Note: this is an archived entry. Some links might not still work, but I have tried to ensure scan and video embeds are still in place. If any linked material is unavailable, please let me know and I’ll attempt to find a copy in my personal archives.
First off, I wanted to express gratitude for everyone who expressed concern while I had to take a few days off to deal with some inclement weather. Fortunately we weren’t in the worst-hit areas (that would be New York and New Jersey, whose citizens remain in my thoughts tonight). But we’re close enough to some real devastation to feel more unnerved than relieved (and half of my hometown remains without electricity, though we’re inland enough to have avoided the flooding.) I hope all my readers are staying safe tonight.
The first bit of Hugo Weaving News I found when I was finally able to safely boot up a few hours ago was this essay in The Atlantic in which the author, Joseph Pisano, analyses what he sees as strengths and patterns is some of Hugo’s more memorable roles. While he makes some valid points and defends Hugo against the recent, irrational fanboy/Michael Bay whingings, he’s still too keen to typecast Hugo ass a villain specialist. Hugo himself has argued against this categorization, saying that except in rare cases where he’s hired to play a “cartoon villain” (ie Captain America), he doesn’t interpret the characters as villains, and tries to make them plausible human beings, not just “bastards you love to hate.”
The author’s final notion, that Hugo is “bringing an ounce of actorly smarts to otherwise dumb productions, and offering mass audiences a better, defter bad guy to root against” is unfairly limiting, and ignores the fact that his best, most complex work has been done elsewhere. Also, since I was about 10 years old, if a better actor was playing the villain in any movie, I sided with the villain. I’ve never gotten my core moral principles from Hollywood franchises, even those I liked, so I just went with the more compelling character. So I’ve rarely been scared of or “loved to hate” Hugo’s characters. I don’t see characters like Kev as being “villains” but flawed, damaged human beings. Smith is most scary when you know deep down that he’s right, not when he’s threatening Neo. In fact, the scene where Smith physically renders Neo unable to speak brings joy to my heart every damn time. Likewise, you’re scared of what a character like Kev might do, but you know he loves his son deep down, even if he doesn’t know how to properly express this (in words or behavior.) Yes it does “take talent to play unforgettable bad guys”, but that’s far from all this actor does, and even emphasizing the more sophisticated side of this talent omits classic Hugo Weaving roles like Tick, Jack in Oranges and Sunshine and Astrov in STC’s recent production of Uncle Vanya. And Hugo himself has vanquished all question of “selling out” by repeating in pretty much every interview he’s given that he prefers playing complex human characters in independent films and considers his “blockbuster” roles to be anomalies rather than major career choices. I’m glad he’s tried to do so many types of films. I love the genre stuff (Marvel and TF excepted) probably more than Hugo does. But if he wanted to do sequels to The Wolfman or even The Matrix, I’d die inside a little. He’s been there and done that.
Anyhow, I commented along these lines under the original piece when I noticed a ton of new Hugo alerts started coming in– they turned out to be news of Hugo’s latest role, in the ambitious Australian anthology film The Turning, based on Tim Winton’s linked short story collection of that title. So… nice to have some indirect backup from Hugo himself, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about this. I’ve been a fan of Winton’s for awhile now. Hugo starred in a theatrical version of Winton’s That Eye, The Sky in the early 90s… while I missed that, of course, I did read the novel. It’s both a phantasmagorical mind(ahem!) and a more prosaic tale of a fragmenting rural family all at once (it all depends on whether you buy into or see through the central protagonist’s version of events– either way, it’s a quick read and has a visceral power.) I haven’t read The Turning but that will probably last about five minutes. 😉 (Hugo also narrated a profile of Winton and read excerpts from some of his stories for the Australian documentary The Edge of The World.)
The forthcoming film features several prominent Ausralian directors (as well as actors/noted Friends of Hugo Cate Blanchett and David Wenham) each directing a different segment. Hugo’s former costars Miranda Otto and Rose Byrne have also signed to join the cast. No specifics yet on roles, and whether this will be a true anthology film where each segment has a different director and cast (a la Paris Je T’Aime), an Altmanesque film where a sprawl of different groups of characters play bout their plotlines and periodically interact between plotlines (Short Cuts) or a more experimental, thematic hybrid like Cloud Atlas… I’m betting this piece will be decidedly more earthy and less grandiose… ideally, Hugo will have a completely different sort of character (characters?) to play. At any rate, you can read initial reports at The Hollywood Reporter and The Film Stage. THR says the film is scheduled to premiere next year, so that would suggest a winter/spring 2013 filming schedule… I’ll pass on any new info as soon as it becomes available. Between this, Mystery Road, Healing, Waiting For Godot and any additional work on The Hobbit films 2 and 3, Hugo looks to have a busy schedule for much of next year.
Cloud Atlas videos continue to appear… the latest is a compilation from Buzzine featuring comments from Hugo, Susan Sarandon, Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Sturgess, James D’Arcy, Ben Whishaw, David Mitchell, the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer. There’s a nice bonus in the form of a full transcript at the website.
I’ll continue to urge anyone who hasn’t seen Cloud Atlas to go ahead and do so while it’s still in theaters, and go again if you liked it the first time. It needs all the help we fans can give it. I do think a larger audience will catch on eventually, but there has to be word of mouth for that to work. Roger Ebert continues to champion the film on Twitter and his website, as do several film sites like Ain’t It Cool News, Collider and Cinema Blend. But the sniffy elitist and dumbed-down franchise-whore crowds may scoff, but I don’t think they’ll have the final say. I’ve been down this road too many times with films that meant something to me– we can make a difference in the long run. It’s frustrating that the short-term box office numbers may prevent other ambitious, big-budget films from being attempted. At any rate, I’ll continue following reviews and new articles as long as they appear.
Things are still somewhat chaotic around here at the moment (I’m juggling trick-or-treaters on top of everything else) so it make take a few days to get fully up to speed. But I couldn’t delay posting these few goodies, and I hope they tide everyone over. 😉