CANNES 09: "Antichrist" Gets a Stoning

Yet, despite all of the extreme responses this film has received since its screening in France, I still really want to see it, and may even want to see it more now. Good or bad, it looks damn interesting. (Ebert said it may, in fact, be unendurable, but it's not a boring movie, and that's plenty good to me.) And even if director Lars von Trier is the most self-righteous man on the planet, he makes some courageous films that look astounding, here aided by longtime collaborator Anthony Dod Mantle, who just won the cinematography Oscar for "Slumdog Millionaire." (Trier's a little like Kanye West in this regard: makes some irresistible stuff, but I abhor the man himself.) I enjoyed what he said at the conference that followed a few days after the screening where he was heckled to justify his work. (Anne Thompson has more from the conference.) He said something to the effect of "You are all my guests...I don't have to justify myself..." or this little picture of his, which he called "a dream" and has on several occasions also called his form of therapy after a bout of depression, and this little picture is a piece of his mind and soul. He is not our guest, so he doesn't have to humor us.

While not every reaction has been pure hatred and disgust, I think the Spartan yelling match is going to deem the dissenters the winner for the time being. Its chances at wide domestic release and/or success are in jeopardy. But I think they'll come around. Eventually. I think.

Do bad reviews excite you?

IMAGE from: Slashfilm


This Ain't Your Daddy's "Sherlock Holmes"

That's very quickly become the mantra of contemporary action flicks. Take out all that's old or suggests aging (even take the old people themselves out - was "Star Trek" not commanded by twenty-somethings?) and replace it with the modern, the chic, and the sexy. Not a bad thing, but the success of these films, their popularity and how fashionable they've become in other genres speaks volumes about the state of the world now. Or at least America. We no longer trust a 66-year old Harrison Ford to save us from the likes of an immaculately-faced Cate Blanchett as a Commie in an update to the "Indiana Jones" saga, so we turn to a young, baby-faced but rugged and badass Shia Labeouf dressed in not-yet broken-in leather and rolled jeans (channeling Marlon Brando's jaded but brisk persona) as protector. That's more like it. (Bruce Willis and "Die Hard" can replace Ford and "Indiana Jones" with Justin Long in the Labeouf role.)

The ripened ages of both Jude Law, 36, and Robert Downey, Jr., 44, shouldn't be an issue for the demographics that are naturally attracted to franchises like Trek, Indy, Batman, and Bond (anyways, they have the gorgeous and very elegant Rachel McAdams, 30, to appease them), but it is somewhat of an oddity considering the company. Many of the big pictures and blockbusters that boast expensive and flashy action sequences have been skewing younger when it comes to their protagonists (Harry Potter and Transformers have teen heartthrob heroes; and both the new Bond and Capt. Kirk are younger than their predecessors), and I wonder if anyone will pay attention to age in the months leading up to release. "Old Detectives from Literature Become Less Old Crimefighters in Pic!" The film, directed by the warden of urban mob films Guy Ritchie, does kind of avert the formula by going gritty, so maybe it's a non-issue (not helped by me discussing the tenets of this apparently new zeitgeist). I suppose Christian Bale, 35, and Daniel Craig, 41, both aren't exactly young anymore, so let's rework this: modern and techy goes with young and clean-looking; gritty and urban with slightly older, coarser sexuality.

I'm relieved the film doesn't bear too heavy a resemblance to another steampunk property from the world of comics (to make it clear: this is based on a depiction of the character by comic book writer Lionel Wigram), "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" what with its cast of brutes, assassins and, apparently, magicians and its foray into not merely crimefighting, but world-saving. That other film was laughable, and more absurd than was likely intended. But the film does also strike me as too strongly farcical, which is an asset in the arsenals of both Downey, Jr. and director Ritchie, but here it's much too strong. We'll see how it turns out.

Is Sherlock a sacred cow to you?

IMAGE from: Shockya.com
TRAILER from: Awards Daily


"The Road" Headed South?

Often when a discrepancy in plot exists between a novel and its adapted cinematic counterpart, I excuse it and name it to the innate qualities and constraints that separate them as creative mediums. I find it odd when folks assess a film's success by its ability to imitate the events of a book, chronology and all, rejoicing when there are few and feeble or no attempts at all at striking out new thematic territory. Because then what's the point? Why make the film and return to the material? (I, of course, only mean this when the essential ingredients that define a work are still present.) As long as the heart of whatever is being adapted finds its way into the film - or in deleted scenes included on the DVD - then filmmakers can refashion the plot and reinterpret motives and motifs all they please. It's minutiae. The canon of the mythology can accommodate the change in composition. Just like it accommodates variation in audience interpretation. (Are there very many books or films where a thing and all that has to do with the thing must be fixed in order to achieve an adequate understanding or emotional response?)

But, having read Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," the inclusion at the beginning of the trailer (our first real glimpse of the thing, which looks bleak and haunting and glorious overall) of news reports that seek to explain or explore in greater (unnecessary) detail how the end of the world came about, is just gratuitous. And, apparently, it's misleading; according to Esquire and the filmmakers (and asserted in no small amount of rhetoric by Harvey Weinstein), none of the first few seconds will be in the final picture. So, I have to ask: then why? Not only will the intro of that trailer (below) not be in the film, which is deceptive, it ends up serving the function of clumping the adaptation in with other post-apocalyptic films that use, by and large, the same phenomena/explanation if not the same imagery as those initial shots of catastrophic phenomena. "I Am Legend," "28 Days Later," "The Happening," "The Quiet Earth," even "Mad Max." As the title suggests, the narrative is not at all about the 'how' but the 'what now?' and the journey for recovery and survival. This is a situation where I would suspend my traditional view on mimicry in adapting other works on film and say that if the film does use the stock footage to launch the survival narrative of the father and son characters, then it's a step in the wrong direction. The opposite direction, even.

Setting up the meat of the film, the road movie aspect, within the context of post-apocalyptic America is essential, yes, but juxtaposing these characters as a response to the terrifying end-of-the-world events that preceded it and showing those events as possible explanation widens the scope of the film so that these sympathetic characters serve as allegorical figures, stand-ins for the human race (which they aren't, the book chronicles their expedition in what might be documentary fashion, not as models of behavior or decision but individual people handling something bigger than them). It also cheapens and dilutes the impact of the narrative by setting in expectations that the film might seek an explanation or arrive at finality to postmodern society. It would become a horror-suspense-thriller about finding solace or the cure in a dead world. (I don't think this would spoil anything, but there are no cures at the end. A world no longer with history doesn't have any determined end point.)

I'm assured by this wonderful article in Esquire by Tom Chiarella, which stops at 3300 words, a rarity in movie journalism these days. This kind of writing I sorely miss. I was not only reminded of the things I loved about this book, but the writing achieved greater nuance through the lens of Chiarella whose prose is as direct as author Cormac McCarthy's is spare. An excerpt via Awards Daily:

Bob Weinstein rolls those trailers, each one assumes the predictable arc of a story compressed to its essence. There is a speed to them that the actual movie — which I saw before seeing the trailers — does not possess or seek to possess, an urgency that feels manufactured. The music is pulse-pounding and urgent, driven to create absurd expectations of action in a movie that quietly elicits worry about the relative friability of the invisible paths that exist between people and what they need. Still, every utterance, every cry for help or hand clasped across the mouth of the boy to suppress a sob, is a fair-enough emanation from the heart of the movie.

The odd thing is, the start of each trailer includes glimpses of a storm, panicky news footage, little puzzle pieces of the world before it ended. No one — not the director or the myriad producers, not the novelist or the screenwriter — had ever even hinted at how it happened, until this.

For someone who loves the book, for anyone who knows the story going in, this is a moment you hoped would never come. Why remind us of the reductive logic of cause and effect? Before the question can be asked, Weinstein stands up, offers his hand, and says, “Okay, we’re going with the first one.” He gives no rationale. And so it seems the metonymic references to the national news, to the weather, to presumed military conflicts laid in as a tonally quiet explanation of what is never known in book or movie, for now will stay in the trailer.

On the other side of the planet, at home in Australia, Hillcoat’s been hearing about these trailers. “We’re so conditioned by postapocalyptic films to be centered on a big event, and they become this high-concept thing. And here there’s this total absence, this negation of explanation. We have to stay with that. So yeah. That’s gonna be a challenge.”

I read the whole thing on my BlackBerry, and again online, and it just makes me more and more intensely excited about seeing this film. (I've also adopted a new goal: to one day write for Esquire. Great articles and topics. Not nearly as surface-level as I once thought.) It does concern me that director John Hillcoat has not been included in how this film gets sold, which makes me afraid that come release day, I'll be surrounded by loud dudes hoping to see some intricate physical action sequences and monsters. That the trailer also sells the "cannibals" as the primary antagonists in the film is another point that I want to contend with that is inaccurate, and hopefully not indicative of anything in the actual film. The primary antagonist isn't other people with crippled ethics and empty stomachs, it's the specter of death itself, and the looming notion that the task of survival can and will at any point become a one-man game, with neither father nor son knowing who would be most fit to stick to the course. But, as I'm reminded by Ryan Adams at AD, these are the people that marketed "The Reader" to $83 million by selling it as a steamy romance instead of as a Holocaust film. These guys, especially Weinstein, want to sell those tickets.

Esquire's calling it the "Most Important Movie of the Year," and that's enough to get my money.

Does "dark and depressing" sound appealing to you?

IMAGE from: Squidoo
TRAILER from: Awards Daily


Coppola's "Tetro"

I love the cinematography and look of this film so far, and the posters are beautiful as well. There's three I've found (via Awards Daily), but the one included here is my favorite - evocative use of color in those light flares and the situating of the text (and the choice of font itself) atop the shot of Vincent Gallo and his brother would make for a perfect Criterion Collection cover. Slap on a "Director Approved" sticker and the neat letter-c logo and you're set. I'd buy that. Well, if the movie turns out, then I'd buy it. This is the first Francis Ford Coppola's written personally since "The Conversation" so hopefully that bodes well for the picture as a whole. (Criterion doesn't currently have any Coppola films in their collection, but I'd say this and "The Conversation" could surely, fittingly, get the ...ahem, conversation started.) The film's formula looks astoundingly fine on paper: Greek tragedy-like story involving an Italian musician father + Osvaldo Golijov to provide sweeping music on that front, whose score sounds at least ten steps away from a Nino Rota composition + immigrant family struggles, a la "The Godfather" + achingly beautiful Spain + Maribel Verdu to romance us as the girlfriend + Vincent Gallo under the direction of Coppola (the name of the game is restraint, Mr. Gallo) + Pedro Almodovar vet Carmen Maura in a mentor-role to play opposite Gallo = Cannes/Oscar glory? One can dream.

I've always thought that the circumstances that perpetually surround Coppola have been what has made his output drop - those expectations that he will conjure up another film-opera of dramatic grandeur like "Godfather" are hard to work with/through/around. He is actively trying to survive what George Lucas aggressively seeks to sustain. That past glory. Coppola, like Lucas, is a dynamic director and his projects ("The Conversation," "Apocalypse Now," "Bram Stoker's Dracula," even "The Outsiders") reveal latent idiosyncracies that were either too transparent, rudimentary or non-existent "Godfather"-era and they show his inclination to refashion his style with every picture. ("Dracula" strikes me as his most different project, but they all possess something unique from the others.) That's why so many people feel that the new "Star Wars" trilogy didn't work - Lucas is a different filmmaker with a different economy but the material and its fans demanded consistency, continuity. Coppola's fans work the same way. Of the "Film School Generation" the only one who's been allowed to carve out new territories is Steven Spielberg, whose projects combine the economy of an indepedent film (even titans like "Munich" and "Minority Report" took only a couple weeks to actually shoot) with the resources of typical Hollywood. I'd go as far as to say that while Spielberg has fashioned some real marvels, Coppola is the real technical genius, Spielberg just knows people and knows how to make them shine.

Here's hoping that Coppola finds himself even further revived with "Tetro" after the lukewarm reception "Youth Without Youth" received. He once said that he's only been able to make movies again (this was around the time "Youth" was in production) because he was inspired by the advances his daughter, Sofia, has been able to make with limited budgets that was the norm back during the New Hollywood days ("Easy Rider," "Bonnie & Clyde," etc.). Coppola's a step away from that generation, so it'll be exciting to see how he handles old sensibilities in new environments.

If you'd like to see the first three minutes of "Tetro," take a trip to Kris Tapley's In Contention site which has a nice embedded video. I've gone on for too long, and I don't want to clutter this post up even further. Tapley's also got some great info from Coppola on what his literary and cinematic inspirations were for this film.

Is Coppola making an offer you can't refuse?

TRAILER from: In Contention
POSTER from: Awards Daily


"Ponyo" or: One-Sheet on the Web by Disney

I noticed that the poster doesn't actually have the film named as "Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea" any longer, which I guess is great for those guys who put the titles up on the marquee at the cineplex and for people who found it clunky (like me). But the title was good for at least partly specifying what the film's setting is and what it's about (my assumption, of course). And the original title was more musical and fun to say, not that "Ponyo" on its own isn't fun to roll off the tongue. The poster is as effervescent and enchanting - though minimalist, as the others before it - as it was always expected to be, with or without the rest of the title, and in the end this is a Hayao Miyazaki film so it's all about the visual detail and simple themes. This, like Pixar's "UP," looks like it's to be dominated by beautiful pastels and primary colors. The poster doesn't disappoint. The cast doesn't seem like it will, either.

Miyazaki films are also, to me, all about their translation in the West, which includes the dubbing, so while I'm excited about this cast of talents (Cloris Leachman, Tina Fey and Lily Tomlin in animated form - yes!) I'm not entirely convinced just yet. I either absolutely adore the dubbing ("Howl's Moving Castle," "Princess Mononoke") or am irked by it (don't go crazy on me, "Spirited Away") and this seems to have not only more characters to voice, but more big-namers involved, likely at the hands of Disney and John Lasseter - who is Miyazaki's heir to the animated throne. This makes the film vulnerable to mediocre dubbing: most of these actors aren't known for their vocal expressiveness (Matt Damon, I'm looking at you) and most of them are well-known which means they might've just gotten the job for marketing purposes. Hopefully knowing how popular and acclaimed Miyazaki's previous films have been has pushed them all to really hit the limits to their acting skill - using only your voice is hard.

Has this film charmed its way 'onyo' anticipated list?

UPDATE: In Contention's Kris Tapley notes that the film was only retitled here in the U.S. It'll retain its original title in at least Japan, where it's likely to shoot to the top of the box office for the remainder of the year.
UPDATE: It's also worth mentioning that Ain't It Cool also has a shot of the film itself, link below.

POSTER from: Ain't It Cool via In Contention and Slashfilm


All the "Body Heat" Has Cooled

I was going to make a post about how hot it's been in Southern California the last few days, but it got not only cold but gloomy out here in the last day or so. I think there might even be a chance of rain. I was going to use the weather, the record-breaking weather, to put up some screencaps of a film that uses uncommonly (or too commonly) warm temperatures as a backdrop, but now it seems sort of inappropriate. I thought "Do the Right Thing" but that doesn't take place in California - and our brand of heat is different from theirs (or theirs is, ahem, more violent than ours, figuratively and literally). And it seemed too easy. Then I thought "In the Heat of the Night," but I haven't seen it yet (for shame, I know). "Cool Hand Luke" would be a nice one and it came to mind as well, but its themes of comaradery against The Man ("What we have here is a failure to communicate...") might not fit the sense of urgency for political unity that's permeated every conversation and media story of late. (I also want to do a post all about Paul Newman since I'm about to make some purchases of his films, and I don't want it to be overkill.) Me thinking about this for too long coupled with my busy schedule (senior thesis, presentations, etc.) which led to the heat passing on by, and I started to think my opportunity for minimal cleverness (current events + movie with similar themes/motifs = clever!) was gone. But, then again, the heat will return... so I suppose this post can be in anticipation of the heat's rearrival. Thus: Lawrence Kasdan's directorial debut and Kathleen Turner's debut in Hollywood, aptly titled "Body Heat."

I know this movie takes place in Florida, but the landscape and climate's similar to ours in California, and who doesn't love a nice neo-noir every once in awhile? It's also got Ms. Turner looking mighty fine (she's still worth somewhat of a look, I guess, but that sultry voice has certainly gotten its wear and tear and is sounding a bit unappetizing, see "Marley & Me" for an example of that) not to mention a wonderfully strange supporting performance by Ted Danson, and Mickey Rourke pre-boxing/surgery/breakdown as an arsonist. And William Hurt is great, actually very sexy and every bit an equal to Kathleen Turner's smoldering juiciness. (Ummm... NSFW, but that's a given.)

It's sort of disappointing how the presence and motif of heat isn't so apparent in these stills while being readily so in motion, but that must've been intended on Kasdan's part. Don't want it to be obvious and tiring before the end, right? The film, I think, is an adequate reappropriation of the plot founded in Billy Wilder's "Double Indemnity" but I would really recommend seeing the former before seeing this one -- accentuates the effect the unbearable Florida weather has on both the aesthetics (as a color film, versus "Indemnity" which is in black and white) and the flow of the plot. Heat makes people do crazy things, throw a beautiful woman in the mix and you're bound for disaster.

What's your favorite movie set against hot weather?

IMAGES from: Digital Dingus
[PS: I'll be disappearing for another week or so because of school-related business, but will be back thereafter. Lots to cover, so I better be back soon, I want to chronicle and comment on some of these things. Wish me luck!]



Lars von Trier is such a fascinating and unique director who can really fashion some gorgeous films. (Check them out on Criterion - breathtaking!) He's also proven himself to be quite a capable and brainy logician (magician?) in film, picking apart conventions and toying with both the obvious and latent elements of the cinema to produce complex emotional, political and philosophical experiences (reason enough for a few to hate his work, but I find it intriguing and undeniably artistic). His works associated with the Dogme 95 avant-garde process/movement (though only one is actually part) are tougher to swallow because their confrontation or total disuse of traditional effects of film, like props or artificial lighting or even a score/soundtrack, can be sort of distracting, but I believe von Trier when he says that it's all in the service of the story and performances. If I'm getting frustrated with "Dancer in the Dark"'s insistence on only using incidental music, even for the musical numbers, then I can only imagine how frustrated Bjork must've gotten as actor and composer. But, I confess, all of the story, Bjork's work in the film (which was recognized as the best at Cannes that year; see my earlier post about characters) and the soundtrack were haunting and unforgettable.

Speaking of haunting, von Trier is set and ready to release his next exercise in toying with us and our expectations with "Anti-Christ" which has a feel like "Rosemary's Baby" but in the woods; complete with hallucinatory, satanic images of the body and things associated with children, and craven wolves. It all looks intoxicating, but unsettling, with the classic metaphor of child as bringer of doom or spiritual decay taken (wee wee wee) all the way home. Of course, it's even freakier because the child in question has passed away - nothing spoiled, no worries - and the descent is all based on the intent for emotional and spiritual healing for the couple. Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg are two able and evocative actors and perfect to embody these perhaps Catholic themes and motifs. Trailer below with the premise to follow. Maybe this'll be the first part in a new trilogy for von Trier?

Premise, via Slashfilm: "a horrific drama that tells the story of a grieving couple who retreat to a cabin in the woods, hoping to repair their broken hearts and troubled marriage..." [SPOILERS BEGIN] ...only to find that the cabin is the home of the Devil himself and the place he resides while running the world. [SPOILERS END] Does it strike anyone else as weird that the title card has the symbol for females and, I'm guessing, the child in the film was probably a male? Does this suggest what will be occurring in the woods, or is this a mistake on the part of the studio?

Is this deliciously disturbing to your eyes? Or just disturbing?

TRAILER exclusive through: Ain't It Cool


This is "Moon"

When done right, there's nothing that gets my heart racing better than a good science-fiction movie. They're such versatile creatures, the sci-fi flicks, with their capacity to meditate very powerfully the human condition, to discuss politics (though not my favorite use of the genre and stock imagery, though it has its heroes), to discuss science and religion, the science of life and death, the struggle for solace, personal/societal collapse and enlightenment. What's most fun and satisfying for me is when a movie achieves a heightened level of intrigue with a great throughline, but quickly jettisons all standard logic and leaves you with pieces to graft together. There's almost no incorrect way to do so (except when there is), and I love the conversations that ensue after the credits roll. Science fiction is a more visual genre than others, and I think it's most effective when there aren't a million things flying about at once.

Duncan Jones' "Moon" usurps those nice conceptions we have of Mother/HAL-3000-type computers (this one astoundingly well-voiced by Kevin Spacey), mashes them with the conceit 'space-as-final-frontier' and simultaneously as literal landscape of the mind a la "Solaris," and with a touch of the same human desperation that pervaded "Sunshine" and its predecessors. It stars Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell, who composes a one-man team to mine Helium-3 from the moon for a contracted three years, with the aid of said computer. Bell comes upon the scene of some freak accident only three weeks before his contract expires, and everything starts to unravel. It was filmed on a small budget, so it's amazing that the film can look and sound so beautiful and creepy. As I've said on Twitter, I think this film is a perfect vehicle for Rockwell to show off his unique talents as a wordy, neurotic performer with a knack for the oddball and slightly threatening - emotes the internal drama one would expect of a person alone in space. The image at right is the poster, which also communicates an odd, not-of-this-time sort of feel.

Early reviews out of Sundance and SWSW come from James Rocchi and Peter Sciretta. A better synopsis comes from IGN, linked below, that I didn't want to copy here because I think theirs indulges too many details. But a gorgeous trailer from them is below. The title cards and review snippets are really effective. As is Clint Mansell's score.

Will you be flying to this "Moon"?

IMAGE from: Film School Rejects
POSTER from: Ain't It Cool
TRAILER exclusive through: IGN Filmforce

TRAILER #2: "Public Enemies"

This team-up of Christian Bale, Johnny Depp and Michael Mann has been really growing on me since last month. As I mentioned in a past post, I was a little underwhelmed with the last (first) trailer for "Public Enemies" and its rather straightforward setup of the film that made it look less like a Michael Mann gritty crime drama (whose films are as much dramatic explorations of crime as much as they are suspenseful thrillers) and more like a standard studio production with clean lines and obvious bad guys. Too much of the expected (badboy lines about liking cars, money and baseball all set to a flickering montage, no less) and not enough of Mann's kinetic, pulpy style and earthy characterizations. And it almost made Mann's typical compositions of over-the-shoulder angles and medium shots look like they were taken from an old video, they were cut up so strangely. This new trailer is much better, the shots are allowed to breathe and speak for themselves (fades instead of clunky cuts), the music follows the pace and the natural tension of Depp's and Bale's antagonism is more fully placed on display. I love the beginning of the trailer with the creeping strings, and I love how Mann seems to fill every large, otherwise expansive space with people set and ready to clash.

The official premise, via Slashfilm: In the action-thriller Public Enemies, acclaimed filmmaker Michael Mann directs Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Academy Award-winner Marion Cotillard in the story of legendary Depression-era outlaw John Dillinger (Depp)—the charismatic bank robber whose lightning raids made him the number one target of J. Edgar Hoover’s fledgling FBI and its top agent, Melvin Purvis (Bale), and a folk hero to much of the downtrodden public.No one could stop Dillinger and his gang. No jail could hold him. His charm and audacious jailbreaks endeared him to almost everyone—from his girlfriend Billie Frechette (Cotillard) to an American public who had no sympathy for the banks that had plunged the country into the Depression.

But while the adventures of Dillinger’s gang—later including the sociopathic Baby Face Nelson (Stephen Graham) and Alvin Karpis (Giovanni Ribisi)—thrilled many, Hoover (Billy Crudup) hit on the idea of exploiting the outlaw’s capture as a way to elevate his Bureau of Investigation into the national police force that became the FBI. He made Dillinger America’s first Public Enemy Number One and sent in Purvis, the dashing “Clark Gable of the FBI.’’ However, Dillinger and his gang outwitted and outgunned Purvis’ men in wild chases and shootouts. Only after importing a crew of Western ex-lawmen (newly baptized as agents) and orchestrating epic betrayals—from the infamous “Lady in Red’’ to the Chicago crime boss Frank Nitti—were Purvis, the FBI and their new crew of gunfighters able to close in on Dillinger.

The film is still set for July 1st.
Will you make a run for this film when it arrives in theaters?

SCOOPED first by: In Contention
TRAILER exclusive through: MSN
IMAGE from: Reel Movies


"Prisoners"' Dilemma

Because the film industry produces most of its pictures in a year as either secondary works (remakes or adaptations) or as the fulfillment of having a high concept commissioned, and because an alarming proportion of spec scripts are turned down or stumble into oblivion, I always find it interesting when a spec script is able to make it to the production rounds. Means it must be that compelling, the material rich or open enough for someone to want to play with it. (Dustin Lance Black shopped "Milk" before it eventually landed in Gus Van Sant's reliable hands.) In the case of this Aaron Guzikowski-penned spec (Endeavor is handling the project and will foot the bill if it comes together accordingly) -- titled "Prisoners" -- it hasn't quite reached pre-production since not even a director has signed firmly yet or discussed openly the potentials of the project, but its stars are aligning.

Christian Bale, my favorite actor (who appears twice on my Ten Favorites list below), is being peddled by The Hollywood Reporter to have signed onto the project along with other attached lead Mark Wahlberg. Their attachment, however, is tenuous at the moment since no bill to speak of (let alone foot) has been drafted -- pay would still need discussing. But if Bryan Singer ("X-Men," "Valkyrie") is involved as has been hinted at by both THR and Entertainment Weekly, then that gives both actors another reason to stay aboard -- assuming, of course, that they enjoy his work as much as I do and any fan of the man's best contribution to the thriller genre, "The Usual Suspects." (That movie certainly beats his latest contribution to the genre, last year's "Valkyrie," which isn't really a bad movie.) Singer said to EW late last month of the project: "I don't know yet. But I'm definitely intrigued. It's a great script. And I'd love to work with Mark." Hope he feels the same way about Christian! I do.

The script is certainly abuzz all about the internet and Hollywood -- one of the reasons these guys are latching onto the thing without signing it into contract -- which I'll assist with this premise (taken from THR):
"After his 6-year-old daughter and her friend are kidnapped, a small-town carpenter butts heads with a young, brash detective in charge of the investigation. The father is a Bible-reading, deer-hunting survivalist. The cop, meanwhile, can’t wait to get to the city. Feeling failed by the law, the father captures the man he believes responsible and begins to torture him in a desperate attempt to find out what he did with the girls, whom he’s convinced are still alive."
THR also says: "There's a lot more there, but we won't spoil it except to say the two leads have great arcs and the supporting players, especially the mothers, have juicy parts. The script is dark -- Disney ain’t touchin' this one -- and a real page-turner." Cinematical says their dreamcasting would entail Wahlberg as the cop and Christian Bale as the Bible-thumping father and I must say I can't disagree with them. Bale is absolutely compelling when he steps into brooding, heavy territory. He's got definite elements of De Niro in his style and methodology and is a brilliant actor when it comes to hypermasculine roles. And Wahlberg's already doing the daddy-gone-nuts thing in Peter Jackson's "The Lovely Bones" which is still slated for the Oscar season.

Imagine if this film had been done years ago, when both actors were in their physical prime (not that they're too far gone from that stage in life where such a thing is possible, but they are a little older). The dreamteam is set for a good daydream.

Who would win this battle?

SCOOPED first by: Awards Daily
IMAGES from: Celeb9 and Fused Film


Ten Characters

Perhaps this is one of those online trends/memes that's sweeping the blogosphere (at least the strata that orients most of their content around personal opinion and taste than big breaking Hollywood news), but I've been tagged by The Film Doctor (whose own list makes me jealous) to come up with ten movie characters that I love. My heart always races when I begin to think of these things, as I do think about them often (favorite femme fatales, villains, anti-heroes, movie superheroes, animal-characters, etc.) but never definitively. Most of the time I spring a short playlist of related films tied together by a common variable that's only three or four films long before I stop, or give up. Ten, that's a whole new ball game. It's also a great question for the frequent moviegoer because, really, how often does a character really stand out - so much that they dwarf every other aspect, and character, of the film? Unless you're just a people person and love everyone, not often.

[Note: I tried to exclude characters adapted from other works, but I failed. At least I succeded in keeping real life people -biopics, duh - off the list. I also found it too difficult to refrain from taking performance into account. It's like discussing an author's style without discussing exemplary passages!]
Not in any particular order...

Mary Poppins in "Mary Poppins" (1964)
Two women from the movies shaped my view of the rest of the female population from childhood to now, and this is one of them (the other is next on the list). Julie Andrews has a spot reserved in my heart forever between her work in this and The Sound of Music. But this is her more memorable performance, and the character herself is indelible, easily magical. When she's singing to her reflection and it actually sang back, I thought: how wonderful would it have been for our bleak world if Mary Poppins existed, and as a pair! They'd heal the world! There's an innate sadness to this film that I always found beautiful. When the kids separate and prove themselves to their father at the bank in front of his superiors, it's the birdies leaving the nest. When I moved away from home and said "Bye, Mom" for the nth time but it being the first time that it meant something different than it had always meant before, it reminded me of Mary Poppins. [Quote: "As I expected. 'Mary Poppins, practically perfectly in every way.'"]

Ellen Ripley in "Alien" (1979), "Aliens" (1986), and sequels (1992, 1997).
When I was younger, my favorite scenes from the first two films were the very last ones in the films - when she's waiting to fling the alien from the pod while nursing herself to keep sane in the suit, and when she's inside of the cargo carrier yelling at the Queen to get away from Newt ("...you bitch!") They're more visceral and satisfying and fun. But upon watching the films again with my girlfriend, I found I was magnetized to her being a book-abiding officer (debating with the captain to let the crew back in with the specimen in Alien; arguing with Ash in Alien) and being an upfront, troubled but sympathetic mother-figure with both Jonesy the cat and Newt. An ideal woman: multi-faceted and kickass. [Quote: "Micro changes in air density, my ass."]

Patrick Bateman in "American Psycho" (2000)
This is a character that is excessive and disturbing, and masterfully restrained as a performance. It's self-aware but not indulgent. Bateman can be viewed very obviously as a cautionary tale about materialism and social responsibility, which then makes the character laughable and absurd, but when viewed against the context of AIDS, hypermasculinity, bigotry and idealism, the film is sinister and downright scary. The scene where Bateman washes his hands after being beckoned to by a closeted gay friend is at first funny, but then consider how many anti-gay mini-narratives there are on FML.com. This stuff can be real. [Quote: "You're a fucking ugly bitch. I want to stab you to death, and then play around with your blood."]

Maxine Lund in "Being John Malkovich" (1999)
As much as I love Kate Winslet's turn as an eccentric, forward but addictive Clementine in Charlie Kaufman's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, I think I love Catherine Keener as Maxine Lund more in this Kaufman story. She's blasphemous, manipulative, enigmatic, and very irresistable. Kaufman's knack for strange asides and unexplained flourishes in the dialogue work for Maxine incredibly well, and her lines are so full of double-entendres and innuendo that I wonder how it might actually be like to work with her. [Quote: "You're right, my darling, it's so much more. It's playing with people!"]

Harry Fabian in "Night and the City" (1950)
I love a good scoundrel when the actor is invested in playing him all the way through. Harry Fabian is a man who has a million and one plans to fame and glory and riches - of course riches - but his plans always fail. Not because his investment in the plans wanes, no, he sticks it through all the way, but because he plays himself so high and so hard that he can't win without sticking it to the very people he's borrowing from, himself included. I'm certainly not that type, I travel in always-cautious waters, so I can admire him while also dreading the plank he's drawing out for himself. A plan off the deep end and a bridge over troubled waters: all the same for him.

Mrs. Eleanor Iselin in "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962)
This is one of those rare times where I can say that I've little recollection of a Meryl Streep performance (there was a half-as-good remake of this if you can recall yourself), but that's the case here, though I've little guilt since this is Angela Lansbury we're talking about and this is a performance and character that, I think, should've given Nurse Ratched a run for her money on the AFI list of villains (Ratched being the next-highest female villain after the Wicked Witch). She's sly, she's endlessly persuasive, she's a closeted Communist (at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, too!), and she was only two years older than Raymond Shaw. [This is based on a novel by Richard Condon, but I can't resist a strong female villain.][Quote: "But now, we have come almost to the end. One last step. And then when I take power, they will be pulled down and ground into dirt for what they did to you. And what they did in so contemptuously underestimating me."]

Jake Gittes in "Chinatown" (1974)
Like I said: I like a good scoundrel. Jack Nicholson plays 'em the best. This one's good on his own, too, you know. His joke about the "Chinamen"? I still don't get it, but I know it's offensive and I still laugh when I'm with friends who've never seen the film and they turn and glance about before opening their mouths. Testing to see if it should be obvious. I also can't tell if Gittes is supposed to be a pretty good private eye, he's so often putting himself and his cohorts (the gorgeous Faye Dunaway as Evelyn Mulwray, for instance) into danger that he shouldn't even be hirable. It's Drunken Monkey as Detective. [Quote: "Let me explain something to you, Walsh. This business requires a certain amount of finesse."]

Travis Bickle in "Taxi Driver" (1976)
My generation seems to be all about pitting Al Pacino against Robert De Niro as if they're the only living actors over the age of 55. And most of my generation seems to be all about Scarface and his little friend (or any variation thereof) but I found the peformance gratuitous and harsh. Bickle, on the other hand, is unsettling and utterly fascinating in a way not unlike Manchurian Candidate's Mrs. Iselin. It's a descent story, too, like Scarface, but isn't locked into that political/social arena - this is about personal stakes and masculinity in an emasculating world. Trivia: this is the film that got Daniel Day-Lewis to come to America as a serious screen actor. [Quote: "June twenty-ninth. I gotta get in shape. Too much sitting has ruined my body. Too much abuse has gone on for too long. From now on there will be 50 pushups each morning, 50 pullups. There will be no more pills, no more bad food, no more destroyers of my body. From now on will be total organization. Every muscle must be tight."]

Selma Jezkova in "Dancer in the Dark" (2000)
A character that's even more tragic because you know, deep down and without saying it aloud, that it's partly her own fault. She's Lars von Trier's attack on America's law system, but where he might've intended it as a blitz against our society's bloodlust and requirement of a scapegoat in incidences of crime, I think Selma ended up being the manifestation of a lament of the necessity of social institutions and the reciprocity between the collective and the individual in order for those institutions to work. Notice that no one ever says we should change the law to prevent these things from happening. [Quote: "Because you just know when it goes really big... and the camera goes like out of the roof... and you just know it's going to end. I hate that. I would leave just after the next to last song... and the film would just go on forever. "]

Jim Graham in "Empire of the Sun" (1987)
The face of undying hope. This is in many ways Steven Spielberg's most unique film. He's never made a film like this again and he probably never will. His treatment and framing of youths here works so tremendously well because it's set in harrowing circumstances but colored so vividly and strangely, almost fleeting, as to be childlike yet wise and lived-in. Jim's spunk, his voracious appetite for collectibles and aviation-related tidbits and toys, and his gait are all put on full display so that we never forget he's a child. He never actually grows up. The film never makes wartimes look fun, or even manageable. But Jim endures. It's strange when we see him quiet and removed, aloof, as his parents search for him amongst the myriad of lost kiddies. You think they don't deserve a young man of his heart and spirit. [Quote: "Help me, I'm British."]

Some honorable mentions:
-- Clementine Kruczynski in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2004)
-- Linda Partridge in "Magnolia" (1999)
-- John Rooney in "Road to Perdition" (2002)
-- Lady Helen Port-Huntley in "The Saddest Music in the World" (2003)
-- Bai Ling in "2046"

And, perhaps later this year, I can induct into the list...
-- Carol, the Wild Thing in "Where the Wild Things Are" [the link is a new poster, via Awards Daily, that is actually more aesthetically pleasing than the first one]

As for who I tag to do this next... I tag Karen at Reel Artsy, and YOU since I don't really know who else I possibly could tag that contributes to a blog that would even somehow find this to refer back to. Leave them in the comments!

Who are your favorite characters?