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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nine Iron Cross

There may be a few lingering items in January, but the 2009 Variety Screening Series calendar ended with Iron Cross, the last time to star Roy (Jaws) Scheider, and Nine, the big new musical directed by Ron Marshall, whose prior big screen musical Chicago was quite successful a few years ago.

Alas, Iron Cross (seen Tuesday Dec. 15, 2009 at Landmark's Sunshine, Aud., #1) is abysmal. Scheider plays a Holocaust survivor whose family was killed. He managed to escape into the forest, hook up with partisans, get some training as a fighter. His son marries a Chinese woman and the couple move to Nurenberg. Dad visits, realizes that his son's elderly neighbor is the Nazi who killed his parents, and vows revenge with or without his son's help. Some third act twists, but not many surprises between here and there. Scheider isn't bad, but pretty much everything else about the movie is. Scheider's character is prone to flashbacks; pretty much anything on the street will lead him to have a vision of the day his parents died. But it's not enough for us to see this a few times to get a feel for what the character's going through. We get these visions again and again, like the entire city of Nurenberg is some big Overlook hotel where everything shines, like a novel where one of the characters stutters or speaks in an accent so every single word becomes-s-s-s-s-s word-d-d-d-d-d and the writer is droppin' the g every time one of them is appearin' durin' the writin' of the novel. Similarly, the music has to underscore every single emotional or plot beat in the movie in the loudest and most annoying way possible. How am I supposed to nap in a bad movie when the music insists on underscoring everything so very, very, very loudly?

Nine (seen Wed. Dec. 16, 2009 at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square, Aud. #5 Valencia) was a hot ticket, moved to a larger auditorium, every seat filled, cancellation line, the works, and it is picking up Golden Globe nominations and the like. I might have liked it a little more than this excoriation from Scott Foundas in the Village Voice, but I didn't really like it. Was Daniel Day-Lewis' performance as bad as Mr. Foundas suggests? Did I like it not because it was good but just because it was so different from his stellar performance in There Will Be Blood? He plays an Italian movie director with lots of lovers and lots of admirers, and he's making a movie, and every so often people break into song. These people include Fergie, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Kate Hudson, Sophia Loren, all kinds of a-list people. I had trouble telling them apart (well, not Judi Dench, who is the only one to sound like M), and the relationship with the wife seemed a lot like the relationship with the reporter like the relationship with the mistress. And I didn't care about any of those people or any of those relationships, so I didn't care when they started to sing, or whatever it was they were singing about. Each character gets one big number, and the characters and the numbers don't meet up in any exciting kind of way. No plot, no dramatic arc, the movie is very extravagent but I also think it's very very flat. Of course it caters to the Hollywood ego in a very big way since it's a big extravagant star-studded movie about making movies. Which does not hurt in the awards race. But it's just not very good.

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