Initially Steven Spielberg and Amy Pascal‘s Pentagon Papers flick was known as The Post, and then as The Papers. Today it officially went back to being called The Post. A good enough title, I guess, but a bit sleepy. No echoes or undercurrents. We all know the logline — Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham gradually takes the bull by the horns when the Nixon administration attempts to suppress the printing of a once-secret history of governmental lying about the Vietnam War. What are the two greatest sounding award-season titles? Phantom Thread and Call Me By Your Name.
I’m no fan of Good Time, but the following statement by co-director Josh Safdie is exactly on-target as far as understanding where people are at in terms wanting or not wanting exposition and back-stories in movies.
“There’s zero exposition in [Dunkirk], to the point where you don’t even know who the characters are at times. But that adds to the element of the mass of people, of the experience of being one of 400,000. I think people are ready to move on from the idea of exposition, of ‘Let’s set it up and spoon-feed you information.’ I think, on an everyday basis, people do a lot of deduction in real life, especially when no one knows what’s real and what’s fake, and fake news this and that. I think people like to do their own detective work.” — Safdie speaking to Austin Chronicle‘s Richard Whittaker in an 8.18 interview.
“There are NO backstories or character fill-ins of any kind in Chris Nolan‘s Dunkirk, and it’s utterly wonderful for that.” — from “Origin Stories Can Kiss My Ass,” posted on 8.1.17.
It’s been 26 years since I suffered through Micheal Lehman‘s Hudson Hawk. I’d kinda forgotten the particulars, although it all came rushing back when I began watching clips. The only thing I liked about it was James Coburn playing George Kaplan. Not Coburn’s performance, mind, but screenwriters Steven de Souza and Daniel Waters‘ decision to pay tribute to North by Northwest‘s “non-existent decoy.”
No, I didn’t decide to hate Hudson Hawk because just about everyone trashed it or because it cost $65 million and earned $17.2 million or any of the other lynch-mob rationales. I hated it all on my lonesome because it struck me as smug and arrogant and unfunny, and because watching it was like being held down on the pavement as Bruce Willis and producer Joel Silver strolled over, bent down and farted in my face.
Go ahead — open your mind to Richard Brody’s revisionist assessment (“The Misunderstood Ambition of Hudson Hawk”) in the current New Yorker. It’s an intriguing argument, if unpersuasive. Because those YouTube clips don’t lie. Sink into that haughty attitude, those frosty vibes, that rot and corrosion.
And remember that Brody led the charge in that strangely successful campaign to elevate (resuscitate?) the reputation of Alfred Hitchcock‘s disastrous Marnie, which was verified when a 2015 BBC Culture poll ranked Marnie as #47 among the 100 Greatest American Films of all time. This led to one of the all-time greatest HE comments (“brenkilco” remarking that this Brody-led fraternity is “insidious and frightening…they’re just like ISIS except instead of beheading people they like Marnie“) but also to a 7.23.15 HE piece called “O Come All Ye Marnie Haters!”
Now Brody is trying to restore Hudson Hawk to respectability. Hey, why not? Larry Karaszewksi agrees with him. By all means read the piece, but also watch the below clip. In the space of 164 seconds it will start to drive you insane.
HE to Last Flag Flying and The Last Detail author Darryl Ponicsan: “How do you pronounce your last name anyway? I’ve been asking myself this for over four decades. Is it like moccasin? Is it PONNICKsahn? Is it POHN-nih-son?” Ponicsan to HE: “I sometimes regret not changing it. No one can spell it or pronounce it. It’s pronounced PAWN-ah-son. It’s Hungarian and has an accent, which I adopted a few years ago after having met a Ponicsán family in Budapest. Anyone with that name is related to me.” HE to Ponicsan: “Forget the accent mark. Pronouncing it correctly is difficult enough. How the hell the Hungarians decided on PAWN-ah-son is beyond me. It should obviously be pronounced POHN-nih-son.”
A couple of months ago Collective Learning‘s Rob Ager laid out 27 reasons why too many post-millenial movies have sucked (and are currently sucking) eggs. I’ve just listened to the whole 56-minute thing, and I swear to God that 90% to 95% of what Ager says is right on the money. Ager dismisses too many films and filmmakers, but I don’t seriously disagree with any of his points. (He hilariously states that he hasn’t really liked a single Chris Nolan film.) I have a quibble here and there, but he’s really addressing the Big Picture here. Here’s a written-out version of what he says, and here’s a timecode breakdown of his various points:
1:16 Lack of economic pacing / 2:10 Over-editing / 3:19 OCD cinematography / 5:14 OCD lighting / 7:12 Over-choreographed action / 9:10 Improper use of CGI / 11:41 Boring musical scores / 14:03 Over-compartmentalization of personnel / 15:27 Terrible casting / 16:23 Recycled symbols and metaphors / 19:13 Dumb heroes / 22:03 Mumbled dialogue / 23:26 Ever-increasing spectacle / 26:11 Blank canvas “art” movies / 29:04 The uncinematic world of I.T. communication / 31:49 Over-reliance on exposition / 34:23 Illegal downloading / 35:35 Blitz marketing instead of word-of-mouth / 36:52 Dependence on commercial and political advertising / 39:03 Brand-based filmmaking / 39:53 Fake reviews / 41:37 Expensive technical standards / 44:33 Ideological conformity / 47:05 Socially motivated viewing / 48:22 Redundancy of art in the face of mass communication / 51:35 Lack of visionary filmmakers.
8.26 update: I tapped out a similar list in April 2016, but here’s a refresh anyway. If you start with 1.1.00, the 21st Century is now 18 and 1/2 years old. By my count there are 117 films from this period that made a significant dent in the zeitgeist. If you haven’t seen the vast majority of these, you need to get cracking.
Since the beginning of 2010, or the start of the 21st Century’s second decade, at least 73 films that were and are really good opened commercially. 73 films within eight and a half years, or roughly nine per year. Add to these HE’s best of the first decade, which number 44, and you have 117. By the end of this year the tally will probably be at 122 or thereabouts.
Best of 2017 so far: Dunkirk, Call Me By Your Name, Graduation, Baby Driver (except for the last 15 minutes), Get Out, Personal Shopper (long-delayed commercial release), Logan (excessive violence excepted) (7)
Best of 2016: Manchester By The Sea, La La Land, Personal Shopper (Cannes/Toronto screenings), Elle, A Bigger Splash, The Witch, Eye in the Sky, Moonlight, Hell or High Water, The Confirmation, The Invitation. (11)
Best of 2015: Spotlight, The Revenant; Mad Max: Fury Road; Beasts of No Nation; Love & Mercy, Son of Saul; Brooklyn; Carol, Everest, Ant-Man; The Big Short. (12)
Best of 2014: Birdman, Citizen Four, Leviathan, Gone Girl, Boyhood, Locke, Whiplash, Wild Tales, Nightcrawler, Grand Budapest Hotel, It Follows. (11)
Best of 2013: The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years A Slave, Inside Llewyn Davis, Her, Dallas Buyers Club, Before Midnight, The Past, Frances Ha (8).
Best of 2012: Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Barbara, The Grey, Moonrise Kingdom (7).
Best of 2011 (ditto): A Separation, Moneyball, Drive, Midnight in Paris, Contagion, X-Men: First Class, Attack the Block (7).
Best of 2010: The Social Network, The Fighter, Black Swan, Inside Job, Let Me In, A Prophet, Animal Kingdom, Rabbit Hole, The Tillman Story, Winter’s Bone (10).