Sometimes all people in an audience want is to be wanted, even when they're not. They get desperate to stop minding their own business and start minding a movie's instead. For instance, when a teenage girl's been snatched from a mall parking lot and thrown into a trunk, then comes this close to being rescued by a stranger, some people in the audience think that girl needs some encouragement. So they yell to her: "Scream, bitch. Scream!" Even after a cut to the inside of the truck reveals that the girl's abductor is ready to impale her cheek with a screwdriver were she to scream, some people in the audience need her to take that risk anyway.
God willing, every audience for The Call will have that person who thinks he's just on the phone with a friend or stuck in traffic or totally by himself in the theater. They don't make enough thrillers like this anymore, ones you can talk to, ones that, uncannily enough, seem to listen. The night I saw the movie, when one character drops a phone about 15 feet into a shaft, someone in the audience said, "Damn, I would have to go down there and get that." And down into the shaft the character went.
As our Oscar Travesty Bracket draws to a close (vote now in our finals round!), the Grantland staff takes a moment to honor the travesties that didn't make the final cut. These may not be the most big-name snubs or the most high-profile humiliations, but they're the ones closest to our hearts. So before we crown the Travesty of Travesties tomorrow, give us a moment here to grieve.
Scarlett Johansson Is Depressed: "She was totally out of control in Moscow recently" at a champagne brand's promo event. "She was drinking nonstop and barely slept. It was obvious that she was trying to numb her feelings." She's sad about her breakup with ad exec Nate Naylor. "She's not used to going home alone — it's a shock to her system. The fact that Ryan Reynolds is happily married while she's single again has done a number on her. And the drinking is taking its toll — she's been crying because she feels so fat." She got a lucky horseshoe tattooed on her ribcage "because she's feeling a bit unlucky." A rebound with ex-boyfriend Jared Leto quickly went south. "She thought a fling with Jared would make her feel better, but since it was only a hookup, it only made things worse." Time for Lost in Translation 2? I know I'd pay good money to watch Scarlett be sad in Russia.
From time to time, Grantland racial issues correspondent Andrew Ti stops by to discuss whatever's been blowing up the inbox at Yo, Is This Racist? Today, the Cloud Atlas epic gets its reckoning.
One nice thing about the film industry is the fact that, no matter how offensive any idea was the first time around, if you wait long enough, there's always someone willing to give it another shot. So imagine the delight around Yo, Is This Racist? headquarters this July when the trailer for Cloud Atlas dropped, featuring a bunch of characters played by actors in, let's call it, "racial makeup." That is, in this sprawling, postmodern collection of scenes jumping back and forth in time (roughly speaking, pirate ship times to rocket-ship times and more!), most of the principal actors reappear as multiple characters, often of different races. As a filmmaking technique, it was likely meant to evoke some kind of loose version of reincarnation that is one of the story's main themes, but in practice, it comes off more like the most expensively assembled improv troupe of all time. ("OK, now you're in ... postapocalyptic Hawaii!")
It should be said at this point that the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer's decision to use all of this race-bending makeup was clearly made with an awareness that this could be a sensitive issue. Thankfully, no one is made up in blackface, but there are no prizes for meeting the bottom-most rung of decency in Hollywood.
But did they do any better than not using blackface? Let's take a look at how they executed their potentially controversial tricks.
For a work of fiction whose hydra-headed millennia-and-genre-hopping narrative begins at sea near 19th-century New Zealand and ends (um, spoiler alert, I guess, although the "end" in question happens around the halfway point) with a campfire story about man's final descent into barbarism in post-apocalyptic far-future Hawaii, David Mitchell's 2004 novel Cloud Atlas is actually pretty easy to follow, and even enjoy. It's a page-turner that happens to be engineered like a particle accelerator; there are actual stories (and actual cliffhangers) within its tricky nesting-doll structure, as well as prose that riffs on Daniel Defoe, Martin Amis, and Philip K. Dick, but also Pelican Brief–era John Grisham, as if Mitchell were writing for the spinner rack in an interdimensional airport.
Johnny Depp's Broken Heart: "On a recent night at West Hollywood's Sunset Tower Hotel, Depp was uncharacteristically quiet and alone. Johnny looked forlorn. He sat at the bar, nursing his drink, listening to the piano player. He seemed to be lost in his thoughts." His split from Vanessa Paradis was just made official and he has subsequently "turned to women for comfort." His life in the French countryside with partner Paradis was "idyllic" for years. "Johnny would walk to the local cafe, sip an espresso with the men of the village and stroll home. That was his dream." But Paradis found it stifling. "She would always complain that she was bored. She said she felt like an old woman who had given up on life and constantly told him she wanted to live in L.A." While she encouraged him to take the role of Jack Sparrow, she became "resentful" of his long shoots on location. "Vanessa started to feel like she'd sacrificed her career for his." Depp "started to drink heavily." He disappeared constantly to London and New York "rather than be in a dark and brooding mood around the kids. He wouldn't contact Vanessa because he knew she'd give him hell." After the split, Depp started hanging out a lot with Marilyn Manson. He started sleeping with Amber Heard, his co-star in The Rum Diary, despite the fact that she has a serious girlfriend. They bonded over a shared love of Hunter S. Thompson. Paradis responded to Depp's infidelity by screaming, "If I see her, I'll drown her!"
Dan Silver: Last week Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was a film I was looking forward to mocking, shunning, and then secretly renting on VOD one night after my wife and kid went to bed. But after seeing the brooding, visually vibrant, and downright bad-ass first trailer, I quickly became excited to fork over my $11 on June 22. So it pains me to say that the film’s international trailer diminishes my enthusiasm somewhat. With its orchestral score and all too typical hyperbolic, out of context, monologue/VO, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter now feels like the tonally askew, narratively disjointed, bland summer blockbuster I always thought it was going to be. More specifically it’s smelling a little like Jonah Hex. [Ed Note: OUCH.]