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…
I was half-mesmerized by Julis Onah‘s Luce, a tautly written, convincingly performed domestic drama about racial agendas, attitudes, assumptions and expectations. Set in an affluent Virginia suburb, the film explores a racially mixed group of characters and asks what their core-level attitudes or assumptions about “Luce” (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.), an adopted, African-born high school student, might be. But what it’s really doing is asking the audience these same questions.
Based on J.C. Lee’s 2013 play of the same name and co-adapted by Lee and Onah, it’s basically about uncertain or ambiguous attitudes about Luce, who may or may not be as bright, likable and reassuringly well-behaved as he projects himself to be. Or maybe the real problem is in the eyes of certain beholders.
(l. to r.) Tim Roth, director-cowriter Julis Onah, Naomi Watts, Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Octavia Spencer.
The trouble starts when Harriet Wilson (Octavia Spencer), a vaguely huffy, side-eyed teacher, assigns Luce to write about a historical figure but with a special encouragement to “think outside the box.” When Luce writes about a ’70s activist who flirted with terrorism, Harriett bristles and even freaks a bit. For whatever reason the notion of Luce being some kind of closet radical alarms her, and so (this struck me as weird) she decides to search his locker for possible evidence of subversion. She finds a paper bag filled with illegal fireworks.
Harriet meets Luce’s adoptive mom Amy (Naomi Watts), shows her the essay and bag of fireworks. Amy tenses about violating Luce’s privacy, but at the same time is grappling with concerns about her son, who was reared in a war-torn African nation during his first ten years, and the kind of person he may be growing into. Or perhaps is hiding behind a veneer of charm and good cheer.
Amy discusses her worries with husband Peter (Tim Roth). But when Luce comes home from school, she doesn’t speak her mind. There’s a “vibe” at the dinner table, but nobody mentions the elephant.
This is when I dropped out of Luce, and why I was only half-mesmerized. What kind of adoptive mother wouldn’t trust her son enough to be upfront about the content of a school essay or a certain paper bag, and the possible implications of these? Her reluctance to speak her mind (or uncomfortable suspicions) told me that she’s less loving and perhaps a bit more racist than even she realizes.
A couple of days have passed since I caught Mads Brugger‘s Cold Case Hammarskjöld, and the more I think about it, the more impressive and arresting it seems. It’s actually one of the most original-feeling investigative docs I’ve ever seen.
It begins as an investigation into the 1961 plane-crash death of UN General Secretary Dag Hammarskjöld, which happened, we gradually learn, at the hands of colonialist bad guys. The film is about how Brugger, who casts himself as a kind of whimsical, not-quite-Hercule-Poirot-level investigator, and colleague Goran Bjorkdahl gradually uncover what happened, not just to Hammerskjold 58 years ago but also…actually, I’d rather not divulge.
Suffice that Brugger comes to believe (and in fact persuades) that Hammarskjöld’s plane was shot down by Belgian-British mercenary pilot Jan van Risseghem, who was apparently doing the bidding of some ghastly ogres who were angered by Hammarskjöld’s sympathy for African nativist independence movements.
But that’s hardly the end of it.
For Cold Case Hammarskjöld is anything but a straightforward, hard-hitting, get-to-the-truth doc. In fact it represents a kind of sideways shuffle approach to discovering long-buried bones and nightmares. It is, in fact, an eccentric film, and yet the things it discovers are beyond ugly.
It’s the mixture of curious whimsy and malevolent apartheid schemings (practiced decades ago by rightwing fanatics) that gives Cold Case Hammarskjöld a tone of spooky weirdness.
I haven’t time to write a longish review (a 3:30 pm screening of Luce is bearing down upon me) but Cold Case Hammarskjold is quite a stand-alone achievement. I intend to see it again at the first opportunity.
For bit by bit, testimony by testimony, Cold Case Hammarskjold uncovers a demimonde of racist, colonial evil that feels stranger and wilder than any work of espionage fiction. In part because the doc uses a mixture of evidence, memory, facts, personality, deadpan humor and conjecture to uncover what actually (or most probably) happened.
Cold Case Hammarskjöld director-writer-star Mads Brugger (l.) and investigative colleague Goran Bjorkdahl (r.).
“For many, Lee Cronin‘s The Hole in the Ground will automatically recall The Babadook. The comparison is not a huge stretch. Each film focuses almost exclusively on a single mom and her troubled son. Both rely on intense sound design (The Hole in the Ground might have the driest, creakiest house in all of cinema) to aid their scares. Both are horror films that largely eschew violence, though this one less so. For while The Babadook’s narrative functions largely as metaphor, A Hole in the Ground is more direct and literal.” — from 1.26.19 review by Evan Saathoff.
The closing-credit sequence of Steven Soderbergh‘s High Flying Bird features the famous Woodstock recording of the late Richie Havens singing “Handsome Johnny.” It was a thrill to hear it again, especially on such a sharply tuned, well-amped sound system.
From Richie Havens Wikipage: “On 4.22.13 he died of a heart attack at his Jersey City home, at the age of 72. The BBC referred to him as a ‘Woodstock icon’ while Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young said Havens ‘could never be replicated.’ The Daily Telegraph stated Havens ‘made an indelible mark on contemporary music’ while Douglas Martin of The New York Times reported that Havens had ‘riveted Woodstock.’
“Pursuant to Havens’ request, his cremated ashes were scattered from the air over the original site of the Woodstock Festival, in a ceremony held on 8.8.13, the 44th anniversary of the festival’s last day.
“Havens was survived by his wife Nancy, three children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren”
From “Will There Be Two Versions of The Irishman?,” posted from Cannes on 6.9.18: “I was jerked alert when Martin Scorsese mentioned that his forthcoming The Irishman, a $180 million gangster flick funded mostly by Netflix, contains about “300 scenes.”
“Right away I leaned forward and wondered if I’d just heard that. Because 300 scenes could translate into a helluva running time, perhaps as long as 450 minutes or 7 hours and 30 minutes.
“In other words (and I’m just spitballing here) The Irishman could wind up as an expanded Netlix miniseries in addition to being shown as a shorter theatrical feature. Who knows? I know that a film with 300 scenes will definitely be a bear, length-wise. Obviously too much of one for theatres, in fact, if Scorsese intends to use all or most of that footage.
I was recently thinking about the lives of cows, bulls, pigs and goats, and about how no one ever mentions that each and every cow, bull, pig and goat born on this planet will be murdered, skinned, chopped up and eaten. None will die peacefully in some meadow — they’ll all be led to slaughter. That’s a fairly ugly thought if you let it sink in, but that’s the reality on farms big and small. It’s therefore a little hard to share in the warm emotions that people feel when little piglets are born…”awwwhhh! Welcome to the world, babies…we love how cute you are, and by the way your throats are going to be slit one day! By us!”
From Peter Debruge’s 9.1.18 Variety review: “Directly benefiting from John Chester’s cinematography background, the otherwise casual, scrapbook-style documentary — in which old home videos and hand-drawn animation fit nicely with Jeff Beal’s folksy string score — boasts intervals of stunning, unexpectedly gorgeous wildlife footage: Drone-mounted cameras convey York’s incredible design, night vision exposes the sneaky critters who disrupt things after dark, high-frame-rate macrophotography captures each flap of a hummingbird’s wings while turning raindrops into a kind of Luftwaffe air raid for shell-shocked bugs, and so on.
Nobody knows why Stephen Paddock slaughtered 58 and wounded hundreds of others in Las Vegas on 10.1.17, least of all the authors of a just-released FBI report. But they included a chilling observation from the killer’s younger brother. Eric Paddock has reportedly described Stephen Paddock as the “king of microaggression” — narcissistic, detail-oriented and maybe bored enough with life to plan an attack that would make him famous.
Remember the good old days when people who were bored with life would merely kill themselves? This was the apparent motive behind George Sanders’ suicide in ’72.
CNBC Question: If you were running and it appeared in the polls that you candidacy would help to elect Donald Trump, would you drop out beforehand?”
Howard Schultz: “I can’t answer that question today. but I’m certainly not going to do anything to put Donald Trump back into the Oval office.”
That sounds to me as if Schultz is planning to campaign as a practical centrist (against Medicare for all and AOC’s idea for a 70% income tax on the super-wealthy) and then probably drop out sometime between the spring and summer of ’20. Because if he does run in the general campaign as an egotistical indie, Trump will definitely be re-elected by way of a split liberal-moderate vote. In this regard Schultz would in fact be “a gift from God” for Trump, as Jeffrey Toobin has remarked.
The key to this Velvet Buzzsaw cast interview clip is to focus on Renee Russo more than Jake Gyllenhaal. You need to verbally listen to what director-writer Dan Gilroy is saying, of course, but Renee’s reactions are more theatrical, more demonstrative than Jake’s. Once you hear “muhLONchully,” you’ll be infected for life. You won’t be able to say “melancholy” in the normal way ever again.
i can't stop watching this pic.twitter.com/xQhCiymaIQ
— hunter harris (@hunteryharris) January 28, 2019