Hulk — does the new TV spot have a spoiler?

There have been rumours of trouble behind the scenes on The Incredible Hulk, which opens this Friday, but Marvel Studios has had enormous success already this summer with Iron Man — which may turn out to be the only film this summer that grosses over $300 million. And Marvel has already announced its intention to bring all its heroes together in one big cross-over film called The Avengers, three years from now. So is it any wonder that, just to be safe, they would run a Hulk ad like the one here — even though it may or may not begin with a spoiler?

Bill Maher’s religiosatire — the marketing begins

The publicity campaign for Religulous, the religion-mocking documentary starring Bill Maher and directed by Larry Charles, has ramped up a bit over the last few days. (Prior to this, there was little more than a couple of posters, a couple of photos, and a demo reel and panel discussion at the Toronto International Film Festival — and of course the film comes up whenever Maher does his usual interviews on Larry King and the like.) Click here for Disbeliefnet, a website that basically spoofs Beliefnet — note the similar font in the mastheads — and click here for the trailer, which seems kind of mild, to me. There is little here that you wouldn’t find in a film made by The Wittenburg Door — and a few of the humourous bits seem to rely on using two-second clips of people not saying anything, as if to imply that Maher has left them speechless. Then again, one of the clips shows Maher being left speechless by something someone says, so it’s all good, right?

Flags, Spike, Clint, and Spike again.

Two years ago, Clint Eastwood released a couple of World War II flicks that told the story of a single battle from opposite points of view, one American and one Japanese.

Most critics seemed to like Letters from Iwo Jima, the Japanese film, better than Flags of Our Fathers, the American film, but I found Flags much more interesting than Letters, mainly because I’m really interested in the nature of photography and the relationship between mythic images and the mundane realities behind them. One of my favorite quotes, from Chris Marker’s La Jeteé (1962), states: “Nothing tells memories from ordinary moments; only afterwards do they claim remembrance, on account of their scars.” Photographs — those pieces of film or bits of data on a flash card — are the scars that separate slivers in time from the ordinary moments that came before and after them and are now forgotten while the photographs live on. And it is always interesting to see how some slivers in time come to take on a greater iconic meaning that goes way beyond the original ordinariness of the moment.

Incidentally, I just discovered via Wikipedia that there is actual colour 16mm footage of the flag raising, which you can watch at that site. How fascinating to see this black-and-white still photo come to life like that. The 16mm footage was apparently shot from almost the exact same angle as the photo, and, following the Marker quote above, you could almost say that the frame which resembles the photo most closely would be the “scar” that we have all remembered, while all the frames that come before and after it are the “ordinary moments” that we have forgotten. Or, rather, we would have forgotten them, if it were not for the 16mm footage. But now the 16mm footage has, itself, become the “scar” that remembers a narrow sliver of time — not as narrow as the photo, but still narrow in its own way — while all the things that happened before and after the camera rolled have passed into oblivion.

Anyway. Eastwood’s World War II movies are back in the news again, now that Spike Lee has snapped at them and Eastwood has snapped back. The Guardian reports:

Clint Eastwood folds his gangly frame behind a clifftop table at the Hotel Du Cap, a few miles up the coast from Cannes, sighs deeply, and squints out over the Mediterranean. “Has he ever studied the history?” he asks, in that familiar near-whisper.

The “he” is Spike Lee, and the reason Eastwood is asking is because of something Lee had said about Eastwood’s Iwo Jima movie Flags of Our Fathers, while promoting his own war movie, Miracle at St Anna, about a black US unit in the second world war. Lee had noted the lack of African-Americans in Eastwood’s movie and told reporters: “That was his version. The negro version did not exist.”

Eastwood has no time for Lee’s gripes. “He was complaining when I did Bird [the 1988 biopic of Charlie Parker]. Why would a white guy be doing that? I was the only guy who made it, that’s why. He could have gone ahead and made it. Instead he was making something else.” As for Flags of Our Fathers, he says, yes, there was a small detachment of black troops on Iwo Jima as a part of a munitions company, “but they didn’t raise the flag. The story is Flags of Our Fathers, the famous flag-raising picture, and they didn’t do that. If I go ahead and put an African-American actor in there, people’d go, ‘This guy’s lost his mind.’ I mean, it’s not accurate.”

Lee shouldn’t be demanding African-Americans in Eastwood’s next picture, either. Changeling is set in Los Angeles during the Depression, before the city’s make-up was changed by the large black influx. “What are you going to do, you gonna tell a fuckin’ story about that?” he growls. “Make it look like a commercial for an equal opportunity player? I’m not in that game. I’m playing it the way I read it historically, and that’s the way it is. When I do a picture and it’s 90% black, like Bird, I use 90% black people.”

Eastwood pauses, deliberately – once it would have provided him with the beat in which to spit out his cheroot before flinging back his poncho – and offers a last word of advice to the most influential black director in American movies. “A guy like him should shut his face.”

That last sentence in particular has been making its way around the interwebs — and so it, too, has become an iconic, memorable, sliver-of-time scar that stands apart from all the ordinary words Eastwood said in that interview that have not been remembered.

And of all the online comments, perhaps the pithiest and most interesting one comes from Jeffrey Wells, who notes:

I don’t see why there’s a debate at all because (and I got this straight from my old man, an ex-Marine who fought at Iwo Jima) there were no black solders doing any early-wave fighting during that horrific encounter, so Lee is wrong.

Lee, of course, can’t let it sit at that, and so he told ABC News what he thought of Eastwood’s response to his remarks:

“First of all, the man is not my father and we’re not on a plantation either,” he told “He’s a great director. He makes his films, I make my films. The thing about it though, I didn’t personally attack him. And a comment like ‘a guy like that should shut his face’ — come on Clint, come on. He sounds like an angry old man right there.” . . .

Lee’s last words took a different tone.

“Even though he’s trying to have a Dirty Harry flashback, I’m going to take the Obama high road and end it right here,” he told “Peace and love.”

That is such a stupid, offensive response on so many levels, it’s probably best not to dignify it with a point-by-point response like, say, the one provided by the folks at Libertas.

The thing is, I’d like to know more about the experience of African-American soldiers during World War II. But given his track record, I just don’t know if we can trust Spike Lee to tell that story the way it needs to be told. This feud has certainly raised my interest in the subject of Lee’s film, but not in the film itself, per se.

The King of Kong vs. The Terminator

Has any documentary ever been spoofed like this, or ever become such a pop-culture reference point like this, before?
Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly. (Hat tip to Anne Thompson.)

Andrew Stanton confirms John Carter of Mars

The Pixar Blog reports that Andrew Stanton, director of Finding Nemo (2003) and the upcoming WALL-E, confirmed today at a junket for the latter film that he is currently developing an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars, as has been rumoured for several months now.

You Don’t Mess with the Zohan — the review’s up!

My review of You Don’t Mess with the Zohan is now up at CT Movies.

There are several points I toyed with making in this review but never got around to, either for word-count reasons or because my writing just got into a certain groove and I didn’t feel I could shoehorn them in. These include:

The sheer abundance of hummus.

The fact that Zohan has posters of KISS frontman Gene Simmons, who was born in Israel, and eyepatched Israeli general Moshe Dayan on his bedroom wall — which neatly sums up the film’s proudly political yet frivolously hedonistic spirit.

The parallels with Steven Spielberg’s Munich (2005), which likewise revolves around an Israeli who kicks ass but gives it all up for a life of obscurity in New York.

The fact that this, like Munich, is a film about a Jew who kicks ass, and thus might be the sort of film that would please the Seth Rogen character in Knocked Up (2007) — which, incidentally, was written and directed by Judd Apatow, who also co-wrote Zohan.

The way this film’s reversal of all stereotypes except for the evil rich white man and the evil poor white redneck parallels a similar double standard in Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.

The multiple celebrity cameos.

The way this film is yet one more example of how the cast members of the original Star Trek (1966-1969) have devolved into parodies of themselves, such that they could probably never play those characters again without getting sucked into a fair bit of ironic nudge-nudge wink-wink self-referential humour. (I could go into more detail about that, but I don’t want to spoil the joke.)

The fact that Emmanuelle Chriqui, the actress who plays the Palestinian love interest to Adam Sandler’s Israeli super-agent, is apparently not Arabic herself but is, rather, the daughter of “Jewish French Moroccan immigrants of Sephardic Moroccan descent”.

And probably some other stuff that I don’t remember at the moment.

For more insights, if that’s the word, into the film and the way it fits into its cultural moment, see the New York Times . . .

Mr. Badreya said that the comedy in “Zohan” was not quite evenly divided between ridiculing Arabs and ridiculing Jews. “The jokes are not 50-50,” he said. “It’s 70-30. Which is great. We haven’t had 30 for a long time. We’ve been getting zero. So it’s good.”

. . . and Variety:

Since the 1970s, most “Saturday Night Live” alumni with film careers have made spoofs of sex, sports, schools and spies, but left the topical laffs to TV’s sketch comedies. In contrast, Sandler tackled gay marriage in his “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry” and, as an actor for hire, made films about immigration (“Spanglish”) and Sept. 11 (“Reign Over Me“). OK, not exactly the definitive word on these issues, but he’s making films about something.

Indeed he is, and this is why I find it impossible to dismiss Sandler out of hand as easily as I would often like to do.