Richard Anderson, a dependably solid character actor who understood how to play middle-class professional types grappling with moral failure, is dead at 90. To hell with his work in The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman. When I think of Anderson, I go right to Paths of Glory (in which he played the unctuous Major Sant-Auuban), then to Seven Days in May (another military officer, this time kowtowing to Burt Lancaster) and finally to Play It As It Lays, in which he played one of Tuesday Weld‘s lovers, albeit one who feels anguish when she tells him she’s aborted their child.
I have to check out of my Aztec motel in less than an hour, but with the Telluride Film Festival slate finally announced, the following are HE must-sees:
ARTHUR MILLER: WRITER (d. Rebecca Miller, U.S., 2017); BATTLE OF THE SEXES (d. Valerie Faris, Jonathan Dayton, U.S., 2017); DARKEST HOUR (d. Joe Wright, U.K., 2017); DOWNSIZING (d. Alexander Payne, U.S., 2017); A FANTASTIC WOMAN (d. Sebastián Lelio, Chile-U.S.-Germany-Spain, 2017); FILM STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL (d. Paul McGuigan, U.K., 2017); HOSTILES (d. Scott Cooper, U.S., 2017); LADY BIRD (d. Greta Gerwig, U.S., 2017); THE RIDER (d. Chloé Zhao, U.S., 2017); THE SHAPE OF WATER (d. Guillermo del Toro, U.S., 2017)…ten in all.
I’d like to see others, of course, but the odds aren’t good. Then again Telluride always does a brilliant job of programming must-sees against each other so maybe I’ll miss one or two. Leaving for Telluride now. The drive will take three hours or thereabouts.
Nothing says small-town, Norman Rockwell America and down-home humanistic values like corporate chain stores and the constant howl of traffic. Welcome to hell, which in this instance is Aztec, New Mexico. I crashed here last night and I’m still hanging around, sitting in a McDonald’s and grappling with wifi speeds that are slower than a horse trader’s mule. Massive parking lots, too much light, 24-hour gas stations, noise, corporate signage, limited incomes and a sense of being inside a minimum-security prison. If I was forced to live here I would become an opioid addict in less than a month.
Two days after it became apparent that the Toronto Film festival had added Dan Gilroy‘s Roman J. Israel, Esq. to the lineup, the festival has finally this. Take your time, guys!
From the release: “The Toronto International Film Festival® proudly announces the World Premiere of Academy Award® nominee Dan Gilroy’s Roman J. Israel, Esq., completing the 2017 Official Programme Selection. Written and directed by Gilroy and featuring an amazing transformation by Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq. is the newest and final addition to TIFF’s Special Presentations programme, furthering Washington and Gilroy’s collaborative relationship with the Festival.”
A couple of days ago I was chatting with a colleague about the film, and he was wondering what was up with Denzel’s Don King haircut and purple Superfly suit. “Is it a period thing?” he asked. “I don’t know,” I said, “but I suspect not. You have to figure there are older guys who dress like Don King because it means something to them…it’s a statement they value.” Update: Apparently it is a period thing.
Aztec, New Mexico, 7:11 am: No Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes scores yet for Guillermo del Toro‘s The Shape of Water, but reviews from the Telegraph‘s Robbie Collin, Guardian‘s Xan Brooks and The Playlist‘s Jessica Kiang will do for now.
The 12.8 Fox Searchlight release screened this morning at the Venice Film Festival, and of course will play this weekend in Telluride.
Collin #1: “The Shape of Water…is an honest-to-God B-movie blood-curdler that’s also, somehow, a shimmeringly earnest and boundlessly beautiful melodrama: think Creature From the Black Lagoon directed by Douglas Sirk.”
Collin #2: “It offers what must be cinema’s uneasiest probing of the postwar American psyche since Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master — and is unquestionably del Toro’s best, richest film since his 2006 Spanish-language masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth. Crucially, it’s also one that he and he alone could have dreamt up.”
Brooks #1: “I’ve been agnostic about Del Toro in the past — filing the Mexican filmmaker away as an ideas man; a director who shoots for the moon only to fall slightly short. But I really liked The Shape of Water. It feels less of a fevered artistic exercise than his other recent work; more seamless and successful in the way it orders its material.”
Brooks #2: “Yes, Del Toro’s latest flight of fancy sets out to liberally pastiche the postwar monster movie, doffing its cap to the incident at Roswell and all manner of related cold war paranoia. But it’s warmer and richer than the films that came before. Beneath that glossy, scaly surface is a beating heart.”
Collin #3: “Like the best bath you’ve ever had, it sends tingles coursing through every part of you that other films don’t reach.”
Kiang #1: “But as much as it has on its mind, it has even more in its happy-sad, brave and quiet heart. Without a single weak link in the exceptional cast (Sally Hawkins would deserve awards recognition if all she did was that one, unmistakably post-coital smile of carnal satisfaction in her lover’s scaly embrace), it’s a film that makes you feel a lot.
Kiang #2: “But overridingly you feel lucky — lucky to be watching it, lucky that something so sincerely sweet, sorrowfully scary and surpassingly strange can exist in this un-wonderful world, and desirous of hanging on to as much of its magic for as long as you can after you reemerge back onto dry land.”
Blade Runner 2049 runs two hours and 32 minutes sans credits, and two hours and 43 minutes with them. 152 + 11 minutes of credits = 163. Right off the bat I’ve got an attitude about this. Imagine da coolness if Denis Villeneuve’s semi-sequel ran 100 minutes or thereabouts. If Steven Soderbergh is reading, please consider one of your re-edits down the road. How long does the closing credit sequence last in Ridley Scott’s 1982 original, which runs 117 minutes? How minutes of actual screen time does Harrison Ford have in Denis Villeneuve’s semi-sequel or whatever you wanna call it? 20 or 15? Just asking. Warner Bros. opens it on 10.6.
I’m sorry but I’m in Phoenix, where the temperature is 107. The Albuquerque flight leaves at 4:50 pm, arrives an hour later. Dollar rent-a-car, three-hour drive to Aztec, flop at local dive. Aztec to Telluride will eat about three and 1/2 hours, give or take.
Houston sea, complete with waves and whitecaps.
Snapped in Venice.
Gate C7, Phoenix airport, 4:15 pm.
The new trailer for Lynn Ramsay‘s You Were Never Really Here, based on the novella of the same name by Jonathan Ames. Pic stars Joaquin Phoenix, Ekaterina Samsonov, Alex Manette, John Doman and Judith Roberts. It premiered at last May’s Cannes Film Festival, where Ramsay won the Best Screenplay award and Phoenix won the Best Actor award. It’s a forthcoming Amazon release, running 85 minutes.
From Kyle Buchanan’s 5.27 Joaquin Phoenix interview, titled “Joaquin Phoenix Is an Action Hero Now, But He’s Keeping His Belly“: Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here is about a hammer-wielding, battle-scarred war veteran who rescues girls from a sex-trafficking ring, but you’ll know it’s different from a traditional action thriller as soon as star Joaquin Phoenix takes off his shirt.
“In an era where most leading men have awfully similar buff bodies, the 42-year-old Phoenix stands apart: His character is covered in scars, his pecs are hardly Hollywood-chiseled, and while the actor hit the gym every day to build strong arms for the role, he’s still got a notable gut hanging over his waistband. If there’s any six-pack in sight, it’s likely getting cold in the fridge.
The first burst of Downsizing reviews from the Venice Film Festival are averaging 90% on both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. There are four or five quibblers. Screen International‘s Lee Marshall says “there’s something for everyone in Downsizing, just not a full meal.” While praising director Alexander Payne as “the closest thing we have to a studio-system classcist,” Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman says it’s “more amusing than exhilarating, and what should be its emotional payoff hinges too much (for my taste) on the director’s apocalyptic vision of climate change. Downsizing turns into a movie about saving the human race. But it’s most fun when it’s about saving one man whose life turns out to be bigger than a hill of beans.” The biggest naysayer is senior Daily Beast entertainment editor Marlow Stern, who tweeted this morning that “the effusive Venice praise for Downsizing is festival hysteria, plain and simple. It’s not good, unfortunately.” But a 90% Metacritic rating ain’t hay, and don’t forget Todd McCarthy’s rave.
From a 4.1.17 post titled “Middle Americans May Not Like What They See in Downsizing“, which riffed on my reactions to a 10-minute Downsizing clip shown at Cinemacon and particularly a conservative Arizona woman’s reaction to it:
“Yes, Downsizing is ‘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. 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 Cinemacon’s 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 shared my impression that the Downsizing clip 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.'”