A 1.19.05 item in the New York Post‘s “Page Six” column read, “Don’t assume that Golden Globes winners will walk off with Oscars next month. The idea that the Globes are still “a major influencer of the Oscar nominations or final outcome is an embarrassment,” declares movie writer David Poland, “much the same as so many Americans believing that Saddam Hussein was directly responsible for 9/11.” Hollywood columnist Jeffrey Wells agrees, noting that the Globes, which are given out by the laughably dilettantish Hollywood Foreign Press Association, “really don’t count anymore. They’re a distraction at best, and are at the beginning of a stage in their evolution in which they’re going to be seen as a bigger and broader object of mockery as the years wear on.” Wells denounces “the dopey idea that 80-something international correspondents, many of a somewhat dubious or shaky reputation, are any kind of harbingers of the sentiments of nearly 6,000 Academy voters.”
I’ll have more to say about the Golden Globe awards on Wednesday, but aside from the surprise of Leonardo DiCaprio winning the Best Actor trophy (a fiercely committed actor who, as Howard Hughes, goes for broke, but still looks like a kid playing dress-up) and The Aviator itself winning for Best Drama, which frankly surprised me, the underlying feeling is that the Golden Globes really don’t count any more…not really. They’re a distraction at best, and are at the beginning of a stage in their evolution in which they’re going to be seen as a bigger and broader object of mockery as the years wear on. The dopey idea that 80-something international correspondents, many of a somewhat dubious or shaky reputation, are any kind of harbingers of the sentiments of nearly 6000 Academy voters has never seemed more pronounced. As David Poland wrote last night, the idea of “the Globes as a major influencer of the Oscar nominations or final outcome is an embarrassment, much the same as so many Americans believing that Saddam Hussein was directly responsible for 9/11. Some ideas belong on the periphery.”
There’s a clip in the trailer for Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbatos’ Inside Deep Throat Inside Deep Throat (Universal, 2.11) quoting a guy involved with the distribution of this infamous 1972 porn film saying, “We have so much cash, we don’t even count it — we weigh it!” This alone supports my long-held suspicion that this will be one very cool documentary…fascinating, hilarious, whatever.
With Miramax’s Bob and Harvey Weinstein only two or three weeks away from signing final divorce papers with Disney, there’s a rumble (about two or three weeks old, apparently) about Mouse execs offering Warner Independent Pictures chief Mark Gill the job of running Miramax after the brothers depart. It’s a flakey rumor, apparently…but not entirely flakey, as as the Miramax gig (presuming Gill has even discussed it) might carry a certain allure, given WIP’s so-far mixed track record. As he was just starting the WIP gig in August ’03, Gill told the Hollywood Reporter‘s Stephen Galloway, “The biggest pitfall is if you choose and market the wrong movies — then you’re dead. The second danger would be to find yourself working for people who are not fully committed, [but] I am not worried about that. They are willing to give this (division) that fullness of time — three or four years, to be sure, and maybe more. I know I have got three years (contractually) to make it work — and I intend to do it in a third of that time.”
To the list of presumed front-runners for the Best Foreign Film Oscar(Cronicas, Downfall, Les Choristes, The Sea Inside, House of Flying Daggers), I’m told I should add Darrell Roodt’s Yesterday, a South African drama about a struggling AIDS-afflicted couple with a young daughter. (“Yesterday” is the name of the mother character, played by Leleti Khumalo.) I missed seeing it on Friday night (1.14) because the screening coincided with my son’s flight to Boston from Long Beach Airport. HBO had something to do with making (or financing) it, although they aren’t mentioned on the IMDB, but I’m told the film may open theatrically in February.
There’s this extremely weird, slightly satiric, observational fly-on-the-wall piece by Christian Moerk in Sunday’s New York Times about the first meeting between Paramount Pictures’ recently hired film division chairman and chief executive Brad Grey and the studio’s “entire senior-executive phalanx” in an executive boardroom last January 6th. There’s no angle or point to it — it’s not some thoughtfully considered New Yorker or New York Observer-type thing. It just says to the reader, “Our guy was told about this big meeting, and here are the details he was given…ten days after the fact.” The three funniest bits are (a) Moerk’s stating for the record that Grey “declined to comment for this article,” (b) reporting that Grey is “likely to focus on completing titles like Charlotte’s Web” — a big family-friendly animated thing, I gather — for which he’d like to snag the voice-acting talents of Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts, and (c) Moerk’s passing along the view that “nobody [expects] the new boss to replace senior staff or production deals immediately.” Hah!
Those heading to the Sundance Film Festival next week will be messing up hugely if they don’t catch Cronicas, a creepy investigation piece and a penetrating morality tale about a tabloid TV news team on the trail of a serial child killer.
It’s the first serious high-performance film I’ve seen this year, and if there’s any justice in the world it’ll be among the five Best Foreign Film Oscar nominees that are being announced on 1.25, along with Downfall, Les Choristes, The Sea Inside and House of Flying Daggers.
Go-getter tabloid-show reporter John Leguizamo (r.) during a jailhouse interview scene with manslaughter suspect Damian Alcazar.
Chronicas shouldn’t be missed, partly for the impact of the drama itself (which holds onto its ethical focus from beginning to end, and never drops into an excitement-for-excitement’s-sake mode) and because it heralds the arrival (*) of a major new Spanish-language director — 32 year-old Sebastian Cordero.
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It’s not about catching the bad guy as much as a study of corruption in an investigative reporter (played by the always feisty John Leguizamo, in his first Spanish-speaking role), who may be just as threatening, the film implies, as the child-killer he’s trying to hunt down.
Set in a low-income area of Ecuador and 98% Spanish-spoken, Cronicas boasts a first-rate cast (Leguizamo, Damian Alcazar, Leonor Watling, Alfred Molina, Jose Maria Yazpik) and has been produced (or would grandfathered by the more appropriate term?) by Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo del Toro.
It was filmed in Babahayo, a capital city of the province of Los Rios, apparently one of Ecaudor’s poorest areas. A series of child murders, all the apparent victim of a serialist called “the monster,” has caught the attention of a three-person news team shooting for a show called “Una Hora con la Verdad” (“An Hour with the Truth”), which is hosted in-studio by Molina’s character.
John Leguizamo, Leonor Watling, Cronicas director Sebastian Cordero on stage at last September’s San Sebastian Film Festival.
Jumping right into this cauldron is a hot-shot TV reporter named Manolo Bonilla (Leguizamo), along with his producer (Watling) and cameraman (Jose Maria Yazpik).
And they happen to be right there and shooting when a seemingly decent, soft-spoken salesman named Vinicio Cepeda (Alcazar) accidentally hits and kills a young kid with his truck. This almost gets Cepeda killed by an angry mob.
When Bonilla later visits Cepeda in jail, where he’s awaiting trial for manslaughter, what seems to be a major scoop is dropped into his lap. Cepeda tells Bonilla that he’s met the serial killer and can provide crucial information about him…which he’ll pass along in trade for a sympathetic TV story about the accident, which may lead to his legal exoneration.
Cepeda’s information (or some of it, rather) turns out to be solid, which of course leads Bonilla to decide to keep his scoop from the cops so he can make a big splash. And this is all I’m going to say, except that the movie has a riveting ending that doesn’t leave you alone.
Cronicas will be released in the U.S. on 5.27 by Palm Pictures, and then — mark my words — it’ll eventually be remade by some U.S. producer-director team and almost certainly downgraded, because they’ll jazz up the standard-thriller aspects and probably diminish the moral element, which is what makes Chronicas so absorbing in the first place.
I wasn’t in Toronto last September when Cronicas played the festival there, but I’m kicking myself for not even making an effort to see it when I was in Cannes last May.
As we were coming out of last Wednesday night’s screening, my 15 year-old son Dylan said, “It’s funny, but it’s like almost all the really good films these days are being made by guys from Mexico and South America.”
And Spain, I added. It’s certainly seemed this way over the past three or four years. It’s always fascinated me how the Movie Gods seem to serendipitously pick certain countries and cultures to produce especially vital and profound films during a given period.
The industry crowd, in any event, can now add Cordero to the Spanish-speaking cool-cat list headed by Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu (21 Grams, Amores Perros), Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy), Alejandro Amenabar (The Sea Inside ), Pedro Almodovar (Bad Education), Fernando Meirelles ( City of God), Julio Medem (Sex and Lucia) and Fabiane Beilinsky (Nine Queens).
Leguizamo, Leonor Watling and Jose Maria Yazpik during first-act Cronicas scene.
Cordero, who went to NYU film school and is fluent in English, is repped by UTA’s Stuart Manaschil. His Sundance p.r. rep will be Kristi Avram of Palm Pictures
Has anyone out there seen Cordero’s first film — Ratas, Ratones, Rateros?
Amazon says the Vanguard Pictures DVD has been available since March ’03.
(*) For those who didn’t see Cronicas last year at the Cannes, Toronto or San Sebastian film festivals, I meant to say.
I was just reading a press kit biography of actress Camilla Belle, whose first name is pronounced Ca-MEE-la. She’s 18, lives in Los Angeles and has acted in about 18 movies (including TV movies). She’s costarring in two Sundance movies — The Ballad of Jack and Rose and The Chumscrubber. I’ve seen her in Jack and Rose and she’s quite good in it, and has become quite beautiful
But for a mere 18 year-old she’s way too accomplished. I just think there should be limits.
14 year-old Camilla Belle (r.) with costar Cameron Diaz in The Invisible Circus (2001).
Camilla speaks “several” languages fluently, the bio says, and she’s also “an aspiring classical pianist.” I’m hoping that means she’d just like to play piano one day with a certain assurance. She’s also been “actively involved” (as opposed to being inactively involved?) in various charities, and has become an international spokesperson for Kids With A Cause.
She was also recently invited to speak at the United Nations as part of the Earth Day celebration in New York, the bio adds.
There’s an ancient Chinese curse that goes, “May you peak in high school.” Many of the kids I knew who were introverted and withdrawn and anti-social when they were sixteen or seventeen have turned out to be very (or at least fairly) interesting adults, for the most part, whereas the goodie-goodies who ran for Student Council and got straight A’s and whatnot have mostly put on weight and become alcoholics and bad dressers.
Here we go again with the dueling Christmas truce movies, except now there are three instead of two.
On 12.17 I reported that two high-profile directors — Vadim Perelman (House of Sand and Fog) and Paul Weitz (In Good Company, About a Boy) — are both planning to make (or produce, in the case of Weitz and his brother, Chris) a movie about the brief Christmas truce that happened between British and German soldiers in 1914 somewhere around Belgium in the early days of World War I.
The new kid on the block is a French-German co-production called Joyeux Noel, directed by Christian Carion and costarring Daniel Bruehl, Benno Fuermann, Diane Krueger and Guillame Canet. It was shot in Roumania last year, with expectations of a theatrical release in December ’05, according to the IMDB.
Perelman’s project, which was officially announced by reporter Dana Harris in Variety a couple of days ago, is called The Truce.
Collateral screenwriter Stuart Beattie wrote the script, casting is now underway, and the studio backing is from Warner Independent.
The Weitz project would be called Silent Night, and is based on a book about the truce that has the same title and was authored by Stanley Weintraub. The book has been adapted into screenplay form by Jon Robin Baitz (People I Know).
According to information provided in mid-December by the Weitz’s partner Andrew Miano, who runs their Depth of Field production company, Miano would produce Silent Night along with Paul and Chris. The funding would come from Universal, and the plan would be to shoot somewhere in Europe, or maybe England.
Miano said in December that he and his partners intended to hire a director for their project right after the holidays. I tried reaching him twice — yesterday and today (1.14) — to see if this was still on, but I never heard back. If I were them I would chuck it. Three movies about the same exact incident…c’mon. Two is too many.
Since I’ve gone on a bit about finding “money” shots (stills, video footage) of the Southeast Asian tsunami, I might as well put a cap on it and share these video clips, which, I imagine, most the hard-core types have already downloaded by now.
These amateur clips don’t exactly show that “wall of water” shot everyone’s been hoping to find, but they provide some riveting images of the tsunami from various angles and locales: Clip #1 , Clip #2 , Clip #3 , Clip #4 , and Clip #5 .
“I thought you might like to know that the BBC News website has a nice article from the producer of Adam Curtis’s The Power of Nightmares that answers the critics of the program, and in doing so summarises the whole thing.
“Since I’m English it was easy to see this really great documentary last October, but I find it shocking that there’s no way this will most likely ever be seen on American television. It’s going to be shown on BBC 2 here again from the 18th to the 20th of this month, if your readers would be interested.” — Laura Aylett.
You can toss out the concept of Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales, which has been described in some circles as a genre hybrid of comedy/musical/thriller/science-fiction or, in somewhat plainer terms, as a big social-political satire….you can forget any ideas of it coming out in ’05, despite my having listed Tales in Wednesday’s column as a hot-ticket due sometime later this year. Too bad, but there’s no way it’ll be out before ’06. But if you want a little taste now (and I highly recommend this), click here .
Two more connections between those sound-alike Sundance movies, Thumbsucker and The Chumscrubber. One, they were both produced by Bob Yari, a former real-estate guy who now heads a company called the Yari Film Group. And two, they both costar 19 year-old Lou Pucci. Thumbsucker, which costars Tilda Swinton and Keanu Reeves, was shot almost a year before Chumscrubber, which stars Jamie Bell, Camilla Belle (also the costar of The Ballad of Jack and Rose), Ralph Fiennes, Rory Culkin, and Glenn Close. There’s also a Park City at Midnight film called Ass-Muncher….kidding!
Liam Neeson as Abraham Lincoln? Perfect…not just because of the facial and body-type similarities, but also a look of kindliness in Neeson’s eyes that I’ve noticed in those two or three Matthew Brady portraits of Lincoln. Variety is reporting that Steven Spielberg has begun talks with Neeson to play Lincoln in a film based on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “The Uniter: The Genius of Abraham Lincoln,” which will be published next fall. The plan is for the biopic to start production in January ’06.
It would be highly unlikely, not to mention beside the point, if Kearns or Spielberg were to touch upon the recently-raised issue of the younger Abe Lincoln’s alleged bisexuality, as explored by C. A. Tripp’s controversial book, “The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln.” The focus of the Spielberg film, after all, will be the middle-aged Lincoln’s grappling with the Civil War. In any event, Lincoln biographer and respected historian Gore Vidal discusses Tripp’s work and the evidence about Lincoln’s friendships with Joshua Speed, A.Y. Ellis and fellow lawyer Henry Whitney in a current posting on Vanity Fair‘s website.
And speaking of Neeson, it seems slightly odd to see him happily grinning alongside his Phantom Menace costars on the cover of the current Vanity Fair, considering the stories that went around in ’99 that the one-two punch of acting in front of green-screen digital backgrounds in that George Lucas film plus the same experience on Jan de Bont’s The Haunting led Neeson to briefly consider quitting acting…or so it was reported at the time.