Every now and then The Hollywood Reporter‘s Scott Feinberg will send me a link to one of his articles or interviews. Which I definitely appreciate as Scott’s stuff is always well-phrased and I’m always looking for interesting material to re-post. An hour ago he sent me a just-posted discussion with The Martian director Ridley Scott. A nice one, actually. But I have concerns. My reply: “Thanks, Scott. I’m listening to the mp3 now — good stuff, relaxed vibe, very candid Ridley. But I really do feel that I have to do my part to nip this ‘Martian for Best Picture’ stuff in the bud. I don’t agree with it. You know, I know and Ridley definitely knows that it’s a first-class popcorn movie, and as such it simply doesn’t belong in the Best Picture conversation. But good work.”
A guy who’s fed me stuff before and who has seemed fairly reliable says that a three-hour version of Alejandro G. Inarritu‘s The Revenant was research-screened last night on the 20th Century Fox lot. The source didn’t attend but he talked to a guy who did, and this guy says it’s his #1 film of the year, and this is a guy who’s seen nearly everything.
Random remarks: “Crazy harrowing stuff…visually stunning…the natural-light photography works perfectly…’scenic-porn’…Leo is all but unrecognizable…a fair amount of dialogue…Tom Hardy‘s accent is a little tough to deal with.” Another five or six weeks remain before the final cut will be locked down so I would imagine the running time will be trimmed by 10 or 15 minutes or a tad more…who knows? But it sounds like it’ll end up a bit north of two and a half hours or thereabouts.
Take this with a grain but the guy (the one I’ve dealt with before) adds that a three-and-a-half-hour cut of Quentin Tarantino‘s The Hateful Eight was tested a while back. (Remember that many movies test long to help the director decide what to cut. Django Unchained was around three hours at one point, I once heard.) The film contains Tarantino’s first full-out sex scene, the source says. “What kind of sex scene?,” I asked. “Does it involve Jennifer Jason Leigh or is it…what, a gay thing?” He said he wasn’t sure. The guy he talked to about this cut gave it four out of five stars.
With the opening of Crimson Peak about ten days off, the great Guillermo del Toro will sit tomorrow night for some kind of interview or deliver some kind of master class commentary about everything — his films, imaginings, themes, obsessions, etc. I’ll be attending. Where’s the after-party?
A 10.5 Salon piece by Amanda Marcotte contains one of the cleanest and most concise explanations of why the right is so adamant about the holiness of guns (i.e., refusing to regulate their use like the government regulates cars and drivers): “Conservatives aren’t lying when they say they need guns to feel protected. But it’s increasingly clear that they aren’t seeking protection from crime or even from the mythical jackbooted government goons come to kick in your door. No, the real threat is existential. Guns are a totemic shield against the fear that they are losing dominance as the country becomes more liberal and diverse and, well, modern.” (“Diverse” is, of course, a code word for fewer whites calling the shots.) “For liberals, the discussion about guns is about public health and crime prevention. For conservatives, hanging onto guns is a way to symbolically hang onto the cultural dominance they feel slipping from their hands.”
My experience with Danny Boyle‘s Steve Jobs (Universal 10.9) has been both a charge and a puzzlement. I fell in love with Aaron Sorkin‘s jackhammer script when I read it last summer, but I didn’t like Boyle’s version as much when I saw it in Telluride. Sorkin’s dialogue had flown off the page and sunk into my system like pure cocaine. I had such a great time with it that I convinced myself that the film would come together perfectly if the director just gets out of the way and shoots it with top-tier actors. That’s what Boyle has more or less done, and yet somehow the infuriating, obnoxious dickishness of Steve Jobs’ character seemed much more palatable on the page than it does when performed by Michael Fassbender. And what felt pungent and drill-bitty in the script feels repetitive and hammered in the film.
It’s a month later and Steve Jobs is opening this Friday, and I feel I need to give it another shot at tonight’s all-media Arclight screening. Because I’ve been telling myself that the reason I wasn’t knocked out after seeing it in Telluride (I called it “more impressively conceived and poundingly ambitious than affecting or, truth be told, likable”) was because of my own blockage. Not Boyle’s or Fassbender’s fault, but mine. Because for all the difficulty, this is a movie about what genius often behaves like and feels like. About how life-changing things come about. And that’s not nothing. So what’s my problem?
The film is basically a dialogue-driven, three-chapter stage piece set during three launches of three Jobs products — the ’84 Macintosh, the ’88 NeXT cube and the ’98 iMac. A brave, pushy “talk opera” (Sasha Stone‘s term) or “verbal action film” (a guy at Universal suggested that one) or aggressive cine-theatre (my own). Obviously an audacious concept — again, loved it on the page — but when you boil it all down Steve Jobs is basically about a demanding, hyper-drive genius being an abrasive dick to his employees, friends and ex-partners for two hours, and especially being an astonishing world-class dick by refusing to admit to his daughter that he’s her biological dad. Really, seriously…what an asshole.
And after the first 45 minutes to an hour the tone of Steve Jobs becomes a bit strident and fatiguing — a torrent of argumentative, badgering jabbermouth about the joys of obstinacy and belligerence and trying to bend people to your immaculate will. It was fascinated by it, but I can’t honestly say I “enjoyed” it.
“There’s nothing wrong with being an intelligent, pruned-down, HBO-level biopic, which is pretty much what you get with Jay Roach‘s Trumbo (Bleecker Street, 11.6). A political biopic, I should say — an above-average portrait of the Hollywood blacklist era, and a better-than-decent capturing of one the most gifted and industrious blacklisted screenwriters ever. A moustachioed, sandpaper-voiced Bryan Cranston portrays the stalwart titular hero; I felt completely at home with the guy. Trumbo was one of the most gifted wordsmiths in Hollywood history — a winner of two screenwriting Oscars (Roman Holiday, The Brave One) during his under-wraps period, and also the author of A Guy Named Joe, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, Cowboy, Spartacus, Exodus, Lonely Are The Brave.” — from “Naked, Extremely Prolific Writer in Bathtub,” a 9.13 HE post from the Toronto Film Festival.
In January 2014 Anti-slavery.org‘s Aidan McQuade struck a blow for worldwide idiocy when he slammed director David O. Russell for describing Jennifer Lawrence‘s contractual obligations to the endless Hunger Games franchise as a form of slavery, “Talk about 12 years of slavery, that’s what the franchise is,” Russell told the Daily News on 1.10.14. McQuade complained that Russell’s comparison was “glib” and insensitive. Russell “apologized” but the whole brouhaha was headache-inducing.
What McQuade was saying, in fact, was that the word “slave” can never be used as a metaphor or a figure of speech, that it can only be used if the speaker is referring to actual slavery as it existed in the United States in the 19th century and as it exists today in cultures around the world or, in another context, back to the ancient Egyptians and Romans using Hebrews as slave laborers. The point is that “slave”, which basically alludes to economic subjugation, must be used in a literal or historical context. And that means somebody has to go after the Rolling Stones.
In any event two more knee-jerkers — educator/activist DeRay McKesson and writer-editor Jemilah Lemieux — have stepped into the breach to carry on McQuade’s tradition. Two days ago a Guardian article noted objections from McKesson and Lemieux to a slogan — “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave” — on a promotional T-shirt recently worn by Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan, Romola Garai and Anne-Marie Duff to promote Sarah Gavron‘s Suffragette, which will open the BFI London Film Festival on Wednesday, 10.7.
“White women have said a lot of terrible things over the course of history, [but that] doesn’t mean you wear it on a shirt,” Lemieux tweeted. “Meryl Streep has to know better. And if not, her publicist should have,” tweeted McKesson.