Randoms

Cultural Genocide Thing

“Look, I’m no purist — there are good superhero films and there are bad ones. Movies started out as an extension of a magic trick so making a spectacle is part of the game. I had a lot of fun designing a huge fucking metal eagle to attack New York City. It’s just that we’ve been overwhelmed by these movies now. They keep taking up room that could be going to smaller films. [Not] art films…I fucking hate that term. No, films about human beings. Those aren’t art films. They should just be called ‘films.'” — Birdman director Alejandro G. Inarritu speaking to Rolling Stone‘s David Fear.

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Desire Is Life

If this perfect little scene isn’t in Rupert Wyatt, William Monahan and Mark Wahlberg‘s The Gambler (Paramount, 12.19), I’ll sure take it badly of them. A little on the nose but eloquent — a nice clean pocket drop.


Beefy Keanu vs. Russian Bad Guy Shooting-Gallery Ducks

You know what John Wick is? John Wick is basically that moment in Collateral when Tom Cruise drills those two thieves in the alley, a shooting so fast and ruthless that the bad guys barely get a chance to go “whoa” before they’re dead. Keanu Reeves‘ titular character gets to kill bad guys as quickly and mercilessly as this all through the damn film. When Cruise did it in Collateral it was fleet and beautiful. In John Wick Reeves does it at least 80 or 90 times — shootings, stabbings, neck-crackings, shotgun blastings, stranglings — and after the 15th or 20th time it’s like “okay, man, I get it — he’s the Terminator.” And everybody in the film, amusingly, knows and respects this. And none of them offer criticisms or warnings of any kind. “Hey, John…okay, cool, no worries…just do your thing.”

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Snappy, Harvard-Educated, To-The-Manor-Born Tough Guy

The late Ben Bradlee “was an intriguing man,” Robert Redford has written in a brief statement sent to The Hollywood Reporter. “Bold, strong-willed and smart with a wicked and sometimes perverse sense of humor. He was unique in a world of so much conventional wisdom. With a sailor’s swagger and a tart tongue to match, he forged a new type of character as editor-in-chief of a newspaper in a time of change. It was a world I never expected was possible from just a newspaper. It was 1974, and Watergate was about to happen. To Bradlee combat was sport and he was a very good sport.” Wait…Watergate was “about” to happen in ’74? It had been happening since June 1972. The only thing left in ’74 was Nixon’s resignation, which finally happened in August.

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Big Bopper

The initial whammo-schmammo press screening of Chris Nolan‘s Interstellar happens early Thursday evening (i.e., tomorrow night), but I’d better not say where. The review embargo goes up on Monday morning but immediate post-screening tweets are good to go. I’m expecting somewhere between an 8 and 8.5 experience. I’m not expecting a 9 based on what that Fort Hood “play with my balls” guy said last weekend. Cheers to Nolan for not shooting this thing in 3D. Seriously, I love him for that. And I adore the fact that Paramount will be showing it in 70mm non-digital IMAX. How many more times is that likely to happen? This could be the last time. It’s certainly one of the last times. The celluloid sentimentalists are few in number and surrounded on all sides.

Richard Burton Sings

“How to handle a woman? ‘There’s a way,’ said the wise old man. ‘A way known by ev’ry woman since the whole rigmarole began.’

“‘Do I flatter her?’ I begged him answer. ‘Do I threaten or cajole or plead? Do I brood or play the gay romancer?’ Said he, smiling: ‘No indeed.’

“‘How to handle a woman? Mark me well, I will tell you, sir. The way to handle a woman is to tolerate her…gently tolerate her…lovingly tolerate her…tolerate her…tolerate her.'”

— “How to Handle A Woman,” a Richard Burton/Richard Harris song from Lerner & Lowe’s Camelot (1961).

Wahlberg’s Tour de Force of Self-Destruction

I’ve been waiting on this puppy for a long time. You can tell that slimmed-down Mark Wahlberg, who knows gambling and street energy and the old risk-until-you’re-almost-toast thing, knows what he’s doing. He gets it, he’s there…his spiritual sweet spot. You can also tell that Jessica Lange has her steely mom thing down pat. How about John Goodman rocking the baldie, eh? Serious shit.

Shakedown

Poor Zak (formerly called Jazz) is getting castrated at Laurel Pet Hospital today. I don’t know where I got the idea that a neutering operation costs around $300, but I’m wrong. If I hadn’t told the vet to forget about doing a blood work test (on a seven-month-old kitten in the prime of life?) I’d be paying $100 more. If I hadn’t told her to forget about a flea treatment I’d be paying over $600. (I have some flea treatment stuff at home, thanks.) If I hadn’t told them to forget about giving Zak his final boosters I’d be paying $750 or so. Edgar Buchanan to Alan Ladd in Shane: “S’matter, son? You look kinda pale.”

Click here to jump past the Oscar Balloon

Best Picture Likelies: 1. Birdman (HE approved); 2. Boyhood; 3. Gone Girl (HE approved); 4. The Theory of Everything; 5. The Imitation Game; 6. Whiplash (HE approved); 7. Foxcatcher; 8. The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Unseen Best Picture Spitballs: 1. Interstellar; 2. A Most Violent Year; 3. American Sniper; 4. The Gambler; 5. Into The Woods; 6. Selma; 7. Unbroken; 8. Big Eyes.

Cult: Inherent Vice. Sturdy Generic WWII Actioner: Fury.

Most Visually Ravishing, "Painterly" Best Picture Contender: Mr. Turner, although I'd like to see it with subtitles down the road.

Best Director: Alejandro González Inarritu, Birdman (HE approved); 2. Richard Linklater, Boyhood; 3. David Fincher, Gone Girl (HE approved); 4. James Marsh, The Theory of Everything; 5. Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game; 6. Damian Chazelle, Whiplash; 7. Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher; 8. Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Tragic Absence of Sublime, World-Class Lead Performance due to (no offense to Roadside) an overly cautious release strategy: Paul Dano as Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy.

Best Director Maybes: Christopher Nolan, Interstellar; JC Chandor, A Most Violent Year; Angelina Jolie, Unbroken; David Ayer, Fury; Clint Eastwood, American Sniper.

Best Actor: 1. Michael Keaton, Birdman (HE approved); 2. Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything; 3. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game; 4. Steve Carell, Foxcatcher; 5. Tom Hardy, The Drop/Locke. 6. Timothy Spall, Mr. Turner (despite my inability to hear half of Spall's dialogue due to his all-but-indecipherable British working-class accent); 7. Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler; 9. Ben Affleck, Gone Girl; 9. Bill Hader, The Skeleton Twins.

Best Actress: 1. Julianne Moore, Still Alice (is Sony Pictures Classics going to screen this any time soon or what?); 2. Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl; 3. Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year/Miss Julie/Eleanor Rigby; 4. Anne Dorval, Mommy; 5. Reese Witherspoon, Wild; 6. Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything; 7. Shailene Woodley, The Fault In Our Stars; 8. Amy Adams, Big Eyes.

Best Supporting Actor: 1. Edward Norton, Birdman (HE approved); 2. J.K. Simmons, Whiplash (HE approved); 3. Ethan Hawke, Boyhood; 4. Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher; 5. Albert Brooks, A Most Violent Year; 6. Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice.

Best Supporting Actress: 1. Emma Stone, Birdman (HE approved); 2. Patricia Arquette, Boyhood; 3. Kristen Stewart, Still Alice / Clouds of Sils Maria / Camp X-Ray; 4. Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game; 5. Jessica Lange, The Gambler; 6. Vanessa Redgrave, Foxcatcher.

 

Eye of the Beholder

The “new” Renee Zellweger looks nice these days. Pretty, relaxed, well-tended. But the fact that she bears little if any resemblance to the actress who starred in Jerry Maguire, Cold Mountain, Bridget Jones Diary and Chicago has caught people’s attention. And wouldn’t you know it but Zellweger and Hollywood Elsewhere will probably cross paths next Monday (10.27) at the Savannah Film Festival. (I’ll be there between Friday, 10.24 and Tuesday, 10.28.) Why is her “work” getting all this attention now, a week before she shows up in Savannah with guys like me hanging around? What, for that matter, has Ms. Zellweger done lately? I’m in no way chuckling or making light of the fact that her career has been slowing down. It happens. It’s tough. There but for the grace of God.

But in a very real appearance sense the Zellweger of 10 or 15 years ago has been pretty much erased. The spirit and personality are presumably still intact, of course, but I really, genuinely, honest-to-God don’t recognize her…although she does look pleasant and attractive as far as those terms go. The eyes, the jaw…really strange.

First-rate “work” is supposed to enhance, de-sag and de-age so subtly that people notice a certain improvement without wondering how or chattering behind your back. That’s how it used to be, at least. Maybe the new aesthetic is “don’t make yourself look slightly younger…throw your entire face out in the trash and start over clean with a nice, fresh newbie.” Imagine what Rod Serling would make of this.

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He Lived Large

One naturally assumes that Chuck Workman‘s Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles is about his facility with magic. Nope — it’s just a tribute to his filmmaking genius. And an argument, it seems, that he didn’t peak at 25 when he made Citizen Kane. Clips from almost every existing Welles film plus the usual talking-head testimonials (Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Richard Linklater, Peter Bogdanovich). And by the way, nobody wolfed it down like Welles. Chris Pratt can’t hold a candle.

Wick Beckons

In an interview with Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn, John Wick‘s Keanu Reeves says that “the last studio movie I did was 47 Ronin but before that it had been a long time…probably The Day the Earth Stood Still. So I haven’t been getting many offers from the studios.” Kohn says, “Are you okay with that?” Reeves says, “No, it sucks, but it’s just the way it is. You can have positive and negative experiences [but] for me, [that's] just not happening.” What he means is that The Day The Earth Stood Still drove a stake through his career and forced him to think it differently and try some new moves. Now that Wick is an apparent action hit, he’s doing okay again. Not that people like me are going to sing its praises. The script is supposed to be on the idiotic side. I shouldn’t say anything until I see it. Tonight’s press screening starts at 7:30 pm.

Roku Resistance

I popped for a Roku 3 player last night ($100 bills and change). I had resisted it because of the cheesy name, which sounds like something cheap bought in downtown Tokyo. Anyway I hooked it up and signed up for a year’s worth of Warner Archive access. It’s pretty sweet, I have to say. All those older films on high-def (Straight Time, Gun Crazy, A Face in the Crowd, The Yakuza, Klute, The Candidate, Action in the North Atlantic, Marked Woman). Update: I’ve got the priciest Roku with ultra-fast wifi, and the movie has to reload every four or five minutes…no good. At least I can finally watch Amazon rentals on my 60-incher. I haven’t figured out how to get Showtime but apparently there’s a cheaper way through Roku than just signing up and paying through the nose.

Failure

I was over at the Cole Avenue DMV this morning to (a) renew my Class C driver’s license, which expires early next month, and (b) get a motorcycle license. The first part is the written test, and of course I failed it. I got five or six questions wrong, but my answers were only sorta kinda somewhat wrong. I always choose the most conservative-sounding answer but they flunked me anyway. Dicks. I’ve been driving scooters and motorcycles for decades, man. I know everything about handling myself on two wheels but they got me. The questions ask you to choose one of three answers, and two out of the three answers usually sound fairly reasonable. The (b) answer isn’t crazy or stupid — it’s just not quite as correct in a bureaucratic petty-ass way as (c). Now I have to study the damn booklet tonight and take the test again tomorrow. And then a driving test. When’s the last time you needed to study something in order to pass something? I always hated school. It took me years to get past the feelings of low self-esteem, etc. Almost everyone who gets good grades grows up to be a dullard, and the ones who get lousy grades always grow up to be cool.


Wes & Owen on Kit

A little while ago Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson assembled a few thoughts about the late L.M. Kit Carson and sent them along: “We met Kit twenty years ago. Kit and Cynthia had come back to Texas to put Kit’s biological son Hunter through school there, and we submitted ourselves to be his adopted ones, hoping to become his latest discoveries. (We weren’t the first as Kit was a natural guru.) He was the only person we’d ever met who actually worked in the movie business, and we had never come across someone who so automatically and instinctively turned any idea or experience or suggestion into a story — a pitch. Sometimes it was only at the end of the story that you realized “this has a purpose, he’s advising us, these are ‘notes.'”

“Kit had a rustic glamor, like a sort of a cowboy-screenwriter. He never told us much about his childhood except that the L. was for Louis and the M. was for Minor, two old men he was named after. What we heard about was guerilla filmmaking and gonzo film journalism and Dennis Hopper in Taos and Peru. We loved Kit in David Holzman’s Diary which we saw with him in Dallas, and we had already loved his work in Breathless and Paris, Texas. He had longish, stringy, sandy hair, and he clomped through the house in hiking boots all year round. He gave us a one-on-one tutorial in script-writing and short-film-editing (and, also, a lesson in how to hustle a project into existence). [Kit's wife] Cynthia said to us that of all the people who were lucky to have known Kit, we were the luckiest. It certainly feels that way to us. He introduced us to the rest of our lives. (more…)

L.M. Kit Carson…Aloft

L.M. Kit Carson, the legendary Texas screenwriter, actor, documentarian, short-film impresario (Direction Man), hotshot journalist, ex-husband of Karen Black, father of Hunter Carson, a kind of godfather to Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson in ’93 and ’94, Guillermo del Toro pally and a personal friend (we first met around ’87 when I was working at Cannon Films), died last night after a long illness. Hugs, tears…I’m sorry. Kit was a good egg. Always with a grin and some kind of sly, wise-man quip. Condolences to Hunter (with whom I corresponded about Direction Man last year) and Kit’s wife Cindy Hargraves and the general sprawling family of friends and acquaintances.

Carson began as a movie-realm journalist and documentarian (David Holzman’s Diary, American Dreamer) and gradually ambled his way into screenwriting. He had the vibe and the touch. He understood how it all was supposed to be, or could be. I don’t know where he “was” over the last decade or so, but in the ’80s and ’90s he always seemed to have the whole equation in his head.

The early to mid ’80s were Carson’s peak years when he co-wrote Jim McBride‘s Breathless (a 1983 remake of the 1959 Jean-Luc Godard original with Richard Gere) and Wim WendersParis, Texas and a thing called Chinese Boxes that I’ve never even seen, and then came that wonderful Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 screenplay, which was a dry, darkly comedic kill-the-yuppies thing that was heralded in an issue of Film Comment (it might have been Harlan Jacobson who wrote “it’s okay to like it”). But alas, director Tobe Hooper came along and fucked it all up when Cannon decided to make it. (more…)

Happiness Is A Warm Denial

Amir Bar-Lev‘s Happy Valley “is a perceptive, shrewdly sculpted study of denial — of people’s willingness and even eagerness to practice denial if so motivated. The specific subject is the Penn State child-abuse sex scandal of 2011 and 2012, which resulted in convicted pedophile Jerry “horsing around in the shower” Sandusky doing 30 years in jail and the late beloved Penn State coach Joe Paterno being at lest partly defined between now and forever as a pedophile enabler. Cheers to Bar-Lev (The Tillman Story, My Kid Could Paint That) for delivering another riveting sink-in.

“The Freeh report (conducted by former FBI director Louis Freeh and his law firm) stated that Paterno, Penn State president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and school vp Gary Schultz all knew about Sandusky probably being guilty of child molestation as far back as 1998, and that all were complicit in looking the other way. State College residents and especially Penn State football fans were enraged when Paterno was fired for not saying or doing enough. Even after the Freeh report they wouldn’t let go. (more…)

Just Asking

How aware are Academy members of their reputation outside their little bubble? I’m wondering this because I keep hearing over and over that the biggest hit with well-heeled Academy-type viewers is Morten Tyldum‘s The Imitation Game, and I’m wondering if Academy members will have the balls to make fun of themselves again by giving the Best Picture Oscar to a film that is a fairly close relative of The King’s Speech. Because it’s basically another Masterpiece Theatre period drama directed in the Richard Attenborough style…set in the past, about a male protagonist overcoming a disability or roadblock of some kind in order to do good…emotional, touching, tidy. Does the Academy know or care that handing the Best Picture Oscar to The King’s Speech denigrated their reputation among thinking people the world over? If they do, are they willing to do the same thing all over again by tumbling for The Imitation Game? I’m not putting it down, mind. Really, I’m not. I got it when I saw it in Telluride….”yup, this is a good one,” I told myself. It works by the terms it sets out to fulfill. But Game is, indisputably, informed by the same DNA that created The King’s Speech. You can’t argue that.

Deep Delicious Voice

“Too much alpha chuckling can be an unwelcome thing, and I don’t mind saying that Poland’s relentless chuckling can feel truly oppressive at times. After a while it can feel like a form of torture. What happens in these DP/30 interviews is that people talk a lot — expressively at times and certainly at great length — but every so often the interviews drive me crazy because it hits me that all I’m watching is a lot of chuckling and effusive blather because Poland’s questions are sometimes inane and forced and anxious. It’s Poland going ‘bee-duh-bee-duh-bee-bee-bee-bee’ and the interview subject going ‘well, okay, hold on…I’m going to answer you, of course, but I’m going to slow it down a bit.” — from an 11.14.10 riff called “My Soul Wilts.”

Norton’s Birdman Perf Leads Supporting Pack (Along With Simmons, Of Course)

Edward Norton’s first scene in Birdman is about his character, Mike Shiner, rehearsing a Raymond Carver play with Michael Keaton‘s Riggan Thomson. And within 90 seconds he “runs through a Crayola box of tones and emotions, jumping between Shiner and Shiner’s character in the play like he’s changing shirts,” says Grantland‘s Kevin Lincoln. “Throughout the rest of Birdman, flexibility defines Norton’s performance. He fistfights in a floral Speedo. He wields an erection like it’s his first. He throws himself into being a maniac. Norton empties the playbook, turning a flimsy role into Dada madness.

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Tapley vs. Hardy

Last night In Contention‘s Kris Tapley posted an assessment of the Best Actor situation, and in so doing declared there’s only one slot open once you factor in Birdman‘s Michael Keaton, Foxcatcher‘s Steve Carell, The Imitation Game‘s Benedict Cumberbatch and — last but far from least — Eddie Redmayne‘s turn as the afflicted Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything.


(l.) The distinctly nominatable Tom Hardy, star of the Locke and The Drop; (r.) In Contention columnist Kris Tapley.

 The piece contains one questionable call and one glaring omission.

Tapley’s not wrong about Keaton, Cumberbatch and Redmayne but holdupski on Carell for one minute. Carell has carved himself a rep as Mr. Career Balls. The fact that he really burrows into the psyche of the late, very creepy multi-millionaire John Dupont is proof of that. But the reason Carell is considered a lock is because (a) he’s a rich and famous comic actor (he still makes awful, Norbit-like mainstream comedies like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day), and because he (b) played Dupont with a kind of spazzy-wonky accent and (c) wore a prosthetic hook nose.

It’s not that Carell doesn’t deserve to be in the conversation. I fully respect what he did in Foxcatcher. I just don’t think he’s a stone-cold lock. Remember what Denzel Washington said before he announced that Nicole Kidman had won her Best Actress Oscar for The Hours? “By a nose…” Prosthetic noses are very big deals with the Academy. Be honest — would Carell be a presumed Best Actor lock if he hadn’t worn a fake schnozz?

Who could slide into Tapley’s rhetorical fifth slot? I’ll tell you who absolutely fucking should slide into it, and that’s Tom Hardy for delivering two ace-level, world-class performances this year — firstly his solo turn in Locke, easily one of the year’s best films and yet all but ignored by the know-it-alls because there’s no campaign afoot and they don’t see anyone buttering their bread, and secondly as the quiet, low-key barkeep in The Drop — a man of few words but with a cagey nature and an iron will. The year’s biggest take-away line — “Nobody ever sees you coming, do they, Bob?” — alludes to Hardy’s character in this film. (more…)

Tati Looks Down Upon Brooklyn…

…and in fact the entire GenY twee film culture (along with the various other permutations) and smiles contentedly, knowing that he had a lot to do with it in a sense, at least from an inspirational standpoint. You have to give the man credit. He was twee-ing his ass off back in the late ’50s, for God’s sake.



Comfort of Error

I always correct my mistakes (typos, factuals) as quickly as possible, but I do make them nearly every damn day. It is therefore gratifying to see the Guardian blow a caption in its report about Andrey Zvyagintsev‘s Leviathan (Sony Pictures Classics, 12.31) having won the Best Film award at the London Film festival. The gentleman in the photo is Leviathan producer Alexander Rodnyansky and not, as the caption claims, Zvyagintsev.

Greatest Generation Loathing

When long hair began to emerge among teens and 20somethings in the mid ’60s, the World War II generation (born in the ’20s) was appalled. To most of them Beatle hair was revolting. “Are you a boy or a girl?” was their mantra. Here’s an expression of that in Harper (’66), released in February 1966 and shot the year before. The person who set up this shot was saying “do you fucking believe this? What has happened to male-female distinctions among younger people?”” That person was director Jack Smight, born in ’25 and clearly a bit of an asshole. Another example can be found in Goldfinger (’64). Sean Connery‘s 007 says to Shirley Eaton‘s Jill Masterson that “there are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs.” The Goldfinger screenwriters were Richard Maibaum and Paul Dehn.

Only 73 Days Until It Opens

Sony Pictures Classics’ trailer for Andrei Zvyagintsev‘s Leviathan popped a couple of days ago. I’ve seen the film three times now, but I’ve yet to see it in this country on a whopper-sized screen with knock-your-socks-off sound, which I how I caught it last May at the Salle Debussy during the Cannes Film Festival. “Simultaneously a modern essay on suffering, an open-ended thriller, and a black social comedy, it is most importantly of all a thinly-veiled political parable drenched in bitter irony that takes aim against the corrupt, corrosive regime of Vladimir Putin.” — Hollywood Reporter critic Leslie Felperin.

Serenity

When I think of peace or of truly peaceful moments in my life…maybe that’s too big a subject for a Sunday afternoon. But right now, three episodes come to mind. One, the way I felt when I was on a small craft chugging along a river in the village of Hoi An, Vietnam, during my first trip there, in November 2012. Two, the way I felt early last June in Venice, when I took the below video around dusk or perhaps a little after. And three, the way I always feel when I listen to Peter Finch‘s Howard Beale describe satori…”a cleansing moment of clarity…plugged into some great, unseen, living force, or what I think the Hindus call prana…I’ve never felt more orderly in my life.” I can probably recall several dozen others but they all share the same characteristic, which is that they happened more or less of their own accord. Great moments happen only when they happen. You can’t order or orchestrate them. You just need to (a) keep yourself open and attuned and (b) develop some real discipline with your devices.

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Birdfellas

This was taken sometime during the New York Film Festival celebrations of Birdman (they’re all in a freight elevator or something). It’s just one of those infectious photos…puts you right in the mood.

55 Years and Counting

It’s not that I’m unfamiliar with Alain ResnaisHiroshima Mon Amour although I’ve only seen it once. It’s not that I don’t find it visually immaculate — the two dps are longtime Resnais collaborator Sacha Vierny plus Michio Takahashi. I find it almost heartbreaking on some level to flash between the 31 year-old Emmanuel Riva in this 1959 film and the Riva who costarred in Amour. Eiji Okada, Riva’s Japanese lover in the Resnais film, died almost 20 years ago at age 75. Nothing is unappealing about catching it this evening at West L.A.’s Royal except for the stone cold fact that it won’t look as good on the screen as it will when the Bluray comes out. The black-and-white values will be so much fuller and finer on the Bluray…it’s not even open for discussion.

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Ghost of George Lois

I don’t pay much attention to weekly Variety covers or any print publication, for that matter, except for Vanity Fair (which has been feeling less substantial and therefore less enjoyable over the last couple of years) and Esquire and GQ when I’m about to leave on a flight. But the satirical role-playing Bill Murray cover obviously alludes to those George Lois Esquire covers of the ’60s and early ’70s. Is this a new vein or did this cover just happen as a one-off?

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Whiplash Now In Big-Boy Realm

Damien Chazelle‘s Whiplash (Sony Classics, 10.10) was the first 2014 movie I went apeshit for. I reviewed it out of Sundance almost exactly nine months ago…and then the months flew by and I began to think of it as a very strong Spirit Awards contender. Then it got another jolt out of Toronto/New York, and then it finally opened nine days ago. And then it began to connect in certain flotational ways. And then the clincher: Jett and his girlfriend saw it last night, and he reports that while she “liked” or “respected” but didn’t quite love Gone Girl and Birdman, she’s over the moon about Whiplash. That settles it. Whiplash, which has earned about $416K in 21 theatres so far, is a Best Picture contender because it fills not one but two Oscar Bait Bingo squares — it’s the Best Picture contender that GenY regards as its own (at least one BP nominee has to “belong” to the under-30s or they won’t feel invested in the Oscar telecast) and it’s the leading indie-level Best Picture nominee, which is a healthy thing for the Academy as nominating only big-name, medium-to-hefty-budget, mainstream-vibey films sends the wrong message. On top of which Whiplash is currently sitting in tenth place on the latest Gurus of Gold ranking — the admirers include Thelma Adams, Tim Gray, David Poland, Nathaniel R and Anne Thompson. I am including it in my Gold Derby Best Picture ranking as we speak. To repeat, Whiplash is no longer a Spirit Awards contender (although it can and will compete in that arena) — it’s a bona fide Best Picture contender.

Toss My Salad Gently

Four hours ago on Reddit a man called “Toss My Salad Gently”, who sounds like a fair-minded guy with an actual sense of reason and judgment (as opposed to being some fluttery falsetto fanboy raving about all things Nolan), began to offer a semi-serious assessment of Interstellar following yesterday’s Fort Hood screening. Just a series of random, uncoordinated but intelligent-sounding comments, but you can sense a guy who knows a couple of things and has an idea of what’s good and what’s not. The bottom line is that while TMSG shared some flattering observations about Interstellar, he wasn’t over the moon about it. Definitely admiring and respectful but no cartwheels.

Three TSMG up-thoughts: (a) “It’s a really, really ambitious and enjoyable film,” (b) “It definitely had its moments! I found myself trying to hold back the tears a couple times” and (c) “2001: A Space Odyssey comparisons are pretty valid [and yet] the difference is Nolan didn’t take the plunge and leave a lot of things up for interpretation like Kubrick did…there is a bit of thinking to do after watching, but I believe it is accessible to anyone who pays attention.”

But he also offered a ranking of how Interstellar stands up to previous Nolan films, and here it is: (1) tie between Memento (8.5/10) and The Dark Knight (8.5/10), (2) Inception (8/10), (3) tie between Interstellar (7.5/10) and Batman Begins (7.5/10) and (4) The Dark Knight Rises (7/10).

And then he said this: “I just want to say that I feel bad because I’m really not any kind of film aficionado. Just someone who likes movies a lot. It was a really, really ambitious and enjoyable film. My rating is based off story, delivery of story, visuals, the music score and a couple other things. Some of you will like it more than I did but this is how I would rate it. (more…)