Shame, writer-director Steve McQueen's follow-up effort to his acclaimed IRA drama Hunger, has been getting all-around excellent notices for the film itself, for McQueen's stylistic choices, and for Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan's performances as a pair of troubled siblings, one of whom gets to sing “New York, New York” off-key. Shame has been screened at both the Venice and Telluride film festivals, and will next be seen in Toronto.
In Shame, Fassbender plays Brandon, a New York corporate worker who suffers from a horrible, thoroughly politically incorrect disease named Sex Addiction. Brandon has sex at least once a day (!!) in different locales, with different people (including prostitutes), and in different positions. Ah, he also takes part in Internet sex chat rooms, and has an extensive porn collection in his computer and elsewhere in his home. But most horrifically of all, he masturbates, too.
Everything is going more or less according to plan – or at least as according to plan as things can go for a masturbating sex addict – when his needy sister (Mulligan) moves in with him.
“This is a man who has access to everything, but his freedom imprisons him,” McQueen remarked at a press conference in Venice. Sounding just like someone talking about the social and moral dangers of television back in 1967, the filmmaker then added, “This film is about politics, our relationships with sex and the Internet. It's about how our lives have been changed by the Internet, how [we] are losing interactions. We've been tainted, it's unavoidable.”
If the above sounds like commonplace, moralistic bullshit, well, it is. But it's exactly the sort of commonplace, moralistic bullshit that earns movies and filmmakers critical accolades and awards.
As for Michael Fassbender, the star of McQueen's Hunger, he is clearly a strong contender for the 2012 Best Actor Oscar – in case Shame finds a US distributor that'll release it in the Los Angeles area by December 31, something that seems all but inevitable. Although Academy members tend to shy away from movies that feature graphic or semi-graphic on-screen sex, Michelle Williams did get a Best Actress nod earlier this year for Blue Valentine, which almost got slapped with an NC-17 rating. Not to mention Marlon Brando's Best Actor nod for his work as a desperate widower in Bernardo Bertolucci's sexually charged Last Tango in Paris back in early 1974. [Check out the Brando-Maria Schneider outrageously phony butter scene here.] As a plus, Fassbender has the following under his 2011 cinematic belt: Jane Eyre, X-Men: First Class, and Venice Film Festival entry A Dangerous Method. (Shame has a Jan. 12 U.K. release date.)
I should add that McQueen's film has absolutely nothing to do with the 1968 Ingmar Bergman classic. In fact, the new Shame got its title because during McQueen and co-screenwriter Abi Morgan's talks with so-called “sex addicts,” the word “shame … kept popping up, it was the one unifying emotion.” Doesn't that sound like an even more appropriate title for a morality tale about, say, homosexuality in the 1940s or 1950s – or most places today, for that matter? (And no, Bergman's movie has nothing to do with gays or lesbians, either.)
Now, will someone be gutsy enough to make a movie about the dangers of compulsive moralizing? Or what about a movie about an even more aberrant psychological dysfunction, compulsive celibacy? In the next post you'll find a few Shame review snippets. Please click on the link at the bottom of this piece.
'Shame' Reviews: Raves for Michael Fassbender, Steve McQueen
Directed by Steve McQueen (no relation to the star of Bullitt and The Getaway), and written by McQueen and playwright Abi Morgan, Shame was screened at the Venice and Telluride film festivals. Its next stop is the Toronto Film Festival later this month. McQueen's drama revolves around the dangers of sex addiction and troubled family relationships in our Internet-connected world where easy sex is always at everyone's fingertips (if you're really, really, but really lucky). Shame stars Michael Fassbender (McQueen's leading man in Hunger, Rochester in the latest Jane Eyre), Best Actress Academy Award nominee Carey Mulligan (An Education), James Badge Dale, Nicole Beharie, Hannah Ware, and Amy Hargreaves.
“Driven by a brilliant, ferocious performance by Michael Fassbender, Shame is a real walk on the wild side, a scorching look at a case of sexual addiction that's as all-encompassing as a craving for drugs. Steve McQueen's second feature, after his exceptional debut with Hunger in 2008, may ultimately prove too psychologically pat in confronting its subject's problem, but its dramatic and stylistic prowess provides a cinematic jolt that is bracing to experience.” Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter.
McCarthy's “psychologically pat” remark refers to the following: “Given the boldness of Shame in its aesthetic approach, blunt sexuality, graphic nudity and sometimes exalted musical overlays, it's a bit of a letdown to sense that McQueen and his co-screenwriter Abi Morgan ultimately present Brandon as something of a case study in sexual aberration due to stunted emotional growth stemming from a troubled upbringing. For a film so otherwise out-there, such a formulation feels too redolent of traditional psychoanalytical explanations for what society perceives as wayward behavior.”
“Shame feels less formal, less rooted in the language of the art installation than McQueen's previous film, Hunger, and is all the more satisfying for that. This is fluid, rigorous, serious cinema; the best kind of adult movie. There are glimmers of American Gigolo to its pristine sheen and echoes of Midnight Cowboy to the scratchy, mutual dependence of the damaged duo at the core.” Xan Brooks, The Guardian.
“At times, [McQueen's] camera displays an excessive experimental vocation … but here he wisely uses this visual language to convey sensations. … [T]his is a story that is memorable, that conveys bitterness, compulsion, and the pathetic interior isolation of its protagonist, enveloping you and changing your spirit in a disturbing manner.” Carlos Boyero, from the Madrid daily El Pais.
“There's no shortage of naked flesh in British director Steve McQueen's Shame — the film is certain to receive the adults-only NC-17 rating — but it's human emotions that are truly laid bare in the new drama about sexual compulsion.” John Horn, Los Angeles Times.
“He enjoys random sexual encounters, hires prostitutes, indulges in online porn and masturbates in the toilet at work. Taken alone, none of these things are so shocking and nor does McQueen, working here with co-writer Abi Morgan (Brick Lane, the upcoming The Iron Lady) present them as such. Yet, taken together, they offer a sketch of a man addicted to sex. McQueen frames the actions in a steely, unflinching style, neither gratuitous nor coy. He takes us into the bedroom and under the sheets but does not even border on eroticism. Explanations are scarce - it's down to us to make assumptions about the reasons behind Brandon's behavior.” Dave Calhoun, Time Out London.
Steve McQueen quotes: Agence France-Presse
Photo: Venice Film Festival
I'm not sure exactly why the above Shame poster would feature an empty bed. True, it looks like the poster bed from this Steve McQueen movie about a horrific disease known as Sex Addiction has been used – and used a whole lot. But to the best of my knowledge, beds are often used (and used a whole lot) for sleeping. Not that I'd like to get too graphic, but perhaps the poster lacks a few stains, or some lube or something to indicate why that bed is undone. Else, looking at it I'd think the lead character is ashamed because he's too lazy to make his own bed.
Michael Fassbender stars in Shame, playing a man in his 30s who can't stop thinking about sex. He can't stop having it, either. And when he can't get partners, he masturbates and/or watches pornography. It's probably the worst mental illness imaginable. Carey Mulligan plays his equally disturbed sister, though her issues don't necessarily involve bed sheets and the like.
And that reminds of something else that's misleading about that Shame poster. Fassbender's character reaches orgasms of varying intensities in all sorts of locations. I mean, really, who needs a bed in order to have sex?
Distributed by Fox Searchlight, Shame opens in the United States on December 2. Fassbender will likely be a Best Actor Oscar contender, whether for Shame or for more Academy-friendly fare like Jane Eyre or A Dangerous Method. (Hey, remember Dennis Hopper? The year Hopper played his iconic psycho in David Lynch's Blue Velvet, he received an Oscar nod for his now all-but-forgotten small-town drunk in the family-fun Hoosiers.)
Shame poster via The Hollywood Reporter.
Michael Douglas as Liberace & Matt Damon as His Lover: 'Behind the Candelabra'
Michael Douglas and Matt Damon will play, respectively, Liberace and lover Scott Thorson in the HBO production Behind the Candelabra. With Academy Award winner Steven Soderbergh at the helm of the Liberace movie, filming should begin in the summer of 2012. Richard LaGravenese, whose latest credit was the Reese Witherspoon-Robert Pattinson effort Water for Elephants, is the project's screenwriter.
The Wisconsin-born Liberace – a walking, talking, singing, piano-playing gay stereotype if ever there was one – died from AIDS complications at the age of 67 in Palm Springs in 1987. Though Liberace's sexual orientation was no secret to anyone but his most wilfully blind female fans – 1950s Confidential magazine once suggested that his official song should be “Mad About the Boy” – the entertainer kept mum about it until the very end. In fact, as per the New York Times obit, Liberace died after suffering “cardiac arrest due to congestive heart failure brought on by subacute encephalopathy.” AIDS was revealed as the cause of his death only after much speculation.
As a movie actor, Liberace's sole starring vehicle was Sincerely Yours, a 1955 flop featuring Joanne Dru and Dorothy Malone as the women in his life. Gordon Douglas, better remembered for directing giant ants in Them! the previous year, handled the much-derided proceedings.
Steve Jobs Biography to Become Biopic via Sony Pictures
Sony Pictures, the same company that brought you The Social Network and Moneyball, is working on a deal to acquire the movie rights to Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs' biography, appropriately titled Steve Jobs. The source for this story is Mike Fleming's article at Deadline.com.
Jobs, who died of cancer two days ago, has been all but canonized in print, on television, and online as the man who, through his Apple leadership, revolutionized the world we live in thanks to iPads, iPods, iPhones, iTunes, and Pixar movies. Bigger than Galileo, Da Vinci, Voltaire, Copernicus, Newton, Einstein, Pasteur, Madame Curie, the Lumière Brothers, and Alexander the Great put together, if you're to believe all the praise coming his way.
But then again, perhaps Jobs admirers have a point. After all, none of the aforementioned people revolutionized the way we communicate (didn't Jobs invent the Internet? No? The personal computer, perhaps? No again?), drive (iPhones/texting), and work out at the gym (iPods and facsimile). Just think about it: Starving people in Somalia listen to Katy Perry on their iPods. Bushmen in Namibia can use their iPhones to access Justin Bieber's Twitter account. Former cannibals in Papua New Guinea download their favorite Lady Gaga ditties via iTunes. Take that Edward Jenner!
Now, considering that Isaacson's biography was authorized, that means it'll quite possibly offer much more Steve Jobs the Visionary Genius than Steve Jobs the Tyrannical Megalomaniac. Anyhow, as per Fleming's report, he's “hearing the deal is $1 million against $3 million” and that Mark Gordon (Saving Private Ryan, Talk to Me) will produce the biopic.
Of course, Jobs' death is very sad and all – check out all the tweets sent from people's iPhones (though I suspect some of those were actually coming from Droids). But as I'm sure Jobs and Apple's marketing staff – the people who actually made that company what it is today – would be the first to admit: Timing is Money. And the timing is right for the Steve Jobs biography to come out.
Originally scheduled for a late November launch, Simon & Schuster's Steve Jobs will apparently hit brick-and-mortar and virtual bookstores on Oct. 24. And why not?
In the last couple of days, some have written that Steve Jobs will be remembered for all eternity, along with Da Vinci or Galileo or Thomas Edison (a visionary who stifled creativity while doing his best to destroy competitors in the budding independent film industry of the early 1900s). But in their grief, people are ignoring the fact that Jobs will likely be forgotten the moment the next must-have cool gadget comes along from some upstart entrepreneur.
Now, who should play Steve Jobs and get a National Board of Review Award for his efforts?
Sean Young pulls a Bette Davis
A few years ago, I saw Sean Young at a Santa Monica restaurant. She looked really good. Fast forward to Sean Young on The David Letterman Show, where Young literally – and I mean literally – begs for work. Tacky? Daring? Both?
Young, who'll turn 52 next November, went from James Ivory's Jane Austen in Manhattan to Ridley Scott's Blade Runner to David Lynch's Dune to Oliver Stone's Wall Street to Roger Donaldson's Now Way Out to Joel Schumacher's Cousins. Not all of those were box office hits, but they were certainly more prestigious than, say, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (admittedly, a domestic box office hit), Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde, Motel Blue, and Poor White Trash.
There was also the Catwoman issue when Tim Burton was making Batman Returns: Young had been replaced by Kim Basinger in the original Batman, but wanted the role back. And a nasty scandal involving her The Boost co-star James Woods, who sued Young for harassment in 1988.
Letterman seemed to think that Young's film credits ended in 1994 with Ace Ventura. She reminded him that she'd also appeared in The Amati Girls after that. In fact, Young has been keeping herself busy making movies, though mostly under-the-radar fare such as The Drop, Ghosts Never Sleep, and Parasomnia.
The offers are clearly there – Young has three movies in post-production. Apparently, they're just not coming from desirable places.
Mother of three – 10, 11 & 15 – divorcee. American. Thirty years experience as an actress in Motion Pictures. Mobile still and more affable than rumor would have it. Wants steady employment in Hollywood. (Has had Broadway).
Cinemark to Boycott Eddie Murphy-Ben Stiller 'Tower Heist'?
Eddie Murphy's film career has been in the doldrums lately. Aside from the animated Shrek movies, Murphy's live action films have been flopping badly. His last two, Imagine That and Meet Dave figure among the worst box office debuts ever.
The announcement that Murphy will be hosting next year's Academy Awards ceremony lifted his prestige a few notches, but now comes a threat to his next movie: Tower Heist, co-starring Ben Stiller, and directed by Brett Ratner (who, as it happens, is one of the producers of next year's Oscar telecast).
Tower Heist is scheduled to open in the United States on Nov. 4. But there's a good chance you won't find it at any Cinemark movie houses in case distributor Universal Pictures decides to make the movie available to select Comcast subscribers – for the absurd price of $59.99 – 21 days after it hits theaters. (See Cinemark's statement below.)
It has recently been announced that Universal Pictures plans to offer the Eddie Murphy comedy Tower Heist to digital cable subscribers in the Atlanta, Georgia and Portland, Oregon markets three weeks after the film opens in theatres. Over the past year Cinemark has continually voiced its concern to Universal and other studios regarding any early-to-the-home “premium video-on-demand” during the theatrical release period, which averages just over four months. Movies are designed to be exhibited in today's state of the art digital theatres which enhances awareness of the film and maximizes downstream distribution. Many artists and business professionals in our industry have expressed similar concerns about early-to-the-home premium video-on-demand offerings as evidenced by the Open Letter From The Creative Community On Protecting The Movie-Going Experience released earlier this year.
Cinemark recognizes and acknowledges the changing technological landscape and related challenges that Universal and the other studios are facing in the in-home window. Keeping in mind the best interests of the creative community, the studios, exhibition and the consumer, we have welcomed direct discussions between Cinemark and each of the major and independent studios, including Universal, regarding distribution concerns. Cinemark has urged Universal Pictures to reconsider its market test of this product. If Universal Pictures moves forward with its Tower Heist premium video-on-demand offering, as announced, Cinemark has determined, in its best business interests, that it will decline to exhibit this film in its theatres.
Written by Jeff Nathanson and Ted Griffin, Tower Heist also features Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, Téa Leoni, Michael Peña, Gabourey Sidibe, Judd Hirsch, Alan Alda, Nina Arianda, Aprella, and Jeff Grossman.
Cinemark statement via EW.com. Tower Heist picture via Universal Pictures.
Risqué 'The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)' Poster
Tom Six's The Human Centipede II (The Full Sequence) a sequel to his The Human Centipede (First Sequence) has already stirred quite a bit of controversy after it was banned in the United Kingdom. And that was before the poster on the right (via shocktillyoudrop.com) was released.
Written and directed by Six, the sequel follows a mentally ill loner who, inspired by Six's The Human Centipede (First Sequence) decides to transform movie fiction into reality. I'm assuming that's what the British censors were afraid of: that some of the Queen's more, huh, creative subjects might want to come up with local human centipedes – perhaps even with the assistance of royal body parts.
Distributed by IFC Films, The Human Centipede 2 opens in the United States on Friday. Laurence R. Harvey – not to be confused with Room at the Top's Laurence Harvey – plays the Human Centipede (First Sequence) I-can-do-that-too fan. As per recent reports, British fans of human centipedes will be able to watch Six's latest mouth-to-anus effort once the director makes 32 cuts to his film.
Hollywood Foreign Press Association vs. Dick Clark Productions lawsuit on hold
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association's lawsuit against Dick Clark Productions may be put on hold until July 2012, according to Joshua L. Weinstein's TheWrap report based on documents filed at a Los Angeles federal court. The HFPA lawsuit was supposedly to have gone to trial last September, but the judge involved in the lawsuit fell ill. Busy lawyers' schedules have precluded the trial from taking place before July.
The HFPA claims that Dick Clark Productions, which handles the Golden Globes telecast, has come up with unethical ways to renew its contract with NBC, granting it rights to continue producing the awards ceremony – and therefore maintain its ties to the HFPA – until 2018. Dick Clark Productions and the HFPA would split in half the $21.5 million earned per awards show.
Next time you wonder why there are so many nominations for big-name movie stars, no matter how undeserving, remember the above figure. The $21.5 million is closely tied to the amount of ad mullah the Golden Globes bring to NBC. So, though not exactly likely, don't be too surprised if, say, Johnny Depp and Penélope Cruz are nominated for next year's Golden Globes for their performances in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.
The HFPA is also none too happy with the lawsuit delays. As transcribed in TheWrap, in a court document the HFPA's lawyers state that “postponing trial until next summer will prolong the present uncertainty regarding the broadcast rights to the Golden Globes and undermine the substantial efforts of the parties and the Court to streamline the issues in this case.”
Either way, Dick Clark Productions will be producing the 2012 Golden Globe Awards to be aired on NBC on Jan. 15, 2012.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides picture: Peter Mountain / Disney Enterprises
In case a federal judge finds a break in his busy schedule, the “Golden Globes Trial” may take place in January 2012. Never mind the fact that the awards ceremony has been set for Jan. 15. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the organization that hands out the Golden Globes, wants the trial to be held early in the month; the show's producer, Dick Clark Productions (DCP), doesn't, claiming the trial may disrupt the awards gala to be broadcast by NBC.
The HFPA's official reasoning, as per an Associated Press report, is that “delay may mean that potential networks will fill their broadcasting slates, the overall market may depress further, and HFPA will suffer incalculable injury.” In Nov. 2010, the HFPA sued DCP, claiming the latter had no authority to extend NBC's contract to broadcast the Golden Globes until 2018. DCP counterclaims that it had rights “in perpetuity,” after rescuing the HFPA and the Golden Globes' tarnished reputation following their loss of credibility in the early '80s. (That was the Pia Zadora/Butterfly scandal in 1982.)