I saw David Schecter‘s Life of Crime, an adaptation of Elmore Leonard‘s “The Switch,” at last September’s Toronto Film Festival. Jennifer Aniston, Tim Robbins, Isla Fisher, John Hawkes, Mos Def, Will Forte, Mark Boone, Jr. It doesn’t quite match the enjoyment of reading the book, but it’s a decent stab at capturing Leonard’s low-key vibe and no-big-hurry pacing. That said it’s a bit too glum of heart. It needs to be a little less loser-ish, a little more bouncy…something. The basic plot is similar to Ruthless People (’85) — rich woman kidnapped by loser felons but delighted husband won’t play the ransom, etc. Even though the movie poster is vaguely similar to the hardback book jacket of “The Switch,” shapely gams sticking out of a trunk of a car is a very un-Leonard-like thing. Vegas showgirl gams at that. Of course, gams sticking out of anything is a pitch to the none-too-brights of both genders but particularly to Aniston fans (i.e., older unmarried single women who read supermarket tabloids). But then Leonard’s characters are often none-too-bright themselves so there’s your symmetry.
I’ve been picking up serious hate and loathing vibes among reactions to Seth McFarlane‘s A Million Ways to Die in the West (Universal, 5.30). It’s early-ish (9 am in New York) so very few ticket-buyers have seen it, but when they do could I get a few reactions? Among critics the main beef seems to be that it’s just not clever or funny enough, certainly not on a Blazing Saddles level. A bit simplistic, I realize, but that’s what I’m reading.
David Cronenberg‘s Maps to the Stars is playing locally, and I, being a fan, wouldn’t mind seeing it again. I was amused when Stars screenwriter Bruce Wagner claimed during the Cannes Film Festival that Evan Bird‘s Benjie Weiss character, a poisonous 13 year-old superstar who immediately summons thoughts of Justin Beiber, wasn’t written or cast with Beiber in mind. A friend told me he ran into Beiber at the AMFAR during the festival. He said he didn’t ask about the Cronenberg film because such a question would have seemed rude given that Wagner had stuck to the party line, etc. “Oh, please!,” I replied. Never trust the artist — trust the tale.
If I was the sort of person who uses postage stamps even occasionally, I would own a book of Harvey Milk stamps. Definitely. The Times of Harvey Milk made me a lifelong admirer of the late San Francisco supervisor. I’ve watched it a good six or seven times at least. In any case I’m appalled by current attempts by the American Family Association to persuade the USPS to discontinue selling the stamp by goading anti-gay bigots into refusing to accept mail with the Harvey stamp (or something like that). The AFA is a right-wing hate group — the same kind of people who were behind the 1978 Briggs initiative, which sought to keep gay people from teaching at schools, and which Milk campaigned against and helped to defeat.
Have you ever seen The Indian Fighter, a 1955 Kirk Douglas actioner directed by Andre De Toth and co-written by Ben Hecht? I didn’t think so. Have you ever heard of it? There’s no reason you should have. Why should succeeding generations pay the slightest attention to a film made on auto-pilot? By people who wanted only a commercial success and not much else? Don’t kid yourself — the fate of The Indian Fighter awaits 80% to 90% of the films that have opened in the 21st Century. Deep down producers and directors know it’s not just a matter of dollars and cents, which is why some of them occasionally try to make films that try to sink into people’s souls on some level. Because they want future generations (including their own descendants) to speak about them with affection or at least respect. It’s about legacy. What are the Indian Fighter-level films that have opened (or are due to open) in 2014? X-Men: Days of Future Past, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Maleficent, 22 Jump Street, etc. A special Indian Fighter Lifetime Achievement Award should be given Liam “paycheck” Neeson (except, possibly, for Martin Scorsese‘s Silence and A Walk Among The Tombstones).
Restoration guru Robert Harris recently stated that in terms of a potential decent-quality restoration, the photo-chemical elements of the 202-minute, 70mm roadshow version of John Wayne‘s The Alamo (’60) are all but half-ruined. He’s told Digital Bits editor Bill Hunt that “[even] if a last-ditch restoration were started today, the best that could be achieved would be to return the film to perhaps 60% of its former glory,” Hunt writes. “But 60%, while disappointing, is certainly better than nothing.”
Is The Alamo a great film? No, but it’s a pretty good one — watchable, sturdily performed and generally well-constructed. In my view the fact that it was shot on 70mm mandates a proper preservation. But a petty Catch-22 imposed by rights holder MGM is standing in the way. They won’t fund a restoration on their own (okay, fine) but they won’t allow a crowd-funding effort either because it’ll make them look like pikers.
“There is no restoration effort at this time,” Harris has said on Home Theatre Forum. “Which means that there may never be a restoration effort. Several people have raised the concept of going to outside sources for funding [but] MGM has no interest in the concept, even if the film is lost. It appears that MGM has chosen to allow the film to die, as no immediate action will be taken with elements just one stage above that of industrial waste.”