while later to catch a sneak preview of The Wind and the Lion (which I, of course, liked a lot) and said to the folks with me, when the regular feature started after the sneak, ‘I’ve seen this, it isn’t any good, let’s just stay till you get bored and we’ll split.’
“But the movie came alive and opened up. For whatever reason I had the patience or stillness of mind to follow along the second time. We stayed for the whole film.” — Joe Hanrahan, Phoenix Creative.
Wells to Hanrahan: I don’t think The Passenger is in quite the same realm as the Antonioni films of the ’50s and ’60s, but second-tier Antonioni is still worth it. And that last shot that tracks slowly toward the hotel-room window and then goes through the window bars is a classic.

More Grabs

Lunch at Pastis, the lower west-side French joint where Woody Allen filmed that bookend scene for Melinda and Melinda

The Cagle family performing near the R train entrance at the underground Union Square subway station on Wednesday, 8.10.