Just to let you all know, I am going to be hammering on this issue at least until this particular film vanishes from theaters and probably after that, too. Why? Because I think it’s that important, that’s why. This weekend, while it’s raining and blustery in the Northeast, why not bundle into the car or subway and head to the local theater and check out what is for my money, so far, the best picture of the year. Yup, you guessed it. It’s Andrew Dominik’s brilliant The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. What about the rest of the country? Well, click here, enter your zip code and find the film!
Personally, I am astonished that this soon-to-be classic film is no longer in playing in Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood or Santa Monica. In fact, if you live in the area, the closes theater is probably AMC Theaters Burbank Town Center 8 or Laemmle’s One Colorado Cinema in Pasadena. Fucking Burbank!!?? Pasadena!? People who live on the West Side in LA have enough trouble getting into their cars on weekdays, so the odds of them driving to the Valley on a weekend are astronomical.
And while I am ranting, why not mention Brad Pitt’s relative silence on this topic? I simply don’t understand why he’s not out there, shouting from the rooftops about this fantastic film that he produced. Perhaps a little history lesson is in order? In August of 1967, Warner Brothers released Bonnie and Clyde to what might be called a less-than-enthusiastic response from critics. In fact, so bad were the New York Times and Newsweek reviews that Warners removed the film from release. The film’s star and producer (see a parallel?) Warren Beatty ultimately persuaded WB to re-release the film and both Time and Newsweek recanted their reviews, with Newsweek’s Joe Morgenstern writing:
“I am sorry to say I consider [Newsweek’s] review grossly unfair and regrettably inaccurate. […] I am sorrier to say I wrote it.”
Of course, the film became a classic and heralded the start of a new American movement in cinema.
(Before you start yelling, yes, I know things are different now and that this kind of a turnaround is much more difficult now and there are more films, etc., etc., etc. Big deal. Show some fucking stones and stand up for your film.)
What am I getting at? Well in addition to Pitt, where are other American filmmakers? Surely there are some noteworthy filmmakers who agree on the film’s masterpiece stature and would be happy to say so. Plaudits from the likes of Scorsese, Soderbergh, Clooney and the Coens could do nothing but help the film. I know Warners is likely scared that they have a huge dud on their hands, but seriously, how often do films of this quality flop purely on their own “merit?” I truly believe that the distrib knows the film is good, but they simply don’t know what to do with it…how to market it and they’re cutting bait. There’s every chance that this is the very definition of quixotic, but I believe that with more of an ad push and a few more Academy screenings, this might just turn out to be the epic that could.
For example, you have a film that stars one of the biggest box office draws in the world and you’re not pushing that aspect. I was in a Starbucks the other day and had the following exchange with the cute, young barista:
Her: What are you writing about over there?
Me: Mostly films.
Her: Oh! Anything new and good I should go and see?
Me: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
Her: Who’s in it?
Me: Brad Pitt.
Her (noticeably excited): Ok, I’ll see it!
See? How hard is that?
This weekend’s theater count: 294 (-7)
Photo © 2007 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.