Been remiss in posting links to various stories that have kept me busy the past few months. In no particular order: Here are two stories I did for ShoWest, one on this summer’s tentpoles and the other on potential sleeper hits. (Attempting to answer, in other words, what this summer’s “Devil Wears Prada” might be.)
I did a story on successful mystery novelists that may finally be emerging from Hollywood development hell. Maybe. One of those profiled: Fellow Lord Jeff Harlan Coben. His book “Tell No One” was finally made into a movie in France and now in the process of being remade by producer Kathleen Kennedy.
Four of the best picture nominees dealt with infidelity of one form or another. So I wrote about it, comparing cinematic cheating to the reaction to Tiger’s marital woes. Also did a report on the Film Finance Forum earlier this month (harder than ever for those without domestic distribution to get financial backing they need to make the film in the first place) and ongoing shakeout in the PR ranks.
What else? The tension between creativity and client control in branded entertainment, that’s what.
Kudos to the production designer for “The Lovely Bones” — it’s eerie how much the film evokes Pennsylvania in the early ’70s.
We lived in the Keystone State in 1973, the year in which the movie was set, and believe you me it looked just like that. Those clothes! The neighborhood! David Cassidy posters!
Adding to the shock of recognition: Susie Salmon, the girl murdered early in the movie, was a few years older than I was at that time. I didn’t have a David Cassidy poster on my wall — or locker — but did have a crush on him like all the girls. I vividly recall belting out “I think I love you” on the merry-go-round with a group of pals; we never missed an installment of “The Partridge Family.”
The period detail was so uncanny that I fixated on the Nike running shoes Susie’s sister wears after the murder, the only detail that didn’t quite match my memory. (Would they not have been blue and gold Waffle trainers?)
The movie itself was better than expected: It is less grisly than feared, focusing more on the aftermath of loss than the violent act itself. In his movie adaptation, director Peter Jackson created a nice blend of realism, suspense and mystical sequences.
Now that I’ve finally seen it, I’m a little surprised “The Lovely Bones” hasn’t made more of a splash. Maybe it’s too prosaically retro for some — and the story hook too forbidding for others. Perhaps the movie, like Susie Salmon, is stuck in the “in-between.”
Between “Avatar” and CES, it’s hard to avoid the 3D hype machine. Does everyone want to watch 3D at home? Consumer electronics companies, and all the studios pumping out 3D movies, sure hope so.
Last, forgot to post a link to this Variety story about those confusing Oscar rules. Do they really have to be so complicated? Oscar members defend themselves.
The thing that dazzled me most about “Avatar” was not jump in your face 3D effects (which kinda made me queasy), and it certainly wasn’t the story (which was laughable in parts). Nope, it was the strange beauty of Pandora.
At first the creatures of this futuristic world looked peculiar, and in a few cases, downright ugly. But the colors of those flying beasts was a wonder to behold; Pandora’s visual charms grew on me. And the terrible last fight sequence with the blue-hued Na’vi in warpaint was simply stunning. Say what you will about James Cameron, and I’m not the biggest fan of his movies, but those achievements are remarkable. I can’t think of any sci-fi movie as beautiful and strange as “Avatar.”
Did the evil colonel really need to be such a caricature? No. The love scenes so dopey? Not hardly. And why did those fierce Pandora creatures disappear for two-thirds of the movie? Oh, I get it: To show how idyllic that world was. So reassuring they were at Cameron’s disposal when he needed them.
But I guess I forgive him for those shortcomings. Kinda. The real question is: Will the Academy overlook them as well? Will they vote for rigorous storytelling of, say, “The Hurt Locker” or visual splendor of Cameron’s world? Real-life war or mythical one? I know which way I’m leaning.
The worst thing about living so far from L.A.’s big arthouse theaters is that it often takes me a while to catch up with every award season contender. And when I do, some inevitably disappoint.
The last three I’ve seen all fall into that category. The biggest disappointment, which really shouldn’t have been due to the underwhelming early word, was “Nine.” But what can I say: I really WANTED to like it, having bought into the stylish trailer hook, line and sinker. When others pooh-poohed it, I quizzed them on their reaction to “Chicago,” the earlier Rob Marshall musical adaptation, which I found hugely entertaining, but others caviled about. If they were tepid about that, I reasoned, they might also be immune to “Nine’s” charms.
Sadly, everyone else was right: the magic was all too fitful in “Nine.” After a rousing opening set-piece the movie quickly became tedious. So much so that I wanted to stretch out and take a nap during the inert musical numbers and fantasy sequences.
“Crazy Heart” and “The Young Victoria” were both far more entertaining, but didn’t so much scream Oscar movie as possible Oscar vehicles. Both have been mentioned in acting categories, Jeff Bridges as the down and out country singer in the former, and Emily Blunt as the young royal in the latter.
Maggie Gyllenhaal is also very good in “Crazy Heart,” but the story’s a little thin. And “The Young Victoria” is way too goopy — a little more intrigue and less romance would have better served the plot. Blunt’s royal may be spirited but she’s no match for Cate Blanchett’s Elizabeth I or Helen Mirren’s Elizabeth II.
Were the filmmakers trying to sugar coat the story for female audiences? I wish they wouldn’t. There’s enough pandering in modern-day romances, most recent example being “It’s Complicated.” (What do women want? Strong writing.)
I still have a few biggies to go, most notably “Avatar” and “The Lovely Bones.” But the good news, I guess, is that I don’t have high expectations for either, given their genres, and the trailers I’ve seen.
I will tell you this: That royal robe unfurled at the start of “The Young Victoria” is to die for. I only wish I could find a photo that does it justice. And that the rest of the movie lived up to its opening splendor.
Did I not predict the return of Award Season Harvey? Yesterday, the Weinstein Co. netted the most Golden Globe noms of any company — and while the proof in the pudding will be the prestige hardware his movies rack up — it does appear Weinstein’s once again ready to mix it up.
“Hold onto your hat. Harvey’s back,” the NYT observed.
Only a couple years ago, Weinstein, who elevated campaigning to an art form at Miramax, sounded detached from the process, telling the same paper “you leave when you’re ahead.”
Now, however, the company is singing a different tune; Weinstein is much more hands-on; he was intimately involved, for example, in the decision to send the “Nine” cast to an “Oprah” taping. Weinstein has particularly high hopes for “Inglourious Basterds”: “We’re going to do a big Academy charge for the film and for Quentin,” he told the NYT.
Everyone: You’ve been warned.
When I was reporting this Variety story, everyone wondered about Harvey: Will he revert to form this awards season? Can he still pull it off? Can he afford to?
One thing the Weinstein Co. does have is four hopefuls — “Nine,” “The Road,” “Inglourious Basterds” and “Simple Man.” And if anyone will go for it this constrained awards season, Bob Berney predicted, it will be Harvey Weinstein.
Weinstein execs, meanwhile, compare the company’s prospects — and Harvey’s focus on it — to the Miramax days. We’ll see what happens when push comes to shove.