Brett Morgen‘s Jane (National Geographic, 10.9), a doc about famed primatologist Jane Goodall, recently screened at the Toronto Film Festival. No offense but I didn’t think it mattered enough to squeeze it into my brutal schedule. I was going to see it eventually out of respect for Morgen, but now I’m suddenly revved. That’s because I’ve been invited to a special 10.9 Hollywood Bowl screening that will feature a live orchestral performance of Phillip Glass’s enchanting original score. The film is mostly composed of recently discovered footage of Goodall finding her way into the study of chimpanzees in the early ’60s. The footage was (a) shot in Gombe, Tanzania by her then-future husband Hugo van Lawick, and is (b) intercut with interviews of present-day Goodall, who’s now 83.
Between the Cinefamily allegations, the Devin Faraci scandal and now the Harry Knowles Alamo Drafthouse controversy, a deeply stamped association between jowly, bearded movie geeks and creepy-pervy sexual behavior has been embedded. And now fresh torches are burning down in Austin and all across the twitterverse, and a sizable crowd is suddenly thirsting for the blood of a carrot-haired fat man.
Knowles, founder of Ain’t It Cool News, was accused two days ago of two instances of inappropriate contact and asshole-ish groping in ’99 and ’00. His accuser, Jasmine Baker, presumably waited nearly two decades for the same reason that Bill Cosby‘s accusers said nothing for so many years. Knowles has “categorically” denied Baker’s claims and also denied them in a tweet on Saturday, calling the allegations “100% untrue.”
Obviously many are assuming otherwise, or are convinced of same. Three AICN regulars — Steve Prokopy (“Capone”), Eric Vespy (“Quint”) and an as-yet-unidentified contributor known as “Horrorella” — have quit Knowles’ site. Maybe they have information above and beyond what Baker has stated, or maybe they’re terrified of being branded as allies or sympathizers and for safety’s sake are looking for tall grass. I know that right now the Twitter wolves are describing Knowles as a serial assaulter; a few seem to regard him as a fiendish life form second only to Bluebeard and Ed Gein.
Has anyone besides Baker accused Knowles of sexual assault? (I’m just asking.) Maybe Knowles is guilty of all kinds of things. Maybe what’s happening now is the beginning of some kind of justified mass payback for God knows how many sexual abusers who’ve over-stepped their bounds for God knows how many years. Or maybe two incidents of (alleged) reprehensible behavior shouldn’t quite earn Knowles the same condemnation that has justifiably been thrown as Cosby.
“You think of that young kid, sneaking his way into a studio and manifesting his own destiny…it’s a pretty fantastic Hollywood story” — Leonardo DiCaprio quote from Susan Lacy‘s Spielberg, an HBO doc that will begin airing on Saturday, 10.7. He’s referring to an oft-told story about the teenaged Spielberg flim-flamming his way around the Universal lot in the mid ’60s, pretending to belong, sneaking around, etc.
Lacy talked to Spielberg for 30 hours while collecting insights and recollections from J.J. Abrams, Leonardo DiCaprio, Richard Dreyfuss, Ralph Fiennes, Harrison Ford, David Geffen, Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, Holly Hunter, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Ben Kingsley, Kathleen Kennedy, George Lucas, Liam Neeson, Martin Scorsese, Oprah Winfrey and Robert Zemeckis.
Saying it again: Spielberg’s ass has been steadily smooched by every Tom, Dick and Harry in this town for the last 40 years. What are the odds that Lacy will attempt even a slight variation on this?
Posted on 7.13.17: “I’m not saying the point of Lacy’s doc is to warm up the atmosphere and fluff up the bed on behalf of Spielberg’s The Post (20th Century Fox, 12.22), but it certainly won’t hurt in this regard.
“Imagine if Lacy’s doc was given to brutal honesty and was titled Super-Hack, and was basically about selling the idea that throughout his life Spielberg’s default instinct has never been anything more profound than wanting to get a rise out of Joe Popcorn, and that aside from E.T., Schindler’s List, Lincoln and maybe four or five other exceptions to the rule, there’s nothing wrong with banging out commercial movies or being the most talented and financially successful hack in Hollywood history.
“From ’75 through ’82 Spielberg was regarded by everyone (myself included) as a consummate filmmaker. He seemed to have an extraordinary ability to make his movies jump through the scrim — stylistically vivid, often entertaining, frequently impressive and, of course, financially successful.
“Spielberg knows his craft like few others, but 85% to 90% of his films have mostly been free of any kind of singular passion or deep-rooted beliefs about human nature and how the world works or an underlying current of any kind. Spielberg is a Capra-esque suburban sentimentalist who believes in the goodness of American families, small-town neighborhoods, emotional moms, chubby kids, aliens cute and ferocious, happy endings, carefully choreographed action and wow-level spectacle.
The recent celebration of the box-office performance of Andy Muschietti‘s It is not only premature (again, the domestic tally so far is nowhere close to even a third of what The Exorcist made back in ’73 and ’74) but grotesque. Especially when compared to the obviously superior quality of Olivier Assayas‘ Personal Shopper and its disproportionately modest box-office haul of $1,305,000 domestic.
So far It, a wildly unsubtle chain-jerk of a horror film and tailor-made for for the ADD-afflicted, has earned $266 million and change, and has therefore been praised as a culture-shaker while Personal Shopper, a genuinely unnerving and quietly ground-breaking ghost flick, was elbowed aside by a fair number of critics who should have known better.
I’m mentioning this because the Criterion Bluray of Personal Shopper will pop on 10.24.
Posted on 6.20.16: “We were all knocked back when Personal Shopper played in Cannes, but a few too many critic friends have since told me ‘nope, not for me, didn’t care for it,’ etc. And yet some of these same naysayers liked or even loved The Conjuring 2, which operates way, way below the level of Assayas’ film. And that, to me, is appalling.
“All I can figure is that Personal Shopper is too antsy and schizo for some people. It’s too teasing and darting and inconclusive. It doesn’t behave like other ghost stories, and some just don’t know what to do with it. So they toss it and wash their hands.
“There’s not the slightest doubt in my mind about how uniquely chilling and riveting this film is — it’s my second favorite film of the year after Manchester by the Sea — and how stunningly good Stewart’s performance is. And yet two or three days ago Tom Luddy and Julie Huntsinger of the Telluride Film Festival were both telling me how they didn’t care for it. C’mon!”
“Donald Trump is operating the White House as a terror cell of racial grievance in America’s broader culture wars.
“He has made his allegiances clear: He’s on the side of white supremacists, white nationalists, ethno-racists, Islamophobes and anti-Semites. He is simpatico with that cesspool. And nothing gets his goat quite like racial minorities who stand up for themselves or stand up to him.
“Trump said owners should respond by saying: ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired…fired!’
“Pause. No, full stop. Folks, this cretin is who we are supposed to call a ‘president.’ He uses harsher language against people quietly protesting injustice than he does against violent racists marching through the streets. Unbelievable. O.K., continue.”