Today’s trailer — Sofia Coppola is back with “Somewhere”

Over the weekend, Anne Thompson was discussing the imminent return of the youngest member (so far) of the directing dynasty begun by Francis Coppola. For me, the jury on Sophia Coppola is still out to some degree, not because I in any way doubt her talent or skill, but because I wonder about her commitment to storytelling. She has yet to really knock my socks off dramatically, and it worries me slightly that she’s such an outspoken fan of Wong Kar-Wei and Michelangelo Antonioni, two directors of the world’s most gorgeous films that I find nearly unwatchable. On the other hand, Thompson came up with a quote in which Coppola praises Bob Fosse, one of my favorite directors of all time, and his most direct and emotional film, “All That Jazz.”

“I enjoy movies when they’re sincere, from personal experience. Fosse got away with his girlfriend playing his girlfriend. It’s not an all-romanticized idea of himself. It’s honest.”

True enough. Watching the trailer for “Somewhere,” about a hard living actor (Stephen Dorff) and his tween-age daughter (Elle Fanning), it looks to me like she’s still thinking about a key sliver of that film, but I ‘ll get to that some other time. Also, considering that Coppola is about to become a mom for the second time, it’s a topic that likely hits close to home. I’m hopeful about this one.

  

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Sweet Beyoncé

Okay, so I’m not really a guy whose on top of all the latest pop music trends. So, I was a little surprised to see that the Beyoncé video below, “Get Me Bodied” (when did “body” become a verb?),  bears a very direct resemblance to one of my favorite sequences from one of my favorite movies by one of my favorite directors.

I’m not in the mood for a long-winded commentary, so I’ll simply present the video, which I gather was co-directed by Beyoncé and Anthony Mandler, and then the original scene and you can draw your own conclusions about this acknowledged homage.

And here’s the original.

If you want to read more, a lot more, about 1969’s “Sweet Charity” and director-choreographer Bob Fosse, you might want to take a look at my lengthy essay from the “Fossethon” I had at my personal blog back in ’07.

  

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Liza’s at the Palace

Early on, Liza Minnelli did a fantastic job of making the world forget her “somewhat famous” parents. In Bob Fosse’s 1972 film version of “Cabaret” and in “Liza with a ‘Z’,” the TV variety special he put together for her, she proved herself a first-rate actress, singer, and dancer with a humorous, gently ironic style all her own. Despite solid acting performances in numerous movies and TV shows since, her overall career trajectory since has been, of course, difficult.

In 2008, Minnelli regained her diva status with a critically acclaimed concert/theatrical performance, “Liza’s at the Palace,” which incorporates a recreation of the legendary nightclub act of her multi-talented godmother, Kay Thompson (“Funny Face“). Taped before an adoring, celebrity-studded audience at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, this late 2009 performance is sure to please hardcore fans. For some, however, it will be painful to watch, for all the pizazz. It’s not that age, illness and all the rest have taken their toll on Minnelli’s almost too powerful voice, nor would any sane viewer expect her to dance like it’s still 1972. Her commitment remains undeniably powerful. The problem lay elsewhere. For all her attempts to tell a personal story, Minnelli’s style when communicating through song or spoken word has become — and I don’t know how else to say this — bizarrely phony and off-putting. It’s one thing for a second-generation powerhouse performer to have show business in her blood, it’s another thing when nothing else appears to be in it.

Click to buy “Liza’s at the Palace”

  

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Big Pumps to Fill

Yesterday I mentioned an upcoming new film version of “Damn Yankees!” with the part of demonic pro-temptress Lola currently left uncast. Just to show you how that role can be played, here’s a lengthy clip — my favorite scene from my dad’s favorite movie — that shows you just how great Gwen Verdon was in the role she created on Broadway. The first part shows you her touch with the dramatic scenes that underscores what a loss it was to the movies that she starred in only one film, and the second part shows you the dancing abilities for which she was legendary.

And here’s a peak into the collaboration between Verdon and her then husband, Bob Fosse and lifelong friend and work partner, Bob Fosse.

If this appeals to you, you might want to take a look at the Fossethon I organized at my own site a few years back.

  

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“Avatar” tops a weekend of holiday box office bounty

If you’ve been following the horse-race over at Nikki Finke’s place, you’ll know it’s been a very long holiday weekend of box office ups and down. However, for those of us who can wait a day or two for the results, it’s actually somewhat simple.

Avatar movie image (3)

James Cameron‘s super-expensive 3-D extravaganza for Fox, “Avatar,” emerged as the victor of a three-way battle for the top prize with an outstanding second-weekend estimated take of $75 million and an absolutely minuscule drop from it’s first weekend of 2.6%, according to Box-Office Mojo. The Hollywood conventional wisdom has it that most science fiction films drop by at least 50% on their second weekend. Clearly, this is not most science fiction films and the fact that people are waiting to see this one in 3D and paying extra for the privilege is not hurting. So, as I’ve alluded to often enough, the word of mouth on this thing is something else. However, as always, I await the backlash as some folks plunk down their extra-heavy 3D ticket price and fail to have a religious experience.

Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson, or some version thereofSecond place, of course, was Guy Ritchie’s unorthodox action-comedy take on probably the oldest genre franchise in the biz, “Sherlock Holmes.” The Robert Downey, Jr./Jude Law team-up loosely drawn from the late 19th/early 20th century works of Arthur Conan Doyle defeated “Avatar” and all-comers on its record setting Christmas opening. It then fell a bit and earned a still whopping estimated $65.38 for Warner Brothers, a company that certainly has some experience with franchises. Better yet, this one is in the public domain, which means fewer folks get a share in the wealth.

Fox’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” actually beat “Avatar” by a couple of million on its early opening day last Wednesday, but fell sharply on Christmas Eve and rebounded the rest of the weekend, for a very healthy estimated third place showing of $50.2 million. Critics may detest it; parents may barely tolerate it, but, to paraphrase the old blues song, the little kids understand (or don’t know any better). The film’s total estimated take starting from its early opening is just a tad over $77 million.

Considering it’s a Golden Globe-nominated sex comedy presumably aimed at a very grown-up audience — not only because of the average age of its stars but also because it’s R-rated, Universal’s “It’s Complicated” has generated the critical equivalent of a shrug, with our own David Medsker coming down on the very much negative side. That doesn’t bode extremely well for this sort of movie, which can use all the critical and awards help it can get.

Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin in Still, this weekend’s rising tide managed to lift this boat to the tune of an estimated $22 million or so, which is really not bad for this kind of film. Or, it wouldn’t be because Nikki Finke claims the budget was $80 million, which is way high for this kind of movie  and suggests to me that it’s possible stars Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin let their agents negotiate extra-hard for a big pay-day because they were perhaps less than wowed by the film artistically. Universal just doesn’t seem to be cutting itself any breaks lately.

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