While Werner Herzog‘s Queen of the Desert “doesn’t deserve outright trashing, it can’t be classed as anything other than a disappointment. Because it’s not even the sort of bad that makes Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call — New Orleans such a gonzo blast. The notoriously stodgy historical biopic genre looks as self-serious, surface and inert as it would from any old journeyman. Herzog clearly loves both Nicole Kidman and his subject, Middle Eastern explorer and deal-maker Gertrude Bell, to the point of allowing no blemish to show. It’s such a disappointment when you consider the wild portraits of pioneers that Herzog has given us before, that he’s so reverent here. Isn’t he the director who can locate the madness in everything he sees? Where is Bell’s madness?” — from by a 2.6.15 review by Indiewire‘s Jessica Kiang. Yes, that’s right — filed over two years ago.
Last fall a decent-looking high-def version of Billy Wilder‘s One, Two, Three — one of my all-time favorite comfort movies — disappeared from Amazon streaming. After noting this on 11.4.16 I wrote that a Bluray version will probably hit the market before long. A day or two ago Kino Lorber Classics announced the release of a One, Two, Three Bluray on 5.30.17, which of course I immediately bought.
Why isn’t a high-def version of Peter Bogdanovich‘s revised, expanded version of Directed by John Ford, which came out on DVD seven and a half years ago, streaming on Amazon or Netflix or wherever? One of the finest docs about a legendary director ever made and it’s still on DVD?
On 11.6.06 I posted an HE piece about Ford, called “Snarly Softie.” It was triggered by a viewing of Bogdanovich’s doc, which had its big debut on Turner Classic Movies in the spring of that year. The DVD popped two and a half years later, on 9.15.09.
“I’ve tried and it’s impossible — there’s no feeling just one way about John Ford. His movies have been wowing and infuriating me all my life, and after seeing Peter Bogdanovich‘s Directed by John Ford, the muddle is still there.
“But Bogdanovich’s film gives you a feeling — one that seems clear and genuine — that you’ve gotten to know the old coot better than ever before, that you’ve really and truly seen past the bluster and the scowl and the cigar, beyond the scrappy Irish machismo and into some intimate realm. After many years of saying “Ford sure made some great films but what a snappy old prick he was,” I’ve finally come to like the guy. And I feel I owe Bogdanovich a debt for that.
“I tried to say this during my Monday afternoon phone chat with Bogdanovich. We spoke for 25 or 30 minutes. And I never quite said what I felt the film had taught me about Ford, which is that he was a shameless softie who used a snarly exterior manner to keep people from getting inside and discovering who he really was. But of course, his films made that pretty clear on their own.
In a 3.19 New York article called “No Sympathy For The Hillbilly,” Frank Rich examines the whole social-political psychodrama that we’re currently embroiled in for 23 long paragraphs. His assessments are sharp as a tack, but you’re waiting for him to say “aah, the hell with it” and spill his guts about the rurals who insist on voting against their interests no matter what — i.e., the bumblefucks. And then he finally does:
“Perhaps it’s a smarter idea to just let the GOP own these intractable voters. Liberals looking for a way to empathize with conservatives should endorse the core conservative belief in the importance of personal responsibility. Let Trump’s white working-class base take responsibility for its own votes — or in some cases failure to vote — and live with the consequences.
“If, as polls tell us, many voters who vilify Obamacare haven’t yet figured out that it’s another name for the Affordable Care Act that’s benefiting them — or if they do know and still want the Trump alternative — then let them reap the consequences for voting against their own interests. That they will sabotage other needy Americans along with them is unavoidable in any case now — at least until voters stage an intervention in an election to come.
“Trump voters should also be reminded that the elite of the party they’ve put in power is as dismissive of them as Democratic elites can be condescending. ‘Forget your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap,’ Kevin Williamson wrote of the white working class in National Review. ‘The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible.’
“He was only saying in public what other Republicans like Mitt Romney say about the ’47 percent’ in private when they think only well-heeled donors are listening. Besides, if National Review says that their towns deserve to die, who are Democrats to stand in the way of Trump voters who used their ballots to commit assisted suicide?
From N.Y. Times: House Republican leaders, facing a revolt among conservatives and moderates in their ranks, pulled legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act from consideration on the House floor Friday afternoon in a spectacular defeat for President Trump on the first legislative showdown of his presidency.
“House Speaker Paul Ryan: “We’re going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.”
“Ryan had rushed to the White House shortly after noon to tell Mr. Trump he did not have the votes for a repeal bill that had been promised for seven years — since the day President Barack Obama signed his landmark health care act into law. Trump, in a telephone interview moments after the bill was pulled, blamed Democrats and predicted that they would seek a deal within a year, he asserted, after ‘Obamacare explodes’ because of high premiums.”
A re-design is underway of Hollywood Elsewhere. The idea is to make it look and feel more 21st Century (the design mentality of the current site is 13 years old — it actually looks like it could have been designed in the late ’90s), and to load faster and be more ad-friendly and so on.
I’m down with this, but my concern all along has been to make sure the new site conveys a distinct “things haven’t changed that much” feeling — an assurance that HE’s identity and attitude is alive, intact and continuing within this new design. The new site should say “sure, this look significantly different in some ways, but it’s still very much the site that I’ve built, poured my heart into and self-branded over the last 12 and 1/2 years.”
A fresh, here-and-now design is essential but, as I’ve told the designers, Hollywood Elsewhere is nothing if not about my personal brand — my views, attitude, personality, passion, errors, shortcomings, gushings, travels, tenacity, aspect ratios, experience, arguments, prejudices…all of it. The new design needs to recognize this and embrace continuity.
Please look at the test site as it now stands. Keep in mind that it’s a very early stab. I’m not hugely unhappy with the mobile version but the classic HE identity, I feel, has been all but erased. The initial idea was to take a generic uptown design, which looks like a Paris fashion magazine and which I thought was half-decent, and merge it with HE’s style and personality.
The small, almost-postage-stamp-sized HOLLYWOOD ELSEWHERE logo in the top left says it all. The designers of this test site seem to be interested in obscuring if not erasing the entire identity of Hollywood Elsewhere, which has been running since August ’04. (HE has actually been punching it for 18 and 1/2 years if you count my Mr. Showbiz, Reel.com and Movie Poop Shoot incarnations between October ’98 and July of ’04.)
It’s a mistake, for starters, to jettison the HE Hollywood sign logo, to not use my photo for identity purposes, to not use the same copy and headline fonts. Continuity is vital.
Yesterday EW and others went with a story about Ratpac producer Brett Ratner calling Rotten Tomatoes “the destruction of our business”, mainly because Batman v Superman was hurt by its 27% rating. BvS also earned a 44% Metacritic score — that didn’t matter? And what about the fact that Batman v Superman was mostly a drag to sit through, and that everyone more or less agreed with that view?
The viral thing that really damaged the reputation of Batman v Superman, I feel, was the sad Ben Affleck junket-interview footage overlaid with Simon & Garfunkel‘s “The Sounds of Silence.” One look at Affleck’s forlorn expression and people who hadn’t seen BvS just knew.
By the way: Ratner’s comments were from last weekend during his visit to Sun Valley Film Festival (3.15 to 3.19). As EW filed Thursday morning Ratner’s comments were most likely issued sometime late Wednesday, so someone sat on this for at least three days and possibly four. Whoever reported Ratner’s comments (a journalist? a festival staffer?) is a real go-getter.
Related development: In a hastily called press conference this morning, the producers of La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester By The Sea, Hell or High Water and Zootopia joined Ratner in condemning the Rotten Tomatoes effect.
“The fact that our films all scored in the mid to upper 90s is beside the point,” saidu La La producer Jordan Horowitz. “Yes, these scores probably reflected the fact that our films are very well made, emotionally affecting and widely admired, but the important thing from our perspective is to stand by Brett and movies like Batman v Superman, and to remind everyone that the point of modern megaplex cinema is to sit there in meek submission as you’re pounded and drowned by comic-book formula and CG torrents and the imaginings of guys like Zack Snyder. That’s what really matters, and is why we all love movies.” [Note: This is a made-up parody quote — a couple of readers have actually asked if it’s real or not.]
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