Earlier today I attended a New York Film Festival press screening of Joel and Ethan Coen‘s The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. A western anthology thing for Netflix. Diverting, amusing, first-rate chops, 132 minutes, good but “minor,” etc. I’m calling it the Coen’s “death film” as quite a few characters get killed in it, and many with the same exact wound. At 4 pm I did a brief interview with Studio 54 director Matt Tyrnauer in the library-like bar at the NoMad hotel (27th and Broadway).
Could the title of Clint Eastwood‘s The Mule (Warner Bros., 12.14) allude to something besides a guy who smuggles drugs? Could it also allude to, say, stubbornness or obstinacy? Right now we’re all saying the same thing to ourselves — we might as lay it on the table. Variety‘s Kris Tapley” believes that Eastwood might wangle a Best Actor nomination — partly for his performance, partly as a Redford-like gold watch tribute. When Tapley muses, the world takes note.
“I have to say, I’m starting to think a bipolar sociopath with no moral compass might not have been our best choice for President of the United States. And the people in the crowd! When he did this, they loved it. He mocked this woman’s story about a sexual assault and they ate it up. They laughed, they cheered…I really don’t understand it.”
Why will people want to see that just-announced Challenger space shuttle flick, above and beyond the Michelle Williams-as-Christa McAuliffe factor?
Exactly — they’ll be curious to see if the film will depict what actually happened to the Challenger crew after calamity struck. As everyone knows the seven-person crew almost certainly survived the initial explosion and that most of them were alive and conscious during the crew cabin’s two-minute, 45-second descent down to the ocean surface.
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…the Senate would probably confirm him. Relaxed vibe, handsome, an apparent straight-shooter, centered, non-defensive. The actual nominee, of course, radiates none of this. The FBI report pops Thursday morning (10.4), and the Senate’s vote on Brett Kavanaugh will reportedly happen on Friday. My sense is that he probably won’t make it. How certain am I? I’m not willing to bet money on it — put it that way. But I really don’t think he’ll amass the votes. How can the five fence-sitters (Flake, Collins, Murkowski, Manchin, Heitkamp) vote for a guy who wrinkles his nose like that? Everyone knows he’s bad news, tempestuous, a stone liar, a fly-off-the-handle partisan who lacks the right judicial temperament, etc.
Home Theatre Forum fellows have noted that a “restored HD” version of George Pal‘s War of the Worlds (’53) is now streamable on iTunes. It’s said to be a marked improvement over the HD version that’s been streaming since ’11 or thereabouts, especially with the wires that once held up the Martian attack ships now digitally removed.
In fact a Paramount Home Video spokesperson told me today that the HTF guys are actually viewing a 4K version, “remastered and restored over the past year.” She said the new restoration is only being offered in 4K (i.e., not in 1080p HD or SD) and “only digitally for now, starting on iTunes then rolling out to other platforms that offer 4K.”
She said that Amazon “doesn’t offer 4K at this time,” but of course she’s mistaken about that. I’m speaking as a very gratified owner of a beautiful Amazon 4K streaming version of Lawrence of Arabia. Many Amazon customers, I’m sure, would love to stream this new War of the Worlds.
The spokesperson also said there are “no plans” for a 4K or 1080p Bluray release. Physical media…stake through the heart.
This War of the Worlds 4K restoration will, however, be screened sometime during the forthcoming Infinity Film Festival, which will run from Thursday, 11.1 to Sunday, 11.4 somewhere in Beverly Hills. The festival’s site doesn’t say what screening venue[s] will be used.
A 1960-era drama based on a Richard Ford novel, Wildlife (IFC Films, 10.19) is about ennui, loneliness and infidelity. It’s set in Montana and is specifically about 30something Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) and her strained relationship with unemployed hubby Jerry (Jake Gyllenhaal) after he leaves the household to fight a nearby forest fire. The story is mostly about Jeanette’s decision to slip into a diseased affair with an older, Uriah Heep-like rich guy (Bill Camp) and how this traumatizes her 14 year-old son Joe (Ed Oxonbould).
In my 1.20.18 Sundance Film Festival review I wrote that I was “appalled — astonished — by the cruel, self-destructive behavior of this sad 34 year-old woman, and particularly by her decision to invite her son to almost participate in some extra-marital humping with a rich, small-town fat guy while her doltish husband is off fighting a forest fire.
“Yes, the screenplay (co-authored by director Paul Dano and Zoey Kazan) is an adaptation of Ford’s 1990 novel so blame Ford, right? But who dreams up stuff like this? And what kind of mother has ever injected this kind of sexual poison into her son’s life?
“Infidels hide their affairs, particularly from their kids. But Jeanette more or less whispers in her son’s ear, ‘I dunno but I kinda like this balding toad…he’s rich and definitely not your father, and so I’m feeling a bit flirty and thinking about…well, I’ve said enough.’ And the kid just stares at her like she’s some kind of ghoul from a Vincent Price flick.
Later she says she’s miserable and almost ready to kill herself, but that doesn’t negate the earlier thing.”
Well, the night before last Wildlife screened at the New York Film Festival, and lo and behold someone in the audience had the same reaction as I did. Instead of asking a typical obsequious question the viewer voiced displeasure at Jeanette’s behavior. The nerve!
Paul Sharf‘s 10.2 Indiewire story reports that the “audience member” — a guy — “addressed Mulligan and criticized her character for being ‘completely reprehensible‘ and ‘unsympathetic.’ Mulligan’s response was that the guy was man-complaining — that his rigid preconceptions were getting in the way and that he needed to get past himself.
“We’re all too used to only seeing women behaving really well [in movies],” Mulligan said. “When we see them out of control or struggling it doesn’t ring true because of everything we’ve been brought up to understand that women are always perfect and can do anything. That’s an unrealistic expectation of a woman. Seeing real humanity on-screen can be really jarring from a female perspective.”
HE to Mulligan: If Wildlife had been about a youngish mom leaving her husband and young son in order to take a job in another city or whatever, and if the father had soon after decided to not only embark on an affair with an older woman but invite his son to participate in this indiscretion, I would be just as turned off to Wildlife, and so would that guy who complained the other night — trust me.
The ugliness isn’t about being unhappy or depressed or having an affair — that’s normal. The ugliness is in smearing the aroma of adult carnality in some poor kid’s face.
Sharf has described the question as “an unfortunate moment.” Perhaps other New York Film festival attendees will read this story and take heed. Questions for filmmakers have to be kiss-assy at all times.