Architectural Love Affair

Hollywood Elsewhere will make its annual visit to the Savannah Film Festival between Friday, 10.21 and Thursday, 10.27. I can’t wait to savor the shady, 19th Century serenity that this beautiful old town owns. SFF films are often award-season favorites, and this year the hotties are Pablo Larrain‘s Jackie, Damien Chazelle‘s La La Land, Kenneth Lonergan‘s Manchester By The Sea and Denis Villeneuve‘s Arrival. Other big-draw screenings will include Paterson, Christine, 20th Century Women, American Pastoral, Bleed for This, Moonlight, Lion, Loving and I, Daniel Blake. SFF is sponsored by the Savannah College of Art and Design.

The Big Three…Okay, Possibly Four

I think the Best Picture Oscar race is going to come down to three films when all is said and done — Damien Chazelle‘s La La Land, Denzel Washington‘s Fences and Kenneth Lonergan‘s Manchester By The Sea.

And possibly Ang Lee‘s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, which no one has seen but will debut at the New York Film Festival on the evening of Friday, 10.14 — two weeks hence. Hollywood Elsewhere will be there with bells on.

It’ll be La La Land because of that knockout freeway beginning and that brilliant, transcendent ending and a very good middle portion. It’ll be Fences because it’s a venerated August Wilson classic with killer performances (certainly from Washington and Viola Davis) that will allow everyone to respectably “get their black on” (and because it’ll probably turn out to be better than Barry JenkinsMoonlight). And it’ll be Manchester By The Sea because it just reaches in and destroys you — so far it’s the saddest, best acted, most skillfully assembled film of the year, and because — bold as brass — it doesn’t deliver the typical Act Three redemption thing that you always see in sad-white-guy movies.

I really think it’s going to be one of those three, although right now it looks like La La Land has the edge because people simply like it the most. It’s almost The Artist in this sense but is way, way less gimmicky (i.e., not gimmicky at all) and because it excitingly re-vitalizes the big-screen musical in a Jacques Demy way.

For some reason the award-season blogaroonies have tumbled for La La Land in a way that seems almost final and absolute. For some reason they’re not affording Manchester the bow-down respect it absolutely deserves, and for the lamest of reasons — because it leaves them with a feeling of emotional devastation when they’d much rather feel happy. (more…)

Two Different Reachers

Chris McQuarrie‘s Jack Reacher was a lean, low-key ’90s action film — realistic chops, no superman moves, no jumping off buildings, no stupid CG bullshit. Ed Zwick‘s Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (10.21) has obviously thrown the lean-and-mean out the window. This time Reacher is a cyborg James Bond. Nobody except for Robert Patrick‘s T-1000 uses their fist to punch through a car window…nobody. Obviously a wash for people like me, but if you ask the average idiot he/she will probably say they prefer the Reacher T-1000 to the guy Cruise played in the 2012 original.

From my 12.18.12 review of Jack Reacher: “I was fairly satisfied but not that blown away by the final 25%, but the first 75% plays very tight and true and together, and Tom Cruise, as the titular character, has the confidence and presence and steady-as-she-goes vibe of a hero who doesn’t have to reach or scream or emphasize anything in order to exude that steely-stud authority that we all like.

Reacher is just a bang-around Pittsburgh dirty-cop movie with a kind of Samurai-styled outsider (Cruise) working with a sharp-eyed, straight-dope attorney (Rosamund Pike) trying to uncover who stinks and what’s wrong and who needs to be beaten or killed or whatever. (more…)

Haven’t Ordered Overstuffed Carnegie Deli Sandwich Since The ’80s

Thousands of hearts broke today over the news that the famed Carnegie Deli (854 Seventh Ave. between 54th and 55th) will close on 12.31.16. Mine included. Not that I’ve frequented the joint during my NYC visits. I honestly don’t think I’ve ordered anything there since ’82 or ’83, partly because it’s too clattery and touristy. But I love the fact that it’s been there since 1937. And I love that description by Ted Merwin, author of “Pastrami on Rye: An Overstuffed History of the Jewish Deli,” about “the Carnegie’s skyscraper sandwiches and obnoxious waiters embodying the ethos of excess that has characterized New York as a whole.” And I love that black-and-white Broadway Danny Rose footage that was shot in and around the place 33 years ago. I’ll be in Manhattan between 10.7 and 10.16 to cover the New York Film Festival, and I will definitely pay a visit. But no pastrami!

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Sensing That Ava Duvernay’s The 13th May Win Best Feature Doc Oscar

I have an idea that in this, a year in which a sizable percentage of Academy members are committed to expressing anti-OscarsSoWhite sentiments, the Academy’s doc branch might want to give Ava Duvernay‘s 13th their Best Documentary Feature Oscar. I don’t know anything (I won’t see it until next Tuesday) but reviews are through the roof (Rotten Tomatoes 100%, Metacritic 94%) and I can smell it in the wind, not to mention those insect antennae vibrations that I’ve learned to trust over the years.

Duvernay’s doc, which opens the New York Film Festival tonight and will pop on Netflix on 10.7, argues that slavery didn’t actually end with the passage of the 13th Amendment, and that for 150 years since the U.S. penal system has more or less kept slavery going by putting a disproportionate number of black dudes behind bars and reaping the benefits of their prison labor.

This point was made by Michael Moore in Where To Invade Next, and has now been forcefully re-litigated by 13th, which has definitely qualified itself for a Best Feature Doc Oscar. (I checked with Netflix this morning.)

This makes the absence of Duvernay during this year’s Savannah Film Festival “Docs to Watch’ panel (10.23) seems curious.

The panel will be moderated by The Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg, who has fulfilled the same task for the past two years. The classy, award-season-friendly festival will run from 10.22 thru 10.29. Hollywood Elsewhere will be there from 10.21 through 10.26. (more…)

Never Say Never

For me, today, Gary Johnson is the Libertarian candidate for President who was just endorsed by the Chicago Tribune. Before that he was the guy who (a) didn’t know what Aleppo is, (b) wants to inhabit and colonize other planets, and (c) couldn’t name any world leaders. But before today, his name wouldn’t stick. I knew he’d been polling better than Jill Stein, but all I could muster was “uhm, you know, the Libertarian guy.” He’ll always have a dull-sounding name, but now, thanks to the Chicago Tribune, I’ll probably never forget him.

New Rules Trailer Has Been All But De-Beatty-ized

The second and latest trailer for Warren Beatty‘s Rules Don’t Apply (20th Century Fox, 11.23) is selling a Lily Collins-Alden Ehrenreich late ’50s love story with Beatty’s Howard Hughes character as a distinctive second banana. Remember the days when this thing was known as “Beatty’s Howard Hughes flick”? Well, Matthew Broderick has more screen time in this trailer than Beatty does. Either Rules really is a Lily-and-Alden love story with Beatty’s Hughes relegated to colorful, second-tier status, or a decision has been made to sell it that way, or it’s a combination of the two. Beatty has screened the film for friends, interview press and some Variety guys, but not for online know-it-alls like myself so I don’t know what the shot is.

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Reflection / Reality

Peter Berg‘s Deepwater Horizon pops tomorrow. Well, technically tonight. Here’s my 9.14 Toronto Film Festival review — “A reasonably decent kablooey flick…not too difficult to sit through…an FX-driven fireball thing, mostly predictable in terms of story beats and cloying emotion…a megaplex movie for pizza-eating Americans.” Mark Wahlberg and Kate Hudson (below) portray Deepwater Horizon engineer and survivor Mike Williams and his wife Felicia, respectively; the real Mike and Felicia are pictured below at the Toronto premiere.


Hollywood denizens Mark Wahlberg, Kate Hudson.

Felicia and Mike Williams.

Nate Is Not Nat

Out of respect for the bravery and the legend of Nat Turner as well as the blood, sweat and years Nate Parker spent trying to tell his story on film, The Birth of A Nation (Fox Searchlight, 10.7) deserves to be seen and assessed on its own terms. The response to Parker’s film should not, in a fair and balanced world, be regarded as a referendum on the tragic 1999 incident at Penn State that has enveloped Parker and which also resulted, at least in part, in the 2012 suicide of the woman who accused Parker and Jean Celestin of rape.

A Variety guest editorial about Parker and the film, penned by the victim’s sister Sharon Loeffler, was posted today. Here are some portions:

“My sister was raped 60 days after her 18th birthday. She was a freshman at Penn State University. The defendants charged in the case, Nate Parker and Jean Celestin, were on the wrestling team and had the power of the Penn State Athletic Department behind them.”

HE Qualifier: The late victim, allegedly inebriated on the night of the incident, was violated against her will when Celestin, at the request of Parker, joined some one-on-one sexual activity that was already underway between the victim and Parker. In college parlance Parker and Celestin tried to “run a train on her” or otherwise engage in a menage a trois.

It was this activity that led to Parker being found innocent at the conclusion of the first trial, and to Celestin being found guilty. (He later appealed and walked.) (more…)

First 1.66 Paramount Film Now Restored at Original A.R., Blurayed in 3D

HE nemesis Bob Furmanek, the film scholar and restorationist who is responsible for persuading many Bluray distributors to remaster and release 1950s-era films within the dreaded 1.85 aspect ratio: aspect ratio, has been working on a Kino Lorber Bluray of Those Redheads From Seattle, which was the first feature composed for 1.66:1. The Redheads Bluray will be released in 3D early next year.

Although the musical was composed for 1.66:1, Paramount bailed on insisting that this film should be shown in 3D, allowing that exhibitors could project it “flat” (i.e., non-3D) if they so chose. Redheads in 3D hasn’t been seen at 1.66 in over 60 years. Or something like that.

Qualifier: Redheads wasn’t the first Paramount film to be released at 1.66, as it opened on 10.14.53 and was therefore preceded by Shane, which was shot at 1.37:1 but aspect-ratio raped at 1.66:1 in its initial April 1953 release, and The War of the Worlds, which was released in 1.66 in August ’53 despite being composed at 1.37:1. (more…)

Search and Destroy

I’ve known about Iggy Pop (i.e., James Newell Osterberg) and the Stooges for decades, and I fully respect the band’s legend as one of the greatest in terms of provocative influence (punk rock, alt. rock, heavy metal) and brash style and whatnot. But if you were to take me behind an office building and point a loaded .45 at my head and say “name your favorite Stooges song or I’ll shoot,” I swear to God I wouldn’t be able to name a single one. Okay, “China Girl” but I think of that as more of a David Bowie song. I’ve never listened to “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, “Lust for Life”, “The Passenger”, “Candy” or “Nightclubbing”. Nor do I care to at this moment. And I don’t care what the rock snobs think of me. I’ve gotten along just fine without The Stooges so far, and I suspect I’ll be okay without them for the rest of my life.

Paterson Has The Balls To Wait

Amazon and Bleecker have decided to wait another three months — 12.28 — to open Jim Jarmusch‘s Paterson. So cool your jets and bide your time. But know this: Paterson is one of those films that improve upon reflection. It doesn’t seem to be doing a hell of a lot while you’re watching it, but then it begins to expand. The next day you’re saying “yeah, still thinking about it…good film.” A week later you’re saying “wow, that was a really good film.”

From my 5.16.16 Cannes Film Festival review:

Paterson is about a lanky young bus driver (Adam Driver) and his Iranian wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) who live with a subversive prick dog named Marvin in a small dumpy house in Paterson, New Jersey and generally follow routines of almost astounding modesty — not hanging with friends, not partying, not doing Manhattan clubs on weekends…none of that.

“Well, maybe Laura would like a little fun and frolic but Driver’s guy, who of course is also named Paterson, doesn’t even own a smart phone. All he wants is to write poetry in a little composing book. During work breaks, evenings in the cellar. Not to become ‘famous’ but to one day write one-half or even one-third as well as famed Paterson poet William Carlos Williams.

“The quiet writing life and a general reverence for poetry becomes more and more of a thing as the film develops. Paterson itself is trying to be a kind of small, minimalist poem. (more…)

To Be Or Not To Be

Jared Hess‘s long-delayed, finally-opened Masterminds is based on a real-life 1997 heist known as the Loomis Fargo Robbery. The humor is obviously broad and snide and driven by standard Hollywood mockery of rural dumbshits. So far Masterminds has ratings of 44% from Rotten Tomatoes and 47% from Metacritic.

Imagine if Zach Galifianakis‘s character were to address his co-conspirators (Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis, et. al.) as follows: “Guys? We gotta face somethin’ here. We’re too stupid to pull off a robbery and get away with it. People like us always lose, always fuck up, always get caught. If we survive 19 years into the future we’ll all be voting for a guy named Donald Trump. We’re born to lose…face it.”

At which point Wilson’s character says, “God, man…maybe so but it’s the dream that matters. Sure, we’re dumb as fenceposts and the odds of succeeding are 99 to 1, but if we don’t at least try for the proverbial big score and maybe make some changes for the better, who are we? What are we? If we don’t try we’re worse than losers — we’re vegetables. Are you a vegetable, man? Well, I’m not. I’m a Butterscotch Stallion with red blood in my veins.”

Cinematic Echoes, Retreats, Sorrows

Apart from the ghastly loss of life and dozens of injuries, this morning’s train disaster at the Hoboken Terminal has also destroyed a portion of one of the most richly atmospheric train stations in the country — that yesteryear vibe, the ghosts of Erie Lackawanna, the arched ceiling that affords natural light, the light-greenish turquoise paint. For this is the terminal where Faye Dunaway said goodbye to Robert Redford in a third-act scene in Three Days of the Condor (’75). Forgive me for processing this horror in movie terms, but the first thing I thought of when I heard the news was the climax of Silver Streak (’76) when the train plows into a terminal in Chicago.

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Great Balls of Fire

The only thing wrong with this Warren Beatty-Diane Keaton lovers quarrel scene in Reds is that it doesn’t last long enough. I wish I could have captured this in a way that does more justice to Vittorio Storaro‘s cinematography. It’s just my iPhone 6 Plus shooting an Amazon stream with shitty black levels. But I love the acrimonious energy. I had a couple of spats like this with a girlfriend just a few months before Reds opened in the fall of ’81. Her name, honest to God, was Louise. She had the most beautiful half-Asian eyes.

Asking Is Not Receiving

Is Reddit the ugliest major site around? It looks like it hasn’t been redesigned since ’98, if that. Rules Don’t Apply director-producer-star Warren Beatty is doing a Reddit AMA (i.e., “ask me anything”) chat tomorrow at 11:30 am Pacific. Beatty’s motivation is to convey to under-35s that Rules, which is largely set in 1958 Los Angeles, is not some crusty period piece but something pulsing and pertinent to right now. (Or so I’m told.) But honestly? If there’s one guy in the universe whose basic nature is less open to “ask me anything…go ahead, fire away” than almost anyone else, it’s Mr. Beatty. Especially when strangers are involved. I’m saying this with affection. You can ask him whatever you want, and he’ll always give you some kind of chess-move answer…intelligent, serious but side-steppy, always polite, charming…but he’s not really given to wide-open candor. But don’t let me stop you.

Films That Soothe and Massage

It’s around 10 pm or a bit later, let’s say, and I’m looking to wind down. What I’ll often do is put on a comfort movie — a good film I know backwards and forwards that I love to just bathe in, just settle into like steamed mud…yessss. I’ll only half-watch it as I write tweets or research something or fiddle around on Facebook or whatever, but a comfort movie is my friend, my pal, my blankey. A comfort movie obviously can’t be too challenging or antsy or jingle-jangly. It has to give me a nice “all is well with the world” feeling. Make me feel so good and so secure.

Nobody worships sparkling, needle-sharp black-and-white films more than myself so I tend to favor monochrome comfort more than color, but not entirely. Comfort movie visuals have to downshift me and treat me like some kind of cinematic masseuse. They need to make me feel like…I don’t know, like I’ve just dropped a quaalude. That dates me, doesn’t it? Okay, a Percocet.

Favorite comfort movies: John Schlesinger‘s Sunday Bloody Sunday, Kathryn Bigelow (i.e., “Biggy”) and Mark Boal‘s Zero Dark Thirty, Martin Ritt‘s The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, Stanley Kubrick‘s Paths of Glory, Irving ReisThe Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer, the VUDU streaming copy (i.e., not the overly inky Criterion Bluray) of Howard HawksOnly Angels Have Wings and Mark Robson‘s The Bridges of Toko Ri, Don Siegel‘s Charley Varrick, Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, Martin Ritt‘s Hud and Alfred Hitchcock‘s Notorious, to name but a few.