September 18, 2010

Keith Urban & Nicole Kidman Updates 09/18/10

Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban Help Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban and LeAnn Rimes will appear in an upcoming episode of ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, about rebuilding Lighthouse Christian School near Nashville. The property was heavily damaged by floods in May. The Extreme Makeover team, led by Ty Pennington, spent seven days working on the project, according to ABC. The episode is tentatively scheduled to air Nov. 7, leading up to the CMA Awards on Nov. 10.


'Rabbit Hole' is Flawless; Nicole Kidman at Her Best (TIFF 2010 Review)

I've been to more than 75 film festivals over the last ten years, so please believe me when I say that each one always offers a movie about "a couple mourning the loss of a child." Sundance, Tribeca, Toronto, all of them. I'm pretty sure it's a requirement, along with the melodramas about single moms, the Holocaust documentaries, and something weird from Gregg Araki. So I suppose I could be forgiven for almost overlooking 'Rabbit Hole'. Based only on the festival guide, I knew that the film starred Aaron Eckhart, Nicole Kidman, and Dianne Wiest, that it came from John Cameron Mitchell (the director of 'Shortbus' and 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch'), and that it was about (you guessed it) an unhappy married couple who are mourning the loss of their four-year-old son.

But I'm here to see movies, and I certainly like all of the names mentioned above, so in I walked to 'Rabbit Hole', simply hoping that the film wouldn't be too sappy, predictable, or manipulative.

What I ended up watching is, quite simply, one of the best films I've ever seen at a festival. I've always contended that there's no such thing as a "flawless" film, but now I'm going to amend that phrase to read "There's no such thing as a perfect film." Because 'Rabbit Hole' is, as far as I can tell, pretty much flawless.

Yes, the film is about a fractured married couple. Their names are Howie and Becca and they are indeed still mired in a deep valley of depression after the death of their little boy. (That brief synopsis is the most conventional thing about the film.) Howie (Eckhart) seems like he's one "grief stage" ahead of his wife, but they're both still wounded in deep and irreparable ways. Becca (Kidman) distracts herself with a slightly troubled younger sister (and her garden), while Howie tries to put on a brave face for his wife before scurrying off to the living room to watch old videos of his late son. They discuss having a new baby, they contemplate moving to a new house, they try (and fail) at the group therapy process. Eventually Becca finds solace in a very unlikely friend from the neighborhood; Howie continues with the therapy and manages to find a new companion of his own.

If everything that I just described in the previous paragraph sounds like something you've seen before (and probably on the Lifetime Channel), you can rest assured that 'Rabbit Hole' takes a simple and stunning approach to this well-covered material. In other words, this film is conceived and presented by real people. Kidman and Eckhart have never been better; Mitchell strikes an unbelievably effective balancing act between sincerity and well-earned empathy, and the screenplay (by David Lindsay-Abaire, based on his stage play) is nothing short of amazing. It's as if the filmmakers watched every single "our child has passed away!" movie -- but only so they'd know what NOT to do on this one.

Howie and Becca fight, and we wince because we've grown to care for these people so damn quickly, but they fight like a true married couple would: quick jolts of misery and anger followed by a casual reconciliation and then ... life goes on. There are easily a dozen scenes in 'Rabbit Hole' that feel like they're going down the conventional road, only to take a quick right at painfully real and effortlessly engaging. The film makes you feel like you're watching your beloved next-door neighbors go through a horrible ordeal, and while you can't do anything to help, you absolutely do hope for their recovery -- or as close to "recovery" as they can get. There's not false note to be found anywhere. When film critics talk about "manipulative" this and "pre-packaged" that, they're referring to the diametric opposite of 'Rabbit Hole'.

As for Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, their work here (especially together) is quite simply amazing. There's such a natural vulnerability to their characters: the way a tragically wounded man will still pull his last verbal punch, because it's just too cruel, or how a desperately unhappy woman may scream horrible things while her eyes are already offering an apology ... the way a nod or a touch or even a change in a wife's voice will speak volumes to an attentive husband. It's simply wonderful to see two seasoned actors letting down their guard in a heartfelt and subtle film that never once goes for the easy cliche or predictable platitude.

As poignant as a bittersweet love letter and as personal as a film can possibly be, 'Rabbit Hole' represents career highs for practically everyone involved. I can't remember the last time a "little drama movie" left me overflowing with this sort of affection, but 'Rabbit Hole' is a very unique and special film. In a word ... flawless.

[Note: I actually know a couple who've gone through a similar tragedy, and I do believe I'll be recommending this film to them. One day. Maybe.]


TIFF 2010: the Good, the Great & the Unpretty

Did you get to the Toronto Film Festival (TIFF)? If not, you missed out on a wide collection of films from 60+ countries, portraying all eras, genres and styles. From the Galas and Special Presentations, to the fresh-thinking in the Discovery & Mavericks’ programs or the fun of Midnight Madness—there was something to excite /scare /inspire /disgust /provoke /educate /amuse /touch /devastate or just plain entertain you. I only saw 6 this year, but here’s what I experienced:

Rabbit Hole – Based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, this film tells the story of a couple trying to rebuild/survive after the death of their young son. Given its pedigree (it stars Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest and Sandra Oh), I knew that this was likely to be good… but my surprise was only in HOW good it is. The film features excellent performances, a fantastic script, and a great balance of real-world humour & heart-wrenching sadness. Director John Cameron Mitchell is known for his excellent but really, really alternative films like Hedwig and the Angry Inch, so he seems like a radical choice. At the Q&A Nicole Kidman said that she sought him out because she values directors who take chances. Her gamble was a winner, as proven by the two standing ovations at our screening and news of a distribution deal with Lionsgate. If this film is not courted by the Academy at Oscar nomination time, something is very, very wrong.


Kidman heads back to B'way in 'Bird'

Actress expected to star in Tennessee Williams play


Nicole Kidman is lining up her next Broadway gig, with the actress expected to topline a fall 2011 staging of Tennessee Williams play "Sweet Bird of Youth."
A rep for the show confirmed news of the brewing production, to be helmed by David Cromer ("Our Town," "Brighton Beach Memoirs"). Scott Rudin, who also has "The Book of Mormon" on tap for the Main Stem this spring, produces.

Kidman will star as the past-her-prime actress who is the one of the leads of Williams' 1959 play, which centers on the return of a young gigolo to his hometown in the company of the older woman.

Dates, theater and further casting have not yet been nailed down.


Kidman gives hugs, Breillat goes high-brow


I had two big moments at TIFF 2010. One was personal and a bit emotional. And the other was just a breath-of-fresh-air encounter with a mega-watt star, who after 50 years in this glitzy business, remains a swell, ordinary guy. I’ll start with the latter.

The Oscar-winning actor/director Clint Eastwood gave a handful of journalists an unexpected treat last Sunday when – waiting for his film’s Hereafter star and friend, Matt Damon to show up – he plopped down at the piano in the Windsor Arms Hotel to pluck out a lilting melody. The room was dead silent when Eastwood finished, then erupted with boisterous applause. Eastwood gave his famous slanted grin, waving it off. Then he casually strolled over to a booth for the half-hour interview, shaking hands, and introducing himself simply, “Hi. I’m Clint.”

Last Monday at 9 in the morning, I raced to a screening of Nicole Kidman’s family drama, Rabbit Hole, about a couple (Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) trying to cope with the debilitating grief after the death of their four-year-old son, killed after racing onto the street in pursuit of his dog. As a mother – and sister of a brother who lost both his boys in a car accident – I wasn’t prepared for the emotional roller coaster this film would take me on. And I showed up at the interview with Kidman and her co-star, immediately following the screening, a bit shaky and wobbly-voiced. Kidman picked up on the emotional cues.

After our chat, I stood to shake hands. “I can’t shake your hand,” said the Australian actress, striding over to me. “I have to give you a hug.” I left the room, equal parts embarrassed and grateful.


Monkeyville Flip Contest Winner

Keith and John Mayer "I'm On Fire"

Urban Developments: Keith and John Mayer at The Gorge


Keith Urban Finds “I’m In” Outback

One of the old jokes about fashion is that if you hold on to your clothes long enough, they’ll come back in style. But it’s not a joke when it comes to songs. They can definitely have a second life. In fact, Keith Urban has given new life to not just one Radney Foster song, but two.

Keith picked up a hit in 2003 when he remade Radney’s song “Raining On Sunday,” and he did it again this year by recording Radney’s “I’m In.” In a very real way, “I’m In” is a direct result of the movie Australia.

“What happened was that Keith was making compilation CDs because they had an eight-hour drive,” Radney says. “Nicole Kidman was doin’ a movie in the Outback. So they’d get off the plane and get in the Range Rover, and they had to have music. He had ‘I’m In’ on one of those [CDs], and she said, ‘Honey, that’s a sexy song.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, it’s one of my favorite Radney Foster songs.’ And she said, ‘Well, you oughta think about doin’ that.’ So he did. So I think I owe Nicole Kidman flowers.”

Both “I’m In” and “Raining On Sunday” appeared on Radney’s 1999 album See What You Want To See, which was stocked with great songs. Unfortunately, not a lot of people got to hear it, because the record label shut down shortly after it was released. Only 17,000 copies were pressed, but at least some of them got into the right hands. In addition to Keith’s covers, the Kinleys — the 1998 winners of the Academy of Country Music’s Top New Vocal Duet or Group — did a version of “I’m In” for Touched By An Angel: The Album. And the Dixie Chicks covered the closing song from Radney’s album, “Godspeed (Sweet Dreams),” on Home and Top Of The World Tour: Live.

With those titles in mind, Radney told his wife, Cyndi Hoelzle Foster, that he ought to consider the resilience of his songs as a topic the next time he gets asked to speak to music business students.

“My next lecture,” he says, “is gonna be the value of a copyright. Twelve years later and several bouts of obscurity and all of a sudden, here it is.”

Radney was honored Wednesday in Nashville for 25 years of membership in ASCAP, one of three American performing rights agencies, which represent songwriters. Next year, he’s likely to pick up an ASCAP award for “I’m In.”

Keith, in the meantime, is still recording his next album, Get Closer, due Nov. 16.


McGraw sets Down Under trend for Oprah

Married to singer Faith Hill and with three musical youngsters, US country star Tim McGraw has all the ingredients for his own Von Trapp family troop.

The Grammy winner has brought the clan - his wife and daughters Gracie, Maggie and Audrey - Down Under for his first Australian tour.

He laughs off suggestions a family album is on the cards.

"God forbid," McGraw jokes with AAP.

"My girls are musical. All three can sing, play the piano, one plays the guitar.

"They would be a lot better than me. But, hopefully, they take after their mum.

"If they want to do it (get into music) you hope they're good. It's a tough business, even if you're good."

For now though, McGraw says his girls are just happy seeing the sights and wildlife of Oz.

"We went to Australia Zoo today, had a fantastic time. They got to play with koalas and kangaroos."

Asked if his good mates "our" Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman warned him about Australia's drop bear population McGraw laughs.

"No they didn't ... We'll watch out for those," he said.

"They did tell us to take a boat around the (harbour) in Sydney."

Australians are some of the best people around, McGraw says before claiming credit for Oprah Winfrey's upcoming visit.

"She heard Tim McGraw's here, so she said: 'Well, I better go'," he says in his southern drawl.

For more on Tim click HERE


Toronto film festival marks turnaround in movie sales

TORONTO — Filmmakers registered "strong sales" at the Toronto film festival this week with more than 20 films being purchased by distributors from around the globe, the sales and industry office said Friday.

The value of the distribution deals, however, was not announced.

"To date, more than 20 films have been sold to territories in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, with more sales expected to be announced in the coming days," the festival's sales and industry office said.

Key acquisitions include Nicole Kidman-starring "Rabbit Hole," "Barney's Version," with Hollywood icon Dustin Hoffman, director Werner Herzog's "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," and the William H. Macy vehicle "Dirty Girl."

US sales were also confirmed for "Casino Jack," "The Conspirator," "I Saw The Devil," "Outside the Law," "Potiche" and "Saray's Key."

The festival is the biggest in North America and has traditionally been a key event for Oscar-conscious studios and distributors because it is attended by a sizable contingent of North American media.

More than 3,400 industry delegates attended the festival this year.

"We are very pleased to see Toronto playing a role in the turnaround in the sales climate," commented festival co-director Cameron Bailey, heralding an end to two years of torpid sales since the 2008 economic downturn.

"As a result, audiences in North America and around the world will see some of the outstanding films that premiered here," he said.

Unlike the Cannes and Berlin festivals, Toronto does not award jury prizes.

But moviegoers who bought some 500,000 tickets for the event in 2009 awarded an audience prize for best motion picture to Lee Daniels' "Precious," based on the 1996 novel by Sapphire about an obese, illiterate girl from Harlem dealing with abuse and incest.

The film went on to win Oscars for best supporting actress and screenwriting at the 82nd Academy Awards.

This year the festival, which runs until September 19, will have showcased 258 feature films and 81 shorts from 59 countries, including 112 world premieres.


1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

Wait, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill actually talk to Keith and Nicole? How is that possible? Faith hates Nicole remember?

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