“The Bag Man‘s original title was Motel,” a New Orleans friend says. “It was shot here a couple of years ago. I was just talking to a friend who worked on it. Has so many behind-the-scenes stories that are hilarious. The director and co-writer, David Grovic, is some Russian actor who never made a film before. The girl in the film, Rebecca Da Costa, is his girlfriend apparently.” (They both worked on Freerunner, a 2011 release.) The IMDB lists the production entity is the Nassau-based TinRes Entertainment.
I’ve seen too many sudden car crashes over the last two or three years. I just saw one in Whiplash up in Park City. It’s gotten so I don’t trust movies when the main characters get into a car. I brace myself and get ready for it. Car crashes are the new cheap trick — the latest version of the “main character does a swan dive off a 50-story skyscraper” routine that we’ve seen in at least 25 or 30 films since Tim Burton‘s original Batman. CG is the big enabler, of course. I’m trying to remember the first time I was really jolted by a CG car crash that came out of nowhere. Was it Adaptation? Now they’re a cliche.
I own season #1 of Rod Serling‘s The Twilight Zone on Bluray. I was just watching a few episodes. Many play like creaky timepieces (53 years old and counting) but some hold up . I’m thinking of Walking Distance,” “A Stop at Willoughby,” “Escape Clause,” “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street.” A few are still unsettling — “Where Is Everybody?,” “Mirror Image” and especially “The Purple Testament.” Written by Serling, it’s about a World War II Army officer (William Reynolds) who realizes he can tell who will soon die. The doomed have a weird light on their faces. Powerful concept. Gets under your skin.
No matter how many times you’ve seen The Wolf of Wall Street, watch this clip and tell me you’re not disappointed that it ends before Leo staggers inside the house, wrestles with Jonah Hill over talking to Jean Dujardin on the phone with that long white cord snapping like a bullwhip, and then Jonah collapsing and choking to death and Leo realizing that he needs “spinach” after watching a Popeye cartoon, etc. That “awww, shit” feeling you get when this clip ends is all the proof you need. “This feat of elaborate physical comedy, more than any other, is why Mr. DiCaprio won a Golden Globe for best performance in a comedy,” Jason Zinoman wrote in a 1.24 N.Y. Times piece. “In The King of Comedy, Mr. Scorsese teased a dramatic performance of gravitas out of Jerry Lewis. But here he pulled off a more unlikely achievement: transforming Mr. DiCaprio into Jerry Lewis.”
Apart from the fact that I enjoyed and respected it, I remember three or four distinct things from Michael Apted‘s Coal Miner’s Daughter (which came out on Bluray two and a half weeks ago). The obvious effect that Sissy Spacek‘s Loretta Lynn had on the folks in the honky tonk when she first sang, and her white socks and loafers as she kicked the washing machine on the front porch. Tommy Lee Jones‘ perfect performance as her husband and that line about professional prospects in Butcher Hollow: “Coal mine, moonshine or move on down the line.” Levon Helm‘s sad-eyed performance as Loretta’s daddy and Beverly D’Angelo‘s performance as Patsy Cline.
Lovers and gay men and inspirational high-school teachers and the crowded streets of Heaven. Everyone looked so effing young 20 years ago. Look at Emma! Ralph Fiennes (brief glimpse) looks like he’s 17. Larry Fishburne was a Best Actor nominee for What’s Love Got To Do With It? (which I’d frankly forgotten about) and Anthony Hopkins was Best Actor-nominated for Remains of the Day. Quite the time for Liam Neeson with Schindler’s List and Husbands and Wives under his belt, and Michael Collins two years into his future. Neeson’s name and the word “paycheck” would be all but synonymous 20 years later, but this was the beginning of Bill Clinton‘s second year in the White House and all seemed well for the time being. (No one was quite sensing the coming of Newt Gingrich and the first stirrings of Republican insanity.) I was doing a weekly column for the N.Y Daily News Sunday movie section back then plus Entertainment Weekly and L.A. Times “Calendar” filings. Clunky IBM desktop computers, not much internet activity, pre-Harry Knowles and Matt Drudge. Glenn Kenny‘s association with Premiere wouldn’t begin for another two years. Jett was only five and a half and Dylan was four.
Gold Derby‘s Tom O’Neill to Jeffrey Wells: “You’re slacking off again, Mr. Elsewhere! Last night Gravity‘s Alfonso Cuaron won the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures…which means that you and all the other Oscarologists have to re-think and re-post your Oscar predictions! C’mon, Jeff…hubba hubba! Only five weeks until the Oscars and…(audibly sighs, imperceptibly slumps)…who am I kidding?
“Cuaron’s win means…what does it mean? That DGA members didn’t like the experience of watching the obviously superior 12 Years A Slave enough to give the award to Steve McQueen…despite the disapproving scowls of the Movie Godz? That they lacked the character and clarity of mind to give it to Martin Scorsese, director of the ballsiest, go-for-broke social indictment film of the century (and incidentally the best film of 2013) — The Wolf of Wall Street? And that they felt at the end of the day that Cuaron, director of a technically groundbreaking “Sandra Bullock in a haunted house” movie (in the words of Alexander Payne) that was “supposed to be an amusement ride” (in the Bullock’s own words), should get it because Cuaron and dp Emmanuelle Lubezki worked so hard to deliver an exceptional FX movie, even though they originally wanted to make a more austere, less emotionally cloying, more 2001-ish experience. And because a win for a Mexican-born filmmaker makes them seem…what, culturally magnanimous? Alfonso is one of the finest and kindest-hearted directors around today, but he should have won for Children of Men.”
Every time someone asked me what my Sundance favorites were, I started off with Whiplash. Each and every day: “Well, definitely Whiplash and also, uhhm…” The other person always said in response, “Yeah, hearing that a lot.” Over and over and over. So what a slap-down shocker that Damien Chazelle‘s manic, sweat-stained drumskin flick won the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury prize and the Audience Award at last night’s Sundance 2014 award ceremony. I never even thought to see Rich Hill, the winner of the U.S. Documentary Award…nobody told me “hey, you should see this.” And Justin Simien‘s Dear White People, winner of a Special Jury Prize for Breakthrough Talent, never gets beyond the level of nice try — trust me. I couldn’t be bothered to see Difret, the World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award winner. And Nick Cave‘s 20,000 Days On Earth, winner of the Best Directing and Best Editing in the World Cinema Documentary category…? I’m fairly certain I won’t see it on Netflix four or six months from now. That’s mean, unfair. I might.
The Movie Godz are demanding a Wolf of Wall Street Oscar upset. We all know Dallas Buyer’s Club‘s Matthew McConaughey has the Best Actor Oscar in the bag, but think radically — what about Wolf lizard king Leonardo DiCaprio (a guy who’s paid his Oscar dues and then some)…you know? And maybe Jared Leto doesn’t have the Best Supporting Actor Oscar locked down? Maybe Jonah Hill…? The bit isn’t bad but last night’s hype led me to expect a bit more. You can’t oversell these monologues.