You’re not going to enjoy or admire every film you see. If you “know” the film realm and have any taste and if you’re honest, you’ll be obliged to go thumbs-down on roughly 70% of the films you see, if not closer to 80%. (I’ve always felt that Sturgeon’s Law is too severe.) But sometimes it’s the better part of wisdom to just do a little Charles Durning sidestep. Sometimes you need to back off and go easy. I don’t mean “lie by saying a bad film is good”, but selecting this or that portion of a film that works and praising it for that. But without indicating that you’re, you know, dodging. Not easy but achievable; an art to it. I’m talking about a kind of creative diplomacy that involves careful brushstrokes. Any critic who says he/she doesn’t know what I’m talking about is a liar. I trust I’ve made myself clear.
I’ve been on two wheels for a full year now, and I love it. Heaven. I get around much faster, gas costs are negligible, I can park anywhere and I almost never pay when I park in one of those concrete structures. The only time I drive the beater is when it rains. I’ve gotten so used to zipping around that car travel feels like an awful slog. I’ve no patience for cars any more. I’ll rent one if I want to go somewhere over the weekend (desert, up north), but I’d be perfectly happy to never own another. Live like a Parisian — bicycle, scooter/motorcycle, walk, metro. A healthy, happy way to live. You know why you still need a car in Los Angeles? Women. They won’t tolerate a guy who doesn’t own one, and I mean a fairly nice one. Like it or not but that’s the L.A. system. The system in every municipality in the country when you think about it. Except for New York, that is. (Where else?) So when you get down to it women, really, are one of the bigger causes of Los Angeles fossil-fuel pollution. Or at the very least a significant reason for the purchase of newer, cooler cars (i.e., “babe magnets”). I guess I’ll pop for slick wheels sometime this year or next, but I won’t like it.
I can hear every word in this Sicario trailer, no sweat. But when I saw Denis Villeneuve‘s drug-trade melodrama last May at the Cannes Film Festival, I could understand maybe 10% of the dialogue. The sound in the Grand Theatre Lumiere is too bassy and echo-y. I managed to pick up a stray word or phrase here and there, and when all else failed I relied on nouns and verbs contained in the French subtitles. Listen and read and combine, listen and read and combine…keep trying. The only way I understood complete sentences was from reading the English subtitles when Benicio del Toro spoke Spanish.” I would seriously love to catch Sicario again under better circumstances.
I always write each item or review about five or six times. The first draft is, of course, some kind of rough-and-tumble version of what I’m trying to say. I always concurrently research and re-research in this phase. And then I do a bit more research as I rewrite and rewrite again. Then I decide where to put the paragraph breaks. Then I insert the hyper links. Then I search around and find a photo or two and downsize them to a rectangular shape around 460 by 300 pixels, and then re-sharpen and upload them to the server. Then I figure out a headline, which is never final. Then I start compressing and refining the piece by eliminating all unnecessary words and streamlining the sentences without making it sound turgid — you want it nice and tight but it has to flow and breathe. In other words I almost never write posts quickly; there’s always more to do, more to correct. It’s a bit like digging ditches.
I had arranged to do a quickie sitdown this morning at the SLS Hotel with Peter Bogdanovich, director of She’s Funny That Way (Lionsgate, 8.21). The appointment was for 10:15 am, but I flaked in a sense. What I mean is that with about 17 minutes to go I asked if I could please do a phoner instead. I was backed up with an unfinished piece and I figured what’s the difference if it’s person-to-person or on the phone? Well, that didn’t fly. The publicist checked and said there wasn’t a phone in the area where Bogdanovich was sitting, which of course wasn’t true. (I called the hotel desk right after this discussion and asked if there was a phone or a phone jack in the area where Bogdanovich was sitting; I was assured that there was.) The publicist then explained that the interview would have to be cancelled unless I got down there licketysplit.
I’m guessing that Bogdanovich felt insulted that I had bailed on our face-to-face and refused to get on the phone out of pride or petulance. I don’t know this; it’s just a suspicion. I do know that the publicist telling me that there wasn’t an available phone was…uhm, a less than candid response.
So I got in touch with Bill Teck, director of the affecting Bogdanovich doc One Day Since Yesterday (which I just saw and reviewed a few days ago), and asked him to forward a private message to Bodganovich in which I’ll apologize for the last-minute switch and ask if there’s any way he could get on the phone or meet this weekend. Can’t hurt. If Bogdanovich blows me off, fine, but at least I’ll know that I went the extra mile.
Three days ago I reiterated what feels to me like an absolute certainty, which is that Greta Gerwig — star, producer and co-writer (with director and boyfriend Noah Baumbach) of Mistress America (Fox Searchlight, 8.14) — is radiating a fairly unique comic attitude, which led me to describe her as “a 21st Century Carole Lombard.” A “funnier, flakier and taller Lena Dunham” without the chubs, I added. Gerwig is not a finely honed performer as much as an unbridled force, and that force has produced a kind of acting and writing that to my mind is breaking fresh ground. She’s creating a new kind of comedic personality — “unfocused” and yet laser-focused on whatever thought or current or insight may pop into her head and, with some exceptions, mostly unconcerned with how it may be received. She’s a nouveau screwball — an oddly charming mixture of absolute certainty, anxiety, exuberance and vulnerability.
A few days earlier I said that my initial analogy for Mistress America, which I came up with when I saw it seven months ago in Sundance, “was His Girl Friday. Which wasn’t quite right. It’s not as formulaic as that 1940 farce, which of course is a remake of The Front Page. Mistress America is more like Holiday meets My Man Godfrey meets The Twentieth Century without the train or any slamming doors.”
This morning Intelligent Life‘s Tom Shone expressed similar impressions. Here’s an edited excerpt: “Gerwig has had same liberating effect for Noah Baumbach what Diane Keaton had for Woody Allen: she has opened him up, lending his films a giddy sense of release. Frances Ha, Baumbach’s first film with Gerwig in 2012, about a young woman trying to find her footing in Manhattan, inhaled deeply of the French nouvelle vague — with it’s black and white cinematography, Georges Delerue on the soundtrack — and outlined in sketch form, a new type of screen heroine, a sort of Annie Hall for millenials: absent-minded, free-spirited and a little dizzy, half in love with her own failures, lolloping from one humiliation to the next as if they confirmed her refusal to join the adult world.
Yesterday Anne Thompson and the “hole in the wall” Indiewire gang — Ryan Lattanzio, John Anderson, Matt Brennan, Susan Wloszczyna and guest contributor Richard Brody (a.k.a. “tinyfrontrow“) — posted a list of what they believe to be the top 25 Alfred Hitchcock films. I hit the roof when I saw Marnie listed at #13, or ahead of To Catch A Thief, The Lady Vanishes, Suspicion, Foreign Correspondent (this is already ridiculous!), Blackmail, Dial M for Murder, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Saboteur, The Wrong Man, Frenzy, Lifeboat and The Paradine Case. The Marnie favoritism is basically about the group deferring to (or not wanting to challenge) Brody, whose worship of this 1964 film is one of the cornerstones of his critical reputation. Marnie is arguably (and in my view almost certainly) Hitchcock’s worst film. Hitch himself called it a “failure.”
Indiewire‘s top 25 Hitchcock films (in this order): Notorious, Vertigo, Psycho, Rear Window, The Birds, Strangers on a Train, Spellbound, Shadow of a Doubt, Rope, Rebecca, The 39 Steps, North by Northwest, Marnie, To Catch A Thief, The Lady Vanishes, Suspicion, Foreign Correspondent, Blackmail, Dial M for Murder, The Man Who Knew Too Much (’56 version), Saboteur, The Wrong Man, Frenzy, Lifeboat, The Paradine Case.
HE’s top 20 Hitchcock films (in this order): Notorious, Strangers on a Train, North by Northwest, Lifeboat, Psycho, Rear Window, Vertigo, I Confess, Shadow of a Doubt, The Birds, Foreign Correspondent, Rebecca, To Catch A Thief, Saboteur, Suspicion, Dial M for Murder, The Man Who Knew Too Much (’56 version), The Lady Vanishes, Spellbound, Rope, The 39 Steps, The Wrong Man, The Paradine Case, Frenzy, Torn Curtain.