Data, the first robot comic, isn't out to take over the lucrative human comedy game (the 2 drink minimum messes with his circuitry). His programmer's goal in creating him was to bring us one step closer to a future in which "we can have a companion robot that doesn't piss us off all the time" like jerkfaced Siri. He's equipped with sensors that allow him to read the audience's response to his jokes ("Using your feedback, [my programmer] hopes that one day I will become an autonomous robotic performer. Like Kevin Costner"), but as a robot who "know[s] no emotion" he will, hopefully, be unable to join in the chilling, angry chorus that has followed Lindy West's debate with comedian Jim Norton. He can just close his mechanical eyes and rest while the disembodied internet humanoids stand up for freedom of expression by tweeting their desire for "jim norton [to rape] the fat girl" and other sentiments that crash my hard drive.
While Emily is in space for the week visiting Leonardo DiCaprio on his voyage to the stars, Tess and Molly hold down the Hoodies homefront. Topics on the table include Behind The Candelabra, Steven Soderbergh's incredible Liberace biopic for HBO, which thrilled us with outrageous Vegas schmaltz, genuine emotion, Matt Damon's stank face, a tender Michael Douglas in a variety of rhinestone capes, and the world's best supporting cast of character actors. Also up for discussion; the sudden proliferation of Room 237-style Mad Men conspiracy theories. Is perennial coffee-offerer Bob Benson evil or just misunderstood? Plus speculation on Leonardo's cosmic journey, his transformation into Jack Nicholson, and whether letting a fan on your rocket will just lead to Misery in space.
According to Steven Soderbergh, this is the last feature film he intends to direct, which I find hard to believe given that, between September 2011 and this one coming out, earlier this year, he directed four movies (and, since his "retirement" hasn't precluded his making the sublime Behind the Candelabra, premiering on HBO Sunday AND YOU BETTER BE PLANNING TO WATCH).
But let's pretend Soderbergh means it: As a finale to a filmography as celebrated and varied as Soderbergh's, Side Effects is not so grand, but it's worth seeing. Rooney Mara plays a young woman dealing with the return of her husband (Channing Tatum) from prison, where he was serving a sentence on some kind of financial hoo-ha; Jude Law is the psychiatrist who treats her after she starts showing signs of a mental breakdown, and who soon comes to think she may be a more complicated patient than he'd thought. The plot is satisfyingly twisty, and if Mara never plays anything but barely stable waifs from now on (see also: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), we'll probably all be just fine with that.
When a week of constant moviegoing fails to rouse either unanimity or contentious division, the world's film press gets a little antsy. Where is The Movie? You know, the one that will bring us to tears or to war. Where's the movie that incites peals of laughter, intentional or otherwise? Where on earth are the Oscar-caliber, midmovie storm-outs? The applause has been tepid. The boos have been virtually nonexistent. No one seems willing to kill for anything. No one has any idea what the Steven Spielberg jury will or should do.
That sense changed this morning with the unveiling of Steven Soderbergh's Liberace movie Behind the Candelabra. When the film ended, the house applauded Soderbergh's name and cheered for Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. The song that sends you floating up the aisle and through the exits is Douglas doing "The Impossible Dream" as Liberace. It's a strangely moving moment in exactly the same way that the film itself is strangely moving: It's determined to see beyond the obvious kitsch of Liberace to find something close to the man.
Last week, Steven Soderbergh bemoaned the state of the film industry during a talk at the San Francisco International Film Fest, and this week, the Girls in Hoodies respond to some of his arguments. We use examples from a so-far-underwhelming summer movie season and Baz Luhrmann's upcoming The Great Gatsby 3D as fodder, and probably alienate every fan of Marvel's Avengers mega-franchise in the process.
Before anybody sits down to eat a big bowl of Iron Man 3 (well, any North American body; the rest of the world's been eating for a week, and based on the grosses I'd say they're full), Steven Soderbergh needs the world to know that the movies are in trouble. In a rambling but frequently pointed speech Saturday at the San Francisco International Film Festival, the man who gave us Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Bubble, three Ocean's movies, Che, The Informant!, Contagion, Side Effects, and a soon-to-be-aired movie with Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as his lover, lamented the death of art in the movies.
"We are a species that is driven by narrative" to make sense of the chaos, he told a receptive audience. But we are no longer in the narrative business. We're in the chaos business, the business business. The Hollywood studios are making fewer movies than they were a decade ago, while the number of independent films has grown astronomically during the same 10 years. But the studios dominate the marketing, which is why our grandmothers know the opening date for Man of Steel but have no idea who Olivier Assayas or Carlos Reygadas are. Soderbergh wondered why movies cost so much and, in a memorable observation, accused the executives of being acinematic and possibly movie-illiterate:
Amid all of the secrets and lies being spilled at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour are highly intriguing reports about Behind the Candelabra, the long-in-the-works, “too gay for Hollywood” Liberace biopic that Steven Soderbergh was finally able to get made thanks to HBO. Critics were treated on Friday to “a lengthy first look” at the movie, which is about the scorchingly flamboyant entertainer’s turbulent affair with his much younger assistant Scott Thorson. Vulture reports that Michael Douglas “disappears into his role” as Liberace, whose involvement with Thorson (played by a blond mop-topped Matt Damon) eventually ended in a highly publicized palimony suit. The preview included clips of Douglas and Damon making out by a pool and bickering at home in bed, as well as Douglas consulting his plastic surgeon (played by Rob Lowe, “whose eyebrows were arched to a stunning extreme for the role”) about how to make Thorson appear more Liberace-like.
New Year's Eve
EVERYTHING ALL OF THE TIME!!!!!!!!
Liev Schreiber has taken on his first regular television job: the starring role in Showtime’s Ray Donovan, a family drama with comedy elements about a Los Angeles “fixer” who solves problems for celebrities and rich people but can’t work out the issues in his own private life. Sounds great! Only one question right now: How long through the first episode until someone yells out at Liev, “You’re the fixer fix it!”? Grade: A- [Deadline]
Netflix has beat out Showtime for the return of Arrested Development, and the new episodes will be available to subscribers in early 2013. The plan is to make nine to ten episodes, each focusing on a different member of the Bluth family, before heading into the movie. Yes, T.V. nerds: this is really, actually, totally happening. Feel free to riot in excitement. Grade: A- [Deadline]
Channing Tatum is under consideration for The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Steven Soderbergh’s adaptation of the sixties spy show. The role was vacated by George Clooney, apparently because a surgery was physically preventing him from doing the stunt work required. By the way, Soderbergh is currently directing Tatum in the male stripper bonanaza Magic Mike, so hopefully Channing will get bring a few G-strings over U.N.C.L.E., too. Grade: B+ [Deadline]
Steven Soderbergh’s Liberace movie has been in the works for years, and now it’s got both a home and big-name lead actors. HBO has picked up Behind the Candelabra and set Michael Douglas to star as Liberace, with Matt Damon playing his live-in lover Scott Thorson; the movie will revolve around their relationship. This is great news and everything, but now we’re going to have to come up with a new title for our candelabra documentary. Grade: A [HR]
Of all the things to make a movie about, Channing Tatum's former stripping career seems like a strange choice. So bless Steven Soderbergh, then, for having the chutzpah to do Magic Mike, his upcoming film based on Tatum’s early work as a dancer in a Chippendales-esque Florida nightclub show called Male Encounter. Joining Tatum himself (who'll play the film's title role) will be stripping novices Matthew McConaughey, Joe Manganiello, Alex Pettyfer, and Matt Bomer. Sure, these guys look the part — but can they dance? Can they entertain? Could they hack it as Chippendales dancers? For answers, we presented photos and YouTube evidence of the cast's dancing abilities to Chippendales general manager Kristen Makhatini and dancer Jaymes Vaughan. Here's what they told us.
It’s not yet clear why, but George Clooney is dropping out of Steven Soderbergh’s adaptation of sixties spy drama The Man From U.N.C.L.E. This is going to be one of the last films Soderbergh does before transitioning to painting (really), so the least Clooney could to make it up to Soderbergh would be to, later on, pose in the nude. Grade: D [Deadline]
ABC has bought Hangtown, a western/procedural created by Battlestar Galactica’s Ron Moore and Caprica’s Matt Roberts. Set in the early 1900s, it features three primary characters: a marshal who always goes by his gut, a doctor pushing the new field of forensics, and a young female writer trying to sell dime novels about the West. Together, every week, these three solve crimes. What? Yes. Grade: D [Deadline]