Albert Brooks’ Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World

Is this the one in which Bill Murray plays an over-the-hill music industry manager who somehow gets himself stranded in Afghanistan, and then he runs into some Islamic extremists and they decide to kidnap him for a ransom except nobody will pay anything because he’s a has-been so the baddies decide to behead him in a public square? No? That’s another one? Actually this version seems a little funnier. Open Road will open Barry Levinson‘s Rock the Kasbah on 10.23.

The Whole World Is Watching

Three weeks ago a Gravitas Features spokesperson indicated to me that Colin HanksAll Things Must Pass would not open in September, as Variety‘s Dave McNary had reported last March. But she wouldn’t say when exactly. Since that day the world has been waiting with bated breath to know when we could all put on our trunks and dive into a Tower Records nostalgia pool. Today — Thursday, 8.27 — Gravitas finally stepped up to the plate and announced a 10.16 opening in select theatres “with a VOD release to follow.” Well, yeah, naturally…but when? This is the question, dude. This is our concern.

Gurus to Scorsese: Did You Know That Silence Is Opening This Year?

Four days after the Gold Derby gang posted their annual gut-instinct, know-nothing award season predictions, the good old Gurus of Gold have weighed in with their spitballs. But this time they’re splitting the chart into three categories — (1) Already Widely Seen/Festival-Premiered, (2) Making The Festival Run and (3) Coming in Mid-October or Later.

The most exciting Guru news is an apparent conviction (shared by all except for The Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg, Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson and Susan Wloszczyna) that Martin Scorsese‘s Silence will be released this year. That’s not what I’m hearing but if it is, great! But who have these gurus been talking to?

Todd HaynesCarol is the most highly-rated in the first category — no surprise — followed by Inside Out (forget it), Mad Max: Fury Road (thumbs up, agree with Kyle Buchanan), Youth and Brooklyn.

Among the Making The Festival Runners the highest ranked are The Danish Girl, Steve Jobs (current HE fave), Spotlight, Black Mass, Trumbo and Suffragette. The follow-ups in this category are Our Brand Is Crisis, I Saw The Light, Where To Invade Next, The Program, Room, The Lady In The Van, Legend and Beasts of No Nation. (more…)

“Kill That Dog”

Screen Archives is accepting pre-orders for a Bluray of James Foley and Nick Kazan‘s At Close Range for $29 and change — call it $30 plus shipping. Last August I rented an Amazon digital stream of this 1986 classic for only $4, and it looked really great. (You’re not going to convince me that the Bluray looks better.) And it’s purchasable for $15. It’s vaguely unsettling to consider that this rural Pennsylvania crime film is nearly 30 years old.


Evil Is Not Just A Concept

What kind of vile hell-hounds would destroy a 2,000 year-old Syrian temple — a UNESCO Heritage site? Answer: the same kind of vile hell-hounds who cut off heads for You Tube hits. And the world is basically saying, “Too bad but not our problem.” On July 27, 1942 around 4,000 paintings (Klee, Miro, Picasso, Dali) were incinerated by Nazi authorities outside the Jeu de Paume in Paris, but to blow up the ancient temple of Palmyra? ISIS regards ornate tombs and statues as idolatrous. Last week they beheaded Khaled Asaad, 81, the chief archeologist of Palmyra, accusing him of being “director of idolatry” at the site. These guys (approximately 20,000 strong) need to be herded into a deep pit and buried alive.

How Ya Like Me Now?

No reviews or social media postings on Baltasar Kormakur‘s Everest (Universal, 9.18) until the wee hours of September 2nd, but I can at least say that before last night I was convinced that Kormakur was more or less the new Renny Harlin. Kormakur’s Contraband and 2 Guns, a pair of negligible, jizz-whizz Mark Wahlberg actioners, were enough to persuade anyone of this hypothesis. I’m not saying anything about anything, but it’s a major knockout feeling and an eye-opener when a guy you’ve more or less written off suddenly conveys that he has a lot more in his quiver.

Girls Together Affectionately

Earlier this month three or four different versions of posters for Tom Hooper‘s The Danish Girl somehow leaked out. They were quickly squelched by Focus Features. Now the final approved version has popped, and for whatever reason the FF guys have decided to go with a swoony, softly focused, amber-toned image. A portrait of Eddie Redmayne/Lili Elbe and Alicia Vikander/Gerda Wegener minus any sharpness or any light-of-day neutrality…a yesterday vibe, edges sanded down, not too much definition. The poster is telling us that the key story element isn’t the transition itself but “a love story that knows no gender” — i.e., the fact that Vikander stays the course.

Owen’s Reluctance

You’d think that a brainy, circumspect guy like Owen Wilson, who voted for Barack Obama once or twice, would be “feeling the Bern” right about now, but no. (Has he or hasn’t he seen Inequality For All?) And he’s not on Team Hillary either. Is he a Joe Biden man? Is he one of those Elizabeth Warren supporters who refuses to fold the tent? I think it kind of means something that Owen, who’s one of the most free-thinking, oddly mystical-minded actors I’ve ever spoken with, is in a kind of disengaged levitational place. Plus he’s of two minds on Donald Trump — appalled but faintly amused (“You can’t help but get a kick out him…you sort of feel he could be a character from Network“). Here‘s the interview.

Click here to jump past the Oscar Balloon

2015 X-Factor, Ambitious, Semi-Fresh, Social Undercurrent, Something More (23)

A Bigger Splash -- Luca Guadagnino (director); Matthias Schoenaerts, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson. Fox Searchlight, presumably sometime in the fall.

Black Mass (Warner Bros.) -- Scott Cooper (director/screenplay); Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sienna Miller, Dakota Johnson. (9.18)

Bridge of Spies (Touchstone / DreamWorks / 20th Century Fox) -- Steven Spielberg (director); Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (screenplay); Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, Billy Magnussen, Eve Hewson.

Brooklyn (Fox Searchlight) -- John Crowley (director), Nick Hornby (screenwriter) -- Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters.

By The Sea (Universal) -- Angelina Jolie (director, screenwriter). Cast: Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Niels Arestrup, Mélanie Laurent.

Carol (Weinstein Co.) -- Todd Haynes (director); Pyllis Nagy (screenplay, based on Patricia Highsmith novel); Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler. Cannes reaction: Best Picture, Best Actress/Supporting Actress, Best Screenplay (Phyllis Nagy).

Concussion -- Peter Landesman (director-writer). Will Smith, Albert Brooks, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Paul Reiser, Luke Wilson. Sony.

The Danish Girl -- Tom Hooper (director). Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Matthias Schoenaerts.

Hail Caesar! (Universal -- listed as a February 2016 release but if the film turns out to be half as good as the crackling script, it'll be criminal to relegate it to a dump month); Joel and Ethan Coen (directors, screenplay); Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill.

Joy (20th Century Fox) -- David O. Russell (director/screenplay). Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Édgar Ramirez. 20th Century Fox, 12.25.

Love and Mercy -- Bill Pohlad (director). Oren Moverman, Michael Alan Lerner (screenplay). Paul Dano, John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti. Roadside Attractions, 6.5. General post-opening response: Best Picture, Best Actor (Dano, Cusack), Best Director (Bill Pohlad), Best Screenplay (Oren Moverman).

Our Brand Is Crisis (Warner Bros.); David Gordon Green (director); Peter Straughan (screenplay); Sandra Bullock, Scoot McNairy, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Ann Dowd. WARNING -- possible 2016 release.

The Program -- Stephen Frears (director), Jon Hodge (screenwriter). An Irish sports journalist becomes convinced that Lance Armstrong's performances during the Tour de France victories are fueled by banned substances. Ben Foster, Lee Pace, Chris O'Dowd.

The Revenant (20th Century Fox) -- Alejandro González Inarritu (director/screenplay); Mark "nobody can remember my middle initial" Smith (screenplay); Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Domhnall Gleeson.

Snowden -- Oliver Stone (director, co-writer). Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Rhys Ifans, Joely Richardson, Timothy Olyphant. Open Road, 12.25.

Spotlight -- Thomas McCarthy (director, co-writer). Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Brian d'Arcy James, Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, Liev Schreiber, Billy Crudup, John Slattery.

Steve Jobs (Universal -- shooting began in January 2015, which indicates an intention to bring it out by late '15) -- Danny Boyle (director), Aaron Sorkin (screenplay), Scott Rudin (producer); Cast: Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen, Michael Stuhlbarg, Katherine Waterston.

Trumbo (Bleecker Street) -- Jay Roach (director), Michael London (producer), John McNamara (screenwriter). Cast: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning, Louis C.K., Helen Mirren, John Goodman.

Truth (no distributor) -- James Vanderbilt (director, writer -- based on the 2005 memoir "Truth and Duty" by Mary Mapes); Cast: Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett, Elisabeth Moss, Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid, Bruce Greenwood.

Probably 2016:

Untitled Warren Beatty/Howard Hughes Drama (no distributor) -- Warren Beatty (director, writer); Warren Beatty, Alden Ehrenreich, Lily Collins, Matthew Broderick, Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, Taissa Farmiga, Chace Crawford, Candice Bergen.

Silence (Paramount) -- Martin Scorsese (director); Jay Cocks (screenplay); Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Issei Ogata, Adam Driver, Tadanobu Asano. WARNING -- could be 2016 release.

Downgraded After Cannes Screenings or Post-Release:

Aloha (Sony/Columbia) a.k.a. Son of Deep Tiki -- Cameron Crowe (director, writer); Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Alec Baldwin, Bill Murray, John Krasinski, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel.

Irrational Man (Sony Classics) -- Woody Allen (director, screenplay); Joaquin Phoenix, Parker Posey, Emma Stone, Jamie Blackley. .

Sea of Trees (no distributor) -- Gus Van Sant (director); Chris Sparling (screenplay); Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe, Naomi Watts, Katie Aselton, Jordan Gavaris.

Tomorrowland (Disney) -- Brad Bird (director, cowriter); Damon Lindelof (co-writer); George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie, Raffey Cassidy, Thomas Robinson, Kathryn Hahn, Tim McGraw, Keegan-Michael Key, Judy Greer.

2015 Quality-Grade Commercial / alphabetical order (11):

Crimson Peak (Universal / Legendary) -- Guillermo del Toro (director/screenplay); Matthew Robbins, Lucinda Coxon (screenplay); Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Jessica Chastain, Jim Beaver.

Everest (Universal) -- Baltasar Kormákur (director); Justin Isbell, William Nicholson (screenplay); Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Jason Clarke, John Hawkes, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright.

The Hateful Eight (Weinstein Co.) -- Quentin Tarantino (director-writer); Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Demián Bichir, Kurt Russell.

In the Heart of the Sea (Warner Bros.) Ron Howard (director); Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson.

The Last Face (distributor) -- Sean Penn (director); Erin Dignam (screenplay); Charlize Theron, Javier Bardem, Adèle Exarchopoulos.

Legend (Universal); Brian Helgeland (director, screenwriter); Tom Hardy (playing both Kray twins), Emily Browning.

Midnight Special (Warner Bros.) -- Jeff Nichols (director/screenplay); Cast: Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Joel Edgerton.

Regression (The Weinstein Company) -- Alejandro Amenábar (director/screenplay); Ethan Hawke, Emma Watson, David Dencik.

Ricki and the Flash (TriStar) -- Jonathan Demme (director); Diablo Cody (screenplay); Meryl Streep, Mamie Gummer, Kevin Kline, Sebastian Stan, Rick Springfield, Ben Platt.

Trainwreck (Universal) -- Judd Apatow (director/screenplay); Amy Schumer (screenplay); Cast: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, Tilda Swinton, Vanessa Bayer, Ezra Miller, John Cena, Barkhad Abdi, Norman Lloyd.

The Walk (TriStar / ImageMovers) -- Robert Zemeckis (director/screenplay); Christopher Browne (screenplay); Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Charlotte Le Bon. Sony/TriStar, 10.2.

Pleasingly, Vigorously, Assuredly Mainstream (or something in that realm) / alphabetical order (13):

Criminal (Summit Entertainment) -- Ariel Vromen (director); Douglas Cook, David Weisberg (screenplay); Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman.

Grimsby (Columbia) -- Louis Leterrier (director); Sacha Baron Cohen, Phil Johnston (screenplay); Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson, Annabelle Wallis, Ian McShane, Gabourey Sidibe, David Harewood, Johnny Vegas, Penélope Cruz, Scott Adkins.

Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros.) George Miller (director/screenplay); Nick Lathouris, Brendan McCarthy (screenplay); Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoë Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Richard Norton, Riley Keough, Courtney Eaton, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Nathan Jones, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.

Magic Mike XXL (Warner Bros.) Gregory Jacobs (director); Channing Tatum (screenplay); Cast: Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Gabriel Iglesias, Andie MacDowell, Amber Heard, Jada Pinkett Smith, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Glover, Michael Strahan.

The Martian (20th Century Fox) -- Ridley Scott (director); Drew Goddard (screenplay); Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Mackenzie Davis, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Donald Glover, Aksel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sebastian Stan.

Masterminds (Relativity Media) -- Jared Hess (director); John Goldwyn, Lorne Michaels (screenplay); Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis.

Mississippi Grind (no distributor) -- Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck (directors, writers). Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Sienna Miller, Ben Mendelsohn, Analeigh Tipton.

Southpaw (Weinstein Co.) -- Antoine Fuqua; Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Naomie Harris, Forest Whitaker, Victor Ortiz.

Spectre (MGM / Columbia) -- Sam Mendes (director); John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade (screenplay); Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Disney / Lucasfilm / Bad Robot) -- J.J. Abrams (director/screenplay); Lawrence Kasdan (screenplay); John Boyega, Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Max von Sydow, Lupita Nyong'o, Gwendoline Christie, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker.

Triple Nine (Open Road) -- John Hillcoat (director); Matt Cook (screenplay); Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Chris Allen, Anthony Mackie.


Another Christmas “Comedy” With Milquetoast Brood

Less than two weeks ago Ed Helms was hauled before a Movie Jail judge and sentenced to a ten-year…okay, make it a five year probation for having starred in Vacation, which is tied with No Escape for being the most repellent film of 2015. I’m sorry but the terms of Helms’ probation forbids all film lovers from being favorably disposed to any film he may costar or star in between now and mid-August of 2020. So that’s an ixnay, I’m afraid, for Jessie Nelson‘s Love The Coopers (CBS Films, 11.13). Costarring Diane Keaton, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Jake Lacy, Anthony Mackie, Amanda Seyfried, June Squibb, Marisa Tomei and Olivia Wilde. Will Keaton be in a good movie ever again, or is she stuck on an irreversible downslide? Her last decent film along these lines was The Family Stone, which is almost ten years old now.

Tell Us A Good Story

Today, 8.26, is Women’s Equality Day — the 95th anniversary of the final certifying into law of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote. (The 19th Amendment was actually ratified on 8.18.20.) The amendment had first been proposed in 1878 so the process took 42 years. It didn’t become law because women smiled at lawmakers and said “please.” It happened because they pushed for it, and then pushed and pushed and pushed until it hurt. Power always has to be fought for, and this often means that the foot soldiers of any political movement will have to suffer cuts and bruises and deprivations. I just hope that there’s more to Sarah Gavron‘s Suffragette (Focus Features, 10.23) than a dramatization of what a struggle it was for English women to fight against complacency and dismissive attitudes. I’m just hoping there’s more to it than just “these women really paid the price.”

James Joyce’s “Ulysses”

Five or six days ago I was at M Cafe de Chaya, a very cool place that specializes in macrobiotic dishes, to meet a couple of ladies. It was just before 9 pm. I ordered something or other, went out to the patio and noticed this pretty blonde in her late 20s. (Maybe her early 30s.) She acknowledged my glance and smiled. We chatted a bit. She told me her name. I asked what she did and she eventually confided that she worked as a hostess at a high-stakes Beverly Hills card game. Me: “You mean one of those games that guys like Tobey Maguire and Ben Affleck attend?” She nodded. Me: “The money, the tips are pretty good, I imagine.” She: “If somebody wins big…”

In a 2014 interview with former “poker princess” Molly Bloom, who hosted one of the hottest high-stakes games in Los Angeles (and also one in New York) and who wrote a book about her experiences called “Molly’s Game“, Bloom is asked “about the models that hung around the games to provide eye candy.” Bloom: “The girls I chose weren’t stupid and they weren’t bimbos. I tried to mentor them and empower them. I told them, ‘Don’t sleep with these guys.’ They’d make $10,000 for doing nothing.”

The not-to-be-named blonde and I spoke a bit more and then my two friends showed up. I introduced them to poker lady, lah-dee-dah, greetings all around, chit-chat. And then five or six minutes later she finished her sandwich, got up, smiled and waved goodbye. (more…)

Symphony From A Visual Virtuoso

Paolo Sorrentino‘s Youth “is a visually poetic, beautifully captured, symphony-like film, which is what Sorrentino does, of course. This has been his signature style in The Great Beauty and Il Divo (let’s ignore This Must Be The Place) and here’s the same tray of gourmet delights — deliciously photographed, serenely scored, composition for composition’s sake, drop-dead delectable, etc. And at the same time Youth is rather languid and swoony and a touch melancholy from time to time, and dryly amusing whenever Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel chew the fart fat while walking in the hills or sitting in a hot tub or sipping tea. But this is mostly a film that celebrates Sorrentino’s gifts as a visual composer.

“And I’ll tell you something. After a while I wanted a respite from all the beautiful framing and the luscious, perfectly lighted Swiss scenery. I wanted Caine and Keitel to take a train to Bern or Zurich on some pretext and hit a topless bar or something, if only for a few minutes respite from Sorrentino Land, which — don’t get me wrong — is a fine, rapturous place to be but which can feel, after a time, a bit narcotizing. You could even say that it offers a kind of confinement. It’s not that I don’t value it. I’m not an idiot. I’ve been savoring fine cinematography, editing and production design all my life, and I know what goes. (more…)

Ain’t That America?

Another shooting incident, another disgruntled ex-employee…business as usual in this great land of ours. If WDBJ reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward had been armed, they could have fired back at the shooter and possibly stopped him from committing this malicious act. We clearly need more guns — preferably everyone wearing holsters and six-shooters — and fewer restrictions. (HE to slow person who will write in to complain about my response: I’m being bitter and facetious.) The latest Amurrican shooting happened early this morning during a live feed in Bridgewater Plaza, Virginia. WDBJ is based in Roanoke, Virginia. Condolences to friends, family and co-workers of the deceased.

The killer, a former WDBJ employee identified as Vester Lee Flanagan (a.k.a. Bryce Williams), filmed himself as he walked up to shoot the victims. (YouTube has deleted the video.) Flanagan has reportedly shot himself as cops confronted him. Update: He’s dead. Flanagan was hired by WDBJ in April 2012. His Facebook and Twitter accounts have been suspended. (more…)

Windows 95:  Tears, Trauma, No Picnic

Windows 95 popped exactly 20 years and one day ago, or 8.24.95. It was no snap thing, that program. I remember hanging out at a computer retail place on Pico Blvd. back then and asking advice from guys who worked there about some of the snarlier Windows 95 issues. I remember one of them saying, “Windows 95, man! Better men than I have been beaten down by it. Do not take that operating system lightly!” I’ve been a Mac guy for only six and a half years. I struggled and sweated within the Microsoft realm for the better part of 15 years or more. I don’t want to think back on those times, but it was rough going. The viruses alone.

Gruff, Arrogant, Short-Tempered

Not that I find anything likable or defensible about Donald Trump‘s brusque, blustery personality, but as far as I can tell he didn’t call on Univision’s Jorge Ramos before Ramos went into his question. Journalists are obliged to observe a certain protocol at press conferences. You raise your hand, you eventually get called upon and then you ask your question. Right? Am I missing something?

If It Weren’t For Kneejerk-Minded Blacks, Hispanics and Rural Whites…

A second poll is showing Bernie Sanders substantially ahead of Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire, according to Public Policy Polling. The findings have Sanders with 42 percent to Clinton’s 35 percent. A Franklin Pierce-Boston University poll conducted earlier in the month also found Sanders leading Clinton by 7 points.

Sanders would probably be happening country-wide if it wasn’t for stubborn Clinton support among women, white moderate-conservatives, African Americans and Hispanics. The latter three groups apparently view him, somewhat resentfully, as the candidate of elite educated whites.

The question is whether these mule-headed blacks, Hispanics and bubbas will shift allegiances if Joe Biden jumps in, especially if Barack Obama endorses him. (more…)

Mistress America Is A “Masterwork” X3

One of these weeks or months or years, the nominally hip crowd is going to wake up to Mistress America and realize it’s a knockout — fleet and motor-mouthed in a way that Howard Hawks used to dream about. And a nimble character-driven dramedy that keep shifting gears and re-loading and turning the wheel sharply. New Yorker essayist and film cardinal Richard Brody (a.k.a. “tinyfrontrow“) doesn’t need months or years — he gets it right now. His 8.24 piece about Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig‘s film, “Mistress America and the Art of Making A Living As An Artist,” is probably a little too dense and gymnastic and whirling-dervishy for a cheese-brain like myself but it’s probably the inspiring impression of this film that I’ve read since it played at Sundance last January. Boiled down, Brody is calling Mistress America an M3 — a masterwork of “entrepreneurial cinema,” a masterwork of “literary cinema” and a masterwork of “literary cinema in the other, qualitative sense: it isn’t merely about literature [but] a work of brilliant writing.” A review certainly worth reading, and a film definitely worth seeing if you’re still dragging your feet.

Larry David Moment Waiting for Blythe Danner

In a 2.2.15 article related to See You In My Dreams, I wrote about a certain metaphor that applied to Blythe Danner and septuagenarian sexuality. I wrote that it seemed a bit…well, a tiny bit curious that unlike her widowed character in the film, who falls in love with and has gentle sex with Sam Elliott, Danner herself hasn’t done the deed in over 13 years, or since the death of her husband Bruce Paltrow in ’02. This, in any event, is what Danner told Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson in a Sundance Film Festival interview that appeared just before my piece.

Danner’s sex life (or a lack of one) is, of course, none of my damn business. Except, due respect, when Danner is doing award-season interviews about her performance as a woman very much like herself who decides to take a lover after 20 years of abstinence. The film is obviously mirroring her own life to some extent and vice versa, and she’s presumably agreed to make herself available to some extent as part of a Bleecker Street effort to put her name into the conversation for Best Actress. (more…)

You Want Myopia? I’ll Give You Myopia

I heard last night from a guy who attended a Manhattan research screening of Gaby Dellal and Nicole Beckwith‘s About Ray, a drama about a teenaged girl (Elle Fanning) looking to transgender into dude-ness.  This is not about my guy’s opinion of the film but the opinion of an outraged transgender person who posted on Tumblr. [See below.] His/her view is that it’s “transphobic” for Dellal to have cast Fanning as the transitioning teen.  That’s because Fanning is cisgender, a term that basically means being comfortable with how you were naturally born.  It also means anyone who hails from a slightly larger group than the 96.2% of the U.S. population that doesn’t identify as LGBT.  Apparently the only acceptable casting would have been a transgender boy.  In Tumblr guy/girl’s eyes, the Fanning casting is equivalent to John Ford having chosen Henry Brandon to play “Scar” in The Searchers.  He/she also mocks Dellal’s explanations for why she cast an actress and why she cast Fanning, and states that “this movie is not for trans people but for cis people who pretend to care.”

Respect and compassion for the LGBT community is, of course, de rigeur for anyone with a heart and a brain, but identifying every non-transgender straight person in the world (i.e., everyone except for an undetermined fraction of 3.8% of the population that identifies as LGBT) as “cisgender” strikes me as a bit forced. A certain militancy or hyper-sensitivity from anyone representing a discriminated minority is to be expected and is totally cool and understood, but you also have to take a breath from time to time. There’s a special kind of oxygen on the planet Transneptune that’s a little different from the oxygen on planet Earth. (more…)

“She Stinks A Bit But We Could Wash Her” — King Henry II in Becket

“I like clean sheets, fresh fruit, steaming hot showers, purring cats, Kooples T-shirts, nice-smelling soaps, Blurays and streaming high-def movies on Amazon and Vudu, motorcycles and scooters with full tanks of gas, Italian-made brown lace-ups, deodorants, Crew hair mold, electric toothbrushes, colorful socks right out of the dryer, Levi 511s, strong cappuccino, Aqua Velva after-shave lotion…that line of country. I don’t even want to look at a homeless person, much less watch a movie about one. Due respect for Maggie Smith but I’m just being honest here, which is more than can be said for many critics out there.” — a just-posted comment in a thread following yesterday’s riff about Nicholas Hytner and Alan Bennett‘s The Lady In The Van. (more…)