Tuesday, February 19, 2008

There Will be a Country for Quality

I consider myself a pretty big movie buff, but excluding the over-marketed Jerry Brukheimer/Judd Apatow-types I don’t know many producers. I know producers are immensely important to the business and I have an idea of the all-time greats like Selznick, but they’re so behind-the-scenes that there’s just not enough time in the day to get invested.

That being said, a piece by La Times columnist Patrick Goldstein called “For Scott Rudin, There Will Be Quality” makes much ado about producer extraordinaire Scott Rudin and so I figured I’d looked into him.

You mean, Rudin isn't producing. Shit. Oh, wait, you were being funny. Don't toy with us, Owen.

A quick perusal of ImDb has convinced me that Rudin does, in fact, bring the quality. Included among his credits: three of my top ten films from 2007 – There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men and Darjeeling Limited.

Obviously, my appetite was piqued. My interest wetted.

Looking further down his page, it seems the guy has gotten better with age. While he’s had his share of misses over the years (the Stepford Wives remake, Failure to Launch, Freedomland), he’s really upped his output in the 21st century.

Here’s the proof:
2000: Wonder Boys and Shaft
2001: The Royal Tenenbaums and Zoolander
2002: Orange County and Changing Lanes
2003: The School of Rock
2004: The Manchurian Candidate, I Heart Huckabees, Team American: World Police, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Closer
2006: The Queen, Venus and Notes on a Scandal
2007: The three films I already mentioned and Margot at the Wedding

While these films are nearly as good as the one-two punch that was No Country and There Will Be Blood, all are great examples of, at the very least, above average genre film-making. And from Wes Anderson and Richard Linklater to the Coen Brothers and Paul Thomas Anderson, it’s clear he’s supporting some of the best visionaries in the business, which is a pretty cool thing.

Additionally, while Rudin has increased his proclivity for great filmmaking with each ensuing year, I can’t deny he’s got a track record of goodness that dates back to the early ‘90s. Some of his best stuff includes, The Addams Family (1991), Sister Act (1992), Nobody’s Fool (1994), Clueless (1995), In & Out (1997), The Truman Show (1998), South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut (1999) and Sleepy Hollow (1999).

Yes. Absolutely yes.

So what does this all mean? Why am I writing about this? Well, basically, I’m trying to point out that Rudin knows quality, and he’s getting better, which means he’s someone to watch. Usually directors, writers and actors are the forces that get me excited for an upcoming film. It’s only an occasional producer (Apatow, J.J. Abrams) that is capable of doing that for me, but now Scott Rudin is among that selective list.

The horizon looks bright:

Margaret – Mat Damon, Anna Paquin and Mark Ruffalo team with writer-director Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me) about the aftermath of a bus accident.

Doubt – Writer-director John Patrick Shanley adapts his play for the screen with an outright fantastic cast: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. The play, which I’ve read and think is fantastic, focuses on a nun (Streep) who confronts a priest (Hoffman) when her and a younger nun (Adams) suspect him of sexual abusing a black student.

Revolutionary Road – Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) directs this adaption of the acclaimed Richard Yates novel about a family in the ‘50s attempting to overcome personal problems. The icing on the cake: Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are the leads.

The Reader – More Winslet, but this time with Ralph Fiennes and director Stephen Daldry (The Hours, which is another acclaimed Rudin film, albeit one I haven’t seen) in an adaption of a novel by Bernahrd Schlink that concerns obsession and war crimes in postwar Germany.

2009 and 2010
Nine other features that all seem interesting. Three – an adaption of Michael Chabon’s beloved novel The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Wes Anderson’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Ridley Scott’s adaption of Cormac’s McCarthy’s Blood Meridian – look the best from where I’m sitting.

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