I’ve read two South by Southwest reviews of Jon Favreau‘s Chef (one by Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn, another by Variety‘s Joe Leydon) and the general response is that Favreau has made a likable, agreeable, indie-styled dramedy. My problem is that I’m reluctant to settle into a film about an overweight chef. We all love to nibble down on tasty dishes but we don’t want to pay the price. Nobody does. Only teens and 20somethings can get away with eating like a pig, and sometimes not even them. I’m sorry but the metaphor of Favreau’s girth (he wasn’t in one of his slim-down modes when he shot the film and he still isn’t, to go by recent photos) speaks for itself. I don’t ever want to go there, and so I don’t feel that keen about seeing Chef. (Although I’ll see it for sure.) If Favreau was slim and trim I’d feel a whole different way. Sorry but that’s what it boils down to. Well, that and the reviews.
I seem to recall Glenn Kenny and Steven Gaydos taking issue with a statement in my initial Grand Budapest Hotel review that it feels “like Ernst Lubiitsch back from the dead.” In fact they sneered, pooh-poohed and put that comparison down but good. Now along comes Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir describing Anderson’s latest as a “frothy Ernst Lubitsch-styled comedy.” This doesn’t mean that Kenny and Gaydos are dead wrong, but their harumphy dismissals of the Lubitsch connection have now been called into greater question. I’m not saying Kenny and Gaydos are running for tall grass, but they have to be thinking about that. Especially with Anderson having said the other night at the Aero was Lubitsch was an influence.
The likeliest Best Picture contenders of 2014 will, as usual, be made by respected people with strong resumes and, as usual, contain strong, socially resonant material that will probably push mainstream buttons. Particularly among over-25 women. Two of the likeliest will be directed by women, and four will primarily be about women. Plus a couple of dramedies, a crime drama, an epic Biblical drama, two World War II dramas, a more-or-less modern war drama and so on. In a word, varied. Nobody knows anything and I’m obviously just guessing at this stage, but here are the films I’m presuming will be among the final picks:
1. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s comedic Birdman (seen in a rough version by a friend last July and described as AGI’s “best, most humanistic work!”); 2. J.C. Chandor‘s A Very Violent Year (’80s-set, Sidney Lumet-ish Manhattan crime drama); 3. Ridley Scott‘s Exodus (Ridley Scott/Kingdom of Heaven treatment given to Biblical tale of Moses, Egyptians and Hebrew slaves); 4. Angelina Jolie‘s Unbroken (World War II survival saga, All Is Lost/Life of Pi + Japanese prison camp); 5. Jean Marc Vallee‘s Wild (makeup-free Reese Witherspoon discovering herself and the American character on a long-distance hike); 6. Saul Dibbs‘ Suite Francaise (married rural-residing French woman has affair with German solder during World War II); 7. Michel Hazanavicius‘ The Search (remake of Fred Zinneman‘s same-titled 1948 film, relationship between a woman and a young boy in war-torn Chechnya, Berenice Bejo and Annette Bening costarring); 8. Jason Reitman‘s Men, Women & Chidren (ensemble social-sexual dramedy with Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Judy Greer, et. al.), and 9. Sarah Gavron‘s Suffragette (British-set, turn-of-the-century drama about female voting-rights struggle, script by The Queen‘s Abi Morgan, costarring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep). (more…)
In a “Premature 2015 Best Picture Oscar Predictions” piece, Indiewire‘s Oliver Lyttleton has listed Carey Fukunaga‘s Beasts of No Nation as a highly likely Best Picture contender if it had any chance of being released this year. Except this seems unlikely as the film, an adaptation of Uzodinma Iweala‘s violent Africa-set novel, will only begin filming later this month. Lyttleton is all woo-woo because Fukunaga directed all eight episodes of HBO’s True Detective and he’s figuring the director of the masterful Sin Nombre is on a roll.
Lyttleton acknowledges that Beasts contains “material that threatens to be difficult to watch, but prognosticators worrying about that sort of thing have been proven wrong more than once of late (nominations for Amour and 12 Years A Slave winning), and a supporting role for Idris Elba should help bring in some eyes, plus this year’s race (so far) is rather lacking in ‘important fare.’”
With all the sudden whackings and the rolling of heads over the past three or four years at the Film Society of Lincoln Center (Mara Manus hired and fired, Kent Jones departs and returns, Scott Foundas ascends and leaves, Rose Kuo takes over only to get whacked like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas), the 65th Street organization has resembled a cross between the House of Borgia and House of Cards. So reactions to Lesli Klainberg‘s appointment as Executive Director and Eugene Hernandez as Deputy Director have been something along the lines of “okay, let’s see how long they last before the next palace coup or mafia-styled garroting.” Seriously, best wishes to them both and particularly Eugene. (Note: Klainberg’s decision to re-create her first name, which was almost certainly “Leslie” when she was a kid, means…I don’t know what it means but “Lesli” feels a bit affected on some level.)
Everybody knows Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel (opening today, Fox Searchlight) is presented in three aspect ratios — 1.37, 1.85 and 2.39. This 3.6 Slate piece by David Haglund and Aisha Harris explains the whys and the particulars. The question is whether or not commercial “projectionists” (I use that term loosely as most theatres have senior ushers working the booths) will project it correctly or not. When Budapest goes to 1.37, mind, the image goes higher and deeper — it doesn’t just become a narrow windowbox image. The high-end projectionist on the Fox lot screwed this transition up (albeit briefly) when I first saw it with the trade reviewers, so what are the odds that average projectionists might do the same? I’m planning to visit two or three of the best LA theatres playing The Grand Budapest Hotel and see if they’re managing it properly. If anyone notices any a.r. problems anywhere, please inform.
Stanley Kubrick used to check projection standards in the ’60s and ’70s, as I recall. Particularly with A Clockwork Orange (1.66, not 1.85) and Barry Lyndon (which he also wanted shown at 1.66 and not 1.85). I can hear the grinding of teeth from the 1.85 fascists, particularly those who reside in the New York area, but they’re just going to have to accept the way things are now.
“If the question is, am I actively right now organizing and raising money and so forth for a campaign for president, I am not doing that. On the other hand, am I talking to people around the country? Yes, I am. Will I be doing some traveling around the country? Yes, I will be. But I think it’s premature to be talking about (the specifics of) a campaign when we still have a 2014 congressional race in front of us.” — U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (Vermont) speaking to Truthout’s John Nichols in an interview published today (3.7).
Presumed High-Pedigree: Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Inherent Vice, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Birdman, Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar, J.C. Chandor's A Very Violent Year, Ridley Scott‘s Exodus, Bennett Miller‘s Foxcatcher, 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, Matt Reeves‘ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Jeff Nichols‘ Midnight Special, Tim Burton‘s Big Eyes, Saul Dibbs' Suite Francaise, Michel Hazanavicius' The Search; Jason Reitman's Men, Women & Chidren; Phillip Noyce's The Giver, Sarah Gavron's Suffragette (Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep); Mike Leigh‘s Mr. Turner. (19).
Special Wackadoodle: Nobody knows if Terrence Malick's Knight of Cups or the "intersecting love triangles" Austin-based film (formerly known as Lawless) will be unveiled this year, or perhaps one this year and the other in 2015. The flaky, hermit-like Malick usually requires a minimum of two years to edit his films, but he might need three.
Already Positively Reviewed: Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel (Berlin Film Festival review here), Lynn Shelton's Laggies, Jason Bateman's Bad Words, Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood, Craig Johnson‘s The Skeleton Twins, Damien Chazelle's Whiplash. (6)
Respected Festival Leftovers: John Curran's Tracks (Mia Wasikowska-Adam Driver Australian trek film); Steve James‘ Life Itself.
Respectable Second Tier: Clint Eastwood‘s Jersey Boys, Maya Forbes' Infinitely Polar Bear, Rupert Goold's True Story (Jonah Hill, James Franco), Noah Baumbach's Untitled Public School Project; Steven Knight's Locke, Dan Gilroy's Nightcrawler, Thomas Vinterberg‘s Far From The Madding Crowd, David Gordon Green's Manglehorn, Tommy Lee Jones' The Homesman, 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); David Cronenberg‘s Maps to the Stars, 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, Ama Asante's Belle, Craig Gillespie‘s Million Dollar Arm, Richard Shephard‘s Dom Hemingway, Nick Cassavetes‘ The Other Woman; Todd Haynes‘ Carol. (24)
Possible Cannes 2014 Highlights: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Birdman [see above]. Tommy Lee Jones' The Homesman [see above], Fatih Akin's The Cut, Mathieu Amalric's The Blue Room, Olivier Assayas' Clouds of Sils Maria, Bertrand Bonello's Saint Laurent, Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Hibernation, Dardennes brothers' Two Days, One Night, Laurent Cantet's Retour a Ithaque, Michel Hazanavicius' The Search [also among Respectable Second Tier]. (10)
Third Tier (i.e., Possibly Respectable Megaplex Movies): Darren Aronofsky‘s Noah, Doug Liman's Edge of Tomorrow, Wally Pfister's Transcendence, Gareth Edwards' Godzilla, Evan Golderberg and Seth Rogen's The Interview, David Ayers' Fury, Antoine Fuqua's The Equalizer, Joe Carnahan‘s Stretch, Ivan Reitman‘s Draft Day (beware-of-Reitman factor), Luc Besson‘s Lucy (probable crap), David Michod's The Rover, Shawn Levy‘s This Is Where I Leave You, Phil Lord and Chris Miller‘s 22 Jump Street, Seth McFarlane‘s A Million Ways to Die in the West, Andy and Lana Wachowski‘s Jupiter Ascending, Spike Lee's Sweet Blood of Jesus, Ryan Gosling‘s How To Catch A Monster (aesthetic judgment in question after starring in The Place Beyond The Pines, The Gangster Squad, Only God Forgives). (16)
Two weeks ago I mentioned the necessity of being able to see a high-def version of Ken Russell‘s Women in Love (’69), which is only viewable now as a 2003 MGM Home Video DVD. Ditto Russell’s The Music Lovers (’70), his tortured-Tchaikovsky biopic with Richard Chamberlain as the closeted Russain composer. Viewable only as a DVD — no Bluray and not even a Vudu high-def version. The Music Lovers was the third of Russell’s five biographical films about classical composers. Elgar (’62) and Delius: Song of Summer (’68) came before it, and then Mahler (’74) and Lisztomania (’75).
Chiemi Karasawa‘s Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (Sundance Selects, 3.7) is one of the frankest and boldest docs I’ve ever seen (or would want to see) about what a bitch 87 years old can be. Karasawa’s film is admirably blunt and candid, but that Bette Davis line about aging being “not for sissies” has never seemed more dead-on. This is no glossy showbiz portrait. Well, it is but it has more on its mind than just praise, and some of what we’re shown is unpleasant. I’m just being as honest as Karasawa’s film, okay? It’s not a walk in the park, this thing. But it’s quite tough and ballsy. And hats off to the subject for allowing the raw truth to come through.
Elaine Stritch, God love and praise her, is a Broadway legend and survivor extraordinaire. Most of the under-45s know her as Alec Baldwin‘s mom on 30 Rock, but you have to watch this YouTube video of Stritch’s one-woman show, Elaine Stritch: At Liberty, which she did in her late 70s and which won her a Tony.
How much of that 77 or 78 year-old can be found in the 87 year-old version? Honestly? Somewhere between half and two-thirds. Stritch is still that great, snappy firecracker and pistolero with the brassy attitude and the world-class gams. But Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me is really about what being 87 (Stritch is now 89) was doing to her and how she was pushing back all the same, pushing and performing and rehearsing and travelling around and forgetting lyrics and walking the uptown Manhattan streets. But still losing the battle. (more…)
A lady and I were in a live-in relationship during the summer of ’85. We shared a nice single-level bungalow in Beachwood Canyon that had a cedar-wood sundeck with a great view. Things were kind of mezzo-mezzo between us. Not terrific but not too bad. So-so. One Sunday afternoon we went to the beach in Santa Monica, and we laid our blanket down fairly close to the surf but not too close. We were both reading for the most part, and then she began to take a nap. Before too long the tide began to wash in and the surf got closer and closer. Every so often a big wave would splash down and the water and the foam would come within three or four feet. And then two or three feet. I knew we’d be soaked sooner or later. But I didn’t wake her up. On some mildly devilish level I had decided it might be amusing if she were to be woken up by the water splashing onto the blanket. This was obviously a sign that I wasn’t feeling a lot of love. In order to not be blamed I got up and took a short walk, all the while keeping an eye on the blanket and my girlfriend. Five or ten minutes later a wave finally got her. I was standing maybe 50 feet away. She flinched and yelped and was furious. “What the fuck is wrong with you?,” she yelled. “Whaddaya mad at me for?,” I said. “I was just taking a walk.” But on some level she knew. I never copped to it but she knew or at least suspected. I’ve never admitted this until now. I’m sorry. Well, kind of.
Director Anton Corbijn (Control, The American, A Most Wanted Man) is currently shooting Life, a mid 1950s drama about a friendship between real-life Life photographer Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson) and legendary actor James Dean (Dane DeHaan). Principal photography begin on 2.18.14 in Toronto and will continue until 3.27.14. The film obviously could open later this year but it’ll probably go for a 2015 release. What do I know?
Stock was around 27 when he photographed Dean (most famously capturing that Times Square shot of an overcoat-wearing Dean hunched over in the rain). Stock died at age 81 in January 2010. Dean died on 9.30.55 in a car crash about 35 or 40 miles east of Paso Robles.
Dean and Stock in early 1955, presumably in some New York bar.
Yesterday I spoke with Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson about her new book, “The $11 Billion Year,” a story of the ups and downs and turnarounds of 2012. Thompson’s idea was to make a movie-release version of William Goldman‘s The Season (’04), a chronicle of Broadway’s trials and tribulations in 1967 and ’68. When I think of 2012 I think of the year in which Argo beat Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook in the Best Picture race, but there was more to it than that, of course. Digital encroachment. Oscar takedown campaigns. Shifting concepts of where the money is coming from, and how much and at what stage of the game. Zombie studio executives churning out dumber and dumber summer tentpoles. Greater and greater numbers of belligerent apes talking to the screen in megaplexes.
I wrote about John Ridley‘s All Is By My Side, the story of Jimi Hendrix‘s career transition from 1966 to ’67 (i.e., New York-based cafe performer to London-based psychedelic phenomenon) after catching 40% of it during last September’s Toronto Film Festival. It’ll re-appear on Wednesday, March 12th at South by Southwest with a new title: JIMI: All Is By My Side. There’s also a scene featuring star Andre Benjamin that was posted online today.
Here are my initial remarks, posted on 9.14.13:
“Two or three minutes after settling into All Is By My Side I was feeling stirred by Benjamin’s dead-on performance. It was obvious he’d captured Hendrix’s manner, vibe, voice…that gentleness, that ambivalent but spiritually directed mood-trip thing. Plus I was feeling a certain comfort with Ridley’s script and direction. I wasn’t knocked flat but I was saying to myself, ‘This kind of works…yeah.’
It would be great if this new Sin City movie would actually look and talk and behave like a real film noir from the early ’50s. If it would imitate the attitude and stylings of Fritz Lang‘s The Big Heat, let’s say. That’s impossible, of course, because this latest collaboration between shameless-genre-wallower Robert Rodriguez and reactionary anti-Occupy Wall Street screenwriter Frank Miller has to pander to exaggerated comic-book notions of what film noir might have been if the original purveyors were low-rent genre wallowers instead of actual filmmakers. Josh Brolin, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Jaime King, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dennis Haysbert, Jamie Chung, Bruce Willis, Eva Green, Julia Garner, Ray Liotta, Juno Temple, Jeremy Piven and Stacey Keach costar. Movies like this test my love for black-and-white images.
For any comedian to be hot, much less “so damn hot,” he/she has to be funny. That’s a really important trait, I think. You have to make people laugh. Well, Kevin Hart has never made me laugh…ever. He probably never will. To me he’s somewhere between the black Gallagher and the new Martin Short. Andrew Stewart’s 3.6 Variety piece proclaims that Hart has “an ability to appeal to a demographically wide audience that bridges the racial divide.” Okay, except Summit marketers clearly didn’t have that idea in mind when they assembled last summer’s redband trailer for Let Me Explain. As I wrote on 6.14.13, “There are six or seven cutaways to urban types laughing at Hart’s material…we get it, we get it.”
Last night TheWrap‘s Lucas Shaw reported that Noah director Darren Aronofsky was “not happy” about not being consulted about Paramount’s decision to insert a “religious disclaimer” in the Noah marketing materials. The disclaimer says that “artistic license has been taken” in the making of the film. Shaw reports that Aronofsky “knew nothing about [this] and was ‘not happy’ to learn about it in the press,” according to a single source.
Shaw reported that Paramount and Aronofsky have declined requests to comment.
Wells to everyone involved with Noah and the selling of it: What’s to be unhappy about, Darren-my-man? Paramount marketers aren’t disrespecting or disassociating themselves from you. They’re simply looking to maximize those Christian dollars…big deal. Has Hollywood ever made a Bible-based film that didn’t take artistic license? Cecil B. DeMille‘s The Ten Commandments pissed off 1950s Biblical scholars by depicting a sexual love affair between Charlton Heston‘s Moses and Anne Baxter‘s Nefritiri, and Paramount regretted this all the way to the bank. (more…)
The trailer assures that Will Gluck, Jay-Z and Will Smith‘s Annie (Sony, 12.19) is a spunky musical-comedy by way of Manhattan wealth porn. Aimed at the squares, yes, but I like the vibe. (Or I’m in the mood for it after the sturm und drang of the just-finished Oscar season.) If Annie turns out to be half-decent you know Quvenzhane Wallis is going to be Best Actress-nominated…bank on it, Michael Musto! Jamie Foxx as Benjamin Stacks, i.e., a Daddy Warbucks for our time. Cameron Diaz as “the cruel owner of the orphanage where Annie resides”…a Dickensian orphanage in 2014 Harlem run by a neurotic white lady? Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale costarring. The screenplay is by Gluck, Aline Brosh McKenna and Emma Thompson. (Yes, the actress.)
L.A. Times reporter John Horn wrote yesterday that he’s recently spoken with “two Oscar voters [who have] privately admitted that they didn’t see 12 Years a Slave, thinking it would be upsetting…but they said they voted for it anyway because, given the film’s social relevance, they felt obligated to do so.” The morning after the Oscars I wrote the following: “[Academy voters] felt in the end that they had to go with a film that mattered, that said something, that was strong of heart. But I’ll bet a lot of people just voted for it without having seen it. They trusted, based on the strong Slave passions they’d heard or read about, that they were doing the right thing.” How representative of the Academy voters are Horn’s two sources? Two blades of grass usually suggests there’s at least a patch nearby.
Aaahh, to be a wandering American journalist in Eastern Europe in the early ’30s, running short on cash and optimism, and then to suddenly luck into a job at an English-language daily called the Trans-Alpine Yodel. And to be charged each day with reporting the occasionally threatening news of the day, to work in a large newsroom filled with the clatter of Olivetti and Underwood typewriters, to crack wise with the constantly-smoking and occasionally booze-sipping staffers and printing-press guys…what a life, never to be lived, only dreamt of.
“Writer-director Steven Knight’s Locke (A24, 4.25) is basically just Tom Hardy driving a car while making a bunch of phone calls, and yet this ingeniously executed study in cinematic minimalism has depth, beauty and poise. A finely tuned showcase for Hardy’s exceptional acting skills, Bluetooth-enabled dashboard displays and the dynamic range of the Red Epic camera, the pic tracks a dark night of the soul for a construction-site manager en route from Birmingham to London.” — from Leslie Felperin‘s 9.2.13 Venice Film Festival review in Variety.
Last weekend the Spirit Awards gang should have handed a special indie passion trophy last weekend to Jeff Lipsky‘s Adopt Films. The New York-based outfit is distributing two admired but markedly similar West Bank thrillers — Yuval Adler‘s Bethlehem (opening 3.7) and Hany Abu-Assad‘s Oscar-nominated Omar. Lucid, taut and suspenseful, they both regard the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a filter of double-agenting, family ties, anxiety and betrayal. And they both end in a sudden burst of violence. You have to see them both. They don’t compete with each other as much as form a greater sum.
Remaking West Side Story for the screen is a bad enough idea on its own. The original Oscar-winning 1961 original is easily accessible, and with more and more of the viewing today happening on big-screen TVs who needs to see a new musical version in a megaplex when the old one will more or less suffice? And is the world clamoring for a Stephen Sondheim-Leonard Bernstein musical version of Baz Luhrman‘s Romeo + Juliet (’96)? True, the ’61 version seems stiff and lacquered and overly theatrical by today’s standards. The challenge, I suppose, would be to make a version that feels a bit looser and more “street” verite, and set it against a real-life culture where gang warfare, turf battles and racial animosity are regular facts of life. But of all the directors in all the world who could possibly pull this off without causing major embarassment or nausea, Steven Spielberg would have to be at the bottom of the list. Helming a new West Side Story would arouse every treacly, gooey, sentimental impulse in his system. The result would be a disaster. And yet Deadline‘s Michael Fleming is reporting that a Spielberg West Side Story is an actual possibility if DreamWorks’ Stacey Snider winds up taking the reins at 20th Century Fox.
I’ve seen Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel (Fox Searchlight, 3.7) twice now. (Here’s the rave review I filed from Berlin.) I’d love to see it a third time at tonight’s special members-only screening at Santa Monica’s Aero but I’m told there are no seats. I should have attended Monday’s screening of Rushmore, and in the bargain said hello to Matt Zoller Seitz, who’s been making the rounds to promote “The Wes Anderson Collection,” a four-and-a-half-pound, 336-page tribute & evaluation book. I’m hoping to lay my hands on a copy tomorrow or the next day.
Scott Johnson has posted a 3.4 Hollywood Reporter piece about the decisions and circumstances that led to the violent death of Midnight Rider camera assistant Sarah Jones on 2.20. It places the blame squarely on the apparent recklessness of director Randall Miller. No permission from the railroad, no medic, no production coordinator, no safety instructions, no nothing. Miller decided to cut corners and roll the dice so he could get his dream-sequence shot with a bed on the train tracks, and then suddenly the death train was approaching at 60 mph. And now Miller is the new John Landis.
Johnson doesn’t discuss the two most obvious precautions which were also apparently ignored (which I brought up in my 2.20 piece about the tragedy, called “Railroad Chicken“) — i.e., failing to obtain a reliable estimate of when trains would be expected to pass, and failing to place two production assistants with cellphones or long-range walkie-talkies a couple of miles in either direction to give early warning about rogue trains.
My first reaction when I first heard about Jones’ death was “why didn’t she just drop everything and jump off the bridge into the Altamaha River?” That’s what I would have done, no question. To hell with the equipment. I would simply gone over the railing, Butch & Sundance-style. (more…)
A pair of films about compulsive gamblers are currently shooting — Missisippi Grind and The Gambler. Both are remakes of a pair of renowned gambling films released in 1974, and both are looking at early 2015 release dates. Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden‘s Grind is a loose re-imagining of Robert Altman‘s California Split, and it costars Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn, possibly in the roles played by George Segal and Elliot Gould in the Altman film. Rupert Wyatt‘s The Gambler, a remake of Karel Reisz and James Toback‘s The Gambler, stars Mark Wahlberg as James Caan, Brie Larson as Lauren Hutton, John Goodman as Paul Sorvino and Jessica Lange as Wahlberg’s mom. Toback’s largely autobiographical Gambler script for the ’74 version has been rewritten by William Monahan (The Departed). It partly adheres to the original and partly not. Toback is an executive producer of the remake but has no creative input. But he has a certain level of input in Mississippi Grind — he recently performed a cameo in which he belted Mendelsohn. Grind also stars Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton and Alfre Woodard.
“So let’s say — just as a hypothetical for instance — you are an 81-year-old star whose last movie was in 1991 and who hasn’t been to the Oscars in many a long year. Not that you were ever nominated for one in the first place; you were, after all, a sex symbol for most of your career. As the evening approaches, the anxiety sets in. Harsh lights, you think. High-definition cameras. And a public that remembers you chiefly as the ice goddess whose beauty once drove James Stewart to the brink of madness.
I don’t blame Kim Novak — I blame the plastic surgeon. He (no woman would do this to another woman) should be brought up on charges. I honestly felt that her face looked a little bit like John Merrick’s. I’m sorry but I felt humiliated for her.
“And even back then, when you were 25 years old, you worried constantly that no matter how you looked, it wasn’t good enough. (more…)
Paddy Chayefsky‘s The Americanization of Emily (’64) is about as intelligent and savvy as an adult political satire can get. (I’ve always loved the phrase “positively clanking with moral fervor.”) It’s nowhere near the class of The Hospital or Network or even Altered States. Too much speechifying. And there’s no way an anti-war Naval officer like James Garner‘s Charlie Madison would exist in the middle of World War II, even as a London-based “dog robber.” His philosophy is pure mid ’60s. But I love ’60s black-and-white films, and so I’d buy the forthcoming Warner Archive Bluray in a second. But I’ve already bought Vudu’s HDX version, and I can’t imagine it looking any better.
Arie Posin‘s The Face of Love (IFC Films, 3.7) is a mostly mediocre love story. The performances aren’t half bad and at times touch bottom or are good for a chuckle, but the ghastly, on-the-nose script (by Posin and Matthew McDuffe) sucks the oxygen out of the room. The film is basically about how a well-off 50ish widow named Nikki (Annette Bening) poisons a promising relationship with Tom (Ed Harris), a nice, middle-aged artist, by lying her ass off. She’s attracted to Tom because he’s an absolute dead ringer for her deceased husband, Garrett (also played by Harris), who drowned five years ago. But instead of copping to that simple fact, she lies and lies and lies and lies all through the film. The only reason Nikki/Bening gradually opens up is because she’s forced to. Needless to add she’s a total drag to hang with.