I’ve made no secret of my admiration for Rory Kennedy‘s Last Days in Vietnam, which I first saw last June at L.A. FilmFest. It is, I feel, her best film ever and one of the two finest competing for the Best Feature-Length Documentary Oscar, the other being Laura Poitras‘s Citizenfour. Kennedy and I spoke this afternoon for about 17 minutes. She’s been making docs for 16 years, but I didn’t really pay attention until Ghosts of Abu Ghraib (’07), which pretty much everyone admired, and particularly the emotionally affecting Ethel, which I saw at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and later aired on HBO on 10.18.12. Last Days in Vietnam has made a big impression because of its humanity. It’s a doc about Americans who showed compassion and decency and stuck their neck out for their Vietnamese friends during the final days of the Vietnam War. I’ve told Kennedy before that it’s a shame Last Days will probably never be seen in Vietnam due to presumed objections over political content. The Hanoi government would probably argue with Kennedy’s portrayal of the victorious North Vietnamese forces looking to settle scores with thousands of South Vietnamese who threw in their lot with American forces, which of course they did. (Tens of thousands were murdered or otherwise taken to task.) Kennedy’s film doesn’t lie but her main thrust is not political or tactical criticism but an honoring of loyalty and humane instincts and taking care of your own. Nobody’s angry about the war over there any more. I visited Vietnam in 2012 and ’13, and my sense was that the citizens have moved on and are living in the present. The young guys I met in Hanoi, Hue and Hoi An were all into iPhones and iPads and making money and getting ahead as best they could. I think they’d understand and admire Kennedy’s doc if they had a chance to see it. Again, the mp3.
“If there’s any good news here, it’s that, despite rumors to the contrary, Accidental Love is very much a coherent movie. It’s not incomplete; it’s just been sloppily completed—cobbled together, in other words, by [distribution guys] looking to salvage a releasable product out of footage crying out to be reshot or reworked. Yet traces of David O. Russell’s spirit, a humane screwball exuberance, poke through the compromised results. It’s there in the way the movie keeps stuffing a bunch of yammering eccentrics in a room together, and also in the bug-eyed performance the director coaxes out of Jake Gyllenhaal, whose character — a flip-flopping, libidinous politician — could have fit neatly into American Hustle. Russell fans owe it to themselves to see this disowned disaster, painful as that act of completism will be.” — from A.A. Dowd‘s A.V. Club review of a facsimile of Russell’s never-completed Nailed, partially shot in ’08 and now called, as noted, Accidental Love and currently viewable on VOD. I’ve been wondering about this film for over six years and tonight, finally, I finally get to see it.
I did a brief chat with Citizenfour director Laura Poitras during last week’s Santa Barbara Int’l Film Festival. I don’t know why I forgot to post it, but I was certainly jolted out of my lethargy yesterday when I watched Poitras, Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald being interviewed by the late David Carr…less than 24 hours ago! I asked Poitras many of the same questions that everyone else has asked her. I love her film, have seen it five or six times…and so I’m lacking the instinct to do anything but caress and approve. One thing that I hit on (and which Poitras wasn’t interested in…fine) is that it would be great if someone like herself could deliver a strong, American-made doc in the vein of Adam Curtis‘s The Power of Nightmares (’04), which introduced an idea that the anti-western Islamic terrorists and the rightie hardliners are almost identical in their purist fervor, and are pretty much cut from the same philosophical cloth. Which was more or less replicated in that “American Taliban” rant that Aaron Sorkin wrote for The Newsroom, and which aired two years ago. Again, the mp3.
Citizenfour director Laura Poitras inside the Hotel Santa Barbara during last week’s Santa Barbara Int’l Film Festival.
I’m really going to miss those “Sweet Spot” pre- and post-Oscar chats between N.Y. Times critic A.O. Scott and the late “Media Equation” columnist David Carr. Scott should continue to do them with the current bagger, Cara Buckley, who today has posted a sad tribute piece to Carr. “Whatever ‘The Sweet Spot’ was, it had a much simpler reason for being,” Scott has written. ” It guaranteed that I would have a few hours a week in the company of David Carr. For anyone who cared about journalism, there was simply no better place to be.” And I’m really, really going to miss Carr’s wonderfully hale and hearty Oscar-race reports from Times Square….pure heaven.
From the good side of the imagination of Guillermo del Toro, a gothic, seemingly Henry James-like horror tale more in the vein of The Devil’s Backbone, Chronos or Pan’s Labrynth than any of GDT’s big whopper monster franchise films…thank God. Perhaps even a touch of Robert Wise‘s The Haunting? Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddleston as brother and sister. Mia Wasikowska plays a young innocent, recently married to Huddleston, whose last name is Cushing — obviously an homage to Peter Cushing in the Hammer films. Charlie Hunnam plays Dr. Alan McMichael, a “quiet, shy, thoughtful kind of stoic, taciturn, very learned guy who is madly in love with the female hero.” Universal is opening Crimson Peak on 10.16.
The high-water mark for this kind of character-rooted action comedy is, of course, Martin Brest‘s Midnight Run (’88). I don’t want to stick my neck out based on insufficient evidence and/or indications, but it’s probably safe to say that Anne Fletcher‘s Hot Pursuit (originally titled Don’t Mess With Texas) is not on Midnight Run‘s level. But it might be stupidly amusing. A witness needs to be protected from a murdering Mexican drug cartel and Reese Witherspoon‘s superiors figures she can handle it alone? Reese is playing Robert DeNiro, but does her character have any significant character issues that need to be recognized and solved by the end of the film? Sofia Vergara is playing Charles Grodin except she screams and rants and brays instead of doing the dry sardonic thing. If you saw Fletcher’s The Proposal you know there’s legitimate reason for concern. Written by David Feeney and John Quaintance. Opening on 5.8 via Warner Bros.
Because of his knockout direction of Open Your Eyes (Abre Los Ojos, which Cameron Crowe remade as Vanilla Sky), The Others and The Sea Inside, Alejandro Amenabar deserves everyone’s respect and attention. Ditto his latest film Regression (Weinstein Co. 8.28), a psychological thriller costarring Ethan Hawke, Emma Watson and David Thewlis. It’s obvious where the tale will take us. Amenabar directed and wrote. Grim up.
For what it’s worth I’m sorry for the Amy Schumer sturm und drang of the last couple of days. She’s a first-class talent and deserves more respect than what I gave her. I know I’m not thinking wrong but I’m probably saying it wrong from time to time. ”It’s hard to grow up…it doesn’t stop when you’re 40…a hard row to hoe.” These words were shared a few nights ago by Ethan Hawke during a Charlie Rose interview, and they got to me. So I’m sorry, truly, for not dealing my cards with a little more compassion and gentility. I wasn’t incorrect in saying that social attractiveness standards have changed over the past decade or so, largely due to the creations of one Judd Apatow and those who’ve climbed aboard his ferry boat. But I could have put it a bit more delicately and diplomatically. Then again that’s not what the HE brand is about, is it?
It’s in my Hollywood Elsewhere nature or karma to get beaten up once or twice each year by the moshpit beasts of the Twitterverse. Long is the road and hard that out of darkness leads up to light — that John Milton quote has my name on it. Sobriety (my third anniversary is a month away) has bestowed a sense of peace and even serenity at times, and it has toned down or modified the ever-present anger in the belly. Which I’m not at all sorry about as anger has been the eternal fuel of my writing career, born of an alcoholic father, a bordering-on-evil public school system and the awful repression of a whitebread, middle-class suburban upbringing that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. Add to this a growing notion that I’ve learned a thing or two plus my natural inclination to shoot my mouth off first and think about it later, and wham…every now and then I poke a hornet’s nest or step on a landmine and the raptors parachute down upon Maple Street.