I’ve just come from a screening of Marina Zenovich‘s Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind. I was presuming it would be a sad, moving experience going in, and Zenovich hasn’t disappointed. Her film is simple, touching, direct — not a softball portrait that avoids the pitfalls and dark places, but a very comprehensive story of a fascinating whirling dervish and comic firecracker for whom the bell tolled.
Who didn’t love the guy (at least during his 20-year peak period), and who didn’t feel the thud in the chest when his suicide was announced on 8.11.14?
I have to hit Gus Van Sant‘s Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot (which a critic friend has told me is “a very good, very well acted 12-step movie”) but with Williams on my mind I thought I’d re-post a couple of riffs from the HE archives.
The poor guy had been wrestling with severe depression, probably in part because his heyday was clearly over and he was on a kind of career downswing. I hate to say this but he was. [Update: Also Lewy body dementia.] Life can feel so awful and cruel at times when the heat leaves the room and the candle starts to flicker. The weight can feel crushing and oppressive. And for a guy who seemed to burn a lot more brightly than most of us, certainly in the late ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. A genius improviser, gifted madman and comic superstar for at least…what, 30 years or so?
Williams hadn’t been landing the greatest films or roles over the past decade or so but from the peak of Mork and Mindy fame until One-Hour Photo…what a run! But this…this hurts. It reminds us that we’re all hanging by a thread in a sense, some thinner or stronger or more resolute than others.
Williams’ best films and performances: The World According to Garp (’82), Moscow on the Hudson (’84), Good Morning, Vietnam (’87), Dead Poets Society (’89), Awakenings (’90), The Fisher King (’91), Aladdin (’92), Mrs. Doubtfire (’93), Jumanji (’95), The Birdcage (’96), Good Will Hunting (’97), Insomnia (’02) — 12 films in all.
In the ambitious but mediocre Blindspotting, the sympathetic, Oakland-residing Colin (Daveed Diggs) is trying to stay out of trouble over the final three days of his parole status. Unfortunately, his longtime best friend is a violent, hair-trigger, gun-wielding asshole named Miles (Rafael Casal) so right away you’re wondering “is Colin as stupid as he seems, or is he just temporarily stupid?”
Even more unfortunately for the audience, Casal, a 32 year-old playwright and performance poet, relies on a broad caricature of Oakland street blackitude — machismo shit talk, constant strut, a mouthful of gold fillings, flashing pistols, drop-of-a-hat hostility, etc.
In the view of Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy “the volcanically emotive Miles” is “a character so brainlessly compulsive and violent that he becomes pretty hard to take after a while.”
White guys adopting the posture of angry, ready-to-rumble street brahs is an old bit. Hip white kids have been pretending to be urban desperados since at least the early ’90s. Gary Oldman as Dretzel in True Romance (’93). Josh Peck in Jonathan Levine‘s The Wackness (’08). The best comic reversal of this was Richard Pryor‘s imitation of dipshit white guys in Richard Pryor — Live in Concert (’78).
Casal’s Miles is easily the most irritating variation I’ve ever seen. I was hating on him 15 minutes into the film.
Colin Firth has told the Guardian that he “wouldn’t” work with Woody Allen again, blah blah. So Moses Farrow is lying…right, Colin? The bottom line is that Firth, like Timothy Chalamet and other character-challenged thesps, is simply too scared to say anything else. In a 1.19.18 Guardian piece, Los Angeles p.r. crisis expert Danny Deraney says that working with Allen now would be “extremely toxic, and why would you want to surround yourself and your career with potential damaging consequences? I don’t think your performance will be taken seriously. Everyone will be [asking] why did you do it?” We’re living through bad times, scoundrel times.
Blindspotting star-cowriter Daveed Diggs, director Carlos Lopez Estrada, costar-cowriter Rafael Casal before last night’s pigfuck screening (i.e., way too many corporate entourage types elbowed aside ticket holders, resulting in delayed start time) at the Eccles.
(l. to r.) Private Life‘s Paul Giamatti, breakout movie-stealer Kaylie Carter, Molly Shannon, Kathryn Hahn at Eccles prior to last night’s 9 pm screening, which actually started at 9:20 pm.
Right now (and I’m using that term loosely) the plan is to catch two Sundance ’18 films plus do an interview. I’m blowing off a screening of Reinaldo Marcus Green‘s Monsters and Men at 12:15 pm, but am definitely chatting with Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot costar Jonah Hill at the Waldorf Astoria Canyons. Then comes Marina Zenovich‘s Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind at the MARC (5:30 pm), and then I won’t be seeing Jessie Peretz‘s Juliet Naked (6:45 pm) — publicists can’t help with a ticket (!). Finally there’s a 9:45 pm screening of Gus Van Sant‘s Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot. And if I really want to burn both ends, there’s a Don’t Worry midnight after-party at the Grey Goose.
As noted, the first-ever screening of a full-boat version of Orson Welles‘ The Other Side of the Wind happened last Tuesday night (1.16) at Santa Monica’s Ocean Ave. screening room. The reconstituted, inside-the-industry, early ’70s montage-hodgepodge will presumably be refined a bit more before debuting at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.
HE to friend who attended Tuesday’s screening: “Is it…what, a fascinating but surreal early ’70s timepiece? Is it a slipshod, free-associative whatsit without a narrative spine, or does it sorta kinda have something going on? Orson was a near-genius at times, and he obviously did his very best and worked his fingers to the bone, but be honest — is it some kind of visual dazzler, an interesting piece-of-shit or a major discovery or what? Can you give me a thought or two or a hint or two about how it plays, how it feels?”
Cruddy, bleachy image of scene from The Other Side of the Wind with costars Peter Bogdanovich, John Huston.
Friend to HE: “[The film we saw Tuesday] is very much in the spirit of the pre-existing 42 minutes of cut footage, which have been around forever. DP Gary Graver used to regularly screen it. Are you familiar with that material?”
HE to friend: “Naah, never saw it. So the whole movie feels like an expanded version of 42 minutes of cut footage? It doesn’t have shape, narrative tension, thematic clarity, a second-act pivot, a strong ending…NONE of that stuff? Just a grab-bag of cut footage, only longer? That doesn’t say much for the editors, does it? All this work, all these years and all this trouble and expense, and it’s a sprawling cut-footage wank-off? C’mon, there has to be more to it than this. Orson Welles is listening from above.”
Friend to HE: “No, what we saw is not a longer version of the 42-minute cut footage. Josh Karp wrote an entire book about the film which lays it all out. But in a nutshell, this is not just ‘expanded footage'” This is not a short film which has been made longer.
“Orson had a feature script. He shot that movie, infamously, over a period of years. Then he fine-cut the 42-minute version. Then he got busy, got distracted and then died. The 42 minutes were scenes from different parts of the story. The 42-minute reel is famous because its cutting style is so radical — Orson was trying to reinvent editing and shooting styles, as collage.
“The only thing I can compare it to would be parts of JFK, decades later, where Oliver Stone and Bob Richardson were intercutting lots of film stocks and jumping around, to keep you off-balance.