Earlier today the Associated Press reported that Bill “While You Were Sleeping” Cosby testified in 2005 that he bought quaaludes to give to women he intended to have sex with. Tonight a pair of Cosby’s victims, Barbara Bowman and Joan Tarshis, told CNN’s Don Lemon that the report is a “game changer” and “huge.” In a personal vindication sense, they presumably meant, as there’s no way for Bowman or Tarshis to nail Cosby legally with the statute of limitations having expired long ago. “I’m feeling really great…I never thought this day would happen,” said Tarshis, who first posted her rape allegations against Cosby in an 11.16.14 essay on this site.
Nearly six months after a euphoric Sundance debut, Douglas Tirola’s Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story Of The National Lampoon has been acquired by Magnolia Pictures, presumably for release this year. The doc was hands down one of the best assembled, most entertaining, totally wowser films I saw at Sundance last January. And it’s about something that nearly everyone understands or identifies with to some degree, which is the seed and birth of anarchic, counter-conventional, ultra-outlandish comedy, which everybody takes for granted today but was an entirely new thing when it popped out of the National Lampoon in 1970. So it’s really quite the cultural landmark in a sense. I was thinking it would sell immediately when I saw it in Park City last January. What was the hold-up? I’m guessing that John Sloss‘s Cinetic Media was looking for terms that distributors couldn’t accept and so there was a months-long Mexican standoff…something like that. All Sloss would say was that “sometimes the right deals take a long time to fit together.”
A little more than five years ago Universal Home Video released their infamous “shiny” Bluray of Stanley Kubrick‘s Spartacus. The transfer by Jim Hardy’s HTV/Illuminate looked sharp and crisp but overly sweetened; too much of the detail captured by Russell Metty‘s 70mm Technirama photgraphy had been lost. In an online review restoration guru Robert Harris, who reassembled and restored a definitive 184-minute version of this epic film in 1991, called the 2010 50th Anniversary Bluray “an ugly and unfortunate bit of home video fodder,” suggested a recall, and called for a “new image harvest.”
Well, Harris has been working on such a harvest for about a year (the project was revealed last March by The Digital Bits‘ Bill Hunt) and a brand-new, presumably more specific and film-like Spartacus Bluray will pop sometime in the fall. A day or two hence I’m hoping to speak with Harris in some detail about the 4K restoration and maybe post some before-and-after comparisons.
Excerpt from 6.1.10 HE review of “shiny” Spartacus: “There’s no question that the Spartacus Bluray has been scrubbed down. Last night I put my face about 15 inches away from my 42″ plasma and studied Jean Simmons‘ face during one of the first-act closeups, and it’s like she’s wearing too much base — not the flesh-covered stuff you buy in pharmacies, but the digital kind that washes away organic sincerity. So yes — Harris is right. The Spartacus Bluray is, technically speaking, high-end vandalism. It should be recalled and done right.
“There’s just one problem. If you step back from the screen — sit three or four feet away, I mean — the Spartacus Bluray looks way better than the Criterion DVD or the laser disc or any other version that I’ve ever seen. For the first time since seeing Harris’s restored print on a big screen, I felt dazzled by some of the images. I was saying to my son Dylan, ‘I’m not supposed to like this but whoa…look at that!’
The legendary, respected, always colorful Jerry Weintraub has passed at age 77. Music industry manager (Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, John Denver, Neil Diamond, Led Zepplin), film producer (Weintraub Entertainment Group), chairman and CEO of United Artists. He knew everybody, got around, saw everything, knew all the stories — a real 20th Century showbiz guy. Part of Weintraub’s panache is that he always sounded like he was vaguely mobbed up on some level, or that he knew guys who knew guys who knew guys. He wasn’t just a Jew who was born in Brooklyn and raised in The Bronx — in a highly flavorable way he really sounded like it. (One result was that director Sydney Pollack hired him to play a gangster in The Firm.) I never spoke to Weintraub much (parties, press conferences), but I loved his smooth old-school swagger. A smart, shrewd, aggressive dude. Did well for himself, made money for others, played the game with consummate skill. Douglas McGrath‘s My Way (2011) is streaming as we speak on HBO
I’ve been putting off facing the truth about Bill Pohlad‘s Love & Mercy, which is that it’s underperforming. This despite two award-worthy performances (Paul Dano and John Cusack), great reviews and notions that it’s probably the most Best Picture–worthy 2015 release so far. After four weeks in a maximum of 481 theatres, the Roadside Attractions release has earned only $10.5 million, which feels anemic to me. It’s still playing at five L.A. plexes but the juice appears to be just about spent.
The Love & Mercy gang at 2014 Toronto Film Festival premiere screening.
I realize that indie-ish, character-driven dramas are always marginal performers but I was figuring (hoping?) that Love & Mercy would nudge its way into the high teens or even the low 20s before stalling out, and then maybe bounce back on home video when award season happens (top-ten lists, critic trophies, Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, Spirit Awards). But to barely break $10 million…wow.
This seems to indicate that the core audience for Love & Mercy, mature quality-seekers and Beach Boys fans, are relatively few in number. That or a lot of these viewers simply decided to wait for the film to start streaming. Why didn’t it catch on a bit more? Was it because of the darkish mood and (let’s be honest) the somewhat sluggish pace in the film’s second half? Is it because only boomers are interested and under-40s couldn’t care less? I know that my son Jett, 27, and his girlfriend Cait saw it early and liked it a lot, and that when they got home they both did a lot of googling about Brian Wilson, etc.
Two interesting pie slices from David Segal‘s N.Y. Times Magazine profile of Arianna Huffington, online a few days ago but in yesterday morning’s edition:
Slice #1: “To work at The Huffington Post is to run a race without a finish line, at a clip that is forever quickening. The pace is stressful for many employees, who describe a newsroom with plenty of turnover. One former staff member I spoke with, who developed an ulcer while working there, called The Huffington Post ‘a jury-rigged, discombobulated chaos machine.’” Comment: I know all about that “forever quickening race without a finish line” thing. It’s what every diligent online columnist faces on a daily basis. But it’s only stressful if you resist it. Give in and you’re canoeing on whitewater.
I’ve felt nothing but Ant-Man negatives ever since the project was announced. For the very first time I felt a positive vibe when I saw these mock posters two or three weeks ago. I forgot about them but they came back this morning when I started thinking about seeing the film on Wednesday evening. The mentality is obviously adolescent (roughly at par with Phil Moskowitz‘s wisecracks in What’s Up, Tiger Lily?) but Ant-Man is an adolescent joke to begin with so where’s the harm?
I realized this morning I had a screening conflict on Wednesday evening — Antman on the Disney lot vs. Southpaw in the Wilshire Screening Room. I’m trying to face up to why I went for Antman. (There’s another Southpaw screening on 7.16.) I talk a tough game about wanting more complex, character-driven, adult-level films on the theatrical side, but in deciding to see Ant-Man first I’m obviously submitting to my inner retard — the 12 year-old who resides somewhere in my id cave. The other factor is that I know all about the basic tendencies of Southpaw director Antoine Fuqua. I’ve been in the mosh pit with the guy (i.e., the second half of The Equalizer) and I know what it’s like. No reflection on Jake Gyllenhaal‘s allegedly knockout-level lead performance, which I’m looking to engage with. But honestly? The Gyllenhaal perf I’m really hopped about is the one he might have given (who knows?) in Jean Marc Vallee‘s Demolition. Because the Demolition characters are more like me whereas I feel a certain distance (no offense) from scarred-up emotional primitives with Parris Island haircuts.