I was at a stop-sign intersection the other day in Beverly Hills with the drivers of two or three cars looking at each other and wondering who would go first. The DMV handbook says to defer to the guy on your right, but that never seems to work as the guy on the right is usually deferring to some timid, deferential impulse and is unwilling to make the first move. Or he’s texting or not paying attention. The best strategy is to wait two or three seconds and then go for it. People usually roll with the idea of a guy on a motorcycle going first, and I tend to take advantage of that. So I crossed and was rolling along down the next block and then I saw a guy halfway into the next intersection and was ready to turn left. So I approached with an assumption that he would go first and I would wait before continuing on. But when I got closer he didn’t have the balls to go for it so I went instead, and so the guy honked. The honk meant “hey, show some manners! I was about to turn left in the intersection and you just pulled in front of me like you own the road.” I understood what he was saying. I didn’t mind that he honked. It’s okay. On the other hand I presume that he understood then and understands now that if a driver lacks decisiveness he/she is going to have to wait for decisive, take-charge drivers to go first. It’s not a big deal. Sometimes I’m the timid guy and when somebody else goes first, I accept it.
Six days ago Vanity Fair‘s Joanna Robinson posted a comprehensive projection piece about an alleged Eyes Wide Shut-level orgy scene in episode six of True Detective, which airs tonight on HBO. The orgy will happen at some secluded, manor-like lodge in Geurneville, California, a small town on the Russian River that I’ve personally visited a few times. Nice town, nice country vibe.
Guerneville, you should know, is a couple of miles from Monte Rio, which of course is where the fabled Bohemian Grove is located. (Here’s a map of the area.) A private 700-square-acre retreat for powerful white guys, Bohemian Grove is known for having hosted all kinds of pagan bonfire celebrations with guys wearing animal heads and loin cloths and pissing in the bushes. The Wiki page quotes Bill Clinton as describing the Bohemian Club as a place “where all those rich Republicans go up and stand naked against redwood trees, right?” On the Watergate tapes Richard Nixon is heard saying that he’s visited “from time to time…but it is the most faggy goddamn thing you could ever imagine.”
At this stage in the investigation of the Sandra Bland tragedy it really would require an exceptional degree of determination to believe that she might have been killed by Sheriff’s deputies in Waller County Jail on July 13th, or three days after allegedly kicking state trooper Brian Encinia after he pulled her over for a penny-ante traffic violation in Prairie View, Texas. The concept of a 28 year-old woman hanging herself over being temporarily incarcerated sounds extremely bizarre, but all the evidence points to suicide. It makes no “sense” apart from Bland having allegedly been distraught over her bail amount and having told authorities that she attempted suicide earlier, but there’s just no way to trust any other interpretation.
Another mass shooting will happen sooner or later, and then another one after that and so on. Accepting the possiblility of being murdered in a workplace or a movie theatre or a school by an unstable nutter is part of the price we pay for American citizenship. A mild, fair-minded background check amendment for commercial gun sales was killed by the U.S. Senate in April 2013 in a 54-46 vote, and among the Republican Senators from “gun states” who voted it down were Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Ted Cruz of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida. Will this country be as gun crazy when the Millenials are running things 20 years from now?
What’s with the narration, or more particularly the narrator’s weirdly dated speaking style? It’s meant to be processed as a form of mock-ironic commentary (right?), but that suggests that Queen of Earth is some kind of dry comedy and not, as the copy states, “a psychological character study about an emotionally fragile woman (Elizabeth Moss) on the verge of a mental breakdown during her stay at a lakeside retreat with her seemingly unsympathetic best friend (Katherine Waterston).” IFC Films will open pic on 8.26.
Jason Segel has stood up and officially thrown his hat into the Oscar ring. His 9.26 interview with the N.Y. Times Oscar-season “bagger” Cara Buckley about his attention-getting performance as the late David Foster Wallace in James Ponsoldt‘s The End of the Tour (A24, 7.31) pretty much constitutes an official announcement. The theme of Segel’s campaign will be one that any working actor can relate to — the occasional need to gather one’s courage in order to stretch and break the mold and defy typecasting.
The End of The Tour‘s Jason Segel.
Segel “had grown weary of rote rom-com roles and was ravenous for change,” Buckley writes. Portraying a much-worshipped writer “was such a U-turn from Mr. Segel’s regular fare [that it] made the part only more tantalizing. ‘I knew I was going to try it, immediately,’ Mr. Segel said in an interview in the lounge of Manhattan’s Bowery Hotel. ‘When you start repeating yourself, it gets boring for everybody.'”
But if Segel and his handlers are smart, they’ll focus on the Best Supporting Actor race rather than Best Actor. The Best Actor situation is already half-locked down at this stage, and there’s just no way in hell that Segel will be able to elbow aside Black Mass‘s Johnny Depp, The Revenant‘s Leonardo DiCaprio, Trumbo‘s Bryan Cranston, Steve Jobs‘ Michael Fassbender, The Danish Girl‘s Eddie Redmayne (that’s five already!) and Snowden‘s (or The Walk‘s) Joseph Gordon Levitt (six!). Not to mention Love & Mercy‘s fully deserving Paul Dano and John Cusack, who’ve been looking at an uphill climb since last June.
On Tuesday morning (7.28) organizers of the Toronto Film Festival (9.10 to 9.20) will announce many of the major award-season contenders that will be screened as world gala premieres (first time anywhere), North American premieres (already seen in Cannes or Berlin but not slated for Telluride) or Canadian premieres. The latter category will include films that have chosen to premiere at Telluride and have therefore accepted either (a) a lesser Toronto venue if they want to screen during TIFF’s first four days or (b) a premiere at a first-class theatre anytime after the first four days.
In other words handicappers, like last year, can again work backwards from Toronto’s Tuesday announcement. If a toney, big-name film is classified as a Canadian premiere, it’s playing Telluride first. A film can also be identified as a Telluride-firster if it’s playing at a less-than-deluxe venue over the first four days, but when will venue info be available?
It seems as if Toronto is, as usual, playing hardball and doing everything it can to elbow Telluride in the ribs whenever possible. In some ways Toronto’s gangsta strategy appears to be working but in other ways Telluride (9.4 to 9.7) is still the coolest and fairest festival of them all.
I’m hearing that Scott Cooper‘s Black Mass, a true-life melodrama about Boston crime lord Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp), is a definite Telluride preem. If nothing else the Telluride debut will serve as a launch pad for Depp’s Best Actor campaign.
Oscar-wise Depp will be up against The Revenant‘s Leonardo DiCaprio, Trumbo‘s Bryan Cranston, Steve Jobs‘ Michael Fassbender, The Danish Girl‘s Eddie Redmayne (I’m starting to get irritated by the LGBT club hanging over everyone’s head…show your love for this touching portrait of transgender humanism or you may be suspected of being a closet bigot) and possibly Joseph Gordon Levitt in either (a) Oliver Stone‘s Snowden or (b) for his Pepe Le Pew performance in Robert Zemeckis‘s The Walk.
It’s entirely possible that Marc Abraham‘s I Saw The Light (Sony Pictures Classics, 11.27), the Hank Williams biopic costarring Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen, will have its first peek-out at the 2015 Telluride Film Festival (9.4 through 9.7). SPC and Telluride have longstanding ties, and it’s already understood the SPC’s Truth and Son of Saul (which world-preemed at Last May’s Cannes Film Festival) will screen at that Colorado gathering. Or…whatever, it could also debut at the Toronto Film Festival. We’ll know on Tuesday when Toronto announces some of the bigger films on its slate.
I Saw The Light costars (and the off-screen entwined) Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen.
Andrey and Hank Williams with their two kids sometime in the late 1940s.
I’ve heard from a research-screening source about I Saw The Light, which apparently runs in the vicinity of two hours. Hiddleston is said to be strongly invested as Williams but Olsen’s performance as his wife and musical partner Audrey is said to be the real-stand-out. The second-hand source passed along adjectives like “unreal” and “scene-stealing,” and said Olsen could wind up as a Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress contender, as her performance is right on the edge between lead or supporting. Hiddleston and Olsen have been in a relationship since the film shot last year, but if she does indeed steal the film acting-wise (and again, this is just one guy talking so take it with a grain)…well, do the math. Hiddleston is no doubt expecting Light to be a major career-booster.
Like many others I’ve been inspired by that much-derided BBC list of the 100 Greatest American Films to assemble my own roster. Except I can’t pare it down to 100 — the best I can do is 160, and even with this number I’ve had to cut dozens and dozens. It’s not a fun thing to do because over and over again you’re saying “no, no, naaah, hasn’t aged well, no longer, naaah, don’t think so.” And every one of the films that’s been “naahed” was pretty good if not great to start with. On its own terms, I mean.
I’ve broken my list into groups of ten. There are several great films I’ve left out because I’ve never liked watching them very much so there. If a film bothers me on some level, it gets tossed — I don’t care how “great” everyone else says it is. I’m not saying there aren’t 200 or 300 more films that could easily be on someone else’s list. I’m saying these are my choices, and it wasn’t easy.
The most daunting part was choosing The Best American Film Of All Time, which it not a rock or a boulder but a dream, a passing fancy, a thought bubble in the mind of God. Or whatever…a film that expresses something vital and enduring about the American experience or character or attitude. But that sounds pretentious and tedious. Every and every greatest film choice on this list is a keeper, but the very best is…oh, the hell with it. I’m choosing The Treasure of The Sierra Madre (’48) but tomorrow I might select Dr. Strangelove or Zero Dark Thirty or 12 Angry Men or Tender Mercies. No guarantees, nothing rock solid. The top tier of any list is always debatable.
The definition of an “American” film is one principally funded by an American company.
HE’s Top Ten Greatest American Films: (1) The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, (2) Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, (3 & 4) The Godfather & The Godfather, Part II (5) The Graduate, (6) Election, (7) Zodiac, (8) Rushmore, (9) Pulp Fiction, (10) Some Like It Hot.
Greatest American Films (11 to 20): (11) North By Northwest, (12) Notorious, (13) On The Waterfront, (14) Groundhog Day, (15) Goodfellas, (16) Out Of The Past, (17) Paths of Glory, (18) Psycho, (19) Raging Bull, (20) 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Greatest American Films (21 to 30): (21) Annie Hall, (22) Apocalypse Now, (23) Strangers on a Train, (24) East of Eden, (25) Bringing Up Baby, (26) The African Queen, (27) All About Eve, (28) The Wizard of Oz, (29) Zero Dark Thirty, (30) Only Angels Have Wings.
Greatest American Films (31 to 40): (31) Repo Man, (32) Heat, (33) Red River, (34) Drums Along the Mohawk, (35) Gone With The Wind, (36) Rebel Without a Cause, (37) Ben-Hur (38) The Best Years of Our Lives, (39) The Big Sleep, (40) Shane.
Greatest American Films (41 to 50): (41) Rear Window, (42) Bonnie And Clyde, (43) The Bridge On The River Kwai, (44) Casablanca, (45) Chinatown, (46) Citizen Kane (47) Marnie…kidding! I really mean Duck Soup, (48) King Kong, (49) 12 Angry Men (50) The Informer.
“A new Vacation movie is scheduled to be released — or allowed to escape — on July 29. To judge by the obvious, pitiful, frenetic, stupid raunchiness of its trailer, it belongs to the genre known as ‘post-humoristic.’ The movie declares itself to be a remake of National Lampoon’s Vacation, the 1983 classic of obvious, pitiful, frenetic, stupid innocence. But the words ‘National Lampoon’ are never mentioned in the trailer. National Lampoon now seems damned to the point that its name isn’t even worthy of being attached to a summer cineplex dump-fill featuring the Hangover wimp dentist as leading man and a Chevy Chase cameo.” — from a 7.23 Hollywood Reporter piece by former author, satirist, Republican Party reptile and former National Lampoon editor P.J. O’Rourke.
My first reaction when I heard about last night’s Lafeyette theatre shooting was…I was going to say I almost shrugged but that’s not quite true. I felt horrible about the two women killed (particularly for 33 year-old Jillian Johnson, who could have been Sasha Stone‘s younger sister) and those who were shot but thankfully survived, but I wasn’t shocked or surprised. Nobody was. And nobody will be the next time this happens and the time after that. There have been 204 mass shootings so far in the U.S. this year. Two effing hundred and four. Society will always have to cope with pathetic loons like John Russell Houser, but how did he get hold of a gun? Easy — this is America, son, and we don’t block the sale of guns to anyone if we can help it. Because people have a right to protect themselves from home invaders and attacking Apaches and…hell, the government itself! Over 90% of Americans strongly favor in-depth background checks. May the D.C. legislators who’ve voted against this time and again suffer long and painfully — may their karma catch up with them.
(l.) Sasha Stone look-alike Jillian Johnson, 33, and (r.0 Mayci Breaux, 21 — both killed last night during the Lafayette theatre shooting.
Alex Gibney‘s Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (Magnolia, 9.4 in theatres/on demand) will, of course, be regarded as absolutely necessary viewing for anyone intending to see Danny Boyle, Aaron Sorkin and Scott Rudin‘s Steve Jobs the following month (i.e., 10.9), which of course would be everyone and everybody in the entire fucking world. Outside of certain Middle Eastern regions, that is. Everyone in the digitized, industrialized Western hemisphere.