It was the trickle of pee heard around the world. Cannes attendees were aghast and/or amused an infamous scene from The Paperboy that shows Nicole Kidman urinating on Zac Efron; this is apparently a great salve for jellyfish burns which were covering our Ken Doll-like protagonist. (In fact the term protagonist should be used very loosely for Efron's character Jack who is mostly acted upon than active throughout.)
Lurid! Sexy! Perverse! Trashy! Whether or not it's actually effective is overshadowed by all the hubbub that's attached itself to the movie for better or worse. In fact the movie is all of these things — but that's actually not a compliment. What could have become somethingmemorable is jaw-droppingly bad (when it's not hilarious). Director Lee Daniels uses a few different visual styles throughout from a stark black and white palette for a crime scene recreation at the beginning to a '70s porno aesthetic that oscillates between psychedelic and straight-up sweaty with an emphasis on Efron's tighty-whiteys. This only enhances the sloppiness of the script which uses lines like narrator/housekeeper/nanny Anita's (Macy Gray) "You ain't tired enough to be retired " to conjure up the down-home wisdom of the South. Despite Gray's musical talents she is not a good choice for a narrator or an actor for that matter. In a way — insofar as they're perhaps the only female characters given a chunk of screen time — her foil is Charlotte Bless Nicole Kidman's character. Anita is the mother figure who wears as we see in an early scene control-top pantyhose whereas Charlotte is all clam diggers and Barbie doll make-up. Or as Anita puts it "an oversexed Barbie doll."
The slapdash plot is that Jack's older brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey) comes back to town with his colleague Yardley (David Oyelowo) to investigate the case of a death row criminal named Hillary Van Wetter. Yardley is black and British which seems to confuse many of the people he meets in this backwoods town. Hillary (John Cusack) hidden under a mop of greasy black hair) is a slack-jawed yokel who could care less if he's going to be killed for a crime he might or might not have committed. He is way more interested in his bride-to-be Charlotte who has fallen in love with him through letters — this is her thing apparently writing letters and falling in love with inmates — and has rushed to help Ward and Yardley free her man. In the meantime we're subjected to at least one simulated sex scene that will haunt your dreams forever. Besides Hillary's shortcomings as a character that could rustle up any sort of empathy the case itself is so boring it begs the question why a respected journalist would be interested enough to pursue it.
The rest of the movie is filled with longing an attempt to place any the story in some sort of social context via class and race even more Zac Efron's underwear sexual violence alligator innards swamp people in comically ramshackle homes and a glimpse of one glistening McConaughey 'tock. Harmony Korine called and he wants his Gummo back.
It's probably tantalizing for this cast to take on "serious" "edgy" work by an Oscar-nominated director. Cusack ditched his boombox blasting "In Your Eyes" long ago and Efron's been trying to shed his squeaky clean image for so long that he finally dropped a condom on the red carpet for The Lorax so we'd know he's not smooth like a Ken doll despite how he was filmed by Daniels. On the other hand Nicole Kidman has been making interesting and varied career choices for years so it's confounding why she'd be interested in a one-dimensional character like Charlotte. McConaughey's on a roll and like the rest of the cast he's got plenty of interesting projects worth watching so this probably won't slow him down. Even Daniels is already shooting a new film The Butler as we can see from Oprah's dazzling Instagram feed. It's as if they all want to put The Paperboy behind them as soon as possible. It's hard to blame them.
Mya Lewis Ben Clark and the rest of the humanity living in Terminus (a city of the future) are going about their lives late on the night before New Year’s Eve when a strange signal begins messing up their televisions cell phones and radios. At first they are just annoyed but then the terror begins as the signal begins to drive people to murderous aggression with random killings taking over everywhere. Some like Mya are not affected by the signal; while others like her estranged husband Lewis float in and out of crazed violence. As the story unfolds told in three segments by three different directors squirting gore abounds juxtaposed with surreal moments fantasy sequences and seemingly invincible characters that somehow survive grisly graphic death blows and come back for more. As the 24 hours of New Year’s Eve winds down the carnage slows a bit but the damage is done as civilization will never quite be the same again. The Signal is a low-budget independent film populated with actors you have never heard of mostly from the Atlanta area where the film was conceived and created. The best of the bunch is Anessa Ramsey who plays Mya with a nuanced compelling style that makes you want her to be on the screen much more than she actually is. Justin Welborn (as Ben her illicit lover) is also a discovery--a quietly handsome guy who brings a realistic feel to a film that is mostly way over the top. A.J. Bowen is a hulking presence as Lewis Mya’s relentlessly jealous and violent husband who will stop at nothing to find her and keep her by his side and Scott Poythress as Clark melds a bit of comic lightness into his role as one of the few still-sane inhabitants of Terminus--despite the fact that he has one scene where he has a conversation with a severed head. Overall the acting in the film is pretty believable no mean feat for a script that calls for the characters to maintain an almost constant state of fear or aggression. The Signal is a three-way project broken into three segments (called “Transmissions”) and each directed by a different person: David Bruckner Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry. They are part of the Atlanta-based POP Films (Gentry’s cult film Last Goodbye was the company’s first effort) and are long-time friends as well. Collaborating together yet each responsible for their own segment the three made the film in less than two weeks for under five million dollars. A 2007 Sundance Film Festival favorite there is much to like about the movie despite its obvious low-budget production values. Slightly disjointed and sometimes not quite following the plot points one of the others has set beforehand. In one scene there is an extremely gory murder of one of the main characters whose head is completely bashed to pulp only to have him miraculously reappear later on with barely a scratch on him. Huh? The three still have a ways to go before they can be compared to horror masters like Wes Craven or George Romero but The Signal is not a bad beginning and shows promise of things yet to come.
Top Story: Jackson's Parents Offer To Adopt Children
In an interview airing today at 10 p.m. EST on ABC's 20/20, Michael Jackson's parents said he is innocent and have offered to adopt his children if they're taken away from him. "Some people are trying to accuse him of being a pedophile, and that is not true," Katherine Jackson. "Hhe said, 'Mother, don't worry, it's not the truth.' But I told him you don't know these wicked people, the people are just mean and wicked." Jackson, who was arrested Nov. 20 on suspicion of molesting a boy at his Neverland Ranch outside Santa Barbara, Calif., has denied the allegations. He was released on $3 million bail the same day and has not yet been charged. When asked whether they would try to adopt the two boys and a girl if that happens, Jackson's father Joe answered, "Well ... they're my grandkids. I have to."
George Clinton Files Innocent Plea
Funk musician George Clinton, who was arrested in Tallahassee, Fla., over the weekend and charged with possession of cocaine and drug paraphernalia, filed an innocent plea to drug charges Thursday, The Associated Press reports. No trial date has been set. Police said Clinton was sitting in the passenger side of a car at a gas station when they approached him and told them he had cocaine in his pocket. He was arrested, charged and later released on $2,650 bail. Clinton headed the funk bands Parliament and Funkadelic in the 1970s and 1980s and his 1983 solo album, Atomic Dog, rose to the top of the R&B charts.
It's "Sir" Mick Jagger Now
Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger received Britain's ultimate accolade Friday when he was knighted by heir to the throne Prince Charles in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace, Reuters reports. Jagger, 60, rejected suggestions that he had sold out to the same establishment that he had scoffed at for so long: "I don't really think the establishment as we knew it exists any more," he said, tossing his head slightly. Jagger, who attended the ceremony with his 92-year-old father Joe and two of his daughters, showed his rebellious streak by shunning the traditional top hat and tails and opting instead for a long black leather coat, purple scarf and sports shoes.
Deschanel and Gyllenhaal Host Sundance Awards
Zooey Deschanel and Jake Gyllenhaal, who played discontented discount store employees in last year's The Good Girl, will team up again to co-host the Sundance Film Festival Awards on Jan. 24. Playing at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, which is scheduled for Jan. 15-25, are The Woodsman, starring husband-and-wife team Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, and We Don't Live Here Anymore with Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Peter Krause and Naomi Watts. Another film selection is The Clearing, starring Helen Mirren, Willem Dafoe and Robert Redford, the festival's founder.
Will & Grace Creators Sue NBC Companies
David Kohan and Jason "Max" Mutchnick, creators of the hit NBC comedy Will & Grace, sued the network and its in-house production company, NBC Studios, Thursday, claiming the companies conspired to keep them from their fair share of the show's earnings. According to Reuters, the suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleges breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty by the NBC companies. Kohan and Mutchnick say the licensing terms for the show were "insufficient even to cover a reasonable percentage of the series' production costs" and accuse companies of deliberately undervaluing the sitcom in the deal by which the production company licensed the show to its sister network.
Pharrell To Launch Clothing Line
Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes announced Thursday the launch of two new apparel ventures in partnership with Reebok: Ice Cream, a collection of men's and women's footwear, and Billionaire Boys Club, a men's clothing collection. According to MTV.com, the lines will launch next summer and feature a select run of five or six items available only in high-end boutiques and better department stores. Pharrell's Billionaire Boys Club T-shirts made brief appearances his Frontin' video and onstage during recent shows by his band N.E.R.D. The line will offer T-shirts, athletic clothing, jeans and button-down shirts.
Luciano Pavarotti To Wed Longtime Girlfriend
Opera star Luciano Pavarotti will marry longtime partner Nicoletta Mantovani in his hometown Saturday, the AP reports. Guests will include U2 frontman Bono, Sting, fashion designer Donatella Versace and soccer star Alessandro Del Piero. Giorgio Armani is providing the wedding gowns for Mantovani and the couple's year-old daughter Alice. Pavarotti, 68, has three children from his marriage to former manager Adua Veroni.
Sting Honored by MusicCares
Tony Bennett, the Black Eyed Peas, Elvis Costello, Dido, Elton John, Diana Krall, k.d. lang, Dave Matthews, John Mayer and Rufus Wainwright will perform at the 2004 MusiCares Person of the Year gala in honor of Sting, the AP reports. Sting, 52, is set to receive the honor at a special tribute dinner, concert and silent auction Feb. 6 in Los Angeles. The gala is part of a weeklong festival leading up to the Grammy Awards, which will be presented Feb. 8. He was selected for his accomplishments as a musician, humanitarian and environmental activist by MusiCares, which provides assistance to music people in times of need.
Role Call: Haven Draws Bruckner and Cannavale
Blue Car's Agnes Bruckner and
The nominations for the 2004 IFP Independent Spirit Awards are in, and with more submissions than ever before in the ceremony's history, it looks like a hot race.
Jeff Kleeman, IFP committee chair, had this to say: "With more submissions and less time then ever before, the Nominating Committee watched and discussed over 190 films in six weeks -- an act of extreme devotion that proved to be tremendously rewarding."
Dawn Hudson, IFP executive producer, added that this year's batch of nominees is particularly diverse, and commended the fact there are more highly talented women writers and directors emerging on the independent film scene, including nominees Shari Springer Berman, Sofia Coppola and Catherine Hardwicke.
Films that have been nominated for IFP Independent Spirit Awards were selected based on their original and provocative subject matter, uniqueness of vision, and financial characteristics, including total budget, individual compensation, and percentage of independent financing.
Last year's ISA winners included the film Far From Heaven (best feature), Julianne Moore (best director and lead actress), and Dennis Quaid (best supporting actor).
The 2004 IFP Independent Spirit Awards ceremony will air live on Feb. 28 at 5 p.m. EST on the Independent Film Channel, and will be broadcast at 10 p.m. EST/PST on Bravo.
The nominees for the 2004 IFP Independent Spirit Awards are (by category):
Lost in Translation
Raising Victor Vargas
Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini - American Splendor
Sofia Coppola - Lost in Translation
Jim Sheridan - In America
Peter Sollett - Raising Victor Vargas
Gus Van Sant - Elephant
American Splendor - Writers: Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini
Lost in Translation - Writer: Sofia Coppola
A Mighty Wind - Writers: Christopher Guest & Eugene Levy and the cast of A Mighty Wind
Pieces of April - Writer: Peter Hedges
Shattered Glass - Writer: Billy Ray
Best First Feature
Bomb the System - Director: Adam Bhala Lough; Producers: Ben Rekhi, Sol Tryon
House of Sand and Fog - Director: Vadim Perelman; Producers: Michael London, Vadim Perelman
Monster - Director: Patty Jenkins; Producers: Mark Damon, Donald Kushner, Clark Peterson, Charlize Theron, Brad Wyman
Quattro Noza - Director: Joey Curtis; Producer: Fredric King
Thirteen - Director: Catherine Hardwicke; Producers: Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, Michael London
John Cassavetes Award
Anne B. Real - Director: Lisa France; Writers: Lisa France, Antonio Macia, Producers: Josselyne Herman, Luis Moro, Jeanine Rohn
Better Luck Tomorrow - Director: Justin Lin; Writers: Ernesto M. Foronda, Justin Lin, Fabian Marquez; Producers: Julie Asato, Ernesto M. Foronda, Justin Lin
Pieces of April - Writer/Director: Peter Hedges; Producers: Alexis Alexanian, John S. Lyons, Gary Winick
The Station Agent - Writer/Director: Thomas McCarthy; Producers: Mary Jane Skalski, Robert May, Kathryn Tucker
Virgin - Writer/Director: Deborah Kampmeier; Producer:Sarah Schenck
Best First Screenplay
Blue Car- Writer: Karen Moncrieff
Monster - Writer: Patty Jenkins
Raising Victor Vargas - Writers: Peter Sollett and Eva Vives
The Station Agent - Writer: Thomas McCarthy
Thirteen - Writers: Catherine Hardwicke & Nikki Reed
Best Female Lead
Agnes Bruckner - Blue Car
Zooey Deschanel - All the Real Girls
Samantha Morton - In America
Elisabeth Moss - Virgin
Charlize Theron - Monster
Best Male Lead
Peter Dinklage - The Station Agent
Paul Giamatti - American Splendor
Sir Ben Kingsley - House of Sand and Fog
Bill Murray - Lost in Translation
Lee Pace - Soldier's Girl
Best Supporting Female
Shohreh Aghdashloo - House of Sand and Fog
Sarah Bolger - In America
Patricia Clarkson - Pieces of April
Hope Davis - The Secret Lives of Dentists
Frances McDormand - Laurel Canyon
Best Supporting Male
Judah Friedlander - American Splendor
Troy Garity - Soldier's Girl
Djimon Hounsou - In America
Alessandro Nivola - Laurel Canyon
Peter Sarsgaard - Shattered Glass
Best Debut Performance
Anna Kendrick - Camp
Judy Marte - Raising Victor Vargas
Victor Rasuk - Raising Victor Vargas
Nikki Reed - Thirteen
Janice Richardson - Anne B. Real
Elephant - Harris Savides
In America - Declan Quinn
Northfork - M. David Mullen
Quattro Noza - Derek Cianfrance
Shattered Glass - Mandy Walker
Best Foreign Film
City of God (Brazil)
Lilya 4-Ever (Denmark)
The Magdalene Sisters (England/Ireland)
The Triplets of Belleville (France)
Whale Rider (New Zealand)
The Fog of War
Mayor of the Sunset Strip
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