Is Matt Reeves‘ War For The Planet of the Apes as good as the critics (myself included) have been saying it is? Does it in fact traverse the realms of smart summer tentpole, masterful art-film composition and epic storytelling at a high emotional pitch? Is it as satisfying for the snoots as the slovenlies? Is it an emotional tour de force, a band-of-brothers film, a ferociously realistic war movie, and a kind of Great Escape rolled into one? Is Reeves a rightful successor of the kind of achievement that Peter Jackson and George Lucas managed in decades past? Is it the most satisfying trilogy of its kind since the original Star Wars threesome (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi), or is it better?
The new Wrinkle In Time trailer begins with Chris Pine asking “what if we are here for a reason? What if we are part of something truly divine?” HE answer: Don’t be tedious. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Okay, you could call the relentless, never-ending cycle of creation, destruction and renewal a divine thing if you want, but the only reason any of us are here boils down to mere chance. In other words, we got lucky. Ava DuVernay and Jeffrey Wells were born on this blue planet for exactly and precisely the same reason that a certain blade of grass sprouted on a large fairway at the Bel Air Country Club last March. Why did this particular blade of grass happen to punch through the soil? Because God has a plan.
Seriously, this teaser feels like a mystical mumbo-jumbo hodgepodge. It gave me a stomach ache. In part because Oprah Winfrey plays Mrs. Which, Reese Witherspoon plays Mrs. Whatsit and Mindy Kaling plays Mrs. Who. (The latter is rumored to be the great granddaughter of Who, the baseball player from the Abbott & Costello “Who’s On First?” routine.)
I’ve put quotes around the above headline because it came from Variety critic Owen Gleiberman during a back-and-forth we had this morning about Quentin Tarantino‘s Manson Family movie. The subject was Gleiberman’s 7.15 essay about same — “Quentin Tarantino Does Manson? That’s News That Should Thrill Cinema Lovers.”
The 12th paragraph gets to the nub of it: “Tarantino wants to tell a story about how the age of free love morphed into something horrific — a transformation that still has disturbing implications today. Will he play it straight or Tarantino-ize it? My instinct (or maybe it’s just a hope) is that Tarantino can’t reduce the Manson story to another of his concoctions. I mean, he can, of course, but it wouldn’t feel right, and it wouldn’t be inspiring cinema.”
HE opinion: As intriguing as this project sounds, Tarantino is incapable of playing it even semi-straight. He’s not a docu-dramatist — he’s a creator of alternate Quentinworld fantasies. His last three films have mined the past — Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained and The Hateful Eight — and each time he’s reimagined and re-dialogued history in order to transform his tales into his own brand of ’70s exploitation cinema. Why should QT play his cards any differently with the Manson family?
Gleiberman said this morning that location-wise he wants Tarantino to deliver an exact duplicate of everything we know about the Manson geography (Spahn ranch, Haight-Ashbury, etc.) but “make it feel new.”
“Alas, Tarantino is not a realist,” I replied. “Never has been, never will be. His Paris neighborhood set in Inglorious Basterds looked exactly like that — a phony sound stage realm. And remember that he reimagined an anti-Semitic, Jew-hunting Nazi Colonel as a witty talk-show showoff who loved to giggle at his own jokes. Remember also that in the same film Tarantino gave a French country farmer the name of ‘Bob.'”
Daisy Ridley gives the best quote about Rian Johnson‘s Star Wars: The Last Jedi: “Rian has written a story that is unexpected but right. Some of the stuff that happens, people are going to go ‘oh my God!’ Even though everybody knows it’s the second in a trilogy, it’s its own thing. I’m sure that if Cary Grant were still with us, he’d strongly approve.”
Can you feel the joy and the warmth from this teaser? The Last Jedi may or may not deliver unforeseen plot complexities or unexpected gravitas or sobering undercurrents a la The Empire Strikes Back. But to judge by this behind-the-scenes smorgasbord one thing’s for sure, and that’s that everyone involved in principal photography — cast, crew, craft services, drivers, gophers — channeled alpha vibes start to finish. They were in such states of alpha bonhomie that a couple of them actually levitated. They smiled so much that their facial muscles began to ache.
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