Catherine Deneuve aside, you can pretty much thank Julie Delpy for keeping the American obsession with French women alive and kicking. There’s a reason we liked the 1995 Linklater-directed indie rom com Before Sunrise so much—Delpy’s Celine is hot, sophisticated, and witty, not one of those Katherine Heigl-type heroines who mistake tripping down some stairs for “being cute.” This month, Before Midnight, the insanely anticipated—it’s been nine freakin’ years!—third installment of the series drops in on Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine, now in their early 40s with kids, and working through some Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf-level marital strife while summering in Greece. If that sounds like a turnoff, let us remind you there’s still plenty of bantering and philosophizing on postcard-worthy European side streets, and Delpy is charming as ever. That latter part is evidenced quite convincingly here.
Ricky Jay is a world-famous magician, historian, and actor in films by David Mamet, but he’s also a guy who can make miracles happen with a deck of cards. I’ve watched him throw playing cards 90 feet, turn an antique photograph into a duce of clubs, and dead cut four aces from a deck he let someone else shuffle. Possibly the best sleight-of-hand artist in the world, Jay began performing magic at age 4 with his grandfather during the end of Vaudeville-era New York City. He took lessons from forgotten sleight of hand geniuses like Slydini and Al Flosso, ran away to Lake George NY as a performing teenager, and eventually hit the road, opening for acts like Ike & Tina Turner and collaborating with Shel Silverstein. He then relocated to LA to seek the mentorship of master card handlers like Dai Vernon and Charlie Miller.
Sounds like a good story?
Magician Michael Webber and the New Yorker’s Mark Singer (both Jay’s friends) were creative consultants in this fascinating, thorough, funny, beautiful film.
Jay and Dick Cavett narrate, with musical contributions by Bob Dylan and David Grisman.
Playing tonight at Film Forum, with the guest of honor.
Don’t miss this.
- Kirk’s spacesuit looks curiously like the ones in Prometheus. (0:25)
- We could watch Benedict Cumberbatch staring into the camera for hours. (0:31)
- Is Kirk…blonder this time? (0:35)
- The Millennium Falcon is still a source of inspiration, after all these years. (0:37)
- “What’s crazy about this is I don’t even LIKE Jews.”
- “Sorry it took me so long to get up here! I had a boner and I had to wait for it to go down.”
- “Now I can trade in my wife for KATHRYN BIGELOW!”
- “Suck it, Quvenzhané Wallis!”
- “Who has two thumbs and is doing coke off a hooker’s ass tonight? THIS GUY!”
- “And thank you to the Ayatollah Khomeini for inspiring this film.”
- “I kind of feel bad that this award didn’t go to the old lady.”
- “And thank you to Osama bin Laden for inspiring this film.”
- “Talk about torture! That tribute to Jerry Weintraub—just waterboard me!”
- “And thank you to destitute French whores for inspiring this film.”
- “Speak American you snobby assholes: It’s LAY MIZ.”
Heard all the Hollywood hand-wringing about the death of the movie star? About how the only things that can get people to the box office are comic-book heroes and animated sequels? The people who say this definitely haven’t seen Magic Mike or Argo. The thing is, the leading man isn’t dead, but he’s evolving into something a little more complicated. Mark Harris explains the rules of leading men and tells us who is one (Channing Tatum), who isn’t (Taylor Kitsch, at least not yet), and why:
At the beginning of last year, there were two particularly strong candidates to become a one-namer: Channing Tatum and Taylor Kitsch. For one thing, they were the right age: Tatum is 32; Kitsch is 31. That works, because, with rare exceptions (Travolta in the ’70s, Cruise in the ’80s), we don’t usually want male movie stars to be in their twenties. We’ll watch them, we’ll like them, we’ll go to their films, but being handsome (or pretty) and devoid of life experience—the age at which your clear, healthy, unlined face is a map of nothing but optimism untouched by personal history—that’s not quite the look of a movie star. Stardom is something you have to grow into. The beginning of your thirties is a good time to make the jump, and it should be a jump, an ascension, an unexpected upsurge that makes people feel that even though they’ve seen you before, they’re now seeing into you for the first time.
Tatum spent the past five years serving as the most ingratiating element of unmemorable movies like G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and Step Up 2 the Streets. Kitsch’s main credit was five seasons on Friday Night Lights. As résumés go, these were modest but promising, the kind of credits that often precede an official moment, that tick of the career clock when executives and directors and producers and media people all start to ask, “Yes or no?”
Kitsch got to don the armature of two oversize, very expensive would-be franchises, John Carter and Battleship. About half a billion budget dollars—serious money even in a profligate industry—rode on the bet that he could be the dude at the center of the trailer. Tatum, meanwhile, worked in two less costly subgenres—the romantic melodrama (The Vow) and the TV retread (21 Jump Street). Besides those lunges for popular acceptance, each guy took an ass-baring chance on artistic credibility—Kitsch pounding away atop Blake Lively in Oliver Stone’s Savages, Tatum reprocessing his own past as a stripper for Steven Soderbergh in Magic Mike.
If we’re grading these guys, money matters. You can’t be a movie star if nobody sees your movies. But even the stats start to crumble when you look at them closely. All three of Tatum’s films were hits, not huge but solid, each grossing between $100 and $140 million in the U.S. Moreover, they represented an undeniably efficient return on investment. (Magic Mike, for instance, was made for just $7 million.) Kitsch’s movies were not hits; they earned too little domestically—between $50 and $75 million apiece—and, except for Savages, they cost too much. But the movies are a worldwide business and, globally, Kitsch’s three pictures took in $669 million, substantially outperforming Tatum’s. What, therefore, does the math add up to? A wash.
Still, there’s no mistaking the outcome. The dust clears. We survey the landscape. Channing Tatum is now a movie star. And Taylor Kitsch is not. How did this transition, not particularly predictable a year ago, happen for one of them? Why did it fail to happen for the other?
Tom Carson is in Canada for the Toronto International Film Festival, marveling at The Master, groaning at Silver Linings Playbook, and pining (for Greta Gerwig) in Frances Ha. See his reviews here.
Tom Carson reviews Argo, Ben Affleck’s take on the 1979 Iran hostage crisis:
It’s a safe bet that Ben Affleck, who directed and stars in Argo, didn’t conceive the movie as a salute to American-Canadian relations. But seeing it on my first day here in ever-lovely Toronto added an extra bounce to this nifty and suspenseful blend of Carter-era grit and La-La-Land uproariousness, since Argo does feature a heroic Canadian ambassador (Victor Garber) who successfully hid a half-dozen understandably rattled U.S. embassy employees inside his Teheran official residence, during the 1979 hostage crisis.
It’s not like our northern brethren rate too many tributes at festival time even from their own filmmakers—who, at their most patriotic, are a lot likelier to opt for either glum or devilishly puckish resignation about being the Other White-Meat Country instead. But that said, the true story from which the movie derives seesawed between grim and zany in ways that might make plenty of directors more seasoned than Affleck give up on finding the right tone.
When protesters stormed our Tehran diplomatic compound and took 59 Americans hostage to retaliate for Jimmy Carter granting asylum to the deposed Shah of Iran, launching the 444-day ordeal that doomed Whatsisname’s presidency and put Ronald Reagan—him, you remember, right, kids?—in the White House, one group of junior employees from the embassy’s consular section managed to find refuge with Canadian envoy Ken Taylor. (Argo actually skips over a lot of the hair-raising time they had getting to him.) Once alerted to their whereabouts, the CIA hatched various schemes to sneak them out of the country in one piece; the nuttiest was exfiltration expert Tony Mendez’s notion of disguising them as a film company scouting locations for a terrible Star Wars rip-off named Argo. Of course, that’s the one that worked.
The new Total Recall reboot is a joyless mess, which will come as no surprise to fans of the original, all of whom surely wondered about the wisdom of trying to top Dutch director Paul Vehoeven’s version—the delightfully lurid B-movie that made Arnold Schwarznegger an A-list star. But if nothing else, the new Colin Farrell flick gave us a good excuse to get Verhoeven on the phone and talk about Ahnuld’s accent, why three breasts are better than four, and why Sharon Stone still owes him an apology.
From the outtakes of our June 2012 interview with Michael Fassbender:
Greg Louganis dominated the world of competitive diving in the 1980s, winning four Olympic gold medals, but even though he became one of those rare athletes whose fame at the time transcended their specific sport, he is still perhaps an unlikely reference for a thirtysomething actor raised in Ireland. Michael Fassbender can only explain it like this: sometimes when he is reading a script over and over, things just appear in his head. “A bubble comes out,” he says. “A lot of what I do would be intuition. For some reason I got this visual image of Greg Louganis walking toward the end of a high diving block.” Once the notion had entered his mind, it would not leave. “And I’ve learned to recognize those gut instincts and go with them more often than not. Time and experience allows you to recognize that they’re things you should pay attention to.”
It is not as though Fassbender knew a huge amount about Louganis. He remembers as a child seeing Louganis on TV at the Olympics, and that his mother Adele said Louganis was amazing, and Fassbender remembered that Louganis banged his head on the board once or twice. But that’s about it. As we speak, Fassbender even has to Google Louganis’s name on his iPhone to check whether Louganis is alive or dead. But there was something about the way Louganis walked as he took those last few steps before taking a dive that had stuck in the young Fassbender’s head and it was that which had resurfaced as he read the Prometheus script and mused on how one should best convey the movements of someone who is not human but wishes to appear so. “This economy of movement,” he says. “Total efficiency. If you’re going to move your hand, it’s for a reason. I thought it would suit the character of a robot—everything is totally relaxed, until you need to pick something up and move it over here.”
Louganis, incidentally, is very much alive. “I am stunned, I truly am,” he says when told of this surprising turn of events. “I’m like really really flattered stunned, amazed. I think it’s awesome.” He says that it took other people to point out to him that his physical movement as he prepared to dive was so specific. “I did what I did but I wasn’t fully aware of what I was doing,” he says. “It’s meditation in motion. You watch predatory animals, like a game cat, going after its prey, there’s no excess energy expended. It’s that kind of focus. There’s no excess. Everything is going toward what your goal is.” Of course it’s hard not to notice that the athlete who Fassbender has instinctively chosen as an inspiration for his latest character turns out to be someone who talks about his path to the moment of performance in a way that is strikingly similar to how Fassbender describes what he himself does. “You do the training,” says Louganis, “but once you get there you have to let all of that go and trust your body to do what it was trained to do. Because there’s no thought. There’s just doing it.”