Not That Much

Last night N.Y. Post/”Page Six” columnist Richard Johnson posted a piece about Harvey Weinstein allegedly being “furious” at Quentin Tarantino for calling cops “murderers” at a Manhattan rally last weekend (10.24). With New York, Philadelphia, Houston, Chicago and Los Angeles police unions (not to mention the National Organization of Police Associations) calling for a boycott of Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, Johnson is reporting that Weinstein “wants Tarantino to apologize, or at least walk back his comments.” He quotes an “insider” view that “the last thing Harvey needs is a boycott that will scare off Oscar voters and hurt the box office.”

First, tempestuous Harvey is a ’90s thing for the most part. Second, I know him well enough to know he isn’t “furious” at Quentin. Maybe regretful on some level but hardly foaming at the mouth. He and Tarantino have known each other for nearly a quarter-century, and by now are fully acquainted with each other’s personalities. Third, police organizations aren’t going to affect The Hateful Eight‘s box-office one tiny bit. And fourth, the Academy, SAG and the Golden Globe members respect cops as far as it goes, but they also aren’t likely to be swayed by this. If anything these groups are probably more on Quentin’s side of the argument. (more…)

Still Venal, Still Visually Striking, Soon on Bluray

An all-new remastered high-def version of Leni Riefenstahl‘s Triumph of the Will (among other things an alleged inspiration for the finale of George Lucas‘s Star Wars) will pop on 12.8.15. The Bluray is derived from a new 2K scan that has been digitally corrected and restored under the supervision of restoration guru Robert A. Harris (Spartacus, Lawrence of Arabia, My Fair Lady).

The usual mixed feelings apply. Even when a film delivers repellent content true cineastes are able to recognize highly effective and even mesmerizing chops when they see them. I once bickered with Manohla Dargis along these general lines a dozen years ago. She was saying Triumph of the Will was and is reprehensible and I was saying, “Yeah, of course, no dispute…but you can’t say Riefenstahl didn’t have a great eye and a commanding visual style.” (more…)

Daisy Ridley Doesn’t Know Cary Grant. Like, At All.

As noted, early yesterday afternoon Sasha Stone and I had lunch with Chad Newsom, who teaches in the Cinema Studies department at SCAD. As we were about to leave on our bikes for the Live By Night set I asked Newsom about whether his students regard movies from the ’80s as ancient history (which is what I’ve gathered here and there), and Newsom said they actually regard movies made in the early ’90s as dusty classics, and that the ’80s are a little beyond their sphere of interest. And forget the golden age of the ’70s and before that — totally off their radar. It’s not so much that they’ve never heard of, say, Cary Grant, but that Grant and other superstars of the big-studio era hold zero interest.

This is depressingly confirmed in a chat between Star Wars: The Force Awakens star Daisy Ridley, 23, and Princess Leia herself (i.e., Carrie Fisher) in a 10.30 Interview q & a: Fisher: “And males? Any crushes?” Ridley: “Not really! I’ve never been one for crushing on famous people.” Fisher: “Cary Grant! Do you know who that is?”  Ridley: “Maybe I could appreciate the old-school film stars more.” (more…)

Not Funny?

The “brothers who couldn’t be more different” scheme falls apart if they’re wildly unalike — sired from wholly separate gene pools. I can see the markedly dissimilar Roy Scheider and Dustin Hoffman being brothers in John Schlesinger‘s Marathon Man (’76) but not Mark Strong and Sacha Baron Cohen in The Brothers Grimsby. Call me a literalist without a sense of humor but all good comedies are made of the same stuff that goes into good drama, including occasional echoes of the world as it actually is. Worse: SBC having sex with a fat girlfriend in a mattress showroom.

Friendly, Tension-Releasing Chokehold

The word around the campfire had been that Revenant director Alejandro G. Inarritu and costar Tom Hardy got into some kind of physical throwdown during the shoot in Alberta. Hardy has told EW‘s Nicole Sperling what actually happened, so to speak: “When things get a bit too serious, I go, ‘Why don’t we have a cuddle in front of all these people here?’ It ends with both of us falling down in the snow. I think that’s a good thing. If I’m the naughty boy for doing that, then I’d rather be the naughty boy and release that tension.” Inarritu, says Hardy, “is unlike any director I’ve ever worked with. He sees things how he sees them, so to give him back what he wants is quite an interesting experience. It could drive you f—ing nuts.” Inarritu’s comment: “On the surface, [Hardy] can look inaccessible or difficult. But he is just a beautiful human being. He’s incredibly sensitive and lovable.” [Images from Empire magazine via a German Leonardo DiCaprio fansite.]


Tom Hardy to Gold Derby Supporters: Leave Me Out Of it

In a 10.30 EW chat with Nicole Sperling, Revenant costar (not to mention Legend and Mad Max: Fury Road star) Tom Hardy has conveyed a message to those who like the idea of his being nominated for an Oscar: “Lock me out of that, for your own good. It’s like putting a wig on a dog, or a tutu on a crocodile. It doesn’t look right, it’s not fair to the animal, and inevitably someone will get bitten and hurt.” In other words, those Gold Derby “experts” who are forecasting a Hardy Oscar nom for his rough-and-tumble performance in The RevenantVanity Fair‘s Michael Hogan, Huffington Post‘s Michael Hogan, Fox NewsTariq Khan, Gold Derby‘s Paul Sheehan, GD‘s Jack Matthews along with Sperling herself — need to let it go. And once they have perhaps a little light will shine through and they’ll say to themselves, “Okay, then I’ll ease up on my less-than-thoughtful prejudice against summer releases and give Love & Mercy‘s Paul Dano his rightful due as a Best Supporting Actor champion.”

Enough With The Mood Pockets

This is the second By The Sea trailer, and the third if you count that seriously morose early-bird teaser that popped…what was it, last July? And still there’s no footage of costar Melanie Laurent, who is third-billed after Brangelina? (The fourth-billed Niels Arestrup appeared in trailer #1.) And for all of the rage and despair and cigarette smoking, the only thing that really holds our interest in the newbie is the little shiny brown hole in the wall that Angelina discovers. Is it a microphone? A peephole into the next suite?

Affleck In Afternoon Sun

Early this afternoon Sasha Stone and I pedaled over to the Sentient Bean for an easy lunch with Chad Newsom, who teaches in the Cinema Studies department at SCAD. Around 2:30 or 3 pm we pedaled over to the set of Ben Affleck‘s Live By Night, which was definitely (as I’d been told) filming at Savannah’s Railroad Museum. We sauntered over to the shooting area like we owned the place. No security worries, no “I’m sorry but who are you?”…easy vibes all around. Ben was sitting in a canvas chair under a tent while a shot was being prepared inside a nearby warehouse-type building and chatting with costar Chris Messina. Both were dressed in period costume (early 1930s-era light-colored suits with tan hats and spiffy shoes). Neither Sasha nor myself made any attempt to talk to anyone — we just wanted to stay out of everyone’s way. But then Ben came close on his way to a port-o-potty so I said “hey, Ben!” He waved, smiled, came over, shook hands, etc. 20 seconds of shit-shooting. Sasha told him he’d done a commendable thing by hosting a screening for Beasts of No Nation a couple of weeks ago. And that was it. No biggie, no harm, no foul.


Portraying Harley Quinn (Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel, M.D.) in David Ayer‘s Suicide Squad (Warner Bros., 8.5.16) reps a major career potential for Margot Robbie, or at the very least a significant revenue stream if Quinn re-appears in other D.C. Comics franchise films down the road. Here’s hoping that things work out for Robbie in this regard — a seriously flush lifestyle, real-estate and stock options, financial security, two or three dwellings, etc. Created 22 years ago, Quinn is (a) a Batman adversary with a pronounced New York accent, (b) a frequent accomplice and lover of the Joker (Jared Leto) and (c) a close friend of the supervillain Poison Ivy from whom she gained an immunity to poisons and toxins. Quinn originally met the Joker while working as a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum, where the Joker was a patient.

Didn’t Wanna Hang With Him….Sorry

I lasted an hour with Burnt. It’s not that I couldn’t stand Bradley Cooper‘s egoistic rock-star chef, Adam Jones, who’s looking to make a comeback after self-destructing a couple of years earlier due to (what else?) drugs and hubris. My three-and-a-half years of sobriety has taught me to respect the idea of making amends, turnarounds, forgiveness. So I had nothing against the character. On the other hand I just didn’t give a shit.

Maybe it was the moment when I realized Cooper’s Jones was a kind of dry drunk who was capable of rants and temper tantrums and throwing stuff at the walls regardless of his sobriety. Maybe I just got sick of his personality. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood. All I know is that after 45 minutes or so and I started to ask myself, “Am I going to stick this out or do something better with my time between now and 10 or 11 pm or so?” I started to pay less and less attention to the film as I began to make a list of things I could get to. So at the 60-minute mark I slipped out of the screening room as quietly as I could. (more…)

Option to Snoop

I’m told that Ben Affleck‘s Live By Night, an adaptation of Dennis Lahane‘s 2012 novel about a Depression-era bootlegger, is shooting today in the vicinity of Savannah’s Railroad Museum. Their call was for the ungodly hour of 4:30 am. I have a bicycle — maybe I’ll pedal over there and nose around. Portions of Live By Night are being shot in Brunswick, about 30 miles south of Savannah.

An early shot from Live By Night that was tweed by Affleck a day or two ago.

Affleck is directing, having co-adapted the screenplay with Lahane. He’s also playing the title role of Joe Coughlin, “the prodigal son of a Boston police captain turned criminal [who], after moving to Florida’s Ybor City, becomes a bootlegger and a rum-runner and, later, a notorious gangster.” Costars include Sienna Miller, Chris Messina, Zoe Saldana, Chris Cooper and Elle Fanning.

Pic is produced by Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Davisson Killoran and Jennifer Todd. It will be distributed in late ’16 or sometime in ’17 by Warner Bros. Principal photography began two days ago. Here are link #1 and link #2.


Shady, Cultured, Laid Back

The Savannah Film Festival is one of the finest and classiest second-tier festivals on the fall circuit. “Second-tier” is in no way a dismissive term. It’s a cool, classy regional festival that doesn’t need to be Cannes or Berlin or Sundance or Telluride. The vibe is always smart and sophisticated; never anxious or strained. Screenings + seminars + strolls and bike rides + great food. Well-attended, smartly programmed and lots of shade. Last night was a rematch with Meg Ryan‘s Ithaca, which I saw and reviewed at the Middleburg Film Festival. Tonight’s big attraction at the SCAD trustees theatre is HE’s own Room.

Meg Ryan at lecturn prior to last night’s screening of Ithaca. For the occasion the Savannah Film Festival gave her a Lifetime Career Award. Born in ’61, Ryan has been at it for 35 years, give or take. The peak years were ’89 (When Harry Met Sally) to ’00 (Proof of Life — her last reasonably good film). Other highlights: Joe Versus the Volcano, The Doors, Prelude to a Kiss, Sleepless in Seattle, When a Man Loves a Woman, I.Q., French Kiss, Courage Under Fire, City of Angels, Hurlyburly, You’ve Got Mail, Hanging Up.


Ford Dog: “It’s Really Good…You Will Not Be Disappointed…At All…I Promise”

I have to share something. Harrison Ford‘s soft-edged voice and careful, slowish speaking style are somewhat like Warren Beatty‘s. Ford is roughly of the same generation as Beatty’s (i.e., pre-war Baby Bust) but neither has ever been a compulsive blabbermouth or wordslinger. This was my second thought after contemplating (i.e., deciding whether to believe) Ford’s description of Stars Wars: The Force Awakens.

Ghosts in the Marshlands

Late this afternoon I scootered down to Wormsloe, a three-century-old plantation with a long straight driveway shaded by an entwined canopy of moss-covered oak trees. As beautiful as expected. The famous “run Forrest run” scene from Robert Zemeckis‘s Forrest Gump (a movie that I mostly hated from the get-go for its dismissive portrait of ’60s counter-culture types) was shot here. I was accompanied by Hollywood Reporter columnist Scott Feinberg. We rode on rented 50cc put-puts — a maximum of 35 mph.


Calling All Cars

I thought last weekend that the whole Quentin Tarantino-calls-certain-cops-“murderers” thing would subside after two or three days, but it hasn’t. So far New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles police unions and associations have called for a Tarantino boycott following strong (some would say inflammatory) remarks the director-writer made last Saturday at a New York City rally. “I’m a human being with a conscience,” Tarantino said. “And if you believe there’s murder going on, then you need to rise up and stand up against it. I’m here to say I’m on the side of the murdered.” How will the Weinstein Co. defuse this? Also: Some are presuming that an “n” word controversy will kick in once The Hateful Eight starts screening and certainly after it opens on 12.25. Were Tarantino’s remarks about an attempt to preemptively fortify his position with the African-American community?


Not Just Politicians

Morgan Spurlock‘s Call Bullshit experience (interactive, infographic, fact-supplying) is fun, educational and fast moving. 15 or so hours since last night’s Republican debate and Spurlock has already sussed and inserted all the major non-facts pushed by Rubio, Trump, Carson, Fiorina, Christie, etc. This’ll serve as a handy tool over the next twelve months and beyond, but it could also be used to measure the truthfulness of statements made during movie-industry press junkets. Filmmakers and actors lie for the gentlest and most sensitive of reasons (not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings, natural privacy instincts, political caution), but you can’t attend any junket without a sense that pigs with wings are fluttering out of buttholes.

“So You Don’t Really Like Me…?”

“Despite some bumpy tonal shifts and inconsistencies of characterization, Hello, My Name Is Doris impresses as a humanely amusing and occasionally poignant dramedy about a spinsterish office drone (Sally Field) who develops a romantic fixation on a much younger co-worker (Max Greenfield). The plot could have been played as a flat-out broad comedy or an anxiety-inducing psychological drama, and there are times when it feels like helmer Michael Showalter is striving for a mash-up of both. But Field keeps the movie on an even keel, for the most part, with an adroit and disciplined lead performance that generates both laughter and sympathy, with relatively few yanks on the heartstrings.” — from Joe Leydon‘s Variety review, posted from SXSW on 3.14.15.

Music That Watches The Film With You

“Gently alerting” is one way to describe Howard Shore‘s all-piano Spotlight score. It indicates that the movie is up to something solemn and real and worth your time. You hear a few bars and right away you’re saying to yourself, “Okay, there’s something going on here…I’m gonna focus because something of substance will probably come of it….I can just tell.” And yet at the same time it doesn’t instruct you how to feel; nor does it emphasize or underline. It’s one of those scores that watches the film with you. It musically reiterates what you’re feeling or thinking from point to point. Here are samples.

Best Feature Doc Shortlist Preferences

Last Friday 124 feature-length documentaries were submitted for Oscar consideration. A short list of 15 will be revealed in early December (less than five weeks hence), and the final quintet will be announced when all the Oscar nominees are announced in mid January. And of course I’ve been slacking on this front so here’s a roster of my personal short-list preferences. There are more than a few I haven’t seen (including Jill Bauer and Ronna GradusHot Girls Wanted, Geeta and Ravi Patel‘s Meet The Patels, Marc Silver‘s 3 and 1/2 Minutes, Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi‘s Meru, Matthew Heineman‘s Cartel Land, Benjamin Statler‘s Soaked in Bleach) but here are 11 docs that — for me, in this order — burned through in some extra, commanding, head-turning way:

1. Alex Gibney‘s Going Clear: Scientology and The Prison of Belief / HE review.
2. Colin HanksAll Things Must Pass / HE review.
3. Ondi Timoner‘s Brand: A Second Coming / HE review/coverage.
4. Doug Tirola‘s Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead / HE review.
5. Stevan Riley‘s Listen To Me, Marlon / HE review.
6. Gabriel Clarke and John McKenna‘s Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans / HE review.
7. Michael Moore‘s Where To Invade Next / HE review.
8. Kent JonesHitchcock Truffaut / HE review.
9. Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon‘s Best of Enemies / HE review.
10. Amy Berg‘s Janis Little Girl Blue / HE review.
11. Asif Kapadia‘s Amy / HE review.