I dreamt last night that I went to see Finding Dory. I bought my popcorn and drink, sat in my seat, the lights came down…and then I woke up. Seriously, all animated films are out of my life for the rest of my life. Corporate-branded heroin for the family audience. I don’t care how good they are, and by saying that I’m obviously recognizing that most of them are. The experience that convinced me to kick animated films permanently was catching Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed‘s Feast at the Savannah Film Festival in October 2014.
A 6.18 Vice story reports that Oakland “has gone through three police chiefs in nine days in the wake of a series of scandals involving alleged sexual misconduct and racist text messages.
“Paul Figueroa took the position of acting police chief on Wednesday, replacing Ben Fairow as the department’s top cop. Just two days later, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf held a press conference to announce Figueroa had resigned his duties [due to alleged] racist text messages and emails exchanged by officers. While announcing Figueroa’s resignation, Schaaf used strong language to condemn what she described as the ‘toxic’ and ‘macho’ culture inside the department. ‘I am here to run a police department, not a frat house,’ Schaaf said angrily. ‘We are hell-bent on rooting out this disgusting culture.'”
Comment #1: The Oakland scandal is an HBO movie, and maybe even a feature. It’s the House of Borgia in uniform with nightsticks. It’s about the clash of two radically different realms — that of a progressive feminist mayor looking to enforce a fairer, less racist system vs. the sexist, swaggering old-boy network of beat cops in a big, tough, racially combustible city. Things are obviously changing in this country, and even the randiest and gruntiest big-city cops know their way of life is on the way out. But it won’t be pretty.
Comment #2: Did Schaaf ever read a Joseph Wambaugh novel when she was younger? Has she ever seen The Wire, Serpico, Prince of the City? Who does she think is attracted to being a cop in the first place? Liberal p.c. pantywaists? There are good cops out there, but others are not exactly sweethearts. Some are good-hearted and fair-minded but many are white traditionalists holding on to a shrinking turf.
I was speaking earlier today to author-critic Shawn Levy, and he was telling me about his latest book — “Dolce Vita Confidential: Fellini, Loren, Pucci, Paparazzi, and the Swinging High Life of 1950s Rome” (Norton, 10.4.16).
It’s really about a Roman era that lasted from the mid ’50s until the making of Cleopatra in ’61 and ’62. The Roman decadence thing was actually thriving right alongside the Frank Sinatra-Dean Martin-Peter Lawford-Sammy Davis, Jr. Rat Pack thing (which Levy wrote about a few years ago). Both eras came crashing to a close with the coming of the Beatles in late ’63, which signaled the turning of a generational page. And then the British invaders merged with the whole folk-rocky, Dylan-influenced, Civil Rights movement thing, and then the early-acid-tripping, “grow your hair and start pushing back against the establishment” mentality of ’64 through ’66 kicked in, which then triggered the counter-culture.
Boilerplate: “From the ashes of World War II, Rome was reborn as the epicenter of film, fashion, creative energy, tabloid media, and bold-faced libertinism that made ‘Italian’ a global synonym for taste, style, and flair.
“A confluence of cultural contributions created a bright, burning moment in history: it was the heyday of fashion icons such as Pucci, whose use of color, line, and superb craftsmanship set the standard for women’s clothing for decades, and Brioni, whose confident and classy creations for men inspired the contemporary American suit. Rome’s huge movie studio, Cinecitta, also known as ‘Hollywood-on-the Tiber,’ attracted a dizzying array of stars from Charlton Heston, Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra to that stunning and combustible couple, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who began their extramarital affair during the making of Cleopatra.
Portland’s Hollywood Theatre is advertising a Tuesday, 6.21 showing of “the only known 35mm print of the X-Rated version” of Ken Russell’s The Devils. The question is whether or not this print will contain all of the controversial footage (include the infamous Rape of Christ and Sister-Jeanne-masturbates-with-a-blackened-bone scenes). And will the running time be 107, 108, 109 or 111 minutes? (The latter is the length of the longest-known British version.) I called the Hollywood theatre and spoke to a staffer who said they haven’t yet received the print (it’s being sent from Seattle’s Grand Illusion Cinema), but he’s heard it’s a print that was “sent out by mistake” by Warner Bros. some time ago. That sounded like bullshit to me. I then called the Grand Illusion, but no one picked up. A completely restored version of The Devils (including the risque footage) was allegedly screened at The National Film Theatre in London on 4.23.11. I don’t believe there’s any stateside Devils print, sent out by mistake or whatever, that contains this footage. But if anyone in Portland is planning to attend, I’d appreciate a brief report. Thank you.
You’re 17 or 18 and attending a high school basketball game, and suddenly a gang of bullies push a naked fat guy onto the court. Would your first instinct be to scream with laughter, or would you maybe wonder why anyone who would enjoy that kind of cruelty? If you’re one of the laughers, you’ll probably be okay with Rawson Marshall Thurber‘s Central Intelligence. But I’m telling you that after an interesting opening (20 or 25 minutes) and the beginnings of a kind of comedic Collateral tale with Dwayne Johnson as Tom Cruise and Kevin Hart as Jamie Foxx, the movie degenerates into rank idiocy and never looks back. It’s meant to be cartoon-funny. I’ll admit to having chortled two or three times early on but mostly I just sat there in agony, waiting for it to end. Blam, blam, BLAM! Any film in which the main protagonists jump out of a fifth-story window only to save themselves from death by landing on an inflated plastic gorilla….well, it’s just shit, you see. It really is. And any critic saying that Central Intelligence is some kind of fun, rollicking ride (Bilge Ebiri, Allison Willmore, J.R. Jones, David Sims, Barry Hertz, Stephen Whitty, Adam Graham) is never to be trusted again about anything. The movie is venomous big-studio garbage. From this point on Thurber is a dead man in my eyes.
Thorsten Schutte‘s Eat That Question (Sony Classics, 6.24) is a cool, often amusing doc about the legendary oddball rock star and musical provocateur Frank Zappa. Man, what I wouldn’t have given to be friends with this guy. In a way I was friends with him, even though I never bought a single Zappa album in my life. That’s because he didn’t create much in the way of catchy, riffy, soul-lifting music. He mainly created experimental mindfuck music, but always with invention, theatricality and winking humor. And I loved that about him.
Eat That Question director Thorsten Schutte, Moon Zappa during Monday’s night’s after-party.
What I really loved about Zappa was his smart, impudent, iconoclastic attitude. He’s greatly respected as an avant-garde musician, of course, but to me he was mainly a deadpan satirist. I will forever be in debt to the man who dreamt up “Weasels Ripped My Flesh,” and who created/approved that magnificent album-jacket illustration [above].
Eat That Question is entirely composed of Zappa interview footage. It’s amusing, but over and over it tells you the same thing, which is that Zappa was cool to know and talk to and was always good for a pungent sound bite or two. Schutte gives you a very good idea, in short, of who Zappa was philosophically, attitudinally and personally.
Look Back in Anger, A Taste of Honey, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Room At The Top, This Sporting Life, A Kind of Loving, The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner — the British “kitchen sink” films of the late ’50s and early ’60s get better and better the more I re-watch them.
Downbeat black-and-white dramas, I mean, about despairing middle-class men (and some women) in their 20s who felt trapped in their low-paying jobs and middling social stations. Scowling, sarcastic fellows, some still living with their parents, who took refuge with alcohol and impulsive sex and sometimes getting the wrong girl pregnant. Miserable at work or school and forever carousing with their mates and getting into pub fights, and then stumbling blind drunk into the kitchen after midnight and throwing up in the kitchen sink.
It hit me last night that a similar kind of despair is in the hearts of millions of Millennials — not enough income, saddled with enormous college debt, unable to afford kids much less a home, resentful of their parents’ generation for vacuuming up all the wealth and leaving them with relatively little, stuck in a grind, at best making do.
Millennials, in short, have just as much reason to be pissed off as Britain’s angry young playwrights and filmmakers of the ’50s and early ’60s, and yet what kind of films do they make? Or spend much of their time watching? Do they wade into social realism or at least comedies with a bitter edge? Except for the occasional cable series (Lena Dunham‘s Girls, Mike Judge‘s Silicon Valley), no. Do they make or watch films about real-deal aspects of their own difficult lives? No. Millenials mostly watch bullshit escapism, superhero flicks, dumb-shit comedies, airy-fairy relationship films. They seem to be so enveloped in despair that they can’t even get angry about it. The only evidence of any kind of Millenial rage about anything has been the Bernie Sanders movement.
Boiled down, where are the movies about scowling, sarcastic Millennials, many still living with their parents (which is true), who take refuge with alcohol and impulsive sex, who are miserable about earning so little and having to struggle so hard just to make ends meet? The social conditions are clearly there, but the movies that could be made about this don’t seem to exist.
Yesterday morning Kay Brown‘s Vimeo compilation of scenes from Jerry Lewis‘s The Day The Clown Cried (’72), which had been edited from a German-broadcast documentary called Der Clown, was taken down. She did so out of legal concerns. Lewis has stated that the unfinished film (which he’s donated to the Library of Congress) can’t be shown until 2025, and yet German broadcast laws somehow allowed last February’s showing of Der Clown. Brown nonetheless feared that Lewis’s attorneys might come down on her like a pile of bricks.
But this morning it’s back up again! Go figure. Watch it as quickly as you can before it gets pulled a second time.
The Day the Clown Cried edit from Kay Brown on Vimeo.
Recapping: Two months ago Brown’s 31-minute video, a condensed version of Lewis’s film, albeit German-dubbed with English subtitles, posted on Vimeo for limited viewing last April.
A friend sent me a link to Brown’s video Wednesday morning. I felt it was too historically important not to re-post.
I wrote the following to renowned Clown disser Harry Shearer yesterday morning: “You’ve seen the whole film and I’ve only seen excerpts, but I was surprised to discover that it doesn’t seem to be half bad in some respects. When it’s finally seen nine years hence the consensus view may well be that TDTCC has problems, but it’s certainly not the horribly miscalculated, embarrassing wipeout that you described to Shawn Levy way back when.
Donald Trump may be the most famous proponent of views that are clearly unsupported by facts, but there are many others, obviously, who insist on clinging to fantasy. 13 years ago Hutton Gibson, Mel Gibson‘s father, gave an interview in which he questioned Germany’s ability to get rid of six million bodies during the Holocaust. Holocaust denial is, of course, an anti-Semitic mindset that imagines the Holocaust to be a mythology created to advance the interest of Jews. But all of this seems so fringe, so 20th Century. If it had been released in 1979, okay, but now? I just don’t see anyone clamoring to see a film in which thoroughly verified historical fact (I’ve been to Dachau and Terezin) is disputed by a nutter. Bleecker Street will open Denial on 9.30.16.
Impression #1: That Entertainment Tonight vibe has always made me want to throw up, but this time we have Kevin Frazier saying “Hey, you’re looking to throw up, right? Well, why not take a minute to absorb my on-camera attitude and personality so you can really throw up? With gusto, I mean. Big splat.” Impression #2: Three and a half years ago director-writer Chris McQuarrie surprised everyone by making Jack Reacher into a lean and mean thing. Realistic chops, no jumping off buildings, no stupid CG bullshit. But Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (Paramount, 10.21) is an Ed Zwick film, and that almost always means trouble. One way or another Zwick always seems to overbake it, push it too hard. And I hate, hate, hate the presumptuous, sexy-smug attitude broadcast by costar Cobie Smulders. Get outta my life.
- Thumbs Down on “Pearl”
Some are under an impression that Ti West‘s Pearl (A24, currently playing), the X prequel, is some kind of unusual,...More »
- Emily’s Journey
It only took me five weeks to finally watch John Patton Ford‘s Emily The Criminal, which is pretty close to...More »
- Once More With “Empire”
Yesterday I tried to elaborate upon my positive Telluride reaction to Sam Mendes‘ Empire of Light (Searchlight, 12.9). Toward the...More »
- RT Cooking “Woman King” Scores?
At what point can The Woman King, which cost $50M to produce and another significant chunk of change to sell,...More »
- Don McLean’s “The Day The Academy Died”
An article by a veteran Academy member has appeared on The Ankler, and it says something that The Ankler‘s Richard...More »
- Nightmare at Village Market
Last night I ran into an old friend who’s no longer a friend because he’s more or less turned into...More »