Jon Stewart‘s Rosewater (Open Road, 11.14), which opens today after a 75-day buildup, is an entirely honorable, absorbing, not-oppressively-heavy political melodrama — sobering, believably acted, right in there. But I wasn’t that hot to see it a second time. Once seemed enough. Then I watched this Stewart-O’Reilly riff. Rosewater is not The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and, while aimed at intelligent audiences, is not exactly defined by tart, witty repartee, but I want to see it again now. Go figure. These guys are good. Rosewater has a 74% Rotten Tomatoes rating.
A few days ago Hollywood Reporter columnist Scott Feinberg moderated an AFI Fest discussion with A Most Violent Year director-writer J.C. Chandor, Whiplash director-writer Damien Chazelle, Two Days and One Night star Marion Cotillard, Nightcrawler star Jake Gyllenhaal, The Skeleton Twins star Bill Hader, Fort Bliss star Michelle Monaghan, Still Alice, Camp X-Ray and Clouds of Sils Maria star Kristen Stewart and Snowpiercer, Grand Budapest Hotel and Only Lovers Left Alive star Tilda Swinton. Who among the six actors is totally deserving of award-season applause but whose performance hasn’t caught on, at least in comparison to the others? Hader. Ten months ago I went nuts for Skeleton Twins in Sundance but the buzz just wouldn’t ignite, or not the way it should have.
Tech note: The THR video is watchable on my Mac laptops but not on my iPhone 6 Plus, nor on Jett’s iPhone 6. And yet Feinberg tells me it’s viewable on his phone. What about iPads and Kindles? It’s that damn Brightcove video/media platform, which many large publishers use but which isn’t as easily viewable as videos on YouTube or Vimeo. What’s the point of posting videos that aren’t supported on all the major devices?
I’ll surely get beat up for admitting this, but before today I had never even heard of Marcel Carne‘s Le Jour Se Leve, must less thought about seeing it. Jean Gabin as a hard-luck factory worker who falls for the wrong dame, runs afoul of the law and winds up hunted by the fuzz. A restored version, “including censored footage removed by the Vichy government during the World War II occupation of France,” is opening today at Manhattan’s Film Forum and in Los Angeles…I’m not sure but probably at one of the Landmark Cinemas. “I saw it seventeen times in one month…and four times in one day, each time leaving the cinema dazzled and engulfed by an inexplicable sense of pain and pleasure.” — Claude Sautet.
On Thursday, 11.6, or the same night that J.C. Chandor‘s A Most Violent Year screened at AFI Film Fest, the Hammer Museum in Westwood hosted a cool-sounding Joni Mitchell event, which, being a lifelong fan, I would have liked to attend. It was a screening of The Fiddle and the Drum, a 2007 film about a social-lament ballet that was scored by Mitchell and choreographed by Jean Grand-Maitre. The 71 year-old, cigarette-smoking Mitchell sat for a q & a in the Hammer courtyard following the screening. She also plugged her new compilation album, “Love Has Many Faces,” which pops on 11.24.
Let it never be said that I was anything but attentive, engaged and impressed by Morten Tyldum‘s The Imitation Game when I saw it in Telluride two and half months ago. It’s a touching, intelligent, well-crafted film. But a piece I posted on 9.9 called “The Crowd Demands” is nonetheless valid. I noted that Game, boiled down, is “almost entirely” about how the World War II-era superiors and co-workers of the great Alan Turing (Benedict Cumberbatch) “didn’t care for his personality or resented his genius, or a combination thereof.” It’s really a film about a group of bright careerists relentlessly giving a genius grief, over and over and over. Except for Keira Knightley, of course.
“In scene after scene we watch Alan Turing’s Bletchley Park colleagues express irritation and disdain about his aloof, superior manner and general lack of social skills,” I wrote. “It reminds us of a lesson that we all have to learn and swallow early on, which is that you must be pleasantly sociable with people you work with (or hang or go to school with) because they’ll make your life hell if you’re not.
Repeating again HE’s standard laments about Best Picture voting among guilds and Academy members: (a) For decades AMPAS members have made themselves infamous for succumbing to soft, tepid emotional impulses, which is largely due to the preferences of deadwood members — the over-the-hill crowd that doesn’t work that much (if at all) and whose tastes are conservative, smug and myopic; (b) Most Academy voters tend to vote like abused, emotionally-needy children; (c) The Academy almost always goes for Emotional Push-Button films (EPB) over Esoteric Think Pieces (ETP) with occasional exceptions or detours for films made by Way Overdue Artists (WOA); and (d) EPB films (otherwise known as films that meet the all-important Steve Pond criteria) are ones that deliver that “big thing”…that lump-in-the-throat feeling that melts you down by delivering some profound bedrock truth about our common experience.
And by this standard or tendency, the feeling seems to be that the latest well-received EPB (Selma) may be strong enough to be nominated, and that the strongest ETP (Birdman) hasn’t a chance against the still-leading EPBs (The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything) and that A Most Violent Year, while brilliantly made, is essentially a Sidney Lumet-cloned ETP that doesn’t speak to our 21st Century mood or situation as much as address a specific New York culture of 30-plus years ago, which is what makes it “thinky”. And that Boyhood is still everyone’s favorite #2 or #3 or #4, and that Whiplash is far and away the choice of the under-35s, whose viewership is needed for the Oscar telecast, and that Interstellar might slip in with a Best Picture nom but it won’t win anything more than a tech Oscar or two. It should also be noted that many are clinging to the belief that Unbroken will clear the table when it finally screens on 11.30. Is that more or less it? Maybe so, but for the 79th time I have to say it feels humiliating and degrading to sit around wondering what the deadwooods will like.
I decided this morning that Jessica Chastain‘s snapdragon performance in J.C. Chandor‘s A Most Violent Year (mafia daughter first, loyal bookkeeping wife of Oscar Isaac second) has to be highly ranked among Best Supporting Actress contenders. Right under Birdman‘s Emma Stone, I’m thinking. Mainly because we like snapdragons! But also because a vote for Chastain’s Violent performance will be regarded as a vote against the strong-arm tactics by Interstellar producers when they contractually prevented her from promoting A Most Violent Year or her performance in it. She’s fine in Interstellar, of course, but her acting in Chandor’s film is two or three times richer and tastier; ditto the role itself. There’s really no question about this.
I’ve come to a semi-profound realization about Los Angeles, one connected to my longstanding irritation with this bleached-out burg, and, correspondingly, why so many people say they love it when the nighttime energy manifests but are always inside during work hours. And it’s fairly basic. For there to be occasional serenity in anyone’s life outside their doors and dreams and meditations, there has to be some approximation of that easy feeling that comes from natural tree cover and respite from the sun’s glare. I never met a leaf I didn’t like, but Los Angeles has never been much for that.
My favorite cafe along rue Caulaincourt in Montmartre, obviously during the summer months.
Okay, you can obviously get some shade therapy here, but there’s little to be had outside of Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Bel Air, Hancock Park and upper Santa Monica. You basically need to be loaded or to placate yourself with visits to Griffith Park or Franklin Canyon.
Except, of course, when the sun does down, which is when everyone’s attitude suddenly changes and L.A. becomes a certain pulsing, splendorous, heat-of-the-night thing, which anyone with any kind of appreciation for perverse, off-kilter beauty has been seeing for decades.