I’ve gotten used to presumptions about Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Birdman, Bennett Miller‘s Foxcatcher, David Cronenberg‘s Maps to the Stars, Tommy Lee Jones‘ The Homesman, the Dardennes brothers‘ Two Days, One Night, Michel Hazanavicius‘ The Search and Fatih Akin‘s The Cut playing at next month’s Cannes Film Festival. Now I’m warming to the idea of Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Inherent Vice (which has now been mentioned twice in Cannes projection pieces, most recently by Variety‘s Peter Debruge). Give me a week or two and I’ll be (a) completely invested in Vice‘s possible booking and (b) profoundly depressed if it doesn’t turn up.
Mad Men‘s season #7 is occuring in 1969, and once again Don Draper‘s hair style hasn’t changed a bit since the very beginning (i.e., 1961 or thereabouts). Let me make something clear: every single American male who had any give-and-take dealings with the upheavals of the ’60s grew his hair out to some degree between ’61 and ’69. At least slightly. Even the Draper types (neurotic, alcohol issues, plugged-up) at least grew their sideburns a bit and allowed their hair to lengthen a tad. The 1960s witnessed the most dramatic hair changes of the 20th Century, and as such were metaphors for guys easing up on their machismo posturings. The pressure to loosen up and “conform” was considerable. And yet Matthew Weiner steadfastly refuses to let Draper grow his sideburns just a bit. I’ve been tolerating this crap ever since the show went through 1965 (i.e., the first year that button-down business guys began to see their barber less often) but now it’s getting weird.
ScarJo as an ass-kicking Neo Nikita super-lethal Terminator fantasy hottie, bringing pain into the lives of so many bad guys you’ll lose count. Wiki synopsis: “In a world run by the Taiwanese mob, drug-mule Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) inadvertently absorbs a super-drug goes into her system, changing her into a metahuman [who] can absorb knowledge instantaneously, is able to move objects with her mind and can’t feel pain and other discomforts.” In other words, another Luc Besson exercise in Euro-styled jizz whizz, but possibly a cut above. The trailer indicates solid style and pizazz. Here’s hoping. The Universal release opens on 8.8.14.
There’s nothing special about this film of a 1963 Dr. Strangelove product reel except for one thing: it’s narrated by a guy who sounds like he grew up in the Bronx alongside Jake La Motta. The old-school, mostly Jewish and Italian Bronx, I mean. A voice that could have belonged to a Bronx cab driver or the owner of a Bronx bakery, dry cleaners or luncheonette. “Wait, hold on…you don’t have anything smaller than a twenty? I won’t have any change left.”
Watch and listen closely, and you’ll notice that almost all the scenes, much of the dialogue and some camera angles are not the refined versions used in the finished film.
There have been many stage and film adaptations of Tennessee Williams‘ The Glass Menagerie (’44), which is generally regarded as Williams’ second best play after A Streetcar Named Desire. But there’s one Menagerie you probably haven’t seen unless you’re an avid TCM watcher: the somewhat comical, poorly received 1950 Warner Bros. version starring Jane Wyman, Kirk Douglas, Gertrude Lawrence and Arthur Kennedy, under the direction of Irving Rapper (Now, Voyager, The Brave One). Williams reportedly hated it (particularly the forced happy ending), and many critics at the time gave it a thumbs-down. I saw it as a teenager so my recollections probably aren’t reliable, but I remember Douglas’s Gentleman Caller performance exuding a really caring vibe. A few commenters on the TCM page are major admirers. And even if it isn’t the greatest Williams adaptation why is it totally un-buyable and un-rentable? (It never even came out on VHS.) Lawrence’s performance was apparently a problem but Douglas, Wyman and Kennedy were all youthful comers when it was filmed. How bad could it be? The Warner Archives guys should at least be making it available as a streamer. It’s obviously the kind of film that TCM Classic Film Festival (4.10 through 4.14) should be showing — buried for decades, loved by the sentimentalists, etc.
In a 4.2 Indiewire piece called “Can Atheist Audiences Enjoy Darren Aronofsky’s Noah?,” the brilliant James Rocchi explains his resistance to a theological mindset as follows: “I am not a believer in any religious tradition or idea of God; in fact, I dislike the term ‘atheist’ specifically because like, say, ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe,’ it’s a term that gives way too much unquestioned weight to one side of the argument. People who recognize that, for one example, dragons could not exist and have not existed don’t have to be labeled an ‘adragonist’; they’re just called ‘reasonable.'”
(l.) Indiewire contributor James Rocchi; (r.) Noah star Russell Crowe.
Speaking of Exodus, I shelled out last night for a 2012 German Bluray of Otto Preminger’s 1960 same-titled epic. Not out of any particular affection for this glacially-paced, historically fictionalized account of the struggle to establish the state of Israel in May 1948. I bought the damn thing simply because Exodus was shot in Panavision 70 (the same large-format process that Lawrence of Arbaia was captured with, although under the freshly-branded name of Super-Panavision 70) and I figured I might see a semblance of the razor-sharp 70mm images that were projected during the reserved-seat engagement at the Warner theatre (B’way and 47th).
Verdict: I’m not sure what elements were used to create the Bluray (35mm or 65mm?) but it doesn’t look half bad. The opening credit sequence has been windowboxed (bad) and there’s a little dirt here and there, but generally it’s fairly impressive. You can see and feel and sense the large-format vibe. This Exodus is apparently much cleaner and richer than that MGM/UA DVD version that came out six or seven years ago and which many complained about.
It’s obvious why 20th Century Fox decided to give Ridley Scott‘s Exodus a new title — Exodus: Gods and Kings. It’s because it makes the film sound more videogamey or…you know, like a cousin of Games of Thrones or something. It will therefore appeal to the under-educated majority who might be a wee bit uncertain about the meaning of the word “exodus.” Adding a colon and a cheesy subtitle is a zombie studio exec idea — a capitulation to the moronic currents in 21st Century culture. Let’s add subtitles to other Biblical epics: (a) Ben-Hur: Vengeance Is Mine, (b) Kings of Kings: Behind Blue Eyes, (c) Noah: The Exterminating Storm, (d) The Ten Commandments: Blood of the Lamb, (d) Samson and Delilah: Almost Cut My Hair…more? Exodus: Gods and Kings opens on 12.12.14.
Christian Bale as Moses (during his Prince of Egypt phase) in Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings.