Posts Tagged ‘Inside Job’

Wilmington on DVD: Inside Job, Senso, TCM Greatest Classic Legends: Jean Harlow & more…

Monday, March 14th, 2011


Inside Job (Four Stars)
U.S.: Charles Ferguson, 2010 (Sony Picture Classics)

Listen, you’ve got to watch Inside Job. And not just because it won the Oscar for best documentary this year.

In this absolute gem of movie reportage and analysis, director/writer Charles Ferguson and producer Audrey Marrs do a splendid job of laying out the reasons for the 2008 American financial crash: of explaining how and why it happened…of revealing who the culprits were, how many of them weren‘t punished and why they should be (the miscreants include both Republicans and Democrats, though the grand empty-headed economic strategies were classic corporate Republican, and still are) …of demonstrating beyond a doubt that we were crazy to let every president and administration from Reagan to George W. Bush, keep progressively deregulating the banks, savings and loans, insurance companies and financial institutions, insanely pulling away every safety net put in place after the Great Depression…of showing how some of these companies became (rigged) gambling casinos run by crooks and scoundrels, some of whom were jamming cocaine up their noses and hiring hookers on their cell phones while lying to and bilking their clients and robbing them blind…of explaining what derivatives are and how they cost a lot of people their life savings and helped nearly send America into a second Great Depression (NOTE: Essentially, derivatives are high-stakes, and — thanks to the government sell-outs we see here — unregulated gambles on practically anything you can think of)…of showing how big time lobbyist money has corrupted the political system … of naming the names of many of the people who did all this or let it happen, and even confronting a few of them on camera (like ex-Bush advisor and now arrogant jerk of a Columbia dean Glenn Hubbard, and ex-Bush Treasury under-secretary David McCormick)…of detailing how watchdog groups like the Securities and Exchange Commission, were gutted and hamstrung…of proving that people like long-time Fed chairman Alan Greenspan should never have gone near an Ayn Rand book, and that he should now perhaps perform public penance and return most of what’s left of the hefty salaries he collected during his over-hyped tenures…and, finally of stripping bare the intellectually and morally bankrupt philosophies and corrupt monkey business of all those greed-crazed creeps who nearly drove us off a financial cliff, some of whom are still around, and who will do it again, if we’re stupid enough to let them.

The bailed-out financial institutions, for example, are still here. Many of them, after the government rescue, proudly awarded their inept top executives huge bonuses for what had to be one of the worst overall job performances in recorded economic history.

And it’s hard to understand why Larry Summers, the Clinton administration cheerleader for much of the nation’s derivatives fiasco (and of another derivatives fiasco at Harvard University when he was President there) is currently the director of the White House National Economic Council, planning perhaps new high finance bungles.

And, of course, the financial reforms we obviously, desperately need, mostly haven’t been made.

As the Summers debacle proves, this was a bipartisan catastrophe. Greed seduced business and government people on all sides, and Republicans and Democrats alike wallowed in the deregulated swamps of gambling and outright thievery. But there were more Republicans involved in it, and it was the Republican Party’s longtime philosophy of “Leave the rich people alone” and “Leave the markets alone” that triggered much of the mess, as well as their worshipful, near-mythological conception of the wealthy as angelic “job-creators,” who deserve all the G.O.P.’s favor and efforts — rather than, say, helping the public employees and the labor unions their bullyboy state governors are now attempting to crush, in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

Matt Damon narrates. Good guy. Always willing to stick his neck out. And Ferguson and Marrs deserve far more than an Oscar for this job.

I’m not going to try to synopsize or even hint any more at all the stuff exposed in Inside Job . You should absolutely see the movie though, and then go on to see and read more, about everything that happened, everything that could happen, all the financial finagling and chicanery of the entire greed-crazed, anything-goes post-Reagan era.

Inside Job is an essential movie. It shows, pretty conclusively I think, why documentaries are such an important cinematic and journalistic form these days. After you see this picture, you won’t be able to say you weren’t informed, won’t be able to see you weren‘t warned. You’ll know, if not the whole story, a big important part of it.

So don’t be a sucker. See it.

Extras: Commentary by Ferguson and Marrs; Featurette; Deleted scenes.


Senso (Two Discs) (Four Stars)
Italy: Luchino Visconti, 1954 (Criterion Collection)

Luchino Visconti, director of the once-neglected masterpiece Senso, was known as the “red count”: and that famous nickname aptly reflects both the split in Visconti’s curious sensibility and strange, voluptuous life. Born Luchino Visconti di Modrone, Count of Lonate Pozzolo and son of the Duke of Grazzano, he was an aristocrat and a Communist, and he was also a homosexual and a major artist of the stage and of film.

He was a Marxist from his World War 2 years on, but though seemingly dedicated to the rise of the working classes, he also yearned for and treasured the elegant Proustian past of wealth and luxury in which he had grown up.

When Visconti shows that world, as he does most richly and lovingly in Senso (1943), and The Leopard (1963), he tends to focus on the fragility and gorgeous intricacy of the civilization and lifestyle that surrounds the aristocrats — and to emphasize the forces, including politics and war, that may shatter it, or drive the central characters away from it. His protagonists — the reckless and passionate Countess Livia Serpieri (Alida Valli) in Senso and the aging, melancholy Count (Burt Lancaster) in The Leopard — are both in a sense, doomed by the approaching future, by the new worlds and people that are beginning to swallow their old world up.

These two characters are quite different, but they are both romantics in milieu that is evolving away from them, and they are both also, in a way, the captives or victims of younger, gorgeous, stunning-looking men and women of the new world (Farley Granger’s Lt. Franz Mahler in Senso, Alain Delon and Claudia Cardinale as the young lovers of The Leopard), some of whom, Granger and Delon, are more cynical or pragmatic underneath. Indeed, Franz Mahler is, to some degree, Livia’s evil angel and we see him that way almost from the beginning — as a slick, handsome young opportunist, amoral and deceptive, bent on exploiting Livia for both her love and her money, the ultimate coward, the ultimate cheat.

The early scenes of their “courtship,” of Franz’s nighttime pursuit of Livia along the walkways and across the bridges of that most romantic of cities, Venice, to which Visconti would return for another great film, 1971‘s Death in Venice, gives way to a Venezia of disillusionment and sensual horror, of blacker night, torchlit execution and inky waters. This dreadful climax is a reflection perhaps of Visconti’s negative view of upper or middle class morality, though in this case it is the aristocrat, Livia, who is exploited by her financially poorer lover Franz, and who betrays a progressive cause for his sake.

Both Senso and The Leopard are set in the 1860s, in the time of the Risorgimento (or the reunification) of Italy, and both show scenes of the battle with the Austrian occupying army — bizarre but memorable battle scenes that focus more on spectacle than on action or bloodshed. Visconti’s camera drifts above the carnage of war, just as he drifts through the scenes of Livia’s rapture and humiliation, never pummeling us with close-ups, but placing his anguished or vicious characters against painterly backdrops that both bewitch us and fill us with unease.

Visconti, like Ingmar Bergman, was a master director of film, of theater and of grand opera, when he made Senso, in 1954, and we can see clearly his brilliance in all three métiers, The scenes of this classic romantic melodrama, powerfully cinematic and painterly, have a richly theatrical or operatic quality too, a lushness of color and (fitting the title) a glowing sensuality.

Senso begins, under the credits, with a performance of Verdi’s Il Trovatore in the Teatro la Fenice, a sequence that Visconti had intended for the newly famous soprano Maria Callas. (A conflict made that impossible.) And the movie is based on a short novel by architect/author Camillo Boito, the older brother of Arrigo Boito, Verdi’s librettist for the great Shakespearean operas Otello and Falstaff.

This highly conscious theatricality and musicality — the background score, recalling Visconti’s potent use of Gustav Mahler in Death in Venice, is from Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony — heightens both the stylization and the emotional grip of Senso, and makes it even more of a departure from his early neo-realist films Ossessione and La Terra Trema. In fact, the film Senso, which Visconti reconceived after seeing Callas, seems as if it could well inspire an opera itself, and it’s a little surprising that it hasn’t — though Tinto Brass (Caligula) remade the movie in 2002.

Just as one mourns the loss of Callas in the opera scenes of Senso, one mourns too the absence of the two actors Visconti wanted for the roles of Livia and Franz: Ingrid Bergman (who turned down his offer, probably because her lover-director Roberto Rossellini, may have objected) and Marlon Brando (who definitely wanted to do it, though he was warned away, during the McCarthy era, because of Visconti’s Communist party membership). A film costarring Bergman and Brando, with a cameo by Callas, would have become an acknowledged classic — even if only a cult classic — far sooner, and we would treasure it more today.

But Alida Valli and Farley Granger are quite good in their roles, and it’s hard to imagine the film now, without them. Brando and Bergman might have brought something earthier and more human to the movie, and one would have loved to see them act together, especially in a film this beautiful. But Granger and Valli actually may be more of a right physical match for their parts, and, as a crucial part of two other film masterpieces, Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (Granger) and Greene and Reed‘s The Third Man (Valli), they certainly shouldn’t be seen as a compromise, just because we’d love to have seen Bando and Bergman. Valli and Granger fit their roles in Senso. Her face, as Livia, is a mask of beauty and anguish; his, as Franz, is a mask of supercilious seduction and vanity.

Senso reeals Visconti’s strengths, and contradictions, to the maximum. A Marxist, supposedly a political soldier in the army that was (at least philosophically) storming the palaces of the aristocracy, the “red count” was also obsessively dedicated to preserving those palaces on film, and recording faithfully and deeply the lives they contained.

This is not just a Freudian twitch or a Marxian glitch. It is the essence of his art and of his style, which, unlike the ultra-romantic style of the seemingly similar but much warmer and more humane Max Ophuls (Lola Montes, The Earrings of Madame de…), is passionate and edgy, nervous and exquisite, fixated on the aristocratic world and also on the forces tearing it apart. Senso is a classic period love story without sentimentality (some would argue without real love, but only ossessione), but not without sentiment. It’s a lyrical, sensual, very dark poem about a world in turmoil and a heart in torment, a visual aria that we never should have forgotten.

Extras: Disc One: Digital restoration by the Film Foundation/Cineteca di Bologna, under the supervision of Martin Scorsese and the film‘s cinematographer Giuseppe di Rotunno; Documentary The Making of ‘Senso‘ with Rotunno, assistant director Francesco Rosi, costume designer Piero Tosi and screenwriter Susi Cecchi d’Amico’s daughter Caterina; Visual essay by Peter Cowie.

Disc Two: The Wanton Contessa (Three Stars), the English language version of Senso,” with Granger and Valli’s original English language dialogues and other English-dubbed scenes, written by Tennessee Williams and Paul Bowles; Documentaries “Viva Verdi” and “Man of Three Worlds: Luchino Visconti.”

Booklet with essay by Mark Rappaport and excerpt from Farley Granger’s autobiography Include Me Out.


TCM Greatest Classic Legends: Jean Harlow (Three and a Half Stars)
U.S.: Various directors, 1933-36 (TCM/Warners)

Jean Harlow may have been the first of the movie blonde bombshells, but her sharp, saucy screen persona was quite a ways removed from that of her sublime successor, Marilyn Monroe.

Brassier and earthier than Monroe, Harlow was a bouncy sexpot who knew what she wanted and knew how to get it: a streetwise babe who lived in the real world and knew how to manipulate it to her advantage. Harlow, like Monroe, had a baby talk mode, but it was more clearly a put-on. Marilyn, or at least her screen persona, often seemed more like a little girl in a woman’s body, a blonde baby doll who never quite grew up, and often lived in a world all her own.

Harlow had a caustic sense of humor and a brazen sexuality that promised fun and orgasms in equal measure. Marilyn obviously knew her way around a bed (“Happy Birthday, Mr. President“), but she sometimes acted as if she didn’t, as if her little girl pose was no pose. Harlow’s juvenile antics, her “Daddy‘s girl“ banter with sugar daddies like beefy Wallace Beery, let the audience firmly in on the joke.

When Monroe undressed, she seemed to be in another costume, maybe her true costume. Harlow, Red Dust-style bath scenes excepted, had to keep her clothes on. Most of her movies came during the early Production Code years, and, though a super-cheesecake shot showed up in Hollywood Babylon, she haqd no nude calendar. But Harlow’s bosom and derriere poked at her clothes in ways that un-depressed Depression-era males in a hurry. Marilyn on screen, in some ways, was always a fantasy. Harlow on screen is usually real. Very real.

Something else: Harlow was a damned good actress, a first-rate comedienne, still a bit underrated. In the movies in this TCM “Greatest Classics Legends” box, she holds her own with the elite of MGM’s ‘30s studio acting royalty — with the Barrymores (John and Lionel), and with Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Rosalind Russell, and classy supporting players like Billie Burke, May Robson and C. Aubrey Smith, and even with the young Jimmy Stewart.

Holds her own? She‘s a star, even in a roomful of stars. I’ve often thought that playwright Garson Kanin may have gotten the idea for Born Yesterday while watching Harlow and Beery here — and Harlow, though not as good as Judy Holliday, had the stuff to be a damned fine Billie Dawn.

A great Harlow moment in this set: Walking in for dinner in the last scene of Dinner at Eight,“ the 1933 George Cukor-Algonquin Club masterpiece — strolling along with Marie Dressler, at her grande dame-iest, who is playing old-time diva actress Carlotta Vance — Harlow muses, in a thoughtfully brassy way, “I was reading a book yesterday…” (A take from Marie: “Reading a book?”) “Yes, it’s all about civilization or something: a nutty kind of a book. You know, the guy said that machinery is going to take the place of every profession! ” “Oh, my dear,” Marie insists, taking one expensive Harlow arm in hers, “That’s something you need never worry about!” Classic moment– for both of them.

Includes: Dinner at Eight (U. S.: George Cukor, 1933) Four Stars. Another MGM all-star special, and in some ways, a better movie than Grand Hotel: wittier, more knowing, with a deeper, stronger cast, and more beautifully directed, by Cukor. David Selznick was the producer, and the source was the classic hit Broadway play by Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman, with the screenplay and additional dialogue from two more of their occasional Algonquin Club mates, Herman Mankiewicz and Donald Ogden Stewart, plus another Hollywood legend Frances Marion.

The play is classic. The script is brilliant. The direction and production are impeccable. The stellar cast, one of the all-time great Hollywood ensembles, includes Lionel Barrymore and Billie Burke as the beleaguered shipbuilder Oliver Jordan and his fluttery society wife, who’s holding a society dinner (at eight) for the British aristocrats Lord and Lady Ferncliffe.

On her guest list: washed-up alcoholic Hollywood actor Larry Renault (John Barrymore, in an astounding piece of self-revelation and a classic of the actor‘s art), who’s romancing their twentyish daughter Paula (Madge Evans), voracious bullyboy business shark Dan Packard (Wallace Beery) and his feisty platinum blonde trophy wife Kitty (Harlow, in one of her best roles), smooth society doctor (and Kitty’s lover) Wayne Talbot (Edmund Lowe) and his tolerant wife (Karen Morley), Paula’s hapless society beau (Phillips Holmes) and Milly’s relatives and regular pinch hit guests (Louise Closser Hale and Grant Mitchell.)

The rest of the cast includes fast-talking Lee Tracy (as Renault’s agent), Jean Hersholt and May Robson. It couldn’t be bettered. And neither could the movie, which, in some ways, is less another Grand Hotel, and more in the line of Jean Renoir’s great ensemble comedy-drama The Rules of the Game.” Not as good, of course. Nothing is.

Libeled Lady (U.S.: Jack Conway, 1935) Three and a Half Stars. Classic screwball comedy about reckless journalism, society scandals and trumped-up romance. Spencer Tracy is the hardcase newspaper editor being sued for libel (he‘s guilty), Myrna Loy is the society gal suing him, Walter Connolly is her rich but nice father, William Powell is the newsman Casanova trying to get the goods on Myrna, and Harlow is Tracy’s long-suffering often-at-the-altar-but-always-left fiancé, who marries Powell (Harlow’s real-life inamorata) as part of the plot.

This one is a little overrated, but you can‘t beat that cast. And there’s a terrific fishing scene, with amateur Powell trying to pretend he’s a trout-loving sportsman while surreptitiously using an angler’s manual, that I’ll bet partly inspired Howard Hawks’ Man’s Favorite Sport?

China Seas (U.S.: Tay Garnett, 1935) Three Stars. Another MGM all-star special, this time set on shipboard in the China Seas, on a boat plagued by piracy and romantic rivalry — with a quadrangle that embraces brash hero captain Clark Gable, shady lady songbird Harlow (in an archetypal role), British flower Rosalind Russell and sneaky crook and Harlow admirer Beery. The supporting cast includes C. Aubrey Smith, Robert Benchley, Hattie McDaniel, and MGM monument Lewis Stone, as a kind of Lord Jim. Rough and zesty, and not as good as director Garnett’s other ‘30s shipboard classic, One Way Passage, this one lacks the high gloss of some MGM’s ensemble specials, and the story is sometimes silly. But, like Gable and Harlow, it gets the job done.

Wife Vs. Secretary (U.S.: Clarence Brown, 1936). Magazine mogul Gable, who has a perfect marriage to super wife Loy, begins to notice the charms of his versatile secretary Harlow, whose boyfriend Jimmy Stewart gets sullen and jealous. Not a screwball comedy, this class-crossing romantic drama is directed with polish and intelligence by the underrated Clarence Brown, and the movie is a bit underrated too. It’s also an off type role, a noble working girl, by Harlow, and one of her subtlest, most realistic performances.

Extras: Documentary “Harlow: the Blonde Bombshell”; Vintage comedy, musical, Fitzpatrick Traveltalk and Crime Does Not Pay shorts; MGM radio promo; Trailers.


The Next Three Days (Two and a Half Stars)
U. S.: Paul Haggis, 2010 (Lionsgate)

Paul Haggis’ new movie is a romantic thriller about love that goes past all boundaries, past all reason, a love that makes a man (Russell Crowe, in fact) want to move Heaven and Earth to rescue his beloved. I’m all in favor of that. But The Next Three Days, I’m sorry, made no sense to me — even though I’ll give it some points for being so well-acted (by Crowe, Liam Neeson, Elizabeth Banks, Daniel Stern and others), and fairly well-written and directed by Haggis, screenwriter of Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby and of his own Crash.
Check this out though: Crowe is playing a pudgy, undershaven teacher named John Brennan, whose beautiful wife Lara (Banks), is convicted of murder, after she’s seen driving away from a parking lot that‘s also a murder site, with the dead woman‘s blood on her coat. If I were a jury member, I wouldn’t have necessarily bought that kind of evidence — but then, Henry Fonda’s Juror No. 8, in Twelve Angry Men, is one of my heroes.

But this jury does buy it. Then, even though he’s convinced of his wife’s innocence, John gets derailed by the bad luck in court and a few discouraging words from lawyer Daniel Stern, and decides not to keep appealing but to break Lara out of jail instead. He‘s inspired by the wisdom of successful jailbreak artist/author Damon Pennington (Neeson, who‘s one of my heroes). I don’t buy this either, maybe because I would never hire Daniel Stern as my lawyer (I remember too well what his buddy Mickey Rourke did with that popcorn box in Diner), and also maybe because Hilary Swank, as Betty Anne Waters in Conviction, is also one of my new heroes.
What’s next?

Only a jailbreak plot that might tax the cunning, timing and stamina of Daniel Craig’s James Bond (one of our heroes), but that looks like duck soup for an out-of-shape, academic, seemingly emotionally distraught Russell Crowe, who, on the day of the break, also has to get his kid back from a birthday party and then, after the spring, make a plane. Most of us, me especially, would have trouble enough just making the plane. I guess that’s why Russell Crowe is one of my heroes.

But I didn’t buy all of that either. So what went wrong? Well, this isn’t a true life story, like Conviction, nor a courtroom drama inspired by life like 12 Angry Men, nor a cleverly crafted, humanistic American ensemble piece, like Haggis‘ Crash. The Next Three Days” was adapted from a French movie called Pour Elle, which was directed and co-written by Fred Cavaye. Now, I might buy all this in a French movie, even by a director named Fred, especially if Gerard Depardieu (one of my heroes) or Daniel Auteuil — or Pour Elle’s actual star Vincent Lindon — played John (or Jean). But that’s because the French are famous for film noir and l’amour fou and for turning crazy melodrama into art and then writing long impenetrable essays about it. They’re good at that stuff.

So what do you want? Many thrillers insult our intelligence, play havoc with our sense of reality. This one, at least, doesn’t insult us. It looks good, sounds good and plays good. (Brian Dennehy and Helen Carey, under-used, are John’s parents, and what jail could possibly hold the Liam Neeson who tore Paris apart in Taken ?)

Maybe I just couldn’t make any sense of it, because my conscious “l’amour fou“ days date back to Pierrot le Fou. The Next Three Days, incidentally, is dedicated, effusively, to Damon Pennington, who I guess is a real person, unlike John. If I ever have to break anyone out of jail, I’ll give Damon a call, because he obviously knows his stuff — and also, because I‘m probably in worse shape than Brennan.

By the way, I would like to apologize, effusively, to Daniel Stern, for making a snotty crack about Diner and its various I Vitelloni style gags. And for, earlier on, getting him confused with Mickey Rourke. I realize it was all Barry Levinson’s doing, and that Stern and Rourke and Kevin Bacon were just following orders, and I‘m sure these days all of them (and maybe Steve Guttenberg too) only eat gourmet popcorn with escargot snacks, washed down with French Champagne, while watching Cesar-winning French movies and classic American film noirs. Besides, Daniel Stern is one of my heroes.
Extras: Featurettes; Deleted scenes; Extended scenes; Bump key video.

Dhobi Ghat (Three Stars)
India: Kiran Rao, 2010 (UTV Motion Pictures)

This polished and very good-looking romantic drama (also called Mumbai Diaries) follows four people around modern Mumbai (or Bombay): semi-abstract painter Arun (the big Indian movie star Amir Khan), pretty investment banker Shai (Monica Dogri), handsome young washer man (or “dhobi”) Munna (Prateik), and Mumbai newcomer and amateur video camera bug Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra), a young woman from the provinces.

It’s a roundelay of sorts. Bubbly Shai and shy Arun meet at a gallery showing of his works. They sleep together, split, and then Munna (who does the wash for both), falls in love with Shai. There’s also some drugs and crime erupting out of Munna’s lower class world, and a touching ending.

“Dhobi Ghat” is the feature debut of writer-director Kiran Rao, who is married to the producer, Aamir Khan. It’s a sympathetic attempt to tell a realistic story which crosses class boundaries, but I’d have to say, speaking as a guy with lower class origins, I found it somewhat condescending, despite itself, toward the dhobi, whose hold on our sympathies seems to stem mostly from his shy puppy dog manner and movie star handsomeness.

But it’s a well-done, pretty, good-hearted film. The fine, wistful score is by Gustavo Santaololla (Inarritu’s composer), and Arun’s paintings were done by Ravi Mandlik and Sukanya Ghosh. They’re not bad.

A Woman, A Gun, and a Noodle Shop (Three and a Half Stars)
China: Zhang Yimou, 2009 (Sony Pictures Classics)

Zhang Yimou tries his exert hand at a lively combination of period romance, dark comedy and neo-noir thriller, inspired by the Coen Brothers’ debut movie Blood Simple (1984). Here, as they did in “Simple,“ a wife’s infidelity and her husband’s rage (there in a Texas bar, here in an isolated mountain area noodle shop) trigger a storm of murder, robbery and pathological derangements. (The Coens’ corrupt private eye, played unforgettably by M. Emmett Walsh, here becomes a corrupt swordsman)

“Noodle Shop” has some of Blood Simple’s comedy, somewhat broadened, but it has even more of the mood and look of early Zhang romantic melodramas, like 1988‘s Red Sorghum and 1990‘s Ju Dou. And, as you’d expect, it’s been stunningly designed, directed and shot, by one of the great pictorialists of contemporary international cinema. With Sun Honglei, Xiao Shenyang and Yan Ni. (In Mandarin Chinese, with English subtitles.)

Extras: Featurettes.

Off Limits (Two Stars)
U.S.: George Marshall, 1953 (Olive)

Bob Hope and Mickey Rooney are both somewhat wasted in this bouncy but uninspired service comedy, in which Bob is a famous fight trainer and Mickey an aspiring boxer, and both of them are also in the Military Police. Marshall keeps it moving, and he gets to stage a loony barroom brawl. (Marshall was at the helm for one of the all-time classic donnybrooks in the 1939 “Destry Rides Again.”)

Nothing happens that you haven’t already guessed, or probably that you especially want to see. Hope and Rooney are good, as usual, though the old ski-nose is much better playing an inept Lothario than a successful one, as he does here, and Rooney’s talent is colossally wasted. Marilyn Maxwell, Hope’s house blonde, plays Rooney‘s sexy aunt, and Jack Dempsey, hyperbolic Eddie Mayehoff, Marvin Miller and Carolyn Jones are also around. No extras.


Bill Moyers “Genesis: A Living Conversation” (Four Discs) (Three Stars)
U.S.: Catherine Tatge, 1996 (Athena)

More good, smart and sometimes eloquent conversations between Moyers and his illustrious guests, here examining the Bible and its tales, influence and import, in ten PBS episodes. The subjects include Creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Flood, Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, and the participants in the group discussions include writers John Barth, Elizabeth Swados, Mary Gordon, Oscar Hijuelos, Barati Mukherjee and Faye Kellerman and theologians Burton L. Visotzky, Jean-Pierre M. Ruiz, Lewis B. Smedes and Dianne Bergant.

Extras: Viewers’ guide booklet, with introduction by Moyers, background and essays.

Gurus o’ Gold – What Would The Oscars Look Like As Of Today?

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

There still may be some changes. Just adding in the last few late votes, for instance, pushed Melissa Leo back into the top Gurus slot in Supporting Actress.

But if The Gurus are right, just 3 days before balloting closes, the scoresheet the next morning will look like this…

The King’s Speech – 4 Oscars – Picture, Actor, Original Screenplay, Score
Inception – 4 Oscars – Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, Art Direction
The Social Network – 3 Oscars – Director, Adapted Screenplay, Editing
The Fighter – 2 Oscars – Supp Actor, Supp Actress
Toy Story 3 – 2 Oscars- Song, Animated Feature

And getting 1 Oscar each….

Black Swan – Actress
Inside Job – Documentary
In A Better World – Foreign Language
The Wolfman – Make-Up
Day & Night – Animated Short
Wish 143 – Live Action Short
Alice In Wonderland – Costume
True Grit – Cinematography

And with half an Oscar each (the Gurus have them tied for the lead)…

Strangers No More/The Warriors of Qiuang – Short Doc

I’d Like to Thank the Academy …

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

… for announcing its nominations at such a ridiculously early hour during Sundance every year. Everyone in the business who’s already hitting their exhaustion point at the fest really appreciates getting to wake super early so we can hear nominations that rarely offer any huge surprises. But we’ll see.

… Okay, there were a few surprises, pleasant and otherwise:

I’m happy to see Dogtooth get a nomination for Best Foreign; we’ve been talking about that film since Toronto 2009, so it’s nice to see it get some love. But I’ll be rooting for my #1 film of the year, Biutiful, to win the category.

Speaking of Biutiful, how great is it that Javier Bardem got that well-deserved Best Actor nomination? In a perfect world, he would win it, but all things being what they are in Hollywood, you can give the performance of your career as he does here and still be the underdog.

No Ryan Gosling, though, which is too bad. Not sure which Best Actor nominee I would have bumped to make room for him. Bridges, maybe.

And also good to see John Hawkes get the Supporting Actor nom for Winter’s Bone. He’s my pick to win it. Fingers crossed.

On the chick side of things, I’m not unhappy to see any of the actresses who were nominated for Best Actress. It would be easy to get excited about the nominees all being from films with small budgets. Not that there’s anyone from a bigger film I would have liked to have seen nominated, but still.

As for the Supporting Actress noms, nothing shocking there, though it’s probably Hailee Steinfeld’s to lose. Here’s hoping her career survives the dreaded “child nominee” backlash, and that she has someone smart guiding her script choices post-True Grit.

Aronofsky and the Coens got well-deserved director nods. I wish Debra Granik’s name was on that list as well, but at least they tossed her a bone for screenplay. And what? No Christopher Nolan?

Nothing terribly shocking in the docs nominations. Once Exit Through the Gift Shop made the short list, it seemed likely to make the final cut. I hope it wins. And I guess I am going to have to get off my ass and force myself to watch Restrepo.

Good for The Illusionist for at least getting a nomination … maybe that will interest more parents in watching it with their kids. Okay, probably not, but a girl can dare to dream. If it actually beat out Toy Story 3 that would be probably the biggest shocker of the Oscars this year, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for that to happen.

And yay for the Roadside Attractions team for scoring noms for two films, Winter’s Bone and Biutiful. It’s been interesting to watch as Roadside has stepped up into the awards game with some smart acquisitions. Nice guys all around, and I’m happy for them almost as much as for the films, both of which I loved.

Okay, thanks Academy. Back to Sundance.

DGA Docs Noms: Solid … If a Bit Predictable

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

The DGA announced nominees for Documentary this morning. Nothing terribly surprising about the noms, other than the absence of Exit Through the Gift Shop. Wonder if there’s the feeling that Banksy isn’t a “real” director, or some lingering feeling that the film is a hoax? I can’t really argue against any of the directors who were nominated, though:

Last Train Home

Inside Job

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer

Waiting for “Superman”


Looks pretty much like a take on how the final Oscar nominees for doc could turn out. The most interesting thing to me is the presence of both Alex Gibney and Charles Ferguson on the list. Gibney mentored Ferguson through his first doc, the very excellent No End in Sight, and it showed. Now Ferguson hits it out of the park again in a year when Gibney has two docs — Client 9 and Casino Jack and the United States of Money — that could have conceivably been nominated.

I still haven’t seen Last Train Home, which is leading the pack for next week’s Cinema Eye Awards, or Restrepo. The latter, at least, is in my screener box at home and I suppose I should force myself to finally watch it. I know, I know. It’s a great movie. I hear you. I’m just so worn out by war movies, I haven’t had it in me to watch it. But I will.

I would have liked to have seen a little love for Thomas Burstyn, who directed This Way of Life, which is still one of my favorite docs of the year (it has the third slot on my Top Ten Docs list this year). But this isn’t a bad list, overall.

Director’s Guild 2010 Awards

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Awards for Outstanding Directorial Achievement 
For the Year 2010

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film
Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech

Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary
Charles Ferguson, Inside Job



Nominees for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film for the year 2010

Black Swan

The Social Network

The King’s Speech


The Fighter


Nominees for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentaries for the year 2010


Last Train Home

Inside Job

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer

Waiting for “Superman”


Top 10 Documentaries of 2010

Friday, December 31st, 2010

I had kind of a bad year for documentaries, which is too bad because I love docs. Maybe it’s partly because I missed Sundance, or because docs can be hit and miss and I just happened to fall on the wrong side of that equation this year. Whatever the case, I managed somehow to miss quite a few docs I should have seen.

I’ve done my best to catch up with those I’ve missed for which I have screeners, but even so there are some notable films this year that slipped through the cracks for me, so this top ten list should be taken with the big grain of salt that it very well would have looked completely different if I’d seen the following films (listed in alphabetical order):

The Oath
Waiting for “Superman”

There’s also the dicey issue of when a film should be considered eligible for an end-of-year top ten — the year you see it? Or the year it finally gets a release? Whatever the case, there seems to be some complex alignment of stars, planets, and the footprints of baby polar bears that determines when a documentary is eligible for year end consideration, and this seems to me to be more frequently an issue with docs than narratives.

So, I saw Winnebago Man at Cinevegas in 2009, but although it wasn’t released in the US until this year, All These Wonderful Things, my go-to site for all things doc, lists it for 2009. On the other hand, I saw fest darling The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls at TIFF in 2009, and I saw it on some top tens last year, but it was nominated for an IDA award this year and All These Wonderful Things lists it for this year.

And the Harry Nilsson doc … sheesh. I reviewed that film for Cinematical at the Seattle International Film Festival in — no kidding — 2006. But rights issues over Nilsson’s songs kept the film in limbo until now.

Here are my own completely arbitrary rules for when a film is eligible for end-of-year consideration:

1. I saw it this year at a film festival, or
2. It had a theatrical release, or
3. It was nominated for an award by an organization broadly recognized as having some authority or weight (yes, okay, I guess the Golden Globes count for this purpose),
4. All These Wonderful Things lists it for this calendar year,
5. It’s a “critically acclaimed” film being buzzed about and generally considered by people other than me to be eligble for this year.

These rules are completely arbitrary, not to mention subject to interpretation and prone to starting arguments over drinks at the bar at the Yarrow Hotel midway through Sundance. Nonetheless, they are what they are. For the docs, I poured through several different lists of 2010 documentaries to try to capture as many docs as I’ve seen that are considered eligible for 2010. Maybe I included some you wouldn’t have, maybe I failed to include something you think I should have. Let me know in the comments.

There are a couple of docs that did not make the list, to which I want to give special mention. Oscar-shortlisted doc The Lottery, a well-told tale of four kids whose parents are pinning their hopes on their names being drawn for admission to a charter school in Harlem, just barely missed making the cut. Dancing Across Borders, which I first saw at SIFF a couple years ago, is a great example of a documentary evolving naturally out of real life: a woman takes a trip to Cambodia, sees a young boy performing as a street dancer, and is entranced by his talent. She eventually sponsors him to come to the United States to train with the New York School of Ballet; after years of hard work catching up, he lands a company position with Pacific Northwest Ballet, where he becomes one of their star dancers. It’s an uplifting film, and not a bad effort documenting the whole thing by first-time director Anne Bass, the woman who sponsored him.

Passione, which I caught at TIFF this year, is an unusual doc that weaves storytelling and music to tell the story of the importance of music to the culture of Naples, with the always entertaining John Turturro as our guide. And I have to give a shout-out to Song Sung Blue, an underseen and underappreciated doc I caught at Ebertfest, which tells the touching story of a Neil Diamond impersonator named Lightning and his singing partner and wife, Thunder; this was the most surprisingly good doc I saw this year, and it will be available in February through the film’s official website. It’s well worth checking out.

I don’t know if it’s just the way it worked out, or if I was just more drawn this year to docs that entertain as well as inform, and less drawn to “serious” documentaries, but my Top Ten docs for 2010 very much favored films that were about a diverse range of very entertaining subjects. None of them are about the war — and I feel a bit guilty for not including Armadillo or Restrepo, but I’m so tired of war docs right now. Two “serious subject” films made the cut, but the other eight span the gamut from street art to soul music, from a foul-mouthed RV salesman to an obsessed beauty queen. I think you’ll find all of them entertaining in one way or another, if you see them for yourself. Here they are:

1. Exit Through the Gift Shop

By far my favorite doc of the year, and something would have gotten bumped off my top ten overall if I’d caught it sooner. Crazy story, crazy style, but it works. You can read my recent write-up of this one right here.

2. Inside Job

Charles Ferguson is, along with Alex Gibney, one of the smartest “issue” documentary filmmakers working today. He worked with Gibney on his first doc, the Oscar-nommed No End in Sight, and like Gibney, he excels at breaking down the complex and making it clear. Inside Job is on the Oscar short list this year, and I think it’s very likely Ferguson will end up two-for-two with the Oscar noms for his first two films. Not bad.

3. This Way of Life

My favorite doc from SIFF this year, this beautiful film is about an unusual family in New Zealand fighting to maintain the free way of life in which they’ve chosen to raise their children.

4. Thunder Soul

The heartfelt story of the unlikely success of an inner city high school jazz band in the ’70s, and the reunion of its members to honor the band director, whose passion for music and belief in them shaped their lives

5. Winnebago Man

Meet Jack Rebney, whose foul mouth of astonishing proportions made him a legend when video footage of him cursing and stomping his way through a shoot of an RV infomercial. Winnebago Man, though, takes a surprising turn when the filmmaker and Rebney, who’s become a recluse, develop an unusual friendship.

6. The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls

It’s not every year that two docs with New Zealand subjects end up on my top ten list, but I had to make room for The Topp Twins, who are, perhaps, the world’s only yodeling lesbian musicians.

7. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work

Surprisingly good documentary about the acid-tongued comic legend.

8. Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer

The second of the serious docs to make the cut this year, Alex Gibney’s searing look at the politics behind Eliot Spitzer’s fall from grace is chilling.

9. Tabloid

Errol Morris expertly weaves together the oddly compelling tale of a former beauty queen who was charged with abducting and imprisoning the young Mormon missionary she was obsessed/in love with. Not only that, but there are also cloned dogs. Reminded me a bit of 2007’s Crazy Love, which I guess makes me a sucker for stories about nutty people.

10. Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?)

Even if you don’t know who Harry Nilsson is, you’ll still enjoy this lovely tribute to the legendary musician. If you’re already a fan, you’ll enjoy getting to know more about his life. Lots of little-seen footage, plus strikingly sad/engaging interviews with Nilsson’s abandoned son from his first marriage and the children he had later in life, when he was ready to be a dad.

Weekend Box Office Report — November 28

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Tangled Up in Blues … and Reds

A quartet of new releases for Thanksgiving failed to topple Harry Potter from the top of the charts during the gobble, gobble fest. The first part of the Potter finale — Deathly Hallows — grossed an estimated $51.2 million for the weekend portion of the holiday frame. Just a cluck behind was the animated Rapunzel of Tangled with $49.2 million ($69.1 million for the 5-days).

The other three wide release freshmen clustered in positions five to seven with indifferent results. The glitzy musical Burlesque crooned $11.4 million, rom-com Love and Other Drugs ingested $9.6 million and Faster added a tortoise-paced $8.2 million.

The big noise of the session proved to be the well positioned awards contender The King’s Speech that amassed a heady $86,000 screen average from just four venues. There was also an impressive $610,000 for local hockey comedy Lance et compte in Quebec, but a dull $212,000 for Bollywood entry Break Ke Baad. And a new seasonal Nutcracker in 3D was virtually D.O.A. with a $62,700 tally from 42 screens.

Adding it all up, Thanksgiving box office was a smidgen less than last year’s result.

Industry trackers generally predicted that Deathly Hallows would prevail at the box office but few anticipated that Tangled would be truly competitive with the Hogwart’s grad. They also generally over estimated the strengths of the remaining trio of new entries; especially Faster, which was given the edge over Love and Other Drugs.

Overall weekend numbers added up to roughly $187 million that translated into a 6% decline from the immediate prior session. It was also a slight 1% decline from Thanksgiving weekend 2009 when The Twilight Saga: New Moon and The Blind Side led with respectively $42.9 million and $40.1 million. The top new entry, Old Dogs, ranked fourth with $16.9 million.

The current session also saw expansions for 127 Hours and Fair Game that were encouraging but nonetheless displayed signs of fatigue. Still with critics groups just weeks away from announcements both films could well experience second winds. The potent arrival of The King’s Speech however has put that film in the forefront and its now vying with a real royal wedding as well as a smattering of pictures yet to be seen for late year honors.


Weekend Estimates – November 26-28, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hollows, Part 1* WB 51.2 (12,420) -59% 4125 221.2
Tangled BV 49.2 (13,660) NEW 3603 69.1
Megamind Par 12.9 (3,770) -20% 3411 130.5
Unstoppable Fox 11.7 (3,670) -10% 3183 60.6
Burlesque Sony 11.4 (3,740) NEW 3037 16.8
Love and Other Drugs Fox 9.6 (3,920) NEW 2455 13.8
Faster CBS 8.2 (3,360) NEW 2451 11.8
Due Date WB 7.2 (2,830) -19% 2555 84.9
The Next Three Days Lionsgate 4.8 (1,860) -27% 2564 14.5
Morning Glory Par 4.0 (1,630) -24% 2441 26.4
127 Hours Searchlight 1.7 (5,900) 89% 293 4.4
Fair Game Summit 1.6 (3,960) 8% 396 6
For Colored Girls … Lionsgate 1.4 (2,360) -38% 605 36.6
Red Summit 1.4 (1,540) -43% 914 86.2
Skyline Uni/Alliance 1.1 (900) -70% 1189 20.1
The Social Network Sony .73 (2,510) -22% 291 90.4
Secretariat BV .66 (1.310) -32% 502 57.6
Lance et compte Seville .61 (6,930) NEW 88 0.61
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest Music Box/Alliance .36 (1,970) -10% 184 4.2
Despicable Me Uni .35 (1,320) 31% 266 249.7
The King’s Speech Weinstein Co. .34 (86,030) NEW 4 0.34
Inside Job Sony Classics .31 (2,330) -9% 132 2.6
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $179.40
% Change (Last Year) -1%
% Change (Last Week) -6%
Also debuting/expanding
Break Ke Baad Reliance .21 (2,500) 85 0.33
Nutcracker 3D FreeStyle 62,700 (1,490) 42 0.09
Made in Dagenham Sony Classics 62.500 (5,680) 64% 11 0.12
The Legend of Pale Male Balcony 11,400 (11,400) 1 0.01
The Unjust CJ 7,200 (7,200) 1 0.01
Tere Ishq Nachaye Eros 4,200 (200) 21 0.01

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Nov. 21, 2010)

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (27) 1674.1 17.80%
Paramount (18) 1578.1 16.70%
Fox (17) 1333.8 14.10%
Buena Vista (15) 1174.6 12.50%
Sony (23) 1161.6 12.30%
Universal (18) 793.9 8.40%
Summit (11) 512.7 5.40%
Lionsgate (15) 500.4 5.30%
Overture (7) 81.8 0.90%
Fox Searchlight (7) 81.4 0.90%
Focus (7) 75.2 0.80%
Weinstein Co. (7) 62.6 0.70%
Sony Classics (21) 57.8 0.60%
MGM (1) 51.2 0.50%
CBS (2) 50 0.50%
Other * (296) 242.7 2.60%
9431.9 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Limited Releases * (Jan. 1 – Nov. 21, 2010)

Title Distributor Gross
Hubble 3D WB 18,355,494
The Ghost Writer Summit 15,569,712
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Music Box/Alliance 11,282,938
The Young Victoria * Apparition/Alliance 11,131,232
Get Low Sony Classics 9,080,285
A Single Man * Weinstein Co. 7,935,872
The Girl Who Played with Fire Music Box/Alliance 7,837,823
Cyrus Fox Searchlight 7,461,082
Babies Focus 7,444,272
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnasus * E1/Sony Classics 7,394,171
City Island Anchor Bay 6,671,036
The Last Station Sony Classics 6,617,867
The Secret in Their Eyes Sony Classics 6,391,436
It’s Kind of a Funny Story Focus 6,350,058
Winter’s Bone Roadside Attraction 6,225,414
Waiting for “Superman” Par Vantage 6,130,466
Under the Sea 3D * WB 5,504,062
Precious Lions Gate 5,085,319
I Am Love Magnolia 5,002,411
An Education * Sony Classics 4,963,224
* does not include 2009 box office

Weekend Box Office Report — November 21

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

Harry and the Deathly Swallows … Gulp!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 ascended to an estimated $126.2 million and corralled more than 60% of weekend ticket sales. Comparatively speaking the remaining films in the multiplex had to settle for chump change, including the bow of the thriller The Next Three Days which slotted fifth with $6.7 million.

The session also included the new Bollywood release Guzaarish, which garnered a better than respectable $423,000 at 108 venues. Among the few exclusive bows both the British import Made in Dagenham and France’s White Material were just OK with respective openings of $39,300 and $35,800, each playing on three screens.

It was the biggest opening yet for a Harry Potter film but while the juggernaut provided a big box office boost from last weekend it was insufficient to stave off a decline from 2009.

Expectations were high for the first installment of the last chapter of the Potter franchise. Advance sales and online tracking anticipated a $100 million debut and that number expanded following word of advance Thursday midnight screenings estimated at $24 million. Large format engagements were estimated at $12.4 million and if that number holds up it will be a record.

Internationally the early estimates are roughly $205 million from 54 markets. It includes all-time records in the U.K. and Russia and otherwise just sensational debuts elsewhere. The final, final Potter putter is schedule for July 2011.

On a decidedly downbeat note, The Next Three Days came in well below tracking that suggested a $10 million launch. The film also received a drubbing from critics.

Weekend revenues lurched toward $200 million, which translated into a 64% hike from seven days back. It was however 25% behind the 2009 slate led by the second installment of Twilight (New Moon), which bowed bitingly to $142.8 million with the unexpectedly $34.1 million potency of The Blind Side right behind it.

The contender’s roster failed to see any additional dynamos this weekend and the titles already in the marketplace were finding the Darwinian aspect of the exercise unrelenting. Both Fair Game and 127 Hours added a significant number of playdates with the latter continuing to maintain a hefty $8,330 engagement average. The other surprise in the mix is the continuing stamina of the non-fiction Inside Job that’s racked up $2.2 million to date.


Weekend Estimates – November 19-21, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 1* WB 126.2 (30,600) NEW 4125 126.2
Megamind Par 16.2 (4,280) -45% 3779 109.5
Unstoppable Fox 13.0 (4,060) -43% 3207 41.9
Due Date WB 8.9 (2,760) -42% 3229 72.4
The Next Three Days Lionsgate 6.7 (2,590) NEW 2564 6.7
Morning Glory Par 5.2 (2,050) -43% 2544 19.8
Skyline Uni/Alliance 3.4 (1,170) -71% 2883 17.6
Summit 2.4 (1,190) -51% 2034 83.5
For Colored Girls … Lionsgate 2.3 (1,920) -64% 1216 34.5
Fair Game Summit 1.4 (3,730) 41% 386 3.7
Secretariat BV 1.0 (970) -56% 1010 56.4
Paranormal Activity 2 Par .93 (840) -69% 1101 83.6
The Social Network Sony .91 (1,590) -49% 571 89.2
127 Hours Searchlight .90 (8,330) 104% 108 1.9
Saw 3D Lionsgate .82 (1,020) -71% 806 45.3
Jackass 3D Par .72 (1,050) -68% 687 116.1
Life As We Know It WB .52 (930) -50% 558 51.6
Guzaarish UTV .42 (3,910) NEW 108 0.42
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest Music Box/Alliance .41 (2,180) -22% 188 3.5
Inside Job Sony Classics .37 (1,770) -22% 211 2.2
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $191.50
% Change (Last Year) -25%
% Change (Last Week) 64%
Also debuting/expanding
Today’s Special Reliance 88,400 (1,670) 53 0.09
Made in Dagenham Sony Classics 39,300 (13,100) 3 0.04
White Material IFC 35,800 (11,930) 3 0.04
Queen of the Lot Rainbow 16,400 (2,730) 6 0.02
Copacabana Seville 14,100 (2,010) 7 0.01

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Nov. 18, 2010)

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Paramount (18) 1555.1 16.80%
Warner Bros. (26) 1538.8 16.70%
Fox (17) 1320.7 14.30%
Buena Vista (15) 1173.4 12.70%
Sony (23) 1160.3 12.60%
Universal (18) 790.4 8.60%
Summit (11) 508.5 5.50%
Lionsgate (14) 490.6 5.30%
Overture (7) 81.7 0.90%
Fox Searchlight (7) 80.3 0.90%
Focus (7) 75.1 0.80%
Weinstein Co. (7) 62.5 0.70%
Sony Classics (21) 57.3 0.60%
MGM (1) 51.2 0.50%
CBS (2) 50 0.50%
Other * (288) 240.7 2.60%
9236.6 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Domestic Grossers * (Jan. 1 – Nov. 18, 2010)

Title Distributor Gross
Avatar * Fox 476,883,415
Toy Story 3 BV 414,681,777
Alice in Wonderland BV 334,191,110
Iron Man 2 Par 312,445,596
Twilight: Eclipse Summit 300,551,386
Inception WB 291,914,445
Despicable Me Uni 248,900,040
Shrek Forever After Par 238,667,087
How to Train Your Dragon Par 218,685,707
The Karate Kid Sony 176,797,997
Clash of the Titans WB 163,214,888
Grown Ups Sony 162,147,232
The Last Airbender Par 131,733,601
Shutter Island Par 128,051,522
The Other Guy Sony 119,256,755
Salt Sony 118,485,665
Jackass 3D Par 115,357,091
Valentine’s Day WB 110,509,442
Sherlock Holmes * WB 106,967,985
Robin Hood Uni 105,425,146
* does not include 2009 box office

Squirmy Fatcats And Inside Job

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

Squirmy Fatcats And Inside Job

Ferguson And Macaulay Talk Inside Job

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Ferguson And Macaulay Talk Inside Job

Digital Nation: In Washington, No One Can Hear You Scream

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Eliminate the birthers, tax-dodgers, bigots, wannabe witches, Flat Earth diehards and Palin-tologists from the Tea Party movement and you’ll find the righteously angry offspring of the just plain pissed-off Americans, who, in Network, opened their windows and shouted “We’re as mad as hell and we’re not going to take this anymore.”

Weekend Box Office Report – October 10

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

Nobody Nose Anything

The Social Network surprised pundits with a better than expected hold and won the weekend movie going chase with an estimated $15.3 million. Three national debs were on its tail with lackluster returns. The rom-com Life As We Know It faltered in the clutch with $14.6 million while the much ballyhooed turf saga Secretariat posted $12.4 million, and there was a lack of stereoscopic shock for My Soul to Take with $6.9 million.

There was also a lack of oomph for the comic oddity It’s Kind of a Funny Story with $2 million tally-woo from 742 engagements.

In the niches Telegu-language Khaleja had a buoyant bow of $343,000 from 24 screens and OK returns of $72,700 for French thriller L’Immortel in Quebec. There were also a raft of exclusive bows with Darwinian winners that included the young John Lennon of Nowhere Boy grossing $51,300 at four venues, the squeezed of non-fiction Inside Job with $37,500 at two interviews and psychological thriller Stone with $71,400 from six couches.

Overall business once again took a dip with 2010 box office now less than 2% ahead of last year’s pace and industry mavens sweating out a quick reversal of fortune.

Tracking reports had pegged the uplifting tale of racing Triple Crowner Secretariat as the weekend’s odds-on favorite with estimates in the range of $16 million to $18 million. But its appeal to women and an older demo that remembered the four-legged wonder of the early 1970s failed to bring ‘em out in its maiden performance despite a considerable marketing push.

Life As We Know It was expected to be about a length behind Secretariat but pulled ahead right from the opening gate. It opened ahead of the pack on Friday with a $5.2 million bow but quickly lost ground to The Social Network as the weekend advanced.

And My Soul to Take fell smack in the middle of estimates in the $6 million to $8 million range. All three of the newbies skewed toward distaff viewers and there’s little question the marketplace is in dire need of something for the boys.

Weekend revenues pushed to roughly $92 million that represented a 4% dip from seven days back. It was a considerably steeped 16% fall from 2009 when the launch of Couples Retreat topped the charts on a $34.3 million first salvo.

On the expansion track, the “what’s wrong with our education” doc Waiting for “Superman” is holding up well and Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger continues to draw in aficionados. But the dour Never Let Me Go appears to have peaked early in the awards season. Among the new entries the highly enjoyable Tamara Drewe proved to be the surprise commercial disappointment with a dull $4,300 engagement average from four initial exposures.


Weekend Estimates – October 1-3, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
The Social Network Sony 15.3 (5,520) -32% 2771 45.9
Life As We Know It WB 14.6 (4,630) New 3150 14.6
Secretariat BV 12.4 (4,050) New 3072 12.4
My Soul to Take Uni/Alliance 6.9 (2,670) New 2572 6.9
Legend of the Guardians WB 6.8 (2,100) -38% 3225 39.2
The Town WB 6.3 (2,310) -36% 2720 73.7
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps Fox 4.5 (1,600) -55% 2829 43.6
Easy A Sony 4.1 (1,450) -39% 2847 48.1
Case 39 Par Vantage 2.6 (1,160) -55% 2212 9.5
You Again BV 2.4 (1,030) -58% 2332 20.7
Let Me In Overture 2.4 (1,160) -54% 2042 9.1
It’s Kind of a Funny Story Focus 2.0 (2,670) New 742 2
Devil Uni 1.7 (1,210) -51% 1442 30
Alpha and Omega Lionsgate 1.4 (890) -51% 1616 21
Resident Evil: Afterlife Sony/Alliance 1.2 (1,210) -56% 1012 58.8
Waiting for “Superman” Par Vantage .63 (6,120) 54% 103 1.4
Toy Story 3 BV .55 (1,400) 140% 393 412
Inception WB .52 (1,290) -43% 403 289.2
Takers Sony .39 (950) -50% 412 56.8
Catfish Uni/Alliance .37 (2,590) -37% 143 2.2
Khaleja Ficus .34 (14,290) 24 0.39
Never Let Me Go Searchlight .33 (1,990) 77% 167 1.1
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $86.30
% Change (Last Year) -16%
% Change (Last Week) -4%
Also debuting/expanding
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger Sony Classics .25 (3,380) 15% 73 0.84
Buried Lionsgate .21 (2,300) 118% 92 0.5
L’Immortel Seville 72,700 (3,030) 24 0.07
Stone Overture 71,400 (11,900) 6 0.07
Nowhere Boy Weinstein Co. 51,300 (12,820) 4 0.05
Inside Job Sony Classics 37,500 (18,750) 2 0.04
Route 132 Alliance 37,300 (1,430) 26 0.06
I Spit on Your Grave Anchor Bay 30,800 (2,570) 12 0.03
Tamara Drewe Sony Classics 17,200 (4,300) 4 0.02
Ghetto Physics IDP 10,700 (1,190) 9 0.01
Budrus Balcony 8,400 (8,400) 1 0.01
It’s a Wonderful Afterlife UTV 5,500 (770) 20 0.01
As Good as Dead First Look 1,850 (1,850) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share – January 1 – October 7, 2010

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (23) 1340.5 16.20%
Fox (16) 1277.7 15.40%
Paramount (14) 1237.4 15.00%
Buena Vista (14) 1107.4 13.40%
Sony (23) 1081.3 13.10%
Universal (16) 753.6 9.10%
Summit (9) 425.1 5.10%
Lionsgate (12) 407.1 4.90%
Overture (6) 74.5 0.90%
Fox Searchlight (5) 71.5 0.90%
Focus (6) 68.4 0.80%
Weinstein Co. (6) 60.9 0.70%
Sony Classics (19) 52.3 0.60%
MGM (1) 50.4 0.60%
CBS (2) 50 0.60%
Other * (260) 217.3 2.60%
8275.4 100.00%
* none greater than .04%

Top Global Grossers: January 1 – October 7, 2010

Title * Distributor Gross
Avatar * Fox 1,948,069,404
Toy Story 3 BV 1,047,492,510
Alice in Wonderland BV 1,024,537,295
Twilight: Eclipse Summit 691,330,829
Inception WB 803,799,128
Shrek Forever After Par 732,163,289
Iron Man 2 Par 622,718,660
How to Train Your Dragon Par 494,288,254
Clash of the Titans WB 489,778,913
Sherlock Holmes * WB 367,796,599
Despicable Me Uni 367,194,481
The Karate Kid Sony 357,206,535
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time BV 335,020,929
Robin Hood Uni 311,610,747
The Last Airbender Par 310,375,125
Shutter Island Par 301,977,955
Sex and the City 2 WB 301,158,934
Salt Sony 287,626,258
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Fox 264,341,533
Grown Ups Sony 261,324,243
The Expendables Lionsgate 257,529,373
Resident Evil: Afterlife Sony/Alliance 244,795,280
Knight and Day Fox 229,686,302
Percy Jackson & the Olympians Fox 226,497,209
Valentine’s Day WB 217,596,116
* does not include 2009 box office

Critics Roundup – October 7

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Life As We Know It|||||Red
Inside Job||Green|Green|Green|
It’s Kind of a Funny Story |Yellow|Yellow|Green|Green|
Letters to Father Jacob ||||Green|
Marwencol |||Green||
Stone |Red|Green|Green||Yellow
Nowhere Boy |Green|Green|||Green
Tamara Drewe |Green|Green|Green||

Charles Ferguson Talks Inside Job

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Charles Ferguson Talks Inside Job

The Sunday NY Times

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

The Sunday NY Times
Budrus Doc Encourages Middle East Nonviolence
And – Spotlighting The Hamptons Film Fest
PlusJeff Daniels Checks Out Of “The Ambition Hotel”
AndMatt Reeves On A Let Me In Scene
WithHorses At The Movies
And –
Scott On “Authentic” Tony Curtis
Plus“Being Glenn Beck”
And – Being Charles Ferguson
Scott On Gekko And Zuckerman
Plus – Michael Cunningham Learns To Write For The Reader
And – Kehr Tethers Arthur Penn And Tony Curtis In Death, Meaningfully
Plus – Athletes Use Avatar-Style 3D Imaging
AndTaking Porn Low-Tech
With – A Night Out With Vincent Kartheiser
Pete Seeger’s Sunday Routine At 91: “Letters To Answer And Logs To Split”

TIFF 2010: It’s a Wrap

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Another year of TIFF has officially wrapped, the awards have been announced, and everyone’s gone home. It was a really great fest this year with a solid slate, although I can’t say I disagree with those who feel the fest would benefit from cutting their slate a bit to be a little more discriminating. I saw some films that surprised me (The Illusionist, A Night for Dying Tigers), some that were disappointing (Hereafter, Miral) and some that took my breath away with their vision and execution (Black Swan, I Saw the Devil).

Charles Ferguson Talks Inside Job On Marketplace

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Charles Ferguson Talks Inside Job On Marketplace

If You Thought Wall Street Was A Movie Villain Before…

Friday, September 17th, 2010

If You Thought Wall Street Was A Movie Villain Before…

Gurus o’ Gold – A Pre-Toronto Look At The 2010/11 Field

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Welcome to the first Gurus gathering of this upcoming season.

It always seems a little silly to offer strong opinions before the Toronto International Film Festival has even begun. So we don’t. Consider these a gentle guide to what the buzz is, very early in the season.

We asked The Gurus to offer their 15 favorites to end up nominated for Best Picture come January. No ranking, No “sure things.” Just instinct and as much insight as is possible at this moment.

Last year, we did the same and the result was that The Gurus hit seven of the final ten in their Top Ten from this long distance. Two more were picked in the Top Sixteen. And the only film to get nominated that was nowhere to be found on this early list? The Blind Side. (Perhaps that explains the shock from the media when it got nominated… even after becoming a well-reviewed massive box office hit.) So maybe this early poll isn’t really all that silly .

Is there a stone unturned this year? Well, not Stone, which got a vote from Pete Howell. And not Tree of Life, which got 4 votes last year at this time… and just 3 votes this time around (2 of them from the same Gurus as last year).

This is not the look for the future of Gurus moving forward. But our team is designing a databased system that will launch when Gurus goes full-out in November. So, until then…

UPDATE, 9/7/10 – The last three Gurus have now chimed in.

The Participating Gurus
Anthony Breznican – USA Today
Greg Ellwood – Hitfix
Pete Hammond – Deadline Hollywood
Eugene Hernandez – indieWIRE
Pete Howell – Toronto Star
Dave Karger – Entertainment Weekly
Mark Olsen – LA Times
David Poland – Movie City News
Steve Pond – The Wrap
Sean Smith – Entertainment Weekly
Sasha Stone – Awards Daily
Kris Tapley – In Contention
Anne Thompson -indieWIRE
Susan Wloszczyna – USA Today


Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Twenty-four new feature films to preview in Festival’s main program, the ‘SHOW’

Claudia Cardinale, Colin Firth and Peter Weir to receive Silver Medallion Awards

Special revival programs selected by Guest Director Michael Ondaatje

Telluride, CO – Telluride Film Festival (September 3-6, 2010), presented by the National Film Preserve is proud to announce its 2010 Festival program. Twenty-four new feature films presented by their creators in the Festival’s main program; six programs curated by 2010 Festival Guest Director Michael Ondaatje; twenty-five new short films; plus thirteen documentaries screening in the Backlot program. Celebrating works from over twenty countries, Telluride Film Festival opens Friday, September 3 and runs through Monday, September 6, 2010.