Friday, May 26, 2006
Todd Haynes to finalize casting on his Bob Dylan bio-drama. One tip, hire anyone but Dylan.
Showbiz trades recently announced the latest casting news regarding Todd Haynes’ forthcoming biopic about Bob Dylan. Cate Blanchett, will join a starry ensemble that includes Christian Bale, Julianne Moore, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams. Blanchett, who just wowed Cannes Film Festival audiences with her role in ‘Babel,’ will portray Dylan at one stage of his life.
The idea of Blanchett playing Dylan sounds tough to swallow until you look back at Haynes’ androgynous characters in his previous rock and roll drama, ‘Velvet Goldmine.’ Haynes can make anything work with the one exception being Dylan himself.
Dylan co-wrote and starred in ‘Masked and Anonymous,’ playing a veteran singer, but not one moment was believable.
At age 65, Dylan still surprises. He reveals welcome wit and friendliness as the host of XM Radio’s Theme Time Radio Hour. His music is as vibrant as ever. Yet, in front of the movie camera, Dylan turns to stone. He’s a challenge Haynes could never solve, even if the role existed at the tip of Dylan’s nose.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
What Makes Marie Antoinette Run?
Random Splices: No cake for Cannes critics who boo 'Marie Antoinette'
Sofia Coppola’s ‘Marie Antoinette’ premiered yesterday at the Cannes Film Festival and all reports emphasize the extreme, negative reaction to the film. Basically, many in the audience booed, earning filmmaker Sofia Coppola’s third effort a harsher reaction than the underwhelming response to ‘The Da Vinci Code.’
The film follows Antoinette’s life after her marriage to France’s King Louis XVI but ends before her beheading at the hands of angry mobs.
Kirsten Dunst, who plays Antoinette, praised Coppola at a festival press conference: “She speaks greatly to women my age.”
What Dunst may be oblivious to is the negative feelings expressed by women her age towards her own work. Young women who grew up watching Dunst’s movies, from ‘Bring It On’ to ‘Elizabethtown,’ have grown fed up with her, which is all very Antoinette.
Whether the Cannes critics attacked Coppola’s film due to their own Dunst breaking points is unclear. Considering that we’re mostly talking about middle-aged men, their points of contention probably lie elsewhere. Maybe their grief is with Jason Schwartzman’s portrayal of King Louis XVI.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
How Dark the Con of JT LeRoy
The most fascinating thing for me regarding the ongoing ticket sales phenomenon of director Ron Howard’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ is how all the attention, both negative and otherwise, continues to boost the film. It doesn’t matter how ludicrous the conspiracies in Dan Brown’s bestselling thriller may be, or the devout belief held by armies of readers in the truths of his story, the moviegoers keep marching to cinemas.
All publicity is good ‘Da Vinci Code’ publicity. Yet, what works well for a Hollywood blockbuster doesn’t always translate for an independent film.
My favorite art movie mess playing select independent cinemas is actress/filmmaker Asia Argento’s adaptation of JT LeRoy’s ‘The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.’ The shock value of drugs, alcohol and prostitution runs through the journey of Sarah (Argento) and her abused son Jeremiah (Jimmy Bennett), a story supposedly based on LeRoy’s own troubled life.
I remember watching Argento introduce the film at the 2004 Toronto Film Festival with LeRoy standing alongside her, clad in his trademark dark glasses and thick mop of long blonde hair.
But none of it, not the sordid life or the premise of a West Virginia truck stop hooker turned author sensation is true. LeRoy is the creation of Laura Albert and Geoffery Knoop, two people who claimed to have met and helped LeRoy. The man I watched onstage was really Savannah Knopp, the half sister of Geoffrey Knoop.
LeRoy is fiction, a hoax even more complete than James Frey’s embellishments for ‘A Million Little Pieces’, and yet, this crazed movie born from lies remains a fringe pleasure. The bad publicity occurred too early, or perhaps, the film and LeRoy are too small for any controversy to really matter.
Gus Van Sant once planned to direct an adaptation of LeRoy’s debut novel Sarah. He still should do it; but make the hoax part of the story. A farce this entertaining should not be wasted. Consider Argento’s wild ride of a movie a taste of things to come.
The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things premiered at the 2004 Cannes and Toronto Film Festivals and recently opened in New York City and Los Angeles. Palm Pictures is slowly releasing it in select theaters across America.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Macho Chiwetel Ejiofor and his ‘Kinky Boots’ role
Footwear is at the heart of the audience-friendly British comedy ‘Kinky Boots’. So it’s unsurprising that every reporter asks acclaimed actor Chiwetel Ejiofor the same question: “What was it like to wear women’s heels?”
In director Julian Jarrold’s upbeat comedy, Ejiofor plays Lola, a burly London drag queen in need of high heels that can support a man’s weight. Lola’s unexpected hero is Charlie Price (Joel Edgeton), a nice guy desperate to save his family’s failing Northampton, England shoe factory.
Capitalizing on the transvestite market turns out to be business genius. It also provides some lessons in tolerance for Price and his factory workers.
Comedy is hard for a dramatic performer like Ejiofor, best known for his role in the British immigration tale ‘Dirty Pretty Things’. Comedy while balancing on high heels is next to impossible.
“It was hard,” Ejiofor says with a wide grin and wink. “It was really hard. But I thought I looked good.”
British audiences know Ejiofor — he goes by the nickname Chiwe, pronounced “Chewy”, for his roles on the lawyer show ‘Trust’ and ‘The Canterbury Tales’. His stage performance Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange earned nominations for the Olivier Awards and London Evening Standard Awards. He’s a nominee for the BAFTA Rising Star Award. Ejiofor, a London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art alum, has already gained a lifetime’s worth of acclaim by age 29.
U.S. audiences recognize his face thanks to roles in the John Singleton crime drama 'Four Brothers' and the sci-fi action movie 'Serenity'.
“You gain a qualified instinct from experience,” he says. “You learn from past decisions. You believe in the projects because you believe in yourself.”
Ejiofor can now add wearing woman’s heels to his list of experiences. Rest assured, he’ll be back, although probably in more sensible shoes.
Kinky Boots made its U.S. premiere at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. Miramax Films is currently releasing it in theaters across America.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Ironic Victory for ‘Da Vinci Code’ Critics
The Monday morning lesson for the army of ‘Da Vinci Code’ protestors is to be careful about what you’re fighting. ‘Da Vinci Code’ critics were worried that the big-budget adaptation of Dan Brown’s bestseller would flame its grand conspiracies about Vatican cover-ups regarding the true domestic life of Jesus Christ. So they mobilized outside theaters and on the Cannes Festival red carpet to persuade people against seeing the movie.
Holding back the ‘Da Vinci Code’ crowds was like holding back the tide. A Sunday release from Sony delivered the news. Director Ron Howard’s ‘The Da Vinci Code’ earned $77 million in U.S. box office and a whopping $224 million in worldwide ticket sales.
‘The Da Vinci Code’ gives new meaning to the industry term Teflon; meaning a film resistant to vicious reviews.
But the upside for ‘Da Vinci Code’ protestors is surprising. Howard’s ‘Da Vinci Code’ is awful enough to keep any moviegoer from accepting its conspiracies as true, revised history.
No more protests are needed. In fact, ‘Da Vinci Code’ protesters need a new plan of attack. They should start buying blocks of tickets and passing them out for free. Their best ally in defrauding the ‘Da Vinci Code’ myth is the film they once targeted. If the protesters get busy, ‘The Da Vinci Code’ will continue to make more money than ever and Sony will have an unexpected ally helping bring people to theaters.
There’s also an upside for those critics (myself included) who have no problems with the film’s conspiracy fictions but take issue with its plodding dullness. Any adult-oriented film that out-earns teen action movies is a good thing for those of us who want more adult-themed stories. God willing, the next adult thriller will be better than ‘Da Vinci Code’.