Over the past decade or so I’ve devoted more than a little ink to Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy. Let no one doubt this is a highly unimaginative, under-budgeted B-level thing — the best term is tedious — but for some curious reason I’ve always found its silliness comforting on some level. A couple of years ago I mentioned the old saw about how the bottom has fallen out of badness in movies, and that basic levels of scriptwriting have been dropping, certainly when it comes to CG-driven tentpolers, since the turn of the century if not before. I’ve also been saying with some irony that there are “relatively few big-studio whammers that are as well-ordered and professionally assembled as Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy, as silly and inconsequential as that 1955 film was.”
In a Daily Beast interview with Tim Teeman, playwright Tony Kushner confirms that Steven Spielberg really is planning a big-screen remake of West Side Story, and that Kushner is working on the screenplay.
The story will still be set in Manhattan’s Upper West Side in the ’50s, he said, and Leonard Bernstein‘s classic score won’t be touched. “I’m interested that we see love at first sight, as opposed to lust,” Kusher says of his version. “By the time they’re singing ‘Maria’ and ‘Tonight,’ things are at a much deeper plane than just two horny kids.”
Kushner is a wonderful writer, but I tremble with dread at what Spielberg will do with this sad Romeo and Juliet-inspired tale.
I’ll be ignoring the forthcoming Bluray of Journey To The Center of The Earth, the dismissable 1959 adventure flick with James Mason, Pat Boone and Arlene Dahl. The Eureka release will pop on 9.18.17. But I’ll always remember the film for two elements: (1) A line in Charles Brackett‘s screenplay, spoken by Thayer David‘s “Count Saknussemm”, in which he describes our nightly slumber ritual as “little slices of death.” (Which is true — going to sleep is like dying in a sense, and waking up the next morning is a little like being reborn.) And (2) Bernard Herrmann‘s musical score. Other than these, forget it.
Roughly nine months ago I posted a favorable reaction to a West Los Angeles research screening of Martin McDonagh‘s Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri (Fox Searchlight, 11.10). It came from an anonymous HE reader whom I trust as far as it goes. At the end of his remarks the guy wrote that FS “will probably launch Three Billboards during next year’s fall festivals…probably Toronto, since Seven Psychopaths played there…and then come out in the fall.” Apparently this guy knew or had heard something. Apparently McDonagh’s ties to Team Toronto are still in place. Because word around the campfire is that Billboards is more likely to debut at Toronto than Telluride, presumably with a big gala during the first three or four days. Nothing confirmed, just hearing, etc.
DVD Beaver‘s Gary W. Tooze has posted an interesting screen capture within a review of an upcoming Bluray of Arthur Penn‘s Mickey One. It’s a shot of Warren Beatty walking in front of Chicago’s Wood theatre while Otto Preminger‘s The Cardinal was playing there. Preminger’s low-tide drama opened on 12.12.63 so you’d have to figure this was captured in February of ’64. (Or maybe a bit later to judge by the Woods’ “nominated for 6 Academy Awards” proclamation. As The Cardinal began playing on a reserved-seat basis and was therefore regarded as a high-prestige film, it wouldn’t have been unusual to linger at the Woods for a few months.) But Mickey One didn’t open until 9.27.65, which obviously indicates a prolonged and difficult post-production period. Under routine circumstances it would have opened in late ’64 or at the latest in early ’65.
Warren Beatty, 26 at the time, striding under the Woods marquee, mostly likely in early ’64.
The Cardinal billboard in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, 1964 — the arrival of the Beatles and the beginning of the general turning of the culture was only a month and a half away.
Presumably everyone knows by now that Criterion is coming out with a 4K-mastered Barry Lyndon Bluray on 10.17, or about three months hence. The big thing from HE’s perspective is that they’re going with a totally correct 1.66:1 aspect ratio. This amounts to a stiff rebuke to longtime Kubrick associate and Warner Home Video consultant Leon Vitali, who six years ago persuaded WHV to release a Lyndon Bluray that cropped Stanley Kubrick‘s masterpiece at at 1.78:1.
The problem is that the Bluray table of contents on the Criterion page doesn’t seem to acknowledge the highly significant, historically important Lyndon aspect ratio brouhaha of 2011 — one of the most bitterly fought and not incidentally triumphant a.r. battles in Hollywood Elsewhere history, the other being the Shane a.r. battle of 2013.
A somewhat taller Barry Lyndon image than the 1.66 one that will appear next October via Criterion, but one I nonetheless prefer.
Aspect-ratio-wise, this image is the same one used on the Criterion Barry Lyndon page. The a.r. is roughly 1.78:1.
Glenn Kenny actually provided the coup de grace in the form of a letter confirming Kubrick’s wish to have Lyndon screened at 1.66, but HE felt a surge of pride regardless because I’d insisted all along that 1.66 was the only way to go.
Why doesn’t Criterion’s Peter Becker man up and admit that his company’s decision to go with a 1.66 a.r. on their Lyndon Bluray was at least a partial offshoot of the HE/Kenny-vs.-Vitali debate? Why don’t they just act like men and cop to it instead of pussyfooting around and pretending it never happened?
The ultimate way to go, of course, is for Criterion to present its remastered Barry Lyndon on an actual 4K Bluray, as opposed to a 1080p Bluray using a 4K scan. If they do this I’ll break down and buy a 4K Bluray player.
The Barry Lyndon a.r. debate ranged between 5.23.11 and 6.21.11. I posted three or four argumentative pieces about the Barry Lyndon Bluray in late May, but before 6.21.11, which is when the whole matter was cleared up when Kenny posted that “smoking gun” letter from Jay Cocks and I ran my q & a with Vitali explaining “the confusion.”
Last night I saw a 70mm IMAX version of Christopher Nolan‘s Dunkirk. Staggering, breathtaking, HANDS DOWN BRILLIANT — not just a Best Picture contender for 2017 (obviously) and not just Nolan’s best (ditto) but easily among the greatest war films ever made in this or the 20th Century. Saving Private Ryan, step aside. The Longest Day, sorry. Full Metal Jacket, down half a peg. Gabriel’s trumpet is blaring from the heavens — this is a major, MAJOR 21st Century achievement.
Dunkirk is not just exceptional cinema but majestically its own thing in an arty, stand-alone, mad-paintbrush sort of way — emotional but immediate and breathtaking, but at the same time standing back a bit by eschewing the usual narrative and emotional engagement strategies that 100 other war films have used in the past (and will probably use again and again in the future).
Thank you, Chris, for not explaining who each character is or giving me their back story or supplying them with an emotional speech or two. Thank you for just plunking me down on that huge Dunkirk beach of 75 years ago and letting me fend for myself, for putting me right in the middle of 400,000 young British troops trying to get the hell out of there before the Germans come and rip them to shreds with bombs and hot lead.
Dunkirk is way above the usual-usual. It will tower, stand astride, fly, soar, float, bob and IMAX the shit out of you. A Colossus of Rhodes awaits at your nearest IMAX theatre. Just don’t see it on a regular-sized screen…please. Go as big and loud as you can. Beg, borrow, wait in line…whatever it takes.
Does everyone understand the exceptionalism here? The critics do but others don’t. People who like the usual massages and neck rubs (i.e., guys like Jeff Sneider) are expressing concerns. I’ve been told that a certain name-brand journalist found it a drag. Some (okay, a couple of women) feel it’s not personal or emotionally affecting enough in the usual theatrical-device ways.
Dunkirk is about Nolan saying, “Okay, look, of course…I know how to do that kind of film. Anybody can make that kind of proscenium-arch, emotional-bromide war film if they have the funding and know a little something about screenwriting and camera placement. Please understand I am not doing that kind of film out of choice. This is a giant-ass art film. This is a ‘less story and next-to-no-character-detail equals richer cinema’ thing. This is a highly selective, God’s-editing-machine take on a World War II tragedy that actually turned into a heartening thing in actuality.”
Tatyana says it’s really great in terms of visual splendor and the land-sea-air concept “but I didn’t see or feel any characters except for the guy on the boat [i.e., Mark Rylance]…it’s just about people struggling to survive, and it’s awful when people can do nothing or next to nothing to save themselves…so despairing, no content, no emotions or empathy, an empty movie…unlike The 9th Company or Stalingrad, which I quite liked….bombing, bombing, bombing….emotions and involvement are so much more important to me than the shape or size of a screen.”
Thank God for the great Tom Hardy, the Spitfire pilot who mostly performs from behind a pilot’s mask of some kind. It’s the best thing he’s done since Locke.
From Ben Travers’ SXSW review, posted on 3.13.17: “A lot of the responsibility to convince viewers of the film’s authenticity falls to Franco. As Tommy Wiseau, he is the strange, unknowable presence at the center of both The Disaster Artist (A24, 12.1) and The Room, and audiences need to believe this is a real person rather than a caricature.
“[Franco makes this freak] both captivating and alienating at once. No one understands him, not even Greg, and there’s no forced exposition or even implied background to help you believe such a person could really exist. (To be fair, Wiseau’s background is a mystery to this day, but Franco doesn’t even try to solve it.)
“And here is where the director makes a make-or-break choice for the movie: Rather than banish all familiar elements from his performance, he recognizes when Tommy can and can’t be relatable. Now, Tommy is never entirely understandable, but he is a real person. Franco is smart enough to recognize that most people came to know Tommy through The Room — and Johnny, his character in the movie, is not Tommy.
“As The Disaster Artist progresses, you notice the separation in his performance: Franco allows himself to play into the jokes when Tommy is off-camera, and he rejects all of his comedic instincts when filming scenes from The Room. That allows Tommy to be truly funny in order to serve the comedy written into The Disaster Artist. Franco can hit a joke as Tommy, even though Tommy can’t land a punchline on camera to save his life. As Seth Rogen’s character says in the movie, ‘It would be weird for Tommy to do something that’s not weird.'”
Variety‘s Kris Tapley has proclaimed that Christopher Nolan‘s Dunkirk is “the first slam-dunk Oscar contender of 2017.” It’s a Best Picture contender, you betcha, but Nolan’s masterpiece is the second 2017 film to be so honored. The first was Luca Guadagnino‘s Call Me By Your Name, and I don’t want to hear any ifs, ands or buts about it. Okay, Nolan’s film is the first 2017 release to so qualify. I saw it tonight with my mouth open. I’m catching it again on a super-sized IMAX screen this weekend. IMAX is the only way to go in this instance.
Hollywood Elsewhere will be catching Chris Nolan‘s Dunkirk early this evening, or exactly five hours after this afternoon’s Detroit screening. I’ll post reactions to the former late this evening or tomorrow morning, but in the meantime: “Steven Spielberg laid claim to the Normandy beach landing, Clint Eastwood owns Iwo Jima, and now, Christopher Nolan has authored the definitive cinematic version of Dunkirk,” writes Variety‘s Peter Debruge.
“Unlike those other battles, however, Dunkirk was…a salvaged retreat, as the German offensive forced a massive evacuation of English troops early in World War II. And unlike those other two directors, Nolan is only nominally interested in the human side of the story as he puts his stamp on the heroic rescue operation, offering a bravura virtual-eyewitness account from multiple perspectives — one that fragments and then craftily interweaves events as seen from land, sea and air.
“Take away the film’s prismatic structure and this could be a classic war picture for the likes of Lee Marvin or John Wayne. And yet there’s no question that the star here is Nolan himself, whose attention-grabbing approach alternates among three strands, chronological but not concurrent, while withholding until quite late the intricate way they all fit together.
“Though the subject matter is leagues (and decades) removed from the likes of
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