Sony Pictures Classics’ trailer for Andrei Zvyagintsev‘s Leviathan popped a couple of days ago. I’ve seen the film three times now, but I’ve yet to see it in this country on a whopper-sized screen with knock-your-socks-off sound, which I how I caught it last May at the Salle Debussy during the Cannes Film Festival. “Simultaneously a modern essay on suffering, an open-ended thriller, and a black social comedy, it is most importantly of all a thinly-veiled political parable drenched in bitter irony that takes aim against the corrupt, corrosive regime of Vladimir Putin.” — Hollywood Reporter critic Leslie Felperin.
When I think of peace or of truly peaceful moments in my life…maybe that’s too big a subject for a Sunday afternoon. But right now, three episodes come to mind. One, the way I felt when I was on a small craft chugging along a river in the village of Hoi An, Vietnam, during my first trip there, in November 2012. Two, the way I felt early last June in Venice, when I took the below video around dusk or perhaps a little after. And three, the way I always feel when I listen to Peter Finch‘s Howard Beale describe satori…”a cleansing moment of clarity…plugged into some great, unseen, living force, or what I think the Hindus call prana…I’ve never felt more orderly in my life.” I can probably recall several dozen others but they all share the same characteristic, which is that they happened more or less of their own accord. Great moments happen only when they happen. You can’t order or orchestrate them. You just need to (a) keep yourself open and attuned and (b) develop some real discipline with your devices.
It’s not that I’m unfamiliar with Alain Resnais‘ Hiroshima Mon Amour although I’ve only seen it once. It’s not that I don’t find it visually immaculate — the two dps are longtime Resnais collaborator Sacha Vierny plus Michio Takahashi. I find it almost heartbreaking on some level to flash between the 31 year-old Emmanuel Riva in this 1959 film and the Riva who costarred in Amour. Eiji Okada, Riva’s Japanese lover in the Resnais film, died almost 20 years ago at age 75. Nothing is unappealing about catching it this evening at West L.A.’s Royal except for the stone cold fact that it won’t look as good on the screen as it will when the Bluray comes out. The black-and-white values will be so much fuller and finer on the Bluray…it’s not even open for discussion.
I don’t pay much attention to weekly Variety covers or any print publication, for that matter, except for Vanity Fair (which has been feeling less substantial and therefore less enjoyable over the last couple of years) and Esquire and GQ when I’m about to leave on a flight. But the satirical role-playing Bill Murray cover obviously alludes to those George Lois Esquire covers of the ’60s and early ’70s. Is this a new vein or did this cover just happen as a one-off?
Damien Chazelle‘s Whiplash (Sony Classics, 10.10) was the first 2014 movie I went apeshit for. I reviewed it out of Sundance almost exactly nine months ago…and then the months flew by and I began to think of it as a very strong Spirit Awards contender. Then it got another jolt out of Toronto/New York, and then it finally opened nine days ago. And then it began to connect in certain flotational ways. And then the clincher: Jett and his girlfriend saw it last night, and he reports that while she “liked” or “respected” but didn’t quite love Gone Girl and Birdman, she’s over the moon about Whiplash. That settles it. Whiplash, which has earned about $416K in 21 theatres so far, is a Best Picture contender because it fills not one but two Oscar Bait Bingo squares — it’s the Best Picture contender that GenY regards as its own (at least one BP nominee has to “belong” to the under-30s or they won’t feel invested in the Oscar telecast) and it’s the leading indie-level Best Picture nominee, which is a healthy thing for the Academy as nominating only big-name, medium-to-hefty-budget, mainstream-vibey films sends the wrong message. On top of which Whiplash is currently sitting in tenth place on the latest Gurus of Gold ranking — the admirers include Thelma Adams, Tim Gray, David Poland, Nathaniel R and Anne Thompson. I am including it in my Gold Derby Best Picture ranking as we speak. To repeat, Whiplash is no longer a Spirit Awards contender (although it can and will compete in that arena) — it’s a bona fide Best Picture contender.
Four hours ago on Reddit a man called “Toss My Salad Gently”, who sounds like a fair-minded guy with an actual sense of reason and judgment (as opposed to being some fluttery falsetto fanboy raving about all things Nolan), began to offer a semi-serious assessment of Interstellar following yesterday’s Fort Hood screening. Just a series of random, uncoordinated but intelligent-sounding comments, but you can sense a guy who knows a couple of things and has an idea of what’s good and what’s not. The bottom line is that while TMSG shared some flattering observations about Interstellar, he wasn’t over the moon about it. Definitely admiring and respectful but no cartwheels.
Three TSMG up-thoughts: (a) “It’s a really, really ambitious and enjoyable film,” (b) “It definitely had its moments! I found myself trying to hold back the tears a couple times” and (c) “2001: A Space Odyssey comparisons are pretty valid [and yet] the difference is Nolan didn’t take the plunge and leave a lot of things up for interpretation like Kubrick did…there is a bit of thinking to do after watching, but I believe it is accessible to anyone who pays attention.”
But he also offered a ranking of how Interstellar stands up to previous Nolan films, and here it is: (1) tie between Memento (8.5/10) and The Dark Knight (8.5/10), (2) Inception (8/10), (3) tie between Interstellar (7.5/10) and Batman Begins (7.5/10) and (4) The Dark Knight Rises (7/10).
And then he said this: “I just want to say that I feel bad because I’m really not any kind of film aficionado. Just someone who likes movies a lot. It was a really, really ambitious and enjoyable film. My rating is based off story, delivery of story, visuals, the music score and a couple other things. Some of you will like it more than I did but this is how I would rate it.
I’ve been searching around for some kind of considered reaction to yesterday’s Fort Hood screening of Interstellar, and so far I’m finding nothing. I’m not talking about effusive tweets — I’m talking about someone writing at least four or five thought-out paragraphs. How was the story? Did it add up? Did it end well? What’s the exploration of an Iceland-like planet thing about exactly? Why did that 12 year-old girl call it “probably the most depressing film I’ve ever seen” or some such shit? What did it make you feel? Where it take you? How does it stack up to Nolan’s other films? You’d think that somebody would post something other than some falsetto “oooh, the movie is wonderful!…ecstasy!…and Matthew McConaughey came here…eeeeee!!” Pathetic.