Not a lot of activity hereabouts lately, I know. My inadequate. I'd fully intended to do a post-Sundance rundown—even thought up neat little categories: The Pretty Awesome, The Pretty Okay, The Pretty Forgettable, and The Pretty Persuasion -- but the end of the festival coincided with the Skandie deadline and I just never found the time. And now New Directors/New Films press screenings are about to kick off, so I think I have to let that dream die. Hopefully I'll be reviewing many of those pictures for nerve.com now in any case; the best of them have all found distributors. Good job Focus Features picking up [PREMATURE HYPERBOLE ALERT] the year's most exciting directorial debut, a high-concept stunt so prodigiously stylish (and thrillingly clever, for that dwindling subset of cinéastes who appreciate the clever) that its ultimate lack of substance, while frustrating, is eminently forgivable.
Speaking of my newest employer, one of the advantages of writing for the web is that you don't really need to fit some predetermined layout. I do have a word count for the nerve.com reviews, of course, but it's not exactly a crisis if I get carried away and exceed the maximum by a sentence or two. Esquire, needless to say, is a lot less forgiving in this regard, and in fact most of my pieces for them have been edited for space (and sometimes for content, but mostly it's just "we need to lose 75 words, pronto"). In the case of the current Alternative Oscars column (which ran a page longer than usual), two entire items wound up being cut. For the two insane Del Angelo completists out there, here they are:
Best Argument in Favor of Maintaining a Status Quo in Which Privileged White Filmmakers Ignore People of Color Altogether: Spanglish
For years, critics have been bitching about the lily-white New York City depicted in Woody Allen’s increasingly hermetic pictures. Sure, it’s offensive by omission...but if the noxious portrait of multiracial Los Angeles offered by James L. Brooks in Spanglish is indicative of what good intentions will wreak, let’s hope the Woodman remains blinking in his cave. I’ll give Brooks a few brownie points for eschewing subtitles, but his treatment of Paz Vega’s unfailingly righteous, proud and noble housemaid is typical of the well-meaning condescension evinced by liberal filmmakers, who seem to fear that making a minority character recognizably human is tantamount to racism. Did Brooks fail to notice that Denzel Washington recently won a well-deserved Oscar for playing a cop so cheerfully, unapologetically corrupt that he made the dudes in Serpico and Prince of the City look like Officer Krupke? There’s no excuse for giving Vega the Poitier treatment, especially when it means that poor Téa Leoni has to portray enough flaws and neuroses for two.
Best Wasted Opportunity: The other saw, Saw
Anton Chekhov would be so pissed if he were disinterred and forced to sit through this high-concept horror turkey. “How did they talk Danny Glover into trashing his reputation like that?” he would ask, presumably in Russian. But the real issue would be the twin hacksaws allotted to the film’s dual protagonists, chained by a madman to opposite corners of a filthy bathroom. Clearly a fan of Mad Max, their tormentor notes that the saws are far too flimsy to cut through metal; flesh and bone, by contrast, would provide much less resistance. If dramatic structure dictates that a gun shown at the beginning of Act One must be fired by the end of Act Three, as Chekhov insisted, then the presence of two saws will find gorehounds salivating in anticipation of the inevitable climactic saw-off, with our heroes racing to amputate their respective limbs in order to beat the other to the gun or bomb or sharks with frickin’ laser beams or whatever the hell. Yeah, I got a little weepy at the end of Million Dollar Baby. But it was nothing compared to the tears of frustration I shed when one of the saws was immediately broken. That’s just not right.
Also, my belated thanks and apologies to Mike Wazowski, from whom I shamelessly swiped a joke about Sean Penn's Mystic River histrionics ("Is that my Oscar in there? Is that my Oscar in there?!?!?") that actually did run in the magazine. Good one bud.
And finally, apropos of nada, how the hell does C.C. Baxter have an apartment on 62nd Street that rents for only $85 a month? By my calculations, today that would amount to $516.77. Anyone have the number of that broker?