Tyler Durden Would Approve

We all have our notions about what’s been happening with Shia LaBeouf over the last year or two (i.e., “I’m not famous anymore“), but this extreme motivational video he’s made is very Tyler Durden, and therefore cool in my book. How many guys did Durden save from a life of muddling along and zoning out in Fight Club? LaBeouf is trying to do the same thing. I know how it feels to be stuck in a hole. I was there in my mid 20s, that place of “yeah, I really gotta make some serious moves and if I don’t…I don’t want to think about it.” What prods you along is a quiet, nagging voice that says “you’re still not doing what you need to do…you’re still procrastinating…how can I get through to you, man?” That voice doesn’t go away but it never gets loud. It never insists. LaBeouf is saying “enough…enough of your bullshit…get going or else.” [Thanks to friend-of-HE Jon Rahoi for bringing this to my attention.]

If Reese and Hillary Say So

Yesterday morning Reese Witherspoon spoke to a crowd at the Producers Guild of America’s 7th annual “Produced By” conference on the Paramount lot. Variety‘s Dave McNary reports that Witherspoon “addressed the question of whether she’d ever portray Hillary Clinton. She responded by saying that she’s been asked to do so several times and wryly pointed out that she portrayed a young version of Clinton as Tracy Flick in 1998’s Election.” The actress-producer added that when she met the former Secretary of State and current presidential candidate, Clinton said, “Everybody talks to me about Tracy Flick in Election.” One, I’ve seen Election six or seven times and have never flashed upon any similarities between Flick and Clinton. If Flick reminds me of any politician it’s Richard Nixon. (I’ve also always suspected that on some level Flick is Witherspoon.) And two, take away Alexander Payne‘s satiric, dryly humorous attitude and Tracy Flick is a virus — one of the most screwed-down, demonically calculating female characters in the history of American cinema. Clinton/Flick is almost like Clinton/Cruella de Vil or Clinton/Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity. Obviously not flattering, and yet Clinton good-naturedly went up to Witherspoon and more or less said, “So I was the inspiration for Tracy Flick, eh? Imagine!”


Demographic Study

Prague seems to be relatively light on Africans. There may be more than I’ve noticed but it definitely seems like a “few and far between” situation. There’s an African-flavored bar/cafe called Emotan and also a light-skinned guy named Ray Koranteng who’s a popular TV personality, but Prague is certainly not Paris in this respect. A Trip Advisor post says Africans have been living in Prague since the 1970s “when the communists offered them scholarships to study at Czech universities in order to help spread good socialist values to Africa.” Three years ago an Expats.cz commenter wrote that Czech racism exists but is “more a reflection of [the natives’] cultural isolation under communism and also their larger history of constantly getting screwed by foreign invaders for the last 400 odd years or so. You’ll get stares and whispers and maybe even comments but Czechs generally are pretty nonviolent so it’s not hard to ignore.” Another says she’s “never seen a Czech man with a black woman [but] many Czech girls date African men just to try something different.” I only know this is a very gentle city, mild and considerate and liberal to the core.

I had a glass of this stuff the other day. It tastes like Coke mixed with licorice. Awful. Expats.cz editor and film guy Jason Pirodsky, who’s been here a few years, tells me he’s come to prefer it.


Ballad of the Subway Asshole

Two days ago Esquire.com‘s John Hendrickson posted a piece called “25 Ways to Know If You’re an Asshole on the Subway (or on the bus, light rail, ferry, or any other mode of public transportation).” It caught my attention because I’ll be back on the New York subway by tomorrow afternoon. Most of it is spot-on but I have some disputes and qualifications.

No. 16 says, “If you don’t instinctively offer your seat to a woman, child, or elderly person, you’re an asshole.” HE response: “Kids and old people, okay, but are we living in the 1880s? Is Lillie Langtree the biggest female star of the day? Women can handle standing just as much as guys can, and I would imagine that some might feel pleasantly insulted if I offered them my subway seat. Lizbeth Salander would probably sneer and ignore the gesture; ditto Lena Dunham. Are we all trying to shoulder the burden equally and play it even-steven or not?” (more…)

O’Malley Is Appealing, Charismatic, A Good Guy…But He’ll Basically Just Split The Anti-Hillary Primary Vote With Bernie Sanders

Former Maryland governor and Baltimore mayor Martin O’Malley announced his Presidential candidacy yesterday. He’s a liberal vision-and-uplift guy, but his voice isn’t quite deep enough — he’d be a little better off if he sounded like Lee Marvin. He certainly speaks a lot more plainly and precisely than Hillary Clinton has so far, and it’s good, I suppose, that he’ll be hitting Hillary’s measured, center-right corporatism just as hard as Bernie Sanders presumably will during the Iowa and New Hampshire debates. Then again O’Malley might be one progressive leftist too many. Right now his name recognition is way below Clinton’s and even significantly south of Sanders. The bottom line, it seems, is that O’Malley will just split the anti-Clinton Democratic primary vote. He may siphon a sizable chunk of Sanders’ supporters or perhaps only a bit…who knows? O’Malley’s best quote so far: “The presidency is not some crown to be passed between two families.”


Linklater’s Film Now Called Everybody Wants Some

A 5.30 report by The Film Stage‘s Jordan Roup confirms that Richard Linklater‘s That’s What I’m Talking About, a “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused that Paramount will release later this year, has been officially re-titled as Everybody Wants Some. The title comes from a Van Halen song released in 1980, which is when the film takes place so it all fits. The fact that the new title is being used in research screenings (i.e., the basis of the Film Stage report) doesn’t mean it’s “official”, but it seems likely. The research screening copy reads as follows: “Set in the world of 1980 college life, Everybody Wants Some is a comedy that follows a group of friends as they navigate their way through the freedoms and responsibilities of unsupervised adulthood. Get ready for the best weekend ever.” Pic costars Blake Jenner, Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin, Wyatt Russell (son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn) and Zoey Deutch.

Ugly, Revolting Manipulation of Suffering Class By Media Elites

Posted last night by Raw Story‘s Kati Holloway: “As if to prove there are new depths to be plumbed in the world of reality television (because who knew?), CBS just debuted The Briefcase, a show which takes poverty porn, class anxiety [and] emotional exploitation and packages them all neatly into a despicable hour of primetime television. Kicking off each episode with the question ‘What would you do with $101,000?’, the show asks two unwitting, financially strapped families to choose between two no-win options: being financially solvent yet appearing heartless and greedy, or drowning in debt yet having audiences recognize them as selfless and giving.”

Holloway suggests that the idea for The Briefcase almost certainly came from the ‘Button, Button‘ episode on the relaunched ’80s version of The Twilight Zone. It’s highly unlikely that the team behind The Briefcase wasn’t at least aware of this precedent, and given this you have to wonder what kind of cold-blade shitheels decided to produce this show…God!

Based on an original 1970 story by Richard Matheson, ‘Button Button‘ is about a financially hurting couple (chipper, upbeat Brad Davis and bitter, cigarette-smoking layabout Mare Winningham) who are given a wooden box with a red button and then visited by a tall creepy guy who offers a weird deal. If they push the button, he explains, they’ll receive $200 grand as a tax-free gift but someone they don’t know will die. Davis doesn’t want anything to do with the proposition but after some delay Winningham pushes the button. The creepy guy returns to reclaim the box and deliver the $200K. He also mentions to Winningham that the next person to receive the box won’t know her. She realizes in a flash that she’s dead, that each button pusher will be killed by the next one. (more…)

Battle of Algiers

“Accusing women of supporting Hillary Clinton just because she’s female is misogynistic [bullshit],” Lena Dunham recently wrote on her Instagram account. “Women are smart enough to make decisions based on a number of factors: policy, track record, campaign strategy. Yes, I think it’s time for a female president but I’m not part of a witch’s cabal that senses ovaries and suddenly must vote.” And the default reason that the vast majority of African-Americans voted for Barack Obama wasn’t for kinship. And the default reason that many boomers and GenXers voted for Bill Clinton in ’92 and ’96 wasn’t because he shared their generational perspective and vice versa. And the default reason that Hillary is expected to win in ’16 has little if anything to do with the fact that a woman in the Oval Office will symbolically strengthen the hand of women everywhere. I don’t blame Dunham or any thinking progressive woman for being on Clinton’s team for gender reasons — it totally makes sense. But in the same breath it’s obvious that Dunham is talking right through her hat.

Clinton’s gender will of course be the default consideration for women during the ’16 election. But Dunham tries to deny it anyway and other women are (presumably) raising their fists and going “yeah!” Or are they? There’s so much rage and animus among Type-A media and showbiz women these days, obviously and justifiably directed at the suppressive chauvinists of the other side of the canyon. And yet the tone of much of the commentary from go-getter women is fierce and militant and “shut up, you’re full of it.” The mantra seems to be “I despise men or at least I frequently sneer at their bullshit and therefore I am.” I’m not saying women are the least bit unwarranted in pushing back at sexist bullshit, but too much rage leads to intemperate statements. It’s like a guerilla war out there. It’s almost like the Irish against the British in the 1920s.

Same Pink Shirt

Paul Dano‘s extremely vulnerable, dug-in performance as the young Brian Wilson in Bill Pohlad‘s Love & Mercy (Roadside, 6.5) is an Oscar-worthy achievement if I’ve ever seen one. On the other hand SAG and Academy members are notorious for ignoring this or that performance if it doesn’t seem like their kind of thing so you never know. On the other hand they’ve often saluted performances for which an actor has gqined or lost a lot of weight (i.e., Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull, Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club). Perhaps the fact that Dano packed on 30 pounds to play Wilson and then turned around and lost it…maybe.

Zoe Kazan, Paul Dano at Cannes premiere of Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth.

“Maybe I Should Have Had An Affair With Him Myself”

The last time I checked David JonesBetrayal (’83), a note-perfect adaptation of Harold Pinter’s 1978 stage play, is still not available via disc or high-def streaming. Until recently the only way you could see it was to watch a murky version on YouTube. Now, via recent uploads, you can watch four of the best scenes in a somewhat cleaner condition. Pinter’s scheme, of course, is to run the natural order of the scenes backwards but for the sake of this post, here they are in sequence. The first is between literary agent Jeremy Irons, publisher Ben Kingsley and Kingsley’s wife Patricia Hodge — a scene that I love for the repeated use of the term “brutally honest.” It’s followed by a hotel-room scene in Venice (actually happening a year earlier) in which Kingsley discovers that Hodge and Irons have been lovers for five years. The third is the “modern prose” scene in which Kingsley, post-Venice, says nothing about the affair to Irons during lunch, but at the same indicates everything. The fourth clip is a scene in which Irons and Hodge meet at a pub to talk about their long-past affair and how she’s just told Kingsley everything. The fifth and final clip, in which everything is hung out to dry, is a scene between Irons and Kingsley. This is one of Kingsley’s greatest-ever performances, and you still can’t find a decent-looking version of Betrayal anywhere, for any price.


A Death of Remarkable Delicacy and Finesse

I hate paying $30 dollars for a Bluray when I know that a high-def streaming version will be available down the road. I’ve nonetheless ordered the Bluray of Edward Dymytryk‘s The Young Lions (Twilight Time, 6.9), mainly because I’m a sucker for black-and-white Scope as well as an admirer of legendary dp Joe McDonald (My Darling Clementine, Call Northside 777, Viva Zapata).

The Young Lions has always been sold as a war drama when it’s actually a rather talky piece about three guys who aren’t very lion-like or war-daddyish at all, and are more caught up in wrestling with personal issues than in fighting the enemy.

On the German side is blonde-haired officer Christian Diestl (Brando) who becomes more and more repelled by war as his military experiences accumulate. Stateside there’s a just-enlisted American Jew with jug ears — Montgomery Clift‘s Noah Ackerman — grappling with anti-Semitism in the ranks along with a louche showbiz type — Dean Martin‘s Michael Whiteacre — dealing with his own selfishness and cowardice.

Given Diestl’s disdain for war and the fact that he spends almost the entire film not shooting or even aiming at anyone, it’s a joke that the Twilight Time Bluray jacket features an image of Brando pointing a handgun at the camera.

At least I now have an excuse to trot out an eight-year-old piece about one of Brando’s greatest death scene, which happens near the finale of this 167-minute film. (more…)

To Serve and Protect

Kardblock is an AdBlock software that prevents any mention of the Kardashians from appearing on your computer, iPad or phone screen. The founder/creator is James Samir Shamsi, a Los Angeles marketing guy behind a “social media growth hackers” site called Chameleon. Shamsi is also working, he says, on coding that will block any Justin Bieber-related content.

Avert Your Eyes

Yesterday Jill Bauer and Ronna GradusHot Girls Wanted, a doc about the cruel underbelly of the amateur porn industry, had its Netflix debut. (I was going to write “unseemly aspects” but do porn producers have any seemly aspects?) Pretty young women have been used, abused and exploited for…well, centuries, of course, but more particularly since the advent of the industrial age and aggressive capitalism and all that. This is simply the latest wrinkle, and it’s not going to stop. For years I’d regarded amateur porn as a bit less odious and predatory than the established, old-school porn industry. But impressions change. Particularly, judging by this trailer, when you let docs of this sort sink in. I tried watching this last night but for some reason Tunnel Bear won’t let me access my Netflix account.

It’s the same with the meat industry in a sense. You go to the market and see those nice red cuts of sirloin and tenderloin and think of that grilled aroma with the sauteed peppercorns and garlic butter– a pleasure. But then you watch this and this and the idea of eating meat seems distasteful if not appalling. The meat industry has shrunk by over a third since the mid ’70s and more and more of us are leaning vegetarian, but is the meat industry going to fold up and die any time soon? No. (more…)

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 party would want to build one, given the 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…)