I’m about to receive scripts for Backseat, First Man, Bohemian Rhapsody, Beautiful Boy, Old Man And The Gun, Boy Erased and The Sisters Brothers. I’m asking again for Quentin Tarantino‘s Once Upon A Time in Hollywood script. By the way: I’ll be personally delighted if QT goes with a historical fantasia ending a la Inglorious Basterds, in which Adolf Hitler and the Nazi high command were burnt to death inside a Parisian movie theatre. I’m imagining Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt‘s characters, a struggling actor and a stunt man who live near Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski‘s home at 10050 Cielo Drive, saving Tate and her pals from the brutal knives of the Manson gang, maybe by drilling the would-be hippie murderers with hot lead or maybe in some other way.
R. Lee Ermey, the ex-Marine who became a well-employed actor after playing the loud-mouthed Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick‘s Full Metal Jacket, has bought the farm. He was only 74, but he was a right-winger who hated Obama and said some fairly awful things, and as a result had trouble getting hired by liberal Hollywood over the last few years. (Or so I’ve read.) I was about to say “Tough shit, twinkletoes!” but then I thought, “Naah, ease up and back off….don’t do a Bob Clark.”
The Hartman yellathon is Ermey’s masterpiece. (I would actually call it a comic masterpiece.) He was good but only sufficiently so in his other acting roles. He had plenty of work over the 33-year period that followed Full Metal Jacket, or from ’87 until Ermey put his foot in his mouth and skull-fucked himself in 2010.
Italian director Vittorio Taviani has died at age 88. He and his younger brother Paolo co-directed over 20 noteworthy Italian films. The Tavianis, who began churning them out in the ’50s, were probably the most celebrated directing brothers of the Italian cinema realm.
The last Taviani film I saw was Ceasar Must Die, about some prisoners putting on a performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. My favorite Taviani flick was Good Morning, Babylon (’87), about two Italian immigrant brothers (Vincent Spano, Joaquim de Almeida) who get hired as set designers for D.W. Griffith‘s Intolerance. It always seemed that their most popular film was Night of the Shooting Stars (’82).
For what it’s worth, the very first film I reviewed for any Manhattan publication was Vittorio and Paolo’s Padre Padrone. I seem to recall reviewing it sometime in early ’78 (i.e., when it opened commercially) for the Chelsea Clinton News. I was a mediocre writer back then. My prose was on the turgid, overworked side. I knew it and so did my editors. It was agony when I would try to write anything. It would take hours to write a single decent paragraph. It was like digging ditches.
Halfway through last January’s Sundance Film Festival (i.e., “socialist summer camp in the snow”), I mentioned that “the only films I’ve felt truly touched and levitated by are three highly intelligent, smoothly assembled but fairly conventional documentaries — Susan Lacy‘s Jane Fonda in Five Acts, Marina Zenovich‘s Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind and especially Matt Tyrnauer‘s Studio 54.”
I was also mostly down with Amy Scott‘s Hal, a 90-minute portrait of iconoclastic ’70s director Hal Ashby. On 1.22 I called it “exhilarating, colorful and not, if you’re going to be honest (as Nick Dawson‘s “Being Hal Ashby: Life of a Hollywood Rebel” was and is), altogether tidy or pretty…Scott’s film isn’t hagiography, but my sense is that roughly 90% is a touching, fascinating, no-holds-barred, this-is-who-he-really-was portrait and the other 10% is a little blowjobby here and there.”
Calling a documentary “fairly conventional” is not a putdown, but an acknowledgment that it plays by the certain structural and stylistic rules (pacing, exposition, careful editing of talking-head commentary, scoring, articulation of themes, technical polish) that hundreds of docs have adhered to in years and decades past.
These four docs — Fonda, Ashby, Williams, Studio 54 — know their subjects well and how to tell their stories in exactly the right way. As the closing credits roll the viewer knows he/she has eaten a professionally prepared, nutritional, fat-free meal.
So when will they stream? I called and searched around and one of them, it seems, haven’t been acquired — Tyrnauer’s Studio 54 film, which is repped by Altimeter Films.
Zenovich’s Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, produced in association with Alex Gibney‘s Jigsaw Prods., will be in theatres and then on HBO starting in July.
The Ashby doc has been picked up by Oscilloscope, but no release date has been announced, or at least not to my knowledge.
Comey: “Really weird…it was almost an out-of-body experience for me…I was floating above myself, looking down, saying you’re sitting here briefing an incoming President of the United States about prostitutes in Moscow…I never thought these words would come out of my mouth, but I don’t know whether the current President of the United States was with prostitutes peeing on each other in Moscow in 2013…it’s possible, but I don’t know.”
Trump said at the time, “If there’s even a 1% chance my wife thinks that’s true…” That train has left the station, boss!
The 20/20 chat between Comey and Stuffin’ Envelopes, taped last Monday in Comey’s Virginia home, airs tonight at 10 pm eastern.
I’ve watched this King Kong-vs.-Tyrannosaurus Rex duke-out dozens of times, and despite the primitive VFX (it was shot 86 years ago) it gets me every time. All hail Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack and Willis O’Brien. Skillfully choreographed, nicely cut, just-right sound effects, completely credible.
By the same token I despise Peter Jackson’s ridiculous re-imagining and re-casting of this classic scene. Typical Jackson calculation: If Kong fighting a T-Rex was thrilling in the original, let’s have him fight three T-Rexes in our version…it’ll be three times as good! Jackson has never known from restraint. Everything that happens in this detestable scene is a cliffhanger moment, every potential threat pushed to the limit before the last-second avoidance or rescue. Jackson constructs every action scene in his Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies the same way…oh, God…almost…aagghh!…whew, that was close!