I’m a day late on this but was there any Oscar-telecast viewer in the entire world who didn’t assume that Imitation Game screenwriter Graham Moore was gay after that moving acceptance speech? Anyone? After the Oscars Moore told reporters he’s straight. Okay, fine…but he had to know how his words would be interpreted, especially after referencing the sadness of Alan Turing as he began. The important thing, of course, is that he said a good thing. Kids who feel weird or strange or different (as I definitely felt when I was 15 and 16) should own that and not worry. But Moore’s speech was a bit odd itself.
Five days ago I booked my Cannes Film Festival flights. Fares go up and down all the time but I had a vague suspicion that the Charlie Hebdo massacre plus general fears of ISIS might bring them down. (One of the first things I did after 9/11 was purchase a dirt-cheap RT to Paris.) On 2.19 I went on Expedia and bought a triangulated trip — New York to Paris on Thursday, May 7th (I like hanging in Paris for two or three days before taking the train to Cannes) and then Prague-to-New York on June 1st. The whole thing only cost $1050 — pretty good. I’ve definitely paid more in the past. That’s not counting my Virgin America LAX to NYC RT, of course, or the train fare or the flight from Nice to Prague so I’m not getting away with murder, but you have to watch fares like the stock market. I just went online to re-check prices and the same trip now costs $1300.
It would appear that Ryan Gosling and Guillermo del Toro recently visited Disneyland as a way of cementing their bond. Based on what exactly? Well, Guillermo is a fan of Gosling’s Lost River, which I understand and agree with, and they’ll be doing a panel discussion of Lost River together at South by Southwest (3.13 to 3.21). But why Disneyland of all infernal places? Why not drive out to the desert or fly to Italy or something? I haven’t been to Disneyland since taking the kids there 17 or 18 years ago. Never again.
This morning The Playlist‘s Kevin Jagernauth reported that Lee Daniels‘ Richard Pryor biopic is a distinct (though far from guaranteed) possibility as far being a late 2015 release. Yes…another biopic of a genius whose life was destroyed by drugs and then died too soon. How many times has this story been told? Pryor’s widow Jennifer Lee has said during an “Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend” podcast that the biopic will roll in July. Mike Epps as Pryor, Kate Hudson as Jennifer and Oprah Winfrey “so far” attached as Pryor’s grandmother. Daniels rewriting Bill Condon‘s script. Jennifer says that Harvey Weinstein “would like it to be released for the Oscars…because, you know, Harvey is good at that shit.” Selma shot last June and couldn’t punch the screeners out in time. It sounds as if the Pryor pic would work out better as a 2016 release. Flashback: I met Pryor at a Comedy Store press event sometime in the mid ’90s, when he was in a wheelchair and a thin, frail remnant of his former self. Mixed feelings, to say the least. We spoke for a few minutes but I could barely hear his voice.
I’ve kind of settled into Togetherness. It’s well written and appealingly acted for the most part, and I’ve gradually come to feel relaxed and easy with Mark Duplass‘s Brett, Amanda Peet‘s Tina and Steve Zissis‘ Alex. The problem is Melanie Lynskey‘s Michelle, who is generally morose and draggy to hang with. (The exception to this rule has been the “Kick The Can” episode.) Brett and Michelle’s sex life is all but toast along with the marriage itself, but neither wants a divorce. On top of which Michelle has been falling for Jon Ortiz‘s David. I’ve read the synopsis of the latest episode, “Ghost in Chains,” with plans to see it later today or tonight, but Lynskey’s enervated let-me-out-of-here vibe makes me want to run for the hills. I’ve been there. Things can sexually flatten out in a committed relationship after a year or two, and unless that spark is truly crackling from the get-go getting things going can sometimes feel like an uphill hike. It’s very difficult for a longterm couple to open up and work through stuff and find new ways of trusting. Hard work. I’m basically saying that hanging with Lynskey brings all that failed-marriage stuff back, and I’d rather leave that shit in a box under the bed. Brett and Michelle should probably just cut the cord and figure out a custody arrangement with the kids. It all works out in the end.
Average Joes don’t care who’s running the big studios, but I do. Especially if the studio honcho isn’t some mushy corporate toadie but someone with a little passion and gumption and force of personality. In this sense Tom Rothman, who’s just been appointed Sony’s Motion Picture Group Chairman, or in layman’s terms the successor to Amy Pascal, is an intriguing fellow. The other contenders were Doug Belgrad and Mike Deluca. Rothman had been working as TriStar chairman. Before that he more or less ran 20th Century Fox’s film division with changing, increasingly powerful titles from ’96 through ’12, mostly as chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment. True story: I vaguely knew Rothman back in the early ’80s through actor friends, all of whom seemed to live on the Upper West Side. I was also glancingly familiar with his actor brother, John. One night Tom, myself and a few others sat around and played a speak-along dialogue game as we watched Gone With The Wind. I can recite GWTW dialogue any hour of the day. Scarlett: “Sir, you should have made your presence known. You are not a gentleman!” Rhett: “And you, miss, are no lady.”
Wait…did I just make a mistake? In politically correct Stalinist circles and particularly in the wake of 12 Years A Slave, saying you’re down with GWTW can almost be interpreted as a tacit endorsement of its patronizing attitudes towards blacks and absurd characterizations of plantation slave life. It’s almost like saying you admire Birth of a Nation. Sorry! I hate GWTW! Not really. GWTW has always been a racist joke, except it’s really a film about the hard deprivations of life during the early years of the Depression and how gumption and survival instincts are what really matter in life. And the last hour of the first half (attending to dying men in Atlanta hospital to “I’ll never be hungry again!” in Tara) is about as good as old-school Hollywood filmmaking gets.
16 months ago I posted a riff about the Fox Home Video Bluray of Joseph L. Mankiewicz‘s A Letter To Three Wives (’49). I was discussing the film with a friend today, and as this piece didn’t get much action I figured I’d give it a slight rewrite (it wasn’t well shaped or carefully written enough) and give it another go:
“I first saw this…oh, sometime in my teens. Even in that early stage of aesthetic development I remember admiring the brilliant writing and especially the way it pays off. Nominally it’s a woman’s drama about marital insecurity. The plot is about three suburban wives (Jeanne Crain‘s, Linda Darnell, Ann Southern‘s) who’ve just learned before going on a kind of picnic that one of their husbands has “run away” with sophisticated socialite Addie Ross, who narrates the film from time to time (the voice belongs to Celeste Holm) but is never seen.
“But that’s just the story or clothesline upon which Wives hangs its real agenda. For this is primarily an examination of social mores, values and ethics among middle-class marrieds in late 1940s America.
I’m sorry but I felt myself disengage less than ten seconds after this trailer began playing. The mere suggestion of an “uneven but pleasurably mellow indie,” in the words of Variety critic Ronnie Scheib, puts cold fear in my veins. Alex of Venice is one of those sensitive life-transition dramas, Scheib warns, that “veer toward the understated and mundane” and which “will attract connoisseurs of the laid-back.” God…no!
Vulture‘s Kyle Buchanan and IMDB’s Keith Simanton tied for best score (83% correct) among the Gold Derby Oscar guesstimators. My advocacy attitude equals indifference about how accurate my predictions are, but I must confess to being amused when I was told a couple of hours ago that my 75% accurate pickings were the same as TheWrap‘s Steve Pond and Out.com’s Michael Musto, and that Deadline‘s Pete Hammond and Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone actually tallied lower with 67% scores.
I’ve been told I need to add Jay Roach‘s Trumbo, a biopic of once-blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, to HE’s list of notable, aspirational 2015 films. The period drama, filmed last fall in the New Orleans area, stars Bryan Cranston as Trumbo, one of the most prolific and honored screenwriters in Hollywood history. Costars include Diane Lane, Elle Fanning. Helen Mirren and John Goodman. Dalton Trumbo is renowned for having used “fronts” or having otherwise taken no screen credit for scripts written during his blacklisted period in the ’50s. Kirk Douglas, who claimed credit for being the first to hire Trumbo under his own name on Spartacus, is played by Dean O’Gorman; Otto Preminger, portrayed by Christian Berkel, paid Trumbo the same respect when he gave Trumbo public screen credit for his work on Exodus. Preminger’s film came out two months after Spartacus but who stepped up first? Douglas states on a Criterion commentary track that he provided a drive-on pass for Trumbo during the filming of Spartacus in late ’59 or early ’60. David James Elliott plays Trumbo enemy and rightie rabble-rouser John Wayne. Pic is produced by Michael London‘s Groundswell Productions.
Bryan Cranston as screenwriter Dalton Trumbo in Jay Roach and Michael London’s Trumbo. Pic no release date but will probably pop six months from now at one of the August-September film festivals — Venice, Telluride or Toronto.
A spokesperson for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has provided the following statement to the L.A. Times about the absence of the late Joan Rivers from the “death reel” segment during last night’s Oscar telecast: “Joan Rivers is among the many worthy artists and filmmakers we were unfortunately unable to feature in the In Memoriam segment of this year’s Oscar show. She is, however, included in our In Memoriam gallery on Oscar.com.” Well, that’s bullshit. The Academy’s Board of Governors (and not, I’m told, Oscar show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who had nothing to say about it) weren’t “unable” to include Rivers. They considered whether to include her and then crossed her out. Their reasoning, one presumes, is that they decided that Rivers was more of a comedian and red-carpet interviewer — a periphery figure — than an actress or filmmaker. But if you think about it Johnny Carson — a guy who never made or starred in a film but who merely hosted the Tonight Show for decades as well as five Oscar telecasts — was just as much of an outlier. When Carson died in ’04 did the Oscar producers blow him off? No — in fact they devoted more time to his legend and passing than they did to the great Marlon Brando, whom they merely included in the death reel on the ’05 Oscar telecast. Carson was deemed such a major Oscar figure that he wasn’t even included in that montage — they gave him his own special tribute. You can argue that Carson was “bigger” than Rivers, but they were both essentially commentators and quipsters and deserving of the same kind of respect, certainly in the eyes of the Godz.
At last February’s Berlinale I caught Yann Demange‘s urgent, pulse-pounding ’71, and then promptly reviewed it. A bit later Roadside acquired ’71 but decided to hold it until early ’15, apparently hoping that star Jack O’Connell‘s drawing power would surge after the December ’14 release of Angelina Jolie‘s Unbroken, in which he played the late Louis Zamperini. Well, Unbroken was a domestic hit ($115 million) but ’71 isn’t driven by O’Connell’s charisma or star power — it’s really about Demange’s directing skills. You’d think that a violent chase thriller and a suspense film would play fine on its own terms, but the U.S. viewing public can be astonishingly thick and slow to respond to even the best-made films.