The Sony 4K lip-synch agony that has plagued my life for roughly a month is finally over. Really — the problem has been 100% solved. The solution was to toss the Radio Shack HDMI switcher that I’d been using, and replace it with a Marantz AV Surround Receiver NR1506. I fed the cords from the four sources — Direct TV, Oppo Bluray, Sherwood Region 2 Bluray, 4K Roku player — into the Marantz, and then sent the whole package from the Marantz into the TV (Sony 930C), which has built-in speakers plus a wireless subwoofer. (I junked the Sony sound bar.) The key element is an audio-visual command in the Marantz that accelerates or slows the sound down by milliseconds. It allows me to perfectly synch sound and image if there’s even the slightest issue. I’ve never dealt with such a difficult technical challenge in my life. Agonizing.
That Region 2 Studio Canal Bluray of Carol Reed‘s The Third Man (4K-scanned, released last July, derived from a recent restoration that played in Cannes 11 months ago) arrived yesterday. It’s the sharpest, most richly-hued version of this 1949 classic I’ve ever seen in my life — quite velvety and sublime. Don’t even mention that discredited grainstorm Bluray that Criterion released in 2009. A tech-savvy friend told me at the time that exquisite studio-lit compositions weren’t available to director Carol Reed and his dp, Robert Krasker, as they were working on location in Vienna, and that rougher, grainier images were therefore inevitable. Bullshit.
I’ve made it quite clear in this column that I wouldn’t touch LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) these days with a 10-foot pole. But back when I used to touch it I would always describe what it did to my brain as a kind of blissful washover that freed me from everything I’d learned in school and thereby delivered radiant truths. The usual mental associations and thought patterns were rescrambled by my senses turning all tingly and Technicolored — an elevator-in-the-brain-hotel sensation leading to heightened sensitivity, receptivity. Which led to the opening of Dr. Huxley‘s doors of perception and the gates of prana, satori, nirvana.
Four or five days ago researchers from London’s Imperial College, working with the Beckley Foundation, published for the first time in the history of LSD visual records that precisely show the effects of the drug on the brain. Here’s a PDF with the findings.
The team administered LSD to 20 “healthy” volunteers and then used various brain-scanning techniques to visualize how LSD alters the way the brain works. For the first time in history the images depicted the ch-ch-ch-ch-changes that that people have sought to verbally describe for decades.
Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial: “Normally our brain consists of independent networks that perform separate specialized functions, such as vision, movement and hearing — as well as more complex things like attention. However, under LSD the separateness of these networks breaks down and instead you see a more integrated or unified brain.
“Our results suggest that this effect underlies the profound altered state of consciousness that people often describe during an LSD experience. It is also related to what people sometimes call ‘ego-dissolution’, which means the normal sense of self is broken down and replaced by a sense of reconnection with themselves, others and the natural world.
“This experience is sometimes framed in a religious or spiritual way, and seems to be associated with improvements in well-being after the drug’s effects have subsided.”
Filed from Park City on 1.25.16: “This is a sentimental, briefly stirring, Braveheart-like attempt to deify a brave African-American hero — Nat Turner, the leader of a Virginia slave rebellion in August 1831. But a black Braveheart or Spartacus this is not. Nor is it, by my sights, an award-quality thing.
The Birth of a Nation (Fox Searchlight, 10.7) “will almost certainly be Best Picture-nominated, as it delivers a myth that many out there will want to see and cheer. But don’t kid yourself about how good and satisfying this film is. It’s mostly a mediocre exercise in deification and sanctimony. I loved the rebellion as much as the next guy but it takes way too long to arrive — 90 minutes.
“Nate Parker, the director, writer and star, sank seven years of his life into this film, and invested as much heart, love and spiritual light into the narrative as he could. But the bottom line is that he’s more into making sure that the audience reveres the halo around Turner’s head and less into crafting a movie that really grabs and gets you, or at least pulls you in with the harsh realism, riveting performances and narrative, atmospheric discipline that made Steve McQueen‘s 12 Years A Slave an undisputed masterpiece.
Three days ago it was reported that Variety‘s longstanding TV critic Brian Lowry has taken a new media writer gig at CNN. Six days prior (4.6) it was announced that Variety film critic Justin Chang will leave to become Kenneth Turan‘s heir apparent at the L.A. Times. These follow last July’s decision by chief film critic Scott Foundas to take a new gig with Amazon. The old Variety guard…adieu!
Variety‘s film editor Claudia Eller is “interviewing outside candidates,” according to a Penske Media employee, but right now the trade is without a top-dog, marquee-brand, NY-or-LA critic to shoulder the domestic burden.
The exodus (“if that’s the word,” cautions a Variety staffer) started when Derek Elley, David Rooney and Todd McCarthy were let go by the old Reed Business regime in 2010.
After Foundas left for Amazon Variety interviewed a fair number of critics, including a couple of big names, but didn’t hire anyone, probably figuring Chang would be happy to do all the big films. Now with Chang off to the L.A. Times they’ve got no one.
It seems doubtful that their Paris-based critic Peter Debruge will return to fill Chang’s shoes, having only been in Paris for a couple of years. There’s also the London-based Guy Lodge, of course, but right now the stateside ranks are thin.
Total agreement with Collider‘s Matt Goldberg: the Avatar sequels have “become their own punchline,” and the brand has “fizzled” since ’09 (a full six and 1/3 years ago, remember). I’m not saying interest is dead but who do you personally know who has said repeatedly that they can’t wait to go back to Avatar-land? I’m asking.
I would’ve been down with a sequel if it had happened by, say, ’13 or ’14, and maybe even a third installment next year or even in ’18 to cap things off. But no way am I interested in seeing four (4) sequels, which James Cameron announced today at Cinemacon. Four sequels over a five-year period, he said.
Avatar 2 will open around Christmas 2018, Cameron said, and then comes Avatar 3 around Xmas 2020, Avatar 4 around Christmas 2022 and Avatar 5 on or about Christmas 2023.
We all know Cameron is a grade-A, full-metal-jacket filmmaker and that he’s never been one to shovel second-tier “product” just to make dough, but four sequels…c’mon! That’s nothing but frenzied corporate greed. “Four sequels” isn’t a punchline — it’s a satire of the sequel mentality, of absurd corporatism, of a gifted filmmaker who gone over the falls.
Let’s count off the four Steven Spielberg–Mark Rylance hook-ups, which seem to be a result of some kind of fetish on Spielberg’s part as he’s obviously doing the hiring. The first, of course, was Bridge of Spies, a period drama for which Rylance won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his portrayal of real-life Russian spy Rudolf Abel. Next came Spielberg’s The BFG, a fantasy-adventure in which Rylance plays the titular lead character (i.e., Big Fucking Giant), and which will debut at next month’s Cannes Film Festival before opening stateside on 7.1. Next is The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, which Spielberg will begin directing early next year with Rylance portraying Pope Pius IX, a supporting role. After that comes Spielberg’s Ready Player One, in which Rylance will portray the creator of a virtual world, Oasis, whose death propels the plot. Spielberg will direct and produce the film for release in March 2018.
The best-known fetish collaboration of the 21st Century was the one between Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese, but Spielberg-Rylance is clearly nipping at their heels. I for one felt fully sated by Spielberg-Rylance after Bridge of Spies. I saw it and said to myself “Okay, that was fine but Rylance and Spielberg can go their separate ways now…best of luck, guys!” Nope.
20th Century Fox’s presentation of trailers and product reels happened this morning at Cinemacon in Las Vegas. The same trailers will be screened for press next week on the Fox lot. The films being promoted are Ice Age: Collision Course (family animation), X-Men: Apocalypse (superhero sausage), Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (dingbat hormonal romcom), Independence Day: Resurgence (alien invasion sequel), Trolls (family animation), Assassin’s Creed (videogame-inspired actioner), Why Him? (romcom), Nate Parker‘s The Birth of a Nation (historical saga with spiritual sheen) and Tim Burton‘s Miss Peregrine’s Home of Peculiar Children (imaginative fantasy). With the exception of the Parker and Burton films, all are aimed at unrefined types (families, Joe Popcorn-ers, hormonal idiots). Fox is a big outfit, and it needs to bring in a lot of dough. Films made for people like me (i.e., Kenneth Lonergan‘s Manchester By The Sea) haven’t fit into their financial payoff schemes for a long while now. This is the way the big studios are these days. Remove the educated elites and you’re left with a culture that has largely begun to sink into the swamp. To stay alive Fox has to attract the sloths and submentals.
The fashion-realm hottie factor in Nicholas Winding Refn‘s The Neon Demon (Amazon, presumably June or July) is unmistakable and not unwelcome, and as misleading or deceptive as trailers often are this doesn’t look quite as unhinged as I thought it might be, given the grotesque excesses of Refn’s Only God Forgives. The bleachy white light is agreeable for some reason.
“There’s something about the light…you can call it artificial light, but I guess all light is artificial besides the sun…and the neon quality of it. [There’s] something about those colors that attracts and repulses at the same time. And then there’s the demon part. What is the demon within? What is the demon on the outside? Is it ego? It may be a fear of death. Or desire. It’s all sorts of fun stuff.” — Neon Demon costar Keanu Reeves.
AMC CEO Adam Aaron has upset a lot of people this morning with the posting of some liberal remarks he made yesterday about in-theatre texting. The quotes were part of a Cinemacon Variety interview with cyborg reporter Brent Lang. Aaron didn’t say that AMC will allow texting in all theatres, but that AMC might designate some theatres within a given plex as text-friendly. Another option, he allowed, might be to allow texting in the rear of some theatres.
HE’s view is that people who text in theatres should be beaten, spat upon, soaked with soft drink splashings and then turned over to ISIS for further discipline after the film has ended. But if texting must be allowed, I don’t have a problem if it happens only within, say, the last six or eight rows of a theatre. As long as those bright little screens aren’t glowing within my sight lines, fine.
And I guess it wouldn’t be super-terrible to allow total texting in certain designated theatres. I’ll just avoid those theatres if and when I pay to see a film, which happens from time to time.
Here’s the offending passage from the Lang/Aaron interview:
Lang: “Would appealing to millennials involve allowing texting or cellphone use?”
Aaron: “Yes. When you tell a 22-year-old to turn off the phone, don’t ruin the movie, they hear please cut off your left arm above the elbow. You can’t tell a 22-year-old to turn off their cellphone. That’s not how they live their life.
“At the same time, though, we’re going to have to figure out a way to do it that doesn’t disturb today’s audiences. There’s a reason there are ads up there saying turn off your phone, because today’s moviegoer doesn’t want somebody sitting next to them texting or having their phone on.”
I didn’t stay up until 3 am to file my reactions to the announcement of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival slate because (a) I was presuming that no wowser surprises would be included (this has turned out to be correct) and (b) there’s an apparent downside factor attached to…well, a good percentage of the films announced this morning. I’m not exactly “blue” in the Billie Holiday sense, but the Cannes turn-on factor is down this year. When the stars are aligned above the right kind of Cannes slate I’ll feel an 8 or an 8.5 warm gutty-wut in my soul. My bones and inner organs tend to vibrate. This one feels like a 6 or a 6.5. Okay, a 7.
Agreed, none of the announced films are radiating “please, God…no!” vibes except for the out-of-competition slot given to Steven Spielberg‘s The BFG, but very few seem (emphasis on the “s” word) to possess that special X-factor anticipation tingle-vibe that you can always somehow sense from a distance. And so my insides aren’t humming. The little pleasure light that hangs near the bow of my Cannes-bound ship won’t illuminate no matter how many times I unscrew and re-screw the bulb.
This is a good attitude to have, by the way, because when and if something really pops I’ll be all the more startled and thankful.
At least there’s (a) Baccalaureat, the competition film from Romania’s Cristian Mungiu, who can do no wrong in my eyes; (b) Cristi Puiu‘s Sierra-Nevada, about a demimonde of prickly Romanian family members who’ve assembled to raise a glass for a deceased patriarch; and (c) Julieta, about a character played in younger-older stages of her life by Adriana Ugarte and Emma Suarez, from the almost entirely faultless Pedro Almodovar. (If anyone can tell me why Pedro made I’m So Excited, I’m all ears.)
I’d like to express my deep, heartfelt gratitude to Thierry Fremaux or God or fate for the wonderful, glorious absence of Terrence Malick‘s Voyage of Time, the IMAX film that Mr. Wackadoodle has been fiddling with for the last four or five years, and which had been mentioned here and there as a possible out-of-competition inclusion.
Woody Allen‘s Cafe Society will open the festival, but opening-nighters are often chosen because they’re relatively mild or unchallenging or even toothless. Do the math.
Director Andrea Arnold seemed to have some kind of lightning in her bottle when she made Red Road and Fish Tank but American Honey, described as a portrait of “a group of young people who travel the country selling magazine subscriptions and making trouble,” sounds fucking dreadful. Magazine subscriptions? Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough costar. (Competition)
I’m enormously grateful, by the way, that Derek Cianfrance‘s The Light Between the Oceans wasn’t chosen. The prospect of watching Fassbender-Vikander engaging in a form of delusional child-rearing on an isolated island…forget it, leave it there. And thank our Almighty and Merciful God that James Gray‘s The Lost City of Z wasn’t chosen for whatever reason.
- All Hail Tom White, Taciturn Hero of “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Roughly two months ago a very early draft of Eric Roth‘s screenplay for Killers of the Flower Moon (dated 2.20.17,...More »