Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Road is Under Construction

I saw a test screening of that Cormac McCarthy adaptation The Road last night. I shan't review since it's not a completed film yet (described as "work in progress") and you can't judge something still under construction. Well, you can but it's unwise. So much will change. Unless they really are trying to reach a 2008 release in which case -- well, I hope they go ahead and just move it to 2009 and give it the fine tuning it deserves. Maybe make it a Spring release. The rule that movies for thinking adults can only open September through December is making the cinema as barren 3/4ths of the year as the landscapes in The Road.

Viggo and Kodi. What are you looking at?

So... work in progress. Fine tuning can help anything: Trim this scene, delete that redundant one. But I worry. They passed out those infamous test-screen questionnaires and delicate art fare like this... Well, won't it just get stupid missing-the-point notes like "TOO DEPRESSING!"? Or "but why was there an apocalypse???" I hope they incinerate clueless scribbles and concentrate on constructive ones.

The movie is very faithful to McCarthy's novel in current shape. It has mostly the same story beats as The Man and the Boy travel south trying to avoid starvation, cannibals, and unforgiving weather. The Road wisely avoids narration (the novel is minimalist and voice-over would conjure the opposite feeling altogether) and the production design from the Children of Men team is believably ashen and lived-in: They've cornered the market on post-apocalyptic drama! The Man (Viggo Mortensen) and The Boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) have super chemistry which is a huge relief since everything potent about the story requires it. All of the nomadic starving ensemble have tiny roles but Robert Duvall floored me and Garret Dillahunt (rapidly turning into one of my favorite character actors) spooked me, respectively.

I'm crossing my fingers that the final touches make it sharper and more potent (and a lot will depend on color, light and editing --it wasn't a finished print) but it's good. *breathes sigh of relief*
*

27 comments:

Daniel said...

I worry about focus grouping this kind of movie, and hope they realize it's only chance at success is to be a good 'art film'. With Harvey Hatchethands involved, I wouldn't be surprised if he threw in a voice-over from the boy, changed the cave/ellis score to sweeping corny orchestration, then dumped it in February, after ruining its chances with critics and art-house audiences alike.

Here's hoping Hillcoat gets the time to do get it right for what it is, instead of trying to turn it into We are Legend.

Anonymous said...

This was my most anticipated film of 2008, and now it might miss the Oscars completely and be pushed to who knows when in 2009. I shouldn't have gotten my hopes up. A film like this showing in the spring is basically its Oscar death sentence. It needed the late-season push for real Oscar momentum. If it's not completed, then by all means finish it to its best quality, but they have to be strategic about a film and subject matter like this. It could have also capitalized on the industry's Cormac McCarthy love with last year's success for "No Country for Old Men." Momentum is key.

Ivan said...

I prefer a spring release, i just want to watch this movie, i don´t care about the "oscar momentum" and all that crap

Anonymous said...

So the Oscars are crap now? Whatever. For quite a few people out there, Oscar nods/wins would be the only enticement to see a film like this in the first place.

James Hansen said...

Ooh la la. I'm jealous! The Weinstein website still lists the November date so we'll see how much they can do in a few weeks. I just feel like if they were to push it back they would have announced it already. Who knows. I'm glad to hear much of it is pretty good though. I was/am quite worried, as you know. Maybe if these test audiences are positive it will go in November, or negative and they'll push it back. I anxiously await more news.

NATHANIEL R said...

daniel and anon --but that 'death sentence' problem for non fall releases is recent and its CREATED by the industry. They can uncreate it.

there's no reason why a film shouldn't be able to compete for Oscars no matter when it's released. Used to happen all the time. Godfather vs. Cabaret 1972 for example both released prior to June! and that's only a famous example. There are plenty of others.

they've trained adults to not go to serious pictures UNLESS there's Oscar momentum and its done the film industry and audiences a huge disservice.

mrripley said...

nat seeing how you praised her in sleepwalking how was she in this supp actress worthy.

NATHANIEL R said...

it's a cameo basically -- just like it is in the book.

Actionman said...

I cannot wait to see it. I loved The Proposition, and while I haven't read The Road, I am just stoked to see a new film from Hillcoat. The fact that the plot line revolves around what it does makes me even more excited, as I love apocalyptic stories. I really hope they release the film WHEN IT'S READY TO BE RELEASED, and not rush it just to make awards season. It doesn't feel like an awards movie to begin with; it feels like an artsy horror movie. Am I wrong?

NATHANIEL R said...

you are not wrong.

although artsy horror might imply more gore ;) and less horror of the soul/world

Anonymous said...

there's no reason why a film shouldn't be able to compete for Oscars no matter when it's released.

But that's not reality though. Yeah, the pollyanna view is to have films come out anytime of the year and be Oscar viable, but that's not how things currently operate. Yes, there's been exceptions to the rule, but as things stand now, for difficult films like "The Road" to find an audience, it takes something like Oscar nominations to convince reluctant moviegoers to take a gamble on watching (and I'm not talking about Cormac McCarthy fans, Oprah crazies, or Pulitizer watchers). Oscar voters like proximity over not. I don't like seeing all of my Oscar films in December either, but I deal with it if that's what it takes to gain the film(s) a wider audience and acclaim.

Barry said...

Was Charlize Theron good in it?

NATHANIEL R said...

anon -- i agree that it's not the current reality. My point is the only way to CHANGE the reality (which they've already changed before) is to start cultivating audiences year round. That's better for the business anyway.

It's like a self-fulfilling and self-defeating prophecy. People say "these films can't do well outside of december" so they all get scheduled in december and there's no way to ever disprove it or change the system. because the reality is the November/December glut. For example: I am confident that Mickey Rourke would get nominated for the Wrestler even if the film were already playing. So why wait until December 19th when people are christmas shopping and nobody has any time and are they going to want to see a downer at Christmas?

Within the current system audiences learn to only pay attention for a brief period each year and it's even bad for box office because your moviegoer who leans towards Big Drama (the only thing Oscar really cares about) isn't going to have time to go to a every movie they're interested in between November and January so they choose a a few and the rest they say 'i'll wait for dvd'

... why not try to get their business every month?

[/broken record]
[/broken record]
[/broken record]

nathaniel, the broken record. but i think it's a good fight to fight... which is why i keep my fists up.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm just more pragmatic about seeing what the situation is instead of ranting about something that isn't going to change. Releasing "The Road" in February or March of 2009 is basically asking for it to die on the vine, and I don't want to see that happen for a novel that I adored. Yes, I'm sure that there will be serious adults that will appreciate seeing a serious film in the spring, but I'm thinking about the bottom line. With a tough sell film like that to begin with, it needs the Oscar seal behind it, which it could get leading up to this year's Oscars. Betting on a spring release to make any significant kind of money, maybe a buried June or July DVD release, and then hope that the Oscars latch onto it almost a year after its theatrical release? That's a lot of wishful thinking going on that I'm just more cautious about doing than you seem to.

Anonymous said...

Holy cow!

The Road may be pushed back, The Soloist IS pushed back to 2009, Defiance IS pushed back to Dec. 31... Frost/Nixon and Changeling have received negative reviews.. who the heck knows what going on for The Reader- except that Winslet will be pushed supporting (which may free up a spot in the best actress race)...

the list goes on!

NATHANIEL R said...

well the READER supporting thing is unconfirmed (though it is the plan) -- word is they're leaving it up to Kate herself.

Glenn said...

Hey, Silence of the Lambs - not exactly all dandelions and butterflies itself - was released in March and went on to become only the third film in history to win Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay. And that was only 1991.

Josh said...

Speaking of Winslet, I'm fairly certain that 'Eternal Sunshine' was released in March, and still ended up getting nominated for a bevy of awards at the Oscars the following year

Glenn said...

A "bevy" being two?

mikadzuki said...

Well, maybe I just love the book too darn much, but I'd MUCH rather see an optimal version of this film in March than for a half-finished work to be rushed into December for the sole possibility of becoming a footnote in cinema's most consistent encyclopedia of bad taste.

NATHANIEL R said...

but what else could ETERNAL SUNSHINE have been nominated for? i mean, apart from Pic & Director. They've shown that they don't care about Jim Carrey before and even if they did they don't usually go for male characters that are "soft" in that way.

and isn't its failure to nab those two nominations more the fault of the critical community who didn't rally round to remind voters of its brilliance?

i think the precursor voting bodies are a good deal of the late year focus problem. If they had better memories they'd encourage Oscar voters to have them as well.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Indeed. If I'm remembering correctly, the critics rallied around Sideways and all but forgot about Eternal Sunshine.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Silence of the Lambs - not exactly all dandelions and butterflies itself - was released in March and went on to become only the third film in history to win Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay. And that was only 1991.

I know that, which is why I said that there have been success stories to happen like that before. But that was almost two decades ago, and that was a more accessible phenomenon. That's not the Oscars landscape as it is now, nor should lightning expect to be struck twice like that with "The Road". Don't expect a whole lot of box office or Oscars with a early spring release. If anything, hold it until fall 2009 if it must be delayed.

Mogulman said...

Well, even if they try to push for a December release, I don't know how much they can do to it by then. I'd just say then give it a March release and hope it gets remebered, and come on, if there's significant editing done to it and it turns how to be a masterpiece, why couldn't it?

Simone said...

I read this book as principle filming of The Road was underway. It was the most exciting and scary book I've read in years, so naturally I was salivating for Nov 14th. After Hillcoat's brilliant The Proposition was ignored in (2006?), I was hoping that he and Viggo be honored at the Oscars in February.

But you know what, I have chilled out and I would rather wait for an excellent film and see it sometime in 2009, than see a bad film in late 2008. Rush jobs never turn out good. John and Viggo deserve better.

I can deal with an April 2009 release... too soon it will be ignored, too late and it would be overshadowed by summer blockbuster crap.

rosengje said...

So jealous, but most importantly:

How was Michael K. Williams as the thief???

Curious said...

Is anyone able to tell me when The Road will be released in Australia?