The All Is Lost fan club seems to have a few more older than younger members. David Thomson‘s recent rave and Maureen Dowd‘s N.Y. Times profile of Robert Redford (in the 10.13 Sunday print edition) suggest this. Several have noted that All Is Lost is a metaphor about how nature has a way of making things more and more difficult for long-of-tooth guys, and then surrounding and taking them down. Salman Rushdie told me at the Telluride Film Festival that it wouldn’t be as effective if Redford was in his 40s — the fact that he was born in 1937 makes it all the more poignant. My son Jett (who attended the All Is Lost Manhattan premiere last night) says he liked it “but I like Gravity better.” (To which I said, “You can’t tell me you prefer Sandra Bullock‘s performance to Redford’s…you can’t tell me that.”) And let’s not forget Guy Lodge‘s snide little ageist remark, posted on this site, when he asked if I like All Is Lost so much because I’m in the older camp. Yeah, that’s it, Guy.
Last night I attended a screening of Alan and Gabriel Polsky‘s The Motel Life (Front Row, 11.5), a gentle lower-depths drama about a couple of loser brothers, Frank and Jerry Lee Flannagan (Emile Hirsch, Stephen Dorff), whose morose, hand-to-mouth life goes from bad to worse when Jerry Lee accidentally kills a kid with a hit-and-run. A sad but sensitive thing, Life (which was first reviewed 11 months ago at the Rome Film Festival) is better than decently directed, and Dorff and Hirsch’s performances are undeniably skillful and well measured. Supporting players Dakota Fanning and Kris Kristofferson are memorable also. The great Werner Herzog, who bonded with the Polsky brothers when they produced his Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, introduced the film (which is based a Willie Vlautin novel) and moderated the post-screening discussion.
(l. to r.) Emile Hirsch, Alan Polsky, Gabe Polsky, Werner Herzog, Stephen Dorff following last night’s Academy screening of The Motel Life.
With word starting to circulate about David O. Russell‘s American Hustle (Sony, 12.13), I asked a colleague why he believes Russell’s film is the most likely Best Picture champ. Here’s his reply: “I suspect that 12 Years a Slave is this year’s Brokeback Mountain and Social Network — a film that will probably sweep the critics awards, but will have a hard time with the Academy’s passion-driven Phase 2 voting system, which rewards the movie that the most people enjoy. The alternative could be Gravity, a brilliant technical accomplishment which is [mainly] just a fun trip to the movies. So I think the most likely alternative is American Hustle based on (a) things that I’ve heard and (b) the fact that Russell is clearly on a hot streak after The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook.”
Whoa, wait…now that we”re hearing that Martin Scorsese‘s The Wolf of Wall Street will most likely be out by mid or late December, isn’t that back in the ring as a possible hot contender?
Hustle has been test-screening in the L.A. area over the last two or three weeks. (Another screening is happening later this week.) I’ve read two positive non-professional reviews so far. One that I’m not quoting from (don’t ask) calls it Russell’s “most ambitious film.” What follows are reshuffled and slightly edited excerpts from a four-day-old AICN review from a guy called Mitch McDeer…I’m sorry, I meant Mitch Henessey, who thinks it may be Russell’s “masterpiece”:
If anyone can send me a copy of Russ & Roger Go Beyond, Christopher Cluess‘s screenplay about the making of Russ Meyer‘s Beyond The Valley of the Dolls, I’d be grateful. I never saw this 1970 schlocksploitation parody. Perhaps the main thing that dissuaded was that young Roger Ebert wrote the screenplay. I always wondered what Ebert — fat, brilliant, bespectacled, desk-bound — could have possibly known about hot lascivious chicks and the charged sexual atmosphere of the late ’60s. Imagination obviously counts for a lot, but you have to…look, I don’t know what Roger was up to in the ’60s but I don’t believe he was up to very much, okay? No offense.
In my previous post about the death of Stanley Kauffmann I wrote that movies are still humming and crackling for the most part, but “you could certainly argue that the arrival of the post-cinematic, sub-literate, sensation-and-explosion-seeking, digitally-attuned generation of jizz-whizz moviegoers (by far the least educated and most reality-averse in Hollywood history) and the filmmakers in their midst has brought things to an all-time low.” And I’m wondering if we can put a list together of under-40 filmmakers who are not in this bag?
I don’t think I’m being too dismissive or pessimistic to say that generally speaking the under-40 generation of filmmakers (mostly born between the mid ’70s and mid ’80s although there are some arrested-development types between 40 and 50) are inclined tward cinematic imaginings that have clearly been more influenced by their online and gaming experiences as teens and 20somethings than by real-life experiences, and who are more or less committed to composing and presenting stories, activities and images that reflect digital as opposed to organic realms. Filmmakers, in short, who are more or less opposed to the idea of making films about the actual world. When I say this I mean scripts that are (I know it’s a pain but bear with me) based on actual, first-hand-observations of human behavior and the real-world physical laws that govern things like running, falling, fist fights and the like. In both the dramatic and comedic realms, I mean.
The legendary film critic Stanley Kauffmann, whom I didn’t read with any regularity until the mid ’70s (which is when I started to really pay attention to movies and began to try to separate the few stalks of wheat from the bales of chaff), passed this morning at age 97. He kept writing (and very beautifully at that) right to the end. Kauffmann was devoted to the art of clean, complete sentences. Within two or three paragraphs (and more often within one or two), his reviews always got down to the meat. Along with Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris, John Simon and six or seven others, Kauffmann was one of the kings of my realm when I was started out as a deeply insecure freelancer in ’77. And I never even met the guy. (I never met Kael either although I spoke to her once on the phone — she seemed guarded and aloof and a bit snooty, but I’m presuming she had her warm side.)