The below comment, written by Alex Gibney and included in a N.Y. Times rundown of the best or best-liked 21st Century films (“Six Directors Pick Their Favorite Films of the 21st-Century”), had honestly never occured to me. I always regarded Anton Chigurh (i.e., “sugar”) as a metaphor for the increasing presence of malice and poison in the American bloodstream and the general decline of civilization, but whatever works. I’ve mentioned a couple of times how Tony Scott‘s Man on Fire (’04) is probably the best 9/11 payback film ever delivered by mainstream Hollywood, and how the superhero genre is a pathetic spawn of the post-9/11 mentality. Avoiding films that are specifically about that tragedy, what others can be called “9/11 films” in the same way Gibney regards No Country For Old Men?
Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman, reeling from a recent viewing of The Mummy, has written one of the best “whither Tom Cruise over the last decade?” pieces in a long while. Does Cruise intend to be some kind of throbbing Energizer Bunny in power-pump action franchise flicks until he’s…what, 70 or thereabouts?
Gleiberman excerpt #1: “The eerie thing about Cruise’s career in the last decade is that he has been churning out the cinematic equivalent of holograms. It walks like a Tom Cruise movie, it talks like a Tom Cruise movie (it’s got speed and ‘intensity,’ even a soupçon of cleverness), but it’s a Tom Cruise movie that leaves no shadow. It’s a piece of virtual entertainment.”
Gleiberman excerpt #2: “Cruise now seems to be throwing franchises against the wall to see which of them will stick. Another M:I film, another Jack Reacher mystery, now The Mummy and what’s next? He’s all these characters, but in another way he’s none of them, because the characters (except for Ethan Hunt) aren’t sinking into moviegoers’ imaginations. They’re like suits of clothing he’s rotating through.”
Gleiberman excerpt #3: “At the very moment when he should be taking on more character roles, Cruise has doubled down on one thing and one thing only: the awesome global transcendence of his image. He’s still choosing movies like he’s king of the world, [and] proving that, each and every time, by making movies that exist for no organic reason but to win the box-office contest they’re not even winning anymore has become, for Cruise, a game of diminishing returns: for his fans, and for himself, too.”
N.Y Times critics A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis have posted their picks for the Best 25 films of the 21st Century. There are no right or wrong picks in this regard, of course, but Inside Out being called the seventh best film of the century thus far feels…I’m not sure how to put this. A little head-scratchy?
Tony and Manohla’s top ten in this order: (1) Paul Thomas Anderson‘s There Will Be Blood (’07), (2) Hayao Miyazaki‘s Spirited Away (’02), (3) Clint Eastwood‘s Million Dollar Baby (’04), (4) Jia Zhangke‘s A Touch of Sin (’13), (5) Cristi Puiu‘s The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (’06), (6) Edward Yang‘s Yi Yi (’00), (7) Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen‘s Inside Out (’15), (8) Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood (’14), (9) Olivier Assayas‘ Summer Hours and (10) Kathryn Bigelow‘s The Hurt Locker (’09).
Remember that BBC.com roster of the 100 finest films of the 21st Century, which was posted last August? The general response was “who are these guys?…their choices are so scholastic, so self-regarding, so dweeby.” I’m getting somewhat the same vibe from Tony and Manohla’s list.
I posted my own top 25 picks on 4.22.16: Zodiac, Zero Dark Thirty, Manchester By The Sea, Leviathan, The Wolf of Wall Street, A Separation, The Social Network, No Country For Old Men, Memento, Traffic, Amores perros, United 93, Children of Men, Adaptation, The Lives of Others, Michael Clayton, Almost Famous (the “Untitled” DVD director’s cut), 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Collateral, Love & Mercy, Dancer in the Dark, A Serious Man, Girlfight, The Departed, In the Bedroom. To these I would add five ’17 films — Call Me By Your Name, Loveless, Personal Shopper, The Square and The Big Sick.
The idea behind Esperanto, which was first hatched in the late 1880s, was that everyone would speak or at least understand the same language. Well, that problem has been solved. English is Esperanto and vice versa. Just about everyone speaks it to some degree, especially in the big cities, and many European merchants use English street signs. My first time in Paris was in ’76, and if you spoke only English back then you were a hopeless American donkey. As mortified as I felt back then, I miss that culture to some extent. A certain romance has been rubbed out. I certainly wish Americans weren’t so culturally dominant over here now. Last night Tatyana and I were sitting at an outdoor cafe/restaurant in the Marais, and there were four bellowing, yaw-hawing American assholes sitting 10 or 12 feet away. Everyone was giving them the stink-eye. I’ve no love or compassion for generic “Americans” (i.e., loud, entitled, self-absorbed) as a rule in any country, but I really hate them when I’m in this, the fairest city of all.
Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal‘s Detroit (Annapurna, 8.4) is looking to break the conventional award-season mindset by opening nearly a full month before the kick off of Venice-Telluride-Toronto, and at the start of a notorious “dump” month at that. Detroit will be on screens only eight weeks hence. It should begin to screen for the know-it-alls by sometime in early July, possibly within three weeks. This is a TV spot, by the way, that’ll play during NBA Finals:
20 months after the start of principal photography (i.e., 10.14.15) and almost exactly a month before the 7.14.17 opening, Matt Reeves‘ War For The Planet of the Apes will have a peek-out screening for elite journos. Plus a little post-screening schmooze time with filmmakers. The grand conclusion to a great and terrible war between civilizations. Spoiler: Apes win. Stand-up hurrahs for Andy Serkis (“Caesar”), Woody Harrelson (Trump-like Colonel), Steve Zahn (“bad ape”), Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, et. al. Nothing especially mind-boggling or even newsy in this, but the invite art hooked me.
Bill Maher has weathered the storm, been schooled, is out of the woods. The charge is/was unconscious white privilege. Quote: “A guy said a weird thing, and I made a bad joke. I’m just a product of the country like everyone else. I was born in 1956, and grew up in an all-white town in New Jersey. [But] that word brought back pain to a lot of people, and that’s why I apologized and why I reiterate [that] tonight. I transgressed a sensitivity thing [but] everyone makes mistakes.”
A sharp, nicely energized teaser-trailer for yet another historically significant, cultural-benchmark superhero flick, eight months prior to opening. Chadwick Boseman mostly doing the stoic, observant, holding-back thing — the action part will come later. Lupita Nyong’o finally scores a significant, attention-grabbing role in the wake of 12 Years A Slave (i.e, Maz Kanata in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Nakku Harriet in Queen of Katwe didn’t count). Andy Serkis always scores when he plays maniacally self-absorbed nutters.
Premise: “After the events of Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther (aka King T’Challa) returns home to Wakanda only to face a challenge from Michael Jordan‘s Eric Killmonger, among others. When two enemies conspire to bring down the kingdom, BP joins forces with C.I.A. agent Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) and members of the Dora Milaje—Wakanda’s special forces—to prevent a world war.”