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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

THB – And so, another circle jerk begins.

After it screened for a selected audience guaranteed to love it and for an Ain’t It Cool News crowd in Austin that was guaranteed to love it, the jungle drums are beating over Apocalypto.
So let me take a moment now to engage with reality.
This is exactly the strategy he used on The Passion of the Christ, though its screenings were further from the release date and, because of the material, it was inherently more divisive. There is nothing surprising in any filmmaker repeating the steps that led to a big success on their last film.
Mel Gibson knows how to make an action film with intense emotional peaks. Always has, drunk, sober, crazy, sane, anti-Semitic or in love with Barbra Streisand. There was never any question that Apocalypto was going to be interesting, likely visually compelling, and that language was not going to be an issue, anymore than it was for The Passion of The Christ – which, like it or not, was a strong, extremely brutal action film.

The rest…

43 Responses to “THB – And so, another circle jerk begins.”

  1. T.H.Ung says:

    John DeFore, the Hollywood Reporter freelanceer in Austin, won’t offer an opinion because, “The film wasn

  2. David Poland says:

    Or… perhaps… it is intentional.
    Remember the demands so many made – including myself – when POTC was done, but he was only doing these selective screenings. Remember that THR had DeFore review V for Vendetta out of Butt-Numb-A-Thon last January.
    And of course, who knows what is true? This is what Mel told them.

  3. T.H.Ung says:

    It certainly is an interesting way to control a situation, but a resourceful one nonetheless.

  4. Krazy Eyes says:

    I’m looking forward to seeing this film but I’ll be taking *all* reviews with a grain of salt until we start seeing some official screenings.
    Knowles is a joke when it comes to advance screenings. Does anyone take him seriously as a reviewer?

  5. yancy says:

    And so the eternal question is raised again: Does an artist’s actions in his “real” life invalidate his art if we find those actions reprehensible?
    As a Jew (and a proud one, even if – without a Bar Mitzvah – I’m still considered a boy at 33), I got a little nervous both upon the release of PASSION OF THE CHRIST and (of course) after Mel’s little drunken piccadillo of a few weeks/months back. Nervous both because the man seemed to speak for a whole lot of people (at least at the time), and also nervous because I now had to face the ethical question again: “Ah, shit. I like this guy, I like his comic timing, I like the films he has directed. I want to think that even this shitting-in-his-pants anti-Semitism incident is just a sort of noxious oral fart of the ‘I’m drunk and what’s the worst think I can say?’ variety”
    My stance is always always ALWAYS that A) art is more important than gossip or drunken benders and B) the artist’s art is the living, relevant thing and the day-to-day living the ethereal stuff. God knows I’ve defended Roman Polanski to enough closed-minded Jehovah’s Witnesses who’s REAL argument is not that they are horrified at the thing with the 13-year-old, but rather that they are horrified at the so-called elitist attitude that one’s great art can excuse one’s bad fucking.
    So my defense has always gone thusly: If we DEBIT Polanski for the inappropriate fucking, do we first CREDIT him for his Holocaust experience and the Manson thing? Wouldn’t the hot-tub incident bring him, at worst, back to even?
    Not sure exactly how to relate this bit to Gibson, who radiates frat-boy assholery (which is more noxious to me than garden-variety anti-Semistism… “Jews start all wars” is a line from Woody Allen’s underrated ANYTHING ELSE!)… But I adored BRAVEHEART as an all-time drum-banger, and – when I finally ended up gathering the nerve to watch it – I dug THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST the same way I enjoy ANY work of art that encompasses good directorial craftmanship and genuine “passion” on the part of that filmmaker. As a stripped-down version of the oft-told Jesus lore, I thought Gibson’s film got to and revealed the rather perverse point of the Most Popular (And Most Telling About Humanity) Story Ever Told pretty strikingly. (It didn’t hurt that the film also had the same batshit-crazy sloppy-sadist vibe one gets from a Lucio Fulci movie!)
    But I have a feeling that, regardless if the public holds his words against him, regardless if he’s inspired forever-loyalty from the die-hard PASSION crowd, regardless if APOCALYPTO is terrific… I have two words for you: RAPA NUI.

  6. Nicol D says:

    Many have used the Rapa Nui comment, but some how, I do think that analogy is the same this time.
    The name Mel Gibson, brings with it a lot more baggage (plus and minus) than the name Kevin Reynolds.
    For better or worse, with Gibson’s name on it, this is in a whole diffeent ball park both creatively and commercially.

  7. Nicol D says:

    I should have said I do ‘NOT’ think the analogy is the same this time between Apocalypto and Rapa Nui.

  8. Ju-osh says:

    This is in no way an attack, Yancy, just a question from the curious:
    What causes you to have to defend Roman Polanski to Jehovah’s Witnesses?
    I’m a huge Polanski fan with close relatives in the JWs, but I’ve gotta admit, while I’d think twice before screening ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ for them, Polanski has yet to come up over any of our close-to-Xmas-but-we’re-calling-it-anything-but dinners.
    Again, this is NOT an attack. I guess what I’m hoping for is some sort of funny anecdote or awkward confrontation.

  9. yancy says:

    Ju-Osh,
    Should have used my better judgment in singling out Jehovah’s Witnesses. I suppose I was just thinking of a religious group that, in my limited experience, does seem a bit more dogmatic and judgmental than others. Also, “Jehovah’s Witness”, as a phrase, just has more comic rhythm than others.
    But that’s 100% personal experience – frankly, I’m really just talking about one guy who used to dog me constantly and ask how I could “support” Polanski.
    Should take a lesson from Mr. Gibson in terms of not broadcasting generalizations.

  10. T.H.Ung says:

    This is so stupid it could work: Mel meets with the Pope to give him a hand with Muslims while at the same appealing to Jews.

  11. Nicol D says:

    Somehow…I do notthink Mel will be wanting to meet with the Pontiff anytime soon.

  12. Nicol D says:

    Somehow…I do not think Mel will be wanting to meet with the Pontiff anytime soon.

  13. jeffmcm says:

    Rapa Nui probably did okay on video, right?
    Not much comparison, though, because, despite the obvious similarities, RN was never pushed into being a splashy year-end awards movie. It was basically dumped, I’m guessing, even though it was in English.

  14. T.H.Ung says:

    http://blogs.indiewire.com/mattdentler/
    “…very, very, very (very) graphic.” Yahoo.

  15. Aladdin Sane says:

    I don’t know if even Harry takes Harry seriously. The guy lucked out in life. I think he has a great passion for all sorts of film, but I do not think he’s very good at being objective about it. His reviews are pure hyperbole. I’ve never seen him slam a film I didn’t expect him to slam or love a film I didn’t expect him to love. He may say he was surprised to like or dislike a film, but if you read between the lines when stuff is posted from production art to trailers, you know whether or not he’ll like it.
    Is there anyone here who doesn’t think the whole AICN crowd is gonna go nuts for something like Transformers? (With maybe the exception of Drew (‘Moriarty’) and ‘Capone’, who I feel are the only ones who write decent and objective reviews)

  16. yancy says:

    I gotta say, Moriarty’s reviews reek of smugness to me. I’ll take Harry’s enthusiasm over Moriarty’s “Did I mention I’m living the dream?” garbage.

  17. jeffmcm says:

    Agreed, Harry strikes me as an essentially decent guy, while McWeeny, while smart, is something of an a-hole.

  18. T.H.Ung says:

    What about Matt Dentler? I think this movie’s gonna come down to who wants to see the violence or not.

  19. Stella's Boy says:

    I don’t trust Harry or Moriarty or really anyone who writes for AICN.
    “I’ve never seen him slam a film I didn’t expect him to slam or love a film I didn’t expect him to love.” – Aladdin Sane
    Exactly how I feel about basically all their writers.

  20. austin111 says:

    Hey, I’m a Texan and Harry’s okay by me. I’ll admit he gets carried away at times, though. But I just take it as sincere enthusiasm generally speaking and still read what he has to say with genuine interest. He did start his site as a true geek as I recall and set Hollywood on it’s ear when they started to see what effects the net would have on their B.O. with pre-reviews from test audiences leaking out via his site. Of course the rest is history as they say, a veritable Pandora’s box has been the result, for better or worse.

  21. waveblue says:

    First off, I actually attended the screening in Austin. Harry was right that this was a rough cut of the movie. It was shown on video and definitely had a temp music and sound effects.
    Certain special effects were missing with just words on the screen indicating what effect would be placed there. The other effects were obviously in a partially complete state (you could see the lines in the comps).
    That being said, this is a solid film, but I don’t think it will do huge box office. The fact that it is a film about Mayans in the Mayan language filled with non-actors will turn most people off. I didn’t notice an excess of gore, but I’ve been at Fantastic Fest where all the movies are filled with gore so maybe I’m just desensitized.
    The last 1/3 of this film is a thrill ride that moves at a non-stop pace which is a true rush. If Stephen Spielberg wants to give up directing the next Indiana Jones, I think the last 1/3 of Apocalypto would be a good show reel for Mel to get the job.
    My biggest disappointment with the film was the mismatch with my initial expectations. I was under the impression that this film was going to be about the destruction of the Mayan society on an epic level, but it is not. It is really the story about one tribe that is destroyed and enslaved, and one man in that tribe. It may show some of the signs of a society falling apart, but the society is really the periphery.
    The quote that Mel includes in the trailer and at the beginning of the film help setup this mismatch, so I think it would be a good idea if that quote was removed.
    I’m interested in seeing this again in its finished state. During the Q&A, Mel came across as being a perfectionist who is obsessed with getting this film right, so I’m expecting to bump up my letter grade for the completed film.

  22. T.H.Ung says:

    Waveblue, that’s a brave, amazing assessment and an honest sounding account of an Avid output with cards generated and cut in and story point sound effects and some music cut in by the picture editor, but not tracked full on, Jaguar Paw’s story is compelling enough, beware overreaching, and the violence is manageable.

  23. T.H.Ung says:

    …manageable with the caveat that you might be wrarpped (desensitized) — gotta luv than.

  24. T.H.Ung says:

    Twitches Peter Martin says pretty much the same, but he says it’s “in its work print stage,” nah, it was video like Waveblue said. (Please, they’ll never make a work print.)

  25. KamikazeCamelV2.0 says:

    If a foreign language film is gonna be nominated for Best Picture this year, it’s gonna be (without a doubt) Volver. And considering that’s no longer Spain’s entrant for Best Foreign Language film it’s definitely right in there as much as The Departed or Little Children or Babel or other “they could love it or they could not” movies.
    (I’m not interested in Mel Gibson)

  26. jeffmcm says:

    TH, I am still curious as to what your exact job description is.
    I also just remembered that I saw a sneak preview of Collateral Damage back in the summer of 2001 and that was most definitely a workprint, but perhaps that was before DIs were more widespread. And yes, I know Apocalypto was shot on video.

  27. T.H.Ung says:

    APOC was shot high def?

  28. T.H.Ung says:

    Yeah I guess so. Not to get too personal, but I gotta go to sleep.
    “Semler said they battle-tested the Genesis on the set of `Apocalypto’ in Mexico.
    “We had a Spydercam shot from the top of 150-foot waterfall, looking over an actor’s shoulder and then plunging over the edge

  29. crazycris says:

    Volver won’t be Spain’s FL candidate? this is news! they must be hoping it can get nominated for BP then (because it’s a shoe-in for FLF imho). Which film is their candidate then?

  30. KamikazeCamelV2.0 says:

    Apparently Spain has chosen Alatriste as their submission. Almodovar has had major issues with the Spanish film academy before. And apparently Spain is all about spreading the wealth between it’s directors.
    But now it means Volver it has a better shot at a Best Picture nomination. Don’t scoff.

  31. crazycris says:

    i’ve just been through the spanish press… The only thing you can find is the announcement of the 3 finalists (Volver, Alatriste and Salvador). The Spanish Cinema Academy will announce the official selection on thursday…
    I haven’t seen Alatriste yet (not out in Belgium yet, damn!), have been waiting ages to see this film! (am a big fan of the books and most of the actors)
    As for Volver… indeed I hope if it truly doesn’t get nominated as it will open up the path for a BP nom. 😀 (plus I’d like the rest of the world to discover other Spanish films and some of our great actors… there’s a v. diverse wealth of them out there!)

  32. David Poland says:

    Volver has zero shot at a Best Picture nomination. Sorry, Kami… this is a terrific film, but it’s not a breakthrough film.
    Amd yes, as far as I know, Spain still deciding…
    If you are interested, The Film Experience has the best foreign language nominee tracker around… especially early in the season…

  33. Monco says:

    I think the film should be considered for technical awards: costume design, makeup, cinematography, etc. I personally would love to see Mel get a Best Director nomination. I think he was completely robbed for POTC. Whatever your feelings are about the film, you can’t deny that it is a stunning movie visually.

  34. David Poland says:

    Yeah… loved Pirates of the Caribbean…

  35. T.H.Ung says:

    Did JW distort that? I think he added “pubic” to “hair bleaching” quoting from you on Black Book. Curtains and carpet was discussed in the blog.

  36. KamikazeCamelV2.0 says:

    Monco, being a visually stunning movie means jack. It got a Best Cinematography nomination for being visually stunning. It missed out on a Best Director nomination because Mel turned a movie about faith and God into a grotesque horror movie.
    “Volver has zero shot at a Best Picture nomination.”
    REALLY? They’ve got a great shot at making $$$ they have a lead (Cruz) who has a great shot at a Lead Actress nomination and who is definitely gonna be out there with guns blazing advertising this movie. They clearly like Almodovar and it’s a general crowdpleaser from the sounds of things. Plus, it isn’t overly queer and isn’t filled with trannies, drag queens, drugs and sex. I’m not saying it will be nommed, but I reckon atm it’s definitely in the Top 10 of candidates.

  37. T.H.Ung says:

    You are right, about everything you said Kami. Snuff films stun. Sony’s even touring an Almo fest. Hope Monco likes HD to film.

  38. Monco says:

    Of course the visuals in The Passion were acknowledged by the Oscar nom for cinematography. Why I think Mel deserved a Best Director nom is because for me it was one of the best movies of that year. The movie is an easy target because of its torture and extreme violence. Yes, its funny to joke that Paranoid Mel likes sadomasochism because Braveheart and Passion were extremely violent and covered similar themes.
    The movie is extremely powerful and emotional. In my opinion it was an extraordinary accomplishment of moviemaking, one that I felt its maker deserved to be recognized for. The editing and visuals were just a part of it. The movie works as a silent film. The whole thing comming together the way it did is Mel’s responsibility. A movie is utimately the director’s vision, if it succeeds or fails is mainly their fault. I think that Zhang deserved a nom for House of Flying Daggers and it had great visuals but that is not the only reason.

  39. T.H.Ung says:

    It was a simple story well told, but it just didn’t have enough to say.

  40. jeffmcm says:

    It’s a film for Christians, by Christians.

  41. KamikazeCamelV2.0 says:

    This is what Monco originally said:
    “I personally would love to see Mel get a Best Director nomination. I think he was completely robbed for POTC. Whatever your feelings are about the film, you can’t deny that it is a stunning movie visually.”
    If you had just said what you said below that I wouldn’t have had an argument other than “the movie was awful”. But you made it sound like you thought it deserved a nomination for Best Director purely because it was “visually stunning”.
    So, yeah, that was why I commented before. End of debate.

  42. Monco says:

    No worries Kamikaze I just wanted to clarify what I said because I didn’t articulate my opinion well. I hope I didn’t come across as mad.

  43. KamikazeCamelV2.0 says:

    BTW, Spain did choose Volver. Sources proved to be wrong. Oh well. Volver‘s BP chances have gone down now, although all the foreign films who got nominated in the last decade also got BFLF nominations so it is still possible (as it always was, David)
    And Monco, you came off as mad as I did. I just really hated The Passion of the Christ. Like, it’s a passion in itself.

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