If it was my call, I would have chosen this photo for the Bringing It All Back Home cover rather than the one with Dylan holding the cat (another Inside Llewyn Davis echo?) and the splotchy roulette wheel effect. The woman in red is Sally Grossman, 25 in ’65, now 73 and a former owner of the Woodstock-based Bearsville Studios, an adjunct of Bearvsille Records founded by her late husband, Albert Grossman, who was Dylan’s manager for many years. F. Murray Abraham‘s Bud Grossman, the Chicago-based manager of the Gate of Horn in the Coen brothers film, is based on Grossman, who passed in ’88.
“It was a great year for films, which seems odd given the shrinking film economy. What I think has happened is that the need to event-ize a film has crossed into the area of content and performance. Predictable mainstream drama (watching stars do what you’ve seen them do before, watching familiar plot lines) has been driven into long-form TV drama, which means that for a film to compete theatrically it must be an event. Ergo the glut of megabudget IMAX 3D CGI epics. But the need to event-ize also is affecting story and performance. ‘Stunt’ performances which were once relatively rare (DeNiro in Raging Bull, Cage in Leaving Las Vegas) are becoming a necessary audience hook: emaciated McConaughey, comb-over Bale, silent Redford as well as stunt themes: merciless look at slavery, nonjudgmental view of Wall Street immorality, computer love story. In some ways it is reminiscent of 1929, another great year for films. That year silent films broke boundaries trying to fight off sound. This year they broke boundaries trying to fight off multi-media competition for eyeballs. Every theatrical film has to be an event. I don’t know where this leads, but it’s been great for movies this year.” — from Paul Schrader‘s Facebook page.
The usual seven or eight high-intrigues or must-sees (possibly Calvary, The Voices Inside, White Bird In A Blizzard, A Most Wanted Man, They Came Together, The One I Love) will emerge from Sundance 2014, which begins a couple of weeks hence. And then comes the seven-month slog of winter, spring and summer, during which an occasional pop-through might happen — maybe. The only guaranteed goodie going to Cannes will be Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Birdman. (A list of other likelies will emerge around mid-March, I’m guessing.) Anyone can recite the big-studio releases but which among these are likely to assemble a strong critical following? Okay, Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Inherent Vice, Bennett Miller‘s Foxcatcher, Ridley Scott‘s Exodus, Michael Mann‘s Cyber, Tim Burton‘s Big Eyes, Spike Lee‘s Sweet Blood of Jesus, David Fincher‘s Gone Girl and Christopher Nolan‘s Interstellar. But what else? Things always look hazy at this stage but right now? Honestly? It looks like a middle-range lineup. Which isn’t so bad. As long as it’s not flat.
Possibly Good, Agreeable or Passable 2014 Films (maybe, here’s hoping, bending over backwards, all CG fantasy and superhero crap automatically excluded): George Clooney‘s The Monuments Men, Jose Padilla‘s RoboCop, Akiva Goldsman‘s Winter’s Tale (probably not that good, to judge by the trailer), Paul W.S. Anderson‘s Pompeii (video game crap), Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel, Jason Bateman‘s Bad Words, Joe Carnahan‘s Stretch, Diego Luna‘s Cesar Chávez, Darren Aronofsky‘s Noah, Richard Shephard‘s Dom Hemingway, Ivan Reitman‘s Draft Day (beware-of-Reitman factor), Ted Melfi‘s St. Vincent, Wally Pfister‘s Transcendence, Nick Casavetes‘ The Other Woman, Amma Asanate‘s Belle (mezzo-mezzo?), Nicholas Stoller‘s Neighbors (likely crap), Craig Gillespie‘s Million Dollar Arm, Seth McFarlane‘s A Million Ways to Die in the West, Doug Liman‘s Edge of Tomorrow, Phil Lord and Chris Miller‘s 22 Jump Street, Clint Eastwood‘s Jersey Boys, Matt Reeves‘ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Andy and Lana Wachowski‘s Jupiter Ascending, Luc Besson‘s Lucy (probable crap), Phillip Noyce‘s The Giver, Shawn Levy‘s This Is Where I Leave You, Antoine Fuqua‘s The Equalizer, David Ayer‘s Fury (probable crap) and Angelina Jolie‘s Unbroken (adapted by Joel and Ethan Coen).
Eight days ago The Atlantic‘s Tim Wainwright delivered the most arresting and insightful analysis of the Inside Llewyn Davis cat dynamic that I’ve read so far. “The theory that the cat is an extension of Llewyn also helps put the ending of the movie in context. When Llewyn leaves the Gorfeins’ for the second time in the final scenes of the film, he keeps the cat inside. This comes after he’s finally learned its name: Ulysses. By doing so, I think the uncontrollable, unpredictable Llewyn also comes to terms with a part of himself. He has been awoken from the dream that he’s an undiscovered genius, and from the erroneous notion that talent exists in a vacuum — that any of his poor decisions and arrogant assholery wouldn’t somehow limit his success.”
Various articles about negative reactions to The Wolf of Wall Street have been posted by bored entertainment journalists over the last three or four days. This has led to at least one article (by Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson) about why everyone is piling on. The snake is eating its own tail. The more these pieces appear, the more Average Joes are probably saying to each other “gee, negative reaction…maybe we should take a pass?” Once this syndrome starts, there’s no stopping it. Self-perpetuating.
Point #1: It’s probably true that older conservative types, a certain percentage of women and various none-too-brights have a problem with Martin Scorsese‘s film, but it seems inconceivable that viewers with a smidgen of smarts and social perspective wouldn’t be allied with the 75% of Rotten Tomatoes critics who admire it. Point #2: The heart of the afore-mentioned articles is Wolf‘s C grade from Cinemascore respondents. Cinemascore staffers always talk to viewers on opening day/night, and it’s likely that a good percentage of those who saw Wolf on Christmas Day were soft impulse types who went looking for a fun crazy comedy, or because they’re fans of Leonardo DiCaprio or Jonah Hill or whatever. The vast majority of moviegoers don’t read reviews, are under-educated and under-read, and they don’t want to know from metaphors about America’s financial elite. But that’s okay. By the slovenly standards of American culture it’s perfectly acceptable to misinterpret or flat-out miss the point of the best film of the year.
Peter Watkins‘ Privilege (’67) is an enervated but semi-fascinating faux-documentary about the British government exploiting the worship of a pop star (played by Manfred Mann’s Paul Jones) in order to manipulate his fans into a state of conformity. The film was buried by Universal stateside and is pretty much forgotten today. I’d never seen it before catching it this morning on YouTube. The futuristic tone is nervy and “provocative” and the film was certainly influential (at least as far as Stanley Kubrick‘s A Clockwork Orange was concerned, according to Watkins). It’s also a bit tedious. But costar/supermodel Jean Shrimpton (now the 71 year-old owner of the Abbey Hotel in Cornwall) was ravishing.