I Tried To Get Out of Feeling Their Pain

It hit me a while ago that I’ve failed to post a reaction to Derek Cianfrance‘s The Light Between Oceans (Disney, 9.2). Now that I’m packing and attending to last-minute stuff I’m not sure I have the time. Or the will. Maybe on tomorrow morning’s flight to Denver? Or I could just blow it off. Okay, I’ll push something out now.

I’m not feeling much beyond what everyone else is feeling or saying — an impressive first hour or so, a bit morose but well-rendered, and then the film goes full-hurt crazy, the wrong move, tears streaming or held back, stunned, swallowed up, “oh what to do”? A guilt-and-suffer opera.

Michael Fassbender is fine (grim, fully committed, extra-solemn) but he’s still Fassbender. A heaving, pull-out-the-stops performance by Alicia Vikander that makes you want to cower at times. Rachel Weitz‘s performance is all-in but measured. She never turns the spigot on full blast.

The mesmerizing cinematography by Adam Arkapaw and the fleet editing by Jim Helton and Ron Patane are the two finest elements. You could just watch this thing without listening to it, and you wouldn’t have the slightest trouble following the story. That’s a sign of strong cinema, no? (more…)

F.W. Murnau’s The Cab Is Waiting

Just because Nora Ephron owns these words doesn’t mean I can’t buy a rectangular chunk of wood with these very words stencilled with white letters (which I did at Book Soup late this afternoon) and then take it home and hang it on my wall. There are probably very few people out there who believe in these words more than I. Hollywood Elsewhere is a daily…hell, an hourly embodiment.

Gimme a Break

A 4:15 am wake-up (less than 13 hours from now), 5 am taxi (Uber?) to Burbank, 7 am flight to Denver, 11:25 am Denver to Durango flight, out of the parking lot by 1 pm or thereabouts, an easy two-and-a-half-hour drive to Telluride…no hurry or worry. Snag press pass by 4 pm, hit the local market, unpack at the condo, etc.

Native French Terrorists Lip-Synching to Blondie, Chief Keef

From Pamela Pianezza’s 8.30 Variety review: “A disturbingly relevant snapshot of contemporary tensions, Bertrand Bonello’s Nocturama observes in minute detail how a small group plans and executes a series of terror attacks in Paris before retreating to a luxurious department store. These aren’t your garden-variety extremists, but a mix of people of different ages and origins, which makes this sure-to-be-controversial treatment all the more provocative.

“Working from a nerve-racking script written five years ago — long before the wave of attacks that started in France on 1.7.15, with the Charlie Hebdo shooting — Bonello replies to the news with a magnetic and purely cinematic gesture that may have frightened the Cannes Film Festival selection committee (the touchy film was ready in time for the May edition), but should spark a wide range of reactions when it screens at the Toronto and San Sebastian film festivals, following its domestic opening in France on 8.31.”

I Owned A Compaq Laptop Back In The Day

Jason Cohen‘s Silicon Cowboys, a doc about the “meteoric rise of Texas upstart Compaq whose David-and-Goliath battle with tech giant IBM was the catalyst of the PC era,” is having a special invitational screening at the WME’s Beverly Hills offices (9601 Wilshire) on Thursday, 9.8. Brilliant timing as everyone (and I mean everyone) will be covering the launch of the Toronto Film Festival that day. They couldn’t have arranged the screening to happen in mid to late August? I would have paid attention as HE’s own Svetlana Cvetko shot a good portion of it. Silicon Cowboys will open in theaters and on VOD on 9.16, which is also dominated by TIFF.

Howard’s Good Enough Beatles Doc

Ron Howard‘s Eight Days A Week: The Touring Years, which I saw last night, reminded me that I’m really sick of listening to those same old recordings of the Beatles’ greatest hits from their early period (pre-Rubber Soul). You reach a saturation point with certain songs. Obviously Howard understands this, and yet he plays track after track of these top-40 groaners, over and over and over and over…Christ.

The reason, I’m presuming, is that Howard wants the doc to reach younger people who aren’t sick of these songs. That’s fine from a marketing standpoint but deathly from the perspective of any longtime fan. All I know is that I literally can’t listen to those standard-issue versions of these same old songs any more. The sound waves bounce off my ears because there’s a counter-voice inside me going “no…not again!”

There was one moment that really got me, and that was mainly because I’d never listened to the Beatles Anthology 1 album, a collection of alternate takes that covers their recordings from the late ’50s to late ’64. I had therefore, until last night, never heard a rough but very cool alternate version of “Eight Days A Week.” It begins with an “ooooo!” a cappella (joined by amped acoustic guitar) and finishes with the same “ooooo!” backed by full electric accompaniment and drums. (Plus the “week” in the chorus is sung in a harmonized falsetto.)

I’m telling you this track is 10 to 15 times better than the final version that everyone’s heard 17,000 fucking times. Listen to it — the final six bars of “oooo!” are perfect. (more…)

American Cultural Disease: Suicide Squad Made $284 Million While A Bigger Splash Made Nickels

Fact #1: Luca Guadagnino‘s sensual, scintillating A Bigger Splash is one of 2016’s best films and was easily one of the two or three finest of the winter-spring season. Fact #2: Americans stayed away in droves. A Bigger Splash made a lousy $2,024,099 domestic plus $5,452,159 in overseas earnings. Fact #3: The Splash Bluray will pop on Tuesday, 9.6, and is currently streamable on Amazon for only $15.

From my 4.18.16 review, “Much Better Splash Than Expected — Perverse, Noirish, High-Style, Sensual”: “This is a noirish Mediterranean hothouse thing — a not-especially-sordid sex and betrayal story that builds so slowly and languidly it feels like there’s nothing going on except for the vibe, and honestly? It’s so lulling and flavorful and swoony and sun-baked that you just give in to it. The undercurrent is…well, gently mesmerizing, and that was enough for me.

“I can’t wait to go there again. I felt like I was savoring a brief vacation. I’m not saying the dramatic ingredients are secondary, but they almost are.

“The title comes from a David Hockney painting, and that in itself should tell you where Guadagnino is coming from. A Bigger Splash is about island vibes and coolness and louche attitudes and to some extent the splendor of the druggy days, and particularly the legend of the Rolling Stones. (more…)

The “Hat” Isn’t Really About Manufacturing

This morning a friend instructed me to look at a new Hillary Clinton ad (which is actually dated 8.23). I think it’s fine if a bit wonky. And it kind of misses the point of “Make America Great Again,” which is a dogwhistle slogan that means “Restore White Culture.” The people who wear and swear by the hat believe that the cause of everything being terrible for rural, rust-belt white guys is (a) Obama, (b) the Multiculturals, (c) Political Correctness and (d) the LGBT rights movement.

Phil Collins’ “I Don’t Care Anymore”

Update:  Eight days after announcing that Nate Parker would not sit for a Toronto Film Festival press conference, Fox Searchlight has changed course and announced that he will. Except TIFF-covering press can’t just show up and be seated.  As with any junket, journos have to be pre-approved by FS and talent reps.    That doesn’t necessarily mean most of the questions will be cottonballs,  but there is that possibility.

Two press conferences will occur — Parker and the Birth of a Nation cast doing a video junket presser on Saturday, 9.10, and then a print press conference on Sunday, 9.11.  Both will happen at the Fairmont Royal York and not, as previously reported about the 9.11 press conference, at the Bell Lightbox. So FS, Parker and the gang still aren’t doing a “TIFF press conference” as most of us understand the term.

Starts Off Like A House On Fire

As expected, as you knew it would, Damian Chazelle‘s La La Land has won over Venice Film Festival-attending critics. (Along with certain elites who saw it locally.) The 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes won’t last. Metacritic is currently dispensing a 91% tally. Lift me up, lay me down, take me there…ooh, aaahh, yeah.

“Not perfect but daring, dazzling, beautiful and distinctive,” enthuses Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy. “An absolute triumph,” proclaims The PLaylist‘s Jessica Kiang. “A whole-hog recreation of a lavish neo-studio-system musical,” says Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman, “replete with starry nights and street lamps lighting up the innocence of soft-shoe romance, and two people who were meant for each other literally dancing on air.”

Oh, and downplay your 1950s MGM references and think instead of the musicals of Jacques Demy (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, The Young Girls of Rochefort) as the primary inspiration.

Variety‘s Kris Tapley, who hates the hype and phoniness of Oscar season, has called it “the easiest bet…a GOOD MOVIE [that] seizes your emotions in its final moments and sends you out of the theater on a cloud.” (more…)

Oliver’s Story

A brilliant 13-year run — Salvador, Platoon, Wall Street, Talk Radio, Born on the Fourth of July, JFK, The Doors (ignore Heaven and Earth), Natural Born Killers, Nixon (ignore U-Turn) and Any Given Sunday. Then came a 12 year period in which he made docs — Persona non Grata, Commandante, South of the Border, Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States — along with Alexander (still haven’t seen Alexander: The Final Cut), World Trade Center (meh), W. (pretty good), Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (thumbs down) and Savages (ditto). And now he’s back on top with Snowden, the finest film Stone has directed since Any Given Sunday, not to mention the smoothest and most carefully ordered. I can’t post a multi-paragraph review until 9.9 or thereabouts, but trust me.

Oliver Stone, room #1006 in Four Seasons hotel, Beverly Hills, CA — Sunday, 8.28, 3:45 pm. The blue suit was tailored by Sam’s of Hong Kong.

The Oliver Stone Experience” (Amrams), edited and partly written by Matt Zoller Seitz (a.k.a. “Mr. Mellow”), pops on 9.13.

I Need A Screener That Won’t Drive Me Crazy

Woody Allen‘s Crisis in Six Scenes, a six-episode, half-hour series set in flush woodsy Connecticut back in the crazy late ’60s, will debut on Amazon on Saturday, 9.30. The logline — “a middle class suburban family visited by a guest who turns their household completely upside down” — sounds like two films: George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart‘s The Man Who Came To Dinner (’42) and Pier Paolo Pasolini‘s Teorema (’68). I seem to recall that Son-in-Law, a 1993 Pauly Shore comedy, used the bones of this plot also.

Woody Allen, Miley Crisis…sorry, Cyrus. It’s just that when I think of her I think of instability, topsy-turvy-ness, emotional excess.


Hit The Dirt

I know it’s against the law to say this, but I’m not entirely sure that I like Sam Peckinpah‘s The Getaway (’72) better than Roger Donaldson’s 1994 version. I was more than pleased with the Donaldson, and there are portions of the Peckinpah that bothered me from the get-go. (Sally Struthers‘ character, for one.) But I’ll always love this shotgun-the-cop-car scene in the original.

Newman Bag

When Paul Newman steps out of a helicopter in the opening minutes of Irwin Allen‘s The Towering Inferno, he’s carrying a beautiful, Italian-crafted brown leather bag. I fell in love with the sight of it. Fast forward three years, at which time I was living in a rental off South Compo Road in Westport, CT. Sometime in the summer of ’77 or thereabouts I heard that Newman, a Westport resident since the ’50s, had bought the leather bag at Ed Mitchell’s (now just called plain old Mitchell’s), a respected retailer located on the corner of the Post Road and South Compo. Lo and behold I went into Ed’s one day and there it was, the exact same honey bag. It felt like heaven in my hands. I couldn’t afford it but I bought it anyway and carried it proudly for three and half years.

Paul Newman, William Holden in Irwin Allen’s The Towering Inferno.

Then came a semi-drunken moment on the London subway in December of ’80. It was an hour or so after midnight and I’d had a few. I had the luscious brown bag with me but for some no-account reason I left the car without it. I quickly realized my error, turned around and the doors closed. I shrieked like Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice. Old brownie, jammed with nice clothing that cost me at least $1500 or more in 1980 dollars, left the station on its way to North London. Oh what a gift that was for some lucky bloke. That’s alcohol for you, and one more reason why I’m delighted I no longer drink. My five-years-sober anniversary will be on 3.20.17.

First Award-Season Screener

Yesterday I received a slim plastic package containing Ezra Edelman‘s justly celebrated O.J.: Made in America — two discs, five parts, 464 minutes. I’ve watched the whole thing twice, I own the five-disc Bluray and the series is totally viewable on ESPN and YouTube, but it’s nice to own another way to watch it. A lot of critics will say this or that film is “required viewing” but this, trust me, is required viewing. I haven’t seen all the docs I should have by now (Anne Thompson‘s 8.25 checklist piece made that abundantly clear) but I doubt if anything will overpower the rep that Edelman’s doc enjoys.

(l.) Just-received DVD screener; (r.) five-disc Bluray that I bought on Amazon.


“Yo! La La Land!”

Damien Chazelle‘s La La Land (Summit, 1.2) will premiere tomorrow night at the 73rd Venice Film Festival. The first trade reviews will pop sometime around midday in Los Angeles, maybe mid-afternoon in New York. I’ve already been told what La La Land is — a generally satisfying, richly embroidered recreation of a romantic ’50s musical with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone trying to fill the shoes of Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds…or something like that.

No, stop — forget Kelly and Reynolds. Ryan and Emma have to be themselves or it won’t work. And the movie definitely has to be itself.

Excerpt from a Deadline/Pete Hammond interview with Chazelle: “At 31, Chazelle is a rare member of his generation who truly gets the glory of a bygone era and seems determined to make it new again. In the course of our 45-minute conversation he clearly demonstrated his encyclopedic knowledge of movies, all types of movies, and La La Land reflects that in many ways — particularly in a sequence set at a revival-house screening of Rebel Without A Cause where Sebastian and Mia meet up for a late-night date.

“[The scene] is full of melancholy and irony as it follows a dinner table conversation in which the participants discuss why seeing movies at home is far preferable to a theater these days.

“That is clearly not Chazelle’s message here. He’s old school, though he told me he realizes not everyone will warm to seeing a musical like this in this day and age. It seems to me, though, that many will be discovering something brand new and startlingly original here and will definitely relate. (more…)

Five Bumps

Every film of consequence goes through five awareness bumps before opening. The first bump is absorbing early info (title, synopsis, cast, director, producers) and maybe reading the script. The second comes with first reactions to early screenings (be they research or long-lead). The third bump is comprised of (a) reactions from people you know and more or less trust who’ve seen the film a few weeks before the opening and/or (b) reactions from festival screenings, if a festival showing is a factor. The fourth bump is general reviews, trailers, tracking, first weekend word-of-mouth. The fifth can be the most crucial — reactions from slowboat ticket buyers, second-wavers, doddering Academy types and non-geniuses. If a movie has caught on, the reactions from this last group will reflect that.

So far Warren Beatty‘s Rules Don’t Apply (20th Century Fox, 11.23) has been through bumps #1 and #2. The first reactions were “good if somewhat traditional”, but a more recent reaction from a knowledgable guy is that it’s very good and is in fact a kind of sublime bull’s-eye thing that will connect with Academy mooks. Bump #4 will happen privately in late September and October, but more particularly when his film, a Los Angeles-set late ’50s dramedy involving two employees (Lily Collins, Alden Ehrenreich) who work for super-magnate Howard Hughes (Beatty), kicks off the 30th AFI Film Fest on Thursday, 11.10. The dream or desire on Beatty’s part, I would imagine, is that under-35 types will relate and embrace given (a) the Collins-Ehrenreich casting and (b) the general theme of seeking a certain emotional serenity — a place of grace, a safe haven — in the midst of a somewhat oppressive and overbearing social system or climate.

Before My Life Began

Sometime in early ’75 I was sitting at a large round table in Izzy’s Deli (17th Street near Wilshire in Santa Monica), fretting about my future, knowing I had to make a move. It was a Saturday around 11 pm. The place was mostly filled, and truth be told I should have been sitting at the counter but I was too absorbed in my melancholy feelings to act in a considerate manner. Suddenly there was a guy with huge eyeballs standing next to me — Marty Feldman. He was with his wife (Lauretta Sullivan) and another couple. Feldman: “How are you? We were actually wondering if we might sit down?” Me (a bit taken aback): “Uhm, you’d like to sit…?” Feldman: “So we can join you!” I suddenly woke up and realized I was being selfish. Me to Feldman: “You guys take it. I’m good. No worries.” No, I didn’t say “Yo, Eye-gore!” No handshakes, no acknowledgment that I knew him. I didn’t want to be a fan.


“Dumb Whore Award of 1974”

From a 7.12.09 piece called “The Art of Paycheck Acting”: “The Towering Inferno was entertaining crap when it opened 35 years ago, and the exact same deal applies now that it’s on Bluray. But Paul Newman and Steve McQueen are honorable and oak-solid in their starring roles. This is impressive given the fact that neither actor has a real part to play — they were just paid to show up and go through the Irwin Allen paces. They knew it then and we know it now, but they deliver the goods anyway. That’s professionalism and star power.

“There are four ways that brand-name actors deliver straight-paycheck performances in mediocre big-studio films. One, they do it straight and plain and cruise by on chops and charisma, like McQueen and Newman. Two, they do it straight and plain and don’t cruise by on chops and charisma — they sink into the movie like quicksand and then suffocate. Three, they behave in an extremely mannered and actorish way as a way of telegraphing to the audience that they’re totally aware that they’re in a crap film. And four, they go beyond mannered and waaay over the top (like Jon Voight in Anaconda) and turn their performances into inspired farce.” (more…)

Wilder at 80, 92Y, Three Years Ago

Born in 1933, Gene Wilder didn’t begin making films until 1966 when he played the giggly, anxious undertaker in Bonnie and Clyde (’67), at which time he was 33. No spring chicken. He had just turned 40 when he began filming Young Frankenstein in ’73 or early ’74. (Whenever.) He was 46 or thereabouts when he began working on Stir Crazy (’80). And then he quit acting after making Funny About Love (’90), at which point he was 56 or 57. he must have been coping with early Alzheimer’s disease when he did this interview with Robert Osborne at Manhattan’s 92Y in 2013.