Radical Crazies

Let’s be charitable or at least forgiving and just call Woody Allen‘s Crisis in Six Scenes, a six-part Amazon miniseries that began streaming yesterday, another substandard offering. I binge-watched the whole thing, and didn’t feel all that angry at the disappointing aspects of it. A little bored, perhaps, but I got through it and eventually made it to the payoff, which happens during the final two episodes.

I don’t regard Allen’s failure to consistently churn out films along the lines of Match Point or Midnight in Paris to be a prosecutable offense. He’s pushing 81 and is naturally going to show signs of slowing down. Over the last half-century Allen’s films have almost always been satisfactory (original stabs at personal excavation, ambitious concepts, pointedly urban humor, etc.) and have sometimes achieved greatness, but now the best that can be hoped for is that he might just luck into an extraordinary idea of some kind and deliver another gem. Eventually the biological odds are going to become insurmountable and it’ll be time to hang it up. At the same time I admire his no-retirement, bop-til-you-drop attitude. (more…)

If You Can’t Sense Lingering Spirits…

“Not everyone driving down Sunset Blvd. senses the ghosts of Old Hollywood. But to Karina Longworth, a 36-year-old film historian who hosts the podcast You Must Remember This, the era of Bogart and Bacall is as present as TMZ.”

So begins a 9.30 N.Y. Times profile of Longworth and her podcast by Michael Schulman, and that’s all that needs saying. As much as I’ve enjoyed listening to You Must Remember This (the episode about the adventures of young Elizabeth Taylor is one of my favorites along with that six-part series on Charles Manson), I channel ghosts all the time on my lonesome. Because I’m a rapt believer in lingering spirits of all shapes, persuasions and locations. The past is eternally present and vice versa, and if you insist on residing only in the dull and somewhat oppressive glare of the now, you are missing half of the atmosphere, no lie. No ghosts = no soul, no echoes, no historical currents, no dimensionallity.


Sully Swag

The fact that I don’t wear baseball caps means I would be a miserable failure as a feature or cable series director. (It’s actually written into most DGA contracts that directors will not wear headgear other than a baseball cap.) When and if there’s a need for headgear (like when I’m at Sundance in 30 degree weather) I only wear cowboy hats, and black ones at that. The Sully cap is cool — not one of those stiff, felt-like caps that most pro baseball teams use, but a weave that’s light and loose.

Uh-Oh, Ava — Feinberg Is Unsure About 13th Oscar Odds!

Filed this morning by Hollywood Reporter award-season columnist Scott Feinberg following last night’s NYFF screening of Ava Duvernay‘s 13th, which seems (emphasis on that word) to have a good shot at winning the Best Feature Doc Oscar:

“It will be interesting to see how the Academy’s documentary branch responds to this film. It’s certainly well made and impactful” — okay, here comes the downside — “but DuVernay has made herself into a divisive figure within the Academy, having essentially suggested that the organization’s old white members can’t consider diverse Oscar contenders objectively — even though her own breakthrough film, Selma, received a best picture Oscar nom and was awarded a best original song Oscar.

“Moreover, the doc branch is this year considering an even more ambitious and epic film about race in America, ESPN’s O.J.: Made in America. Will there be room on the shortlist of 15 films for both of them?”

Jesus, Feinberg is suggesting that 13th might not even make the shortlist? Or is…what, suggesting that there may be only room for one 2016 shortlist doc about the African-American experience? I wrote yesterday that Duvernay would have to attend Feinberg’s Savannah Film Festival documentary panel for that event to seem complete and comprehensive, but I guess that won’t happen now.

A Day Old But Funny

I love watching respected people express impatience and exasperation. The way they do this tells you who they are deep down. It happened after the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres in Tel Aviv. President Obama kept his cool about Bill Clinton holding up the flight because he knows most of us can’t change our natures. Clinton lives to schmooze and philosophize and feel his way through as things occur — his handlers usher him along but on his own Clinton doesn’t live by a tight clock. He’s a jazz musician. You’ll notice Obama was muttering something to his aides as Bill continued to chit-chat on the tarmac — I would’ve loved to be a fly on that wall.

“Coming Soon” = Over Five Months From Now

You can take the following three statements about Olivier AssayasPersonal Shopper (IFC Films, 3.10.17) to the bank: (1) It’s one of the coolest, creepiest and most unusual ghost stories ever made, although it’s definitely not for easily seduced fans of typical moron-level horror flicks; (2) It didn’t get booed in Cannes — I was in the audience and I’m telling you the truth — the ending is what got booed; and (3) It contains Kristen Stewart‘s finest performance ever — nobody can match her antsy, anxiety-ridden behavior and vocal-fry delivery here. The whole jittery undercurrent of urban, upscale life in 2016, that “okay but what’s gonna happen next?” feeling tugs at her manner, throws shade upon her features.

Here are three more: (4) This new trailer is suggesting that Personal Shopper is a lot more “oh my God!” and emotionally on-the-nose than it actually is — very little of it actually goes “boo!”; (5) Some of the most perceptive, clear-light critics of our time — Guy Lodge, Richard Lawson, Eric Kohn, Stephanie Zacharek, Peter Bradshaw, Robbie Collin, Tim Grierson, Jake Howell — are Personal Shopper loyalists; and (6) IFC Films execs intend to repeat their Clouds of Sils Maria strategy by releasing this film, which was shot in ’15 and exploded at last May’s Cannes Film Festival, over five months hence, or two and a half months into Hillary Clinton‘s first term.

The “Coming Soon” at the end of the trailer is therefore…what, a typo? Personal Shopper had a full tank of gas after debuting last May — it reflected the under-zeitgeist and vice versa in spades; that tank will be all but empty by the time 3.10.17 rolls around. Pic is opening in France and Belgium on 12.14.16.

Architectural Love Affair

Hollywood Elsewhere will make its annual visit to the Savannah Film Festival between Friday, 10.21 and Thursday, 10.27. I can’t wait to savor the shady, 19th Century serenity that this beautiful old town owns. SFF films are often award-season favorites, and this year the hotties are Pablo Larrain‘s Jackie, Damien Chazelle‘s La La Land, Kenneth Lonergan‘s Manchester By The Sea and Denis Villeneuve‘s Arrival. Other big-draw screenings will include Paterson, Christine, 20th Century Women, American Pastoral, Bleed for This, Moonlight, Lion, Loving and I, Daniel Blake. SFF is sponsored by the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Click here to jump past the Oscar Balloon


Highest reviews & expectations (in order of confidence or expectation): 1. Damien Chazelle's La La Land; 2. Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea [locked Best Actor nomination for Casey Affleck]; 3. Martin Scorsese‘s Silence; 4. Denzel Washington's Fences (Washington, Viola Davis, Mykelti Williamson, Russell Hornsby); 5. Ang Lee's Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk; 6. Barry Jenkins' Moonlight (based on Tarell McCraney's play "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue"; 7. Pablo Larrain's Jackie (Natalie Portman, Greta Gerwig, Peter Sarsgaard). (7)

War War II Brad Pitt Smoothitude -- Robert Zemeckis' Allied w/ Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard (began shooting in March '16) (1)

HE Personal Favorite: Olivier Assayas' Personal Shopper (Kristen Stewart).

Give It A Pass, A Pat on the Back: Clint Eastwood's Sully (Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney).

Hiding Out: Steven Gaghan's Gold (Matthew McConaughey, Bryce Dallas Howard, Edgar Ramírez)

Overpraised at Sundance + In Trouble For Other Reasons: Nate Parker's The Birth of a Nation. (1)

Overpraised in Venice, Toronto: Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals;

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)

Outlier: Denis Villeneuve's Arrival (Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg -- Paramount).

Probably Solid/Decent/Interesting/Approvable, etc.: 1. Morten Tyldum and John Spaihts' Passengers; 2. John Cameron Mitchell's How To Talk To Girls at Parties, 3. Peter Berg's Patriot's Day (Mark Wahlberg, J.K. Simmons); 4. Niki Caro's The Zookeeper's Wife; 5. Warren Beatty's Rules Don't Apply; 6. Ben Wheatley's Free Fire; 7. Ben Younger's Bleed For This (Miles Teller, Katey Sagal, Amanda Clayton, Aaron Eckhart). (7)

Guilty Pleasure Trash: Tate Taylor's The Girl On The Train.

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.). (9)

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), (3)

Last-Minute December Release: John Hancock's The Founder (biopic of McDonald's kingpin Ray Kroc). (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)

Bumped Into '17: David Michod's War Machine (Netflix) w/ Pitt as Gen. Stanley McChrystal + Ben Kingsley, Emory Cohen, Topher Grace, John Magaro, Scoot McNairy, Will Poulter.

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)


The Big Three…Okay, Possibly Four

I think the Best Picture Oscar race is going to come down to three films when all is said and done — Damien Chazelle‘s La La Land, Denzel Washington‘s Fences and Kenneth Lonergan‘s Manchester By The Sea.

And possibly Ang Lee‘s Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, which no one has seen but will debut at the New York Film Festival on the evening of Friday, 10.14 — two weeks hence. Hollywood Elsewhere will be there with bells on.

It’ll be La La Land because of that knockout freeway beginning and that brilliant, transcendent ending and a very good middle portion. It’ll be Fences because it’s a venerated August Wilson classic with killer performances (certainly from Washington and Viola Davis) that will allow everyone to respectably “get their black on” (and because it’ll probably turn out to be better than Barry JenkinsMoonlight). And it’ll be Manchester By The Sea because it just reaches in and destroys you — so far it’s the saddest, best acted, most skillfully assembled film of the year, and because — bold as brass — it doesn’t deliver the typical Act Three redemption thing that you always see in sad-white-guy movies.

I really think it’s going to be one of those three, although right now it looks like La La Land has the edge because people simply like it the most. It’s almost The Artist in this sense but is way, way less gimmicky (i.e., not gimmicky at all) and because it excitingly re-vitalizes the big-screen musical in a Jacques Demy way.

For some reason the award-season blogaroonies have tumbled for La La Land in a way that seems almost final and absolute. For some reason they’re not affording Manchester the bow-down respect it absolutely deserves, and for the lamest of reasons — because it leaves them with a feeling of emotional devastation when they’d much rather feel happy. (more…)

Two Different Reachers

Chris McQuarrie‘s Jack Reacher was a lean, low-key ’90s action film — realistic chops, no superman moves, no jumping off buildings, no stupid CG bullshit. Ed Zwick‘s Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (10.21) has obviously thrown the lean-and-mean out the window. This time Reacher is a cyborg James Bond. Nobody except for Robert Patrick‘s T-1000 uses their fist to punch through a car window…nobody. Obviously a wash for people like me, but if you ask the average idiot he/she will probably say they prefer the Reacher T-1000 to the guy Cruise played in the 2012 original.

From my 12.18.12 review of Jack Reacher: “I was fairly satisfied but not that blown away by the final 25%, but the first 75% plays very tight and true and together, and Tom Cruise, as the titular character, has the confidence and presence and steady-as-she-goes vibe of a hero who doesn’t have to reach or scream or emphasize anything in order to exude that steely-stud authority that we all like.

Reacher is just a bang-around Pittsburgh dirty-cop movie with a kind of Samurai-styled outsider (Cruise) working with a sharp-eyed, straight-dope attorney (Rosamund Pike) trying to uncover who stinks and what’s wrong and who needs to be beaten or killed or whatever. (more…)

Haven’t Ordered Overstuffed Carnegie Deli Sandwich Since The ’80s

Thousands of hearts broke today over the news that the famed Carnegie Deli (854 Seventh Ave. between 54th and 55th) will close on 12.31.16. Mine included. Not that I’ve frequented the joint during my NYC visits. I honestly don’t think I’ve ordered anything there since ’82 or ’83, partly because it’s too clattery and touristy. But I love the fact that it’s been there since 1937. And I love that description by Ted Merwin, author of “Pastrami on Rye: An Overstuffed History of the Jewish Deli,” about “the Carnegie’s skyscraper sandwiches and obnoxious waiters embodying the ethos of excess that has characterized New York as a whole.” And I love that black-and-white Broadway Danny Rose footage that was shot in and around the place 33 years ago. I’ll be in Manhattan between 10.7 and 10.16 to cover the New York Film Festival, and I will definitely pay a visit. But no pastrami!


Sensing That Ava Duvernay’s The 13th May Win Best Feature Doc Oscar

I have an idea that in this, a year in which a sizable percentage of Academy members are committed to expressing anti-OscarsSoWhite sentiments, the Academy’s doc branch might want to give Ava Duvernay‘s 13th their Best Documentary Feature Oscar. I don’t know anything (I won’t see it until next Tuesday) but reviews are through the roof (Rotten Tomatoes 100%, Metacritic 94%) and I can smell it in the wind, not to mention those insect antennae vibrations that I’ve learned to trust over the years.

Duvernay’s doc, which opens the New York Film Festival tonight and will pop on Netflix on 10.7, argues that slavery didn’t actually end with the passage of the 13th Amendment, and that for 150 years since the U.S. penal system has more or less kept slavery going by putting a disproportionate number of black dudes behind bars and reaping the benefits of their prison labor.

This point was made by Michael Moore in Where To Invade Next, and has now been forcefully re-litigated by 13th, which has definitely qualified itself for a Best Feature Doc Oscar. (I checked with Netflix this morning.)

This makes the absence of Duvernay during this year’s Savannah Film Festival “Docs to Watch’ panel (10.23) seems curious.

The panel will be moderated by The Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg, who has fulfilled the same task for the past two years. The classy, award-season-friendly festival will run from 10.22 thru 10.29. Hollywood Elsewhere will be there from 10.21 through 10.26. (more…)

Never Say Never

For me, today, Gary Johnson is the Libertarian candidate for President who was just endorsed by the Chicago Tribune. Before that he was the guy who (a) didn’t know what Aleppo is, (b) wants to inhabit and colonize other planets, and (c) couldn’t name any world leaders. But before today, his name wouldn’t stick. I knew he’d been polling better than Jill Stein, but all I could muster was “uhm, you know, the Libertarian guy.” He’ll always have a dull-sounding name, but now, thanks to the Chicago Tribune, I’ll probably never forget him.

New Rules Trailer Has Been All But De-Beatty-ized

The second and latest trailer for Warren Beatty‘s Rules Don’t Apply (20th Century Fox, 11.23) is selling a Lily Collins-Alden Ehrenreich late ’50s love story with Beatty’s Howard Hughes character as a distinctive second banana. Remember the days when this thing was known as “Beatty’s Howard Hughes flick”? Well, Matthew Broderick has more screen time in this trailer than Beatty does. Either Rules really is a Lily-and-Alden love story with Beatty’s Hughes relegated to colorful, second-tier status, or a decision has been made to sell it that way, or it’s a combination of the two. Beatty has screened the film for friends, interview press and some Variety guys, but not for online know-it-alls like myself so I don’t know what the shot is.


Reflection / Reality

Peter Berg‘s Deepwater Horizon pops tomorrow. Well, technically tonight. Here’s my 9.14 Toronto Film Festival review — “A reasonably decent kablooey flick…not too difficult to sit through…an FX-driven fireball thing, mostly predictable in terms of story beats and cloying emotion…a megaplex movie for pizza-eating Americans.” Mark Wahlberg and Kate Hudson (below) portray Deepwater Horizon engineer and survivor Mike Williams and his wife Felicia, respectively; the real Mike and Felicia are pictured below at the Toronto premiere.

Hollywood denizens Mark Wahlberg, Kate Hudson.

Felicia and Mike Williams.

Nate Is Not Nat

Out of respect for the bravery and the legend of Nat Turner as well as the blood, sweat and years Nate Parker spent trying to tell his story on film, The Birth of A Nation (Fox Searchlight, 10.7) deserves to be seen and assessed on its own terms. The response to Parker’s film should not, in a fair and balanced world, be regarded as a referendum on the tragic 1999 incident at Penn State that has enveloped Parker and which also resulted, at least in part, in the 2012 suicide of the woman who accused Parker and Jean Celestin of rape.

A Variety guest editorial about Parker and the film, penned by the victim’s sister Sharon Loeffler, was posted today. Here are some portions:

“My sister was raped 60 days after her 18th birthday. She was a freshman at Penn State University. The defendants charged in the case, Nate Parker and Jean Celestin, were on the wrestling team and had the power of the Penn State Athletic Department behind them.”

HE Qualifier: The late victim, allegedly inebriated on the night of the incident, was violated against her will when Celestin, at the request of Parker, joined some one-on-one sexual activity that was already underway between the victim and Parker. In college parlance Parker and Celestin tried to “run a train on her” or otherwise engage in a menage a trois.

It was this activity that led to Parker being found innocent at the conclusion of the first trial, and to Celestin being found guilty. (He later appealed and walked.) (more…)

First 1.66 Paramount Film Now Restored at Original A.R., Blurayed in 3D

HE nemesis Bob Furmanek, the film scholar and restorationist who is responsible for persuading many Bluray distributors to remaster and release 1950s-era films within the dreaded 1.85 aspect ratio: aspect ratio, has been working on a Kino Lorber Bluray of Those Redheads From Seattle, which was the first feature composed for 1.66:1. The Redheads Bluray will be released in 3D early next year.

Although the musical was composed for 1.66:1, Paramount bailed on insisting that this film should be shown in 3D, allowing that exhibitors could project it “flat” (i.e., non-3D) if they so chose. Redheads in 3D hasn’t been seen at 1.66 in over 60 years. Or something like that.

Qualifier: Redheads wasn’t the first Paramount film to be released at 1.66, as it opened on 10.14.53 and was therefore preceded by Shane, which was shot at 1.37:1 but aspect-ratio raped at 1.66:1 in its initial April 1953 release, and The War of the Worlds, which was released in 1.66 in August ’53 despite being composed at 1.37:1. (more…)

Search and Destroy

I’ve known about Iggy Pop (i.e., James Newell Osterberg) and the Stooges for decades, and I fully respect the band’s legend as one of the greatest in terms of provocative influence (punk rock, alt. rock, heavy metal) and brash style and whatnot. But if you were to take me behind an office building and point a loaded .45 at my head and say “name your favorite Stooges song or I’ll shoot,” I swear to God I wouldn’t be able to name a single one. Okay, “China Girl” but I think of that as more of a David Bowie song. I’ve never listened to “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, “Lust for Life”, “The Passenger”, “Candy” or “Nightclubbing”. Nor do I care to at this moment. And I don’t care what the rock snobs think of me. I’ve gotten along just fine without The Stooges so far, and I suspect I’ll be okay without them for the rest of my life.

Paterson Has The Balls To Wait

Amazon and Bleecker have decided to wait another three months — 12.28 — to open Jim Jarmusch‘s Paterson. So cool your jets and bide your time. But know this: Paterson is one of those films that improve upon reflection. It doesn’t seem to be doing a hell of a lot while you’re watching it, but then it begins to expand. The next day you’re saying “yeah, still thinking about it…good film.” A week later you’re saying “wow, that was a really good film.”

From my 5.16.16 Cannes Film Festival review:

Paterson is about a lanky young bus driver (Adam Driver) and his Iranian wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) who live with a subversive prick dog named Marvin in a small dumpy house in Paterson, New Jersey and generally follow routines of almost astounding modesty — not hanging with friends, not partying, not doing Manhattan clubs on weekends…none of that.

“Well, maybe Laura would like a little fun and frolic but Driver’s guy, who of course is also named Paterson, doesn’t even own a smart phone. All he wants is to write poetry in a little composing book. During work breaks, evenings in the cellar. Not to become ‘famous’ but to one day write one-half or even one-third as well as famed Paterson poet William Carlos Williams.

“The quiet writing life and a general reverence for poetry becomes more and more of a thing as the film develops. Paterson itself is trying to be a kind of small, minimalist poem. (more…)