New Interloper In Town

For the last five years Melena Ryzik has been writing the N.Y. Times “Carpetbagger” column, having inherited it from David Carr. But now Ryzik is bailing and handing the torch to Cara Buckley…congrats! It’s all a hustle for Oscar ad dollars anyway, but I’ve always found it irksome the way Carpetbagger columnists always jump into the award season in early December and go “tah-dah!…here we are!…let the games begin!” I wrote the following in response to Melena’s 12.4.13 piece called “Eyes On The Prize”: “Hardcore awards-tracking watchers and handicappers like myself and Sasha Stone and Scott Feinberg have been riding the rails for over seven months now (i.e., since the 2013 Cannes Film Festival) and humping it extra-hard since Telluride, Venice and Toronto (or for the last 13 weeks), and then Melena comes breezing into the room with her video crew and writes, ‘The Oscars are not until March but the jockeying for position has already begun.’ Early December is ‘already’?”

New N.Y. Times “Carpetbagger” Cara Buckley…tah-dah!

Pope Francis At Moment of Rapture

While watching The Leftovers last night I was thinking it was a shame that Pope Francis, the first truly compassionate, Franciscan-like good guy Pope in many a decade, had to be raptured along with Gary Busey, Jennifer Lopez and Vladmir Putin. I nonetheless decided that Francis Bacon‘s “Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X,” painted 61 years ago, was no longer just a perfect image in its own right. It was also, suddenly, a perfect capturing of a Pope being “taken.” I’ll probably never be able to look at this painting again without thinking of The Leftovers. Is that a good thing? You tell me.


What is Joe Popcorn supposed to do with this downer attitude and grim-thug vibe? Channing Tatum looks like an ape here, and his bee-stung nose makes him look like Shrek, for God’s sake. The critical quotes from Kenneth Turan and Stephanie Zacharek praise his performance, but the guy he’s playing (real-life former wrestling champ Mark Schultz) is mainly just clenched and sullen. Plus he doesn’t have much of a character arc. I’m guessing this a contractual gimme from Sony Classics to Tatum’s managers. The acting awards and nominations are all going to Steve Carell, guys. You know this, of course, but I’m just saying.


“I Shouldn’t Drink…Sorry”

This is what I was talking about earlier in my review of The Leftovers. A bitter or drunken authority figure needs to deliver a hard-nosed assessment of the big cataclysmic event that drives the story of the film around…oh, the 30-minute mark. Leftovers co-creators Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta probably decided they’re too cool and cutting-edge to follow in Stanley Kramer‘s footsteps, and that’s fine. But one result of this mindset is that some people aren’t feeling the love for this pain-in-the-ass miniseries as we speak.

Hader’s Breakthrough

Bill Hader‘s angry, vulnerable, hurting-guy performance in The Skeleton Twins is a career-changer. He’s no longer the SNL smartass who delivers zingy movie performances on the side. He’s now a real-deal actor who can bore into a character as deeply as any other gifted performer.” — from 1.20.14 Sundance post.

Didn’t Like It Much

Damon Lindelof and Tom Perotta‘s The Leftovers, which I watched last night on HBO, is about a community of sad, numbed-out souls in a small New York State town experiencing something between a stasis of the spirit and a combination slow-motion freakout and behavioral meltdown over the sudden disappearance of 2% of the world’s population, or roughly 140,000,000 people. I didn’t like it that much. The show, I mean. Or the premise, for that matter. I felt intrigued from time to time, but mostly I felt irritated and underfuckingwhelmed.

It’s not so much that relatively little is “explained” or even discussed in any kind of half-comprehensive way, although it’s a standard technique for a drama about a cataclysmic event (The Day The Earth Caught Fire, On The Beach, The Rapture, Godzilla) to have an authority figure arrive around the 30-minute mark and deliver a bitter or drunken assessment of the whys and wherefores. But all we’re given along these lines is a CNN glimpse of a Congressional hearing with one guy claiming that “God sat this one out” — obviously a questionable assertion.

All we’re told is that a lot of characters are feeling rather sullen or nihilistic about being left behind. A lot of people are smoking and drinking and unshaven and saying “fuck it” in various ways. Packs of feral dogs running around and being shot by gun nuts. And a lot of Godhead types and visionary eccentrics are enjoying a newfound power.


Remember Doc Ock?

I was just reading a ten-year-old review of Sam Raimi‘s Spider-Man 2 this morning, and in so doing I asked myself, “Is there anyone in the world right now who would rent or stream this film now, ten years after? What kind of soul cancer would you have to have to say to yourself, ‘Hmmm, what should I watch tonight? Something I haven’t seen in a while. I know — Spider-Man 2!'”

Does it bother anyone in 2014 that within the CG-driven, comic-book-adaptation realm, almost nothing has changed since ’04? If anything the things that were underwhelming or dispiriting or soul-suffocating about Spider-Man 2 have metastasized. One reason is that some of the kids who were 16 or 17 when Spider-Man 2 came out have grown up to be zombie development guys, agents, producers and studio execs. (more…)

Grammar From Hell

If the tag line for the Deliver Us From Evil poster used “New York Police Department” instead of “NYPD,” the copy would read “Inspired By The Actual Accounts Of A New York Police Department Sergeant.” So why does this version say “…An NYPD Sergeant”? Am I missing something? Writing and grammar are what I do for a living, and this isn’t right. On top of which I don’t particularly want to see or know about Scott Derrickson and Jerry Bruckheimer‘s horror film, which opens on 7.2.

Anyone With Me On Levine?

John Carney‘s harmless, almost entirely pleasant Begin Again (Weinstein Co.) opened Friday in New York and Los Angeles. On 3.28.14 I called it an “agreeably dreamy, up-spirited Manhattan street musical…nowhere near as good or authentic feeling as Carney’s Once but not half bad, and some of the music is genuinely on-target and enlivening.” I also said the following about costar Adam Levine, who plays Keira Knightley‘s famous musician boyfriend: “Not good-looking enough, for one thing. I also hated Levine’s dress sense and his fake serenity and slightly detectable air of entitlement. (He’s the lead vocalist for Maroon 5 and a rich entrepeneur who’s marketed his own fragrance and menswear collection.) I also felt a tiny bit alienated from Knightley for being with Levine in the first place. How come I could see through this asshole right away and she couldn’t? I began to feel repelled by images of Knightley (or anyone for that matter) having sex with Levine. I honestly wanted to see him get hit by a bus or die in a plane crash, or at the very least get beaten up in a fight. Levine is rat poison.” Similar or opposing reactions? (more…)

“Anything In Particular?”

What’s the nicest way to tell an employee of an apparel store that you’d rather just browse than be helped (i.e., hustled)? I used to just smile and say “I’m good” but lately I’ve been half-heartedly raising my hand in a friendly kind of “stop” or “no offense but not now” gesture. About an hour ago I was a teeny bit snippy with a girl in a shop on Robertson. She said the usual “Is there anything in particular you’re looking for?” and I said “Well, yeah, but it’s kinda between me and me for the time being…no offense.” A few weeks ago I was tired or something but I was also a bit of an asshole when this question was asked. “Actually, I don’t really know what I want,” I said with a vague smile. “I guess I’m kinda hoping that a salesperson will come along and make suggestions and nudge me into buying this or that. I mean, I can’t seem to focus on my own and I have a little coin to throw around so…uhm, could you help me decide?” I said this with enough sincerity that the woman wasn’t sure how to respond. My pet peeve is the hurt farewell. After doing my best to ignore the sales staff I’ll head out the front door, and just before I’m out of earshot one of the sales girls will chirp out “Bye!” in a way that means “well, you certainly weren’t very communicative and you definitely didn’t buy anything and that kind of hurts our feelings, but we can roll with that!” When they try this I always turn around and look at them in a way that says “you’ll survive.”

Serkis For Best Actor…Again

There was a fair amount of talk a couple of years ago about Andy Serkis deserving a Best Actor (or Best Supporting Actor) nomination for his performance as Ceasar in Rupert Wyatt‘s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Which of course SAG voters ignored because they feel threatened by the idea of digitally-assisted performances. Which of course is delusional. Hollywood actors have been cool with old-fashioned theatrical makeup for decades but not digital makeup, which is all that WETA is providing here. If you ask me Serkis’s follow-up performance in Matt ReevesDawn of the Planet of the Apes is even more impressive than his work in Rise because it’s a bit sadder with a more deft and gentler touch — a subtle, carefully measured portrayal of a leader who has the weight and the fate of the ape world on his shoulders. It once again seems an entirely reasonable if not necessary thing to state that Serkis again deserves a Best Actor nomination. SAG blue-hairs will probably never understand that Serkis alone is doing the performing here. 80-plus years ago AMPAS members managed to accept the fact that Frederic March and not the makeup guy was the performer in 1931’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which led them to give him a Best Actor Oscar (along with The Champ‘s Wallace Beery). Try it again — Serkis’s performance is not about motion capture or performance capture. The WETA guys are simply providing a kind of augmentation that’s no different than a makeup or wardrobe person applying a fake beard or putty nose or offering the right kind of apparel.


Florida Forecaster

In the same 2.28.05 column in which I lamented the disrespectful treatment of Marlon Brando on a just-aired Oscar telecast, I ran a not very prescient piece called “Really Big Change.” It began as follows: “Somewhere down the road, movies will probably open simultaneously in both theatres and on rental-only DVDs. Or maybe through some kind of broadband download service. Maybe not all the movies at first, but some and then eventually more.” Rental-only DVDs on a film’s opening day? The DVD market was fated to dry up even then and I wasn’t even smelling it. But HE reader Rich Swank saw it all and then some.

“That was an excellent piece on day-and-date DVD releases, but I don’t think you went far enough,” he wrote. “You alluded to new technologies and delivery systems, but I think that’s the whole ballgame. The future is in broadband, on-demand delivery and Digital Video Recorders (DVR). And unless something changes in the near future, the studios are about to assure that’s the case.

“As you’re probably aware, a VHS/Beta-type war is brewing over the next generation of hi-def DVDs. Roughly half the studios (with Sony as the team leader) are supporting Blu-Ray; the other half (led by Warner Bros.) is supporting HD-DVD.

“Most consumers probably won’t make the switch right away, especially since both systems are backwards compatible with current DVDs. But the format war, if it is drawn-out enough, will likely scare off the ‘early adopters.’ This will further delay penetration of the new technology into homes. (more…)

Ten Years Gone

Tuesday, 7.1, will mark the tenth anniversary of Marlon Brando‘s passing. I’m not proud to admit that I’m mentioning this only because I happened to notice last night that the New Beverly Cinema is screening a couple of his films in mid-July as a kind of tribute. What does it say about his legacy that I, a lifelong Brando worshipper, needed this little nudge? Don’t ask. Everything and everyone turns to dust sooner or later, but it breaks my heart to think that in the minds of most Millenials Brando’s legacy probably doesn’t even exist. People in their teens, 20s and early 30s regard the ’80s as ancient history so do the math on a guy who peaked for a little more than seven years between late ’47 and early ’55, and then bounced back in ’72 and ’73 with The Godfather and Last Tango in Paris.

The fact is that for audience members like myself (and not his industry friends, acquaintances and colleagues) Brando began to gradually wither and water himself down right after this bounce-back period, and he stayed in that slow downturn mode for 30 or 31 years. So when he finally went it almost felt like an afterthought. (more…)

Digital Festus

A director friend who knows people says he’s “hearing on pretty good authority they’ll be using CGI to put Harrison Ford’s face on a body double, probably his usual stunt double, so he’ll be able to complete his Star Wars, Episode VII role no matter what the state of his recovery will be.” CG face-pasting was a big deal 14 years ago when Gladiator technicians brought Oliver Reed back to life for scenes he hadn’t shot at the time of his passing. The late Paul Walker was recently CG’ed for unfinished Fast and Furious 7 scenes, etc. The Ford work, if and when they actually decide to do it, will presumably be less difficult given the fact that he’s alive and relatively well.

Here are two stories — one from Techtimes, another from Latino Review — that indicate why CG face-pasting might be necessary. They’re both rumor-riffing that Ford’s busted leg has really screwed things up schedule-wise, and that JJ Abrams wants to bump the Star Wars, Episode VII release date to May 2016. But Disney’s Bob Iger has allegedly ixnayed that one in the bud. He wants it out in December 2015, come hell or high water.

Rough Seas, Whitecaps, Ineffective Gyros

There are two major bomb explosions in Richard Lester‘s Juggernaut (’74), and yet the viewer never sees the explosion or the damage to the hull of the cruise ship Brittanic. Obviously because the producers couldn’t afford it. It half works but not really — such an omission would never be tolerated today. One of Richard Harris‘s more arresting lines in Juggernaut is “I may be stupid, but I’m not bloody stupid.” Quentin Tarantino re-used this line in Grindhouse (I think it was spoken by Rosario Dawson?), but “bloody” doesn’t quite work with an American accent. Kino Lorber is bringing out a Juggernaut Bluray on 9.9.14.

Aronofsky Joins Team Alamo

Hollywood Elsewhere is proud and gratified to announce that visionary tough-nut director Darren Aronfosky has joined Guillermo del Toro, JJ Abrams, Alfonso Cuaron, Rian Johnson, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Matt Reeves in agreeing to sign that “save the 70mm Alamo” letter. (I’ve explained the situation too many times now so here’s the link.) More reach-outs on Monday. Alamo nut Phil Collins was recently quoted as saying he hasn’t been asked to lend support so maybe he might if asked? Here’s an update from Digital Bits editor Bill Hunt, a post from Obsessed With Movies’ Bill Desowitz, and a Facebook plea from David Nevols.

Ragdoll From Ontario

Eugene O’Neil‘s Long Day’s Journey Into Night has nothing on the raging feline tempest caused by yesterday’s arrival of Jazz, an 11 week-old ragdoll. You can cut the hostility with a butter knife. Mouse, my obese Siamese otherwise known as “Fatty”, is seething with resentment. He’s done nothing but snarl and sulk and give me death-ray looks. Even Aura, the alpha-vibed white munchkin, is hissing at Jazz and she never gets angry at anyone. I don’t have a logical reason for bringing Jazz home. I knew it wasn’t the smart thing to do, but I did it anyway.

Friday, 6.27 pm, 7:20 pm.


Gender-Appeal Double Down

Here’s another one that went by me the first time. Six weeks ago Bill Maher sat for an interview on Larry King‘s “Politicking” videocast, and somewhere around the halfway point Maher suggested the possibility of a Hillary Clinton-Elizabeth Warren “granny” ticket. I felt a little energy surge when he said this. Everyone is presuming Clinton will win because of the historical gender card, but nobody’s in love with her. She’s generally perceived as a moderate corporate-backed liberal centrist who will, at best, “address” income inequality and climate change without really getting tough about it. One result is that there doesn’t seem to be much strong support for Clinton among Millenials or progressives. Warren as HRC’s vice-president could remedy that situation to some extent. Warren will at least arouse a little passion. Does a granny ticket make sense to anyone in this corner?

Rancor Returns?

It was announced a day or two ago that Neil LaBute‘s Reasons To Be Pretty will have a month-long run at the Geffen Playhouse (i.e., the Gil Cates Theatre) from 7.29 to 8.31. Nick Gehlfuss, Shawn Hatosy, Amber Tamblyn and Alicia Witt under director Randall Arney. The news naturally recalls my 2009 viewing of LaBute’s play on the Broadway stage, and my initial reaction and then how I got into a rough-and-tumble with a Jezebel editor. LaBute’s play hinges on a guy offering a careless (if not necessarily malicious) remark to his girlfriend, which is that she’s “regular” looking. I wrote an interpretation about how this remark, however tactless, wasn’t mean-spirited. I offered a view that women in the looks realm of A-minus to C-plus are actually more desirable given the likelihood that they’re probably (though not necessarily) more spiritually developed than A-plusses, double As and triple As as a general rule.