The director and screenwriter fight for credit over a confusing movie.
Hear this: It seems that director Alejandro González Iñárritu has teamed up with his Babel collaborators, including actors Gael García Bernal and Adriana Barraza and composer Gustavo Santaolalla, to denounce screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga as a credit hog. Arriaga and González Iñárritu have collaborated for some years—their films include 21 Grams and Amores Perros—but the issue of who deserves credit for Babel blew them apart. When the media reported on this in October, the producers of the film confirmed that the story was true but denounced it as "salacious gossip." Babel, indeed.
Apparently, the Babel team felt compelled to gossip some more in the pages of Mexico's Chilango * magazine. They wrote a letter addressing Arriaga: "It's a shame that in your unjustified obsession to claim sole responsibility for the film, you seem not to recognize that movies are an art of deep collaboration." Among all these stories about how Mexican filmmakers can't make their movies in Mexico, we find that they can conduct their feuds there.
We were a little confused about the meaning of Babel. In a recent interview with Variety, Arriaga explained that it was all about miscommunication, sort of. Because it's also about the last day of something in a person's life—a day that is a turning point.
For the story of the Moroccan boys who shoot at a bus, he said: "That … was the last day of innocence." (And for one of them, just about the last day of being alive. But let's move on.)
For the Mexican nanny who gets deported: "I can call it the last day of substitution. She substituted her family with this other family. Now she realizes that's not her country, that's not her family, that's not her identity." For the Japanese girl played by Rinko Kikuchi, it's "the last day of a sense of loss." And for the couple played by Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, it's "the last day of resentment between them."
Each story line, Arriaga explained, ends with the characters finding refuge in family, because only family provides relief from a world full of miscommunication.
That's not exactly our experience, but good for Arriaga if it's his. Because he seems to be in a world full of miscommunication right now.
On a more practical note, how strange that this fight continues just after Babel almost whiffed at the Oscar ceremony. (González Iñárritu lost; Barraza lost; Arriaga lost; if it weren't for Santaolalla, it would have been a total wipeout.) The film has gotten quite a lot of critical acclaim, but it's grossed less than $35 million. So, here's an idea: Maybe this should be the last day of bitching about the movie. (link)
Thursday, Feb. 22, 2007
Indecision: Oscar ballots are in, and we still have no clue about the best picture winner. In previous years we have taken great pride in our predictions, at least when it comes to best picture, so we felt a little bad about this at first. Then we realized—no prediction is the way to go this year! So, we were right again.
"Whatever wins, it won't be by much," says a veteran awards strategist and fearless prognosticator, calling this "the closest year in history." Of course, vote counts are never revealed so—he's right, too!
Kim Masters is an NPR correspondent and the author of The Keys to the Kingdom: The Rise of Michael Eisner and the Fall of Everyone Else.
Photograph of Steven Spielberg by Kevin Winter/Getty Images. Still of Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt in Babel by Murray Close, © Paramount Vantage. All rights reserved. Photograph of Alejandro González Iñárritu by Evan Agostini/Getty Images.