Art by Todd Alcott
Art by Todd Alcott
You can’t fully trust any of these guys who tweeted today about Martin Scorsese‘s Silence. Well, you can but I don’t. Not entirely. They’re all feeling too flattered to have been among the first to see it to be completely candid. If I’d been allowed to see it today (instead of this coming Sunday afternoon) I probably would have bent over backwards to say whatever kind things I could within the bounds of honesty and integrity. Everyone feels obliged to kneel in front of the Marty altar. Shared by news org guy whose colleague saw it today: “Makes The Mission seem like Star Wars.”
I’m telling myself that a series of upcoming Egyptian screenings (12.9 through 12.27) of a brand-new 70mm print of 2001: A Space Odyssey is a big deal, but I’m not 100% sure that it is any more. I’m not certain I could tell the difference between a lab-fresh 70mm print and a first-rate DCP. Maybe some people can but I’m not sure about myself. I know that DCPs always look great no matter what, and that 70mm sharpness, clarity and dynamic sound used to mean a lot more than it does today. But I’ll attend one of these shows, I’m sure. The only enhancement that would really knock me over would be if they up-rez the 70mm negative to IMAX and then project it in a serious, super-sized IMAX theatre. And, I suppose, if they create a 4K Bluray version, except I won’t be buying a 4K Bluray player any time soon because they’re still only converting CG jizz-whizz to that format.
I always sink into a vague form of depression and/or resignation when I read the Dramatic Competition rundown for a forthcoming Sundance Film Festival, in this instance the 33rd annual which will run from 1.19 to 1.29. Then I’ll read the rundown again and start hearing more stuff as the days and weeks progress, and eventually I won’t feel quite as badly. I know that the way these films are usually described by Sundance staffers, who always default to strict p.c. terminology, are enough to make you fall asleep or slap your forehead. Or both.
As always I’ll mostly be catching the Premiere program at the Eccles and only occasionally darting over to the Park City Library for the Dramatic stuff. But maybe not. Information seeps through. Consciousness evolves. It all shakes out.
I know that during every Sundance I’ll have to sit through a Melanie Lynskey film, and I accept that. I know I’ll have to sit through a film about a young guy trying “to escape his bleak home life and navigate questions of self-identity” (which always means being gay). I mainly look at the casts in the Dramatic Competition — if a film costars several cool, name-brand actors, I’m usually interested in seeing it. If it doesn’t, meh. Eventually I get used to the idea of seeing all these dicey-sounding films, and when push comes to shove I’ll show up for a few.
Typical example: Alexandre Moors and David Lowery‘s The Yellow Birds, about a couple of guys fighting in the Gulf War and one of them getting wasted, and the surviving guy going back home and “struggling to balance his promise of silence with the truth and a mourning mother’s search for peace.” Oh, please, no…the surviving guy has taken a vow of silence? Oh, fuck me. Costarring Tye Sheridan, Jack Huston, Alden Ehrenreich, Jason Patric, Toni Collette and Jennifer Aniston.
The three most interesting-sounding docs are (a) Brian Knappenberger‘s Nobody Speak: Hulk Hogan, Gawker and Trials of a Free Press — the title tells you everything; (b) Marina Zenovich‘s Water & Power: A California Heist; and (c) Pete Nicks‘ The Force, about the notoriously corrupt, scandal-ridden Oakland police department.
Three days ago an apparently non-gendered person (possibly a woman) named “N Ziehl” posted a Facebook riff about a personal experience with narcissistic personality disorder, and particularly as it has manifested within the life form known as Donald Trump. “I am not a professional…I am speaking purely from decades of dealing with NPD and sharing strategies that were helpful for me in coping and predicting behavior,” the person wrote. The three best observations are #1, #2 and #5, to wit:
(1) “NPD is not curable and is barely treatable. Trump is who he is. There is no getting better, or learning, or adapting. He’s not going to ‘rise to the occasion’ for more than maybe a couple hours. So just put that out of your mind.”
(2) “Trump will say whatever feels most comfortable or good to him at any given time. He will lie a lot, and say totally different things to different people. Stop being surprised by this. While it’s important to pretend ‘good faith’ and remind him of promises, as Bernie Sanders and others are doing, that’s for his supporters, so they can see the inconsistency as it comes. He won’t care. So if you’re trying to reconcile or analyze his words, don’t. It’s 100% not worth your time. Only pay attention to and address his actions.
(5) “We should expect that Trump only cares about himself and those he views as extensions of himself, like his children. (People with NPD often can’t understand others as fully human or distinct.) He desires accumulation of wealth and power because it fills a hole. (Melania is probably an acquired item, not an extension.) He will have no qualms at all about stealing everything he can from the country, and he’ll be happy to help others do so, if they make him feel good. He won’t view it as stealing but rather as something he’s entitled to do. This is likely the only thing he will intentionally accomplish.” (more…)
“I haven’t seen a fiction film that captures the issues around eating disorders so accurately and so humanely, and I think that for young people going through similar things, a film like this can have a real healing power” — Sundance programming honcho Trevor Groth speaking to Variety‘s Peter Debruge about Marti Noxon‘s To the Bone, a Sundance Film festival Dramatic Competition entry about 20 year old Ellen (Lily Collins) battling anorexia with the help of other sufferers and with the aid of unconventional therapy. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you care about kids battling a compulsion to throw up every time they eat? When writing about Rules Don’t Apply last year I mistakenly referred to Lily Collins as Lily Taylor. Well, To The Bone costars both Collins and Taylor! As well as Keanu Reeves, Carrie Preston, Alex Sharp and Liana Liberato.
“It is commonly believed” that the career of Vilma Banky, Rudolph Valentino’s costar in Son of the Sheik (’26) and The Eagle (’25), “was cut short due to the collision of her thick Hungarian accent and the advent of sound; it has also been said that Banky began losing interest in films after her marriage to Rod La Rocque (Rod La Who?) in 1927. By 1928, she had announced her intention to eventually retire. Of Banky’s 24 films, eight exist in their entirety (Hotel Potemkin, The King of the Circus, The Son of the Sheik, The Eagle, The Winning of Barbara Worth, The Night of Love, A Lady to Love, and The Rebel). Her post-Hollywood years were spent selling real estate with La Rocque and playing golf, her favorite sport. She died at age 90 in 1991.”
I’ve seen Alfred Hitchcock‘s Vertigo many, many times, but for whatever reason I’ve never assigned specific meanings to the color scheme the way this Society of Geeks guy does here. (This video essay was posted last March — I only just watched it this morning.) I don’t recall Robin Wood or any other Hitchcock scholar assessing the meanings of green (Madeline Elster‘s personal color as well as a symbol of otherworldly, ghostly, deathly chill-vibes) and red (erotic desire, sexual obsession, the abandonment of decorum) in this classic 1958 film. Not to mention the uses of yellow and blue. Nor can I figure out the origin of the narrator’s fascinating accent. This essay works as a companion piece to Nerdwriter’s riff about Hitchcock’s careful blocking of scenes.
I’ll be seeing Tony Gilroy and Gareth Edwards‘ Rogue One: The Cousins (Disney, 12.16) a week from Monday, or three days before it opens nationwide. Variety is reporting that the film recorded the second-highest first day of pre-sales in domestic box office history. The highest first day sale was earned by J.J. Abrams‘ Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That 2015 film opened last year to nearly $248 million. Rogue One is expected to take in more than $130 million upon opening day, Variety has speculated, or a little more than half of what Awakens pulled down.
Wikipedia says that Denzel Washington‘s first screen appearance (albeit uncredited) was in Michael Winner‘s Death Wish (’74), when he was around 19 or 20. The below YouTube clip and a still that I captured [after the jump] seems to bear this out. Denzel played an aggressive, non-verbal thug who was shot by Charles Bronson‘s Paul Kersey. His bio says his first TV appearance was in 1977’s The Wilma Rudolph Story and that his first noteworthy screen appearance in Carbon Copy (’81) with George Segal.
I’m fairly certain I’m going to hate Josh Gordon and Will Speck‘s Office Christmas Party (Paramount, 12.9), but I have to admit I found this wrestling clip moderately funny. Jennifer Aniston as the office bitch, Jason Bateman as the same restrained, dryly sardonic guy he always plays in comedies, and Silicon Valley‘s T. J. Miller as the employee-friendly idiot, Clay Vanstone. I’m sorry but I laughed, watched the clip twice, etc. The all-media Arclight screening happens on 12.6.
Snickering about the National Board of Review has been a media pastime for decades, but for the most part their annual award choices, to be fair, have been fairly wise and spot-on. Today the NBR guys announced their 2016 awards, and Kenneth Lonergan‘s Manchester By The Sea was far and away the big winner — Best Film, Best Actor (Casey Affleck), Best Original Screenplay (Lonergan) and Best Breakthrough Performance (Lucas Hedges). They also gave their Best Adapted Screenplay award to Silence, or more precisely to co-writers Jay Cocks and Martin Scorsese. This in itself indicates that Silence might be a serious head-turner. Maybe. Here’s hoping.
Moonlight won two awards — Best Director (Barry Jenkins) and Best Supporting Actress (Naomie Harris). Hollywood Elsewhere respectfully disagrees with the NBR choosing Arrival‘s Amy Adams as Best Actress but whatever. Cheers to Jeff Bridges‘ gruff lawman turn in Hell or High Water, which resulted in the NBR’s Best Supporting Actor award. The Best Foreign Language award went to Asghar Farhadi‘s The Salesman — HE-approved. And Ezra Edelman‘s O.J.: Made in America won for Best Documentary — check.
The only head-scratcher was the NBR’s decision to give a Spotlight award to the “creative collaboration” of Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg, which is mainly a nod to the efficiently spot-on Patriot’s Day. What the NBR should have done was give Berg-Wahlberg a special award for the finest, most crazily chaotic and realistic shootout sequence in years. (more…)
In the print edition of an 11.17 Variety issue is a cartographical Rules Don’t Apply promotion — a map of Hollywood landmarks circa 1958, which is when most of the film unfolds. (The map is also on the Rules website.) Within a parapgraph about RKO Studios, which Howard Hughes (played by Warren Beatty in the film) owned from 1948 through ’55, Katharine Hepburn is mentioned. Unfortunately, the Rules map spells her first name as “Katherine,” a misspelling which Hepburn notoriously resented. It’s doubly unfortunate considering that Beatty, who directed and produced Rules, was a huge Hepburn fan who went to great lengths to persuade her to play a small supporting role in Love Affair (’94), which Beatty starred in (and was directed in-name-only by Glenn Gordon Caron). Mistakes happen, yes, and I don’t want to further darken the cloud that’s already hovering above Rules Don’t Apply, but if Hepburn is looking down from heaven, she’d definitely be annoyed.
Santa Barbara Film Festival honcho Roger Durling has gone all in on Denzel Washington. The Fences director-star will receive the Maltin Modern Master Award on Thursday, February 2nd at the 2017 Santa Barbara Film Festival (2.1 thru 2.11). This is tantamount to Durling placing a Nick the Greek-like bet on Washington’s shot at landing a Best Director or Best Actor Oscar, or Fences itself landing a Best Picture Oscar…who knows? When “Nick” bets, the elite award-season blogaroos listen, and they in turn pass their excitement along to Academy and guild members. SBIFF tributes always inject an aura of heft, esteem and good favor, and the Maltin is the SBIFF’s highest honor. It’ll be a hot time in Denzelville that night…wine, excitement, a knockout tribute reel, hail fellow well met, etc. The last time Hollywood Elsewhere witnessed a Denzel q & a in front of an audience was in December 2007 at Harvard University. The Santa Barbara event will be an even bigger lollapalooza.
By the rules of our electoral college system (i.e., not by the popular vote), Donald Trump was legitimately elected as the nation’s president on 11.8. But his cabinet nominees so far, a rogue’s gallery of repealers, deniers and roll-backers, are an echo of the hard-line Communist apparatchik attitude behind the 1991 coup d’etat in the Soviet Union — a severe pushback against the moderately liberal reforms of the Gorbachev era (glasnost). The forthcoming Trump program represents the last dying power grab of the white, nationalist, corporate-centric right — anti-liberal, Republican, climate-change-denying, xenophobic, obstinate, polluting, racist, odious. A current list of Trump’s proposed cabinet members seems nothing short of ghastly to anyone with a vaguely humanist, semi-progressive attitude. The latest blood-drainer is Health and Human Services nominee Tom Price, a six-term, arch-conservative Georgia congressman who apparently intends to repeal or significantly gut the Affordable Care Act. These are the dark times. The earth is weeping, in shock. Every day brings a new permutation of the nightmare.
Hooray for Elle‘s Isabelle Huppert, who now has some momentum toward a Best Actress Oscar nomination. And hats tip to Barry Jenkins for his direction and writing of Moonlight, the appeal of which has expanded beyond its devoted critical-elite base and may steamroll right into the Film Independent Spirit Awards and beyond.
Best Feature: Moonlight (d: Barry Jenkins, A24)
Best Documentary: O.J.: Made in America (d: Ezra Edelman, ESPN Films)
Best Actress: Isabelle Huppert, Elle (Sony Pictures Classics)
Best Actor: Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea (Amazon Studios)
Best Screenplay: Moonlight (story by Tarell Alvin McCraney; screenplay by Barry Jenkins, A24)
Breakthrough Actor: Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch (A24)
Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award: Trey Edward Shults, Krisha (A24)
Breakthrough Series — Short Form: Her Story (creators: Jen Richards and Laura Zak, herstoryshow.com)
Breakthrough Series — Long Form: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (creators: Rachel Bloom & Aline Brosh McKenna, The CW)
Wes Anderson loves old trains. Who doesn’t? Especially the three-decker kind (which I’ve never heard of, much less seen in my life) with little staterooms and kitchens and pretty girls travelling alone. I haven’t been on a European train with an old-fashioned dining car (i.e, the kind with tablecloths and waiter service) since the ’90s. The things I like best about this H&M holiday spot are (a) the CG snow flurries, (b) “Conductor Ralph,” (c) the calligraphy for the sign “H&M Lines — Winter Express” on the train-car exterior (b) the general sense of realism within the train (the slightly rhythmic movement, shuttered windows, atmospheric fog, the hook snagging the mail bag and the small Christmas tree). An arrival at 3:17 am due to an 11 1/2 hour delay? Let me tell you something — I love arriving at exotic train stations after midnight and before dawn.
An invitation to a Sunday, 12.4 afternoon screening of Martin Scorsese‘s Silence came in this afternoon, but the Broadcast Film Critics Award nominations have to be filled out and sent in by the evening of 11.29 (i.e., tomorrow). Paramount informed BFCA honchos some time ago that they wouldn’t be able to screen Silence for the entire membership in time for the 11.29 deadline, but I think the BFCA should ignore this logistical hurdle. Out of respect for Scorsese’s standing as a world-class filmmaker and his herculean efforts in finally making this film after years of struggle, the BFCA membership (which is filling out initial ballots today and tomorrow) should nominate Silence for Best Picture, sight unseen. (If they cut Star Wars: The Force Awakens some slack, they can certainly cut Marty some.) Once nominated, the BFCA can vote on Silence one way or another during final balloting, which has to be submitted by the evening of 12.9. Presumably the full membership will have had a chance to see Silence by then.
Last night a pair of posts about HBO’s vaguely infuriating Westworld series — one by Matt of Sleaford, the other by brenkilco — really hit the nail on the head. Together they explain why some viewers feel that good movies, which have to set everything up and pay off within two hours or so, are more satisfying than longform episodics. Here’s what they said in condensed form:
Brenkilco: “The problem with episodic TV narratives designed to blow minds is that the form and intention are at odds. A show designed to run until the audience gets tired of it cannot by definition have a satisfying structure. It can only keep throwing elements into the mix until, like Lost or Twin Peaks, it collapses under the weight of its own intriguing but random complications.
“Teasing this stuff out is easy. But eventually the rent comes due. Dramatic resolutions are demanded. The threads have to be pulled together. And that’s when things gets ugly.”
Matt of Sleaford: “Westworld is a puzzle-box show, which is kind of the opposite of a soap opera. Puzzle-box shows, like the aforementioned Lost and X-Files, can be fun to chew on while they’re progressing. But the solution is almost always anticlimactic. And though it may seem counterintuitive, puzzle-box shows are less effective in the internet era, because someone in the vast sea of commenters is almost certain to solve the puzzle before the end (see: Thrones, Game of).”