“Just A Dead Wet Blonde Hangin’ Around In A Block of Cement”

A wetsuit-wearing Frank Sinatra flashes a knife, tells a shark to get lost! But seriously, what a lazy piece of shit this movie is. Okay, not atrocious but obviously one of Sinatra’s “fuck it, roll film and pay me” movies. No effort, no edge or pizazz. Costarring Raquel Welch, Dan Bonanza Blocker and Richard Conte. Directed by Gordon Douglas, a hack journeyman who got lucky between ’53 and ’55 when he directed three half-decent films in a row — Them!, Young At Heart and The McConnell Story. He bounced back again with The Detective (’68), also starring Sinatra. Blocker: “Stay loose, pal.” Sinatra: “Again?”

Thanks, Bumblefucks!

240 miles below and across the seas and continents, Donald Trump and his gang of thieves, robber barons and ideologues are preparing to fleece and pollute this blue planet for the enrichment of themselves and/or the fulfillment of their rancid philosophies. Really. Right now. No joke. (This is real-deal livestream video from the International Space Station. Crewed by NASA astronauts, Russian Cosmonauts and a mixture of Japanese, Canadian and European astronaut-tecchies.) Also: The title of this post in no way dilutes or argues with what I posted on 12.28 — it complements it. Also: Hollywood Elsewhere supports Kevin Sessums and deplores Facebook’s banning his posts for the sin of “using the term fascist to describe the Putin/Trump/Pence triumvirate and its supporters,” in Kevin’s words.


Honestly? I’ve Never Re-Watched Leaving Las Vegas

Posted on 2.16.05: There are at least three ways to have a depressing time at the movies, and one is worth the grief.

You can sit through something shoddy, inept, sub-standard, and do everything you can to flush it out of your system when it’s over. You can also sit through a smooth, studio-funded, well-made enterprise that everyone’s loving and is making money hand over fist, but which you happen to despise with every fibre of your being.

But watching a quality downer can be edifying. (Naturally.) I’m speaking of a movie that’s totally comfortable with the idea of bumming you out, because it’s trying to be thoughtful, profound or in some way affecting. Which saves it from being a bummer.

Movies that relay or reflect basic truths will never be depressing, but those that tell lies of omission by way of fanciful bullshit always poison the air.

Sadness in good movies is not depressing — it’s just a way of re-experiencing honest hurt. Ordinary People is sad, but if you think it’s depressing as in ‘lemme outta here’ there’s probably something wrong with you. 12.31.16 Update: Ditto Manchester By The Sea. (more…)


“Does anyone except Sasha Stone seriously believe that Donald Trump might prevail in November? Hillary is naturally and unstoppably self-destructive, agreed, but there are no more threats hanging over her now. No more emails, no more Benghazis…nothing except the unfortunate fact that millions and millions of people don’t like her much.” — from 7.12.16 HE post called “Bernie Finally Endorses Hillary.”

I couldn’t have foreseen, of course, the three subsequent news events that closed the deal for Trump. One, Hillary collapsing like a sack of potatoes during a 9/11 memorial event in downtown Manhattan. Two, FBI director Comey. And three, Trump voters shrugging their shoulders in the wake of the Access Hollywood tape. (more…)

To Whomever Created This…

Good work. Hat tip to Mark Ebner for tweeting it sometime yesterday.

Flashback: In February or March of 1995 Oliver Stone and his publicist Stephen Rivers (who has since passed) arranged for me to pay a brief visit to the Nixon West Wing — Oval Office, cabinet room, hallways, various offices, etc. Production designer Victor Kempster had built the amazingly detailed set (including an outdoor portion with grass and bushes) on a massive Sony sound stage.

I was let in just after Stone and his cast (including Anthony Hopkins) and crew had finished filming. I wrote up my impressions for an L.A. Times Syndicate piece. Nixon opened on 12.20.95.

The Nixon unit publicist (or somebody who worked for Rivers) escorted me onto the stage and left. Nobody was around; I had the place all to myself. I had a video camera with me and shot all the rooms, and took my time about it. I was seriously excited and grateful as hell for the opportunity because it was, in a sense, better than visiting the real Oval Office in the real White House (which I would have never been allowed to do even if I’d been best friends with someone in the Clinton administration). (more…)

2017 Roster Now Includes 74 Films

I’ve added nine more titles to HE’s previously posted roster of 2017 films. 65 as of 12.16; the tally is now 74. The most interesting-sounding are (a) Adam McKay‘s Untitled Dick Cheney Film (b) Luca Guadagnino‘s Call Me By Your Name (Sundance ’17), (c) Andrew Dosunmu‘s Where Is Kyra? (ditto), Oren Moverman‘s The Dinner and Arnaud Desplechin‘s Ismael’s Ghosts. The other six sound a bit more conventional (thriller-ish, action-y).

In order of marquee value….

Doug Liman‘s American Made (Universal, 9.29.17) — Tom Cruise as the real-life Barry Seal, a former TWA pilot who became a drug smuggler in the 1980s and was recruited later on by the DEA to provide intelligence.

Luca Guadagnino‘s Suspiria — A remake of Dario Argento’s 1977 horror classic. Costarring Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Mia Goth and Jessica Harper.

Adam McKay‘s Untitled Dick Cheney Drama (Paramount). Deadline‘s Mike Fleming has reported that McKay hopes to be filming by the spring for a late 2017 release. Plan B producers Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner are teaming with McKay, Will Ferrell and Kevin Messick.

Edgar Wright‘s Baby Driver (TriStar, 8.11) — An alleged “crime comedy” about a getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) in dutch when a bank heist goes wrong. Costarring Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Eiza González.

Oren Moverman‘s The Dinner (The Orchard, 5.5.17) — In September 2013 it was annnounced that Cate Blanchett would direct this adaptation of Herman Koch‘s “The Dinner” — it was reported in January ’16 that Moverman would take over. Richard Gere and Steve Coogan playing brothers whose children have committed a serious crime. Costarring Laura Linney, Rebecca Hall and Chloë Sevigny. Premiering at the 2017 Berlinale. (more…)

11 Months Ago

Remember how it felt when you first saw this Bernie Sanders ad? Created by the D.C. advertising firm of Devine, Mulvey, Longabaugh, “America” premiered on 1.21.16. And it was really great — an ad that the Clinton campaign couldn’t even hope to imagine, much less cobble together. And now that whole mood, that whole feeling of “this could work out and become even better” is gone. The butt-uglies have won, and the redhats will soon be calling the shots.


A director friend asked me last week if I’ve signed up with Filmstruck, and I said nope — not until the app is available on the Roku player, which should be sometime in early ’17. (Along with Chromecast.) Filmstruck + the Criterion Collection, I meant, which will be $10.99 per month or a flat annual rate of $99. I’m presuming that all of the Criterion titles will be streaming at 1080p, which means there will be a 1080p version of Federico Fellini‘s La Strada, which so far has only been available in 480p DVD.

Trump’s Hair Psychology

Donald Trump‘s longish blond-white hair is unfashionably styled, and the fashion police have been making this point over and over. It’s the one constant criticism about the guy that seems unduly harsh. If you’re overweight with a thick neck and bulldog jowls, longish hair is the only thing that works. Shortish hair is only for guys who’ve kept their weight down and have that modestly contained, Anthony Bourdain semi-chiselled look, which Trump has never had. On top of which longish hair is favored by guys (especially rightwingers) who came of age in the ’60s and ’70s. Trump’s longish hair is a kind of attitude statement — i.e., “This is who I was and what I felt like in my 20s and 30s, and on some level I just can’t let it go…I have to hang on to that thing. Especially now that I’m fat. I makes me feel a bit younger.”

Just Like That, Inspiration Can End

Journo pally: “I had never seen Michelangelo Antonioni‘s Zabriskie Point (’70) so I recently recorded it off TCM. Just finished watching it. Is this the worst film ever made by a major director? If not, what is?”

HE reply: “It has some interesting moments but yeah, it’s not a good film. It’s certainly Antonioni’s worst, and it definitely knee-capped his career. For the first time in his career he was riding high in the U.S. with Blow-Up in late ’66 and ’67, and then three years later, wham…dead meat.

“And I don’t mean that in commercial terms. Throughout the ’60s the Antonioni brand meant high-end art cinema of an exceptional caste. His films were onto something else. You could feel it, sense it. But Zabriskie Point blew that mystique out of the water. Then he got it back with The Passenger in ’75, at least in terms of that final shot.

“You know what Antonioni’s deal is. He wanted to keep things oblique. He concentrated on undercurrents by way of images, textures, quietness, empty spaces. He was never a purveyor of driving, fast-forward narratives. He was never been into overt emotion. Time and again he hinted at decaying, dissolute values and corrupt attitudes. In Zabriskie he tried to capture the chaos and nihilism of the late ’60s, but he didn’t want to be didactic or even somewhat specific about issues. (more…)

Rookie Revelers

New Year’s Eve is commonly known among service industry types as “amateur night.” Meaning that people who don’t go out or even drink much are suddenly out on the town, and for the most part spreading the noxious atmosphere of forced gaiety. People of character do one of three things on New Year’s Eve: (a) attend a smallish party with friends or hit a nice restaurant — anything but a loud, noisy gathering of any kind; (b) find some secluded spot with a great view of a big city or valley and just settle into the idea of watching distant fireworks and listening to the sounds of far-off honking and whoo-whooing; or (c) hit the hay before midnight.

HE’s annual New Year’s Eve posting:

“I’d say ‘Happy New Year’ to everyone, but…all right, ‘Happy New Year.’ But I’ve always hated those words. Nothing’s ‘happy’ by way of hope. Happy is discovered, earned, lucked into. At best, people are content or…you know, joyously turned on for the moment or laughing or telling a funny story or a good joke. Placated, relaxed, enthused, generous of heart…but ‘happy’? Clams are happy. There’s only the hum. Either you hear it or you don’t.

Posted in 2010: “Nothing fills me with such spiritual satisfaction as my annual naysaying of this idiotic celebration of absolutely nothing.

“I love clinking glasses with cool people at cool parties as much as anyone else, but celebrating renewal by way of the hands of a clock and especially in the company of party animals making a big whoop-dee-doo has always felt like a huge humiliation.

“Only idiots believe in the idea of a of a midnight renewal. Renewal is a constant. Every minute marks the potential start of something beautiful and cleansing, and perhaps even transforming. So why hang back and celebrate a rite that denies this 24/7 theology, and in a kind of idiot-monkey way with party hats and noisemakers? (more…)

HBO’s Bright Lights Debut Change Is No-Brainer

HBO has moved up the debut of Fisher Stevens and Alexis Bloom‘s Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, an intimate, un-sugarcoated portrait of the mother and daughter bond between the late Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. The doc will now debut eight days hence — on Saturday, 1.7, at 8 pm. It had previously been slated for a March debut but the deaths of Reynolds and Fisher, which happened roughly 30 hours apart earlier this week, changed the landscape. I would’ve made the same decision if I was running HBO. I saw Bright Lights in Cannes last May — it’s touching, wise, well-judged. And honest.

Late Correction — Apologies

On Sunday, 12.25, or roughly a day and half before poor Carrie Fisher died, I posted what appeared to be at least semi-persuasive evidence that Fisher might have sharpened and improved some of her dialogue in The Empire Strikes Back. Given her later success as a valued Hollywood script doctor, especially after Postcards From The Edge (’90), this seemed plausible. Well, it turns out that the red-ink jottings may have been made my Empire director Irvin Kershner. This is what Comicbook.com’s Lucas Siegel reported on 12.26, at least. Two days ago Dailydot.com’s Michelle Jaworski concurred that the changes weren’t made by Fisher, although she made no mention of Kershner. Obviously I should have caught this earlier.

There But For A Lack Of Nerve

Three days ago I posted one of my Spielberg bash pieces on Facebook. I didn’t post it here on Hollywood Elsewhere because I’m sick of getting kicked around.

But then I read something in the Facebook comment thread that blew me away. It was written by Mark Eifert, to wit: “If Spielberg was a challenging filmmaker he’d make a Saving Private Ryan-type thing but about the Gaza Strip from the point of view of the Palestinians. He could get the money to do it, but I’m not standing on one foot waiting for this to happen.”

Hello? This is a perfect idea for Spielberg — a story about a team of struggling anti-Israeli commandos on some kind of terror mission that doesn’t work out or which ends in failure, but we get to learn about the Palestinian commandos and what they’re all about deep down (their families, their hopes and fears) as well as the Israelis looking to intercept and destroy them.

If he were to direct something like this and do it well, Spielberg could almost redeem himself in one fell swoop. Alas, it’s not in him. Well, maybe it is but I would be flabbergasted if he did something like this. The guy who directed Schindler’s List almost certainly doesn’t have the balls to make a film that would humanize Israel’s enemies.

Can Dances With Wolves Finally Be Forgiven For Beating Goodfellas in Best Picture Race? Or Is That Out Of The Question?

Hidden FiguresKevin Costner speaking with Variety‘s Kris Tapley about Dances With Wolves:

“There was an undertone out there that was ugly. It was ‘Kevin’s Gate,’ like, ‘What’s he doing out there? This movie is a disaster.’ I didn’t know where that had come from. I know this: I had to turn down The Hunt for Red October because I had promised I would do Dances, and some people thought me saying no to Hunt for Red October was [because] I needed more money.

“It wasn’t more money. I had already postponed Dances for a year and I wasn’t going to do it now. I had all my things in place. In fact, if anything, it caused me a lot of pain because there was more money offered on Hunt for Red October than I had ever seen in my life. So I was doing the dumb thing. I was putting up my money and leaving behind the biggest check I had ever seen.”

When Dances won Best Picture along with six other Oscars, “It was like ‘I got my money back!,” Costner recalls. “I got my house back!’” (more…)

Odd Couple: Lion and Russell

Jeffrey Wells to David O. Russell: “It’s cool that you’ll be co-presenting Lion with Lee Daniels at [an event next week]. I’m a limited fan. I love the beginning section with the kid lost and alone and not knowing what to do, and of course the finale definitely works.

“But just between you, me and the walls…do you really and truly like the Dev Patel middle portion in Australia with Nicole Kidman and Rooney Mara, etc.? I hated that part of it. I hate that sensitive hurting look on Patel’s face…’I don’t feel whole, I don’t really know who I am, I’m adopted, I have to find my home,’ etc. I didn’t give a shit about any of that. I didn’t care about Patel or his relationship with Rooney…none of it. I almost walked out.

“Then Dev finally makes his way back to India and finds the village and reunites with his mom….THAT part works. So it’s that plus the kid in the beginning with a dead middle section.

“I realize that Joe and Jane Popcorn love this film (it won the Audience Award in Toronto), but it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that you, the crazy-brilliant David O. Russell, would really be into. But whatever. What do I know?”