By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 0 Comments
I was going to write something about the controversy over the Girls episode “One Man’s Trash,” and specifically the arguments over whether Lena Dunham and Patrick Wilson were a plausible couple. I decided what I wrote didn’t really work, and besides which a) There’s probably enough Girls discussion already, and b) The discussion of these issues tend to turn a writer into Rex Reed or, even worse, John Simon. (If you think people are unpleasant about Melissa McCarthy or Lena Dunham, just read that collection of Simon’s horrifically nasty comments about Liza Minnelli – we have a long way to go before we can match that guy for sheer hate.) So I’ll let that episode go for now.
But the discussion did illuminate something for me about our expectations when it comes to a character’s looks. We all know about the famous sexist double standard for looks in film and television. An ordinary-looking or overweight man is more likely to be paired with a beautiful woman, while the opposite pairing almost never happens. Even a woman with looks that are just unconventional – like Liza Minnelli, see above – will sustain the types of attacks that a Dustin Hoffman, say, doesn’t usually get once he becomes a star. But even though we’re more used to that kind of pairing, it still jars us more in fiction than it would in real life. Jason Alexander is married to a tall, good-looking woman, but it looked silly to us that George Costanza was going out with tall, good-looking women. Woody Allen’s ability to get women on the screen is more puzzling to us than his ability to get those same women in real life. And so on.
The main reason for this is that in real life there are many different reasons why people would get together, beyond looks – which, after all, are subjective. But the actors are often playing characters who Continue…
By Sonya Bell - Friday, September 7, 2012 at 10:17 AM - 0 Comments
Ben Affleck, who directs and stars in Argo, isn’t the only one in Hollywood to double dip
Pop quiz: Name the two actors who directed themselves to Best Actor Oscars. If you knew it was Laurence Olivier and Roberto Benigni, you know a lot about the arts and probably don’t need to keep reading this list.
The idea of pulling double-duty seems as ill-conceived as the second Sex and the City flick, at first. But many actors dreams of directing, and three highly anticipated movies at TIFF this year are directed by the actor. Or is it that they star the director? Ben Affleck does it in Argo, Robert Redford in The Company You Keep and Billy Bob Thornton in Jayne Mansfield’s Car.
Here are five (other) actor-directors who have cast themselves with outstanding results.
(Though, further to the pop quiz, no one has ever won the Best Director and Best Actor Oscars for the same movie.)
5) Mel Gibson – Braveheart. The Man Without a Face.
4) Warren Beatty – Dick Tracy. Heaven Can Wait. Reds.
3) Woody Allen – Annie Hall. Manhattan. Hannah and Her Sisters.
2) George Clooney – The Ides of March. Good Night and Good Luck. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.
1) Clint Eastwood – Million Dollar Baby. Unforgiven. Space Cowboys. Mystic River.
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, July 6, 2012 at 12:58 PM - 0 Comments
Oliver Stone and Woody Allen, two of America’s most durable auteurs, hail from opposite ends of American cinema. Stone makes heavyweight (and sometimes heavy-handed) studio pictures that use visceral images to punch home blunt convictions about power and money; Allen tosses off bantam-weight indie comedies about love and angst, harnessing high-pedigree actors, and (lately) European financing and locations. Stone has a taste for muscular melodramas powered by dark conspiratorial forces; Allen spins conspiracies of the neurotic imagination into breezy confections of romance and farce. Stone is known to bully his actors and his audience; Allen is notorious for ignoring both.
Their new movies offer wildly different escapades into foreign worlds. Turbo-charged with sex, drugs and violence, Stone’s Savages takes us into the cloak-and-doobie intrigue of high-living California pot growers who go to war against a Mexican cartel. Allen’s To Rome with Love is a whimsical omnibus of unconnected stories set against postcard vistas of the Eternal City. Each movie is stylishly entertaining in its own right, but neither is convincing. Savages slip-slides into soap opera, and To Rome With Love surrenders to aimless farce.
Adapted from Don Winslow’s best-selling novel, Savages is a lusty joyride that feels more like a movie by Michael Mann or Quentin Tarantino than a typical Oliver Stone extravaganza. Sure, the gusto with which Stone embraces sex, drugs and rock’n'roll is reminiscent of Natural Born Killers—and reminds us this is the guy who wrote Brian De Palma’s Scarface—but the buzz feels bogus and the grit doesn’t ring true. Although Stone had a hand in the screenplay, Winslow adapted his own novel. Like the book, which reads like a movie, it portrays the marijuana biz, and the cartels, with a speedball change-up of authentic detail and pulp fantasy. Savages is Oliver Stone’s California vacation. Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, July 6, 2012 at 7:00 AM - 0 Comments
The neurotic New Yorker travels out of his time zone and enjoys new-found success
Another year, another holiday picture from Woody Allen. To Rome With Love, the 42nd movie he has directed, arrives with the reassuring predictability of a postcard sent from an old relative on an annual cruise. But it also features Allen’s first screen appearance since Scoop (2006) in a hammy supporting role as Jerry, a retired opera director visiting his daughter in Italy. Like an old rocker playing his hits, Woody indulges in a septuagenarian send-up of his classic nebbish persona. We ﬁrst see him as an apoplectic, white-knuckled flyer, bracing himself for imminent death as his flight to Rome hits a spot of turbulence. These days, however, that image could not be further from the truth. After shooting eight movies in Europe, the artist formerly known as Manhattan’s neurotic agoraphobe is now the happy tourist auteur.
Allen’s role as a filmmaker-in-exile was born of necessity. As U.S. financing for his films dried up, he found fresh patronage from producers in Europe, where his films consistently do better than in North America. Leaving New York to film in foreign capitals has boosted Woody’s career like a hit of Viagra. Match Point (2005), the first of three movies filmed in London, was his biggest success in two decades; the director, usually his own worst critic, called it his best movie. Since then, he scored a bull’s eye with Vicky Cristina Barcelona, matching Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem as ﬁery Latin lovers. And last year’s Oscar-winning reverie, Midnight in Paris, became his top-grossing film, displacing Hannah and Her Sisters with a worldwide take of $150 million.
Allen, 76, may have made his name with misanthropic wit, but his recent work is suffused with romance and whimsy. He’s developed a formula: young Americans visiting a European city fall in and out of love, tumbling through rabbit-hole intrigues with the locals, while the ultimate object of desire is the city itself, lushly photographed from all its best angles. Each movie becomes a valentine to its charismatic location, and to the passing parade of talent that catches the director’s eye—from Scarlett Johansson to Canadians Ellen Page and Alison Pill, who both star in To Rome With Love. “There’s a whole new generation that’s discovered Woody Allen,” says Tom Bernard, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, his U.S. distributor. “Now it’s not just the older Jewish Upper West Side audience. A month into the release of Midnight in Paris, it was a teenage and twentysomething date movie.”
By Brian D. Johnson - Thursday, December 8, 2011 at 11:59 PM - 1 Comment
This time of year I get a lot of people asking me to recommend movies. Whenever I urge them to see The Artist, the reaction is predictable. Something along the lines of, “Yeah, yeah, I know it’s supposed to be great, but I’m more in the mood for a movie-movie. Something that won’t be a chore.” And it’s really hard to convince someone that a silent, black-and-white film is not some cinephile specialty item but a ‘movie-movie’—a broadly entertaining romp that takes no effort whatsoever to watch. In fact, the reason I always recommend The Artist as my default pick is that it’s a safe choice no matter who’s asking—the year’s most unlikely crowd-pleaser.
In Cannes, where watching films in competition can be an endurance test, The Artist received the most jubilant response. It was like recess. In fact, the main knock it received from high-pedigree critics is that is was too broadly entertaining. Since then, after charming audiences at TIFF, the film has had remarkable staying power. It is emerging as one of 2011′s most unassailable Oscar candidates. And it also reflects a curious trend. Along with Hugo, Martin Scorsese’s uncharacteristic foray into 3D family fare, it has exhumed silent film from the art-house vault and given it a new populist pedigree. The Artist is, ironically, not an art film.
In trying to convey its appeal, I’ve found it useful to say it’s the kind of film Woody Allen would like to have made. But it’s much better than Woody’s Midnight in Paris. The nostalgic reverie it inspires is more original; though it doesn’t advertise its intellect, it’s smarter. And it actually is a French movie, one that has no need for subtitles. Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Thursday, June 2, 2011 at 11:21 PM - 2 Comments
Something for everyone this weekend: a Woody Allen comedy, a comic book blockbuster, and a semi-precious gem of Montreal noir. But exercise caution. Actors may be smaller than they appear. Take the photograph above, which is misleading. It would suggest that Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams, the adorable stars of Wedding Crashers, are reunited in another romantic comedy. Well, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris is a romantic comedy, with Wilson and McAdams starring as an engaged American couple vacationing in the City of Light. But they’re clearly mismatched from the start, and McAdams’ role—as a shallow, shrewish conservative—is much smaller and less sympathetic than Wilson’s. Canada’s sweetheart works hard to bring nuance and detail to what is, in the end, a thankless part. It’s yet another instance of her talent being better than her material. Which points to a broader trend: actors being vastly overqualified for the movies they end up in. Look at this weekend’s blockbuster sequel: X-Men First Class. The best thing about the movie is the first-class cast, which includes Michael Fassbender (Hunger), James McEvoy (The Last King of Scotland) and Jennifer Lawrence (A Winter’s Bone). They do some really fine work here. But going to an X-Men movie for the character acting is like buying Playboy for the articles. In Hollywood movies these days, it’s pearls before swine everywhere you look. I mean, will Johnny Depp ever desert that damn pirate ship?
Midnight in Paris and X-Men: First Class are both broadly entertaining, crowd-pleasing confections, though each is less that the sum of its performances. Good Neighbours, a Canadian indie film, is a a modest chamber piece, but it’s tautly directed by Jacob Tierney (The Trotsky), with trio of compelling performances by Canadian actors Jacob Baruchel, Scott Speedman and Emily Hampshire. It succeeds admirably on its own terms. Details on all three movies . . . Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 at 9:55 AM - 1 Comment
Judging from this year’s Cannes screenings, cinema is obsessed with seductive angels of mercy
In Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, which kicked off Cannes, Owen Wilson stars as a Hollywood screenwriter vacationing in France with his fiancée, a shrewish Malibu princess played by Rachel McAdams. He’s a frustrated novelist who dreams of being a writer in the café society of the 1920s. This being a Woody Allen movie, magical thinking produces magic, and our artiste manqué time-travels to the salons of the Golden Age, mixing with the likes of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Picasso—and falls in love with an artist’s muse portrayed by Marion Cotillard. She, in turn, considers her own era a bore, and longs to be transported back to the belle époque of the 1890s. The absinthe is always greener on the other side.
Living elsewhere, of course, is why we go to movies. And the unabashed nostalgia of Midnight in Paris served as a fitting amuse-bouche for the 64th annual Cannes International Film festival, an event where the past could not have been more present. Cannes is the shrine of auteur cinema, “the pinnacle,” as Johnny Depp acknowledged when he dropped anchor to promote Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides—part of the Hollywood sideshow that keeps the media flocking to Cannes. But as blockbuster culture erodes the fragile ecology of the art film, the art-house fortress of Cannes has never seemed more intent on honouring the past. This week it staged a tribute to Jean-Paul Belmondo, whose role in Breathless in 1960 helped launch the French New Wave. And among the 20 features in competition, one film after another conjured nostalgic visions of paradise lost, from a miraculously good black and white silent movie called The Artist, to Terrence Malick’s eye-popping vision of a ’50s childhood (and all of Creation) in The Tree of Life.
That smoky siren played by Cotillard in Midnight in Paris could be a poster girl for this festival—if the ofﬁcial poster was not already adorned by the ghostly image of another icon, a young Faye Dunaway with mascara eyes wide shut and endless legs folded in supplication. This edition of the festival feted a pantheon of mostly male directors—including Lars von Trier, Pedro Almodóvar and the Dardenne brothers—but Cannes has always held a special place in its heart for the Siren. No, not the one on the Starbucks logo, but the sort of screen goddess who embodies the mystique of cinema. Sophia Loren. Ingrid Bergman. Monica Vitti. Marilyn Monroe. We’re still looking for the latest incarnation, in the fiery brilliance of Penélope Cruz or the erotic majesty of Angelina Jolie, but it’s like hunting for a new Dalai Lama.
By Brian D. Johnson - Wednesday, May 11, 2011 at 4:27 PM - 1 Comment
Day One at the Cannes Film Festival is jam-packed. We begin with a press screening for the opening night gala, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, followed by three back-to-back press conferences. The French used to believe in lunch. Hey, it’s a new world. Woody explains how he struggled to come up with a script to match his title, Midnight in Paris; then Bernardo Bertolucci, recipient of an honorary Palme D’Or, mused fondly about Last Tango in Paris; finally we had our ritual audience with the Cannes jury, whose president, Robert De Niro, was about as responsive as a waiter in Paris, as he lived up to his legendary capacity to say absolutely nothing in as few words as possible.
Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, by the way, didn’t show. The French First Lady, who has a recurring cameo in Allen’s film as an amiable tour guide, sent her regrets. When Allen was asked how he came to cast her, he said, “One morning I was just having breakfast with the Sarkozys and she walked into the room and she was very beautiful and very charming and charismatic. I said ‘Would you like to be in a movie? A small role, just for fun.’ She said I would like to be in one of your movies because I’d like to tell my grandchildren one day I was in the movie.’ She was everything I hoped she would be. She’s not a lawyer or a diplomat even though she’s married to a political man. She’s from a show business background. She came in and did the part very gracefully. It was fun. It was a nice experience for her, I’m happy to say. She was very happy with how the film came out and very happy with the way the cameramen filmed her.”
We never got to ask Woody how he just happened to be having breakfast with the Sarkozys.
For Woody Allen, Cannes is by now almost as familiar as Manhattan. Midnight in Paris, his 44nd movie, is his fifth to open the festival. Like Vicky Cristina Barcelona, it’s another postcard-pretty valentine of auteur tourism, with Americans falling into foreign hands, though it lacks the character work (or fireworks) of VCB. But it was warmly received here. With its unabashed francophilia, it could have been made for Cannes, and who knows, maybe it was. Midnight in Paris is, quite proudly, a mere bagatelle, a lightly satirical conjuring of 1920s Paris, set in the context of a crumbling 2010 marriage between two well-heeled American tourists, Gil (Owen Wilson) and Inez (Rachel McAdams). Time travel makes it happen.
Wilson’s naturally disingenuous, slightly stammery delivery makes him a perfect Allen surrogate. McAdams, who has a habit of being consistently better than her material, shines in an unsympathetic role as his nagging fiancé—Canada’s sweetheart is cast against type as a Republican who’s overly impressed by their shallow friend, pedantic know-it-all played by Michael Sheen. Wilson plays a familiar Allen protogonist, a frustrated novelist who worships the past and is aching to escape the hackdom of Hollywood screenwriting success. He deserts Inez and her friends each each night to walk the streets of Paris—where at the stroke of midnight he’s magically spirited away into the émigré salon-monde of the ‘20s. He mingles with the likes of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dali, Buñuel, Picasso and Gertrude Stein, and falls for a dreamy Marion Cotillard, the next best thing to Edith Piaf. Aside from the abrasive chemistry between Wilson and McAdams, the movie’s pleasure lies in its greatest hits parade of coy cameo impersonations, from Alison Pill’s Zelda Fitzgerald to Adrien Brody’s Salvador Dali. Around every burnished corner of this closeted period film is a fresh surprise. Welcome to Woody Tussaud’s House of Wax.
Allen has become a casting virtuoso. He can get Oscar winners like Brody, Cotillard and Katherine Bates to fill out minor roles. But at the press conference he positively gushed about landing Owen Wilson: “Owen is the opposite of me. I’m very Manhattan, very East Coast. Owen is very West Coast. He personifies that in his whole demeanour. He’s relaxed and he’s a beach lover and this gives the character an enormous dimension that I could never have given it, nor could I have written it for another actor.”
I asked Allen if Wilson’s rom-com romance with McAdams in Wedding Crashers had anything to do with him pairing them again. “I’d seen Rachel in a film with Owen years ago,” he said, as if the title escaped him, “and I thought she was sensational. She was beautiful and sexy and funny and a wonderful actress, and I wanted to work with her. And the opportunity came up. I didn’t like the fact that they had worked together before. That was a negative to me. I figured people will think, ‘Oh, it’s Owen and Rachel again.’ But I felt there’s nothing I could do about it. They’re both great and I want them both. I wanted to get Rachel at any cost, and I was very lucky to get Owen. I’ve always been lucky with casting. The truth in casting is to hire great people, let them do what they do, don’t interfere with them too much, and then when they’re great, take credit for it. I’ve done this for many years and it works like a charm.”
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, October 1, 2010 at 12:31 AM - 0 Comments
In the movies that dominate this opening weekend, the action is all talk. Topping the new releases is a trio of grown-up pictures driven by energetic dialogue—Social Network, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger and Trigger. Then, for a more visceral kick, there’s a choice between the horror movie remake Let Me In and the Canuck hoser farce Fubar 2, which are both a cut above their respective genres. Finally, for a trip inside the ultimate talking head, there’s Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie. Now, maybe someone has slipped a smiley pill into my critic cocktail, but believe it or not, I can happily recommend all six films to some degree, something I can’t remember ever doing for a such a large batch of new releases. Not all are must-see movies. (Woody Allen’s Tall Dark Stranger eminently skippable.) And for the moment, Trigger is playing only in Toronto. But this is a pretty fine crop, led by one of the smartest movies to come out of Hollywood in some time:
Directed by David Fincher (Fight Club) and scripted by Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing), The Social Network makes intelligence sexy and exciting, as if it’s the latest comic book super power. In the role of Facebook CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, Jesse Eisenberg is scarily convincing as the Smartest Guy in the Room, a serious geek whose brain seems to be moving at warp speed. Sorkin is a past master at dramatizing complex information with dense, propulsive dialogue—remember all those walking-and-talking marathons in the White House corridors of The West Wing—and here he sets a new land-speed record for dialogue. It’s fun just trying to keep up. And under Fincher’s kinetic direction, The Social Network‘s verbal intrigue rips along like a house on fire.
The story charts Zuckerberg’s imperial destiny back to a drunken prank in his Harvard dorm room, where he hacks into Harvard’s databases to launch Facesmash, a site rating the hotness of co-eds. The narrative is framed by flash-forward scenes of a deposition room where history’s youngest billionaire is trying to fend off two lawsuits—one from his best friend and former Facebook CFO Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) and the other from the stranger-than-fiction Winklvoss twins, blue-blood Olympic rowers who claim he stole their idea. Garfield (the next Spider-Man) proves immensely sympathetic as Eduardo, the loyal partner who gets stabbed in the back after Zuckerberg makes a devil-pact with Napster bad boy Sean Parker—played with sulfuric sleaze by Justin Timberlake, who’s proving to be quite the potent actor.
The movie’s genius is that it pulls the viewer in conflicting directions. On the one hand, we’re appalled by Zuckerberg’s cold-blooded calculations, and his betrayal of Saverin. On the other hand, Saverin seems hopelessly wedded to an old-school business model that Zuckerberg has no time for. And even though Eisenberg never tries to soften his character or court our affections, we find ourselves perversely rooting for him. He is, after all, the Citizen Kane of this saga; he’s the one living out the twisted version of the American Dream. And with rather generous psychological license, Sorkin’s script gives him a Rosebud—the film begins with Mark being dumped by his girlfriend (Rooney Mara, warming up for her role as the avenging heroine of Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). From there on, the movie hinges on the back-pocket whim that Zuckerberg’s quest for world domination is fueled by romantic rejection. Which reduces him to just another guy taking a really circuitous route to getting laid. But it still makes for a helluva story. It’s exhilarating to see a movie with this much verbal complexity succeed at being so entertaining. People will be talking about it all the way up to the Oscars.
For my story on The Social Network in this week’s magazine go to Aaron Sorkin, Facebook and the Devil. And to read the full transcript of my interview with Sorkin go to: Aaron Sorkin gives Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg a Poke. Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 5:06 PM - 0 Comments
Great actors line up to work with Woody Allen. Partly because he’s living legend. But also because a Woody Allen shoot is a high-wire act that’s like a cross between film and live theatre—actors have to navigate complex ensemble scenes shot on location in long takes with no margin for error. In Allen’s latest film, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Josh Brolin plays Roy, a novelist struggling with writer’s block who’s married to Sally (Naomi Watts) but develops a mad crush on the girl next door (Slumdog Millionaire ingenue Freida Pinto). I talked to Brolin a few weeks ago at the Toronto International Film Festival:
Q. What’s the big attraction of working with Woody Allen?
A. I worked with Woody before in a small part, in Melinda and Melinda . We didn’t speak at all. But there was this one scene. We were in a Rolls Royce. Will Ferrell and Amanda Peet were in the back, and I’m talking about how beautiful the sky is, but there were black clouds and it starts to drizzle. It doesn’t make any sense. So I try to get to Woody on the walkie-talkie—and Will is like [whispering] ‘You don’t want to do that! You don’t want to do that!” Finally I get Woody on the walkie-talkie and I say “Woody, it doesn’t make any sense what I’m saying.” Long, long, long pause. Then he says, “Alright, then make it weather contingent.” I hear a click. I put the thing down and Will goes, “I told you, you shouldn’t have said anything.” I had to improvise the entire scene keeping in mind the dark weather. And I had 30 seconds to do it. That kind of rush is very attractive—in hindsight.
Q. What challenges did you face making Tall Dark Stranger?
A. Usually when you block a scene you go back to your trailer by yourself, you isolate, you work on your dialogue. We had none of that with Woody. I was told we had trailers that are comfortable and nice. Did we ever see them? No. On day we were in a fifth-floor walk-up. We were in this tiny room, our holding pen. Everybody’s freaking out. Everyone wants to please Woody. I’m pacing and smoking. We show up on the set, and Woody says, “Okay, let’s block this.” We’re constantly moving. In a play it would take a week figuring out how this is going to work. We have 15 minutes. And it’s all done in one shot, so you can’t screw up the take. There’s no escape. You’ve got to be really on your game. Everybody’s talking to themselves, everybody’s pacing. You put yourself in this horrible position and you’re not being paid anything, to please this guy. He’s set himself up in such a way that all you want to do is please the master. It’s the greatest manipulation of anybody I’ve ever come across.
Q. How did your co-stars fare?
Freida [Pinto] was really thrown. She told me she would almost get sick in the morning. Between me and Woody, it was like a monster to her. Woody came to her at one point and said, “I don’t feel like you like him at all. You’re supposed to be in love with him.” I can’t imagine being green and learning like she’s learning, really quickly, and doing a Woody Allen film. I would have folded. But she did extremely well.
Q. How does working with Woody compare to working with the Coen brothers?
A. Woody is more reactive. They don’t react. I work with a lot of people who don’t react. Oliver [Stone] doesn’t react. He’ll say, “Are you feeling okay today?” then walk away. I say, “What does that mean?” and he’ll say, “I don’t know, you seem a little off,” and then he’ll walk away. What does that mean? He’s just cranking me up. The Coens don’t say a lot. I’ve done three projects with them. I get [a look]. And that means great job, we can move on. I’ve never gotten a thumbs up.
Q. They only say something if there’s a problem?
A. Yeah, and it’s usually just, “Do you want to do that again?” Or “why are you crying? Let’s do it again.”
Q. What a strange job you have. And it’s not as if it’s the same job from one movie to the next.
A. Very different sensibilities. The only through line is that I have total trust in these people. That’s the difference in working for 20 years without it and working for four years now with people I absolutely trust. Therefore I feel that I can fail miserably, and humiliate myself without pause, and they will find the gem within that.
By macleans.ca - Friday, September 24, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Hilary Swank cleans up for the cameras, the Boss is still working, and the FUBAR guys have some advice for the PM
Sarah Silverman’s amazing week
She was at TIFF promoting Peep Show, but Sarah Silverman has been in town shooting Take This Waltz with director Sarah Polley. “Sarah is so supportive,” she told Maclean’s. “After my first take on my first day, she came up to me and said, ‘That was amazing!’ Then someone brought her a cup of coffee and she said, ‘This coffee is amazing!’ ” As for her Waltz co-star, Seth Rogen, she says, “He’s the least neurotic Jew I’ve ever met.”
Hosers to Harper: live a little
Just when you thought the hoser comedy had reached the end of its evolutionary rope, along comes FUBAR 2. David Lawrence and Paul Spence showed up in character to their red-carpet premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival—as Alberta metalheads Terry and Dean. Michael Dowse’s sequel to his 2002 mockumentary cult hit boasts a fatter budget and a sweeter story—an oil sands bromance that takes the moronic duo to the pipelines and peeler bars of Fort McMurray. Environmental rape and testicular cancer has never been funnier. Talking to Maclean’s, Dean (Spence) said Laureen Harper was an old hunting buddy of his father’s, prompting Terry (Lawrence) to suggest the Prime Minister should “make things cheaper, like 1984,” and “party with Laureen a little more.”
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, September 17, 2010 at 6:37 PM - 0 Comments
The director/movie star is an exalted pedigree. It requires a talk-and-chew-gum-at-the-same-time talent that always seems a bit miraculous and requires an old-school Hollywood chutzpa that seems to be a thing of the past. After all, Kevin Costner is off touring with a band and Warren Beatty is raising kids. That leaves three legendary actor-directors who are still hard at, and all of them showed up to unveil new films at TIFF: Woody Allen (You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger), Robert Redford (The Conspirator), and Clint Eastwood (The Hereafter). But none of them appeared on screen. And none of their films really set the festival on fire. Allen’s comedy was perfectly enjoyable and replete with delicious performances, but it didn’t add up to much; this was Woody on cruise control. Redford’s resonant courtroom drama about the military abuse of justice in the wake of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination was fascinating but stodgy. And I never did get to see The Hereafter because Warner Bros. did such an immaculate job of burying it—violating TIFF protocol by allowing it to be shown just once, at the premiere, with no press screening and no repeat screening.
But one emerging double threat who confirmed his talent in a big way was Ben Affleck, who’s both the star and director of The Town, a gripping heist movie. Based on Chuck Hogan’s novel The Prince of Thieves, this is the second feature Affleck has directed, after making a promising debut with Gone Baby Gone (2007). It’s another complicated crime thriller set in Boston. But the story, which has a locomotive momentum, is much less circuitous. And Affleck considerably expands his palette, showing a flair for staging gritty action sequences, including a chase scene that uses the narrow streets of Boston the way the The French Connection used New York. The car chase has become such a cliche that it takes some originality to get me excited by vehicles smashing into each another. But this one is an exception.
The film also balances the fireworks with some rich character drama. Doug MacRay (Affleck) belongs to a hardened crew of bank robbers who pull off elaborate, heavily armed bank jobs in Hallowe’en masks. During the robbery that opens the story, they take the bank manager (Rebecca Hall) hostage. Then, after releasing her, they worry she may incriminate them as a witness, so MacRay stalks her, and strikes up a relationship that, against his better judgment, turns intimate. As we wait for her to discover that he was one of her abductors, MacRay starts think that he should quit robbing banks while he still can, and run off with the girl of his dreams. But he’s under pressure from a hard-core confederate name Jem, who is played by Jeremy Renner with the same cowboy machismo he displayed in The Hurt Locker.
Complicating the plot on the personal front is a family scenario that involves McRay’s father (Chris Cooper), a ghost-like figure serving hard time, and a drug-addicted single mom play by Blake Lively (Gossip Girl) who is Jem’s sister and MacRay’s ex. Meanwhile an FBI squad led by John Hamm (Mad Men) is closing in, and the crew’s sadistic boss, a florist played by Pete Postethwaite, is threatening to prune MacRay’s manhood with his gardening shears if he so much as thinks about early retireent. That’s a a lot of, uh, balls in the air. But to Affleck’s credit, he keeps the action running smoothly, and the suspense ratcheting up, all the way to climactic heist in Fenway Park. He also elicits excellent performances from his ensemble, notably Lively and Hall, who both more than hold their own in this cops-and-robbers clubhouse.
Hopefully after this effort, Ben Affleck won’t have to star in a dumb romantic comedy ever again.
By macleans.ca - Friday, August 6, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Carla Bruni’s very tough act, Ahmadinejad vs. Paul the Octopus, and an extreme breed of couch surfer
Silvio Berlusconi’s very bad week
Italy’s PM is on thin ice after a party revolt led by long-time ally Gianfranco Fini, and now come fresh allegations of scandal. “In the bed there was me, two girls from Rome, and Berlusconi,” Maria Teresa De Nicolo, an escort, told prosecutors in a corruption inquiry, according to the daily La Repubblica. Could it end with a snap fall election?
The camera doesn’t lie
France’s stunning first lady should be used to the lure of cameras. And yet, during filming for Woody Allen’s new movie, Midnight in Paris, in which Carla Bruni plays a bit part as a museum curator, the former model and pop songstress couldn’t nail the simplest of scenes. Bruni needed a whopping 35 takes to film a dialogue-free scene that required her to walk in and out of a grocery store, clutching a baguette. In fairness, it had probably been a while since she’d done her own groceries.
One moment Gregor Robertson was Vancouver’s clean, green mayor; the next he was a scofflaw on wheels. The avid cyclist—he’s pumping $25 million into new bike infrastructure in Vancouver—was caught blowing a red light on his bike on July 22. He didn’t even slow down to check for traffic, bus driver Michele MacDonald told the Vancouver Province, after nearly flattening him. Only a quick, hard stomp on the brakes saved him, she said. “When he looked up and said he was sorry, I thought ‘Oh my God: it’s Mr. Gregor Robertson.’ ” The near miss was a “good lesson—and a reminder to everyone to use caution and follow the rules when out on the road,” said Robertson, whose poster-boy image took an another drubbing earlier this summer when a mike was accidentally left on at a council meeting, revealing a raunchier, more partisan, F-bomb-dropping mayor.
And he knows from silly
Long after the World Cup, the fallout continues. Argentina’s soccer association has dropped superstar Diego Maradona as coach of the national team, after it was sent packing in the quarter finals in a humiliating 4-0 defeat to Germany. Maradona was greeted by cheering fans on his return from South Africa and President Cristina Fernandez urged him to stay on, but the soccer association concluded his best days were behind him. Meantime, Paul the psychic octopus was roasted by Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The eight-legged sea creature (no risk of a hand ball there) is credited with predicting the outcome of all seven German World Cup matches—a silly bit of decadent Western nonsense and superstition, Ahmadinejad thundered in a recent speech in Tehran. “Those who believe in this type of thing cannot be the leaders of the global nations that aspire, like Iran, to human perfection,” he said.
The Mel Gibson of the left?
It’s one thing to blame Adolf Hitler for the Holocaust, Oliver Stone said in an interview last month, but whom do we blame for Hitler? “German industrialists, the Americans and the British,” the film director told the Sunday Times of London. “He had a lot of support. Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people.” Stone went on to lament “the Jewish domination of the media” and the way Israel has distorted U.S. foreign policy “for years.” He did apologize, calling his comments “glib” and “clumsy,” adding “Jews obviously do not control media or any other industry.”
Now comes the tough part
“From strippers to ministers,” blared the Russian headline that propelled Georgia’s new economy minister, Vera Kobalia, to the heart of an international scandal. Russian media—who love a chance to needle Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, and seldom let the facts get in the way—based the accusation on a racy Facebook photo of Kobalia in what they call a Vancouver strip club, but turned out to be a nightclub. Kobalia grew up in B.C.; she met Saakashvili at the Vancouver Olympics, is all of 28, and has no political experience. It’s not the only challenge she’ll face in her new job: running an economy that shrank a whopping seven per cent last year.
It’s a black thing, and I understand
In a big week for racial politics in America, Essence, the bible of black fashion, caused a sensation for hiring Ellianna Placas, a white woman, as fashion director. “It’s a dark day,” said former editor Michaela Angela Davis, who noted the industry has long been a tough place for black women. Not everyone objected. “Kudos—for having the . . . courage to elevate a qualified and talented white woman, in a time of such racial tension,” said Sophia Nelson, a black lawyer. Andrew Breitbart, ever mindful of reverse racism, could perhaps get behind it too. The conservative activist, who posted a video clip edited to make fired black civil servant Shirley Sherrod look like a racist, will “definitely” be sued, Sherrod declared last week. Breitbart reacted to the news saying, “As difficult as it probably was for her, it’s been difﬁcult for me as well.”
They get around
Utah’s predominantly Mormon Brigham Young University has added a new prohibition to its long list: no motorized couches. Students Nick Homer and Stewart Clyde spent months combining an old couch with a motorized wheelchair as a comfy means of transportation around campus. It was a sensation, until administrators instituted a law banning couch-based transportation systems. When campus police pulled them over, Homer says, they “basically congratulated us on being awesome.” Yes, if awesomeness is a crime, Neil Rideout of New Waterford, N.S., must also plead guilty. He was stopped by cops last week while driving his motorized drink cooler to a convenience store. He was fined $222 for driving on the sidewalk after police said the street was off-limits. The cooler, in addition to being cool, has jacks for an MP3 player, a 5.5 hp motor, a radio and, naturally, cup holders.
Spoken like a Lady
When you’re Lady Gaga, it must be hell deciding what to wear. So, for her cover shoot for September’s Vanity Fair, she threw in the towel, and every other bit of clothing, save for a floral tattoo and a tasteful choker necklace. Art is a cruel taskmaster, she said in an interview; she’s perpetually lonely, even in relationships. Of course that may also have something to do with celibacy. “I have this weird thing that if I sleep with someone they’re going to take my creativity from me through my vagina.” She credits her mom and grandmother with getting her mostly free of drugs, but for the occasional toot of cocaine. If the Lady is overexposed now, wait until the MTV Video Music Awards on Sept. 12. She has a record-breaking 13 nominations. God put her on Earth for three reasons, she says: “To make loud music, gay videos, and cause a damn raucous [sic].”
Careful what you wish for
It’s gotten so one almost feels sorry for Tony Hayward, the ousted CEO of BP—almost. It’s now clear that Hayward, recently replaced by Bob Dudley, failed miserably at containing the public-relations fallout from BP’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico—smug and indifferent before Congress, appearing at a yacht race in England and telling reporters he “wanted his life back”—but he may have done as well as could be expected when it came to stopping the leak from the Deepwater Horizon rig. “I understand that people find it easier to vilify an individual more than a company,” the career oilman recently told the Wall Street Journal. Perhaps. But CEOs are paid big bucks to take responsibility during times of crisis and expected to know when they’re in over their heads. Or at least when to hire image consultants.
Spreading the good word
Asked how he’ll protect constituents from the Muslim “threat,” Tennessee gubernatorial hopeful Ron Ramsey questioned whether religious freedoms should even apply to Islam. It’s arguable, he told a Chattanooga crowd, if the world’s second-largest religion is actually a religion—or “a nationality, a way of life, cult.” In nearby Florida, pastor Terry Jones announced plans for “International Burn a Quran Day,” on the anniversary of Sept. 11. His church, the Dove World Outreach Center, will host.
It’s what Uncle Earl would want
A man peddling Ansel Adams photos purchased at a Fresno, Calif., garage sale may in fact be selling pictures taken by 87-year-old Oakland resident Miriam Walton’s Uncle Earl. When Richard Norsigian announced experts had authenticated the negatives he bought for $45 and valued them at US$200 million, Walton recognized a photo of the famous Jeffrey Pine at Yosemite National Park from the news footage. “I keep thinking that perhaps that box of negatives belongs to Uncle Earl,” she told a local TV station. Undeterred, Norsigian is selling copies at a hefty markup: $7,500 for darkroom prints, $1,500 for digital reproductions.
A bit too N-Sync
Rumours dogged punk singer Plastic Bertrand for decades that the voice on his 1977 hit Ça plane pour moi isn’t his, but producer Lou Deprijck’s. Late last month, the singer (real name Roger Jouret) admitted the ruse to a newspaper after a linguistics expert told a Belgian court the vocals are indeed Deprijck’s. Plastic says he was promised a small share of the rights to the song if he agreed to “keep his mouth shut.” According to Deprijck, the reasoning for the Milli Vanilli-esque bait-and-switch was simple marketing. “I was even prepared to shave my moustache,” he told the Guardian, “but the record label preferred this guy with his punk look.”
By Brian D. Johnson - Saturday, May 15, 2010 at 9:15 PM - 2 Comments
We’re always looking for trends in Cannes. Well, here’s one: I’ve seen six suicides in three movies within the span of 24 hours. Bummer. So as not to spoil anyone’s future viewing enjoyment, I won’t reveal exactly who killed themselves in which movies. But here’s the tally so far: a woman stepped off a building ledge; another leapt through a window; two guys in two different films threw themselves in front of trains; a girl hung herself; and finally, in a piece-de-resistance of self-annihilation, a woman hung herself and burst into flames all at once. Now there’s something you don’t see every day. I wouldn’t want to read too much into this mini-epidemic, but it makes me wonder if creative suicide is the art-house equivalent to the Hollywood car crash: the violent implosion. There’s still more suicide on the horizon. Tomorrow there’s a midnight premiere of Gilles Marchand’s Un autre monde (darkened to Black Heaven in English), a French film about an online femme fatale who coaxes folks to commit suicide—a phenomenon we’ve already seen in an ungainly Japanese movie called Chat Room.
Today, the theme of depression—which matches the unseasonably chilly weather here—continued with a vengeance. This morning we saw back-to-back movies about messed-up, unloved Englishwomen—Mike Leigh’s Another Year and Woody Allen’s You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger. The Leigh film begins with a haggard Imelda Staunton begging a lady doctor for sleeping pills. She is referred to a lady psychologist, who asks her to rate her happiness on a scale of 1-10, and she says, “One.” In the Allen film, a matriarch swallows 40 sleeping pills in a failed suicide attempt after being dumped by a Viagra-popping Anthony Hopkins, who gets remarried to a gold-digging hooker (Lucy Punch). With no real plot aside from ultra-real relationships that unfold on a delicate knife-edge of wit and pathos, Another Year is a quiet masterpiece—a pitch-perfect study of the “quiet desperation” that, to quote Pink Floyd, “is the English way.”
Leigh has been refining this study for a long time, and here he distills it to the pure essentials. This deft ensemble piece revolves around a needy, flighty, middle-aged divorcee (Lesley Manville) who is desperate for love, and who clings to a happily married and infinitely tolerant couple (Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen). It’s a gentle yet ruthless portrait of common garden angst (as opposed to the existential French variety), lubricated by dinner-party alcoholism.
Viewed right after it, Woody Allen’s buoyant confection comes as a tonic. It, too, involves a middle-aged divorcee, and it was a breeze to watch. But after Mike Leigh, Woody’s shameless contrivance seems awfully broad, as it jockeys between a parody of Viagra entitlement (Anthony Hopkins) and old-fashioned fantasies of adulterous lust (Naomi Watts, Antonio Banderas and Josh Brolin). The actors are a pleasure to watch. But in Woody Allen’s prolific canon, the film is average, just another gig from the compulsive auteur who makes a movie a year, rain or shine. He, in fact, could have used Mike Leigh’s title, Another Year.
Woody, meanwhile, did some sedentary stand-up at a Cannes press conference with his characteristic meditations on mortality:
“My relationship with death remains the same. I’m strongly against it. I find it a lousy deal. There is no advantage to getting older . . . I’m 74 now and you don’t get smarter, you don’t get wiser, you don’t get more mellow, you don’t get more kindly. Nothing happens. But your back hurts more, you get more indigestion, your eyesight isn’t as good and you need a hearing aid. It’s a bad business getting older and I would advise you not to do it if you can avoid it.” Relatively speaking, that’s a sunny outlook in this year’s Cannes: it does, at least, preclude suicide.
By John Geddes - Friday, March 5, 2010 at 9:35 AM - 7 Comments
“Some would urge us to turn at this crossroads. Experience tells us this would eventually lead us backward.” — Jim Flaherty
“More than any time in history mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose correctly.” —Woody Allen
“I got the crossroad blues this mornin’, Lord. Babe, I’m sinkin’ down.” — Robert Johnson
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 19, 2010 at 9:49 PM - 9 Comments
She combines the best elements of Woody Allen and Oprah
Herein, the fifth in a semi-regular series chronicling the ninth season of American Idol. You can read the first installment here, the second installment here, the third installment here and the fourth installment here.
America in 2010 is a confused place. Americans are of deeply held, but divergent and often contradictory, opinions. On some disagreements they are even unsure as to what they’re disagreeing about. In a recent poll, prompted by renewed debate over the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, 1,084 Americans adults were asked whether they favoured or opposed “homosexuals” being allowed to serve openly in the armed forces. Forty-four per cent of respondents were in favour, 42% were opposed. When the same 1,084 American adults were asked whether they favoured or opposed “gay men and lesbians” being allowed to serve openly in the armed forces, 58% were in favour, 28% opposed.
And now here, at this particularly peculiar moment in American history, is Ellen DeGeneres, an openly gay woman taking her seat to the left of Simon Cowell, appearing in prime time television on the Fox network to judge a wildly popular, nation-defining talent show.
What to make of this?
It is tempting to make something of the fact that, while openly gay men and women cannot yet officially fight to protect and preserve the American Dream, they can sit in judgment of those who pursue it. But that would be glib. And it would probably exaggerate the significance of Ellen’s arrival on American Idol. It is probably more accurate to conclude that however confusing America can be, it is also easily underestimated.
Ellen is at once the most subversive and the least objectionable person in American public life and maybe the best current demonstration of the American Dream. Thirteen years ago, she announced she was gay in big red letters on the cover of Time magazine. Two sitcoms of hers subsequently flopped, but she has since hosted the Oscars, the Grammys and the Emmys, become the star of a popular daytime talk show, been paid to represent American Express and Cover Girl, and married a beautiful TV actress with an exotic-sounding name. Last year, Forbes deemed her the 40th most powerful celebrity in America, slightly less powerful than Tom Hanks, but slightly more powerful than Eddie Murphy, Jay Leno and Barack Obama. Out magazine currently ranks her the second most powerful homosexual, behind only Senator Barney Frank.
She combines the best elements of Woody Allen and Oprah, somehow cerebral and heartfelt, self-effacing and generous. She’s uncompromising, but never more than she needs to be. The defining three minutes of her career to date might be her shrugging dismissal in May 2008 of John McCain’s position on same-sex marriage—possibly the nicest, but most efficient, deconstruction of a politician and a political position in the history of television.
She debuted last week as a judge on Idol, kissing Ryan Seacrest as she arrived and quickly settling into the role with relative ease. Without dominating the proceedings, she has already established herself as the über-judge: empathetic, but mischievous; blunt and biting, but also encouraging. She watches with deep concern in her eyes and beams when contestants succeed, but will quickly scold the off-key. She prizes confidence. She arrived in time for the final round of auditions—dubbed Hollywood Week, it is essentially a televised social experiment meant to see how many desperate young singers can be made to cry on camera—and seemed determined to impose some degree of humanity on the affair.
On paper, it might not make sense that a populist, explicitly Middle-American television show pitched to a nation openly grappling with the perceived ramifications of homosexuality could, with reasonable success, put a quirky, openly gay woman in a position of prominence. But she fits. If there is anything remarkable about her inclusion on Idol, it’s how relatively unremarkable it seems.
On paper, America is a confusing and messy place. But it is almost always better than it seems.
By Barbara Amiel - Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 8:00 AM - 53 Comments
One can imagine the terror the filmmaker has of being sent back to an American prison
I’m not wildly excited to be at the barricades with film producer Harvey Weinstein, who has organized a petition on behalf of jailed film director Roman Polanski. But a thing may be true even though Lord Beaverbrook—or in this case Harvey Weinstein and Woody Allen—says it. Actually, not quite true because the petition isn’t really about Roman; its beef is that Polanski was arrested “on his way” to a film festival, which “by their extraterritorial nature” are special safe zones. If this decision stands, states the petition, no filmmaker will ever feel safe attending a fest again. The thought of a world film-fest free is almost enough to bring me on board against Polanski.
But let’s pretend that discussion on Polanski can yield to rational consideration rather than utter hysteria. On March 10, 1977, Polanski, 43, and Samantha Gailey, 13, had a sexual encounter in the home of actor Jack Nicholson, who was out of town. Only they know what happened. The reason we don’t know is that the case never went to trial. Grand jury testimony is meaningless since the accused and his lawyer are not present and the alleged victim not cross-examined. Continue…
By The Editors - Saturday, October 10, 2009 at 9:40 PM - 59 Comments
Polanski’s case is not in dispute. Hollywood doesn’t consider itself bound by the same rules as other folk. Common sense disagrees.
On one side stand some of our era’s most accomplished movie directors: Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, John Landis, David Lynch, Wim Wenders, Terry Gilliam, Pedro Almodóvar, Jonathan Demme, Costa-Gavras, Jean-Jacques Annaud . . .
On the other side, a much shorter list: justice and common sense.
The recent arrest of Roman Polanski, the celebrated Polish-born movie director who pleaded guilty in 1978 to having illegal sex with a 13-year old girl, and has been a fugitive ever since, has become a strangely polarizing event. Continue…
By Lianne George - Thursday, June 25, 2009 at 9:30 AM - 1 Comment
Perez Hilton gets punched, Carla Bruni’s biggest fan, and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s interesting statue
Arnold’s extra pair
In the spirit of partisan pranks-manship, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently sent a metal sculpture in the shape of bull testicles to California Senate President Darrell Steinberg—a metaphorical reminder of the bold budgetary decisions required by the state’s lawmakers in the face of a US$24.3-billion budget shortfall. Unfortunately, the joke fell flat. Steinberg, who is a Democrat, returned the sculpture to its sender, along with a note stressing the seriousness of the situation. In fairness to the governor, sources told MSNBC.com that the testicles were sent in response to a gag gift Steinberg sent to him—a package of mushrooms—after Schwarzenegger called the Democrat’s budget proposals “hallucinatory.” But the sculpture was apparently too much coming from a man who once called Democrats “girlie men.” When asked why so serious, Steinberg’s spokesperson told reporters, “We’ve got more important things on our plate right now than to waste any more time on such trivial matters.”
Too much information
On Monday, Canada’s Information Commissioner Robert Marleau resigned unexpectedly, only two years into an ostensible seven-year tenure. He was in the process of reforming the country’s access to information laws, which have come to be routinely subverted by secretive government officials. Only one day earlier, Marleau was quoted in a Toronto Star article decrying the whole system. When the Access to Information Act was introduced in 1983, he told the reporter, “we were amongst the leaders in the world.” Since then, he said, “It’s been the same song and dance, no effort by any government to have this legislation or these processes keep pace with time, change and technology.” The reasons for his hasty departure only 24 hours later, he told media, are “entirely personal and private.” Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, June 12, 2009 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
This match made in Manhattan is such an obvious fit you wonder why Woody Allen didn’t think of it sooner
People like to kvetch: why doesn’t Woody Allen make movies like he used to? Whatever happened to the zany intellectual who made us all feel like New Yorkers, as he mocked bourgeois pretension and his own neuroses in the same exasperated breath? It’s easy to get nostalgic for the charming nebbish who chased lobsters with Diane Keaton in Annie Hall. Or the prof who fell for a student half his age in Manhattan—but that was long before Allen creeped us out by running off with his step-daughter. Now, even after the New Woody decamped to Europe and made two of the finest movies of his career (Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona), there are fans who still pine for the Old Woody.
Well, the Old Woody is back, in a new guise. After making four movies in a row in Europe, the director has returned to the streets of Manhattan to make a film that is vintage Woody Allen—literally. Whatever Works, which opens across Canada on June 26, is based on an ancient screenplay that Allen wrote for Zero Mostel, his co-star in The Front (1976) and the original Fiddler on the Roof. Mostel died in 1977, the year Annie Hall came out, and Allen shoved the script in a drawer. Now he has dusted it off, updated its setting to Obama’s America, and cast Larry David—co-creator of Seinfeld and star of HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm—as its star.
By Lianne George - Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 3:40 PM - 3 Comments
John McCain’s mom talks back, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy criticizes the pope, and Woody Allen sues American Apparel
Senator John McCain’s mother, the feisty Roberta McCain, 97, won’t tolerate bullies on her team. Appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno last Wednesday, she dismissed Republican pundit Rush Limbaugh as a glorified “entertainer.” “What he represents of the Republican party has nothing to do with my side of it,” she said. “I don’t know what the man means, I don’t know what he’s talking about.” Limbaugh was one of her son’s harshest critics during the 2008 presidential election. More recently, Limbaugh suggested that her granddaughter, Meghan McCain, who sees herself as the fresh new face of the GOP, should take a hike.
B.C. may get its Citizen of the Year back
Twenty years ago, Frank Hertel, 72, a charismatic Victoria businessman who pledged to turn Vancouver Island into a high-tech mecca, fled Canada to avoid tax evasion charges. On May 9, Interpol arrested him at Heathrow Airport in London, where he is now in jail, awaiting an extradition hearing. In 1984, Hertel founded a company called International Electronics Corp., which specialized in oil and thermal power, with the help of a federal program allowing for scientific tax credits. The Victoria Chamber of Commerce named him “Citizen of the Year,” but in 1985, Revenue Canada reported that he owed $30 million in back taxes and began seizing assets. In 1986, after being slapped with tax evasion charges, he fled Victoria for Venezuela, where he is said to have lived for a time in a large house in Caracas. “He knew everybody in Venezuela,” his former lawyer George Jones told the Victoria Times Colonist. “It was remarkable.” His bail was set at $900,000.
Guests: call first
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, 63, leader of the Burmese pro-democracy party NLD, is on trial for breaching the conditions of her house arrest after she allowed a strange American man to stay in her home for two days. John Yettaw, a 53-year-old Vietnam war veteran, allegedly swam up to her home—uninvited and for unknown reasons—using homemade flippers. Suu Kyi alleges she told Yettaw to leave, but that he refused, saying that he was exhausted. Suu Kyi has been detained for most of the last two decades, and was due to be released after serving a six-year sentence on May 27. Critics say Burma’s military government is using these charges as an opportunity to silence Suu Kyi for another three to five years. Members of her legal defence team met with her this week at the Rangoon prison where she is being held. She told them: “Don’t worry about me. I will face whatever happens.” Her chief lawyer, Kyi Win, however, blames Yettaw for the whole mess, calling him “a fool.”
Bruni’s secular life
Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is now on record as the only first lady of France—a predominantly Catholic nation—to have ever criticized the Pope. Speaking with the French women’s magazine Femme Actuelle, Bruni-Sarkozy called Pope Benedict XVI’s refusal to support the use of condoms to prevent the spread of AIDS in Africa “damaging.” “I was born Catholic, I was baptized, but in my life I feel profoundly secular,” she says. Last week, as though offering up an Exhibit A, a Paris auction house announced its intention to auction off a nude drawing of Bruni-Sarkozy as part of a collection called “Pin-up.” Also featured in the collection are photos of the burlesque star Dita von Teese, dressed as a nurse and as a dominatrix.
Old man Caulfield
J.D. Salinger, the notoriously reclusive American fiction writer, swore off publishing new works decades ago. For a Swedish-American writer named John David California, however, Salinger’s silence is an open invitation. California’s debut novel, 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, is an unauthorized sequel to Salinger’s classic coming-of-age story Catcher in the Rye. In 60 Years Later, Salinger’s Holden Caulfield, now 76 and known as “Mr. C,” flees a nursing home (it was a prep school in the original) to search, once again, for answers to life’s great questions in the streets of New York. “He’s still Holden Caulfield and has a particular view on things,” California, 33, told the Guardian. “He can be tired, and he’s disappointed in the goddamn world. He’s older and wiser in a sense, but in another sense he doesn’t have all the answers.” California dedicated his book to Salinger. “Maybe he will get upset,” he admits. Critics argue that the prospect of this book is so horrific, it can only be a hoax.
By Brian D. Johnson - Monday, June 9, 2008 at 10:21 AM - 0 Comments
For two weeks each May, a quaint town on the French Riviera becomes a Hollywood fantasy in the flesh. Throughout the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, I blogged video clips. In the aftermath, I’ve edited a montage of highlights, an impressionist trip through the beauty, vulgarity, hysteria and chaos that is Cannes.
For more of Brian D. Johnson’s videos go to http://www.youtube.com/bdjfilms. All 2008 Cannes footage is shot on a Sony HDR-SR12 camcorder, on loan courtesy of Sony Canada.