The solution to Alex Kurtzman‘s The Mummy (Universal, 6.9) hit me this morning. Don’t use Tom Cruise — Cruise can’t be in a monster film as it degrades his brand, and Cruise vs. a female mummy is an oil-and-water cocktail if I’ve ever sipped one. Instead make it a crazy horror comedy in the vein of The Nice Guys. Or more specifically, The Mummy meets Hold That Ghost. Just pair Russell Crowe (who’s in the current version) with Ryan Gosling, and have them scramble and run around in a semi-slapstick, Abbott-and-Costello fashion. I would truly love to see something like this, just as I don’t feel much enthusiasm for The Mummy as presently constituted.
Under the mandate of General Efraín Ríos Montt, a notorious Guatamelan strongman who belongs in the company of Augusto Pinochet and Slobodan Milosevic, over 200 residents of Dos Erres — men, women, kids, elderly — were murdered on or about 12.6.82. The killers were an elite Guatamelan special forces unit, known as the Kaibiles. The killings were part of Montt’s scorched-earth policy, under which up to 200,000 indigenous and Mayan people died.
Wiki page excerpt: “[The Kaibiles] bashed the smallest children’s heads against walls and trees, and killed the older ones with hammer blows to the head. Their bodies were dumped in a well. The commandos interrogated the men and women one by one, then shot or bashed them with the hammer, and dumped them in the well. They raped women and girls, and ripped the fetuses out of pregnant women.”
Last night I caught a screening of Ryan Suffern‘s Finding Oscar (Film Rise, 4.21), a Steven Spielberg-sponsored doc about a long investigation of this notorious genocide. The invited crowd was obviously affected, impressed. So was I up to a point. It tells a horrific story but also an emotional one, and the combination works for the most part. But I was slightly bothered by Suffern’s emphasis on a humanistic, up-with-people, we-can-get-past-this approach.
Justice finally caught up with the bad guys 30 years later, but I didn’t want to be comforted or told “there, there.” I wanted, rather, to immerse myself in the details of this Central American horror. I wanted to sink into this realm and sort it all out like a special prosecutor. I wanted to channel the spirit of Jean-Louis Trintignant in Z.
Finding Oscar is not so much a detailed investigation of a massacre as an attempt to convey the emotions beneath it — the guilt shared by two older men who participated, the satisfaction and catharsis felt by investigators as they sifted through thousands of pieces of evidence over the years, and especially the emotions of two boys who escaped this slaughter and are now in their late 30s — Ramiro Cristales and particularly Oscar Ramirez, who now lives in Framingham, Massachusetts.
I’ve seen this footage so many times I feel as if I’ve seen Sofia Coppola’s feature-length version. It’ll play in Cannes, of course, and then open commercially on 6.23 via Focus Features. I have to really sit down and watch Don Siegel’s 1971 version sometime soon. I didn’t watch it all the way through the last time; I might have nodded off.
Guillermo del Toro and I did breakfast at the Hotel Majestic during the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. He was serving as a juror. While our chat was off the record, I think it’s fair to mention that he said he was tiring of making big, effects-driven movies (i.e., Pacific Rim) and that he wanted to tone it down and go in a more personal vein. I took that to mean he wanted to make more films in the vein of Pans’ Labrynth, The Devil’s Backbone, Chronos, Mama, The Orphanage, etc. (The last two he produced but didn’t direct.)
I’ve been presuming all along that The Shape of Water, a period fantasy-adventure which he directed and co-wrote, would be one of these. But will it be? The fact that Fox Searchlight has announced a 12.8 release date indicates a belief in its award-season potential. Or does a December release mean all that much when we’re talking about GDT’s fantastical realm? I’m saying in the most respectful and laudatory terms that GDT doesn’t do “Oscar friendly” as a rule. I mean that as high praise.**
I place a lot more trust in Jeff Sneider‘s snap judgment on Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (Disney, 5.5.) than all the Marvel-fellating twitter whores combined. Do you think it’s some kind of ringing endorsement when Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn says it plays “exactly as advertised”? He’s calling it Marvel assembly-line flotsam. You have to expect a certain amount of spurious reactions from attention-seeking trolls, but you can’t dismiss Kohn and Sneider.
Ralph Bellamy (speaking to Lee Marvin about Burt Lancaster in Act One of The Professionals): “But is he trustworthy? Can he be relied upon?” Marvin: “I trust him.”
In a 4.17 Indiewire piece, critic David Ehrlich laments the impression that Netflix movies aren’t really movies because the only theatrical experience they’ll receive is at this or that film festival. Because once they turn up on Netflix, they’re just part of the churning digital swarm on this or that device. As Ehrlich puts it, it’s the fate of all Netflix movies to be “quietly uploaded to a computer server and added to an ever-expanding menu of content in the cloud. I saw it in a theater; you’ll see it buried somewhere between Iron Fist and Sandy Wexler.”
If I had labored hard and gone into heavy debt to make a feature film, I would be overjoyed if Netflix picked it up because at least I would be made whole and could then go on to make another film. But I would also feel a bit drained knowing that my film will never experience the slightest theatrical pulsebeat.
In the eyes of many Amazon is doing it right with their commitment (recently reiterated at Cinemacon) to give new films some kind of theatrical exposure before streaming them. In Ehrlich’s view, a Netflix acquisition means being sent to a kind of digital elephant’s graveyard.
“If a movie premieres on Netflix, is it still even a movie?,” he writes. “In an age where the word ‘film’ is often a misnomer and content is classified less by the intent of its production than by the means of its distribution, it could be said that movies — at least for the time being — are simply things that play in movie theaters. It may seem like a matter of semantics, but I think we’re talking about qualitatively different experiences.
Images from Bradley Cooper‘s A Star Is Born popped over the weekend. They showed Lady Gaga (in the role played by Barbara Streisand, Judy Garland and Janet Gaynor in previous versions of this time-worn tale) and Cooper (in the downswirling drunk role played by Kris Kristofferson, James Mason and Fredric March) performing before cameras at Coachella. The Warner Bros. film will pop sometime in ’18, most likely in the fall.
Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga during filming of a Star Is Born concert-performance scene at Coachella.
The press-release takeaway is that Lady Gaga will be billed by her actual name — Stefani Germanotta. Which has to be one of the dopiest big-studio kowtowings to a headstrong celebrity in history. By the time the movie opens everyone will know this is just an ego game — a way of Lady Gaga saying “I’m extra-special” or “being an artist, I have to be extra-real with myself in order to play this role…it’s essential to my process.” Except this is a partial copout because LG’s actual real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta.
A second, very fundamental aspect is that millions don’t have a clear idea what Lady Gaga actually looks like. LG has been a glammy image-changer and clotheshorse for years, and so heavily made up and be-wigged that all anyone really knows is that she sings well and has prominent cheekbones. If I were to run into an au natural Miley Cyrus doing lunch at Le Pain Quotidien, I would say to myself, “Huh, Miley Cyrus without makeup.” If I were to encounter Lady Gaga in workout duds nothing would register. Okay, I might say to myself “hmmm, interesting face…do I know her?”
A third aspect (and I’ve said this repeatedly) is that stories about drunks are boring. There’s nothing the least bit touching about a person who can’t help killing his/her career because he/she can’t face facts and get sober. Many successful entertainers find they can’t keep the fire going or, worse, fall by the wayside when they let alcohol or drugs carry the load. I feel a measure of sympathy for anyone caught in a self-destructive pattern (having sworn off the hard stuff 21 years ago and embraced sobriety on 3.20.12), but the idea of paying to see a tired story about a talented person slowly turning into a boorish asshole as he/she slips beneath the waves is, well, inconceivable. To me at least.
Early today a journalist friend mentioned that Kathryn Bigelow‘s Detroit (Annapurna, 8.4) may be a politically correct tinderbox waiting to ignite. Me: “Because Bigelow is white, you mean?” She: “It sounds nuts and yeah, sooner or later the comintern and their SJW agendas will trigger a backlash, but right now a film about a black riot directed by a white woman probably means a firestorm, or at least some pushback.” Me: “So who should’ve directed this? Dee Rees [i.e., the Mudbound helmer]?” She: “Black and gay…yeah, that’s two boxes checked. Although it would be even better if she was transgender [laughs], but yeah, she’d have been great.” Me: “The fact that Bigelow is a seriously gifted director who cares a lot about the right and wrong in this 50-year-old situation…that’s secondary? What matters is that she’s white? Anyone who would straightfacedly object to her helming of Detroit because of her pigmentation is categorically insane.” She: “This is how people think now, the way it is. And the British thing…John Boyega and Will Poulter playing Americans, that’s also a hurdle.” Me: “These people are in serious need of medication.”
Another journo pal says there may actually be something to this (i.e., an adverse p.c. reaction might happen) because there were no black people involved in a senior capacity behind the camera. Unfuckingbelievable
It seems obvious that the script for Barry Levinson‘s The Wizard of Lies, written by Sam Levinson, Sam Baum and John Burnham Schwartz (and based on the same-titled book by Diana B. Henriques), is top-tier. And that the performances — particularly Robert De Niro as Bernie, Michelle Pfeiffer as Ruth Madoff and Alessandro Nivola as Mark — are up there also. The HBO premiere is on 5.20, or five weeks off. At this stage HBO is surely offering online access to select press…no? I’ll be in NYC between 5.5 and 5.11 — perhaps a theatrical Manhattan premiere around then? Principal photography began on 8.31.15. Costarring Hank Azaria, Nathan Darrow, Sydney Gayle and — unusual move — Henriques playing herself.
How did Luke Skywalker, whose voice was so chirpy and Tom Sawyer-ish when young, manage to grow this raspy, grizzled sound without drinking Jack Daniels and smoking unfiltered Gitanes for 40 years? I think I’m done with Skellig Michael, no offense — too many shots of those green craggy cliffs. Rey and Luke in training. “What do you see?” Luke asks. “Light…darkness..the same old visionary Jedi mumbo jumbo razmatazz.” Luke’s kicker: “It’s time for the Jedi…to end.” Meaning exactly what, asshole? You can’t arbitrarily “end” a fraternity of souls with the ability to harness wondrous magical energy that always was and will be. Same old running, jumping and standing still. Same old hundreds of spacecraft swarming through the heavens in close proximity. Same old explosions. Same old Disney paycheck motivations. I’m down with Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron, but The Force Awakens told us that there’s no reason whatsoever for Adam Driver‘s Kylo Ren to wear a Vader-like mask…none!
Reminder: All serious filmmakers understand that they’re prohibited from using one of those “abrupt shocking wakeup followed by hyperventilating” moments. Just as they’re forbidden to use a “lead actor in CG-driven action-fantasy film does swan dive off a skyscraper or a tall cliff” shot.
Elite journalists looking to see Alejandro G. Inarritu’s Carne y Arena, a 390-second virtual reality experience at next month’s Cannes Film Festival, will have to take a shuttle to some Cote d’Azur location away from the Grand Palais, where they’ll strap on the VR headset and take the trip. I’m guessing that the whole process — being picked up, driven to the viewing location, watching the short and then taking a shuttle back to base camp — will take an hour at least, and probably a bit more. But essential, of course. The latest collaboration between Inarritu + dp Emmanuel Lubezski, etc.
It’s a solemn emotional experience. A heart and humanity thing. What a would-be Mexican immigrant goes through in trying to cross the U.S. border, or something in that realm. I’m told that viewers won’t necessarily sit in a cozy chair as they watch it. They’ll just as likely stand or lie on the floor.
The full title is Carne y Arena (Virtually Present, Physically Invisible). Pic was produced and financed by Legendary Entertainment and Fondazione Prada, and will be presented during the entire Cannes Film Festival (5.17 to 5.28). A longer three-act version (the 390-second short augmented by a first and third-act experience of some kind) will be presented at Milan’s Fondazione Prada from June to December ’17. You can call it an “installation” as well as an experience, especially if you catch it in Milan.