Item #1: However mesmerizing or mixed-baggy Blade Runner 2049 turns out to be, it sounds as if dp Roger Deakins might finally be in an excellent position to win that Best Cinematography Oscar that he’s lost out on (or has failed to be nominated for) for so many years. Item #2: The running time is two hours and 44 minutes, so pack a light lunch. Item #3: Hollywood Elsewhere will not be reviewing Blade Runner 2049 until after I pay to see it on the evening of Thursday, 10.5. For years Warner Bros. publicity has refused to allow me to attend screenings that aren’t happening during the final week, which has meant being restricted to all-media screenings, which usually happen two or three days before opening. But there will be no Blade Runner 2049 all-media screening in Los Angeles, I’ve been told, so I’m on my own dime. When I asked about attending a screening in Burbank on Thursday, 9.28, I was told that “the theater…is very small and therefore unfortunately cannot accommodate everyone.”
Directed by Kevin Connolly and (this is key) written by Leo Rossi and the great Lem Dobbs, Gotti (Lionsgate Premiere, 12.15) looks fairly decent. It might be better than that. It’s obvious John Travolta has lucked into a choice opportunity; he might even be giving a great performance. Pompadour, threads, steely glare. The story spans three decades, but for some reason I’m not finding the running time. Costarring Kelly Preston, Stacy Keach, Pruitt Taylor Vince and Spencer Lofranco.
Now that the big festivals are done and I’m back in Los Angeles for the long haul, I’m determined to wade through all 18 hours of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick‘s The Vietnam War. I’m not thinking of buying the Bluray — it’s easy enough to upload all the episodes and watch at my own pace. Ten 90-minute episodes. Here we go.
“The Vietnam War is not [Ken] Burns’ most innovative film, but it is probably [his] saddest film. The Civil War was mournful, but at least the Union was preserved. The War ended with fascism defeated. The war in Vietnam offers no uplift or happy ending. It’s simply decades of bad decision after bad decision, a wasteful vortex that devoured lives for nothing.
“It was, the narrator Peter Coyote says, ‘begun in good faith by decent people out of fateful misunderstandings, American overconfidence and Cold War miscalculations.’
“The Vietnam War is less an indictment than a lament. The saddest thing about this elegiac documentary may be the credit it extends its audience. The Vietnam War still holds out hope that we might learn from history, after presenting 18 hours of evidence to the contrary.” — from James Poniewozsik’s 9.14 N.Y. Times review.
Yesterday The Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg posted lists of likely Oscar nominees in all the major categories. He limited himself to films that have been commercially released or seen at festivals. Here are HE’s counter-views of same minus Best Director picks, which I don’t have the energy to think about now:
Feinberg’s Best Picture Frontrunners (HE estimates of strongest or most deserving contenders in boldface): Dunkirk (Warner Bros.), The Shape of Water (Fox Searchlight), Darkest Hour (Focus Features), The Florida Project (A24), Lady Bird (A24), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Fox Searchlight), Get Out (Universal), Battle of the Sexes (Fox Searchlight), Call Me By Your Name (Sony Classics), The Big Sick (Amazon).
Comment: Though pleasing and reasonably well made, Battle of the Sexes isn’t strong or extra enough for be regarded in this light. It doesn’t have the drillbit emotion, the dimension or the weight. Get Out is a catchy genre film in the tradition of Larry Cohen and John Carpenter. It was critically popular and it made money — great — but all along the Best Picture talk has more or less been propelled by progressive identify politics.
Best Actor Frontrunners (HE estimates of strongest or most deserving contenders in boldface): Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour), Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.), Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name), Jake Gyllenhaal (Stronger), Robert Pattinson (Good Time…NO WAY!). Feinberg knows full well that the forthcoming performances by Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread and Tom Hanks in The Post are all but locked. There’s also a medium to fairly high probability for Hugh Jackman in The Greatest Showman.
Best Actress Frontrunners (HE estimates of strongest or most deserving contenders in boldface): Jessica Chastain (Molly’s Game), Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird), Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), Margot Robbie (I, Tonya). Feinberg knows full well that the performances by Meryl Streep in The Post and Kate Winslet in Wonder Wheel are all but locked. He also knows (or should know) that if The Wife acquires a distributor and opens before 12.31 that a Glenn Close nomination is also quite likely.
Best Supporting Actor Frontrunners (HE estimates of strongest or most deserving contenders in boldface): Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Willem Dafoe (The Florida Project), Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name), Michael Stuhlbarg (Call Me By Your Name), Mark Rylance (Dunkirk). Feinberg should have included Mudbound‘s Jason Mitchell among his frontrunners. Feinberg knows full well that the performance by Jim Belushi in Wonder Wheel is all but locked — partly for the performance, partly for the comeback narrative.
Best Supporting Actress Frontrunners (HE estimates of strongest or most deserving contenders in boldface): Allison Janney (I, Tonya), Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird), Holly Hunter (The Big Sick), Mary J. Blige (Mudbound), Andrea Riseborough (Battle of the Sexes). Feinberg should have included Novitiate‘s Melissa Leo among his frontrunners. I’m not saying that Phantom Thread‘s Vicky Krieps or Lesley Manville are likely contenders (what do I know?) but I’d be surprised if neither performance doesn’t at least a degree of serious consideration.
Leonardo DiCaprio is a gutsy, committed, risk-taking actor. I loved him as Hugh Glass in The Revenant, as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street, as that undercover cop in The Departed, as Jack Dawson in Titanic, as Jim Carroll in The Basketball Diaries. But every now and then he chooses roles that are completely wrong for him.
It was impossible to accept Leo as J. Edgar Hoover in Clint Eastwood‘s J. Edgar — all I could see and hear was the makeup. The idea of the six-foot-tall DiCaprio playing the stringbean-sized Frank Sinatra in that misbegotten Martin Scorsese biopic about the legendary crooner was an atrocious idea. And now the latest — DiCaprio as Theodore Roosevelt in some kind of life-saga biopic, to be directed by Martin Scorsese. Can you imagine DiCaprio wearing T.R.’s bushy-bear moustache? He’ll never top Brian Keith‘s Roosevelt in John Milius‘s The Wind and the Lion (’75) so why even go there?
After catching Our Souls At Night (Netflix, 9.29), the Robert Redford–Jane Fonda love story, I was inspired to re-watch Barefoot in the Park, the 1967 adaptation of the Neil Simon play about young marrieds in which they co-starred. Redford also costarred in the original Broadway version, in which Elizabeth Ashley played Fonda’s role. It opened on 10.23.63, or almost exactly a month before JFK’s assassination. Redford recounted that period this morning on the Today show:
“We did the play in 1963. It was a different time. There was a lot of innocence in the world, and laughter was different. There was laughter at a certain points in the play, of course, and then Kennedy died and the play went quiet for a couple of nights because it had to, and then we came back again. I was concerned about ‘what are we going to do with the comedy?” It’s going to be hard when you say a line that’s supposed to get a laugh. But we had to do it. What I noticed was that the laughter from the audience was different, and has been different ever since. There was something harsh about the laughter. And it hit my ear and I thought, ‘This is weird…the laughter is there and it’s even stronger, but there’s an edge to it.’ And from that point on, it’s been the same ever since.”
Last night a N.Y. Daily News story reported that disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner may be facing a tough time in the slammer. How tough depends on which jail he’ll be sent to, but John Webster, a rep for National Prison and Sentencing Consultants, Inc. told reporter Victoria Bekiempis that Weiner will probably not be serving his 21 months in a cushy, white-collar “Club Fed”-type prison. Which means he’ll be rubbing shoulders with garden-variety criminals and will most likely be coping with some hostility, given that child sex offenders are universally regarded as the lowest of the low in any prison culture.
Everything I “know” about prisons comes from movies, but time and again I’ve heard that men sentenced for sexual exploitation of minors are routinely despised. Weiner doesn’t fit the strict definition of a “short eyes” offender (which Bruce Davison played in Robert Young and Miguel Pinero‘s Short Eyes), but “sexting” teenage girls is fairly close to that realm. The Daily News story said Weiner “may” be sent to a prison in Fort Dix or Allenwood, Pennsylvania. Weiner’s sentence will begin on 11.6.
“He’s not going to a hellhole — he’s not going to be raped, abused and beaten,” Webster said, “but he’s certainly not going to be very well liked.”
These are obviously encouraging responses to Denis Villeneuve‘s Blade Runner 2049 (Warner Bros., 10.6), but they’re mostly from fanboys so caution is advised. There was also a fair amount of fanboy excitement over Arrival, which I for one didn’t share. Warner Bros. is screening BR49 twice today for regular, less-fanboy-concentrated critics. I’m assuming that an all-media screening for second-tier types will happen next Monday or Tuesday. Somehow or some way, Hollywood Elsewhere will eventually engage. If nothing else this will be a major visual-bath experience (Roger Deakins‘ high-quality cinematography has long been apparent in the trailers) so I’d naturally prefer to see it on a full-sized IMAX screen in 2D.
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!”