“Marvel’s cinematic master plan for its comicbook all-stars pays off in extravagant fashion with The Avengers. Like a superior, state-of-the-art model built from reconstituted parts, Joss Whedon‘s buoyant, witty and robustly entertaining superhero smash-up is escapism of a sophisticated order, boasting a tonal assurance and rich reserves of humor that offset the potentially lumbering and unavoidably formulaic aspects of this 143-minute team-origin story.” — from Justin Chang’s Variety review, posted this evening at 9 pm.
I was informed earlier today by a Universal executive that my complaint about the appearance of Alfred Hitchcock‘s Vertigo at last Friday night’s TCM Classic Film Festival screening was “right” — accurate — and that the reason for the film’s poor appearance was a technical glitch. Somebody miscalculated and pushed the wrong button or entered the wrong code when the restored version of Hitchcock’s classic was scanned for a DCP, the exec confessed. Simple human error. It happens.
I thanked the executive for telling me this as I was starting to ask myself why no one else had complained. It was very comforting to hear that I wasn’t wrong. And it was admirable of Universal to admit to a mistake, I thought. I was also informed that Vertigo is currently undergoing preparation for a restored Bluray version, which will hit the market sometime later this year. I’ve heard from an off-the-lot source that a Rear Window Bluray is also being prepared.
Water finds its own level, and to my way of thinking director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, Water for Elephants), a middle-range craftsman and hired gun who knows how to make things look good and deliver a generic studio film in a straight-ahead, highly competent way, is a perfect choice to direct Catching Fire, Lionsgate’s sequel to The Hunger Games.
I don’t know anything but what I’ve read and seen in screenings, but Lawrence doesn’t appear to be too exacting or auteurist in his thinking or technique (unlike, say, the great Bennett Miller, who is way, way above the level of director Lionsgate needed to find). Lawrence strikes me as an adapter and a go-alonger, and Lionsgate producers will be able to work with him or…you know, push him around to some extent. No, I didn’t mean that. What I mean is that Lionsgate will adapt to Lawrence and he will adapt to them.
TheWrap‘s Tim Kenneally reported earlier today that
Lionsgate “is preparing to make an offer to Lawrence,” etc.
Levon Helm, the 71 year-old Band drummer-singer who died today in Manhattan, was one of my all-time favorite drummers. He was a kind of personal hero. I used to drum in a couple of garage-style blues bands and I half-modelled my style on his. Helm’s snare-drum and tom-tom hits were spare and minimalist — as far from flamboyant as could be imagined — but they felt just right and dependable and mathematically dead-on.
“In Mr. Helm’s drumming, muscle, swing, economy and finesse were inseparably merged,” N.Y. Times critic Jon Pareles wrote in Helm’s obit. “He gave his drums a muffled, bottom-heavy sound that placed them in the foundation of the [Band’s] arrangements, and his tom-toms were tuned so that their pitch would bend downward as the tone faded. Mr. Helm didn’t call attention to himself.”
I remember thinking when I saw Helm play Sissy Spacek‘s coal-miner dad in Michael Aoted‘s Coal Miner’s Daughter (’80) that he looked quite weathered for his years. He was right around 40 at the time, and he looked to be in his late ’50s or early 60s. Maybe it was just makeup.
Yesterday Gordon and the Whale‘s Joshua Brunsting passed along a clear implication in Criterion’s latest newsletter that a Bluray of Roman Polanski‘s Rosemary’s Baby is indeed on the way from that connoisseur-cultivating company. I’ve mentioned this before and I don’t want to harp on it, but let’s just hope and pray that Criterion doesn’t try to crop this thing at 1.78 or 1.85.
“Pierced ears and piercing eyes” — Maurice Evans’ Hutch describing Sidney Blackmer’s Roman Castevet in Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby.
My hunch is that this could happen, even though there are ample indications that this 1968 film plays best at 1.66 and that Polanski intended it to be seen that way.
Criterion had better watch it, that’s all. They’d better think twice and perhaps a third time if they’re thinking of whacking it down to 1.78 or worse. Because if they do we’ll be looking at the equivalent of an all-out Vietcong guerilla war. Constant sniping and derision, Occupy Criterion, speeches and petitions in Union Square, etc.
A friend who moderates an LA screening series says Lawrence Kasdan‘s Darling Companion (Sony Classics, 4.20) plays really well with 60- and 70-somethings. And Kasdan, he says, has stated that he more or less made it for this demo. And that’s fine. But so far this lost-dog boomer relationship dramedy has gotten killed by most critics. It has a 10% positive on Rotten Tomatoes and a 37% average on Metacritic.
Here’s most of what I posted when Darling Companion opened the Santa Barbara Film Festival in late January:
“It’s basically about an older, well-to-do Denver couple (Kevin Kline, Diane Keaton) getting in touch with their empty-nest issues through a relationship with a mixed collie they’ve adopted after Keaton and her daughter (Elisabeth Moss) find him huddling on the side of a road. The dog is soon being attended to by a friendly vet (Jay Ali), enjoying a nice hot bath, and given the name of Freeway.
“During a Rocky Mountain vacation Kline, an emotionally curt surgeon who’s constantly phoning and texting, lets Freeway slip the leash…gone. Keaton, emotionally invested in her relationship with Freeway in lieu of a dry and distant one with Kline, is hugely pissed and is soon leading a major log-cabin campaign to find the dog.
“Helping out are Kline’s sister (Dianne Wiest), her easygoing boyfriend (Richard Jenkins), Penny’s doctor son (Mark Duplass) and a sexy exotic European (Ayelet Zurer) who has gypsy-like, extra-sensory insight into Freeway’s whereabouts. And a local sheriff (Sam Shepard) is aware of the hunt and peripherally involved.
“I thought maybe Kasdan might be up to something clever here. Perhaps using the lost-dog plot as a way into a kind of Big Chill flick about four or five old farts hanging around a Rocky Mountain cabin and evaluating their lives and times…something like that. But for the most part, Darling Companion is just about finding the dog. Okay, Kline comes around to admitting that he’s too aloof and work-oriented, but this is hardly the stuff of keen audience engagement.
“A septugenarian Big Chill would make sense as Kasdan isn’t concerned in the least with Freeway’s whereabouts or adventures. All we do is hang out with the oldsters and Duplass and Zurer and blah blah, and then the story comes to a nice wholesome conclusion.
“At one point Kline and Jenkins encounter a kind of Unabomber guy living in a rundown cabin in the woods, and there’s an implication that Freeway might have been kidnapped and/or is being held by this dog of a human being, but this possibility is quickly discarded.
“Why does Freeway run away from Kline in the first place? Dogs don’t just run away from their masters. Are we to suppose that Freeway is just as put off by Kline’s selfish cell-phone existence and can’t wait to escape his company? That’s a stretch.
“Darling Companion made me feel really old on top of everything else. I’ve known Kline, Keaton, Weist and Shepard since the late ’70s and early ’80s, and they’re all looking and especially acting like people in their late 60s and early 70s with their aching joints and arms falling out of their sockets and their gray hair and Shepard’s teeth looking small and gnarly with his pot belly hanging out…Jesus! Shepard was a smooth romantic figure in the ’80s.
“If you’re going to be an older working actor, you have to look younger than you are. That’s the absolute rule. If you’re 75, you have to look 60 or 65 after you’ve just had a facial and been worked on by a skilled hair colorist (i.e., a little gray around the edges). If you’re 60 or 65, you have to look like a 50 or 55 year-old physical trainer. No limping, no paunch, in good shape, and no complaining about aching joints. Because I’m telling you it’s really depressing to watch Kline and Keaton stumbling along a mountain trail like refugees from a retirement community.
“And yet the film’s best scene happens on that same mountain trail when Kline’s right arm becomes dislocated and Keaton has to help him pop it back in.
“My basic reaction as I left the screening room was ‘why is Kasdan degrading his once-proud brand with a feathery little project like this? A movie about finding a fucking dog in the Rocky Mountains? That‘s what the once-great Kasdan is up to?’
“Kasdan’s last truly tasty film, Mumford, came out 12 and a half years ago. I will never stop respecting or believing in his craft and vision, but over the last decade he’s generally been regarded by the media mob as M.I.A. or ‘on hold’ or past it. As soon as I heard about Darling Companion I began wondering if it’s a potential rebound or a place-holder or what. Because my suspicions were, no offense, skeptical. And now I know — it’s a place-holder. It’s actually kind of a mild embarassment.
“I don’t mean to speak dismissively of one of the strongest and most distinctive director-screenwriters of the ’80s and ’90s. Body Heat, The Big Chill, Silverado, The Accidental Tourist, Grand Canyon, Wyatt Earp, Mumford — that’s a hell of a 20-year run. But writer-directors have only so much psychic essence, and the prevailing view is that after they’ve shot their wad (as most wads are lamentably finite), that’s it.
“For whatever reason Kasdan tells us that the mountain-search portion of the film is happening in Telluride, Colorado, as we’re shown an establishing shot of Telluride’s main street. But it was shot in and around Park City’s Wasatch Mountains. I’m betting that part of the pitch to the Darling actors was ‘you get a nice five or six-week vacation in the Rockies as part of the deal.'”
My two favorite cherry-picked review quotes so far:
“How much more fulfilling it would have been to spend those hundred-odd minutes chasing a squirrel, taking a nap or disemboweling a stuffed animal on the living room rug?” — A.O. Scott, N.Y. Times.
“Bursting onto the Hollywood scene in the early ’80s as the writer-director of Body Heat and The Big Chill, not to mention the principal screenwriter for Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Kasdan was one of the hottest guys in the business for at least a decade. Today, although he’s younger than Steven Spielberg or Martin Scorsese (and only a few years older than the Coen brothers, for instance), Kasdan looks like a flailing, irrelevant has-been.
“His entire career, and his unfortunate and completely uninteresting new movie, Darling Companion, which is about a bunch of rich white people looking for a lost dog, illustrates the dangers of attaching yourself firmly to a generational identity. In other words: Ask not for whom the mutt woofs, Lena Dunham — it woofs for thee.” — Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.
Okay, finally…wait, what? The 2012 Cannes Film Festival selections were announced early this morning. Too early to be Johnny-on-the-spot in LA. Leave me alone. I’d crashed at 1:15 am, and I like to get six hours. But a text message alarm woke me at 4-something, and so I read the rundown selections in the dark on the iPhone. Damn, no Master and no Malick. Malick is such a pain in the ass. The man lives to meditate first, hide in the shadows second and make films third. Bleedin’ Christ.
I’m assigning an HE special interest designation to those films that have I’m particularly hot for, an N for neutrals and an M for “meh.”
Moonrise Kingdom, dir: Wes Anderson (N)
Rust & Bone, dir: Jacques Audiard (HE)
Holly Motors, dir: Leos Carax (N)
Cosmopolis, dir: David Cronenberg (HE)
The Paperboy, dir: Lee Daniels (N)
Killing Them Softly, dir: Andrew Dominik (HE)
Reality, dir: Matteo Garrone (HE)
Amour, dir: Michael Haneke (N)
Lawless, dir: John Hillcoat (HE)
In Another Country, dir: Hong Sangsoo (N)
Taste Of Money, dir: Im Sangsoo (M)
Like Someone In Love, dir: Abbas Kiarostami (M)
The Angel’s Share, dir: Ken Loach (N)
Im Nebel, dir: Sergei Loznitsa (M)
Beyond The Hills, dir: Cristian Mungiu (HE)
Baad El Mawkeaa, dir: Yousry Nasrallah
Mud, dir: Jeff Nichols (HE)
You Haven’t Seen Anything Yet, dir: Alain Resnais (M)
Post Tenebras Lux, dir: Carlos Reygadas (M)
On The Road, dir: Walter Salles (HE)
Paradis: Amour, dir: Ulrich Seidl (N)
The Hunt, dir: Thomas Vinterberg (M)
Therese Desqueyroux, dir: Claude Miller (closing film, M)
Un Certain Regard:
Miss Lovely, Ashim Ahluwalia (N)
La Playa, dir: Juan Andres Arango (N)
God’s Horses, dir: Nabil Ayouch
Trois Monde, dir: Catherine Corsini
Antiviral, dir: Brandon Cronenberg (HE)
7 Days In Havana, dirs: Benicio Del Toro, Pablo Trapero, Julio Medem, Elia Suleiman, Juan Carlos Tabio, Gaspard Noe, Laurent Cantet (HE)
Le Grand Soir, dirs: Benoit Delepine, Gustave Kervern
Laurence Anyways, dir: Xavier Dolan
Despues De Lucia, dir: Michel Franco
Aimer A Perdre La Raison, dir: Joachim Lafosse
Student, dir: Darezhan Omirbayev
La Pirogue, dir: Moussa Toure
Elefante Blanco, dir: Pablo Trapero
Confessions Of A Chile Of The Century, dir: Sylvie Verheyde
11.25 The Day He Chose His Own Fate, dir: Koji Wakamatsu
Mystery, dir: Lou Ye
Beasts Of The Southern Wild, dir: Behn Zeitlin
Out of Competition:
Io E Te, dir: Bernardo Bertolucci (HE)
Madagascar 3, Europe’s Most Wanted, dirs: Eric Darnelle, Tom McGrath (M)
Hemingway & Gelhorn, dir: Philip Kaufman (HE)
Dario Argento’s Dracula, dir: Dario Argento
Ai To Makoto, dir: Takashi Miike
Polluting Paradise, dir: Fatih Akin (HE)
Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir, dir: Laurent Bouzereau (HE)
The Central Park Five, dirs: Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon
Les Invisibles, Sebastien Lifshitz
Journal De France, dirs: Claudine Nougaret, Raymond Depardon
A Musica Segundo Tom Jobim, dir: Nelson Pereira Dos Santos
Villegas, dir: Gonzalo Tobal
Mekong Hotel, dir: Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Well, so much for Paul Thomas Anderson‘s The Master playing the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. (PTA likes to keep his films private as long as possible.) And speaking of editing-room hideaways, Terrence Malick‘s The Burial (or The Funeral or whatever it’s called) is also a no-go. But respectful congrats to Matthew McConaughey for starring in two Cannes 2012 entires (Lee Daniels‘ The Paperboy and Jeff Nichols’ Mud). And yes, it would have been more p.c. of Thierry Fremaux to include a female-directed film or two into the competition slate but until someone reports about two or three allegedly worthy films from woman directors that were festival-ready but turned down, I’m not going there.