Bukowksi-esque Encounters At A Car Wash

Most of the time I wash the car at one of those do-it-yourself, compressed-water-spray operations that cost about three bills. They also have quarter-in-the-slot vacuum deals. But every so often I splurge on a bells-and-whistles car wash facility. There’s one on the west side of La Cienega and just south of Melrose, called Royal Car Wash, that I visited today. I was there for only about 25 or 30 minutes and two unfortunate things happened in that time slot — (a) a case of sexual favoritism that I took exception to and (b) a bearish, gray-haired guy who moaned and “ahhh”-ed too loudly when he was in one of those quarter-in-the-slot massage chairs.

I was getting a massage myself in the chair right behind this guy and probably enjoyed it just as much, but being a New Jersey/Connecticut WASP, I hold that shit in. I really love it when those machine-fingers start working on my lower backbone but I don’t let go with “aaaahhh, God!,” “Aahhwwww!,” “Oh, Jesus…oh man, I don’t believe this!” and so on. His moans were so appalling I was starting to feel badly about experiencing the same device. You’re lowering the property values, dude.  If I hadn’t been facing the opposite direction I would’ve given him the old stink-eye. So many people treat public areas like their living rooms or bathrooms. (more…)

Day of Likely Suffering

Press screenings of Child 44 and Unfriended happened last Tuesday (the former at 3 pm, the latter at 7 pm), and I missed them both. Naturally. God help me but I’m thinking about catching both today. Unfriended and Child 44 have 65% and 27% Rotten Tomato ratings, respectively.  Neither are likely to be pleasant experiences. Honestly? The more I think about this, the weaker in the knees I’m getting. One or the other, but not in tandem.  I need to man up or cut bait.  This is my life.  This is April.

Slippery Slope

I don’t see how I can justify posting the full-boat trailer for Rick Famuyiwa‘s Dope (Open Road, 6.30) given my posting the teaser on 3.26 on top of reviewing (i.e., half-trashing) it a couple of times during Sundance ’15. I suppose the fact that the trailer is first-rate — nicely cut, timed, shaped and tone-hinted — is justification in itself. My view, to repeat, is that “for all its keep-it-comin’ energy Dope is “a fleet, Tarantino-like hodgepodge of fantasy bullshit in the vein of a New Line Cinema release from the ’90s (i.e., House Party), and adapted to the general sensibility of 2015. It’s fun as far as it goes but definitely not that great. An awful lot of tragically hip critics flipped for it at Sundance.

Surrounded by Hitler Youth

A couple of hours ago I was sitting at one of the picnic tables outside of the Whole Foods market at Fairfax and Santa Monica, and all of a sudden I noticed that every guy sitting at every table nearby was wearing a Hitler Youth cut (i.e., Brad Pitt whitewalls with short sprigs on top). The crowd doesn’t get much hipper than at Whole Foods, so this means pretty much every guy in West Hollywood, gay or straight, is wearing one. Except for guys like me, of course.

A year ago Jezebel‘s Kate Spries posted a piece called “Every Dude You Know Is Getting This Haircut,” but these trends take time. Now even the laggers have caught on. My son Jett has been wearing a slightly longer variation. Even David Poland (whom I saw last night at a Far From The Madding Crowd screening on the Fox lot) is sporting what you could call an Almost Hitler Youth cut, or at least a quite short one. (more…)

“Is It Really Surprising…?”

Take away the media-conversation-attacks-Superman element and you’re basically left with another moody, noirish superhero melodrama with the same gloom-and-doom soundtrack, and a lot of slugging and groaning and Gold’s Gym pecs, and a lot of cars and buildings and whatnot sure to be left in rubble by the end of the third act. And the fanboys are going “whoa…a new approach to the same old superhero horseshit!”

Good Riddance

“A digital copy of a movie carries no history. It’s clean and new every time. It has no memory, and it has no soul.” — Projectionist Stephen Bognar in a 4.14 N.Y. Times op-ed about the dying of 35mm, titled “The Last Reel.”

“A 35mm print of a movie often carries history, much of it in the form of scratches, tears, missing frames, green lines, pops, reel-change marks and faded colors or weak, washed-out values when the film is in black-and-white. It looks flawed and worn-down and a little more diminished every time it’s shown. It has too much memory, and a soul that I would have to call worthless at this stage of the game. With any luck I’ve watched my last 35mm-projected film.” — Me, speaking right now as I sit in front of my 60-inch Samsung watching an absolutely perfect digital rendering of Sir Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out.

Goody Two-Shoes

A glimpse of the cover for a forthcoming Bluray of Harry & Son (Olive, 4.28) took me back for an instant and made me feel good that Robby Benson isn’t around anymore.  Younger moviegoers have no way of knowing what a drag it was during his late-’70s-to-mid-’80s heyday. Benson was the “up” guy who always seemed to portray gentle, earnest, open-hearted types who smiled and hugged and kept in touch with their emotions (Tribute, The Chosen, Running Brave). He was too radiant, his eyes were too blue, he smiled too much, and every time he turned up in a film I would go “oh, Christ.” Benson is now 59, still married to Karla DeVito and apparently a happy, healthy fellow. Good-looking guys always become interesting when age catches up with them. Sidenote: Has there ever been a father-son pairing more genetically disparate than Benson and Paul Newman?

Click here to jump past the Oscar Balloon

2015 X-Factor, Ambitious, Semi-Fresh, Social Undercurrent, Something More (28)

A Bigger Splash -- Luca Guadagnino (director); Matthias Schoenaerts, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Dakota Johnson. Fox Searchlight, presumably sometime in the fall.

Black Mass (Warner Bros.) -- Scott Cooper (director/screenplay); Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sienna Miller, Dakota Johnson. (9.18)

Bridge of Spies (Touchstone / DreamWorks / 20th Century Fox) -- Steven Spielberg (director); Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen (screenplay); Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, Alan Alda, Billy Magnussen, Eve Hewson.

Brooklyn (Fox Searchlight) -- John Crowley (director), Nick Nornsby (screenwriter) -- Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson, Emory Cohen, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters.

By The Sea (Universal) -- Angelina Jolie (director, screenwriter). Cast: Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Niels Arestrup, Mélanie Laurent.

Carol (Weinstein Co.) -- Todd Haynes (director); Pyllis Nagy (screenplay, based on Patricia Highsmith novel); Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler.

Concussion -- Peter Landesman (director-writer). Will Smith, Albert Brooks, Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Paul Reiser, Luke Wilson. Sony.

The Danish Girl -- Tom Hooper (director). Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Matthias Schoenaerts.

Demolition (Fox Searchlight) -- Jean-Marc Vallee (director); Bryan Sipe (screenplay); Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper. Fox Searchlight.

Everest (Universal) -- Baltasar Kormákur (director); Justin Isbell, William Nicholson (screenplay); Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Jason Clarke, John Hawkes, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright.

Hail Caesar! (Universal -- listed as a February 2016 release but if the film turns out to be half as good as the crackling script, it'll be criminal to relegate it to a dump month); Joel and Ethan Coen (directors, screenplay); Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill.

Untitled Warren Beatty/Howard Hughes Drama (no distributor) -- Warren Beatty (director, writer); Warren Beatty, Alden Ehrenreich, Lily Collins, Matthew Broderick, Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, Taissa Farmiga, Chace Crawford, Candice Bergen. 2015 or '16?

Icon -- Stephen Frears (director), Jon Hodge (screenwriter). An Irish sports journalist becomes convinced that Lance Armstrong's performances during the Tour de France victories are fueled by banned substances. Ben Foster, Lee Pace, Chris O'Dowd.

Irrational Man (Sony Classics) -- Woody Allen (director, screenplay); Joaquin Phoenix, Parker Posey, Emma Stone, Jamie Blackley. .

Joy (20th Century Fox) -- David O. Russell (director/screenplay). Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Édgar Ramirez. 20th Century Fox, 12.25.

Love and Mercy -- Bill Pohlad (director). Oren Moverman, Michael Alan Lerner (screenplay). Paul Dano, John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti. Roadside Attractions, 6.5.

Money Monster (TriStar/Sony -- apparently shooting in early '15) -- Jodie Foster (director); Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore, Jim Kouf (screenplay). Cast: George Clooney, Jack O'Connell, Julia Roberts.

Our Brand Is Crisis (Warner Bros.); David Gordon Green (director); Peter Straughan (screenplay); Sandra Bullock, Scoot McNairy, Billy Bob Thornton, Anthony Mackie, Ann Dowd. WARNING -- possible 2016 release.

The Revenant (20th Century Fox) -- Alejandro González Inarritu (director/screenplay); Mark "nobody can remember my middle initial" Smith (screenplay); Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, Domhnall Gleeson.

Sea of Trees (no distributor) -- Gus Van Sant (director); Chris Sparling (screenplay); Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe, Naomi Watts, Katie Aselton, Jordan Gavaris.

Silence (Paramount) -- Martin Scorsese (director); Jay Cocks (screenplay); Liam Neeson, Andrew Garfield, Issei Ogata, Adam Driver, Tadanobu Asano. WARNING -- could be 2016 release.

Snowden -- Oliver Stone (director, co-writer). Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto, Tom Wilkinson, Rhys Ifans, Joely Richardson, Timothy Olyphant. Open Road, 12.25.

Spotlight -- Thomas McCarthy (director, co-writer). Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Brian d'Arcy James, Michael Keaton, Stanley Tucci, Liev Schreiber, Billy Crudup, John Slattery.

Steve Jobs (Universal -- shooting began in January 2015, which indicates an intention to bring it out by late '15) -- Danny Boyle (director), Aaron Sorkin (screenplay), Scott Rudin (producer); Cast: Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen, Michael Stuhlbarg, Katherine Waterston.

Richard Linklater's That's What I'm Talking About (his "spiritual sequel" to Dazed & Confused) is opening sometime in the fall. Annapurna/Paramount.

Trumbo (no distributor) -- Jay Roach (director), Michael London (producer), John McNamara (screenwriter). Cast: Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Elle Fanning, Louis C.K., Helen Mirren, John Goodman.

Truth (no distributor) -- James Vanderbilt (director, writer -- based on the 2005 memoir "Truth and Duty" by Mary Mapes); Cast: Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett, Elisabeth Moss, Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid, Bruce Greenwood.

The Walk (TriStar / ImageMovers) -- Robert Zemeckis (director/screenplay); Christopher Browne (screenplay); Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Charlotte Le Bon. Sony/TriStar, 10.2.

2015 Quality-Grade Commercial / alphabetical order (9):

The Hateful Eight (Weinstein Co.) -- Quentin Tarantino (director-writer); Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Dern, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Demián Bichir, Kurt Russell.

In the Heart of the Sea (Warner Bros.) Ron Howard (director); Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson.

The Last Face (distributor) -- Sean Penn (director); Erin Dignam (screenplay); Charlize Theron, Javier Bardem, Adèle Exarchopoulos.

Legend (Universal); Brian Helgeland (director, screenwriter); Tom Hardy (playing both Kray twins), Emily Browning.

Midnight Special (Warner Bros.) -- Jeff Nichols (director/screenplay); Cast: Michael Shannon, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, Joel Edgerton.

Regression (The Weinstein Company) -- Alejandro Amenábar (director/screenplay); Ethan Hawke, Emma Watson, David Dencik.

Ricki and the Flash (TriStar) -- Jonathan Demme (director); Diablo Cody (screenplay); Meryl Streep, Mamie Gummer, Kevin Kline, Sebastian Stan, Rick Springfield, Ben Platt.

Tomorrowland (Disney) -- Brad Bird (director, cowriter); Damon Lindelof (co-writer); George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie, Raffey Cassidy, Thomas Robinson, Kathryn Hahn, Tim McGraw, Keegan-Michael Key, Judy Greer.

Trainwreck (Universal) -- Judd Apatow (director/screenplay); Amy Schumer (screenplay); Cast: Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, Tilda Swinton, Vanessa Bayer, Ezra Miller, John Cena, Barkhad Abdi, Norman Lloyd.

Pleasingly, Vigorously, Assuredly Mainstream (or something in that realm) / alphabetical order (13):

Aloha (Sony/Columbia) a.k.a. Son of Deep Tiki -- Cameron Crowe (director, writer); Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone, Rachel McAdams, Alec Baldwin, Bill Murray, John Krasinski, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel.

Criminal (Summit Entertainment) -- Ariel Vromen (director); Douglas Cook, David Weisberg (screenplay); Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman.

Crimson Peak (Universal / Legendary) -- Guillermo del Toro (director/screenplay); Matthew Robbins, Lucinda Coxon (screenplay); Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Charlie Hunnam, Jessica Chastain, Jim Beaver.

Grimsby (Columbia) -- Louis Leterrier (director); Sacha Baron Cohen, Phil Johnston (screenplay); Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher, Rebel Wilson, Annabelle Wallis, Ian McShane, Gabourey Sidibe, David Harewood, Johnny Vegas, Penélope Cruz, Scott Adkins.

Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros.) George Miller (director/screenplay); Nick Lathouris, Brendan McCarthy (screenplay); Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoë Kravitz, Abbey Lee, Richard Norton, Riley Keough, Courtney Eaton, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Nathan Jones, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.

Magic Mike XXL (Warner Bros.) Gregory Jacobs (director); Channing Tatum (screenplay); Cast: Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Gabriel Iglesias, Andie MacDowell, Amber Heard, Jada Pinkett Smith, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Glover, Michael Strahan.

The Martian (20th Century Fox) -- Ridley Scott (director); Drew Goddard (screenplay); Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Mackenzie Davis, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Donald Glover, Aksel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sebastian Stan.

Masterminds (Relativity Media) -- Jared Hess (director); John Goldwyn, Lorne Michaels (screenplay); Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis.

Mississippi Grind (no distributor) -- Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck (directors, writers). Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Sienna Miller, Ben Mendelsohn, Analeigh Tipton.

Southpaw (Weinstein Co.) -- Antoine Fuqua; Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Naomie Harris, Forest Whitaker, Victor Ortiz.

Spectre (MGM / Columbia) -- Sam Mendes (director); John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade (screenplay); Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Léa Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Disney / Lucasfilm / Bad Robot) -- J.J. Abrams (director/screenplay); Lawrence Kasdan (screenplay); John Boyega, Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Max von Sydow, Lupita Nyong'o, Gwendoline Christie, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker.

Triple Nine (Open Road) -- John Hillcoat (director); Matt Cook (screenplay); Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Casey Affleck, Chris Allen, Anthony Mackie.


Like An Idiot…

I missed last Tuesday morning’s press screening of Cedric Jimenez‘s The Connection (Drafthouse, 5.15), a fact-based Gallic take on the French Connection-related, Marseille-based heroin drug trade, set in 1975. My next shot is a Friday, 4.24 showing at L.A.’s COLCOA Film Festival. And if I blow that one (I can be brilliant at missing screenings) my last shot before leaving the country is in NYC on Thursday, 5.7. “Considerable theatrical appeal in English-language territories [will be] boosted by both its art house-approved cast and the thematic tie-in to William Friedkin‘s evergreen cop film.” — from John DeFore‘s Hollywood Reporter review, filed from the Toronto Film Festival on 9.10.14.

Will Blanchett’s Carol Performance Result In Oscar Heat? Probably. Will Pic Be Weinstein Co.’s First Serious Best Picture Shot In Ages? Quite Possibly

A producer friend tells me that Todd HaynesCarol, an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith‘s 1952 lesbian romance (i.e., initially published under a nom de plume and called “The Price of Salt“) is being called “the female Brokeback Mountain” by an industry crony or two and that “it’s going to get a lot of Oscar buzz early on.” She believes that Cate Blanchett, whose titular character endures most of the story’s heartache and anguish, will be a likely recipient for a Best Actress nomination. The drama will have its big debut next month at the Cannes Film Festival, and open in the fall, of course, with all the attendant Oscar hoopla. Harvey is back in the game!

Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett in Todd Haynes’ Carol, which some are allegedly calling a “female Brokeback Mountain.”

The Cannes reception will have a lot to do with it, of course, but if the script is as good as my friend claims Carol could well end up as a Best Picture contender, and Haynes, who’s been churning out a string of sublimely realized, indie-level films for many years (including the fascinating Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There), could benefit from Best Director chatter. It’s certainly conceivable that Rooney Mara, who plays Carol’s love interest Therese Belivet, might also lure some heat as a Best Supporting Actress contender. Maybe. I don’t know anything.

My pally read Phillis Nagy‘s script sometime back and “loved it. It’s Cate Blanchett’s next Oscar, or at least her next Best Actress nomination. I really think I’m going to be proved right on this one. It’s a great story of a woman in a cold, affluent, unhappy marriage who sleeps around with women and decides to seduce a young engaged shopgirl — and then falls hard for her.”

It’s commonly known that “The Price of Salt” was a kind of autobiographical novel by Patricia Highsmith (Strangers on a Train, The Talented Mr. Ripley). Producer pally: “Women just had to stay hidden in the closet back then and this was Highsmith’s love story.” Or one of them, at least.

Highsmith’s Wiki page notes that “The Price of Salt” was published under the pseudonym Claire Morgan, and that “it garnered wide attention as a lesbian novel because of its rare happy ending. Highsmith didn’t publicly associate herself with this book until late in her life, probably because she had extensively mined her personal life for the book’s content.”

Principal photography on Carol began on 3.2.14 in Cincinnati and wrapped on 4.25.14.

Blanchett and Mara during Blanchett’s big night at the 2014 Santa Barbara Film Festival.

You May Say I’m A Dreamer

Gotta catch this in IMAX 3D, right? Too big, loud and cool to stream. If only we lived in a Marvel world 24/7. If only we could all share in the profits! Imagine the souls of millions of moviegoers being sucked in by a giant CG Ultron vacuum machine. Imagine smashing a peach ice-cream cone into my forehead. Imagine movies without the influential virus of comic books and videogames and needing to appeal to submental Asian filmgoers. It isn’t hard to do. Imagine a world in which Marnie is rediscovered and celebrated…no, wait, scratch that one.

Godz Frown, Look For Hole To Get Sick In

In a sometimes hilarious 4.17 review of Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, Variety‘s Justin Chang begins with the following passage: “Nothing aired by WikiLeaks could possibly be more destructive to Sony’s reputation than the release of Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 the sort of movie that goes beyond mere mediocrity to offer possible evidence of a civilization in decline.” Every now and then a Variety critic will depart from the template (make sure observations are dry and sage, focus on craft and commercial potential, mention but don’t dwell on social undercurrents) and let go with a remark like this, which is obviously out of the Hollywood Elsewhere playbook. Since this column began 10 1/2 years ago I’ve pointed over and over (some would say tediously) to indications of a grim cultural slide. I see “evidence of a civilization in decline” in all kinds of films and events on a daily/weekly basis. Anyone would. Everyone probably does. But Chang’s job description specifically forbids “going there.” Slap his palms with a ruler. Note: As we speak Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 has a zero Rotten Tomato rating.

Rolling Ball With Hovering Brain

I don’t know how I feel about posting footage of BB-8, but I guess I don’t feel too badly about it. A genuine, organic thing — a creature that was built, puppeteered and performed. I don’t know anyone who would have been happy dealing with R2D2 again. I valued his smarts and spirit  but he always bothered me.  And BB-8…well, I’m impressed.

Don’t Marnie Me

Three days ago I nearly fell out of my chair when I noticed a Twitter dispute among some Alfred Hitchcock devotees (including occasional HE gadfly Glenn Kenny) about who had been more influential in restoring the reputation of Hitchcock’s MarnieNew Yorker contributor-columnist Richard Brody (a.k.a., tinyfrontrow) or the late Robin Wood, whose fascinating interpretations in his 1965 book “Hitchcock’s Films” did a lot to advance the belief that Hitchcock was a major mainstream artist. Given that Marnie is still a ghastly thing to sit through (I tried doing so a couple of years ago), I wasn’t aware that Marnie‘s reputation had ever been restored. But that’s the foo-foo crowd for you, encamped and gathering firewood on their own tight little island.


Eight Makes Hate

How much farther can Quentin Tarantino crawl up his own ass in search of material for his latest cinematic swagger dance? “Pretty much every account of last night’s performance has failed to say whether The Hateful Eight sounded good enough to be a decent movie,” I wrote after the 4.19.14 live reading of an early draft of Tarantino’s latest. “Let me state very clearly and without a shred of a doubt that it didn’t. It’s a fairly minor and almost dismissable thing — a colorful but basically mediocre Tarantino gabfest that mostly happens on a single interior set (i.e., Minnie’s Haberdashery, located somewhere near the Wyoming town of Red Rock during a fierce blizzard), and which unfolds in the vein of The Petrified Forest.

The Hateful Eight “is about a gatherin’ of several tough, mangy hombres sitting around talkin’ and yappin’ and talkin’ and yappin’. And then, just to break up the monotony, a little more talkin’ and yappin’. Along with a little shootin’ and poison-coffee drinkin’ and brutally punchin’ out a female prisoner and a few dozen uses of the word ‘nigger’ (par for the QT course) and swearin’ and talkin’ about fellatin’ and whatever else. (more…)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Tease Trailer #2

This is not a full-boat trailer — it’s basically another tease. I was in and out (“The force is in my family…I have it, my sister has it, you have it, my father-in-law has it, my cousin has it, my cat has it, my accountant has it”) and waiting for a taste of narrative, some hint of a story…nope. But at least it has that Uncle Festus-and-Chewy moment at the very end — “We’re home.” I’m sorry but I’m detecting too much of a geek-friendly vibe, a little too much of an attitude that seems to say “yah-hooo!” and “yeaah!…this brand-new amusement park is really cool!” J.J. Abrams presumably understands that this movie can’t fully succeed unless it appeals to cineastes who consider The Empire Strikes Back to be the most riveting and distinguished chapter in the Star Wars legend. In other words, it has to satisfy or at least reach out to guys like me. The toenail-fungus geeks are already in the tank. Just saying.

History and Honor Demand This

Elizabeth Warren is doing her reputation no favors by sitting out the 2016 election, as she’s said over and over that she’ll do. It doesn’t matter if she can’t beat Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. If the corporate-funded Clinton cakewalks to the nomination the entire country, from progressive liberals to rural yeehaws, will be denied the strong, opinion-shaping conversation about the increasingly one-percent-favoring economy that the 2016 Presidential election demands. Warren will be doing Clinton no favors by not running — the lack of a vigorous challenger will in fact make Clinton, who will almost certainly shoot herself in the foot more than once over the next several months, all the more vulnerable because her message will be unrefined and her campaign will be untested when she faces off against Jeb Bush. An easy-street Clinton will never talk the talk. Warren has to run in order to do that — to state and re-state the facts about how this country has fallen more and more under the control of a lopsided oligarchial system over the past 30-plus years. (Note: This video eloquently states the case, but for some reason it repeats itself starting at the 5:00 mark.)

Best Bluray Jacket Design of 2015

Costa-Gavras‘s The Confession is not, I think, a better movie than his prize-winning Z, with which it will inevitably be compared, not only by the critics but also by those members of the public who may look for a repeat performance. The earlier film was a nearly perfect topical thriller whose form pretty much defined the substance of its liberal politics.

“However, because the subject of The Confession is much more complex, much more human, I find it vastly more interesting than Z, even when one is aware of the way Costa-Gavras manipulates attention by the use of flashy cinematic devices that sometimes substitute for sustained drama. It is a horror story of the mind told almost entirely in factual and physical terms, which is something of a contradiction. (more…)

Officially Mildly Deflating

The 2015 Cannes Film Festival roster was announced in Paris this morning, and it is what it is. No surprises — all previously spitballed. I’ve been feeling a wee bit glum about what seems to me like an underserving of crackling dimensionality and serious marquee pizazz but let’s try to be optimistic. Among all of the announced (including out of competition or OOC), I feel instinctually drawn to or moderately cranked about the following, in this order: Todd HaynesCarol (yes!), Woody Allen‘s Irrational Man (OOC), George Miller‘s Mad Max: Fury Road (OOC), Denis Villeneuve‘s Sicario (sorry but I’ll always be wary of Villeneuve), Paolo Sorrentino‘s Youth, Jacques Audiard‘s Erran, Justin Kurzel‘s Macbeth (Shakespeare for ADD generation?), Joachim Trier‘s Louder Than Bombs, Gus Van Sant‘s The Sea of Trees, Barbet Schroeder‘s Amnesia and Hou Hsiao-hsien‘s The Assassin (special Asian martial-arts suffering potential).