In Darkest Africa

What I really like about this Jungle Wakudoki Toyota ad, produced by the Dentsu Aegis ad agency, is the feeling you get that everyone (including the gorilla) was on mescaline when it was shot. I also love the decision to use an exact facsimile of the gorilla suit worn in 20th Century Fox’s Gorilla At Large (’54)

HE’s Long Decade

I launched Hollywood Elsewhere sometime around August 20, 2004. Maybe two or three days later but it was right around there. I’m not much for taking bows as a general rule. The 15th anniversary of this column on Mr. Showbiz happened last October and I didn’t say boo. But I’m nonetheless trying to think of some way to celebrate HE’s tenth anniversary without sounding, you know, blowhardy. It’s been a bitch but I’m very proud of having hung in and toughed it out and…well, succeeded. (I was going to say “survived with some measure of comfort” but I’ve done better than that.) The multiple-posts-per-day format began around April 2006; before that I was posting a twice-weekly column plus a forum (“Wired”) for rat-a-tat-tat items. WordPress informs that I’ve written 27,000 posts since the beginning, but that doesn’t add up if you average something like five stories per day x 365 days x ten years, which comes to 18,000 and change. I’m posting this because while I printed out some of the earliest columns I’m trying to find records of its appearance online, and so far I’m coming up blank. I’ll probably make serious hay about this when the actual anniversary rolls around.

Tapley Venice Pushback

Three days ago In Contention‘s Kris Tapley threw a few derisive swipes in my direction on Twitter. My offense was having written that the 2014 Venice Film Festival selections seemed “interesting and well-chosen as far as they go, but where are the sexy, award-season attractions? Or at least a surprise or two that no one saw coming? You need a little pop-pop-fizz-fizz with your kale salad and steamed carrots or the troops will get bored.” Here are the three Tapley tweets that took issue with this plus a little clarification from yours truly:

Tapley Tweet #1: “Not everything is a glitzy fucking gala with a hot-ticket after-party for you to go and be a sycophant. There’s a whole world out there.” Wells reply: “Kris can unzip his tuxedo slacks and piss-spray all he wants, but apart from the choice of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Birdman as the opener and perhaps Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes, the 2014 Venice selections seem to exude a certain kind of engaging, presumably intelligent but probably-not-world-class quality — distinctive, nicely done, mildly intriguing, possibly second-tier-ish. Kris knows that and still he calls me — me! — a red-carpet sycophant type. He knows as well as I do what kind of aromas that the two Al Pacino films (David Gordon Green‘s Manglehorn and Barry Levinson‘s The Humbling) are putting out. Tapley has just as good of an idea or gut instinct as I do about Peter Bogdanovich’s She’s Funny That Way, Michael Almereyda‘s Cymbeline, Andrew Nicoll‘s Good Kill, Abel Ferrara‘s Pasolini, etc. Venice is the kickoff of ‘the game’ and Kris knows that. He knows that Venice has premiered many, many ‘game’ films before, and he knows that the qualities that tend to get films into the game in the first place often tend to translate more often than not into riveting, first-rate or at least highly noteworthy cinema.”


Most Dismissive Moonlight Pan Of All

From Andrew O’Hehir‘s Salon review of Woody Allen‘s Magic in the Moonlight: “Every so-called plot twist is telegraphed in advance, the chemistry between Emma Stone and Colin Firth is negligible (although they both look terrific in period evening wear), and the cast of fine actors around them is arranged as types rather than individuals: Hamish Linklater as the insipid rich boy in love with Sophie, Jacki Weaver as the credulous old biddy, Eileen Atkins (bringing a hint of life to the dismal proceedings) as Stanley’s onetime bohemian aunt. But those things, even the zero-wattage romance, aren’t as fatal as the first-draft quality of the script and the lethargy of the direction.”

That’s been a hallmark of Allen’s films for some time now, hasn’t it? A first-draft feeling to the script and a lack of innovative pizazz in the shooting and cutting? Didn’t Blue Jasmine, Midnight in Paris, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and even Match Point feel this way also? I’ve been bitching about this all along and it doesn’t seem to matter to anyone, least of all Allen. The DNA that goes into his brand is not going to change. Who goes to a Woody Allen film these days expecting to savor the push-pull engagement that was palpable in his ’70s, ’80s and ’90s films? Older artists tend to be less reflexive, no? They’re not absorbing as much as much as they did when they were younger and “in the game,” as it were. Their arteries tend to harden. (more…)

32 Years Later, A Sequel to Best Dystopian Action Thriller Ever

George Miller‘s Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (’85) had that Tina Turner song, but it wasn’t the sequel that fans of Miller’s Mad Max (’79) and The Road Warrior (’82) really wanted. It’s possible that Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros., 5.15.15) might be what the faithful have been looking for all along. Rockin’ dystopian kick-ass actioners weren’t much of a thing when Mad Max opened 35 years ago. The Road Warrior (called Mad Max 2 outside of the U.S,) was the first big hit in this realm. Just as George Romeo never successfully expanded his repertoire beyond his zombie films, Miller has never really broken free of his Australian wasteland savage-madness films.

Man of Bulk

Are you going to tell me that the Henry Cavill who starred in Man of Steel showed up today at ComicCon? Photos can add weight, I realize, so the below photo (taken during Cavill’s appearance in Hall H) may be “fibbing” to some extent, but it looks to me like Cavill has nearly become Ernest Borgnine in Bad Day at Black Rock (’55). Let me guess — the plot of Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, which began shooting two months ago, involves Superman getting depressed and turning to drink and trans-fat foods…something like that.

(l.) Henry Cavill in Man of Steel; (r.) during an appearance today (Saturday, 7.26) at ComicCon.

Landmark Latecomers

I went to the Landmark last night to see Anton Corbijn‘s A Most Wanted Man for the second time. It’s a subtle, finely tuned thing. It was satisfying to note that the clues and indications seemed easier to spot this time. In yesterday’s review I called it “one of those films you want to see twice to scan for whatever clues may have been revealed early on but which you, the all-but-clueless or perhaps not-smart-enough viewer, missed the first time.” I did notice that the sound at the Landmark seemed sharper and more precise than at the Wilshire Screening Room, where I first caught it. What sounded murky or muttering at the Wilshire was clear and discernible at the Landmark.

I was given a complimentary ticket and therefore didn’t have a chance to choose my own seat. I got there in the middle of the trailers and was shown to my seat, which was in the middle of a crowded row of 70something bluehairs. I didn’t want to sit there but the row in front was half empty. So I stood and waited for latecomers to arrive, figuring that at least a couple of seats would be available five or ten minutes after the film began. I waited five minutes (the show was scheduled to start at 7:10 pm) and sure enough, two or three people arrived. Four empty seats left. I waited another five and nobody else showed. At 7:20 pm I took a seat on the aisle and settled in.


Click here to jump past the Oscar Balloon

Best Picture Contenders (i.e, Presumed High-Pedigree, The Right Stuff): Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Birdman, 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), James Marsh's Theory of Everything, Noah Baumbach's While We're Young, Jeff NicholsMidnight Special, Saul Dibbs' Suite Francaise, Jason Reitman's Men, Women & Children.

High-Pedigree YA Adaptation?: Phillip Noyce's The Giver.

Opening in 2014 or 2015?: Sarah Gavron's Suffragette (Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep).

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, Untitled Cameron Crowe, Todd HaynesCarol.

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; Anton Corbijn's Life; 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; 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.


Chris Pratt Is Like Anyone Else

MacleansBarry Hertz called to chat the other day about Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt, whose performance as a catcher-turned-insecure-first-baseman in Moneyball was a standout in that Bennett Miller film, and who occupied the vibe of a genuine Navy Seal in Kathryn Bigelow‘s Zero Dark Thirty. We all need to pay the bills and cover our kids’ education, but let’s hope that Pratt…oh, hell, he’s going for the dough and that’s that.

Hooray for Harris

From one ComicCon hater to another (or at least someone who parks his car in the general vicinity of my garage, at least as far as sharing a deep-seated loathing for fanboy CG-driven fantasy fare is concerned)…thank you! It’ll take many generations, but when the Eloi finally emerge as the dominant global species historians will look back and say, “It all began with the ComicCon mentality.” Here’s a reply to one of Harris’s claims.

Does Hunky Hemsworth Have The Look and Manner Of A Hacker?

It was announced today at ComicCon that Michael Mann‘s Blackhat (formerly Cyber), a thriller about cyber-terrorism with Chris Hemsworth, will open platform-style later this year in order to qualify for award-season honors. Mann and Hemsworth unveiled the first footage of Blackhat in Hall H. Deadline‘s Michael Fleming is reporting that Blackhatmay qualify for the Oscars this year in a strategy much like Lone Survivor this past awards season.” If they follow the LS playbook it’ll open just after Christmas. The wide opening will be 1.16.05. The trailer “looks big-scale and sensational…Mann at his best,” Fleming enthused.

Hemsworth offered this quote roughly a year ago: “I just finished [Blackhat]. It’s based in the world of cyber-terrorism….a sort of cat-and-mouse international heist-thriller. Basically, something similar to the Chicago Board of Trade is hacked into and it sets off a chain of events around the world, affecting the stock market. The code that was used to hack into it…my character had written it years before and he happens to be in prison for cyber crime. He is pulled out and offered a deal if he works with a joint task force of the FBI and the Chinese government in trying to track this guy down. It starts off in Chicago and ends up in Kuala Lumpur, in Hong Kong and in Jakarta.” (more…)

Proof Is In Pudding

A new Interstellar trailer was screened at ComicCon yesterday. Perhaps it reflects what director and co-writer Chris Nolan said was his basic goal in creating this futuristic sci-fi drama, which was “to recapture some of the sense of wonder about the cosmos that he felt as a boy,” according to Hero Complex‘s Josh Rottenberg. Nolan added that “the biggest influence on the film was Stanley Kubrick’s 2001.” Maybe so, but the earlier trailer (i.e., the one that popped two months ago when everyone was in Cannes) doesn’t begin to even approach the slightest trace of cosmic Kubrickian splendor. Did I get any kind of space-vibe? Yeah — it reminded me of footage from Ron Howard‘s Apollo 13.

I took another look at trailer #1 this morning and I wasn’t going for it. On top of which I’ve read plot descriptions calling McConaughey’s character a “widowed dad.” I’m sorry but something in me says “watch it” when I hear that term. I don’t trust any writer or filmmaker who decides that “widowed” is more likable or sympathetic than “divorced”. On top of which I’m sensing other indications of emotional calculation. Perhaps a whiff or two of sentimentality. On top of which I’m suddenly feeling, for no reason I can make sense of, a little McConaughey-ed out. (more…)

Corbijn On The Line

Here’s the 15-minute phoner I did this morning with A Most Wanted Man director Anton Corbijn, who called from Berlin. The chat speaks for itself. I found it hilarious that Corbijn, who first came to attention as a world-class photographer and a visualist of the first order, doesn’t own a highdef flatscreen. His personal TV, he says, is about 15 years old. He also says he’s never seen the Bluray of Control, his masterful 2007 debut film that was rendered in luscious Scope black-and-white. Corbijn is now editing his next film, Life, about the friendship between Life photographer Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson) and James Dean (Dane DeHaan). Again, the mp3. And again, my review of A Most Wanted Man, posted at 3pm this afternoon.

The Most Wanted Man gang in Park City last January — (l. to r.) Willem Dafoe, Anton Corbijn, the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams.


Cordovan lace-ups worn by Lee “bigfoot” Marvin during the making of John Boorman‘s Point Blank.

Laziest, bleachiest, most-blah-looking “nothing” poster for a coming action spectacular ever made?

Found this 2009 Oxford Film Festival press pass lying around last night. Five and one-third years ago. Memories.


Gone Girl Antidote?

From HE pally Bill McCuddy: “Speaking of movies that will break up couples nationwide or at least have them chatting afterwards, one of the best movies of the year is The One I Love with Elizabeth Moss and Mark Duplass. Have you seen it? Completely original and a better version of something Woody Allen might have done. The cast is perfect. Peggy looks a lot better in 2014 than she does in the ’60s, I can tell you.

“Every romcom star in Hollywood is going to call their agent and say ‘get me a script like this!’ Except for one thing that happens late in the second act it’s absolutely perfect.

“It’s coming to VOD next week and we’re reviewing it on Talking Pictures On Demand for Time Warner subscribers.” (Except Talking Pictures on Demand refuses to provide embed codes for guys like me to occasionally post….brilliant!)

Wells to McCuddy: Yup — here’s my Sundance review and a more recent post. Very high on this except for the ending. (more…)

Exotic Poster Hunt

Six years ago I wrote about having paid $87 and change for a first-rate scan of a 41″ x 18″ poster of The Presbyterian Church Wager, the 1971 Robert Altman film that was renamed McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Are there any other choice posters to be found along these lines? Does anyone know of any half-reputable film that (a) was called something else before the final title was decided upon, but more importantly (b) had a poster made with the earlier title?

Wanted Is Smiley’s People, In A Sense

I should have written something by now about Anton Corbijn‘s A Most Wanted Man (Lionsgate/Roadside, 7.25), but…you know. Friday jam-ups, fatigue, distractions. I know Corbin’s film is paydirt for anyone starved for the kind of somber, moody, highly intelligent espionage drama that has all but disappeared from theatres. Paydirt and pretty damn essential. Phillip Seymour Hoffman‘s final performance, it turns out, is among his all-time best — a moody, eccentric, super-brilliant German spy who’s constantly medicating with alcohol, tobacco and coffee (an unavoidable echo or allusion to the addiction that took Hoffman down earlier this year). A Most Wanted Man also contains one of the more on-target performances from Rachel McAdams ever, as well as a tremendous “performance” from the city of Hamburg itself, which hasn’t seemed quite this noirish or all-enveloping since Wim WendersThe American Friend.

A Most Wanted Man is so darkly alluring and densely fascinating that I’m going back to see it a second time this weekend. It’s one of those films that you want to see twice to scan it for whatever clues may have been revealed early on but which you, the all-but-clueless or perhaps not-smart-enough viewer, missed the first time.

It’s based on the 2008 John Le Carre novel, of course, and bearing all the atmospheric and psychological hallmarks of that author’s work for the last 49 years, which is when The Spy Who Came In From The Cold made him a literary superstar. The plot is all about a weird-behaving, possibly fanatical young Russian-Chechen guy named Issa (Grigoriy Dobrygin), sullen and dirty and looking like a bearded rat, who slips into Hamburg to claim his Russian father’s ill-gotten millions. He soon attracts the interest and gradual suspicion of Hoffman’s German spy chief, who runs a tight little team composed of Nina Hoss and Daniel Brugh, among others. Willem Dafoe‘s local banker and Robin Wright‘s CIA operative are also part of the demimonde, but there’s no real clue what the shot is for the longest time. (more…)

Great Atmospheric Noir, Relatively Few “Thrills”

A Most Wanted Man director Anton Corbijn told me this morning during a phone interview that he recently spent time in Berlin with Wim Wenders during a “regrading” (i.e., color readjustment) of The American Friend (’77). That told me Wenders is probably preparing his classic noir for Bluray release. I fell deeply in love with The American Friend when I first saw it at the 1977 New York Film Festival. Seriously — I was doing cartwheels in the lobby of Alice Tully Hall. It’s one of those films that I wanted to literally move into. The gloomy Hamburg realm of The American Friend was, at the time, a reflection of my own personal weltschmerz and vice versa. It inspired me to pitch a column to a couple of publications called “Hollywood Weltschmerz.” I was (and perhaps on level I still am) Dennis Hopper taking polaroid photos of himself while lying on a pool table. In late ’77 or early ’78 I tried to figure a way to paste my face onto Bruno Ganz‘s in that famous poster, but I couldn’t get it right.

Showboat Stigma

It doesn’t exactly “hurt” to be chosen as an opening-night film at a major festival, but it doesn’t necessarily help either. Opening-night films aren’t exclusively chosen for their broad-based appeal or crowd-pleasing congeniality or…whatever, a certain lack of intrigue or flintiness. But they often are selected for these reasons. (Consider Wes Anderson’s comment about Moonrise Kingdom being selected as the opening-night attraction at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.) I only know that when I read about a film opening a festival, I say to myself, “Okay, got it, right…it’s one of those.” This is the context behind the Toronto Film Festival choosing David Dobkin’s The Judge as its opening-night (i.e., Thursday, 9.4) attraction. No harm or foul, but…well, I’ve said it. Tart dialogue, father-son antagonism, charges filed, stakes rise, buried feelings surface, etc. Right out of the hack-formula handbook. Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong, Dax Shepard and Billy Bob Thornton.

It’s also a little funny that Toronto announced The Judge yesterday as one of many films chosen among the first batch, and then the following day it goes, “Oh, by the way, we’re selecting The Judge as the opener.”

Wait…Who Are You?

“My fondest dream is that it will be the date movie that breaks up couples nationwide. Maybe people will walk out of there and think, ‘Maybe not…I don’t know if I know you well enough.’ The movie is about how well you can possibly know one another. We’re so steeped in pop culture and so steeped in different roles. How can you possibly combine with another person and have that truth exist in a relationship. The [story] definitely plays off of that idea.” — Gone Girl author & screenplay adapter Gillian Flynn, speaking about David Fincher‘s upcoming film in a 7.21 interview by Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Brian Brooks.

Batfleck Furrow

Apart from the somewhat smaller, Adam Westy bat-ears (check out the size of George Clooney’s bat-ears after the jump), the most significant feature of Ben Affleck‘s Batman are the worry furrows. Or…whatever, stress lines. When’s the last time a facsimile of a facial feature normally caused by middle-aged, weight-of-the-world anxiety was incorporated into a superhero mask? Also: If I’m not mistaken all the Batmans have been clean-shaven up until now. (Variety‘s Marc Graser reports that the Batfleck image is “part of a 75th anniversary montage of Batman images created for Comic-Con…the photo can be seen at D.C.’s booth on the show floor of the San Diego Convention Center.”)


Torn Skins

From my 1.17.14 review: “Damien Chazelle‘s Whiplash (Sony Pictures Classics, 10.14) is a raging two-hander about a gifted drummer named Andrew (Miles Teller). Enrolled at an elite Manhattan music school and determined to be not just proficient or admired but Buddy Rich-great, Andrew is a Bunsen burner. We can see from the get-go he’s going to be increasingly possessed and manic and single-minded about the skins. (All great musicians are like this to varying degrees.) On top of which he really doesn’t want to be like his kindly, failed-writer dad (Paul Reiser), and he can’t find peace with a pretty girl (Melissa Benoist) because she isn’t as consumed as he is — too uncertain and unexceptional.


Fanciful Visions

A journalist friend just asked me for some thoughts about the ongoing popularity of religious, Bible-based faith movies. So I sent him six or seven graphs, of which he might use a line or two. Here’s the whole outpouring in one great gush:

Christian movies are principally made for people in the conservative hinterland regions who do not, shall we say, have a circumspect view of the scriptures. They believe in literal interpretations of the Bible, start to finish and top to bottom. Christian movies are therefore not about realism — they’re fantasy projections of what people would like the world to be governed or ordered by. Or at least projections of what they think will happen when they die. Or what happened to a certain Judean rabbi when he died at age 33.

There are a lot of simpletons out there who believe, for instance, that the Noah’s Ark saga actually happened, chapter and verse. And who believe that, like in Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth was more or less a WASP, and that he resembled a handsome, European-descended quarterback with broad shoulders and freshly shampooed honey-brown hair.

The operative terms are fantasy or fanciful visions, which is what a belief in a non-provable, non-tangible vision or philosophy boils down to. Christianity is a form of optimistic denial, and that’s what these movies offer — a reflection or a dramatic fortification of that fantasy. Which a lot of people want to swim in.


Absence of Classy, Klute-Type Paranoid Thrillers

I haven’t seen Alan Pakula‘s Klute (’71) since…well, I might have watched it on laser disc in the ’90s or at a repertory cinema in the early ’80s…maybe. But I haven’t seen it on a big screen in eons. I might just catch it tomorrow night at the Aero. Slow burn whodunit + ’70s Manhattan noir + richly-drawn characters + wide-open emotional exposure + simmering sexuality. The following tribute video was put together by the San Francisco-based La Belle Aurore Films. They claim on their page that “cinema is our mistress.” Then why don’t they un-distort the images in this montage, which are obviously horizontally squeezed?

Alan Pakula (speaking to friend in 1970): “You know, I’ve been sensing this vibe lately, this odd paranoid vibe, especially in New York and other towns. Things aren’t working out, people are perturbed, they hate the war, they hate Nixon and they feel alienated by straight society.”

Friend: “Yeah?”

Alan Pakula: “And I’m thinking I’d like to make a film about this. Or better yet, maybe three.”


“An Existential Threat”

Early this morning Scott Feinberg posted a Hollywood Reporter analysis piece about the Toronto-vs.-Telluride, bruised-ego, us-or-them war, which was initiated by TIFF’s Cameron Bailey and Piers Handling. The conflict began with their Al Capone-style policy, announced last January, that said (a) if producers or distributors want a prestigious slot during the Toronto Film Festival’s first four days, they can’t sneak their films in Telluride first…like it or lump it, and (b) if they do travel to Telluride first they’ll be punished by having to wait until the fifth day of TIFF (i.e., Monday, 9.8) to show their films. That or they’ll be classified as a “Canadian premiere,” which might be another kind of demotion…I think.

Feinberg is reporting that Toronto’s tough new rule has to some extent backfired, and that a lot of producers and distributors are pissed off. “Many — including even Canadian filmmakers — are calling Toronto’s bluff by heading to Telluride first and either accepting a later Toronto screening date or skipping Toronto altogether,” his story states.

“Regardless of where their films will be playing, the distributors with whom I’ve spoken agree on one thing: they are angry at Toronto for forcing a choice in the first place. (more…)

Underwhelming, Bordering-on-Sleepy Venice Film Festival Slate

Apart from the already-announced, much-anticipated world premiere of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Birdman, the just-unveiled films set to play the 71st Venice Film Festival strike me as interesting and well-chosen as far as they go, but where are the sexy, award-season attractions? Or at least a surprise or two that no one saw coming? It’s fine for festival director Alberto Barbera to have gone with an assortment of mostly quirky, indie-level titles, but you need a little pop-pop-fizz-fizz with your kale salad and steamed carrots or the troops will get bored. If I was press-accredited with my ticket to Venice all paid for, right now I’d be saying “that’s it? Why didn’t I choose Telluride instead?”

Competition titles include David Gordon Green’s Manglehorn (one of two Al Pacino flicks screening, the other being Barry Levinson’s The Humbling), Andrew Nicoll‘s Good Kill (I’m sorry but I wrote Nicoll off a long time ago), Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes and Abel Ferrara‘s Pasolini.

Non-competing titles include the afore-mentioned Humbling (basically about Pacino, an aging actor, having an affair with a much-younger lesbian, played by the always-cool Greta Gerwig); Peter Bogdanovich’s She’s Funny That WayJoe Dante’s Burying the Ex; a partial sampling of Olive Kitteridge, an HBO miniseries starring Frances McDormand; Michael Almereyda‘s Cymbeline; Josh and Ben Safdie’s Heaven Knows What; Ami Canaan Mann‘s Your Right Mind; Benoit Jacquot’s Three Hearts; Saverio Costanzo’s Hungry Hearts…I’m almost nodding out as I type this.

The Venice jurors will include Alexandre Desplat, Joan Chen, Tim Roth…I’m getting bored again. (more…)

Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down

Who cares what someone like myself thinks about Sam Taylor Wood‘s adaptation of E.L. JamesFifty Shades of Grey (Universal, 2.13.15)? Talk about superfluous. That said, the trailer conveys a tone of restraint…succinct, underplayed, taking its time. Seamus McGarvey‘s cinematography alone lends a veneer of class. From a purely hot-or-not perspective the good-looking Jamie Dorman has it together (i.e., sufficiently reserved and cool, nice washboards abs) but Dakota Johnson looks…can I be honest?…a bit pale and mousey. She acts mousey. She seems as if she’d be a pushover for the mailman so submitting to the b & d demands of Christian Grey doesn’t seem to deliver a lot of undercurrent. It’s too late now but Johnson’s hair should have been a bit lighter, the way it was in The Social Network.

The world is divided into three kinds of people — those who prefer to spell it “gray,” those who prefer to spell it “grey” and those who can never remember which spelling is correct and feel a bit irked every time they’re about to use it.

Playing-Card Faces

There’s a fascinating color illustration sitting above David Denby‘s review of Woody Allen‘s Magic in the Moonlight in the 7.28 edition of The New Yorker. It’s obviously an impressionistic drawing of the cast members (l. to r., Marcia Gay Harden, Simon McBurney, Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Jackie Weaver, Hamish Linklater), but it’s not so impressionistic that you can’t instantly recognize each actor. Not easy. The artist is Conor Langton, from Ireland. His page says he’s received awards from American Illustrator and Communication Arts, and that his clients include Rolling Stone. A few months ago he did a similar-type illustration for Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel.

New Yorker illustration by Conor Langton.