Saturday, November 13, 1999

The Region Crisis

In the intricate field of film criticism, region is everything. Residing in locations that tend to receive the more big-budget flicks than lesser-known pictures poses much of a problem for aspiring film journalists, because it can limit their exposure to certain cinematic experiences (usually the ones that receive better consensus than some more widely known films). This may very well be why all the famous critics--Roger Ebert, Janet Maslin, Kenneth Turan, and Desson Howe, just to mention a few--are employed in places more widely populated and known; they aren't habitually cut off from non-mainstream products. Although some, such as myself, can persist as a movie reviewer even in some places less extensive than those like Chicago and Los Angeles, one cannot argue that we would be much better off in areas as large as those. Can one, for instance, be a Broadway star only if they live in New York? Not necessarily, but it helps.

Wednesday, September 8, 1999

Supernatural summer follows up with "Stigmata," "Stir Of Echoes"

Seemingly embraced by countless avid moviegoers, the supernatural force found in this summer’s most successful movies is gearing up within two post-summer flicks to be released this Friday--the Kevin Bacon vehicle "Stir Of Echoes," and the religiously-based thriller "Stigmata." They follow on the heels of three or more mega-popular horror-based films that arrived sometime this summer, including the recent box-office survivor "The Sixth Sense" starring Bruce Willis. One has difficulty finding the words to describe the sudden success of this genre, especially when the years preceding it were filled with no more than dumb slasher movies and poor commercial business. Nonetheless, the financial and (sometimes) critical figures speak for themselves: horror movies are hip again. It is no question as to whether these two upcoming movies might experience the same kind of commercial success as the others have.

Saturday, August 14, 1999

Audience's "Eyes" shut for 65 seconds

When Stanley Kubrick’s final film "Eyes Wide Shut" is released on Friday, July 16 to North America, chances are some viewers are going to feel betrayed.

In a recent, dreadful development from last Saturday’s press screening in Burbank, California, producer Jan Harlan revealed that the distribution of the film to the US and Canada will feature 65 seconds of "digitally tampered" footage, in order for the film to safely secure an "R" rating. The MPAA apparently considers these excruciatingly revealing moments some of the most sexually charged footage ever captured in filmmaking, and told Warner Bros. that, if it had not been edited, they would have to enforce the notorious NC-17. Since the studio is not about to put extra limitations on Kubrick’s highly anticipated final film, they made the edits without much objection, although Harlan admits that Warner Bros. wasn’t too happy about them.

Already these modifications are generating badmouthing from critics. Roger Ebert, who was one of those who screened the versions last Saturday, said that that the digitally-masked release "will distract from Kubrick’s work as a whole, because audiences will be trying to spot the digital effects just at the moment when, in Kubrick's original cut, a sense of erotic dread is building." And Jeffrey Welles, columnist for Mr. Showbiz, comments that "there’s nothing remotely funny about this technique being used to paper over "Eyes Wide Shut." It’s embarrassing, is what it is."

The scene in question takes place at a mansion, in which Tom Cruise is guided through several rooms of a costume party where couples engage in simulated sex. Instead of seeing these acts, as Kubrick filmed them, they are covered by digital extras who stand in between the camera and the action. This is an effect that produces grainy and disagreeable results, especially since most of the sexual acts are not up close and are not filmed in extreme detail (according to Ebert, no genitalia are revealed on screen). Why the MPAA considers sexuality, rather than gratuitous violence, eligible for NC-17 is beyond me.

Stanley Kubrick, who is literally considered the finest director that ever lived, died somewhat unexpectedly this March, shortly after finishing the filming of "Eyes Wide Shut." The project had been underway for quite some time, and was so secretly filmed that not even Harry Knowles’ spies from "Aint-It-Cool News" were able to pick up on any information regarding the film’s premise. For awhile (actually, since April, when the first footage was shown), the rumor was that the film would be a new step in adult entertainment, in which Cruise and Kidman played two psychiatrists who experiment with sexual fantasies on their patients. Now, after the screenings, that does not appear to be the case. The movie is instead a echo of the forces that bind together a married couple. In other words, an exploration on love, trust, and mutual relationships.

I have not seen any advanced screening. I will be seeing the "blocked" release, as everyone else, this Friday. Next week, when my review appears, I shall warrant a star rating according to the movie’s artistic merit and not according to what Warner Bros. has done.

Written by DAVID KEYES

Wednesday, March 24, 1999

"Love" Conquers All! "Shakespeare" wins 7 Academy Awards in 71st year of surprises and disappointments

The minute Whoopi Goldberg walked out onto the stage dressed as Queen Elizabeth, we were reminded that the Academy Awards are always unforgettable. Not one year has gone by in which we were not surprised, overjoyed, brought to tears, and even angered at some of the night’s honors. The 71st Academy Awards, the last of the millennium, was no exception to those feelings, although some of them were somewhat unexpected. In a year dominated by Elizabethan England and World War II, the Oscar was handed out to, for the most part, awkward winners. Everyone was almost sure that Spielberg’s "Saving Private Ryan" would win picture, but that honor went to the other front-runner, "Shakespeare In Love," which in total earned 7 of the 8 Elizabethan Oscars. The other went to "Elizabeth," for achievement in make-up (we’ll discuss that later).