The allusion, of course, is to John Carpenter‘s They Live and not Costa Gavras‘s Z (’69). The latter title echoed a popular Greek protest slogan that meant “he lives” — a reference to assassinated Greek leftist politician Grigoris Lambrakis. Speaking of politicans, I’m actually a wee bit concerned that Donald Trump’s poll numbers are slipping. The better he does in the Republican primaries, the better things look for Hillary/Biden/Sanders.
There are three months left in 2015, and if you boil the fat and pretense out of all the noteworthy films released or seen over the last nine months, the ones that really stand out big-time are Spotlight, Mad Max: Fury Road, Love & Mercy, Carol, Son of Saul, Truth, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon, It Follows, About Elly and Brooklyn. Yeah, that’s right — Love & Mercy in third place. And it’s time turn the engine over and start with an award-season campaign. I’m looking to do phoners with a few name-brand actors and filmmakers who are fans and don’t mind saying so. Five or so, I’m thinking. I’ll call it “The Love & Mercy Conversations: Artists Speak Up For The Little Movie That Could and Did”…something like that.
I forgot about last Monday’s all-media screening of Nancy Meyer‘s The Intern so I’m catching a 7 pm showing at the Hollywood Arclight — 3 and 1/2 hours from now. 53% at Rotten Tomatoes, 51% at Metacritic. I know what I’m getting into here. Fave quote #1: “It’s astonishing to watch De Niro — who’s been great in great movies like The Godfather: Part II and Taxi Driver, and sometimes just as good or even better in imperfect ones like New York, New York — and realize that he’s just as capable as any other actor of slouching through a film like a lump of mold making its way down a tree limb. It’s as if he’s trying to keep all traces of actual personality or verve under wraps.” — Stephanie Zacharek, Village Voice. Fave quote #2: “Meyers has wit and a solid sense of craft, but mainly she makes movies about high thread counts and comfy, pricey throw pillows.” – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune. High thread counts?
I felt as if I’d been injected with an exciting spiritual drug when I first saw Ondi Timoner‘s BRAND: A Second Coming, which opens tomorrow. I’ve seen it three times since last March and have felt the same juices each time. Because it’s a film about transcendence — about the transformation of Russell Brand from hyper comic libertine to social revolutionary. I fell in love with the arc of his life, which is that he finally found his focus and got it right after floundering around (somewhat like Che Guevara, Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi and Malcolm X, all of whom found their calling after an uncertain period in their 20s). He became truly interesting when he stopped projecting like a hyper, swaggering, shag-crazy narcissist and became a “champagne socialist” revolutionary and began saying “look at what’s wrong here”…that’s when Brand became a lightning bolt.
Russell Brand, director Ondi Timoner during final shooting on BRAND: A Second Coming.
I wrote last March that Timoner’s doc (partly shot by HE’s own Svetlana Cvetko) is “one of the most unusual and impressive documentary portraits of a famous person I’ve ever seen because of…well, its eagerness to step out of the standard function of a documentary and take the proverbial ride. It’s a film that transcends itself and becomes something else by embracing the attitude and temperament of its subject. Just as Brand has begun moving the focus of his life beyond fame and wealth and the lowest form of humor (i.e., simply making people laugh), Brand: A Second Coming is about seeing and transcending and turning a page.”
Through all the excitement I chose to ignore Brand’s decision not to travel to Austin to help promote Timoner’s doc, which basic professional courtesy required. Brand explained that despite his admiration for Timoner’s film that he wasn’t comfortable discussing the portion of her doc that covers his sex, drugs & rock ‘n’ roll period (i.e., roughly the first 40 minutes).
I also looked the other way when he got together with Michael Winterbottom to make a somewhat similar documentary, The Emperor’s New Clothes, that covers a lot of the same material in Timoner’s film. Clothes was barely paid attention to on these shores, but the most forgiving person in the world would have to admit this was a huge dick move on Brand’s part.
All hail the debut of “Little Gold Men“, a twice-monthly podcast from Vanity Fair‘s Katey Rich, Mike Hogan and Richard Lawson. They mainly focus on the two biggest Toronto Film Festival flicks, Spotlight and Room. Following the first press-and-industry screening of Spotlight everyone was saying “this will win Best Picture,” Lawson says. “It’ll win?” Rich replies. Soon after she opines that Room, winner of the Toronto Film Festival audience award, is small and sentimental and quite affecting. No mention of any XY chromosone pushback but there’s a brief derogatory mention of yours truly — “the Jeff Wellses of the world and the notorious Hollywood Elsewhere.” That’s the only critical remark heard in the podcast. I don’t know about these guys. They’re no one’s idea of ruthlessly honest, but every so often they’re ruthlessly accommodating. Can’t give those award-season advertisers anything to get pissy about.
The title of the piece that accompanies the podcast is “So, Is Johnny Depp Finally Going to Win That Oscar?” Answer: No, but he might be nominated because of the Alaskan husky contact lenses and hair-sprayed Bulger wig. Rich asks if Johnny Depp‘s performance in Black Mass will be an Oscar-level thing, and mentions that she “really love[s]” Joel Edgerton in Black Mass…c’mon! His Bahhstun accent is grating and he slightly (and sometimes oppressively) over-emotes in every scene. Rich admits later on that the film probably isn’t good enough to deliver a serious springboard bounce for Depp, but says that Depp’s performance might keep the film alive in a conversational sense.