Saturday, September 10th, 2005
There’s precious little information available for my one and only Film Fest screening this year, a film called Neverwas by first-time director Joshua Michael Stern. It hardly rates as a “small” picture though, with a very solid cast including Aaron Eckhart, Sir Ian McKellen, Brittany Murphy, Nick Nolte, William Hurt, Jessica Lange and Alan Cumming. I guess it’s just so far off from a proper theatrical release – this was the world premiere – that they haven’t gotten any sort of PR machine working yet. I wasn’t able to find any information on the film besides what TIFF had on their own site. No idea if this is a greatly anticipated film by anyone or if it’s completely flying under the radar, and that sort of mystery is part of the fun of the Film Festival.
It’s about a psychiatrist (Eckhart) whose father (Nolte) was the author of a much-beloved childrens book, Neverwas. Though he’s spent most of his life trying to escape his father’s legacy and shadow, he chooses to take a job at a mental institution where his father spent his last days. There, he meets a patient (McKellan) with some mysterious ties to his father and his work… and hilarity ensues. No, not really. It’s a very earnest, open-hearted film and that leaves it open to some somewhat cliched moments. It’s also not helped by the direction, which is rather obvious and lacking in subtlety and nuance, and some underdeveloped or cookie-cutter characters. Jessica Lange in particular is wasted and Nick Nolte is convincing as a mental patient (shock!) but not as much as a man who could write a children’s book. And as always, Brittany Murphy is just annoying.
But these shortcomings – which I’m willing to forgive for a rookie directorial effort – are outweighed by a simply amazing performance by Sir Ian McKellan. The main story of Eckhart’s psychiatrist (who I swear was separated at birth from Six Feet Under’s Peter Krause) trying to unravel his own personal history with McKellan’s mental patient is nothing short of riveting. In the hands of a lesser actor, McKellan’s role could have been a nightmare of overacting and scenery-chewing, but he instead makes his character fascinating and inscrutable, slowly revealing himself as he connects with Eckhart. Whenever he’s on screen, you can’t take your eyes off him. The final scene in particular is marvelous, as he utterly transforms himself with no more than a slouch. Never Was is worth seeing for his performance, if nothing else.
Celeb sightings – the director was in attendance, obviously, as were Nolte, Eckhart and Cumming. A shame McKellan wasn’t there because he should have – and would have – gotten a 20-minute standing ovation. And try as I did, I could not come up with an interesting title for this post. Alas.
Exciting news – the tracks from Galaxie 500’s two John Peel Sessions in 1989 and 19909 will finally be getting a proper release courtesy of Damon & Naomi’s own 20-20-20 label. You can pre-order it now $10.98 plus shipping – it’s out November 14. Meanwhile, in Luna-land, Rhino will be assembling a compilation for the departed outfit, but it won’t be one of their excellent rarities-and-hits combos, just the best-of. Look for that sometime around March, and the farewell tour documentary (currently working titled Tell Me Do You Miss Me) could be out around the same time.
Sadly, it seems that rumours of Ear To the Ground’s troubles are true, though their full extent remain to be seen. What is known is that the festival has been reduced in scope (with dance and theatre components apparent casualties) and the festival no longer being held at Exhibition Place. How organizers will manage to shoehorn in all or even some of the acts into other venues in such short notice remains to be seen (though they’re trying), though that might be less difficult than weathering the PR nightmare that is sure to follow. It’s a real shame that things have had to shake out this way – even if they salvage the musical performances, it’ll be a far cry from the giant one-stop multi-disciplinary arts festival it was initially hoping to be.
Comic Book Resources talks to Justice League Unlimited writer Dwayne McDuffie about what is, for my money, the best animated comic book adaptation ever. Of all time. The good news is that the new season starts up later this month (September 17 to be exact), the bad news is that STILL no one is saying those magic words, “complete season DVD set”. I’m sorry, those measly 3-episode discs don’t cut it. I want em ALL. With commentary from Batman.
np – Crooked Fingers / Red Devil Dawn