You know, I thought we had gotten past this, but evidently not.
It is a very delicate dance that we all try to engage in when we write about films in production, particularly films where there is a very high desire for information from the fan community. Today, Disney is no doubt debating whether or not they handled all things "Star Wars" correctly at the D23 Expo. I don't think they could have brought anything more than they did, but it is obvious just from looking at Twitter or websites or Facebook that people who attended the event today absolutely expected more than they got.
When I published a piece about "Tomorrowland" earlier this year, I went too far. I said that in the days right afterwards, both on the site and in private communications to the people making the film. It was a case of being surprised to have so much information fall into my lap in the way it did and being aware that because I had it, others would have it as well, and making the judgment call to publish so that I could at least try to set it in a context of sorts.
You know, I thought we had gotten past this, but evidently not.
ANAHEIM - Being in my seat inside the D23 Arena at the Anaheim Convention Center in time for this morning's live-action presentation meant I was out of bed by 6:00 this morning. That was the hard part, though, and now that we're actually here and seated, it seems like Disney's gone out of their way to make sure everything is smooth sailing once you're actually on-site.
Dave Lewis is going to be posting breaking news stories out of the live-action panel this morning, which Disney is calling "LET THE ADVENTURES BEGIN." We know they'll be featuring "Saving Mr. Banks," the film about Walt Disney wooing P.L. Travers so she'll let him make a "Mary Poppins" film, as well as "Thor: The Dark World," Brad Bird's mysterious "Tomorrowland," and beyond that, it's all pretty much a secret. I've heard there will not be a major "Star Wars" announcement, but of course, that could just be smoke and mirrors. We'll see.
I'm not normally a live-blogger, and when I see how good some of our guys are at it during Comic-Con, I know the bar is set high. I'll do my best today to give you some ongoing sense of what it's like to be here, though, and of the highlights as the various presentations unfold.
Just waiting for things to get underway now. Hopefully it will be very close to the 10:30 start time that was stated.
When Sharlto Copley was shooting "The A-Team," there were rumors I heard several people repeat about dailies really upsetting some of the execs at Fox because they had no idea what they were looking at. Sharlto Copley's performance had them allegedly terrified and they weren't sure any of it would cut together. I don't really believe the exaggerated lengths that the stories then went on to describe, but I can imagine that the first time he made a film for someone besides Neill Blomkamp, it must have been a major attitude adjustment.
After all, he and Blomkamp are friends first, guys who share this particular world view, this perspective that is shaped by where they came from, and that absolutely affects how you work with someone. When Blomkamp talks to Alice Braga or Matt Damon, I'm sure he's good at conveying what it is he has in mind, but when he's directing "Sharl," as he calls him, that's a whole different level of communication.
I ran my interview the other day with Matt Damon where he was talking enthusiastically about working with Copley and about how amazing his work in "District 9" was from a performance point-of-view. I don't think I fully grasped how much character work he was doing in that film until I rewatched it recently. Now I can see all the little details, all the choices he made in building that character, and I can appreciate them in light of seeing how he approaches the mad dog soldier of fortune he's playing in "Elysium."
Earlier today, Entertainment Weekly posted a chat with John Lasseter about the way things are divided between the three different animation companies that all work now under the broader umbrella of "Disney." Walt Disney Feature Animation has always been the crown jewel for the studio, and many of the biggest landmarks in the company's history have been thanks to the efforts of WDFA. Pixar, which began as an independent studio, now operates with what seems to be some autonomy, but considering Lasseter is part of everything now, I'm not sure I see why they bother with the distinction. I'll be honest... what I think of as Pixar is really just a loose collection of very talented people who, when collaborating, represented one of the best story departments in the industry.
Then there's Disney Toons, and I would imagine the people working there must feel a bit like the red-headed stepchild, especially when the main message of the press materials so far has been "We started work on this as a direct-to-video quickie, but it looked nicer than we expected, so we decided to squeeze out a few bucks in the theater first."
Is that fair? Is that what you should carry in with you if you go to see "Planes"?
Matt Damon has managed to stake out a very interesting niche for himself as a filmmaker and actor, and I am constantly impressed at how he manages to pull it off.
By any standards, you have to consider him a major movie star, yet whenever I've had a conversation with him, he's one of the most normal, casual guys I can imagine. Someone like George Clooney has a sort of aura where you are constantly aware of the reactions of everyone around him, where even if he's not trying to turn it on, he creates this ripple just by walking through a room. I honestly believe Damon could get away with relative anonymity if that's what he wanted. He's certainly able to turn up the wattage for the films he's in, but in person, he strikes me more like a dad I'd meet at a Little League practice than a movie star selling a $100-million-plus production.
One thing I've heard repeatedly from people who have worked with Damon is that he's a great collaborator, willing to put the film's needs above his personal needs. There are plenty of actors who will ask for changes that are about their image or their public persona, but Damon seems like much more of a big picture guy, someone whose goal is always to make the film better overall.
It's funny timing, me running a piece last night in which I responded to the accusations by the filmmakers behind "The Lone Ranger" that critics pre-write their reviews of films. I think those guys are doing damage control, playing a shell game of sorts by saying what they said, but the truth is that certain films do make their first appearance already bloodied, targets painted on their backs in vivid red, and there is no doubt that Paul Schrader's "The Canyons" is one of those films.
The opening credits of the film have a haunting quality that I hoped the film as a whole would possess, stationary shots of abandoned theaters, movie palaces that have been left to the elements. But from scene one, there is a dissonance between Paul Schrader's visual work with photographer John DeFazio and the quality of the performances, and I have to confess, the entire thing just made me sad.
One of the things that was immediately apparent when I saw "District 9" for the first time is that Neill Blomkamp has a fantastic eye for detail. Everything about that movie is in service of selling the reality, and when I recently rewatched it, I found myself repeatedly laughing at the tactile sense of place that Blomkamp's films evoke.
In "Elysium," it's even more critical that environment serve as storyteller, and the decision to shoot in real Mexican dumps, using those to double as Los Angeles, is both bold and slightly terrifying. I can't imagine the stress of taking a movie star as well known as Matt Damon to a location shoot in a place where kidnapping is an industry, and there's no way I would have been able to stop thinking about John Wayne's health problems after shooting "The Conqueror" as I was running around that dump amidst toxic materials and wind machines. When you see how it all reads on film, though, Blomkamp made the right call. It doesn't feel like a set, like something put together by a production designer, but instead feels like what it is, a monument of human waste, built over time.
Chris Columbus is, at this point, the movie studio equivalent of an explorer, the first guy to get somewhere, the one who plants the flag and moves on. When he made the first two films in the "Harry Potter" series, he made decisions that resonated through the entire seven movies, no matter how strong a voice anyone who followed him brought to the table.
On the first "Percy Jackson," he was obviously hired to give 20th Century Fox the same sort of franchise that Warner Bros. spun from all things Potter, and while it was nowhere near the same sort of cultural phenomenon, it did well enough, especially when international box-office was considered, and they did indeed end up springing for the sequel, which arrives in theaters tomorrow.
First, let me preface this by saying I can't believe you took the bait. That question was designed to get you to crap all over critics in response to their reaction to your movie, and you seem like you couldn't wait to answer the question. That's a shame.
Let's start with the premise that critics prejudged your movie.
I think it is presumptuous to assume that you know why critics reacted the way they did to "The Lone Ranger," other than the actual reasons stated in whatever bad reviews you're talking about. I can't tell you why anyone else didn't like it, but as a critic who really, really didn't like your movie, I feel compelled now to defend my review to you, if only to challenge your comments during a recent interview for the UK release of the film. Besides, if there's any movie this summer that gets to play the "critics just wanted to beat the crap out of us" victim card, it's "After Earth," not "The Lone Ranger."
And if that is how critics decide to beat things up, wouldn't "John Carter" have suffered the same fate last year? Because I think a lot of critics ended up being pleasantly surprised by that, and their buzz was way worse than yours ever was. I know I liked it.
As I said, I'm speaking here for no one but myself. I considered writing this as a short news item about the comments you made, but there are tons of those already, and the truth is, I was personally bothered by the comments. I'm not irritated in the abstract sense, but rather in the specific sense.
After all, I've had many encounters with you gentlemen over the years. When you were building up to the release of the second "Pirates" film, you reached out to me, and that began a series of conversations and encounters, and in the interest of clarity, I'm going to list those, and let's see if this reveals some hidden bias that has just been waiting for the perfect moment to spring it on you.
I love how Sylvester Stallone has embraced the immediacy of the Internet over the last few years. When I was at Ain't It Cool, he first reached out to Harry and did a series of Q&A sessions there that were fascinating because you could see how little filter he appeared to have in discussing his work.
These days, he uses Twitter to update fans on his films as he moves through development, announcing things like casting and even talking about things he'd like to do that aren't set in stone yet. It really doesn't feel like there's a publicist orchestrating things, and I think that's the key for any celebrity using social media. The more "official" something feels, the less interesting it is. People want to see someone like Alec Baldwin lose his shit at someone on Twitter because, more than anything else, it humanizes them. With Stallone, the charm of his social media presence is just how clear it is that he's enjoying this latest act of his career enormously, and he is aware of how tenuous all of it can be.