Robin Williams plays a heavy in Christopher Nolan’s new movie Insomnia (see below). But don’t fret. Robin, the funniest man alive, has not given up comedy. I can tell you exclusively that Williams will be making his Broadway debut as a stand-up comedian this summer. He will take his comedy act to the aptly named Broadway Theatre for a limited run prior to his previously announced July 14th live HBO special. His previous shows in New York — held the last week of March at Avery Fisher Hall, Carnegie Hall and the Beacon Theatre — were sellouts and critical successes.
You read it here first, and don’t forget it. Insomnia, the new movie from Christopher Nolan starring Academy Award winners Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hilary Swank is the first Oscar movie of 2002.
Nolan, who wrote and directed last year’s genius flick, Memento, has scored again with a brilliant Hitchcock-like thriller that will guarantee the leads as well as the screenwriter and Nolan himself Academy Award nominations.
As I wrote about Cameron Crowe in my review of Almost Famous, I hate Christopher Nolan. Can one guy be this good? The answer is yes.
Insomnia, which will be released in some fashion by the ridiculously disorganized and unprepared Warner Bros., premiered on Saturday night at the Tribeca Film Festival. This was another hot ticket for a festival which drew a reported 100,000 people to a street fair during the afternoon.
Garry Shandling, a Los Angeleno rarely seen around these parts, stuck around all week for this premiere. Besides the cast, the after-party drew an impressive guest list including Lion King director Julie Taymor, composer Elliot Goldenthal, Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, Edward Norton, Patricia Clarkson, director Brian DePalma, and Kevin Spacey.
But certainly the oddest picture of the night was of controversial author Salman Rushdie, still under a death threat from Iranian clerics who objected to his novel The Satanic Verses, flanked by Robin Williams and Billy Crystal in a banquet. I don’t know how these two were able to keep a straight face.
Billy, who made 61, one of the best movies of last year, seemed particularly grim all night.
Pacino, the star of Insomnia, did not stick around the after-event and made himself scarce all night anyway.
But Williams spent quality time accepting kudos for his extremely unfunny performance as a reclusive writer living in the Pacific Northwest. He will be competing in a tight race next winter, since Daniel Day-Lewis is almost assured of a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Gangs of New York. Robin won that award already in 1999, for Good Will Hunting.
What’s so good about Insomnia? For one thing, it inadvertently retells a scenario similar to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: in a small Alaskan town a high school girl is found murdered. She leaves a number of clues: a diary, a bunch of friends who aren’t what they seem, and a connection to several unsavory adults. The local police are suddenly invaded by, instead of the FBI (Agent Cooper in Twin Peaks), Los Angeles homicide detectives.
Pacino plays Detective Will Dormer, neatly named since the lack of darkness at night in this northern town leaves him with a bad case of sleeplessness.
But rather than play this situation for camp or laughs, director Nolan and writer Hilary Seitz set out to do a few nifty things. They make an ode to Alfred Hitchcock complete with a classic frightening scene of underwater claustrophobia that makes Vertigo look like nothing. They also manage to invoke elements of Detective Mark Furhmann and his alleged evidence tampering and planting in the O.J. Simpson criminal case. Last, they immediately dispense with the idea that Det. Dormer must be a cut and dried hero. Everything is at risk all the time in Insomnia. Nothing is clichéd and no one knows what’s going to happen next.
Insomnia could follow the fate of Warner Bros.’ last Oscar movie, L.A. Confidential, and get left at the altar. Some things that went on at the premiere made it seem as though that might happen. I sure hope not. When L.A. Confidential started winning critical acclaim the studio strategy was to pull the film out of theatres week by week. Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce’s performances were ignored. Kim Basinger had to stage her own Academy campaign and managed to win Best Supporting Actress.
Last year Warner Bros. all but abandoned Denzel Washington in Training Day. Critics groups salvaged Washington’s performance and got him enough attention to ignite a successful Academy campaign. Let’s hope we’re not doing that later this fall for Nolan, Pacino et al. They are the real thing and deserve to be on every short list when the time comes.
I have to thank The New York Times for making me a better writer.
I had the honor of appearing a story yesterday in their Styles section. The story was about a private cocktail party thrown to celebrate Phoebe Snow’s sold out show on May 5th at the Cutting Room. The party was hosted by a private person, a non-celebrity who offered his home. It was lovely, and a gracious invitation from someone who had no need to allow strangers to invade his privacy.
Nevertheless the Times story was filled with mistakes and it was unnecessarily snotty. I guess this is called “edgy.” So now I know what it’s like to be on the other side of a press assassination. Whoops! I can take my lumps, but I feel bad for the host, who was ambushed.
The Times also apparently does not fact check its stories. This Web site was referred to as Fox.com. It is however Foxnews.com. I was referred to as a gossip columnist, although gossip is rarely dished here; entertainment news is reported. “Patty” Springsteen, as referred to in the story, is Patti Scialfa. The writer seemed intent on making it seem as through the Scialfa and husband Bruce Springsteen’s lovely touch of sending flowers to Snow, their friend, was repeated to her for something other than information. I thought I was giving the reporter some color for her story.
Oh well: the reporter trashed the host of the party, who generously donated his home and gave a tour to one and all. She indicated that the man was either shallow for being rich or stupid for having a home in Italy, also that he was affected in his pronunciations. She knocked the manager of the Cutting Room for his looks and implied that he’d failed at his previous occupation. She questioned the food that was served and complained about the late arrival of the host and the non-appearance of his friend, actor Chris Noth, who had been at Snow’s show but was feeling ill.
Did I learn something from this experience? I’d like to think I did. Facts can be twisted, and attitudes can be tweaked. I’m sure I’ve done it myself in this column, albeit inadvertently. But I’ll be more sensitive to it now. So I guess I owe the Times my thanks.