Save Yourself The Effort

Try imagining yourself in a thirtysomething hipster marriage, and living in a house in Chicago. You look like Joe Swanberg and your wife looks like Melanie Lynskey, and you have an infant son. Along comes your younger sister, a dead ringer for Anna Kendrick, to stay in the guest room while she looks for a job. It’s soon evident that she’s some kind of alcoholic. When she drinks she gets completely wasted and passes out…obviously self-destructive and almost sure to get worse. But your creatively stifled wife has been enjoying some creative sex-book-writing sessions she’s been having with your sister and a friend who looks like Lena Dunham. And then your sister gets really drunk again and forgets to take something out of the oven and damn near burns the house down. Smoke everywhere. When your wife asks you about your sister, do you say “yeah, I’d say she has a serious drinking problem”? Of course not! Why would you ever say something like that? All you say is that she’s “really immature.” The words “alcohol” or “alcoholic” never cross your lips or anyone else’s. And your wife is so taken with your sister and those creative bull sessions that she figures “what the hell…your sister might succeed at burning the house down when she gets bombed again and wind up killing us and our baby but I really like the feeling of being creative again so…you know, let’s just take it one day at a time.” Is that cool?

Lesson Learned

Caged Heat, Crazy Mama, Handle with Care, Last Embrace, Melvin and Howard, Something Wild, Swimming to Cambodia, Married to the Mob, The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia, The Manchurian Candidate, Rachel Getting MarriedJonathan Demme has been my idea of a highly respectable, sometimes world-class auteur for 35…okay, let’s make it 40 years. But I swear to God I had a little trouble listening to what Demme was saying in this Ricky Camilleri interview because of that grotesque Indian shirt he’s wearing, not to mention those two necklaces. Okay, I “listened” to his phrases and thoughts but my mind drifted in and out. Interview subjects should obviously guard against outre appearances getting in the way…just sayin’. Demme sat down with Camilleri to plug his latest film, The Master Builder (opening Wednesday).

Impotent Junkie

No, seriously….this is the real-deal Trash (’70). Paul Morrissey‘s, I mean. Intravenous drug use, sex, frontal nudity. “I need money for drugs…do you have any?” Joe Dallesandro, Holly Woodlawn, Jane Forth. (Forth, a 17 year-old model at the time, is the one playing opposite JD.) Sissy Spacek allegedly made “a quick uncredited appearance as a girl who sits at the bar but was cut from the final film.” Basically about the perverse mood of downtown late ’60s Warhol-centric hipsters, and secondarily about the vaguely comic humiliations that accompany Dallesandro’s heroin habit.

Trash Monkeys

Even in Portugese you can tell that Stephen Daldry‘s Trash will be fast and mean and kind of City of God-like. The only thing that scares me is the presence of Martin Sheen. Costarring Wagner Moura and Rooney Mara, pic is obviously about three Brazilian ragamuffins (Rickson Tevez, Eduardo Luis, Gabriel Weinstein) who find on a valuable wallet at a trash dump, and are soon after being chased around by baddies. Will Trash play the early fall festivals? With no U.S. distributor on-board, that would seem to make sense.

Moby Dick Wasn’t Kidding

Roughly ten months after it began filming and eight months before Warner Bros. opens it on 3.15.15, Ron Howard‘s In The Heart of The Sea is having a research screening on Thursday evening, 7.24, at the Sherman Oaks Arclight. I won’t post any reactions or even run a summary, but should anyone attend I’ve love to hear how it plays. Privately, pure curiosity. Howard’s film, a period action-drama costarring Chris Hemsworth, Cillian Murphy, Ben Whishaw and Brendan Gleeson, is basically a Moby Dick origin tale mixed with another shipwrecked-at-sea, survival-in-a-lifeboat saga a la Life of Pi, All Is Lost and Unbroken.


HE’s 25 Toronto Faves…So Far

This morning the 2014 Toronto Film Festival (9.4 to 9.14) announced a rundown of I-forget-how-many galas and special presentations (i.e., 40- or 50-something). I read the list two or three hours ago and went “okay, interesting, good, yup, cool….wait, where’s Leviathan?” Will it be announced as…what, a Canadian premiere when the next TIFF announcement breaks? Or is it being punished (i.e., relegated to after-Monday status) because Telluride, as expected, will be the first U.S. festival to show it? I’m a little confused about the Toronto vs. Telluride rules of inclusion vs. exclusion.

Here, in any event, are my preferential Toronto must-sees so far in terms of genuine intrigue and excitement, and not necessarily in terms of “ooh, ooh, pant, pant…will this be a serious Oscar contender?” I rarely see more than 27 films during my ten days there (9 and 1/2 days X 3 films daily plus filing plus occasional parties), and more often in the vicinity of 25 or a bit less. Hottest films listed first, less-hots starting around 15 or thereabouts:

1. Wild, d: Jean-Marc Vallee; 2. The Theory of Everything, d: James Marsh; 3. While We’re Young, d: Noah Baumbach; 4. Rosewater, d: Jon Stewart; 5. Men, Women & Children, d: Jason Reitman; 6. Black and White, d: Mike Binder (hit me hard during first viewing, wanna see it again); 7. Wild Tales, d: Damian Szifron (loved it in Cannes, can’t wait to see it again); 8. Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington‘s The Equalizer; 9. Phoenix, d: Christian Petzold; 10. Pasolini, d: Abel Ferrara; 11. Nightcrawler, d: Dan Gilroy; 12. 99 Homes, d: Ramin Bahrani; 13. Time Out of Mind, d: Oren Moverman; 14. The Judge, d: David Dobkin; 15. This Is Where I Leave You, d: Shawn Levy; 16. The Riot Club, d: Lone Scherfig; 17. Miss Julie, d: Liv Ullman; 18. The Good Lie, d: Philippe Falardeau; 19. Love & Mercy, d: Bill Pohlad; 20. Manglehorn, d: David Gordon Green; 21. The Humbling, d: Barry Levinson; 22. The Last Five Years, d: Richard LaGravenese; 23. The New Girlfriend, d: François Ozon; 24. Top Five, d: Chris Rock; 25. A Second Chance, d: Susanne Bier. (more…)

Crowe’s Hawaii Flick Shifts Into May ’15

Columbia and Regency Pictures have shifted Cameron Crowe‘s still-untitled film out of a previously announced December 2014 slot in favor of a 5.29.15 release. No harm, no worries, fine. Then again the announcement didn’t exactly feel like a surprise. Nobody in my circle had even mentioned it as a fall-holiday title to look forward to with any excitement. The fact that Crowe never managed to give it a title indicated…well, I don’t know exactly but title-less films always make you wonder “what’s the problem?”

The film, some kind of romantic dramedy set in with Hawaii and having to do with the Air Force and space satellites, costars Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Danny McBride, Alec Baldwin, John Krasinski and Bill Murray. An earlier version (a cousin or a close relation) called Deep Tiki nearly went before the cameras 2009 with Ben Stiller and Reese Witherspoon costarring, but the plug was pulled in pre-production. (more…)

Guy With Lit Fuse

In this fascinating trailer for Dan Gilroy‘s Nightcrawler (Open Road, 10.17), Jake Gyllenhaal looks a little more than gaunt. Strung-out is one term that seems to at least visually apply. You can see the whites above and below his pupils. Robotic, serene with a vengeance, very persistent, lots of anger underneath. “A driven young man stumbles upon the underground world of L.A. freelance crime journalism,” etc. Costarring Bill Paxton, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Kevin Rahm, Eric Lange. Gilroy directed (first time) and wrote.

Click here to jump past the Oscar Balloon

Best Picture Contenders (i.e, Presumed High-Pedigree, The Right Stuff): Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Birdman, Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar, J.C. Chandor's A Very Violent Year, Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Inherent Vice, Ava Duvernay's Selma, Ridley Scott‘s Exodus: Gods and Kings, David Fincher‘s Gone Girl, Angelina Jolie's Unbroken; Jean Marc Vallee's Wild (i.e., the Reese Witherspoon hiking drama), James Marsh's Theory of Everything, Noah Baumbach's While We're Young, Jeff NicholsMidnight Special, Saul Dibbs' Suite Francaise, Jason Reitman's Men, Women & Children.

High-Pedigree YA Adaptation?: Phillip Noyce's The Giver.

Opening in 2014 or 2015?: Sarah Gavron's Suffragette (Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep).

Already Positively Reviewed: Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel (Berlin Film Festival review here), Bennett Miller‘s Foxcatcher (seen & praised at Cannes); Steve James' Life Itself; Steven Knight's Locke; Lynn Shelton's Laggies, Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood; Mike Leigh‘s Mr. Turner (seen & praised at Cannes); Craig Johnson‘s The Skeleton Twins, Damien Chazelle's Whiplash; Tommy Lee Jones' The Homesman (seen & admired in some quarters); David Cronenberg‘s Maps to the Stars.

Some Appraised, Some Not: Maya Forbes' Infinitely Polar Bear, Rupert Goold's True Story (Jonah Hill, James Franco), Noah Baumbach's Untitled Public School Project; Dan Gilroy's Nightcrawler, David Gordon Green's Manglehorn, Woody Allen's Magic in the Moonlight, Charlie McDowell‘s The One I Love, Tate Taylor's Get On Up (Chadwick Bozeman as James Brown); Thomas McCarthy's The Cobbler, Theodore Melfi's St. Vincent de Van Nuys, Justin Kurzel's Macbeth, Anton Corbijn's A Most Wanted Man, David Dobkin's The Judge, Untitled Cameron Crowe, Todd HaynesCarol.

Vague Cloud: Stephen Daldry's Trash; Tim Burton‘s Big Eyes; Jon Stewart's Rosewater; David Ayers' Fury; Thomas Vinterberg's Far from the Madding Crowd; Fatih Akin's The Cut; Liv Ullman's Miss Julie; Daniel Espinosa's Child 44; Anton Corbijn's Life; Dylan Kidd's Get A Job; James Ponsoldt's The End of the Tour; Werner Herzog's Queen of the Desert; Stephen Frears' Untitled Lance Armstrong Project; Alex Garland's Ex Machina, Christian Petzold's Phoenix (likely Telluride); Michael Roskam's The Drop; Ramin Bahrani's 99 Homes; Rupert Goold's True Story; John MacLean's Slow West; Michael Cuesta's Kill The Messenger; Justin Kurzel's Macbeth.

Third Tier (i.e., Respectable Megaplex Movies): Matt ReevesDawn of the Planet of the Apes, Darren Aronofsky‘s Noah (seen, praised, successful), Doug Liman's Edge of Tomorrow, Gareth Edwards' Godzilla (huge success), Evan Golderberg and Seth Rogen's The Interview; Antoine Fuqua's The Equalizer, Shawn Levy‘s This Is Where I Leave You, Phil Lord and Chris Miller‘s 22 Jump Street, Spike Lee's Sweet Blood of Jesus.


Made and Flayed

In Katie Arnold-Ratliff‘s 7.18 N.Y. Times review, Emily Gould‘s “Friendship” is described as “a novel that could not exist without the internet — the very entity that has thrust its author into a certain kind of sickly, fluorescent limelight.” The “snark-and-burn ethos” of Gould’s writings for Gawker a few years ago “came back to very publicly haunt her after she left the company,” she reminds. The book is about an up-and-down New York relationship tale between Bev and Amy, the latter closely modelled upon Gould herself. It may be worth reading, but what has my attention are passages in Arnold-Ratliff’s review that remind me of my own vaguely warped existence. Just substitute “Jeff” for “Amy” or “Gould,” “his” for “her”, etc.

Friendship” author and former Gawker columnist Emily Gould.

Excerpt #1: “‘Friendship’ does not come with a comments section in which people can say to Gould, as they often have, things like ‘go kill yourself.’ Besides which, if you have any interest in what it’s like to be a young woman in a world that exists half IRL (that’s In Real Life, FYI) and half online, where nothing is private and no one is kind…you might enjoy this book.”

Excerpt #2: “Book drafts, spec scripts and other false starts toward a creative, actualized life take up Amy’s mental and literal bandwidth, making her feel guilty — though usually not guilty enough to dig her out of those Wikipedia rabbit holes.”


“It Ain’t Shawshank

My first and last exposure to Robert M. Young and Miguel Pinero‘s Short Eyes was at the 1977 New York Film Festival, which happened four or five months before I left Westport, Connecticut, to move into my first cockroach-infested Manhattan tenement apartment. Hardly a “pleasant” sit but taut, riveting and quite rich overall. Very stagey but appropriately so, as it happens entirely in a confined space (i.e., the Manhattan Men’s House of Detention). Animals in a cage, all right…”I say he’s stuff.” Bruce Davison‘s performance as a squishy, white-ass child molester (“short eyes” is slang for this type of offender) was not only memorable but incredibly ballsy. I remember reading Vincent Canby’s 9.28.77 rave and going “yup, yup…exactly how I feel.” I’m mentioning this because Kino Lorber will release a new Short Eyes Bluray on 9.15, but will accept pre-orders as of 8.1.

The line “it ain’t Shawshank” was written seven years ago by efilmcritic’s Rob Gonsalves.


NYFF, Throwing In Towel, Chooses Birdman For Closer

Don’t get me wrong — I’ve heard nothing but pulse-quickening things about Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Birdman, which will open the Venice Film Festival and almost certainly play Telluride directly after. But in selecting Birdman to close the 2014 New York Film Festival, festival director Kent Jones has relinquished his original dream of concluding with a major world premiere. Like, for example, Chris Nolan‘s Interstellar, which went south when Nolan-the-perfectionist either refused or dilly-dallied too long as far as screening it for Jones (or anyone else) in rough form. Birdman may turn out be the finest film of 2014 (who knows?) but in competitive pecking-order terms it’ll feel a bit like used goods when it plays NYFF after Venice, Telluride and (I’m assuming) Toronto.

Birdman is a knockout,” Jones said in a release. “It’s consistently surprising and inventive — you think the movie is going in one direction and then Inarritu shifts gears and takes you somewhere else completely unexpected. The movie is like an intricate machine generating greater and greater amounts of beautiful radiant energy. The entire cast is amazing and they mesh perfectly, but I have to say that Michael Keaton is astonishing. He’s always been a terrific and, in my opinion, underrated actor. Here he gets the role he deserves, and he makes the most of it. And, it’s a great Broadway movie.”

Game‘s Expected London Debut

It makes obvious sense that Morten Tyldum and Graham Moore‘s The Imitation Game will open the 2014 BFI London Film Festival on Wednesday, October 8th. British history, British cast (Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Charles Dance) and a compelling, tragic theme about a drop-dead genius, Alan Turing, who was celebrated for breaking the Nazi enigma code only to be persecuted after the war for being gay. (Sometime in 2015 Imitation Game will be co-billed at the New Beverly with Enigma, the Mick Jagger-produced 2001 film that was about more or less the same effort in the exact same location (i.e., Bletchley Park) but focused on characters who worked under Turing.) The Imitation Game will preem in England on 11.14; The Weinstein Co. will open it domestically on 11.21.14.

Sand In Your Underwear

I’ve been on the receiving end of (a) tingly, fluttery intrigue bordering on animal lust vs. (b) wifey looks that convey pleasant but perfunctory interest mixed with vague boredom, and let me tell you that (a) is what you’ll be smiling about when you’re on your death bed at age 87. I don’t intend this to sound the way it’s inevitably going to sound, but Showtime’s The Affair seems to be up to something atypical because Ruth Wilson, the 32 year-old British stage actress and Lone Ranger costar, is clearly one of those women whose “raging rivers of passion” are somewhat modified by the fact that she’s not (here come the slings and arrows) conventionally Maxim. She’s attractively “real world”, yes, but one presumes that a married guy with kids wouldn’t risk shattering the foundation of his life without volcanic temptation.

Wilson and Dominic West, both in complicated marriages, are the infidels in this pic about a summer affair in Montauk gone horribly wrong (i.e., clips of a detective asking about motive). Maura Tierney and Joshua Jackson (whom I wouldn’t even have coffee with if I was a lady) play their perplexed mates. The Affair, a Rashomon-like longform of some kind, debuts on 10.19,


Swoop Down On Leftovers Like Hawks

With tonight’s much-dreaded fourth episode of The Leftovers lying in wait like a python, here’s a line from Bill McCuddy that got a decent laugh at Caroline’s the other night: “That two percent of the population taken from the planet in HBO’s The Leftovers apparently included all the good screenwriters.”

J. Fred Muggs Paradigm

I would be a devoted fan of a weekly half-hour cable show about chimps indicating their reactions to new movies. I’m serious. You know everyone would watch it. You can’t beat the metaphor. We all know chimps are reasonably good communicators and that they could somehow convey their reactions to this or that aspect of a new film, perhaps with visual aids or gestures or whatnot. We’re talking about New York-based chimps who would get themselves on screening lists (obviously with the help of human handlers) and attend viewings along with Lou Lumenick, Josh Horowitz, Matt Zoller Seitz and Armond White. In fact…wait, wait, wait…human and chimp critics dishing side by side? Don’t kid yourself — this would be hugely popular.

Blame The Zombie Execs

Every now and then I read another doom-and-gloom piece about the summer’s disappointing (i.e., not as good last year’s) box-office performance. “Downward spiral,” “big drop,” etc. The top ten films so far have grossed $130 million vs. $174 million last year. 2014 is down 6% from 2013. Could that have something to do with a mortifying awareness that the majority of summer movies are intended to be downmarket CG-driven shite? Not to mention that (a) ticket and popcorn prices are ridiculous, (b) many urban theatres are filled with yakking low-life apes munching on jalapeno nachos and checking their brightly glaring cell phones, (c) the varied VOD and streaming options are highly competitive and attractive plus cable dramas seem much more satisfying to anyone with a smidgen of taste. Theatrical attendance levels are presumably still dropping. Two years ago Goldman Sachs analysts Drew Borst and Fred Krom concluded that ticket buys were at a 25-year low with under-30 attendance down 40% since 2002. The theatre experience has been declining for a long while, and action movies…I don’t want to talk about it. Megaplex summer is just something to endure, get through, wait out. Life begins with Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York, and then the season begins. There are many, many good to great films about to unfurl. It’s simply a matter of ignoring the diversions made for the downmarket mob, and of course the mob itself.

Lies Spread Poison

On the face of it, a Bluray of a 35 year-old made-for-TV movie doesn’t sound all that essential. But David Greene and C.D.B. Bryan’s Friendly Fire may — I say “may” — be an exception. I know it got to me when I saw it in my fleabag Sullivan Street apartment in the spring of ’79, but you can’t trust an old memory. Based on a series of New Yorker articles and then a book by Bryan, it won four Emmy Awards and was nominated for several other honors. It’s basically about the pain of being lied to about the cause of a loved one’s death. Carol Burnett and Ned Beatty portray Peg and Gene Mullen, an average couple going through hell because the U.S. military won’t explain how their son (Timothy Hutton) happened to be killed by U.S. artillery fire during a Vietnam War battle. Sam Waterston plays Bryan. As many as 8000 U.S. soldiers might have been killed in Vietnam by friendly fire; many thousands more were killed by their own during World War II, World War I and other major conflicts. Friendly Fire aired on ABC on ABC on 4.22.79, attracting an audience of 64 million people. The Kino Lorber Bluray is streeting on 8.26.

“A Bowl of Mashed Potatoes…”

James Garner‘s passing led me to a seven-week-old announcement about Kino Lorber releasing a Bluray of William Wyler‘s The Children’s Hour (’62), in which Garner plays a strong supporting role as Audrey Hepburn‘s fiance. John Michael Hayes adapted Lillian Hellman’s 1934 play; Hellman got screen credit but otherwise had nothing to do with the Wyler film (which is viewable right now on Vudu in HDX). This led to me a YouTube clip of Hellman presenting the Academy Award for Best Documentary Film at a ceremony on 3.28.77. It is very unfortunate that the editor chose to cut out Hellman’s remarks about her blacklisting, which I’ve pasted after the clip:


Charlie Madison Meets Infinity

James Garner, 86, has left the earth, perhaps even the solar system. To many he was Maverick or Jim Rockford, but to me he’ll always be Charlie Madison, the nonchalant dog-robber and “practicing coward” in Paddy Chayefsky and Arthur Hiller‘s The Americanization of Emily (’64), which Garner often said later was his favorite performance. My second favorite Garner guy is Lt. Robert Hendley (a.k.a. “the Scrounger”) in John SturgesThe Great Escape (’63). My third favorite is race-car driver Pete Aron in John Frankenheimer‘s Grand Prix (’66). And that was it, really — a four-year streak in which Garner was peaking like a stallion and 100% in synch with America’s idea of success and masculinity — smart, laid-back, smooth, broad-shouldered, good-looking, a little scampy.

All right, if you add his three years with Maverick (’57 to ’60) plus Sayonara (’57), The Children’s Hour (’62) and one or two of his fluffly romcoms with Doris Day I guess Garner had a nine-year streak but ’63 to ’66 was when he really and truly mattered — when he was “the guy.” I know he was primarily at home on the tube for most of his career, but he owned mainstream movie potency for that four-year period.


Nolan’s Alleged Reluctance

Earlier this month I mentioned that I’d heard “convincing chatter” about Chris Nolan‘s Interstellar possibly debuting sometime during the span of the 52nd New York Film Festival (9.26 through 10.12), “although the most recent buzz says that Interstellar could play Telluride first.” Now I’m hearing that Nolan’s time-travel film, an 11.7 Paramount release, may not…uhm, let me phrase this carefully. So far, I’m told, there’s been a reluctance on Nolan’s part to screen the film for reps of at least one of the hot-shot fall festivals. That means he’s probably saying the same thing to all the other reps. Interstellar is understood to be a very effects-heavy film, but Nolan can’t play this “not ready” game much longer. Interstellar may not be ready to screen for festival programmers right now (i.e., 7.19) and it may not ultimately be ready to screen at the Telluride or Toronto festivals, which span from late August to mid September. But it would have to be ready to theoretically close the New York Film Festival on Sunday, 10.12, which would be less than four weeks before the commercial opening. Bottom line: If there was a serious interest on Nolan’s part to premiere Interstellar at one of the early fall festivals (New York being the most favorable in terms of post-production leeway), he would be playing ball at this stage by letting certain persons see it in whatever form it happens to be. But so far he hasn’t, I’m told. Read into this what you will.

My Ford Problem Won’ t Allow It

I’ve never been much of a fan of John Ford‘s Monument Valley westerns. I “respect” them as far as it goes but I’ve never been able to get around the fact that it’s completely ridiculous for a community of any kind (settlers, soldiers) to be living in a place about as life-nurturing as the surface of the moon — no river or grass so you can’t raise cattle or grow crops or do anything except savor the scenery. (I’ve been to Monument Valley so don’t tell me.) On top of which I’ve never really cared for Ford’s collaborations with Henry FondaMy Darling Clementine, Fort Apache, Young Mr. Lincoln — as they’ve always seemed…I don’t know, kind of smug and even lazy on some level. Fonda always seems to be posing in these films. Plus I’m generally sick of the Earps vs. the Clantons…I just don’t want to do that whole O.K. Corral thing again, no offense. So if it’s okay I’ll be taking a pass on Criterion’s forthcoming Clementine Bluray, 4K digital restoration or not. I’d pay $6 bucks to stream it but Criterion doesn’t offer that stuff…will they ever?

Odds Are Against It

It was announced yesterday that Angelina Jolie‘s next directing project will be By The Sea, a smallish relationship drama costarring herself and husband Brad Pitt. It shoots next month (partly in Malta) with Universal distributing. Last May The Hollywood Reporter‘s Borys Kit wrote that “some insiders [are speculating] it could be a relationship drama that Jolie wrote several years ago, [about] a couple with issues who take a vacation in a last-ditch effort to save their marriage.”

Well and good, except with one or two exceptions husband-and-wife collaborations have not worked out. At the very least they’re spotty. All good films come about through creative collaboration and, to a certain extent, conflict. But the best ones are almost always the result of a single, all-powerful director being the absolute boss — a creative dictator whose vision and control is mostly unchallenged. (Or at least is not strongly interfered with.) It follows that this dynamic can’t prevail when a husband and wife make a film together as all successful, healthy marriages rest upon an understanding that they have a partnership to maintain, and that this means showing mutual respect and some deference and that neither party is the CEO…well, that’s not really true, is it?


If You Haven’t Read The Book…

In the five-year-old view of New Yorker book critic Louis Menand, Thomas Pynchon‘s Inherent Vice is “a slightly spoofy take on hardboiled crime fiction, a story in which the characters smoke dope and watch Gilligan’s Island instead of sitting around a nightclub knocking back J&Bs. It’s The Maltese Falcon starring Cheech and Chong, The Big Sleep as told by the hippy-dippy weatherman. Whether you think it’s funny depends a little on whether you think Cheech and Chong and the hippy-dippy weatherman are funny for more than about two minutes. It’s funnier than Raymond Chandler, anyway.

“The twist is the time period. The events in Pynchon’s story take place in the spring of 1970, something we can infer from frequent references to the Manson trial and the N.B.A. finals between the Lakers and the Knicks. And the book is loaded — overloaded, really, but Pynchon is an inveterate encyclopedist — with pop period detail: Dark Shadows, Marcus Welby, M.D. and Hawaii Five-O; Blue Cheer, Tiny Tim, and the Archies; Casey Kasem, Glen Campbell, Herb Alpert. There are some local Southland references — the used-car dealer Cal Worthington — and a few bits of rock-and-roll esoterica. There are a lot of drug jokes, and there are a lot of drugs (though, strangely, little reference to the antiwar movement: the bombing of Cambodia, mentioned in passing, took place in the spring of 1970). Nixon has been President for a year. The sand is running out on the counterculture.” (more…)


“Mr. Putin gave some delinquent children a can of gasoline and a pack of matches, and he’s now shocked to see that they’ve started a fire.” — assessment offered yesterday during ABC News report about Thursday’s Malaysian air massacre in East Ukraine.


Manhattan Vice

Director-writer Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, the long-awaited, buzzed-about adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s period crime novel, will be world-premiered on Saturday, October 4th, at the 52nd New York Film Festival. Hollywood Elsewhere will be there with bells on. The Warner Bros. release will open theatrically on 12.12.14 so this is a big deal — a look at a presumably major film 10 weeks in advance. Set in Los Angeles in 1970 (and not 1969, which is what I’ve been erroneously saying all along), pic is about Larry “Doc” Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix), a pot-smoking, space-case private dick involved in a complicated effort “to prevent his ex-girlfriend’s current lover being committed to a mental asylum”…or a plot to kidnap the guy or something like that. (The Manson Family murder trial was a backdrop in Pynchon’s novel so it presumably flashes in and out of the film also.) Costarring Josh Brolin, Benicio del Toro, Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Martin Short, Jena Malone, Katherine Waterston and Maya Rudolph.

Inherent Vice costars Joaquin Phoenix, Martin Short during filming.

Anything But Escapism

Nationally syndicated columnist and Washington Post op-ed contributor Michael Gerson has written an impression of Phillip Noyce‘s The Giver (Weinstein Co., 8.15), which he recently saw. He calls it an “updated but respectful re-telling” of Lois Lowry’s slim 1993 book about totalitarianism, euthanasia, suicide, sexual awakening and infanticide, and “clearly the labor of someone’s love.” He also calls it “an odd candidate for a blockbuster,” as much of what happens in the book and the film is “an interior moral struggle.” But he predicts it will “provoke political commentary” as The Giver‘s main point is that pain is a difficult but necessary component in any meaningful life as “the very things that make us vulnerable to loss — choice, emotion, desire — also make us human.” This, says Gerson, is “fairly serious stuff for a summertime movie. But it is precisely what causes Lowry’s book to transcend the genre of teen literature it created.”

Way It Goes Sometimes

I’ve just been disinvited from participating in next week’s Magic in the Moonlight press junket in Los Angeles. No biggie, no sweat…but I’m wondering who pushed the button. I’m guessing it was Colin Firth‘s publicist. On 3.31 I wrote a piece called “Repressed British Clod,” about Firth’s downward career trajectory following a remarkable three-year hot streak from ’09 to ’11 (A Single Man, The King’s Speech and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), so perhaps they’re afraid I might get into that. (As Firth himself did, prophetically-speaking, when he accepted his Oscar.) I wouldn’t, of course. Firth’s performance in Magic in the Moonlight is his best since The King’s Speech, and that’s the current reality. Or was I deep-sixed because I recently lamented that crude-looking Magic in the Moonlight one-sheet? It can’t be because of today’s review, which was mostly positive.

Remember Nic Ray’s Art Forger in The American Friend?

“A well-rounded and compassionate portrait of an outsider with some degree of misdiagnosed mental illness, Art and Craft is an engrossing document of immense talents gone sideways. Art forger Mark Landis has a level of craft and mimicry that is unparalleled, which goes beyond copying. But its meticulous fastidiousness seems rooted in a mania he cannot control. Soft-spoken and shy, it’s clear Landis has no malicious intent, but he’s nevertheless a massive stain on the reputation of the art world that many want to blot out.


Marty Is Boxy After All…Glorious!

Ignore the 1.85 aspect ratio info on Amazon’s Marty Bluray page. Why? Because it’s incorrect. I’ve been asleep at the wheel for the last month but in mid-June Kino Lorber vp acquisitions and business affairs Frank Tarzi announced a decision to issue the Bluray of Delbert Mann‘s Oscar-winning 1955 drama in the preferred Hollywood Elsewhere aspect ratio of 1.33 (or is it 1.37?). I love the smell of napalm in the morning, and especially when someone ignores the advice of aspect-ratio historian Bob Furmanek, who, if he had his druthers, would chop every standard-Academy-ratio 1950s film made after April 1953 down to 1.85. Being on the winning side of these battles is wonderful!

Look at the headroom in this frame capture from DVD Beaver’s review of Kino Lorber’s Marty Bluray, which streets on 7.29.

All the 1.85 fascists were hopping mad about this last month, and here I am just joining the party. Did I miss anything?

On June 7th I reported that KL’s Marty Bluray would be presented “in the dreaded 1.85 with the tops and bottoms of the protected 1.37 image (seen on TV, VHS, laser disc and DVDs for the last five or six decades) severed with a meat cleaver.” A month earlier aspect-ratio historian Bob Furmanek noted in a Home Theatre Forum post that (a) the Marty Bluray would (a) be presented “for the first time since the original theatrical release with Mann’s intended 1.85:1 compositions,” and that (b) “we provided the documentation to insure mastering in the correct ratio.”