Two of the season's previously-unseen awards contenders were unveiled over the last few days, but it's a lot easier to find reactions to Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin" than Clint Eastwood's "J.Edgar."
The Spielberg film, which is subtitled "The Secret of the Unicorn," opens in Europe this month, two months ahead of its U.S. release. The embargo on reviews was lifted over the weekend, and the result was a flood of praise.
Eastwood's "J. Edgar," meanwhile, tried to debut in the filmmaker's hometown of Carmel, Calif., where its initial screening was cut short by a power outage. A re-screening was scheduled for the following night, but a rep for the film says that too was derailed by techical problems.
First, the word on "Tintin," Spielberg's animated (via motion-capture) version of the Belgian comics by Herge:
On Twitter, @TimeOutFilm called it "an absolute pleasure, maybe Spielberg's best since 'Jurassic Park,'" while Stuart O'Connor of the Screenjabber website (@Screenjabber) tweeted: "fabulous — a rollicking adventure with terrific pacing, lots of laughs & best mo-cap to date."
Later, he tweeted, "I think it's entirely likely that 'Tintin' will end up being this year's best Steven Spielberg film." (The other contender for that distinction: "War Horse," the more prestigious drama that has yet to screen.)
In a full review, Empire Magazine attributed some of the film's success to the effect that producer Peter Jackson had on lightening up Spielberg — who, wrote Ian Nathan, "has brought a boy's heart, an artist's quile and a movie-lover's wit to computer generating Herge's immortal hero."
The animation, he said, "expands the Belgian's formal elegance into a wonderland of digital detail without ever losing sight of the bubbly charm of the books."
Even the French, who might be expected to look askance at Hollywood's take on a property that means more in Europe than the United States, have been approving. The French Premiere called it "a stunning and radical film" — though, to be fair, whatever translation program is used to generate the English version of its website leaves a lot to be desired.
I mean, I love this sentence, but I wouldn't want to parse it:
"The irony inside, it is that this triumph of extremist-technological movie, deeply pioneer, will charge in the rooms to the moment same where the potential intelligentsia (twittos and blogos) feeds almost daily of his been one of unsound mind hate with respect to the 3D and/or performance captures (indeed the shameful treatment reserved to the last Zemeckis)."
Back in the English language, Screen Daily's Mike Goodridge could scarely contain himself: "'The Secret of the Unicorn' is a spellbinding cinematic feat which delivers Tintin to a new generation with the same exhilaration as Spielberg and Lucas reinvented the '30s serials in 'Raiders of the lost Ark' 30 years ago."
Matt Mueller at Thompson on Hollywood found a few things he didn't like — John Williams' "bombastically annoying" score, the frantic pace, creepy close-ups — but in general he was won over by a film that, he says, "delivers one thrilling set-piece after another in a way that suggests that Spielberg has not only pulled out his Indiana Jones toolbox but has decided to pack anything and everything into 'Tintin' that the logistical, budgetary realities of shooting live-action won’t let him do. Let off his leash, he’s clearly having a blast, and so do we."
The closest thing to a negative review among the first reactions came from Robbie Collin, writing for the British newspaper the Telegraph. He called the film "a serviceable all-ages adventure romp that trades heavily on audiences’ affection for both the books and those who have adapted them without giving an awful lot back."
Meanwhile, Eastwood's "J. Edgar" had a much quieter and more snafu-ridden unveiling over the weekend, beginning with an invitation-only Friday night screening at the third annual Carmel Art and Film Festival, a five-day event set in the Northern California coastal city where Eastwood lives and once served as mayor.
The screening took place after a special tribute to Eastwood, which included the first presentation of the Clint Eastwood Filmmakers Award. (In future years, the award will go to people for whom it wasn't named.)
But that Friday night screening ended abruptly before the movie itself had ended, cut short by a power outage on the Monterey Peninsula.
The festival then scheduled a re-screening for Saturday night, only to have that fall prey to tech troubles as well.
Given Carmel's rather sleepy vibe, it's no surprise that those who went to the "J. Edgar" screening didn't immediately race to the internet to post partial reactions and talk about the snafus.
So on a weekend when a two-time Best Picture and Best Director winner had planned to unveil his latest film, the biggest Clint Eastwood news came from the release of an old audio tape in which George H.W. Bush aide James Baker said that candidate Bush briefly considered recruiting Eastwood to be his running mate in 1988.
"J. Edgar" will open on November 9 after a November 3 screening at the AFI Fest in Los Angeles. Presumably, the technical problems will be ironed out and the cone of silence will have lifted before that.