As an accredited New York Film Festival press pass holder, I requested a ticket to Monday night’s “secret” Lincoln screening at Alice Tully Hall, as everyone else with the same pass did. It took the NYFF all day to say “sorry, we can’t help.” Uh-huh. I don’t know but I strongly suspect there’s a general coordinated strategy to keep me away from this puppy. Lincoln tickets went on sale today and sold out right away. I’m considering flying to NYC this weekend if I can buy a ticket from a scalper. So I’m asking. I’ll pay an unfair price.
In my mind, Prometheus happened so long ago it doesn’t even feel like it came out this year. I saw it in Prague on a rainy afternoon. Mostly I remember the humidity and how warm it was in the lobby as all the journos and media people stood around and waited for the doors to open. And how I was sweating under my baseball cap and shades. And then wondering why the projectionist was showing it in 1.85 and not 2.35. And then trying to make sense of it…and failing.
Ridley Scott‘s Prometheus ” is impressively composed and colder than a witch’s boob in Siberia,” I wrote on 6.1. “It’s visually striking, spiritually frigid, emotionally unengaging, at times intriguing but never fascinating. It’s technically impressive, of course — what else would you expect from an expensive Scott sci-fier? And the scary stuff takes hold in the final third. But it delivers an unsatisfying story that leaves you…uhm, cold.
“It’s a gray, forbidding film about howling winds and chilly people. It’s a watchable, well made, at times better-than-decent ride, but it really doesn’t hang together. I’m sorry but anyone who says ‘wow, this is really great!’ is just full of it. But there’s no way to kick this around without dropping all kinds of spoilers so I’m going to keep things vague.
“For what it’s worth Scott shoots the hell out of Prometheus, but the script isn’t integrated. It’s half-assed and lacks a clear hard line. The fault, I hear, is mainly with Damon Lindelof‘s rewrite of Jon Spaihts‘ straightforward Alien prequel script. Roughly 40% delivers some absorbing futuristic technological razmatazz and exposition on a long voyage to a distant planet, 30% to 35% is proficient scary-icky stuff (slimy alien snakes) and 20% is some kind of half-hearted spiritual quest film on the part of Noomi Rapace‘s Shaw character, a scientist who wears a crucifix.
“The spiritual-religious angle is what disappoints the most because it’s only flirted with. The script starts off in a semi-solemn, semi-thoughtful vein, asking questions about the origin or spawning of humanity and the possibility of alien creators or “engineers”, but none of this develops or pays off, and things eventually devolve into standard shocks and creep-outs.
“Most ticket-buyers will go looking for a standard alien flick and come away going ‘hmm, I dunno but this isn’t quite it.'”
It’s my belief that a serious Best Picture contender needs to say “this is how the world is,” and not “which view of the world do you prefer?” We all choose different versions of the stories we want to believe. It goes on all the time. And I don’t believe that a film that focuses for an hour on the basic rudiments of survival on an ocean-drifting lifeboat (finding food and water, not getting eaten by a Bengal tiger) can be compelling enough to earn a Best Picture nomination. I just don’t.
Young guys growing their hair long in the mid ’60s required some brass because of fierce resistance from various authority figures, but there were two separate arenas in which long hair began to advance and dig in among teens and early 20somethings — the cities and the campuses, where things manifested much more quickly starting in ’65 (but not ’64), and the middle-class suburbs, where it took a lot longer for anyone to walk around with super-long Blue Cheer or Grand Funk Railroad hair or a Bob Dylan Jewfro, say.
It started with modest little Beatle bangs in ’64 and ’65 with radical campus hard-asses growing their hair to Rubber Soul lengths by the fall of ’65. But things were relatively cautious and straight-laced in the pot-smoking ‘burbs.
Obviously longer hair caught on big-time in the cities and campuses in ’66, but even then it was rare to see a guy with Buffalo Bill hair on the Harvard or Yale or NYU campuses, and you didn’t really see long hair start to get fizzy and freaky among non-collegiate suburban youths until late ’66 or ’67. And you didn’t see serious Blonde on Blonde Dylan-fros and heavy-duty Geronimo hair with headbands until mid to late ’68 or ’69, even, in the ‘burbs of New Jersey and Connecticut.
A lot of middle-class kids who weren’t musicians or Timothy Leary disciples or radical-ass Harvard University geniuses looked like Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate (’67), for the most part. You didn’t even see sideburns among more or less straight-laced guys until ’69 or ’70. By 1969 or ’70 even corporate, three-piece-suit types were wearing what were called “executive chops.”
I’m bringing this up because David Chase‘s Not Fade Away, which screened today for New York Film Festival journos and got thumbs-up responses from at least two guys I know (Kris Tapley and Marshall Fine), appears to play it fast and loose with mid ’60s hair changes, to judge by the trailer.
I’ve asked around and the film, about a young New Jersey rock band going through various convulsions and challenges and changes, takes place over a period of three and a half years — from late 1963 (“[it] begins in the immediate aftermath of the JFK assassination,” according to Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn) and ends (or “dovetails,” as Kohn puts it) sometime during the 1967 Summer of Love. Much of the film, to go by press materials, take place in ’64. and long hair just wasn’t evident back then. It really wasn’t evident in ’65, as I’ve said. The big flowering was in ’66 and ’67.
I’ll have to see the film, of course, to make a final judgment about accuracy, but it looks as if Chase has re-imagined the mid ’60s. To go by the trailer, the hair that started to happen in ’66 and ’67 and which really took hold in ’68 and ’69 happens in the ‘burbs in ’64, ’65 and ’66.
I hope I haven’t been too technical here, but hair evolution from ’64 to ’69 was a very specific, stage-by-stage thing. It roughly paralled the long-hair styles of the Beatles themselves — just look at their stylings in ’64, ’65, ’66, ’67, ’68 and ’69. It’s all there.
It’s good to see Marcia Nasatir and Lorenzo Semple, Jr doing their Real Geezers routine again, but let’s try and be a little more current than Trouble With The Curve, which had already had its day and been more or less pushed aside. Whatever they review has to be opening in a few days or have opened a day or two earlier.
Expertly constructed wham-bammers (i.e., “what you see is what you get”) sell tickets and give less sensitive audience members a good time, but they don’t linger. The ones that do always deliver the undercurrent stuff, “the things that are not said.” Michelangelo Antonioni‘s L’eclisse and L’Avventura deliver this in spades; ditto Florian von Henckel Donnersmarck‘s The Lives of Others and Cristian Mungiu‘s Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days.
One level below this (and this is flattery I’m dishing here) are the ones that may not have a churning river underneath, but they keep the emotional content in check. They hold their cards to the chest and let the audience absorb what’s there rather than show or explain it or use a laser pointer and say “here it is…see?” (Either you get it or you don’t, but you’d have to be an idiot to miss it.) This is what Ben Affleck‘s Argo does superbly. He never tips the bucket over and spills the water out and leaves puddles on the floor. He always ladles it out just so, concisely and succinctly and yet making sure that the water has all the right nutrients and effervescence. In a word, he believes in brevity. And that is a welcome thing.
- All Hail Tom White, Taciturn Hero of “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Roughly two months ago a very early draft of Eric Roth‘s screenplay for Killers of the Flower Moon (dated 2.20.17,...More »