Ok, ok, so maybe the movie WALT doesnt exist, but after seeing this gorgeous poster done by artist Pascal Witaszek, I really wish that it did. Finding information about this fake poster is next to impossible, but I can tell you that Pascal Witaszek is a french guy and a very talented artist. I am very thankful to the anonymous tip we got on it and hope we can snag further details coming up.
One of my favorite films of all time is a film from 1965 called CHARADE. It’s an amusing little caper with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, and it was directed by Stanley Donen. It’s had a sordid history and a one point had sunk into public domain. That’s all well and good, as many things do. But CHARADE, amongst other works that have been in the public domain, may face a big change ahead, as Wired reports that the Supreme Court may re-copyright things that have fallen into public domain. This includes books, musical compositions, and other works that can be freely used by the public and adapted. The ruling was made last Wednesday.
The ruling was 6-2, the reasoning being that “just because material enters public domain, it is not territory that works may never exit.”
This ruling was made against a petition by a group of people within the arts whose livelihoods depended on the arts. Claiming that the speech rights of those using the material currently would be breached by recopyrighting the material, the group was vehement to stop the ruling. Someone the most famous works in the arts are in public domain, such as the books of Jane Austen, Fritz Lang’s sci-fi epic METROPOLIS, and the compositions ofIgor Fyodorovich Stravinsky. This is the first time that the issue has been brought to public light in years, the last time being in 2002 when Congress ruled that copyright would last from 50 years after an author’s death to 70 years
It’s that time of the year again. That time of the year when movie critics left, right, high, and low post their year-end favorite lists. Any year-end list is, by definition, subjective, a list that reflects the writer’s biases, prejudices, and real/reel-world experiences, but we can also agree that our choices in film reflect certain agreed-upon elements that, together or in part, signify quality filmmaking. In addition, a year-end list can be seen as a contribution to the ongoing conversation and dialogue between critics, cineastes, and filmgoers. Herewith, forthwith, and heretofore are the films that resonated the strongest with me (in reverse order). As with any list, your mileage may (and probably will) vary. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts, positive, negative, or even neutral, in the comments field below.
10. INTO THE ABYSS: The seemingly tireless Werner Herzog released not one, but two well-received documentaries this year, CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS, a literal and metaphorical exploration of the oldest cave drawings known to science, in the spring, and INTO THE ABYSS, a difficult, thought-provoking, and unsurprisingly given the subject matter, heart-wrenching documentary that explores a single death penalty case from every practical angle (e.g., the murder itself, the perpetrators, the victims, and the death house workers) in the state of Texas. A staunch death penalty opponent, Herzog stays offscreen, respectfully giving everyone the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings about the death penalty or, in the case of a death-row inmate, his impending mortality.
9. MEEK’S CUTOFF: Kelly Reichardt’s minimalist, arthouse Western (in the loosest definition of that term), follows an increasingly desperate group of pioneers headed for the Promised Land become literally and metaphorically lost in the Oregon High Desert. Using a full, box-like frame that subtly contributes to a sense of unease and oppression while eschewing close-ups, Reichardt and her collaborators, including writer Jonathan Raymond and a stellar cast led by Michelle Williams (in yet another award-worthy role), crafts a uniquely unforgettable existential, historical drama. It’s also a carefully calibrated examination of gender and gender roles, far more fluid than otherwise assumed, circa 1845.
8. SHAME: Steven McQueen and Michael Fassbender’s second collaboration (after HUNGER three years ago), SHAME, received an “NC-17” rating from the MPAA for its ample male nudity and (joyless) sex scenes, but SHAME is far more than just, as someone semi-cleverly put it, “full frontal Fassbender,” it’s also a deeply affecting character study of a damaged, tortured sex addict and his dysfunctional relationship with his younger, unstable sister played by a career-best Carey Mulligan. It’s their troubled relationship that elevates SHAME above addiction narrative tropes and into an uncompromising, raw, authentic near-masterpiece.
7. THE SKIN I LIVE IN: Showing little or no sign of slowing down, Pedro Almodóvar, the crown prince of subversive, melodramatic excess returned this year with THE SKIN I LIVE IN, his first collaboration in twenty years with one-time muse Antonio Banderas as a supremely deranged, surprisingly sympathetic, Frankenstein-inspired “mad doctor” who decides to play God remakes one, not-so-innocent woman (played by Elena Anaya) in the image of his long-dead, adulterous wife. A seeming ode or homage to Georges Franju’s EYES WITHOUT A FACE, THE SKIN I LIVE IN take a sudden, unexpected turn into polymorphous perversity (among many other perversities) and never looks back. At times blackly comic, at other times blackly horrific, and sometimes both at once, THE SKIN I LIVE IN must be seen and experienced to be disbelieved (and then seen and experienced again).
6. RANGO: Best known for THE PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN trilogy that made Johnny Depp into one of, if not the, biggest international box office draws, Gore Verbinski wisely passed on directing another entry in the franchise, instead focusing his not-inconsiderable visual and storytelling talents to his first animated feature, RANGO, a Spaghetti Western-flavored, CHINATOWN-influenced comedy that starred Depp as the title character, a one-time pet chameleon and aspiring thespian who finds himself embroiled in a dying town’s politics and a nefarious plan to control the town’s ever-diminishing water supply. With creatures no Pixar animator would love, let alone draw, and stunning, eye-catching cinematography thanks, in part, to an assist from ace cinematographer/frequent Coen Brothers’ collaborator Roger Deakins, RANGO isn’t just the best animated film of the year; it’s one of the year’s best films in this or any other category.
5. DRIVE: Call it neo-noir, call it neon-noir, or call it an exercise of style (over substance, presumably) if you prefer, but Danish filmmaker Nicholas Winding Refn’s adaptation of James Sallis’ crime novel, DRIVE, a collaboration with, among others, Ryan Gosling as the loner anti-hero, Carey Mulligan as the obligatory romantic interest/object of desire, and Albert Brooks as a sociopathic gangster, offered semi-adventurous moviegoers a singular experience. Admittedly, Winding Refn’s mix of visual poetry and ultra-violence left some moviegoers and even some critics queasy and disquieted, but moviegoers with strong stomachs willing to look past the violence or accept it on its own uncompromising terms saw a film that respected the genre and elevated at the same time.
4. MELANCHOLIA: Provocateur-extraordinaire Lars von Trier caused an outcry at this year’s Cannes Film Festival that resulted in his banishment over ill-conceived, ill-timed comments but with time comes perspective (and forgetfulness). More importantly, critics and moviegoers could evaluate von Trier’s latest film, MELANCHOLIA, explores, among other things, the deleterious effects clinical depression has on Justine (a career-best Kirsten Dunst), her sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), and their respective families as a rogue planet, dubbed “Melancholia” (a massive, perhaps over-obvious, metaphor), heads on a collision course for Earth. The world ends, not with a whimper, but with a bang, a huge, explosive bang that destroys all life (no, that’s not a spoiler). More importantly for von Trier, the impending apocalypse gives him (and us) the opportunity to explore two lives under incredible duress. A surreal, lyrical, poetic prologue edited to Richard Wagner’s ‘Tristan und Isolde,” and MELANCHOLIA emerges as one of von Trier’s strongest films (one of his most accessible too).
3. MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE: A remarkable feature-length debut from writer-director Sean Durkin and actress Elizabeth Olsen (the younger, more talented sister to the Olsen Twins, Mary-Kate and Ashley), MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE shifts and slips between genres and categories (e.g., psychological thriller, psychological horror, cult expose, family drama, etc.). Durkin likes to keep his audience guessing and, more importantly, thinking. Employing a time-shifting narrative to disquieting, disturbing effect, a simulation of the lead characters troubled state of mind. Through carefully doled out exposition, Martha’s experiences in a repressive cult led by a charismatic leader, Patrick (John Hawkes), shed light on why she joined and why, ultimately, she left. Not one to limit his critique to cults, Durkin takes aim at conspicuous consumption and materialism as well through Martha’s older sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and her husband, Ted (Hugh Dancy).
2. TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY: Swedish director Tomas Alfredson (LET THE RIGHT ONE IN) and an award-worthy Gary Oldman (the first among equals in an all-star cast that includes John Hurt, Colin Firth, Toby Jones, Tom Hardy, and Benedict Cumberbatch) bring John le Carré’s dense, convoluted 1974 novel to the big screen with complex, layered thematics and subtext (duplicity, betrayal, etc.) intact. In interviews, Alfredson said he wanted to recreate the smell of “damp tweed” with his period-specific adaptation of le Carré’s Cold War novel. He, along with his production designer, Maria Djurkovic, and cinematographer, Hoyte Van Hoytema, succeeded admirably. Oldman gives a layered, nuanced performance as George Smiley (a role originated by Alec Guinness in the 1979 BBC miniseries), a taciturn, reserved retired/unretired spymaster searching for a Soviet mole inside the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6.
1. THE TREE OF LIFE: Terence Malick’s fifth film in four decades and his first in four decades, THE TREE OF LIFE was nothing less (and much, much more) than a treatise on life, the universe, and everything. Malick explores universal themes and ideas about the relationships between fathers and sons, mothers and sons, brothers and brothers, morality, and religion through the prism of Texas-based family in the late 1950s. Bookending THE TREE OF LIFE with present-day search for reconciliation, Malick segues into nothing less than the birth of the cosmos, the origin of organic life on earth, evolution, and the birth of THE TREE OF LIFE’s central character, Jack (Hunter McCracken as a boy, Sean Penn as an adult). A collage of golden-hued impressions and sense-memories, often delivered with minimal dialogue or whispered interior narration, THE TREE OF LIFE offers a visceral, emotional, and intellectual experience unlike anything else moviegoers will see and hear this or any year.
The Next Ten:
11. JANE EYRE, 12. NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT, 13. YOUNG ADULT, 14. TABLOID, 15. RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, 16. THE ARTIST, 17. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, 18. CERTIFIED COPY, 19. PROJECT NIM, 20. SENNA.
The Spielberg Award for Mawkish, Maudlin Sentimentality (a.k.a. Schmaltz): Three-way tie between Steven Spielberg for WAR HORSE, Stephen Daldry for EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE, and Martin Scorsese for HUGO.
The ‘Male Weepie’ Award: WARRIOR by a landslide of sweaty, grunting men working out their dysfunctional family issues in an ultra-contrived mixed-martial arts competition.
Deadline reports that Paramount has scheduled J.J Abrams widely anticipated STAR TREK sequel for a May 17th 2013 release date. The move comes after Sony delayed Roland Emmerich’s next film SINGULARITY from the May 17th slot to fall 2013. It has also been announced that J.J Abrams will shoot the film in 3D.
The original cast and writers of the first film are returning for one of the most anticipated sequels of the next five years. J.J Abrams and Paramount still have no title for the sequel. Recently it was also reported that Oscar-winning actor Benicio Del Toro is primed to star in the sequel as the film’s villain.
STAR TREK was the perfect example of what a reboot/remake/re-imagining (or whatever new term Hollywood comes up in justifying their infatuation with re-doing classics or established franchises rather than embarking on new projects) should esteem to be. The film not only stayed faithful to the fan base but also made it accessible to the non-fans to broaden its (new) fan base.
The platinum standard in DVD and Blu-ray publishing companies, the Criterion Collection, has now entered the world of iTunes. On November 1, without any fanfare or announcement, Criterion showed up on the iTunes movie page. The company, established in 1984 with LaserDiscs and moving right on to Blu-ray, is renowned for offering world cinema’s greatest films in very pretty, rather expensive sets. Criterion was the first company to introduce audio commentary tracks with film historians and directors on their LaserDisc releases. Well known for their exclusive special features and pristine restorations, Criterion is still the Everest in the DVD and Blu-ray world, in terms of quality, despite the niche audience. In 2008, Criterion started investing their efforts into Blu-ray and have been on numerous top ten lists for best Blu-ray releases of their year. Earlier this year, Criterion and streaming website Hulu made a polarizing deal where they left Netflix and decided to port over their entire collection (and more) to the site, albeit for their subscription service Hulu Plus. Since the deal, which was made official on February 15th, according to Moviefone, Criterion has more than 680 films as well as their incredible supplemental features.
Criterion is offering a very small selection of films from their collection (especially in comparison with Hulu’s library), but it is a start. They seem to be beginning with 46 films, including such hallmarks of cinema as Ingmar Bergman’s THE SEVENTH SEAL, Jean-Luc Godard’s BREATHLESS, Akira Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI, and Francois Truffaut’s THE 400 BLOWS. Each film is $14.99 to purchase and $2.99 to rent.
There are a few things surprising about this move such as: a) how few films they’re starting off with, especially in terms of better known titles; b) the lack of any announcement or fanfare, considering that Criterion is a big name well known for their distribution of classic and important art house films; and c) their lack of any special features. While 46, I suppose, is a fine number to begin with, Hulu Plus began their deal with 150 films. Many of the films weren’t part of the official collection, one of the perks of having a subscription. We’ll simply have to wait for more. There was almost no prior announcement on their website, and even the guys at CriterionCast only found out about it the day of. It’s very strange for such a beloved company. Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the lack of extras. They could very well utilize iTunes Extras to get some of their comprehensive featurettes and documentaries on iTunes, but they seem to have decided against it so far. The pricing isn’t terribly surprising, as Criterion is a bit infamous for charging an arm and a leg for some films.
At the moment, no film in the meager selection intrigues me enough to buy it, even though the rental option is nice. I already own several on Blu-ray, and until they add more, I’ll be hard put to buy any. I’m hoping that, in the future, they’ll add Charlie Chaplin’s MODERN TIMES and Stanley Donen’s CHARADE. Those two I would pay for to have on my iPod.
It is THE must watch show for fans of strong serialized drama and the horror enamored. A show about survival, and a modern day wagon train full of diverse characters fighting against a mysterious zombie plague that has befallen the world.
THE WALKING DEAD was created by Robert Kirkman, adapted for the small screen by noted Director Frank Darabont, and brought to life by a tremendous cast which includes frequent Darabont collaborator, Jeffrey DeMunn.
A classically trained theater actor and a veteran of over 100 TV and film projects, I spoke with Mr. DeMunn today about the DEAD source material, Darabont’s sudden departure, and what the future holds for his character.
How familiar are you with THE WALKING DEAD comic series?
Jeffrey DeMunn: Im not really all that familiar with it, as a matter of fact when Frank first called me to do the job I was working on another job down in Dallas and he asked me if I wanted to come to Atlanta and kill zombies and I said ok without any previous knowledge of THE WALKING DEAD. I just took a leap because it was Frank Darabont.
Are you aware of where the story goes in the comics?
JD: I have some awareness of it, yeah, but its not by any means a focus of mine. Its like doing an autobiographical play. Aaron Burr, I did that once, I studied some on the life of Aaron Burr but ultimately what you have to go by is what your script is. So I have some awareness of it but its utterly peripheral.
Speaking of Frank Darabont, obviously he’s no longer involved on a day to day basis with the show. I know you’ve worked with him extensively through your career, how has his departure effected you and how do you think its effected the show overall?
JD: Inevitably it is a massive change. It was Frank who brought everybody together. I’ve worked with Frank, I guess for about 22 or 23 years now on various projects. I think its 7 projects in all, this is my 7th Darabont project and I’m no way unique in that. Our scenic designer Greg Melton went to high school with Frank. Our wonderful zombie-maker Greg Nicotero has known Frank and worked with him for 17 years. The FX guy Bill has worked with Frank, I don’t know how many times, Laurie Holden. I guess what I’m trying to say is that everybody was brought together by Frank, not just the cast not just a few individual crew members but it was a massive reuniting.
He works with a group of people and he carries that talent with him and talent follows him because he is, within our time, he is one of the greats, so yeah its made a massive difference having him leave, it was his vision that took a successful comic book and turned it into a massively successful worldwide phenomenon.
If you picture that there was once a wonderful book called RITA HAYWORTH AND THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, Frank Darabont read it, and had a vision of what it could become as a film and suddenly that became huge.
His ability to take something from the page, from someone elses hand and move it to the screen…THE MIST for instance is a favorite of mine, and I re-watched it for the first time in awhile for an article, and the vision of that movie is striking in how it casts humans as the monsters…
JD: Did you watch it in Black and white?
I did not, I didn’t know it was available in black and white.
JD: Yes, that is the way that Frank originally wanted to only release it, he shot that as a black and white movie but the powers that be said “no you cant do that, people aren’t going to watch a black and white movie and you’ve got a rough enough ending as it is“.
Going back to THE WALKING DEAD, it seems like his impact is still felt and I think that speaks to how strong his vision was.
JD: Well he worked on the first 8 which takes it right through 2.08, which will be now the first 7 because we combined 1 and 2 for the premier to make the hour and a half premier. So Frank’s work is right through what was our episode 2.08 and I believe that will complete what is shown this autumn and then there is a bit of a hiatus, followed by the remainder of this season in which he had nothing to do with the plotline and so on.
The remainder of the season he had nothing to do with, but another big thing, and I don’t mean to go on and on about Frank, but he’s a genius and one thing, he would look at every makeup, he would look at every costume. People knew you had to run it by Frank, he had his hand on everything, especially the editing. So what we do have now for this year is the edit is not the “Darabont edit“, in that you will see some differences and I believe some people have noticed that already.
What episode are you guys up to now?
Can I get any kind of hints as to where the show is going to go?
JD: Not a chance. (laughs)
Not a chance, well, I had to take a shot–I guess you could be called a character actor in terms of movies and TV, obviously you’ve done a lot of theater work as well but you’ve kinda found a home with THE WALKING DEAD in that you’re stable and its an everyday job. How has that transition been for you?
JD: Oh fine, you know when we shot THE GREEN MILE it was an everyday job too, that was 20 weeks. So this is just a long one (laughs), like a long movie, so yeah it hasn’t been a huge transition, the big transition is always between doing theater, and doing film or television.
Which do you prefer?
JD: I don’t really have one I prefer, they’re both still an extraordinary challenge and they’re both still very very exciting to me. So I don’t have a preference, they feed each other. Theater is harder, it’s a tougher job, and it takes more out of you. But I just enjoy them both, I’m fortunate enough to be able to do both.
Your character on Walking Dead is slowly going through a transformation. He seems to be more vocal, a little less concerned with confrontation, for instance, the whole back and forth with Andrea over her father’s gun. How do you feel about that?
JD: Well, I think it makes sense to me. Dale is a protector, a caregiver, a watcher, and eventually people like that have to speak up. Yeah, you’ll see a lot more of that from Dale.
Now in the comic, Dale kinda moves from being a paternal figure in Andrea’s life and moves toward a romantic relationship with her. Is that something you foresee happening in the show?
JD: I haven’t seen it yet, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
As a journalist I am duty-bound to conduct interviews that aim for revelation, probing my subjects with deft questions that are supposed to push them beyond where they want to go. That’s how Oprah does it, that’s how I’m supposed to do it, but funk that.
I reached out to Jewel Staite, a globe-roaming gourmand and portrayer of both Kaylee Frye, the ever lovable mechanic on FIREFLY, and Jennifer Keller, the resident Doctor on STARGATE ATLANTIS, with the hope of having a fun conversation that I could share with you.
The following conversation does not contain revelations on the internal struggle of a suffering thespian, or a questionnaire inspired by Bernard Pivot; frankly I’m not that good at my job.
No, instead of that stuff we touch on brain eating, cheap wine, the ego of Nathan Fillion, shrimp pot pie, Muppets, the creepiness of shag carpeting, and Jewel’s plan for world domination.
And now without further delay, Jewel Staite…
So, you’ve been acting since you were 9 or 10. How are you so normal? Or is it all a clever ruse?
Jewel Staite: Sorry, did you just call me normal? That might be the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me. I grew up with a mom who wouldn’t put up with any sort of diva-like behavior. She frightened me into being a well-adjusted person. Thanks, Mom.
I have become slightly addicted to late night re-runs of DA VINCI’S INQUEST, with Nicholas Campbell and Donnelly Rhodes (DANGER BAY!). You were on that for much of the first and some of the second season, and it seems like a role that was a key pivot point toward more mature projects. What was that experience like?
JS: I think that was the very first set I worked on where two of the lead actors were doing a love scene I had to walk in on. It was a very different change of pace from Disney and Nickelodeon, that’s for sure.
You’ve got the very wonderful blog, happyopu.net where you have revealed yourself to be a foodie and a wino, or rather, a wine connoisseur – I’m curious, does my preference for $5 bottles of Strawberry Hill “wine” make me a bad person or am I just keen on depriving myself?
JS: Sorry, I didn’t hear anything past “very wonderful”. Just kidding! Go ahead and drink your cheap wine. I’ve been known to down a glass of Yellowtail on the plane if that’s all they’ve got. But please do yourself a favor and make up for it with something expensive soon.
If one has the opportunity to saunter into a particularly fine restaurant, are they better off ordering from the menu or giving the Chef carte blanche?
JS: Carte blanche, always! Some of my favorite meals have been when I’ve trusted Chef to do what he does best. Plus, it feeds their ego when you let them do the deciding for you, and they really let loose most of the time. I like a loose chef.
There are stock questions like “What kind of weapon would you use in the middle of a zombie apocalypse?” and “What would you’re death row meal be?” that I could ask, but those are boring so let’s mix it up: What do you want on your plate if you’re on death row during a Reaver apocalypse?
JS: The lobster pot pie from Michael Mina’s at the Bellagio in Vegas, and sticky toffee pudding for dessert. And maybe a Xanax.
I was at New York Comic Con this weekend (and so were you, but you know that), and I had a former pro wrestler call me “Big Daddy” and then give me an impromptu bear hug. What’s your weirdest con moment?
JS: Well, I signed someone’s back at New York Comic Con that they later had permanently tattooed on themselves, so I think I trump you, Big Daddy. Weirder than that, though, was when a very respectable-looking older lady asked me to sign her boob. And I said yes. If you’re reading this, I’ll never forget you, Crazy Lady! XO
You played Doctor Jennifer Keller on STARGATE ATLANTIS; does the medical jargon stay with you, and also, how’s your Mandarin? Do you know medical jargon in Mandarin?
JS: I know no medical jargon or Mandarin anymore. As soon as it’s out of my mouth and the scene’s done, I promptly allow my puny brain to forget it. I have been known to use the phrase, “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a mechanic!”, however.
Has Nathan Fillion changed now that he has “cop show, screw-you” money?
JS: He hasn’t changed at all. But I have. I let him pick up the check more.
Being a part of the “Whedonverse” surely comes with perks; I imagine some typecasting drawbacks as well. Is it an overall joy or is it frustrating to be so strongly associated with Kaylee and FIREFLY?
JS: It’s totally an overall joy. Really. That show’s one of the things I’m most proud of being a part of. I adore being associated with it, and I love every single person on that cast like family. And that’s about as serious as I’m going to get in this interview.
What were your thoughts when you first read the script for FIREFLY, and how surprised were you when Joss got the band back together for SERENITY?
JS: When I first read it, I couldn’t believe my luck, honestly. And I think we were all stunned when Joss got that movie greenlit. That stuff just doesn’t happen very often. Plus, I was really relieved I was going to see Nathan again, because he owed me money.
So say AVENGERS makes a billion dollars, and Joss gets a greenlight for SERENITY 2. Is he touring the country, going from set to set like Kermit the Frog trying to track down stray Muppets or are you on his doorstep in full ragamuffin attire the next day?
JS: Who you calling a ragamuffin? Seriously, this Muppet would be there in a heart beat. Wait – which muppet do I get to be? Can I be Gonzo?
What can you tell me about THE PACT?
JS: THE PACT was a short I did last year for a friend of a friend that ended up getting into Sundance. It’s dark and moody and super creepy. Because it has a lot of shag carpeting in it.
How are you not like Kaylee Frye, how are you better than her, and how is she maybe better than you?
JS: She’s overall a better human being than me. She’s sweet and lovely and wide-eyed and wears her heart on her sleeve. I just wear my liver on my sleeve.
DOOMSDAY PROPHECY seems like one of those, “make a bag of microwave popcorn, Saturday afternoon on the couch, fun disaster movies“. What do you say to those who get a bee in their bonnet and think that Syfy originals are an affront to mankind and puppies?
JS: Those people are the kind of people that don’t believe in having cable because it’ll turn your brain to mush. Well, sometimes a mushy brain is exactly what we need on a Saturday night. I love movies I get to check out on. Not every movie needs to be flippin’ PRECIOUS.
We can’t avoid it – you ate brains on SUPERNATURAL. Now, you’re a bit of a food gangsta, would you find your inner Bourdain/Lector and eat a (non-human) sautéed brain of some kind?
JS: What makes you think I haven’t already…?
It seemed like Kaylee’s favorite place was her hammock (which I understand you stole, thief). What’s yours, geographically and I suppose spiritually?
JS: Listen, that thing was given to me, I swear. You want to talk about being a thief, talk to Fillion. He’s got boxes of stuff he stole from that set, and the irony that he’s playing a guy who helps cops right now is not lost on me. But I digress. My favorite place is Maui. I spent a lot of time there when I was a kid, so that’s my recharge the old batteries place. One of these days I’m going to pull a Woody Harrelson and just move there permanently and become a beach bum and wear hemp and grow dreads. Okay, maybe not the dreads part. And that hemp’ll be Chanel.
JS: Same thing I do everyday. Try and take over the world.
There always has to be someone to make sure the trains come in on time, and for Dark Horse Comics (HELLBOY, STAR WARS, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER) that person is Scott Allie, Dark Horse’s Senior Managing Editor.
I met up with Scott at the Dark Horse booth at New York Comic Con where I’m almost sure he stood throughout the first full day of the east coast answer to San Diego, meeting fans, pros, and press alike.
Accommodating and forthright, Allie spoke about Joss Whedon’s involvement in this “season” of the BUFFY comic, the future of FIREFLY comics with Dark Horse, and the digital future of comic books.
Is Joss’s involvement on BUFFY this year less than it was last year?
SA: It’s different. He wrote a lot of last season, and he’s not writing any of it right now. He wrote the first issue. So it’s definitely less in that way. But we’ve got more going on, you know. So he’s overseeing the script that Andrew’s writing and that Chris is writing on the two different titles. And he’s still in control of the covers and that kind of stuff. Yeah, so there’s a little less day to day. And he’s not writing as many issues as he was.
He’s probably going to come back to write some when he really wraps up AVENGERS. But for right now Andrew Chambliss is writing all of BUFFY and Chris is writing all of ANGEL AND FAITH.
Any possibility of a FIREFLY monthly title?
SA: Not a monthly title. We don’t have any interest. It’d be great to do commercially, but creatively that’s not where we’re headed. But we are going to do more FIREFLY. We actually just announced yesterday that our Free Comic Book Day book will have STAR WARS and SERENITY. And then we’re going to follow up with some more stuff later in 2012.
Any more graphic novels like THE SHEPHERDS TALE?
SA: Depending on what we come up with it might be straight to graphic novel or it might be serialized like in the past.
You guys are really at the forefront of digital comics; Where do you see the industry five years from now? Do you see it more digital, or still paper and ink?
SA: There will be a shifting balance towards digital. Right now digital is not really a significant part of anyone’s financial life, but everybody’s being really aggressive and ambitious about building it.
We’re doing our thing, comiXology has what they’re doing, and there are other companies. I think that will continue to grow. Right now it’s a relatively small portion of income in the industry. So I’m sure it’ll shift a little bit more towards that in the next 5 years.
What about the pricing model? Do you think it’ll stay similar, or drop down to due to less overhead?
It’s all over the place. I think our digital pricing is the right way to go. But there are a lot of companies that charge a lot more for digital. So right now it’s everywhere. I imagine over a short period of time it will fall in line with ours, but you never know. Maybe when it takes off people will start charging more. Right now it seems like a lot of pricing is based off of pamphlet pricing. And we’re not exactly doing that. We’re a little lower, because you’re not paying for printing.
Artistic license is that great big blanket that suffocates the truth. It’s why the carefully crafted history of comic book characters can be tossed to the dirt, why Commodus dies in the center of the arena in GLADIATOR, and not his bath. Artistic license allowed Salieri to live on as a villain (AMADEUS), the literal whitewash in 21, and the upside down depiction of the “Hurricane” Carter/Giardello fight.
We accept these inaccuracies in the name of story telling, in the name of entertainment, and in some sad cases we accept them as the new truth.
MONEYBALL is a great movie, a certified box office hit taking in $20.6 million on its opening weekend, and a fantastic representation of Major League Baseball in the early aughts but it is not a documentary and it is not guided by authenticity.
Shot with an eye toward physical realism but ahead for lost details; MONEYBALL is an adaptation of a book that had a clear stance, an adaptation that takes that stance and tries to bolster it with a revisionist view of history that diminishes a truly fascinating story.
MONEYBALL needed a villain, someone to embody the very real, very hostile hatred of sabermetrics and the “new way” that people like Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) were eager to usher in. Grady Fuson, a long time scout and baseball executive fills that role for Director Benett Miller; but was Fuson really fired at the beginning of the 2002 season after a heated shout & shove with Billy Beane?
Fuson is not a gigantic fan of sabermetrics but he also wasn’t an ornery, insubordinate, old fogy and he was never fired by the Oakland A’s. In fact Fuson was re-hired by Beane and the A’s last year following stops with the San Diego Padres and the Texas Rangers, whom he had voluntarily left the A’s for following the 2001 season.
Billy Beane flies to Cleveland to discuss a trade for a pitcher. Once there he meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) who tells him all about this amazing new way of building a baseball team on a shoestring budget.
Jonah Hill is outstanding as Billy Beane’s portly and bookish co-conspirator but Brand is in actuality not a real person, standing in for Paul DePodesta who asked that his name not appear in the film (though it does in the book).
DePodesta did work for the Indians before he worked for the A’s but he actually worked under John Hart (not Mark Shapiro) and he was hired (not bought) by the A’s following the 1999 season, allowing him to work alongside Fuson, and Billy Beane as they built the 2000 and 2001 A’s. DePodesta is also a rail thin, former college baseball player, and a scout; not simply a numbers geek who figured out a secret formula that could judge talent on statistics alone.
As for the trip to Cleveland: No General Manager flies half way across the country to discuss a trade for a spare part, especially not in the era of cell phones and email. That said it is a splendid scene that sets up the rest of the film.
The Oakland A’s are a powerhouse thanks in large part to the contribution of three now departed superstars: Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi, and Jason Isringhausen. Crippled by these losses the team goes out and shocks the world by bringing in a rag tag group of spare pieces that lead them to almost victory.
The 2001 A’s were blessed with five other key players: Barry Zito, Mark Mulder, Tim Hudson, Eric Chavez, and Miguel Tejada, who remained with the team in 2002 (and beyond). These young players, and their continued maturity, not Scott Hatterberg, David Justice, and Chad Bradford, were the primary cause of the A’s continued success despite the fact that they were barely mentioned in the film and the book.
What about the MONEYBALL “All Stars“? Well Justice was a washout who did just a bit better than the gallery of scouts in MONEYBALL had said he would. Bradford, whose “knuckles to the dirt” submarine delivery was captured perfectly, actually made his debut with the A’s in 2001 and was a highly effective though only moderately used relief pitcher that year. Jeremy Giambi was also already a part of the A’s roster before the 2002 season.
As for Scott Hatterberg (Chris Pratt), aka the underdog hero of the piece? Beane didn’t go to his house to personally offer him a contract and Hatterberg was a solid contributor for the entire season playing in 136 of the teams 162 games, not a bench player who turns into Roy Hobbs. Hatterberg is now a scout for the A’s (yes they do have scouts, not a super computer and various objects for Billy Beane to throw when he is angry).
The book prominently mentions many of the A’s 2002 Draft picks like Nick Swisher and Mark Teahen but they do not feature in the film (with the exception of Jeremy Brown). MONEYBALL writer Michael Lewis has said that he will likely follow up with those players for a companion book.
“I spent ‘02, ‘03, ‘04, and some of ‘05 running around the minor leagues and watching their careers start” said Lewis, “Then I put it to one side, because I realized I couldn’t write this book until their careers were done.”
“I may get back to it very soon. In the next month or two. I may re-enter all these people’s lives,” Lewis added.
Infuriated by Jeremy Giambi’s celebratory antics following another loss and Manager Art Howe’s (Philip Seymour Hoffman) refusal to play Hatterberg, Billy Beane decides to trade Giambi and Pena to send a message and force Howe to play Hatterberg.
Howe, like Fuson is made into a comic book villain, standing in the way of Billy Beane’s forward thinking. As I already established, Hatterberg was a regular contributor and has said that Howe “was a huge supporter of mine. I never got the impression from him that I was not his first choice”. So how about that day or whirlwind trades where we see Beane move players like poker chips?
Giambi was traded to the Phillies for John Mabry but that move happened about a month and a half prior to Carlos Pena’s trade to the Tigers. No one had to pay to stock the A’s vending machine for 3 years as the A’s never charged their players for soda.
So did Billy Beane really trade a future All-Star to piss off Art Howe (despite the fact that most characterize Howe as a nice guy)? Not exactly. The truth is, that while Pena did turn into an All-Star with more than 250 home runs, he was hitting only .218 when the A’s traded him and it took him another 4 ½ seasons and 4 organizations to realize his full potential.
As for the trade: it was no small deal, moving Pena and 6 others between the A’s, Tigers, and Yankees and blessing the A’s with a young starting pitcher and more importantly $600,000 which Beane jokingly referred to as “My brokerage fee”.
Through flashbacks we see a young Billy Beane choosing what will become a disappointing pro baseball career over a scholarship to Stanford thanks to the assurances of a scout. The writers (Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian, and Stan Chervin) lead us to believe that Beane has a lifelong distaste for scouts and the lying lies that they tell because of this, verbalizing, or ramming that notion down our throats when Fuson says as much to Beane pre-firing.
Billy Beane was an awful major leaguer but after he retired he became a scout and still surrounds himself with many of the same people that were with the A’s a decade ago. Beane’s adoption of the MONEYBALL way was always about finding a new way to win within a tight budget, same as his move to stockpile compensation draft picks (a notable part of the book left out of the film) and draft high school pitchers. Not an assault on scouting but a new, better way to do it. A way that most teams have at least partially adopted despite the ever present detractors.
While MONEYBALL deftly displays the rift between baseball’s old school and new school it fails to accurately portray many of the events and people surrounding the fight in the name of simplification.
In the film Beane’s character says “It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball” but I’d argue that it is incredibly easy when you wash away some of the hard edges of a true story.
The question is: does making MONEYBALL accessible to the masses lessen its greatness and diminish the ballad of Billy Beane‘s quixotic journey?
Directed by: Bennett Miller
Written by: Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin and Stan Chervin
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Chris Pratt
Not every movie has to be an Oscar darling. Sometimes a picture can be successful just by achieving its goals and telling its story well. MONEYBALL is one of those movies. It’s not going to be a Best Picture winner but that doesn’t deny its greatness.
MONEYBALL is the story of Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) and his attempt to change the game. One year after a painful loss to The Yankees, Beane is looking for a new path to victory. His minimal team budget can’t compete with the big boys in New York or Boston so Beane is hoping to do a lot more with a lot less. When he meets numbers cruncher Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), Beane finds his new way. Brand is an economics major who truly understands the numbers of baseball. With Brand’s advice and analysis, Beane decides to invest his slim budget in the players other teams don’t want. Brand describes these athletes as “the island of misfit toys”. They consist of unorthodox, unattractive and past-their-prime guys. But they can hit the ball and make runs and that’s all that matters. They are Beane’s only hope. They’re his last hope.
MONEYBALL is an underdog story set against the backdrop of major league baseball. However, there’s a lot of talk about numbers and strategy in the film and that’s one of its strongest aspects. A brilliant scene with Beane trying to sell and buy players flows magically, Brand’s description of his method feels natural and enticing, chart after chart of RBI and hit percentages aren’t boring but engaging.
But it’s not only the inside baseball business that plays well in MONEYBALL. Several strong performances from Pitt, Hill, Hoffman and Pratt elevate the material and give you more of a reason to give a damn about the characters. Pitt especially delivers, playing Beane with brilliant, charming leading man quality. He makes some fabulous choices with the character. Instead of portraying Beane as an angry, unhinged guy, he plays him an exhausted, desperate and somewhat flippant employee out of money and ideas. When he’s trying to sell his new method of baseball, he’s doing it because it’s all he’s got, he’s at the end of his rope. There are several scenes when Beane is trying to convince the old timers that Brand’s path is the way to a championship. His demeanor, body language and overall attitude are pitch perfect. Anyone who has ever been sick of losing will relate with Beane. This is Pitt at his best.
There are a minor missteps in MONEYBALL. I feel like the film was this close to exploring some very fascinating character elements. Beane was a promising baseball player before his career fell apart. This collapse leads him to hate and fear failure. While this part of his personality is touched upon, I feel as though there is a little missing. We get to spend time with Beane and his adorable daughter (Kerris Dorsey) but these scenes don’t illuminate Beane aside from showing him as a good dad. More time devoted to Beane’s fear of rejection and failure would have been time well spent. As for Brand, we don’t get to know him at all. I wondered about him, about his love of baseball and his decision to enter the sport after studying economics at Yale. While exploring him would have added several extra minutes to the film I think it would have been fascinating.
But there’s little to complain about with MONEYBALL. The movie performs flawlessly, like a prime baseball team coached to perfection. There’s a solid script, a wonderful plot, terrific performances and direction that doesn’t overwhelm the story. And it’s an underdog story, one that everyone can get behind and cheer for. MONEYBALL isn’t the movie of the year, it isn’t this year’s THE SOCIAL NETWORK, but it’s a damn fine film.