My reaction to Lewis John Carlino‘s The Sailor Who Feel From From Grace With The Sea after catching it at a Westport cinema in ’77 was “nice try but not quite.” The young kid’s (Jonathan Kahn) homoerotic fixation with Kris Kirstofferson‘s sailor character synched with the 1963 Yukio Mishima source novel, but the ritualized killing at the end didn’t synch with the English setting and American sensibilities of the film itself. It felt pushed. But the sex scenes between Kristofferson and Sarah Miles were fairly hot, so at least there was that. Word around the campfire was that Miles and Kristofferson were entwined during shooting, and that this affair (coupled with an erotic Playboy spread they they both posed for) ended Kristofferson’s marriage to Rita Coolidge. That was the rumble, at least. Yes, the Bluray has been out for ages. No, I haven’t bought it.
In Steven Spielberg‘s adaptation of Ernest Cline‘s futuristic Ready Player One, Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) “searches for an easter egg in a virtual reality game, the discovery of which will lead him to inherit a valuable fortune in a world torn by an energy crisis” blah blah. But before anything triumphant can happen, Wade has to grapple with bad-buy Nolan Sorrento, played by HE’s own Ben Mendelsohn. Plus Spielberg mainstay Mark Rylance in a significant dual role. Screenplay by Cline and Zak Penn.
If you’ve seen Dunkirk or read the reviews you know about the land-sea-air thing. The Guardian‘s Mark Kermode has explained the scheme, at least as he sees it:
“Ingeniously, these strands play out over three different time periods; one week, one day and one hour respectively. As the stories interlace, with boats, boots and planes converging at Dunkirk, so time itself is variously compressed and elongated in Inception-like loops, conjuring shifts and reversals as complex — yet still crucially as clear — as those of Nolan’s 2000 psychological thriller Memento. For all its visual splendor, Dunkirk is a masterclass in dextrous temporal elasticity, a recurrent theme for Nolan, sparked by his love of Graham Swift’s novel “Waterland” and explored most recently in Interstellar.”
“People do not necessarily reveal what is going on — only bad actors do. Bad actors try to cry, and good actors try not to. Bad actors try to laugh, and good actors try not to. Only bad actors play drunk. Good actors play drunks playing sober! They don’t want everyone in the room to know they’re drunk, and if you’ve ever seen a drunk pick up a glass to his mouth at a bar, it’s the most studied, controlled thing you’d ever see, as opposed to the sloppy kinds of drunks you see played everywhere. There’s a real amount of bad acting around that is considered good acting, and I see at the Actors Studio every week stuff that far excels what I see on Broadway or television or film.” — shared by the late Martin Landau in 2010. Quote stolen from 7.21 Kim Morgan piece.
During the chilly months you’ll occasionally daydream about the languid comforts of hot summer afternoons, but when they actually arrive you never seem to savor them. Mostly because you’re avoiding the heat in some air-conditioned space, at home or more often in a car and at the same time thinking “I can’t say I’m actually enjoying this…it would be nicer to be slightly sweating outside somewhere.”
We drove up to sun-baked Goleta yesterday afternoon, and most of the time I was trying — struggling — to suppress hostile thoughts about other drivers. The wisest approach to freeway driving is to blend in and go with the flow. Don’t drive faster than your fellows and make an extra-special point of not driving slower. For three-plus hours I was grappling with God knows how many drivers who couldn’t have cared less about this simple rule of civilized behavior. Especially those who couldn’t seem to understand that if they wanted to drive slower they needed to pull into the right lane. More considerate that way, but in the minds of too many it didn’t register. Hell is other people.
It’s not a great idea to meditate too heavily upon basic “where is my life heading?” stuff if you happen to be up at 4:30 am, as I was a little while ago. I tried to concentrate on my usual pre-dawn iPhone surfing ritual, searching for stories or topics or bounce-offs that might be worth a comment or argument of some kind. But that old, regrettably familiar Ingmar Bergman-like sense of impending doom kept creeping in. It’s best not to dwell in this realm. Gloom thoughts always go away when the morning light appears. But that vague sense of big black wolves sitting outside your door at 5:10 am…whoa. Why am I even sharing this? I can’t even remember if I’ve seen Hour of the Wolf, which probably means I haven’t. But I guess I don’t need to, right?
Shame on Variety and deputy editor Pat Saperstein for describing the late and great John Heard, who yesterday was found dead in a Palo Alto hotel room, as the “Home Alone dad.” Great merciful bloodstained gods! Why would Variety do such a thing to an actor of Heard’s calibre? This is like an obit headline writer calling James Stewart “the singing Magic of Lassie guy.”
Yes, Heard played Macaulay Culkin‘s dad in the hugely popular Home Alone (’90) and in the ’92 sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, but show a little decency, for God’s sake. Heard was glad to have starred in these films, but he did it for the money.
Heard should more properly be remembered and honored for his late ’70s to early ’80s hot streak of fierce, penetrating performances in Between The Lines, On the Yard, Chilly Scenes of Winter, Heart Beat (in which he played Jack Kerouac to Nick Nolte‘s Neal Casady), Ivan Passer‘s Cutter’s Way and Paul Schrader‘s Cat People, the only film in which Heard played a romantic lead.
And don’t forget his wonderful work on The Sopranos as that sad, corrupt, dessicated detective who was on Tony Soprano’s payroll and half-hated himself for that.
Heard downshifted into character roles after Cat People, but he scored in CHUD, Best Revenge, Martin Scorsese’s After Hours, The Trip to Bountiful and Robert Redford‘s The Milagro Beanfield War.
In the spring of ’83 I saw Heard knock it hard and straight in Total Abandon, a courthouse stage drama written by Larry Atlas. Or so I recall. I certainly remember going up to Heard after the matinee ended and saying “Wow, man…that’s a tough role to play twice a day” and him smiling and shrugging and saying “naaah, just a workout.”
I’m pretty sure I also saw Heard act in G.R. Point, an anti-war play set in Vietnam, but I need to sift through my memory leaves a bit more.
In his 7.17 review of Chris Nolan‘s Dunkirk, USA Today‘s Brian Truitt mentioned with a straight face that the absence of black or brown actors may constitute a perception problem in some quarters. He actually said this. Literal quote: “The trio of timelines can be jarring as you figure out how they all fit, and the fact that there are only a couple of women and no lead actors of color may rub some the wrong way.”
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the oppression of 21st Century political correctness laid bare on the table.
There’s been a reaction to this on Facebook, followed by a reaction to this reaction. Last night Forbes critic Scott Mendelsohn wrote, “You folks are really going to give USA Today critic crap over a half-a-sentence note that Dunkirk is indeed a white dude sausage fest (accurate) in an otherwise uber-positive 3.5-star review? This is why I don’t write hot takes anymore, because I can’t bear to be associated with such reactionary crap.”
A “white dude sausage fest”? To the best of my knowledge 1940s England was pretty much an all-white country, at least as far as its troops were concerned, but depicting this social reality in a 2017 film will draw sporadic catcalls.
Mendelsohn’s comment drew a reply from Facebook poster Zachary Sosland, to wit: “I’m not upset with the review as much as I am with the potential message that movies should sacrifice historical accuracy for political correctness.”
I’ve mentioned this 16 or 17 times, but never forget that Joe and Jane Popcorn will often embrace formulaic, insubstantial or otherwise easy-lay mediocrities that don’t tend to stand the test of time. Not entirely, of course, but frequently enough. And that they often tend to snub, under-appreciate or otherwise shrug their shoulders when exceptional, ahead-of-the-curve films come along. Keep in mind also that the ones who tend to spot and celebrate the really good stuff are critics and cultists and, to a lesser extent, awards-giving orgs like the Academy. It sounds self-justifying but it’s largely true. Joe and Jane see what they want to see, but they’ll never be paragons of seasoned taste and wise judgment, certainly not on any consistent basis.
I brought this up a little more than 13 years ago, and at the time I was reeling over the success of My Big Fat Greek Wedding and needed to pat myself on the back for despising that film down to the core of my soul. “What does it say about a society that celebrates a film as bad as this?,” I asked. I’ve always maintained that the most popular films of any year always amount to a kind of portrait of where Joe and Jane are at deep down…a reflection of their inner psyche, what they’re longing for, how they’d like to see themselves in some way.
With the exception of Little Caesar, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, They Won’t Forget and Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, no one today ever talks about the films directed by Mervyn LeRoy, particularly his hot-streak pics of the ’50s — Quo Vadis, Million Dollar Mermaid, Mr. Roberts, The FBI Story, No Time for Sergeants. (Or his almost as popular films of the early ’60s — The Devil at 4 O’Clock, A Majority of One, Gypsy and Mary, Mary.) LeRoy’s ’50s films were big deals in their day, but who talks about them now with serious affection or respect? I’ve said this 16 times also, but in some respects LeRoy was the Steven Spielberg of his day.
Remember that The Wizard of Oz (produced by LeRoy) wasn’t hugely popular with Joe Schmoe types in 1939, and that a year earlier Bringing Up Baby was also a box-office shortfaller. I’ve never seen Welcome Stranger, a Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald heart-warmer that was 1947’s #1 box-office hit. Who outside of Twilight Time fanatics has ever seen The Egyptian**, one of the big box-office hits of 1954? (20th Century Fox wanted Marlon Brando to star in it and he refused, resulting in a big brouhaha.) Samson and Delilah was 1950’s biggest hit, David and Bathsheba was 1951’s top-grosser, and The Ten Commandments ruled the box-office in 1957 (even though it premiered on 10.5.56), and none of them play very well by today’s aesthetic standards. And Alfred Hitchcock‘s Vertigo, arguably his best film and an undisputed classic in any realm, flopped when it opened in 1958.
** Twilight Time’s Bluray of The Egyptian is currently selling for $249 on Amazon.
“In addition, Ben Affleck will turn 45 in August, so he would be pushing 50 before Matt Reeves‘ The Batman arrives in theaters. If Reeves makes a trilogy, Affleck would be in his mid 50s at best by the time that’s done. Maybe Tom Cruise could pull that off, but Affleck’s body hasn’t exactly been a temple.” — from “Ben Affleck’s Batman Future in Doubt as Warner Bros. Plots Franchise,” posted on 7.21 by Hollywood Reporter columnist Kim Masters, just after 10 am.