I’m thinking of two films in which a bad guy (gangster, assassin) strikes up an odd kind of friendship with an unassertive law-abiding type, and by the end of the film the law-abider has manned up and found some kind of inner steel, largely because of the influence of the baddie. The films, both first-rate, are John McNaughton‘s Mad Dog and Glory (’93) and Michael Mann‘s Collateral (’04). There must be a few more. Would Delmer Davies‘ 3:10 to Yuma (’57) qualify?
I’ve never forgotten a certain corruption metaphor that was visualized in Ken Russell‘s The Devils (’71). It was the sight of Christopher Logue‘s Cardinal Richelieu being wheeled around on a dolly so that he didn’t have to exert himself. That left an indelible impression, I’m afraid, and one result is that ever since I’ve regarded people who avoid walking for whatever reason as degenerate sloths. People who buzz around on Segways, for instance. (I literally seethe every time I see somebody on one of those things.) Or women in high heels who refuse to walk two or three blocks to a party or a premiere because it hurts their feet to walk any kind of distance. I understand why they insist on three-block Uber rides, but I hate it all the same. HE solution: women who are committed to wearing sexy pumps need to carry them in their handbag (or give them to me and I’ll carry them) and wear sensible shoes before and after. Go ahead and call me unreasonable but I can’t get past the Cardinal Richelieu thing.
Tonight is Sylvester Stone‘s big-bop tribute at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. And virtually no handicappers are predicting that the Creed costar won’t take the Best Supporting Actor Oscar on 2.28. But what’s the Stallone love basically all about? Why is it such a slam-dunk thing?
All I can figure is that people love the idea of a guy who’s come full circle and returned to home ground– a guy who started out as a Philadelphia soul man whom everyone was pulling for, and then went astray a bit, and went up and down and lost some of the old mojo, but got it all back by returning to Philly and the lug who launched his career.
40 years ago Sly was a struggling guy near the end of his rope who gloriously broke through with Rocky, and after that he made exactly…what, five or six quality movies during his whole career? Mostly he’s played studly action heroes who glare and seethe and flex their forearms. He tried like hell and did the best he could to stay in the game, but after Rocky the only films he can really and truly be proud of in a quality vein are First Blood (’82), Demolition Man (’93), Judge Dredd (’95), Cop Land (’97) and Creed (’15) (He also scored with some amusing voice work in 1998’s Antz.)
Mainly Sly stayed in his tried-and-true machismo realm and went for the box-office rather than reviews or awards. That’s not a crime, of course, but it’s not exactly the sort of thing that would normally bring an industry audience to their feet.
I got to know Sly a bit from the mid ’80s to early ’90s. I worked under him in ’85 and ’86 when I was employed as a writer/publicist for Bobby Zarem and Dick Delson, who had formed a p.r. partnership and had landed Stallone as their star client. I knew his vibe, hung in his orbit, watched him train and box, visited his home once or twice, did what I was told. But there wasn’t a lot of openness from the guy. He was guarded, sullen. When I was over at his place one evening I noticed an original Francis Bacon painting hanging in his foyer, and I said with some excitement, “Whoa, Francis Bacon!” Stallone’s total reply: “You got it.”
I won’t be catching tonight’s Zoolander 2 all-media at the Arclight due to my obligations to the Santa Barbara Film Festival and particularly the Sylvester Stallone Montecito Award tribute at the Arlington, which begins about nine hours hence. I also missed last week’s Deadpool all-media but I’m fairly certain I’ll hate it. Okay, maybe I won’t.
Last night’s Brie Larson/Skull Island kerfuffle at the Santa Barbara Film Festival stirred a casual interest in this Warner Bros. monster pic, which has been shooting since last October under director Jordan Vogt Roberts (Kings of Summer) and will open in March 2017. It’s basically back to Skull Island for more fun and games, more Jurassic jazz, etc.
I’m told, however, that Kong: Skull Island is set in the early ’70s. It’s basically a Vietnam-era thing (some of the film has been shot in Vietnam), which, I suppose, might bring some cool thematic meat to the table.
And the new Kong is…what, the great-great-great-great grandson of Merian C. Cooper’s original ape, who ravaged Manhattan 80-plus years ago? Is there any awareness or acknowledgement within the realm of the screenplay that Skull Island is the home of the “original” Kong, or is the story starting from scratch?
The answer, I’m told, is (a) forget old Kong because (b) the Kong genesis is not that specific.
You’ll notice I didn’t say Peter Jackson‘s ape as that three-hour-long film has been almost totally discredited. No discipline, no poetry or lyricism to speak of…it occupies the same “what happened?” realm as The Godfather, Part III. Yes, I reviewed it favorably at first but I came to my senses after watching it it a second time.
Thanks again to HE commenter “Mr. Sunset Terra Cotta” (@martyguerre) for yesterday’s business card, which I’m actually thinking of having printed up. Yes, I get it — the William S. Burroughs/David Cronenberg life form alludes to Hollywood Elsewhere’s “insect antennae” but I’d be happier with…I don’t know, something else. An old-fashioned ink pen, a pair of brown lace-up Italian shoes…something less creepy looking.
Last night’s Santa Barbara Film Festival tribute was a double-header — Room‘s Brie Larson and Brooklyn‘s Saoirse Ronan splitting the Outstanding Performer of the Year award. It was a reasonably okay evening, and was at least invigorated by a dramatic last-minute announcement that Larson wouldn’t be able to attend. My initial reaction was “what?” but I gradually realized it wasn’t Larson’s fault.
Brooklyn‘s Saoirse Ronan during last night’s SBIFF tribute.
Room‘s Brie Larson during her Skype chat with moderator Pete Hammond.
Even though her SBIFF plans had been set weeks ago, the producers of Kong: Skull Island suddenly insisted that Larson had to return to Australia a day early, which meant Larson had to catch a 10 pm flight last night. (For what it’s worth I found a Quantas flight that left at 11:30 pm, but she still couldn’t have made it.) So while Larson was able to fit in Monday afternoon’s Oscar luncheon and a Jimmy Kimmel appearance she had to blow off poor Santa Barbara. But she sat for a Skype chat with host Pete Hammond, and that went pretty well.
Ronan showed up live and in-person, and her discussion with Hammond was pleasant enough.
I had to leave just before Ronan’s segment ended but I didn’t hear Hammond mention something interesting, which is that one of her recent films, Nikole Beckwith‘s Stockholm, Pennsylvania, is essentially about the same captive situation that Room is about — a young girl taken prisoner by a guy, kept prisoner for years in a basement, etc.
It also wasn’t mentioned that both Larson and Ronan have adapted a Michael Caine-like approach to their careers — i.e., work often, keep banging ’em out, pocket those paychecks, grab the good stuff when it’s offered but average over two films per year.