David Wain directing Alan Alda is something I can pretty easily picture. Brett Ratner directing Alan Alda is something of which I’d never even conceived, though I suppose Alda would have been right at home in Ratner’s The Family Man, with Nic Cage. Regardless, Alda will work with both directors as he’s been cast in both Wain’s Wanderlust and Ratner’s Tower Heist. Read More »
The Allen Ginsberg biopic, Howl, starring James Franco as the American weird beard beatnik poet and intellectual has filled out a lovely cast: Paul Rudd, Alan Alda, Mary-Louise Parker (so tempestuous on Weeds), Jeff Daniels, and David Strathairn have all signed. The actors will portray real-life characters involved in a 1957 obscenity trial, which saw the publisher of Ginsberg’s epic, landmark poem, “Howl,” forced to defend the work’s graphic descriptions of homosexual acts and its merit to society. The court ultimately decided in the publisher’s favor.
The indie feature marks the debut of documentarians, Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, who co-directed the homosexuality-in-film doc, The Celluloid Closet. Epstein also directed The Times of Harvey Milk, which won the 1985 Oscar for Best Documentary, and Gus Van Sant, who directed Franco in this year’s Milk, is producing Howl. Got all that? As if Paul Rudd needed yet another posse. It’s been noted that Franco resembles a young Ginsberg, before the beatnik took on his chubby, bald-yet-hirsute appearance—as played by David Cross in I’m Not There—and joined NAMBLA.
“Fifty years later, Ginsberg’s vision is as relevant as the year he wrote it,” Friedman said in a statement to the trades. “It resonates with issues of free speech, government censorship, militaristic empire building, fear-mongering, sexual conformity and the co-opting of religion.”
The Allen Ginsberg Trust sought the directors for the project. This is def a film to keep an eye on, though I’d prefer to see a full-fledged and objective biopic rather than a damn-the-man flick a la The People vs. Larry Flynt. Franco’s is a role that could have been filled by Johnny Depp in the ’90s, smart career trajectory.
Discuss: Looking forward to Howl? Do you agree with the director’s remarks? Any thoughts on Ginsberg?
Flash of Genius is one of the surprise films that is being shown at this year’s Telluride Film Festival. Based on a true story, Flash of Genius follows Doctor Robert Kearns (Greg Kinnear), a Detroit-based inventor and engineer professor, who decided to take on the automotive industry, and more specifically Ford Motor Company, who he claimed stole his patented idea for the intermittent windshield wiper.
Yeah, it doesn’t immediately sound like a compelling narrative for a feature film, but Philip Railsback’s screenplay brings the story home, resulting in a fascinating family drama. The battle over inventor-ship lasted many years and at what cost? His wife, his family, his job and even his mental stability. Kearns wasn’t after a huge out of court settlement, he just wanted credit for the invention that he believed he created.
I’ve enjoyed Kinnear’s many performances over the years, but I’ve always believed that his range was somewhat limited. In Flash of Genius, Kinnear takes it to the next level, disappearing into the role and showing a transformation which might rival Benjamin Button on a micro level. Co-stars Dermot Mulroney, Alan Alda and Lauren Graham also turned in notable performances, but Kinear stole the show.
Marc Abraham has been producing films since 1991’s The Commitments. He has been involved in various types of films over the last 17 years, everything from The Babysitters Club to Children of Men. Flash of Genius is Abraham’s directorial debut, and a passion project that he has been developing for almost a decade.
The film will ask questions of yourself. Would you, could you, sell your legacy for $30 million or even $100 million? When is it time to give up on something, even if you know/believe it to be right?
/Film Rating: 8 out of 10