Hooray for Palm Pictures for having convinced the MPAA’s ratings appeals board to roll back on that R rating they gave Gunner Palace a few weeks ago, and give it a PG-13 instead. The R rating was all over language. The doc, produced and directed by Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein, is about grunts doing the day-to-day in Iraq. The title refers to a bombed-out pleasure palace once owned by Saddam Hussein’s son Uday, but occupied by the “gunners” after the U.S. occupation.
Ben Affleck’s career may be on the ropes, but at least he seems to get that…and is doing something about it. Like being adaptable enough to take only $500,000 upfront for playing George Reeves, the amiable TV actor who shot himself over career problems in 1959, in Focus Features’ Truth, Justice and the American Way.
This may sound like a bit of a comedown for a guy who used to pocket $12 million or so per film, and who earned a lot more, reportedly, from a back-end revenue deal his agent cut over Pearl Harbor. But not when you take the long view.
Truth — the story of the 1959 death of George Reeves, the actor who played Superman on TV in the 1950s — is a modestly proportioned, character- driven period film that has a budget of $20 million (or just under), so everyone — including costars Adrien Brody and Diane Lane — is working for less. Allen Coulter, the highly respected Sopranos director, will begin shooting in the summer.
Besides, taking the Reeves role (which is kind of a co-lead — Truth is also about Brody’s character, a shamus, looking into Reeves’ suicide) is apparently part of a new Affleck career strategy of taking less money (which may not be a choice at this stage) and going for sturdier roles.
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Going for roles, in other words, that echo or emulate the most respected, best-reviewed performance of his career — that of the affable smoothie lawyer suffering a spiritual meltdown in Changing Lanes.
That performance worked in part because it seemed to reflect on some level who Affleck really was: a smart, well-connected, good-looking guy cruising through life, but starting to inwardly choke over his own bullshit.
Affleck may be one of the healthiest, least screwed-up guys around in actuality, but the image of the fucked-up, soul-sick yuppie feels right on the screen.
It was also ahead of its time in a sense, as Affleck’s box-office losing streak (Gigli, Jersey Girl, Paycheck, Surviving Christmas) and all the Bennifer tabloid crap…gambling-at-the-Hard-Rock, addictions to this and that, a stumbling-around, banging-into-furniture quality to his public outings…didn’t manifest big-time until Changing Lanes went to video.
Fairly or not, people accepted the idea of a spiritually afflicted Affleck like they bought Jimmy Cagney playing gangsters and Pat O’Brien playing priests.
That’s why, I’m guessing, his forthcoming performance in Mike Binder’s Man About Town will probably work. It’s not an overly dark piece, but it’s not what you’d call “light” either. Affleck will play a Hollywood talent agent whose world starts to fall apart when he learns that his wife Nina (Rebecca Romijn) is fooling around on the side, and that a fang-toothed journalist Barbi Ling (Ling) is out to waste him with a profile piece based on his diary.
Written and directed by Binder (whose previous film, The Upside of Anger, is opening on March 11), Man About Town will probably open next fall.
And that’s why playing Reeves is a good fit. An amiable, modestly talented actor with a winning smile whose Superman success typecast him and ruined any chance of playing roles in feature films….a guy who was going downhill and knew it, and also had a bit of a drinking problem, and was carrying on some kind of affair with the wife of major studio executive at the time…another smoothie in crisis.
All Affleck has to do is gray his hair up and put on some weight (Reeves was a little beefy looking toward the end) and it’ll be like Frank Sinatra playing Pvt. Maggio in From Here to Eternity …a mouthy little guinea playing a mouthy little guinea.
Before starting on Man About Town last fall, Affleck’s last gig was starring in Paycheck, a 2003 John Woo actioner that wound up taking in less in U.S. theatres than its reported $60 million negative cost.
New York Post entertainment writer Lou Lumenick wrote in a story out today (2.23) that Affleck subsequently “dropped out” of two big-budget films at Disney, the sports drama Glory Road, in which he was replaced by Josh Lucas, and the romantic comedy The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past which is being recast.
The reason he didn’t do Glory Road, I’ve been told, is that Disney wouldn’t pay him the $4 million fee his agent wanted.
Affleck was actually mulling over the George Reeves role about two years ago. The film’s original co-director Mark Polish (who left the project with his brother Michael when Miramax balked at casting Kyle MacLachlan as Reeves) told me yesterday he’d met with Matt Damon in late `02 about playing the private detective role, and while he never spoke to Affleck about the Reeves role, Damon may have tipped him about it.
Affleck is “damaged goods, there’s no question about it,” a veteran agent said yesterday. “I don’t know what he did, exactly, to earn this [reputation]. Is he that bad an actor? No. He was good in Changing Lanes, he was good in Shakespeare in Love, he was good in Boiler Room.”
And yet, he added, “I would say he’s lucky to be getting offered [the Reeves] role.”
“He’s not getting top dollar any more, he doesn’t mean anything, and the career he had of bringing people into the theatres is over,” a marketing veteran said, speaking of Affleck. “And he wants a semblance of a career, and his agent is saying to him, you’ve got to do something to revive it.
“I don’t know what his overhead is, but the checks aren’t coming in. The big checks are gone, and no one is going to pay him the big checks. But he’s young enough to reverse himself, like Travolta did.”
Binder said during a q & a session at my UCLA Sneak Preview series a couple of weeks ago (following a showing of The Upside of Anger) that Affleck has “taken the last two years and moved on and is smart and talented enough to come at things in a whole new way.”
“This guy won an Oscar at 24 — he’s 32 now,” Binder has been quoted as saying. “He needed to stumble. He’s learned a lot from the last two years, trust me.”
Blood and Sand
It seems likely that 24 year-old Jake Gyllenhaal, who started out playing twitchy-sensitive weirdos in Donnie Darko and The Good Girl, will have a better-than-decent shot at a Best Actor trophy next year with his portrayal of Anthony Swofford (i.e., “Swoff”) in Sam Mendes’ Jarhead.
Especially since Gyllenhaal is also likely to punch through on some level with his performance as a gay-leaning cowboy in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, which Focus features is opening on 10.7.05…only five weeks before Jarhead.
Swofford was a real-life U.S. Marine who wrote the book that the film is based upon. In the script, “Swoff” becomes a sniper under the command of Jamie Foxx’s Sergeant Siek, and ends up fighting in the ’91 Gulf War.
I’m basing this on having read William Broyles’ script of Jarhead. The Universal release will probably emerge as an Oscar Awards contender in several categories after it opens on 11.11.05.
And while I’m at it: Peter Sarsgaard, whose portrayal of New Republic editor Chuck Lane in Shattered Glass broke him out of the pack, has the most hard-core and most commanding presence in Jarhead. (Gyllenhaal’s Swofford comes off as more emotionally susceptible, and even a bit unhinged.)
Knowing Sarsgaard’s capacity for intensity and staring people down and all, I feel fairly safe in saying that his performance as Troy, a sniper who has his gear wired tight at every turn of the road, is going to have an impact.
Especially, I’m thinking, with the consensus that Sarsgaard was under-recognized for his Glass performance, and everyone having admired his work in Kinsey and, more recently, his performance as a gay screenwriter in Craig Lucas’s The Dying Gaul.
Jarhead will probably resonate as a realistic portrait of the loneliness, combat craziness and other wack factors affecting the lives of American soldiers in Iraq…even though it’s centered around the ’91 Gulf War.
It doesn’t have the conflict-between-father-figures element that fortified Oliver Stone’s Platoon (it’s basically an immersion in the unsettled emotions of a combat soldier — before, during and after battle) but then every new film is a reinvention.
If there was a last-minute Oscar rumble last week, it was over an assumption in some quarters that Cate Blanchett was a slam-dunk to win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for delivering what could graciously be called a decent impersonation of Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator.
Add Jamie Foxx’s almost-certain win for Best Actor for “doing” Ray Charles in Ray , and that would be two Oscars for performances that are as much about sustained mimicry as anything else.
“It’s just a way for voters to make an easy call,” Oscar pulsetaker Pete Hammond said last week about the Blanchett vote. “She doesn’t have much [of a role], but she got Hepburn pretty well and it’s easy to see that and say, `Yeah, give her the award.”
I’ve said this too many times, but withholding the Oscar from the actress who really deserves it — Sideways‘ Virginia Madsen — seems close to appalling.
Especially when you consider what Blanchett reportedly said when she accepted a similar acting honor from the BAFTA Awards a little while back. She looked up from the podium, smiled and said to Hepburn’s ghost, “I’m sure you’re pleased you weren’t allowed to see this.”
Last week the word started getting around that the leading contender for next year’s Mimicry Oscar will be Joaquin Phoenix, for an allegedly dead-on portrayal of country singer Johnny Cash in James Mangold’s Walk The Line.
20th Century Fox’s decision to release this biopic on 11.18.05 is an obvious Oscar positioning move, and it won’t hurt that Cash’s legend has been on the ascent since his death in September ’03. A similar synergy helped Taylor Hackford’s Ray when it opened four and a half months after Charles’ death in June ’04….as cynical as that sounds.
“I’m 15, and I saw Sideways before it opened and loved it every bit as much as you did. But I only have two friends who are around my age who liked it as much as I.
“Everyone else I’ve talked to has not had a positive reaction to the movie. ‘I didn’t understand why they were friends,’ one said. I told another to watch it again in a few years and he said, ‘If I don’t like it now why would I ever like it?’ Even
some adults, like my substitute teacher in English, thought that it was so unlikable and couldn’t muster up any sympathy towards the Paul Giamatti character.
I figured you’d be the best guy to ask why don’t more people of my age understand Sideways?” — Jeremy Fassler.
Wells to Fassler: I haven’t a clue as to why your English teacher found it unlikable, but he probably needs to get out more. That or Giamatti’s character reminded him of something in himself on some level, and he didn’t like thinking about that. Your friends not liking it is probably about life-experience issues. My 16 year-old son Jett says “several” of his friends liked it fine.
“Like you, I was pleased to see The Laughing Policeman released on DVD. It marked the middle of three solid performance by Walter Matthau during the early 1970’s in hard-boiled crime dramas, coming between Charley Varrick (which I am boycotting on DVD until it is released in matted 1.85) and The Taking of Pelham One-Two-Three (which has been available for quite some time on a budget- priced DVD).
“Many serious actors would love to have three consecutive films like this on their resume, let alone a comic like Matthau. He acquitted himself well in all three, especially in Varrick, which called for a more well-rounded character.
“Sadly, none of the films performed particularly well at the box office and they are all pretty well forgotten today save for buffs like ourselves.
“The DVD releases of Varrick and Policeman are about as bare-bones as it gets. For whatever reason, Matthau returned to doing what eventually became his Grumpy Old Man shtick after Pelham and never really returned to serious drama the rest of his life.
“While I am still upset at the shabby treatment given Charley Varrick on DVD, it is good to see these movies get some belated recognition.
“Another movie of this era which is long overdue for a DVD is Arthur Penn’s Night Moves with Gene Hackman — a film that qualifies for your list of genuinely depressing films.” — Steven R. Silver
A moment with Paul Reiser, writer-producer and co-star of The Thing About My Folks, at UCLA Wadsworth Theatre during discussion following screening — Monday, 2.21.05, 9:25 pm. Thanks to Reiser, producer reps Jeff Dowd and David Garber, and publicist Mickey Cottrell for helping to arrange the screening.
Why would a snarling Lionheart like Hunter S. Thompson end it all with a bullet? I feel for his family, and especially the guy’s pain and sorrow, but how could anyone not reflect upon the equation of alcohol, guns and despair upon hearing the news? Obviously Dr. Gonzo didn’t pull the trigger out of a sense of ecstasy over things, but there was a special, thundering energy that pushed him up sheer craggy cliffs and over the top of many plateaus, and throwing that spirit away, even if only a remnant of it had survived at the end of his 67 years on the planet, was harsh and extreme and not the thing to do. Not for the author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which I used to carry around with me like a Bible. But then I didn’t get Ernest Hemingway’s suicide either, or Abbie Hoffman’s.
Hollywood Reporter columnist Anne Thompson, writing under her old L.A. Weekly moniker of “Risky Business,” says that Vanity Fair cover girl Cate Blanchett “certainly…has an edge in the supporting actress category and should grab The Aviator’s one acting Oscar for her brilliant impersonation of Katharine Hepburn.” Whoa, whoa…hold up. Blanchett will win the Oscar because she does a good impersonation? Virginia Madsen’s straight-from-the-heart, soul-stirring performance in Sideways is going to lose out to Blanchett’s fluttery little Hepburn laugh (“Haaah…hahahaha!”) that everybody remembers from Bringing Up Baby and The Philadelphia Story?
We’ll Call You
A couple of months ago I wrote a tough piece about my disappointment with Steven Soderbergh’s output over the last three or four years, and then Soderbergh let me have it at a Sundance party a few weeks later and I heard what he was saying (or feeling), so here’s something olive-branchy:
Unscripted, a half-hour HBO series that Soderbergh and his Section Eight partner George Clooney have exec produced (with Clooney directing now and then), is the best original thing I’ve seen on the tube in a long, long time.
It’s mainly about three hard-luck actors more or less playing themselves (Krista Allen, Bryan Greenberg, Jennifer Hall) and dealing with the usual thespian woes — auditions, rejections, agent relations, more auditions, lost parts, occasional couplings, etc.
It feels honest, economical, “real”…and I say that knowing that it’s pretty easy to fake a reality atmosphere in any guise. It’s a concise and beautifully edited thing, there isn’t a false note in any aspect of it, and it’s pretty close to dazzling. K Street, the last Section Eight HBO show, was good but this is better.
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I’ve only seen two of the ten episodes and there are only two more episodes to go…but there will be re-runs and a DVD box set later this year. It plays Sundays at 10 pm.
The great Frank Langella co-stars as a 60ish acting teacher, Goddard Fulton, who also gets kicked around and his face smudged. Nobody has it easy in this show. Things are tough all over.
“The truth of the matter is [that] less than five percent of [union actors] make all the money,” Clooney says on the show’s website. “And that’s just the people in the union. There are so many actors that get up every morning and — forget getting a job — they try to get an agent. Or an audition. We’re trying to show what it is that we do. It’s completely unlike the way it’s usually portrayed.”
It’s been claimed that the show doesn’t use prepared dialogue, that it’s all improv and things like rehearsals, retakes or reshoots don’t figure. (I can believe this.) The series has allegedly been shot in “real offices” and during “real film productions,” with the actors sometimes crossing paths with “real-life Hollywood stars and directors”…as far as that goes, fine.
Clooney, Soderbergh and Grant Seslov are the executive producers of Unscripted. It’s produced by Michael Hissrich and Joanne Toll; the episodes have been directed by Clooney and co-exec producer Grant Heslov.
Episode #9 of Unscripted preems on Sunday, 2.20, with another airing the following night (i.e., Monday) at 9:30 pm on HBO2 and then Wednesday, 2.23 at 10 pm on regular HBO.
Wandering movie journos who haven’t seen Paul Reiser and Raymond DeFelitta’s The Thing About My Folks have a shot at seeing it on Monday, 2.21, at my UCLA Sneak Preview class, which begins at 7pm at the Wadsworth.
RSVP to Sarah Rose Bergman at 310.572.1500 or write firstname.lastname@example.org.
If this invite isn’t ringing any bells, I wrote about this amiable little film in my February 8th column . Some distribs think it plays too old, but I’m convinced it’ll play big with the crowd that went to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I could be wrong, but I’m not.
Heart on Sleeve
All you have to do is click on this to see where Born Into Brothels is coming from.
It has a video-and-music reel showing Calcutta kids experiencing the joy of taking photos. Acquainting impoverished kids with photography and trying to save them from a squalid life of prostitution (or worse) is what the film’s co-director, Zana Briski, is up to in this unusual documentary. In short, activism rather than the usual impartial neutrality.
In the manner of a wildlife documentarian running out into an African plain to save a zebra from a pursuing lion, Briski (and her filmmaking partner Ross Kaufman — both pictured below) strive to save as many kids as they can from the certain spiritual death that comes to anyone who lives among squalor and prostitutes.
This Oscar-nominated film may have begun as an exploration of children growing up in Calcutta’s whore-house district, but it became a story about trying to get the Indian government and other potential benefactors to sponsor these kids in their education as photographers.
Briski faces tough challenges, not just from the government or the kids’ parents but, believe it or not, from Catholic nuns. In this light, Brothels is an expose of the complacency that keeps unlucky or disadvantaged people where they are, and blocks anything or anyone who might give them hope.
“I just respond to what’s around me, but I wanted to make a good film,” Briski told me a couple of weeks ago. “I didn’t want to be in the film but I became a catalyst.”
The need for education and opportunity among Calcutta’s poor “is enormous…the level of suffering is staggering,” she said. “And we were confronted with it every day. It’s overwhelming for anyone who tries to work in that place. Most of the women are using some form of birth control…and there’s a lot of ignorance. Women don’t know about their bodies.”
Born Into Brothels won the ’04 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award, and is favored (I think) to win the Best Documentary Feature Oscar.
And yet Briski promised the people who helped her make the film (including the ones she interviewed) that she wouldn’t allow it to be shown in India, and she’s managed to prevent that so far. The mothers of the children portrayed in the film don’t want to be “stigmatized,” she says. Not allowing the film to be shown in India or even neighboring Pakistan is “my personal commitment,” says Briski.
When you make a promise you’d better keep it, but Brothels is full of hope and compassion and generosity, and pledging to keep this energy from being absorbed in India seems strange.
Two years ago Briski formed Kids With Cameras, a group that tries to continue the charitable efforts depicted in the film.
Even now, 31 years and five months after its theatrical debut, nobody seems to want to respect or even appreciate The Laughing Policeman. A lot of the reviews of the Fox Home Video DVD that came out two or three weeks ago have either been dismissive or ho-hummy. They should take another look.
I love this film for its gritty milieu and dinghy, matter-of-fact grimness. For me, its sullen attitude is a heavy turn-on. It’s not a great work, but I love that it doesn’t try very hard to “entertain.” It’s a film that says to its audience, “You don’t find what we’re showing you attractive or transporting? Gee, that’s too bad.”
The DVD doesn’t have any extras or voiceovers, but anyone with a taste for hardboiled noir should grab it.
You wouldn’t want to call this a “hard-charging” cop flick — “laid back” would be more like it. And yet by today’s formulaic, semi-anemic standards it’s a genuine pleasure to watch a San Francisco policier that delights in atmosphere to this degree.
It’s not just the cops who seem cynical, miserable, bitter or numb — the innocent bystanders seem this way also. You can almost smell the self-loathing despair, the perspiration, the cigarette smoke and the acidic coffee.
Directed by Stuart Rosenberg and based on a Swedish crime novel, The Laughing Policeman is about an investigation into a mass murder on a San Francisco city bus. Ten or twelve people have been mowed down by some lunatic with a “grease gun,” and the cops don’t have a clue.
A squad of detectives is assigned to the case and Rosenberg acquaints us with some of them (Lou Gossett has the juiciest second-banana role), but the ones we mainly hang with are played by Walter Matthau and Bruce Dern.
Matthau (who was about 53 when it was made) turns in his usual rumpled and grumpy routine, but when Policeman hit screens in September `73 it was seen as a major change of pace. Matthau had been a big comedy guy throughout most of the `60s and early `70s (Plaza Suite, Hello Dolly, et. al.). As a cop lacking in basic people skills, Dern does his usual insinuating obnoxious thing.
One of the big plot points is that Matthau’s partner, a guy named Evans, is among the bus victims. Matthau talks to Evans’ girlfriend (Cathy Lee Crosby), and learns that he was spending his “off” time looking into the murder of a prostitute. He also finds out that Crosby posed for erotic photos, which half-offends him and half turns him on.
This dirty-pictures element has zip to do with finding the killer, but it adds to the general down-at-the-heels sleaziness. It also tells us that Matthau has a thing for Crosby.
A strain of homophobia pops through when Matthau and Dern start to train their sights on a wealthy gay guy as a possible suspect (the term “fruiter” is heard), but this was made only three years after Stonewall so I guess we can cut the filmmakers some slack.
I just love the way Rosenberg and his crew take their time in solving the murder. The movie seems to say, “We’ll get to it, we’ll get to it…in the meantime have a donut and relax and try paying attention to the other stuff.”
Down, Down, Down
“Anyone who doesn’t immediately nominate John Frankenheimer’s Seconds as the most depressing movie ever made — by some distance — is clearly someone who has never seen the film.
“By comparison, Million Dollar Baby is Singin’ in the Rain, Monster is Gigi and Midnight Cowboy is Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Unlike those films, nobody in Seconds achieves anything resembling a fulfilling relationship, even momentarily. The entire story is dedicated to the proposition that hope is for fools, and that the most we can wish for is an empty illusion.
“Top it all off with James Wong Howe’s askew cinematography, Jerry Goldsmith’s unsettling score, and the heartbreaking sight of Rock Hudson finally giving a brilliant dramatic performance in a film nobody saw — and you have a film that
lingers in the back of your mind for years, like a bad, bad dream you really wish you never had.” — Jack Lechner, Radical Media.
“When I read your downer movie article, the very first things that came to mind were two movies my high school film teacher Jay Kaplan showed back to back in the mid-70’s: The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter and Bang The Drum Slowly.
“Kaplan must have been some kind of masochist to inflict this on a bunch of 17 year-olds, but then again, not many happy endings in that classic era of 70’s films. For a bunch of geeky high school kids, these movies were like a one-two punch of depression. Imagine a bunch of high school seniors just sniffing away in the silence of the dark classroom.
“In the former movie, nobody saw the suicide scene coming, so when you heard Alan Arkin’s gun shots off-screen, the class was totally mortified instantaneously. Then that dissolve to his tombstone… that was killer. The class was a total wreck.
“At least with Bang The Drum Slowly, you found out the deal about halfway (‘My son is dyin’!’), but it was still a head-shaking bummer when good ol’ boy catcher Robert DeNiro did his Brian’s Song exit. My film teacher referred to the hospital parts as the infamous `shit deal scene.'” — Drew Kerr
“David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers is an exquisitely sad film. Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream made me feel like I’d been clocked between the eyes with a 2×4. Mike Nichols’ film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? still really stings, too. They’re therapeutic, though. True bummers are things like the new Star Wars films and Troy and Bad Boys II — black holes into which enormous amounts of money, talent and creativity disappear.” — Jason Comerford.
“Hurts…hurts so bad! Here are my All-time Downers: Pearl Harbor, Dying Young, St. Elmo’s Fire, Monsoon Wedding, All the Real Girls (I don’t care if you crib from the French or Terrence Malick….learn how to tell a tale), Beaches, Steel Magnolias, Man On Fire, The Perfect Storm.” — George Bolanis
“Most recently, I’ve heard people describe Million Dollar Baby as depressing, to which I say `huh?’ Sad, yes, but depressing? I could watch it over and over.
“For me, a good example of a really depressing movie is House of Sand and Fog. Depressing because, in my opinion, so many relatively intelligent people (like yourself) bought into this pretentious piece of excrement. It was so bad, and so well-liked by critics, that I had to call my entire way of judging films into question.
“Walking out of the theater, I asked my friend (a dim-witted soul but with an oddly good movie bullshit detector), `Was it just me, or was that a piece of shit?’ And he said `Yeah, it was.'” Mark Van Hook, Boston, Mass.
“A triple bill that would have you going for the Prozac: (1) Ironweed — just beats you down…unrelenting on every level. (2) Interiors — not even good drugs help with this one. (3) Kanal — a very difficult and fatalistic vision that grinds a viewer’s sensibilities to a pulp.” — Benjamin Moore
“The Pledge. God almighty, that movie was depressing! Great cast, but oppressive and slow storyline with a downer of an ending.” — Craig Finnerty.
“Here’s your winner, hands down: Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible. Although it aspires to a fleeting moment of hope at the end (beginning), it’s about as dark and bleak a view of humanity as you’ll ever see on celluloid, with nothing remotely redemptive about it.” — Eponymous.
“Recent all-time depress-o-ganza: The Assassination of Richard Nixon. I personally adored the film, and was shocked at the critical indifference it received — it’s the most profound and acute trapped-in-the-mind-of-a-madman head trip since Taxi Driver.
“But when the relentlessness finally abated and the lights went up, I turned to my buddy — who is of the unshakable belief that there are no depressing films, only bad ones — and croaked, `That was pretty goddamn depressing.’ You know what? He agreed — he was shaken. And we talked about the thing for the next couple of hours; neither of us could get it off our minds. If that’s what a genuinely depressing film can do, then I’d argue it’s worth the tough two-hour sit.” — Tim Merrill.
“I’m picky enough to avoid most of the stinkers, but I would have to nominate Purple Rain and Moment by Moment as the two most depressing films I’ve ever seen — not because of their subject matter, but because they were so boring and a waste of my time here on earth.” — Heidi Bortner.
“You clued me into one in a much earlier column — Breaking the Waves. Before Lars von Trier became a total sadist. A movie that was sold as uplifting but was not, in any sense of the word, is Muriel’s Wedding. Though I do admire the hell out of Toni Collette. I saw Blow Up when I was 20, and at that age I thought it was completely depressing. And confusing. Natural Born Killers did not edify me in any way.” — Doug Helmreich
“House of Sand and Fog…bummer! The movie throughout was taxing in its morbidness and depression … but the ending with the (spoiler) son getting killed …now, that’s what I call bleak! For the life of me, I can’t see how anyone can own this film on dvd except for the people who either acted in it or worked behind the scenes (so that they can show their friends … ‘Hey, look, that’s me in the end credits!).” — Ron Koffler
“Dancer in the Dark was, for me, the most depressing movie of all time! A punch in the stomach from beginning to end. I have terrible flashbacks even now while listening to muzak for `My Favorite Things’ at the local supermarket.” — Amy Shemaitis.
“No matter how good it might have been on its merits, Monster was so goddamn depressing that I’d never watch it again. Sure, Charlize Theron is brilliant, but I can’t handle that much despair! I felt the same way about Mystic River, House of Sand and Fog and Leaving Las Vegas. It’s not like I’m some low-brow Neanderthal, either. There’s a good depressing like Million Dollar Baby. The problem is that some films are just so bleak that they don’t make for good re-visiting.
“As for so-bad-it’s-depressing, what about Life or Something Like It? That film was a real kick in the balls. I went to the bathroom three times in 90 minutes just so I could have some relief. Unfortunately, I couldn’t walk out because my wife wanted to stay. — Andrew Hager, Cockeysville, MD.
“My favorite bummers: Five Easy Pieces, The Last Detail, Last Tango in Paris, Boys Don’t Cry, Kids, Million Dollar Baby, Elephant, Raging Bull, Grey Gardens.
“Most of these are obvious choices, but they were the first ones that popped into my head. All of them, for me, have a profound undercurrent of sadness/pain running through. They have moments of naked truth that are electrifying art, almost too stark to embrace: Brando cursing at his dead wife’s corpse, the final shot of Million Dollar Baby, the two sailors walking out of the military prison into the harsh cold morning.” — Mark Smith, PhD
I’ve tried my best to just stay away from ‘depressing’ movies. There are plenty of `sad’ movies I love (Mystic River, On the Beach, The Mission, Fail-Safe come to mind). As for those who think all sad movies are depressing…well, what are you going to do? One friend of mine pretty much hates anything that has a sad ending. (One of his favorite movies is Zorro the Gay Blade, if that gives you any idea). People with tastes like that will always be around and they’re not leaving anytime soon. So why complain?
“I’ve always been interested in watching the Oscars, even though some of their Best Picture choices have been, well, wrong. But that’s all I’m interested in; I couldn’t care less about the other awards. Golden Globes, People’s Choice, MTV, CNN, Newark Critics Circle, whatever, they’re all the same. The Oscars are the big show. Who wants a People’s Choice Award or a Golden Globe?– Aaron Mastriani, El Paso, Texas.
“The recent remake of The Four Feathers is a downer. An expensive adventure movie filled with people who can’t act and all look as if they can’t wait to get back to the hotel pool in Morocco. Kate Hudson’s clearly been watching her mother’s old Laugh-In tapes for the vapid aura, and Heath Ledger’s perfected his pout. But together they have so little idea of how to create romantic tension over issues of moral commitment, and were plainly so badly directed in search of such displays, that the movie just lies there and melts. ” — Richard Szathmary
Nicole vs. Dissers
“Regarding Little Miss Brown-Shirt Nicole: I’ll bet you money that she never even saw the movies she listed as “left-wing” (Frida, Motorcycle Diaries, etc.). Please relate to Nicole that the next time she has left-wing propaganda shoved down her throat, to please do us all a favor and choke to death on it.” — Heidi Bortner.
Nicole to Heidi: “You can rest assured at night that I have seen both Frida and The Motorcycle Diaries . I have also seen Reds, The Cradle Will Rock, Guilty by Suspicion, et. al. What I have yet to see is a serious exploration of the true horror and damage that communism has caused around the world over the past 100 years.
“Most rational people know that Che was not a nice man but when I find my future brother-in-law (a 25 year-old actor…ughhh) to be seeing The Motorcycle Diaries and then claiming that communism has got a bum rap and I’m just brainwashed by the hard right-wing establishment into thinking it’s wrong, I wonder if our institutions of higher learning and our entertainment industry may be sending a skewed message.
“As for your comment that I should choke to death on the left-wing propaganda the next time…well, the tolerance and love you show in that comment makes me realize that my experiences at film school were most likely shared by many more people than myself. What school did you attend by the way?”
“I just want to say that I echo the sentiments by Nicole. Lefties can be some of the most close-minded, uninformed people I’ve come across. It’s definitely on both sides. I totally agree with her assessment of the kind of films we’ve been force-fed over the years. As a filmmaker myself, I hope to change that, at least in a small way.
“The reasons people don’t care about the film industry as much anymore is because there is such an absence of truth. Even when they do try to say something, they wind up saying things that they want to be true, not things that are actually true. But what can you say? It’s a microcosm of the world we live in. The blind leading the blind. Truth will always resonate with people. Until you see more of that on screen, people will continue not to care. ” — Dan Lowman
Nicole to Dan: Seems like you and I had similar film school experiences. I mentioned before that I had a discussion with an older very leftie reporter friend. I find older leftists much more tolerant because they have lived a life and made choices. Younger student activist types not so much. They don’t know why they believe what they believe, only what to believe and feel vindicated because they see their world view so prominently displayed so much through pop culture and the film industry.
“I believe every story has a right to be told but there seems to be a lack of a search for truth in modern day filmmakers. They are more interested in following ideology than showing both sides. I don’t need any more films showing how repressed the 50’s were. Sure films were unrealistic then to some degree in their portrayal of sexuality but are today’s films any different?
“I’ve seen black gangs, white gangs, Asian gangs and Latino gangs in real life but I’ve never seen a multi-racial gang like presented in most Hollywood films. Modern Hollywood film gangs look like a Baskin Robbins store. Is this any different than the Lucille Ball/Desi Arnaz days of each sleeping in different beds? I don’t think so. Different cultures have diferent taboos. Our artistic taboos are just now on the left instead of the right. No religion, no race, no sex inside of marriage unless it is with leather or boredom. This is no more a reflection of our world than that depicted in Pleasantville.
“I agree about cookie-cutter car chases and fights. I’m a film director — Bang the Drum Slowly, Weeds, Prancer, Let’s Scare Jessica to Death — and have always had great difficulty getting stunt coordinators to do something fresh. In fact I’ve found it almost impossible. I’ve come to feel I’d be better off without them, just stage the stuff as best I could with the actors. But you can’t get proper insurance without them.
“On the other hand, in terms of awards, I think you’re wrong about stunts never adding anything thematic. Think of the fights in The Sopranos, for example, or Olivier’s codger struggle up and down basement stairs with Peck in The Boys From Brazil, or the two brothers on the beach in Big Night. They’re all off the money and awkward. Hard to get stunt coordinators to do that. — John Hancock.
“How could a nod to stuntmen devalue an award show that is already nothing more than a popularity contest? If these awards were still about the value of a performance then Paul Giamatti would have been nominated for lead actor.” — Rob Jeffers .
Regarding your deserved rant against the extra ‘scenes’ on the new WHV double-disc Heat, perhaps DVD producers should all go back to Film 101 and remember to differentiate between ‘scenes,’ ‘sequences’ and ‘shots.’
“I too am tired of being promised ‘extras’ only to find the ‘extras’ are just a foot or two of film someone found on the editing room floor.” — Susan Burchfield, Research Director, KTVI FOX 2, St. Louis, MO.
It’s hard to tell if Gold Derby.com’s Tom O’Neill caved on his support of Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator two weeks ago or just a day or two ago, but in any case he’s finally folded his tent and admitted that Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby is the more likely Best Picture Oscar winner. The Gold Derby team (Anne Thompson, Dave Karger, Pete Hammond, Gene Seymour, Thelma Adams, et. al.) is giving Clint’s film 4-to-5 odds to win. I called it for M$B over two months ago (“Game Over”), but I guess I don’t need to point that out.
As long as we’re doing turnarounds, allow me to offer one of my own (although it’s way too late in the game for it to mean anything): Clint Eastwood delivered a finer thing with M$B than Scorsese did with The Aviator, but it would be really nice all around if Scorsese were to win the Best Director Oscar. I just watched those making-of docs by Laurent Bouzerau on the new two-disc Raging Bull DVD, and even though Scorsese has been off his game for the last decade or so, the greatness of who he once was should be wholeheartedly acknowledged. He was a spellbinding director and (let’s hope and wish and cross our fingers) may be once again.
Those one-sheets and web ads announcing Gore Verbinski’s The Weather Man (Paramount) as an April 1st release are now officially redundant . The Nic Cage/Michael Caine/Hope Davis drama about a Chicago TV weather man with personal problems galore has been bumped to the fall. The idea, apparently, is that a strong drama with prestige elements will have a better shot in September or October. There’s also some new thought being given to the Weather Man ad campaign image (i.e., Cage with a splattered milk shake dripping from his left shoulder), which obviously suggests comedy.
A Warner Home Video press release issued a couple of months ago about the upcoming double-disc “special edition” Heat DVD said that disc #2 would offer “11 additional scenes.” Bunk. These “11 additional scenes” amount to less than 10 minutes of deleted footage, and while there’s one scene that lasts a little over two minutes, most of the “additional scenes” are snippets lasting 30 or 40 seconds. A snippet is like a phrase or a sentence, and a scene is like a paragraph. Warner Home Video’s p.r. department should know the difference, and it shouldn’t sell one as being synonymous with the other.
I always feel better when HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher is up and rolling…kind of rounds out my sense of all being right with the world. Anyway, it preems tonight (Friday, 2.11) at 11 pm. But what to make of the new Robert Evans talk show thing on Sirius? For this to be semi-interesting, Evans would have to be paying attention to what’s doing right now — he’d have to be up on things. The President’s Day debut is on Monday, 2.21, at 6 pm ET. The regular show will play on Saturday. It starts on March 5th, 6 pm.
“You may recall that in the Matrix trilogy, Keanu Reeves played a haunted, expressionless traveler between metaphysical realms whose mission was to unravel a vast, complicated plot to…well, to do something very bad involving a lot of computer-generated imagery,” New York Times critic A.O. Scott begins in his review of Constantine. “It may therefore not surprise you to learn that Mr. Reeves, in [this film], a new theological thriller from Warner Brothers, plays a haunted, expressionless traveler…but you get the idea. The thing is, this time his character, John Constantine, wears a skinny tie, white shirt and dark suit combination almost exactly like the one worn by Agent Smith, who was Mr. Reeves’s archnemesis in the Matrix pictures. I’m still trying to get my mind around that.”
There are at least three ways to have a depressing time at the movies, and one is worth the grief.
You can sit through something shoddy, inept, sub-standard, and do everything you can to flush it out of your system when it’s over. You can also sit through a smooth, studio-funded, well-made enterprise that everyone’s loving and is making money hand over fist, but which you happen to despise with every fibre of your being.
But watching a quality downer can be edifying. (Naturally.) I’m speaking of a movie that’s totally comfortable with the idea of bumming you out, because it’s trying to be thoughtful, profound or in some way affecting. Which saves it from being a bummer.
I’m thinking about this because there’s a film opening fairly soon that belongs in the third category. I saw it a little while ago, and I’m not going to identify it except to say that it was made by good and talented people.
It’s a totally honorable effort, in short, although it doesn’t leave you with much besides a feeling of profound spiritual despair. Everything in this movie is down, down, down. Almost every character hates their life or their job or is overweight or dying…or it’s raining or the skies are overcast, or secondary characters are acting in a randomly cruel and hurtful way.
And yet it feels honest; it captures the way life actually feels at times. I’ve been there on occasion and I didn’t exactly welcome the memory, but I recognized it.
I don’t have any persuasive arguments for anyone with a bleak attitude, but I’ve always gotten a laugh from that Woody Allen/Annie Hall joke about a woman complaining about the terrible food at a restaurant and her friend saying, “I know…and such small portions!”
Life is hard, cruel, oppressive, boring…but it’s all we’ve got to hold onto and it’s better than being dead. The “honorable effort” could use a tiny bit more of this attitude.
Movies that relay or reflect basic truths will never be depressing, but those that tell lies of omission by way of fanciful bullshit always poison the air.
Sadness in good movies is not depressing — it’s just a way of re-experiencing honest hurt. Ordinary People is sad, but if you think it’s depressing as in “lemme outta here” there’s probably something wrong with you.
I’ll give you depressing: living a rich full life (children, compassion, wealth, adventure) and then dying at a ripe old age and coming back (i.e., reincarnated) as a chicken at a Colonel Sanders chicken ranch.
My beef is with movies that impart a distinct feeling of insanity by way of delirium or delusion, or a bizarre obsession. Frank Darabont’s The Green Mile (turn on the current! smell that burning flesh! cuddle that cute mouse!) and The Majestic (rancid small-town “folksiness”) are two such films. Ditto Steven Spielberg’s Always .
Martin Scorsese’s Kundun isn’t exactly a downer. It’s worse than that — it’s paralyzing. And yet Scorsese made one of the greatest spiritual-high movies ever with The Last Temptation of Christ.
On the other hand, Marty sent thousands upon thousands of moviegoers into states of numbing depression when Sharon Stone bent over in order to give Joe Pesci a blowjob in Casino.
Leaving Las Vegas, Mike Figgis’ film about a lush who’s decides to drink himself to death and doesn’t quit until he succeeds, has never been and never will be depressing. (If you’re engaged to someone who thinks it is, tell him or her it’s over — you’ll be divorcing them eventually, so you might as well get it over with.)
And yet the watching of John Huston’s Under the Volcano, about a somewhat older guy (Albert Finney) doing more or less the same thing, is akin to accidentally overdosing on generic cold medication and having to tough it out until the effects wear off.
In her review of Peter Brooks’ King Lear (’71), a profoundly dreary black-and-white thing with Paul Scofield in the title role, Pauline Kael wrote, “I didn’t dislike this film — I hated it.” I was so intrigued by this review that I eventually saw Brooks’ film, and I knew Kael wasn’t talking about what Brooks had done as much as the way his film made her feel deep down.
The Godfather, Part II is a fairly gloomy film but it doesn’t lie. It says that the ties that used to bind families and community together in the old days (the `40s and `50s) have been unraveling for some time. As Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone says to his mother in the second act, “Things are changing.”
The Matrix Revolutions is a profoundly depressing film, especially when all those hundreds of thousands of sentinels start swarming into Zion like wasps. Absolutely relentless and thundering empty-drinking-glass bullshit.
Sitting through Ron Howard’s Backdraft is like injecting an experimental psychotic drug concocted by Dr. Noah Praetorious (the frizzy-haired scientist in The Bride of Frankenstein) straight into your veins.
Most of the movies directed by Sean Penn are pretty damn depressing, but even in this context, The Crossing Guard delivers an exceptionally bleak vibe.
Kevin Bacon’s Loverboy, a well-made drama about an obsessive woman who never lets go of her insanity and is finally destroyed by it, is like being locked in a room with this character, and feels like a Bedlam-type thing.
People who think animal-death movies like Old Yeller, Bambi and The Yearling are depressing are, in the words of Claude Rains’ Captain Renault, “rank sentimentalists.”
The idea that someone saw the spirit of Ernest Hemingway in Chris O’Donnell, and cast him in In Love and War…that’s really bad.
Send in your own all-time depressing films quickly, and I’ll put them up this afternoon. And let’s not have any mentions of gross tear-jerkers like Love Story, Dying Young, etc. Let’s keep things dignified.
Stunt professionals want the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to start handing out Oscars for Best Stunt Coordinator.
Good movie stunts will always deserve respect, but I’ve never seen a stunt in my life that, by my calculations, has lent thematic depth to the film or added to the emotional impact. Has anyone?
Stunts just aren’t in the same artisan realm as art direction, costume design, music composing or even main-title design. They’re skillful but never artful. They’re just, you know…stunts.
The people who perform them are obviously nervy professionals, but they didn’t go to Pratt or Julliard or NYU or AFI film schools to learn their craft, and I know this sounds snobby but what they bring to a film isn’t all that special or elevated.
Their work isn’t very original, for one thing. I can count on one hand the fist-fight scenes that have seemed exceptionally realistic. (That fight between Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix in The Yards was an exception.) To my eyes, movie stunts never seem to involve average, off-balance, physically clumsy people. They’re almost always rotely performed.
And I’m getting really tired of car-chase scenes, even when they push the boundaries like the one staged in Moscow in The Bourne Supremacy. The cars in car-chase scenes always seem like they’re being driven by professional drivers — they always fishtail and spin out in a certain way, like the driver knows exactly what he/she is doing, etc.
Four stunt organizations have gotten together and written a letter to AMPAS, saying that “stunt performers are the only faction of the movie industry that must literally risk their lives for the sake of their art” and that “the talent and expertise that is required of a stunt coordinator to be both creative and safe is enormous and highly deserving of academy recognition.”
Safe, maybe, but forget creative. To me, movie stunts are the antithesis of that. Hollywood’s stunt professionals are good people, but they’re upper-level proles who are just a step or two removed from carpenters and electricians, and including them with the rest of the Oscar contenders would devalue things a bit.
“I predict that the upcoming Oscars will be the lowest rated in recent Oscar history. For the first time I will also not be watching.
“As a recent film school graduate who has loved and devoured film history since a child, I can say that I am truly bored with a great majority of the stories being told through the mainstream of the American/Western film industry. Hollywood has been in an overtly left-wing ideological paradigm for well over a generation now and certainly all of my lifetime.
“This is not a question of politics. It is a question of bad story telling. It makes films predictable.
“As someone born in the 70√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s, old-fashioned to me is not a rigid evangelical going to church on Sunday. Old-fashioned to me is wife-swapping, wicca and gay bath houses. Ideologically, for as long as I can remember, and with precious few exceptions priests, evangelicals, businessmen, corporations, conservative politicians, uptight white folk and (insert bad Hollywood stereotype here) are always the villains.
“I did not need Michael Medved to tell me the third-act twist in Million Dollar Baby. I had my suspicions as soon as I saw the religious imagery in the trailer released in November and read web-columns saying how shaken people were from the initial pre-screenings. The day it went into limited release in mid-December, I waited until about 3:30 pm (after the first early matinees), went onto some Eastwood fan chat rooms and had my thoughts confirmed.
“I have admired and championed Clint Eastwood since long before it became hip and fashionable in film circles to do so yet I found the last third of M$B very predictable. It would have been unpredictable had his character not euthanized Hillary. I don√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t for one minute believe that you thought there was a chance the film wouldn√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t end the way it did.
“I saw M$B and The Sea Inside when they were called Brian√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s Song and Whose Life Is It Anyway?. Hearing Julia Roberts in Closer talk about the taste of cum was about as shocking to someone my age as hearing Julia Roberts talk about the taste of cum.
“‘Prestige’ films like Vera Drake, Kinsey, Frida, The Motorcycle Diaries, The Hours, The Dreamers, etc. do not titillate or offend…they bore. They don’t speak to people of a younger generation because we have had their ideology rammed down our throats from birth.
“These films are well-made but indulgent and poorly researched polemics made by people who still pine for an era that no longer exists — the ’60s. The counter culture that lived 30 or 35 years ago and refuses to die bores more in my generation than the media would have you believe. The new generation of film fans are not shocked by Deep Throat. We were weaned on Trey Parker and yawn in the face of it.
“As I said to an older, very left-wing reporter friend of the family after the election who could not understand why I would support GW, I√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ve never been silenced or censored by an evangelical, but I do have first-hand experience of a raging, foaming at the mouth p.c. university student pointing his finger and saying I am a ‘poor quality human being’ because I ‘dared’ to make a short film with the phrase ‘chick√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s ass’ in it.
“I know first-hand of a film professor who found himself as the subject of a tribunal because he dared — dared! — to show an excerpt of Blue Velvet during a class on voyeurism. The more ‘enlightened progressive’ types decided that he was implicitly endorsing rape.
“Hollywood now forsakes art for ideology and films that truly break new ground artistically (The Passion of the Christ, Fight Club, Hero) are derided or not rewarded because of their ideology.
“It says something about our times and the history of film that we are constantly told how shocking, daring and controversial left-leaning films are/were (Fahrenheit 9/11, Midnight Cowboy, Last Tango in Paris, Last Temptation of Christ), yet by any standard, the most controversial film since 1915√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s Birth of a Nation was made by a conservative Catholic director who made an R-rated film about a man on a cross who died 2000 years ago.
“For a community that says it is so culturally curious about all walks of life, where are the stories depicting the plight of the millions slaughtered under Joseph Stalin?
“For every ten Hollywood love songs to Marxism/communism, where is the director who dares tell the story of those brave students who died in Tianamen Square?
“How about an Oscar-caliber film detailing the slaughter of the three million Polish Catholics killed in the Holocaust?
“For every story about how repressed America was sexually in the ’50s, how about a film detailing the pure intellectual repression caused by leftist speech codes on modern university campuses?
“Can you actually make a case that the creative team of Vera Drake is being nominated over films like Kill Bill Part 2 or Man on Fire because of quality, or is the message of the film what√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s being voted for?
“Can you make the case that in 50 years more film students will be talking about Sideways or The Aviator over The Passion of the Christ? That people such as Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchock, Orson Wells, Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, Cary Grant and Stanley Kramer never won a legitimate Oscar does more to invalidate the Oscars than anything anyone can say.
“Most modern Hollywood/Western films don√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t dare me to think — they ask me not to. I suggest that if Hollywood artists want to become relevant again, perhaps they should quit calling everyone who disagrees with them ‘uncurious’ and become a little bit more curious themselves. If they don√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t, they will find more and more Bubbas like myself who care less and less.” — Nicole DuMoulin.
“I’m from one of the dreaded red states — Houston, Texas, to be exact. I’ve seen and loved both Sideways and Million Dollar Baby — especially the former. I suppose I’m an exception to the rule, but you’re probably right that the majority of people who have seen it live up north. That’s too bad because they’re great films.
“I for one am happy with the change in the Oscars, and I’m glad that smaller films that haven’t made $100 million or over have gotten recognition. I just wish Paul Giamatti had been nominated.” — Richard Scandrett.
“Interesting insights on the Oscars and Oscar-nominated grosses in your 2/11 column. I’m a blue-state guy living in a red state (but a weird one with a Democratic Governor and Dem-dominated state assembly who voted overwhelmingly for Bush).
“I finally caught Sideways yesterday in a pretty crowded theatre in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and I was talking with some folks in line and in the theatre beforehand about the Best Picture nominees. I found some other reasons for both the declines in ratings and money among the ‘common man’ types (something that people in NC overwhelmingly believe they are).
“First of all, the biggest movie of the last three years, both in terms of money and Oscar nods was what? That’s right — the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Some people I talked to in the theatre said that since that experience, they haven’t seen any other ‘big’ movies that they were interested in. One guy even said he didn’t even want to give The Aviator a shot, not even on video.
“Similarly, there seems to be sort of a weird backlash against nominated ‘small’ films. People around me in line going to see other stuff said they were disappointed in Lost in Translation, The Hours…one lady even mentioned Gosford Park…other movies that were not blockbusters the last few years but were liked by critics and nominated for Oscars. They didn’t want to see Sideways or Finding Neverland.
“Also, some people just don’t like Clint Eastwood’s movies, and I’m one of them. I hated Unforgiven, tolerated Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and will not watch Mystic River or Million Dollar Baby. Some others in the theatre agreed.
“Anyway, I came out of Sideways very satisfied. It was a great story and well-acted. Other people seemed to enjoy it, too, although I did experience one of the great horrors of being in a movie like that: the couple with the four or five kids clearly not old or smart enough to understand a movie like that who keep getting up to go to the bathroom and get candy every five minutes. At least the parents kept them from talking.” — Marc Allen
Wells to Allen: Those people you were speaking have taken the concept of “unsophisticated” to new lows. People should see what they want to see, but it sounds to me like they’re much more into shutting doors than opening them.
“Don’t you think that the biggest problem with Oscar’s popularity is the fact that there’s an awards show on television at least once a week? It’s ridiculous. There’s the Golden Globes, SAG, some British thing, Blockbuster, MTV, People’s Choice, blah, blah, blah. There’s a complete over-saturation, to the point where these award shows seem to be more about celebrity than they do about films. I used to love the Oscars when I was younger, I never missed a second, but now I’m just burned out on the whole celebrity scene, to the extent that I don’t really want to see any of it. Not even the Academy Awards.
“For me personally, the problem is that the winners of the past two Best Picture awards have really bummed me out. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King over Mystic River for Best Picture? Its wrong to give the Best Picture award for an overall achievement, instead of the year’s best film.
“But that’s not nearly as egregious as Chicago‘s Best Picture win two years ago. I dare someone to explain to me how Chicago, which I couldn’t even sit through, is a better movie than The Pianist. Total crap.
“Every year has its Oscar omissions, but the past two years the Best Picture award should have been named the Picture that Makes People Feel the Best award. If Finding Neverland were to win this year, I don’t think that I could watch another Oscar night. Ever.” — Jeff Horst.
Wells to Horst: Don’t worry about Neverland — it’s in there strictly to round out the pack.