The legend of Inspector Javert, the dogged hard-ass in Victor Hugo‘s Les Miserables, has nothing on the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, which has again reportedly tried to extradite director Roman Polanski to the U.S. in order to face charges over having jumped bail in early 1978 regarding the Samantha Geimer statutory rape case. The guy who tried to have Polanski flown back in handcuffs last time was L.A. County district attorney Steve Cooley, a Republican, but he left the office in 2012. The current L.A. County district attorney is Jackie Lacey, the first woman and first African-American to serve as Los Angeles County District Attorney since the office was created in 1850. I don’t know if Lacey is behind this latest Polanski maneuver or not, but if she is…brilliant! This is rabid-dog behavior. Obviously there’s no end to the obsessions of the Polanski pitchforkers. These people really and truly need counseling. Along with a leash.

Old Times’ Sake

Way back in early February I tapped out a rave review of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. I did so from my room at Berlin’s Grand Wyndman Hotel during a Fox Searchlight junket for the film. The piece is fairly well written if I do say so myself. It also seems appropriate in this, the height of Derby season, to remind everyone what a superb film Budapest is, was and always will be because…you know, films released in February are sometimes presumed to be not as good as those released between Labor Day and late December. Here it is again:

Rest assured that while Budapest is a full-out ‘Wes Anderson film’ (archly stylized, deadpan humor, anally designed) it also delights with flourishy performances and a pizazzy, loquacious script that feels like Ernst Lubitsch back from the dead, and particularly with unexpected feeling — robust affection for its characters mixed with a melancholy lament for an early-to-mid 20th Century realm that no longer exists. (more…)

Chris Crispy vs. Ebola

Tickets to Monday’s premiere screening of Dumb and Dumber To (Universal, 11.14) are at a premium, but at least I’m on the waiting list. The Farrelly Brothers comedy was set to screen at this weekend’s Virginia Film Festival but Universal yanked it a couple of days ago. They somehow got it into their heads that the comic sequel would screen only for University of Virginia students and not reviewing press. When someone tapped them on the shoulder and reminded them that any film screening at a film festival is fair game for review, they went “what!?” and pulled the plug. I really loved the Farrelly’s Three Stooges movie and I’m almost certain to like this one, despite the “younger dumb guys tend to be a bit funnier” consideration. Carrey to Letterman: “Once you’ve done a couple of press tours, you welcome death. And I’ve been married a couple of times so it takes alot to scare me, Dave.”

Honest Space-Out

My Delta flight from Atlanta landed last night around 7:45 pm. I picked up my luggage (a single leather bag) and went to the curb and got a cab. Which is what I always do. And then I piddled around at home and crashed early (10:30 pm), and then got up late (9 am). I worked a bit and then went to the Theory of Everything luncheon and came back and filed three stories. And then a half-hour ago I went downstairs to drop some trash into the bin and I looked over and noticed that my car is missing. Wow. I tried to remember if I’d dropped it off with my local mechanic before leaving….nope. What could’ve happened? I was about to ride my bike to the West Hollywood Sheriff’s Station and file a stolen car report when it hit me. I drove down to LAX early Friday morning and parked my wheels in one of those $15 per day lots. Of course! Well, at least I don’t have to buy a new car now. Zoning out on stuff like this used to happen every so often when I was imbibing, but things have been really clean and clear since the sober thing began 31 months ago. Famous last words. Now I have to cab all the way down to LAX for another $45 plus pick up the car. The things I do.

Not Interested

Some instinct told me right away (and quite a while ago) that Susanne Bier‘s Serena, a rural period drama with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, was a wrong one. It was shot two and half years ago (March to May 2012) and then it took Bier 18 months to finish it, and then it got killed a few days ago at the London Film Festival and via general British release, and now it’s being VOD released by Magnolia on 2.26.15. Bier’s had a tough time recently, but she seemed unable to do wrong from ’02 through ’07, at least in my eyes — Open Hearts, Brothers, After The Wedding and the brilliant Things We Lost In The Fire.

New De Niro Bio In Town

Glenn Kenny did a first-rate job of analyzing the life and work of Robert De Niro in that Cahiers du Cinema book he wrote which came out last summer. But the book-publishing world can be a brutal, dog-eat-dog one, and now, alas, it’s time for Glenn’s tome to take a farewell strut and defer to Shawn Levy‘s “De Niro: A Life,” which came out yesterday — Tuesday, 10.28. I haven’t even skimmed through Levy’s biography yet. It was lying on my doorstep when I returned last night from Savannah. But I know his Jerry Lewis and Paul Newman bios, and whatever’s there Levy tends to uncover. Plus he’s an eloquent writer. On the other hand…De Niro again! What is new to say or learn? Same story, same trajectory — Mean Streets/Godfather Part II breakthrough, peaking into the mid to late ’80s (Raging Bull, True Confessions, Falling In Love, Cape Fear), resurgence in the early to mid ’90s (Goodfellas, Casino, Heat), and then the late 90s-post millenial sell-out downturn. I’ll read Levy’s book this weekend.

(l.) Shawn Levy’s “De Niro: A Life“; (r.) Glenn Kenny‘s Phaidon/Cahiers Du Cinema’s “Anatomy of an Actor” book about Robert De Niro, which came out last July.


Theory of Lunch

Earlier today Focus Features hosted a press luncheon at Lucques on behalf of James Marsh‘s The Theory of Everything (11.7.14), the rapturously received drama about the life of celestial physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne), his wife Jane (Felicity Jones) and their struggle with Hawking’s ALS disease, not to mention their extra-marital intrigues. Redmayne, Jones, producer Lisa Bruce and screenwriter Anthony McCarten took turns speaking with journalists at five (or was it six?) different tables. It was all so civilized and convivial. Everyone conversed, listened, minded their manners, laughed but not too loudly, enjoyed the excellent food, etc. Nobody spilled their drink or behaved like a gorilla or said the wrong thing.

The Theory of Everything star Eddie Redmayne during today’s luncheon at Lucques.

My table included In Contention‘s Kris Tapley, TheWrap‘s Steve Pond and Variety‘s Tim Gray. (The table next to us included MCN’s David Poland and Deadline‘s Pete Hammond.)

Theory opens in nine days. The big premiere happened last night at the Academy. Focus’s big mission, it seems to me, is to underline the notion that (a) Theory is indeed a Best Picture contender (most pundits agree) and (b) to convince the guilds and the Academy that it’s a better “eccentric British genius copes with a serious personal problem” movie — richer, trippier, more soulful — than Morten Tyldum‘s The Imitation Game (Weinstein Co., 11.21). (more…)

Click here to jump past the Oscar Balloon

Best Picture Likelies: 1. Birdman (HE approved); 2. Boyhood; 3. Gone Girl (HE approved); 4. The Theory of Everything; 5. The Imitation Game; 6. Whiplash (HE approved); 7. Foxcatcher; 8. The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Unseen Best Picture Spitballs: 1. Interstellar; 2. A Most Violent Year; 3. American Sniper; 4. The Gambler; 5. Into The Woods; 6. Selma; 7. Unbroken; 8. Big Eyes.

Cult: Inherent Vice. Sturdy Generic WWII Actioner: Fury.

Most Visually Ravishing, "Painterly" Best Picture Contender: Mr. Turner, although I'd like to see it with subtitles down the road.

Best Director: Alejandro González Inarritu, Birdman (HE approved); 2. Richard Linklater, Boyhood; 3. David Fincher, Gone Girl (HE approved); 4. James Marsh, The Theory of Everything; 5. Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game; 6. Damian Chazelle, Whiplash; 7. Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher; 8. Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Tragic Absence of Sublime, World-Class Lead Performance due to (no offense to Roadside) an overly cautious release strategy: Paul Dano as Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy.

Best Director Maybes: Christopher Nolan, Interstellar; JC Chandor, A Most Violent Year; Angelina Jolie, Unbroken; David Ayer, Fury; Clint Eastwood, American Sniper.

Best Actor: 1. Michael Keaton, Birdman (HE approved); 2. Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything; 3. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game; 4. Steve Carell, Foxcatcher; 5. Tom Hardy, The Drop/Locke. 6. Timothy Spall, Mr. Turner (despite my inability to hear half of Spall's dialogue due to his all-but-indecipherable British working-class accent); 7. Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler; 9. Ben Affleck, Gone Girl; 9. Bill Hader, The Skeleton Twins.

Best Actress: 1. Julianne Moore, Still Alice (is Sony Pictures Classics going to screen this any time soon or what?); 2. Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl; 3. Jessica Chastain, A Most Violent Year/Miss Julie/Eleanor Rigby; 4. Anne Dorval, Mommy; 5. Reese Witherspoon, Wild; 6. Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything; 7. Shailene Woodley, The Fault In Our Stars; 8. Amy Adams, Big Eyes.

Best Supporting Actor: 1. Edward Norton, Birdman (HE approved); 2. J.K. Simmons, Whiplash (HE approved); 3. Ethan Hawke, Boyhood; 4. Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher; 5. Albert Brooks, A Most Violent Year; 6. Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice.

Best Supporting Actress: 1. Emma Stone, Birdman (HE approved); 2. Patricia Arquette, Boyhood; 3. Kristen Stewart, Still Alice / Clouds of Sils Maria / Camp X-Ray; 4. Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game; 5. Jessica Lange, The Gambler; 6. Vanessa Redgrave, Foxcatcher.


Eyes of Louis Bloom

The 87% Rotten Tomatoes rating earned by Dan Gilroy‘s Nightcrawler (Open Road, 10.30) makes it easily the best-reviewed new film opening on Halloween weekend. This, of course, means zip to Joe and Jane Popcorn. They’ll see whatever they want to see, quality be damned, and most handicappers are guessing they’ll mainly be attracted to something that sounds more routinely spooky. Maybe Horns (63%) or the Saw revival (48%) or the dreadful sounding Before I Go To Sleep (54%) or The ABCS of Death 2. How do you get through to people who insist on seeing films that will make them feel like shit or at the very least burned? Answer: You can’t. Their minds are on lockdown. Throw up your hands.

New Yorker illustration by Boris Pelcer.

Oh, you could try repeating that Nightcrawler is all that matters this weekend…that it’s manic and furious and reckless, that it’s a high-speed L.A. adrenaline flick you’ll never forget because it feels so damned unusual and perverse, and that it’s spooky in a real-world way, and that Jake Gyllenhaal‘s Lou, a freelance news-video hound, is as much of a generic Halloween-type character as Lon Chaney‘s Phantom of the Opera or Max Schreck‘s Nosferatu. (more…)

HE’s Oscar Balloon Chart — Best Directors

The thinking behind HE’s current Best Director contenders is, naturally, more or less the same that led to my Best Picture determinations, which were charted Sunday night. Respect must again be paid to Stu VanAirsdale, the former Movieline editor whose Oscar Index (which ran during the 2010 and 2011 Oscar seasons) is the inspirational model. I’m in a hurry and packing and won’t be posting the larger version until I get on the plane, but this’ll do for the time being.

Night Is Right

After last night’s Big Hero 6 screening I saw Jennifer Kent‘s The Babadook, a brilliant, slow-burning psychological horror film made in a kind of German expressionist mode (I was reminded of aspects of F.W. Murnau‘s Nosferatu) and which is significantly more effective than The Shining in telling a story of dark spirits overtaking the mind and soul of a parent and leading to evil impulses. It’s also a descendant of Rosemary’s Baby in the way it takes its time, really burrows into character, doesn’t heap it on too heavily, and relies almost entirely on “in-camera” strategies. Kent needs to say hello to Guillermo del Toro and vice versa. The Badadook is cut from the same cloth as The Orphanage, which Guillermo produced for director Juan Antonio Bayona. I’ll run something a bit longer when my Atlanta-to-L.A. flight is underway. The Savannah-to-Atlanta flight departs at 3:30 pm.


My Giant, My Bodyguard, T2, etc.

Suspicions are afoot that Disney’s family-friendly Big Hero 6, a spirited, highly “amusing” animated feature about a 13 year-old tech genius and his fat, care-giving robot buddy, might earn more next weekend than Chris Nolan‘s Interstellar, at least as far as the 11.7 to 11.9 period goes. (The Nolan will have a head start by opening on Wednesday, 11.5.) I caught Big Hero 6 last night inside the trustees theatre at the Savannah Film Festival, and the crowd just loved it. Laughing, gleeful, yaw-haw. I hated it, of course. It’s as smart and funny and “engaging” as a film like this could possibly be, but all super-calculated, corporate-minded cartoons send me into tailspins of depression. And yet it’s very well-made. Congratulations to co-directors Don Hall and Chris Williams for having made a lightweight flick that America is going to have a great time with.

Batfleck Peek-Out on 11.5?

Word around the campfire is that the first Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer is locked and ready to roll. A Batman site (i.e., some 37 year-old overweight guy sitting around in his underwear) says the teaser “will be attached to a November or December Warner Bros. movie and released online around the same time.” Well, Interstellar is a Warner Bros. international release, and it opens on 11.5. Interstellar is certain to attract a better class of geek enthusiasts than those who show up for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, which opens on 12.17…right?

Turned-Around Collar

After seeing Interstellar and contemplating the mixed reviews, TheWrap‘s Steve Pond is saying there’s still no Big Gorilla in the Best Picture room, which means that at the end of the day Boyhood, everyone’s favorite chimpanzee and obviously a long-distance runner, may be the last contender standing. Then to prove or fortify his point he looks at the other contenders and goes “yes but no, okay but naah, stirring but not quite.” Then he sticks his foot in it: “I love the exhilarating Birdman, but it’s awfully weird for Oscar voters.”

And with these words, Pond is holding hands and offering solace…speaking to the general community as a kind of understanding counselor…Father Pond in the confessional, listening to and to some extent validating the instincts of slouching comfort-seekers. “I understand, my parishioners,” he says, sounding a bit like Father O’Malley in Going My Way. “You don’t want exhilaration. You don’t want bracing New York theatre energy. You don’t want to know from the new 8 1/2 because — let’s be honest — you probably weren’t that much of a fan of Fellini’s 8 1/2 to begin with. Well, it’s okay. You can feel that way and I will be your voice, your listener, your interpreter, your man on the web…whatever lazy, semi-conscious, cow-pasture attitudes you want to bring to the Best Picture race, you’ll receive approbation and zero judgment from Father Pond.”

Cut Elvis A Break

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Don Siegel‘s Flaming Star. I probably haven’t, and if not because I’ve always thought that Elvis Presley made exactly two and a half decent films — Love Me Tender, Loving You (i.e., the halfer) and King Creole — and it was all downhill from then on. Now I’m starting to suspect otherwise. I’ll never buy the Flaming Star Bluray but maybe a high-def version will stream down the road.

“It is surprising…that this small, somber view of some of the misunderstanding and bloody strife between settlers and Indians in Texas of the 1870s is equally passionate about both,” N.Y. Times critic A.H. Weiler wrote on 12.17.60. “No guitar gala, Flaming Star is an unpretentious but sturdy western that takes the time, the place and the people seriously.


Finally Sleep

Adopt has scheduled a cool-people-only screening of Nuri Bilge Ceylan‘s Winter Sleep, winner of the Palme d’Or winner at last May’s Cannes Film Festival. It’ll happen on Monday, 11.3 at 6 pm at the UTA Screening Room on Civic Center Drive. There is no more ardent fan of Ceylan than myself, but I missed Sleep in Cannes and then blew it off in Toronto also because of the 196-minute length. I’ve been told that it’s cool to invite “friends and fellow bloggers based in L.A.” so those with the right pedigree need to get in touch. The UTA screening room is about as good as it gets, quality-wise, so this’ll be a ripe opportunity to catch it in a deluxe way. Winter Sleep will open on 12.19 in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC. The next two dozen or so markets will open between January 9th and 16th, timed to the announcement of the Oscar nominations.

Christian Purists Riled By Less-Than-Reverent Moses Depiction in Exodus?

A 10.25 Hollywood Reporter piece by Paul Bond quotes Exodus star Christian Bale by way of a 10.21 Christianity Today article by Drew Turney, and to me it’s hilarious. “I think [Moses] was likely schizophrenic,” Bale told reporters during a recent Los Angeles sitdown. “He was one of the most barbaric individuals that I ever read about in my life…a very troubled and tumultuous man who fought greatly against God, against his calling.”

So much for the staunch Christian view of the man, which was more or less delivered in Cecil B. DeMille‘s The Ten Commandments. I don’t know if Christian nutters will rise up in protest and give Exodus shit the way they dumped all over Noah, but it probably won’t matter if they do. The fact is that Noah did pretty well at the end of the day — $101 million domestic, $359 million worldwide. (more…)

If I Wasn’t In Savannah…

“First and foremost, anything you’ve heard about the sound in that packed-to-the-rafters 70mm IMAX screening at the TCL Chinese Theater Thursday night is absolutely true. Take a proprietary IMAX sound mix and speaker configuration that can be pretty inferior and add in the fact that Nolan’s mixes tend to be muddied historically (then consider that for some reason the system was turned up to 11) — it was a recipe for disaster.” — from Kris Tapley‘s In Contention review of Interstellar, posted this morning.

I couldn’t understand full stretches of dialogue and the IMAX of it all with the pitch darkness of the celluloid (too dark, I’d wager), it just wasn’t settling. (more…)

Interstellar — A Half-Fascinating, Half-Problematic Epic About Love And Family

Interstellar is one of those big, rib-rattling, epic-sprawl movies that you only get from determined, well-funded visionaries like…well, like Chris Nolan. And this, make no mistake, is a super-charged time-travel flick that is also very personal. It’s basically about Nolan saying “there’s no place like home, like family, like love”…probably due to a suspicion that he works too obsessively and is missing out on his children’s lives or something along those lines. Sounds like The Wizard of Oz in Space, right? Without the jokes and the songs and the fancifulness, of course. And without, I regret to say, any way to believe in other-wordly realms. Interstellar is quite the wowser throttle ride — you have to see it, of course — but for me it didn’t hang together in a way that felt right or rooted or satisfying. It “played” but it didn’t sink in.

Interstellar is basically a grim story about love, loss, heroism…a down-the-rabbit-hole tale about seeking and adventuring and returning, Odysseus-style. It’s riveting at times. Now and then it’s breathtaking. And at times it is speechy and banal. At times it’s one of those “wait..give me that again?” movies. I just didn’t believe or understand a lot of it. And it has one scene that, no lie, is comically awful. Beware the killer colonist who once dropped in on Che Guevara!

That was my reaction, for the most part. I was “impressed” by it as far as the chops and the eye-filling scenery, both local and cosmic, were concerned and I generally liked the rumble-in-space stuff, but I couldn’t buy into it, man…not really. (Does this mean I’ll lose out on Paramount award-season ads? I’m weeping over this but I gotta be me.) But a friend tells me that Emile Hirsch and Chris Rock and Adrien Brody and a lot of other celebrities who saw it last Wednesday night were really blown away so…you know, don’t let me stop you. (Rock told my friend that he “doesn’t think any film can possibly match it.”) It’ll be Best Picture nominated, I suppose, because the community wants to kiss Nolan’s ass for the same reason it has smooched Spielberg’s ass for the last 39 years. And it’ll probably win two or three tech Oscars. And it’ll make loads of money.


Reactions To Citizenfour, Laggies. Hell, Throw In Birdman

Laura Poitras‘s Citizenfour rated a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and 89% on Metacritic — ratings I consider justified and appropriate. I’ve already written that I think it’s an all-but-guaranteed nominee for Best Feature-Length Documentary. It’s a real-life, you-are-there political intelligence thriller, and a fascinating horror film in that the boogie man is never seen or even heard, really, but is relentlessly sensed. He hovers. On the other hand the 63% Rotten Tomatoes and 62% Metacritic ratings given to Lynn Shelton‘s Laggies feel crabby. This is Shelton’s best, most agreeable film yet. Keira Knightley‘s performance never seems acted, certainly not pre- considered — pure moment-to-moment behavior. And then the film gets a nice boost from the wonderfully droll Sam Rockwell. I would even call it a kind of modest breakthrough. Reactions?

The Good German

I was a wee bit surprised by the 10.16 announcement that Saul DibbsSuite Francaise, a World War II romance about a French wife (Michelle Williams) who falls in love with a German officer (Matthias Schoenaerts), won’t have its first L.A. screening at AFI Fest but during the American Film Market. The AFM is not exactly a prestigious venue. It tends to favor “market”-level films, and it’s sometimes tricky for journalists to get into certain screenings. Based on a book by Irene Nemirovsky, the film costars Kristin Scott Thomas, Sam Riley, Ruth Wilson, Lambert Wilson and Wolf of Wall Street‘s Margot Robbie. The Weinstein Co. has U.S. distribution rights. The AFM will run 11.5 through 11.12 in Santa Monica. One question: why would planes from either side of the conflict drop bombs on civilians? To what end?

Jack and the Beanstalk

Beanstalk: “Why is Birdman in the top spot? Boyhood should be. This looks like too much bias. You should distinguish yourself by only targeting movies that have been seen. You should follow the lead of Anne Thompson.”

Jack: “I admire Boyhood but it’s a safe, non-risky consensus choice. It’s the movie you say you really like if you want to be liked by the crowd, and I don’t necessarily see a great value in that. I’m very proud of the fact that I’m not a meticulous, fair-minded pulse-taker like Steve Pond. Right now the only unseen films that have people even half-excited are American Sniper, A Most Violent Year and The Gambler. People expect Unbroken to be good in a humanistic, touching-bottom sort of way, but I wouldn’t say they’re particularly cranked about it. I don’t know what people are saying about Into The Woods, but anyone who loves good music loves Sondheim.”

Beanstalk: “Okay, but putting two unseen films on your chart devalues your credibility. Wait until the time is right. Take it from me — you’ll be written off.”

Jack: “You can’t say with a straight face that the very commendable and respectable Boyhood should be in the top spot above the brilliant Birdman. It’s a very fine and brave and novel film and Linklater has my sincere respect, but you can’t say it’s the very best. Besides when have I ever placed a high premium on predicting what the Academy thinks? I believe in blowing the horn and not baahing like sheep.” (more…)

You Know The Name

The American middle class has been so thoroughly ravaged by the American oligarchs over the last 30 years they aren’t pulling their pants up any more — they’re just leaving them bunched around the ankles. Certainly since the dawn of Dubya. I don’t know when the term “the American dream” began to sound fairly laughable but the fix has been in for so long that it looks like up to everyone. Should I say “except” the wealthy or “including” them? I’m not doing too badly myself I’ve played it smart by travelling light, keeping expenses down and borrowing nothing.

A 10.25 Salon piece by Richard Eskow called “7 Facts That Show The American Dream is Dead” plows the usual turf. The middle-class can’t breathe for the debt. No one can afford to retire. One-income families are a thing of the past, and even those with two incomes can’t even seem to get ahead. The terms of most college loans equal economic enslavement. Nobody can afford to retire or take vacations. Health care costs are rising and making things all the harder for Joe Schmoe.


HE’s Oscar Balloon Chart — A Respectful Ripoff of Stu VanAirsdale’s Oscar Index

I was a huge fan of the Movieline Oscar Index chart that Stu VanAirsdale created, maintained and constantly updated during the 2010 and 2011 Oscar season. (Stu left Movieline in July 2012.) I recently wrote Stu and asked if he’d mind if I launched a tribute/ripoff version of Oscar Index. His response: “I can’t really stop anyone from launching a variation on it, and I wish anyone who does the best of luck.”

I realize that the below image is a bit small so please click on the large version of the chart. And please be patient with my crude Photoshop skills at this early stage.

Thanks to Brooklyn-based web designer Sean Grip for doing the initial heavy lifting and to HE’s Jett Wells for helping me learn enough of Photoshop to size the heads and titles properly and make sure the graph lines are the right colors, etc. The intention, God help me, is to eventually post freshly considered Oscar Balloon charts three times weekly — Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor. It’s going to be hugely time-consuming on top of everything else, but I’ll give it a shot. First pair on Monday, the second on Wednesday, the third on Friday or Saturday…something like that. Maybe I’ll post an occasional Best Documentary and Best Foreign Language Feature chart…maybe.

The Top 11 Best Picture Contenders (as of Sunday, 10.26): 1. Birdman; 2. Boyhood; 3. The Imitation Game; 4. The Theory of Everything; 5. Gone Girl; 6. Unbroken; 7. Interstellar; 8. Whiplash; 9. Foxcatcher; 10. A Most Violent Year; 11. American Sniper.


McConaughey’s Norbit

Jim Carrey has a point. Doing Lincoln car commercials in the wake of an Oscar win suggests a certain degree of self-absorption. And taking your eyes off the freeway for six or seven seconds in order to stare at your fingers…not cool either. But the dark philosophical ruminations have a ring.


Perfect Nightcrawler Trailer

This Nightcrawler redband trailer is inspired — it nails the sensibility and the coolness factor to a T. Serious congratulations to the Open Road marketing ace who cut it together and decided on the tone. On the other end of the spectrum, TheWrap‘s Jeff Sneider needs to apologize for not even mentioning that Nightcrawler (opening on the evening of 10.30) is the only new film to see that weekend. Sneider urges viewers to catch some classic horror films (Candy Man tops the list) but…well, this is a portrait of typical genre hounds, I suppose. They want what they want when they want it, and they don’t want to know from intelligent counter-programming.

Bass-Thromp Sound, Part 2

During yesterday’s drive into Savannah from the airport I told a senior Los Angeles-based exhibition executive (i.e., a guy who doesn’t want to be quoted) about the over-cranked, super-bassy sound inside the TCL Chinese that made dialogue hard to understand at times during Thursday night’s Interstellar screening. He said he knows all about that. He said that union guys who were calibrating the sound at a West L.A. theatre plex constructed two or three years ago wanted to heighten the bassy “thromp” levels, and that he and his associates told them “nope, nope…no way.” He knows exactly what bass-thromp does to dialogue. And he made the right call. The plex in question delivers excellent sound. Hearing dialogue is never an issue when I see a film there. I can always hear every last vowel and consonant.

Interior of refurbished TCL Chinese. The muddled, super-bassy, over-cranked sound delivery in this theatre has probably harmed…okay, influenced the critical opinion of Interstellar among L.A. journos who attended Thursday night’s screening. I have already pledged to see Chris Nolan’s film again in a theatre with better calibrated sound.

I’ve also heard from a journalist friend who saw Interstellar Wednesday night at the California Science Center IMAX theatre, and he says the sound there “was exquisite…you could hear absolutely everything perfectly.” He also dropped by Thursday night’s TCL Chinese showing, or actually “bits and pieces of the last 25 minutes of the film and the sound was way overpumped. In fact standing in the lobby we thought the theatre was going to collapse, and I heard complaints from a couple of SAG voters that they couldn’t understand the dialogue, which always used to be the case at the Chinese pre-IMAX.”

I’m waiting to speak soon to Chapin Cutler, the projection and sound guru from Boston Light & Sound who handles projection standards at the Telluride Film Festival, the TCM Classic Film Festival and is now preparing projection for the upcoming AFI Fest. I’m not going to assume anything but Cutler knows his realm cold, and I can guess what he’ll tell me about bass-thromp.