You almost don’t have to read Julia Ioffe’s GQ profile of Donald Trump, Jr. Because Nigel Buchanan‘s illustration pretty much says it all. Final paragraph: “Like Republican populists of the past decade, Don speaks of ‘real Americans,’ people he defines as ‘the forgotten people between New York City and Malibu.’ It’s an improbable notion: that the billionaire’s kid from 66 stories above Fifth Avenue is the one who speaks for the disaffected and the overlooked. But it’s no less surprising than the faint rumors suggesting that he might someday run for office — a way to finally, perhaps, make a name for himself.”
For whatever reason I wan’t invited to press screenings of Shana Feste‘s Boundaries, but I’ve been passed into a 7 pm screening this evening at the Royal. I was enthused after Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman called it “a touching yet wised-up father-daughter road movie that’s the best version of this sort of film you could imagine…it’s standard, but very tastefully done.” Alas, about 50% of the critics don’t approve — Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes scores of 50% and 57%, respectively. Now I feel like I have an appointment with a dentist.
Mike Molloy‘s cinematography for The Hit (’84) was sufficient but unexceptional — it might have been shot on 35m but looked like 16mm. Which wasn’t a problem — it was what it was. So buying the just-released French Bluray doesn’t seem worth it. I’d rent a streaming HD version but that’s not an option. The Criterion DVD is good enough.
John Hurt‘s performance as Braddock is grim and taciturn but entirely readable — he barely moves a facial muscle but you can sense what he’s feeling and struggling with and is scared of at every turn. As minimalist performances go it’s masterful — right up there with Steve McQueen‘s Jake Holman in The Sand Pebbles and Kristin Scott Thomas‘s acting in I’ve Loved You So Long.
I’ve relentlessly shared enthusiasm for the idea of Alfonso Cuaron‘s Roma, which will almost certainly debut at the enice and Telluride festivals, or about ten weeks hence. (As well as Toronto in mid-p
Roma is Cuaron’s first film since Gravity, which debuted six years ago. The only film that even begins to sound like serious Best Picture rocket fuel, as in allegedly “beyond great” (i.e., a second-hand quote from a publicist who saw it). A Spanish-language film, yes, and digitally shot in radiant black-and-white. A year in the life of a middle-class family in Mexico City in the early 1970s, more specifically about the Corpus Christi Massacre of 6.10.71.
Team Roma will launch a balls-out, take-no-prisoners Best Picture campaign, as well as (I’m hearing) a Best Supporting Actress campaign for Marina De Tavira, a 44 year-old actress who apparently plays the maternal heart and soul of said middle-class family.
Will the Netflix factor (i.e., the company’s reluctance to commit to a serious theatrical exposure prior to streaming) get in the way? Ask the Mudbound people who managed four Oscar noms last year (Best Supporting Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Song). So probably not.
What about the foreign-language factor? Michael Haneke‘s Amour was Best Picture nominated six years ago so why not Roma? I’m presuming that, like Amour, Roma will aim for simultaneous Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Feature noms.
I know I’ve listed these films several times, and that a good portion probably won’t matter in the long run, and that some may not even open this year, but I’ve listed them anyway. Which ones would you describe as pulse-quickening and which sound meh or dismissable?
1. Damien Chazelle‘s First Man (Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Corey Stoll, Kyle Chandler, Jason Clarke).
2. Alfonso Cuaron‘s Roma (Marina de Tavira, Marco Graf, Yalitza Aparicio, Daniela Demesa, Enoc Leaño, Daniel Valtierra).
3. Adam McKay‘s Backseat (w/ Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell).
4. Cold War (d: Pawel Pawlikowski) (Joanna Kulig, Agata Kulesza, Borys Szyc, Tomasz Kot, Adam Ferency).
5. Bjorn Runge‘s The Wife (Glenn Close‘s Best Actress campaign + Jonathan Pryce, Christian Slater, Annie Starke. Max Irons).
6. Bradley Cooper‘s A Star Is Born (w/ Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott, Andrew Dice Clay and Dave Chappelle).
7. Jonah Hill‘s Mid ’90s (Sunny Suljic, Katherine Waterston, Lucas Hedges, Alexa Demie).
8. Felicity Jones as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in On The Basis of Sex.
9. Mary, Queen of Scots (Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, David Tennant, Jack Lowden, Guy Pearce);
10. David Lowery‘s The Old Man and the Gun (Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tika Sumpter, Tom Waits, Elisabeth Moss).
I’ve mostly been avoiding YouTubes of James Corden‘s “Carpool Karaoke” over the last couple of years, but a sentimental journey with Macca in Liverpool? And then hitting a pub? Rules are made to be broken. Sidenote: I’m not sure how I feel about Paul letting a fair amount of gray hair push out. Gives me an uneasy feeling. A little gray on the edges, okay, but not this much.
By the standards of a violent drug-cartel drama and particularly those of a sequel in this realm, Stefano Sollima‘s Sicario: Day of the Soldado is, for me, a serious knockout. I can’t call it a great film, but I can certainly tag it as beautifully calibrated pulp with a surprisingly strong heart. Given what I expected due to the somewhat low Rotten Tomatoes score of 68% (due to bizarre pans by Indiewire‘s David Ehrlich, TheWrap‘s William Bibbiani and Screen Crush‘s Matt Singer) it’s surprisingly, almost mind-blowingly good.
For me it’s much better than Denis Villenueve‘s Sicario, which was seriously compromised by Emily Blunt‘s tedious, pain-in-the-ass female FBI agent. Rock-steady, dead-on performances by Josh Brolin and particularly from Benicio del Toro and the young Isabela Moner anchor this sequel, which for me felt far more assured, poignant and suspenseful than the 2015 Villenueve film, which I never warmed to all that much. Not to mention more purely cinematic. You can just tell right away when a director really knows what he/she is doing, and this is one such occasion.
I strongly suspected that Soldado was an X-factor keeper less than five minutes in. I was absolutely certain of its excellence after ten minutes. Then it kept getting better and better and I kept whispering to myself “wow, wow…wow.” Until, that is, slight problems began to manifest in the second and third acts. But they weren’t enough to change my mind,.
The weakness, as others have noted, is that Soldado slows down in the middle section and goes a little crazy in the third act (but in a fascinating, holy-shit way). The other issue is that the ending doesn’t feel like a true-blue, well-earned crescendo as much as a story that just screeches to a halt with an invisible title card that reads “to be continued in Part Three.”
But God, the current of cool malice, dead-center confidence and absolute cinematic command that Sollima delivers — a feeling of purpose and absolute mastery of all the forces and currents, and with a Taylor Sheridan screenplay that gradually shifts away from drug-war brutalities to focus on humanism and compassion and saving children from horrible lives, particularly Moner’s character, a young daughter of a drug cartel kingpin (who’s never even seen!), as well as a poor border-town kid (Elijah Rodriguez) who early on accepts cartel money to work as a coyote guiding illegal immigrants across the Rio Grande.
For a film that delivers scores of cold-blooded shootings and bombings amid bureaucratic malice or indifference, it’s quite odd how Soldado dovetails into a focus on south-of-the-border compassion and, strange as this may sound in a drug-war context, parenting. Really. Soldado slaughters people by the truckload, but it cares about kids.
In his ’70s and ’80s heyday, Jeremy Irons had…well, the reputation of a hound. Or so “they” said. He drew upon that, I sensed, when he played the lead in the 1982 Broadway production of Tom Stoppard‘s The Real Thing, opposite Glenn Close — a legendary moment in the careers of Irons, Stoppard, Close…everyone involved. Breathtaking. And now, it seems, he’s drawing from that well again in An Actor Prepares…that whole Irons history. Sidenote: There’s no way in hell that Jack Huston could be Irons’ son. No resemblance whatsoever. Sorry but movies are always failing in this regard. Plus the father-and-son roadtrip formula has been done to death.
This is going to sound lame but some people responded to a 6.8.18 riff about “Il Foro Romano“, about how I’m looking for a few trusted contributors. You reached out (email@example.com) but I forgot to paste the names and emails, and now my brain is scrambled and it’s this huge hassle to go back and find them. Please hit me up again. Sorry.
Remember when Buzz Gunderson (Corey Allen) explained the knife-fight rules to Jim Stark (James Dean) in Nicholas Ray‘s Rebel Without A Cause? “Now there’s no stabbing,” Buzz said. “Just a little sticking.”
A half day ago Rolling Stone published “The Trouble With Johnny Depp“, which is subtitled “Multimillion-dollar lawsuits, a haze of booze and hash, a marriage gone very wrong and a lifestyle he can’t afford — inside the trials of Johnny Depp.” It was written by the smooth and silky Stephen Rodrick. Less than exacting but a hugely skilled writer, Rodrick is no assassin. But he likes to “stick” his subjects with little cuts.
I know because he profiled me in a 2009 Los Angeles piece titled “the Blog Whisperers.” He implied something that struck me as unfair, and there were three or four inaccuracies. Rodrick also stuck it to Bill Maher, slightly, in a 2017 Esquire profile.
I could’ve told Depp to watch out before agreeing to Rodrick visiting his home in London. I’m not suggesting Rodrick hasn’t reported exactly what he saw and heard. Depp is almost certainly the louche, vaguely ruined fellow described in the piece, a guy who lives in his own psychological realm and who slurps red wine like it’s going out of style.
I love this early passage:
“Depp is dressed like a Forties gangster, jet-black hair slicked back, pinstripes, suspenders and spats. His face is puffy, but Depp still possesses the fixating brown eyes that have toggled between dreamy and menacing during his 35-year career.” Technically 34 years — Deep’s first film was Wes Craven‘s A Nightmare on Elm Street (’84), made when he was 20.
“‘So are you here to hear the truth?’ asks Depp as [his chef] Russell brings him a glass of vintage red wine. ‘It’s full of betrayal.’
“We move to the dining room for a three-course meal of pad thai, duck and gingerbread with berries. Depp sits at the head of the table and motions toward some rolling papers and two equal piles of tobacco and hash, and asks if I mind. I don’t. He pauses for a second. ‘Well, let’s drink some wine first.’
“This goes on for 72 hours.
Seven weeks ago I posted a recording of a chat I’d had with longtime Stanley Kubrick assistant Leon Vitali. The article (“Refreshments With Mr. Vitali“) was about Filmworker, a brilliant doc about Vitali’s life, but the first thing I asked Leon about were the differences between the forthcoming 2001: A Space Odyssey 4K Bluray and the “unrestored” Chris Nolan 70mm version that’s now playing in theatres after debuting at last month’s Cannes Film Festival.
Vitali: “I did the color timing on [the 2001: A Space Odyssey 4K Bluray], and 4K is so beautiful…the details, the shadows…looking at it on these very high resolution monitors. It looks great, everybody loves it, and I’m not blowing my own trumpet.” HE: “What would you say is the difference between the forthcoming unrestored Chris Nolan version and the spiffed-up 4K Bluray?”
Vitali: “The difference is that the 4K has more clarity and sharpness and detail.” HE: “So people seeing the Nolan version in Cannes will say, ‘This is wonderful…not as sharp or as clear as the 4K but it looks very good?’” Vitali said nothing, but nodded and chuckled.
Cover art for WHE’s 2001: A Space Odyssey 4K UHF Bluray, streeting on 10.30.
Based on this conversation I believed that the 70mm “unrestored” Nolan print (a nostalgia version based on a 70mm print that Nolan saw with his father in Leicester Square when he was 7 or 8 years old, and which I didn’t care for that much when I saw it in Cannes) and the 4K UHD Bluray would be two different entities, and that the disc would be a much sharper, richer, more elevating thing…better, truer colors…true-blue skies…Dave Bowman‘s face in super-crisp detail behind that red space-helmet visor in the French chateau finale (as opposed to the murky gray Bowman in the Nolan theatrical version). The “unrestored” 70mm was the Nolan nostalgia version but the 4K UHD would be miles above that, super-glorious and needle-sharp, an all-time keeper.
This morning, however, a press release from Warner Home Entertainment announced two things, one of them highly disturbing. It primarily stated that the 2001 4K UHD Bluray would “street” on 10.30.18, several months after the original announced date, along with a 1080p Bluray version plus a UHD streaming version. Fine. But it also seemed to suggest that the 4K disc would somehow reflect the visual values contained in the 70mm Chris Nolan version now playing in theatres. Whoa-whoa…WHAT?
From the Warner Home Entertainment release: “For the first time since the original release [of 2001 in April 1968], new 70mm prints were struck from pristine printing elements made from the original camera negative. A longtime admirer of the late American auteur, Christopher Nolan worked closely with the team at Warner Bros. Pictures throughout the mastering process.
“Building on the work done for the new 70mm prints, the 4K UHD with HDR presentation was mastered from the 65mm original camera negative. The 4K UHD also includes both a remixed and restored 5.1 DTS-HD master audio track, as well as the original 1968 6-track theatrical audio mix.”
The key words, obviously, are “building on the work done for the new [Nolan-approved] 70mm prints.” Question: If color-timer Leon Vitali told me that “the 4K has more clarity and sharpness and detail” than the 70mm Nolan version, why would the WHE people indicate that the Nolan nostalgia version and the 4K version are close relations if not more or less one and the same?
One could surmise that Vitali’s 4K version was one thing back in April, but that Nolan has recently stuck his nose into the mastering of the 4K and that things have changed for the worse. I’m not saying he has stuck his nose into the process, but the WHE press release certainly suggests this.