5. Matt Damon (Spanish): Not actually too bad, to my ears? But what the hell do I know. All I can say is that it was not entirely distracting, hearing Matt Damon speak Spanish. Maybe he does in real life! Thank god I will not live a hundred years and be forced to finally learn Spanish by living in the techno-slums of Los Angeles.
Originally slated for release in March of this year, Sony has pushed Elysium, Neill Blomkamp’s second film, to August, so that it may become the mega-blockbuster it appears to be. Blompkamp’s debut, District 9, reminded us of science fiction’s satirical edge, andElysium looks to be no less politically explosive.
Here’s what we know: a century and a half in the future, earth is a garbage planet (more so than it is right now). The ultra-rich live in an Arthur C. Clarke-like spinning space colony that caters to their every desire. Jodie Foster is the blonde ice queen/realtor of this domain, which cybernetically enhanced everyman Matt Damon must break into on some mysterious mission, wreaking havoc all the while.
However this ambitious work pans out, I think we can take solace in the visual effects from Avatar being put to better use.
Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.
“This movie is as good as Citizen Kane…no, it’s better than Citizen Kane, it’s got more heart,” said John Cassavetes to Martin Scorsese after watching Who’s That Knocking at My Door for the first time. Scorsese nearly passed out. He worshipped Cassavetes, and from then on Cassavetes looked at him like son. And although both Cassavetes and Scorsese both put out some of the best films of the 1970s, they were from two entirely different schools of filmmaking. The Scorseses of the world inherited what the Cassavetes generation had paved the way for. But Cassavetes was just insular in his world, extremely consumed by his own concerns. It was moreso the Hopper-Beatty-Nicholson generation that filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, stumbled down from. These young filmmakers were now able to operate on the notion that there could be a conversation between them and the audience. “They were the benefactors, the prodigy of New Hollywood battles fought and won for artistic integrity and youth recognition by everyone from Arthur Penn to Stanley Kubrick and Peter Fonda,” said Peter Biskind in his book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls that provides perhaps the best written account of this era in Hollywood.
And although he’s one of Hollywood greatest living legends and cinematic minds today, about 40 years ago Scorsese was just a chubby young filmmaker, fresh out of school and clawing at the bit to get his voice heard and his work seen. Sandy Weintraub, who Scorsese collaborated with artistically as well as romantically, said, “Marty was tempestuous, volatile, and passionate about his life…he breathed, ate, and shat movies. I would tell him about my dreams and he would tell me about the movie he had seen on TV the day before.” Coming from a strictly Catholic Italian-American family in New York, Scorsese had grown up a child plagued with physical ailments. His asthma forced him to stay inside while other young kids played outside, thus helping him develop his lifelong obsession with cinema and the escape into other worlds through the screen.
“The period from ’71 to ’76 was the best period because we were just starting out,” Scorcese said. “We couldn’t wait for our friends’ next pictures, Brian [De Palma]’s next picture, Francis [Ford Coppola]’s next picture, to see what they were doing. Dinners in Chinese restaurants midday in L.A. with Spielberg and Lucas.” And Nicholas Beach was where he and Sandy would make the trip up the Pacific Coast Highway each weekend: a secluded spot filled with their group of filmmaking pals “where the only rules were the ones we made.” As is told in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, one day Peter Boyle came to stay at the beach and brought a vile of coke—suddenly, “Eve bit into the apple.” It was new to most everyone, not knowing exactly how to do it. But it stuck. Actress Margot Kidder recalled, “Out of the drugs came a lot of swampy ideas but also a lot of creative thinking and most important, breaking down of personal barriers and that ridiculousness of pride of holding oneself and having a phony social persona. If that hadn’t been the case, none of us would have developed our talents. But Spielberg didn’t take drugs, Brian didn’t, Marty didn’t until later when he got into trouble with coke. The directors who ended up successful were very protective of their own brains.”
Scorsese had enough problems. He was filled with a mix of Catholic guilt and anxieties created by his own strenuous mind. Flying was a disaster—he had to grip a crucifix until his knuckles turned white during take off, he was afraid the number eleven (he wouldn’t go anywhere near it or anything that added up to it), and he was also absolutely convinced that he was going to die by age 40. It wasn’t a self-destructive notion, rather just an innate knowledge that he was going to live hard and die young whether it be from his always-uneasy health or a plane crash. So it seems for someone so burdened by neurosis, he would find a companion in a like-minded individual who was also “culturally and emotionally sandbagged by the ’50s”—that person being Paul Schrader, just one of the boys at the beach. But it wasn’t so easy.
Schrader was a very messed up human—”deranged” many would say. He was extremely intelligent but cynical and depressive. He was raised in a strict Dutch Calvinist household with parents that would whip him with electrical chords and poke him in the hand with needles, telling him, “This is what hell will feel like.” Martin Scorsese once said that his entire life was “religion and film, nothing else,” and it seems as though Schrader too shared that sentiment. He did not see a movie until he was seventeen, and when he did he began to hallucinate, believing he had committed some great sin and was going to burn in Hell forever. His strict Calvinist upbringing left a paralyzing imprint on his work; film for him will always be dirt—cinema, sex, and sin forever linked in Schrader’s eyes. But he did not shy away from these subjects; he embraced them manically, using them as a way to expose his darkest desires that had always been forbidden. He put his sins on paper as a way to relieve himself of them, as if he will be freed once they are out of his head and onto the page. He exploits the dark side of sex and its industry in his films (his male characters frequently visit pornographic theaters and brothels), but he does so in a way that’s stripped of any ounce of sensuality or desire. The Calvinists believe that if you do these things right in your life, death will be your salvation and you’ll go to Heaven. Schrader, however, had committed enough sin to burn in Hell. These feelings of guilt and fear left him socially and psychologically disturbed, feeling removed from the world around him, like a lonely figure traveling through life.
One day, over a game of chess, Schrader told Brian De Palma that he had written a script called Taxi Driver. De Palma sent it to producer Michael Phillips who loved it but knew finding a director to take on something so bizarre would be a challenge. Scorsese wanted it—bad. But when Schrader saw a cut of Scorcese’s Boxcar Bertha, he just rolled his eyes. He discussed the script with Pauline Kael who “didn’t know if De Niro could carry a film.” At that time, Robert De Niro was a fairly unknown actor who came from a middle-class bohemian upbringing—a stark contrast to that of Schrader and Scorsese, the latter fascinated by the idea of this “paradise” to be raised in a creative environment. De Niro’s rebellion came from “getting into the heavy street thing.” But he was a serious actor and rarely ever spoke, which seems like a far cry to the De Niro we know today. Casting director Nessa Hyams once said, “You couldn’t get De Niro arrested.” He rarely attended parties or hung out; when he did go to a party, he would often be found falling asleep on the couch.
After the release of Mean Streets, Scorsese and De Niro both got the green light, and Taxi Driver came into action. The film is a hard-edged look at the New York City streets told through the lens of an art film. The neon-lit buildings sparkle and melt onto the screen in contrast to the filth and scum that penetrate the sidewalks and, thusly, the collective psyche of the film. Biskind describes the film best as:
following the nocturnal wanderings of a cabbie, Travis Bickle—a violent, Vietnam vet—through Times Square as he encounters a variety of human offal and rountinely cleans the blood and come off his backseat. He gets a crush on a blonde campaign worker, and his attention wanders between her and Iris, a twelve-year-old hooker. The story climaxes in a bloodbath, as he blows away Iris’s pimp and johns in an attempt to redeem her.
Taxi Driver begins with the menacing and anxiety-invoking Bernard Herrmann score that encompasses the rest of the film. Scorceses doesn’t hide anything. The close up of Travis’s eyes blend with the scenery as we realize the city around him is just as much of a character as he is. Biskind goes on to say, “To paraphrase Schrader, if you put Penn and Antonioni in bed together, put a gun to their heads and told them to fuck while Bresson watched through the keyhole, you got Taxi Driver.” Fair enough.
Travis must transform himself from the inside out in order to accomplish what he’s set out to do. He must go down into the underworld where he’s seeking vengeance on and become the scum he sees on the streets. In order to save Iris and help rid the world of the filth polluting the streets, he tries to make himself a machine. He goes from eating terribly to working out everyday and trying to make himself as hard as possible—mentally and physically. He changes his lax attitude and becomes strict with himself as if he is completely possessed by his mission. His life needed a purpose and this was it. When special forces were going into battle, they would shave their hair into a Mohawk; as a veteran, it would make sense that Travis would do the same. This was his battle. Paul Schrader dressed De Niro in his own clothes for the film as Travis. He could have played the role himself.
With Michael Chapman as the DP and Raoul Coutard as cinematographer, the film takes the sort of European aesthetic and sense of isolation with an hint of an Americana façade. Everyone involved in the film was influenced heavily by the work of the French new wave. Chapman said, “Godard was the great freeing influence for all of us. He said, ‘Look, you don’t have to worry about this or that’”—a notion that made its way into Taxi Driver from the Alka Seltzer shot reference to 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her to the moment Travis drives into the car garage and the camera goes elsewhere, saying, ‘Don’t look at this guy, look at the word he lives in.’ When Scorsese was forced to desaturate the colors in the denouement of the film so that it could slide from an X-rating to an R, he thought the joke was on everyone else—the washed-out grit of it all only made it that much more brutal.
In the beginning of the film, Travis speaks of rain washing the scum off the streets; in the end he takes on the role of that rain. The final moments leave us questioning whether or not he kills himself as a means of salvation, or if it is in fact a reality that he is a hero and Iris is returned home safely to her parents. But whatever audiences believed, they loved it, and the film was a surprising commercial success. Bickle look-alikes lined up around the block to see the film the day it opened, feeling a connection to this new and bizarre piece of cinema that reflected not only where things were at but the frightening reality of what we are all capable of. When we watch the film now and look back on these young people involved, those men thriving with talent and exploding with an aggressive passion, one cannot help but wonder what will speak to our generation the way this film did to those of the time. I suppose only time will tell.
You can see Taxi Driver tonight and tomorrow at midnight at IFC Center.
Follow Hillary Weston on Twitter.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but last night’s Golden Globes were a big hit. The combination of nominated movies that people actually saw and liked as well as the pairing of beloved stars Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as the co-hosts brought in the biggest ratings in six years. Maybe that’ll be a lesson to the honchos who were sure that a surly British man who has had success in his homeland and on American cable might not have the biggest draw compared to two funny ladies who have captured our collective hearts for years. [EW]
No matter how you feel about Jodie Foster, Anne Hathaway, or Fey and Poehler appearance at last night’s Golden Globes, let’s all agree that Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig could probably knock the socks off all of us if they ever got the chance to host an awards show. [Hypervocal]
“Sure, it’s fine to joke about Meryl Streep always winning everything, but announcing, "I beat Meryl"? When you’re 22 and you’ve been in Hollywood for, like, a minute? Not very classy, Jen.” Seems like someone didn’t catch Jennifer Lawrence’s subtle First Wives Club reference last night. [Fox News]
My apologies to Star Wars fans, particularly those who prefer subtlety over slow-motion bouncing boobs (I’m sure there are maybe four of you): Zack Snyder, who is responsible for 300 and that giant blue penis we had to look at in Watchmen, is developing a project for Lucasfilm that will be a “Jedi epic loosely based on Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 classic Seven Samurai.” [Vulture]
Woody Allen, who prefers the term “alarmist” over “hypochondriac,” might be one of the few people in history who has written personally about hickeys in The New York Times. [NYT]
It’s pretty obvious that Andy Cohen is perhaps the only person who can name all of the songs that fit into the Real Housewives genre of music, right? [Gawker]
AV Club offers a fantastic look at A Different World, which began as a Cosby Show spin-off and settled on its own as a top-ten primetime hit. Why hasn’t a predominantly African-American sitcom performed nearly as well in years since? [AV Club]
It’s finally time to throw out those dusty boxes of Rid you’ve been hiding under the sink, ladies. The rise in Brazilian waxes has, in turn, brought a decline in pubic lice. [Jezebel]
Do you like great writing and intelligent thoughts? Do you appreciate it when those things are delivered right to you, via your smartphone? Might I suggest you subscribe to Maura Magazine, the new product from former Village Voice music editor and brilliant badass Maura Johnston. [The Awl]
Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter.
I’ve thought a lot about Jodie Foster in the hours following her rambling, confusing speech at last night’s Golden Globes. Should I be proud of her honesty, her coming-out-without-coming-out statement that made more of a comment about the nature of our celebrity-obsessed society than it did her own sexuality and its relative unimportance in the context of her career and work? Or should I find her suggestion that, as a professional woman in a certain spotlight—one who is also the member of another minority that is repressed on an international scale as well as within her own industry—she has no intention of letting her personal life intervene with her public life, neither in her art nor in the wide opportunities for mentorship and philanthropy. Should I care about Jodie Foster at all?
That is the nature of award shows, particularly the type that hand out lifetime achievement awards to 50-year-olds. We should applaud Foster on her long career (always having such film classics as Little Man Tate and The Beaver in the front of our minds), but, at the same time, keep her personal life off-limits. Luckily for me, I’ve never cared much about her personal life. I don’t care who she has slept with, who she has had relationships with. I don’t particularly care about her two sons, who Foster brought to last night’s ceremony and proceeded to point out multiple times in a speech shaming anyone who has ever showed an ounce of interest in what goes on within the walls of her home. I agree with Foster when she admitted she had no interest in living her life like a reality TV show; that show does sound pretty boring. But like Honey Boo Boo, the titular reality star Foster called out with derision, Foster entered her profession at a young, vulnerable age. Like Honey Boo Boo’s Alana Thompson very well might, Foster chose to stay in a career that put her in the attention of a large number of people.
But unlike Honey Boo Boo, Jodie Foster is a respected actress and director. She’s a two-time Academy Award winner. She’s directed three feature films, doing so despite working in an industry (and, hell, a society) that frowns upon women climbing up ladders to take on leadership roles. And she’s a lesbian, which has been an open secret in Hollywood for decades, enough for it to permeate into the consciousness of the people on whom Foster and her colleagues rely to keep their industry going: the audience. Her speech last night, in which she smugly suggested that the things that set her apart from her professional colleagues (the vast majority of whom are heterosexual men) had no bearing on her talents and abilities, was all teeth and spit and less of the deep-rooted passion I would assume someone who has spent almost their entire life in a career that places an importance on emotion rather than practicality.
It’s a shame that Jodie Foster, instead of realizing how easy she’s had it and instead of using her place behind a microphone to accept the position as role model she has so frequently refused to accept, only used her time to speak in front of an international audience about her desire for privacy.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not slamming Jodie Foster for her choices to remain under the radar, for her supposedly frequent temptation to retire. And, to be fair, Jodie Foster came of age during a time when the entertainment industry was more reticent toward LGBT performers. Yes, it is quite silly that celebrities must come out of a professional closet after having already revealed themselves to family and friends—the people that matter the most. But wouldn’t it be nice if Foster, rather than talk about the luxuries in her life, seemingly without self-awareness, and the indignation she feels toward the industry to which she chose to devote her adult life, instead lent her voice to those who don’t often get microphones handed to them, who don’t have the luck to grow up with peers who make up a liberal, open-minded world?
But if Jodie Foster wants to keep that part of her life separate, to gracefully step away from movie-making and, likewise, living any part of her life in front of cameras, that is her decision to make. But she shouldn’t belittle the importance of her sexuality as something that defines her, that sets her apart from the majority as much as her gender does. Rather than defensively hide a basic foundation of her being, perhaps Foster could use it not to her advantage but to the advantage of all of the other fragile young girls like her today.
Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter.
So the Golden Globes happened. We laughed, we cried, we rolled our eyes, we got really judgey about some people. And now, you’re probably gonna read about it. Here’s what you should probably be prepared to read about. For best effect, this can be turned into a fun scavenger hunt for your lunchtime reading/Internet browsing.
– 5,000 Words About How I Feel About Lena Dunham
– 5,000 Words Telling You How You Should Feel About Lena Dunham
– 5,000 Words Equating Lena Dunham With The Entire American Population Ages 18-29
– A Brief History of Lindsay Lohan’s Award Show Livetweets (Slideshow)
– Some Really Ill-Conceived and Hasty Pitch Paralleling Jodie Foster’s Coming Out/Not Coming Out to Frank Ocean’s
– Really, E!? A Mani-Cam?
– It’s The Year of Strong Female Characters… Again! Who’da Thunkit? Women!
– Why Do People Love Anne Hathaway So Much?
– Why Do People Hate Anne Hathaway So Much?
– Did You Know Lena Dunham Is Dating The Guy From fun.?
– Tina Fey and Amy Poehler Were Gravely Underused
– Tina Fey and Amy Poehler Fan Fiction (YOUR MOVE, TUMBLR)
– Gossip Blog Interprets Taylor Swift’s Side-Eye to Adele As Bitchy Cat-Fight Between Two Pop Megastars Because LADIES, AMIRITE?
– Damian Lewis, Jessica Chastain and the Year of the Redhead
– Does Tommy Lee Jones Ever Smile?
– We All Know Zosia Mamet Is The Real Star Here Let’s Stop Kidding Ourselves
– Something Something Something Lena Dunham
– An Oral History of the Movie Nell
– 25 Other Times Jodie Foster Has Trolled Us About Her Sexual Orientation (Slideshow)
And a whole lot devoted to this:
Jodie Foster, Patron Saint of Child Actors Who Grew Up and Didn’t Fuck Up Their Lives, worked with actress and tabloid-star Kristen Stewart eleven years ago in David Fincher’s claustrophobic thriller Panic Room. It was the bond the two stars shared while stuck in a closet (um, pun not intended) that inspired Foster to speak out about the public ridicule of Stewart following the news that she cheated on boyfriend and co-star Robert Pattinson.
In a terrific op-ed on The Daily Beast, Foster writes a very heartfelt piece about what it’s like to grow up in front of the cameras, and how, if she could do things differently, she would not have become an actor at all. In a particularly poignant anecdote, Foster recollects a conversation with Stewart’s mother on the set of Panic Room:
She turned 11 during our shoot and on her birthday I organized a mariachi band to serenade her at the taco bar while she blew out her candles. She begrudgingly danced around a sombrero with me but soon rushed off to a basketball game with the grip and electric departments. Her mother and I watched her jump around after the ball, hooting with every team basket. “She doesn’t want to be an actor when she grows up, does she?” I asked. Her mom sighed. “Yes … unfortunately.” We both smiled and shrugged with an ambivalence born from experience. “Can’t you talk her out of it?” I offered. “Oh, I’ve tried. She loves it. She just loves it.” More sighs. We watched her run around the court for a while, both of us silent, each thinking our own thoughts. I was pregnant at the time and found myself daydreaming of the child I might have soon. Would she be just like Kristen? All that beautiful talent and fearlessness … would she jump and dunk and make me so proud?
She goes on to defend Stewart, not for her behavior (which, despite happening in front of a paparazzo’s camera, was indeed part of her private life), but of the way she has handled the attention:
Cut to: Today … A beautiful young woman strides down the sidewalk alone, head down, hands drawn into fists. She’s walking fast, darting around huge men with black cameras thrusting at her mouth and chest. “Kristen, how do you feel?” “Smile Kris!” “Hey, hey, did you get her?” “I got her. I got her!” The young woman doesn’t cry. Fuck no. She doesn’t look up. She’s learned. She keeps her head down, her shades on, fists in her pockets. Don’t speak. Don’t look. Don’t cry.
My mother had a saying that she doled out after every small injustice, every heartbreak, every moment of abject suffering. “This too shall pass.” God, I hated that phrase. It always seemed so banal and out of touch, like she was telling me my pain was irrelevant. Now it just seems quaint, but oddly true … Eventually this all passes. The public horrors of today eventually blow away. And, yes, you are changed by the awful wake of reckoning they leave behind. You trust less. You calculate your steps. You survive. Hopefully in the process you don’t lose your ability to throw your arms in the air again and spin in wild abandon. That is the ultimate F.U. and—finally—the most beautiful survival tool of all. Don’t let them take that away from you.
It’s a pretty powerful message from a strong, accomplished woman who has learned how to keep distance between her personal and professional lives.
● Wheels are rolling on the fourth installment of the American Pie franchise, American Reunion. Jason Biggs, Sean William Scott, and Eugene Levy are all signed on, while the rest of the cast is still determining the price of its dignity. [HR] ● TMZ got hold of The Situation’s terribly unfunny (and at times racially charged) jokes that didn’t make the Comedy Central Roast Of Donald Trump broadcast. Read only if you must. [TMZ] ● First they sold the surveillance tapes for $35,000, and now they are shopping a book deal? These jewelers are making it hard not to feel bad for Lindsay. TMZ]
● “He’s not saintly, and he’s got a big mouth, and he’ll do gross things your nephew would do,” said Jodie Foster of her friend and costar, the embattled Mel Gibson. “But I knew the minute I met him that I would love him the rest of my life.” [Yahoo/AP] ● Snooki is surprised people don’t know her new friend Paris Hilton is a party girl. And we’re surprised she’s surprised? [Ok] ● Sure, Suri, anything your little heart desires. Oh, you want those? Honey, those are just for adults. [E! ● Rebecca Black would like it if you called the symptoms of her viral fame “black plague” now. [Twitter]
● Lindsay Lohan may have kissed her once promising acting career goodbye, but she has other stuff to keep her occupied. Other than fighting with girlfriend Samantha Ronson. she’s starting a spray-tanning line called “Stay Gold.” [PopCrunch] ● If you think Joaquin Phoenix’s crash & burn appearance on Letterman was unique, you forget this is a long tradition in Hollywood. Nerve has the “20 Weirdest TV Interviews” for your viewing pleasure. Hot mess faves like Courtney Love, Crispin Glover, and Mike Tyson are all featured. [Nerve] ● No Doubt will make their first appearance together in more than five years on Gossip Girl in April. They are set to perform the Adam Ant song “Stand and Deliver” at a GG character’s awesome party. [NoDoubt]
● After much speculation, Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen married yesterday in a small Catholic ceremony in Santa Monica. The bride of course wore white Dolce and Gabbana. [People] ● Jonathan Rhys Meyers is back in rehab — his third visit in less than four years. Now that award season is over, I suppose it is time to dry out and get ready for work. [DListed] ● Jodie Foster lost her cool when pulled over by a cop in Beverly Hills for speeding in her eco-friendly Prius. It started when she was asked to sign a waiver for the truTV’s reality show Speeders; she naturally refused. Then she became agitated with the cop who gave her a citation even though she insisted she wasn’t speeding. [P6]
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