I’m sorry but I felt in need of spiritual life support during a Sundance Film Festival screening of Marjorie Prime last January. Or at the very least a large Red Bull. I caught it at the Eccles, watching and drifting and sinking into my seat. I could sense that the audience was experiencing a similar lethargy. Based on Jordan Harrison’s 2014 play and adapted by director Michael Almereyda, it’s about an overly organic hologram named Walter (Jon Hamm) who resembles the late husband of 86-year-old Marjorie (Lois Smith). Costarring Geena Davis and Tim Robbins. The FilmRise release will pop on 8.18.
Tuesday’s Toronto Film Festival announcements did a pretty job of clarifying which fall films were heading to Venice and Telluride, so this morning’s Venice Film Festival announcement isn’t exactly shaking the rafters. In addition to the previously announced 8.30 kick off showing of Alexander Payne’s Downsizing, Venice will also screen the following:
Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, allegedly “a darker twist on Rosemary’s Baby” with Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem (curious Telluride absence); George Clooney’s darkly comic Suburbicon; Guillermo del Toro’s tender-hearted The Shape of Water starring a mute Sally Hawkins; Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri with Frances McDormand (another curious Telluride no-show); Stephen Frears’ Victoria & Abdul with Judi Dench; and Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete.
I’ve been to Venice five or six times, but I’ll never attend the Venice Film Festival. I’m a Telluride man through and through.
This morning I sent the following to Amanda Grandinetti, identified on her Facebook page as the food and beverage director at the Chateau Marmont but, according to a longtime Chateau employee who insists that Grandinetti’s Facebook page is out of date, currently the managing director. Philip Pavel, who ran the Chateau for a long stretch, is now the big cheese at the soon-to-open NoMad hotel in downtown Los Angeles:
Mellow greetings, yukey dukey. I’m Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere columnist (www.hollywood-elsewhere.com) and longtime industry reporter going back to the early ’80s. I’m writing to convey a mild form of displeasure about a no-big-deal incident that happened last night at the Chateau Marmont, or more precisely at the outside entrance.
I don’t want to sound like an entitled asshole, but I’ve been attending industry parties at the Chateau for eons (mainly during Oscar season), and every so often I’ll pop by to meet someone for a drink at the restaurant bar, or maybe order breakfast or dinner or whatever. (Svetlana Cvetko and I met Guillermo del Toro there for dinner a year or so ago.) Or I might be with a visitor and just want to show them the Chateau’s to-die-for interior.
This was last night’s agenda — showing the interior to my wife Tatyana, who’s only been in Los Angeles for seven months and has never had the pleasure. But I was told by a polite young lady at the valet desk that we couldn’t enter without a room or dinner reservation. I said we were just looking to order a drink at the bar, no biggie. “The bar is filled,” she said. Obviously she couldn’t have known that. We went back and forth but her mind was made up.
What she meant, I presume, is that she sensed we were riff-raff, and so she was following an instinct to protect the hotel guests from people who might gawk or snap iPhone photos and otherwise generate un-coolness.
I totally get the “keep out the riff-raff” thing. If I was guarding the gate I would actually take pleasure in politely rebuffing any would-be visitors who looked like they’d just gotten off the tourist bus. Overweight types, noisy kids in tow, wide-eyed expressions, low-thread-count T-shirts, dorky sandals and a general approach to attire that’s more suited to a mall in Henderson, Nevada.
Your predecessor Phillip Pavel, who served as the Chateau’s managing director for a long stretch, said it succinctly a few years ago: “The Chateau Marmont has built its success on creating an environment where the privacy of our guests is paramount. Please know that the decision to not allow certain guests in our hotel is based solely on this concept.”
The problem is this: I’m not riff-raff, and I don’t look like riff-raff. I have the snooty cool thing down pat, and I was nicely groomed last night. I was wearing a dark blue Kooples shirt and white pants and shiny black loafers. The beautiful Tatyana was nicely dressed also. Nothing about us radiated “uh-oh…don’t let these chumps past the gate!” Granted, we didn’t arrive in a big black SUV and had just approached on foot, but still…what’s the deal here?
Director George Clooney seems to have found the right material. The dark imaginings of Joel and Ethan Coen + the tawdry realms of James M. Cain + a fleeting fantasy whipping through Robert Aldrich‘s head during post-production on Kiss Me Deadly. Anything but lethargic. The funky sax brings it all together. The only thing that doesn’t feel right is the angry mob. America didn’t do angry mobs in the Eisenhower ’50s, about or against anything. Okay, lynch mobs but they happened in the rural South. “Violence, language, some sexuality.”
Since last spring Zak, my beloved three-year-old ragdoll, has been coping with fungal infections. I’m not sure if his affliction is called cryptococcus or sporotrichosis, but it’s definitely one of these. Last April Laurel Pet Hospital charged me almost a grand to (a) surgically remove the seven or eight lumps on Zak’s body plus (b) supply a prescription for a daily oral medication that would presumably rid Zak of the fungus. That cost another $60 or $70.
The surgery was fine but the medication was ineffective, and so by late June or early July Zak was more or less back to square one. I didn’t want to spend another thousand right off the bat (things are a little tight right now) so I’ve been dabbing Zak’s sores with alcohol and keeping him clean and well-fed and hoping for the best while I gather the courage to spend the next $1K.
Zak roams around in the day and comes home late at night, by the way.
Around 10:30 pm on Monday night a well-meaning fellow with a boyish, high-pitched voice called from the next block over. He asked if I knew Zak was outside (yeah, I knew that), and said that he seemed to be in bad shape. “He’s not in bad shape per se…he just has this annoying fungus thing,” I said. “I’ve had him operated on and have given him special medication and all, but so far it’s not going away.” The fellow said, “Well, he really needs help.” Yes, I agreed, and I’m about to take him back to the hospital for more treatment, but thanks for calling and telling me this. The fellow said okay and hung up.
But he didn’t mean “okay.” He meant “you’re not a responsible parent, so I’m going to be a good citizen and give Zak to people who will presumably attend to him better than you are now.”
Two and a half hours later (roughly 1 am) I was called by a guy who works for the Department of Animal Care and Control. He said a guy had called for assistance and had given him Zak, and did I want to come claim him? “Yes, I want to claim him,” I said, suppressing my growing anger at what the boyish-sounding guy, whom I suddenly realized was a malignant dick, had done. “Where would that be?” Carson, he said — about an hour south of West Hollywood. The address was and is 216 West Victoria Street, just off the Harbor Freeway. Technically in Gardena.
Yesterday I was discussing Albert Brooks‘ Lost in America with The Atlantic‘s David Sims, who had just posted a piece about this 1985 film (and more specifically about the new Criterion Bluray version) called “The Brutal Cynicism of Lost in America Still Resonates.”
Things got interesting when Sims reminded that prior to LIA‘s end credits we’re told that Brooks’ David Howard got his job back with Ross & McMahon, but at a 31% cut in salary. Howard was making around $100K (i.e., a base salary of $80K with a bonus situation), but having recently been canned and still half in the doghouse I’m guessing his bonus situation (if he got it back at all) wasn’t as liberal. I’m guessing Howard’s lower salary might have been around $65K, if that.
With taxes taken out David’s weekly salary of $1250 might have been…what, $950 or $1K? Remember that David and Linda had no savings — they were wiped out in Vegas. They may been able to arrange a condo purchase with a loan, but the smarter move would have be to rent and save as best they can. Could they have found a decent Manhattan rental for $1000 to $1200 monthly in ’85? It’s conceivable, but not unless they were willing to live in a one-bedroom abode, but even then they might have had trouble finding someplace they would regard as “suitable.”
Yes, Julie Hagerty‘s Linda might have contributed to the kitty with a job of her own, but the post-script mentions that she quickly got pregnant so maybe not.
This was a couple, remember, that was living in a nice home in West L.A. before David got fired and they bought the mobile home, etc. And living in a one-bedroom place would’ve been really tough once the baby arrived.
I’m not saying they would’ve been seriously struggling, but a $65K salary in Manhattan in the mid ’80s was not a basis for any kind of easy-street lifestyle, especially with a kid on the way. The Howards probably would have been too scared to buy or rent a place in Tribeca or even Soho back then. Both of these regions were cutting-edge but they were dark at night and lacked ATMs for the most part. (Remember what happened to poor Griffin Dunne when he tried to find his way out of Soho in After Hours?) They certainly didn’t offer abundant yuppie comforts, certainly by today’s standards. The Howards would have more likely sought out a place in the Grammercy Park or Murray Hill districts, or perhaps even in the then-downmarket Chelsea or Hells’ Kitchen nabes.
Posted last January: Amanda Lipitz‘s STEP (Fox Searchlight, 8.4) is a spunky, engaging, “we’re black and proud and headed for college if we can earn good enough grades and somehow manage the financial aspect” thing. It’s about hard work, high hopes, heart, family, ups and downs, etc.
We’re all familiar with docs and narratives about high-school strivers. The best of them are rough and real but also comforting and inspiring. We can do this if we really believe in ourselves and work our asses off, and it couldn’t hurt if fate or God smile. STEP feels like one of the better ones. It ends, of course, with a competitive performance finale, the outcome of which gives you a nice “fuck yeah!” feeling.
Shot in late 2015 (or a few months after the Baltimore unrest sparked by the death of Freddie Gray), the doc focuses on three senior girls at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women who are members of the stepdance team, and are known as the “Lethal Ladies of BLSYW.”
The most magnetic of the three is Blessin Giraldo, a spirited looker who’s looking to attend college away from Baltimore, where she’s seen some tough times both at home (her mother suffers from depression) and elsewhere. Plus she’s having scholastic difficulties and is therefore putting her future in some jeopardy.
Angelina Jolie is on the cover of this month’s Vanity Fair, which is either her ninth or tenth. A VF cover used to be a fairly big deal — now it’s like “uh-huh, okay.” I’ve mentioned twice before that as a director with the ability to choose her own projects, Jolie has demonstrated a preference for stories about innocents suffering horribly under the yoke of evil forces. In The Land of Blood and Honey (’11) focused on a Bosnian muslim woman (Zana Marjanovic) coping with the Serbian genocide. Unbroken (’14) was largely about an American soldier being sadistically brutalized in a Japanese prison camp. The following year Jolie was talking about directing a film about the poaching of elephants with Brad Pitt intending to play poacher-fighter Richard Leakey. Now she’s promoting her latest film, a Netflix production called First They Came For My Father, which deals with the Khymer Rouge’s genocide of Cambodia in the mid ’70s. Father will probably play Telluride.
Michelangelo Antonioni‘s Red Desert (’64) will screen this Friday (7.28) at the Walter Reade. Oh, that red hair and pale skin, that black mud and those gloomy gray skies and general sense of sprawling ecological ruin…mother’s milk to me.
I saw Red Desert for the first time two years ago. I know the Antonioni milieu, of course, and had read a good deal about it over the years, so I was hardly surprised to discover that it has almost no plot. It has a basic situation, and Antonioni is wonderfully at peace with the idea of just settling into that without regard to story. And for that it seemed at least ten times more engrossing than 80% or 90% of conventional narrative films I see these days, and 87 times better than the majority of bullshit superhero films.
Monica Vitti plays a twitchy and obviously unstable wife and mother who’s been nudged into a kind of madness by the industrial toxicity around her, and Richard Harris is an even-mannered German businessman visiting smelly, stinky Ravenna, a port city on the Adriatic, to arrange for several Italian workers to perform a long work assignment in lower Argentina.
You suspect that sooner or later Harris, whose hair has been dyed an odd brownish blonde, will make a move on Vitti but other than that nothing really happens. It’s about industrial sprawl and poisoned landscapes and a lot of standing around and Vitti’s neurotic gibberish and a certain caught-in-the-mud mood that holds you like a drug, specifically like good opium.
Each and every shot in Red Desert (the dp is Carlo di Palma, whom Vitti later fell in love with) is quietly breathtaking. It’s one of the most immaculate and mesmerizing ugly-beautiful films I’ve ever seen. The fog, the toxins, the afflictions, the compositions.
HE to guy who’s seen Woody Allen’s Wonder Wheel: “Without sourcing or even mentioning whom I spoke to or what country you’re from, how would you rate Kate Winslet‘s performance in terms of potential award-worthiness, on a scale of 1 to 10? It all comes down to the arc and the writing and the third-act catharsis, of course, but I gather she does a theatrical angst-and-hair-pulling thing due to Justin Timberlake two-timing her with Juno Temple, or something like that.”
Answer: “10. Truly. She’s amazing.”
Then I turned to a guy who’s spoken to a guy who knows a thing or two, and his reply was “I’ve only heard that she has a Blue Jasmine-ish meltdown that goes on for many minutes. So who knows but it at least sounds like a seven-plus at this stage.”
Blade Runner 2049 will probably land a berth at the Toronto Film Festival (right?), but the fact that it wasn’t announced among the first batch…what does that tell you? To me it suggests indecisiveness or an internal debate on the part of Warner Bros. marketing, but maybe not.
The fanboys are gradually starting to realize that the most Denis Villeneuve’s film can hope to do is “cover” the dog-eared design mythology of Ridley Scott’s 1982 groundbreaker. That’s it, that’s the shot. A revered, ahead-of-its-time cult movie did an urban dystopia thing 35 years ago, and here we are doing it again. Except we’re doing a nostalgic classic-rock thing, and we’re keeping Harrison Ford in the wings until the very end.
What’s the most memorable moment in Blade Runner? When Rutger Hauer‘s Roy dies and the dove flies away.
Again: It would seem that the decades-old Blade Runner suspicion about Harrison Ford‘s Rick Deckard being a replicant has been answered by the trailer for Blade Runner 2049. Deckard, like Ford, has aged, and that, for me, feels like proof that Deckard is flesh and blood. Why on earth would the Tyrell Corporation have constructed replicants that age like humans? This would make no sense at all — none.
The official synopsis says 2049 is about LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling) discovering “a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos,” etc. This “leads K on a quest to find Deckard, a former LAPD blade runner who’s been missing for 30 years.” It would follow, naturally, that the K-meets-Deckard moment happens in the third act.
Yesterday’s Toronto 2017 announcements will ultimately represent…what, maybe half of what will finally play there? By the way: I’m presuming (praying) that Andrey Zvyagintsev‘s Loveless, a Cannes hottie, will be among the Telluride selections. Put another way, it damn well ought to be.