I’ve missed episodes #3 and #4 of Feud, but will catch up this week. I’m not even sure if Susan Sarandon‘s brilliant mimicry of Bette Davis‘s performance of the “Baby Jane” song, which happened on a 12.20.62 airing of The Andy Williams Show, was in episode #3 (“Mommie Dearest”) or #4 (“More or Less”). What struck me about this is that almost no one saw this in color. Yes, televised color broadcasts began in ’58, JFK’s inauguration was captured in living color and some network shows began to colorcast in the early ’60s, but color TVs didn’t start to enter the American home en masse until ’64 and actually more like ’65. This coincided with Hollywood’s decision to phase out black-and-white films, which were all but extinct by ’66.
Cinemacon 2017 kicked off last night with footage of some noteworthy directors (including 13th helmer Ava Duvernay, Logan‘s James Mangold and Wonder Woman‘s Patti Jenkins) talking about how transporting the cinematic experience can be when the right film is showing. (When Jenkins said that the ending of Moulin Rouge always melts her down, I said to myself “Really? I’d forgotten that but okay, whatever.”)
Cinemacon director Mitch Neuhauser then took the stage and reiterated the same — i.e., the excitement, wonder and spiritual current of seeing a brilliant, touching film with an engaged audience is why we all love the theatrical experience. Me too — all my life.
But it’s all about movies and not the venue, and the films that Neuhauser, Mangold, Duvernay and Jenkins spoke of were real-deal, deep-current, finely crafted soul films. We’ve all been to certain plays on Broadway that truly connect and lift people out of their seats, and every year a few movies do this also. All hail the theatrical experience, but with the exception of the Blade Runner reel, which really got me going, last night’s Sony presentation was mostly composed of “product” — movies for families, teens and garden-variety primitives. CG oompah, razzle-dazzle, Barnum & Bailey, etc.
Which made it all the more clear that the spiritual current and real-life intrigue — the finely sculpted material that channels the way life actually feels and behaves along with those undercurrents that really hit home — is the kind of thing that SONY product isn’t even thinking about trying to capture, with the possible exception of Blade Runner 2049.
Back in West Hollywood I’m always in the groove — settled, loved/hated, driven, committed, on the stick. I’ll feel the same way in New York, Paris, Telluride, Prague, Hanoi, Wilton, Savannah, Key West…you name it. But Las Vegas feels like an empty place, and it’ll give you the virus if you let it. All those tourists without a compass or a clue. “Help…we need to party and indulge ourselves because we don’t know what else to do…whoo-hoo! We’re impressed with super-sized hotels and paying way too much for dinners!” I was contemplating the pre-dawn gloom from my 23rd-floor perspective, and for the first time in a long time I felt the blues of it all. The emptiness seeped in. This place is so not cool.
I emerged from last night’s Sony Pictures Cinemacon presentation with two positive impressions — one, Denis Villeneuve‘s Blade Runner 2049 (10.6) is going to be a wowser noir sink-in and a serious visual knockout, and two, Sony Pictures chairman Tom Rothman knows from catchy punchlines — “Netflix, my ass” and “cool as shit.”
Rothman was referring to the Blade Runner 2049 footage, which is cool as shit, but also his presumedly fervent belief that Sony/Columbia/Tristar is in the real audience-pleasing, whoo-whoo movie business — delivering that rock ’em, knock ’em flat stuff like the greatest show on earth. Well, yeah, to some extent it is, okay, but in other ways, it isn’t. At all. But more of that in my “Letter to Mitch” piece that follows.
The rest of the presentation…ehhh, not bad, “diverting”, yeah yeah, whatever.
Wait, I take that partly back: the promo for Edgar Wright‘s Baby Driver (Sony, 6.28), which kicked things off, got me going also to some extent. The sardonic action comedy fared pretty well at South by Southwest, as we all know. Director Edgar Wright (who is really short — I hadn’t realized that until last night) and costars Ansel Elgort and Jon Hamm showed up on the Collisseum stage. Good stuff.
Spider-Man: Homecoming (Sony, 7.7)….please. We’re supposed to be excited because 20 year-old Tom Holland, the third and latest Spider-Man, is front and center? That’s what Marvel president Kevin Feige was saying last night. Holland is the keeper of the golden fleece because he stole Captain America: Civil War, or words to that effect. On top of which Homecoming is set entirely within Peter Parker’s high-school realm, Feige added. It looked like the same old Marvel jazz to me. The endlessly glib Robert Downey, Jr.…again. We saw the first footage of Michael Keaton’s Vulture villain….meh.
Sony’s opening-night Cinemacon presentation runs from 6:45 pm to 8:30 pm, and then comes a Sony/Dolby dinner reception at Omnia, a Caesar’s Palace nightclub that will undoubtedly be overstimulating and overly noisy.
How did Dane DeHaan become the guy everybody wants to cast? He caught everyone’s eye in The Place Beyond the Pines (’12) but his James Dean didn’t quite work in Life. I didn’t even see A Cure for Wellness.
From 4.18.166 Hollywood Reporter review by John DeFore: “A stand-up comic who may not be cut out for showbiz gets a break of questionable value in Grace’s feature debut. The kind of road movie that relies less on incident than on the chemistry between the guys in the car, it pairs Girls costar Alex Karpovsky with Wyatt Russell, who played one of the odder baseballers in Richard Linklater‘s new Everybody Wants Some — then complicates its best-buddies dynamic by throwing an attractive woman (Meredith Hagner) into the mix. The result is an amiable if hardly unusual buddy pic whose most important lesson is that aspiring comedians in 2016 should avoid Evite jokes.”
Just about a year ago Variety‘s Brent Lang reported that the National Association of Theatre Owners had flatly ixnayed Sean Parker‘s Screening Room start-up — early home-video access to brand-new movies. “The exclusive theatrical release window makes new movies events,” a NATO statement read. “Success there establishes brand value and bolsters revenue in downstream markets.” The group added that any new distribution models should be created in consultation between studios and theater owners, and not with the help of a “third party.”
The use of the term “third Party” was “a clear dig” at Screening Room, Lang noted.
But now, at the start of Cinemacon 2017, Lang is reporting that studios and exhibitors “do seem closer to signing that grand bargain which would enable films to get early home entertainment releases for a higher price. As an enticement, distributors are willing to cut theaters in on a percentage of their digital sales. Six of the seven biggest studios — a group that includes Fox, Paramount, Lionsgate, Sony, Warner Bros., and Universal — are having unilateral discussions with major theater chains like Regal and AMC.”
Presumably this willingness to “cut theatres in” on digital revenues is what paved the way for the current constructive dialogue.
The four-and-a-half-day Cinemacon experience starts today. My flight to Las Vegas (a suffocating plastic nightmare realm that I hate with every fibre of my being) leaves at 10:30 am from Burbank. Hollywood journos go for the product reels — for a clearer, more specific notion of what the coming movie year will amount to. I trust it’ll be worth the trouble. Two years ago I gave up the first day when my suitcase was stolen by an idiot who mistook their bag for mine. I finally got it back but God, what an ordeal. My story was titled “Alfred Hitchcock’s The Wrong Bag.”
I plan to attend all the distributor presentations and tech shows that seem to matter, and otherwise just hunker down and file from my room at Bally’s hotel & casino. No tables, no drinks, no heaping piles of food…a spartan approach.
The problem is that Cinemacon product reels are almost always about megaplex idiot fare. Sony’s 2012 Cinemacon presentation, for example, didn’t even mention Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal‘s Zero Dark Thirty, which was easily the most exciting and praise-worthy Sony film of that year. (Here’s my piece about their presentation.)
But that’s Cinemacon and the distributor mindset for you — i.e., previewing ultra-primitive, power-slam, bass-thump CG stuff for the core theatrical audience these days — under-educated simians, schmoes, donkeys, ESPNers, teenagers, what-the-fuckers, the family trade, gamers and others whose taste buds have been systematically coarsened and lowered over the last 25 years, which is roughly when theme-park movies began to be embraced big-time by the major studios.
As the crow flies Bally’s would be a five-minute walk from Caesar’s Palace if it weren’t for the crowds, staircases, elevated walkways, escalators and all the other obstructions. I’m a simple man, a New Yorker, a European. I just like to walk somewhere without all the bullshit. But bullshit is what you get when you come to Vegas.
One way or another Trump supporters always wind up acting in a brutish and ugly manner and generally representing the lower end of the gene pool. Here’s a 3.25 O.C. Weekly piece (“Huntington Beach Pro-Trump March Turns Into Attack on Anti-Trump Protesters“) by Frank John Tristan and Denise de la Cruz, about a pro-Trump rally at Bolsa Chica State Beach in which some anti-Trump counter-protesters (including a couple of O.C. Weekly staffers) got slugged and kicked and chased around.
I can’t over-emphasize how much I loved Sen. Al Franken‘s grilling of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch last Tuesday. Particularly Franken’s dissection of the frozen trucker court case. I’ve watched the whole thing on YouTube three times. Franken revealed to one and all what a flinty, corporate-favoring prick Gorsuch is when it comes to disputes of this nature, which are basically about the gulf between common sense and humanitarian regard for working people vs. the rules and dictates of large companies.
I came away thinking that the 2020 Democratic presidential ticket should be headed by Gavin Newsom and Al Franken. Seriously.
Hell, I’d vote for Franken himself if he were to run for President in a 2020 primary or general election, although I recognize that he’s not really the running-for-President type, and that his natural place is in the U.S. Senate.
The other concern is that California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom will have a tough time running for California governor in 2018 if everyone believes that his bottom-line aim is to run for President in ’20.
So if not one of these two, who? Who has the right kind of post-Hillary, new-generation cred? Who’s got the charisma and magnetism to persuade the dumbshits not to vote for Trump? Will Elizabeth Warren run?
Allegedly the first installment of a two-parter, pic takes place after the events of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad. The idea of having to watch this thing is similar to contemplating a visit to the dentist. I can’t wait to feel numb and drained. Stab me in the head with a kitchen knife.