Randoms

Pause Before Phase Two

For the sheer immersive pleasure of it I saw Andrey Zvyagintsev‘s Leviathan this morning at Mason’s Hall Cinema. Not quite as cool as seeing it all big and wowser at the Salle Debussy last May, but certainly good enough. It’s 2:50 pm now. At 4 pm I’m seeing Robert Kenner‘s Merchants of Doubt at the Nugget. At 6:45 Alejandro G. Inarritu‘s Birdman (allegedly a big one) screens at the Werner Herzog. And then there’s a Sony Pictures Classics gathering at La Marmotte; ditto a Fox Searchlight party at the Sheridan. Three films, two parties, three or four hours of filing time…that’ll do for today.


This year’s “Saturday Seminar” topic was “The Forty Year Pendulum” and the legacy of the ’70s. (l. to r.) Moderator Annette Insdorf, Alejandro Gonzelez Inarritu (Birdman), Volker Schlondorff, Francis Coppola, Ethan Hawke (Seymour: An Introduction).

(r.) Leviathan director-writer Andrey Zvyagintsev, (l.) producer Alexander Rodnyansky during q & a at Mason’s Hall Cinema — Saturday, 8.30, 12:25 pm

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Classy Game Grounded In Efficiency

To my surprise, Morten Tyldum and Graham Moore‘s The Imitation Game (Weinstein Co., 11.21) works quite well. Although mostly a tale about the personal, bureaucratic and old-school morality issues that interfered with and ultimately shut down the beautiful mind of Enigma code-breaker Alan Turing, The Imitation Game nonetheless conveys the melancholy alone-ness and heartache that colored Turing’s personal life, and as such slams a solid triple.

True, it downplays or more accurately nudges aside Turing’s secret life as gay man during World War II and the early ’50s, and in place of this focuses on a close platonic relationship between Turing and Keira Knightley‘s Joan Clarke (obviously a strategy embarked upon to appeal to and engage mainstream straights), but it’s a sharp, well-ordered thing — a movie that knows what it’s doing and how to make it all cook and simmer in just the right way.

I’d been presuming that material this familiar and well covered — the ’86 BBC drama Breaking The Code, the Turing-related (if not Turing-specific) Enigma, a documentary called Codebreaker — might come off as a bit ho-hummish, but this is a classy, handsome show. All the required elements are here. Crisp directorial discipline, Moore’s impressively honed, well-ordered script, Oscar Faura‘s first-rate cinematography, Alexandre Desplat‘s stirring score and particularly Benedict Cumberbatch‘s wholly lived-in, subtly fascinating performance as Turing — a knockout job that will almost certainly land him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

This is a sad but fascinating tale about the lonely fate of an eccentric, exceptional genius-hero, and how 1940s and ’50s Britain gave him grief every step of the way. Over and over the powers-that-be (with the exception of Winston Churchill) and the sense of morality that existed in mid 20th Century England conspired to darken, confine and repress Turing’s life, and I must say that you find yourself wondering after an hour or so if there was anything to his amazing man’s life other than shadows and strife and the oppression of assholes.

Long Day’s Journey

I returned an hour ago from tonight’s first-ever Telluride screening of Jon Stewart‘s Rosewater, an entirely honorable, you-are-there absorbing political melodrama — well-honed, believably acted, tightly crafted. Prior to that evening (which began just after 9 pm) a packed Werner Herzog Cinema audience saw Morten Tyldum‘s The Imitation Game, which struck me and everyone I spoke to afterwards as a Best Picture contender; Benedict Cumberbatch‘s performance as Enigma code-breaker Alan Turing will definitely land a Best Actor nomination. The day’s first screening was Jean-Marc Vallee‘s Wild [see below]. It’s 12:30 am and I’m too beat to write anything. I’ll give it another go tomorrow morning from 7 to 9 am before catching a 9:30 am Leviathan screening.


Jon Stewart introducing Rosewater at Telluride’s Galaxy theatre — Friday, 8.29, 9:05 pm.

Stewart, “Then They Came For Me” author Maziar Bahari, Gael Garcia Bernal during post-Rosewater screening q & a.

I take the exact same shot every time I attend the Telluride Patron’s Brunch so why stop now?

(l. to r.) Laura Dern, Reese Witherspoon, Wild author Cheryl Strayed prior to this afternoon’s Wild screening at Chuck Jones Cinema.

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Sore Feet and the Kindness of Possibly Predatory Strangers

Scrappy, despondent, somewhat resourceful Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) goes on a thousand-mile journey-of-self-discovery hike in Wild , another in a long line of solo survival-in-the-wilderness tales (127 Hours, All Is Lost, Gravity, Tracks). Witherspoon handles herself pretty well. Okay , quite well — it’s one of those “watch me get down and pull out the stops” award-season performances. But the movie…I don’t know, man. It didn’t feel right at first — emphatic, hasty, tonally off in some way — and then it felt moderately okay and then better-than-half-decent in a tapestry-weave sort of way during the last half hour or so. I’m sorry but Wild is…well, some (many?) women will like it. That was my take-away from the Chuck Jones screening that broke around 4:30 or 5 pm. Some women and some guys, I guess (two were weeping during the screening). But smart-ass guys like myself are going to be checking their watches. I think it’s somewhere between (a) an earnest mixed-bag — a hit-and-misser that starts out poorly but gains as it moves along, and (b) a shortfaller. I didn’t hate it. It didn’t annoy me but I didn’t empathize a great deal with Witherspoon’s Strayed. I admire her determination and to some extent her survival skills but much of the film is about her depending on the kindness of strangers, at least a few of whom are nursing fantasies of getting sexual favors. On top of which she’s not the best prepared hiker. (Planning for ways to replenish your water supply helps.). On top of which Reese/Cheryl experiences far too many dream-flashbacks of her late mom, played by Laura Dern. It felt to me like there 30 or 35 Dern flashes. I was starting to go “later” when the 20th appeared. (Written on iPhone while waiting in line outside Werner Herzog theatre to see The Imitation Game.)

Remember Darkness?

I remember darkness from my childhood and teen years. You’d go outside around 9 or 10 pm and you’d either have enough moonlight to make out certain shapes or it would be so dark you could barely see your hand. There were streetlights, of course, but I’ve got myself convinced that they weren’t as bright as they are today. Darkness has been all but presently eradicated in urban and suburban areas. Everything under the stars is lamped up and flooded with glare. But not in Telluride. There’s darkness all over, and it’s wonderful. The moonlight is low right now so it’s even better. The stars are amazing. And the crisp piney aroma and the cool, flirting-with-cold night air (you needed jackets and scarves last night)…this is really a place that’s been excused (or has escaped) from the 21st Century in all the best ways.

Masterpiece

This, from my perspective, is an exceptional, quite brilliant trailer. This is it — the mini-version, the bullets, the sex, the snippets, the all of it, the bottles and bottles of vodka, the Phillip Glassyness, the symphonic smack…wow.

Ripped in the Rockies

You can walk right into a little downtown Telluride store called the Green Room and buy a modest amount of potent weed. Out-of-staters don’t get to buy the same quantity as Colorado residents but so what? This is 21st Century Colorado, and nobody blinks an eye. I haven’t turned on in decades but as a pot smoker in my 20s I almost regarded myself as a kind of outlaw. I completely accepted this identity back then — everyone did. But I still had a few friends who were popped for possession and two or three who were busted for weight and did time.


From the website: “Telluride, Colorado’s leading medical and recreational marijuana dispensary in variety and quality. We are the provider of the finest, most reasonably priced, diverse marijuana medicines and products to serve your medical needs. In addition to our medicine we have a selection of books and artwork to educate and enlighten you.”

Click here to jump past the Oscar Balloon

Best Picture Contenders (i.e, Presumed High-Pedigree, The Right Stuff): Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Birdman, James Marsh's The Theory of Everything, Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar, J.C. Chandor's A Very Violent Year, Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Inherent Vice, Ava Duvernay's Selma, Ridley Scott‘s Exodus: Gods and Kings, David Fincher‘s Gone Girl, Angelina Jolie's Unbroken; Jean Marc Vallee's Wild (i.e., the Reese Witherspoon hiking drama), Noah Baumbach's While We're Young, Rob Marshall's Into The Woods, Clint Eastwood‘s American Sniper, Saul Dibbs' Suite Francaise, Jason Reitman's Men, Women & Children.

Already Positively Reviewed: Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel (Berlin Film Festival review here), Bennett Miller‘s Foxcatcher (seen & praised at Cannes); Steve James' Life Itself; Steven Knight's Locke; Lynn Shelton's Laggies, Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood; Mike Leigh‘s Mr. Turner (seen & praised at Cannes); Craig Johnson‘s The Skeleton Twins, Damien Chazelle's Whiplash; Tommy Lee Jones' The Homesman (seen & admired in some quarters); David Cronenberg‘s Maps to the Stars.

Some Appraised, Some Not: Maya Forbes' Infinitely Polar Bear, Rupert Goold's True Story (Jonah Hill, James Franco), Noah Baumbach's Untitled Public School Project; Dan Gilroy's Nightcrawler, David Gordon Green's Manglehorn, Woody Allen's Magic in the Moonlight, Charlie McDowell‘s The One I Love, Tate Taylor's Get On Up (Chadwick Bozeman as James Brown); 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.

Vague Cloud: Stephen Daldry's Trash; Tim Burton‘s Big Eyes; Jon Stewart's Rosewater; David Ayers' Fury; Thomas Vinterberg's Far from the Madding Crowd; Fatih Akin's The Cut; Liv Ullman's Miss Julie; Daniel Espinosa's Child 44; Jeff NicholsMidnight Special,Dylan Kidd's Get A Job; James Ponsoldt's The End of the Tour; Werner Herzog's Queen of the Desert; Stephen Frears' Untitled Lance Armstrong Project; Alex Garland's Ex Machina, Christian Petzold's Phoenix (likely Telluride); Michael Roskam's The Drop; Ramin Bahrani's 99 Homes; Rupert Goold's True Story; John MacLean's Slow West; Michael Cuesta's Kill The Messenger.

Opening in 2015: Sarah Gavron's Suffragette (Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep); Anton Corbijn's Life; Untitled Cameron Crowe, Todd HaynesCarol; Justin Kurzel's Macbeth.

Third Tier (i.e., Respectable Megaplex Movies): Matt ReevesDawn of the Planet of the Apes, Darren Aronofsky‘s Noah (seen, praised, successful), Doug Liman's Edge of Tomorrow, Gareth Edwards' Godzilla (huge success), Evan Golderberg and Seth Rogen's The Interview; Antoine Fuqua's The Equalizer, Shawn Levy‘s This Is Where I Leave You, Phil Lord and Chris Miller‘s 22 Jump Street, Spike Lee's Sweet Blood of Jesus.

 

Have To Be Hard

The Telluride Film festival is tributing Francis Coppola‘s Apocalypse Now, or rather its 35th anniversary. People forget that it was released on 8.15.79, which by today’s standards would indicate a dump strategy. There’s a big, knock-your-socks-off screening this afternoon (2 pm) at the Werner Herzog theatre, followed by an on-stage discussion between Coppola, cinematographer Vittoria Storaro, co-screenwriter John Milius, editor-sound designer Walter Murch (who was on my Pheonix-to-Durango flight), producer Fred Roos and moderator Scott Foundas. Coppola’s classic will screen again at the Chuck Jones tomorrow morning at 8:30 am.

I would love to attend for the rollicking recall aspect, but the first big screening of Jean-Marc Vallee‘s Wild (un-announced on the schedule) is happening at the same time, and this is a here-and-now creation. At the end of the day I just can’t justify a nostalgia sink-in, as much as I’d like to go there. I’ve seen Apocalypse Now 10 or 12 times, and the Redux version three or four. This is the Telluride heartache factor — there are always three if not four high-interest screenings happening against each other and it’s always a tough call. But you have to go with the new. If I succumb to second thoughts I can always catch Apocalypse tomorrow morning.

Shagged, Settled, Thin Air

I arrived in Telluride around 6:15 pm. The rental (three stories if you count the converted basement) is at 548 West Pacific, or rather the alley (i.e., almost a street) behind that address. I went for groceries, roamed around, said hello to Leslee Dart, Baz Bamigboye and Peggy Siegal in front of the Sheridan Hotel, etc. Just the usual setting-up, getting-ready, breathing-in-the-thin-mountain-air stuff. Eugene Hernandez and pallies are having some sort of gathering over at the Sheridan right now (i.e., 10:15 pm). Friday morning, 6:50 am: A sizable assembly at the Sheridan last night. Life Itself director Steve James, Ryan Werner, Sony Pictures Classics Michael Barker and Tom Bernard (all hail Leviathan!), Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson, Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Eugene Hernandez, James Rocchi (jacket-less due to United having misplaced his luggage), In Contention‘s Kris Tapley. Shots of tequila, gang’s all here. I stayed for about an hour. Flopped at 12:30, awoke at 5:30.


Telluride’s Main Street around 7:40 pm. I take the exact same shot every year. Everyone does.

The place has peaked roofs, a fake fireplace, three bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, four TVs, a nice kitchen. It has something that resembles (or which I’m calling for the time being) industrial ribbed siding — feels like weathered tin.

Grilled cheese will be my downfall. Right next to outdoor Abel Gance theatre.

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Brangelina Hitched, “Concretized”

It was announced this morning that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were married five days ago inside “a small chapel” near their huge chateau in the French hamlet of Correns. Congratulations and best wishes, but what has my interest is Pitt’s use of the term “concretized.” He used it in an AP interview that ran after their engagement was announced in November 2012, to wit: “[Marriage] is an exciting prospect, even though for us, we’ve gone further than that. But to concretize it in that way, it actually means more to me than I thought it would. It means a lot to our kids.” I can honestly say that I’ve never once read or spoken the word “concretize” before this morning. Pitt obviously meant the word to be synonymous with “affirm” or “ratify”or “consecrate.” It would have been equally grammatically correct if he had said “epoxy-ized” or “Elmer’s-Glue-All-icized”…right?

Telluride Slate Announced

With everyone on their way this morning to the 41st Telluride Film Festival (I’m heading out to Burbank Airport at 8 am), the slate has been officially announced. No surprises this year with Toronto having pretty much given the game away by classifying this and that film as a Canadian premiere, which meant a Telluride debut. The only film I wasn’t necessarily expecting to see in Telluride was THE 50 YEAR ARGUMENT (d. Martin Scorsese, David Tedeschi, U.K.-U.S., 2014). What are the expected or hoped-for titles that didn’t get chosen? I can’t get into this now. Taxi’s waiting, blowing his horn…already I’m so lonesome I could cry.

In alphabetical order: ’71 (d. Yann Demange, U.K., 2014 — saw it in Berlin last February); 99 HOMES (d. Ramin Bahrani, U.S., 2014); BIRDMAN (d. Alejandro González Iñárritu, U.S., 2014); DANCING ARABS (d. Eran Riklis, Israel-Germany-France, 2014); THE DECENT ONE (d. Vanessa Lapa, Australia-Israel-Germany, 2014); DIPLOMACY (d. Volker Schlöndorff, France-Germany, 2014); FOXCATCHER (d. Bennett Miller, U.S., 2014 — seen in Cannes last May by almost everyone); THE GATE (d. Régis Wargnier, France-Belgium-Cambodia, 2014); THE HOMESMAN (d. Tommy Lee Jones, U.S., 2014 — debuted in Cannes, decent but don’t get overly excited); THE IMITATION GAME (d. Morten Tyldum, U.K.-U.S., 2014); LEVIATHAN (d. Andrey Zvgagintsev, Russia, 2014); THE LOOK OF SILENCE (d. Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark-Indonesia-Norway-Finalnd-U.S., 2014); MADAME BOVARY (d. Sophie Barthes, U.K.-Belgium, 2014); MERCHANTS OF DOUBT (d. Robert Kenner, U.S., 2014); MOMMY (d. Xavier Dolan, Canada, 2014….saw most of it in Cannes); MR. TURNER (d. Mike Leigh, U.K., 2014); THE PRICE OF FAME (d. Xavier Beauvois, France, 2014); RED ARMY (d. Gabe Polsky, U.S.-Russia, 2014); ROSEWATER (d. Jon Stewart, U.S., 2014); THE SALT OF THE EARTH (d. Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, Brazil-Italy-France, 2014); TALES OF THE GRIM SLEEPER (d. Nick Broomfield, U.K.-U.S, 2014); TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (d. Luc Dardenne, Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Belgium-Italy-France, 2014); WILD (d. Jean-Marc Valleé, U.S., 2014); WILD TALES (d. Damián Szifrón, Argentina-Spain, 2014)

The announcement also says, as per custom, that “additional sneak previews may play outside the main program and will be announced on the Telluride Film Festival website over the course of the four-day weekend.”

Rosewater Pre-Telluride Reviews

Reviews of Jon Stewart‘s Rosewater (Open Road, 11.7), a drama about political imprisonment and torture inflicted upon Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari (Gale Garcia Bernal) in 2009 under Iran’s Ahmadinejad regime, were posted last night by trade critics. The response from Variety‘s Scott Foundas is respectful and encouraging, but the other three critics — The Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy, Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn and TheWrap‘s Steve Pond — are saying “approved but rewards are modest.” Pic is expected to screen at the Telluride Film Festival this weekend as well as play the Toronto Film Festival next week.
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Tony Soprano Still Dead

Sopranos creator David Chase has stated through representative Leslee Dart that in an 8.27 Vox.com interview piece, author Martha P. Nochimson misquoted or misunderstood Chase about the fate of Tony Soprano. I’ll try re-explaining things to Nochimson and everyone else who insists on denying the obvious. Tony Soprano sleeps with the fishes. He took one in the right temple and probably two more in the back of the head. He was clipped by that Italian-looking guy in that Members Only jacket…you know, that guy who was eyeballing him and then went into the bathroom and then came out. Thunk! Thunk, thunk! The cut to black was Tony’s abrupt loss of consciousness as the bullets slammed into his head. Carmela freaked and screamed; Anthony, Jr. probably tried some kind of tough-guy shit which the Members Only guy…who knows, maybe he clipped Anthony also. Then he went out the back exit. That’s what happened, trust me.

Fool Drops Sexual Abuse Case Against Singer

The none-too-bright individual known as Michael Egan has dropped his sexual abuse lawsuit against Bryan Singer, according to a Variety report. The guy goes to all kinds of trouble and then he blows off a modest cash offer (which so alienated his attorney Jeff Herman that he severed relations with Egan) and now this — a complete collapse. If you’re going to do something, man up and see it through. (As Bugsy Siegel put it, “If you’re gonna get tough with a guy, stick to it.”) And if you don’t have the horses to win your case, at least be smart enough to accept a “take it and go away” cash settlement when it’s offered. Egan previously dropped sexual abuse lawsuits against former Disney hotshot David Neuman and former TV exec Garth Ancier. What a lame-o.

That’s A Lot of Downey

I was reminded this morning that David Dobkin‘s The Judge (Warner Bros., 10.10) runs two hours and 21 minutes. My first reaction was one of surprise. This is not a solemn courtroom drama like The Verdict, which ran 129 minutes. And it’s not Scent of A Woman, which needed 156 minutes to let a blind Al Pacino rant and rave and threaten suicide and chew the scenery. The Judge is a formula movie about a brilliant yuppie-prick attorney (Robert Downey, Jr.) gradually forgiving his estranged father (Robert Duvall) when he defends him in a murder trial, and in so doing becoming a human being. Films like this are supposed to get the job done in, oh, 110 to 115 minutes. 120 is pushing it, and if they can wrap things up in 100 minutes so much the better. I realize that no good film is too long, and no bad film is too short. I get that. But I was still surprised to hear “141 minutes.”

Manic Pixie Hotel Chambermaid?

“It’s delightful, and delightfully eccentric…it is very satisfying, after years of watching [Josh] Charles on The Good Wife, to see him take possession of a new character, especially one whose motivations are as much a mystery to the character as to you. For an hour, you discover a man finding himself, incremental layer by layer, expression by expression.” — N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis, 5.22.14, from Cannes Film Festival. “It’s the most inspired thing I’ve seen…not only don’t you know how it got made — you also don’t quite know how what’s been made has made you this happy [and] this profoundly.” – Grantland‘s Wesley Morris, ditto. Pascale Ferran‘s film opens 9.12 via Sundance Selects.

Remember Inez, the Central American motel chambermaid whom Luke Wilson fell in love with in Bottle Rocket?

I Saw Red When I Read This

“Have you ever seen Jean-Luc Godard‘s Contempt? You, sir, are a fitting object. Please, please sit in front of me in coach someday. I can’t wait to ‘accidentally’ spill a cup of scalding hot coffee on your head. In the words of Gordon Gekko, ‘Hot coffee is good. Hot coffee scalding the scalp of an avaricious entitled slimeball is even better.’ I don’t mind sitting behind a person who reclines a little bit, but people who recline more than that deserve whatever aggressive pushback may come their way. You don’t mention your fee, by the way, for agreeing not to recline. What would it be? $50? You, sir, are a deplorable life form.” — My response to an 8.27 piece by N.Y. Times guest contributor Josh Barro (@jbarro), titled “Don’t Want Me to Recline My Airline Seat? You Can Pay Me.”

We See You, Howard Hughes!

It would appear that the first snaps of the reclusive Nikki Finke have been posted by a nasty little site that has made no secret about wanting to get her. Finke has written harshly about others and now it’s payback time, or so goes the site’s rationale. I’m no fan of tabloidy “gotcha!” pieces or the snippy, bitchy vibe of sites like this, but these fellows seem to have done their homework and captured the Real McCoy. I think it’s permissible to post these as there have been no photos of Finke for many, many years and these snaps appear to be legit. It also appears that Nikkifinke.com has stalled as the last story, about the death of Robin Williams, was posted on Monday, 8.11.

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“Because It’s Right”?

A movie is usually one thing, the marketing materials another. Because the latter almost always lies. But if — I say “if” — Stephen Daldry‘s Trash is anything like the “sell”, watch out. I don’t trust movies that use a poster in which the lead character is raising his arms in triumph or joy. I don’t trust stories about poor, pure-of-heart kids vs. rich, venal criminals. I don’t trust movies in which a character says he/she has decided on a course of action because it’s “right.” I’m concerned about the basic mindset of any film that costars liberal do-gooder Martin Sheen. And I’m highly suspicious of this capsule description: “Set in Brazil, three kids make a discovery in a garbage dump soon find themselves running from the cops and trying to right a terrible wrong.”

Lynch Needs To Get Back on The Stick

Enough with the “I can’t find a project that really excites me” shpiel. After a certain number of years of relative inactivity it’s just not cool. Lynch sees “no future in cinema“? Fine. Create a cable longform of some kind, something for Netflix…anything. No more sitting on the bench. It’s unbecoming.

“Magic Trick” Triumph in Venice: Birdman Bellissimo

I’m presuming, of course, that the first Telluride screening of Alejandro G. Inarritu‘s Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) will be a levitational knockout, but I feel badly that I wasn’t able to attend this morning’s press screening in Venice, which by several accounts was a fucking corker. Variety‘s Peter Debruge is calling Birdman “a triumph on every creative level, from casting to execution, that will electrify the industry, captivate arthouse and megaplex crowds alike, send awards pundits into orbit and give fresh wings to Keaton’s career.”

To hear it from Deadline‘s Nancy Tartagione, Birdman “bowed to one of the best receptions I have ever experienced on the Lido” this morning. “Applause, laughter and strong emotion emanated from attendees in the refurbed Sala Darsena this morning during the first press screening. Making my way out afterwards, I heard ‘bellissimo’ uttered at least a dozen times.”

Birdman flies very, very high.” writes Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy. “Intense emotional currents and the jagged feelings of volatile actors are turned loose to raucous dramatic and darkly comedic effect in one of the most sustained examples of visually fluid tour de force cinema anyone’s ever seen, all in the service of a story that examines the changing nature of celebrity and the popular regard for fame over creative achievement. The film’s exhilarating originality, black comedy and tone that is at once empathetic and acidic will surely strike a strong chord with audiences looking for something fresh that will take them somewhere they haven’t been before.”

In other words, a fair percentage of the megaplex idiots are going to go “meh…we want our usual crap!”

The Sala Darsena was apparently “it” this morning, the hottest place to be, the one spot on the globe where even Winged Gods (including HE’s own Movie Godz) were looking for a seat. “Is this taken? Sorry, man, but you can’t just point and say ‘it’s taken’…you have to mark it with a jacket or urine or a folded program or something….you have mark your territory like an animal.” (more…)

Journey Complete, Justice Rendered

The Gurus of Gold have spitballed their initial Best Picture predictions. The favorites are as follows: Birdman, Boyhood, Unbroken, Foxcatcher, Selma, Interstellar, Wild, Fury, Inherent Vice, The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Into the Woods, American Sniper, A Most Violent Year, Big Eyes, Mr. Turner, Exodus: Gods and kings, Men, Women & Children, St. Vincent, Rosewater, Trash. The ultimate hotties always (a) hold up a fair, honest mirror of some kind, (b) simultaneously comfort and challenge, and (c) say “this is who we are, could be, used to be or need to be.” I’m sensing that the standouts will be Birdman, Interstellar, Wild, Into The Woods, either Unbroken or The Theory of Everything but not both, and at least one of the violent male-realm dramas — A Most Violent Year, Fury, American Sniper. I don’t know what to expect from Selma — I just hope it’s thorough and nervy. Gone Girl is aiming to be what it needs to be and that’s all. It won’t be Unbroken vs. Fury (Angie vs. Brad working with World War II tales and settings) as much as Unbroken vs. The Theory of Everything (i.e., the hero fires up, goes through hell, endures, transcends a bit). Wild will sink or swim based not on the difficulty of Reese Witherspoon‘s long solo hike, but the angle and the color of the people she runs into. That’s enough for now. I still say the best films I’ve seen this year are Leviathan and Wild Tales.

Wells vs. Leftovers, Fake Lindelof

Last night I tried to explain my sense of frustration about The Leftovers to a guy pretending to be Damon Lindelof, the co-creator of the HBO series. I wasn’t as articulate as I could have been because I posted my thoughts on Twitter rather than in an e-mail. But I made a few points that added up to something, I think. And then the fake Lindelof tried to blow me off or at least denigrate what I was trying to say by addressing me as “Ma’am.” He did so, he later said, because I reminded him of his aunt. But the conversation had merit nonetheless because I meant what I said.

I tried to say that it’s always seemed to me that there’s a huge empty hole in the middle of The Leftovers, and this is due to an absence of awe and wonder on the part of just about everyone in the series, both in front of and behind the camera.

A cosmic event of extraordinary significance has occured three years before the series begins, and in the wake of the disappearance of 2% of the world’s population, it seem as if everyone in The Leftovers is saying “Wow, we didn’t get chosen…that’s fucked up…this feels bad…I guess we’re all spirituallly deficient on some level…shit.” And yet no one is saying “Wow, the religious wackos were right all along! There is a God and a heaven and a scheme of some kind…what a mindblower! Bill Maher and Woody Allen and all the great existential philosophers were wrong all along, and…well, even if some of us don’t wind up in paradise, at least we know for the first time in the history of humanity that there really is a plan and a scheme and some kind of order to things. The term intelligent design is no longer a right-wing slogan. It’s obviously real and serious as a heart attack.” (more…)

“You Are Pretty…You’re So Fine”

It’s been alleged that this romantic cell-phone conversation may contain a recording of officer Darren Wilson shooting Michael Brown on August 9th in Ferguson. Eleven rounds — a burst of seven, a pause and then another shot, and then three more. One presumes that the guy firing the weapon, whoever it might be, is either missing a lot (Brown was hit six times) or he has some reason to believe that only one or two shots wasn’t accomplishing the objective. If this is in fact a recording of the Ferguson shooting, something had apparently persuaded Wilson to keep firing like crazy. That or he was just a panicking fool who had no self-control. Mr. Smoothie to object of affection: “You are pretty…you’re so fine…just goin’ over some of your viddies…how could I forget?”

Dancer In the Dark-Like Terror Doc

Debuting on HBO on 9.15, Dan Reed‘s Terror at the Mall is a one-hour doc about the Islamic terrorist attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall on 9.21.13. It appears to be half talking heads and half security-cam footage, which is apparently quite extensive. If there’s enough coverage and the cutting is skilled enough it could play like Lars von Trier‘s Dancer in the Dark, which used dozens upon dozens of fixed video cameras. The four-day Nairobi siege resulted in 67 deaths (including four bad guys) and over 175 people wounded. The Islamist group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility, etc. As I leave for Telluride early Thursday morning I’ll have to snag a screener of this tomorrow without fail. That or a private Vimeo link.

It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s…The Hair Club For Men!

In a 7.26 ComicCon story I noted that Henry Cavill, who plays Superman in Man of Steel and the currently-rolling Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, almost looked like Ernest Borgnine in Bad Day at Black Rock. And now I’ve noticed something else about Cavill in this just-posted ALS Ice-Water video [below] with Amy Adams. Something about his appearance has changed since he appeared in Man of Steel but what? I can’t quite put my finger on it. Seriously, the 31 year-old Cavill seems to be experiencing what Sean Connery began to go through when he was 31. Connery had some slight augmentation (scalp spray, etc.) during the filming of Dr. No and From Russia With Love. He wore his first serious rug in Goldfinger.


(l.) Henry Cavill in 2013′s Man of Steels; (r.) Cavill on set of currently-rolling Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

 
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Orange is The New Snub

Largely because last night’s Emmy Awards snubbed HBO’s highly deserving Normal Heart team as well as three formidable Netflix contenders (House of Cards, Derek, Orange Is The New Black), Hollywood Reporter awards analyst Scott Feinberg is persuaded that the “broken” Emmy voting system needs an overhaul. All Academy and Guild voting, of course, is afflicted with the same “deadwood” sentiments, and thus Feinberg and pallies had the feeling last night that the choices of winners indicates that the membership has been asleep at the wheel for the last two or three years.

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