Saturday, August 9, 2008

Random Thought #2: Alexander MIA (Not I)

You may remember my previous "Random Thought," posted here:

Well, I've had another. Stop the presses!

Flashback to almost four years ago. Sideways is released and it seems as though Alexander Payne is officially anointed as The New Big Thing. I believed he was on quite a streak.

Since then, he made a segment in the eighteen-segment, eighteen-filmmaker piece Paris je tiaime, which was fine, and also had a hand in co-writing the execrable Adam Sandler comedy Chuck and Larry.

This isn't meant as a kvetching, "Why don't you make more films?" posting, or a proclamation that Payne is "over," or anything so bold. I'm just curious. Payne isn't a regular fixture of online speculation that some major filmmakers are, though in my keeping abreast of things, it does seem like certain projects have fallen through (I swear I remember talk of him working on a project entitled Nebraska). Now at the untrustworthy IMDB, they have him marked down for an "announced" movie he's set to direct entitled Fork in the Road.

It just seems a little strange that Payne has largely fallen off the map for this long. I have no knowledge of the intricacies of his personal life, nor do I wish to, but he's one filmmaker I became interested in watching develop, and I still am. Even if he says Bergman's The Seventh Seal is unwatchable--at least he credited Wild Strawberries for influencing About Schmidt (as though he needed to!).

Does anyone share my desire to see him get up at bat again fairly soon? If he wants to become Kubrick or Malick and take all the time in the world to fire himself back up, I'll grudgingly accept it, but I am Payned to not see more biting satire married to rich emotional resonance at the cinema. Payne's absence leaves a considerable vacuum to be filled. Jason Reitman, who shows some promise, isn't quite cutting it.


Sam Juliano said...

Hey, Malick broke hearts for a much longer and sustained time. Payne has given us SIDEWAYS (as you mention) and ELECTION, and he's young. Admittedly he's a hard act to follow even for himself. Any one who disparages Bergman in any way riles me up, but at least you offered that disclaimer! LOL. I'm sure he will reward our patience though.

Alexander Coleman said...

I agree, Sam--though Payne is inching closer to 50 now, he's still got a long future ahead of him... That said, I'm always a little disheartened when a filmmaker of his talents more or less takes half a decade off, or fools around with things like the script for Chuck and Larry.

The Bergman quote about The Seventh Seal burned me up, but at least he gave Wild Strawberries its due.

Daniel G. said...

I would absolutely like to see more from Payne. As it happened, his contribution to Paris was my favorite of all of them. I'm hoping he's biding his time and focusing on delivering quality like that.

Alexander Coleman said...

Payne's segment was my second favorite, Daniel, behind the Coens'. I found the whole enterprise a bit hit-and-miss, though fortunately more hit than miss.

christian said...

I loved Payne's segment the most and thought the Coen's was them at their most obvious.

I know Payne is working on something and he certainly has been acting as a producer.

I watch ELECTION at least once every coupla months.

Craig Kennedy said...

I loved Election and Sideways and was surprised at how much I like this segment from Paris je t'aime, but I didn't much care for About Schmidt. I'm in the minority on this and that's fine, but there it is.

Intrestingly Christian, even as a Coen apologist, their segment of Paris je t'aime left me a little underwhelmed.

Alexander Coleman said...

Christian, though I don't see Election that often, I kind of wish I did. It's certainly a winner in every way, and one of the best American satires I can think of in the past twenty years, easily.

That's interesting, Craig, because part of me considers About Schmmidt to be Payne's under-appreciated "middle child" so to speak, and in some ways I think it's actually his best film, though perhaps his "least enjoyable" work.

Sideways was a film I liked but did not love. I admire it and enjoy it, but it falls into that category of "good film, overrated"; if it hadn't been so remarkably hyped, I may have thought more highly of it. For a while I almost resented the film because I didn't understand what all of the hubbub was about, though it did grow on me more upon a second viewing. Virginia Madsen and Paul Giamatti particularly terrific in it.

Christian, I probably should see Paris ja t'aime again. The Payne segment did linger in a singularly beautiful way.

Daniel G. said...

Forgot about About Schmidt, and I'd have to say I'm with Craig. Only saw it the one time, though. Actually, it was the first movie in a marathon day - the longest I've ever had. Four movies, four different theaters. The other three: Two Weeks Notice, Antwone Fisher, and Rabbit-Proof Fence.

Anyway, I can completely understand the resentment factor, Alexander. That actually might be a good future post. I saw Sideways right away and loved it, though. Still do.

And Payne's probably lingers the most because, well, it was the last one.

Azariah said...

This won't truly have success, I think this way.
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