I was onto the emptiness aesthetic back in ’79 when I tried to raise funding for a monthly magazine called Nothing. It was supposed to be like Interview only more so. The Nothing idea didn’t fly because celebrities of a certain stripe or calibre who had agreed to give interviews would’ve had to be in on the joke — “I’m basically an empty vessel with nothing much to say, but then again we’re all ‘nothing’ in a certain sense…all of us just atomic molecular matter, passing through for 75 or 80 years and then whooshing into the void.” Five years later along came the emptiest famous person in world history — Angelyne — and the rest is history. Now the world is full of empty coke bottles, all clamoring for our attention on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. The Kardashians took Angelyne’s vacant aesthetic and ran with it in a much more profitable way.
The New Haven-residing Brian Dennehy has left the earth. Cardiac arrest, 81 years old. Respect and condolences for a gifted, passionate actor who cared more for the exaltation of great acting than whore paychecks.
Dennehy won two Best Actor Tony Awards, for his lead performances in Arthur Miller‘s Death of a Salesman (’99) and Eugene O’Neill‘s Long Day’s Journey into Night (’03) as well as a Golden Globe in 2000 for playing Willy Loman in a TV version of Death of a Salesman. Not to mention a Stratford Shakespeare Festival performance in Shakespeare‘s Twelfth Night plus a noteworthy stage turn in a Stratford production of Harold Pinter‘s The Homecoming.
Just eight years ago Dennehy played a supporting role (not Hickey) in a Goodman theatre production of Eugene O’Neill‘s The Iceman Cometh, and again when the production was revived in 2015 at the BAM Harvey Theater in Brooklyn.
How ironic that Dennehy’s best-known role was Will Teasle, an arrogant and rather bone-headed small-town sheriff in Ted Kotcheff‘s First Blood (’82) — a breakout role that launched his film career. Dennehy was 41 or thereabouts when the film was shot.
I’m not sure what Dennehy’s second-best-known film role was or is. You’d have to pick between the kindly alien in Ron Howard‘s Cocoon (’85) the lead role in Peter Greenaway‘s The Belly of an Architect (’87) or his Joseph Wambaugh-like novelist in John Flynn‘s Best-Seller (’87).
I’m sure I’m overlooking a half-dozen other choice performances, but for better or worse I keep coming back to his rural asshole performance in First Blood. Go figure.
Poor, dessicated, syphilis-afflicted Al Capone (Tom Hardy) near the end of his life. Plotzing in South Florida (he resided at 93 Palm Avenue in Miami Beach), shuffling around in a bathrobe, sucking on a fat stogie, haunted by his violent past. Capote was only 48 when he died.
Josh Trank‘s film, which began filming two years ago in New Orleans, is now called Capone. Trank directed, wrote and edited. Costars include Linda Cardellini, Matt Dillon, Kyle MacLachlan, Kathrine Narducci, Jack Lowden, Noel Fisher and Tilda Del Toro.
Hardy loves to play grotesques, obsessives, creepy oddballs. The Kray brothers in Legend. John Fitzgerald in The Revenant. Eddie Brick in Venom. Tommy Riordan Conlon in Warrior. The all-but-indecipherable Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Leo Demidov in Child 44.
Over the last decade I’ve liked three of his performances — building contractor Ivan Locke in Locke (my all-time favorite), Farrier the Spitfire pilot in Dunkirk, and Max Rockatansky in Mad Max: Fury Road.
I own a relatively recent 4K UHD Amazon version of Byron Haskin and George Pal‘s The War of the Worlds (’53). It’s one the most dazzling eye-baths in the history of upmarket restorations of Technicolor classics. Pure dessert. (There’s also a great-looking 4K version on iTunes.)
It was shot by George Barnes, whose dp credits include Spellbound, None But The Lonely Heart, The Bells of St. Mary’s, Samson and Delilah and The Greatest Show on Earth. The poor man died of a heart attack in May 1953, or roughly three months after The War of the Worlds opened in major markets.
I can’t imagine…no one can imagine how the upcoming Criterion Bluray version (July 7, “new 4K digital restoration”) could possibly top the Amazon or iTunes UHD versions. The Criterion disc will look fine, of course, but what’s the point? I’ll be surprised if any half-knowledgable film fanatic calls it a serious bump-level Bluray. It’s not in the cards.
Wait…is Criterion planning to add teal tints?
As feared and forecasted, The Hollywood Reporter has made some top-level coronavirus staff cuts, and THR‘s chief film critic Todd McCarthy is among the casualties. Once movies and film festivals start happening again (presumably by August if not before) McCarthy would presumably get his gig back. Right?
Longtime veteran McCarthy is one of the most perceptive, eloquent and widely admired film critics in the realm today. Knows everyone and everything, has written books, directed a great doc about cinematography among others, etc.
THR‘s award-season pulsetaker and industry investigator Scott Feinberg has been spared, at least for the time being.
Excerpt of McCarthy statement, posted today at 5:13 pm on Deadline: “A month ago I was surprised, out of nowhere, to get a nice raise. Yesterday I got the boot. By guys I’ve never met. Apparently if you make over a certain amount, you’re suddenly too expensive for the new owners of The Hollywood Reporter, which has recently been reported as losing in the vicinity of $15 million per year. Dozens are being forced to walk the plank. It’s a bloodbath.
“What were the bosses thinking when they gave me a raise last month? What on earth are they thinking now? As I said to The New York Times when I was let go from Variety just over a decade ago, ‘It’s the end of something.’ What the next something is — for everyone is our business — seems less knowable than ever.”
Note: I posted the following because I believe that what “Friendo” said earlier today represents a certain current in the wind right now. Nothing more than that. I don’t share Friendo’s view on the matter, but between he and Joe Rogan this seems to be a bit more than anecdotal chatter.
Friendo: Jill Biden is being reckless. She should really tell her husband to step down from the nomination. She’s assisting in his death sentence.
HE: What are you referring to? Does he have the virus?
Friendo: Biden is going senile. Doesn’t Jill realize that? Does she really want her husband to go through this stressful ordeal? It’s not too late for him to step down and a better candidate to replace him. Imagine a Trump/Biden debate. Biden can’t string a full sentence together. He mumbles and slurs. Trump will eat him alive. America is not blind to this. I don’t understand how some can conceivably see this working out for Biden and the Dems. Biden should step down after he picks his vp and let Kamala or whomever take on Trump head-on.
HE: I would be enormously comforted if Biden were to withdraw and Gavin Newsom or Andrew Cuomo takes his place. I was calling him Droolin’ Joe for months. But there’s no chance Biden withdraws. No chance.
Friendo: Biden’s daily COVID streaming videos are cringe-worthy. And nobody’s paying attention to them. It’s all Trump.
HE: Biden gets in and serves a single term, and delegates wisely and affectively, and then Newsom or Cuomo run in ’24. The idea is to return to decency. I’m fairly to somewhat persuaded that Biden will win in November.
Sunday, 2.9.20 feels like a century ago. Nine weeks have actually passed. Imagine yourself at the Neon/Parasite Oscar-viewing party at Soho House. You’ve been there six and a half hours, Bong Joon-ho has won four Oscars (Best Picture, Best Int’l Feature, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay) and the whole party is whoo-whooing and sipping the champagne. You’re thinking BJH probably won’t show until after midnight or even 1 or 2 am, and that hanging around for another three or four hours isn’t worth the exhaustion.
So you say goodnight to some friends and walk down the staircase and step into the elevator. You arrive at the ground-level parking lot floor and suddenly a younger, tuxedo-wearing guy you kind of “know” but whose name escapes smiles and shakes your hand and says “got a minute?” He pulls you over to an empty corner in the parking area. You’re half intrigued. His right hand is resting protectively on your left shoulder as he leans forward and begins to half-whisper the following:
Tuxedo Guy: “This is going to sound weird and maybe even mind-numbing but what I’m about to tell you is God’s honest truth. I can’t tell you how I know but I do. I’m not bullshitting and I wish I was…”
Tuxedo Guy: (Exhales) “There’s no easy way to say this but in a few weeks’ time your life will all but totally stop. All of us, everyone, the whole thing. Europe, Asia, everywhere. You’ll continue with the column but everything else will stop. No more incomes, no more travelling, no more restaurants, no more socializing, no more screenings or film festivals, no more wandering around Amoeba Records, no more Aero theatre, no more hiking or beach-walking…it’s all going to screech to a halt.”
HE: “That’s the punchline?”
Tuxedo Guy: “It’s real, man.”
HE: “You heard this today?”
Tuxedo Guy: “I know. Believe me. I’m telling you the truth.”
HE: “Caused by what? A nuclear attack?”
Tuxedo Guy: “No bombs, no terror, not a sound. When it happens you’ll be able to hear a pin drop.”
HE: “When what happens?”
Books, stories and documentaries about Howard Hughes are fascinating, but the two big films about him — Martin Scorsese‘s The Aviator (’04) and Warren Beatty‘s Rules Don’t Apply (’16) — left me (and, I’m presuming, millions of others) disengaged and dispirited. Especially in the case of The Aviator, which may be Scorsese’s least enjoyable film, Cate Blanchett‘s Katharine Hepburn performance aside.
I just re-watched the Beverly Hills plane crash sequence, and I don’t believe a frame of it — every shot is pushed and amplified and CG’ed to a fare-thee-well — visual intensity for its own sake. And for me, Leonardo DiCaprio‘s performance was a whiff — emotionally on-target but otherwise about “acting.” I know Hughes spoke with a flat Midwestern accent and was never mistaken by anyone for an urban sophisticate, but DiCaprio over-channelled the Clem Kadiddlehopper. (His Hughes and Once Upon A Time in Hollywood‘s Rick Dalton are peas in a pod.)
Jason Robards‘ cameo-level performance in Melvin and Howard was the only Hughes I ever liked, and that was 40 years ago.
The bottom line is that The Aviator and Rules Don’t Apply have killed the Hughes legend, certainly among 21st Century movie audiences.
Incidentally: Hughes was born in December 1905. He was 41 when he testified before Congress in 1947 [after the jump]. He looked 51 if a day. By today’s standards he could be 55 or even 60.
Posted five weeks ago — just caught it this morning. Reptile face twitch, mouth flare, cocaine comedown, etc. I honestly haven’t seen this kind of “that’s what you are but what am I?” since I was nine or ten. One of Trump’s best guys. Soldier, mafioso…”fuck you,” “little bitch,” etc. I’d like to know the specifics, but otherwise what an eye-opener.
World of Reel‘s Jordan Ruimy is currently polling 200-plus critics and directors for their choices for Best of the 1990s and Best of the Aughts. He’s asked if I’m sticking to my previously posted favorites. I said I need to think things over.
On 4.10.19 I posted my top 40 of the ’90s, and decided on the following as my top five: 1. Fargo (d: Coen brothers); 2. GoodFellas (d: Martin Scorsese); 3. Pulp Fiction (d: Quentin Tarantino); 4. Unforgiven (d: Clint Eastwood); 5. L.A. Confidential (d: Curtis Hanson).
On 10.6.09 I posed my Best of the Aughts So Far. The top five at the time were (1) Zodiac; (2) Memento; (3) Traffic; (4) Amores perros and (5) United 93.
With the release date of every film on the calendar delayed until whenever, a discussion arose today about when a certain ready-to-open film might see the light of day. Which would depend, of course, on when the pandemic begins to lift.
Hollywood Elsewhere: “As far as I can discern the smart assessment is that the plague starts to lift in June, certainly by July. And then (per Dr. Fauci) a possibility of a resurgence in the fall.”
Knowledgable filmmaker: “The plague starts to lift in August, but then we need to be certain it doesn’t come back. No filmmaking until the new year. Except in New Zealand, Australia and Taiwan, which are islands that have acted intelligently to contain and eliminate the virus.”
Hollywood Elsewhere: “Okay, but who’s saying August exactly? June (or roughly seven or eight weeks hence) doesn’t seem at all crazy from this end, and certainly not July. China has lifted its lockdown; ditto South Korea. You’re telling me this country has to endure three and a half more months of cabin fever?”
Knowledgable filmmaker: “China and South Korea were methodical in dealing with the virus. America has been, and will continue to be, a mess.”
With major entertainment and media-related companies furloughing staffers and cutting salaries across the board due to the coronavirus lockdown (the Los Angeles Times being the most recent example), it is presumed that certain employees of The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard will suffer draconian measures before too long.
Three days ago the headline of an unpublished story by TheWrap‘s J. Clara Chan seemed to confirm the worst. Chan’s story apparently reported that THR and Billboard cutbacks were imminent. The story never surfaced but the headline leaked. The two publications along with SpinMedia are owned by the Greenwich, Connecticut-based Valence Media.
Industry colleague: “That place” — THR — “and its parent company have been financially [struggling] for a long time. Good opportunity for the mean owners to start job eliminating — no surprise here. Why not hit ‘em when they’re down?”