Ok, here's an opinion you might not have fully expected from The Playlist. We say that because we saw "Doubt" Friday night with very little expectations and as you can tell we haven't really written about it a lot this year. We expected it to be a stock drama that was boring, frankly, but we just wanted to check off our list of all the Oscar-bait of the season and holy shit!
We kid you not: John Patrick Shanley's was devastatingly good. Much of this is due to its phenomenal actors, Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis; and let's reiterate, they are all incredible with Streep and Hoffman being remarkably striking. In case you're unaware it's about a nun (Streep) who accuses a priest (Hoffman) of abusing a black student and... well, there's a lot of ambiguity to it all, but we don't want to spoil it all for you.
We may have been let down by Davis ever-so slightly, but that's only because everyone has been shouting out her name since around the early Fall. Those in the tank for this one early one deserve a hat tip, because man, they called it, "Doubt" was seriously amazing.
Let's give it up for Shanley ("Moonstruck," "Joe Vs. The Volcano") who directed the film based on his own Pulitzer Prize winning stageplay too. Stage directors obviously know how to block a scene and god, the blocking and framing in the film was incredible. We feel like genuine jackasses for sleeping on this one (though Playlist contributor David Benjamin did praise the film a few weeks ago, aptly calling it an "engaging and intricate moral chess match"), or at least being only semi-interested.
We can see a large part of our audience or younger audiences thinking, "really? that film? I have no interest," but we assure you its fantastic and we implore you to go see it, seriously. Yes, the entire cast has had voluble amounts of praise thrown on them for Oscar nominations (almost everyone will receive a nod except for perhaps Adams who is still quite good), but what about the film and director?
The Golden Globes are that much misguided for putting in "The Reader" before this in the Best Picture nominees. In fact, it's stronger than most of the Oscar-bait this year including "Frost/Nixon." In fact if we had to rank our favorite Oscar-Bait films of the year, they'd probably go like this (and we mean the ones with the most possible shots at that Academy Award for Best Picture.
1. Slumdog Millionaire"
2. "Revolutionary Road"
5. Frost/Nixon (it's oranges and apples comparing them, but 'Road' and 'Doubt' are more like neck and neck)
And while we're at it? We've knocked "The Dark Knight" and all a few times, but we'd rather see it get an Oscar nomination for Best Picture before "The Reader" or "The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button" does. The latter will never happen of course, but that's honestly how we feel.
Back to "Doubt," the aforementioned Playlist review already gets into the details and plot so we'll spare you a rehash, but we promise you, this film was excellent. And my god, Meryl Streep, wow, just wow. She is fierce in the film. When her and PSH go toe-to-toe? Man, it's fireworks and masterclass heavyweights going at it, believe us. Do not let the subject matter of this one scare you away and do not sleep on this film. [A]
Ok, here's an opinion you might not have fully expected from The Playlist. We say that because we saw "Doubt" Friday night with very little expectations and as you can tell we haven't really written about it a lot this year. We expected it to be a stock drama that was boring, frankly, but we just wanted to check off our list of all the Oscar-bait of the season and holy shit!
Wes Anderson reveals more of his all-things French fetish in this commercial for Japanese cellphone company Softbank Mobile starring Brad Pitt. The clips is inspired by Jacques Tati's whimsical 1953 classic, "Mr. Hulot's Holiday" and the song is (of course) France Gall's "Poupée de cire poupée de son," which was written by Serge Gainsbourg (c'mon Wes, this is her greatest hit, dig a little harder). The Arcade Fire started covering this song earlier this year too. Wes has always loved the French, but his obsession seemed to grow in certain years, especially when he puzzlingly ended a film about India ("The Darjeeling Limited") with a French song (Joe Dassin's "Les Champs-Elysées," incidentally he was the son of famous blacklisted American filmmaker turned French expat Jules Dassin).
Weekend Box-Office For December 12; 'Doubt,' 'The Reader' 'Gran Torino,' 'Wendy & Lucy,' 'Che' More...
For once, this is actually a very crowded, movie-going weekend with tons of Oscar-bait going head to head. Of course garbage like "The Day The Earth Stood Still" with Keenooo Reeves is probably going to rule the roost, but well, box-office was never an indication of smarts now was it? It has a laughable 24% Rotten Tomato rating, woo!The two big films of the weekend in terms of b.o. might are that and the Latin comfort food movie, "Nothing Like The Holidays," aka, "Latinos are as crazy as the rest of you people and we eat turkey too!" It has a 52% RT rating which is a slightly better bet.
All the Oscar-bait this weekend is limited. The biggest one probably being "Doubt" simply because people have written about it less and there's a curiosity factor. At least for us, we missed our screening so we'll try and see this weekend. Directed by John Patrick Shanley, the film is about the "consequences of blind justice in an age defined by moral conviction," but from we understand, is basically about a priest that molests boys and the nuns who try and guard and reveal the truth. The film stars Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Viola Davis and Phillip Seymour Hoffman and it's got Oscar-bait written all over it. Apparently practically everyone we just mentioned has a great shot at an Oscar nomination with some already claiming Streep has it in the bag. Strangely enough, the film itself only has a 78% RT rating. We assumed it'd be higher, which suggest performances are great, movie not so much?
After that it's Mr. Clint Eastwood's "Gran Torino," a film that has caused a lot of inter-fighting among critics, generally younger and older, each side calling the other side either old, immature, inexperienced and or out of touch, take your pick. We contend that the film is not that bad or that good to get that worked up about and people should find a stronger film to fight about, frankly. But 'Torino' will be polarizing simply because some people will loathe the growling and scowling of Eastwood and some love the man and want to champion his work. We felt it was a strong film, but not necessarily one to flip over. It's pretty entertaining, the racism is funny and it was enjoyable, but it's not without its flaws and we've pretty much moved on already. But the yays have it. 'Torino' has a 81% approval rating.
"The Reader" seemingly has a new lease on life. Two weeks ago it seemed dead in the water. It had already suffered a major controversy, then reviews were lukewarm and mixed and it all seemed totally over for the film. Then the Golden Globes came to life and it sprung back to life as the film received multiple nominations including Best Picture and Best Director for Stephen Daldry. We found it to be beautifully crafted, but completely emotionally aloof, as if watching the film through a thick pane of glass. We honestly don't feel its Oscar worthy outside of its music and cinematography which is pretty gorgeous. It has a mixed, not great, 56% RT rating.
Kelly Reichardt's uber minimalist follow-up to the brilliant, "Old Joy," hits theaters this weekend. With the economy in the shithouse that it is, people keep saying "Wendy & Lucy" is all the more relevant since it chronicles the life of a despondent woman (Michelle Williams) so is living on the edges of extreme poverty. By way of plot it has very little going for it. Williams is mostly flat broke and it taking her car to Alaska to try and get work, but when her car breaks down in Portland, she's stuck. When she loses her best friend, her dog Lucy, she's really at her wits end. Williams is amazing in it though and its sparses, quietness was called by EW as "Lassie Come Home' directed by Michelangelo Antonioni." We would have picked Vittorio De Sica as it has a shade of the bleakness of "Umberto D," but either is a fine compliment to Reichardt's film. It's a minature film, super modest and tiny and quite as amazing as 'Joy', but it still packs an emotional punch. It has an 88% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes which is the highest of any film this weekend.
Opening up in very, very limited, one-week only release is Steven Soderbergh's "Che," which we've already detailed, but don't worry, it will come out again in many more markets in January.
The next major film worth discussing is Brian Goodman's "What Doesn't Kill You," a gritty South Boston/"Mean Streets"-like crime drama that we weren't completely sold on and neither were other critics. The film has a 63% RT rating. Mark Ruffalo is quite exceptional in the film and all the performances are all strong, but we've all seen this story too many times. While its told simply and there's something to be admired about its economic, straight-forwardness, it's also a little dull and cliched. We would have rather seen the story of a man trying to adjust to society after years in jail because those scenes in the third act are the most poignant and the most alive. Ruffalo really shines in those moments.
Bee tee dubs, this new, "The Day the Earth Stood Still" is being broadcast to Alpha Centauri today, because scientists evidently believe if we have to suffer through its existence, any aliens out there should suffer too. We can't say we really can argue with that.
Since most films come out in limited release this weekend and all of you surely don't live in New York and L.A. you're totally excused if you see some crap this weekend instead, but you know, read a book or rent something great. Hell, we'll curate your Netflix account if you need help.
However, it's there, but very buried. It currently has a 83% approval rating but so far, only six reviews are collected. Meta-critic has better illustration of how divisive the film has been viewed and it has a 65% rating, but for people who pride themselves on having a shred of intelligence, we're happy the yays are The New York Times, J. Hoberman, The A/V Club, The L.A. Times and the major nay is the New York Post.
It's a long investement of time, but it's one week only so if you do live in New York and L.A. and you have a chance, you should try and experience this rare occasion. We're going in for a second serving tomorrow.
We've described the unconventional nature of this film many times, but this graph from Salon is really succinct.
"It's neither a hagiography of the Marxist hero nor an attempt to dynamite his legend; Soderbergh has effectively pissed off left-wing critics, right-wing critics and a certain number of mainstream viewers who just wanted a conventional, psychological-realist biopic.Instead, "Che" is something closer to the naturalistic novel or documentary journalism."People who are expecting an overt political stamp either way will probably be disappointed, and people expecting to see some of the darker and uglier things did in his political life will probably be pissed off. Audiences, seemingly habituated into the customs and practices of your average biopic film will likely be confused, but those with an adventurous spirit willing to absorb an ambitious that plays against the grain of cinematic conventions will be eagerly appeased.
We realize Benicio del Toro isn't going to be at the Oscars, but that's certainly not an indication of it not being good enough (please, the Oscars are no real barometer, especially when you look at what films this year were the best). His quiet, internalized and soulful performance is amazing in the amount in convey with minimal effort.
Another super interesting part of this film's timeline (which is long) is the fact that Soderbergh agreed to direct the film in 2000. But legendary filmmaker Terrence Malick ("Days Of Heaven," "Badlands," "The Thin Red Line") had the project first, sort of. Soderbergh explains to Salon.
"What happened was I was on for a couple years. Terry came on as a writer and then I suggested if he wanted to segue into directing it that I would happily step aside and so I did and he took over the project for a couple years. Then we got into this weird situation where the money finally came together [for "Che"] right at the point where the money finally came together for Terry to do "The New World." So I got a call saying, "Would you jump back on this to keep the money from going away?"So basically, Soderbergh says yes in 2000. Malick comes in somewhere in the middle and probably around 2003-2004 when he's about to shoot "The New World," the film goes back into Soderbergh's hands. But Soderbergh explains the split film issue much better.
"For a long time, it was one script. And it was becoming really unwieldy. And worse than that, because it was so long, we were still trying to make it into one film, or one normal-length film. The themes were really, really short, and you really couldn't go into any detail about anything and it started to feel like a two-hour trailer for a four-hour movie. And that's when I suggested busting it in half. When we did that, all the solutions kind of rose to the surface. And the problems that we were dealing with in terms of detail and rhythm got solved when you could just bifurcate the whole thing."It's a great interview and you should read it all, but we've gone on about "Che" long enough today. If you live in New York and L.A., use this week as your once chance to see it in full. We loved both "The Argentine" and "Guerilla," the second half being slightly more emotional with less spare music, even though it is an ill-fated campaign. We can't wait for the full experience tomorrow. Oh and if you do go this weekend, you get the free special collectors edition Roadshow program. We have it and it's pretty excellent.
Screenwriter Justin Theroux and director Jon Favreau have a major dick tease for comic-nerds and RDJ fanboys everywhere: they have decided on a villain for the "Iron Man" sequel. Unfortunately Theroux was vague on the information of when the name would be released, and stated simply, "At some comic-con or something." [IGN.com] Apparently the working production title of the film is "Rasputin."
Guy Ritchie has a lead in mind for his live-action adaption of "Sgt. Rock" but he isn't planning on telling anyone, but did drop a hint by saying he wanted the star to be "a new person." Though the project is looking like it could be in jeopardy at the moment since according to Ritchie "people are slightly intimidated by the size of the budget." [MTV.com Splash Page]
"The Dark Knight" writer David Goyer has been surprisingly upbeat about the snubbing of 'TDK' at the golden Globes, and was optimistic about the films Oscar Chances. ""I think it's going to get some Academy Award nominations. And not just for Heath [Ledger] and not just for technical. I hope Chris [Nolan] gets a nomination. You look at it and it's actually one of the best reviewed films of the year. I think it would be cool to see a comic book movie make some headway in the Academy," said Goyer while causally lighting cigars with $100 dollar bills. [Superhero hype]
Image from Alex Proyas' "Knowing" are online. [AICN]
Ryan Reynolds says his Deadpool character in "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" might find life after that film. Really? They're going to do an entire film about that minor character?? [MTV]
Heath Ledger's family are appreciative of his Golden Globe nomination as the Joker in "The Dark Knight." [MTV]
There was very little chance that "The Day The Earth Stood Still" was going to be a good movie. We were, at best, hoping for something on par with "Independence Day" or "Armageddon" (or at least "Starship Troopers"). With Keanu Reeves apparently cast as an alien who feels no human emotions we were sure his wooden acting wouldn't get in the way and, in a way, it didn't - it was Jennifer Connelly's constant and prolonged "omg!" face that was the real acting stand out. Frankly we were shocked she manged to out crap Reeves and Kathy Bates took her best shot at overacting everyone else. The only decent performance on the screen was Mad Men's Jon Hamm as the scruffy scientist and so, of course, he was vastly under used.
The basic premise of the movie was greatly changed from the 1951 original. It needed a massive update to account for our growing knowledge of technology. The overall analogy is no longer one of Cold War invaders but now flatly laid out as environmental responsibility. It's a noble message but given so obtusely that anyone actually effected by the message in the movie would have no idea how to do anything new to, er, reduce their carbon footprint or whatever. On the plus side the special effects were remarkable, even though the film constantly broke it's own rules for what sort of damage the "monsters" could do causing numerous continuity problems.
The major flaw with this movie is its release date. It's far too mindless and terrible overall to be a Christmas release. It's also very dark with failed attempts at being heady that, when combined with being totally a brainless failure, make it feel terribly awkward as a holiday season release. If it were some mindless July blockbuster it wouldn't feel out of place at all, but let's just say that if the baby Jesus were to see this film he would weep and ask for his money back. [D-]
Why do we always feel like we have to play cop / mediator to all these critics who feelings resemble 13-year-olds. Reactions are very mixed on" Gran Torino" and ageism is definitely coming into play. It's almost gotten a little ugly too.
The younger crowd is essentially saying anyone in the tank for this one is old, musty like your grandmas sweater and out of touch. The older crowd not really helping their case seems to identify greatly with Clint Eastwood's bitter and marginalized character in the film.
Jeffrey Wells, a sharp, 50-something critic who's as combative in his opinions as the 20-somethings has been beating the drum LOUDLY and collecting all the critics who are for Eastwood and the film, he feels that strongly about it. There's been a lot of pissing debate about it this last week, but we didn't really have time to parse and track it all. It currently sits at a 79% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, btw.
So, we hate to break it to you all vehemently against or for the film, but "Gran Torino" is neither that bad or that great. Its a decent-to-good film for sure and it off-color racist, old man humor is actually quite entertaining and even charming, but its not without its flaws.
The supporting cast for one is the films biggest Achilles heel. The Hmong kids that Eastwood eventually befriends and even adopts in his weird way are wonderfully written (especially the brassy, wry and endearing Sue played by Ahney Her), but neither kid can really sell their role let alone stand in the same shadow of Eastwood. This is a big problem for the overall, do-I-buy-it? factor of the film.
Another crucial priest role in the film is wasted on a too-young of an actor who practically blows all his deliveries and isn't remotely convincing a a priest (Christopher Carley), a nubile one just out of seminary school or otherwise. Eastwood is left to his devices to scowl, growl and bitch about everything. His unapologetically sour dick of a character is as exactly written on the page so Eastwood is at the very least lauded for that. But Academy Award worthy? Whoa, slow down, he's good, but its not like you're going to flip for his performance.
Directorially speaking, Eastwood is a master craftsman and like "Changeling," he's never heavy handed and handles most beats and emotions with grace. But we can't help but wonder if sometimes his approach is too clinically clean.
We didn't really feel much or as much as we'd hope by some of the bigger, meatier scenes in the film. The beginning, the comedy, the sparring with the boy (Bee Vang)- their relationship- is all a winner, but the emotional scenes that are supposed to resound near the end? Maybe not so much and maybe perhaps it's all shot and told in a too matter-of-fact manner. Some more sentimental notes sans the schmaltz would have really helped push it over the edge so one might have strong feelings about it one way or another. If you want more synopsis, our thorough script-review is here. And like we said earlier in a brief review, Eastwood nails the script for better or worse.
There's a lot of Oscar talk for Eastwood growing which is unfortunate cause he's not that particularly stellar (he's fine, but c'mon this is the Oscars), but it could happen for purely political reason (god, this is when we loathe the Oscars)."Gran Torino" is enjoyable, but it's not Eastwood pièce de résistance or anything. [B]
Is the Best Picture Oscar race really between "Milk" and "Slumdog Millionaire"? We're kind of convinced it is, especially since finally seeing "The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button." It's bound to appeal to an older crowd, but it's just too damn flawed for Best Picture in our minds. "Revolutionary Road" is solid, and we liked it better than "Milk," but we're not sure it's got the legs or support, but if you have to count a third, it's the one.
"Frost/Nixon" is a Best Picture nominee, but certainly, not a winner. "The Dark Knight" seems to be the dark horse and nothing else could possibly pentrate the final Oscar five, could it? "The Reader" earned itself a Best Picture nom for the Golden Globes, but U.S. critics are not feeling it (it currently has a 57% on Rotten Tomatoes).
As for 'Benjamin Button' Oscar chances? Multiple nominations for its ambition and scope (even though "Australia" and "Che" will be ignored for possessing those same qualities), but it's chances don't look great outside of a, "hey, he's been apart of the industry for a long time" award for David Fincher, but that same kind of nod could go to Gus Van Sant. Danny Boyle being new to Oscar will presumably have to wait. Brad Pitt could earn a nomination, but that's as close as he'll get. Similarly, Cate Blanchett, could score a nom prize (even though she was tellingly snubbed by the Globes; she's not that great), but she has no shot in that fiercely competitive category. Cinematography? Check. Make-up? Check? Art Direction, Check. Visual Effects? Check. Editing? Well, probably, but man, they really could have used a worthless edit. Don't be surprised if Button's two leads don't get nominations though. It'll take serious politicking to make those a lock. Taraj P. Henson is assured a nomination as Best Supporting Actress though, no question.
Our money says that right now, the final five is this:
"The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button"
In a move that is sure to exponentially jack up the sex appeal of the notorious long and arduous Academy Awards, the Academy has enlisted Australian actor, and recent star of Buz Luhrmann's epic film "Australia," Hugh Jackman to host the 81st annual Oscars.
After a streak of surprisingly low ratings with quirky, bookish hosts, such as Jon Stewart and Ellen DeGeneres it became apparent that audiences didn't really want to tune in to watch they kids that spent their entire Jr. High years stuffed in lockers but actually want to see the stone-faced, possibly homosexual popular kid, which is a personality Jackman does exceptionally well.
It won't be the first time he has hosted an event, as Jackman has hosted the Tony Awards in the past, but can the near-sighted actor really hold it together as a stand-up comedian for the awards?
Maybe this will help "Australia"s already doomed Oscar chances by 2-3%?
'Benjamin Button's Golden Hues, Cool Emotions And Inconsistent Qualities Make For A Flawed Take On The Frailty Of Life
There's been seemingly tens of reviews and thoughts on "The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button" so the same from us shouldn't ruffle any one's feathers (but thanks for the screening, sincerely).
We have to admit that we were sorely disappointed in David Fincher's 'Benjamin Button' for many reasons. A long-winded, inconsistent and not entirely convincing generation-spanning fairy tale romance, the story, its effects, and its characters weren't something we were completely sold on. And yes, it is "Forrest Gump"-esque but fortunately not as pronounced as we'd thought (which was a big concern).
There are fine qualities to it to be sure. The film's aesthetics are unimpeachable; it's exquisitely adorned and crafted. It's mise en scene is wonderful. It looks gorgeous as you've heard. The sepia-tinted cinematography is sumptuous, the art direction is Oscar-worthy and the nuanced make-up is extremely convincing... sometimes.
'Benjamin Button' has been tagged with being "emotionally cold," and we think that's slightly off the mark. It also suggests that Fincher is aloof and lacks the heart to tell an emotional story. This would be incorrect, the story aims to be as weepy, tear-jerky and emotional as any deep love story, filled with the sad resignation that all things don't last because of death. It's a universal, humanistic tail, but because of all the tangential stories, the molasses pacing and the fact that the true love story doesn't being until around the two hours and 10 minute-mark into the film ( it's 167 minutes total), by the time people have passed, you're never quite as sucked into the moment as you should be. Essentially, you're emotionally distracted throughout.
And their are thousands of little factors that assist that disruption. The vacillating digital effects are sometimes stunning and sometimes a visual disturbance. Spoutblog complained about some of the distracting effects last month and they're perhaps a bit harsh, but mostly on-the-mark. Remember those purposely airbrushed photos of Radiohead a few years back in SPIN magazine? Or the way the androids looked in Spielberg's "A.I."? This is exactly how the young version of Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt look... at times. In the right light, it's entirely persuasive, in the wrong light they're enough to make you wince.
Tackling an story that spans 80-something years is always difficult and potentially problematic. Either you're throwing your actors in makeup and you know these actors aren't septuagenarians, or you're casting older or younger versions of themselves and hoping the audience buys it. It's always a gamble and it seldom pays off. The even slightly, off-putting nature of aging an actor can take you out of the emotional moment and while 'Ben Button' will probably earn itself an Academy Award for make up achievement. Again, like the effects, they're incongruent and unpredictable. Taraji P. Henson, incidentally the best character and actor in the film, aged look is fantastic. Cate Blanchett's look? Hmm, not so much. Not bad in the beginning when she's on her deathbed, unconvincing in spots as she ages. Brad Pitt's make-up and digital effects (as sometimes there's obviously a combination of both) are again spotty and sometimes very plausible.
Eric Roth obviously wrote, "Forrest Gump," but fortunately his script is dialed down and 'Button' is nowhere near as sappy, treacly, cornball and tediously rambling as it could have been. But all of those elements are there in some capacity. The tangents that follow characters who have nothing to add to the plot are minimized, but are still there. The silly, receptive and cliched, "rule of-threes" motifs are present, but thankfully, lessened. But the subplot with Tilda Swinton and Benjamin discovering who he is at sea is unnecessarily long, laborious and easily could have been cut in half. Swinton's early romance with Pitt is almost an exercises in drawn-out foreplay, that almost sets off blueballs and does almost nothing to drive the plot. Many of the mechanics of the story similarly detour instead of drive which adds to its leisurely and sometimes comatose pace. Sure, it's an elegant, ballet-like rhythm, but even dance needs forward propulsion.
Brad Pitt's performance is quietly expressive, vaguely soulful and kind, but the character is so passive, so inert and submissive, it's hard for one to really care for him. We assume they were aiming for tender and gentle, but it's so subtle it doesn't really register. He's however better than Cate Blanchett who can't really pull of the New Orleans accent, and is a little shrill and off-putting in her selfish twenty-something years. She sort of sounds like she's honking a horn every time she talks.
When Pitt and Blanchett's ages start to match up, their essentially playing themselves and the love story finally starts to flourish after what seems like hours of false starts and obstacles, the movie starts to finally gel and come alive, but this is the two hour mark! This is filet mignon of the Fincher meal and it's incredibly tasteful and enjoyable. A house-painting montage to the Beatles "Twist & Shout" while they're on TV on the Ed Sullivan show (in of itself a Gump-ian moment), is incredibly endearing and charming and its probably the first time we outwardly beamed or smiled throughout. You start to truly buy the long-standing affections these two have had for themselves since the beginning of their lives. However, it too doesn't last and further minor problems arise. Pitt seems to not age for 30 minutes, while Blanchett's character is getting slightly older. By the time he wants to leave their household for fear of slowly growing too young to raise a child, we don't really believe that he's that young yet. It's little blemish after little blemish that repeatedly distract and take off marks from the total score and your overall feelings.
Alexandre Desplat's twinkling score is beautiful, but really doesn't have anything to do with the New Orleans setting and doesn't entirely swell under each scene. We'd almost rather listen to it on its own. Will the film see Oscar? Certainly. Much like the Golden Globes, 'Ben Button' will nab up the majority of Oscar nominations, but if it takes any major awards remains to be seen and seems doubtful.
Given the too-sentimental script that was problematic to begin with (hello, editing!), we're not sure if this film could ever have been the amazing and wondrous achievement some were hoping for, but perhaps with real economic purpose and a forceful rewrite, one would have been truly engaged and dazzled by the wondrous and magical qualities inherent in this doomed and bittersweet love story. As it stands though, "The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button" is ambitious piece of work that's to be admired for its grace, artistry and craftsmanship, but as a meditation of the frailty of life it misses the mark emotionally and suffers from a problematic story engine which cannot be reconciled with its lofty aims. [B-, and we're feeling this grade is somewhat generous considering our review].
First order of business. Cameron Crowe's upcoming new comedy centered around super natural Hawaiian mysticism and a army satellite politics has a title. It's now called "Deep Tiki."
Secondly, the film has been postponed according to a Reese Witherspoon interview at Collider (they don't have quotes). Instead she's shooting an James L. Brooks film in the spring ("Deep Tiki" was supposed to start shooting in January, 2009).
We wrote an entire script review of the film a few months ago, but the synopsis is basically this: Set in Hawaii surrounding an illegal satellite launch in the skies above the pacific island, the dramedy/rom-com centers on the Defensecon military contractor Brian Gilgrest (Ben Stiller) who has to navigate and juggle the politics of the bosses, the supernatural myths of Hawaii's spiritual leaders, the emotions for his almost-ex-wife and the tricky feelings he develops for his new difficult female military liaison (Witherspoon, we think).
Does a reschedule mean the cast will have to change? Lord knows actors skeds are massively tight. Might we suggest recasting Ben Stiller? :) This one may now be more than a year off.
The rumors are evidently true. According to EW's Hollywood insider blog. Director Chris Weitz ("The Golden Compass," "In Good Company") is essentially being sought after and apparently Summit Entertainment is set to hire him any day now.
This will annoy some fans of the novel and movies who believe the series should only be directed by a female. To those people we say, if it's any consolation to you, Weitz does direct his super wussy movies like he has a vagina, so you might be in the clear.
Previously Summit Entertainment basically fired "Twilight" director Catherine Hardwicke cause she had the gall to question a script that was only in rough, first-draft shape and a timetable that was unreasonable and all about capitalizing on the moment, even though she brought them a $70 million box-office opening (and its grossed more than $141 million so far).
We say Summit gets what they deserve with Weitz, remember the bomb that was "The Golden Compass"? Instant karma's gonna get you, people. Apparently the announcement of Weitz taking over the film was to be announced officially on Sunday.
More snubs for "The Dark Knight" yesterday. First it was the Golden Globes, now this. As DVDs of 'TDK' ship off to critics to help boost its Oscar chances, some people are getting copies with the words "A Christopher Nolan Film" blanked out with black marker. Those with the marked DVDs are members of the Writers Guild of America.
The second film by newcomer Rian Johnson, "The Brothers Bloom," which stars Adrian Brody and Mark Ruffalo as con men on a mission to swindle an eccentric heiress (Rachel Weiss), is being bumped from its January 16th dumping ground release date to the blockbuster purgatory season of May 29th (which is in direct competition with Pixar's "Up,"). The film at one point anyhow, was a December 19 limited release date, but Summit might have silently shit-canned that date while none of us were paying attention. The official website still says, "coming in December," but it obviously hasn't been touched in months.
It seems to be another casualty of studios struggling with overcrowding in the winter marketplace, and is moving to the notorious slow month of May. President of distribution for Summit Entertainment, Richie Fay commented on the rational behind the new release date, "We knew from our early tests and from enthusiastic festival reception that this film needed a home when audiences could discover it. May 29, 2009 is an ideal time to counterprogram the film against summer releases."
We caught the film at the Toronto International Film Festival and found it whimsically overwrought and wound far too tight (not to mention the fact that it was essentially just a weak cribbing of Wes Anderson's over-stylized later work). Those that enjoy that suffocating hyper-dioramic world will love it, those like Jeffrey Wells who fond it "impossibly silly and logic-free jape in the vein of... 'Casino Royale,' which still reigns as one of the emptiest wank-off movies of the mid to late '60s," will not.
"The Brothers Bloom" is Rian Johnson's second directorial effort, after his critically acclaimed debut film, "Brick."
Ok, no real time to contextualize here, but some new "Inglourious Basterds" photos have arrived from this Russian site (via Cinematical).
The first is obviously of a mustachioed Brad Pitt as Lt. Aldo Raine inspecting his young Basterd soldiers (you can even vaguely see the neck scar his character is supposed to sport, but is never ever discussed). And the shot is in the soon-to-be notorious (or at least if it plays out well) bar scene in the film where Allied spy Diane Kruger entertains German soldiers before rendezvousing with the Basterds. Let's just say meeting for drinks becomes a lot stickier than they anticipated.
The photos look fantastic and make the script come alive. We're admittedly very excited to see the execution of this film. The "look" something we were intensely worried about, seems to be very on the money. If all goes according to plan, this will be Quentin Tarantino's masterpiece.
In Los Angeles promoting “The Wrestler”, Darren Aronofsky gave some insight in to his vision for what he calls a “hardcore interpretation” of Paul Verhoeven's sci-fi/black comedy “Robocop”.
Citing a recent medical procedure as inspiration for the remake, Aronofsky elaborated on what drew him to the project.
“Before you get an MRI, they give you a list of like 38 different things, how you can have metal in your body. From a shutter in your eyelid to a pacemaker, screws and all this stuff you can have in your system. I realized, 'Wow, we are cyborgs.' I mean, everything's not inside us, but the way we're connected to the technology and everything is right there."
The script is still in development with David Self, who wrote “Road to Perdition” and did a re-draft of Andrew Kevin Walker’s script on 2009’s “The Wolf Man”.
"We have a long way to go," he said. "So until there's a screenplay, there's nothing to really talk about. Until we're going, it just doesn't exist for me. It's just like we're trying to get something good, and we'll see what happens."
Verhoeven’s original is super violent, campy 80’s tech-noir, but the subsequent sequels watered it down and turned the franchise in to somewhat of a joke. Aronofsky would certainly be a welcome addition to a sci-fi genre that’s been on life support for years, and a 21st century interpretation does sound promising.
Aronofsky basically refutes all of the negative labels people have put on his work, both narrative and stylistically in “The Wrestler”, so he’s got carte blanche in picking his next project as far as we’re concerned. Bringing back the violence is one thing, tackling the nature of human vs. machine and modernizing the social commentary of “Robocop” is another. Aronofsky is definitely an intriguing choice to do it, while Keanu Reeves' agent is probably excited about anything that calls for a robotic lead actor.
Variety's Tom McCarthy naturally has the first "Valkyrie" review. It sounds a lot like what we all expected. The Tom Cruise-starring, Bryan Singer-directed thriller is not the disaster some foretold, but it's not exactly 1st-rate either.
"After a long takeoff, "Valkyrie" finally takes flight as a thriller in its second half but never soars very high. Bryan Singer's long-awaited account of the near-miss assassination of Adolf Hitler by a ring of rebel German army officers on July 20, 1944, has visual splendor galore, but is a cold work lacking in the requisite tension and suspense. This second production from Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner at United Artists will do better than the first, "Lions for Lambs," but is a decidedly odd choice for Christmas Day release, and looks destined for just so-so commercial returns."That pretty much says it all. Apparently, Cruise "is a bit stiff but still adequate." Ringing endorsement, huh?
Yes, you're officially old now. Ten years ago today, Wes Anderson's "Rushmore" came out in limited release in New York and L.A., thus making today the 10th anniversary of the film. Time flies, huh? The film opened wide February 19, 1999, but it is considered a 2008 film and was eligible for Oscars that year (Bill Murray earned himself a Golden Globe nomination that year, but he failed to nab an Academy nod). Being a slobbering Wes Anderson devotee and fetishist is annoying and gauche, no doubt, but we'd be lying if we said this film wasn't near and dear to our hearts (the rest of the work afterwards, not so much). We were planning on doing an inaugural Playlist podcast about the film for today, but we're a little backed up. Expect it hopefully tomorrow or over the weekend, but we'll try and save you from bombardment society like we did with "Bottle Rocket." But yeah, it's ten years old now and you're ten years older than you were. Basically what we're trying to say is... we're not sure if we've met anyone like you before.
This is a great Mark Mothersbaugh track, but the sweet spot doesn't really start til :22 seconds in.
Before we outsnob ourselves with all this Oscar, award-season babble, here's the International trailer for "Watchmen," that will perhaps balance out our haughtiness somewhat, even if we still don't give a rat's ass about it.
No time for a full review, but quickly: You're probably not wondering about it now because this morning it received four Golden Globe nominations, but there was some tentative worry about the award merits of Sam Mendes' "Revolutionary Road" a few weeks ago when the trades put out two very mixed reviews (one hating it with particular vigor).
To reiterate what Playlist member David Benjamin's already wrote in his review, "Revolutionary Road" definitely is worthy of Oscar consideration and certainly will be part of the Academy pack come nomination announcement time January 22, 2009.
A few things to note. Don't worry about the Globes. Michael Shannon has assured himself a Best Supporting role in his electric performance. Mark our words, put money on it and send us the bill if you lose, seriously. Just like the Globes Kate Winslet and Leonard DiCaprio will be there as well, but let it be noted, DiCaprio actually puts in a stronger performance than Winslet if you can believe it.
Once we saw the picture last night, it provided a perfect piece of the Oscar prognosticating puzzle: we knew "The Dark Knight" had now been pushed out of the frame. If anything Christopher Nolan has a small shot of ousting Sam Mendes from his slot (Academy likes to mess with one of the spots from time to time, see last year when "The Diving Bell And The Butterfly" didn't get nominated but Julian Schnabel snuck his way in for a Best Directing nomination).
Roger Deakins has an excellent shot at a cinematography nomination and Thomas Newman the composer does not (it's fine and all, but his "Wall-E" work has a better shot). Yes, it has its flaws and its not perfect, but it is quite good and probably more engaging then most of the Oscar-bait this season. We'd put it above, "Frost/Nixon," and on par or better than "Milk." More later...
Pulling our best Jeffrey Wells: We haven't seen it and maybe it's decently-made escapist entertainment in the same way that Spielberg's "War Of The Worlds" was, but if you're truly and eagerly anticipating (and paying money on Friday) to see Keanu Reeves in a remake of "The Day The Earth Stood Still," well, you're not really a fan of film. You're not a serious film-goer. You're a fan of movies. One is more important than the other and we'll let you make the distinction, but if you even have to ask what the difference is...
Summit Fast-Tracking 'Twilight' Sequel 'New Moon' For A November 2009 Release; Studio Wants To Can Poor Kid
Show us the money! Despite insisting they're not rushing their "Twilight" franchise, Summit Entertainment is fast-tracking their sequel "New Moon" and have just announced its tentative release for November 20, 2009, basically one year after the release of the original movie.
A year to shoot, edit and release? If that's not a fast-track we're not sure what is and this must be further evidence to note that Catherine Hardwicke didn't want to half-ass it and Summit is basically ok with that, even though they claim they have an awesome script. Suuuuure you do.
The shit-canning of Hardwicke was lame enough, but it seems like the bottom dollar is all that matters. They're basically jackasses for throwing her under the bus. She made "Twilight" and this is the thanks she gets? Then they through out that bullshit about her being "difficult" to save their asses.
According to EW, sources say it wasn't that at all and that:
Summit's aggressive production schedule turned her off. "She'd love to do the sequel if she could do it better than Twilight,” says one. “It became clear that Summit didn’t have those same priorities."Further proof Summit is full of shit? They've already said they're very happy with the script and Hardwicke musta been nuts for not liking it (or whatever cockamamie it was that they inferred), but EW says "at press time the second movie appeared to have little more than a rough first-draft working script."
You could tell the second they only had one screening two days before the release in New York and told reporters that they couldn't review until the day of that these people were shady. Summit has engendered such bad will that everyone behind the scenes is talking and they're talking up a storm to EW. Apparently Summit's doesn't want to rehire Taylor Lautner (the kid above). Whatever, these guys suck. There's no way in hell, we're ever giving them our dollars now. We're not gonna bother with "Twilight" until its free on cable.
We haven't even had a second to check, but there's probably venom dripping down the bathroom wall of the Internet right now. Geeks are probably scoffing and dismissing the "Hollywood Foreign Press" for being "foreigners!" and out of touch and god knows what other xenophobic epithets for mostly shutting out their beloved "The Dark Knight" by the 2008, 66th Annual Golden Globe nominations.
"The Dark Knight" was a juggernaut at the box-office, both in the U.S. and worldwide, but it scored one measly nomination for Heath Ledger, the one most of us sane, non-street-team people figured it would get. But some still believe 'TDK' is a Oscar contender, but the film and Christopher Nolan were totally shut out and we feel this will continue when Oscar comes around (Nolan himself has the best shot for another nod besides Heath; though yes, technical nominations aplenty). Even Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard failed to get an nomination for their thrilling and atonal score. Geeks are angry right now.
"Milk" was just lauded up and down yesterday by the most important U.S. critics, but it too was given only one lousy nomination for Sean Penn. Its director Gus Van Sant, its entire, very-strong supporting cast (including Josh Brolin) and the picture itself were totally shut out. Oops, Danny Boyle was nominated, we're going too fast! Nevermind (*whistles out the room*).
If you thought the rest of the world would sympathize or understand the plight and scope of "Che" Guevara and Steven Soderbergh's epic, forget it. Benicio del Toro might have won the Best Actor at Cannes, but again, he was cockblocked here. His Oscar chances must be unfortunately now seen as completely negligible. Another Best Actor hopeful left in the cold (again), was Josh Brolin. In September, many were calling him a sure-fire awards-season nominee, but it appears like this won't happen (which is probably a good thing cause he was good, but not great). Clint Eastwood not earning himself a Best Actor nomination is probably viewed as a snub, but you can tell from our "Gran Torino" thoughts that we called that one at least a week ago when we finally saw it.
In the Best Actress category, poor Michelle Williams was left in the dark for her excellent turn in "Wendy & Lucy," we pretty much figured, even though we prayed for it. Likewise, strong performances by Vera Farmiga and Kate Beckinsale in "Nothing But The Truth" were ignored. The biggest female shut-out at this point must be viewed as Melissa Leo in "Frozen River" who has a ton of U.S. praise. Not a total shocker, but Rosario Dawson's startlingly good performance in "Seven Pounds" was also forgotten. Readers remind us that Cate Blanchett not receiving a nomination for 'Ben Button' must be viewed as a snub and they're correct (especially when Brad Pitt got one and some were suggesting he was the weak link).
There's a contingent of fruitcakes who think "Wall-E" can get into the Best Oscar Picture category and the Pixar animated cartoon was relegated to the Best Animated category where it will surely stay (thank god).
In the Best Supporting Actress category, the emotional and gut-wrenching turn by Evan Rachel Wood was overlooked for Marisa Tomei's portrayal of a stripper in "The Wrestler." Evidently one cancels out the others (though to be honest we're not sure anyone was campaigning for her other than us). In the Foreign Film category, France's Palm d'Or-winning feature, "The Class" didn't make the cut and neither did strong contenders like "Let The Right One In" (Sweden), "Three Monkeys" (Turkey) and "Il Divo" (Italy).
The big surprises and perhaps ones that are an indication of Foreign taste were the four nominations for "The Reader," and the three nominations for the underachieving "In Bruges," but then again, the Globes have a comedy and or musical category where 'Bruges' picked up most of its nomination prizes and of course that category does not exist for Oscar. No one probably expected "Tropic Thunder" to score two acting nominations either. It's cute and amusing that Tom Cruise got one, but there's no way he has a shot at Oscar and anyone with two eyes that has to pick between Michael Shannon in "Revolutionary Road" (who also got snubbed in the Best Supporting category, which is outright poppycock!) and Robert Downey Jr., well, the choice is super obvious unless you're completely blind or mentally retarded, frankly.
Lastly, it's not a snub because no one else seems to care, but Eddie Marsan's awe-inspiring performance in "Happy-Go-Lucky" as a repressed psychopath was overlooked. We championed all we could, but no one was ever in the tank as deeply for him as we were we don't think. It's shame. It's still one our favorite performances of the year. Other performances, not necesarily snubbed, but worth a second glance at, is our Breakout and Breakthrough Performances of 2008 piece.
Who else do you think got snubbed? For once, we're actively asking you to "sound off" (god we hate that term) in the comments section. Maybe we'll even update our piece if we think you're on the money.