Having written pretty much everything we could about Kenneth Lonergan's "Margaret" here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here, it's high time we finally shut up about it. It's been a long strange trip. And the film is in the unique position of having built interest on the way to its home video release more so than its theatrical release, so with that in mind, it seemed like a good idea to solicit opinions today as it hits DVD/Blu-ray. So please, offer up your thoughts on the film when you get around to seeing it. You can rate it above but I'm most interested in whatever dialogue we can generate in the comments section below, so don't be shy. I look forward to your take.
KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic -- Kenneth Lonergan begins our interview with a stumble -- a literal one, as he trips himself trotting up the stairs to our plush riverside hotel lounge in loosely laced sneakers, sheepishly proffering a hand as he breaks his fall. He cheerily mocks his own gracelessness, but still seems a little outside his rhythm as he takes a seat, sugaring his cappuccino with a light tremble of the hand. He crinkles the paper sachet as his gentle gaze finds me through two-tone spectacles. He is not, I suspect, a man given to visible and expansive relaxation.
And yet Lonergan must be feeling more relaxed than he has done in many a year -- and not only because all practical realities seem a little further away in the mountain air and fierce sun of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, where his second feature film as a director has just been unveiled to an appreciative Czech crowd. That film, "Margaret," was, for five years, something of a creative millstone around the literate, soft-spoken New York playwright and screenwriter's neck -- tangled in post-production complications that have become the stuff of industry lore, not to mention an ongoing lawsuit.
Eight-time Oscar nominee Peter O'Toole is hanging it up. In a statement released by his publicist, the actor said, "It is time for me to chuck in the sponge. To retire from films and stage. The heart for it has gone out of me: it won't come back."
There's nothing worse than being on a track once filled with inspiration long after that well has dried up. So as sad as it might be, I'm happy O'Toole recognizes that the art, the work, the business, whatever, is no longer doing it for him. At any age we should focus on what moves us, what inspires us, and relinquish what doesn't. If we can.
O'Toole never won a competitive Oscar. In fact, he holds the record for nominations without a win amongst actors. His first was a high bar, for "Lawrence of Arabia" in 1963, and a tough loss to Gregory Peck for "To Kill a Mockingbird." Who's going to argue with Peck in that? His most recent came for "Venus" in 2006, four years after he was awarded an Honorary Oscar by the Academy.
It hardly feels like it, but we're already over a week into the back end of 2012's release calendar: technically, we've seen approximately half the films that will be eligible for awards consideration at the year's end.
Not that the eventual list of this year's Academy Award nominations will reflect as much, of course. It's a well-known law of the awards game that early releases tend to suffer most in the Oscar game, as voters with notoriously short memories forget notable accomplishments from the January-to-June window, while studios, mindful of that fact, barrage them with baity prestige fare in the year's final quarter. Occasionally, a "Crash," a "Hurt Locker" or a "Silence of the Lambs" bucks the odds and hangs in for the long haul, but it takes sustained critical and/or public conversation and cunning campaign savvy to do so -- the work, as ever in this business, is almost never enough.
Early as it seems to you and me to be thinking about this stuff, the gears have already started grinding for the 2012 Screen Actors' Guild Awards. The panel of 2,100 members voting for this year's nominees has already been randomly selected from the Guild's vast membership, while yesterday, the submissions process was opened -- actors and their representatives hoping to compete for the awards this year have until October 25 to enter their names for consideration in the category of their choosing.
Yes, unlike at the Oscars, actors get to determine whether they compete in the leading or supporting race at the SAGs -- which has resulted in several mismatches with the Oscar list over the years. Most recently, Kate Winslet won a supporting SAG and a leading Oscar for "The Reader"; a few years before, Benicio Del Toro won both awards, with the categorizations flipped, for "Traffic."
Two versions of Kenneth Lonergan's "Margaret" finally reach a large audience tomorrow as the film makes its way to DVD/Blu-ray. Included will be the theatrical cut of the film and an extended (not "director's") cut.
Speaking last week with Eric Kohn at indieWIRE (which will be hosting a special New York screening of the extended cut tonight), Lonergan said, "It was nice to have the liberty to explore and go into depth in certain areas I felt were interesting to touch on and suggest in the theatrical release…it's unusual to have the chance to do both of your ideas for a project instead of picking just one."
Indeed, the extended version was a way for Lonergan to explore his ideas for the film outside of the constraints of a 150-minute time limit he agreed upon with the studio. It doesn't turn the film into a new experience per se, but I feel like it injects more patience into the overall design and structure of the narrative. And to me, it's a better movie.
It was Walter Matthau who explained to Ellen Burstyn, upon handing her the Best Actress Oscar she hadn't been present to accept days earlier, that the chief difference the award would make to her career was this: "When you die, the newspaper obituaries will say, 'The Academy Award-winning actress Ellen Burstyn died today.'"
It's a famous quip, one that is proven true virtually every time a former Oscar-winner -- or even a nominee -- dies, even when their celebrity is such that a puny golden statuette hardly seems their most culturally significant achievement. In the case of a character actor like Ernest Borgnine, who passed away over the weekend at the decidedly ripe age of 95, that single Academy Award win is an essential elevating prefix: "Marty," the modest 1955 character study for which he won, may not be the most widely seen work of his career, but the Best Actor Oscar it reaped remains a validating distinction for the kind of valuable anti-star on whom obituarists don't always spend too much column space.
It's been a while since I caught Benh Zeitlin's "Beasts of the Southern Wild" at Sundance. I've been aching to give it another look ever since and it's been in limited release the past week, so soon enough, I'll do just that. Today, though, it's expanding a bit farther so more of you will be able to get a look for yourself. The film has won awards at Sundance, Cannes and the LA Film Fest and continues to appear formidable this year. We spoke to Zeitlin about it recently (with another chat with cinematographer Ben Richardson still to come) and also talked up young star Quvenzhané Wallis's awards prospects. If and when you get around to seeing the film, come on back here and let us know what you thought. You can also rate it in the tool above.
KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic -- I am typing this in the tastefully toxic orange surrounds of an easyJet flight to Gatwick, which sadly means that my week at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival is over.
It’s been, as I think my previous diary pieces have made clear, a most enjoyable one: angry Czech sunshine, a healthy patchwork of films, raucous audiences, parties ranging from the luxe to the pilsner-pickled, my first live Q&A sessions, Thai foot massages, a few more films and my mandatory festival injury – this time, a spider bite sustained on a hike yesterday through Karlovy Vary’s dense, chapel-speckled surrounding forest. That’s what I get for leaving the cinema for one afternoon, I guess. (Incidentally, the only superpower I have yet gained from this experience is a left ankle slightly wider than my right, but I wait patiently.)
My festival coverage, however, is not yet finished. I still have one of the week’s highlights, an interview with Kenneth Lonergan about the upcoming extended cut of “Margaret,” to transcribe and relate, while I have, as yet, only written about a handful of the films I’ve actually seen at Karlovy Vary.
In the wake of recent news that TomKat is officially on the outs, Dana Kennedy has penned an overly long but nevertheless interesting story for The Hollywood Reporter about "cloak and dagger" housewife operations and defections and all the drama that comes with a big Scientology story. And all I could really think of the whole time was, "Boy, this could put some wind in the sails of 'The Master.'"
Paul Thomas Anderson's much-anticipated film will take on Scientology, though not explicitly, with Philip Seymour Hoffman playing a bit of an L. Ron Hubbard surrogate. The Weinstein Company will roll it out in mid-October, prime real estate in an awards season. Recent trailers have been unique in the usual PR fray (typical of Anderson), building on mystery and intrigue. But something like this could shine a brighter light on the film four months out.