Tony Soprano Still Dead

Sopranos creator David Chase has stated through representative Leslee Dart that in an 8.27 Vox.com interview piece, author Martha P. Nochimson misquoted or misunderstood Chase about the fate of Tony Soprano. I’ll try explaining it to Nochimson and everyone else who insists on not accepting the obvious. Tony Soprano sleeps with the fishes. He took one in the right temple and probably two more in the back of the head. He was clipped by that Italian-looking guy in that Members Only jacket…you know, that oily-looking guy who was eyeballing him and then went into the bathroom and then came out. Thunk! Thunk-thunk! The cut to black was Tony’s abrupt loss of consciousness as the bullets slammed into his head. Carmela freaked and screamed; Anthony, Jr. probably tried some kind of tough-guy shit which the Members Only guy…who knows, maybe he clipped Anthony also. Then he went out the back exit. That’s what happened, trust me.

Fool Drops Sexual Abuse Case Against Singer

The none-too-bright individual known as Michael Egan has dropped his sexual abuse lawsuit against Bryan Singer, according to a Variety report. The guy goes to all kinds of trouble and then he blows off a modest cash offer (which so alienated his attorney Jeff Herman that he severed relations with Egan) and now this — a complete collapse. If you’re going to do something, man up and see it through. (As Bugsy Siegel put it, “If you’re gonna get tough with a guy, stick to it.”) And if you don’t have the horses to win your case, at least be smart enough to accept a “take it and go away” cash settlement when it’s offered. Egan previously dropped sexual abuse lawsuits against former Disney hotshot David Neuman and former TV exec Garth Ancier. What a lame-o.

That’s A Lot of Downey

I was reminded this morning that David Dobkin‘s The Judge (Warner Bros., 10.10) runs two hours and 21 minutes. My first reaction was one of surprise. This is not a solemn courtroom drama like The Verdict, which ran 129 minutes. And it’s not Scent of A Woman, which needed 156 minutes to let a blind Al Pacino rant and rave and threaten suicide and chew the scenery. The Judge is a formula movie about a brilliant yuppie-prick attorney (Robert Downey, Jr.) gradually forgiving his estranged father (Robert Duvall) when he defends him in a murder trial, and in so doing becoming a human being. Films like this are supposed to get the job done in, oh, 110 to 115 minutes. 120 is pushing it, and if they can wrap things up in 100 minutes so much the better. I realize that no good film is too long, and no bad film is too short. I get that. But I was still surprised to hear “141 minutes.”

Manic Pixie Hotel Chambermaid?

“It’s delightful, and delightfully eccentric…it is very satisfying, after years of watching [Josh] Charles on The Good Wife, to see him take possession of a new character, especially one whose motivations are as much a mystery to the character as to you. For an hour, you discover a man finding himself, incremental layer by layer, expression by expression.” — N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis, 5.22.14, from Cannes Film Festival. “It’s the most inspired thing I’ve seen…not only don’t you know how it got made — you also don’t quite know how what’s been made has made you this happy [and] this profoundly.” – Grantland‘s Wesley Morris, ditto. Pascale Ferran‘s film opens 9.12 via Sundance Selects.

Remember Inez, the Central American motel chambermaid whom Luke Wilson fell in love with in Bottle Rocket?

I Saw Red When I Read This

“Have you ever seen Jean-Luc Godard‘s Contempt? You, sir, are a fitting object. Please, please sit in front of me in coach someday. I can’t wait to ‘accidentally’ spill a cup of scalding hot coffee on your head. In the words of Gordon Gekko, ‘Hot coffee is good. Hot coffee scalding the scalp of an avaricious entitled slimeball is even better.’ I don’t mind sitting behind a person who reclines a little bit, but people who recline more than that deserve whatever aggressive pushback may come their way. You don’t mention your fee, by the way, for agreeing not to recline. What would it be? $50? You, sir, are a deplorable life form.” — My response to an 8.27 piece by N.Y. Times guest contributor Josh Barro (@jbarro), titled “Don’t Want Me to Recline My Airline Seat? You Can Pay Me.”

We See You, Howard Hughes!

It would appear that the first snaps of the reclusive Nikki Finke have been posted by a nasty little site that has made no secret about wanting to get her. Finke has written harshly about others and now it’s payback time, or so goes the site’s rationale. I’m no fan of tabloidy “gotcha!” pieces or the snippy, bitchy vibe of sites like this, but these fellows seem to have done their homework and captured the Real McCoy. I think it’s permissible to post these as there have been no photos of Finke for many, many years and these snaps appear to be legit. It also appears that Nikkifinke.com has stalled as the last story, about the death of Robin Williams, was posted on Monday, 8.11.


“Because It’s Right”?

A movie is usually one thing, the marketing materials another. Because the latter almost always lies. But if — I say “if” — Stephen Daldry‘s Trash is anything like the “sell”, watch out. I don’t trust movies that use a poster in which the lead character is raising his arms in triumph or joy. I don’t trust stories about poor, pure-of-heart kids vs. rich, venal criminals. I don’t trust movies in which a character says he/she has decided on a course of action because it’s “right.” I’m concerned about the basic mindset of any film that costars liberal do-gooder Martin Sheen. And I’m highly suspicious of this capsule description: “Set in Brazil, three kids make a discovery in a garbage dump soon find themselves running from the cops and trying to right a terrible wrong.”

Lynch Needs To Get Back on The Stick

Enough with the “I can’t find a project that really excites me” shpiel. After a certain number of years of relative inactivity it’s just not cool. Lynch sees “no future in cinema“? Fine. Create a cable longform of some kind, something for Netflix…anything. No more sitting on the bench. It’s unbecoming.

Click here to jump past the Oscar Balloon

Best Picture Contenders (i.e, Presumed High-Pedigree, The Right Stuff): Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Birdman, James Marsh's The Theory of Everything, Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar, J.C. Chandor's A Very Violent Year, Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Inherent Vice, Ava Duvernay's Selma, Ridley Scott‘s Exodus: Gods and Kings, David Fincher‘s Gone Girl, Angelina Jolie's Unbroken; Jean Marc Vallee's Wild (i.e., the Reese Witherspoon hiking drama), Noah Baumbach's While We're Young, Rob Marshall's Into The Woods, Clint Eastwood‘s American Sniper, Saul Dibbs' Suite Francaise, Jason Reitman's Men, Women & Children.

Already Positively Reviewed: Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel (Berlin Film Festival review here), Bennett Miller‘s Foxcatcher (seen & praised at Cannes); Steve James' Life Itself; Steven Knight's Locke; Lynn Shelton's Laggies, Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood; Mike Leigh‘s Mr. Turner (seen & praised at Cannes); Craig Johnson‘s The Skeleton Twins, Damien Chazelle's Whiplash; Tommy Lee Jones' The Homesman (seen & admired in some quarters); David Cronenberg‘s Maps to the Stars.

Some Appraised, Some Not: Maya Forbes' Infinitely Polar Bear, Rupert Goold's True Story (Jonah Hill, James Franco), Noah Baumbach's Untitled Public School Project; Dan Gilroy's Nightcrawler, David Gordon Green's Manglehorn, Woody Allen's Magic in the Moonlight, Charlie McDowell‘s The One I Love, Tate Taylor's Get On Up (Chadwick Bozeman as James Brown); Thomas McCarthy's The Cobbler, Theodore Melfi's St. Vincent de Van Nuys, Justin Kurzel's Macbeth, Anton Corbijn's A Most Wanted Man, David Dobkin's The Judge.

Vague Cloud: Stephen Daldry's Trash; Tim Burton‘s Big Eyes; Jon Stewart's Rosewater; David Ayers' Fury; Thomas Vinterberg's Far from the Madding Crowd; Fatih Akin's The Cut; Liv Ullman's Miss Julie; Daniel Espinosa's Child 44; Jeff NicholsMidnight Special,Dylan Kidd's Get A Job; James Ponsoldt's The End of the Tour; Werner Herzog's Queen of the Desert; Stephen Frears' Untitled Lance Armstrong Project; Alex Garland's Ex Machina, Christian Petzold's Phoenix (likely Telluride); Michael Roskam's The Drop; Ramin Bahrani's 99 Homes; Rupert Goold's True Story; John MacLean's Slow West; Michael Cuesta's Kill The Messenger.

Opening in 2015: Sarah Gavron's Suffragette (Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep); Anton Corbijn's Life; Untitled Cameron Crowe, Todd HaynesCarol; Justin Kurzel's Macbeth.

Third Tier (i.e., Respectable Megaplex Movies): Matt ReevesDawn of the Planet of the Apes, Darren Aronofsky‘s Noah (seen, praised, successful), Doug Liman's Edge of Tomorrow, Gareth Edwards' Godzilla (huge success), Evan Golderberg and Seth Rogen's The Interview; Antoine Fuqua's The Equalizer, Shawn Levy‘s This Is Where I Leave You, Phil Lord and Chris Miller‘s 22 Jump Street, Spike Lee's Sweet Blood of Jesus.


“Magic Trick” Triumph in Venice: Birdman Bellissimo

I’m presuming, of course, that the first Telluride screening of Alejandro G. Inarritu‘s Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) will be a levitational knockout, but I feel badly that I wasn’t able to attend this morning’s press screening in Venice, which by several accounts was a fucking corker. Variety‘s Peter Debruge is calling Birdman “a triumph on every creative level, from casting to execution, that will electrify the industry, captivate arthouse and megaplex crowds alike, send awards pundits into orbit and give fresh wings to Keaton’s career.”

To hear it from Deadline‘s Nancy Tartagione, Birdman “bowed to one of the best receptions I have ever experienced on the Lido” this morning. “Applause, laughter and strong emotion emanated from attendees in the refurbed Sala Darsena this morning during the first press screening. Making my way out afterwards, I heard ‘bellissimo’ uttered at least a dozen times.”

Birdman flies very, very high.” writes Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy. “Intense emotional currents and the jagged feelings of volatile actors are turned loose to raucous dramatic and darkly comedic effect in one of the most sustained examples of visually fluid tour de force cinema anyone’s ever seen, all in the service of a story that examines the changing nature of celebrity and the popular regard for fame over creative achievement. The film’s exhilarating originality, black comedy and tone that is at once empathetic and acidic will surely strike a strong chord with audiences looking for something fresh that will take them somewhere they haven’t been before.”

In other words, a fair percentage of the megaplex idiots are going to go “meh…we want our usual crap!”

The Sala Darsena was apparently “it” this morning, the hottest place to be, the one spot on the globe where even Winged Gods (including HE’s own Movie Godz) were looking for a seat. “Is this taken? Sorry, man, but you can’t just point and say ‘it’s taken’…you have to mark it with a jacket or urine or a folded program or something….you have mark your territory like an animal.” (more…)

Journey Complete, Justice Rendered

The Gurus of Gold have spitballed their initial Best Picture predictions. The favorites are as follows: Birdman, Boyhood, Unbroken, Foxcatcher, Selma, Interstellar, Wild, Fury, Inherent Vice, The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Into the Woods, American Sniper, A Most Violent Year, Big Eyes, Mr. Turner, Exodus: Gods and kings, Men, Women & Children, St. Vincent, Rosewater, Trash. The ultimate hotties always (a) hold up a fair, honest mirror of some kind, (b) simultaneously comfort and challenge, and (c) say “this is who we are, could be, used to be or need to be.” I’m sensing that the standouts will be Birdman, Interstellar, Wild, Into The Woods, either Unbroken or The Theory of Everything but not both, and at least one of the violent male-realm dramas — A Most Violent Year, Fury, American Sniper. I don’t know what to expect from Selma — I just hope it’s thorough and nervy. Gone Girl is aiming to be what it needs to be and that’s all. It won’t be Unbroken vs. Fury (Angie vs. Brad working with World War II tales and settings) as much as Unbroken vs. The Theory of Everything (i.e., the hero fires up, goes through hell, endures, transcends a bit). Wild will sink or swim based not on the difficulty of Reese Witherspoon‘s long solo hike, but the angle and the color of the people she runs into. That’s enough for now. I still say the best films I’ve seen this year are Leviathan and Wild Tales.

Wells vs. Leftovers, Fake Lindelof

Last night I tried to explain my sense of frustration about The Leftovers to a guy pretending to be Damon Lindelof, the co-creator of the HBO series. I wasn’t as articulate as I could have been because I posted my thoughts on Twitter rather than in an e-mail. But I made a few points that added up to something, I think. And then the fake Lindelof tried to blow me off or at least denigrate what I was trying to say by addressing me as “Ma’am.” He did so, he later said, because I reminded him of his aunt. But the conversation had merit nonetheless because I meant what I said.

I tried to say that it’s always seemed to me that there’s a huge empty hole in the middle of The Leftovers, and this is due to an absence of awe and wonder on the part of just about everyone in the series, both in front of and behind the camera.

A cosmic event of extraordinary significance has occured three years before the series begins, and in the wake of the disappearance of 2% of the world’s population, it seem as if everyone in The Leftovers is saying “Wow, we didn’t get chosen…that’s fucked up…this feels bad…I guess we’re all spirituallly deficient on some level…shit.” And yet no one is saying “Wow, the religious wackos were right all along! There is a God and a heaven and a scheme of some kind…what a mindblower! Bill Maher and Woody Allen and all the great existential philosophers were wrong all along, and…well, even if some of us don’t wind up in paradise, at least we know for the first time in the history of humanity that there really is a plan and a scheme and some kind of order to things. The term intelligent design is no longer a right-wing slogan. It’s obviously real and serious as a heart attack.” (more…)

“You Are Pretty…You’re So Fine”

It’s been alleged that this romantic cell-phone conversation may contain a recording of officer Darren Wilson shooting Michael Brown on August 9th in Ferguson. Eleven rounds — a burst of seven, a pause and then another shot, and then three more. One presumes that the guy firing the weapon, whoever it might be, is either missing a lot (Brown was hit six times) or he has some reason to believe that only one or two shots wasn’t accomplishing the objective. If this is in fact a recording of the Ferguson shooting, something had apparently persuaded Wilson to keep firing like crazy. That or he was just a panicking fool who had no self-control. Mr. Smoothie to object of affection: “You are pretty…you’re so fine…just goin’ over some of your viddies…how could I forget?”

Dancer In the Dark-Like Terror Doc

Debuting on HBO on 9.15, Dan Reed‘s Terror at the Mall is a one-hour doc about the Islamic terrorist attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall on 9.21.13. It appears to be half talking heads and half security-cam footage, which is apparently quite extensive. If there’s enough coverage and the cutting is skilled enough it could play like Lars von Trier‘s Dancer in the Dark, which used dozens upon dozens of fixed video cameras. The four-day Nairobi siege resulted in 67 deaths (including four bad guys) and over 175 people wounded. The Islamist group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility, etc. As I leave for Telluride early Thursday morning I’ll have to snag a screener of this tomorrow without fail. That or a private Vimeo link.

It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s…The Hair Club For Men!

In a 7.26 ComicCon story I noted that Henry Cavill, who plays Superman in Man of Steel and the currently-rolling Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, almost looked like Ernest Borgnine in Bad Day at Black Rock. And now I’ve noticed something else about Cavill in this just-posted ALS Ice-Water video [below] with Amy Adams. Something about his appearance has changed since he appeared in Man of Steel but what? I can’t quite put my finger on it. Seriously, the 31 year-old Cavill seems to be experiencing what Sean Connery began to go through when he was 31. Connery had some slight augmentation (scalp spray, etc.) during the filming of Dr. No and From Russia With Love. He wore his first serious rug in Goldfinger.

(l.) Henry Cavill in 2013′s Man of Steels; (r.) Cavill on set of currently-rolling Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.


Orange is The New Snub

Largely because last night’s Emmy Awards snubbed HBO’s highly deserving Normal Heart team as well as three formidable Netflix contenders (House of Cards, Derek, Orange Is The New Black), Hollywood Reporter awards analyst Scott Feinberg is persuaded that the “broken” Emmy voting system needs an overhaul. All Academy and Guild voting, of course, is afflicted with the same “deadwood” sentiments, and thus Feinberg and pallies had the feeling last night that the choices of winners indicates that the membership has been asleep at the wheel for the last two or three years.


Salute, Respect, Gratitude

The 48 year-old guy who refused to remove a knee-defender device on a United Newark to Denver flight two days ago is to be applauded. Seriously — he is a man of iron. If more coach passengers would use these devices the coach assholes who feel it’s their right to recline might reconsider. The 48 year-old woman sitting in front of Knee-Defender Guy was, of course, unable to recline her seat, and so she threw a cup of water in his face. (This was a reversal of the standard HE policy for dealing with seat recliners — i.e., if someone reclines you “accidentally” spill a Coke or a cup of coffee on their head.) The conflict was snarly enough that the United flight landed in Chicago and the two combatants were tossed. Gawker‘s Jay Hathaway has it wrong, of course. This wasn’t a fight between “two entitled dicks.” The woman was the dick. Knee-Defender Guy is a hero.

Just Right

A nice pocket-drop tribute — settled, sad, right on the money. And then a very slight letdown when those clips that were played over and over in the immediate wake of Williams’ passing (Shakespeare riff on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show, pink shawl riff during Actors Studio visit) are shown yet again.

Over in 60 Seconds

I want to savor this film so badly I can taste it. I want to see it so badly that I don’t want any more lines or moments spoiled by trailers. This is enough. Really. I know I’m dreaming. 20th Century Fox marketing is going to saturate the world with at least one more full-boat trailer during September. Which is why I wish I could see Gone Girl this week (i.e., tomorrow or Wednesday), the whole thing in a quiet Fox lot screening room during the late afternoon. God, I love that “Labor Day is right around the corner” feeling.

Eyes Wide Shut

According to a 8.25 Yahoo Movies piece by Gwynne Watkins, director-writer Tyler Perry had never heard of Gone Girl director David Fincher before signing to play a costarring role as Tanner Bolt, the attorney of Ben Affleck‘s suspected wife-killer Nick Dunne. Honestly — that’s what he says in the article.

Tyler Perry, Ben Affleck in David Fincher’s Gone Girl (20th Century Fox, 10.3).

If I had known who David Fincher was and his body of work, or if I’d known the book was so popular, I would have said no…I probably would have walked away from it,” Tyler tells Watkins. “And my agent knew that! He didn’t tell me until after I signed on!”

On one hand you almost have to admire Perry’s nerve. That’s almost like admitting he’s never heard of James Cameron or Stanley Kubrick or David Lean. Does he live at the bottom of a mine shaft? Hey, Tyler…ever heard of Paul Thomas Anderson? How about Samuel Fuller or Ida Lupino? Could it be that Perry only pays attention to black directors…something like that? This might help some of us to understand a little more why Perry’s movies are so bad. He lives entirely in his own little cave.


Never Too Late

Earlier today Rope of Silicon‘s Brad Brevet tapped out a sharp, open-hearted assessment of Jacques Tourneur‘s Out of the Past (’47), which he’s brave enough to admit he’d never seen until the Bluray came along. This is what younger film guys are supposed to do now and then. They’re supposed to say “oh, wow…there’s a whole realm of satisfaction to be had if you can get past the idea of only seeing the latest megaplex crap.” “Seeing films like Out of the Past [makes me] thankful for the position I have,” Brevet writes. “but it’s a matter of convincing others. Remember, if you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you and if you’re interested you can own this film noir gem right now.”

Weak Loser With Scared-Rabbit Look

Last night’s episode of The Leftovers (“The Garveys At Their Best”) was one of the most intriguing, although in the context of this show that almost means “it’s less irritating than the other episodes.” The whole thing was a flashback showing all the major characters living their normal lives and coping with their issues two or three days before the Big Departure, when 2% of the world’s population vaporized. It was certainly the best episode since “Guest”, which was strongly dominated by Carrie Coon‘s Nora Durst and pretty much put that actress on the map.

But I was also reminded last night what my big stumbling block with this series is, and the reason why I’m always half-frowning and sometimes even scowling when I watch it. I’m talking about Justin Theroux‘s Kevin Garvey, Mapleton’s chief of police and easily the weakest, most unstable asshole I’ve ever come to know over the course of a dramatic series, especially given that he’s the central figure and, in Theroux’s own words, “the symbolic center of the town as far as trying to keep his arms around it and hold it together.”

Hold it together? Garvey is a wreck. He looks scared all the time, and when he’s not scared he looks befuddled. Everything throws him. That stupid two-week beard makes it look like he’s been on a bender. He’s always struggling to find words. He can’t hold his temper and is always swearing…”fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.” He’s short. He can’t seem to hang on to his white cop shirts. That lost bagel…what was that about? Always banging into walls and stumbling around. Always going “whoa, I don’t get it…do you know what’s going on?” 90% of the time his mouth is hanging open. Whenever he’s outside you’re always expecting birdshit to land in his hair. He’s that kind of guy.


We’re No Angels

The politically correct brigade has struck again. This time it’s over an errant phrase in an 8.24 N.Y. Times profile of the late Michael Brown, the 18 year-old who was killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on August 9th, which set off days of protesting in that city and torrents of anger nationwide. The inflammatory wrongo, in the eyes of vigilant watchdogs, is reporter John Eligon‘s description of Brown as “no angel” at the top of the fifth paragraph. To the goose-steppers this indicates a slightly racist undercurrent. To them it implies that Eligon is obliquely characterizing Brown as a kind of troublemaker who may have exacerbated matters and perhaps even hastened his own doom when he and a friend were told by Wilson to “get the fuck on the sidewalk.”

They’re basically saying that journalists aren’t allowed to describe an African-American victim of police violence as “no angel,” even if the victim had a somewhat checkered history. Eligon was required to portray Brown in more neutral-ish terms, even if the sum of the observations and anecdotes about Brown may have allowed for the use of that term. That’s a no-no, reporters, and if the rest of you slip into this attitudinal realm you’re going to get slammed on Twitter.

Eligon and his editors may be closet racists, but his piece struck me as a result of simple shoe-leather reporting. It offers a mixed but not unduly negative portrayal of Brown, who is described in roughly the same kind of terms that I could have been portrayed with when I was 18. Or that the young Robin Williams or Sam Kinison or Elvis Costello might have been described with. Or that almost any contrarian kid with any fire in his veins could have been described with. (more…)

Cat Paddle

In an 8.22 Grantland piece about the late Michael O’Donoghue, Tom Carson briefly mentions Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video. This reminded me of an article about this vaguely funny anthology film that was included in the debut issue of the Thousand Eyes Cinema Guide, a Sid Geffen publication that I was the managing editor of in late ’79 or ’80. (I need to find some back issues.) The piece was basically about attempts to get it theatrically distributed, however marginally, and how the original 75-minute assembly was padded with extras (including a Mr. Bill sequence) to push the running time up to 90 minutes. Carson’s article also reminded me of O’Donoghue’s cat-swimming school sequence, which, when you get down to it, is pretty much the only thing I remember about Mr. Mikes’s Mondo Video. Here’s the whole thing. Oddly, it only runs 71 minutes and change, or a little less than four minutes shorter than the original version.


Saluting Mr. Attenborough

The well-liked, much-respected British actor-director Richard Attenborough has passed at the age of 90. Condolences to fans, family and friends but…well, it’s not like a tree fell on him at age 37. Attenborough lived on a long, industrious and apparently happy life. Accomplished, celebrated. We should all be so fortunate. I did a phoner with Attenborough in the ’90s, and he was almost all mirth, giggles and enthusiasm. Quite impossible to dislike, an excellent politician, almost joyful to a fault.

But I have to say (yes, here we go) that while he was obviously a talented actor who hit his marks and did the job every time, some of his performances drove me nuts. I know Attenborough’s “Big X” in The Great Escape was supposed to be the stalwart leader, but I found him a pill. (This may sound a bit harsh but there was a part of me that didn’t entirely mind when he got shot to death at the end.) I thought he was too emotionally pained and on-the-nose as “Frenchy” in The Sand Pebbles. And I’m sorry but I despised him in Jurassic Park…that glowing pink face and white beard, that look of ecstasy when discussing his dinosaurs, every emotion telegraphed, etc. (more…)

“And I’ll Do What I Want”

I hated the idea of Breaking Bad from the get-go. I didn’t want to know from the scurviness of it. Meth labs, low-life dealers, cancer-stricken protagonist, etc. Plus I’ve had this odd animal dislike for Aaron Paul all along. Have I finally watched all five seasons? No. Have I watched a couple of dozen episodes? No. But I did drop into most of the final season on Vudu. I respect Vince Gilligan‘s ablity to “sell” this repellent but absorbing world, if that makes any sense. This last portion of the final episode [below] is pretty damned effective. But I’m not going to live in realms that I don’t want to live in, and that’s my right as a free individual. I will not invest in characters who have to nowhere to go but down. I can invest in characters who aren’t going anywhere in particular (i.e., existential floaters) or who are determined to be the rebel or the asshole or the sociopath or the latest Tony Montana, but I can’t ride along with guys who are guaranteed to lose.

Death of Frank Miller

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For performed so poorly this weekend, landing in eighth place with a pathetic $6,477,000, that you have to wonder why. I was bored by it after five minutes but I figured, well, that’s me. I figured the public might give it a whirl but no. And it cost $60 to $70 million. The lesson, I suppose, is that if you’re going to crank out a sequel, do it within two or three years. Don’t wait fucking nine years, which is how long it’s been since the original, successful Sin City opened in ’05. I’d also like to think that audiences took a whiff of the trailer to the sequel and went, “Oh, God…this again? More of Miller’s misogynist old-dog sexual fantasies, which are rooted in noir cliches of the ’40s and ’50s?” My preferred fantasy is that Miller’s conservative-asshole karma, which reached its zenith when he posted that rat-ugly hate piece about the Occupy movement on his website, came back to bite him.

Either way Miller is done. For now, I mean. He doesn’t speak for the zeitgeist and the zeitgeist wants nothing to do with him. I just re-read a two-day-old Grantland profile of Miller by Alex Pappademas — it almost reads like an obit now. Nobody loves you when your movie’s a flop. Nobody makes eye contact, people stop calling, your assistant gives you neck rubs, etc. Awful. The best thing to do is to drive out to the desert and sulk.

Kick-Ass Title Sequences Forever

Have I re-watched David Fincher‘s The Girl With Dragon Tattoo since watching it twice in late 2011? Due respect but no. I’ve watched The Social Network six or seven times; ditto Se7en and the Zodiac director’s cut Bluray. But I can let Tattoo go. And yet loved the opening credits, which came out of a collaboration between Fincher, Blur Studio’s Tim Miller and Kellerhouse, Inc.’s Neil Kellerhouse. (I’m presuming, by the way, that the opening credits for Fincher’s Gone Girl are going to be phenomenal.) I’m not saying that Tattoo is unfulfilling or unsuccessful — it’s somewhere between an entirely decent and very good paycheck thriller — but the titles exist on a higher aesthetic plane, largely because this sequence is the only completely original aspect.

Why am I mentioning this? To revive an old-saw topic, i.e., films that try but can’t compete with their opening-credit sequences.

The Saul Bass title sequence for the old Ocean’s Eleven (’60) is much, much better than the film; ditto the ending sequence with the downhearted Rat Pack strolling along the Strip to Sammy Davis, Jr. singing a slow, downbeat version of “Eeyo Elven”. No one’s ever cared that much for Clive Donner‘s inane, anarchic and not particularly funny What’s New, Pussycat? (’65) but the animated main-title sequence, designed by Richard Williams, is wonderfully silly and raucous and…what, champagne fizzy? In its own dopey way it gives you a faint idea of what it was like to repeatedly get lucky and have great sex, over and over and over, in ’65. (A Bluray version streets on Tuesday.)


Il ne faut plus qu’on se voie

It’s been so long since I saw and wrote about Damien Chazelle‘s Whiplash (i.e., Sundance or seven months ago) that I need to re-immerse and somehow crank up again. Miles Teller‘s best performance ever so far. Pic is baity as far as J.K. Simmons‘ performance as a psychotic musical instructor (a loon in the tradition of R. Lee Ermey‘s Gunnery Sergeant Hartman) is concerned. The Sony Pictures Classics release wil play Toronto and then open on October 10th.