Caesar Has Fallen

The critics who went all falsetto and fluttery for Hail, Caesar! live on the planet Venus, but Joe and Jane Popcorn, alas, do not. Deadline‘s Anthony D’Allesandro reported last night that ticket-buyers (particularly the over-50 crowd) mostly disliked it — PostTrak has reported that only 40% of the audience plans to recommend Caesar! to their pallies, and 52% of the over-25 male audience gave it a D-plus on CinemaScore. Pic is expected to hit $10 or $11 million by Sunday night but the verdict is in & that’s all she wrote. Caesar mortuus est. The honorable thing would be for the film to retire to its villa, slip into a hot bath, open its veins and bleed to death. (That way the families will be provided for.) I found Hail, Caesar! moderately amusing at times but mainly spotty — it never quite lifts off the ground. Did you read Richard Brody‘s New Yorker piece on it? He was grinning ear to ear, jerking himself off. I’m usually contemptuous of audience favorites, but this time I agreed. The rubes saw the truth of it; the critics processed Hail, Ceasar! quite differently.

Spotlight Glows Again

Last night’s SBIFF celebration was focused on Spotlight, which remains the most likely Best Picture Oscar winner despite the (brief?) Big Short surge and the presumption that George Miller‘s name hass already been engraved on the Best Director Oscar. SBIFF honcho Roger Durling interviewed costars Michael Keaton (self-deprecatingly witty, as always…a little touch of Beetlejuice in the night) and Best Supporting Actress nominee Rachel McAdams. (A family matter kept Best Supporting Actor nominee Mark Ruffalo from attending, but he recorded a video message that was played as the ceremony began.)

(l. to r.) SBIFF honcho Roger Durling, Spotlight costars Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams, director-cowriter Tom McCarthy.

Keaton and McAdams were founts of charm and candor, and a half-sincere, half-lighthearted tribute speech at evening’s end by Spotlight director Tom McCarthy was the perfect cherry on top.

It’s not that I’m Spotlight-ed out at this stage (if anything I feel a resurgence of affection, and am even thinking about seeing it again) but we’ve all been talking about it since Telluride, or for the last five months. The most affecting part of the evening was Durling’s brisk admission that he’s a survivor of childhood abuse, and his gratitude to the Spotlight team for righting the social scales to some extent, at least symbolically.


Breaks Your Heart

I posted this conclusion-of-Patton video earlier today with another item, but this, no lie, is one of the best movie endings ever written (hat tip to Francis Coppola, who won an Oscar for the Patton screenplay). “All glory is fleeting” strikes exactly the right note about Gen. George S. Patton‘s life, of course — a life of a man who revelled in military glory, valor and proud tradition — but also about life itself. The good stuff is always fleeting, nothing wonderful ever lasts, it’s all disintegrating before our eyes. Joy is fleeting, you can only laugh at a great joke once, great love affairs are fleeting, moments of inspiration last only a fraction of a second. Oh, and you’ll be dead one day.

Wardrobe Fail

What’s wrong with the guy who did the Photoshopping on this? Excellent family portrait, perfect de-aged rendering of Adam Driver as an nine-year-old, Ford and Fisher are just right. And then he dresses them in early ’90s middle-class Omaha suburban sitcom clothes? For God’s sake, man! Wells to JJ Abrams: Do you otherwise approve?

Nicely-Finessed Script by Nebraska Scribe, Patton Oswalt, Robert Forster as Another Grandpa…This Looks Good

To go by the trailer, Bob Nelson‘s The Confirmation doesn’t seem half bad. But why is it playing at the Berlin Film Festival market rather than as a regular festival selection? And if Saban Entertainment is going to post a critical blurb on the one-sheet, shouldn’t they go with the opinion of an occasionally tough critic rather than a guy who knows the industry backwards and forwards but tends to be, shall we say, a bit generous in his assessments? There’s nothing wrong with loving movies and having a big heart, but if they’d gotten an advance blurb from some buckaroo who doesn’t give a damn and is beholden to no one, it would be more persuasive.



In a Vanity Fair profile of director-actress Elizabeth Banks, who should have been Oscar-nominated for her supporting performance in Love & Mercy, Banks is candid about stuff. “I know what I do well,” she tells Laura Jacobs. “If you look at what I’ve made, it’s all of a piece. It’s all funny and it all has a sense of play. If you saw ‘Just a Little Heart Attack’ and Pitch Perfect 2, it’s ‘Yeah, I see how the same person made those things. There’s a sense of light in them…they’re bright.” Banks adds that 2015 “was a great year. I don’t deny it. But I feel still that this could be fleeting.” Oh, it’s fleeting, all right! (Banks will be in Santa Barbara on Saturday for the Virtuosos Award ceremony.)

Above-Average Disaster Thriller, Too Much Emotion, Irritating Hero

Early this morning I finally saw Roar Uthaug‘s The Wave (Magnolia, 3.4), a $6.5 million Norweigan disaster film that’s easily as good as any similar-type American pic. Set in the real-life village of Geiranger, it’s about a married geologist dad named Kristian (Kristoffer Joner), trying to warn authorities about a possible tsunami (caused by a landslide into an adjacent fjord) that will drown the town. Every man, woman, dog and cat who hasn’t gotten the hell out will meet their maker.

Nobody listens, of course. In fact Kristian’s soon-to-be-former geological colleagues (he’s taken a better-paying job with an oil company) roll their eyes and give each other sullen looks. You know those looks, right? And the penalty for them? Any character in a disaster film who ignores scientific warnings and in fact embraces a blase attitude must suffer a horrible death when the bad thing finally happens. He/she must pay through the nose and whine like a dog and die badly.

When the landslide alarm sounds at the 45-minute mark, the locals and tourists have ten minutes (i.e, 600 seconds) to make it to high ground. Several drownings are assured. Kristian gets his young daughter (Edith Haagenrud-Sande) to safety but his wife (Ane Dahl Torp) and teenaged son (Jonas Hoff Oftebro) are stuck inside a four-story hotel when the wave hits, and urgently need rescuing.

The story is somewhat reminiscent of Irwin Allen‘s The Towering Inferno. Kristian is a bit like Paul Newman‘s architect, a smart guy trying to warn everyone, and then nobly struggling to save lives after disaster strikes.

I had three problems with Uthaug’s film, and I’m afraid they’re quite severe.

Problem #1 is that Kristian is too raggedy looking (he’s one of those guys who can’t pull off the two-week beardo look — he needs a shave). He’s not cool and focused like Newman, but acts like someone who needs to take Klonopin. When he’s ranting about the coming tsunami he’s like a character out of Nurse Ratched’s psycho ward. And he’s always got this stupid look on his face that says “oh my dear God, I’m so scared and upset but at the same time I have to do something to save my children and my fellow villagers!!” Wells to Joner: Will you go fuck yourself, please? Just grim up, be a man and do the brave, studly stuff. Spare us your tearful looks and your damn drippy emotions. (more…)

Click here to jump past the Oscar Balloon

BEST PICTURE: The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Spotlight.

BEST DIRECTING: Adam McKay, The Big Short; George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road; Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant; Lenny Abrhamson, Room; Tom McCarthy, Spotlight.

BEST ACTOR: Bryan Cranston, Trumbo; Matt Damon, The Martian; Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant; Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs; Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl.

BEST ACTRESS: Cate Blanchett, Carol; Brie Larson, Room; Jennifer Lawrence, Joy; Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years; Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christian Bale, The Big Short; Tom Hardy, The Revenant; Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight; Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies; Sylvester Stallone, Creed.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight; Rooney Mara, Carol; Rachel McAdams, Spotlight; Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl; Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs.

BEST FILM EDITING: The Big Short; Mad Max: Fury Road; The Revenant; Spotlight; Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: Embrace of the Serpent; Mustang; Son of Saul; Theeb; A War.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Thomas Newman, Bridge of Spies; Carter Burwell, Carol; Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight; Jóhann Jóhannsson, Sicario; John Williams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: Bridge of Spies; The Danish Girl; Mad Max: Fury Road; The Martian; The Revenant.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Ex Machina; Mad Max: Fury Road; The Martian; The Revenant; Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: The Big Short, Brooklyn, Carol, The Martian, Room.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Bridge of Spies, Ex Machina, Inside Out, Spotlight, Straight Outta Compton.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM: Anomalisa, Boy and the World, Inside Out, Shaun the Sheep Movie, When Marnie Was There.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Carol, The Hateful Eight, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Sicario.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN: Carol, Cinderella, The Danish Girl, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: Amy, Cartel Land, The Look of Silence, What Happened, Miss Simone?, Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: Body Team 12; Chau, Beyond the Lines; Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah; A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness; Last Day of Freedom.

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING: Mad Max: Fury Road; The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared; The Revenant.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG: "Earned It," Fifty Shades of Grey; "Manta Ray," Racing Extinction; "Simple Song No. 3," Youth; "'Til It Happens to You," The Haunting Ground; "Writings on the Wall," Spectre.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT: Bear Story; Prologue; Sanjay's Super Team; We Can't Live Without Cosmos; World of Tomorrow

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT: Ave Maria; Day One; Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut); Shok; Stutterer.

BEST SOUND EDITING: Mad Max: Fury Road; The Martian; The Revenant; Sicario; Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

BEST SOUND MIXING: Bridge of Spies; Mad Max: Fury Road; The Martian; The Revenant; Star Wars: The Force Awakens.


It Took Intellect To Master Her Art

After catching an 8:30 am screening of Roar Uthaug‘s The Wave inside Santa Barbara’s Metroplex I ran into Hollywood Reporter columnist Scott Feinberg and producer Marcia Nasatir, whom I’ve spoken to at parties over the last decade. Feinberg suggested I might want to attend a discussion he was soon to moderate about A Classy Broad, a documentary about Nasatir from director/editor Anne Goursaud. That sounded interesting so I ran into a nearby theatre and caught the last 15 minutes of it.

During this mornings’ q & a following screening of Anne Goursaud’s A Classy Broad: (l. to r.) Marcia Nasatir, Hollywood Reporter columnist Scott Feinberg, director Anne Goursaud.

Goursaud’s doc is obviously an admiring, up-close portrait of a brilliant and tenacious producer who had a tougher row to hoe than today’s female producers, coming up as she did in an era that was even more of a patriarchial system. By the mid ’70s Nasatir had worked her way up to a United Artists exec vp position under Mike Medavoy. She did some heavy lifting on such ’70s classics as Three Days of the Condor, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Carrie, Rocky, Coming Home, Apocalypse Now. As an independent producer Nasatir got The Big Chill made; ditto Ironweed, Hamburger Hill, Mrs. Cage and Death-Defying Acts. (more…)

Depp Does It His Way

Last night the Santa Barbara Film Festival threw a live Johnny Depp show at the Arlington. As dismissive and snarly as I felt at the very beginning over his tardiness (Depp’s limo pulled up at 8:20 pm — a good 50 minutes later than usual), I felt more and more charmed by the 53 year-old superstar during his interview with Leonard Maltin. He’s not a big star for nothing — he knows how to “get” people, and Hollywood Elsewhere, sitting front-row right and tweeting like a motherfucker, was no exception.

Depp spoke in front of the huge Arlington crowd like he was sitting at a kitchen table at 2:30 am, maybe a little hung-over and too tired to put on airs. He was Mr. Be-Bop-A-Luah all the way through, shaking his head and going “whoa, heh-heh…I’m not too good at this,” channelling the ghosts of Hunter S. Thompson and Marlon Brando, a gently playful prankster, more into toying with Maltin than submitting to his questions and sometimes even putting a slice or two of his actual self on the plate, mate.

Depp was there to accept the festival’s Modern Master Award — the first of a cavalcade of Oscar worthies who will make gala appearances and submit to interviews in this seaside town over the next nine days.

Clearly not at ease with the format and yet thoroughly confessional at every turn, Depp rambled and muttered and smirked his way through most of the 110-minute interview. Depp is a subversive. He cannot and will not play the humble-brag game. You can sense that he regards himself as some kind of King Shit cultural figure, but he’s too Deppian, too committed to (or consumed by) his rich-as-fuck attitude-rebel personality to swagger around with any kind of “ladies and gentleman, here I am!” conviction. He can’t help but smirk, shrug his shoulders, mumble, chuckle and riff like a jazzman in the back room.

You could argue that Depp was a good sport for showing up at all, as the initial expectation was that he’d land a Best Actor nomination for his husky-eyed performance as Boston gangster Whitey Bulger in Scott Cooper‘s Black Mass. The Academy didn’t oblige (if you ask me Depp should have been nominated instead of The Danish Girl‘s Eddie Redmayne) but he came anyway, late as fuck and therefore obliged to blow off the usual red-carpet interviews and autograph-signings with the fans, who had begun to gather in force around 6:30 pm or so. (more…)

Handsomely Produced, Ultimately Empty (And Yet “Filling”)

What mattered to everyone who helped make this moderately appealing Bud Light ad is that they got well paid. Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen were most certainly paid a shitload; ditto Paul Rudd for sitting around for a day and saying one line. But I’m genuinely impressed with the production values — the carefully measured lighting, the convincing CG work, the elegant cutting. Who directed this thing? The articles I’ve read so far don’t say.

Latest Grief-Recovery Drama

Due respect to Jean Marc Vallee‘s Demolition (Fox Searchlight, 4.8.16), which I saw at last September’s Toronto Film Festival, but I think it’s arrived just a little too late in the cycle of grief-recovery dramas. By the same token Kenneth Lonergan‘s Manchester-By-The Sea, which won’t open commercially for several months, is ahead of the curve in terms of dealing with grief-coping tropes. Also: The first time a major movie walloped audiences with a sudden CU car crash out of nowhere was Adaptation (’02), which was 14 years ago. I respectfully believe that this dramatic shock tactic no longer works — it’s been done too many times.

“An Oscar Sea of Mystery”

If Adam McKay wins the DGA Award on Saturday night, it’s overThe Big Short will definitely win Best Picture. But McKay won’t win the DGA award, you see. Mad Max: Fury Road‘s George Miller (a favorite of the “steak-eaters”) might win; ditto The Revenant‘s Alejandro G. Inarritu. Right at the top of this Tom O’Neil-hosted discussion Deadline‘s Pete Hammond suggests that Lenny Abrahamson‘s Room has a “conceivable” chance of winning the Best Picture Oscar. (Ya think so, Pete?) He also says that Saturday’s DGA ceremony “could be a Tom McCarthy win.” (As big a fan of Spotlight as I’ve been for the last five months, I’d be hugely surprised if this happens.) O’Neil doesn’t tip his hand, but Hammond seems to be personally pulling for McKay.

Old-Timey Directors Had Faces Then

A party for Luis Bunuel, thrown at George Cukor’s home in November ’72: (back row from left) Robert Mulligan, William Wyler, George Cukor, Robert Wise, Jean-Claude Carriere, Serge Silverman: (front row from left) Billy Wilder, George Stevens, Luis Bunuel, Alfred Hitchcock, Rouben Mamoulian.

Pinko commie, anti-labor commie hater.

Bernardo Bertolucci, Pier Paolo Pasolini during filming of Accatone.

Josef von Sternberg, Marlene Dietrich.

Akira Kurosawa, Toshiro Mifune at 1960 Venice Film Festival.


Had To Be There

It was a bit chilly in Santa Barbara last night. Just a bit. State Street was all but pedestrian-free. I didn’t arrive early enough to pick up my press pass so I decided against attending the SBIFF opening-night party. (I knew I’d be challenged and most likely shut down by the door goons.) Here are two dropbox videos from the opening-night screening of The Little Princeone containing opening remarks of festival director Roger Durling and another of Prince voice-actor Jeff Bridges, looking like King Neptune with a huge, white beard, entering the Arlington theatre.

Santa Barbara Film Festival honcho Roger Durling delivering remarks before last night’s screening of The Little Prince.

Jen Yamato vs. Coen Brothers

Last weekend The Daily Beast‘s Jen Yamato actually tried to hold Joel and Ethan Coen‘s feet to the fire over the lack of diversity in the casting of Hail, Caesar! Apparently Yamato was not doing a put-on interview; she apparently meant every word. Kudos to the Coens for shutting her down and calling her question “idiotic.” The exchange was posted in a 2.3 Daily Beast piece:

The “overwhelming whiteness” of the casting in Hail, Casear! “could conceivably be explained away by pointing to the milieu of Tinseltown circa the 1950s, when the industry’s racial demographic was far less diverse than it is today,” Yamato writes. [Wells interjection: Hollywood was “less diverse” in the early 1950s than it is today? In the waning days of the Truman administration there were no minorities cast in mainstream films except in a spotty, token, peripheral fashion — cooks, maids, butlers, field hands, coat-check girls.]

Back to Yamato: “I asked the Coens to respond to criticisms that there aren’t more minority characters in the film. In other words, why is #HailCaesarSoWhite?”

“’Why would there be [more minority characters]?’ countered Joel Coen. ‘I don’t understand the question. No…I understand that you’re asking the question, [but] I don’t understand where the question comes from. Not why people want more diversity, [but] why they would single out a particular movie and say, ‘Why aren’t there black or Chinese or Martians in this movie? What’s going on?’ That’s the question I don’t understand. The person who asks that question has to come in the room and explain it to me.”

Yamato asked, “As filmmakers, is it important or not important to consciously factor in concerns like diversity?”

“’Not in the least!’ Ethan answered. ‘It’s important to tell the story you’re telling in the right way, which might involve black people or people of whatever heritage or ethnicity…or it might not.’ (more…)


Way back in the mid to late ’50s, the gulf between upstanding, responsible-minded, martini-drinking World War II generation types and your basic big-city bebop/beatnik subterranean jazz musician types was all but insurmountable. This is a partly amusing summary of this disparity. I’d listened to this Shorty Petterstein interview before, but I hadn’t seen the animated version until last night.

Sentimental Journey

Brian OakesJim: The James Foley Story, which I felt conflicted about after catching it last week in Park City, will air on HBO on Saturday, 2.6.

My main complaint was that the doc felt “too worshipful.” Oakes presents Foley as “a great fellow, a ballsy adventurer, clever, resourceful, generous of heart,” I noted. “I’m sorry to say this but two hours of adoration can wear you down a bit. Was there anything about Foley that was lacking or imperfect? Most likely but the doc won’t go there.” Jim is not my idea of a wildly dishonest film, but Oakes clearly wanted to pay tribute to his childhood friend first and get to the bottom of things second.

But even with this understandable motive there’s a definite feeling of denial when you listen to Oakes speak with with The Frame‘s John Horn during a 2.2 broadcast.

Foley “loved people, telling their stories, the underdogs, the victims of war,” Oakes tells Horn. “[He] had the recipe of a war correspondent…a rare breed [requiring] physical courage, moral courage….you need to be calm under very stressful situations.”

Horn asks why Foley was a conflict journalist in Libya and Syria. Why in particular did he decide to cover Syria after being seized in Libya and held for over 40 days, knowing full well that Syria was, if anything, a scarier place than Libya?

Obviously Foley, like many journalists who’ve covered war zones, was a kind of war junkie — risk, danger, adrenaline. That famous Chris Hedges quote that was used at the beginning of The Hurt Locker surely applies: “The rush of battle is a potent and almost lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” Hedges, a seasoned conflict journalist himself, added that “war gives us purpose, meaning, a reason for living.” (more…)

Following The Murder of Marion Crane

Hollywood Elsewhere arrived in Santa Barbara around 5:30 pm, and is now residing in room #214 at the SB Holiday Inn. I can’t attend the opening-night screening of Mark Osborne‘s The Little Prince (sorry but I really can’t do animated) but I’ll be at the Arlington tomorrow night for the Modern Master Award presentation. The recipient will be Black Mass star Johnny Depp, who looks these days like Captain Jack’s slightly portly uncle. On Friday the American Riviera award will be presented to Spotlight‘s Micheal Keaton, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams. The SBIFF’s Virtuoso award will be presented in Saturday to Elizabeth Banks (Love & Mercy), Paul Dano (Love & Mercy, Youth, that Sundance dead-guy-farting movie called Swiss Army Man), Joel Edgerton (Black Mass), O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Straight Outta Compton), Géza Röhrig (Son of Saul), Jacob Tremblay (Room) and Alicia Vikander (Danish Girl, Ex Machina). Sunday affords an opportunity to see Terrence Malick‘s Knight of Cups on the big Arlington screen. And on Monday Room‘s Brie Larson and Brooklyn‘s Saoirse Ronan will be honored with a special dual presentation of the Performer of the Year award, which will be moderated by Deadline‘s Pete Hammond. More to come later that week (Sly Stallone, Oscar-nominated directors tribute with Scott Feinberg) but this’ll do for now.