Don’t Worry About It

Amy Schumer knows what she’s doing with her 2016 Pirelli calendar appearance. She’s saying “most women look like me and I can get all the guys I want anyway so fuck it.” Fine. Earlier today she tweeted the below photo with the following: “Beautiful, gross, strong, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, sexy, disgusting, flawless, woman. Thank you @annieleibovitz.” Lena Dunham has been making the same brash socio-political statement since Girls began. And you know who used to be on that page? Melissa McCarthy (i.e., “Leave me alone, I’m a big girl and that’s that,” etc.) Until she awoke one morning and said, “Okay, did that, next.” Schumer and Dunham will never admit it, but they’ll be doing a McCarthy sooner or later.


Hugh Glass Is Zach Bass — The 1971 Revenant

It’s vaguely insulting to Alejandro G. Inarritu‘s The Revenant, I realize, to even mention Richard Sarafian‘s Man in the Wilderness (’71) in the same breath. But they’re more or less based on the same true-life story — same trapper, same bear, same burying alive, same riverboat, same (or similar) Native American animosities, same betrayal, etc. The Inarritu is way better from a visual chops and authenticity-of-milieu standpoint alone, of course, but the bones are the bones.

Latest Ear Bug, Thanks To Joy

Jagger & Richards’ “Stray Cat Blues,” the eighth cut on the 1968 Beggar’s Banquet album, is heard during the first act of David O. Russell‘s Joy, and as soon as it began playing I was feeling it down deep. The right song at the right moment. Russell uses it as a childhood link-up as Joy Mangano‘s 12 year-old self is featured in two or three scenes, and that would be around ’68. The song’s about a jaded rock musician about to do the deed with a 15-year-old runaway who misses her mother while Jennifer Lawrence‘s character is nobody’s pushover or victim — no thematic tie-in.

String Is Running Out

Tonight is quiet but tomorrow evening is the first press screening of The Hateful Eight (in 70mm). Wednesday evening is a second look at Joy (followed by a Michael Keaton Spotlight dinner in Century City). And Thursday evening is a re-encounter with The Revenant. Steady as she goes. The embargo-ending review date for The Revenant is Friday, 12.4. Joy‘s review date is on Monday, 12.7 — the same date as the Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiere in Hollywood (i.e., two theatres, I’m hearing, and possibly even three — El Capitan, Chinese and/or Dolby). The Hateful Eight‘s embargo-release date is Monday, 12.21. And oh, yeah — the National Board of Review votes tomorrow and the New York Film Critics Circle votes on Wednesday. At least one of these groups will probably choose Spotlight as the recipient of their Best Picture award. Guesses?

Da Bomb

I stay away from soft drinks as a rule except when I order Diet Coke at parties. The only time I’ll bring some home from Pavilions is when I happen to find supplies of Coca Cola Life — the reduced-calorie green label brand that I’ve told myself is somehow preferable to Diet Coke and certainly less toxic than Coke Zero. The other day I bought a six-pack of small glass bottles of Coca Cola Life. As I was unpacking the bags I put one into the freezer before drinking it 10 or 15 minutes later. Five or six hours later I opened the freezer door and of course the fucking bottle had exploded like a grenade. Gobs and gobs of honey-brown Coke snow splattered all over the inside, covering everything. It took too long to clean it up and it was sticky and messy to boot. It wasn’t a huge deal but on the other hand it was one more thing on top of everything else, and all because I couldn’t repress this thing I have about hanging on to Coca Cola (i.e., a metaphor for my childhood experience) in some fashion.

Louche Decadence

Frogs and their cigarettes — a cultural interweaving that will never be diluted or compromised, much less rubbed out. Case in point: Olivier Sarkozy, the inhaling French banker, 46, who married Mary-Kate Olsen, 29, during a private ceremony in Manhattan last Friday. It’s one thing for this or that person to light up on a balcony or otherwise outdoors…whatever. But Sarkozy and Olsen put out “bowls and bowls filled with cigarettes, and everyone smoked the whole night,” according to an 11.29 Page Six story by Lindsay Putnam. Can you imagine the kind of people who were lighting up? Can you imagine the stink? What’s the difference between offering bowls of cancer sticks and having waiters hand out little glassine packets of heroin on fine china plates?

Aahh, Look At All The Lonely People

Please, for once, sidestep the usual family-friendly corporate product…the same old mainstream animated factory features that win the Best Animated Feature Oscar each and every year, and give it instead to an animated film that did it the hard, hand-painted, step-by-grueling-step way…frame by frame, ennui moment by ennui moment…the most craftsman-like, organically assembled animated flick since Wes Anderson‘s The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Click here to jump past HE Sink-In

Love & Mercy is arguably the richest and most innovative musical biopic ever made. Really. Ever. And easily one of 2015’s best films. No debate. And when it was released…do I really have to explain that release dates should never mean a damn thing to anyone? Great is great, timeless is timeless.

Do I sound lecturing? Okay, maybe I do. But it’s time to re-charge the Love & Mercy award-season batteries and do a little soft-shoe schooling all the same. Time to dial it down and gently re-explain what a major mold-breaker and a deep-down thing this film is. It’s a musical-mystical-psychological biopic…too complex? Okay, it’s a “rescue me” love story and a journey into the ways of an unstable, heaven-touching genius that has pretty much levitated everyone who’s seen it and inspired more than just your basic thumbs-up reactions and…what, something closer to love?

And yet a few prognosticating blowhards have continued to say that Love & Mercy is not a real award-season thing because it came out last June. Please! There are two phenomenal 2015 films that opened before Labor Day — Love & Mercy and Mad Max: Fury Road, and release dates couldn’t matter less. Oh, wait…they do matter. Because the award whisperers say so. Right.

Listen to this — the first dialogue you hear in the whole film. And then this. “Who are you, Mozart?” Yeah, Mike…exactly. How’d you figure that?

An Academy member I know wrote me after a Samuel Goldwyn screening and said Love & Mercy “is so unlike every other musical biopic ever made…there’s hardly a trope in it. Which may hurt it at the box-office in the end. No big set pieces, no moment where we discover ‘the singer can sing’, no final musical triumph. It’s so much deeper than that.”

People all over town who know from movies have spoken. People like Jane Fonda, Paul McCartney and Cameron Crowe swear by Love & Mercy. (Go ahead, ask them.) And the Movie Godz bestowed their blessings, of course, after those first 2014 Toronto Film Festival screenings. And all those California girls, man, in their French bikinis.


Curtains Part

My primary complaint about Brian Helgeland‘s Legend, as noted in a 9.12.15 Toronto Film Festival review, was that I could only understand a fraction of it. This was due, I said, to “the Swahili-like working-class London accents, which are always a problem for me in any film, and the bassy-boomy sound system at Toronto’s Princess of Wales theatre.” Well, hold that. I saw Legend again tonight on a DVD screener with subtitles, and reading each and every line and realizing it’s essentially a dry, ultra-violent absurdist comedy made quite a difference. This might be a bit late but while I was dismissive in Toronto, I’m hereby upgrading Legend to a passing grade. But it’s still too long.


Obama at Bataclan

Six days ago the N.Y. Times posted a video of David, a 46-year-old Parisian nurse, recalling his experience in the aftermath of the Bataclan concert hall attack (50 Blvd. Voltaire, 11th arrondisement). He was attempting to resuscitate a guy hurt during the ISIS attack, but he didn’t realize at first that the guy, who had “an enormous hole in his side,” was an ISIS fiend who had wires dangling from his chest area and was wearing some kind of explosive body pack that had malfunctioned. President Obama, in Paris for climate talks, visited the Bataclan an hour or two ago.

This Is Serious

A director-writer told me a day or two ago (and with some anger) that there’s “no way” Creed is making it into the Best Picture conversation. Maybe, but I wouldn’t be too sure about that. There’s absolutely no question about Sylvester Stallone landing a Best Supporting Actor nomination, and right now I’m between 70% and 80% convinced he’s a lock to win.

If Harmin’ Armond Likes It…

I re-watched half of Rocky last night — hadn’t seen it since ’76. I’d forgotten that it expends over a half-hour of pure character-and-milieu exploration (i.e., the audience getting to know Rocky Balboa‘s grim, probably-no-exit life) before the inciting incident happens — before Apollo Creed decides he’d like to fight an unknown “eye-talian.” In the old days (i.e., the ’90s and before) inciting incidents happened somewhere between page 20 and 26. I haven’t done a study or poll but I’ll bet that in these ADD times inciting incidents are happening a bit earlier. Man on Fire‘s inciting incident (i.e., the kidnapping of Dakota Fanning) happens around the 45-minute mark.

Wells to WTF Guy

Jeffrey Wells to Marc Maron: “I’m the Hollywood Elsewhere guy ( I’m friendly with Mike Binder, the “Keep Calm” author whom you recently interviewed. My story is somewhat similar to yours…a standup comedy career that gradually dried up and then you began I was banging around in entertainment journalism, doing well as far as it went, and then I lucked out with online journalism starting in ’98, first as a paid columnist before starting my own site in ’04. If you want to chat we could cover…whatever, the whole award-season waterfront and maybe some of my half-colorful backstory and side stories (or not). Or we could let it all go. I only know that my tale is fairly interesting and somewhat similar to yours. Let me know & be well.”

Don’t Monkey Around

I stopped getting high as a rule in the mid ’70s, partly because I’d begun to hate the sense of weird isolation I was feeling when fully ripped. Pot is not a social drug — it’s about having giggly fits about tickly notions that are mostly in your head alone. And then it’s about spiralling down through the looking glass and becoming a flying monkey. And then about succumbing to the munchies. It was also because pot opened the door to “the fear” — that mounting panic anxiety state that led to wild inconsolate hell and nerve-jangled insanity from which there could be no return. During a visit to Cinevegas in ’02 or ’03 I stupidly ate a super-potent pot brownie and got so ripped I had to down an entire fifth of Jack Daniels to keep the anxiety at bay. But I really loved my early experiences of getting seriously baked, and particularly that odd time-loss thing that would happen every so often. I would be riding in the backseat of a friend’s car and just leave the planet for places unknown, and then I would suddenly awake and be somewhere new…how did I get here? I could have been space-tripping for five minutes or five seconds — I couldn’t tell but I had left the realm. I’ll never forget that “whoa, what just happened?” feeling.


Dweeb Manifesto

In a comment thread about Friday’s “They Call Us Dweebs For A Reason” piece, I wrote the following: “I have the ability to read festival reviews plus I’ve developed highly sophisticated sensors (i.e., insect antennae) that can spot movies aimed at film snobs a mile away — highly intelligent films with a highly refined or uncompromised aesthetic factor that seem to be coupled with a lack of interest in providing any semblance of an emotionally engaging current or, failing that, at least an attempt to meet the viewer halfway. We all know what dweeb cinema is and we all know what dweeb-elites look and talk and dress like. (A picture is worth a thousand words but I can tell you I’ve never seen a dweeb wearing my idea of cool shoes…not once, not ever.) They’re a breed apart, a club, a cloistered semi-secret order with their own way of being and relating, a fraternity that insists that applicants prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are fundamentally opposed to the concept of commonly-defined movie pleasure. That said, I wouldn’t want to live in a world without film snobs because their influence delivers a much-needed cultural counter-balance to philistine-idiot popcorn movies. All hail Son of Saul, Carol, Anomalisa and the cinema of Christian Petzold.” (more…)

Gives Me A Headache Just To Think About It

Another superhero-vs.-superhero dukeout movie, arriving a little less than two months after Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (Warner Bros., 3.16)? If anyone can pull this kind of thing off it’s the Russo brothers, who seem to be the best thing to happen to superhero movies in a dog’s age and are, in my eyes, antidotes to the Zack Snyder virus. But I’m dreading the prospect of watching Robert Downey, Jr. doing his Tony Stark/Iron Man sardonic multi-billionaire quipster bullshit for what feels like the ninth or tenth time. Please kill this guy off. Enough.

Feinberg’s Fair Remedy for Category Fraud

None of the distributors want to police or restrict category fraud (i.e., running Carol‘s Rooney Mara as a Best Supporting Actress contender) because they all want to keep the option open because sometimes you can get away with it and, you know, win

But if they did want to correct things, The Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg has offered a suggestion that makes basic sense. Feinberg proposed a uniform 50% rule — “If you’re onscreen for 50 percent or more of a film’s running time, you’re a lead, and if you’re onscreen for less than 50 percent, you’re supporting,” as he puts it. Feinberg adds that in the matter of the Oscars these designations would be open to appeal to the three representatives of the acting branch serving on the Board of Governors.” 

But of course with the 50% rule Anthony Hopkins could have never won Best Actor for his performance as Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs (’91) because he was only on-screen for 16 minutes. So nothing’s going to change. Our brand is fraud or at least occasional fraud…and we like it that way.

Let Me Get This Straight

A friend tells me that Ron Howard‘s In The Heart of The Sea (Universal, 12.11) is a decent scary-whale movie that is all but drowned in CG, but on the other hand is no disaster. Everything would have been fine if they’d stuck to the original March 13th release date because this is apparently one of those movies that screams late winter or early spring. But for some ill-considered reason they shifted the release to December 11th — one week before Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens, and they’re obviously going to get killed. Plus there’s no award-season chatter at all. This is a movie that can’t wait to die but why? Why commit box-office hari kiri by sending out signals for months that something’s sorta kinda wrong, and then open it one week before the biggest four-quadrant movie of the year?

In The Heart of The Sea had its New York City junket was last weekend and no one seemed to notice. (Okay, I did.) Los Angeles all-media schlubs like myself will see it at the Grove on Monday, 12.7 — four days before it opens.

All along it’s been clear that Howard had decided to make a Joe Popcorn-level adaptation of Nathaniel Philbrick’s respected historical saga…60% to 70% scary whale CG stuff plus narrative bookends (Ben Whishaw‘s Herman Melville hears the Moby Dick tale from Brendan Gleeson‘s old Thomas Nickerson), preliminaries and survival-at-sea aftermath covering 30% or 40%…something like that.

In The Heart of The Sea began shooting in September 2013 (a Variety casting story projected that start date), began the research screening process the following summer (an early rough-cut version screened in May, another happened in late July). Warner Bros. decided against releasing it in ’14 and opted instead for the 3.13.15 date. And they dropped that and bumped it into early December, presumably, everyone thought, out of a belief that the film had some kind of award-season potential. Obviously not.

The bottom line is that Warner Bros. marketing has done a brilliant job of convincing everyone that In The Heart Of The Sea is (take your pick of briney metaphors) a dead fish or beached whale or what-have-you and yet, to hear it from this guy who saw it last weekend, it’s not all that bad.