Holy crap — so Warner Bros. is axing its specialty interests, according to Variety, severing ties with both Picturehouse and Warner Independent, and in the process eliminating more than 70 positions. “With New Line now a key part of Warner Bros., we’re able to handle films across the entire spectrum of genres and budgets without overlapping production, marketing and distribution infrastructures,” says Alan Horn, Warner Bros.’ president and chief operating officer. “After much painstaking analysis, this was a difficult decision to make, but it reflects the reality of a changing marketplace and our need to prudently run our businesses with increased efficiencies.” Translation: “more than ever, if it doesn’t have franchise potential, a comfortable genre slotting and/or a position for two major stars, or someone else didn’t already spend the money to make it, we’re not interested.” This is one of those things that doesn’t play for even casual Jane and Johnny Arthouse fans, but it sucks for American film, period.
Mister Lonely — the first film in eight years from Harmony Korine, the
erstwhile l’enfant terrible behind 1995’s Kids, as its screenwriter,
and, later, the even more avant-garde Gummo and Julien Donkey-Boy —
summons to mind nothing quite so much as, from U2’s “Hold Me, Thrill
Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me,” the following lyric: “Dressing like your
sister/Living like a tart/They don’t know what you’re doing/Babe, it
must be art!”
Of course that song, a one-off contribution to the soundtrack for 1995’s Batman Forever, was an acknowledged exercise in ironic, self-referential vamping. Co-written with his brother Avi, Korine’s movie is part deadpan acting class exercise, part metaphorical art school construct. It’s also never less than wholly sincere, which is why it comes off as such a tangled mess of unruly intentions, like the drunken, yammering high school friend of yesteryear trying to tell you three stories at once.
The main story here centers around a Parisian Michael Jackson impersonator (Diego Luna) who meets a Marilyn Monroe impersonator (Samantha Morton) and takes her up on an impulsive offer to move back with her to a commune in the Scottish Highlands, where Marilyn lives with her husband Charlie Chaplin (Denis Lavant), daughter Shirley Temple, and a group of other impersonators that includes Sammy Davis, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, the Three Stooges, Madonna, Buckwheat and James Dean. All the nutty goings-on at this sort of island for misfit toys — which include ping pong, drunken carousing and prepping for a talent show that will in theory provide a much-needed cash infusion — are crosscut with unrelated events in a Latin American jungle, where nuns flying food-drop aid missions with a chattering priest (Werner Herzog) come to realize they are blessed with a special gift.
Korine has an undeniable eye for images — witness the slow-motion opening credit sequence set to Bobby Vinton’s heartbreaking title tune (above), and some amazing skydiving nun footage — as well as an occasionally deft touch with mood. What he needs, though, is someone to impose more rigid structure. Very loosely, Mister Lonely is about locating thankfulness in a topsy-turvy world, and yet part of its dark metaphorical conclusion relates to the special death that those who dare to dream out loud die. (Very literally, the commune’s diseased sheep are put down early in the movie, yet similarly harsh fates await other characters.)
Korine seems to lose interest in Michael as a focal character, though, and the film suffers as a consequence. Without him as our cracked protagonist, or a stronger sense of the ensemble characters, things that could or should be funny — like Buckwheat giving an unruly, sobbing Pope a bath, or Lincoln riding bitch on a motorcycle, drumming up talent show business through a megaphone — only serve to reinforce the point that Mister Lonely is less than the sum of its colorful parts. (IFC, unrated, 112 minutes)
Wanted, the big shoot ’em up from Universal opening nationwide on June 27, will kick off this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival on June 19, it was announced yesterday. Giving things a further Universal flavor, Guillermo Del Toro’s Hellboy II: The Golden Army, opening July 11, will serve as the festival’s closing night film, on June 29.
So in what sounds like a brief, walking-through-the-lobby-type interview with Hollywood Today, David Lynch announced that he’s working on Catching the Big Fish, a road movie-style documentary that’s an outgrowth of his best-selling book and consciousness-touting seminars about transcendental meditation. Shot around meaning-of-life dialogues with both seminar companions like ’60s troubadour Donovan and physicist John Hagelin, as well as regular folks, the world-spanning movie sounds like part peace-pitch, part typically elliptical, Lynchian inquisition into global measures of anxiety. No timetable for completion or anything of that nature was discussed.
“People have a right to be happy, but they don’t know it,” says Lynch. “A lot of artists are attached to the idea that to create one must suffer and live in pain. I used to have a lot of anger and depression, but when you have a constant migraine you can’t create anything, and transcendental meditation really taught me that.” For more information on the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace, click here.
So Nick Cannon and Mariah Carey are married… wait, what?! The pair — he 27 years old, she 39, and crazy — apparently tied the knot in a sunset ceremony at Carey’s home in the Bahamas on Wednesday. “They have been smitten with each other for days, weeks,” a friend told the New York Post. “And she’s always had a crush on him.” Oh. Well… good. There’s that, then. There’s a “me and Mariah/baby and pacifiers” joke to be made here, but honestly I can’t even summon the energy.
It’s perhaps appropriate that I caught Larry and Andy Wachowski’s Speed Racer in the miserable throes of a head cold/flu, hopped up on a cocktail of over-the-counter meds. After all, it’s essentially the big screen equivalent of a hallucinatory cattle prod to the senses.
A hyper-charged, gumball-colored family flick (the production design
seems inspired by Dick Tracy, The Cat and
The Hat and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the action by Ice Cube’s biker flick Torque) based on the old cartoon by Tatsuo Yoshida,
and debuting simultaneously in conventional theaters and on IMAX
screens, Speed Racer certainly has to set some sort of cinematic record
for screen wipes. It’s shot in tight close-ups, and never lets you
forget that it’s a movie. A funny thing happens on the way to the dulling, sensory overload,
though: the exacting construction of the Wachowskis’ script, as well as
some invested performances by its cast, creates enough of an emotional
through-line that one can, with a hard squint, almost take Speed Racer seriously. Almost.
As his name would suggest, the pure thrill of driving is everything to
young Speed (Emile Hirsch). Racing is in his blood, and the mechanical
skill of his father Pops (John Goodman), the designer of his thundering
Mach 5, and the support of his Mom (Susan Sarandon) and longtime gal
pal Trixie (Christina Ricci) have helped lay a sturdy foundation for
Speed, even if he is still haunted by the memory of his older brother
Rex. After turning down the ego-maniacal owner (Roger Allam) of Royalton
Industries, though, Speed finds himself grappling with the realization
that racing isn’t just about honest competition — it’s big business,
and a dirty one at that. Teaming up with Inspector Detector (Benno
Fürmann) and the mysterious Racer X (Matthew Fox), he sets out to foil
Royalton and other corrupt corporate interests.
Like other Hollywood studio-peddled tales cautioning about the reach
of big business or government (Paul Weitz’s In Good
Company, and the Wachowski-produced V for Vendetta, say), the
anti-establishment story at the core of Speed Racer seems more than a bit
incongruous if pondered for too long. I’d allow, though, that just as
with the Matrix series, the Wachowskis manage to undeniably create a
new thing here; the movie is a technical marvel on
many levels. Yet for all its ample visual pop, the racing scenes never
really meant a thing to me; all the CGI renders them, well, just a
cartoon. Late in the film, a stylized, group-rumble fight sequence, meanwhile,
plays as the logical, hyped-up extension of the old bam-pow! Batman TV
fisticuffs. Rightly or wrongly, after bullet-time, that feels like a
water-treading ploy for wide-scale embrace, an acquiescence to the
corporate cookie-cutter culture that Speed Racer claims to rail
against. (Warner Bros., PG, 135 minutes)
Only months after the Lumiere brothers dazzled Paris high society with their tiny, magical moving pictures, cinema arrived in the Croatian capital of Zagreb on October 3, 1896. Over a century later, the Croatian film industry has persevered, triumphing over myriad political, societal and financial hurdles. Deeply rooted in the country’s national literature, Croatian films typically reflect Central European attitudes about artistic expression.
Some of the newest wave of Croatian talent get a Southern California showcase next weekend at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. Friday, May 16 sees the U.S. premiere of director Kristijan Milic’s anti-war drama The Living and the Dead, based on the bestselling novel by Josef Mlakic; Saturday, May 17 features a contemporary double feature of Drazen Zarkovic’s Tressette: A Story of an Island and Hrvoje Hribar’s wonderfully titled What Is a Man Without a Mustache?, neither of which is available on DVD. The Aero Theatre
is located at 1328 Montana Avenue in Santa Monica
information on directions and the Aero’s upcoming schedule,
phone (323) 466-FILM.
For those in New York City, the world just got a lot more colorful. Starting tonight, and over the following three weekends, at the 78th Street Theatre Lab, located on the 2nd floor at 236 West 78th St., James Comtois‘ Colorful World unfolds.
In 1988, the world discovered a man who was indestructible, impervious to pain, and able to destroy a tank with his mind. (No, not Chuck Norris.) In the early- to mid-nineties, a craze where vigilantes dressed up in flashy costumes and fought crime took the nation by storm. Now it’s 2005. The World Trade Center’s Twin Towers are still standing. Hurricane Katrina has decimated New Orleans. The Iraq War is coming to a close. And several former costumed crimefighters realize their marks on the world are more akin to those of has-been rock stars.
This is Colorful World, Nosedive Productions’ latest full-length production that takes on the superhero genre. Far from a pulpy comic book-style romp, James Comtois and Pete Boisvert (The Adventures of Nervous-Boy) envision a world radically changed by the arrival of an invincible man, and not necessarily for the better. The estimable Mac Rogers co-stars in the show, which I’ll heartily recommend from afar, sight unseen. Again, performances are Thursday through Saturday for the remainder of the month — May 8-10, 15-17, 22-24 and 29-31 — at 8 p.m. For tickets and more information, click here.