Fourteen screenings this week – that’s four days with three screenings/day and one with two – plus one interview with personal hero Neil Jordan that precluded a fifteenth. The showing for Jim Sheridan’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ was attended by a minimal-capacity crowd, rowdy and unhappy not for having to go through the usual security gauntlet but having to share space, I think, with two armed and uniformed policemen. There’s a matter of consent (and I’m not talking about willful consent necessarily, but tacit or even unconscious) in situations like this sometimes. I saw a sneak of Candyman in college at the school’s largest auditorium and the entire football team was in attendance (at the University of Colorado at Boulder, almost the only black students are the football players) - when a black cleaning woman made an appearance in the film, that section of the audience erupted into hoots and jeers. As a relatively young, relatively stupid man, I learned a fairly valuable lesson about a lot of the images pushed in our culture that I was not conscious of being offensive – for me, that the cleaning woman was black was an “of course she is” – and for the black audience I was seeing the film with, that she was black was an “of course she is.” I think that kind of consent has a lot to do not only with why almost no professional critic in the United States comments on things like that, but with how audiences respond to riot police being preemptively deployed to a screening of a film about a black rapper who, I guess, owes at least part of his fame to being shot three times.
There was a murder in the lobby of a theater showing this film this weekend, the Loews Cineplex in West Homestead Pennsylvania. Read about here at The Hollywood Reporter, and though the theater has admitted that they have not been able to establish a direct connection to the film (the victim is a 30-year-old man who got into an altercation waiting for the bathroom – not exactly the typical gang-banger stereotype, but what do I know), Loews has decided to yank the picture from their lineup regardless. Here’s what else is showing a the Cineplex: A History of Violence, Capote, Chicken Little, Derailed, Doom, Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story, Flightplan, G, Good Night, and Good Luck., Jarhead, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, North Country, Prime, Saw II, Shopgirl, The Legend of Zorro, The Weather Man, Wallace & Gromit and Zathura.. You can probably let Shopgirl, Prime and Good Night and Good Luck. off the hook, but the rest of the pictures are at least hyperkinetic and at worst (Saw II, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Doom, Derailed) actually in love with bloodlust.
Derailed, especially (sharing the same weird “gather ye rosebuds” message as Saw II, oddly enough), is woefully nihilistic and packed with disturbing imagery – more so, I’d say, than Get Rich or Die Tryin’. But Derailed is only about a white guy killing without consequence to protect his wife and his mistress from a French ponce and a black thug (played by a rapper – the white guy’s black guy is also played by a rapper, incidentally) – while Get Rich or Die Tryin’ is a rather boring biopic about the idiotic rise of a black rapper whose success is mostly owed to chest-pounding, and pointing out the same sort of darkie menace-hysteria and feckless racism as has accompanied the opening of his film. He’s made a mint, in other words, by being a racist prick rhyming about other racist pricks – ain’t the world a complicated place?
In any case, I felt miserable and depressed during the show – with no reason to believe that it had much, if anything, to do with the film itself, I felt like it wasn’t fair to write on it until I have a chance to see it again.
Besides the flicks I’m on the hook for already, also saw Walk the Line and Harry Potter 4 - neither of which blew my skirts up though I liked the Cash biopic a little tiny bit better than I liked the Potter. Joaquin Phoenix is very good (so is Witherspoon) but to what end? Here’s the drill, say it with me: childhood-struggling early adulthood-singing-big break-marriage-drugs-groupies-singing-divorce-drugs-singing-reconciliation-rehab-singing-end titles-end credits. Here’s one-fifth of the nominees for Picture, Actor, and Actress, though, all in one place in any case and almost by default, so if you want to get a head start on looking at the films Oscar gets a woody for this year, here’s your chance. In all likelihood, however, the best picture noms are films that we haven’t seen yet (or aren’t finished): Syriana, Munich, Match Point, Memoirs of a Geisha, King Kong, The Libertine, and so on. If you think, like I do, that Oscar is a load of incestuous bullshit – consider that I’d be hard-pressed at this point to name more than one or two mainstream films that even have a chance of cracking my top-ten so far when all’s said and done (and is History of Violence even a mainstream film?). First time that’s happened in five years or so this late in the year. Fingers still crossed for King Kong, though. Three hours with a big monkey and a T-Rex and Naomi Watts? Sounds like picture of the year material to me.
Anyone taking bets on how Spielberg will provide Munich with a cozy, familial, happy ending?
For Harry Potter, well, it’s the first time that I’ve been bothered by the kids’ acting (they took a lot of acting training under Mike Newell’s dubious tutelage, and it shows in their self-consciousness and budding pretention), and it’s the first time that I’ve been bored to tears by it. The scenes don’t so much end as drop off a table to be replaced, clumsily, by more scenes that aren’t edited worth a shit and go on forever. Worst culprit is the formal ball: complete with a band that sings a "wizardy" song with "wizardy" lyrics. Yep. The setpieces are fine, but the series has reverted to looking at special effects. I loved Alfonso Cuaron’s Harry Potter 3 - it makes the fall this time around just that much more precipitous.
The DIFF started this week on Thursday with their gala Red Carpet opening night. The press release is fairly hilarious as was local news coverage that showed first the head of the Denver Film Society, then our mayor, then a group of Japanese industry professionals that no one knew who they were, then some guy who was maybe Claude LeLouch, and then a bunch of bikers from a local Indian Motorcycle club invited to be guests at this $75/ticket (or $250/ticket) screening of The World’s Fastest Indian. Roger Donaldson flew in, I guess, and I have no reason to believe that he didn’t, at the last minute – but I didn’t see him on the “carpet” as it were. Last thing and then I’m most likely done talking about this fest except to give a few blog-exclusive capsules on some of the films we’re not going to bother covering officially, the Film Society this week announced that their plans to join in a renovation of a historic theater in Denver and share the space with a huge bookstore (the venerable Tattered Cover) and music retailer (Twist & Shout) had fallen through.
What I suspect is that the intention was to announce that negotiations on the project (touted for some time as the cornerstone restoration project in Denver’s rundown East Colfax area) had reached a fruitful resolution on opening night – instead, on the day before their 28th festival, news breaks that it’s all come tumbling down. Here’s an article from The Denver Post last week
Quis custodiat custodium? Who's even keeping score, anymore?
Currently reading Frances FitzGerald’s amazing Way Out There in the Blue:
Here’s this week’s capture – (2.2) – winner last week, Jack S.:
Hot off the Presses (updated 11/15/05):
Check out Bill's take and DVD review of Ozon's 5 x 2 - a film I missed in its eyeblink tour through Denver (sans critic's screening) and Bill's review doesn't make it much of a priority that I catch it, no matter how tantalizing the description of it as "Irreversible-lite."
Another capsule from the DIFF, this one James Ivory and Kazuo Ishiguro's The White Countess, find in it Ralph Fiennes and Natasha Richardson (and both of the Redgrave girls) in antebellum Shanghai, decomposing in the decadent way of potpourri in velvetine sitting rooms.
Hot off the Presses (updated 11/16/05):
New reviews of Richard Gere going all Kabbalah on our asses in The Bee Season, and Joaquin Phoenix going to a funeral in the suspiciously familiar Walk the Line. Over in capsules, we find Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear take the bull by the horns in The Matador.
One of my favorite reviewers, Duncan Shepard, takes a few of these films apart in ways more eloquent than I'm capable - check it out here if you promise to come back. Especially like the part about 50 Cent being a "two-bit" actor. Arcane, and funny - and true.
Hot off the Presses (updated 11/17/05):
The one you've all not been waiting for: Harry Potter 4.