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MORIARTY RUMBLES RE:Egyptian Screening; ORANGE COUNTY; Foster's ALTAR BOYS; Oscar Bait w/ ALI, SAM, GOSFORD PARK!!

Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.

Here we are at the start of a New Year, and I've gotta tell you... I'm expecting great things out of the next 12 months. During that time, I plan to be right here at AICN, doing what I've always done, and when the time is right, I hope to give you a peek inside the project that's kept me away from the site for the last few months.

Before we do anything, let me announce something I've been working to set up for a long time now. The Egyptian Theater here in Los Angeles is a beautifully restored movie palace owned and operated by the American Cinematheque. I've seen some great stuff at the Egyptian since they reopened in '99, and now I'm proud to be co-hosting an event at the venue. Here's the announcement the way it ran in the Egyptian's most recent catalog:

Feb. 17, 2002: AIN'T IT COOL NEWS/AMERICAN CINEMATHEQUE SNEAK PREVIEW SHOWCASE -- The groundbreaking Internet website Ain't It Cool News and the American Cinematheque are joining forces to present a series of special Sneak Previews of upcoming studio releases, followed by Q&A with the filmmakers! We can't tell you the titles of the films in advance - but we can promise you'll enjoy them. The first of these Sneak Previews will take place on Sunday, February 17th at the Egyptian Theatre, featuring a stunning new American crime film, followed by Q&A with the filmmakers.

If you're in Los Angeles that weekend, you should attend. It's going to be great fun, and if it goes well, we'll try to schedule an AICN night every six weeks or so. I'd be thrilled to be associated with the Egyptian and the Cinematheque. Right now, they're doing great programming. In January alone, there's a Sean Penn retrospective, Jeunet will be on-hand to show AMELIE and take questions, Mark Pellington is doing an advance screening of THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES, there's an ongoing Kubrick series, and John Carpenter is set to appear as part of the first major Los Angeles retrospective of his work. If they were showing PRINCE OF DARKNESS instead of ESCAPE TO LA, that run of films from January 25 to the 31st might be perfect. At any rate, I'm jazzed to be part of this special evening, and hopefully I'll see you there.

LOOK OUT!! JODIE FOSTER'S GOT A BOMB!!

Sundance officially opens in two days, and I won't be there. It's a shame, too. I'd love to see what happens when Miramax premieres STOLEN SUMMER (expect riots on par with the debut of RITES OF SPRING), and it would be great to see myself onscreen in a film at the festival (RUN RONNIE RUN is in competition this year). But with the Olympics in Park City, things sound overcrowded, like a security nightmare, and I don't think I have the patience. I'll go back next year, and Robie and I will look forward to terrorizing the town then like the master criminals we are.

In the days following the September 11th tragedy, Robie wrote a hilarious review for a film called PUMPKIN, a cinematic monstrosity he still can't speak of without wetting himself. That was before he learned it made it into competition at Sundance. Since then, he's been talking about the 42 hour documentary on his own underwear that he's going to make and submit, convinced that the selection committee has lost its mind. I wouldn't agree based on just one film, but I do have a question: what the hell is THE DANGEROUS LIVES OF ALTAR BOYS doing in the festival?!

Pulled at the last minute from the 2000 festival, the word was that post-production issues kept the film from being ready in time. All I knew was that Jodie Foster starred and produced, and it had animation by Todd McFarlane. Several months ago, someone anonymously sent me a videotape of the film. I popped the film into the VCR without knowing anything about the Chris Fuhrman novel it was based on or what to expect from the story. I popped it back out about a half-hour later. It took me four tries to eventually get through the whole film. By that point, I was convinced that Peter Care should not be directing feature films and that Jodie Foster is, despite her best intentions, a lousy judge of material. This is a coming of age story that moves at a glacial pace, padded by lousy animation, and featuring a young cast doing uninspired and even embarrassing work at times. Nothing in the film rings true, and by the time it's over, you wonder if it could have made sense on the page, if there's something that just didn't translate.

Tim Sullivan (Kieran Culkin) and Francis Doyle (Emile Hirsch) are best friends growing up at some unspecified time in some unspecified place, and they both go to Catholic school where they regularly bump heads with the imposing Sister Assumpta (Jodie Foster) and Father Casey (a wasted Vincent D'Onofrio). Together with their best friends, they draw a comic book, ongoing adventures that come to life in animated segments by McFarlane that are both incredibly stupid and almost unwatchably ugly. When Sister Assumpta finds their artwork and destroys it, the boys decide to get even with her by kidnapping a lion from a local zoo and releasing it in her room. Seriously. That's the plot. There's a subplot involving the ever-working Jena Malone as Margie Flynn, a local girl with some sort of incestuous secret that seems to change several times over the course of the picture. Malone always seems to play damaged girls, and she's good at it, but her work here feels like she's going through the motions. It's not her fault. It's the material. This is a piss-poor script by Jeff Stockwell and Michael Petroni. I've never read the book, so I have no idea how much of this is inherent to the source material and how much of it is the fault of the screenwriters. The end result is muddled, unpleasant to watch. This is what people are afraid they're going to see when they go to the arthouse... pretentious self-important crap overloaded with empty symbolism.

When this was just another turd sitting unreleased on some shelf somewhere, I was willing to leave it alone and not write a review, but knowing that this is being foisted on Park City audiences in the weeks ahead makes me cringe. If you find yourself choosing between this and some other screening while at Sundance, choose some other screening. Avoid this at all costs. If you want to see a former music video director take a chance on a debut feature that might work, try Mark Romanek's ONE HOUR PHOTO, not this dud. This is a vanity project that deserves a quiet, lonely death, and if I can persuade one person not to waste their time on it, knowing how valuable each day is when at Sundance, then I'll feel like I've done some real good. Now, if only I'd had a friend who could have warned me before I saw it...

TOOK A TRIP TO ORANGE COUNTY

If you want a youth-oriented film that is as fresh and sincere as ALTAR BOYS is rancid and phony, look no further than your own multiplex this coming weekend as Paramount Pictures releases ORANGE COUNTY, the second feature from director Jake Kasdan, this time working from a Mike (CHUCK & BUCK) White script to craft a winning, sweet-natured movie that features a fistful of appealing performances. It's smart enough to not pretend to be something more significant than it is. This is a movie designed to please, and it delivers on that simple promise time and time again.

Shaun Brumber (Colin Hanks) is a good kid who wants one thing: to be a writer. He's convinced that the way for him to become good at it is to study under Marcus Skinner, a writer he admired, at Stanford University. His entire academic career has been focused on getting into Stanford. A big motivator has been looking around at his divorced parents (John Lithgow and Catherine O'Hara) or his drugged-out brother Lance (Jack Black), people he is determined to get away from no matter what it takes.

When his guidance counselor (Lily Tomlin) sends the wrong transcripts to Stanford, Shaun is rejected, sending him on a 24-hour flurry of activity in a desperate bid to get into school and start his future. His girlfriend Ashley (Schuyler Fisk) helps him, and even his family pulls together in their own unique way. There's a number of stops before the end involving cameos from character actors like Chevy Chase or Jane Adams or Leslie Mann or Harold Ramis or Mike White or Kevin Kline, all of which are great fun. And of course Shaun learns some lessons about himself and about his writing along the way.

Jake Kasdan has a breezy, confident visual style that really works for the film, and a natural ease with his actors that allows everyone to shine at various moments. Colin Hanks establishes himself as a quirky, funny performer who can carry a picture, and I was surprised by how little of his father I see in him. Colin has his own voice, and he comes off as a normal, slightly high-strung kid having a really bad day. He has nice chemistry with Schuyler Fisk, also a second-generation Hollywood performer, the daughter of Sissy Spacek. Fisk has a sweet moon face and a laid-back California girl vibe that makes her a perfect onscreen girlfriend, and she's got several moments in the film that she quietly steals from those around her. Lithgow and O'Hara both do solid work as Shaun's parents, self-absorbed monsters who really do love their kid underneath the baggage of their own problems.

And then there's Jack. Mr. Black if you're nasty. He can't help but incinerate everything around himself every time he comes onscreen, and even playing a character who is so heavily medicated he can barely keep his eyes open, Black has more energy than any other actor in the movie. He is channelling Belushi by this point, controlling entire scenes with a simple move of the eyebrow or by the way he wears his underwear and nothing else. It would have been easy for Black to overpower ORANGE COUNTY and ruin the film, but Kasdan used him just right, and the result is a performance that provides many of the film's biggest laughs, in particular when Black comes face to face with Garry Marshall in a very funny bit of business.

What sets ORANGE COUNTY apart from the pack is the same thing that distinguishes FREAKS & GEEKS and UNDECLARED from typical television teen comedies. Both are shows that Kasdan has directed, and they share a sensibility with ORANGE COUNTY. They treat their characters with a respect and a love, no matter who they are. Teens aren't played as lesser versions of their adult counterparts; far from it. Kasdan seems to be in love with the little details. Whether it's Ramis as a dean of admissions who's been dosed with ecstasy or Mike White as a creepy teacher leading a brain-dead discussion or Ben Stiller as a fireman in a quick cameo, every performer is given room to define their character with smart, specific brush strokes, and the end result is something that has real substance. ORANGE COUNTY isn't just a good teen movie; it's a good movie. It's also a nice way to kick off the new year.

ALL THAT CHASES OSCAR IS NOT GOLD

One of the things I love about this time of year is that there's always a huge stack of DVDs to work my way through. Some of them are Christmas gifts, and many of them are Academy screeners. I'm working my way through the last batch of films I have to see before writing my Best Of list for 2001, and a few of the films were worth discussing, I thought: one great, one terrible, and one that just made me crazy from frustration.

I AM SAM

Jessie Nelson, you got some 'splainin' to do. What the hell were you thinking? I can understand. You wrote this shitty script. No doubt you thought directing it was a good idea, too. So who do I blame? New Line? Sean Penn and Michelle Pfeiffer? Where do I point the finger? Whose career should be over? I need a scapegoat, damn it, and I need one now!

Let's see... Nelson's credits include THE STORY OF US, STEPMOM, and CORRINA, CORRINA. Yikes. I may have been the only person on the planet who confessed any fondness whatsoever for STORY OF US, but as I said in my review, I was still in recovery mode from a particularly bad breakup, and I had all sorts of personal baggage I walked into the theater with. I've seen the film since, and it's cringeworthy, brightened here and there by a few zingers I have to assume were written by Alan Zweibel. Nelson's co-author this time, Kristine Johnson, is nowhere near Zweibel's caliber. Her only other produced work is IMAGINARY CRIMES, a female reimagining of the Leo DiCaprio/Robert DeNiro film A BOY'S LIFE. So you put these two together and let Nelson direct for the first time, and what do you get?

Sweet blinding pain, the kind that makes you beg for the release of an early death. "Love is all you need" is the tagline for this sack of cinematic vomit, and whoever made the decision to drag the Beatles into this should be ashamed of themselves. The Beatles didn't ask to be part of your crappy little movie. They didn't write these songs so that one day you could plaster them all over a soundtrack and skip all the hard work like writing real emotionally resonant material. This movie doesn't suck because of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, so why would you want to go and smear their names by making them a part of things? Leave them out of it, Jessie Nelson... this is your nightmare.

Here's a review that appeared on the IMDb entry for this film:

I had the privilege of viewing this film at the UCLA Sneak Preview extension class this week. Sean Penn is fantastic in his role as Sam, a retarded adult parent, and Dakota Fanning as his 7 year old daughter is a performance not to miss. The film is true to the subject matter (the writer and Penn spent 90 days in a facility for retarded adults, including time on a production line). It is skillfully done, with all of the tragedies and comedies that life delivers.

Don't miss it.

Shoot me now. Viewing this film is not a "privilege." Sean Penn is not "fantastic." And this is in no way, shape, form, or fashion "skillfully done." This is the BATTLEFIELD EARTH of Lifetime Network movies. When I hear that Oprah is pimping the shit out of this one on her show, I have to assume that she's been kidnapped by aliens who stole her brain and refilled her head with nacho cheese. I am all for difference of opinion, but if you like I AM SAM and believe it to be a good film, then YOU ARE WRONG. This is crass Oscar baiting crap. It's the naked callous plastic quality of the entire enterprise that inspires real rancor from me. From the opening moments, where Sam accompanies an unnamed woman to a hospital where she has a baby just before slipping away and leaving Sam to raise the baby on his own, this is a film that makes no pretense of being set in the real world or being about real people. Everyone in this movie is a bag of shtick. Sean Penn's performance consists of wearing Dustin Hoffman's clothes and haircut from RAIN MAN and opening his mouth real wide when he smiles. He speaks in a nauseating faux-retard voice that makes Jar Jar Binks sound cooler than Barry fucking White. He is obsessed with the Beatles, which is how they justify wallpapering the movie with cover versions of their songs, each one of them telling you what to feel since the screenwriters weren't able to. He names his daughter Lucy... IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS, GET IT?!?! NO?!? WELL, HER MIDDLE NAME IS DIAMOND!! GET IT NOW?!? When she is old enough to be played by the preturnaturally poised Dakota Fanning, she asks him one day if her mommy will ever come back. Somehow, Sean Penn's tongue does not turn black and fall off when he responds, "John Lennon's mommy died when he was little. Paul McCartney's mommy died when she was little. I think only special people's mommies die." In a series of magical, heartwarming montages designed to make your eyes bleed and leave swiss cheese style holes in your brain, Lucy Diamond Dawson grows up, and she and her father evidently play on the swings a lot. A next door neighbor who has her own Academy-bait worthy tics to contend with (played by Dianne Weist, looking embarrassed the entire time she's onscreen) pitches in to help, and soon, everything is wonderful and beautiful for Sam and his little girl.

And of course, we can't have that. We need tears! And no one cries when things are wonderful, do they?

Lucy decides she is embarrassed by her father when she begins to advance past his reading level, and next thing you know, social services has swooped in to take Lucy away from Sam. No more late nights of him reading Dr. Seuss over and over at top volume. No, Lucy is sent to a foster home, where Laura Dern is ready to give her all the love she never had. Or... did she?

The film is shameless at every turn. Take Michelle Pfeiffer's character, Michelle Pfeiffer. Alright... maybe she has a different name, but she's playing the same thing she plays every time she's stranded without a script and forced to rely on herself: an alien from another planet. That's the only way to explain the freakshow she tries to pass off as a performance here. She could come to my house right now and have sex with me to apologize for her work in the movie, and that still wouldn't make me any less indignant about sitting through it. Michelle is, sad to say, not a funny lady. Her instincts as a comic performer are terrible, and her improvisational skills leave me mystified any time she tries. The problem is, she's been beautiful and pampered and protected her whole life, so when she tries to play someone normal, she has absolutely nothing to refer to. It's like watching a wildebeest try to pretend it's a duck. There's nothing recognizable in the way she behaves or the things she says. She shows up about 40 minutes into this one as a tough lawyer who Sean Penn picks out of a phone book at random one night with his posse. We know she's tough because she walks real fast and wears great suits and because she's always on the phone. That has somehow become cinematic shorthand for "asshole" in these overcommunicated times of ours. If someone is always on the phone, then they are automatically an asshole. Once she's met Sam, though, her heart melts, and she begins to do pro bono work for him. She ends up falling in love with him, leaving her husband, getting too close. When she tells him that she sees things in him that no one does, he once again manages to deliver the dialogue without being physically sick. "They didn't think George Harrison could write a song, but then he wrote 'Taxman,' and that was a good song." Yes... he really does keep the Beatles metaphor up for the whole film. Really. It's Michelle's answer that almost made me burst a blood vessel, though. She gets all teary eyed and says, "Yeah... George was always my favorite Beatle." Anyone who cares about the Beatles or who has EVER cared about The Beatles will have an emotional response to that line, but it's not because of good writing. It's because he just died, and we're still getting used to that. It's because of his great work. Trading in on that sentiment with the line is cheap and tacky, and in context, offensive.

My biggest gripes come with some of the basic choices made. As I mentioned, Sean Penn's Sam rolls with his retarded posse, a group of guys who accompany him for IHOP night and video night, and Nelson has cast character actors like Doug (THE GREEN MILE, X-FILES) Hutchinson to play some of them, and actual mentally challenged actors to play the others. As a result, there are many wacky montages where every member of the posse does something, and it's like watching one of those scenes from a '30s film where the stop-motion monster is fighting with people. On long shots, the people are stop-motion, and on the close-ups, it's obviously live-action. Here, we go from obvious actor to obvious non-actor and back, and all it does is underscore how shamelessly bad these performances are. The non-actors are the only ones who make it through their scenes with their dignity intact. The film's final third takes audience manipulation to a new level. Laura Dern and Sean Penn end up in court over custody of Lucy Diamond, and all sorts of hilarity ensues, like cheap bullying tricks against sweet Dianne Weist and a meltdown involving KRAMER VS. KRAMER that just has to be seen to be savored. Despite winning her case, Dern comes in the middle of the night to give a sleeping Lucy back to Sam and to explain tearfully that she knows now how much Sam loves the girl. Sean Penn gives her his same open-mouthed smile and says with great wisdom and love, "You are the red in her painting."

I'd tell you more, but that's when the stroke happened, and I don't remember anything else.

Miss it.

ALI

Michael Mann and Eric Roth have worked together to cook up exactly half the film they needed to, and the result leaves Will Smith stranded, high and dry even as he gives a performance that redefines him as an actor.

The first half of this film does a credible job of painting the world the way Ali would have seen it circa 1964. His complicated relationships with his father, with the Nation of Islam, with Malcolm X... all are etched with efficiency and skill. Mario Van Peebles does career best work here as Malcolm, and he and Will have an easy rapport that suggests volumes about what might have drawn these two charismatic figures together. I'm a big Ali fan. I have his fights on tape. I have read many of the books about him. I had a correspondence for a while with Greg Allen Howard, who wrote POWER & GRACE, the script that started this film into development. I even got to meet Ali once and speak with him, a moment I treasure. And for half of this film, I felt like they were doing a great job of painting the pressures that he felt, of bringing him to life in a way that documentary footage can't. I was enjoying the film greatly, ready to come here and disagree with Harry and other naysayers.

But then there's the second half of the film. The half where Mann rushes through the Frazier fight, shortchanging that incredible story completely. The half where he spends over an hour reproducing the already brilliant WHEN WE WERE KINGS, adding nothing in the process. The half where the film gives up and runs out of gas. That second half is what you're left with as you walk out of the theater. That second half is where Mann lets Will Smith down, where he and Eric Roth failed to find the focus their material demanded.

In the excellent new issue of CREATIVE SCREENWRITING MAGAZINE that's on stands now, Eric Roth talks about the process they went through writing the picture, and he speaks of the goals they had. As a result, I don't feel it is unwarranted to say, hey, Eric... you missed the point of your own script. You and Mann both overshot the ending of the film completely in your rush to get to the Rumble in the Jungle, events which ultimately had nothing to do with his journey as a Muslim or a man of principle. The Rumble in the Jungle was about making money and getting his title back. If you were trying to tell the story of "a guy who has to come to grips with his own world view and the responsibilities that it entails," then you totally ballsed up.

When Ali was trying to get back into boxing, he was smart enough to know that Joe Frazier was the opponent he had to face. He called into television shows to taunt Frazier, knowing full well what he was doing. Ali had become a symbol by that point, a hero to the counterculture. He stood up to the American government. He told them he would not go to Vietnam. "No Viet Cong ever called me nigger," as he famously said. As a result of his stance, the country was hotly divided about him. To some, he represented the terrifying change of the '60s. His decision to drop the name Cassius Clay and take up the militant name of Muhhammad Ali scared people who were being primed for a race war by the nightly news. To conservative America, Ali was a lightning rod of controversy. Everything he did challenged traditional values. Ali used that fear and anger towards him as part of his image. When he went after Frazier, he knew that he had to turn a bout between them into something more than just a fight. He turned it into ideological warfare.

In Mann's film, we see Frazier and Ali meet in a car to talk about the idea of fighting. Frazier agrees to fight Ali and offers to help him out financially. Ali refuses, but things are cordial, even friendly between them. Almost immediately after, we see the fight, and then we're moving on and the whole thing is over.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

After you show Frazier reach out to Ali and try to help him, you have to show what Ali did. You have to show the build-up to the fight, where Ali took the battle to the media, calling Frazier an "Uncle Tom." You have to show how deeply he hurt Frazier in public, how he managed to make Frazier into a symbol of conservative America, a puppet of the system. Frazier wasn't really that at all, but as long as Ali was able to get people to write that he was, the public ate it up. By the time that fight finally happened, the nation was rabid for it. It was televised around the world with as much hype as had ever been focused on one fight before. It was the counterculture versus the conservatives, and it was personal. Frazier entered that ring furious, betrayed, and he beat the hell out of Ali. When he won that fight, it was momentous. It meant something, and not just to the two men in the ring. For that one night, it was like the counterculture lost. And it was just that moment, since almost immediately after that, Watergate broke and we pulled out of Vietnam and the tide turned in this country. But for that one night, Ali failed. He was not equal to the task he set for himself. And it is in failure that men are truly defined. By glossing over this crucial moment in Ali's life and padding the film with thematically unnecessary filler, an opportunity has been missed, and what we're left with is a well-shot, interesting failure, a film ripe with "almost," rife with "what if."

GOSFORD PARK

I'm so glad Robert Altman is still around and turning out movies like GOSFORD PARK. If I were sorting his films, I'd set this right next to MCCABE & MRS. MILLER or THE LONG GOODBYE or CALIFORNIA SPLIT, movies that define him and that age with grace and no sign of irrelevance. GOSFORD PARK appears at first glance to be a Merchant-Ivory film, and the case could be made that it's a bit of a riff on Agatha Christie type drawing room mysteries. But it is something uniquely Altman when viewed as a whole, a canny look at the way those in service were frequently the real architects of what went on in the world of the very rich and very pampered.

The huge cast is great, all of them meshing as a whole. Michael Gambon, Kristin Scott Thomas, Bob Balaban, Helen Mirren, Alan Bates, Clive Owen, Ryan Phillipe, Kelly MacDonald, Maggie Smith, Jeremy Northam, Charles Dance, Derek Jacobi, Emily Watson, Richard E. Grant and Stephen Fry all disappear into their wonderful roles, and it's strange to see someone like Alan Bates essentially stand around as an extra for much of the film, silent and almost invisible. That's the point, though. There's not a scene in the movie where the "upstairs people," the upper class, are in a room by themselves. In every single moment, there's at least one "downstairs person," the serving class, present and doing something. Altman and Balaban have cooked up a great story that has been brought to vivid life by screenwriter Julian Fellowes.

Giving away the twists and turns of the thing would be criminal, since part of the fun is never quite knowing where the film is headed. Suffice it to say that anyone who is looking for smart, witty, adult entertainment in theaters right now owes themselves a trip to GOSFORD PARK. If Altman can make a film that's this much fun at the age of 76, then there's hope we'll have him around for at least another decade. Just watch the first 20 minutes, as all the guests arrive at the house and the servants are sent to their quarters and shown around even as their employers check in and unpack. It's enormously complicated stuff, and Altman pulls it off with a panache that most younger filmmakers can only dream about. Don't count this guy out yet... not by a long shot. GOSFORD PARK is the work of a vital, important American voice.

On that note, I've gotta bail. I'll be back in the next few with my discussion of the upcoming projects KILL BILL and SOLARIS, and the reason they may provide the best battleground yet for the acceptance of the NC-17, and I'll be looking at an independent animated film that's currently underway in Atlanta. If there's time, I may even have a peek at the TWIN PEAKS box set and New Line's upcoming FIRE WALK WITH ME DVD. Until then, as always...

"Moriarty" out.





Readers Talkback
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  • Jan. 9, 2002, 9:29 a.m. CST

    Orange County sucked! (and first?)

    by CarnegieApe

    Go read my earlier review of the film here: http://www.aintitcool.com/display.cgi?id=10411 and find out why I hated this damn movie! Kasdan didn't write it was one main problem... grrrrr...

  • Jan. 9, 2002, 10:22 a.m. CST

    Wow, That Sums Up The Film Nicely

    by Anton_Sirius

    He picks a lawyer at random out of the phone book... and it's Michelle Pfeiffer. Laura Linney I could have bought as some sort of approximation of reality, but Michelle Pfeiffer? Why not throw Liv Tyler in there as her clerk while you're at it?

  • Jan. 9, 2002, 10:33 a.m. CST

    Ali was empty

    by Heleno

    I agree with everything Moriarty said about Ali, but I would add that we learned almost nothing about the man himself. The film was more a series of events that happened rather than a biography. Admittedly, I know almost nothing about Ali's career so it was all news to me, but I kept waiting for something about him as a person, apart from the basic facts that he was Muslim and got married a few times. I think Will Smith did really well within the confines of what he had, but I am no wiser about what Ali really thought about anything. It seemed like he came out with conclusions, not dilemnas, and maybe that's the way he is, but if so even that wasn't clear to me. All the ingredients were there to make this a really great film about a great figure, but it just didn't gel, and I think it was the emotional glue that was missing.

  • Jan. 9, 2002, 11:31 a.m. CST

    Hey, anyone remeber the (unfinshed) 90s list?

    by Edward Rooney

    Mori loved Sean Penn in Dead Man Walking and now he's ready to kill him. Oh well, maybe I AM SAM really is that bad.

  • Jan. 9, 2002, 11:33 a.m. CST

    SHIT! I spelled REMEMBER wrong.

    by Edward Rooney

    Sorry

  • Jan. 9, 2002, 11:39 a.m. CST

    Welcome back to the long form writing Mori-

    by RenoNevada2000

    Opps, I f'd up there. Anyways- It's great to see you back with a nice long form Rumblings, its been too long. And what a great review of "I Am Sam". Did Might Joe H loan you his Hollen-bat for this one?

  • Jan. 9, 2002, 11:45 a.m. CST

    moriarty

    by crash_davis

    well, i'm sitting here listening to the vanilla sky soundtrack and kind of absent-mindedly surfing the internet...and for some reason, i'm in that place. you know, that place? somewhere between reason and the simple pounding of the heart - it's where i find my largest inspiration and where i find myself. at any rate, what i am posting here is kind of a thank you to moriarty. yeah, i haven't always agreed with him (coughFORRESTGUMPcough) but i must say that as an aspiring film writer/director (hey, who ISN'T? hehe), Moriarty's reviews - especially in the last year or so - have struck a nerve with me. They are often utterly poignant, direct and full of poise and wisdom. So, thank you, Moriarty, for often touching me, for going out on a limb with risky reviews and not being afraid to disagree with others, for working so diligently and with a vigor that upholds the film geek code :). Thank you, even, for helping me find my own voice in the world of film and allow myself to voice my own opinion independently of what anyone else thinks. in a way, being such a film geek myself, that adds up to a lot for me - almost like finding yourself. Perhaps this is a thank you more to aint-it-cool itself, but hell, I find myself constantly impressed with Moriarty even if I don't always agree. yeah, i'm getting corny, but that's me. thanks. I don't know if you get that enough.

  • Jan. 9, 2002, 1:08 p.m. CST

    Re: Orange County

    by Chthonico

    Gee, I wish my parents were famous so I could be a filmmaker or actor. Oh well, back to my shitty clerk job...

  • Jan. 9, 2002, 2:20 p.m. CST

    The Atlanta animated flick.

    by asoze

    The website for this film (I'm guessing, but how many CGI features are going in Atlanta right now?) is at www.delgo.com. The guys doing this are really good, and it's worth a look.

  • Jan. 9, 2002, 2:31 p.m. CST

    Good lines:

    by The Colonel

    "She could come to my house right now and have sex with me to apologize for her work in the movie, and that still wouldn't make me any less indignant about sitting through it." HILARIOUS! Though I think judging Ms. Pfeiffer as someone who had been pampered all her life is a bit harsh. It's not her fault she's hot, and just because she's a movie star doesn't make her not normal. But I AM SAM looks like total garbage. The preview is bad enough. He has the mental capacity of a 7-year old! HE CANNOT RAISE A CHILD! Jesus! And when Pfeiffer says that as parents "we all go through situations where we feel RETARDED!" OhmyGOD that's horrible. Someone please tell me, do Pfeiff and Penn end up TOGETHER at the end of the movie? Please say yes, please say yes, please please please!!!!

  • Jan. 9, 2002, 3:27 p.m. CST

    In my experience people who are on the phone all the time really

    by rev_skarekroe

    Also little guys with short wavy hair (expection: this guy Curtis I knew in middle school) and guys who still have mullets. Also ladies who are so fat they puff when they walk and guys with really expensive haircuts. sk

  • Jan. 9, 2002, 3:35 p.m. CST

    Hey, this idea sounds familiar . . .

    by horrorfan

    I am Sam sounds an awful lot like a certain Robin Williams vehicle from a few years ago coughJACKcough. I hope Sean Penn doesn't fall into the same trap as Williams (the only good movie he was ever in was "Aladdin"). Dead Poets Society, Jack, Bicentennial Man, Jakob the Liar, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Patch Adams all blew because, instead of being subtle, he bangs you over the head with the knowledge that YOU MUST LOVE HIS INSPIRATIONAL CHARACTER!

  • Jan. 9, 2002, 4:19 p.m. CST

    oh ...i never knoe what to write into the subjekt box

    by drjones

    moriarty has a cameo in RUN RONNIE RUN??? this egyptian theatre stuff sounds pretty cool! but damn...i live in germany!!!!! oh my good it sucks!!!!!:(

  • Jan. 9, 2002, 4:50 p.m. CST

    you didn't wash my purple shirt!

    by either/or

    Ha, there is a special place in hell for Jena Malone and that Jamie woman for that line. Sometimes when "Stepmom" is on TNT I just sit and stare, open-mouthed, at how convincing that girl was as the most annoying character in movie history. Anyhoo, that "I Am Sam" review gave me more than a few laughs, I am going to e-mail the link around this afternoon. Thanks. (And yes, Michelle Pfeiffer is obviously not even close to being a normal person, as she is the bride of Satan himself, Mr. David E. Kelley.)

  • Jan. 9, 2002, 7:39 p.m. CST

    I never asked to Stepmom.

    by Girl 85

    This man loves Altman and continues to rip on "The Simpsons" week after bloody week? I got nothing for you, man. Wait. He didn't like "Ali" or "I am Sam?" I got nothing but love for you, man.

  • Jan. 9, 2002, 9:02 p.m. CST

    Thank you, Mr. Moriarty!

    by josh_m_nileski

    I became extremely interested in "Orange County" after the first time I saw some footage (an "Entertainment Tonight" story) when I saw that Jane Adams was in the picture. And she was playing opposite...Jack Black. I love her natural, unforced delivery, and in this film she would be giving that delivery opposite...Jack Black. The weirdest possible combination I can think of (while still resulting in something positive.) I was getting a little bit stressed, though. After months of waiting for this, Moriarty is the first to mention that she was in it. I mean, I know my favorite actress when I see her, but I was getting a little paranoid about it, like maybe I didn't really see what I thought I had seen. And now I know. First I get my Copyright certificate from the Library of Congress, and now this. Sweet day.

  • Jan. 9, 2002, 10:10 p.m. CST

    Gosford Park

    by iloveryan

    See, I told y'all Ryan Phillippe would more than vindicate himself once he extricated his career from the teen-movie black hole. Good for him! :-)

  • Jan. 9, 2002, 11:35 p.m. CST

    Who cares about what you say, Moriarty...

    by FD Resurrected

    ...and tell us we're WRONG if we remotely like the movies you hated? Lemme tell you, I HATED American Beauty. Pauline Kael will tell you it's exactly a film the liberals will crow praises with exalted and baited breath. The Insider should have won the Oscars that American Beauty stole because younger voters were up their asses going ga-ga over AB (like Richard Roeper). I couldn't believe there's a similar film called The Ice Storm directed by Ang Lee that got shafted by the Oscar committee because that film's less pretentious, less condescending and more intelligent. We don't care what you think, it's your job to evaluate of the films as a reviewer and not go around telling us we're wrong, we're wrong for liking movies you DON'T LIKE. There's Rain Man for you if you hated I AM SAM for being an Oscar bait. I adhere by two-time Oscar winning screenwriter William Goldman's agenda: I REFUSE TO VOTE FOR ACTORS WHO PLAY CONVICTS, DRUNKS AND RETARDS.

  • Jan. 9, 2002, 11:51 p.m. CST

    ME LIKE EAT BRAIN

    by icravechildren

  • Jan. 10, 2002, 12:15 a.m. CST

    you are so wrong, Moriarity

    by saveyoursavior

    I just saw the dangerous lives of altar boys at a screening...and I thought it was awesome. The script seems inventive, and well written. The film isn't as well made as Donnie Darko, but it's similar in tone. I thought it was a great portrait of childhood, an honest "kids" movie, where we get inside the main kid's head and see what's going on. The animation was great. What kid didn't live out his fantasies with cartoon epics in his head? I know I did. I'm not gonna sit here and write a constitution about how much this story paralelled an event in my childhood, how much it reminded me of when I was a kid, like you and harry go out of your way to indulge us with. I can just say it hit me on more than one level and I think many others will feel the same way. The direction of the film wasn't anything great, but at least it wasn't flashy. It was simple. I usually enjoy your reviews and ramblings, regardless of whether I agree or not, But this time, your rant sounds like a frustrated screetwriter, who can't get his own scripts made...

  • Jan. 10, 2002, 12:25 a.m. CST

    Was anyone at the Egyptian Theater this past Halloween for the E

    by Lance Rock

    When Bruce Campbell's "Fanalysis" screened, and Harry Knowles' interview came on screen, there were lots of loud boos in the audience. I was kind of shocked--why the hostility? Then I thought, well, there were probably industry-types in the crowd. Be wary, Moriarty!

  • Jan. 10, 2002, 3:41 a.m. CST

    Moriarty writes the best stuff on this site...

    by CHEET

    But like all flawed diamonds, when he's at his worst it hurts just so much more. I'm sorry Drew, I couldn't even finish reading this one. Rambling, overwrought and oh so horribly bitter. When you try to be nasty for laughs, all I can say is - you are writing the third(!) Mortal Kombat movie. Get some perspective. When you're at your best, the best thing is there's a lesson to be learned, it's heartfelt, and usually right. When you're like this, there's nothing to be learned except that you think your opinion is some kind of law.

  • Jan. 10, 2002, 9:10 a.m. CST

    Long and bitter, but still entertaining

    by anghus

    Actualy, i agree with Mori here, i hate movies like I AM SAM on principal. Take one over indulgent type of "actors" film (the "i'm a retard, watch me grimace movie), and mix it with a really bad premise film (the custody battle going awry film), and you have I AM SAM. Fuck films like this right in the ear, then again, i'm not going to fault anyone else if they like it. The only failing in this column is condeming those who might like the film. We keep forgetting that films, like all art, are subjective. I happened to like The Majestic, even though everyone else i know hated it. Such islfe Oh, and on the American Beauty vs Ice Storm film Ice Storm is far better. AB is good, but the film is hurt by Annette Benning's WAYYYYY over the top performance which practically ruined the whole thing for me. I've never seen an actress make so many wrong choices. How she gota nomination i'll never know.

  • Jan. 10, 2002, 9:30 a.m. CST

    At the top of his game.

    by rabid_republican

    I must confess that even when I disagree with Moriarty, he still manages to be my favorite reviewer. In this round up, I think the finest dig is call "I am Sam" the "Battlefield Earth" of the Lifetime network. Not too shaby. As for that abortion, I'm right there with him. Sean Penn has not been my favorite person, as of late and his acting is even less inspiring than his off camera rants (and I seriously didn't think that was possible). As for Ali, I can understand Mori's politicized view on things, although once again, I find myself at odds with him. Since I have not seen "When We Were Kings", I appreciated the second part of Ali more than the first. Still not so sure about Orange Co. though...just can't get past my utter contempt for *shudder* the teen-marketed genre.

  • Jan. 10, 2002, 10:42 a.m. CST

    Some thoughts from a weird mind.....

    by rubby

    Good rumblings as usual from Moriarty. Plus, I think we all know what Mori's top 10 list for 2001 is. Besides why not do a top 10 list in honor of Pauline Kael whom never did a top 10 list in her life, according to Andrew Sarris. Let Moriarty's writings and not some list tell about his romance with movies and why he has such a powerful connection with them. As for the Kubrick festival, I would love to go there but no funds to get to L.A. plus I go back to college on January 22nd. I wonder will the Kubrick festival allow Moriarty to talk about PATHS OF GLORY, BARRY LYNDON and the second half of FULL METAL JACKET ? Don't get me wrong, I love 2001, THE KILLING, DR. STRANGELOVE just as much as anybody here does but those above mentioned Kubrick films I talked about in my opinion are pretty damn good and just don't get enough discussion on this website. And if they do get any discussion it's how Barry Lyndon is beautiful but sucks with acting, plot and how Full Metal Jacket's 2nd half pales compared to the first half and how Paths of Glory is nice but compared to other war films blows chunks. As for Killer's Kiss and Eyes Wide Shut, I can take them or leave them = they're good but just don't make a strong impression on me. As for Lolita and Clockwork Orange, they work brilliantly as black comedies but as social statements they don't work in my opinion. The novels of them were better in making these statments but then doesn't every Kubrick film fail in comparison to the novel ;=) This is one of the reasons Paddy Chayeksky turned down Kubrick flat when he wanted to direct Network for Paddy knew Kubrick's Network wouldn't be true to his script. Hmmm, Sidney Lumet gains Network from Kubrick's lack of involvement and back in 1964 his film FAIL-SAFE gets the shaft to Kubrick's own 1964 film Dr. Strangelove. Maybe Sam Peckinpah who carried a long-time grudge against Kubrick viewing him as his enemy in film-making (the feeling was mutual on Kubrick's side as well in a discussion with an actress on the violence of Clockwork, "We don't want to do a Peckinpah here") wasn't alone in competing with Kubrick. The same could also be said for David Lean whose BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI rubs shoulders with PATHS OF GLORY both released in 1957 along with LOLITA from Kubrick released in 1962 along with Lean's LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. To make matters even stranger Lean once in the mid-60's proposed making a space film with similar themes to Kubrick's later 2001: A Space Odyssey. Yet Peckinpah was a fan I think of Barry Lyndon and even in response to Pauline Kael's review of it "the narrator tells you everything before you see it" was her comment that, "That was the god-damned point Pauline!" Man, stuff like that doesn't happen nowadays. Grudges of directors against directors are usually one-sided now such as Kevin Smith with Tim Burton and Peter Jackson with George Lucas. Actually liked ESCAPE FROM LA and will check out PRINCE OF DARKNESS on VHS from the video store once I'm done checking out on DVD, my new DVDs of THE GOONIES, THE IRON GIANT, TRANSFORMERS: HEROES that I got for Christmas. Already finished checking out my TWIN PEAKS: SEASON ONE dvd and I say bring on season two on DVD! That's right! I actually like the second season of Twin Peaks! How many people here will actually admit that! Usually it's just "we like the first season but second season blows" but I like both seasons, one of the greatest TV shows ever and one of the few shows I actually own on DVD.

  • Jan. 10, 2002, 11:29 a.m. CST

    Hey, Moriarty, what's this about FWWM on DVD??!!??

    by agentcooper

    Moriarty, come on man, don't leave me hanging here. I've been hoping for this for years. For anyone who has read the script for the Twin Peaks "prequel" movie, it is MUCH better than the film that was released in theatres back in '92. The rumour has been that Lynch was going to incorporate all the stuff he had to leave on the cutting room floor (all the stuff that made it Twin Peaks) for time reasons back into the film. Moriarty, is this what you have in your possession? Please let us know. This may turn out to be a very good year for entertainment. By the way, the box set of the first season of TP is excellent. Beautiful transfer and sound. Great commentaries on every disc. Awesome.

  • Jan. 10, 2002, 12:01 p.m. CST

    Rain Man

    by Uga

    Playing "retarded" isn't that difficult, contrary to popular opinion. And let me vent the same vent I've been venting for 13 years - Tom Cruise should have won the Best Actor Oscar over his "Rain Man" co-star, Dustin Hoffman. His performance was far more difficult, and pulled off with far more subtlety. One thing is for sure - I'll never again give any credence to Sean Penn criticizing fellow actors (re: Nick Cage) for their role choices.

  • Jan. 10, 2002, 12:05 p.m. CST

    RE: tard

    by Sod Off Baldric

    Retard. Retard. Retard.

  • Jan. 10, 2002, 12:33 p.m. CST

    So, Chevy Chase is now considered a "character actor"?

    by BraveCapt.

    His agent & his publicist both deserve raises for that coup.

  • Jan. 10, 2002, 3:27 p.m. CST

    Chevy Chase, Kevin Kline character actors?

    by James Bond

    I mean really. Lithgow and O-Hara are character actors. Maybe Chase has devolved to one at this point. But Kline? No way. He can still pull off leading man material, or at least sidekick material.

  • Jan. 11, 2002, midnight CST

    Muhammed Ali was an ASSHOLE!!

    by spiderblood1969

    and Sean Penn is an ASSHOLE too!!

  • Jan. 11, 2002, 1:59 a.m. CST

    what exactly is happening with One Hour Photo?

    by We Span Time

    Being a Romanek ethusiast, I've been anxiously awaiting the release of this damm movie forever or at least some fucking footage. All I've seen is one lousy pic of ol' Robin Williams lookin' rather haggar. Can someone please tell me what the hell is going on with this project?

  • Jan. 11, 2002, 8:02 a.m. CST

    Rose and Valerie, screaming from the gallery

    by durhay

    Samuel must go free. Isn't it a pity.

  • Jan. 11, 2002, 1:59 p.m. CST

    by drjones

    rubby! i`m glad you`re back !!!:D

  • Jan. 12, 2002, 7:05 p.m. CST

    Damn! Just my luck

    by Lukecash

    I used to live a few blocks away from that theater. Shame I never had enough money to do stuff in hollywood-had a bad year job wise. Now I live in orange county, too far away from the cool stuff.Bummer

  • Jan. 12, 2002, 9:29 p.m. CST

    Screeing at the Egyptian

    by sadatay

    Does anyone know the movie that AICN is screening in Feb. at the Egyptian in Hollywood?

  • Jan. 14, 2002, 1:21 a.m. CST

    Sundance

    by Sir Mordred

    Park City wasn't that bad- and Run Ronnie Run is hilarious- Jack Black's cameo being the icing on the cake.

  • Jan. 20, 2002, 12:59 p.m. CST

    Altar Boys-- the book is wonderful!

    by Saturday97

    Haven't seen the film, but the book is really great. I know several plot points have been changed that worry me-- Jodi Foster's character is a composite, for starters. But for your info, the book is set in Savannah in the 70's. Oh yeah, I might be a little biased because the author, Chris Fuhrman, was my cousin.

  • Jan. 23, 2002, 1:37 p.m. CST

    HURRAY FOR HOLLYWOOD!!

    by pike28

    Just another reason to live in LA LA Land, the Cinemateque!!! FEB 9th a Double feature on the big screen of "A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS & FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE" Oh ya, doesn't get much better then this. I hope the Cinemateque does another showcase on films from the 70's...THAT RULED LAST YEAR!!

  • Jan. 30, 2002, 8:50 p.m. CST

    Attn. Troma Fans - Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Avenger 4! L.A. PREM

    by Jessie_StVincent

    i swear i'm not getting paid my troma to post this - i'm just a fan who wants to let other l.a. fans know about seeing toxie iv on the big screen. i cut and pasted this from http://www.troma.com/news2/appearences/screen/content.html February 8, 2002 Where: Laemmle's Sunset 5 8000 Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 323-848-3500 Flagship University Village 3 3323 S. Hoover, Los Angeles, CA 213-748-6321 For more info contact andre@troma.com

  • Feb. 5, 2002, 11:20 p.m. CST

    Easy, Walrus

    by Mark Twain

    First of all, I'm on your side and can understand the impetus behind your post. I hope you understand I'm sympathetic. That said, I feel the phrase "probably from the same oil-choked cesspool that spawned our ridiculous excuse for a President" is the type of personal attack against a third party that you say (and I have no reason not to believe you) you never use. Yes, the president is a public figure, but he is also a human being. I do not know the man personally, but I'm sure you don't either. As an American I respect your right of dissent and free speech, but I feel this sort of expression brings intelligent discourse into the gutter. The implication you've made, unintentionally or not, is that those who support the president approve of that reprehensible post that so rightly agitated you. That off my chest, way to let him have it!

  • Feb. 8, 2002, 4:02 a.m. CST

    OSCAR WINNING FORMULA

    by ABetterTomorrow2

    I always said for a oscar winning formula have a crippled , retared, gay man with AIDS that would take the best actor award any year. Ya know My Left foot meets Rain man meets tom hanks in philly