Showtime’s page for The Beach Boys: Making ‘Pet Sounds’ (4.7, on demand 4.8) says that the doc is “celebrating the 50th anniversary” of Brian Wilson’s landmark album. But of course it isn’t. Pet Sounds was recorded between 7.12.65 and 4.13.66, and was released on 5.16.66, so the doc might as well celebrate the 51st anniversary. I’m presuming that it happened because of Bill Pohlad‘s impressive recreations of the making of this album in Love & Mercy. It would be more interesting, I feel, to see a doc about the making of Smile — the saga of how it was recorded and then abandoned and then reborn in the 21st Century.
Showtime’s page for The Beach Boys: Making ‘Pet Sounds’ (4.7, on demand 4.8) says that the doc is “celebrating the 50th anniversary” of Brian Wilson’s landmark album. But of course it isn’t. Pet Sounds was recorded between 7.12.65 and 4.13.66, and was released on 5.16.66, so it might as well be celebrating the 51st anniversary. I’m presuming that this doc happened because of Bill Pohlad‘s impressive recreations of the making of this album in Love & Mercy. It would be more interesting, I feel, to see a doc about the making of Smile — the saga of how it was recorded and then abandoned and then reborn in the 21st Century.
The following David Thomson piece, titled “A Thing of Wonder,” was posted on Indiewire on 6.22.15: “There is a thing of wonder out there, and it is in an unexpected place, what we can only regard as an American entertainment movie. More than that, as I have returned to the picture over the last few weeks, I find that its audience is growing, as if enough people are saying, ‘You really should see Love & Mercy‘ — as if people still trust friends to talk to.
Elizabeth Banks in Love & Mercy.
“I like Bill Pohlad’s Love & Mercy very much, even if it drifts a little from time to time. I don’t know or really care whether it is a reliable portrait of the life and times of Brian Wilson. But I never thought to worry whether The Glenn Miller Story or New York, New York were ‘accurate.’ After all, people in American show business have gone there to escape the clinging and demeaning tests of fact and credibility.
“So I have always admired Brian Wilson’s harmonic head and assumed that he was an unstoppable mess. I am at ease with his part in the film being given over to Paul Dano and John Cusack (and even the director’s son), and I took it for granted in advance that Paul Giamatti would be deliciously vile and scary as Dr. Eugene Landy.
“But the thing of wonder is Elizabeth Banks who holds the film together with her extraordinary performance as Melinda Ledbetter.
“I know, there was a real Melinda; she is married to Wilson; they have five children; and I hope they are as happy as possible. But I’m not really interested in that. Instead, I want you to consider the creation and the potential of an attractive, very groomed blonde aged forty-one (the age of Elizabeth Banks now), who is a Cadillac saleswoman in Los Angeles.
Roadside is launching its Love & Mercy award-season campaign this weekend. 80 minutes from now I have to be at Capitol Records to interview Paul Dano and Elizabeth Banks. Tomorrow night I’m doing a sitdown with director Bill Pohlad on a hotel rooftop. There’s a Monday lunchtime thing at Craig’s and also a thing at Vibrato that night with Brian Wilson performing a song or two. I recently reminded everyone that Love & Mercy is definitely one of the 2015 standouts so far, that people love it big-time, that it easily warrants Best Picture consideration, that John Cusack and Paul Dano fully deserve Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor nominations, respectively, and that Elizabeth Banks absolutely warrants a Best Supporting Actress nod for giving the best performance of her career.
There are three months left in 2015, and if you boil the fat and pretense out of all the noteworthy films released or seen over the last nine months, the ones that really stand out big-time are Spotlight, Mad Max: Fury Road, Love & Mercy, Carol, Son of Saul, Truth, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon, It Follows, About Elly and Brooklyn. Yeah, that’s right — Love & Mercy in third place. And it’s time turn the engine over and start with an award-season campaign. I’m looking to do phoners with a few name-brand actors and filmmakers who are fans and don’t mind saying so. Five or so, I’m thinking. I’ll call it “The Love & Mercy Conversations: Artists Speak Up For The Little Movie That Could and Did”…something like that.
“The Academy [theatre] was fucking packed to the gills on a beautiful Saturday afternoon — PACKED. Not one seat available. And I only saw two or three people leave before the question and answer. They all stood for Brian Wilson when he came on stage. Very emotional.
“It’s so unlike every other musical biopic ever made. There’s hardly a trope in it. Which may hurt it at the box-office in the end. No big set pieces, no moment where we discover ‘the singer can sing’, no final musical triumph. It’s so much deeper than that. I’m a member of SAG, the DGA, the WGA and the Academy, and I imagine it will get my support in every organization.
“Paul Dano‘s performance is glorious, almost soul bending — it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. John Cusack is not getting nearly enough love. Banks shows us moves that we’ve never seen before. I’m not quite sure why she loves or, rather, falls in love with Brian- but I just sort of flowed into it with her.”
Yesterday the Grantland channel posted a spirited discussion between Grantland’s Bill Simmons, Wesley Morris and Chris Connelly about which summer movies will be the box-office champs on their respective weekends. But the video must have been shot at least a week earlier because they debate whether Pitch Perfect 2 or Mad Max: Fury Road (i.e., last weekend’s face-off) will come out on top. The talk is pleasant enough until the very end when Connelly sticks his fat foot in his mouth by joking about whether audiences will have any interest in “John Cusack as Brian Wilson” — i.e., a reference to Bill Pohlad‘s Love & Mercy (Roadside, 6.5), which is one of the best rock-music biopics ever made (82% Rotten Tomatoes so far, 83% Metacritic) and the source of one of Hollywood Elsewhere’s biggest praise spewings in recent months.
Connelly then asks Morris for a reaction to “Cusack as Wilson” and Morris offers one of those blank expressions that aren’t really blank as much as “uhhm, are you serious…you’re asking me this?…nope.”
I wrote the following to Morris just now: “I was watching your recently-posted box-office predictions video with Simmons and Connelly (dated 5.21) and then near the very end Connelly takes a BIG THOUGHTLESS DUMP on one of the most engaging and sensitive movies of the year, Love & Mercy, which he refers to as “John Cusack as Brian Wilson.” And then you chime in with your dismissive bullshit two-cent expression. Nice going, guys. Cusack and Paul Dano both play Wilson, as you know, and the movie, directed by Bill Pohlad, is really moving and quite exceptional in the annals of rock-star biopics. BBC.com’s Owen Gleiberman called it “miraculous” in his Toronto Film Festival review. Your bizarrely dismissive TIFF review notwithstanding, Dano and Cusack nail their respective Wilsons (young and mid 40ish) with wide-open emotionality and extraordinary finesse.
I just did a phoner with Love & Mercy director Bill Pohlad, who was calling from his home in Minneapolis. We covered the usual bases. I emphasized that it would be a shame if his film isn’t released this year, at least on a platform basis, so as to qualify for awards and nominations and whatnot. (Pic was acquired during TIFF by Lionsgate/Roadside.) I went apeshit for Love and Mercy and particularly Paul Dano’s phenomenal performance as the younger version of Brian Wilson. The film time-flips between the mid ’60 and mid ’80s; John Cusack plays a 40-something Wilson in the ’80s portion. As Variety‘s Andrew Barker wrote, Love & Mercy is “a wonderfully innervating cure for the common musical biopic.” Again, the mp3.
Paul Dano in mid ’60s Brian Wilson mode, Bill Pohlad during filming of Love & Mercy.
“Once in a while, though, you see a biopic that brings off something miraculous, that recreates a famous person’s life with so much care that the immersion we seek is achieved. When you watch Love & Mercy, a drama about Brian Wilson, the angelic yet haunted genius of The Beach Boys, you feel like you’re right there in the studio with him as he creates Pet Sounds. And it’s a little like sitting next to Beethoven: the film is tender and moving, but also awe-inspiring. Paul Dano, the audacious young actor from There Will Be Blood and Little Miss Sunshine, plays Wilson in the mid-1960s, when he was becoming the greatest creative force in American pop music. The moment we see Dano in the film’s daringly off-kilter opening shot, which is just Brian noodling around at the piano and talking to himself, the actor seems to transform into Wilson’s very being. The pale, cute moon face, the smile with a hint of a grimace, the disarming spaciness — this isn’t just acting, it’s channeling of a very high order.” — from Owen Gleiberman’s 9.11 BBC.com review.
N.Y Times critics A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis have posted their picks for the Best 25 films of the 21st Century. There are no right or wrong picks in this regard, of course, but Inside Out being called the seventh best film of the century thus far feels…I’m not sure how to put this. A little head-scratchy?
Tony and Manohla’s top ten in this order: (1) Paul Thomas Anderson‘s There Will Be Blood (’07), (2) Hayao Miyazaki‘s Spirited Away (’02), (3) Clint Eastwood‘s Million Dollar Baby (’04), (4) Jia Zhangke‘s A Touch of Sin (’13), (5) Cristi Puiu‘s The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (’06), (6) Edward Yang‘s Yi Yi (’00), (7) Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen‘s Inside Out (’15), (8) Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood (’14), (9) Olivier Assayas‘ Summer Hours and (10) Kathryn Bigelow‘s The Hurt Locker (’09).
Remember that BBC.com roster of the 100 finest films of the 21st Century, which was posted last August? The general response was “who are these guys?…their choices are so scholastic, so self-regarding, so dweeby.” I’m getting somewhat the same vibe from Tony and Manohla’s list.
I posted my own top 25 picks on 4.22.16: Zodiac, Zero Dark Thirty, Manchester By The Sea, Leviathan, The Wolf of Wall Street, A Separation, The Social Network, No Country For Old Men, Memento, Traffic, Amores perros, United 93, Children of Men, Adaptation, The Lives of Others, Michael Clayton, Almost Famous (the “Untitled” DVD director’s cut), 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Collateral, Love & Mercy, Dancer in the Dark, A Serious Man, Girlfight, The Departed, In the Bedroom. To these I would add five ’17 films — Call Me By Your Name, Loveless, Personal Shopper, The Square and The Big Sick.
Thus morning I finally got around to dumping HE’s boilerplate Oscar Balloon movies-to-watch list for an Award Season, six-major-category assessment list with special parentheticals where appropriate — ABL = all but locked, EP = extra HE passion, RD = respectful disagreement/disapproval, AG = afterglow or makeup for previous loss, SD/MG = special dispensation/support of Movie Godz, NYS = not yet seen, GW = gold-watch award for septugenarians & octogenarians.
A few nominees are obviously ABL but the standing of many are subject to whimsy, peer pressure, mood pockets & the usual wind shifts.
Best Picture (in order of apparent likelihood): Joy (ABL, NYS); The Revenant (ABL, NYS); Spotlight (EP, SD/MG); The Big Short (NYS); The Martian (RD); Steve Jobs, Carol (fine) Room (RD); Bridge of Spies (RD), Love & Mercy EP, SD/MG) (10). In Need Of Heat: Brooklyn, Beasts of No Nation, Mad Max: Fury Road, Suffragette, Son of Saul (EP), The Hateful Eight (NYS), The Danish Girl. (7).
Best Director (in order of apparent likelihood): David O. Russell, Joy (ABL); Alejandro Inarritu, The Revenant; Tom McCarthy, Spotlight EP; Ridley Scott, The Martian (GW) (5). Heel-nippers: Cary Fukunaga, Beasts of No Nation (EP); Danny Boyle, Steve Jobs; Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies; George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road (EP); Bill Pohlad, Love & Mercy (EP, SD/MG).
Best Actor (in order of apparent likelihood): Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant (NYS, AG); Steve Carell, The Big Short (NYS); Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs; Matt Damon, The Martian; Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl. Heel-nippers: Michael Caine, Youth (GW), Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies, John Cusack, Love & Mercy (EP, SD/MG); Will Smith, Concussion (NYS).
Best Actress (in order of apparent likelihood): Jennifer Lawrence, Joy (NYS); Brie Larson, Room (ABL); Cate Blanchett, Carol/Truth (EP); Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn EP; Lily Tomlin, Grandma. Heel-nippers: Carey Mulligan, Suffragette (EP); Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road; Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years (GW).
Best Supporting Actor (in order of apparent likelihood): Robert DeNiro, Joy (NYS); Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies; Mark Ruffalo or Michael Keaton, Spotlight; Paul Dano, Love & Mercy (EP); Tom Hardy, The Revenant NYS. Heel-nippers: Michael Shannon, 99 Homes, Freeheld EP; Benicio Del Toro, Sicario; Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation, Jason Segel, End of the Tour; Sylvester Stallone, Creed (NYS); Ryan Gosling, The Big Short (NYS).
Best Supporting Actress (in order of apparent likelihood): Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl; Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs; Rooney Mara, Carol; Jane Fonda (EP, GW), Youth; Elizabeth Banks, Love & Mercy (EP). Heel-nippers: Diane Ladd, Joy; Joan Allen, Room; Rachel McAdams, Spotlight (EP).
I haven’t yet given myself over to studying Best Original & Best Adapted Screenplay likelies. I’ll add them as soon as I do.
Brian Wilson‘s ten-piece band made a lot of people happy tonight at Vibrato, the Beverly Glen jazz club. Journos, publicists and Academy members clapped, cheered, danced and whoo-hooed to a 40-minute set of Beach Boys hits. All were gathered to celebrate….okay, acknowledge the launch of Love & Mercy‘s award-season campaign. I was sitting at a center table with Indiewire‘s Bill Desowitz, Variety‘s Kris Tapley and producer Don Murphy. The high point came when Love & Mercy star Paul Dano walked on stage and joined the band for “You Still Believe In Me”…not an easy song to perform but he brought it home. What a night! (Note: The band sounded better than what these videos are conveying — the iPhone 6 Plus can only capture so much range.)
All hail the return of Oscar Poker…Jeff and Sasha relaxed about everything, a lot of chuckling, etc. We tried to cover the whole award-season waterfront and bounced all over the place, as usual. I said that after Interstellar I’m not sure I want to see another Chris Nolan film ever again. We discussed Ed Norton‘s recently-voiced notion about shutting down all award-season campaigning. We discussed Marnie, Miles Teller and the temporary destruction loop, transgender cultural issues, Michael Keaton, the persistence of Love & Mercy, Eddie Redmayne and The Danish Girl, etc. I’m not going to try and summarize any further but Sasha came up with two interesting observations. One, a current stand-out strategy is to run a Best Actor-level performance in Best Supporting, two examples being Jason Segel and Paul Dano‘s performances in End of the Tour and Love & Mercy, respectively. Not to mention Carol‘s Rooney Mara, Best Actress winner at last May’s Cannes Film Festival, being run as Best Supporting Actress. And two, there are seven strong Best Actor contenders now — Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs, Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl, Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, Johnny Depp in Black Mass, Bryan Cranston in Trumbo, Joseph Gordon Levitt in The Walk/Snowden and Tom Hardy in Legend. And possibly one of the actors in Spotlight (Mark Ruffalo?). So who might not make the cut? Again, the mp3.