The first note was written by Cary Grant to Sophia Loren, sometime in ’57 or ’58. North by Northwest told us that the matchbook note was also written by Grant (in the person of “Roger O. Thornhill“) to Eva Marie Saint (aka “Eve Kendall“). I’m no handwriting expert but there are rough similarities between them. The Sophia note is obviously more elegant and flourishy and was almost certainly written on a desk or flat surface of some kind; the matchbook note was written on the fly. Opinions?
Earlier today I noticed some surging Twitter tributes for Edgar Wright‘s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, which opened in August 2010. The nostalgia faucets were gushing all over the sidewalk. I was living in Brooklyn a decade ago, and one of my Scott Pilgrim recollections is that it prompted a brief suicide fantasy. God, that movie! And oh Lordy, the joy when the domestic gross topped out at $31 million ($47 million worldwide) after the film itself cost $85 million, not to mention the marketing.
Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) is obviously a nervy, fairly bright and moderately gifted director — seriously, no jive — and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, even though it seems to be putting out a kind of aesthetic nerve gas, is some kind of cool-ass, smarty-pants, richly stylized…uhm, waste of time?
It’s kind of nifty if you want to feel connected to a movie that under-30 moviegoers are apparently responding to. It’s empty and strained and regimented, but…you know, cool and funny and clever, heh-heh. It has wit and vigor and smart music, and it gradually makes you want to run outside and take an elevator to the top of a tall building and jump off.
Did I just say that? I mean that it’s a masterpiece of its kind. That sounds facile, doesn’t it? I think I might actually mean that Scott Pilgrim is a seminal and semi-vital thing to experience right now. My kids set me straight on this. Call me unstable or impressionable but I’ve also come to think that Michael Cera might be a fresh permutation of a new kind of messianic Movie God — a candy-assed Gary Cooper for the 21st Century.
No, seriously, it’s not too bad. I mean, you know…just kill me.
I was sustained, at times, by the meaning of the seven ex-boyfriends. They’re metaphors for the bad or unresolved stuff in Mary Elizabeth Winstead‘s life. If you’re going to really love and care for someone, you have to accept and try to deal with everything in their heads and their pasts, and not just the intoxicating easy stuff. Scott has to defeat these guys in the same way that any boyfriend or husband has to defeat or at least quell the disturbances in his girlfriend’s or wife’s head. That’s how I took it, at least.
I’m not doubting that Cera has been a Scott Pilgrim graphic novel fan for years, but the movie, I think, came out of his wanting to transform into a tougher, studlier guy in movies by becoming a kind of ninja warrior fighting the ex-boyfriends in a Matrix-y videogame way. I really don’t think it was anything more than that. Seriously.
“No offense, Michael, but the world thinks you’re a wuss,” Cera’s agent said one day on the phone. “They see you as a slender reed, a worthless piece of shit girlyman with a deer-in-the-headlights expression and a little peep-peep voice. Somehow we need to toughen you up, and having you fight a bunch of guys, even if it’s in a fantasy realm, is certainly one way to do that.”
I’m sorry to have taken my time with The Eddy, the eight-episode, Paris-based Netflix miniseries that began streaming on 5.8. I’m actually still taking my time as I’ve only seen the first two episodes, which were directed by Damien Chazelle, the hotshot helmer of La La Land, Whiplash and the (presumably) forthcoming Babylon. (Three other directors — Houda Benyamina, Laïla Marrakchi and Alan Poul — directed the remaining six episodes.) Chazelle also executive produces.
But even within the realm of episode #1 and #2, I was slow to get into it. Because The Eddy, by design, is slow to get into itself. It slips and slides and shuffles into its own rhythm and razzmatazz, adopting a pace and an attitude that feels casual, unhurried and catch-as-catch-can. Which is cool once you understand what The Eddy is up to.
Written or co-written by Jack Thorne, it’s about a Belleville/Oberkampf jazz club owner named Elliott (Andre Holland) and the friends, fragments, tangents and pressures of his life — debts, uncertainties, his daughter (Amandla Sternberg), the resident jazz band’s diva-like singer (Joanna Kulig), his business partner (Tahar Rahim), bad guys, business permits, sudden tragedy, etc.
Toward the end of episode #2 it finally hit me. In a certain unannounced sense The Eddy is an atmospheric musical — a drama of friends and families in Paris that’s punctuated with spirit-lifting jazz sequences. (The original music was composed by by Glen Ballard and Randy Kerber.) It’s a film that says over and over that “life can be hard and cruel, but music will save your soul.”
Which also means, not incidentally, that the French-speaking Chazelle is recharging his on-screen love affair with jazz, which began with Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench (’09) and continued with Whiplash (’14) and La La Land (’16).
This is how it feels to me. This plus a tangled mystery about finding the killers of Farid, the business partner. Plus the constant savorings of the Oberkampf and Belleville districts.
Boilerplate: Elliott, a semi-retired jazz pianist, and Farid run The Eddy together — Elliott handling talent, Farid doing the books. Things begin with Elliott’s daughter Julie (Sternberg) hitting town. The club is financially struggling (what else?). Elliott is trying to arrange a record deal for the house band. The singer is the moody, no-day-at-the-beach Maya (Kulig) with whom Elliott has been romantically entwined, and the pianist is Kerber.
The main complication is Farid’s murder, along with the fact that Paris detectives think Elliott might be the culprit.
Apparently each episode focuses on a different character — Elliott, Maja, Julie, etc. — with the storylines intersecting.
To repeat myself, the main thing in The Eddy is the music. It’s completely worth it for this element alone. It made me feel like I’d really been somewhere.
Alfred Hitchcock made a brilliant decision when he and Vertigo screenwriters Alec Coppel and Samuel Taylor were plotting the opening scene. After the beat cop falls to his death, it appears that Detective Scotty Ferguson (James Stewart) hasn’t a chance. Hanging from a flimsy rain gutter, no way to pull himself up…forget it. Beyond that, what are the odds Ferguson could continue to hold on until a police rescue team shows up, which could take at least five or ten minutes if not longer?
And so the rascally Hitchcock solves the problem by doing a quick fade-to-black. And in the next scene Ferguson is alive and well and hanging out in Barbara Bel Geddes‘ apartment. What?
Before this no director had ever left a movie star in this kind of jeopardy without depicting or promising a rescue of some kind. Hitchcock decided to ignore the rules by leaving Ferguson (and, in a sense, the audience) hanging from that gutter for the rest of the film. No other name-brand director at the time would’ve attempted such a strategy, and as far as I can recall no director had done anything like this since. Am I wrong?
I hate this kind of credibility-defying, pushed-to-the-limit thrill sequence. Harold Lloyd used to make comedies out of such situations, but Vertical Limit director Martin Campbell and screenwriters Robert King and Terry Hayes played it straight. The apparent idea was to out-do a similar opening sequence in Renny Harlin‘s Cliffhanger (’92), but it’s one CG bullshit stunt after another.
Boilerplate: Tragedy strikes a family of three — Peter Garrett (Chris O’Donnell), his sister Annie (Robin Tunney) and their father, Royce (Stuart Wilson) — as they scale a sheer cliff in Monument Valley. After two falling amateurs leave the family dangling, Royce forces Peter to cut him loose to save Peter and Annie from a horrible, howling, skull-shattering demise.
I have to admit that when the climbers whose carelessness started all the trouble…when these two fall to their deaths, it’s hard not to raise your fist and shout “yes!”
Vertical Limit opened 19 and 1/2 years ago. Call it 20. Doesn’t seem that long, does it?
O’Donnell, 29 or 30 during filming, was still recovering (at least in his own head) from Batman and Robin (’97). Even with the financial success of Vertical Limit ($215M worldwide), O’Donnell took a four-year hiatus. He returned to features in Bill Condon‘s Kinsey (’04) but was pretty much a TV guy after that. He’s now in his late 40s and starring in NCIS: Los Angeles.
Tunney was enjoying a career spurt at the time. She’s now 47, hanging in there, playing poker.