I’ve been telling myself over and over that I wouldn’t buy Criterion’s The Friends of Eddie Coyle Bluray because the DVD version is perfectly fine. And then I weakened last night during a visit to Amoeba, and before I knew it I traded it for some Blurays I didn’t want and then I drove home and popped it into the Oppo around 10:30 pm. Wow…this is really, really much better than the DVD. Much. The added detail is so fresh and eye-filling that you just want to dive into it. It looks like a perfect, un-projected print delivered by the lab a few hours ago. The colors are much more vibrant and life-like. I still resent that Criterion cropped it at 1.85:1 when it’s obvious from the 1.66:1 opening credit sequence that a good amount of information has been cleavered for no good reason, but this is magnificent work. Cheers to the Criterion team. This is the best Coyle I’ve ever seen or will see for the rest of my life.
I was going to say I’m as pleased with Ridley Scott‘s The Martian as the next guy. It’s fine — a smart, well-jiggered, studio-formula rescue movie. It’s basically Argo in space with a brainier script and a welcome emphasis on nerd science and good botany. Except I’m bothered by the over-praise from nearly every journalist who attended last night’s L.A. screening. Every so often a smart, classy, satisfying entertainment will come along — a movie that gives you a perfectly good handjob — and for whatever reason it makes perceptive, emotionally balanced critics wet themselves. These guys know better but they lose their bearings and drop to their knees and go all falsetto on their readers.
I didn’t flip out when I saw The Martian in Toronto, but I liked it as far as it goes. I called it a “seriously enjoyable, technically satisfying and emotionally inspiring big-studio rescue + popcorn movie that’s about as deep as a jacuzzi. And it’s fine for that. It’s aimed at the people who really love halftime shows at the Super Bowl. And it’s very amusingly written and rank with pop-music usage and smart-ass commentary — it’s almost a Tarantino movie in some respects.”
On top of the handjob this thing is looking to give you a backrub. It uses formula-uplift plotting all the way. That and the same kind of cleverly written stock dialogue and stock characters you’ve seen in a dozen escapist films like this. The same kind of chops, in fact, that were used in those Jerry Bruckheimer-produced action ensemble films from the ’90s or early aughts. It’s great when a film like this assumes that you’re smart enough to get all the terminology and whatnot. And at the same time assuring you that nothing too crazy will happen.
Two days ago I sank into a depression pit following Room‘s big audience-award win at the Toronto Film Festival. Then I was slammed by HE commenters and on Twitter for being a sexist curmudgeon. And then I felt even worse after reading Katey Rich‘s Vanity Fair piece about how Lenny Abrahamson‘s film is now looking like a game-changer in the Best Picture race. But then shafts of light pierced through the clouds, and now it appears as if the beginnings of a nascent counter-movement among free-thinking XY-chromosone types may be forming. The comfort of fraternity, of siding with like-minded fellows! I don’t like Room at all, and therefore I am.
First, Time‘s Rebecca Keegan tweeted that she “can’t figure why Room has made some dudes so angry.” My heart skipped a beat. “Dudes” as in plural? Keegan pointed to a tweet by Mashable‘s John Lincoln Dickey in which he called Room “an awful, joyless, airless experience.” Thank you, God! I knew then and there that an army of Room haters were out there. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
Then I heard from a big-league film critic who said that while Room “is an improvement over Abrahamson’s excruciating Frank, simply because [it has] realistic people and emotions and is therefore somewhat credible and relatable, I am [nonetheless] much closer to your view than to the film’s lovers, as I’d have to be led on a leash to ever see Room again. The TIFF award startled me as well, as it’s hard to believe people loved it that much.”
The consensus is that Scott Walker has suspended his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination because he did lot of things wrong. The bottom line is that Walker (a) never even began to ignite in the polls and (b) ran out of money. One of the factors, according to New York‘s Jonathan Chait, is that “wealthy New York donors came away from discussions with Walker concerned that he actually believed what he said in public about same-sex marriage.” He just never seemed like much of a vision guy. He was never able to shuck that Wisconsin governor comfort-zone attitude. The only time he really stepped up to the plate was in his quitting speech, when he urged other weak sisters to get out of the race so that somebody strong can defeat Trump.
Then again many voters (especially Republicans) decide who they like based on primal gut reasons. The one thing I liked about Walker was that he’s a big Harley Davidson guy, and the one thing I really didn’t like about him (apart from his being an anti-union servant of the Koch brothers) was his bald spot. This may sound silly to some, but I suspect that this physical shortcoming did him no favors. Think about it — Americans haven’t elected a President with even a slight balding issue since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 — 60 years ago. Every elected President since John F. Kennedy has had a full head of hair. I’m not suggesting that Gerald Ford‘s bald spot meant all that much to voters in ’76, but I think it might have been a marginal factor in his loss to Jimmy Carter. I’m only saying that the Samson rule of thumb (i.e., hair = virility, potency) still has a residue of traction.
Last January I wrote that with Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling costarring, Plan B’s big-screen adaptation of Michael Lewis’s “The Big Short” “could be an award-season contender when it pops in ’16 or ’17. Margin Call, Wall Street, Boiler Room…that line of country. But not — I repeat not — with Adam McKay, by any standard a low-rent comedy guy and commercial opportunist, directing and writing.” I still maintain that McKay’s earlier films (the two Anchorman flicks, Talledega Nights, Step Brothers) were crude and unfunny and aimed at animals, but I was apparently wrong about what he might do with The Big Short. Paramount has decided to release it platform-style on 12.23.15, which means they’re confident it’ll end up on a few Ten-Best-of-the-Year lists and perhaps even figure in serious Best Picture contention. (I still say McKay’s lowbrow aesthetic will get in the way of this.) With Short having taken the place of Oliver Stone‘s Snowden, which has been bumped into ’16, there are still four heavy-hitters opening in December — The Revenant, Joy, The Big Short and The Hateful Eight, not to mention Concussion, In The Heart of the Sea, Son of Saul and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Sasha Stone‘s “if it hasn’t been seen in the early fall festivals it probably won’t be in Best Picture Contention” theory is being put aside for the time being.