The Hot Blog Archive for May, 2012

BYOB Memorial Day Weekend

I’m back in LA… I spent whatever focus I had on Thursday on a long piece (which I hope to push out today/Friday), Twitter, and re-learning how to multitask. Hope you’re all well and enjoy the holiday weekend. More on Cannes, etc, to come.

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Cannes: After Lucia (Despues de Lucia)

I still can’t quite catch my breath.

It is the ultimate nightmare of a parent – even of a 2 year old – to think they will be victims, victimizers, or perhaps worse, silent witnesses to the abuse of others when standing up for honor is only dangerous as a social abstraction.

Michel Franco’s Despues de Lucia is about this horror show. There are myriad reasons for the slide down the slippery slope. The banality and childishness of choices makes it all the more horrifying. Gaspar Noe would have a hard time delivering any more pain than is on display here. And fools like Eli Roth embody in their work the ugly carelessness shown by many of the characters here.

And yet, it is all too imaginable. Franco smartly navigates the circumstances to keep it from feeling like Grand Guignol, but horrifyingly, I fear that the truth may be equal or worse.

I didn’t see Bully, so I can’t compare. But my heart was beating out of my chest through much of the film. “Tell them! Tell them!” I wanted to scream. But I never did. And the characters in the movie… well… you’ll have to see it.

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“The Hunt” Hits The Bullseye At Cannes

Thomas Vinterberg made what is still my favorite of the Dogma 95 movies, The Celebration. The film combined 50s style kitchen sink drama with a modern tone of brutal, brutal honesty.

The Hunt is not quite as shocking a film experience. In an odd way, the two films are connected at child abuse. In the former, abuse occurred and it went unspoken for decades, until it could no longer be contained. In the latter, the film shows no abuse… just a “silly thing” said by a little girl that turns into caution, then fear, then manipulation allegedly for the good of the child, then, most powerfully, an unwillingness amongst adults to step back and gain perspective (in this case, aka truth).

What truly makes this more than a familiar good story well told about false accusations is the time and care it takes in bringing the situation to a boil. There is the response of the lead character, played by Mads Mikkelsen, who rarely declares himself in absolutes… which feels both like how an innocent man might behave, but also how someone guilty or unsure of his guilt might behave. And almost every one around him, who starts by not believing, then wondering, then agreeing to a truth that has no logic or proof, based on a very few words spoken by a 5-year-old.

The story has many threads familiar to followers of the McMartin Preschool case in California. But it doesn’t get into all the mechanics. It speaks to the fear… as no possibility other than abuse is allowed to be considered once the adults head down this road.

Still, the film threatens to the end to flip on you. It forces you, by not giving any greater explanation than the ones of offer to the community, to wonder whether something happened… Understood, misunderstood, accurate or overly inflated. Of of the writing tricks that really works here is the sensory deprivation experience inflicted on the accused. He finds out what accusations have been made only in drips and drabs. So he is Hamlet, haunted by this ghost of an accusation, unable to change his circumstances because the entire kingdom thinks him mad.

There are a couple things I would have liked to have seen that aren’t in the film. The seed of the accusation sprouts in a kindergarten run by a loving woman who chooses to believe the child and not the adult… and with good intentions, lights the torches with the idea that any hangs in the story must be repression, not truth, leaving no room for exoneration in the minds of most people. She never has the confrontation scene that I would have loved to have seen on the 3rd act. Likewise, a romantic reunion that we don’t get to see seems like a great scene that’s missing.

It’s the different between a home run and a solid triple.

But it’s also a perfect film for this Cannes press experience. So many lazy, easy judgments by so many in a week of tweets can depress the soul.

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Cannes iPhone Review: Rust & Bone

Yeah… you’ve seen this logline before. In fact, the awards season looks to be clogged with some of this.

But you have never seen it done through Jacques Audiard’s pitiless, demanding, unrelenting eyes.

The pair at the center of this journey are an impulsive muscle-head with no money with a 5-year-old he’s taken from his drug-involved ex and an icy beauty who prefers to be watched more than loved but who work suggest empathy to many and more ice to others.

Yes, it’s The Intouchables mixed with A Better Life, with a really hot, often-naked French chick thrown in.

But don’t buy that for a second. The genius of Audiard is his ability to turn any genre on its head. And he does that here.

Get comfy thinking you know where this is going and you’ll get walloped when the film turns 110 degrees. But it never feels like a stunt. These two central characters are so firmly grounded that the turns are as natural as the choices we all make in our lives, day after day, year after year.

Every time you want to say, “Well, he couldn’t possibly do THAT!,” you realize that he has already done some variation of that in the story or backstory.

Just when our heroine is going to the pity party or the heroic stage, the truth brings us all back to simpler reality.

I don’t want to say much more. A brilliant, challenging movie that had the sure hand of a master at the helm.

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Cannes iPhone Review: Moonrise Kingdom

A horse is a horse, of course, of course, and no one can talk to a horse, of course. That is, of course, unless the horse is the famous Wes Anderson.

Wes Anderson’s natural state as an artist is artificial… and yet, somehow, intimate. Never has Anderson’s work as an artist been more clearly defined than in his latest, Moonrise Kingdom, which is premiering as I type at Cannes. (It premiered for what were once called the trades back in LA so that they could color it narrowly FIRST!. Sadly, the track record of the trades in Cannes has a history of suckage… but that’s another conversation that has become almost as irrelevant as said trades, handed out on the street here as though they are still in business as trades.)

But I digress…

Anderson’s celebrity quotient is lower here than in years and he’s down to celebrities who are elemental. That’s not to say their characters are predictable. But they offer distinct colors that add weight to the vehicle, but don’t read as BIG NAME ACTORS in Anderson’s papier-mâché world. Bill Murray and Frances McDormand are low key, worn-in parents… Edward Norton is a portrait of worry lines as a scout master… Bruce Willis is die hard enough to be a physical force when called upon but is mostly a sadsack.

But the movie is hung, more so than any Anderson movie since Bottle Rocket, on unknown, magnificent new faces Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. He doesn’t look like Dustin Hoffman, yet channels—he can’t know, can he? —Hoffman’s Graduate turn. And Hayward is a dead ringer for a 12-yr-old Jessica Chastain.

The movie is about their short, but powerful journey into young adulthood.

As in every Wes Anderson film, every shot is a still frame, meticulously designed and with the extra benefit of moving human life forms frolicking about. Sometimes, the humans are the canvas and inanimate objects frolicking about.

But with all the hyperreality of Anderson, when he hits it right, he offers remarkable intimacy. In this film, there is a first romantic sexual experience that certainly isn’t Real… but it finds the absolute truth of such moments… a universality in the agonizing detail.

My impulse is to call this a great movie. But I also want it to breathe. I want to experience it again and see how it settles in. After all, greatness is 2 parts time.

But I am completely comfortable in saying that this is the apex of Anderson’s personal filmmaking. I think its biggest fans and detractors will have to agree. The adults have been cooked down into a perfect, subtle sauce. There are still stunts, but they feel much more relaxed than in some of his past films. And the view inside the tiny box at a tiny moment on a tiny island from a tiny canoe feels like Anderson perfection.

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Morning in Cannes

And so it begins…

There are few things odder than going to so many festivals every year and then not quite knowing which way is up as you start one. But here we go.

The first line today is the line for credentials. You would think that journalists would know enough not to block the public sidewalk. No such luck.

People were lining up by the Palais last night with all the accoutrements of paparazzi… but I am told they are just gawkers with serious equipment and that they spent the night on the street. Access rarely seems like so much of a privilege.

And now, the press room doors open and the wild rumpus begins… again.

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BYOB: Heading To The Beach

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Weekend Estimates by 50% Klady

So we have Klady estimating domestic even higher than Disney… a flat 50% for the weekend.

I have always been a box office realist. I don’t take well to studios calling their shot and then magically hitting very specific, marketable targets. Never have. Never will. Doesn’t natter how I feel about the film.

Of course, when the numbers are up in these regions, there is a good chance that many people have lost their minds and often, their willingness to be reasonable. This 1% or so of studio releases does not conform to any history. So it becomes a Rorschach test. It’s not actually about the box office and the realities that can be relied upon the vast majority of the time. It becomes personal.

Success has many parents and failures few.

Well, it’s not personal, folks. Numbers don’t change the movies. And awards don’t actually make a movie better, either in its own right or in comparison to other movies.

Good on The Avengers. Good on Disney, which is covering the stench of John Carter‘s marketing failure with a movie that, for the most part, went though the same system with the same fired people who did the same deep bowing to the powers behind both movies, that John Carter did. Good on Marvel for getting a film into mega-movie status for the first time… now the really challenging part starts.

Of the Marvel-made Marvel movies, Iron Man was the one significant success. But with upticks last summer and this event this summer, they have moved into multiple-mega-franchise world. As Warners and Fox have found, it can be easier to get there than to maintain. Will Marvel be the Pixar of superheroes, putting out a film a year – never more than two – and keeping the brand going with few rough patches? Only time will tell.

I was, unquestionably, wrong about the upside on The Avengers. In Avengers math, there should be a 42% or so domestic drop next weekend. But I will be in another country thinking about other things. I’d be a hypocrite to try to get on the Avengers train now. So I will do what I would have done anyway… move along.

Looks like about $250m or so internationally and maybe $200m here. I’m sure that someone will see this as me raining on their parade. Zzzzz…

For the record, at this point, I don’t think The Dark Knight Rises or any other movie will beat Avengers this summer or this year. I do think there will be some Bat-growth. But not enough to catch up with these numbers. (I also, for the record, don’t think Chris Nolan gives a shit about winning the summer. He’ll be happy to take his second billion dollar hit, give notes on Superman, and go make non-Superhero movies.)

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Friday Estimates by Hawkeye Klady

At this point, there’s not much to do but to watch the count for The Avengers. The Friday number is off about 63% when you count the Midnight screenings (not sure why Klady didn’t), but given that’s the Friday-to-Friday, it would be fair to expect that number to drop into the mid-50s for the overall weekend. Though some were fantasizing about $100m this weekend, $90m is no small feat. $360m in 10 days accelerates the number well past Dark Knight again… then we’ll see what the weekdays next week look like. 40% off… $90m over days 11-17, would take the film to $450m 10 days faster than Dark Knight. The Titanic domestic number ($600m) still looks like a long shot, but it does seem that passing Dark Knight domestically (and internationally) is inevitable.

The biggest question for the moment is whether Battleship will slow down Avengers at all… I mean, $1.

There is nothing remotely shocking about Dark Shadows‘ opening. It’s running slightly behind Burton/Depp’s Sleepy Hollow and much better than Sweeney Todd or Mars Attacks. Obviously, 2 of those 3 titles are older, but collaborations like Alice and Wonka just can’t be compared. There is no reason why Dark Shadows kitsch could not be a new phenom, but it isn’t a revered work that has millions anticipating an adaptation by a visual master. Personally, I think WB should be happy with this number. Even if the movie was unanimously praised, this is probably all that was there for the taking on opening weekend.

I think it’s worth pointing out that Think Like A Man is still chugging along and that $80m for the film is a very strong number for Screen Gems.

On the indie front, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which Searchlight wanted to position as this summer’s Midnight in Paris, is moving a bit faster than Paris, but in expansion to 178 screens did almost the same number as Paris did on expansion to 147. The answers to the overall number will come when they go about 5 times wider than this… and I don’t know what their pace on that will be. But so far, so solid. This could be Searchlight’s best platform performer outside of Oscar season in a while.

And not a bad number for Girl In Progress for Lionsgate. No one will be getting Christmas bonuses off of this one, but with almost no TV budget and the feel of a direct-to-video title, this number is pretty good.

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Steamy Hot Sexy Pitt Clooney American Idol Voice Depp Trailer: The Campaign

How can you not enjoy a trailer in which Will Ferrell gets shot and bitten?

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Review-ish: Dark Shadows

Burton is beauty.

He is Hollywood’s quirky, intellectual Michael Bay.

And Dark Shadows is beautiful… and full of fun and mischief… and a great melange of genres and style.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a third act.

Well, not one that works.

As with a number of Burton movies, it feels like he either had too much ambition for his budget or not quite enough.

The reason, I think, that the last 15 minutes of Dark Shadows feels like a punt, is that the key idea put forth needs a lot more room to breathe.

Until then, it’s Depp in a fun character… though his character’s don’t work as well when they are react-ers and not act-ers. And here, even though he is one of the wildest characters, he is The Mary (as in “The Marry Richards”), big time.

I really did enjoy myself watching Dark Shadows. But it’s definitely one of those Tim Burton films where you enjoy beats and don’t get to luxuriate in a great story, however well told.

I am always surprised – and it comes up often – how many times the “big surprises at the end” feel like the beginning of something more interesting and not the natural end of something. It’s like we are in a world of films being developed for sequels, not to maximize the first film.

Still, if you like Burton and Depp and Pfeiffer and Moretz and Eve Green and cool Gothic gags, it’ll be a good summer treat, tasty, though not very memorable.

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BYOB or Eat That, North Carolina

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More on Avengers Numbers: Potter Still Biggest WW Opening

Okay… so I know this will create drama for some people, but…

I now have to admit that I got sucked into the media vortex myself. As it turns out, The Avengers opened on a Wednesday, a week before the US, in many international territories… and still ended up running about $40m BEHIND last summer’s Harry Potter 7b.

Here’s the math:

The worldwide on The Avengers, as of yesterday, was $684m.
That represents a 4/5-day opening international weekend,
a week, culminating in a 3-day second international weekend, grossing an 11/12 day total of $476m and
a 3-day North American opening weekend, grossing $208m

Last summer, Harry Potter 7b, opened to $728m worldwide in a similar (briefer) period.
That represents a 4/5-day opening international weekend, grossing $314m
a week, culminating in a 3-day second international weekend, grossing $245m, and
a 3-day North American opening weekend, grossing $169m.

It is still a remarkable result for Marvel, outgrossing every one of its previous in-house films’ final totals.

Still, the revolution – and in box office, the revolution is now international – is not quite as hyped.

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“That’s an artifact of just what a strange animal it was. They didn’t know, none of us really knew what to call it, or how to classify it. But aside from the confusion about the classification, the actual what we were going to shoot — the length of each of the stories, all of which vary — there was never anything that we were considering doing any differently. There were never any more stories and they were always intended to be seen as a group.”
~ Joel Coen on The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs at NYFF press conference

“I find it hard to believe that it’s pure machismo. It’s too simple of a thought. I don’t know what the reason could be. I also think that it makes sense that, as time goes by, filmmaking should become more of a women-dominated activity. To me, of course, I feel like it’s going to happen. It seems to me that, especially for a certain cinema with its own language, you need to take a lot of risks. And women receive a type of education that allows much more for failure than the type men receive. It is easier for a woman to take risks than for a man. But I’ll also tell you another thing, women need to learn to master the tools, to solve technical problems, to control unscripted situations. There is also a totally macho attitude that many women have internalized in terms of not solving certain technical problems on their own. That also makes them a little less capable… Female DoPs often think that their technical area is limited to pen and paper. And that’s wrong. You need to learn a lot of things to be a good DoP. For me, machismo breeds both a masculine education and a nefarious feminine education. Macho culture engenders an education for men and another for women. The education for men we already know, and is easily criticized. And the nefarious education that machismo has for women is exemplified by women who ultimately ignore how to use tools, who—when something breaks, or when it gets dark—are rendered useless and get desperate. Women who do not even know how to build a fire. They don’t know how to deal with these situations, because these were activities that have traditionally been delegated to men. That can make us… not very… prone to achieve certain things. For me, we first have to fight against our own education, and also against an external model of erasure that has rendered women less capable than men in certain fields.”
Lucrecia Martel