Lost a week back there – not sure where the time went, but it obviously didn’t go into screenings of Annapolis and Big Momma’s House 2, the latter of which screened late on a Thursday night, effectively shutting out any major daily coverage (their deadlines are generally Wednesday afternoon), while discouraging the report that it wasn’t screened for critics. Same goes with Underworld 2 but more so as that little gem screened at 10pm the night before it opened. It’s not exactly the kiss of death, you know, as practically not screening for the critics resulted in two straight box office wins for the pictures in question. All of which calls into question again what the practical function is of film critics in the first place.
If not for the esoterica and academia, what I’m saying is, and especially at this time of year, what’s the point of reviewing these films? I’m sure we’ll get ‘em on video, but at least there we’re freed somewhat of the tyranny of the studio’s release schedule. There’s method to the madness of releasing these pictures when most markets’ critics are away at Park City, by the way. Think about it.
What I did do was host a discussion at the Denver Public Library of William Wyler’s The Letter (1940) – a fantastic film, better than I remembered, with one of the most memorable openings in film history and a rich text that can be looked at in any of a number of ways. The symbols are broad and over-used, perhaps (like spinning webs and moons from behind clouds) but it doesn’t make it any less fulsome. More, I was stricken with the picture’s visual similarities to Val Lewton’s pictures – while also sharing with contemporary Huston's Maltese Falcon a dedication to noir lighting and Hitchcock's Rebecca a completely subjective feminine point-of-view shot that’s staggering in its thematic sophistication. Easily Wyler’s tightest picture – it also has a Hayes Code-enforced ending that wrenches it from the Somerset Maugham short story and play upon which it’s based, but also introduces a wonderfully-meaty subtext about the dangers of colonialism.
The whole final (added) section, in fact, reminds of Jacques Tournier’s I Walked with a Zombie in its haunted invitation into the wild – shadow to shadow. It all begins with a dagger pointing the way: “MacBeth” in the details. Considering the time of its release (just two years before the British lost the area essayed in the picture to the Japanese), the tenor of the world at, or on the brink of, war, The Letter is indispensable stuff and the discussion, running the full hour allotted and more, was lively and fascinating. Check out the write-up on this series in our local alternative weekly, Westword.
Was interviewed for over an hour by a local small-press newspaper for a series I’m doing in Lone Tree – the experience of being on the other side of a long-form interview one that was both embarrassing and familiar.
On the verge of closing a deal with another major library system in Colorado this last week for a film series, as well as setting up a new set of flicks with a local coffee shop, and a modern science fiction series for a previous client. The central branch’s “Cinema Club” is revving up in a week, as well, with the “Modern Love” series. Deep in the middle of lesson planning for that one – taking more time than I expected as is the habit of most things. With a few personal appearances scheduled in the next few weeks, find me ecstatic again to be in this business. This is busy in the right way.
Here’s this week’s screen capture – will tally the score so far in the morning – spread myself a little thin tonight taking the clan to a Chinese New Year’s celebration (Year of the Dog, yo) at CU Boulder’s Glenn Miller Ballroom.
In the meantime, take a look at the review of Bresson’s Pickpocket on the muthasite along with Alex’s dip into the Sundance pool, Bill’s DVD write-up on Doom, and Travis’ final coffin nail in the inexplicable controversy about quality still surrounding Jerry Lewis’ irritating career.
Hot off the Presses (1.30.06):
Hot off the Presses (1.31.06):
The moment we've all been dreading and it's worse than expected. By my quick skimming, Memoirs of a Geisha got three nominations and A History of Violence got two. That's beautiful, isn't it? The hard truth to swallow is that if films of actual indisputable quality and courage were ever nominated for Best Picture, then you'd have to take a good hard look at those films again to suss out exactly how you over-estimated them. Nominees for Best Picture, then, none of which made any of our Top Tens this year, are:
Everyone's tabbing Brokeback as the shoo-in, but damnit if I can't shake the feeling that Crash has a really good chance to nab it. Not the least for the reason that this is a self-awarded industry prize and that the cast of Crash numbers around 74 while the cast of Brokeback is, what, in the low teens? Scrutiny of box office might be a bellwether as well. I've been threatening for years, but this is the one that I stop watching the Oscars. What's the point?
So where's Cronenberg and Malick (not to mention all the other directors who deserve to be in here more)? Not in the Best Director's category:
Clooney, Haggis, Ang Lee, Bennett Miller (! For Chrissakes, whatever's good about Capote is Hoffman - it may be one of the most poorly-directed "prestige" pictures of the year!), and Spielberg.
Best Actor? PSH, Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow), Ledger, Phoenix, and Straithairn.
Best Actress? Huffman, Judi Dench, Kiera Knightly, Charlize fucking Theron, Reese Witherspoon
Supporting Actor? Clooney, Dillon, Giamatti, Gyllenhaal, William Hurt
Supporting Actress? Amy Adams, Keener, McDormand, Weisz, Michelle Williams
Orig. Screenplay? Haggis, Clooney, Woody, Baumbach,Gaghan
Adapt. Screenplay? McMurtry/Ossana, Futterman (Capote), Caine (Constant Gardener), Olson (History of Violence), and Kushner/Roth (Munich)
As previously blogged, no foreign pic nom for Cache and no doc nom for Grizzly Man though Paradise Now counts as a surprise nomination because Palestine isn't recognized as a country by this country. Something that has, in the past, restricted Palestinian films from consideration. Hoorah?