Money matters everywhere, of course, but one of the differences between truly, exactingly ordered period pieces and their more lax brethren is in the use of American currency. Twenty dollar bills, with a larger Andrew Jackson on the front, were redesigned in 1998 and 2003, so when you see an ATM spit out in new currency in a movie set in the 1980s, it’s a foul, but chiefly on whom? The script continuity person? The production designer? The director? There’s enough blame to go around, I suppose.
Ridiculously, The Tillman Story has lost its appeal over a “R” rating with the Motion Picture Association of America, The Wrap’s Steve Pond is reporting. I don’t get it — it’s the exact same type of case and argument as the Iraq-set documentary Gunner Palace six years ago. What, since we’re supposedly now “leaving” Iraq — always the hotter of the fronts in the two wars we’re simultaneously waging — the argument that young people who might be being recruited to serve in the military very much deserve a chance to see this sort of material no longer holds sway?
On a certain level, I admit I’m completely fascinated by this sort of online film community slap fighting, and yet I’m also always exasperated beyond belief when I read something like this. What, exactly, is the win, for those throwing stones?
Full review to soon follow, but it’s worth noting one (interesting? strange?) thing about Charlie St. Cloud, the new Zac Efron flick — that there’s a moment that features a most unusual therapeutic twist.
Yes, the movie touts (and debuts, probably) the notion of “cuddle-rescue.” At one point, when Efron’s Charlie goes to comfort Amanda Crew‘s stricken character, who has weathered a couple balmy days of a very mild Pacific Northwestern summer or something like that, he snuggle/sidemounts her like a pinniped, while director Burr Steers marks time by employing a series of very discrete dissolves. (All this despite the fact EMTs are on the way, less than 20 or 30 minutes away, and, again, it’s not snowing or subzero or anything like that.) Later, it’s said that this brief exposure of body heat saved her from the threat of death by hypothermia (!?), which is apparently the only major injury she suffered in a boating accident.
This is all of course horseshit ridiculous, but teen girls will probably spark to the notion of Efron unbuttoning their jackets and nuzzling up against them asexually. Or maybe not. One twenty-ish-year-old at the screening of the film I caught responded with heavy skepticism afterward: “Seriously… what was that about?”
I don’t have to pay attention to any of the specific details of the $100 million libel suit against author and Daily Beast editor-at-large Randall Lane, who in his new book The Zeroes claims diminutive ex-baseball player Lenny Dykstra was secretly paid $250,000 by AVT, Inc. to plug its stock on TheStreet.com, the website owned and operated by CNBC Mad Money host Jim Cramer, do I? I mean, once they come back from the holiday break I can pretty much count on Jon Stewart and company to wrap this one up for me with a bow on top, right?
I missed a couple long-lead screenings of The Extra Man (Magnolia, July 30), starring Paul Dano and Kevin Kline, which is billed as being about “a lonely young dreamer who fancies himself the hero of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel,” and what happens when he rents a room from a wildly eccentric failed playwright who serves as a social escort for the wealthy widows of Manhattan high society. As a general rule I tend to enjoy tales of warped mentorship — films that embrace the notion that there are sometimes truths and lessons to be imparted from young and old alike — but the above photo is off-putting on an instinctual level, for reasons one just feels in their bones.
I mightily dug co-directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s American Splendor, but the above picture — the one being peddled in almost all the advance coverage — just smacks of being dandy and twee, overly affected. A look at the film’s trailer seems to confirm this — I could barely make it through two minutes of Kline’s haughty put-on. Basically though, unless an audience instinctively knows what is being looked up at (a sci-fi “happening,” or a horror film’s menacing killer), it’s never a good idea for a film’s first/dominant still photo to have its stars gazing upward. It communicates a movie stuffed from its own sense of self-satisfaction.
I don’t know what’s a more depressing indictment of modern American life — the fact that I actually, sincerely want someone to come up with a device that accurately, adequately dries the water that always accumulates on the tops of coffee mugs in the dishwater (even after heated drying), and thus spills all over everything when you’re unpacking a load, or the fact that I know someone is already hard at work on this. Especially when this already exists.
From the “WTF” files comes word that the inaugural Astana International Action Film Festival, taking place June 27 through July 1 in Astana City, Kazakhstan (yes, that Kazakhstan), will feature a slate of more than 20 action films from a variety of countries. OK, right. So far, so good. Organized by director/producer Timur Bekmambetov, the festival’s stated aim is to bring together the Asian and Western film markets, by “showcasing a unique lineup of full-length action films along with a diverse forum of feature discussions from Academy Award-nominated producers, as well as a broad range of international filmmakers.”
So, gala premieres are set to include The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, District 9, The Last Airbender and Inhale, among other movies, and featured guests will include Harvey Weinstein, Mike Tyson, Lawrence
Bender, Sharlto Copley and Swedish multi-hyphenate Dolph Lundgren. And the official screening program will include the extended cuts of both Grindhouse flicks, Planet Terror and Death Proof, plus Lundgren’s Command Performance and the new The Karate Kid, along with… the forthcoming animated flick Despicable Me and Lucy Walker’s excellent nuclear non-proliferation documentary Countdown to Zero? Am I missing something here, or have the parameters of “action” been grossly elasticized? Is Bekmambetov promising model hookers for all the guests, or are the giftbags really that nice? For a full festival schedule, click here.
Sooo… I guess I’m not interviewing Splice director Vincenzo Natali? Thanks for the email, Warner Bros. publicists.
I generally dig the work of director James Mangold, but there was something bugging me, in back-of-the-mind, lingering fashion, about the impending Knight and Day, his summer action confection reuniting Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. And I finally figured it out. It’s the TV ads’ use of Muse‘s “Uprising.” Trailers that use really popular, of-the-moment music frequently (not always) have big tonal problems, and so the use of a surging chart hit or on-the-rise band, particularly in heavy rotation small screen advertising, is an empty signifier; it’s meant to prod and rouse and make the movie seem in thumping lockstep with the zeitgeist, when it’s frequently not, and sometimes the exact opposite. It’s a shortcut end-around figuring out a more effective and honest way to sell the narrative, in other words, a not infrequent sign of makers’ (or at least distributor’s) remorse. One wonders if Cruise (or Mangold, for that matter) even knows who Muse is.
Peter Debruge tackles the on-again, off-again release date mamba of Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor’s subversive romantic comedy I Love You Phillip Morris, as its boutique North American distributor tries to make a case that it’s in a position to release it. Non-festivalgoers really deserve a chance to see this film.
The letter “N” isn’t close to the letter “R” on a keyboard, but that potential keystroke error is about as close as Furry Vengeance gets to funny. Full review to follow tomorrow, but those at the press screening yesterday will forevermore share a special bond. Others will think they know… but they just don’t.
Reborn Christian warrior Stephen Baldwin, who isn’t necessarily a friend of the English language, is trying to get rich, bee-yotch! And of course he needs your help, which means there’s a web site for donations to his noble cause. If you don’t have diamonds, gold or other precious metals, you can of course donate via credit card. The money quote, via Andrew Sullivan and the site’s FAQ page:
Question: Why does Stephen need personal wealth?
Answer: Stephen’s influence is in Hollywood. Hollywood worships money and without it you are seen as a loser and cannot be an effective influence to this group.
Islamist website Revolution Muslim has targeted South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, after an episode of the animated Comedy Central series last week included an image of the Prophet Mohammed in disguise. Their posting hints at violence, with a warning of “the reality of what will likely happen to them.” All of this makes me wonder — what did religious extremists do before the Internet? I mean, how did they really get bang-for-buck distance on the sort of blinkered, rigidly orthodox fundamentalism they wish to promulgate? Was it really all pamphlets and poorly recorded black market audio tapes? A selective embrace of modernity — utilizing and exploiting technological communications innovation divorced of any realization that it inherently exposes one to cultures, values and worldviews different from their own — strikes me as a curiously convenient thing.
It’s an unhappy 66th birthday to knee-jerk, right-wing bump-on-a-log Craig T. Nelson, aka Steve Freeling and Coach Hayden Fox, who last year famously and apparently without irony asserted that “no one helped [him] out when [he] was on food stamps and welfare.” Idiotic charlatans of political engagement like this — unfeeling creatures who don’t understand the difference between socialism and a societal safety net, and reflexively bristle at social/mental health/outreach programs that don’t conform to the prescribed rigidities of the manner in which they believe others should be living their lives — are in a certain sense citizens of the worst order, because they have the means to be better educated, but almost willfully choose not to be. They put on blinders and ignore the world at large, or indeed the very notion that there could be major problems that do not (yet) immediately impact their lives. Their opinions are rooted in having achieved a certain hard-fought success, and then — instead of celebrating living in a country which ultimately rewarded all their effort with a lottery-style win — becoming embittered with taxation and/or the inability to extend control and ultimate authority across all areas of life. I mean, clueless statements like the one above almost guarantee that the guy has an alcoholic past or has been in some sort of trouble with the IRS, right? Which one is it?
Not explicitly film-related, per se, but Joystiq is reporting — complete with a leaked inter-office memo from IGN president Roy Bahat that describes part of the company’s core mission as “serving advertisers looking to reach men” — that entertainment site IGN is laying off staffers across all its divisions, despite a 40 percent growth in audience over the last year. Bad news for some good people, and good news, unfortunately, for some bad people… or at least undeserving people.
I dig the blogosphere, broadly speaking (viva variety), but one thing that’s wearying is how the utterly mindless pursuit of traffic ends up reinforcing this herd mentality, wherein a single new photo or trailer or happening MUST BE POSTED, even if there’s no particularly pronounced tie-in/connection with said host site, or even any attendant commentary beyond the most titillating, rib-nudging headline. (See above.) So that means there’s like 15 or 20 movie, music and entertainment-adjacent sites today with Zooey Deschanel’s She & Him hipster porn, a new music video involving hula hoops and dainty skips. (You’re welcome, L.A. Weekly — I picked your link at random.) The overload is such that you sometimes just get the feeling the Internet is the same 5,000 people reading the same 500 sites, circle-jerking to the same rotating menu of 50 topics. When is someone going to deliver a 700-word treatise on the hatwear in Johnny Depp’s filmography?
The Los Angeles Film Critics Association issues a statement in support of recently arrested Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi. It’s an unfortunate reminder that freedom isn’t oxygen — existing stably and in equal measure around the globe. Well worth checking out The White Balloon and Offside, for those who haven’t.
I weigh in as part of Vulture’s 43-critic sampling of the worst of film in 2009, with a from-the-hip ballot of five movies that supremely irked and rankled me. There are more, sure, but those are the ones that most came to mind when polled, perhaps because I skipped The Ugly Truth and Old Dogs. And hey, I even make the pull quote chart at Number Two, for their slideshow of the top 10 worst vote-getters.
Worst tattoo ever? Well, pretty tasteless, that’s for sure. But what about the guy who actually inked this?
A simple thing, really, my email to South Carolina Congressman and heckler extraordinaire Joe Wilson, and from the heart:
I was very disheartened to hear about and then see your display this past evening during the president’s speech to a joint session of Congress. How old are you, sir? It’s empty shenanigans like this — lame, self-centered theatrics, and hamfisted attempts at nominal political point-scoring instead of actually working constructively, like an adult, to solve our nation’s problems — that turn off so many people to the political process. Maybe that’s your motivation, and aim. I certainly hope not. Or maybe for you politics is just a cool, cushy job that has a lot of nice perks and a solid retirement package. But in debasing public debate on such a pivotal issue, on playing cheaply to ungrounded fears, you do a disservice to your constituents and all Americans.
I doubt you’ll find reason to take my words to heart, and give them a deeper consideration amidst the torrent of… oh, less reasoned vitriol you’ll no doubt be receiving in the coming days. But you have embarrassed yourself, your party and the state of South Carolina, Mr. Wilson. That is the truth of the matter. I understand that you have apologized, and that’s a good thing, honestly. But to me your behavior is symptomatic of a deeper ill, and for that reason I can only say that I hope you find yourself looking for a new job in the latter part of 2010.
He probably won’t totally go Jeff Gillooly on some of the worst peddlers of fear-mongering and outright lies quite like he should (the office of the presidency seemingly impairs one’s ability to speak bluntly, at least for Democrats), but it’s (past) time for President Obama to get back some of the steely, chill-the-fuck-out confidence of the final leg of his presidential run last fall, and deliver another oratorical haymaker when it comes time for this Wednesday’s address to a joint session of Congress on health care reform. Newsweek‘s Eleanor Clift fairly eloquently asserts the same in a new op-ed piece, the key excerpt being:
“There are some things that only can do, or will do, and Obama should stop trying to appease his critics and take them on instead. The anti-government fervor that propels Republicans began with Ronald Reagan in 1980, when he proclaimed in his Inaugural Address that, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Obama’s election should have signaled the end of three decades of conservative dogma. Instead, he and too many Democrats have been intimidated into mimicking the GOP and accepting watered-down reform on the altar of bipartisanship. It’s time to call the bluff of the cheap-shot artists who demean government. The benefits of federal intervention touch every American — Social Security, Medicare, and fire and police services, which are all descendents of socialism.”
Of course, Obama could break out a brightly colored, merrily illustrated flow chart and none of this would probably register with Craig T. Nelson, who’s asserted that “no one helped [him] out when [he] was on food stamps and welfare,” or the people that have been showing up at Congressional town hall meetings and yelling “Keep your government hands off my Medicare!” at their representatives. These people, after all, are… idiots. Their opposition to reform and/or advocacy of the status quo isn’t rooted in reasoning, but rather tied up in a complicated emotional response to the fact that the United States of America is becoming less white, and more pluralistic.
In a personal and exceedingly well reasoned piece, Time‘s Joe Klein nails the prevailing cravenness, hypocrisy and nihilism of the modern GOP’s fact-free fight against health care reform, asserting, among other things, that the Republican party’s putative intellectuals — people like the Weekly Standard‘s William Kristol — are “prosaic tacticians who make precious few substantive arguments but oppose health care reform mostly because passage would help Barack Obama’s political prospects.” He also reminds readers that the same people who help stoke fears of an air-quote government takeover of health care previously tried to enforce a government takeover of Terri Schiavo’s end-of-life decisions, and that when Sarah Palin floated the “death panel” canard, the number of prominent Republicans who rose up to call her out could be counted on one hand.