If You Haven’t Gotten The Foodie Thing By Now…

You don’t have to be a snooty type to be a connoisseur of gourmet dishes, but you need to be a person of at some cultivation and taste. A person, let’s say, who might attend a revival screening of Going Places or Hiroshima, Mon Amour, or who might catch a Lower Manhattan showing of Abel Ferrara‘s Welcome to New York. What are the odds that fans of Furious 7 or Insurgent would appreciate this Netflix doc? I think we know the answer. I don’t need to belabor the point.

Necessary Vegas Slog

Three weeks hence Cinemacon, the annual four-day exhibitor convention held at Ceasar’s Palace in Las Vegas, will kick off. Every year I ask myself, why am I spending $600 or $700 bucks minimum to drive (or fly) to Vegas and stay in a cheesy motel to watch product reels for three days? Answer: Because I’m afraid I might miss a hint of a spark of something special. All it takes is a special clip or two, the right joke, a special appearance by a big-name celebrity…anything that gets the blood rushing. I’m also going because it’ll give me stuff to write about. Not just the convention attractions but the corporate, soul-narcotizing experience of Vegas itself. Not to mention my down-at-the-heels accommodations.

Last year I stayed in a Motel 8 craphouse (I actually described it as a “spartan shitbag” motel) across the Strip from the Mandalay. This year I’ll be in the Howard Johnson Tropicana, which definitely represents a step up. Two nights for roughly $112 or something like that. And it’s only about an 18-block walk to Caesar’s. (more…)

What Would You Do If You Were Tom Cruise?

Last night a fair-sized portion of the HE community saw Alex Gibney‘s Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief on HBO, and now it’s commonly understood that this is a seriously brutal, all-but-impossible-to-refute takedown documentary, and that the image of Tom Cruise as a coddled loon and an enabler of a decidedly venal organization is not going to dissipate. How can his brand not be in serious jeopardy from this? How can a person who’s seen Going Clear pay to see Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation and not think “the Scientology stigma is stronger than the illusion of cool, super-brave Ethan Hunt”? Last night I tweeted that Cruise “has no honor if he stays with these maniacs…he has to stand up, man up, clear his head.” Who’s seen the Gibney doc, what’s the verdict and what would you do if you were Cruise? Would you just pretend it hasn’t been seen and that nobody cares? If he could just find a backbone and leave the Church of Scientology, he’d the coolest guy in town. As Going Clear author Lawrence Wright said in an interview last year, Cruise is “the pivotal figure who bears the greatest moral burden” within the whole ghastly Scientology scenario.


What Bette Davis Said

This is a rough one. Maybe too rough to even get into here, but it’s real and happening and I don’t know what else. Devastating, certainly, but also a form of subtle spiritual torture. My mom has been coping with the ravages of old age, and there’s really no way to put it except to state the obvious, which is that things can’t improve. Assisted living facilities will naturally care for and maintain her to the last, but to go by her words (which have been relatively few) it’s all about ennui and despair these days. You can’t do anything except visit, hold her hand, gentle-vibe her and be absolutely powerless. Yesterday she mistook Jett for me and asked, “Are you here to save me?” Last weekend she fell, fractured her right hip. The doctors asked for permission to operate, I gave it and they fixed her up last Wednesday. When you’re 85-plus the ordeal of surgery (anasthesia, pain medication, the general trauma of it all) is tough to handle. She’s made of stern stuff (as I am) but she feels besieged and just wants to rest. Norman Lloyd, bless him, still plays tennis but my mom refuses to walk. A brutal final chapter. In Alan Watts‘ “The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are,” Ananda Coomaraswany is quoted as follows: “I would rather die ten years too early than ten minutes too late.” Dylan actually mentioned this quote as he, Jett and my ex-wife were leaving Danbury Hospital yesterday.

“I Do Not Avoid Women, Mandrake…But I Do Deny Them My Essence”

I am theoretically down with whatever Nicolas Winding Refn‘s The Neon Demon might be as long as nobody gets stabbed in the windpipe or in the temple or gets disembowled with any kind of blade. After Drive and Only God Forgives, Refn has to permanently resign from the sword-and-knife club. The generic description — the youth and vitality of an aspiring model are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women — obviously indicates something predatory. Refn: “I very much look forward to the odyssey I’ll be taking with all these wonderful actresses (and a few guys) to travel beyond The Neon Demon where all I see is the wicked dying young.” Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Karl Glusman, Bella Heathcote, Abbey Lee, Desmond Harrington, Christina Hendricks and Keanu Reeves. Principal photography begins today.

“She’s Killing For Sport”

One mark of a substandard thriller is to assign evil, malevolent motives to animals. Big animals with big teeth might seem scary to humans, but they don’t think evil thoughts or kill for “sport,” which is to say for perverse reasons. They’ll kill for revenge or because of tribal animosity (lions killing hyenas, giraffes kicking lions) but not sport. Humans do that. Animals are about basic instincts.

“Worshipful…Trademark Volatility Gets A Pass”

HE to HBO Publicists: “Sinatra: All Or Nothing At All pops next Sunday and Monday on HBO, and aside from Deadline‘s Michael Fleming and his ex-Variety boss and colleague Peter Bart, I don’t know a soul who’s been offered access to a screener or an online code or a theatrical screening or anything. N.Y. Post contributor Robert Rorke critic ran a review on 3.25, but nobody in my realm has seen it or anything. Anything you can tell me?”

About six and a half years ago I posted an mp3 of Sinatra’s “Soliloquy” — not the’46 version but the one recorded for the 20th Century Fox/Henry King film version of Carousel before Sinatra abruptly quit and Gordon MacRae was hired to replace him. Sinatra wasn’t quite the belter that MacRae was, but he brought so much more finesse to this song. The intimate phrasing, soulful tremolo, bassy comfort zone, etc. (more…)

Wham Bam Bambi

I’m sorry but this is the only Dwayne Johnson skit from last night’s SNL that I really laughed at. I would’ve responded earlier but I only caught the show this morning, and I was only half-watching anyway. SNL is so white noisey these days. Oh, and if they made a feature-length movie out of this (i.e., fuck the hunters), I would definitely buy a ticket.

Click here to jump past the Oscar Balloon

2015 X-Factor, Ambitious, Semi-Fresh, Social Undercurrent, Something More (28)

A Bigger Splash -- Luca Guadagnino (director); Matthias Schoenaerts, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson. Fox Searchlight, presumably sometime in the fall.

Black Mass (Warner Bros.) -- Scott Cooper (director/screenplay); Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sienna Miller, Dakota Johnson. (9.18)

Brooklyn (Fox Searchlight) -- John Crowley (director), Nick Nornsby (screenwriter) -- Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters.

By The Sea (Universal) -- Angelina Jolie (director, screenwriter). Cast: Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Niels Arestrup, Mélanie Laurent.

Carol (Weinstein Co.) -- Todd Haynes (director); Pyllis Nagy (screenplay, based on Patricia Highsmith novel); Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler.

Concussion -- Peter Landesman (director-writer). Will Smith, Albert Brooks, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Paul Reiser, Luke Wilson. Sony.

The Danish Girl -- Tom Hooper (director). Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Matthias Schoenaerts.

Demolition (Fox Searchlight) -- Jean-Marc Vallee (director); Bryan Sipe (screenplay); Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper. Fox Searchlight.

Everest (Universal) -- Baltasar Kormákur (director); Justin Isbell, William Nicholson (screenplay); Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Jason Clarke, John Hawkes, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright.

Hail Caesar! (Universal -- listed as a February 2016 release but if the film turns out to be half as good as the crackling script, it'll be criminal to relegate it to a dump month); Joel and Ethan Coen (directors, screenplay); Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill.

Untitled Warren Beatty/Howard Hughes Drama (no distributor) -- Warren Beatty (director, writer); Warren Beatty, Alden Ehrenreich, Lily Collins, Matthew Broderick, Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, Taissa Farmiga, Chace Crawford, Candice Bergen. 2015 or '16?

Icon -- Stephen Frears (director), Jon Hodge (screenwriter). An Irish sports journalist becomes convinced that Lance Armstrong's performances during the Tour de France victories are fueled by banned substances. Ben Foster, Lee Pace, Chris O'Dowd.

Irrational Man (Sony Classics) -- Woody Allen (director, screenplay); Joaquin Phoenix, Parker Posey, Emma Stone, Jamie Blackley. .

Joy (20th Century Fox) -- David O. Russell (director/screenplay). Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Édgar Ramirez. 20th Century Fox, 12.25.

Love and Mercy -- Bill Pohlad (director). Oren Moverman, Michael Alan Lerner (screenplay). Paul Dano, John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti. Roadside Attractions, 6.5.

Money Monster (TriStar/Sony -- apparently shooting in early '15) -- Jodie Foster (director); Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore, Jim Kouf (screenplay). Cast: George Clooney, Jack O'Connell, Julia Roberts.

Our Brand Is Crisis (Warner Bros.); David Gordon Green (director); Peter Straughan (screenplay); Sandra Bullock, Scoot McNairy, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Ann Dowd. WARNING -- possible 2016 release.

The Revenant (20th Century Fox) -- Alejandro González Inarritu (director/screenplay); Mark "nobody can remember my middle initial" Smith (screenplay); Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Domhnall Gleeson.

St. James Place (Touchstone / DreamWorks / 20th Century Fox) -- Steven Spielberg (director); Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (screenplay); Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, Billy Magnussen, Eve Hewson.

Sea of Trees (no distributor) -- Gus Van Sant (director); Chris Sparling (screenplay); Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe, Naomi Watts, Katie Aselton, Jordan Gavaris.

Silence (Paramount) -- Martin Scorsese (director); Jay Cocks (screenplay); Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Issei Ogata, Adam Driver, Tadanobu Asano. WARNING -- could be 2016 release.

Snowden -- Oliver Stone (director, co-writer). Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Rhys Ifans, Joely Richardson, Timothy Olyphant. Open Road, 12.25.

Spotlight -- Thomas McCarthy (director, co-writer). Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Brian d'Arcy James, Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, Liev Schreiber, Billy Crudup, John Slattery.

Steve Jobs (Universal -- shooting began in January 2015, which indicates an intention to bring it out by late '15) -- Danny Boyle (director), Aaron Sorkin (screenplay), Scott Rudin (producer); Cast: Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen, Michael Stuhlbarg, Katherine Waterston.

Richard Linklater's That's What I'm Talking About (his "spiritual sequel" to Dazed & Confused) is opening sometime in the fall. Annapurna/Paramount.

Trumbo (no distributor) -- Jay Roach (director), Michael London (producer), John McNamara (screenwriter). Cast: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning, Louis C.K., Helen Mirren, John Goodman.

Truth (no distributor) -- James Vanderbilt (director, writer -- based on the 2005 memoir "Truth and Duty" by Mary Mapes); Cast: Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett, Elisabeth Moss, Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid, Bruce Greenwood.

The Walk (TriStar / ImageMovers) -- Robert Zemeckis (director/screenplay); Christopher Browne (screenplay); Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Charlotte Le Bon. Sony/TriStar, 10.2.

2015 Quality-Grade Commercial / alphabetical order (10):

The Hateful Eight (Weinstein Co.) -- Quentin Tarantino (director-writer); Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Demián Bichir, Kurt Russell.

In the Heart of the Sea (Warner Bros.) Ron Howard (director); Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson.

The Last Face (distributor) -- Sean Penn (director); Erin Dignam (screenplay); Charlize Theron, Javier Bardem, Adèle Exarchopoulos.

Legend (Universal); Brian Helgeland (director, screenwriter); Tom Hardy (playing both Kray twins), Emily Browning.

Midnight Special (Warner Bros.) -- Jeff Nichols (director/screenplay); Cast: Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Joel Edgerton.

Regression (The Weinstein Company) -- Alejandro Amenábar (director/screenplay); Ethan Hawke, Emma Watson, David Dencik.

Ricki and the Flash (TriStar) -- Jonathan Demme (director); Diablo Cody (screenplay); Meryl Streep, Mamie Gummer, Kevin Kline, Sebastian Stan, Rick Springfield, Ben Platt.

Tomorrowland (Disney) -- Brad Bird (director, cowriter); Damon Lindelof (co-writer); George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie, Raffey Cassidy, Thomas Robinson, Kathryn Hahn, Tim McGraw, Keegan-Michael Key, Judy Greer.

Trainwreck (Universal) -- Judd Apatow (director/screenplay); Amy Schumer (screenplay); Cast: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, Tilda Swinton, Vanessa Bayer, Ezra Miller, John Cena, Barkhad Abdi, Norman Lloyd.

Pleasingly, Vigorously, Assuredly Mainstream (or something in that realm) / alphabetical order (13):

Aloha (Sony/Columbia) a.k.a. Son of Deep Tiki -- Cameron Crowe (director, writer); Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Alec Baldwin, Bill Murray, John Krasinski, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel.

Criminal (Summit Entertainment) -- Ariel Vromen (director); Douglas Cook, David Weisberg (screenplay); Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman.

Crimson Peak (Universal / Legendary) -- Guillermo del Toro (director/screenplay); Matthew Robbins, Lucinda Coxon (screenplay); Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Jessica Chastain, Jim Beaver.

Grimsby (Columbia) -- Louis Leterrier (director); Sacha Baron Cohen, Phil Johnston (screenplay); Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson, Annabelle Wallis, Ian McShane, Gabourey Sidibe, David Harewood, Johnny Vegas, Penélope Cruz, Scott Adkins.

Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros.) George Miller (director/screenplay); Nick Lathouris, Brendan McCarthy (screenplay); Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoë Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Richard Norton, Riley Keough, Courtney Eaton, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Nathan Jones, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.

Magic Mike XXL (Warner Bros.) Gregory Jacobs (director); Channing Tatum (screenplay); Cast: Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Gabriel Iglesias, Andie MacDowell, Amber Heard, Jada Pinkett Smith, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Glover, Michael Strahan.

The Martian (20th Century Fox) -- Ridley Scott (director); Drew Goddard (screenplay); Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Mackenzie Davis, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Donald Glover, Aksel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sebastian Stan.

Masterminds (Relativity Media) -- Jared Hess (director); John Goldwyn, Lorne Michaels (screenplay); Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis.

Mississippi Grind (no distributor) -- Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck (directors, writers). Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Sienna Miller, Ben Mendelsohn, Analeigh Tipton.

Southpaw (Weinstein Co.) -- Antoine Fuqua; Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Naomie Harris, Forest Whitaker, Victor Ortiz.

Spectre (MGM / Columbia) -- Sam Mendes (director); John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade (screenplay); Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Disney / Lucasfilm / Bad Robot) -- J.J. Abrams (director/screenplay); Lawrence Kasdan (screenplay); John Boyega, Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Max von Sydow, Lupita Nyong'o, Gwendoline Christie, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker.

Triple Nine (Open Road) -- John Hillcoat (director); Matt Cook (screenplay); Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Chris Allen, Anthony Mackie.


Deaths Of Ondricek, Perinova

The great Czech-born cinematographer Miroslav Ondricek, whose career began with ’60s Czech New Wave films including Milos Forman‘s The Firemen’s Ball and The Loves of a Blonde and who later shot Forman’s Taking Off, Hair, Ragtime and Amadeus, has died at age 80. Ondricek also shot Lindsay Anderson‘s If… and O Lucky Man!, Mike Nichols‘ Silkwood and George Roy Hill‘s Slaughterhouse-Five (i.e., “Schlachthaus-fünf”). He also dp’ed Penny Marshall‘s A League of Their Own. Salutes, sadness, condolences. One of the great ones. Ondricek’s work on Ragtime and Amadeus was Oscar-nominated for Best Cinematography but he didn’t win. I’ll take it very badly of the Academy if they don’t include this legendary artist in next year’s death reel.

Celebrated cinematographer Miroslav Ondricek

The late Tereza Perinová, international publicist for the Karlovy Vary Film Festival.


Ferguson Is Over

In a 3.29 post, Deadline‘s Anita Busch has given some attention to a testimony-based play about the Ferguson tragedy by journalist and documentary filmmaker Phelim McAleer. The “staged reading,” based on grand-jury witness testimony from the Darren Wilson-Michael Brown shooting investigation, will be presented for four nights next month at L.A.’s Odyssey theatre. After the show ends “the audience will…judge whether Ferguson officer Darren Wilson should have been indicted,” Busch writes.

Excuse me? The last time I looked the Wilson-Brown incident had been thoroughly investigated in a fair and judicious fashion, and — I hope what I’m about to say doesn’t disturb anyone — the consensus is that Wilson is in the clear and that Brown would be breathing fresh air today if he didn’t act like an aggressive asshole when Wilson confronted him on Canfield Drive. On 3.4.15 Eric Holder‘s Department of Justice delivered an 86-page report about the 8.9.14 shooting, and concluded in no uncertain terms to Wilson acted reasonably and with justification. (more…)

Now That HE Crowd Has Seen Get Hard

So what’s the verdict on the Get Hard outrage? Some HE regulars must have seen it last night. Is saying “take it easy, this is way overblown” a semi-legitimate view or not? Does the politically correct anger seem excessive or more or less appropriate? Is Get Hard a rough equivalent of Eddie Murphy‘s “Mr. T in a gay bar” joke?

“I’m sadly very familiar with the aesthetic that drives this film. Hollywood will always pay lip service to the gay community but when it comes down to the bottom line, they are still going to dredge up those old derogatory tropes and stereotypes. Gay panic is one thing and rape jokes are another and to put these two things together is especially pathetic on the part of the studio. (more…)

Roadside Girl

My first thought was that (a) Marina Caregivers is an assisted living facility for elderly folks, and (b) it seemed a little bizarre to have blondie, who looks like a love doll, try to lure fresh customers from the corner of Washington Blvd. and Glencoe Avenue. Then I looked them up and realized they’re selling different strains of cannabis sativa. I don’t know how long blondie has been flashing their sign but what kind of fiend comes along and tears her arm off?


Bill Forsyth, Peter Reigert and the Truth About Movies

In a 2008 More Intelligent Life piece about Bill Forstyh‘s Local Hero (’83), star Peter Riegert is quoted by Jasper Rees as follows: “Bill [Forsyth] understood that moviegoers are not interested in what the actors are feeling. They’re interested in what they’re feeling.”

Precisely! This is a perfect distillation of the entire Hollywood Elsewhere approach to reviewing movies and performances. This is the sine qua non, the emerald, the whole magillah, the words in passing from Peter Reigert, speaking six and a half years ago, that give the game away.

I’m always perfectly aware of the feelings that an actor is attempting to generate with his or her personality or application of technique or whatever, but all I care about is what I’m feeling as I sit slumped in my seat, tripping happily on the film or the performance or trying to make heads or tails of either one. I might “respect” what a filmmaker has tried to accomplish with this or that approach, but all I care about and all I’m going to write about at the end of the day is if this approach works for me. For I am King Solomon…the ultimate arbiter, the one-man jury, inspector of the final product, giver or denier of the FDA seal of approval.

A performance or a movie, in other words, is not about the idea or theme or cultural undercurrent propelling the filmmakers, but about how I fucking feel as I contemplate the finality of it
. (more…)

What She Was

I’m a teeny bit nervous about the trailer for Rob Garver‘s What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael, which is currently filming and expected to open at the end of the year. It’s just a trailer on the fly, but the dependence on stills and tag lines feels substandard. There’s a general aura of caution and a lack of funds. A doc about the most influential film critic of the 20th Century should be dynamic, vividly visual, bothered, manic, flourishy and to some degree reflective of the rhythms and brushstrokes of some of the mid-century filmmakers Kael deeply admired. It should move and seduce and agitate. It should deliver, in short, a facsimile of the colloquial style and obsessive energy of Kael’s writing. The trailer doesn’t begin to suggest that it will do that. Here’s hoping everything works out regardless. [Note: Ignore the idiotic "sorry -- because of its privacy settings, this video cannot be played here" message and just click on "watch on Vimeo" button.]

“I Just Want You To Hate Like I Do…”

I am Steve Coogan‘s character here, and he is me. Except I’m less testy with a somewhat more positive outlook. It should be noted that Happyish (Showtime, debuting on 4.26) was primarily developed by Shalom Auslander, an American author and essayist whose writing style is “notable for its Jewish perspective and determinedly negative outlook.” It should also be noted that Ken Kwapis, a lightweight, Catholic-raised sitcom guy who directed the pilot and “most” of the first season’s episodes, directed The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and He’s Just Not That Into You.

“Kite Dancing in A Hurricane”

The first words you hear in this teaser for Spectre (MGM/Columbia, 11.5) are out of the mouth of Naomi Harris‘s Miss Moneypenny: “Frehnsic finelee relees’d this.” Listen to it a couple of more times and you finally realize she’s saying “forensics finally released this.” Then she informs Daniel Craig‘s 007 that “you’ve got a secret…something you can’t tell anyone because you don’t trust anyone.” Is James Bond is about to learn that his father is Darth Vader? At the end it says “coming soon”…29 or 30 weeks from now is “soon”? It’s opening on 11.6.

Chilly vs. Creepy

Rupert Goold‘s True Story (Fox Searchlight, 4.17) is very well made — clean, assured, well-ordered — to relatively little effect. It’s basically a chilly procedural, based on Michael Finkel‘s real-life account (“True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa“), about a couple of guys who couldn’t be more different, a journalist (Jonah Hill) and a murderer (James Franco), who nonetheless share a sociopathic nature. They’ve both done things that are self-destructive and inexplicable, Finkel (Hill) having gotten fired from the N.Y. Times for inaccurate or falsified reporting and Christian Longo (Franco) having murdered his family and then used Finkel’s name while on the lam in Mexico.


Love and Disparity

Earlier today I mentioned that the basic plot of Woody Allen‘s Irrational Man (Sony Pictures Classics, 7.24), about a 40ish college professor (Joaquin Phoenix) having it off with one of his students (Emma Stone), is sure to reactivate discussions about Allen’s personal history. The subject is actually reactivated now with an excerpt from Mariel Hemingway‘s new book, “Out Came The Sun,” being kicked around. Hemingway was 16 when she played Allen’s 17 year-old girlfriend in Manhattan (’79), but when she was 18, she writes, the 44 year-old Allen invited her to come to Paris with him.

Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone in Woody Allen’s Irrational Man (Sony Pictures Classics, 7.24)

Woody Allen, Mariel Hemingway in Manhattan (’79).

That was a bit on the sleazy side, agreed, but it wasn’t that bad as Allen made the offer with the full knowledge of her parents, who “lightly” encouraged her to go. If a middle-aged guy wants to make a play for a significantly younger woman, the decent thing, I feel, is to wait until she’s 21 or 22. Then again Woody and Mariel had a certain levitational bond over having brought their very best game to Manhattan, and Woody, I’m assuming, was probably channeling the usual X-factor rationale about exceptional people living by their own rules.

Yesterday’s Salon contributor Erin Keane wrote that Hemingway’s revelation “demands we look unflinchingly at the reality that Manhattan so artfully disguised as art, and see it for what it truly is. Woody Allen is a genius. Woody Allen is a predator. He put those two sides of himself together, hand in hand, and dared us to applaud.”

Doesn’t “predator” allude to a compulsive behavior pattern, or certainly something more than a one-off? Keane also says that the idea of an 18 year-old being romantically entwined with a 40-something boss is “theoretically disgusting.” Well, okay, but not entirely. It was unseemly for the 44 year-old Allen to try and get something going, I agree, and yet the 18 year-old Hemingway was of legal age. As it happened she said no and everyone moved on. (more…)

Variety‘s Mildly Deflating Cannes Forecast

From what I’m hearing, the only guaranteed solid-crack, down-on-your-knees home run at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival (5.13 to 5.24) will be George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, which will screen on Thursday, 5.14, in an out-of-competition slot. I’ve heard second-hand from a guy who knows a guy who’s worked on the sound effects (or something like that) that this all-new chronicle of the adventures of Max Rockatansky is total wowser. At the very least it’s generating a lot more excitement than the rest of the presumed Cannes slate combined, or at least the one that’s been spitballed by Variety staffers.

Like last year’s Leviathan or Wild Tales, the ideal Cannes film is, of course, either a triple or a homer — a film that will ripple and resonate all through the summer, get a second bounce from Venice, Telluride and Toronto and keep running all the way to the finish line. A film that brings you to your feet, sends you out on a high, makes you happy to be a film worshipper. But aside from Fury Road I’m not sensing any serious power-hitters this year. Most of the films being speculated about by Variety sound to me like doubles and line-drive singles at best, and a few sound like instant dismissals (i.e., Naomi Kawase‘s Sweet Red Bean Paste).

I’m not “bummed” by this likely slate, but I do feel a tiny bit deflated. I read the Variety piece and went “really?…that’s it?” The air is hissing out of my Cannes balloon as we speak. 2015 is looking like one of the strongest award-calibre years in a long time, and for timing reasons none of the serious hotties will screen in Cannes. What happened to Scott Cooper‘s Black Mass? Or Angelina Jolie‘s By The Sea? And what happened to my idea of Thomas McCarthy‘s Spotlight debuting on the Croisette? Phffft. (more…)