Sasha Stone and I recorded a podcast last weekend but it wasn’t good enough so we tossed it. This week’s version cuts the mustard. The inevitability of Room, the popcorny-ness of The Martian, what Bridge of Spies may actually be, Paramount’s decision to open The Big Short in December. Sasha saw Spotlight for a second time last Friday night at a special Lisa Taback screening and believes even more strongly that it’s the likeliest winner for the time being. We discussed the shortcomings of The Walk a bit more, but agreed that the last 25 or so minutes are unmissable. Again, the mp3.
I expressed a strongly negative opinion about Lenny Abrahamson and Emma Donoghue‘s Room after seeing it at the Toronto Film Festival on Tuesday, 9.14, and again after this glum maternal instinct drama won the TIFF audience award six days later. “This can’t be happening,” I said to myself. “A film that I hated is going to be Best Picture nominated?” For a while I thought I might try and lead the troops in a grand XY-chromosone pushback campaign.
Then I spoke this morning to an Academy member who has been a kind of bellwether of industry sentiments in years past. After saying he was respectful but mezzo-mezzo on Spotlight, he mentioned that he’s seen Room and that he’s giving it a thumbs-up. He said that while Room is a tough sit, it’s nonetheless a strong film that accomplishes its goals. He actually seemed to be giving it a higher grade than Spotlight….good God.
And then he said something else that made me want to just collapse on the floor and curl up and die. He said that he stepped out into the lobby during the latter part of the Room screening he attended (or just after it ended — I forget which) and he noticed a somewhat older woman who was weeping alone. Now, she may have been weeping about something entirely unrelated to Room but what are the odds of that?
I don’t care what anyone says about Ridley Scott‘s The Martian (20th Century Fox, 10.2) being a moderately strong Best Picture contender. I’m sorry but it’s not. It’ll make a lot of dough but it’ll never be in “the conversation.” It’s a nicely disciplined, scientific-minded, highly entertaining rescue flick with a charismatic Matt Damon doing nearly all of the heavy lifting — good for him. I’m giving it an A-minus or a B-plus but it’s a cool popcorn movie and not an Oscar contender. End of discussion.
Earlier today I reported that a New York-based female friend of an L.A. screenwriter had told him that the breathtaking wire-walking finale in Robert Zemeckis‘ The Walk gave her “motion sickness.” Now I’m reading a report from The Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg that says three guys were observed “simultaneously vomiting” in the Alice Tully Hall men’s room right after the climactic scene was shown.
This is good publicity for the film, of course, as younger males are sure to flock to The Walk to prove to themselves (and to their girlfriends) that they’re not like those three pathetic specimens referenced above. As Feinberg notes, the Walk climax “isn’t for everyone.”
HE to the three spewing Lincoln Center guys: Where is your manhood? Where is your honor? You do realize, I presume, that from this moment on you can no longer fantasize that you have a bit of that preternatural Steve McQueen cool…right? When you ralphed last night you gave up your membership in that club for life. The next time you watch Bullitt (’67) you can identify with Robert Duvall‘s cab driver…fair enough? Or with Robert Vaughn‘s guy…whatsisname, Walter Chalmers.
I wrote a couple of months ago about the forthcoming Criterion Bluray of Ettore Scola‘s A Special Day, and here’s another mention with the 10.13 street date just around the corner. It’s an exceptionally moving two-hander, and is arguably the best film Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni ever costarred in. I love the original color scheme, which is not precisely sepia but sepia mixed with faded color. DVD Beaver‘s Gary Tooze has posted comparisons between a 2007 DVD version and the Criterion Bluray, which was restored last year by CSC-Cineteca Nazionale at L’Immagine Ritrovata with the digital transfer supervised by Scola. The eight-year-old DVD mainly went with faded color.
A screenwriter I know has passed along reactions of a New York-based friend who saw Robert Zemeckis‘ The Walk at the New York Film Festival yesterday, and who mentioned nausea and PTSD. Direct email quote: “I couldn’t take the 3-D, and the whole finale gave me motion sickness and flashbacks to seeing people falling from the twin towers. And I wasn’t alone [in this reaction].'”
Remember the “too soon” crowd who didn’t want to watch Paul Greengrass‘s United 93 when it came out nine years ago? Remember four years ago when Movieline‘s Stu Van Airsdale spoke to a guy who’d seen an early cut of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and one of his reactions was that the impressionistic recall of 9/11 horrors was “inappropriate” and “too soon”? Ten years later?
Some New Yorkers will never get over that day no matter what, but The Walk doesn’t do anything, really, except show the twin towers from all kinds of angles for the last 25 or so minutes. There are no summonings of nightmares.
And yet The Walk could have been a bit more delicate. One of the things that James Marsh‘s Man On Wire got right and The Walk gets wrong is that Marsh didn’t lift a finger to allude to the WTC’s ultimate fate. He knew he didn’t have to. But at the very end of The Walk Zemeckis has Joseph Gordon Levitt talk about a special visitor pass to the observation deck of the WTC and how the official who gave it to him had crossed out the expiration date and written “forever.”
That would have been more than enough, but then Zemeckis has to pan his camera over and focus on the towers (which look kinda painted rather than real) for 20 or 25 seconds and have them gradually fade into darkness. I realize that American audiences seem to like emphasis and a lack of restraint. I realize that a lot of people are going to be touched by this final moment. And that you can’t tell people that it’s better to undersell, that less is always more. People like what they like. There’s no accounting for taste.
In yesterday’s award-season chat between The Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg and Stephen Galloway, topic #1 is Paramount’s decision to release Adam McKay‘s The Big Short, adapted from Michael Lewis‘ book, is late December, obviously with an aim of making some award-season noise a la The Blind Side and Moneyball, which are also Lewis adaptations.
Galloway: “I was fascinated by that. You know what I think it means? Paramount’s Megan Colligan obviously studied the awards landscape and concluded there’s no film that can’t be beaten.” (That means you, Revenant, Joy and Spotlight!) “It puts the studio right back in the awards game after it looked like they’d have no contender. Last year, as you know, their awards strategy took a bit of a turn after Interstellar sputtered, and Selma came out of nowhere to get a best picture nomination. I’m sure they learned from that — not least the danger of having a movie appear so late in the game that nobody has a chance to see it.”
From 9.27 review by Little White Lies‘ David Jenkins: “Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk lays on the cartoon gloss like Vaseline before a marathon, transforming what some may have chalked up as one man fulfilling an incomprehensible life’s calling into a case of wishy-washy daredevilism, a disaster movie with little at stake.
“In Zemeckis’ buttery paws, Phillipe Petit becomes a stock action hero, a twinkle-toed dreamer who is powered by nuggets of old-timey wisdom and screwball serendipity that he acquires along the road to infamy.
“A tone of light comedy prevails from the get-go, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt prancing around on the torch of the Statue of Liberty and teeing up his tall tale like a court jester above his station. There’s the feeling that Zemeckis is in constant doubt that his audience might dismiss this story as whimsical and inconsequential, and so his screenplay — co-written by Christopher Browne and based on Petit’s book, ‘To Reach The Clouds’ — employs a narration whose purpose appears to be to make sure that even a scintilla of ambiguity is neutralized on sight.”
Last night I decided to skip the L.A. premiere screening of Ondi Timoner’s BRAND: A Second Coming and just hit the party instead. Little did I know that Timoner has trimmed about 15 minutes from the version I saw two or three months ago at the L.A. Film Festival, and I didn’t think that cut needed tightening at all. I’m nonetheless told that it plays quite nicely. The party was at St. Felix on Cahuenga. I spoke briefly to Amy Berg about her doc, Janis: Little Girl Blue, which I saw and loved in Toronto. HE’s own Svetlana Cvetko, who shot a large portion of the Brand doc, was in attendance along with Timoner, of course, as well as street artist and illustrator Shepard Fairey.
(l. to. r.: Shepard Fairey, BRAND: A Second Coming director Ondi Timoner, dp Svetlana Cvetko.
I attended this morning’s press screening of Robert Zemeckis‘ The Walk at IMAX headquarters in Playa del Rey. I found the first 100 minutes fairly dreadful — over-acted, “cute”, hamboned, like some kind of Gene Kelly musical…as manipulative and ungenuine and disrespectful of reality as any Hollywood bullshit fantasy you’ve ever sat through. But the last 25 minutes deliver one of the greatest visual knockout experiences I’ve ever seen on an IMAX screen. This finale is so good that I have no choice to but recommend The Walk despite all the awful stuff.
Yes, that’s my review in a nutshell — The Walk will make you feel nauseous but you need to see the finale so I’m sorry but you’ll have to suffer through it. 98% of the time a movie that drives you nuts for the first three-quarters will deliver a sucky finish. But not this time.
What Zemeckis has done is take the real-life, inspirational saga of wire-walker Phillippe Petit (played by Joseph Gordon Levitt), the ginger-haired Frenchman who walked on a wire between the World Trade Center towers eight times on the morning of 8.7.74, and turn it into cliched, manipulative, family-friendly oatmeal.
James Marsh‘s Man on Wire (’09) took the exact same material and made one of the most fascinating and spiritually uplifting docs of the 21st Century. Zemeckis’ film is basically Man on Wire for megaplex idiots — for the fine citizens who need to feel scared or awed and have everything spelled out for them, as if they’re eight or nine years old. If you’re a fan of dumbing stuff down for whatever reason, you’ll love The Walk. It has laughs, charm, love, silliness, slapstick, quirky humor, thrills, passion, suspense! And broad strokes every which way. And that knockout ending!
I now have a good idea what it was like for Petit to walk between the towers on that fateful morning. Seriously. Try watching this segment without moaning or groaning or gripping your knees. Try looking down 110 stories in 3D from Petit’s POV. Go ahead, give it a shot. The words “holy” and “shit” will form in your mind. Whether or not you say them is up to you.
I’m aware, obviously, that no other award-season spitballers have insisted, as I have, that Amy Schumer‘s emotionally subtle and occasionally tear-inducing performance in Trainwreck is Best Actress-worthy, but I swear it definitely is. Schumer’s work in that brilliant Judd Apatow film is no less of an achievement than that of Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday, and just because Schumer is a comedian is not (hello?) a mark against her. She delivers the goods. You can feel exactly where her character is coming from in each and every Trainwreck scene, and she never goes for just one note — she’s always juggling two or three conflicting considerations or impulses at any given moment. I realize I’m going to have to be a realist and drop my Schumer crusade down the road, but shame on the punditry for not even raising the Schumer balloon. It’s September, for God’s sake — time to mix passion and advocacy with the usual tea-leaf readings. Live a little.
Yesterday Hollywood Reporter award-season analyst Scott Feinberg, relying on exhaustive cross-checking of data and precedents mixed with his usual Yoda-like perceptions (which are not the same thing as being graced with Hollywood Elsewhere-style insect antennae), posted some spitball projections on the basis of “if the Oscars were held tomorrow and voters could consider only contenders that have already been screened” — i.e., at Telluride and Toronto. I’m reposting a few along with HE commentary:
(1) Feinberg starts by declaring that Spotlight would win Best Picture, Tom McCarthy would win Best Director for his work on that Boston-based drama, and that Spotlight would win for Best Original Screenplay. (HE comment: Agree, fully deserved) He also projected that The Danish Girl‘s Eddie Redmayne would win Best Actor (HE comment: Just you wait) and that Brooklyn‘s Saoirse Ronan would win Best Actress (HE comment: Fine).
(2) Feinberg also projected that Joel Edgerton‘s over-performed and overly-accented John Connolly in Black Mass would win for Best Supporting Actor. (HE comment: The light blue suits won by Edgerton in Scott Cooper‘s film are a disqualification in and of themselves.) Feinberg also believes The Danish Girl‘s Alicia Vikander would win Best Supporting Actress (HE comment: I get it — everybody gravitated toward her performance when they realized that Redmayne’s was so relentlessly delicate and one-note, but it’s early yet).