Almost exactly 20 years ago I hung for two or three hours with novelist-poet Jim Harrison, who at the time was 58 and in the absolute prime of his life, or so it seemed to me. The occasion was the Century City premiere of Bruno Barreto‘s Carried Away, which was based on Harrison’s “Farmer.” I had arranged with a Fine Line publicist to speak with him. 40 minutes before the film began I approached the marquee area and saw Harrison standing outside with some admirer or whomever, and I went up and introduced myself. He sensed my smart-ass attitude fairly quickly and we were fine from then on. Most of the talking happened at the after-party. A great fellow. He had this elegant, heavy-cat way of speaking (he would say “I think not” rather than “I don’t agree”) and had that slightly weird false eye and always with the lit cigarette…I just felt honored to share space with the guy. I so loved those Russell Chatham watercolors that always adorned the covers of the trade paperback editions of his books. Harrison was and still is one of my all-time favorite writers and a major stylistic influence (the others being Milan Kundera, Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe, William Faulkner, Norman Mailer, William Safire, Russell Baker). His prose can be so clean and clear and monumentally beautiful. I remember a line from “Dalva” about some none-too-bright guy being so in love with a woman that “he sometimes felt as if her ass was aimed at him, like some people from the lower end of the gene pool believe that TV shows are made for them personally.” I filed an L.A. Times Syndicate piece called “Riffing with Jim Harrison: The Brawny Poet-Novelist on Hollywood and Carried Away.” And now Harrison is dead of a heart attack at age 78. I can’t think of anything more to say except that he had a great 40-year run. It would have been nice to chat with him one more time but that Century City encounter was pretty special. Cheers.
Huffpost‘s Cole Delbyck is asserting that a deleted Batman v Superman scene (titled “Communion”) that appeared on YouTube today “might help clear up some confusion.” Does it? I still haven’t seen this Godforsaken thing so I wouldn’t know, but now that I’m back in Los Angeles I intend to man up and submit early this evening. God help me. This is like dreading a visit to the dentist x 1000. Incidentally: Batman v Superman rated a B from CinemaScore, which is more or less a failing grade. So that assertion by Variety‘s Brent Lang that BvS‘s opening $166 million domestic haul ($420 million worldwide) is some kind of stinging rebuke to critics is bunk. “When people want to pay to see a reputed piece of shit, you can’t stop ’em.” — Samuel Goldwyn. Besides, as noted in Forbes, Batman v Superman “set a new record [last weekend] for the worst Friday-to-Sunday drop for a superhero movie release in modern North American box office history.” Plus the public has agreed that it’s not very good or they wouldn’t have given it a Cinemascore B.
I got three hours’ sleep on yesterday’s Seoul-to-Los Angeles flight. I felt more or less okay when I got home around 5 pm, but my Hanoi body clock thought the time might be 7 am the next day. I was up until 1 am last night and then awoke at 3 am (5 pm Hanoi time) and then crashed again until just before 12 noon. Then I discovered that the sound-synch issues that have bedeviled me for weeks still haven’t gone away, even with the new Sony 65″ 4K which arrived two days before I left (on 3.14). An actor says “cat” or “culpable” or “have a glass of wine,” and his/her lips are just a little bit behind of the voice. (Or ahead of it.) It’s just half a beat but once you notice this problem you can’t do anything else but study lips. Infuriating. Digital sound synch wasn’t a problem for decades — it’s only manifested within the last five or six years.
These are two reasons why I haven’t filed anything. In Vietnam I wasn’t thinking about this crap at all. Now I’m in back in it. This is my life.
As much as I love Hanoi (wonderful food, throbbing street life, fascinating architectural stamp, magnificent traffic swarms, gentleness and kindness from everyone you run into) the air is nearly as bad as Beijing’s. You look up and it’s all kinds of gray and smoggy, like some kind of simulation of nuclear fallout. Here‘s a recent record of the “very unhealthy” pollution levels. It doesn’t matter if you’re visiting for a few days but your lungs would obviously suffer if you lived there permanently. And yet it’s a great place to be. I’m a fan of certain aspects of Los Angeles culture but visually and atmospherically it doesn’t begin to compare to the wonder of Hanoi. But when I stepped onto the LAX sidewalk today around 4:30 (3:05 landing, 20 minutes on tarmac, 40 minutes to get through customs, another 10 or 15 minutes pick up the bags) it sure was nice to look up and see sunshine and blue sky.
Bernie Sanders is claiming momentum in the wake of yesterday’s wins in Alaska, Hawaii and Washington. But they mainly happened because Alaska, Hawaii and Washington don’t have large black populations (i.e., low-information, “we don’t know him,” etc.) I can do the delegate math as well as anyone else. We all know how things’ll shake out in the end. But for the time being I sure feel proud about that Bernie sticker on the Majesty. Will I replace it with a Hillary sticker when the time comes? I’ll vote for her, of course, but I just can’t feel the passion. Never have, probably never will.
Devastating projections are contained in a two-day-old Cannes ’16 spitball piece by Variety‘s Peter Debruge and Elsa Keslassy. Every year I hope and pray that Cannes will be great on its own terms but will also debut some award-season contender along the lines of No Country for Old Men, the Best Picture winner that debuted in Cannes eight years ago, or Carol or something that will quicken pulses a bit next fall.
For one thing they claim that Paramount is “reportedly withholding” Martin Scorsese‘s Silence, which almost certainly means, of course, they’re afraid that the Cannes critical response might contaminate the well. It’s been an article of faith for months that Silence would almost surely play Cannes so this, for me, is shattering news.
They’re also reporting that Steven Spielberg‘s The BFG will play out of competition. So now I have to sit through and review a family-friendly Spielberg film? Costarring Mark Rylance, Rebecca Hall and Bill Hader? This is truly grotesque. Really, this feels awful.
On top of which Amazon Studios “is supposedly trying to keep Kenneth Lonergan’s critically acclaimed Manchester by the Sea under wraps until the fall” so there goes that pleasurable scenario.
Worse, it has been “strongly suggested” that Terrence Malick‘s Voyage of Time or Weightless will appear in the official selection…terrific. Unless he wakes up and changes course the man is over, and yet Cannes attendees may have to sit through another film that will probably contain the same meditative whispery dreamscape scheme that constituted Knight of Cups and To The Wonder.
And forget Oliver Stone‘s Snowden, Debruge and Keslassy are reporting. Open Road has apparently decided to keep that film under wraps until sometime closer to its 9.16 release date (i.e., right smack dab in the middle of the Toronto Film Festival).
Most of us know all about this, don’t we? Well, some of us. In greenlighting this 10-episode series the TNT guys calculated, of course, that 97% of the viewing public never heard of the 2010 Australian original feature, much less saw it. Shawn Hatosy has the Ben Mendelsohn role. Two off-the-top differences: (a) Ellen Barkin is a formidable actress and still a serious MILF while Jacki Weaver, who played Barkin’s role in the original, is a respected Australian actress, and (b) the family, now located somewhere in SoCal, is into robberies and not drugs.
Excerpts from my 2010 review of David Michod’s Animal Kingdom: “You never actually see any of the Cody brothers, a Melbourne-based crime family, commit any money-making (or money-stealing) crimes. Court testimony that has everyone on pins and needles for a good portion of the film is never heard. Bang-bang stuff happens, but infrequently and very quickly and is never milked for maximum cinematic impact.
“It’s mostly about paranoia leading to poisoning, but it’s also about the things you’re expecting to see never quite happening as you might expect.
“The Cody gang members are played by Ben Mendelsohn (as Andrew ‘Pope’ Cody), Joel Edgerton, Luke Ford (as Darren Cody), Sullivan Stapleton (as Craig Cody) and the heavy-lidded, not-especially-bright-looking James Frecheville (as the kid of the family, Joshua Cody).
It’s currently 8:35 pm in Hanoi and 6:35 am in Los Angeles. We’ll be heading back to Hanoi Airport tomorrow (Sunday) morning, and then catching the same 12:20 pm flight to Seoul. An hour or two later our respective flights will leave for New York (Jett, Cait) and Los Angeles (me). My flight will leave Seoul at 8 pm Sunday night and arrive in Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon at 3:10 pm.
Images from a recently popped French Bluray of Rowland Lee‘s Son of Frankenstein (’39) have revived an old complaint — the fact that there’s not a great deal of similarity between Boris Karloff‘s monster as he appeared in James Whale’s 1931 original, the 1935 sequel Bride of Frankenstein and Lee’s 1939 installment (which was Karloff’s swan song). In the 1931 film Karloff was gaunt-featured with dark bangs and dark, blotchy eye bags, and was fairly thin of frame. In Bride of Frankenstein the bangs were gone (burned off by the windmill fire) along with the blotchy eye bags, and Karloff, having gained 15 or 20 pounds since the success of Frankenstein, was a lot beefier. In 1939 he still had that well-fed look and a semblance of bangs had returned, but the under-eye makeup was gone forever. The bottom line is that the ’39 monster didn’t look like the ones in the ’35 or ’31 film — it was like Karloff was playing a brother or a cousin.
I was never completely smitten with Mark and Jay Duplass‘s Togetherness, but I was intrigued with all but one of the characters (the exception being Melanie Lynskey‘s Michelle Pierson, the downhead wife of Mark Duplass‘s Brett Pierson) and I always found it engagingly written and “real”. Honestly? I never watched it religiously because it was never, in my head, a priority. But I was glad it was happening and I’m sorry that HBO has killed it. The 4.10 Season 2 finale will wrap it up. HBO felt that the Season 2 numbers were too weak to continue (330,000 viewers per episode) but it would have been nice all the same if HBO had approved a third and final season. You could tell from Season 2 episodes that the Duplass brothers were still building and planting seeds and cruising within a middle-movement mentality, and that the real fireworks were being saved for Season 3.
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