Talent, for reasons we don’t know, tends to cluster. Example: 1994 and male stars. Five guys exploded that year, maybe a record — all are still around: Tim Allen, Jim Carrey, Hugh Grant, Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves.
2002 didn’t have that number of directors, but the quality was sure there — there were three new kids on the block who did work so stunning that I promise I will be there for the first noon showing of their next efforts, popcorn in hand.
Remember the name Sandra Nettelbeck, please. (Full disclosure: I know nothing about her.) I think she was born in Hamburg, attended San Francisco State. And oh yeah, wrote and directed “Mostly Martha,” one of the half-dozen best pics of the year. (If you see it, do not see it dubbed. As a matter of fact, your life will be a better place if you never again see anything dubbed.)
Her movie is kind of a German romantic comedy, neurotic and sad, and I can’t think of anything quite like it. The lead role is such a stunner that I am more than sure that some studio here will remake it, and if Julia Roberts decides to play the lead, and works at her kitchen skills, (the character of Martha is a sensational chef) chalk up Oscar No. 2.
My No. 2 here did work on what I call “The Movie That Directed Itself.” Let me explain: In the recent issue of Premiere, a magazine that I have written for and like, they list their 10 best movies. Capsule comments on each. Fifty words at most. And in nine of the 10, there is director gush. Aren’t we lucky to have Stevie in this world and bow down, natch, to Marty, and cheers to Todd and these are wonderfully talented fellows, absolutely.
Not a word about the director of “Chicago.” (And admit it, you’re fumbling for his name right now, too.) I am not being critical of Premiere — no one mentions this guy. (Have you come up with his name yet? No peeking.)
Full disclosure here, just to make you wait longer: the tunes for “Chicago” were written by John Kander, whom I met at camp in the ’30s, went to Oberlin with in the ’40s, roomed with in New York in the ’50s, wrote a flop musical with in the ’60s, and most recently had dinner with two weeks ago at Craft. Great meal. There. Now you know everything.
You think it was easy for any director to get those sensational musical performances out of those actors? You think choreographing those dazzling numbers (yes, he did that too) was done without brilliance and sweat? You think making a hit musical in this day and age is as easy as doing a hit bloodbath pic with Vin Diesel?
Get with it, world. The guy’s name is Rob Marshall — Marshall with two “l”s please — and if he wins the Oscar, I will be smiling.
For me, his chief competition and my third newcomer is Roman Polanski, who directed “The Pianist.” Now, you can make the argument that Polanski has been at his craft for 40-plus years. And if you want to be an asshole pedant, go ahead.
My point is that this work is of such quality — when compared to what he has done the last decades — it amounts to a new life. I thought “Chinatown” was one of the great movies. The same guy who directed that directed this.
In any case, welcome all three.
Final full disclosure: I met Polanski once, in Robert Evans’ office. Mid-1970s. I was there to work on “Marathon Man”; “Chinatown” had recently opened.
We were introduced and, I don’t know why — I guess because everyone Out There is so full of shit — instead of raving on about the film, I said these four words: “Better luck next time.”
And Polanski, after a stunned moment, looked at me as if I was the fool of the world, and said, “What are you talking about, we got many wonderful reviews. Most of them were wonderful. Almost all of them were.”
I can still hear him, still see the look on his face. There, now you really do know everything.