Legendary director-writer John Sayles is making three appearances (one tonight, two tomorrow) during a tribute at Cinefamily. “A Weekend With John Sayles” rundown: Brother From Another Planet and Piranha (Friday, 2.19, 7:30pm); Master Filmmaking Class w/ Sayles + City of Hope at (Saturday, 2.20, 3pm); Lianna & Baby, It’s You (Saturday, 2.20, 7:30 pm). We did a phoner two or three days ago — sorry for not posting sooner.
Earlier today Dark Horizons‘ Garth Franklin reported that the release date of Oliver Stone‘s Snowden has been bumped again. It was initially shifted from late December (two months ago) to 5.13.16. Now Open Road has pushed it back to 9.16.16. Franklin has written that this puts it “back into awards contention”, but opening a movie in the middle of the 2016 Toronto Film Festival (which will run from 9.8 to 9.18) is not a good award-season strategy.
A mid-Toronto Film Festival opening is actually a telegraphed message to critics and award-season blogaroonies as follows: “Snowden is a first-rate Oliver Stone spy thriller but honestly? Thrillers are thrillers and we’re fine with it being a smart piece of adult entertainment. We don’t really see it as an awards contender. If we did we’d obviously open it sometime between mid October and early December. But we don’t want to open it in the summer either because the subject matter doesn’t fit the warm-weather paradigm so this is a reasonably good fit.”
Last December I complained about what I believed was an intention by Criterion to to present The Manchurian Candidate within a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The info was wrong — the forthcoming Bluray is matted at 1.75:1. I didn’t imagine the 1.85 so I’m guessing it was posted on the Criterion website page and then changed. In any event, 1.75 is an acceptable format.
Hollywood Elsewhere to Matt Atchity of Rotten Tomatoes, Tim Gray of Variety, Nicole Sperling of Entertainment Weekly, Sasha Stone of Awards Daily and Glenn Whipp of the L.A. Times: Last night I caught my third viewing of The Big Short. I saw it with a first-timer (a lady who knows the markets) at the Landmark on Pico. Loved Ryan Gosling, still irritated by Christian Bale (Aspergers personality , odd teeth , bare feet). It’s a very smart, sometimes funny, engaging-as-far-as-it-goes tutorial and a total Bernie Sanders movie…great! Politics aside I liked it better than I did the first time and about as much as I did the second, but it doesn’t have that Best Picture schwing…it just doesn’t. I think it’s obvious that em>The Revenant will take the Best Picture Oscar. And yet you’re continuing to predict a Big Short win on Gold Derby.com. And that’s totally fine. I admire your fortitude. But could you share your reasons why? Above and beyond the statistical precedent factor or the PGA vote? Gut-wise, what tells you that it has a decent shot? Because the lady I saw it with last night was going “it’s too hard to follow…it’s not well-organized, Bale is too weird, I liked Spotlight much better,” etc.
The Path is a 10-episode Hulu series debuting on 3.30.16. Aaron Paul, Michelle Monaghan, Hugh Dancy, Stephanie Hsu, Rockmond Dunbar, Kyle Allen, Amy Forsyth, Kathleen Turner, Minka Kelly. Sorry but I’ve always found movies about cults (including the reasonably decent Split Image and the above-average Guayana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones) kind of toxic.
Horror is viral, waiting in the blood. How to release it? Easy — deliver the shocks, summon the grotesque, bare the fangs, drool the saliva, screech the soundtrack…the usual bag of tricks. Delivering a half-decent fright flick is within the abilities of most marginally talented directors. But it takes an exceptional wizard to finesse things in a subliminal way…to instill something that creeps and crawls beyond the corner of your eye…a slightly demonic something-or-other that is elusive and yet deliberate and merciless as fuck.
Even more exceptional (and pretty close to unique) would be a period horror film that operates according to the myths of its day, that eschews the reliable Wes Craven devices in favor of resuscitating nightmares that terrified the hell out of modest, rational people three or four centuries ago…goats, crows, claws, beaks, witches and even the most fleeting thoughts of sex out of wedlock or even, you know, sexual notions about your own sister or daughter. Out, demon!
This is what Robert Eggers‘ The Witch (A24, 2.19) does and then some. Set on a small New England farm in the early 1600s, it delivers creeps and chills according to the myths and suppressions of its time. Which isn’t to imply it errs on the side of subtlety…far from it. It’s just playing a different game.
If your tastes run to the primitive, you’ll most likely say “Hey, where’s the usual scary-ass shit that I’m used to? C’mon..I paid for my ticket and my popcorn…lay it on me!” There’s no talking to people like this. It takes a sliver of sensitivity and a little bit of brain-cell percolation to get what The Witch is up to, and the fact is that animals like what they like, want what they want, and never the twain shall meet.
Here’s how I put it a month ago: “The Witch may be too good for some — too subterranean, too otherworldly, too scrupulous in its avoidance of cliches. And because it goes for chills and creeps rather than shock and gore.
Harper Lee didn’t quite make it to 90, but calendar years were barely of interest when it came to her legend, which became fixed and gleaming when “To Kill A Mockingbird” was published in 1960, and particularly after Robert Mulligan, Horton Foote, Gregory Peck and Alan Pakula released their film version on 12.25.62. Last year’s publication of “Go Set A Watchman,” which was sold as a “Mockingbird” sequel but which was basically an early “Mockingbird” draft when Lee first submitted it in 1957, was regrettable, but certain parties wanted the payday.
Written by Gregory Peck for the paperback edition of “Mockingbird”: “The Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama, reminds me of the California town [i.e., La Jolla] I grew up in. The characters of the novel are like people I knew as a boy. I think perhaps the great appeal of the novel is that it reminds readers everywhere of a person or a town they have known. It is to me a universal story — moving, passionate and told with great humor and tenderness.”