Sensing That Ava Duvernay’s The 13th May Win Best Feature Doc Oscar

I have an idea that in this, a year in which a sizable percentage of Academy members are committed to expressing anti-OscarsSoWhite sentiments, the Academy’s doc branch might want to give Ava Duvernay‘s 13th their Best Documentary Feature Oscar. I don’t know anything (I won’t see it until next Tuesday) but reviews are through the roof (Rotten Tomatoes 100%, Metacritic 94%) and I can feel it in the wind and from those insect antennae vibrations that I’ve learned to trust over the years.

Duvernay’s doc, which opens the New York Film festival tonight and will pop on Netflix on 10.7, argues that slavery didn’t actually end with the passage of the 13th Amendment, and that for 150 years since the U.S. penal system has more or less kept slavery going by putting a disproportionate number of black dudes behind bars and reaping the benefits of their prison labor.

This point was made by Michael Moore in Where To Invade Next, and has now been forcefully re-litigated by 13th, which has definitely qualified itself for a Best Feature Doc Oscar. (I checked with Netflix this morning.)

This makes the absence of Duvernay during this year’s Savannah Film Festival “Docs to Watch’ panel (10.23), which will be moderated by The Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg (who has fulfilled the same task for the past two years), seem curious. The classy, award-season-friendly festival will run from 10.22 thru 10.29.

Hollywood Elsewhere will be there from 10.21 through 10.26. (more…)

Never Say Never

For me, today, Gary Johnson is the Libertarian candidate for President who was just endorsed by the Chicago Tribune. Before that he was the guy who (a) didn’t know what Aleppo is, (b) wants to inhabit and colonize other planets, and (c) couldn’t name any world leaders. But before today, his name wouldn’t stick. I knew he’d been polling better than Jill Stein, but all I could muster was “uhm, you know, the Libertarian guy.” He’ll always have a dull-sounding name, but now, thanks to the Chicago Tribune, I’ll probably never forget him.

New Rules Trailer Has Been All But De-Beatty-ized

The second and latest trailer for Warren Beatty‘s Rules Don’t Apply (20th Century Fox, 11.23) is selling a Lily Collins-Alden Ehrenreich late ’50s love story with Beatty’s Howard Hughes character as a distinctive second banana. Remember the days when this thing was known as “Beatty’s Howard Hughes flick”? Well, Matthew Broderick has more screen time in this trailer than Beatty does. Either Rules really is a Lily-and-Alden love story with Beatty’s Hughes relegated to colorful, second-tier status, or a decision has been made to sell it that way, or it’s a combination of the two. Beatty has screened the film for friends, interview press and some Variety guys, but not for online know-it-alls like myself so I don’t know what the shot is.


Reflection / Reality

Peter Berg‘s Deepwater Horizon pops tomorrow. Well, technically tonight. Here’s my 9.14 Toronto Film Festival review — “A reasonably decent kablooey flick…not too difficult to sit through…an FX-driven fireball thing, mostly predictable in terms of story beats and cloying emotion…a megaplex movie for pizza-eating Americans.” Mark Wahlberg and Kate Hudson (below) portray Deepwater Horizon engineer and survivor Mike Williams and his wife Felicia, respectively; the real Mike and Felicia are pictured below at the Toronto premiere.

Hollywood denizens Mark Wahlberg, Kate Hudson.

Felicia and Mike Williams.

Nate Is Not Nat

Out of respect for the bravery and the legend of Nat Turner as well as the blood, sweat and years Nate Parker spent trying to tell his story on film, The Birth of A Nation (Fox Searchlight, 10.7) deserves to be seen and assessed on its own terms. The response to Parker’s film should not, in a fair and balanced world, be regarded as a referendum on the tragic 1999 incident at Penn State that has enveloped Parker and which also resulted, at least in part, in the 2012 suicide of the woman who accused Parker and Jean Celestin of rape.

A Variety guest editorial about Parker and the film, penned by the victim’s sister Sharon Loeffler, was posted today. Here are some portions:

“My sister was raped 60 days after her 18th birthday. She was a freshman at Penn State University. The defendants charged in the case, Nate Parker and Jean Celestin, were on the wrestling team and had the power of the Penn State Athletic Department behind them.”

HE Qualifier: The late victim, allegedly inebriated on the night of the incident, was violated against her will when Celestin, at the request of Parker, joined some one-on-one sexual activity that was already underway between the victim and Parker. In college parlance Parker and Celestin tried to “run a train on her” or otherwise engage in a menage a trois.

It was this activity that led to Parker being found innocent at the conclusion of the first trial, and to Celestin being found guilty. (He later appealed and walked.) (more…)

First 1.66 Paramount Film Now Restored at Original A.R., Blurayed in 3D

HE nemesis Bob Furmanek, the film scholar and restorationist who is responsible for persuading many Bluray distributors to remaster and release 1950s-era films within the dreaded 1.85 aspect ratio: aspect ratio, has been working on a Kino Lorber Bluray of Those Redheads From Seattle, which was the first feature composed for 1.66:1. The Redheads Bluray will be released in 3D early next year.

Although the musical was composed for 1.66:1, Paramount bailed on insisting that this film should be shown in 3D, allowing that exhibitors could project it “flat” (i.e., non-3D) if they so chose. Redheads in 3D hasn’t been seen at 1.66 in over 60 years. Or something like that.

Qualifier: Redheads wasn’t the first Paramount film to be released at 1.66, as it opened on 10.14.53 and was therefore preceded by Shane, which was shot at 1.37:1 but aspect-ratio raped at 1.66:1 in its initial April 1953 release, and The War of the Worlds, which was released in 1.66 in August ’53 despite being composed at 1.37:1. (more…)

Search and Destroy

I’ve known about Iggy Pop (i.e., James Newell Osterberg) and the Stooges for decades, and I fully respect the band’s legend as one of the greatest in terms of provocative influence (punk rock, alt. rock, heavy metal) and brash style and whatnot. But if you were to take me behind an office building and point a loaded .45 at my head and say “name your favorite Stooges song or I’ll shoot,” I swear to God I wouldn’t be able to name a single one. Okay, “China Girl” but I think of that as more of a David Bowie song. I’ve never listened to “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, “Lust for Life”, “The Passenger”, “Candy” or “Nightclubbing”. Nor do I care to at this moment. And I don’t care what the rock snobs think of me. I’ve gotten along just fine without The Stooges so far, and I suspect I’ll be okay without them for the rest of my life.

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. Ang Lee's Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk; 6. Barry Jenkins' Moonlight (based on Tarell McCraney's play "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue"; 7. Pablo Larrain's Jackie (Natalie Portman, Greta Gerwig, Peter Sarsgaard). (7)

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

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

Give It A Pass, A Pat on the Back: Clint Eastwood's Sully (Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney).

Hiding Out: Steven Gaghan's Gold (Matthew McConaughey, Bryce Dallas Howard, Edgar Ramírez)

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)


Paterson Has The Balls To Wait

Amazon and Bleecker have decided to wait another three months — 12.28 — to open Jim Jarmusch‘s Paterson. So cool your jets and bide your time. But know this: Paterson is one of those films that improve upon reflection. It doesn’t seem to be doing a hell of a lot while you’re watching it, but then it begins to expand. The next day you’re saying “yeah, still thinking about it…good film.” A week later you’re saying “wow, that was a really good film.”

From my 5.16.16 Cannes Film Festival review:

Paterson is about a lanky young bus driver (Adam Driver) and his Iranian wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) who live with a subversive prick dog named Marvin in a small dumpy house in Paterson, New Jersey and generally follow routines of almost astounding modesty — not hanging with friends, not partying, not doing Manhattan clubs on weekends…none of that.

“Well, maybe Laura would like a little fun and frolic but Driver’s guy, who of course is also named Paterson, doesn’t even own a smart phone. All he wants is to write poetry in a little composing book. During work breaks, evenings in the cellar. Not to become ‘famous’ but to one day write one-half or even one-third as well as famed Paterson poet William Carlos Williams.

“The quiet writing life and a general reverence for poetry becomes more and more of a thing as the film develops. Paterson itself is trying to be a kind of small, minimalist poem. (more…)

To Be Or Not To Be

Jared Hess‘s long-delayed, finally-opened Masterminds is based on a real-life 1997 heist known as the Loomis Fargo Robbery. The humor is obviously broad and snide and driven by standard Hollywood mockery of rural dumbshits. So far Masterminds has ratings of 44% from Rotten Tomatoes and 47% from Metacritic.

Imagine if Zach Galifianakis‘s character were to address his co-conspirators (Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis, et. al.) as follows: “Guys? We gotta face somethin’ here. We’re too stupid to pull off a robbery and get away with it. People like us always lose, always fuck up, always get caught. If we survive 19 years into the future we’ll all be voting for a guy named Donald Trump. We’re born to lose…face it.”

At which point Wilson’s character says, “God, man…maybe so but it’s the dream that matters. Sure, we’re dumb as fenceposts and the odds of succeeding are 99 to 1, but if we don’t at least try for the proverbial big score and maybe make some changes for the better, who are we? What are we? If we don’t try we’re worse than losers — we’re vegetables. Are you a vegetable, man? Well, I’m not. I’m a Butterscotch Stallion with red blood in my veins.”

Cinematic Echoes, Retreats, Sorrows

Apart from the ghastly loss of life and dozens of injuries, this morning’s train disaster at the Hoboken Terminal has also destroyed a portion of one of the most richly atmospheric train stations in the country — that yesteryear vibe, the ghosts of Erie Lackawanna, the arched ceiling that affords natural light, the light-greenish turquoise paint. For this is the terminal where Faye Dunaway said goodbye to Robert Redford in a third-act scene in Three Days of the Condor (’75). Forgive me for processing this horror in movie terms, but the first thing I thought of when I heard the news was the climax of Silver Streak (’76) when the train plows into a terminal in Chicago.


Great Balls of Fire

The only thing wrong with this Warren Beatty-Diane Keaton lovers quarrel scene in Reds is that it doesn’t last long enough. I wish I could have captured this in a way that does more justice to Vittorio Storaro‘s cinematography. It’s just my iPhone 6 Plus shooting an Amazon stream with shitty black levels. But I love the acrimonious energy. I had a couple of spats like this with a girlfriend just a few months before Reds opened in the fall of ’81. Her name, honest to God, was Louise. She had the most beautiful half-Asian eyes.

Asking Is Not Receiving

Is Reddit the ugliest major site around? It looks like it hasn’t been redesigned since ’98, if that. Rules Don’t Apply director-producer-star Warren Beatty is doing a Reddit AMA (i.e., “ask me anything”) chat tomorrow at 11:30 am Pacific. Beatty’s motivation is to convey to under-35s that Rules, which is largely set in 1958 Los Angeles, is not some crusty period piece but something pulsing and pertinent to right now. (Or so I’m told.) But honestly? If there’s one guy in the universe whose basic nature is less open to “ask me anything…go ahead, fire away” than almost anyone else, it’s Mr. Beatty. Especially when strangers are involved. I’m saying this with affection. You can ask him whatever you want, and he’ll always give you some kind of chess-move answer…intelligent, serious but side-steppy, always polite, charming…but he’s not really given to wide-open candor. But don’t let me stop you.

Films That Soothe and Massage

It’s around 10 pm or a bit later, let’s say, and I’m looking to wind down. What I’ll often do is put on a comfort movie — a good film I know backwards and forwards that I love to just bathe in, just settle into like steamed mud…yessss. I’ll only half-watch it as I write tweets or research something or fiddle around on Facebook or whatever, but a comfort movie is my friend, my pal, my blankey. A comfort movie obviously can’t be too challenging or antsy or jingle-jangly. It has to give me a nice “all is well with the world” feeling. Make me feel so good and so secure.

Nobody worships sparkling, needle-sharp black-and-white films more than myself so I tend to favor monochrome comfort more than color, but not entirely. Comfort movie visuals have to downshift me and treat me like some kind of cinematic masseuse. They need to make me feel like…I don’t know, like I’ve just dropped a quaalude. That dates me, doesn’t it? Okay, a Percocet.

Favorite comfort movies: John Schlesinger‘s Sunday Bloody Sunday, Kathryn Bigelow (i.e., “Biggy”) and Mark Boal‘s Zero Dark Thirty, Martin Ritt‘s The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, Stanley Kubrick‘s Paths of Glory, Irving ReisThe Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer, the VUDU streaming copy (i.e., not the overly inky Criterion Bluray) of Howard HawksOnly Angels Have Wings and Mark Robson‘s The Bridges of Toko Ri, Don Siegel‘s Charley Varrick, Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, Martin Ritt‘s Hud and Alfred Hitchcock‘s Notorious, to name but a few.

Late To This, Yesterday’s News, etc.

“Since The Arizona Republic began publication in 1890, we have never endorsed a Democrat over a Republican for president. Never. This reflects a deep philosophical appreciation for conservative ideals and Republican principles. [But] this year is different. The 2016 Republican candidate is not conservative and he is not qualified. That’s why, for the first time in our history, The Arizona Republic will support a Democrat for president.” — from yesterday’s editorial endorsement statement, the likes of which will almost certainly never happen again in our lifetime.


“Gentle Fatalism”

On 3.20.15 I posted a piece about what a rich and legendary year 1971 was. 28 first-rate films and 23 that were at least fairly good — a significant tally. But I forgot to mention Peter Fonda‘s The Hired Hand, which was widely admired from the get-go. But I’ve never seen it so I bypassed it. That situation will soon be corrected with Arrow’s release of a Hired Hand Bluray on 11.21.

I don’t like the trailer [after the jump] but I trust the reviews by N.Y. Times critic Roger Greenspun and The New Yorker‘s Penelope Gilliatt:

Greenspun: “I don’t know just what I expected of [this] Peter Fonda western, but certainly not a film so sensitively appreciative of what might be possible in a western. A certain amount of what might not be possible also gets in, for The Hired Hand is a rather ambitious simple movie, with a fairly elaborate technique and levels of meaning rising to the mystical, which seems so much a part of the very contemporary old west. (more…)

Rural Dumbshits Don’t Care About Trump’s Sexist Attitudes…Right? But The Current Narrative Is That Trump Doubling Down on Miss Universe Episode Will Hurt Him With Female Fence-Sitters.

There are so many appalling, mind-boggling negatives that Donald Trump has wrapped around himself, but suddenly there’s this belief that the 1996 Alicia Machado Miss Universe thing, which Hillary raised during the debate and which Trump inexplicably doubled-down on yesterday, is going to penetrate and damage him badly with women who are STILL on the fence about the guy.