This is a weak year, granted. And the art of narrative drama is more in evidence these days on cable than on the big screen. But it’s easier if you have hours and hours to tell your story. The discipline of having to to deliver the goods in one sitting has always been the thing that makes movies so exciting. Longform cable is playing a whole different game.
I stopped to stretch my legs around 7 pm in a little town called Cuba, which is roughly 80 minutes north of Albuquerque Airport. I was eating a bowl of chili in a plain little cafe when I noticed one of the most brilliant sunsets I’ve seen in this country in I don’t know how long. (I saw an equally magnificent one last March when I was in Vietnam.) But I couldn’t take a photo because the iPhone is in a coma. So I quickly searched online for a New Mexico sunset photo that closely resembled what I was seeing. Here it is:
Telluride to Albuquerque Airport took me about six hours, not counting stops. Or maybe seven. It’s really something else to find your way without the aid of Google Maps as you’re whipping along at 80 mph. I get the willies when I’m about to do a long drive. Before I got out of bed this morning I was imagining all the scary shit that could happen. Then I hit the road and it was nothing. Water off a duck’s ass. It’s the same thing with writing in a way. The less you fret about what to write or how to say it, the easier it is once you get behind the keyboard. Just do it.
It’s 1:20 pm Telluride time, and that means no formal review of Ben Younger‘s somewhat familiar but hard-hitting Bleed For This, which I caught last night at the Werner Herzog. It’s a true-life comeback saga about a boxer (Vinnie Paz or Vincenzo Edward Pazienza) who not only recovered from a broken neck in a 1991 car crash but returned to the ring for over a decade and went on to beat Robert Duran twice.
Bleed is intense, gripping, pounding — at times familiar and difficult to watch but well assembled. And the acting is right in the pocket. Miles Teller delivers an obvious Best Actor-ish performance — he sweats, strains, gives it serious hell, shrieks, pushes hard, delivers. Paz isn’t a sweet or vulnerable character — he’s a hammerhead. His heyday nickname was “the Tazmanian Devil.” But Teller, no stranger to pain or blood or car crashes, owns the territory.
Aaron Eckhart, as Paz’s trainer Kevin Rooney, is also in line for some Best Supporting Actor action, and not just because he shaved his head and gained weight but jettisoned his natural speaking voice and really became this other guy.
Set in working-class Rhode Island and featuring wall-to-wall Italian-American goombah types (gold neck chains, loud emotional outbursts, flat vowels), Bleed For This will inevitably be compared to to David O. Russell’s The Fighter, but where is it written that only one film or one filmmaker can go to town with this kind of material?
Manchester by The Sea director-writer Kenneth Lonergan and star Casey Affleck sat for a Sunday afternoon q & a at Telluride’s Werner Herzog theatre. I showed up to record it — here’s the mp3. I said last January that Affleck is a lock for a Best Actor nomination, and right now it’s hard to envision any male lead performance that will pose a serious threat, much less nudge him aside. Yeah, I know — Tom Hanks as Sully, right? A very good performance but I don’t think so.
Here’s a partial transcript of what Affleck said yesterday about his working relationship with Lonergan during the shoot:
Manchester By The Sea star Casey Affleck, apparently snapped during a recent Telluride event. (I wasn’t there and I’m not going to guess or call around to find out.)
“I felt very, very safe. I had to show up every day emotionally charged. That was my responsibility, to be in a really shitty mood or feeling very, very sad or whatever. But Kenny would not resent me or fire me. Nor would he be afraid of me. And he would set very firm parameters. A very firm guiding light. That’s right, this isn’t right, this is the right spot. To be out of control is a real luxury [for an actor on a film set], and I was able to be out of control because Kenny had drawn the map, so all I had to do was walk it with conviction. And I knew that he knew I’d be going into the right places.”
Despite a nearly three-hour length (i.e., 162 minutes) and a certain number of walkouts observed, Feinberg regards the film as “one of the all-time great father-daughter films, and every bit as much a celebration of joie de vivre as Zorba the Greek, a defense of comedy like Sullivan’s Travels and a celebration of family like It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Photoshop art by HE commenter Zach Copeland.
Before I re-post portions of my 5.13.16 Cannes review, consider the feelings of a woman friend who told me last night that she felt shackled and imprisoned by Erdmann, and that it’s a relatively slight story that could’ve delivered the goods within a modest running time (100 or 110 minutes) and that it certainly didn’t need to last two hours and 42 drag-ass minutes, for God’s sake.
HE Cannes review: “Maren Ade‘s Toni Erdmann is a dry, interminable father-daughter relationship farce. It’s about a hulking, white-haired, 60ish music teacher named Winfried (Peter Simonischek) who tries to rejuvenate a distant relationship with Ines (Sandra Huller), his career-driven daughter, by parachuting into her life and pretending to be a boorish asshole named Toni Erdmann. Winfried’s strategy is to puncture Ines’ uptight veneer by acting out a series of socially intrusive put-ons that are essentially passive-aggressive.