Chiemi Karasawa‘s Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (Sundance Selects, 3.7) is one of the frankest and boldest docs I’ve ever seen (or would want to see) about what a bitch being 87 years old can be. Karasawa’s film is admirably blunt and candid, but that Bette Davis line that “aging is not for sissies” has never seemed more dead-on. This is no glossy showbiz portrait. Well, it is but it has more on its mind than just praise, and some of what we’re shown is unpleasant. I’m just being as honest as Karasawa’s film, okay? It’s not a walk in the park, this thing. But it’s quite tough and ballsy and rip-roarin’. And hats off to the subject for allowing the raw truth to come through.
Elaine Stritch, God love and praise her, is a Broadway legend and survivor extraordinaire. Most of the under-45s know her as Alec Baldwin‘s mom on 30 Rock, but you have to watch this YouTube video of Stritch’s one-woman show, Elaine Stritch: At Liberty, which she did in her late 70s and which won her a Tony.
How much of that 77 or 78 year-old can be found in the 87 year-old version? Honestly? Somewhere between half and two-thirds. Stritch is still that great, snappy firecracker and pistolero with the brassy attitude and the world-class gams. But Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me is really about what being 87 (Stritch is now 89) was doing to her and how she was pushing back all the same, pushing and performing and rehearsing and travelling around and forgetting lyrics and walking the uptown Manhattan streets. But still losing the battle.
Stritch is the absolute greatest, now and forever, but Karasawa’s film is about the crumbling and the fraying and the fire losing its brightness. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’d much, much rather re-watch At Liberty. (Which I did this morning.)
I know all about the dying of the light. My mother has been living in an assisted living facility for a long time. It’s a nice place as far as it goes but a lot of what constitutes daily life there is not pretty. It’s not “living”. My visits to my mom have convinced me, in fact, to never submit to this kind of thing. I’d rather be hit by a bus or be eaten by lions or overdose on heroin. Keep pushing and working until I drop.
This is more or less what Stritch’s attitude was until a year or two ago. Stritch has moved out of New York and is now living in Michigan near her family and in-laws, but since filming ended a series of health traumas have made life even less of a picnic. Broken bones, stomach cancer, heart failure. There really is something to be said for dying quickly and suddenly (i.e., John F. Kennedy) or for the exit strategies of Richard Farnsworth and George Sanders.
There’s a remedy to a performer forgetting lyrics. It’s called a teleprompter. A TV screen in the rear of the room that a performer can turn to and read from when memory fails. I wonder why Stritch didn’t use one. It’s not a big deal. Nobody would blame her. She could incorporate it into the act and make fun of it.
Speaking of JFK, Stritch tells a good story in the doc about going out with him sometime in, I think, the late 1940s. She was about 23 or 24 at the time, and wouldn’t be losing her virginity, believe or not, until she was 30. They had a nice first date and then went out a second time. When they got back to her place in a cab she said, “Do you want to come up for a nightcap?” Kennedy said, “Does that mean what I think it might mean, or does it mean listening to records and sipping hot chocolate and looking at photo albums and eating butterscotch pudding for a couple of hours?” (Or words to that effect.) It means butterscotch pudding, she said. “Well, no offense but I’m not interested in that,” JFK replied, “so I’ll just kiss you good night and wish you well and see you the next time.” And Stritch said to herself when she got upstairs, “That guy is going places. He wants what he wants, lays it on the line, doesn’t mince words and is courteous but frank.”
Why the hell didn’t Stephen Sondheim (who is allegedly in pretty good health) agree to an on-camera interview? The greatest moments of Stritch’s creative life have been about performing Sondheim tunes, and he doesn’t appear in this?
Please, please watch Elaine Stritch: At Liberty. A brilliant performance. Worth it and then some.
A lady and I were in a live-in relationship during the summer of ’85. We shared a nice single-level bungalow in Beachwood Canyon that had a cedar-wood sundeck with a great view. Things were kind of mezzo-mezzo between us. Not terrific but not too bad. So-so. One Sunday afternoon we went to the beach in Santa Monica, and we laid our blanket down fairly close to the surf but not too close. We were both reading for the most part, and then she began to take a nap. Before too long the tide began to wash in and the surf got closer and closer. Every so often a big wave would splash down and the water and the foam would come within three or four feet. And then two or three feet. I knew we’d be soaked sooner or later. But I didn’t wake her up. On some mildly devilish level I had decided it might be amusing if she were to be woken up by the water splashing onto the blanket. This was obviously a sign that I wasn’t feeling a lot of love. In order to not be blamed I got up and took a short walk, all the while keeping an eye on the blanket and my girlfriend. Five or ten minutes later a wave finally got her. I was standing maybe 50 feet away. She flinched and yelped and was furious. “What the fuck is wrong with you?,” she yelled. “Whaddaya mad at me for?,” I said. “I was just taking a walk.” But on some level she knew. I never copped to it but she knew or at least suspected. I’ve never admitted this until now. I’m sorry. Well, kind of.
Director Anton Corbijn (Control, The American, A Most Wanted Man) is currently shooting Life, a mid 1950s drama about a friendship between real-life Life photographer Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson) and legendary actor James Dean (Dane DeHaan). Principal photography begin on 2.18.14 in Toronto and will continue until 3.27.14. The film obviously could open later this year but it’ll probably go for a 2015 release. What do I know?
Stock was around 27 when he photographed Dean (most famously capturing that Times Square shot of an overcoat-wearing Dean hunched over in the rain). Stock died at age 81 in January 2010. Dean died on 9.30.55 in a car crash about 35 or 40 miles east of Paso Robles.
Dean and Stock in early 1955, presumably in some New York bar.
Yesterday I spoke with Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson about her new book, “The $11 Billion Year,” a story of the ups and downs and turnarounds of 2012. Thompson’s idea was to make a movie-release version of William Goldman‘s The Season (’04), a chronicle of Broadway’s trials and tribulations in 1967 and ’68. When I think of 2012 I think of the year in which Argo beat Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook in the Best Picture race, but there was more to it than that, of course. Digital encroachment. Oscar takedown campaigns. Shifting concepts of where the money is coming from, and how much and at what stage of the game. Zombie studio executives churning out dumber and dumber summer tentpoles. Greater and greater numbers of belligerent apes talking to the screen in megaplexes.
I wrote about John Ridley‘s All Is By My Side, the story of Jimi Hendrix‘s career transition from 1966 to ’67 (i.e., New York-based cafe performer to London-based psychedelic phenomenon) after catching 40% of it during last September’s Toronto Film Festival. It’ll re-appear on Wednesday, March 12th at South by Southwest with a new title: JIMI: All Is By My Side. There’s also a scene featuring star Andre Benjamin that was posted online today.
Here are my initial remarks, posted on 9.14.13:
“Two or three minutes after settling into All Is By My Side I was feeling stirred by Benjamin’s dead-on performance. It was obvious he’d captured Hendrix’s manner, vibe, voice…that gentleness, that ambivalent but spiritually directed mood-trip thing. Plus I was feeling a certain comfort with Ridley’s script and direction. I wasn’t knocked flat but I was saying to myself, ‘This kind of works…yeah.’
It would be great if this new Sin City movie would actually look and talk and behave like a real film noir from the early ’50s. If it would imitate the attitude and stylings of Fritz Lang‘s The Big Heat, let’s say. That’s impossible, of course, because this latest collaboration between shameless-genre-wallower Robert Rodriguez and reactionary anti-Occupy Wall Street screenwriter Frank Miller has to pander to exaggerated comic-book notions of what film noir might have been if the original purveyors were low-rent genre wallowers instead of actual filmmakers. Josh Brolin, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Jaime King, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dennis Haysbert, Jamie Chung, Bruce Willis, Eva Green, Julia Garner, Ray Liotta, Juno Temple, Jeremy Piven and Stacey Keach costar. Movies like this test my love for black-and-white images.
For any comedian to be hot, much less “so damn hot,” he/she has to be funny. That’s a really important trait, I think. You have to make people laugh. Well, Kevin Hart has never made me laugh…ever. He probably never will. To me he’s somewhere between the black Gallagher and the new Martin Short. Andrew Stewart’s 3.6 Variety piece proclaims that Hart has “an ability to appeal to a demographically wide audience that bridges the racial divide.” Okay, except Summit marketers clearly didn’t have that idea in mind when they assembled last summer’s redband trailer for Let Me Explain. As I wrote on 6.14.13, “There are six or seven cutaways to urban types laughing at Hart’s material…we get it, we get it.”
Presumed High-Pedigree: Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Inherent Vice, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Birdman, Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar, J.C. Chandor's A Very Violent Year, Ridley Scott‘s Exodus, Bennett Miller‘s Foxcatcher, David Fincher‘s Gone Girl, Jean Marc Vallee's Wild (i.e., the Reese Witherspoon hiking drama), Noah Baumbach's While We're Young, Matt Reeves‘ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Jeff Nichols‘ Midnight Special, Tim Burton‘s Big Eyes, Noah Baumbach's Untitled Public School Project, Phillip Noyce's The Giver, Mike Leigh‘s Mr. Turner, Todd Haynes‘ Carol, Angelina Jolie's Unbroken. (18).
Special Wackadoodle: Nobody knows if Terrence Malick's Knight of Cups or the "intersecting love triangles" Austin-based film (formerly known as Lawless) will be unveiled this year, or perhaps one this year and the other in 2015. The flaky, hermit-like Malick usually requires a minimum of two years to edit his films, but he might need three.
Already Positively Reviewed: Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel (Berlin Film Festival review here), Lynn Shelton's Laggies, Jason Bateman's Bad Words, Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood, Craig Johnson‘s The Skeleton Twins, Damien Chazelle's Whiplash. (6)
Respected Festival Leftovers: John Curran's Tracks (Mia Wasikowska-Adam Driver Australian trek film); Steve James‘ Life Itself.
Respectable Second Tier: Clint Eastwood‘s Jersey Boys, Maya Forbes' Infinitely Polar Bear, Rupert Goold's True Story (Jonah Hill, James Franco), Steven Knight's Locke, Dan Gilroy's Nightcrawler, Thomas Vinterberg‘s Far From The Madding Crowd, David Gordon Green's Manglehorn, Tommy Lee Jones' The Homesman, Woody Allen's Magic in the Moonlight, Saul Dibbs' Suite Francaise, Charlie McDowell‘s The One I Love, David Cronenberg‘s Maps to the Stars, Thomas McCarthy's The Cobbler, Theodore Melfi's St. Vincent de Van Nuys, Justin Kurzel's Macbeth, Anton Corbijn's A Most Wanted Man, David Dobkin's The Judge, Untitled Cameron Crowe, Craig Gillespie‘s Million Dollar Arm, Richard Shephard‘s Dom Hemingway, Nick Cassavetes‘ The Other Woman. (21)
Possible Cannes 2014 Highlights: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Birdman [see above]. Tommy Lee Jones' The Homesman [see above], Fatih Akin's The Cut, Mathieu Amalric's The Blue Room, Olivier Assayas' Clouds of Sils Maria, Bertrand Bonello's Saint Laurent, Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Hibernation, Dardennes brothers' Two Days, One Night, Laurent Cantet's Retour a Ithaque, Michel Hazanavicius' The Search. (10)
Third Tier (i.e., Possibly Respectable Megaplex Movies): Darren Aronofsky‘s Noah, Doug Liman's Edge of Tomorrow, Wally Pfister's Transcendence, Gareth Edwards' Godzilla, Evan Golderberg and Seth Rogen's The Interview, David Ayers' Fury, Antoine Fuqua's The Equalizer, Joe Carnahan‘s Stretch, Ivan Reitman‘s Draft Day (beware-of-Reitman factor), Luc Besson‘s Lucy (probable crap), David Michod's The Rover, Shawn Levy‘s This Is Where I Leave You, Phil Lord and Chris Miller‘s 22 Jump Street, Seth McFarlane‘s A Million Ways to Die in the West, Andy and Lana Wachowski‘s Jupiter Ascending, Spike Lee's Sweet Blood of Jesus, Ryan Gosling‘s How To Catch A Monster (aesthetic judgment in question after starring in The Place Beyond The Pines, The Gangster Squad, Only God Forgives). (16)
Last night TheWrap‘s Lucas Shaw reported that Noah director Darren Aronofsky was “not happy” about not being consulted about Paramount’s decision to insert a “religious disclaimer” in the Noah marketing materials. The disclaimer says that “artistic license has been taken” in the making of the film. Shaw reports that Aronofsky “knew nothing about [this] and was ‘not happy’ to learn about it in the press,” according to a single source.
Shaw reported that Paramount and Aronofsky have declined requests to comment.
Wells to everyone involved with Noah and the selling of it: What’s to be unhappy about, Darren-my-man? Paramount marketers aren’t disrespecting or disassociating themselves from you. They’re simply looking to maximize those Christian dollars…big deal. Has Hollywood ever made a Bible-based film that didn’t take artistic license? Cecil B. DeMille‘s The Ten Commandments pissed off 1950s Biblical scholars by depicting a sexual love affair between Charlton Heston‘s Moses and Anne Baxter‘s Nefritiri, and Paramount regretted this all the way to the bank. (more…)
The trailer assures that Will Gluck, Jay-Z and Will Smith‘s Annie (Sony, 12.19) is a spunky musical-comedy by way of Manhattan wealth porn. Aimed at the squares, yes, but I like the vibe. (Or I’m in the mood for it after the sturm und drang of the just-finished Oscar season.) If Annie turns out to be half-decent you know Quvenzhane Wallis is going to be Best Actress-nominated…bank on it, Michael Musto! Jamie Foxx as Benjamin Stacks, i.e., a Daddy Warbucks for our time. Cameron Diaz as “the cruel owner of the orphanage where Annie resides”…a Dickensian orphanage in 2014 Harlem run by a neurotic white lady? Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale costarring. The screenplay is by Gluck, Aline Brosh McKenna and Emma Thompson. (Yes, the actress.)
L.A. Times reporter John Horn wrote yesterday that he’s recently spoken with “two Oscar voters [who have] privately admitted that they didn’t see 12 Years a Slave, thinking it would be upsetting…but they said they voted for it anyway because, given the film’s social relevance, they felt obligated to do so.” The morning after the Oscars I wrote the following: “[Academy voters] felt in the end that they had to go with a film that mattered, that said something, that was strong of heart. But I’ll bet a lot of people just voted for it without having seen it. They trusted, based on the strong Slave passions they’d heard or read about, that they were doing the right thing.” How representative of the Academy voters are Horn’s two sources? Two blades of grass usually suggests there’s at least a patch nearby.
Aaahh, to be a wandering American journalist in Eastern Europe in the early ’30s, running short on cash and optimism, and then to suddenly luck into a job at an English-language daily called the Trans-Alpine Yodel. And to be charged each day with reporting the occasionally threatening news of the day, to work in a large newsroom filled with the clatter of Olivetti and Underwood typewriters, to crack wise with the constantly-smoking and occasionally booze-sipping staffers and printing-press guys…what a life, never to be lived, only dreamt of.
“Writer-director Steven Knight’s Locke (A24, 4.25) is basically just Tom Hardy driving a car while making a bunch of phone calls, and yet this ingeniously executed study in cinematic minimalism has depth, beauty and poise. A finely tuned showcase for Hardy’s exceptional acting skills, Bluetooth-enabled dashboard displays and the dynamic range of the Red Epic camera, the pic tracks a dark night of the soul for a construction-site manager en route from Birmingham to London.” — from Leslie Felperin‘s 9.2.13 Venice Film Festival review in Variety.
Last weekend the Spirit Awards gang should have handed a special indie passion trophy last weekend to Jeff Lipsky‘s Adopt Films. The New York-based outfit is distributing two admired but markedly similar West Bank thrillers — Yuval Adler‘s Bethlehem (opening 3.7) and Hany Abu-Assad‘s Oscar-nominated Omar. Lucid, taut and suspenseful, they both regard the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a filter of double-agenting, family ties, anxiety and betrayal. And they both end in a sudden burst of violence. You have to see them both. They don’t compete with each other as much as form a greater sum.
Remaking West Side Story for the screen is a bad enough idea on its own. The original Oscar-winning 1961 original is easily accessible, and with more and more of the viewing today happening on big-screen TVs who needs to see a new musical version in a megaplex when the old one will more or less suffice? And is the world clamoring for a Stephen Sondheim-Leonard Bernstein musical version of Baz Luhrman‘s Romeo + Juliet (’96)? True, the ’61 version seems stiff and lacquered and overly theatrical by today’s standards. The challenge, I suppose, would be to make a version that feels a bit looser and more “street” verite, and set it against a real-life culture where gang warfare, turf battles and racial animosity are regular facts of life. But of all the directors in all the world who could possibly pull this off without causing major embarassment or nausea, Steven Spielberg would have to be at the bottom of the list. Helming a new West Side Story would arouse every treacly, gooey, sentimental impulse in his system. The result would be a disaster. And yet Deadline‘s Michael Fleming is reporting that a Spielberg West Side Story is an actual possibility if DreamWorks’ Stacey Snider winds up taking the reins at 20th Century Fox.
I’ve seen Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel (Fox Searchlight, 3.7) twice now. (Here’s the rave review I filed from Berlin.) I’d love to see it a third time at tonight’s special members-only screening at Santa Monica’s Aero but I’m told there are no seats. I should have attended Monday’s screening of Rushmore, and in the bargain said hello to Matt Zoller Seitz, who’s been making the rounds to promote “The Wes Anderson Collection,” a four-and-a-half-pound, 336-page tribute & evaluation book. I’m hoping to lay my hands on a copy tomorrow or the next day.
Scott Johnson has posted a 3.4 Hollywood Reporter piece about the decisions and circumstances that led to the violent death of Midnight Rider camera assistant Sarah Jones on 2.20. It places the blame squarely on the apparent recklessness of director Randall Miller. No permission from the railroad, no medic, no production coordinator, no safety instructions, no nothing. Miller decided to cut corners and roll the dice so he could get his dream-sequence shot with a bed on the train tracks, and then suddenly the death train was approaching at 60 mph. And now Miller is the new John Landis.
Johnson doesn’t discuss the two most obvious precautions which were also apparently ignored (which I brought up in my 2.20 piece about the tragedy, called “Railroad Chicken“) — i.e., failing to obtain a reliable estimate of when trains would be expected to pass, and failing to place two production assistants with cellphones or long-range walkie-talkies a couple of miles in either direction to give early warning about rogue trains.
My first reaction when I first heard about Jones’ death was “why didn’t she just drop everything and jump off the bridge into the Altamaha River?” That’s what I would have done, no question. To hell with the equipment. I would simply gone over the railing, Butch & Sundance-style. (more…)
A pair of films about compulsive gamblers are currently shooting — Missisippi Grind and The Gambler. Both are remakes of a pair of renowned gambling films released in 1974, and both are looking at early 2015 release dates. Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden‘s Grind is a loose re-imagining of Robert Altman‘s California Split, and it costars Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn, possibly in the roles played by George Segal and Elliot Gould in the Altman film. Rupert Wyatt‘s The Gambler, a remake of Karel Reisz and James Toback‘s The Gambler, stars Mark Wahlberg as James Caan, Brie Larson as Lauren Hutton, John Goodman as Paul Sorvino and Jessica Lange as Wahlberg’s mom. Toback’s largely autobiographical Gambler script for the ’74 version has been rewritten by William Monahan (The Departed). It partly adheres to the original and partly not. Toback is an executive producer of the remake but has no creative input. But he has a certain level of input in Mississippi Grind — he recently performed a cameo in which he belted Mendelsohn. Grind also stars Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton and Alfre Woodard.
“So let’s say — just as a hypothetical for instance — you are an 81-year-old star whose last movie was in 1991 and who hasn’t been to the Oscars in many a long year. Not that you were ever nominated for one in the first place; you were, after all, a sex symbol for most of your career. As the evening approaches, the anxiety sets in. Harsh lights, you think. High-definition cameras. And a public that remembers you chiefly as the ice goddess whose beauty once drove James Stewart to the brink of madness.
I don’t blame Kim Novak — I blame the plastic surgeon. He (no woman would do this to another woman) should be brought up on charges. I honestly felt that her face looked a little bit like John Merrick’s. I’m sorry but I felt humiliated for her.
“And even back then, when you were 25 years old, you worried constantly that no matter how you looked, it wasn’t good enough. (more…)
Paddy Chayefsky‘s The Americanization of Emily (’64) is about as intelligent and savvy as an adult political satire can get. (I’ve always loved the phrase “positively clanking with moral fervor.”) It’s nowhere near the class of The Hospital or Network or even Altered States. Too much speechifying. And there’s no way an anti-war Naval officer like James Garner‘s Charlie Madison would exist in the middle of World War II, even as a London-based “dog robber.” His philosophy is pure mid ’60s. But I love ’60s black-and-white films, and so I’d buy the forthcoming Warner Archive Bluray in a second. But I’ve already bought Vudu’s HDX version, and I can’t imagine it looking any better.
Arie Posin‘s The Face of Love (IFC Films, 3.7) is a mostly mediocre love story. The performances aren’t half bad and at times touch bottom or are good for a chuckle, but the ghastly, on-the-nose script (by Posin and Matthew McDuffe) sucks the oxygen out of the room. The film is basically about how a well-off 50ish widow named Nikki (Annette Bening) poisons a promising relationship with Tom (Ed Harris), a nice, middle-aged artist, by lying her ass off. She’s attracted to Tom because he’s an absolute dead ringer for her deceased husband, Garrett (also played by Harris), who drowned five years ago. But instead of copping to that simple fact, she lies and lies and lies and lies all through the film. The only reason Nikki/Bening gradually opens up is because she’s forced to. Needless to add she’s a total drag to hang with.
Grantland‘s Mark Harris has ripped into yours truly in a 3.3 piece about the Oscars. In paragraph #8, to be precise. [See below] So here are replies to some of his assertions, which, summed up, basically pat the Academy on the back for a job relatively well done. Not perfectly (in part because they gave their Best Supporting Oscar to Dallas Buyer’s Club‘s Jared Leto, whose performance didn’t ring Harris’s bell) but good enough.
Harris statement #1: “Academy voters turned to a tough, sad, hard film about our own bad past made by a black Englishman and said, ‘This was the best of the year.’
Wells response: No, they didn’t do that, Mark. A relatively small portion of the membership did. Probably a third or a bit less. Nobody will ever know the exact percentage but this was almost certainly no landslide. Harris knows full well there was a very strong concern among many award-season pundits that quite a few Academy members either didn’t like 12 Years A Slave enough to vote for it or hadn’t even popped the screener in (or had skipped through the brutal parts if they had). I’m certain that Harris also suspects, like everyone else, that 12 years A Slave barely squeaked through to a win, and that if the Best Picture race had been a mano e mano between Slave and Gravity, the Academy would have definitely given the Best Picture prize to Alfonso Cuaron‘s space ride. Dollars to donuts Steve McQueen‘s film was saved because the anti-Slave vote split between Gravity, American Hustle and to a lesser extent Philomena. (more…)
Ask anyone on the street and he/she will tell you that the real-life character played by Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years A Slave was named Solomon Northup. They’ll also tell you his last name wasn’t spelled Northrop or Northrup. Yesterday this fact was emphasized by yesterday’s New York Times correction about a story about Northup’s forced enslavement that was published 161 years ago, to wit: “An article on Jan. 20, 1853, recounting the story of Solomon Northup, whose memoir ‘12 Years a Slave‘ became a movie 160 years later that won the Best Picture Oscar at the 86th Academy Awards on Sunday night, misspelled his surname as Northrop. And the headline misspelled it as Northrup.” As President Kennedy reminded on 4.27.61, “An error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.”
For some reason a no-big-deal snap of Warren Beatty shooting his Howard Hughes film in some modest, middle-class Pasadena neighborhood earlier today has my interest. It was apparently taken by author/screenwriter Sandi Tan, who posted on her Facebook page. Tan also posted a shot of Hughes costars Alden Ehrenreich and Lily Collins relaxing between shots and pondering smartphone distraction. Tan was told by a production assistant that set photography wasn’t allowed so she took a few from inside her home. The secretiveness and the paranoia about snapshots mirrors Hughes’ real-life attitude about same; ditto being observed by outsiders. Beatty is playing Hughes so he’s presumably adhering to character. Beatty’s wife Annette Bening is costarring.
Warren Beatty in blue baseball cap.
Alden Ehrenreich in black suit, glasses.
It’s all well and good for HuffPost movie guy Ricky Camilleri and guest Glenn Kenny to talk about 2014 films by major auteurs (as they did seven weeks ago), but remember there are 45 films opening between now and 12.31.14 that I’ve ranked as high-pedigree or respectably second-tier. [They're listed in the Oscar Balloon box.] And if you add my respectable megaplex tally you’ve got another 15 for a total of 60. Including, as noted earlier today, two from Noah Baumbach and two from Terrence Wackadoodle.
Budgeted at $165 million and change, Michael Bay‘s Transformers: Age of Extinction is the first Shia LaBeouf-less film in the long-running franchise. Everybody got a good payday from this. Mark Wahlberg made like a bandit, I’m guessing. Producers Don Murphy, Tom DeSanto, Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Ian Bryce have also been well compensated. Paramount Pictures is releasing this fourth installment, shot in 3D, on 6.27.14. What do want me to say about this? Nothing. I don’t even know precisely what Dinobots are. I can guess how they differ visually from Autobots, but what’s the point?
From Broadcast Film Critics Association honcho Joey Berlin: “It has long been noted that voting for the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards is remarkably similar to voting for the Academy Awards. This year, however, the resemblance was simply uncanny. Not only did we have the same winners in the Big Six categories (Best Picture, Director and the acting categories), but our winners were the same in virtually every other category — Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design, Editing, Visual Effects, Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, Song and Score. In the categories where we both give awards, the only places where we parted with the Academy were Best Foreign Language Feature and Best Hair and Makeup.”
Noah Baumbach and Terrence Malick have something in common this year. Both are brand-name auteurs with two features in the can each and no distribution deals in place. Or none that I’ve been told about. Baumbach’s pair are Manhattan-set — Untitled Public School Project and While We’re Young. Malick’s films are the romantic-triangle Austin movie (formerly called Lawless) that began shooting in 2012 and Knight of Cups, the Christian Bale-Natalie Portman drama which was shot before or subsequently or whatever. Who cares? I know that Malick and Bale shot footage at the Austin City Limits Festival in September 2011.
(l. to r.) Ben Stiller, Noah Baumbach and Adam Driver shooting While We’re Young
My favorite line of the night came when the Mexican-born Alfonso Cuaron thanked “the wise guys of Warner Brothers.” If he hadn’t corrected himself the implication would have been that the WB guys are a little bit shady, a gang of gamblers and connivers and goodfellas, etc. Which probably isn’t too far from the truth. My heart sank when Cuaron restated himself by saying “the wise people of Warner Brothers!” I prefer to think that “wise guys” was a Freudian slip rather than a mis-applied term, but Cuaron, who is absolutely one of the most articulate guys I know in this town (along with Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu), will never cop to this.
“Tonight, there are so many different possibilities. Possibility number one: 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture. Possibility number two: You’re all racists! Now, for our first white presenter, Anne Hathaway!” An HE colleague asks the following: “Does anyone think maybe, just maybe the producers who hired the ‘safe’ Ellen over an edgier choice would really let her tell what is essentially a Chris Rock joke at the top of the show unless they knew 12 Years A Slave was the winner?” Zadan and Meron could be the new Gil Cates (i.e., they want the gig for years and years), and I don’t think they would let her call the Academy racist ‘in quotes’ unless they knew that joke had a happy ending. Of course they have control over her script. The writers included former SNL people and so I’m sure they threw out some even edgier stuff.” My response: You’re presuming that the Price Waterhouse guys share the results with the producers. But you’re right about one thing — that was a Chris Rock joke, and if he had been hosting and told it instead of Ellen it would have gotten a different reaction. (more…)