#GerardButler in #Geostorm Now Brewing in 2017 But What Does It All Mean?

Septembers of Shiraz, movie, poster, Iran, based on novel, Adrian Brody, Salma Hayek, Gerard Butler

I’m sensing it’s the end of an era. You know I work really hard at keeping the faith, keeping the torch of Gerard Butler’s career lit (for all the thanks I get from him), but I have no idea what to make of this newest development. We’ve gone from a possible three films in 2015, to no films in 2015. Three films in the can. All three have now been pushed back from their original release dates.

London Has Fallen, the sequel to 2013’s surprise hit Olympus Has Fallen and the closest thing to a safe bet among the three, will, as of this writing at least, be released in January 22, 2016, pushed back from October 2015. I’ve already complained about the fact that the October 2 date was given to what will surely be an execrable remake of 80’s “classic” Point Break (sorry Edgar Ramirez, but I don’t think even you’ll be able to save it). The reason supposedly had something to do with a crowded fall schedule. The original date would have pitted the film, by a director, Babak Najafi, making his English language debut, against Victor Frankenstein with James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe and Robert ZemeckisThe Walk with Joseph Gordon Levitt, among others.

Alex Proyas’ (RepoMan) Gods of Egypt is slated to follow in April 2016, back from an original date of February 12. Despite the fact that I’m a tad peeved that it won’t open on my birthday, The rescheduled date actually bodes well, on the face of it. February is the new January. While the first month of the year used to a wasteland of dumped films that studios had no confidence in, but figured might make a few bucks, and they had to put out something. These days, quite a few studios are “counter-programming” against the late end of December rush to release awards season fodder, by unleashing some films in January that are not meant to garner awards but just entertain those segments of the population that either have no interest in more high-brow fare, or who have already seen everything. So now February has become the dead space between end of year blockbusters and art films and new Spring films. An April date for Gods of Egypt might just signal a little more faith from its studio, Lionsgate/Summit. They’ll need some faith. They’ve got a huge nut to crack. Twelve special effects companies are expensive. $140 million expensive. (Although supposedly, Lionsgate/Summit’s ante was only around $10 million, because of the international pre-sales and Australia tax incentives.)

Lastly, there’s Geostorm which had originally been slated for an October 2016 release. Today it was announced that it has been pushed back to January 2017. Geostorm is the directorial debut of disaster flick maven, writer/producer Dean Devlin. The cast, in addition to Butler includes Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Mare Winningham, Kathryn Winnick, Ed Harris and Andy Garcia. In it, Butler is a “charming but stubborn satellite designer called in to help when the orbiting devices that control the Earth’s weather start to go haywire, leading to fears that the worst storm humanity has ever known could soon befall us all. Sturgess is his estranged brother, with whom he’ll have to work if he’s to stop the meteorological meltdown.”
No reason has been given for this latest move. It’s been deduced that it is to give Devlin (who is also at work on his TNT series “The Librarians”) more time in post-production (where it’s been since March 2015). So it was originally going to be a year and a half from wrap to release, now it’ll be closer to two years. The same can be said of Gods of Egypt, which when into post in July 2014. Both films are ultra- special effects heavy extravaganzas. The latter takes place almost entirely in front of a green screen.

I actually don’t think this will be the final move for Geostorm. Giving Devlin a few more months to tinker is one thing, but the new date is already crowded with the likes of the Magnificent Seven remake, DreamWorks Animation’s Boss Baby, the LONG gestating version of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower (which hasn’t even filmed yet) and the latest Power Rangers reboot. Regardless of what I think of those films, it’s likely that at least one of them will share ticket buyers with Geostorm. So we’ll see.

While all of this may be out of Gerard Butler’s control, probably yet another reason he’s taken to producing his own films (and he only has a hand in one of these, London Has Fallen), he’s been out of the movie-going public’s eye since October 2013. That’s a Hollywood lifetime. I think this was the point. I’d like to believe that even he had tired of the carnival that is his life. While no one has more fun, in terms of his career, it was time to take a step back and reassess. Or at least that’s what I want to believe. While I know it hasn’t all been endless vacations in between Hugo Boss campaigns, none of these three films add up to what I believe is his own (well-deserved) version of a McConaissance. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but they appear, at first blush, to be more of the same. Perhaps his manager/producing partner Alan Siegel knew of where he spoke when, quite a few years ago, he said (and I’m paraphrasing) that eventually Gerard Butler will disappear completely from in front of the camera and reemerge behind it. Perhaps that’s where he’ll find true creative fulfillment.

Butler will likely be in Toronto this month to attend the Gala premiere of Septembers of Shiraz, during the Toronto International Film Festival. It is the first film he’s shepherded as producer from the purchase of the book’s film rights all the way to the screen, and the first that doesn’t have him in it. It stars the other half of my favorite bromance, Adrien Brody, as well as Salma Hayek and Shohreh Aghdashloo.

Here’s the first clip:

(clip first published on Deadline.com)

The film, directed by Wayne Blair (The Sapphires) and based on the novel by Dalia Sofer, is the true story of a secular Jewish family and the unexpected journey they face during post-revolutionary Iran.

The clip features Farnez Amin (Hayek), pleading for details on the whereabouts of her husband (Brody), who was taken into custody and accused of espionage. “It’s time you understood, sister Amin, that the times when people like you could demand things from us are over. Now, it is our turn,” forewarns Mohsen (Alon Aboutboul).

As events build toward a dangerous bid to escape, Farnez and her husband Isaac Amin must confront their fundamental identity and what their future may hold.”

Movie 43 it ain’t.

I don’t predict huge box office in the US after its as yet to be determined and probably limited release, but it’ll likely have legs overseas and I have no doubt tireless promoter Butler will hand carry it across the globe if need be.

My point, if I have one, is that as the time between films in which Gerard Butler appears on our screens grows longer and longer, and some might well wonder if by the time these films are finally released anyone will still care, we might also ask, will he?

Make a Reservation For Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel, movie, Poster

via imdb

Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel, while definitely for adults, earning its R-rating with mature themes as well as blood, death and copious f-bombs, is also as delightfully flaky and multi-layered as one of the beautifully decorated pastries, the “Courtesans au chocolat”, that play a key role in the film. It’s lovingly crafted in Anderson’s signature candy colors and wrapped in an equally pretty pink box, not the one tied with a blue ribbon, but the Grand Budapest Hotel itself.

The film recounts the adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. The story involves the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting and the battle for an enormous family fortune — all against the back-drop of a suddenly and dramatically changing Continent.

The film is another in a line of Anderson’s charming and brightly colored shadowboxes, this one awash in extravagant shades of topaz, rose and amethyst, and filled with the director’s usual complement of wacky characters to whom he’s given lots of amusing and eloquent things to say and lots of screwball antics to perform.

It begins with an aging writer embarking on a story told to him when he was a younger man, by another aging raconteur who then proceeds to tell the tale of The Grand Budapest Hotel when it was indeed still grand.  So it’s a flashback within a flashback within a flashback, telling a story within a story within a story, spanning three different eras, each with its own production design and color palette. The setting is the fictional European country of Zubrowka, an obvious stand-in for any of a number of Eastern bloc countries like Czechoslovakia or Poland. When the film opens, the titular castle-like hotel, though clearly fallen on hard times, stands as a remnant of a bye-gone era – an era of grace and beauty…and excess.  The year is 1968 and the Grand Budapest Hotel has been refurbished to reflect more utilitarian times, but it is one of the mysteries around which the film revolves that it has been allowed to remain otherwise untouched, a gracefully aging doyenne atop a mountain, looming over the villages below when private property is clearly frowned upon. (Think of how many families could make use of the hotel’s rooms!)

As all of Anderson’s films revolve around some variation of a father/son dynamic, usually a quirky middle-aged man and the precocious boy he takes under his wing, The Grand Budapest Hotel is no exception. This time around, the mentor is played by Ralph Fiennes as “the mysterious Monsieur Gustave H.”, the consummate concierge who is by turns fussy, fastidious, charming, condescending, a little creepy and sweetly endearing. Often these traits are all visible within the same scene The elderly society matrons who seem to make up the lion’s share of the hotel’s guests, provide Monsieur Gustave with ample opportunity to polish his gifts for seduction and flattery to a fine patina, even when they’re dead.

The Grand Budapest Hotel finds Anderson at his most spirited and stylish. As Gustave and “his  lobby boy” named Zero embark on a fateful trip to honor one such dearly departed guest’s memory, they wind up embroiled in a zany murder mystery comprised of a string of antic set pieces that take them from a vast and spooky mansion to a hilarious prison break to a cartoonish ski-and-sled chase from a mountaintop monastery.

Of course along the way they’ll run into a colorful array of  Anderson’s regular company of players. It would be too spoilery for me to tell you who Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson play but part of the fun is waiting for them to pop up, since you know they’re bound to. Adrien Brody is obviously having a blast as the villain, all but twirling his mustache like Snidely Whiplash in melodramatic glee, as is an unrecognizable Tilda Swinton, who has far too little screen time. (Apparently both she and Ralph Fiennes agree as Swinton has said that they’ve talked about doing a “prequel” depicting Monsieur Gustave and Madame D’s “love story”.) Edward Norton does a variation of Scout Master Ward from Moonrise Kingdom, as Henckels. New members of the company include F. Murray Abraham, and Jude Law, among several other familiar faces. But it’s Fiennes to whom this movie belongs and who provides the gravitas and is the ambiguous heart and soul of the film. He’s in nearly every frame of the picture. As an actor he’s gotten so good at playing villains or heavy dramatic roles that it’s almost a giddy surprise to discover his impeccable comic timing. He inhabits Monsieur Gustave in such a way that we cannot doubt his sincerity whether he’s berating his lobby boy, vetting Zero’s young girlfriend Agatha (Saoirse Ronan) or complimenting a corpse on her complexion, despite the fact that he remains a bit of a cryptic figure. He’s civilized and refined, at least superficially, but he’s also prone to vulgarity and casual cruelty and his own background is left purposely vague.

The spectre of impending war looms large and the Nazis are given the thinnest of veils instead of being named outright, but Nazi-era anxieties play a huge role.  If one compares The Grand Budapest Hotel to another film set during the same time period, Cabaret, then Gustave H. is like a more genteel version of Joel Grey’s Emcee.

If the only Wes Anderson film you’re familiar with is 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom, a gently deviant story of first love, it might surprise you to discover that The Grand Budapest Hotel is peppered with startling images of violence. After a character tosses a cat out a window, we see its bloody remains on the pavement below before it’s off-handedly discarded in a trash can, not to mention the close-up of some recently amputated fingers. There’s also a brief glimpse of sexual explicitness that feels almost shockingly out of place in a Wes Anderson film. (It’s meant to be jarring and it does earn a well-deserved laugh from the audience.)  Anderson seems ready and willing to indulge a taste for the crude and grotesque. He treats characters’ physical blemishes and deformities as visual one-liners like the shoeshine boy with the prosthetic leg and the bakery girl with “a port wine stain in the shape of Mexico” on her face.

Anderson has said that his inspirations were the wartime comedies of Ernst Lubitsch, like To Be or Not to Be, but this isn’t so much a satire as it is an homage or soft focus mirror image of those films. He gives us the abhorrence of authoritarianism which marked that earlier genre,  not as a crime against humanity, but more as an affront to good taste and Old World etiquette. Despite the humor, the pastels and jewel tones and the near slapstick energy of some of the vignettes, there is a tinge of melancholy wafting through the film, particularly in the section that takes place post-war, centering on Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) and The Writer (Jude Law).

The dialogue written by Anderson from a story by Hugo Guinness and inspired by the works of Stefan Zweig, is heavily laced with poetry and gives Gustave the right to be called a genuinely romantic figure, in the truest sense of the term.

Part of Anderson’s charm is his ability to put together the perfect musical canvas upon which to draw his pictures. I’ve been listening to Alexandre Desplat’s memorable score for weeks now.  It will carry you along until it dares you not to tap your toes, especially during the final credits. (You do stay, right?) You must. You’ll want to dance the Hopak like a Cossack or at least throw your arms up to shout “Hey!” when the music stops.

Ultimately, The Grand Budapest Hotel is enchanting,  as well-appointed and smoothly run as its titular establishment. So here’s a question, why is a movie this much fun, this well made and well acted, released in March?  Why wasn’t it saved for the big end-of-the-year awards circus? It played a few well respected festivals like Berlin and Glasgow earlier in the winter, but not the biggies like Cannes, Toronto or Venice or even Tribeca. Was releasing it in March Anderson’s way of thumbing his nose at awards in general? Am I reading too much into this? Quite possibly. Okay, probably.  But I submit that all those of us who care about such things should agree to keep talking about this film and keep it in people’s minds –the minds of the people in a position to have an impact anyway – so that it’s not forgotten at the end of the year.

Sure there will be a lot more films released between now and then, some of them may be flashier, some of them may even be better. But some may not, but by virtue of their place on the calendar may get the accolades.  Just my humble opinion, but I think that at the end of the year we’ll still be thinking that Ralph Fiennes will deserve some mention as a candidate for Best Actor. Even Edward Norton admits, despite the fact that he really wanted to play Monsieur Gustave himself, that no one could have played him as well as Fiennes. Sure he didn’t have to gain or lose any weight or wear a prosthetic nose or anything else, but the delicate balance of the movie rests on his shoulders. Lord knows Fiennes has deserved the recognition many times before and has been overlooked (*coughCoriolanuscough*). He hasn’t been nominated by the Academy since 1996. 1996! C’mon.

Okay, I’m off of my soapbox. Bottom line, you need to check into the four-star establishment that is The Grand Budapest Hotel and let Monsieur Gustave see to your comfort for a couple of hours.

The Grand Budapest Hotel, written and directed by Wes Anderson, with Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Jude Law, F. Murray Abraham, Tony Revolori, Saoirse Ronan, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Tom Wilkinson, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Mathieu Amalric, Lea Seydoux and Fisher Stevens, is open in select cities in the US and Canada now and is rolling out to more tomorrow March 21.

Final Trailer – Red Band:

How to Make “Courtesans au Chocolat”:

Meet the Cast:

The Central Conceit of Wes Anderson:

Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, The Grand Budapest Hotel, elevator, Tony Revolori

courtesy Fox Searchlight

Check Into the Trailer For Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel, movie, Poster

via imdb

I’ve been suffering from an extreme bout of laziness. One of the side-effects is the severe neglect of this blog. I have at least three half written discussions of the latest films I’ve seen, all awaiting completion, not to mention notes for posts about new clips and images for upcoming awards-bait.  I’ll get to them all, hopefully before they become irrelevant. What has finally jerked me out of my doldrums? Oh, just this first trailer for Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. The official trailer has just dropped, and if I was eagerly awaiting Anderson’s first film since 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom (one of my favorites of that year) before, I am now ridiculously excited!

What’s the big deal”, you ask? For one thing, I have an affinity for Anderson’s films that, much like my love of the Coen Brothers, borders on the obsessive. It has his name on it, I will see it. Period, no questions asked.  I’ve been hooked since 1996’s Bottle Rocket on Anderson’s warm, witty and often, wacky, tales of functionally dysfunctional families. (The only one I haven’t been able to give my whole heart to is The Royal Tennebaums. Against the director’s usual day-glow color palette, it just feels “drab” to me. Maybe it’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s hair. I don’t know.)

I love the troupe of players he’s assembled, some whom have been with him from the beginning, like Owen Wilson#$^+~, Bill Murray@$*+^~ and Jason Schwartzman@$*^~, others he’s added along the way, like Anjelica Huston$+^, Adrien Brody^ and Edward Norton*, but once they’re in, they’re in. I don’t know whether or not it’s true or not, but I get the feeling that his “players” are always offered roles first and depending on their schedules, it’s only after they’ve passed that anyone else gets a shot at joining “the company”.  The stunningly good cast of The Grand Budapest Hotel includes Ralph Fiennes (who replaced Johnny Depp), Wilson, Murray (their 7th collaboration), Schwartzman, Norton, Brody, Tilda Swinton* (who replaced Angela Lansbury. Wait…what?), Jude Law, Harvey Keitel*, Willem Dafoe+~, Jeff Goldblum+, Saoirse Ronan, Léa Seydoux, Mathieu Amalric^, F Murray Abraham, Bob Balaban* and Tom Wilkinson. I think we’re allowed to expect great things from a cast like that (and conversely, disappointed if we don’t get it).

Another thing I really like about Anderson is that as a writer and director he’s obviously a movie fan. The argument could be made that one would have to be a fan to work in the medium, but I’m not so sure that’s true. It’s certainly not always as evident as it is in the work of someone like Martin Scorsese or Quentin Tarantino. Anderson’s sensibilities  tend toward the romantic (at the very least a lot less gritty, bloody and violent than QT), but like QT, a lot of his work pays homage to the “Golden Age” of Hollywood”, some of which are apparent from this first trailer. Anderson has said that The Grand Budapest Hotel was directly influenced by the work of Ernst Lubitsch (Shop Around the Corner), Edmund Goulding (Grand Hotel), and Billy Wilder (To Be or Not to Be). Those first two referenced films were both set in Budapest as well.

The official synopsis:

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL recounts the adventures of Gustave H, a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa, the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend. The story involves the theft and recovery of a priceless Renaissance painting and the battle for an enormous family fortune — all against the back-drop of a suddenly and dramatically changing Continent.

Now take a look at this:

That just makes me giddy!

I’m thrilled that, not only does Ralph Fiennes obviously have the lead, but he gets to be funny! I haven’t seen him in anything even close to a comedy since In Bruges and before that…I don’t think there is anything before that. (The Avengers** does not count – at all.)

It’s not immediately obvious, but Jude Law has reportedly let slip that the film takes place in two different eras: the 1930s and the 1960s. The apprentice “lobby boy”, Zero, is played by Tony Revolori (or Anthony Quinonez as he has been billed in everything he’s done to this point). The kid’s a relative unknown but it would appear he’s the co-lead.

Written and directed by Anderson, the film’s music was composed by the brilliant, Academy Award winning Alexandre Desplat, who was responsible for the memorable score for Moonrise Kingdom, as well as The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Costumes were designed by Milena Canonero (The Darjeeling Limited, The Life Aquatic…), Production Design by Adam Stockhausen (Moonrise Kingdom, The Darjeeling Limited) and cinematography is by Robert D. Yeoman, who has filmed every Anderson movie since Bottle Rocket.

I can not wait to see this! But, unfortunately, wait I must, since Fox Searchlight won’t let us check in to The Grand Budapest Hotel until March 7, 2014.  Until then, you can stay up-to-date at the official site.


*Moonrise Kingdom

$Royal Tennenbaums


+The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

^The Darjeeling Limited

~The Fantastic Mr. Fox (voices)

** The 1998 version with Uma Thurman – I know you’d forgotten about it…or were trying to.

I Have a Lot To Talk About, pt 2

Before I get to the next film, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, which JMHO, was very good, very funny, very clever, very vintage Woody Allen, I want to say a few words on what it took just for me to see the damn thing.

On the Friday that it opened here in Boston, I got to the theater to find that the movie was playing in one of the smaller auditoriums of my local megaplex. That’s okay, I expected that. So, as I’m sitting there in my preferred front row center seat, before the film began, as I had been advised to do by Ty Burr of the Boston Globe,* I looked up at the projector at the back of the auditorium and I see two lights (which means they are using the 3D projector for a 2D film,) and I’m about to go say something to the manager when the previews start. The screen did its automatic resizing thing and I noticed that the previews were cut off top and bottom. Okay that happens, I’ve seen it before. Then the movie starts and the movie is cut off top and bottom, and some of the lights are still on in the auditorium! I was about to get up again, but someone else beat me to it and they fixed that. We all continued to watch the movie, (which seemed very dim to me, but I gave them the benefit of that doubt) and then just at the end (last 5 min.), the "film" or whatever broke. The screen went black.

Just as suddenly the movie started up again, but playing over it was all of the pre-movie crap they show you before the previews, including soundtrack. So even though we all knew what was going to happen and we could see it underneath the other stuff, we didn’t get any of the dialogue. So we all left en masse like an angry mob. (I say all, there were probably 25 of us on a Friday afternoon.) An employee was waiting for us outside the auditorium and told us to meet him downstairs, where we all waited in line and got refunds. I actually ended up getting three passes good for any movie, any time, so that was a score.  I was planning to ask the manager giving us the refunds whether or not she realized that ‘that theater’ was at the heart of an internet "controversy" involving the lighting used when screening (there are 19 screens in that theater, one of which is outfitted for IMAX and several – hell maybe all – are 3D capable. I doubt very much they know which bulbs are being used in each auditorium since the pinheads they employ are barely capable of doling out popcorn), and how coupled with incidents like that one, it wasn’t exactly conducive to getting people into the theater. I would have if not for the clamoring rabble behind me. Apparently there was another problem in another auditorium and those people wanted their money back as well.

The second attempt to see Midnight in Paris went much better (especially since the ticket was on AMC), although I swear to god, there was still part of the picture below the screen! (It wasn’t so much as to be distracting, but I wrote a letter to AMC. I wasn’t going to waste my time going to the manager of the theater.) About 2/3 of the way through the film, some woman and her young son (like 9 or 10 yrs old tops) came in and sat behind me in the 2nd row and proceeded to unwrap their snacks and TALK! I don’t mean hushed whispering either. I mean normal voices. I ‘shushed’ them a couple of times then I turned around and said "stfu or I’m having you thrown out". (This did serve to make them be quiet. I suspect that they didn’t have ticket stubs if you know what I mean.) Who the hell brings a kid to a Woody Allen movie? The kid had no interest in it and could not possibly have gotten the references (unless he were some sort of savant and if he were, he’d have shut up and watched from the outset.)

Now, part of that serves me right for not having gone to the “adult” theater in Cambridge to begin with, but I opted for convenience, and I know I’m a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to the whole theater experience in general. I want it to be "perfect" and it so frequently is not, but given what I do put up with, think about how many people just will not. THIS is why box office receipts are down. I’ve said all this before, but these problems started with VHS, even before things like HBO. There are now two whole generations that grew up not knowing a world without movies in your living room and they cannot separate the two when they go out to the theater. And that’s BEFORE you get into the problems associated with the light bulbs and inept theater employees. This is the shit that keeps a lot of adults out of the cinema and why we get crap like Zookeeper and Transformers XII because of who they’re getting in. It is my quest to do something about it! *shakes fist* Rant over, let’s get to the movie.

JMHO, but Midnight in Paris is like a bon bon, a confection of a movie that wants nothing more than to be witty and charming, like the perfect dinner guest. Owen Wilson, whom I’ve found increasingly annoying of late, was actually the best Woody Allen doppleganger in a long time. There were times when his speech patterns were so dead on it was uncanny.

His character, Gil Pender, is a successful screenwriter disillusioned with Hollywood and longing to become a ‘real writer’ by finishing his stalled novel. He envisions himself living in a Paris atelier like the “lost generation” of the 20’s that he romanticizes. His bourgeois fiancé and her parents have us easily rooting for him to break free and do just that.

Rachel McAdam’s Inez, could be considered the villain of the piece. McAdams is usually saddled with being sweet and perky, (I say ‘usually’ because one notable exception is The Lucky Ones in which she played a wounded vet returning home from Iraq.) Here she played against type with impressive results. Inez is a shallow, materialistic Daddy’s girl too attached to her wealthy and indulgent parents, who already hen pecks her fiancé and who says things like “You always take the side of the help. That’s why Daddy says you’re a communist.” She also had the guts to let Woody make her ass look enormous.

Aside from the fact that she was eating in nearly every scene, at one point in the film McAdams and Mimi Kennedy (who played her mother) were walking down the street while the camera followed from behind, exaggerating their “assets”. The point being that they "matched". JMHO, it was an illustration of the idea that Inez, like all women, would become her mother. The first time I saw the film I wasn’t sure if that’s what was going on in that scene or not and I didn’t want to mention it if it was just her normal ass. I think she’s always been bottom heavy, relatively speaking in the stick figure world she inhabits, but this was really noticeable. Upon my second viewing, I decided that it was, in fact, a sight gag. Woody’s subtle like that.

The centerpiece of the film, what starts as an excuse for Gil to get away from Inez and the “pedantic” Paul (Michael Sheen, brilliant as always) and his sycophantic wife Carol, walking the streets of Paris late at night, becomes a trip back in time. Gil finds himself invited to swell parties where Cole Porter plays the piano and he gets to meet his idols like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. It is to his credit that Allen does not spend any time explaining “how” this happens, it just does and all he asks is that you take the trip along with Gil.

Woody Allen, love him or hate him, does give his audience some credit for having not only intelligence, but some intellectual curiosity. Taking that assumption as its jumping off point, the film doesn’t waste time explaining all of the characters that populate Gil’s fantastic perception of Paris in the 20’s. One of the things I loved best about Midnight in Paris is that it assumes viewers know the details of the luminous lives that Gil comes across in his travels. If a movie watcher does not know the work of Surrealist filmmaker Luis Bunuel or that Man Ray was not photographer William Wegman’s dog nor Spongebob’s nemesis, but one of the most influential painters/sculpters/photographers of the 20th century, there is a marvelous invention called Google that I hope he or she would turn to and find out who they were. Gil’s reactions are not merely stilted exposition, they are those of a man who does know who they are and what their accomplishments are. His appreciation is also filtered through the intervening years.

Marion Cotillard is exquisite as a woman Gil meets at a swanky party given by the Fitzgeralds. Not one of the “real” people he encounters, she’s a type. A coquette who has come to Paris from the French countryside to experience the “modern” age (although in a neat twist she spends her time fantasizing about another era gone by, La Belle Epoque – Paris at the turn of the 20th century). When Gil meets her, she is the lover of a young Picasso, having already been with Braque and Modigliani. Gil is enchanted.

The actors playing these famous people were, JMHO, all fantastic, especially Alison Pill as inebriated (perhaps psychotic) party girl Zelda Fitzgerald, Corey Stoll as Hemingway in his prime, already showing signs of his famous hatred of Zelda for ruining his friend Scott and rhapsodizing about courage and honesty and always looking for a fight, Kathy Bates as pragmatic author and patron of the arts Gertrude Stein and most especially, Adrien Brody as a delightfully off-the-wall Salvador Dali. Brody had one scene and he was PERFECT, absolutely inspired. He even managed to arrange his facial features to look like Dali’s. Most of his one scene consisted of repeating the word “rhinoceros”, singular and plural, with various inflections and it is intentionally hilarious. If Judi Dench can win an Oscar for her one scene as Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love, then Brody should at least be nominated for this.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I have been an Adrien Brody fan since Summer of Sam

(Yes, I’m going to digress a little.) What I continue to admire is how he handles his career. He was the youngest actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor and is still the only American to have ever won a Cesar, the French equivalent. While his role in The Pianist, can be said to have been ‘the role of a lifetime’ and indeed it was a singular performance in a singular role, he’s got much more in him and he hasn’t rested on his laurels by any stretch. He obviously marches to the beat of his own drummer and makes the movies he wants to make (including the Predator reboot. Love it or hate it, he wanted to do it and fought hard to get the part and put himself through a grueling regimen to bulk up for the film once he got it- remind you of anyone?) Take a look at his CV on imdb. His list of credits is long and riddled with brilliant performances, even the smallest of supporting parts, in movies you’ve probably forgotten about. His Noah Percy is the best thing about M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, despite a star-making debut by Bryce Dallas Howard and the presence of an all-star cast.

Most of the films he makes are small independents that don’t see the light of day until dvd or even cable. That does not mean, however, they aren’t worthy of your time. It means they don’t have a budget for promotion. (Thank God for VOD – I can’t wait to see Tony Kaye’s Detachment, a hit at the Tribeca Film Festival that doesn’t look like it’s getting a theatrical release.) Brody certainly isn’t doing them for the money.

Well, maybe he made King Kong for the money. Or he might have done it for the opportunity to work with Peter Jackson. Or perhaps it was the opportunity to play a romantic lead. (I’m of the opinion that Adrien Brody is not only handsome, perhaps not in the conventional way, but sexy as hell.)

Oh yeah, she hated it

Speaking of romantic leads, I recently caught Manolete, a film made in 2008 which was just released in the US on dvd (directed by Menno Meyjes, a Dutch filmmaker who wrote the upcoming Black Gold with Antonio Banderas and Mark Strong that I am very much looking forward to) in which Brody played a famous Spanish bullfighter in his last days as he engages in a passionate, destructive affair with actress Lupe Sino. (It’s been retitled for dvd, as A Matador’s Mistress, which puts the emphasis on Penelope Cruz’s character. I don’t get it. I can only assume it has something to do with Cruz’s higher profile of late.) An imperfect film to be sure but worth watching for Brody’s physical and spiritual embodiment of a classic matador. His chemistry with Cruz is incendiary.

Another title you’ve probably never heard of is Wrecked. Brody is practically alone for the entire length of the film, with almost no dialogue as he wakes up after a car crash at the bottom of a ravine with no memory of how he got there, who the dead bodies are surrounding him or even who he is. Bits of the story are revealed inch by inch through his hallucinations and as he struggles (literally crawls) to get up the ravine and to get help. It was mesmerizing. Basically you’re watching everything (fear, anguish, determination) play out on Brody’s face and in his eyes. You can’t look away.

Okay, I’ve stopped gushing. So back to Midnight in Paris. I haven’t talked about the ending because it’s almost incidental. It becomes obvious where the movie will end up, it’s all about how we get there and that we are going where the film has convinced us that we want to go. Bottom line, was it worth the effort involved? Yes, all things considered, for me, it was. Will it lose anything in translation if you wait for dvd? Nah, not really. The main question here is, is it an enjoyable two hours? Absolutely. JHMO, but it’s worth a look just for the witty pastiche of 20’s personalities, particularly Adrien Brody’s Salvador Dali.


*Boston Globe 22 May 2011 articles.boston.com/2011-05-22/ae/29571831_1_digital-projectors-movie-exhibition-business-screens