Ever since seeing my first image of the Matterhorn when I was eight or nine I’ve wanted to stand in its shadow and just go “whoa.” So yesterday the guys and I drove the wrong way (i.e., four hours over winding mountain roads) from Lauterbrunnen to Zermatt, the affluent ski town that lies at the base of it. The trip turned out to be mostly a disaster. Because of an innocent mistake I almost got slammed with a 350 Swiss franc traffic ticket — thank God I was able to talk my way out of it.
“People have wanted me and Jeff Wells to get into it on some form of media. And I have always refused the notion, primarily because I know his weak spots and would crush Jeff in an intense argument, not necessarily rhetorically but personally. I would find it hard not to stick in the knife. No matter how severe his opinions, I would look like a mean, cruel person. And I would be, for a moment, a mean, cruel person. I don’t want to be that.” — David Poland in his 6.20 Hot Blog piece about the passing of Andrew Sarris.
Due respect to director Bill Condon, but it’s a relief to know that Breaking Dawn Part 2, finally, is the last of the effing Twilight movies. I can watch this trailer, of course, but the content skirts across. My heart sank when I realized the film goes back to Volterra and the Council of the Volturi. I understood Twihards after seeing and respecting Catherine Hardwicke‘s opener, but then along came Taylor Lautner and the werewolves, and the franchise turned to shit.
During the Cannes Film Festival press conference for On The Road, Kristen Stewart spoke about how elated and grateful she was to be working with Walter Salles and Sam Riley and the gang. She had missed making a real movie.
In a brief but eloquent obit for the late Andrew Sarris, Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy recalls the long-running battle between Sarris and Pauline Kael, which re-ignited to some extent when McCarthy chaired a New York Film Festival panel discussion about Kael last fall. He explains here why he decided early on to side with Sarris:
“Andrew Sarris was the man who taught me how to do what I do,” McCarthy begins. “Without him, I would never have experienced the cinema in the way that I have or been provided with such an inspiring road map to pursue what, for all of us in the critical and historical film world, is the endless quest for discovery of little-known works and artists.
“Certainly, Pauline could be the more dynamic crusader both for and against a film. Sarris was often dizzyingly eloquent and quite funny, but, especially as he got older, had a tendency to ramble. What it came down to, in the end, was that, with Kael, what you’re left with is all opinion — brilliantly and eloquently expressed opinion, to be sure, but subjective impressions nonetheless. By contrast, Sarris’s initially controversial method of creating a hierarchy of talent [in “The American Cinema“] had the automatic effect of establishing priorities and, in a broader sense, inspiring a deeper plunge into film history.
One of Sarris’s categories in ‘The American Cinema‘ was ‘Subjects for Further Research,’ and that seems to apply to nearly everything I’ve done professionally since that time. Once you’ve gotten a handle on the personalities and artistic tendencies of certain directors, you begin more carefully tracking the careers of writers, cinematographers and other contributors to a film’s accomplishment.
“My first book, ‘Kings of the Bs: Working Within the Hollywood System,” which I embarked upon directly out of college, was conceived entirely as an extension of ‘The American Cinema’, having been inspired by Sarris’s phrase, ‘Eventually we must speak of everything if there is enough time and space and printer’s ink.’ From my point of view, Sarris’s perspectives opened many windows and doors, while Kael’s work had the feel of a judge’s gavel.
This trailer knows exactly what it’s doing, and it does it quite well. I’m now convinced that Joe Wright‘s Anna Karenina will be, at least in part, an early ’70s Ken Russell film, and that’s a very high compliment. Keira Knightley as Anna, Aaron Johnson as Count Vronsky and Jude Law (who always scores in character parts) as Alexei Karenin. Matthew Macfadyen, Kelly Macdonald and Olivia Williams costar. Screen adaptation of Leo Tolstoy‘s novel by Tom Stoppard.
The cinematography is by Seamus McGarvey, and the original score is by Dario Marianelli.
I was strolling through the smallish medieval city of Bern this evening when I read that revered film critic Andrew Sarris, 83, had passed away a few hours earlier. I’d been on friendly-as-far-as-it-went terms with Sarris since ’77, and the news hit me in the gut. I tweeted that “a great film critic, a seminal influencer, a gentleman, gracious and kindly & always good humored…Andrew Sarris left us today. Sadness.”
Everyone will once again write about his two legendary feats — popularizing the auteur theory, which he’d appropriated from the Cahiers du Cinema gang, in a 1962 essay called “Notes on the Auteur Theory,” and writing “The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968,” which anyone and everyone with the slightest investment in Film Catholicism had to read backwards and forwards, particularly if you came of age in the ’60s and ’70s.
But for me, Sarris was about kindness, wit, laughter and a generosity of spirit — the last trait in particular.
In the fall of ’77 Sarris agreed to talk about movies in front of a crowd at the Westport Country Playhouse Cinema, where I was working at the time. I drove down in my beater Mercedes and picked him up at his Upper East Side apartment and took him up the 95 to Westport, and then back to Manhattan three or four hours later. We obviously enjoyed some chat time, but what I primarily remember was his energy — a genuine inspiration for me. He seemed indefatigable. And I loved his rambling confessional tone. He always spoke of himself in humble terms, and always with a sardonic chuckle about some vague failing or two.
A year or two later I was a struggling New York freelancer, doubtful of my talent and unsure of my footing. I was at a black-tie New York Film Festival party, and I remember suddenly putting on a pair of jet-black Ray-Bans as I joined a group of five or six that included Sarris. He made me feel very much part-of-the-gang when he remarked a few seconds later that I looked “like a Roman pimp in a Fellini film.”
I’ve always half-despised the New York film dweebs who made me feel so awful during that period in my life, but never Sarris. I don’t know if he knew or cared about what I’d been writing and reporting in the late ’70s and early ’80s. I do know that he offered respect and camaraderie and comfort, and I will always love him for that. Warm hugs and condolences to all who knew, read, respected and loved him as well.
I’m not even half-suggesting that the embryonic mini-Dark Knight Rises Twitter backlash is going to amount to anything. At most it’s a gnat flitting over a blitzkreig. But I’ve found myself guffawing whenever I find one of these…sorry. I’m as much of a Chris Nolan fan as the next guy, but for some reason they’re making me giddy. Another Playlist shot: “I hope the finale of The Dark Knight Rises has Bane and Batman arm-wrestling Over The Top-style. (KJ)”
Two especially arcane sub-genres: movies that you’ve never much liked or felt especially caught up in, but which you’ve watched a few times anyway because (a) the photography is magnifique exceptional — so good that all the other aspects pretty much fall by the wayside, and (b) movies that you’ve never much liked but you’ve watched occasionally because the opening credit sequence is seriously mesmerizing. I feel this way about the 1963 Cleopatra; ditto David Lean‘s Summertime (’55), which has been Blurayed by a Japanese outfit.