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Rushdie's two cents :
Can Hollywood See the Tiger?
By SALMAN RUSHDIE for nyt
"LOS ANGELES -- Without Hollywood, they say, Los Angeles would just be Phoenix with a coastline. This year, as deadlines approach for strikes by actors and writers, L. A. is facing the possibility of becoming, for a time, a characterless, movieless sprawl.
Rumors are flying: The studios actually want the strikes; the actors don't, though their representatives are talking tough. And the writers? Well, they're only writers, after all. Talks keep breaking down an inch away from agreement. Television companies are preparing to flood the schedules with even more reality-TV programming — it's cheap! it's popular! it's not unionized! — to fill the holes created by The Strike. There's plenty of bad feeling in the air, and a growing sense of inevitability. The shutdown is "going to happen" (which means it either will or won't).
And in the midst of this uncertainty, the movie community awaits its annual festival of big business interests disguised as individual achievements. The lobbying season is over. The city is no longer being bombarded by "for your consideration" videotapes. Rock stars are no longer playing impromptu gigs in old folks' homes in the hope of garnering a few votes for Best Song from elderly members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The votes are in. The Oscars are coming.
The movies are Los Angeles's culture. At the weekend, big audiences go to the new pictures the way the opera-loving Milanese go to an opening at La Scala. I haven't seen such enthusiastically participatory audiences anywhere else outside the Indian subcontinent.
This can get irritating: for example, when a man comments loudly every time Penelope Cruz appears on screen in "All the Pretty Horses" — "She's so beautiful! Oh, oh, he's going to fall for her! Uh-oh, here comes trouble!" — or when a 5-year-old insistently asks her parents during "Cast Away," "Mommy, when is the volleyball going to talk?"
Angeleno enthusiasm can, however, also be thrilling. In a packed theater on La Brea, the whooping and cheering at an afternoon showing of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" was astonishing even by L.A.'s standards. The audience knew it was sharing in the arrival of a great, classic film and was simply transported by the movie's brilliance. Anyone who thinks DVD's will someday replace moviegoing should have been there. Those killjoys who have denigrated "Crouching Tiger" as a piece of latter-day Orientalism, a Western appropriation of Eastern manner and material, would have seen an audience as diverse as America itself — Korean-Americans, Chinese-Americans, Hispanic Americans and African-Americans easily outnumbered any WASP-y Orientalists who might have been there enjoying the film for the wrong reasons. It was evident to the audience that Ang Lee's beautiful, intimate epic is a luminous work of art.
In the context of the Academy Awards and the shadow of the strike, the success of "Crouching Tiger" is especially significant. It's being talked about as the breakthrough movie that has taught Americans to accept subtitled foreign films into the giant cineplexes where the big money is made. And this is why the various players — and the studios above all — may be making a big mistake if they think they can ride out the strike without losing their stranglehold on the market.
In the 1960's and early 1970's, a flood of great non-American filmmakers pried Hollywood's fingers off the cinema's throat for a few years. The result was a golden age, the time of the great films of Akira Kurosawa and Satyajit Ray; of the French New Wave; of Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman. Now, once again, world cinema is blossoming — in China, in Iran, in Britain. And it may just be that the mass audience is ready, at long last, to enjoy rather more diversity in its cultural diet. After all, there are plenty of dreadful American films we could all cheerfully do without.
The Oscars usually show us how Hollywood sees itself. Ridley Scott's technically brilliant but woodenly scripted "Gladiator" is the big-studio candidate for honors, just as the latest sentimental Miramax confection, "Chocolat," leads the charge of the smaller companies. Comedy comes off badly, as usual — the Coen brothers have to be content with screenplay and cinematography nominations for the wonderful "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" There's no nomination for Renee Zellweger's moving, subtle work in the title role of "Nurse Betty." But behind all this familiar maneuvering, the tiger is crouching, the dragon hides.
And if by some chance the one genuinely great movie to have been nominated this year runs away with the big prizes, it may just be the wake-up call that Hollywood needs. When the world's finest filmmakers are coming after your audience, it may not be such a smart idea to shut your industry down.
Salman Rushdie is the author of ``The Satanic Verses'' and ``The Ground Beneath Her Feet.''
For you fans of The Matrix and Crouching Tiger choreographic style, check out master Tsui Hark. Both of these films, but especially Crouching Tiger, owe a huge debt to this mavirck. His films are both action packed and poignant. Some of note; Zu Warriors of Magic Mountain, Red Dragon Inn, Chinese Ghost Story, Once Upon A Time In China I II & III and Peking Opera Blues. His brilliant Swordsman 2 is one of the best movies I have ever seen. Interested New Yorkers keep your eye out, his films play in the Chinatown theatres (those which remain that is) and The Quad's Kung Fu Festivals.
I tried something else but it didn't work so I'm trying this now, my Academy Award(tm) picks:
1. Best Movie--Crouching Tiger
2.Best Actor, only saw Gladiator and CastAway, have to pick Hanks, although Crowe was good enough, don't really feel strong about this one. But only the CastAway part with no dialogue (could be the worst script of any major movie this year.) The deciding factor was the dentistry by iceskate. Pretty crappy movie really, but it was hot that day.
3.Best Actress, the toughest choice by far and I don't think I can pick between Burnstyn, Allen, and Linney, although that's the order Ima stick with.
4.Best Supporting Actor--Bridges or Del Toro, equal, Bridges played a great president. Let's give it to him.
5.Supporting actress--Kate Hudson
7.Best Screenplay (Direct)--Cameron Crowe, Ken Longeran, another tough one, but in that order.
8.Best Screenplay (previous publish--Steve Kloves for Wonder Boys. The only flick I've really liked Michael Douglas in.
And although I can see why most people thought The Cell sucked, I really enjoyed the visuals--let's give it Best Makeup
Mike Leigh Began his career directing films for the BBC in the early70's. He is best known in the US for his film Naked. One of my favorites from him is 1983's Meantime It features Tim Roth with Gary Oldman in a supporting role. It stars Phil Daniels, who, despite having also starred in Quadraphenia has remained relatively unknown. Other than one of the voices on Chicken Run, Mr. Daniels doesn't seem to have done much since. This is unfortunate because he clearly has the talant to be a great actor. (shame on the promo company, the new posters and vid packaging feature Roth and Oldman only) Here in NYC Evergreen Video and Kim's Video (sorry, no link) are good sources for Leigh's work.