Right away you can tell that this low-key, middle-aged-curmudgeon romance is at least fairly well written. The director-writer is Victor Levin, whose 5 to 7 I didn’t much care for but whose writing credits also include Mad About You, The Larry Sanders Show and Mad Men. Part of the pleasure of this trailer is a notion that Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder, whom I’ve recently felt sorry for (especially Ryder), may have lucked into a half-decent film that allows them to play semi-rounded, recognizably human characters. Or so we’re led to presume.
Poor Whitney Houston was found dead in a Beverly Hilton bathtub six and one-third years ago. “It took her many years to get there, but she’s finally bought it,” I wrote that day.
“The specific cause of the pop singer’s death is unclear, but c’mon…this has been in the cards for ages. Houston’s rep as a poster girl for drug abuse long ago eclipsed her fame as a singer. Many people are shocked by Houston’s death, but find me one person who’s genuinely surprised.”
The usual chorus of denial and complacency followed, of course. People always push that stuff away.
Now comes Kevin MacDonold‘s Whitney, an affectionate, deeply compassionate that nonetheless doesn’t play games when it comes to analyzing what went wrong in this troubled singer’s life.
When I read that Whitney was family-supported I presumed MacDonald might have felt obliged to take a softball approach. (An early teaser made no mention of Houston’s marriage to the notorious Bobby Brown, Houston’s husband of 14 years who has long been been regarded as a destructive influence in her life, particularly regarding her substance-abuse issues.) But Whitney is an exception to the rule. It digs right into the marrow and coaxes hard truths out of everyone.
Houston’s drug-use downswirl, the Brown relationship, her closeted sexuality and her daughter Bobbi Christina Brown, who died under regrettable circumstances at age 22 — it’s all there plus a surprise no one saw coming.
At the end Whitney’s aunt Mary Jones, who worked as her assistant (she was the one who found Whitney face down in that Beverly Hilton bathtub), claims that the late Dee Dee Warwick, the younger sister of Dionne Warwick and a blues-soul singer in her own right, sexually abused Whitney as a child, apparently in the late ’60s or early ’70s when the Houston family was living in East Orange, New Jersey.
The great Tom Wolfe passed…Jesus, two days ago and I’m only just getting around to this. The festival demands. And I still haven’t time to really sink into the sprawling legend of it all. Wolfe was one of the sharpest and most dashing literary figures of the 20th Century, and the very personification of ’60s and ’70s New Journalism. His spry, crafty, cranked-up prose, and the often astonishing wit and energy that he poured into his profiles and reportage…if you stepped back and considered his impact it just took your breath away.
Wolfe’s was quite the tale, going all the way back to his New York Herald Tribune pieces that began in ’62 or thereabouts. A stream of titles pouring out of my head right now: “Tiny Mummies”, “The Painted Word”, “The Truest Sport:” Jousting With Sam and Charlie”, “The Me Decade and the Third Great Awakening”, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test”, “Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers”, “The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby”, “The Right Stuff”, “The Bonfire of the Vanities”, etc.
For those who’ve never read Wolfe or who only know him as the author of a celebrated book that resulted in the worst film Brian DePalma ever made, please start with these:
You can’t trust a trailer, but Chris McQuarrie‘s Mission: Impossible — Fallout (Paramount, 7.27) suddenly looks great because of this newbie. This may be the best-edited, put-the-hook-in trailer for an M:I film that I’ve ever seen, and we’re going back over 20 years now. This is exactly how you cut these things together — propulsive forward-motion action, a dab or two of character, plot complexity, a little dash of humor.
And I love Tom Cruise‘s increasingly weathered, faintly puffy face — a guy who used to be pretty but is losing that glow as time marches on, and this diminishment gives him all kinds of soul and gravitas.
Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Michelle Monaghan, Alec Baldwin, Sean Harris, Henry Cavill and Wes Bentley.
Earlier today I said “uh-oh” when I caught sight of David Robert Mitchell during a photo call before this morning’s Cannes Film Festival press conference for Under the Silver Lake. It was the middle-part hippie hair (i.e., Prince Valiant without the bangs) that gave me pause.
Any 2018 movie director wearing the same hairstyle that John Lennon had during the recording of “The White Album” or which Donald Sutherland wore during the filming of Paul Mazursky‘s Alex in Wonderland (’70) is basically saying “I’m off on my own trajectory…I’m following my muse, going with my process…I am who I am, and this is where I’m at, pretentious as this might seem.”
To me this indicates an attitude of undisciplined indulgence, which is what Under The Silver Lake is more or less about.
Mitchell’s hair during the making and promotion of It Follows (’14) was much more reasonable-looking — the hair style of an unpretentious, down-to-business guy who’s just looking to get the job done.
Under The Silver Lake director David Robert Mitchell during this morning’s press conference.
Michell during promotion of It Follows.
Earlier today a friend passed along buzz about Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum, which will screen in Cannes tomorrow and Friday, allegedly being a hot Palme d’Or contender.
A 5.16 Screen Daily story by Melanie Goodfellow mentions that Sony Pictures Classics “has acquired North American and Latin American rights and is also planning an awards-qualifying release in December.”
Shot in Lebanon and “inspired by Labaki’s own research into child neglect,” drama focuses on a 12-year-old boy “with a miserable life who decides to sue his parents for bringing him into the world,” the story reports. Capernaum‘s Wiki page says it runs 120 minutes.
I’m sorry but David Robert Mitchell‘s Under The Silver Lake (A24, 6.22), which I saw early this morning, is mostly a floundering, incoherent mess. Yeah, I know — Mitchell wanted it to feel this way, right? Ironically, I mean. Confusion and mental haziness were part of the impressionistic thrust.
It’s pretty much a textbook example of what happens when a gifted, financially successful director without much on his mind at the time…this is what happens when such a fellow comes to believe that he’s a version of Federico Fellini in the wake of La Dolce Vita or 8 1/2 and thereby obtains the funds to make whatever the hell he wants, and so he decides to create…uhm, well let’s try our hand at an impressionistic fantasia dreamtrip about L.A. hipster weirdness and…you know, dreamy fantasy women with nice breasts and impressionistic effluvia and whatever-the-fuck-else.
Two hours and 15 minutes of infuriating slacker nothingness…everyone’s vaguely confused, nobody really knows anything, all kinds of clues and hints about seemingly impenetrable conspiracies involving general L.A. space-case culture, bodies of dead dogs, cults, riddles and obsessions of the super-rich.
It’s basically about Andrew Garfield absolutely refusing to deal with paying his overdue rent, and neighbor Riley Keough, whom he tries to find throughout the film after she disappears early on, doing a late-career Marilyn Monroe with maybe a touch of Gloria Grahame in In A Lonely Place.
Under The Silver Lake is Mulholland Drive meets Fellini Satyricon meets Inherent Vice meets The Big Lebowski, except Lebowski, bleary-eyed stoner comedy that it was, was far more logical and witty and tied together, and with an actual through-line you could more or less follow.
I felt the same kind of where-the-fuck-is-this-movie-going?, wandering-fartscape confusion that I got from Paul Thomas Anderson‘s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon‘s novel of the late ’60s.
During the press conference Mitchell described Silver Lake as a “fever dream.” He said he wrote it fairly quickly, and that it began with his talking about his wife about “what’s really going on in those swanky-looking houses up in the L.A. hills?”
I saw Solo: A Star Wars Story (Disney, 5.25) earlier this evening at the Salle Debussy. A Han Solo origin story, and I really don’t give a damn about this heavily-milked realm. Same old “a long time ago,” same old dashing heroics, same old quips, same exotic creatures, same high-throttle chase scenes…formula, formula, plop-plop, fizz-fizz
How many years or decades does Disney plan on cranking out the same old sausage? The answer is “forever.” Six years ago
What did I get out of watching this light-hearted, fast-moving but rote-feeling Ron Howard flick, which attempts to reanimate the legend and spirit of Han Solo? HE regulars are sick of me saying that the rakish smuggler and adventurer has been personified by Harrison Ford for the last 42 years, but is now owned and operated by Alden Ehrenreich, whom I regard as “Little Han.”
The answer is “Not much, man…not much at all.”
Seriously, I never felt turned on or lifted up or caught up in the flow of the thing, and I’m saying this as someone who half-enjoyed The Force Awakens, felt mildly engaged by Rogue One and was half-taken by portions of The Last Jedi.
I just can’t respond to this stuff any more. I couldn’t take the plunge. I was muttering to myself “oh, Jesus, c’mon…they’re shovelling and recycling the same crap here, over and over and over.”
I’ve said this seventeen or eighteen times, but Ehrenreich is Han Solo’s shorter wannabe cousin — a guy who’s trying like hell to fill Han’s boots but who lacks fundamental Hannitude. And in this context, he really is part of Short People Nation. Shorter than Woody Harrelson, way shorter than Chewbecaa, not much taller than Emilia Clarke (who looks kind of odd in a chubby-faced way), and always looking up at everyone, like he’s some kid in seventh grade.
Yes, Ehrenreich does a good job of pretending to be a young Han, and if you want to go along with this charade, be my guest. AE gives it everything he has, applying the acting lessons he was given during principal photography, but the effort simply doesn’t work. There’s no escaping the fact that he’s nowhere close to being a chip off the old block.
Trump’s slightly rising poll numbers are apparently over the perception that his tough-guy diplomacy resulted in North Korea folding its hand and agreeing to conciliatory peace talks. Whatever the truth of it, it’s appalling how easily and quickly certain persons can be turned.
I’m not saying Lars von Trier‘s The House That Jack Built isn’t repellent in more ways than you can shake a stick at. It’s an odious, ice-cold exercise in homicidal perversity, and one for the record books at that. It should probably be avoided by anyone with a weak stomach or…oh, hell, by anyone who feels that films should exude some form of love or worship or celebration, which probably covers 99% of the moviegoing public.
But after last night’s build-up (tweets conveying disgust and rage, reports of people walking out of the black-tie premiere) I was expecting a diseased horror-murder tale so excessive that it might make me physically sick or prompt me to walk out or get into a fight with one of the security guys.
It didn’t do that. It turned out to be more of a meditative guilt confessional — about LVT more or less admitting that he may not be a good enough artist to deliver worthy, lasting art, and that all he really knows how to do is shock and agitate. (That’s what I got from it, at least.) I’m not saying it’s a better film than I expected, but it’s dryer and more meditative and not as heinous as I feared.
Portions of Jack are awful to sit through and the overall tone may be an equivalent to the professionally distanced, carefully maintained mindset of a psychological counselor in a hospital for the criminally insane. But for all the innate ugliness and sadistic cruelty on-screen, Von Trier is basically analyzing himself by way of Matt Dillon‘s Jack, a serial killer based in the Pacific Northwest, and casting a cold eye upon his shortcomings as a filmmaker.
Dillon is a would-be architect but is only gifted enough to be an engineer, he gradually admits. This is Von Trier talking about himself, of course — admitting to his audience that he’s “not quite Ivy League”, and that after shooting his wad on Breaking The Waves, The Idiots, Dancer in the Dark and Dogville that all he really knows how to do now is make shock-and-appall movies like this, Antichrist, the two Nymphomaniac films and so on.
I’m not saying Jack gets a pass, but at least LVT has tried to make it into something more thoughtful and meditative than just a series of clinical, cold-blood episodes showing recreations of this and that method of murder. It’s ugly and rancid, but about more than just that.