With getting specific or even geographical I’m hearing Ben Affleck‘s Argo, Roger Michell‘s Hyde Park on Hudson, Noah Baumbach‘s Frances Ha, Wayne Blair‘s The Sapphires, Robert Lorenz and Clint Eastwood‘s…wait, not Trouble With The Curve? I thought that sounded right, made sense. Jacques Audiard‘s Rust and Bone, Ken Burns‘ Central Park Five and what else? What about a little wackadoodle Terrence Malick action?
Patrick Goldstein‘s “The Big Picture” column, which began 12 years ago, has breathed its last. Goldstein explained nothing in his final installment except “this is my last.” No, he wasn’t whacked. Rather, he’s taken a buyout. But was he asked to take it or did he go up to his editors and say, “Can you guys give me an effing buyout so I can blow this pop stand?” Had they leaned on him to change his game (file more often, become chattier) and he said “naaah”?
I wrote Patrick and asked what’s up, what happened, what he’ll be doing. A new online column? Radio silence. Nikki Finke is reporting that part of his deal is that he’s agreed not to trash the L.A. Times. In other words, he’s not allowed to speak candidly.
Whatever happened, the L.A. Times has been swirling around and down for a long time. It’s largely a gutted, dying organization, and no longer the kind of place, apparently, that understands and fully supports the kind of in-depth, “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” film-industry column Goldstein has been writing all these years.
I gather Patrick came in one day, looked around at the L.A. Times newsroom, figured the jig was up and why prolong the agony?, made a face like he’s John Wayne looking at Dean Martin in the opening minutes of Rio Bravo, hocked a loogie and spit into the spitoon, took the check, said “adios” and got on his horse and rode into the hills like Shane. He’ll take a few weeks off and start writing again, I mean.
A friend says “it has been known for several weeks that the new editors at the Times had laid down the law to Goldstein, insisting [that] he write much more frequently in return for the big check he was getting. It was no more ‘one column a week’ and occasional internet pieces, which he kept resisting. The guy would rather go to his kid’s little league games and in reality write about baseball instead of showbiz.”
I can’t think of another commercial theatre that I like more than the Aero. The fact that it’s a tastefully programmed rep house with first-rate projection standards is only the half of of it. The other half is that it’s a living, commercially solvent remnant of what theatres in every small and mid-sized town in this country used to be. It’s what John Travolta said of Jackrabbit Slims in Pulp Fiction — “a museum with a pulse.”
Except movies look and sound a lot better at the heavily refurbished Aero than they ever did in single-screen houses in the ’60s and ’70s.
Plus the Aero is on a nice quiet street (Santa Monica’s Montana Avenue) with two yogurt shops nearby and nice, settled-down people walking around and no coarse, squealing low-lifes laughing too loudly over glasses of wine. Everybody who hangs out on Montana “gets it.” Okay, it may feel a little too sedate at times. I’ll admit to having said to myself once or twice, “This has to be one of whitest streets in Los Angeles.” I prefer a bit more uptown hurly burly, but it’s awfully nice to hang on Montana Ave. and know that representatives of the devolution of American culture will not appear.
A friend was asking why The Sapphires, which I half-loved after seeing it in Cannes, isn’t in my Oscar Balloon “best of the year” list. I said it’s because it only really works for the first 40% or 50%, and that the second half doesn’t have the same snap-crackle-pop. Now I’m wondering what other films fit this description. Nominations? A friend says “is it any good?’ and you go “yeah…well, it is for about an hour and then it runs out of gas.”
“I saw John Hilcoat‘s Lawless this morning — a bootlegging movie about backwoods macho bludgeoning, stabbing, gouging, shooting, throat-slitting, shotgunning and all that good exploitation yeehaw crap,” I wrote on 5.19 from the Cannes Film Festival. “It’s a better acted, more finely photographed and much more violent upgrade of an early ’70s Roger Corman film. So why did they screen it here? It’s a drive-in movie for rednecks, and I’m sitting in Grand Palais on the Cote d’Azur watching this flotsam?
“It’s set in 1931, the height of the Depression, and I guess I wanted something classy and fabled like Phillip Borsos‘ The Grey Fox…no such luck with Hillcoat.
“Tom Hardy plays a time-travelling robot with a hick accent who can’t be killed with a throat-slashing or with two or three shots to the chest…he jes keeps on a’comin.
“As far as I’m concerned Hillcoat is no longer someone to watch. He’s a thick-fingered plebe. The Proposition, for me, was crude, sadistic, high-style hash about amber lighting and grubbily dressed actors whose faces were smeared with chicken grease. The Road, his post-apocalyptic father-son movie, was half-decent but was mostly about compositions filled with grayness and ash and waste of one kind or another. And now this sludge.
“‘Two good things about Lawless,’ I tweeted. ‘(1) Guy Pearce‘s ultra-venal, almost Dracula-like villain, and (2) a nice nude scene featuring Jessica Chastain.'”
Last week I did a phoner with Arbitrage director-writer Nicholas Jarecki. Here’s the mp3**. I’ve been cranked about this New York-based melodrama since Sundance, which I called “a solid Sidney Lumet potboiler…tough and real, aromatic and well-threaded.” It contains Richard Gere‘s “best performace in a long time” and a serious, stop-the-presses, pop-out performance by Nate Parker.
Jarecki’s process in refining the screenplay and editing the film was thorough, methodical and painstaking. Therre was also a lot of rehearsing involved. The work shows. Every step of the way the film feels tight, realistic, fat-free.
Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions wil unveil Arbitrage on 9.14, theatrically and simultaneously on VOD.
Gere plays a smooth but fraying-at-the-seams trader-financier involved in high-stakes flim-flammery and a manslaughter cover-up, and he’s not doing one of his slick operator turns. He’s really gotten hold of the soul and raison d’etre of such a guy, and not in a way that encourages outright hissing, curiously enough. He’s never lovable, but is always half sympathetic, in part because you can’t help but admire his ability to keep going and deflect the gathering chaos.
Parker is the dude you remember after Gere because he plays a kind of pawn in the tale, but in a way that exudes rock-solid character and dignity. This is a breakout role for the guy, trust me.
Tim Roth is highly flavorful and amusing as a colorful Colombo-type detective. Also excellent are Susan Sarandon (as Gere’s wife), Stuart Margolin (Gere’s attorney), Brit Marling (his oddly idealistic daughter), Laetitia Casta, Josh Pais and Larry Pine.
** I’ve mistakenly left a blank “waiting for Nic” section in at the very beginning of the recording — it finally starts about 60 or 70 seconds in. I’ll fix it this evening.
“If Tony Scott didn’t inspire a lot of respect from critics, he does have some dissident champions among serious cinephiles. More than one colleague dinged me for liking his films, as if happily admitting to their pleasures was an unpardonable breach of good taste (or correct politics). There was plenty about his work that was problematic and at times offensive, yet it could have terrific pop, vigor, beauty and a near pure-cinema quality.
“These were, more than anything, films by someone who wanted to pull you in hard and never let you go. Years after I met him, Mr. Scott sent me a note of thanks for my review of Domino, embellishing it with a witty self-portrait of a figure in a red cap smoking a very large cigar. He looms large on this little rectangle, a blank screen he filled with vivid energy.” — N.Y. Times critic Manohla Dargis in a tribute piece (“A Director Who Excelled In Excess”) appearing in today’s print edition.
Domino was perhaps my least favorite Scott film of all. But Man On Fire was right at the top. Yesterday I sent the following this to a journalist friend yesterday who was looking for a quote or two about Scott’s under-appreciated films:
“While I suspect that Tony Scott’s politics were liberally inclined, Man on Fire was, I submit, perhaps the most brilliant right-wing revenge thriller ever made, and one of the most satisfying post-9/11 movies about socking it to the ‘other’ — anarchic, ruthless, swarthy non-American sociopaths.
“Denzel Washington‘s Creasy, an ex-CIA operative working as a bodyguard for a young American girl (Dakota Fanning) in Mexico City, fulfilled every right-winger’s violent fantasies when he went all ballistic and medieval on the gang members behind her kidnapping. He might as well have been torturing and killing Al Qeada members, and you can bet that he was doing exactly that in the minds of many who watched this manic, jolting, brilliantly edited 2004 film.”
“You don’t have to be an especially devoted consumer of film or television to detect a pervasive, if not total, liberalism,” writes New York‘s Jonathan Chait in an 8.19 piece called “The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy Is On Your Screen.” This is noteworthy? The creative communities that supply television and film have always been left-liberal for the most part, and the hardballers who run the business side have always, with some exceptions, always been obliged to accomodate and promote lefty liberal content.
“The liberal analysis of the economic crisis — that unregulated finance took wild gambles — has been widely reflected, even blatantly so, in movies like Margin Call, Too Big to Fail, and the Wall Street sequel. The conservative view that all blame lies with regulations forcing banks to lend to poor people has not, except perhaps in the amateur-hour production of Atlas Shrugged.”
Wells interjection: The notion that unregulated Wall Street wheeler-dealing led to the 2008 financial meltdown is a “liberal analysis”? How is that an especially liberal thing? Isn’t the applicable term “factual”? Are there any available straight-up, verifiable facts that don’t support the “Reagan Did It” analysis?
Back to Chait: “The muscular Rambo patriotism that briefly surged in the eighties, and seemed poised to return after 9/11, has disappeared. In its place we have series like Homeland, which probes the moral complexities of a terrorist’s worldview, and action stars like Jason Bourne, whose enemies are not just foreign baddies but also paranoid Dick Cheney figures.
“The conservative denial of climate change, and the low opinion of environmentalism that accompanies it, stands in contrast to cautionary end-times tales like Ice Age 2: The Meltdown and the tree-hugging mysticism of Avatar. The decade has also seen a revival of political films and shows, from the Aaron Sorkin oeuvre through Veep and The Campaign, both of which cast oilmen as the heavies. Even The Muppets features an evil oil driller stereotypically named ‘Tex Richman.'”
“[Early to mid ’90s right-wing advocacy groups] Americans for Responsible Television and Christian Leaders for Responsible Television would be flipping out over the modern family in Modern Family, not to mention the girls of Girls and the gays of Glee, except that those groups went defunct long ago.
“In short, the world of popular culture increasingly reflects a shared reality in which the Republican Party is either absent or anathema. That shared reality is the cultural assumptions, in particular, of the younger voters whose support has become the bedrock of the Democratic Party.”
I’ll be flying to Durango on Thursday, 8.30 for the Telluride Film Festival, and I’ll be picking up a rental car because it’s cheaper than paying for two round-trip shuttles. I’ll be driving back to Durango around 12:30 or 1 pm on Monday to catch a 4 pm flight. If anyone is coming into Durango on Thursday midday (12 noon to 3 pm) and wants to share expenses on the car, get in touch.
In the just-published Politico e-book “Obama’s Last Stand,” Glenn Thrush reports that phrases like “I admire or at least respect my opponent” and “noblesse oblige” are not really in President Obama’s vocabulary this year. Among the nuggets:
* “The one thing animating the campaign above all….is Obama’s own burning competitiveness, with his remorseless focus on beating Mitt Romney — an opponent he genuinely views with contempt and fears will be unfit to run the country.”
* “The two things Obama fears most about a Romney victory: (a) “A 7-to-2 conservative Supreme Court within a few years, and (b) “An unbearable possibility, in his mind, that Romney will get to take a victory lap on an economic rebound Obama sees as just around the corner. ‘I’m not going to let him win…so that he can take credit when the economy turns around,’ Obama said, according to an aide.”
* Obama “really doesn’t like, admire or even grudgingly respect Romney. It’s a level of contempt, say aides, he doesn’t even feel for the conservative, combative House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the Hill Republican he dislike[s] the most. ‘There was a baseline of respect for John McCain. The president always thought he was an honorable man and a war hero,’ a longtime Obama adviser said. ‘That doesn’t hold true for Romney. He was no goddamned war hero.'”
* Obama “vehemently opposes and views Citizens United as an existential threat to democracy.”
Daily Kos’s “therehastobeaway” has written that [“these are] key reasons why [lefties] cannot stand in the sidelines this election and must work just as hard if not harder to re-elect Obama than we did to elect him four years ago. If the GOP is allowed to take credit for our side’s financial philosophy and/or is able to appoint conservative justices, the left-leaning social and political agenda and its politicians will be dealt a crushing ideological and electoral blow for generations to come. If that doesn’t get you up out of bed for the next two months, nothing will.”