The first rule of acting in a comedy is that you don’t laugh at what anyone else says or does. Ever. Straight and sober from start to finish. But look closely at the face of Peter Bull (the “Russian Ambassador” in the black hat, standing to Peter Sellers‘ rear right) at the 17-second mark, and you’ll see him lose it and start chuckling…and then he sobers up again. This is almost the kind of thing that you see in closing-credit gag reels.
Bob Fosse‘s Lenny used to be one of my favorite ’70s films, and watching this clip just now suggests that it still might be. I haven’t seen it in eons. It’s not on Bluray and the DVD goes back a long while and is hard to find. But Lenny is playing next Thursday, 3.7, at the Aero as part of a Valerie Perrine double-bill with Slaughterhouse Five. Perrine (I’m chatting with her tomorrow) will do a q & a with Larry Karaszewski.
If Dustin Hoffman is around he should fall by. I’d love to hear the stories. How many more times will Lenny screen in front of a hip audience inside a nice theatre with first-rate projection and sound?
I’m just recalling Pauline Kael’s assessment of Hoffman’s performance as Lenny Bruce, and her belief that Hofffman had labored perhaps too mightily to be loved by the audience and that the real-deal Bruce — a caustic, snappy, contentious guy who talked fast and free-associated like jazz — never seemed to care that much about affection. He wanted attention, respect. Plus he was a little snarlier than Hoffman. Hoffman “is so nonthreatening,” Kael wrote. “His putziness is just what Bruce despised…Bruce was uncompromisingly not nice.”
Hoffman basically fed his own manner and personality into Bruce’s life and some kind of hybrid emerged. Intense, angry, a likable smoothie at times, fevered, occasionally impish, frustrated, despairing. But you can’t watch Lenny, I don’t think, with any expectation of seeing a close facsimile or re-boot of the real guy.
Henry Alex Rubin‘s Disconnect (4.19) “tells three mostly separate stories concerned with the impact of the internet on its characters’ lives with the focus on (a) a young boy (Jonah Bobo‘s Ben) who becomes the victim of cyberbullying, (b) a couple (Alexander Skarsgard‘s Derek and Paula Patton‘s Cindy) whose identity is stolen, and (c) a twentysomething (Max Thieriot‘s Kyle) who makes his living taking his clothes off online.
“Rubin, working from a script by Andrew Stern, has infused Disconnect with an inherently engrossing feel that proves instrumental in the movie’s success, with the impressive list of performers — Jason Bateman, Hope Davis and Andrea Riseborough among others — merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the film’s many, many pleasures. The almost disorienting atmosphere of the outset, perpetuated by the separate storylines and Rubin’s patience in allowing things to unfold, gives way to a palpably spellbinding feel that persists virtually without interruption right through to the emotionally devastating conclusion.” — David Nusair, Reel Film Reviews.
An example of a Jedi mind trick is the one used by Alec Guiness‘s Obi Wan Kenobi in Act One of Star Wars: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” But as Washington Post/”In The Loop” columnist Emily Heil has pointed out, “Mind meld is a phenomenon from Star Trek…a method of communication used among Vulcans, like Spock.”
President Obama‘s “mash-up of the two is certain to provoke outcry among the fervent fans of each franchise. And no matter what happens in Washington, the president might find that bringing together Trekkies and Star Wars aficionados might be tougher than brokering a bipartisan compromise.”
Star Trek Into Darkness director JJ Abrams reads this column, I know. Does he have anything to add? Are we (Obama, Heil, myself) missing anything?
I’ve been dumping on Terrence Malick‘s To The Wonder (Magnolia, 4.12) since catching it at last September’s Toronto Film Festival, but I want to emphasize something important. The trick is to see this thing without expecting it to act like a movie. Because it works if you submit to it like you would an art gallery experience. It’s passive and reflective like the sea on a windless day, but in a Moby-Dick sort of way: “The sea where each man, as in a mirror, finds himself.”
“Malick gives you so little to grapple with (at least in terms of a fleshed-out narrative and that thing we’ve all encountered from time to time called ‘speech’ or ‘talking’ or whatever form of oral communication you prefer) that” — like staring at paintings or sculptures in a museum — “it’s pretty much your responsibility to make something out of To The Wonder‘s 112 minutes,” I wrote on 9.11.12.
“It’s all about you taking a journey of your own devising in the same way we all take short little trips with this or that object d’art, whereever we might happen to find one. The film is mesmerizing to look at but mostly it just lies there. Well, no, it doesn’t ‘lie there’ but it just kind of swirls around and flakes out on its own dime. Run with it or don’t (and 97% of the people out there aren’t going to even watch this thing, much less take the journey) but ‘it’s up to you,’ as the Moody Blues once sang.
“To The Wonder doesn’t precisely fart in your face. It leads you rather to wonder what the air might be like if you’ve just cut one in a shopping mall and there’s someone right behind you, downwind. That’s obviously a gross and infantile thing to think about, but To The Wonder frees you to go into such realms if you want. It’s your deal, man. Be an adult or a child or a 12 year-old or a buffalo. Or a mosquito buzzing around a buffalo. Naah, that’s dull. Be a buffalo and sniff the air as Rachel McAdams walks by! You can go anywhere, be anything. Which is liberating in a sense, but if you can’t or won’t take the trip you’ll just get up and leave or take a nap or throw something at the screen. Or get up and leave and head for the nearest mall.
“I went with it. I wasn’t bored. Well, at least not for the first hour. I knew what I’d be getting into and I basically roamed around in my head as I was led and lulled along by Emmanuel Lubezki‘s images and as I contemplated the narcotized blankness coming out of Ben Affleck‘s ‘Neil’ character, who is more or less based on Malick. Or would be based on Malick if Malick had the balls to make a film about himself, which he doesn’t. If Malick had faced himself and made a film about his own solitude and obstinacy and persistence…wow! That would have been something.
“But Malick is a hider, a coward, a wuss. He used to be the guy who was up to something mystical and probing and mysterious. Now he tosses lettuce leaves in the air and leaves you to put them all into a bowl as you chop the celery and the carrots and the tomatoes and decide upon the dressing.
To The Wonder “is a wispy, ethereal thing composed of flaky intimations and whispers and Lubezki’s wondrous cinematography with maybe 20 or 25 lines of dialogue, if that. It’s basically The Tree of Life 2: Oklahoma Depression. It’s Malick sitting next to you and gently whispering in your ear, ‘You wanna leave? Go ahead. Go on, it’s okay, I don’t care…do what you want. But you can also stay.'”
All Pedro Almodovar movies are perfect. Even the less-good ones. But I felt a very slight tingle of concern when this trailer indicated that I’m So Excited (a.k.a., Los amantes pasajeros) will take place almost entirely inside a plane. A 10.7.12 article by Cineuropa‘s Sergio Rios Perez says exactly that, adding that the story of this “very light comedy” happens “mostly from the moment a plane breaks down to the moment it manages to make an emergency landing.”
The ensemble cast includes Javier Camara, Cecilia Roth, Lola Dueñas, Raul Arevalo, Carlos Areces, Antonio de la Torre, Hugo Silva, Miguel Angel Silvestre and Blanca Suarez. Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz, Carmen Machi and Paz Vega have brief cameos.
This morning novelist and Oregonian contributor Shawn Levy tweeted this photo of Stanley Kubrick shooting Lolita sometime (I’m guessing) in the fall or winter of ’61. Except for some second-unit work in the States Lolita was shot entirely in England. Mobil’s Wiki page says it had a few gas stations there.
I was reading a N.Y. Times Manohla Dargis piece this morning called “Pushing Grisly Boundaries Since 1895” (which is part of a bigger ensemble piece called “Big Bang Theories: Violence on Screen.” She writes that “execution films” were a popular subgenre in the early days of cinema, and mentions “Executing An Elephant” (1903), which shows poor Topsy, an Indian elephant who had killed three men, getting zapped with 6600 volts.
For whatever reason I’d never seen the Topsy death short before this morning. So less than 60 seconds after reading about Topsy’s fate in Dargis’s piece…you guessed it. The guy who not only filmed the execution but turned on the juice? Thomas Alva Edison. Topsy was going to be killed anyway (she had probably been mistreated and had reacted with appropriate hostility) and Edison wanted to show how lethal alternating current electricity could be.
Emotional ties exist between the Smoke House restaurant (4420 Lakeside Drive, Burbank — right across from Warner Bros. studios) and Argo producer George Clooney, who’s eaten there several times over the years and even named his production company after the joint.
Juke box at Mel’s on the Strip (taken tonight).