Monday, January 5, 2009

Twilight Watch, Part 2: The Arrival

It's been more than a month since the last installment of Twilight Watch.  I still haven't seen the damn film.  It's starting to fade from the multiplexes and it's beginning to look as if I will have to wait for On Demand.  Sigh.

I think the best thing I can do is to just continue The List I've been working on for the past few months as that was the whole point, right?  Okay.  Here goes.

Catherine Hardwicke: As far as I know, she is the only production designer turned major director in the history of American movies (as always, if I am wrong, please let me know in the comments). So far she seems to have avoided the cinematographer-turned-director disease of pretty, pretty films with story problems. I was super excited to see her first film, Thirteen. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am completely obsessed with anything that has to do with teen girls. To say I enjoyed Thirteen in no way implies that it was any good. It's a melodramatic film, full of after school special clichés. Even though I was aware of all that when watching it, I still found it hard to shake. For all its silliness it feels right in how it's pitched emotionally. Sadly, the reality of teenage life is often more like bad television then good art. A few years ago I began listening to a lot of Britney Spears for a project I was working on, and I was amazed at how dramatic all her songs were, how emotionally raw and over the top. And then I got part of why she became such a huge star- her songs aren't any good, really, but they feel like being in high school.  While writing this I took a look at the reviews for Thirteen, and honestly they kind of weirded me out.  All of these middle aged men giving positive, serious reviews to this film about thirteen year olds having sex and wearing really hot clothes and lying to their parents, just made it seem really prurient.  Andrew Sarris wrote one of the few negative reviews, pointing out how creepy it was watching this film in the theater with a bunch of grownups.  Thirteen is the only film of Hardwicke's I've seen.  I really want to see The Nativity Story.  I have no idea how Hardwicke treats the subject matter, and I think I have a fantasy about single, teen, pregnant Mary of Nazareth deciding that telling a really elaborate lie about the messiah is a better plan than being stoned to death (I remember a TV miniseries about Jesus from the '70s that had a scene of Mary worrying about being stoned to death, it really stuck with me).  I have a feeling I will be disappointed, but that will be more my problem than the movie's.  The Lords of Dogtown is somewhere on my Netflix list.  LA skaters have never really interested me that much, but I've heard it's pretty good.  And now Twilight.  Sigh.  The worldwide take is nearly $280 million. It cost $37 million to make.  It's a monster hit.  I have to see it.

Then suddenly, things get even more interesting.  Catherine Hardwicke has been fired from Twilight's sequel, New Moon.  According to Summit Entertainment, this was a mutual decision based on scheduling.  Anonymous reports inside Summit say Hardwicke was "difficult" and "irrational".  Oh, for Christ's sake.  Irrational?  She just helmed a low-cost blockbuster.  Suck it up Summit.  She is being replaced by Chris Weitz whose most recent project was The Golden Compass, which cost $180 million and was a US box office disappointment, but did well internationally.  I'm not the hugest fan of the His Dark Materials books.  I liked the Golden Compass, and more or less enjoyed The Subtle Knife, but I thought The Amber Spyglass was a mess.  I found Weitz's film to be pretty unwatchable.  American Pie box-office aside, he is hardly a risk-free choice.  This makes no sense.  I hate to be a shrill feminist scold (actually that's a lie:  I fucking love being a shrill feminist scold), but please name one male director who has been removed from a film series when the first installment was a massive, money creating machine. Right, never.

I really have to see this film.  Damn.  And read the book.  I do have some news.  I ordered the book from Amazon.  It has arrived, in fact it's sitting here in my lap, still in its brown cardboard shipping box.  I'm going to open it right now.  Hold on.  Okay.  Here it is, all 498pp of it.  Damn.  I guess I should read it, right?

Stay tuned for Twilight Watch Part 3: The Reading


Ms. Nic said...

I'm excited to find out if it's any good! My genre tastes rarely run to vampire stories, though honestly I have no excuse as to why that is.

Ian W. said...

but please name one male director who has been removed from a film series when the first installment was a massive, money creating machine. Right, never.

Richard Donner, Superman

Carolyn Raship said...

Richard Donner did Superman II, didn't he? What happened there?

Ian W. said...

Nope, Donner was fired post-Superman. The original intent was for Donner to shoot both films simultaneously, and he shot bits of II that are still in the final film (the moon sequence, anything involving actual footage of Gene Hackman instead of a double) but he was made to stop shooting any of the second and finish the first, and was then replaced by the faster and more producer-friendly Richard Lester.

In the case of Superman, as with Twilight, the franchise is the star as far as producers/studio is concerned, not any director (though Warners eventually allowed Donner to cobble together an alternate DVD version of Superman II that's closer to what he intended, albeit made up of screen test footage and other odd outtakes).

But yes, with the boys, they're usually given two chances at bat with a series before they aren't asked back, if the first film was a success and the second, when the director was given more of a free hand, didn't live up to what they thought it should do (Chris Columbus, Harry Potter; Tim Burton, Batman; Bryan Singer, X-Men).

The recent do-over on the Hulk franchise is somewhat a repudiation of Ang Lee's take -- and he was originally planning to do more -- but that wasn't quite a "money -making machine" (it did okay, worldwide, but not so great to keep going that way). Same with Bryan Singer's Superman plans, I guess.

Carolyn Raship said...

Thanks, Ian. The Richard Donner business is all starting to come back to me. I think the issue is that women directors have so rarely (if ever) been given the opportunity to direct something that a) is a huge budget, blockbuster-y, mega-hit or b) any sort of franchise. The Twilight/Hardwicke situation is just so freaking dispiriting to me. I think the closest thing an American woman has had to a franchise is Penelope Spheris with the Wayne's World movies.