Kino Lorber is releasing a Bluray of Andre de Toth‘s The Indian Fighter on 5.9.17. Excerpt from from “Dust to Dust,” posted on 5.30.14. “Have you ever seen The Indian Fighter? I didn’t think so. Have you ever heard of it? There’s no reason you should have. A 1955 Kirk Douglas mediocrity, co-written by Ben Hecht, opened at the Mayfair (later the DeMille) on 12.21.55. Not awful but generic. Why should succeeding generations pay the slightest attention to a film made on auto-pilot? By people who wanted only a commercial success and not much else? Don’t kid yourself — the fate of The Indian Fighter awaits 80% to 90% of the films that have opened in the 21st Century. Deep down producers and directors know it’s not just a matter of dollars and cents, which is why some occasionally try to make films that sink into people’s souls on some level. Because they want future generations (including their own descendants) to speak about them with affection or at least respect. It’s about legacy.”
Last Tuesday all the Cinemacon journos went apeshit after seeing ten minutes of footage from Alexander Payne‘s Downsizing (Paramount, 12.22), myself especially. Yes, it’s “comedic” but a long way from lighthearted. For all the humor and cleverness and first-rate CG it feels kind of Twilight Zone-y…a kind of Rod Serling tale that will have an uh-oh finale or more likely an uh-oh feeling all through it.
Last Tuesday I wrote that the undercurrent felt a teeny bit spooky, like a futuristic social melodrama in the vein of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.
In its matter-of-fact portrait of middle-class Americans willing to shrink themselves down to the size of a pinkie finger in order to reap economic advantages, Downsizing doesn’t appear to be the sort of film that will instill euphoric feelings among Average Joes. It struck me as a reimagining of mass man as mass mice — a portrait of little people buying into a scheme that’s intended to make their lives better but in fact only makes them…smaller. A bit like Trump voters suddenly realizing that their lot isn’t going to improve and may even get worse.
A day after the Downsizing presentation I was chatting with a bespectacled heavy-set female who works, she said, for an Arizona exhibitor (or some exhibition-related business) in some executive capacity. She struck me as a conservative, perhaps one who processes things in simplistic “like/no like” terms, definitely not a Susan Sontag brainiac.
I told her that I thought Downsizing was brilliant and asked what she thought of it. Her response: “I don’t know what I think of it.”
HE translation: “No offense but I don’t want to spill my mixed feelings with some Los Angeles journalist I’ve just met. I didn’t like the chilly feeling underneath it. It didn’t make me feel good. My heart wasn’t warmed by the idea of working people shrinking themselves down so they can live a more lavish lifestyle. I have to work really hard at my job and watch my spending and build up my IRA, and I didn’t appreciate the notion that I’m just a little struggling hamster on a spinning wheel.”
Again — my initial reaction to the footage.
I never reported on Amazon Studio’s Cinemacon presentation, which happened at a Thursday (3.30) luncheon. It still seems as if their biggest attraction and potentially hottest award-season title (maybe) is Michael Showalter, Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon‘s The Big Sick (6.23), which opened to big acclaim at last January’s Sundance Film Festival and will probably do well commercially, at least in hip urban markets.
But if Sick comes up short during award-season (a fate that often befalls relationship comedies), it’s possible that Todd Haynes and Brian Selznick‘s Wonderstuck will carry the weight. A time-flipping drama (two scenarios separated by 50 years) with a strong emotional current, pic stars Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Amy Hargreaves, Millicent Simmonds, Oakes Fegley and James Urbaniak. The trailer (which has a kind of swirling, flirting-with-euphoria quality) got me going. Haynes doesnt fool around.
Tied for third place among Amazon’s most appealing ’17 films: (a) Richard Linklater‘s Last Flag Flying, a decades-later sequel to The Last Detail with Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell and Laurence Fishburne (the kind of film that could really benefit from a Cannes debut), and (b) Mike White‘s Brad’s Status, about a 50ish dad (Ben Stiller) dealing with vague frustrations about his accomplishments plus the seeming fact that his college-age son (Austin Abrams, who doesn’t resemble Stiller in the least) is likely to do better. Both were trailered, both look great.
Laurent Bouzereau and Mark Harris‘s Five Came Back, a brilliant three-hour doc about the transformative experiences of five name-brand Hollywood directors (John Ford, Frank Capra, William Wyler, George Stevens and John Huston) during World War II, premiered last night on Netflix. Please see it, and if at all possible in a single sitting. Here’s my 3.22 review.
That said, I’m obliged to re-irrigate a dispute between Harris, author of the same-titled 2014 book, and Ford biographer Joseph McBride about the doc’s claim that Ford’s service as a WWII documentarian-propagandist basically ended after he went on a three-day bender following the D-Day invasion.
In a 3.23 HE piece called “Ford’s Bravery, Drinking, Sentimentality,” McBride articulated his dispute with Harris based on Harris’ book vs. what McBride had reported in “Searching for John Ford,” a respected 2001 biography.
But yesterday McBride doubled down and then some after seeing the Netflix series [see below] and taking it all in. I naturally passed his complaint along to Harris. Harris came back this morning with a stern and specific reply [also below].
If nothing else, Cinemacon 2017 persuaded me that three previewed films may well become finalists in the 2017/18 Best Picture race — Alexander Payne‘s Downsizing, Steven Chbosky and Steven Conrad‘s Wonder (this year’s Lion-like contender) and The Greatest Showman, an apparently sumptuous musical biopic about the legendary P.T. Barnum with Hugh Jackman in the title role.
Pic costars Zac Efron, Rebecca Ferguson, Michelle Williams, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Natasha Liu Bordizzo and Zendaya. It’s been directed by Australian commercial director and (uh-oh) “visual effects artist” Michael Gracey and written by Michael Arndt, Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon. A handsome, spirited trailer (pic’s dp is Seamus McGarvey) was screened.
The Greatest Showman has been in the planning stages for several years. Gracey was hired to direct in August 2011. Principal photography began on 11.22.16.
Jackman’s presentation of the forthcoming 12.25 release was the highlight of the 20th Century Fox Cinemacon show, which was easily the finest and grandest of all.
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