After a showing of the new documentary The Unknown Known at the Angelika the other day, I shuffled out behind an older couple. He was white-haired and radiating dissatisfaction. And she was saying she'd enjoyed the movie. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had not come off all that bad, she said.
In his latest film, Tabloid, documentary filmmaker Errol Morris revisits a bizarre story that dominated the British rags 30 years ago. It was a simpler time. Voicemail hadn't yet been invented, so there was nothing to hack. Our heroine, Joyce McKinney, was a busty former Miss Wyoming with an I.Q. of 168. Living then in L.A., McKinney hired a pilot, a private detective, and several musclebound bodyguards, and set off to England to rescue the runaway fiance she was convinced had been brainwashed by the Mormon Church.
Laura Linney turns 46 today. Actress Jennifer Jason Leigh is turning 48. Retired New York Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Sr. is 84. Writer/director Christopher Guest is turning 62. Baseball legend Hank Aaron is 76. Movie director Michael Mann is turning 67. Documentarian Errol Morris is 62. Michigan's governor, Jennifer Granholm, turns 51. Videogame pioneer Nolan Bushnell is 67. Former SNL stars Chris Parnell and Tim Meadows are turning 43 and 49, respectively. And Mr. Bobby Brown turns 41 today. A few people celebrating birthdays this weekend are below.
Jennifer Jason Leigh turns 47 today. Sulzberger family patriarch and former Times publisher Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Sr. is 83. Former Morgan Stanley co-president Bob Scully is 59. Actress Laura Linney is turning 45. Writer/director Christopher Guest is 61. Baseball legend Hank Aaron is turning 75. Film director Michael Mann is 66. Oscar-winning documentarian Errol Morris is 61. Bobby Brown is turning 40. And two former SNL stars are celebrating today: Chris Parnell is 42 and Tim Meadows is 48.
The lauded, mishandled film Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired saw its high Oscar hopes perish Monday when the Academy announced its shortlist of candidates for this year's Best Documentary Feature prize. It joined other conspicuous snubs including the year's top-grossing doc Religulous and the follow-up doc from last year's winner Alex Gibney. But there's a bit of extra sting afflicting Wanted and Desired, which compellingly challenged Polanski's 1978 rape conviction and eventual exile in Paris and was a Sundance darling before HBO acquired it for broadcast last summer. As you might recall, that could have gone better — both then and now.The network's attempt to qualify the film for Oscar consideration — by burying it for a week in the farthest reaches of L.A. and Manhattan — denied it the "true release" Academy voters are fond of; a later theatrical run grossed less than $60,000 and hastened its fade from Oscar consideration. Religulous pulled the same stunt prior to premiering at Toronto in September; it fared better with Lionsgate behind it, earning $12.5 million since its release Oct. 1. But that's about all the gold it'll get. On the bright side, Werner Herzog is a step closer to his first Oscar nomination; the Bavarian maverick was shortlisted for his quirky Antarctic adventure Encounters at the End of the World. Any fan of his jilted 2005 classic Grizzly Man will agree justice delayed remains justice denied, but every bit helps. He'll face old pal and '04 winner Errol Morris, whose Iraq doc Standard Operating Procedure was shortlisted as well and whose vying against Herzog for an Oscar is itself the surreal, cerebral stuff of a feature-length doc in the making. Or at least we hope so; those guys film everything.
We liked Errol Morris's new film Standard Operating Procedure just fine, and we hope he's right about his Abu Ghraib exploration's chances to buck the persistent Iraq-film box-office curse. We can't say, however, we're as eager to see it popularize the trend in Oscar-Winning Documentarians Paying For Interviews — a surprising and fairly icky career pattern Morris revealed at an SOP screening last week.
Defamer bumped into Oscar-winner Errol Morris last night at a special screening of his new film Standard Operating Procedure, a harrowing, exhaustive exploration of the scandal and aftermath of the torture photos taken at Abu Ghraib. After drawing Morris's attention with the tray of delicious hors d'oeuvres we were serving as part of our second job, we managed to corner him into a few quick comments about the prospects for his documentary in an increasingly inhospitable era for movies about the Iraq War.