Hollywood Elsewhere’s downgraded (i.e., GENERAL press pass rather than EXPRESS) Sundance Film Festival starts today. Well, tomorrow morning. Right now I’m Vegas-bound. Southwest Burbank flight about to leave. Sunny skies. All is well. Or, you know, good enough.
An older guy in the lounge: “You look like a musician.” Me: “I’m a journalist.” Older guy: “Whaddaya think of Trump?” Me: “I think he’s a beast…an abomination.” Older guy: “Did you ever meet him?” Me: “Oh, riiight. I haven’t personally met him so I should reserve judgment…is that it?” Older guy: “So you preferred Hillary?” Me: “I didn’t like her that much, but I voted for her. It was the only sane thing to do.”
Variety‘s Kris Tapley has called Deadpool a “stunningly resilient” contender in the awards race so far. I’ve no choice but to agree. A film that for me was probably the most obnoxious and tediously self-absorbed of 2016 (at least as far as the 40 minutes’ worth that I watched) has been nominated by the Producers Guild (to the everlasting horror of the ghost of Darryl F. Zanuck), the Directors Guild (an Outstanding Directorial Achievement in First-Time Feature Film nomination for Tim Miller over The Witch‘s Robert Eggers?), the Writers Guild (a stain on that organization that will not be easily scrubbed or forgotten), the American Cinema Editors, the Visual Effects Society and the Makeup and Hair Stylists Guild.
Deadpool is nothing more or less than a grating Daffy Duck cartoon blended with the self-regarding, self-perpetuating mythology of the Marvel machine. For the sake of the honor of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, please, please don’t nominate this travesty for Best Picture.
“Deadpool is a movie that puts its audaciousness in the forefront, even if it’s only mutated-skin-deep; a movie that makes space for violence, sex, and swear words, but never bites the hand feeding it by diverging from formula. It’s fun for a while, and then it all becomes deeply disheartening, because calling attention to the more businesslike mechanics of superheroics isn’t subversive when you’re also playing right into them. Pointing out the symptoms of superhero fatigue isn’t the same thing as overcoming it.” — Buzzfeed‘s Allison Willmore.
From 1.17 N.Y. Times story about Betsy DeVos’s Education Secretary confirmation hearing, written by Kate Zernike and Yamiche Alcindor: “With time limited, Democrats confronted Ms. DeVos with rapid-fire questions, demanding that she explain her family’s contributions to groups that support so-called conversion therapy for gay people; her donations to Republicans and their causes, which she agreed totaled about $200 million over the years; her past statements that government ‘sucks’ and that public schools are a ‘dead end’; and the poor performance of charter schools in Detroit, where she resisted legislation that would have blocked chronically failing charter schools from expanding.
“Under questioning, Ms. DeVos said it would be ‘premature’ to say whether she would continue the Obama administration’s policy requiring uniform reporting standards for sexual assaults on college campuses. She told Connecitcut Senator Christopher S. Murphy, whose constituents include families whose children were killed in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, that it should be ‘left to locales’ to decide whether guns are allowed in schools, and that she supported Mr. Trump’s call to ban gun-free zones around schools. She also denied that she had personally supported conversion therapy.”
I’m not calling the recently released Barefoot Contessa Bluray (Twilight Time) a problem, much less a mockery of a sham of a sham of a mockery of a sham. I haven’t seen it so what do I know? I know this: Twilight Time‘s decision to mask the film within a whacked-down 1.85:1 aspect ratio rather than the much more pleasant 1.33:1, which offers the usual extra headroom…the decision to do this is truly a shame. Really. A friend of DVD Beaver’s Gary W. Tooze has been quoted as calling this decision “a travesty…I’ve seen it in open matte in Academy ratio and to me it’s balanced perfectly that way. Thank goodness there’s a 1.33:1 DVD.” Yes, the 1.85 fascist view is that a mainstream studio film released on 9.2.54 should be cropped at 1.85, but that’s not what many others feel. Where is the harm in opening up this Joseph L, Mankiewicz film and letting it breathe? None…none whatsoever, and up above the ghost of Contessa dp Jack Cardiff would approve.
The Criterion guys decided to create remastered Blurays of Jacques Demy‘s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (’64) and The Young Girls of Rochefort (’67) when it became known a while back that these classic French-language musicals were the primary inspiration of Damien Chazelle’s La La Land. It’s been recognized that Rochefort, which is more of a dancey, jazzy thing, exerted more influence than Cherbourg. Will I request freebies for reviewing purposes? No, I will not. I respect Demy’s vision but I’ve never been a fan. I took one look at Cherbourg back in the late ’70s and went “nope.”
Criterion jacket covers for forthcoming Blurays of two classic Jacques Demy musicals, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (’64) and The Young Girls of Rochefort (’67). Both will street on 4.11.17.
Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau‘s Trophy, a Sundance ’17 doc, exposes the ethical aspects of professional big game hunting (i.e., guys who take millionaires into the bush so they can bag a rhino or a lion) vs. the ongoing uphill battle to conserve wildlife. Yes, Virginia, there are thousands of rich assholes who get a thrill out of drilling African wildlife with hot lead and then posing with their carcasses. L.A. Times celebrity assessor Amy Kaufman tweeted yesterday that Trophy “could be the next film out of @sundancefest to spark the kind of anger and debate that The Cove and Blackfish did.” Anger, sure, but who would argue with any sincerity that it’s cool to murder animals for the manly joy of it? The early-to-mid 20th Century culture that shrugged when Teddy Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway shot animals is no more. In today’s context the African hunting exploits of Donald Trump’s sons are nothing short of disgusting.
The tone of Paolo Sorrentino‘s HBO series, The Young Pope, which I saw two nights ago, is arch and poised and dryly perverse. It isn’t a flow-along thing as much as a series of carefully stylized bite-sized vignettes. The mood and pacing reminded me right away of Sorrentino’s Il Divo, which I saw in Cannes eight years ago. The Young Pope is beautifully designed and quite the Sorrentino immersion, but it’s a dish served cold.
There’s no believing that Jude Law‘s Pope Pius XIII (aka Lenny Belardo from New York City) could ever be elected Pope — you just have to accept Law’s beastly pontiff as a metaphor for something stirring right now, something toxic in the air. He’s partly House speaker Paul Ryan, partly Michael Corleone, partly Donald Trump if he’d been elected in ’84 or ’88, partly the screaming pope in Francis Bacon‘s “Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X.”
Law is Damien Thorn, a Pope with claws, who adores power, a guy who likes cigarettes, who possibly likes to fuck pretty women (I haven’t seen but have heard this) and who could have fit right in with the fascist ogres in Pasolini’s Salo if a well-oiled time machine could be found.
“If you, Mr. Trump, fail to take the Russian threat seriously, if you do not disentangle yourself from your business interests, if you promote corrupt or conflicted advisers and cabinet members, if you fail to understand the gravity of the foreign policy crisis you face, if you deprive millions of health care without an alternative, if you fail to act on the global threat of climate change, if you pit Americans against each other by race, gender, and religion, if you undermine science and reason…there will be an asterisk next to your name” — From a 1.15 post by Dan Rather on Facebook.
Variety to Michael Moore: Trump has been accused of harassment and was caught on tape bragging about assaulting women. Given those allegations, why did more than 40% of women vote for him?
Moore: I’ve had to listen to guys, liberal guys, all my life, when they’re single. One lament of the liberal, feminist, single guy is that women would rather date assholes. I’d say, ‘Don’t say that. That’s not true.’ But every heterosexual guy has seen this since high school. Guys will say, ‘I’m nice…they don’t want nice.’ Listen, I don’t know the psychology of this, but men have been running the show for a few thousand years, and it’s not unusual throughout history for the oppressed to come to identify with their oppressor.
Wells comment: One, a lot of women voted against Hillary because, like many of their hinterland husbands and boyfriends, they didn’t like, trust or want her, period. Two, an actor friend told me a long time ago that “women…not all women but many of them…will always kneel before the conqueror.” Because the conqueror is strong and provides security and protects women from the dark unknown. Mussolini had a lot of women in love with him. Hitler also. You’d think that 21st Century feminism would have eliminated or weakened that curious impulse in women, but even with that cultural current 40% of women voted for this fucking monster — which is also, I suspect, because they felt they couldn’t roll with Hillary. And three, when guys say women “don’t like nice,” what they mean is “they don’t like semi-passive, thoughtful, pale-complexioned, semi-wimpy types like myself.” Women like the rascal, the rogue, the gunslinger. Just ask Princess Leia.
I’m sorry but this still feels way too broad, too “aimed at the peons in the cheap seats.” Which is not the kind of film that Fox Searchlight releases as a rule. Which is all the more surprising from the minds of Daniel Clowes and director Craig Johnson (The Skeleton Twins), whom I respect. I like dry LQTM humor, like the kind that Noah Baumbach went for in Greenberg. Wilson (playing at Sundance, opening on 3.24) seems to have been made for Kevin James fans. Not my cup.
I used to try figure out the next Sundance Film Festival five or six ways from Sunday. Suss it out, call around, do the research, nail it down. It’s not that I’ve been reluctant to do this again, but I know what most of the heavy-hitters will probably be (including the Inconvenient Truth sequel and that suspicious-sounding Donald Trump doc) and I’m figuring “what the hell, just hit this film and that one and wait for the buzz and play it by ear, and above all pace yourself.”
I leave bright and early Wednesday morning, 1.18, and it all starts to happen the following day. Park Regency, here I come! The forecast is for snow showers during most of the festival — cool. Overcoat, gloves, four pairs of long-johns, motorcyle jacket, scarves, cowboy hat.
It’s a fairly safe bet that I won’t see some of the hotties as quickly as I might want to given my notorious press pass downgrade (thanks again, Sundance press office!), and that I might not get into everything I want to see. But you know what? Whatever happens, happens. I’ve got my instincts and my willingness to sleep only five hours per night for ten days straight. If anyone has any suggestions above and beyond the following premieres, please advise.
Posted on 12.5.16: While 35% of my time at any Sundance Film Festival is split between screens at the Library, the Holiday Village, the Egyptian, the Doubletree (formerly the Yarrow) and the Prospector Lodge, 65% is spent watching the premieres at the Eccles. So with today’s official announcement of the 2017 Sundance premieres, two-thirds of my Sundance agenda has now been determined. Here are my Eccles favorites: