Monday Morning Critic 3.14.2011 – Steve Soderbergh, Morning Glory

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

You know what I’m getting sick of? Directors announcing their retirements well before they’re actually ready to go away. We had Kevin Smith announcing his during the build up to his self-distribution of Red State that Hit Somebody would be his last film. Now Steven Soderbergh is the latest in the buildup to Haywire is that he has two films left before he walks away: The Man from U.N.C.L.E adaptation and his Liberace biopic starring Michael Douglas.

To me it gets a little bothersome because it’s not like they’re announcing it after the fact. I get why they do it, because they’re trying to get interest into current projects and get mouths flapping, but one of the things that bothers me about this is all it is doing is set up the movie after the “retirement” project. It’s really bad Shakespeare as opposed to a set plan to walk away from it all. Why?

Because we all know what’s going to happen: a brief sabbatical before returning with a new film in the not so distant future.

It’s kind of sad but this is just the first step in a plan to rewrite a director’s career history without having to actually do work. Why? Because we always look back on someone’s career more warmly when they’re gone, as opposed to than when they’re here and working. Look at Michael Jackson: “Thriller” is so good that it excuses most of his kid-raping tendencies. In a decade people will have forgotten that he tore through an entire kindergarten’s worth of little boys and instead was the “King of Pop.” It happens to most artists; Roman Polanski will have that pesky “convicted rapist” label pulled away as soon as he dies. And in the absence of death, as Soderbergh and Smith are both pretty young guys at this point, we’ll see a handful of things happen before the inevitable comeback. Call it Kubryk’s Five Point Guide to Coming Back in Hollywood:

1. Immediate Discussion of a “Legacy” immediately afterwards

One of the things about any sort of retirement of a significant actor, film-maker of athlete is that immediately afterwards people will discussion any sort of impact they had. Chuck Liddell retires from the UFC & MMA and we discuss his impact of popularizing the sport, etc. All the current negatives are kind of washed aside. Liddell’s chin, to use him as an example, turned to glass at the end of his career and he kept getting KTFO by anyone who punched him, yet him eating a left hook from Mauricio Rua and going out are forgotten. His famous headkicks are replayed endlessly. The positives of a long career are shunted forward. Soderbergh will go from a guy who was hit or miss throughout his career, winning an Oscar for his biggest hit (Traffic), but the misses (like The Girlfriend Experience, which showed less of Sasha Grey as a hooker than she showed on a season of Entourage) will be shoved aside as “experimental” and shunted down the memory hole.

2. Sinking away from the spotlight

Part of being famous, and leaving the profession that made you famous, is that eventually you disappear for a while. Smith will continue to do his speaking tours, maybe doing some work as a writer for a film or two as a favor, but outside of the hardcore fans he won’t be relevant.

3. Film library gets reinterpreted

There’ll come a point when we stop remembering Kevin Smith as being a bit of a douche and remember the good times of Clerks, et al. It’s like breaking up with an ex. We remember the good times and the cute things they did, and remember how awesome the sex was, but push away from our minds the bad things. Like how signed up your phone number to a handful of online contests and let telemarketers call you all the time immediately after a breakup where you said they weren’t “hot enough” and that you thought you could “do better.” And then time will pass and you forget the petty stuff and remember the good times, enough to the point where you remember them as a positive experience (if ending on a down note). Michael Jackson’s pedophilia will be shunted down the memory whole by 2030 and all that’ll be left is some weird anecdotes and a library of hits.

4. Rumors

After a couple years, maybe a decade, we’ll see one or both of these directors flirt with projects (or at least be rumored to have done so) unsuccessfully. It’ll never be confirmed they were interested but you can be certain feelers will be out there. Maybe there’s a rumor that someone saw a script alleged to be new work to be directed by Soderbergh and starring an aged Brad Pitt or something. The spin will be a “legendary director” thinking of coming out of retirement, ala Michael Jordan working out before he joined the Wizards and claiming he wanted to lose weight to fit back into his suits.

5. The Big Comeback

Why would a famous director come out of retirement? For the right project with the right people and the right script, plus a big fat paycheck too, they would. The right idea just “came” to them and now they feel reinvigorated. Imagine if Kevin Smith pulls this off. He’ll have gone from a director who had a slightly successful studio project and two “personal” films after years of being a cult comedy director coming back because he was inspired. The buzz is palpable and people are now excited to see the Clerks guy back. He has gone from being the guy who picks fights and whose films don’t bring in massive crowds to being a legendary cult director coming back with a vengeance.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – Morning Glory

When you need a young female lead for a quirky film with a romantic comedy subplot, you usually have the choice of a lot of actresses. But once you get turned down by Anne Hathaway, you really have two choices: Katherine Heigl and Rachel McAdams. One imagines Heigl is the better choice, as she’s a bit more photogenic and is perceived to be the bigger star because she has been a major television star and has had a bit more high profile films than McAdams. McAdams has the better resume but Heigl seems to be the bigger name. But then again it doesn’t take much to go against Killers or The Ugly Truth. But there’s one truth that seems to be more evident per film:

Heigl isn’t very likeable.

She’s one of those actresses that look nice but there’s just something about her that is hard to really like. Even in Knocked Up she was kind of hard to root for. She was good in it but you know once the cameras turned off she probably kicked a puppy for fun. Which is why I’ve been more of a fan of McAdams, despite her being in The Notebook, because she seems like a naturally warm person. There are a handful of actresses who, despite playing warm likeable characters, you know they probably have donated money to NAMBLA at some point. You don’t get that with McAdams; she can play a flustered but overtly nice character because she seems like the kind that would actually be nice when the cameras aren’t rolling. Thus the reason why Morning Glory works is because of this.

Becky Fuller (McAdams) is the new executive producer of the morning show “Day Break,” a fictional morning show falling behind its better known counterparts like “Good Morning America.” Woefully inexperienced, she’s the cheapest option for Jerry (Jeff Goldblum) and thus has control over a flailing television show. Bringing her own enthusiasm, she is charged with resurrecting a dying show with a diva (Diane Keaton) host and not enough money to have working door knobs. Bringing aboard her idol, a legendary newsman (Harrison Ford) who turns out to be a bit of a curmudgeon and the “third worst person in the world” per a potential new love interest (Patrick Wilson), Becky has her hands full.

And normally this is the kind of film you’d think “man, I bet Katherine Heigl is involved somehow” and yet McAdams is in this film. This is the kind of film she would be awful in but McAdams takes similar material to The Ugly Truth and just absolutely crushes it. Becky is exasperated and energetic, never going to quit, who absolutely loses her cool on occasion to spectacular affect. If it had been Heigl she’d come across as a bit of a bitch, and thus a bit caustic, but McAdams manages to make it funny. She has this ability to turn a meltdown from something that nearly can stop a film dead in the water to something that is actually entertaining.

Strong recommendation.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

Paul – Nick Frost and Simon Pegg are taking a tour of alien sites in the Southwest. Then they meet a real alien (Seth Rogen) and go on wacky and apparently foul-mouthed adventures.

See It – It has a pedigree to it and there hasn’t been a great R-rated comedy so far this year. This might be it.

Limitless – Bradley Cooper takes a pill that allows him to use 100% of his functioning brain power. Bad things happen when a bad man (Robert De Niro) figures it all out.

See It – This’ll be the big test for Cooper as a leading man. So far he hasn’t really headlined a major release by himself; he was in ensembles on The Hangover and The A-Team. He has the looks and everything you want in a leading man in looks plus has presence and charisma, which you can’t teach. But plenty of other actors have been in his same place and failed.

The Lincoln Lawyer – Matthew McConaughey is a criminal defense attorney who works out of his Lincoln Continental. His latest client is a rich kid (Ryan Philippe) is accused of raping a girl and needs the lawyer in the Lincoln.

See It – There’s an actor inside McConaughey waiting to come out, as opposed to the guy who just takes his shirt off in romantic comedies. Will this be it? I don’t know … but I’ll end up shelling out cash to see.

Do you have questions about movies, life, love, or Branigan’s Law? Shoot me an e-mail at Kubryk@Insidepulse.com and you could be featured in the next “Monday Morning Critic.” Include your name and hometown to improve your odds.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @MMCritic_Kubryk.

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