Talking Movies

February 14, 2020

Miscellaneous Movie Musings: Part XXVI

As the title suggests, so forth.

“I don’t want to sell you Birds of Prey. I want to go back to the office and rethink my pitch”

If you had told me in 2010 that a movie about Harley Quinn would come out in 2020 and that MEW would be in it as Huntress but that I would have as active an interest in not seeing it as I did for Zack Snyder’s Watchmen I would not have believed you.

Imagine this movie instead:

Harley & Ivy

Starring Margot Robbie and Emma Stone as Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy

with Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Huntress,  Nicholas Hoult as Robin

and Jared Leto as the Joker

Screenplay by Jane Espenson

Story by Diane Ruggiero and Paul Dini

Directed by Karyn Kusama

Suddenly I don’t just have an interest, it’s certain – I’m going to it.

Rub and Tug: Production update

So almost two years ago now Scarlett Johansson, having better things to do than fight Twitter mobs, pulled out of playing a female-to-male transsexual in Rub and Tug. Some of the self-same people who mercilessly bullied her online then (incredibly) hoped she would continue producing the movie. But… clearly she’d been producing, guiding the screenplay, hiring a director she’d worked with before, in order to win an Oscar; following in the footsteps of Jared Leto in 2014, as she had noted in her initial response which the usual cyber-bullies dubbed ‘toxic’. Why would she have actively produced the movie after its purpose for her had been gutted? Why would the financing stay in place when an Avenger was gone, to be replaced by a female-to-male transsexual player like… And there was the blank page in the prospectus. Who? Scott Turner Schofield? Films like Rub and Tug depend on star-power and prestige traction. Dallas Buyers Club made 55 million, Mysterious Skin made 2 million. Scarlett Johansson starring probably made it a just slightly better than 50/50 shot at hitting the Dallas colour on the roulette wheel of fate. Scarlett Johansson not starring reduced the odds so substantially the only reason not to pull financing would be the same sort of masochism asked of her: producing a film as a mitzvah to people who bullied her. As of July 2018 Rub and Tug had lost its very high profile star and its director Rupert Sanders. It now has no star, no director, and is just a script in development hell with very little chance of getting made.

July 20, 2018

Miscellaneous Movie Musings: Part VIII

As the title suggests here are some short thoughts about the movies which aren’t quite substantial enough for each to merit an individual blog posting.

Did you just ask me who I am?…

Humphrey Who?

Patrick Doyle asked an unnerving question on his Sunday Breakfast show a couple of weeks ago. How many people know who Grace Kelly is anymore? … How could people not know who Grace Kelly is?! Then I started to worry… I am interested in history in general, and this extends into burrowing with curiosity and sympathy into the back catalogue of cinema. But I have to admit that for many people, probably I fear the vast majority, they frankly couldn’t give a damn. (And would only have the faintest idea that that was a reference to the most popular film ever made) A particularly dispiriting display of wilful ignorance of the past came at the Lighthouse Hallowe’en screening of Halloween back in 2016. The very young, very very drunk audience, mostly in party later on fancy dress costume, was hooting in derision from the get-go. At anything and everything, any detail of dialogue or costume or reality (like a 70s car) that revealed the movie as having been made in 1978. I couldn’t understand this attitude of unbridled contempt then, and still struggle with it now. Do they not think people as yet unborn will hoot in self-same derision in 2046 at the films they hold precious now? For heaven’s sake most of these people were sporting the Snowflake hair-do whose sheer omnipresence and ostentation means, as I wrote some months back, that it will be as embarrassing on Jan 1st 2020 as bell-bottomed jeans were on Jan 1st 1980.

Censor and be damned!

Channel 4 has got my goat recently by showing films too early for its own purposes. Dante’s Peak saw a trio of deaths removed, presumably for fear of upsetting younger viewers. But then why show it in early afternoon?! Instead we got the build-up to the trio of grisly deaths, and the emotional fall-outs of the other characters reacting to the grisly deaths, and but no actual deaths so people seemed to be reacting to nothing. It’s all too reminiscent of the time that RTE decided to cut Raiders of the Lost Ark, and left out Indy getting shot, but kept in Indy in great pain attempting to bandage the bloody wound that he’d acquired mysteriously while driving without incident. Channel 4 also decided to censor Romancing the Stone. They snipped the full bloody detail of the animatronic alligator pulling off the villain’s hand, but then kept in his sustained agonised screams and fumbled frantic one-handed bandaging of the bloody stump where his left hand used to be. I don’t know whether it could be said to be more disturbing to show consequences after eliding the actions, but it is frustrating. Channel 4 should take a page from the book of the censor in Malaysia; who banned a film altogether after he’d had to make so many cuts it was left an incoherent mess that did nobody any favours. Show these films later in the day or just don’t show them!

Rub and … Scrub

So Scarlett Johansson, having better things to do than fight Twitter mobs, has pulled out of playing a transsexual in Rub and Tug. Some of the self-same people who mercilessly bullied her online now (incredibly) hope she’ll continue producing the movie. But… clearly she’d been producing, guiding the screenplay, hiring a director she’d worked with before, in order to win an Oscar; following in the footsteps of Jared Leto in 2014, as she noted in her initial response which the usual cyber-bullies dubbed ‘toxic’. Why actively produce this movie now its purpose for her has been gutted? Why would the financing stay in place when an Avenger is to be replaced by a transsexual player like… And there we hit the customary avoidance of specifics in such campaigns. Who? Daniela Vega? Candis Cayne? Films like this don’t make money without star-power and prestige traction. Dallas Buyers Club made 55 million, Moonlight made 65 million, Mysterious Skin made 2 million, Love is Strange made 2 million. Scarlett Johansson starring probably makes it likely you have a just slightly better than 50/50 shot at hitting the Dallas rather than the Skin end of that spectrum. Scarlett Johansson not starring reduces yours odds of hitting pay-dirt so substantially the only reason not to pull financing would be the same masochism expected of her to produce a film to benefit the people who bullied her.

May 22, 2018

From the Archives: Stop Loss

Another dive into the pre-Talking Movies archives turns up a very under-rated Iraq war film featuring strong supporting turns from Channing Tatum and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

The Iraq War has become a continuing nightmare for the United States military to set beside Vietnam. Surprisingly it’s also become impossible terrain for American film-makers compared to the cinematic response to Vietnam. It falls to writer/director Kimberly Pierce to make the finest film about the Iraq War to date. This is her first feature since 1999’s acclaimed Boys Don’t Cry and Pierce has waited a long time to provide another absorbing and heartbreaking slice of small town Americana. The film opens with an action set-piece in Iraq that conveys tedium, paranoia, fear, bloodlust and chaos more effectively than the entirety of Brian De Palma’s Redacted. The real focus of this film is the psychological battle on the home-front back in Texas.

There is no place for a warrior in a stable society. This is a melancholy truth that has found expression over and over again in fiction, if you set out to protect your home your violent deeds will unfit you for ever living there again. “I’m going to miss blowing shit up” laments Channing Tatum’s Steve Shriver as he hands over his weapons for discharge from the army having served his required tours of duty. What exactly are these men going to do back in their small town? Jobs are scarce, they’re adrenaline junkies and scarred by the savagery they’ve witnessed and been forced to commit in Iraq. The dilemma is best exemplified by the out of control Pt. Tommy Burgess. Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a supporting role as the violent alcoholic Tommy is as superb as his performances in Brick, The Look-Out and Mysterious Skin have led us to expect. Burgess and Shriver desperately need their commanding officer Brandon King to keep them in check. King is leaving the military…until he finds the President has signed an order keeping him in the army against his will.

Ryan Phillipe is impressively mature as the righteously indignant Staff Sergeant Brandon King who thinks he should not be asked to pointlessly lead more men to their deaths. Australian actress Abbie Cornish is a fine foil as Michelle, Shriver’s neglected girlfriend who offers to drive King to Washington. There are echoes of Phillipe’s previous role in Flags of Our Fathers. King is convinced that he can just take the matter up with his local Senator who welcomed him home but he quickly learns the harsh truth. You’re a hero when you’re fighting, but when the war finishes or you’ve gone AWOL from a Stop-Loss, they don’t want to hear about you anymore. The shadow of Vietnam hangs heavy over this film as King suddenly realises his choices are return to Iraq or flee to Canada, start a new life there and never be able to return home again. This is never preachy, always compelling and emotionally taut. An absolute must see.

5/5

April 1, 2015

While We’re Young

Frances Ha director Noah Baumbach returns to the NYC art scene, but loses Greta Gerwig as co-writer and reinstates Greenberg cohort Ben Stiller as protagonist.

while_we_were_young_a_l

Josh (Ben Stiller) is a documentarian. He’s married to Cornelia (Naomi Watts), a film producer, whose father is the legendary documentarian Leslie Breitbart (Charles Grodin).  Josh and Cornelia’s best friends Fletcher (Beastie Boy’s Adam Horovitz!!) and Marina (Maria Dizzia) have just had a kid. Indeed the misleading opening finds Josh and Cornelia gazing at the baby while a mobile playing a cutesy version of Bowie’s ‘Golden Years’ hangs over the cot. Having lost Fletcher to the children cult Josh is receptive to a hipster couple he meets after one of his New School extension lectures. Jamie (Adam Driver) is a would-be documentarian, his wife Darby (Amanda Seyfried) makes home-made ice cream, and they live in a Brooklyn flat with friend and occasional band-mate Tipper (Dree Hemingway). Josh is enchanted, and soon so is Cornelia, but can this rejuvenation end well?

While We’re Young is less sunny than Frances Ha, but thankfully not as bitter as Greenberg, and, from the opening hilarious quotes from Ibsen’s The Master Builder, is always engaging. Some montages of Josh and Cornelia’s rediscovery of their youth thru hip-hop and hats equal Frances Ha’s use of pop, and Baumbach also mocks ‘Eye of the Tiger’ motivational status (“I remember when this song was just bad”). But Frances Ha was about being lost and aimless. This is about a couple who have everything, and are jaded, meeting a couple who have little, but are liberated. Josh has spent 8 years not finishing a documentary, and laments “I only have two moods: wistful and disdainful.” For Jamie making a documentary is a free and easy process, as whimsy-driven as choosing to not know a factoid rather than google it.

But when Jamie uses a remote control to zoom-in for a close-up on his face during a ‘spontaneous’ tearful scene when interviewing old school-friend Kent (Brady Corbet), Josh realises Jamie’s directing is as affected as the love of vinyl and VHS… Then things get All About Eve as Jamie supplants Josh in the affections of Leslie (veteran Grodin on fine comedic form). It’s a bit silly, not least as it draws attention to Baumbach’s own idol-supplanting. Josh is Woody Allen in Crimes & Misdemeanours: a film-maker unable to finish a documentary showcasing an aged academic proffering arcane wisdom. It’s as odd as James Murphy’s music and Baumbach’s staging creating an oddly sinister intercutting of a valedictory speech and an ethical confrontation, almost as if Baumbach is parodying his own concerns: Woody’s stakes were life and death, his, just passé ethics.

While We’re Young has moments of genuine sadness, like Cornelia (who’s miscarried repeatedly) freaking out a baby music class, but Baumbach opts for an all too pat comedy ending.

3.5/5

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