Sun King

A few days ago it was reported that Paramount Pictures has acquired the rights to the biography ‘Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll,” with Leonardo DiCaprio attached to produce and star. A little voice is saying DiCaprio should ease up on portraying real-life guys — Jordan Belfort, Frank Abagnale, J. Edgar Hoover, Howard Hughes. Plus he’ll never top his Belfort performance — he knows it, we know it.

If a Sam Phillips biopic is going to happen for sure, the best guy to play him would be a time-machine version of Dallas Roberts. Yes, the guy who played Phillips in that one legendary scene from Walk The Line (’05). I only know that I believed 100% in Roberts-as-Phillips. He was perfect, owned it. He was 34 or 35 back then, is now 46.

Yes, Phillips created the legendary Sun Records level and discovered such recording talent as Howlin’ Wolf, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley, and in so doing gave birth to rock ‘n’ roll. But his peak years only lasted five years (’51 to ’56). So the movie would be basically saying “this visionary Southern guy lived for 80 years and is a bona fide legend, but mostly because of a bright-burning period that began to draw to a close when Presley began appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Posted on 2.6.09 during my visit to Memphis: “I loved visiting the fabled Sun Studios because it hasn’t been expanded or glitzed up. It looks and feels a lot like what I imagine it used to be back in the ’50s. I bought an Elvis at Sun CD and listened to it twice during the 90-minute drive south to Oxford. ‘Y’heard the news, thayuhs good rockin’ tonight.'”


Blogaroonies Won’t Acknowledge That Jonah Hill’s War Dogs Perf Is Among Year’s Best

So is the competition among Best Actor contenders a little weak this year, as a colleague recently suggested? When you get past Casey Affleck‘s performance in Manchester By The Sea (locked) and Denzel Washington‘s in Fences (likely), maybe.

The others comprise a roster of approvable-but-not-greats — Tom Hanks in Sully (sober, believable, sturdy), Ryan Gosling in La La land (skillful and affecting but the film belongs to Emma Stone), Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge (a respectable if “actorish” performance), Joel Edgerton in Loving (not up to Ruth Negga‘s level), Dev Patel in Lion (a decent turn but not as good as the little kid who stars in the first third) and Robert De Niro in The Comedian (which no one has seen).

Jonah Hill as former arms dealer Efraim Diveroli in Todd Phillips’ War Dogs.

Remember War Dogs? I know — not serious enough, released in August, a Todd Phillips film, etc. But if you ask me Jonah Hill was a remarkable stand-out as 20something arms dealer and stone-cold sociopath Efraim Diveroli. Not one of those “maybe” or “pretty good” performances, but extra-level. Really.

From my 8.17.16 review: “Hill’s rascally, conniving performance is the big reason to see War Dogs this weekend. Jonah, Jonah, Jonah…back in Superbad territory but with less schtick and colder blood. The highs, lows and demonic detours of a sociopathic, three-card-monte hustler!

“Jonah is in charge of the surge moments. Half the time you’re thinking ‘okay, this is good, moving along but where’s Jonah?’ or, you know, ‘what’s Jonah’s next big bullshit play gonna be’? (more…)

Larrain Double-Header

Hollywood Elsewhere will be attending the Santa Barbara Film Festival’s Cinema Society gathering for Neruda and Jackie director Pablo Larrain on Sunday, 10.30. Both films will be shown at the Riviera theatre (2044 Alameda Padre Serra, Santa Barbara) — Neruda (The Orchard, 12.16) at 10am, and Jackie (Fox Searchlight, 12.2) at 2 pm. In between guests will attend a reception at the Riviera Park Reflecting Pool for a luncheon and q & a with Larrain.

“All Of Us Fell…”

Yes, I’m queer for backstage color photos taken during the filming of classic black-and-white films. Yes, the Marlon Brando-in-Julius Caesar shot below is a fake — i.e., digitally colored. And yet the marble looks accurate; ditto the blood smears. And red wardrobe is, of course, often used on black-and-white films as it photographs well in that process. Yeah, it’s fake but I wish it wasn’t.


Second Run-In With La La Land

Several weeks ago I tapped out a piece called “Whither La La Land‘s Encounter With Joe Popcorn?“. The gist was that (a) Tom Hanks was spot-on when he said “if the audience doesn’t go and embrace something as wonderful as this then we are all doomed,” but that (b) I was concerned about Bobby Peru‘s prediction that Damien Chazelle’s 21st Century musical (Summit, 12.9) will only do arthouse-level business.

La La Land director-writer Damien Chazelle (r.), Access Hollywood‘s Scott Mantz (l.) outside SCAD Trustees theatre prior to last night’s La La Land screening.

Well, I saw La La land again last night at the Savannah Film Festival, and while the audience was a mixture of elite film lovers (which all film festivals attract) and SCAD students, it went over like gangbusters. Cheering, whoo-whooing, a standing ovation for Chazelle. Three SCAD kids (two girls and a guy) were sitting next to me, and they were all having kittens. Delighted, emotionally affected, planning to buy the soundtrack and see it again with their parents, etc. Everyone in the house was blissed, floating.

Bobby Peru’s response would presumably be “naaah, people who go to film festivals are foo-foos…real popcorn types aren’t going to embrace this because musicals are regarded as arcane exercises in nostalgia, especially those that don’t feature major music stars.” (more…)

For Whatever Reason Zemeckis Went For Gloss and Slickness

Nobody has seen Robert ZemeckisAllied (Paramount, 11.23), but the trailers have told us it’s a WWII espionage-and-assassins drama. But this new poster conveys a kind of swoony champagne vibe from High Society (’56). This is what Zemeckis wanted. Sexy stars, romantic vibes, perfect hair and wardrobe, Alfred Hitchcock‘s Notorious, etc. An aura of flush, pampered glamour.

Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra in High Society.


All hail the late Tom Hayden, reigning lion of ’60s-era activism, principal author of the 1962 SDS Port Huron statement, a Chicago 7 defendant and a California Assemblyman and Senator for almost 20 years. Hayden has passed at the age of 76 after suffering a stroke last year, and his absence is no small thing. Hayden was the George Washington of the rabble-rousing antiwar left from the mid ’60s to mid ’70s. The man was graced with exceptional smarts, vision and a pair of steel balls.

Hayden was also the only anti-establishment activist to marry a brilliant, sexy, major-league Hollywood actress — Jane Fonda. To the best of my knowledge no other SDS superstar, megaphone speech-giver or Chicago 7 defendant (Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, John Froines, David Dellinger, Bobby Seale, Rennie Davis, Lee Weiner) even dated a world-class, Oscar-winning Hollywood headliner. I’m sorry but that means something. Hayden was a political star and his 16- or 17-year partnership with Fonda was a significant part of that lustre. (more…)

With Viola Davis’s Retreat to Supporting, Best Actress Race Is All But Over

With today’s announcement that Fences costar Viola Davis will compete for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar instead of a Best Actress trophy (which would have made sense given that she won a Best Actress Tony for playing the same character, Rose Maxson, in a 2010 Broadway production), the Best Actress race is, I believe, all but settled.

The falling-down reactions to Emma Stone‘s La La land performance at Telluride seven weeks ago made it clear to almost everyone that the Best Actress race would be between Stone and Davis, based on her earlier triumph and the storied reputation of August Wilson’s 1987 play. Then Natalie Portman‘s Jackie scored in Toronto and she became another peak contender. But now with Davis out it seems pretty obvious that Stone all but has it in the bag.

Why? Portman hits a ground-rule double or, at most, a triple. Stone hits a grand slam. It’s that simple.

It’s not just the skillfulness of her La La Land performance but the depth and exuberance and intensity of it. Portman’s Jacqueline Kennedy turn, which will almost certainly be nominated, is more poised and precise — the role as written doesn’t coax or require her to dig down and release an emotional gusher, not the way Stone does in La La Land. (more…)

Click here to jump past the Oscar Balloon


Highest reviews & expectations (in order of confidence or expectation): 1. Damien Chazelle's La La Land; 2. Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea [locked Best Actor nomination for Casey Affleck]; 3. Martin Scorsese‘s Silence; 4. Denzel Washington's Fences (Washington, Viola Davis, Mykelti Williamson, Russell Hornsby); 5. Pablo Larrain's Jackie (Natalie Portman, Greta Gerwig, Peter Sarsgaard); 6. Barry Jenkins' Moonlight (based on Tarell McCraney's play "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue." (6)

War War II Brad Pitt Smoothitude -- Robert Zemeckis' Allied w/ Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard (began shooting in March '16) (1)

Give 'Em A Pass, A Pat on the Back: 1. Clint Eastwood's Sully (Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney); 2. Ang Lee's Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. (2)

HE Personal Favorite: Olivier Assayas' Personal Shopper (Kristen Stewart).

Hiding Out: 1. Steven Gaghan's Gold (Matthew McConaughey, Bryce Dallas Howard, Edgar Ramírez); 2. John Lee Hancock's The Founder (Michael Keaton, Laura Dern, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch).

Overpraised at Sundance + In Trouble For Other Reasons: Nate Parker's The Birth of a Nation. (1)

Overpraised in Venice, Toronto: Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals;

Duelling Interracial-Marriage Period Dramas: Jeff Nichols' Loving (Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Michael Shannon, Marton Csokas); Amma Asante's A United Kingdom (David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike). (2)

Outlier: Denis Villeneuve's Arrival (Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg -- Paramount).

Probably Solid/Decent/Interesting/Approvable, etc.: 1. Morten Tyldum and John Spaihts' Passengers; 2. John Cameron Mitchell's How To Talk To Girls at Parties, 3. Peter Berg's Patriot's Day (Mark Wahlberg, J.K. Simmons); 4. Niki Caro's The Zookeeper's Wife; 5. Warren Beatty's Rules Don't Apply; 6. Ben Wheatley's Free Fire; 7. Ben Younger's Bleed For This (Miles Teller, Katey Sagal, Amanda Clayton, Aaron Eckhart). (7)

Guilty Pleasure Trash: Tate Taylor's The Girl On The Train.

Maybe: 1. Oliver Stone's Snowden; 2. James Gray's The Lost City of Z; 3. The Secret Scripture w/ Jessica Chastain, Vanessa Redgrave, Eric Bana; 4. Greg McLean's The Belko Experiment; 5. Werner Herzog's Salt And Fire (Michael Shannon, Gael García Bernal, Werner Herzog, Veronica Ferres); 6. Ewan MacGregor's American Pastoral (MacGregor, Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Connelly, David Strathairn); 7. Garth Davis's Lion (Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman -- released by Weinstein Co.). (9)

Very Interesting, Slight Hedging of Bets (random order): 1. Charlie McDowell's The Discovery w/ Rooney Mara, Nicholas Hoult (a love story set one year after the existence of the afterlife is scientifically verified, or a more thoughtful version of The Leftovers); 2. Wim Wenders' Submergence (Alicia Vikander, James McAvoy); 3. James Ponsoldt's The Circle (Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega), (3)

Last-Minute December Release: John Hancock's The Founder (biopic of McDonald's kingpin Ray Kroc). (1)

Seen in Cannes, Approved or Praised to Some Degree: 1. Cristian Mungiu's Graduation; 2. Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman (Sahahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti); 3. Paul Verhoeven's Elle. 4. Pablo Larrain's Neruda; 5. Woody Allen's Cafe Society (Steve Carell, Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Blake Lively); (5)

Overly Obvious: Juan Antonio Bayona's A Monster Calls. (1)

Bumped Into '17: David Michod's War Machine (Netflix) w/ Pitt as Gen. Stanley McChrystal + Ben Kingsley, Emory Cohen, Topher Grace, John Magaro, Scoot McNairy, Will Poulter.

This Year's Animated Pixar Wonder-Package for the Whole Family: Andrew Stanton's Finding Dory. (1)

Spare Me: 1. Terrence Malick's Weightless; 2. Derek Cianfrance's The Light Between Oceans; 3. Gary Ross's Free State of Jones; 4. Benedict Andrews' Una (Rooney Mara, Ben Mendelsohn); 5. Justin Kurzel's Assassin's Creed. (5)

Genres Have Their Rules: 1. Paul Greengrass's Jason Bourne w/ Matt Damon (political action thriller); 2. Shane Black's The Nice Guys (darkly humorous thriller); 3. Peter Berg's Deepwater Horizon (real-life disaster action-thriller); 4. Antoine Fuqua's The Magnificent Seven (western remake); 5. Gavin O'Connor's The Accountant (action thriller); 6. Ed Zwick's Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (thriller); 7. Matthew Vaughn's I Am Pilgrim (murder thriller); 8. Todd Phillips' War Dogs. (8)

Who Knows?: Alex Garland's Annhiliation. (1)


Night Must Fall

Savannah’s Lucas theatre, site of Sunday’s “Docs to Watch” panel.

BWR publicist Steven Wilson, a good and gracious fellow.

Sunday’s “Docs to Watch” panel, moderated by THR‘s Scott Feinberg, included Kief Davidson (The Ivory Game), Ezra Edelman (OJ: Made in America), Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady (Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You), Adam Irving (Off The Rails), Barbara Kopple (Miss Sharon Jones!), Josh Kriegman (Weiner), Richard Ladkani (The Ivory Game), Keith Maitland (Tower), Andrew Rossi (The First Monday in May), Elyse Steinberg (Weiner), Clay Tweel (Gleason) and Roger Ross Williams (Life Animated).

Too Soon!

“The Best Picture Oscar is going to La La Land, an uncontroversial and safe film about actors (a large majority of Oscar voters) from one of the big upcoming directors too. Moonlight has a decent shot but in a year with not only La La Land but a new Scorsese film as well it’s going to be really difficult.” — Nicholas Joseph Lemos on Facebook.

“Not to sound crude, but Moonlight appeals to black as well as the gay/lesbian voters, so it may get more votes than Loving. Then again, the older conservative voters may not like Moonlight‘s  gay-friendly theme, which also hurt Brokeback Mountain‘s chances. I think it’s a two-way race between Manchester By The Sea and Moonlight.” — Jeffrey Wang, ditto.


The Savannah Film Festival launched last night, as if HE readers weren’t aware. This morning Rodrigo Santoro (Dominion, The 33, Jesus in the catastrophe known as Ben-Hur) was having breakfast near my table at the Brice Hotel restaurant, and that was that. I keep to myself, hold my own. Dozens upon dozens of dogs were wearing Halloween costumes last night as they strolled along Broughton Street, and I mean costumes that involved a lot of thought, effort and creativity. I had never before seen this many costumed dogs in a single area in my life, no shit.


Good Work

Once again, hats off to the marketing team behind Tom Ford‘s Nocturnal Animals (Focus Features, 11.18) for making this ambitiously conceived but mostly uninvolving psychological drama seem more intriguing than it is. The new trailer is flat-out masterful, and the mildly spooky one-sheet nails it also. I’m not sure if Focus used an outside agency or what, but this is the kind of sell-job that every distributor wants.


Stirring Zelda’s Ghost

Jennifer Lawrence playing Zelda Fitzgerald, based on a screenplay by Emma Frost (The White Queen)?  Presumably embarked upon as a prestige acting project that will showcase Lawrence’s range, but sure, why not? And yet Ron Howard‘s interest in possibly directing the biopic sounds, no offense and due respect, like a pay-grade reach. Former Lionsgate exec Allison Shearmur, who worked with Lawrence on the Hunger Games franchise, will produce. Really?

Strange Praise

In the view of Variety‘s Peter Debruge, Doctor Strange (Disney, 11.4) “shares the same look, feel, and fancy corporate sheen as the rest of Marvel’s rapidly expanding Avengers portfolio, but it also boasts an underlying originality and freshness missing from the increasingly cookie-cutter comic-book realm of late.”

Okay, maybe…

Debruge then calls Doctor Strange “Marvel’s most satisfying entry since Spider-Man 2, and a throwback to M. Night Shyamalan’s soul-searching identity-crisis epic Unbreakable, which remains the gold standard for thinking people’s superhero movies.”

That’s a recommendation?

I distinctly recall not being especially impressed, much less feeling “terrifically satisfied”, by Spider Man 2, which is otherwise known as “the Alfred Molina Doc Ock one.” And I regard Unbreakable, which arrived in the immediate wake of The Sixth Sense, as a quirky non-starter in the Shyamalan canon. I felt distinctly underwhelmed as I shuffled out of the Los Angeles all-media screening and saying “that’s it?” to a couple of colleagues. I remember Gregg Kilday repeating “they call me Mr. Glass!” during a post-screening discussion on the sidewalk, and my saying that any film that announces the fate of a major character with a freeze-frame title card at the conclusion is doing something wrong. (more…)

The Old Neighborhood

In honor of Pablo Larrain‘s Jackie and Antonio CamposChristine, which played back-to-back at the Savannah Film Festival this evening, my initial reviews are linked above.

Tomorrow I’ll see Keith Maitland‘s Tower, Matthew Brown‘s The Man Who Knew Infinity (online link, preparation for Jeremy Irons phoner), Scott Feinberg‘s Docs to Watch roundtable and a second look at Damien Chazelle‘s La La Land. Or something like that.

Late this afternoon I pedaled two or three miles to a Lenscrafters for an eyeglass repair job. Then I hit my favorite Savannah cafe, The Sentient Bean. There I met a couple of local girls, Emily Jordan and Melissa Burkholder, who initially thought I was Chris Walken. The conversation eventually turned to day-to-day life in Savannah, which led to their telling me about what they called “Savannah’s dirty little secret” (as least as far as visitors like myself are concerned) — the recently rising murder rate. (more…)

I Had A Dream

I’ve discussed the exquisite restoration of Marlon Brando‘s One-Eyed Jacks, which I saw last May in Cannes and which Criterion will “street” on 11.22, many times. One final issue remains. Before the Bluray hits it would be great to see it shown in a sizable, first-rate Los Angeles venue on a one-night-only basis. Alas, Universal has arranged to screen it theatrically at Cinefamily on Friday, November 11th.

Really? All those months of hard work that went into the One-Eyed Jacks restoration and it ends up showing at an amiable but down-at-the-heels rep house? From a high-impact perspective Cinefamily brings zip to the table. Like the New Beverly, the screen in that Fairfax Avenue house is smallish. It’s a couple of steps up from 4K projection on an 80-inch screen in some guy’s living room.

The Academy theatre wasn’t a possibility? Or at the Linwood Dunn on Vine? The Hollywood Arclight shows classic films now and then — why not a one-off at that venue? Or the one in Sherman Oaks? (more…)

Blowhards With Followers

Donald Trump has inspired Manhattan’s Film Forum to run a “Demagogues” series from 11.4 through 11.10. This includes films in which demagogues are lead characters as well as supporting. HE’s favorites, in this order: Elia Kazan‘s A Face in the Crowd, John Frankenheimer‘s Seven Days In May, Robert Rossen‘s All The King’s Men, Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate (James Gregory‘s Johnny Iselin is supporting) and George Clooney‘s Good Night, and Good Luck. Honest admission: I’ve never seen Frank Capra‘s Meet John Doe.

Grievanceburg Address

Donald Trump‘s “grievanceburg address” (the term was coined by CNN’s Jim Acosta less than an hour ago) was delivered in a small setting in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Same old “up with protectionism, let’s stick it to China, up with fossil fuel industry, down with NAFTA and Obamacare” crap. The only thing I liked was the proposed prohibition of government heavies becoming lobbyists for foreign governments. Trump pledged to sue all of the women who’ve accused him of sexual assault “after the election is over”…bullshit.

Saturday in Savannah

The 2016 Savannah Film Festival kicks off today. Hollywood Elsewhere arrived in Savannah last night (Friday) around 7 pm. I’m staying in room #353 at the Brice Hotel. It’s 1:15 pm as we speak. The plan is to rent a bicycle, pick up my press pass, buy some stuff at CVS, visit the local Lenscrafters and then…the festival! Tonight’s picks are Pablo Larrain‘s Jackie (7:30 pm) and Antonio Campo‘s Christine (9:30 pm). Yes, I caught the latter in Park City last January and the former in Toronto last month, but what do you want me to do? Not see them? Both can easily stand a second viewing.

I’ve never seen J. Clay Tweel‘s Gleason (4:30 pm), and I never will.  I won’t submit to this kind of shameless disease-and-parenting documentary. Consequence of Sound‘s Paul Goble called it “an exemplary, sometimes artificial act of emotional manipulation.” Many people have found it affecting, but I won’t go there. 

Parker’s Urban Gourmet Market (which is also a gas station) is a great place to saunter into in the wee hours. Great deli food, all the basics. I’ve been coming here for years.

The climate control system in my Brice hotel room refuses to put out heat. It got a little cool last night but the mode control kept refusing to generate even a slight amount of warmth. I’ve complained to no end. Maybe I can find a space heater somewhere.