November 01, 2007
Regarding 'Blood'

Now that the review is out of the way, allow me to address a few things here. And this is by no means aimed at everyone, just a few folks who seem to have misinterpreted some things.

First and foremost, it seems a Variety item regarding this film got a lot of people up in arms, their panties in a twist. I think someone out there even said I actually panned the film, when not a sign of opinion was in sight. Another note told me I was being professionally jealous, or some such nonsense, in my talk of the film’s early screening in Austin.

That’s not true at all.

My snide remarks about the review embargo had everything to do with that very decision (whether it came from Paramount Vantage, Scott Rudin or those involved with peripheral publicity – no one wants to fess up) and how frankly out of sorts it was given that there were opinionated remarks already in print. It’s a little strange to ask for an embargo amongst those circumstances, but in any case, my remarks had nothing to do with colleague’s assessments or foolish notions that I wasn’t first to see it. Seriously, folks, I didn’t see “Zodiac” until a few weeks ago. I don’t often get bent out of shape over that stuff.

Next, regarding Oscar predictions – the same sort of uninformed souls who declared my comments a “pan” went so far as to declare I hated “There Will Be Blood” because I removed it from my Oscar predictions in nearly every category.

Well, I guess the joke’s on you.

I can’t stress enough that I don’t figure in personal opinion of a film when assessing Oscar potential and only consider how I think the Academy is going to react. Sometimes I’m wrong, but never for the wrong reasons. I didn’t see “The Departed” as a Best Picture winner upon screening it last year and yet it was my favorite film of the nominated five. “No Country for Old Men” I didn’t like (sue me – I seem to be the only one), and I don't know that the Academy would go for something so desolate. I could be wrong. And finally, the best film I’ve seen in a decade, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” is predicted in two categories and is found on only one chart of ten in the major categories: Best Supporting Actor.

Anyway, that's that. The facts are the facts and I thought friend and foe alike would do well by knowing them.

October 22, 2007
Nicholson to be taken seriously

As the most nominated actor in the history of the Academy, I am shocked no one seems to be taking Jack Nicholson's latest performance in "The Bucket List" all that seriously as a best actor candidate? After being snubbed for "The Departed" when he clearly gave a superb performance, I am anxious to see Nicholson opposite Morgan Freeman for the first time in a film that could prove to be the heart warmer of the holiday season, and let's face it, Oscar likes to have his heart warmed.

If anyone can elevate the material of 'The Bucket List' it's certainly Nicholson and Freeman, who are directed by Rob Reiner who admittedly has not had a hit film for a long time, but neither has he had good material for quite some time or strong actors. Let's not forget that Reiner guided Nicholson to an Oscar nod in "A Few Good Men" fifteen years ago.

Granted the field for best actor is pretty tough this year and it looks like it is Daniel Day-Lewis' to lose but I am shcoked that no one, Kris excepted, seems to be talking Nicholson up for a nomination. He is among the greatest living actors, one of the icons of the seventies who manages to walk that line between genuine movie star and great actor. Yes I agree that far too often he allows the Jack persona to take over, but when he challenges himself, and is in turn challenged by a good director, he is capable of the extraordinary performances he gave in "About Schmidt," "The Pledge" and "Ironweed." The year he won for "As Good As It Gets" should have been Robert Duvall's for "The Apostle," but the fact is that Jack won that one on his sheer movie star appeal.

Now in fairness I could dead wrong on this but my gut feeling is telling me to watch out for this film and Nicholson's performance. He may decide to move us and when he does, he is unstoppable.

September 28, 2007
"No Country for Old Men" is the wicked, twisted half-brother of "Fargo," but with half the thematic resilience, a third of the poignancy and perhaps none of the ultimate impact.

It's the headline that lept to mind after tonight's wholly unsatisfying screening. The review will have to follow at another time...

November 18, 2006
"Casino Royale"

I held off on this one until seeing it with an audience last night. The 11:45 Burbank crowd was rowdy and stoked (and sent over the edge by the "Spidey 3" trailer).

Anyway, I hate the Bond movies. More often than not, they bore me to tears. The one time I actually sat down to watch one with any sort of critical eye was "Tomorrow Never Dies," in preparation for an interview with Julian Fellowes. These films just don't work for me. The camp value of the old stuff is - sometimes - beneficial, but it's just not my bag, baby.

"Casino Royale," however, kicks a whole lot of ass. All over the place. The action in this film is extremely creative (though handled in a clunky fashion at times by director Martin Campbell), and Daniel Craig is the real deal. Stone cold badass, the way Bond is supposed to be. It's a fantastic movie-going experience through and through, until the last act just unravels like a loosely-knit sweater. At least one of those "cutesy" endings needed to be cut if, for no other reason, because of repetition's sake. But the otherwise solidly hammered out script just boils down in those final scenes, leaving an awkward taste in the mouth.

In addition, the second act bogs down after a while, and if you aren't a fan of poker, you might be shifting in your seat. Sure, there's plenty of plot to push this section of the film forward, but I don't know - some more "adapting" needed to be in the mix.

I think "Casino Royale" is a solid enough actioner, however, and a great re-boot for the franchise. It establishes the character nicely and forces him into that "trust no one" state of mind that is applicable throughout the franchise.

November 11, 2006
"The Good German"

Steven Soderbergh's latest effort is one of those films you kind of have to see twice before you make any sort of specific comment on it. Whatever the initial reaction, positive or negative, it really might be best to go back to the thing once you know its intentions. Even when the Warner Bros. publicst sent me a note yesterday asking what I thought, my reaction was to hold back and request the screening schedule. I need to take another look.

This isn't a review by any stretch. Call it thinking out loud if anything. But I sat in the Clarity screening room last week at the BFCA/LAFCA screening following a lush little reception (Soderbergh and composer Thomas Newman were in attendance) just like everyone else. And from what I can gauge, not a lot of critics can get into this thing.

Personally, it was a sort of chaffing experience that I wasn't prepared for. Prior to the screening, I had no idea Soderbergh emulated the films of the 40s in his technique to the extent finally outlined by David Kehr in the New York Times today, and neither did a couple of other viewers I know. So the cold water to the face is a bit much to start.

I've made some comments here and there that I have to say I stand by. Tobey Maguire's over-the-top portrayal still doesn't work, for instance. But in addition, Cate Blanchett's performance is a certain shade of spectacular, while Thomas Newman's score is one of his finest to date, and certainly his most soaring work since "The Shawshank Redemption" (it's between Newman and Philip Glass's career-best work for the win, methinks). George Clooney still has zero chemistry with his co-star, however, and is kind of laughable as the leading man he's there to portray, but again, I need to smooth it all out.

It was an interesting exercise, to say the least. I look forward to another viewing.