Well folks, here's the first of Moriarty's Rumblings From The Lab... a new weekly (TUESDAY) column from the evil genius and dear professor. Just like many of you, I'm a huge fan of the old fart's musings, and here is the space for his regular column. You're sure to be entranced... (it's part of his master scheme!)
Hey, Head Geek...
It recently occurred to me, Harry, that there are many times I get a piece of information that doesn't merit a whole spy report, but it's worth passing along in some form. There are also thoughts and ideas that I'd love to share with the AICN readers that aren't tied to just one project. As a result, I've decided to try my hand at a regular column in addition to my review contributions for the page.
So, without further ado, I'd like to welcome everyone to the first of what I hope will be many Rumblings From The Moriarty Labs. You'll be able to find me every Tuesday morning, right here. Hopefully I'll be able to make it worth your while to check... not like you wouldn't be here anyway, of course.
When you consider the rather exhaustive research resources employed here at the Moriarty Labs, it doesn't seem possible for something to slip in under the radar. When it does, though, it can be delightful. At the beginning of this past weekend, I had just such a surprise, and I had to share my excitement with you.
Many fans were surprised when George Lucas pierced his own veil of secrecy by releasing the novelization of THE PHANTOM MENACE at the beginning of May, weeks before the film's release. None of that really mattered to hardcore fans, though, since most of the film's secrets were readily available to anyone with Internet access and had been for months.
By contrast, Stanley Kubrick's EYES WIDE SHUT has been a black hole of buzz. The same few tired rumors (they're married psychiatrists, she's on heroin, Harvey's supposed reason for being fired) have been reported to death. Aside from the fact that the film is based loosely on Arthur Schnitzler's TRAUMNOVELLE, nothing of any substance has been leaked.
I've searched everywhere, and there has been nothing to find. I admire Kubrick and his collaborators for their ability to shut out the world. The images we've seen have all been sanctioned by Kubrick, released on his timetable. That first 90 second teaser image that he designed specifically for ShoWest was bold, simple, and unforgettable. It also smacked of Kubrick, both in look and in the unsettling mood of the piece. The second longer trailer, the one that was actually released to theaters, is hypnotic, the best example of a real tease I've seen lately. Who knows what these images add up to? It doesn't matter, really. Again, he's selling mood, feel, and look, and it's spectacular. Whether it's that uncomfortable shot of Leelee Sobieski in her underwear or the haunting shots of the people in masks, or even Tom Cruise in the morgue looking at someone's body, there's real malice lurking just offscreen, and it's wonderful.
This weekend, though, something finally broke the silence. In fact, it was like the floodgates broke all at once. I picked up the new issue of ROLLING STONE, the one with the ridiculously sexy layout of Nicole Kidman shot by Herb Ritts, and I also found a book that I didn't know was coming, the Frederic Raphael memoir EYES WIDE OPEN, a phenomenal look at his take on the process of working with Kubrick.
The STONE article is very good. Nancy Collins did a wonderful job of drawing Kidman out about the film, getting her to talk about Kubrick. It's obvious from the interview that Kidman is still dealing with the emotional fallout from the maestro's death, but she does paint quite a portrait of him. One of the most fascinating things in that article is the idea that Kidman and Cruise had a better relationship with Kubrick than any of his earlier actors for one simple reason: they handed themselves over to his process completely. One of the things you always here is how people would clash with him, resist his technique. They either get fed up by his multiple takes or they want to collaborate with him in a way he isn't prepared to offer. Whatever the case, there's story after story about how actors clashed with him. With Cruise and Kidman, though, it sounds like they came to play. They knew his reputation and they walked into the film with their eyes open (no pun intended). They wanted to see how he worked, and they were willing to go where he led them. As a result, it sounds like he genuinely warmed to them as a friend as well as a colleague. You can practically feel how much she misses him in every line of the interview. She also dispels all the commonly held knowledge about the film, saying they aren't psychiatrists, she isn't on heroin in the film, and it's not wall-to-wall sex.
So what is it, then?
Well, Raphael's book holds the answer to that question. I've read a few articles about this book, most of them in response to the excerpt from it that ran a week or so ago in THE NEW YORKER, and I'm amazed that all anyone seems to care about is the idea of Kubrick's Jewishness. Personally, I think this is another case of the media needing to have something to be up in arms about. Like the issue of race in THE PHANTOM MENACE, this is preposterous, idle nonsense that has nothing to do with the work being discussed. Kubrick was Jewish. It was part of who he was. He discusses it with his collaborator, but that's all. Was he obsessed with it? Does Raphael treat him unfairly? Did he like SCHINDLER'S LIST or not?
WHO CARES?!?!?! People, this is the man who wrote Kubrick's last film, and he's offering us a peek inside that process. I'd say Raphael had a fair amount of affection for Kubrick, tempered both by awe and a need to prove himself Kubrick's equal. The book is not remotely about bashing Kubrick or dimming his luster at all, though. It's a celebration of that strange, unique mind that gave us masterwork after masterwork. Personally, I loved the look at how he approached Raphael, how he kept the identity of the novel from him even after sending Raphael excerpts to read, and how he would prod his co-writer (since this is obviously a case of true collaboration) with questions, not answers.
Mostly, though, I'm amazed that no one picked up on the fact that the whole film is laid out in the book. I have a hell of an idea as to the shape of the film now. I know who The Free are. I know what the masks are for. I have a good idea of who's in that morgue and why. All of these tidbits are just nonchalantly revealed in the book, along with dozens of others. Now, I'm not going to just regurgitate the facts to you... I want people to go out and find this book and digest it. Then digest it again. It's remarkable, and I think it is the closest many of us will ever come to understanding something about one of the greatest filmmakers ever.
I also recently read Thomas Harris' brilliant new HANNIBAL, and I'm dying to see how Hollywood handles the book. There's almost no way they're going to pass on making the film, but if Harris has final approval of the script, I sense a long and ugly development process ahead. This is one of the most cinematic books I've ever read, but no studio on earth has the courage to take an audience into the heart of darkness Harris has painted here. Personally, I'd love to see Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins reteam for this duet, and I'd love to see someone like Sam Raimi direct the film. Ridley Scott couldn't be more wrong for this material. His sensibilities could overwhelm the story and the characters and turn a story about psychological terror into another Hollywood "thrill ride." Harris is after far more than thrills in this book, though. I'm not going to expound much here. I think Stephen King (get better, sir... please) did a phenomenal job of writing about the book, and if you want to read more on it, I'd recommend going to the New York Times website and finding his review. Amazing.
Actually, "amazing" seems to be a buzzword around the Labs this weekend. We've been using it a lot since we made our way to AMC's Burbank 14 theaters on Sunday night so we could see a presentation of THE PHANTOM MENACE using Texas Instruments' new digital projection system. I first saw the system demonstrated at ShoWest this spring, and thought it was amazing there. Still, I was curious how it would be to see a whole film that way. Since I've seen TPM something like a thousand times now, I figured I'd be able to pick out whatever subtle quality difference their might be.
Subtle, my ass. The demonstration was ravishing. I've never seen a film that looked like it. The colors were vivid and sharp, and the focus on the film was impeccable, even during tricky pans or shots with a lot of motion. There were shots that looked like new moments. The brightness of the film, a problem during some of the Theed sequences and the Jedi Council scenes, was totally different this time. I was able to see everything, but without the integrity of the blacks being compromised at all. Overall, even for those of you who were less than enthusiastic about the film, I'd say it's worth a trip to see a print of it as long as it's the TI system. I didn't like the Cinecomm process in Vegas, and I've heard that the print at the Winnetka 20 theater here in town is less impressive. I'd believe it.
Last night on SISKEL & EBERT, Roger and his guest, Todd McCarthy (lead critic for VARIETY and the maker of the brilliant documentary VISIONS OF LIGHT) did a segment about a new film process called MaxiVision which they both claimed was the best projection process they'd ever seen. There were a few digs in the story directed at digital projection. Ebert asked why we're all in such a rush to "watch TV in the theater." All I can figure is that (A) MaxiVision is amazing and (B) Ebert thinks that digital projection is somehow related to video projection. I know it's a common misconception, but there's no comparison between the two. Now, I'm a film lover myself. I think the process of printing light onto film using nothing but chemicals is something akin to magic. I love the look of film. There's a texture to it that's unmistakable. If you'd asked me sight unseen which process I was more excited about, I'd want the one that keeps 35mm film as part of the process.
Hell, I still think MaxiVision sounds interesting. By projecting the film at 48 frames per second and increasing the actual frame size by 32 percent, and by also eliminating the black space on the film, the image is made clearer, larger, richer. If you also factor in the new projectors designed to show the process, it does sound amazing. It also sounds expensive, though, and there's the rub.
See, whatever format we switch over to as the industry standard (and there's a switch coming, folks... believe it), it's going to cost money. The one that's going to win is the one that makes more financial sense in the long run. You don't have to be psychic or "deep inside" to know that. Studios have never been particularly concerned with art, and neither have theater owners. They exhibit and manufacture art, but they do it to make money. Knowing that, it's practically a foregone conclusion that digital projection is where we're headed. It cuts costs in terms of prints and distribution. It evens the playing field for smaller companies in many ways.
And when you see it, you will see why it's got people so excited. Wow.
I'd like to close today by offering a preview of an event that's taking place in Hollywood this weekend at the Writer's Guild Theater at Doheny and Wilshire. Although it's sponsored by Dockers Khakis, it seems like the Classically Independent Film Festival is just that... a nice look back at the past 20 years of the Independent Feature Project. They're showing 10 movies, both new and old, and I'm planning to attend (at the very least) BROKEN VESSELS, CHOOSE ME, FIVE CORNERS, and RESTAURANT. Two of those I've seen, and two of them I haven't. All the films on the bill are interesting and worthwhile, though, and with tickets running a mere $8 per program (there's several films a night), how wrong can you go? There's also a panel discussion on Saturday featuring such luminaries as Lizzie Borden (WORKING GIRLS), Gregory Nava ( MI FAMILIA, EL NORTE), Peter McCarthy (who directed TAPEHEADS and I'M GONNA GET YOU SUCKA and produced SID & NANCY and REPO MAN), Paul Bartel (you'd better know who Paul Bartel is... EATING RAOUL, fer chrissakes!), Carl Franklin (ONE FALSE MOVE and the sadly underrated Mosely adaptation DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS), as well as others still to be confirmed. Check out the www.dockers.com site for more details, and if you come, just look for the Evil Genius surrounded by mutant henchmen. That would be me.
I'll be sharing my reviews of SOUTH PARK, WILD WILD WEST, ARLINGTON ROAD and more with you over the week between now and my next column, so don't think this is all you're going to be seeing from me. Until then...