Herewith a five-part Showtime docuseries on L.A.s The Comedy Store, directed by none other than HE’s own Mike Binder (Black and White, Reign Over Me, The Upside of Anger) and launching on 10.4. Boilerplate: “…brings to life the legends, heartbreak and history created at The Comedy Store, which opened in 1972 in West Hollywood and operated by Mitzi Shore until her death in 2018. TCS was an early breakout forum for dozens of big-time comics (Jay Leno, David Letterman, Garry Shandling, Jim Carrey). As a Comedy Store alum and former stand-up comic, Binder spotlights one of pop culture’s great laboratories with never-before-seen footage and incisive, emotional interviews with Whoopi Goldberg, Howie Mandel, Michael Keaton, Andrew Dice Clay, Whitney Cummings, etc.
In my 9.12 review of Nomadland I called it a Best Picture Oscar nominee; ditto Chloe Zhao and Frances McDormand for Best Director and Best Actress. Pretty much a universal consensus. Nomadland recently won the Golden Lion in Venice, as we all know, and today it won the Toronto Film Festival’s top People’s Choice award. So I guess we know where things stand.
Regina King‘s One Night in Miami came in second place in Toronto, so to speak. Tracey Deer‘s Beans was voted second runner-up
Searchlight will release Nomadland on 12.4.
I was thinking about driving down to Brea, La Habra, Fullerton or Garden Grove — four of the ugliest, most culturally barren, most beyond-miserable Los Angeles suburbs you’ll ever have the misfortune to drive through, much less visit — to see Tenet for the second time.
But I guess I won’t. At least not this weekend. Partly, I suppose, because I don’t want to feel lost or locked out again, cupping my ears and throwing up my hands. Because I know I won’t understand it any better than I did the first time, when I saw it in Flagstaff a couple of weeks ago.
“Tenet is not intended to be specifically understood in the way that 98% of the films out there are,” I wrote the morning after. “It’s meant to be submitted to, absorbed, bounced off, smeared on a slice of bread, drowned in.”
I guess I’m mainly looking forward to streaming a 4K version or watching it on Bluray. Both options will allow me to use subtitles, and that will obviously open a few doors.
In the meantime I’m very sorry that Tenet, which has earned well over $200 million overseas, is more or less crapping out in U.S. theatres. A lousy $4.7 million eared this weekend, for a grand North American total of $36 million and change…peanuts.
Variety‘s Rebecca Rudin: “As the first major film to release in theaters since the pandemic, “Tenet” has boldly tested the waters to see how willing people would be to return to the movies during a global heath crisis. Warner Bros., the studio behind the $200 million-budgeted film, again stressed that Tenet’s theatrical run will be ‘a marathon, not a sprint.’ The hope is that without much competition in terms of new Hollywood tentpoles, Tenet will steadily draw crowds for weeks to come.
“[But] it’s not just Tenet having trouble generating traction among ticket buyers. Given the challenging marketplace, every movie is facing headwinds at the box office. Though 70% of cinemas in the U.S. have reopened, venues in New York and Los Angeles — two areas that account for a bulk of the country’s ticket sales — are still closed. Multiplexes that have reopened are operating at reduced capacity due to the pandemic. However, executives are optimistic that movies will continue to see an increase in sales as additional markets are given permission to turn marquee lights back on.
“A glint of optimism: Theaters in the greater Los Angeles area, including Orange County, that reopened have accounted for a bulk of this weekend’s ticket sales. Among the highest-grossing venues, three of the top five — and five out of the top 10 — were in California, despite 80% of theaters in the state being closed. Studio bosses are taking that as a sign that when Los Angeles and other popular moviegoing areas reopen, people will turn out to theaters in larger numbers.”
The simplest and easiest way to see a good-looking HD version of Buster Keaton‘s The General (’26) is to stream it on Amazon. And yet I’m ashamed to admit that I found this colorized-with-sound-effects version somewhat engaging and perhaps even a bit more. I watched the whole 75-minute film earlier today. Heresy, I know.
The genius-level Keaton starred, produced and co-directed. He was 31 at the time. 24 years later Keaton performed a cameo (more or less playing himself) in Billy Wilder‘s Sunset Boulevard. The poor guy looked 65 if a day.
The General was inspired by the Great Locomotive Chase of 1862. The story was adapted from William Pittenger‘s 1889 memoir “The Great Locomotive Chase.”
A less inventive, non-comedic but respectably sturdy retelling of the tale arrived with Walt Disney’s The Great Locomotive Chase (’56), costarring Fess Parker and Jeffrey Hunter. It was shot by Charles Boyle with a 2.39:1 aspect ratio.
The Disney film didn’t do as well commercially as hoped, probably due to the fact that it went with a downer ending. Parker’s character, Union spy and train hijacker James J. Andrews, ends up captured and hanged.
So Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) are reportedly against a Supreme Court confirmation vote until after inauguration day (1.20.21). Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins, a notoriously unreliable waffler, has said that confirmation hearings shouldn’t be held until after the 11.3 election. And if Arizona Democratic Senate candidate Mark Kelly defeats Republican incumbent Martha McSally (which is likely), he could be seated in the Senate “as early as 11.30, according to elections experts from both parties,” says a 9.19 N.Y. Times story. Three Republicans who want to wait plus Kelly — four Senate votes in opposition to Mitch McConnell‘s intention to expedite the process, and three if you don’t count Collins. Is there a chance that another Republican Senator or two might follow suit?
I’ll sometimes watch a comfort film after 11 pm or so, the idea being to settle down and gradually nod off. I did this last night with Taylor Hackford‘s An Officer and a Gentleman (’82), which I hadn’t previously seen for at least 25 or 30 years.
It was never much more than a reasonably efficient, occasionally poignant Cinderella story with an Oscar-winning theme song. It doesn’t seem to have improved any (the “Puget Sound debs” out to snag a Navy pilot husband feels like a relic of a bygone age), but it’s well edited, nicely shot and scored (Jack Nitzsche) — a decent watch for the most part.
Three performances elevate it — Richard Gere‘s Zack Mayo, Debra Winger‘s Paula Pokrifki (has a lead character ever had such an unspellable, unpronouncable last name as this?) and especially Louis Gossett, Jr.‘s Sgt. Emil Foley, a tough-as-nails drill instructor.
For this Gossett won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, deservedly. The Foley character has more intrigue and sensitivity than F. Lee Ermey‘s similar fellow in Full Metal Jacket.
The “I got nowhere else to go!” scene still works, the Gere-Winger sex scenes are still fairly hot, and the suicide of David Keith‘s Sid Worley still feels like too much of a push, too much of a nihilist black-hole strategy. Worley’s self-esteem is such a frail, house-of-cards construct that he offs himself when Lisa Blount‘s Lynette Pomeroy, a calculating schemer for the most part, says she won’t marry him because he dropped out of the program? If I ever pull the plug, I trust it’ll be for a better reason than that.
And that fairy-tale ending when Gere strolls into Winger’s factory and carries her out in his arms is still a tough sell. It feels forced, more performed than felt. But until this morning I hadn’t read the following story about the shooting of this scene:
“Gere thought the ending would not work because it was too sentimental. Hackford agreed with Gere until, during a rehearsal, the extras playing the workers began to cheer and cry. When Gere saw the scene later, with a portion of the score (that was used to write ‘Up Where We Belong’) played at the right tempo, he said it gave him chills. Gere is now convinced Hackford made the right decision.”
I’ve noted at least a dozen times that the best love stories are almost always loss stories — those in which a love affair burns brightly but nonetheless dies (breakup, death, failure of spirit, divorce, bad timing, too late realization by one of the lovers that they made a mistake) or can never quite lift off the ground. “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, none so sad as ‘it might have been'” is always more affecting than “they lived happily ever after.”
But if Hackford hadn’t gone with that dippy finale, the film almost certainly wouldn’t have been such a huge financial success ($7 million to shoot, $130 million in theatrical revenues).
It was also good to rediscover Van Morrison‘s “Hungry For Your Love”, a track from 1978’s “Wavelength.”
Two or three weeks ago Joe Rogan moved lock, stock and barrel to Austin. This morning I watched my first JRE podcast from his new abode (allegedly somewhere in north Austin), and I have to say that the design of the new studio looks…kind of awful?
I first got into Rogan’s podcast at the start of the pandemic. I liked it because, as a friend said this morning, he “talks about stuff people think but never say.” He does guy talk in a plugged-in, plain-spoken, outside-the-effete-liberal-bubble way. But I totally shut down when Rogan said he’d be voting for Orange Destroyer because of Joe Biden‘s alleged cognitive issues, which were absolutely nowhere in sight during that town hall he did with Anderson Cooper a couple of nights ago.
Against this brand and Rogan’s right-of-center identity a studio that radiates a little non-affiliated moderation might help…maybe a little touch of a soothing mystical Zen vibe. But no — Rogan’s quonset-hut-shaped studio goes all in on RED DISCO-LOUNGE EYESORE. It doesn’t say “confident, blunt-spoken guy in a relaxed man-cave environment” but “partisan, super-wealthy Trump guy with too much money and no taste in decor”…an atmosphere that says “members-only South Beach nightclub lounge by way of a tanning bed mixed with HAL’s intelligence storage vault in 2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Consider the YouTube comments about this 9.17 discussion with Douglas Murray, author of “The Madness of Crowds“: (a) “Missing the man cave feeling”, (b) “They should just start from scratch and make it more inviting and less…supervillain tomb“, (c) “Yeah, it sucks…way too much red, nothing to look at”, (d) “It looks like they’re sitting inside a toaster set to high”, (e) “I think he should do an actual cave vibe…boulders, waterfalls, plants, etc.”, (f) “The red is a big no-no…it’s not a nightclub…the old studio had perfect lighting and backgrounds. This studio feels cramped and claustrophobic…you even have to duck to get to your seat if you’re a taller guest.”
The general presumption is that Amy Coney Barrett, a staunchly Catholic “originalist” conservative in the Antonin Scalia mode, is likely to be Trump’s nominee to fill the Supreme Court seat of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. If Trump was smart he’d pick a moderate rightie, but of course…
Barrett is currently serving on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, lives in South Bend (hello, Mayor Pete!), is married with seven kids (five natural, two adopted), has a thin voice and tiny beady eyes. And the more I read about her the scarier she becomes.
An assessment by Slate‘s Mark Joseph Stern, posted today: “Faced with two plausible readings of a law, fact, or precedent, Barrett always seems to choose the harsher, stingier interpretation.
“Can job applicants sue employers whose policies have a disproportionately deleterious impact on older people? Barrett said no. Should courts halt the deportation of an immigrant who faced torture at home? Barrett said no. Should they protect refugees denied asylum on the basis of xenophobic prejudice? Barrett said no. Should they shield prisoners from unjustified violence by correctional officers? Barrett said no. Should minors be allowed to terminate a pregnancy without telling their parents if a judge has found that they’re mature enough to make the decision? Barrett said no. Should women be permitted to obtain an abortion upon discovering a severe fetal abnormality? Barrett said no.
“There is no question that, if confirmed, Barrett would cast the fifth vote to either hollow out Roe v. Wade or overturn it altogether. Similarly, there is no doubt that Barrett would dramatically expand the Second Amendment, invalidating gun control measures around the country. It’s quite possible, perhaps even likely, that within a year of her confirmation, Americans will be forbidden from terminating a pregnancy in 21 states—but permitted to purchase assault weapons and carry firearms in public in every state.
“Abortion and guns, however, are just the beginning. Barrett’s confirmation would heighten the odds that the Supreme Court will eradicate the entire Affordable Care Act in 2021, stripping health insurance from more than 20 million people. Red states challenged the law after Congress zeroed out the penalty for those who forgo health insurance in 2017, a frivolous challenge that nonetheless found support among conservative judges in the lower courts.”
“Diversity is important, but it’s not the only thing that’s important. It’s also important that we don’t wind up with artists guided less by a creative vision and more by a to–do list. We are talking about a world in which if you want to make the next Schindlers List, the first thing you’ll need to do is give a racial breakdown of all your employees. Does anyone see the irony in that?”