Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Extra Man--worth checking out (Except for the Katie Holmes character--more on that later--this was a lot of fun to watch)
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Posted: Wed., Jan. 27, 2010, 3:37pm PT

The Extra Man

A Wild Bunch presentation of a Likely Story/3 Arts production. (International sales: Wild Bunch, Paris.) Produced by Anthony Bregman, Stephanie Davis. Executive producers, Jonathan Ames, Stefanie Azpiazu, Agnes Mentre, Vincent Maraval, Robert Pulcini, Shari Springer Berman. Co-producer, Rebecca Rivo. Directed by Robert Pulcini, Shari Springer Berman. Screenplay, Pulcini, Jonathan Ames, Berman, based on the novel by Ames.

Henry Harrison - Kevin Kline
Louis Ives - Paul Dano
Gershon - John C. Reilly
Mary - Katie Holmes
Vivian - Marian Seldes
Lagerfeld - Celia Weston
Katherine - Patti D'Arbanville
Aresh - Dan Hedaya
Lois - Lynn Cohen
George - John Pankow

An imperious older New York eccentric mentors a promising young one in "The Extra Man," a highly entertaining character comedy exemplified by the same virtues the titular leading man ascribes to himself -- wit, intelligence and joie de vivre. Kevin Kline soars in one of his best screen roles, that of an impoverished self-styled aristocrat who contrives to live the high life as an escort to wealthy old ladies. Although too devoted to matters literary, theatrical, operatic and sexually outre to make it with general audiences, this adaptation of Jonathan Ames' novel exudes the sort of smarts and sophisticated charm specialized audiences seek.

Bouncing back to form impressively from "The Nanny Diaries," "American Splendor" writer-directors Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman have made a sort of timeless New York story, one centered on a relative innocent who comes to the big city and ends up being tutored in ways he could never have expected by an idiosyncratic gentleman of high style who expresses cracked opinions with such eloquence and authority that they brook no argument. There have been many such tales, but this one brings to mind "My Favorite Year," primarily for the theatrical flamboyance of the older characters and for the brilliance of the actors playing them, then Peter O'Toole and now Kline.

One key difference is that the young man here is not a total blank sheet waiting to be written upon, but a genuine oddball with his own extreme eccentricities. Louis Ives (Paul Dano) is a gangly, polite, formal, dough-faced prep school English teacher whose twin obsessions -- old literature and cross-dressing -- are expressed in a dream he has of "The Great Gatsby" in which he appears in drag.

Let go from his job, Louis arrives in New York to explore new horizons and, answering an ad for cheap accommodations, is confronted not only with a shabby apartment and very Spartan quarters, but with its occupant, Henry Harrison, who's offering the extra room. A college literature teacher himself and allegedly a playwright, Henry is a throwback in style as well as perspective; he speaks in the British-tinged stentorian tones of early 20th century actors, has a wardrobe almost that old, and polishes his gray hair with black tint when he goes out on the town. Admitting to views about sex and women that are "to the right of the Pope," he believes that American education started declining when females were admitted to colleges and will not allow Louis to bring visitors to the apartment. "No fornication!" he bellows.

Not that there's much imminent danger of that. Other than his discreet visits to a tranny bar and to a couple of women who assist him with his cross-dressing wardrobe, Louis seems almost unformed sexually; his "bipolar fantasies," as he puts it, are to become a young gentleman and to see a girl when he looks in the mirror. While he tries to work that one out, he begins accompanying Henry on his social rounds -- at dinners where the acerbic older man tries not to insult his hosts so he'll be invited back to Palm Beach for the winter season; and to the opera, where Henry teaches his protege his technique for getting in for free.

In due course, Louis gets a job at a small environmental magazine, where he sort of befriends co-worker Mary (Katie Holmes), whom he may see as a "Gatsby" Daisy -- and whose lingerie he covets. There's also a subplot concerning Gershon (John C. Reilly), a building weirdo with giant hair and beard who, despite his frightening appearance, speaks in a very odd falsetto, as well as one involving Henry's former boarder, whose arrival on the scene precipitates the somewhat arbitrary and indifferent wrap-up.

But the core of the film remains the interactions between teacher and student. Henry and Louis have major differences -- there's no one who could possibly agree with all of the curmudgeon's outrageous views -- but Henry likes Louis because they speak the same language. For all the aggravation, Louis knows he has a lot to learn from his unique host, who has such a commanding presence that it's hard not to come under his sway, even when looking askance at the substance of his remarks.

The same holds true for the viewer, given the mesmerizing allure of Kline's outsized but impeccably calibrated performance. Perhaps no contemporary American actor can carry off the sort of classical stage enunciation he can, and here he applies it to a character who uses it both for the effect he knows it creates but, even moreso, out of personal affinity. Henry has a tremendous sense of style, only it's a style of 80 years ago, which is what makes him so funny, an effect compounded by Kline's exceptional sense of timing.

By contrast, Dano soft-pedals his characterization to excellent effect; Louis seems like a rather calculated sort of misfit on paper, but Dano's underplaying and innate physical oddness make him not only palatable but oddly sympathetic. The actresses playing the women in the men's social orbit, including Marian Seldes, Celia Weston, Patti D'Arbanville and Lynn Cohen, are all delights.

Terry Stacey's lensing is vibrant, production designer Judy Becker has poured considerable detail in Henry's worn apartment, Suttirat Larlarb's costume designs show real wit and Klaus Badelt's score is a vigorous asset.

Camera (Deluxe color), Terry Stacey; editor, Pulcini; music, Klaus Badelt; music supervisor, Linda Cohen; production designer, Judy Becker; art director, Charles Kulsziski; costume designer, Suttirat Larlarb; sound (Dolby Digital), Damian Canelos; supervising sound editors, Julia Shirav, Kent Spalding; re-recording mixer, Lora Hirshberg; assistant director, Mariela Comitini. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Premieres), Jan. 25, 2010. Running time: 108 MIN.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sundance 2010

Got in on Monday afternoon to Park City, where 5 feet of snow had fallen over the weekend. The energy and the buzz is always amazing. I love the mix of folks who are diehard film buffs, industry folks, young filmmakers, and those who never see a movie while they are here but do not miss a party.

Crazy altitude headache lasted an entire 24 hours, along with the huffing and puffing that goes with mountain air until your body adjusts. You instantly feel for your asthmatic grandmother.

The shuttles are the smartest thing going. You can basically get anywhere you need to go. Overheard the other day, these women were doing a play-by-play of a film a lot of us were on our way to see. I wanted to choke them. Everyone around them was shooting daggers of hate. "Do not f*c# up my moviegoing with your loose lips," was the translation of the hatestares. There was also a first time filmmaker who was talking extra loud about needing to "GET TO MY SCREENING. OF MY FILM. THAT'S SCREENING HERE. MY FILM. AT A THEATER HERE. SCREENING. HERE. MY FILM." Yeah, we all got it.

Got a last-minute invite to Chefdance. Great food and people watching. It was set up in the basement of Harry O's niteclub/live music venue. Mya performed upstairs after dinner to a jam-packed house of people. Even the club here is getting in on the movie business. There was a roving pack of cameras mostly focused on whichever female patron was most likely to have a wardrobe malfunction while dancing. Naturi Naughton, of Notorious and Fame performed, as well. She is crazy talented, definitely one to watch. I talked to her later about possibly working together to shoot a classy and beautiful video to spotlight her talent and beauty. Went to another party or two. It's all blending together. Blame it on the al-al-al-al-al-al-titude.

Saw a graffiti art piece by British artist Banksy. There is a film here on his work:
The Hollywood Reporter
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Banksy's 'Exit' to premiere at Sundance

Film, narrated by Brit Rhys Ifans, is fest's Spotlight Surprise

By Gregg Goldstein

Jan 20, 2010, 09:41 PM ET

The infamous (and anonymous) graffiti artist Banksy is pulling what may be his biggest prank ever at Sundance -- with the help of fellow Brit Rhys Ifans.

The guerrilla pseudo-documentary "Exit Through the Gift Shop," billed as "A Banksy Film" and narrated by Ifans, will have its world premiere Sunday night at the Library Center Theater as the fest's Spotlight Surprise.

Cinetic Media is repping sales for the stealth project. Hopes are that an adventurous distributor will pony up as many millions for the film as Banksy earns for the "street art" he secretly leaves in urban spaces. Several of his works have appeared on Park City walls this week.

Insiders say "Exit" takes audiences on hairpin twists and turns as it chronicles renegade urban artists and pranksters from around the world.

The film is billed as an exploration of street art. According to a description, "Los-Angeles based filmmaker Terry Guetta set out to record this secret world in all it's thrilling detail. For more than eight years, he traveled with the pack, roaming the streets of America and Europe, the stealthy witness to the world's most infamous vandals. But after meeting the British stencil artist known only as 'Banksy,' things took a bizarre turn."

Jaimie D'Cruz of U.K.-based Keo Films produced the project.

Holly Cushing and James Gay-Rees exec produced. But whether the artist known as Banksy helmed the film himself is still a mystery.

"Sundance has shown films by unknown artists, but never an anonymous one," said fest director John Cooper. He described the film as "part personal journey and part expose on the art world, with its mind-altering mix of hot air and hype."

Adding to questions surrounding the film, U.K. crop circle hoaxter John Lundberg was said to be enlisted by Banksy for stealth promotion. However, a spokesperson for the film said Lundberg had no involvement with it.

More Sundance coverage
"Exit" is a separate project from "docuBANKSY," an in-the-works documentary about the artist discovered last year on the Internet.

Much like Banksy's work, more about the film can be easily found now in Park City, hidden in plain sight.
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