Frances Ha director-cowriter Noah Baumbach speaking candidly (as far as that goes) with HuffPost’s Ricky Camilleri about…well, Frances Ha and Baumbach’s tendency to follow characters of a certain anxious, prickly and/or melancholy bent, and how Baumbach found this particular tone or voice or whatever. Answer: It all changed when Baumbach “stopped worrying about how I’ll be perceived….whatever critic you have in your head, I got rid of that guy and just went for it.” This is a good interview. Really. Camilleri opens up, explores, really gets into it.
In a 6.17 q & a with Badass Digest‘s Devin Faraci, Karina Longworth, the author of Al Pacino: Anatomy of an Actor, discussed Pacino’s transition from a spirited but psychologically rooted actor into the “hoo-hah!” guy — the florid mannerist and shouter. And yet whenever I think of my favorite Pacino performances, it’s almost always a performance that includes the shouty stuff. The excitable gay bank-robber in Dog Day Afternoon, Vincent Hanna in Heat, Lowell Bergman in The Insider, the Devil in Devil’s Advocate, Big Boy Caprice in Dick Tracy. The only quiet Pacino performances I’ve really admired are those in Glengarry Glen Ross, You Don’t Know Jack and The Godfather pics. My favorite all-time Pacino moment? The “inches” speech in Any Given Sunday.
It’s soothing and nurturing to watch this shot every so often. When’s the last time a long dazzling uncut shot like this was the talk of film buffs the world over? The last one that really floored me was that first extended action sequence in Alfonso Cuaron‘s Children of Men, and before that the opening of Robert Altman‘s The Player. 95% of the apes who love the last 80 minutes of Man of Steel would never even watch a film like The Passenger and therefore never watch a perfect scene like this, but if they did most would sit there like metal lawn furniture and go “uhhm, okay…so that’s it?”
I’ve eaten at Irv’s Burgers maybe two or three times over the last 20 years. I sure as hell would never go near the place now with my cockatoo diet. But I love places like this for their authentically greasy downmarket L.A. atmosphere. Astrobuger, the former Tail of the Pup, the long-defunct Tiny Naylor’s. But now Irv’s, which has been around for 63 years and reportedly received a cultural landmark designation in 2010, has been told to vacate the premises by the landlord and will close by the end of June. A shame. I won’t eat at places like Irv’s, but I love looking at them as I drive by. I love their aura, their flavor. They exude L.A.-ness as much as Mulholland Drive or the Smoke House or the Formosa Cafe or the Hollywood Bowl or the Apple Pan.
No way can I accept Jennifer Lopez, regarded as one of the most flagrantly materialistic, super-high-maintenance divas in the celebrity-acting-performing realm of 2013, as a working-class Chilean woman in The 33, a drama about the 2010 Chilean mining disaster. The film, being produced by Mike Medavoy, will costar Antonio Banderas, Martin Sheen and Rodrigo Santoro. Okay, I don’t know precisely who or what Lopez will portray but what else could she play in a film like this?
Jennifer “gimme a break with the diva lifestyle” Lopez
The Chilean miners celebrate after the rescue of the 33.
One of my first back-in-the-U.S. screenings will be next Monday’s all-media for Paul Feig‘s The Heat (20th Century Fox, 6.28), the Sandra Bullock-Melissa McCarthy cop-buddy action comedy. It suddenly hit me this morning that I haven’t paid a dime’s worth of attention to this thing, which is obviously broad as a barn. I have to be honest about something. The trailer narration describes McCarthy’s character as “a tough Boston cop,” and she clearly has the mouthy, belligerent attitude of a streetwise detective. But when I think “tough cop” I think of Gene Hackman‘s Popeye Doyle in The French Connection, and that association reminds me of the Act One scene when Popeye and Roy Scheider‘s Cloudy run after Alan Weeks‘ drug dealer for two or three blocks before catching him. Does anyone believe McCarthy could run several hundred yards in a high-speed pursuit of a lithe 20something drug dealer? On top of which she’s only 5’2″…c’mon.
Thanks for smiling and welcoming me into your store. But you’re being paid to do that, right? You’re collecting a salary to help people find what they need and maybe persuade impressionable types to buy something they’re on the fence about. In any event when I walk into your store it’s not about you, no offense — it’s about me and what I see on the racks and what I might want to try or buy. It’s between me and the clothes. Which is to say a kind of delicate communion. Intimate, personal. I’m here to experience a transcendent “oh my God, I want this” moment, maybe, but I don’t want help from you any more than I want advice from a bartender about which pretty girl sitting at the bar I should think about talking to.
If I need assistance you’ll be the first ones to know, but otherwise (and I’m saying this respectfully and gently) please keep your distance. (more…)
We all like to pass along gossip and maybe embellish for effect, but Orson Welles took the cake 30 years ago when he dished about the plane-crash death of Carole Lombard to Henry Jaglom. It happened during a luncheon they shared in 1983, which Jaglom recorded and transcribed and has now shared in a book called “My Lunches With Orson” (Metropolitan, 7.16). Welles contended that the plane Lombard was flying on the night of 1.16.42 was “full of big-time American physicists” (news reports said it was full of small-time Army guys) and that the plane was shot down by “Nazi agents” and that the plane was “filled with bullet holes.”
Best of 2013: 1. House of Cards (Netflix series that began streaming on 2.1.13, d: David Fincher (first 2 episodes), p: Fincher, Kevin Spacey, Beau Willimon); 2. No (d: Pablo Larrain); 3. Mama (d: Andres Muchietti, p: Guillermo del Toro); 4. Room 237 (d: Rodney Ascher); 5. Side Effects (d: Steven Soderbergh); 6. Disconnect (d: Henry-Alex Rubin); 7. The Gatekeepers (d: Dror Moreh); 8. The Sapphires (d: Wayne Blair); 9. Phil Spector (HBO, d: David Mamet); 10. Like Someone In Love (d: Abbas Kiorastami); 11. Starbuck (d: Ken Scott).
Upstate New York Depression:: The Place Beyond the Pines; Decent, Respectable: Spring Breakers, Ceasar Must Die.; UnseenBlancanieves, Broken City, John Dies at the End, Beautiful Creatures, 56 Up, Parker, KOCH; Not Good Enough: Admission; Narcotized CG Mediocrity: Oz The Great and Powerful; Split Decision: Baz Luhrman's The Great Gatsby.
Worst of 2013 (in no particular order): Movie 43, Olympus Has Fallen; InAPPropriate Comedy; Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Identity Thief, A Glimpse Inside The Mind of Charles Swan III, Stoker, A Good Day To Die Hard, Gangster Squad, Stand-Up Guys, The Last Stand.
(16) Anton Corbijn's A Most Wanted Man, based on a John le Carres novel and costarring Willem Dafoe, Rachel McAdams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright; (17 & 18): Terrence Malick's two ventures -- the Austin-based film formerly known as Lawless (who knows what it's called now?) plus the relationship vehicle Knight of Cups with Christian Bale and Natalie Portman. It could be that neither will be released until 2014 or 2015. You know Malick; (20) Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel.
(21) James Gray's Nightingale, a New York-based period drama w/ Jeremy Renner, Marion Cotillard and Joaquin Phoenix; (22) Guiallame Canet's Blood Ties, a 1970s cops-and-criminals drama w/ Marion Cotillard, Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Mila Kunis, Zoe Saldana, James Caan, Noah Emmerich; (24) Noah Baumbach's Frances Ha (seen & praised at Telluride 2012 -- definitely worth its weight); (25) Richard Linklater's Before Midnight (a major Sundance 2013 highlight and an all-but-guaranteed Oscar contender for Best Original Screenplay).
(26) Stephen Frears' Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight; (27) Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring; (28) Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac; (29) Wong Kar Wai's The Grandmaster -- I don't want to know from this film as all Asian combat/martial-arts films will be instantly ignored in this corner from now until the day I die. I will not go there under penalty of death, fines and imprisonment; (30) Joe Swanberg's Drinking Buddies (Anna Kendrick, Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson).
(31) Jean-Pierre Jeunet's The Young and Prodigious Spivet (Judy Davis, Helena Bonham Carter, etc.); (32) Peter Landesman's Parkland; (33) Diablo Cody's Paradise (formerly called Lamb of God); (34) Brian Helgeland's 42 (Jackie Robinson biopic w/ Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford); (35 Oliver Hirschbiegel's Diana (Princess of Wales biopic/love affair with Naomi Watts).
(46) Errol Morris's The Unknown Known: The Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld; (47) Ryan Coogler's Fruitvale -- the big hit of Sundance 2013, acquired by the Weinstein Co.
One could also include Ben Stiller's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Nicholas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives, Ron Howard's Rush, David Cronenberg's Maps to the Stars. Neill Blomkamp's Elysium, Robert Schwentke's R.I.P.D., Sam Raimi's Oz: The Great and Powerful and Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim (9).
Even though I’ve seen Martin Ritt‘s The Spy Who Came In From The Cold ten or twelve times, I’m still going to possess the new Bluray version when it streets in September. Because it’ll be better looking, of course, than that handsome but not 100% satisfying Criterion DVD that came out in ’08. And because it’ll deliver that exquisite Bluray texture and specificity that many of us live for. And because it’s another opportunity to pay tribute to a 1965 film that was released in 1.66 — yet another defiance of the fascist edict that says all American-funded non-Scope films after April 1953 were released in 1.85.
Two days ago Sasha Stone wrote about having seen The Guilt Trip on her way home from Cannes (or a bit more than three weeks ago) and being so knocked out by Barbra Streisand‘s performance as Seth Rogen‘s caring, nagging, somewhat hyper mom that she felt that Streisand was unjustly ignored by the awards handicappers. Yes, The Guilt Trip — a decent but not exactly eye-opening comedy in which Streisand delivered in a respectably earnest, punchy and spirited fashion. But not to the extent that anyone felt like jumping up and down and going “wow!…holy shit…Barbara brings it and then some!”
“Probably the worst crime perpetrated on actresses last year was the total omission of Barbra Streisand in The Guilt Trip,” Stone wrote. She was snubbed, Stone believes, because the tastemakers didn’t pick up the ball and run with it (“Streisand Streisand!”) and because The Guilt Trip was kind of a box-office fizzle. The only award that almost happened for Streisand was a Razzie nomination — “what an insult, what a tragedy,” Stone writes. The film “was an acting showcase for Streisand, a rarity of the industry overall, and one of the few films to ever offer up such a rich portrait of a mother/son relationship,” Stone adds. “They took the risk of making it be a buddy comedy of all things.”
Man of Steel‘s 56% Rotten Tomatoes rating is comforting. A failing grade + almost half of the world is on my side. The dark solemn tone is what I liked about it. (Who needs Christopher Reeve-styled mirth? Done that.) And I liked the flashbacking and the avoidance of the Clark Kent/Daily Planet routine. (That’s being saved for the sequel.) Henry Cavill handles himself well — he’s a skilled and likable actor. So the first hour was more or less decent, and then Michael Shannon‘s General Zod and his homies came to earth to possess Superman’s DNA, and the film devolved into a boring, rib-vibrating destructo-slugfest. Arguments pro and con being sought.
The cutting on this Wolf of Wall Street trailer is brilliant. Accurately or otherwise, it persuades you that this…whaddaya call it, fingah-snappin’, humorous, jazzy, fuck-all energy (the chest-thump routine Between Leo DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey) represents the personality of Martin Scorsese‘s upcoming film, which apparently is not a dramatic scolding exercise as much as a kind of dark existential comedy about living the life of madness when you can…go for it now, take the bust later. And then do your time, get out and give lectures about what an amoral scumbag you and your pallies were back in the day.
In one fell swoop, this trailer convinced me I’ll have a good time with the full-length version. Memo to Lynda Obst: Hollywood is broken, but obviously not totally. Did Thelma cut this? The Kanye accompaniment is dead perfect.
I thought this was going to be a riff about Morgan Freeman falling asleep during that Now You See Me junket interview. Nope…good-natured gluttony! Best College Humor video I’ve seen in ages. Originally posted on 5.6, it took me six weeks to catch up with it. Because, frankly, I tend to bypass this site. Recalculate. I loathed Now You See Me, by the way. Director Louis Letterier‘s decision to CG up the magic acts to such an absurd degree that you can’t possibly believe there’s any sleight-of-hand going on is the main problem. 85% to 90% of the time CG is a cancer. NYSM is totally dismissable garbage. Letterier is a dead man ’round these parts.
I can’t believe that the 1995 Sundance Film Festival happened over 18 years ago, but it did. Look at how many selections are considered indie classics (or at least semi-classics) today — Before Sunrise, The Usual Suspects, The Basketball Diaries, Shallow Grave, Safe, The Doom Generation, Brothers McMullen, Heavy, Little Odessa. This was when Sundance was still modest and manageable and not the hypefest it later became. Bryan Singer was hot as a pistol after that first Suspects screening — you couldn’t talk to him for more than 15 seconds before someone pushed their way in. Peter Chelsom‘s Funny Bones wasn’t a classic, but seeing it led to an opportunity to interview Jerry Lewis at the Stein Erickson. Two weeks later I withdrew from Entertainment Weekly reporting for a while so I could compose a whopper-sized Los Angeles article called “Right Face,” about the struggles of conservative-minded writers and actors in the film industry.
I was a decent drummer but no more than that. Okay, I was mediocre. I wanted to be Keith Moon or Charlie Watts but my gift lay elsewhere. Anyone who wants to be in a band when they’re in their early 20s can be in a band — they can give it a go and play local gigs and meet hot girls and have a good time, and if they’re as good as I was they’ll come to their senses and try something else after a year or less. Like movies or any art form, really good drummers constitute 5% to 10% of those who give it a shot. I was, however, a brilliant thigh drummer (and my old friends will back me up on this). My flat hand against the thigh was the snare, my cupped hands were the tom-toms, and the quarters and dimes in my pockets delivered the high-hat sound.
What they don’t know, more specifically, is “how to run a P & L” — a profit-and-loss statement for their board members — “because [they] don’t know what the DVD number is.’ The DVD number used to be half of the entire P & L!” Wait…today’s home video “numbers” are mainly about VOD and streaming before DVD/Bluray, right? Bluray is niche and DVD is strictly bargain-basement. I realize that the collapse of the DVD market four or five years ago cut heavily into profits and that VOD and streaming sales are delivering…what, a third of what the DVD market was at its height? But studio guys can’t at least project what VOD and streaming revenues will be? (more…)
A couple of days ago the Sheffield Doc/Fest screened th World Premiere of Mark Levinson‘s Particle Fever, which is basically about (I think) six scientists who managed to precisely identify and define the Higgs Boson or “God particle” — a subatomic element that informs the size and shape and contour of all physical matter, the missing cornerstone of particle physics. Its existence was proven with “the most expensive science experiment in history” in which the Large Hadron Collider was launched.
When HB was first eyeballed last July I wrote that “this is almost like the discovery of the black monolith on the moon in 2001: A Space Odyssey. And yet it’s been there all along. The supreme scientific equation…proven.” But listen to Murch talk about the topic — he puts you to sleep! If I didn’t know what this doc is about I would avoid it like the plague after watching this Murch interview. I intend to see it, of course.
Where’s the God/mystical stuff? The mention of intelligent design? The Kubrick angle? My eyelids are drooping, Walter…you’re killing me.
“The ‘intelligent design’ crowd is celebrating this all across America, you bet. I despise what Christianity has become in this country, but I happen to believe in intelligent design also, in a sense. There is obviously a unified flow and an absolute cosmic commonality in all living things and all aspects of the architecture. The difference is that I don’t attach a Bible-belt morality to this overwhelming fact. To me God is impartial, celestial, biological, mathematical, amoral, unemotional, miraculous and breathtaking.
Most of the people you call your “friends” are not going to tell you what you need to hear. Most of them would rather support and good-vibe you, which makes them fair-weather friends by my yardstick. “Friends” are people you like and trust as far as it goes, and with whom you share stuff on the phone and whom you invite to dinners or parties or screenings…or vice versa. But if you’ve begun to look like a beefy, middle-aged lesbian due to compulsive carb indulgence and nightly drinking and not working out enough, your friends will never say “you’ve begun to look like a beefy, middle-aged lesbian — you need to change your program.” (more…)
Two days left in Prague after today (i.e., Saturday), two and a half more in Paris and then back to New York City on Thursday. I’m not doing any tourist shit — strictly working, hiking around, eating grapes, tangerines and apples. Tonight I’m finally seeing Now You See Me, which opened yesterday or the day before.
Mike Figgis‘s Internal Affairs (’90) has been Bluray-ed, but won’t be out on disc until 10.8. It’s apparently viewable right now via Amazon Prime but all streaming downloads (AP, Netflix, HBO Go) are blocked in Europe. This is precisely the kind of cop drama — character-driven, psychologically layered, smartly written — that the big studios have more or less abandoned and the indies have trouble doing with any pizazz or flair. It’s hard to believe it came out 23 years ago. Richard Gere‘s performance as the psychopathic Dennis Peck is certainly one of his career peaks and Andy Garcia‘s self-righteous, internal-affairs prig is arguably his all-time best. (Garcia is 57 today — he was about 33 when the Figgis film was shot.)
Lynn Shelton‘s Touchy Feely “is utterly devoid of narrative energy,” I wrote during last January’s Sundance Film Festival. “I started to develop an idea that it’s meant to be a piece of sly self-criticism and as such a parody of a Lynn Shelton film. (And I’m saying this as a big fan of Humpday and one who was mildly okay with Your Sister’s Sister.) I felt narcotized and worn down by Touchy Feely — it slowly vacuumed out my life force. It’s about what happens when somewhat ordinary Seattle types (i.e., people who resemble Shelton or her friends) are either suddenly gifted with exceptional powers or talents or suddenly left without them. It tries to get by on a faintly quirky Seattle sensibility, and I just sat there and slowly counted the minutes and napped for five-minute stretches.”
Following a debut at last January’s Sundance Film Festival, Lake Bell‘s In A World will play the Los Angeles Film Festival on Saturday, 5.15 — tonight. I haven’t seen it, but the trailer conveys the difference between mainstream movie-star faces and personalities and the faces and personalities that tend to populate indie-world. Bell and her costars (Demetri Martin, Fred Melamed, Michaela Watkins, Ken Marino, Rob Corddry) are intriguing and “attractive” as far as it goes, but they’re more average-looking than movie stars. Their lights don’t burn as brightly. Their faces, no offense, are metaphors for accepting and living within limits. They’re smart but somehow less vivid and engaging than their mainstream cousins.
On 8.26.12 I ran a piece about The Newsroom‘s Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) calling the Tea Party “the American Taliban” — an assertion that is 110% correct. But let’s remember also that British documentarian Adam Curtis pretty much owns this analogy, having presented a version of it in his 2004 documentary The Power of Nightmares.
The Tea Party and the Taliban share the following traits and/or beliefs: (a) ideological purity; (b) a pathological hatred of the U.S. government; (c) a regarding of education as a problem and in some cases a dark force as it tends to undermine the teachings of the Lord/Allah; (d) a need to control women and their bodies; (e) a fundamentalist belief in scriptural literalism; (f) a denial of science, unmoved by facts, undeterred by new information, a hostile fear of progress; (g) a regarding of compromise as weakness; (h) a tribal mentality; (i) severe xenophobia; and (j) intolerance of dissent. (more…)
“The most interesting thing about the popularity of superhero movies is that they are insanely expensive to make, yet they spring from a plebian, populist artform,” The Guardian‘s Joe Queenanwrote two days ago. “Comic books, at least until recently, were cheap. They were beautifully drawn and exciting, but they were still basically cheap. That was the point. Movies are not cheap, especially not in 3D. Comic-book heroes, like football players, have lost all contact with their proletarian roots.
“Some people will read all this and say: ‘You’re over-intellectualizing. You’re reading too much into it.’ This may be true. But these charges are always made by people who never over-intellectualize anything, who never read too much into things. They are made by people who want you to take the X-Men seriously, as legitimate fiction. And then when you do, they say that you are over-intellectualizing.
My heart skipped a beat when I first glanced at Dr. Svet Atanasov‘s Bluray.com review of the new 12 Angry Men Bluray from the UK branch of MGM/20th Century Fox. I thought for a second that this transfer might not look as grainy as the Criterion Bluray version. I find pronounced grain distracting; always have, always will. You want to see a version that looks really good without any noticable grain? Watch the free YouTube version. I’m serious.
A clear indication of the weakened state of the 1.85 fascist cabal is their odd silence about the 1.66 aspect ratio used for the just-released Bluray of Peter Bogdanovich‘s At Long Last Love (’75). As I believe in 1.66 as an eternal idea in the mind of God, I’m naturally delighted that this notorious clunker has been released in this format. The boxier the better, I say; especially for a film that sought to revive the spirit of 1930s musicals, when 1.37:1 was the rule. But I’m not aware of any historical justification for 1.66 being used for this 1975 film. Every stateside film was being shot in 1.85 in the ’70s except when otherwise specified (Stanley Kubrick‘s Barry Lyndon, etc.) and/or in the case of European films, and by ’75 every theatre in the U.S. was working with 1.85 aperture plates.
To most people, Elysium (TriStar, 8.9) sounds like another Oblivion. Similar sound, four syllables, futuristic. Tom Cruise precedes Matt Damon, Joseph Kosinski precedes Neil Blomkamp. Chilly, survivalist, dystopian. Swells live in orbit above earth, mongrels barely surviving on spoiled/abandoned terra firma. My money’s on the Blomkamp because (a) it seems more visually complex and action-driven than Oblvion, (b) on some level it reminds me of THX-1138, and (c) District 9 was cooler and smarter than anything Kosinski has ever made or is likely to make.
As I first observed last March after catching an early trailer for Let Me Explain (Summit, 7.3), comedian Kevin Hart is into connecting with the masses. He loves making people laugh, being applauded, cheered, recognized. But he doesn’t seem all that funny. And I’ve been laughing for years with/at Chris Rock, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, etc. Is Hart the Gallagher of black comics? In the new redband trailer there are six or seven cutaways to urban types laughing at Hart’s material…we get it, we get it.
Oh, and the bit about being chased by a howling “deerbra” (half-deer, half-zebra) is unfunny because it appeals to the low-rent mentality of shopping-mall habitues. Nature! Nature’s comin’ after me, gonna take a bite out of my leg!
Last March: “Kevin Hart standing before a huge crowd at Madison Square Garden and being adored like God…they love me! Hart’s narration says Let Me Explain is about the joy of making people laugh. The footage, on the other hand, shows how deeply insecure he is, and how much he needs to fortify his ego. The cheers, the crowds, the adulation…Ceasar!
“A press release announces that Hart’s 2012 ‘Let Me Explain’ concert tour made $32 million. Leapin’ lizards…that’s a lot of money! I’ll bet Kevin can afford to buy a shitload of stuff now, right? Let Me Explain must therefore be really funny. After watching this trailer I wouldn’t see Let Me Explain if Hart personally paid me $100 to do so. Which he could afford.”
These guys fought because the weenie in the black T-shirt (i.e., the one who surrendered) didn’t have the driving skills to slip into the parking spot nose-first, like a ferret. Anyone who tries to back into a parking space on a crowded Manhattan cross street deserves whatever trouble comes his/her way. With power steering commonplace you should never do that. If you can’t nose your way in and wiggle around and eventually achieve parallel (which is how I park) then stop blocking the people behind you and man up and pay for a parking garage.