Gary Ross‘s Free State of Jones (STX) pops on 5.13 — an unusual opening for a movie that feels fall-ish, or which certainly doesn’t feel the least bit escapist or warm weathery. Boilerplate: “An epic action-drama set during the Civil War, it tells the story of defiant Southern farmer, Newt Knight (Matthew McConaughey), and his armed rebellion against the Confederacy. Banding together with other small farmers and local slaves, Knight launched an uprising that led Jones County, Mississippi, to secede from the Confederacy, creating a Free State of Jones.” From Wiki page: Knight had “a common-law marriage to a former slave, Rachel, which effectively established a small mixed-race community in southeastern Mississippi.” Rachel is played in Ross’s film by Gugu Mbatha-Raw. The interracial aspect was ignored when Van Heflin played a character closely based on KNnight in George Marshall’s Tap Roots (’48).
Open Road doubled down on its Spotlight campaign last night with a big, spirited, over-crowded party at Bouchon, the elegant eatery in downtown Beverly Hills. All the blogaroonies plus the usual Academy member suspects plus Spotlight director Tom McCarthy, stars Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton, Sharon Stone, producer Mark Johnson, Open Road honcho Tom Ortenberg, Overnight star Taylor Schilling (who’s taller than I realized), Spotlight costar Jamie Sheridan, Bo Derek, Clifton Collins, Jr. Ketel One Vodka co-sponsored. I realized that the crush of bodies was getting to me when I took refuge in an area between the kitchen and the bathrooms and said to myself “aaah, this is good.” Photos by Imeh Akpanudosen of Getty Images.
Spotlight costar Mark Ruffalo, director-cowriter Tom McCarthy at last night’s Bouchon soireee.
McCarthy, Michael Keaton.
A different version of this was posted a little over three years ago: I like to think of my life as a Dino-type thing. I am living a kind of Steve Winwood “high” life without the big money, or life as defined by a series of highs rather than one of “stability” in the old-fashioned, white-picket-sense of that term (which my parents invested in). I live in order to feel high and spread highs of a certain kind. My own and those of like-minded souls, of course, but usually born of little half-sparks in my head that are built outwards. Another way to put it is that I live in order to celebrate dream states that have obviously been made, at root, to fuel the fires of commerce, which is where the vaguely dirty aspect comes in. Except I love revenue. Who doesn’t?
All I know is that writing this column sure beats working. Which is what Robert Mitchum often said about acting. And yet I’m a 15-hour-per-day slave to it. The downside of following those half-sparks, of course, have been occasional Twitter pushbacks of an acutely ugly and ignorant cast. I understand that the “constant fighting with people who disagree and are looking to spread poison by tearing you down any which way” will never go away. I have to accept that — what else can I do? But Twitter has fundamentally changed my view of humans, and not for the better. Five years ago the term “kneejerk p.c. fascists” wasn’t in my vocabulary, but it sure as hell is now.
The central device of Stephen King‘s “11.22.63” (published in November 2011) is a time portal found in the pantry of a diner in Lisbon Falls, Maine. Initially discovered and explored by Al, the diner’s ailing owner, the portal sends the traveler each and every time back to September 9, 1958, at precisely 11:58 a.m. No matter how long someone stays in the past — hours, days, weeks, years — only two minutes elapse in 2011. The plot is primarily about school teacher Jake Epping going back to 1963 to prevent the slaying of John F. Kennedy, but a lot of other history-altering things happen before that. The basic theme of King’s novel is that you can’t really fuck with time because time will fuck you right back in order to balance things out.
In this trailer for Hulu’s forthcoming eight-part adaptation of King’s novel, it is revealed that the time portal takes Epping (James Franco) back to 1960 and not ’58. Which seems odd. Why shave off two years from King’s original scheme? To what end? Oh, and those vintage cars? Too clean, too spotless, too showroomy. This always happens in period films. The owners spiff them up and the filmmakers forget to dirty them up, to make them look used and worn and exposed to the usual elements. This always looks wrong. Car washes weren’t ubiquitous back then and people didn’t have money to burn.
Comment: A guy showing up in a small Maine town in 1960 with a goatee would be regarded as some kind of commie pinko beatnik weirdo. But British actor Daniel Webber, the guy who plays Lee Oswald, looks just right.
A special debut of the first two episodes, directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland), will happen a couple of weeks hence at the Sundance Film Festival. 11.22.63 will start streaming on Monday, 2.15 — President’s Day.
Gun-toting, cape-wearing Memphis yokel (Michael Shannon) asks for and is given some face time with President Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey). The only problem with Liza Johnson‘s Elvis & Nixon, which began shooting a year ago in Louisiana, is that the material seems more suited to a 25-minute short than a feature. The karate, handgun and Dr. Pepper bits are good. (The script is by Joey Sagal, Hanala Sagal and Cary Elwes.) All along I’ve had my doubts about Shannon’s casting as The King, but I like what I see here. We knew from the get-go that Spacey would ace Nixon. But why isn’t this 4.15 release, a joint venture between Bleecker Street and Amazon, booked into Sundance?
Posted on 2.5.15: Elvis Presley launched his legendary career in part as a symbol of rock n’ roll rebelliousness against the sexual repression and conformity of the mid-Eisenhower era. But by 1970 Presley had evolved into a conservative hypocrite who wanted to do something to stop the scourge of non-prescription drug use (i.e, pot and hallucinogens) among the nation’s youth. On 12.21.70 Presley paid a visit to President Richard Nixon at the White House. Presley had hand-written Nixon a six-page letter requesting a visit and suggesting that he be made a “Federal Agent-at-Large” in the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Six and a half years later Presley died of prescription drug abuse and an overdose of peanut butter-and-banana sandwiches.
Alejandro G. Inarritu‘s The Revenant opened wide yesterday. Hinterland reactions are requested. How fresh and immersive does it seem after all the big-city circulations and ricochets of the last few weeks? And what about that warm bear breath fogging up Emmanuel Lubezski‘s lens? Who saw it in IMAX, or at least on a really big screen with a grade-A sound system?
From David Thomson‘s Film Comment review, posted on 12.1.16: “The Revenant is a profound adventure, a nearly unique portrait of the extravagant desolation in nature and an absorbing argument over the fate of mankind and its big movies. I wonder how it will do, and how a holiday public will respond to it with a jubilant Star Wars in the next theater. The film may fail in some box-office ways, but that could qualify it in a tradition that includes Intolerance, Greed, Bringing Up Baby, Citizen Kane, The Night of the Hunter, Two-Lane Blacktop, One from the Heart and Heaven’s Gate.
“Photography easily cheats nature: it dwells on the light of magic hours; it clings to the sentiments embodied in landscape, horizon and sky; it is agape at spectacle, scenery and the magnificence of wilderness. From the paintings of the German-born Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) to the films of Terrence Malick, this mood can co-opt wildness as an idealistic American state of mind. But that ecstatic framing hardly feels the cold, the cruelty, or the isolation, let alone the terror of being hunted by other creatures.
“If you want a quick lesson in commitment to external and human nature, just notice how in the bogus, gloating 70mm stupor of in-jokes in The Hateful Eight, its winter prairie is a groomed back lot where a stagecoach (as perky as a Wells Fargo ad) comes bouncing along in a conveniently snow-plowed track.