Alex Garland‘s Ex Machina (A24, 4.10.15) is about a carrot-head computer coder (Domnhall Gleeson) who’s gifted with a week at a lavish country home belonging to his company’s CEO (Oscar Isaac)…great. And then the catch: Carrot-head is obliged to participate in an experiment involving a new brand of artificial intelligence — i.e., a marginally hot-babe robot.
The Scott Foundas quote used in the Foxcatcher one-sheet tells you that if you look closely enough and think hard enough about the observations in this film, you will find a large-scale portrait of a certain cultural malignancy. Or something like that. I have long worshipped Miller’s touch and technique and stylings and I respect this film enormously, but I didn’t derive as much from the film as Foundas did. That said I remain ready and willing to give it another shot.
In deciding to open the Coen brothers’ Hail, Caesar! on Friday, February 5, 2016, Universal Pictures is telling us to relax and go easy with this “all-star comedy set during the latter years of Hollywood’s Golden Age.” That it’s basically a smart, very dry, typically perverse Coen Bros. entertainment and that’s all. That it’s a Burn After Reading-type deal, an Intolerable Cruelty thing, maybe some kind of Hollywood Ladykillers…whatever. Just leave us alone and we’ll bring the movie out in the final stages of the 2015 Oscar season and you’ll like it or you won’t or whatever. We don’t care. Well, we care but we’re doing what we’re doing because we feel like doing it this way. Principal photography begins in November or fairly soon. It’ll probably finish principal by sometime in January, and then the Coens will have months and months and months to fiddle with the editing.
“We don’t get many smart big movies. I understand why movies are big, but not why they’re not smart. And by smart, I don’t mean opaque or unavailable. But even as machines these movies are not smart. I did like X-Men: Days of Future Past, but, really, comic-book movies have destroyed the foreign-sales market. But the people want it. It’s an efficient market. That’s why I wish something like The Matrix would come out now — that was an extraordinary film. We need something like that to remind people that they can have a big movie that’s also smart and exciting.” — Director (Michael Clayton, Duplicity, The Bourne Deception), screenwriter and Nightcrawler producer Tony Gilroy in a conversation with Marshall Fine.
Wells response: Correct me if I’m wrong but “big” movies are “not smart” — i.e., fairly primitive with the exception of a relative few — because they’re (a) greenlighted and overseen by studio zombies and (b) primarily aimed at under-35 mainstream moviegoers, the majority of whom are generally understood to be the most video-gamey and comic-book-minded, the most ADD-afflicted, the least dialogue-tolerant and the most under-educated viewing audience in the history of human civilization, going back to the Greeks.
Due respect to A24 marketers but the slogan that appears on the new poster for J.C. Chandor‘s A Most Violent Year is a bit of a head-scratcher. Obviously the result of any earthly endeavor is always in question, depending in part on the particular path (method, approach, strategy, technique) chosen by the players. One assumes, therefore, that the “result” alluded to is death and therefore “the path you take to get there” is the only thing that matters. In other words, it’s not who wins but how you play the game. But death is not a “result” of a life — it’s simply a biological inevitability. A “result” always alludes to an end-game payoff or consequence that comes at the end of a practical endeavor — a winning of an election or a woman, the obtaining of a contract, the paying of a parking ticket when you park illegally, a fatal overdose when you shoot extra-strong heroin, the winning of a world series, etc. But as noted, these things are never done deals until they happen. So the slogan, no offense, doesn’t quite add up. For me. Maybe someone can help me out.
After leafing through Shawn Levy‘s “De Niro: A Life” last night I dropped in on Levy’s “Junk Drawer of Shawn’s Mind” page and copied a few snaps. The exception is the shot (right below McQueen) of Birdman cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, Michael Keaton in Birdman costume and director Alejandro G. Inarritu. All the rest originate (so to speak) with the Levy page:
Diahnne Abbott, Robert De Niro in 1982
The legend of Inspector Javert, the dogged hard-ass in Victor Hugo‘s Les Miserables, has nothing on the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, which has again reportedly tried to extradite director Roman Polanski to the U.S. in order to face charges over having jumped bail in early 1978 regarding the Samantha Geimer statutory rape case. The guy who tried to have Polanski flown back in handcuffs last time was L.A. County district attorney Steve Cooley, a Republican, but he left the office in 2012. The current L.A. County district attorney is Jackie Lacey, the first woman and first African-American to serve as Los Angeles County District Attorney since the office was created in 1850. I don’t know if Lacey is behind this latest Polanski maneuver or not, but if she is…brilliant! This is rabid-dog behavior. Obviously there’s no end to the obsessions of the Polanski pitchforkers. These people really and truly need counseling. Along with a leash.
Way back in early February I tapped out a rave review of Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. I did so from my room at Berlin’s Grand Wyndman Hotel during a Fox Searchlight junket for the film. The piece is fairly well written if I do say so myself. It also seems appropriate in this, the height of Derby season, to remind everyone what a superb film Budapest is, was and always will be because…you know, films released in February are sometimes presumed to be not as good as those released between Labor Day and late December. Here it is again:
Rest assured that while Budapest is a full-out ‘Wes Anderson film’ (archly stylized, deadpan humor, anally designed) it also delights with flourishy performances and a pizazzy, loquacious script that feels like Ernst Lubitsch back from the dead, and particularly with unexpected feeling — robust affection for its characters mixed with a melancholy lament for an early-to-mid 20th Century realm that no longer exists.
Tickets to Monday’s premiere screening of Dumb and Dumber To (Universal, 11.14) are at a premium, but at least I’m on the waiting list. The Farrelly Brothers comedy was set to screen at the Virginia Film Festival but Universal yanked it a couple of days ago. They somehow got it into their heads that the comic sequel would screen only for University of Virginia students and not reviewing press. When someone tapped them on the shoulder and reminded them that any film screening at a film festival is fair game for review, they went “what!?” and pulled the plug. I really loved the Farrelly’s Three Stooges movie and I’m almost certain to like this one, despite the “younger dumb guys tend to be a bit funnier” consideration. Carrey to Letterman: “Once you’ve done a couple of press tours, you welcome death. And I’ve been married a couple of times so it takes a lot to scare me, Dave.”