I would say that God cares about me as much as I care about this or that granule of sand as I walk on the beach in Santa Monica or Florida or Barbados. Do I care about the granule? Not particularly but I value it in a certain context. I respect the place it has in the universe. Do I hate the granule of sand? Of course not. Do I feel affection for it? No, but who would? A microscopic component in the grandest of schemes is hardly worth “caring” about. That’s pretty much how “God” feels about me, no offense.
Tuesday was one of the most glorious New York City days ever — dry, sunny, blue skies, perfect temps. LAX flight landed at JFK around 8 am, dumped bags at Lex and 51st just before 10 am, had late breakfast with friends at Grammercy Park hotel, moved my stuff over to an Airbnb rental in Fort Greene…and promptly encountered the mother of all dead-zone wifi problems. Agony. I caught a 6 pm screening of What Maisie Knew and then met Jett in F.G. Tomorrow is another day.
Temporary HE headquarters at 128 Lafayette Avenue, Fort Greene, Brooklyn.
Last Friday night N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott essentially said that high-quality, large-screen viewing experiences are always desirable, but what matters most is that viewers have a chance to see the good smaller films (like Jeff Nichols‘ Mud) even if it means seeing them under diminished or even semi-crappy conditions — on a 42-inch screen in your living room, say, or on an iPad3. And he’s right. But boy, am I glad I live in a realm that allows me a chance to see films as they’re really meant to be seen.
Seeing new films under the finest technical circumstances has always been a gimme for the industry elite and urban swells. But today the New Diminshment is small screens. iPad3, Macbook Pro and iPhone viewings drain the wonder out of films, but at least films — the smaller ones particularly — are accessible via new technologies in outlying areas. It’s not exactly a shit-and-lettuce sandwich for movie lovers who live in the sticks, but the situation flirts with that. If you’ve never left the farm, the farm is fine. But once you’ve been to Paris…
Have you noticed that almost every hotshot entertainment website these days has the same damn look? That look can be described as follows: Acres of white space with large-point-size type with huge boldfaced headlines. All the hip web designers got together on a video conference call about 18 months ago and decided on this. The apparent consensus us that GenY readers don’t want density. They want their websites to look like pre-school children’s books, like The Adventures of Babar and Celeste.
For serious liberal-minded Hollywood filmmakers of the ’50s and early ’60s, Gen. Curtis LeMay was the gift that kept on giving. Gen. Ennis C. Hawkes in Strategic Air Command, Gen. Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove, Gen. James Matoon Scott in Seven Days in May…okay, LeMay gave three times. Am I forgetting another characterization? (Video stolen from Rope of Silicon‘s Brad Brevet, who stole it from someone else.)
I’ve decided to try for standby seating on an LAX-to-JFK red-eye tonight (leaving at 11:30 pm) rather than wait for tomorrow’s ticketed 10:40 am flight. I’ll be able to get more out of Tuesday as well as catch a 6 pm Manhattan screening. There’s no guarantee I’ll get on, of course, but if I check in at 9 or 9:30 pm I’ll have a decent chance. If I wanted to lock in tonight’s flight it would cost me over $400 bills but standby will cost only a nominal fee. If I don’t get on tonight it won’t be the end of the world and tomorrow’s reservation will still stand. So I’m going to be bold and go for it.
11:05 pm update: I’m on the flight.
I felt mezzo-mezzo about Eric Rochand‘s Mobius, which played a few days ago at the Tribeca Film Festival as well as L.A.’s COLCOA fest. Set largely in gauche Monaco, it’s partly a financial espionage drama and partly…actually mostly a romantic relationship drama between Jean Dujardin and Cecile de France as a non-governmental Russian spook and a French-English financial trader. The two twains don’t really blend or cross-pollinate, but Mobius is not a boring or listless film — it’s reasonably engrossing.
The obvious template is Alfred Hitchcock‘s Notorious, but what happens between the lovers isn’t about “love” as much as intense chemistry and gratifying orgasms and comforting hugs.
I’ll give it this much — it ends with one of those nice hugs, and in a way that feels more or less satisfying. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a spy drama that lets the plot stuff go at the end and just zeroes in on the heart. So it’s different, at least.
But the first sex scene is very…odd. They go back to his hotel room and they do it gently and slowly — Rochand mainly stays on facial closeups although he offers a shot or two of De France’s lower anatomy — and she comes, twice. But I was in my seat going “what is this?…we’re just going to sit here and watch two attractive, well-lighted people fuck? I mean, I guess it’s okay but why?”
I was having this reaction because the movie just stops during this scene. It brings nothing significant to the table. And it’s not really necessary as the thing that really matters in Mobius, as noted, is the warm embrace of a man with strong arms. So watching Cecile de France quietly gasp and moan is kind of a “what?” moment.
Sex scenes were fairly common in the late ’60s and ’70s but those days are long gone. The ones that go one for more than 15 or 20 or 30 seconds (i.e., with the lovers in more or less the same location and sexual position) always stop things cold. You have to cut, cut, cut and make it all seem brief. You obviously have to imply more than show. You can do the steamy sweaty thing but you have to do it…I was going to say like Adrian Lyne but that’s an old reference. It’s nonetheless a good idea to always use all kinds of hot angles and humor and snazzy back-lighting and whatnot and get it over with sooner rather than later. You sure as hell don’t want to dwell on sex scenes, that’s for sure.
For whatever reason I can’t copy the embed code on this audio file of Steven Soderbergh‘s “State of Cinema” talk last Saturday at the San Francisco Film Festival. So just go to Anne Thompson‘s Indiewire column and give it a listen. Update: Has Thompson’s mp3 been taken down? If so, whoever’s responsible is a dick. And those who insisted on no recordings of any kind last Saturday are dicks also.
Update: Deadline has posted a transcript: http://m.deadline.com/2013/04/steven-soderbergh-state-of-cinema-address/
I’m going to read William Faulkner‘s As I Lay Dying on my 5.3 NYC-to-Berlin flight as preparation for James Franco‘s filmed adaptation, which will play in the Un Certain Regard section. The story is about an ailing family matriarch, Addie Bundren (Beth Grant), on her way out and efforts by her sons and others to honor her request to be buried in the nearby town of Jefferson, Mississippi. Franco has cast Danny McBride in a supporting role, which strikes me as curious given that McBride is renowned for playing brute, snorting, slovenly beasts in comedies. Jim Parrack (True Blood) plays Cash, Addie’s oldest son, and Franco plays Darl, the second oldest. Logan Marshall-Green, Ahna O’Reilly and Tim Blake Nelson also costar.
Hollywood Reporter columnist Scott Feinberg has posted five suggestions for the Academy to consider when they have their “unprecedented, all-members meeting” on Saturday, May 4th. The one I agree with the most is about reducing deadwood and expanding the membership:
“(3) Address the demographics of the membership. The Academy should address widespread and not unmerited concern about the diversity of its membership, or lack thereof: a recent LA Times study revealed it is 94% white, 77% male and 86% over the age of 50). This has a lot to do with why more conservative films triumph over more daring films (Crash d. Brokeback Mountain, The King’s Speech d. The Social Network, etc.), some films of questionable merit get nominated at all (schmaltz like The Blind Side and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), and some eminently worthy films do not (The Dark Knight, Blue Valentine, etc.).
“There are only two realistic ways for the Academy to fix this anytime soon. It could purge from its rolls members who have long been inactive or retired, the strategy employed by former Academy president Gregory Peck in the 1960s. Or, to avoid hurting those members’ feelings but still dilute their influence, while also endearing itself to younger and active people in the industry, the Academy could markedly expand its membership, which now numbers around 6,000. This would not be unprecedented. Membership swelled to around 12,000 from 1938 to 1945 when the members of the Screen Extras Guild were invited to join and had full voting privileges.”
In a 4.4.13 HE piece called “Reduce Deadwood Influence,” I suggested a scaled voting system that would give more weight to votes from Academy members who’ve contributed to a film within the last five years than to those who’ve more or less been out of the game a decade or two or longer.
“If the Academy wants to be part of the world as it is right now and have the Oscar winners reflect this, it has to reduce the influence of people whose professional peaks happened 15 or 20 or 25 or more years ago. These people will retain membership and all the priveleges that go with that, but their votes won’t count as much as those who are actively working and contributing to the films of today. Simple.
“Every year Academy members will be asked online ‘how recently have you worked on a feature film destined for theatrical or a film or series destined for cable or streaming?’ If the last film you worked on was released ten or more years ago, you get a single vote and become a C-grade voter. If the last film you have worked on was released between five and ten years ago, you get two votes and become a B-grade voter. And if you’ve worked on a film made and released within the last five years, you get three votes and becomes an A-grade voter.
“How would this system be unfair? What could possibly be the downside? If this system had been in place seven years ago, Brokeback Mountain would have won the Best Picture Oscar.”