Thin, All-Conquering Elvis vs. Fat, Almost-Dead Elvis

TheWrap‘s Jeff Sneider reported earlier today that Baz Luhrmann is negotiating to direct an Elvis Presley biopic based on a script by Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr. Banks, Fifty Shades of Grey). Yes, I agree that Jared Leto would be a good choice to play Presley…or is he be too old to play him young? Because I’m guessing that Marcel’s script will be about the thin, 20something Elvis of the mid ’50s rather than the bloated, grotesque, drug-taking, peanut-butter-and-banana-sandwich-consuming, on-the-verge-of-death Elvis of the mid ’70s. (Banks showed that Marcel is not a fan of sprawling, multi-decade biopics.) If I were her I’d concentrate on ’54 (i.e, when Presley made his first Sun Records recording) to ’58, when he went into the Army and more or less “died” (in the view of John Lennon) as far as his sideburned, hip-shaking, rock ‘n’ roll sexual-dynamo persona was concerned. Who wants to see a fat Elvis movie? What is there to say about another rock star self-destructing? It’s an old, predictable story we’ve seen a hundred times.

(l.) Elvis Presley sometime around 1957 or ’58; (r.) during his bloated downfall period, probably sometimes around ’75 or ’76.


Old Buzzard Gets His

I understand the motive for the National Basketball Association banning L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling for his ugly racial remarks. Just desserts. The guy is a known asshole, according to this 4.27 N.Y. Times story. But how do you order a guy to cough up $2.5 million because TMZ posted an initially private audio recording and exposed him for the creep that he is? How did the NBA decide upon $2.5 million as a fine limit? Why not $10 million? Why not $500,000? We all understand that if you blunder in public, you have to take your punishment. Dicks deserve to be treated like dicks. I recognize also that getting outed (i.e., assasssinated) by TMZ or some other gossip site is par for the course these days, but Sterling was talking privately. That means nothing by today’s standards, I realize, but perhaps it should. I’m not taking Sterling’s Jim Crow attitudes lightly, but he’s almost certainly representative of God knows how many old rich white guys who have lived in their own private membranes for most of their lives. They’re never going to change or re-think things. They’re just going to die one day and that will eventually be that. Update: Sterling has just declared during a Fox News interview that he’s not selling the Clippers and that the NBA can go stuff it.

Tough Bloke With Gentle Heart

The great Bob Hoskins has died from pneumonia at 71, two years after retiring from acting due to Parkinson’s disease. Hoskins’ 40-year career (his first role was in ’72) was blessed with a ten-year hot streak (1978 to 1988) that boiled down, if you want to be ruthless about it, to four landmark performances. His breakout role was the luckless Arthur Parker in Dennis Potter and Piers Haggard‘s British-produced Pennies From Heaven miniseries (six episodes). This, for me, was Hoskins’ “okay, wait a minute, who’s this guy?” role. Then came Harold Shand, an old-school East London gangster, in John Mackenzie‘s The Long Good Friday (’80) — one of the best blustery tough guys of the crime realm. And then his all-time finest performance as George, the downmarket lovestruck chauffeur in Neil Jordan‘s Mona Lisa (’86) — a performance that Hoskins should have won the Best Actor Oscar for (he lost to The Color of Money‘s Paul Newman) but which resulted in Golden Globe, BAFTA and Cannes Film Festival honors. His fourth and final great role was as feisty L.A. private dick Eddie Valiant in Robert ZemeckisWho Framed Roger Rabbit? (’88) — his most famous performance and a necessarily broad and hammy one, but nowhere near the level of his Mona Lisa turn. His other performances were…well, okay. Hoskins was a solid, dependable craftsman. Thank God, fortune and serendipity for that brilliant ’80s run and for all the paychecks that followed. Condolences to family, friends and fans. 71 is a little early to check out.

Steve Martin With Dark Hair

I saw Carl Reiner‘s Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid at an all-media screening in Manhattan 32 years ago, and for whatever reason I’ve never re-watched it since. I liked it then and this clip assembly reminds me it was moderately funny. The dialogue, I mean. I guess I never cared to re-visit because it’s fundamentally thin. A nostalgia piece. No palpable undercurrent of its own. An Italian Bluray has been available since early this month. There’s also an HDX version on Vudu.

Split Decision

A romantic comedy called In Your Eyes, written by Joss Whedon and starring Zoe Kazan and Michael Stahl-David, is currently rentable for a meager five bills on Vimeo. A Rotten Tomatoes rating of 64% isn’t unheard of, but it’s a little unusual. If a movie has problems it usually earns a rating in the 40something range or lower. 64% means “maybe give it a tumble…maybe.” It certainly doesn’t signify outright dismissal. It can also mean, obviously, a degree of approval. From A.V. Club‘s Jesse Hassenger: “At its frequent best, In Your Eyes provides a potent metaphor for a life-changing relationship, cleverly literalizing the way a new romantic connection can feel like a voice in your head that you never want to stop hearing.”


How It’s Done

I’ve finally seen last weekend’s debut episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and yes, I agree with A.V. Club’s Erik Adams — “It’s not The Daily Show With John Oliver, despite the fact that the bulk of its premiere episode features Oliver dissecting the news and the news media from behind a stylish anchor’s desk. [And] It’s not Oliver’s answer to The Colbert Report, because even though he’s the primary face and voice of the program, he’s not playing a character.” My liking of the show is all about this interview with retired General and former National Security Agency director Keith B. Alexander. This is how you get down to things.

Godzilla Problem Solved

In yesterday’s “Hide Godzilla Ball” piece, I mentioned a decision by Warner Bros. domestic publicity to not screen Gareth Edwards’ film (5.16) for all-media schlubs like myself until Wednesday, 5.14, or four days after my arrival in France, and how this would force me to see it at a commercial cinema in Cannes on 5.14 (i.e., the day it opens in France), even though that would mean taking time off from the opening day of the Cannes Film Festival. Well, guess what? Godzilla is having a public-access premiere in Paris a week from Saturday, and I’ve got a ticket. It’s happening at Le Grand Rex (1 Boulevard Poissonniere, 75002 Paris, France) on the evening of Saturday, May 10th. I’ll arrive in Paris that morning so I’ll have plenty of time to rest and get ready. As far as I can see I’ll be free to review as this is not a private screening. All bets are off once you start selling tickets to the public. Perfect.


Comparing Three Things

Flannel-shirt-wearing beardo sci-fi geeks are much more admiring of John Carpenter‘s The Thing (’82) than they are of Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.‘s 2011 version with Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton and Ulrich Thomsen. They don’t even want to discuss the 1951 Howard Hawks-Christian Nyby version even though it’s the smartest and best-written version of the three. (Not to mention the most engagingly performed as well as the Thing flick that provides the most metaphorically reflective portrait of the culture from which it emerged.) But consider these two endings and tell me — honestly, no evasions — which one has the pizazz?

Motley Stars Wars Crew

J.J. AbramsStar Wars, Episode VII cast was officially announced this morning, and the two biggest guys are Llewyn Davis and Lena Dunham‘s half-psycho actor boyfriend? I don’t know, man. I was hoping for a bigger name or two…something. I wanted the 21st Century Steve McQueen to play a major role…but who would that be? Attack The Block‘s John Boyega (where’s he been for the last three years?), the completely unknown Daisy Ridley (Mrs. Selfridge), the half-psychotic Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac (i.e., Llewyn), Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson and Max von Sydow. I read a rumor about Harrison Ford expected to play much more than a cameo as Han Solo. Profoundly dreaded cameos by Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Kenny Baker are also locked in.


Grotesque New World

In 1950 the world population was 2,525,778,669, give or take. By 1964 it had risen by nearly a billion to 3,263,738,832. Today’s approximate tally is 7,243,784,121 — close to triple the 1950 figure. By 2075 the globe will be struggling to sustain 10.5 billion souls. The needs of today’s population are obviously bruising and polluting the planet as is. Life is going to be much more of a 1% vs. 99% equation — 1% will live well or semi-decently and everyone else will be doing without and/or struggling to varying degrees. Blade Runner and then some. The downmarket cultural trends of the last couple of decades (lower and lower education levels, shallower and shallower entertainments) will almost certainly worsen. Right now only a small percentage have any kind of developed or semi-enlightened aesthetic appetites and appreciations. I don’t want to think about the cultural climate that will probably exist 50 or 60 years from now. No more “movies” as most of us know them (i.e., no more dramas or story construction…mostly jizz-whizz interactive crap for the masses). A world full of empty distractions and gross Timur Bekmambetov types and Multicultural Party Animals. Good God.

57-Minute Cut of Sorcerer

About 13 hours ago (i.e., roughly 6:30 pm Pacific on Monday, 4.28) Michael Nusair ventured into Steven Soderbergh territory and posted a whacked-down version of William Friedkin‘s Sorcerer. The original theatrical cut, contained in the recently released Warner Home Video Bluray, runs 121 minutes. Musair’s ADD version runs 57 minutes, a reduction of nearly 60%.

I don’t think the ’77 version is fatty or draggy at all. If you cut the “fat” out of any film you remove the connective tissue (atmosphere, downtime, minutiae) that made it a flavorful, semi-organic experience in the first place. The fat is an essential ingredient in the overall — this is what the ADD generation can’t seem to get. At least Nusair’s cut will fan interest in the real thing. (more…)

Tony Noms Favor All The Way, Under-Favor Bridges

I’ll be seeing All The Way, the LBJ play with Bryan Cranston, and the acclaimed but under-attended Bridges of Madison County during my week-long stay in Manhattan (5.2 through 5.9). All The Way has now been Tony-nominated for Best Play along with Cranston for Best Actor, but poor Bridges, which has been struggling with ticket sales, didn’t snag a Best Musical nomination…shocker. It was nominated for Best Score (music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown) and Best Actress in a Musical (Kelli O’Hara). Here’s hoping it survives, at least until I attend next week.

What else should I see? I can only afford what I can afford, but I’m open on Friday night (5.2). A friend recommends Lady Day at the Emerson Bar and Grill with Audra McDonald or Hedwig and the Angry Inch or Beautiful, the Carole King musical.

Don’t You Believe It

I suspect that if CBS had offered David Letterman‘s slot to Craig Ferguson, he wouldn’t be talking about leaving. You can say “oh, no…he’s not pissed” and “he’s definitely not quitting out of pride” but I’m not buying. The Letterman slot opened up, Feruguson must have wanted it, he didn’t get it and so “eff this pop stand.” It’s one thing to be the 12:30 am guy after Letterman but after Stephen Colbert? I don’t blame him for a second.

Comments a friend: “Ferguson had it written into his contract that if he wasn’t offered the Letterman show, CBS would pay him a one-time $10 million dollar fee. I think he must have received it in his bank account today, took one look at it, and said, ‘Done by December!'”

Life Is Short (i.e., Everyone Croaks)

How do you watch Josh Boone‘s The Fault Is In Our Stars or read John Green‘s novel of the same name without wondering which character will die first? What else is there to do when your story is about young kids with cancer (Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort)? You know at least one will be gone by the end of Act Three. If this didn’t happen audiences would feel jerked around. Yeah, I know — nobody’s assured of a long life. Distributed by Temple Hill, Fault opens on 6.6.

Hide Godzilla Ball

I was informed today that Warner Bros. won’t be screening Godzilla for me and other critics and columnists on my level until the evening of Wednesday, 5.14, or two days before it opens in the States, at which point I’ll be in Cannes. WB publicity knows, of course, that a fair-sized portion (a majority?) of the critic-and-columnist fraternity will be in Cannes from 5.13 through 5.25 so almost nobody will be around for the 5.14 showings. WB obviously wants the Twitter buzz on a low flame until the last possible minute. They’ll be screening Godzilla this week to ultra-elite editors and electronic media types (the first two Manhattan showings are on Thursday, 5.1, and Friday, 5.2), and I’m sure subsequent screenings on both coasts will follow next week. Guys like me will just have to cool our jets. As Godzilla opens commercially in France on Wednesday, 5.14, my best option is to pay to see the first show at a commercial cinema in Cannes and then file right away. Doing so will conflict with the first day of Cannes Film Festival screenings but I guess I can manage.

Apes of Benedict Canyon

I’ve been driving up and down Benedict Canyon a lot lately, and I don’t mind saying it’s a wee bit creepy glancing at a big gorilla statue with glowing red eyes every time I drive by 1280 Benedict Canyon Drive, which is just beyond the Beverly Hills city line. The gorilla is a few inches from the curb and right next to the driveway. There’s also a chimpanzee sculpture on the other side of the driveway and a King Kong-sized gorilla sitting on a hill just inside the gate. What is a home owner saying by having three apes “guard” his property? He’s saying he’s eccentric, has a bit of an ego, isn’t a timid businessman, somebody with a machismo complex, looking for attention. A seemingly reliable source ( says the owner is Urban S. Hirsch III, the founder of Ink Systems, Inc. I suppose that life-sized ape sculptures are cool in and of themselves, but it’s just…I don’t know, a little weird to see these big apes as you’re driving by. Then again it’s no biggie. I can roll with it.


Rightwing Christian Nightmare?

Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta‘s The Leftovers (HBO, 6.29) is basically about a rapture-like event in which 2% of the world’s population (roughly 143,000,000 souls) suddenly vaporizes. Or “ascends,” if you’re a believer. Based on Perotta’s 2011 novel, it would appear to be a close relation of Michael Tolkin‘s The Rapture (’91), hands down the most horrific film about born-again Christians ever made. The pilot was directed by Peter Berg. The lead costars are Justin Theroux (what’s be been doing besides lying around with Jennifer Aniston?), Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston, Liv Tyler and Ann Dowd.

A half-hour ago the U.S. population was 317,947,517 — 2% suddenly disappearing would mean an out-of-the-blue absence of 6,358,950 people. The world population is 7,162,622,670 so a 2% reduction would be roughly 143,000,000. Honestly? There are too many on the globe as it is so a 2% reduction isn’t such a bad thing. How about 10% of the population ascending to Heaven? How about 20%? The more the merrier. As long as I don’t get picked, I mean. (more…)

Campion’s Cannes Jurors

The 2014 Cannes Film Festival jury members were announced earlier today — Carole Bouquet, Iranian actress Leila Hatami, Willem Dafoe, Gael Garcia Bernal, Nicholas Winding-Refn, director Sofia Coppola, South Korean actress Jeon Do-yeon and Chinese director Jia Zhangke plus previously announced Jury boss Jane Campion. Is it unfair to suspect that the women will probably vote as a bloc, favoring films that engage with the usual female concerns (families, emotions, relationships)? Bernal is an engaged liberal humanist who’s probably inclined to reward engaged liberal humanism in films. Dafoe is an adventurous actor but at the same time one suspects that he might be an obliging metrosexual go-alonger (i.e., loves to work and very much wants to stay in the game so no obstinate, against-the-grain opinions). Refn is the only certifiable loon (no other term applies if you’ve seen Only God Forgives) in the group. I don’t know what Jia Zhangke’s deal is but…naah, I shouldn’t say. By and large it doesn’t feel like any kind of contrarian, thorny-minded group. I’m getting a vibe that they might be a bit on the mushy, accommodating side — the kind of jury that mainly wants to show love whenever and wherever possible. But you never know.