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Frankly My Dear...

    Frankly My Dear...

    Lionsgate picks up ‘Friends with Kids’

    Posted: 19 Sep 2011 04:41 AM PDT

    I was worried that Lionsgate, which covers its bottom line with cut-rate horror fare and the like, was going to turn risk-averse after pursuing, releasing and facing poor returns on movies such as “The Devil’s Double” and “Warrior.”

    When you offer quality and the audience doesn’t show up, why bother with quality? That was my logic/fear, anyway.

    But in between breathless email updates of “The Hunger Games,” which they are putting a LOT of stock in, they nabbed a hot Toronto title — “Friends with Kids,” Jennifer “Kissing Jessica Stein” Westfeldt’s latest, starring Kristen Wiig, Megan Fox, Adam Scott, Jon Hamm and Westfeldt herself.

    The film sounds like a “Date Night” variation, about what kids do to a relationship, as seen through the eyes of a trio of couples. Sounds like a daring and pretty ambitious picture for Lionsgate.

    ‘The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael’

    Posted: 19 Sep 2011 04:17 AM PDT

    From the lofty perch of this magazine or that one, most notably The New Yorker, Pauline Kael presided over the Golden Age of Film Criticism, producing essay length appreciations of individual films, filmmakers and actors, or bemoaning the state of cinema during this stretch or that one.
    Reading her book-length collections of reviews — “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” “When the Lights Go Down,” etc. — was the closest many of us ever got to film school, or to living the movie maniac’s life in Manhattan. The collections sum up whole careers, whole sections of American history, whole schools of argument over the merits of De Palma or Kubrick.
    And if, like me, your copies of those earlier volumes are starting to crumble, Library of America and editor Sanford Schwartz have done us a favor with “The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael.”
    Here are early appreciations for De Palma and Bob Zemeckis, lengthy definitive (for that era) reviews of “The Godfather” and “Jaws,” always accompanied by a little social context — the America, the New York, she was writing in.
    This overview leaves out many of my favorite Kael reviews. She wasn’t quotable (long, complicated thoughts don’t boil down into “blurbs”),  only rarely quoted dialogue from scripts she enjoyed (or loathed, like “Network”) and frankly, spent a lot of New Yorker newsprint endorsing films that are long forgotten.
    It’s not that she was never wrong. Even in a winnowed down anthology such as this we find her singing the praises of some pretentious piffle that was purely of the moment, films that have no afterlife, that don’t endure.
    And he assault on Orson Welles’ contribution to “Citizen Kane” has been ridiculed into the sunset by many others, most prominently, Robert Carringer. But her embrace of “Chimes at Midnight” (“Falstaff”) is worth reading, along with her championing of “Bonnie and Clyde.”
    She had acolytes, in her day, critics she mentored into the business. I met her at The New York Film Festival once, and got her on the phone to help me with a profile of MGM house director Clarence Brown I was writing at my first newspaper job. She was in failing health, working shorter and shorter movie “seasons,” but returned a call and tactfully (She wasn’t a fan of Brown, “National Velvet,” “Flesh and the Devil”) gave me a quote for a story on the occasion of his 100th birthday in the town where he went to college.
    I didn’t have to re-watch the original “The Killer Elite” before seeing the new film (which isn’t a remake, just a title borrower). I had Kael’s thorough dissection of Sam Peckinpah’s mercenary movie from the ’70s. That’s the utility of having the late Pauline Kael on your bookshelf, in this form. Unlike today’s critics, she didn’t fret about “spoilers,” giving away the ending and the like. She knew that most people read criticism to find a point of view they agree with.

    There’s also a new Kael biography due out next month, “A Life in the Dark,” which should further illuminate that rare critic who was almost as interesting as the subject she wrote about.

    Malick directs Bale at the ACL Festival

    Posted: 19 Sep 2011 03:48 AM PDT

    This is pretty rare footage — a cell phone camera recording of media shy Terrence Malick (“The Tree of Life”) dressed in director togs filming Christian Bale at an outdoor concert.
    Johnny Garcia is the Zapruder of this film, which Jeff Wells over at Hollywood Elsewhere compared to “yeti” footage.
    People who have met Malick describe him as perfectly sociable. He just doesn’t do press. So don’t call him “reclusive.” Remember, before the whole Mia/Soon Yi thing blew up, Woody Allen avoided the press, save for the occasional New Yorker profile, once a decade. Anyway, pretty hard to be a “recluse” if you’re out in public, with a film crew, following a movie star through at the ACL Festival.