One naturally assumes that Chuck Workman‘s Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles is about his facility with magic. Nope — it’s just a tribute to his filmmaking genius. And an argument, it seems, that he didn’t peak at 25 when he made Citizen Kane. Clips from almost every existing Welles film plus the usual talking-head testimonials (Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Richard Linklater, Peter Bogdanovich). And by the way, nobody wolfed it down like Welles. Chris Pratt can’t hold a candle.
In an interview with Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn, John Wick‘s Keanu Reeves says that “the last studio movie I did was 47 Ronin but before that it had been a long time…probably The Day the Earth Stood Still. So I haven’t been getting many offers from the studios.” Kohn says, “Are you okay with that?” Reeves says, “No, it sucks, but it’s just the way it is. You can have positive and negative experiences [but] for me, [that’s] just not happening.” What he means is that The Day The Earth Stood Still drove a stake through his career and forced him to think it differently and try some new moves. Now that Wick is an apparent action hit, he’s doing okay again. Not that people like me are going to sing its praises. The script is supposed to be on the idiotic side. I shouldn’t say anything until I see it. Tonight’s press screening starts at 7:30 pm.
I popped for a Roku 3 player last night ($100 bills and change). I had resisted it because of the cheesy name, which sounds like something cheap bought in downtown Tokyo. Anyway I hooked it up and signed up for a year’s worth of Warner Archive access. It’s pretty sweet, I have to say. All those older films on high-def (Straight Time, Gun Crazy, A Face in the Crowd, The Yakuza, Klute, The Candidate, Action in the North Atlantic, Marked Woman). Update: I’ve got the priciest Roku with ultra-fast wifi, and the movie has to reload every four or five minutes…no good. At least I can finally watch Amazon rentals on my 60-incher. I haven’t figured out how to get Showtime but apparently there’s a cheaper way through Roku than just signing up and paying through the nose.
I was over at the Cole Avenue DMV this morning to (a) renew my Class C driver’s license, which expires early next month, and (b) get a motorcycle license. The first part is the written test, and of course I failed it. I got five or six questions wrong, but my answers were only sorta kinda somewhat wrong. I always choose the most conservative-sounding answer but they flunked me anyway. Dicks. I’ve been driving scooters and motorcycles for decades, man. I know everything about handling myself on two wheels but they got me. The questions ask you to choose one of three answers, and two out of the three answers usually sound fairly reasonable. The (b) answer isn’t crazy or stupid — it’s just not quite as correct in a bureaucratic petty-ass way as (c). Now I have to study the damn booklet tonight and take the test again tomorrow. And then a driving test. When’s the last time you needed to study something in order to pass something? I always hated school. It took me years to get past the feelings of low self-esteem, etc. Almost everyone who gets good grades grows up to be a dullard, and the ones who get lousy grades always grow up to be cool.
A little while ago Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson assembled a few thoughts about the late L.M. Kit Carson and sent them along: “We met Kit twenty years ago. Kit and Cynthia had come back to Texas to put Kit’s biological son Hunter through school there, and we submitted ourselves to be his adopted ones, hoping to become his latest discoveries. (We weren’t the first as Kit was a natural guru.) He was the only person we’d ever met who actually worked in the movie business, and we had never come across someone who so automatically and instinctively turned any idea or experience or suggestion into a story — a pitch. Sometimes it was only at the end of the story that you realized “this has a purpose, he’s advising us, these are ‘notes.'”
“Kit had a rustic glamor, like a sort of a cowboy-screenwriter. He never told us much about his childhood except that the L. was for Louis and the M. was for Minor, two old men he was named after. What we heard about was guerilla filmmaking and gonzo film journalism and Dennis Hopper in Taos and Peru. We loved Kit in David Holzman’s Diary which we saw with him in Dallas, and we had already loved his work in Breathless and Paris, Texas. He had longish, stringy, sandy hair, and he clomped through the house in hiking boots all year round. He gave us a one-on-one tutorial in script-writing and short-film-editing (and, also, a lesson in how to hustle a project into existence). [Kit’s wife] Cynthia said to us that of all the people who were lucky to have known Kit, we were the luckiest. It certainly feels that way to us. He introduced us to the rest of our lives.
L.M. Kit Carson, the legendary Texas screenwriter, actor, documentarian, short-film impresario (Direction Man), hotshot journalist, ex-husband of Karen Black, father of Hunter Carson, a kind of godfather to Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson in ’93 and ’94, Guillermo del Toro pally and a personal friend (we first met around ’87 when I was working at Cannon Films), died last night after a long illness. Hugs, tears…I’m sorry. Kit was a good egg. Always with a grin and some kind of sly, wise-man quip. Condolences to Hunter (with whom I corresponded about Direction Man last year) and Kit’s wife Cindy Hargraves and the general sprawling family of friends and acquaintances.
Carson began as a movie-realm journalist and documentarian (David Holzman’s Diary, American Dreamer) and gradually ambled his way into screenwriting. He had the vibe and the touch. He understood how it all was supposed to be, or could be. I don’t know where he “was” over the last decade or so, but in the ’80s and ’90s he always seemed to have the whole equation in his head.
The early to mid ’80s were Carson’s peak years when he co-wrote Jim McBride‘s Breathless (a 1983 remake of the 1959 Jean-Luc Godard original with Richard Gere) and Wim Wenders‘ Paris, Texas and a thing called Chinese Boxes that I’ve never even seen, and then came that wonderful Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 screenplay, which was a dry, darkly comedic kill-the-yuppies thing that was heralded in an issue of Film Comment (it might have been Harlan Jacobson who wrote “it’s okay to like it”). But alas, director Tobe Hooper came along and fucked it all up when Cannon decided to make it.
Amir Bar-Lev‘s Happy Valley “is a perceptive, shrewdly sculpted study of denial — of people’s willingness and even eagerness to practice denial if so motivated. The specific subject is the Penn State child-abuse sex scandal of 2011 and 2012, which resulted in convicted pedophile Jerry “horsing around in the shower” Sandusky doing 30 years in jail and the late beloved Penn State coach Joe Paterno being at lest partly defined between now and forever as a pedophile enabler. Cheers to Bar-Lev (The Tillman Story, My Kid Could Paint That) for delivering another riveting sink-in.
“The Freeh report (conducted by former FBI director Louis Freeh and his law firm) stated that Paterno, Penn State president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and school vp Gary Schultz all knew about Sandusky probably being guilty of child molestation as far back as 1998, and that all were complicit in looking the other way. State College residents and especially Penn State football fans were enraged when Paterno was fired for not saying or doing enough. Even after the Freeh report they wouldn’t let go.