About 25 years ago I drove up to the Guadalupe Dunes area (due west of Santa Maria) to inspect the remnants of the ancient Egypt set used for Cecil B. DeMille‘s 1926 version of The Ten Commandments. It’s nothing — just a big sloping sand dune littered with chunks of cheap plaster and pieces of weather-worn lumber sticking out here and there. There’s no “lost city” — the whole legend is a con job. You might find scraps and shards of material from a 90-year-old movie set “interesting”, but I sure didn’t. The story about DeMille having dynamited and then buried the set after he finished shooting makes sense. It certainly makes no sense that he would have left the set intact for other filmmakers to use at will.
In a 9.19 DVD Beaver review of Criterion’s new Barry Lyndon Bluray, Gary Tooze reports that the 4K-scanned images are “brighter” than those provided by the previous Warner Home Video Bluray with “superior detail…colors (red) have become richer and deeper…it looks beautiful [and] is far closer to how Barry Lyndon looked theatrically. Kubrick fans should rejoice at this image quality. It’s magnificent.” But again I’m asking, and this is obviously not an extreme thing to say in September of ’17: Why isn’t Criterion simply releasing a 4K Bluray instead of a 4K-scanned Bluray rendered in 1080p? I’m buying the new Lyndon for $25, and next year I’ll be asked to shell out another $30 or $40 when they finally release a 4K version…is that it?
I saw Stephen Frears‘ Victoria and Adbul (Focus Features, 9.15) at the Toronto Film Festival, but I wasn’t able to summon the energy, much less the enthusiasm, to write about it. Now that I’m back in Los Angeles, rested and settled and sitting at home, I still can’t write about it. Nothing will come. The 68% Rotten Tomatoes rating says it all. It’s not a bad film, but it’s mainly decorous and stiff-necked. Having played Queen Victoria 20 years ago in Mrs. Brown, Judi Dench is her usual mesmerizing self as the same royal in her late 70s, and Ali Fazal is fine as Abdul Karim, the Indian gentleman whom Victoria bonded with during her final years on the throne. I’m sorry but this is just another one of those stuffed-shirt Masterpiece Theatre flicks for the older set. TheWrap‘s Alonso Duralde called it “Buckingham Palace fetishism cranked up to peak mumsy.” Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman called it “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner served with mango chutney.” What do I, Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere, have to say? Overall I found Victoria and Adbul mildly diverting — “entertaining” would be too strong a word — but at the same time I felt like the sand was draining out of my hourglass as I watched it. Me to me: “If Judi Dench is so good in this, and she is….probably another Best Actress nomination in the bag…why do I feel as I’m on my deathbed?”
Almost all dreams are symbolic manifestations of some real-life issue you’re experiencing, but I always figured that my childhood boxer-dog nightmare, which I wrote about yesterday, was just a run-of-the-mill kid’s dream. I was only six or seven at the time, so what buried issue could I have been dealing with? I always figured the boxer dogs were just standard-issue goblins.
The dream was about sitting in a jail cell and waiting to be prepared as a main course in a gourmet meal. The chefs were two boxer dogs, standing on their hind legs and wearing starched white aprons. One of them was carrying a large silver tray with all kind of knives laid out, and one of them was narrating the dream like a cooking-class instructor, explaining very precisely how I was to be prepared with just the right sauces and spices.
The meaning hit me this morning, and it was like the clouds parted. The boxer dogs were my parents, talking in a careful, restrained, soft-spoken manner about how to prepare me for life, for school, for the coming regimentation that every kid has to submit to in order to find his/her place in society and therefore survive. The knives on the big silver trays were lessons, books, rules, admonishments, wagging fingers, do’s and don’ts. This was exactly what I was going through as I was starting school at age seven. The regimented aspects were obviously getting to me.
Wow…I finally figured it out.
Now this is a bedroom with a helluva view. It is occupied, the poster is telling us, by a Brooklyn-residing woman (i.e., a clam-house waitress) who’s in the grip of some kind of red-furnace sexual current in her life. You could almost call her a woman channelling the glow and the fire of Anna Magnani, except that Kate Winslet‘s Rose isn’t the type to know the first thing about Italian cinema. Rose couldn’t possibly know this, but as she’s lying on her bed and seething and lamenting about all the things that aren’t working out for her, she’s at least being captured by the great Vittorio Storaro, so at least she’ll look good as the walls close in.
Woody Allen’s Wonder Wheel will have its world premiere as the New York Film Festival on Saturday, 10.14, or three and a half weeks hence. Amazon Studios will release Wonder Wheel on 12.1.17, the first film the studio will distribute independently. Kate Winslet for Best Actress, Jim Belushi for Best Supporting Actor, and maybe even Wonder Wheel itself for Best Picture…who knows?
Posted within comment thread for “Smart Assesment, Subtle Denigrations,” an HE riff about Kris Tapley‘s Variety piece titled “Are you Ready For The Most Exciting Oscar Race in years?” piece: “If there’s one thing that Oscar race know-it-alls agree upon and with great passion, it’s that Streep, who will OF COURSE be nominated for playing Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham in Steven Spielberg‘s The Post, must be stopped at all costs. From winning, I mean.”
Over the last 30-plus years the feeling of Streep inevitability has always felt somewhat oppressive or at the very least irksome, but now she’s returning with a battalion of Sherman tanks on either flank. In the company of Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Sony Pictures and a big-deal, big-echo newspaper yarn that obviously reflects upon today’s pitched battle between Trump and the fact-beholden press, the Streep blitzkreig (which obviously hasn’t even begun yet) feels overwhelmingly favored, especially given her eloquent, unanimously well received speech about Trump that she delivered last January at the Golden Globe awards.
The culture, the fates and considerable industry heat will usher in a Streep nomination — we accept that, fine, no stopping it. And most of us are fine with Hanks being Best Actor nominated and perhaps even winning for portraying Ben Bradley, but Streep must not win….no! I don’t care how good she is in the film, and you know she will be.
Tom Hanks as former Washington Post editor in chief Ben Bradley (center), Bob Odenkirk as former Washington Post editor Ben Bagdikin during filming of The Post.
Kris Tapley‘s latest award-season analysis piece (“Are You Ready for the Most Exciting Oscar Race in Years?“) appeared this morning. It’s mostly an accurate read. Especially if your definition of “accurate” is taking the pulse of your Gurus of Gold and Gold Derby go-alongers (i.e., the people who hold their moist fingers to the wind before deciding what they like or which film has the heat). How is Hollywood Elsewhere any different? I’m as aware as the next guy about which way the winds are blowing, but forecast-wise I go by insect antennae vibrations.
The four Best Picture biggies right now, Tapley is saying, are Dunkirk, The Shape of Water, Darkest Hour and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Two of these, Dunkirk and Three Billboards, are ballsy stand-outs that deliver something extra by setting out on their own paths. The Shape of Water is a geeky Beauty and the Beast thing attempting to slide into the Oscar fold on a current of emotion and erotic fantasy, and Darkest Hour is the most traditional or old-fashioned of the bunch, a historical drama that is both stylistically striking while walking a very familiar path, and with a lead performance that screams “I am doing almost everything that an Oscar-baity performance can possibly do to win your allegiance — clever mimicry of a famous voice, elaborate facial prosthetics, big cigar, quirky behavior, etc.”
I know what I’m about to say will irritate some people, but I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t also describe Tapley’s article as a very cleverly phrased takedown thing (and I’m saying this with genuine respect). It manages, almost by sleight of hand, to lower the Best Picture chances of Luca Guadagnino‘s Call Me By Your Name. If the 98% Rotten Tomatoes rating and Toronto Film Festival reactions are any barometer (CMBYN was the 2nd runner-up in the TIFF people-ballot vote), this is certainly one of your Best Picture slam-dunkers. But Tapley has given it the elbow.
What’s happened is that Tapley (who, don’t forget, expressed vague annoyance last July at the “overbearing Call Me By Your Name mafia”) has thrown in with David “punching chance” Poland as well as a modest fraternity of “older, vaguely prudish industry guys” in describing this Sony Pictures Classics as a deserving but struggling second-tier contender, trying like hell to climb aboard a moving train.
Respectful denigration is an art form, and Tapley has mastered it. I do this shit myself from time to time so don’t tell me.
Oh, to have been in Ron Shelton‘s shoes in the ’80s and ’90s. The reigning auteur of soulful sports movies. 29 years ago the director of the great Bull Durham (’88) was at the top of the heap, and to have followed this up with the reasonably decent Blaze (’89), White Men Can’t Jump (’92), Cobb (’94) and Tin Cup (’96)….smokin’! Hell, I was even half okay with Hollywood Homicide (’03). But now this…a light-hearted septugenarian thing…a cock-of-the-walk cialis-boner comedy set in the Palm Springs area. Lo, how the mighty have fallen. Morgan Freeman, Tommy Lee Jones, Rene Russo, Joe Pantoliano, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Graham Beckel and the late Glenne Headly. Broad Green’s Just Getting Started pops on 12.8.
From David Rooney’s 9.10.16 Hollywood Reporter review: “Blake Lively might have been better off swimming with that shark in The Shallows than subjecting herself to the gummy toothlessness of Marc Forster‘s wet psychodrama All I See Is You. Whatever is happening onscreen, there’s very little here to engage the mind, making it more tempting to close your eyes and surrender to the blind blur of sleep.
“Had the performances been more interesting, the lame script might not have been such an insurmountable problem. But Lively doesn’t do much to stretch her limited range, while Jason Clarke shows none of the dangerous edge that has made him a distinctive screen presence in other movies. And their chemistry together isn’t exactly cooking.
Here’s a description of one of the most vivid nightmares of my life, which invaded my head when I six or seven: I was inside an old-fashioned jail cell, the kind you see in old western movies. The lighting in the cell was dark, but there was a large gleaming kitchen at the end of a large hallway that was adjacent to the cell. I was a prisoner in the cell, and my imprisonment was part of an instructional TV show about cooking — i.e., how to prepare this or that gourmet meal. I was to be the main course, but instead of Julia Child in the kitchen the hosts were two boxer dogs walking around on their hind legs with white aprons tied around their waists. They were carrying large silver trays covered by large cloth napkins, and all sorts of knives were arranged on top. The show was being narrated by one of the dogs, and I remember that he sounded like an upper-crust butler — like William Powell in My Man Godfrey or Edward Everett Horton in Top Hat. The boxer dog explained very slowly and precisely how I was to be prepared just so. The legs and arms and the meat around the ribs were the tastiest, but the right sauces and spices had to be applied in the right way and the oven had to be pre-heated at a certain temperature, etc. The carving wasn’t part of the dream. The dream was about the dogs following the cook book instructions to the letter. The narrator was speaking in the calmest and most civilized of tones.
In a just, fair-minded world, this photo of James Corden kissing (!) Sean Spicer at the Emmys last night would be processed as the same kind of political faux pas as Jimmy Fallon mussing Donald Trump’s hair. Or, if you will, Sammy Davis, Jr. hugging President Nixon at a 1972 youth rally. Or the big studio chiefs of the early ’30s giving handshakes and back-pats to Georg Gyssling, the Nazi party member and ally of Joseph Goebbels who became the German consul to Los Angeles in 1933. Does Corden seem to be a soul-less, gut-less, unprincipled toady? Yes, he does. If Corden could be transported back to 1975 and flown to Phnom Penh, would he give a backrub to Pol Pot? I see Corden and Spicey singing Queen’s “Bicycle Race” together…no?
Hulu’s The Handmaids Tale won all those Emmys because it sent a message about resisting authoritarian governments. HBO’s Big Little Lies, essentially a series about women resisting and defeating men with cruelly perverse mentalities, won because the metaphor fit the political climate. Sean Spicer rolling onstage and more or less saying “I said some very questionable things and embraced assholery while serving as President Trump’s press spokesperson”…that spoke for itself. Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon winning, obviously. HBO’s The Wizard of Lies lost, in part, because despite Barry Levinson‘s obviously negative view of Bernie Madoff‘s widespread malice, there was a collateral ooze factor because Madoff came from the same New York financial culture as Trump.
Incidentally: (1) If eligible I would have never voted for HBO’s The Night Of in any capacity because of (a) the focus on John Turturro‘s problem with foot eczema (i.e., dermatitis), and (b) the writers doubling down by allowing the poor man to find a Chinese herbal cure for this revolting affliction and then bringing the foot eczema back at the very end — unforgivable! (2) I would have voted for Feud up and down, but Ryan Murphy‘s series lacked political resonance. (3) Three cheers for the total snub of HBO’s totally infuriating, puzzleboxing Westworld (“I hate this series with a passion for just layering on the layers, for plotzing, diddly-fucking, detouring, belly-stabbing, meandering and puzzleboxing to its heart’s content”)