Telluride Day One: The Road, Waking Sleeping Beauty

by Anne Thompson
September 3, 2009 12:12 PM
4 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood
At LAX this morning I chatted with indie press agent Laura Kim and ex-Disney exec Peter Schneider, who produced Don Hahn's documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty. The doc tells the story of how Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg and the 80s generation of Disney animators woke up the sleeping Disney animation giant between 1984 and 1994. Schneider, who has been working on Broadway, showed the film to ex-Disney chairman Michael Eisner, who isn't a fan. The current Disney management--Bob Iger and Dick Cook--are supportive of the movie, however. In fact, Leonard Maltin told me on the shuttle through the splendid Rockies this afternoon, Cook has been supportive of a number of Disney animation docs that needed help with clips, cooperation, and even release, from Frank and Ollie to Walt & El Grupo, about a Disney excursion to Latin America. It's in Disney's interest to keep fanning the old Walt flame.

One of the most anticipated screenings here, John Hillcoat's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road, debuted at Venice Thursday, which is why Variety ran Todd McCarthy's review early this morning. It's a pan. So is Kris Tapley's review. McCarthy hints that Harvey Scissorhands mucked with the movie, which I saw a few weeks ago right after I read the Cormac McCarthy book, which is brilliant, bleak and beautiful. So is the movie, though it is not as horrific as the book. It couldn't be.

Viggo Mortensen--who is getting a tribute here at Telluride-- plays the father trying to protect his son from a lawless vicious world in just the right tough, anxious, fierce, loving way. The movie is stark and horrifying and brutal, visually stunning. It's a tough sell, which is presumably why it took so long in the editing room--I hear that Hillcoat is happy with the end result, as is McCarthy-- and why the Weinstein Co. is opening it wide October 16. The company zigged and zagged on the opening date, trying to line up a release plan for the pic. They drove agent Binky Urban crazy, trying to hook up the right date for the book tie-in. They can probably make the movie look like more of a genre piece and lure some people in that way. But The Road needs delicate special kid-glove handling, not a throw-it-to-the-winds release. Mortensen is awards-worthy--and has a long career and one Oscar nomination behind him-- but he'll need a proper campaign.

Whether or not the movie hits, or makes it into the Oscar top ten, finally, producers are chasing after the Australian director. I also liked his nasty, compelling western The Proposition, starring Guy Pearce and Danny Huston. His latest film, The Wettest Country, is casting now.

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4 Comments

  • Laurie Mann | September 5, 2009 1:35 AMReply

    I agree with Anne Thompson - while The Road is never going to be a blockbuster, it could find an audience and awards with the right marketing. Sadly, the trailer played up the action-adventure angle a bit much. And a bunch of movie clips that were released this week are erratic. Luckily, the short clip with Duvall is spot-on in capturing the essence of the book.

    However, the American posters which have hit a bunch of Web sites today (such as Latino Review - http://www.latinoreview.com/news/new-posters-for-the-road-7914) are impressive, and could help attract a more thoughtful audience.

    So the marketing continues to be all over the place. Makes you wonder if the marketing people bothered to read the book or watch the movie.

    While American news outlets continue to quote Todd McCarthy's pan of the movie, the movie got overwhelmingly positive reviews from most of the media (I've linked to a number of the Venice reviews here: http://www.dpsinfo.com/theroadrumors/reviews.html). Variety is an important media outlet, but it's hardly the only one.

    I'm still planning to see the movie on October 16, no matter how erratically the movie is marketed or how much a few media outlets pan it. The book is amazing, the casting seems right and the look of the movie is spot-on.

  • Andoni | September 4, 2009 6:52 AMReply

    I haven't read the book, but I am interested in doing so and it's on my list of a few books I want to read soon. Also, I want to see the movie. It seems bleak, true, but I don't know how much that's actually going to repel people. Bad reviews will though, so I agree, if it's very good, it needs a good campaign.

    http://www.beyondrace.com

  • anonymous2 | September 4, 2009 6:29 AMReply

    The Road can find an audience because so many people have read the book and liked it. When you put that together with people who have heard of the book and haven't read it I think plenty of people are interested. Then Viggo has enough of a fan base too. But alas, perhaps it is best left as a novel.

  • Alan Green | September 4, 2009 2:14 AMReply

    i don't see how the road can find an audience. i like mccarthy's work but perhaps this one is best left as a novel. the clips i've seen (trailer addict put some up yesterday) are beyond bleak. it's simply not what people want to see.

    the immediate counter is: no country for old men. it did okay. ...just not the same type of material.

    if the novel is more bleak than the movie i can't wait to read it. however, i'll watch the dvd a few minutes at a time.

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