Rope of Silicon has posited that the following news could well provide us with a hint to which small indie movie will be hot come awards season, and I can’t really disagree.
Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams are currently filming drama Blue Valentine, directed by Derek Cianfrance and written by the helmer alongside Cami Delavigne and Joey Curtis.
The film is about a couple whose marriage runs into trouble, causing them to reminisce on better days. The plot certainly sounds indie-by-numbers by Gosling and Williams are among the most talented young stars working on Hollywood at present. Williams, especially, should be in line for an Oscar within the next two years, probably for playing Charlotte Bronte in an upcoming biopic.
If good though, this could provide an opportunity for her, and Gosling, to take some gongs early in their career. Hopefully this won’t then lead to a stream of terrible superhero projects in the future.
Gosling’s next is All Good Things, another film with an amazing cast, including Kirsten Dunst, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kristen Wiig and the immense Frank Langella.
Williams isn’t too bad either. She’s currently filming Shutter Island with Martin Scorsese, after which she’ll get cracking on that Bronte biopic.
The film being directed by Sylvain White (Stomp the Yard) with Elba apparently up for the role of Roque, the second in command in an elite team of black-ops renegades seeking revenge on government which has betrayed them.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the Comedian in Watchmen, has already signed up alongside Columbus Short, a talented up-and-comer with the unenviable task of building a career while still having You Got Served on his CV.
As for Elba, he needs to get into some great projects again. For those of us devoted for once and always to The Wire, he will never stop being String. But for those not interested in diving into David Simon and Ed Burns’ world, Elba is currently probably best known for being in Prom Night and The Unborn, both terrible horror films in which he tries hard but cannot possibly save things.
Hopefully, something like this could give him some movie cred again and he can realise his full potential.
Anticipation for comic book adaptations come in very different forms. The Batman movies all suffer from a similar fate in that fans want darker every time, hence the widespread spurning given to Joel Schumacher’s Cyberpunk nightmares during the 1990s. Daredevil suffered a similar fate, although in both cases, little argument can be made for the actual quality of the adaptations, let alone their inability to tap into the desires that fans have of what they envisage for beloved characters. Sometimes, the criticism becomes slightly unfair. Witness the recent news that Fantastic Four is to be rebooted by Fox with a view to providing a darker vision of their super-family strife. The Fantastic Four movies are not great but, admit it, they capture the spirit of the comics very well indeed.
Watchmen is an entirely different beast. You could compare them to other Alan Moore adaptations and the treatment they had, but that doesn’t quite grasp the kind of no-win situation into which Zack Snyder plunged himself by taking on, and subsequently talking up, a film version of Moore’s most revered work. V for Vendetta inspires great love amongst Moore fans but that adaptation seemed doomed from the beginning given the presence in the directorial chair of James McTeigue, the perfect example of what Kevin Smith described as ‘failing upwards’ in Hollywood. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen isn’t Moore’s most revered but it is a brilliant, rollicking set of tales. It should have been easy to adapt but, beset by problems across the board, you can understand why that one fell to pieces. None though carry with them the stigma of adaptation that Watchmen has. It is an distinctly mixed desire amongst fans to see the film adapted anyway. It has often been described as unfilmable, not least by Moore himself, while the likes of Terry Gilliam (who was advised not to embark on the venture by Moore himself) and Paul Greengrass walked on past without managing to bring it to life. So, as this beast arrives, the question is raised as to whether Snyder managed to pull it off, and whether he should have tried at all.
The answer to both is a very tentative yes. Watchmen is some achievement, a linear and entertaining action movie gleaned from source material which never gives any concession to such narrative convention. You could never deny that Snyder has pulled off the adaptation, and for that he should be applauded. But he should not be lauded because, while this is undoubtedly something to see, nearly every problem that this film has offsets the positives and, on both sides of that coin, Snyder takes responsibility.
Snyder is undoubtedly a visual stylist, maybe even auteur, and his fingerprints are smeared on every scene. There are a great number of moments from the graphic novel which get lifted into the film wholesale, itself a visceral thrill for any fan watching. In doing so, he manages to include a number of the bigger themes that the book explores, not to mention the moments of humour that Moore often slips in, a welcome addition to what is a big, serious movie. The title sequence deserves a significant amount of praise, given that it manages to provide the alternative history of Moore’s United States with panache and skill without every feeling like important information is being shoehorned in; it’s a lesson for anyone taking on big, difficult adaptations and how to deal with the fact that five-hour movies don’t tend to sell. The other huge positive the movie has is Dr Manhattan, a brilliant CG/human creation which outstanding work from Billy Crudup, joining Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorschach, Patrick Wilson’s Nite Owl and Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Comedian in bringing the characters to life with verve and skill. Manhattan’s screen-incarnation is so well-judged and intelligently used, he is easily the most fully-realised and well understood adapted creation in Snyder’s universe.
But, for all the good, the bad and mistepping comes streaming through to match. The minor gripes first. The sex scene, itself used in a semi-comic context in the movie, is incredibly poorly filmed and badly judged by Snyder, coming across like the worst form of late-night, Channel 5 nonsense. Akerman is weak as Silk Spectre 2, an undemanding character which she manages to make completely unbelievable, especially in the S&M variation on the original costume which reaks of at-least partial sexism. Matthew Goode too, whilst relatively good in terms of look and attitude as Ozymandias, is slightly out of place and, although reportedly this was an acting choice, his accent is all over the shop.
The real problems though fall to Snyder himself. He is a director with great visual flair and an understanding of action quotients and slickness. However, his addiction to slo-mo fight scenes and, in this case, astonishing violence in given parts (the alley way and Rorschach’s turning point with a cleaver). Snyder seems far too interested in the slo-motion sequences, themselves extremely annoying and lacking in the kind of pace needed, and ends up fetishising the violence in truly disturbing fashion. It seems as though his history on 300, a far less illustrious project but equally strewn with heavy, slo-mo battles, was more indicative of his overall style rather than his adherence to Frank Miller’s work. Any concentration on the violence in Watchmen is to miss the point of the story, especially when he’s putting in the action sequences in slo-mo and taking up time which should be used to bring in other story parts (most notably the magazine vendor and kid reading comic which frame the story in the comic so brilliantly). It seems to me that Snyder was much more interested in amping up the violence and action scenes and producing a linear movie, rather than managing to balance the more difficult moments in Watchmen with those base elements.
As a director, he can undoubtedly make a film in which you are dazzled by the visuals and the gung-ho entertainment value. But it seems he does not have the ability to grasp wider emotional issues. For that reason, Watchmen doesn’t quite manage to ascend to greatness. But, for all the faults that strew the movie, I would argue that this is the absolute best that Snyder could ever have done and, therefore, he can be rewarded on a personal level. But I cannot help but wonder what a more versatile directorial talent would have made of it. Given all the history though, I think I can just be pleased that Snyder managed to adequately sidestep fucking up the greatest work of graphic fiction of all time.
Entertainment Weekly has posted a list of the top twenty-five greatest active directors. The list is as debatable as the day is long so argue away at some of the inclusions (Jon Favreau?).
Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln biopic, a long-time passion project, is struggling to find financing amid the current recession environment. Even the biggest names are starting to be hit by the problems facing the wider industry. When even the marquee names are finding it difficult, it is worrying. But perhaps this will foster a necessity to make movies cheaper and maybe we will see some really vital, interesting filmmaking be born from the downturn.
High School Musical alum Vanessa Hudgens has been strongly linked to the part of Nara Kilday in an adaptation of Josh Howard’s Dead@17 comic series, being written by Mike Dougherty. The story follows Nara, a girl who is killed and reborn to fight demons. Howard made the announcement during an interview on the Comics on Comics podcast (highly recommended). Could prove an interesting career move for Hudgens as she seems to be looking to eschew Zac Efron’s move into teen movies by taking what Cinematical calls the ‘Megan Fox route’.
Robert Rodriguez has signed up to write and direct Nerverackers, a futuristic thriller following an elite unit in 2085 dispatched to deal with a crime wave in a purportedly perfect society. Demolition Man, anyone?
Ridley Scott has swerved directions a bit on his Robin Hood revisionist take, essentially deleting the ‘revisionist’ portion of the description to adopt a more traditional style of telling the story. Instead, according to an interview given to MTV, Scott will have the story follow the ‘evolution of a character called Robin Hood, who will come out of a point in the Crusades which is the end‘. It does mean that the previously mentioned choice of having Russell Crowe play both Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham has been either abandoned or was never really a set option. Scott said to MTV: ‘[Crowe as both Robin and the Sheriff of Nottingham] was an idea so far back, way back when at the time I had this proposed to me, and I read it and thought, ‘I don’t really know what it does for it, but it’s alright’.’ Make of that what you will, but it seems that this will end up just another very well made if somewhat uninteresting picture from Scott, maybe barring Monopoly.
Corona Coming Attractions has posted a casting call for Thor, the Marvel adaptation upcoming from the directorial hand of Kenneth Branagh. Check out the posting and consider whether you could pull off such a role: ‘Physically powerful, very handsome, occasionally egotistical, petulant, and wild. A natural warrior with a quick charming wit who must be genuinely and severely humbled before becoming the compassionate, mature hero of our film.’
Geoff Gilmore, the long-standing director of the Sundance Film Festival, is to leave his post to become the chief creative officer of Tribeca Enterprises. He is also joining the board of the company and will take responsibility for ‘global content strategy and lead creative development initiatives and expansion of the brand’, according to a statement published by indieWIRE. Karina Longworth on Spout points out the move in in line with wider announced strategy for Tribeca which is aiming to bring itself closer in line with Sundance as prestige indie festival.
Ang Lee is in talks to direct an adaptation of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, the Booker Prize-winning novel about a young man who survives an accident at sea and ends up sharing a boat with a hyena, zebra, orangutan and a Bengal tiger. The project had been considered by a pre-Happening Shyamalan (who was reportedly replaced by Alfonso Cuaron) and most recently was under the eye of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the director of Delicatessan and Amelie.
Also in the news, Jeffrey Dean Morgan is keeping up the comic love to star in The Losers; Pride and Prejudice is set to meet the zombie world in an offbeat adaptation produced by Elton John; the Donnie Darko sequel is going straight to DVD; Linda Hamilton is in talks to take a role in Terminator Salvation; Mickey Rourke will not star in Iron Man 2; Breckin Meyer is penning Superguys, to be helmed by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan, described as ‘‘Ocean’s 11′ with idiots set at Comic-Con.’.