Paris Has Gone To Bed

I say this every year, but no New Year’s Eve celebration of any kind will ever match what the kids and I saw in front of the Eiffel Tower when 1999 gave way to 2000. A bit dippy from champagne and standing about two city blocks in front of the Eiffel Tower and watching the greatest fireworks display in history. And then walking all the way back to Montmartre with thousands on the streets after the civil servants shut the Metro down at 1 a.m. No cabs anywhere. Here’s a non-embeddable video. Three videos of tonight’s 2014 Eiffel Tower action after the jump.

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Auld Lang Syne

Posted eight years ago: “I’d say ‘Happy New Year’ to everyone, but…all right, ‘Happy New Year.’ But I’ve always hated those words. Nothing’s ‘happy’ by way of hope. Happy is discovered, earned, lucked into. At best, people are content or…you know, joyously turned on for the moment or laughing or telling a funny story or a good joke. Placated, relaxed, enthused, generous of heart…but ‘happy’? Clams are happy. There’s only the hum. Either you hear it or you don’t.

Posted in 2010: “Nothing fills me with such spiritual satisfaction as my annual naysaying of this idiotic celebration of absolutely nothing.

“I love clinking glasses with cool people at cool parties as much as anyone else, but celebrating renewal by way of the hands of a clock and especially in the company of party animals making a big whoop-dee-doo has always felt like a huge humiliation.

“Only idiots believe in the idea of a of a midnight renewal. Renewal is a constant. Every minute marks the potential start of something beautiful and cleansing, and perhaps even transforming. So why hang back and celebrate a rite that denies this 24/7 theology, and in a kind of idiot-monkey way with party hats and noisemakers?

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Ongoing Idiot Wind

Yesterday Technology Tell’s Steven Silver posted a compelling retort to Christina McDowell‘s anti-Wolf of Wall Street essay (“An Open Letter to the Makers of The Wolf of Wall Street, and the Wolf Himself“) in a 12.26 L.A. Weekly post. “It’s pretty clear that McDowell hasn’t seen the film,” he writes. “If she had, she’d know that it does not ‘glorify’ the crimes of Belfort and Co. — not even close. The film treats its subjects as degenerate, criminal scum.” Well, not altogether. It treats them as degenerate criminal scum who partied like howling Caligulas — a slight difference. That’s the double-track strategy that Scorsese chose before shooting. No judging, you are there, no Cecil B. DeMille-like admonishing from on high. McDowell writes that in actuality “this kind of behavior brought America to its knees.” Silver replies — hello? — that this is “exactly the film’s point.”

Trying Again

If you’re one of those people who likes to sit in an idling car in a parking lot and do nothing, fine. Just don’t do it with your lights on. Is it really that hard to remember that idling in a crowded lot with your lights on (parking or front beams) suggests to other drivers that you might soon be leaving, and that this always results in someone deciding to all-but-block a parking lane by waiting for you to leave? Two explanations — (a) the person sitting in their idling car has forgotten his/her lights are on or (b) he/she doesn’t give a damn and is therefore a kind of parking-lot sociopath. I ran into one last night in the Gelson’s parking lot on Santa Monica Blvd. near Sweetzer. It was a woman in her 50s, gazing at her face in a small vanity mirror and applying some kind of makeup. Here are three related posts — “Public Enemies,” “Parking Lot Scolds,” “Special Corner of Hell.”

Dog Halitosis Cure

I know it’s not pleasant to inhale dog breath, but somehow dog-owners have coped with it for centuries. It’s barely something to think about. I’ve owned two golden retrievers and rolled around on the floor with dozens of other dogs, and I’ve never said to myself, “Oh, Jesus, here comes Fido and his stinky mouth”…not once! And yet the makers of Orapop are flush. They’re paying off their mortgages, taking trips to Barbados, getting face lifts in Brazil. Leonardo DiCaprio has said that the behavior in The Wolf of Wall Street is a metaphor for almost everything that’s wrong with this country (or words to that effect). I think that Orapup is a similar metaphor. If I met a hot girl at a party and she told me she uses Orapop on her dog, I would smile and politely excuse myself. (more…)

Bale Moses Exodus

This is the first “official” photo from Ridley Scott‘s Exodus (20th Century Fox, 12.12.14). I don’t know what ancient Egyptians looked like exactly, but I have an idea. Dark brown eyes, olive-shaded skin, a bit like Sal Mineo or Omar Sharif, etc. I doubt they had Anglo-Saxon features like Charlton Heston, Anne Baxter, Yul Brynner, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, John Derek, Vincent Price and others who had speaking roles in Cecil B. DeMille‘s The Ten Commandments. But somehow I’ve come to accept that Heston’s face wasn’t too far off the mark. He didn’t look “Egyptian” but the consensus at the time was that Heston’s jaw, forehead and cheekbones seemed to belong a bit more to the past than the present. But Christian Bale…it’s not fair to say this based on a single still, I realize, but he really doesn’t look Egyptian. His eyes are wrong. He has a CAA haircut.

DiCaprio To Idiots: Wolf Is “Serious” Moral Film

A 12.30 Kris Tapley/Hitfix story includes a significant quote from The Wolf of Wall Street star-producer Leonardo DiCaprio. Significant, that is, to the morons who feel that Wolf is revelling in amoral behavior for its own sake. Asked to comment about those “who see [the film] as more of an irresponsible glorification than a satirical takedown,” he told Hitfix that “anyone who thinks that missed the boat entirely. Anyone [who] thinks this is a celebration of Wall Street and this sort of hedonism…if anyone watches this movie, at the end of Wolf of Wall Street, they’re going to see that we’re not at all condoning this behavior.

“In fact,” DiCaprio goes on, “We’re saying that this is something that is in our very culture and it needs to be looked at and it needs to be talked about. What these characters represent in this film are ultimately everything that’s wrong with the world we live in. I’m going to be 40 years old, but I see this incessant need for consumerism and wanting more and wanting to give into every indulgence that is more rampant than ever. That shift doesn’t seem to be happening in the evolution of our species. It just seems to be getting larger and larger. So yeah, to me, look, this movie is incredibly entertaining. But what we’re talking about is, to me, a very serious subject. That’s the best way I can put it.”

Above-Average Tribute Reel

If I was told by someone in control that I have to pick five Coen Bros. fims that I’ll never be allowed to see again, I would choose (in this order) The Ladykillers, The Hudsucker Proxy, True Grit, Raising Arizona and The Man Who Wasn’t There. All the rest are essential works of genius. Their two most under-rated films? Intolerable Cruelty and Burn After Reading. Kudos to Nelson Carvajal (what the eff kind of name is that? Nelson CAR-vuh-hal?) for the editing of this Indiewire montage.

A Certain Influence

Leonardo DiCaprio‘s Wolf of Wall Street performance is the most award-worthy of his 21-year film career, hands down. Pogo-stick, crackling, blitzkreig. Chalk up another proud moment for the Academy when they deny him a nomination. Whenever anyone asks me what his best work is, I’ll always say Wolf but I’ll also mention his performance= as Jim Carroll in The Basketball Diaries (’95), which I’ve only seen once. And which is also animated by depictions of drug addiction. Here’s a small-time robbery scene he shares with Mark Wahlberg and…what’s his name, James Madio? This “ma, please let me in” scene is also classic. First-rate ’90s indie. Whatever happened to Scott Kalvert, the director?

No Pulse Other Than My Own

My JFK-to-LAX flight got in around 10 pm last night. It feels dead here. It’s not but it feels that way. The only things going on are (a) an opportunity tomorrow (12.31) to watch the 20 Feet From Stardom gals rehearse “The Star Spangled Banner” prior to their real-deal appearance at the Rose Bowl game on Wednesday, (b) a possible interview opportunity with Philomena star-cowriter Steve Coogan, and (c) the start of the Palm Springs Int’l Film Festival on Friday (1.3), which I’m planning to cover for two or three days. The 20 Feet girls are also performing at a Broadcast Film Critics Association celebration of Black Cinema at the House of Blues on Tuesday, 1.7. The Golden Globe award ceremony will happen on Sunday, 1.12. I leave three days later (Wednesday, 1.15) for the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Which means I’ll miss the BFCA Award ceremony on Thursday, 1.16. The 2013 Oscar nominations will be revealed that morning. No Best Picture nomination for The Wolf of Wall Street? Fine, Academy — enjoy your everlasting infamy.

Fair-Minded and Even-Tempered To A Fault

Almost eleven years ago I wrote a complaint piece about the “tedious” and “narcotizing” pronouncements of box-office analyst Paul Dergerabedian (formerly of Exhibitor Relations and Media By Numbers, currently with Rentrak). At the time Dergarabedian was the default quote guy among the big-time industry reporters (New York TimesRick Lyman, USA Today‘s Scott Bowles, AP’s Dave Germain) when they wrote their Monday morning box-office stories. I said that Dergarabedian’s “almost oppressively mundane” analysis was driving me insane.

I’m not saying that In Contention‘s Kris Tapley is the new Dergarabedian. His film reviews and award-season analysis pieces over the years have always been greater in scope and have cut much deeper than mere box-office analysis, and I respect his comment that “few [seem to] have really gotten into the formal elements of the film, lost in a fog of their own farts.” But I got a faint whiff of that old Dergarabedian blandness when I read his 12.29 Hitfix piece called “Wolf of Wall Street Dispute Reminds Us That Martin Scorsese Is No Stranger To Controversy.” (more…)

Kenny On “Thick” Wolf Scolds

“I suppose that in certain quarters, the only thing interesting about a movie, or the launching pad for anything interesting about a conversation or consideration about a movie, is how the moviemakers feel about their characters. Golly, the Coen brothers sure hate their characters, don’t they? But that David O. Russell, he LOVES his characters — characters who, like those in The Wolf of Wall Street, are criminals — but they’re NICE criminals, they’re passionate, they’re in love, they’re cuddly, and Jennifer Lawrence is AWESOME.

“Gosh, when did the critical class become so (a) filled with flowery feeling and (b), for lack of a better world, thick? [Luis] Bunuel wouldn’t do well with this crowd at all. “Hey…he’s…he’s…he’s making FUN of us!” — from Glenn Kenny‘s 12.26 Some Came Running piece about the whys, wherefores and rationales of the ensconced opponents of Martin Scorsese‘s masterpiece.

Pick Up The Phone and Dial

After reading last night’s rave tweet about The Wolf of Wall Street, I asked LexG to write a full-out review. His response: “I don’t think you’d wanna hear my take [as] I loved it mostly for the expected/probable ‘wrong reasons’. If I can whip something up in the next day or two I’ll e-mail it, but I can’t promise. I just KNOW it’s gonna lead to commenters pissed at you for giving me a forum and the expected nobodies ragging on me endlessly about what a loser I am, which always makes me feel doubly shitty. In a weird way WoWS is one of those movies I loved SO MUCH [and] am so excited about that I LOATHE even arguing about it with people, and thus the inevitable 23 brusque comments from Dulouz Gray about how much it sucks and how stupid we are is only gonna cheapen the movie for me by engaging [in] that kinda thing. We’ll see.”

Penguins or Sheep?


I was half-amazed to find a line of maybe 75 or 80 tourists in a cab line outside Penn Station yesterday. Because there were absolutely NO CABS lined up to take anyone anywhere. I tried a little counselling with a woman who was about 50th in line. “You don’t have to do this,” I told her. “Just walk two or three blocks south. You’ll get a cab much sooner.” She shrugged and said, “Too many bags.” Translation: “I’m too intimidated to walk alone on the streets of New York with luggage. I’d rather suffer here with the other tourists. Feels safer.”

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Academy Ballot Checklist

If I were an Academy member and filling out my nomination ballot this weekend, as I presume hundreds are right now, I would go with The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years A Slave, Inside Llewyn Davis, Her, Dallas Buyer’s Club, American Hustle, Gravity, Nebraska, Captain Phillips and Before Midnight in my top Best Picture slots, in that order.

I hope it’s understood that any rationale or pretense for even half-respecting the Academy’s tastes will be null and void if voters don’t at least nominate Wolf for Best Picture. I know it can’t and won’t win, but Academy members will look like absolute fools (to history if not to the present-tense community) if they ignore it altogether. It’s the only world-class nitroglycerine movie out there, not to mention the only one that’s saying anything important in an immediate social-calamity sense.

WoWS is not about the big Wall Street players and the schemes that all but levelled the U.S. economy in 2008, but it’s certainly about American morals and values as they presently exist among the under-40 go-getters, and about a manifestation of the biggest social cancer afflicting this country today — the concentration of 1% wealth and general income inequality.

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Semi-Apology

I was beaten up pretty badly on Twitter yesterday, but mainly because a lot of people out there assume that anyone using the term “ape” is throwing a racial slur. I never even glanced at that allusion. I’m so far away from that pathetic mindset that it doesn’t exist in my head, although I recognize it’s a sore point with others. So I guess I’m apologizing but on some level it almost feels chickenshit to do so. The allusion in question is so Jim Crow, so foul, so Duck Dynasty — why even acknowledge it? Why live in the primordial past by admitting that the association means something or matters to anyone with a brain?

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