More often than not January and February are a time for cruddy, low-rent genre flicks and shit-ass movies of whatever variety. Did you know or care that there’s a Natalie Portman movie playing in theatres right now called Jane Got A Gun? (Even if it hadn’t been for the just-concluded Sundance Film Festival I probably would have had difficulty with it due to the casting of Joel Edgerton.) Or The Finest Hours…do you give a damn about seeing that one? What about Ross Kate‘s The Choice? Or Oliver Parker‘s Dad’s Army? Or Joel and Ethan Coen‘s Hail, Caesar? Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has earned a failing grade of 50%. I can’t wait to ignore Deadpool and How to Be Single and especially Race. The only soon-to-open film that I know is good is The Witch. I might wind up being receptive to Zoolander No. 2 as I half-liked the original, but I’ll be missing the all-media due to being at the Santa Barbara Film Festival.
There are three or four cutaways to a seated and somewhat responsive Alfred Hitchcock in this excerpt from a 3.7.79 ceremony that honored the master of suspense with an AFI Life Achievement Award. Look at his face, his eyes, his expressions or lack of — the man is all but comatose. Either he doesn’t understand half of what’s being said or he understands and doesn’t care. When Sean Connery is introduced a confused Hitch turns to Cary Grant and apparently asks “who’s that?” Connery’s answer: “It’s me, Hitch!” Born in August 1899, Hitchcock wasn’t quite 80 when this ceremony took place. He died 11 months later. One of the AFI attendees was Saboteur costar Norman Lloyd, who was 64 at the time. Lloyd is now 101, active and crackling and sharp as a tack. Quantity is nothing without quality.
A lot of older Academy members have expressed outrage about losing their voting privilege because they haven’t worked or been “active” within the last ten years. (Along with the Academy’s vague suggestion that their advanced age means they’re probably racist on some level.) If the Academy had only listened to my suggestion to the deadwood problem, nobody would be upset and the community would be more or less at peace. My solution, for the umpteenth time, was to allow everyone to vote but to “weight” votes of the more active members on a 3-2-1 basis. All ballots would have to be tabulated on a basis of accumulated points. If you’ve worked or been “active” within the past 10 years, your vote would be worth three points. If you’ve worked or have been “active” between 10 and 20 years ago, your vote would be worth two points. And if the last time you were “active” was over 20 years ago your vote would be worth one point. Simple. Or it could have been.
Here’s an open-letter proposal addressed to the Academy, Quentin Tarantino‘s New Beverly Cinema and the programmers of the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian and Aero theatres to devote seven days to the glorious 1.66:1 aspect ratio. They don’t have to call it the Hollywood Elsewhere 1.66:1 Celebration Festival, but seriously…who else has stood up for 1.66:1 like I have? Who else has gone mano e mano with 1.85 fascists (Bob Furmanek, Pete Apruzzese) whenever a new Bluray of a 1950s or early ’60s comes out with a 1.78 or 1.85 aspect ratio? Who else has pleaded with Universal Home Video for a 1.66:1 aspect ratio for the forthcoming One-Eyed Jacks Bluray?
The idea would be to schedule this festival sometime in the dog days of August. It’ll create a lingering impression, a kind of stamp upon the bicoastal film culture. People need to be reminded that once there was a realm called 1.66, and that it was one of the most visually gratifying rectangles in the history of 20th Century cinema. Think of it — nothing but 1.66 films back to back for five or seven days straight! Plus a chance to correct previous Bluray mis-croppings (i.e., The Manchurian Candidate and A Hard Day’s Night Blurays presented at 1.75 but easily croppable at 1.66).
The following should be included: (1) Alfred Hitchcock‘s Psycho (easily croppable at 1.66 despite Universal Home Video’s decision to issue the Bluray in a “rape” aspect ratio of 1.78); (2) Roman Polanski‘s Repulsion; (3) Francois Truffaut‘s The Last Metro; (4) Wim Wenders‘ The American Friend; (5) Merchant-Ivory‘s A Room With A View; (6) Elia Kazan‘s On The Waterfront; (7) the first three James Bond films — Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger; (8) Wong Kar Wai‘s Chungking Express; (9) Otto Preminger‘s Anatomy of a Murder (Criterion Bluray presented this 1959 pic within a 1.85 “rape” aspect ratio); (9) John Frankenheimer‘s The Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days in May and The Train; (10) Stanley Kubrick‘s Lolita, Dr. Strangelove, Barry Lyndon; (11) John Schlesinger‘s Sunday Bloody Sunday; (11) Clive Donner‘s What’s New, Pussycat?; and (12) Guy Hamilton‘s The Devil’s Disciple.
For quite a few years I felt genuinely excited when the Vanity Fair Oscar issue came out, which was always in early February. For the reading, I mean. It was really quite the thing to read in a nice warm cafe somewhere. Especially in the ’90s and early aughts. There was always (or more often than not) some kind of tangy, well-researched Peter Biskind article about some highly combustible collaboration that resulted in a great or a terribly-gone-wrong film. I’ll always love the Annie Lebovitz portraits (the JLaw/Jane Fonda portrait is worth the price of the current issue in itself) but the magazine…oy. Where the editors’ heads are at, I mean. Over the last four or five years the articles have seemed more and more disposable, more angled at under-educated lightweights. Question: I understand Lupita Nyong’o being among these 2015 super-women (she gave the most intriguing performance in Stars Wars: The Force Awakens) but what did Diane Keaton recently do to merit inclusion?
At this precise moment the Hollywood Elsewhere realm is divided into three camps — those who instantly recognize this as a capture from Jean-Luc Godard‘s Weekend (’67), those who went “Hmm, maybe if I google ‘Hermes hand bag car crash’ something’ll come up” and those who said to themselves “uhm…whatever.”
A lot of film sophistos talk a hip game, but if you press them they’ll admit they’ve never seen Expresso Bongo (’59), which actually began as a stage musical the year before. The BFI Bluray pops on 4.18.16. Synopsis: “Val Guest‘s 1959 London-shot Brit Beat classic is a sharp satire on the music industry. Aspiring musician Bert Rudge (Cliff Richard) stands little chance in the music business but is propelled to major stardom after being discovered in an expresso coffee shop by sleazy Soho agent Johnny (Laurence Harvey). In quick succession Rudge changes his name to Bongo Herbert, gets a record deal and strikes up a relationship with an aging American singing sensation (Sylvia Sims).” Honestly? I’ve never seen Expresso Bongo.
It’s a toss-up as to whether Donald Trump‘s loss to Ted Cruz or the Bernie-Hillary tie was last night’s biggest surprise, but I was so convinced Trump had it won and that Hillary would edge out Bernie that I didn’t even check the results until 10 pm or thereabouts. But all Bernie supporters should enjoy the moment; ditto his New Hampshire victory next week. Because it’s going to get a lot tougher for him when African-American voters start weighing in. (I was beaten up yesterday for trying to explain why black voters overwhelmingly prefer Hillary to Bernie, according to surveys. Is it okay to say that polls strongly indicate this, or should I just ignore this factor altogether for fear of angering the bullshit brigade?) N.Y. Times reporter Amy Chozick has written about the psychological wounding that the Clinton campaign experienced last night while “Upshot” analyst Nate Cohn argued a “virtual tie” in Iowa is better for Hillary Clinton than Bernie Sanders.