Far-Away Eyes

These and other worn-down little photos are taped on the inside of a living-room door leading to an office-supplies room. If I was serious (and some day I will be) I would of course scan them.

My late mom and I in a San Francisco cafe, way back when.


Rolling Stones’ 100 Years Ago

I know I’m supposed to be jazzed about Patty JenkinsWonder Woman (Warner Bros., 6.2) because of Gal Gadot, who delivered the only stand-out current in the otherwise regrettable Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But this trailer…I don’t hate it but it feels a little cheesy. I’m so sick of origin stories! Yes, it’s somewhat interesting to set the story in the era of World War I, agreed, but this trailer doesn’t seem to have that commanding, totally together feeling that you can always sense from films that have that “extra”-ness. My personal suspicion is that the appearance of Danny Huston constitutes a huge “forget it…this isn’t going to be that good.” Huston is fine but the only truly exceptional big-league film he’s costarred in was Children of Men.

Apocalypse Kong

Jordan Vogt-RobertsKong: Skull Island (Warner Bros., 3.17) is obviously going to be at least half-decent. The Vietnam-era touches (especially dp Larry Fong‘s deliberate attempt to recreate Vittoro Storaro‘s photography in Apocalypse Now) give it an extra dimension. Tom Hiddleswift…sorry, Hiddleston and Brie Larson plus the always-barking Samuel L. Jackson plus Toby “Messala” Kebbell, Tom Wilkinson, John Goodman and John C. Reilly. Who took Michael Keaton‘s role? Wilkinson?

A guy named Terry Notary is playing Kong via mo-cap.

No glimpses of Kong’s face but we know for sure he won’t have those deliciously unreal white eyeballs that the original bruiser had in the 1933 original. Here’s how I put it on 9.19.10:

“Cooper’s Kong didn’t look like any gorilla, chimp or orangutan that had ever walked the earth. He was something between a prehistoric hybrid and an imaginary monster of the id…a raging nightmare beast designed to scare the bejeesus out of 1933 moviegoers.

Willis O’Brien, the legendary stop-motion photography pioneer, used three slightly different-looking Kong models during filming, but for me the master stroke was deciding to give his Kong a set of gleaming white teeth and a pair of very bright white eyes. (more…)

She “Makes It Hard” in the Crosby, Stills & Nash Sense of That Phrase

Dangling doubt, bothersome situation (for me at least): If I want to help save our country from an egoistic, sociopathic blowhard who revels in dysfunction and his own smug ignorance I have to vote for a cold, calculating, uncharismatic harpy who was no music in her soul and whom I really and truly do not like. Obviously I have no choice but to vote for Hillary Clinton. And yes, I recognize that charisma and excitement can be deceiving and that they shouldn’t be the final measure of things for semi-mature, non-ADD sufferers, but voters nonetheless have always responded to star quality, snap and pizazz — that extra punch in the punch. This is certainly what got John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama elected.

Stolen from last night’s Real Time with Bill Maher.

The fact is that by choosing nice-guy Tim Kaine, principled sailor that he is, Hillary has smothered what might have been. Spirit-lifting, Obama-like music, fire and poetry are not going to emanate from the Democratic ticket between now and early November — that’s for sure. Despite the fact that voters tend to support candidates who project something more than wonkish, forward-looking pragmatism. Bottom line: I hate Hillary for being more into her own notions of comfort and security than in recognizing the grave seriousness of her personal deficiencies and lack of appeal, which she’s now doubled down upon with the choosing of Kaine.

Update: I’ve just watched Kaine’s speech in Miami earlier today. He’s not bad. I like his Spanish. Maybe he’s a little better than I’ve been saying.



Click here to jump past the Oscar Balloon


Highest Expectations (in order of confidence or expectation): 1. Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester-by-the-Sea [locked Best Actor nomination for Casey Affleck]; 2. Martin Scorsese‘s Silence; 3. Steven Gaghan's Gold (Matthew McConaughey, Bryce Dallas Howard, Edgar Ramírez); 4. Ang Lee's Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk; 5. Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals; 6. David Frankel's Collateral Beauty (Will Smith, Keira Knightley, Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren, Edward Norton); 7. Olivier Assayas' Personal Shopper (Kristen Stewart); 8. Clint Eastwood's Sully (Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney); 9. Denzel Washington's Fences (Washington, Viola Davis, Mykelti Williamson, Russell Hornsby). (9)

War-Related Brad Pitt Flicks -- WWII Romantic-Dramatic, 21st Century Satiric: Robert Zemeckis' Allied w/ Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard (began shooting in March '16) and David Michod's War Machine (Netflix) w/ Pitt as Gen. Stanley McChrystal + Ben Kingsley, Emory Cohen, Topher Grace, John Magaro, Scoot McNairy, Will Poulter. (2)

Overpraised at Sundance: Nate Parker's The Birth of a Nation. (1)

Duelling Interracial-Marriage Period Dramas: Jeff Nichols' Loving (Joel Edgerton, Ruth Negga, Michael Shannon, Marton Csokas); Amma Asante's A United Kingdom (David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike). (2)

Probably Solid/Decent/Interesting/Approvable, etc.: 1. Morten Tyldum and John Spaihts' Passengers; 2. Damien Chazelle's La La Land; 3. John Cameron Mitchell's How To Talk To Girls at Parties, 4. Peter Berg's Patriot's Day (Mark Wahlberg, J.K. Simmons); 5. Niki Caro's The Zookeeper's Wife; 6. Warren Beatty's No Rules Apply; 7. Ben Wheatley's Free Fire; 8. Tate Taylor's The Girl On The Train; 9. Ben Younger's Bleed For This (Miles Teller, Katey Sagal, Amanda Clayton, Aaron Eckhart). (9)

A Little Worried But Maybe: 1. Oliver Stone's Snowden; 2. James Gray's The Lost City of Z; 3. The Secret Scripture w/ Jessica Chastain, Vanessa Redgrave, Eric Bana; 4. Greg McLean's The Belko Experiment; 5. Werner Herzog's Salt And Fire (Michael Shannon, Gael García Bernal, Werner Herzog, Veronica Ferres); 6. Ewan MacGregor's American Pastoral (MacGregor, Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Connelly, David Strathairn); 7. Garth Davis's Lion (Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman -- released by Weinstein Co.); 8. Denis Villeneuve's Story of Your Life (Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg -- Paramount). (8)

Very Interesting, Slight Hedging of Bets (random order): 1. Charlie McDowell's The Discovery w/ Rooney Mara, Nicholas Hoult (a love story set one year after the existence of the afterlife is scientifically verified, or a more thoughtful version of The Leftovers); 2. Wim Wenders' Submergence (Alicia Vikander, James McAvoy); 3. James Ponsoldt's The Circle (Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, John Boyega), 4. Pablo Larrain's Jackie (Natalie Portman, Greta Gerwig, Peter Sarsgaard). (4)

Dumped Into Early August Release: John Hancock's The Founder (biopic of McDonald's kingpin Ray Kroc, opening on 8.5.16). (1)

Seen in Cannes, Approved or Praised to Some Degree: 1. Cristian Mungiu's Graduation; 2. Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman (Sahahab Hosseini, Taraneh Alidoosti); 3. Paul Verhoeven's Elle. 4. Pablo Larrain's Neruda; 5. Woody Allen's Cafe Society (Steve Carell, Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Blake Lively); (5)

Overly Obvious: Juan Antonio Bayona's A Monster Calls. (1)

Feels Fringe-y: Barry Jenkins' Moonlight (based on Tarell McCraney's play "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue" -- a Plan B/A24 project about black queer youth amid the temptations of the Miami drug trade). (1)

This Year's Animated Pixar Wonder-Package for the Whole Family: Andrew Stanton's Finding Dory. (1)

Spare Me: 1. Terrence Malick's Weightless; 2. Derek Cianfrance's The Light Between Oceans; 3. Gary Ross's Free State of Jones; 4. Benedict Andrews' Una (Rooney Mara, Ben Mendelsohn); 5. Justin Kurzel's Assassin's Creed. (5)

Genres Have Their Rules: 1. Paul Greengrass's Jason Bourne w/ Matt Damon (political action thriller); 2. Shane Black's The Nice Guys (darkly humorous thriller); 3. Peter Berg's Deepwater Horizon (real-life disaster action-thriller); 4. Antoine Fuqua's The Magnificent Seven (western remake); 5. Gavin O'Connor's The Accountant (action thriller); 6. Ed Zwick's Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (thriller); 7. Matthew Vaughn's I Am Pilgrim (murder thriller); 8. Todd Phillips' War Dogs. (8)

Who Knows?: Alex Garland's Annhiliation. (1)


Qualify Your High-School Misery

Yesterday on a Facebook thread I was chatting with an old friend about high school. I said I was living in a kind of hell back then. A mostly tolerable, mild-mannered, negotiable hell with no bills to pay. Obviously I survived. But it was pretty bad. I was walking around with a kind of blanket over my head.

The friend said he didn’t know things were so terrible for me back then, and I replied that they weren’t. My head was just in a mildly miserable place — the difference between terrible (a.k.a. horrible) and mildly miserable having been explained by that old Woody Allen joke.

Anyone who claims that their high school experience was soothing or ecstatic or emotionally fulfilling apart from the sporadic highs of parties, beer-chugging and camaraderie is either (a) lying or (b) wasn’t paying close attention back then. If they were truly surging and delighted in their mid to late teens then I fear that the ancient Chinese curse “may you peak in high school” might apply in their case. (And I’m sorry about that.)

As I said, my unhappiness was manageable and not “oppressive” per se but I was walking around with a pall in my soul. I was living in my dreams with input from movies, music, TV shows, books, magazines. And no mind-bending substances. (That came later.) I didn’t know much when I was 17 and 18 but I knew for damn bloody sure I didn’t want a life like my father’s — that decision was carved in stone.

Most fearfully, I was living with the chilling idea that things might get better but they might not — who knew? Well, they did and thank God for that. Because they almost didn’t. I’m not actually thanking “God” for things having turned out well. I’m thanking…well, maybe I am.

Rough and Tumble

Donald Trump‘s acceptance speech aside, Thursday night’s big story was about rightwing radio host Alex Jones and conservative slimer/provocateur Roger Stone invading a Young Turks taping at the RNC and getting into a shouting confrontation with TYT host Cenk Uygur. I watch TYT daily but I missed this fracas, and then yesterday I was so depressed and furious about Hillary Clinton giving the finger to liberal progressives by picking the principled-but-boring Tim Kaine as her vp partner (plus I was buried in filing six other stories) that it just flew by me. I finally paid attention this morning. With Jones and Stone having invaded and tried to take over a TYT show in progress, I don’t blame Uygur in the least for getting blowing his stack. That said, the most amusing part of the video is the body language of TYT co-host Ben Mankiewicz.


Munich Memories (June 2012)

Filed on 6.15.12: Thomas Schultze of the Munich-based G + J Media Entertainment was kind enough to take me around Munich this evening, giving me the grand tour, etc. Three hours worth, scratched the surface, took some notes, etc. I was last here in ’92 — it’s a much richer, brighter and more gentrified city now and yet with pockets that are quiet, leafy and serene. Far more beautiful, historic and captivating than Berlin. The vibe feels more like Italy than Germany.

Filed on 6.22.12: The Eisbach (German for ‘ice brook’) is a small man-made river in Munich. Just past a bridge near the Haus der Kunst art museum, the river forms a standing wave about one metre high, which is a popular river surfing spot. The water is cold and shallow, making it suitable only for experienced surfers. The wave has been surfed since 1972.” — from the Eisbach Wiki page.


More Superhero Crap — Legend Involving an Asian Martial-Arts Mentor

Straight from Wikipedia: “In May 2000, Marvel Studios brought Artisan Entertainment to co-finance an Iron Fist film, hiring Ray Park to star and John Turman to write the script in January 2001. Park read extensively the comics Iron Fist had appeared in. Kirk Wong signed to direct in July 2001, with filming set for late 2001/early 2002. Iron Fist nearly went into pre-production in March 2002. Wong left the project in April 2002. By August 2002, pre-production had started but filming was pushed back to late 2002, and then to late 2003. In March 2003, Marvel announced a 2004 release date. In April 2003, Steve Carr entered negotiations to direct.In November 2003, the release date was moved to 2006. In March 2007, Carr placed Iron Fist on hold due to scheduling conflicts. In 2009, Marvel announced they have begun hiring a group of writers to help come up with creative ways to launch its lesser-known properties, such as Iron Fist along with others such as Black Panther, Cable, Doctor Strange, Nighthawk, and Vision. In August 2010, Marvel Studios hired Rich Wilkes to write the screenplay. In November 2013, Disney CEO Bob Iger stated that if Marvel’s Netflix TV series such as Iron Fist become popular, ‘It’s quite possible that they could become feature films.'”

Toiling In NASA Shadows

I haven’t paid any attention to Theodore Melfi‘s Hidden Figures (Fox 2000, 1.13.17), which has to be one of the most unattractive titles of this or any other year. Right away you’re thinking, “I have a sneaking feeling this movie is going to reveal and celebrate these ‘figures’ but is it okay if they stay hidden? No offense. It’s just that I can see the scheme of this thing from a mile away.”

Kevin Costner, Octavia Spencer in Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures.

Set in the early ’60s and based on a forthcoming non-fiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly, the film recounts the tale of three African-American women — mathematicians Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and colleague Mary Jackson — who helped NASA “catch up in the space race.” They are played, respectively, by Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe.

Kevin Costner plays the head of NASA who (just guessing here) initially fails to recognize their brilliant calculations but begrudgingly comes to recognize their value to the space program, particularly after they help out big-time with John Glenn’s 1962 orbital flight. Or something like that.

Hidden Figures will be given a limited platform release sometime in December to qualify for awards consideration. This will provide yet another opportunity for guild and Academy members to “get their black on,” as a friend puts it.

Musical Assassin

I’ve been ducking screenings of Stephen FrearsFlorence Foster Jenkins (Paramount, 8.12) because, as I’ve muttered over and over, I don’t want to watch a film about a real-life rich socialite (played by Meryl Streep) who insisted on singing opera at a 1944 Carnegie Hall concert despite the fact that she couldn’t sing any better than you or me in the shower. (And perhaps worse — listen to this.)

But I’ve decided to man up and see it next Friday because of three reasons: (a) I’ve heard that Streep’s voice isn’t atrocious in the film. A friend who’s seen it says her singing-as-Jenkins “isn’t completely embarassing…she can’t sing but she almost gets there“; (b) Older audiences are lapping it up, and the afore-mentioned friend speculates that Streep “will probably be [Best Actress] nominated, which happens almost every time”; and (c) the theme of Florence Foster Jenkins is that the love of singing is what counts, and not whether you’re any good at it.

Alternate slogan: If singing makes you feel good, do it in front of others. Even if you murder every song you interpret.

I beg to differ with that. Most of us would, I think. If you can’t sing you should stick to the shower or your car — period.

What previous films have subjected audiences to singing that’s difficult to handle? Claire Trevor‘s pathetic a cappela scene in John Huston‘s Key Largo (’48). Gwen Welles‘ grotesque singing scene in Robert Altman‘s Nashville (’75). Elizabeth Olsen‘s country music singing in Marc Abraham‘s I Saw The Light (’15). Who else? (more…)

What’s With The Fur?

The last time I looked movie dragons were part of the reptile family. Over 60 U.S.-produced movies and at least one HBO series (Games of Thrones) have featured big dragons over the last half century or so, and they’ve all had standard scaly reptile skin. And yet the dragon in David Lowery‘s Pete’s Dragon (Disney, 8.12) has green Dr. Seuss fur. It’s probably safe to say this will be the first Seussy dragon in movies, ever. (For the record, Disney’s 1977 animated version featured a traditional scaly beast.)

Obviously Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) decided he wanted to create a more fanciful dragon — a big E.T.-like creature, a friend of a young boy, a protector, etc. And that, to Lowery, meant no lizard-like skin.

Pete’s Dragon, which is not animated and is fully realistic save for the dragon FX, costars Bryce Dallas Howard, Oakes Fegley, Wes Bentley, Robert Redford, Karl Urban and Oona Lawrence. Press screenings are beginning next week. (more…)


I never liked Hillary Clinton. Millions feel the same way. Ask any hinterland bubba. But I was ready to hold my nose and vote for her anyway. But now she’s reportedly ready to flip the bird to the Sanders/Warren movement by picking Tim Kaine as her vice-presidential running mate. Now I hate her.

An HE commenter wrote last night that Hillary has to play her cards cautiously with Kaine or she might conceivably lose to Trump. I posted the following in the comment thread three or four hours ago; here it is front and center:

You don’t get it. Many voters are riled, scared. They don’t want “straight down the middle”, which to them feels the same as “hold the course” and “same system & same social/political order that has been scaring them.” They want the apple cart overturned (Trump vs. multiculturals, Bernie vs. oligarchy), things re-ordered, the 1% challenged, the deck reshuffled.

With the Kaine pick Hillary has assured these scared voters that this can’t / won’t happen under her administration. She’s underlined that she will govern with a cautiously liberal, more-of-the-same approach — a measured, practical-minded, incremental application of moderate liberalism. She may win with Kaine — I certainly don’t want Trump — but I’m sickened by the lack of fire that the Kaine pick signifies — the guardedness, the caution, the lack of arousal. (more…)

Hillary Will Apparently Confirm Kaine Pick Today

N.Y. Times reporter Amy Chozick is persuaded that Hillary Clinton will likely announce her selection of Virginia Senator Tim Kaine (a.k.a. “Basketballhead”) via email on Friday afternoon. Liberals are in pain over this; I’m furious. Kaine is a lethally dull, sparse-haired, beady-eyed establishment centrist. In selecting him Clinton is basically telling supporters of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to sit on their convictions and to forget about the whole super-charged, start-a-revolution fervor of the 2016 primary season. Clinton, seen by heartland bubbas as unlikable and ethically hopeless, is making a huge mistake by partnering with a toothless moderate who is obviously not a game-changer. Charles Chamberlain, exec director of Democracy for America, told Chozick that going with Kaine “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” because of his support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I for one am off the boat. Clinton has totally blown it. I’m voting for…I don’t know who I’ll vote for but right now I’m furious beyond words.