HE to Hot-Shot Award-Season Player/Contributor/Handicapper: “As you know the Academy’s decision to add two months to 2020, with the awards-qualifying year ending on 2.28.21, is about (a) alleviating the logjam of year-end releases (including Oscar hopefuls) due to COVID and (b) allowing those Oscar-contending films that had planned to open by 12.31.20 an extra two months to complete post-production and be released by or before said Oscar deadline [2.28].
“As things stand there will be a seven-week period of campaigning and whatnot (Academy nomination voting, Golden Globes, PGA/DGA/WGA awards, Santa Barbara Film Festival, final Oscar balloting) between March 1, 2020 andSunday, 4.25 (Oscar night). But are you telling me that all the films that will open during the traditional fall-holiday Oscar season (and I don’t know how many films this will be)…are you telling me that that distributors won’t engage in Phase One-style promotions and celebrations during this late October to mid December period?
“For 90 years this has been the time for Oscar hullabaloo (10.15 to 12.20), and you can’t just suddenly shut that down and say ‘Oh, no, we’ll be waiting to talk about the Oscar hopefuls in February, March and April.’ You can’t throw in the towel like David Poland and say ‘no 2020 Oscar season action until the late winter and early spring of ’21.’ End-of-the-year Oscar wallah-wallah is in our blood, our genes, our instincts, our history, our traditions, our souls. You can’t just turn that 90-year-old spigot off like that. You can’t throw a nearly century-old tradition out the window.
“It’s therefore my belief or theory that for the first time in award-season history (and hopefully the last time) we’ll have two (2) Phase Ones on the calendar — traditional Phase One A (mid October to late December) and an atypical, one-time-only Phase One B from late January to 2.28.21. And then, after the nominations are announced, comes Phase Two.
“Please tell me, privately, in what way my thinking might be wrong.”
Hot-Shot Award-Season Player/Contributor/Handicapper to HE: “Things” –i.e., the award season that we all know and love except for crabby-heads like Bob Strauss — “will resume in October-November when we start to have a better understanding of how [the pandemic’s grip on our lives is ebbing or levelling off or whatever]. And once the presidential election has been decided.”
HE to Hot-Shot Award-Season Player/Contributor/Handicapper: “Hah!”
Last Saturday Dylan and I listened to Joe Rogan’s discussion with public-health scientist and infectious-disease expert Michael Osterholm. It was taped as little more than a week ago. The bottom line, Osterholm said, is (a) We ain’t seen nothin’ yet, (b) This could be ten times worse than seasonal flu and just shy of the death rates of the 1918 Spanish flu, (c) It’s gonna stay around for months, (d) the most vulnerable are older people (75-plus) + those with obesity, high blood pressure, respiratory issues, drinking problems…those who smoke.
Translation: If you’re healthy, washing your hands often, in relatively decent shape (i.e., not obese) and getting good sleep, you’re less likely to succumb than sea lions who smoke, drink and have respiratory issues. As 70 million adults in U.S. are obese (35 million men and 35 million women) and 99 million are overweight (45 million women and 54 million men), roughly 40% of Americans are especially vulnerable.
Those clinging to notions that COVID-19 didn’t come from a bat virus in Wuhan “wet” markets are advised to scroll forward to 1:02 (one hour, two minutes).
This has happened to me exactly twice in my life, but I live in fear of it happening again. I work very, very hard on the column. Always scanning, looking for triggers, drilling down, rewriting…always on the hunt for the mistake, the sentence that needs to rewritten or eliminated, whatever needs attention. Sometimes I overdo it. Sometimes I drink too much coffee or lemonade-flavored Monster or fail to get enough sleep, and as a result I’ve twice fogged out behind the wheel, as if I’m there but not there. I’ll spot a momentary danger of some kind (reckless driving, guy ahead of me suddenly braking, red light) but for some fatigue-related reason I won’t respond fast enough, because I’ve fallen into a kind of dream. And all of a sudden…shit!…almost a fender-bender. 99.8% of the time I’m the sharpest driver in the world (especially on the rumbling scooter hog), but when sneaky fatigue creeps in…well, I’ve said it.
I for one have never seen an Ultra Panavision 70 film projected correctly (i.e., 2.76:1) inside a theatre in my entire life. I saw a restored version of Ben-Hur (which was shot in Camera 65, the exact same process) at the 2011 New York Film Festival, but they showed it within a 2.55:1 aspect ratio. I’m not persuaded that Ultra Panavision 70/Camera 65 flicks that played in the ’50s and ’60s (Raintree County, Ben-Hur, How the West Was Won, Mutiny on the Bounty, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, The Fall of the Roman Empire, etc.) were shown in 2.76:1. I suspect that they were mostly projected at 2.55:1 except at the Cinerama Dome, which of course was built to project extra-wide Cinerama films. 2.76:1 is really, really wide. I’m familiar with the full-width Ben-Hur and Mutiny on the Bounty only from looking at the DVD/Blurays. So when I see an Ultra-Panavision 70 version of The Hateful Eight early next week, it’ll be my first encounter with this process on a big screen.
Bad buzz has been dogging Stephen Frears‘ The Program (formerly Icon) for a while now. Turned down by Cannes but screening here in Toronto early next week. As far as I know there’s still no U.S. distributor. Charisma-challenged Ben Foster as Lance Armstrong and Chris O’Dowd as David Walsh, the Irish sports journalist who busted him. Screenplay by John Hodge (Trainspotting) and based upon Walsh’s investigative book. Costarring Dustin Hoffman, Lee Pace, Bryan Greenberg, Edward Hogg, Laura Donnelly and Guillaume Canet “as notorious Italian physician Michele Ferrari, who was the mastermind behind Armstrong’s doping operation.”
Jeffrey Wells to Grantland‘s Wesley Morris: “As a fellow disser of Dope, what are your reactions to its underwhelming box-office performance this weekend? MCN’s Len Klady is eyeballing $6.5 million this weekend and a final theatrical gross of $18 to $20 million. I know that people I spoke to at Sundance thought that Dope would be the next Pulp Fiction or at least a Pulp Fiction in Inglewood, and that it would perform very, very strongly on both sides of the cultural aisle. But maybe not? Maybe it’s too “white” in a certain sense?
Dope “has been the most hotly auctioned film of the [Sundance] festival,” you wrote. “I don’t know whether Open Road and Sony Pictures, who’ve acquired Dope, went for it because it feels, to them, authentically black or because the blackness is familiar to the world’s marketplaces.” Or because Famuyiwa is supplying the kind of “black shit [that] white people like.”
A final theatrical tally of $20 million is better than nothing — it’s not “bad” — but it’s not that great for a movie that was hailed by so many fluttery-voiced Sundance critics as something akin to the Second Coming. Then again maybe it’ll become a sizable hit when it starts streaming. What do I know? I’ll tell you what I know: Dope is nowhere near as good as the Sundance critics were claiming. I was one of the very few (along with Morris) to call bullshit on this particular strain of Park City hype.
I’ve always wanted to go inside Abbey Road Studios (3 Abbey Road, London NW8), but this Google-created virtual tour is (or was) inaccessible on my iPhone 6 Plus. So I took the tour on the Macbook Pro. It doesn’t show you the administrative offices or the walking path to Studio #1 or Studio #2. It just plops you down in Studio #1 with the narrator offering a brief history and…it all stops. Oh, I see…I have to activate the menu box and click on various blue buttons. But how do I get to the Beatles recording studio (i.e., #2)? Oh, I see…I have to resuscitate the main options and then click on 2…fine. (If Dennis Quaid was taking this tour with me, around this point he would be muttering “fucking piss shit cocksucker.”) Oh, here’s the famous old piano that was heard on “Lady Madonna” and “Martha My Dear” and sounded that legendary chord-strike on “A Day In The Life.” If I had put this together, I would have offered an optional version for the easily irritated — an old-fashioned, non-horseshitty, non-interactive version that just takes you around with a gliding Steadicam and shows you stuff…period, over and out.
Almost everybody loses it from time to time, and so Dennis Quaid gets a pass from me. At least he didn’t sound as nutso as Christian Bale did a few years ago. Quaid also gets points for creating a new cartoon character — “Dopey the dick.” If you’re dealing with someone who’s lost it, there are only two ways to respond. One, offer submission and obeisance in the usual physical and verbal ways (solemnly nod your head, say “you’re right, man…I hear you” and so on). And two, never say their name over and over. The guy on the video says “Dennis, Dennis”….wrong! Saying the name of a screamer implies that his anger is excessive and that his objections aren’t that important. Always address the objections. Never admonish or urge any kind of restraint. Simple agree with him and it’ll all go away in less than a minute, and the likelihood of the ranter stomping out of the room and saying “blow me!” will be next to nil. And five minutes later he’ll most likely be apologizing.
On 1.26.15 I wrote that Rick Famuyiwa‘s Dope (Open Road, 6.30) will “almost certainly be a hit — a just reward for being a snappy (i.e., jizz-whizzy), cartoonish, wild-ass Inglewood ‘hood action farce about friendship, guns, ’90s sounds, romance, sellin’ somebody else’s cocaine, gangstas, hot girls,” etc. And yet for all its keep-it-comin’ energy Dope is “a fleet, Tarantino-like hodgepodge of fantasy bullshit in the vein of a New Line Cinema release from the ’90s (i.e., House Party), and adapted to the general sensibility of 2015. It’s fun as far as it goes but definitely not that great. Everything that happens fits a carefully calculated Hollywood street sensibility and is dead bang on the nose; nothing is soft or subtle or indirect.” Reactions to the just-popped teaser?
All hail Grantland‘s Wesley Morris for looking askance at the bizarre euphoria that has greeted Rick Famuyiwa‘s Dope, and for standing on my side of the debate. “You can see Famuyiwa going for a certain class of skuzzy Los Angeles odyssey, like the ones of Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson,” Morris observes. “[But] this is more like Doug Liman‘s Go, which was like Kwik-E-Mart Tarantino. But Dope isn’t made with even the sustained wit of Go. It has its moments, all of which involve the attempt to humorously unpack racial baggage. There just aren’t nearly enough.
And yet Dope “has been the most hotly auctioned film of the festival,” Morris notes. “I don’t know whether Open Road and Sony Pictures, who’ve acquired Dope, went for it because it feels, to them, authentically black or because the blackness is familiar to the world’s marketplaces.” Or because Famuyiqwa is supplying the kind of “black shit [that] white people like.”
Sundance critics appear to be as delighted with Rick Famuyiwa‘s Dope as the Open Road and Sony execs who’ve paid $7 million for the rights plus a $15 million p & a commitment. It’ll almost certainly be a hit — a just reward for being a snappy (i.e., jizz-whizzy), cartoonish, wild-ass Inglewood ‘hood action farce about friendship, guns, ’90s sounds, romance, sellin’ somebody else’s cocaine, gangstas, bullets flyin’, gettin’ into college (hey, maybe Harvard) and foxy, model-esque girls flashin’ that come-fuck-me look at hapless geeks with “who me?” gee-whiz expressions (in this instance Shameik Moore), and one of those hotties, drugged way the fuck up, stumbling across a busy street and then pissing outdoors in the shrubbery of a faux-Starbucks and the incident getting covered big-time by local TV news. Of course!
Dope pallies (l. to r.) Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Shameik Moore.
In other words, for all its keep-it-comin’ energy Dope is smartly assembled exploitation crap. Okay, not fair — it’s too superficially engaging to be called “crap” but it’s definitely insubstantial — a fleet, Tarantino-like hodgepodge of fantasy bullshit in the vein of a New Line Cinema release from the ’90s (i.e., House Party), and adapted to the general sensibility of 2015. In other words it’s fun as far as it goes but definitely not that great. Everything that happens fits a carefully calculated Hollywood street sensibility and is right the fuck on the nose; nothing is soft or subtle or indirect. Plus it’s too long by 15 or 20 minutes. At the 90-minute mark I was saying to myself, “Wait, wait…this thing should be wrapping up by now but it isn’t…it feels like it’s still building and developing points rather than starting to pay off.”