By Glenn Ferrara
For such a big shot, Peter Travers seems like a nice guy. The top critic for Rolling Stone magazine, and a sometime CNN contributor, is kind enough to stand up for people trying to maneuver by him in his aisle seat at the New York Film Festival. Also, he refrains from smoking and yelling at the screen during the movie and does not appear to be concealing a video camera for bootlegging. A stand-up guy.
The seat gave me an angle that only his physician and trusted personal stylist ever get to see, the back of his head. No gossip to report here — he’s finely groomed, with no signs of false hair, head lice, or dandruff.
After thoroughly examining him I thought about other famous critics, and looked around to spot some. Not that there are many, but the famous ones are easy to spot. Roger Ebert (Fat), Pauline Kael (Dead), The New York Times’ Elvis Mitchell (Black and dreadlocked) and that other guy from Ebert’s TV show (Chubby with glasses). Unfortunately, none were present.
There was a close call, however. At one screening I thought I was sitting behind professional name-dropper Dominick Dunne, but when he opened his mouth it was clear that he was just a European photocopy.
Try as I did, spotting anyone famous in that crowd was going to be tough. Not because it was so large, cause it wasn’t, but because most film critics look like spruced up high school guidance counselors. Middle aged, in dark jackets with slightly mussed dark hair is the look. And when you get a couple of hundred of them bunched together in a room, you’d have a hard time picking out Liberace, let alone Michael Medved.
The attendees that don’t fit are either ignored, they’re Internet folk or Juilliard kids that snuck in, or swallowed up in the mass of off-the-rack blazers and Dockers slacks.
After a while it became obvious, it was to be just Peter Travers and me.
Was the crowd the highlight of the second and third weeks of the New York Film Festival? Close, but not quite.
The movie that everyone at the festival had been waiting for was “The Royal Tenenbaums,” and it did not disappoint. By far it was the best film of the lot.
Gene Hackman (“The French Connection”) leads an ensemble cast that includes Gwyneth Paltrow (“Shakespeare in Love”), Ben Stiller (“Zoolander”), Angelica Huston (“The Grifters”), Bill Murray (“Rushmore”), brothers Luke and Owen Wilson (“Bottle Rocket”), and Danny Glover (“Lethal Weapon”) in a story of a dysfunctional family of geniuses and their various problems with themselves and each other.
Masterfully directed by much ballyhooed young filmmaker Wes Anderson (“Rushmore” and “Bottle Rocket”) this is a lovely film that’s heartwarming and never corny. Look for this around Christmas Day; it’s not to be missed.
A nice surprise, though a bit long at 132 minutes. What drives this melancholy French film is the impressive performance by leading man, Aurelien Recoing. His portrayal of a man too disgusted to tell his family that he is out of work is one of the best in a film released this year. At the time of screening, the film had no American distribution deal, so it may be a while before anyone over here gets to see this, which is too bad.
“Y Tu Mama Tambien”
A Mexican “American Pie” road movie with a bit of smarts.
Two oversexed teens drive a recently cheated on wife to a far away beach in hopes of seducing her. Not the worst one out there, but it’s hard to believe that it was a big hit in Mexico. Then again, there’s lots of sex. And it’s this sex that will get it shown where most skin movies are shown, cable. Look for it on the Independent Film Channel.
“Night of The Hunter”
This is a pretty crummy film, save for Robert Mitchum’s wonderfully psycho, and murderous, southern preacher. Actor Charles Laughton’s only stint as a director produced a bizarre little movie, that many have fallen in love with, personally I don’t get it. Re-released after an extensive restoration.
“Il Mio Viaggio in Italia”
Four hours of director Martin Scorsese (“Raging Bull,” “Taxi Driver,” “Goodfellas”) discussing his favorite Italian films and directors in this tedious documentary. He touches on all the big names like Visconti, Antonioni and Fellini. One problem I had with was that there was no mention of Sergio Leone (“Once Upon A Time In The West”). Violence, mainly, connects them, but that’s not all. Both Scorsese and Leone feature antiheroes who live and breath violence. Characters that have no concern for society because they are so far removed from it. And while they have taken different approaches, they share many of the same themes. But again, no mention of
Leone. Does Scorsese think he’s not intellectual enough? How many intellectual films has Scorsese made lately? I’ve never seen anything like “8 *” or “L’Aventura” from him, have you?
Anyway, the documentary is boring. At one point as he began discussing “Voyage to Italy” I got up and took a slow walk around the block to stretch my legs, leaving Travers to fend for himself. When I got back, Scorsese was talking about the same movie. Yeesh!
What they call “unsimulated sex” is what causes a big stink about “Intimacy,” not anything like plot or acting. Not a rotten film, but without the pornography, would anyone ever have noticed it? Probably not, since it’s a rather ordinary relationship drama from French director Patrice Chereau.
Adapted from a Hanif Kureishi (“My Beautiful Launderette”) story, this probably works better in its original book form.
The state-of-the-art animation is at times fascinating but is that enough?
The movie itself is overly talky and thoroughly boring. There is no story; instead the film is a collection of vignettes full of half-baked (emphasis on the baked, as in stoned) philosophizing very similar to director Richard Linklater’s lone hit “Slacker.”
Let’s hope there are better films, any celebrity watching, next year.
Hopefully they’ll invite me back.