As my first official act upon returning from the Toronto Film Festival, I’m getting rid of my Masters of Cinema Blurays of Double Indemnity and Red River, both of which are all but smothered in grain. I’m trading them in for store value at Ameoba. The Universal Home Video Bluray of Double Indemnity and the Criterion Bluray of Red River are beautiful — full satisfaction. From here on I’ll think twice before buying another Masters of Cinema Bluray.
The 49 year-old Robert Downey sounds like a satisfied, fair-minded guy with a good amount of smarts and self-knowledge in Krista Smith’s interview piece in the current Vanity Fair. But the old truism about a performer’s personal happiness and stability having little if anything to do with how exciting or magnetic their “act” might be still applies. Downey was a fascinating actor for 20-plus years, and then he became a corporate franchise megastar starting with Iron Man in ’08. I really, really don’t care how wealthy he is now (although Vanity Fair‘s editors clearly do) or how close to ruination he was during his druggie period of the late ’80s and ’90s. I only know that my favorite Downey performance was in James Toback‘s Black and White (’99), and that my second favorite was his crime reporter character in David Fincher‘s Zodiac. I also know that talented people leading unhealthy, high-throttle lifestyles can sometimes exude peak-energy highs. From my vantage point John Lennon was much, much cooler when he was struggling with his demons (’64 to ’74) than when he became a happy house-husband. Jackie Gleason and Sid Ceasar seemed much cooler when they were live TV madmen in the ’50s and, from what I’ve read, boozing almost every night in midtown Manhattan. I’ve been told by more than one friend that I was a funnier, more whoo-whoo type of guy when I was drinking…fair enough.
Chris Evans was on my Air Canada flight last night — five and a half dull, bordering-on-miserable hours from Toronto to LAX. He sat five rows ahead of me. He seemed to be wearing the exact same black baseball cap and blue flannel shirt as in the photo below. He had a carry-on bag and a modest 21-inch suitcase that he wheeled off. A big, black, bad-ass SUV met him at the arrivals level so he avoided the mob and the baggage carousel. I was thinking about introducing myself and saying “I didn’t see Before We Go but I’m sorry Scott Foundas called it lukewarm” but I thought better of it.
Kino Lorber’s Bluray of Richard Brooks‘ Elmer Gantry pops on 9.23. I don’t know what the aspect ratio will be but I’m guessing 1.66:1, in keeping with the United Artists standard for non-Scope films of that period. (1.85 fascists need to acknowledge the 1.66 masking in the clip below.) If you’re a real movie star like Burt Lancaster was at the time, you can sell this scene. But you need a certain largeness of spirit and stand-up confidence. Who could do this scene today if Gantry were to be remade? Who could generate at least a semblance of this planted, here-I-am energy? Chris Evans? Chris Hemsworth? Give me a name. Update: See? No submissions.
In 2006 Fox Home Video released a Bluray of the director’s cut of Ridley Scott‘s Kingdom of Heaven, which ran about 190 minutes or a bit more than 45 minutes longer than the theatrical version. On 10.7 Fox is issuing a four-disc roadshow director’s cut Bluray that pays tribute to the film’s ten-year anniversary. The only difference is that it runs about 194 minutes due to the inclusion of an overture, intermission and entr-acte music.
Marquee of Laemmle’s Fairfax, taken in early January 2006, where the 190-minute director’s cut of Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven played for a two-week period. This is where I first saw this far superior version.
Here’s the piece I wrote about the longer cut: “It’s not a rumor and there’s absolutely no question about it: Ridley Scott’s 190-minute version of Kingdom of Heaven is a considerably better film than the 145-minute theatrical version that opened in May 2005.
“I saw it yesterday afternoon at the seedy-but-functioning Laemmle Fairfax in West Hollywood. The projection and sound were fine, but why is a must-see, calling-all-cars revival like this playing in a theatrical equivalent of a doghouse?
It turns out I allowed my gushing enthusiasm for Bill Pohlad‘s Love & Mercy, a critical hit at the Toronto Film Festival over the last few days, to muddle my understanding of the likely distribution scenario. There’s no question that Paul Dano‘s performance as Brian Wilson in Pohlad’s film is a staggering, world-class channelling, but that doesn’t mean shit in the larger commercial scheme. Roadside Attractions apparently intends to open Love & Mercy in 2015, and not even give it a one-week qualifying run later this year to attract year-end accolades. Pohlad reiterated this morning that discussions about the release strategy “are ongoing” but I’ve heard elsewhere that Roadside considers it a 2015 release…period, end of story.
A friend says “if they’re smart they’ll release it in the summer…it ‘s the Beach Boys, man!” I said to him, “You can’t be serious. You’re joking, right? Love & Mercy is not about escapism or sunblock or surfboards or Mike Love‘s bullshit view of the world. It’s about the creative highs and personal lows of a fragile, melancholy man (i.e., Wilson) with dreams in his head….there’s nothing ‘Fun Fun Fun’ about it in the least except for one no-big-deal beach scene and one minor sailing scene.” “Yes,” the guy said, “but it can be marketed to the Beach Boys crowd. There are plenty of fun scenes in it.” What Beach Boys crowd?, I asked. Retirees wearing sensible shoes and thinking about moving to assisted-living facilities? “Yes, the crowd that knows about and cares who Brian Wilson is. I went to his concert at the Greek. It was all paunchy stomachs and thinning hair, my friend.”
I missed Tom Hayes‘ Smiling Through The Apocalypse, a doc about Harold Hayes‘ legendary tenure as editor of Esquire from the early ’60s through early ’70s, when it played at the 2013 Palm Springs Film Festival. And I didn’t hear zip about yesterday’s New York theatrical release in advance. Ben Kenigsberg‘s N.Y. Times review complains that the film is too short (98 minutes) and too obsequious. “Cramming more than 40 interviews into an unreasonably brief running time, [pic] overflows with dishiness [while] the son chimes in with fawning praise, offering barely any personal insight. It’s both a credit to, and a shortcoming of, the movie that it suggests an illustrated bibliography. It makes you want to stop watching and, instead, read or reread all of the pieces mentioned.”
Douglas Trumbull demonstrated and discussed the MAGI medium (120 fps, 3D, 4K digital projection) at the Toronto Film Festival on Thursday afternoon. The ten minutes of MAGI-captured footage he showed was from UFOTOG, a who-gives-a-shit? short about an eccentric guy tracking UFO activity. And yet the nighttime footage in this short was drop-dead amazing — it was the first time I’d seen footage that accurately simulated what nocturnal vision actually looks like. Trumbull’s main point was that shooting at 60-frame-per-seconds is just a matter of flipping a switch on any high-end digital camera — no extra costs, no nothing. All MAGI does is take 60 fps footage project an alternating left eye-right-eye image or 60 frames per second per eye, which results in 120 frames of pure fluid motion per second. I think it looks fantastic. The MAGI process costs very little, Trumbull stated again and again. It seems to me like the only way to really up the impact levels big-time when it comes to theatrical presentation of action and CG-driven fare. Trumbull believes that James Cameron will definitely be shooting the Avatar sequels in a high-frame-rate process, and he reported that a name-brand action filmmaker (possibly Michael Bay, I deduced) is also keenly interested.
I had a couple of opportunities to see Julianne Moore‘s performance as a psychologist and college professor coping with “Al Z. Heimer” (a Norman Mailer term) in Still Alice. If I’d gone I could offer an assessment or two, but I decided against seeing it because I have a problem with “surrender to the void” movies in which the main character is totally doomed from the get-go. The young organ donors in Never Let Me Go, Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad, Edmond O’Brien in D.O.A.. It’s great that Moore is now back in the conversation as a potential Best Actress contender, but I’m going to have to overcome my resistance to what sounds to me like a feature-length version of the scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey in which Keir Dullea disconnects HAL’s higher brain functions.
I just did a phoner with Love & Mercy director Bill Pohlad, who was calling from his home in Minneapolis. We covered the usual bases. I emphasized that it would be a shame if his film isn’t released this year, at least on a platform basis, so as to qualify for awards and nominations and whatnot. (Pic was acquired during TIFF by Lionsgate/Roadside.) I went apeshit for Love and Mercy and particularly Paul Dano’s phenomenal performance as the younger version of Brian Wilson. The film time-flips between the mid ’60 and mid ’80s; John Cusack plays a 40-something Wilson in the ’80s portion. As Variety‘s Andrew Barker wrote, Love & Mercy is “a wonderfully innervating cure for the common musical biopic.” Again, the mp3.
Paul Dano in mid ’60s Brian Wilson mode, Bill Pohlad during filming of Love & Mercy.
“Once in a while, though, you see a biopic that brings off something miraculous, that recreates a famous person’s life with so much care that the immersion we seek is achieved. When you watch Love & Mercy, a drama about Brian Wilson, the angelic yet haunted genius of The Beach Boys, you feel like you’re right there in the studio with him as he creates Pet Sounds. And it’s a little like sitting next to Beethoven: the film is tender and moving, but also awe-inspiring. Paul Dano, the audacious young actor from There Will Be Blood and Little Miss Sunshine, plays Wilson in the mid-1960s, when he was becoming the greatest creative force in American pop music. The moment we see Dano in the film’s daringly off-kilter opening shot, which is just Brian noodling around at the piano and talking to himself, the actor seems to transform into Wilson’s very being. The pale, cute moon face, the smile with a hint of a grimace, the disarming spaciness — this isn’t just acting, it’s channeling of a very high order.” — from Owen Gleiberman’s 9.11 BBC.com review.
“It’s hard to say if Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader give wonderful comic performances with a tragic dimension in The Skeleton Twins, or wonderful dramatic performances with a comic dimension. What’s easy to say is the key word wonderful, which applies equally to the film. This short, sweet and stirring feature, directed by Craig Johnson from a script he wrote with Mark Heyman, sweeps away any distinctions between funny and serious. It plays to the antic gifts of its stars, two Saturday Night Live luminaries reunited in the roles of troubled twins reunited by near-tragedy, yet it also turns them loose to explore deeper regions of hurt and love. Johnson’s work with his actors is impeccable, and his style is freewheeling — from the delicacy of the twins’ first tentative encounters to serial explosions that include a crazed adventure in dental hygiene and a triumphant duet, lip-synced to Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now, that transports Maggie and Milo to a happier time.” — from Joe Morgenstern‘s 9.12 Wall Street Journal review.