Turistas, let’s take a moment to appreciate the particular charms of Olivia Wilde (above). I’m usually not too big a fan of the overly manufactured/tweezed eyebrow, but here it works. I know the devilish temptress stuff only worked so long for Rose McGowan, but this is totally the niche Wilde should be exploiting, no? She’s younger, and once her teen marriage to flamenco player/documentary filmmaker Tao Ruspoli invariably unravels, she’ll be even hotter. Save Angelina Jolie, is there a better feminine arched brow working in movies today?
Long a very respected actor, 52-year-old
Denzel Washington has seen an interesting thing happen to his career as he’s gotten
older — he’s become more popular and commercially bankable, both at home and
abroad, all without denting his critical notices. What’s at the root of Washington’s burgeoning appeal? Well, for one thing, he’s
very obviously making the sorts of movies that Harrison Ford should be making —
cat-and-mouse-type thrillers and puzzle box mysteries in which Washington serves
as our unflappable guide. For a fuller explication of this theory — and how Washington’s latest, Deja Vu, fits into it — click here for a piece from FilmStew.
Settling into a chair with an oversized, fruit-based shake in one hand,
Emilio Estevez apologizes in advance if he doesn’t make sense.
Referring euphemistically to the last ten years of his life as “off the
grid,” Estevez cops to the fact that he hasn’t really had to exercise
his brain as an interviewee in some time, and so he worries about answering questions about his latest film — passion project Bobby, about the evening of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination — with aplomb, depth and clarity. He needn’t
necessarily worry, as there’s an abundance to glean from his demeanor. For the full interview, from FilmStew, click here.
its ongoing retrospective of the work of producer Walter Mirisch, on both Saturday, December 2 at 3 p.m. and Sunday, December 10 at 2 p.m. For more information, click here.
Watching the trailer for Joe Carnahan’s Smokin’ Aces, opening January 26 from Universal, the thought crossed my mind — what exactly are those aces laced with? Carnahan did beautiful things with 2002’s gritty Narc, starring Ray Liotta and Jason Patric, and then burned about a year of his professional life working up the third installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise, only to eventually have his involvement run aground on the shoals of “creative differences” after star-producer Tom Cruise watched a bunch of Alias DVDs one weekend.
Smokin’ Aces, though, looks like the living, breathing antithesis of grittiness. The Las Vegas-set story of a bunch of colorful hitmen who compete to try to knock off a Mob snitch, it’s got the big ensemble cast — Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Peter Berg, rapper Common, Andy Garcia, Alicia Keys, Jeremy Piven, Ryan Reynolds, Liotta again — that tells those old enough to remember that it desperately wants to be this generation’s True Romance. But its frantic anxiety to please (and more than that, to try to matter) seeps through, and it makes one uncomfortable, even in only three minutes. Gaudy, violently overstylized and almost incomprehensible, it looks like a fever-dream mash-up of Domino and The Big Hit, as overseen by the former personal assistants/camera operators of Demian Lichtenstein and McG. To view the trailer on Apple.com, click here.
Emilio Estevez’s Bobby — teeming with idealism and a palpable romanticism, and necessarily bristling with the energy of a true believer — can carry a lot of weight, depending on what one wants from it.
For the full review, from FilmStew, click here.
One thing I’ve never understood about celebrities — if you’re going to cheat on a spouse, why in God’s name would you do anything in public? You have to know that you’re going to be seen and recognized. Conversely, if you’re not laying the groundwork for adultery (and hey, then kudos to you), wouldn’t you know that canoodling and such with another celeb would likely be misconstrued, and thus endeavor to avoid even the appearance of impropriety? I say this because Taye Diggs and Ashlee Simpson… are apparently… (at least) friends? What!?
That’s nearly as strange as Jennifer Lopez attending Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ nuptials, which I still can’t figure out. I mean, is Cruise a big, closeted Maid in Manhattan fan, or did he think The Wedding Planner was a documentary?
For all of film’s cultural preeminence and the great insight and
immediacy that it affords, it has historically had a hard time
capturing musical trends of the moment, or telling practical and
convincing stories about bands. What’s most
difficult to convey about music, and thus fold into a proper narrative,
is its careening catharsis.
Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny, though, captures
with such full force of personality the swagger, unchecked id and
playtime allure of music that it reminds you – albeit in garish,
heightened strokes – of why one falls in love with music in the first
place. “For me, Tenacious D is about what you are and what you wish you were,” explains Liam Lynch, the film’s director. For the full feature, from CityBeat, click here.
Asked about the working model and narrative template for his star-stuffed ensemble pic Bobby at a press day at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles some two weeks back, writer-director Emilio Estevez held forth on some of his inspiration, which — not surprisingly — included multi-arc maestro Robert Altman.
“Robert Altman and P.T. Anderson are two of my favorite filmmakers,” said Estevez.
“I admire their audacity, their boldness. I mean, the falling frogs in Magnolia? I thought it was outrageous. And
as outrageous as I thought it was, I thought it so courageous as well. But Altman
is certainly an inspiration for me. I’d love to meet him. He doesn’t know he’s
my mentor, but he is. I’d like to meet him someday and tell him that.”
has the luxury of having final cut,” Estevez continued, “and with that comes the length of a picture
that he determines, which is why Short
Cuts is three hours and 10 minutes, and he allows every character to be
fully realized. I don’t have the experience or the cachet to have final cut,
but had I on this one it might have been three hours, and each character would have been more fully realized than they are.”
Here Estevez pauses and laughs. “But, you know… alas.”
While his dream of meeting Altman unfortunately wasn’t realized, in a twist of kismet, Estevez did befriend Nashville writer Joan Tewkesbury a number of years back while directing an episode of The Guardian. He credits her with helping him smartly whittle down his original draft of more than 160 pages.
I caught The Nativity Story Monday evening, and one of Joseph’s lines (“I wonder if there’s even anything I’ll be able to teach him”) got me thinking about the parts of Jesus’ life that we always read and hear about, and see on screen — and those we don’t. What about Jesus’ awkward pubescence, for instance? Is there a great comedy (or, OK, more likely mediocre comedy born of a great concept) that I don’t know about? Hell, you know, I’d even I’d even settle for a Gospel-style Muppet Babies, with Jesus and his little cousin John the Baptist navigating the “terrible twos.” Who’s with me?
Robert Altman, a savvy corruptor of studio policy and preference who made a career out of bucking both traditional story conventions and Hollywood management style, died Monday night at a Los Angeles Hospital at the age of 81, it was reported today. A five-time Best Director Academy Award nominee, most recently for
2001’s Gosford Park, Altman was awarded a lifetime achievement Oscar in 2006.
An immediate cause of death was not reported, but when he received his honorary Oscar earlier this year, Altman revealed that he had a heart transplant a decade earlier, and insurance bonding companies were known over the past couple years to require a stand-by “shadow” director on his projects. A true original, he will certainly be missed.
Altman’s career was
somewhat on the wane before the one-two punch of The Player and Short Cuts
re-established his critical integrity and reintroduced him to another
generation of film school dramatists eager to impress their own brand of
ensemble dramaturgy upon the silver screen. The latter movie in particular — available in a sterling
two-disc set from Criterion that also
includes a small bound copy of the Raymond Carver writings upon which it is based — remains one of my favorites of the director’s canon.
Short Cuts’ setting is the dreary, dystopian,
pesticide-drenched Los Angeles of the early 1990s, and it concentrates on the
interconnected lives of 10 scattered and very different families and individuals,
including Matthew Modine’s doctor and his self-centered artist wife Julianne
Moore (above, in a rightfully acclaimed performance); Moore’s screen sister Madeleine
Stowe and her philandering cop husband, played by Tim Robbins; alcoholic limo
driver Tom Waits; pesticide pilot Peter Gallagher (The OC); children’s party clown Anne Archer; and a trio of bonding
fishermen played by Fred Ward, Buck Henry and Huey Lewis. Any further
distillation of the myriad connections between characters or even the fashion
in which their relationships play out is secondary to the cumulative effect.
cinematic collagist at heart (making this movie’s slivered heart teaser poster, later replicated for its DVD release, especially
appropriate), Altman has always had a deft touch crafting thematic tone poems
from multiple, digressive narratives. Short
Cuts, however, is his crowning achievement in this arena. The overarching
subject under the microscope is the innately human frailty of trust, honesty
and fidelity. The resultant portrait that emerges may certainly not be one of uplift — like
both warm and unforgiving at the same time, often within the same scene — but it
is absolutely, unflinchingly real and affecting.
The 18th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival will
honor Sydney Pollack with the Patron of the Arts Award presented by the Screen
Actors Guild Foundation, Kate Winslet with the Desert Palm Achievement Award
and Todd Field with the Sonny Bono Visionary Award at the Festival’s annual
Awards Gala, it was announced today. The Awards Gala,
Adam Beach and will be hosted by Entertainment Tonight’s Mary Hart, so let’s hope that woman who has seizures upon hearing Hart’s voice isn’t in attendance. The festival itself runs January 4-15, with a lineup of more than 230 films from 65 countries. For more information, click here.
Joey Lauren Adams’ Come Early Morning, so one could be forgiven for thinking this topless-but-not magazine cover, from December’s issue of Marie Claire, was nothing but a move to publicize that. Au contraire. The piece is about her advocacy for the group YouthAIDS.
Judd is whipsmart and one of those celebrities trading on her fame to do some good. And if she’s willing to go all in with her body as well, who the hell am I to argue? Me, I’m reading up on how to become the life of the party. For a redacted version of the interview from Marie Claire, click here.
1993’s Dazed and Confused (still the preeminent evocation of high school ennui and hormonal imbalance) and has ever since steadfastly refused to be pegged down, either by genre or stylistic mode.
Linklater’s latest film is Fast Food Nation, a dramatic modification of Eric Schlosser’s eye-opening, investigatory non-fiction novel of the same name, and it takes an impressive and humanistic aerial view of the fast food industry’s death-grip on American culture,
showing how cows and illegal immigrants alike are equally exploitable and
expendable in a system that values haste and the bottom line above all
else. For the full review, from FilmStew, click here. Furthermore, an interview with Linklater will follow later this week, but for an interview with costar Greg Kinnear, click here.
So Bob Saget is breathing a sigh of relief. America really does love penguins, after all, it seems. Warner Bros.’ Happy Feet danced past Daniel Craig’s debut as James Bond, Casino Royale, this weekend at the box office, pulling in an estimated $42.3 million from 5,600 screens to the latter’s $40.6 million from 5,100 screens. Good news for Farce of the Penguins, even better news for Happy Feet multi-hyphenate George Miller. For the full box office rundown from the weekend of November 17, click here.
Kate Hudson and Reese Witherspoon? Shouldn’t there soon be another A-list leading lady flushing her husband to the curb? If push comes to shove, can we get Scarlett Johansson and Josh Hartnett to wed and then turn around and end things by year’s end? And please don’t mention Jessica Simpson. She’s not a headliner. Nor an actress.
So he penned the script for Will Smith’s holiday release The Pursuit of Happyness [sic], whose spelling still irks me, and he has in the hopper Quebec, with Seann William Scott and John C. Reilly, which sounds destined to play on a double bill with Employee of the Month someday. But what the hell has happened to Steve Conrad’s Brad Pitt/Chad Schmidt project, which I think was announced before The Weather Man. Does this not jibe with Pitt’s rekindled sense of socially conscious pictures, or what gives?
Steve Anderson found a good point of inquiry and attack for his first documentary feature: the most flexible expletive in the English language (with all apologies to bitch). For more fucking thoughts, from FilmStew, click here.
Few films of the past year have provoked in me quite a response like Chris Paine’s documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?, which stirs both thought and blood-boiling outrage about moral responsibility as it relates to our environment in detailing, as it does, in
compelling case study form, the great premium placed on the maintenance of the constipated
status quo — on protections for corporate profit over public interest.
The story centers on one of the fastest, most efficient
production cars ever built. It ran on electricity, produced no emissions and catapulted
nascent American technology to the forefront of the automotive industry. The
lucky few who drove it never wanted to give it up. So why, in a systematic act
of automotive ethnic cleansing, did General Motors recall its entire fleet of leased
EV1 electric vehicles, in one case refuse an aggregate consumer purchase offer
of more than $115,000 per vehicle and eventually destroy the cars in secret in the
To understand that is go back more than 15 years. In 1990,
with smog alerts threatening public health and daily quality of life in one of
the country’s most populated states, the California Air Resources Board (or CARB, for short) targeted the chief source of that problem: auto exhaust. Inspired by a recent
announcement from General Motors about an electric vehicle prototype, the Zero
Emissions Mandate was born, requiring two percent of all new vehicles sold in
to be emissions-free by 1998, and 10 percent by 2003.
What followed was a carefully plotted murder by numbers. Cognizant
that a frontal assault would not only come across as unseemly but also likely
wouldn’t work, General Motors and a variety of other big business interests —
with no gas, no oil changes, no mufflers and rare brake upkeep, one can see how
the vehicle was a threat to the multibillion dollar automotive maintenance
industry — colluded to quietly snuff the most radical smog-fighting mandate
since the catalytic converter.
How? By everything from rolling out low-end product and
marketing it in elliptical fashion to purchasing a controlling interest in
revolutionary battery technology that would extend radius capability and then
sitting on its promotion and implementation. Essentially by paying lip service
to the notion of change while working behind the scenes to help perpetuate the
false impression of electric vehicles as undersized, underpowered and
inconvenient, and thus help foster the appearance of muted consumer demand. With
that in hand, Big Auto could argue the law was an unfair business restriction,
which they did. When the federal government, under the Bush administration,
joined a lawsuit against CARB and the state of
the writing was on the wall. The law was repealed, and billions of dollars in
federal money instead diverted to hydrogen fuel cell research that is 15-20
years off, instead of hybrid-electric technology that could manufacture cars
getting 100-plus miles per gallon today. (Angry yet?)
While admittedly canted, Who
Killed the Electric Car? doesn’t pin the blame on just General Motors or a
single villain; it’s equally an indictment of a corrupted and corroded system.
To this end, the film includes an impressive roster of interviewees, including former
Carter administration energy advisor S. David Freeman, former GM board member
Tom Everhart, the American Petroleum Institute’s Edward Murphy, ex-CIA Director
James Woolsey, authors Paul Roberts and Joseph Romm, consumer advocate Ralph
Nader, Los Angeles Times auto critic
Dan Neil, former CARB chairman Alan Lloyd — a divisive figure — and celebrity EV
drivers Mel Gibson, Alexandra Paul and Peter Horton. One of its most
plaintively convincing voices, however, might be former EV1 sales specialist
turned activist Chelsea Sexton, who in clear-eyed and detailed fashion relates
the compromised launch of the electric car.
In examining the brief life and death of EV1, its cultural
and economic ripple effects and how they reverberated through the halls of
government and big business, Who Killed
the Electric Car? emerges as an emblematic tale of the disincentivization
of technology, and how consumers are strung along like junkies. After all, for
how long now have we been hearing about radical fuel economy improvements “in
the next five to 10 years”?
Many of the important safety standards and other automotive
improvements we have and take for granted today — seat belts, airbags, fuel
economy standards — all had to be rammed through via legislation. We currently
have political leadership — fueled by complicit consumer silence on this issue
— that has abdicated its responsibility on this front and become a lapdog of
industry. While it may be casually and wrongheadedly derided by those with contrary financial
investment as agitprop, Who Killed the
Electric Car? piercingly demonstrates how technological advancement occurs only when it aligns with monied
interests, and argues persuasively for the idea that we all deserve better.
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Who Killed the
Electric Car? comes with a Dolby digital 5.1 audio track and optional subtitles in French. Documentaries with any sort of interview component forces hard choices about what to cut, and Paine turned in a trim theatrical cut, at just a whisker over an hour and a half. The twelve deleted scenes here, then, offer interviewees a bit more time to pontificate, and they’re certainly welcome inclusions, even if one chat devolves into a snake-eating-its-own-tail conversation about EV “pollution.” A short companion doc, Jump-Starting the Future, takes a look at independent alternative fuel research and other technology innovation, and though it only scratches the surface, it definitely makes you want to lobby for more government funding on this key issue. From the shameful-waste-of-space file, meanwhile, comes a music video for Meeky Rosie’s “Forever” and trailers for other Sony releases. While solid, this title could have used a little more participatory heft, thus boosting its educational value. As is… A (Movie) B (Disc)
The Pick of Destiny. But according to director
Liam Lynch they’ll have to wait until the movie’s eventual DVD
release, however, to achieve full transcendence. For the full details of the chat with Lynch, from IGN, click here.
Michael Ballhaus (Broadcast News, Goodfellas, The Age of Innocence) will receive the 2007
American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) International Achievement Award in
recognition of his artful and enduring contributions to advancing the global
art of filmmaking. His most recent film is frequent collaborator Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. Ballhaus will be feted in Los Angeles during the 21st Annual ASC
Outstanding Achievement Awards celebration on February 18, 2007.
The Dance Camera West Film Festival, a vibrant selection of dance film from around the world, is calling for entries for its next event, running throughout June of 2007. The sixth annual festival welcomes dance films with an emphasis on choreography made for the screen, in any dance style or genre, including documentary, shorts and installation. Early deadline is December 15 and the late deadline is January 17, 2007; entry forms and more details are available at www.dancecamerawest.org/submit.htm. So get crackin’, Baryshnikovs…
It’s hard to remember there was actually a time when Greg
Kinnear was a television host (that would be Talk Soup, on E!) and viewed somewhat dubiously as an actor. Those
times are bygone, as Kinnear — fresh from a summer of good notices for Little Miss Sunshine, the little indie
that could — re-teams with filmmaker Richard Linklater in Fast Food Nation, in which he plays a marketing executive for a
national eatery chain who trips to
to investigate claims of tainted beef. Redacted portions of a recent
this week, November 17, are included below:
Question: Did you stop eating meat upon booking the film, or
do you still indulge?
Greg Kinnear: “I actually have not been reborn since reading
Eric’s startling book. I still eat red meat. Sorry, is that okay? You can’t
keep me away from a burger. I guess I’m guilty. Is this the 60 Minutes portion of the interview? I
guess you got me. I’ve never been a big fast food consumer, but I eat red meat.
Eric Schlosser, who spent three years writing this book, still does as well. I
don’t think the book or the movie is necessarily an indictment of red meat or
beef in general. The average burger at a fast food place could be made up of
hundreds and sometimes thousands of different cattle. And the concept of how
those cattle are fed and where that meat source comes from and the conditions
at the packing plant and who works there and all of that stuff is more what the
book and the movie are about. It just asks people to think a little bit. It’s
like a sociology study in this book. I was amazed by it. And I think at the end
of the day when he and Rick sent me the script I was kind of nervous about a
big, preachy book [telling] people how to feel or behave. But I felt they did a
really nice job in just taking real characters and telling a narrative story that
I was really intrigued by. Usually you’re asked to play a good guy or a bad
guy, you’re rarely asked to play a guy who is both, and I was kind of intrigued
Question: Do you like finding humor in situations like this?
GK: “I guess it read a little funny to me with Don’s plight.
He definitely is a little naïve and definitely goes through a source of discovery
in this little journey.”
Question: How do you feel about your character, Don, choosing not to act?
GK: “I liked it. At first I read it and I had a problem with
it, but that really is the way it is. Of course I want him and I think an
audience that watches the movie wants him to stand up and say, ‘I’m mad as hell
and I’m not going to take it anymore,’ and he never does. And you think,
where’s the Norma Rae moment? But
that’s kind of only in the movies. And this is in some ways a more truthful
assessment of that kind of person than you could ever ask to find. I thought it
was pretty brave of Rick to throw him in to lead the charge rather than just
have him disappear. And I think it makes a pretty powerful proclamation about
that kind of guy because there are a lot of people out there who might have
some moral questions or ambiguity about what it is they do or who they serve or
what kind of industry they are in. And at the end of the day they have a
family, they have a wife and kids, they have obligations and obviously that’s
what people serve. And that’s one of the things about the book. It says, ‘Are
the individuals answering to the corporation or is the corporation answering to
the individuals?’ And that line is less clear than ever.
Question: What was most shocking for you?
GK: “I think the fact that there are chemists involved in food. You never like A
those two to intersect if you can avoid it. Let’s keep the chemists over here
and the food over there, that’s my feeling, but what do I know? But that is a
big aspect of fast food — their ability to artificially taint the colors and
smells to stimulate appetite.
playing this guy that I really loved is he is a marketing guy, he comes from CNN
and hasn’t really gotten his feet wet in this fast food thing yet. But if you
read the book there is a fascinating assessment of all of the grown-up men and
women with PhDs who sit around at tables like this, and figure out how to
market to children as young as 2 or 3 years old — to stimulate images on a TV
screen to make those kids think positively about their products. My daughter is
3 and I think about it all the time. There is just something very creepy about
that. But I guess it’s a reality. It’s 2006, so I need to get on with it.”
Another thing I was amazed by, and [another] aspect of
Question: Have you ever been on a kill floor?
GK: “I wanted to go to a kill floor. Catalina (Sandino
Moreno) went and Richard went obviously, and some of the crew. They were pretty
particular about who they let in. I got there the day after they had shot on
the kill floor. It was kind of a dark day on the set when I showed up, but (producer)
Jeremy (Thomas) was trying to get me access in there and we just weren’t able
to do it. So no, I never went into the kill floor. I went to the packing plant
obviously, which, as represented in the movie and in the book, is a very clean
operation. The place where they actually do the packing and the freezing and
stuff is pretty remarkable, it’s very technical and it moves very quickly and
efficiently. But there are some things you can’t change, and the ugliness of
that kill floor and what goes on there is just one of the things that it’s
unavoidable to not be shocked about.”
Question: Does it feel like you’re more in the spotlight
GK: “No, look, at lot of these are small movies. Little Miss Sunshine was a small movie
that kind of found an audience and really took off, but I didn’t know that was
going to happen. I was busy last year, definitely. It’s just funny sometimes.
In a fairly consolidated wedge of time I just had a bunch of things released, but
I don’t have any control over it. It’s just the way it is.”
Question: What was the last job you had that you didn’t want
to do or weren’t proud of?
GK: “There’s a big difference between not wanting to do [something]
and not being proud of it. I was cleaning up a huge baby poop this morning that
I didn’t want to do, but I’m proud that
I did it. In terms of flat-out not proud about something, I don’t know. I’m
sure there are lots of embarrassing movies I’ve done. I’ll e-mail them to you!”
Question: How was it working with Linklater, what’s his on-set
demeanor and direction like?
GK: “He just has a very easy spirit and disposition about
him. I really like his casts. He had a great group of people in this movie that
I kind of work with. He’s very easygoing, and he tries to let his movies breath
a little bit. He doesn’t come in and say everything has to be this way. He really works with actors
and gives them room and space and lets you feel like you could own some of it.
That’s not always the case.”