MCN Columnists
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

Short Cuts

There’s a lot of stuff percolating in the movie world these days, as well as a number of thoughts that have been percolating in my noggin. So, what follows is a series of scattershot thoughts and theories that I’ve been collecting over the past few days:

I know that Obsessed was the number one movie at the box office this past weekend, but I haven’t met a single person who has actually seen it. I’ve asked practically everybody I’ve seen and either nobody is admitting it or nobody has seen it and its number one box office showing is an elaborate hoax perpetrated on me because now I have to see it.

My buddy Jack and I watched The Room for the first time. I say “first time” because I will watch that movie any chance I get from this day forward. I know I’m kind of late to the cult party on this one, but I urge everyone to see this movie, there isn’t a chance you will regret it. The experience of watching the film was so surreal and hilarious that I swear it shifted my perspective on the universe. When I walked around afterwards, everything seemed stranger; the movie had some kind of psychedelic effect on me.Tommy Wiseau is officially our generation’s Ed Wood. For the uninitiated, here’s a taste of what you can expect.

17 Again is not a bad movie, per se, it’s just a profoundly unoriginal one. But the one thing that is abundantly clear from watching it is this: Zac Efron is a star. As much as I might wish he were an untalented little twerp, he’s not and he’s got charisma oozing out of every pore of his chiseled face.

The two things I found most troubling about the film were: 1) outside of her husband Judd Apatow, no director has figured out how to use Leslie Mann. For years I thought she was uninteresting as a performer based on her roles in The Cable Guy and Big Daddy, but Apatow has proven that she’s far too nuanced to be stuck in the “girlfriend” roles and that’s exactly the kind of role she plays in 17 Again. 2) Burr Steers, what happened my man? After his debut film Igby Goes Down, I was convinced that Steers was going to be one of the most interesting filmmakers out there. Igby was such a fresh, exciting, Salinger-esque picture that I was certain everyone involved would go on to great things. It’s disappointing to see that the lead actor Kieran Culkin has been mostly absent from the screen while Steers is stuck directing a picture like this. Please, studio execs, throw some money at Steers, tell him to write a great script and let him do his thing.

Robert Rodriguez is helping to make a new entry in the Predator franchise. I think this would have sounded like the coolest thing ever if I were fifteen. That’s not to say it won’t be an entertaining film or an exciting film, just one that probably would have worked better for me ten years ago. I think that’s the trouble for a lot of film critics – and I am certainly not one of those – when they see films; for a critic to see a film like, say, Wolverine, are they going to be looking at it with the eyes of someone who is genuinely excited by the prospect of that film? Probably not. Most critics will dismiss it and I’ll probably dismiss it because when you see enough films, you usually become a bit more snobbish in your tastes – I know I definitely have. I think the difficult in being a critic is to see a film that is clearly not aimed at you and to try and see it through the eyes of an audience member who would be intrigued by that kind of film. I don’t think I would have liked 17 Again even if I were younger.

I finally caught up with Notorious. No, not the Hitchcock film, the one about Biggie Smalls. I think there’s definitely a good film to be made about the East Coast/West Coast rap wars of the mid-90’s, but this certainly isn’t it. There’s about three times in the film where characters say the following line: “We were gonna change the world, man, with our music.” And then later on a character says, something to the effect of “Nah man, the world changed us.” How lines like this get written, make it through the soul-deadening re-write process, spoken aloud by actors take after take, edited into the film without one person saying, “you know what, that sounds a little trite,” is mind-boggling to me.

The film that I am most excited for this year, hands-down, is Lukas Moodysson’s Mammothwith Michelle Williams and Gael Garcia Bernal. It opened in Sweden in January and I was this close to emptying my bank account to fly to Stockholm for a night just so I could see this new film. And I think anyone who has seen Moodysson’s first three films – Fucking Amal,Together, and Lilya-4-Ever – must feel the same way. He has imbued each of his films with empathy for disparate characters, understanding that sometimes good people do bad things. This guy is clearly one of the most intelligent and talented filmmakers on the planet and it is astounding that this film (which earned fairly good notices in the trades) hasn’t gotten U.S. distribution yet. Please, someone buy this film and let me see it yesterday.

I didn’t see The Informers this past weekend, but the one thing that’s been great about its release is that there are tons of great interviews with Bret Easton Ellis. The man usually just disappears for a couple of years and then he pops up to release a masterpiece and then goes away again. I was so happy to learn that the much-anticipated sequel to his first novel Less Than Zero will be coming out next year with the title Imperial Bedrooms. And it’s been a treat to hear him riff on some of the adaptations of his work, which is already cinematic on the page, yet usually loses something in the translation (I excuse American Psycho which was a hilarious film that ups the satire of the unfilmable novel).

As for The Informers, I’m surprised to hear all the bad reviews because the script (by Ellis and Nicholas Jarecki) was absolutely brilliant – and definitely did have vampires in it. Apparently that script was butchered in the translation to the screen, so despite Ellis’ name all over it, I don’t think this is what he intended. At least Rules of Attraction got it right.

I love reading about the Cannes Film Festival. One day when I’m rich enough, I will treat myself to a yearly trip to the south of France for the duration of the festival. I always enjoy reading about which films are premiering there and which films are in competition. While I’ve resigned myself to being disappointed by the Academy’s picks for Best Picture, the winners of the Palme D’or at Cannes are usually almost always worthwhile films. Recent winners includeThe Class, 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Elephant and L’enfant and older winners include gems like Taxi Driver, Apocalypse Now and The Conversation; in other words, the films that win the Palme D’or are films that would never win Best Picture at the Oscars and I love the festival for that.

This year’s crop includes new films from Tarantino, Resnais, Campion, Almodovar, Noe, Ang Lee and Ken Loach in addition to countless others – including Coppola’s new film Tetro in the Directors Fortnight sidebar. Something about the international flavor of the films in competition appeals to me and I anticipate hearing about each and every one of these films.

One last thing.

I think seeing Bill Hader’s brilliant impression of Jame Gumb on a recent SNL made me question a lot of things about The Silence of the Lambs. First off, Jodie Foster is plain old not good in that film. Her accent is awful and she over-emotes constantly. Secondly, Ted Levine’s performance as Jame Gumb has turned out to be the most memorable thing about that film (“Is she a great big fat person?”). Thirdly, that film is really not that great and it pains me to say that because I always held it in high esteem. In fact, it plays better as an unintentional comedy than as a thriller.

Let’s look at the facts: first off, the scene in which Hannibal Lecter steals someone’s face to get out of prison, how the hell does he manage to splay a man Christ-like in his prison cell? I know he’s a genius, but he’s a fifty-something year-old doctor, not the Incredible Hulk so I don’t know how he got the strength to lift a man that high up in the air.

While we’re at it, who names their kid Hannibal? I imagine Thomas Harris trying to come up with names that rhyme with cannibal (“hmm, let’s see, Shmanibal, Danibal, oh I know…Hannibal!”). I don’t get how Lecter manages to overpower people at all throughout the series of films. He’s riding in the ambulance – and again, he’s a flabby 50-something guy – and he winds killing everyone in there; why doesn’t somebody just punch him in the face? And how does he leave the country, wouldn’t he be the most wanted escaped convict ever? Nobody thinks to send his picture to the authorities at airports? Does the hat and sunglasses really conceal his identity?

And Miggs, oh boy Multiple Miggs. He’s just a precious creature that Hannibal somehow gets to swallow his own tongue. You read that right, Hannibal is apparently not only a genius but a telepath who can convince a person through a concrete wall that they should swallow their own tongue, something that I don’t even think is physically possible.

If you haven’t seen the movie in a while, don’t. Don’t ruin it by seeing it again. But if you have the misfortune of watching it again, I guarantee you will think that Bugsy or JFK was robbed at the Oscars that year.
– Noah Forrest
April 27, 2009

Noah Forrest is a 26-year-old aspiring writer/filmmaker in New York City.

The opinions expressed in these columns are the writers and do not neccessarily 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