Evening Schmooze

A very happy (one could even say giddy) Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, director and co-writer of Birdman, during last night’s Fox Searchlight party at the Sheridan bar — 11:40 pm.

Mommy director Xavier Dolan at Fox Searchlight party.

Imitation Game director Morten Tyldum and wife Janne in Sheridan bar back room.

Red Army‘s Gabe Polsky during last night’s Sony Pictues Classics dinner at La Marmotte.


Truly Levitational, Mozartian Birdman

Alejandro G. Inarritu‘s Birdman (Fox Searchlight, 10.17), an audacious, darkly hilarious serving of snap-crackle brilliance and psychological excavation par excellence, blew the roof off the Werner Herzog theatre last night. I was giddy, ecstatic, swooning as I half-stumbled into the night air…so was almost everyone I spoke to about it over the next two or three hours. Okay, not everyone but those who were hungry and adventurous and receptive enough to revel in a work of reaching, swirling genius…pig heaven!

Like I said on Twitter last night, it’s an all-but-guaranteed Oscar nominee in several categories — Best Picture, Best Director (Inarritu), Best Actor (Michael Keaton), Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Edward Norton), Best Supporting Actress (Emma Stone), Best Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki), Best Editing, etc.

Birdman is not just a visual groundbreaker — not actually a single seamless, roving Steadicam shot from start to finish but a wonderful illusion of this. It’s more profoundly a searcher, reacher and a mad leaper of a film with one live-wire, mad-rodent performance after another. Everyone sings and dances and somersaults in this tag-team circus but Keaton is the leader and the daddy. He opens himself up and slices in like a surgeon in an awesome, at times unsettling tour de force. Whether he wins the Best Actor Oscar or not, you can absolutely call him the Comeback Kid. (more…)

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 a Sony Pictures Classics gathering at La Marmotte; also 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


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.


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.


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.”

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.


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.

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?