Acting rep-wise, Matthew McConaughey has gone through three or four stages. First he was the stoner guy from Dazed and Confused. Then he was the hunky blonde guy who starred in all those insufferable romcoms (The Wedding Planner, Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Two for the Money, Fool’s Gold). Then he became Mr. McConnaissance with The Lincoln Lawyer, Bernie, Killer Joe, Mud, Magic Mike, The Paperboy and his Oscar pony, Dallas Buyers Club. And The Wolf of Wall Street. Then he became Mr. “Jesus Enough With The Grim and Gritty McConnaissance” with Interstellar, The Sea of Trees, Free State of Jones, Kubo and the Two Strings, Gold, The Dark Tower and White Boy Rick. Now with the help of Harmony Korine, he’s back to being the wild Stoner Guy.
I not only sat through Interstellar again last night, but in the same theatre (TCL Chinese) and almost in the same seat I sat in when I saw it nearly two weeks ago, on Thursday, October 23rd. I’m still of the opinion that this earnestly oppressive, partly breathtaking, level-11 space epic deserves points for reaching out and dreaming big and breaking “bahhriers,” but it’s too confounding and exposition-heavy and generally exhausting, and the dialogue is too often buried under the heavy sauce of Hans Zimmer‘s organ score and is basically too damn hard to hear. I did, however, understand a few more particulars last night, possibly because some Nolan techie tweaked the TCL Chinese sound system in the wake of that disastrous 10.23 screening.
I know now that I have given Interstellar my all, and that I don’t have to ever see it again. Two times = almost six hours = more than enough for the rest of my life. But I’m also glad I did round 2 because now I understand the feelings of those who are basically saying “it’s a mess but a good mess” or “it’s laughable but great for that” or “it’s typically cold and at the same time overly emotional, but in a cool way” because they’re all basically saying “look, it’s not perfect but at least it’s crazy and ‘out there’ in its own deranged way and isn’t that a good thing?”
They’re reacting largely to the film, of course, but also, I suspect, to the first wave of naysayers, some of whom focused on the film’s apparently dashed Best Picture hopes. They want the world to know that they’re more sensitive and perceptive than guys like Scott Feinberg or Tom O’Neil or whomever. Or me.
If, as one or two HE commenters have written, the first wave of internet malcontents went into that 10.23 screening looking to take Interstellar down (an absurd hypothesis — serious online movie hounds always want movies directed by big-name auteurs to succeed), last night’s second wave went into it determined to push back against the first wave. “We hear you, Chris,” many of them were saying last night on Twitter. “We get what you’re going for or at least we get that you went for Something Big, and we’re giving you a pass for laying it on the line and swinging for the fences and wearing your heart on your sleeve. Fuck those shallow Oscar-handicappers…we are in touch with our souls, Chris, and particularly with the soul of your movie, which is emotional and celestial and a little bit cuckoo, which is fine by us.”
Interstellar is one of those big, rib-rattling, epic-sprawl movies that you only get from determined, well-funded visionaries like…well, like Chris Nolan. And this, make no mistake, is a super-charged time-travel flick that is also very personal. It’s basically about Nolan saying “there’s no place like home, like family, like love”…probably due to a suspicion that he works too obsessively and is missing out on his children’s lives or something along those lines. Sounds like The Wizard of Oz in Space, right? Without the jokes and the songs and the fancifulness, of course. And without, I regret to say, any way to believe in other-wordly realms. Interstellar is quite the wowser throttle ride — you have to see it, of course — but for me it didn’t hang together in a way that felt right or rooted or satisfying. It “played” but it didn’t sink in.
Interstellar is basically a grim story about love, loss, heroism…a down-the-rabbit-hole tale about seeking and adventuring and returning, Odysseus-style. It’s riveting at times. Now and then it’s breathtaking. And at times it is speechy and banal. At times it’s one of those “wait..give me that again?” movies. I just didn’t believe or understand a lot of it. And it has one scene that, no lie, is comically awful. Beware the killer colonist who once dropped in on Che Guevara!
That was my reaction, for the most part. I was “impressed” by it as far as the chops and the eye-filling scenery, both local and cosmic, were concerned and I generally liked the rumble-in-space stuff, but I couldn’t buy into it, man…not really. (Does this mean I’ll lose out on Paramount award-season ads? I’m weeping over this but I gotta be me.) But a friend tells me that Emile Hirsch and Chris Rock and Adrien Brody and a lot of other celebrities who saw it last Wednesday night were really blown away so…you know, don’t let me stop you. (Rock told my friend that he “doesn’t think any film can possibly match it.”) It’ll be Best Picture nominated, I suppose, because the community wants to kiss Nolan’s ass for the same reason it has smooched Spielberg’s ass for the last 39 years. And it’ll probably win two or three tech Oscars. And it’ll make loads of money.
If anyone hears of any tweeted or tapped-out reactions to today’s Fort Hood screening of Chris Nolan‘s Interstellar, please advise or pass along. The showing is apparently happening at the Palmer Theatre, and this Nolan fan site claims Matthew McConaughey will attend. It’s likely that a certain percentage of viewers at tonight’s FH screening say “reach for the stahhrs” or “to break bahhriers” with the same yokel accent that McConaughey speaks with. It’s not generally known that Fort Hood has a greater concentration of military film critics than any other military installation in the continental U.S., but it’s…okay, I’m kidding. Seriously, this is obviously some kind of respectful gesture to the Fort Hood community for some Interstellar– or McConaughey-related reason. Tomorrow night’s Manhattan screening is strictly for friends and family of Paramount honcho Brad Grey, I’m told. Elite press will probably get their first look sometime during the coming week, but no official word has gone out yet.
We know that Chris and Jonathan Nolan‘s Interstellar (Paramount, 11.5) involves an attempt to…you tell me. We know that the earth is dust-filled and polluted beyond hope and less and less capable of sustaining life, and that Matthew McConaughey is part of a team of space voyagers who want to somehow turn things around…but how? It’s a slim thread of a notion of a vague idea of something or other, and it’s been floating around for several months now. Does anyone know what Interstellar is actually about without the dandelion pollen? I’m not trying to be an asshole. I’m just feeling fed up with the vague-itude.
Last year’s Cinemacon wasn’t entirely about promoting the kind of entertainment that I call “generic superjizz” — the same assaultive, gutslamming, ear-splitting, cartoon-like, aimed-at-apes experience that constitutes 90% of movies these days. But that’s what most of the Las Vegas-based exhibitor convention was about — jackhammer, bass-thump, super-coarse, high-velocity idiot movies for lowest-common-denominator rubes and families.
I still like going to Cinemacon but it happened so late this year (right now rather than mid-to-late March), and I couldn’t see attending a week before leaving for New York, Paris and Cannes. The Ankler‘s Richard Rushfield went, however, and has filed a report. [I’ve pasted the whole thing below.] The highlight was reading about yesterday’s Quentin Tarantino and Leonardo DiCaprio visit to the Caesar’s Colosseum stage to promote Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, which won’t even begin filming until sometime in June.
After reading Rushfield’s report I sent him the following letter:
“Cinemacon is fantasy, denial and mass delusion. And they mostly show trailers and stage promotions for BIG CRAP CG SPRING & SUMMER MOVIES, often ignoring the quality-aspiring titles that will open in the fall and holiday seasons. Which, coupled with the decision to stage it in late April, is why I decided against going this year. Okay, I also wanted to save a few bucks.
“Cinemacon honcho Mitch Neuhauser and I used to work together at The Film Journal in NYC (1600 B’way) — ’81 to ’83.
“Quentin Tarantino‘s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood has been described by QT as ‘the closest thing to Pulp Fiction that I’ve made [since Pulp Fiction]” Or words close to that. Remember the mannered, at times offbeat comic and even metaphysical stuff in that 1994 film?
“DiCaprio, who will play a struggling actor, called it a film about Hollywood and then drew a vague analogy to Singin’ in the Rain. He seemed to be saying that on some level it’ll deliver a form of hooray-for-our-culture escapism.
“These were two strong hints that Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is going to deal fantasy cards along with the usual “hangin’ out with loquacious Quentin-styled bigmouth” cards. Which means, as I’ve written before, that Leo and Brad Pitt’s characters, who, as QT said several weeks ago, “live right near Sharon Tate” (although he didn’t mention that Sharon and Roman Polanski lived there together)…it means that the film is probably going to end in a fantasy way. Leo and Brad’s characters are going to save Tate (along with Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski and Jay Sebring) from the Manson gang.
“I’m not saying that Once Upon A Time in Hollywood will be about the Manson gang and their murder spree, but it will definitely intersect with the Manson gang and, most likely, the Tate home invasion on August 9, 1969.
“Your remark that ‘it’s not a Manson film in the least’ is almost certainly incorrect.
The Chalamet-Woody thing was being passed around eons ago, but agents involved in the deal kept saying “not yet” and “hold your horses” and “sorry but we have to do this thing properly”…zzzzz. Woody’s casting decisions are often attuned to hot new flavors and currents, so it tells you something about Chalumet’s rising potency (and the buzz that’s been chasing Call Me By Your Name since last January’s Sundance Film Festival) that he’s the new Woody pick.
Chalamet played Matthew McConaughey’s son in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (I was too busy hating that film to notice), and then attracted modest attention with his performance in Julia Hart‘s Miss Stevens, which I thought about catching but didn’t. Then Call Me by Your Name arrived in Park City — bang! Chalumet will also be seen in Scott Cooper’s Hostiles, Plan B’s Beautiful Boy and Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird.
Everyone knows Elle Fanning.
ArtHouseTrump is a parody handle — i.e, some person pretending to be a Trump-minded film critic but in an SNL sense. Which is to say that some of his/her opinions, while obviously parroting Trump’s mentality, aren’t entirely absurd. Earlier today Jessica Chastain got into a scuffle with ArtHouseTrump over Interstellar, and to be perfectly honest I don’t think it’s all that crazy to suggest that she, Chris Nolan, Matthew McConaughey and the others do “owe” us for that fucking film. I laughed, in any event, at the suggestion. By the way: I’m not saying Chastain isn’t aware that ArtHouseTrump is a put-on, but one of her tweets today indicated that she thinks the person behind it is some kind of serious Trump surrogate. Or is she in on the joke? Help me out.
I won’t be seeing Gary Ross‘s Free State of Jones (STX, 6.24) until Wednesday night, but as of this morning six respected reviewers have trashed it — Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman, The Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy, TheWrap‘s Robert Abele, Indiewire‘s David Ehrlich, Entertainment Weekly‘s Joe McGovern and Screen International‘s Tim Grierson.
The general beef seems to be that the film is mainly interested in (a) delivering a dry history lesson and (b) deifying Matthew McConaughey‘s real-life Southern rebel. A Civil War-era drama that only last week was being positioned by Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson as a possible Best Picture “contender” appears to be headed for the rocks. Gleiberman: “A misfire…shot with the boxed-in functionality of basic cable television.” Abele: “One of those historical dramas with a script that’s big on crowning lines of moral fervor and not so big on nuts-and-bolts detail.” If you count Interstellar as a problem movie (and I do, hugely), this is the third stinker in a row for McConaughey. Perhaps Stephen Gaghan‘s Gold, in which he stars with Edgar Ramirez, will turn things around.
A 3.19 article by Nerdist contributor Kyle Hill reveals that Interstellar co-screenwriter Jonathan Nolan didn’t agree with the ending that his brother Chris went with. Speaking on 3.28 during a seminar at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, Jonathan said that he would have preferred a “much more straightforward” finale. He basically said that Matthew McConaughey would have died in the middle of the “Einstein-Rosen bridge” or wormhole.
The second I read this I realized that I don’t ever want to see Interstellar again. I honestly wouldn’t sit through it if you paid me $50 or even $100 to do so. Okay, I would see it again for $1000. But the more I think back upon that exasperating film, the more repelled I feel.
9:03 pm: Lean, gray and grizzled Sean Penn presenting the Best Picture Oscar. “And the Oscar goes to…who gave this sonuvabitch his green card?…Birdman.” Inarritu: “Two Mexicans in a row? That’s suspicious, I guess.” That’s diversity, I think. “Michael was the guy who really…Michael was the guy.” Keaton: “Look, it’s great to be here…who am I kidding?” Inarritu gives a shout-out to fellow Mexicans and offers a plea for a fairer, more decent government in Mexico, and praises “this wonderful immigrant nation.”
8:55 pm: Matthew McConaughey handing out Best Actress Oscar to locked-in-stone Julianne Moore.
8:49 pm: Big Moment for Best Actor Oscar. Maybe Redmayne? Yup…he takes it! He was favored/predicted by the Gold Derby-ites so not a total surprise. “This belongs to all those people battling ALS…my staggering partner-in-crime Felicity Jones…director James Marsh.” Classy guy, top-rank performance…congrats.
8:40 pm: Ben Affleck about to hand out the Best Director Oscar, and the Oscar goes to Alejandro G. Inarritu. Big hug from Richard Linklater. Tonight I am wearing the real Michael Keaton tighty whities….for someone to win, some one has to lose…but for the real filmmakers, there can’t be defeat. This is a slow-motion kidn of moment.
8:35 pm: The Imitation Game‘s Graham Moore has won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. A very moving speech given by Moore on behalf of Alan Turing and to all the weird and different and alone-feeling kids out there. You’re good. Your time will come.
8:30 pm: Best Original Screenplay Oscar being announced by Eddie Murphy, and the Oscar goes to the four Birdman guys. That’s it, Boyhood gang. I love you but you’re done. The Grand Budapest Hotel was forecast by Gold Derby gang…thud.
8:22 pm: Best Original Score Oscar is being announced by Julie Andrews. The Theory of Everything is expected to win, of course, but it doesn’t! Alexandre Desplat‘s Grand Budapest Hotel score takes it! Four Budapest Oscars. For the fourth time this evening, Wes Anderson is thanked by a winner. Four wins for Budapest, three for Whiplash so far….right?
8:11 pm: This Oscar telecast has no bite, no snap, no real pizazz or feeling. Neal Patrick Harris has been agreeable but bland. The whole show has been kind of bland. Only the acceptance speeches — Common, John Legend, Patricia Arquette, J.K. Simmons — have delivered the deep-well memories. Lady Gaga is doing a fine job with her Sound of Music tribute and the great Julie Andrews coming on stage…but why do it in the first okace? I say give the hook to Craig Zadan and Neil Meron as Oscar-show producers. Time to move on, give someone else a chance.
8:06 pm: Did NPH just make a joke work? He’s been whiffing all night. The Best Song Oscar, I expect, will go to “Glory”….right? Yes. Well earned. “Right now, the struggle for freedom and justice is real. Selma is now…march on.” — Common and John Legend.
8:01 pm: The performance of “Glory,” the song from Selma, was easily the best of the evening. Emotional song, very emotional reaction.
7:49 pm: Here comes the Best Documentary Feature Oscar moment. The winner, as everyone knows, will be Citizenfour. And it is, of course. I’m a huge fan of Rory Kennedy‘s Last Days in Vietnam, but I worship Citizenfour. Well deserved.
7:47 pm: Too many emotional exhale blown-away pauses from Terrence Howard as he introduces The Imitation Game, Whiplash and Selma. Calm down.
7:43 pm: The Best Editing Oscar being presented by Benedict Cumberbatch and Naomi Watts, and the Oscar goes to Tom Cross for Whiplash. Boyhood was the predicted Gold Derby winner. This may be an indicator of something. Yo, Whiplash!
The sound at the TCL Chinese during last night’s Interstellar screening was so bassy and woofer-throbby and aimed at my rib cage that I couldn’t hear half the dialogue. My ears felt left out, not to mention the part of my brain that enjoys hearing words and sentences and…you know, understanding what’s up and putting it all together. And don’t say it’s just me because five or six others were saying the same thing in the lobby after the show. I for one was particularly flummmoxed by Matthew McConaughey‘s dialogue due to his shitkicker accent on top of everything else. I’d hear a word or sometimes a phrase now and then, and sometimes an actual whole sentence or two. But there was no winning. I realized that early on. The atmospheric rumbles and impact sounds and vibrating whomps are top-of-the-line, but too many sound systems in too many state-of-the-art theatres are calibrated so that the shake-rattle-and-roll stuff rules above all. This is the way it unfortunately is today, and for me is frankly another reason to think twice about going to the megaplex. People expect to hear sound so strong and pulverizing that their bones vibrate and their inner organs detach and collapse in a heap. Has anyone in the Los Angeles area been to that 4D Motion FX theatre in Oxnard? This is what a lot of people want these days. The problem is that vibrating rib cages are at war with being able to hear simple speech. I could hear a lot of what’s being said last night — don’t get me wrong. But enough dialogue was obscured or murky enough for the experience to be a general pain in the ass. You know when I’ll be able to understand all of Interstellar? Without having to lean forward and cup my ears or make faces? When I watch it next summer on Bluray with my own home system with my personally calibrated sound bar and woofer.