I’ve been reading about the Metrograph, a recently opened two-screen cinema at 7 Ludlow Street, and so this evening I dropped by. Nice two-story place. Brick exterior, spare design, darkish lighting. An upscale, refined salon for cineastes and cool cats. Beautiful wooden seats in theatre #1. (I didn’t visit theatre #2.) A restaurant and book shop upstairs. Exotic flavored popcorn (i.e., turmeric and cayenne pepper). They have the temerity to charge $4.00 for a roll of Reed’s cinnamon mints.
I went to a 9:15 pm screening of Luchino Visconti‘s The Damned (’69), the classic ’30s-era melodrama about Naziism, steel mills, power and perversity. I haven’t seen it since the ’70s, but I have to say it underwhelmed. Makes its points about Germany’s Krupp family, leaves a strong impression but the shock value has worn off, and so you pay closer attention to the particulars. I was surprised by how plain and even tedious the cinematography (by Pasquale De Santis and Armando Nannuzzi) seems at times — way too many zoom-ins and zoom-outs.
They showed an English-language version, which felt strange and even awful at times.
Helmut Berger is still a pervy hoot; Dirk Bogarde, Ingrid Thulin, Helmut Griem, etc. I didn’t hate it but it certainly hasn’t gained.
A 4.30 Politico piece by Annie Karni pours water on the idea of a Clinton-Warren ticket. She claims that while Hillary is intrigued by the idea of an all-female ticket, sources are saying she won’t ask Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who should have carried the progressive banner against Hillary instead of Bernie Sanders, to be her vice-president. One problem: Hillary is not and never will be the political lightning rod that Sanders is and which Warren is regarded as. The thunder of the last 12 months has been entirely about anti-Wall Street and anti-political-establishment feelings, and the only real excitement among voters, obviously, has been generated by the Sanders and Donald Trump candidacies. Hillary is a smart, crafty candidate who will almost certainly beat Trump, but she hasn’t harnessed the wildfire sentiments out there, certainly among the under-35s. If she wants to excite the Sanders progressives and do something that fence-sitters will actually feel cranked about, she should seriously think about partnering with Warren.
In a 4.25 N.Y. Times interview with Jodie Foster, Frank Bruni observes that Money Monster, her fourth directed film following Little Man Tate, Home For The Holidays and The Beaver, “is by far the most ambitious — a New York City thriller with SWAT teams, explosives, George Clooney and Julia Roberts.”
The other day I wrote that “if I was lord and dictator of The Nice Guys, I wouldn’t allow face-punching.” And if I was lord and dictator of Money Monster, I would definitely prohibit SWAT teams and explosives.
I realize that it’s about a hostage situation, and that Jack O’Connell‘s Kyle Budwell, a frenzied guy who’s lost everything, is holding a gun on Clooney’s Lee Gates, and that the rote thing would be for the SWAT guys to aim their weapons and pick him off if possible. But how sick are you of SWAT teams? How sick to death are you of movie explosions? I know this sounds silly, but what if Foster and the Money Monster writers were to respond to this dicey situation in a somewhat different way? Not just tactically but dramatically, I mean.
What if a TV station security guy or a detective from a nearby precinct were to say to everyone, “Look, can we break precedent for once and not send in the SWAT team? Yes, we’ve got a loose cannon threatening a guy but let’s tone it down. Let’s use our heads and figure this guy out and play it one soft step at a time.” I would melt in my seat if Money Monster did that. “Thank you, Jodie!,” I would shout from my tenth-row-seat.
Robert Towne went a little bit in this direction when he did an uncredited rewrite of 8 Million Ways to Die (’86), which was director Hal Ashby‘s last film. According to Ashby biographer Christopher Beach, Towne wrote a scene in which Jeff Bridges‘ Matt Scudder shoots a suspect who’s just hit a policeman with an unlikely weapon — a rocking chair. Ashby changed the weapon from a rocking chair to a baseball bat. Towne was furious at Ashby for doing so, and they were never entirely cordial after that.
Bottom line: Either you’re the kind of filmmaker who understands that rocking chairs are far more interesting, or you’re not. Either you get that people are sick of baseball bats, or you don’t.
I’d really like to see Cuba on a motorcycle or super-scooter before it turns into an extension of southern Florida. There’s a piece in the current Men’s Journal about a guy who did this a few months ago on a Triumph. Included in the article (which I read last night at LAX) is a story about Steve McQueen and a couple of friends rumbling across Cuba on bikes in ’58 or thereabouts. McQueen’s summary was included in a 1971 Sports Illustrated interview/profile piece:
“We were quite a group. An actor, a poet and a guy who was just plain nuts, or maybe we all were. Hurricane Audrey was sloshing around on the East Coast while we zipped down to Florida. Then we ran from Havana to Santiago, about 967 or so kilometers, as I recall. Batista and Castro were shooting it out down there in the Sierra Maestra, and there were uniforms everywhere. I was still a little wild in those days, particularly when I was on the juice. So what happens? I get thrown in the calabozo.
I went to a fair amount of trouble and no small expense scoring decent seats (3) for tomorrow’s Mets vs. Giants game at Citifield, and now there’s a 100% chance of the game being rained-out. If that happens it’ll be re-scheduled for Monday or Tuesday, I’m told, but unless it’s a night game Jett and Cait won’t be able to come because of work. Plus it’s unseasonably cool now (60s) so whichever and however jackets, sweaters and scarves will be de rigeur. The whole idea has just been a huge pain in the ass. I’m sorry it came to mind. I haven’t been to a baseball game in over a decade; I should’ve kept it that way.
At least there’s next Wednesday’s matinee of Long Day’s Journey Into Night to look forward to. Thanks to the IDPR guys for helping me score tickets.
LAX departure around 11 pm, arrival at JFK at 7something, baggage carousel, Air Train, A train…I’ve done it 30 or 40 times since moving to Los Angeles in ’83. And almost every time after arriving I’ve visited some little inauspicious diner and ordered a large breakfast. There’s something restorative about this. You can’t do fruit, yogurt, granola and tea — you have to go full tristate greasy spoon and order scrambled eggs, bacon, home fries and cappucino, etc. This morning the welcome-back joint was Toasties on John Street.
You can tell Cristian Mungiu‘s Graduation (i.e., Bacalaureat) is made of strong, jolting stuff. To his everlasting and glorious credit, Mungiu is not Zack Snyder. When disturbing or traumatic things happen in his films (such as in Beyond The Hills) he never slams them into your face. He captures incidents from a distance, in the corners of frames, sudden and unforeseen. Consider what seems to be happening in this trailer at 1:10 and 1:34. Pic has been described as “a powerful and universal study about the imprecision of parenthood, the relativity of truth and the ambiguity of compromise, revealed by a father-daughter relationship.” The Romanian drama will soon play in competition in Cannes.
Hollywood Elsewhere approves of Jason Bateman‘s The Family Fang (Starz, 4.29). So does everyone else for the most part. But I have a very slight issue with Nicole Kidman‘s film-set boob scene, and more particularly the fact that she doesn’t flash. Not that I care one way or the other, but what’s the big deal about topless these days? Nobody cares. It’s one thing if biology has taken you down a peg or two but if you have a relatively nice rack where’s the harm? Why even do a boob scene in 2016 if you’re going to shoot it like Clive Donner shot Paula Prentiss in What’s New Pussycat (’65)? Julie Andrews flashed in Blake Edward‘s S.O.B. 34 years ago. If you’d rather not go there, fine, but if that’s the attitude why not shoot another kind of film-set scene that explores or reveals Nicole’s actress character?
When I think of Captain America: Civil War (Disney, 5.3), which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, I recall three things: (1) how I began to feel numbed and debilitated around the 100-minute mark (i.e., right after the Berlin airport brawl), (2) how much I loathed hanging with corporate Marvel whore Robert Downey, and (3) the only superhero character who really got my attention was Chadwick Boseman‘s Black Panther, if no other reason than the fact that he’s the new guy. All that stands out are the steel claws but I remember thinking, “Okay, he’s cool, nice outfit, whatever.”
You can tell Justin Chadwick‘s Tulip Fever (Weinstein Co., 7.15) is a carefully honed, well-crafted thing. The cinematography by Eigl Bryld (In Bruges) is obviously handsome; ditto the production design. It’s probably safe to assume that the screenplay by Tom Stoppard, based on a book by Deborah Moggach, will have a certain rhyme. But it has Christoph Waltz once again playing a cuckold with a much younger wife. His last outing in this realm was in Water for Elephants, in which Reese Witherspoon cheated on him with Robert Pattinson. This time it’s Alicia Vikander having it off with pint-sized portrait artist Dane DeHaan (who replaced the much brawnier Matthias Schoenaerts). The Dutch locale and the portrait painting also recall The Girl With a Pearl Earring. Not to mention those ridiculous 17th Century collars that Waltz has to wear. Fairly or not, it just feels like recycled material.
I was going to catch a 2:30 showing of Sir Carol Reed‘s Trapeze (’56) at the TCM Old Tourists Watching Old Films Festival, which kicked off last night. I saw part of this 1956 film on TV decades ago but never all the way through. But Bosley Crowther’s review gave me pause — “dismally obvious and monotonous story…you never saw so much rehearsing or heard so much dull and hackneyed talk.” And then I ran this brief highlights reel and said to myself, “Okay, that’s fine, but don’t blow an afternoon over this.” One arresting shot: Burt Lancaster (who performed some of his own stunts) falling from a trapeze and bouncing off the net and onto the ground.
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