We get it, we get it. Johnny Depp has reanimated the life form known as Whitey Bulger in a way that seriously challenges Jack Nicholson‘s version. He’s really gone to the well (or so these performance excerpts seem to “say”) and will almost certainly result in a Best Actor nomination. Maybe. Mostly because of the transformational thing — the voice, the accent, the hair, the Alaskan husky eyes. And because the film seems amusing as well as melodramatic in the same way The Departed was. Maybe again. Good trailer cutting in any event. Scott Cooper‘s Black Mass opens a little less than four months hence — 9.18.15. First long-lead screenings in …July?
Laszlo Nemes‘ Son of Saul was discussed with no small amount of passion during a Film Comment roundtable discussion (posted on 5.22) about the 68th Cannes Film Festival. The speakers in this excerpt are Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy, Film Comment contributor Jonathan Romney, Profil critic Stefan Grissemann and Spietati‘s Marco Grosoli. The discussion was moderated by Film Comment editor Gavin Smith.
Geza Röhrig (l.) in Laszlo Nemes’s Son of Saul.
McCarthy: “The one film that I would speak for that just knocked me out way more than any other was Son of Saul.”
Romney: “Yeah, absolutely.”
McCarthy: “I think it’s an extraordinary film, one of the most amazing opening shots I’ve ever seen that completely establishes the perspective from which you’re going to experience these events, which, in a way, I think is the most appropriate and convincing way of showing Holocaust-related material I’ve ever seen in any fiction film. In other words, the perspective—you know what’s going on outside the frame or out of focus in the back of the frame, the character doesn’t want to see it, doesn’t want to think about it, you don’t actually see everything that’s happening but you know what’s happening. And I think that was sustained in an extraordinary way all through the film. It’s the one film that just stays in my mind in a way that I could say it was worth coming here to see. I felt like everything else that I’ve liked — Mad Max, Carol and Inside Out — you know, they’ve already opened or they’re going to open very soon, and somehow the sense of discovery at Cannes hasn’t been there for me this year, the one exception being Saul.”
I’m flying out of Nice Airport tomorrow afternoon after catching (and later filing about) Justin Kurzel‘s Macbeth, which screens at 8:30 am. I’m thinking it can’t hurt to repost a 2013 nostalgia piece about one of my most glorious Cannes Film Festival experiences, which happened 15 years ago: “I once had a glorious two-wheeled Steve McQueen adventure during the Cannes Film Festival. On a scooter, I mean. Which some would say automatically disqualifies it as a McQueen-type deal. This is how Elvis Mitchell (at the time the chief N.Y. Times critic) responded when I told him about it later that night. ‘No, no…you don’t get it,’ I replied. “I’m not saying I did the Steve McQueen motorcycle thing by classic Great Escape standards. I was buzzing around winding curves and taking in the scenic grandeur and kinda feeling like McQueen…okay? Because I was playing Elmer Bernstein‘s score in my head. It was rapture.”
“I rented a decent-sized scooter around 10 am that morning. (It was a Sunday.) I drove into the hills above St. Paul de Vence and headed east, tooling along serpentine roads in the high craggy hills above Cannes, Juan les Pins, Antibes and Nice. I went from village to village, stopping for photos or just to stop and stare. I had lunch in St. Paul and ordered a steaming lobster bisque with a submerged folded white tortilla filled with lobster meat. I visited a tiny little village that I forget the name of but which you can see for a few seconds in in To Catch A Thief. Then I made my way down to the coast west of Nice and headed back to Cannes, tooling along the beach roads, stopping now and then to check out the babes. I returned the bike around 6 or 7 pm.
Yesterday the Grantland channel posted a spirited discussion between Grantland’s Bill Simmons, Wesley Morris and Chris Connelly about which summer movies will be the box-office champs on their respective weekends. But the video must have been shot at least a week earlier because they debate whether Pitch Perfect 2 or Mad Max: Fury Road (i.e., last weekend’s face-off) will come out on top. The talk is pleasant enough until the very end when Connelly sticks his fat foot in his mouth by joking about whether audiences will have any interest in “John Cusack as Brian Wilson” — i.e., a reference to Bill Pohlad‘s Love & Mercy (Roadside, 6.5), which is one of the best rock-music biopics ever made (82% Rotten Tomatoes so far, 83% Metacritic) and the source of one of Hollywood Elsewhere’s biggest praise spewings in recent months.
Connelly then asks Morris for a reaction to “Cusack as Wilson” and Morris offers one of those blank expressions that aren’t really blank as much as “uhhm, are you serious…you’re asking me this?…nope.”
I wrote the following to Morris just now: “I was watching your recently-posted box-office predictions video with Simmons and Connelly (dated 5.21) and then near the very end Connelly takes a BIG THOUGHTLESS DUMP on one of the most engaging and sensitive movies of the year, Love & Mercy, which he refers to as “John Cusack as Brian Wilson.” And then you chime in with your dismissive bullshit two-cent expression. Nice going, guys. Cusack and Paul Dano both play Wilson, as you know, and the movie, directed by Bill Pohlad, is really moving and quite exceptional in the annals of rock-star biopics. BBC.com’s Owen Gleiberman called it “miraculous” in his Toronto Film Festival review. Your bizarrely dismissive TIFF review notwithstanding, Dano and Cusack nail their respective Wilsons (young and mid 40ish) with wide-open emotionality and extraordinary finesse.
Day after day and screening after screening I’ve noticed that when the lights go down inside the Grand Lumiere but before the movie sound kicks in, dozens of people start coughing with a minor subgroup clearing their throats. They’re doing this deliberately, of course. We’re about to remain silent for two hours, they seem to be saying, so we’re going to loudly cough before the film starts as a way of…you tell us. Are we expelling demons, kicking out the jams, ridding ourselves of hesitations, all of the above? I for one find it irritating. Twice within the last two days I’ve actually considered saying out loud “please stop coughing!” Everyone would push back, of course. The general assumption is that people are coughing for natural reasons and that on this warm spring day the theatre just happens to be filled with people who have colds and coughs…right. The coughing is performed. Which means, to recap, that there are two kinds of coughing in theatres — one, waiting-for-the-show-to-start coughing and two, middle-of-the-movie coughing which indicates that some are bored and restless.
Grace of Monaco, the endlessly delayed, theatre-avoiding Grace Kelly biopic with Nicole Kidman, will air on Lifetime on Monday, 5.25. Here’s most of the review that I posted almost exactly a year ago in Cannes: “Olivier Dahan‘s Grace of Monaco is a precious, rarified tale of French political maneuver and regal appearances, and I am telling you straight that it has nothing that persuades or reaches out in a dramatic sense or which resembles ‘life’ as most of us know it. It may as well be taking place on the ice planet of Hoth.
“It’s about how socially isolated the former Grace Kelly (Nicole Kidman) felt when she married Prince Rainer (Tim Roth) in April 1956, and became Princess Grace of Monaco. The story focuses on Grace chafing against the restrictions of her marriage and title and mulling a return to the screen as the star of Alfred Hitchcock‘s Marnie. (Fate spared her that embarassment.) Right away I was muttering to myself ‘who cares?’ I was chafing against the restrictions that came with watching this film, I can tell you.
“Grace of Monaco is essentially a TNT movie aimed at older women who remember Grace’s car-crash death in ’82 (as traumatic in its time to Princess Di‘s passing in ’97) and who revere the notion of marrying into royalty and all that. I couldn’t have felt less involved. This is one of those movies that you do your best to sit through.
“The most arresting sequence, for me, is one in which Kidman/Kelly is shown racing her sports car around winding hairpin turns in the hills above Monte Carlo. On one level it foreshadows the circumstances of Grace’s actual demise in the same area, but it’s shot and cut to closely resemble a similar scene in To Catch a Thief with Kelly driving and Cary Grant riding shotgun. Not a profound moment but nicely done all the same.
If you like what you do for a living, you don’t retire. Most people don’t like what they do and can’t wait to retire, but David Letterman had one of the best gigs in the history of Western Civilization. I understand the appeal of leaving a show before the show leaves you, but there’s something deeply unappealing about a smart guy with a crackling personality hanging up the holster. He who’s not busy being born, etc.
In Michael Franco‘s funereal, snail-paced Chronic, which I saw this morning, Tim Roth delivers a quiet, solemn, lived-in performance as a home-care nurse who tends to terminal patients. I believed Roth’s every line, gesture and body move — he handles the role with just the right degree of nodding resignation. I also felt heartened that Roth had landed a role that doesn’t require him to play another perverse ogre, which is what he’s been stuck with since…well, a very long time. But let’s not get carried away. Variety critic Guy Lodge has tweeted that Roth deserves Cannes’ Best Actor award — an excessive reaction, trust me. Certainly considering that Roth gave a more interesting and flavorful performance three years ago in Nicholas Jarecki‘s Arbitrage, playing an Inspector Javert-like Manhattan detective who’s dying to bust the high-flying financier Richard Gere. A little perspective.
Michael Franco (center), Tim Roth (beard) and the female costars of Chronic before today’s press conference.
Chronic is the kind of serious, studied, slow-drip drama that you tend to see mostly at film festivals, and which you would turn off after two or three minutes if you were movie-surfing on your Roku player. By all means see it if you long for that sinking, heavy-lidded feeling of being anesthetized in your seat. If you have a parent who needs rest-home assistance to help with the basics, you’ll absolutely adore it. I’m kidding. It’s an end-of-life misery movie to put all other end-of-life misery movies to shame. Oh, the joy of being washed by someone else in the shower, of needing help to get from a chair to a bed, of wearing Depends.
An hour or so ago Deadline‘s Pete Hammond said that Chronic reminded him of Frank Perry‘s The Swimmer in that Roth’s care-giver “travels” from one terminally patient to the next in the same way Burt Lancaster‘s character swims from one affluent swimming pool to the next. I only knew that the drip-drip pacing felt less than profound. I only knew that this is the kind of film that requires moxie to sit through. I didn’t “hate” it but it made me think of nothing but escape — escape from boredom, escape from the indignities of old age (which is what my mother is thinking about 24/7 these days), escape through pain killers…anything but what Roth’s dying patients go through.
What can I tell ya? This is the kind of film that makes you consider the upside of putting a shotgun in your mouth.