"The Great Gatsby" may well be the most artificial-looking film I've ever seen, even in this condensed two minute form.
That's not a criticism, necessarily, because it looks like that's exactly what Baz Luhrmann intended. They've had a difficult post-production process on this one, but part of that has been creating this incredibly stylized world that Luhrmann has chosen as the setting for his take on F. Scott Fitzgerald's most famous book. Luhrmann has never been the sort of guy to shy away from a heightened reality. That's why I loved his take on "Romeo + Juliet" and "Moulin Rouge." Those movies are patently fake, impressionistic from start to finish, and it looks like he's doing that again, but on a much larger scale than ever before.
The real challenge of "Gatsby" is that the book is all about inner landscapes and the feel of a time and place, and previous film versions that have focused just on the story have felt empty because they haven't found a way to create a visual language that manages to somehow suggest the gorgeous, emotional prose that is so much a part of the appeal of Fitzgerald's novel.
"The Great Gatsby" may well be the most artificial-looking film I've ever seen, even in this condensed two minute form.
I think it's pretty safe to say that no one writes for Leslie Mann the way Judd Apatow does, and it's been fascinating to see the evolution of that from "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" until "This Is 40."
The thing I love in the characters she plays in his films is the way she mixes this remarkable frankness with an intense vulnerability. She's great all the way through "Knocked Up," but the moment where I fell for the character completely came about 2/3 of the way through. I'm going to bet most fans of that film think of the same moment first when they think of Debbie, that great scene when she is trying to get into a club and Craig Robinson plays the bouncer that has to explain why he can't let her in.
It's amazing, profane and well-observed, and what starts as a joke gets very real, then completely surreal, all in the space of about two minutes. Her rant manages to do it all, and the reaction from Robinson is solid gold.
It's that time of year, and we will indeed have plenty of lists for you here on HitFix. Greg Ellwood ran his ten favorite films of 2012 yesterday, we're working on a collective "worst of" list, and I've got at least three end of the year articles coming in the days ahead. For now, though, it's time for the big one, the main list, the top ten.
I love that our amazing video team (Michiel Thomas and James Jhun don't get nearly enough credit for all the outstanding work they do for us each and every day, and at this time of the year in particular, they are working around the clock to get everything ready) puts these together as video pieces for us. It's a great way to take one last fond look at the ten films that defined 2012 for me, the movies that most directly spoke to my experience, my tastes.
There are films on this list that I have had heated arguments about this year, movies that have polarized viewers in some cases. As always, the rules for an appearance on this list are simple: it has to be a new movie that I saw in 2012. Some of these were festival films, some of them had massive wide releases, and all of them made an impression on me. If they haven't played your area yet, please don't get upset about it and yell at me. Just consider it a heads up, something to keep an eye out for in the near future.
The first film I watched this year was a documentary called "These Amazing Shadows," a look at the work being done by the National Film Registry, and a celebration of the impulse behind the creation of the annual list.
For those of you not familiar with it already, each year, the Registry picks films that are "works of enduring importance to American culture, that reflect who we are as a people and as a nation." This year, anything released between 1897 and 1999 was eligible, and with this year's choices, the registry now stands at 600 titles. That's since it was created in 1989, and as with every year, the list of titles chosen includes some obvious choices, some eccentric choices, and some films you probably have never heard of, making for a typically heady mix.
I love that they've included "The Matrix," which will probably end up being one of the most influential films released since I started writing about movies. It seems with each passing year to cast a larger and larger shadow over pop culture, and I'm wondering if the Wachowskis will ever be able to equal the impact that movie made on audiences and filmmakers alike.
Here's the full list of new films added to the Registry, as well as the explanation sent out as part of today's press release, followed by my own thoughts on each title in italics.
I reviewed "Paul Williams Still Alive" when I was the Toronto Film Festival in 2011, and I think of the film as a 2011 release because of that. Technically, though, it's eligible for awards this year, and one of the ones they're aiming for is an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.
Much of what you hear in the film comes from his long and remarkable career, and for many people, the film serves to connect dots they may not have known were connected at all. The Carpenters, the Muppets, commercial work… so many of his songs have sunk into our collective cultural subconscious that we know them more than we know him.
When I spoke to Williams during the Toronto Film Festival, it was one of those interviews that could have gone on another two hours, and I wouldn't have even begun to run out of things to talk to him about. I feel bad that we never made it to the subject of "Still Alive," the original song he wrote for the documentary, and I'm glad to see that the company behind the film is working hard to get it out there.
It was strange being in New York this weekend doing back to back to back junkets and talking about fictional bloodbaths and violence while everyone at the event was also trying to absorb the real-life news about Newtown and the elementary school shootings. And I'll be clear… it wasn't uncomfortable because I think there is a correlation between violence in art and violence in real life. I don't. It was uncomfortable because we were all processing something real, and that makes it hard to be invested in the pretend.
I've chatted with Christoph Waltz a few times now, and I think he's a really sharp, well-spoken performer who doesn't really like digging too deep into his own process or going over projects other than the one that he's currently discussing. I think he had a long professional career before "Inglourious Basterds," and he got used to doing things a certain way, and just because more people are paying attention to the work on an international scale, that doesn't mean Waltz has any obligation to change the way he works.
Christopher McQuarrie's sole film as writer/director is a jet-black little piece of neo-noir called "The Way Of The Gun." While it wasn't a hit when it came out, it certainly had its fans, and I was among them. I liked the uncompromising sensibility of it, the way it seemed unafraid to be horribly nasty, and the streamlined narrative style. McQuarrie was first established by his script for "The Usual Suspects," of course, and he's remained a frequent collaborator of Bryan Singer, working on both "Jack The Giant Slayer" and "Valkyrie."
Tom Cruise is also a fan of McQuarrie's work, with the writer contributing to "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol," "All You Need Is Kill," and the most-likely-cancelled "Top Gun 2," and now McQuarrie has finally directed his second film, and he and Cruise have struck paydirt here. I will admit that I was incredibly skeptical of Cruise for the title role in "Jack Reacher," but I am won over by the film itself, and I feel like this is a really canny way of bringing the work of Lee Child to life.
For those unfamiliar with the seventeen novels featuring the character so far, he is a very calculated creation, a pulp hero that appeals to a sort of hyper-masculine ideal. In the books, Reacher is a 6'5" muscle-bound ape of a guy who happens to be incredibly intelligent, a keen investigator who retired from active duty in the Army to wander America. He stumbles into trouble and, like Travis McGee, a sort of "knight errant" chromosome forces him to right any wrongs he stumbles across. He can't help himself. He just isn't wired to allow the strong to victimize the weak as long as there's something he can do about it. He has no luggage, no home, no ties to anything. He has a bank account where his social security checks are deposited automatically, and he stays on the move constantly.
Joseph Kosinski is a promising filmmaker, and it certainly appears that he'll have plenty of chances to prove himself in the coming years. His science-fiction thriller "Oblivion" opens in the spring, and the first trailer, featuring Tom Cruise, just made its appearance online last week.
That film was co-written by Michael Arndt, who also wrote "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Toy Story 3" and who quite notably was hired to write "Star Wars - Episode VII," so perhaps it was only natural that there would be some rumors about Kosinski being the likely candidate to direct that film. After all, pretty much anyone who's ever directed anything involving special effects is going to be rumored to be the director by the time Disney and Lucasfilm eventually make their official announcement, and Kosinski is already in Disney's good graces.
I'm not sure if any of you bothered reading the details about the allegedly leaked script for "Transformers 4" over the weekend, but I tried. I say "tried" because about halfway through a summary of the supposed document, my brain crawled out of my head, horrified and furious, and attacked me to try and exact some revenge.
I am used to the idea that the "Transformers" mythology is completely incomprehensible, but even by the standards set by the totally deranged second film in the series, the synopsis that several people printed as real today is nonsense. That reads as pure fan fiction, nerdy on a level that would make Michael Bay's skin crawl. My guess, not knowing for sure what screenwriter Ehren Kruger and Bay are up to, is that they're going to try to reach out to an audience more akin to fans of the "Fast and Furious" franchise, leaving behind the wacky family stuff from the first three films. He's working with Mark Wahlberg this time, who he just directed in "Pain and Gain," and simply by switching the focus from Shia LeBeouf to Wahlberg as the lead, he's clearly indicating that this is more of a traditional action movie approach.
But let's pretend we don't know any of that. Bay says the script people are talking about has nothing to do with his film at all. Here's his official statement:
Based on the box-office figures for "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," I think it's safe to say quite a few of you went to see the film in various formats this weekend. If you did, then chances are you saw either the theatrical trailer for "Star Trek Into Darkness" or the nine-minute IMAX 3D presentation of the film's first nine minutes.
Right now, I feel bad for longtime "Trek" fans who don't enjoy the JJ Abrams films. There is no worse feeling for a film fan than disliking something that you are very, very excited about. I've been out with friends for various screenings over the years, and the conversations that happen after sitting through a crushing disappointment are most often a way of trying to grapple with what went wrong. For many audiences, the 2009 "Star Trek" was a big, fun, surprisingly well-cast film that they enjoyed and probably haven't thought much about since. There are the hardcore fans who just love seeing new "Trek" onscreen and who enjoyed the switch-up with the new cast, sure, and there are also kids who were introduced to "Star Trek" by that film and who are now nascent fans for the franchise as a whole.