A TIFF report on the scary movies from this year's fest, including highlights "February," "The Devil's Candy" and "Southbound".
Peter Sobczynski eulogizes the late, great, astoundingly prolific writer Richard Matheson, "whose work in a career that would encompass seven decades influenced anyone who encountered, it regardless of the medium he was working in." Includes appreciations of "Duel," "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," "I Am Legend," "Somewhere in Time" and many other works, original and adapted.
Yes it is, I'm afraid. Or almost. Good grief, I know, it's not even Thanksgiving yet and they've already got the festive "Best Of" decorations up in the stores! And I know lots of critics who've been told by their editors to start working on their big '00s lists -- so, reluctantly, I've begun to ponder mine, as well. I haven't even taken a first stab at it but I can tell you this: It will probably not resemble the Top 100 list published a few days ago in the Times of London. Oh, sure, I can conceive of putting together some kind of list that includes "Crash" (#98), "Bowling for Columbine" (#77), "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (#28), "Slumdog Millionaire" (#6) and the like -- but such a ranking would not be comprised of movies that I hold in high esteem. (Have any of the decades' movies plummeted in reputation more dramatically than "Columbine" and "Crash"?)
If you want to page through the Times' list, you can go ahead and start here. It's not all so bad. Meanwhile, here are the top 20 -- with links to things I've written about some of the titles:
Q. A blogger named Brian at takes issue with your remarks about Paul Greengrass' long takes in "The Bourne Ultimatum," writing: "I don't recall a single take in this movie that was more than about three seconds long. Either Greengrass really does a spectacular job of not 'calling attention' to those long takes, or Ebert saw a different movie. But it's very strange, no matter what." (From goneelsewhere.wordpress.com:) Who's right?
Film festivals allow you to get way ahead on your movie viewing. At Sundance, Cannes, Telluride and Toronto you can see movies that will be released throughout the coming year and into the next. That's what Roger Ebert does every year, and here are some of the movies he's already written about for the next few months, into November....
Buffy Barko. Sarah Michelle Gellar in Richard Kelly's "Southland Tales."
When "Donnie Darko" sank without a trace after its theatrical release in October, 2001, writer-director Richard Kelly feared his (potential) career had gone down with it. Then, the movie became a cult phenomenon on DVD and Kelly, like his alliterative hero, was given a second chance.
The signs since then have not been enouraging: a screenplay for Tony Scott's "Domino," a film that graced many of last year's Ten Worst lists; and (far more disturbing) a "director's cut" of "Donnie Darko" that indicated Kelly didn't know what he'd done right the first time. All the best qualities of the film -- its teasing ambiguity, its creepy playfulness -- were nearly crushed in an attempt to laboriusly spell out an elaborate science-fiction/time travel mythology. What was once a tantalizing undercurrent was thus made literal and dull. More "explanation" of geeky but arbitrary "rules" simply reduced the movie's sense of possibility and imagination... and made it a lot less fun. If the "DD" director's cut had been the original version of the movie, it would never have piqued enough curiosity to have developed much of a cult following.
Now, the reviews from Cannes of Kelly's long-awaited and highly anticipated sophomore feature, "Southland Tales," suggest Kelly hasn't learned anything from his "Donnie Darko" director's cut experience. Most of them are devastating -- by which I mean they're at least as bad as the ones for "The Da Vinci Code," and worse than the ones for "X-Men: The Last Stand."
CANNES, France – There are entries that have been liked and even loved, but the 2006 Cannes Film Festival reaches its halfway mark looking like a fairly lackluster year. Only Pedro Almodovar’s “Volver,” a high-spirited memory inspired by his childhood in La Mancha, has been embraced by critics and audiences. “Volver” means “to return,” and resembles in its exuberant nostalgia Fellini’s “Amarcord” (“I Remember”).
Tom Cruise with his "Miiii" squeeze.
What do we talk about when we talk about Tom Cruise? What are our images of him really based upon, besides his own publicity stunts and some headlines? And just how did the top movie star in the world become so unlikeable in the public eye, an object of scorn and derision in the media, and a punch line for stand-up comics? Normally, a movie star's fall from gross -- er, grace -- wouldn't interest me much (although I am still trying to figure out how Burt Reynolds' 1970s career flamed out). I've interviewed hundreds of actors and filmmakers over the years and I've always made it a personal policy never to ask them, or speculate in print, about what they euphemistically call their "private lives," mainly because I really don't think it's any of my (or your) business. I'm interested in their work, not in what they do in their off hours.
But the fascinating thing about Cruise is how he's made a public commodity of his so-called "private life" (or his own image-manipulation version of it, presented for your entertainment). You'd think he would have learned something from the tabloid headlines generated by the sudden and mysterious split with his superstar wife Nicole Kidman, and tried to keep his personal affairs as private as he can. But no. When somebody boasts about details of his alleged off-screen love life on the most popular talk show in the world, goes on TV to say a pregnant actress (Brooke Shields) was wrong to seek medical treatment for her postpartum depression, and acts as a public spokesperson for his supposed "religion" in interviews (if you grant Scientology that status) -- even to the point of having Scientology tents set up on the set of Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds" in case cast or crew wanted to take a Free Personality Inventory -- well, that's when the "personal" becomes part of the star's public branding. And Tom Cruise is a brand name, every bit as much as Apple or Starbuck's or Subway or Volkswagon.
Director Richard Kelly. (Note motion picture camera.) Not to be confused with suspected terrorist James Kelly. Or soap-operatic rapper (and little girl fancier) R. Kelly. Or "Singin' in the Rain" dancer Gene Kelly. Or former Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly.
One of the things I love about "24" (not just this season, which is the best one ever, but in general) is the way it shows how people never cease being petty and self-centered, even in the midst of potentially catastrophic international crises in which millions of other people's lives are at stake. What it all comes down to is this: In any crisis, office politics are probably more important than global politics. We see it all the time with our politicians' egocentric defenses of indefensible ineptitude and gridlock caused by inter-agency squabbling (which the papers always call "turf wars").
Now, here's another example of bureaucratic bungling in the name of Homeland Security that shows why, as Jon Stewart recently observed, if terrorists have not yet attacked us since 9/11 it can only be because they are even more incompetent than our own so-called "security" apparatus: Director Richard Kelly ("Donnie Darko," "Southland Tales") is being investigated as a possible terrorist and may not be able to attend the premiere of his new movie at the Cannes Film Festival next week, where his film is in competition for the Palm d'Or. Why?
"It was as though this plan had been with him all his life, pondered through the seasons, now in his fifteenth year crystallized with the pain of puberty." -- from Graham Greene's story "The Destructors," as read by Donnie Darko's English teacher, Miss Pomeroy (Drew Barrymore)