Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
Even without having read Mark Helprin's novel Winter's Tale, I have the unshakable feeling that Akiva Goldsman's film adaptation does not do the story justice. Speckled throughout the moreover colorless movie are hints of an intriguing idea — a fantasy epic about an angel-demon bureaucracy coexisting with the human race throughout the span of 20th century New York City, operating within the parameters of a didactic miracle-granting system — an idea that doesn't come close to its full potential. In 118 minutes, we barely scratch the surface of the world in which an apparently immortal Colin Farrell finds himself. We see him cavort with Russell Crowe, a malicious gang-leader with netherworld origins, seek guidance from a mystical Pegasus, and carry out his destiny as the savior to a mysterious red-haired girl. But we never truly understand why any of this is happening. Not that it gets particularly confusing; on a plot level, it's all quite simple. But that's the problem — it shouldn't be.
The central conceit of the film is that everyone is put on this Earth with a divine "mission" to uphold. Farrell's gives us the narrative of Winter's Tale, introducing the various rules and officers of the supernatural regime along the way. Abandoned as a baby and brought up under the criminal regime of a Manhattanite from Hell (Crowe), Farrell ascends from orphan to petty thief to horse whispering renegade to whimsical lover of a dying Jessica Brown Findlay to ageless messiah... all without much clarity on the nature of the story (or stories) he's occupying, save for two ham-fisted scenes of exposition — one with Graham Greene (not the dead author) and one with Jennifer Connelly, who shows up halfway through the movie for some reason.
Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
The world that Farrell is woven into has so many bright spots: we're on board for miracle quests, a magic-laden New York City, flying horses, and one of the biggest stars in Hollywood giving a cameo as the epitome of evil. Everything we see is fun, but it all flutters away as quickly as it arrives. We don't want quick bites of the way angels and demons do business with one another on the streets of Manhattan, we want the whole meal. A more thorough exploration of Helprin's world wouldn't just be doubly as interesting as the thin alternative we're offered in Goldsman's adaptation, it'd also fill in all the comprehensive gaps in Farrell's emotional throughline
We don't really understand so much of what happens to Farrell. Even when we're offered tangible explanations, we have no reason to understand why the Winter's Tale world works in such a way that Farrell might survive a 300-foot fall, develop amnesia, or sustain youth for a full century. What's more, we don't understand why Farrell's tale as a cog in this mystical machine is any more important than anyone else's. Or, if it's not, and we're simply asked to watch him carry out his quest as a glimpse into the vast, enigmatic system that Winter's Tale is ostensibly founded upon, we ... we don't understand enough of that world itself.
Warner Bros Pictures via Everett Collection
We're never invited close enough to any of the movie's attractive features for them to matter. So even when the movie does offer entertaining bits — in its fantastical elements, its detail of New Yorks old and new, or Farrell's admittedly charming romance with Findlay — we're not engaged enough to really connect with any of them.
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Still, the flying horse is pretty cool.
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October 04, 2004 4:15pm EST
Bill Joel weds 23-year-old cooking student
Billy Joel married his fiancée, 23-year-old Kate Lee, in an afternoon ceremony Saturday at his Long Island home. According to Newsday.com, guards dressed in black patrolled the sprawling estate on Oyster Bay Harbor while Nassau County police patrolled the surrounding waters and a police helicopter flew overhead. Lee, a native of Huntington, W.Va., recently graduated from Ohio's Miami University and works as a restaurant correspondent for the PBS show George Hirsch: Living It Up! She and Joel began dating about a year ago. For the ceremony, Lee wore an Oscar de la Renta gown and a pair of custom-made Jimmy Choo shoes, Joel's publicist said. This is the singer-songwriter's third wedding. He was previously married to supermodel Christie Brinkley, the mother of Joel's 18-year-old daughter Alexa Ray. Brinkley, who graced the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine's famed swimsuit issue from 1979 through 1981, arrived at the ceremony in a silver van and offered kind words to the couple. "Congratulations to Billy and Katie," she told throngs reporters and curious onlookers clogging the road in front of the house. "We wish you every happiness." Joel, a member of the Rock and Roll hall of fame, received a star on Hollywood Boulevard last month in front of the Pantages Theatre, where Movin' Out, the Tony Award-winning musical based on his songs, is playing through Oct. 31.
Spears buys home in Malibu
Britney Spears, who "married" dancer Kevin Federline in Studio City, Calif., last month, bought a house in Malibu for just under $6.9 million. According to the Los Angeles Times, the traditional-style 9,000-square-foot home features eight bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a tennis court, pool, spa, gym and an outdoor kitchen. The validity of the 22-year-old singer's impromptu marriage to Federline, 26, was questioned a day after the Sept. 18 ceremony when it was widely reported the couple had not yet filed a marriage license--as they are required to do within 90 days under California law. At the time, Spears told People magazine they would file for the license the following week. A draft of the couple's prenuptial agreement obtained by Us Magazine estimates Spear's worth to be about $32 million.
SNL unveils all-female "Weekend Update"
Saturday Night Live unveiled the newest face of Weekend Update on its 30th season premiere Saturday when cast member Amy Poehler joined Tina Fey for the first all-female team in the show's history. Poehler, a regular cast member since Jan. 2001, replaces Jimmy Fallon, who exited the NBC comedy show in May after six years of reading the fake news with Fey. Past Weekend Update anchors have included Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Dennis Miller, Kevin Nealon and Norm Macdonald. SNL's debut, hosted by Ben Affleck, scored the highest season-premiere ratings in the show's past three years--up 15 percent over last year's debut with Jack Black. The telecast featured surprise guest appearances by Alec Baldwin and James Gandolfini, who editorialized on gay New Jersey governor James McGreevey during the Weekend Update segment.
Gibson obtains restraining order against stalker
Mel Gibson obtained a temporary restraining order against a man who allegedly showed up at his Malibu estate and the chapel he attends, demanding they pray together. The AP reports Zack Sinclair, 34, was arrested Sept. 20 for investigation of disorderly conduct and loitering and remained jailed last Friday on $5,000 bail pending an Oct. 6 court hearing. The restraining order, which was issued a day after his arrest, bars him from coming within 150 yards of Gibson, his wife or their seven children. According to court documents, Sinclair went to Gibson's estate twice in September and interrupted his worship Sept. 19 at a chapel and "demanded that I pray with him." The man also allegedly sent letters to Gibson and his family, which recounted his prayers for the actor, cited biblical verse and praised his film The Passion of the Christ.
Sharpton turns 50
Rev. Al Sharpton celebrated his 50th birthday in style. At Harlem's Apollo Theater Sunday, artists including James Brown, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and rappers Doug E. Fresh and Foxy Brown paid tribute to the preacher and former presidential candidate, including a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday," AP reports. "He says what he feels, he means what he says, and he acts on it," Foxy Brown said. "He has marched, has been jailed, and many times maligned in his fight for recognition of the downtrodden." Sharpton used the occasion to ask for donations for the civil rights organization he founded, the National Action Network, whose headquarters were damaged by an electrical fire last year.
Legendary photographer Avedon dies
Fashion photographer Richard Avedon, who turned fashion and portrait photography into art forms and found new faces of women later dubbed supermodels, died Friday, a spokeswoman for the New Yorker magazine told Reuters. He was 81. Avedon, who captured unforgettable images of some of the world's most famous figures, died in San Antonio, Texas, almost a week after he suffered a brain hemorrhage while working on a photo essay on democracy for the magazine, spokeswoman Perri Dorset said.
Get Carter tops best British films
The 1971 cult hit Get Carter starring Michael Caine as a London gangster investigating the mysterious death of his brother topped Total Film magazine's list of the 50 best British films, AP reports. Carter bested other classics such as Monty Python's Life of Brian and Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange. Notable absences from the list include Oscar-winners Chariots of Fire and Gandhi.
Reported by Kit Bowen.
Top Story: Disney Blocks Moore Documentary
The Walt Disney Co. has moved to stop its Miramax Films subsidiary from distributing Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore's upcoming documentary Fahrenheit 911. The documentary touches on the personal relationship between President George H. W. Bush and Osama bin Laden's family as well as the events that led Bush and bin Laden to become enemies. According to a report Wednesday in the New York Times, Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel, said Disney CEO Michael Eisner expressed concern the release of the film would endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park and hotels in Florida, where President Bush's brother, Jeb Bush, is governor. But one Disney executive denied that allegation, telling the Times the company did not want to be seen taking sides in the election and risk alienating customers of different political views. In a statement, Moore said: "I would have hoped by now that I would be able to put my work out to the public without having to experience the profound censorship obstacles I often seem to encounter. The whole story behind this (and other attempts) to kill our movie will be told in more detail as the days and weeks go on. All I can say is, thank God for [Miramax Chairman] Harvey Weinstein and Miramax, who have stood by me during the entire production of this movie." Fahrenheit 911, which was slated for release in July, will still premiere in competition at the Cannes Film Festival this month.
Idol Finalists Hit the Road
In what has become a sort of tradition, the top 10 finalists from Fox's third American Idol season have made plans for a summer North American tour. The finalists include Fantasia Barrino, Diana DeGarmo, George Huff, Jasmine Trias and La Toya London as well as the already voted out Amy Adams, Camile Velasco, Jennifer Hudson, John Stevens and Jon Peter Lewis. Reuters reports the 48-city tour will kick off July 14 in Salt Lake City and end Sept. 26 in San Jose, Calif. The two-hour American Idol season finale is scheduled for May 26.
Anna Nicole Launches Clothing Line
Former Guess? model and Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith is planning to create a clothing line with the trendy outfitter Von Dutch, Extra reports. Smith, whose real name is Vickie Lynn Hogan, is currently on a world tour promoting the weight loss company Trim Spa, to which she credits having lost 69 pounds. The 36-year-old entertainer's reality TV series The Anna Nicole Show, which followed her daily misadventures, was canceled after ratings slipped from their all-time high in August 2002 when the series debuted.
Madonna Kicks Up Privacy Efforts
Madonna, meanwhile, is kicking the fight to keep hikers off her $16 million English country estate up a notch. Reuters reports a public inquiry opened Wednesday to look into whether English walkers, known across the pond as "ramblers," can saunter through Madonna and Guy Ritchie's 1,200 acre Ashcombe House estate in Dorset, southwest England--of which 100 acres has been defined as open country and therefore open to the public. The couple argues the land should be reclassified as "semi-improved" grassland because it is used for shooting game, which would define it as agricultural land and exclude it from public access. The inquiry is expected to last five days, with a verdict due this summer.
Usher Misses Chilli
R&B singer Usher recently told Rolling Stone magazine that every once in a while he thinks about calling his ex, TLC's Chilli. The two ended their highly publicized relationship earlier this year. "Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I did call [Chilli]," he said. "Would it become a good thing or would it become a bad thing? I think it's best that I don't call." The couple and Chilli's son lived in Usher's Atlanta home before the split. Chilli is now reportedly dating Baltimore Ravens football star Ray Lewis.
Emmys Test Online Voting
The Emmys will become the first major award show to offering online voting, Variety reports. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has sanctioned online voting for its interactive television Emmy and is pegging it as a test run for a system that may be expanded to the rest of its awards. "The technology is here, and it is only fitting that the Interactive Media Peer Group sets the precedent for online voting with this particular Emmy Award," ATAS chairman Dick Askin told Variety. "We hope it is a process that will be extended in the future to other Emmy Award categories."
Frasier May Live On
Could another incarnation of Frasier be in the works? As the long-running series comes to an end this year, Variety reports that according to industry insiders, Paramount topper Garry Hart met with NBC execs to discuss possibly extending the Frasier franchise, chronicling the next phase in Dr. Frasier Crane's life. All parties involved are declining comment, but industry insiders told Variety NBC opted against continuing the franchise, giving Paramount free reign to shop a new Frasier show to another network. It's unclear if star Kelsey Grammer would continue his Frasier character in a third series, but Grammer, who has played Frasier Crane for 20 years, has made it clear that he wouldn't have minded if Frasier continued on.
Another HIV Case Hits CA Porn Industry
A fourth adult film performer, a transsexual actress who goes by the stage name Jennifer, has tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS but the case is unrelated to an outbreak that virtually shut down pornography production last month, an industry health care official told Reuters on Tuesday. The performer had last performed a sex scene on Feb. 27 with two male actors who have since tested negative, according to Sharon Mitchell of the Adult Industry Medical Healthcare Foundation. "This is an open-and-shut case of genealogy," she told Reuters. "We think it's contained."
Role Call: Amityville Horror Revisited
British commercial director Andrew Douglas will make his feature film debut with an update of the 1979 thriller The Amityville Horror. The original, starring James Brolin, Margot Kidder and Rod Steiger, centered on a newlywed couple who move into a mysterious house where all sorts of strange things happen.
Kit Bowen contributed to this report.