Critic David Ehrlich adored Room, called Hail Caesar! “one of the Coen brothers very best”, called Clouds of Sils Maria “great art”, said that Aaron Sorkin‘s script for Steve Jobs “outdoes his work on The Social Network” and was tickled pink by The Hateful Eight, and for these five reasons he will always be regarded askance in this corner. He’s a very bright guy but also one of those critics who seem to live, breathe, assess and write inside their own secular caves, in the tradition of Richard Brody and Armond White. I’m not saying I live by “if Ehrlich likes it, there’s probably something wrong with it” but I am saying that “if Ehrlich likes it his reasons will possibly make no sense to me or I will strongly disagree with them.” He is one of those critics who’s done a lot to convince Joe Popcorn that critics are dweeby weirdos who never take the temperature of the room and write only about themselves and their colleagues and the scent of their own wind. It was announced today that Ehrlich has joined Indiewire as a senior critic — congrats.
For some reason the words “Big Friendly Giant” never kick in when I hear/read the title of Steven Spielberg‘s big family fantasy. That’s because I’m averse to the words “friendly” or “gentle” — it it okay if I refer to the film as “Big Effing Giant”? Disney will open the film on July 1st and may, God help me, have arranged to show it at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. If that happens I’ll be stuck — I’ll have to sit through it. An adaptation of Roald Dahl‘s 1982 children’s book by the late Melissa Mathison, The BFG is about a young orphan girl (Ruby Barnhill) transported to a storybook realm after meeting a gentle giant who’s not only voiced by Mark Rylance but obviously resembles him. Costarring Rebecca Hall, voiced-acted by Bill Hader and Jemaine Clement.
Starting next Tuesday (4.12) former Chicago Tribune film writer Mark Caro will be hosting a Music Box film series called “Is It Still Funny?” The idea is to screen a comedy that was considered hilarious at the time and see how it plays by today’s sensibilities. Caro will moderate a post-screening discussion. The first four films are National Lampoon’s Animal House (4.12), Blazing Saddles (4.19), Duck Soup (4.26) and There’s Something About Mary (5.3).
HE’s No Longer Funnies: Ghostbusters (NEVER funny), The Blues Brothers (NEVER funny), Mrs. Doubtfire (NEVER funny), Coming to America (NEVER funny), Three Amigos (NEVER funny), none of the Pink Panther comedies, Porky’s, The Philadelpia Story, Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back (Rock Hudson, Doris Day sexual comedies stopped being funny once the sexual revolution took hold in mid ’60s), none of the ZAZ comedies, Howard Hawks‘ Monkey Business, the broader sexual jokes in Billy Wilder‘s One, Two, Three, Irma La Douce and Kiss me Stupid, The Golden Child (NEVER funny), Withnail & I (NEVER funny).
Yesterday Wellesnet.com‘s Ray Kelly posted a report about the continuing effort to assemble, restore and release Orson Welles‘ never completed The Other Side of the Wind. Kelly is reporting that Netflix has apparently been interested in funding the project and acquiring worldwide rights, but that Oja Kodar, Welles’ longtime partner and key rights holder, has continued to block progress in her usual grasping way.
Oja the Terrible is reportedly still refusing to allow the film elements (which are apparently still stored somewhere in the outskirts of Paris) to be inspected and is demanding even greater financial renumeration now that Netflix is involved.
I’ve riffed on this never-ending saga three times since the first rays of hope were cast by Doreen Carvajal‘s 10.28.14 N.Y. Times story, titled “Orson Welles’s Last Film May Finally Be Released.” The piece reported that Kodar, the chief stopper in this situation along with Welles’ daughter Beatrice, had agreed to embrace a certain amount of trust and allow the film to be assembled and restored in good faith.
Not really. Oja’s behavior over the last year and a half has apparently moved beyond the realm of unreasonableness and into that of possible psychosis.
As Kelly writes, “Film historian Joseph McBride, an Other Side of the Wind cast member who spearheaded a 1999 completion effort with Showtime until he was sacked by director and longtime Welles ally Peter Bogdanovich and Kodar, has publicly accused her of continually obstructing the current deal by making incessant demands of the producers.
“Bogdanovich said at a gathering of Welles experts in Southern California last fall that there could be ‘psychological’ issues at play, such as unwillingness by Kodar to let go of the film.”
If Welles could only look down from heaven and see Oja’s true colors.
Here are my initial thoughts about Kelly’s piece, tapped out this morning in an email to McBride:
“What a revoltin’ development…a never-ending clusterfuck involving and/or caused by Filip Jan Rymsza and Oja Kodar…obstinacy, hubris, a lack of discipline, profligate wastefulness.
“$70K in legal fees plus $40K squandered on Sasha Welles‘ 11-week stay in Los Angeles in early ’15 that yielded nothing. Subtract this $110K from the $406K raised via the Indiegogo campaign, and there’s less than $300K remaining.
John Carney‘s Once was a perfect creation — an Irish busker musical about falling in love while building a band, and which ended with the main character heading off to London in search of the big time. I bought every line, every frame, every song…it felt honest and true and straight from the heart. Carney’s next was Begin Again (originally titled Can A Song Save Your Life?), a kind of fantasy redemption tale about a New York manager (Mark Ruffalo) falling platonically in love with a fledgling singer (Keira Knightley) as they assemble a ragtag street band. I enjoyed the spirit and pluck, but the film still felt a wee bit labored and contrived.
Carney’s Sing Street (Weinstein, 4.15) is better than Begin Again but not as good as Once, although it nearly gets there at times. It’s a Dublin-set, mid-’80s love story that follows what now feels like the Carney formula — falling in love, building a band, leaving for London at the finale. It’s well crafted and authentic as far as it goes, but it’s still another Carney-musical-with-guitars in which everyone who steps up to a mike plays perfectly and even the rehearsal versions of songs are perfectly mixed.
This isn’t a bad thing, per se, but at the same time you can’t quite believe it. Well, you can if you want to (two or three critics at yesterday afternoon’s screening were chortling all through it) but not 100%.
I had a perfectly fine time with Sing Street, but you can sense Carney trying like hell to please whereas Once, which was selling a similar combination of charm, heart and great tunes, seemed to primarily be about its own sincerity and passion; it almost felt as if reaching the audience was an afterthought on Carney’s part. It wasn’t, of course, but Carney half-convinced me otherwise.
It must also be said that Sing Street isn’t nearly as raunchy and kicky as Alan Parker‘s The Commitments (’91), which was about the travails of an Irish blues-and-soul band. The Commitments was naturally aiming to entertain, but, like Once, it seemed to first and foremost be about planting its feet and giving straight from the gut. You couldn’t sense the tugging of marionette strings as clearly in The Commitments as you can in Sing Street.