Compassion For Aloha?

A.O. Scott‘s Aloha review in the N.Y. Times is one of the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful assessments of an allegedly Godforsaken film that I’ve ever read in my life. Yes, I stole most of that line from John Frankenheimer‘s The Manchurian Candidate but that’s beside the point. I’m wondering if the second wave of reactions to Cameron Crowe‘s film is going to be about pity, kindness, easing up, cutting the poor guy a break, sensible laments, etc. Now that the West Coast viewers are starting to attend early afternoon shows and East Coasters are three hours into the cycle, I’m asking HE readers if any soft pans can honestly be written or has Crowe’s rope just run out? I don’t mean to sound treacly or sentimental but I used to be one of Crowe’s journalist pallies and don’t want him to see go into a fetal-tuck position. This is a guy who once held mountains in the palm of his hand.

Paul Verhoeven Is Watching

I’m sorry to think this way but if the MIT cheetah robot’s motor and balancing skills are sophisticated enough to leap hurdles (and without padded robot feet!), how far away, technologically speaking, could a smart Robocop robot be? Five or ten years? Less? Not that any responsible would want to build one, given the scary ramifications instilled by the films, but still…

Eisenberg’s Pain

Every actor who’s starred in a memorable, top-notch, award-worthy film soon realizes that the vast majority of films he/she will be offered in the wake of this landmark achievement will not be on the same level, or even close to it. And that must hurt. I’m betting, in fact, that once this realization has truly sunk in a wave of depression quickly follows. This is reality, Greg. Then they grim up and think positively: “Okay, most films are just okay or not bad and yes, some are crap, but I’m making good money and enjoying my off-screen life and I just have to hang in there and hope that I’ll be cast in something as good as The Social Network sometime within the next five or ten years…hopefully. Who knows?” Here’s a paragraph from a 15 year-old interview with Tony Curtis I did at a Beverly Glen delicatessen:  “At one point I handed Curtis a list of his 120 films and asked him to check those he’s genuinely proud of. He checked a total of 18. He didn’t check The Vikings. He didn’t check The Outsider. He checked Houdini. Every film he made after Spartacus in 1960 up until 1968’s The Boston Strangler, he didn’t check. He checked his role as a pair of mafiosos — Louis ‘Lepke’ Buchalter in 1975’s Lepke and Sam Giancana in the 1986 TV movie Mafia Princess.”

Anyone Sampled San Andreas 4DX?

I realize there’s only one theatre in Los Angeles showing San Andreas with the 4DX experience (i.e., inside Regal’s L.A. Live plex), and that New York and other cities don’t have a 4DX option at all, but if anyone’s seen San Andreas this way please share. As I mentioned two days ago 4DX “was a big reason why I surrendered to San Andreas, which I saw on an IMAX-sized screen at Prague’s Cinema City Novy Smíchov. 4DX isn’t just about seats that shake and tilt and vibrate in synch with the action (which is what the D-BOX experience more or less delivers) but facial air jets, misty water sprays, leg ticklers, back pokers, fog simulators, scents and warm air. You don’t have to be too thick to understand the transcendent joys of real cinema — you just have to relax and embrace the dumb and go with it. And it’s cool — the perfect physical compliment to watching submental destruction unfold for the better part of two hours.”

Fast Car

Some kind of commercial was being filmed late yesterday afternoon inside Prague’s central train station. They were using a beautiful Tatra 77, built in the mid 30s, as a prop. From Wiki page: “The Tatra 77 was an automobile manufactured by the upper class Czechoslovakian automaker Tatra between the two series. T-77 is the first mass-produced car with an aerodynamic body. In four years, a total of 255 models were manufactured. Its successor, built in 1936, was called the Tatra 87.”


Even By Standards of Silent-Film Era, The Lodger Had Problems

Last night I saw Alfred Hitchcock‘s The Lodger (’27), a vaguely kinky, London-based parlor drama about the terror caused by a Jack The Ripper-type killer, called “The Avenger,” who mysteriously murders attractive blondes on Tuesday evenings. (We’re not told if he’s a stabber or a strangler — maybe he just eyeballs his victims and they drop dead on the spot?) Suspicions quickly surface that a recent arrival at a London boarding house — a tall, good-looking but oddly behaving fellow (Ivor Novello) — may be the killer. Hitch encourages you to weigh this possibility for a good 75% of the film until revealing that Novello is just a queer duck who’s looking to find the man who killed his sister. Novello’s innocence is first hinted at when Daisy (June Tripp), the daughter of the boarding-house owners as well as a model, begins to feel affection and attraction for him, which understandably infuriates her much-older detective boyfriend (played by Malcolm Keen, who was nudging 40 during filming but looked closer to 45 if not 50) and adds to…well, the uncertainty factor, I suppose.

The Lodger was the first Hitchcock film about an innocent man wrongly accused of a crime. It was also Hitch’s first commercial success (it pretty much launched his career) and was also the first film in which he performed a walk-on. (He’s seen from the rear during a scene in which the presses of a major newspaper are printing news of The Avenger’s latest killing.) But this is a rather stiff and primitive little film — more “interesting” than good. Portions are nicely framed and focused, and yes, Hitchcock manages to implant a notion that for certain wackos there’s a kind of erotic charge that accompanies the murder of pretty girls. But he was only 27 during filming with only two or three previous films under his belt, and he just didn’t have enough knowledge or polish at this stage in his life. Not enough, certainly, to satisfy a guy like me watching The Lodger 88 years hence. (more…)

Same Old Mumblecore-ish Slurrings, Mutterings, Whisperings

A clip from Marc MeyersHow He Fell In Love, a mumblecore infidelity drama that will screen at the Los Angeles Film Festival (6.10 thru 6.18), surfaced yesterday on Deadline. Pic is about a 20something downhead musician (Matt McGorry) falling into an affair with a married yoga teacher in her 40s (Amy Hargreaves). After watching this scene three times on headphones I began to understand parts of it. The sound technician was presumably following standard mumblecore protocol by making the dialogue sound murky and muffled — a word here, a phrase there. Hargreaves says something about “pent-up energy” and the fact that her marriage is child-less, and then she says, “Sissahduhnya sleeping with two men at the same time.” (The line actually reads “It’s not like I can be sleeping with two men at the same time.”) And then she says, “Does that make you happy?” (What kind of a dumb-ass line is that? Their affair has only just begun and therefore still hormonally flush, so why would McGorry be “happy” when she tells him she can’t go stereo?) In any event McGorry ups the mumblecore ante by replying “Huhhrburruhrrnn.” His actual line: “I can’t be jealous of your husband.” I don’t want to get bogged down in describing my hate flashes toward movies that make me struggle to hear their dialogue, but my feelings along these lines are very strong. Offer optional subtitles for streaming and Bluray and the problem goes away. Their call.

Crack in Dam, Water Flooding Valley, Crops Ruined, Farmers and Cows Dead In Mud

I know what it’s like to be dead. I know what it is to be sad. ‘Cause you’re making me feel like I’ve never been born…

Newsday‘s Rafer Guzman: “Imagine a candlelit dinner prepared by a top chef and served on the sands of a sparkling beach. Now imagine that the dinner has been boiling on the stove for something like two years and you’ve got Aloha, [which has] been overcooked into an unidentifiable, inedible mush. Aloha is one of those films whose characters behave and speak so irrationally that they no longer make any human sense at all.”

Variety‘s Andrew Barker: “Unbalanced, unwieldy and at times nearly unintelligible, Aloha is unquestionably Cameron Crowe’s worst film. Paced like a record on the wrong speed, or a Nancy Meyers movie recut by an over-caffeinated Jean-Luc Godard, the film bears all the telltale signs of a poorly executed salvage operation disfigured in the editing bay.”

Seattle TimesMoira McDonald: “Well-meaning but nearly unwatchable. Where’d you go, Cameron Crowe?”

The Hollywood Reporter‘s Shari Linden: “With the screenplay’s strained whimsy and pathos, not to mention its unpersuasive, at times incoherent musings on the politics of space exploration, Crowe squanders the star power at hand. As with another major miss by the writer-director, 2005’s Elizabethtown, the new film has the awkward feel of a repository for everything but the kitchen sink. The chemistry is mostly forced, the story without an emotional core. And though Crowe’s facility for language can be striking, here it never moves beyond self-consciousness.” (more…)

Click here to jump past the Oscar Balloon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trumbo (Bleecker Street) -- Jay Roach (director), Michael London (producer), John McNamara (screenwriter). Cast: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning, Louis C.K., Helen Mirren, John Goodman.

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

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

2015 Quality-Grade Commercial / alphabetical order (9):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Prague is downshifty enough to leave room for something I probably wouldn’t get around to in Los Angeles — a screening of Alfred Hitchcock‘s The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (’27) with live musical accompaniment. I’ve seen nearly all of the worthwhile Hitchcock films, but not this one. Tonight at 7 pm, or three hours hence.

Kate, a 20 year-old English-speaking waitress who works at Restaurace U Bile Kravy, an excellent little steak joint not far from Wenceslas Square.


The Whiteness, or Why The Old “Birds of a Feather” Rationale Doesn’t Cut It Any More and Why Mixed-Culture Characters Are Better Than European Anglo-Germanic Types

Reviews of Cameron Crowe‘s Aloha (Sony, 5.29) will finally pop later today. One presumes that reactions will be mostly non-adoring (here’s a review by The Stranger‘s Erik Henriksen). And yet a seasoned, been-around guy who attended Tuesday night’s all-media says that (a) it’s actually a fairly pleasing film and (b) his wife called it the most engaging she’s seen this year. (This will almost certainly turn out to be a minority view.) I won’t see Aloha until I return to the States on Monday…well, actually Tuesday as I’ll be catching a 7 pm Manhattan all-media of Entourage on 6.1.

In any event I’ve been thinking about the beefs against Crowe’s film by the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, which are basically that the Hawaii-based film ignores the multicultural nature of society in general (i.e., not just Hawaiian) by telling a story that is pretty much entirely about white people — Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, John Krasinski, Danny McBride, Bill Murray, Alec Baldwin.

“Caucasians only make up 30% of the population of Hawaii, but from watching this film, you’d think they made up 99%,” a MANAA press release reads. “This comes in a long line of films — The Descendants, 50 First Dates, Blue Crush, Pearl Harbor — that uses Hawaii for its exotic backdrop but goes out of its way to exclude the very people who live there. It’s an insult to the diverse culture and fabric of Hawaii.”

MANAA is mostly right. Nativism and multiculturalism are the reigning theologies today, and anyone making a film about a group of white people in a region or country in which the vast majority are non-white risks seeming a bit jaded, and certainly out of step with the times. On the other hand it should be allowable for Crowe, a white guy who grew up in Wonderbread San Diego in the ’50s and ’60s, to make a movie about a social realm in which he used to live in, and in which he probably to some extent still lives in in his head. (more…)

“B-Movie Gold”?

From Peter Debruge’s 1.31.15 Sundance review: “Maybe it wasn’t such a great idea for Kevin Bacon’s corrupt small-town sheriff to leave the keys inside his unlocked patrol car. And maybe he should have thought twice before tossing his gunbelt in the backseat and stuffing a beaten-and-bound criminal in the trunk. But all those bad decisions make for B-movie gold in Jon WattsCop Car (Focus World, 8.7), a tight, easily marketable genre exercise that pushes its lean premise and all-around disrespect for authority to entertaining extremes, taking wicked delight in imagining what might happen if two 10-year-olds were to stumble upon an abandoned police cruiser and take it for a joyride.


Busy Corner in Los Feliz

The Aero is still my all-time favorite Los Angeles theatre — excellent repertory selections, first-rate digital projection. Closely followed by the Egyptian. But I won’t see 35mm shows at either venue for the simple reason that with very few exceptions, 35mm projection almost always guarantees a degraded experience. But the Vista, a first-run vintage theatre hanging by its nails, is probably the best place to watch a film in an old-timey atmosphere. (I’m not counting the downtown LA venues that occasionally host special-event screenings.) Digital plus 35mm, beautiful marquee, haunting pre-war decor, great-tasting popcorn, good enough seats. Cinefamily is my fourth favorite venue, especially if I’m able to sit in those cushy armchair-like seats near the front. For whatever reason I almost never think about going to the Nuart these days. And way, way, way down at the bottom of the list is Quentin Tarantino‘s New Beverly Cinema, which only shows 35mm and is therefore committed to perpetuating a kind of ’70s nostalgia time-machine atmosphere. If I never see another 35mm film it’ll be too soon. And I’m speaking as a former projectionist. And yet there’s something oddly alluring about seeing Fritz Lang‘s The Big Heat there on Wednesday or Thursday, 6.3 or 6.4. I know it won’t look or sound as good as the Bluray, but just once I want to see The Big Heat in a theatre.


Talk It All Through

In a 1.24.15 review from the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, N.Y. Post critic Kyle Smith called James Ponsoldt‘s The End of the Tour (A24, 7.31) “by far the most moving and profound odd-couple buddy movie [to play here], with a funny, lightly intellectual script by Pulitzer Prize winning dramatist Donald Margulies that should merit heavy awards consideration. Falling halfway between Almost Famous and My Dinner with Andre, this love song to the art of conversation is about a Rolling Stone journalist, David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) who is infatuated with the postmodernist novelist David Foster Wallace’s gargantuan novel ‘Infinite Jest’ and begs for the opportunity to profile the author, who’s about to leave his snowbound rural home in Illinois for a five-day book tour to Minneapolis.” I tried to fit this film into my Sundance schedule but stuff got in the way. It wasn’t for lack of trying. Okay, maybe I didn’t try hard enough on some level. Maybe I don’t relate all that well to guys who who have trouble controlling their appetites or who live in Illinois or who off themselves. But I wanted to see it. Want to, I mean.

When All Else Fails

Consequence of Sound’s Michael Roffman, filed on 3.16.15: “Not since Anton Corbijn’s Control, his excellent 2007 retelling of the life and death of Ian Curtis and Joy Division, has a biopic felt so authentic and conditional of its own subject. Screenwriters Oren Moverman and Michael Alan Lerner lean heavily on a number of must-read bookmarks in Brian Wilson’s career, but [director Bill] Pohlad adds a surreal touch, capturing the ’60s druggy landscapes and Wilson’s manic inner voices with dreamy perspectives Love & Mercy leaves the darkest hours of Wilson’s life — his weight gain, his drug abuse, and his rigorous early therapy sessions alongside Eugene Landy — for the imagination or extra-curricular studies. The film has enough struggles to resolve, specifically how Wilson’s love for music nearly crushed him, and how love eventually saved him. The way Pohlad orchestrates this strange dichotomy on-screen is about as beautiful and heartwarming as any of The Beach Boys’ best material. And when your favorite songs bubble up or weave through Atticus Ross’s unique score, the marriage of sound and screen will win your tears, your smiles and your soul. To paraphrase Wilson, that’s what you need tonight.”

Uncle Bernie By A Country Mile

I’ll grudgingly vote for Hillary Clinton in the end, but I don’t like her that much. She’s okay in a corporately liberal, center-right sort of way, and like everyone else I love the idea of a woman succeeding Barack Obama. But I really love who Bernie Sanders is — a man of balls and integrity and blunt truths. I would honestly prefer that he become the next President, or someone like him. But he’s the guy — he’s it. He won’t beat Hillary in the primaries, of course, but for the time being and the foreseeable future I’m a total Bernie guy, and that means donating and wearing a Bernie for President T-shirt and all the rest of it. But I wish they would make European-style Bernie T-shirts like they do for women. I won’t wear a coarse, inelegant, low-thread-count T-shirt for any reason, Bernie Sanders included.

Cynical Surrender to San Andreas

Brad Peyton’s San Andreas (Warner Bros., 5.29) is exactly what the trailers have been selling — a serving of stupidly entertaining, over-the-top disaster porn that flirts with absurdity. Yes, everyone plays it totally straight and the script hits the usual predictable beats as the all-but-total destruction of Los Angeles, San Francisco and much of California is reduced to a story of six or seven people who show what they’re made of when push comes to shove. But it’s the very sincerity in which Peyton and his cast and FX team embrace this mudslide of cliches that makes it screamingly funny. Not “wow, these guys are really hilarious” funny but “wow, these guys will stop at nothing…they’ll push any button they can think of.” You just have to laugh or at least chortle.

After it’s all over at the very end we’re shown small groups of survivors holding hands and praying together along with a fence display of paper-mounted photos of possible survivors with messages asking if anyone has seen this or that person. We’re also shown a huge American flag being unfurled from the remnants of the Golden Gate Bridge. “You contemptible whores,” I muttered to myself. “You’re using memories and echoes of 9/11 to augment your finale, which you’re totally ‘sincere’ about. Serious balls, gentlemen…hats off.”

This is an appalling, never-boring, kill-the-world action film — a movie that goes beyond what any reasonable person would call a bogus, full-of-shit dramatic strategy to embrace something crazier and more meta. I’m not sure how to describe it except to say that San Andreas makes Irwin Allen‘s The Towering Inferno look like Elia Kazan‘s On The Waterfront. (If you’re fair about it you’ll acknowledge that Inferno was at least semi-realistic in its use of practical fire-fighting realities.) It’s not so much a “we will rock you” experience as one that says — boasts! — “we are the owners of this bullshit and we will fucking amaze you with our shamelessness.” And I submitted. I had to. I just shook my head and sat back in my 4DX chair and muttered, “Whatever, guys…go to town.” (more…)

The Men Must Not Know What I Know

You can stream Jerzy Skolimowski‘s Moonlighting (’82) but every now and then a Bluray comes along that you just want to own. Because on some level owning this or that title will make me feel good and affirmed. And because I want to re-experience the mesmerizing big-screen impact when this great allegorical film played during the 1982 New York Film Festival. I have it in my head that this British Bluray will somehow deliver a better facsimile than ever before. I love that moment when Jeremy Irons is lying on his bed and staring at a photo of his girlfriend (Jenny Seagrove) and suddenly she seems to come alive within the frame, very slightly and somewhat erotically. I’ve been remarking for years that the world is divided into two camps — those who hear Moonlighting and think of Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepard and those who think of Irons and Skolimowski and that ending with those shopping carts crashing into the wall.

Stranded, Despondent, Done For

Ridley Scott‘s The Martian (20th Century Fox, 11.25) is about Matt Damon somehow figuring out ways to survive on Mars for months on end despite being stranded with meager supplies of water and food. The film has a healthy roster of costars — Kate Mara, Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels — so it’s not some man-alone thing like Castaway or 127 Hours, but even if Damon’s ingenuity allows him to survive (and I’m presuming it will) I just don’t believe the U.S. government would spend God knows how many hundreds of millions (billions?) to send a rescue mission to save him. I think the powers-that-be would say, “We’re very sorry but every now and then you have to face reality and stand down and let nature take its course.” The film is based on Andy Weir’s book, which I’m not going to read as preparation.