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What else is there to say about Tim Burton?
At this point, he's been working the same sort of thematic and visual material for thirty years now. And how old am I? Old enough to think of Burton as "relatively recent" in terms of working directors.
It's easy to reduce Burton's work to his stylistic signatures and his incredibly familiar color palette. When you see a Tim Burton movie, you know you're watching a Tim Burton film. You may hate the film you're watching, and I've certainly felt that way several times in his career, but you still have to acknowledge that he's found a way to indulge his interests and cast his favorite people and just plain make his stamp, no matter how impersonal or corporate the movie is.
I wonder sometimes what would have happened if he hadn't made "Batman" in 1989. He was shooting the film through much of my freshman year of college, and I was following the film's progress from a distance. I was convinced he was going to turn out to be an inspired choice, a choice that would update "Batman" for a whole generation of viewers.
When you release the first trailer for a film, it says a lot about what that movie's meant to be, and sometimes, it's not really what you expect.
From the moment Warner Bros. started putting together "Gangster Squad," which was still called "Tales From The Gangster Squad" at that point, it seemed like it would fit neatly into a tradition of "LA Confidential" and "Mulholland Falls," movies about the history of the police in Los Angeles using real life as a jumping-off point.
And while today's trailer does indeed seem to confirm that, what I found surprising was the tone of the trailer. I guess I should have put it together when they hired Ruben Fleischer to direct the film. So far, he's had a sense of fun to what he does, a down-the-middle popcorn sensibility. That's not an insult, either, just an observation. He makes movies for the audience, and it looks like "Gangster Squad" is going to be far more focused on the fun than on the hunt for awards.
Fine by me.
We finally know what Edgar Wright's "The World's End" is about.
It's funny, because even knowing Edgar casually and having spoken with him any number of times since the first mention of what will now be the conclusion of 'the Cornetto trilogy," I've never had any desire to push him for information on the film.
After all, I figure we're not going to get endless collaborations between Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost, so I look at it as a very special thing when they do get together to work. "Shaun Of The Dead" was this great out-of-left-field lightning bolt moment, "Hot Fuzz" was all anticipation, and so for "The World's End," I've done my best to just sit back and relax and wait to see what it is when the time is finally right.
Evidently, that's today.
The first time I ever saw Michelle Pfeiffer on a film set, it was when she was shooting "Batman Returns." It's fitting that we'd finally sit down for a formal interview for her first work with Tim Burton since then, as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, the head of the Collins family, desperately clinging to whatever faded glory and dignity they once had.
I was running late to the press day thanks to traffic, and I was getting phone calls from Anne, the Warner publicist, letting me know that I was going to be the last person sitting down with Pfeiffer for the day. When I finally got to the SLS, I jumped out of the car, ran outside, and within 30 seconds of arriving, I was sitting across from Pfeiffer, which is enough to fluster even someone who had time to prepare.
Pfeiffer has managed to stake out her own place in Hollywood for thirty years or so now, and I admire the way she makes choices and the way she's established room for her role as a mother and a wife as well. It's so easy to get pulled into the idea that you have to keep working, that you have to treat every film as part of a career, but when I got to spend some time on the set of "Stardust," she ended up being remarkably approachable and easy to talk to. It was clear that she works when she's interested in something, and not just to work.
Maroon 5’s Adam Levine finds himself inadvertently on the wrong side of the law in the ambitious, yet headscratching, video for “Payphone" featuring Wiz Khalifa. The clip debuted on E! News tonight.
The video opens with a scene straight out of “Falling Down”: Levine is bruised, battered, and shirtless, but he, somehow, still has a quarter to use the phone. We jump back in time to earlier in the day to a suited Levine as a bank desk jockey who can’t get the attention of his dreamy co-worker.
[More after the jump...]
The news that Against Me! lead singer Laura Jane Grace is making the medical transition from being a man to becoming a woman coincidentally coincides with week chock-filled with news on gay marriage.
Formerly known as Tom Gabel, Laura Jane Grace let the public know of her new chose name this week. She is not attracted to men, and will remain married to her wife, with whom she's had a daughter. She's made seven albums with Against Me!, and the public assumed she'd made them as a man.
I bring up gay marriage to highlight a cultural touchstone, that our country still strongly delineates the rights of people with differing sexual orientation. There are a minority of people who believe that people aren't "born" gay, and there certainly are opponents to the idea that gender dysphoria even exists.
Today, I thought about what this means for music. As many have rightfully pointed out, this is not the first transgender musician on the planet. Electronic Walter Carlos became Wendy Carlos in the '70s. Throbbing Gristle fronter and performance artist Genesis P-Orridge became "pandrogynous" with his former wife, his other half and artistic partner Lady Jaye, an opera of a life captured in 2011 documentary in "The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye." Life of Agony singer Keith Caputo became Mina Caputo last year.
Of any, though, Grace's band is easily the most recognized groups of those who are known to yield a transgendered frontman/frontwoman. Against Me! has put a record in the top 50, and a song on the radio -- notably "I Was a Teenage Anarchist," a tune that nods at the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K." title and perhaps some of its spirit. The helped helm Warped Tour in years past.
In movies, actors generally act out a role, and then they finish it and become "who they are" again. In music, fans' expectations are that artists are who they say they are, that their songs and art reflect in some way a life depiction more accurate than mere liner notes. That's why the argument for "authenticity" is still intact, no matter how exaggerated the personality.
Those who were fans or secular listeners of Against Me! were in shock today at the announcement, as evidenced by Twitter, message boards and other media. But none can argue Grace's authenticity, the truth of oneself.
Final 4 madness, baby!
It's another multi-theme episode, with Jessica, Joshua, Hollie and Phillip singing songs from the meaningless themes of California Dreamin' and Songs You Wish You Wrote. Please note that I got the specific phrasing of the second theme from the song spoilers bandleader Ray Chew tweets each week. You don't need to explain to me that it's a faulty use of the conditional tense and that it should probably be Songs You Wish You'd Written. Or something. [Seacrest did a better job of articulating the second theme than Ray Chew's list did.]
Anyway, let's not spend too much time worrying about grammar. Instead, can't we ponder what strange things are happening in the official "Idol" Top 4 photo? Why is it all about Hollie Cavanagh? And why is she holding Jessica Sanchez's hand? These are things that keep me up at night...
Anyway, let's get down to recapping...
The director: Yousry Nasrallah (Egyptian, 59 years old)
The talent: I admit defeat. After scouring the internet for details of the cast and crew of this one, all I can tell you is that it stars Nahed El Sebaï (one of the lead actresses from Egyptian feminist drama "678," which netted a number of prizes on the smaller festival circuit last year), Bassem Samra (a longstanding collaborator of Nasrallah, acclaimed for his turn in his laureled 1999 film "El Medina") and Menna Shalabi (whose 12-year filmography contains, I confess, no titles I recognize). I can't even locate a screenplay credit for the film: Nasrallah has written much of his past work, though past collaborators in this regard have included Claire Denis.
The pitch: Though his films have never really crossed over on the international arthouse circuit, Nasrallah has been a quiet contributor to the revival and conscientization of North African cinema since the 1980s, working under Egypt's leading filmmaker, the late Youssef Chahine, as an assistant director in his earlier years.
Friday brings the second weekend of the summer movie season and Tim Burton's latest, "Dark Shadows." The film is…unfortunate. My thoughts line up a bit with Drew McWeeny's: it almost gets by on laughs but the whole time all I could wonder was, "Why?" It starts with the script, folks. And this film could use one.
Anyway, we're not talking about scripts today. We're bringing the focus, as we like to do, back around to the below-the-line talent in the film industry, and a rather specific installment of The Lists this week: production design in Tim Burton films. "Dark Shadows" keeps the filmmaker's dark and decadent tradition alive, yet another reminder of his penchant for design elements.
This has been his trademark, and across a wide spectrum of collaborators, one ought to add. Burton typically grows his art department heads from within, so there's a natural consistency at work, but he's brought Oscars for Best Art Direction to four different production designers in his time. That's impressive.