I haven’t seen Steven Greenstreet’s This Divided State yet, but it looks like a pretty good red-state-vs.-blue-state doc and we’re all into that, right? It’s opening at San Francisco’s Victoria theatre on 8.4 (wait a minute…isn’t that a Thursday?) and will open at New York City’s Quad on 8.19 and at the Fairfax on 9.9 and a lot of places in between. If anyone’s seen it and wants to throw me a review, please do. And it’s okay if you’re a red-state bubba and you think it’s crap or ungodly…just write it like you feel it.
This morning the Oscar Balloon nominees went into the news ticker. From now until early March of ’06, day in and day out you’ll be seeing those nominees clickety-clacking their way across the top of this column…all part of a new attention surge being devoted to this very serious competition by Hollywood Elsewhere…a competition that will have a decided effect upon the reputations, fates and income levels of many talented people over the next two or three or four years. I’ve also put in a click-down feature right under the main column logo that takes you right to the new updated Oscar Balloon box.
There are five or six reasons why Fernando Meirelles’ The Constant Gardener (Focus Features, 8.26) should immediately rank among film cognoscenti as one of the year’s absolute best, and two of them are the cinematography by Cesar Charlone, who also shot Meirelles’ City of God, and the editing by Claire Simpson, whose best work before this was for Oliver Stone’s Salvador and Robert Towne’s Without Limits. The photography has that fast, on-the-fly feeling and the cutting puts it all together magnificently. It’s all in the timing and the sense of jazzy-musical interplay, but there’s a world of difference between Charlone and Simpson’s work here and the irksome, too-frenetic, slow-it-down-for-Chrissake cutting of The Bourne Supremacy.
Hooray for the Toronto Globe and Mail‘s Leah McLaren for saying plainly what Jessica Simpson (and her brand of femininity) is all about. And especially for quoting Liisa Ladouceur, the music and pop culture critic for CBC, Eye Weekly and US magazine, as follows:
“It’s Janet Jackson’s fault,” [Landoucer] says. “Before her nipple thing, pop stars were getting skankier and skankier. Say what you want, at least Britney and Christina were pushing the boundaries of what we felt comfortable seeing our pop stars exhibit. Then the nipple popped out and America got scared. So instead we get Jessica Simpson, with her religious family values and her father in the background with a finger on the marketing dollar. The truth is, we’d rather have someone who’s stupid than truly sexual.”
MSNBC’s Eric Lundegaard has written an odd piece called “10 Sexy Movie Broads.” His definition of sexy is pretty good (“Sexy is balance…cool and hot at the same time…interest and disinterest”) but his selections are almost mind-blowing in their bizarre-itude. Sigourney Weaver is sexy when she’s in outer space (Alien, Galaxy Quest), sure…but her terra firma outings are debatable (they’ve certainly been spotty) and I don’t mean to be cruel but time does march on. Annabella Sciorra? Her sexy breakthrough, Lundegaard says, was playing Tony Soprano’s doomed girlfriend Gloria Trillo, an obsessive kamikaze who spoke with a charming Bayonne, New Jersey accent. That’s a very curious notion of a sexy woman, Eric! Cameron Diaz? I know Lundegaard has heard Diaz do her bouncy kid-like exuberance routine in interviews, and I know that he knows that women who go “uhhmm” and “aaaah-hah!” and “I am so…” more than three or four times during the delivery of a typical sentence (i.e., a thought) are not sexy because such expressions are a very strong indicator of diminished cranial capacity. Kelly Preston? An attractive woman and, I hear, a good soul, but somehow her offscreen domestic situation steers my head away from the notion of absolute live-wire sexiness (and Lundegaard knows what I’m talking about). Catherine Zeta Jones, the T-Mobile greed lady known for excellent inhabitings of users and manipulators? Angelina Jolie became especially sexy a couple of months ago when everyone read that news report about her making sounds like an animal being killed when she was having sex with Brad Pitt in that African bungalow, but she’s been leaving hints for years that she’s fundamentally insane and that she harbors a certain coldness…a kind of rage…deep down that probably clouds her innate sexiness a good deal of the time. Jessica Alba…? The only one I half-agree with is Salma Hayek. And none of them hold a candle to the thing that Anouk Aimee exuded in the ’60s and ’70s.
Okay, I think this settles it. Tim Onosko writes in, “I’d like to tell you that I’m 57 years old, and I heard the Aristocrats joke FORTY-EIGHT years ago, when I was ten. It was told to me and a group of similarly-aged kids, at a public swimming pool, by a pool attendant. There were few variations, but the version I remember had the audition in front of Ed Sullivan, not a talent agent, which would make sense, given the era. But the real question is why anyone would be telling that joke to a ten year-old kid. Still, it’s amazing. I never forgot that joke, and I’ve regaled a number of friends with it over the years.” Case closed.
Reader Gabriel Neeb says that after a screening at the Seattle Film Festival, Aristocrats director Paul Provenza was asked about footage he couldn’t get in the film. “[He] named a sequence from an old episode of The Odd Couple when Oscar and Felix are walking to a talent agent’s office and pass a mother, father, and children walking out. Oscar and Felix walk in and the agent tells them that the group leaving the office was the ‘…Aristocrats. What a great act.'” This would definitely predate the Penn Jillette era, but a cursory search on the Odd Couple episodes reveals nothing. This doesn’t surprise me, especially if it’s a small part of the show. I’ll keep looking…
Yes, Sienna Miller has been re-cast as ’60s era Warholian pop star Edie Sedgwick in George Hickenlooper’s Factory Girl, but not because she’s suddenly hot tabloid fodder. George Hickenlooper, the film’s director, told me this morning that Miller was approached “a month ago” to reconsider taking the Sedgwick role after she had to back away from it last April due to having committed to perform in As You Like It in London’s West End. Miller and her agent said yes “about four or five days before the nanny story broke,” he said. Hickenlooper was referring to the scandal about Jude Law, Miller’s former fiancee, romping with his kids’ nanny (her name is Daisy Wright) behind Miller’s back, which began to break around 7.17 or thereabouts. An IMDB WENN story appeared today saying that Miller’s celebrity status “has been helped by Law’s admission he had an affair with his children’s nanny…[a source says] this is not the way Sienna would have liked to have won the role of Edie Sedgwick or a big action role, but she is not going to kick a gift horse. Being so badly treated by Jude is the best thing that’s happened to Sienna [because] now she’s A-list famous.” Hickenlooper says that “we re-approached Sienna a month ago as soon as Katie Holmes was out. The problems with both of these actresses was scheduling. Sienna was approached to play Edie last November, and she said yes and that she loved the script, [especially] since Edie was a lead character…but to get financing we had to attract a male star, so [Factory Girl co-screenwriter] Captain Mauzner and myself decided it would creatively work to build up the Warhol role. We had a new draft with a stronger Warhol character in February, and we got a yes from Guy Pearce in April. That was enough to get our financier excited, but by that time Sienna was committed to do the London play and our financier was eager to go, so I went with my second choice of Katie Holmes, and that romance lasted for about three weeks because she pulled out over her whole Batman Begins publicity thing. At that point, about a month ago, we went back to Sienna, and she said yes four or five days after that.” Shooting on Factory Girl will begin on 10.26, Hickenlooper says. Exteriors will be shot in Manhattan and interiors will be done in Louisiana “because of the 20% tax credits they’ve been offering the last year or so…Louisiana is the new Canada because of this.”
No question that Phil Morrison’s Junebug (Sony Classics, 8.3) is a gentle, exceptionally well-made and highly perceptive film about family relationships and the differences between urban and rural. The Stephen Holden blurb in David Halbfinger’s story in today’s New York Times (“Playing to Both Sides of the Aisle (North and South)”) is an accurate sum-up. “Without condescending to its characters or becoming overtly political,” Holden wrote, “[this] beautifully acted film distills antagonistic red-state, blue-state attitudes with a sad understanding that no amount of polite walking on eggshells can dispel the tension between them.” I must say again that despite the quality of it, Junebug was not an entirely comfortable sit because of the icky red-state vibes I got from it, and particularly from Celia Weston’s mother character, Peg, who is extremely suspicious of her new daughter-in law (Embeth Davidtz) because she’s not house-wifey or “country” enough, and because she has a certain cultivation. Because of this, Peg calls her “strange.” As soon as Peg started up with her bullshit, I wanted to walk out. Because I despised her, I started to half-dislike the film…which wasn’t fair because Junebug is a balanced and compassionate thing.
New Line has changed the release date so many times on Tony Scott’s Domino that they’re ticking people off. Me, for example. The latest shift was decided about two weeks ago, and now Domino will open nationwide on October 14th. This requires an explanation from yours truly because in late June, right after Domino Harvey’s death, I spoke to a New Line rep who told me the film’s release was going back to the original August date of 8.19, and a few hours later I published a story about this decision. New Line had originally slotted Domino to open in mid-August, only to bump it forward to 11.23. The reason they decided to return to the mid-August release date, I was told, was because the other Keira Knightley film, Pride and Prejudice (Focus Features), was moving its opening date to November 11 from a previous opening date of September 23, and such a conflict would only hurt both films. Anyway, this is really nuts and I’m sorry for not realizing sooner than New Line had changed its mind for a fourth time. I guess they could still change it again if they want to.
A new conspiracy theory posits that Penn Jillette himself invented the Aristocrats joke, and convinced the world that it “has been with comics [for a long time]. [It] is a joke that is never told in public, a private joke for comedians, so you’ve never heard it before.” I’ve searched high and low for any reference to it, but everything seems to be related to the movie. Wikipedia says that in England the joke is called “The Debonaires,” but I can’t find proof of that, either. Andy Baio of Waxy.com says the earliest he can find is in a book by Jackie Martling in 1998 – far short of actually proving a pre-Penn existence. It seems to me that even an in-joke would have appeared in some form, somewhere before this. Are these guys faking a joke on the entire world? Maybe that is the real joke. Anyone know differently?