MCN Columnists
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest


These are truly the dog days of the film year, with the Oscar hangover having worn off and the summer tentpole projects yet to be unveiled. The biggest things going on in the film world right now include a movie about woolly mammoths and an adaptation of a Dr. Seuss book. In the indie scene, we have Michael Haneke’s shot by shot remake of his own Funny Games and Gus Van Sant’s masterpiece Paranoid Park. So imagine my relief when this week brought a nice deluge of e-mails, which I can now answer in this public space. I think what you guys have to say is interesting as always and I got a good deal of thought-provoking questions this week, so let’s get to ’em.

“i dont understand why u hate Portman so much just because she stated an opinion…ur clearly an obama fan who just hates Portman for endorsing hillary.” – Laura

I got a few e-mails about this, so let’s just nip this in the bud right off the bat. I never said I hated Natalie Portman. In fact, I really admire her as an actress and as an activist and I tried to be fair and balanced when assessing her endorsement of Hillary Clinton. The truth of the matter is, though, that I was wrestling with what the upside is for a celebrity to endorse a politician. It just seems to me that there is a lot more to lose than there is to gain from making a comment like that. I don’t want all celebrities to shut their mouth because it doesn’t really spoil anything for me. I will still eagerly anticipate each of Natalie Portman’s upcoming films; but I can’t help but wonder what was gained with that endorsement. If people are actually going to vote for a candidate based on what Portman says, then she has a lot more sway than I originally would have thought; and to have that kind of sway is dangerous if used incorrectly.

I think celebrities should continue to speak out for the causes that matter to them, but I also think they should give a lot of thought to endorsing politicians. If they are willing to put their necks out on the line for a particular candidate, if they are willing to use their platform to spew forth their opinions, then they must take the heat that comes with that. I suppose one could argue that Portman showed a lot of fortitude in supporting her candidate in a very public way.

I will always support a person’s right to say whatever it is they choose to say. But in this day and age, when the blogosphere is given more and more importance and the bloggers check their facts less and less, things will always be taken out of context and twisted around. So for a celebrity to know that in advance and still choose to speak their mind is some kind of bravery or some kind of stupidity.
“I don’t get why New Line is going out of business. Didn’t they make like a gazillion dollars from the Lord of the Rings movies?” – Jack

I think the Lord of the Rings movies was both the pinnacle of their success and the beginning of their demise. Yes, it brought in a ton of money for the studio, but it also gave them the ego to believe they could compete with the other major studios. So they used all of the money they made from the Rings movies to finance big-budget money-losers like The Golden Compass, The New World, The Nativity Story, The Number 23, Hostage, Son of the Mask, Rendition, Tenacious D, Hoot, and Shoot ‘Em Up. This is not to say these were all bad movies (on the contrary, I loved both Little Children and The New World), but rather bad investments. They figured that stars like Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Jim Carrey andClive Owen would be able to make up for the fact that they didn’t know how to market these films. The films also had production and marketing budgets that fell outside of New Line’s usual gross. Instead of making films for twenty million dollars and hoping to make back forty, they were making films for eighty million dollars and hoping to make back two hundred. Because of their success with the Tolkein adaptations, the bar was raised higher.

Lord of the Rings was a special franchise because it was one with a built-in audience. Millions of people across the world grew up either reading those books or playing some kind of fantasy game with dragons and orcs in it. New Line was the perfect fit because New Line is really a genre studio (not much different from Dimension) and when they try to make films that don’t fit into a genre, it became a hit or miss proposition for them.

For me, New Line will be missed because of the talented that was cultivate there. Paul Thomas Anderson, Peter Jackson, Michael De Luca, Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Chris Tucker, Adam Sandler, Alex Proyas, Gary Ross, Edward Norton, Tony Kaye, John Cameron Mitchell, this list could go on forever, but all of these men and many more owe a little something to New Line Cinema giving them an opportunity.

The name New Line Cinema will continue to go on, of course, as a division of Warner Brothers. But very few of the executives will remain and New Line Cinema was we all know it is pretty much finito. I find it hard, however, to find a whole lot of emotion about the situation. It’s not as if my favorite actor is retiring from the profession. All it means is that a lot of executives are looking for new jobs.
“any thoughts about heath ledger?” – Jessica

The only thought I have is that I’m bummed that I don’t get to see him make more movies. He was a talent for sure and I was excited to see what he had in store for us in the future, but like Nathanael West or Kurt Cobain, we’ll never know what that promise could have ultimately led to. Perhaps he would have been the next Brando but perhaps he wouldn’t have; instead, he’s the next James Dean or River Phoenix: beautiful actors and beautiful people that went too soon.
“How soon until you start badmouthing Body of Lies because Ridley Scott is directing it?” – Robert

Actually, it’s one of my most anticipated films of the year. Any film that stars both Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio has got to pique the interest of most filmgoers. My issue with Ridley Scott is not necessarily that his presence is a minus; rather, I just don’t believe it’s a plus. In other words, I don’t feel that his direction will make the film any worse but I also don’t think it will make it drastically better. I’m confident he will do an adequate job and that those actors will give excellent performances as usual. It also helps that the script was written by William Monhan (The Departed) and that Carice van Houten (Black Book) is co-starring.

The subject matter (CIA, Al-Qaeda, Middle East) is interesting to me as well, even if it isn’t to much of the movie-going public. I think Ridley Scott is perfectly capable of delivering a good, even great film if he surrounds himself with the right parts and the perfect script. But I don’t believe he’s capable of elevating a middling script into something great.

“So what movies do you think will be nominated for an Academy Award this year? Which movies are you most excited for?” – Bob

These are, of course, much different questions. I don’t long for “Oscar” films, just good ones by filmmakers I admire. The film I’m anticipating more than anything this year would probably have to be The Curious Case of Benjamin Button since I’m a huge David Fincher fan. It’s also got a script by Eric Roth, whose script for The Good Shepherd was brilliant and underrated. Oh yeah and it stars Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton. I just don’t see how it could be anything less than brilliant. I would also look for it to get some consideration from the Academy. I’m also looking forward to Synecdoche, New York which is written and directed by Charlie Kaufman and starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Michelle Williams, Catherine Keener, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Samantha Morton, Emily Watsonand Hope Davis (or, as I would say: Philip Seymour Hoffman and every beautiful and eccentric actress on the planet). Also, I’m anxiously awaiting The Brothers Bloom (Rian Johnson’s follow-up to Brick with Mark Ruffalo, Adrien Brody and Rachel Weisz), Milk(Gus Van Sant’s much publicized Harvey Milk biopic) and Fernando Meirelles’ Blindnessstarring Julianne Moore. There are many more, but those are at the top of my list right now.

As for Academy Award films, I would bet my entire life savings on Revolutionary Road being at least nominated. With the pedigree of DiCaprio, Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes, it seems like a can’t miss proposition. Then again, I thought the same thing last year about Charlie Wilson’s War and look at how that turned out. At the very least, my one big hope for this year is that Kate Winslet is justly given an Academy Award. She is perhaps the finest actress working today and has been nominated several times; I think now is the time she is finally awarded a statue for never giving a poor performance.
“ughhhh, I live in a small town in Michigan and we don’t get any of the interesting indie films that you write about from time to time. Instead I’m forced to choose between seeing 10,000 bc, the bank job or semi-pro. Which movie is the least painful to sit through?” – James

First, Jim, to answer your question: The Bank Job is easily the least painful to sit through. In fact, you may even find yourself enjoying it! It’s not exactly The French Connection, but it is certainly a worthwhile diversion and Jason Statham has an interesting quality about him. I’m not quite ready to label him a solid leading man yet, but I definitely won’t write him off either.
Secondly, I think this is the problem with the release patterns these days. Quality films are held off until their designated “season” which is really unfair for all movie fans to have to sit through three or four months out of the year where there is nothing really compelling in the theaters. And with the writer’s strike having killed almost half of an entire TV season, there aren’t many options on your television either besides the always terrific Lost and the wonderful new HBO show In Treatment.

I would suggest watching some older films. This is usually the time of year in which I catch up on classics that I never got around to watching. I’ve spent the majority of this month watching almost every single Eric Rohmer film; in fact, I’ve become quite addicted and have discovered a new (well, maybe not new) filmmaker to add to my favorites. If you’ve never seen the man’sSix Moral Tales or his Comedies and Proverbs series, I would suggest you rent them, especially if you are a fan of dialogue-heavy films about the trials and tribulations of love. If you’re the type of person that thinks Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise and Before Sunsetare masterpieces, then you will fall in love with the films of Eric Rohmer.

I also recently watched Jean Renoir’s The River for the first time, after reading that it was a big influence on Wes Anderson when he made The Darjeeling Limited. The River is another beautiful and brilliant film set in India and I would suggest you spend a night renting the DVD and ordering Indian takeout; it will definitely be a more entertaining and transporting time than you can hope to spend in a theater right now.

– Noah Forrest
March 18, 2008

Noah Forrest is a 24 year old aspiring writer/filmmaker in New York City.

The opinions expressed in these columns are the writer’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Movie City News or any of its editors or other contributors.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon