I have to leave for Santa Barbara now (2:25 pm). I should have left an hour ago. The idea is to get there by 4:30 pm or so, 5 pm at the latest. I want to catch a 6:10 pm q & a between Roma‘s Alfonso Cuaron and Yalitza Aparicio at the Lobero, which will follow a 4 pm screening. There’s also a cocktail reception for Cold War‘s Pawel Pawlikowski (Opal, 1325 State Street). And then the Big Director’s panel begins at the Arlington theatre at 8 pm.
Anya’s six gray kittens have been bought en masse by a nice woman from Canyon Country — two for herself and her kids, two for her mom, two for her sister. Or something like that. They’re only four and half weeks old — born on 12.27.18. You’re supposed to keep them with their mom until they’re eight weeks old or they won’t be properly weaned; some say they should stay with mom for three months. It’s interesting how you can tell which one is the bravest, the smartest, the most guarded and defensive, etc. Even at four weeks.
For as long as I can recall there’s always been a hard and fast rule about Sundance films not being allowed to play at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. I was therefore surprised to discover that A.J. Eaton and Cameron Crowe‘s David Crosby: Remember My Name, one of the finest films I saw at Sundance ’19, will have two SBIFF screenings at the Lobero theatre — Sunday, 2.3 at 2pm, and Tuesday, 2.5 at 7 pm. My understanding is that Crosby, who lives in the nearby Santa Ynez Valley, will be in town on Sunday, which leads one to presume he’ll take a bow after the Sunday screening. Here’s my 1.27.19 Sundance review.
When I was but a lad my father and I didn’t like the same music. He was a big Ella Fitzgerald fan, but he had no room in his head for Aretha Franklin. C’mon! There was, of course, no point in trying to persuade him to see past his favorites and prejudices.
One of the first vocal debates we had was over the Beatles “I’m A Loser.” My dad was basically appalled that any songwriter would write a song with that title. What kind of wimp candy-ass would admit something like that, much less sing it as a kind of anthem? I replied that it wasn’t about being a loser in life, but in love. Lennon and McCartney obviously had no reason to worry about people regarding them as losers, I explained. Not with their phenomenal success. Plus it wasn’t the lyrical content as much as how it sounded. The bass line, the harmonies, the harmonica riff, etc. All of these arguments went right over my dad’s head.
I know one thing about Sundance ’19, and what it’s helped to bring about. The millions who are still glomming on to the myth of Michael Jackson — that half-magical, commercially formidable, white-sock superstar aura that has persisted and expanded since his death on 6.25.09 — the millions who are still feeding off Jackson are about to experience a profound kick in the head from Leaving Neverland, which will eventually air on HBO.
Sundance ’19 deserves a 21-gun salute and a hearty cheer for helping to launch this important four-hour film.
How many of Hollywood Elsewhere’s top eight Sundance ’19 films — Luce, Leaving Neverland, Official Secrets, Cold Case Hammerskjold, David Crosby: Remember My Name, Memory: The Origins of Alien and Steven Soderbergh‘s High Flying Bird — will connect with Joe and Jane Popcorn? Not to mention the buzzy titles that I wanted to see but missed (The Nightingale, The Hole in the Ground, Blinded By The Light)? Perhaps only two or three, perhaps all. Who knows?
I know that the above eight are rooted, riveting and fraught with discovery, and that they put me right in the zone. Thank you, Sundance ’19, for including these stand-outs.
I also know that it feels great to be back in ground-level, warm-aired Los Angeles and not (here comes the other side of the Park City experience) in that congenial p.c. Stalinist boot camp aura in the Wasatch Mountains.
HE’s Sundance experience was genuinely exciting and even throttling from time to time, but for the most part the elite, beaver-hat-wearing commissars reiterated their commitment to their “socialist summer camp in the snow” aesthetic, and what has basically become an annual experiment in mass p.c. hypnosis and utopian wish-fulfillment.
For Sundance ’19 was first and foremost about itself — about enforcing a vision of how the world needs to be, and by fulfilling its own self-created image and making real (at least temporarily) its own Neverland vibes.
We’re talking diversity, representation, a higher percentage of films directed by women and people of color (which is obviously welcome and exciting), aggressive frowning at the idea of older white-male critics (thank you, Keri Putnam, for making my life interesting!) and the idea of accumulated taste (which inevitably results “from a thousand distastes,” as Francois Truffaut once said), and cheering the idea of “under-represented” critics.
All mock posters created by The Shiznit.
“’Why Did You Do That?’ is otherwise known as ‘the song about butts that Lady Gaga sings in A Star Is Born. Truth be told, there’s only one butt in the song, but it’s a memorable one: As Gaga’s Ally sings in the opening lines, ‘Why do you look so good in those jeans? / Why’d you come around me with an ass like that?’ Question: Is ‘Why Did You Do That?’ terrible, is it a bop, or is it a terrible song that’s also a bop?” — from “I’m Obsessed With That Song About Butts From A Star Is Born,” by Nate Jones, Vulture, 10.10.18.
We’ve just begun the final year of the second decade of the 21st Century. Somebody on Twitter was asking this morning for lists of the best films of the last nine years, and so I might as well (a) re-post my long-game roster as well as (b) HE’s top ten from this period (2010 to 2018) at the very end:
Best of 2010: The Social Network, The Fighter, Black Swan, Inside Job, Let Me In, A Prophet, Animal Kingdom, Rabbit Hole, The Tillman Story, Winter’s Bone (10).
Best of 2011 (ditto): A Separation, Moneyball, Drive, Contagion, X-Men: First Class, Attack the Block (6).
Best of 2012: Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Barbara, The Grey, Moonrise Kingdom (7).
Best of 2013: The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years A Slave, Inside Llewyn Davis, Her, Dallas Buyers Club, Before Midnight, The Past, Frances Ha (8).
Best of 2014: Birdman, Citizen Four, Leviathan, Gone Girl, Boyhood, Locke, Wild Tales. (7)
Best of 2015: Spotlight, The Revenant; Mad Max: Fury Road; Beasts of No Nation; Love & Mercy, Son of Saul; Brooklyn; Carol, Everest, Ant-Man; The Big Short. (10)
Best of 2016: Manchester By The Sea, A Bigger Splash, The Witch, Eye in the Sky, The Confirmation, The Invitation. (6)
Best of 2017: Call Me My Your Name, Dunkirk, Lady Bird, The Square, War For The Planet of the Apes, mother!, The Florida Project. (7)
Best of 2018: Roma., Green Book, First Reformed, Hereditary, Capernaum, Vice, Happy As Lazzaro, Filmworker, First Man, Widows, Sicario — Day of the Soldado. (11).
TOP TEN OF THE LAST NINE YEARS (totally arbitrary, partly whimsical, tethered to the moment): Manchester By The Sea, A Separation, The Social Network, Zero Dark Thirty, Call Me By Your Name, Son of Saul, The Wolf of Wall Street, Leviathan, The Square, Moneyball.
This is a small correction riff, and by no means a big deal. But Borys Kit and Tatiana Siegel‘s 1.30 Hollywood Reporter story about Bryan Singer possibly standing to reap $40 million from Bohemian Rhapsody starts off with a partly misleading sentence:
“Director Bryan Singer is set to earn tens of millions of dollars off the massive success of Bohemian Rhapsody, despite being fired from the movie mid-production and surrounded by controversy.”
The last time I checked “mid-production” referred to “being in the middle of production” or, you know, not at the beginning or end. In fact Singer was fired off Bohemian Rhapsody toward the end of principal photography, or between early and mid-December 2017.
Principal photography had begun in September 2017. There were roughly two weeks of filming left when Singer was canned. Dexter Fletcher shot this final portion in early to mid January 2018.
Singer was therefore not fired “mid-production” but at the tail end of the shoot. No biggie but chronologies matter.
In the wake of They Shall Not Grow Old, Peter Jackson‘s next found-footage project will be about the Beatles and their somewhat acrimonious Let It Be sessions in 1969. Jackson will find a way to make something out of 55 hours of unused footage, shot by Michael Lindsay-Hogg in 1969 and later manifested in the 1970 Let It Be doc.
The Jackson-Beatles story was broken by Variety‘s Chris Willman.
Jackson: “The 55 hours of never-before-seen footage and 140 hours of audio made available to us ensure this movie will be the ultimate ‘fly on the wall’ experience that Beatles fans have long dreamt about. It’s like a time machine transports us back to 1969, and we get to sit in the studio watching these four friends make great music together.”
Excuse me, but that’s just bullshit. The Beatles were in a shitty, dysfunctional place when the footage was shot, and the music on the Let It Be album wasn’t in the least bit “great” — it felt tired, sluggish, retro-lazy, downish, uninspired. “Let It Be Naked” has value, but the remixed Phil Spector version is arguably the worst album the Beatles ever issued.
And the tracks themselves are mostly a drag, like a version of the Beatles basement tapes: “One After 909”, “Don’t Let Me Down”, “Dig a Pony”, “I’ve Got a Feeling”, “Get Back”, “Let It Be”, “I Me Mine,” “Two of Us”, “Maggie Mae”, “Dig It”, “The Long and Winding Road”…God! The only tracks I can stand are “For You Blue” and the original “Across the Universe.”
Wiki excerpt: “The rehearsals and recording sessions for the album did not run smoothly. The acrimony that began during the recording of the White Album resumed soon after the rehearsals began. The Beatles weren’t getting along, and Lennon and McCartney weren’t working together as before.
“McCartney assumed the role of the leader, while a detached Lennon was more interested in spending time and making music with his soon-to-be wife Yoko Ono, who was present in the studio with him at all times. Lennon was in a fragile emotional state, with Ono having suffered a miscarriage of their child just six weeks before the start of the sessions, following a drug bust the month before.
“All of these factors led to friction within the band. At one point, Harrison quit the group after several arguments with McCartney and a falling out with Lennon, due to the former’s perfectionism and the latter’s disengagement. Harrison was coaxed back a few days later.
“The film version is famous for showcasing a number of conflicts between the group members and has frequently been referred to as a documentary that was intended to show the making of an album but instead shows ‘the break–up of a band.'”
Jackson again: “After reviewing all the footage and audio that Michael Lindsay-Hogg shot 18 months before they broke up, it’s simply an amazing historical treasure trove. Sure, there’s moments of drama, but none of the discord this project has long been associated with. Watching John, Paul, George and Ringo work together, creating now-classic songs from scratch, is not only fascinating. It’s funny, uplifting and surprisingly intimate. I’m thrilled and honored to have been entrusted with this remarkable footage. Making the movie will be a sheer joy.”
I decided last night to leave Park City a day early. I’m all Sundanced out. I’ve seen 14 or 15 films, hustled tickets, stood in lines, averaged nightly sleep of five or six hours, etc. Except for Velvet Buzzsaw, which I’ll get into by day’s end, I’ve written about several films that deserve special mention. I’ve ignored others out of compassion. Otherwise I feel sufficiently “thinksperienced” about the goodies that I’ve missed. I’ll get around to them in due time.
I had to beg for tickets, remember. Most of the publicists were kind and obliging, but some weren’t.
Sundance is not a competition among journos to see who can jam in as many films as possible each day — it’s a chance to sample fresh crops, absorb new currents, channel fresh energy, walk in the snow, wear my cowboy hat, eat shitty 7-11 food, etc. I did that for eight days. My mind was poked, prodded, expanded and wrestled with to some extent, and that’ll do for now.
I’m sorry about missing Sweetheart, but it’ll happen in due time. I wanted very much to see Jennifer Kent‘s The Nightingale at noon today but at the last minute a promised ticket didn’t materialize. There were three or four others I wanted to see but couldn’t. A bit disappointing, but not the end of the world.
It’s not a rumor — most of the films that annually unspool in Park City aren’t all that great. Most of them fall under the categories of “not bad, interesting, meh, liked some of it, didn’t quite work,” etc. I saw a film yesterday that was so obviously not worth my time that I quit after 20 minutes. If a movie isn’t working I can smell it immediately.
My initial plan was to depart Park City Thursday afternoon, land in Burbank in the early evening, catch a few zees and drive up to the Santa Barbara Film Festival around noon on Friday. Now I’m bumping everything forward by 24 hours — SLC to Burbank today at 6 pm, home late this evening, leave for Santa Barbara by noon or 1 pm tomorrow.
This way I’ll be able to catch the Director’s Panel (Roma‘s Alfonso Cuarón, The Favourite‘s Yorgos Lanthimos. BlacKkKlansman‘s Spike Lee, Vice‘s Adam McKay and Cold War‘s Pawel Pawlikowski) tomorrow night at the Arlington.
— Film Threat @ Sundance (@FilmThreat) January 30, 2019
W.K. Stratton‘s “The Wild Bunch — Sam Peckinpah, A Revolution in Hollywood, and the Making of a Legendary Film” (Bloomsbury) will arrive in book stores on or about 2.12.19. I’ve been a Wild Bunch fanatic for a long time, and I’m honestly wondering what Stratton can say about this perfectly realized western that I don’t already know. Especially with my having read David Weddle‘s “If They Move, Kill ‘Em” and watched that excellent “making of” feature on the 2008 Warner Home Video Bluray. On top of which Stratton’s book is 352 pages. But if the reviews are encouraging…