Monday, November 26, 2007
The movie studios were supposed to have been safe. After all, don't they have an endless number of scripts of remakes and sequels locked away in that warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark? Unfortunately Hollywood forgot just one thing, that each script is tinkered with endlessly by an orgy of writers to make absolutely certain every film is exactly the same. Johnny Depp's next flick, Wolverine, and some others have been the victim of their scripts not being ready. Which begs the question, why is a film being OKed with a subpar script. Shouldn't that be the first thing in place to make a good movie, or have I just answered my own question?
Before the strike began the thought was that since the 1988 strike reality television had caused a shift in the balance of power. After all, no one writes those witty lines for Simon Cowell, that's pure Simon, and American Idol happens to be the most popular show on television. Apparently people don't want fake TV, they want fake TV pretending to be real. Too bad the networks already tried this several years ago with a reality television craze. Too bad most of those shows bombed. Does anybody remember Tommy Lee Goes to College because I certainly don't. I don't suspect there has been much short term damage, even with the immediate death of most "variety shows." Although, I will admit I've been watching less television, not that I watched that much to begin with. Here's a little clip to tide over all you Daily Show fans.
Not surprisingly, the writers have apparently been winning the war of words. I mean who are you going to side with, some rich guy that forced American Idol on the world or the person that makes Stephen Colbert say all those funny things. Writing for a living probably helps get your message across as well. A new poll says that 63 percent of Americans side with the writers.
This is another interesting situation where the internet has given more power to artists and less power to the robber barons. Earlier in the year Radiohead forged their own small revolt by leaking their own album online and then asking people to pay what they want. The writers are using the internet as a means of communication, and now that communication is slowly being democratized, the people are seeing fewer producers being interviewed on CNN and more youtube videos of picket lines. On a level playing field the pen beats the purse every time.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Margot at the Wedding, previously known by its original title, A Weekend of Dysfunction, is the latest film by auteur Noah Baumbauch. I first heard of Baumbauch when he replaced Owen Wilson as screenplay collaborator with Wes Anderson on the divisive The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Both directors share an interest in family dysfunction, which has largely defined
Margot (Nicole Kidman) takes her son Claude to
I’ve never been a big fan of Nicole Kidman but she does a great job as a character who is entirely unredeemable. This isn’t some lovable goof who’s just a little selfish, this is someone who mentally abuses her son, someone who becomes angry at others when they do something altruistic because it makes her feel bad that she wouldn’t do the same thing. There is absolutely nothing likable about Margot. Pauline and Malcolm aren’t too far behind. Malcolm is an unemployed “letter writer” who, when frustrated, is prone to yell profanities at Pauline. Pauline is the most likable of the three but at times can seem weak and it’s suggested that she’s marrying Malcolm out of desperation. John Turturro shows up part way through the film as Jim, Margot’s husband, to remind us that truly good adults do exist, and also to remind us that John Turturro is still a kick ass actor, and to make us wonder why the Coen Brothers didn’t cast him in No Country For Old men since he’s been in most of their movies anyway – I mean, he was Barton Fink in Barton Fink for chrissakes – you would think they could have squeezed him in someplace, maybe a cameo like he has here or something.
With the exception of Jim, the only decent human beings are Claude and his cousin Ingrid. Much like The Squid and the Whale the children are used as proxies by the adults so that they can air out their frustrations and to covertly disseminate damaging secrets without being held accountable. At the end of the film Margot has to make a decision to stay at her son’s side or to leave him behind. I won’t tell you what she decides but at the time I thought it would be better to have them separated.
Unlike The Squid and the Whale the film is more concerned with the adults than the kids so we spend most of the time with characters we cannot relate to and any sort of emotional growth is nonexistent. This is a brave decision when you ask the audience to loath people they’re going to spend two hours with. But why not? There are terrible people in the world and why shouldn’t there be terrible people in movies? Reasons why Margot is so dysfunctional are hinted at but any kind of revealing moment where Margot describes a childhood trauma in detail with “Adagio for Strings” is playing is strictly avoided. Perhaps we could forgive her if the film wasn’t so blatant in its portrayal of Margot’s mental abuse of Claude. I can’t promise everyone will like the film but I can promise it won’t leave your mind quickly.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Ever since the doomed premier at