I remember very clearly how delighted I was with the sound system (and particularly Huey Lewis‘s “The Power of Love”) when I first saw Back To The Future at whatever Hollywood theatre it was. (Probably the Cinerama Dome.) How many times have I seen the first-and-best entry in this franchise? Three, but I stopped re-watching back in the early ’90s so it’s been a quarter-century. Some films gain; others fade. But I’m still into seeing Back in Time, a crowd-funded doc about the cultural impact of this series, etc. “Countless hours of footage during filming,” etc. Interviews with director Robert Zemeckis, Steven “beardo” Spielberg, Bob Gale, Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Huey Lewis, Dan Harmon. Pops on 10.21.15.
A few weeks ago I read an eight-year-old old draft of Bryan Sipe‘s Demolition (10.8.07). Though well written and “sensitive” in the vein of American Beauty-ish (i.e., a guy going off the track, ignoring social norms, following odd instincts), it struck me as a bit too self-consciously quirky — just a little too precious. But the movie reps a significant upgrade of the material, and credit for this, of course, goes to director Jean-Marc Vallee.
Last night I saw Demolition at the Prince of Wales. The fact that Fox Searchlight won’t release until next April has stirred curiosity about what’s wrong with it — why bump it out of award season? The answer is “who knows but it’s not half bad.”
As indicated, it’s about a youngish, day-dreamy investment banker (Jake Gyllenhaal) succumbing to all kinds of weird, self-absorbed behavior as a way of dealing with his wife’s car-crash death. He doesn’t grieve as much go inward. He ignores his job, grows a stubble beard, becomes enamored of fixing machinery and then tearing things down. In so doing he begin to increasingly mystify and then piss off his father-in-law (Chris Cooper). He also slides into a nonsexual but connected relationship with a customer service rep (Naomi Watts) for a vending machine company. She has a somewhat alienated son (Judah Lewis) and a big, suspicious, more-than-a-little-angry live-in boyfriend.
The settled-in acting never feels calculated or pushed or “performed”, and the photography (by Yves Belanger) and editing seem extra-fleet and tight and generally supplies a more sophisticated feeling than Vallee’s Wild or Dallas Buyer’s Club had.
As mentioned on 9.8, Demolition costar Judah Lewis, whose age is being kept hidden for some reason but who seems to be around 14, has a certain je nais sais quoi X-factor “star is born” thing going on. I caught Demolition early last evening, and Lewis’s scenes with Jake Gyllenhaal (i.e., “Are you fucking my mom?”) definitely pop. Edgy magnetism, the camera likes him or something, etc. Lewis plays Naomi Watts‘ son Chris, a bordering-on-too-pretty kid with longish blonde hair who may be gay. Something about his looks and acting style reminded me of Leonardo DiCaprio between Growing Pains and his costarring role in Critters 3. Lewis’s eyes have a certain “extra-alert but masking something vulnerable and uncertain” quality, and Chris has the usual rebellious, cigarette-smoking, rock-and-roll-dancing early teen thing down pat. Whatever “it” is, Lewis has it. With Demolition not coming out until April, Lewis’s first feature will be Ericson Core‘s Point Break (Warner Bros,. 12.25). He should grow his hair longer — he looks and sounds cooler in the film than he did in this red-carpet interview, which was taped last night.
Hats off to HE’s ad guy Sean Jacobs for throwing this together yesterday — the first in a series of many charts that will attempt to gauge sentiments about potential Oscar favorites in the usual categories, Best Picture being the natural lead-off. (It’s included in HE’s first Little Yellow Pill newsletter blast, which goes out today.) I can’t allude to the source but during Telluride I heard second-hand that Leonardo DiCaprio‘s confidence about the quality of The Revenant is through the roof. Do I seriously believe that Son of Saul has a shot? No — it’s a likely Best Foreign Language Feature nominee, but it’s easily one of the ten best of the year and right now there’s no ignoring that fact. Will the same Academy faint-of-hearts who refused to watch 12 Years A Slave screeners watch Beasts of No Nation, much less vote for it? Yesterday I was quoted by a WKYC TIFF poll as follows: “If you want a very good film that some might even walk out on, it’s this one. But it’s almost Apocalypse Now-like.”
The title of Michael Moore‘s Where To Invade Next, which had its big debut last night at Toronto’s Princess of Wales theatre, suggests some kind of satirical jeremiad against American military interventionism over the last six or seven decades. Nope — it’s actually an amusing, alpha-wavey, selectively factual love letter to the kind of European Democratic socialism that Bernie Sanders has been espousing for years. And it’s funny and illuminating and generally soothing (unless you’re a rightie). A distributor I know called it “toothless,” which is arguably true if you want to put it that way, but the film is engaging in an alpha, up-with-people sense. It’s basically an argument in favor of “we” values and policies over the “me and mine” theology that lies of the heart of the American dream.
The primary theme of Sanders’s domestic philosophy is that benefits for working Joes are far more bountiful in many European countries (France, Italy, Finland, Norway, Slovenia, Portugal), and that we should try to humanize American life by instituting some of their social policies. He’s talking higher taxes, yes, but guaranteed health care, free universities, longer vacations (up to 35 days per year in Italy), a far less predatory work environment, better school-cafeteria food, more relaxation and apparently more sex, etc.
By any semi-humane measuring stick this is a much more attractive, more dignity-affirming way of life — imperfect and fraught with the usual problems, but far preferable, it seems, to the ruggedly Darwinian, rough-and-tumble, wealth-favoring oligarchial system that Americans are currently saddled with.
Moore simplifies like any documentarian trying to reach a mass audience. I’m sure there are many, many problems in Democratic socialist countries that he’s ignoring and then some. As Screen Daily‘s Allan Hunter notes, “Some of the people who actually live in those countries might find [Moore’s] views a little starry-eyed and unsophisticated.” But I strongly doubt that Moore has fabricated anything here.