Bygone Days When Men Were Men, etc.

If you’re paying any attention to social attitudes and etiquette among 25-and-under GenYs and more particularly to those raised in liberal educated homes, it’s almost considered rude to refer to anyone being of a particular gender. It’s not quite verboten to say “boy” or “girl” or “man” or “woman,” but it almost is. This goes hand in hand with an absolute taboo on any hint of homophobia or a less than fully accepting attitude towards omnisexuality. Everyone’s everything, man…oops, sorry. Hence Shiloh Jolie Pitt (whose features suggest an amazingly even-steven splicing of Brangelina) wearing male suits and allegedly wanting to be one of the guys and be called “John”, etc.


Music From Big Rosey Biege

During yesterday’s visit to Saugerties I stopped by the fabled “big pink” house to pay respects and take a couple of snaps. I’m speaking, of course, of the legendary abode where Bob Dylan and The Band recorded the Basement Tapes in ’67 and from which The Band’s “Music From Big Pink” album sprung in ’68. And I must report the truth, which is that “big pink” is a lie — it’s not pink but a mild rose mixed with biege. Pink is pink — an eyesore color for girly-girls. Shocking pink, punk-hair pink, pink underwear, Angelyne’s pink Corvette, Elvis’s soft pink Cadillac from the late ’50s. And then there is the realm of rose, which is a gentler, somewhat earthier, more natural shade. Mix rose with a bit of fleshy soft biege from the women’s make-up counter at Bloomingdale’s and you’ve got the color of “big pink.” I understand that “big pink” sounds cooler than “big rosey biege” and that’s cool, but someone had to tell the truth and I guess it had to be me.

“Big pink” house at 17 Parnassus Lane in Saugerties, New York — Saturday, 12.20, 12:20 pm.


Go Down Moses

Ridley Scott‘s Exodus: Gods and Kings opened domestically on 12.12 with around $24 million and is projected to hit…I’m not sure. But I know Box Office Mojo has it ranked fifth behind the weekend’s top four attractions — The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, Annie and The Hunger games: Mockingjay, Part 1. (Can it be safely assumed that if a movie title has a colon in it, that it probably blows to some extent?) It also appears as if Exodus has done better overseas than domestically with the total foreign county at $45 million or thereabouts. One thing that’s apparently happened in this country is that yahoo Christians, smelling a non-religious approach, haven’t come out in droves. Scott’s instincts told him to stay way from a reverent approach and make some kind of anti-Cecil B. DeMille, non-believing version of Moses’ tale. That was probably a mistake all around. Now that Exodus is officially a domestic under-performer and can probably be called an all-around failure, do we have any final assessments as to what went wrong? (more…)

Any Exceptions?

This is a greeting-cardish sentiment, but a generally true one. I’d like to dispute but I can’t think of a single film in my personal pantheon that hasn’t moved me emotionally on some level. Even Betrayal. Mediocre or bad films generally put me in a stupor, which usually results in walking out or turning them off. I won’t sit through crap, and I always know a film is a dumper less than ten minutes in and frequently less than five.

Gyllenhaal, Wilson, “Quantum Multiverse”

I’ll be in Manhattan for six days starting on Sunday, and one of the things I’d like to do is catch Jake Gyllenhaal and The Affair‘s Ruth Wilson in Nick Payne‘s Constellations, which opens officially on 1.13.15. A likely Best Actor nominee (but who knows?) for his bug-eyed sociopath role in Dan Gilroy’s critically hailed Nightcrawler, Gyllenhaal will be topline three (and possibly four) 2015 films of a seemingly significant nature — Antoine Fuqua‘s Southpaw, Balthasar Kormakur‘s Everest (9.28.15) and Jean Marc Vallee‘s Demolition, a romantic drama that doesn’t involve any kind of physical demolition activity. The possible fourth is David O. Russell‘s long-absent Nailed, which will receive British theatrical distribution next year and will probably be available stateside as a VOD concurrently or soon after.


“We Just Got Hit By A Truck”

The combination of widespread condemnation of Sony and exhibitors for caving to an emailed threat from the hackers plus a lot of chatter yesterday about alternative distribution options for The Interview indicate, to me, that the Seth Rogen-James Franco film will probably be downloadable or otherwise viewable in some fashion before long. And when that happens the heat around this film will start to cool. Because it’s not that good or thrilling or buzzy. Diverting in some respects but generally repetitive and underwhelming. Here’s my 12.13 review for those who skipped over.

Click here to jump past the Oscar Balloon

Best Picture Finalists: 1. Birdman (HE approved); 2. Boyhood; 3. Gone Girl (HE approved); 4. A Most Violent Year(HE approved); 5. The Theory of Everything; 6. The Imitation Game; 7. Whiplash (HE approved); 8. Selma; 9. Foxcatcher; 10. The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Best Director: Alejandro González Inarritu, Birdman (HE approved); 2. Richard Linklater, Boyhood; 3. David Fincher, Gone Girl (HE approved); 4. James Marsh, The Theory of Everything; 5. Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game; 6. Damian Chazelle, Whiplash; 7. Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher; 8. Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Tragic Absence of Sublime, World-Class Lead Performance due to (no offense to Roadside) an overly cautious release strategy: Paul Dano as Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy.

Best Actor: 1. Michael Keaton, Birdman (HE approved); 2. Tom Hardy, Locke/The Drop; 3. Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything; 4. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game; 5. Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler; 6. Steve Carell, Foxcatcher; 7. Timothy Spall, Mr. Turner (despite my inability to hear half of Spall's dialogue due to his all-but-indecipherable British working-class accent); 8. Bill Hader, The Skeleton Twins.

Best Actress: 1. Jenny Slate, Obvious Childs; 2. Julianne Moore, Still Alice; 3. Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl; 4. Anne Dorval, Mommy; 5. Reese Witherspoon, Wild; 6. Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything; 7. Shailene Woodley, The Fault In Our Stars.

Best Supporting Actor: 1. Edward Norton, Birdman (HE approved); 2. J.K. Simmons, Whiplash (HE approved); 3. Ethan Hawke, Boyhood; 4. Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher; 5. Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice.

Best Supporting Actress: 1. Emma Stone, Birdman (HE approved); 3. Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year; 3. Patricia Arquette, Boyhood; 4. Kristen Stewart, Still Alice / Clouds of Sils Maria / Camp X-Ray; 5. Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game; 5. Vanessa Redgrave, Foxcatcher.


Foreign Film Shortlist

Nine foreign-language features have been shortlisted as part of a process that’ll eventually result in five nominees for the 87th Academy Awards. I’ve seen five of the nine. Of these I heartily approve of Andrey Zvyagintsev‘s Leviathan (Russia), Paweł Pawlikowski‘s Ida (Poland) and Damian Szifron‘s Wild Tales (Argentina). I’m mezzo-mezzo on Ruben Ostlund‘s Force Majeure (Sweden) and Abderrahmane Sissako‘s Timbuktu (Mauritania).

I haven’t seen Zaza Urushadze‘s Tangerines (Estonia), George Ovashvili‘s Corn Island (Georgia), Paula van der Oest‘s Accused (Netherlands) and Alberto Arvelo‘s The Liberator (Venezuela).

The Dardennes brothers’ Two Days and One Night was blown off. Ditto Xavier Dolan‘s Mommy, which so many critics did apeshit somersaults for in Cannes. Some attendees at last May’s Cannes Film Festival were dismayed by the jurors giving the Palme d’Or to Nuri Bilge Ceylon‘s Winter Sleep instead of the more deserving Leviathan, but the Ceylan wasn’t even shortlisted. Jane Campion is slapping her forehead in amazement. (more…)

Obama Respectfully Scolds Sony For Cowardice Under Fire

When I glanced at the news about President Obama having clearly said that Sony Pictures Entertainment’s decision to yank The Interview was “a mistake,” I had to get off the northbound New York State Thruway and post something. SPE is now the first movie studio in Hollywood history to be chastised by a U.S. President for turning yellow in response to threats from cyber terrorists in the employ of a foreign power. Okay, that’s a mouthful so let’s simplify. It’s the first time a Hollywood studio has been respectfully spanked by a U.S. President about anything, if I’m not mistaken.

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“Sony’s a corporation, it suffered significant damage, [and] there were threats against some of its employees,” Obama said. “I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced. Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake.”

Five’ll get you ten Obama was on the phone with George Clooney not long before he spoke.

“We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States. Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like, or a news report that they don’t like. (more…)

Airless Lesbo Passion Imagined By Dude

“Two women (Sidse Babett Knudsen and Chiara D’Anna) do some role-play that involves some kind of librarian–grad student dominatrix fantasy. Wigs are worn, sheets are grabbed. There are bugs and butterflies and a big black box into which one of the women climbs and is locked up while whispering to be let out. A colleague labeled this a class movie: Who but the gentry can spend whole days looking at bug books and dressing up in corsets and capes and having sex this sensual? He’s right, but that’s not what struck me. The Duke of Burgundy is both a vertiginously styled relationship movie and an erotic fable about being in a relationship (the fear of routine, of boredom, of limits). [Director Peter] Strickland keeps pushing the tight quarters further and further so that the fantasy starts to grow domestic wrinkles. One of the women actually complains to her lover about the costumes she asked to wear. The other complains about how not-hot her pajamas are.” — from a Toronto Film Festival review by Grantland‘s Wesley Morris.

Dreary Morning Chill of Hoboken

My Virgin America flight was uneventful but uncomfortable as far as “sleeping” went. Sitting upright in 3C without a blanket, I was almost in a kind of agony as I caught a few pathetic non-winks. At least I wasn’t seated next to a Jabba. We landed at Newark Airport around 7:40 am. I gradually made my way to downtown Hoboken via NJ transit, Newark Penn Station and the PATH train. I’ll soon be picking up a renter and driving up to Woodstock and Saugerties. Part of the plan is to visit Big Pink and maybe snap some photos. I asked the owners through their website if it’s cool to say hello and poke around.

The winter air in Hoboken this morning demanded muffs, gloves, hats. Bitter and snappy.


Rogen Did It?

In a curious passage about halfway into a 12.18 N.Y. Times story about the Sony hack (“Sony Attack Is Unraveling Relationships in Hollywood”), reporters Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes pass along an opinion held by certain Sony lot sources that more or less blame Interview star and co-director Seth Rogen for the whole debacle. Or at least hangs much of the responsibility around his neck. The Times story suggests that Rogen “may [be] a significant loser” in the aftermath of this tragedy. It explains that “there [is] growing sentiment on the Sony lot that Mr. Rogen and his filmmaking colleagues had exposed employees and the audience to digital damage and physical threat by pushing his outrageous humor to the limit and backing the film to the last.” In other words, Rogen and Evan Goldberg…what, ruthlessly bullied Sony chief Amy Pascal into making The Interview, and more particularly forced her and other Sony execs into going along with the third-act climax in which a fictional version of real-life North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is killed? Wow, okay…but I didn’t think Rogen had that much power. I thought he was just good at being himself and laughing that laugh and swaggering around and punching out scripts with Evan Goldberg as well as acting in some of these projects. Obviously he and Goldberg enjoyed considerable power in the making and shaping of The Interview, but ultimately Pascal runs the shop…right?

Humiliation, Shame, Infamy

“Honor is a private matter within, and each man has his own version of it,” Thomas Becket said to Henry II in Jean Anouilh‘s classic drama. In a town mostly built upon expediency, exploitation and fast footwork, you might cynically suppose that the words “Hollywood” and “honor” are incongruous and best not mentioned in the same breath. But reactions to North Korea’s successful bullying of Sony Pictures Entertainment indicate that the industry’s best and the brightest are not only appalled and angry but tangentially ashamed of the cowardice shown by Sony management and exhibitors. This morning Variety reported that the cyber-terrorists behind the SPE attack congratulated Sony execs for the “very wise” decision to not release the The Interview in any format. The hackers emphasized that “we want you [to] never let the movie [be] released, distributed or leaked in any form of, for instance, DVD or piracy.” Who are they to give us orders? The honor of Hollywood has been bruised, wounded. How to restore it?

All You Need Is Sand

Deadline‘s Michael Fleming has posted a chat with George Clooney about the North Korean Sony hack debacle. Clooney says he “just talked to [Sony chief] Amy Pascal an hour ago. She wants to put [The Interview] out. ‘What do I do?’ My partner Grant Heslov and I had the conversation with her this morning. Bryan Lourd and I had the conversation with her last night. Stick it online. Do whatever you can to get this movie out. Not because everybody has to see the movie, but because I’m not going to be told we can’t see the movie. That’s the most important part. We cannot be told we can’t see something by Kim Jong Un, of all fucking people.”

So Pascal “wants” to put The Interview out and is more or less in Clooney’s corner or something like that, and yet Sony announces the movie’s not going out at all, not on VOD or online or anything. No offense but something in the equation is missing. (more…)

When Big Hair Was In Fashion

“If you see only one film about 17th century French landscape gardening [next] year, it probably ought to be A Little Chaos, a heaving bouquet of a picture. Kate Winslet stars as a fictional character in 1682 called Sabine de Barra, who is hired by the landscape architect André le Nôtre (Matthias Schoenaerts) to gaze, longingly, at his perfect stubble and mane of lustrous hair. It’s an indulgently actorly piece, but in a thoroughly pleasant way. Director Alan Rickman costars as a very droll Louis XIV, who likes to take a turn through the palace grounds and throw off his wig after a long morning’s kinging. The film is powdered up to the nines, with a wig count in Madness of King George vicinity and a lot of sporting cleavage. ” — from Tim Robey‘s Daily Telegraph review, filed on 9.11.14 from Toronto.

Never Seen ‘Em, Don’t Want To

The image below is the cover of a Christmas card from a couple I know. Two things hit me yesterday when I opened the envelope. One, this is pretty good face-pasting, at least by greeting-card standards. And two, I’ve never wanted to see Billy Wilder‘s The Seven Year Itch (’55), and I’ll probably steer clear for the rest of my life. Reason #1: I don’t want to hang with Tom Ewell, who never did it for me. Reason #2: I hate movies about paunchy, schlubby guys getting tempted and teased all through the story but never quite getting there. I just don’t like that. There must be hundreds if not thousands of films that people have heard of and been told are respectable or very good or even pantheon-level, but they’ve never seen them and probably never will, and all for reasons that make as much sense as mine.

Hawks, Bogart, Bacall Listen to Moondance

Irish Heartbeat might be my favorite Van Morrison album, but Moondance ranks a close second. It’s not on my iPhone so yesterday I decided I’d buy it…what the hell. Then I happened to watch about half of Howard HawksTo Have and Have Not last night, and I was reminded how much Hawks seemed to love music and musical sequences in his films, judging by the sheer number of them over the decades. (I’m thinking especially of Ball of Fire, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and that sappy sing-along jailhouse scene in Rio Bravo). And I began to wonder what the reaction would be if Morrison and his Moondance-era band were to time-travel back to Fort-de-France in Martinique in 1945 and play some of their tunes at one of the bars there, and if Hawks, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall happened to saunter in and listen. Albums don’t get much more mellow and soothing than Moondance, but it came out 25 years after To Have and Have Not and you never know. My guesses are that (a) Bogart, something of an upper-crust, old-school, wise guy know-it-all, would have scoffed at Morrison’s “wah-wah-wah-waaahah” singing style, but that (b) Hawks might have found a place in his head for it, and that (c) Bacall would’ve totally loved it. Especially “Caravan and “Into The Mystic.” If drunken Walter Brennan had stumbled in and listened he probably would have winced and shaken his head and stuumbled right back out again. I understand that Hoagy Carmichael could sometimes be a cranky, obnoxious shit so he probably wouldn’ve joined Brennan.

Perverse Bond

I don’t have any special inside track on Sundance ’15, but Rupert Goold‘s True Story, a true-life drama about a bizarre relationship between a discredited N.Y. Times journalist (Jonah Hill) and a family murderer (James Franco), is certainly at the top of my list thus far. Based on a memoir by ex-Times reporter Michael Finkel. Costarring Felicity Jones. Coproduced by New Regency Pictures and Brad Pitt‘s Plan B Entertainment.


Cuba Libre

President Obama‘s decision to recognize Cuba and attempt another, less belligerent approach to “that imprisoned island,” as JFK described it 52 years ago, is a good move. I’ve never visited Cuba and within a year or two I’ll probably be able to without much difficulty. For the sake of his likely 2016 Presidential run and because he’ll need to appeal to hinterland yahoos, Jeb Bush was obliged yesterday to sound like a hardline enemy of the dictatorial socialists who’ve been running things in Havana since early 1959. But Bush surely knows, and as anyone who understands why Communism toppled in Europe and Russia between ’89 and ’91 will tell you, when a population starts to get a taste for Western comforts, lifestyles and technology, Democratic change is all but inevitable.

Flag of Cuba that’s been hanging above my desk for over a dozen years.

Paramount to Indie Exhibs: We Can Be Cowardly Too!

Paramount has reportedly kibboshed plans by the Austin-based Alamo Drafthouse chain and by Cleveland’s Capitol Theatre to show Team America: World Police in place of the now-cancelling bookings of The Interview. A Deadline report says that Paramount “won’t be offering” Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s 2004 satire (which focuses on Kim Jong-Un’s dad, the late North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il) to Drafthouse or anyone else. Which means, I gather, that they’re not “offering” a DCP of the film. Are they also forbidding Drafthouse and others from projecting the Bluray? If I were in Austin or Cleveland I might be inclined to buy a ticket to a Team America Bluray presentation as a general endorsement of showing political satires on U.S. screens.

Corporate Is As Corporate Does

Sony Pictures Entertainment has apparently decided to dump The Interview every which way (no theatrical, VOD, DVD/Bluray or foreign…nothing) in order to recoup their investment through an insurance claim, or so TheWrap‘s Todd Cunningham indicated yesterday. (“One media report suggested that a total write-off was required to qualify,” etc.) If this was in fact Sony’s bottom-line rationale, this is typical corporate behavior. In caving like cowards, Sony essentially said “to hell with free speech and the example that this capitulation to cyber-terrorists sets, not to mention what this does to our relations with talent in this town…all we care about is the fucking dough.”

22 months ago I wrote a piece about Sony Pictures Entertainment’s response to the “pro-torture” attacks upon Zero Dark Thirty by the Stalinist left. In the view of L.A. Times reporters Steven Zeitchik and Nicole Sperling, Sony publicists figured that controversy might somehow diminish or scare away interest in the film so they more or less threw ZDT under the bus in terms of the torture argument…but at the same time the film did generate an excellent domestic return (i.e., $95 million and change).

This is what corporations do,” I wrote on 2.20.13, “and I don’t mean this as a criticism of the Sony guys. It’s just a statement of behavioral fact as explained by Joel Bakan‘s ‘The Corporation.’ (more…)

Lords of Corruption

I understand, of course, that many if not most of those who glance at this week-old Elizabeth Warren rant won’t hit play and listen to her words about Citigroup. That was my response when I first clicked on it…”yeah, yeah, Warren again.” But you know what? That kind of attitude makes me part of the problem. So I listened again this morning, and I’m asking two things of the “Ready for Hillary” crowd. One, are you aware of any facts that argue with what Warren is saying here? And two, can you envision Hillary Clinton ever making a similar speech?

The Monsters Own Every House on Maple Street

From “The Birdcage,” Mark Harris‘s 12.16 Grantland piece about the all-but-total domination of Hollywood by comic-book franchise geek superhero mythology: “Over the 25 years that followed Star Wars, franchises went from being a part of the business to a big part of the business. Big, but not defining: Even as late as 1999, for instance, only four of the year’s 35 top grossers were sequels.

“That’s not where we are anymore. In 2014, franchises are not a big part of the movie business. They are not the biggest part of the movie business. They are the movie business. Period. Twelve of the year’s 14 highest grossers are, or will spawn, sequels. (The sole exceptions — assuming they remain exceptions, which is iffy — are Big Hero 6 and Maleficent.)

“Almost everything else that comes out of Hollywood is either an accident, a penance (people who run the studios do like to have a reason to go to the Oscars), a modestly budgeted bone thrown to an audience perceived as niche (black people, women, adults), an appeasement (movie stars are still important and they must occasionally be placated with something interesting to do so they’ll be cooperative about doing the big stuff), or a necessity (sometimes, unfortunately, it is required that a studio take a chance on something new in order to initiate a franchise). (more…)

They Call Him Billy

Yesterday I spoke with veteran film editor William Goldenberg on behalf of his work on The Imitation Game, which is so smooth and fleet and seamless that I didn’t quite notice it. In this respect great editing is sometimes like great film music — the less it stands out the better it might be. And yet everyone noticed and admired Goldenberg’s cutting of Argo and Zero Dark Thirty, the result being that he was Oscar-nominated for both and thereby competed against himself. He won for Argo but if you ask me his work on Zero Dark Thirty was more mesmerizing or musical or whatever. (In that invisible sort of way.) Goldenberg’s cutting of Michael Mann‘s Heat (’95) and particularly the big bank-robbery scene in downtown Los Angeles is also the stuff of legend. He’s now cutting Concussion, a football injury drama with Will Smith that’s currently shooting. We talked about (a) the relationship between music and editing, (b) why certain editing jobs stand out as opposed to others, regardless of quality, (c) different styles of action editing and Walter Murch‘s rule about no more than 14 set-ups per minute, (d) why the poison-apple scene in The Imitation Game was left on the cutting room floor, and (e) the general aesthetic about cutting being generally a lot faster these days than it used to be. Again, the mp3.

Editor William Goldenberg accepting Best Editing Oscar for his work on Argo.

Legendary Put-On Doc About North Korea

During my interview yesterday with Birdman director Alejandro G. Inarritu we briefly discussed the Interview situation. AGI asked if I’d seen Mads Burgger‘s The Red Chapel, a 2009 mock-doc about the repressions of North Korea, and I went “uhm…nope.” From the Wikipage: “It chronicles the visit of Brügger and Danish comedians Jacob Nossell and Simon Jul to North Korea under the pretense of a small theatre troupe on a cultural exchange. The entire trip is a ruse: the trio are actually trying to get a chance to portray the absurdity of the pantomime life they are forced to lead in the DPRK.” Here’s a 12.17.14 piece about it by Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn.

SPE Apparently Doubling Down on Cowardice, Won’t Even Release Interview on VOD or DVD/Bluray

Deadline‘s Dominic Patten is reporting that in the wake of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s decision to cancel The Interview‘s 12.25 theatrical opening, they “will not be putting the now shuttered pic out on VOD, DVD or any other platform — at least not any time soon.” Patten has quoted a Sony Pictures spokesperson saying that SPE “has no further release plans for the film.” If this is in fact SPE’s firm decision, whatever minimal respect I had for Sony management, given the enormous trauma they’ve been going through over the last couple of weeks, is now out the window. They don’t even have the courage to release The Interview on VOD. These guys are doing an excellent job at persuading everyone that they have no souls, no courage, no investment in what they’re supposed to be doing. They’re not movie people, just empty bottom-line corporates. Good God, how can they look in the mirror?

Hollywood to Hostiles: Threaten Us and We’ll Fold Like Pansies Because Our Spines Are Made of Apple Sauce

Up in heaven John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Howard Hawks, Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, Howard Hughes, Clark Gable, Douglas MacArthur, George S. Patton, Theodore Roosevelt and other deceased macho Americans of consequence are beside themselves with rage, punching the refrigerator door and kicking holes in the wall over the terrible humiliation visited upon the dignity of this country by Sony Pictures Entertainment and U.S. exhibitors. Check out Twitter now and listen to what people (including many industry types) are saying…”you contemptible pussies!” With government officials having determined that North Korea was behind the Sony hack attack and with SPE and exhibitors having totally caved in response to a Sony hacker’s emailed (and almost certainly bogus) threat to attack theatres that might show the now-cancelled The Interview, everyone is red-faced and fuming. It sounds like sentimental conservative horseshit to pine for the hallowed traditions of honor, backbone and courage and resolve that used to be…well, at least part of the fibre that constituted the American character, but today’s decision makes it seem as if those qualities are fading fast if not evaporated altogether. This is the most humiliating episode in U.S. foreign relations since the failed 1980 attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran by the Carter administration.


Interview‘s 12.25 Opening Is Toast — VOD Is Only Decisive Option Now

Sony Pictures has officially deep-sixed the 12.25 theatrical opening of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg‘s The Interview. Freedom of speech is lying on the canvas and down for the count, and cyber-terrorism has won. It’s now 7:13 am in Pyongyang. Kim Jong-Un is ecstatic…rolling all over the floor in delight, giggling and high-fiving his staff. This is his only big triumph as North Korea’s leader. “Made it, pa…top of the world!” Two victory celebrations are currently being planned for tonight — one for the public and another for North Korean governmental and business elites. All rsvps must be received no later than 3 pm Pyongyang time. Dress will be formal. Open bar, hors d’oeuvres.

Meanwhile, Variety‘s Brent Lang is reporting that SPE “is weighing releasing the film on premium video-on-demand, according to an insider.” I was all over this option yesterday, of course. As Ben Stiller would say, “Do it…do it…do it.”

But if Sony execs are thinking about VOD, why are they cancelling press screenings left and right? They’d still want reviews for a VOD opening, right? Oh, right, of course…they’re afraid that North Korean rogue agents might attack.

That ridiculous NATO suggestion about “delaying” the theatrical opening of The Interview was so mashed-potatoes pathetic I don’t even want to talk about it. What would John Wayne do in this situation? I’ll tell you what he wouldn’t do. He wouldn’t talk about “delaying” anything. He would draw and fire or keep his gun holstered, period. We are truly living through The Age of the Executive Candy-Ass. (more…)

An Adult, Delightfully Melodious Tale of Wonder and Disappointment

I’ve seen Into The Woods (Disney, 12.25) twice — once three and a half weeks ago (on Monday, 11.24 — the night of the Ferguson Grand Jury announcement) and a second time on a DVD screener a week or so ago. I’d nearly forgotten about it with everything else going on, but then the reviews broke today…of course! My reaction was and is basically positive — this is easily the best film ever directed by the not-tremendously-respected, more-or-less-regarded-as-a-hack Rob Marshall (Chicago, Nine, Memoirs of a Geisha). He hasn’t gotten in the way or otherwise fucked up the spirited ingredients that made the original 1987 Stephen Sondheim stage musical such a triumph, and has actually enhanced the material in a reverent and respectable fashion. It may not be gloriously or rapturously inspired, but Into The Woods has spunk and smarts and more or less gets it right. It’s an intelligent, thoughtful musical that actually says something about storybook fantasy vs. reality, and it does so with rigor and discipline and a mesmerizing, high-Hollywood style. The tweener idiots might be shifting around in their seats (“Hey, we want more escapism!”) but the over-25s will get what’s going on and enjoy it as fully as they should.