Fine Fellow

A respectful farewell to John Guillermin, who passed two days ago at age 89. I don’t think there’s any point in glossing over the fact that he was a thoroughly capable, middle-range journeyman type who delivered less-than-exceptional but satisfactory entertainments when so requested. There’s nothing that wrong with The Towering Inferno, probably his best known effort and a reasonably sturdy disaster film. No issues either with Waltz of the Toreadors, House of Cards, The Blue Max, The Bridge ot Remagen, Skyjacked, Shaft in Africa, King Kong, Death on the Nile — all perfectly acceptable second-tier films that Guillermin delivered on budget and which brought in reasonable profits and paid the bills. Condolences to family, friends and fans.

Jacks Aspect Ratio Compromise

Two and a half months ago I insisted that the forthcoming One-Eyed Jacks Bluray, which is now being rendered by Universal senior vp technical operations Michael Daruty and Film Foundation vp Jennifer Ahn, has to be 1.66:1 and not the dreaded 1.85:1. Marlon Brando‘s film was shot with 8-perf VistaVision, which was more or less Paramount’s “house” process during the burgeoning widescreen days of the mid 1950s. VV delivered an in-camera aspect ratio of 1.5 but aspect ratios of 1.66:1, 1.85 and even 2:1 were allowed or recommended. Plus the Paramount laser disc of One-Eyed Jacks was cropped at 1.66 and that’s good enough for me. But these two clips (one after the jump) are cropped somewhere between 1.78:1 and 1.85:1, and to be fair and honest I must admit that they look decently framed. So I’m offering a 1.78:1 compromise, which I think is gracious on my part. I would prefer 1.66, of course, but there are still plenty of 1.85 fascist jackals insisting that adding a little extra height is somehow a bad thing, and I am only one person. So I’m willing to accept 1.78.

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Shoulders Aren’t Big and Broad Enough

21 years ago O.J. Simpson was a tallish musclebound guy (6’2″) with heavy broad shoulders. The shirtless guy at the end of his mini-teaser is presumably the medium-sized Cuba Gooding (around 5’10”), who plays Simpson in Ryan Murphy‘s forthcoming 10-episode miniseries American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson. I’m sorry but the illusion simply doesn’t work. “Has Cuba Gooding ever killed anyone in a film? If he has I don’t remember, and if he hasn’t there’s a good reason. You know who Gooding should play? Al Cowlings, the guy who drove O.J. around the L.A. freeway system that day in the white Bronco. Cowlings was O.J.’s sensible, mellow friend, right? Gooding could do that in his sleep.” — from 12.9.14 post called “Cuba’s No Killer Man.”

“The Crowd Stops Watching and Turns The Showing Into Performance Art”

“I’ll never forget my first and only viewing of Irwin Allen‘s The Swarm at the Quad Cinema on 13th Street. It was maybe a week or two after the 7.14.78 opening. By then it had tanked and word has gotten around it was mythically awful, so a few feisty types were seated in the smallish Quad theatre. The heckling started between the one-third and halfway mark, and then it got better and better. But the film was so impossibly square and tedious and ogygen-sucking that you couldn’t help but feel sorry for the mostly middle-aged or long-of-tooth cast — Michael Caine, Katharine Ross, Richard Widmark, Richard Chamberlain, Olivia de Havilland, Ben Johnson, Lee Grant, Jose Ferrer, Patty Duke, Bradford Dillman, Fred MacMurray, Henry Fonda. They were being humiliated, plain and simple. As it ended with a shot of Caine and Ross watching the killer bees burn to death at sea, I remember the guys sitting in the front going ‘aaauuughhhhh!,’ like they been gored by a bull.” — from a 4.6.14 post called “Shoulda Been There.”

Franco Will Never Shake Dean

One of these weeks or months I’ll see Anton Corbijn‘s Life (Cinedigm, 12.4), a drama about a brief professional alliance between James Dean (Dane DeHaan) and LIFE photographer Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson). I gather Corbijn, who began as a photographer, was more interested in exploring Stocks’ journey than Dean’s, and that’s fine. But I’ve never been interested in DeHaan playing Dean. He’s too small and mousey and round-faced. I’d rather watch an actor who really looks like Dean and can project some of his natural charisma. In short, the 21 year-old James Franco who starred in Mark Rydell‘s James Dean 14 years ago needed to be put into Rod Taylor‘s time machine and introduced to Corbijn’s casting agent. Hell, the 35 year-old Franco could have taken a stab at playing the 24 year-old Dean. He was so perfect in the Rydell film he probably could’ve pulled it of.

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Pope Francis Reached Out to Homophobic Bigot? That’s It — His Rep Is Toast

ABC News is reporting the Vatican has confirmed that the meeting between Pope Francis and Kentucky bigot Kim Davis took place last Thursday in Washington, D.C.. “I do not deny that the meeting took place,” Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement. The defiant Rowan County clerk and her husband met with Pope Francis at the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C., for less than 15 minutes, said her lawyer, Mat Staver. “I was crying. I had tears coming out of my eyes,” Davis said. “I’m just a nobody, so it was really humbling to think he would want to meet or know me.” Davis said that the Pope told her, “Thank you for your courage.” Good God.


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AFI Fest Triumvirate — Concussion, By The Sea, The Big Short — Could Be Dicey. Or Not.

Peter Landesman‘s Concussion (Sony, 12.25) was announced today as the centerpiece screening at the 29th AFI Fest (11.5 to 11.12). The Hollywood-based fest will open with Angelina Jolie-Pitt‘s By The Sea (Universal, 11.13) and close with a showing of Adam McKay‘s The Big Short (Paramount, 12.11). Is it possible to express slight concerns about all three without sounding like a dick? Concussion is dogged by the Will Smith uh-oh factor (he’s a micro-manager who favors light escapism and has starred in only one critically-acclaimed film — 1993’s Six Degrees of Separation — over his entire career), plus Landesman’s last film, the well-scripted Parkland, was a wipe-out. The trailer for By The Sea felt mopey and lethargic and seemingly uninterested in competing with the gold standard for conflicted marital two-handers — Richard Linklater‘s Before Midnight. The Big Short seems like the most interesting and ambitious of the three, but McKay having directed all of those low-rent Will Ferrell comedies is enough to give anyone the willies.

“Solitude, Values…Four O’Clock In The Morning Courage”

Here are some High Noon set photos I’ve never seen before except for the last one (i.e., after the jump). I have a dream that the swaggering Rio Bravo cultists will eventually run out of steam or lose interest and admit that Howard Hawks‘ 1959 film, which has been called a much richer creation than High Noon by the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Peter Bogdanovich and Jean Luc Godard, is a decent but moderate effort, an easy-going “friends sitting around and shooting the shit in a jailhouse as they prepare to fight the bad guys” movie, and that High Noon will bounce back and be once again recognized as a timeless classic, as it was when it first appeared in the early Eisenhower years and for many years following.

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Steamroller

Scott Feinberg mentioned it Saturday night, I jumped on it Sunday, Business Insider‘s Jason Guerrasio posted a piece Monday, and the N.Y. Post filed Tuesday. Mainstream media and TV news will be all over the nausea angle starting on Thursday and certainly by Friday. A screenwriter friend notes that seeing The Walk has become a “rite of passage thing…a challenge. It’s getting a reputation similar to the original Exorcist as to whether you can take it. I don’t recall the Mission Impossible scenes on the that Dubai skyscraper having this effect.”

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Perspective

This is a year old but whatever. Stupid or untalented people lack the ability to understand their limitations. You need a certain amount of intelligence and experience to assess things accurately. Knowing how to write well and how to bang out a daily column at a reasonably professional level, I also know that I was a mediocre screenwriter when I tried my hand in the mid to late ’80s. And I know that I was a mediocre drummer in my 20s. I also know I could bang out an autobiography and make it read pretty well. Or an essay book about any number of film-related topics. I’m reminded of that third-act scene in Se7en when Brad Pitt asked Kevin Spacey if he knew “just how crazy you really are.” I have a sense of what mental delusion or more precisely what schizophrenia is (my sister became afflicted with that condition in her mid teens), and from that knowledge I would say that while Spacey’s “John Doe” was anti-social and coldly sociopathic with delusions of grandeur, he wasn’t “crazy.” He was too smart, too lucid. Then again he was an Andrew Kevin Walker creation.

Ear Buggery

Before last night I hadn’t listened to “Dreaming” in…I don’t want to think about it. Now it won’t leave me alone. Track #3, side #1 of the original British pressing of Fresh Cream. Cream bassist Jack Bruce, author and singer of “Dreaming”, died last October at age 71. I don’t like the way those early Cream songs were mixed with the instruments turned down and the vocals turned way up. In fact it irritates me.

This Again?

Steve Jobs screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has rehashed his “unethical American journalists exploited the Sony hack for their puny contemptible gains” riff in a 9.29 Hollywood Reporter piece by Alex Ritman, which stems from quotes Sorkin gave during a London round-table discussion.

“The worst part [of the Sony hack] was seeing the American press as a willing accomplice, an eager accomplice to terrorism,” Sorkin said, repeating a view that hit the press on or about 12.17.14. “I don’t know how these reporters who printed the stuff can look at themselves in the morning.” He stated that the Sony hack was a “low point” for the American press, which he claimed had “absolutely aided and abetted terrorism.”

Sorkin believes that journos should have ignored the hacked material, adding that “you cannot tell me that an argument about Angelina Jolie is newsworthy or what Cameron Crowe’s troubles are in post-production on Aloha is newsworthy or any of the Steve Jobs stuff was newsworthy.” (more…)

Damon Should Wear Raybans and Hang Out in Tuscany For The Next Few Months

You’ll notice that Ellen Degeneres was impassive — no nods or smiles or little twinkly expressions of encouragement — as Matt Damon sought to put out his latest Twitter brushfire yesterday. Damon explained that he definitely wasn’t suggesting a return to closeted lifestyles blah blah, but Ellen clearly thought he deserved to suffer for saying the wrong thing and offending the LGBTs. Note: I’m very sorry for using this E! News clip, which unfortunately opens with Carissa Loethen and that oppressively chirpy, 100% clueless sexy-baby-virus vibe that she exudes. If I never listen to another blonde airhead entertainment news show anchor it’ll be too soon.

Dynamite Revenant Newbie

You know what I love about these images? They aren’t about confinement, confinement and more confinement. They’re about big gray skies and rugged organic elements all the way. (Okay, except for the bear.) Textures, aromas, animals, temperatures and move-it-or-lose-it situations that represent the absolute polar opposite of the kind of bullshit louche lifestyles worshipped and embraced by 21st Century laissez-faire yuppie scum. I for one am proud of having never watched a single fucking episode of Survivor. Side issue, no biggie: Why does this begin with the same footage and cutting included in the first trailer?

Fluid, Movable…Where The Latest Intuition Takes You

Earlier today Gold Derby‘s Tom O’Neil was telling me I have to make sure that my Gold Derby predictions square with my HE Oscar Balloon charts. He was focusing in particular on the Best Actress graph that I posted last Saturday in which I included Amy Schumer‘s Trainwreck performance in fifth or sixth place. Because I felt like it. Because now is the time for plugging your personal favorites every so often. I don’t give a damn if anyone agrees with me or not. I’m not placing bets at a dog track. It’s September and Schumer moved me, and so I included her. I’m just saying she deserves a shout-out. I don’t care if you don’t agree. I know what I know.

Earlier today David Poland tweeted that my Best Actress chart was “idiotic.” You know what’s idiotic or at least seriously lame? Ignoring your own aesthetic instincts so you can appear to be “right” in predicting likely favorites in late fucking September. I’ll play the prediction game to some extent but I reserve the right to promote exceptional work, regardless of how likely this or that choice may seem to Sasha Stone or Glenn Whipp or Scott Mantz. There’s plenty of time to start narrowing things down in late October, November and December. (more…)

20 Years Ago With Showgirls, Nicholson, Evans, Singer, etc.

Paul Verhoeven‘s Showgirls opened and crashed exactly 20 years and six days ago (i.e., 9.22.95). I’d attended a press screening a week or two before and figured that was enough, but I manfully sat through it a second time a couple of weeks after it opened, or sometime in early October. Reason? Jack Nicholson. Yeah, yeah, I’ve told this story a couple of times before but indulge me…

I was having dinner that night with Robert Evans in his combination rear bungalow and screening room. It was (and as far as I know still is) a cozy little abode located behind his circle-shaped pool in the backyard of his French chateau-styled place on Woodland Avenue. And the guests that night were Bryan Singer, Chris McQuarrie and Tom DeSanto. And we were all enjoying the great food (served by Alan, Evans’ good-guy butler) and a nice buzz from the excellent wine.

I was Evans’ journalist pallie back then.  I had written a big piece about Hollywood Republicans earlier that year for Los Angeles magazine, and Evans had been a very helpful source. As a favor I’d been arranging for him to meet some just-emerging GenX filmmakers — Singer, McQuarrie, Owen Wilson (who had come over a week or two earlier), Don Murphy, Jane Hamsher, et. al. — so that maybe, just maybe, he could possibly talk about making films with them down the road.

During the dinner Evans was doing a superb job of not asking Singer, McQuarrie or DeSantos anything about themselves. He spoke only about his past, his lore, his legend. But the vibe, to be sure, was cool and settled and almost serene. And then out of the blue (or out of the black of night) one of the French doors opened and Nicholson, wearing his trademark shades, popped his head in and announced to everyone without saying hello that “you guys should finish…don’t worry, don’t hurry or anything…we’ll just be in the house…take your time.” (more…)

To Be Pleasurably Manipulated By A Guy Who Knew How…

I saw Kent JonesHitchcock/Truffaut in Paris on 5.11.15, and posted a review the next day: “This 80-something-minute doc is a sublime turn-on — a deft educational primer about the work and life of Alfred Hitchcock and, not equally but appreciably, Francois Truffaut. Efficient, well-ordered, devotional. The bounce, if you will, comes from the talking heads — David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, Olivier Assayas, Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater, James Gray, Arnaud Depleschin, one or two others — each enthused and semi-aglow in their own way. Memories, associations, gratitude.

“To me Hitchcock/Truffaut seems good and wise enough to seduce the novice as well as the sophisticated cineaste. It’s a fully absorbing, excellent education. As you might expect, it made me want to read the book all over again. (more…)

Ghost of Billy Jack to Moviegoers: “Are You Man Enough To Handle The Walk‘s First 100 Minutes?”

From The Guardian‘s Nigel Smith: “The Walk more closely resembles The Polar Express and Beowulf — Zemeckis’s patchy, uncanny-valley explorations into motion-capture — than Flight. For there is no semblance of reality here. As a live-action film, The Walk rings wholly false. For the whole of its two-hour running time, it plays like a Disney cartoon.” Or, as I wrote two days ago, “The first 100 minutes are like watching Ratatouille. If you’re a fan of dumbing stuff down for whatever reason, you’ll love The Walk. For Zemeckis has taken the real-life, inspirational saga of wire-walker Phillippe Petit and turned it into cliched, manipulative, family-friendly oatmeal.” And yet for voicing this and similar impressions, Glenn Kenny tweeted that my Walk review reveals me as “a puckered-up, joyless, vindictive miserabilist.”