HE Redesign’s A’Comin

At Jett’s urging, Hollywood Elsewhere is forking over serious coin (or at least what feels like a major expenditure from my end) for a big fat re-design. The font and the basic Hollywood sign logo will stay the same but beyond that…who knows? I’m ready for the next chapter, but I’d like to see something cooler than just ACRES OF WHITE SPACE! and REALLY BIG BLACK TYPE! No, I’m not getting my knickers in a twist sight unseen. I’ll just have to wait and see.

The changeover should be in place by sometime in mid to late March, certainly by early April.

This is Jett’s action. He insists (and I have no argument) that the site has to load faster and offer more features and be more reflective of the 2017 sensibility, and that we’re doing ourselves no favors by reflecting a late ’90s/early aughts design mindset. Get with the program! The bottom line is that Jett is the boss. I’m just the guy who catches screenings, goes to festivals, churns out the copy and gets into occasional Twitter fights with SJWs.

“Stop Talkin’…Okay, Slick?”

The micro-detail and the natural colors on the new British Heat Bluray, which arrived today and which I’m watching right now, are world class, historic. A movie lover’s ice-cream sundae.  Plus it has a lot of great-sounding extras, some of them brand-new.

New wheels — made the decision today — took me all of 45 minutes. You always want a clean body, a well-tuned engine, not too many miles, new tires, etc. The main L.A. thing is that you don’t want to be embarassed when the valet guy drives up with your ride and you’re standing there with whomever.

Taken this afternoon from corner of Norton and Laurel in West Hollywood.


Mom and Dad Are Clods, For The Most Part

How many comedies have been made with this same basic formula? Dad’s a dipshit, mom isn’t much smarter, but they’ve got a problem and they have to step outside the law to solve it. Incidentally: Will Ferrell is way too tall (i.e., not a physical/sexual match) for Amy Poehler.

Values Over Chops

Yesterday Variety‘s Tim Gray posted his choices for the 10 worst Best Picture Oscar winners of all time. The all-time worst, he feels, is Cecil B. Demille‘s The Greatest Show on Earth (’52). I understand where he’s coming from and sympathize to some extent, but HE’s all-time worst is a four-way tie between The King’s Speech, Driving Miss Daisy, Around the World in 80 Days (fifth on Gray’s list) and The Artist (which Gray ranks 10th).

Gray’s list, top to bottom: 1. The Greatest Show on Earth; 2. The Broadway Melody (’29 — never seen it, don’t want to); 3. Vincent Minnelli‘s Gigi (’58) 4. William Wyler‘s Ben-Hur (’59); 5. Mike Todd‘s Around the World in 80 Days (’56), 6. Cimarron (’31), 7. Cavalcade (’33), 8. The Great Ziegfeld (’36) 9. American Beauty (’99), and 10. The Artist (’11).

Wells dispute #1: American Beauty. Explanation: Every year I trot out the old saw about values and lessons being the main determining factor in the choosing of Best Picture winners by Academy voters. People recognize strong stories, first-rate artsy elements and high-level craft, but more often than not the tipping factor is a film “saying” something that the Academy recognizes as fundamentally true and close-to-home — a movie that reflects their lives and values in a way that feels solemn and agreeable.

Ordinary People beat Raging Bull because the values espoused by the former (suppressing trauma is bad, letting it out is good, wicked-witch moms are bad) touched people more deeply than the ones in Raging Bull. What values did Martin Scorsese‘s film espouse? Art-film values. Great goombah acting values. Black-and-white cinematography values. The only value that resulted in a big Oscar was Robert De Niro‘s commitment to realistic performing values — i.e. putting on 50 or 60 pounds to play fat Jake LaMotta. But there were no values in the film at all. What, it’s a bad thing to beat up your brother in front of his wife and kids?

American Beauty won the Best Picture Oscar because it said something that everyone (particularly workaholic careerists) believes to be true, which is that we spend so much time and energy running around in circles that we fail to appreciate the simple beauty of things. On top of which it’s a pungent, occasionally hilarious satire of American middle-class values and lifestyles. (more…)

Stone Assurance

Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers, Variety‘s Tim Gray and Fandango‘s Erik Davis are currently predicting Elle‘s Isabelle Huppert to win Best Actress. On the strength of this, Gold Derby editor Tom O’Neil has posted a “could Isabelle take it?” riff.

Everyone else, naturally, is predicting La La Land‘s Emma Stone.

Academy members “usually vote for the pretty ingenue just as she emerges as the hot new chick on the block,” O’Neil reminds. “This year that would be Stone. She fits the profile perfectly. She’s a past nominee (Birdman) in the supporting category and now stars as the heart and soul of the film that’s about to sweep the Oscars.” On top of which strong Best Picture contenders “usually win an acting award,” he adds.

“All of this puts Stone out front,” he allows, “but she is vulnerable to an upset because her role is so deliciously frothy as she waltzes through the starry heavens with Ryan Gosling. Her role isn’t pretentious; it doesn’t have brooding gravitas.”

O’Neil said roughly the same thing last December when he called Stone’s La La performance a partial “problem” given that she’s playing “a deliberately two-dimensional role…perky and happy and dancing around…you don’t get a lot of gravitas and soulful reflection.” (more…)

I Left The Leftovers Two Years Ago

The third and final season of HBO’s The Leftovers debuts on 4.16.17, but I bailed on it soon after the start of season #2 (10.4.15 thru 12.6.15). I half-hated The Leftovers when it began in the summer of ’14. I sensed a certain modest intrigue at first, but the only element I truly enjoyed as the series wore on was the performance of Carrie Coon. In a way The Leftovers was Westworld before Westworld came along — an HBO series that had no real arc or scheme except to keep going and attract watchers. If nothing else it clarified my loathing for all things Damon Lindelof. Needless to add I have absolutely zero interest in season #3, which is set in Australia.

Barrage of complaints from two and a half years ago: “There’s something very, very wrong with the idea of people in a small leafy community acting strange and surly and curiously off-balance because a sudden cataclysmic event has proven beyond a doubt that an absolute cosmic authority rules over all creation.

“After living with uncertainty all their lives about whether or not there might be some kind of scheme or purpose to existence, here is a group of people that suddenly know there’s absolutely a plan or a design of some kind, like something out of the Old Testament only scarier and creepier, and that there’s some kind of all-knowing, all-seeing judgment system that resulted in 2% of the world’s population rising up and into the white light…and this is how they respond? (more…)

Click here to jump past the Oscar Balloon

Likeliest 2017 Best Picture Contenders (5): Kathryn Bigelow's Untitled 1967 Detroit Riots Docudrama, written by Mark Boal; Alexander Payne's Downsizing (Paramount, 12.22); Paul Thomas Anderson Anderson's 's semi-fictionalized biopic about legendary egomaniacal fashion designer Charles James; Alfonso Cuaron's Roma; Chris Nolan's Dunkirk (Warner Bros., 7.19).

Pick of the Litter, Brand-Name Directors, Made For Intelligent, Review-Reading, Over-35 Types (23) Olivier Assayas' Personal Shopper w/ Kristen Stewart (IFC Films, 3.10.17); Steven Spielberg's The Kidnapping of Edgardo Montara; Darren Aronofsky's Mother; Todd Haynes' Wonderstruck (Amazon); Steven Soderbergh's Logan Lucky; Matt Reeves' War For The Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox, 7.14.17); John Curran's Chappaquiddick; Richard Linklater's Last Flag Flying; Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Fox Searchlight); David Gordon Green's Stronger (Summit); David Michod's War Machine (Netflix); George Clooney's Suburbicon (Paramount); Guillermo Del Toro's The Shape of Water; Dan Gilroy's Inner City; Jacques Audiard's The Sisters Brothers; Abdellatif Kechiche's Mektoub Is Mektoub; Yorgos Lanthimos' The Killing of A Sacred Deer; Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris's Battle of the Sexes (Fox Searchlight); Jason Reitman's Tully; Doug Liman's American Made (Universal, 9.29.17); Luca Guadagnino's Suspiria; Adam McKay's Untitled Dick Cheney Drama (Paramount); Hany Abu Assad's The Mountain Between Us.

Expensive Fantasy-Thriller-Galactic Smart Brands (3)Denis Villeneuve's Blade Runner 2049 (Warner Bros., 10.6.17); Rian Johnson's Star Wars: Episode VIII (12.15.17); Ridley Scott's Alien: Covenant (20th Century Fox, 5.19).

Other 2017 Films of Interest (25): Luca Guadagnino's Call Me By Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics); Roman Polanski's Based On A True Story;
Woody Allen's
latest, a period piece set in a 1950s amusement park and being shot by Vittorio Storaro; Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky's The Polka King; Wim Wenders' Submergence; Destin Daniel Creton's The Glass Castle; Jason Hall's Thank You For Your Service; Alex Garland's Annihilation; Kenneth Branagh's Murder on the Orient Express (20th Century Fox, 11.22.17); Untitled Marital Dissolution Drama by Leviathan director Andrey Zvyagintsev; Lucrecia Martel's Zama; Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird; Brady Corbet's Vox Lux; Dominic Cooke's On Chesil Beach; Micheal Mayer and Anton Chekhov's The Seagull; Michael Haneke's Happy Ending; Edgar Wright's Baby Driver (TriStar, 8.11); Oren Moverman's The Dinner (The Orchard, 5.5.17); Daniel Espinosa's Life (Columbia, 3.24.17); Alfonso Gomez-Rejon's The Current War (Weinstein Co.); Andrew Haigh's Lean on Pete (A24); Arnaud Desplechin's Ismael's Ghosts (Magnolia); Andrew Dosunmu's Where Is Kyra?; Scott Cooper's Hostiles; Doug Liman's The Wall (Amazon/Roadside, 3.10).

Plus: Aaron Sorkin's Molly's Game, Danny Boyle's T2 Trainspotting, Xavier Dolan's The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, Sofia Coppola's The Beguiled. (5)

And Let's Not Forget: Terrence Malick's Weightless (a.k.a. Wait List). Costarring Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Val Kilmer, Clifton Collins Jr., Benicio del Toro and Michael Fassbender. (1)


Yo…Milo Whiplash!

Milo Yiannopoulos vs. Larry Wilmore (“You can go fuck yourself, all right?”) with Bill Maher moderating and Rep. Jack Kingston, Malcolm Nance and Leah Remini costarring.


Son of No Man’s Land Meets 127 Hours

Yup, it’s the old “stepped on a land mine but can’t step off without being blown up” situation again. Bosnian director Danis Tanovic made this into something formidable 16 years ago in No Man’s Land, and now co-directors Fabio Guaglione and Fabio Resinaro have applied a slightly different spin with Mine. Instead of enemy combatants stuck in the same situation, Armie Hammer is more or less alone and facing terrible survive-or-die odds a la James Franco in Danny Boyle‘s 127 Hours.

Revised Letter to Criterion’s Peter Becker

Updated on Saturday, 2.18, at 7 am: Peter — I’ve just had a second look at the screen captures included in Gary W. Tooze‘s DVD Beaver review of Criterion’s 4K-scanned Blow-up Bluray (streeting on 3.28), and I’m feeling a bit foolish. Yesterday [i.e., Friday, 2.17] I wrote that it seemed obvious that Criterion’s decision to go with the dreaded 1.85 aspect ratio meant that extra information has been added to the sides. That may be the case, but the frame comparisons between an old DVD image and the new Criterion Bluray [below] didn’t prove anything as they were of different frames from a shot taken from the back of David Hemmings‘ moving car. Readers pointed this out last night — my bad.

From a domestic DVD released 14 or 15 years ago…something like that.

From Criteron Bluray — not the same shot.

The bottom line remains: The old Criterion organization stated on the back-cover notes for Criterion’s CAV laser disc of Michelangelo Antonioni‘s 1966 classic that the “correct” aspect ratio is 1.66. Why was 1.66 cool back then but not now? Or why not at least go with a 1.75 (which Criterion chose for its Bluray of A Hard Day’s Night) or 1.78 a.r.?

DVD Beaver‘s Gary Tooze says in his current review that the 1.85 a.r. will cause some anguish and consternation, and stated some years back that the film was definitely composed for 1.66.

I’ve stated time and again that 1.66 was a kind of default aspect ratio in England from the late ’50s to sometime in the early ’70s. Criterion’s Bluray of John Schlesinger‘s Sunday Bloody Sunday (’71), for one example, is perfectly masked at 1.66. It’s really such a shame. Back around the time of Criterion’s seminal, game-changing On The Waterfront video essay that compared the differences between 1.33 (or 1.37), 1.66 and 1.85, I thought that the case had been made that 1.85 croppings were too extreme and that 1.66 was a much more natural, liberal, eyes-of-God-and-the-universe aspect ratio. But no. 1.85 fascists are still embedded here and there, and I’m very sorry to admit that this pestilence persists.

On top of which Tooze’s observation that Criterion’s 1080p transfer is “darker than the previous DVDs, has warmer skin tones and a film-like thickness” is troubling. In what way is the look of a film enhanced by darkening the palette? Warming the color is okay within limits but why the hell would anyone want to deliver an image that looks like a screening with a dying projector bulb? And who pines for “film-like thickness”?

For the life of me I’ll never understand why the Criterion gremlins have chosen more than a few times to murk things up. The decision to go darker and inkier on Criterion’s Only Angels Have Wings Bluray was appalling — as an owner of a highly appealing Vudu HDX streaming version plus a TCM Bluray, I’ll never watch Criterion’s Bluray version again.

Question #1 — The adding of extra width to Criterion’s Blow-up Bluray may or may not be agreeable, but how do you explain Criterion staffers endorsing a 1.66 a.r. back in the ’90s vs. today’s team going for 1.85? (They couldn’t even compromise with a 1.78 a.r.?) Question #2: What’s with the darkness compulsion? — Jeffrey Wells, HE.

“I Don’t Have Anything Big To Say”

Michelle Williams owns this scene — feeds it, stirs it, delivers the lion’s share of the energy. All Casey does is deflect and dodge and slowly collapse, his character being who and what he is. But the two of them together….wow. The feelings seep out of Michelle while Casey mostly trembles and shudders…the sadness pours like sauce.

Beyond Meaningless

A few hours ago a Mashable post from Italian correspondent Gianluca Mezzofiore set the Stars Wars realm on fire…not. An Italian poster for Rian Johnson‘s Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi (Disney, 12.15) suggests that the use of Jedi in this context could be plural. Seriously…who cares? We all know that movie and book titles using the adjective “last” always allude to a dying breed, the end of a tradition. And if you have even a limited understanding of what the force is, you know there never be a Jedi finale or cul-de-sac when everything explodes or collapses in a heap. Whether the “last Jedi” refers to (a) a generation of Jedi knights, (b) Daisy Ridley‘s Rey or (c) Mark Hamill‘s Luke Skywalker, finality doesn’t apply. In what way could Jedi-ism and the The Force be dying or running out of steam when it’s it an eternal cosmic current of incredible energy and wisdom for all Jedi knights? Absolutely 100% nonsensical bullshit.

All Those Years Ago

Six weeks ago I wrote that “if Broad Green wants anyone to talk about Terrence Malick‘s Song to Song (3.17) as a film of interest or possible excitement they’re going to have to assemble and release (gasp!) a trailer. And maybe even a one-sheet.” Today they finally released both. The trailer is nicely cut and thoroughly Malickian…that same old darting, dazzling, swirling Emmanuel Lubezki cinematography with a lot of wooing, nuzzling and giggling plus some keyboard playing and stage performing thrown in…a musical Son of Knight of Cups in Austin with a little relationship mood-pocketing from To The Wonder. Saying it again: this is a mid-Obama administration nostalgia flick (shot in 2011 and ’12) that nobody outside of Malick cultists could possibly care about. It’ll be world premiered on Friday, 3.10 at Austin’s South by Southwest film festival.

Respect For Mean Dreams

Filed from Cannes on 5.15.16: “Nathan Morlando‘s Mean Dreams isn’t blazingly original, but I found it a handsome, pared-down thing that doesn’t give in to the usual blam-blam when a gun is purchased and push comes to shove. If a cover band really knows how to perform classic Malick rockBadlands meets Cop Car meets Ain’t Them Bodies Saints meets A Simple Plan meets No Country for Old Men — and they include a riff or two of their own then I really don’t see the problem.

“It isn’t how familiar something seems as much as how spare and straight the chops feel. Take, assimilate, make anew. And the quality of the performances, which in this case struck me as near-perfect in the case of co-leads Josh Wiggins and Sophie Nelisse, and a bad-cop, pervy-dad turn by Bill Paxton that…okay, felt a little moustache-twirly at times and yet acceptable enough in the context of greed, alcohol and obsession.

“Plus Colm Feore‘s slightly less corrupt lawman plus Steve Cosens‘ handsome cinematography and a sometimes slammy percussive score by Son Lux…solid as far as it goes.

“And then along came Variety‘s Guy Lodge and The Hollywood Reporter‘s David Rooney last night with pooh-pooh reviews, essentially calling it too derivative and/or not twisty enough. I felt a little queasy as I read these reviews around 11 pm last night, as if some kind of virus had gotten into my system from the wrong kind of seafood. Lodge and Rooney and whomever else are entitled to piss on anything they want but I know it when a film feels steady and restrained and is more or less up to something honorable. (more…)

“Well, You’re Black and They’re Black So I’m Presuming You Know Them…Am I Wrong?”

“This is who I am, take it or leave it. I’m smug, lazy, less than intellectually rigorous, committed to my preferred realm…and that’s as far as it goes. The two twains — mine and the one that the news media follows or subscribes to — will never meet. Ever. I’m here to restore and protect American whiteness and to repel or at least compromise any and all people of darker pigmentations. The good, average Americans who voted for me obviously support this. So basically I don’t back off and I’m keeping my guns holstered, and that’s that. If any of you have questions…I don’t know why I just asked that, knowing what the lying media will do with my answers…”


Transcending Of All Woes

Paris is probably the greatest aroma town I’ve ever sunk into. A feast wherever you go — Montmarte, Oberkampf, Montparnasse, Passy. The Seine at night, outdoor markets (especially in the pre-dawn hours), the aroma of sauces and pasta dishes coming from cafes, warm breads, scooter and bus exhaust, strong cigarettes, strong coffee, Middle Eastern food stands (onions, sliced meats, spices), gelato shops, etc.

And the only way to really savor these aromas, obviously, is to do so in the open air and preferably on a scooter or motorcycle so you can enjoy them in rapid succession. It’s the only way to travel over there, certainly in the warmer months. I’ve never felt so intensely alive and unbothered as during my annual Paris scooter roam-arounds.

From 3.16.15 post called “Symphonies of Scent“:

“When I let my cat Zak outside in the morning, the first thing he does is hop onto the fence and raise his head slightly and just smell the world. He’s revelling in the sampling of each and every aroma swirling around, sniffing and sniffing again, everything he can taste. I was thinking this morning how delighted and fulfilled he seemed, and how maybe I should do a little more of this myself. Take a moment and sample as many scents as possible.

“The problem with so much of Los Angeles today, of course, is that too much of it has been smothered by massive shopping malls and buildings and parking lots, and dominated by the faint aromas (if you want to call them that) of asphalt, plastic, trash bins, concrete, sheetrock and car and truck exhaust — which doesn’t smell like very much of anything. (more…)

Touched By This

Elia Kazan on Marlon Brando’s exterior toughness vs. inner gentleness and tenderness: “When Marlon plays those love scenes with Eva Marie Saint, I’m broken up. When he’s asking her to understand him. A tough guy revealing a side to himself that you didn’t expect…something in the audience that they recognize…some sort of tenderness…and at the same time he was a sonafabitch, a bad person, a betrayer.

“And yet people wanted to reach out and help him. I was lucky to have him. He’s both hardy and indifferent, and at the same time wants you to love him very much. That one person would need so much from another person. He had that ambivalence.

“We all do, don’t we? We all marry or hopefully marry or hopefully hook up with some lady [who’s] gonna make us feel ‘we’re okay’ or ‘we’re better’ and all that. We search for it and want it and crave it and all that, and sometime it happens and sometimes it happens for a while. And something in that basic story, I think, is what stirs people. Not the social-political thing so much as the human element.”